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Where did we go wrong?

Was it back in our first year together? I had some concerns that our values were different. He told me he was underwater on his condo mortgage; that he had refinanced so he could pay off credit card debt. That gave me pause because to me it indicated that he had poor financial judgement/skills. But anyone can make a mistake, so I overlooked it and just hoped he would learn from the experience.

He sold his condo on a short sale and moved in with me. I invited him to do so, although I insisted that he pay me rent. And he did for a while.

He had to leave his job. His father’s health was failing and he couldn’t handle the dysfunction at work at the same time. He became depressed and went on short term disability.

His father died. His depression worsened.

He lost his job.

He filed for unemployment.

He had problems finding a new job. (He never did find one.)

He revealed that he still had some substantial credit card debt and that he was considering filing for bankruptcy. After a lot of thought, I supported his decision to do so because I could see no other way for him to get out of the hole he was in. Also, I was thinking at this time (over a year ago) that we would move to California together in about 3-5 years; that bankruptcy would drop his credit score and his credit report would need some time to recover.

Through all of this upheaval in his life, I supported him.

I supported him financially by forgiving his rental agreement over and over again (there were months he paid me nothing, and finally at my request he scheduled a token of $25 a month), and I supported him emotionally by giving him space to work through his depression and continued unemployment.

When the Affordable Care Act kicked in, I added more complications by offering to add him to my health care plan as a domestic partner since it would cost him less than any other kind of plan. He swore he would reimburse me for it, but I knew that was unlikely. He did pay me some money after a few months, but it wasn’t nearly the amount of the true cost. And he never offered to do so again.

So, here is where things ended up:

  • He was depressed.
  • He had no regular income. In the last 8 or 9 months of our life together he got his money for daily living by draining his 403(b).
  • He was so mired in his misery that he seemed unable to provide me the love and attention I craved.

It’s the latter thing that seriously killed the relationship for me.

I had told him that to me the most important “love language” is actions: do things for me to show that you care. He did take on certain household chores regularly, but it very often seemed to be done grudgingly. Maybe it only seemed that way because of his general misery, but it nonetheless made me feel the help was given less because of love and more because he wanted to avoid nagging from me. I recall a conversation I initiated about this topic once. I asked why he seemed to resist and resent doing the things I asked of him. He answered that he thought I was giving him “busy work.” It didn’t occur to him that I *really* needed and wanted his help.

He had a significant amount of time on his hands every day, yet he never once said to me “Is there anything I can do for you today?”

He didn’t reach out and hug me spontaneously, despite me doing it to him many times and even asking for hugs at times. (Physicality and appropriate touch is another important thing to me.)

He rarely initiated sex. Maybe it was the copious amounts of SSRIs that killed his libido, or maybe (again) it was the general misery.

He was often “upset” and didn’t want to talk about it or invite me in. It seemed I was simply expected to cut him some slack because of his mood.

The sighs. The tone of voice that clearly expressed annoyance. Both of these challenged me. I tried very hard to rise above them, to ignore them, and to not escalate by responding in a similar fashion. I made an effort to modulate my tone of voice and make it neutral and non-triggering. He didn’t seem to catch on at all. I told him, calmly, how much it bothered me to be addressed in such a fashion. I asked that he not do so, and while he would usually comply when asked, he never stopped doing it regularly; it just seemed to be his natural way of responding to my comments and questions. Every time, it felt like a wound to me.

Finally, I just gave up. I stopped trying. I made up my mind to move to California this year instead of waiting. (Last year’s BRUTAL winter provided a big push, too.) I told him that with the higher cost of living and the fact that I was not getting a cost of living adjustment to my salary, I couldn’t afford to pay for him to move, too, or to pay rent on anything but a very small one bedroom apartment.

Then I lived with him like a roommate who got some bonus kisses goodnight.

Yet in the final week of our cohabitating, I still felt very sad. And on our last night together, we cried together and snuggled. Within an hour of him leaving, I was sobbing wretchedly.

Why am I sad? Is it because I am missing him or is it because I am missing having a companion in my life?

I think it is both. Inside B there is a wonderful man: creative, intelligent, sexy, and giving. I was able to see glimpses of it at times. I think what makes me most sad is that — try as I might — I couldn’t help that man emerge fully into the joyousness that is life.

I’m hoping that by returning to his family and his hometown — a place where he experienced some of the happiest times of his life — he can find that joy.

Seven boxes down

I’ve actually packed seven boxes, two totes, and four bins so far. Most of my efforts over the past few weeks have involved continuing to sort and discard rather than pack.

This house just absorbed so. much. stuff. There are built in cupboards and cabinets galore in the basement and every single one was full of something that needed to be pulled out, examined, and sorted into one of three categories: keep (and pack), discard, or sell.

Thank goodness I finally found an estate sale company that will take on the liquidation of my stuff. I was getting anxious because the first company I talked with said they wanted $1200 up front (plus 20% commission on the sales), and the second one said it wasn’t worth holding a sale. “Third time’s a charm” applied here, and when the woman finished walking through the house said she had no problem taking the project on. The idea of having to arrange for packing and pick up of all the stuff I am not bringing with me was overwhelming to me. Plus, I really wanted to shake loose some money to defray some of the moving costs.

Holding an estate sale involves some logistics planning on my part. The estate sale company will price everything and set up displays, but since I will still be living here during the sale I need to make a very clear delineation between what is being sold and what is going with me. This step may actually help me plan for the best container size, though. If I can fit everything I’m bringing in one room, then I can get by with the smallest container size. Since I’m selling the bed frame and the Tempurpedic platform base, I will need to place the mattress on the floor of my bedroom, then stack all the boxes I’ll be bringing with me in the same room and close it off for the sale.

The past few weeks I’ve also been engaged in down-sizing my freezer items. In addition to the freezer side of the refrigerator in the kitchen, I also have another full-sized refrigerator with freezer (the old ‘fridge from before the kitchen remodeling) and an upright freezer in the basement. All the freezers used to be pretty full. I have a tendency to freeze the harvest from my garden or farmers market purchases and then process it later, but I was very behind on processing stuff frozen in the past year or two. Over the past two weeks I’ve crammed in some jam-making time so I can bring this bounty with me to enjoy later, and well as pass on as parting gifts to friends.

In talking with a friend she couldn’t believe that I was spending time making jam and canning when I had so much else to do, and while it may seem silly to some people it just feels like something I need to do. The majority of the fruit I’m processing are sour cherries from my neighbor’s tree. Considering that she decided to chop the tree down this year, I am determined to not waste these last gifts from my neighbor and her tree. Plus I don’t think sour cherries are a big crop in California.

I also like the thought of transporting canning jars — a not inexpensive investment I’ve made over the years — full of yumminess rather than make the tough decision of whether I should just sell the jars at the estate sale. (Yes, some of the jars will be sold, but not all!) I hope to be done with all this canning next weekend and then I can pack my canning equipment.

So far I’ve got 25 half-pint (8 oz) jars of sour cherry jam put up, and I’m estimating that I’ll put up at least another 4 to 5 jars. There will still be a few frozen sour cherries left, but I think I’ll make those into a crisp for next weekend when I’m hosting some friends over the weekend. Then I get to move on to making at least eight to 12 half-pint jars of strawberry jam and the freezer bounty will be processed. :-)

How do you pack a bicycle?

It’s amazing how fast life can move. I made a decision in the spring that I wanted last winter to be the final one I experienced in Chicago. Two days ago, I signed a sales contract on my house. Pending attorney review, and assuming the close date in the contract doesn’t have to move, I’ll be handing over the keys on November 10. Wow.

At every milestone in the process — the discussions with my boss, the initial meeting with the real estate agent, the “scouting visit” to the area, the preparation for listing, and finally the day the listing became active — I’ve revisited this decision to move in one way or another. It excites me. It scares me. But it is definitely happening now.

In all the discussions I’ve had about my move, I’ve gleaned some great suggestions that will help me with the packing and moving. I’ve also been researching details on my own, too, and I think I have a solid plan on how to make this all happen in the 9 weeks I have remaining in the house.

Since I am moving to a much smaller place, I need to bring less stuff. I’ve known this for months now, and I’ve been chipping away at the contents of this large house (and the garage and yard) through a combination of one-off sales (Craigslist, Ravelry, etc.), donations, and giving away to friends and family. A few pieces of furniture will go to friends and family, but I will have lots of small electrics, tools, and furniture left to sell. It was suggested to me that I hire an estate agency and let them liquidate the household items that aren’t coming with me. Great idea! I’ve collected the names of a few estate agencies and will start contacting them next week.

The few things I’m bringing with me will be packed in a shipping container. To keep the amount of stuff as minimal as possible, I need to fit everything in one 7’x 7’x 8′ container. In my mind, I have a very simple list of belongings to bring, but then I keep thinking of the odds and ends that weren’t included in my mental reckoning, like my bicycle. (Hence the title of this entry which is based on my most recent Google search! I’ve learned that it is most advisable to get a bicycle box and disassemble the bike. Since my bike will need a tune-up at the other end of trip, I think I’ll go this route and then just drop off my bike at a shop when I arrive and ask them to assemble it and tune it up for me. Voila! Now…how do you disassemble a bike…hmm…something else to research.)

I’ve been offered a lot of help and all this generosity has confirmed that I’m moving away from a fantastic group of friends and neighbors I will miss dearly.

While I’m moving towards my goal, this aspiration I have for the next chapter in my life, there are bittersweet experiences. Yesterday I visited with a family I used to spend a lot of time with when I was in high school. I befriended all the children in one way or another and the father worked with my dad until the factory was closed and they were all laid off. I used to call them my adopted family since I would visit their house on holidays. After eating turkey on Thanksgiving at my own house, I would drive to their house and spend the rest of the evening hanging out with them. The mother died several years ago, the father is now in hospice, and I paid what was surely my last visit to him and the family in full. I was warmly greeting by all and we laughed a lot as we reminisced.

And then today my coop and hens were picked up by the new owners. Through the network of chicken keepers here in Chicago, I found a nice young couple who are starting to build their urban homestead. The guy was here all morning with a friend disassembling the coop and packing it into a rented truck. They have a busy afternoon ahead of them re-assembling the coop in their own yard and getting the hens settled in. I know the hens are going to a good home, and that this couple will learn a lot by taking care of them over the coming months, but I miss them already. I’ll miss their funny antics, the way they cleaned up stray kitchen scraps, and of course the delicious, fresh eggs.

This has been a stunningly wonderful summer in Chicago. There have been few stretches of crushing heat and humidity, and instead we’ve had mostly gentle warmth. It’s true we’ve had a lot of rain, but that has just made the garden and yard green and lush and beautiful. (Although it did mean a LOT of weeding to get ready for photos and showings.) As a farewell, this summer could not have been better, and we’re now entering my favorite time of year here: fall. I’m grateful that I get to spend one last October here, since it is the month I love the most.

How do you wrap up your life and pack your history? I don’t think Google has the answer to that.

Moving thoughts

It seems that every day I feel both excited and terrified about the prospect of uprooting myself and moving away from Chicago. I was born and raised in Chicagoland (as my friend Adrienne likes to call it). Even though I spent about two years in total away from it while living in Toronto, it’s always been home to me.

I was a suburban girl for just over 20 years, and have spent another 20 living in the city of Chicago proper, so I know a lot about this area. Moving to the Bay area means starting over. I have to learn new weather phenomena and cycles, new neighborhoods, and new patterns of daily living. (That “turn left to turn right” driving thing in Silicon Valley is just as weird to me as the New Jersey jughandle.) There will be no “autopilot” to my days for a while, which I expect to find both exhilarating and exhausting.

While being off my feet for the past few weeks has forced me to change my daily habits and prioritize my non-work time differently, it has also allowed me to spend some guilt free time browsing the internet and absorbing as much as possible about the communities that make up the area. The original plan was to move to Silicon Valley and be attached to our office in San Jose. I have a friend in Santa Clara who has some insights into what SV life is like. She talks about spending her weekends hiking in the sunny mountains or lounging on the cool (yet still sunny) beaches around Santa Cruz. Occasionally it rains, but mostly it doesn’t, and the range of temperatures are not drastic, either. However, some things have happened to change my mind.

First, there was my vacation. (This last one where I sprained my ankle, and set myself up for a fracture.) I traveled with two friends, and one of them was my friend from Santa Clara. I hadn’t actually been with her in about a year and in that time she has changed a lot. She describes her new focus on exercise to be in line with all her peers at work. These are people who compare their weekend exploits of extreme cycling, running, and hiking. She says it is “the norm” for people in Silicon Valley to be this way and that everyone is sharp and competitive. I just won’t fit in with that.

I do need to get back into exercising more regularly, but I’m just not competitive. My friend’s new outlook put some strain on our interactions during the vacation, and made it clear to me that I simply could not live with that in my face all day, every day.

Second, it looks like I have some good project opportunities through our San Francisco office. I’ve already been working on a project where the sponsor is located in SF, and which promises to grow. My boss’ boss is in SF, as well, and my boss is already thinking of ways to get me more integrated into that network. (My boss has been fantastic about supporting me and my desire to move. Although I won’t get my relocation reimbursed or a cost of living adjustment because this is a voluntary move, once he realized I was serious about wanting to leave Chicago he has been clearing the way for me. And while I won’t get a raise, I will be placing myself on a new scale simply by moving to a higher cost of living area, which means I won’t top out of the pay scale for my grade anytime soon.)

While I’m happy to work in San Francisco, I just can’t see myself living there. It is much too expensive for me right now. Housing is expensive through the Bay area, but SF is pretty much top of the scale. So I’ve switched tactics a bit and am mostly looking for housing in East Bay now. I’m finding that the housing stock is more varied. There are older buildings that may not be as updated but that are more like the housing here in Chicago. Living in a vintage building without a dishwasher is nothing new to me, and it’s a trade-off I’m willing to make for a (hopefully) reduced rent and less hassle about my dog.

Ah, yes, there is the dog to worry about. My dog is nearly 12 years old now, yet she is still very healthy. When I adopted her at approximately 10-months of age, I guessed that she may live to be about 12 because of her size. She’s not enormous, but she is 50 pounds and larger dogs live shorter lives than little lap dogs. Her robust health sort of surprises me. We just spent a bunch at the vet’s this week because she was acting listless and not wanting to eat earlier this week. Turned out she was severely constipated and needing a good cleaning out. Since we had to peek inside her with the x-ray anyway, the doc pointed out she has very healthy-looking internal organs and no sign of arthritis in her back, either. She’s back to being her normal, perky self now, and it sounds like she’ll be that way for a few more years.

While the dog has mellowed quite a bit and is much more tractable since being the only dog in the household, she still has a negative reaction to most other dogs. Plus she’s a mutt and at least one of the likely breeds in her bloodline (cattle dog) is considered undesirable in some apartment complexes. This could be most problematic at corporate-run apartments, which are the majority in Silicon Valley. In East Bay, I may have other options.

Then there is B to think about. I don’t yet know if he will be moving with me. It’s possible he won’t. I don’t want to write much about it here right now, other than to note that I’ve told him I simply can’t afford to move him and pay for anything larger than a one-bedroom apartment; if he wants to continue living with me and wants a bigger apartment, he has to be kicking in more rent.

Since I’m not planning on packing up my entire house and will pare my belongings down a lot, I’ve even been thinking that it may be good to move in as someone’s roommate at first. Pros are that I wouldn’t have to invest in any furniture right away and I wouldn’t be as lonely while I build my new network of friends and acquaintances. (Yes, I know that roommates don’t always become BFFs, but it is nice to know there is another person around and that you are not completely isolated.) Cons are that I could end up hating the experience and having to tough it out for the terms of the lease.

Well, it does no harm sit here and dream and set some positive intentions that I’ll find a great place to live, right? Ideally, here is the type of living situation I’d be able to secure:

  • An apartment in a house/duplex/triplex
  • Access to a yard
  • Welcoming of my dog
  • Ability to garden/grow food in the yard
  • Maybe ability to share a flock of chickens in the yard?
  • Close to public transportation over to SF (the BART, AC Transit, or a ferry (I particularly like that last one; it sounds romantic to commute by ferry!)
  • Good walk score and ability to get groceries and visit restaurants/cafes on foot

I’m thinking that North Oakland or Berkeley may fit the bill, and I’m also looking at Alameda. I know that Oakland doesn’t have the most pristine reputation, but I am not a “delicate flower” when it comes living situations. I’m used to living in a diverse (and what may be considered by some people as not completely “safe”) neighborhood, although I also don’t want to take unnecessary risks with my self or my property. It seems that the neighborhoods in North Oakland (like Temescal, Rockridge/Claremont, and Piedmont/Montclair) may be pretty decent.

In one week I’ll get my chance to find out a bit more because I’m flying out to San Jose and staying at my Santa Clara friend’s place for several days. (Assuming I am out of this big boot and able to walk, that is!) I’m calling it a “scouting trip” and I’ll be spending my days working out of our office in San Jose and/or San Francisco, and my after work hours and off days looking at neighborhoods (and perhaps even apartments). It’s too early to actually sign a lease, but it doesn’t hurt to get a look at the housing stock.

If anyone knows the area and has suggestions, please add them in the comments! I’m open to hearing opinions and getting tips on pretty much anything related to living in the Bay area.

Am I the only person with a body part that seems to fail regularly and/or attract catastrophe on a regular basis?

I’m currently wearing a large Air Walker cast on my lower left leg because I fractured my ankle. If I understood the doctor at immediate care correctly, I have what is called a lateral malleolus fracture of the fibula. As ankle fractures go, it could be worse. I don’t require surgery and I’m not in extreme pain. But I am stuck with hobbling around on crutches for now.

The first time I injured this ankle was when I was about 10 or 12. I was running full-out after another child when I stepped wrong and ended up on the ground. I spent that evening in the ER with my mother watching Saturday Night Live and waiting to see a doctor. The diagnosis was a sprained ankle, so I  got a pass on playing softball that summer. :-)

Since that time, I’ve “turned” this ankle many times. In high school, I remember injuring it badly again and having to use crutches to get around for several weeks. And about 2 1/2 years ago I turned/sprained it while walking in flats on a sidewalk in Asheville, North Carolina.

Besides all these sprains, I’ve also broken a metatarsal in my left foot. I wish I could say I was doing something more exciting than taking a shortcut across the bedroom by walking on the bed, though. At the time I broke my left foot I was a newlywed and my (now ex-) husband ended up pushing me around in a wheel chair a lot because after using crutches for only a week my right leg and hip were injured from bearing all my weight.

This current injury was started while I was on vacation with friends in Maine over Memorial Day weekend. I was nearing the end of a hiking trail in Acadia National Park and sprained the ankle while picking my way down a sheet of granite on the trail. The friend hiking behind me had some familiarity with ankle injuries. After feeding me ibuprofen, helping me upright, and determining that I could actually stand on the affected foot, she helped me hobble to the end of the trail.

The ankle swelled extensively and my friends took me back to the cottage we were renting where I spent the rest of the day on the couch with my foot elevated on a pile of pillows and occasionally icing it. We wrapped the foot and I spent the next week taking ibuprofen, occasionally icing, and wrapping the foot. I also curtailed my walking. (I found that Boston is a very walkable city…if one can actually handle all the walking!)

I returned from vacation last weekend with a still swollen and slightly achy ankle, but I seemed to be able to keep to a normal level of activity. Until last Monday, that is. I was on my way to the gym to work with the trainer and was hurrying through the parking lot because it was raining heavily. I stepped on some uneven pavement, the injured ankle twisted again, and down I went. I think I screamed. I know I cried because it really, really hurt.

Some kind people helped me up out of the puddle I was sitting in and got me into the gym. The gym staff settled me in a chair and packed ice around my ankle, and after I had some time to breathe, stop crying, and think I called B to pick me up and take me to immediate care.

There were a couple of exams and some x-rays, and then the crutches and the Air Walker boot were brought in for me to gear up and be discharged. I go back to the doctor next week for a re-check and am hoping the news about my potential for mobility is better. I was told on Monday that it will take 4 to 6 weeks for the break to heal.

I’m hoping that I’m allowed to walk without crutches at or shortly before the 4 week mark because I have a confirmed reservation to fly to San Jose, CA at the end of June. My plans for San Jose are two-fold: pet-sit/house-sit for a friend while she is off on a hiking trip, and scout the neighborhoods in South Bay and East Bay in preparation for a move at the end of the year. Both of those activities are going to be very difficult (if not impossible) if I’m on crutches.

Being off my feet has thrown off my plans for the next month. I wanted to continue my aggressive down-sizing of stuff in my basement, but that is simply impossible while I’m confined to crutches. I’m trying not to injure my right hip like I did when I broke the left foot, so I need to be extra careful about how much “crutching” around I’m doing.

I’m thankful that I can telecommute for work, and that I’m able to secure help from friends. B has been keeping me fed and caffeinated, as well as continued to care for the pets (chickens and dog). A friend from the stable has come over to finish off the seasonal yard work I haven’t had a chance to do, and a neighbor has offered me the use of some home health aids like a shower chair.

I’m going to have to be very patient with myself and trust that my plans for the rest of the year will turn out OK despite this set back. *sigh*

Lightening my load

I need to downsize and get rid of stuff. Even if I end up not moving this year (it’s not a 100% sure thing yet), I still need to do this purge because I tend to let stuff just sit around.

My house is not only quite large, it also has a lot of storage places built-in. The original owner/builder was a contractor and he liked to make the most of his space, I guess. There are built-in cabinets, drawers, and shelves that efficiently take advantage of space in nearly every room of this house. Over the 13 years I’ve lived here, I’ve managed to stuff something into every one of them, too.

As I was looking over the mess that is the basement last weekend, it occurred to me that this wasn’t just my doing, though, so I needed to cut myself some slack. Yes, I do tend to let things accumulate through inertia and indecision (and because I somehow feel I must re-use just about everything), but what I’m dealing with in the house is actually the doing of three people: me, my ex-husband, and B.

When my ex moved out, he left behind everything he didn’t want. (Yes, he basically left me to deal with his cast offs.) At the time I just wanted him out so I didn’t care. Now I’m feeling like I should be charging him for my time in packing up and removing his stuff.

B moved in with the full contents of his one-bedroom condo and small storage unit. We had to find somewhere for all that stuff to go, and most of it ended up in the basement. Three years later a lot of it is still sitting in boxes in the basement. I nagged B into unpacking and donating some of the clothes and shoes he no longer wanted, but there is still much more to deal with.

For my part, I have a lot of containers stuffed into the old cold cellar (empty canning jars and food storage stuff), a few appliances that are rarely used (like the ice cream maker and the food dehydrator), and some clothing to deal with. And then there is the yarn.

I have accumulated a lot of yarn over the years. When I picked up knitting again about 10 years ago I started a yarn buying binge, too. I really got into collecting fibers and bought yarns simply because they were unusual and/or popular: soy yarn, bamboo yarn, super soft merino, etc. I also was a DINK and had a lot of disposable income at the time, so dropping hundreds of dollars at the big knitting and yarn conventions that roll through town every year was no big deal for me. I continued to accumulate yarn every year, and whenever I went on vacation and visited a yarn store (which happened quite often on vacation) I bought something as a souvenir. I referred to this big stash of yarn as my “yarn 401(k)” and reasoned that someday I’d be happy that I “invested” in all this yarn because I’d have more time and less money.

Instead, I’m finding that having all this yarn to deal with is a huge burden. I don’t want to move this stuff to California. It will be expensive to move and will take up a lot of room in what will be a much smaller living space than I have now. So nearly every night for the past two weeks I’ve spent some time photographing and cataloging all this yarn and marking most of it for sale on Ravelry. My friend Adrienne helped me get started by coming to the house on a Saturday and helping me decide what to purge, as well as giving me tips on how to handle the pricing and shipping process.

Although I’ve started by focusing on the “for sale” yarns first, I’m still not done. Yeesh. I have sold and shipped several packages already, though, so this is progress.

As for the rest of the stuff in the basement, I’m tackling it in the usual ways.

Donate it. Some of the stash yarn just didn’t seem worth listing for sale, so I sought out a women’s shelter that would use it and packaged it up with a few other items they wanted (a coffee maker and a digital TV converter box). I dropped the bags off last Sunday, and was glad to meet some the residents at the same time. I’ve also made two runs to the Goodwill drop-off center in the past few months.

Sell it. This one is harder for me to organize on my own. I’ve managed to sell some camping gear on my own through Craigslist, but I’ve asked B to help with sorting the prepping for a garage/yard sale. There are tools, small appliances, furnishings, and assorted odds and ends that seem perfectly suited for a garage sale. I haven’t been involved in many garage sales, and I know this is something I cannot do alone. As for selling on Craigslist: it really sucks. I have the worst Craigslist luck. I get lots of people contacting me about stuff I list and wanting to come see it, and then they never show up. I’ve been trying to sell a very nice bicycle for nearly a year. I list it, I get lots of interest, but people just don’t show up to close the deal. Ugh!

Toss it. I really hate seeing anything go into landfill, but there are some things that aren’t suitable for selling or donating. I’m putting as much as I can into recycling as opposed to landfill, but badly torn jeans and undershirts are just going to end up there one way or another.

When I think of all the stuff I need to get rid of, I feel overwhelmed. If I move, I don’t want to take a lot with me. It doesn’t seem worth the cost to ship a house full of old Ikea furniture, and I’m questioning how many mementos are worth the shipping and storage costs I’ll have to pay. This is one of the blessings/curses of having a larger living space: there’s no need to examine how much you’re storing until a crisis or big event (like a death, foreclosure, or big move) occurs.

I wish I had started this purging at least a year ago. *sigh*

Guilty as charged

So, yeah. I abandoned the blog for a few months. I simply could not deal with last winter. It sucked the life out of me.

That first “polar vortex” in January was OK; I expect something like that every winter. But there was also snow every few days. Measurable snow that meant schlepping out to shovel the stairs and sidewalk every two or three days. B used the little electric snow thrower we purchased a couple of years ago to clear the driveway repeatedly. He used it so much that we actually had to order a part that broke on it.

Then we had another “polar vortex.”

And another.

We even had snow the week before Easter.

Here it is the second day of May and it’s barely reached into the 5os. We haven’t seen the sun all week. Enough already!!

At the same time, my body had decided to get weird on me. There were mysterious pains in my lower left abdomen again starting in December and continuing through January. Was it another bout of diverticulitis? According to the CT scan in December, apparently not. Ultrasound at the gynecologist’s office revealed an ovarian cyst, and I was told to wait another 6-8 weeks to check it again.

In the meantime, I kept having pain. The heating pad and ibuprofen bottle became my close friends. My internist wanted me to see the colo-rectal surgeon, too, just to make sure there were no issues with diverticulitis. I have a family history of colon cancer, so the doc suggested a colonoscopy. But wait…how do I schedule that procedure when it will likely conflict with the next ultrasound at the GYN? The GYN office was being a PITA and insisting I come at certain point “in my cycle.” I’m almost 47 freakin’ years old!! Do you think I have a “regular cycle?!”

I scheduled another appointment with the gynecologist where I cried and questioned this arcane rule that was looking for something “normal” when I was experiencing something “abnormal.” He relented and I got a schedule together. In this one week I had a colonoscopy on Wednesday and my second ultrasound on Friday.

By the middle of February it was all over: the pain was gone, the tests were done and we had figured out…well…there was nothing seriously wrong, at least. My colon was fine and the ovarian cyst hadn’t gotten any bigger.

In retrospect, it seems to me that I likely never had diverticulitis last spring. I suspect that when I was in the ER last year I was experiencing an ovarian cyst on my left ovary. The ER doc saw that I had diverticula (not uncommon at my age) and blood work revealed a mild infection, so that was the closest diagnosis they could come up with. Probably my peri-menopausal body was starting to misfire, and that was the first instance of abnormal cysts that continued through last year.

Now things are calming down in some ways, yet that doesn’t mean everything is working well. My body is now unpredictable. It’s like being a teenager again. But this is to be expected, I guess, along with the changes in my metabolism.

This is what has been taking up most of my energy and time over the past five months: figuring out what’s going on with my body and how I should live in it now, and dealing with the externalities (like weather) that complicate my life. This is why I stopped writing.

Since change is the new normal for me, I’ve decided to take the plunge this year and move away from Chicago. I’ve been thinking about for at least two years now, and had planned to move when I was around 50. But last winter was the deciding factor for me. I’ve never liked winter, so why put up with it any longer?

My boss says that I can move and still keep my job. He’s based in Los Angeles, so we’re already used to connecting mainly by phone and online meetings. Unfortunately, though, since this is a voluntary move there will be no cost of living adjustment. If I was being financially savvy I’d move someplace with a lower cost of living, but I’m wanting to move as close as possible to the place where I’d like to “retire.” (I put that in quotes because I’m really not sure what retirement will look like for me. I have “bag lady syndrome” and fear that no matter how much I save I’ll be living on the street when I’m old.)

For me that means a move to northern California. Yeah, I’m choosing one of the most expensive parts of the country to move to, and getting no salary increase to help me. I’m going to pass on working out of the San Francisco office and transfer to San Jose instead; the housing costs are still very high, but not *quite* as bad as SF.

There’s a lot to do to prepare, but maybe that’s better to leave for another post.

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