Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Are We Having Fun Yet?

Cousin Steve was a tremendous help the first frantic week we moved to our new home, unloading the moving van, hooking up lights and electronics, replacing toilets, hanging medicine cabinets, helping with appliance installation, and sleeping in a cold drafty room, all with his usual good humor and frequent laugh, as we worked past his usual bedtime night after night.  We ventured to Seattle for a leisurely elegant dinner on Christmas Eve, and to the local theater for the late showing of Sherlock Holmes two days later, but other than that, we worked non-stop to make the house livable for me—who doesn’t know how to do-it-yourself—during the weeks I’d be alone.

At the end of his recent trip to California, Kevin asked if Steve would like to come back up sometime.  Steve’s answer, “I don’t know, it wasn’t very fun there.” 

When Kevin relayed Steve’s words I agreed.  “We should do something fun every day,” I said.  But, what constitutes fun?  Going to dinner?  Yes.  Out to a movie? Yes.  Sledding down the street when it’s covered in snow? Yes.  Climbing on the roof?  Yes.

There have been times in my life when fun has disappeared under the weight of family obligations, school and work deadlines, health crises, and crumbling relationships. I was too immersed and stressed, if not miserable, to make time for fun.  But even when there was time, my attitude could suck the fun out of an activity.  As a young teen, how could I enjoy a party when my parents were divorcing?  As a young mother, how could I enjoy a day at Disneyland when my children were tantrumming?  I was a permeable membrane, taking on anyone and everyone’s troubles.  If they weren’t having fun, neither was I.

It has taken most of my life to learn how not to absorb someone else’s pain.  It’s taken soul searching and prayer not to feel guilty for being okay, and for even having fun while someone else––someone I know and love––is suffering.  I think about Jesus saying, “pick up your cross,” not, “pick up your cross, then sweep the neighborhood and gather up your neighbors’ too.”  It’s hard navigating doorways staggering under the weight of our own burdens, impossible when we’re laden with woes that don’t belong to us. 

I’m glad Jesus was a carpenter.  He would appreciate that his cross metaphor applies even in today’s world filled with power tools.  Literal and figurative lumber is part of my life for many months, maybe years.  My husband lugs boards from Home Depot to his truck to our house and when he needs help, I hold them in place while he drills and hammers.  We stretch tape measures across walls and floors, imagining how we will remodel this house room by room with short-term fixes and long-term improvements. 

Unbelievable as it might seem, I’m having fun.  Kevin uses his creativity and vision and constructs something tangible that has purpose and can be called finished.  Very different than the never-done-often-invisible professional work he has done.  This productivity is messy, and I’m on-hand with my vacuum to vanquish the sawdust, usually before the work is done, so I vac again, and liken my contribution to that of a dental assistant suctioning mid-filling.  Cleaning up after a handy husband might not be any other woman’s idea of fun, and it doesn’t’ rank first on my fun-o-meter, but I’m blessed to have these days with my husband before he is employed full-time again, as we build desks and a life together.

Visit us again, Steve.  I guarantee you’ll have fun.


Tuesday, January 17, 2012

It’s All New to Me

I’ve been anxious about snow for the past few days.  Worried my dear daughters, who helped their father drive 900 miles non-stop, would miss their return flights from Seattle yesterday evening.  Worried about driving today and tomorrow, especially when our know-everything-about-the-region neighbors told us to stay home when it snows because it’s icy dangerous snow and our roads aren’t plowed and no one can drive those conditions well.  Worried because it’s not just me, the newcomer concerned about the white flakes.  The weather is leading local news reports as well as the talk at the market and post office. 

Until late this morning, I’d never driven in snow.  It has always been my husband’s job, and when he drove we were vacationing, choosing snowy recreation without any other responsibilities. 

I had a great time walking in the first snow on Saturday.  My husband, oldest daughter, and I had just finished trekking along Manzanita Bay at low-tide from our community beach access, tromping over barnacles and into sea-mud, until we came across the public access our fount-of-information neighbors had mentioned.  We were walking along the street when the snow began and had a half-mile of novelty and fun, opening our mouths for falling flakes and enjoying hot cider with brandy upon our return.
Weather of any extreme isn’t quite so romantic when you have commitments and appointments.  I used to live in a temperate rainforest.  I was familiar with flooded culverts, shoveling drainage ditches, mudslides, road closures, and multiday power outages.  But I don’t know anything about snow.  The flakes began to fall this morning as soon as I pulled out of the driveway.  I drove to town anyway, remembering what my husband said last night, “You’ll have to learn to drive in it sometime.”  It wasn’t bad, rainy at lower elevations, a little icy on our road, but my chiropractor warned that conditions are worse when the snow freezes overnight.  Tomorrow, I’ll see for myself.  Another discovery in this place I call home.

I’ve been in the process, literally, of homemaking for weeks.  Not simply unpacking our things and driving down streets to see where they lead, but establishing myself in this locale.  Last week I attended a non-denominational church service on Sunday, had an eye exam on Monday, a cleaning and dental exam on Tuesday, received a massage on Wednesday, saw a chiropractor on Thursday, and dropped in on the newcomers yoga class Friday.  Back in California, I would’ve combined several similar activities on the same day.  But here, now, each event involves meeting someone new, filling them in on pertinent details, and trying to relax with unfamiliar people poking in my mouth, prodding my back, and staring into my eyes.

It was wonderful when my husband and daughters returned Saturday after two and half weeks away.  I relished talking to people who knew me, who didn’t need explanations about my quirks and particularities. 

Last week I bought a ticket to the high school’s show choir performance on Wednesday night.  After days of venturing out on my own, I couldn’t force myself into a dark, cold car to find the high school theater, to sit through a performance where I wouldn’t know a soul in the audience or onstage.  I’m an introvert by nature, nourished by the quiet and familiar of home that energizes me for my forays into the world.  So it’s no surprise that I bailed on live entertainment, tugged on my pajamas, turned on a TV movie, and assembled a media shelf. 

Surprisingly and thankfully, my new home felt familiar.  The lacy bedroom curtains and thick sea-foam green carpet remind me of my mother’s past decorating choices, maybe the 1950’s sized bathroom vanity reminds me of my grandmother’s.  My furniture and felines fill the rooms.  It is home.  Now my husband is with me and we’re squirreled inside, waiting for the midnight snowfall, waiting for the morning when we’ll wake to a landscape transfigured by a blanket of white.  Our yard, block, neighborhood and island, new as they are, made even newer and more beautiful to us.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The Next Right Thing

I could say it was a job opportunity that brought us to Washington.  I could say that the promise of job—my husband was one of two final candidates-- combined with an offer on our house, led us here to Bainbridge Island.  I could say that and I wouldn’t be wrong.  I would, however, be incomplete.  It’s the intuitive, spiritual, intangible leading and nudging that was a big part of our decision.  A decision to “follow the energy” or “take a leap of faith”—add your own cliché here.

My husband and I left our lifelong home state, family and friends in response to the sort of thing I considered woo-woo or flakey in my youth and young adulthood when the physical and economic worlds were the only realms I was comfortable operating in.  If I couldn’t see it, taste it, or spend it, it didn’t exist.

Yesterday I wrote about the blessings of a single day on this island, confirmation that our move was a right (if not the right) choice for this phase of our journey.  Which is why today, when my husband said Microsoft did not extend him a job offer, I wasn’t disappointed.  I was surprised, because I thought he was clearly the right candidate (I’ll confess to some bias).  I was even a bit relieved, the commute, though mostly on public transit—bus, ferry, bus as contrasted to his years of solo commuting in California­­––would’ve been long, more than an hour each way.  I was hoping to give him the gift of more time at home and less in the car but just didn’t want to live in the cities closer to the campus.  Kevin didn’t mind.  He likes coming home to a beautiful place and commuting has never been an issue for him.  Heavy traffic doesn’t frazzle him, and he uses the time to decompress, review the day, and plan for the next. 

I was unpacking our office when Kevin gave me the news over the phone.  I shrugged, thought their loss, and said, “Well, I guess you’re not supposed to work there.”  “Yeah, I guess not,” he answered and then said he had an informational phone interview in half an hour with a company in Seattle that had found his resume on LinkedIn.  Opportunities are coming to him, and so I’m not worried, not one little speck, about his employment future.  Which is so unlike the old me I looked in the mirror later, just to check that I am in fact, still me. 

There’s a fabulous video I first saw during my lay minister training with National Geographic photographer, Dewitt Jones (who looks like he could be Tommy Lee Jones’ brother), titled Everyday Creativity (It’s astronomically expensive, so borrow it from someone, like your UMC Conference, if you can).  Jones in shooting photos, talks about getting “the next right answer,” opening the possibility of multiple yeses in all our decisions. 

Over the years I have morphed Jones’ “next right answer” into the “next right thing” as I discerned steps in my journey as they impacted me, my husband, our family, and those we’re connected to.  More often than not, I chose between options I had selected myself.  In this past year however, I’ve been practicing “not knowing” with mixed results.  I tried to make a move to particular house in Pacifica, and the owners wouldn’t cooperate with my intentions.  So here we are in Bainbridge Island and every day seems like a gift, something I didn’t even orchestrate and chose but was given to me.  And now my husband and I have the opportunity to practice not knowing about his employment a bit longer.  While we wait, we have plenty of home improvements, some necessary, some optional, to keep both of us occupied.

Late this afternoon, after the call with my husband, I prayed with my prayer partner over the phone.  We always pray for our children, and today she gave thanks for the openness and opportunities to share our wisdom with them.  I had to laugh, because it’s so unlikely, but also true.  We are wise.  Not in every way, not in many ways, but in some very important and essential aspects of life, we have become wise.  We’ve been working at it for years, together and individually, through prayer and self-examination, and the fruits are here in this phase of life. 

I don’t know what the next right thing is going to be, but I wait and practice gratitude.  I am thankful beyond measure to be co-creating with God and my husband as a dream and vision for our future gestates, rejoicing that my ancient fears have been conquered, replaced with faith and confidence, excited and anticipating the hatching.  

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

New Year’s Blessings

Just today--

• I ate lunch with a woman who found my blog because its title, “This or Something Better” is one she’s considering for a book on change and synchronicity she’s writing.  Intrigued by the background photo of the ferry, she read on and discovered I was moving to the island where she lived.  We talked about our routes to the island and I shared my vision about the retreat for writers, how I thought it had been particular to the house in Pacifica, not realizing it was a vision for my future no matter where I ended up.  She talked about the long process of waiting, using the metaphor of building a nest with the materials at hand before the egg is laid, the egg gestating, then hatching, then developing into its adult form.  I’m living her book project, as is she, and its exciting to share that with a new friend.

• At the public library the clerk issuing my card looked at my driver’s license and said, “Boulder Creek, I used to live there.”  She reminisced about her house there, and in Lompico (an even smaller town nearby), and tracked me down in the stacks to get my phone number, saying  “I forgot about it in all the excitement.”

• When I called my new bank for wiring instructions, the customer service rep remembered me and asked, “Did Kevin hear about the job yet?”  When I answered no, that the hiring manager just got back from vacation today, she said, “I shouldn’t be so anxious.  I’ve got to calm down.  Everything will work out fine.”

•The mobile notary who came to my new home with escrow papers said, “I grew up in a house just like this,” talking about the features he saw––Room dividers (his were varnished not painted), the stone fireplace, the garage (ours has been converted into a room—the future writer’s suite); and those he didn’t, “the bedrooms are down the hall.  There’s a fireplace downstairs, right?”  He told me his father built much of the house.  “It was called Northwest Contemporary, you can look up photos in old magazines and see what your kitchen was like before they remodeled.”   He said goodbye with, “It’s my dream to live in house like this. Congratulations.”  I closed the door, happy that my house had taken him back to his childhood, given him memories to savor in his mind as he crossed back to Seattle on ferry, a vessel he termed, “the poor man’s yacht.”
In the midst of the mess of unpacking, of getting lost on the Kitsap Peninsula while looking for Home Depot, of living alone for weeks while my husband finishes up the California end of our move, with pushy buyers who want him out before physically possible, of state regulations that require me to weigh my vehicles at inconvenient locations before registering them, and to get a drivers license at a separate office before I can register said vehicle, of using a new operating system on my computer that hides scroll bars and opens windows when I least expect it—in the midst of the  frustrations that are daily life, I experience daily blessings. 

The day after my family returned to California, my neighbors invited me to join their walking group for four miles through a nature preserve.  The same neighbors invited me to join them for New Year’s Eve so I wasn’t home with three cats and cable T.V.  At the party, I quizzed one neighbor about the Seattle commute, asked a handyman how to get the stickiness off my kitchen cabinets, and made constant comparisons between my old home and new ranging from recycling to public transit to rainfall.  No one seemed to mind.  My hosts poured champagne and told me about the best places for auto repair, pet care, and airport transportation. 

It’s been twenty-four years since I moved to Boulder Creek, and I’ve never lived out of California.   This move is a big deal for me.  I’m excited to be in this new place, learning the literal lay of the land, and I seem to work into every conversation, no matter how short, with clerks at the bookstore, market, Rite Aid, paint store, my haircutter Great Clips, the fact that I’m new to the Island.  Some of them ask, “What brought you here?”  It’s a complicated answer, one I’ve been blogging about for months, that I share parts of as I get to know people.  The easy checkout line answer is, “We’re looking for work.” 

Nearly everyone says, “Welcome to the Island, I hope you like it here.”  My reply to that is the same, and genuine––“Thank you.  I already love it here.”