As I have mentioned previously, before I moved east, one of my biggest concerns was about dealing with winter weather. I worried about it a lot. But then I moved and the first winter here was fairly mild. I learned to shovel the snow off my little patio (at the time I was living in a townhouse community, with a full maintenance staff, so they took care of the grounds). It was an inconvenience but it wasn’t a big deal.
Last year I was in my house, and the winter weather was stronger and colder but it was manageable. And since I was sick and homebound through part of January and all of February, it didn’t impact me too much, although shoveling my driveway with a 103 fever was not my idea of the greatest fun.
I have a feeling all bets are off for this winter. It’s still very early in the season but we’ve already endured a cold snap that broke 100 year old records, with the weather less than 10 degrees for more than 7 days in a row. If you had ever asked me if I could live and thrive in 10 degree weather, I would have said emphatically, no, but truth, even that isn’t as horrible as you might think. You just have to dress for it, and be smart about it. It’s not like I would volunteer to take a long walk in 5 degree weather, but you can certainly go about your general business, and we all do.
What’s difficult is when we have large storms. I got a little miffed yesterday, during a text exchange with a friend from home. I was describing the 17 inches of snow we had received the day before. I wasn’t complaining about it, but when she started waxing rhapsodic over how pretty it was and how much fun it must be, I felt frustrated and misunderstood. Granted, snow is beautiful while it’s happening. If you don’t have to go out, it can be nice and cozy, I’ll agree. But for the benefit of my west coast friends who may have never had to encounter living in harsh weather, here are a few things I have learned.
First of all, snow is messy! The first day, it’s white and beautiful and clean. After that, it starts to turn grey and gross, and the piles from the plows mount up and become increasingly dirty and depressing. They will likely be there until spring, growing dirtier and grosser each day. Additionally, the salt and sand used to make the ground less slippery weaves into your boots and makes your floors filthy. I’m a neatnik, and I am literally cleaning floors at least once a day because of all the wet, salty, silty footprints I am tracking in.
You have to suit up every time you go out. Every time. I mean, to take the trash out, pick up the paper, and let the dog out. Scarf, boots, jacket. In the beginning I was cavalier about this, but I’ve learned my lesson. I have boots and a jacket at the back door, because during storms I have to keep shoveling paths for Daisy. I have boots, gloves, scarf, and a jacket at the front door. Before entering or leaving the house, I have to do a set of contortions in my teeny mud room to either dress or undress as appropriate. It gets old.
And then there’s the whole shoveling thing. I now have a plow service, which means for storms that have more than 3 inches of snow, a nice man shows up in my driveway and plows it. Which is awesome in some ways, although in a bad winter, it could get very expensive. Still, I consider it an essential expense. But even with that help, there’s plenty of shoveling left to do. The plow pushes the snow against my garage and front door, so those both have to be shoveled out. There’s plenty of perimeter shoveling to do, to make it safe to go up and down the drive. Plus I have to keep an area clear in the back of the house, Daisy has been awesome about adjusting to the weather, but bless her, she won’t poop or pee on snow and I can’t blame her. Shoveling is hard work! I’m fairly convinced I don’t do it right, because after about 5 minutes I usually want to die, and my back definitely hasn’t acclimated to it, oh how it aches. But it has to be done.
All of this isn’t meant to be an endless complaining lament. It is what it is, and it’s still a beautiful place to live. But all of these things are still new and novel to me, and I thought it might possibly be of interest to my fellow west coasters to learn a little more about what it’s actually like. Now when you see the news of bad weather on the east, and think how pretty it all looks, you’ll also have a bit more understanding of what the day to day is actually like. And then hopefully, you’ll go stand outside in the sunshine and be happy and grateful for what you have.
The end, for now
Tomorrow marks my two year Massiversary. It’s weird! The last week or so has been stacked with memories, like “two years ago today I moved out of my house,” or “two years ago today I ended up in the hospital with an ulcer.” That, by the way, is something I try not to forget, in my ardent attempt to never have it happen again. It came completely without warning, the week of my move, and was dramatic and scary as hell and painful. And of course, stress was a major contributor, so my constant goal is to do a better job of managing that so that my body doesn’t attack me again.
I haven’t written much this year. The truth is, this year has been stressful. I think more stressful than last year, where everything had the tinge of excitement and newness providing a shiny glow. Even buying the house and moving into the house, while hard, was exciting. I felt proud of my accomplishments; I had actually moved across the country by myself and established a new life. I had done it! But what happens next?
2017 has sort of been a “take no prisoners” kind of year. My job changed drastically. A new boss, extreme pressure from customers and business partners, increased travel. Working with people across the globe, the workplace has become a 24 hour a day, 7 day a week venture. I need to do a much better job of balancing it, and making sure I’m taking the time to better round out my life.
I’ve also struggled with illness this year. First the whole mono-strep thing that took me down this winter. Then a terrible flu this summer that knocked me out for a few weeks, and then an awful cold over Labor Day. All while trying to work and not miss a step. Challenging!
And, my house seems mad at me, even though I spent all of my tax return pennies on sprucing it up! Not only were the yellow shutters and doors replaced with a more traditional black and red combo, I also had someone rebuild the fence that was a real eyesore on the property. Plus the sun porch got painted. Not furnished yet, that tax return could only support so much.
In spite of this pampering, the house fought back. Who can forget the “trapped in the closet” incident, where the doorknob came off in my hand as I shut the door behind me? Or the mysterious flood in the basement? Or the huge tree limb that just came crashing down? What the hell?
And then, there’s Muggins. Let’s be clear. I love him. But it has been rough, and for the first couple of months, I wasn’t sure it was going to work out. You see, he terrorizes my sweet Daisy Petals, who at the ripe age of 14 really just wants to be left in peace. I really believe Muggins is trying to engage her in play, but his version of play is to body slam Daisy, while biting her. They can’t be left together. I feel tremendous guilt over this, because Daisy deserves to have a peaceful life. I even tried to send Muggs to a good friend’s farm in the early days. I’m glad that didn’t work out, but if I had to go back in time, I’m not sure I would adopt a kitten at this stage again.
So, it’s all grim, right? No, of course not! This is why I haven’t written much lately, I truly don’t like to complain, and basically life is good. My job is hard, but thank the Lord I have one, and it’s a good one too. Not a day goes by that I don’t appreciate the blessing of employment. And I’m healthy today, another blessing. And even though as I write this, Muggins is attacking my ankles, he makes me laugh every day, and snuggling with him as he purrs with love is a great joy.
Hopefully my house and I are in a stage of détente, and it won’t pull any more little tricks on me for a month or two. And, it’s my two year Massiversary, something to be acknowledged and celebrated. I love it here, my mischievous house, my devilish kitten and sweet old dog, my job, my friends, the beauty of New England. My life. Happy Massiversary, to me.
The end, for now
My neighborhood has been overtaken by bunnies of late. Wild bunnies, everywhere you look. Not an exaggeration, looking out the window right now, I see five bunnies, grazing on the grass in my front yard. They don’t bother me, I have a large yard and there’s plenty of grass and clover for all to share. I’m fairly sure they have built a Watership Down sized apartment under my shed, where I often see them disappearing under. In my imagination, it goes about seven “floors” deep and there is a sophisticated social structure and hierarchy governing them all.
As I said, they don’t bother me, but I do have concerns for their safety. There are other predators around the ‘hood. A few weeks ago, there were coyote sightings, and we’ve seen foxes. In the grass rotary that serves as the central dog walking spot and meeting (and gossiping) hub of our neighborhood, we saw evidence of a successful hunt. What are you going to do? It’s the circle of life, right?
But I certainly don’t want to personally contribute to it! So imagine my great distress, when I came home a couple of weeks ago to what appeared to be the Great Bunny Massacre of 2017. In my fenced-in backyard! I don’t want to gross you out with the graphic details. Let’s just say I was picking up baby bunny pieces for a few days, gagging and crying as I did so. I did a little research and discovered that rabbits have their babies in very shallow nests in the ground, which they cover with grass. It didn’t take Hercule Poirot to put together the clues of the crime. My lawn service had been there the day before, and had obviously, and quite unknowingly, mowed over a nest of babies and scattered their little baby parts all over the yard. The horror! I wish I could unsee it.
I was still traumatized when a few days after the tragedy, I saw a determined looking rabbit who appeared to be digging a hole in my backyard. I chased it away, but a few minutes later, it was back. For about an hour we played this game, Rabbit taking a stand and Kathi chasing it away. I did NOT want another incident. And really, the fenced off portion of my yard is small, just a frame around the back of the house so Daisy can safely be let outside to do her business. The rest of the property has many other birthing/nesting options. Why go where “man” lurks? But the mother bunny was freaking determined. It started pouring rain and still she sat out there. I ended up throwing sticks from my porch, not at her, but towards her to finally get her to leave.
Crisis averted! I did see little babies scampering and frolicking about a couple of weeks later and assumed Mama B had found a safer haven for her maternal activities. The yard service returned and no more bunny corpses were uncovered. Sure, there were some flashbacks, but in general, life went on.
Until last night. When I happened to glance outside from the upstairs window, and damn me, if that bunny (or perhaps another bunny, it’s not like they’re wearing collars and tags), was sitting in the exact same place as the aforementioned hole. I yelled from the window and then ran like the dickens downstairs and outside, yelling and waving my arms. The rabbit did not move. I got closer, still yelling. The rabbit did not move. I got about two inches away from the rabbit, and glaring at me (really, you should have been there), the rabbit moved aside just a tiny bit…to reveal three tiny baby rabbits underneath her.
I backed off! I cried! I really wanted to throw up, but I didn’t. I ran inside and called my sister, who as always remained calm and steady during my crisis (just as I remain calm and steady during hers, we’re awesome like that!). I googled baby bunny nests and read the advice that you are to leave them alone. I debated building a protective structure and also made a note to self to call the lawn service and tell them to avoid the back yard for a few weeks. I fretted mightily about Daisy going out, but the truth is, she is old and sedentary and really only ambles a couple of feet from the door to do her business and then comes back. When I took her out early this morning I looked for the nest, which is well camouflaged but I’m pretty sure I know where it is, so I just sort of blocked that part of the yard off from her.
Apparently it takes about three weeks for babies to leave the nest, and I’m fairly sure I witnessed their actual birth, so we have a ways to go on this. I’ll do what I can to protect them, within reason, but after that, it’s up to their mother and the Gods. The circle of life, right? But please don’t let that circle end in my backyard!
The end, for now
My, my, my! When you last heard from me, I had just been diagnosed with mononucleosis, and was trying to understand both how I got it, and exactly how one gets through it. It’s been about seven weeks now, and the answer to both questions is…no freaking idea! I still haven’t heard from, or of, anyone else sharing this lovely little bug. And, seven weeks in, I am still struggling with extreme exhaustion, fevers, elevated white blood cell counts, endless sore throats and all sorts of other fun, fun symptoms. It has been a real bumpy ride!
Exhaustion, or its more elegant name, fatigue, is an odd little thing. I come from a “walk it off” tribe of people, so it’s sort of in my DNA that nothing is going to stop me, or hold me back. Your right arm snaps off? Suddenly, you’re an adept lefty. You lose your house, or your mind? Build a shack out of mud, channel that insanity for something positive and creative. No slowing down, no pity parties allowed. Walk it off!
So, I’m going to confess here, and it is with a bit of shame, because it really demonstrates I’m not quite as empathetic and compassionate as I would strive to be. But in the past, when I heard, let’s say, of a celebrated performer or something, who had to cancel their tour because of exhaustion, my sympathy was limited. Can’t exhaustion simply be cured by a good night’s sleep? Or perhaps a nice brisk walk?
Turns out, it can’t! It’s a real thing, and, let me just tell you, it sucks big time! I’ve never been a great sleeper, and have basically spent my whole life resisting bed time, there always seems to be something more interesting to do. Now I quite literally wake up in the morning and my first thought is, I’m so tired! My next thought is, how soon can I go back to bed? Every thought and action requires way more energy than it normally should. To revert back to my native language, it is, like, a total bummer!
Now of course, I haven’t spent the last 7 weeks lying in bed. There’s no way I could stand that! I’ve done a few limited social activities, like seeing Beauty and the Beast (just wonderful, by the way). Last night I took a dear friend out for a birthday dinner that had been delayed for over a month because I wasn’t up to it. We had a wonderful time, but I rested all day to have the energy, and went to bed as soon as I got home.
I also have a job, and it’s sort of a demanding one. With the exception of two days the first week I was diagnosed, I have kept a full time schedule of work, easily more than 40 hours a week. I’m extremely fortunate that I have a lot of flexibility, including the ability to work from home several days a week, and within reason, I can set my own hours as long as the work gets done. But with team members spread virtually throughout the world, and our busiest season in full swing, plus adjusting to a new boss and all sorts of other internal changes, it has been rough. I’m more stressed than I have been since I moved here, probably not the best approach to recovery.
As I write this, I feel guilty. It’s not my way to complain, and I’m not trying to elicit sympathy, although I certainly won’t reject it either. I’m quite blessed in many ways, and sooner or later, I will get my pep back and be done with this illness. It’s certainly not terminal, and while it’s inconvenient and frustrating, it’s not the end of the world. But it has been an interesting lesson to learn, and in a way, I guess I’m grateful that there’s something to be gained from even the most annoying circumstances.
I’ve learned that sometimes, you have to give in. Not everything can be “walked off.” Chronic fatigue is a real thing, and it can be debilitating. I’ve been reminded of the kindness of people, those who have checked in with me regularly and listened kindly to my complaints without judgment. I’m extremely appreciative of my neighbor, who in a short time has become my good friend, and has kept an eye on me and plied me with cupcakes and cheer and offers of grocery runs. It’s true in life that sometimes you don’t appreciate what you have until you lose it. I’ll never take having energy and zip for granted again, once it comes back to me.
Spring is upon us, and although snow is still on the ground in New England, warmth and renewal are on the horizon. Next week, I’ll be making a quick trip home, to see my parents, and bask in the sun with my BFF. I’ll get to kiss my sister and hug my nephew and absorb those golden rays of California sunshine. I’ll put aside the stress of work, and repair myself with rest and relaxation and love and laughter. I expect to come home feeling better and ready for the next steps on my journey. And if I don’t? I guess I’ll just have to walk it off, one slow but steady step at a time.
The end, for now
It’s sort of always something with me. Really. My brother, who I believe is quite fond of me, calls me a disaster magnet. I don’t like that, although I am quite fond of my brother. But I will admit, things happen to me that don’t necessarily happen to the next fella, or at least, not as frequently. Things like a whole host of weird health stuff, for pretty much my whole life. Things like getting laid off and then a couple of weeks later having my appendix rupture and not knowing better, walking around it with it for 3 days before driving myself to emergency. I mean, it’s not like I’m going to run to emergency for every little thing, like searing pain on my side? Right? Or things like having a gastric ulcer and ending up in the hospital days before I was scheduled to move across the country. It’s always something.
Other things too. Like that time I was robbed 4 days before Christmas, and had all of my gifts for everyone stolen. Or, and we are going back decades, but still, missing my flight home from Paris and being stranded, completely broke, in Europe until my very angry, and at the time cash strapped, parents could scrape up enough money to get me home. Oh, how about being stuck on the New Jersey turnpike for 7 hours in a snow storm? In a taxi? For all of these things, I have tried as best I could to manage them with as much grace and humor as possible. It’s easier sometimes than others, and maturity, or what can pass for maturity, has definitely made it easier.
So, here’s the latest, if not disaster, hmmmmm, we will call it a hiccup in the life of Kathi Sue Gold. I had been feeling just generally poorly for the last few weeks. Achy and exhausted and with a sore throat that wouldn’t go away. I thought maybe I had the post-holiday, winter blues. I genuinely worried that I had finally passed the peak and had started the slow descent into old age, where everything basically hurts all the time. It was too soon! I was too young! But I wasn’t feeling better, and so, trying to learn from my past, I finally took myself to the doctor a couple of weeks ago, where I was diagnosed with strep throat.
Aha, I thought, now I can get better! I dutifully took my little Z pack and looked forward to the return of energy and joie de vivre. But it didn’t happen. A week later I still had the sore throat and the exhaustion so I emailed the doctor who assured me that the 5 day Z pack actually takes 10 days to work and all would be well, but it wasn’t.
A few nights ago, I woke up with the worst throat pain I’ve ever known. I couldn’t swallow. My glands were swollen and I had a high fever. Like I said, I’ve had a lot of medical shit in my life, so I try to take things in stride, but I felt awful, really really bad. I was a bit scared. I even called the doctor’s office at 4:00 in the morning, not really knowing what I wanted but just wanted my condition known by someone. But when the answering service asked me if it was an emergency, I said no. I may have felt like death but I knew my demise was not imminent.
I got into the doctor later that day, and after a bunch of tests and scans the results were in. The strep was still present, apparently resistant to the Z pack. And, as a special bonus gift, I also tested positive for mononucleosis. For which there is no real cure except a lengthy period of rest.
So first of all, mono? Really? Isn’t that something teenagers get, not mature women? And, isn’t that known as the kissing disease? I really wish I had some sort of wild and sexy origin story here, like I went to a rodeo and I got so carried away I made out with the winning bull rider. Or something like that. But the truth is, I honestly have no idea how I picked this sucker up. No one I know has it. And tragically, at least in my mind, I haven’t been kissing anyone. Got to work on that, but perhaps I should wait 4 to 6 weeks.
Because that, allegedly, is how long it takes to recover from mono, more or less. When I asked the doctor how I would know when I was better, she said, because you will feel better. Okay, then, clear as mud. And when I asked her to define rest, she said whenever you’re tired, rest. Not so helpful, because I am tired all the time, although I guess there are degrees to it.
How do I feel, honestly? Sick, grumpy, bored, housebound, discouraged. Completely exhausted. With a headache and sore throat and a cough that just started. Last night, just lying on the couch watching TV, I suddenly felt so bad I pulled a throw over myself and curled up in a ball and just went to sleep. I woke up in the middle of the night with Daisy lying on top of me, like she was protecting me from harm. Or getting ready to eat me, either way.
But here’s the deal. Even in all my sad, sick grumpiness, I know this is just temporary. I’ll get better. People deal with far worse, all the time. So, I’m trying as best as I can to take care of myself, keep perspective, and a sense of humor, and remember it’s just a moment in time. Counting my blessings, which always helps no matter how bad I feel. I’ll recover from this most inconvenient illness and stay alert for the next unexpected wrinkle that comes my way. After all, it’s always something.
The end, for now
Well, first of all, let me say that fall totally lived up to its promise as my favorite season! It was fantastic! The weather was glorious. The whole New England leaf changing thing, it has not been exaggerated, so astonishingly, breathtakingly beautiful. Everywhere you looked, like even in the grocery store parking lot and on the side part of your yard that no one else can see so you don’t give it adequate attention, suddenly broke out in a riot of colors! Hello Gorgeous (foliage)!
I had a sweet little run of visitors, all quite high on that precious roster of my most favorite people. First my sister came, arriving during a rainstorm so treacherous cars were stalling out on the turnpike. For four days we laughed and teased and talked. While out showing her the local sights, I somehow fell whilst crossing a stream, ending up flat on my tush in a few inches of cold, mucky water, which only made us laugh harder (it’s somehow part of my family lore that I will inevitably end up rear down in slime). We wore turkey hats in public and hiked around Walden Pond. Such a fun visit!
Next, my lovely friend Mr. Kettles, who I’ve known since high school, drove up for a weekend from New Jersey. We visited the Old North Bridge in Concord, on a day so cold that our selfies took on the look of polar explorers, we were so bundled up. And, in the most serendipitous way, we found ourselves at The Orchid House, also in Concord, which was the home of our beloved Josephine March, i.e. Louisa May Alcott, where Mr. Kettles stealthily bought us tickets to a “special holiday tour.” I became quite teary with happiness when I realized the tour included Alcott family reenactors, and remained dewy eyed with joy throughout the house tour, which ended in the parlor with four adorable young ladies who put on a little skit for us, and then led us in singing carols. It was magical!
Finally, my BFF came for a nice, long visit over Christmas. At last I could show her my house, my route to work, my grocery store, all of the things that we talk about all the time. We explored the local countryside and watched movies and ate and drank, and shared a great dinner out with another close friend and basically had a perfect time. The merriest of Christmases!
And then, the holidays and visits were over. The guest room was empty, the next visitors aren’t scheduled for months. Back to work, with the annual, stressful, busy season beginning January 1. It got cold, really cold, like 5 degrees. It snowed and then it stopped snowing, and everything was slushy and wet and gray. I longed for warmth! I longed for California! I longed for my sister and Kettles and the BFF! I realized the weather might be like this for the next 3 months and I felt depressed. For the first time since I moved here, I had doubts about my ability to do this, to live cheerfully in a place where the weather dictates so much of life, about 6 months of the year it’s either cold and dark and dreary, or hot and humid and sticky.
And then, I got over it. I remembered how awesome fall was, and how lovely spring will be, and how nice and novel it is to have seasons that change. I remembered how beautiful it is here. I remembered, quite clearly, how lucky and blessed I am to have a great job, busy season or no, and great friends nearby and far away. I booked a trip to California, and realized I can do that as often as I need to, finances permitting. I got out my cutest scarves and boots and gloves and earmuffs and thought about making soup and stews and muffins and all sorts of treats to keep cozy and warm through winter.
I’ve been here 14 months, and it’s still an adjustment. Perhaps it always will be. Last winter was so mild and everything was so new to me, it didn’t really sink in. Now I’m really in it, responsible for a house and property and all the maintenance that goes with it, and a demanding job, with lots of people to manage and support and try my best to lead. It can be daunting. It can be lonely. It can be cold and dark and slushy. But for the most part, it is also quite wonderful. So, even if the weather outside is frightful, life is still delightful. And spring is only 66 days away!
The end, for now
Last week, I returned to California, for the first time since I moved away, in Nov. 2015. It probably won’t surprise anyone when I confess I was a bit nervous before the trip, filled with trepidation about what it would be like to go to the place I still considered home, and then, leave again.
This may sound weird, but in my mind, while I had moved forward and created this new life, everything back home had somehow frozen and stayed the same. It’s not a very logical concept, but while I have stayed very connected to the people I left behind, my goodness, I talk to some of them more than I did when I lived there, I had not given any attention or thought to the place itself and how I might fit back in to it.
It’s a little surreal to return to the place where you have spent 98.2% of your life (I used a calculator to figure that out), and feel like a visitor, but that’s how it felt. While the people, my family and friends, all remain the same as they ever were, in a very good way, the places no longer felt like I belonged to them. I was a stranger in a familiar land. It was odd and a little unsettling.
It was a quick visit, and the time moved too quickly. But I did get to spend some lovely time with my parents, attend the traditional Thanksgiving feast with my usual branch of family, have dinner with my brother and his wife, and share a couple of too quick meals with close friends. Plus I got to check out my friend Lea’s amazing new restaurant, Claudine’s, so very proud of this sweet girl who I have known for decades! And, as the final cherry on the sundae, I got to spend two days laughing myself silly and basically acting like a 13 year old with my best friend.
As great as the visit was, it wasn’t as hard to leave as I had expected. The worst part about my move is missing my people, and saying goodbye to them is never easy. But I know I’ll see them again, some sooner than others, they’ll visit me, and I’ll continue to visit them. However, now I have people on the East Coast, and I missed them too. I missed my dog, my house, my life. It felt good coming back to it, to the place I belong now.
I don’t know what the future holds, nobody does. I’ve said I don’t plan to “grow old” in the East, meaning at some far away point, when I can finally retire, I expect to head back West, to the warmth and to my family. But it won’t be going home, it will be creating the next new life. For now, my life is in Massachusetts, and I am home again.
The end, for now
Today marks the one year anniversary of my moving to Massachusetts. It’s sort of hard to reconcile in my mind, in some ways it feels like so much has happened, in other ways it feels like it was just a heartbeat ago that my dad dropped me off at the airport, with me desperately winking away the tears that threatened to cascade down my face.
In that year, I’ve moved twice, bought a house, started a new job, been promoted to a different job, made friends, lived a life. Day to day, things aren’t that different. I work hard, I spend time talking to my people (family and friends, you know who you are). I run errands on Saturdays, grocery shop on Sundays. Same as it ever was.
But in other ways, so much has changed. For one thing, weather has never factored so prominently in my life before. In California, it’s basically warm, hot or really hot, 95% of the time. Very rarely, it rains (hence the drought). Even more rarely, the temperature dips, perhaps to 65 degrees and we all don scarves and mittens and drink cocoa and pretend it’s cold.
Massachusetts weather is far more dramatic, and changeable. They say here if you don’t like the weather, wait 10 minutes, and there is some truth to that. I’ve never experienced such significant weather, including of course snow, but also violent rainstorms, stifling humidity, oppressive heat and bone chilling cold. It’s only mid fall but the temperature has already dipped into the 40s and even 30s (nighttime) several times this month. What’s odd to me is how quickly I have acclimated to these lower temps. Whereas I too bundled up if the thermometer read 65 degrees in California, here I’ve been known to go out without a jacket unless it’s below 50.
I have been worrying a lot about winter. Again. I mean I worried a lot about winter last year, before and after I moved East, but last winter was just a tease, an amuse bouche, as it were, of what winter could be. This is not hyperbole on my part, it was actually the mildest winter in decades, a welcome follow up to the winter of 2014, which people are still talking about, the one where more than 100 inches of snow fell through the season. Last year, I think our total was about 14 inches. Early predictions, which of course could totally not come true, are that this winter will be a harsh one. And, frankly, I’m a bit scared.
The big difference for me this year, is that unlike last year where I lived in a townhouse with 24 hour maintenance and a crew that started shoveling and plowing as soon as the snow stopped falling, now I own and am completely responsible for the maintenance of a semi old, semi large, barn of a house with a decent sized front, side and back yard. And while I have hired a service to plow the drive, the rest is up to me, including figuring out how poor Daisy is going to do her business when the snow gets deep, as I suspect it inevitably will.
I’ll figure it out, just like I’ve figured everything else out. I’m lucky to have some good friends who will advise me and who are gracious enough not to laugh in front of my face. That’s been a great gift in this last year and probably one of the greatest challenges too, meeting new people and making new friends. It may surprise some of you to learn that I suffer from social anxiety. I know I come off as a confident and outgoing person, and that’s absolutely true, but the specter of unfamiliar situations fills me with dread and I have to fight hard against retreat and paralysis. I’m ALWAYS fine once I get there, but prior to arrival, the anxiety and angst are actually painful, and come with the bonus of feeling ashamed. So, imagine the battle when almost every experience over the last year has come with that struggle. But I’ll continue to fight against it. I can’t build a new life for myself without leaving my living room, as comfortable as that feels. Yesterday I did my first gig as a volunteer at a sweet little community theater, ushering for the matinee. As usual, I was filled with nerves prior to arrival, but it was fun and felt right and I’ll be back there again, for sure.
My life here is happy. Happier than I expected. In some ways I think everyone should push the restart button at midlife, it’s as invigorating and exciting as anything I can think of. Of course there’s been loneliness and challenges and struggles but those are all part of life and I wouldn’t have traded anything that has happened to me in the last five years for anything else. Really, truly. Last week, I was driving down Boston Post Road, one of the oldest roads in the country, and, especially with the trees still brilliant with color, a beautiful and stunning sight. The song The Long Way Home, by Supertramp, came on the radio, with that gorgeous harmonica introduction, and I just started crying, hot happy tears because in that moment, I felt gloriously at home.
The end, for now
Considering the fact that I recently moved into a 77 year old house, I guess it should be no surprise that it requires constant maintenance and repair. Just yesterday I gave a sharp yank on a door that seemed a bit stuck, only to have the doorknob come off in my bemused hand. And while I had the large, urgent items looked at before I moved in, if I were actually keeping a running list of things that need to be done, the list, she would be long!
In my previous life, I would have had a variety of options to address these things. First, I would call Kerry. The bestie is pretty handy (plus smart and pretty and all those good things). She could probably knock out the first (easiest) level of chores, ably assisted by me in the background as comic relief. Too complicated for Kerry? Time to call Dad. He could take care of almost any problem, whether it be rewiring a light switch or installing a new faucet. Feeling guilty about cajoling an 82 year old man to do my dirty work? Not quite comfortable making him climb a ladder or do anything too intense? I was lucky enough to have a good friend in the neighborhood who also worked as a handyman and could basically cover any remaining project not requiring complex plumbing or electrical work. I even had a plumber on retainer, who came so often he felt bad about charging me full rate. What a sweetheart.
So here I am, without my team, and as I said, the list of things to be fixed grows daily. A couple of weeks ago, I decided to change out all the light switch plates, which were old and yellow and looked even dingier against my newly painted walls. I don’t have the skills to change the actual switches themselves, but my current “house fund” (the one set aside to take care of household repairs) is currently hovering around $26, so I decided to do what I could. It’s not a complicated task, but given that I had 15 plates needing to be replaced, it wasn’t a quick one either. It took a few hours, and included two trips to the hardware store, one bandage (don’t ask), a short temper tantrum (see previous item), and a few hot tears (see previous item(s)). But I got most of them done, except for the one behind the hutch that is too heavy for me to move, and I have to admit, I did feel a sense of pride at my, albeit minor, accomplishment.
Part of my problem is that I genuinely have a hard time reading instructions and applying them. I’m not sure what the issue is, I know I’m not a stupid person but I certainly feel like one every time I try to interpret assembly instructions. People (names might rhyme with Larry and Lad) get very frustrated with me about this, but it’s a real thing. It’s like instruction dyslexia, they may as well be written in a foreign language. Last week I tried to install a simple solar light outside. Seriously, folks, what does this mean?
Fix the wall plug into the wall, insert the screw into the wall plug but leave a gap for hanging the lamp
What wall plug? What screw? Why a gap? Why??? I ended up just taking a hammer and banging the hell out of a nail and wedging the solar light on top of the nail. Done. No screw, no plug, no gap. Will it stay up? Who knows?
And speaking of hanging things, and hammers, if you come to visit, please refrain from commenting that all my pictures are hung too high or too low. I know! But the walls in this house are super thick and hard to hammer. So once I get that nail in the wall, it’s not moving! Because, well, once I tried to remove the nail, but we aren’t going to talk about the big hole on the freshly painted wall, are we? I thought not.
Of course I can hire a handyman to help me, and eventually I will. But even though I am not skilled, or talented, or able to read instructions, there is a certain satisfaction in being able to do things myself. I never thought I would be able to replace a toilet seat, but after watching the online tutorial, and getting a little advice from a kind coworker, both the bathrooms in this big, crumbly old house have nice shiny clean new seats. And whenever I, ahem, sit upon them, I think to myself, well, I guess you’re not as unhandy as you think. Hmmmm, maybe I should try to replace that doorknob!
The end, for now
Note: I wrote this a few years ago, before I began posting to this blog. Stumbled upon it today, it cracked me up, and I decided it was worth a repost. Hope it makes you smile.
So, my Dad and Marge have a little “cee-ment” pond in their backyard. Literally, cement, but since they are in a high rent district, they refer to it as a “water feature.” Fancy! And, they keep fancy fish in it. Mostly fancy, large goldfish, but also some Koi. Are these the same thing? Turns out I am only a fish expert when it comes to sushi and tuna in a can. And trout, caught down by the old mill stream, but that’s another story for another day.
We all love their little pond. At family gatherings we will often spend time admiring it. It has little lily pads, it’s painted blue (like the deep blue sea, see?), and sometimes favored family members are allowed to sprinkle the fish food flakes in.
I do not live in a high rent district. I live in the ‘hood. The mean streets. The asphalt jungle. Okay, I’m full of shit, I live squarely in a nice suburb, but it’s still a little more diverse, and a little less “contained” than the Palisades, home of Bob, Marge, and the pond. And as I was tooling about my neighborhood one morning, I noticed a house that had a sign in front. And the sign said, “Koi for sale”. But wait, there’s more. On the other side of the yard, there was another sign that read, “funnel cakes for sale.”
Let’s take a moment here. Sometimes when I feel sad, and discouraged by life’s knocks, I only need to think of the splendour of the world that allows illicit Koi and funnel cakes to be sold. It really is a magical land of wonder, and we are just living in it!
Fast forward. Dad comes out to the Valley, and we head over to the koi/funnel cake house. There’s a guy sitting in the front yard. A couple of buckets by his side, and an old, scraggly bulldog at his feet. Not to disparage, but the house seems shabbier than the street view had revealed. I’m now a little nervous that I have dragged my sweet, elderly papa into this “fishy” adventure. [editor’s note, Bob Gold is a fine man, but sweet and elderly might be construed as poetic license. More like canny, smart and spry as hell.]
So Dad and Koi man are now chatting it up, and somehow Koi man is asking Dad for advice on how to start running. Did I mention the old man had just come from a race and was still wearing his medal? The Koi conversation starts to hone into transactional state, and Koi guy mentions he has more koi “in the back.”
Now I’m more nervous. In the back? Are we about to be koi-napped, kept alive with funnel cakes? But Dad willingly follows Koi man, and I timidly slink behind them. And walk into what looks like a massive Koi operation. They have literally transformed their in-ground swimming pool into the world’s largest koi bowl. There are pipes running over it, the water is murky green, and it is filled with hundreds, possibly thousands, of beautiful, fancy, beautiful koi.
My Dad asks the price of a single koi and we are told they are over a hundred dollars a fish. Koi man explains that he imports them from Hawaii, and has another koi warehouse somewhere else in L.A. Dad demures that he is not interested in spending anywhere near that on a fish, and the guy beckons us over to a bank of coolers against the wall. He opens one, and we see it is filled with baby koi. $10 a fish. So Dad says for me to pick one out, which I do. Koi man bags our fish, we shake hands, and depart. No funnel cake has exchanged hands, unfortunately. I ask Dad what he is going to name the fish, and when he tells me he doesn’t plan to name it, I suggest “Kathi.” So, Kathi the Koi goes home to the Palisades.
I would love to tell you this is where the story ends, but like most of my stories, there’s a twist. My dad decides he wants another fish and comes out the next weekend. We go back to the house. No Koi man. No funnel cake sign. No old bulldog. The house appears to be abandoned. We peek over into the backyard. Pool has been drained. Did we dream this?
And, within a few weeks, Kathi the Koi had mysteriously “disappeared” from the pond.
The End, for now