March 7th – Mom’s feeling so much better though the morning is a bit gloomy. Considering she’s much peppier and motivated, I’ve decided to ditch pool time and follow her lead.
Mom’s Freezer – A little back story for those who’ve never lived with or visited my Mom. Though a widow for many years, she prepares a complete meal nearly every night. Entrée, salad, wine, veggie and a roll, pasta, rice or potato and a little something sweet in the evening. As a result, she always has leftovers of some quantity that end up in the freezer filling empty containers which once held cottage cheese, sour cream etc. She’s pretty good about labeling but prior to the upcoming move, her freezer was either “gold mine or land mine”. And by that I mean – something really good or something that’s beyond recognition. And she’s a “dab saver” meaning she wastes nothing so lots of tiny “packets” of stuff. Some of it is comical and we laugh as we toss it. Before she knew she was moving, her freezer was filled to capacity. It must be hereditary as this explains why I need to jump back when opening my own overstuffed freezer for fear of frozen objects landing on my always bare feet.
The plan: identify, pitch or keep. She compiles a list of what we’re keeping while I consolidate multiple small packets of ground beef, rotisserie chicken etc., into larger marked ziplock bags. Now we know what’s left to use up for our final meals at home. I’m very creative in the kitchen and a “Chopped” junkie (reference: The Food Network). I love to discover random refrigerator, freezer and pantry items to whip up a gourmet meal sans recipes. My mind is already at work.
After a short break, we make serious in-roads into both her large and small pantry. I carry donation items to her car and clear the garage of numerous recyclable items. We eat a tasty dinner of “found leftovers”.
Only once have we locked horns ( probably overstating). Mom was determined to fit the guest room lamp (without the shade) into the same box as her very large, old fashioned milkshake machine. I’m talented at “spatial capacity” and I told her “no way in hell it will fit”. She is just as determined that it will. After a stand-off, we agree to unplug and de-shade/de-bulb the lamp so that she can try it. Needless to say I was right.
But we have to pack that lamp as it’s moving anyway so now it’s ready for it’s own box. After dinner I throw together a batch of baked oatmeal, thus using up more pantry and fridge items including the frozen raspberries in the freezer. Her brown sugar is packed so I improvise with a combination of white sugar and real maple syrup. While it bakes, we cue the DVR for the latest Shark Tank and watch while enjoying the last of our Key Lime Pie.
I shall remember this as the day we got back on track.
March 6th – I wake up at 4:30 a.m. with thoughts pinging around the inside of my brain. Too early to take my thyroid pill, I go back to bed and meditate, then read a bit. I fall into a weird “sleep” I guess because though I’m aware I’m laying in bed I have a dream in which Jennifer Aniston, Jimmy Kimmel and Neil Patrick Harris are putting on some kind of outdoor event, honoring me – in my backyard. And I’m right there with them as crowds of people arrive but to my horror, I find I’m sans pants. Then I wake up. If you analyze dreams, please send me a message privately to explain that dream. It was freaky, but I digress…..
The good news: Mom is smiling (her natural demeanor) and not squeaking – her voice is back. She’s clearly improving but with so many loose ends to tie up, I need to find every way to keep us on track and not forgetting anything essential. That brings me to this picture that is reminiscent of me today (and at many times in my past working life):
She’s taking her car for an oil change, new wiper blades, battery, front end alignment and anything else that should be evaluated before we start the long drive from Florida to Michigan. Left alone, I start on cleaning and organizing. She left me with a tub of coins and wrappers asking that I roll them up which I do while simultaneously watching last night’s Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal. Her car is taking longer than expected, they drop her at home. They’ll pick her up when it’s done. We eat lunch, she cat-naps and I blog. When the dealership comes to pick her up, I join her. We run errands, forgetting to drop off her tax stuff as planned, realizing it only after we’re back home. Another day….
En route home, Mom stopped off at Bealls, a great Florida-based department store. I’m a huge fan of local artist, Leoma Lovegrove who does a line for them including clothing, bags, beach towels, luggage tags, gift bags, i-phone covers – you name it, they make it in her wildly original, vibrant designs. I’d seen this purse (see below) a few days ago when we popped in but now had $20 in Bealls cash burning a hole in my wallet and had to use or lose it. Originally $40, with the daily 30% off and my Bealls cash plus tax, it came to a whopping $8.48. If you’ve followed me, you know that my passion for Spence is seconded only my love of cats. Knowing it would be a lasting reminder of this trip to move Mom, I couldn’t resist. What do you think?
We stopped and picked up a couple of items at the Publix store (which she’ll miss dearly) including a 1/2 Key Lime Pie we shared while watching the season finale of Downton Abbey. Mom was fading fast as the show neared it’s end and could hardly muster the energy to get off the couch and into bed. I fear that my constant barrage of questions and activity, may have been too much for her first day of feeling better.
Tomorrow, we’re (meaning me) going to calm down, fit in an hour of pool time and knock out a bit more packing. To the control freak who lives inside of me and is endlessly asserting itself into thoughts, words and action. “Just breathe and chillax already.”
Stay tuned for more on the “Moving Mom” series. You can sort by categories or use the search box to find all related posts. And by the way, many thanks for stopping by.
March 4th – I awake and realize I’m in Florida, out of the sub-zero, frozen tundra of Michigan. Lovely. Over breakfast I can see that Mom, who’s by now on her third dose of antibiotic, seems sick but is hanging in there. We start talking about the tasks at hand and I start my “take-charge/bouncing off” ideas that are cascading out of my amped-up, moving-motivated brain. She’s grateful and all too happy to have someone else suggest ideas on packing the POD which will be dropped off 3/9 and once loaded with her worldly goods, taken away on 3/16. We discuss our road trip north (I-75 to Michigan) and the importance of stocking in a few bottles of wine (we could be stranded in dry counties!) for the road as well as Kindles and Dominoes.
Part of this trip is the nostalgic last-time tour of my favorite spots. We decide that today is as good as any to drive out to Fisherman’s Village in Punta Gorda for lunch at my favorite seafood restaurant. Off we go, with me driving her car (a good plan since we’ll share the drive north) and make a bee-line for the Village Fish Market Restaurant. Our tradition, order the basket of Fried Mozzarella and Zucchini appetizer to split (served with ranch and honey mustard) and I get the fried oyster entree with their exceptional onion rings and the jalapeño cornbread. I can only say that there is NOWHERE ON EARTH that does fried food any better! (check my Trip Advisor review if you think I’m embellishing) I almost weep thinking “will I ever be here again?” but suck it up so I don’t make Mom cry as well. She even makes a point as we’re leaving to say goodbye to their bartender who’s waited on us in the past and is exceptional. (Sigh)
March 5th – Mom is really sick today. I’m concerned based on her past. Some years back she had a horrific sinus infection that lasted seven months during which she lost 20% of her body weight (and she can’t keep weight on – and yes, lest you ask, she is my birth mother – sadly she didn’t pass on this trait to my sister and I. Sigh again.) She’s now losing her voice and looks (as I did the week prior) like a kitten could kick her ass. I’m still in the take-charge mode but know she’s grateful and frankly doesn’t even care what I’m doing. She just wants to lie down and sleep. I decide to get out of her hair and do some pool time since I think my hyper-activity is stressing her out.
I come back in time to freshen up and meet her Financial Advisor who’s arranged to stop by. I get her out of bed to join us and her voice is down to a squeak. She looks like she’s barely hanging on. I think she’s on the wrong antibiotic but she wants to stick with it till the next morning so I back off my “Dr. Laura” routine. I take out the recycle bin and notice the night sky is full of stars and the moon is magnificent. I run for my i-phone to capture it.
Tomorrow is another day, hoping Mom is improved or I’ll be hog-tying her and dragging her to the doctor!
March 3rd – I got out of Michigan – barely. About 90% recovered from an upper respiratory infection (with a setback the day prior) I awoke feeling pretty good. I typically fly out of Flint’s Bishop Airport, very close to home. However, when I booked my flight, the only non-stop left from Detroit on Spirit. I’ve flown from Detroit many times, typically an hour+ from home. As I fixed my tea, I was delighted to see sun and clear skies. Hurrah! I’m not a relaxed flier and had misplaced the guardian angel pin that has adorned my shoulder for every flight in the last 25 years.
Then I got up for my second cup of tea. As I entered the kitchen, much to my horror a blizzard was in full swing. What? Why? I felt a little cramp in my gut. I headed up to finalize my packing, this time I found my guardian angel pin. OK, feeling better. By the time we left, several inches had accumulated. Just trying to get down our street (which is a main road) we realized that freezing rain had fallen first and we could barely keep the SUV on the road. Great. With Spence driving, I checked with Spirit, my 2:55 flight was now pushed back to 4:36 but hadn’t been cancelled. Then the weather took a turn – to freezing rain. Little ice pellets pelting the windshield, vehicles off the road around every turn. A huge white pick-up passed us, spun out, hit the cement barrier, bounced off and shot backwards right at us. Just missed us and landed off the road. Yikes. Spence, God love him, is a great driver but grumbled in a tense voice “from now on we won’t fly unless we can leave from Flint” the thought that had already run through my head. Lunch and cocktails at Metro’s TGI Fridays, followed by three gate changes, boarding at 5:30, de-iced and wheels up by 6:15 p.m. Success!
Safe in Ft Myers, a balmy evening. Mom picked me up at baggage claim, a big smile followed by “Don’t hug me, I’m sick”. Arriving late, she had things for a light dinner/snack but apologized for not having the house “picked up”. I reminded her of the reason I’m here – to help her pack up her home of the last 26 years and move her back to Michigan. I expected boxes, empty picture hooks and the like. The house had sold quickly and she’s been working nearly every day since on the process of “take it, give away or pitch it”. That said, I did feel a twinge of sadness as we’ve had so many happy memories here.
To my followers, you may have noticed a slow down in my blogging. What started with my annual bout of losing-my-voice at the end of last week morphed into an upper respiratory ailment that sent me to the doctor. Armed with antibiotics, inhaler, Mucinex, hot water with lemon and honey, orange juice and lots o’ bed rest, I’m finally starting to bounce back to my previous good health. For awhile there, a kitten could have kicked my ass.
Next week I fly south to sunny Florida to help my Mom pack up the pod which will move her belongings to Michigan. Then God willing and prayers for better roads than we’ve seen this winter, she and I will begin our road trip driving back to Michigan and her new home. There have already been a few posts about “Moving Mom”. I’m hoping for some good stories to share on the blog and hope you’ll stay tuned.
I began living on my own at 19, taking a wrong turn into an ill-conceived first marriage at 21 (including 2 moves) followed by a blessed divorce at 24. From the time I left the marital apartment, I was a bit of a vagabond, moving no less than 6 times in the next 4 years. The only good thing about perpetual moving is 1) I didn’t have as much stuff and 2) every time I packed, I purged what wasn’t needed. I remember my young self watching my ex-husband carting away my collection of record albums (that was painful), my griddle (the man once called and asked me “how much water do you use to boil hamburger?” Seriously, I came home to evidence that he’d boiled hamburger) and numerous other things that were mine prior to our brief union. I remember sitting on my dining room table, clutching my two cats, Snooks and Bandit thinking “take it all, it’s just stuff”. But I digress. Fast forward to the autumn of my 28th year. From a one bedroom apartment, I moved into the house I’ve called home for thirty years. Three bedrooms, large kitchen, pantry and…….a basement. I remember a thought running through my head “however will I fill these cupboards?” followed by the thought of “haha, you’re a funny and pretty blonde”.
Needless to say, I found that filling cupboards and closets took little time and by the time Spence moved in 7 years later and added his belongings, well you get it. Over time I found that I had a lot of “junk drawers” and a sense of clutter hidden just out of sight in closets, cupboards and particularly….the basement.
Back to the subject of filing. I’m not going to say that I’ve never filed anything. I have taken it upon myself, on a cold or rainy day off to drag up a bag or box of paperwork that I’d put in a “good place” in the basement and sort through it. (usually around tax season) For every pound of paperwork that I combed through, 75% of it went into the recycle bin or shredder. Even then I still kept a lot of “stuff” that I’d never need but felt compelled to create a folder for nonetheless. I continued to accumulate more filing than a working gal would ever get to, especially when there were so many other things I’d prefer to do. And it was out of sight though not quite out of mind. I coddled myself into thinking, “when I retire, that’ll be one of the first things I’ll tackle.”
I retired on 2/28/14 departing almost immediately for a few weeks in Florida to “clear my over-filled head and embrace my new normal”. If you’ve read my blog, you know that since then I’ve been having a grand time, experiencing new things, traveling and living the dream with Spence. In short, the thought of tackling “the filing”, while in the back of my brain, just wasn’t a priority.
Enter the phase I’ll call “focus and inspiration”. Since April of 2014, I’ve discovered the joys of yoga and meditation which have created a sense of “focus”. It took till 10/31, but as I’d promised I started my blog. I mention yoga, meditation and the blog because I’ve successfully committed to making them a part of my everyday life, while still having lots of fun and adventures. Those three things have created “focus”.
“Inspiration” to get organized came from my mom. At 81 and in good health, she returned to Florida (after a summer in Michigan), decided to sell her home and move to Michigan to be closer to my sister and I. She met with a realtor before the holidays and began the process of getting her home ready to show by January. It went on the market and sold almost immediately. Downsizing to an apartment, she was now faced with what she’ll keep and what must go. This has resulted in numerous emails as she’s given “right of first refusal” to my sister and I on those things she’s parting with. With every email, a spark was lit in me. Realizing the enormous favor she is doing for us by moving on “her terms” and sorting through things that under different circumstances we would be overwhelmed by, I knew that could no longer put off the inevitable. The time had come to put my house “in order”.
In fairness, during the beautiful Michigan Spring, Summer and Fall, I adore gardening and Spence physically cannot do much to help me there. It is a full time job, though in retirement I don’t have to cram it into the rare day off when the weather cooperates. Seduced by sun, fresh air, my hands in the dirt, creating a symphony of chaotic loveliness, frankly – I wanted to be outside after the winter, not in the basement contending with filing.
Fast forward to early January. Armed with purpose and Christmas behind me, I made a commitment. The time was NOW. I started dragging up the bags and boxes, sifting through years of paperwork. Every single day. (okay, almost every single day) In fairness I should mention that I pay the bills; it’s “my domain”. Spence occasionally gives me something to file but though he’s been retired pretty much since I’ve known him, I’m too much of a control freak to hand over the sorting and filing of our important paperwork. He’s fine with that but in retrospect, perhaps I should have considered delegating it? Woulda, shoulda, coulda……
As of yesterday, I brought up and sorted through the last box of filing. Hurrah! In years past, if I’d pitch 75%, I’m now at 90-95%. Everything had to be evaluated – “shred it or recycle it”? I remarked to Spence, “should I die first, you have no idea what a favor I’ve done for you”. His reply, “if you die first, I’ll leave it for whoever comes in after I’m dead”. If you knew him, you’d know truer words were never spoken.
That said, this new-found commitment to organization has become like a drug to me. If I open a drawer, closet or cupboard that hasn’t yet been tackled, I stop and clean it out. I’ve made tremendous progress and found a few treasures – a black velvet bag full of quarters (really? when did I start saving quarters in a little bag? Still, kind of cool) an entire checkbook that had gone missing a year ago, my replacement Amazon credit card that I knew I’d received in 12/2014 but which had “disappeared” and my player’s club card from the casino that Spence and I frequent every month, a recent loss to a cluttered drawer.
For the focus and inspiration that kicked in to “get ‘er done”, I’m grateful. It only took the looming deadline of my first year in retirement to do what I’d promised myself for years. And it feels great.
Next project, after moving mom and the arrival of spring weather, is the much-needed organization of the garage. No more excuses and for that project, I will enlist Spence.
Mom has sold her home in Florida, moving back to Michigan to be nearer my sister and I. Part of the process is letting go of things she won’t need in her smaller senior apartment. Cupboard by cupboard, drawer by drawer, closet by closet, she’s offered my sister and I numerous items before donating them. Not unexpected, the items I feel most drawn to wouldn’t be of interest to others; sentimentality has played a large part in items that I’ve said yes to.
Mom’s Mixing Bowls
Her mixing bowls have seen better days. Once a vibrant green, blue, yellow and red, they’ve faded to a more “rustic” look. What I see are bowls used when mom made cookies and cakes, teaching me how to use a rubber spatula with my reward being able to lick off the batter. I fondly remember the large one brimming with bubbling casseroles of baked spaghetti on Sundays and Six Layer Dinner, my Grandma’s recipe. She taught me how to measure and follow recipes, sparking my love of cooking and nurturing it. These bowls were always present. Years later when I’d visit, those bowls appeared when she cooked a requested family favorite for me or we prepared something delicious together. Good times.
Grandpa Fox’s Knives
My love of food and cooking came from not only my Mom but her father as well. My Grandpa Fox found his passion and talent for cooking after a long illness in his forties that necessitated early retirement. Memories of his cooking make me salivate to this day. He was gifted in the kitchen and on the grill. His enjoyment was evident, his enthusiasm contagious and he loved feeding his family. So many memories – the aroma of his fried chicken wafting out the door giving us a preview before we entered. His veal scallopini for which he became a legend (now a recipe I’m known for). His homemade beans, made in a special sunken bean crock built into their stove lovingly stirred and coaxed along over what seemed like several days. His ham glaze and homemade peach jam – divine. His perfectly crispy hash browns made using a potato ricer, dusted with minced parsley from his garden, browned in butter then expertly flipped – in the air. His famous charcoal grilled, rotisserie chickens that drew neighbors to his yard in awe and to whom he offered “a peek for a nickel” (with a wink and twinkle in his eye). And then there’s his Lamb Stew, so beautiful that you wanted to photograph it, the pop of green peas, bright orange carrots and perfect pearl onions in a glistening rich gravy with chunks of melt-in-your-mouth lamb.
So when Mom asked if I’d like two of Grandpa’s stainless steel knives is it any wonder that I’d want to inherit those instruments used to create meals ingrained in my memory and so much a part of my happy childhood?