Monday, October 22, 2012

My House

I love my home.  It is not anything fancy.  It would by no means be featured in an upcoming Southern Living, but it is just right for me.  I have lived in many houses over the years.  Houses in the country, houses in town, and houses in cities.  Houses with one story, two stories, and four stories.  Some of the houses I have gotten to paint, choose carpet, choose wallpaper, etc.  Others I have had to make do with what was there.  I have had favorites.  I loved the second house we lived in when we where in Bethesda.  It was old and had little nooks here and there.  But it only had one and half baths.  The thing was, none of the houses belonged to us.  We were  renting them or they were parsonages.  When we moved to Raleigh, we were finally able to buy our own home.   We were excited and scared.  Jack read the book "Buying Houses for Dummies".  He did all the numbers and came up with what he thought we could afford.  He patiently explained to me that just because the bank said we could borrow more, that didn't mean we could afford more.  I was frustrated with him...but now I am so thankful he did his homework!

Finally the day came for us to actually start looking.  We had one day allotted to find a home.  Our fabulous realtor, Tom Hawkins, had done his homework as well.  He knew our price range and basically what we were looking for and found several listings for us to look at.  Tom was tickled by my "looking" method.  I usually walked inside the house and said either "no"  or "well, let's look".  He didn't get it.  He wanted me to articulate "my feeling".  But I couldn't, I just had a "feeling" about the house.  It started getting late in the day before we got to the Cary area.  We drove by one listing and loved the neighborhood, and the outside of the house.  But unfortunately we couldn't see the house that day.  We drove over to another house which we also liked and toured it.  I liked it.  It was nice.  Two things though.  I didn't get "the feeling" when I walked in and the owners were selling because the wife had arthritis and was having trouble with all the steps (it was a split level).  That concerned me because I was starting to have trouble with arthritis myself.  Jack and I finally decided to push our departure back one more day.  The next morning we walked into the house we hadn't seen.  Immediately, I knew it was our home. I loved how the entryway was tall and open and well lit.  It really welcomed you into the house.  The master was on the first floor which was also a big bonus. It was a bit on the small side.  It only had a great room, not a separate living space.  But we knew this was the one.  Luckily for us it all worked out.
This is our house BEFORE it was painted!

Over the years I have painted every room except for the dining room and Stephen's room.  I totally redid my kitchen myself.  Okay, Okay, yes I have had some help painting and redoing my kitchen!   Thank you Nancy, Mike, Kevin, Grace, Janet, Donnie, Phil, Lou and Allison. These people have taught me new skills and helped me complete tasks when either my ability or my body was not capable.  I have enjoyed making this house ours.

When the kids started getting older, we started considering moving to a larger house.  We even looked into buying a home with an in-law suite and have Jack's mom move in with us.  But we quickly decided we couldn't afford a house big enough to accommodate our privacy.  :-)  So we stayed.  Now as the house is starting to empty of our kids, the house is feeling just the right size.  Of course I do think of the days when we will have spouses and grandchildren.  But, I think we can pull it off.  Plus, the majority of time we will be here alone.  We also from time to time think about moving into Raleigh so Jack's commute could be shorter.  But we keep coming back to we love our neighbors and I love the smallness of Cary.  Plus, I love my little home.

The house is starting to show wear and tear.  As we were cleaning yesterday, we noticed how disgusting the carpet on the stairs is becoming.  We are doing a special cleaning because we have a guest coming tomorrow.  It is interesting to me that when I have guest, I see my house so differently.  Suddenly I see everything that is wrong with it.  I am not as happy with it as I was just the day before.    I spent most of my adult life to this point worrying about what others would think about my house.  I didn't want people to be disgusted by it.  Think I was lazy because it wasn't perfectly cleaned and decorated. 

The older I get, the easier it is for me to turn off those voices.  I do the best I can.  Sure, there are dog hairs around, and yes, sometimes it looks like lots of small dogs, but I am also busy being creative.  I am busy writing this blog.  I am busy making memories with my family.  I am busy resting and taking care of my body.  Honestly, I don't invite a lot of people into my home.  The ones I do, love me for me.  They know my limitations and look past them.

So, yea, I love my little home.  And I am not going to let my perfectionistic voice get in the way of that.  One day Stephen's room will be painted, the dining room will be painted, the carpet on the stairs will be removed, and I will be able to hire someone to do what I cannot.  But until then, I will listen to the sounds of my children playing tag in my house, the sounds of squeals as the kids play with Sunshine, the sounds of us reading aloud, the sounds of a happy family.

Friday, October 19, 2012


I find myself at a place in my life where I am happy, content, and at peace.  I haven't always been here.  I fell into the trap of "the grass is greener" mindset for several years.  I also played the blame game.  It was Jack's fault, the church's fault, my health's fault, my children's fault, you name it, it was their faults!  But then my life became much simpler and I suddenly found the answer for me.

I have every right in the world to be angry about how my body has betrayed me.  Friends my age are starting to feel the things I started feeling at 20!  My peers health-wise are 70 year olds.  So, yeah, I have a right to be pissed.  I didn't choose this, I didn't ask for this, and I didn't do anything to cause it.

My children are on the precipice of leaving our home.  Stephen is already gone and Allie will leave next fall.  My role of being an everyday mom is closing down.  Allie is driving and working and self-sufficient.  I have no responsibilities in her everyday life.  I could be very depressed about this.  The past twenty years of my life revolved around them and their needs.  There is a hole there.

With Jack's career change, came a change in money.  Money is tight.  We watch every penny and make many sacrifices.  I could blame Jack for leaving a stable job.

I would venture to guess that all of you have a list as well.  Bad jobs, little money, illness, loneliness, hate where you live, don't have the life you thought you would have at this stage in life, the list goes on.  Maybe you blame your current circumstances on Obama.  I hear from a lot of people on facebook and the tv that seem to do just that.  Maybe you blame your spouse, your children, etc.

I wonder what our lives  would be like if we stopped blaming, stopped being mad, and made a different choice.  Yes, you have a choice.  Okay, maybe you have to keep your current job.  Maybe you can't change your living situation.  Most can't change their health.  So you feel trapped.  But are you?

What I have learned in recent years is that I do have a choice.  I can choose to be gloomy and angry or I can choose the find the joy in my life.  It isn't always easy.  In fact, sometimes it can be downright impossible.  But, I challenge you to keep digging.

My health has given me the opportunity to meet many wonderful people.  I have met other patients whose lives have enriched my own.  I have met healthcare professionals whom I really care about.  My health has given me the opportunity to live a more simple life.

Watching my children get ready to fly out of our nest has given me such joy.  It is nice to see the fruits of those long years when they were young.  It has brought me time.  Now that they don't need me as much, I have time to pursue my own passions.  Most of all, I see the potential friends I will have in them as they reach adulthood.

Jack's career change has brought me Jack.  Yes, money is tight, but we are doing this together now.  We have time to look for creative ways to spend our time without spending our money.  We have rediscovered each other.  So, money?  As long as we can pay our bills, I am okay.

You see, if you view your life as choices you make, you feel more empowered.  And when you feel empowered, you can find peace and joy.  So, where are you feeling trapped right now?  Who are you blaming?  I hope you will take some time and breathe and look at the situation again.  Find the joy in your situation.

Blaming Obama or your spouse is not going to bring you joy.  Only you can do that.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Losing a Buddy

Twelve years ago, we added a new member to our family.  Our neighbor had a co-worker who had found this abandoned, beaten, pitiful dog in the streets of Raleigh.  After every possible means of finding the owner, our neighbor brought her home thinking she would be a good fit for our family.  The Carters brought this dog to our home and also brought their black lab mix, Midnight.  The two dogs had gotten along very well.  We sat in our front yard getting to know this new dog and deciding on names.  We decided that since she and Midnight would be great friends, and since she was yellow, we would name her Sunshine.  We took her on a "trial" basis.  Which by the way, means you will end up with the dog!!!  Jack was not really consulted on this but I think privately he fell in love just as hard as the rest of us.  Although we were all in love with this sweet, gentle dog, Allie was scared to death of her.  Allie wept on the stairs when we told her we could not keep Sunshine if she was too afraid  to come downstairs.  "But I don't want her to live in a box!!" she sobbed.  But amazingly, my strong little girl, took in a breath and walked down those stairs.  It was a bit tenuous for the first few days, but eventually Allie and Sunshine became great friends.  It helped that Sunshine was extremely passive and gentle.

We did not have a fence and had made an agreement with the Carter's that Sunshine could come play at their house with Midnight until we got a fence.  Twelve years later, we still don't have a fence.  But Sunshine and Midnight fell  in love and had tons of fun playing in the backyard together and going on walks together.  When one of us was out of town, the other took the dogs.  Midnight was truly part of our family as well as Sunshine.  Midnight spent many a Christmas and Thanksgiving with us while the Carters went to family.  He was a very different dog.  Where Sunshine didn't like to curl up by your feet or get into tight places, Midnight would crawl under your feet, lick you and crawl through anything to explore. 

The last couple of  years, the dogs have aged dramatically.  Sunshine has a bad hip and Midnight has developed knots on his body. We tease about him being a grumpy old man because he began growling when I would go over to let him out in the morning.  He didn't like being interrupted in his nap.  He became very gray around the face and also became much slower.  Gone were the days of frisking in the yard and then dropping into a deep sleep.  Now, they both just slept most of the time.  In the last 6 months we started noticing a decline in Midnight.  He no longer ran out if the door was open.  He no longer explored the back yard with Sunshine.  He no longer barked at all the dogs that passed by.  Then he began limping and not being able to walk up or down stairs.  Last month, the Carters had to make the hard decision to put him to sleep.

The news was pretty sudden for all of us.  But on a beautiful, cool fall day, I took Sunshine down to say our goodbyes.  I was surprised by my emotion.  I was incredibly sad.  He had become a part of my day.  Since the dogs had gotten slower, I would bring them to my house to play and nap.  Sunshine and I looked forward to him coming down to be with us.  At first, Sunshine was uneasy.  She would go to him and then walk away.  Finally she got close to him and laid down. 

This past month has been heartbreaking.  Sunshine wants to go down to Midnight's every time we put the leash on her.  But when we do take her down, she whines and cries to leave after searching the whole yard for him.  For several days she seemed to just mope about and whine unexpectedly.  When the Carters would come down, she would whine after they left.  I am sad that Sunshine has lost her playmate.  I am sad I have lost a buddy.  But I am really sad that the Carters lost a member of their family.

I know this day is coming for us.  I see that Sunshine is aging more everyday.  I dread that day.  If losing Midnight hurt so much, how much more will I hurt for Sunshine?