Seven Weeks After the Move


Now it is about seven weeks since I moved my home from Big City to Small Town – from a 2800 sq. ft. house with full attic storage to a 1500 sq. ft. town home  (with a 2-car garage). We lived in the house for over twenty years, and rarely threw anything away. I take full responsibility for that issue, and would do it differently had I to do it again (and am determined to pare down going forward).

But I also moved quickly because a large town home in a group I had been eyeing for several years (for a mountain get-away) miraculously became available. I knew that it would not remain on the market long, so quickly made an offer, which was accepted.

Another positive synchronicity was that the market value of the “old” house was up 30% over the prior year.  I had known for some time that we needed to down-size, but market-values had been soft, so I delayed selling – the investment in the house represented a good portion of our retirement “nest-egg.”  Then, this Spring, the value went up by almost 40% from the prior year. Obviously, the time was right to sell.

BUT…then there was no time for the slow winnowing through a family’s 30 years of life together.  My sister, when she decided to move to Small Town, had the luxury of taking three years for the clearing process I had to complete in three months.

Of course, the result was that a lot of things were moved that should not have been.  Now there are boxes, and boxes, and boxes…Actually, from a high of about 350, I am down to 75 or so…fifteen of them are Christmas paraphernalia of various types – Christmas China, ornaments, lights, clothes, wreathes – you get the idea.  As I write this, it is December 3.  Tonight I have no desire to winnow through Christmas boxes.  It’s just not going to happen.

The closets are hard…the wedding gown that my sister and I both wore (but is just not my daughter’s style), dresses from recitals, family weddings, t-shirts from vacations and graduation gowns… the ones that are still beautiful, but just out of style, or too small. There are still many of those in my closet that really must be purged – sometime soon.

But no easier are items from the kitchen – platters, bowls, glasses (how many sizes of wine glass do you need, and how many of each??) crock pot, punch bowl, salad bowl, soup tureen- all those lovely large pieces that I intellectually know I will not use again (or can borrow from one of my sisters who live here Small Town).  Truly difficult is acknowledging that all those family moments will happen much less frequently, and last a shorter time…intellectually I know those things, but it does not make the paring down process any easier.

The symbol of it all is the “good china”  that we all registered as young brides-to-be, and collected as friends and family built our “trousseau.”  It filled our china cabinets for years, looking beautiful, and (at least in my case), was used, at most, five times over 42 years of marriage. Now, it is (again) taking up space in a china cabinet (silly me) at least for now. I think I will know that I have gotten over this mountainous bump in my road when I give up the “good china”.

One of my new missions (should I be so blessed), is to teach my grandchildren how to keep those things that they love, and let the rest go. I can count the items I have from my mother on one hand, each highly valued. I will be writing about the process I develop for retention (and release) of all the “excesses” over the next year as I teach myself to “winnow”.  I hope you will all join me and share stories and ideas and resources as I explore this path.

Halloween is alive and well


In the large city where I lived for the last 30 years, Halloween had all but died.  When my children were small there was still a neighborhood pool, and we all knew each other (adults and children) from the summer swim meets.  There was a hay ride at Halloween, and caroling at Christmas.  But when the pool had to close, the mortar of the community was lost, and my children were no longer small.  By the time I left my very polite large city home, I knew only a few families. On Halloween, I would never get more than ten trick-or-treaters.

Tonight was Halloween in my new, small community.  I had been warned by the neighbors on our cul-de-sac of town homes that there would be A LOT of trick or treaters, and had bought a big 230-piece bag of goodies.  The revelers started coming about five o’clock despite chill temperatures and a slow drizzle (snow is forecast later tonight). By 6:30 my 230 piece bag was all but gone, so I called my sister who lives across town and asked if she had any candy remaining. She had no goulish guests, so she said she would bring me her bag (about 70 pieces).

But just getting into the cul-de-sac proved a challenge. By the time she arrived, I had handed out protein bars, individual bags of Trader Joe’s Omega Tek Mix, and (to a group of three high school guys), cheese sticks, telling them that they were lucking into to the healthy snack tonight. My sister left me a (laughing) message saying that she could not get up the hill to my house for all the revelers.  Eventually she arrived with the extra pieces.

The “official” end to the event must have been 7 o’clock, because the number of visitors dropped exponentially after that point.  I continued to give out the remaining treats, then ran out of treats at 7:30, and turned off my light. What a delightful experience it was!! There was every type of costume, from the very professional princesses, to wonderful improvisational “mud man”, and everything in between.  It was a great, polite crowd of all ages.

I love my new home.  I can’t wait to see what happens on Halloween when the weather cooperates! We’re already planning a party for all our Burnsville family members next year, with appropriate adult beverages, to enjoy the fun.


Moving Day


Moving Day

Lots of people helped me get ready for the Big Move…my family (sister, brother, nieces, nephews,  sister-in-law, cousins…you get the idea – this was a major family project), friends, acquaintances, contractors…all helped prepare for The Move.

About a week prior to the vans’s arrival, we decided that we really needed help with packing.  I had spent a couple of days in our attic, and unloaded most of the things in the closets, and the bookcases (I think that even after purging I had over 700 books), but I had not even started on the kitchen. My kitchen had a lovely bookcase with too many cookbooks, plus a desk area with cabinets above, and two large file cabinets, plus china cabinet and (yes, really) 29 cabinets doors, two pantries, 38 cabinet doors and 16 drawers.  It was not going to be pretty. So I just asked the moving company to pack the kitchen and the balance of the attic. It took the team of four guys most of a day (Tuesday).

Wednesday was the final “prep” day. Thursday was Moving Day.  Thursday dawned a beautiful clear day with moderate temperatures. The movers were at the house about 5 hours putting boxes on the truck. We already had two storage spaces from the “staging” clean-out and other pre-move boxing, so they proceeded to those areas.  It was not pretty.  We ended with two 16-foot trucks (they were afraid they would need three, but stayed within two thanks to one of the most efficient truck loaders I have ever seen).

The drive to my new home was about five hours.  I thought I would meet them there about noon, but somehow did not hear the communication that they would leave at 5 am. Luckily, my sister was ready in the mountains with a key and they started putting furniture and boxes in the town home two hours prior to my arrival about noon.  The final clean out of the house with my Move Manager had taken about two hours . The cats and I left on our new adventure. They did amazingly well on the trip.

Boxes, boxes everywhere.  I did not make a final count, but estimate about 350 boxes. Oh, my.  The trick was to get all the furniture in, get the car in the garage, and then put unopened the boxes in the middle of the rooms.  There was barely room to walk.

And of course, my idea of where things were going to go did not fit the space sometimes, so things had to be relocated. I have to say, the four young men that made the final outloading were amazing and exceptional young men. They were always respectful and polite even the second (and on one occasion third) location for items. They did not leave until I agreed that all was where it should be.

To say that the house was overwhelming at that point would be the understatement of the year. At this writing, it is ten days later.  I still have about fifty boxes to unload (in addition to the garage storage shelves). It is beginning to feel like home – and the vision for the house is evolving.

But there is still a very long way to go.

Preparation for Staging


Manageable would probably not be a word that would occur to me now in describing where I am with the move process.  About three weeks ago my Move Manager and I sat down and picked a target date to have the house ready to go on the market.  Three weeks ago, we chose Thursday of this week. We’ll see.

Things have definitely progressed.  Last Saturday the “mini-move” removed all the non-essential pieces of furniture and about sixty boxes of stuff to a 10 x 10 storage room. I understand that when the door was finally closed not another item could have possibly fit.  The local team of four young men that came that day did an exceptional job of moving things out – including a little last minute packing that cleared the way for the carpet men coming on Monday.

Today was supposed to be carpet day.  It started with a delay in the team’s coming because we did not have all the required rooms totally cleared.  There was some misunderstanding about the interpretation for “totally cleared” (or perhaps it changed). So the team that was supposed to start at 8 came about 12.  The manager who had come and quoted the job had decided that we could use the current carpet as a pad for the new.  When the carpet-laying team came today they disagreed. The current carpet was not totally fixed to the floor.  It had some wrinkles in it, which the laying manager said would negatively affect the new carpet.  Sounded logical to me. So…then we needed another pad, a new quote, and a new day.  No carpet today.

The painter started with a power-wash that took most of the day, but was totally amazing when he had finished. No more dusty garage!  It is squeaky clean. Tomorrow, painting inside and out. Tonight I had to take everything that was remaining off the walls, including the wonderful poster collection in my adult son’s boyhood room. He had taken photos of them last weekend, so all are duely recorded, but it was still sad to see them go. Batman, Spiderman, favorite college teams, and inspirational sayings (You Already Are What You Want To Be When You Grow Up). Maybe the carpet guys will be back tomorrow. I have lost track, actually.

The sad thing that happened today was that I took my two lovely cats to a “kennel” for the day.  It has a good reputation, and the “girls” could be together but also had an opportunity for their own space. When I arrived (about 3:30 pm) my little Arya (a year old and solid black) was huddled in the back of her space, and hissed at the attendant, who asked me to come coax her out.  They will have to go back tomorrow, but it is troubling.  Tonight she seems fine.  We shall see.

Onward with painters & carpenters.

Into the Dorm


Into the Dorm

The process of moving my daughter into the dorm at her new university had started weeks in advance: appointments with doctors, farewell meetings with friends and, of course, shopping. We had made trips to Costco, Kmart, Target and the grocery store.

Three days before Moving Day (Thursday) I asked my daughter to take all the clothes and other items to be moved to the Staging Area (the den). I turned on the TV (reruns of Castle) and started sorting by categories – clothes, food, books, shoes, and everything else, and compared the stacks to the collection of suitcases and boxes at our disposal. So by the night before the move, all we had to do was put each clothing type in its designated suitcase, and label the outside with masking tape and a sharpie (pants, tops, shoes, etc.). That way, if for some reason we didn’t have time to get everything into the drawers, she would at least know where to look.

Moving Day dawned beautiful and clear. My cousin’s wonderful husband had come the evening before and moved the little dorm refrigerator and the foot locker into the van, so we only had to move the suitcases into place. We were in two cars (the refrigerator just wouldn’t fit into my daughter’s Protégé).

We were about an hour and a half from campus. I had missed that we were both out of gas, so off we headed to Costco. Of course, they were doing maintenance on two of the pumps, so it took about 30 minutes in commuting and filling time. Then off we went at around 11:15.

We made good time, and the dorm was very easy to find. The line was short at check-in, so we were in her room by about 1, and my son, who lives about 30 minutes away, was able to get to there soon after a morning soccer practice (he is a high school coach). She was the first of the four residents to move into the suite. The other three have been friends since high school.  That could provide interesting dynamics.

On campus the non-freshmen are in suites where each of four students has a private room, sharing a common seating area, shower, toilet, sinks, and kitchen. The small bedroom had an surprising amount of storage. With a lofted bed, there were a desk and two chests of drawers underneath, plus a wardrobe. Amazingly, all the contents of the luggage went in and I was able to bring the suitcases back home empty (or so I thought. My daughter soon discovered that a favorite piece of clothing was missing – and I found it hiding in one of the pockets of a large suitcase at home).

And then there was a fire alarm (the first of three by the end of the evening) so we all got to stand out in the 90-degree heat for about fifteen minutes waiting for the fire truck. It reminded all of us that at the last campus move-in we had done the University had provided cold bottled water for the families. That would certainly have been welcome.

Daughter had a placement test from one to 3, so had to leave just after everything was unloaded. Unfortunately, I also realized that all the bags from the K-Mart run were still in my other car – at home. The only critical need from that trip was bedding…so BACK to Kmart we went and bought the LAST Twin XL bedding set in the store. You would think there were a lot of people moving into the dorm that day or something! The University designated each dorm on campus with one half day to move in. This was the university’s third move-in day so the basics in K-Mart were running thin. But I decided that if the worst outcome of the move-in was that she had to sleep in sheets not in the favorite quadrant of the color wheel for a week, it would be a successful day.

Daughter went to take the test, and successfully scored at a level that placed her in the upper ASL (American Sign Language) classes for the fall.  As in most majors, there are so many required courses in the ASL Curriculum that the classes are in two-semester cycles.  In fall semester, ASL 1 and ASL 3 are offered. In spring semester, ASL 2 and 4 are available.  Because she was coming from another institution, Daughter had to take a test to see if she was at a level of proficiency to place into ASL 3 this fall. Because the program she had come from was not strong, she was VERY nervous about the test, and had studied hard over the summer (there were CDs available at the bookstore, and we had bought them earlier in the summer on a prior visit). She was thrilled to pass.

By the time she got back to the room, most of the clothes were put away, with the masking tape labels on the outside of the drawers.  After the bedding purchase run, it was time to leave.  She was ready to go sample the food offerings (there are many options). My son and I went to eat great Mexican food.

Then home.  Of course, just as I was hitting the Interstate, my check engine light came on.  I was not surprised. I just drove on in (about 70 miles), a little slower than usual, made good time, and parked the car in the garage.

I did not have ANY trouble sleeping that night.

A week later, my son came home for the weekend and took the K-mart missing items by campus on his way home. Life is good.

Happy Birthday


I woke on my birthday with only two things on my “to do” list:

Prepare the documents for the lender I have chosen for the mortgage on my new house, and drive to the mountains for the weekend.

Silly me.

The first challenge was the microwave issue.  It wouldn’t work. The control panel was dark – so I went out to the breaker box (in a room off my garage), read the labels, and looked to see if any of the switches were out of line.  None appeared to be, but I selected the one that I thought controlled the microwave, switched it back and forth, and went back inside.  Still no life in the microwave.

Unfortunately, the “handyman” whose amazing talents were praised in an earlier post has since retired. But I texted him, and the person who recommended him to me, asking for a referral to someone who could help. They supplied the name of a local store that employed electricians, with the name of a person to chat with.

My daughter had since joined me in the kitchen, declaring “You can’t leave me here without a microwave this weekend!” So…next to the cousins, my two guardian angels who live about 45 minutes away that are helping with moral support and decluttering. Unfortunately, I knew one was out of town.  When I connected with the other, she was standing in front of a hotel in another city, waiting to go in to a conference – BUT – reminded me that her (retired) husband was an electrical engineer and had wired their house – YAY!!

Now – the true hero of my story appears.  When I call the cousin’s husband (Knight in Shining Armor) is temporarily stumped, and we hang up.  BUT – five minutes later calls back. It turns out that the problem was a “ground fault breaker” (go to this link – there are pictures I pushed the designated button, and my microwave magically reactivated.  Life was good. [Now, for future reference, keep in mind this is a temporary fix. If the breaker clicks off again, it’s time to call the electrician].

The truly amazing occurrence surrounding this activity was that my “Knight for the Day” called back not long after and volunteered to come and re-label my breaker box and put it on an excel spreadsheet.  Then he volunteered to paint the inside of my house prior to my putting it on the market. 

So, I went back to the primary activity for the day. Documents for the mortgage lender. The documents that I needed to provide were the following:

_____    30 DAYS OF PAYSTUBS (if applicable)


_____    PAST 2 YEARS W2’s

_____    CHECKING, SAVINGS, RETIREMENT ACCOUNTS-LAST 2 MONTHS (all pages even if blank)

_____    2 YEARS PERSONAL AND BUSINESS (if applicable) TAX RETURNS (all schedules signed)


_____    CHECK FOR APPRAISAL AND CREDIT REPORT ($425.00+18.00=$443.00 made payable to the bank)

_____    CURRENT HOMEOWNERS POLICY (for the residence you live in currently)

The gathering and copying of the above documents took me until mid-afternoon (I had hoped to be on the road by noon). Surprisingly enough the most time consuming were the two months statements for the various checking/saving/retirement accounts – going online to find them, print them, etc. And of course, I couldn’t find one of my 1099’s for last year (I still have not filed my 2013 tax return yet) and had to request a new one, which, miraculously, came within a short period of time. And they needed to be delivered to the bank and copied there.

So I made the decision to just go finish packing quickly, take the documents with me, and see if I could deliver them to a branch close to my mountain get-away. So – thirty minutes later I am out of the driveway, started on my five hour drive.

Except – that I texted my daughter “good bye” at a stoplight on the way out of town and she is distraught because we probably passed each other on the road as she returned from work. “No, we can’t meet, I have to get on the road” – rush-hour traffic around a large town is now a possibility, and I really could not delay. So…FINALLY on the road. I make it traffic free, and then the National Weather Service warnings started about heavy thunder storms and possibility of tornadoes.

At about two hours away from my goal, the rain starts…but, luckily, it is only rain, and not nearly as bad as it was in other areas. I was very glad to be driving the new Subaru with all-wheel-drive.  The traction was noticeably better than in prior cars I had driven.

And then I reached my favorite exit.  There is one on the interstate where you crest a hill and the mountains are there before you like all those lovely postcards.  It was clear driving the rest of the way.  And my dear brother-in-law had a toddy waiting as I drove in. 

Finally, the banker returned my email explaining that the documents would not be in until  the next day (and then only at an out of town location) and said she would just meet me in my local branch on Monday morning. 

Life is good.  



My daughter has been accepted to the college of her choice! She also has been confirmed for housing in a “nonfreshman” dorm, so she will be living on campus for the first time in several years.

When we visited the campus a few weeks ago, she shared, “I’m really excited about living on a college campus again!” so she was thrilled with the confirmation of the room assignment.

She has not been able to contact her advisor since her acceptance. Hopefully, that will happen soon.  In a few days I will drop by campus and talk with the Registrar about the maximum hours allowed to State residents for in-state tuition, and maybe even see a room in the dorm where she has been assigned.

Moving forward!

A new college?


My daughter is a lovely, gifted, bright person, with a diagnosis of high functioning Asperger’s Syndrome.  College has been a challenge, but now she seems to have found her career as she trains to become a sign language interpreter.

She entered a community college thinking that if she was successful in that program she would have an Associates Degree in two years (after which she could get a Bachelor’s Degree, which she needs to become a certified interpreter).  What we didn’t know was that there were two years of prerequisite sign language classes required before students are supposed to be able to have the skills to enter the interpretation program (which had an excellent reputation). After two years in preparation, my daughter ultimately had to take a nationally proctored exam. To continue to the Interpreter level classes, you must pass the exam.  Given once a year, it was administered two weeks after her father died.

Results did not come for three months.  She did not pass, nor did anyone in her class that did not have a deaf individual in their immediate family (i.e., if you did not know how to sign before you entered the program, you did not pass).

So, now we are on a crash course to transfer to a state university with an excellent program.  The two-year degree will not be an option, but this appears to be the best path for now. So – last week we completed the on-line transfer application and ordered transcripts. Tomorrow we go to campus to talk to faculty, tour the campus, and ask about housing.

There is no easy answer here, but hopefully the new plan will move everything in a forward direction again.

Father’s Day with the Kids


Of course Fathers Day was going to be a challenge.  Both of my children are adults. That makes the issue of the recent loss of my husband more complex but definitely still present.

My son teaches High School and coaches soccer, so the weekend agenda began with the World Cup Games. That was a great help.  He enjoyed himself watching expected and unexpected victories while my daughter and I drifted in and out, participating as the tenor of the games dictated.

Saturday night we all went to dinner at a great restaurant that the four of us had visited many times with bitter-sweet memories. Sunday my daughter’s mission was to fulfill a promise she had made to her Dad – to dress our one-year-old cat in the jersey of her dad’s favorite college team.   Around this activity I tried to make quiches for “brunch.”

The two required trips to the college gear store (of course the first jersey didn’t fit!) kept both my son and me engaged with my daughter for the rest of the afternoon.  Brunch turned into dinner as we settled in for a World Cup game (the quiches surprisingly delicious dispite the disruptions).

All-in-all, the weekend was successful as we all came together and created new memories. It will not be easy for a long time, and maybe never, but we will keep walking those new paths as a family.


 The Lawyer and Avoiding the Estate Account


My husband and I were frugal throughout our careers, and always contributed to any plan that offered an employer contribution. He was a community college instructor, I worked with nonprofit organizations. We anticipated both of us living to the age of 80 (and beyond), so we saved our money anticipating 20 to 30 more years with income only from his teacher retirement, Social Security, and our savings. We have accumulated an amount that I assumed would throw me into an Estate Account requirement (for those who don’t know, if the deceased spouse has accrued more than $30,000 in separate assets, the surviving spouse generally must establish an Estate Account).

I applied to the IRS for a Tax ID number for said account. However, thanks to the guidance of my lawyer, that number will not be needed. Fortunately, we had set up all our financial assets (investment account and checking/savings accounts) as joint with right of survivorship, so all of the assets passed to me, avoiding the Estate.  The joint accounts also did not count toward the $30,000 “year’s allowance” for widows in my conservative Southern state.

In our state, the house also passes to the surviving spouse, not counting toward the “allowance” (providing husband and wife purchased the house as a couple). What I have left are three cars, my husband’s last paycheck (written after his death) and a few other small odds and ends.  I will have to take a trip to the state Department of Motor Vehicles, with a Death Certificate, to transfer title of two of our cars to my name – still not meeting the $30,000 threshold (the cars are quite ancient with very low market values).

This is a MUCH less arduous process than I initially anticipated – thinking I would have to set up an Estate checking account, leave it open for a year to satisfy claims against the Estate, and make a public declaration.

I also have a great lawyer: a young woman who is generous and efficient with her time, even returning part of the initial fees she collected as “not utilized”.

There is yet another benefit of our relationship.  The second week after my husband died I had the substantive meeting with her (please note that I called her at 9:00 AM the morning after he died for specific guidance on anything that needed to be done immediately, which she provided, graciously.  It was Sunday morning). My late-twenty-something niece was visiting, so she accompanied me to the meeting with the lawyer.  My niece is in one of the longer-term arrangements common to young people.  She and her boyfriend co-habit an apartment, but there is absolutely no legal commitment/relationship between the two. When we left the meeting with our lawyer, her first comment was “now I see why people get married.” An astute observation.