Preserving Our Past For The Future

Rhonda

I was a cleaning company owner for the better part of 20 years before I sold it in 2013. The company was born out of a need to eat and pay bills after my divorce. That particular profession was chosen because frankly it was about all I knew how to do and do well.

I was raised in a home by a working mom that was very organized and clean. My Dad, for a guy, was very neat and clean as well because he too was raised by a neatnik mom. In my grandmother’s day, the woman pretty much stayed home, the dad went to work, the children played outside but had chores to complete daily, and the family functioned like a well-oiled machine. In both my childhood home and grandmother’s home, we often had drop in company. Neither female scurried around to straighten when that happened, or apologized for the “look of the home” because it was always kept neat and orderly…not perfect mind you…but acceptable for entertaining a surprise guest. That is, till someone stopped doing their “job”.

When the woman was down sick, went on strike and quit cleaning and cooking or otherwise refused her daily responsibilities, the household didn’t know quite how to cope and it started following suit, leaving trails and messes behind, partially finished projects, dishes and the like in rooms never meant to be eaten in. This household flailing around was a reaction to the chaos created when one person couldn’t or wouldn’t do their part and the other people in the home were forced to live by the other person’s lifestyle rules rather than the standard of the home that was to be for the benefit of all. Sometimes it happened when another person ignored their responsibilities in favor of other activities in a “why bother” choice of a self-serving lifestyle. And sadly the whole house suffered until the one began doing their part once again.

I took up the gauntlet of housekeeping after my third year of marriage when my daughter was born. But the first two years of marriage, I lived in a “why bother” state. I had come from a strict home where things were clean and orderly and the newfound freedom of schedule and purpose kind of got away from me.  My husband had been raised by a German mom who was neat and orderly too, so my standard of lifestyle, or lack of it, was a constant irritation to him, although he really didn’t say a lot. Rings in the toilet became common, wrinkled clothes that were clean but not folded and put away, dishes left in huge piles had to be moved to make dinner (I was quite the cook and had near gourmet-type dinners almost every night), dust would be puffy on the furniture and wreak havoc on our sinuses…and still I didn’t bother with those things because I was busy elsewhere. I had other things I thought were more important like being outside, playing in the pool with my newborn daughter, visiting friends and family, reading romance novels, and so forth. Nothing was inherently wrong with those things, but they should have been done after my home was put into decent order. I felt out of whack personally for the first two years and couldn’t figure out why. Once I saw a photo of my baby in the middle of the kitchen table surrounded by unopened mail, dishes, books, etc., I suddenly realized I had been doing the good things when I could be doing the great things. I knew that day I didn’t want my baby to grow up in a home that was a constant mess. I wanted her to have friends over and not be embarrassed at the condition of our home. And come they did, we became the place kids liked to come visit because we were clean and orderly AND fun! And that made us all feel special.

Many years later, when I owned my cleaning company, I remembered those early years of wifedom while training a new cleaning tech. She had interviewed well, was neat and well groomed personally and spoke well in conversation. This was usually a pretty good indicator of how the tech would conduct themselves in a client’s home. As I took her out for her first week of training I began to see that she was capable of being an excellent cleaning tech. She was very detailed, good with the clients, fast and efficient. I made a permanent hire of her and she went out on teams for a while, then was released to do solo cleaning, as all my techs were when they were fully trained. I knew she would make a lot of money for my company because she was good at detail and fast.

A few weeks after this tech had been on her own, the route manager came back after checking jobs, which was part of her duties of the day. She reported on this particular tech. The home was very clean, the client seemed happy with the person assigned to clean her home and said the tech was pleasant. But the more the route manager talked with the client she could see that there was something missing in her overall customer experience. The manager hadn’t been able to nail it down in the talk with the client because the client didn’t really elaborate in specifics on what was missing that day, she could only say “I just didn’t feel the same about my service today, I don’t know why.”

I decided that the next job check on this tech would be conducted by me. I went to the home while the tech was still cleaning and checked behind her completed work. She was finishing a bathroom, and it was left sparkling. As she turned to walk out I asked “Are you finished?” Her answer was yes, so I entered and looked around a bit myself. There were no cleaning flaws, everything was near perfect. But something was nagging at me. I finally realized what it was and called her back in.

“You forgot to fold the toilet paper in a hospitality fold and the towels into the swan shape. You have been shown these things, correct?” I knew she had because I had been her first trainer. “Yes ma’am, you showed me, but none of my other trainers included this. I didn’t think it was part of the cleaning, it was just an extra if we wanted to do it for the client.” I instructed that it was to be done on each cleaning unless the client requests it to be dropped for any reason. She looked a little confused and said she would certainly do it but then she said “May I ask a question?” I said yes and she asked “Why do we bother to do the things like folding paper and towels if that slows us down and you want us to focus on the cleaning and speed?”  It was an honest question and I could tell she wanted to know my reason. I told her other cleaning companies did what we do. They made bathrooms sparkle, they vacuumed all the way to the edges of the room, they picked up things and dusted the furniture instead of around items. Other companies gave the customer what they asked for, but not what they didn’t ask for. We gave them the other things because they needed to feel special, but didn’t know they needed that kind of treatment. But even more, we did it because it made us feel special about our work and each home we cleaned and each client we interacted with during our work day. “We do it for them, but more for us” I said. I could tell she “got it” when she said “ You know, I can see how doing those things would make me feel differently about my client and also myself, I would kind of feel like a personal cleaner for them and they would feel like I had gone the extra mile. I may even start doing stuff like that at my own house, and I live alone!”  We both laughed and I knew I had made a convert. She had grasped the concept of good vs. great. As a result, her tips went up almost immediately.  That smart tech became one of my most requested cleaners, all because she did the expected for them,  then did the unexpected for herself.

Our world in the last couple of decades has changed quite a lot. People have gone inward, many think only of themselves and what’s in it for them when they go to their job or conduct their daily routines. You only have to watch the old TV programs to know how far we have sunk into our selfishness. The men on Leave it to Beaver or The Dick Van Dyke Show are the kind of men I was raised by and around. They opened doors, lighted cigarettes for women, held their coats for them, helped with the dishes, tucked children in, read them stories, administered discipline and on and on, even after a full day at the office or factory. The women were the kind of homemakers I was raised around. Dinner was on the table at 6, the home was neat and orderly, children had done homework and played outside till dark. Yes, even if the woman happened to also have a full time job outside the home, as my mom did.

In our current world we have more conveniences, and much less “time”, or so it would seem. But I think it is much deeper than that. The current generation often has the “why bother” attitude about so many things they deem as secondary in importance. We tend to assign too much value to “good” things that don’t contribute  to our personal well being and that of our families. We substitute fun activities, elaborate meals, busyness and frolic in place of “great” things like caring for others and their needs.  When we are too busy with one, the other tends to suffer. And sadly we are teaching the upcoming generation that it doesn’t matter to practice hospitality, homemaking, responsibility, or any number of the golden traits that they can only learn from us…the ones who remember.

My grandchildren live with me and I work a lot, so I am not home much during the day. But I try to take each opportunity I have to teach them the value of loving others through caring for them and their needs. When they clean up their rooms and make their beds I tell them I feel good when I see this, it makes me feel loved and it is a way they say “thank you for inviting us to live with you”. When one comes to my room and asks “Can I help you with anything?” I don’t shoo them away with “No, thank you for offering though”. Instead I make sure I have something, anything for them to do for me so they feel special, and I can bond with them and feel special too.

We don’t live on islands in this life. Everything we do and do not do affects another. If I walk into a store and a man is ahead of me, I step out of his way so he can open the door, rather than bolting up there and doing it myself. I give him the opportunity to say “You first”  by his own choice of actions. Nine times out of ten he will almost run to open the door, smile and greet me, and you can tell it makes him feel special to do so. It is a small thing, but makes a huge impact in both people. I think it’s time for more of us to look at our surroundings, job, personal relationships and life in general and discover where we may be sacrificing the “great” for the “good”. If we choose to look through “why bother” eyeglasses each day, we may actually see and feel  better ourselves if we do.

  There are times when all of us look back over the high and low points of our life. Ideally, the highs are much more prevalent than the lows, but not always the case. I know in my own case, I could have been a cat I have lived so many lives. Some I am proud of, some I hope no one ever discovers.

In high school, I was middle-of the road popular, had auburn hair, big ole brown eyes and a quick wit. I was a class favorite I suppose, got along well with most I attended classes with and the teachers seemed to place me in their top 20% of students. Grades were decent, I did have to dig a bit in some cases, but usually came out well when tested. I had several boyfriends over the four years of high school, and loads of girl friends. All in all I had a great high school experience.

I loved to read, was actually an avid reader since the grade school years. In fact, I made friends with the librarian at Westhaven Elementary in my third grade year and she always let me check out more books than was commonly allowed in a week because I read them so fast. I would start with a topic such as women in aviation, then read all I could about girl pilots like Amelia Earhart. When no more books could be found on the shelves, I would switch subjects or take on a particular author such as Louisa Mae Alcott or Emily Dickinson and read everything the dusty ole shelves held. I had a kind of lonely childhood, a bit hard at times and characters such as the Bobbsey Twins or Trixie Belden became my whole world of escape from the difficulties of the world around me.

When I entered high school, I was given a list of clubs I could join during orientation. While most of the high school girls gravitated toward the pep squads and Tri-Hi-Y clubs, I involved myself in the annual staff or newspaper club because I found that reading was second only to writing. I adored writing and would spend hours upon hours spinning tales in my free time, writing lyrics of songs for an unknown guitar player, or make up diabolically morose stories about my “sworn enemies”…of which there were truly few.

My created world became much my real world when the days grew long and hard.

A high school class I took changed my life in many ways. My teacher was Jan Knight, and she was already a writer of sorts. She taught us the honing of our skill and we put together a book of poetry and prose that year in high school. We excitedly bound it all into a book that was sold to friends, family and patrons of the school. I felt “published”, and it lit the fire of journalism forever in my soul. That book sits on my bedside table all these years later.

As time went by, I majored in journalism in college at Memphis State (now University of Memphis…I have no idea why the name change was necessary). I also took night classes in creative writing from time to time just because I couldn’t get my fill of writing during the day classes. One class was conducted by Ed Weathers. At the time he was a writer and editor for Memphis Magazine. He gave us basic skills and information for the first part of the semester, then the final part of the semester was putting together actual pieces for possible publication.

I was never so excited when Ed asked me to stay after class one night. He had my submission in his hand and it didn’t have any marks on it. I actually thought at first he was going to turn it back into me to do over again. “This is an excellent piece of journalism, Rhonda”. My knees were shaking, and my mouth went dry. I was stunned, because this was a really big deal to me. He then said he was going to take it, with my permission, back to the main editor of the magazine and suggest it be fleshed out for a piece to run in the next month’s issue.

When I got to my car that night, I had to sit for a few moments, the tears rolling. I knew my life was about to take a turn in a wonderful direction, if I let it. When I got home to my new husband and told him what had happened, he was very happy for me and took me out to dinner, which we rarely did at that time because finances were so low. As happy as he was, I knew he didn’t really get the importance of this one moment in my life, and never would. It was my big break.

I continued to write for Memphis Magazine, and several articles were published. I also wrote for Mature Living Magazine, Modern Maturity, Highlights for Children, Humpty Dumpty Magazine and others. I received my share of rejection letters as all writers do, but I was making a bit of money and doing what I loved so those really didn’t affect me. Marriage rolled on, a baby came, and suddenly there were just not enough hours in the day to write, read or anything else much.

I made a choice to be a mom, and placed my first calling on hold for many years to give my life to my second (in chronological order only) calling.

As I raised my daughter, homeschooled, participated at church over the years, I thought often of returning to the writing field. I did dabble here and there with church publications when they fit my schedule, but that was not often. I dedicated myself to the tasks at hand and loved every minute of those years. When time came that Samantha grew up and left home, I once again thought about taking up my pen. But things, people and situations got in the way and I veered off my true life path quite a while. I guess those years will be fodder for an autobiography, or not.

After my divorce and remarriage, I opened a business and became associated with a business group in my hometown. One of the group members was involved in a magazine start-up. My ears perked up when he presented the BLINK Magazine prototype, and told it would highlight leaders of our community, places to visit and so forth. It would be a really comfortable writing space for me since most of my work had been human interest stories and I loved to interview people. I talked with the editor after the meeting and he asked me to submit a few pieces I had written recently. I hesitated, then was honest and said I hadn’t written in a while but I knew this was something I was supposed to be involved in. I guess Jim saw the hungry look in my eye because he placed me on staff as a writer without looking at any work at all.

I spent my days running a large residential cleaning company and spent my nights and weekends interviewing high caliber community leaders. I wrote cover stories and inside issue pieces about local chefs, hospital administrators, the yearly regional festivals, people in the arts and theater. I was in my element and as time went on, I felt more and more that my day job was really just a way to pay the bills so I could do my real job, as a writer. My day job almost became an annoyance as I longed to get home and write.

One fork in the writing road for me came with my interview of Preston Lamm. He had come from an accounting background in college, got bored with it and started to pursue his greater interests. Over the years he had developed many properties in Memphis and the surrounding area and rubbed shoulders with people of class and wealth, and was known as a premier builder and business mogul. He was about to open an upscale restaurant in the area and he was my assignment. I had always gone on the interviews alone with only a photographer in tow. This time, Jim, the editor said he was coming with me. I don’t know why, but this worried me for days before the interview. I didn’t sleep, I researched and researched until facts and dates concerning my subject were all running together. I was certain I was going to make a fool of myself and Jim was going to be there to try and save the day if I did. I didn’t know why Jim wanted to be there unless this was a really big deal and he didn’t want me to blow the interview. I knew I had to find a hook, something to pull  Lamm into my camp, and drag Jim back over with him. I had to do something unexpected.

On the day of the interview with sweaty palms, I met Preston Lamm. I could tell he was a little gruff, maybe a bit obnoxious if the need arose, and I was secretly terrified, but plunged into the interview. It went ok, no major stumbles. I could feel my adrenaline rise and fall many times as he answered my questions and I could hear the mild boredom in his answers and see it in his eyes. I could tell he had been interviewed to death, he felt this was nothing new, I was just another hack wanting a story, asking the same old dry questions.

We got to the end of our time and I said I had one more question. He looked relieved, leaned back a bit, crossed his arms and said “Ok, shoot.” I pulled a photo out of my briefcase and slid it over in front of him as I said “This young man is coming to you as a mentor. He is asking for your best piece of advice concerning his future, what he should do, if he is pursuing the right path for himself. What would you advise him, knowing what you know today?”. He looked down, and was taken back. He let out his breath, kind of coughed and said incredulously, “Where…where did you find this?”

It was a black and white photo of an 18 year old Preston Lamm, right before he started his first construction job out of high school, before college detours into accounting, before marriage and kids, before all of it. I told him I had researched for other articles about him, but had randomly run across this in my search and wondered if he would have had his dream job years earlier if he had turned away from the norm, and followed the road less traveled, the harder road, the road more challenging.

“Well, I would have to say, having hindsight, I would tell this young man to follow his dream rather than following what makes the stable money or satisfies family, or obligates you to a standard. I was the lucky one, I was given a second chance to do what I longed to do. Most are not afforded that second chance. They have to see into the future, 20/20 and without blinders on.”

I have never forgotten that advice, although I haven’t been able to implement it, as yet, in my own life to a great degree. If I had a choice right now, as much as I love what I do as an estate liquidator and seller of vintage items, I would lay it all down to write…day in and day out. I could find no greater contentment than to find myself like Jo March in Little Women….scribbling away with pen and ink in a drafty attic and crying over a half eaten bowl of russet apples, as fall leaves fly by my dormer window.

Maybe one day, it can happen for me. As I get older, my eyesight does get a bit better every day. If I look at my own graduation photo, I can almost see that journalist shining through. One day maybe I will have enough of the mundane and reach for my star regardless of the consequences. True happiness won’t really cost me a lot…just a notebook, an idea, heeding my own inner advice, and perhaps my one moment in time.

 

Being in the junk business can be quite interesting. You meet lots of fun folks, see loads of uniquely cool items, and go places like muddy, rusty junkyards, underneath overgrown chimneys out in fields, and dilapidated barns to uncover the honey holes of junk. I love what I do, even if it can contribute to one of my biggest weaknesses….a tendency to hoard that junk.

I really, today anyway, am not all that big a hoarder. At least not as big as hoarder as most and not even as massive a hoarder as I used to be.  I have always placed large value on preserving the past, and would save things from destruction by purchasing or picking them up roadside even if I didn’t have an immediate use for them. I like to help others by giving away junk, and this was always my modis operandi, till I went into business and had to start selling it to make my living. Things have changed, due to the premium on space at my home and no storefront. Pretty much everything I now purchase at yard sales, find on the side of the road or dig for in those interesting barns goes into my storage units and everything has a price. And NOTHING is above getting sold.

It is that time of year when I am purging my booths, rearranging the existing storage units (four to be exact) and trying to eliminate one by the end of January at the latest. Since closing my shop in the summer and moving items to storage I have been selling a lot in various booths and online. But there are always those items, for whatever reason, that don’t turn right away and sit, and sit, and sit some more in storage. By the time they do sell, they are not worth anything because the initial value is gone, and the storage fees paid come off that bottom line. I abhor storage, always have, but it is a kind of necessity in my business right now. My job is to stay ahead of the game so the stuff doesn’t rule me, and rather I rule the stuff. Things were complicated a bit when my ideal number of  two 10 by 10 storage units swelled to an additional two units that are 10 by 20 due to the sudden closing of one of the stores where my booths were located. I had to shove it into storage just to vacate in awful, blistering weather during our Indian summer, and now I am dealing with it again in the extreme cold.

They are not fun, those two units.

I was watching the TV show Hoarders the other day. Being a professional organizer in my former life, I understand the psychological side of hoarding. The affected person has a deep seated need of some sort that  surfaces in the hoarding. It affects not only that person,  but also their family, their finances, friends, social life and even their spiritual life as they struggle to free themselves of the ties that bind them to their unnecessary possessions. A common thread that is voiced is “I can’t throw this out, SOMEONE might need it.”

Sometimes they are their own someone. Other times it is this faceless child or old person who cannot afford those headless dolls, moldy Tupperware pieces , defunct cell phones, or volumes of sports rackets that just need restringing to be good as new. In one episode I watched the other day, the psychologist pried opened a huge tote and found it was full of Chex mix. It had been stored over five years, the hoarder said, and she was saving it for “entertaining”. It was the leftovers of other parties she had hosted and she just kept dumping stuff in because, well…someone might need it…that someone being her.

After watching that episode, I was pretty reflective and have pondered a lot about the units I have. I think there are legitimate reasons for me to have those units in some cases, I do have to have backstock from my estate liquidations and have ongoing inventory to sell. But…is anyone REALLY going to want most of what is in those units? Highly unlikely, or if they do it will be a needle in a haystack finding the right buyer at the right time on most items. Just because it CAN sell sometime, doesn’t at all mean that it WILL.

And in all honesty, it is a LOT more fun buying something new and turning it right away because I purchased with someone directly in mind, instead of buying on a maybe or because it was cheap.

I also thought about how most of us hoard in intangible portions of our lives, too. We keep things in our minds that should have been thrown out long ago, things that are past their prime, no longer productive and in fact costing us dearly every single day. We hold grudges, we save words to be used in “that” conversation we want to have with our enemy, we have dark  thoughts  about our growing up, or we harbor ill toward a person who said a cross word to us on the wrong day in high school. We hold onto them for the same reason as the Chex Mix lady held onto her salty, stale snacks…someone might need it someday. And sadly, we are that someone.

It would be so much better to hold onto those things worth saving, rather than hold onto those things that weigh us down and make us sad. We don’t need those memories of the past, they only inhibit a beautifully sound future. And that is my plan for both my physical and my spiritual storage as 2016 comes to a close.

As I purge the storage units, I plan to hold things with light fingers. If it is not an object I can put right into a booth, or get photos of and list online, or list on ebay within the next month, then it is going right out to donation. Let someone else deal with it and find the right person to purchase.

And as I contend  with those old memories that want to suffocate and dampen my bright future, I plan to toss them into the old mental  Chex Mix tote, and then toss that sucker right out. I’d much rather spend my time saving things that are truly worth it to me. No more renting space in my mental attic to those things that are not making a contribution to my future.

And it won’t be that difficult, once I really get started with the ruthless toss task. I have always been a much better owner than renter anyway.

10941003_10153030026559407_8047608953381568968_n  It’s funny how traditions start in a family. I married in the summer of 1979 as a young girl of 19 to a slightly older man of 21. We lived in an apartment in Memphis near Graceland. The apartments were within walking distance of my parents’ home and also his, but we still felt pretty independent, although close enough to reach out for a Mommy hug if we ever needed one.

The upstairs apartment was considered large, for the day. There was a huge great room (wasn’t called that then, it was still called a living room), with a dining room large enough to seat 6 comfortably at the end of the long room. The kitchen was tiny but adequate and there were three bedrooms and  a bath and a half. There was a common complex washroom, which was not a great thing when you had to lug the laundry downstairs and over the hilly lawn. But during the heat of the summer, I could wash and dry clothes while lying by the pool just off the washroom, so it kind of balanced out. We couldn’t believe our first apartment, in a community mostly of old folks, was actually within the budget of two newlyweds living on a bakery clerk and grocery customer service guy’s salaries.

There was one thing we both hated about the apartment though…the stairs. It wasn’t bad enough to have to come up two flights at the front door. We were up THREE flights at the back since it was built into a hill and over a small storage area we shared with the other tenants of our particular building. If we wanted anything out of the storage or needed to take the trash out, it was down those three flights or we otherwise had to go way around the entire building, through a small alley, over a hill and to the back of the building.

Being young, we often chose the second path.

But there was one glorious thing about that back stairwell. It had a long, wide balcony at the top just off the kitchen door. From that balcony, I could see all the way to the Mississippi riverfront, many miles away. During the summer, I’d sit there while my husband worked the late shift, and watch the traffic amble by on Winchester Road.  On July Fourth we had a birds’ eye view of the fireworks display over the west end of the city from battered up webbed lawn chairs. In those days, at those times we loved those stairs that shoved the balcony way up high over our end of the city.

I spent a lot of time out back because of the view. I’d read Woman’s Day and Redbook magazines while supper cooked, or watch the apartment dwellers going in and out of the apartments I could see from our back door. When my husband would get ready to leave for work, he’d know he could find me there most of the time. He’d say goodbye, head down the front to the car, and drive around the building. Then he’d stop at the bottom of the back stairs, lean over to the passenger side of the car and look through that window up to where I was hanging over the banister waiting. I’d wave, he’d wave, then take off down the street…and that was the beginning of the tradition called “waving goodbye”.

Through the years, we always waved goodbye. Once my daughter was born, she joined me on that balcony when Daddy left, and we both waved. We moved from that apartment to our first home. It had a big front window, and Samantha was big enough to go to the window on her own, which she did, and she waved until Daddy (or me if gone to run errands) would clear out of her sight. When people visited, or grannies and granddads left, we all went out onto the porch, and we waved goodbye. Now that my child is grown and her little ones live with me, when I go to work, the littles let me know they will wave to me out the big arched window.  And I always look back, and I am never disappointed with an empty window.

I was reminded a few weeks ago about this tradition when I was leaving for errands. Only Lorelai was home with her Mom, the boys were at the sitter’s for the day. I got in the car, mission-minded, list in hand and started to pull back down the driveway. I caught something out of the corner of my eye. It was my sweet granddaughter, inside the garage doing her morning chores, but she had paused  to wave at me as I was leaving.  I stopped the garage door with the remote as it got halfway down and was going to raise it again so she could see me.  But quickly she leaned down, looked at me under the big steel door and flashed her hand in the “I love you” sign language, which changed into a furiously pumping goodbye wave. As I let the door go on down to the ground, I mused about how the times change, but this tradition stands.

December is a time to celebrate the birth of a Savior, someone who came to earth so we could say goodbye to unhappiness and fear, and say hello to a bright new future with Him, if we so choose. It is also a time of reflection and usually a time to wave goodbye to the year we have just flown through. This year is no different. I have said goodbye to customers who have passed away, friends also who have gone on. I took a partial retirement and waved goodbye mid-summer to my retail junk shop, and said goodbye to a profitable booth space in a nearby city when that thrift shop closed. I said a forced goodbye to a friend I had had for almost 15 years…still don’t know why that friendship went away, but it did, so I chose to just wave and go on down the street. Leaving something behind is the hardest part of waving goodbye.

I look forward to 2017 and hope it is a year of many new hello moments. It feels like it will be a year of promise,  potential, and peace just waiting for us to embrace it, and savor it. Wonder what is waiting just around the bend? I don’t know about you, but I am getting my hand ready to flash the “love” sign next December. Something tells me this is the year to add that to the goodbye tradition, no matter what the year does or doesn’t bring…even if it means we had to climb an extra flight of stairs to get through it.

i-love-you-23

10941003_10153030026559407_8047608953381568968_n   This week our country elected a new President after a long, arduous, and sometimes stressful campaign. No two candidates could have been more opposite than Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, and it showed in almost every facet of their campaign cycles from the speeches they made, the debates they hammered through, and their supporters and surrogates’ TV and radio appearances. Media, and social media in particular is so immediate it was hard to escape the backlash of craziness and crassness from both sides of the issues.

I for one am glad it is over. I feel like I have been dragged through a knothole and left abandoned for dead in many ways.

As this week has progressed, I thought back to the big yard sale I had over the weekend prior to election day. The weather was beautiful, I had tons of folks with deep pockets and got a lot sold that had been sitting in my storage since closing my shop in July. I got pretty good profits on most things, but there were certain things I kind of cringed at when the customer walked down the driveway and I looked down at the small amount of money in my hand from the sale. For a moment I may even have felt taken advantage of, but the ultimate goal? Clear out more of my storage, make a bit of money to pay the house note, move on. And I was able to do just that by compromising on a few items here and there in interest of my “common good”. Each individual sale doesn’t always go my way, but the end result is always beneficial.

My favorite customer of the day came late into the afternoon. Striding quickly up the driveway with a grin, I could tell the elderly lady with a tight topknot bun on her head loved yard sales. “I hope you didn’t sell all the good stuff yet!!” she said as she rummaged through the bits and pieces of junk on one of the tables. She was dressed in a cotton skirt, pullover top and had on tennis shoes. I looked down and could tell those battered shoes had seen some days and action. I was a bit surprised not to see the usual orthopedic ones that most women her age seemed to migrate toward in their latter years for balance and security in walking.

We chatted about this and that for a few minutes as she continued to look and she told me in a chain of conversation that she had just turned 88. I was shocked. Her skin looked like that of a 60 year old, hands were young, she seemed spry and lively. “Well, I wouldn’t be telling anybody” I exclaimed and she laughed. “People ask me all the time, especially my friends, how to stay young looking and feeling.  I tell them things they don’t want to hear probably”. Then she proceeds to give me her top two pieces of advice. “ Get at least 8 hours sleep a night (I groaned a little), and eat three meals a day, no matter what.”  She said we need both kinds of fuel to get through anything our life might throw at us, and she said rest was a big thing that most people don’t allow themselves. “When I eat, I always go in the house, sit down and take my time and eat something so it gives my body an extra rest  break to regroup for the balance of my day. Even if it is only a mustard sandwich, I make sure to eat something.”.  I started chuckling till I could see she was serious, then I asked her about mustard sandwiches…did she really eat those?

“I have been eating them since I was a young child, we didn’t always have what we wanted, but we always had food. Many times we didn’t have enough money to get meat to put on the sandwich, but we always had money for mustard. I knew if we ran out of mustard, we were finally really poor and I would be afraid. But that never happened.”

I watched enchanted as she finished her shopping, smiled a big ole smile that made her eyes squint and crinkle, and she wished me a great day. “I am off to a few more before all the treasure is gone.” And she practically skipped and ran down my steep driveway to her car. I couldn’t have done that myself at my age much less by her age. Maybe she had something there…

And that is kind of where we are in our blessed America right now. In this presidential choice, some got meat for their sandwich, and some ended up with just mustard. But no one now or in the future will be going hungry. We need to stop a moment and sit down together. We expect…no we deserve…a president who is president of ALL the people. And he deserves a people who are ALL his people, even when they disagree.

It is time to eat a bit, regroup and then go back to our work. When I see the protests, the flaming speech from both sides, the nastiness that continues I think I need to just follow her advice. Maybe I will make a ton of mustard sandwiches, go to the protestors and pundits and naysayers  and hand them out…and it probably wouldn’t hurt to throw in a little leftover Halloween candy to sweeten the meal just a little. Mustard sandwiches  are definitely an acquired taste.  

 

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Anyone who has known me long or well, knows I am a list maker. I have been making lists since I was a child. Lists of chores to do, list of chores accomplished, list of supplies I needed for a craft, lists of birthday and Christmas gifts to purchase, places I wanted to go on vacation, places I had been. Yes, I am a list maker.

Even my lists have sub-lists. Weird, I know. But I carry a student planner with me. In it there is a general calendar for each month, and on several pages following each calendar there is a note section for each day. I place my “bigger events list” on the calendar there. Estate sales are listed, appointments, lunch with a friend (rare), birthdays and the like. In the note section are things about each “bigger event” I need to know or remember. Phone numbers corresponding with the event, times of the estate sale and a list of last minute things “to do” there are all listed in the appropriate day, and um…I even have the days divided with a vertical line as to the time of day each thing is to be accomplished or occur.

Then there is the daily yellow pad list. I have a legal pad, yellow and lined, on a clipboard that goes with me everywhere pretty much, in addition to the aforementioned lists. I have each page vertically sectioned off into three days, date at the top of each section and day of week listed (in case I forget what day it is), and underneath this section are some things that occur on the other lists, but mostly it is daily junk that needs to be done so the other lists can get marked off. “Wash clothes” appears on a certain day so I will have clean clothes to wear on the three solid days working at the estate that are listed in the planner. “Make groomer appointment” appears on a Friday, since they are usually pretty packed, because the following Wednesday I want to drop him off around the corner from my standing breakfast-with-a-friend location and well, it will be convenient that way and I won’t have to make a special trip with the furry friend when I am going to be near there anyway.

You get the picture. And before I go on much further, yes, I have a smartphone and could put all my lists on that one calendar in one place, but it kinda freaks me out, so let’s just not go there, shall we?

I was driving around this morning, with the most current list running through my brain. Today is my “day off”, well on paper it is supposed to be, but of course, according to the list, there is much to accomplish today, so it becomes a faux day off.

I am three weeks in on my semi-retirement, and I am like all other retirees and working moms going back home. I am wondering how I had time to work at all before cutting the schedule.

So today, I am thinking more about why my time is not functioning in my favor. Is it because I am not organized? No, probably too organized. Is it because I am lazy? Sheesh, no. It is because I am using a lot of time making lists, for one….but I am leaving a very important factor out of the list. That factor is me.

I have caught myself steering off to do something at home or in a work-related way because it appears to be “urgent” instead of doing the truly important things. Some of those are reading for enjoyment, and some might be creating a new piece to sell in the booth and studying up on some cool techniques that I don’t seem to find time for because I am fighting “the list” of urgent stuff.

I am scared, but I am about to trim down a list…like to nothing, none, non-existent. Ditching a friend couldn’t be worse. But the list has been ditching me.

No more sacrificing the important on the altar of the urgent. That just got moved to the top of the list.

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10941003_10153030026559407_8047608953381568968_n  It’s been quite a while since I wrote my last blog post, almost a year in fact. Writing didn’t happen for a lot of reasons, and none were because nothing was happening that was interesting enough to chronicle. Mostly LIFE happened.

As I had written about in previous blog posts, my kids and grandkids moved in with me in June of 2015. Lots of moving around things, crowding and stuffing into corners and crevices took place between June and a few months later when they actually sold their home. Then MORE items had to come to the house, some landed in an office area of my shop that was just being used for my storage and thus became their storage to save them money. Stuff more stuff, move out some of my stuff to the shop to sell, decisions made about what to keep for the “one day” house we might have together, decisions to sadly let go of some things I loved, but had no real use for anymore. I haven’t even been in the two small attics since the big move, but I am told there is a lot more stuff and a lot less space than last June. I am afraid to venture up as yet.

Disruption for all of us became a way of life.

The kids had to sleep in one bedroom…a seven year old prissy girl had to bunk down with twin 3 year old messy, wild boys. A canopy and privacy curtains was moved to the top of the Christmas “want” list by the prissy girl, and with good reason.  The big kids had to go to a small room and use every amount of space there and in the guest bath just for essentials for the 5 people in their family. My dining room that was rarely used became a daily used playroom with shelves on every wall, toys scattered, dress up clothes in our old hope chests (now toy boxes) and a baby gate was installed across the door leading from playroom to kitchen so the little boogers couldn’t escape at will. In the beginning, I had a time opening the metal contraption, and I silently cussed that gate.  A lot.

Me, being one person, I began the daunting task of the move to the “smaller” parts of the home. My room became my room AND office. The regular fridge was given to the kids and I moved my items to the extra 1942 Hotpoint fridge in the laundry room that formerly held sodas and the Thanksgiving overflow each year. It is in the freezer space of the laundry room, opens to the left toward the washer and dryer, and it is a trapeze act to get into it around the clothes, cleaning supplies and dog kennel, but I have learned to manage pretty well…most days. My pantry items, being much more sparse than the rest of the family, went to two shelves while the family stuffed theirs into the rest of the shelves and floor space there, and in the laundry room on top of cabinets and inside cabinets next to light bulbs and flea meds. The “his and her” closets in my bathroom became storage for the decor I just couldn’t part with, yet. One closet is also a craft/paint/record keeping/gift wrap/Christmas gift storage area and it is bulging.  I actually have some clothes and shoes in the other one, luggage, a chest of drawers that converted to store record keeping and so forth that cannot get shredded for 7 years, pool items, extra toiletries, and more future Christmas and birthday gifts.

Under my bed there are totes with more stuff that is mildly essential. It is weird to see those under there. I have never been one to have anything under the bed except maybe a sawed off bat to hit an intruder in the head if they choose my house to visit unannounced. I guess it is a throwback to my cleaning lady days not to store under the bed. One of my pet peeves as a cleaner was to find everybody’s junk under their bed when I was expected to vacuum there for them. It was an extra job to move all that and clean. Now it is just a matter of look under the bed, dust over the top and shrug and move on.

The garage was suddenly full of stuff like gardening items, lawn care things as usual. But it is also full of shelves with extra family toiletries, towels and tissue, napkins, canned food, toys for outside, and other items that have no room in the house.

And now, in the midst of all this “fullness”, I have closed my retail shop and more stuff has come home.

At the end of last year, about the time of my last blog post in November of 2015, I began to go through a time of self-reflection and some days were pretty intense. At first, I thought maybe there were just too many changes at home too quickly and I was reacting to those by getting the runaways. You know what those are, right? You just want to run away from your life, stay in bed, or go somewhere and tell everyone to leave you alone. That’s kind of where I found myself last year, but I knew that was not my usual modus operandi. I felt like my granddaughter. I wanted a bed…no, I wanted a LIFE with a canopy around it to keep the wildness and confusion out. I felt way out of my element, way out of control, way out of everything. It was time to step back a bit from it all, but frankly I didn’t know how I could.

One day I had some errands to run, and as I was driving, making stops and so forth, I was thinking. It was early December, I was picking up a few things for gifts and trying to decide what changes I wanted to make in me and my business for the upcoming year. I went to my favorite watering hole, sat for three hours in a booth alone with a pen and paper and wrote down the pros and cons of my current life. Then I wrote a new list of changes that would turn more of the cons into pros. All without exception required stepping back in some way. By day’s end I had made some big decisions for myself, and frankly I was nervous and anxious, but determined. I had my lease coming up for renewal in July of 2016, and I was seriously considering taking a partial retirement and not renewing. The nervousness and anxiety was because I didn’t know how I could do that and survive financially with many of the extra expenses that had made their way into my budget. But I knew it was what God wanted me to do. So the shop situation had to undergo immediate changes, starting the next day.

I posted ads online and said we would be closing for the last two weeks of December and reopening after the first of the year with a new format. This was a bit scary for sure since the loan to the buyers of the cleaning company I had sold had been paid off in full as of December. I had no extra income at all. So two weeks with no income was going to be interesting. With Mitzi’s help we transformed the showroom and reopened at the first of January. I started manning the shop myself, had no payroll, and saved as much profit as possible. I went to a different format of not pricing anything, dragging it out on the floor and getting it sold fast and gone quickly. Sales boomed and there were rare days that I didn’t make way over my quota of sales I had set for each day. Word got out that this was a reseller’s haven where you could buy low from me, then resell in your own booths.  My shop became the go to place in town for dealers and retail customers alike. And miraculously I was making a great profit while liquidating my own stock, in anticipation of stepping back mid-summer.

Around April, sales hit an all time high and for a moment I began to rethink my plans. Should I remain in business full time? Sales were mounting each week, my Facebook followers had grown from around 500 to over 4000 and we were getting more and more out of town and online sales. I almost changed my mind, almost. But a conversation with my granddaughter one day redirected my steps.

Lorelai commonly came to the shop to work and spend time with me on Thursdays. It was a fun time for her and a time I could teach her about store ownership and responsibility and making change, and all the little nuances of being a business owner. But one particular day it was rainy and stormy, we had few customers and I was working more at the computer, so she was playing “house” in a little alcove at the shop. After a while, I went around the corner to see if she would help me with her favorite job of stocking out new items, and saw her playing contentedly with her dolls, so I watched a few moments.  She had set up a makeshift kitchen, bedroom and living space and she was talking to her doll. “Mommy doesn’t have to go to work today, we get to stay home together all day long!” she exclaimed excitedly as she washed the doll’s face and brushed her hair. “We can play and work in the garden and cook food for when Daddy comes home later.” She glanced up and saw me and asked what I was doing. I told her I was just coming to see if she wanted to help pick out some things to put out on the floor. She hesitated for a minute and then said ” No, I have work to do here GiGi if that is ok. I just told Molly that I would be home today and we have a lot to do here because I have been working so much other days.” I nodded and left her playing and worked by myself that day. But I thought about that conversation many times over the few hours, and when I arrived home that day I had refocused.

I walked around the house after everyone had gone to bed the next night and saw all the places I had not tended to in my own home over the last few years because I had been working so much. I have always been a homebody. I was a stay-at-home mom for 21 years before going out to work after my divorce. It is hard for me to believe that myself, much less most of the people active in my life right now who know me as a focused entrepreneur and businesswoman. My home has always been a sanctuary for me, a haven, a place of rest and rejuvenation and in my walk around that night, I winced. I had let it become just another obligation that I had let slide and it was looking haggard and sad, and not much like a home. This had been my home almost 23 years. I had spent many hours painting, caring for the woodwork and trim, gardening, adding decor, changing furniture arrangements, adding this, taking away that because I loved my home and homemaking. I knew then it was time to step back into my real job as a homemaker. It was time for the real Rhonda to step forward again.

In April, I began the concerted effort of liquidating my own shop, unbeknownst to anyone but my immediate family. Huge sales were conducted, massive amounts of items were moved onto the showroom floor, items were re-discovered as I took box after box off the shelves in the back where they had sat for months since purchasing out multiple estates and storage units. I changed the shop hours and days to accommodate my relentless quest to have the shop purged, and empty by the last day of my lease, July 31st. Summer heat moved in and I began to move many items out into booths in local shops, into storage, into donation bins. Parking lot sales were held on my Sundays. I worked for 7 weeks with only two days off, most days 12-14 hours. During those months I dodged contagious shingles and staff infection running through the household, worked around both vehicles being down with major mechanical failures, and conducted two estate sales for clients, and still I worked steadily toward my goal. I took extra clothes to the shop each day, changing halfway through the day many times because I had soaked through as I plunged through the boxes and shelves in the back room and bay area and made drop offs at storage and I couldn’t stand the feel, much less the smell of the salty clothing.

And I did it…I actually did it.

The last day the shop was open was July 24, 2016. The next week the donations were picked up, the last of my items were moved to storage, the trash out crew came and removed all the garbage and items I couldn’t sell or donate. On July 30th, Mitzi came and helped me clean the building, my son in law made a trip or two with me to take a few things home, and I was done…all in time for Lorelai’s 8th birthday the next day, the last official day of my lease.

Choices don’t always make sense, that is a lesson I have learned. But if God guides, He always gives. This is the end of the first two weeks of no shop sales, but my sales have been consistent online and all my bills are paid up. Our yard sale yesterday was profitable, bills will be paid for another couple of weeks. I start another estate next week, and all is moving forward.

The one reason I hesitated in closing the shop has become a non-reason. I can make it. I just did.

Disruption once again is a way of life at home, but for a good reason. I have stepped back, not just from something, but to something. Stepping back from being “someone” that everyone knows as Help Me Rhonda or the Got Junk Lady. My identity is not wrapped up in what I do any longer, it is wrapped up in who I am and how I spend my time and with whom. I am stepping back into being a homemaker again, a mom, a grandmother. This week I start cooking for myself again, not grabbing food in between hot, salty trips to storage. Lunch with friends and swimming at Mom’s pool is working its way back into my days. I am planning creative projects again like new curtains for the kids’ room, painting pieces of yard sale furniture for my booths, writing more blogs and working on my book.  I bought myself some coffee creamer and there will be coffee breaks with reading and reflecting. I think I may actually be able to take a look at Pinterest every so often, go to the library and read magazines just for funsies,  or plunge into the pumpkin patch with the littles this fall. Stepping back to be myself again is the new norm.

I’m reminded of a Shania Twain song, “Dance With The One Who Brought You”

You got to dance with the one that brought you
Stay with the one that wants you
The one who’s gonna love you when all of the others go home
Don’t let the green grass fool ya
Don’t let the moon get to ya
Dance with the one that brought you and you can’t go wrong.

My life is counting on me right now, and I am definitely re-learning the two-step. Sometimes it’s time to step back, so you can truly step forward.

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10941003_10153030026559407_8047608953381568968_n   Today a stranger bought me a cup of coffee and it was a moment much bigger  to me than that $1.00 that he spent. It was God’s answer to a prayer and reassurance of His constant presence in a very quiet way.

Several weeks I have been struggling inside with some decisions I know have to be made by year’s end concerning a handful of personal and business issues. I have always been a big believer in God’s power in situations. I have been brought through some pretty heavy moments in my life just because I know the Lord is the one and only navigator I need. He is gracious allowing me to become a part of the path- choosing for a time, even if it may not quite be the best path for myself. Sometimes I have made very good choices, other times choices that will haunt me till they lay that final lily on my chest. But in all instances I knew ultimately God had it, and I would watch things unfold,  straighten out, clean up and move forward. And in almost every case it happened very quickly with my involvement in digging myself out of a hole, bootstrapping myself up, or otherwise being a very integral part of it all.

But that is not the case in my life right now.

I find myself in a frustrating moment in my life. I have usually sought guidance and many counselors when making a path decision and have most often come up with exactly what to do and when and then, well…just did IT…whatever IT may have been. But not now…I do not know the answer at all. Not even a little bit of the answer.

I am in a wait pattern, one position I often have difficulty maintaining. But right now, other than fleeting moments here and there of frantic “Oh my goodness what is going to become of me”, I have been at peace most of the last 6 months I have been dealing with these issues.

This week has been different. I have not been as content to wait. I haven’t felt sure of my decisions in some areas. There has been frustration and even a bit of dredged up anger here and there over old situations that are no longer in my control that have spiraled me to where I find myself personally and professionally today.

I woke this morning, a bit down and just wanting to get through the day and its requirements and get done. I did pray, I did ask God for guidance. Then almost as an after-thought I said ” And Lord, just show me I am not alone in this, give me some encouragement today because no one but YOU knows the deep things I am dealing with right now. My best cheerleader is usually me, God, and frankly, I am done cheering for myself and everyone else around me. I need somebody to take care of me for a change and genuinely care just a little about what I am going through right now. I need some warmth from someone, anyone today, because I just can’t do it for myself anymore. It would be good just to be noticed, God.”

I worked the day, closed up the shop, then started home with my granddaughter who had come to the shop with me. On a whim I decided to just stop in the gas station and get a cup of coffee, ride around a bit and clear my head before going home. I fixed my cup of coffee, went to the counter and waited my turn, while Lorelai chattered at my side. A billion things were running through my mind. So much on my plate, so many needing me, financial strains imminent in areas, and health concerns in others. I reached into my coin purse for some change to pay and the clerk said ” Thank you, have a great evening.” I looked up with money in my hand and said ” Pardon me?” He repeated his statement, then smiled, and turned back to his work. I haven’t ever had a stranger do that for me…ever. I told him honestly “Thank you for doing that, I really needed this” pointing to the coffee, but meaning the kind gesture. He nodded, said ” Yes, ma’am I could see you did.” I thanked him again and left.

I sat in the car with my granddaughter rattling on about first one silliness then another and I could feel the heat of the cup almost melting into my hand and moving up my arm, curling around my shoulders and across my face as I thought about what had just happened. I just sat and let that simple kindness care for me,put me at peace, redirect my path a bit and lift my spirits. And I felt noticed and no longer alone. I knew that I was in God’s site, within His range of hearing, but mostly within His realm of help and aid, and He used someone with skin on to remind me.

I know, even in the midst of chaotic times and days and moments that make no sense at all to my logic and reasoning, the Lord truly does have this all in His hands. He will give me what I need, when I need it, how I need it and from whatever source He chooses…not me. And I am grateful for that more today than I have been in a long, long time.

Funny how a little water and some ground up coffee beans can put the whole world into perspective again. And to think…I didn’t start drinking coffee till I turned 52. How different my life may have been if I had let Him fill my cup just a bit sooner.

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10941003_10153030026559407_8047608953381568968_nTwice today, within the span of 15 minutes, I saw two references about why ships float or sink made in two very different places by two very different people.

One quote posted was this “Ships don’t sink because of the water AROUND them. Ships sink because of the water that gets IN them. Don’t let what’s happening around you get inside you and weigh you down.”

One of those “hmmm” moments followed shortly thereafter.

An old saying is “You have to sink or swim”. I am re-aligning some things in my personal and professional life particularly during the last few weeks in anticipation of some BIG changes that may/may not come by the end of this calendar year. I have found myself often anxious, fearful, hyper-motivated, tired, revved up and done…often all at the same time.

You know how it is. You look around at others and what they are doing. Then you look down at little ole you, and anxiety sets in because those two don’t match at all. You second guess, you wonder what you are doing wrong, you start pondering how to swim harder and longer, adding more to your schedule and an already crowded life.

So you add…and add again. And nothing seems to help. In fact, it seems to get worse. You start taking on water. Fast.

Epiphany happens, if you are lucky, and you realize staying afloat and positioned properly is not about swimming, it is about shifting. Shifting your mindset, shifting your focus, evaluating where you were and where you wish to go, weighing the value of people, their contributions, you and your contributions to both your life and your business…and then…you allow some people, things, beliefs to shift back into their proper perspective.
And suddenly, the ship starts to float again….and so do you.

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10941003_10153030026559407_8047608953381568968_nI saw double today. No, I didn’t experience blurry vision, or see a set of twins. I saw a double rainbow. Technically I guess I saw two single rainbows…but I am not too technical most days. Let me explain…
I had gone over this afternoon to help my daughter move a desk and a few other items out of her home and into my van to make the first of many treks between our homes this week. My extended family and I are setting off on a great adventure this week. We are combining households, by choice not necessity, and they are moving in with me by my suggestion. Friday is our set moving day for the big stuff and by Saturday all my little chickens should be safe and snug under my roof.
I arrived and the little ones were in jammies, and so was Mom. The littles were playing on the chalkboard and maybe fussing a little more than playing and Mom and I were trying to talk above the roar of “Don’t draw there Isaac, NO MAX that is my spot, I DREW A BIIIIIG LION GIGI” and so forth. Chalkboards are great, but do usually require a bit fewer users and a bit more space for true creativity.
Samantha and I did manage to struggle out the desk and get it into the van, along with several booster seats which will be stored till next year and the twins are big enough to use them.
As I was loading the van with the first group of drawers and booster seats, a soft rain began to fall and I hurried along a bit. When I turned around to head up and get the desk off the driveway before the wood got too soaked I stopped. I saw the most beautiful rainbow. I have loved rainbows since I was a small child. I stood and watched and the rain trickled down my face and onto my shirt and dripped off the bill of my cap….and still I stood and looked. I saw Samantha come out with two of the desk drawers and said “Hey, come here there’s a rainbow!” Samantha rushed in to get the kids to come see. None of the three, even Lorelai who is almost seven, had ever seen a rainbow before. They chattered and talked about it, Isaac calling it a hair bow, Lorelai talked about how beautiful the colors were, and Max just laughed at the rain getting everyone wet. I thought about how I had seen hundreds probably in my lifetime, but this is the first one they had seen and I got to see them see their “first”. How special to share that with my babies. A “first time” only comes once, for anything.
And that’s kind of what this week is about, too. It will be a “first time” for all of us to live together and become a new family dynamic. Samantha and I have of course lived together, but never as grown women really. She left home when she was an adult, but not married and certainly had no children at the time. She was a single child going out into an adult world as a single lady for the first time. And at that time I actually became a single lady in a home by myself for the first time. When I married the first time, I went straight from my parents’ home to married life, so that was a first for me while it was also a first for my daughter. That seems like a lifetime ago. I guess in many ways it is a lifetime ago.
It is still a bit weird and surreal thinking about what this week will be. I have been single for a few years now and on my own and have reached my pattern of days. I get up when I want or need, I do stuff during the day, I come home, I do or do not do stuff and then, well, I go to bed and do it again tomorrow. And pretty much always in that order. I never fear running into anyone when I am at home. I always find what I need in the fridge because no one has eaten it or moved it or thrown it out because
they thought it needed to “go”. I wear the clothing I want that is not to impress anyone but for sheer comfort. I take a second hot bath in the middle of the night if the arthritis is acting up and never fear I will wake anyone or disturb the household. I am Rhonda Planet: Population One. But that is about to change dramatically.
And my children and grandkids are about to experience some real firsts. My granddaughter has spent the night with me, but she has never lived with me. My twin grandsons have never spent the night with me much less slept outside of their own bed at home as yet and they will do that first at my mother’s home while we are moving for two days and then my house, which will become their house. My son in law has not lived with me before so that will be new to him. My daughter has not lived with me as an adult mother or wife. And me? I have not lived with any of them, or anyone for quite a while, so this will be a big first for me, too. A year ago I couldn’t have predicted we would even be entertaining the thought of combining our lives this way.
It’s funny. My daughter and son-in-law haven’t said it has happened and maybe it hasn’t. But in my case I have had numerous people who have said “Oh wow, you sure you wanna do that? I moved all my crew in and I am telling you don’t do it.” And any and all variations of that same sentiment have rolled in the last several weeks from well-meaning friends and acquaintances. I have had a handful that know me and my kids and they assure me it will be an adjustment but we will be fine. I have chosen to take the high road on that one and say it will be a blessing to be together. I chose to look at it like that rainbow today…a unexpected chance to stop, reflect, see some things again, see other things as a “first” through the little ones eyes, and gather all of it in before it quickly disappears, as rainbows do.
I pulled the van out of the neighborhood and started on my way home, running a couple of errands before I arrived in the driveway. As I turned onto my street I was surprised and a little misty-eyed as I saw another rainbow. No, it wasn’t the same one; that one had disappeared long before. It was a new one, it looked the same but it was in a different place in the sky and at a different time. And it was over my house this time, where the other one was over my daughter’s home. I have never seen two rainbows in one day like that, and I have to think it was God’s way of reminding me that He has it all under control. He blessed them THERE and he will bless us HERE. Sometimes real clarity comes in seeing double.

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