The Great Walker Switch-a-roo

Tangent: I just survived CERTAIN DOOM when Bean decided it would be a great idea to dart between my feet as I was mid-step in hopes that I was headed to his food dish. It’s not empty or anything, he just really likes company.

Anyway, thought that was an important story to share.

I will try to keep this story to the point, but that might be difficult because the words are rambley this morning:

Last school year, Abby announced that it would be fine for Johanna to move into her room, as Abby’s is twice as big as Jo’s. Well, we built this house when Abby was 3 and Jo was nowhere in sight, but we assumed we’d have another one soon and that the girls could share the big room. (Abby was adamant she was going to have a sister named, of all things, Pepsi Shoe.) Jo didn’t actually arrive until Abby was in kindergarten, and by that time, we felt they needed their own rooms — I couldn’t have Johanna waking Abby up in the middle of the night for diaper changes and feedings, after all. So Jo got what was supposed to be Eric’s tiny office.

And that is where she has stayed.

Well, actually, now that I think about it, Abby took the small room (she was 3, remember) so Jo got the big room, which was also our computer room / TV room. When Abby was 7, she decided she wanted the big room, and Jo was 1 and didn’t really care one way or the other. But she’s been in that room for 13 of her 14.75 years.

So last spring, I guess, Jo decided it was time to move. She slept in Abby’s bed one night … and was like, nah, I’m keeping my room. And I was like, well, we can move your bed too, and she was all, too much work, let’s wait.

Johanna enjoys the path of least resistance. Abby blazes through life by sheer force of will. We’ve got two very different kids.

Abby thus spent summer in her room, and Johanna decided she would move sometime after starting her freshman year. Then the two of us decided we’d wait until Eric went elk hunting in October — give us a good project to work on while enjoying our girl time.

And also he wouldn’t have to witness me, like, slamming a full sized bedframe through two doorways and across our wood floor. Eric and I have different methods for going through the world, too.

The day came that second week of this month, when Eric and his brother left for Wyoming with special tags they were quite excited about. Both came home with huge animals, just FYI, and it’s okay if you don’t understand the appeal because I don’t either. Although I do appreciate the organic meat in my freezer (and the fact that it’s humanely “harvested,” as hunters like to say).

ANYWAY. Day one, Jo and I worked on getting the beds switched. I bought Johanna a new bed frame (just the bottom part); we got Abby’s bed out, Johanna’s bed in, and then we set to work on getting the frame set up.

Easy, really, except I forgot that Jo has two mattresses and they both fell through the frame when she sat down for the first time.

DJFLKSDJFKDJFLKDJFKDFJKDFJSLKFJ:ASJIFh.

Okay, that’s fine. I went to the hardware store on day two, told the clerk exactly what I wanted and she found me a board, then directed me to the back where I could get it cut to size. The whole thing took less than 20 minutes and $4. My feminism was roaring!

I picked up Jo from school, we had dinner and then we got to work putting the new (very nice smelling) slats on the frame.

They were two inches too big.

Look, I don’t know if it’s because the guy didn’t cut them to my requested 39-inches or if my hastily Googled “how big should twin bed slats be cut” search was wrong. I didn’t measure. In my defense, why would I? So Jo and I just look at each other and she’s all like, we can wait for Dad, and I was like, NO JOHANNA WE DO NOT NEED A MAN WE CAN DO THIS, although what we did need was someone who could run power tools, to be perfectly honest.

(This is one of those times where I cursed my father-in-law for falling off his ladder and dying. I’d have called him that first night and he’d have taken care of everything and we wouldn’t have lost two days to sheer stupidity on my part. God, I miss him.)

So I go down into Eric’s shop and eye his table saw. I have zero training and a great love for all my fingers, so I decided to find a handsaw instead. I did — and I found a clamp, too, which I used to steady the board while I cut. You know how in the movies and things, people saw back and forth perfectly and it goes super quick? That was not my experience. But I did manage to saw through far enough, only back, never forth, so Jo could whack it on the concrete and sheer it off. It was not pretty. They were not even. But they did the job: The bed held.

YAY ME!

Oh, geez, the words are making me add this even though my mother will read it and freak out: Every night while Eric is gone, Mom checks in to make sure Jo and I are locked in and not hanging a sign outside that says HEY BURGLARS AND MURDERERS COME ON IN! And I’m always like, yes, we are safe, doors are locked and all is well! And then the next morning after this little saw escapade, Bean was running around inside after I had let him out. I asked Jo where he came from, and she said, the basement, and I was like, did I forget to close the garage door or something? I didn’t even think I opened it, and upon investigation, I saw that Eric’s brew room door was wide open; Jo had used it to bang the slats on the concrete and didn’t close it hard enough when she came back in. And I was like, huh, that explains why it got so cold last night.

Anyway, on day three, Jo and I started moving some of her stuff into her new room and Abby’s stuff out of hers (namely Abby’s books), and on day four, Jo had basketball practice and came home beat, so we were like, eh, good week’s work! and left it at that.

Eric came home, surveyed our work, had to cut another board because one of mine kept falling down (eh, details) and all was well.

Last week around Wednesday, Abby decided she was going to come home for her three-day weekend (special university holiday) — and I was like, uh, Jo, we need to get back on the moving wagon because otherwise, Abby wasn’t going to have a place a place to sleep. (I should also mention Abby decided she wanted it to be a surprise, but, being my child — or perhaps my mother’s granddaughter — she thought it would be good if someone knew she was coming. I monitored her progress via Find My Friend.) And we made great progress in a two-hour time slot: Chucked all the ex-boyfriend’s crap that Abby had hidden, got her desk cleaned out, moved clothes and emptied her other set of bookshelves.

And when Abby came home Friday night, the girls spent some time (after we watched the new episode of The Great British Baking Show) winnowing down more of Abby’s possessions. The thing is, Mom, she told me at one point, everything I want is already in my room at school. I think what we really need is some sort of keepsake box that she can put awards and photos and the like in, but that is another project for another time.

Like maybe Thanksgiving weekend.

Anyway, the point of this story, a bit over 1,400 words later (sorry about that) is that Johanna is now in Abby’s room, Abby is now in Johanna’s room, although actually they’re just back to their original bedrooms, and it was a big ol’ project but … I don’t know, it was kind of fun and Jo is so happy and also good timing on the Abby visit part.

And Bean, who loves cuddling with Johanna on her bed, has taken the move in stride. He seems just has happy in the new room as he did in the old.

The end.

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Finding true quiet

I’ve written a little about my quest for more output and less input (or maybe a lot, who can remember?). That’s an ongoing goal for this, my 47th year — and it’s led me to an interesting offshoot that I didn’t necessarily expect:

Finding “true quiet.”

What the hell IS true quiet, you might be asking yourself. I know I did. My life is very loud — not necessarily because of people talking or cars honking or whatever, but because I’m bombarded with messages 24/7. On the radio, in music, on television, in magazines, on social media, on various websites, at the office, in the newspaper’s opinion page … I’m never alone with my own thoughts unless I make an actual effort to shut all that down.

I mean, how will I know what I think if I can’t hear myself think?

I’ve found a few chunks of time during my day where I can tune it all out and just sit by myself in (relative) silence: During my morning journaling time, with my pens and my notebooks and the cats; during lunch, when I find a quiet spot and read (or blog, like I’m doing now); on my commute, when I shut off the radio, breathe and think about the day ahead / what I’m grateful for / whoever needs some good vibes (after dropping Jo off at school — she’s a radio listener); and in the evening after my chores are done and I can sit by myself and read or write.

At first, this was REALLY HARD. Torturous! You want me to sit without any distractions? In the quiet? No music or phone? Talk about scary. I’m finding it less daunting the more I pay attention and seek the quiet out, although I am not always successful, may as well admit that right now.

Sometimes I like the noise.

One thing that helps set the tone for the day is waking up “phone free.” (I first wrote about that HERE.) When I started this whole ordeal, I could last maybe 10 minutes before I reached for that thing. Now, I am up to about 25-30 minutes, which is about as long as my journaling routine lasts.

I’m basically trying to break one habit with another. It seems to be working.

I also try to remind myself why I have a phone throughout the day, when I catch myself unthinkingly reaching for it: To connect with my family and friends. I do NOT have a phone so I can scroll through headlines about celebrities I don’t care about or watch comment wars unfold on social media.

I’ve found that mostly, I really like the quiet. Sometimes I don’t want to sit with myself and it’s harder, but I figure those are probably the times I need the quiet the most: What’s this nagging thought I don’t want to think? What is this feeling I don’t want to feel? What is this issue I don’t want to confront? But usually, I’m happy to do the breathing exercises, to write in my journal, to read a book, to pump out that blog post. I’ve even started to look for quiet time at work — because wow, when I can focus, that story I’m working on seems a lot less daunting. And gets written a hell of a lot faster.

Anyone else thinking about this? Have any tips for us, the phone-addicted? Or stories of quiet moments?

TBT: When Jo got fish for Christmas and we were sure they would die in like three days

Trisha’s Note: I have been working on a real post, but I’m not happy with it yet, and also Johanna’s almost 4-year-old goldfish took the toilet plunge last night and it reminded me of this post that I put up in January 2016 about getting her two goldfish for Christmas and how we didn’t expect them to live very long. (The other one got flushed last year.) We definitely got our 28-cents worth. Original post HERE and real post Monday, I promise.

A Christmas wish fulfilled

There’s something very stressful about goldfish.

Eric had the bright idea this Christmas of gifting Johanna a fish tank. She had been begging for a puppy this year, but recently gave up on that front and began lobbying for goldfish.

I can only assume this is because of the repeated number of times she has been told that our family does better with pets that ignore us, i.e. cats.

Look, I don’t even have houseplants. There are reasons for this. Goldfish technically do ignore you, so that’s a plus, but they are also notoriously fond of keeling over quickly, which is a strike in the “downside” column.

So much relaxation!

Another downside: Having to pick up the pieces of a heart broken over a fish.

But oh, the look on her face Christmas morning when she unwrapped the tank, the joy of arranging the decorations just so — should this plant go by the barrel or the sign? — and the happiness of finally bringing Gumball and Darwin home.

(Gumball and Darwin, incidentally, from The Amazing World of Gumball, a cartoon-ish kind of ordeal that Johanna cannot get enough of.)

It was enough to make me think that maybe this was a good idea after all.

Erring on the side of caution and practicality, we’ve explained to the child that goldfish do not have long lives, and at 28-cents each, are exceedingly replaceable.

“You might go through a lot of fish,” I warned.

“That’s okay!” she chirped.

I was hopeful that the lesson had sunk in when she made a list of 30 potential names — enough for a year’s worth of fish, I’m assuming — until it occurred to me that she was just excited and this was her way of coping with the wait to go to the store.

“You might want to keep a hold of that list,” Eric said.

“I will!” she beamed. “I wrote it in my journal!”

“That’s Darwin,” Johanna says confidently. Then pauses. “Or THAT is Darwin.”

Still, between the idea and the reality falls the shadow. (T.S. Eliot knew what he was talking about.)

“Abby said not to get too attached,” Johanna told me after a conversation with her sister on the way home from the store, “but I think it’s too late.”

I’m happy to report that Gumball and Darwin have managed to survive an entire two weeks under Johanna’s watchful eye. She finds them entertaining and relaxing, and likes to give minute-by-minute updates: Darwin is a bit of an explorer, while Gumball likes to hide behind the plants. They both like the barrel feature.

But while she thinks her new pets are enchanting, the rest of us find them nerve-wracking. The Walker family is on high-alert, with our collective fingers’ crossed that Gumball and Darwin manage to live … well, a little longer.

Maybe we should have just let her get a dog.

The rule of three …

Ever heard the adage, “Bad things come in threes”? Well, we’re two down in the Walker household and I’m left to wonder what the third will be.

Bad thing No. 1: Our oven tried to kill us.

Bad thing No. 2: A flooded kitchen.

john-westrock-DBGb9u1Yf6Q-unsplash

Hey look, it’s Oregon’s own Multnomah Falls! Also representative of what’s going on with the kitchen sink … Photo by John Westrock on Unsplash.

I mean, okay, it wasn’t FLOODED flooded, but we’ve got a leak that Eric has traced to our (relatively new) kitchen faucet (two years old, I think?). And for reasons I cannot even begin to fathom, when the water is turned on at the entry point, water leaks everywhere in epic, massive proportions (by which I mean, we’ve got these two valves under the sink that turn on and off and feed the sink and dishwasher — I don’t know what I’m talking about, can you tell? — and when they’re on, water leaks whether or not the dishwasher or faucet is on; why a leak in the faucet would affect the dishwasher, I have no idea, but then again, my plumbing skills are nil so).

Let’s just say we went through A LOT of towels before we figured out where the leak was coming from under the sink. Or should I say “leaks.” There are four: Three under the sink and one on the faucet itself.

Hey, upside, I’ve been meaning to clean and organize that area for months now — nailed it! But only because everything under the sink is now on my counter.

In order to run the dishwasher, we must turn on the hot water valve, make sure we’ve got buckets and towels galore, and then bite our nails for two hours or whatever it takes for the dishwasher to do its thing. Listening to water drip is not relaxing, FYI, nor is forgetting to put a towel behind the faucet and returning to your kitchen to find your counter a watery mess.

I try to take advantage of having water at the sink to clean counters, wash non-dishwasher safe items and fill up my teapot with water for later use, etc. I mean, I may as well. Water is everywhere.

It took Eric a few tries to get the faucet company to actually take his call, but once he finally did, he was able to get a replacement part sent under warranty … which should be here sometime this week? Maybe next week?

HA HA HA. I’m not crying, you’re crying.

Just kidding. I’m totally crying.

Nah, it’s actually not so bad. I mean, aside from all the wet towels and remembering to empty bowls of water before they get too full and overflow. We’ve got three other sinks, so when the water is shut off in the kitchen, we have options. Although, fun fact, I have a few issues (I know, shocking) and water from the bathroom faucet is NOT THE SAME as water from the kitchen sink, but I’m being very, very good and very, very patient and solving THAT potential mental crisis by refusing to think about it. And also by telling myself that at least it’s not water from the laundry room sink. That really would put me over the edge.

What will Bad Thing No. 3 be? There’s only so much in the kitchen that can go wrong, but it’s all suspect.

P.S. Okay fine, there’s no rule of three because science says so. Humans look for patterns is all. Um, still though … 😉

More updates: Plastic Free September, output vs. input, etc. etc. etc.

I’m out on the deck this morning. We had a rare Oregon thunderstorm last night (I should probably mention I’m writing this on Sunday), which knocked the power out for a few hours. We lit a few candles and it was all terribly romantic. Just kidding, it was dark and loud. All I could think about was Laura Ingalls Wilder trying to read or darn or whatever the hell they did back then by candlelight (well, kerosene lamp, I guess) — how hard that must have been on her eyes.

But the upshot: The air is clean and crisp. And it feels like autumn.

Plastic Free September continues. I was thinking earlier about how much packaged and processed foods we used to buy when we were newlyweds and how much we’ve stopped buying in those intervening years — mostly for health reasons, like forgoing packaged lunchmeat for actual chicken or roasts or whatever. But also because of environmental reasons, like buying bulk carrots (now at my favorite farm stand and they are delicious) instead of packaged carrots. It didn’t even occur to me back then that bulk was an option. Progress!

(Now it’s Monday morning, back out on the deck — Abby Facetimed and that put an end to my thought process; air is cooler still, but I know my days writing out here are numbered so what’s numb feet?)

Anyway, I have had a couple of challenges on the challenge front: The first was last Friday. I’d planned on taking a nice lunch break with my favorite salad and an Americano at a coffee shop; instead, I found myself the only member of the newsroom in the office with a breaking news story (or is that a heartbreaking news story?) and a loose 22-page paper to fill. Because I was planning on eating my salad at the coffee shop, I did not bring any containers — and this was an eat at your desk kind of day — but I did have a cloth napkin and fork hidden in a drawer, so while I my to-go order was in a paper box (lined in plastic, trash), I was able to save on the plastic fork and paper napkin (when I placed my order, I asked for no utensils). I always have my coffee mug, so while that was technically a win, it wasn’t really — I do that anyway.

The next was on our Saturday grocery trip. I needed coffee and forgot to bring a jar. I used one of their paper bags — again, lined in plastic. I can save it and reuse it, and that will be my punishment for the rest of the month. This is slightly better, plastic aside, than the packages of coffee I’ve been getting at the coffee shops lately (Stumptown! Ammiright?!) because those packages are immediate trash; there’s no reuse possibilities there. And also, the coffee I purchased Saturday was roasted right here in town.

Note to self: I need to start stopping by that particular coffee roasters again with my jars. They totally know how to fill them. I’ve gotten out of the habit.

(The clouds have parted just enough that I can see Mount Hood has a fresh layer — albeit slight — of snow this morning. That is awesome. Poor thing looks so bare by this time of year. Our glaciers are toast.)

Output vs. input

I came across an interesting online article by Ryan Holiday with tips on spending less time with your phone. Besides the usual (turn off all alerts, remove social media apps, don’t use for entertainment), he had a couple that struck me as so obvious but so genius: Start your mornings phone free; use the do not disturb setting; and whenever possible, replace your phone with another solution.

Oh, Ryan Holiday, have you been reading my diary? That is advice I can use.

NOT grabbing my phone first thing each morning is slightly difficult because I tend to fall asleep using a white noise app (it also serves as my alarm), but I can click those buttons, shut the app off and then place my phone face down on the dresser and go about my morning.

I’ve got the do not disturb setting on from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m.; I may lengthen that time. I’ve got it set so family members can get through. Everyone else can wait. (Fact: No one really calls me anyway so.)

As for finding other solutions to the phone, that is interesting as heck. Instead of using my phone to check headlines, I can read a paper (or fire up Freida the Laptop, which I’m not as apt to do). Instead of using my phone for entertainment (looking at you, word games), I can play Uno with Johanna, who LOVES that kind of thing. Instead of using my phone to numb my feelings or help when I feel bored or anxious, I can … well, I’m trying to figure that one out.

My phone helps me connect with my kids, create paperless lists, fall asleep, listen to music. FIND WHERE I’M GOING. (All caps because wow, I am terrible with direction.) That’s amazing. Everything else is just noise.

Etc. etc. etc.

Back to my Friday from hell and no lunch break — basically a seven hour day at my desk wanting to cry: This week I have been working on taking breaks. Setting boundaries. Not killing myself. It’s hard because at the time, it seems so important to push through and crank out pages / stories / web updates / insert whatever here, but I think it’s also important to recognize that there is only so much I can do as a human, that I am not perfect, and that all I can do is make the best of the circumstances in which I have been given (small staff, big needs).

I can’t say I’ve been great about it, but it’s on my radar, which is half the battle, anyway. I think technically, just in my line of work, I need to be aware of the fact that there are days I am not going to leave the office for seven straight hours. But on the days I can, I need to take full advantage.

Because I’ve noticed that my stomach / anxiety is acting up these days as I head into the office. I dread it. That can’t be good.

Victories this week

I took everyone to a coffee shop for our weekly staff meeting Tuesday, and everyone got their orders in regular mugs. We talked about paper stuff, but we also just decompressed and messed around and had fun. I think that’s important. (And also I could do that because our editor was on vacation and I had no adult supervision. That’s what you get for leaving me in charge, corporate!)

Our publisher came in on Monday and asked if anyone wanted coffee. Hello! Yes I do! She pointed to my travel mug before I could even hand it to her. It’s nice to be understood.

(And now it’s Wednesday morning as I finish this post — just to keep you in the loop about my deck time. I did not expect this post to take so long to write, but here we are.)

No. 24

Twenty-four years ago today, this happened:

wedding blog

Well, hello there, little babies Eric and Trisha! Wow, you have so much ahead of you — most of it good, some of it not, but all you really need to know right now is that you have indeed found your person.

Oh, and Trisha, that prenup of “No heads in the living room” (Eric is a hunter, after all) works out really well in your favor. Having promised to never toss any of his things, ever, maybe not quite so much. 😉

Party like it’s 1989

Eric had his 30th high school reunion the first weekend of August. And yeah, we actually left our house to attend, Eric because he was interested in catching up with classmates and me because we have a pact that we never face a social situation alone and I had to.

And it was fine. I mean, it was loud and there were people there, but those people were genuinely excited to see their classmates. Maybe it’s because everyone is pushing 50 and no longer cares about coming off as cool. Perspective!

I benefited from that perspective, too. Social situations make me anxious, and social situations involving the people I went to high school with (class of 1990!) put me back in the mental and emotional space I occupied during those years. Which isn’t pleasant on any level because: Angst and chaos and high school is terrible.

Well, it turns out I’m so far removed from that high school mentality that the angst and chaos never presented — and we even had fun. Eric enjoyed the first night so much that we were out until 11:30 p.m. (two hours past our bedtime!); the second night was more formal and we were outta there by 9:30, but mostly because Eric felt he’d talked to everyone he’d wanted to.

There was talk of kids in high school and parents with health issues and navigating both at the same time. About starting “second phases” of life with new partners. About jobs and retirement. About feeling a certain way and being shocked when you look in the mirror and are confronted with your age. There was a little reminiscing about the old days, I guess, but what I gleaned from the conversations is that people are firmly in the now. That there are bigger fish to fry than whether or not someone was popular.

I don’t know, I found that comforting. Maybe my 30th next year won’t be so terrible after all.