Archive for September, 2012


Lists and an update

September 20, 2012

Thanks so much for all of the supportive comments to my last post. I really was in quite a panic, and your kind words really helped. A lot. Now, I’m less panicked but considerably more weary. We’ve gotten a lot done this past week or so, and I still managed to turn in my book review on time, for which I am going to pat myself on the back.

Over the last nine days, I

  • found a new place to live
  • packed up the china, kitchen appliances, and breakables
  • packed up all of my clothes except a few that are in a suitcase
  • cleared out closets and dressers and shelves and cupboards
  • talked with my two-year-old about why we were putting everything in boxes and about how we were moving to a new home
  • kept putting dinner on the table, helping Dot get dressed, bathed, to school, and to bed on time (mostly on time, anyway)
  • held tight to N

And N

  • found a good storage space
  • moved out all our furniture (with some, but not much, help)
  • got us lots of good boxes
  • met with a lawyer to figure out the legalities of our situation
  • packed up his downstairs office
  • packed up most of downstairs and re-organized the rest for ongoing packing
  • pushed through tiredness and stress and withdrawal day after day
  • read bedtime stories to Dot every night

We did all of this with the help of my good friend who lives on the west side of the state, and who drove over to spend a glamorous weekend packing boxes, helping to load and unload heavy furniture and chasing after Dot while we packed boxes. She also brought us salted caramels, red wine, and made sure that we took time to feed ourselves during our Saturday and Sunday pack-a-rama. She lifted my spirits and brought me Thai food and took me out for a margarita lunch. All of which helped tremendously. My mom is coming out this weekend to help us with loose ends. I am incredibly lucky in my friends and family.

I still need to

  • pack up the rest of the closets
  • corral and pack up the flotsam – toiletries and dry goods, books that hid from our first boxing, blankets and bedding that were in the wash, clothes hooks, the shelves my father installed in Dot’s room, shoes, etc.
  • make plans for the cats so they are safe and cared for between the time we move out and the time we move into the new place
  • call our new landlord and solidify our move-in date
  • clean out the refrigerator
  • arrange to have our mail held and forwarded
  • arrange to cut off the gas and electricity
  • remind N to change our phone, internet & cable
  • keep positive and calm for N and Dot
  • take care of myself so this cold doesn’t get worse
  • resist the urge to leave secret messages for any new renters in drawers and cupboards

The new place has less charm and sunlight and much less storage space. It turns out our little rental was quite the bargain except for, you know, the judgmental, malevolent, and skeevy landlord (skeevy isn’t a term I normally use, but I think it applies to someone who hangs around his renters’ home and in their backyard unannounced and without forewarning). However, there is a mountain ash tree growing in the front yard of the new place, and a rosebush by the front door which gives me a happy feeling. Our new landlord seems very kind and who is going to let me paint the place any colors I want.* It is also right next door to a school playground we like, and not far from downtown and other parks. And, dear friends, it has a dishwasher.

N also arranged for a building inspector to come look at the place we’ve been renting, which turned out to be genius. There is no way we can be charged for any future rent now because of the code violations found by the inspector. Of course, once our landlord receives the inspector’s report, he may be very angry at us and his current dislike for us may turn into something stronger – we suspect he thought he’d be able to milk us for rent while he fixed the cracked foundation at the front of the house. And he probably won’t be able to rent it to anyone else until the code violations are fixed. Which is a little more serious than we were hoping for, but that’s what you get if you try to take a Chicago boy to the mattresses.

I am still not sure why this landlord dislikes us so very much. We pay our rent on time and we don’t talk to him that often. I suspect some of it may be town and gown stuff, but neither N nor I is the sort of academic who rakes in the big bucks and/or turns our nose up at anyone who doesn’t reside in an ivory tower. It bothers me, however sad that may seem, that he doesn’t like us, and that this led him to leap on the opening to evict us in a way that (I think) most people wouldn’t. Our neighbor across the street told N that this guy “has always been a dick” but that he also doesn’t make these decisions alone – apparently he’s part of the sort of church that is very active in its members’ lives and the church probably had a lot of say in this as well. Which is pretty horrible to think about, honestly. The idea of a group of people (who supposedly to take to heart Christian values of love and compassion, of mercy and forgiveness) discussing my family and N’s achilles heel and deciding that we were heathen sinners not worth compassion, feels like an invasion of privacy and a slap in the face to my malingering faith. It may not be true, and I hope it isn’t true, but I’m tempted to leave little Blair Witch-styled figures made of twigs and rune stones tucked into the corners of the house out of sheer naughtiness.

I am going to try to transplant my clematis into a pot, and pray that it lives, though it probably won’t. I have better hopes for my little rosemary plant. My new rosebush is already in a pot (and into an early autumn flush of blooms, which is pretty delightful). I’ll leave the lavender and hope someone takes the time to water it a little. I really have loved this little house. I hope the next people who live there take good care of it and have better luck than we did.

* I’ve been dreaming about being able to paint my living space for a long time. I’m thinking of covering up the dark avocado “accent” walls” and putty-colored walls with some yellows and blues. And Dot has already asked for yellow on her walls (that’s my girl!).


Reluctant drama queen

September 11, 2012

So, yesterday was a pretty good day. A busy day. A September day.

Yesterday I wrote a post about what a relief it was to be into September, and when I wrote that post I was full of plans for the week, full of plans for the month, full of hope and convinced that my life was moving in the right direction.

I am still convinced of that, which is saying something because yesterday evening our landlord showed up at our front doorstep and handed us an eviction notice. Two, actually – one for each of us. I’m surprised he didn’t write one for Dot in crayon, just to make sure he covered all his bases.

I don’t know how to explain my state of mind, but it feels a little crowded in my brain just now. One Erica is wailing about how none of this is her fault and it’s not fair and how the fuck can she pack up a whole house (albeit a small one) in a week? Another Erica is making plans, dividing the house into sections for packing, looking at area vacancies, figuring out how we’ll pay a security deposit at a time of year when our savings are low, and scheming to minimize the impact on Dot. And another Erica is seething with anger and rage and honestly it’s a good thing that I have strongly functional social inhibitions because I really want to hurt someone.

I don’t love drama. I don’t want drama. I’d make a terrible reality television star not only because I’m a middle-aged round person but because I don’t engage in fights unless I’m pushed to the edge. I follow the rules. I follow the rules because I believe in order but also because I’m afraid of not following them. Not following the rules is for desperate people, or exciting people, or people who don’t give a crap. None of those people are me. I like my corner with my book. I like my walks to the park with my daughter. I like my cups of tea and trying out the occasional new recipe that I find on Pinterest. I am boring. I like being boring. The times of my life that haven’t been boring have been, with the exception of my wedding, not my favorite times. And now I am dragged out of my chair in the corner and tossed into a Jerry Springer episode and I wonder if I am, in fact, white trash.

I think this is especially hard because I’ve longed for a permanent home for such a long time. I get attached to things, and always have. Things, places, routines. We’ve been happy in this little house. We brought Dot home to this house. We fed friends and family Thanksgiving dinners there, and I was just getting to be satisfied with the little flower border by the driveway. I want a place that is mine, with a garden that is mine, and a corner of that garden that is Teddy’s, that no one can take away from me. I want that powerfully. I want to be able to settle into routines and schedules to know that I can walk my favorite familiar walks tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow. I want to feel safe.

I am so tired of not feeling safe. Even though I know no one is, not really. Today I am teaching classes with a graduate student instructor who had to reschedule them due to family deaths (plural) and who had to fly back home and attend funerals (plural). My God, none of us are safe. Maybe that’s why I crave safety, and home, and the illusion of solidity so much. It’s the ultimate fantasy, isn’t it?

But I need to hold my head up and tell myself (repeatedly) that I am not white trash, and I need to focus on work and packing and helping my daughter deal with a cruelly sudden flight from the only home she’s ever known. I need to comfort my husband who feels absolutely wretched about all of this and who had plenty enough on his plate before last evening. I need to build illusions of safety and sanity and make them strong enough that we all start to believe in them. To take the drama and tame it with plans and practicality and calm. I need to get us through this.

And I can do all of that. I am tired and sad and disillusioned. I spent a good deal of last night sobbing into my pillow. I am angry and I am still in shock. But it’s September, and the wind loves me. I am rich in memories and friends and while I’m tired of always having to be strong, I am strong.

I will make a magic spell to change drama into boredom. It won’t be easy, but that’s okay. Magic isn’t supposed to be.



September, and thank heavens

September 10, 2012

The weather has cooled, the leaves are just starting to show a edges of red and orange, glowing flecks of yellow. The sunlight feels clear and clean – distilled into it’s most unsullied form. Tonight it may storm. Tonight it may freeze.

The wind blows carelessly-held papers, willy-nilly, across the campus mall, over the green lawns, and then into the oblivion of trees and bushes. Whoosh!

And I remember how I love the wind, it’s blustery kisses and wild mischief and the way it finds every weak spot in your roof or coat, the way it sings across prairies and jumps out at you around buildings.

We are holding on. Some days are hard, but N and I grip each others’ hands and even though he keeps on insisting that he owes me some sort of apology for not being Fitzwilliam Darcy, and even though I never know how to respond to those apologies – part of me really would like to run away to Netherfield but as much as I appreciate Darcy as a literary character, I’ve never set out to find him in real life or seen him as a realistic model for a man – we do all right. (Of course we do all right, says the undaunted and certain part of my brain; we both love Jane Austen, Seamus Heaney, and National League Baseball – that’s a few lifetime’s worth of conversations right there. And as any reader of Austen knows, you can tell when a couple is suited because they have good conversations.)

We had a weekend of long walks and adventures with Dot, who seems to grow brighter and funnier and more stubborn and louder and more amazing and loving and exasperating and miraculous with every day. She had her first swim lesson of the school year, and I was so proud of her for waiting her turn and listening to her teacher and for trying new things. I’m so proud of N for summoning up the strength to be such an amazing Dad even though he carries the weight of worlds on his shoulders right now. My heart bursts with love.

My most recent article was accepted with only minor revisions, and I’m currently working on two others with colleagues. I create websites and plan events and review books, and work at the reference desk, and answer questions online and write and wish I had more time to read. I am busy, and sometimes that is stressful – especially at the end of a full work day when I realize I forgot to plan dinner – but sometimes it feels really, really good.

It’s a sweet, hard, melancholy, lovely, world. This September world. I feel whispers of Teddy returning to my ears and the void of missing him doesn’t have the vacuum-like horror it held last month. He was here, and beautiful, and loved. The trees know his name and my valiant rosebush that has survived a summer of negligent watering in an undersized pot, knows it too. Teddy, my Teddy. Little Huckleberry.

I’ve taken down my previous post. It was important to share it, but now I need to hide it away for a while. I’m so grateful to all of you who commented and commiserated and offered the support of your thoughts and words.

The burdens aren’t all lifted, and I’d never expect that they would be, but it’s such a relief to exhale again.