Tuning into Life in Liverpool

It’s a little hard to wrap my head around the fact that I’ve moved four times in the past 11 years.

First from a five-bedroom house in Omaha, NE to a three bedroom apartment in Yardley, a township in Pennsylvania, located just north of Philadelphia. There was barely enough room for our basic belongings so I had to move my piano to my mother-in-law’s basement with the hope that someday I would find a way to get it back.

Next, my youngest son and I moved out of the three bedroom apartment into a three bedroom house. A house that had more space than we had furniture and the perfect wall for my piano, which, unfortunately, was still in Omaha.

Three years to the day that we arrived in Pennsylvania, I received a phone call.  The message was brief.

“Your piano is here; can you meet us today to accept delivery?”

Thanks to the generosity of my dear friends Dick and Gina, my piano and I were once again reunited.

005

Although it was a bit out of tune after three years of neglect, it still sounded amazing to my ears. I practically wore the keyboard out playing Annie’s Song by John Denver over and over again. For some reason, it’s the only song that I can just sit down and play after being away from the keyboard for years. Not perfectly for sure, but at least it’s somewhat recognizable.

Fast forward to September of 2016 when life’s circumstances catapulted me back to Omaha, and into second floor two bedroom apartment. This time the piano came with me and there was a beautiful spot for it, but knowing how sound carries through hardwood floors, it went unplayed for the two years I lived there.

It sadly became a beautiful, out of tune and sentimental piece of accent furniture; all the same, I was happy it had remained part of my physical space.

fullsizerender

I fully imagined myself staying at my job in Omaha for a number of years, not forever, but certainly for longer than two years. The Universe or maybe Fate had other plans in mind for the final month of 2018.

On Tuesday, December 4th, the movers arrived at my apartment and packed up my belongings, the next day they loaded up the truck and I relocated to a pet-friendly hotel with Mia. Thursday morning, I loaded up the car – cat and all, and began the drive from Eastern Nebraska to Upstate New York.

Trunk Packed for Move to NY

Three days later I set up camp in my new townhouse with an air mattress, cardboard box night stands, a couple of inexpensive lamps from Walmart and Miss Mia – my still mysterious cat.

Air mattress and cardboard box night stands

Over the course of a week, my furniture was delivered. If I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes, and if it hadn’t been for the piano bench precariously perched on top of a stack of boxes, I would have doubted that my piano had been delivered.

boxes piled high

After weeks of unpacking that seemed like they would never end, the main floor of my townhouse is mostly in order and not only did I find my piano, I was able to fill this corner of my new abode with character.

Beth's piano and pictures

The largest piece above the piano is a piece of lacework that my dad’s Aunt Gladys created. It’s called Hardanger and is a form of embroidery, origins unknown, but for some reason flourished in Norway.

The dried flower pieces that surround it were created by my maternal grandmother.

Thankfully one of my coworkers volunteered to help me out. Hanging this arrangement is not a one short person job. 😄

It hadn’t occurred to me before today that this arrangement of art is a wonderful representation of both sides of my family.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that the reason I have a piano in the first place is directly related to Grandma Marion, my dad’s mom. I do believe my love of music, especially the piano, is rooted in large part with my memories of her. My piano is part of her legacy.

I’m so happy it’s all in place!

Finally to the real reason for this update.

After eleven years of disruption, my piano is now as perfectly tuned as possible.

I found A. Ajemian, a second generation piano tuner, via Google – as we find most products and services these days; the appointment was confirmed through text messages.

Finally, after 11 years and four moves, my piano would be back in tune.

As it turns out that there is at least one other human being on earth with a bad sense of direction, even worse than mine. She called me 45 minutes after she was due to arrive and announced that she was lost. Somehow I was able to sort out where she was and guide her to my driveway.

It’s worth mentioning that I’ve given five other people the very same directions and all of them found my place without trouble. 🙂

Before my move to Pennslyvania, I had the piano tuned on a regular basis. I honestly never took much interest in the process. Once a year, the piano tuner’s wife called to make an appointment, they showed up, he tuned the piano while I went about my business, I wrote a check and they left.

This time, however, I had a much stronger interest in seeing how the process worked, well that, and Anna – the “A” in A. Ajemian, was quite talkative. Plus, I really had no other “business” to attend to.

Anna (I like knowing her first name), carried in her father’s toolbox and in between anecdotes about why she loves pianos manufactured by Yamaha (my piano is a Yamaha), settled into the task at hand.

Anna tuning Beth's Piano Once she settled in, she became quite serious and focused. I’m mystified by the tools and techniques that she used to work her way through correcting one tinny octave after another. But somehow she did.

It was fascinating to watch how her facial expressions changed from pinched to relaxed as she brought the strings behind the keys back into tune. Each time she finished a big section, it was time for tea and a chat.

We shared two cups of tea this morning.

Her dad was a piano tuner. As a young woman, she decided she couldn’t let this art form die with him. Apparently, he wasn’t very keen on having her follow in his footsteps.

“Find a nice office job. Tuning pianos is not a proper job for a woman.”

She ignored his advice, carries his toolbox to this day and now, thanks to this legacy, my piano is once again in tune and it’s brought me one step closer to feeling my home is complete.

In an unexpected final moment, Anna, the piano tuner, snagged me for an impromptu selfie.

I obviously didn’t have time to make sure every hair was in place, but I’m sharing the moment anyway.

Beth and Anna

And yes, I have played Annie’s Song by John Denver numerous times in the past two days.

Home is Where the Heart is

You can only lose what you cling to.
— Buddha

The image of my beautiful three story colonial was blurred in the rear-view mirror, as we pulled out of the driveway while returning the farewell waves and neighborhood wishes of “Good luck in Pennsylvania, we’ll miss you!” with a chorus of “We’ll miss you too, stay in touch!”

colonial-house

Now I’m back in the city I left nine years ago. It’s full of memories and opportunities to reconnect with old friends and make new ones. I didn’t expect it, but the most difficult part of the move has been in letting go of my attachment to what, in my mind, has defined both home and personal success. I could write an entire book about the circumstances that led me to Pennsylvania and back to Nebraska, but for now let’s just say that things haven’t exactly turned out the way I imagined they would.

That beautiful colonial home now belongs to someone else, a family who bought it for a song, after my 401K was emptied and my savings account dipped below zero trying to keep from going into foreclosure.

The marriage I hoped would be salvaged by the move fell apart faster than anyone could have imagined, and the job opportunity that drew me there turned into lessons in how to survive when a company files Chapter Eleven. I learned the hard way that being a Freelancer isn’t as easy as the self-help books make it sound.

In an unexpected way, the path back to a career in Ecommerce and back to Omaha was paved, one experience at a time over the past nine years. Wheels set in motion; I began to search for the right next opportunity.

My heart was set on moving into a space that wouldn’t require anyone to sleep on an air mattress and would have plenty of room for an art studio. In other words, I wanted a four bedroom house. Economically it didn’t make sense, but I wanted it.

The aha moment came when I realized it wasn’t so much about the number of rooms, it turned out to be a bit of an identity crisis. I was clinging to the notion of home and success being equivalent to house and more rooms than I need 361 days out of the year.

There was an air mattress involved in the holiday sleeping arrangements and I don’t have space dedicated to an art studio, but the attachments to old definitions of home and success are disappearing.

My youngest son put it into perspective when he said, “Mom, it doesn’t matter where you live or what you have. What matters is that we always feel welcomed and loved.”

After the holidays, the walls of my apartment reverberated with memories of laughter and love.

The silent air is filled with the sounds of playful bickering over the rules of a game, of philosophical conversations that are “to be continued” and of memories that extend way beyond the past two weeks.

Home is where you make it.

home

 

 

An Air Mattress, a Blessing’s Basket and a Bottle of Wine

A week ago yesterday I maneuvered my way through the Newark airport with a cat in a carrier, two full size suitcases and boarded a one-way, non-stop flight to Omaha Nebraska.

Moving is never a small task, especially when you’re relocating half-way across the country and the place you call home is a two bedroom apartment, not a three bedroom house. The idea of moving into an apartment instead of a house wasn’t easy for me to accept at first.

The End of an Era

As I’d been interviewing for jobs and visualizing my next living space, my heart had been set on moving into a three or four bedroom space with plenty of room for my kids to have a place to sleep when they visit and an area for me to set up an art studio instead of using my dining-room table.dining-room-art-studio

At first economics began to shift my outlook. Why pay an extra $300 to $400 a month in rent in order to have a spare room that will be used a few times a year? Why pay a few hundred dollars a year for lawn care and snow removal or worse yet, continue to take care of a yard and the shoveling myself?

Moving into a two bedroom apartment made sense, but I had no explanation for the weepy water-works that turned on every time I Googled apartments and tried to picture myself living in one. The aha moment came when I realized it wasn’t so much about the number of rooms, it turned out to be a bit of an identity crisis.

For the past 28 years, being a mom, home maker and provider for my family has been central to how I thought of my identity. Once I figured out that I was mourning the end of this phase of my life, my heart opened to the possibilities and unlimited potential waiting for me.

Getting Rid of the “Stuff”

The first major task associated with simplifying and moving to a smaller living space is sorting through all of your stuff and more importantly, how to get rid of it. Mia was less than impressed with the piles of material possessions blocking her favorite window sill.

mia-is-suspicious

Just when I thought I had things all figured out, there was a major curve ball thrown my way. I’d arranged to have 1800Junk come to pick up and take away the things I can’t or don’t want to move with me to Omaha. Some things were hard to say goodbye to, other things – not so much.

Long story short, I sorta freaked out when I got the quote – let’s just say that when I looked up pricing, and it was based on volume, I was thinking full size moving truck – not a haul away small capacity truck.

800gotjunk

I’d calculated about $400 – $600 – the quote came in at $1,600 (minus my patio furniture – which I had failed to mention).

I started scrambling, and quickly.

Outside of six years of gathering “stuff,” plus the boxes of things like check registers from the 1990’s and potting soil that somehow made the trip from Omaha to PA – the major portion of the expense was centered around removing the trampoline and the giant television stand in the basement.

Between putting my stuff on the street and listing it on Craigslist.com for free – I was able to shave $600 off my bill (more likely $900, with the patio set).

All excess furniture items were gone within 72 hours. My favorite pick up of the week was the woman who claimed the very popular night stand and tried to load it into her Ford Focus. Suffice it to say that she came back the next day with a larger vehicle.

img_3492

The Last Two Days in PA

A gal from the moving company arrived promptly at 8 am the morning of October 7 to begin packing up the remaining belongings. In spite of the fact that her coworker called out sick at the last minute, she had a very upbeat attitude and didn’t utter a word of complaint as she moved from room to room.

It took her half the amount of time it would have taken me to wrap up all the breakables and pack them safely into boxes. All I can say is that if you’re going to move a long distance, leave the packing to the professionals!

That night, instead of spending the evening surrounded by boxes, I was embraced by laughter and love. This lovely circle of people helped me grow and expanded my world in more ways than I can describe in a few words.

circle-of-friends

I had no idea just how much my life would be enriched by my move to Pennsylvania. It has not been without it’s bumps, hurdles and challenges – but, I not only worked my way through all of them, I am a better person because of the experiences I had and the people I came to know and love.

The moving truck arrived the next morning and by 3 o’clock, it was loaded and my belongings were on the way to Omaha.

moving-truck

 

My last night in PA couldn’t have been more special. It was a son’s and mom’s night at an amazing restaurant in Philly. My youngest son treated me to dinner and set the perfect stage for a long hug and no tears before heading to the train station.

last-night-in-philly

The Start of a New Era

There’s so much that has led up to the day I boarded the plane in Newark and landed in Omaha. Over the past several months, I’ve interviewed with numerous companies and visualized myself living everywhere from Omaha to Boca Raton. There was a big part of me that thought it would be a great adventure to move someplace brand new and find my way around.

Moving someplace completely new might have been a fun adventure, but I’d have to say that it was beyond wonderful to be greeted with hugs at the airport and to be the recipient of an incredibly thoughtful care package as well as more than one set of helping hands to help me get settled into my new apartment.

After two nights in pet friendly hotels,

hotel-basket

Mia and I, with the help of friends, began the process of settling into our new home.

I felt like I had just graduated from college as I set up my air mattress

air-mattress

and a make shift night stand (boxes can serve many purposes).

makeshift-night-stand

The gift of a blessing’s basket

blessings-basket

and a bottle of wine and some fruit made me feel loved and special.

troublemaker-wine

I couldn’t have asked for a better way to start my new chapter in life.

There’s so much more to share, but for now I need to keep unpacking and getting settled.

unpacking-the-kitchen

Sigh, after all I gave away, I still have too much “stuff.” 🙂

 

Serendipity

Christian and I had been looking forward to the day the moving truck would deliver the boxes and furniture from storage for two years, two months and six days.  October 8, 2010 was the day we thought we would no longer have conversations that started with “Where is….?” and ended with “Oh yeah, it’s in storage…”

My parents held down the fort in the morning and I raced home at lunch time to supervise the truck unloading.  The back porch had been designated as the temporary holding place for everything that would come off of the truck.  I had no doubt that I’d get every last box unpacked before the weekend was over. Then they opened the truck and I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.

I think there’s an opportunity for a reality intervention show to assist crazed and irrational women who discover that they had enough stuff in storage to fill an entire room and then some.

The scene at my house was the polar opposite of what I imagine an episode of Hoarders to be.

Hell-bent on giving everything away that I could, I ignored my parents and their voice of reason, pointed at things like the lawn mower and deep freeze, and said to the movers, “Do you want that?  You can have it.”

I opened boxes and said, “I haven’t used this in more than two years, I must not really need it.  Mark this box to donate.”

“Mom, you can’t give away the china, if you do that, what will we use for special occasions?” Christian stated.

I slowed my break-neck give away pace and started listening to reason (at least more than I had been).  My mom and I unpacked like mad women while Christian and my dad organized the shed.  After a full day of sweat and hard work, a pile of emptied boxes and packing material as tall as the fence stretched from the gate to the trash cans and there was no discernible dent in the piles on the porch.  I think my parents were relieved to head back to St. Louis.

Christian and I tried making it into a game called Guess What’s in This Box, but we quickly grew tired of playing, the weather got too cold, and the days became too short.  Over Christmas Jeff and Katie dug out the snow dusted boxes marked with their names and spent a good part of the holiday laughing while sorting through things on memory lane.

I decide to ignore the state of the porch until spring, which wasn’t easy due to the fact that we let the dogs out the back door and between the corridor of boxes on the porch.  As luck would have it, Katie needed a place to stay when she returned from her study abroad program and before heading back to Chicago.  By the end of June the contents of the porch consisted of a few left over paintings, a couple of pieces of furniture, and a box of cancelled checks which dated back as far as 1989.  I’m sure the trash collectors and Purple Heart Donation truck drivers wondered if and when we would ever be done moving in.

Thanks to my parents and kids, Christian’s friend Steve, and Eric the handyman and his sidekick, it only took three hundred twenty two days to clean out the porch and make it into a room we could use.  I no longer answer “Where is….” with  “It’s in storage….” but the conversation does sometimes end in “Remember, you gave that away…”

The bright orange table and chest that Katie painted coordinated well with the brown wicker furniture and tan cushions.  It was perfect!  Well almost.

The vinyl blinds had seen better days, but knowing how expensive it would be to replace them I decided to think about it the following spring and in the meantime just look at the ones that weren’t too bad.  Winter took a big toll on the blinds. One window was covered by a dozen brown slats barely suspended by a web of string.

I found silk sunflowers to put in a basket at Michaels, fun sunflower pillows for ten dollars each at the Giant supermarket, and the solution to my window coverings at Acme.

I recognized Maria from the local runners club and waited for her to come through the checkout line so I could say hello. We had over a year of happenings to catch up on. Our conversation took a turn toward decorating and getting settled into a new home.

“Maria, I’m almost there.  I just need to find someone who can sew and knows where to buy inexpensive material to make window coverings for my porch.”  I said.

“Beth…I sew…”

I don’t think I gave her an option when I replied, “Oh Maria!  Will you make me some window coverings?  I’ll pay you, just let me know how much.”

She introduced me to Jomar, a store in Philadelphia, that can only be described as Home Goods and TJ Maxx meets Jo-Ann Fabrics and a flea market.  I left the store with twenty-two yards of quality fabric for $22.00.  She had a vision and I had trust.

Two weeks later and true to her word, she removed the tattered blinds and hung cleverly made panels from the hooks above the windows.  She attached the tiebacks and swept the window covering aside exposing the windows through soft curves of fabric. She transformed the porch one window at a time.

Was running into her at the grocery store coincidence or was it serendipity?   I know what I believe.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Priorities…

On Thursday October 23, 1997 we packed up everything we owned; I spent the day supervising movers, well-meaning family volunteers, and the cable guy. I kept my eye on the weather and hoped that the rain would hold off until everything was off of the moving truck and out of the cars.

The skinniest of the three movers looked like a drown rat when he carried the last piece of furniture into the house.  The other two stood warm and dry in the dining room and didn’t bother to conceal their amusement as their buddy shivered his way into the house.  I felt sorry for him but was also glad it wasn’t me and truth to be told he wasn’t exactly a speed demon.

It rained non-stop for two days and just when I thought the weather had cleared, I realized the white dots in the sky were giant snowflakes not stars.  I groaned and shivered awake Sunday morning; even my eyelashes ached with exhaustion.  I didn’t need my glasses to figure out that the same was blinking on the face of the alarm clock.  Argh! No power meant I couldn’t make coffee and it might be hours before I could get the laundry done.

Eric forged through fourteen inches of not so fluffy white stuff, downed power lines, and streets littered with tree limbs to get much needed coffee. We resumed unpacking boxes and getting settled into our new home to the aroma of freshly brewed java.

Halfway through the day I called Gina, “Do you guys have power?”

“We do.  Is your power out? Is there anything we can do?” she asked.

“Can I come over to do some laundry so the kids have clean clothes for school tomorrow?”

“Sure, why don’t you guys plan on staying for dinner as well.”

I threw Katie and Jeff’s uniforms, a Scooby Doo t-shirt and some pants for Christian as well as some other necessities into the washer. Gina and I chatted about the freak snow storm and the latest novel by Jodi Picoult.  Laughter erupted from the kitchen and I knew that Mama had just toppled off of her plastic pyramid onto the kitchen table.  Don’t Drop Mama was a board game without age limits and rules that required no interpretation so it was perfect for everyone from a two-year-old to a grandfather.

By the time dinner rolled around we realized that our visit would be extended to an overnight stay.  In the days that followed, I discovered that it was impossible to find the right assortment of clothes for the next day in the few minutes after work and before total darkness.  Kohl’s turned out to be the perfect store to find everything from jeans and Winnie the Pooh underwear to games and toys to occupy the evening hours.

“How long are we going to live at Grandpa’s? Can’t we go to our new house?” Christian asked through tears.

“Hopefully only a night or two more, they said on the news that power should be back in ten days and it’s been seven.”

He clutched Scooby Doo and pointed at stack of sixteen inch Godzillas in cardboard houses, “Can I have one?”

“Sure, you miss the one at home?” I asked.

He nodded, “Can I take it to Childs Play?”

I smiled that ‘knowing’ smile all mothers have, “You can.  Is it because you miss your other one?”

“No… It’s so I can scare the girls.”

Life is after all, a matter of priorities.