Six Boxes, Two Laundry Baskets, and a Piano

I have moved many times throughout my life, and consider myself to be somewhat of an expert in packing, unpacking, and settling in over a weekend plus an extra day to hang pictures.  My last move was quite the opposite: it didn’t take three days, it took three years.

The first step was to figure out what to do with twenty years’ worth of stuff. The apartment we were moving to had less than half of the square footage of our house; the challenge was to figure out which half of the stuff would fit and what to do with what was left over.

My last weekend before the move was surreal, we walked from room to room and measured and debated. We sorted through our belongings and color-coded labels became the guide to toss or keep.

We sold what we could and gave away the rest. Three days, more than a thousand miles, and a lot of tears after the movers put the last box in the truck, we completed the journey from Nebraska to Pennsylvania.  The first stop was Bensalem to wait for the moving truck and say ‘see ya’ to the apartment I had called ‘home’ through seven months of commuting.

We met the movers bright and early; the boxes kept coming and coming.  Every room was filled to the point of bursting and it was obvious that we had overestimated how much would fit.  It was like living in a plastic ‘made in China’ sliding box puzzle as we moved boxes and belongings from room to room so we could maneuver and unpack. After several trips to storage, we finally settled in.

Fast forward through two years of apartment living.  During that time I learned that everything from registering your kid in school to getting a drivers license revolves around the almighty utility bill, on the east coast you go to ‘the shore’ not to the beach, and perseverance pays off when it comes to finding a house to rent. As it turned out, just as I was about to give up hope, the perfect house found me.

I had a month to move, and being the creative problem solver that I am, I came up with a plan to use that time to keep moving costs down. I determined that my car has a maximum capacity of 6 boxes and two laundry baskets.  Every night until moving day and twice a day on weekends, I packed as much as I could, filled the back seat and the trunk, and moved one carload at a time.

Moving day eve came with threats of flooding: they were predicting that the river would crest and the road between my past and my future might be closed by noon.  I didn’t sleep a wink.  All of my worrying must have paid off because the biggest hitch of the day was a lost power cord.

The next step was to get stuff out of storage; I scheduled the pick-up for two weeks after we moved.  I was at work when I got the call to meet the movers.  My heart raced on the way home, excited to reclaim forgotten treasures and never again hear or say the phrase, “it must be in storage.”

I stood speechless while the porch of my dreams was filled ceiling to floor with boxes.

I can only sum up this day with how my fifteen-year-old son describes it when asked.

“She was beyond irrational.”

I know my parents would agree.

It took ten months to wade through the boxes; I’m pretty sure the trash collectors and the charity organizations thought it would never end. The porch is now ready for use and even has the space to be a temporary shelter for patio furniture and a gas grill during a hurricane.

There was still one thing missing, my piano.

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?”

My eyes welled up with joy, two hours later my move was finally complete.

————

author’s note:  It is with love and gratitude that I dedicate this post to my dear friends Dick and Gina.  Words cannot express my thanks for bringing my piano home to me. I love you both.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Batten Down the Hatches

“Batten down the hatches” is a phrase that makes me think of movies like “A Perfect Storm” or “Pirates of the Caribbean.” I never thought it would be something I would hear as part of a conversation while waiting in line at the pharmacy, let alone that it would be relevant to me.

I knew there was a hurricane on the way, and that we were likely to get some extra rain over the next few days, but I didn’t realize the potential severity of it until I received a text message from my landlord.

JM: u been watching weather forecast?

Me: i haven’t been. is it bad?

JM: have a peep at the weather channel for Yardley.

I’m embarrassed to admit that it took me nearly 30 minutes to find the local weather station; I’ve hardly turned it off since.

It turns out that Irene is the size of Europe, and although she’s ‘only’ a category one hurricane, she has already caused the evacuation of over two million people from North Carolina to New England. An unprecedented 400,000 people in New York City have been displaced from their homes to shelters varying from the comfort of a friend or family home to a cot in a high school gymnasium. Eleven states have declared a state of emergency, including Pennsylvania.

In the Philadelphia area, we’re expected to experience winds of fifty to seventy miles per hour and six to nine inches of rain within twenty-four hours.

With that in mind, it seemed wise to ‘batten down the hatches,’ although I did have to take a moment to find out where the phrase originated.

Its broad definition is “prepare for trouble” and refers to the securing of property. The specific origin is nautical and relates to preparing a ship for bad weather. A batten is a strip of wood that is used to hold something in place; a hatch refers to an opening, as in the deck of a ship. A ship’s crew would cover the hatches with a tarp and secure them into place with wooden strips (batten) to protect the ship during severe storms.

Thank goodness for my landlord who guided me step by step through the process of preparing for Irene. I never would have thought to put the gas grill or the trash cans on the enclosed back porch or to dig a small trench outside the front door to help the excess water drain down the hill instead of pooling higher and higher in front of the house.

The trip to the grocery store was surreal, there were more people buying groceries than the day before Thanksgiving and Christmas combined and the level of frenzy matched if not exceeded either holiday. We stocked up on essentials like bottled water, ginger ale, and food. The bad news was they had the same number of flashlights for sale as all the other stores in town, zero, but the good news was that my neighbor had a spare one to loan me.

We’re settled in for the storm and as well prepared as we can be, up to and including the relocation of the mini-fridge from the ‘man cave’ to the den. Now all we can do is wait and see what happens.

I wonder if you can take pictures during 50 mile per hour winds without getting blown away.

 

Paul Bunyan Meets Cirque Du Soleil

It was like Paul Bunyan meets Cirque Du Soleil and it all happened right in my front yard.

It was Saturday morning. I saw him before he reached the house, he dropped a pile of orange rope on the ground and rang the bell. I hoped it was the tree guy and not just a random stranger brandishing a chainsaw as though it were a tinker toy.

Above the high-pitched commotion of two yapping dachshunds, he introduced himself.

“Hi, I’m Bobby, the tree guy,” he said.

A tiny wave of relief rolled through me.

He wore faded jeans and a grey muscle man t-shirt, and the slight swagger in his stance contradicted the modesty in his eyes.

“Sorry I didn’t get here sooner, I had to take the chipper in. It kept overheating, smoke was coming out everywhere. I told the guys at the shop what I thought was wrong, but instead of doing what mechanics should do, and figure it out, they took my word for it.

“What were they thinking? I’m a tree guy, they’re the mechanics. Sheesh!” Bobby ranted.

I laughed and said, “You should have sent it into the shop with a woman, because the mechanics never would have taken her word for it.”

He cinched the harness belt and strapped the tree spikes on over his boots.

One step at a time he secured his foothold and walked up the tree. His powerful hands grasped the rope and he pulled himself higher and higher.

I held my breath as I watched him maneuver. Suspended in air, held only by a rope, he swung through the tree and cut off one branch after another. He worked with his ground crew to drop each one to the ground with precision and a surprising grace.

He said, “One tree down, and one to go. I’ll be back on Monday.”

Bobby returned. It was Friday, not Monday, but nonetheless true to his word he was back.

The surface of my driveway was barely visible under the tangled mass of branches and leaves.

As I approached, the ground crew of two shouted out in unison, “Customer! …… Customer!”

“Is that a warning so everyone knows not to talk bad about the customer?” I asked.

“No ma’am, it’s so we know there’s a lady present,” was the reply.

I smiled and my eyes followed the direction of their tilted heads.

Bobby was more than 30 feet in the sky, framed by the two limbs he straddled, his dark grey t-shirt blended into the backdrop of darkening clouds.

I watched through a window of two fingers as he planted one foot into the branch and stretched his body along the length of it. Bobby swung the rope repeatedly until he secured a safe position to slay the next member of the tree.

Thunder cracked and the sky exploded, announcing the end of the day but not the end of the job.

The following morning was sunny, Bobby’s mood was not. There was no swagger in his stance and his entire body drooped with defeat.

He sighed and shrugged his shoulders, “I underbid this job by a longshot, it happens, but you still gotta finish the job and finish it right,” he said.

I watched him scale the mountainous locust one last time, there was only a glimpse of his red t-shirt visible between the leaves until he emerged at the top. Outlined against a sky of white and blue he balanced on the uneven branch and began to claim the tree.

For the next seven hours the chain saw whined and whirred through limb after limb, tree parts thudded to the ground and sawdust swirled through the air like a winter flurry.

At 6:42 p.m. the work to cut the remaining twenty feet of the locust tree into manageable pieces was still underway.

Unable to stay away, I watched the day come to a close.  The trunk stretched across the neighbor’s yard and my view from the patio was partly blocked by the four feet that remained standing.

The buzz of the saw whirred and puttered into silence, “Damn it!” Bobby shouted.

It was the first time he had raised his voice since he started the job. Dusk fell around us, the saw had died, the job was not complete.

I’m surprised “damn it” was all he said.

In the days that followed I tried not to lose faith that Bobby would return.  I wanted to believe that he would “finish the job and finish it right.”

One month and three days after the work was scheduled to start my doorbell rang.

It was Bobby, a man of his word.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The Felling Finale…or is it?

The morning was sunny, Bobby’s mood was not.

Bobby looked nothing short of defeated, his entire body drooped with exhaustion.

“I underbid this job by a longshot, but it happens, and you still gotta finish the job and finish it right,”  were his final words before he took on the tree.

As I once again watched him scale a tree, this one even taller than the last, I held my breath.  I couldn’t imagine being so high above the ground, held by nothing other than a rope and spurs attached to my boots to secure a foothold.

I’ve tried to find a way to create the image as he climbed to the top of the tree  with poetic words and not by giving a blow-by-blow description, but I can’t.  It was like nothing I’ve ever seen.

In my mind, it was no longer a tree, it had become a mountain.

There aren’t words to describe what it was like to catch a glimpse of his red t-shirt between the leaves and see him finally emerge at the top of a sawed off limb. Outlined against a sky of white and blue he balanced on the uneven branch and began to claim the tree.

He took down limb after limb, and with the help of his crew they brought each one to the ground with skill and precision. Sawdust swirled through the air like a quick winter flurry.

I wish I had been there for the final fall.

Outside my kitchen window, Bobby climbed the neighbor’s tree in a matter of minutes. He took down the small pine tree down in less than 2 hours. The mighty locust in my yard took two days to bring to the ground.

At 6:42 p.m. the pine tree was complete while the work to cut the remaining 20 feet of the locust tree into manageable pieces was still underway.

Unable to stay away, I sat on my patio and watched the day come to a close.

“Damn it!” Bobby shouted. The buzz of the saw whirred and puttered into silence.

It was the first time Bobby had raised his voice since he started the job.  Dusk was starting to settle, the saw had just died and the job was still not complete.

I’m surprised “damn it” was all he said.

Bobby the tree guy through the leaves

Operation Tree Removal (aka Bobby the Tree Guy):

Part one:  I didn’t realize you thought I meant ‘this’ week…   Read post

Part two: Oh Me of Little Faith…. Read post

Part three: the text: idk if i’ll be able to mow the lawn today…Read post

 

A Night at the Tavern

Four miles from where Washington crossed the Delaware, in a building that was part of the Underground Railroad, there once lived a man named Sam.  In 1845 Samuel Slack was the town librarian and earned a whopping $1.00 a year.  Talk about having to know how to stretch a dollar!

Independence Day had a different meaning for Sam. On July 4th, 1860 he received a license to open the “Yardleyville Hotel.”  150 years later,  2 North Main Street is the home of “The ‘New’ Continental Tavern,” a favorite watering hole and restaurant for the residents in and around Yardley, PA.

I’ve been there several times and have sampled many items from the menu’s wide array of choices, ranging from salad and sandwiches to steak and salmon.  My personal favorite is the classic burger topped with your choice of cheese, mine is blue cheese.

I’d never seen blue cheese as an option before eating at the Continental Tavern, but it’s become one of my favorites.  The zesty tang blends well with the robust flavor of the certified Angus beef and delectable bun.  Paired with the dark caramel colored Yuengling and perfectly crisped and salted fries, it’s a meal worth saving  a splurge for.

For those who don’t care for blue cheese, the traditional choices of swiss, provolone, and American are available.  Fries come in three styles: original, Sweet Potato Fries, or the Tavern specialty, fries seasoned with Old Bay.

You’ll find a variety of drinks to choose from, ranging from sodas to beer, including wine and spirits.    If you’re a beer lover, you may have a hard time making up your mind; the assortment ranges from the everyday domestics through Yuengling and Dos Equis. The last one on the list  caught my eye, Rogue Dead Guy, I think I’ll stay away from that one.

The bartender greets the regulars by name, asking about soccer tournaments and little league games. The wait staff is friendly, albeit a bit single threaded, and seemed to handle only one table at a time.  Laughter rings out above the din of friends catching up on the latest events and cheering for the winning home team.

The dining room has family friendly seating and TVs for dad (or mom) to catch the play of the game. Whether you’re a toddler that can sleep through anything while snuggled into daddy’s chest, on a date, or out with the guys there’s a place for you here to enjoy friends and family and appreciate a great meal.

Yardley PA, Continental Tavern MenuContinental Tavern Yardley PA, Yuengling

Continental Tavern, Yardley PA, Bleu Cheese Burger with bun

Continental Tavern, Yardley PA, Bleu Cheese Burger with bun

the text: idk if i’ll be able to mow the lawn today…

I’ll get in the tree guy’s way

me:  Tree guy is there?

15 yr old son: Many tree guys

me:  How many tree guys?

15 yr old son: They’re in the backyard too, which is where I would be mowing.  Like 3 or 4

me: Gotcha

Bobby the tree guy had returned.  It was Friday, not Monday, but nonetheless true to his word he was back. Lucky for my son, he also provided the perfect reason to get out of mowing the lawn.

The surface of my driveway was barely visible under the tangled mass of branches and leaves.

As I approached, the ground crew of two shouted out in unison, “Customer! …… Customer!”.

“Is that a warning so everyone knows not to talk bad about the customer?” I asked.

“No ma’am, it’s so we know there’s a lady present.” was the reply.

I had to smile at that.

“Where’s Bobby?” I asked.

My eyes followed as they tilted their heads back.

Higher, higher, and higher…. He was more than 30 feet in the sky, framed by the two limbs he straddled, his dark grey t-shirt blended into the backdrop of darkening clouds.

I watched through a window of two fingers as he planted one foot into the branch and stretched his body along the length of it.  Bobby swung the rope around the branch again and again in order to secure his next anchor for climbing.  I didn’t need to be in his shoes to realize that this job was much harder than he thought it would be.

As one of the dirt covered young men on the ground bowed against the base of the tree, his face buried against his arm, I knew I had received my silent cue to exit stage right.

Thunder cracked and the sky exploded, announcing the end of the day but not the end of the job.

Operation Tree Removal (aka Bobby the Tree Guy):

Part one:  I didn’t realize you thought I meant ‘this’ week…   Read post

Part two: Oh Me of Little Faith…. Read post

Always constant, ever changing..

I’ve recently spent a lot of time touring the canal on my bike and on foot. The same thought strikes me every time, I’d love to describe this, but how?

It’s impossible for me to focus on one aspect of the waterway. Do I start with the fact that I first thought the trail that runs along beside it was called a toepath and not a towpath? Or do I talk about the way it’s changed since I first moved here?

In the beginning the water barely covered the bottom, and the wildlife struggled to stay alive. Today it’s filled to the brim, and the geese protect their young and police the path with a ferocity that would make a lion step aside. I always pause as they guide their fuzzy young ones across the path and into the water.  

Do I mention that there are a million colors of green? Well ok, maybe not a million, but have you ever stopped to notice just how many shades there are? Especially when the sun drops low in the sky and illuminates the leaves from behind.

Do I try to describe how the seasons change? How the daffodils fade and the wildflowers flourish as spring wilts into summer. How the shades of green turn brown along the path, but explode in a fire of color above as summer fades into fall. How the snow blankets the dusty brown earth and crunches under my feet as I run in the winter, the air so still that you wonder if you’re really all alone in the world. How the path awakens as the snow melts and spring arrives.

Is it the people I watch along the way? The quiet communication and camaraderie between runners and cyclists, greetings exchanged with a silent nod or a barely perceptible wave. The whir and plop of a casting lesson, an excuse for young lovers to touch, an opportunity for a father to bond. I don’t know that I’ll ever understand why they’re fishing there, the brown and murky water cannot possibly be the home of an edible fish.

The canal is ever constant, and always changing.

Outside of winter, even the time of day makes a difference. The mornings reserved and quiet, the afternoons brimming with activity. It’s as though the canal slowly wakes up throughout the day. By the time evening comes, it’s ready to handle everyone. It welcomes the runners and walkers, the cyclists and strollers. The path embraces couples who have been together forever and parents strolling with their young children laughing and running ahead, but never out of sight.

Along this path, I run and I ride. I’ve rejoiced, and I’ve cried.

How do I describe something that is ever constant, but always changing?

The Delaware Canal