What if we ever needed…3/4 of an Inch

Hell froze over today. Well, since it’s so bloody hot and humid I sort of wish it actually did, but our stuff ARRIVED at 1pm today. It actually came with a phone call and three guys who could not have been nicer. I paid for their lunch afterwards. I’m not a person who has ever held a grudge. Don’t have time for it so all that nonsense was in my rear view mirror 30 seconds after the first dolly load crossed our door step.

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They found parking and unloaded in record time. As planned, we had them bring all the boxes and bikes up to our apartment and we put the sofa in our parking space in the garage. We needed to measure it before I schedule the crane service. I was on cloud nine watching them go back and forth. Emilie stayed down by the truck to make sure no one made off with any boxes while the guys were filling the lobby.

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Seeing our things again was like reconnecting with old friends. And unpacking was so much fun!ย  All my kitchen stuff that was of such interest to US Customs and Border control made it with only one glass pot lid that was shattered.ย  All my Le Creuset – check. More of my Crate and Barrel dishes – yup. All our flatware and my box of odds and ends kitchen stuff. My beloved Vitamix made it. Jeff checked the amperage (I don’t even pretend to understand it) and it works on the electricity here. We just have to take it to a local place to get the plug/cord swapped out.

My pans are here too! And our golf clubs and bikes. Jeff’s computer stuff and his keyboard that he’s been waiting for. All the tools for his first love – the motorcycle. We spent the day unpacking boxes and washing things. Our bedding from home – sheets and towels that we could have bought locally but we loved them too much to leave behind. Then there were the more sentimental things. The things that, when you surround yourself with them, make you feel like you’re truly home.

Our refrigerator magnet collection from trips we took as a family. Jeff always hated how junky it made it look in an open plan kitchen. I loved the reminder of all the things we did together. Tonight, I put them all on the fridge and he came home and smiled. Emilie and I had fun reminiscing about each one and telling funny stories about where they were purchased and some crazy thing that happened.

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The pictures came. Our wedding photo and some of the art that we had on the walls. Emilie unpacked the boxes in her room and it’s just about like it was in the US – only 5 times smaller. Her books, photos and all the small things that mean so much to her.

I unpacked the vacuum packed bags of our clothes and it seems we brought more than I remembered. I appears my ‘What if we ever…?’ philosophy might have gone a little too far. OK, if we ever go to Iceland again I have my Canada Goose parka and Jeff’s Mountain Hardwear parka. But living here I don’t think there will be a day that we’ll need either of those.

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My most egregious and embarrassing miscalculation was my discovery that I had 5 full boxes of shoes that were just for me. Luckily, Jeff had run an errand when I pulled them out of the pile in the dining room. Yeah, I knew I had a problem anyway but today it was in my face and before Jeff got home I needed to find somewhere for 5 boxes of shoes in El Compartimiento. But where to put them? The only place I had to spare was in the kitchen Gabinete and I knew the minute he got hungry I’d be ratted out. Emilie just shook her head but she wasn’t one to talk. She had 2 boxes of shoes for herself – OK, I’m a baaad influence.

So I started pulling out drawers and cabinets. I was sweating and panicked. What the hell was I going to do? I looked around and then I remembered we have drawers under the bed we bought. And those drawers are mostly covered by the duvet. I knew Jeff was barely using his closet so he wouldn’t even think about the drawers under the bed. Sure enough, they were empty. But as I placed my shoes, boots and sandals lovingly into their new, hidden home, I started counting and, well, I’m just ridiculous. Who needs 5 pairs of high suede boots here? I brought 3 pairs of rubber boots!ย  What was I thinking?

But that isn’t the capper. Tonight we went down to the garage after I was done unpacking the rest of the stuff and putting it away. I was feeling pretty proud of myself and my ability to cram things in every nook and hidden crannies. Organizing things for easy access later. Winter closet, stored. Yup, I was at the top of my organizational game. I hadn’t over packed afterall. I was a ‘just enough’ goddess.

I got into the elevator with a confident smug swagger that only a truly organized person pull off. Then we measured.

My beloved couch is 43 3/4 inches deep. I don’t care about the height because it passed that test. Our living room window is broken up into sections that are 43 inches. Not 44 inches – 43. And they can’t get any bigger, even if you take the windows out, because of the custom shutters that come down in tracks. So my couch won’t fit. So we went down and took all the wrapping from the move off and I actually talked to the couch.

‘Please couch – I know you’ve been through alot in the last 5 months but I need 3/4 of an inch – that’s all. Please give me 3/4 of an inch.’ I begged and pleaded.

Jeff measured again. I don’t think the couch was very forgiving after spending months in a container ship. It didn’t give up a millimeter. There will be no couch (at least not one from the US) inside El Compartimiento. With every victory, there is also defeat. I had gotten a little cocky with the shoes.

Tonight, Jeff is sporting his Keens, he’s smiling in a fresh pair of shorts and a shirt he hasn’t worn since February. That’s good enough for me.

Breaking News

Often, we watch the news, but we don’t see the connection to ourselves. Especially in today’s crazy political climate. The day’s headlines fly by and it sounds a lot the teacher from the Charlie Brown cartoons. ‘Mwha, Mwha, Mwha Mwha Mwha Mwha’. Nothing more. And then suddenly, it does effect you. Very personally.

On December 22nd, I overnighted our FBI background checks to the US State Department to gain the Apostle. I checked the FedEx website and they arrived on the 26th. I called them last Friday to check on the Status and they told me they had logged them on the 29th – 3 days later. I wasn’t happy but I wasn’t so concerned because they are supposed to ‘process’ the documents in 2-4 business days. I had included an overnight FedEx return envelope so I figured I would get them this week.

Today, I checked the FedEx website but they haven’t been shipped yet. So I called the State Department again. It seems with the ‘cyclone bomb’ we’ve all heard about that dumped feet of snow on the East Coast of the US last week – it’s going to be at least 12-15 business days for them to finally get them back to me.

But here’s the catch. Our wonderful Congress is threatening a government shut down and the timing of it, if they reach no agreement, means that next Thursday will be the first day where there isn’t an employee in the Dept. of Authentications at the US State Department. So if our background checks are not Apostillized and put in the FedEx envelope by Wednesday of next week, we will not be able to get them translated in time for our visa appointment at the Consulate on January 29th.

It seems unbelievable to me that our going to Spain hinges on the US Congress – so little confidence have I in that august body. And now their shenanigans have an immediate, direct impact on me and my life. But, after I took 10 deep breaths, I decided I’m not going to let it bother me. This final piece in the puzzle is so entirely out of my hands, I won’t let it drain my energy. I have other things to do.

I’ve found a few more boxes of old papers in the garage and I finished shredding them. Just when I thought it might be safe to let go of the industrial shredder. I’m considering these documents I’m cutting into tiny pieces, an offering to the gods that control Document Hades.

‘Oh controllers of all things certified and notarized. Please – I’m begging you. Just this one last thing.’ I said today as I fed paper into our shredder.

I’m thinking they heard me. Right at that moment, the shredder overheated and stopped working. A clear sign that someone is listening on the other side.

The Cloak of Righteous Indignation

ALL the shredding is done. At last. The boxes and boxes of paperwork we have dragged with us from house to house is no more. If you’ll recall – I bought an industrial shredder to do the job. A job that took me longer than I would have hoped. What’s left fits into a small fanning file folder than I can take on a plane.

These papers needed to be sifted through in detail to ensure that we didn’t need any of them or that titles to cars, birth certificates, etc. weren’t tucked between pages. I’m glad I did, because our son’s savings bonds, gifted to him from his grandparents were in those piles.

Some of what I discovered brought back painful memories. Court documents from my husband’s first marriage – long before I came along – and some from after we were married, that surround custody hearings and ugliness. Years of stomach churning ulcers wondering what was coming at us next. It was all there in black and white – depositions, email rants. I reread them and the pain came back. My hand hovered over the shredder asking myself, ‘Should I keep this stuff? Would we ever need it to defend ourselves about the craziness we went through?’ But it got me thinking.

Cup

There is an old story about a wealthy man who visits a Buddhist monastery to learn some wisdom. He is greeted by the head monk (I’m not sure what head monks are called) and the man is invited to join him at a low table.

The monk hands him a tea cup full of water. Then he asks the man if he would like some tea. The man responds that he would, but his cup is already filled with the water.

The monk smiles and tells him, ‘You are like your cup. It is filled with things you do not want. To have what you want, first you must empty it of what no longer serves you.’

I thought back. For years, we wrapped ourselves in in the cloak of righteous indignation. Hoping it would keep us warm, in what seemed like a never-ending nuclear winter. We were the victims of injustice or outright slander. We were ‘right’ and someone else was very ‘wrong’. It wasn’t fair. And these documents I held in my hand proved that. But proved it to whom?

We were no longer in that fight – these papers no longer served us in any way. ‘Being right’ didn’t matter. So, I fed them into the shredder and watched them become little, tiny pieces of nothing. They held no value or power over us any more. We would never show them to our children or anyone else. People don’t even want to look at your vacation photos, let alone old court papers over wine at a dinner party! In the immortal words of Ilsa, of Disney Princess fame – It was time to just ‘Let it go!’

For years, I have kept a small empty bowl near my sink in the bathroom. While brushing my teeth every morning, it’s something that helps me remember to start the day with an empty bowl (representing my life). To let go of negativity and past things and to be ready to receive – filling my bowl with all the things I want. Positive things that will benefit me and the world.

Today, seeing my bowl, I found that with all those old hurts in tiny pieces in the recycling bin, I feel lighter. My bowl is well and truly empty – no longer just a metaphor.

Moving to Spain has ensured that we will go only with what we truly need. The things we want to take up precious space in the cup that is our lives. It’s funny, I find that when I look at it that way, I’m very stingy about what makes the cut. And our cloak of righteous indignation has gone officially in the give-away bin.

Jingle Bells

This year, I had no intention of decorating for Christmas. We’re in the middle of a huge upheaval in our lives and putting up Santa villages and even decorating a tree is something I have no time for. Besides, the tree we have is from our old house. It is gorgeous but we had a 30 foot ceiling in the living room. This house couldn’t handle half that tree. So I said No. We are definitely NOT decorating!

Christmas Tree

It’s not the first Christmas that we’ve gone light on the decorations. Last year, we spend the holidays in London and Paris. We decided in advance that we were not going to do it all up like we had in the past, because we wouldn’t be home. So this year I felt no guilt at all with my decision. And Jeff? He’s more of a ‘whatever you want to do, I don’t really care about that stuff’ kind of guy.

It all started with our nightly walk. We try to do 6 miles every night. After Thanksgiving, all the lights in the neighborhood started to go up. We’ve enjoyed taking new routes to see what people have conjured up. It’s a bit of a dog’s breakfast on some of them, but you gotta admire the attempt.

This year there are more inflatables than ever. Abominabol (sp?) Snowmen, the inflated cast of Frozen or Star Wars. The lights on a house from the pre-LED days and those who are a bit older. But then we would come home and our house was dark.

‘It’s fine.’ I thought. ‘We’re moving and have no time for all this.’

But then this weekend I started going through our Christmas ornament collection, with the intention of editing. I need to send most of it to my parent’s house for storage, when we make a trip to Portland in January to see them. I saw my kid’s names and all those little things they had made in pre-school and kindergarten. Ornaments we made together with glitter and their jagged handwriting. So I quietly mentioned to my husband that I thought maybe we should get a small tree we could take to Valencia – ‘because who knows how hard it is to get one there.’

He smiled and we went out to 7 – yes, 7 – stores before finding the right one and bringing it home. I decided I would only put a few of the most precious ornaments on it, ‘Just to be festive, because Emilie is flying home from school next week.’ But I couldn’t find the skirt that goes around the bottom, so I started digging in the garage. Big Mistake!

In one bin, I found the garland for the front door – and the ones for the staircase we no longer have. So I put that up. Then I found the Santa Village, and it didn’t seem like it would take that much work to clear off our lone table behind the couch and rig it together, complete with the ice skaters in the square. Jeff watched all this silently.

Then I found the outdoor lights. All those boxes that we had gotten on sale after Christmas a few years back and had never opened. I brought the bin in and showed it to Jeff.

‘I thought we were holding off on the decorating this year.’

‘A few lights wouldn’t hurt. I bet our neighbors would appreciate it.’

He shook his head and took the bin from me. And 3 hours, two trips to the hardware store later and we have lights on the house and in the yard! And it looks awesome!

Today I did a little shopping for stockings and I bought our traditional ‘Jingle Bells Jammies’. Every year on Christmas Eve, Santa’s scout (Jingle Bells) comes to our house and leaves boxes on the front porch for our kids. They are usually covered in glitter and chewed up carrots from the reindeer he rides. He comes to make sure all the kids are ready for Santa, and to sleep in the magic jammies (pajamas) he brings, complete with sleep dust.

I have tried to back out of this tradition. But every year the kids ask about their Jingle Bells Jammies and, well, what can it hurt to keep doing it for them? They’re grown ups but I’ll still go to the window and say, ‘I think I heard someone on the porch. Can you check and see who’s at the door?’ Emilie will go out there and come back smiling with her box from our favorite elf, spilling glitter across the floor as she opens it.

So I realized, even with all I have going on right now, maybe I’m not too busy to have a little Christmas Magic myself this year.

 

 

Drowning out the Noise

Today, we’re flying back to Seattle, where we’re from. We’ve lived in Phoenix for the last year and a half but we’re FROM Seattle. So we’re going back to re-establish our residency. Even though we’re going to live in Spain, nearly full time, we need to be residents of one of the 50 states in the US. Why not choose one we actually like?

So off we’ll go. And we’ll get to see our friends. People we’ve known and worked with for over 20 years. I have missed them. Catching up will be wonderful in person. Seeing their exploits on Facebook just hasn’t been the same. Reading their Twitter rants hasn’t made me as connected to them as I’d like. And Instagram is just a snapshot of one trip or another. Or the fall leaves outside their house, or the Pho they just had for lunch.

It’s not like I don’t appreciate Social Media.ย  Even 10 years ago, if you moved out of town, you had to send emails or actual letters (maybe a text or two) to keep up with each other. Forget calling. But now we can do it any time we like. This is good and bad. It’s created noise in each of our lives. We have instant access to everything now. But most of the time, it’s access that doesn’t serve us.

Harmony

When I came home, after walking the Camino this summer, I would meditate a lot. I would spend the entire day in my house in silence without checking social media, or watching the news. Yoga was my friend. I had gotten so digitally detoxed, I didn’t want the noise or the distraction, aside from listening to my own heart beat. It was in this period that we decided to make this move. But slowly, like an insidious disease, I have become pulled back. And the frustrations and speed of the world have crept back in. My inner peace has faded.

So I ask myself – Do I really need to know instantly that Michael Flynn has pleaded guilty? Do I really need to see the coffee my friend just drank? Am I so starved for information that something Geraldo Rivera just said really matters to me?ย  Can I care about everything? Or has everything now become nothing? Can I even hear my own heart beat anymore?

So I have made a commitment to myself. I’m putting down my phone and I’m not checking my apps throughout the day. The news is going to stay off and the incessant drone of negativity and distraction is not going to drip, drip, drip into my brain – wearing it away like a rock in a river. The noise of the rushing water out there, will not disturb the calm in here.

It’s quiet in my house right now and I feel better already. Namaste