Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Finding Your New Community - Where Do You Belong?

 “We have all known the long loneliness and we have learned that the only solution is love and that love comes with community.”  ― Dorothy Day

When I was researching a new place to live, one of the most important things for me was to find a church to attend.  For me, that would be a progressive United Church of Christ. I knew that in moving to a new place where I had no friends or relatives, I needed to find a community to become part of. A church sounded like a good place to start.

Think about it, church memberships are made up of many different demographics. Young, old, long time members, new to the congregation, active and inactive participants. And as human beings, they will also have different opinions, interests and backgrounds.

Using a church community to help you get acclimated is like walking right into a “Google” store! And utilizing the Facebook “group” option, gives you many different opinions at the same time! If I need something, all I need to do is ask.  

     Bank or credit union? 

     Where can I get a good mani/pedi? 

     Is there a Trader Joe’s nearby?

     Target or Walmart?

     Best pizza around? Who delivers?

Attending church regularly and joining the church’s Facebook group has been a blessing. As a matter of fact, I joined the group on Facebook as soon as I committed to moving to Charlotte.  The funny thing is, some people I met upon my arrival thought I had been around longer as they had seen me and my comments online!  (They welcomed me anyway!)

I’ve been here just about three weeks now and in many ways it seems like longer. Because of the church, I have joined a yoga class and will start Weight Watchers next week. I’ve been able to share my moving boxes and packing materials with a member of the church who is moving from one home to another. I’ve had lunch in a beautiful park with a group of retired members and made plans to go to a Charlotte Knights minor league baseball game. I will join another group this coming weekend to tour a Raptor Center and have BBQ afterwards. A member is coming over tomorrow to do a few “handyman” chores for me and I’ve gotten advice on job hunting and possible employment prospects.

If you move to a new town, joining a church may not best serve your needs. But I do believe that finding a group of people who share a common interest will help you acclimate to your new surroundings. A “community” can be a knitting class, a softball team, a local theater group or even your place of employment.  Wherever you feel a mutual bond with others, embrace the environment. Learn from it and let it help you find your place in your new hometown! It has certainly helped me!!

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Jumping right in - Adventures in North Carolina

Wow! So much has happened in the past three weeks that it is hard to know where to begin. No theme today, just lots of thoughts and sharing of my journey to call Charlotte, North Carolina “home”.

Moving day was kind of insane and went by in a bit of a blur. Sara had come home the weekend before and I thought we got a lot packed but I waited to do the kitchen last and that was a huge mistake.  I had far more stuff than I realized and the boxes just kept piling up. It got to the point where I was literally just sweeping things into a box, taping it up and labeling it “Kitchen Miscellaneous”! The same thing happened with the linen closet. 
The movers arrived at 10:30 am and moved pretty quickly.  There were some issues with me having more boxes than estimated (big surprise!) but that got worked out. A few family members were on hand to move a few things, pack and do last minute cleaning. Kudos to my friend Julie for pitching in as well. By 2 pm, I was hugging my mom goodbye and driving towards my new life.

I was concerned about traveling with my two cats as neither had been in a carrier before for more than the ten minute trip to the vets. Thanks be to God, Isabella settled down after ½ hour and Grace soon followed. By the time I hit the Tappan Zee Bridge, both cats were hunkered down and quiet. Taking advantage of the good weather, light traffic and quiet cats, I pushed on to Martinsburg, WV. After a decent night’s sleep, we were on the road again at 8 am. Neither cat was happy about being back in their carriers but once again, settled down after an hour. By three pm, on Wednesday, April 23rd, we were all in our new apartment, ready to begin this new life!

Thursday had me discovering my local neighborhood and finding a really great grocery store. It makes me so happy they sell wine in the grocery stores here!!  A trip to Target and the dollar store were also part of my exploration.  AT&T arrived to hook up my TV and Wi-Fi and the washer and dryer were installed.  At this point I was sleeping on an air mattress, using cardboard boxes for a nightstand and television stands and eating pizza out of the box – I couldn’t have been happier!  Well, except for the fact I was tired of sitting on the floor. So, I bought an Adirondack chair – living room today, patio by the weekend!

The movers arrived on Friday morning and it was a bit overwhelming. All of a sudden all these boxes were coming into my new apartment and I had no idea where everything was going to go.  Also, not all of the wooden furniture pieces were blanket wrapped and I was looking at a number of scratches and scrapes. The mover offered me $50 to “not” file a claim.  In hindsight, I should have taken it!

Saturday saw me up bright and early. My new queen size bed was being delivered so I no longer had to sleep eight inches off the floor!  I also headed to the dollar store to get some inexpensive containers as trying to fit 12 boxes worth of stuff from a country kitchen into my galley kitchen was quite the project. Going from five drawers to two was a challenge I’m still recovering from. 

By Saturday evening, my bedroom was set up, I had flowers on my dining room table and I could watch television from the comfort of my couch.  This place was really starting to feel like home!  Sunday was spent going to church, the dollar store, lunch with old friend from high school, and a visit with a new friend, and back to church for a special meeting. No unpacking was done and no guilt whatsoever!

So, here I am, 16 days after I left Bethel. I am sitting at my new computer desk, listening to jazz, with my apartment 95% unpacked.  Last week saw me getting my new home organized and this week I am looking for a job. I’ve been to two employment agencies, sent out some resumes, discovered new parts of Charlotte, gotten lost in “Uptown” and been to a WW II reenactment at a local plantation. I’ve been to lunch with new friends from church, and have another lunch and an outing planned over the next ten days.  My goal is to get out each weekend and explore. This Saturday I may go to a Pottery Festival and look for the elusive bakery!  

Let the adventures begin!!

Monday, April 14, 2014

A Little Hooky Never Killed Anyone

A week to go and my home really does look like I’m moving.  The walls are bare and the bookcases are empty.  Appointments have been scheduled and the money orders for the movers and new apartment are ready. And I’ve been playing hooky!

One of my favorite shows this season is Marvel’s Agents of Shield. I’ve never been a comic book reader and I don’t really know who all the super heroes are and their backgrounds but for some reason this show has drawn me in.  The twists and turns have been a bit confusing sometimes and I’m really lucky my next door neighbor is a Marvel junkie and has been around to fill in the blanks. So because of the direction the show has headed, last Tuesday morning I went to the movies by myself to see Captain America: The Winter Soldier. I’m now addicted.

To take little breaks from the physicality of moving and the achy body parts, I’ve now been watching Marvel movies.  My Amazon prime account has given me Captain America, Iron Man 1 and 2, Thor and The Avengers.  Iron Man 3 and Thor await.  I’m now much more invested in the characters than I was before and I’m thankful Jack’s been around to guide me.  Thank goodness for text messaging and Facebook so Jack and I can continue to share these adventures together. (And he can explain the parts I don’t understand!)

My other escape has been Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series.  From Scotland (where I visited in 2012) to North Carolina (where I move to in a week) I’ve followed Jamie and Claire on their grand adventures. Four books read and four more to go.  I’m hoping to find Fraser’s Ridge once I settle in NC. It’s always fun to be able to see a location described in such detail in a book in person.  I understand they still have “gatherings” in NC. Maybe I will be fortunate enough to attend one. I can wear my Gunn clan tartan and pin!!

With not many days left before I say good bye to New England, I drove about two hours north this morning and spent the day at Old Sturbridge Village in Sturbridge, Massachusetts.  Old Sturbridge Village (OSV) is a living museum, which re-creates life in rural New England during the 1790s through 1830s. I met an old friend from high school and we had a wonderful day walking around the village and catching up on one another’s lives.  The weather was absolutely beautiful and it really was one of the best days I’ve had in a long time. Thanks Billy. You’re always in my heart!

Now reality is setting in. The time for movies and books and long walks is passing. Salvation Army will be here in two days to take away my mattresses and the computer needs to be packed away.  The cats need a visit to the vet and my freezer needs to be emptied. 

There isn’t much time left for playing hooky. My future is almost here…

Sunday, April 6, 2014

One More Time...

Memory is a way of holding onto the things you love, the things you are, the things you never want to lose. ~From the television show The Wonder Years

The clock is ticking down and I’m about two weeks away from my move to Charlotte, NC. I still have lots of packing to do, things to sort and throw out or give away and the massive organization of paperwork. I’ve confirmed the auto and renter’s insurance, signed up with Duke Electric (yes, I know…) and received a great deal for moving my AT&T Uverse. But there are still some personal things I need to do.

Other than a couple of years here and there, I’ve lived in the same small town since 1965. I went to kindergarten with many of the same kids I graduated from high school with. My 20 year old daughter attended these same schools and even had some of the same teachers.  Even though I wasn’t born in Bethel, my roots are here. The memories are here. My childhood and that of my daughter’s has evolved around this small town. Now, it’s time to start saying goodbye.

I’ve taken my car to the dealership for an oil change and brakes and thanked the service techs for their care of my vehicles for the last 20 years. I’ve stopped in at the bank I’ve used since I was 16 years old and talked about my accounts with the women I’ve known forever. I’ve returned those library books to the building I’ve been going to since I was four.  I got my hair cut and said goodbye to the woman who has shared my journey of discovery these past few years.

I drive down a road and wonder if I will make it over here again before I leave. The apple orchard is closed for the season but I remember the Apple Blossom Festival, hay rides, apple picking and cider donuts. I drive by Parloa Park and think about the old double slide and swings. And I recall Meckauer Park where I learned to swim. I’m so lucky I have such great memories to take with me.

And then I wonder: Will the Creamery be open for ice cream before I head out? Do they have a Trader Joe’s in Charlotte or do I stock up on sesame sticks? Will chocolate lace travel well or maybe my mom can just ship me some.
Instead of using the words “last time”, I’ve decided to use the words “one more”. On Saturday, I had “one more” lunch with my mother at the old fashioned drive-in restaurant for a burger and chocolate malted before I move. On Thursday, I had “one more” dinner with my carpool and drinking buddy from high school. Last night, some of us from BHS had drinks together “one more” time. I have lunch plans for today and next week. Dinner with the women in my family will be next Saturday night.

And then there are those people who I see and we say to one another, “Let’s get drinks before you leave.”  I know it won’t happen and I may never see those people again. I’m the one changing my life and leaving this small town.  They are still here and going about their lives. And that’s okay. They are content and I wasn’t. They are comfortable and I want to mix things up. Their life journey has them staying in Bethel right now. My life journey has me hitting the road.

But first my daughter has to come home, one more time…


Monday, March 31, 2014

Moving or Standing in Place

“Never put off till tomorrow what may be done day after tomorrow just as well".  ~ Mark Twain

My move to North Carolina is three weeks away and I seem to be paralyzed.

I cleaned out a bookcase and then didn’t want to box the books up because I don’t know where to put the box. So I put some books in a box for donation and put the rest back on the shelves. I have another box of my daughter’s things but the box isn’t full so I don’t know whether to tape it up or not. So I put the box in a corner and hope I don’t trip on it.

I did spend three hours scanning old photos into my computer and adding them to my ancestry tree but that really is just an escape. It’s an accomplishment, just not the kind that needs to be done.

Don’t get me wrong, I am excited about moving.  I guess I’m just not ready to pack.

I could pack the entertainment unit in my living room in less than an hour but then I will be staring at boxes for the next three weeks. I could take all the photos from Ireland off the walls but I would miss their beauty.

I could pack up the linen closet and decide which towels/sheets/blankets to keep or give away but what if I end up needing those items as part of my packing to cushion vases or lamp shades.

I think about going to Home Depot and getting wardrobe boxes but it’s raining again and I don’t want the boxes to get wet.

I have furniture being given away to family but they are too busy to pick the items up or I’m still using them. People have offered to help me pack or clean but are caught up in their own lives.

I’m restless and ready to start over but these weeks stand in the way. I’m pulled between the old and the new. Push, pull, give, take, keep or throw away.

Maybe I’ll just make a cup of tea and finish reading Outlander…

Monday, March 24, 2014

A Memory Lasts Forever...

“I give you this to take with you:
Nothing remains as it was. If you know this, you can
begin again, with pure joy in the uprooting.” 
― Judith Minty, Letters to My Daughters

My daughter Sara came home from college last Thursday to pack up all of her personal belongings.  She went back to school yesterday and I found myself exhausted: physically and emotionally!

We spent Friday packing up her room.  On Saturday, we tackled the basement and Sunday morning was final clean up.  Total results:

     Three car loads to the local Goodwill

     Three large green garbage bags in the dumpster

     Fourteen boxes, one bookcase, one nightstand and 6 large framed photos transported to her dad’s house for storage

     5 boxes and an air conditioner set aside for pick-up Easter weekend

     Plastic tub full of clothes, floor fan and three bags of stuff jammed into her car to use this spring

Her bedroom is now empty of all but her furniture set which I will try and sell. I look around and see almost fourteen years of memories passing thru my mind. 

She was 6 when we moved in here, just a little girl, trying to cope with her parents’ divorce. I hear the little girl giggles and remember her tip-toeing into my room when she had a nightmare. I see the 10 year old insisting she didn’t need to go to after school care anymore; arguing with me that she was a big girl and could stay home by herself. 

I remember the young lady in middle school who loved spinning flags and rifles in Winter Guard and traveling around the state to compete. She was passionate about helping others and being “fair” and walked away from friendships rather than be part of a “mean girls” crowd.

High school brought dances and make-up and cell phones and lap tops. Mission trips to Mexico, summer camp and boyfriends. Girl talk was with her friends instead of me. Boundaries were pushed, doors were slammed and tears were shed.  But we always came back to one another with a hug and a kiss good night, sweet dreams, I love you too.

We both grew up in this room and in this house. We are not the same people we were in August 2000.

She is a confidant young woman who shares a house with her sorority sisters, travels across country for conventions and worries about what she will do after she graduates next year.

I have learned to solo travel and have met distant cousins in Alabama, Tennessee, Scotland and Ireland. I am moving by myself from a small town in CT to Charlotte, NC and beginning a new chapter in my life.

We don’t need each other the way we used to. We have formed a new relationship and encourage each other to grow and experience new things in our lives. We will always be mother and daughter, just not in the same house.

But still, the memories linger…

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Hitting the Pause Button

When you make the decision to move 700 miles away from where you’ve lived for most of your life, you’ve got a few more things to do than pack up your belongings.  One of those things is to make those final doctor’s appointments.

When I lost my job last August, I also lost my medical insurance.  I paid that $500 COBRA payment for a few months but I just couldn’t afford to continue. So I took my chance and dropped my coverage.  I visited my endocrinologist in October and explained my situation. He understood and gave me a 90 day prescription.   I ordered my cholesterol medicine online and received 90 days for that as well. And in November and December, I prayed I wouldn’t get sick
I signed up for the CT Health Care Exchange and because I was unemployed I received “silver” coverage through Anthem BC/BS for only $3.69 a month (after supplement). It took a while for the paperwork to get processed but I was able to start making doctor appointments again in February. 

I saw my endocrinologist and my thyroid numbers are finally within a normal range.  New scrip, 90 day refills and I’m good until I can find a new lab in Charlotte in about six months.

The bi-annual dental cleaning was accomplished with all positive news and free samples to save a little money.

So, now I only have two appointments left and I’ll have a clean bill of health to start my new life in Charlotte. But wait, these are the biggies – those appointments every woman dreads. Yes, I’m talking about the annual celebration of our lady parts. Let the squeezing and poking begin!

I’m off to my annual mammogram first thing Friday morning as I might as well get it out of the way.  There is a new technician today and she is very friendly and compassionate. For the first time in years I don’t walk out in pain! In ten days I will go for my annual gynecological exam and then I will be all set.

But wait – Tuesday morning brings the dreaded phone call. The radiologist has seen something on your scan and you need to come in for an advanced mammogram and an ultrasound.  I schedule the tests for Thursday morning and for 48 hours my life is on pause.  This is not what I want to hear and my brain goes off in a million different directions.  

     I went thru this last year and they found nothing. 
     How do I know it’s not the same spot as last time?
     I can’t afford this.
     I don’t have time for this – I’m moving.
     Dear God, help me out there. I’m finally making some positive changes in my life, I don’t need this.
     Stay positive, it’s not cancer.  But what if it is?
     I’m not thinking about this. Where’s the ice cream?

So Thursday finally comes and it’s time for the tests.  The techs are very nice as they go thru the process of poking, pressing, squeezing and manipulating my right breast as if it was a ball of dough.  I’m trying to just breathe thru the procedures and not let my mind think about anything. Focus on what they are doing and don’t worry about the “what ifs”.

“Thank you very much ma’am. Everything is fine, just a blocked duct, nothing to worry about.  You can get dressed and the exit door is to your right. Have a nice day.”

I make it to my car and slowly exhale.  For two days my life has been on hold. I am grateful and feel blessed. And I think about the other women for whom the news may not have been so good. And I say a small prayer for them and their families and their futures.

And I go about my day…