Saturday, February 18, 2017

Serendipity, and Letting Go

I'm dusting off the old blog today.  Lately, I've spent a lot more time over at Instagram, where you can snap a quick picture and add a mini-post and be done in a matter of minutes.  Easy peasy. (As I've said before, I can see now why so many bloggers have made the switch to being predominantly 'grammers.)

But as archaic as blogging might seem these days, it is still my favorite form of social media.  It is still the outlet that gives me the most pleasure, writing-wise.  And I am determined to keep this blog of mine up and running, as long as there is even one reader out there who cares to stop by.  (And I know there will always be at least one: hi, my better half!)

If you've come here before, you probably know that after 26 years of living--and raising five boys--in our NH home, my husband and I have been thinking about selling it and moving closer to some of our kids and grandkids.  We have three sons who have settled in VA with their wives, two in one city and another one just a couple of hours away from them.  They have been not-so-subtly hinting for a while now (there might have even been a power point presentation created for us, complete with heart-tugging photos and declarations of love; but I digress) that they would sure like it if we moved close-by--and reminding us that if we did so, we could see 3/5 of our children and 1/2 of our grandchildren on a regular basis without having to get on an airplane.  It does make sense: it would cut our travels down considerably, if we didn't need to fly to see the VA gang; and it would make it so that our other two sons (one in WI, the other currently stationed in Germany) could see more of their family members when they come home to visit dear old mom and dad.

We went back and forth on this, even though it did seem to be the logical next step once all of our boys grew up and it was obvious that they wouldn't be returning to settle in New England.  We were constantly traveling to see all of them and were hardly ever home anymore anyway, we rationalized, and they were only able to get home on rare occasions.  What was the point of keeping this big house for the two of us?  However, one stumbling block has been that we are mightily attached to the cozy white Colonial that we thought might be our "forever home" and into which we have put so much blood, sweat, and DIY tears over the years. Intellectually, we know that this house doesn't fit our lives that well anymore; but emotionally--well, that's a different story.
I mean, we were slowly but surely coming to the conclusion that we would sell it; but we thought we might take six months to a year to make the break.  We started the "getting ready to move" process by ripping out the 26-year-old builder's grade gray carpet that was original to the house shortly before last Christmas, and replacing it with beautiful wood laminate flooring throughout the upstairs.  We also decided to update the extremely dated upstairs bathroom that our boys had shared growing up.  While these projects were being completed, we rented a dumpster and started the arduous process of tossing out all the construction debris and lots of other junk that when push came to shove was not going to make it into either the "keep" or "donate" piles.

Stuff like this.

Away with you, ratty old carpets, broken Adirondack chairs,
and crusty, mildewy baseball gloves!

So much junk!  (But I admit to being a little torn about tossing
those stinky old lacrosse pads on top.  Sniff!) 
We pretty much filled a huge dumpster, so you would think that afterward we would find ourselves clutter-free and junk-free, would you not?  Well, you would be wrong!  (But more about that in a future post.)


So in preparation for a sometime-in-the-near-but-not-too-near-future move, we started getting a whole lot of work done around the house.  We had those glorious floors put in upstairs; I freshly painted most of the rooms and removed the last of my 80's-era wallpaper borders.  (Yes, I liked wallpaper borders once upon a time, I admit it!  Don't judge me!)  And my husband went into handyman mode, doing demo work on the bathroom, tiling the floor, and putting in a new vanity, mirrors, and light fixture.  (We also had a new tub/shower unit installed.)
Our house was starting to look almost pretty enough to put on the market, but we weren't really there yet. We were looking at a lot of VA listings, but just for fun, with the vague idea of buying a house there sometime down the road. But you know what?  If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans.  Because some really crazy things happened to us--things that can only be taken as signs that we were meant to move, and meant to do it now.

We flew down to the DC area on inauguration weekend to visit son #2 and his family, and that Saturday, on a lark we went to look at one of the houses that had caught our fancy online.  Our son and his wife (and their one-year-old boy) drove over to look at the house with us, and we just loved it.  The price was right, it was located exactly in the middle of the two cities where our children live, less than an hour from each...maybe, we thought, we should make an offer?  But was that insane?  We weren't even ready to put our house on the market yet--how could we buy a new one?  Could we rent the new house out until we were ready to make the move south?

We returned home to NH and went through the mail that had been delivered in our absence, and there was a letter from a local real estate agent in the pile.  She said she had clients who were longtime residents of our town but had always wanted to live on our street, and she wanted to know if we were thinking about selling.  (Also, these people were ready to pay in full.  In cash!)

Everyone on the street got this same letter; but still, it seemed like some kind of sign to us!  So we called the agent and arranged to have her come and look at our house.  She gave us a few suggestions--pare down the books and knickknacks (especially the porcelain dolls!) on the shelves, put away the countertop appliances in the kitchen, and give the dated master bath the update we'd been planning to give it.  She told us that if we could do this as quickly as possible, that would be best, because if we waited too long her clients might start looking elsewhere.

Meanwhile, we decided to be bold and put in an offer on the VA house.  For a while, it looked like we wouldn't get the house; we were outbid and decided we wouldn't go any higher, so we bowed out of the race.  But the sellers ultimately accepted our offer, because they were in a hurry to move and ours was the only one that came without contingencies.  Okay, we thought; we must have been meant to get that house.  But what were we going to do if our NH house didn't sell?

Well, we went into hyperdrive getting it ready to show.  I cleaned and painted and purged and staged.  Here are photos of the built-in shelves on either side of the fireplace in our living room.  (They're still pretty busy shelves, but can you see how much worse they were in the photos on the right side?)

While I was playing (poorly) at being Joanna Gaines, my husband was busy tiling our master bathroom floor and putting in a new vanity.  We got the house looking showcase-ready in record time, and we arranged for the potential buyers to come over and see it on a Saturday morning (last Saturday morning, to be exact) when we were going to be--where else?--in VA, for our granddaughter Princesa's birthday party.  That same day, we drove over to our new house with sons #3 and 4 and their wives, as they hadn't seen it yet.  As we were getting close, our real estate agent called to say that the people who'd been shown our house definitely wanted to buy it--and not only that, they wanted to offer us the full asking price!  So without even listing it, our house has been sold.  We got out of the car at the new house and told our kids the news, and we all marveled that things were falling into place so beautifully.  Serendipity is what I think they call it.

So life is good, but my head is spinning a little.  We've had to do so much work in such a small amount of time; and yet there is still so much to do.

Perhaps you can see why I've had trouble blogging lately.  Not only have I been very busy, going through my attic and storage spaces and trying to figure out what we will take and what I must finally let go of, but I have also been somewhat emotionally overwhelmed.  There have definitely been tears.  Although I know that this will be the best thing for my husband and me and for our family, it's really, really tough getting ready to say goodbye to a house that has nothing but happy memories in it.  It contains so much of our history as a family within its walls.  For instance, there's this.
If you look very closely, you'll see a faded ink stamp on one of the bricks of our family room fireplace.  When we were just down in VA, son #4 reminded me about it and said he'd looked to see if it was still there when everyone was here for the holidays. He told me that he remembers that they got Jurassic Park ink stamp kits in their stockings one year, and that the brother just above him in age promptly stamped the brick with that picture of a velociraptor's head.  I LOVE it that that mark is still there, and that our 29-year-old son looked for it the last time he was home.

I have so many blog posts in me, you wouldn't believe it.  Great renovation posts, with "before" and "after" pictures of our bathrooms (they are gorgeous now!).  Posts about preparing your home to sell.  Posts about the angst a mother feels about tossing out any item from her children's past that has a happy memory attached to it, no matter how useless that item has become.  Posts about finally learning to let go, and to feel peace about it. 

The other day, I was finally able to let go of some of my boys' lacrosse helmets.  (Some, not all; I'm not crazy, you know.)  I brought three of them over to Goodwill, along with a load of other stuff.  But you know what?  Goodwill doesn't take old used sports helmets.  They aren't up to code anymore, their integrity might be compromised, they might have hidden cracks.  It's too bad that I didn't just donate them a decade ago, when some young lacrosse player could have put them to good use.  But unfortunately, I didn't.
Note the floors: aren't they awesome?  They sure beat the worn-out carpet we
used to have!

So we had five of those helmets in the attic.  Now we have two, and three of them are on their way to the dump.  But at least I have this picture to remember them by.  And I'm taking pictures of other sentimental items, too--a technique for holding onto things without holding onto them, which I've found to be really helpful while going through this painful process.  So that's another post I'll be working on, too.

I have so many things to share here.  I will be back.  Hopefully sooner rather than later. (But in the meantime, you can check out Instagram for more about our house projects and our move.)


  1. Oh my gosh. first off, I love that they made a power point! That is so wonderful. This really seems like it is being watched over by the Saints (Maybe your dad even?!) I am sure saying goodbye to your house will be hard, as a fellow setamentalist I can't even imagine. Have you thought about asking your Priest to come give your house a blessing to say goodbye and thank you? I will be praying that everything goes smoothly for you!!

    1. Oh Madeline, the power point was something else. It came as an email, about 4 pages long, with bullet points enumerating all the ways our lives, our kids' lives, and our grandkids' lives would be enriched by having us become a part of their everyday existence. There were coordinating pictures for each section. They had even calculated the distance to the airport, to prove that my husband's commute would be no different than it is now. It was put together by son #3 and his wife, and it ended with a photo of me dancing the mother-son dance with him at his wedding. It was so sweet, we loved it. We still weren't sure when we first got it that moving south was the right move; but that power point convinced us that if we did decide to do it, it would make our kids really happy. (It's nice to be wanted!)

      Thanks for the prayers! As much as I'm looking forward to the next chapter of our lives, I am sad about leaving this house where we made so many good memories.

  2. So happy to see you on the blog again! I am another that faithfully watches and reads!! I look forward to all of your before and after pics!!

    1. I know I will always have two--you and my hubby. :)

  3. So excited to see an update, have been waiting
    Oh wow a power point presentation, did you cry, I would have, beautiful :-)
    And now you've made the decision, oh my! So many emotions I'm sure and exciting times ahead for you, all bittersweet.
    Interested in all your remodel and declutter update, keeping me riveted.
    Were you thinking of living in one city or the other or was the decision to live right in the middle an easy decision to make? Be wonderful to live near your grandchildren and easy for everyone to get together.
    Looking forward to further updates :-) xx

    1. Erin, it's really happening! And it is bittersweet. (And yes, the power point did cause a few tears!)

      About choosing a city halfway between the two places the boys have settled: that was an easy decision for us. We decided that if we were going to make this move, we would only do it if we could be in a place where it would be equally easy for us to see everyone who lives there. And as an added bonus, we wanted to be a centrally located meeting place if the boys want to gather together. So we think the house we've chosen will be in the perfect spot.

      I think I'm ready to get back to blogging regularly, and I do have a lot of fun stuff to write about. So hopefully, there will be plenty of further updates.

  4. I have been following your blog in the past two years and this is my first time post comments. I just want to let you know that I really enjoy reading every thing you have shared! Please keep posting and know that you have a faithful reader! Praying for your moving!

    1. Margaret, I just noticed this comment! Thank you for reading, for your kind words, and especially for your prayers.