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Home Staging: The Brutal Reality

January 21, 2016

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It’s not all shiny floors and sparkly windows, this home-selling business. The pictures are pretty, but allow me to invite you into the dark reality underneath.

Our house is officially for sale and we are living in a strange, hotel-like museum. We’re allowed to sleep on the beds only if we make them every morning. Half the furniture has been removed, and I’m sharing a sock drawer with my 8 year old. Our few remaining personal effects are hidden behind closed doors, and every day when I leave for work I have to run around with a dust mop, the vacuum, and furniture polish to erase every shred of our existence.

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The place looks pretty awesome, but getting to that point was a feat harder than surmounting Everest.

We have a lot of crap, apparently.

The ideally staged home allows the potential buyer to survey the space without any distractions from personal objects, dirt, clutter, or anything that would prevent them from imagining themselves in that space.

Mind you, I am no hoarder. I make regular trips to the Goodwill, I keep my closets fairly organized, and I sort the kids clothing every season and weed out what doesn’t fit. Despite that, when you are trying to achieve this urbane, sanitized, hotel-like feel, you realize what slobs you’ve become.

You begin to notice things like the cat hair stuck in the tracks of the closet doors, or the hand (and apparently face?) prints on your children’s mirrored closet doors. The fingerprints on the door frames. The spot on the kitchen floor where the dog banks his turns with nails into hardwood.

The hard, lumpy, grayish substance smeared on your child’s wall, eye level with the bed. Dear heaven, is that….?! Oh, please no.

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Dirty socks everywhere you turn. Under the bed, in the couch cusions, beneath every piece of furniture in every single room. Do they plan this? Do the children calculate new places to leave them behind, or is it rather the socks themselves that migrate secretly in the dead of night, from room to room, seeking new frontiers among dust bunnies and stray LEGOs?

The sun-faded rug. The dated light fixtures. The crooked lampshades.

The inch-thick layer of dust on top of the bookshelves that you are too short to see, and thus, assume does not exist. But oh, it does. Does it ever.

Lo, how the mighty have fallen. We think we’re stylin’, and then realize….

We’ve spent the last 10 days furiously preparing our home for sale. I cleaned said closet and window-tracks with q-tips and a tooth brush. I emptied the kids’ rooms of superfluous toys (and hid their LEGOs). Cut them off to one blankie apiece for the next month. I packed away books, and toys and clutter. I removed art from the walls, we repainted, we retouched, we carpeted and pruned and mowed and trimmed, and painted some more. We hired professional housekeepers to clean, top to bottom and east to west, and then I cleaned it again.

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And again.

And again.

And again.

(When I told me 12 year old that he had to keep his room like this for at least two weeks, the poor guy nearly cried. “Neat” is not one of his spiritual gifts.)

We planted trays and trays of annuals to add color to the barren winter landscape. (I lost count after 30.) I spent hours ruminating the right color pillows to make my tired family room furniture appear fresh and funky. I haunted clearance aisles for amazing deals.

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(Side note: that wreath on the front door? Perfect, isn’t it? Yellow was exactly what I was looking for. Found it at Pier 1. Love their stuff.

It was $.98.

Yes, you read that right.

I’m still riding that retail high….)

I reorganized the kitchen cupboards and cleaned out the fridge. Those pretty towels in the bathrooms? My kids were ordered not to touch them under pain of having their toenails pulled out.

This is not bringing out the best in my personality. The kinder, gentler side of Mommy is being held-hostage by a Clorox-wielding crazy person who can spot dirt, dust and dog hair from 50 yards.

(“You did not just spill milk on that new carpet. YOU DID NOT!”)

I’ve had better moments.

Even more mundane but necessary when your home is about to be filled with strangers, I packed up all the prescription medication, and made sure the kids’ gaming devices and our laptops were safely hidden away.

Here’s where we ended up. You tell me….does it have that “nobody lives here, but you sure wish you did” feel?

I guess we’ll know in a week or so.

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I’m working on a home staging checklist, with tips I’ve assembled just from scouring MLS listings online and from my own experience. Have a tip or trick to share? Please leave it in the comments!

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Life, Death, and Dreams

January 7, 2016

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In my dreams, my mother is still alive.

Almost like she had never gone. She figures into my midnight fantasies in a profoundly normal way. Sometimes we fight. Sometimes I find her annoying. Sometimes, she is simply there, as if she had never left at all.

Long ago, Mom used to tell me that she made her grandmother promise to come back and haunt her after she died. My great-grandmother, Velma, had been more of a friend than grandmother, and the two were inseparable until Velma finally moved on at the age of 97. Velma was not afraid to die. “Good riddance!” she’d huff. And then she’d laugh, a contagious burble of sound, somewhere between and giggle and hoot. A deeply spiritual and prayerful woman, Velma seemed to have a finger on the pulse of heaven. If anyone could convince God to let her take a jaunt back to the physical world, Velma could.

Funny thing, I almost believe she did. On one visit, toward the end of our time together, Mom became tired and overwhelmed by the lot of us. It was Mother’s Day, and we had brought the kids, who were still toddlers and turning everything into a jungle gym. She began to fret, asking to return to her room.

“I need to talk to Grama,” she said, turning her face to the wall.

Velma had been dead five years. But mom mumbled away like she was there with her in the room.

Mom died just three months later.

Perhaps it was Velma there with her, in that cramped hospital room.

Perhaps she kept her promise, after all, providing comfort and stability to mom’s fractured mind when nothing and no one else could.

Perhaps my mother visits me, too, but in my dreams, figuring into them in such a way that it is as if she never left. We fight and bicker as mothers and daughters do, and we are together.

As if she had never left.

 

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A New Year, A New Objective

January 5, 2016

Blacksburg, Virginia

Sunnyvale, California

Mallibu, California

London, England

South Portland, Maine

Gorham, Maine

Fremont, California

Campbell, California

Somewhere, New Hampshire

The list is really not very long. My husband’s would be twice as long. Considering the first 18 years of my life were covered by only the first two locations. The second half has been a bit more diverse. My life, it appears, has been book-ended by the east coast.

So you see, it’s not such a surprise we’re headed back.

It’s a new year, and this blog has been woefully neglected. I’m thankful for those of you who choose to follow, and care about the words I have to say. So here’s a heads up. I’m not going to be writing anything fancy for a while. Book ideas, article pitches, they’re all going on sabbatical while I live the next six months in the present.

When Huntington’s Disease was looming overhead, I felt this insane panic to be A Writer. I was terrified that I, The Person, would soon be lost to dementia and thus everything that needed to be written or said needed to be written or said NOW.

With that urgency gone, I find it’s time to sit back and look the whole story over again. The last two years, I’ve been telling my story for my sake. For the next six months or so, until we’re settled into our new home, I’m going to be thinking about how I can tell my story for your sake. How can what I’ve experienced benefit others?

This blog began, years ago, with just the bits and dabs of a boy-mom life. We’ll stick with that for now, and I’ll share the adventures of moving, and parenting boys, and yes, shoes, once again. Or rather, boots. Warm boots. Really warm boots….

Happy New Year friends. I hope yous stick around for this next chapter.

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Over Here: Magnifications

December 18, 2015

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Today I’m guest posting for Magnifcations, a blog written by women in ministry for women in ministry. Each member of that writing team is taking an excerpt from the birth narrative and sharing a reflection each day of Advent. Enjoy!

The Vitality of Ritual

Dark and still, the ancient stone walls were breathing and holy. The silence was not oppressive, but peaceful. I dropped a coin into the tiny slot at the base of the pillar and carefully lit a long wooden match. Whispering my prayer, I lit a small votive on the stand before me, one of many bright flames breaking the darkness of the church. Wisps of smoke filtered into the dome above me, as the flame’s very fragrance perfumed the vaults of heaven.

There was no magic in that ritual. No special force or mystique. But it had power, that simple act of flame, and smoke, and prayer. As the candle burned, so, too, did my plea to God sear upon my heart. Years later, I carry with me the memory of that moment, still. 

Read more over at Magnifications.org

On Moving: Why Would We Want to Go THERE?!

December 17, 2015

Moving is always an adventure. For some areas more than others…

Our family is headed east next year, the northeast. The seacoast of New Hampshire to be precise.

“GASP! Why would you want to go THERE?!” I’ve been asked, over, and over, and over.

My hunch is, the people who are asking are the people who’ve never been to the New England seacoast. Who wouldn’t want to move there?  Some of our best vacations in the last 10 years have been there, and now we’re going to LIVE THERE. Woot!

Yes, there is snow. An average of 60″ per year, to be exact. But, may I remind you, I lived there before, and I survived. When the roads are icy, we stayed home. When there’s a blizzard, we stayed home. For those days when we couldn’t stay home? Studded tires. Wood-burning fireplaces aren’t illegal, and snow is, in my opinion, far more tolerable than incessant rain. I loved it. I didn’t want to move back to California! Yet, here we are, and now, there we shall go. Returning to my husband’s childhood home, a slower pace, better housing, better schools, beautiful countryside, ocean breezes, lobstah, and…

so much more. Things like….

Elsa Was Here, Lincoln, NH

Be sure and watch the videos….

Corey-Schestak

Tall Ships Parade, Portsmouth, NH

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SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA – yeah, that’s a Spanish galeon.

America’s Stonehenge, Salem, NH

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Built by a Native American Culture or a migrant European population? No one knows for sure. A maze of man-made chambers, walls and ceremonial meeting places, America’s Stonehenge is most likely the oldest man-made construction in the United States (over 4000 years old).

Like Stonehenge in England, America’s Stonehenge was built by ancient people well versed in astronomy and stone construction. It has been determined that the site is an accurate astronomical calendar. It was, and still can be, used to determine specific solar and lunar events of the year.

Various inscriptions have been found throughout the site including Ogham, Phoenician and Iberian Punic Script

Sunken Forest, Rye, NH

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Yes, Gabe is already planning a dive.

The Sunken Forests of New Hampshire are two large areas of tree stumps submerged off New Hampshire’s coast. They sank below sea level after the ending of the Wisconsin Glaciation and subsequent rise in temperature; isostatic rebound has not kept pace with the rise in sea level, and former coastal forests were overtaken by the Atlantic Ocean.

The trees could not thrive, even when they were in the early stages of sinking, because they cannot live in salt water for very long. All that is left of the forests are stumps.[1]

Near Odiorne Point State Park in Rye, this sunken forest is referred to as the “Drowned Forest”. The roots of different coniferous trees (including white pine and hemlock) are visible at most low tides. Core samples taken from the roots indicate that the trees are about 3,500 – 4,000 years old. Scuba divers commonly explore the Drowned Forest to learn about these ancient remains.

Wineries. In New Hampshire.

Bet you never saw that coming. Look carefully at the first portion of the sign…

 History. Lots and lots of history.

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Strawbery Banke is an outdoor history museum located in the South End historic district of Portsmouth, New Hampshire. It is the oldest neighborhood in New Hampshire to be settled by Europeans, and the earliest neighborhood remaining in the present-day city of Portsmouth. It features more than 40 restored buildings built between the 17th and 19th centuries in the Colonial, Georgian, and Federal style architectures. The buildings once clustered around a waterway known as Puddle Dock, which was filled in around 1900. Today the former waterway appears as a large open space.

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Fort Constitution, located in New Castle adjacent to the U.S. Coast Guard Station at the mouth of the Piscataqua River, is likely New Hampshire’s most important and interesting military fortification.

Defenses were first established on the site in 1631, and Fort Constitution was originally named Fort William and Mary, after the king and queen of England.

In December 1774 Paul Revere rode to Portsmouth from Boston to warn the colonists of British plans to reinforce the fort, to protect its store of powder. The colonists however surrounded the fort and seized light cannon and 97 barrels of gun powder. Many consider the attack to be the first overt act of the Revolution, and it’s thought that some of the supplies were used in the Battle of Bunker Hill.

All that aside, we’re going to be just a few miles from the coast, an hour from major ski areas, surrounded by hiking and biking trails….

Sigh.

It’s gonna be rough.

Are any of my readers from the northeast? What do you love about living in New England? 

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Christmas Grief

December 2, 2015

The world, it seems, is falling apart.

Plunged into darkness, death, mayhem all around.

More killings. More senseless pain.

It is easy to forget that we are not alone.

This is not the end.

I watch this video every year, and every year I cry as stunning words of worship soar through the mundane.

And He shall reign forever and ever

King of Kings, Lord of Lords

Bigger the all the sorrows the world has ever known.

Marantha, Lord Jesus. Marantha.

A Holiday of Remembering…and Thankfulness

November 25, 2015

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Thanksgiving is (to me) more than a holiday of thankfulness.

It’s a holiday of remembering. It is easy for many to think on what is good, and noble, and pure at this time of year, but for others – like me, for whom this holiday is intertwined with loss – thoughts can be more bitter than sweet.

My mother would have been 67 tomorrow, on Thanksgiving day.

She’s on my mind, as usual, as we prepare for the holiday. It’s startling to realize she’s been gone nearly ten years. Even more so that I’ve managed to survive the last twenty without her…I remember vividly calling her from Maine, the first Thanksgiving I spent away from my family and scratching down the two most important recipes of the holiday: Great-grandma Velma’s pumpkin pie and mom’s stuffing. Those were the last two recipes we exchanged, and one of the last lucid phone calls we were able to have. Every holiday thereafter, there was no one to call for help as I ruined gravy and threw out batches of pie crust. Every holiday thereafter I was a self-taught chef, learning from my own mistakes without the consolation of a mom to tell me that it was going to be okay.

What was raw and bleeding for so long, has, somewhat, healed over, but it doesn’t take much for the wound to reopen. I suppose it will always be that way.

I don’t think I would want it any different.

Hug your people tight this week. Cherish them. This season, I’m trying to be thankful for what annoys me most; behind ever irritation is a blessing. Those dirty socks represent precious, beloved feet. The toothpaste in the sink, the dog hair, the boy-smells wafting down the hall… a miasma of blessings in disguise. The house I have to live in, the husband who loves me in spite of myself, those boys, my health. I want to cherish my daily mundane.

A tuning of my heart to see the grace in the everyday.

Come thou fount of every blessing
Tune my heart to sing thy grace
Streams of mercy never ceasing
Call for songs of loudest praise

So much to be thankful for. Have a blessed and joyous holiday!