That Time I Moved Out of State Instead Of Blogging Every Day

Some of you may have noticed that after a very brief attempt to write a blog post every weekday in November, my blog fell silent again. This is slightly due to the fact that I have a hard time following through on my great intentions, but more so due to the fact that my husband got contract job out of state, and I spent most of November going through everything we own and deciding what to take with us to a small apartment, what to store near home, and what really wasn’t worth moving or storing. (I thought we did a decent job of keeping our stuff down to mostly what we really wanted around, but it turns out we had over a dozen boxes of things we didn’t want *that* badly.)

In between the sorting I was researching important things like the library system near our new home, places to live, and how far we had to go to get take-out Vietnamese or sushi from those possible places to live. Oh, and in case that sounds too easy, I ended up researching three different towns this way because of questions about which one we would actually end up in, and our move date got changed three times. (In case it’s not clear, we’re very happy with the new job, and the fact that it’s close enough to drive back to see church and family on a weekend, and are enjoying the adventure. It’s just been a pretty crazy adventure so far.)

So… no blogging in November.

On the plus side, I’m now living a semi-minimalist lifestyle (aka I pared down my stuff to fit in a one bedroom apartment and it kind of worked but I’m still  not very good at being a minimalist) in a town where I know ZERO people, so I may have more time on my hands for things like blogging. Maybe. It’s a good theory anyway.

The apartment is still waiting on us to figure out the best way to hang pictures (given that about half the walls are concrete block) and for a few more boxes to be unpacked (mostly once we buy a second dresser, as we only brought one with us) but it’s close enough to ‘done’ to give you an idea what it’s like.

This is the main part of our living room. The other part is walkway, desks, and the rest of the Christmas tree you can just glimpse in this photo. (Most of the books and games are in storage. We did get rid of a few games and a few boxes of books, but these are just the ones we’re most likely to use in the next few months.) The ottoman is hollow for storage and has one of my big knitting projects inside, while a lot of the other craft supplies I brought with me are inside my desk drawers.

When I was packing up kitchen stuff I thought I was doing a good job ‘being minimalist’. I packed a bare minimum of dishes, and just enough Pyrex for a couple days worth of leftovers, so I’d be forced to use up leftovers quickly and not accidentally let them sit in the fridge for a couple weeks. My packing felt a lot less minimalist as I tried to unpack it all into this tiny kitchen though! I’m going to need to use up some odds and ends of pantry ingredients and then try to standardize to just basic ingredients (and also stop buying most things in bulk for now!). It helps that there’s a storage shelf and cupboard in the living room right outside the kitchen, and some things like tea and tea pot, and extra spice jars went out there. These are things that in theory I won’t mind having on display, but do need some more tweaking not to just feel crowded. (One weird side benefit to this kitchen: there’s literally no place to put dirty dishes except the side of the stove, so I’ll finally be forced to practice immediate dish washing. )

The bedroom is the least ‘done’ right now, as we are still waiting on the dresser I mentioned. Oddly, though, it’s a bit bigger, and has a noticeably bigger closet than our previous bedroom.

Fun Facts:

*There was a shoe box full of bricks in our coat closet when we moved in. Maintenance was also surprised by them, so presumably they were left by a previous tenant? Not sure why. Also, the previous tenant apparently took one of the two oven racks with them when they left, which maintenance has now replaced for us. Being able to call maintenance to fix everything may be the best part of apartment living.

*I thought our bathroom had zero storage and zero outlets, but it does in fact have a shallow medicine cabinet and one outlet on the light above the mirror. There is still no storage under the sink and one towel rod currently holding bath towels for two and a hand towel. (I’m ordering over the door hooks for the bath towels.)

*Of the 150ish books at the top of my to read list (I have a long to read list, okay?) 63 are available from the smallish library in town, which is a lot more than I thought would be. ONE of those is even one I couldn’t get in the library system back home: https://amzn.to/34UgekB (Affiliate link, FYI.)

*Least useful thing I brought: a return address stamp for our previous address

*Most useful thing I *forgot* to bring: There’s some stiff competition here, but I think broom is the winner. Runners up include step stool (because I’m short and can’t reach the top shelves in the kitchen) and iron (actually, scratch that, I never iron anyway–it’s mostly just between the broom and the step stool).

So, that about sums up apartment life right now! If you have any interest in more details on my attempts at minimalism or apartment organization/decorating feel free to ask. (If you didn’t even have an interest in the details I gave in this post, that’s okay too. I’ll just pretend you read the whole thing and enjoyed it.)

Florida

Two weeks ago, we set off for a vacation in Florida. For the purposes of this post we’ll pretend it was all that simple and didn’t involve many changes in plans and travel dates before we got to that point.

A few years ago, I would have definitely said I was not a beach person. Too hot. Too many people (wearing not enough clothes…). Sunburn. Sharks. Jellyfish. 100 foot tidal waves. You know, all the things sensible people are concerned about.

Then we discovered that you can go to the beach during a magical time of year called ‘off season’. The weather ranges from pleasant to tolerable and the people are few. Technically the risk of giant tidal waves is probably the same, but it turns out I can live with the sunburn, etc part of the list as long as I’m not sweating or socializing excessively.

It also turns out that my chronic health problems usually fade a bit when exposed to ocean air, plenty of natural vitamin D, and near constant ‘grounding’ as I go barefoot on the sand. Somehow, I have turned into a fan of the beach.

There’s not a whole lot to say about most of this trip specifically. We saw a couple of amazing sunsets, a double rainbow (though I think only one ever showed up in the picture), some cool looking skies, and a couple of shrimp boats (which look rather like pirate ships in my opinion). Not pictured, we also found a lot of nice seashells, and I read the next book in a favorite series while sitting on the beach.

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This was one of the few times the beach umbrella stayed anchored in the sand without blowing away…
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I tried to paint one of the shrimp boats we saw, and especially play off that resemblance to a pirate ship, but I was really unhappy with how my first attempt played out. Not only was I too rushed in mixing my colors, but the wind blew my paper around so much that I got accidental splotches of color in the wrong places from my paintbrush.IMG_3084

I repainted the picture later (on a screened in porch with a lot less wind) and was much happier with how it turned out. I’ve almost never tried to repaint the exact same picture (and probably don’t have the patience for it often) but in this case I loved getting the chance to make it a little more like what I saw in my head, and refine the idea based on what I did and didn’t like about the first one. The funny thing is, I was frustrated after my first attempt, but I think in the end I liked it better than if my first one had turned out well enough to leave it at that.

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Bits of Life

I’ve been having a lot of rough, tired days lately, but despite not having energy or deep thoughts for a full post, I noticed a few blog worthy odds and ends of life recently.

This year I tried growing a garden (read: four plants) as it had been a while since I had a nice collection of dead plants… Actually, I’d managed to grow some peppermint, and I thought there was a slight chance I could expand that to *slightly* harder to keep alive plants. I’m still a bit shocked every time I go look at my plants and they don’t to be turning brown and falling over. My swiss chard (above) is producing well, and I’ve harvested a bit of mint and basil as well. My tomato plant has blossoms (!). My zucchini/squash attempts didn’t go so well, as half of the plants immediately got eaten by rabbits, and the one remaining plant doesn’t get enough to sun to thrive, though it’s somehow holding on and also not dying yet.

 

 A friend introduced me to the concept of maximalist decorating, and I really liked the impression of my test run. In fact, I haven’t taken it down yet, even though most of it isn’t spaced properly. I’m thinking about mostly leaving the arrangement, just moving the hangings that are put up with sticky tack until it’s all properly balanced. I’m hoping to expand this display even further, possibly with some of my own artwork across the very top of the wall. (I got this up in one of my occasional bursts of, if not quite energy, at least lower fatigue. I’ll add to it slowly and continue the adjustments in future bursts.)

 Sometimes clearance roses are good idea even when you haven’t got around to clearing the table. That’s one thing I’m starting to learn with not having a lot of energy: sometimes the nice little finishing touches have to come first, or you never get to them.

Fatigue Life

One of my least favorite things about chronic health problems is the unpredictability. There a few reliable factors: if I stop taking certain supplements or medications I will feel significantly worse, if I have something going on every single day/evening for more than a week or so (without significant rest time as well) I WILL get sick, and if I’m around mold for very long at all I’ll feel crummy.

You might notice that all of these involve feeling worse. There’s nothing I can really do to guarantee a good day, though I do have a few tricks that usually work IF I guess right what’s flaring up to make me feel bad at the moment: activated charcoal and epsom salt baths for mold exposure or herxing/detox symptoms, oregano oil for Lyme flare ups, protein and healthy carbs for blood sugar fluctuations.

I’m getting familiar enough with the pitfalls and health boosters that I have a lot of tolerably good days now, and sometimes a string of really good days where I breeze through my normal chores and have energy left over for the projects I rarely get to. I really like those days, and try not to ruin them by wondering how long the energy will last, and whether I should start planning to work on bigger projects.

Then there are days like today where my body suddenly and inexplicably decides that being awake is overrated, and after getting up and eating breakfast on relatively normal schedule I get nothing else done except several hours of naps until mid afternoon. I’m pretty sure I could have napped again after I ate something resembling lunch. (Okay, it wasn’t lunch, it was unsweetened hot chocolate. Call it a gut feeling that I needed nutrients, but that my body didn’t want to digest solid food.)

Sometimes I wonder if I would have gotten better faster if I’d slept more during the worst days of fatigue. Of course, it’s easy to forget how hard it was to sleep during those days–just being exhausted and needing sleep didn’t always mean it was possible. But I do know I pushed too hard and didn’t rest enough in general.

It’s easier to let myself take rest days now, when I have routines that I keep up with most days, and I know that all the important chores have been done recently, and can be caught up on again on a good day. I don’t know for sure when the next good energy day will come along, but it’s nice to be able to expect that it will be sooner rather than later.

Getting better at being tired was never one of my life goals, but weirdly, it is one of the more useful things I’ve achieved in the last decade or so. Life skills, y’all. Maybe in another decade I’ll figure out how to be confident about backing out of parking spaces.

The Life and Adventures of Raquel

Sometimes I think  my life would make a good Youtube show. Not a full TV show, or even a Netflix show, with its instantly bingeable seasons. Just some short episodes  like the old radio soap operas, but without the break-ups, and more of a dramedy.

Take last weekend. As part of a one car household, I order a lot of essentials delivered to the house, so that I don’t often have to get the car to go pick one thing, and only have to make grocery store trips once every week or two. Often, I order my thyroid medication shipped to the house.

So, last Friday I take my last thyroid pill in the bottle and check the tracking number. It’s scheduled to be delivered Saturday. This isn’t really optimal, because our mail won’t be delivered until mid-morning, and circadian rhythms interacting with thyroid meds mean that taking the pill the same time of day is a big deal. (Think about that next time you say that daylight savings time isn’t a big deal because you can just go to bed an hour earlier…)

The complication is that I’m out of refills on my thyroid meds, and so even if I tried to put in a new refill to pick up at the store that evening, there’s no way the doctor’s office would respond to the refill request before they closed down for the weekend anyway. (Believe me, I’ve tried before. If you have to send in a refill request on a Friday for an urgent refill you’re in trouble.) Getting my thyroid pill just a few hours late on Saturday is acceptable.

Saturday morning I wake up and check the tracking number. (cue dramatic music) The package was delayed. It reads that my package was in town and then left again, for no discernible reason.  Monday is now the soonest I can get my thyroid medication. (Remember, I still have no refills, and the doctor’s office is now closed for the weekend.)

I muddle through my day, feeling only slightly zombieish, which means my overall health is doing a lot better than a few years ago, when I missed a thyroid pill and felt like death warmed over. I take essential oils. I fix some decaf coffee and add every thyroid boosting substance I  have in the house, starting with coconut oil.

Now, this is where we pick up one of those slow sub-plot threads that’s been building for many episodes. On this Saturday, I walk down to the library, despite feeling slightly zombieish, because I have my first ever inter-library loan waiting for me.

I’ve put books on hold from other libraries in the system many times, but this book came from outside the local system, and required a librarian to fill in a paper card for me instead of me just clicking a button on the website. The rules are unclear to me, and I’m not sure how long they’ll hold an inter-library loan before sending it back, and it doesn’t even show up in my account as a hold when I check the website. I can’t risk it being sent back and having to go through that whole paper system again. (I do occasionally act my generation… “What do you mean I can’t do this on a website? And what is this paper stuff you speak of?”)

At the library, when the clerk hands me the book without a receipt (okay, I guess I do like paper sometimes) OR a comment about when it’s due back (I normally get both when I check out a book), my T3 lacking brain isn’t sure how to handle the situation. I take the book, walk off a few steps and have a sudden fear that I’m not actually supposed to leave yet, and stop and stare at the front of the book as though examining it for information for a good ten seconds before I slowly risk actually walking off with it. No one tries to stop me, so apparently inter-library loans are just weird like that.

As I walk up the driveway holding my not-actually-stolen library book I notice the corner of a package sticking up out of the mailbox by our front door. Huh. That looks a lot like the packaging my thyroid meds get mailed in. I walk up to the mailbox. The return address matches the one on the tracking number and the package definitely feels like it contains my thyroid meds.

The package does, in fact, contain my thyroid meds.

Tracking numbers are often helpful and occasionally the stupidest things ever.

So, it turns out that providentially I didn’t have to go an entire weekend without sufficient supply of vital energy supplying hormones, and that the timing of my first inter-library loan was surprisingly important to my timely discovery of  said hormones being available in my mail box. (Did I mention that tracking numbers are occasionally stupid?) Basically, my life would make a good YouTube show  because God writes better plots than I do.

Plot Twist

 

The Perfect Desk

I have wanted a desk for several years now. I had a desk when I was teenager, and used it for very important tasks like writing journal entries, but I didn’t have the opportunity to use a desk to it’s full potential at the time. (I guess that depends on how you look at it though–my largest desk drawer was full of Agatha Christie novels.)

In the apartment all of my ‘desk stuff’ like the expandable file folder and bills to be paid got stored on one shelf of a bookshelf, and it all inevitably jumbled not that long after every time I organized it. Now that we have a house, we have room for Colton and I to have side by side desks in the dining room.

As I began browsing used furniture I quickly discovered that I have expensive taste in desks. My favorites were always the roll top desks, with the appeal of being able to stop in the middle of paying bills or balancing the checkbook, but instantly hide the mess. Since the roll tops generally sold for around $300, I started trying to convince myself that I should stick with looking for the true non-negotiables, like drawers for storing all my desk stuff inside of.

I started checking Craigslist frequently, and talking myself down to a reasonable desk, until one day I saw that roll top desk had just been posted for $50. It had only been posted a few hours before, and I promptly claimed the first chance to go inspect it. (After checking with Colton if he thought it was worth driving 30 minutes to look at the desk. He said no desk was worth driving to P—- for, but then gave his serious answer that it looked like a good deal.)

I began conferring with the seller about the details of coming to see it. Was it very heavy? Oh, yes, it was so very heavy, and they didn’t actually live where the desk was, so we had to come look at it during the day, and her husband had just had surgery so he wouldn’t be able to help with the lifting. Since Colton doesn’t have a lot of spare time off this  year, I fell back on the plan of drafting nephews to carry the desk… until I got an e-mail that someone had agreed to buy the desk without having seen it.

My desk…

A few days later I heard that the buyer never completed arrangements to come pick up the desk, so I was back to having first chance to come look at it. Yay!

I drafted one nephew to come along, having remembered in the meantime that the other nephew I had intended to draft now has gainful employment which keeps him too busy during daytime hours to come move desks for me. (That pesky getting-older-and-getting-jobs thing…) Then I mildly agonized for a while about whether the heaviness of the desk was exaggerated and whether between me and my nephew Peter and my sister Merrianna if we would be able to load the desk into the car.

The first part of the adventure happened when we discovered that my phone (the only smart phone in the car, and our only source of directions to the location of the desk) was about to die and we didn’t have a charger. Peter copied down the directions into the sketchbook he’d brought along and then Merrianna continued navigating from the almost dead phone. I missed a turn (it was the shortest ‘100 yards’ in the  history of directions, is all I have to say), and began following the rerouted directions when the phone died.

Peter and Merrianna had much conferring about the remembered parts of directions compared to what was written on the sketchbook, and we somehow arrived at our destination with a deal of confusion, but without ever actually having to turn around.

This is when part 2 of our adventure started. We were greeted by a very sweet lady, with whom I’d been communicating, and her brother (not her husband, and presumably, not having just had surgery). I checked the desk, and despite a bit of sticking in the roll top part of the desk, quickly decided that I would take the desk.

The sellers, however, were very concerned about whether the large desk would fit inside our mini-van. They carefully measured many dimensions of both the desk and the inside of the mini-van, and then carefully re-measured when they couldn’t remember the original measurements.

I had been pretty sure from the beginning that the desk would fit, and the measurements sounded like a good match even without remembering the exact numbers in every case. In addition to this, I had picked up one end of the desk as I examined it.

It wasn’t that heavy at all.

We could have easily just picked up the desk, walked it out the mini-van to see if it would fit, and taken it back inside if it didn’t.

Instead, I just tried to direct events in the direction of more action and less measuring. “Yep, that looks like it should fit… Uh huh… Hmm… Okay, let’s give it a try… Yes, on its back… It really seems like that should work… I think we should go ahead and try it.”

Peter and the brother carried the desk to the mini-van while Merrianna and I watched and the very sweet lady gave me tips for what kind of furniture polish to buy if my desk happened to get accidentally scratched on the way home. (I didn’t tell her that I would probably never even notice if the desk got scratched up…)

The desk fit perfectly into the back of the mini-van, with the minor inconvenience of having to be lifted over the metal U-hooks that protrude from the sides of the back hatch. Merrianna and I even got to assist briefly by holding corners of the desk as it was flipped on its back.

We climbed back into the car, slightly exhausted from the social effort of buying a desk from such nice people, and Peter began to reverse the directions so that we could escape the tiny neighborhood in which we were cornered. Despite the fact that the desk turned out to not be heavy at all, it turned out the Peter was essential to the escapade, as he was the keeper of the directions (and the owner of pencil and paper).

And that is the story of how I am sitting and typing this blog post at a lovely, ever so slightly scratched roll top desk (which only sticks a little when you try to put down the roll top lid).

Moving In

It’s been almost two months since I wrote about moving out of our apartment, and it seemed time for an update about the moving in half of the process. It seems that getting sick after we move is a tradition, so I came down with a bad cold shortly after we moved, which slowed down the latter part of the unpacking. It is now, however, nearly done.

Instead of having to cook all our meals in the Instant Pot we have a stove. It has two ovens, and plays far too many musical chimes including an alarm if you leave the oven door open for too long. But two ovens, and not an Instant Pot, so over all, I’m quite happy with it.

Instead of having to work around temporary kitchen storage, we now have a kitchen island which greatly improves the amount of counter space available.

Instead of having to go to the laundromat, I can now do laundry in any weather without having to leave the house and bundle up against the cold. The washer and dryer also play unusually (and unnecessarily) long musical chimes when they’re done, but I can live with that, seeing as how I now have the freedom to do any amount of laundry at any time.

Instead of having bare windows and feeling that our television watching habits were needlessly public, we now have curtains on all our windows. The curtain saga is long and involved, and some of the curtains could still use upgrading (along with one Frankenstein’s curtain rod that I cobbled together when some of the proper pieces went missing) but having curtains is a major upgrade in itself, and greatly improves the hominess of the house.

Instead of a stack of boxes in the closet, we now have new bookshelves to replace the ones that broke in the move, and the closet is shifting over into being useful for normal storage.

Instead of having to root through a plastic tub every time I needed to pay a bill or file a receipt I now have a desk! The desk just got set up today, so I’m especially excited about this one. I’ve wanted a desk for the past few years, and never really had a good place to put one in the apartment, so now I can finally hide all of my paperwork in an organized manner.

I can’t say that all the decorating is done, but I have hung up all of the important wall art (mostly involving dragons), and found a temporary place for the wedding monkeys while I continue to experiment with various set ups. We have more blank walls in the house than we did in the apartment, so I have temporarily put up some pictures we didn’t have a place for before, and will have to decide which ones should be upgraded.

There is a strange shortage of closets in this house, so storage requires some creativity, except in the bathroom where there seems to be an unreasonably large amount of storage (at least for people who don’t use the large assortment of face, hair, eye and nail creams that may be considered standard to others).

I really can’t say at what point in the process the  new house started to feel like home, though it must not have taken too long. I can say that it’s starting to go beyond just feeling like ‘this is the place where we live’ to also making me think ‘I like living here’.