many changes instantly
|Farewell, White House.|
I used to work for MCI, one of the early long-distance companies, which came into its own after the breakup of the telephone monopoly. Sprint still exists, but MCI was bought up by someone else and is long gone. However, back in the day (this was about 1986), we workers of the early telemarketing plantations often received new edicts from above. So many that we said the company’s initials must stand for “Many Changes Instantly.”
So here we are, in MCI mode — many changes instantly. Three months ago I was enjoying a full house of offspring and a healthy husband, chickens, a lovely piano, 5 bedrooms and a lush garden, a clothesline, a compost heap and about seven different kinds of recycling and trash containers. Mr. Husband said that you needed a PhD to figure out what trash went where at our Big White House. Today, however, we’ve done a few backflips.
Mr. Husband had a pain in his back around Christmas that got worse very quickly and they eventually discovered two ruptured discs. With a quick change in employment and where the Boy is going to school next year, we decided we had better move sooner rather than in summer. Found an adorable 2-bedroom apartment in central Alameda and started packing. Our motto was “Everything must go!” With a full attic, a full garage and large yard, plus all those bedrooms, this was no small task. The chickens had to find a new home, as did the coop. The bales of straw. The tiki bar and all the decorations. The hammock. The piano. One of the three cats. Two of the daughters. Most of the holiday decorations. Our large dining table that seated 12. Dishes. Canning jars. At least two-thirds of my fabric and yarn stash. Everything must go. And off it went.
We rented a Dumpster, but put amazingly little into it. Instead, green-hearted gal that I am, I worked tirelessly to find homes for everything and everyone. We had a “free” garage sale, in which just about everything we had in the garage went out and was given freely. I donated to Goodwill, ThriftTown and Salvation Army countless times. Sold books, CDs, DVDs and albums. Sold anything relatively “antique” to a dealer in town. Donated books to the Friends of the Library. Gave tons of books and art/school supplies to local schools. Gave a single mom down on her luck just about everything she could want for setting up an apartment for herself and her daughter — dishes, furniture, clothes and more. Gave the piano to our neighbor with 6 children. We downsized our personal library by about 75 percent. Maybe more. Garden goodies went to several Freecyclers. Old blankets and towels went to the pet shelter. Empty boxes came from Freecycle and have since been given back to be used again.
|Softball team to the rescue. Mr Husband crouching in pain,
with smart-aleck friend copying him.
(Self, center, which is where I should be.)
Through all this, we had one mishap after another. Daughter #4, just two days before moving out, had a Saturday night spill that fractured her elbow. The Boy got bonked in the head at school in PE, suffering a minor concussion. Right after that he got a horrendous cold. Mr. Husband couldn’t lift anything or even sit or stand without excruciating pain (but he moved things anyway. Stubborn as a burro!). I won’t even tell you how messed up my shoulder, neck and sciatica got. We were able to borrow a truck from a friend for a couple of weeks, which made short trips with boxes much easier. We corralled a dozen strong guys for the big moving day and it was over, I kid you not, in 2 hours. Had a few days of searching among the boxes, and then it was time for Mr. Husband’s surgery.
That was last week. He’s well, thank you, and improving daily. We take little walks and he starts physical therapy next week. Yay for modern medicine! We’re here in the new place (see photo of our living room below), with another 20 boxes or so to unpack, and a new more urban lifestyle to discover in our upstairs Victorian flat: our Red House (since I like to name our houses).
How are things different?
1. No laundry line, at least so far. We have a plumbing problem with the washer and dryer that the landlord is going to fix. Some day. I went to the laundromat last week and hope I can get this resolved soon. Also bought an indoor clothesline but the critical bracket is missing so I have to return it. Grrr.
2. No compost or chickens to eat leftovers. That means I have thrown into the green waste can things which chickens would have eaten up — plate scrapings, cereal crumbs, stale bread. On the other hand, there are just 3 of us now, so there’s a lot less green waste overall. I wonder how bad it would be to feed the local ducks with old bread crusts?
|New living room, with stuff still in
boxes and pictures awaiting a nail or two.
3. We have heat now, where we didn’t before, and that’s new and different for us. It’s delicious! But we’ll have to look at our usage and not overdo it. Not sure how insulated this (drafty) house is, for one thing, and then — well, global warming and all that.
4. Garden. There’s isn’t one here, but I have been paying attention to where the sun falls, and where it is always shady. I brought over several container plants (herbs) and there’s a lemon tree and a tangerine tree on the property. But how can I garden in a shady, compact way?
5. Shopping locally/walking everywhere: This will be possible, finally, with a small grocery store with sustainable meat and organic produce nearby. But I have hardly had a chance to walk around and see what’s what, what with surgery and moving and all. Looking forward to this greatly.
6. Living lightly. Not having to drive everywhere, not having to support such a large family, not having so much stuff — it’s all good. I expect to feel the impact of the move in our budget as well as in what we bring in/send out as trash. Life is different in a downtown apartment than in an outlying rambling house and yard.
It remains to be seen how green we can be here, and how can I/we make it ever more so. Keep me company while we figure it out, will you? (Oh, please, say yes!)
Julia Park Tracey is an award-winning journalist, author, and blogger. She is the author of six books: three novels, one poetry collection, and two women's history. She was the Poet Laureate of Alameda, California, in 2014-17. She's also the conservatrix of The Doris Diaries, the diaries of her great-aunt Doris Bailey Murphy. She has a BA in journalism from San Francisco State University, and MA in Early 20th C. British Literature from Cal State Hayward. Julia's articles have appeared on Salon, Thrillist, Paste, Scary Mommy, Narratively, Yahoo News, Your Tango, and Sweatpants & Coffee. Her articles have also run in Redbook, Woman's Day, Country Living, House Beautiful, Town & Country, the San Francisco Chronicle, Oakland Magazine, Quill, and MadeLocal. She was the founding editor of weekly Alameda Sun and literary zine Red Hills Review. Her poetry has been in The East Bay Literary review, Postcard Poems, Americus Review, Cicada, Tiferet Review, and many others. Julia has been recognized several times by the San Francisco, East Bay and Peninsula Press Clubs as well as the California Newspaper Association for her blogging since 2003.