Stuff!

Preparing for yet another move, I am reminded of a move we made when I was a little girl.   Dad was the minister at a two church charge, the main church being in Marion.  I can’t remember the name or location of the second church, only that it was small and close by.  Every June, Dad would have to attend annual conference held at a different place each year.  In June of our third year at Marion, as usual Dad left for Centenary College in Shreveport, Louisiana, for the Louisiana Annual Conference of the Methodist Church. Quite unexpectedly, we received a call from Dad sometime during the week informing us that we were “being moved” to a town a couple of hours away, Greenwood, Louisiana.  The way things worked in those days was that the Bishop of the conference, along with the District Superintendents, would meet and discuss and juggle things around and make decisions, one of which was relocating local pastors.  Conference would be one week, then the following week moves would take place on a Thursday.  The relocating minister would move out of the “parsonage” on Thursday morning, and into his new parsonage and “charge” on Thursday afternoon.  That way they would have a few days to get unpacked and settled before they had to preach their first sermon at their new church on the following Sunday.  (Yup, all it took was a few days to get settled in to the new place!)

Today I cannot even imagine how we lived that way, but that is how we did it!  Of course, each church provided the house (parsonage) and furnishings for the house (congregants discards) so when a move was made, the only things to pack were clothing, dishes, and personal items.  There was no need to find a new place to live, or to give notice to landlords that we were leaving.  Even so, I don’t know how we did it.  I’ve had six weeks notice about this move which is the general “heads up” I get anymore.  Of course in this day and age, especially since I am no longer connected with the church, we have to give all sorts of people notice of our move at least a month in advance.  Utilities have to be notified so they can come in and take readings, and a new dwelling has to be secured whether it is an apartment (as is the case this time) or a house. That means a quick trip to the new place to “house/apartment hunt” and sign a new lease, or place a bid. Professional movers are given the opportunity to offer bids on moving us and then the movee (us) decides who to go with. (Sometimes it works well, other times it is a disaster!)

In the meantime the movees continue with their jobs and everyday living.  Only now along with life’s demands, the movee (me) has to start packing.  Today people (oy. . . us) have a lot more “stuff” to cart around than did people living in the ’50’s and ’60’s.  We no longer live in furnished places, so we cart around a houseful of furniture.  We have more clothes than ever before, at least three wardrobes: everyday summer, dress summer, everyday winter, dress winter, special occasion summer and winter, etc.–something that was unheard of when I was growing up.  We have appliances that were not even dreamed of when I was a child: bread making machine, Jack Lalaine Juicer, coffee makers of several kinds depending on our mood, food processors (large for meals, small for a dish or two, tiny manual for holidays–this one deserves another post).  Speaking of kitchen gadgets and appliances, we keep kosher so that means we have many sets of dishes: meat, milk, and pareve –yes, a complete set of dishes and cookware for each!  Then we also have to have separate sets for Passover (I use a lot of paper and disposables during Passover because I don’t have enough space or money for more sets of dishes!) and all of the dishes have to be packed according to set.  Professional movers are usually shocked when they see the number of kitchen boxes required for my kitchen

Now let’s talk about books.  Both my husband and I are bona-fide bibliophiles!  Between the two of us, we have thousands of books: religion, science, math, history, art, literature, poetry, children’s books, etc.  We have given away thousands of books through the years but our library multiplies anyway.  And lest you think we collect books just to put on a shelf and admire from afar, I assure you that almost every book we own was read at least in part if not entirely from cover to cover.  All this to tell you that I have a lot of books to pack. Professional movers also marvel at the number of book boxes we crate with us.  Oy. At times it is embarrassing.

With this move we are downsizing into a tiny apartment, so besides packing tons of boxes, I have to designate which boxes go to storage and what goes to our apartment.  We are giving away furniture, books, dishes, clothing–the frivolous stuff but not the items we use regularly.  Even so, I’m not sure how we’ll fit into our new digs.

There is another issue with boxes, too.  Fortunately I save boxes from move to move, so we have most of the boxes we need.  Since Richard has already left town and begun his new job in our new home, I’m left here to do all of the above.  I get an uneasy feeling when I think we may not have enough boxes because I have no car to gather and bring more empty boxes back to our home.  I’ve decided that if we have too few boxes, I’m discarding more stuff till what we have fits into the boxes that are already in our apartment waiting to be filled.

In the meantime while I’m doing all of this and plotting and planning and scheduling to get it done, I’m also in grad school.  I must keep up with my studies, too. Wow.  What can I say. Somebody needs to examine my head because this is a lot of stuff to juggle.

Looking back to my childhood, I simply don’t know how we packed and moved in just a few days time.  Life was simpler for sure, not as carefree as we oftentimes like to romanticize, but it was simpler. Today’s necessities were not even dreamed up a few decades ago.  When I was traipsing through Nicaragua many years ago, everything I needed fit into a backpack–everything.  I remember how freeing it was to be unencumbered with stuff.

Stuff, and the acquisition of stuff, creates too many headaches, heartburn, high blood pressure, stress, greed, and more.  I’ve begun paring down our lives, but as I pack, I am aware that a lot more needs to be done. Richard, if you are reading this wherever you are, do not worry that I am throwing your stuff away. I’m not. But I am getting rid of as much stuff as I can get rid of in good conscience.  It is time for a simpler lifestyle.  If not now, then when?

What are your thoughts?  What have you done to simplify your life, or get rid of stuff?  I’d really like to hear.

A Matter of Perspective

The past week has been hectic, harried and crazy.  We are finally in our new apartment, albeit up to our ears in boxes.  It will be a while before we create order.  My classes are back in full swing and Richard has to go to work everyday.  But at least we are here, achy muscles, fried nerves, testy dispositions and all.  Every part of my body aches and I tell myself that I am too old for this kind of stuff.  As usual with a move, there were many trips to the nearby super market to get the necessary items we could not put our hands on once our belongings were in the apartment.  Normally I would walk, but there were too many things to carry, too many trips to the market, too many times up and down three flights of stairs, so I drove each time. This is too hard, too strenuous, too demanding—physically, mentally and spiritually.  I kvetch without shame, at least for a while, until I think of the lives others have lived.  My discomfort with this move is for a while, then life will settle into a norm again.  I’ve moved often enough to know that this type of chaos and stress is for a short time only.  For others though, my experience is a mere walk in the park.

I am reminded of a story I read in my grandfather’s memoir.  This is one of the many stories from his homesteading days while a youth in western Canada, not too far from Entwistle.  At the time of these events, Grandpa was a teenager.  I decided that for this post I would share what a trip to the market was like for homesteaders in the wilds of Canada in the early part of the twentieth century, a time when one bought provisions enough to get through an entire winter:

Grandpa (far right) and family at old homestead

Our last trip to Entwistle in 1916 (early winter) I shall never forget. We butchered a steer and loaded it on our wagon to sell in Entwistle.  In places the ground was not frozen deep enough to keep us from breaking through the crust occasionally.  When we came to the crossing of the Pimbine River (about 150’ wide) we tested the ice and thought it would hold us (the team of oxen, a loaded wagon, and my brother and I.)  A little past halfway across we broke through in about 3 feet of water.  We uncoupled the oxen from the wagon and after breaking through the ice several times we finally got them to shore where we built a large fire to get warm by.  Then we went back to prepare to pull the wagon out.  We had about 100 feet of pinch rope but the big task was to get the wagon pole out of the 3 feet of water so we could attach the rope to it.  Jesse jumped in the freezing water and attached the rope to the wagon tongue and then by stages of a few feet at a time we finally got it on the bank of the river.  We were exhausted after all this.  We built a large fire in a nearby log shack, brought the oxen inside where it was warm and then curled up in our blankets on top of some old hay in a corner.  We slept little but did get a good six hours rest at least.  By the light of our fire we cooked our breakfast of rabbit that we had killed the day before and with a loaf of bread and gravy we were ready to be on our way.

 

The oxen were quite comfortable during the night and after getting their fill of hay, they also were ready to hit the trail, none the worse for the rough day before.  Coming back home the next day was the roughest part of our entire round trip.  When we arrived back on the Pimbine River, we carried about 2200 pounds of groceries across the river on our shoulders then pushed the wagon across the ice.  Then we hooked the 40 feet of leather strap to each oxen in the ring in their nose.  While Jesse pulled on the leather strap, I followed using a long black-snake whip to make each ox move along across the ice.  The ice was frozen thick enough to hold each ox, but it was a slow progress getting each one across.  Then we had to load everything we had carried across the ice and by that time it was late in the night.  I might add here that the crossing on the Pimbine was about 4 to 6 miles down the river from Entwistle.  During the day before the sky was clear and during the middle of the day, about 4 hours, the sun came out bright and warm and thawed the snow on the road going up a steep hill.  Thus we could not get the oxen up the hill, so we spent about 16 hours cutting a trail through the woods around the hill then coming back by the road about sunup or about 9 A.M.  Yes we were exhausted, so after a breakfast of oatmeal and bacon cooked over our improvised camp fire, we rolled up in our blanket and slept for several hours.

There were 2 other short hills that were coated with ice and we had to pack part of our load on our backs and reload again at the top.  The team of oxen could not get solid, safe footing with too big or heavy a load.  We were two days going to Entwistle and 3 days going back home. The last night we stopped over at Jim McKinley’s Stopping Place as those places of night lodging were called in those days.

Never did home look so good to two young men and we slept about 14 hours after we unloaded our provisions and put everything in their place.

When I think of Grandpa, and then I look around this apartment and the mess herein, I am thankful for the comforts that I take for granted every day.  The fact of the matter is that there are many people in the world today who live lives very similar to the life Grandpa lived in his youth.  There is a lot that could be said about the privileges we have, but I will leave that to another blog.  For now though, my hope is that I shall never forget that no matter how tired, achy, irritable I am, my life is very easy and I have much to be thankful for.

Blog-a-Day in 2011. You’ve got to be kidding me!

WordPress has issued a challenge, and I’ve always been a sucker for a challenge. This one is not about posting a blog every day for thirty days, rather a blog a day for the entire year! That is asking a lot, more than I can commit to. I observe the Sabbath every week, so I’m reduced to six days a week for fifty-two weeks. Blogging six days a week might be doable (ha), except for the fact that in addition to the Sabbath every week, we observe all the Jewish holidays. Add another thirteen days of the calendar year that I cannot blog. That takes me down to about 300 blogs for the year 2011.

But wait, there’s more. I am a grad student, too. Course work must take precedence over this blog (which is why I haven’t been around this site for a while.) I had intended to blog daily during the quarter break, but as luck would have it we are moving to VA and I am up to my ears in boxes and packing. We have two weeks to pack this house and transfer all of our worldly possessions (including a cat) to a new abode, just in time for the beginning of my next quarter!

So, what about the daily blog challenge for 2011? Well, seeing as this is my blog, I can do what I want to do, or not. While I may want to blog daily in the coming year, 2011, that is an unrealistic goal for me. What I can do, however, is give my best shot at blogging at least once a week. That will be fifty-two postings.

This then, is my challenge: 52 blogs in the coming year. My intent is to post a blog each Sunday (subject to change, depending on when postings for my courses are due each week.) I hope you will hang around, check in each week to see how I am doing, offer suggestions and support, or maybe even start your own blog.

Whatever you do, here’s to a fabulous, challenging, fun-filled, rewarding and meaningful 2011 for each of us. . . . now back to the packing!