Remember how I said that taking on some sort of creative project is a good idea during a big move? Well, I took on a creative project during the move this summer and I might have taken it to crazy levels of OCD because it was about the only thing I had any control over for a while there. The project: Color//Colour Lovers, an international photo scavenger hunt hosted by fellow Phone Photography Project instructor Andrea Jenkins and her friend Xanthe Berkeley. It was a fantastic project, and I looked forward to checking out the colorful pictures people all over the world posted to Instagram each day. Most people posted a few here, a handful there and moved on to the next color. Not me: I decided early on that I would post TWELVE pictures per color, and then not post anything else until the next week's color kicked off. I wouldn't post in between my blocks of twelve, because that would MESS EVERYTHING UP.
If this sounds unnecessarily rigid, you would be right. Moving does weirdo things to people's brains.
I almost didn't post additional Disney pictures to Instagram after I found my twelve for #colorcolourpurple week but before #colorcolourorange week started because of this OCD nonsense, but thankfully my more rational self took over and looking back, I don't even know what my problem was. I accidentally mixed up the dates of the last two weeks (#colorcolourorange and #colorcolourblue) and sent myself into a tizzy, but that ended up just fine, too. All's well that ends well.
I love these pictures I took. Seeing them all together makes me happy.
All these little summer stories... I recommend photo projects to everyone. : )
+ Maddie has to get up so early again this year. And by default, so do both her parents; last year, only I had to get up in the pitch dark with her but this year, Matt is driving her to school (because the other option isn't really an option at all, leaving the house at 5:55 to drive to a 6:10 bus). So, 6:30 out the door it is.
+ Maddie's shirt color choices this year are white and purple, plus the green t-shirt she gets to wear on Fridays.
+ Gracie and Bridget will be wearing burgundy, navy blue, white, and this plaid combo.
+ Gracie and Bridget also have to be driven to another location to catch a bus to school; the neighborhood bus option would require them to leave the house an hour and 45 minutes before their first bell rings + a bus transfer, so 7:30 out the door it is.
+ If you are gathering that the logistics of this school year are going to be crazy, you would be correct. I won't even try to describe the afternoon craziness—suffice it to say, we will be putting thousands and thousands of miles on the van this year.
+ Nobody cried after the first day of school, so there's an improvement over last year.
+ We named Maddie MadeLINE (like the little girl in the book) with a long "I" sound in her name, and have been correcting people ever since who always assume she pronounces it MadeLYN, which is a fine name, just not hers. She usually goes by Maddie at school these days to save everyone the trouble, but her French teacher assigned her French name to be Madeleine this year in class. So now it's official. We will arm her with alternate French names to offer up next year...
+ Gracie is in a near panic about this ginormous year-long Alabama State History portfolio assignment she has to do, but I think it will be great fun. Though we have to giggle, because the poor thing is being hit yet again with the state history year. Louisiana state history is for 3rd graders, Alabama state history for 4th graders... it will be just her luck if we move to California and she has to do the notorious California Mission history project. Ha.
+ Bridget and Gracie will have Spanish, P.E., music, counseling, and science lab as their specials this year (no art, booooooo). They both are Very Excited about the science lab; I haven't met the teacher yet, but Gracie said they get to save up some sort of stamp reward thing they get and use it toward a special prize at some point in the year—one of the prizes is to attend a potions class. To say they were excited about that would be a big understatement.
Enjoy summer, all you people who start school at the end of August when it's supposed to start : )
I was clicking through my August archives tonight and it struck me that while things are different in every way this August, they're also pretty much exactly the same.
1. It was Grandma's birthday yesterday. Unfortunately, we didn't get to celebrate in person but I did get to talk to her on the phone for a little bit.
2. My Nigella Lawson measuring spoons are still in perfect condition, being used regularly and not being crunched in the garbage disposal. (Yay, me!)
3. I had a panic about NOT RENEWING A MAGAZINE SUBSCRIPTION this week and choosing something else to subscribe to instead. It totally made me giggle that in fact, this is not a new thing at all. I love magazines so much. The real ones, not the iPad ones. I've tried to be an iPad magazine reader, but I just want a real magazine in my hand. Related: I miss Wondertime terribly.
5. Gracie told this story again, except that it wasn't a little boy but rather one of the older optionals girls at gym.
6. We're back at an elementary school with beautiful gardens.
7. We're having some major swimming victories.
That's Gracie, jumping off the diving board and swimming to the side without a life jacket. Also pictured: a little bit of what we now fondly refer to as our "hippie palm," which is a nice way to say this palm tree is 92% dead but a segment of the population prefers you to leave it that way as a rustic habitat for a wide variety of wildlife. Thank you, Sunbeam of Knowledge.
8. We have another Light Switch of Doom connected to a computer, and it is not an option to move it because it is the only way to receive electrical power in the particular room the computer is set up in.
10. We had another round of first days of school. August is filled with them (except in 2007 and 2008, when the first day of school was after Labor Day).
11. Some days are still easier than others.
12. We still hate don't love uniforms.
First day pictures coming soon : )
Today was going to be the day where I worked blogging back into my schedule, as I have sorely missed it. I just didn't expect it to be about this.
Like just about everyone else I know, I am in disbelief over the news of Robin Williams' death. When I first saw the news last night, I burst into tears—an odd reaction to the loss of someone I never knew personally, but my reaction all the same. Robin Williams has been part of my life since the late 1970s when I was a regular watcher of Mork & Mindy. He has been a part of almost every stage of my life, informing and shaping my sensibilities about humor and comedy and emotional intelligence and why it's important to say no to drugs and fashion (oh yes, I proudly wore rainbow suspenders when I was little just like he did).
I didn't love every movie he made, and maybe that's why I liked him even more—because it means you don't have to hit a homerun every single time to create a life's work that is unmatched and thoroughly original. Some of my favorites: Good Will Hunting, Dead Poets Society, Jumanji, Good Morning Vietnam, The World According to Garp, The Fisher King, Night at the Museum, Aladdin, Mrs. Doubtfire, and Robots. Things to be sure of: death, taxes, and Robin Williams' predictable unpredictability.
I still have my Electric Company magazine from 35 years ago with him on the cover:
So this is what it's like to move all the time:
Lots of people you know and love will look at you and tell you they think you're amazing for moving so much. That they don't know how you do it. That you must be super organized and totally on top of the clutter and build-up of the years both in terms of dust and school papers.
Once you've heard it a few times it makes you want to scream.
Not because you aren't appreciative of the compliment, but because it couldn't feel farther from the truth.
There is nothing amazing about being surrounded by so many boxes of stuff when you thought you worked hard to sell/donate/toss. There is nothing amazing about not knowing how to solve the puzzle of where to put your things, even if your house is bigger than the last one (and especially if it's smaller). There is nothing amazing about not being able to find X, Y, or Z for weeks on end. There is nothing amazing about imagining your friends in other towns enjoying their summers like normal people—swimming lessons, plenty of summer groceries stocked and ready to go, flowers in pots and birdfood in feeders. And there is definitely nothing amazing about setting up internet service with a new company.
Instead of running outside to play with friends, your children watch too much TV, bicker at the smallest of imagined injustices, and cling to each other while missing their own friends. They aren't feeling all that amazing either in those early days, because they know that NEW is HARD. New schools to figure out, new library culture to learn, new neighborhood boundaries to navigate, and the "new kid" badge to wear. Their new teammates are sizing them up, extra-watchful of skills and judging whether or not they'll be a threat. It's tiring, all this newness, when all you want is familiar. Even if familiar was new just one year before.
Meanwhile... it's easy to fall into the trap to believe that you're the only one struggling. Your amazing military friends who are moving too? They actually do have it together, you think. Their dust and school papers are managed. They're navigating their new Targets and commissaries without standing in the aisles ready to burst into crazy lady tears because the cereal is in the wrong place. Their boxes are unpacked and recycled by the seventh day and most likely have friends their kids actually know lined up to be emergency contacts. They're showing up and smiling and have already invited the neighborhood kids over for ice cream and lemonade, because they have a full house of groceries. That, by the way, they didn't pay for with the credit card because they aren't sure for another month exactly what the cash flow is going to look like.
It's exhausting to be friends with all these perfect people.
And then: the stories start to spill out. Like the one friend who ended up driving a billion miles in the wrong direction in crazy San Francisco Bay traffic because she accidentally got on the wrong road when all she wanted was to go to Costco. And another friend who lost her cat on moving day only to discover it stowed away in the moving truck for five whole deathly hot days (but survived to see another). Or the friend whose one chance to pull cold weather gear out of long-term storage after a stint in Japan resulted in a mis-labeled box of outgrown children's books that will not keep her children warm for the upcoming year in a new place (where the bulk of the stored stuff stays in storage). Or the new friend whose overseas shipment just never showed up, lost in a port somewhere. Slowly, it begins to occur to you that the stress of moving has caused you to have an active imagination about how your military friends are experiencing their own moves.
And suddenly, you realize that you all really are pretty amazing, because you've all managed to survive these tales you're telling each other. You remember that new is often exciting, and brave adventures can bring a family closer together. Eventually you'll have flowers in pots and birdfood in feeders too, and you'll eat outside on a perfect summer evening and wonder what all the fuss was about a few weeks ago. You'll get the last of the boxes to the recycle center eventually, and use your amazing powers to erase all memory of their existence.
Until next year, when you get to do it all again.
We're about to move for the tenth time this weekend, and while we are NO EXPERTS, we have learned some things along the way. That doesn't mean it's any easier, but at least I know what we're up against these days. Sometimes.
So far Maddie has lived in five states in her lifetime; Gracie claims five as well, while Bridget comes in at four states in seven years. Don't let this sweet photo fool you: this was the move in which Gracie acted like her Muppet equivalent (Animal) for hundreds of miles from Colorado to California while the rest of us were reeling from food poisoning.
1. The unexpected will happen, and there's nothing you can do about it.
Everyone wants to believe that a move can take place without incident if only you follow every single one of Martha Stewart's or Buzzfeed's or U-Haul's tips/checklists for moving, but I am here to tell you: there is no perfect move without incident. The unexpected will happen, and there's nothing you can do about it. It might be food poisoning in the middle of the desert, or the worst ground hornet sting imaginable while escaping from a realtor showing, or 35 library books specifically marked DO NOT PACK that get packed and hauled across the country, or a couch that won't fit through a doorway and must be sold for a fraction of what you paid for it to the moving truck driver, or a shower door that explodes into 23,000 shards of glass when you're getting ready to move out, or wildly painful emergency dental procedures the same day the packers arrive... it will happen. The only thing you can do is laugh. Because if you don't laugh, you will cry. And there's a pretty good chance you will do both, so the sooner you accept that some crazy stuff is about to befall you, the better.
Related: it is OK if you show up on someone's doorstep and burst into tears because something pushed you over the edge. If they're worth their salt they'll give you a hug, or invite you in and call for pizza, or show up at 10 pm at night with a vacuum cleaner and a good attitude.
2. Make a Moving List of Doom and keep it in a centralized location.
And regularly add things to it that you've already completed. It's the only way.
3. Put like things with like things.
The more of this you can do the better—from Legos to paper clips to books to tools... you name it. I didn't really do much of any of this when we moved from California to Virginia in 2007, and I ended up paying for it the next year and a half or so. Biggest fail: our closing papers from selling the house in Colorado Springs did not get put back with other financial papers in California and did not turn up again until they were found in Wyoming stuck in a box with Matt's clarinet music. This cost us some money the year they went missing at tax time. SERIOUSLY.
Sometimes your driver will be great and sometimes your driver will take your household goods to a sketch countrywestern music festival in Arizona for a few days before hitting the road. Just try to go with the flow. Things usually show up in one or two pieces no matter what.
4. Say yes to help.
What is it about people? We honestly love to help our friends when they need it—I am often despondent when I'm hundreds of miles away and cannot provide the help I know a friend might desperately need—but when it comes to accepting help... that's a lot harder for some reason. When you're moving, though, SAY YES. A friend offers to help you finish cleaning your basement? HERE'S A BROOM. A friend offers to take your wild monkeys for the afternoon? YES AND YESSER. Do not turn down these kind offers of help, because fairy godmothers (and fairy godfathers) don't just exist in books. And turning down help is a surefire way to crack your sanity right in half. I mean, it's probably going to happen anyway, so you might as well have a friend nearby to hold your hand. You will no doubt replay the favor when it's their turn to move.
5. Be strategic.
Moving is basically a game of strategy, with the goal being to not fall over from stress at any point along the way. If this means a strategic plan to throw away a few of one's belongings after they've ceased to be useful in a cross-country move involving airline travel (yes, that was me throwing away pillows in the Oakland airport in 2007) then that's what you do. If it means you have to cook with absolute whack-job ingredients for a few weeks so you end up with zero food to give away, so be it. If it means taping off your no-pack area with crime scene tape to prevent the packers from packing it all up anyway, go buy some. (I haven't done this yet, but after I had to dig through a ton of boxes last night for all the things that were in the no-pack corner, I might try it next time).
6. Invest in all sizes of Ziploc bags.
Ziploc bags are the Duct Tape of the moving world. There are regular old snack, sandwich, and gallon storage bags, but Hefty also makes great 2.5 gallon bags (perfect for putting all the contents of one's nightstand or junk drawer in for ease of dumping it again once settled)(because let's be honest, no house is home without a junk drawer) and Ziploc has Large, Extra-Large, and Extra-Extra Large bags that are perfect for everything from light bulbs to school papers to bedding. Home Depot and Lowe's often carry the full range of sizes vs. Target, which only has one or two.
I have never looked lovingly at my possessions when they're stuffed inside one of these Ziploc bags, but I still think they are a good idea. Not a good idea: putting ice skate blades on the bottom of a plastic Ziploc bag.
7. Have a project!
You might think that you can't handle one more thing during a move, but I disagree: it might be the only thing that sees you through. My moving projects are generally of the photography variety, for obvious reasons; I'm currently participating in the color/colour challenge on Instagram organized by fellow Phone Photography Project instructor Andrea Jenkins and her friend Xanthe Berkeley, and it is providing all of us a much-needed distraction from moving details. It doesn't have to be a big project (like, I don't really recommend the having-a-baby + finishing up writing a book project as your "moving project") but it really can help you survive a move when you have some creative thing to cling to.
8. Do what it takes to protect your sanity.
Buy a few new items of clothing at Target. Grab a few fiction books you know good and well you don't have time to read. Allow yourself two grocery store frappuccinos in a row. Whatever it takes to protect your sanity (within the limits of the law)(yes, moving makes it important to emphasize this point) is worth it.
An unedited photo that Maddie took today of the storm that blew through at lunchtime; I thought it was a nice metaphor for what moving does to one's soul if you don't work hard to find the sunshine and protect your sanity.
9. It's only money.
Moving is expensive, and no one wants to waste money during an already expensive process. It's not really wasting money, though, if spending some makes your challenges a little less daunting. For example: sometimes we suck it up and do the final cleaning ourselves to save money, and sometimes we happily hand over the cash for a hired cleaning service to do it. When we moved from California, I hired a woman to do the big stuff. She brought a friend. She charged $75 less than what I had paid to get a "guaranteed pass" cleaning on our way out of base housing in Montana seven years prior, when cleaning a house while finishing up the teaching school year would have assuredly put me in the loony bin. I gave the California lady and her friend a $75 tip and probably would have given her more had I been able to find my checkbook or had more cash on hand. Because it was worth it. There is a great deal of cost-benefit analysis involved in moving, I think.
Also worth it: treating your packers/movers to lunch every single day they're in your home. And stocking water in the fridge. So what if you spend close to $200 on lunches in 3-4 days? Budget for it and get them what they want. Packing 19 million book boxes is no treat, and it's the least you can do.
Oh, this is the most important one. It can be read at least 10,000 ways for us. At the end of the day, the struggles and frustrations of moving boxes and people touching your stuff and water-damaged bookcases and more really does fade away, because if you didn't have to move somewhere in the first place, you would never have had the experiences or made the lifelong friends that new geography hands you. I couldn't even begin to choose a photo for it, because really? All the photos are because of it.
Random.org chose lucky number 21 to win a free spot in The Phone Photography Project 2:
Which happens to be Aliza! Congratulations!
Registration will be open for this class until July 24, so I hope you'll consider signing up—you won't be disappointed! : )
We are in that stage, where the list becomes longer and crazier the closer we get to pack day. I was accused of having a bad attitude by naming the list The Moving List of Doom (which, for the record, is what it's ALWAYS called) so I fixed it. And then Matt got stung by a trackerjacker while escaping the house for a realtor showing and I think we've pretty much dropped the Irrepressible Fun part, the end.
Don't forget to enter the giveaway for The Phone Photography Project 2 on the last post! Comments close on Sunday. Odds are always good here : )
Giveaway is now closed! Thank you for playing along!
The Phone Photography Project 2 kicks off in exactly one month! I decided I better get my giveaway done now, because in the next month we will pack up the house, move to a new state, unload the truck to a house we have not yet stepped foot in (ever), unpack as much as possible in a week, register the girls at their new schools, settle on a new gym, and then visit Disney World for the first time ever.
OH MY GOSH. Seeing it all written out like that...
Let's focus on the giveaway for now. Here's some info about the class:
Would you like to take better photos with the camera you always have with you—your smartphone?
Get ready to transform your mobile photography in a brand-new interactive workshop, The Phone Photography Project 2, starting July 17. Twenty expert iPhoneographers have collected their best tips, tricks, and tutorials for phone photography, and they're ready to share it all with you inside a private online classroom—with lots of fun happening on Instagram, too.
With practical tips for mastering lighting, composition, editing, and more, this workshop will give you the tools you need to create impressive photos you'll be proud to share online, in your home, or in your scrapbooks.
I am so excited for this class. I think I'm starting to sound like a broken record on this point, but it is just full of amazing, inspiring, and useful content. If you take pictures with a phone (or iPad), this is for you, whether you're new to phone photography or have been at it for a while. It will be well worth every penny! If you've already registered and your name is selected, you'll get your money refunded. If you have been sitting on the fence, please consider signing up! Either way, to
be in the running just leave me a comment to say hi, or tell me something fun you're doing this summer, or share your must-see list of attractions in Alabama. Whatever. : )
As usual with giveaways here, comments will remain open until... they're closed. I'll aim for sometime on Sunday. One person will be selected at random, so hurry, hurry, comment away!