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You Can’t Tell Me What to Do

I haven’t lived in the same town as my daughter since 2012, when she went off to college. Well, there was one week in 2013 when she did come to stay with us, but then she took off for new adventures.

She’s been living in Delavan, Wisconsin, which wasn’t too bad when it came to traveling back to our Chicago suburb – I think it involved a couple of different trains, but we did get to see her. Still, she’s been working a couple of retail jobs so between the long distance and the fact that she usually has to work on holidays, we managed to go two Thanksgivings in a row without seeing her. We also had to celebrate Christmas a week early last year because she wasn’t able to be there on the actual day.

I know that’s how it goes when your kids get older and get their own lives, but we really did miss her. Once we moved to Michigan, it became even more of a challenge for her to visit. She doesn’t have a car, and she would have to get a car ride to northern Illinois, then a train to Chicago, and then a train from there to either our town (Amtrak) or to South Bend, Indiana (Metra) – over four hours of traveling. Even by car it is well over three and a half hours, I think.

A few weeks ago she had been asking me questions about apartments in our town. I told her that sure, there are lots of affordable apartments here, but you really do have to have a car to get around. I suppose if you live right near the downtown area and you have a job down there, you could walk – but we get a LOT of snow here and winters last a good four to five months.

I knew she was having trouble with her current roommates and living situation, and I didn’t hear anything more about it so I assumed she either worked things out or found a new place in Wisconsin. Then about 10 days ago, Dave called me over to his computer.

“Have you seen this?” he asked, pointing to the screen. It was a Facebook status from Paige, saying she was moving to Michigan in nine days. We were both gobsmacked. We read the comments, and someone asked what town she was moving to. She replied with the town that we live in. Someone else said, “I thought this was supposed to be a surprise for your mom?” and Paige said she had me blocked from the status. (But she didn’t – Facebook privacy changes or something – and also, a few other family members saw and asked us about it.)

At first we thought she was going to show up on our doorstep and ask to move in – we couldn’t figure out how else she could move here and be able to get around town. But then I couldn’t figure out how she would actually get here without a car. It turns out that a friend of hers used to live here, and he was moving back – he got an apartment, a car for them to use, and she is splitting the rent with him.

So then I had to go for another week or so and pretend I didn’t know, which was really hard for me. We had a little Facebook chat one day where she asked when we were decorating the Christmas tree, for instance. I thought maybe she was in town early and would show up and surprise us, so I set aside some of her favorite ornaments for her to put on the tree. (She didn’t get here that day, darn.)

Then she posted pictures of the apartment, and Dave couldn’t resist commenting on them. I told him I thought it was still supposed to be a surprise, but he figured she would have blocked us from the photos if that was the case. So then the secret was out, and I was able to be properly excited. We just weren’t sure exactly what day she would get here. We did get a chance to drive by and check out the location of her apartment, which is the lower level of a house and is actually not far from downtown. Very cute, and we were really happy for her.

Earlier this week, we were making breakfast when the phone rang. Paige was finally in Michigan! Dave gave her directions and we planned to get together that day. We weren’t even done cooking our eggs when I saw the car pull up in the driveway. I can’t even tell you how good it felt to finally give her a hug – the first one since I last saw her in July! And she actually got to put her ornaments on the tree that day.

Paige visiting us in our new home!

Paige visiting us in our new home!

I’ve always known that Paige is the type to do the exact opposite of what you tell her. If you say she can’t do something, she will stubbornly find a way to do just that. (Sometimes that’s a good thing, sometimes not, especially when she was younger.) So after I put a damper on her plans to come here, she managed to find a roommate, a place to live, transportation, and get her job transferred to a location right here in town. And now we get to see her on Christmas!

Just in case she’s reading, let me close with this: No, Paige – you cannot become President of the United States. 😉

New Starts: Plants and Houses Edition

This is our first seriously WARM day this year, warm as in ‘we left the furnace off all night and woke up to 72 degrees this morning.’ Warm as in ‘we opened the windows before 9 am and it was humid.’ I’m not sure I’m crazy about the humidity thing, but it seems to be dissipating as the afternoon wears on. (My ever-present glass of water is no longer coated with condensation, for instance.)

Dave just came in from planting the garden. The past few years he’s started seeds indoors and then transplanted them, but this year he decided to just sow the seeds outside from the start. I’m always amazed at how quickly things grow once they get outside, so it will be fun to watch the little plants poke through and then track their growing progress. In May and June, it seems like they will never get big enough to produce anything edible before cold weather sets back in … and then in late June, early July, it’s like they grow two feet overnight.

This year we got our seeds from Baker’s Creek Heirloom Seeds again. We used them last year and were really happy with them, even though some of the plants weren’t what we expected. (We had quite a crop of mystery tomatoes last year!) One of the mystery tomatoes, which turned out to be Costoluto Genovese, turned out to be so delicious that we deliberately ordered those seeds this year. We have a few types of tomatoes and peppers, butternut squash, zucchini (I begged Dave to just plant ONE this year, after my insane zucchini harvest last year), and some things that we’ve never planted before: leeks and Purple Peacock broccoli.

We are still keeping an eye out for houses in Michigan, and I’ve been kind of joking with Dave about the garden and a possible move. If we find something awesome, we could very easily pick up and go at any time … but what about our plants? I told him we’d either have to dig up everything, put them all in pots and move them, or sneak back here in the fall and reap the harvest. (I’m only half-kidding about that last one!) It feels like everyone is moving right now – my mom just sold her townhouse and is moving into an amazing two-bedroom apartment in a nearby senior living complex, and our neighbors just put their house up for sale yesterday. It’ll be interesting to see what they get for their house and how long it takes to sell.

We couldn’t sell our house when we looked into it last year, as I mentioned before – well, not for anywhere near what we needed to pay off the mortgage. We’re looking at land contracts in Michigan now, probably our only real option with a bankruptcy and pending foreclosure on our record. I doubt we could easily find a place to rent when we have four cats! So land contract it is; they are much more common in Michigan than they are here in Illinois. Dave is familiar with them but I had never heard of selling on land contract until he mentioned it. It will probably be quite a while before we actually have to leave this house, so we are just saving our money and keeping an eye on what’s available in southwest Michigan.

It’s kind of exciting, kind of nerve-wracking … we’re really in limbo, just saving money and waiting things out, which is, well, kind of boring. Luckily for me, my mom has asked me to help her decorate her new place when she moves in next month. It’s a blank slate, and HUGE, and it will be a blast helping her get things laid out … and maybe throw in some pops of color too.

One thing I can’t wait to do is get into a new place and make it my own; we know that wherever we end up will most likely be in fairly rough shape and/or be in need of updating, so I’m expecting to do a lot of renovating and redecorating (as time and money permit). When I bought this house, I really wanted something move-in ready. This next time around, it will be less ‘what I want’ and more ‘what can we afford?’ As long as it’s ours and we have a place for us and our four cats, that’s good enough for me!

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