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Life is good

20170507_103358

Life is good, folks.

Still counting down to 50.

42. I was downstairs talking to a now-former neighbor about a month ago, telling her about my pending move to a condo a little up the street. I’d been in the apartment above hers for seven years, and she and her extended family had just moved in within the last year.

My excitement about the new place was evident, and I’d invited her to stop in some time and sit out on my deck. Then she said something that caught me completely off-guard.

“Molly, I’m so envious of you. You really have it all together.”

Tears welled in my eyes almost instantly. I was touched by her honesty, but also by the fact that since my divorce 15 years prior, I’d hardly lived the life anyone would envy.

“It’s been a long time coming, that’s for sure,” I told her. “It hasn’t been easy.”

We talked a little more, then I retreated to my apartment and continued packing.

50 for molly3I’ve thought a lot about that conversation since. This woman isn’t much older than me, but lives with her 30-year-old son, his girlfriend and their two small children. The younger woman is expecting a third child in the fall. In the six or so months I’ve known them, the three adults have been in various stages of employment, sharing one car. I’ve given rides and been asked for small “loans” I know will never be repaid. They struggle, but they’re decent people (aside from the constant pot smoking by the son – which is only annoying because the smell is rank and filtered into my apartment).

I think that conversation best illustrates why I’m so looking forward to 50.

Life is good.

I’ve always tried to be positive and enjoy the life I have – no matter what the situation was at the time. But in the 15 years since my divorce, it’s been tough. I’ve filed for bankruptcy twice – the first time because my soon-to-be-ex-husband was going to file and my attorney said it would be in my best interest, the second because a new bank had taken over my mortgage and was threatening an impossible refinance and I had to walk away.

For the first 10 years post-divorce, the kids and I lived on what I made, day-to-day. No credit cards to help in a pinch, if we didn’t have the money we didn’t get whatever was wanted. It meant the kids were on reduced-price lunches for a couple years in elementary school. It meant our gas was shut off one summer because I fell behind in the payments – then earned a real estate commission check big enough to catch up, just in time for fall. It meant being upside-down in cars I didn’t like because my credit score was horrible and I allowed myself to be bullied by a salesperson who convinced me “this is the only car you qualify for.”

It meant we didn’t do vacations, seldom went out to eat or to the movies. New clothes were a luxury saved mostly for back-to-school, holidays and special occasions.

But it was still good. I said – often – that I loved my 40s, it was the best decade ever. And, really, it was. I had great people in my life, and things always seemed to work out – mostly because of the great people I had in my life. We were never homeless, there was always food to eat, my relationship with my kids has always been strong.

For the last three or four years, though, things have slowly started turning around. Life was still good, but life was getting good, too. My credit score was improving and I was able to get a credit card. My daughter and I went on a Colorado vacation with my then-boyfriend and some of his family. I could go out with friends more.

In the last year, things have really turned around. I was able to get rid of the car I didn’t like and get the car I really wanted. I went on vacation to Phoenix to visit a cousin/friend. I’ve realized what I really want in a relationship and have stopped accepting less – which led to my telling a man who’s been in and out of my life for several years how I really felt about him (it didn’t end like it does in the movies – sigh).

And now the move. I have my first “me” place, a grown-up apartment/condo with all of the amenities I’d want.

This is why I’m looking forward to my 50s. I’m a more grounded “me” than I’ve ever been, and I’m excited to see where it goes.

Life is good.

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Stairs, schmairs

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Part of a sporadic countdown to 50.

58. (OK, I don’t know why, exactly, but seeing that there are just 58 days left of my 40s just made my heart skip a beat. Fortunately, it was just one beat – or there might be a lot fewer days of my 40s.)

I’m moving.

I made a list of a lot of things I wanted to do this year, my “year of 50.” Take a vacation. Check. Spend more time with friends. Check (so far). Lose some weight. Check (so far). Do things I’ve always found excuses not to do in the past. In progress.

But moving? Moving wasn’t on my list.

50 for molly3It certainly could have been. The longest I’ve ever lived in any one residence is eight years, and that was the house I bought right after my divorce. Almost eight years to the day we moved in, the kids and I moved out and into what is my apartment now. On June 1, I’d have been there seven years – making it the second-longest address I’ve had in my lifetime.

So, really, moving could have been a possibility. It just wasn’t at the time of my list.

Sure, I’ve often looked to see what was available in the area. My current building isn’t secure, my mailbox is out in the open and I worry about freelance and royalties checks “disappearing.” There’s no garage, no deck, and I’m convinced one of my neighbors is dealing drugs.

But I have always decided to stay. It’s a nice enough apartment, and really, for the price and the location – you can’t get an apartment that big anywhere close.

But the first week of April I announced I was going to get serious about finding a new place, and less than two weeks later I had a place and had given notice to my landlord. The new apartment is in a secured building, with a locked mailbox, and there’s a garage, deck and fireplace. I’m excited.

Then yesterday it hit me: It’s on the third floor.

I knew it was on the third floor – I mean, I had to climb the stairs to see it, right? But it didn’t really hit me that it’s on the third floor.

 

Why does this matter? Because I’m almost 50. My knees and my ankles and my legs are Almost Fifty. Who gets older and thinks, “Wow, I should move somewhere that makes me climb even more stairs that I do right now.”

Who does it? Well, me, apparently. I do. Apparently the thought of lugging groceries up to the third floor didn’t cross my mind, or carrying the 20-pound bag of dog food – or being dragged by the leashed 45-pound Lab, for that matter.

I just did as I do – I fell in love with the apartment, the deck, the view, the garage, the fireplace … and signed on the dotted line.

I guess that’s one way to get my 10,000 steps in every day.

 

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The nest is thinning

It’s moving day.

I’m not the one moving, but I am, of course, the one packing. In just a few short hours Man/Boy – er, Justin – will be moving into his first apartment. We’ve worked on a budget, done a little pre-moving shopping (“Yes, I do think it’s a good idea to get a can opener … and hangers … and a garbage can.”) and have all the utilities switched over to either his name or his roommate’s.

Yet here we are, day of the Big Move, and there are still piles of dirty clothes, empty boxes and a countertop filled with things to be packed.

I interrupted a game of something-or-other on Xbox last night to ask Justin if it was time to pack.

“Eh,” he says.

“Should we get all of your clothes and towels and dishes and start putting them in these boxes, or are you going to just take things to the apartment by the armload?”

“That last one, that’s how I’m going to move.”

Of course it is.

Fortunately he’s not moving far. And by “not moving far” I mean he’s moving into the next apartment building. We could look out our respective living room windows and wave – or stick our heads out and have a conversation. Yeah. That close.

This morning, as he’s at a training conference for work, I’m packing. And doing laundry. And washing the new silverware and cooking utensils.

Given this somewhat disorganized method of moving, I can’t help but wonder – because I am a Mom, after all – how he’s going to do. Yes, he’ll be close, but that’s just geography and circumstance. It’s a decent apartment at a decent price – good enough for a first place. I have no doubts that this is just as much the “changing of an era” as it would be if he’d moved across town or even across the state. We’ll run into each other in the parking lot, he’ll occasionally come over to sit with the dogs – but for all intents and purposes, he’s moving out.

Will he know how to load the dishwasher or will he let a disgusting pile of dishes pile up? Will he remember to pay his bills on time? Will he and his roommate get along?

It’s a bittersweet day for me. I’ve been responsible for his care and well-being for more than 20 years if you count the time I was taking care of myself while he was waiting to be born. I’ve applied Band-aids, helped with homework, held his hand to cross the street and celebrated his victories.

But I’d be lying if I said there were a few things I won’t miss: the new roll of toilet paper put on top of the empty roll; the breakfast/lunch/dinner dishes sometimes rinsed out placed on the counter, even when the dishwasher is empty; the giant bags of cereal on the kitchen counter (because 2 minutes after getting it out he’s forgotten where it goes?); and the piles of dirty clothes and empty Diet Mountain Dew bottles on the living room floor.

He’ll be fine. And if he needs me, I’m just a sidewalk away.

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Make new friends, but keep all of the old? Maybe not …

From Dreamstime.com

There are always two sides to every story.

When I was 16 and my brother – my younger brother – pushed me into the couch and I hit it in just the right spot to break three ribs, what never came out when I told the story to my friends was that I had patiently waited for him to get off the couch so I could steal his seat. When he came back we argued –  because we were teenagers and that’s what we did – and when I stood up he simply pushed me back down. Crack.

When my daughter, then 3, would come crying to me because her brother pushed her or knocked her down, I didn’t know until I went to talk to my son that it was because she stood in the middle of the area where he was playing blocks or driving his Matchbox cars and then kicked all of his toys around.

Little Red Riding Hood would most certainly have a different version of what happened that day in the woods than would the Big Bad Wolf.

And when you hear, “People come into your life for a reason,” you never think that people also leave your life for a reason.

But they do.

Anyone who knows me or who has been a regular reader of this blog (or both) knows that we moved around a lot when I was growing up – and by “a lot” I mean that by the time I graduated from high school we had lived in 13 different houses in five different states. We weren’t gypsies or transients or, as one friend often accuses, in witness protection. My dad simply got bored sitting in one place too long. As a result I went to two elementary schools, two middle schools and two high schools. And while it was tough leaving friends behind, it was always good to make new ones.

I’ve carried that with me through my adult years. In college I think I lived someplace new every semester, and in the (gulp) 23 years since the longest time I’d spent in any one house was the one I bought after my divorce in 2002 – and we moved out of that one two years ago.

I’ve never really had a problem making friends – again, those who know me know I’m not shy. Growing up it was never really hard to “clean out the bad,” either, because if I waited long enough we’d move and those I didn’t want to keep in touch with just faded into the sunset. (Unfortunately many I did want to keep in touch with faded, as well, but thanks to Facebook and social media  I’ve reconnected with many of them.)

As an adult, cleaning that closet is a bit more difficult. I can’t sit back on my laurels and wait for Dad to get bored and move (which, by the way, he stopped doing once we three kids graduated). When I need to cleanse, it’s got to be a decision I make, and it’s not always an easy one. How do you tell someone, “thanks, but it’s over.” Breaking up with a friend is harder than breaking up with a boyfriend, I think, because the relationship is different. When you make a romantic break, there’s the possibility you can be friends, or maybe without the romance there’s not much reason to be around each other so it doesn’t matter. With friends, it’s different. There is no, “but we can still be friends” – that defeats the whole process.

I’ve only made that cleansing move twice in the last 25 years, both because it is so damned hard and because, well, I generally love my friends. I don’t get to spend as much time with a lot of them as I’d like, but I do still like having them. What usually drives me to that point is how that person makes me feel. I don’t need to be coddled and given warm fuzzies by any means, but if I’m constantly left with a negative self-image after talking with the friend or just feeling badly about myself because of them, I don’t need them nor do I want them around. In many cases, these are the friends who use a revolving door – they come into your life for a while, then leave for a while, then they eventually resurface.

I do believe people come into our lives for a reason, but I have to remember that people leave our lives for a reason, too – and sometimes that reason has to be because we tell them to leave.

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