Change, Friends, Home

10 Lessons about moving

I keep a five-year journal , a charming little gem that allows me to write five-line entries for five years.

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Every day, it tells me exactly what I was doing the previous year on the same day.

My daily entries from last year at this time included :

  • Last visit to our home in Virginia. That house is packed with memories. Not sure I can handle any more tears or goodbyes.
  • Signed our closing papers and hit the road for Utah. I can’t believe it.
  • Staying in Missouri.
  • Just outside Denver.
  • Arrived in Utah at our new home. Stood on the deck and marveled at the beauty.
  • Roughing it with a folding table, two lawn chairs and an air mattress until the moving van arrives.

As I read these entries, I thought about everything that has happened and changed in our lives in the last year.

Here are 10 lessons I’ve learned:

  • While moving is a major life decision and a big risk, it turned out to be easier than I expected.
  • At a going away party last year, a wise millennial friend said, “Don’t compare Utah to Virginia/D.C. Just take Utah for what it is.” Best advice ever.  It’s not better or worse. It’s just different. (Thank you Jason McDonald.)
  • There is beauty everywhere. While I love the green, lush world of the East Coast,  I love the spectacular mountains and scenery of Utah.

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  • Being near family is better than I imagined.
  • My Virginia friends are still my friends. I’m grateful for phone calls, texting, social media, and lots of visitors. fullsizeoutput_942

 

  • While I miss the vibrancy and closeness of the Mormon church community in the DC area, I’ve learned there are unique cultural challenges and tests of faith in different places. Again, one place is not better or worse. It is just different.
  • Going to the Outer Banks is still worth it. Even if we have to fly, rent a car, and go less often, it’s definitely still worth it.
  • Making new friends doesn’t mean I’m forgetting my old ones. I can cherish old friends and still make new ones. In fact, it’s essential. We all need friends — near and far.
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Reuniting with old high school friends — “You always go back to the people who were there in the beginning…”
  • Another wise friend who has moved many times in her life told me to give it a year to adjust. She said it takes a year to find doctors, hair stylists, dentists, favorite grocery stores, etc. and to feel comfortable in a new house, new neighborhood, new community. She said not to judge whether I like it until a year passed. She’s right. It requires some patience to rebuild your life in a new place.
  •  Finally, I’ve learned that being happy is a choice. So, I’ve decided over and over to be happy, and guess what? I am.

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Change, Memoir, Personal

Unpack Your Bags

In one of our women’s meetings at church, our teacher brought in a suitcase and rolled it around the room.

She asked, “How many of you have unpacked your bags?”

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She confessed that she has lived here for years and never mentally or emotionally unpacked her bags.

She said when we don’t unpack our bags, we live with one foot out the door. 

I wasn’t the only woman in the room thinking,”This lesson is for me.”

I heard women whispering, “This is for me.” And saw others nodding their heads as if it applied to them too.

Maybe carrying around our metaphorical packed bags gives us an escape clause or an excuse to hold back, and make fewer commitments.

The question then is what are we missing if we trek through life with a packed bag –always feeling like our circumstances are temporary?

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When we think we’re on our way out of a community, a job, a relationship, or any other situation or commitment, we automatically hold back and contribute less, which of course means, we get less.

Our teacher advised, “Whether you are going to be here for one week, one year, or the rest of your life–unpack your bags.”

I thought about that while walking one morning because sometimes I miss the familiar sights, sounds, and faces of my old life.

I wondered if after eight months whether I’ve unpacked my bags completely.

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When I see a friend volunteering at the White House Easter Egg roll or other friends going to Washington Nationals games; or groups of friends celebrating a birthday in one of my favorite restaurants without me, I get a little nostalgic — not desperately homesick like I made a drastic mistake in moving, just a little wistful.

While thinking about this on my walk, my thoughts were interrupted by the quacking of a beautiful duck floating in a pond, and then a chirp of a fascinating, unfamiliar bird.

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I stopped to look around and was awed by my new scenery.

I thought about the new sounds, places and faces I’m now appreciating, and I realized that unpacking is probably a process, not a one-time event.

Maybe we all need to continually work at unpacking because we don’t want to miss anything on our journeys, wherever those journeys take us.

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Brené Brown said in her book Rising Strong “Vulnerability is not winning or losing; it’s having the courage to show up and be seen when we have no control over the outcome. Vulnerability is not weakness; it’s our greatest measure of courage.”

Sometimes it takes courage to show up, and it seems easier to live life with your bags packed, with one foot out the door just in case…

But, what do we gain when we choose that kind of timid, fearful, cautionary life?

I want to be like my friend, Laura, who has moved frequently, and after every move, has said, “That was my favorite place!”

Every place becomes her favorite because she fully unpacks her bags wherever she goes and she decides every new place and new experience will be her favorite.

I read about a military family that learned that the difference between misery and happiness is unpacking your bag and settling down—whether for days, months, or years.

They learned that if they believed they could be in a place for many years, they were happier. They invested more of themselves and in turn, had deeper relationships and better experiences all around.

This lesson applies not just to physically moving, but to all the areas of our lives where we hold back and carry around that symbolic tightly packed bag.

I love this bit of Buddah wisdom: “Be where you are…otherwise you will miss your life.”

Change, Friends, Uncategorized

Old Friends New Friends

One of our friends recently visited from Virginia and said, “I have to admit we’re feeling a little abandoned. It’s like you’re so happy here that you’ve forgotten all of us at home in Virginia.”

Oh, no.

That, my friends, is not true.

Never, ever will we forget you, and never will you be replaced.

While life in Utah is good so far, I’ve definitely been homesick for old friends.

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We’ve been happy to have so many visitors

(If you’ve been a follower of my blog, you’ve read several other posts on how I value my friends. Here, here and here.)

We are making room for new friends because we’re social people, and we love friends.

But new friends and old friends are not the same.

Small talk is the soup du jour when making new friends because we haven’t had time to share experiences and create memories with each other.

So, for now, we are talking a lot about where are are from,  what we do, how many kids we have, etc.

Don’t get me wrong. This is all good.

We are in the land of the friendliest, nicest, most welcoming people in the world.

Utahns are nothing if not nice and friendly.

But being friendly is different that being friends.

Having people be nice to me is different than having friends who know me — friends who know my family, my history, my sense of humor, my interests, and well, my everything.

So, trust me when I say, we miss you. We really miss you.

But, we love being near our families and Utah friends — new and old. That is the real bonus.

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These two daughters..
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this crazy sister…

Last week, I told Doug I felt like it was time to go home to Virginia.

It still feels a little bit like we’re on vacation and it’s almost time to leave.

Being residents here is very different that being visitors.

We are residents now.

We are not on vacation like every other time for the last 30-plus years.

We have Utah driver’s licenses. We’re registered to vote in Utah.

Doug even has Utah license plates on his car. (I’m holding on to my Virginia plates for a little longer.)

We are Utahns.

I never thought I’d be saying that.

Doug had an epiphany the other day and said, “It just hit me — I’m a Utah Mormon!”

Yes, we are both Utah Mormons. And that’s okay.

We used to wonder why people would leave Virginia to live in Utah.

We couldn’t fathom it.

Now we are the people others can’t fathom.

What can we say? Things change. (See this blog on change.)

And, we might be eating a little crow…a little humble pie because after only a month here, we are impressed with Utah.

We’re astounded by the beauty all around us and we’ve met some wonderful people.

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We definitely miss our friends and the familiarity of a place that was home for so many years.

But, change is good — challenging, and a little uncomfortable at times — but good.

Like Mrs. Hughes said in Downton Abbey, “There’s no shame in feeling homesick. It means you came from a good home.”

And there’s no shame in missing old friends. It means they’re good ones.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Change, Home, Uncategorized

Welcome Home

Several years ago, I interviewed Jeanne Marie Laskas, a columnist for The Washington Post Magazine, who wrote the weekly column Significant Others.

I asked her how she came up with a column topic every week for over 14 years.

She said her ideas came from thinking about what moved or touched her that week.

I often ask myself the same question when trying to come up with a blog topic.

What has caused an emotional reaction in me?

The answer to that question came instantly this morning  — the stunning beauty all around me.

I confess I wondered if we’d made the right decision while driving through the desolate landscape near the Colorado/Utah border.

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It felt like we were driving through a Western movie set and I worried we’d get caught up in a train robbery — even though there wasn’t a train in sight.

I scanned the barren landscape looking for Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid or Matt Dillon, Miss Kitty, Doc and Festus from Gunsmoke.

What have we done? I wondered.

All that changed a few hours later when we met our daughter Sara and our friend Peggy at the front door of our new house.

The beauty around us is astounding.

 

img_6631I’ve never yearned to live in the mountains. In fact, I’ve always felt more comfortable in a busy city.

When I moved to Washington, D.C., my dad couldn’t understand why I wanted to stay.

“When are you moving home to Utah?” He always asked.

The more years that went by, the more Washington, D.C. and Northern Virginia felt like home.

Utah wasn’t home to me. It was where our families lived — a place we visited.

But, after 37 years, something changed.

Now, surprisingly, Utah is where we live. 

img_6629We’re not planning to pack our bags at the end of this vacation and go back home to Virginia.

Utah is our new home.

 

 

And, we’re learning there’s a lot to love about living here.

At the top of the list are our “significant others.” We’re surrounded by people we love.

So, what caused an emotional reaction in me this week?

Living near our daughters and son-in-law, my mom, our brothers and sisters, nieces and nephews, and … all this beauty.

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Change, Uncategorized

The Best Things in Life Aren’t Things

Until a few weeks ago, a sign hung above our kitchen sink that said, “The best things in life aren’t things.”

Never has that felt more true.

At night, instead of sleeping lately, I worried about our cross-country move and  all our things — what to toss, keep, or give away.

It’s an endless process.

Just when I thought we’d tossed, packed or given away everything possible, we’d open a drawer or a closet, and find more things.

Packing or saying goodbye to our things was the easy part.

Saying goodbye to our friends, neighbors, house, and favorite places was a little tougher, definitely more bittersweet.

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A beautiful meadow on our walking trail

A couple weeks ago, Sara and Annie came home for their last weekend in Virginia.

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Sara and Annie showing off our “brick” at the high school football stadium

We decided to make the best of our last Virginia/DC weekend together.

We created a detailed schedule that included meals at favorite restaurants, walks on favorite trails, outdoor markets, and DC landmarks. We even made a playlist of songs that reminded us of our many experiences over the years.

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We lived like tourists and enjoyed the DC Duck tour

We included time in our schedule for reminiscing.

Our friend, Cindy, recommended we walk through our house — room by room– and record our memories.

We not only walked through our house, we went to some of the other places where we’ve collected a lot of our memories.

We learned that none of them included things.  They centered on people and great experiences.

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Eastern Market on Capitol Hill

 

Some of our memories were:

  • Dressy tea parties in the living room with visiting grandparents
  • Prom photos on the staircase
  • Game nights and family dinners around the kitchen table
  • Christmas mornings in the family room
  • Getting our dog, Nikki, as a Christmas gift
  • Christmas Eve pageants and parties with friends
  • Annie running out to the playground in the backyard after elementary school, and singing at the top of her lungs as she pumped her little legs in the swing
  • Sara and her friends having their own versions of American Idol in the basement
  • Neighborhood Halloween parades and Trick or Treating
  • Being snowed in and having an impromptu potluck party with our neighbors
  • Training and loving our dog, Nikki
  • Friends, friends, and more friends
  • Learning about 9/11 and lining our neighborhood streets with American flags
  • Swim meets, soccer, lacrosse , basketball, softball, and field hockey games
  • Cheerleading competitions
  • Homecoming parades
  • Standing in our driveway praying for our neighbors when their house was on fire
  • Doug’s perfectly mowed lawns
  • And more…

 

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One of our favorite places

 

With all of these memories, the nostalgia was palpable and the memories poignant and sweet.

It was hard for the girls to say goodbye to the house and to their lives in that house.

Doug and I felt some of that sadness as we drove away today.

But, we kept telling ourselves it wasn’t the home that we loved as much as the lives we lived in that home and the memories we made.

As we create a new home, we need to remember, it’s not about the things in the house, it’s about the experiences we create and enjoy in the house.

While our things end up keeping us awake at night with questions about what to toss, what to keep, and what to give away, our friends and experiences give us wonderful memories to savor for a lifetime.

Thankfully, we have an endless supply of those good memories from our lives in Virginia.

Thank you to everyone who contributed to a truly beautiful life in such a wonderful place.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Change, Personal, Uncategorized

Let New Adventures Begin

A “For Sale” sign is sitting on our front lawn.

IMG_6238Surreal.

I’ve lived in the Washington, D.C. area since I was a senior in college.

That was a long time ago.

I came here — like many others — for an internship on Capitol Hill.

And, I was smitten.

What better place to live for someone with a love of journalism, politics, and people?

When I got off the plane at National Airport, I watched for a woman named Claire holding a sign that said “Garn.”

Garn–  U.S. Senator Jake Garn from Utah — my new boss.

I had no idea then, at age 22, how that one summer on Capitol Hill would change the course of my life.

Coming from the dry climate of Utah, I felt like I’d entered a steamy sauna when I stepped out of the airport into the humid subtropical climate of Washington, D.C.

That was just the beginning of the changes I would experience.

Claire drove me to the U.S. Capitol, where, believe it or not, we drove right up to the front steps.

No security barriers needed then.

I got out and tipped my head back to take in the grandeur of that magnificent, historic building.

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“This is where you’ll be working. This is where it all happens,” she said.

Pinch me now, I thought.

I couldn’t believe my good fortune.

What did I ever do to deserve such a privilege?

All I knew is that I would work hard every minute of every day to be worthy of it.

From that moment on, I’ve never wanted to live anywhere else.

So, how did this “For Sale” sign end up on my lawn?

I wish I had a clear and concise answer to that question.

All I know is that one minute I was telling Doug I’d never leave here, and the next we were talking to a realtor, preparing to leave.

We thought we would live and die here, and be buried in the quaint little cemetery up the street.

Until one day, that vision of our future changed.

It was like we were used to looking into a kaleidoscope at something clear and beautiful and compelling.

Because we liked what we saw, we never bothered to twist the cylinder and see the many other beautiful patterns that could be created.

Then, one day, for reasons we still don’t understand, we decided to twist the cylinder ever so slightly.

What we discovered was that all the bits of glass gently realigned, presenting a whole new pattern, and a reflection of light we’d never imagined.

Since we missed the old pattern, we kept twisting the cylinder, trying to get back to the one we knew so well — the one that felt most comfortable to us.

But it wasn’t there anymore. The beads, pebbles, and bits of glass were all different.

So we decided to examine the new reflection a little more carefully.

And, that’s how we ended up with a “For Sale” sign in our yard.

So, call us crazy, but if our house sells, we’re packing up our pioneer carts and trekking back across the plains to live in the high desert of Utah.

Oh, there have been tears — lots of them — and there will be many more, I’m sure.

How can you leave a place you love so dearly and not be sad?

Like Winnie the Pooh said, “How lucky am I to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard?”

We’ve debated this move endlessly for months because it’s not just leaving a place that is our home, it’s leaving friends that are our family.

I’ve always loved the comforting counsel of  Gordon B. Hinckley. His words have led me through many transitions in life.

So, I’m trusting his words again: “Those who move forward with a HAPPY SPIRIT will find that things will always work out.”

I’m counting on that.

Maybe it will be like our friend Brian said — “Oh, everything will work out. You’ll love it. You’ll enjoy being with your family, and having a new adventure. Then, you’ll get it out of your system, and come back.”

Touché

But for now, there is a “For Sale” sign in our yard, and our lives could be turned upside down any minute.

Or, like one friend said, “Maybe your lives will be turned right side up.”

Yeah, let’s go with that for now…

Whatever happens, it will be an adventure.

So, we will work on our happy spirits, and look forward to new adventures.

In the meantime, anybody interested in a great house?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Change, Family, Religion

Rising After a Fall

 

Today as I left my house to go for a walk in the woods, I noticed the tiny buds on our magnolia tree and a few blossoms.

 

Spring is trying to happen, I thought, as I walked down the driveway, bundled in my fleece jacket and gloves.

 

As I walked along the trail, I saw a robin perched on a limb, its bright color a beautiful contrast to the brown, leafless trees.

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Sure sign of Spring – Robin – Bird (Photo credit: blmiers2)

Spring will come, I thought. After every long, cold winter, spring always comes.

 

It just always seems to take a little longer than we think it should.

 

Like life, so like life.

 

Change, improvement, second chances, sun on our path, light emerging out of darkness — it all comes.

 

It just takes more time than we want.

 

Like my unemployed friend whose full-time job is finding a job.

 

The wait is killing him.

 

“I keep being told to be patient. But, patience doesn’t pay the bills,” he says.

 

True. Waiting can be the hardest part.

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Easter Eggs (Photo credit: .imelda)

On the eve of Easter, I think of those who watched the Savior die on a cross.

 

I can’t fathom the grief, sorrow, and pain they felt watching Him be crucified.

 

That unbearable Friday when He died; that Saturday in the tomb.

 

Those days had to be excruciating for those who loved and worshipped Him.

 

But, then, miraculously, on Sunday, he rose.

 

Like the long-awaited spring, He appeared, giving the world the priceless gift of hope.

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Garden with some tulips and narcissus (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As I walked along the trail, I thought of all the people I know who have made miraculous comebacks.

 

My brother, so addicted to drugs, we lost hope in him. Drugs enslaved him, and stole the man we knew and loved.

 

We couldn’t see a road back.

 

But, day by difficult and long day, he overcame addictions.

 

He rose after a long, steady fall. And continues to rise every day to fight his battle and reclaim his life.

 

My other brother, diagnosed with vascular disease, and then bitten by a brown recluse spider, lost his leg.

 

An avid boater, fisherman, hunter, brick mason, and handyman, he was suddenly housebound in a wheelchair, unable to walk.

 

He lost his way; thinking his so-called life as an amputee  was no life at all.

 

He felt aimless and without purpose.

 

Until he discovered he was still a dad, a husband, a brother, a son, an uncle, a friend, and that even without a leg, he could love them all fiercely and deeply.

 

He could help the sister through cancer, the brother through addictions, the daughters trying to create their own independent lives, the nephew trying to raise four small children.

 

While his life is not the one he planned or ever envisioned — and neither is his amazing wife’s — they too rise every morning, greet the day with gratitude, and fully live the lives they’ve been given.

 

I nearly cried as I walked this morning, thinking of one beautiful example after another of the people I love who rise after a fall.

 

That is the real meaning of Easter, isn’t it?

 

Just when you think spring will never come, you see a Robin on the grass to remind you that winter is on its way out.

 

Just when you think the phone will never ring with a job offer, it does.

 

Just when you think you or someone else can never recover, you do.

 

Change happens, people make comebacks, life gets better.

Easter is a good reminder of that truth.