Adult Children, the Calm After the Storm

DownloadedFileIt’s been well over a year since I blogged here, and figured I’d check in. Ryan and I bought the house we were renting, so the frugality worked wonders. We then spent the last year pouring money into it to fix all the things that made it so “cheap” to start with.  Cheap is a relative term as this is southern California. But it was what we could afford and we feel like we got a steal. The house is adorable and filled with wonderful finds from thrift and antique stores. We have a true “home” where we can settle down and live happily ever after.

Ryan is good too and it’s hard to believe it’s been almost six years since we starting “talking.”  But that’s all a status update and laundry list, to catch everyone up.

IMG_4113.JPGThe biggest thing that has changed is that Ivy has suddenly grown up. It’s odd, not talking to her everyday. I’ve gotten so I’m not overcome with sadness when she doesn’t call, and don’t dwell on it. I can go a full three days of silence before I break down and text messages like, “You’re okay right, not in a ditch?” And she will reply that she’s fine which is her cue to send me a few texts or call to fill me in on whatever is going on with her which seems to be also relatively peaceful.

It’s the end of her third year not living with me/us and it’s taken me this long to finally be okay with it. I’ve always been  proud of her for moving out, and have understood this is what happens, the natural occurrence of things. But I haven’t liked it. I spent the better part of the last almost three years being worried for her.

DownloadedFileI remember being in the hospital after she was born. She was swaddled, on the bed with me, just a day or two old. I had this horrible sad, sinking feeling that now that she was on the outside I couldn’t protect her anymore. As a mother, sure, I would cling to her as much as I could while allowing her to breathe, but once they’re out, and in this big world, it’s daunting.

thBYLIWYQF.jpgIvy’s first two years of college, I think it’s fair to say, were difficult. She had some good moments, but there was so much angst for her, and for me who was like ET and feeling all her pain. Many a time I wanted to go to school, pick her up, and make her move home, where I could coddle and take care of her. She said no. I guess my first couple of years away from home were hard, in different ways. And maybe that was hard on my mother. ET

But it appears the worst has passed, and like me, she has gotten used to the sunshine and the chipper, chill attitude of the people here. board.jpgShe doesn’t call me all the time to fix her problems. If she has them she fixes them herself, or works through them with her boyfriend.  We’ve seen more of the two of them lately and it’s odd to have two young adults over for a meal or a visit, and just catch up and say hello. I’ll call her boyfriend Trevor since no one has their real names on this blog.

I don’t think I’ve seen Ivy this animated and “herself” since she was in middle school. She seems emotionally lighter, not so bogged down by life.

th49CUKG2FI blame myself for that life heaviness, for staying with hubby #2 for too long and letting him damage our self-esteem. For dating Rebound guys, for being impulsive. I did the best I could as a mother, but I assume that if I’d provided a solid father role model, it may have avoided some of her pain. It certainly would have helped avoid some of mine.

Now that I have Ryan though, and am settled, and she has Trevor, and is settled, the world is finally calm and breezy and nice. Not crazy, manic, frenetic, like when I was in my twenties, but nice. Ivy will still have a lot to get through with finishing school, getting a job, and all the other adult milestones she will face, but she is well on her way and that makes me about as content as a fat dog in a barrel of beef jerky.

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Signing off for now-

Carly G

The Benefits of Poverty

penniesWhen I was small, we didn’t have much money. Back then, people didn’t live off credit cards. If you couldn’t afford something you saved until you could have it. We didn’t buy impulse things. We made lists for Santa, and for parents at birthday time. We got new school clothes once a year and those were put on layaway for several weeks.  When early September came and we went to K-Mart or Bradless to pick up the pick box of layaway treasures it was always one of the most exciting days of the year.

I could probably name every time we ever went out to a fancy dinner. It was rare and special. When we went grocery shopping, we had a list. We didn’t buy everything on the shelf that looked yummy; we got what we needed and made it last, usually long enough until the next payday.

thB2T5T7TNFor entertainment we played games or went out to play or watched television. I spent a lot of time with my  beagle, and my notebook in which I wrote stories. We went to the flea market and browsed. We visited family. When I was in high school I hung out at the used record shop and thrift stores and would go home with great bargains, feeling very proud of myself.

We never went on a sleep over vacation but had a few day trips to the beach, and sometimes went to the drive-in. Six dollars a car load for two movies. Not bad for a whole family.

thNDTJS0AIAnd clothes? I remember whining because I wanted a pair of Jordache jeans when I was in the middle school. Everyone had them but they were ridiculously expensive. When somehow my parents got them I felt like the richest kid in the world. One year we saw Izod alligator patches at the flea market. I was so excited. If my mom bought those and sewed them to my cheap sweaters no one would know. She sewed one on a little high. I recall going to school and not realizing until someone told me, that my alligator  was almost up on my shoulder. I fought with whomever it was that it wasn’t a fake Izod. But it was.

There were downsides to this idyllic existence. Worrying the rent wouldn’t be paid. Not having a house like all my friends. Being hungry sometimes. We didn’t starve but there wasn’t the glut of food around. We had old cars that sometimes didn’t run. For a while we didn’t have a car at all, but there was a bus and I could walk anywhere I needed to go. thM5IO34V4

The shame and longing I sometimes felt instilled in me a drive to not end up like that. I wanted to do whatever possible so my future children would have everything. So I did what a lot of people do. I got a house I couldn’t afford and took trips and bought my daughter all the name brand shoes and clothes and toys she wanted. I got myself in debt. A lot of it. I’m still working out of that. Would I do it again to save her the embarassment of being “a poor kid?” Probably, but to a lesser extent.

But there were also times in my adult life when I wasn’t living beyond my means.

IMG_0043When I got out of high school and got my own place, I went to college nights and worked two jobs. My apartment was tiny and I lived on Ramen Noodles. When I met Ivy’s dad, on Fridays we’d get a large pizza for six dollars. That was our big night out. When we bought a house later, he and Ivy-a toddler then- built a stone wall outside made from slate he picked up over time in the woods or the side of the road.  I made crafts for people to give as Christmas gifts because we didn’t have any money. I once bought a VW Bug for $100. It never passed inspection but it was a memory. All our cars were from auctions and that was okay. It was hard time but it was real. When we split up, Ivy and I were pretty broke and when they gave food away after office lunches, those often became our dinner. We ate out sometimes but it was the dollar menu or we’d split meals or drinks. I held it together for us and it was…memorable. Me and Ivy against the world , holding our little family together and taking pleasure in the small things.

When I married the second husband, it was different. We turned my cute fixer upper into a show place. He owned nice cars. We took extravagant trips all over the world. Yes the culture was good for Ivy and me but there was never that sweetness, that special connection and excitement over bargains or stretching a chicken to last a week that came before. When we split up, I became stuck in material-things mode, bought what we wanted, took trips. Hence the debt.

thXPJFSXECNow Ryan and I are living in a cute rental house that we toy with buying. This year, 2016, I decided to become insanely frugal to save a down payment. With this process I was suddenly reminded how refreshing it feels to not spend money. To work with coupons and store hop and visit thrift stores on the 4th Saturday of the month to get fifty percent off. Getting a vintage painting for $3 is exciting. Buying a week’s groceries and vowing that that is what we are eating, reminds me of those old times. I regret forgetting where I came from because it was a place where working for what you had, and appreciating it all was the norm. It was better.

I realize now that you can make pretty good money and still be frugal, still revel in the feeling of remembering what you really need and forgoing the impulse stuff. When you strip away the thousands of dollars of wasted spending, or clicking on every Amazon ad that looks appealing, when Buy-it-now become a taboo not a habit…it’s pretty cool. It’s freeing.

There seems to be a stigma in being frugal when you don’t have to be, that is similar to being poor. People question you, look down at you when you don’t want to go out to expensive dinners or on trips. When you decide to buy most of what you need at thrift stores. When you buy cheaper bulk meat in the smaller ethnic grocery stores and refuse, again and again, to buy the luxuries. Yes, there is a marked difference between needing to do this and wanting to, but it’s brought back a long-lost feeling of peace, or earning and working for everything I buy. That victory is lost when you just buy everything you want with no patience, no waiting, charging it all and losing track of what matters.

Family matters. Working hard and following dreams matters. Saving for your future and building financial security matters. Spirituality, religious or otherwise, matters. Thousands of dollars in Amazon purchases and resturarant tabs? Not so much.

11227039_960513267303604_3426904505297736836_nHere’s to a happy, frugal, and proud 2016. There’s no shame in simplicity.

Carly G.

 

 

Goodbye 2015

I haven’t written a blog in a long time. Maybe I’ve been too busy, or too content. But here it is, New Year’s Eve 2015 and too much time has passed.

I’ll start by saying that even with some ups and downs this year, it’s been the most peaceful year that I can remember. Work has been stressful but about halfway through the year I had a paradigm shift in my thinking. imagesIt’s just a job. Only a job. I’m not a surgeon or a teacher or a politician. I work for a bank. Enabling myself to realize that though my function is important to the process, it’s not life changing and not worth any emotional angst I awarded it.

th43NRWL17.jpgMy company works with a charity called Spark that brings eighth grade children to the office once a week in ten week shifts. We are matched one on one and mentor the students to take what interests them and show them how to make a career out of it. I did two shifts, one in March and another in August. The first little girl was an artist and the second a budding novelist. Both experiences were wonderful and rewarding. I will be working with the second girl this March when we will learn about screenwriting. I feel fortunate to be working with such great kids and am thankful for the charity that brought us together.

Robert and meRyan and I are fine. We are comfortable and have very little conflict. I think the combination of being older, more passive,  and compatible is key. I told Ivy recently that Ryan tolerates me better than anyone I’ve ever met. I suppose if there is a downside, it’s that we are so content with each other, watching old movies and hanging around in our cozy house, that we border on being antisocial. I don’t think that is a bad thing but we should maybe venture out more in 2016. For the first time in my life, I am placid most of the time. Things are easy and peaceful and I no longer worry about a shoe dropping. It’s just…nice.

12 weeksIvy is in her second year of college, starting her fourth semester. She’s endured her share of drama at school but that is part of the growing up process. I have worked very hard not to micromanage and fix. This has been my biggest challenge. But she met a nice boy the begnning of the year and, as with Ryan and me, I think he helps to balance her.

After months of not writing a single word of fiction, all of a sudden I am back on track. I’ve written a bunch of new stories, sold a few, wrote a novel, and a screenplay. I am back to my productive too-much-coffee, too-little-sleep self but without the inner angst.

And finally, I lost the  weight I’ve lamented about for years. I still have a bit to go but I’m getting there. Looking forward to whatever 2016 brings. Happy New Year to all!

-Carly G

 

Home at Last

sunIt’s been too long since I’ve written a blog. So much has changed since the last post and I wonder how to cram it all into one entry. I’ll do my best.

I’ll first say that I don’t recall a time when I’ve ever felt this much at peace and so content in my life. There have been moments of extreme happiness of course, but they were always peppered with angst or regret or drama. There was always the threat of doom around the corner. Sometimes it was just in my head, a knee-jerk reaction to rugs being pulled out from under me over the years. But often, there really was a gray cloud hanging above.

With Ryan, I’ve always had a sense of peace. From the first few conversations we had, I knew this relationship was different. My normal sense of self-doubt was lacking. My typical get-close-then-panic and run reflex was blessedly absent. With all that happened get-attachment.aspx_2in those three years of waiting to relocate: Ivy’s diagnosis, some painful family conflict, selling my townhouse, watching as one ex continued to spiral out of control with drugs and alcohol, while another remarried, stopped speaking to Ivy and me, and then had a baby with the new wife, the pleasant reemergence of my step father after twenty years… Amidst all of that, I never got cold feet about my decision to move to California with Ryan.

The cross-country drive with Ivy and Lily (my rebound dog) was wonderful. We had four days of rain, but we’re used to rain. Ivy and I listened to audio books, and streamed comedy shows. We laughed a lot, and sang along to iTunes, and ate out at drive-through places almost every meal. We took a quick side trip to Niagara Falls.  It was nice, this last big mother-daughter trip before I moved in with Ryan, and Ivy went off to college to grow up and change forever.

imagesHYC1CG5AThe first week we arrived in California was tough. There was a heat wave, and we had no air conditioning. Ivy got stuck with the smallest room in the bungalow she was renting, and her bunkmate was “weird.” She came home a lot the first month and it pained me that moving out here was so hard for her. That it was my fault. That I’d displaced her and caused her sadness.

Ryan got a call that his mother back in Minnesota was ill and probably not going to make it much longer. And did I mention how HOT it was. There were days we sat on the couch as sweat poured down our faces. And the flies…so many flies because there weren’t screens on all the windows.

 

crossBut even with that, it was still really nice to be here. It was peaceful, and I marveled at the landscape and the lizards, the palm trees and sunsets. The first time I drove to the office at five in the morning and saw the lighted cross on Rocky Peak, it took my breath away. I felt something long forgotten. Faith. Maybe not in God per se but a belief that things were going along exactly as planned.

I see beauty every day in the hills and mountains, in my hummingbird feeder, in the dragon flies, in the arroyo next door with its egrets and ducks. I smile at the coziness of the house, how Ryan’s and my things complement each other and make this old ranch house a home.

abbyThe heat wave broke, new screens were installed. Ivy became accustomed to her new life, and her roommate moved out and was replaced with someone “very nice.” I like to think Ivy too marvels at the beauty of the ocean and the mountains and palm trees by her school. She calls me sometimes (not every day) and tells me about trips to the grocery store, or something she’s cooked all by herself, or a new restaurant she’s discovered. The fact she doesn’t need me as much tells me she’s also okay with this path, and maybe for her too everything is going as it should.

Ryan’s mother passed away a couple of weeks ago. He is visiting his father in Minnesota this week. I didn’t know how I’d be, here alone in this new house, in this strange town. But as I told him last night, I feel like we’ve always lived here. It felt like home when I walked through the door, and it’s hard to remember a life, just a short time ago, when I wasn’t here.

The sun shines, and a heavy cool breeze blows through the house, whipping the curtains about and reviving me, bringing me to life. Wrapping me in a warmth and happiness I had only dreamt of.

Good night from California-Carly G.

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Leaving Bradfield

 

IMG_3414Ivy and I moved out of our home three weeks ago. We stripped every trace of us from the place. Since then, we have been staying with friends  A week from now, Ivy, Lily, and I will hop in my Mini Cooper and start our 3,000 mile drive to Simi Valley, to Ryan, and to our new life. All the tasks have been completed: utilities set up at the new place, addresses and bank accounts changed, car checked by mechanic, dogs groomed, Ryan’s house packed and ready, appliances purchased, goodbyes said (some of them). There were a million little details to tend to but they are complete.

DownloadedFileI told Ivy the other day that in many ways it’s like I’m going away to college too. Back in 1986 I was supposed to go. Mom escorted me to the college in the late spring for orientation. I was excited for this brand-new life. It was meant to be the time I moved away, grew up a little, cut the apron strings. I didn’t go away to college after all. I moved out a few months later so did grow up, abruptly, but I never made the jump to a new life per se. I’ve always lived within ninety miles of where I was born. Sure I’ve been married and divorced-twice, and had relationships and a child, and jobs. But I’ve never made a big change.

IMG_0003This will be different for all of us, but like in the 1980’s (picture is from a year after I graduated high school), I am excited about the potential for a new life. About the adventure and newness.  I will miss the people here, and the old, historical life that flows through New England: the aged homes and ivy covered brick walls, and the cobblestone streets of Boston. I’ll miss my town, and my prior towns, and certainly Boston, where I’ve spent the last twenty-five years working.

DownloadedFileBut there comes a time when I need to step out of the warm hug that is Bradfield and experience the rest of the country, where people pronounce Rs and have healthy vitamin D levels in their blood, and go to movies on sunny Saturdays without panicking it will be the last one for months. Where every night is sit out on the patio and grill out night, and you can go outdoors and eat ice cream in February in your shorts and sandals. I want to learn different highways and town names, check books out of new libraries. And of course at the base of it, I want to be with Ryan and start our life together. That’s what it’s really all about when you get down to it. The adventure would not be fun or doable, if not for him.

imagesIf he hadn’t come around, posted on my wall that particular day, I probably would have stayed here forever and been content, and been one of those people who rolls her eyes when someone mentions Southern California. “Earthquakes and wildfires,” I’d say. “You couldn’t pay me enough to live there.” But he pointed out things about California I didn’t know. Taught me things about love I didn’t know. He gave me new perspective.

I don’t mind being a hypocrite. There’s nothing wrong with changing your mind when you have new information. In my early Carly blogs I stated I’d never date again, that relationships were impossible for me. I was bitter and didn’t know that love was in the cards for me after all. And I didn’t know that California has plenty of charm too. Different maybe, but it’s there.

IMG_2777This will be my last blog from Bradfield. The next one may be from the road or when I’m settled in our new home. It will not be easy to leave but it would be harder to stay, knowing all that’s out there.

Leaving Bradfield will be a sad day indeed, but it provided the most important twelve-year backdrop of my life. I’ve done more growing up and changing here than in all my other years.

I will miss you New England,

Carly G. IMG_2373

 

 

 

 

Owl’s Nests and Moving On

IMG_2777I haven’t written a Carly blog in a long time. Life has been busy.  Ivy graduates from high school on Friday. In a week, Ivy and I will take our cat to California to live with Ryan. And two weeks later, we will leave the home we’ve lived in for seven years to stay with friends for a month until the big move August 1st.

In the course of the last week, my home has gone from being clean and lovely, cozy and filled with DownloadedFileitems I’ve used to make my house a home, to rooms with bare bookshelves and cardboard boxes littering the floor. All the traces of Carly are being stripped off and stored, bringing the place mostly back to the plain cold townhouse  it was when I bought it.

CaptureAbout a week ago I was outside within about thirty feet of my front door, when I glanced up at the rotted tree by the main street. It’s a hollowed out tree riddled with woodpecker holes.  An owl sat perched in a black hole by the top of the tree. I did a doubletake then accepted it really was a big old owl, sound asleep. I took pictures until he saw me and darted deep into the tree to hide. After that, I made a habit of checking on him each morning, a happy ritual. A few nights ago, Ivy and I went out and listened to him as he gurgled and fluttered and who-who-whoed in the darkness. It was peaceful and comforting.

stumpTwo days ago I came home and saw that the condo landscapers had cut the tree down while I was working. I rounded the corner and found hunks of tree lying on the ground, the owl’s former hiding place ravaged and tossed carelessly about. I was heartbroken. I’d really come to enjoy my daily sightings. I knelt on the ground and searched for a nest and eggs, pulling the innards from the hollowed tree. I saw only the owl’s abode, an empty nest that he had made cozy for one. Twigs and leaves and fluff filled the inside of the tree. He had worked very hard to make his house a home. Poor sad little owl.

That evening I went out to walk Lily and heard the now familiar gurgle. I was surprised and happy so followed the sound until I came upon him sitting in one of the new short skinny trees. He was a fat owl on a small thin branch, a temporary home. He would someday find a new place to live, I knew, but until then he sat up there, just above his old place, close but not on his old homestead.

DownloadedFileI went back in the house and considered the parallel. I have made this my current home for the last seven years. I have filled it with the human equivalent of twigs and leaves and fluff. My condo, knock on wood, was not decimated before my eyes, but soon I will be leaving it. And when I look back, I will see all my homey things removed. I will check the bedrooms for eggs, or baby owls, but my little human owl will be gone.


imagesAnd I will move just down the street in a place that is good for temporary living, a fat little owl on a thin branch. I will sometimes walk by this old house and look at it from afar and recall that it is a place I used to live in with my daughter.  And eventually, in my case August 1st, we will get in our car with my rebound dog Lily and head to what I hope is our forever home. And once again I will gather twigs and leaves and fluff and make the new place my home.

Some people love to visit their old houses, places where they grew up, or got married or divorced. Places they had their first kiss, or bought their first car. I’m not in that school. I don’t like going back to the old tree, thinking about how things were or weren’t. It depresses me. I’ve done it, to see if the reality is the same as memory, but I don’t particularly like it.

I saw and heard the owl again last night, in the new skinny tree. He needs time to mentally adjust, to plan, to mourn his home before he flies off to a whole new life and unfamiliar surroundings. I can relate. I think my temporary apartment, within walking distance of this one, is just what I need to wean myself  before I move off to a whole new life and unfamilar surroundngs.

imagesI will miss my owl, and I will miss the house with all the memories and Carly/Ivy life events it held. But soon I too will fly off and begin work on a new nest with my baby owl daughter and my rebound dog.

Happy nesting-Carly G.

 

For more by Carly G including her fiction please visit her WEBSITE or AMAZON PAGE. 

Used Cars and Used Men, a Buyer’s Guide to Dating

thA friend of mine just finalized her divorce and has entered the murky waters of online dating. After ten years in her marriage, she is hungry for a new relationship with its promise of fulfillment and happiness, tenderness, honesty, intimacy. In short, a promise to deliver all that her marriage, by the end if it, did not. Anyone who has been divorced or ended a long-term relationship can relate. First there is the grieving period, then the anger, then the prospect of facing the dismal reality of what you really left. And finally, there is hope. Dating sites and hungry men capitalize on that hope.

thIt’s been a few years since I’ve been on one of those sites, being happily nestled with my Ryan, and counting the days until I’m westward bound to start our life together. Watching her on the sites though, and hearing feedback, reminds me of where I was fifteen years ago, after my first divorce, and again after my second.

What I am seeing from her, and what mirrors exactly what I experienced, is a giddiness about how many men are out there. “Like shooting fish in a barrel,” I told her the other day. Each one of them with a story, a well rehearsed and usually well written advertisement of all they have to offer, and a plea to the potential matches, “Please contact me if you’re my forever love.”

Blech! That’s what I say about that. I was thinking last night that the difference between the Carly now, and the Carly many years ago, is that I can see flaws better. Age and experience are great teachers. It used to be, I would look at the ads, find someone attractive, read his profile, and depending on the pics and certain key terms: plays guitar, writer, creative, I would gloss over the unsavory aspects. Things like: heavy drinker, married five times, hates kids, hates dogs, not looking for long-term relationship…

Because surely, once I made a connection with this guy, all those traits would somehow disappear. He’d WANT commitment after he met me. He’d become responsible, quit smoking, etc. Of course it doesn’t work that way. I should have learned that from my failed relationships. But there’s something  enticing about shopping for a future husband the way you shop for a used car.

I compare the experience to the difference between a sixteen year old boy and a fifty year old man each walking onto a used car lot with five thousand dollars in his pocket.

imagesThe sixteen year old boy will walk onto the lot planning to leave with a car that same day. Any car. Because that lot contains all the cars in the world and he’d better pick one. He’ll look past the square gray cars, instead focusing on a red-hot two-seater with a convertible top. He won’t read the specs on the car, about how many owners it’s had, or how many accidents. The broken frame from one too many breakups/crashes will not be evident. Several months later, the problems DownloadedFilewith the sexy car will surface. It will become high maintenance. There won’t be new problems, only ones he pretended weren’t there at the onset. He’ll return to the lot, trade the car in. And he will start again. Based on my experience, you have to “buy a lot of used cars” before you learn to kick the tires and ask about history. At some point, you realize that the stuff that matters isn’t on the surface. A fancy paint job does not correlate to being a good husband.

DownloadedFileThe fifty year old man will walk onto that same lot. He’ll look under the hood, look for important things like one long-term owner, four doors, good gas mileage. Minor accidents acceptable but broken and repaired frames will inevitably break again. The man will check the cars over thoroughly. Not that his eyes won’t light up at that red-hot two door convertible, but he’s had enough of those to know that over time, the thrill wears off. And that man may very well return to the lot several times before he buys any of those cars, because he knows there are tons of single people and scads of used cars on any given day.

I am glad to be done shopping, but it is fun to watch my friend, sharing with her the hope of things to come.

-Carly G.