Moving-Induced Paralysis

AnxietyThis week, we slipped under the six-month mark. We move 20 December and I have a zillion things to do. Really. I have furniture to sell or get rid of, loads of appliances to offload (but not until after I cook Thanksgiving Dinner of course!), a cupboard full of spices and other food items to use up, and basically a whole house to declutter. Oh yeah, and you know, my real life, where I’m writing a book and trying to sell it.

So yeah, I’m paralyzed and anxious and feeling sorta like the guy in the animation. A million things to do and I’m spending an inordinate amount of time trawling Redfin and Zillow for houses (which just makes me more paralyzed because oh my god, sticker shock!). And blogging, apparently. Oh yeah, and watching junk TV (but I’m finally caught up on Scandal!). The nutty thing is that I’m feeling really positive about living in Washington. Just not so good about the moving part.

It’s not like I haven’t done this before. The first time I moved, I was twenty and flew by myself to France with nothing more than a backpack and a suitcase. That felt exhilarating and rebellious and all kinds of things. Yeah, there was some stress in there too and saying goodbye, even if only for six months, was tough. But it was nothing like this.

This feels like I am going to run out of time, but that all the balls that need to be set in motion are completely out of my control. Like I’m an anchor in a relay, watching her teammates get farther and farther behind and not being able to do anything but sit there screaming, reaching for that baton, and knowing that even super-human speed won’t be enough. Wow, where did that running simile come from? Can I use that in my fiction?

OK, my sense of humor is at least somewhat intact, so I’m probably going to survive this. But I’ll probably need to grumble about it again between now and 20 December…

Repatriating Expats

Seattle world fair stamp
Expat life is full of Big Questions. When do you go? When do the kids & I follow? Where will we live? How do we enroll the kids in school? Who is going to pay for/schedule/plan which pieces of this craziness? Am I going to go nuts in the process?

From these questions, you can probably tell that another move is on our horizon. Next month, we’re moving to the Redmond, Washington (Greater Seattle) area so that my husband can continue his job with Microsoft. Despite being asked regularly if we’re excited to “go home,” this is new territory for us. Sure, we’re American, and we are lucky enough to have both friends and (for the first time in the kids’ lives!) family in the area. But I’ve never even been to Redmond. Or Bellevue. Or Sammamish. Which, according to our very helpful realtor, are the best housing options if we want to avoid giving Matt a hellish commute in a traffic-laden urban area.

I’d be lying if I said that I’m not ready to leave Finland after four years. Did I mention how dark and dreary it is at this time of year, a time of year that I have now experienced FIVE times? But saying goodbye to friends is hard for the children and for us. In typical expat fashion, Matt needs to be in the US now to do his job, so that means much of the next six weeks of insanity will be navigated as a solo parent. Whee!

The kids don’t really remember living in the US before, so most of their memories come from this past summer. Considering that I packed in as many activities (summer camp! theme parks! mountain climbing! boat rides! beach time!) and as much cousin/grandma time as I could, they’ve got a fairly positive attitude about the move. Oh, and I might have promised them kittens too, just to keep them out of therapy sweeten the deal.

Despite the bribery carefully-managed expectations, the kids are still nervous. Gabriel asked me about first impressions on the way to school yesterday, spurring a long conversation about how first impressions when you start a new school are totally different than first impressions that you make at a one-time event like a job interview or performance. Yes, my heart squeezed big time as we had that conversation. My mellow little man may not be saying much, but he’s definitely processing.

Even as I madly declutter, organize, stalk real-estate web sites, book a 10-hour time difference house-hunting trip, and research schools, we’ll spend as much of the next six weeks as we can just hanging with friends and making just a few more memories before we go. In the meantime, if it’s a little quiet around here, you’ll know why.

Give Blood in Memory of Bowen

Photo of Bowen Joseph, who received many blood products during his short life
Bowen was one of the 38,000 people who receive blood products each day in America.

I’ve given blood a dozen or so times since I first gave in high school during a school blood drive. After I had children, I just stopped. It wasn’t a conscious decision; it was just one of the many things that fell off the bottom of an always too long to do list. I never gave it much thought until this spring, when a combination of congenital heart defects led my best friend’s son Bowen to need almost constant blood transfusions during his too-short life.

Tomorrow, in memory of Bowen and in honor of all the donors whose blood sustained him during his life, his parents are hosting the first annual Team BoHawk Blood Drive in Indianapolis. The response has been amazing and all 120 appointments on Tuesday have been filled (although the Bloodmobile will be visiting several Ed Martin dealerships in Indy over the course of the summer if you missed out on a chance to give this week! Details will be available soon on their blog).

Even with the community’s amazing outpouring in memory of Bo, the need is still great. Only 3%* of the US population gives blood, even though more than 38,000 donations are needed each day in the US to meet the ever-constant need**. The laundry-list of blood donation statistics seems daunting, as does the fact that restrictions (including a rather antiquated one disqualifying sexually-active gay men from donating), leave less than 38% of the population qualified to give. If that wasn’t enough to encourage you to donate, consider some of the stories. Read more

The wrath of the puritans lives on…

In the run up to the Super Bowl, I have to admit to spending more time thinking about the ads (or, more specifically, how anyone can afford the exorbitant Super Bowl ad pricing in this economy!) than about the game itself. So I was delighted to see this ad on both Salon and Huffington Post today.

Yes, it’s true, PETA, in a take off of the “Vegetarians Taste Better” bumper sticker that has been around since I first got my license 1,000 years ago, tried to get an ad portraying women in lingerie getting Read more

Free at last, free at last…

It just seemed like a fitting week to pull out that quote. What with Monday’s MLK Day, Tuesday’s inauguration and now a beautiful, long-overdue series of executive orders issued by President Obama to reverse one of the most shameful legacies of the Bush Administration, it just seemed appropriate (there are some personal tie-ins too that I won’t comment on right now, other than to say the four of us are doing a lot better over here at ChezArtz).

These executive orders, which go a long way toward his inaugural promise not “to continue with a false choice between our safety and our ideals,” include: Read more

If I were a Christian, I’d attend Anne Lamott’s Church

When reading Anne’s many diatribes on Salon, or her book, Operating Instructions soon after Gabriel was born, I have in the past felt like I should give her a call to chat about God. But now, after reading her A call to arms this evening, I’m sure of it: If I were a Christian, I’d go to Anne Lamott’s Church.

Before you get too excited about my new-found religious zeal, I must admit that just last night I was contemplating becoming Buddhist after a particularly wonderful yoga experience until Matt sagely commented “Isn’t yoga Hindi?” (You are so right! There I go, mixing up my Eastern religions again. My brother the religious studies minor would be so proud!) So I’m not really the best person to ask about religion, especially because I can neither confirm nor deny how much red wine I may have guzzled since my husband headed to California on Sunday.

But I will say that Anne Lamott is not the only person out there who is feeling a need to meditate, or pray, or do something to respond to the recent blatant propaganda, venom and fear-mongering dished out by McCain, Palin, and their crew. The bliss of my media-free week in the mountains of Idaho rapidly diminished upon my return, and I needed Lamott’s pep-talk this evening more than ever.

As always, she handles her grief and frustration with a deft comic hand, asking everyone who is literally fuming over the deception and absurdities of Republican presidential ticket to go out and take a spin on the Sarah Palin Baby Name Generator.

So, now that I’ve changed my name to Shank Piston in honor of the Chief Executive of the great state of Alaska, I will share some of my favorite excerpts from Anne’s article:

On Sarah Palin: “I hate to criticize. And I love to kill wolves as much as the next person does. But this woman takes such pride in her ignorance, doesn’t have a doubt in the world about her messianic calling, that it makes anyone of decency feel nauseated — spiritually, emotionally and physically ill.”

Oh, snap!

Now, I am a reform Christian, so it is permissible for me to secretly believe that God hates this woman, too. I heard God slam down a couple of shooters while she was talking the other night.

Me too, God, me too!

On what we can do to change things: “This is the only way miracles ever happen — left foot, right foot, left foot, breathe. Right foot, left foot, right foot, breathe. The great novelist E.L. Doctorow once said that writing a novel is like driving at night with the headlights on: You can only see a little ways in front of you, but you can make the whole journey this way. It is the truest of all things; the only way to write a book, raise a child, save the world.”

I met two women outside the grocery store today who were registering folks to vote. In the brief time I was there, they got totally dissed by one person who flung some sort of anti-liberal shot at them (they were not wearing campaign buttons or mentioning party affiliation at all and yet by the act of trying to encourage democracy through participatory government, were instantly labeled heretical liberals) and were chagrined when they approached someone who was a convicted felon (and thereby legally unable to vote). So when I walked up, I tried to do my part, because with two little kids, I’m not going to be out registering voters in the Vitamin Cottage parking lot any time soon. I looked them straight in the eye and sincerely thanked them for doing something so crucial to our form of government and our way of life in this country: standing up for what they believed in and doing their part, one baby step at a time…

It’s about time!

After a series of rather ridiculous attack ads questioning Barack Obama’s credentials and patriotism, and even going so far as to compare him to the vapid Paris Hilton (although I could almost kiss her for her response to McCain’s ad, I’m happy to see Barack Obama striking back with some hard-hitting ads of his own. What do you think, Joan, is this enough to end the “slump” so many in the blogosphere have been talking about recently?

The following is worth a watch, especially if you’re tired of politicians who are completely out of touch with the struggles of mainstream America:

Vote for Change

As the primary process comes to a close, it’s time to turn our eyes to the November presidential election. It’s not too late to let your voice be heard; it’s not too late to register to vote, and to vote for change.

Obama ’08