Family Relations

My parents’ marriage to each other was short. Married in 1986, they separated 6 months after I was born and were officially divorced by the time I was 2 years old (circa 1990). They have both been remarried and seem to have finally found happiness with the person they are with right now.

Most children grow up hearing stories of how their parents met, anecdotes of late night adventures, and bad days turned good (or at least that’s what I imagine). While I heard many stories about myself and other family members, I never knew much about my parents’ relationship, despite knowing each parent well.

In the days leading up to my own wedding, I learned bits and pieces about my parents. This weekend I learned more. While it hasn’t all been roses, it made me think about how much I really know about my family and their lives. I longed for the days I missed with grandparents already gone and it opened my ears to more stories from those older than me; to learn about how the world use to be.

My dad’s father was a World War II veteran who passed away when I was about 8. I was too young to understand the importance of stories of days past.  This weekend, I would have loved to hear his stories of the war. I was always told that he shot guns off of the USS Lexington, which is now a museum in Corpus Christi. I knew he liked milk and that his favorite candy was butterscotch. By the time I was old enough to converse, he had a motorcycle accident and had difficulty doing much. Whether just his personality or life events, my grandfather was not the type to just open up, making it difficult for me to connect with him as a kid.

It’s interesting to learn things about family members. Some things are funny, interesting, and surprising. Some things come out of left field and hit you square in the face. Part of me wants to know what really happened between my parents. What could I learn from their mistakes? I worry though, that if I really knew, it could change my relationship with each of them. It’s taken a long time to get to the point I am with my mom and dad; do I really want to take a risk on that changing?

GG is what she asked me to call her

“Great-grandma too long for such a little girl.” she told me. She was known by that name for 27 years of her life and she will always be GG for the rest of mine. I felt honored to be, not only the first great-granddaughter but her first great-grandchild. She was a remarkable woman who always loved those around her. When I was young, I used to put on ‘shows’ for my family. The newest song from Barney or Seasame Street was on the Toddler Billboard Chart and I wanted to show it off. She always sat, with a giant smile on her face, and listened. She also listened to the five encores that would follow. Never once did she say, “I’m busy” or “Later”. She made me feel like the most special person in the world. As I grew up, words of wisdom were imparted on me. “Pick you battles” and “Don’t let it bother you” were the ones I heard the most. They are still something that I struggle with now but she knew, even when I was young, that I would benefit from hearing those words.

She’s not here anymore. I wish that I got to know her better, that my time wasn’t split between families preventing me from spending all of my time with her. Call me a dreamer but I always wished that all of the people I knew and loved could come live in one giant house and hang out all the time.

She lives on in her spirit, her wisdom, and her family. She lives on in the good deeds she did for others, the love she gave to everyone who knew her, and in the words she spoke. March 12 would have been her 97th birthday. I am amazed to think of all of the things she was witness to in the history of the earth. Women earning the right to vote, two World Wars, and the technology advances that feel like the Jetsons.

Her name was Ruby Helen Rowland and she was my great-grandma.


Winter Holidays 122

All Is Well That Ends Well

After weeks of worry and waiting, we finally are moved in to our new home! Monday, we did the walkthrough, Tuesday we signed, and Friday we moved completely in. We are a about 3/4 unpacked and are shooting to have the house in order by Thanksgiving.

While we hosted my father-in-law during move in, I am excited to host my in laws this weekend as real guests with (somewhat) comfortable amenities.We have a long way before the house is “Pinterest perfect” but I’m learning to accept that.

The hosting bug has bit me and I have a billion party ideas to show off our new abode. Invites for dinner parties and game nights will soon be sent and the house will be filled with friends and family.

I’ve been trying to remember this quote: “Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.”

Almost there!

I got a call during work yesterday that we can order the appraisal on our house. This means that the bank has accepted our offer and we are moving forward! I could have done cartwheels down the hall, I was so excited!

The countdown has begun (14 days) and right now, we are packing like mad. Packing is normally a crazy process with things thrown in boxes and marked with a general label (bedroom, kitchen etc.), but once moved, you can’t find the can opener. Call me crazy but I have developed a system using a spreadsheet (which I love!) and I am happy to share it with you.

First, find, buy, or borrow a small, clear plastic tub (we used Hefty’s 29qt bin) to keep all of your moving supplies in. Having a clear tub makes it easy to spot in the sea of cardboard. This will be your moving box and will include:

  • Labels, both blank and printed. I recommend Avery
  • Markers, two each of the colors you are using and multiple sizes of black. I highly recommend the Sharpie brand.
  • Packing tape and tape dispenser gun. There are usually packs of the tape and dispenser sold together.
  • Ribbons in the room colors. These are to tie around furniture that you don’t want stickers on.
  • Moving binder. This will hold all of the documents you may need to reference (contact information, contracts, receipts, etc.).

Pick a color for each room. Our new house happens to be painted, so the label color will correspond with the paint or decor color of the room. In addition to each color, there are also corresponding numbers for each room:

  • 100s – Living room – Dark pink
  • 200s – Kitchen – Green
  • 300s – Master Bedroom – Dark blue
  • 400s – Master Bathroom – Light blue
  • 500s – Office – Orange
  • 600s – Guest Bedroom – Purple
  • 700s – Guest Bathroom – Yellow
  • 800s – Garage – Red
  • 900s – Laundry Room – White

Here is the link to an edited version of my spreadsheet- Moving Inventory. Feel free to save and edit this as it works for you.

There are a few important things that make my system work:

  1. I only work on one box at a time. If possible, have one person packing and labeling and the second person inputting the box contents in the spreadsheet.
  2. Pre-print labels with the color and name of the room the box will be going in. This will make labeling very quick and easy. (Pre-printing number labels could also be helpful. We used large shipping labels by Avery.)
  3. When listing the contents of your box, list everything. This is especially helpful with kitchen and bathroom boxes when you will need something right away.

Not So Close to Home

Remember when I said we had a house? Well, we don’t. The house we are interested in is a short sale, the step before foreclosure.

We found out around mid-September that the sellers’ bank has yet to make a decision about accepting our offer; it was the sellers that actually accepted it. J and I signed a contract stating a decision would be made by Sept. 30 and we would close on or before Oct. 17. That day has come and gone with still no word from the bank that owns the house. Earnest and option monies have been turned in to the title company and seller (by us- which is another story) and all documents have been turned in to the bank; the bank appears to be dragging their feet just because.

To add to the mystery of our future, we put in our 60 day notice for our apartment complex (we were never told not to), which would put our move out date at October 29. We thought that because we had a closing date, we would be fine.

Right now, our realtor, we’ll call him CJ, is on vacation from Oct 4-17 (our original closing date), for the second time during our home buying process, with limited phone and email access. It was only because he was going on vacation that contact information for his assistant and broker were shared with us. The first time CJ was on vacation was when our earnest money was due, which HE was supposed to turn in, not us.

Despite everything, we have decided to extend our contract to give the bank more time to make a decision on our offer. J and I really like the location and amenities of the house. CJ’s broker has been working with us and is a dream and a life saver. He has answered all of our questions and kept us up to date with everything that is going on.

Our apartment complex is working with us so we can stay in our apartment until everything is finalized. We don’t know how much longer we will have to wait for our home but we feel that everything will work out the way it needs to.

Bittersweet Memories

Friday my dad came home. While this may not be much for most people, it is for me. On July 20, my dad lost control of his (somewhat) new motorcycle and had a terrible accident, landing in a field and splitting his head open. He was very lucky that there were witnesses to help, literally, hold his head together, and call 911. Immediately upon arriving at the hospital he was rushed into brain surgery and has been in the hospital and rehab centers for over 6 weeks.

My dad remembers nothing of the accident but the good samaritans that were at the scene, say that he wasn’t wearing a helmet. When I found out this information, I was more than upset. Growing up, it was preached for me to always wear a helmet when riding a bike. To know that my dad did not follow his own advice made me think about what his future held.

I say all of this as a public service announcement. In 2011, I also did not wear a helmet once while riding my bike and it cost me dearly. While giving a hand signal that I was turning, I lost control of my bike and landed face first on pavement. It was not a pretty sight. Being stubborn, I went on to work and did everything like normal. It wasn’t until a few days later that symptoms of a concussion started. After many hours at the hospital, it was determined that I had Post Concussion Syndrome. PCS can last from a few months to a year; mine lasted 6 months. Going to class was impossible the second week after the accident, as was doing anything other than laying in bed with my eyes closed. Earplugs were necessary to keep in my hears to help muffle sounds for the next few months. Sounds, smells, and lights all gave me terrible headaches.

Years later, I still get migraines from lights that are too bright or situations that are too loud.I know my dad has a long road ahead of him, just as I did but I hope he learns his lesson. I also hope everyone else can learn from my dad’s and my mistake. PLEASE wear a helmet anytime it is recommended. My dad and I were lucky, and for that, I will always be grateful.

My face after falling off my bike in 2011

My face after falling off my bike in 2011

Close to Home

We have a house! Well, almost. J and I have found a house that we like and will sign our soul away on October 17. We found out our offer was accepted at 11:50 pm on Sunday, August 24. I was so excited that I couldn’t sleep. All I could think of was the upcoming projects I wanted to do in our new house and what needs to be done at our current apartment.

This isn’t my first rodeo with moving. Growing up, my family moved a lot. I wouldn’t call myself a pro but I know a thing or two. This time however, I wanted it to be the smoothest, easiest move ever.When J and I moved out of our college apartment, we got free boxes (11:35pm at Walmart’s cereal aisle), we labeled, color coded and made spreadsheets. But I feel that this move could be even better. During my lunch hour, I began perusing Pinterest for tips on moving. Everyone has suggestions- it’s amazing how much wisdom and insight that I had NEVER thought of.

So here are some of the tips I plan on doing:

  • color code everything by room
  • keep a spreadsheet of everything, it’s location and the box number
  • number boxes using a system (100s are Kitchen, 200s bedroom etc.)
  • have a sheet of paper in the coordinating color in each room
  • hire movers for the large pieces of furniture
  • pack slowly over the next two months and move what we can by ourselves

Are we missing anything? Please leave your comments below and let us know what worked for you!

Our new home

Our new home

Finding My Way

It’s the first of the month and the bill paying routine has begun. Rent, electric, phone, water, insurance….the list goes on. As I sit and review my bank balances, budget and bills, I wonder how I got where I am. It feels like I am playing the Game of Life- college, get married, get a job, house, babies, retire.

I remember being in college and thinking that the world was a big, scary place.What would I do? Where would I go? Who would I meet?

In the blink of an eye, I became a part of that big, scary world by getting a job and paying taxes. Yet, at the same time, I still felt like that college girl who is not quite a part of society, but not a child. I still struggle with sorting out my feelings, needs and wants. When a need is not met, like eating or sleeping, I have trouble forming sentences,  processing thoughts or making rational decisions.

I feel so immature and child-like when something like that happens. Maybe it is just evolution taking over and my body working to survive but I still wonder, “Is this normal? Am I normal? Did my brain develop properly when I was growing up?”

I don’t know and I don’t know if I ever will. But I do know that I can change how I react. I know that I don’t like how I feel when I haven’t had enough rest or food. I can prepare for situations like those by having snacks and water, taking little breaks throughout the day to clear my mind and remembering what is important in the long run.

An Ode to Coffee

Oh coffee, the things you do for me.

Last week, my sleeping schedule was thrown off and turned upside down. “Ashley, your dad has been in an accident…” My mind froze and raced at the same time as my cousin explained that my dad was in a motorcycle accident and was  about to go into brain surgery and then ICU for the next two weeks. I immediately began packing in a numb stupor. The next day, I went to work, wrapped things up and began the 6 hour drive down to Corpus Christi.

Due to family issues, I was only allowed to visit my dad during the night visiting hours- 9pm to 6am. For a week, my schedule was reversed- awake at night, asleep during the day. After getting home, I tried to return to my regular schedule; I prepared myself for the week by laying out my clothes, packing my meals and planning dinner. I went to bed at my regular time and had no trouble falling asleep as I was exhausted.

Monday night was a different story. I tried everything I knew but my body would not fall asleep. For almost 36 hours, my brain just kept spinning. Caffeine became a necessity and sleep happened as soon as I got home.