Bayfield Thirteen

Another successful Bayfield vacation is in the books. Eight friends. Four couples. Six of us barely knew each other that first year, all of us only having one couple of friends in common. We never thought we’d make it an annual thing, but here we are, all these years later and always looking forward to doing it all over again. We remember how young our kids were when we first started vacationing together. We had to arrange for childcare while we were away back then. These days our kids are living their own lives and we talk about their college graduations, jobs and weddings. We joke about our gradually declining vision and physical ailments that come with being this age.

For the past several years, the question always seems to be, How many years have we been doing this?

We figured it out again this year. Two of us have boys whom we remember were just getting ready to start seventh grade the first year we went. I remember because Jake was leaving the Catholic school he’d attended since Kindergarten and transferring to the big, scary public middle school. He survived. I was probably more scared than he was. That was 2003. So this was our thirteenth annual trip.

We’ll ask the same question and have to figure it out again next year, I’m sure.

It’s been enough years that we now look forward to returning to familiar haunts. But we still manage to find new places to explore.

Saxon Harbor

Saxon Harbor

We still manage to find new restaurants at which to eat. We stopped on the way to Bayfield at the Anchor Bar in Superior, Wisconsin. It was dark, a bit claustrophobic, and jam-packed with old nautical decor. And the hamburgers were amazing. I tried an olive burger for the first time – a hamburger patty topped with a green olive and cream cheese spread. I’ve found my new favorite burger!

My favorite part of the vacation? I could say it was the food. All diets were off and the meals we cooked were better than anything we could have found in any old restaurant. But it wasn’t the food.

I could say it was having time to read an entire book, one that I couldn’t put down and which moved me to tears. But it wasn’t that.

It might have been the abundance of lake and beach scenery …

The lake and beaches were beautiful as usual, but they weren’t quite my most favorite part of the trip either.

There was plenty of time out on the boat, loads of time to relax, to talk and laugh together, to sit out on the deck and enjoy drinks. The ducks came to visit and we leaned over the deck railing to feed them endless bits of bread during the course of our days in Bayfield. We visited apple orchards, did a little shopping and played noisy, rambunctious card games at night. We went to Madeline Island, spent time at Tom’s Burned Down Cafe and listened to a pirate band play and laughed as they engaged with the crowd, even inserting themselves into our group photo.

But my favorite part, I think, were the morning hikes along the Brownstone Trail, which weaves its way along the Lake Superior shoreline. I needed some time away each day. I’m sure there’s a label for my kind of personality. I enjoy being social … for a while. But I also need my space. I found myself suffering from too-much-togetherness. I can’t be “on” all of the time. Those morning hikes? They saved me.

Bayfield6

The benefit of having done this so many years together, is that we’ve established some routines. Mornings are for doing your own thing. Three of the guys go out every morning on the boat and do some serious fishing. Mark and two of the girls hit the local casino at the same time. Julie W and I? We hike the trail. Like me, Julie needs to take a daily breather from all of that structure and activity and busyness.

It’s funny. I’ve known Julie for as many years as we’ve been taking this vacation together. Outside of this vacation, I don’t see her but a handful of times during the rest of the year, and almost always only when the whole group is getting together. But she and I? We connect in Bayfield. She feels like the closest of friends, in spite of the fact that we spend time together merely a handful of times every year. I don’t know what it is about us, but we’ve discovered a connection with each other, a trust, a kindred-spirits kind of thing.

The trail is three miles, starting a few blocks away from the condos where we stay, and ending in the town of Bayfield. Every day, Julie and I would walk to town, take in the view, and walk the three miles back again. During that time, we talked. We talked about our jobs, our lives, our kids, our dreams and wishes… her new stand-up paddle board which she wants me to come try one of these days … and just everything. Some of our kids have had parallel experiences, such as the heartbreak of a broken engagement, or the struggle of being that sort-of lost middle child. We both have a somewhat creative side and I like her down-to-earth attitude. We’re both semi-serious about the way we eat and trying to stay fit. Somewhere within all of that hiking and talking, we’ve found that we encourage one another. Those morning walks? They refreshed us. Gave us the energy for a day filled with activity and for all that time we’d need to spend being “on.”

I think those hikes along those three miles of lakeshore, the stunning views, the fresh air and the chance to unwind with someone who just gets me … I think that was my favorite part. And it made everything else about the vacation so much easier to appreciate. I knew the same was true for Julie. As we hugged goodbye upon arriving back at home, she hugged me hard and thanked me for the “walks and talks.”

Year thirteen is over too soon. I’m already looking forward to fourteen.

Couch, Sofa, Davenport

My daughter’s summer is officially over. Kacey worked her last days at her two summer jobs last week. Yesterday she vacated her bedroom at home and made the road trip back to school. She’ll spend the next year with four roommates in a college rental house that has a lot of … let’s just say, character.

Her car was packed full with all of her belongings yesterday morning. And we might have waved goodbye from the driveway as Kacey left, were it not for the fact that she needed our help in hauling a couch. So we followed not far behind as she went.

The couch use to reside in my parents’ lower level family room and it was only gently used. When Mom and Dad downsized and moved to a town house last month, the couch was gifted to Kacey.

By the way, I can’t say the word “couch” without hearing my sister saying “sofa” or my mother-in-law saying “davenport.” What’s your preference?

2015-08-22Lucy rode in the back seat of Mark’s truck while we traveled to college town. She loves to go for rides, but we had other reasons for taking her along. Kacey will be taking care of Lucy for several days when Mark and I go on a little vacation in the near future and maybe again this winter. We want to be sure Lucy starts to get familiar with the new surroundings ahead of time. She recently spent a weekend there with Kacey and all went well, so I’m feeling good that all will be fine.

Lucy sat upright in the back seat for a while, watching the scenery go by outside the window. Eventually, she grew sleepy and stretched out on the blanket Mark had laid out for her. She happily snoozed while we drove.

When we arrived, Kacey brought Lucy inside where two of her roommates gushed over our dog while Mark and Kacey hauled the “new” couch inside. The previous couch had been purchased from the university. It formerly resided in a common area of one of the dorms for who knows how many years and who knows how many people sat there and … other things . According to Kacey, it was uncomfortable and disgusting. The roommates who lived at the house over the summer were supposed to figure out how and where to get rid of it. When we showed up with the “new” couch, the old one was sitting on the front porch.

There were some major rain storms last night. I don’t even want to think how much more disgusting that couch is this morning! And although the mom in me wishes the kids had responsibly disposed of it before now, I have to remember that it’s not my problem.

Anyway, for the short while we were at Kacey’s new residence, we got the couch positioned in the living room and Mark hung some brackets for shelving in our daughter’s bedroom. That was that, and we headed back home. A few quick hugs and I-love-yous and that was all. Definitely a different scene than the first couple of years of her college life. Our baby has definitely grown up. She’s matured. She’s confident. And we know she’s capable of managing on her own. That makes it a little easier to say goodbye, I guess.

Still, times like this remind me how much all of my kids have grown up. I think I’ll always miss them when they’re away from us, and goodbyes will always be a little bittersweet. But more and more, I realize this is the natural order of things. They’re supposed to grow up. They’re supposed to become independent. Our house is supposed to gradually become ours again. Guess we did something right.

Summer Wind Down

Well, summer was sailing along just fine and I was just perfectly happy with it. And then one day it happened. That little nudge that change is just around the corner.

I remember not all that many weeks ago, I would wake up to the songs of the wrens singing their little hearts out while they perched on the railings of our deck out back. I could sit outside under the canopy and just listen to their pretty little songs. If the windows were open, the melody would float in through the screens. Then the wren babies came along and all the wren parents did anymore was scold us for being in the vicinity. And shortly afterwards, the birds all moved out and all the singing and scolding was done.

There was mostly quiet from the backyard for several weeks. Then I woke up early one morning and heard the trill of … crickets? Maybe? I don’t remember hearing that hum during the early summer mornings. At night, yes. But not in the morning. I was intrigued, and listened happily to the chorus for a few days before I realized – it’s a sign. Of fall.

Then came two straight days of gray skies and rain. The temperatures dropped way down. For those couple of days, I traded sleeveless shirts for sleeves and sweaters. It was a shock, especially considering we’d just been in the nineties not too many days ago.

So yeah. It’s that time again. My kiddo has been gradually packing up her stuff. She’s made a few weekend trips to the house near school where she’ll be living this semester. I came home from work one day earlier this week and saw a couple of big plastic storage bins on her bed, packed with clothes.

“Stop packing,” I said.

“I’m sorry,” she said. “I kind of have to go.”

2015-08-16She’s right. I mean, I’m going to miss having someone at home who likes to help me cook, who keeps us pretty well supplied with baked goods, and who’s generally willing to do the dreaded grocery shopping with me. Particularly, I’m going to miss having her here to help motivate me to go to the gym on the three mornings a week that my other gym buddy isn’t there. (Really. I found muscles this summer I didn’t know I had!) I just hope I can self-motivate to keep up this habit!

But, I mean … she does leave a lot of shoes in the entryway. And her room does get kind of messy now and then. And when I’m crabby, she has this habit of calling me out on it. Also, she takes a lot of selfies and sometimes I don’t realize she’s taking them on my phone. So,I guess it might be good to have a chance to miss her for a while.

Yeah. It’s time for her to go back to school. She leaves this weekend and she’s excited. Anyway, it’ll be good that she’ll actually graduate in a few months after all this time spent studying and learning.

Yep. I was getting kind of tired of her being around all the time anyway.

The Promotion

Something was brewing around the office over the past few weeks. There was clearly something going on that was supposed to be kept under wraps, but a few odd circumstances raised suspicions in our small work community.

I really shouldn’t have had any idea. I’ve been known to be a bit clueless when there have been big changes on our corporate horizon in the past. This time was no different initially. And had it not been for the whispers of a few more attentive associates, I’d probably have remained blissfully oblivious until the formal announcement.

It was the approval of a coworker’s PTO request that prompted suspicions. Our very small department has specific rules about how many employees may be out of the office at any given time. Two of my peers had long ago scheduled vacation time for the entire past week. According to our vacation policy, in order to ensure adequate staffing, no one else could be approved for more than a single day off during the same week.

TK had previously worked for one of our vendors and held a pretty respectable position there. When TK’s company had a major layoff, he was out of a job. And when our small department of three was looking to expand last October, TK joined our staff. We immediately liked him. He brought a fresh perspective and good work ethic along with him, along with a unique set of valuable skills. And I suspected almost immediately that this job was just a placeholder until bigger things came along. I had no hard feelings about my suspicions. TK is a young guy, divorced, with children and a fiance he’d like to marry soon. Obviously, he would like to improve his employment situation in order to support his life goals. And I knew that coming in brand new, it was likely he had come in near the lower end of the pay scale for his position.

I was TK’s mentor for his first few months on the job and as happens with many of my coworkers, we developed a comfortable bond. We work well together. We share the similar passions about our work and have the same need for our work to be fulfilling as opposed to just a way to pass the days and collect a paycheck. In the course of our days, we’ve come to know a bit about each others’ lives and families. TK has a wicked sense of humor and he’s always making someone laugh. And whenever one of us veterans enjoys vacation time, he’s been sure to playfully remind us not to give a thought to him, the newbie with an extremely limited PTO allowance, slaving away at work while we’re away.

Still, if someone hadn’t pointed out how strange it was that TK was suddenly approved for a stretch of four whole days off during the same week two others would be out all week, I might not have questioned it. Even though he’d probably recently reminded me how few vacation days remained in his account until the end of this year, and even though if I really thought about it, I knew he needed to keep a few days in the bank in case of illness or family emergency. I guess as long as it’s not causing me pain, I’m just not that concerned with whether anyone is abiding by these types of rules. It’s summer time. TK said he had a chance to spend a few days at his uncle’s cabin on a lake. Seemed pretty normal to me and I was just glad he had the opportunity.

What finally raised my suspicions was when someone pointed out the fact that TK was approved for four days off, not only when rules should prevent it, but during the same four days when most of our management would be attending meetings at the corporate office. Maybe TK wasn’t going to the lake, and maybe he was going to the big meeting. I wondered about it for days afterward. Why wouldn’t the rest of the team be informed if TK was going to the meeting and not on vacation? Why lie about it? If there was something the rest of us weren’t supposed to know, there were better lies that could have been told. TK runs a particular pilot project. If someone had told me he was attending the meeting to present an update on the project, it would have made way more sense than telling us he was approved for a spur-of-the-moment vacation request for a stretch of days I knew he couldn’t afford, and wasn’t really allowed to take at this time.

You’re probably thinking that my coworkers and I are much too concerned about why TK was stretching his PTO limits. I mean, if he wants to wipe out his vacation account, why should we care? Well, normally, I might not. But there were other things that raised the suspicion that this was about much more than one employee carelessly using his PTO benefits. You know there is always a pot-stirrer in the office. Our office is no different. The resident pot-stirrer from another department – in our parent company actually, would wander over to us, the affiliate company, and find a person he knew he could stir up. He would say things like, “How can I ask you this without actually asking you this? … Have you heard any, you know… news? Anything about … I don’t know … some new collaboration or something like that?”

I was annoyed by him. He had a good friend of mine worried, telling her that if we were to possibly merge with his department, how did she think we might contribute. There wasn’t enough work for everyone to do as it was, to hear him tell it. My friend then worried she might lose her job.

Why do people have to create drama like that?

The lid was completely blown off for me when an associate in another department unknowingly let the cat out of the bag. We were on a conference call that Friday, casually talking with each other while we waited for our client to dial in. She said to me, “Now remember, I’ll be at the meeting at corporate next week.”

“I know,” I said. “It’s going to be pretty quiet around here.” I wondered out loud whether a particular other person was going as well as those I knew of.

“No, he’s not, but…” she proceeded to list those who were attending. And she ended by naming TK as one of the attendees.

“Um. I don’t think I’m supposed to know he’s going,” I said.

“Why not?”

I explained that we were informed TK would be out on vacation. “Wow,” she said. “That’s really weird.” And then she was quiet for a moment before adding, “I’ll bet there’s some kind of announcement coming.”

And so was created the perfect recipe for office buzz. My friend continued to worry about her job security. She obsessed about perceived advancements for others that might leave her unfairly in the dust. We walk around the pond together at lunch time, and a frequent topic of conversation was what might be actually going on below the surface of TK’s vacation approval. I tried to alleviate her fears by reminding her of her unique contributions and value. Still, she continued to fret.

I have to say, I just wasnt’ that concerned. I’ve experienced a sort of transformation over the past year that has helped me learn to just accept that whatever will be, will be. If big changes were on the corporate horizon, it meant major decisions had already been made. Worrying about it now would do nothing but weigh on me. Sure, I gave it plenty of thought. It was hard not to, now that it was obvious we were all pretending not to know anything we weren’t supposed to know. Besides, I realized that I have confidence in my talents and capabilities. If some pending change was ahead, I was pretty certain it would bode well for me. And if it didn’t? I would just do the next thing. I’ve realized more often than not lately, that I live a pretty blessed life. I have a roof over my head and enough to eat. I’m in pretty decent health and am surrounded by family and good friends. We have everything we really need. And our income leaves enough left over to have a little fun now and then. If I was going to have to learn to do with less, I would. And if anything ahead meant that I was going to have to look for a new job, I knew that my years with this company had provided enough opportunities to learn and grow that I could confidently sell myself somewhere else. I could do something new and different if I had to.

I suspected TK was in line for some type of advancement. My boss is preparing for retirement, so I also thought some level of reorganization was coming that would ensure her position was filled. Unlike others, I wasn’t worried that the “new” guy might advance ahead of me. I’m pretty aware of where there is to go from where I’m at. My boss once told me that my next step is where she is. Management. The thought of supervising others is completely unappealing to me. And I’m really happy with where I’m at. In my job, I get to be creative. I get to write. I continuously learn more about technology, and still get to exercise my customer service skills. I’m just fulfilled in what I do most days. And when I arrived at work on Monday, I was ready to face a quiet, busy week while the big meeting went on at the corporate office. I was sure there would be an announcement when our company leaders returned on Friday.

I was surprised when I logged in to my computer Monday morning to see that TK was logged on. After all, he was supposed to be out “on vacation” through Thursday. I couldn’t help myself. I poked my head in his cubicle and asked, “Why are you here?”

“I don’t know,” he said. “I got a text from (the boss) over the weekend telling me I needed to be here today.”

“That’s strange,” I said, shrugging, before I went back to my own desk.

I had just decided that all this game playing was ridiculous, and I was going to go to TK and say, “I know you’re going to corporate this week. I don’t care why. Someone will tell me what I need to know when it’s time, so let’s stop all this stupid pretending.”

And that’s when my boss came by, which was also a surprise because she was supposed to be on her way to the corporate office.

“Hey,” she said. “Do you have a minute? Can you come to my office?”

“Sure,” I said, realizing as I followed her that the news was coming sooner rather than later.

We sat down in her office, her at her desk and me in a chair across from her. “Do you want me to shut the door?” I asked.

“No, that’s okay. Let’s just leave it open.”

In a matter of seconds, I pondered and dismissed the idea that I was getting laid off. I’d seen layoffs happen at my company in the past and they didn’t work this way. But I was still surprised when she said, “I’m leaving for corporate at eleven, but before I go, I need you to know that you’re being promoted.”

I was momentarily speechless. During all of the days of whispering and wondering, this was not something that had occurred to me. My boss touted my abilities and explained how capable I was. I sat with a dazed smile on my face while she explained that we were reorganizing. We as the affiliate company were being slightly integrated into our parent company. She gave me many details but it all spelled good news both for me and for the company as a whole. This meant more job security and a whole new set of opportunities for all of us!

I guess the big secret was all because TK had to be informed of his promotion ahead of the corporate meeting. It required him to meet with some of his new associates at that meeting. But the reorganization wasn’t final and ready to be announced company-wide prior to the day the corporate meeting was to begin.

In my last performance review, I had possibly shot myself in the foot by telling my boss I had no desire to manage other people. In such a small company, I knew by saying as much, I had openly limited my ability to move any higher up the ladder. But there I sat in front of my boss on Monday, realizing she had found a way to advance me while still honoring my wishes. What more could I possibly ask?

I’ll technically have a new boss in the parent company. I’ve worked with him and come to know him in my time since our companies joined forces. I like him and am excited to build this new relationship. I love my “old” boss and my new boss will report to her until she retires sometime in the next year. So I’ll be able to maintain the connection with a person who’s played a big part in my growth and achievement over the past ten years.

The most exciting thing for me is that I’ve been promoted to the lead position in my department under the new boss. TK is advancing to a role that will still ensure we can work together regularly. I’m so happy and proud for him. My worried friend has retained her position and I’ll still get to work side-by-side with her.

There’s a support person we hired nearly a year ago, who has proven she wasn’t cut out for the job. She’s done little to contribute, but we all felt bad at the prospect of her losing her job. She was offered a position in another department that seems more suited to her abilities. It’s a slight demotion, but at least she’s not completely out of a job.

And finally, the person who has created the most stress in my work life for the past three years? Has made a lateral move to a different department. I’ve been learning to accept her ways and cope with her idiosyncrasies. I’ve long since realized that much of the problem stemmed from a sense of competition that’s unhealthy on her part. And she would never admit it, but she clearly has some underlying insecurities. I know I created much of my own stress by allowing her to impact me negatively and absorb my focus too much of that time. I’ve learned to rise above it, but I’m not unhappy that she’s making this move. I honestly think she’ll be thrilled with this change. We’ll still work closely, but her move should provide just enough breathing room from each other that we might just make something really good and productive of our working relationship after all.

I am so grateful and excited to see what these new opportunities bring!

Never a Dull Moment

As crazy weeks go, this one ranks right up there. Going into the work week, I knew most of my department would be either out on PTO or leaving late Monday morning for business travel.

That basically left two of us to hold down the fort. I knew that could present some challenges but we were actually excited to rise to the challenge.

What I wasn’t counting on was my boss calling me into her office first thing Monday morning before she left for the week – and offering me a promotion I had no idea was coming!

More on this soon! :-)

Gardens Wild and Still

I’m not a huge fan of gardening. I’ll plant a few low-maintenance flowers in pots around the yard every spring and I do manage to keep them reasonably hydrated and alive for the most part until fall. As for the vegetable gardens, I enjoy the produce, but the planting and maintenance is usually Mark’s thing. Except for this year.

When we came home from our long weekend at the lake earlier this week, I noticed the gardens out back were out of control. I think it was all the rain we had earlier this summer, combined with a lack of attention on our part that did it. We didn’t mean to completely neglect the gardens. It was just that we’ve been … SO busy!

2015-07-30b

The tomato plants had grown so tall and wide that they were bent over and fighting each other for space. The pepper plants too were tangled up with each other and falling over from the weight of their size. And the weeds! Ugh.

2015-07-30aI had taken one extra day off to spend at home before returning to work after our vacation. And the first thing I did that Wednesday morning was find some gloves and head out to the back yard. First things first – Mark had planted some sunflower seeds and they had taken off. He remembered out loud that the seeds had been a giant variety. No kidding!

Before doing anything else, I asked Mark if we had any string or rope. He disappeared into the shed and resurfaced again with a cord of rope. I made my way in among the sunflowers that were stretching out into the grass, the leaves and weeds scratching against my arms and legs. I pulled the sunflower stalks upright and Mark cut lengths of rope for me. Then I tied the stalks up to the fence so they stood tall again like they’re supposed to.

Next we pulled weeds. We pulled and pulled and pulled until we had mountains of weeds piled up in the grass. Mark went back to the shed and came out this time with wooden stakes. We bolstered the tomato cages and I did my best to redistribute the weight of the plants so they didn’t choke each other out. Then I looked at the pepper plants and realized they needed support too. We’ve never had to stake the pepper plants before, but this clearly hasn’t been a typical year for our vegetable gardens!

Hopefully, we’ve managed to save most of the plants. Both the regular and cherry tomatoes are starting to turn red and the pepper plants are looking pretty fruitful. I think the cucumbers are a lost cause, but we’ll see if they rally back. The sunflowers are looking happy again. I went out this morning after my walk with Lucy to look around and as I stood beneath one of the giant flowers, was startled to see a Goldfinch perched on one of them, right above me. He didn’t seem concerned with me and proceeded to hop to and fro between the big, round faces of the flowers, plucking little seeds in his beak as I observed. I was just marveling at how comfortable he seemed to be with my presence when I noticed other birds singing, warbling and chirping. I strolled slowly beneath the nearby branches of our white pine and looked up to see a flock of chickadees flitting among the branches directly over my head. They too seemed unconcerned with my close proximity. It occurred to me that not so long ago, I wouldn’t even have bothered to notice, much less appreciate the plants, the colors, the birds, or the sounds of a lazy Saturday morning.

While by no means do I feel old, I do appreciate that as I grow older, I have an increasing ability to slow down and be still, to recognize beauty in the world that I hadn’t seen before. And I might just become inclined to spend more time in the gardens from now on!

Mo Movin’

2015-07-24Woke up this morning to rain and thunder. Tired. I was awake in the middle of the night for a while and it left me feeling groggy when the alarm went off. I got up anyway. I had plans to go to the gym with Kacey this morning, so no going back to sleep for me. And it paid off. There are perks to being an early riser. I mean, besides feeling good about working out. This sky, as we were leaving the gym, for one thing.

I’m on vacation starting today. I didn’t realize how much I needed it until yesterday at work, when I found myself happily tying up loose ends and looking forward to a few days away from it all.

I thought things would slow down after we got my parents moved into their new house last week, but there’s been a steady to-do list ever since. We went over one night last week so that Mark could install a new kitchen faucet. On Monday this week, I brought dinner over and ended up running an errand and doing a few chores for Mom and Dad. There have been a few surprises with the new house, and this week a new refrigerator was delivered. So last night I was there moving food from the garage refrigerator into the new one in the kitchen.

My parents’ move wasn’t the only one happening this month. Kacey is making the transition from college apartment to a house off-campus for her final semester of school. She’s been moving things in stages while she’s home for the summer. Last week, she and Mark took care of the big stuff – the bed, desk, futon and such. Last weekend, she and I went to the apartment to clear out the last of her clothes and incidentals, and do the last bit of cleaning before fully vacating the apartment. We made a spontaneous stop at Minnesota’s Largest Candy Store along the way. We exercised restraint and only bought a small container of saltwater taffy. And maybe just a small bag of Sugar Babies for me. They’re not as good as I remember.

Since Kace was the last of the group of roommates to clear out of the apartment, we got to sort through abandoned kitchen stuff, and throw away all the things that everyone else had left behind with the thought that someone else might want it. She’d been instructed to throw away anything that wasn’t hers or she didn’t want, so we hauled bags of trash to the dumpster along with an abandoned night stand that we left next to the dumpster, in case someone else might want it. As a bonus, my daughter is now the proud owner of a full set of cookware, a full set of flatware, a brand new wireless router and a North Face jacket.

Kacey was excited for me to see her new digs. She’s moving in with a group of friends who have been living in the house already for the past school year. The apartment was nice, but the house is … well. The apartment was nice.

I was a bit taken aback at first sight of the house. The carpet was icky and there were a few holes in the walls. LED lights were strung around the ceiling in nearly every room, and the decor included Starbucks marketing posters and cutouts. But having a son who lived in a college house for a couple of years, I remembered what college houses are like. And remembered that I just have to not think about it too much. And the more things we hauled into the house, the more it grew on me. Here’s a snapshot of the kitchen. I resisted the urge to do the dishes.

2015-07-19a

You keep a volleyball in your kitchen too, right?

Twice, Kacey told me I wasn’t allowed to come down the basement. So of course, I followed her down the stairs after the second warning. It wasn’t as shocking as she apparently thought it would be to me. I told her that her dad and I had a basement like that in the duplex where we lived when we were first married. Old houses have basements like that. Dirt floor. Stone walls. Dark, damp and musty.

Roommate A.J. had followed behind when I made the trek to the basement with Kacey, apparently wanting to see my reaction to the place she didn’t want me to see. As Kacey plunked a box of stuff on an office chair that was sitting randomly near the washer and dryer, he tried to warn her, “Wait! No! Oh, you put that on the haunted chair!”

I’m not sure why the chair is haunted. I’m sure I don’t want to know. Really, my biggest concern was the visible slant of the entire house. I told Kacey to make sure she positions her bed so that the blood won’t rush to her head at night when she goes to sleep.

I’m probably exaggerating just a little bit about the unlevelness of the house. And she’s excited about living in her new place. It’s really only new in the sense that she’ll be officially living there. Roommates Beth and Megan gave her an unofficial house key some months ago already. A.J. was moving out of the main floor bedroom that will now be Kacey’s and is relocating to the upper level with Austin, where the boys will have their own kitchen. Kacey assures me that the girls’ kitchen will be much cleaner once she and Megan return in the fall. And A.J. told Kacey he wanted to vacuum before she moved in to his old room.

He wanted to vacuum. I told her I liked him. All hope is not lost.

We left the house that day before Kacey had a chance to get her new room put together. We were hot, sweaty and tired after numerous trips to and from my car that was packed to the gills, and hauling belongings up a set of steps to the front door. But the hard part was done. And now, you can understand why I’m so happy to be on vacation for a few days!