the Blog

First Cars

I’ll bet we all remember the first car we bought. It’s a rite of passage, an icon of growing up into adulthood. The leap from borrowing the parents’ car to purchasing one’s own car brings freedom and responsibility. It’s time to leave childhood.

As a high school student, I didn’t have a car. I drove my mom’s car when I needed one. For my freshman year of college, I had a bicycle and lived on campus. When I moved off campus for my remaining college years, a car became a greater need.

My first car was a Dodge Omni. I bought it from my mom’s friend when I was 19 years old. Coyn was a large, quiet man who owned his own body shop. The Omni had been wrecked and Coyn now owned it. He had fixed the dents and painted it. Thinking that the car was too small for his lengthy body, I assumed he was going to resell it and asked how much it would cost for me to buy it. He said, “$1200.”

I said, “Sold!”

I withdrew $600 from my savings account and my boyfriend gifted me the rest. He had graduated from college and had steady income.

With money in hand, I arrived at Coyn’s shop. “I’m ready to buy the car,” I announced.

He went to his nearby house, located the title, and we completed the transaction.

If wasn’t until later that my mom told me that he hadn’t actually meant to sell me the car. He was going to keep it for himself, but when I showed up with the money, he didn’t tell me he hadn’t been serious about the price. He was a good, kind man and sold it to me anyway.

The car wasn’t attractive, but it was a wonderful car. It did great in the snow. It had good storage, enough for four college girls to pack all their gear and go to fencing tournaments.

After college, I got my teaching job and a regular salary. I thought of that former boyfriend who had given me the $600 and sent him a check, with some interest. I knew it was a gift freely given, but I could now repay the kindness. I sent off a check and soon received a reply. It turned out that he had decided to go to seminary and was now in need of money! The timing was perfect.

After many good years together, my poor car caught on fire, from an oil leak. Did you know you can use dirt to put out an engine fire? Being old, the car was declared a total loss. Letting it be towed off to the junk yard felt disloyal after all those years of service.

Like our first loves, our first cars have a special place in our hearts.

What was your first car?

Disappearing Moments

I open the Facebook tab on my phone, for the first time that day, and see a notification. My friend, or a relative, or my favorite band has posted a story. Facebook encourages me to check it out before it’s gone! But, it’s already gone! What did I miss this time?

The move towards temporary posts began with Snapchat. Post your picture and then it goes away, once viewed. Then Facebook and Instagram followed suit. I suspect the companies simply wanted to reduce the amount of data saved on their servers, but whatever the reason, many people welcomed the new options.

Am I the only one who doesn’t understand this? I like having snapshots of my life preserved. Sometimes there’s a question of, “When did that happen?” and I can find the answer on my FB timeline. I enjoy the “X years ago, this happened” reminders that pop up on my feed. There are sweet moments of times with my kids or pets, funny quotes I’d forgotten, and sometimes moments that stir sadness or remind me of dark days. Even those I appreciate, because I’ve grown through the good and the bad.

I must admit, at those moments that I realize a story has already disappeared, I experience a bit of FOMO (fear of missing out). What was that post that I didn’t get to see? There’s a piece of the puzzle that I don’t have. Will it come up in conversation and have to be explained to me?

All of that leads to a question. If you post something for others to see, why make it so that some people will not get to see it at all?

Which camp are you in? Are you a story poster or do you stick to ones that are saved? What are the reasons for your choice?

One Word – 2021

Remember the beginning of 2020, full of hope and plans?

For 2020, my word was Explore. The year was ahead of me, with many possibilities. It was my first year of full retirement and I was ready to make the most of it. I jumped right in with exploring.

I had a blast trying new things. I started painting with watercolors, renewed my interest in photography, auditioned for a play, took classes in pottery and writing, and signed up for an acting class. I was a regular at the Shenandoah Valley Watercolor Society and the Rocktown Camera Club. I was on a roll.

Then came Covid-19, which brought the in-person meetings and events to a halt. My acting class was cancelled. I continued to do some painting and some photography, though even those dwindled. It’s harder to be motivated without my communities of writing, painting, and photography.

Much of the year was spent packing and moving, as well as working on multiple houses. We moved, within our city, in June and again in September. We spent the summer and some of the fall in Maine, where most of my time was used working on our house there. I painted, but on walls, not watercolor paper!

I could say that those things kept me from art and writing, but the truth is that I struggle with making time for things I enjoy, though I truthfully have the time to do so. I’m retired and am subbing very little. I have an office to myself in my new home. I have fast internet for online classes and tutorials.

My word for 2021 is a result of 2020. Last year I explored. This year I want to make time for what I ultimately enjoy or want to improve. I need to FOCUS. I am easily distracted. I tend to bounce from one thing to another. I am stressed by clutter and that makes it hard to focus. Self-doubt also creeps in to creative endeavors, creating a wall that takes will power to scale. Without focus, many things fall by the wayside.

I plan to make a loose schedule for myself, to give myself both permission and commitment to those things I deem important. Here are those things:

  • painting
  • writing
  • typewriter reconditioning (I have many that need cleaning and/or repair)
  • continued decluttering (to aid in focus, not to avoid)
  • exercise (looking different in a pandemic)
  • reading (Bible, novels, books on writing, growth, etc.)
  • processing/mindfulness

How about you? Are there things in your life that you want to intentionally include this year?

Javan Leffel: May 2006 – December 13, 2020

I often called Javan my “birthday present from God” after rescuing him from the road, three days before my birthday. It was pouring rain that night, and the little kitten was soaked and sick. I took him home, dried him with a towel, then hair dryer, and took him to the vet. He bonded with me immediately, trying to get back to me even as the vet treated him.

I named him Javan, a character from a novel I’d read. I later found the name in the Bible (a grandson of Noah) and discovered that it meant “effervescent and lively.” It fit perfectly. He was unique and funny, starting with his “thumbs” on his front feet. He did forward rolls on the floor, front hip circles on the ladder to my loft, and played fetch. He liked to play in water. It was often hard for me to vacuum, as he loved to BE vacuumed. He would repeatedly lie down in front of the vacuum so that I would stop and vacuum him. Going for a ride in the car was a treat for him.

He was smart, and a smarty pants. I taught him that he could only have his front feet on the table, so he would stretch as far across the table as possible, while keeping his back feet on the chair or a lap. Before he went deaf, he would come when his name was called. If I asked him, “do you want to go out?” he ran to the back door. I taught him to “sit up” for treats. He would then sit up if he thought we had food to share with him.

Javan’s favorite thing of all was cuddling, especially with me. He would have been happy to be carried around the house or draped across my back, all day long. If I was busy, or he was otherwise inclined, he was happy to hang out with his other humans or his dog friends. He took good care of anyone who was sick. At night, he often slept under the covers with me, “back sleeping” or curling up in front of me. He liked tucking his head under his humans’ chins.

Diagnosed with kidney disease at the age of 6, Javan lived well, with his changed diet, until early 2020, when he began to decline. He got slower and lighter, but still loved going outside and cuddling with his humans. He was always quick to purr when I walked into the room. He rallied in June and enjoyed his summer in Maine.

As anyone who has loved a pet knows, he will be greatly missed. If you ever met him, you understand how much I loved him and how special he was. I really hope we can get our beloved pets back, in Heaven.

Searching for Home

The cats and dog were loaded in the van, the hot water heater was turned off, and we’d taken that last bathroom break. With a sigh, I fastened my seatbelt and pulled the van onto the road. It was late August and we were leaving Maine to go… not home, but to Harrisonburg.

Only months before, we had moved to a house we thought would be our home. It started with a grand idea. My mom, my “other” brother, and I were going to each chip in 1/3 and buy a house together. I’d sold my house in 2019 and was ready. We’d even looked at one house that my son and I loved. The large deck and full screened deck under it encouraged dreaming.

Somehow we got on an alternate plan of using a house my mom owns, next to my old house, and all living there together. My part of the plan was to spend $100k for repairs and upgrades. We started working on that house, and prepping to move out of where we lived. Everything was harder due to the pandemic. The thrift stores were closed to donations and I couldn’t call on friends to help us move. It took my son and I a long time to pack our belongings, while also giving away unneeded items through the Buy Nothing Facebook group. We then had to move those items ourselves. It was exhausting. We moved loads over, unpacked, then took the boxes back and repeated the process. It’s amazing how much you can fit in a minivan, including furniture! I hired movers for the heavy furniture. We got our rooms set up, along with the den and dining room. It still didn’t feel like home.

It couldn’t feel like home.

It turns out that my mom and I had very different ideas and needs. I thought it would be our home, but her view was that it was her home and she was letting us stay there.

My son and I unpacked and then left for Maine for the summer, going to our work-in-progress house that now felt more like home.

With letters and phone calls back and forth, it became clear that my mom’s house wasn’t going to be home. I started searching realtor listings, but there wasn’t much in my price range. I entered an online auction bid for a small house, but it sold for a ridiculously high amount.

By necessity, the new plan became to live in Maine until next year. When we drove to Harrisonburg in August, it was to repack all of our belongings and put them in storage. My heart was heavy. I thought of myself as “homeless in Virginia.” I had never been without a place to live in the area.

Shortly after we returned, my realtor and friend contacted me. He had a house in Harrisonburg that he owned and he was going to sell. Did I want to see it?

I toured it in the morning and signed a contract in the afternoon! He graciously allowed us to start moving before closing. We closed in a few weeks and got everything moved into our new house. It doesn’t completely feel like home yet, but it will. It has some things that I wanted, like a front porch and yard.

A week after closing, we headed back to Maine. With school being online, we could spend time here that we couldn’t normally. The house is cold. I spent all my money on the Harrisonburg house, so don’t have enough left to finish insulating yet. There’s always next year for that.

In a couple of weeks, we’ll have the cats and dog loaded in the van, have the hot water heater turned off and drained, and have taken that last bathroom break. I’ll fasten my seatbelt and pull the car onto the road. This time, we’ll go home.

Photo by Tierra Mallorca on Unsplash

Exploring Outside of My Comfort Zone

A big part of me wanted to back out. Another part wanted to make excuses before I’d even started. We always tell our kids to be brave, to try even if we know we aren’t going to win, and that the experience is valuable. I had to keep telling myself those things a few days ago. I reminded myself that I’d picked the word “explore” as my word for the year, so I should explore, even if it was scary. Continue reading “Exploring Outside of My Comfort Zone”

One Word 2020

I wasn’t able to find the perfect word. I don’t think the word I want exists, so I picked the best option.

This stage of my life is giving me time to explore. Specifically, I am learning and creating. Or 2020, I’ve registered for a new writing class, a pottery class, and will register for an acting class next week.

Other words that I wanted to combine with explore were “learn” and “create.”

Continue reading “One Word 2020”

My New Obsession

I am the crossover generation. As a child, there were no desktop or laptop computers. In high school, I took a typing class. If we were lucky, we got to use the electric typewriters. Half of the class used the manual ones. Toward the end of my high school career, there was a room with computers. The only students who used them were in a computer class. I wasn’t one of them. Continue reading “My New Obsession”