Thursday, June 19, 2014

Problem solving, and moving on

As I shlepped home from Trader Joe's about a month ago -- a huge bag on each shoulder and one slung across my chest -- two subway lines and a five-block walk, I thought, "Next time I need to take a camera and do a blog post about this, because this is such a New York City experience!"

You see, if you have to carry all of your groceries a distance, you shop differently. Heck, you think differently! You plan ahead, and consider bulkiness and weight in addition to nutrition and cost and allergies and what-the-kids-will-eat. You ponder whether it's going to be less crowded if you take the local train downtown to get to the uptown express, or if you should take the uptown local and transfer to the express after a dozen stops (but traverse three flights of stairs.)

The algebra of living in NYC is complex. After a while you get used to it, and it doesn't bother you any more. Much. It's just what you do.

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On Monday I headed to the airport with Eldest, to fly out with her to the small city in the midwest where she'll start work next week. We weighed whether to spend $50 on cab fare (and get to LaGuardia in 40 minutes) or to haul everything on the subway and transfer to a bus and spend $5 (a 90-minute trip). This is the kind of choice car-less people have to make. We opted for mass transit, since there are already a lot of expenses in moving.

Right after we arrived at the airport and got off the bus, I noticed an electrical cord of some sort dragging at the back of the 46-pound suitcase. I stopped to check, and was horrified to discover that the zipper had popped when the bag plopped off the bus.

We stuffed Eldest's belongings back into the suitcase as best we could, and got in line for check-in. I asked the woman managing the line if she could obtain any packing tape, since it was obvious that at 8am we were not going to be able to either buy a new suitcase or make our 9:40am plane unless we somehow patched up what we had. I followed her around until I got her to hand me half a roll of tape. Then I wrapped that sucker of a bag up until it was the ugliest suitcase in the terminal.

We sent the suitcase off on the conveyor belt, accompanied by many prayers. More than half of Eldest's worldly belongings were in there.

It was only after we were at 30,000 feet that it dawned on me that if we hadn't taken the bus, the bag wouldn't have had a big bump and burst before it was tossed in the cargo hold. Sometimes blessings truly do come well-disguised.

The bag made it. It was easy to spot on the luggage carousel, too. And no one else reached to take it, thinking it belonged to them.

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There's more than a bit of culture shock in finding myself in a car-oriented town. Neither Eldest nor I currently drive, so we are dependent upon mass transit. It is a bit of a challenge. We have done a lot of walking, an average of 3-5 miles a day. This is not a terribly unusual amount of walking for either of us; city people walk a lot. (If you ever come to NYC and marvel at how thin people are, this is why. And if you ever come to NYC, bring good walking shoes.)

We have used five different bus routes, thankful that there are buses (though most only run once or twice an hour). We've explored more than a mile in three directions from Eldest's apartment.

We have figured out where to buy groceries when there's no grocery store nearby. We have figured out how Eldest can get to her office, which is a mile from a bus stop.  We have taken a trip to a Target that is miles and miles away. We have ordered heavy things from Amazon Prime so we don't have to carry them. We have found two churches, one of which is only 1.1 miles from home. This is all good. And honestly, I don't know how we would have figured out all this without the kind of logistical training one gets from living in the city.

That said, we've also gotten Eldest a driver's permit, so she can learn to drive.

Tomorrow I fly home. Whatever new challenges head Eldest's way, she'll have to handle in her own way, in a mix of NYC heritage and to-be-acquired Midwest problem solving. It does seem that, transportation aside, life is a lot easier and runs a lot more smoothly here. That means a lot to this mom, since it will mean less stress for my daughter.

Here's to you, kid. I love ya.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

In which we do many things, all at once

There was half a day last Thursday when I thought my brain had finally imploded. You see, on Friday some of us were going to this:
Yes! She has graduated from MIT!
But of course not all of us were going. Because one of my offspring had to do this:
Little Guy has several roles in this show, which continues
this weekend.
And another was doing this:
Dancer had performances all weekend; Eldest and I caught
the last one, the night we returned.
And the dog had to stay with a neighbor.

Snuggler and went to Boston on an early bus to help Eldest sort through belongings and pack; Andrew and Big Guy headed out on a bus four hours later, after delivering Little Guy and the dog. The rain was torrential, I had a project overdue, and we were staying at my friend Kate's house, but she was leaving to go elsewhere and was putting the keys in the mailbox. I wasn't at all certain that the logistics of the day were going to work.

And, too, there had been many, many hours already allocated that week to helping various children process miscellaneous feelings about Eldest's moving on and leaving the nest. I'd been functioning for days on five hours of sleep a night. I'd had deadlines and laundry and endless rounds of keeping people on track.

Fortunately, we were all heading to places where replacement toothbrushes and deodorant could be purchased, if need be. And all the reasons we were (literally) in six places at once were happy rather than sad. The plan didn't have to be perfect, just workable. Which it was. Eventually.

A lot of life is like that: workable... if you work at it. There is much to be said for remembering that often the only real danger in your day is likely to arise from how you handle -- or mishandle -- the stress you face.  

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Magic Wands (and Lack Thereof)

Some of the kids have been feeling cranky. Others are blue. The reality that Eldest will be leaving the nest for good in two weeks to build her own life elsewhere is hitting. She is an amazing big sister. She is an affectionate and loving daughter. She will be sorely missed.

Little Guy curled his leggy 10yo frame into my lap last night after lights-out, seeking comfort. "Mommy?" he asked, "What ever happened to your magic wand?"

I smiled, nostalgic for the times when the kids were little and wanted water when we were on the train and there was none to be had, or asked me to fix something that couldn't be fixed, and I'd say, "I'm sorry, honey, but my magic wand is in the shop."

I said to Little Guy, "It sounds like you are feeling really sad." He nodded and let out a little sob. I let him cry a while and then said, "When you are sad you can do one of two things. You can just stay sad. Or you can be sad and keep going."

He replied, fiercely, "I'm going to do things!'  And then after a moment he added, "I'm going to FIX that magic wand of yours!"

Well, maybe. We can wish.

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There have been times in my life when I've wished for a magic wand. There have been times I've mistaken God for one. As I grow older and go through and survive more difficulties, I am less afraid of dark places and hard problems.

I still don't like difficulty. But I'm not afraid, and that's something. Actually, it's a big something.

On Monday Big Guy's allergist called to say that Big Guy had had a "generalized reaction" to his weekly shots.

"Hmmm. What kind of symptoms did he have?" I asked, curious to assess the scope of the problem. I was told he had been coughing, had difficulty breathing, his throat was inflamed... but they had given him medication and he was no longer having difficulty.

"What medicine did you give him?" I asked, still probing. Epinephrine, Benadryl, and a nebulizer. I know enough about allergies to know that this was not a minor allergic reaction. Still, he hadn't had to go to the Emergency Room, so... well, that was good.

The doctor asked us to send someone to pick up Big Guy, since he might be a bit woozy from the meds. Andrew went, and returned with my son and a prescription for EpiPens. The latter aren't exactly magic wands, but they will do nicely in a pinch.

I can be thankful for EpiPens, instead of wistful for a magic wand. At another point in my life I might not have been able to look at the situation that way.