carolinainmymind

can't you see the sunshine….

Oh Marie,

Regular readers might remember last winter when we first arrived in the US, I went to a thrift shop in Ocean City, NJ and bought a few second hand books to amuse my self with until I could get to my favorite Wake County Public library, Cameron Village.  One of the books I bought was written by the clean up expert, Marie Kondo.    And you might remember that I have written about My Ben and his NEED to keep every thing.  I mean EVERY THING!

So I opened a tote this week and there were the books I had bought in OCNJ.  Some I have read, like Marie Kondo’s book and some I have not read.  I made two stacks, resolving that I have to finish the unread ones before I can get more books from any of the series that I am reading.  And since we just really don’t have room for stacks of books, the completed books need to find a new home.

My Ben and I have been going to a City of Raleigh ‘Active Adults’ center for an exercise class and a music therapy class.  In the lobby of the center is a basket of books that folks bring in to give away.  So I decided to drop off our books.  Today, we arrived for our class.   I got Ben in his wheel chair, put the books in his lap, wheeled him in and went back out to move the car.  Coming back in, Ben immediately says in what passes for his hurt/indignant/angry voice, “Why didn’t you let me see this book?” gesturing with the Marie Kondo book.  I took a step back, fearing that the Gods of Order, Disorder or Irony, any or all of them, might shoot down a bolt of lightning.   It really took a good bit of self control not to fall over laughing or lash out with some sarcasm.  I just smiled and said if you want to keep it that’s fine and removed the other books to the basket as quickly as I could.

So now Marie Kondo has made it back in to our condo.  Beside Ben’s chair where his library book has been sitting for several weeks now.  I’ll give her a few more weeks and then try to slip her out again.  She is just going to have to do her part and fall open to a page that says “PASS ME ALONG TO SOMEONE ELSE!”

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Another food post

I don’t write as many of those as I used to, do I?  ‘Toto, I guess we aren’t in Italy anymore.’  We don’t get out that much and American food is just not that special.  A few weeks ago we did meet Jim and BK in Creedmoor for Mexican food.  ( click here if you want to see their site)  El Corral.  It was, as always, excellent.  I’m sorry that I didn’t take a picture.  When we used to come back for visits we always tried our best to stop by here since the food is good.  And it still is.

Anyway, we are still trying to find our pizza of choice.

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The box on the right is a brand that we used to get at the Esselunga in Italy.  The contents are on the left of the board.  I have to dress it up for Ben by adding more ham and cheese.  The box to the left and the pizza to the right of the board is Harris-Teeter’s brand.  It would have been excellent except for the American tendency to gild the lily and take dishes one step too far!  The zesty sauce!  What is wrong with good, simple ingredients?  Good cheese.  Good tomato sauce. Simple crust.  No need for some overly garlicy/basil sauce.  None of the take out that we have tried is acceptable.  The hunt continues.

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My tomatoes are just about finished but the green beans have started to come in.  Last night there were enough to make an Asian style dish, Gingered Pork with Green Beans and Carrots.   It was very tasty.

We are still shopping at the Harris-Teeter.  Ground has not even been broken on the Wegmans yet.  Every now  and then I venture into Trader Joes.  Now that we have a car that is not an oven on wheels we might try to get up to the Lidl in Wake Forest more often.  Our friends Jim and BK like Sprouts.  We have still not been to it, although Ben is keen to go.  (Ben is keen to go many places but he is not the one who has to load and unload his wheel chair and all his paraphernalia.  Our trips have to be tied into other errands or appointments)

I did catch on that I can order deli items online and then just pick them up at the Harris-Teeter without standing in line.  And I make our grocery list online too.  If I had a whoop de doo phone I could just have it on my phone.  Still old school, I print it out.

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I also find that while shopping I need to remind myself that the Harris-Teeter is only a few blocks and that I don’t need to over buy.  I have found that we are throwing away more food (spoiled) than I would like.  No exciting food here.  And I know we are very lucky to be in this position to be able to whine about boring food….

 

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Are we finished moving yet?

Almost!  I know!  We moved two weeks before Memorial Day and now here it is past Labor Day and I am still whining about moving.

It was not a simple move.  Yes, we managed to get all the boxes in one place, completely filling our guest room.  And I have worked at least 4 days out of every 7, every week,  on emptying boxes.  Part of the problem is that our recycling is only picked up every other week.  So any boxes that I emptied had to be stored inside until the magic once every 14 days pick-up day.  I did figure out that I could load the boxes in the car/oven and drive them to a local park and recycle them there.  And in 90+ degree weather I did that several times.  And keep in mind, Ben is not able to help.  And Ben has to keep EVERYTHING that his daughters and grand daughter ever touched and sent to him.  And the envelopes that it was mailed in.   And lastly, ten years ago, when we packed all this up, at least 40% of it was things that moved from my parents house three years earlier that I had yet to unpack and do anything with.  So it has been difficult.

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There are boxes of glassware.  I considered selling it to the outfit called Replacements which is based about two hours away.  The problem was they would only take certain pieces of the set, not all of it.  And they were not offering that much money.  So I just boxed it all back up and paid someone to move it up to the attic.  In 30 years maybe it will be worth more.

And there are the pictures,

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I unpacked them all and piled them on the bed and then started hanging.  Went through 50 hangers.  Almost through another 20 and that doesn’t count the things hung with regular nails and these

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lightweight plastic frames that are balanced on very thin shelves.  A whole wall of them. I need to go through the boxes of photographs to figure which ones to fill these frames with.

Our friend Debby came over and helped with the hanging.

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Our friend Jim came and drilled holes so I could run wires through a cabinet.  Otherwise I have done all of it, working in short bursts, stopping to make yet another meal.  And truly no one can or should be going through my parents’ belongings but me.  It is a very difficult.  Some times I felt like I just moved things from one side of the room to the other.  Some times I just stand there frozen trying to decide what to do with things.

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What do I do with things like this?  There are three of these.  Paintings done by a German prisoner of war.  (My father taught/worked in a prisoner of war camp towards  the end of WWII.)  My father liked them.  They hung in my child hood home and their home.  These must have been important to him.  So what do I do with them?  There is just no wall space to hang them.

This has been the hardest part of the months and months of this moving adventure.

But I have forged ahead and hung pictures,

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I am still working on this wall.  We are missing pictures.  I know that our storage shed was broken in to several times.  I can’t believe that it was a box of pictures that was stolen.

The sun that comes in the windows to the left both upstairs and downstairs is very strong.  I fear it could fade any photos.  So, yes indeed….

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pictures of my relatives are hanging in my closet.  Ben’s relatives are in his ‘cubby’ under the stairs and out of the sunlight too.   And just a note, if you ever come to visit, absolutely no comments about ‘that picture is crooked!’ ‘That picture should be 1/2 inch over to the left.’ unless you are prepared to climb up on a ladder and fix it!

This week, we lucked out and found this piece at ReStore (the outlet that is connected to Habitat for Humanity).

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I told Ben I was just going to run in and have a quick scratch around.  As soon as I went in, I could hear it calling my name.  I really like the sort retro 60s Asian vibe.  I measured.  Came home, measured, measured more, mentally moved pieces.  Thought about it over night and finally figured out how to make it work so I went back to get it.  (One of the disadvantages to owning a vehicle that furniture can easily fit in to.  Just too easy to buy something and get it home.)  I am real tickled that it was still available and that it has worked out so well.  The two side parts have glass doors with a glass shelf inside giving a good bit of storage.  They are lighted too.  I covered the glass with black fabric since what I have stored in there is not so pretty.  The center part had already had the back cut out so that we could put all the TV stuff in there.  OUT OF SIGHT!  HURRAY!  And the “Watch Birds” are finally settled in.  To the left side, facing the door.

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We are still waiting on my bed and our table.  And I need to find some piece of furniture to give me a small non-kitchen work area and store tools.  But slowly, slowly we are getting there.  The boxes are all open and stored or gone.  I hope it will be a long, long long time before I see any boxes again.

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We bought a car

Finally!  In mid-August.  It took us FOREVER and tried every one of my last nerves.

You might remember the car we bought from Jim and BK in late January.

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“The Big Car”  a 1998 Lincoln Town Car.  For our purposes, at the time, it was a fine car.  Ran well.  Ben’s fold-up wheel chair fit easily in the back.  Large trunk that I could use for storage.  Good car…. until the driver’s side window stopped going up and down.  And then in early July the AC stopped working and then in the period of 10 short days the motors on all the other windows broke so they stopped going up and down.  Ben’s trips away from home became very restricted.  It is one thing to subject myself to riding around in an oven on wheels but something else to subject Ben to it.  (I feared being arrested for elder abuse.)  For a few weeks my trips were very short or made late in the afternoon or on cloudy days.  Even then, wherever I arrived, it appeared that I had just stepped out of a shower.  Almost totally soaked in sweat.

Several months ago, we started looking for a new vehicle when Ben’s whoop dee doo wheel chair arrived.  Most folks buy what is known as a ‘conversion van’.  This is a passenger van that has  been altered.   Seats removed, bottom lowered or roof raised to accommodate the height of a wheel chair with a person sitting in it.  New conversion vans start at $45,000.  Used conversion vans… well you might find one.  “How about this nice one, a 2007 with only 75,000 miles and it is only $30, 000.”  Yeah, right!  We were suffering from serious sticker shock.

Because I was very focused on getting us unpacked I had let Ben handle looking for choices.  He gave his name and email address to car dealers!  Oh nooo!  I would be asleep and wake up hearing him committing us to driving 30 miles away to visit a car dealer.  And what we would be driving in?  Yes, the oven on wheels.  In 90+ degrees of heat and 80% humidity.  I had to put a stop to that.

Finally, we found a ramp system, called Roll- A- Ramp.   click here if you want to see their site

This started a whole round of measuring the inside spaces and door openings of vans.  Silly me, I thought we should be able to find specs like that online.  Not really.  So visits to car dealers along with a tape measure were called for.  Traveling there in the mobile oven.  Keep in mind, we lived in Italy for 10 years.  Thinking that foreigners would be a problem, at a car dealership in Italy, no one really wanted to sell us a car.  The two cars that we bought were from a dealer ship where we were friends with the owners’ son.  No high pressured sales tactics were used.  It was ” Ah Marta, how much you gotta spend? I show you what we have.”   Here, whoa.  They were at the oven door before I even got Ben out.  And the questions.  With some amount of shame I have to confess that I lost my cool. (My cool had left me even before we had left the parking lot at home.)  JUST GET THE KEYS! OPEN THE DOOR! LET ME MEASURE AND TAKE PICTURES!  And then of course Ben would want to see.  And oh the questions he would ask.  Frayed, frayed, frayed last nerves.  It was torture.

And then there was the ramp installers.  Three choices, one nearby, two about two hours away.  Took weeks,  Really WEEKS! to get in touch with them.  Because Ben has questions.  One is off fishing.  One is on a ‘mission trip.’ One doesn’t bother to return calls.  And then there is the installer of the ‘tie down’ systems.  Just as hard to get in touch with them.  Be prepared to hear this story in great detail if you make the mistake of saying something like “well in Italy/France everyone goes on vacation at the same time.  The whole place just shuts down.”  That is true.  But you know when it is going to happen and you know that the whole family will be away and you can plan.  Here, dealing with small family run businesses, it is crap shoot about who will be working and when.   Not just in a concentrated few weeks of August, it has been the whole summer.

So after considering possibilities, costs and thinking about it, we realized that while it would be nice to have a van that Ben could ride into in his motorized chair we just could not afford that.  So we picked a Ford Transit Connect.  It is a small van.  Many workmen use it.  Fits well in tight spaces.  Handles well.  We will be having a  ramp installed in the back which will come right out on to the sidewalk or parking lot.  Ben will still have to walk from the back of the condo to the front parking lot and get in and out of the passenger seat, then get in the motorized chair  (after I get it out) when we arrive somewhere.  Honestly, when he is no longer capable of doing that the chances are very high that I will no longer be able to manage taking care of him.

Ben’s very diligent search finds a brand new 2016 van.  It had been hiding on the lot.  We got a great price but they only want to give us $100 for the ‘big car’.  What an insult!  Why there is enough room to bake 10 pizzas inside that car if it was parked in full sun shine!  Really!  A good pizza oven would cost more than that and this one was mobile!  I list it on Craig’s List and sell it for $700.  Probably could have gotten more but I wanted it to go to a good home.

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So, this is the new car.  It is cute as a button.  His name has not yet revealed itself to me.  (Long time friends remember Sven) It is such a pleasure to ride around in.  Now we are working on getting the ramp and tie downs installed.  Maybe, just maybe, we can get that all done and take a little trip before winter arrives.

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How many times…

How many ways do I need to change our address with our health insurance companies?

 

Last summer, while still in Italy, I had to research and select our supplemental health insurance plans.  One of the most frustrating experiences I have had.  It drove me to tears several times and I always had to have a glass of wine after wards.  Anyway, with the help of several patient ladies here in Raleigh, I picked two companies.  Coventry for Ben and Humana for me.  When signing up I did not want to use our condo (where we are living now) address because the property was rented at the time.  I did not know the renters and did not feel comfortable having insurance related mail sent to that address.  I could not use our address in Oxford because these plans are not offered in Oxford.  I asked our friend Cathy, who lives in Raleigh, if we could use her address.  No problem.  So we did.  Immediately mail from the insurance companies started coming to Cathy.

January arrived and so did we.  Cathy brought us a box of mail, all insurance related.  As the end of January approached and our condo address became available to us I started to change our address with everyone, insurance included.  With the insurance companies I sent pieces of paper changing our address.  I went online and changed our address.  I called customer service and changed our address.

February came, still Cathy was bringing us insurance mail.   I sent pieces of paper changing our address.  I went online and changed our address.  I called customer service and changed our address.

March came, still Cathy was bringing us insurance mail. I sent pieces of paper changing our address.  I went online and changed our address.  I called customer service and changed our address.

April came, still Cathy was bringing us insurance mail. I sent pieces of paper changing our address.  I went online and changed our address.  I called customer service and changed our address.

May came, still Cathy was bringing us insurance mail.  By now I have pretty much had it.  Coventry, Ben’s insurer is the worst.  They want to chat with him over the phone to see how he is doing.  But first, they have to confirm they have the correct person by reviewing his birthdate and address.  When they start rattling off Cathy’s address I end the conversation.  “If you can’t get our address corrected, I don’t have time to talk to you.”  I am still sending pieces of paper changing our address.

End of July, Cathy brings more insurance mail, including these.

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What are these?  Greeting cards from my health insurance company, sent to Cathy’s address.  One to welcome summer and one for 4th of July.  Guess what… I don’t want greeting cards from my health insurance company, I would really rather that you cover more of the cost of my $100 prescription.  And I certainly don’t want them sent to an address that I have spent 6 months trying to change.  Is it an evil plot to raise my blood pressure so that I need a whole new prescription?

 

 

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Who remembers this

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For those of you not from Kentucky,

Stewart Dry Goods

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Stewart Dry Goods Company — alternately known as Stewart Dry Goods, or Stewart’s — was a regional department store chain based in Louisville, Kentucky. At its height, the chain consisted of seven store locations in Kentucky and Indiana. The chain in its later years operated as a division of New York-based Associated Dry Goods.[1]

In addition to its downtown Louisville flagship store, Stewart’s locations could also be found within the Louisville metro area at Oxmoor CenterFayette MallJefferson MallMall St. Matthews, and Dixie Manor. The latter two had previously been L.S. Ayres stores, bought by Stewart’s amid legal difficulties noted in a published history of the Stewart’s chain.

Stewart’s continued as a separate nameplate until early 1986, when parent Associated Dry Goods had merged the stores with Indianapolis-based L.S. Ayres. Later that year,[1] most of the former Stewart’s stores were sold to Ben Snyder’s. In turn, some would sell to Hess’s in 1987 or would close. By 1992, the last surviving former Stewart’s store — the L.S. Ayres location in Evansville’s Washington Square Mall — closed amid the ADG merger with The May Department Stores Company of St. Louis.

The Stewart’s Dry Goods Company Building at 501 S. 4th Street in Louisville is listed as a Building of Local Significance on the National Register of Historic Places.[2] Its façade is featured in one of the opening scenes from the 1981 film Stripes, in which two teens dash out of a cab driven by actor Bill Murray without paying the fare and a passenger played by actress Fran Ryan is picked up

 

Anyway, just another box of things my mother saved and I moved from Florida to Virginia to storage in Oxford, NC for ten years and then to see the light of day in Raleigh, NC.

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Some baby gown and two separate stacks (divided with a note written by my Mother) of cotton handkerchiefs.  One stack was hers, the others belonged to my Grandmother.  Many in my Mother’s stack had stickers on them indicating where they were made, Ireland, Switzerland, Australia….  Gifts from folks, I think.  She did not travel that much.

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This one was just too cute.  In the tiny pocket, a little powder puff, so you could touch up after all those tears.

They are not going back in storage.  They will be freed from their box and see the light of day.  They will appear again in a later post.

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The Last Move

You’d think I be through chatting about moving.  I mean really, how long can this go on?  Even after we moved the suitcases that we brought with us from Italy in May there was still a storage building in Oxford, NC.  We finally got our ducks in a row and cleared that out on Tuesday, June 27.

Ten years ago when we were packing up our house in Virginia and getting ready to move to Italy, we had no idea how long we would be gone for, if we would buy a house in Italy or what.  I had a few pieces of furniture that were family pieces so I went ahead and gave those to family members.  We sold a lot.  But there were some pieces that I just thought we should keep along with lots of pictures and mementoes.  What to do, what to do?  I looked into a storage unit, kind of expensive.  How long would we need it for?  It finally occurred to me that buying a ‘garden shed’ from a big box hardware store and planting it somewhere might just be cheaper in the end.  Our friends Jim and BK graciously agreed to let us have a shed built on their property.  After 18 months the shed had paid for itself versus what we would have been paying for a storage unit.  And ten years later it certainly had paid for itself.

U-Haul has this wonderful service where you can arrange for helpers if you are moving.  So I rented a truck, arranged for helpers in Oxford and another set here in Raleigh.  Loaded Ben up in the truck and we were off.

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This is what it looked like when we started loading.  There are 4 of those tall bookcases, packed full of boxes.  The piece of furniture on the far right, full of boxes too.  Lots of boxes.

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Empty at last.

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Back in Raleigh, we had to unload all the boxes on to the lawn to get to the furniture in the truck.  Furniture had to go in first because the boxes just filled the place up.

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Our beautiful space has been invaded…..

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But look at the treasures that we have found.  So now, 5 days later, Sunday, July 2 we still have boxes downstairs and up too.  But not as many.  I think I have gotten most of the kitchen boxes unpacked.  Now it is pictures, pictures and more pictures.  And things from my parents’ house that I should have gotten rid of before we moved to Italy.  Fortunately it is ten years older now and even more ‘vintage’.  Hello Craig’s List.

 

 

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It’s Called Ensuite

One of the things I was most excited about when remodeling our condo was that I was getting a bath tub.  Back in February I went to a local supplier to view the choices.  I really wanted to climb in a few and check them out.  But all the floor models were not secured to the floor and somewhat wobbly.  In the end I had to pick my tub online!  So I was pretty worried about my choice.  Well the big day came (the week after we had moved in) the tub arrived!

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Frank (in charge of day to day operations on site) brought it over on his truck.  With help he got it upstairs.  And of course it would not fit through my bath room door.

Several days passed.  Some ripping out of walls (washer and dryer won’t fit either) and the plumbers were back to install the tub.  Most of the day spent tweaking pipes and this and that.  I was getting excited.  And then…. lo and behold the hose of the hand shower was damaged.  Another week wait and finally this week 6/12 the tub was installed.  I had to wait for the NEW washer to be fixed (that happened this week also) because I wanted clean towels for my first bath.  And my first bath was very enjoyable.

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But I kind of liked it the bedroom too……

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First Round of Moving

The plan was the condo would be completed on 5/15.  When booking our temporary place I allowed a few days ‘just in case’.  Good thing I did.

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This is how it looked on 5/15.

I whined.  Everyone pulled together and on Thursday, May 18 our very kind friends Debby and Pat came over from Pittsboro to help us move out of the condo.  They came again on Friday with Pat’s very cool VW truck

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It was great for moving mattresses and the large trunks out of storage.

 

Ben was even put to work

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Pat and Debby helped us move, hang the TV, put together our table and organize things.  They were a big help.  We spent our first night there on the 19th and we woke up there on the 20th for my birthday.

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Jim and BK stopped by to help me celebrate but I think I was more than a little worn out from cleaning our temporary place and trying to get us unpacked enough to be able to live comfortably.

The next week with the help of our neighbor, Denis, we emptied our storage unit in Raleigh.  The week after that we rented a van and made a pass at the storage unit in Oxford.  It was great fun to open some of those boxes which have been packed for almost 10 years.

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In the next few weeks we will be going back to the building on Oxford and finally moving everything here.  This will be a lot to absorb in this small space.  I will need to channel my inner Marie Kondo.  And I know that we are so lucky to have all these resources and friends to help us get settled again.  Even though I don’t see the immigrant situation every night on TV I still think of it and realize how fortunate we are.

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Queen Mary 2 (part 3) and Moving

There are two other parts previously posted if you want to see them.  This is about our crossing and move back to the US in December, 2016

The Queen Mary 2 was refurbished in 2016.  To be honest I don’t remember much from our crossing in 2007.  I do remember this

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And it is still there.

I was very interested in these large reverse glass paintings

 

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It appears that Ben did not share my enthusiasm.

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It is a very grand ship.  Very roomy.  Not over crowded.  A very enjoyable experience.

Many friends helped us with our move.  I had this thing about our move and we needed to close ‘the circle’.  John and Richard jumped right in by allowing us to stay at their place for our last two weeks in Italy, the place where we first lived when we arrived in Tuscany.  Grace and GC helped us with the last of our packing and very graciously offered to feed us dinner our last night there, but as part of ‘closing the circle’ we needed to eat our last dinner in Tuscany where we had our first dinner, Il Cacciatore.

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We have watched Julia grow from being a shy young teenager into an outgoing, loving young woman.

All too soon our time on the Queen Mary 2 came to an end and look who was there to welcome us.

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Along with my wonderful cousin Bonnie and her ever patient husband Pete.  In September, 2007 they had driven us to the Queen Mary 2.  And now here they were to pick us up, care for us, and make our return as painless as possible.

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And so now we are back in the US.  It all seems like a dream…..

 

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