An Entire Village was Needed (to Get Jyoti to California)

I am indebted….which is different than being in debt, of course. Neither is fun or easy for me.  But both are my reality.

two girls 1

Just look at these cuties!

When my girls’ father fell in love with another woman when the girls were aged 1 and 4 years old, I was devastated.  We lived in Phoenix—actually Glendale:  Both cities were devoid of charm or character to me.   I had left my flight attendant job with Pan Am in Hawaii to move to Arizona when he received a great job opportunity.  The company told him that they would move us to the Bay Area within three years.  Three years later, no Bay Area and I was a newly-single mother.  And even though I vowed never to return to an area with cold winters (I had lived in Hawaii for 10 years previous to the Arizona move), I packed up the girls and moved to Indianapolis to be in the Midwest and near family.  We moved three houses down from some dear college friends and found ourselves in a great neighborhood community which nurtured us for 26 years.

Let’s be clear.  That means 26 years of filling the empty spaces.  Which we did with no problem, just as everyone is wont to do.  We are talking a back yard shed.  A big garage.  An attic.  A basement (yes, you all remember all the floods and floating Barbie clothes).  Four bedrooms.  Almost an acre of land with huge trees.  And all the paraphernalia it takes to maintain such a property.  You homeowners know what I’m talking about.  And I never had a partner to help keep it all going.

The girls worked hard as youngsters.  They had to learn self-sufficiency early.  My neighbor and friend (and co-worker at Riley Hospital), Maureen, came to find me one blizzardy morning at work and told me that she found my elementary school daughter shivering at the bus stop and told her to go home as there was a Snow Day that day.  Who knew?!  We had many adults in our neighborhood who helped me a lot with raising the girls and just being there for them and for me.  This neighborhood is where the village started.

Sierra and Sage grew up to be splendid young women and left Indiana for college.  Sierra found her future husband at Oberlin College and moved to Washington DC for a great job, then on to Oakland, CA in 2008.  Sage moved back home to get her graduate degree from Indiana University here in Indy after she obtained a degree in Neuroscience from The College of Wooster.   When Sierra and Steve got to Oakland in the Bay Area, they pretty much knew they had found their home.  Their master plan was to get both of their families to follow them there and I was the first one to sign on!  Bay Area, here I finally come!  Well, in many more years when I could retire.  Ugh.  I had to wait, but I was determined nonetheless.

But with that long-term goal in mind, Sage and I started the sorting-out process.  During her last year at home, we spent time every single weekend and made the first swipe through every area of the property and house.  Having her help me with that first pass through helped me immensely.  Before I threw or gave things away that meant something to me or stood for something important to me, I was able to tell her many stories of my life and share my accomplishments and history, providing a needed catharsis.   It was usually torturous for her due to dust allergies; she ALWAYS ended up sneezing and tearing up and breaking out in hives.  But she stuck it out with me.  Without that initial push, I don’t think I could have done what I’ve done.  I was able to let go of so much that first year with Sage by my side.

But unfortunately, there were four more rounds of purging in my future—now my past 5 years.  I have literally spent much of my free time in those last 5 years sorting and letting go.  I knew that I would have a small space to live in in the Bay Area, but when I signed on for a 600 sq.ft. condo over two years ago, a deeper dive into purging had to take place.  During this time, I also saved money, updated the house.  Saved more money, did another update.  Purging and updating.  Five years worth.  Many days I was just crazy-pants, up to my eyeballs in craziness.  Always with one goal pushing me forward: moving to California to be with my family.

In the meantime, Steve’s folks moved from Cincinnati to Oakland (five blocks from the kids).  Steve’s brother and husband moved to San Francisco.  Sage moved from Nashville, TN to Oakland when little Marigold (Sierra and Steve’s daughter) came onto the scene.  Meanwhile, Jyoti is still in Indiana reading books on Minimalism, feeling both pain and exhilaration with each trip to Goodwill, with each item sold on Craigslist.  “Will this item provide value to my life?”  Nope?  Gone.  Gulp.  I was the first to sign on and will be the last to arrive.

So when my house sold in four days in July 2015, my nomadic life began.  My nomadic plan and goal of saving money for the actual move was so fortuitous.  Because now that I can move early (thank you, IPS, for that monetary incentive!), I need my saved money to live on until I can get a job and also collect Social Security 6 months later when I turn 66.   Knowing a bit more of my back story, I hope you can appreciate my complete freak out when I received that email that offered me 20k to retire at the end of this school year.  YES, PLEASE!  (I still do plan to write more about my cohousing condo later!)

So, I am NOT in debt!  But, oh, my lord, I am up to my eyeballs in indebtedness.  The couple of years before I put the house up for sale, my family and friends rallied around me and helped with tasks that I could never have paid for nor done myself—as I was used to doing.  The list is long.  And it starts with my Brother Kerry who flew up from Texas two years in a row and worked each time for a week at my house.  We put up a new deck fence, replaced porch walls, replaced doors, took everything out of and painted the inside of the garage, did the final pass of my downed forsythia bushes with a rented stump grinder, etc.  We worked from sun up to bedtime every day.  We took countless trips to Lowes, knocking items off of the lengthy lists until I dropped him off at the airport a week later.  Any thoughts of repayment are out of the question.  There is nothing I could ever do to repay Kerry.  Indebted indeed.

mess in family room 1

This mess is a consolidation of everything left as the new carpet was being installed in the living room and four bedrooms.

Sister Julie came for the last weekend before the sale and went home with a car full of “wonderful stuff” in “payment” for working her butt off for two days.  HAHA!  My brother Tom came for a Saturday and neither of us can remember what was on the list that day.  Brother Pat helped replace a broken step on the basement stairs—a task much more complicated that it sounds.   Steve, Abby and Larry helped lay down 5+ yards of wood chips.  Larry stayed to help me get all the heavy furniture out of the back rooms so the carpet crew could come the next day.

Cousin Barbara came and helped me clean out the garage.  Ugh.  I cleaned out the garage approximately 97 times in the last 6 years.  Dinah helped me lay mulch on the gardens and I can’t remember what she did the other time she came over.  Peppy and Jessica helped out in the kitchen and general organizing of boxes one day.  Nephew Matt helped one day in exchange for me dropping him off in southern Indiana for a solo hike one weekend.  Sallie helped me in the kitchen (I think?) one afternoon.  Virgil helped me cut down some big branches.  Ed gave me discounts on the renovation work that he did for me through the years.  The list is long and I apologize profusely if I forgot to mention you here.  (You know I have no memory.)

But, I have one friend who stood by me through the entire process.  She moved into the neighborhood two months after we did and our kids grew up together.  For years now, Peggy always seemed to know what I needed to do next.  Then she came over to help me do it.  She helped me give away all my size 6 clothes.  She sorted through my kitchen knife/spatula/small utensils drawer. Etc. Etc. Her list of helpfulness is endless.  But, last weekend, she insisted that we sort through my storage unit to make the final cut for things that will not go to California now that I know for sure where I will be living (that’s a long story).  We worked side by side on a rainy Saturday from 9am-5:3pm.  Hauling, lifting, repacking, more lifting.  She arranged a pick-up of left-over bedroom furniture.  Through the years, she made calls for me, dropped off things, picked up things…basically she did whatever was needed at the moment.  [Yesterday she told me that she got my sandals fixed and I didn’t even remember that she had taken them to get them fixed!]  I’ve told her that I’ve never been such a good friend to anyone, nor do I deserve to have a friend such as her.  I don’t even understand that kind of selfless giving.  So, to Peggy, I will remain deeply indebted for the rest of my days.  You have been my guardian angel!

The realtor for the buyer of my house was a real pain in the butt!  Like MAJOR!  My realtor and I became friends because of the craziness we had to deal with.  But, I want to tell you…she was the BEST!  She helped me so much.  She staged the house for me.  She advised me on so many things.  So, because I had to scramble and do so many additional things demanded by the buyer (install a second sump pump in the crawl space, take down three big ash trees—big stuff), I didn’t get to keep up with my own schedule.

The day before closing, I woke up and almost started hyperventilating.  I knew I wouldn’t/couldn’t finish the house in time.  In tears, I called realtor Julie and she came right over and spent the day helping me with the last cleaning.  I also called my friend Judy.  She rushed right over and the three of us hustled the entire day through the last tasks before the final walk-through the following day.  All the while there were 6 different workmen coming in and out of the house finishing up the latest demands from the crazy realtor.  It was NUTS!  I fell in love with Julie.  And now I am also friends with her fabulous husband.

dogs and me 1

We love you THIS MUCH, Jyoti!

cat with mouse

Look what I brought for you, Jyoti!!

I just counted and I had pet-sitting gigs in 16 different homes.  I turned down at least that many that did not fit in my schedule.  One home, I gigged three separate times, in another I gigged twice.

bodhi and me cropped

You’ll be my best friend forever, Jyoti!!

My pet sitting calendar did not always fit together perfectly and I was invited into the homes of five different friends between gigs.  This aspect of being a nomad was so much fun.  I got to stay with MY FRIENDS in the same town!  In each home that welcomed me I had a blast.  Friends forever.

When I drove away from my house the day of my house closing, everything I still owned now stored in a 10’ X 10’ storage unit, I had tubs of clothes to last me the next year or two as I nomaded through my life.  I want to publicly acknowledge those in my village who helped make this happen.  And I am absolutely sure that I have forgotten many others.  I apologize.  You know that I have no memory.  Please remind me who you are as I didn’t keep any records.

car filled1

While I have no current debt, I will be taking a sizable mortgage as a retiree (with a new job that I don’t have yet) for the privilege of living in California in my later years.  Not fun, but it is the price I am willing to pay to be near my whole extended family.  (Both Sierra and Steve’s families are now one big family.)  I will remain indebted to all of my friends and family who helped me through the years and who encouraged me when I felt discouraged.  While I worked on this last plan (being a nomad to save money to make the actual move), most of my friends encouraged and helped me; however, a couple of friends really thought that I was crazy and shouldn’t consider it.  I am so happy to say that this last year as a nomad has been a complete joy and has been more fun that I could have ever imagined.

Thank you everyone for being my friends and family.  My indebtedness will last forever.  You are welcome in my new home any time you are in the Bay Area!

2 thoughts on “An Entire Village was Needed (to Get Jyoti to California)

  1. Sue Bemis says:

    I really enjoyed reading your stories about your amazing journey.You will be truly missed at School 106 but I am so happy for you that you will be making your final destination to California.You can spend precious moments with adorable Marigold and the rest of your amazing family!Good luck!
    Sincerely Sue Bemis


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