Tennessee


I had to take the vacuum to be fixed.  I need the vacuum.  I park right in front of the Sew ‘n’ Vac, which is a tiny place with a tiny parking lot right out front.  I cannot hold the baby and the vacuum.  The only ultrasafe way that I can think of to do this is to take the baby out, put him in the stroller, take the vacuum out of the car, somehow push the crappy yard-sale stroller with one hand without it lurching off to the right (or left), somehow get the door of the Sew ‘n’ Vac open which means put the vacuum down, open the door, get the stroller through, leave the stroller, go back for the vacuum, drag all to the register.

Which is ridiculous.

So.  I parked so close to the front door that I could hardly open my car door, took out the vacuum, locked the car with baby snug in carseat, hurried in with vacuum, (distance from car to cash register: 15 feet) barked my name and phone number at the normally chatty Sew ‘n’ Vac guy, threw the vacuum down and ran back to the car.  Total time away from the car: 39 seconds.

Is that so bad?  Keep in mind that I live in a very small town, half the people here don’t even lock their cars, there are no stores around (the Sew ‘n’ Vac sits alone on a little piece of land near a busy intersection), and I could see my car the entire time I was in the store. And the temperature was about 40.  I feel like a criminal, but people, I need my vacuum.

Am I so bad?  Discuss.

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Vomitting-pumpkin I don't have a pumpkin yet actually.  But I need to get and carve one asap.  Due to living in the city, continuing infertility grief and my own other problems, I fell out of many holiday rituals.  In our old home I never welcomed trick-or-treaters because I didn't want to keep Halloween candy in the house, and sometimes I couldn't bear to look at their little faces.  It was a hassle anyway.  We lived in a townhouse behind a locked wall with a locked gate behind another gate and only the most determined trick-or-treaters found us.  Often the determined ones were from the "affordable housing" units on the next street over, they were easy to pick out on our street which was posh, and I was happy to load kids like that up with candy.  But I skipped Halloween altogether.

Now I live in a house on a suburban street and counting my car key, I carry four keys total.  Anybody can walk up to my front door.  Also, I have a bag full of candy in my cupboard.  This is a freaky thing due to my pregnancy nausea and sugar indifference.  Once in a while, maybe once every ten days, I feel like having a little chocolate bar or a Hershey kiss and one or two is all I want and that's it.  Before pregnancy I would have hoovered the bag in a day but it's been hanging around for weeks.  So I'm ready for trick-or-treaters but I don't think any are coming.

This is partly due to the "trunk-or-treating" trend which I am not happy about.  If you have talked to me in the past two weeks you have heard my trunk-or-treating rant and here it comes again.  If you aren't aware, trunk-or-treating is an event, often organized by churches, where adults station themselves next to their cars in a big parking lot, and the kids walk up to your open trunk to say "trick or treat" for their candy.  The kids love it because, as one said in a recent newspaper article, "you can go around a gazillion times and get lots more candy!"  The churches organized it to make Halloween more of a "family event" – it wasn't, before? – and in some cases, to discourage costumes that were too devil-ish or reflective of other bad influences.  In some cases I have heard of Biblical character costumes being enforced or encouraged.

Sigh.  I'm as saved as any other Christian but come on.  Running around a parking lot in broad daylight, yelling "trick or treat" which doesn't even make sense anymore, dressed like the Apostle Paul?  What could be more lame? 

Aside from suppressing the important creativity and make-believe aspect of Halloween, the saddest thing about this, to me, is the other reasons adults cite for the trunk-or-treat trend.  The little dears don't have to 1) walk as far as they would, going house-to-house; and 2) they don't have to "go to a stranger's home." 

Maybe I'll feel differently when my own perfect, adorable, exquisitely vulnerable child is in this position.  But right now I'm really sad about it because I'm the stranger!  I'm the new lady in the neighborhood and I would love to meet my neighbors.  I've got candy!  I'm not grieving!  I am close to being the silly grownup who has on a costume and has that scary Halloween recording playing when she opens the door.  And I'm a year away (God willing) from forcing my infant into a Halloween costume he doesn't like, can't possibly understand, but looks really cute in, and strollering him around every chance I get, this last week of October.  (Pumpkins and bees seem to be good for the 8-month old, yes?  Something round, something organic, from an Ann Geddes photograph, though I think those are kind of creepy, by the way.)

After sitting out Halloween for so long, I can now embrace it and I want to ride all the rides. 

When I was a kid, our Halloween was an all-day event, loosely organized by our neighborhood grownups, that included a costume parade and prizes in categories like "prettiest" (I never won this one) or "most original" costume (much more my style).  The creativity part was important, long before the candy part kicked in.  But it wasn't so much about candy, it was about adventure, and it was all about the neighborhood.

I remember trick or treating as a kid, the accompanying parent retreating ever farther into the yard as we got older. We always went after dark, or what was the point?  The really little kids went in the daylight and we pitied them.  I remember the thrill of fear as we approached the doors of our neighbors who we barely knew.  I remember peeking curiously into their houses, smelling their unfamiliar cooking smells, and how fun it was when these stern grownups actually talked to us about how scary we were! how cute we were! and how they couldn't even tell who we were and maybe we really were two witches and a dog and a robot.

Our parents were on guard.  Someone we knew was given an apple with a razor blade in it, at least that's what we were told, and our parents had to go through all our candy when the night was over.  We knew full well you didn't go into anybody's house, and we had to make sure we could walk in our costumes and see out of our masks.

I know that era is over.  It was half over when I was a kid.  We never "tricked" anybody.  We heard about soaping windows or egging houses but it was always the stuff of legend and we never did it. Ditto bobbing for apples.  I know that we roamed a suburban neighborhood with a freedom that today's kids rarely have, and that even a sealed bag of M&Ms can be tampered with.  But still, I am sad.  As usual, this reworking of Halloween threatens to get rid of the important stuff – the visiting of neighbors, the important fantasy and creativity elements of dress-up, the flirtation with scariness and fear within safe boundaries – and keeps the least important part: candy. 

I'm sure in a few years the practicality of trunk-or-treat will wear down my resistance and I'll be right there with my own munchkin(s), enjoying the convenience, hobnobbing with all the friends I will have made by then.  But I also hope that evil, dangerous, secular trick-or-treating hangs in there as well. 

And this my first year, I really I hope I get a few stragglers on Friday.  I'll have my pumpkin carved, a little more decorously than the one above, and we'll see.

Edited to add: a friend sent a link to her pastor's blog with more eloquent arguments than mine on the whole trunk-or-treating thing.

Pumpkin photo from www.celebrating-halloween.com – yeah, I wish I'd thought of it too.

Okay, our neighbor mowed our lawn

It was getting kinda tall, since I can't get any "lawn care companies" to call me back.  Several of said "lawn care companies" were just a phone number and a name, like I was told to call someone named "Brent," as in "well, try Brent, he might go up 'ere," as if we live in an inaccessible Himalayan type of place.  Sigh.  Like many who I call here, "Brent" has no voicemail and probably no cellphone, and so after not being able to leave a message I moved on.

I'm starting to figure out that it's not that the calls I made weren't returned, they just weren't returned yet.  I'm saying this because a plumber who came out to give us an estimate on some gas line work two weeks ago just now called me back.  Since I must go to the laundromat until the gas lines are put in and the washer & dryer arrive, I want my gas lines as soon as possible.

Anyway, the lawn.  Our lawn is, well, big, and mostly uphill, and we are too broke to buy the ride-on tractor type of thing one would need to keep it mowed.  Hence my search for "lawn care" providers.  But on Saturday evening, I looked out the window and there was my neighbor, Lance, putting in about an hour of his precious weekend mowing our entire lawn.  He then came over with the edger thing and finished it up.  I was one part mortified but mostly amazed.  My husband ran out and thanked him and made sure to tell him that we are really trying hard to get a handle on the lawn care thing.

I'm now baking bread to take over there as a thank-you.  A big puffy loaf of yeast bread is my self-serving gift of choice: it says "thank you" as well as "yes, I can bake incredible yeast bread from scratch / by hand and no, I do not have a bread machine." 

I hope they aren't gluten-free.

I'm happy and nervous about the prospect of inching into relationship with our neighbors.  Happy they made the first move, nervous our countermove will be inappropriate.  But not responding to the lawn-mowing would be a grave error, I'm sure, so I think I'm in the ballpark with the bread thing.

Could be I'm over-thinking the whole making friends thing but I feel so out of place here, and out of practice; we have been friendly with other neighbors but never in an intentional, let's-have-dinner kind of way.  My natural introvertedness doesn't help, either.

In other news, you know this is an Ultrasound Week by my more frequent (but small) freakouts.  There is a lot of uterine activity for me to interpret.  There is a crampy feeling I get, particularly when or after being active; that was a little scary at first but I'm sure it's normal because it's mild and goes away.  Well, I tell myself it's normal and then I feel less freaked out. 

But lately there have been some other feelings.  Today I felt a definite poke and sometimes I feel a pulse that is faster than my own.  So that's all good. 

We have our 20-week scan on Thursday.

Okay, our neighbor mowed our lawn

It was getting kinda tall, since I can't get any "lawn care companies" to call me back.  Several of said "lawn care companies" were just a phone number and a name, like I was told to call someone named "Brent," as in "well, try Brent, he might go up 'ere," as if we live in an inaccessible Himalayan type of place.  Sigh.  Like many who I call here, "Brent" has no voicemail and probably no cellphone, and so after not being able to leave a message I moved on.

I'm starting to figure out that it's not that the calls I made weren't returned, they just weren't returned yet.  I'm saying this because a plumber who came out to give us an estimate on some gas line work two weeks ago just now called me back.  Since I must go to the laundromat until the gas lines are put in and the washer & dryer arrive, I want my gas lines as soon as possible.

Anyway, the lawn.  Our lawn is, well, big, and mostly uphill, and we are too broke to buy the ride-on tractor type of thing one would need to keep it mowed.  Hence my search for "lawn care" providers.  But on Saturday evening, I looked out the window and there was my neighbor, Lance, putting in about an hour of his precious weekend mowing our entire lawn.  He then came over with the edger thing and finished it up.  I was one part mortified but mostly amazed.  My husband ran out and thanked him and made sure to tell him that we are really trying hard to get a handle on the lawn care thing.

I'm now baking bread to take over there as a thank-you.  A big puffy loaf of yeast bread is my self-serving gift of choice: it says "thank you" as well as "yes, I can bake incredible yeast bread from scratch / by hand and no, I do not have a bread machine." 

I hope they aren't gluten-free.

I'm happy and nervous about the prospect of inching into relationship with our neighbors.  Happy they made the first move, nervous our countermove will be inappropriate.  But not responding to the lawn-mowing would be a grave error, I'm sure, so I think I'm in the ballpark with the bread thing.

Could be I'm over-thinking the whole making friends thing but I feel so out of place here, and out of practice; we have been friendly with other neighbors but never in an intentional, let's-have-dinner kind of way.  My natural introvertedness doesn't help, either.

In other news, you know this is an Ultrasound Week by my more frequent (but small) freakouts.  There is a lot of uterine activity for me to interpret.  There is a crampy feeling I get, particularly when or after being active; that was a little scary at first but I'm sure it's normal because it's mild and goes away.  Well, I tell myself it's normal and then I feel less freaked out. 

But lately there have been some other feelings.  Today I felt a definite poke and sometimes I feel a pulse that is faster than my own.  So that's all good. 

We have our 20-week scan on Thursday.

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We moved to Tennessee.  That's the short version.  The longer version is we somehow got the last of our belongings packed into the 26' foot truck, we somehow borrowed enough money for a down payment and various other expenses even though we didn't sell any of our Chicago properties, and we somehow got ourselves, the 26' truck, and the kitty who was supposed to be sleeping from the drugs the vet gave me but wasn't, down to Tennessee.  The drive was sort of brutal since I was oh so sleepy and couldn't exactly jack up on caffeine.  I finally got through it with a whole lot of water and a few chocolate bars.  We closed on our house without incident and we somehow got all of our stuff moved in.

It's paradise.  The yard, the weather, the trees, the mountains.  The space. 

Yesterday I had my first appointment with the midwife.  There are not a lot of midwives here in East Tennessee.  I have picked out a freestanding birth center, and there is only one of those, because I'm leery of giving birth in the hospital what with the drugs and interventions and the cutting and all that. 

The midwife was great.  Amazing news: I lost about 2 pounds since my last OB appointment.  I should have gotten pregnant a long time ago, maybe I could've lost the whole 25. 

Ahem.

Anyway, the midwife said there is no need for me to gain 25 pounds since I have, uh, a head start, and she didn't mind me dropping two at all.  The stress of moving and the nausea probably did it to me.  There was no ultrasound but a little Doppler, and after some scary poking around in my belly fat she found the baby's heartbeat and pronounced everything was right as it should be.  I cried. 

My mom is visiting and she went to the birthing center with me, and immediately started trying to persuade me to give birth in the hospital.  She said afterwards that she thought the midwife was "impressive," and so at least she doesn't seem to be worried about her capabilities.   I'm not sure about the hospital / birthing center thing right now, nor do I have to be all set & decided.

I'm still having some nausea but I have longer and longer stretches where it's very minimal.

I still can't believe I'm pregnant even though it's more present all the time. 

I thought I'd be so freaked out to be out of my old city life and in this unfamiliar place and I thought I'd find it so barren here since it's such a small town.

So far, nothing like that.  We're just so happy to be moved and sort of settled.  I feel like I can breathe for the first time in ages.

Dscn0718_3This is one of the trees in the front yard of the house we’re buying in Tennessee.  I think it’s a dogwood.

We’re back from another trip, another U-Haul full of our stuff now lives in TN, and our house is starting to get that echoey, almost empty sound.  We survived the earthquake, a lot of time on the road, questionable food, and the home inspection.

It was hard to leave flowering trees, green everywhere, temps in the 70’s, and the mountains.  Especially to come home to high 50’s and NOISE.  Our building is getting a new roof, which seems to require showers of pebbles and bits of tar and bent nails down our ceiling vents, no parking in our spot (apparently so the roofers can park there), and did I say noise?  At 7 a.m. each day it feels like we’re under attack: pounding, scraping, hammering and God-knows-what-else starts up just overhead. 

We now have construction in stereo as the city is installing new water mains, so in addition to the pounding overhead, we have jackhammers tearing up the street.  Today I was lucky since Little Betty, the least independent cat who ever lived, likes to wake me up at 5:45 a.m. on the first few days after we’ve returned from a trip.  She has highly effective techniques for this like walking on my hair, purring loudly in my ear, and knocking things off the nightstand, one by one.  Just to see if I’m – here? alive? going to feed her again?  So I was already awake when the pounding started.  Ah, city life.  I will not miss it.

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