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How are you?

No, I mean it. How are YOU?

A few years ago I decided that when someone popped into my mind, I would make an effort to reach out to them. Because maybe that person needed to hear from me. Maybe I need to hear from them. So if I randomly reach out to you via text or instant messenger or Facebook post or even this blog, I want you to know it is because I am thinking of you and I sincerely hope all is well.

And if it isn’t, you can tell me.

Last week my Uncle Jody randomly popped in my head one day. Sadly, he died a couple of years ago so I couldn’t reach out to him. But I did go on the family Facebook group to tell my family hi and that I was thinking of them.

Can I tell you a little back story?

I grew up with a pretty large family. My dad was the oldest of 8 and my mom is the youngest of 3. So adding in aunts and uncles by marriage – and assorted cousins – and we were a large group. A lot of them were local in the DFW area where I spent a good chunk of my formative years. I wouldn’t say I was particularly close to anyone, but I did have my favorites.

Of my uncles, Uncle Joe was definitely my favorite. He was in the Navy when I was young and would write to me and send me dolls from the exotic lands he went to. I didn’t see him often – he settled in California for a long time once he left the Navy – but I still felt a closeness to him. I could tell him things I couldn’t tell my parents…like how I felt neglected because my sister was so sick when she was little and everyone always seemed more concerned about her than me.

Keep in mind, I’m in elementary school. And while I loved my sister, I was always jealous that she got all of the attention (at least it felt like she did). As a parent, I can’t really say I blame any of the adults in my life at the time. I get it. From what I understand, it was touch and go for a long while. But as a child, all I knew was there was a sickly interloper and she got all of the attention. I just wanted her to get well so things could be normal. Whatever that meant.

Anyway, in high school my uncle moved to Texas and lived with my grandparents. And unfortunately that bond we’d had on paper didn’t quite translate as well in person. And frankly, I think it was largely due to how much he looked like my father. So while I still loved him, we definitely drifted apart.

I’m not going into all my sordid family history on this post, but once I graduated high school I definitely saw my extended family less. The reasons are multi and layered but it happened.

I think the last time I saw my uncle was probably at my grandpa’s funeral? I’m honestly not sure, except I’m fairly certain it was someone’s funeral. Suffice to say it has been double digit years.

My favorite uncle and I hadn’t made an effort to see him in double digit years. I also didn’t write him. I didn’t call. Zero effort.

And when he died, no one in our family knew for a month or two. And that makes me indescribably sad. I’m legitimately crying right now thinking about it.

When he died, he was living in North Carolina. I don’t know all of the geographical details but I think he had family nearby. And for whatever reason, he didn’t have any of them listed as next of kin when he went to the hospital.

He had 4 living siblings when he went to the hospital and multiple nieces and nephews and he didn’t list any of us as next of kin. And we found out about his death through a random happenstance.

I don’t know if I will ever be okay about this.

I cannot bear to think that this man I had adored died without anyone to comfort him. Without anyone noticing he was even gone. And if the completely random happenstance hadn’t occurred, how much time would have passed before anyone noticed? Clearly I wouldn’t have.

So if I ask you how you are doing, or I tell you that I love you and am thinking of you, please know I sincerely mean it. And if for any reason you do not have anyone to list as your next of kin, please please please put my name down. I can’t bear the thought of this happening to anyone else.

I want to be a better person. I know I tend to be a little self-absorbed at times. And it’s easy to get caught up in the day to day and lose touch – which is why I love Facebook so much – but I hope you all know how much you really mean to me, even if I sometimes forget to say it.

Whew. That was a heavy start.

I’ve always loved photography – something Uncle Jody always encouraged. It was a hobby when I was younger but it was difficult to maintain back then (see, back in the day, cameras actually needed film and you had to pay to have the film developed into actual photographs). Eventually I stopped. I don’t think I ever really had the eye for it – it is definitely a gift – but I still love and appreciate photography in all forms. And I love old cameras.

We had a couple of them but I didn’t get them when things went south last year.

Turns out Uncle Jody had a collection and I’ve asked for as many of the cameras as my family will allow me to have. I’m not interested in them for the value, but I can think of no better way to re-start my camera collection than with the collection of the one that started my love and fascination for the art to begin with.

Unfortunately, my Uncle Tim seems to be busy and hasn’t sent them. I don’t have room for them right now anyway, but I still wish I had them. Too bad North Carolina is so far away or I’d suggest a road trip.

I told Chase about this a while back – probably on our great Austin road trip back in November. He came over for dinner the other night and brought me an old camera. How thoughtful was that??

Buckle up, this post is really going to go all over the place now.

I’ve celebrated my first Mardi Gras. Sort of. Rob and I went to Davide and Al’s on the Saturday night before Mardi Gras – I’ve lost track of the dates. Al is both Cajun and a good cook so we had some fantastic food. Yes, some of it was a bit spicy for me (damn my sensitive tastebuds) but it was soo delicious I ate it anyway. I even had a piece of King Cake and got the baby! So I hope that means good things for me this year.

The next morning we got up and went to Louise’s for more delicious (and incredibly spicy) food and adult beverages. We were supposed to go to the parade but it was cold and raining so we all wussed out. So that’s why sort of. Maybe next year I’ll make it to a parade.

What else?

I volunteered at Operation Kindness this weekend. I’m still not quite ready to work in the cat or dog rooms but this time I worked as a greeter. That means I greeted people at the door, directed them to sign in, and showed them to the pet area they were interested in. I am so pleased to report that we have had so many adoptions lately that we are actually below capacity! I would love it if they canceled one of my shifts because we were empty. That’s always the goal right? For the shelter to be empty because all the animals have found their forever homes?

This was the first person I greeted on Saturday and she left with a new family member.

There was one puppy that for some inexplicable reason was having a hard time on Saturday. At least 4 people came in specifically to see him and they all walked out empty handed. And he was gorgeous. Chocolate brown, possibly Australian shepherd with one blue eye and one green eye. And such a sweet disposition. I saw a lot of dogs and cats that day but this one got to me.

So much so that I couldn’t stop thinking about him and I thought maybe I should adopt him. I know I said I wasn’t going to get another animal as long as I am in this stupid apartment but I had this nagging feeling I was supposed to take him home. I tried to talk myself out of it but eventually I just had to go back.

Evidently I was about 20 minutes too late because another person was finally adopting him when I got there. Sad for me, but I am so happy for them.

The more I thought about it on the way back to the shelter, the more ready I felt. I’m a little sad that I waited too long, but it just wasn’t meant to be. It did make me realize I definitely want a dog, not a cat, next. I can’t bear the thought of a cat other than Spike cuddling up with me – right now.

Ask me again in a month.

Also, Rob has two cats. And I think it would be easier to introduce a puppy to 2 adult cats than a kitten or cat.

It’s been almost a year since I said good-bye to Hutto and my dream house/life. And while in some ways this apartment has been very nice, I cannot wait to move out. Which is causing a bit of a conundrum for me.

My lease is up at the end of May. I desperately want a house. Not just because I want to re-claim my dream home, but because I can’t stand being surrounded by boring walls. And I can’t make the closets and cabinets more efficient. And they made me remove my cute lattice and plants from my patio. And my upstairs neighbor stomps around ALL THE TIME. And my kitchen is just a wee bit too small.

I haven’t forgotten about Peggilee’s tiny New York kitchen, but that doesn’t make mine any more functional.

I just miss being able to put my personality into my home. I’ve done the best I can here but it still feels temporary.

A lot of my life, home was temporary. When I say I moved 18 times before graduating high school, that is not hyperbole. That is fact. And I moved a lot after that too. The longest I have ever lived in one place in my entire life was the 7 years at our house in Cedar Park. And I always knew that wasn’t my forever home. And definitely a contributing factor in why it has been so hard to let go of my dream home since I thought it WAS my forever home.

Moving a lot isn’t all bad. It’s helped me keep my belongings in check. As I mentioned before, I don’t store a lot for the sake of it because I didn’t want to move it.

So when I say I am ready to move, I am ready to move into my next forever home. Or at least my forever until I can retire on a tropical beach home. I definitely have no desire to move into another temporary space.

And therein lies the conundrum.

As much as I may try to live in the here and now, I can’t help but look to the future. And as I have said before, I do not need a man to complete me but I do enjoy being part of a couple. I enjoy the companionship. If I have to live the rest of my life alone, I’m fine with that. I have my boys and my friends and books and Netflix…I’ll be fine. It wouldn’t be my first choice, but I could do that.

I say that because one of the things I have most struggled with in my relationship with Rob is ensuring I am with him for the right reasons. I don’t need to justify my relationship with anyone – except myself.

So I know that when I am alone and doing my own thing, I’m ok. I’m not sitting alone being depressed wishing any warm body would come along.

I’m doing my own thing, but I also frequently wish Rob was there to share it with. Not anyone in general, Rob specifically. I’m not exactly pining for him when we are apart, my world does not revolve around him, but I do miss him.

I spent 5 days in a row non-stop with him when we were on vacation and even though it wasn’t all perfect, it was still fantastic. And I wasn’t ready to get rid of him when we got home. I think that speaks volumes.

So it seems to me the next logical step is moving in together.

Except he is trying to get his home ready to sell. So he isn’t exactly in a position to buy at the moment. And sure, I could try to buy a home on my own but if we are moving in together, shouldn’t we choose our home together? Not to mention combining our buying power would be extremely helpful in the Dallas area.

And I don’t know if his home will be ready in time for me to move out of here. Renewing my lease for another 13 months seems the most economical solution for me at the moment – and I can get out of my lease by just paying one month’s rent with 30 days notice at any time – but I can’t help but hate the thought of re-upping for that long here, even if it is just a formality. Not to mention the fact that I will have to pay an additional $60 a month for the privilege of not moving.

But the good news is I have plenty of time to decide right?

Wrong. If I am not renewing my lease in any form, I have until March 25th to give notice.

So lots to think about over the next couple of weeks. Big decisions to make.

Which also brings us to my next conundrum – combining households.

It was easy with Dean. Our decorating aesthetic was early “want this?”. It was fine. We were young and definitely tight on funds.

And when I moved out I took minimal furniture with me. And it was fine because it was just me and the boys in a small apartment.

So when Daniel and I moved in together, it was easy because I didn’t have a lot and he had next to nothing. And we were able to merge easily.

And when we bought the house in Cedar Park, we bought the furniture together based on what we both liked. And when we replaced some furniture for Hutto, again, we bought things we both liked.

Or loved. Which is why I took a lot of it with me. I found my design aesthetic. Mid-century modern with a little vintage and industrial thrown in. And a dash of eclectic Hollywood Regency for good measure. So eclectic, I guess. But I definitely love a lot of what I have.

And I have a very strong sense of how I want my home to look.

And I do realize I should allow Rob to have a say in it but I think I’m going to be a décor-tator. Hopefully we can get a place with a “man cave” for lack of a better term. And he can decorate it however he wants.

I’ve been helping more on the de-cluttering. We’ve moved on to a bigger room. Currently stuffed with furniture that needs to be kicked to the curb. We need a large room to be able to separate the things that are staying and the things that can be sold/donated. Which I’m sort of torn on. There are definitely things worth selling – extra money is always nice – but there is so much. Just listing everything to sell will take weeks…and that's the better than yard sale stuff. Part of me just wants to say donate it all and just move on. But selling some of these things will definitely help with the moving on.

Again though, I’m really just there for the moral support and to keep my friend on task. I know it is overwhelming. It’s overwhelming to me every time I walk in. But I know it can be done. So we just tackle one small thing at a time. Just clean off this surface. Then the next.

Don’t linger.

The hardest part of de-cluttering is nostalgia.

It is so easy to get distracted looking at old photo albums, or reading your high school yearbook, or talking about why you loved this item so so much. It’s easy to get caught up in the explanations for why you have so many things but here’s a secret:

It doesn’t matter.

It doesn’t matter if you have this collection because it used to mean something to you. If it doesn’t mean anything to you anymore, then just let it go. Someone else might be just starting a collection of that thing and will be thrilled to have it.

It doesn’t matter who gave it to you either.

Please don’t keep something because you can remember the exact occasion or person that gave it to you. If you don’t have a need for it in your life anymore, then don’t keep it.

I’m not suggesting you not be sentimental. I’m definitely not suggesting that. Keep one or two items to remember the person and then move on. I don’t think anyone wants to have someone keep something just because.

Work in small batches.

I’m just cleaning this table off. Then this drawer. And now this shelf. When it comes to clutter, don’t look at the big picture. And celebrate the small victories.

If you didn’t remember having something, or you can’t remember the last time you wore/used it, then odds are you don’t need it. Just because you forgot how much you love something, doesn’t mean you have to keep it.

I’m not sure if I gave this tip before but just in case I didn’t: for items you have a really hard time letting go of, even though you know you should, put them in a box. Seal it up, mark a date – to be donated on 12/31/2020 – and forget about it. Put it on your calendar. And if you haven’t needed or thought about that box during that time, then donate it. Don’t open it – just say goodbye.

Most importantly – stay on target. Keep your goal in mind and know that even if it will take a while to get there, you can do it. And you will feel so much better when it is done. I promise.

Man – this is a long post. I guess I had a lot to get off my chest.

One last thing, I hope you voted yesterday. I know I did. And while I can’t say it doesn’t matter who you vote for (because I’m clearly hoping for a specific outcome in November), I still want you to vote. We are so lucky to live in a country that we have the right to vote. And I know it can feel like your voice isn’t heard and that is discouraging and makes people less likely to vote. But I’m a firm believer that if all the disillusioned, registered voters would vote, it would matter.

I don’t always do early voting. I kind of like going on election day. I don’t mind waiting in a line (I was probably in and out in 30 minutes yesterday but I know that isn’t always the case). Waiting in line tells me people are voting. And that’s a good thing.

Also I’d like to say how excited I was to see so many women on the ballot yesterday!

I’ve always thought America was great – or at least it was. I hope we will be again some day.

OK – that’s enough for now. I think the voice in my head will be quiet now. At least for a minute.

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