I know it’s been pretty quiet around the blog these past two weeks. Sure, I’ve had some posts…but I haven’t had a lot of CONTENT.
There’s a reason for that and (believe it or not) the reason is NOT cancer! I’m just not quite ready to get into that reason yet. Sorry.
What I DID decide to share with you today is the story of how we came to live in my parents’ basement. I have mentioned it a few times on the blog (and many of you who know me personally are aware of our situation), but I don’t think many have heard the full story. I figured that there will come a day when we start a new chapter in our life, but I wanted to make sure I chronicled this little chapter that we closed last year. I have a couple of other posts in the works that will make more sense if you know this backstory. So here it goes…
Just a warning…this blog post has very few pictures and many words. Virtual high five if you make it to the end!
So we are going to back track to over a year ago. July 2016 to be exact. Mr. Blue Eyes decided that the time was right to try and promote with his company. This meant that there would be a 99% chance of us moving within the upcoming calendar year. We lived in a fixer upper, so I was quickly trying to get as many projects finished up as possible so that the house would be ready to put on the market whenever Mr. Blue Eyes secured a promotion. I started pre-packing boxes, decluttering bedrooms, painting doors and walls, working power tools. It was a busy summer!
Fall came and the right promotion opportunity hadn’t yet arrived. So the big kids went back to school and I stayed home with Ladybug and my home improvement projects. I took a leave of absence from my teaching job so that I wouldn’t leave my school high-and-dry without a special education teacher if Mr. Blue Eyes got a promotion mid-year. I was very excited to be home with Ladybug, but something just wouldn’t settle for me. I felt like we needed to go ahead and list the house to have one less obstacle in the way whenever Mr. Blue Eyes received a promotion (we kept hearing that it should be soon). We knew that the couple of months between listing, selling, and closing would buy us some time for the right job to come along and we were hopeful that the timeline of selling the house would align with Mr. Blue Eyes’ promotion. If things didn’t align in that way and we needed somewhere to stay, the plan was to live with my parents, short-term.
We ended up getting an offer from one of our first showings, which had us scheduled to close right before Christmas. The kids – – who had been such good sports about the open-ended pre-packing, decluttering, and overall life-in-limbo – – were devastated by the news. They told us that they really wanted just one more Christmas in our house.
We didn’t have to feel too guilty about stripping our kids of their Christmas for too long, because that first offer fell through. We received another offer shortly after, which had our house scheduled to close just after Christmas. So the kids would have their last Christmas in our house after all. My pre-packing turned into legit packing, but I was still taking it a little slower because of the holiday. I didn’t want our house to be packed high with boxes…I wanted to give my kids the “cozy” (their word) Christmas they were used to. Christmas tree and all.
So the lights were put up on the house, the tree was trimmed, and the stockings were hung. Then my birthday (December 13th) rolled around. Who remembers what happened on my birthday? That’s right, I found the tumor in my breast while showering.
For the four days between me finding the tumor and the day of my mammogram/follow-up ultrasound, only Mr. Blue Eyes and I knew what was going on. We didn’t want to burden anyone around the holidays, especially if it turned out to be nothing. So I continued to jump from packing to Christmas preparations to mothering three kids (including a one-year-old), not really doing the best job at any of those tasks. At some point, I was able to get our storage unit reserved, but it was one size smaller than the one we had the last time we had to store our whole house. So my packing also had to include a significant amount of purging. We’re not talking simple drop-offs at Salvation Army, either. We were purging furniture (since that’s the biggest space-waster in a storage unit) and other large awkward items that I couldn’t deal with on my own. Things continued to move slowly.
Then, on the 21st, I found out I had cancer. No other details, though. Just that I had cancer, and that it had been there for at least a year. I was a mess.
Here I am, surrounded by all the crap that has accumulated in our house for five years, trying to get it organized to put into storage for a now completely undetermined amount of time. (Needless to say, the promotion was now on hold.) In fact, my mind went to some scary places as I was packing up and I felt this overwhelming drive for everything to be efficiently packed and well-organized, in case I was gone by the time these boxes needed to be opened again. Scary and morbid, I know. But I went there. Often. **I have said it to a few people before…the days/weeks/months between receiving the diagnosis of cancer and then actually finding out the details and extent of the cancer was one of the worst parts of the whole experience (in my opinion).**
Around this same time, we were getting to the part of our move when friends from our congregation started asking if we needed some help. Oh, I SO BADLY wanted to take them up on their offers to help, but I declined. Over, and over, and over. I just couldn’t handle the friendly small talk about our “future plans” that would come along with the help. Questions about the promotion. Questions about how long we would be staying with my parents. Speculation about where we might end up and when. At that point, talking about the future TORE ME UP inside. We also didn’t want our kids to hear about my cancer through the grapevine, so we felt like it was best to keep this news away from the masses until we were ready for the kids to know about it.
But then I looked around our house and realized what I was up against. My parents were absolute rock stars, helping with the kids while I packed. My other local relatives were picking up slack, too (in the craziest time of year, might I remind you). Mr. Blue Eyes was staying up late with me to help in the very small pockets of time that he was home from work (his job was in overdrive due to the weather).
But none of it was enough.
So I decided to share my cancer situation with two friends from church who had offered to help and I explained why I had been hesitant to accept help up to that point. They understood completely. They came over to our chaos and helped immensely and without question. They followed my lead, packing in silence, providing small talk, or listening to my cancer concerns, depending on my mood. They even helped me wrap my kids’ Christmas presents (one of my favorite tasks, so that’s saying a lot about how behind I was). It was such a blessing, but by the day after Christmas, I realized it still hadn’t been enough.
This move was going to get ugly.
As I was packing up the Christmas tree first thing in the morning on December 26th, I got a call from my dad that we really needed to get the large items moved that day because the forecast for the day of our move (the 27th) called for rain and cold. So Mr. Blue Eyes worked with my dad and a couple of other friends/family on moving large items either into storage or over to my parents’ house. This also meant that I was getting pulled away from packing to answer questions (like you would on a day of a move) all day long. I fell even farther behind on packing. We ended up moving our bed over to my parents’ house on the 26th – a day before we had planned – so our family didn’t have a “last night” at our home.
We woke up early on the 27th for the “big move” and we had A LOT to do before the new owners took possession at 5:00 pm. Our initial plan had been to vacate the house by noon so we would have the rest of the day to get settled over at my parents’ house.
We opted to not use a U-haul since we had moved all of the large things the day before. We had enough pick-up trucks and minivans to take alternating trips to the various locations in town – storage unit, parents’ house, donations. The problem was that we didn’t have people to move it all (it was the middle of the week, two days after Christmas, after all). Plus, the snowy weather made everything take longer. (Did I mention this was all in the middle of snowpocalypse? When our town set a new record for number of consecutive days with snow on the ground.) The steep road down to my parents’ house was a sheet of ice, so taking loads to their house – normally only five minutes away – took forever. It was seriously like one of those nightmares where, no matter how fast you run, you get nowhere. When I realized how behind we were, I even sent out an SOS on Facebook (to which a dear friend responded without hesitation).
When I found out mid-morning that the new owners wanted to take a walk-through prior to taking possession at 5pm, I knew there was no way we would be out of the house by the time they arrived. I was so embarrassed. I have always found moving to be a little demoralizing anyway; no matter how much you declutter prior to a move, you always look like a hoarder when other people help to haul your stuff out of the house, box by box. But now I looked like an unprepared, unorganized hoarder. I ended up fielding some raised eyebrows and judgmental comments from people who had no idea what was going on beneath the surface (luckily these were very few, but still added to the embarrassment). Seriously, the emotions from this day still run so deep that my heart is pounding and I have tears running down my face as I type this.
On top of all of that, the dirt-floor room in our basement took on water from the snow that started to melt in the warmish weather that day, which had only happened one or two other times while we lived there (which we had disclosed). When the realtor got there with the buyers, I was worried that this made it look like we had been dishonest in our disclosure. More stress.
After the new owners had the walk-through (and were very kind about the water in the basement), we continued to pack and haul things away…seriously up until the last 15 minutes of our possession. The few stalwarts who were able to help that day stayed to the bitter end. I will be forever grateful for their help and understanding.
At the very last minute, my parents brought the kids over to say goodbye to the house, we snapped a quick picture, and that was that. We were leaving our house in the past with literally no clue about our future.
This move was a complete nightmare and I probably have some underlying trauma or unresolved feelings because of it. But it’s over and done. The proceeds from the sale of our house allowed us to become completely debt free and have a cushion to pay off all of my medical bills. Living with my parents during cancer treatment has been a major blessing; I think the challenges of surgery and chemo would have been much worse had our living situation been different. So I really am glad we sold our house when we did. I’m just sad it had to be so chaotic. But we’ll get our do-over soon enough.
And I’ll be ready.
Have you ever had a nightmarish move? Please tell me I’m not alone!