Well folks, I am home. In fact, tomorrow it will be three weeks since I stepped off the plane and I can barely believe how much I've done - and have yet to do - since getting back. I've been asked for one last note to put a cap on my time away and tie up the loose ends. Who am I to decline? I wanted to write a pithy, cute accounting of all that has happened since I got home, but I have failed so far. It took me 12 days to finally come up for air long enough to start an e-mail and another 8 days to give up my adorable metaphorical approach and just write the darn thing, already. "Why?" you ask. Because my inner control freak has gotten in the way. For those of you who are "Friends" fans, just know that Champs likes to call me Monica.
After 6 months of staying with my mom, who graciously let me stay and even put up with some of my organizing and homemaking activities, it is nice to be back where I can control how neat and clean everything is. When I got home, one of the first things I said to Champs was not to take it personally if he saw me going nuts cleaning the house; this didn't mean that I thought he did a poor job of caring for things while I was gone; it meant that all I could see was what I hadn't done for six months. Thankfully, he understands my own personal compulsive-organizational needs, so just nodded and got out of the way. I think I might have heard him say "yes, Monica" under his breath as he walked away. So far I've torn apart our family room, the kitchen, the linen closet, the DVD cabinet and the food storage. And I'm just getting started. This last weekend alone I had a list of 10 projects to complete. Yes, I know, I'm sick.
However, I haven't only organized. I have spent untold hours just huddling in with my hubby and my daughter. We've cooked, ate, played, talked, tickled, sang and just sat quietly with each other. I'm finally getting to the point of wanting to get out and around town. Up until now, I've just been happy to be home.
I do have some highlights to share with you all.
Coming home on January 17, my motto was "I am woman, hear me whimper". My brother picked up Sweet Girl and me at Grandma's and took us to the airport. It was Robert Benchley who said "In America there are two classes of travel - first class, and with children." I believe I have added a third class – with a child and a cat and a couple of items. You see, my brother picked up not just us; but also our rolling suitcase, rolling duffel bag, two Rubbermaid totes, rolling carry-on case, booster seat, Sweet Girl's backpack and the cat carrier. All I can say there is, Thank God for curbside check-in! Perhaps I should have listened to the advice of Susan Heller who said "When preparing to travel, lay out all your clothes and all your money. Then take half the clothes and twice the money." OK, yeah, but she probably wasn't bringing home six months worth of stuff, either!
Our kitten, Jack, traveled like a pro, hardly meowing once all day (in stark contrast to Gus, who meowed his protests all the way to IL in 2006, even though he was drugged for the trip), and Sweet Girl was a gem all day. Why travel with a cat? Well, according to Ernest Hemingway, "One cat just leads to another." I got Jack in Minneapolis and I couldn’t very well leave him behind! When we got to Chicago, I over-loaded a "Smarte Carte" with our luggage and negotiated my way through the airport, Sweet Girl trailing along. I must admit that I got a number of raised eyebrows as I pushed the carte from baggage claim to the loading zone, all the while trying to keep everything stacked, the cat from tumbling and Sweet Girl from introducing herself – and the cat – to all the other travelers in the place. I got us to the Lex Express shuttle for the two-part trip to Champaign in time and collapsed for the three-hour trip. Champs picked us up around 5:30 and we were finally, blessedly home. Even though everything went off without a hitch, I was still exhausted from the responsibility of getting our stuff and the three of us home safely.
One funny moment: Before I left Minneapolis, I bought a soft-sided leather cat carrier for Jack – you can see it on the right at the top of the Smarte Carte pile in the picture. When Champs picked us up at the bus terminal, it was horribly cold and we'd been outside waiting for almost 10 minutes. He was in a hurry to get everything loaded and get us out of the cold. He packed up the car as quickly as possible - perhaps a mite too quickly, since he thought the bag he tossed into the trunk was a small duffel bag, until I said, "Honey, that's the cat!” Poor Jack had landed on his side - and still didn't complain. Champs had expected the same type of plastic carrier cage we used for Gus when we moved to IL, and since Jack was so silent, he didn't recognize it for what it was. All's well that ends well, though, and he quickly moved Jack into the warmth of the car.
Oh, and what car, you ask? Why, my sister-in-law Princsiss' car. You may remember that our Mazda Protege was totaled on December 23. Although Champs has a truck, it will only hold two passengers, which means that if the family wants to go somewhere in it, I will have to ride in the back. At least there is a topper. So far, we haven't had to settle for that - but I also haven't left the house hardly at all since we gave Princsiss' car back to her a week and a half ago. We decided to wait until I got home to choose a car, so my first 10 days at least were spent just trying to decide on a car to buy. Almost every night my first week home we went out test-driving cars. We considered the Mazda 3, Toyota Camry, Subaru Impreza and Nissan Altima. The 3 and Camry, even used, were just too far out of our budget. The Subaru, while a really nice driving car, was just too small for Champs to even think of driving comfortably. We really liked the Altima and seriously considered buying a new base model, which would have put us at the highest end of our budget. In the end, though, we have decided to buy a 2007 Malibu executive lease return from my brother-in-law Motor's father-in-law, Terry. It is a nice car with a lot of warranty left on it and a good price, while having the benefit of being just one year old. Just yesterday we got a call from Terry letting us know he has found the right car for us – in Ohio. It has just 6573 miles on it and a V6 engine. I expect that I’ll soon be experiencing carsickness – that feeling you get when the monthly payment is due. Even so, I can’t wait to get our car - we want to be able to go out as a family!
Oh, here's a fun update: my husband is a stinker! Before I came home, he told me "I have a couple of small surprises for you - nothing big". When I got home, he showed me how he had changed our bed over to warm flannel sheets with my favorite electric blanket. He also showed me how he'd gotten the guest room prepped for me to begin working from home. He gave me a beautiful flower arrangement and planned a date night for Saturday. From my quiet, unassuming husband, this was all very wonderful and exactly what I expected. He took Sweet Girl to Grandma's for a sleepover and then took me to the Texas Roadhouse for dinner. After dinner, we went home for what I thought was going to be a quiet evening with each other - our first chance to connect in months. And it was - a couple of hours later! When we walked into our dark family room, the lights suddenly went on and I was greeted with a chorus of "SURPRISE!" from my IL family. I lost it! I just screamed so loudly and threw my hands up - I knocked the take-home container out of Champs’ hands. It must have taken me at least two or three minutes to be able to talk... I gapped like a fish out of water while the family just laughed and laughed at me. Champs was sooo smug and proud of himself. He totally got me! Everyone had made a "welcome home" sign and brought food. Champs showed me his special gift to me - a sign for my office declaring my name and NASD certifications. It is really nice and I will display it with pride in my office when it is finished. All in all, the party was fun and a roaring success.
The office? No, it's not finished. That's the other thing I've been doing - researching office furniture options. When my company pays my furniture stipend, I need to get the office set up according to company specifications. Champs’ been getting into this as much as I have - perhaps even more - and we've pretty much made our choices. Now we're just waiting for the money. In the meantime, I'm working in a bit of a makeshift office, but it's going really well. I love being home for Sweet Girl in the morning and when she gets home from school. I have to admit that I really miss my co-workers, but the phones keep me busy and the days fly by. Since I am home all day, I am considering selling Longaberger baskets as an evening business to get me out of the house a few nights a month. I haven't made a decision yet - I need a car first!
The only other thing to highlight is that I am finally beginning to sleep. You see, the first week I was home, I didn’t get much sleep. Neither did Champs. You see, although we knew that Gus and Jack would be fast friends, we needed to convince them. Two adult male cats meeting for the first time is a sight to behold – and hearing them fight about who gets what territory can be tiring. I’m glad they’ve gotten it worked out now. I must agree with Mark Twain’s observation: "Ignorant people think it is the noise which fighting cats make that is so aggravating, but it ain't so; it is the sickening grammar that they use."
So, was it worth six months away? Yeah, it was. It was so hard being away. There were days that I thought I would never get home and days when it seemed like our family would remain in limbo forever. But time has a comforting way of marching on through the good and the bad, bringing with it fulfillment and new challenges. I am home and so grateful to God for all that we have been given. In all, though, I agree with Lin Yutang, who said, "No one realizes how beautiful it is to travel until he comes home and rests his head on his old, familiar pillow."
Even if my own need to organize everything is keeping me busy... lol
Comments on this post:
Yay! You're home! You didn't tell me about the party when we IM'd the other night. Good job, Champs!
I know you are very glad to be home and Champs is very glad to have you and Sweet Girl! When you get tired or organizing your home, please come and do mine! Please?