“It takes time to get settled and get everything into its place.”

Maga was referencing my recent move (into home ownership), but I couldn’t help but think of the 62 years she spent settling into her house. There were the magazines (all the magazines so very many magazines) and the china, games, books, pictures, letters, bills, wine, and slot machine, but also, there were the family dinners, holiday traditions, bridge nights, neighborhood meetings, financial discussions, tears shed, laughter echoing, lessons learned.

I’ve done the physical unpacking here. Next up, the decorating and organization and finding a place for everything and finding myself amidst the new responsibilities and all other things involved with settling into a home.

Fortunately, I’ve got some excellent role models in how to do all of that.



We chatted about the usual things: the weather, my move, her blues, my phone number, my address. We talked about some unusual things: getting used to sleeping in a new place, falling out of bed, Christmas cards, medicine. It was a quick and dirty conversation and though it was short on epiphanies or life lessons, it was one of those talks born from having regular contact, which I’m so blessed to have with Maga.



“Hi Maga. It’s Abby.”

“Abby dear! My caregiver just said it must be you calling, but today is Monday.”

“I know. I have a work dinner tomorrow and I won’t be able to chat at our usual time. I wanted to make sure to touch base with you, so here I am.”

“It’s always such a delight to hear your cheery voice, especially after the dining room. I don’t like the dining room. It’s full of old people making weird noises.”

“How many meals do you have to eat there?”


“Oh man.”

“Well, actually, breakfast I take in my room. I can sit at my desk and look out the window and see what’s happening with the weather and it’s very pleasant.”

“It sounds like a wonderful way to start the day.”

“What are you doing for the holiday?”

“I’ll be at my mom and dad’s.”

“That sounds lovely.”

“I’m pretty excited about it. What are you doing? Going to Aunt J’s?”

“Well, I’m not sure. She’s worried that I’m too wobbly and won’t be able to climb the stairs to her house. She’s not sure I should come over. I’m trying to talk her out of it.”

“I’m sure they’d come over to see you if it doesn’t work out for you to go there.”

“Oh, yes. She said they would, but I’d love to go there. Her house is always so nicely decorated and it would be so great to see family.”

Whether we’re far or so near we’re overly squished into one house or somewhere in between, family is always important but more so at this time of year. I hope Santa brings Maga her wish of spending time in a familiar place surrounded by people decades younger than her who don’t make weird noises during meal times.



“You have good timing. We just got in from the holiday party,” Maga said.

“That sounds lovely. The holiday party, I mean.”

“There were lots of people. It was a busy situation.”

“Did you know anyone?”

“I know lots of people. I’ve been here since May.”

I wasn’t sure where to start. She’s only ever said the place was full of odd, old people, so I didn’t realize she was such the social butterfly. Also, she moved in July.

“May, Maga? Really? I thought it was July. The first of the month right before the fireworks. Mom, Dad, and Sister E were visiting you before they went onto Seattle for the Fourth.”

“I may have gotten re-settled in July, but I’ve been here since May.”

Her tone was more clipped than usual. I decided not to push the issue and potentially unleash some emotional fireworks. “Well,” I said, “speaking of moving…I moved on Friday.”

“Oh, that’s right! Your new home. How is it? How’d it go? Your dad came up to help, right?”

“It’s good. It was an exhausting weekend, but so so wonderful that my dad could be here. I’ve got almost every box unpacked.”

“So you have all the furniture you need?”

“Not even close. I have a completely empty, extra bedroom at the moment.”

“You didn’t have a bed for your dad?”

“I gave him my bed and I slept on the air mattress.”

“Did you?”

“Age before beauty.”

That garnered a laugh from her, which I packaged in my heart.

“So are you going to get a bed for that extra room? What else do you need?”

“A bed, a couch, more interior design expertise. But I need to save more money before I can invest in those.”

“That’s a good point. It’s necessary to save money when you want to spend it.”

And here I thought Jobo was the one who had handled all their finances. Turns out Maga has some financial sense of her own. I guess I really need to stop keeping my assumptions of people cast in stone.


a moving blog post

On Friday, I moved from a rented studio apartment to my own two-bedroom condo. One of the moving guys said, “I love how everything in here is perfectly apartment sized.”

“Me too, until the moment I bought a two-bedroom condo and now nothing fits,” I replied with the bitter and overwhelming taste of “what have I gotten myself into” on my tongue.

It was a two plus year journey for me to reach this adulthood milestone. It took my dad 46 years of working before he retired and could now offer to come up on a weekday to help me get settled.

Big changes for us both.

My dad is a whiz with numbers and directions, but tools and construction and handyman work were never his forte/passion. I got neither his ability with numbers or directions, but the gene pool did give me his handyman abilities, which is to say we were quite the pair in attempting some minor condo renovations this weekend.

It turned out “strength in numbers” worked. His logical brain + his math skills + his previous experience with some power tools + stubbornness to get the job done + my practical brain + my ability to fit through a window +  my flower covered tools + my sous-chef-but-in-handyman-term abilities + stubbornness to get the job done = I (mostly) feel at home now.

Together, we installed a shower rod, a Nest thermostat, a mailbox, new electrical outlet and light switch covers, some exterior pipe insulation, and window shades. We repurposed bar stools, silverware holding containers, garbage bags, and shade shavings. We jerry-rigged a drain pipe and discovered another benefit to the bottom of my stairwell and went to Home Depot six times and figured out the best way to get out of the driveway and found new ways to navigate my neighborhood via car and foot and ate some amazing meals to cap off our grueling days.

He showed me that even when you think you know someone, your prior knowledge can be out of date. It’s important to keep your expectations flexible, your mind open, and your heart full. That way, you’ll be able to recognize the handyman sized shadow your dad now casts.

You’ll also be able to recognize your own changing reflection in the mirror.*

*That your dad hung in 5 minutes flat.