End of an era.

Paddling at Santa Cruz on Memorial Day.

It’s the final week of May here in beautiful California, mild and sunny and relaxed. We had a nice Memorial day weekend of visiting with family, working on things around the house, and exploring the seaside boardwalk of Santa Cruz. I repainted my childhood rocking chair for the kids, from a tired brown varnish to a lovely blue-green.  The weather has been so good, I was able to do it entirely outside, leaving it to dry at night and putting on additional coats and touch-ups as time allowed. I’ve also been working on my patio garden a lot lately, which is now complete with an array of “old lady” flowers like petunias, pansies, lavender, sweet peas and geraniums, plus a few herbs and tomatoes.  Next step is getting a table and chairs so we can go out and enjoy our morning coffee or evening glass of wine.

Old becomes new.

I’ve tried to take some extra time these last few days, to stop and play with my kids, snuggle on the couch, go to the park, give them extra kisses, bake cookies, and enjoy doing some of the things that take a bit more time and attention than a normal day typically allows. As of Monday morning, I will be starting a new, full-time, awesome job. I’m both reflective and anxious, and ever so aware of what a huge change this will be for me, and us, as a family.

When last I had a full-time, salaried position, I was working for Heartland Film in Indianapolis. It was late 2007, I was not yet married and had no children. The glamor and the grit, the overtime and the down time, it was all mine, and it was all very well orchestrated and orderly. Of course, everything is different now. 

I’ve been working for almost as long as I can recall – at least since my first babysitting jobs when I was 11.  Even when I couldn’t get back into my career in Ireland, and even after I’d had kids, I loved to stay active in an office or coffee shop, or even freelance writing. Somewhere in my makeup, I find a certain amount of self-worth tied into earning money and getting out of the house to do so. Perhaps that’s more of a flaw, but it is what it is.  And since leaving Indianapolis this last time, and being between jobs, I’ve literally felt like climbing the walls with frustration at times. So, I’m beyond thrilled to be starting a completely new job in a completely new field next week. (What’s more, even with Frank’s healthy salary, we need me to work in order to afford the exorbitant cost of living in the San Francisco Bay Area.)

Cause for celebration.
Cause for celebration.

And so much has changed for us, for the better, even in the last six months! I was noting, the other day, that I can’t remember at time when our refrigerator and cupboards were full. Ever. We’ve always had enough to eat, even in tough times, but never a myriad of choices. Now, we’re blessed to have many doors we can open around the kitchen to find healthy snacks and meals. Of course, that leads me to think about health, too. This morning, I had a check-up with my new doctor, just to establish a good rapport, I guess, and look into preventive measures for any recurring pancreatitis issues. My new doctor was very efficient, knowledgable and friendly, and I was in and out in under an hour. Later this afternoon, I had already received a call from a specialist’s office and set up an appointment there, for later next month. I chuckled to myself as I remembered our healthcare headaches in Ireland. I could just imagine going back to our GP in Drogheda, explaining my situation and having him look at me quizzically and ask, “Have you tried swimming?” as though that would cure any and all ailments. Then, on further coaxing, he might have sent a letter to a specialist, who probably would not respond for six months to a year. I probably would have skipped it all together. Then, in Indianapolis, money was so tight and healthcare so expensive and poor, I never would have imagined pursuing anything preventative for myself. So, it felt really good this morning to recognise that my body is worth looking after, and to be thankful I am able to do this with a bit more ease now. 

Goodbye to the faithful Bandit.

Then, there’s the car. In Ireland, we wished for one and cursed our misfortune and meekly asked for lifts from family, or took the bus, or the train, or the occasional taxi. Then, when we got to Indianapolis in September 2013, we knew we would have to buy a car, and we were blessed to purchase a used minivan from friends that never gave us a moment’s trouble… until a couple of weeks ago.  Now, we’ve got a 2012 Ford Fusion parked in our spot, and we’re still a bit incredulous that it belongs to us, that we’re able to afford the payments and insurance and all the enjoyment this zippy cool vehicle brings! So we said goodbye to the minivan, donated it to charity and watched it get towed away, which was a little bittersweet after she had taken on us on such an adventure to get here. 

The shine has not worn off California yet, either, though I know one day it will blur and tarnish a bit. The palm trees and flowers, the sun, the gorgeous beaches, the huge range of cultures, the ethos of food and drink, the arts scene, the interesting people we meet… it’s all still soaking in. In Indiana grocery stores, I was most likely to see sales for things like “10 for $1 corn on the cob,” pudding cakes and pork chitterlings, where here I see things like ripe avocados, “5 for $1 limes” and fresh crab being advertised. In Ireland, it would be bread and buns and bacon that would most likely sneak their way into my shopping basket. The farmer’s markets here, and in Indy, are much bigger and more interesting, which is a shame for Ireland, because Europe in general has such a fabulous fresh produce/market scene. Most museums and zoo-type attractions are a further drive for us now, compared to last summer, and of course, nothing is as fascinatingly old as what we saw every day in Drogheda. Then, of course, there is a lot of money and head-spinning (for me) technology flying around the place –  I don’t think I’d ever even seen a Tesla a year ago, and now I see dozens every day. 

Hike at Steven's Creek Park
Hike at Steven’s Creek Park

But it is also, for us, the end of an era. It’s the end of our stay-at-home parenting (Frank had his turn, too, remember). It’s the end of our slower way of life, our sort of Irish “it’ll be grand” way of life, and ushering in its replacement, a shiny new 5-day work week that will require planning and back-up planning. There’s a bit of guilt there, I’ll admit, over this dramatic shift in the duties of motherhood. But I’m dealing with that. And I’m sort of holding my breath with fear for next week, but also can’t wait to get started. Whatever comes, though, I am thankful for the time we’ve spent, growing our little family and finding our way, and I am thankful for the new beginnings and new blessings that continue to present themselves each week.  

Thanks, as always, for reading along. 


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