Wednesday, April 16, 2014

When the Bus Takes a Learning Curve

They say that if you stay in learning mode throughout your adulthood and old age, you can stave off Alzheimer's, dementia and just plain being a boring person who never gets invited to parties. If that’s true, then I’m golden.

The person who moves a lot is in a constant state of learning. We spend the first year doing it wrong, the next year learning how the locals are doing it, and then the rest of the time settling into auto-pilot, until it’s time to move again. And then we have to learn all new bus routes and how to pronounce everyday household objects in an all new way.

Because I’ve lived in the Midwest, the Northeast, the South, the West Coast and the in-a-league-of-its-own-Florida, I’ve spent my entire adulthood learning.

Moving here to California last year, I finally got over my fear of buses. My experience with buses was spotty until then. My only childhood bus ride (besides school buses for field trips) was a trip into Youngstown with my big sister to meet my grandfather. I don’t know why my mom would put us on a city bus by ourselves, but she apparently didn’t have the same fear of buses I had when I was her age. In college, I rarely rode the campus loop bus, because the first time I tried it, I got on the wrong one and ended up out of town at the mall. I explained to my professor that I was sorry I missed class but to make up for it, I would never ride a bus again for 10 years.

What was the learning curve for you during your moves?

But when I moved out here to the city, it made too much sense to take the bus. I had to face my fears and learn how to ride a bus again.

Of course I did it wrong.

I knew where my stop was, thanks to my iPhone GPS. I knew to pull the cord when my stop was coming up. I made my way to the back door, where there was a big sign with red letters that said DO NOT STEP DOWN UNTIL THE DOOR OPENS. The bus driver stopped and then continued on, never opening the door for me to get off.

“What just happened here?” I turned to a woman standing near me. She said, “You have to step down so that the driver knows you’re getting off.”

“But I pulled the thing! It made a ding! And the sign says DO NOT step down.  See? It’s right there.”

“Yeah,” the woman said. “You gotta step down.”

Well that doesn’t make sense. They’re doing it wrong, I thought. But in the end I had to concede that even though I was following the rules, I was the one who was doing it wrong. I learned, though, and now I take the bus often. And bonus - I’m not afraid of any buses now and I never end up at the mall.

There are all kinds of unwritten rules that you have to learn when you move to a new city. Also new customs, pronunciations, and do’s and don’ts. Learning how to ride the bus may have added a year or two to my life of not putting Comet in my coffee and calling my daughter by my sister’s name.

What was the learning curve for you during your moves?


If you like Diane's humorous take on moving, you'll love her book Home Sweet Homes: How Bundt Cakes, Bubble Wrap, and My Accent Helped Me Survive Nine Moves.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

That Awkward Moment When Your Bourbon Barrel Won't Fit

Yeah, whatever. I have a bourbon barrel. What about it?

The empty barrel (well, almost empty; it had some aromatic remnants sloshing around in there for the first few months before they either soaked into the wood, evaporated, or one of our teenagers figured out how to put a bendy straw in there) came from Woodford Reserve bourbon distillery in Kentucky. It was a gift to my husband, and like all of my surprises for him, it was awkward.

Getting it home was a feat. Luckily we had a pickup truck (did I mention that we lived in Kentucky at the time?) so I had it loaded into the back and very carefully drove it home. Bourbon barrels are big. And heavy. I had to wait until my son got home to help me get it out of the back of the truck and then we put it on a dolly and took it over to the back stairs to the basement. Then we bumped it down the steps and walked it to the corner of the storage room, where I put the Barbie dream house on it. It remained undetected until his birthday.

The bourbon barrel made two moves with us. From Kentucky to Florida, where it went onto the back patio. The move from Florida to California, however, was another story. The barrel was one of six pieces of furniture (I know, I’m using that term very loosely) that would not fit through the front door and up the main staircase.

Which brings me to today’s moving lesson: If someone tells you that something that you own cannot be moved to your new house, refuse to accept this. Don’t take no for an answer and somehow everything will work out.

In the case of my my move, the six items were: Two box springs, two couches, a baby grand piano, and the aforementioned bourbon barrel.

The confrontation with my moving crew went something like this:

Mover-who-I-nicknamed-Joe Mantegna: “This black couch won’t fit.”

Me: (Nothing) (Not saying anything) (Smile)

Joe: “Yeah, so it gets through the door but when we get to the top of the stairs, we can’t make the turn. It’s too long.”

Me: (Smile)

Joe: “We tried.”

Me: (Smile)

Joe: “Um, yeah, so . . . (Sigh!) Hoo-boy. That’s a tough squeeze there. That is one long couch.”

Me: (Still smiling but my look is becoming a vacant stare. I am becoming bored with this conversation and I’m not afraid to show it.)

Joe: “Yeah, so . . .”

Me: “I’m sure you’ll figure something out.”  (Smile) (Return to Bejeweled game on iPad)

And guess what? They did. They brought in a crane and swung that black couch right through the front windows. By that time, they had assembled a small pile of other things that wouldn’t fit through various doorways, stairwells and openings - including the bourbon barrel - and it all worked out. All because I took the position that there was no other option.

It wasn’t until after this happened that I started to read about people who had to sell or give away furniture, not because rooms weren’t big enough or shaped right for the furniture, but because getting the stuff into the house wasn’t going to work. When my sister and her husband moved, my brother-in-law sawed a box-springs in half to get it up a staircase. Then he put it back together and no one was the wiser. It’s that kind of thinking that your movers are going to have to have, if they’re going to end up with nicknames like Joe Mantegna and not Stubborn Weirdo Who I Hate.

I’m not claiming to test the laws of physics; I’m fully aware that two masses can’t occupy the same space (thank you, high school science teacher Mr. Clark) but I also know that during a move, if you refuse to tolerate your movers’ excuses, they’ll eventually come up with a solution.

Because of the crane, my bourbon barrel is now on my upper deck patio, where it holds my glass of wine and my candles from Phoenix. I’d say that’s a successful move.

Other things I've seen on this topic:

The ____ Won't Fit!


If you like Diane's humorous take on moving, you'll love her book Home Sweet Homes: How Bundt Cakes, Bubble Wrap, and My Accent Helped Me Survive Nine Moves.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Take This Job and Move It

I’m putting together some fodder (love that word) for a radio show on work-at-home parents, where I’ll be sharing my wit and wisdom. (Love that phrase - my husband came up with it for me.)

Here’s the thing: If you move a lot - whether you’re a military family who’s PCSing or a corporate relo always on the move or just someone who loves the adventure of living in new places - if you’re the trailing spouse you probably aren’t going to be putting a lot of effort into your own career. Moving for your spouse’s job puts a big stumbling block in your own career path.

I survived several moves during the years in which my husband and I both worked. The out-of-town move that had me looking for, finding and starting a new job was horrible. In addition to the never-ending moving to-do list, I had to buy new work clothes for a different office attire protocol, bone up on required job skills (in my case, page layout. I read two college textbooks on newspaper design and page layout in three days), and work overtime making connections with my new colleagues and community leaders. On the day that the movers were loading our house, I wasn’t even there. I was already at the new place, started my job, and left the moving details to family and friends.

I'd love to hear how you handled a job and a move at the same time.

That move put into motion a working mom hamster wheel for me. The entire time we lived there I felt like I was one step behind in my work, in my child-rearing, in my family obligations and in my personal life. When I was at work, I was stressing about all the things I had to do at home; when I was at home, I was thinking of all the work that I had piling up at my office. It was generally sucky. I blame bad moving mojo.

For my subsequent moves, I was either a stay-at-home mom or working from home or I didn’t mind leaving the job I had. I had to quit jobs because we moved, but I didn’t have to find a new one right away, which put me in unemployment well before our leave date.

I honestly don’t know how the rest of you do it. Moving out while you’re working, moving in while you’re starting a new job - how can you do it? The move itself involves enough challenges to be considered a part-time job. Adding in a “real” job makes it almost impossible.

I can’t think of a better argument for working at home. That’s going to be my message on this upcoming radio show. Being able to work out of your house, wherever that may be, is the mother of all job perks.

I’d love to hear how some of you handled a job and a move at the same time. Did you keep a steady handle on your sanity? Was there any prison time or involuntary commitment involved? Did your boss notice that that piece of strapping tape on the back of your skirt? Or the fact that you were eight weeks past due for a haircut and color?

Let me know. I'd love to go on the radio with your perspective in my tool belt. Comment here or email me at


If you like Diane's humorous take on moving, you'll love her book Home Sweet Homes: How Bundt Cakes, Bubble Wrap, and My Accent Helped Me Survive Nine Moves.