Wednesday, July 30, 2008

2003 in Review: The Miller Family Moves to Dallas

2003 In Review: The Miller Family Moves to Dallas

Moving can be a stressful event in one’s life. It involves other people handling your possessions and paying them thousands of dollars to break your precious china. Or worse, it involves challenging your physical stamina by getting that piano out of the second story living room and into a rented truck that cannot hold everything you own and tops out at 45 miles an hour. Not only do you have to physically pack and move your stuff, but you have to find a job, buy a house, sell a house, enroll your kids in school, make sure you have every record about you and your loved ones, get the dog to the vet, get the cars serviced, change your address on everything, establish all kinds of new services at your new house, and disconnect everything about your life from your previous place of residence. And if you are lucky like I am, you also have to prepare for the holiday season. Now, let’s top this off with one more adventurous undertaking. While you are going through the long list of things to do in order to move, in the meantime, you and your young family are living with your in-laws in their very nice, expensive house. Are we having fun yet?

My husband and I have just seen the light at the end of this tunnel, so I thought it would be an appropriate time to document our moving experience. Also, I wanted to send everyone an update on our lives so you didn’t think we fell off the face of the planet. It was my intention to have a Christmas letter this year, but that didn’t happen. After reading about this moving experience, you will understand why. Just so you are not left in suspense, we are still married, all family members are still alive, we are sober, and we do not feel the need for family or individual counseling.

It all started last school year. We are both Band Directors who work very hard and want the best for our programs and students. My husband is so good at his job, that he was one of the most successful band directors in the State of Louisiana last school year. Unfortunately, the administration was very uncooperative with some of the changes Gerry needed to make to keep the program successful; so, to make a long story short, Gerry and I decided that he would be happier if he found a new job. He did. He landed a Head Band Director job at a Texas 5A high school in the Garland ISD. He also got a $15,000 raise and many amenities that make his new job easier and a lot less stressful than his experience in Louisiana. So, the State of Louisiana lost two promising and tax-paying teachers. I hope that my Louisiana friends and relatives will think of our story the next time they hear the phrases “lack of quality teachers” or “shrinking tax base” on the evening news.
Our journey to Texas began in June of this year. We put our house up for sale and got several estimates from moving companies. We were getting everything ready so we could move the moment we had a contract on our house. The reason we wanted to be ready at a moment's notice was so we could stop imposing on Gerry's parents. They graciously opened up their home to our family to make this move easier on us. However, I don't think that they nor we knew what we were all in for. It makes for a funny story.... now that we can look back on it. And let me give a little disclaimer here that this story is told from my perspective. I am sure that if Cathy or Gerry would put pen to paper, they would have a story to tell and it would all be embarrassingly true.

Gerry's parents live in a very nice house. It has five bedrooms, four bathrooms, spacious living areas with beautiful dark hardwood floors, artistically landscaped front and back yards. The finest feature that I want to share with you is the white carpet. Yes, you heard me correctly- white carpet. The white carpet was a bit of a challenge for my son, dog, and sometimes my husband, especially since my gracious Mother-in-law has stain radar. She can sense a stain the moment it happens, even if she is on the opposite side of the house. She comes running, armed with stain removers, rags and vacuum cleaners. She finds stains that are unseen by the naked eye. She has a true gift. And in the true mother-in-law spirit, she still has not let me forget that day in Florida when my dog threw up on her antique-white wool rug, which left a permanent stain. I suspect that she spent many unsuccessful hours cleaning and researching the removal of this stain, and she has not let me forget it. She even gave me the rug so I can stare at the stain for the rest of my life. Given this history, you can imagine how my state of mind deteriorated during our stay on the white carpet…which led to the drinking.
Yes, members of both households drank heavily during our stay on Voyager Drive. I am sure the recycling man was very concerned when he encountered the overflowing bin of wine and vodka bottles. I am surprised that he did not turn us in to the local AA chapter. Ironically, the drinking contributed to the staining of the white carpet. For those of you who do not know, I am a bit of a klutz. While carrying a glass of red wine downstairs, I slipped and wine spilled all over the carpet, wall, and my new blouse. Luckily, my Mother-in-law was there in seconds, thanks to her stain radar, and we were able to get all of the wine out of the carpet before disaster set in. Unfortunately, Pops did have to repaint the wall, and well, my blouse was another story. Apparently, Cathy's stain radar is not exclusively for carpet use – it also comes in handy with laundry. I am quite glad that she made it her life’s work to get this stain out of my blouse. After three different stain removers and many trips through the washing machine, she finally gave the blouse back to me. Unfortunately, her stain radar is a curse for her because she still says she can see the stain. I see no trace of it, but I must admit that can be due to the heavy drinking.

And then there is my three-year-old son, the white carpet, beautiful dark hardwood floors and the Lexus. When we came to live with the Millers, my son was not potty trained and resisted the whole idea of potty training adamantly. Potty training was a must because he needed to start preschool, and I wanted to have the potty training under control before his little life was turned completely upside-down. So, we began potty training. Needless to say, urine did end up on the white carpet and unfortunately, so did some other bodily substances. They also ended up on the hardwood floors and some of the furniture. Fortunately, we were able to keep it off of the leather furniture. However, my chronically nauseous dog decided to “christen” the leather chair. It is almost as if she sensed that little Gerry hadn’t gotten his bodily fluids on the leather, so she took it upon herself to make sure that base was covered. As far as the Lexus is concerned, I have already chronicled that event in our lives with an e-mail entitled “Mommy and Little Gerry’s Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.” The title itself should speak volumes to you but, if you would like to read about a daughter-in-law’s worst nightmare, it is in an earlier blog.

Here I am going on and on about Cathy’s stain detection gift that I almost forgot to mention Gerry’s (that’s Old Gerry or Pops in case you are confused) gift of making sure that everyone in the household is able to watch every televised sporting event. He will race the TV through rigorous channel surfing to find a sporting event- any sporting event to watch. One evening when I ventured downstairs, he was trying to get Cathy to watch bull riding! His favorite thing to do is watch numerous sporting events at the same time where he is constantly switching back and forth between 3 or 4 channels. To the almost drunk non-sports enthusiast, this proved to be quite confusing at times. I am glad we were able to move out before the college football bowl weekends.

Anyway, Pops definitely has control over the remote control, which didn’t really bother me, but I think some power struggles occurred between the three men of the household. Both of the older Gerry’s got fed up with the youngest one and soon after we moved in, a VCR and DVD player appeared in the upstairs living room, and all Thomas the Train videos were banned from downstairs viewing. I will admit that those Thomas songs are really hard to get out of your head no matter how much wine or vodka you consume. Then there was the constant changing of the channels when the other male left the room. If you were hoping to watch an entire TV show, movie, or just 10 minutes of the same channel, then you were out of luck. I should let you know that at one point there were seven TVs in the house. However, their behavior was almost as if they were trying to establish territorial dominance over the TV viewing. It didn’t matter how many available TVs were in the house for their viewing pleasure. They each wanted control over the viewing process for the “clan”. It would not have surprised me if they started peeing circles around the remote control. The whole thing was humorous to watch from the sidelines with a good bottle or two of Australian wine...almost better than TV.

Another conflict we seemed to have with our wonderful parents was the time of the evening meal. Like most families, my husband, son and I usually eat dinner around 6:00. The Millers like to have the food ready by 6:00 and then they stare at it, smell it, and wait for it to get cold until about 9:00. Then they finally reheat the food, sit down and eat at 10:00. I hope that you agree that this is unusual behavior. My husband and I have developed some theories to explain or understand their strange eating habits. It is no secret that my in-laws are aging. Now, when one ages, things in one’s life may change to accommodate the lifestyle of the aged person. Sometimes, one such accommodation is meal times being pushed up. Let’s take a look at my Grandmother as an example. She is up at 5:00 A.M. and is sitting in the dining room waiting for breakfast. She eats lunch at around 10:30 and dinner is served at 4:00. My husband and I think that my in-laws are aware of the possible changes one makes in the aging process, so they are making the opposite changes in order to reverse the process. Instead of eating dinner two hours earlier, they delay the meal for four hours which apparently makes them feel better about their aging. Now, my mother-in-law fully accepts that this eating schedule is highly unusual and lets us know on several occasions at every meal time that we were welcome to eat at any time. Usually, she started asking if we were hungry at around 5:00 and the same question would be asked about every 20 minutes until we finally decided to eat dinner. And this was our daily routine from day one until the day we moved out. Needless to say, most of the alcohol consumption occurred during this time period every day. The longer we waited to eat dinner, the more concerned the recycling man became. I do sometimes wonder if God is putting these challenges in my life to help me “grow” as a person (I don’t think he planned on the drinking).

As you can imagine, living with my young family in a museum was a definite challenge, so we were overjoyed when the offer on our house came in early November. Yes, you heard me correctly, NOVEMBER! At this point, we have spent four long months living in the very expensive house with very expensive things and white carpet consuming more alcohol than a barroom full of mechanics. Of course we quickly negotiated and nailed down a contract and began dreaming of the light at the end of the tunnel. We frantically searched for a house to buy and found a lovely foreclosure in a nice neighborhood in McKinney. We were ecstatic (at this point we would have been ecstatic about a one room hut in the middle of a corn field and I am pretty sure my inlaws were building one for us). After we both turned in blood and urine samples to the mortgage company, we made our real estate agent promise that he would orchestrate the quickest closing on the face of the planet. I suspect that my in-laws had the same conversation with him. Little did we know that the banks selling foreclosures do not have feelings or care that you need to move out of your in-laws to avoid AA meetings or family counseling. They were uncooperative each step of the way, and by the time we actually signed our lives away in blood, we were ready to fire bomb the bank. We were a little stressed.

Do you remember how I mentioned that God likes to put challenges in front of me? Well, December seemed to be the biggest challenge I have faced recently. It actually started over Thanksgiving. We went to Slidell and closed on our house and packed all of our possessions on a big truck to be moved into a storage unit in Plano. When we came back, I had a parade at which my Junior High Band was to perform. The day before the parade, I got very sick. I still went to the parade after which I drove myself to the emergency care center and was diagnosed with the Texas Flu. What a nice welcome gift! I was in pretty bad shape so the doctor thought I should have Vicodin. I slept for the remaining weekend and returned to school on Monday to prepare the K-4 Christmas program which involved the performance of 250 students. We were also supposed to close on our house on Wednesday of that week but the bank we were buying it from delayed the closing. The program was on Thursday evening, and it went well. We were able to close on the house the next day. The flooring projects started on Saturday (did I mention that the house had no flooring, so we had to have all new floors installed?). With the flooring half-finished, we decided to move all of our stuff on Sunday. We had to move on Sunday because Gerry was going to Chicago for a convention on Wednesday and was unavailable to help…how convenient for him. On Sunday night, the flu came back…or at least if felt like it did. The next day, I drove myself back over to the emergency care center where they decided that I did not have the flu again…this time I had pneumonia. Armed with antibiotics, narcotics, and other various medications, I returned to school the next day because I had to prepare a concert for the band that coming Thursday. Thank God the school nurse came to check on me frequently. Oh, and I almost forgot! When I came down with pneumonia, Little Gerry developed an ear infection and my father-in-law managed to have a freak accident with a wreath and a tack which left him with a punctured cornea. My poor mother-in-law will never forget that week. Her house turned into Miller’s Infirmary where she was the head and only nurse (let us not forget that my husband is out of town). I don’t think she wants to see the inside of another Eckerd’s anytime soon. The following weekend (the weekend before Christmas), I started unpacking and moving out of 4499 Voyager Drive. My in-laws most graciously helped me pack my car, my dog, and my son. They made a few more trips for me all by themselves. I have never seen them more eager to help! I could actually hear the cork popping on the champagne as they left my house for the final time on Saturday evening. My parents, who heard of my ailments, also decided to come help me, which was a good thing because I only had three days to move out of the Miller’s and work in the house before we left for New Orleans to celebrate Christmas.

So, let’s recap. I had three concerts, moving into a new house, the flu, pneumonia and a sick child all over three weeks time. And let’s not forget my necessary preparation for the holiday season and our impending trip to New Orleans to celebrate. Of course at this point, it was a little hard to focus on celebrating – I think you can understand why. Anyway, I am still wondering what sin I committed in a previous life to deserve those three weeks. If I have to look on the bright side, I will admit that the narcotics were a bit of a treat.
Now we are all moved in to our new house. It has been vacant for almost a year so it is quite dirty. I fear it will take months to rid the house of the dirt. The previous evicted tenants decided to take a few items with them so we have had to install flooring, a garage door opener, light fixtures, a microwave and other odds and ends. We have also been trying to evict some of the wildlife that moved in over the past year. My husband has been hunting down an elusive mouse for two days. He has developed complicated theories on the activities of this mouse so the traps can be placed in the most strategic positions in the house. I think he is disappointed because I don’t seem quite as interested in the theories behind the movement of this mouse. It only proves to me that men are hunters, and women are civilized. Of course, his latest theory blames the fact he has been unable to catch this mouse on me. You see, he says that when I discovered the mouse in my son’s pajama drawer I screamed so loud that I scared the mouse into the darkest recesses of the house never to be seen again. It is always amazing to me that when a husband is wrong or makes an error in judgment, he can always find a way to blame the fault on his wife. Maybe we do need family counseling.

Despite the difficulties and challenges we faced, we have enjoyed our move to Dallas. We think this is going to be a better place to raise a family and progress in our careers. Now that we have sobered up, we are very thankful to the Millers for opening up their home and taking care of us during this transition in our lives. Without their help, this whole thing would have been a great deal harder and a lot more boring. And I wouldn’t have been able to entertain you with another story of our lives. Stop in and visit if you are ever in our neck of Texas.


Lori Gerry III Gerry IV Minnie Dolphin……... and the mouse

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