“You know normal families don’t do this, right?’  These are the words I have said over and over again for the past 24 hours.  Of course, no one ever accused us of being normal, but still, I like to remind my kids that other families don’t do the things we do.  I’m not sure if that’s a compliment to them or to us.

It actually started on Tuesday.  We were supposed to drive back to High Springs to finish cleaning out the house we just moved out of.  Mr. Everything and I had to run a few errands, and then we would be on our way.  I told the kids we would be right back, and I’m pretty sure the Beetle’s response was, “Uh-huh.”  Five hours later, they were calling to see where we were.  I told them things had not gone quite as planned.  Neither child was surprised by this.  Things never go as planned for us.  Frankly, at this point, I’m not even sure why we make plans. 

The kids were in a tizzy because we hadn’t left yet.  I told them to chillax. (I like that word.)  Since we were now into mid- to late- afternoon, we might as well just wait until rush hour traffic was over.  There was no point in sitting in a car in traffic when we could just wait and go later.  I assured them we would be leaving as soon as rush hour was over.  Again, the Beetle answered with, “Uh-huh.”  I was beginning to not like his attitude.

Five hours later, when it was beyond dark outside and most normal families were starting bedtime routines, we considered leaving but decided just to wait until Wednesday to go.  Mr. Everything said that would mean one less night of sleeping on an air mattress, so I was good with that.  The Beetle gave me an, “I told you so,” look.  Twit.  We assured the kids we would get up early (but not too early or we would be in rush hour) and we would get going.  This time, it was the Goose who said, “Uh-huh.”  Who raised these children?

So, on Wednesday around noon, we finally left.  We made the trek toward High Springs, but we had to stop by our odd little church in Newberry, so we could pick up potatoes.  Part of our purpose of heading up when we did was to spend Thanksgiving at the church’s community dinner.  This tiny church was planning to feed about 150 people from around town.  How could we possibly resist that?  Since we had access to the camp’s commercial kitchen, complete with industrial mixer and huge oven, we volunteered to make the mashed potatoes.  We also said we would cook the pans of dressing.  No problem.  We could do it.

The plan was to pick up the potatoes (we’ll discuss just how many potatoes later) and the dressing and head to the camp so we could clean out the house and finish packing the remaining junk.  We were down to the “I don’t know what to do with this,” and, “Why do we even have this?” kind of stuff that inevitably remains at the end of any move.  When we moved last week, we ran out of boxes, and we reached a point where we just couldn’t do any more.  The plan was to get ’er done when we went back for Thanksgiving.

We left home so late and arrived at the church so late that, by the time we talked to the preacher (you KNOW how long a preacher can talk), it was too late to head to the camp.  We had church on Wednesday night, starting with dinner at 6:00.  By the time we were ready to go, it was 4:00.  With a ½ hour drive each way, that would only leave an hour to get anything done at the house, so we decided just to wait.

After church, we took the potatoes (lots of potatoes) and headed to camp.  When we walked into the house, the entire laundry room and kitchen had about 2 inches of standing water.  I had to laugh as I realized my family did not even react to this.  We just waded through the water and put our stuff down.  This was the first time of many that I said, “You know normal families don’t do this, right?”  Mr. E and the kids just looked at me like they didn’t know what I was talking about.  I explained that, to a normal family, standing water from an obvious leak would be a big deal.  In fact, to some, it would be a downright disaster.  We all agreed that it was, after all, just a little water and we’d been through worse.

So, we got the Homer Bucket Vac (might I add this is one of man’s most ingenuous inventions), and the Goose and I took turns sucking up water.  It wasn’t nearly as much fun as I’d envisioned.  I wanted to just hold the hose down and watch the water come up like a reverse waterfall.  Nope.  It was very anticlimactic.

Meanwhile, Mr. E began packing up all the stuff that no one else knew what to do with.  Bless his heart.  The man can pack.  In a matter of a few hours, he had corralled that junk like nobody’s business.  (What does that phrase even mean, anyway?)  While the Goose was taking her turn sucking up water, the Beetle and I began peeling the potatoes.  We sat on the loveseat and put the peels in a big pot.  We figured we were abandoning the loveseat at the house anyway, so what was a little potato starch between friends?  As we peeled, I again said, “You know normal families don’t do this, right?”  Well, they don’t.  Normal families would not sit on a couch to peel potatoes.  Normal families would have used potato buds.  Okay, actually, really normal families would never have offered to make the potatoes in the first place. 

Finally, at midnight thirty, the potatoes were peeled, the junk was corralled and the air mattresses were full.  We were nestled in our snug and warm beds (more accurately, we had finally gotten warm after shivering for several minutes) when I realized something.  I had to go to the bathroom.  It never fails.  I got up, teeth chattering, and did my business (maybe that’s what the “nobody’s business” phrase means!).  I was back in bed and had finally calmed my shivering and was getting warm when the Goose started coughing.  I’m pretty sure it was 50% real and 50% trying to drive me crazy.  Regardless, it was real enough for her to come stand over me, asking for cough drops.  Since I didn’t happen to have any cough drops, I told her to take a sip of water and go to sleep.  (It sounded much nicer than what I was thinking in my head.)  Ten minutes later, as she gasped for air because she was coughing so hard, Mr. Everything and I realized we had to do something.  (And let me insert here, before you call child protective services on me, the child is very dramatic.  She’s 12, and she’s a she.  I rest my case.)  We got up, put on our jackets and drove down to the nurse’s cabin at camp, hoping the entire way that we would find something to make her shut up, er, I mean feel much better.  God bless the camp nurses, because they left us just what we needed….cough syrup and cough drops.  Jackpot!  We went back, threw the medicine at the Goose and passed out.  This was 1:15 in the morning. 

At 7:00 AM, our alarm went off.  It was time to rise and shine and get all those potatoes cooking.  We headed down to the kitchen and started the burners.  It was very reminiscent of the last time Mr. E and I worked in that kitchen together.  That led to a little story I called, “Mr. Everything & The Trauma Center Part 1 and Part 2.” (You can click on the purple letters if you want to read those.)   I kept ducking as he lit the burners.  It was a little unnerving, but he assured me we would be okay.

With four commercial sized pots of potatoes cooking and 5 big pans of dressing in the oven, we were off to a good start.  Mr. E said he would have to get the industrial mixer out of storage.  We weren’t sure why it was in storage, but we would soon find out.  Mr. E was smart enough to plug in the big, heavy mixer before moving it, so he made sure it worked.

He somehow managed to get this behemoth into the Suburban by himself.  It was so heavy, it cracked the threshold of the back doors of the vehicle.  Mr. Everything got the Beetle to help him move it into the kitchen, and they finally got it situated.  I heard Mr. E say, “Uh-oh,” and I turned to look.  He showed me the problem.  The lever that was supposed to raise the bowl up to meet the mixer was jammed.  The bowl would not move up, so the mixer would only mix the top half of the ingredients in the bowl. I figured this was not a problem.  After all, the man didn’t have the name, “Mr. Everything,” for nothing.  It just meant I would have to wait a little while for him to fix it, as he does everything.

Thirty minutes, two 2”x 4”s and a crowbar later, Mr. E and the Beetle had managed to force the mixing bowl into an upright position.  They used plastic cups wedged in there to hold the bowl in place.  Part of this whole process involved Mr. E standing on the counter top pressing down with the crow bar while the Beetle pushed up with the wooden piece.  It was quite a sight.  I wanted to get a picture, but my cell phone was at the house.  Mr. E’s cell phone was in his front pocket, so I couldn’t sneak up and grab it.  I was pretty sure it was not the most appropriate time to ask him for his phone.  I did say, “You know normal families don’t do this, right?”  They didn’t acknowledge me.  When they put the mixer on the floor and began pushing down on it, I could resist no longer.  I managed to grab his phone and snap a shot.  The photo does not do the whole process justice.  It was very entertaining.

Not Nearly As Entertaining as the Live Show...
Mr. E washed the bowl and the mixer and got it all set up for me.  We put the potatoes in, and he flipped the switch to turn the mixer on.  Nothing.  (You did see that coming, right?)  He turned it off and turned it on again.  Still nothing.  I said something about normal families.  I’m pretty sure you know what I said.  Then, Mr. E turned the mixer on and off.  And on.  And off.  I asked him if he knew the definition of insanity.  He didn’t answer me.  (By the way, the definition of insanity is, “Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”  Pretty sure I’m insane.)  Mr. E assured me he had tested the mixer.  It had worked in the storage shed.  I said maybe the plug wasn’t working and they needed to move it to another spot in the kitchen.  The Beetle let out a whimper at the thought of having to move the thing again.  Mr. E reached over and turned on the microwave that was plugged into the same plug.  It worked, so there went that theory.

Then, I had a moment of genius.  These moments happen rarely for me, so I must cherish them when they do.  I said, “Doesn’t the safety cage have to be closed for the mixer to work?”  Mr. E closed the cage, and sho-nuff, it worked.  It was a modern day miracle! 

35 Pounds of Potatoes!
We mixed and mixed and mixed the potatoes.  We prepared 35 pounds of mashed potatoes.  We used four pounds of butter and half a gallon of milk.  The potatoes filled two commercial sized foil pans.  We had enough mashed potatoes to feed an army!

We had told the preacher at our odd little church that we would try to be there as close to 10:30 as possible.  At 10:45, we pulled out of the driveway.  I really hope punctuality is not one of the admission tests for heaven, or we are surely doomed.  We pulled up to the church building at 11:15.  The lunch started at 11:30, so we were just in time to have the dressing and potatoes hot for the masses.

The masses, which were supposed to be about 150, turned out to be 46, counting the preacher.  As we sat, surrounded by mainly strangers, eating our Thanksgiving meal, I said, “You know normal families don’t do this, right?”  But as I looked around, I realized I was glad we weren’t normal.  Normal is so, well, average.  This was better.  We enjoyed being with our odd little church because, frankly, we fit right in.

The number of people was a little disappointing, but the dinner was not.  Everyone seemed to have a great time, and we were glad to be there to help.  I think next year, if we go up to Newberry to help our odd little church with Thanksgiving, we’ll offer to bring the sweet tea.  Better yet, we’ll supply the plates.  

After the meal was finished and we divvied up the leftovers, we headed back to the camp.  The mission was to finish loading up the stuff and to clean the house.  Mr. E needed to repair a wall that got a hole in it from a chair rubbing against it.  He also needed to change door knobs.  Most of what needed to be moved had to be done by him because it was too heavy for me to lift.  I was okay with this, because I was wiped out from the events of the last few days.  We got back to the house, and I made the mistake of sitting down.  The next thing I knew, I woke up in the fetal position on the loveseat.  Meanwhile, Mr. E walked back and forth, carrying stuff to the car.  I felt bad, but in my defense, I never claimed to have his energy level.  The man is a work horse.  He can work harder and longer than anyone I’ve ever known.  I can’t possibly live up to his standards.  I added that to my list of things to be thankful for - he didn't even fuss at me for not helping.  He really is a good man, Charlie Brown.  

I really was pretty much useless the entire afternoon.  By 5:00, Mr. E said he could do no more.  We still had a two and a half hour drive ahead of us, and I couldn’t drive it.  We were pulling a trailer, and I don’t *do* trailers.  The Beetle could drive, but it would be difficult for him because the trailer and the Suburban were both so loaded.  This left my husband.  He said he could do it, but he had to quit working.  The hole hadn’t been fixed yet, and there were still more items to be loaded.  We decided just to go up there another day.  For posterity sake, I reminded him one last time, “You know normal families don’t do this, right?”  The idea of driving two and a half hours to fix a hole in a wall would be foreign to most.  Most people would say, “I guess the landlord will have to fix it,” but we’re not most people.  So, Mr. E and I will be driving to High Springs one day soon to fix a wall and get the rest of our junk.  Who knows what other adventure that will bring….     

I used to hold on to things.  I kept my notebook from high school that Willow decorated for me.  I kept pictures and drawings that the Goose and the Beetle made.  I kept the stuffed animal that Mr. E left in my locker at school.  (I still wonder how he did that, since he had graduated the year before.  In today’s times, he’d probably be in jail for illegally entering the school building.  He’s practically a terrorist.)

Things used to be very important to me.  Then we moved.  And moved.  And moved.  And moved.  And moved.  And are moving.  Somehow, stuff just doesn’t matter quite as much any more.

For one thing, I realize that nobody cares.  Take the stuffed animal, for instance.  It’s an ugly white bear holding a heart.  Nobody wants it.  Nobody cares.  It makes me remember the past, but I don’t actually want it either.  So, why not take a picture of it and throw the bear away?

The things that used to be treasures just don’t matter as much anymore.  Now, I just view them as something that will take up space in the moving truck.  We’ve rented the biggest truck this time, because we’re actually making the move all at once, as opposed to our typical five-trip method.  See, in the past, we were either moving to a nearby location in Brandon, so we could make trips back and forth, or we were moving away from Brandon.  We went back to Brandon anyway, so we just took another load as we went home the next time.  This time, however, we’re leaving.  We’re driving away on Friday morning and not coming back.  Well, we’re not coming back for a week anyway.  Okay, more accurately, we aren’t returning for 5 days.  We’ll be back next Wednesday, but that doesn’t count.  We really want to get it all moved and be done with it. (Don’t try to understand the logic.)

I’ve had to put off packing until the last minute.  (I had to…That’s my excuse.  I’m really not a procrastinator.)  Every time I would start to pack, I found myself putting one thing in the box and 50 things in the “donate” pile.  I was afraid if I kept it up, we’d have no belongings by the time we loaded the moving truck.  I was merciless, because I had a limited number of boxes.

The problem with thinking you’re not moving again soon is that you get rid of all your boxes.  You’re so happy to finish unpacking that you burn the boxes or throw them in the dumpster, pledging to never use them again.  That’s what happened to us.  We were going to be here for 20 years, so we didn’t need boxes anymore.  Boy, that was a quick 20 years.  I hardly aged at all!

So, we found ourselves without boxes and with a lot of stuff.  The Goose has been walking around quoting the commercial, “Too much stuff, not enough space!” for weeks.  We had to get boxes to pack all this stuff we just finished unpacking, but we couldn’t buy any.  First, we were too cheap to pay perfectly good money for something we’re going to throw away and never use again.  Second, the only place that sold boxes was all the way in Gainesville and nobody wanted to drive to Gainesville again.  So, we checked Craigslist.  Low and behold, people were giving away boxes.  Who knew?  We went to Gainesville (I told you…don’t try to understand it) and picked some up and then got home and turned on the TV.  (Don’t judge us.  We were tired from getting the boxes.)  On the news was a story about the increase in Craigslist murders.  With that, we turned off the TV and started packing.

Today, when we discovered we still did not have enough boxes, Mr. Everything went on a search in High Springs.  He checked with all three of the stores.  (I’m sure he was exhausted by the end of his tour of this huge city.)  The dollar store told him they did not have boxes for him but their cardboard dumpster was out back.  That’s when the Mr. and the Beetle went dumpster diving.  Luckily, they brought back only boxes and not lunch. And I must say, the boxes do not smell very nice.  The Goose is refusing to pack anything in them because they smell like cleaning products.  I keep reminding her that they could smell worse.

So, now, here I sit.  Typing.  Are the boxes packed?  No, not really.  There are some packed, but every time I start, I sigh heavily and give up.  I really am ready to move.  I have properly mourned our dream job turned nightmare and now I’m ready to bury it and move on.  However, I just don’t think I have it in me to pack all this junk again.  I wonder if Mr. E would accept, “I just can’t  do it,” as a valid excuse for me to sit on the couch while does all the work tomorrow.  Probably not, which brings me back to my first instinct of just giving it all away.  I could just leave all our junk in the house here and consider it a charitable contribution to the camp.  Do you think the board of directors would be happy about that?  Probably not.  Some people just don’t appreciate anything. 

All I know is, I don’t want any of this junk, and I want to just throw it away.  My kids and my dog better not sit still too long or I’m likely to throw them away, too.  I guess, at least that way, there would be more space in the moving truck.  -Al

(When Did My Little Boy Get Man Hands???)
The Beetle apparently inherited The Obsession Gene.  Well, more correctly, both kids inherited it, but I think it’s stronger in the boy.

The Obsession Gene is something that has been passed down on my father’s side of the family for generations.  His parents both showed their obsessions through various addictions.  Daddy’s obsessions at least took healthier forms.  Don't mention his golf obsession around my mother.  Take my word for it.  The word "golf" does not bring back good memories in our family.  

Most recently, Daddy's obsession is he is running again.  The man is 67 years old, and he had to stop running years ago due to health issues.  However, he has now built back up to running an amazing number of miles at a time. (I won’t quote how many miles he runs because I’d probably be wrong.  I’ll just say it’s at least 15 times what I have ever run at one time in my entire life.)  This can only be explained by The Gene.

I have The Gene.  Though I’d rather not admit it, I do.  Through the years, The Gene has resulted in half-finished craft projects strewn all over our house.  Mr. Everything knew about this personality trait before he married me.  He chose to marry me anyway, so if our house is always messy, it’s really no one’s fault but his own.

In case you have no clue what I’m talking about, allow me to explain.  The Obsession Gene is a personality trait that causes us to not be able to think about anything other than what we are obsessing over.  At one time, I was obsessed with selling Pampered Chef.  My house was full of cooking tools, catalogs and flyers.  Then, I was obsessed with baking wedding cakes.  Icing roses, pans and piping bags filled out space.  (That obsession ended when the Goose started walking and could steal my icing roses of the dining room table.  It was all downhill from there.)  At least these items made money for us, so they weren’t too bad to deal with.  Then, there was the obsession with rubberstamps.  I have the dusty stamps to prove my one-time love.  (I still love the idea of making rubber stamped cards.  I just don’t have the time to do it.)  There was beading.  Those are hard to vacuum up off the floor, by the way.

No matter what the obsession, it always resulted in supplies left around the house and things half-done.  It meant no dinner on the table and late nights as I couldn’t sleep for wanting to create or do. 

I think the wildest obsession I ever developed was for pottery.  Those of you who know me know how well that turned out for us.  Willow took me to paint pottery for my birthday one year.  I had never heard of paint your own pottery before, but after one trip, I was hooked.  In fact, I dreamed about painting pottery for three nights after we went.  I obsessed over how my plate would look after it was fired.  Once I picked up the plate, it was a downward spiral.  I took the kids back to paint pottery, but it was very expensive.  That’s the one thing that normally limits my obsessions…lack of funds.  So, when I realized I could not continue to drive to Ybor City to paint pottery for $30 a pop, I knew I had to figure out how to paint pottery for cheaper.  This developed into a traveling pottery business that ultimately grew into a paint your own pottery store.  While you made think that sounds good, it ultimately was the cause of our family’s financial demise.  We only thought we were broke before we started our own business.  Fast forward 6 years, and then there was the fire.  See?  This is what my obsessions cause.  Fires.

Anywho, both kids got The Gene.  For them, it has meant flute lessons, guitar lessons, sewing classes, cooking classes, beading supplies, air soft supplies, American girl doll stuff, GI Joe stuff, Legos, military medals, nail polish and fake fingernails, and, and and…. 

Right now, as I type, the Goose is sewing a dress for her American Girl doll.  Yes, it’s 9:15 at night, 3 days before we are loading a moving truck.  She hasn’t touched the sewing machine in 2 years, but tonight is the night.  My prediction is, the dress will not be finished tonight, and it will be permanently forgotten tomorrow.  When she goes to bed, the pile of fabric will be left on the floor.  Then, my head will spin around.

Keep in mind that I said she has the milder form of The Gene.  It’s the boy child who really got it.

A perfect example of this was about a month ago.  He decided to be a cowboy for Halloween.  He wanted a holster for his gun, and I wouldn’t let him drive to Gainesville to search for one in a store.  (I’m so unreasonable.)  He took leftover leather and created his own.  This included staining it.  Bare-handed.  He came in yelling for alcohol.  I asked him why, and he said it might remove the stain from him hands.  I asked him what about the stains on his shirt and jeans, but he said he didn’t think alcohol would work for those.  I asked how he knew alcohol would work.  He said he read it on the bottle of stain.  I looked, and, indeed, it was there; right under the caution to always wear gloves when staining leather.  I asked him if he’d happened to read that part, but he said he had not.  I’ll just blame it on The Gene.

Due to the Beetle’s obsessive tendencies, he walked around with orange hands for a week.  I had to admit, though, his gun holster turned out pretty well.

I’m not sure who I pity more, my children for inheriting The Gene or their future spouses who will have to live with them.  Mr. Everything can attest to the fact that life with the obsessed can be quite an adventure.  One thing I can say is, at least life with us is never boring!  -Al