Adventures in Packing, Part Two

Photo of black cat sitting on top of a large box on which is printed "I was handled with care."We successfully transferred houses, so obviously that means that we successfully packed all our shit. Even though it is in my past and was successful, I still feel as if I have some things I have to work through in regards to it.

I mean, really. Packing an entire house worth of stuff is like a whole THING. When you touch every object in your house, you learn some stuff.

Like even just the shelf in my kitchen that held bottles of vinegar. I had three bottles of balsamic vinegar that expired in 2009. THREE. When you pour out those bottles, your kitchen will smell strongly. In addition to the balsamic vinegar, there was sherry cooking wine that expired in 2007. There was rice vinegar that expired in 2008. There was malt vinegar that was older than one of my kids. Also, it’s weird, because I don’t know what you do with malt vinegar.


I learned a lot about labeling boxes during this move as well. Unfortunately, I plan on never moving again, so this knowledge will be wasted. If you ever move, let me know and I will come by with a handful of markers and some brilliant ideas. These ideas include:

1. The crucial information to put on the outside of the box is the destination room of the new house. It doesn’t matter what room it came from in your old home. It barely matters what is inside the box—although it might be helpful to put that information in one spot on the box. For example, writing “purses” on every side of a carton doesn’t give the movers any information about that box. It also creates the impression that you have too many purses.

2. If you just mark the destination room instead of the contents on the box, there are certain items that you might want to make a note of on the outside of the box so you can have a chance in hell of finding them again. These things include your social security card if you are starting a new job, the end-of-year gift cards you so efficiently bought early for teacher gifts, and your antidepressants.

3. As the day of your move gets closer, you will give way fewer fucks about box organization and labeling. This is a mistake. Although frankly, unless you wrote “DELIVER TO KANSAS” on the box, it will probably make it to your new home and you’ll find it again. You know, eventually.

4. The things that you waited to pack until the morning of the move should probably go in a box labeled “OPEN ME FIRST!”

Some of the things I learned from packing were less upsetting than the above. For example, when I reached the top shelf of my corner kitchen cabinet, I realized that the taco chihuahua is still one of the best purchases I have ever made.

Photo of ceramic chihuahua. There are three taco-sized spaces in his back for holding tacos.

See? Super fabulous. He holds tacos while you put your fixins in it.

The taco chihuahua definitely made the trip to the new house. There were, however, things that didn’t make the cut. Like this Valentine’s Day cookie I found in my cabinet.

Photo of a shortbread cookie with red filling in the shape of a heart.

I didn’t taste it, but I’m pretty sure it would have killed me if I had. Do you know how long ago Valentine’s Day was?

In addition to my vinegar shelf, I also went through my spice racks. I went through a phase a few years ago where I cooked adventurous recipes that asked for lots of spices. Consequently, I have (had) a large number of herb and spice bottles with, say, a tablespoon gone from the top.

Nearly all of it was expired.

Also, remember how all that balsamic vinegar was smelly? Ten years of spices in your trash can is also a powerful smell. And it makes you sneeze. It will, however, attract cats.

Photo of empty spice jars on a counter. The top of the garbage can into which I have emptied the spices is also visible, with a at sniffing at it.

She didn’t get a lot closer than this.

It turns out that empty glass spice jars are a hot commodity on Freecycle. Especially if you have 26 of them. I had five people begging for them within ten minutes of posting.

Let’s see, what else did I learn? Oh, yeah, I learned that you’re going to need more packing tape than you have. Seriously. You didn’t buy enough.

Sadly, you might also learn that some possessions are fleeting.

Photo of a ceramic light switch wall plate decorated with Peter Rabbit. It is broken into five pieces.


We bought that before Sam was born. His first room was decorated with Peter Rabbit stuff. This was on the wall in one of my kids’ rooms from that time until I unscrewed it and promptly dropped it on the floor last week.

In another blast from the past, we rehung a closet door that we had taken off of Sam’s closet several years ago. I asked Alex if he was sure we had the right door as there were three of in them in the basement. He turned it around to face me and said, “Yes, I’m sure.”

Photo of a wooden door with many small cards taped to it. The cards all feature either Thomas the Tank Engine or Bob the Builder machines.

Ah, Thomas the Tank Engine and Bob the Builder. Those two were a big hit in my house for a long time.

I’m a little bit of a control freak, so I didn’t let Alex pack very much. (He also doesn’t get to unpack very much.) The exception to this is his closet. I required him to pack that himself. Unfortunately, this very competent and successful attorney turned out to be UTTERLY INCAPABLE of doing things like taping a box shut and walking across the room to pick up a flat box and turn it in to a cube.

In related news, when someone proves themselves incompetent and unwilling to learn the simplest of tasks, unsolicited advice from him will riiiilly, riiiilly made a person mad.

I had a moment when I was packing my basement when I stopped to think about all the afternoons I spent down there with Susan and her kids. I felt sad to leave the only house I’d known her in. Then, a couple weeks after that day, I found, covered in spider webs, a little vase she had given me with a flower bulb in it. I, of course, had killed the flower immediately, but I kept the vase. I don’t know what I’m going to do with it, but it is going to hold something special in my new house.

Photo of a small green vase, still covered in the spider webs I found it in.

I’m bringing her love to my new home.

There were probably more lessons that I learned from packing, but I guess the most important is that what really matters is that you take the love and laughter and joy of your family and your friends and bring it with you from your old house to your new house. Because without all of that, you just have walls and a door.

With it, you have a home.

Also, I never found my brown clogs. How did I pack my entire house and not find the pair of shoes I’ve been looking for for weeks? WHERE ARE MY BROWN CLOGS?

Eleven Things

• So. The Great Quitting of the Soda. I have only had a couple of days when I drank zero soda. BUT! I have not had more than two cans on any day, which I think makes me a normal person in terms of soda drinking. Yay, me! Don’t worry; soon enough there will be far more zero-soda days than two-can days.

• Quinn has started reading chapter books! Of his own free will he has voluntarily read THREE chapter books in two days all on his own after YEARS of only reading them if I begged him. Weird.

• There appears to be some sort of strange sharpened pencil shortage in Quinn’s classroom. I was there today and there was all kinds of creative sharpening happening. I brought all of Quinn’s pencils home to sharpen at my leisure. When he found them after school, he was like a junkie finding a fix.

• I have still not been doing a lot of running. This is mostly because I have stopped wanting to run in the cold weather. I am trying to will warm weather to arrive. Unfortunately, my area is supposed to get five inches of snow tomorrow.

• People here are calling this storm the Snowquester, because no economic crisis is too serious to make a weather-related joke out of.

• Even though I have had two weeks of, shall we say, less than stellar running, I have run more than 100 miles so far this year over the equivalent of more than a 24-hour day.

• Alex is out of town. If the Snowquester knocks my power out, I will die. If the Snowquester knocks my power out while Alex is out of town, I will kill him. I don’t know why. I just will.

• Do you watch The Walking Dead? Did you watch last Sunday’s episode? Because it was so good. Stories like that are why I like zombie fiction. Best. Episode. Ever. Discuss.

• I think that Quinn is starting to get inside my head. Last night I had a dream about a field full of kittens. I wonder if that is what is happening in Quinn’s head all the time. Because it was kind of awesome.

LympheDIVAs created the most amazing lymphedema sleeves in honor of Susan. Read Marty’s post about them here. They are gorgeous. I love them so much. They are just so perfect. See?

hubble collection

• Aaaaaand, last, I managed to write an entire White Knuckle Parenting column based on a half-hour ride on the Metro with my kids. Happily, it was a fun story, not a “Team Stimey being dorks out and about” story.

One Year

It has been a year. I miss her. I think about her a lot.

In Honor of Susan

It seems so unfair that life goes on when she is not here. I have thought of her often over the past year. I think of her every time I drive past the left turn I used to take to her house. I think of her when I see a full moon. I think of her every time one of my kids asks me a science question that I don’t know the answer to but that she would have. I think of her at random times when my mind wanders.

I miss laughing with her. I miss going to her house with Big Gulps for each of us. I miss the way she used her hands to demonstrate whatever scientific principle she was explaining. I miss how encouraging she was of her friends. I miss how much she believed in everyone. I miss how she held friends together. I miss her smile.

There have been many things I wanted to share with her in the past year. I wanted to tell her about my Asperger’s diagnosis. I think she would have been amazing about it. I wanted to tell her how well Jack was doing. She was one of his biggest cheerleaders. I wanted to put her name on a list of references for an application I filled out. I wanted to ask her advice about so many things. I wanted to chat about books and movies and blogs and the tremendous good and energy that she put into the world.

I missed her so terribly after I ran my 8k in September. When I posted on Facebook that I had finished the race, something that was a challenge for me, a mutual friend commented, “As Susan would have said, ‘Of course you did.'” Exactly. Exactly. I miss her.

One of the last times Susan and I sat and chatted, a rotating prism that her husband had bought her was twirling in the sunlight, covering her in rainbows. That is one of the way I like to remember her: shining like a rainbow; strong and nuanced like the cratered, slate-colored moon; and gorgeous as her amazing smile.

No post about Susan can ever do her justice or express the enormity of her loss.

I always love you, Susan.

As Susan’s friends remember her today, consider furthering her legacy through a contribution to the Inflammatory Breast Cancer Research Foundation or the American Cancer Society.

Please join bloggers throughout the web in honoring Susan Niebur’s life and contributions with a post, and please add your link below.

Laughter and Tears

Susan’s funeral service was today. It was wonderful to see so, so many of her friends there. It just felt that in a gathering of those people that she should have been sitting among us. I loved hearing Canape sing a song and play the piano for her. Her song took my breath away.

Then, after the service, walking downstairs to the reception, I missed the last step and totally fell down the stairs. I am such a buffoon. It was a very Stimey moment. I think Susan would have approved.

At least I didn’t puke on anyone. I think Susan would have approved of that too.

There was both laughter and tears today.

On Tuesday, I posted about Susan over at my White Knuckle Parenting column, which is ironic, because Susan was the opposite of a white knuckle parent. (That site seems to be running a bit slow, so check back if it doesn’t pop up the first time.)

That’s it for today. I think tomorrow I will ease back into it with a post about the feral cat we accidentally caught in our car this evening.

I Already Miss You, Susan.

Susan passed away today. Although it will probably be yesterday by the time you read this. I am up late, my eyes tired from tears, but unable to sleep. This is the last day that Susan lived; I want to see it through to its end.

I still can’t believe she is gone. Susan has been part of my life for so long that I can’t imagine life without her. I look at her photograph and am so sad that I will never again see that beautiful smile she is flashing in every single one. My heart aches for her family; for her best friend, Marty; for all of us.

I think most of us are lucky to have a few close friends. It speaks volumes about Susan that she had so many. Susan inspired so very many people. Her life was far too short, but she had more of an impact in so many disparate worlds—aerospace, cancer research and support, blogging, family, friendship—than many of us will have if we live to be a hundred.

Curt, you may call yourself WhyDaddy, but you will always be WonderDaddy to me. Susan bestowed you with that name in a time of great pain for her, and no doubt for you as well. I have watched you take care of Susan and your sons with your own grace and dignity and helped Susan maintain hers.

I can only imagine how deep your pain must be tonight. I know that Susan would have done anything to keep that pain from you and your kids. I hope you are able to find some peace in the knowledge that thousands of people are thinking of you, sending their love and their prayers to you tonight.

I love you, Susan. And I miss you already.

My Friend Susan

I love her smile.

My friend Susan is all I have been thinking about for the last few days. I love that woman so much.

You may have seen the slide shows that Teach Mama put together for her to watch. They’re full of photos of friends of Susan’s. They are beautiful. When making them, she suggested that we take photos of ourselves with a word that we felt describes Susan.

For a lot of reasons, I chose “THOUGHTFUL.” I chose that word because it combines two things that Susan has so much of: brains and heart. There are so many times that I have watched her make thoughtful, active decisions when so many others (i.e. me) would just flail away and hope shit worked out. There are also so many times when she could have legitimately been focused solely on herself only to reach out to me about something going on with my family. I’m not the only friend she does this for either. She is an extremely giving person.

As I’ve been thinking of her so much over the past few days, so many stories and memories came to mind. I remember back in the day when I first knew her and her older son was such an adorable little guy then (still is, although bigger now) who would wander around during our moms’ club meetings, winning the hearts of all the moms there. There was the night she and I and another friend got together to share our wedding photo albums with each other. I spent a big chunk of that night cuddling with her sweet second son, who was just a baby at the time. Recently, I would go over to her house with Big Gulps for each of us and we would drink them and talk. It’s kinda our thing.

So many good memories. So much laughing. And every time I hang out with her, I swear I learn something. Her husband is such a great partner for her and has always managed to be charming and delightful when I’ve been around. (Even that day years ago when he was trying to work on his important, you know, SPACE STUFF on his laptop on the couch as I chased my three recalcitrant kids around their living room in an effort to extract them from his house.) I am grateful to have gotten to know him as well.

A couple of weeks ago, I was there when the sun came out from behind a cloud, activating this little solar powered rotating prism he had gotten for Susan. We sat in the swirling rainbows that her husband had given her. It was really cool.

And her kids. Everything is for her sweet, beautiful kids who have always been so kind, creative, and fun.

Susan is an extremely loving, present, smart, fun, brave, wonderful, strong woman. I love her dearly and am so grateful to have her in my life.

Susan has given a lot, be it to her family, to her friends, to women in science, or to women fighting cancer. It’s our turn. I know a lot of you want to share your love with her too. If you are so inclined, share a memory or a love note with Susan on the WhyMommy Love Fest Facebook page. Send mail to her at her P.O. box: Susan Niebur; 11006 Veirs Mill Road, Suite L-15 #112; Wheaton, MD 20902. If you pray, know that she does too, and I’m sure she would welcome your prayers.

As for me, it’s simple. Here is what I have to say: Susan, I love you. Always. I just want you to know that.