Saturday, April 13, 2013

Going home

I'm ready to challenge Thomas Wolfe and prove him wrong. "You can't go back home to your family, back home to your childhood." Just watch me.

Back in March, I wrote a post about the six week telework pilot that allowed me to work from home half time. It's been a great experience and while I haven't yet met with my boss to confirm that we're going to continue this arrangement, she also hasn't given me any sign that this experiment didn't work.

At the end of that blog post, I mentioned that the ability to telework half time would allow me to live anywhere I want. As the month of April started, I received a letter from the landlord that told me that the rent was going up and I had to let them know by May 1st if I was renewing my lease for another year.

Time to make a decision.

Time to stop telling friends that I'm thinking about it and take the step forward. I haven't been thinking about this in a vacuum; I've heard opinions from lots of different people.

I know there are some, possibly related to me, that may think it's slightly nuts of me to do this.  (and they wouldn't use the term 'slightly' to describe how nuts they think I am) I listened to my brother-in-law Paul and his thoughts about making the move. The practicality of winter driving and the fact that my car is nearing the end of the forcibly extended life and that I was going to need something dependable sooner rather than later.

There was  an article in the March 2013 issue of Real Simple magazine entitled "back where I belong" by Rod Dreher, that brought home the decision I had ahead of me.

The author shares the story of how he ended up moving from big town Philadelphia back to his hometown after being away for years. The sad twist to the story is that he only realized the value of small town life when his sister, who had always lived in their hometown, passed away from cancer. He saw, during the months leading up to her death, how the community showered love and compassion on her.

But, it was the conversation with my friend Jessie that helped me get right with myself for this decision and realize it's a no-brainer. Jessie and I don't get to see each other a lot, but when we do, we often act as sounding boards to each other.  We met Sunday night at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis for dinner and a play.

Her one simple question, "what is your circle of friends like in Rochester," showed the reality of my life. Socially, besides my family here, it's very limited. I have friends here, but not 'hanging-out-friends.'

"And," she continued, "it's not like your family is going to stop inviting you to hang out if you move to Albert Lea." I hope not, Sunday dinners at the Knutson's is one of my favorite parts of the week. Being closer to family here in Rochester than I have in the past 20 years has been outstanding. It's the best part of living here.

Then Jessie followed up with, "what is your circle of friends like in Albert Lea?" I smiled, then smirked. When thinking of my Albert Lea friends, the phrase 'circle of friends' is usually capitalized to "Circle of Friends." In the 22+ years since I've been gone, those friendships have remained strong and have even grown.

Way back in 1988, Jessie and I met and became friends in Albert Lea during a community theater production of "Anything Goes."  When I mentioned to her how I knew it wouldn't be long before I was back at the theater and singing at church, she smiled and said, "you're going back to Albert Lea. It's a no-brainer."

"I'm going back to Albert Lea," I said calmly. Then it became, "Oh my God, I'm moving back to Albert Lea."

But I'm not thinking of it as moving to Albert Lea as much I think of it as I'm going home.

Friday, April 5, 2013

My Blue Coat

Bell ringing for the Salvation Army wearing
my blue coat. The red spring Santa cap
is optional.
It's time to put away my winter coats and it got me thinking about my blue coat ... 

The first World Synchronized Skating Championship was held in Minneapolis in 2000 and I was one of the volunteers. There are always vendors at skating competitions, usually companies selling skating dresses, skating jewelry, and skating knick-knacks.

One of the vendors at the competition was a Canadian company called Blue Skies <no longer in business> and they sold team uniforms (dresses, warm-ups, outerwear). I might not have taken a second look at them except for the cobalt blue coat that they were selling. It's the one color that always draws my eyes.

It was a beautiful long coat made of fleece with black trim on the collar, cuffs and at the bottom edge of the bodice. It had a hood with black fur and a matching scarf.

I had to have that coat. But Blue Skies wasn't the type of retailer that lets you buy off the rack. Every coat was custom-made for the individual. They measured the length of my arms, not just for the sleeves, but to determine the best location for the pockets. (So, when I put my hands in my pockets, the finger tips touched the bottom of the pocket.)

When they told me the cost, I almost said no. I can't remember the exact cost, but it was more that I had paid for any piece of clothing. The sales person told me that I should think of the coat as an investment and that I would most likely wear it for several years.

If they would have told me that I would still be wearing this coat 13 years later, I'm sure I would have laughed. Who wears a coat for 13 years? But I certainly have gotten my money's worth.

This coat seems to be indestructible. Since it's made from fleece fabric (which is recycled material), it's washable and I usually wash it once or twice a winter. Color has never faded. Since the coat isn't bulky, it packs well for those summer months when I travel for skating competitions. (What? You put your winter coats away for the season?)

I sometimes wonder if my skating peeps roll their eyes when they see me wearing my blue coat each season. If the fabric was worn away anywhere on it - like the cuffs or the collar - maybe I would replace it, but it looks the same as it did on that first day.

I was at a skating competition a few weekends back, but not as a judge. I was on the other side of the rink as the aunt of one of the competitors. Of course, I knew most of the officials there and stopped to chat with them later. One of them told me that she had spotted me across the rink - "I'd recognize that blue coat anywhere."