Saturday, August 22, 2009

Yard Sailing Away...

The last time I did a yard sale was six years ago. The twins were about 1.5 years old, DD about 4 and I was much younger. This was also about the time when I used to breastfeed while cooking lasagna for dinner parties of twelve.

My father-in-law and my DH had been tasked with watching the kids, at least that was the idea. Things were going well until a well-meaning person pointed to my porch. I shook my head and said, no, the table on the porch wasn't for sale. She shook her head back at me and pointed again.

I turned around to see one of my twins standing on the porch, with her pull up, full with a few hours of pee, down by her ankles. I completed the transaction (a sale's a sale, after all) and ushered her into the house with rather loud instructions to the two men to get with the program or take over the sale. Running a yard sale with three kids under three was hard enough. With a distracted husband and father-in-law to boot? I swore I'd never do one again.

But why, six summers later, have I gone back on that vow? It's about a garage I'm coveting. A red brick two car garage that has been filled with the overflow of our lives for the last ten years, ever since we moved into our little dream ranch house in Longmont. When we moved in our oldest was just under a year old and we literally opened the door and threw our belongings into wherever they would land. And I'm still looking for the things I misplaced.

But this summer, after deciding that my consulting business, One Purpose PR & Communications (yes, shameless promotion), was worthy of being expanded into what I'm doing for the rest of my life, I also decided that the red brick garage would be the perfect office, studio and private mamazblogging space. Problem was that every time I entered into the garage, I had an anxiety attack. The stuff. So much stuff.

But just as I was undaunted six years ago by yard sales with young children and breastfeeding twins while cooking, I rolled up my short sleeves and started going through all that stuff. I organized it, sorted it and catalogued it into storage boxes and decided, that after a six year yard sale hiatus, it was time for another one.

That was in June. Today's date is August 22.

In between, the girls have negotiated hard for the return of their unused by still loved Beanie Baby shelf, but only if they agreed to sell the pink Barbie car. Items were played with one more time and then reluctantly put back into the yard sale toy bin, but only with the promise of BIG BUCKS.

I woke up this morning at 6am, made strong coffee and began dragging out the boxes. DH woke up a little bit later, then the girls and before I knew it the whole family was pulling together to get the yard sale open and ready for business. The twins helped hang the posters that they and their sister had made the night before. We fought over whether to put directional arrows on the signs, with our oldest storming off claiming creative integrity. I tried to talk our oldest into letting me use her allowance money for our starting bank, but she stood firm and they held down the fort while I went and got cash. By 8:28 a.m., we had come together as a family with minimal insanity and the yard sale was ready.

And then we waited. And waited.

Having a yard sale is a lot like throwing a party. The anxiety of getting ready, of waiting for the guests, or in our case, the customers, to arrive. Worrying if they don't, or what to do with them if they do.

And they did. First customer was a mother who literally squealed with glee when I told her the priced to move deals on girls' clothing. Our first sale.

With a bittersweet feeling, I watched a young mother put our oldest's first bike in her car for her three year old. A pregnant woman bought a much loved and worn, but still very chic shirt I wore during, between and after both pregnancies.

I'm not a great negotiator. Never have been and probably will never be. As far as sales transactions go, I'm motivated by movement and I wanted to move the stuff off of my yard. I balked at a Russian woman who responded $2.00 to my $2.50 counter offer so forcefully, that I caved in and then went ahead and just asked folks to pay what they felt was fair. And they did.

And so the stuff went. Not all of it. Not for the amount we had dreamed of cashing in on. But what I found out today is this - that what we make in a yard sale is not the point. What we make are connections with strangers who no longer were strangers by the time they drove off, whether they bought something or not. Some of the connection were through broken English and my not-even qualified as broken Spanish. Some of the connections were made by those who just wanted to stop by as an excuse to have some conversation. Like the older gentleman who took out his wallet not to pay for anything, but to show me a lovingly worn photograph of his oldest grandson and grandaughter in-law, both of who are being deployed to Iraq next month.

Yes, I'm exhausted. More exhausted than I am after a rigorous 90 minute Bikram class.

But at the end of the day, my red brick dream office is about half-way closer to being ready to move into. Our take for the day? A grand total of $75.

Would I do it again? Yep.

Tomorrow seems like a perfect day for meeting some more folks and yard sailing it forward.

Yard sailing away. Yard sailing away...

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Smile. Breathe. Learn.

The first day of school is less than eight hours away. The mystery is over. After two and a half months, we know who is in what class, which friends from last year, which new faces to get to know. It's a new school year and as always, I've been on the verge of tears for days. I might joke that the Staples back to school ad is based on my own gleeful skipping down school supply aisles (which I begin right after 4th of July). I might exchange eye-rolling glances with my DH as the energy level in the car borders on bursting out the windows, and not from the music being too loud. I might complain about the endless "I'm bored" and "what are we going to do today?" that have grown louder and more frequent as June became July and July is now August. But in reality, I'd like the summer break to last longer. Why, other wide-eyed climbing-the-wall parents ask me? And until today, I didn't really know, other than living vicariously through my kids' open-ended days.

But today, as we entered the school door and read the class lists, visited the new classrooms and saw how much everyone had grown over the summer, I realized why summer breaks exist and why we all need them, even if we only get to experience them through our children.

Summer is a letting down of the taut schedule that takes over our lives: school, homework, PTO, activities, religious school, rehearsals, performances and all the rest that make up the craziness that is the school year. I don't remember it that way, but then again, I went to elementary school at a time when extra-curricular activities involved hanging out playing tetherball and then going home to watch The Three Stooges and Speed Racer with my brother on Channel 52. Homework was something you did in junior high.

The letting down happens along with the lengthening of the days. If we let it.

Relaxation. Warmth. Sunshine. Farmers' Market. Ice cream. Swimming. Going to bed late. Sleeping in. Reading whatever you want for however long you want. Watching baseball. Planting a garden and eating the first tomatoes and romaine lettuce.

But that can't last forever, can it? Boredom sets in. Restlessness of how we're wired for progress, learning, whatever drives us forward to not sit still.

And is it my imagination, or do kids just grow that much more during the summer? Maybe it's the very act of relaxing that allows for the sudden growth, as if their bodies are just following the season's lead. That once all the holding it together from the school year is let go of, their bodies just open up like sunflowers.

Last week I felt the sun receding. I woke up at my normal early bird time of 5:15am and the sun had not beat me to the punch. I made my coffee in the dim dark and started to cry. Because I
knew the letting down was coming to an end.

You see, even if I couldn't step away from my job during the summer, at least my kids could step away from theirs (which is often what school feels like, right?) and at least a third of the household could relax. And I soaked it up, from the time I walked in the door until they careened into bed at past 10pm.

Don't get me wrong. I know that the ending of the endless summer is a good thing. Some of it is practical, some of it physical. All the growing has to be put to some use and it might as well be to get smarter. We wouldn't relish the long, warm nights if they were here 365 days a year.

But what can I take from this summer? To turn off and turn away from my computer. To make sure that enough ice cream is consumed in a given day. To delight in day-cations 20 minutes from home. To devote time to doing nothing. And to enjoy how much fun it is to be around my

Tonight, as I cuddled with my girls, I talked to each of them about their goals for the year. And I shared with them my wishes for their new school year. The wishes are deeply inspired by a prayer by Thich Naht Hahn, which my wise and loving mother-in-law, Lila Greene, shared with me:

Breathing in, I calm my body.
Breathing out, I smile.
Dwelling in the present moment,
I know it is a wonderful moment.

This prayer is how I can keep the summer inside me all year long. And how I can teach my girls to do the same. Here is to a peaceful school year, one with the shared blessings our teachers bestow on us, the ones we take in willingly and the ones the seep in despite our resistance.

Smile. Breathe. Learn.

How many first days of school do you remember?