Driving my life away

I hate to drive. I really do.

Driving today is nothing like it was when I was 16.  I would drive anytime, anywhere, just to get behind that wheel.  But now the thrill is gone. I find myself mapping out my driving plan in my head so I can take the shortest routes, in the least time frame, with the most minimal construction possible (which has not been easy this summer).  I become frustrated when I am forced to spend even more time in my car.

The other day I noticed that I have put over 13,000 miles on my car since I bought it eight months ago. Thirteen thousand! A 13 with three zeros behind it!  That’s like driving across the United States four times (it’s 2,900 from New York City to San Fransisco).

OK, so I drive a lot.  I drive to work, at work, to school, to Iowa City and North Liberty, where my kids live.  I interned in Solon and North Liberty this summer and sometimes made two trips a day back and forth from Cedar Rapids. I also drove to Colorado and back  this summer.  I drive, but only because I have to.

But not all driving is bad.  I have seen a lot of the United States because I chose to drive instead of fly.  I drove from Cedar Rapids to Las Vegas with my daughter, Lori, her boyfriend, my brother and his son last year. Most of the drive was nice.  We took the southern route on the way there and avoided the mountains.  We saw the adobes of New Mexico and the beautiful deserts (yes, beautiful) of Arizona and Nevada.  

Coming back, however, was a different story.  We decided to cut some time and drive through the mountains.  Lori decided that she would drive for a while. But when it began to get dark and hard to see, she realized that she was in over her head.  She found herself driving down the side of a mountain (which is not a great idea in the middle of winter anyway) with a huge semi on her tail, whipping around the tight corners like they were nothing. I held my breath for the last five miles down the mountain and didn’t  let it out until we were safely pulling into the next gas station. Needless to say, I have gained a greater respect for flat ground.   (Nebraska, I love you!)

But even though I hate to drive, I have come to accept the inevitable.  If I have to drive, I must share the road with idiots.  I don’t mean to say that all drivers are idiots, but a few that I have to question just where and how they got their license. I can handle the occasional forgetfulness of not using your turn signal or the person who goes slower than the speed limit, but one thing I can’t stand, is the tailgater.  Interstate 380 is notorious for tailgaters who think that going 80 is not fast enough.  I can cuss, I can slow down, or I can pull over and let the jerk pass.  For the sake of safety, the latter usually wins out, especially if I have my grandkids in the car. 

I admit I’m not perfect. I have absent-mindedly stayed in the left lane doing the spend limit when it clearly says, slower traffic stay right.  I have lingered at a green light longer than I should and have upset that poor man behind me, causing him to toot his horn to wake me up.  And I have purposely not let someone ahead of me in line because she ignored the “merge left ahead” sign and found herself unable to move over.

But I will keep driving, putting mile after mile on my tired odometer.  But just for the record, I hate driving.

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Never say never…again

No matter what I do, my house seems to have become a catch-all for those things that my kids don’t really wants, but don’t want to part with either.  Out-grown baby clothes, old books and memorabilia find a home in my closet.  Noisy toys and things my grandkids aren’t allowed to  play with at their house (like play-dough or markers), mysteriously find a way to my playroom.

Looking at the accumulated mess in my closets has made me realize one thing. I come from a long line of pack rats.  I’m not sure when it began, but I remember that my grandmother kept everything and passed that trait on to my dad.  He collected ketchup, salt packets and wet-wipes, matches and pens.  We never had to go without ketchup for our fries and always had a pen handy.  He knew where all the match books could be found and always had a rubber band around his wrist, just in case someone needed one.  All we had to do was ask Dad.  He usually had what we needed.  My mom told me that even now, two years after my dad passed away, boxes of his notes (he was writing his life story) still sat in her storage room, apparently the “pack-rat syndrome” rubbing off on her, as well.

It was painful to admit, but it finally sunk in that I was following the tradition. Going through the multitude of boxes that lined my closet shelves, I found mementos of years gone by, various objects given to me that I knew I would never use.  I rummaged through the memories, sorting out my most prized possessions. I knew most of the things were destined to become dust-collectors on a shelf at the Goodwill store. But how could I part with some of the most sentimental reminders of my former life?  I felt almost guilty. 

I knew I would never get anywhere with an attitude like that.  I was forced to make a decision.  Should it stay or should it go?

Two words came to mind.  “Garage Sale”.

We decided that if we were going to have a garage sale, we were going to make it as simple as possible.  We weren’t going to have any kind of expectations and didn’t care how much we made.  When it was over, we were going to pack it up and give it to our favorite charities. 

We should have just forgotten about the garage sale and just gave the stuff away because  it was the worst garage sale ever. Two pregnant women, heat, high humidity, and rain do not equal a good time. What were we thinking?  How could we possibly think that a garage sale in July would yield in any kind of profit, especially  considering the weather never seems to cooperate? We spent hours getting ready for the sale but our efforts were in vain. The total number of people couldn’t have been more than 15, and I would rather not mention how much we made.  It’s too embarrassing.

We started out with high hopes, even though the sky was dark and cloudy and rain was in the forecast for the rest of the day. The humidity was high and very sticky.  We constantly lugged all the tables and stands in and out of the garage, dodged raindrops and tried to keep the kids from slashing in the puddles.  One one point, we decided to just leave the tables in the garage, then finally, just decided to close all together.  “It’ll be better tomorrow,” we told each other confidently.

It wasn’t great, but it was better, a little anyway.  It rained the first couple hours and we actually had a few people come in.  In the end, we closed early and packed the stuff up to take to Goodwill.

I had to laugh when I heard both of my daughters say, “Never again!  I am never, ever having another garage sale!”  I wanted to remind them that I think they said that same thing last year. But I didn’t. They won’t remember how bad it was.  It’s kind of like having kids.  I said that very same thing after the birth of each of my four children. How soon we forget.  That’s why I never say never … again.