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by Katherine Waters-Clark

fall-cottage3The two little words, “We’re moving!” can stir up some very big emotions.  We might be thrilled — we’ve found our “dream house,” landed the job of a lifetime in our favorite city,  or finally saved enough to buy that farmhouse we’ve always loved. But it’s just as likely that we’re more than a little heartbroken – we’re empty-nesters who are downsizing , we’re relocating away from our family, we’re going through a divorce, surviving a death, or foreclosing on a house we can no longer afford. 

Whatever the reason, for better or worse, last year alone, millions of Americans changed addresses.  The transition has the potential to bring up a whirlwind of emotions, throwing us way off balance.

When we start to think about moving, most of us get frantically busy, arranging for moving vans, extra boxes, new paint, schools for the kids.  We push away the emotional pull seeing our son’s initials carved in the backyard oak tree.  We brush away tears when we drive by our favorite corner store.  We convince ourselves that we’ll be FINE – once we get THE MOVE over with.  Besides, we’re way too busy with the move to get all emotional.  Trouble is, once the SOLD sign is in the yard, and move is underway, we and our families are just that – all emotional.

We are emotional because we are human. We are deeply connected to those initials in the tree and that corner store.  This place that we’re leaving, our home, is where our daughter became an All-Star, our son kissed his future partner, our dad spent his final Thanksgiving.  Leaving our home is so much more than packing up the glasses, broom-sweeping the floors, signing the papers, and handing over the keys.  Our hearts and souls are buried deep within our homes. 

So how do we pull up those deep roots and leave our hearts and souls intact?  How do we maintain our equilibrium while handing over our home?

Perhaps if we put down the packing tape for a moment, we can gently say goodbye to our home, mourn the loss with our family, and let go before we leave. 

Where to begin?  These 5 “Goodbye” exercises will help.  Read them over, and if one or two resonate for you, then try them.  If you can, try them alone, with a close friend or partner, and with your children.

They will provide an emotional road map for the journey leading up to — and beyond — moving day.  Think of them as your Emotional Action Plan for integrating the emotions and the logistics of your moving day,  a “how-to” guide for acknowledging and embracing all the feelings that arise from leaving home.

1.    Reflect and Remember

grandparents-in-yardSpend some quiet time in each part of your home, inside and out. Try to recall 5 memories (wonderful or bittersweet) that took place in each spot — behind the garage, in the yard, in the living room.  Write a journal, create a videotape, or simply say them out loud, even if you’re alone.  Validate your memories – good and bad.

2.   Celebrate and Mourn

family-campfireMake a safe bonfire in your backyard (the barbecue grill or a candle work, too).  On scraps of paper, write down 5 things that you’ve loved and hated about your house, your neighborhood, and your life in this home.  One by one, toss those scraps of paper into the fire or barbecue, or burn them over the candle.  If you’d like, save a copy of this list before burning.  Create a saying (or blessing) to say (outloud or silently) each time a scrap of paper hits the flames.  “We love you, old home!”  “Goodbye, 12 River Street!” “I bless this house and I release it from my life.”  “We won’t forget our home!” and so on.

3.    Capture and Contain

Couple taking photos.Videotape the kids’ rooms.  Take a photo journal of the walls, the curtains, and the pictures on the wall. Ask the kids to “direct” the film.   Use this video to “recreate” or just remember the old room in the new house.  Walk around town, school, work, and photograph the local shops, your favorite teachers, the “gang” hanging out.  Make a DVD, create a photo album, or take footage of “an ordinary day” in the life of your home your town, your life here.

4.   Welcome The New

writing-letterWrite a “welcome” letter to the new homeowners (don’t forget, they’ve just moved, too).  Tell them about the secret room in the basement and the tree fort.  Let them know the best grocery store, the shortcut to the ball field, the name of a good babysitter.  Leave the letter for them on the counter, mail it to them the day you leave, or hide it in a secret place and wonder if they’ll ever find it!

 5.    Leave It Behind

dog-digging-in-yardjpg2Create an “Our Home” time capsule and bury it in the yard, in the wall, or in a secret place.  Make sure each family member puts in something special – but not something they’ll miss having later!  A note, a button from your jacket, a photo of your family, a newspaper with the date.

 

While some of these ceremonies will be difficult to start and get through, give yourself this very special Moving Day gift.  By taking the time to say goodbye to your old home, you will clear a space in your hearts and souls for the wonderful homes and lives of your future – wherever they may be!

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I hate to be the one to tell you this.

Despite the epic “To Do” list that every parent north of Boston has written for the frantic “must-get-it-done-while-kids-are-in-school” Friday before Christmas, none of the tasks will get done.

Because Friday is going to be Half-Day Snow Day.  (Was that a scream I just heard?)

Which means of course that as soon as we drop off our children at school, we have time to race like a Santa-out-of-hell to get one item done on the “list” and before it’s time to pick them up again.  The little darlings will be hyped up beyond measure from doing nothing at school all morning but watch snow pile up.  Don’t forget: it’s not only Christmas, it’s not only snowing, but it’s a snowy-half-day-Friday-just-before-Christmas.  It just doesn’t get any better for a kid.  

For us parents, it’s not going to be pretty.

How to get through it?  Get on board that toboggan, parents, and ride it all the way down the hill.  If you can’t beat those snowflakes (and you know you can’t), then you are going to have to  join them.  (Really, I could swear I heard another scream.)

Deep breath, lists away, it’s showtime.  Or should I say “snowtime?”  

Here’s 5 Snow Day ideas to get you started:

1. Get out in the snow.  Bundle up and head outside.  (Now that scream I did hear.) Frosty air, flakes on your cheeks, and the muffled sounds of snowy streets will put you in the holiday spirit like nothing else (especially Christmas shopping the week before Christmas).  Throw a snowball, shovel the sidewalk, make an angel, get on a sled.  

2. Bake Something Yummy.  Food is love, and you probably need to bring something yummy to a weekend party, so dust off the cookbooks, get out the butter (I know you’ve got some), find the flour, eggs, vanilla.  Bake cookies, muffins, scones.  What the heck – bake a cake!  

3. Make Homemade Soup.  Again with the food. But while you’ve got the cookbooks out, find a recipe for soup, stew, chili –  perfect food for snowy, stormy day.

4 . Unplug.  Turn off the computer (what?!).  Turn off your cell phone (okay, now that’s just crazy).  Light candles.  Play Christmas songs on the piano. Wrap presents.   Make homemade cards.  

5. Take in a Christmas Matinee.   When you’re done shoveling, sledding, baking and wrapping, pile onto the couch in your pj’s with popcorn and hot cocoa and fire up a Christmas classic.  (Yes, you can plug back in for this.)  Some personal favorites are “Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” “Elf,” “A Christmas Story,” “Miracle on 34th Street” and  “It’s a Wonderful Life.” 

After the movie, sip bowls of homemade soup, gobble cookies, and get into bed early.  You’ve got a hell of a lot of shopping to do tomorrow.

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