Category Archives: Family

I’m embracing! I’m embracing!

So far, so good.  My resolution for February is to move myself to California.

Oh, and to stay sane in the process.

All things considered, things are going well. With one and a half weeks to go:

  • I have emptied all drawers and cupboards of their contents with the exception of my kitchen (which has some dishes I am sill using) and my dresser (which has clothing I am still wearing).  I have thrown out, sold, given away, or donated many things.  I have packed boxes and boxes, and more boxes.
  • I have requested records from my doctor, my dentist, my ophthalmologist, and Hannah’s vet.
  • I have completed a moving inventory, rented a car, rented a house, and changed my address.
  • My house is on the market, clean and being shown to potential buyers.
  • My in-box at work is almost empty and my major projects have all been handed over.

People keep asking me if this is hard.   They say, “I know you’re organized and everything, but isn’t it hard to go through all of those memories?”

The great news is I can honestly say “NO!”

It really isn’t.  I’m an organizer and a purger by nature.  I am excited about downsizing.  I am elated to let go of things I’ve been keeping ‘just in case.’  And the things I’ve held onto are related to memories I want to bring with me.

So I’ve been sailing along.  Packing, purging, cleaning, organizing.  To do lists everywhere and lots of things to check-off each day!  I’m in heaven!  I should have done this years ago!  This whole transition thing isn’t too hard, I think to myself.  It’s an adventure!  I’m embracing! I’m embracing!

Well, friends.  I’m here to tell you: Everything changes when the end is near.

I know, I know.  I’ll keep in touch with my close friends and my family.  I have e-mail and Facebook, and Skype, and all kinds of things to help me stay connected.  I will fly east regularly.  People will actually come to visit me!  There will even be important friends I will see MORE frequently now that I will be on the west coast. And I really do have a LOT that I am looking forward to.

But this week – my last week at work – THIS WEEK I have to start to say goodbye.

I have been blessed at this place by the most authentic, honest, wonderful, smart, funny, and kind colleagues.  Many have become dear friends.  And for the next few days I will have to say good-bye to each and every one of them.

Not only that, I’m saying goodbye to the comfort of knowing everyone, knowing who to call, knowing who to believe, knowing who to trust, and knowing who to ask for help.  I’m saying goodbye to a place that has supported me as I’ve grown up – personally and professionally – and a work family that has believed in me every step of the way.

I know that saying goodbye is part of the process.  That it is important for me and important for them.  But I hate it.

Officially.  I.  HATE.  IT.

Can’t we just go out drinking together and talk about things like they’re not going to change?  Can’t we be in denial for just a little while?  I mean, what would be the harm in that, really?

Ok.  So it’s a plan.  I’m not really leaving.  Get it?  (wink wink)


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Filed under Community, Family, Moving, Resolutions

January 2012: It’s RESOLUTION time.

I have decided that my JANUARY RESOLUTION will be to cook foods from my pantry – especially my freezer.

I want to empty the pantry – to rid myself of things I haven’t used for a long time, and to focus on stocking a pantry with the items I really do use all the time.

You see, my basement freezer died at the end of the summer. It was a SAD, SAD day. It happened at the best possible time of year, since the freezing season hadn’t really begun and I had used most of the stash I had built up for the winter before. Still, I lost some spring vegetables, a lot of home-made broth, and (sniff, sniff), my share of a Tamworth pig from Owens Farm. Ever since this terrible, horrible, no-good day, I have been trying to decide if I should buy a new freezer.

I have a normal fridge/freezer in my kitchen, and the freezer side seems to be filled with food I never use. Shouldn’t I empty this freezer out before I determine if I need more space? Shouldn’t I purge myself of three year old Gogurt that I bought to have on hand for a dinner party which included small children? Shouldn’t I either eat, or pitch, the leftover taco meat from Thanksgiving weekend 2010? Yes, yes I should.

So this is my plan – I’m going to EMPTY the freezer and my pantry so that I can then clean out my cupboards and basement food storage. There really is no reason for me to have a case of tomato paste in my house. Truly, there isn’t.

I come by this problem honestly. My grandmother, Phyllis, lived through the depression and was a big fan of bargains and saving. When she moved out of her home in Ambler, PA we had to clean out her basement, which included her pantry. I am not kidding when I say that we found caned food that had dried out.

Canned beans, which rattled. RATTLED.

There was a station wagon (a gigantic Chevy Caprice Station Wagon) full of paper towels, napkins, and toilet paper which had probably been purchased (on sale, of course) in the 1970s. I think I finished using those napkins about three years ago. There was WWII ration sugar that was over forty years old (hard as a rock). Seriously. (Do I need to mention that my mother has used this sugar? She pounded it out with a hammer.)

I can still picture my brother’s face when he started to clean out my grandmother’s freezer as it defrosted. This freezer was full of meat that had spoiled WHILE IT WAS FROZEN. My brother was brave and strong and a VERY GOOD GRANDSON for cleaning out that freezer.

So I worry, a bit, that I might have some hoarding genes in me.

In my early adulthood, when I was newly married and interested in being PERFECT, I always wanted to have a full pantry of anything we might possibly need. A smart, college-educated, liberated and LIBERAL woman I still thought that my husband should never find himself without toothpaste, or toilet paper, or, well, capers. You know, just in case there was a caper emergency.

Now that I am a real grown-up, divorced, single, happy, and, um – SANE, I am content to have a small pantry of basics that I use regularly and know that I can easily run to the store for anything I really need. I live in America, after all. So I can buy raspberries from Chile in February if I want to.

Since it’s time to shed the past and become a person who doesn’t have five shelves of canned goods and dried food waiting FOR YEARS to be used, I’m going to do this. I’m going to use up what I have (and try very hard not to waste anything) and then start fresh, with a SMALL and PRACTICAL pantry of foods I use every week. And that’s it. No more hoarding. No more taking care of a husband I don’t have any more (who, incidentally, never asked me to take care of him in this way). And no more three-year old Gogurts.

No one should eat those things anyway.


Filed under Divorce, Family, Food, Resolutions

The basement in the basement

Cleaning a basement seems like such a simple thing.  You sort things, you throw things out, you organize what’s left.



When you clean a basement, you confront your past.  You argue with yourself about your future.  You even face failures.

Think I’m being melodramatic?

All I’m saying is no one ever puts their Academy Award in the basement.

As I (finally) took some of my ‘before’ pictures today, I spent some time just looking at my basement.  What’s in it?  What do I want it to be?  What do I need?  These thoughts quickly turned into conversations (remember the conference room of Shelby’s I have in my head?).

First, the gift wrapping station.  Yes, I have a whole bunch of wrapping paper, ribbons, bows, and craft supplies.  I used to be crafty.  When I was just out of college and had no money, I made up for my humble gifts with awesome wrapping.  As I got busier, and let’s face it, had more disposable income, keeping things simple was most important.  Family gets green wrapping paper at the holidays, friends get blue.  Seriously.

So that one wasn’t so hard.  I don’t need a gift wrapping station.

Next up, the workbench.  I have lots of tools.  My ex-husband wasn’t terribly handy, but he tried.  And he liked to buy tools.  So I have tools I’ve never used, tools I’ve never heard of, and tools that have never been opened.  Don’t get me wrong.  I know how to use a hammer and a power drill (thanks Dad!).  I understand how to use a level and a stud finder.

(Heh. Heh.)

I own a home.  And I like to imagine that I am a smart independent woman so I SHOULD BE SOMEONE who can repair things.  But the truth is this: with the exception of doing the most basic tool-oriented tasks, I would just rather ask someone or pay someone to do it.  I will never, ever, figure out how to put up crown moulding.  I just won’t.  Not because I can’t.  But because I just don’t want to.  It’s hard to admit this to myself, let alone to the world.  I like to think I’m more self-sufficient than this.  But I don’t think I need my tool bench either.

The pantry is easy – thank goodness.  An emotional break since I cook all the time, I use most of the items in my pantry, and the ones I don’t I can easily let go of.  I can check some expiration dates and pitch the year’s supply of store-bought spaghetti sauce that has been there since before my divorce.  (My ex-husband was also a big fan of Sam’s club.  Seriously, I have been using the same jar of capers since 2002.)

But oh no.  There’s another room.  And in that room is the memories.  And the dreams.

All of the jigsaw puzzles we built.  Supplies for the camping we were always going to do but rarely did.  Decorations from our annual Halloween parties.  Framed photos I took down but can’t bear to throw away.  The box of ornaments we exchanged every year.

What do I need to let go of?  What will I regret throwing out in ten years?  What represents a hobby I should return to and what is an old dream I should forgive myself for abandoning?

Egad.  This is hard.  And you know what?  If this is cleaning the basement, I think cleaning the basement sucks.


Filed under Divorce, Family, Organizing

The Family Cheese Wheel

One of the things I share with my family is a love of food.  We love appetizers.  We love desserts.  We love snacks.  And we definitely love cheese.

When we’re together, it is not rare for us to talk about what to have for lunch while we were eating breakfast.

Seriously.  The Radcliffes love food.

I think I was ten when I learned how to make salad dressing from scratch.   My mother and I can have thirty minute conversations about what we both had for dinner the day before and how we prepared it.  My father built a computer program to plan cooking on Thanksgiving day – all he had to do was enter the weight of the turkey and out came the schedule.  My brother and his wife host the best dinner parties in Pennsylvania and they do it like most people do laundry – weekly.

The Radcliffes also love cooking.

This past weekend, I spent some time visiting with relatives I hadn’t seen in years.  I admit, I was nervous about seeing the clan.  Even though I have come to love being single, these kinds of gatherings can still bring out the self-conscious divorced girl in me.

I had forgotten, however, that the Radcliffes (ok, well actually the Bradstocks) really love picnics.

As soon as I rounded the corner of Great Aunt Nellie’s yard, memories of summer picnics with this extended family came flooding back. The food was always simple and delicious.  There was never much to do but sit around and talk but we didn’t care.  This weekend was no different.  It didn’t take long before the nerves went away and we were telling old stories and making new memories.

Of course my favorite bonding moment of the entire trip was when my cousin (once removed!) and her husband and I waxed poetic about our love of cheese.   My mother had explained my August resolution.  Laurie started listing all of the cheeses she and her husband adore and looking wistfully into the distance.  Last year, they gave and received cheese-of-the month from iGourmet (please, PLEASE someone, buy this for me).  Ah yes, I thought.  We are kindred spirits.

Family is important to me, but I’ve always believed you make your family more than you inherit it.  That’s what I’ve done with my life – gathering friends  around me.  Still, these people are my family tree – my family cheese wheel if you will – and I can’t deny a special connection.  I don’t think it has anything to do with biology – I think it’s history.

At the end of the weekend, I went with my parents to see my grandparents’ graves.  I had forgotten that this spot was where many of my relatives are buried, some who died before I was born.  Why were those graves more meaningful to me than others?  Why were any of them meaningful to me at all? I don’t think it was the graves, to be honest.  I think, instead, it was the connection I was witnessing – my father to his parents, to his cousin lost far too young, to his uncles and aunts – and my mother (the in-law) to this family she has known and loved for most of her life.

Oddly I know that if I needed help, many of this clan would offer it, even though they see me rarely and we live far apart.  I hope they know I would offer it too.  We are connected.  I know that not everyone has this and I’m grateful for it, and for the opportunity to feel it so strongly again after too many years.

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Filed under Cheese, Community, Family

Hi, Ho the First of May

When my brother and his fiance (now his wife of 17 years) selected May 1st for their wedding day, my parents simultaneously (and cheerfully) recited a rhyme from their college days.

“Hi, ho the first of May
Outdoor …. starts today!”

This the first time I had ever heard my mother utter that vulgar (her emphasis) word and I was shocked.  Totally, and completely shocked.

But in my family there is a song or a rhyme for everything, and this was no different.

I was pleasantly reminded of this memory last night when I gathered with my brother and his family, my parents, and one of my Godmothers (yes, I have two, and they did an excellent job in spite of the fact that I am now an Atheist).  My mother started with the traditional family anniversary song (I wasn’t kidding – song. for. everything.) and then both parents started to quip

“Hi, ho the first of May…”

But as my nieces (15 and 12) were in the room, they stopped there.  Apparently you have to be 23 before my mother will say that word in front of you.

The beautiful day and relaxing evening were enough to convince me that Spring is, indeed, here.  In spite of the very cold weather, the flowering tress are in beautiful, spectacular bloom and May has finally arrived.

So I need a new resolution.

Yes, I’ve finished my thesis.  And I will submit my last ever graduate paper by the middle of next week.   So no new goals related to school (yay!).   I need something else.  I have some top contenders, but I’m a bit stymied by my next eight days.

They look something like this:

South Carolina, South Carolina, South Carolina, Philadelphia, Ocean City (NJ), Vineland (NJ), Philadelphia, Lancaster, DC, Lancaster, HOME.

The packing enterprise for this trip included three separate suitcases and four different types of something-casual (semi-casual, business-casual, outdoor-casual, and club-casual) attire.  (NOTE: I had to call a friend for advice on which of the outfits I have that fit me right now (ahem, thesis weight) actually meet the various criteria of these dress-codes.  Pray for me.)

So, while I could just make my May resolution about being dressed appropriately for the next eight days, since it will certainly be hard enough for me, I would like to come up with something more meaningful or fun than that.

At present, the contenders are:

* Walk my dog every day.
I need to enjoy her while I can and we could both use the fresh air.

* Decide what trees/plants to add to the yard.
I keep talking about adding dogwoods and hydrangeas, but not doing it.

* Research and plan hikes and camping trips for the summer.
If they are planned, they are more likely to happen.

* Do a home inventory, schedule repairs and update my insurance.
This is something I need to do, but it may just be too responsible for the first month after I finished my thesis.

Which one will I choose?  Probably none of these.  It seems that my pattern is that I lean towards three to four top choices until the last-minute when I pick something completely different.  And yes, I realize May has already begun, thank you very much.  This is relaxed Shelby, here.  The one who embraces the moment, goes with the flow, and does NOT get stressed about schedules and things like CALENDARS.

Shortly, assuming I haven’t died of embarrassment because I incorrectly wore close-toed heels to an outdoor casual event, I will let you all know what I’ve chosen.

Until then, have a gin-and-tonic for me.  I’m going to need it.

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Filed under Alcohol, Family, Resolutions

What would Elvine Do?

I could be remembering the past through rose colored glasses, but I believe that my mother was THE BEST MOM IN THE WORLD when it came to taking care of sick children.

When I was sick as a kid, she would set me up in the living room on the couch, with fresh sheets every day (sometimes twice a day).  I was allowed to watch TV all day, though she would also provide me with a pile of books and magazines (she was a librarian after all).  If my illness didn’t completely kill my appetite, she made my favorite “sick” foods – spaghettio’s with sliced franks or tomato soup with “kellys” (Do not look this up in urban dictionary – in MY family kellys are little slices of bread with butter on them.).

My mom brought me water to keep my hydrated – with straws so I didn’t even have to sit up to take a drink.  She would bring me warm wash cloths to wipe my face when I was too dizzy to freshen up in the bathroom.  When I was bored with mid-day television she would keep me company if I couldn’t sleep.  She struck the perfect balance between leaving me alone in my misery and coddling me.

I realize that not everyone had a mother like this.  One friend tells me stories of being shunned to the unfinished basement during illnesses while her germophobe mother would occasionally throw boxes of tissues down the stairs.  Perhaps with some dry toast.

I do realize I had it really good.

I wasn’t long into my adulthood when I figured out that my husband was unlikely to provide the same kind of attention to me when I was ill, but he would always help me when I asked and he was excellent at purchasing the foods I liked best when my appetite began to return.  He could, if I needed him to, pick up medicine at the pharmacy and take me to the doctor if I was too sick to drive.  Did he change my sheets every day without asking?  Did he bring me warm wash cloths to freshen up?  Did he rub my feet?  No, but helped me when I asked for help and that was lovely.

Well, exit husband, and enter a whole new wave of taking care of oneself.

My parent friends are probably laughing at me – because of course the worst thing in the world is not being sick and single, it’s being sick and a parent.  Or perhaps being a parent of three sick children at once.  But since I’m not a parent, I can’t blog about that.

So finally it happened.  Last year I had my first post-divorce illness.  That is, my first long bout of being so unwell that I couldn’t go to work or even, gasp, watch movies or read books.  There was no one in my house who might remind me to, say, eat, or drink, or shower.  Some friends called and offered food, but I wasn’t eating much so I told them to stay away and avoid risking contamination.  After a few days I realized that I wasn’t taking very good care of myself.  I had been wearing the same clothing for three days.  I wasn’t really eating anything.  I was sleeping a lot, but not getting any better.  And I was MISERABLE.

Something had to change.

So I asked myself, what would Elvine do?
(Elvine is a nickname we use for my mother, who shall remain otherwise anonymous).

Elvine would change my sheets.  Elvine would make me shower and put on fresh undies.  Elvine would remind me to drink water and make me eat some soup.  Did I feel like doing these things?  No.  But I am a grown woman.  I have a job and a mortgage and I should be able to take care of myself when I am sick.

I wrote myself a note and put it on my bathroom mirror.  It said:

Take Care of Yourself

1.  Shower every day.

2.  Drink water.

3.  Change your sheets.

4.  If you can, get outside for 10 minutes.

5.  Accept help if it is offered.

What does this have to do with my April resolution, you ask?

Well, this IS my April resolution.  Take Care of Yourself.

I am finishing my thesis, incredibly busy at work, worried about some sick friends, stressing out about my career, and generally distracted and discombobulated in a way that is very unusual for me.  And I am making bad choices.  I am skipping exercise.  I am eating badly (ok, not too badly, but much less well).  I am staying up late and getting up early and just not taking care of myself.  But that won’t help me finish my thesis.  What it might do is make me sick – the moment my defense is over I will collapse in a heap and be down for the duration.

So, I shall write myself another note for my mirror.

This time it will say:

Take Care of Yourself

1.  To ease anxiousness, MOVE your body instead of eating or drinking.

2.  Focus on one task at a time instead of multi-tasking.

3.  Vegetables and Fruits, not Beer and Chocolate

4.  Focus on what you can control, not that which you cannot.

Why, when we are stressed out and we need healthy routines the most, are we least able to stick to them?  Or is it just me?  Anyway, it might not sound like a big resolution.  But it is.

Wish me luck!





Filed under Family, Health, Resolutions

A Stretch by Any Other Name

All month long I’ve been focused on stretching.  Yoga mats and exercise balls, Pilates and core muscles.  I’ve been paying attention to my body and how it feels when I’ve stretched, how it feels when I haven’t.  All things considered, I’ve done well with this resolution.  If I were a teacher, I’d give myself a B- for results, and an B+ for effort.  That is, until yesterday.

Yesterday I really stretched.

Yesterday, I e-mailed my ex-husband.

A bit of background for those who don’t know me:  I was married for sixteen years to my best friend.  Well, at least that’s what I thought.  It went bad at the end, there, really bad.  And my heart was broken.  Tragically and irrevocably broken.

That being said, I’ve built a happy, single-girl, life for myself and it’s been a long while since I’ve spent time thinking much about the past.  We never had children, so we’ve had no reason to be in touch.  It’s been four years since we decided to get divorced and from then forward we had only brief exchanges by e-mail about asset transfers and signing documents.  It’s been three years (at least) since we’ve had any contact at all.

Except, we share family.  That’s right – I’m still a part of his family and they are still a part of mine.  My nephews are a delightful and important part of my life.  Their parents are my dear friends.  His mother is dear to my heart.  And it has never felt fair that that my tragedy has become theirs.

So yesterday I reached out to my ex-husband and simply offered peace.  We can be in the same place at the same time, right?  We’re still family, aren’t we?  And your wife, she’s family too, right?  Sure, he said.

We had a pleasant, if rather simple, e-mail exchange and that was it.  It wasn’t great.  It wasn’t bad.  It wasn’t, actually, much of anything.  Except the right thing to do.

Wow, I can touch my toes!

Of course when the time does come for our first encounter, it might be tough – that first time especially.  But of course, that’s nothing that a fabulous dress and party hair can’t handle.


Filed under Divorce, Family, Stretching

February is Short for a Reason

A few years ago, I was at my brother’s house for the weekly Sunday Dinner he and his wife share with a group of close friends.  Don’t get confused by the “Sunday” part of this activity – it’s a cocktail party that moves from house to house every week with a full bar and fabulous food (we grew up as Episcopalians, after all).  Anyway, I was talking with one of his friends who wasn’t having a cocktail.  Because that’s unusual among the Sunday Dinner crowd, I asked about it.  And he said, “It’s February.”

He went on to explain that every year he stops drinking for one month, and February is it.

Why February?

“It’s the shortest one.”

Of course.

When pressed for details he explained that the month off was helpful for getting on a healthy track after the indulgent holidays.  Also that he figured if he couldn’t stop drinking for one month a year, he shouldn’t be drinking at all.   Smart idea all around, I thought.  But I’ve never done it.

Why not?

Well, I learned about this in my post-divorce phase of ‘wow, I can have a life and make new friends’ which came after the ‘holy crap I don’t want to see anyone or talk to anyone or go anywhere’ phase.  I was still nervous about being single for the first time in eighteen years and I wasn’t about to give up my courage-juice.    But it’s been years since my divorce.  I’m happily single, enjoying my life, and feel totally comfortable going out with or without a drink to start my evening.

So there it is.  Welcome to the No-Drink-February!

Those who know I am a Steelers fan may be skeptical about my ability to abstain while watching my favorite team in the SUPER BOWL.  But I’m determined.  Plus, I figure this can’t hurt with the whole ‘finish your thesis’ part of my life right? (that’s for you Joe).

Can I do it?  What do you think?


Filed under Family, Food, Football, Resolutions