The Best-Laid Plans

When I was a teenager, I learned to drive by practicing on my family’s Volkswagen Beetle, which had a stick shift.  As anyone who has driven a car with a stick shift knows, when you don’t shift properly, the car only moves forward in a jerky series of starts and stops, and sometimes just stalls out.  It was hard to get the knack of releasing the clutch and stepping on the gas in just the right way so that the car shifted smoothly into the next gear.  I figured it out eventually, but are times in my life when I feel as if I’m still in that little car, struggling to shift gears in a way that doesn’t jerk me all over the road.  This is one of those times.

A few weeks ago, we put my mother on a waiting list for a retirement community.   It was time for her to have a smaller living space to manage and more opportunities for socialization and activities, while still remaining independent.  The community she chose will provide all that, and once the decision had been made, we were eager to move ahead.  Unfortunately, we were told it could be a year before an apartment actually became available, so I reluctantly “shifted gears” and resigned myself to a long wait.  I even decided that the waiting was a good thing, since it would give Mom plenty of time to figure out what she wanted to take with her and to distribute the stuff she no longer needed.

Last week, I was organizing my paperwork when I noticed that I hadn’t put my cell phone number on the retirement community’s contact sheet.  I called the housing director to let her know, and after listening to me ramble a while, she said, “So I’m guessing you didn’t get my message yesterday?  The one that said the apartment you looked at is available now?”

C1bn%xHURyKz0aRtXD8CmQI was stunned.  The apartment we looked at was bright and airy, had an extra closet, and a balcony that overlooked the garden.  We all loved it, but were told that balcony apartments could take as much as two years to get, so Mom knew that the apartment she was going to get most likely wouldn’t have the balcony or extra closet.   And yet that exact apartment was now available immediately.  Mom was thrilled, and so were we, but it meant “changing gears” again as we prepare for a move in the very near future.

The last post I wrote about my mom’s upcoming move to a retirement home was all about patience, which is an area where I come up just a tad short.  And patience truly is a virtue that I’m working hard to acquire.  But sometimes life calls for other strengths, such as the ability to “go with the flow,” to move quickly when needed, and to seize an opportunity when it comes our way.

I’m not sure if I’ll ever learn to “shift gears” to adapt to the changes in my life nearly as well as I learned to shift gears in an actual car, but that’s okay.  I may be moving forward in a series of starts and stops, but I still get where I need to be.  And that’s all that really matters anyway…..

100 thoughts on “The Best-Laid Plans

  1. A very nice post. Patience is something that I have acquired over the years. As a “young” person I had none. But like you, I have learned to take things in stride and to be ready to move quickly when the need arises. Good luck to your mom in her new home.

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    • I’ve found that I’ve acquired more patience as I’ve gotten older too. I think it’s almost harder for me to “switch gears” suddenly when called to do that, but I’m working on it. The next few weeks will be crazy, but ultimately, I do think this will be good for Mom. Thanks for your comment!

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  2. Oh, that’s so exciting to hear, Ann! The picture is so lovely and peaceful looking! I’m sure you’re relieved to know that your mother will be so well situated. And downsizing and moving are two of the circles of hell, but when the destination is this wonderful, it is a bit less so. I wish you and your Mom good days ahead and a gracious settling in and peace of body and mind once the whole change is complete. Blessings on you all!

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    • Thank you so much! It will be a chore to move her there for sure, and hard for her to decide what she’s willing to part with. But she’s excited about the move (the house was getting to be too much for her, and so many of her friends and neighbors have either died or moved away) and I really believe her life will be easier and happier once she’s settled in. Best of all, it’s only ten minutes away from our house!

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  3. “Life is what happens when you are busy making other plans” (a quote, I think by John Lennon). Although having some extra time to go through possessions might have been nice, this is such a wonderful opportunity for your mother. Having a beautiful place to live is so important to maintaining a positive outlook. I hope your mother enjoys her new apartment!

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    • Thank you! I hope so too. We all liked this apartment so much when we saw it, that it almost feels “meant to be.” The good thing is it will take a while to clear out her house, so she doesn’t have to make all the decisions before the move. She’ll definitely have a grace period to change her mind about what she wants in her new place, and that will help, I think.

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  4. This is wonderful news, Ann! I’m happy to hear an apartment with a balcony opened up so soon. What a blessing. In the weeks that follow, it will be stressful, but once your mother is settled, you’ll have such a sense of peace. The community sounds much like where my parents moved. I happy for you and your mother!

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  5. That is such great news! I have to admit I felt anxious for you as I read you post. However, after following you for awhile now, I know you will handle with grace and finesse. The view is lovely. I hope your mom won’t have too much trouble downsizing. I’ll say a few prayers as you all head into this.

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    • Thanks, Lorie! I’m sure we’re going to need them! Moving is always stressful, especially to someplace so different. It won’t always be easy for my sisters and I to agree on what to do with her stuff either. But taking care of Mom is the main thing, and she’s been saying that the house is getting to be too much for her to keep track of, and I think that ultimately downsizing will be liberating for her. Hope so, anyway!

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  6. We used to say, if you can’t find ’em, grind ’em. Shifting gears has a learning curve. It sounds like you’re on it. But it sounds like God opened up a window for you guys. If she’s excited about it, that can make it a smoother shift.

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    • Thanks, Alan! I can’t begin to say how happy I was when I called her with the news and her reaction was so positive and excited. If she had said this was too soon, we would have respected that and then always wondered if we did the right thing to pass on this apartment. But Mom and I both feel that this was meant to be.

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  7. Awesome that she has the apartment of her dreams so quickly!! Sometimes our resolve to exercise patience yields a cosmic boon that makes patience unnecessary. Guess you are catching a break of sorts! Good luck and you’ll need to have some of that unused patience when you actually make the move. From experience, you should have someone take your mother for a day out while everyone else does the heavy lifting on moving day. That will be less stressful for everyone!

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    • Oh, that is a great idea!! She can go to lunch with a friend while we get her moved, and then come see her new apartment with her stuff in it. And I do think we caught a break. Apparently, this apartment was spoken for, but then the woman changed her mind and didn’t want it because it’s on an upper floor. But it’s right by the elevator and has great views, so Mom loves it!

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    • Thanks, Jodi! It was hard to shift my thinking so radically…I had just accepted that I needed to be patient and grateful for the time spent waiting in order to prepare. And then it was, wow, time to move! But it will all work out. And luckily, they don’t expect her to move until the end of September or so, so it’s not quite as fast as I thought. (They will paint it and put in flooring of her choice first.) When they told me the apartment was available, I was worried they’d want her to move next week!

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    • That’s what we’re doing too! I told Mom to make a list of “definitely taking” and a list of “maybe taking.” We’ll keep the stuff on the “maybe” list until she’s sure. Thanks for your comment!

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  8. It has been my experience that retirement places tell you there is a long waiting list, but when someone “graduates” that list moves quickly through the people who aren’t ready to make an immediate move. I’m glad you were in a position to grab the opportunity.

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    • I think that’s what happened too. Plus, some people put their name on the waiting lists for several communities, so spots open quicker that way too. Apparently this one was spoken for, and then the woman changed her mind. My guess is there were some people on the waiting list ahead of her who didn’t want it (or didn’t want it now) either, so Mom got the call!

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    • Exactly, Larry. My brain gets fried when I think of all that needs to happen, but when I break it down into individual steps, then it seems quite doable. And I do love that view from the balcony, and I know Mom will too!

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    • I not only had a VW bug with a stick shift, but so did my husband. His was even older than mine, and it was named “Zelda.” Once when I was in college, he loaned it to me to drive all my friends to the local football game. Sadly, he didn’t mention that the brakes were a bit iffy. Which would have been nice to know before I approached a four-way stoplight that turned red just as I was approaching. I hit the brakes, but nothing happened, so I just steered my way through as best I could with a carload of screaming girls. My husband told me later that you had to “pump them to make them work.” And yet I married him…..let’s not think too hard on what that says about me!

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      • Ann, that’s a great story. Yeah, I’m pretty sure that brakes weren’t a Bug strongpoint.

        My first Bug didn’t have a gas guage. I used to shove a stick into the tank to try and determine how much gas was left. (The gas would leave a stain on the stick.)

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  9. I’m so happy things are going well for you. I can see God at work.
    I’ve never driven or learnt the ways of a stick shift but reading how you draw parallels between that and life made sense for me and has me thinking. I agree with you about patience and that we also need to be able go with the flow…. Something tells me I need to think on that.
    Best wishes in the coming days and weeks.

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  10. Good news about the apartment! But sorry it took you by surprise. When we were discussing this at happy hour last week, I got distracted and forgot to tell you that I wa told the same thing about my mom being on a wait list, and then the nursing home came through much more quickly than they anticipated.

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    • Yes, I had heard that usually the waits are shorter than they tell you, but I really wasn’t prepared for it to move quite this quickly! But Mom is looking forward to her new home, and I think it will all work out well. Thanks, Dena!

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  11. That is a beckoning balcony having a refreshing view upon the beautiful world. Your Mom would feel blessed on that perch.

    The metaphor of stick gear depicting life is apt and comprehensive. Sometimes, no matter how polished a user you are of the contraption, the ageing car is just not up to it.

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    • That’s the truth!! And I do feel that Mom will really love the view from her new apartment. It will be especially pretty in Autumn, when the leaves are changing colors, I think. Thanks for the comment!

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  12. What a great analogy! I stalled out the car I learn in right in front of a really cool guy and my mother shamed me right in front of him. I wanted to die of embarrassment! I have felt that way many times in my life and it was a good lesson in continuing on no matter what happens. So happy for your mother that she got a beautiful apartment. Best wishes in the coming weeks.

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    • Thank you! I think all of us who learned to drive on a stick shift car have an embarrassing story to two to tell about it…those things were hard to master! And I do think that Mom will love her new apartment, once she’s all settled in. Moving will be stressful, but it will be over soon!

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    • It really is a blessing that the apartment we all saw and liked so well is the very one she can move into! We did look at some other communities, and we saw a couple that “would do.” But it is so much better for her to move to a place that we all thought was great, and to see her excited about her new home!

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  13. How wonderful! I often find that when we accept and let go of the need to control a situation the best thing happens. As it has for you and your mum. What a lovely view she’ll have. I’m so happy for you all. Best wishes Ann as you move ahead.

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    • That’s a good way to look at it, Miriam. When we first put her name on the wait list, I was anxious for her to move in as soon as possible. When I thought that wouldn’t happen, I realized I needed to be patient and “go with the flow.” And as soon as I fully adopted that mindset, then we get the news that she can move in quickly after all. Sometimes letting go of control is absolutely the best thing!

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  14. I’m happy for you and your mom and I hope she enjoys her new place. Glad you’re able to “shift gears” now that the opportunity presents itself.
    I also learned how to drive in a VW Beetle. It was my friend’s big sister’s car and for whatever reason, she just handed us the keys! Learning that skill came in very handy later on. Who knows, maybe in a small way, starting out in a more complicated situation like that contributed to your ability to be flexible. Maybe everyone should have to start out in a VW “bug”!

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    • Good point! Those little cars certainly did teach us to be patient and flexible…at least the older ones we drove did. My husband’s used to break down now and then, which taught us that it’s smart to have a car light-weight enough you can push if you need to. (Plus, remember when we could start a car by “popping the clutch?”) Hmmmm…Volkswagen should hire us for their new ad campaign! LOL!

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    • Yeah, in real life I still don’t shift gears all that smoothly! As you say, any change just takes a little while to get used to. But now that I’ve accepted it, I’m actually glad she’s moving in quickly. I think it will be better for her that way.

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  15. What a blessing the place was available! It looks lovely! Wishing you all good things with the move. How wonderful she will be there all set up for the holidays. As we know from scripture, take it one day at a time. In this case, one box, one crate, one piece of furniture, will all come together to give your mother a dream home of her very own.

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    • Thank you for your kind and encouraging words! And you’re right, “one day at a time” can also mean “one box, one crate, once piece of furniture…” Step by step, it will come together and she can enjoy the holidays in her new home. Which is even closer to us than her present house is, so that’s a blessing too!

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      • All these mountains we climb in life! But, really, in the end, every mountain can only be climbed one step at a time. The steps all add up, day by day. And then, when we reach that place on top that seemed insurmountable, we arrive at our destination. I believe in times such as these, we need to keep our sense of humor, and also the sense that when we get through it, the view from that mountain top is going to be all the more satisfying. Moving your mom to a smaller place is a big change, but one that will surely bring her comfort and peace of mind.

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  16. Ann,
    This is wonderful news! You do have to shift gears now but by the grace of God, it will all work out.

    When God has pointed out some kink in our lives, with some of us, He waits to see how we respond.

    But with some others, it’s just a heavenly tap on the shoulder, to remind us to return to put our trust in Him. I think it was that with you. I believe your perceived lack of patience was more to do with wanting the best for your mum – not the kind many of us struggle with, which is agitating for the best for ourselves – rushing for a quick solution so we can get back to our lives. You were in a hurry to get her resettled so that there is no reduction in the quality of her life, however little.

    That’s love. And God knew it.

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  17. Great news for your family! But I understand your challenges with the gears. Similarly, as flexible as I consider myself to be (Holly would disagree) one I’m in fifth gear and on a long stretch of highway I too have problems downshifting and having to get off the highway before planned. Figured I’d stay with the analogy…

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    • Thanks! I admit the thought of the upcoming weeks are beginning to make me nervous, but I do know that when the dust settles, it will be just fine. This is going to be a good move for mom!

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  18. Ah, I believe you put your intention clearly out there into the universe for that particular apartment with the balcony and extra closet, and it delivered. The upside might well be that instead of spending a year or more slowly sorting and packing and so on, your mom hopefully will be settled into her new home sooner and therefore enjoying the pleasures of easy living sooner too.

    I learnt to drive on a stick shift too… changing those gears was definitely a challenge. And now, probably impossible. Such a great analogy and as always so eloquently written.

    Peta

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  19. Good things come to those who wait… Apparently! Wonderful news 🙂

    A stick shift is common here in the UK, so much so that if I get in a car and it’s automatic I really miss the sound of the gear change in the engine (if you know what I mean).

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    • Thanks, we are so happy that she got this apartment, and so quickly! And yes, I do understand what you mean about the gear shift. My husband preferred cars with them for years, and my grandfather absolutely refused to buy a car with an automatic shift. There is something about doing it yourself that’s kind of fun!

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  20. Thanks, Sheryl! And you’re right, moving quickly will not be without its issues. But on the upside, we won’t have it hanging over our heads for so long either….as you can see, I’m determined to look at the bright side!

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  21. What great news! I’m so glad for your mum that she’ll have an lovely apartment with extra closet space and a balcony with such a beautiful view! This should be a happy-changing-gears occasion. 😊

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