Things Fall Apart, Part II

//If you’re just popping in, check out Things Fall Apart, Part I. Or don’t and be sort of confused//

In the course of four months, I went from a pretty boring medical history to chart that included a miscarriage, a hormone imbalance, an MRI, a VNG and now suggested allergy testing. I know, these aren’t life threatening things. But when you’re typically in superb health, you start to feel like you’re falling apart. We were in the midst of the most stressful time in our lives and I just couldn’t add one more thing to my plate at that moment. So allergy testing had to wait.

From what I’ve learned, allergens cause inflammation and in folks with Meniere’s, that inflammation also occurs in the inner ear and can exacerbate their symptoms. I knew I was probably allergic to something but couldn’t find a pattern. In recent years, I developed a fun party trick where I would begin sneezing uncontrollably within moments of sipping certain craft beers – but not others. Sometimes my feet and hands would get warm and red after meals but it was inconsistent. And yet, I stuck my fingers in my ringing ears and played ignorant.

It was evident from the first time I visited our corporate rental that I was allergic to something in the apartment. With tenants moving in and out every few months, I’d wager the apartment hadn’t had a thorough, deep clean in…. ever. Both Emery and I developed itchy eyes and blurry vision along with sniffles and sneezing minutes after entering the apartment. The problems cleared when we returned to Savannah but would come back on our next visit. When we shifted toward living in North Carolina full time, the sinus pressure and infections, headaches, hives and itching arrived. Guys, this was miserable. As bad as I felt, it was so much worse seeing my sweet Emmie girl constantly blinking her eyes and complaining about her head hurting. So I scheduled appointments with an allergist.

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//Aside, do you know how much fun it is to have a million needles stuck in your back while your two children fight over an electronic device?//

It’s never reassuring when the doctor reads your results and says, “Wow, this is weird.”

I reacted positively to:

  • Barley
  • Dust mites
  • Malt
  • Cockroach dust
  • Mold (1 variety)
  • Maple trees
  • Grass (1 variety)
  • Wheat
  • Sunflower

Guys, I’ve never had so much as a seasonal sniffle prior to this.

But – that beer sneezing thing. Barley, malt, wheat. You guys. I love a creamy witbier and a dark kolsch. The carpet in our apartment? Dust mites, cockroach dust, mold. Our Savannah home had hardwood floors throughout. Hives and sneezing when I ran? Mold, trees, grass.

It was far past lunch when we finally left the doctors office so I stopped to get the girls a bite to eat. I was starving but completely at a loss as to what would be safe. When Blair was diagnosed with her dairy allergy years ago, I researched everything.  I was empowered to be her advocate. And there I was, sitting dumbfounded in the drive thru incapable of figuring out how to feed myself.  What do you do when you’re allergic to everything? If you are me, you do nothing. You don’t think, don’t process.  I was miserably allergic to things found in nearly all commercial food and environmental allergens that were all throughout my living space – indoor and out.

I was overwhelmed and had questions no one could answer. Was I allergic to all malt or just barley malt? Could gluten-free foods still contain other parts of the wheat and barley plant? Was the severity of my reaction due to our temporary apartment and would it improve somewhere with clean carpets and a better air filter? Would an air filter help or should I encase my pillow and mattress? What about clothes in my closet? Our fabric furniture? Would medication help? Was I a candidate for allergy shots?

We moved into our new rental and things improved until we began unpacking boxes. Moving materials are notorious for containing cockroach dust and dust mites and I broke out in hives every time I opened a box. My ears rang louder than ever and I had more vertigo attacks in two months than I’ve ever had before. I tried countless nasal sprays, antihistamines, different antihistamines, homepathic alternatives and herbal tinctures. I was needing medications to deal with the side effects of these medicines. I’d vacuum and dust and wash our sheets every other day. And I was continuing to hive and deal with red, burning sensations in my hands and face.

I decided early on that eating gluten-free was the safest option but I was surprised at how few people took my request seriously. We’ve all seen the Jimmy Kimmel clip asking people about gluten. It’s funny, I know. Sure, some people are idiots and never educate themselves on why they make drastic health choices. But for some of us, it isn’t a choice. I wish I could tell you how many servers smirked when I asked for a gluten-free menu. Or, make suggestions that I knew were questionable. In fact, I had a bartender recommend Omission Pale Ale as a great gluten-free beer. After I drank half, I felt my feet started to itch and so I did some dinnertime research. It turns out Omission is a “gluten-removed” beer and is fermented with barley malt and may contain traces of wheat. I’m thankful every day that my reactions are not anaphylactic and I’ve never needed an Epi-Pen.

Allergy-related anxiety is a very real thing and yet so few people talk about it. Every time I developed a new hive, I went crazy. Did I eat something different? Use a new lotion? Did I touch anything unusual at the grocery store? I spent hours researching my make up and lotions.  Now I know why they mark these random products as gluten-free – because wheat is hidden every and people with allergies are insane.

I was a wreck by the time my follow up appointment with the allergist rolled around. I laid it all out on the table – patterns to the reactions, when and where the hives most commonly occurred, that I was waking up at night to itch, wondering if natural fibers could be allergens because I was sure I was reacting to my wool dryer balls and oh… by the way, do a lot of people with allergies have anxiety? By the look on her face, I know I sounded insane. She prescribed me two doses of 24-hour Allegra each day in addition to atarax as needed for hiving and anxiety. Last year, I hated to take ibuprofen for a headache and there I was taking enough antihistamines for a small army. And yet, I was still hiving and my hands showed no improvement. She ran blood work to rule out other conditions and everything came back normal with the exception of a high level of histamines hanging around my body – causing the hives – and that it was most likely due do high levels of stress for a duration of time.

What stress? Really. No Big Life Things happening here, at all.

I cried. I prayed. I medicated. I eliminated. I medicated more. I did everything I was supposed to do and I was more miserable than ever. I felt worse eating gluten-free than I did eating quality, homemade gluten-filled foods.

And then I saw a new doctor, who made a suggestion and empowered me to fix myself.

I know – what a cliffhanger! But this post is terribly long as it is and if you’ve made it to the end, you are a ROCKSTAR and probably a blood relative (hi, mom!). I’ll promise I’ll be back next week and will tell you all about the detox that has helped me solve the my most puzzling medical issue.

Things Fall Apart, Part I

The hardest part about coming back after a blogging hiatus is catching up one what has happened. Really, it’s emotionally exhausting. If I’m going to be genuine with you and myself, we need to recap the past 8 months. While I don’t typically share so much and in such a manner, I’ve been going through a lot of changes personally and with my health that I’m eager to share but they won’t carry much weight until you know what has happened.

I cannot even begin to cover most of these things at a length that does them justice. So I won’t try. But, being that they are Big Life Things, they need to be addressed. So, a super fun, bulleted list shall suffice.

Ready?

Our life, November to June – abbreviated:

  • We experienced a miscarriage.
  • We trudged our way through the holidays.
  • Josh’s grandfather died.
  • Josh accepted a position in Charlotte.
  • We spent weeks preparing to list our house. And finally listed it. 
  • Josh began working full-time in Charlotte, living in hotels, and driving back to Savannah on the weekends. During one trip home, the wheel fell off of his truck. While driving. On the highway. Traveling 75 mph. Thank you, Jesus, he was fine.
  • Blair’s hives, night terrors, GI issues and rashes return. Allergy testing shows that her milk allergy has returned. Who knew that could happen.
  • I kept the house constantly show-ready with two children and an anxiety-ridden dog.
  • I suffered through numerous showings, no shows, second showings, showings with no appointment, and offers with negotiations that couldn’t be met.
  • An unfathomable number of hours and miles spent driving back and forth between Savannah and Charlotte. Up and down 95. Over and over. With no Starbucks en route.
  • Realizing being apart was too hard on our family, we decided to lower the list price (therefore increasing the hit we were already taking on the house).
  • We went under contract with smooth negotiations.
  • We frantically searched for a new place to live in a place we could agree upon with a price we could afford. We considered renting, buying, living in our vehicles when God provided the exact house we needed.
  • We survived the week leading up to closing which included absolutely incompetent movers, several last minute inspections, a very sick child, one vehicle in the shop and uncertainty of when exactly our possessions would arrive to our new home.

Looking back on it all, I feel exhausted. How did we survive that? A mixture of pure adrenaline and faith. In the book of Joshua, God instructs him to build a pile of stones in the middle of the Jordan River to mark where He stopped the river so they could carry the Ark of the Covenant across. People like me don’t survive things like this on our own. It’s foolish of me to not stop and construct my own pile of rocks to remember how we made it through such an exhausting and stressful time.

::Break::

Congratulations if you made it this far! I know that was as engaging as the phone book so I’d like to reward you in some way. Unfortunately, all I have is a camera, so enjoy this complimentary selfie.

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Now, back to business.

Throughout all of this, I was dealing with some pretty significant health issues. I didn’t share it with many people because, really, I wasn’t dying and there wasn’t anything anyone could do. I’m fiercely private, probably to a fault. Which is weird, considering I’m putting all of this out into Internet-land.

After our miscarriage in November, my body went a bit crazy. I don’t think the miscarriage caused it, nor do I think my miscarriage was caused by these issues. But when something life changing occurs, it becomes a marker in time – before miscarriage / after miscarriage.  So as we settled into our routine AM, I started noticing these weird things happening with my vision and balance. As I drove down the road, things in my peripheral vision seemed to be moving too quickly. When I turned to look at something across the room, it felt like it took my vision a millisecond longer to see what my eyes were focused on. Grocery shopping became unbearable with the shelves stocked with innumerable items of all different colors and sizes and I felt like I couldn’t actually see any of them. It felt like visual overload and I was constantly on the verge of a panic attack.

I talked with my primary care who prescribed Prozac. It felt defeated when I took the first dose and even more neurotic as the weeks passed by. We realized I wasn’t, in fact, having anxiety and something else was happening. He ordered an MRI. It was normal. I had my vision checked, normal.

I sat on the exam table, frustrated and angry that after going through such a traumatic loss, my body was continuing to betray me with some unknown illness that was not only impairing my daily life but also making me think I was losing my ever loving mind. And that I’d feel that way forever. I told the doctor it just felt like the world was a little off balance.

Aha.

Vertigo.

He asked if I had ringing in my ears. Constantly. Fullness feeling behind my ears. Yes.

I’ve had vertigo attacks in the past with the classic room-spinning, nausea-inducing dizziness. But this felt different and nearly constant. He referred me to an ENT and I went in mid-January for a videonystagmography (VNG) to test my balance, eye movement, and the nerve function of my inner ear – where balance originates. Results showed I have a 30% decreased nerve function in my right ear, causing the attacks. Paired with the tinnitus, I left with the diagnosis of Meniere’s Syndrome. Mostly because I’m not sure they know what else to call it.

Because my symptoms were relatively new and seem to be triggered by stress (HA! HA! or something else unknown, the ENT suggested I follow up with an allergist for testing to see if something else is causing the inflammation in my inner ear. Which is when things became really fun.

Next: Things Fall Apart: Part II – What To Do When You’re Allergic To Everything.

Precarious.

A normal Saturday morning. Rising a little later, moving a little slower, we gathered ourselves and our things and loaded up for a trip to the farmer’s market. Routine, uneventful, rather boring. We snaked through the narrow streets of the older part of town, turning between the old mill warehouses and remarking how crowded it was for a cool, drizzling morning. The girls chattered in the back seat and argued over Fancy Nancy books while Josh and I sat silently and waited for a parking spot to open.

At nearly 3 and a half, Blair is a cautious soul and continuously looks to her Momma for approval and encouragement. The truth is, I don’t worry about her. Aside from the typical parenting worries, of course. She listens. In the shadow of her older sister’s untamable energy and will, parenting Blair is, honestly, easy. So, when we eventually parked and began to unload across the street from the market, I helped Blair out of her seat and mindlessly told her to stay nearby while I gathered our bags.

She did not.

 

Blair ran behind the truck and out into the street from where she was hidden in between the parallel parked vehicles. She ran to her daddy and sister who we’re waiting on the other side of the single-lane street. Just as a large black suburban came down the street, lost in thought. The driver was probably running through her list for the market – cucumbers, zucchini – no, yellow squash, –  beef steak tomatoes, and a bouquet of flowers. But only if there were daisies. I can imagine her horror as a small tot with bunny ears sewn atop her hooded sweatshirt bolted in front of her vehicle.

I, still unaware that Blair left my side, heard my husband shout a deep bellowing command to Blair, telling her to stop immediately. She froze. Everyone heard him. Truthfully, I couldn’t figure out why he was yelling. I never for a moment thought that Blair was anywhere but waiting behind me. She would never run off. Until she did. The driver slammed on her brakes and I’m sure 25 miles per hour never seemed like a barreling speed before.

In a second, it was over. Blair was fine. Josh ran onto the street and scooped her up, her face nuzzled deeply against in neck in embarrassment and fear. I apologized profusely to the driver the driver shook her head disapprovingly. I grabbed Emery’s hand and hustled into the safety of the market crowd and people went back to their tomatoes and melons.

Life dangles so precariously. We plan and prepare and preach and convince ourselves that we have ensured our safety and, in turn, happiness. But it takes only a second for it all to fall apart on such a grand scale. I’m sure onlookers were appalled and probably thought their children would never run into traffic, just as I once did. But they do. No one expects accidents – that’s what they are. As parents, the sad truth is we often feel superior when we see others’ fail. When awful things happen, we vilify parents and curse them for not doing or seeing better. Yes, there is negligence. But most often, there is just life and mistakes and sometimes just a crappy series of events. I am horrified at what happened. I replay it again and again, considering the what ifs and every which way it could have played out. What if Josh had his back to the street and wasn’t watching? What if the driver had been going faster? What if I had made Blair hold my pant leg while I gathered our things? Hindsight is clear but offers little comfort. 

I’m sensitive and truthfully, a bit anxious by nature. It’s taken me 29 years to realize it and begin to embrace it as a gift instead of something to apologize for. As much as I want to dwell on Saturday morning’s incident, I can’t let myself. It’s not reflective of who I am or my parenting abilities. But I can learn from it, remember it, and appreciate it. I take it as a lesson and am grateful.  

Gems.

“Oh, you’re new to the area! Where are you from?”

“Well, we move around every few years but most recently we lived in Savannah, Georgia.”

“Oh, Savannah! We just love it there. It’s so romantic. And the history – wow.”

“Yea, it’s a gem.”

“You must miss it so much!”

“….sometimes.”

 

Without exaggeration, I have this conversation at least three times a week.  Everyone knows and loves Savannah. And we do, too. But many folks fail to realize that living in Savannah is much different than visiting Savannah. Not better, not worse – it just isn’t the same city. Residents don’t typically take trolley tours or peddle around with friends on the Slow Ride. Well, we do, but not often as we’d like since we’re usually at home battling spanish moss and fire ants. But for all of the less than charming parts that come with living in Savannah, there are an equal or greater number of gems that are only appreciated with time. It’s the food. The farmers. The markets. The restaurants. The collard greens. Mmmmm. It’s the music. The artists. The energy from the thousands and thousands of feet that passed through a historic building before you. The cherished and preserved and appreciated. 

So when we agreed to moved to the Charlotte ‘burbs, I was terrified I’d be in a cultural wasteland.  There’s something in my soul that needs to be around people with passion for music, art, musings and community and I was certain my heart would never be settled among subdivisions and minivans. Instead, we’re discovering excellent farmer’s markets and locally sourced restaurants.  We stumble across food truck rallies and historic mills converted into art spaces and shops. Yes, it will be hard to find replacements for our Savannah favorites. But slowly, we’re finding new gems in our new home and with a new appreciation for what they do.  

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New life.

One month ago, we said goodbye. Goodbye to our first house, goodbye to our neighbors and friends, goodbye to our church, goodbye, goodbye, goodbye. After so many months of preparations and planning and waiting and waiting, the final goodbye was rather anticlimactic.

We had a week to get our things packed and loaded – with the “help” of a moving company – and the house cleaned and thought we’d have a few days leftover to enjoy the city we called home for over four years and say goodbye to friends who became like family. As usual, things became increasingly complicated as the movers took two days longer than planned to pack the house and our sweet Blair fought a high fever for over five days. And so, the week involved little fun and lots of tears and many prayers.

Timing is a strange thing and as it happened, as we were settling into our new home in a new city, we should have been welcoming a new life into our family. Mid-June would have been the due date to the sweet baby we lost last November and I’d be a horrible liar if I said the timing of our move and the what would have been wasn’t a heavy weight. Miscarriages are an awful, heart-crushing experience and with one heartbeat, you want to scream to the world, “this enormous, life-changing, emotionally and physically retching thing has happened – recognize this!,” while with the next you want nothing else but to hold this precious, private thing so close that the outside world can’t claim it and taint it. With the due date passed, I feel closure. Paired with our move, June turned a page in our family’s story and while I recognize and honor that chapter in our lives, I’m ready to write a new story about a new life. 

We’re more or less settled in our new house in Charlotte. We fought the trek to suburbia both tooth and nail but as the truth of family-friendly and convenience spoke, we ended up with a mini-mansion situated squarely in the middle of a subdivision with a pool, playground and sidewalks. Sidewalks that randomly end. For all I hate about the cookie cutter lifestyle, there is something to be said for neatly kept lawns and the type of community where kids leave their bikes strewn across the driveway without worry. So, I’ve resigned myself that this is our – for now – new normal. But I still hum “Tiny Boxes” as I chase my kids down the sidewalk on their new bicycles.

We have lots of catching up to do, don’t we?

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Neither here nor there.

There is this really awkward stage when you’re newish-ly pregnant that I fondly call the “pregnancy pudge.” People look twice and say, “…Is she? No, maybe it’s just the shirt she’s wearing. Well, maybe…?” You walk a fine line between insatiable hunger and spontaneously hurling your breakfast when you walk past Starbucks. Conversations with your non-pregnant friends are different because you’re no longer interested in running races or trying the new wine bar in town. Your pregnant friends acknowledge you as a member of their procreating club but, alas, you aren’t in the midst of swollen ankles and sciatic pain so you aren’t quite one of them yet. You fit neither here nor there.

I’m in the moving equivalent of the pregnancy pudge. I no longer feel like I belong in Savannah but haven’t yet moved to Charlotte to start our lives. I still have dear friends in Savannah to meet up with but the conversations are abbreviated and focus only on the present. Topics that were once relevant – kindergarten plans, summer birthday parties, new restaurants – hold little interest for me. We won’t be here. When we leave the playground and share goodbyes with acquaintances, there is the awkward, “See you soon! Or maybe not. If not, uh, goodbye and it was nice knowing you.” Until you see them again the next week and have the same uncomfortable exchange again.

The girls and I visited Charlotte last week and had a chance to scope out some of the neighborhoods I’ve spent the past few months researching. I was the creepy driver who looped the same block three times in search of the rental. We took some time to visit a museum and I was naively hopeful I’d meet some incredibly friendly Charlotte mommies who would take me under their welcoming wings and tell me all their secrets about the best neighborhoods, schools and initiate me into their awesome Charlotte mommy group. Yes, I may be a bit crazy. While the moms I talked to were all really friendly, it’s evident I’m not one of them yet.

Charlotte Mom: “What part of Charlotte are you moving to?”

Desperate Liz: “Oh, we aren’t sure… maybe insert neighborhood or other neighborhood. But we don’t really know where my husband is going to be working, so commute times will be an issue. So…. yea.”

CM: “…Right. Well, uh, good luck with the move.”

DL: “Oh, uh, yea, thanks.”

awkward pause.

DL: “WAIT! Where do you live? Do you like it? How are the schools? Tax rates? Tell me everything you know.”

I’m a stray cat meowing to be fed. They smile politely and provide informative but brief answers. Because, honestly, we aren’t going to be friends – I don’t live there. And the odds of us crossing paths again are very slim. Charlotte is a big city. We likely won’t live in the same part of town, school district, subdivision or neighborhood. I can’t identify with their laments about traffic and commute times.  I can envision what life will be like but I’m not actively living it. I will be one of them soon but until then, we won’t be friends.

We’ve found a few houses we’re interested in renting but we can’t pursue them until we get an offer on our house. I’ve found jobs I’m interested in but I can’t apply until we get even our short-term living situation squared away. The Savannah weather has been uncharacteristically cold and wet and real estate activity across town is slow as a result. I’m still practicing my patience and keeping the end goal in sight.  Life in transition is hard – especially for the girls – so I’m trying to keep things as calm and pleasant as our current situation allows. In a few months, this will (hopefully) be a distant, mildly uncomfortable memory.

Oh, and to be clear – I’m not pregnant. Not even the tiniest bit. So let there be no confusion as a result of my pregnancy/moving analogy. Just a crazy momma with too much time to think.

The 8 Stages of Listing Your Home.

Selling our house has been an exercise in patience. A whole lot of hurry up and wait. Questioning our sanity, God’s plan, our realtor’s opinion, our decision to procreate and so on. A house is such an enormous emotional and financial decision, it’s a wonder that anyone actually survives the buying and selling process. With Josh starting his new job next week, we’ve been anxious to get our house on the market and sold. Fast. We’re priced competitively (ouch), staged to perfection, and nary a toy is out of place – which likely contributes to my insanity.

We’re finally listed but the journey to actually getting that “For Sale” sign in our yard has been a doozy. If you ever want to test the strength of your triceps and marriage, try selling your house. Whew. It ain’t for the faint of heart. In a brief moment of clarity, here are my 8 Stages of Listing Your House.

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1. We’re selling our house! Weeee! The excitement of what selling the house represents – a new home, a new city, new neighbors – overwhelms every other logical thought. “Our house is awesome! Everyone is going to want to buy it. Lets start packing!” Time is equally spent scouring Pinterest for the best home staging tips and searching Zillow for your next home.

2. Oh my goodness, we’re selling our house. Still in a romantic haze, you begin to pen the to-do list. All the projects you intended to do since moving in appear before you on lined sheets. Undeterred, you rally with your partner and agree you’ll be able to get most everything done in one weekend. Ha. You meet with a realtor and realize that, like most everyone who bought a home in the past 5 years (except those crazy souls with the time, energy and money to invest in seriously updating a home) you’re going to either break even or take a hit once you factor in closing costs. The realtor brings in a stager and you wonder a.) who can live in a house with only two items allowed on the kitchen counter and b.) if potential home buyers really think you only own four pairs of shoes. Regardless, you heed her advice and relegate the paper towels, bananas, toaster, junk mail, and soap dispenser to the cabinets and wear running shoes to church on Sunday morning.

3. House, house, everything house. Weekends once spent at brunch and the farmer’s market become occupied with trips to Lowe’s, painting, scraping, more painting, back to Lowe’s, patching and trying to keep the children from drinking turpentine while you dislocate your shoulders painting fascia and soffits. Your first thought upon waking is wondering when you’ll rest your paint spattered head upon the pillow once more.

4. The weary spirit. Remember when life was fun? Remember when we used to smile? I think we used to like each other. On revision number 5 of the ever-growing to-do list, you stop with the specificity of “sort through seed packets, clear out compost bin, put seed spreader into storage” and start generalizing items like “clear out the crap in the garden shed” because you realize that otherwise, you will use every single page in your daughter’s Princess Sofia notebook. Your list now includes a “MUST-DO” column and a “Meh, it’d be nice” column of tasks. Your husband sets down his Superman cape and agrees to hire a handyman to tackle the remaining big items on the to-do list. You stop showering and convince yourself white paint streaks in your hair are sexy.

5. The second wind. Okay, we’re listing in three days. It’s the sprint to the finish line – well, the first of many finish lines. You begin to wipe base boards and door frames and scold yourself for neglecting to clean while you were busy caulking showers and pulling rogue weeds from the flower beds. You lay pine straw and sweep porches and then a crazy thing happens…

6. You fall in love with your house again. It’s amazing what some fresh paint and marathon cleaning sessions can do to a house. You remember all the little things that made you love this house in the first place and have a stirring of pride when you see the results of the hard work you’ve invested. You vow that when you buy your next house, you’ll put in the time and money in the beginning so you can really enjoy the results.

7. Waiting. Waiting. Waiting. Listed. Followed by more waiting. Waiting and cleaning and peeking between the blinds to stare cars creeping past your newly listed house. Stalking page views on Trulia. This is an exercise in extreme patience and trust that your realtor is legit and doing her job.

8. Show time! Your first showing. Squeeeee! You’re certain that they will walk into your house and instantly fall in love. You try not to think about strangers rifling through your belongings while you circle the block with the dog and kids, listening to the Frozen soundtrack on repeat. You compulsively check your email for feedback and feel both crushed and amused to learn that the prospective buyer won’t be putting in an offer because he doesn’t like something completely arbitrary and uncontrollable like trees or the type of grass growing in the yard. Repeat every Saturday from now until eternity.

Patience, patience, patience. It has never been my strongest trait.

Bless your heart, Savannah.

Four years ago, we visited Savannah for the first time. It was Valentine’s Day weekend and instead of drinking wine and professing our undying love over lobster and chocolate, we sat in a hotel room, illuminated only by the muted television while we tried to convince a 7 month old Em to sleep in the weird crib/baby cage provided by the hotel. We were strict on her sleep schedule but hadn’t mastered the skill of juggling her well-being with our own sanity. Our whirlwind trip from Ohio to Georgia involved towing along most of that child’s belongings, unsure of what exactly a 7 month old needs for a long weekend. Which we realized was only about a quarter of what we packed.

In a rush to get her to bed, we forgot to eat dinner. Josh sat in the bathroom and whisper-yelled into the phone, calling practically every restaurant near City Market and on Bay Street to find a place that delivered. And no one did. Later, we realized that they were all within a three block walking distance to our hotel. I don’t remember what we ate that night. It doesn’t really matter because we were excited. We were moving to Savannah. Was it love at first sight? No, but we were eager for a new adventure and Savannah certainly had enough to offer. We spent the evening pouring over real estate sites and trying to get our bearings on this pocketed city with mansions next to liquor stores. We were enamored with this slow, stereotypical southern town. Once we agreed to the move, Josh’s transfer happened quickly and we were Georgians within a month and homeowners shortly thereafter.

Four years later, we’re getting ready to say goodbye to Savannah. Josh is being transferred to Charlotte, North Carolina next month and we’ll be making the move soon. Our house (hopefully) lists next week and we are feeling excitednervousthrilledstressed and crazy. Mostly crazy. We’ve been ready for the next step of our adventure and we’re elated that it has finally arrived. Getting our house ready to list is… exhausting. All of the projects that you put off because, you know, life with two rambunctious little kids is work enough. Well, surprise, those projects don’t go away. You still have to do them. Except you have only two weeks to complete them. There deserves to be a designated ring in hell for the home buying and selling process.

Unlike Savannah, I won’t have the opportunity to visit Charlotte before we move. The extent of my experience with Charlotte involves driving through it at night on our way to Panama City Beach for spring break in 2004. I was strung out on Benadryl (seriously, antihistamines and I are not friends) and I ate my weight in pancakes at a 24-hour IHOP. More recently, I’ve had the pleasure of sitting in rush hour traffic on 77 on our way to Pennsylvania. It’s pretty clear that neither of these experiences will be helpful when it comes to finding the right neighborhood for our family.

Savannah has been good to us. Not always, but mostly. Our family grew here. I’ve grown here. Emotionally, spiritually, mentally… and even probably even a little bit physically. We’ve made friends, lost friends, celebrated new life, remembered lives, recognized dreams and closed doors on others. We’ve had fun playing southerners. We’re just ready to do it from somewhere a bit more northern.

Now, we start our Savannah bucket list! We have about two weeks before Josh relocates so we’re trying to cram in as much fun and Savannah as possible (when we’re trying to not kill one another over home projects). I doubt we’ll fit it all in but fortunately Savannah is a great place to visit. We were able to secure a babysitter for this evening so we can enjoy a proper Valentine’s Day in Savannah. Hopefully it doesn’t involve delivery.

Radio Silence.

I began college as a journalism major. In one of my first courses, I learned that the greatest sin in broadcasting is dead air. Radio silence. No transmission. Whatever you do, don’t do nothing.

I guess that’s sort of what I did that here.

Sorry about that, folks.

Sometimes life is just so exhausting that taking precious time to sit down and talk about just that begins to feel a tiny bit sadistic and whole lot counterproductive. Someone once told me that you will head in the direction you set your gaze. I liked that. So, I’m gazing onward.

Let’s recap the past few weeks and all get on the same page, shall we?

Christmas was fine.

New Years was fine.

Over the course of two weeks, two of our dearest friends moved away. I loved those mommas. My daughters loved their daughters. There were (are) many tears and I can’t think about it without beginning to wallow again. Moving along…

My daughters are awesome. Except for the days when they are not and whine, cry, scream, hit and act otherwise heathen-like from 6:30 a.m. (when the sneak out of their room to make themselves cheesy Dorito and {expensive} maple syrup sandwiches for breakfast) until 9:30 p.m. (when I lose my momma cool and throw a tantrum of my own because they are out of their beds and pulling each others’ hair nearly 2 hours past their bedtime). Which seem to be happening more days than not but, again, I’m thinking positively about all their wonderful traits. None of which come quickly to mind but I know they are there, hovering just beneath the sticky surface.

Valentine’s Day is coming and I have no plans, no gifts and no intentions of anything otherwise. Didn’t we just celebrate Christmas? Didn’t I just buy everyone presents?

Josh was traveling last week and in a brief moment of insanity, I decided to take the girls to see their first movie in a theatre. Em was amazed at the big screen, Blair was terrified of the noise and they both drank their weight in fruit punch. Hello, Red Dye 40! They were probably the last girls in America to see Frozen but they loved it, requested their own Elsa and Anna dolls and daily reenact the slaying of the ice monster.

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OK! That was a fun trip down memory lane.

I pinky swear I’m going to really try and stop disappearing. And stop being so boo-hooey.

 

 

Savory.

When I’m barreling ahead at full steam, life has a way of forcing me to put on the brakes and take a moment to be still and breathe. Courtesy of the shorter Thanksgiving-to-Christmas season, our lives and weekends have been busy, busy, busy. Christmas shopping, parties galore (a fantastic problem to have, no complaints here), traditions to be marked, go and go and go.

And then a child gets sick.

Not sick-sick. But sick enough that the parties and holiday treats and replaced with marathon movies and ice cream.

Suddenly, life because much less hectic and there is time to sit. To savor the moments. And reflect. Slow can be a wonderful thing.

This is the first year that our Christmas tree has been slowly put up over the course of a week. A few strands of lights and an ornament between the coming and going of ballet and grocery shopping and the later and later bedtimes. As I type, our tree is still star-less. To me, it is the final crowning that marks a finished project. But instead of feeling uneasy that this task isn’t officially completed, I’m content with its undone-ness. I don’t want to rush through this season like a laundry list of memories to be made.

Josh and I got our first “real” tree – versus the small, Charlie Brown-esque, pre-lit plastic tree that fit in our equally shabby newlywed apartments – four years ago. We found the tree stand at a garage sale the previous summer for $2. Looking back, it was far overpriced and actually cost Josh a priceless amount of sweat, scratched knuckles and grown-up words. We affectionately named the douglas fir “Doug” and decorated it with generic bulbs of bright colors and glitter and a certain 6-month-old’s Baby’s First Christmas ornament. It was exactly what I imagined my first grown up tree would be.

I had no way of knowing exactly how much would change in five Christmases – how our family would change, how much I would change. While decorating this year’s evergreen (although it’s quickly becoming less and less green despite our frequent watering), I noticed how few of those 2009 Target-bought bulbs remain and how the years are marked by the variety of unique ornaments gifted to us by those we’ve been fortunate enough to cross paths.

My favorite part of decorating the tree is pulling out each ornament and remembering who gave it and celebrating the friendship. Like my developing laugh lines and callousing hands, every decoration tells a story.

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I’m adding these made-with-love ornaments to our tree. A golden star for each of us. I think this best reflects the Liz of 2013.

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No sooner had I sealed this thought than I noticed Blair run over and begin handling one of the original bulbs. In a swift motion, the blue glass bulb smashed into hundreds of shards beneath the tree. It dawned on me that within a few years, only one or two of these original bulbs will remain on our tree and they, too, will become unique and remind us of what life was like in 2009.

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