Vows.

Weddings are magical. And not just in a fairytale, Cinderella way. It’s pretty amazing how quickly you forget the time and stress and money that goes into planning what is arguably the most important event of your life (no pressure) and the tensions that surround the union of two different, albeit wonderful, families once the beginning notes of Canon in D Major echo through the centuries old church. Can’t we bottle that magic?

We watched Josh’s younger brother and his bride wed this past weekend. I’m not an overly emotional person but weddings turn me into a ball of weepy mush. While most turn and watch the bride as she makes her way down the aisle, I watch the groom. It’s an honor to be privilege to witness such a private moment – the groom seeing and receiving his bride for the first time. It’s a face that beams with love, pride, honor and excitement. An intimate moment for everyone to see – if only they are looking.

Josh had the honor of serving as best man and we spent the long drive to Baltimore discussing the speech he was to deliver at the reception. You see, Josh doesn’t take responsibilities like this lightly. So this conversation was lengthy. He quickly decided he didn’t want to take this as an opportunity to roast his little brother but instead to impart some useful knowledge from the trenches. How do you begin to condense eight years of hard lessons into two minutes or less?

“…For better or for worse; for richer, for poorer; in sickness and in health…”

We’ve had our betters and worses but much more of the life that is made up in the middle. Not much of the richer but our share of poorer courtesy of those student loans from that small, private liberal arts college degree that I’m clearly putting to good use. And the sickness and health.

I don’t remember many specific emotions from our wedding except utter embarrassment after I nearly passed out. But I distinctly remember exchanging the “in sickness and in health” in our vows. I looked at my new husband, baby-faced and tuxedoed and had the distinct realization that someday we were going to face sickness. Heartbreaking, devastating sickness – cancer, heart attacks, accidents.

I never considered that sickness would sometimes be a quiet force that hung around the corners of marriage. At times it would encompass much more and would become the theme to our marriage, swallowing up any ‘betters’ and any ‘richers’ that may have been. We honored those vows while sitting together on the closet floor of our first apartment while I sobbed through a year’s worth of panic attacks, most certain my world was ending. I remembered those words while laying side by side and watching the sunbeams journey across the bedspread while I waited to miscarry our third child. And in the the mid-night half-smiles as we tag team to clean up after a child vomits yet again – I clean the child, he cleans the bed.

And there is the health. It’s easy to spot the sickness but sometimes the health needs to be sought. Diagnosis and feelings don’t determine health. It’s quality of life. And boy, we have a life of quality and some good substance. Health is in our two amazingly stubborn ninja princesses who will undoubtedly change the world. Health in the answers and healing. Health in the laughter that bubbles uncontrollably at the most inopportune times.

I wish we could get married again with a new appreciation for our vows, for everything they say and everything left unsaid between the words. image-2

Shedding.

I’ve talked a lot about the chaos and stress of this past year. Tired of hearing about it? Me too. I’m tired of talking about it. I’m tired of thinking about it. Honestly, I’m tired of healing. It’s exhausting. But I am healing.

I had an appointment with an incredible naturopathic doctor yesterday and we went through my entire medical history. Among other things, we discussed my distrust in my body and myself and the way this manifests in my body. It was enlightening and inspiring.

As I’ve mentioned, my hair has been falling out. After yesterday’s appointment, I’m confident that stress and those wretched little pills known as birth control are the cause for the shedding. I had been working on my stress levels and healing and it was devastating to see my hair continue to shed in clumps, despite my best efforts to stop it. I loathed washing and combing my hair and seeing the fistfuls of hair swirling down the drain. Holding those mounds of hair was a tangible representation of the stress and heartache – literal and figuratively- that this year has brought.

A shift in perspective is all we need.

Shedding. It’s actually a beautiful thing. Discarding the unnecessary, the dead, so you can devote energy toward the new, the healthy. Pruning a vine. You can hold on to the past so tightly and devote all your time and energy toward trying to pretty it up that you miss the beauty in the present. The past will never be a comparable and worthy substitute for the present. I decided that instead of focusing on the volume of hair I was losing, I was going to consider the shedding a cleansing and embrace it. Instead of rehashing the astonishingly crappy circumstances of the past year, I am going to focus on the simple blessings of the present.

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Like a badass haircut.

It’s freeing.

The lies we tell.

I’m a highly sensitive extrovert. My sensitivity is not to be confused with the weepy characters we stereotype; I am outrageously perceptive and influenced by the mood and emotions of others. And yet I crave the sense of community and camaraderie that comes with interacting with others. I need people. Recently, I find this unfortunate personality combination to be taking more control of my thoughts than I’d like and leaving me with feelings of negativity and self-doubt.

I’ve been spending a lot of time reading and reflecting on the role negative thoughts play in my life. These little smidgens begin simply enough – a comment that was just slightly damaging. Not always outright but there was perhaps something in their tone or the awkward pauses that leaves me analyzing myself. Did I say something wrong? Did I come across as overbearing? Do they secretly hate me?

And like an ear worm, it festers and grows. It takes root and before I realize it, the negative feelings have strangled out my positive intentions.

Aviva Romm recently discussed the influence of Automatic Negative Thoughts (ANTs). How quickly I spring to an automatically negative response when faced with a challenge or opportunity.

You are not worthy.

You are not good enough.

You will fail.

You are not qualified.

You will be laughed at.

As I type this, I realize how egocentric and self-centered this is. How much of my life do I spend thinking about myself and how others perceive me? When I think of a narcissist, I think of someone who is arrogant and overly confident. Yet here I am, spending so much time thinking of myself and wallowing in my own self-doubt.

Weird, right?

I went to a yoga class this week. With all of the emotional and physical stress that has manifested recently, I took a month long self-perscribed hiatus from exercise and have gradually been easing my way back toward activity and yoga seems to be my favorite “I forgive you” gift for my body. As I’m laying in shavasana trying not to think, I’m overwhelmed by the thought of how absurd and incredibly selfish it is for me to spend so much energy thinking about the lies I tell myself.

My husband loves me with an unfailing, infallible love. My children think I am capable of anything. I have a healthy body and although it has faltered, it is strong and good. I serve a risen Savior who found me worthy of his own despair.

When I let negative, self-doubting thoughts take root and strangle out my joy and confidence, I am essentially telling those who love and support me that they are wrong. That I don’t believe them and that their confidence in me is in vain. I am discounting their confidence and replacing it with my own message of untruths. I am calling them liars.

When you start viewing yourself through the eyes of those who love you, you begin to realize that this life isn’t about you. You have nothing to prove. You have nothing to gain. What you need is what you have – people who love you unconditionally – and that there is nothing you can do, say, succeed or fail at that will influence their perception of you.

And if it they are so easily influenced, then they aren’t worthy of you.

You are worthy.

You are amazing.

You are good enough.

You are beautiful.

You are capable.

You are loved.

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Please believe it. 

Detoxing and Discoveries.

On the first day of Dr. Alejandro Junger’s “Clean” detox, I felt great. I loaded up with my morning smoothie and went off to exercise. I came home and had some chicken and roasted brussel sprouts for lunch – still feeling strong. But by 3 p.m., the headaches began. Oh, caffeine withdrawal, I loathe you. I don’t consider myself to be a coffee-addict but it’s incredible how much simple things affect the body. By 6 p.m., I went into Naked and Afraid mode. Have you ever seen the show on Discovery Channel? Basically, they lay around in the wilderness exhausted and hungry (and naked) and wait for their 21 days to pass. While I was fully clothed, my body was preserving calories and I was “mentally” hungry. That evening, Josh was running late and I still had to cook dinner, bathe and put the girls to bed. By the time it was all done, I passed out in bed too tired to brush the evening smoothie from my teeth.

My first day is exactly how you shouldn’t approach a detox.

Although I thought I had planned well, I wasn’t prepared for how tired I would be and the caloric deficit I would have because I was still exercising with my normal intensity.

This was my first and second mistake. I typically shoot for 300-400 calories for lunch each day but that is definitely not enough when it’s your primary meal. I should have added quinoa or rice for a starch. Secondly, Junger recommends lower impact exercise like walking and yoga while on the detox. He does mention that routine exercise can be continued if you add in an additional protein smoothie post workout. I didn’t do this and suffered for it. After burning upwards of 700 calories in an hour of boot camp and hip hop, my body was beyond exhausted and needed that extra energy.

As day two arrived, I went back to my Clean manual and approached it better prepared. I planned out my meals appropriately and significantly upped my fat intake in the morning. I’ve never gone through so much almond butter, raw nuts and coconut milk. I added a snack of apple slices and almond butter in the afternoon. I started adding protein powder to my evening smoothies.

Here are a few of my favorite Clean Detox meals:

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I began with the smoothie recipes provided on the Clean website but I began mixing and matching ingredients to create my own as the week progressed. Since the focus is on eliminating toxins, I made sure to use organic and local ingredients when possible.

Junger recommends getting plenty of sleep each night which is pretty easy . But I was surprised at the quality of sleep that week considering I’ve been dealing with insomnia and restless sleep for nearly a year. I woke up refreshed and awake – despite the lack of coffee. The caffeine headaches lasted until day 4 and then I felt great. I was still tired in the evenings because although I was giving my body a break on digestion and eliminated irritants, it is still working hard to detox which takes energy. Clean recommends Yerba Mate as a coffee substitute (coffee is eliminated because of it’s acidity, not necessarily because of the caffeine) so I had picked some up the weekend prior without really knowing much about it except that it’s tea-like and people used to drink it from gourds. I decided to brew a cup late one afternoon and much to my surprise, Yerba Mate is rather caffeinated. This normally wouldn’t be a big deal but when you’ve been off of caffeine for several days, the effects are much more obvious. Yowza. That was the only night I had trouble falling asleep.

When I started the detox, I decided to track my calories using MyFitnessPal for two reasons: 1. I wanted to make sure I was getting enough calories and 2. I was curious. I want to emphasize that although the Clean isn’t about caloric restriction, I’m sure most people end up eating less than they normally would because there’s no late night snacking, sugar, alcohol, convenience foods or packaged foods. On a normal day, I eat around 1,700 calories but was averaging around 1,300 while on the detox. This is hard for me. Having dealt with disordered eating most of my life, it’s a slippery slope for me to reduce calories. Because of this, I decided not to weigh myself during the detox. Most anyone gets a thrill when they see their weight decrease but this can be particularly dangerous for someone who used calorie restriction as a way to seek control. I had to frequently remind myself of why I was doing this detox – to discover why I have been feeling so miserable and find answers.

And I did.

While following the detox, my hives stopped. The burning sensation in my hand disappeared. My lip no longer tingled. My night sweats were gone. Despite being very tired and desperately wanting a glass of wine, I felt better than I had in many, many, many months.  The only reactions I had that week were after eating out and because both were stand-alone events, it helped me narrow down the offenders. The first was an apple pecan salad from Wendy’s with no cheese or dressing but I did eat the nuts. The second was when I ate a quinoa salad with chicken from Zoe’s Kitchen. I knew that both items were gluten and dairy free. I did, however, forget to check for other allergens…

When the detox ended, I had to reintroduce foods to determine if there was a particular food causing my reactions or if my liver just needed to detox. Junger recommends adding foods in slowly and tracking how you feel after each meal. Because the excluded list is extensive – eggs, strawberries, nightshades (peppers, tomatoes, eggplant, etc.), red meat, pork, shellfish, peanuts, pistachio and bananas to name just a few – it’s hard to not rush back into normal eating habits. So I went very slow. On Monday, I kept with a detox-friendly smoothie for breakfast and enjoyed a slice of gluten-free buckwheat bread from a local bakery. Soon, my hand began to burn. Interesting. Fortunately, the bread had an ingredient list. Rice flour, buckwheat flour, milk, cinnamon… soy lecithin. I went back and looked online for an ingredient list for the apple pecan salad – the salad itself was nothing more than lettuce and apples but the pecans – contains soy. Interesting. I checked out Zoe’s Kitchen’s allergen list and, sure enough, their chicken contains soy.

I’d say three makes a pattern, wouldn’t you?

I literally jumped out of my chair and ran to my kitchen and began pulling gluten free items out of my pantry. Glutino pretzels? Soy. My go-to Van’s gluten free waffles? Soy. Gluten free cinnamon thin cookies? Soy. Soy, soy, soy. It’s a common ingredient in gluten free items and considering I’d been eating them several times a day, it’s no wonder I felt worse since cutting out wheat. I’m embarrassed because prior to my wheat allergy, I was always aware of soy and avoided it when possible. Why? Some say soy can increase estrogen levels and I’m already estrogen dominant. Also, almost all soy is GMO. But when we began cutting out large food groups due to allergies, I relaxed because I could only cut out so much. Lesson learned.

I had a follow up appointment scheduled with my allergist and I shared my discovery. The doctor seemed less than interested but agreed to do another allergy test with wheat and soy. Wheat positive, soy negative. Which means I have a soy sensitivity that is more severe than my wheat allergy. And with that, the allergist passed me off to the next doctor to try and navigate the rest of my health issues. I love traditional Western medicine. Regardless, I was pleased with myself.

My biggest take away from the detox?

You have to take control of your health.

You know your body. You need to find the answers. If five doctors dismiss you, find a sixth. Don’t be dismissed as paranoid or a hypochondriac. Don’t write off your symptoms as stress or anxiety. And? The simplest solution is usually the best.

I’ve gone off my allergy medicine and now only take it as needed. I wish this was the end of my health journey but, alas, the road to discovery continues on. I’ve eliminated one problem but am now working on sorting out others – I promise to keep you posted as things progress and I make new discoveries.

Xoxo.

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.

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.