Moving Day

On Friday, we’re moving.

As in, we’re buying a house!

She’s beautiful, really. Big and old and lots of wood and built-ins and a renovated kitchen and bathrooms. Three bedrooms, a bathroom on each floor, second floor laundry (yes in a 101-year-old house…stories), a nice back yard and a two car garage. Walk to the end of our driveway and, “lakeviews.”

All of our stuff–for me, eight years worth of stuff–is packed and ready to go. Our closing is Friday morning and our families will be here shortly thereafter to help with heavy lifting. We are moving. It’s surreal.

This is a house we picked out together, fell in love with immediately and fought damn hard to get. The story, these days, laughable. Between selling the condo and then not selling the condo and then re-accepting an offer again, it’s been a process and a half. Lots of prayers, and tears and moments of pure, “WTF?” have occured around here lately.

We’ve spent our last six weeks crying, caving and asking so many questions. More questions than I think we’ve ever asked anyone or about anything, and if you add up all the years we both spent as reporters, that’s a lot of questions.

And still, this was hard. We didn’t have an easy road, we just didn’t. We ran in to so many situations and scenarios that normal home-buyers and sellers do not. But, now that it’s so close to the end we can taste it, we’re finally relaxing and celebrating. Like, I’m drinking a whole bottle of wine right this second.

The last six weeks of our lives has tested more than our sanity, they’ve tested us. I’ve always appreciated when married people tell me about situations where it was hard. And so I’m telling you, this was hard on us. Decision-making during quasi-crisis makes you rely on each other in ways you can’t really fathom you’ll have to. And then subsequently question every choice just made. I’m fully aware, there’s more of this in life–in marriage. And having been through the crazy that has been our lives, that scares me right now. But, it’s life. And marriage. And reality.

Come Friday, we turn a page and begin a new chapter of our lives. A chapter that’s been on the horizon–so deeply anticipated–for so many months. We are buying our first house. Even better, this is truly my first house; I’ve never lived in a structure without shared walls. Ever.

“Life is too short to wait.”

And so we’re not. Moving Day is in three days!

The couch

I think my husband is still shocked that there was no couch involved. And that it wasn’t really like the kind of therapy sessions you see on TV.

Regardless, as I head down the slope of my final months in my 20s I picked myself out a therapist, something I promised to do for myself in 2013, something I need. There’s a lot going on in my mind and heart and on most days it’s too much to handle; on all days it’s too much to write about on the Internet because it’s not really my story to tell.

It came easy, really. You sit down and you open up the storybook of your life and basically start to read. It flows easily, without much emotion. Just the story, the first five grafs before you get to all the quotes and opinions. This is easy for a storyteller. So much of it reminded me of my days as a reporter, which put me in my element immediately. Question. Answer. Words on a notebook page. Trust-building. Lots of listening and empathizing and making the source (me, in this case) feel like you are on their side. And you are (he was, instantly), you get what they are saying, you see their pain and you can pinpoint the exact moment when whatever crisis is going on in their lives made them fall apart. He was good.

First, it surprises me that I was assigned–and have accepted–a dude therapist and that even after saying I’d prefer a female they recommended him to me for my situation, which he refers to as a “crisis.” What the hell? I’ll give it a shot, I thought. And sometimes the stars just align and you can’t help but believe that you fell into the right situation, er, solution; you’re at the right place at the right time and there’s no where else you should be. It’s interesting–and quite liberating, thank you very much–being validated by a man.

Within 20 minutes, he pretty much had my personality summed up. As he should, right? He’s a professional. I’m a sensitive, old soul. I’m not sure if “wise” is the right word, but I’m definitely “something” beyond my years. Yep, that’s me. He quickly distinguishes where you became fucked in the head and where every relationship you’re worried about and fearful over fell apart and if all of your crazy is matter of nature or nurture. He sings your praises and reminds you that you are on the list of good people, “keepers,” easy to get along with, compassionate toward others, empathetic. Filled with strong emotion. Sure you wear your heart on your sleeve, “but I’d be much more worried, Mandy, if you weren’t feeling at all.” Check. Check. Feeling is so, so good. And that–with and without therapy’s help–I am doing.

The snot cry came. It went. I can’t remember the last time someone looked me in the eyes–way deep in my eyes–and told me it was OK to cry instead of the alternative “you can’t keep doing this” or “just don’t worry about it so much,” “stop letting this bother you.” Everything bothers me. That is OK.

As your allotted time comes to an end, it gets a little like TV. He respectfully told me we were nearing the end, we got a plan together and we booked the next session. Yes, he likes me! I like him! He’s MY therapist! Win. I’m getting a jump start on my 30s right here; people in their 30s have therapists, right? Right. I want to be better.

The day after therapy you basically wake up to feeling like you had an emotional ass-kicking yesterday, because you did. You dug deep, you found some tools and now you have to practice. While practicing, you constantly have to remind yourself of your values and that learning the process does not mean forgetting for even one tiny second that you should not change the way your mind works or the way you feel or your deep-rooted morals. Thank you, Mr. Therapist. Validation that I’m very, very normal.

The part I did not expect was the personal details he shares. He’d been through something similar when he was my age, still calling it a “crisis,” which feels really good, actually. It’s something big enough to take care of yourself over, because truthfully, ain’t no one else gonna take care of you. With certainty, he promises I’ll come out on the better side, that my marriage is healthy and that I can stop looking for deterioration that isn’t there just because the world is a scary place; he thinks I have one of the best allies he’s seen in my corner (so nice to hear) and that I’m acting this out in very healthy ways (who knew?!), surrounding myself by the best, strongest people I can find and moving through this life–that is hard right now–appropriately. I did the right thing by finding “the couch” and I’m hungry for a lot more.

Waiting

Not only is it the hardest part, but it’s also laced with gazillions of lessons, I’m sure.

Waiting.

I’m not good at it. I worry. I lose sleep. I become distracted too easily. I cry. And at the end of the day, the results are still the same; I’m left waiting.

So far, I’m comparing the process of selling your home to that of waiting to find out if you got a new job. Every showing is another interview and open houses are like networking events. Until an offer comes – which may have already happened – you’re left waiting. And then once an offer comes – I’m learning – you wait some more. One interview, a showing, a second interview, an offer, a job offer, a counter offer; negotiate. You see what I did there? I effed with your head. Yeah.

Today we counter offered on an original offer that is by no means a slam dunk. My other half is awesome at cheer-leading this situation; he reminds me every other minute that we’ve had our what should be an impossible condo to sell on the market for about three weeks. We are happy. We are excited. But the waiting. Gosh. Somebody please call in a prescription for some drugs so I can sleep.

We’ve been told to start looking for a house, for our next home. There is a true reason to look now, our realtor said. I imagine this brings the next layer of anticipation, excitement and, ultimately, waiting.

The lesson are something I probably won’t be able to digest, or recognize, for years. HOWever, I know they are there. I guess I’ll wait for those, too.

All of that said, all of this is good. Really, really good, which is really easy to type while I’m not obsessively refreshing my email and waiting for my phone to ring. I’ll get back to that in just one minute. I guess what I mean is: This is going to be really, really good. We’ll just have to wait for it.

 

 

 

 

Two years

A lot has changed in two years.

I’m married now and trying to sell our first home. When we look at houses one of us will slip and say, “not enough space if we have a baby.” I’m onto a different job, so is my husband. Those blue capris she let me borrow all those years ago fit again. I’m probably more emotional, more observant, more true to myself. I’m less trusting of going with the flow and I know all about bad things happening to good people.

But then there are the things that haven’t changed. Like that I still think about her every single day; sometimes it still feels like every single minute. I still cry when I drive and over-anticipate the possibility of being killed and seeing it at the very last second, like I still imagine she did. I still wonder when it will hurt less and when I might again feel whole.

Two whole years ago, my life changed in the middle of a street in Milwaukee. I don’t think I’ll ever again attend German Fest, where the fateful news of her being dead – dead – quickly paused and reverted all fun we had that afternoon. My 27-year-old mind did not process the information easily. I (still) want a do-over, ten more minutes, one more conversation, one little hug, one explanation. The impossible. It’s still – and always will be – impossible to get her back.

The thing about two years later is the amount of alone you feel. I wasn’t her sibling, or her mom. I’m not related, I didn’t lose a child or miscarry a baby. Somehow not quite falling into any category in dealing with my loss makes it less relevant and important. Just a friend.

There was nothing ‘just’ about her, or about it or about the way her death – two years later – still makes me feel.

The worst thing you can say to someone in these situations – and I know – is “I know exactly how you feel.” And sometimes it makes me just so angry that I don’t have a group to fit into to deal with these very raw, and still real, feelings. You know, I read the blogs, too. The ones about moms who lost their babies and young husbands who lose their spouses. The writers – the people – lose themselves in their words and fall apart on the other side of the screen developing a network of people who reach out because they feel exactly the same. And you know what, that is how I feel. But something would be wrong with implying the comparison, so I don’t. So, you’re kind of left to cope with the people who lost a parent  or grandparent in a very normal scenario (I know this is hard too, I’m not insensitive) at a very normal age, which isn’t really the same at all. Lonely. Maybe there’s the just. Just lonely.

After two years, people don’t really ask how you are; they expect you’re alright. On a  lot of days, I am. I laugh and email a memory to my best friend. I recall small and big moments. I smile at a photograph. But some days I worry too much about death and freak out when my husband doesn’t return a call or a text in ways you should not freak out over for a two minute lapse in time. A lot of times I still cry when I listen to songs that strike whatever cord in the car while I’m driving. The car is still hard; I sometimes live her last minutes in my mind even though I know I have no clue. The scarf her mom gave me doesn’t smell like her anymore and I fear I’m starting to look older than she does in her last-taken photo. Her Facebook page, on most days, angers me and I don’t really like when people write on her wall. Although, maybe you can read your Facebook page from Heaven, I’m not sure. The world feels different. And sometimes a lot harder to navigate my way through than it ever was before she died.

She would be married now and would probably deal with the “you’re so pregnant” comments you inevitably get constantly at this stage of life much better than me. She’d be model step-mom, cancer killer (by trade) and husband supporter; she’d be really great at it all. I still (stupidly) wish for her these chances. The chance to live a somewhat-parallel normal last-year-of-our-20s life.

But, that’s not today. Today is two years since she died in that horrific crash that I hate so much. Today is the day all of us on the other side remember, and hurt, and mourn, and probably cry a little more than usual. I love her and I choose to believe she knows how much I miss her. That’s today, two very short and long years later.

My 29th

A few weeks ago, I turned 29.

As in, the last year of my 20s. Holy crap.

For awhile, as you know, I’ve been wishing for something. A house. One with a backyard for my dog and a kitchen that I love for me to play in, one with a master bedroom we love to fall asleep in and a few nooks that make it personal. No, no, we are not new homeowners.

BUT.

On my birthday, we invited a realtor over to our condo, we went through the paperwork, we set a price. We put our condo on the market. Would you like to buy her? She’s beautiful.

And believe it or not, as excited as I am for a house (a whole big living environment with more than one room!), a lot of emotion comes with putting your home on the market.

Jeff and I met in the very condo where we live in 2005. I told him that night that he was my favorite boy in Oshkosh, something I wrote into my wedding vows late last year. I’m sure our first “I love you” happened here, at the time in the midst of a poker table and his favorite recliner. Over the years, the condo evolved – to cinnamon colored kitchen walls, to have a woman’s touch, to hold a lot of stuff and a lot of memories. We evolved, too.

We fought hard in this place. There was the hole in the closet door from an angry punch thrown all those years ago. That door proved to challenge us as we staged this place, just as those fights did over the years. I still don’t know if we should have made it, but I’m eternally grateful we did. Staining a slotted door is not our forte, we learned. Then, there’s the beautiful brick I vividly remember once throwing a pint glass against when I was mad at Jeff. Gosh I’m glad we grew out of the horrible fights stage. These days, we just slam doors, thankfully!

We’ve both been through old jobs and new ones, invited new and old friends, pool parties, gatherings around the grill near our garage, the time we served more than a dozen people for Thanksgiving, hand-cut Christmas trees in the corner, new appliances, the couch where we sat with our laptop and planned our entire wedding. There is just so much.

On my 27th birthday, we were engaged in the yard along the river; I look at the spot from our windows each time I look out at the water. Now, as we begin the hunt for houses, we know we are spoiled; we love places on the water with 17-foot ceilings. Ha. Good luck, right?!

The weirdest part about getting your home ready to sell is stripping it of the things that are “you.” People like to fall in love with homes in the absence of the owners; they don’t want your stuff, or your memories or your decorations. I can’t even quite articulate how that feels. You pack up all your stuff and label the boxes “for when we have a house,” you take down your wedding photos, the photos of memories, the personal elements on your counter tops and every ounce of “clutter” that made your home what it was. And then you have to live that way; with overly clean kitchens and bathrooms and a perfectly made bed every morning. It almost doesn’t feel like our life.

At the end of the day, you settle in on the couch next to the person you love, and you dream about the day you’ll unpack all of those boxes and start your life in your new home. You dream about what the people who will take over your old home will be like and the memories this place will make for them.

There probably aren’t that many things we’ll miss about our 900-square foot, one bedroom lofted condo once we have an entire house. But we know when we’re old we’ll talk about “remember that little condo we used to live in” and that’s heartwarming.

So, in my 29th year, I’m hoping – like I never have before – for a house. For the next chapter of this life I love to begin.

Busy, busy

I don’t even know where to start. We’re so busy. Good busy.

First things first: Our condo is just about ready to sell. New carpeting is in, the whole thing has been painted. And, she’s pretty dang close to being staged. In fact, in the midst of the pouring rain this weekend, we moved most of our stuff into a storage unit. And now my husband thinks he’s on “Storage Wars.”

Yuuuuuup.

Next, Jeff has started his new job and I think his faith in a lot of things has been restored. He’s happy and healthy. He’s rediscovered his energy and passion. It’s so nice to see him contribute and be all proud of himself again. Plus, he now wears big boy clothing to work each day and looks smoking hot. I love it, minus the part where I spend hours and hours on Sunday ironing and matching clothing options for him. Wives of the world, how do you do it? Thinking of outsourcing his laundry very soon because I just cannot keep up. Also see: busy.

Speaking of my lovely husband. In the midst of all the chaos a few months back, he decided that he might like to give the whole quitting smoking thing another try. And so, he is transitioning. Turns out, I learned a few things our last time through this. First, it cannot be my decision. And really, this time it is not. In fact, he sprung this all on me. Second, everyone has to do it in their own way, contrary to what all the people who have opinions about things they should keep their nose out of will tell you. I find people want it to be black or white, they want you to be a pack-a-day smoker or a nonsmoker. And sometimes, that just doesn’t work out for people. So, Jeff’s down from a pack-a-day to about two or three per day and we’re not setting any firm expectations about how long it should take him to eliminate those two or there per day. In good news, though, he admits he doesn’t know why he smokes those remaining cigarettes, as they “taste nasty,” he says. Taste buds must be back, which is a very good thing. Minus the fact where I admit I have little time these days to cook him tasty meals. Gahh!

This week, I celebrate one entire year at my job. Where does time go?!

Tomorrow is Beck’s birthday. And really, I don’t exactly know what to say about that except, I miss her.

Finally a yes

The last few months have felt suffocating.

Here we are – newlyweds. We’re suppose to be riding Cloud 9 and making out on the couch, or something. Instead, my husband has been up to his ears in one of the most defeating job hunts ever known to man. I say it with that sort of dramatics because it transformed our home – a place usually filled with so much laughter and talk – to a place where on a nightly basis it was almost too much quiet to handle. It’s how he copes; he shuts up. I worry and cry.

Some nights, the nights after the latest “no” or “it was between you and one other and you aren’t our guy” there were tears and silence and way more falling apart then you ever imagined stumbling upon as newlyweds.

And I guess the hardest part for me in watching the person I adore be defeated was just that. I believe he is the best at what he does. He’s a natural cheerleader for the community in which we live, work and support. He loves this place; there is no place he’d rather work, or be. The last few months, however, have brought out the ugly and made him question every last thing he believed in.

And if I’m trying to find the silver lining, which on many days lately I’ve had to, it is that you know you picked the right person to sit next to on the couch and lose your shit with. There were lots of tears, too many sleepless nights, anger and even the 20 plus pounds we collaboratively lost (close to 15 for him, a little more than five for me, go figure).

The thing about a job hunt, which I believed to my core when I was unemployed, is that it’s a numbers game. There will be nos before there is a yes. But when you’re in the thick of putting your heart and soul into interviews – rehearsing in the living room, making sure your shirt is perfectly ironed, buying lucky ties, reminding your husband that you’ll love him no matter what the answer is – the nos are painful. Add that with the foundation of what we do – communicate, market, brand, write – essentially show our soul to the hiring board/person who is going to make a decision based on, in a lot of cases, their opinion of your personality. Sometimes, even with all the arguments about measurement and reach, our jobs are intangible, uneasy to measure success in. Then, take all of that and remember that we don’t live in the largest community ever. Most of these hirers were people he knew, people who had to turn him down and then still interact with him the next day at a volunteer event, service group, in the every day.

But this week, just as my husband’s heart was again beginning to sink to his toes. After a week of me secretly crying in my office because I just couldn’t watch him be defeated again, the answer was yes. You guys, it was YES. On Wednesday night, he formally accepted a new job. A job that’s going to reward him and let him continue to be visible in this community. A career move that’s going to allow him to lead, and learn, and grow. A job that comes with a title he’s damn proud of – Director of Marketing.

I have never been more proud. Or relieved to hear “yes!” Or ready to get on with our lives as newlyweds.

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