For the past month, I’ve watched countless walkers, bikers, and runners stream by my gate in my new neighborhood, but haven’t had time to join them. This week, I needed to check on the hours of a business up the street. I also felt a little stir crazy from being sick and needed to move around. So I decided to stroll there and back. At a slow pace, with no music to distract me, I soaked in the details of all the beautiful old houses along the way. I exchanged smiles with the many other pedestrians I passed. I stopped to listen to a singing mockingbird. At some point on the return trip, I felt a sense of stillness and space – a few moments’ break from being cluttered up to my mental rafters. It was a relief to know I can still experience that. It had been a while.
The Year of Enough has been declaring itself loudly in this move. I dropped almost everything when my old house went under contract, repeating the excuse that I needed to get through the move and then I’d get right back on track. But after a month of residence in my new place, I’m still taking life one day at a time. There are still packed boxes in every room, and almost nothing on the walls. Between settling in to a different type of space, and my workload hitting its most demanding level in thirteen years, I just can’t chase hard after anything else. I’m not even ready to think about going back to community band, especially during our busiest time of year. I’ve barely even picked up a book. My commitment to church activities and community isn’t living up to my original intentions. I want to spend intentional time with friends old and new but fail to initiate plans. I’ve become That Person who RSVPs the day before. Worst of all, I haven’t been writing – here or anywhere. In that area especially, I feel like I’m in a rushing river, clinging to a rapid, and with every week that passes, I fall off and drift further down the river, increasing the distance I’ll never be able to make up toward personal goals and being a “successful,” productive person. For the sake of my health, I choose not to hustle. Then I go out with friends, and enjoy the city I love, and sit on my balcony for a while, and the little voice inside says, See, you DO have time to hustle, and no one respects you anymore, because you’ve stopped taking life seriously.
When you boil it all down, my main reason for moving to Midtown was to be happy and free. What a selfish, scandalous thing for a Christian to admit. But God encouraged me in it at every point in the process. It’s already one of the best decisions I’ve ever made and I am confident He endorses it. So, after everything I went through to get here, why am I in such a hurry to weigh myself down again, especially with some things I’m not even sure make me happy anymore? My basic needs are covered. I work hard. I’m still trying to love and help people well in a day-by-day way. And when I’m not listening to that little voice, I have peace like a river in my soul, and I’m very happy. Maybe it’s okay to let that be enough, at least for a while. Maybe it’s okay to look at the path right in front of me and do what comes naturally instead of trying to force it. Maybe I’m still somehow useful as I am right now, still going somewhere despite my current lack of drive and focus. And maybe people will still like and care about me even if I’m a little messy and not making it a priority to do everything right.
I loathe the term “season.” It’s become smarmy Christianese to me, because it’s often both invalidating and falsely hopeful. But sometimes it delivers much-needed perspective. A season of lowering the pressure and enjoying life doesn’t mean I’m wasting my life. I also shouldn’t feel guilt or shame because my life is, on the surface, fun and easy right now. To the wives, moms, and caretakers, maybe it looks like I’ve moved into a nonstop party. But I’m not going to ruin my suddenly light heart and light feet by apologizing for them. We are all laboring under our own burdens, mine happen to be less obvious, and I will no longer deny myself things purely to look holier or more responsible.
I went through a similar “season” the summer after my ex-husband left. I had a strong impression that I should relax, not worry about long-term plans, and enjoy whatever happiness God brought my way – anything that helped me feel good about life. I had worked hard for a very long time, and it was time for a “vacation.” I took it, and no one died. Well, it’s been five years, I’ve been through another (more mysterious) dark time of the soul, and I’ve had another fairly significant life change. Maybe I’m due. May it be enough.
April was a very eventful month. After going through the entire selling and buying process in three weeks’ time, I moved to a beautiful townhouse in Midtown on April 16! On top of the upheaval of packing, tending to repairs and accounts, making a million decisions, and signing a million papers, I also had a big transition at work. My department was taken over by another department. I’m still doing the exact same job, but we have different bosses and a different focus and most of our processes have changed. Friends usually cringe when I tell them this, but so far, most of the changes have been awesome and I feel energized and hopeful. That’s major progress in two of my three predetermined Enough categories, and as Meatloaf says, two out of three ain’t bad.
I’m really thankful for all the support this month. Troops of friends showed up to help me pack, bring food (so appreciated when I couldn’t locate any of my food), take things off my hands, and exclaim over my new home. Others repeatedly talked me down from the ledge in stressful moments (selling and buying homes as a single person is HARD). Everyone seems genuinely excited for me, and I feel loved. When you don’t have the standard big life events that traditionally evoke support and celebration, it means a lot when the people you care about acknowledge and appreciate your milestones. Special shoutout as always to my parents, and to my sister Debra, who called to check on me EVERY DAY and always concluded, “You’re doing a good job.” Some days, that affirmation was my lifeline.
I read a whopping four books this month. Here are three of them. Loved the first two, liked the second. They look pretty together!
No new jams, but I’m still very into alt-J. I loved their Coachella set on Sirius XMU and am excited that they’re coming to town in October! Who wants to go?
My friend Wes was in town for Easter weekend, so a bunch of us went to the Redbirds/Cardinals exhibition game and to multiple cool places around the city, including the new Rec Room on Broad, which is such a great concept. After moving, I started establishing myself at the neighborhood hangouts immediately. My first meal as a Midtowner was at Central BBQ, because it’s important to kick these things off right. The next week, I took an extra day off to unpack, and Myla and I lunched at the new Aldo’s Pizza location in Cooper-Young. I love it. The rooftop is fantastic, and the place was so new, they didn’t even have a sign out yet. #hipster
Much more new-house stuff to come, but a few of my favorite things thus far: my beautiful kitchen; the dressing table I’ve wanted all my life and found on Craigslist (it’s handmade!); makeshift high heel storage in my over-the-stairwell closet.
I took out my summer wardrobe and packed the sweaters away after I moved, but quickly realized it was a little soon. (Wishful thinking.) I also feel meh about most of my stuff, and the pieces I do love are looking worn. However, this new clearance skirt from Old Navy is making me very happy!
My cat was not happy about the packing up of our old house, and she expressed it as pets often do. After a few days’ panic over the destruction of what was now essentially someone else’s carpet, I bought a spot steam cleaner off Craigslist. It was worth every penny – my stress level went down immediately. So far there’s only been one incident on the carpet in the new house, but I still feel better having this in my arsenal.
In February’s What I’m Into, I mentioned the Rimmel Stay Matte foundation I was trying. After a few weeks I decided it wasn’t working – when you’re still breaking out at 35, you need REAL coverage. (This is also why I can’t use mineral makeup.) I searched my go-to, The Budget Beauty Blog, for recs and settled on Maybelline Fit Me Matte. It’s far more effective than the Rimmel, with the same shine prevention, and I plan to stick with it for the near future!
My brother was also in town for Easter weekend. Hopefully he’ll be back for a longer visit sometime in May.
On The Blog:
To preserve my sanity during my move, I took a vacation from everything but work. Therefore, I didn’t post here for almost three weeks, the longest silence in the history of this blog. And you know what? Nobody died and you’re still reading! Thank you all! I did share about what I’ll miss about my old home, and this week, thoughts on being home at last.
At the Memphis Type History blog, I wrote a piece about Sam Cooper of Sam Cooper Boulevard fame. He was an interesting and accomplished man. I interviewed both Cooper’s daughter and former Memphis mayor Dick Hackett for the story, and felt like a legit journalist. Memphians, I welcome your local history questions! I’m hoping for lots of inspiration now that I live in an actual historic district. (Seriously, how cool is that?)
Posts I Loved:
♥ Leanne Penny: Prayer Is Hard, Chili Is Easier.
♥ Abby at Accidental Devotional: How to Be Counter-Cultural. (It’s not what you think.)
♥ The fabulous Alison Gary: Smug. GET IT, GIRL.
♥ Allison Vesterfelt at Storyline with a revolutionary relationship thought: Don’t Try To Be Humble. Just Try to Be Yourself. (This post made me cry.)
♥ Two excellent posts on singleness: You’re Not Going That Way at Just a Trace, and Success at Little Did She Know. I’d like to hand out copies of Cara’s post to anyone who wonders why I struggle so hard with feelings of failure.
Hope begins in the dark; the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come. – Anne Lamott
Looking at pictures from last summer makes me a little uncomfortable. Underneath my smiles, I can see the soul restlessness and itchiness that started to take hold around this time last year. Suddenly, I wanted things – some easy to articulate, some not – with such intensity that the lack of them sometimes made me feel like I was coming out of my skin. I had a growing awareness that the life I’d lived up to that point couldn’t cut it anymore. The era of quiet contemplation, safety, and solitude was over. I was ready to usher in a new era of excitement and adventure. To get messy and take risks. To be swept away by the unexpected. I was the very personification of a John Green quote. But I wasn’t living in a John Green book, and I didn’t get the plot I was looking for.
By the time fall set in, a few things had changed for the better. But the adrenaline of the summer had altered me, and I knew I was just getting started. I was more and more sure of one thing: I had to move. I wasn’t going to get anything I wanted sitting out in the suburbs. From then on, a part of my consciousness was always pointed toward Midtown, and when I listed my house in February, it pretty much took over. And you know the rest of the story.
I’ve lived in my new Midtown home for about ten days, and friends, life inside the loop is good. So far, it’s everything I hoped for and more. The first stretch was rough: my movers arrived 3.5 hours late and finished moving me around midnight; then, despite careful labeling, I couldn’t find even the most basic things. Including food. But after a real shower and a night in my own bed, I woke up that Saturday morning with a deep sense of peace and lightness I’d honestly forgotten existed. For at least a year, something in my soul had been thrashing around all the time, like a bird throwing itself against the bars of its cage. While I slept well for the first time in my new home, the door opened and the bird flew free. As soon as I opened my eyes, I knew the weight in my chest that had become my normal was gone. Gone. Just like that.
Around 4:00 on my moving afternoon, I was alone at the old house, beginning my long wait for the movers, while my mom went out to get drinks. I noticed an older lady pacing in front of the house, briefly wondered what that was about, then returned to my business. There was a knock at the door. When I opened it, the lady was on the other side. She said, “Hi, I’m Linda. I just bought your house.”
I’ve mentioned before that I thought my buyers were probably going to rent out my house. I have nothing against renters – I planned to rent myself before all this happened. I just wanted someone to personally love the house the way I had, and it seemed doubtful that anyone would. A landlord seemed far more likely to blaze through, rip out my beloved plants, and paint the whole place builder beige. A renter seemed more likely to go, “Eh, this isn’t mine anyway.” I’d accepted this, but it made me sad. It was the only thing I lacked peace about in the move… and then Linda showed up in search of some important mail. I liked her immediately. In one short conversation, I got answers to all the things that hadn’t added up about the sale. I found out she would be living there herself, was very excited about it, that she planned to sew in my sewing room and loves plants. She looked right at me and said, “I don’t want you to worry about your plants.” In that moment, she was God showing up in the flesh, unmistakably holding out His hands and saying, Go in peace. It was the tying up of the last loose end, and the second moment of this year when I knew God loved me, because it was such an obvious and unnecessary blessing.
Right now, everything about my new life is exciting and magical. I’m prancing around and singing the joys of city life like Tracy Turnblad, and my first trip to the Cash Saver felt like going to Disney World. My new home is exactly right for me, and I’m not discouraged by the challenges of downsizing and having a more open floor plan. To people who move a lot or make huge life changes as a matter of course, I probably seem like a crazy person. So you moved across town. Big deal. But this is much bigger than a simple move across town. This is my declaration, my claiming of who and what I am right now, not who I was or who I once hoped to be. This is about a home I chose for myself, free of ghosts. This is about knowing I’m in the right place at the right time, and as a result, feeling actual hope for my near future. In a long half-decade of disappointment, this is the first really big thing that’s gone right. My spiritual eyes have grown accustomed to the dark. Now I’m blinking, disoriented, and don’t quite trust that I’ll be allowed to stay long in the light. But while it lasts, I’m going to enjoy it for all it’s worth.
With less than a week to go until my move, I’ve been reflecting a lot about what I will and won’t miss. When I first thought seriously about moving, I had a vision of a nice family who would love my house and be happy there – who would build on all my TLC and fulfill what I had originally intended the home to be for myself. I hope I’m wrong, but based on what I know, my buyers don’t fit that bill. They’re likely buying it as an investment property and may not feel much connection to it at all. That makes saying goodbye sadder, even though I’m so ready for this change. So I want to pay tribute to a few things and rejoice in my coming freedom from others.
Things I Will Miss:
My hammock and trees (pictured above). In my backyard are two maple trees perfectly spaced for a hammock. Over the years, I’ve spent countless hours there. I may write more about my hammock later.
My flowers. Eight and a half years ago, the only “landscaping” at my house was a few scraggly boxwood hedges, which we tore out to plant azaleas. (I’m against plant murder, but I’d always wanted a row of azaleas, and someone took the boxwoods and replanted them elsewhere.) Almost every plant on my property was chosen, planted, and nurtured by me. I invested in perennials I thought I’d enjoy for many years to come. I’ve planted a hydrangea, roses, hostas, peonies, a gardenia, daffodils, hyacinths, salvia, and lilies. My favorite summer-evening activity used to be taking a turn around the yard to admire everything. I’ve put so much love and work (and money) into my plants, and the possibility that the new owners might just rip them out breaks my heart. Hopefully that won’t happen and they’ll bring joy to someone new this summer.
My vegetable garden. Again, this raised bed has been the work of many years. For the last several springs, my dad has gotten advice and special soil for me from the owner of Bartlett Nursery. I’m going to miss that tradition.
My custom master bathroom, and walk-in closet. Both things of beauty that have made me very happy.
Living close to my parents. This arrangement would be disastrous for many people, but it’s been pretty good for me – and so convenient when siblings are in town. We’ll have to be more intentional now about seeing each other.
Having a garage. Especially in winter – I hate scraping the windshield.
City Hall Park. Many memories have been made in this park down the street. It’s where I started running and where I first met my friend Elizabeth. I’ve gone alone, with friends, with friends’ kids and even my niece. A bagpiper used to practice there on Saturday mornings and you could hear him from blocks away. I love the pictured grove of trees so much that I took this series of photos of them in all seasons.
My yoga class. I’ve attended yoga at the nearby community center for almost eight years. Thankfully my yoga teacher and friend, Paula, has another class in town that I can switch to, but it’s a lot larger and has a different vibe.
My deep freezer. There’s no space for it in my new home. But my brother is taking it, so I might get it back someday.
My yard rabbit. He’s lived under my shed for about a year. I last saw him in February right before a big storm and don’t know if he’ll come out to say goodbye before I go. I wish I could take him with me.
Things I Won’t Miss:
Living in my car. No more long, daily commute to work, church, downtown, Overton Square, etc. I’ll only have to deal with our city’s endless road construction when I go to community band practice or to my parents’. I’ve been given the gift of time!
Yard work. So much time. So much dirt. So much frustration over machines that suddenly break down or won’t start at all despite being fixed repeatedly.
Birch trees and out-of-control plant. Lest you think I adore all plants unconditionally, I’ve been annoyed by my birch trees since I moved in. They drop pollen-heavy pods in spring and shed crunchy leaves relentlessly throughout the summer and fall. Meanwhile, I don’t know what this shrub on the side of the house is, but it needs constant pruning to keep it in check. If I wasn’t against gratuitous plant murder as aforementioned, I’d have gotten rid of it long ago.
Sirens. I live on an established corridor for emergency vehicles. I fully expect my new street in the heart of the city to be quieter.
Taking my own recycling to the center. I worried about where to put my large recycle bins in the new place before realizing I wouldn’t need them. In the city you get weekly recycling pickup. Woo hoo!
And the most important thing I won’t miss… Isolation. I’ve had a few friends near me in the burbs, but I don’t see them a ton. And for the most part, no one who doesn’t live in Bartlett wants to drive out to Bartlett. Seeing friends usually means planning ahead and going into town. In my new place, I’ll be in the middle of everything. I can hang out spontaneously and without it being a huge deal. Friends will want to come over. I CAN’T WAIT.
Found: A Story of Questions, Grace, and Everyday Prayer by Micha Boyett (4.5 stars)
I’d never read Micha Boyett’s blog or poetry until I read this memoir, but she’s a kindred spirit. Having grown up planning to do Great Things For God, she now struggles deeply with whether her small life as a wife and mom is Enough. Inspired by the practices of Benedictine monks, she works on applying their philosophies to her everyday life and faith. At first I was a little wary that this might be a Mom Book I couldn’t relate to, but that was not the case at all. Boyett is a fantastic writer and her words will refresh your soul.
What Stands in a Storm: Three Days in the Worst Superstorm to Hit the South’s Tornado Alley by Kim Cross (3.5 stars)
I reviewed this here.
Does This Church Make Me Look Fat?: A Mennonite Finds Faith, Meets Mr. Right, and Solves Her Lady Problems by Rhoda Janzen (4 stars)
I haven’t read Janzen’s first memoir, Mennonite in a Little Black Dress, but I still tracked with this second installment. It’s exactly what the title indicates. Practical and intellectual by nurture and trade (she’s a professor), Janzen finds herself dating a Pentecostal man’s man and falling in love both with him and his church community. Their support becomes even more important when she finds out she has breast cancer. This is a weird thing to say, but I feel like she strikes the perfect attitude about having cancer – positive yet realistic. Overall I related to and was inspired by her guarded openness and willingness to experience new things.
I’ll Give You The Sun by Jandy Nelson (3 stars)
I’m still not sure what to make of this novel. It’s straight-up magical realism, so if you can’t suspend your disbelief and embrace the hippie woo-woo, you’re not going to like it. But it is a beautifully written story of twins, Noah and Jude, who’ve become estranged due to family tragedy and misunderstandings. Both are artists, and I loved all the stuff about art and the creative process.
Soul Keeping: Caring for the Most Important Part of You by John Ortberg (5 stars)
It took me almost a month to read Soul Keeping because it was so profound. John Ortberg expounds on the importance of the soul to every aspect of our existence. Much of the wisdom he shares comes from his longtime mentor, Dallas Willard, who died in 2013. I really needed this book and will revisit it in the future.
UnSweetined by Jodie Sweetin (3 stars)
As a member of the Full House generation, I couldn’t resist checking out this memoir by Stephanie Tanner herself, Jodie Sweetin. It wasn’t what I expected. She does share some fun gossip about the show, but her story centers on her nearly-lifelong cycle of drug and alcohol abuse. Having begun a demanding acting career at a very young age, Sweetin never felt like she got to be a kid or figure out who she really was. When she had her first drink in high school, it gave her the sense of confidence and identity she craved, and several long, destructive benders followed. But after two marriages and a few rounds of rehab, she’s now a mom and is determined to stay sober for her daughter. This book made me sad, both for her and for all those who struggle with severe addictions. It’s such a hard road to walk.
Books for March: 6
2015 year to date: 19
This March, like many others before it, began in Snowmageddon and ended in daffodils and blue skies. My Tigers didn’t go to any tournaments on account of the worst season in a decade, but I enjoyed March Madness anyway – and am still in the top ten in my department’s bracket pool even though I picked Arizona. I attended the baptism of two good friends’ son, and helped another close friend through the sudden loss of her cat. I went to Dan McGuinness for St. Patrick’s Day. I played a fun Night at the Movies concert with the community band. I went out even more than usual (this will be covered below).
But these were sidebars to the central business of my March: real estate. I got two offers on my house. The first one resulted in the buyers walking away after a stressful week of negotiation. The second was a cash offer that arrived the morning I looked at the Midtown townhouse of my dreams. Everything was arranged within 48 hours and I’m moving in just over two weeks. It’s been a whirlwind, and getting out of the burbs is costing me way more than I imagined, but I’m very lucky and VERY READY to be moving on with my life after only six weeks on the market.
I read a variety of memoirs, a novel, and two books so spiritually rich I had to take my time: Soul Keeping by John Ortberg, and Found by Micha Boyett. Highly recommended.
I’m inexplicably obsessed with “FourFive Seconds” by Rihanna, Kanye, and Paul McCartney (it’s a messed-up world when Sir Paul gets third billing on that track). I’m also liking Aussie indie artist Courtney Barnett, who’s raw yet somehow cheery. Put me on a pedestal and I’ll only disappoint you.
As usual, you can listen to my 2015 playlist in process on Spotify.
I crossed A LOT of Midtown restaurants off my list this month. I went to brunch at Second Line and 3 Angels Diner, and finally checked out LBOE and Lafayette’s. I also continued to be a regular at Belly Acres. As in, it’s becoming a joke…
…and apparently I wear the same sweater every time I go there. What can I say, I’ve lost interest in my winter clothes.
My church parish attended a Grizzlies game, my first of the season (for shame). The Grizz beat the Lakers. I also went to a Third Day concert with a friend. I can’t tolerate most CCM, but Third Day is one of the few Christian bands I’ve always liked. Mac is soooo soulful.
I can’t remember where I heard about this packing tape for each room of your house, but it’s awesome! I’ve been sealing boxes with regular tape and then slapping the appropriate room tape across it as a label. The movers will know exactly where to put everything. *explodes in nerdy organizational glitter*
A few months ago, I ordered Makeup Revolution’s Iconic 2 eyeshadow palette (a dupe for the Urban Decay Naked 2) after reading about it on a beauty blog. I’ve been pleased by the quality and versatility, but I’m a color-loving girl – I can’t do neutrals exclusively. So I splurged on their I ♥ Makeup I Heart Chocolate palette, which is a dupe for the Too Faced Chocolate Bar. The colors are great, and the fun packaging has a nice weight to it and a good-sized mirror. I should never need anything else for traveling! Plus, ordering makeup from London is fun in itself.
I continue to be so happy at my new church, thankful to be among these people and part of what they’re trying to do together and in our city. In my heart, I’m still not in the greatest place spiritually, but church is my lifeline. When I feel discouraged and like God has forgotten me, I remind myself that He (promptly) answered my prayers and SHOWED UP in this very important area when I felt lost and frustrated. I point myself to church as The Thing That Worked Out.
I’ve also felt surrounded by love in the midst of my moving process. I’m overwhelmed by how many friends have offered to help with whatever I need, and actually mean it. Everyone has been so supportive and excited for me, and patient with my self-absorption while I sort out all these details. It’s crazy.
Some friends and I spontaneously went to look at cats one afternoon, and it was fun. I’m still not in a hurry to get a new companion cat for Peach (or totally sure that it’s the right move), but I like that since I’m buying again instead of renting, I have the option. Most of the rentals I saw, if they allowed pets at all, limited it to one. I didn’t like the idea of officially dooming Peach to be alone the rest of her life.
I’ve been thinking about this story a lot. There’s so much to examine in it. I’ve been like Mary, too hurt by Jesus not showing up “in time” to come to Him right away. I’ve been like Martha, who still tried to give Jesus the Sunday-school answer in the midst of her blunt grief. But wherever I am, I need this Jesus, the one who didn’t sweep Martha’s loss and pain aside and expect her to be satisfied in the knowledge that all would be well someday at the end of time. The one who cried with her and told her, no, it’s going to be well RIGHT NOW. Now stand back while I raise the dead. That is a Jesus who speaks to my soul.
Pinterest Quote of the Month:
On The Blog:
For my sanity, I’m taking a little step back from the blog until the move is complete. However, I wrote at the beginning of the month about owning your calling and what you are. I also had two posts published at Memphis Type History: one about the Park Cosmorama sign, and one about the history of Normal Station.
Posts I Loved:
♥ Tara at No Need for Mirrors: I Will Never Be Skinny: My Complicated Relationship with Fitness
♥ Local blogger Alex at The Wise Guise: On Jake Gyllenhaal, Drake, and Inspiration
♥ My SIPster Esther on A Hater’s Reasons for Running. (PS, she’s up to over nine miles now, so she’s kicking my butt.)
♥ YA author Jody Casella talks about sabotaging our own dreams in Panicking Over Poetry.
♥ Ruth Rutherford examines us single girls’ Colbie Caillat-vs.-Pink dual philosophy in In a Slump.
♥ Abby at Accidental Devotional: Rilla at the Roller Derby: On Raising Dangerous Women
♥ The great Kate Schell: How to Be Okay When You Are Not Okay
♥ Jamie the Very Worst Missionary: Let Us Pray. (Excerpt: “If you believe in God’s will, but you also believe in Shit Happens, how then should you pray? Or I guess maybe the real question is: Why should you pray?”)
♥ Soulation has had a major positive impact on my life. Dale and Jonalyn Fincher are honest, sincere, and passionate, and they love spirited discussions about topics most mainstream Christians won’t touch. I read all their books and articles and even went to a Gathering in 2013. Now Soulation may have to close down if they can’t get more donors. Please check them out, and tell your friends about it if you like what you see!
My house has been on the market about six weeks. Up until last weekend, I’d had a lot of showings and two offers (which I know is fantastic for such a short time), but nothing had panned out. Meanwhile, the Midtown rental environment was consistently bleak for my preferences and price range. Anything good I saw got snatched up immediately. I’d toured one apartment that could work, but I wasn’t over the moon about it. A week ago, on my daily check of all the housing websites, I felt so bummed I decided to browse the properties for purchase. Maybe I’d find something that someone was willing to rent out to a responsible tenant.
The first property that caught my eye was a two-story townhouse that looked vaguely familiar. As I scrolled through the pictures, all I could think was, This is perfect. Everything was exactly my style, and the complex was completely remodeled a few years ago. No impending large-appliance breakdowns. No garage door to collapse (yes, this happened to me). No worries about the roof. No decor disasters needing immediate attention. There was a patio and a balcony (I’ve wanted a balcony all my life). But the sticker price was a lot higher than my current home. Sighing, I forwarded the link to two friends, adding, “Check out this amazing place I can’t afford!” Then I ran the mortgage calculator on the website, and to my amazement, the theoretical monthly payment would actually be less than many of the so-so rentals I’d seen. (The value of low interest rates: something you don’t know if you bought your first and only home in 2006.) From day one, I’d been dead set against buying again anytime soon. I wanted flexibility and a break from the whole homeowner thing. But none of my current homeowner concerns applied to this townhouse, and it’s in a neighborhood that’s only going to increase in value. If everything was as it seemed, I decided I’d be stupid not to do it. So I asked Lexie, my Realtor, if we could see it on Saturday.
I was supposed to look at another apartment on Saturday morning, but ended up running out of time before meeting friends in the area for brunch. I decided to do a drive-by of the townhouse on my way over. It’s in a historic district, on a street I’d never driven down before that was designed to be one of the loveliest in Memphis. The street is lined with spectacular homes and huge trees that are just beginning to flower, and ends in an actual cathedral (which, incidentally, has a lot of personal significance for one of my best friends). I was crying before I even saw the townhouse. Just the possibility of living in such a beautiful, perfectly located place was emotionally overwhelming. Then I looked at my phone and saw a text from Lexie: We are going to get a cash offer from a retired single lady. She wants to know how quickly you can move. I got chills. I knew in that moment that this was probably happening.
After brunch, I met her to tour the townhouse. It lived up to all my expectations. The next afternoon, we came back with my parents (my dad, who’s been displeased by this whole venture, did an immediate 180 at the words “mortgage” and “gated community”). 48 hours later, I signed papers accepting the cash offer on my house and purchasing the townhouse. It happened that fast. I don’t recommend changing your long-term plans and making multiple huuuuuge decisions and financial commitments within such a short time. Doing this alone has been an intense battle, I’ve melted down several times, and my sister’s multiple daily calls to say I’m doing a good job have kept me afloat. But though I’ve had some terrified moments, I really believe this is what I’m meant to do. The timing and other signs are too obvious to ignore.
I had low expectations of my new life, housing-wise. I figured I might have to live somewhere a little dumpy, with some inconveniences, and I wasn’t thrilled about being beholden to a landlord again. But that seemed like a small price to pay for the change I desperately need. I never thought I’d get to own a place that’s perfect for me, with all the creature comforts I’m accustomed to, exactly where I want to be, exactly when I wanted to be there. I almost feel guilty about it. I feel spoiled. It’s too good.
My friend Myla was one of the first people I told what was going on, and she said, “This is good because it’s proof you can still be surprised by your life.” I love that. I’ve been plenty surprised by my life before, but the overwhelming majority have been tricks, not treats. I’ve been telling God a lot lately how much I need Him to come through for me in some way, that I need to change my life and I can’t do it without Him, but I’m so worn down I honestly had no expectations that He would. When my parents got so excited about this possibility, I dreaded having to deal with their crushed hopes on top of my own. The evidence of years has led me to believe that, for whatever big-picture divine reason, I’m marked for disappointment. I’ve felt like Charlie Brown, running up to the football over and over on the faint hope that maybe this time Lucy won’t pull it away. Well, it looks like I’ve been allowed a kick at last, and it feels like a field goal that could change the course of the whole game.
And: remember how I said the townhouse seemed familiar to me? Lexie figured out why. A month or two ago, the current owner posted it on his Facebook, and a friend saw it and tagged me because she knew I was hunting. I told her thanks, but I wasn’t interested in buying and it was way out of my price range anyway. And now here we are. Life is funny. More to come.
PS: In addition to going through the house-selling and moving process, I’m in the midst of a crazy time and big transition at work. This (plus my Memphis Type History gig) has left me few brain cells with which to tend to this blog, and for the sake of my health, I’m choosing not to force it. Thanks for sticking with me while I take a little break. I WILL be back full force eventually.
As I headed home from work on April 27, 2011, I heard on the radio that a large tornado, probably an EF5, had just hit Tuscaloosa, Alabama and was on its way to Birmingham. When I got home, I turned on the Weather Channel immediately and watched, transfixed, as they filmed the tornado’s approach toward downtown from a hill outside its path. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing, live, while the sun shone outside my own window.
Later, my sister called to report that my brother-in-law’s hometown of Cullman had been hit by another large tornado that afternoon. Thankfully, all of his family members were okay and had minimal property damage. With the intense coverage of the Tuscaloosa tornado, I didn’t quite grasp the magnitude of the earlier Cullman storm until I was there for Thanksgiving that fall. Lance’s mom swung by downtown to show me the damage, and sure enough, even in the dark, six months later, you could see the tornado’s path clearly. I noticed on that trip that many households in Cullman were displaying the same professional photo of the tornado with its two funnels, blacker and more ominous than any clouds I’ve ever seen in person. Maybe they wanted a constant reminder of what they’d survived, from what they’d been spared. I probably would.
Kim Cross’s What Stands in a Storm: Three Days in the Worst Superstorm to Hit the South’s Tornado Alley is a chronological retelling of the largest tornado outbreak in recorded history through the eyes of the people who lived it. Cross follows legendary Birmingham weatherman James Spann and his staff; a group of University of Alabama students and roommates in Tuscaloosa, and their families and friends; and multiple witnesses and first responders. Her research is thorough, her interviews are compassionate, and she explains the technical weathery details in a very understandable way. At times, the writing felt excessively dramatic to me… but so was the event itself. Plus, describing a tornado’s destruction poetically in 20 different ways must be no small feat.
Although sad, What Stands in a Storm is a fascinating, suspenseful read that gave me perspective on what the people of Alabama endured that crazy day. I hope this tornado outbreak stands alone in history for a very long time.
Recommended for: fellow weather nerds, Alabamans
I received this book free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
We’ve had several ice and freezing rain events in Memphis this winter, but on Wednesday night, we finally got a few inches of snow (on top of an inch or so of sleet). I know you Northerners are already laughing at me, but Memphis hadn’t had more than an inch of snow since December 2011, so this was a big, exciting deal!
It was an especially pretty snow, light and fluffy.
This was the view down the middle of my street at about 9 am before I settled in to work (thankfully I have a laptop and the option of working from home in these situations). So I couldn’t go four-wheeling, build a snowman, or sled down my driveway, but I worked at my dining table so I could enjoy the snowy view. It was a luxury to have time to make myself a real breakfast, too.
And of course I popped out into the yard a couple of times.
In the afternoon, the sun came out, but the snow remained. If we had snow on the ground all winter, making everything look crisp and clean and the sunlight brighter, I’d probably find winter more bearable.
I had high hopes of spotting my yard rabbit in the snow – I saw him at the bird feeder about a month ago, so I know he’s still living under my shed. If he ventured out, I didn’t witness it, but I’m pretty sure I saw his tracks! (And several others’. The size of some animal tracks close to my back door was a little alarming. Maybe a stray cat?)
The rest of the wildlife was out and about, though.
Toward the end of the day, I found Peach purposefully having a moment of summer. So I joined her.
This morning as I opened the blinds, I noticed a beautiful full moonset in the west. I threw on my boots and a coat and ran out to look at it in my pajamas. Crunching through the snow in the early light made me feel like I was at a ski resort instead of in my own neighborhood.
If winter is smart, it’ll leave now on a high note!
Milestone: I no longer feel weird calling myself a writer. Even out loud. To strangers. Even when they follow up with, “Oh, what do you write?” and my response is “I have a blog” (though I can now add “…and I write for Memphis Type History,” which sounds slightly more accomplished).
Because writing was never really presented to me as a valid (read: secure) career choice, legitimizing my own writing took me many years. I used to think that since I didn’t have a published book on a shelf, wasn’t being paid to write, and had no guarantee that either of those things would ever happen, there was no point in truly pursuing writing. That would be embarrassing proof that I cared too much about my silly, selfish hobby and, even worse, believed other people might care too. But a few years ago, I started taking halting steps toward progress. The dam broke in 2013, when I took a Story 101 course that addressed wounds and fears I never even knew I had as a woman, Christian, writer. I cried a lot and then I was finally ready to take myself seriously.
While authenticity and humility are really important to me, I think some degree of “fake it till you make it” is unavoidable when you’re first starting to own your calling. If I hadn’t done that, I never would have started. (Some days that’s still true.) I had to fake a confidence I didn’t feel. I had to choose to turn my back on the Regina George-like critic in my head, eternally rolling her eyes and saying, Stop acting like this matters. All you’re doing is talking about your loser feelings and epiphanies. Noooooo one caaaaaares.
Now I can shut her up about 75% of the time. I can approach my writing as work. Good work that I want and even need to do for my own wellness, but work, because it has weight. It means something. It takes a lot of guts to believe this day-to-day, because it repeatedly raises the challenge, Who do you think you are? You can’t believe in the work you were made to do until you know and believe in what you are. I know in my bones, in a way I didn’t a few years ago, that writing is my ministry and what I was made to do. Even though it’s not perfect, God can still use it. Even if I never earn a cent from it, it’s my job. Even if I never have a significant number of readers, I am here to talk to those 50 people. Even when people say my vulnerability is stupid and I should stop caring so much about things, I will brush myself off and continue on. Because writing is my main vehicle for my increasingly sure purpose: to be a voice for the voiceless. Not on a save-the-orphans, end-world-poverty scale, but on an everyday human scale. For those who are still too afraid to speak up and open up (as I was for much of my life). In my experience, isolation and shame are the devil’s greatest tools. We pretend everything’s great and life isn’t hard because we want to look like we have it all together. We struggle with so many of the same things, but we stay alone in the dark because we’re too afraid to talk about them. If I can give someone the courage to bring their own junk out into the light and find hope and healing there, I’m willing to look a little foolish. As the great philosopher Miranda Lambert once said, “Somebody’s gotta walk into the night, and I’m gonna be that one.”
Whatever your gifts are, you don’t have to use them on a huge, impressive scale for them to matter. They already matter even if the only recipients are your family and friends or even just yourself. You can start developing them and taking them seriously right now. You’ll be surprised by the sense of confirmation and fulfillment you will feel. And if anyone asks you, Who do you think you are? or Who gave you permission?, tell them to come talk to me.