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Today we signed a lease for a new place in LA, and we’re so excited, but not just because it’s bigger, with a yard and a pool and a cute little patio, on a quiet tree-lined street, but because we just did a thing neither of us ever really expected we’d do. And we LOVE surprising ourselves.

Six years ago, we were living in Brooklyn, and we needed to move. Our grocery store had closed down, which had changed the landscape of our neighborhood dramatically – something you can really only understand if you have lived in New York City. I couldn’t imagine committing to another apartment, because that meant committing to Brooklyn for another year. So we didn’t. We found a house back in Texas, and we left.

For years I have gone back to that moment, the moment I chose to leave. I’ve examined it from different angles, in different light, under a microscope of new experience, lessons learned. I never question my choice, but recently I began to question the reason behind it. I was afraid of that really being where I lived. I was afraid of not making it there. I couldn’t commit because I didn’t believe I was capable, or it was right.

We don’t have to move in LA. Our apartment is nice. We have a Starbucks right across the street. Our landlord is low-key. But still I knew— as I began to make new commitments in LA, and my son wanted friends over, wanted space, more autonomy, and my dreams began to take shape in big ways— we were starting to outgrow the walls of our apartment.

Examining your feelings can be SCARY. It always surprises me what I’m actually feeling at all when I take the time to look closely. When I saw this house was for lease, I knew, in that small place reserved for absolutes, this was my house. It was easy to choose it, and then easier to pursue it with bulldog tenacity. Then easier still to work through the challenges that arose, the fears, the stretching. It was easy because I DECIDED it would be.

Guys. I cannot stress to you enough how important that part of the equation is. Deciding to believe, or not believe, will make the difference. Faith is not about what it visible and proven, it is about what you believe without seeing.

So when I signed the lease today, sent the money, drove by again to glimpse my future, I wasn’t scared of all the unknown ahead of me. I was excited for all the growing I get to do in that bigger, brighter house. Because now there is space for something MORE.

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When the Moving Dust Settles

When moving to a new state or city, country or provence, the hardest part comes after all the dust settles, and all the fun exploration putters to an end. When then, in the light of a still warm sun, you have to commence real life.

This summer, my young family and I moved to LA from Texas. We left a comfortable home, a thriving social circle, and a lower cost of living, and drove across the American Southwest in our freshly hail-dented Jeep. At no point on the four day journey did I think this transition would be easy, yet never once did I question if it would be right.

When we arrived in LA, the wave of relief that washed over me was almost as powerful as the ocean pulsing only a few miles West. We had survived, and that horrible prick of pain in leaving was felt a little bit less.

Summer passed as it always does when you have school age children: too fast, in a haze of sunlight and swimming, adventure-finding and dreaming. And every one of those days I wondered, will today be the day we break down, realize how hard it really is to leave everything behind for a hope in a future we can barely just taste? Today, will we long for the people we were before we sold off our home and waved goodbye to our family and friends?

But we didn’t. We were having too much fun to notice the pain. Were too busy exploring the city to sense how hard that pain still clung to our heels. Too in love with the hills and the palm trees, too soothed by the smell of the sea, to feel the pieces we’d left behind that were now missing.

And then summer ended.

Fast as the lightning we haven’t seen since May, the last time we were in a storm in Texas, the realness of this move shot through us. School started, and with it came the realization that we were not playing at living here, we were really doing it.

It hit my son hardest of all. This wasn’t his school, with his friends, and his teachers he recognized. This wasn’t his routine with all it’s comforts and predictability. This wasn’t Texas. This wasn’t home.

And it wasn’t easy. Because as his anger settled over him, my guilt ballooned. I was the reason we’d moved, and now here I was forcing him to accept it all over again, and this time he didn’t want to. And for a solid day, I genuinely, earnestly just wanted to run away. Because here pain was now grabbing my ankles, climbing my shins, and here I was with nothing to bat it away.

In these moments, the very best advice I can give is this: feel it all. Allow every itchy, ugly, vulnerable thought to crash over you. Let the violence of loss growl in the depths of your throat. And then get up, make a cup of tea, and find some way to face the rest of your day.

For these past two weeks we have had to do that. Through long hot walks and brutal conversations. Through weeping and yelling and silent treatment. Through feeling embarrassed. Through dumplings and cocktails and ice cream. Through journaling and role playing and gaming. It has not been easy, living in this moment alongside the pain, but, today, it finally started to feel better.

The reality is, we all have to face our fear that the choices we make are not the right ones. If we don’t face it, we leave ourselves vulnerable to doubt, and worry, and the nagging sensation that we are just one wrong move away from utter destruction. Moving states, cities, countries is never easy. Leaving family and friends always sucks. But staying where we are when we know we shouldn’t is worse than the pain of saying goodbye.

Acceptance is a stage of grief. On the other side is Life waiting for you. New adventure. Scary and fun and weird moments you couldn’t have had while wallowing in what was lost. Today, as I watched my son resign himself to walk into his new school without panicking, I knew he was close to that, and moments away from whatever wonderful thing awaited him.

The most important part of moving, is moving on. Not looking over your shoulder for the chance to run back. Not longing for the way it once was. But being thankful, and being willing, and then just simply being right here.

 

 

Post-its to Somewhere

My house is covered in post-its.

Not because I’m mapping out a new story or making notes on a revision, not for the purpose of tracking plot lines or marking pages in a well-worn manual.

In less than thirty-days, I am moving. Those post-its, colored pink and green and orange are a map to the belongings staying behind, going to family, friends, the donation pile, or, the pink ones, scrawled messy with the word Cali — those are going with me

In less than thirty-days, I am moving to California.

The first time I ran away from home I was nine-years-old, armed with a pink and purple Caboodles box and a few peanut butter sandwiches. I was running to Hollywood, seeking fortune and fame and a producer for my screenplay handwritten in a composition notebook. I walked down our gravel drive to a busy road and turned left— West, I thought. Traipsing ankle deep through bluebonnets, jelly sandals stuck with stickers, sunglasses slipping down my already pink, freckled nose, I imagined hitching a ride on a bus across the American Southwest. These were the dreams of a Full House fan with a Pollyanna heart.

I made it to the corner before my older brother caught me. He hauled me back up the drive, his grip tight around my scrawny arm, berating me the whole way, but nevertheless promising just this once that he wasn’t gonna tell Mom. He also informed me that I wasn’t walking toward California, but was actually headed Southeast, which he proved by flipping open his compass and flashing it at me in the late evening light.

I never promised not to run away again. I just promised I’d be better at it when I did.

In twenty-two days I will get in the car before daylight, snuggle my son against his pillow and secure the dogs in their seats. I’ll pull up the map on my phone, a modern compass complete with step-by-step vocal instruction, and my husband will put the car into drive. We’ll traipse across open desert and through National Forests. We’ll stay in hotels friendly to dogs with pools favorable to a kid who’s part fish. We will be grouchy and scared shitless and together.

When I was fourteen, I planned an escape. My family was living in Colorado and every Sunday I drove by an interstate bus stop on my way to church. I had it worked out. I was going to board a bus bound for California, or Vegas, the Grand Canyon or Yosemite. I was older and had figured out which way was West, knew a few routes, could pass for eighteen and get jobs along the way. When I was fifteen we moved back to Texas and suddenly there were too many states in between, hurdles, and daydreams and the cute boy in the band.

But I never gave up, even when I forgot what I’d wanted.

Now I’m not nine, I’m not fifteen, and I’m not running at all.

I am chasing.

I’m a woman in hot pursuit of the illusive yet very real thing.

My caboodles box is a red and white POD and all my most useful belongings are post-it marked Cali. My bus is a black Jeep Patriot. My companions are a little boy with big dreams, two dogs with wagging tails, and a husband who’s happy to drive.

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A Picture Post of Packing

“It’s good to do uncomfortable things. It’s weight training for life.”
― Anne LamottPlan B: Further Thoughts on Faith

Exhaustion is an overwhelming feeling. It dulls all other sensations. I imagine the next days and weeks, the detox of my emotions will yield an interesting uncovering of my feelings. I don’t know how most people deal with major life changes, but I tend to deal by pushing forward. I set my eyes on where I am going, and little can distract from that.

Some would say that kind of single-mindedness is a gift. I don’t know if I would agree. For me, I know no other way. It just is what it is. It is never comfortable, and then, when it is over, the wave of all I have held at bay rushes over me.

Yesterday we finished packing and loaded a POD to the brim. I’ll easily admit that I was not connected to the process for a lot of its unfolding. I wasn’t crying or laughing. I wasn’t fighting or relaxing. I was only being swept along by the current of events set in motion.

Then my son said goodbye to his best friend. Goodbye, from such little mouths, with such sweet faces, distracted me from my purpose enough to feel it. And I cried. I cried enough to know that there will be more tears.

Tears are funny. (Odd statement, I know.) They come in happiness, in sadness, in anger, in desperation. The breakdown walls we build up with pretense. They remind us we are not machines. We are feeling human beings. We lose and gain. We begin and end. Then we do it all again.

A special thanks goes out to Brian, John, and Stephen. The move would not have happened without you fellas. My love goes to my Brooklyn family — Nadia, Jonah, Sophia, Harold, Julie and Lewis — you gave me gifts everyday by your presence. To my landlord — a huge thanks for the home and the peace-of-mind in having such good people looking out for us. To my Manhattan pals — Amy and Anna — your fabulousness is unmatched.

Now, a sampling of the process by picture!

Brooklyn Bye Bye

We are moving. This is evidenced in our home by boxes and bubble wrap and tape guns strewn on tables and stacked in corners. We are going from here to somewhere else. So goes our belongings. It’s funny how moving makes everything feel new again. Not unfamiliar or shiny, that’s not what I mean by new. I mean unbroken. Untarnished. The edges all smooth, not chipped. No missing pieces.

The lingering irritation you might have felt with your home before you began to pack falls away. It is replaced by the whimsy of memory. You love, again, the creaking 100 year old floors that are beautiful but grating when you just want to pee in the middle of the night without waking up your son.

You suddenly realize you will miss briskly walking fifteen blocks home from dinner in the bitter cold, or the scent of garbage mixing with baking bread as you do. There will be a certain emptiness, and yes, peace to your morning now that the intoxicated local woman who brings your dog treats from the liquor store, won’t be able to violate your personal space on the benches outside Connecticut Muffin.

There is a loneliness to going about your day without a stranger asking how much you pay in rent, or telling you you’re too young to be a mother.

There is a disconcerting quiet to a world without city noise. A world where your son and his best friend can’t migrate back and forth between your home and your upstairs neighbors home.

Paths
Paths

We are happy to begin a new adventure, but it is with weeping we pack up this one. The charms of Brooklyn, which read like annoyances to outsiders, are what make this life here what it is. It is odd encounters with rough diamonds. It is food for the creative. It is the city that never sleeps, but that reminds you why you must.

Tonight I remember the joys, not the heartache, of being a transplant in the five boroughs. In my borough. In Brooklyn. In the future when I visit, I will once again be an outsider, but for a couple more days, I am a Brooklynite. And I am proud.

Chapters End

Credit John Maxwell's Writers Refuge
Credit John Maxwell’s Writers Refuge

My relative radio silence for the last few weeks may seem a little odd. No, it’s not that I was sequestered in my writing cave, hunkered over a desk sculpting words like clay. I have not been deathly ill with an exotic disease you can only contract in the Amazon jungle, therefor indicating I was in the Amazon jungle and that’s why I wasn’t writing.

It’s only that we have been preparing for a major life change and so I have been quiet. I have been waiting to share until what I was sharing was less transparent-like.

About a month ago, my husband and I made the decision to move back to Texas. This was a hard fought choice. When we moved to Brooklyn almost two years ago, we were babies with a baby. We had no idea how significant this move would be in our lives.

And we have cherished, sometimes begrudgingly, the chance to live in a city most people only dream of living in. As I said in my “About” page, moving to New York changed my perspective on what kind of writer I was going to be.

It made me a writer.

The challenge of living here, and the bursting creative energy that is New York City, was a force behind the novel I am now revising for publication.

I am thankful to New York City for her help.

Now I have to go. It’s hard to say exactly when we knew the time here was coming to an end, but once we knew we made the move. We’ve always been this way, and I hope that never changes.

Over the next weeks we will be packing our apartment, finalizing details of our move, and waiting in earnest to see the purchase of a new home come through. I will try to share as much of the transition with you as possible.

We want to send out a very heartfelt thanks to our Brooklyn friends. The life we have had up here has worked because you guys found us and we you.

If you look at life like a novel, (and when you are a writer of a novel, everything becomes comparable to the writing process) you see that chapters don’t end without connecting to the next. Backstory, action, characters woven through the narrative, create the overall arc. Nothing is random, and nothing ends. Until the end anyway.

What I’m trying to say — and maybe not saying clearly — is that this is not a goodbye. This is a turning of a page. A chapter that leads to another chapter, and the work I’ve done developing my life in Brooklyn, will not be scrapped for revision.

This move is not the beginning of a new book. It’s the continuation of my family’s story arc.

My husband and I watched Battlestar Galactica for all four seasons. (I must be careful here, because when the BSG comparison floodgates open, with the waters come my longing.) BSG was a show that completed it’s arcs well. It built a meticulous framework, filled it in, roofed it off, and then landscaped it.

What I learned from BSG (besides some new curse words) was simple: everything is connected when telling a story. Every story must be filled with peaks and valley’s, comings and goings, location changes and losses. And in the end, every part of the story matters equally. If it doesn’t, it wouldn’t end up in the final draft or make it through post-production.

I intend on keeping New York a part of my life for years to come. I intend to have to because of my career. And I expect it not to be long before I am visiting. (And crashing on above mentioned friends couch/second bedroom.)

Now on to the wild lands of Texas again!

Pending the signing of a Warranty Deed and funding, my husband and I will once again be homeowners. So I leave you with the wisdom of Stewie Griffon and whatever you are able to glean from it.