Monday, March 17, 2014

This is unreal


I wore my best sundress – it was strapless and floral, with a light blue ribbon that tied around the waist. I stood with the rest of the people at the airport, nervously waiting for his arrival, my eyes darting back and forth between the clock and the doors from which he would appear. Did I look okay? How’s my hair? What about my dress? 

And then I spotted him, or maybe we both found each other at the same time, from the throng of people who surrounded us at the International arrival gate, everyone in search of someone.  I ran towards him, and as it had happened a million times in my head, he lifted me off my feet and spun me around and around before our lips met. This was the reunion of my dreams.

We were breathless and giddy. Delirious. Hopeful. This was it. This was the moment. The rest of our lives would begin right here. 

When I met My Guy, the young college intern that he was, he had already planned to study abroad in Greece for four months. Our relationship blossomed right as it was time to say goodbye, and we spent the first part of our budding relationship on Skype and Google chat. I slept with the laptop beside me so I would always hear the ping from his chats, should he decide to reach me. I visited him in Athens, unable to bear the four months away, but it still felt like our life together was suspended – to be continued -  until he came home.

And that’s how it feels right now.

We are three (THREE!) days away from our move to Austin, but from the moment we decided to do this, we were already itching to leave. Our anticipation for this new life of ours reminds me of those four months we spent apart. Just like we did before over long-distance conversations in the wee hours of the night, there is much dreaming and talking and researching to fill the void between what is and what we hope it will be.  Every day we wake up to a countdown – 10 more days, five more days, three more days!  The excitement is palpable. 

Again, just like before, something tells me we’re on the precipice of something amazing. The only difference is that what made it exciting for me then was imagining a future with this guy I hardly knew, and what thrills me now is that, eight years after that moment at the airport, I get to experience a new beginning with this same guy. The very one who swept me off my feet and spun me around like they do in a storybook romance. Except this is real life. 

But I have to say, for real life, this feels pretty unreal.


Monday, March 10, 2014


T-11 days to Austin.

Things are not what they used to be, naturally. Our routine is slightly disjointed, our apartment looks like a makeshift warehouse. We operate mostly on “do what we can, do what we must”, with a sprinkling of our old routine thrown into the mix. There is no normal.

Screen time rules go out the door when the carpet guy comes to give an estimate and the two-year-old is patting his oversized belly while he takes measurements on his clipboard, asking him to “watch me!” as she twirls and sings songs from Frozen. It’s like she’s never seen a man enter our home before. Fearing more interruptions as we sit to discuss numbers, I resort to what I normally try to avoid: “Here’s the iPad; go play some games.”

I cringe at the state of our home and struggle to find comfort in it. In fact, because of a landlady that doesn’t understand tenant’s rights and responsibilities, she has turned what was once my safe haven into a place of hostility. But that’s a story for another day. My mind has checked out of this house, but since we’re not in Austin yet, I feel we’re in limbo. And so I try to ground myself with the little things that bring my joy. Things that will stay with me, wherever we go.

Like this instance, when, upon learning that two-year-old Pickle will also be tagging along on one of her play dates, Little Miss exclaimed, “What??! She’s coming too? Why is she coming to my play date?”

Before I could respond, Pickle turned to her sister and said with saccharin sweetness, “Missy, sometimes little girls get to go on play dates, too.”

My Guy and I laughed at the earnestness in her voice and the accompanying hand gestures. You tell her, sister!

* * *


The whole moving affair can be expensive, so when My Guy said his client – a printing company that does a lot of packing and shipping of delicate materials – was giving us some bubble wrap and boxes for free, I had no idea this was what he would come home with: industrial-sized foam and bubble wrap, as well as sturdy boxes that are perfect for protecting our wall pictures, art and TVs. Pricey materials that would have otherwise set our budget back quite a bit, and here they are, plentiful and free! Sometimes it’s good to know the right people I guess…

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* * *

The girls finally got their Halloween picture taken. We had the worst Halloween last year. It was miserably cold and wet with pouring rain, and Pickle went on a poop fest that afternoon all over her costume. Maybe it was the candy at her school’s party. We never had the chance or energy to get them both in a picture together, so when Little Miss approached me with, “Can I wear my witch costume to play?” first thing in the morning, I decided it was now or never. So here it is, five months later.

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* * *

Thanks to Daylight Savings, springing an hour ahead means my girls are finally waking up at an acceptable hour. It’s 7:28AM now, and I haven’t heard a peep. Hallelujah!

* * *

This girl, who had learned her ABC’s from a Star Wars ABC book but never watched the movies, gasped in surprise and announced out of nowhere, “Mommy! This looks like a Tie-Fighter!”

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Indeed, it does.

* * *

Monday, March 3, 2014

Mixed feelings

We woke to my two-year-old announcing, “Look, it’s a snow globe outside!”

I smiled at her description; she’s right. Had it been a few weeks ago, it would have elicited some warm fuzzy feeling, but after months of this, with no thaw in between or sign of spring in sight, we sounded a collective groan. We pulled out the phone to check the weather and saw the big, fat zero on the greasy-fingerprinted screen. 0-degree Fahrenheit. Again. Deeeeeelightful.

I know I will miss Chicago when I leave, but when I ran my last Chicago 10K this past Saturday, with the blustery lakefront winds crashing into my face like a bucket of ice water each time I inhaled, I have to admit it’s hard to see what it is I would miss. Knowing that I no longer needed to be a winter warrior once we move to Austin has dissolved my resolve to fight the cold.  I just want to get the hell out of here.

I know I will miss my beloved city, but not now. Not like this.

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We spent the weekend in an upheaval, unearthing items long buried in storage, and purging, collecting, wondering: donate or keep? Because we’re removing items from their neatly stacked crevices, it seems like our house is multiplying, our belongings shifting restlessly, a pile here, a pile there, living areas consumed by stuff, stuff we like, stuff we forgot we had, stuff everywhere! My life, at this point, makes about as much sense now as the previous sentence.

From someone who just recently reveled in the happiness that’s derived from having a (clutter free) room of one’s own, I have to say that this state of suspension – eager to leave, but not quite there – is wreaking havoc to my system. I am not unhappy, but I also struggle to sing while I work. This is temporary, I tell myself. A necessary evil to a decision that, we hope, will eventually bring us the life we want. But when I’m drowning in stuff, I become myopic about the future.

Don’t get me wrong; I can’t wait to leave. Yet, saying that feels like a betrayal to a city that has been so good to me for the last 16 years. Of course, this winter has skewed my appreciation for its finer points, but it doesn’t feel right to want to look past all that it has ever given me either. After all, this is the city where I met My Guy, where my girls were born, where I learned to love winter and running, even winter running, where I started an appreciation for craft beer and now whiskey.

When we decided to leave Chicago that one fateful evening, I spent all of the next day crying. Grieving, actually. I could barely hold it together as I drove the streets that were more familiar to me than the lines on my own hands. I bawled at the brilliant blue of the lake that greeted me when I stepped outside my home and into the street that’s lined with trees that touched in the middle to form a canopy in the way that majestic old trees do.

It was a very difficult day for me, but when I peeled away from the comforting arms of My Guy at the end of the day, I felt an immediate release. Suddenly, it was time to look forward and let go. No more tears.

It’s liberating to be able to be excited about moving forward, but there are still moments that trip me up. Like these banners, here.


They are banners of flags that my girls made with the help of their Auntie, my best friend, who made it a point to spend all day with us this weekend before 1,500 miles inevitably find their way between us. While I packed, she patiently instructed my girls to create flags that we recognize, and ones from their own imagination. Both girls have their own version of an Austin flag, and now the banners hang in proud display of the time they spent with their auntie, who is so much a part of our family. 

It’s a sharp reminder that Austin will have many things Chicago has, but it won’t have the people we love. However, when we leave some things behind, we also make room for others. And so we continue to seal our Chicago memories in boxes, bring what we can take and store the rest in a place that will always be known to us, while we, as a family, venture further and further into the unknown.