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Oh Nothing, Just a Quick Header Change.

I crack myself up sometimes (okay, a lot of the time).

Since Jim and I moved to Knoxville I’ve been dying to get at the rebranding I’ve been planning for this site, but first LISTEN TO YOUR MOTHER CHICAGO happened. Then, when I normally get a slow down period for a month or so before the conference crazy kicks in, I had to keep going because #BlogHer17 was moved up by eight weeks this year; it starts this Thursday!

So, in light of the fact that I will meet a bunch of people in Orlando this weekend and one or two of them may come to check out my blog and wonder about the Chicago thing when I mentioned that I live in Tennessee, I made a new header. It’s almost the least I could do. (The least would have been to stay away completely and leave that three-week-old post on top along with my old header but, um, NO.)

Suburban Scrawl header

Anyway, welcome to my new friends (and welcome back to my old friends; how’s my header looking?)! I’m anxiously anticipating having some time starting next week to get back to writing a little more often than every three weeks.

Back to work for me. I hope to see some of you in Orlando at #BlogHer17! Make sure to say hi if we cross paths and I don’t see you first!


The Chalk Writing on the Wall

Not too long ago, a married couple walked into a Barcade for an evening of drinks and Ms. Pac Man. And Galaga. And Donkey Kong. And Centipede. And…well, you get the idea.

After a while, they tore themselves away from Defender for a bathroom break, agreeing to meet at the bar afterwards.

Minutes later, he approached her and said, “Oh my gosh, did you have a bunch of chalk writing on the walls in there???”

She did. Actually, she took pictures to share later because when you have a situation where women can write on walls with chalk, the results are usually fun and fascinating.

Some of the writing was supportive and complimentary.

Chalk wall: Beyonce Chalk wall: ladies pimps Chalk wall: girls rule

Some of the writing provided helpful suggestions.

Chalk wall: love yourself Chalk wall: imperfections Chalk wall: support

And some of the writing showed support via activist hashtags and famous mottos.

Chalk wall: adopt Chalk wall: trans lives matter

After showing him the pictures of the ladies’ room wall chalk graffiti she asked, “Cool, right? What did you see on the walls in the men’s room?”

He smiled and looked away.

“Mostly crude drawings of um, body parts.”

Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus, I guess.


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Karma’s a Beach.

I’m just finishing another fantastic week hanging with my sistuh-from-anuthuh-muthuh and the rest of my New Jersey family and, as always, there were lots of shenanigans. Some of our adventures made it onto social media and some did not, but there was one particular laugh riot that needed its own blog post.

Some things I have learned about Liz over the years:

1. She is not easily grossed out
2. She can be extremely impulsive
3. She is very curious

When you know those three things about her, it shouldn’t surprise you that when she is walking on the beach and comes across some foreign object in the sand that is unrecognizable, she exclaims “WHAT’S THIS??” while kicking it over with her bare foot so she can get a better view. She kicks over rocks and wood and trash and dead crabs and other related dead sea life.

Side note: She picked up what she thought was a bagel-sized piece of shark skin over the weekend and I nearly tossed my cookies right there on the beach. “I think it’s shark skin!” she said excitedly as she walked towards me with it. “Here! Touch it!”

“NOOOOOO!” I said, running in the opposite direction.


That was gross.

Anyway, I’m always afraid, as she’s kicking over things, that she’s going to get stung, poisoned, cut, or some other horrible fate. Hold onto that thought as I set up what happened on Saturday.

We were at one of our Happy Places, which is Cape May. It was windy, EXTREMELY windy. There were no boats on the water and the beach looked a little bit like a desert sandstorm. It was difficult to walk and sand was depositing itself all over our clothes, in our purses, and in our hair. WINDY.

Beach hair don't care

It was a lot like a Chicago snowstorm: some of the particles flying through the air hit our face feeling a lot like tiny ice chips, and just like the snow drifts quickly in a storm, this little sandblast was having the same effect on the beach.

We were making our way south on the beach when we approached one of the rock jetties. I didn’t take a picture from that vantage point but you can see it from the other side on the left in this picture:

Cape May Beach

We were still about twenty feet from it and not very close to the water when Liz came upon a couple of those black rocks, small ones, sticking up out of the sand. In the middle of the rocks there was a little hole. She tapped one of the rocks and said, “Well THAT’S an ankle waiting to be broken…” and then, while I can’t remember if she kicked at one of the rocks or stepped on one, I saw whatever it was that she did and exclaimed “Oh my gosh, you’re like a four-year-old! Stop that!” I mean, the last thing we needed was for one of us to get hurt.

We kept on walking and as we got closer to the jetty, we were looking around for shells and such (as we do). The sand was extremely smooth there. and we started walking further away from the water’s edge, parallel to the jetty. We were talking and walking on this smooth sand, and then it happened. I only felt terror for the split second it took for my left leg to be swallowed by the sand, and then I started laughing. Liz, who was a couple of steps ahead of me, turned back when she heard me scream and when she didn’t see me at eye level she looked down and found me on the ground. She says she thought I was kidding at first. And then the laughter. What had happened was, we were walking on that smooth sand and it didn’t occur to either of us, even after Liz had found that group of rocks with the hole in it, that the sand could have covered up that much of the part of the jetty that extended up the beach towards the street. I fell into the beach, right here:

Falling into the beach

(A moment before I arrived, that was completely covered with smooth sand, looking totally innocent.)

How far did I fall? Well, my left leg went down and I fell, ahem, as far as I could with my right leg still above sand, if you catch my drift (see what I did there?).

So there I was, beyond that moment of terror and laughing my head off, holding my hand out to Liz so she could help me get out. She reached out for a minute and then grabbed her hand back to clutch her stomach because she was laughing so hard. I ended up laying back on the beach, one leg in that hole and one leg (somehow) on the sand surface, in hysterics. After the screaming laughter, she helped me out of the hole and as we continued to walk up the beach, thankful that I didn’t sprain my ankle or even break my leg (soooo thankful!), one of us brought up how “odd” the timing was, my falling into that hole right after I called Liz a four-year-old. Such a coincidence!! Okay, maybe not.

Coincidence or karma, we’re thrilled to add this story to the rich tapestry (shout out to Carole King) of crazy, fall-on-the-floor (or sand) laughing moments that we’ll talk about for years to come.

“Remember that time I fell into the beach?”
“Yep. That was a great day.


Moving On.

I have so much to write, so many ideas in my head, that I should probably rev up my draft folder again so I can hang onto all of it for future reference. I’ll get around to it, hopefully.

Things are crazy as usual and I’ll likely write up how extraordinary our sixth and final LISTEN TO YOUR MOTHER CHICAGO show was last Sunday, but for now I’m just going to give you the essay I read on stage at the Athenaeum Theatre and wish you a Happy Mother’s Day, if you’re celebrating it this Sunday. By the way, I’m sending virtual hugs to you if you don’t celebrate it for reasons that are difficult.

My essay is called “Moving On.”

January 2017. It was very cold in Chicago: fifteen degrees with a wind chill of about negative two hundred and forty. It was the kind of weather that you feel all the way to the center of your bones as it blows right through all the layers, and frostbite can nip ferociously at exposed skin in just minutes. So, of course, it was the perfect day to move my younger son, Jason, into his first post-college apartment near Kenosha, Wisconsin.

This move was just one piece of a bittersweet puzzle; our family was preparing to splinter apart geographically over the next few months. First Jason was moving and then Jim and I would be moving from Naperville to Tennessee. At the same time our older son Dylan would be moving from our Naperville home to Aurora so he could continue working in this area. Most of the time I was certain this was the beginning of the end, but if you caught me on the days when I possessed an abundance of optimism I would have claimed it was just the beginning of new beginnings.

A few weeks before, I had accompanied Jason on his home search. He was in brand new territory as he just gone from being a college student on a very limited budget to starting a well-paying “Real World” job which allowed him more living choices than he had anticipated. He set up a few appointments to tour the prospects, and when I offered to accompany him WITH NO EXPECTATION OF HIS ACCEPTING MY OFFER BECAUSE HE WAS NEARLY TWENTY-TWO AND TOTALLY ABLE TO MAKE HIS OWN DECISIONS, I was thrilled when he took me up on it.

After a morning of House Hunters: the Post-College Edition, he eliminated everything but two favorites. The first finalist was a luxury apartment with all the bells and whistles that was within his budget but more than he wanted to spend. The other was a charming, cozy upper apartment in an old home that was thirty percent cheaper but had no shower, just a bathtub that sat under the low part of the ceiling that was slanted from the roof line, which would make standing upright in the tub impossible.

Jason hasn’t taken baths over showers since he was a toddler, but he still tried to create a compromise with himself on the absent shower because the rent was so low.

I took him to lunch so he could agonize over burgers and onion rings and suggested that we make a pros and cons list to help him decide. The luxury apartment had many advantages that were important: it was closer to work which meant a savings in gasoline. It included garage parking, a huge plus during winter in the Midwest. There was a laundry room in the spacious unit, and use of the on-site workout room and pool was part of the deal.

The little upper apartment in the old house had its share of pros but we kept revisiting that bathtub. As his mother I was compelled to warn him about that big of a compromise. After all, I’d known him since before he was born and could not imagine his giving up the ease of showering in favor of bathing in a tub involving more time…and terrible posture. I said, “If you feel like you can take only baths for the length of your lease, go ahead but…”

“Yeah…” he replied, still trying to make it work. “I think I can though! It’s so much cheaper! It should be…fine?”

“Okay,” I said, chomping on another onion ring, satisfied that I had done my due diligence, “it’s totally up to you!”

Letting go is both hard and rewarding.

We ate in silence for a few minutes and then I asked him what he was thinking.

“I’m thinking…that I wish that upper apartment had a shower.”

I knew it. Moms always know, don’t they? In this family we are not Bath People. We are Shower People!

Decision made. Luxury apartment—with a shower—it was.

Adulting is both hard and rewarding.

That’s how we ended up nailing down the destination for the big move that would happen on what seemed like the coldest day of the decade.

We made it to the apartment complex after a quick stop at IKEA for various furniture pieces with Swedish nonsense names and, after Jason picked up his shiny new key from the office, started unloading. On our first trip up to the third floor, I learned the Cardinal Rule of Moving: always bring toilet paper to the new place. There were no paper products whatsoever because in my grand plan for the day, the Target run was scheduled for after lunch. Bathroom break for mom: postponed.

The good news was, if there was any silver lining to relocating him on such a freezing cold day, it was that we moved quickly. It wasn’t long before we experienced the relief of returning that moving truck, right at the same time I experienced the relief of using the bathroom for the first time in hours.

At lunch (more burgers and onion rings), Dylan was excitedly telling Jason about all the things they’d do together that weekend. Dylan had attended college in Kenosha and planned to stay with his brother for a couple of days to show him his favorite places in town, including Ron’s Place. Ron’s Place is a Kenosha institution famous for its forty—FORTY!—varieties of Long Island Iced Teas.

Sitting there with my adult sons while they talked about taking the “Tour of Teas” and Ubering home so they could get “schwasted”, I felt…well, a little jealous. Those teas are really good!

Anyway, another feeling I had was maternal awkwardness.

“I feel like I shouldn’t be here for this conversation,” I said.
“Why not?” Dylan replied, “we’re all adults here.”

And the child becomes the parent.

After lunch we returned to the new apartment and began setting things up. As we assembled the Kallax and the Ektorp and the Poäng from IKEA, the three of us laughed and carried on easy conversation. At one point I even smiled and said something to Jason that ended with “you know, should your girlfriend move in here eventually” without cringing a bit like I would have a couple of years ago. Maybe we ARE all adults here.

It occurred to me in a flash that I was supposed to be a little sad about all of this, but that day I just couldn’t get past the happiness. It was fun to see both of my boys spring-boarding into their new stage of life, and this new phase of our relationship—our ADULT relationship—that we were all navigating together was exciting. It has been said that all good things must come to an end, but now I’m not so sure that’s always true. Often good things just become new and improved as we move on, and what’s so sad about that?

Jason moving
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Have You Ever?

Have you ever looked down at your right hand and noticed that the only ring you wear 24/7 on that right hand, the tanzanite one you got a couple of years ago when on a cruise with your husband, is missing and so you launch into a panic while you simultaneously run around the house looking for it and sob hysterically and each time you come back into the dining room where your husband is (eating a late dinner because he just walked in from his group bike ride) to report that the ring isn’t ANYWHERE, your panic level goes up a notch even as he says things like, “We’ll just have to get you a new one!” and “Don’t worry, we’ll find it!” because the ring means a lot to you and then you tell him that it must have broken off because you’ve lost weight recently but not THAT much weight and also it couldn’t have disappeared too long ago because there’s still a small indentation on your finger, and then in addition to the sentimentality of it all you realize you’re going to have to go to Charming Charlie tomorrow to get a cheap ring to wear because you nervously spin your wedding ring on your left hand and that tanzanite ring on your right hand all! day! long! and you’re going to need something on that finger really quickly to satisfy your nervous habit and then in the middle of that thought your husband says, “When was the last time you remember playing with it?” and after you think back for a second you suddenly get a figurative lightning bolt to the head that causes you to quickly walk into the kitchen where you find the ring sitting right there on top of the breakfast bar because you put it there after you took it off when you one-handedly mixed up the meatballs you made for dinner and then you start crying again because you’re so relieved and also realize that this time everything you currently have going on might have really caused you to lose your mind because how could you actually forget that you took that ring off intentionally??

Me neither.

tanzanite ring

The Dining Room and Other Ways We’re In Sync.

I figured a month was long enough to have my toilet paper obsession have center stage.

Actually, to be honest, I’ve been too busy even to think about blogging. It’s all good, though. I’m in the thick of LISTEN TO YOUR MOTHER CHICAGO season (13 days until the show! Need tickets? Go here.), work is gearing up to Level: Crazytown (#BlogHer17 is only two months away! Need a ticket? Go here.), and Jim and I are busily working on our new house in Knoxville.

The house thing? It’s been awesome. As unhappy as I was when Jim and I were hanging in that special kind of limbo that occurs when one spouse is states away working while the other one stays behind to sell a house, I’m the other-end-of-the-spectrum happy now that we’re back together and setting up this house that we feel so lucky to have nabbed, in exactly the way we want it.

Your mountain is waiting dining room detail

Metal sign by Jimmy Don, repurposed tin container that used to hang on my porch, and wood flowers (with scent!) from HomeGoods.

One of my favorite things is how in sync we are regarding how we’re decorating. The colors, the furniture, the decorations, we’re almost completely on the same page, all the time.

It hasn’t always been this easy. Jim is color blind and he literally does not see things the way I do. I’m a control freak and I don’t always want to see things the way he does. I still remember when, right before we moved into our last house at the end of 2000, we went shopping for a couch and he was extremely insistent on this huge, overstuffed, cream-colored piece. I liked the style but wanted a gray one because it wouldn’t show as much dirt: we had two young boys and a dog. The idea of a cream-colored couch made me feel a little ill. It was for our living room though, not the family room where we would be spending most of our time, and I ended up giving in. It was FINE, by the way.

In that house I’m certain there were things we each wanted to do with the decor that the other just nodded about because it was easier, and it didn’t matter much in the grand scheme.

Here, it’s different for some reason. We intentionally picked out a cream-colored couch together, for the main living room, which we decided would have a theme I’m calling “Comfy Industrial”. When we were selecting a living room rug, we both loved the same one. Patio furniture? We both pointed at the same set upon walking into Lowe’s. I’m creating a Chicago-themed office and a beach-themed guest room, but the living room has bicycle accents in it, for him. Dare I say it’s a little romantic?

On the rare occasions when we disagree on a design strategy, we dump it entirely. We each liked a different TV cabinet so we looked for a third one that we both liked so much more. When I asked him what he thought about hanging a metal threesome of hearts in the dining room and he said “I’m not feeling it,” I said, “Okay!” and put them aside.

Speaking of the dining room, while he cursed Joanna Gaines up and down while he installed the orb light she inspired me to purchase, he’s super happy with how the room turned out. (I am, too!) It’s a great space and for two people who have mostly eaten meals on the couch for years but now have a cream-colored couch AND a lovely dining room, it sure is a peaceful place to spend time together, eating and talking.

Dining room

I call this the Magnolia room. Two more chairs will be arriving next week.

My office and that guest room are upstairs and therefore further down on the list, but as we get the main floor living spaces closer to complete I get a sense of not ever wanting to leave this house because I love it so much.

Come visit!


There Are Worse Things To Obsess Over.

I have an odd obsession: toilet paper.

My preoccupation doesn’t have anything to do with a particular type of toilet paper or even having a firm stance on whether it should roll over or under. I’m obsessed with having enough in the house.

Weird, I know.

I have worried about it for as long as I can remember, and I was never able to figure out why until I came up with a theory a while back. More on that in a minute.

I get extremely nervous when the stash in the house goes down to single digits: heart palpitations and all.

What if someone has a bathroom crisis and we run out before I can get to the store? THE HORROR. That cannot happen.

Jim and I do not shop at those huge warehouse clubs because we don’t need that much stuff at once and also don’t enjoy storing all of those random bulk purchases, but I will admit that I have often kept a toilet paper inventory on hand that is more than enough for a small army.

toilet paper

The toilet paper drawer in my old house, missing about five rolls but don’t worry: they were in the closet with another twenty or so.

I will admit that I have taken toilet paper with me on cruise ships. You never know if the room steward will get to you if you’re down to that last roll and a half, you know?

I will admit that I, when staying at a hotel, hide a partial roll of toilet paper in one of the dresser drawers in the morning. Then I put the brand new roll in the holder so the housekeeper sees that there is no extra roll on the shelf and knows that she needs to leave one. MY NAME IS MELISA AND I’M A TOILET PAPER HOARDER, but there are worse things.

When I prepare to go and stay with friends for a few days, sometimes they say something like, “I haven’t had time to clean. Ugh.”

I get it. People are busy! We’re all busy.

I don’t base my feelings for others on whether they make their house spotless before I arrive. Real friends can hang out in your house when it’s at its most lived-in state, you know? My response is always, always, always the same: “You know I don’t care if you’ve cleaned the house. As long as you have toilet paper!”

My closest friends know this about me and I’m absolutely certain they think I’m charming, and possibly adorable.

The last time I went to visit Liz, she gave me the best gift.

toilet paper

I laughed so hard when I saw it but also may have teared up a little bit because she gets me.

I have a couple of friends with the same obsession, by the way. You know who you are. Also, it just goes to show you that no matter what your mental issue is, you’re not alone.

I was talking to my friend Vikki a few months ago and we were trying to analyze this. I told her, “It really bugs me that I can’t figure out why I have this ‘thing’. I mean, normally you’d trace it back to something that happened in childhood but I’ve got nothing. I’ve thought about it for years.”

And then suddenly, like a lightning bolt, I remembered.

You know how, sometimes when you go to use a public restroom, it’s either been very busy or the cleaning crew isn’t staying on top of supplies and there’s no toilet paper to be found? I have childhood memories of that kind of scenario and since I was a slightly prissy little girl, I whined to my mom about the lack of toilet paper and what in the world was I supposed to do. Her answer was a completely normal mom-response when there’s really nothing else to do and you have to act drastically just to get your kid to be quiet and LET’S GET OUT OF HERE, OKAYYYYY?

“You’ll just have to ‘drip dry’ for a minute.”

Looking back as an adult woman and a mom myself, I know full well that my mom saying that was totally FINE. My little girl self was horrified by that idea because ewwwwwww but that was my problem, not hers. What else were we supposed to do, wait there for an undetermined amount of time for someone to show up with toilet paper? Sure, Princess.

Anyway, after I told Vikki about that we had a “Whoomp, there it is!” kind of virtual high-fiving moment and I felt the special kind of relief that comes when you analyze something to death and finally self-diagnose. Naturally I cannot prove that those toilet paperless moments in the public restrooms of the 1970s are the root cause of my obsession but I’m pretty sure they are and I think celebrity psychologist Dr. Phil would agree. You can’t butter a puppy and call it a biscuit, after all. (I don’t really think that applies in this situation but it’s my very favorite Dr. Phil quote so I included it.)

Shew, I have to say I’m pretty happy to have finally gotten that out in the open. The more you know, you know? That reminds me, I need to pick up some toilet paper today: I’ve only got about eight rolls left.


The First Four Days

As of this evening, I’ve been in Knoxville for four full days.

It’s been eleven days since this happened,

Moving truck

and right after that Jim and I went to Phoenix where he was speaking at a conference and I had grand plans to spend half of my time relaxing by the pool with a book and the other half of my time working by the pool. Mother Nature had other plans, bringing clouds and wind and rain for about 85% of our visit. THANKS Mother Nature, NOT. Still got some good pictures, though.

Phoenix palm trees

Upon landing back at O’Hare after a two and a half hour flight delay I hit the ground running (okay, driving) in the sleet that greeted me (thanks AGAIN, Mother Nature) finishing up the last of my errands in the area and having a great dinner with my boys before getting some shut eye in a hotel and getting on the road for Knoxville the next morning.

Bye Chicago

Anyway. I’ve been here four days and I’ve taken two pictures with intention to share (the others being pictures of prospective furniture pieces we’re considering for the new house). One was of a billboard advertising the “romatic” (sic) adult toys one could purchase at a certain store because I thought the error was a little hysterical. I have since deleted it after nearly sharing it on Instagram and then stopping myself because did I really want that in my Instagram stream? (No.)

The other picture I have from the last four days is of our new house. We’re closing on Friday and it’s getting exciting all up in here.

Knoxville house

I miss my Chicago friends dearly, but in these first four days I’m actually…fine. (I reserve the right to become terribly homesick in the future.) It’s obviously incredible to be back under the same roof with Jim. It feels like a huge relief to be getting back into a semi-regular routine, and the errands I’ve been running here don’t feel as much like ihavetodothistogetitcheckedoffmylistandohmygoshiamsobusy. They feel like real life. It feels great to be approaching real life again.

Also? Mother Nature has been giving us the high sixties, so I guess that chick isn’t quite the jerk I thought she was last week. Bygones.


I Just Keep Moving Because I’m Moving.

moving sold

Strange times around here lately, as you know.

As things go when you have an impending move, time seems to speed up as it passes and all of a sudden it’s as if there are literally a million things that have to be done in what seems like an extremely short amount of time. We have movers coming to pack our belongings so that’s a relief, but moving to another state is a huge endeavor even without that element, made more difficult (and exponentially complicated) with each extra year of being planted in the same place. It seems like I remember six new things every day that need to be closed out in preparation of leaving.

These days especially, my loose ends have loose ends, and it feels odd to be exploring this at all because on any given day my loose ends have loose ends. This, however, is intense. I’m taking care of medical appointments (doctor, dentist, mammogram), taking my car in for regular maintenance (since, conveniently, my oil needs to be changed like NOW), finishing up my final workouts at The Dailey Method, and working in a couple of get-togethers with friends on top of getting ready to move Dylan out (before our movers come) and packing up what I’ll need for the month our stuff will be in storage, LISTEN TO YOUR MOTHER CHICAGO auditions (this weekend), some freelance writing, oh, and WORK.

To add insult to injury, I’m on the tail end (I hope!) of a horrible cold that has left me raspy and hoarse for nearly two weeks now. I know that getting more rest would likely speed up my recovery but, well, I have to keep moving because I’m moving.

Also? Emotions. The final stage of preparing to move has left me feeling like I am perpetually hormonal. I already detailed the internal struggles I’m having in my last post, but this week as I’m preparing to move my house buddy (Dylan) out, I’m sad. We’ve developed our little routines in the last six months of being just the two of us in this house, and I’m going to miss that. That said, I will always treasure this extra time I had alone with him; it’s been a joy. As I mentioned in my last post, leaving my (grown) kids feels weird and I’m not sure how to process that yet.

Moving around in my house I keep hitting mental snags. I repeatedly go into the living room to sit on the couch when I’m on the phone with Liz or feeling like I need to work somewhere besides in the family room, and it’s only when I get there that I am reminded we got rid of that couch and chair last week and there’s no place to sit. A cement patch on the back patio has the boys’ names written in it, along with their handprints. Obviously that has to stay here, a relic of “the former homeowners”. I look at the area rug in the living room and remember, when I see the little stains on it from when Roxie crunched on a whole bag of candy canes there, that this Sunday marks a year since her death and it seems to have crawled and sped by at the same time. It would have been a terribly hard year for her, with all the travel I’ve had to do, but man do I miss her. The timing of this move feels a little more cruel this week, with that milestone looming.

All of this will pass, of course. Change and moving and death and emotions are all a part of life. Right now when it seems like I have a thousand balls in the air and I just keep moving without any down time, I remind myself that I’m handling it, not always gracefully but I’m handling it. Eventually this will all be a memory, and when I’ve got both feet permanently in just one state again I will feel proud to have done the best I could at any given moment, even when my best felt substandard, through it all.


You Can Take the Girl Out of Chicago…

It’s finally time to write about what’s going on around here.

I’m leaving the Chicago area.

I say “I” because Jim has been gone for nearly six months, and the boys are sticking around here: one in the western suburbs and the other just over the Wisconsin border (Kenosha County is considered part of Chicagoland).

This past year has been the most stressful one of my life. We’ve dealt with Roxie’s death (that anniversary is coming up in a couple of weeks), Jim leaving one job and taking on a new one four states away, his bike accident, my staying behind to sell this house so I can permanently join him, and some things I don’t ever blog about so I cannot mention them now.

It doesn’t look like much when I summarize it all into a little paragraph like that, but the reality is that I have been on the edge of Hot Mess for more days than I care to count. Truth be told, I still am. Some days are better than others but I feel like I have been stuck in this glass case of emotion with no escape on a regular basis.

I am feeling all kinds of things about this move, including heartbreak. I am a Chicago native. I lived here for the first eleven years of my life and after spending time in Texas, Tennessee, and Virginia I came back and have lived here for the past twenty-six years. I have lived in this town for the past twenty-two years, and I have lived in this house for the past sixteen years. Jim and I raised our two sons (and two dogs!) here. My second book was about Chicago. The brand I have been building for a decade is Chicago-focused. I have lots of friends here. My workout “family” is here. My Chicago roots are thick and deeply buried. Pulling them up and replanting myself elsewhere is harder than almost anything I’ve ever had to do. Something that weighs heavily on my mind is that normally it’s the kids who grow up and leave home, but in this case we’re leaving them to their lives here. It’s fine; parents and kids don’t always stay in the same area and I’m fortunate enough to have the ability to plan regular visits, but my heart cracks open when I think about it and the tears flow, again.

On the other hand, this move became exciting once I got used to the idea and realized all of the good that will come with it. Knoxville is where Jim and I met in high school. Our story began there, and it feels a little awesome to be moving back after being gone for three decades. Our parents and my sister are all there. We have friends there, both old and new. The cost of living is about thirty percent less there than here. The weather is glorious there. The Smoky Mountains are gorgeous. We are already intimately acquainted with the Knoxville area so it doesn’t feel altogether like starting fresh in a strange town. The drive to visit my New Jersey family will be four hours shorter. Thanks to blogging, I have “portable” friends all over the country who are just a click away on my laptop and because of that I’m not as scared of starting over in a new place as I would have been ten years ago. Jim’s “new” job is a great opportunity for him and he loves it. I can still do my job in Knoxville and will be creating a Chicago-themed home office in our new house, the one I get to go find next week. I’ll be commuting up here monthly through May for Chicago’s Listen To Your Mother show and will make lots of future trips to see my kids and my friends. You can take the girl out of Chicago but you can’t take Chicago out of the girl. Ever.

Most importantly, Jim and I will be under the same roof again. It’s been a long six months of back-and-forth and living apart. Being reunited is going to feel so good. (Yes, I went there. Thanks, Peaches and Herb!)

I fluctuate between the extremes of sadness and excitement sometimes hourly (I’m allowed!), but lately the latter has started to edge out the former. Now that we have a moving date set for the end of February I’m looking forward to feeling relief that this part of our journey is over. When I think about the light at the end of the tunnel it looks like Jim and me wearing pajamas on the couch in our new living room, eating pizza, and watching something silly on television together, probably sighing heavily and happily. The idea that I won’t have to be constantly thinking about something related to moving or the logistics of visiting my husband in another state for much longer is a little intoxicating and honestly, hard to believe…but it’s coming.

In the meantime, if you see me and I’m overly emotional, don’t worry. I’m on my way.