Tuesday, June 21 2022


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Dear Journal,

Good morning, friends. How are we feeling today? I'll tell you how I'm feeling today - grateful. I'm grateful for the long break from work, and I'm grateful to be back in the writing seat on a beautiful morning. I'm also feeling cautiously optimistic that I'll have no problem firing up the mental blogging machine for the first time from this exotic new location. Teeth brushed? Check. Kids wide awake banging on their bedroom walls? Check. Adequate caffeine levels? Eh, it could be better.

Sip. This morning, I'm writing from our new house in beautiful Schaumburg, Illinois. I'm sitting at our makeshift family computer setup in the dining room. There are some unopened moving boxes on the wall behind me. At the table, I'm flanked by potted plants, folded up curtains, a giant bottle of Korbel Brandy (don't get any ideas, Alex, it's a work day), and some other random things that we haven't put away yet. Life feels a little up in the air, but I can proudly say that all this stuff is here to stay. We're permanently moved.

I have some fuzzy memories from the turbulent phase of our family history we call "the U-haul period". We filled four U-haul trucks with stuff, driving each one over the Wisconsin-Illinois border. When you spend that much time with U-haul's, it starts to feel like a way of life. We became U-haul people.


My U-haul children leading ordinary U-haul lives

The U-haul period was tough. Marissa and I loaded the truck at night, meticulously packing each of our material possessions by the light of a flashlight sitting on top of our garbage can. It was overwhelming. We felt like we had so much stuff. Would four trucks be enough?


With each batch of material comforts shuttled away, our old house felt strange. Our living room had a drowning echo. Rodney's room felt so eerie with just a cot in the corner. During our final days in Madison, we ate takeout food on the hardwood floor and sat on boxes to watch TV.


Packing the final truck felt exhilarating. We packed our living room couch in the back corner. We neatly arranged boxes on the back wall. As soon as we were sure all of our remaining stuff would fit, the moving process delved into chaos. Marissa siphoned fish tank water into five gallon buckets while Rodney helped me arrange my tarantula collection in the passenger seat of the U-haul and tuck all the lose items into dresser drawers. Last to board the caravan was Ducky, who would endure the bumpy drive in a hole-punched tupperware bin. We took one last tearful walk through our empty house.


Last moments in our Madison house

Somewhere in all the packing, heaving, stacking, Marissa and I shared a weary conversation. "This feels like a wedding day," I said. "I don't know why."

"No, I get it," said Marissa. "It's like we're getting our house ready to give her away."

Thinking of my house this way made me misty-eyed. Have you ever thought of your house as a person? Did we leave it better than we found it? Did it cry with us? Could it smell our food? Did it watch Marissa paint? Could it feel our shock when we found out we were pregnant with Rodney? Did it feel proud when Miles took his first steps? Does it remember when we brought Ziggy and Minnie home as new puppies?

"Do you think our house is going to miss us?" I asked. Maybe we were just tired from moving, but Marissa and I burst into tears.


Powerful emotions accompanied every step of the process. Leading up to our final moving day, I joked with Marissa that at the moment we crossed the Wisconsin-Illinois border for the last time, I would "scream like Jesse Pinkman in that scene from Breaking Bad". As promised, I screamed as loudly as I could, but it probably didn't sound very loud through the other end of our walkie talkie.

I appreciated the long break from work and writing. We slept in. We tried restaurants. We landscaped in the backyard and rearranged furniture. The last few weeks have felt like a vacation. But I think the next step in getting settled in this place is real life - work and focus, healthy meals, responsibilities, and a sense of identity.

One quick story before we go. Did you know I met former president Obama the other day? I bumped into the beloved Chicagoan this past weekend. He was gracious enough to take a picture. For a such a quick encounter, Obama seemed very well put-together. He didn't say much (actually he seemed kind of artificial with me), but I'm just happy he was gracious with me bothering him for a picture.


Thanks for stopping by today. See you tomorrow, everyone.