Monday, November 30, 2015

Thankful

 

It's a good thing I'm not a wagering woman.
If you had leaned over the table last Thanksgiving and casually mentioned to me that the following year I would be ordering our entire meal pre cooked from a gourmet grocer my fork would have dropped from my hand as fast as my jaw would have hit the table. I would have been aghast at the idea of it, shook my head and vehemently insisted that there wouldn't be the slightest chance that that could happen. I love Thanksgiving. It's my favorite holiday. And cooking the entire meal from scratch is my favorite part!
Then again if you had also told me that we would be celebrating Thanksgiving 2015 in Nashville I probably wouldn't have believed that either.
But here we are, life is crazy, and after being ready to take all the shortcuts this year I decided I didn't even want to bother taking shortcuts at all. I hadn't seen my husband or daughter in a month and frankly, the last thing I wanted to do was cook. So on the Saturday before the big day I ordered our entire meal pre cooked from The Fresh Market.
My mother has ordered from them before and raved about the quality and amount of food in their holiday packages. I ordered a meal to feed 9-10 people (leftovers, naturally) online and set it up for pick up on Wednesday night. I was doing a pre-Black Friday whirlwind tour of Alabama starting Tuesday and would not be back in Tennessee until Wednesday evening anyway.
I went to Goodwill after work Monday night and thrifted a pretty glass vase for .99 then headed to Whole Foods where I bought creamy blue hydrangeas, hypericum berries and thistles because let's face it, this journey here hasn't been entirely smooth. I felt they were quite apropos. I popped into The Bottle Shop and tried not act like a small child in a toy store and spend every cent in our checking account as I selected a few bottles of wine. Aside from the journey not being smooth, I hadn't even had a sip of alcohol since I last saw my husband. Talk about needing a drink! As soon as I got home I put my arrangement together and those bottles in the fridge to chill.
Thanksgiving prep complete?
Check!
The only conundrum was my linen situation. I didn't have my husband go through my linens at home. After I texted a picture of the list I made of items that I wanted brought to TN. His text back read "Should I just pack up the whole fucking house and bring that too?"  I decided not to press my luck.
I had a black and red buffalo check Ralph Lauren throw I had picked up at Homegoods that I knew would look great with my turkey transferware that the hubby was lugging out here. But what about napkins? What would go with black and red and brown ~ the world's weirdest but oddly working color palette? Fortunately, one of my stores in Alabama sits directly across from an Anthropologie where I found pretty, white linen napkins with a charcoal trim. Perfection!
If only finding a house was that easy....
 


I literally got off the interstate Wednesday evening 5 minutes ahead of my husband and daughter exiting the same road. I waited in a gas station parking lot to lead them to our apartment complex because it is gated and they don't have a key card to enter. However, that gate rolls so slow that 3-4 cars can scoot through with one swipe of that card. Talk about security.
After lots of hugs, happy tears and a massive unloading of the car, I was off to pick up our meal. While I waited in line for it (Yes, there was a line! I'm not the only genius out there) I struck up a conversation with the woman in front of me who was waiting for a Turducken. When I told her it was my first time ordering from Fresh Market she gave me a little insider tip that the Turducken is to die for and that I wouldn't be sorry ordering it next time.
Since tomorrow is December 1st and we still don't have a house turducken may very well grace our Christmas table.


 
Thursday morning Charlie and I jumped in the car and drove out to Leiper's Fork, the most adorable little historic village nestled in bucolic countryside. I am patiently waiting for a house to come on the market in Leiper's that I can actually afford and I needed Charlie to understand my love for this place so he will not shoot me down if we end up needing to stretch the budget just a wee bit. One drive through and he is now on the same page with me. I may have wept a little when he said "Finding a house in Leiper's would be perfect." because I think he thought I was being unreasonable about limiting our search to only 1 or 2 towns. I clearly know what I am doing. ;)
We rolled back to the apartment around noon where I casually popped the turkey into the oven (on a cookie sheet - don't judge - my resources are extremely limited) and dumped all the sides into my white ceramic baking dishes that he also lugged out to Tennessee. Within 2 1/2 hours everything was heated up and we sat down to a ridiculously delicious feast. My daughter actually declared the corn soufflé the best corn soufflé she has ever had. My husband loved the smoked green beans with bacon and the cranberry relish. My son loved it all because he has a thing for institutionalized food (I know. I found him in the woods, I swear. Whose kid is he?) and I gave them all the stink eye because while it was tasty, it is still not my homemade Thanksgiving meal. I told them to relish it because next year Thanksgiving will be served in our barn in Leiper's Fork.
And I will make every bit of it from scratch.
 

 
We took the dogs for a long walk since it was such a gorgeous, balmy day and we needed to make room for pie anyway. It was hard to pull myself away and leave them to go to work that evening. Even though some of them probably didn't mind. ;)
 



So many electronics, such little time.
Holy smokes I missed that kid.

I hope your Thanksgiving was full of thanksgiving too!

Friday, November 20, 2015

Thanksgiving

 
 
Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday. Mostly because it is less about commercialism and materialistic crap than the others but also because I love nothing more than cooking up a storm and filling my table with people I adore. I used to love Christmas, but a lifelong career in retail has ensured that it now has it's place at the bottom of the list and any holiday joy is generally sucked right out of me right after Turkey Day. I can usually pull myself out of the Bah Humbugs by mid December and rally for the sake of my children and husband but it still sits at the bottom of the list.
 
 
But Thanksgiving.
Oh, Thanksgiving!
I love setting the table and planning my meal. I probably spend equal time on both. I am the maverick who throws caution to the wind and tries that new stuffing recipe that looks so good in the November issue of Bon Appetit. And while breaking all the "don't try a new recipe when entertaining" rules can be extremely risky and don't always pan out because you occasionally stumble across that bum recipe, for some reason I have never ever had a bad dish come out of my oven on Thanksgiving.
It has never bothered me to stay up late the night before making the desserts and climbing back out of bed at an ungodly hour to fire up the oven and start preparing the sides. Last year even the husband was out of bed at 3am and in the backyard firing up the smoker. It was our first year smoking a turkey and after that meal I swore it would never be cooked in the oven again because it was so good.
 
 
But Thanksgiving has been weighing heavy on my mind because it looks a lot different for our family this year. Two of us live in Nashville and the other two live in NJ. There is no way I can go back home for the holiday since I work that night and Friday and Saturday as well. So I went into self defense mode and was basically pretending that it wasn't really happening. People keep asking me what we are doing for the holiday and I look at them like it is July and they are asking me that very same question. Frankly, I was getting sick of being asked about it because I had all but blocked it out. If I pretend it's not happening it really won't, right?
Then last weekend my husband and I, tired of being apart, said enough is enough. We need to be together. Being separated is wearing thin and it was decided that he will come to Nashville and we will celebrate in my little apartment together.
 
 
Naturally, I told him that he will need to pack up my brown turkey transferware. (Every year when I take them out I just want to high five my twenty something year old self for having the incredible foresight to purchase them. And a service for 8 no less. Who knew I would have been so clever?) I have been hoarding an old shoebox full of gorgeous mix and match vintage silverware that I shoved in the attic before I moved here so he has been instructed to grab that too. I will probably need to face time with him while he goes through my linens so I can decide which napkins I want packed up. Luckily I found some amazing vintage amber glassware at the Nashville Flea last month and now I have the perfect excuse to unwrap them.
But let's face it.
 Setting the table and cooking all the food is really nothing more than motion and formality. True Thanksgiving is being grateful every day in all circumstances. Good or bad. Easier said than done, right? We should be thankful every day that breath fills our lungs. Not just the day that society marked on the calendar to remind us to have gratitude.
Thinking about this reminded me that I need to be thankful every day that I have this opportunity to start a new life for my family in such a beautiful place. Even if that means we are hundreds of miles apart for a while. I need to feel grateful even though it seems like we will never find the right house on the right piece of property. Or that our house in NJ will never sell. I need to take a deep breath and focus on all the good when the phone rings because my husband and daughter are fighting and they are both calling me to complain about each other. Frustrating in the moment, but no reason to lose my peace.
I am especially thankful for the people who have blessed my life on almost a daily basis speaking love and faith over my family. Believe it or not, I have also faced the opposite. I have been questioned about our decision to be apart and heard comments about how detrimental this living situation will be to our marriage and family. I told my husband before I left that this whole ordeal will most likely show us who is really there for our family and who our true friends are. My words are proving themselves. I have no room in my life for negativity or people who disagree with our choices. In fact, this time apart has reminded my husband and I how much we truly love each other and never, ever want to live this life without the other. After 14 years of marriage that's actually a nice reminder. Anyone who has been in a long term marriage or relationship probably knows exactly what I mean. While we are sure to lose some people in our lives along this journey, in the end we will remain surrounded by the ones that count the most. And I am so grateful for them all.
Last night I popped in Williams Sonoma and picked up a gravy starter, stuffing, and a dessert mix. I decided that I don't really want to spend the whole day in the kitchen cooking up a storm. My daughter wants all her favorite dishes and I am happy to oblige. But I'm welcoming all the shortcuts and keeping it all very simple so I can spend as much time curled up on the couch with my husband and best girl. My heart will be full of more Thanksgiving than any meal could provide.
 
 


Sunday, November 15, 2015

Nashville

 
*fasten your seatbelts, grab a cup of coffee or something because this is a long one. 
 
It was around 3:30 in the morning as I wrangled 2 large suitcases, a duffel bag and my carry on out to the car. I was excited and nervous and filled with emotions I couldn't even put a name on as my son and I headed to the airport. Fueled by a cup of coffee and running on about two hours of sleep, the excitement started to wane and panic began to set in as the car crept further and further away from that little red house I have spent the past ten years loving. The fact that it held my sleeping daughter, husband and dogs within it's walls and I was leaving it all began nauseating me. I learned at a young age how to talk myself out of a panic attack and calm myself down when I start feeling like I am losing it and those well honed skills were all that kept that car driving northbound.
We dropped off the rental car and after quickly figuring out how in the world we were each rolling our large amount of luggage to the airport terminal we jumped on the air train. It was about 4:45 in the morning at this point and Newark airport was still quiet and sleepy. An older couple jumped in our car with us. As I focused on my breathing in order to remain calm and also distract me from the air train which seemed like it was speeding wildly off into a dark abyss and most likely going to fall off the tracks, I glanced over at the couple who were sharing the car with us. The man had a tag on his shirt that said Alabama. He caught my gaze and took the opportunity to say hello. I took the opportunity to ask him the obvious. "Are you from Alabama?"
I was clearly stating the obvious considering he was wearing a tag that said Alabama, and yes, they said they were. They said they were from Huntsville but live in Birmingham and asked where we were headed. I explained how we were moving to Nashville and how I would be working in both Huntsville and Birmingham quite often. As soon as I stopped talking they started gushing about Nashville and telling us how much we would love it, how it is such a great city, a great place to raise a family and on and on and on.
What are the chances?
I know beyond a doubt that they were there, at the same time in the same train car when almost every train car was completely empty to remind me why I was changing my entire life as I know it. And they did. My heart stopped pounding so hard, my nausea started to pass and I knew it was all going to be ok. As we struggled to get all of our luggage into the terminal I told my son that I have never been so certain of something being so divinely orchestrated. It was what I needed to keep me going.
As if that wasn't enough, as I took my seat on the plane next to a young mother and her adorable little girl, the girl smiled brightly at me. My heart started to hurt because I knew my own little girl was about to be 900 miles away from me for the next couple of weeks. Just as the fear and doubt began to boil up again she leaned around her mother and asked, "Are you going to Nashville?" I told her I was. I told her that I was moving to Nashville that very day and asked her if she thought I would like it there. She nodded and smiled proudly as she told me "I've lived in Nashville my whole life."  Our little talk opened up conversation between her mother and I. We chatted during the quick flight about Nashville and where the best schools were, the nicest towns to raise a family in etc.
Another affirmation that I was headed in the right direction.
 
 
I had the relocation company book these ridiculously early flights because it was Sunday and I needed to start work the next day. I wanted the whole day to settle in, buy some food etc. get situated in our temporary housing arrangement. We arrived in Nashville at 6:45 am and by the time we once again wrangled all that luggage to the rental car, loaded it up and hit the interstate it was nearing 7:30. I asked my son to pull out the information I had printed from the relo company about our housing and as he read the sheet that I had only skimmed for the important parts he shared a bit of information I had missed in my skimming.
Rental apartment will not be available until 4pm.
Wait, what?!?!?!
How the hell I missed that part is beyond me. Idiot. It wasn't even 8 am, I was already exhausted from the lack of sleep and the bevvy of emotions and was not prepared for this bit of news. I took a deep breath and as my mind raced with what the frig are we going to do all day long????
As I exhaled that deep breath I knew exactly what I was going to do. I had created a whole Pinterest board of home listings I was interested hadn't I? Why not do a drive by on them all? It would help narrow down where we should actually spend our time looking at homes. Genius!
I like to think I always perform best under pressure.
I put the address of my favorite listing in Columbia TN into the GPS and off we went.
 

The drive to Columbia down Interstate 65 was absolutely beautiful. My heart filled with so much joy as we wound through mountains cloaked in early morning fog. Breathtaking. THIS is the Tennessee I knew I would find. My son was dozing off in the passenger seat missing all of the beauty around us so I kept slapping him on the leg to wake him. He would take a half ass look around, agree with me, then close his eyes again. I told him he was a terrible co pilot and he could clearly care less what I thought. 21 year old boys, er, men, can be so exasperating.
Shortly after we exited the interstate I saw the gates at the entrance of the property. Situated on over 7 acres, the house was unfortunately not visible from the road. Boo! Undeterred, I drove down the road a bit and as I went to turn around I noticed the street I was using for my U-turn was a name I recognized.
Wait!
There's another listing on this street! I easily spotted the house because it was the biggest, most elaborate home on a street of what can only be described as tiny, identical nondescript red brick ranches. My son commented on how gorgeous the house was but my heart had already sunk because there was no way that house is worth that price on that street. Yes, the house on any other street would be a great buy for the money but not on that block.
Geez.
A little disappointed but still determined to press on, we swung back and I noticed on the main road another listing I had pinned to my left. It was a newer build sitting right on this busy road wedged between two not so newer or as nice homes. Oh boy. We put in the address of my next favorite listing in town and off we went. As we inched up to it, the house looked every bit as fabulous as I thought it would but for a home on almost 10 acres, it was right on the road. With another row of identical red brick ranches literally directly behind it. As in hardly any backyard: the property went deep length wise with no width. Well, cross that one off the list.
Since Columbia was not panning out to be the what I thought it would be I popped the address of my favorite renovated farmhouse into the GPS and swung back onto the interstate. A cool 45 minute drive to my dream house would be nothing. This one was definitely the one for us.
Reality swiftly set in as I exited the highway and started winding through country roads that were seemingly in the middle of nowhere. Mr. Helpful was now awake and clearly panicked at the rural setting we were driving through. I was too. I was beginning to realize something that had not dawned on me until now:
Rural in Tennessee is not anything near what we consider rural in New Jersey.
Not even close.
 And while I can share listings in these rural towns that I am viewing on my computer from my overpopulated East Coast suburb and find it sweet and charming that the town may have 90,000 less residents than where we have spent our whole lives living, the reality is that we may not be equipped to make such a drastic change in our lifestyle. It seemed ok that some of these towns are so small that they don't even have their own school system but when I saw that they don't even have a grocery store or any other obvious form of convenience or commerce it was shocking.
Dreaming is amazing until the cold, hand of reality slaps you hard across the face and leaves it's sting behind.
The tears started flowing and there was nothing I could do to stop them.
 


It was only creeping up on lunch time and we decided to drive to the town where I was setting up my office and my son's job had transferred him to. We arrived to find that the mall he would be working in didn't even open until noon. That was also surprising. We plugged in an address in that town of a charming river front cape that had looked promising but as we drove by and saw how and where it was situated I knew immediately it wasn't for us. Cute house, terrible location. By now my heart hurt so badly for my daughter and husband who were so far away from us and to see these dreams I had slipping through my fingers I started panicking with the realization that I had may have just made the biggest mistake of my life.
While he may not be the best co pilot (as also proven here) my son proved to be a great comforter and kept assuring me that it was all going to be ok. He reminded me that we had only been here a few hours, I was overtired and emotional anyway and that he didn't think I had made a bad choice in relocating us.
And then we went to the mall where he would be working.
It was now open and I could see the sheer disappointment in his face as we walked around. The place was nearly desolate. Abandoned store fronts, C grade retailers, it was nowhere near where he had been working back home. I was floored. He was devastated. He went into the store and introduced himself to his new coworkers and the only upside was that they were super nice. But this is Tennessee and people are nice pretty much everywhere so that was the only part we didn't find shocking. His new boss had told him that this store did more volume than the store he worked in in NJ and the only way that was possible was because there are no other stores there to compete with.
I mustered up my strength and convinced him to at least give it a try, maybe it would be better than it seemed. I mean, his co workers seemed really great on first impression. He was silent. I was trying not to throw up and said screw it, we were going to the apartment early. We needed to settle in and relax. Besides, what was the worst they could do to us for showing up ahead of time?
It was another 45 minute drive to where we would be living and the ride was possibly quieter than it had been when he was sleeping earlier that morning. By the time we arrived, unloaded the car, put our stuff where it needed to go, I sat down on the floor and called my husband. As soon as I heard his voice I completely lost my shit.
Through my sobs I told him I think I had just messed up our whole lives, my career and made the biggest mistake ever. This was not going to work out like I thought it was and I wasn't really sure what to do about it. Surely my new boss was going to hate my guts and after some of the expenses the company had already incurred getting us here and someone new already in place to take my old position I would probably just have to quit. Holy shit. I fucked everything up. Royally.
I single handedly may have destroyed our lives and all we had worked for up to that point.
How could I have been so stupid?
 

 
Fortunately my husband had his faculties about him and talked me off the ledge. He reminded me that when we flew out to Nashville for the whole 48 hours we spent there weeks before we had said to each other that we needed to dial back on the rural thing because it had a different definition here. He also reminded me that I had not had much sleep, was traumatized leaving my family and needed to eat. He suggested we clean up and get ready to go to the restaurant I had made dinner reservations at in downtown Franklin and enjoy our meal. We had dinner there last time we were here and it was amazing. I had been eager to bring my son there. His calmness and faith in me helped me pull myself together and head out to dinner.
As we drove into downtown Franklin my heart started to swell again as I looked around me at this adorable place that I fell head over heels for when I first came here. Dinner at Puckett's was delicious just as I knew it would be and the amazing cocktail I had with it did wonders for my nerves. The Tennessee that stole my heart was all around me. I started to feel like it might be ok after all.
 

 
Fast forward just over a month now and we've come a long way. My son gave the job a shot but after the first two weeks he decided it was not for him. There was one night he worked where he saw 1 customer in the last 3 hours the store was open! Poor kid was bored out of his mind.
 Me?
 I, on the other hand actually like my job more here in Tennessee. I have had a love/hate relationship with it for the past few years and haven't had one morning here that I didn't want to go to work. I can confidently say that I know more than ever that I am in the right place. Not every day has been filled with so much assurance and there have been many more tears shed here and there. Our house still has not sold and ironically there is no house here that I am ready to plunk my money down on yet. Anything I would select today (within our budget - out of the budget is a whole other story!) would be pure compromise and far from the dream I had for us. I have looked at traditional homes in suburban neighborhoods and keep coming back to what we have wanted from the start. It is, however, getting old having our family apart and I am feeling a little panicked that the holidays are creeping closer. I have no clue how we are going to navigate all of that and a quick trip home over Halloween weekend made it even harder to leave them again without any time frame as to when we will all be together, but I can tell you this:
There is no way I could  imagine ever moving back to NJ now.
 

 
I have been able to narrow the search down to exactly where I really want to find a house and am just fine with waiting until the right house in this area comes on the market. Surprisingly, it is in the rural section of the town too that I love the most. We can make our dreams of having land come true in a setting that will not be a culture shock to our family. The more time I spend there on the weekends the more determined I am to live there.
Weekends have been spent going to community events like pop up markets and exploring my new home. There is so much to offer here. There are moments when I have been sure my heart might just explode in my chest because I love it here so much. I look around me at how beautiful it is here and what a refreshing change from life in NJ and feel so grateful for the opportunity to start a new life here.
The road is still a bit windy and not all the details are not worked out but I can rest in knowing that God has a good plan for us. I mean, we thought we would move to eastern TN and had never dreamed of coming as far west as Nashville. Now I can see how perfect Nashville is for us. I know his timing is perfect and have to remind myself of that in the trying moments. But I do know that this too shall pass and those dreams we have long been dreaming are really going to come true.
I'm home y'all.