Transitions

Here’s a very obvious thing that I have only just started realizing in recent years: during times of major transition, I have a penchant for veering off into the melodramatic.

When my best friend moved away at age 11, I relentlessly played “The Best of Friends” from The Fox and The Hound on the piano for weeks. When I took a semester off to travel alone at 19, I wrote existentially sappy poetry across the northern half of Europe. When I moved from California to Illinois for college, I spent most nights of my first semester out in the quad, staring at the moon – wondering if it looked the same over my hometown, trying to snap photos of it that wouldn’t be too blurry to post on social media with some forlorn caption (which, obviously, would come from “I’ll be Seeing You“). And when I got married and moved to Chicago, I took up blogging with a vengeance.

Not to say, of course, that there’s anything wrong with sad songs, sappy poetry or blog posts about buildings/beaches/apartments/cars that come dangerously close to obituaries. I’ll argue that sometimes those things are even necessary. But in my case, they most frequently come from a dynamic duo of circumstances: nostalgia and too much time on my hands.

Aside from getting married, I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that moving to Texas has been my biggest life transition so far. Well, maybe moving to college, too. But our next few changes after that made sense: college was in Wheaton, so our first apartment was a short train ride away in Chicago. We kept our friends, returned to our favorite places on weekends or evenings out. Then we moved to a different part of Chicago, but guess what? We kept our friends, returned to our favorite places on weekends or evenings out. Jobs changed, but always in a trajectory that made sense within context. Galen was very firmly in the behavioral therapy world. I was very firmly in the ministry/church admin world. My California blood adjusted to Chicago winters. They weren’t pleasant, but far from torturous. This last winter was even pretty nice.

But hey – why not move to Texas, where it’s always 110 degrees, and become teachers?

It’s been a wild few months, and I know that I haven’t been good about writing here. And as frustrating as that is for a verbal processor like myself, I do think there’s a small mercy there. Little time to blog about a major life transition, for me, means little time to brood. Nostalgia has had very little impact on my life these past few months simply because I haven’t had time for it. We hit the ground running here in Houston and haven’t stopped moving since. Tiring, sure. But also a blessing. Especially for the melodramatic among us (hey hi over here!), it seems like a much better idea to look up and around than to constantly be looking in. 

Somewhere in all of this running and doing, our new home appeared. It happened remarkably quickly and, for all my past anxieties about moving, fairly painlessly. Despite this post coming to you in October, the apartment was largely furnished and finished by early-August. It’s a very different apartment than our last one (and, thank God, very different from our first). Only four pieces of furniture followed us from Chicago. Aside from those, our books, our clothes, our kitchen gear and a handful of decorative items, everything else is new (or, at least, new to us). We’re also not allowed to paint here, so for the first time since 2015, we have no orange walls. But after having to repaint so much of our last apartment during move-out week, I’m not complaining too much.

It’s new. It’s different. And you know what? It’s good. I’m glad to start from (almost) scratch with Galen by my side. I’m glad for the few little bits of past homes that made the journey with us. And I’m glad for the work, the busyness, and the intentional rest that has kept me from missing the joy of this transition.

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1.0

This strange little piece is one of the afore mentioned “little bits of past homes,” and has followed me for the past five years. Sharpie on scrap wood from Arena Theater’s Set Crew orientation in 2013. The underside, if you can’t read it, comes from The Little Prince: “Grown-ups always have to have things explained.”

It hangs above our front door, readable upon entrance or exit.

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1.1

Part of our living room! That’s our front door on the left. All of this furniture came from Craigslist. The rug and Japanese ink painting are from Galen’s grandmother’s house. Most of the books came with us from Chicago – although lately we’ve been on a crazed book-buying spree so who knows.

Also, our Chicago friends may recognize the hanging lights in the corner as the ones that hung so charmingly (if not jankily) above our kitchen island.

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1.2

A close-up on this bookshelf, for obvious reasons.

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2.1

Our last apartment was six stories high, and looked out into our brick next-door building. This one is on the second floor, and looks out into a tree. It’s a welcome change.

Oh and look! More new Craigslist furniture.

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2.2

Another bookshelf detail shot, and a few more things that made the journey with us. The sign is from our wedding, which was in October of 2015. As our evening reception was partially outdoor, we placed this sign on the patio next to a basket of blankets for guests who wanted to get comfy.

(Handwritten, if I remember correctly, by Caitrin. It’s nice to have family and friends around us, even if only representationally in some cases.)

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3.1

Third wall!

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3.2

Some old classics can be found here, i.e., Monkey Lamp, ceramic vase by my dad, welded candlestick holders by Kate, Chicago watercolors, California candle from Jon and Megan, tiny pumpkin, and Cthulhu.*

*Actually, this picture is a little older than the others… Cthulhu was recently moved to the study and replaced by the plant in the above picture. Turns out, aloe plants don’t love being directly in the path of the air conditioning.

So, here we switch rooms. The door to the right in this photo leads to the back hallway (master bedroom to the left, study and guest bathroom to the right). But we’re not going to go through that door yet. We’re going to turn right and head to the dining room instead.

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4.1

See? Dining room!

Okay, but actually, this is maybe my favorite room in the entire place. Not because it’s so extraordinary, but because it exists. For my entire life, I’ve harbored a deep sense that a home without a dining room is not a permanent home. No dining room = temporary, verging on unstable. But here we are: a dining room table, six chairs (even if one of them is currently in the study as my desk chair), proximity to kitchen, wall sconces. Fancy. (And from Bethany! More things from people we love!)

This dining room, to me, signifies that we’re actually adults and, more importantly, that life is now stable in a way it’s never been before.

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4.2

These watercolor paintings of Prague and Paris were given to me six or seven years ago by Jon and Megan. They’ve followed me from home to home since then, but due to their irregular size, were never framed. For years, getting frames for them has been at the top of my To Do Once I Have A Steady Job list.

Guess what I did immediately after getting my first paycheck?

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4.3

There’s also a bookshelf in here. It’s in the corner and I apparently didn’t get a picture of the whole thing, but here’s one shelf.

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5.1

Our tiny kitchen! The sink and the fridge are small, and things get crowded very quickly if Galen and I are both trying to do things in here. But we have a pantry and a dishwasher, so no complaints here.

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6.0

Okay, now we’ve gone through that door in the living room, the one that goes to the back half of the apartment. Family portraits on the left, door to the guest bathroom and the study on the right.

(Bedroom also on the left, just way to the left and so not visible.)

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6.1

The study! For the first month, I kept forgetting that this room exists. I also then kept getting lost. (There are so many doors here! Our last apartment had exactly three, counting the front one. But then, our last apartment was the size of our current living room. So.)

Anyway. Study. AKA Cthulhu’s new (hopefully sunnier and less chilled) home. I think the rest is fairly self-explanatory.

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6.3

Back in 2015, these decorative shelves were my dining room set. Not that I ate on them; I just mean they held the same emotional significance as the dining room set does now. (Weird, the things that make us feel like “Now I’ve made it!”) So I feel like I owe it to 13-year-old Laura, who revered people with decorative shelves, to post close-ups.

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6.4

Decorative shelf close up #2, ft. St. Genesius, and a very dead flower.

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6.5

This is where I sit most of the time when I’m home. I love having my own desk, my own space to sit and think, to leave things and know that they won’t be moved. Everyone should have their own ideal work spot.

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6.7

I wrote a bit about this framed index card in my last blog post (also findable in the link above), but just felt like posting a close-up here as well. The idea of being “graced with courage” continues to be so powerful to me. It’s one of those phrases that you hear and imagine, with longing, that someone might say it about you someday.

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6.6

Sometime in our first few weeks here, Galen and I bought a bunch of new succulents. Somehow, we have killed all of them since then. This one is still sitting on the window of the study, though, because it has some green on it yet and I don’t want to give up on something that is trying so hard to stay alive.

We’ll see.

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6.8

This is the entrance of the study, also ft. our craft/utility/all-purpose closet. Which is a godsend. Also ft. a framed poster of the first words of the Gospel of John from the Book of Kells. Galen and I requested that this chapter be read at our wedding, so I was super jazzed to find this poster (on sale, no less!).

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7.1

Hallway back to the rest of the apartment. Linen closet on the immediate left, living room just past that, bedroom straight ahead, guest bathroom to the right.

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8.1

Our room!

Window from Arena Theater’s Middletown on the wall to the left, along with our wedding caketopper foxes (handmade by Becky).

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8.2

Some happy things. Most notably, this little nightstand lamp which is full of California seaglass.

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8.3

Our bedroom turns into our bathroom! It’s very hotel-like and a little strange. But very convenient, no two ways about it.

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8.4

This wall is very sentimentally pleasing to me. These doors go to a very long walk-in closet, with Galen’s side on the left and mine on the right. We have corresponding His-and-Hers wooden knives mounted above them (handmade by our good friend Wesley), and doorknob decor (handmade by another friend, Sophia), which you can see more about below.

The frame between the doors holds a painting I did back in August when I was figuring out how to use watercolors before I taught them to a bunch of five-year-olds. The colors just made me so happy that I stuck them in a frame.

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8.5

For the first Christmas after graduating, my class from Arena Theater got together to exchange gifts. We had drawn names and, as usual for Arena Theater Christmases, spent several weeks working on handmade presents for the person we were assigned – “something of me, something of them.” I was given three of these decorative paper balls by Sophia. They are made out of cut-up cards from her wedding (she was married just a few months before I was), and filled with handwritten prayers for me and Galen.

I like to have them around, A) because they’re beautiful, and B) because it is always good to remember that you are being prayed for, even when you don’t know how to pray, yourself.

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8.6

Close-up of Galen’s Wesley-knife. Having friends who can make things is just fantastic.

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8.7

And finally, here’s the far corner of our bedroom – special books, DVDs, Kodon literary journals from Wheaton (yes, I kept them all), photo albums, Shakespeare plays that didn’t fit on our other bookshelves. Smatterings of random things that somehow felt like they belonged together.

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8.8

Galen gave this board to me for my 22nd birthday. I was in my last month of college, we were engaged, and my head was full of Future plans (and, mostly, of Future worries). One of these big worries was the very realistic revelation that we would have to work very hard and very long to build up our bank accounts. We had always talked about the places we would see one day, how we would travel the world – and now those places all felt very far away. I worried that we would never go anywhere. So Galen gave me this board. He had painted the words “Oh, the places we’ll go!” on the back of it, and told me to fill it with places I wanted us to go see or return to.

We haven’t traveled out of the country since getting married, but I don’t worry about that anymore. I hope that it happens soon, and I hope it happens frequently. But in the meantime, I’m happy to be here, looking out and around, doing my best to keep seeing life with Galen as the adventure that it is.

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