Growing Up and Going Home

WE MADE IT.

It’s officially been a week in our new home, and I could not be happier.

Moving to St. Louis has been a dream–my dream, one that Ben has amazingly, wonderfully, unselfishly adopted as his own. It’s been the type of dream we whispered about at night, under the cover of darkness, because if we said it too loud, too publicly, it may have slipped away. We dreamed and schemed, planned and saved and worked so hard to make this happen. It’s all I’ve wanted for years, but now we’re here.

I always knew I wanted to be here, with my family and in this city that seems so magical to me, but I never imagined it would be like this.

We found the most perfect little townhouse in the most charming neighborhood. Every building on every block is built of old, red brick. Most of the neighborhood churches are more than 160 years old. Tall, leafy trees line the wide streets and the city noises fade away. Bars and shops and restaurants are tucked into corners of old converted row houses, giving everything the same look and feel it had a hundred years ago. It’s minutes from everything, like most neighborhoods in St. Louis, but it feels so perfectly isolated from the hustle of the city.

This move should have been a thousand times more stressful than the last. Instead of having weeks to move across town, we had to load up, move almost 300 miles, and unpack all in less than 24 hours–but somehow I’ve been so relaxed. There’s something so reassuring about coming here that makes everything else seem unimportant.

Now we’re celebrating all those firsts that come with a new home. The very first night and that glorious first sunrise through new windows. The first evening stroll discovering what’s hidden down every new street. The first time sitting on our new balcony, drink in hand, soaking in the sounds of our new life.

I’m sitting on that balcony now, as the cicadas sing in the trees and the muggy St. Louis morning presses close. The sun filters through the leaves to fall on the exposed brick walls, and I feel like anything is possible, the same way I’ve felt for the last seven mornings. I hope I feel this way forever.

It all sounds so dramatic and romanticized, but that’s how it really seems. I know in a week or a month or a year it will all feel old and familiar and boring, but right now it’s perfect.

My parents had a party last night for a few relatives who aren’t usually in town. Before, those types of things always hit me hard. I knew that’s what I lost out on, living in Indiana. I never missed a Christmas or Thanksgiving. Major holidays and birthdays were usually spent together. But it’s the little things. The nights of “hey, we’re grilling out tonight, why don’t you come over?” and the small moments in between that mean everything to me. Now we don’t have to miss out again, because we’re finally here.

Most people grow up and go out into the world to find their own place. They want to make a name for themselves or just carve out a niche where they can discover themselves without the pressures of home. I had a small taste of that in Indiana, but it was never what I longed for. Now I’m grateful for this chance to share the city I love with the one I love, and find our own place in the world so close to home.

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Back Home Again in Indiana

I realized something as I drove home on Sunday, with the sun setting in my rear view mirror and the Indiana cornfields sprawling for miles in every direction.

This would be my last time coming “home” to Indiana.

Two days before, we signed a lease on an incredible townhouse in one of my favorites neighborhoods in St. Louis. We filled out paperwork, wrote checks, and asked all the important questions like “Do you think the king-sized bed of our dreams will fit up those stairs?” (The answer, sadly, is most likely not.)

Indiana, and Indianapolis in particular, has been spectacularly good to me. I’ve met more wonderful people and experienced more incredible things than I ever knew could be possible.

Indiana is where I started my first grown-up job. I learned that I actually could make it in the real world. I’ve grown professionally in more ways than I can count and was tapped for my first real position as a writer. This company has put a lot of faith in me in the last 3.5 years–a faith they’re continuing to show as I transition to working remotely. I’m so grateful for their support and encouragement as I tried (and continue trying) to find my footing in the corporate environment I suddenly found myself in.

Indianapolis reconnected me with my passion for volleyball and showed me how much I love teaching this incredible game. The opportunities I had through Team Indiana have opened my eyes to a whole new world of volleyball. The people I met through the organization, not to mention my girls themselves, welcomed me with open arms and taught me to become both a better player and coach.

Indiana brought me Ben. It brought me our dog Sansa. It brought me memories and happiness and friends to last a lifetime. I can say with confidence that I’ve laughed a whole lot more than I’ve cried here–something that cannot be said about all the places I’ve put down roots.

That drive on Sunday brought me back to the first time I “drove home” to Indiana. I was 22 years old, scared out of my mind, and truly going out in the world for the first time. I definitely cried more than I laughed that first weekend–maybe even those first few weeks–alone in that one-bedroom apartment. Those two drives down the exact same roads could not have been more dissimilar. The first had me driving toward uncertainty. The last I drove with our dog in the backseat, on my way back to a city full of people I’ve grown to love.

And sure, we’ll be back again. Probably more times than I’d like. We’re still working our same jobs, most of our friends are here, and Ben’s video contacts here mean a lot of his production work will still be in Indiana.

It won’t be home, though. Not again. But this place, this city, these people will always hold a special place in my heart.

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Missing You, Kerri Girl

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How do you say goodbye to an old dog?

How do you even put into words the feeling of having to let her go? She was the dog who made you realize what loving a dog actually means. The one you begged and pleaded and hounded your parents for years for, before they finally gave in. She was the first dog our family ever saw but she…she was the one.

Our old dog came to us when we needed her most. She wasn’t old then—then she was just a baby you could carry in your arms as she licked your cheek and nipped your nose with her too-sharp puppy teeth. Our old dog came when we ourselves were on the verge of something new and exciting.

So many things about adolescence are hard: growing up, switching schools, the transitions into life as a preteen. Somehow, at ages 8 and 10 and 12, a puppy had the ability to change our lives. Maybe now, as we led her through the neighborhood, people would notice us when they used to just walk on by.

Instead, transformations came more subtly with our old dog. She taught us empathy. Responsibility. Patience. How to respect those who couldn’t care for themselves. We grew with her in our lives, in better ways than we could have ever imagined. Having more friends paled in comparison to what we actually gained from loving an old dog.

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Sure, we taught her plenty—shake, speak, roll over, high-five, where Mom and Dad kept the good treats—but how do you say goodbye to an old dog who taught you everything?

Looking back, it’s obvious to see how quickly our family changed around her. We were no longer the ones who had to play with the dog next door. Instead, we raced home to be with her. To wrestle in the backyard and pat her head and love her. She was made to be ours, and we adored her more than I ever knew was possible.

An old dog grows up with you. She knows how to work her way into your heart and never let go. She draws you back, even after you’ve grown up and moved on the life you had together. You can’t talk to an old dog on the phone when you go to college—but she never lets on how much she missed you when you went away. An old dog will kiss your cheek and wag her tail and keep on loving you, one weekend visit at a time.

The only thing left to say to our old dog is thank you. For being the best first dog—the dog we wouldn’t have even thought to ask for. For drying our tears and kissing away our pain. For being over the moon excited when came home to you, even if we had only been gone 15 minutes. Thank you for loving us every single day for almost 14 years.

So how do you say goodbye to an old dog? You can’t. All you can do is tell her that you love her. It won’t feel like enough. It will seem more than inadequate. She deserves more, a thousand times over, but because she is an old dog, she will understand.

I love you, my foxy little girl. Always.

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Woah, a Real Writing Gig!

I’ve written once or twice here about my struggle with where I want my writing to take me in the future. Do I want to be a hard-hitting journalist? (Definitely not.) Do I want to write short stories or maybe a novel? (Ehh, maybe.) Do I even want to write publicly at all? (Yeah, I’m pretty sure.)

Secretly, I still don’t know for sure where I’m going to end up eventually. But what I do know is that, after sending a few clips and links to my stuff around the Web, someone wants me to write for them!!!

Lydia is an up-and-coming online magazine for all kinds of women. They have posts for everyone–music and TV reviews, makeup and fashion advice, and even a section of thought-provoking essays.

But my favorite part? They want me to write DIY- and food-related posts. Fall-themed ones, to be exact, at least at the moment. With pictures and everything!

My head is swimming with ideas; I cannot wait to really get going with this. I’ve even got some ideas for submissions to their essays section.

Guess what, though?

I’ve already got a post live. I made some seriously amazing pumpkin gooey butter cake, and before we scarfed the whole thing down, I took some fancy pictures and sent it off. I even had to write up a little bio about myself–promise you won’t laugh when you read it?

Go check it out, you guys!!! (Sorry about the exclamation points. I’m seriously way too excited.)

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Welcome Back

I’ve written on it before (and I think about it always), but writing is always easier for me when I’m sad. Emotions that hurt seem to pour out of my fingertips while ones that elate me get a little stuck between my brain and the page.

That’s not to say that the words don’t come when I’m happy. They’re always there, forming themselves into perfect sentences as I lay in bed each morning, so eloquent and refined. They just don’t come here, because when the time comes to actually get up and write them down? I find that there are puppy cuddles to be had and the comforting arms of the man I love to keep me half asleep just long enough to remember why I’m so happy in the first place.

Happiness has a way of entrenching itself in my life in a way that sadness just can’t match. While despair may keep me at my keyboard, jubilation keeps me out, living in the world and away from writing.

So if that’s true, then I must be having the best 8 months of my life, right?

It really has been wonderful. Sure, there have been some tough times. Times so hard that I couldn’t fathom writing about them. Times that threatened to undo everything I thought I had accomplished, pushed me further than I ever wanted to go. There were times in the last 8 months that made me question every single thing about who I thought I was.

But I pushed through, and I am so much stronger for it. I know myself more deeply and can love who I am, even through my flaws. Those days felt like hell, but now, standing on the other side, I know they were worth it.

I’ve had so many incredible experiences with the wonderful people who now fill my life, and I wouldn’t trade it (or them) for the world. The realization of what (and who) is actually important could never have come without hardship and heartbreak.

So, in the past 8 months, I’ve just lived.

I played so much volleyball (and fetch!). I slept in and read fantastic books. I sat out on patios, played board games, and baked more cupcakes than I care to count. One Saturday, I came home to the most fantastic Arrested Development-themed surprise birthday party (complete with banana stand, George Senior pinata, and Final Countdown theme music). We drank Tobias-inspired cocktails–think blue man and never nude–and laughed hysterically when I set my cake on fire.

When your life is full of puppies and cupcakes and friends, why would you want to make time for much else?

And yet, here I am. The changing of the seasons is calling me back. It’s nostalgia, I’m sure. For what my life was like at this time last year. In a few short weeks, I’ll have been with an amazing, loving, perfect man for an entire year. I adore our life together, and I find myself giggling like a little girl as I remember what it was like to fall in love with him.

My posts at this time last year were sad. Filled with doubt and uncertainty. But feeling broken for a little while led me to feeling whole again.

It is beyond incredible to look back on it now and smile at how much has changed. I am forever grateful for this year. For the months upon months of radio silence that allowed me to fill my life with joy rather than fill a page on the Internet with sadness. Grateful that my life has come full circle, and I can’t wait to see what the next year will bring.

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