It’s about that time to disconnect from the world for a few days. There’s nothing overly exciting to report right now anyway, unless you want to hear about leaky pipes and an obscene heating and air conditioning expense. Oh yeah.

The boys have nearly lost their minds. They’ve gone from being super excited to super helpful to painfully bored and restless. It’s too tempting to run around and wrestle in an empty house, and the lack of structure in our lives this week isn’t helping. We’ve been falling into bed close to midnight for five days straight, which has wreaked havoc on little bodies. Still, our optimism remains, and frankly it’s the only thing keeping us from running for the hills.

So I’m unplugging now. Next time we chat it will be from my library, which has freshly painted chocolate brown walls. It was like painting with Nutella.

How you know you’re buying a house

We’ve been to Home Depot more times in the last month than we’ve been in probably five years. This not only tells you that our last house (in Amarillo) was mostly new and needed no repairs or updating, but it also shows that the house we’re closing on tomorrow is in dire need of attention.

See the hundred bills floating away? Those came from our wallets.

Anyway, the final inspection was this afternoon and it went well… I guess. For the first time in this adventure I felt truly overwhelmed at the workload ahead of us. It’s funny how ambitious you feel when it’s all talk and well-rested. I felt so tired when we finished, and we haven’t even really begun. Tomorrow night we’ll begin cleaning the house that hasn’t been inhabited in more than eight months, where the upkeep has been minimal. I lost track of counting the spider webs and there are more marks and nicks in the walls than I remember.

I won’t even mention the heating and air conditioning issue. Even though it was 95 degrees today.

This is exhaustion talking. In a few days we’ll be off the grid for the actual move and then we’ll all be comatose from all the manual labor. Someone bring the wine, okay?

Unpack, Arrange, Rearrange

Our first week in Tennessee has been fast-paced. Because I cannot sit still, the entire house was unpacked in six days. Everything is mostly in its place. This obsessive part of my personality is very helpful in times like these, but it can also be ridiculous – in that I wake up to rearrange the living room furniture before even pouring a cup of coffee.

Anyway, we’re moved in. (There’s more to tell on the subject of living room furniture but I’ll get to that another day because it’s late and there’s dinner to make. Corey and her son, Alex, were here this weekend, and there’s more to tell on that too.) We went to the mountains, ate some fabulous food at our Welcome to Tennessee dinner with the rest of the Millers, and found a local market where we can buy elk and bison sausage. The weekend was wonderful.

Here are some photos to start off our week.

This is the view along the drive home from the grocery store.
When the boys have excess energy, it's best to just let them out of the car and run. Don't you think?
While driving through the Smoky Mountains, we stopped to let the boys throw rocks into the river. This tree and its amazing roots grow next to it.


A Whopping Three Miles

That was how long I ran today. A wee little run. And it was hard.

Granted, I haven’t run in nearly three weeks but that’s only because I had to pack up one house, sell it, drive across the country and unpack another house. (It’s a little tiresome.) The disappointment I feel about the whopping three miles is mainly because I’m scheduled to run a half marathon in four weeks, so the fact that three miles was hard doesn’t bode well for a girl who needs to run 13 miles in a month. I’m keeping my fingers crossed for supernatural muscle memory.

As for the house, we’re unpacked and settled, which means I resume work on the book immediately. There’s much editing and photo color correcting to do (also within a month). Fortunately, I built all of the 450+ pages while still in Amarillo and now we’re down to the details. If you work in or are familiar with publishing, then you know editing can be an excruciating process. When you read something five or six times, it’s easy to assume every sentence is properly structured and punctuated. That’s just not always the case.

Before I go, let me just say how I love the talk radio station I discovered here. (I’ve got Neal Boortz all morning and Dave Ramsey all afternoon. Yay!)  Now I’ve said before that I’m not going to get political here (remember?) and I’m not going back on that. But with the presidential election year just around the corner, it’s hard not to get all fired up. Here is a fantastic  flow chart (if you’re into that kind of thing) titled Left vs. Right by David McCandless and Stefanie Posavec. It’s busy and detailed, and it’s obviously not without exceptions, but I recommend clicking on the image for a much larger version. Fascinating!

My Backyard

Cumberland Mountain/by Adam Brimer

Okay, it’s not officially my backyard, but you get the gist. I spent way too long online last night rummaging through the Knoxville News Sentinel and other local publications looking for all the usual things – locally owned boutiques, farmer’s markets, and where to find the best sushi. I stumbled upon a Hike of the Month series through the newspaper and got all giddy thinking about playing outside. (The above photo was from the October 2010 Hike of the Month along the Cumberland Trail. Click on the photo to see the entire gallery.)  Jeremy’s asked me every day since Sunday if we can “go to the mountains.” I’ve explained to him all the reasons why we can’t yet (rainy weather, still unpacking, don’t want to get lost right after moving here), but that hasn’t kept him from asking. He’s a little outdoorsman, which means we’re raising him right.

Jackson, as always, goes along for the ride. He’s just happy to see his toys again.

SIDEBAR on Jack: Thanks to Agnes from Despicable Me, he’s started using her “I accidently closed my eyes” excuse.  (That line comes in around the 3:13-minute mark on this video montage all about Agnes. Gosh darn cute, if you ask me.)


Anyway, Lil’ Jack doesn’t say it quite right but any time he drops something, breaks something, says a naughty word, copies his brother, spills his cup, runs into the wall (yes, really) or anything else you can think of, he immediately covers it with, “It was ask-a-dently, Mom! Ask-a-dently!” I need to get video of this.

The good news is that I’m almost entirely unpacked. There are fewer than 10 boxes left in this house and I intend to finish today. Since this house has 400 more square feet than our previous one, the formal living room as no furniture in it. No, strike that. It has an ottoman and a step stool. But other than that, it’s empty. Corey and Alex are coming for a visit this weekend (yay for our first company!) so she and I plan to hit up the local thrift and consignment shops for modest pieces to make the room cozy.

Don’t worry. Pictures are coming.

Good Morning from Maryville

What day is it? I have no idea, but check out this view from the back porch.


Behind that line of trees is another property, and behind that property is another line of trees, and behind those trees are the Great Smoky Mountains. You can see the ridge line of the front range, which makes me giddy with anticipation for fall foliage.

Moving across the country was just as you’d expect it to be: exhausting. Driving 1,120 miles in two days with two kids and a pouting cat will make you tired. Instead of dwelling on the negatives, I’m overwhelmingly thankful for a number of things: 1) gas prices didn’t spike, 2) the boys didn’t lose their minds, 3) Salem didn’t poop in the car, and obviously, 4) we arrived safely. We also had great help from family members unloading the truck.

Unpacking began the night we arrived because I can’t control myself. I need order NOW, and I also need a map of this area because even though I’ve spend 14 years of weekends here for family reunions and Christmas parties, I rarely paid attention to my where-abouts. I can get myself to the main road, but beyond that, it’s all guess work and looking for what is familiar.

Jeremy started school this morning and he admitted to me first thing that he was nervous. No doubt. I empathized and told him about moving to Germany in the middle of my third grade year. I explained that it was hard walking into a classroom full of kids who already knew each other, but being friendly helps you make friends. He seemed to like the fact that I knew how he felt, and I was sure to not give him a huge hug and kiss when I left him in the classroom. I gave him a Cool Mom Half Hug with no sentiments. (We save the mushy stuff for home.)

As for Jack, who just told me his name is now Kevin, he’ll join me in unpacking the living room and organizing the play area. In a little while we’ll run errands and enjoy the view along the way.

Salem, by the way, is doing just fine.

Thank You and Farewell

This farewell comes both early and late. Early, because we never intended to leave Texas after only two years, and late, because it’s been a long year of waiting for our house to sell and living in separate states as a means to make it all work. Finally, this season is over.

In the last two weeks I’ve pondered the things I’ll miss about Amarillo, as well as the things I will not miss. Let’s start with the latter.

I will not miss:
– the make-you-crazy and damaging 40+ mph wind
– the occasional smell of cow manure, especially on a hot summer day
– the flatness of the terrain with minimal trees
– big property taxes on very little land
– refilling drink water jugs every week (I just wanna drink from the tap!)
– the cost of a plane ticket/the long drive to see friends and family on the east coast

Obviously, had the last item not been a factor, the rest would’ve been annoying but manageable. If you’ve ever lived across the country from your loved ones, then you know what I mean. There is something to be said about living within a day’s drive of your parents.

On the flip side, I will most certainly miss:
– my lovely house
– my former job at Amarillo Magazine
– low-to-no humidity (I’ll really miss this when summer in Tennessee rolls around)
– the unmatched beauty of a Panhandle sunrise and sunset
Blue Sky burgers with a side of cheesy bacon fries
Maxwell’s Pumpkin Farm
– of course, the people

I originally attempted to name everyone who’s been so gracious, friendly, and kind to me, but the list ran far too long. As a whole that speaks to the goodness of people who live here, which is a unique and special quality only few cities can claim. However, I would be remiss if I didn’t name a few:

– Michele, I’m convinced that God brought me to Amarillo to meet you. I dearly miss our long talks, our brainstorming sessions and especially our laughter. There is a very short list of people for whom I’d dance, get felt up by a hot air balloonist, and wear my hair in a side ponytail. Fortunately, you made that list on Day One. There is always a place for you to stay wherever I live.

– Danh and Patrick, my favorite work buddies, thank you for all the techy help and good talks. I’ll miss your company. And Danh, Salem will miss you too. He told me so.

– Les, thank you for your support, your Georgia boy banter and for catching the misspelling of my name in the February issue (I’m giving credit where credit is due). I’ll be sure to send you photos from inside Neyland Stadium.

– Jim, thank you for taking a chance on me. Creating your book has been a great privilege.

– Tonya, Christi and Elisa, thank you for fostering a friendship between my boys and yours. Every play date and get-together was worth it.

Taylor, our fearless realtor, your persistence paid off! Thanks for hanging in there with us.

– To the people of Paramount, your generosities come from the heart. For that, you’ve made this last year much easier to bear. Just when I didn’t think we’d have family here, you proved otherwise. Jeff and Debbie, I will deeply miss hearing your bits of wisdom each week. My eyes well up just thinking about it. Thank you, most of all, for your genuine encouragement.

– To all of the wonderful people I interviewed for Amarillo Magazine, thank you for being the greatest introduction to this city a girl could ask for.

I’m overwhelmed by all of the generosity that’s been shown to us. While leaving the city of Amarillo isn’t very hard at all, leaving its people has me in tears. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

And farewell.

Valium + Nitrous Oxide = Good

Let me just say this – I know now why people do drugs. I don’t do drugs, but I could be persuaded otherwise.

Today was my  for two fillings. I took the Valium one hour prior to my visit as advised and immediately felt nothing. I also felt nothing 30 minutes later, so I feared it was a big waste of a buck fifty. However, by the time we strolled into the waiting room, I was feeling good. And giggly. Very giggly. As in, everything is SO FUNNY giggly. Chuck and I were both in tears with laughter. He was laughing at me and I was laughing at God knows what.

Aside from the giggles, I noticed no other effects from the drug. I still felt nervous about the shots, the drills, the picking with those picking tools, the smell of clinical equipment, and everything else I hate about going to the dentist. That is, until I was in the chair with nitrous oxide.

Suddenly there were ocean waves tumbling through my body. They started at my head and shuffled down to my toes. I was light as air, floating – no, flying! And I had nothing to tie me down. Mumford & Sons was loud in my ears and away I was in another dimension.

It was when I reached a cliff and teetered on the edge of total inhibition that I squeaked out, “Too much.”

But in the suspended time it took for me to say those words and for the doctor so respond with, “Too much gas?” I’d already yanked the mask off my nose. My heart was racing and my eyes wanted to roll back into my head.

“Okay, okay!” he said. “It’s just oxygen now.”

That sudden almost-loss of control scared me. Back with the oxygen-only mask, I returned to that happy in-between place for the duration of the procedure. I felt virtually nothing and the sound the drill was mostly drowned out by the volume of my music. And then, we were done.

The rest of the Valium wore off during my late-afternoon, two-hour nap. Now, with a sore mouth, we’ll head to church in a few for a going-away dinner with our Sunday School class. We leave in three days.

My Little Black Shadow

One of the most endearing things about Salem is that he likes to be with me all the time. ALL the time. Whatever room I’m in, so is he. If I move to another room, he follows.

And I do mean every room. This is where he sits when I… well, you know. When I sit.

This Texas cat is my favorite souvenir I’m bringing home to Tennessee. (I’ve told him what to expect, though I don’t think he realizes just how many trees he’ll be able to climb.) The first challenge, however, is the two-day car ride plus three nights in three different hotels. (He’s not a fan of car rides. Remember?) I hope he can just go with the flow this week. Living out of suitcases, in between addresses, everything is packed – it’s not ideal, but it’s temporary. Hang in there, Salem. And, please, please don’t poop in the car on the way there.

28 Chapters Completed

Jim, the book’s author, came over last night for our last round of editing. All 28 chapters of his coffee table book about the Green Bay Packers are finished. That’s roughly 470 pages of design work and editing on my part, and there’s still a ways to go when you consider I need to apply page numbers and generate the table of contents and index. (I also need to color correct all of the 300+ photos according to the printer’s color profile, but that’ll be a snap. <— note sarcasm.) But, the bulk of the work is finished. It’s been an 11-month process and by the time I upload it to the printer, it will be closer to 14 months.


Overall, I’m pleased. Very pleased. Yet, the nit-picker in me (and editor-for-hire) will end up spending a great deal of time looking for inconsistencies and omissions. Do all the design elements line up perfectly? Are all the numbers appropriately numeric or spelled out? Have I added the copyright symbol everywhere there ought to be one? Does the color palette really mesh? Is every page balanced? And do I love that font as much as I did a year ago?

All of these things will become my priority once we’re settled in Knoxville. Jim knows I need a couple of weeks to get the house organized, the kids acclimated and to catch up on things that need catching up on (wink, wink), but he also knows that I KNOW deadlines, and if the plan is to have this book published by training camp time, then I’ve got about two months to finish the entire thing.

Don’t you know I’m already wondering: What happens next? When the book is finished and there’s nothing for me to do creatively, what in the world will I do? I’m a little nervous about that.

This is our last weekend in Amarillo. Packing will be the prominent activity. That, and reflecting on everything I learned while living here. A goodbye post is coming soon.

Exploring Tennessee in Pictures

Burwell Building, Tennessee Theatre, Knoxville/By Corey Seaton
Cades Cove, Great Smoky Mountains National Park/By Kara Ziler

I’ve spent more time than I should browsing photos of east Tennessee online. It seems ridiculous since I’ve lived more years in Tennessee (between two cities) than anywhere else and have plenty of my own pictures to peruse. What can I say? I’m excited, and it all started on Flickr and carried on to photo contests and other random sites I found online. (I found the above photos on this site.) I’ve been studying maps, finding Greenways and hiking trails, and planning one weekend excursion after another.

One thing is for sure: I doubt we will run out of places to explore.

A Bit of Housekeeping

I revised existing pages on the blog and added new ones, so feel free to explore them at your leisure.

Also, I will take a little time off when we move so we can get settled and figure out where everything is going to go. When we moved to Amarillo in December 2008, I was unpacked and mostly organized within two weeks. I suspect the move to Knoxville will be much the same (though I need to temper the unpacking with book design and race training). The biggest negotiation of late is whether or not the boys will continue sharing a room. Originally we told them they’d go back to having their own rooms (like they did in Georgia) and there was a great celebration. However, as weeks went on, Jeremy expressed concern about being alone at night and that he may not want to be away from his brother after all. I told him we didn’t have to decide until we show up to the house, but once things were situated (whether together or separate), he’d have to accept it for the time being.

As of this morning, the jury’s still out.

No Rest on the Day of Rest

From now until next week, I’m packing every day for our move back to Tennessee. To date, in my 32 years, I’ve moved more than a dozen times (that is, if you start from the very beginning of my childhood and include moving to college, moving back from college, moving in with Chuck after getting married, and so on). I’ve lived in ten cities between six states and two countries. Granted, I had little to do with the earliest moves from Army base to Army base, but by the time I was in grade school I remember being required to sort through my things, allocate what goes and what stays, and be able to situate my own room while my parents tackled the rest of the house. To my credit is one round of organization after another.

You’d think I’d be a pro at this by now. Though I’m still organized (to a fault, some would say), I’m very overwhelmed. Since when did I acquire (or should I say require) so much stuff? I’m only a third of the way through this house and I’ve already reached the “toss it” phase. There’s a corner of the garage designated for Goodwill drop-offs. The pile is growing by the room.

The exhaustion of moving has chipped away at my energy level and my mood. I’m ready to be done and we’ve only just begun, which means the help I’ve received so far is appreciated. Thank you for the donated boxes and the donated manual labor.

(Thank you, Michele, for this jump start on the kitchen.)

Love in a Diagram

This sweet little piece, “The Universe and Forever,” is by Wendy MacNaughton, who says, “I make diagrams to help make sense of things that are incomprehensible and overwhelming, too big and complex. In this case, love.” True that. Happy Valentine’s Day, lovebugs. (Click on the image to see a larger version or to order a print.)

I caved and gave the boys their Valentine’s gifts yesterday. To their surprise and elation, they unwrapped the last Star Wars movie they didn’t own (Empire Strikes Back) and a starter box of Legos. I’ve shied away from Legos all these years because I didn’t think they were 1) ready to play with such tiny pieces and 2) ready to keep track of such tiny pieces. Both last night and this morning I found beetle-size pieces in the living room carpet, on the tile floor in the kitchen and in the bathroom (really?). Even though I gave CLEAR instructions to play at a table where the pieces to be contained, Legos have popped up in other areas of the house already. I’ll endure it, though, because those boys played with their Legos for two hours straight.

And playing for two hours straight was a huge help to me since I’ve started packing. We leave Amarillo in less than three weeks, so I’ll be splitting all of my time between the book, packing up the house and maintaining some level of race training for the half marathon in early April. A contract has been on the house for two weeks, though I’ve only just started acting like it. Between you and me, reader, I’m a little nervous. You know when something is too good to be true and you’re so sure it’s going to be yanked away at the last minute that you’re reluctant to accept it in the first place? It kinda feels like that.

However, if it’s not going to be yanked away, I want to be prepared! I’ve already packed a good chunk of non-essentials and will tackle the semi-essentials bit by bit. We’ve also secured a rental house in Knoxville, and I’ll admit to you that I probably look at it two or three times a day online. The house backs into a wooded area thick with trees and grass. There’s a deck off the back of the house that looks onto it, and in the wintertime when the leaves have fallen, you can see a small range of the Smoky Mountains in the background.

Springtime is coming, and I couldn’t be more glad. It’s time for a new season.


75? Bring it on.

Before trudging down the icy roads, I decided to check the weather. Doth mine eyes deceive me? 75 degrees by Tuesday?

Yes, yes, YES.

We will celebrate this winter warm-up by packing all weekend. It’s looking like we just might get to Knoxville by spring time.

The Swallowing of Pride

The majority of you are aware of our current status – the living in limbo, the long distance, and my inability to control it all with meticulous planning and forethought.

So yesterday I belabored too long in Sunday School about it all. I felt silly and selfish, but it was hard not to speak up and ask for help, if only in the form of prayer and advice. I felt even more selfish when our teacher encouraged the class to encourage me, and the whole time I was thinking, “See, Jennie? You talk too much. People don’t like other people who talk too much.

Continue reading “The Swallowing of Pride”