Thursday, July 26, 2018

Moving On

I walk through my home in Plainfield, the one where we raised our kids into adults and shared laughter, memories, tears, sadness, elation, and plenty of bad dancing.
Not to mention ball busting...
...and where we gathered every weekend as a family of four.
Today I don't even recognize where we sat around the island and enjoyed Apéritif Fridays for years. All of our remaining belongings - every last one of them in that home - are on display in stacks with pieces of cheap masking tape and an arbitrary price tag attached. We are selling it all - every last belonging here - in order to move on in life.

I liken my feelings about this week to when we dropped our firstborn off at college. Reflective? Sure. Emotional? Yes. But not in the way most would think.

We planned this move for years. In fact, I became a Wisconsin resident in 2014, and Mr. Musky finally followed me last December. We talked for years about moving to our version of paradise on earth, and even considered moving the kids eight years ago. But we waited until Jake finished high school, and now our dreams and plans are finally coming to fruition. On Monday Mr. Musky and I will take one final walk through the house, turn off the lights, and close the door behind us forever.

Our kids are sad - really sad. And I get that. But I also know that a house does not make a home - it's the people who do. Having lived in fifteen homes previously, I have at least four more in me. Current cabin. Rental home upon demolition of the cabin. New home where cabin once stood.

Nursing home. I'm not naive.

Each move brought challenges, of course. But they also brought memories. Would I trade the memories from the crappy rental home in Lockport where we lived for four months before our Plainfield home was complete?
Never in a million years. That home had a laundry chute, and Mr. Musky spied something hanging in there. After several minutes of struggling to reach the item with a broomstick, he pulled out the most magical pair of giant, stained granny panties. The sheer horror on his face followed by a girlie squeal of disgust as he dropped them to the floor is forever etched into my mind. So are the sweet faces on my little toddlers when we played tea party and construction gang every afternoon in the dusty family room.
Or when we snuggled together in the room they shared while I read Harry Potter to them before bedtime. Or when I bathed them in the pink bathtub because the house didn't have a shower.

My kids will come to recall their Plainfield home with fondness and memories of a great childhood, just like I did with the thirteen homes before that scuzzy rental house. From age 16 to 21 alone, I lived in eight different residences. Every single one of them provided memories to last a lifetime, and you know what? I mainly remember the good stuff, because it trumps the bad. I wouldn't trade a single one of those homes for stability during those years. Through it all the constant remained - my mom and dad - and they are always part of my "home."

So while I understand my kids' sadness, I'm grateful we were able to provide them with consistency over the years, and I also know they will build on those happy memories with every new place they lay down roots. Whether in Madison or France or New York City or California, they will approach every transition with reflection, excitement, and yes - perhaps a bit of melancholy, too.

It's all good. Really good. And over time, I know they'll come to understand that and have perspective, just like their Dad and I do.

In the meantime, if you're local to Plainfield, come join us on our patio for an apéritif on Friday night from 7:00 - 10:00. But please leave by ten, because we're old, we have to be out of the house by 8:00 am the next day, and mama can't hold her liquor like she once could.

Big love to everyone who supported us through this. Please keep loving on my kids when you see them, and let us know when you're in the Northwoods of Wisconsin. We love visitors!

XOXO,
Jen



Monday, July 2, 2018

Is Fred in the Refrigerator? A Book Review

For quite some time I've toyed with the idea of writing book reviews on Genuinely Speaking. I finally decided there's no better time than the present, especially when a college friend comes out with her second book.
If you've ever read a blog post of mine and enjoyed it, you will love Is Fred in the Refrigerator? Taming OCD and Reclaiming My Life by Shala Nicely. Shala genuinely speaks in her memoir, baring her soul in an effort to advocate for others who struggle with mental illness.

In this book Shala exposes her self - not just her feelings and emotions - but her true essence, and all the demons and rogues she battles throughout her life. While her story seems hopeless at times, a steady, confident undercurrent of triumphant hope prevails. Shala takes us on a personal journey of desperation from her childhood through adulthood when she finally receives a diagnosis only to continue battling a disorder that robs her life. It's a twisty-turny freak show ride of unfair circumstances from the very first chapter, and it'll keep you on the edge of your seat wondering what happens next. I read this book in two days, unable to put it down to find out how she truly did reclaim her life.

I met Shala at the University of Illinois when we joined the same sorority.
I remember Shala and her slight southern drawl, intrigued that someone outside the Land of Lincoln chose to become a Fighting Illini. The topmost image that comes to my mind when I think of her is overachieving success: accomplished student, actively involved with other clubs on campus, holding down a part time job, scoring a coveted internship at Disney, landing a great marketing job out of college, and always, always with a bright smile on her shy face.  

While everyone in our sorority surely admired her for her sunny disposition and unwavering commitment to academic excellence, a demonic voice tortured her, casting long, gloomy shadows on her beloved happy place. In the book she juxtaposes her experience on campus with my time at U of I as recounted in my post Ring Ching Ching where I talk about finding my home of the coolest, laid back group of friends to make a large university feel a little smaller. Shala's time there proved much different as her evil "salesman" tormented her constantly, hijacking her authentic college experience. 

I put my friend's book down and sobbed after reading the chapter "Sun and Shadows" and lay awake that night in disbelief at her reality. How did I not know? While Shala and I weren't best friends in college, she was definitely more than just an acquaintance to me. How did I miss the fact that she struggled so hard? 

It was because Shala mastered the art of deception. Even her senior year roommate and fellow sorority sister didn't know the torture she endured on a daily basis, because as a young child Shala perfectly followed the rule her monster created in her mind: that she could never tell anyone about her darkest thoughts, or all the horrifying images her creative oppressor placed in her mind would come true, her family and friends would be destroyed, and it would be all her fault. 

So instead she overachieved with a constant drive for perfection and became a wildly successful adult. 

Or did she?

Read this book to find out. Chances are you or someone you know struggles with mental health. Obsessive Compulsive Disorder stars as the villain in this book, along with its cousin Body Dismorphic Disorder and a sprinkling of Depression. The stories in the book and the medical information so intricately woven throughout provide hope not just for the author, but for everyone. 

It's universal in its ultimate message, because we all struggle mentally at some point in time. I kept google open and learned something new with every chapter, not to mention a few authors I intend to check out for my own self-improvement. A consummate professional, Shala quickly answered my own questions regarding mental health. As I shared before, Kahley struggles with Generalized Anxiety Disorder, and Shala's insight proved most helpful for some questions I had regarding her ongoing treatment. 

Without giving everything away, I'll tell you this: I am going to reunite with this girl. We are going to hug it out so hard, have ourselves a good cry, and then I'm going to take her by the hand to the nearest couch with a TV in front of it. We're going to eat buttered popcorn while we watch throwback "Must See TV" and movies from the early '90s as we discuss life, dreams, goals, and how to be our best selves.

It's a reunion I am so looking forward to.

XOXO,
Jen


Is Fred in the Refrigerator? Taming OCD and Reclaiming My Life by Shala Nicely is available for sale on Amazon in print or in downloadable format here.