Five things I miss about Murfreesboro

Ian and I have lived in Chattanooga for nine months now, and while it often feels like we’re still brand-new here, Murfreesboro feels less and less like home when I pass through it every month on my way to Nashville for work.

That’s not to say there aren’t still things I really miss about it, even beyond friends, family and the general nostalgia I’ll always feel for it. In the past months, I’ve found myself missing some very mundane things that I haven’t really found a replacement for in Chattanooga, including:

1. A good grocery store. Now I know what all you East Nashville people were talking about with your food desert. There are no Krogers in the Chattanooga area, and I’ve been to six Bi-Los and they are all shitty. Well, there’s one up in Red Bank that’s so-so, but Bi-Lo doesn’t really carry the brand of staples that we eat so I always end up leaving there feeling like I spent a bunch of money on crap I don’t want to eat. We can’t afford to do our full grocery shopping at Whole Foods, either. We did find an amazing Publix a couple months ago—it was so great that I kept running around finding “our” foods and exclaiming “This place is tits!” The only problem? It’s way the hell out in East Brainerd and takes a good 20 minutes to get there, 30 if we go before 8 p.m. even on a week night.

2. Our vet. I do like the Chattanooga Cat Clinic’s vet, but their staff was pretty rude and actually endangered BK’s life back in the fall when she had a reaction to her rabies shot and they kept telling me she was acting normal when I knew for a fact she wasn’t. Now that we have a dog we’ve had to find a new vet that sees dogs, and while I like the staff and the vet at the place we took Stella to on Saturday, it’s old and dingy and dirty. I miss Dr. Barker at the Barfield Animal Hospital—we took our cats there for nearly 10 years and he and his staff were excellent. He saw us through Gordo’s bout with depression, BK’s random allergy troubles and was the one who cremated Evil Twin when we had to put him down. He always suggested ways to treat our cats without spending a ton of money and found a way to blend compassion with realism into his practice that I haven’t seen in many vets. Plus, his staff was really outgoing and friendly and we knew our cats would be in good hands whenever we had to leave them there overnight.

3. Julia’s Bakery. I’m sure there are amazing bakeries in Chattanooga, I just haven’t found them yet. Maybe I should make that a goal for the summer.

4. Knowing where I am at all times. (OK, most of the time.) Murfreesboro was spread out enough that I could drive out into the country and not really know where I was, but I would always eventually find a landmark that brought me back into town. Ian calls me Towelie (“I don’t even know where I’m at, man!”) because I tend to be directionally challenged, but at least in Murfreesboro I knew how to get anywhere I needed to go. I might not have always taken the most direct route, but I knew that city like the back of my hand. In Chattanooga, not so much. It is really fun getting to explore a new city, but it’s been nine months and I’m still having to rely on Google Maps to get to new (and sometimes not-so-new) places. Probably because I work from home and don’t get out and drive around as much as I need to in order to learn the layout of the city.

5. Our old liquor store. We lived right down the block from a place called Murfreesboro Wine and Spirits that must be an anomaly in Tennessee. It had a great wine selection, was reasonably priced and had knowledgeable and helpful employees. So far in Chattanooga I’ve found liquor stores that have all of those things—but not all at the same time. Riverside, my favorite, has a great wine, liquor and beer selection but has rude employees and their prices are just so-so. The wine shop next to Whole Foods has really helpful and kind employees, but they’re small so their selection isn’t great (surprisingly, their prices aren’t the highest I’ve found). I’ve been to a few places with decent prices, but they’ve been in not-so-safe areas (think bars on the windows and cops arresting people nearby) and haven’t had much of a selection. Chattanooga is a pretty booze-heavy town, though, so I know I just need to keep exploring before I find “my” liquor store.

Oh, I should mention that so far the best place I’ve found has been Beverage World, which is actually in Ft. Oglethorpe, Georgia. It’s only about 15 minutes from my house, so I probably should stop by there more often. It’s out of the way, but they’re open on Sundays, sell high and low gravity beer along with wine, and I’ll benefit from Georgia sales tax. Ok, maybe I did find “my” liquor store after all.

One month in

We’ve been living in our house for just over a month now, and Ian and I were talking the other day about how quickly we felt comfortable here. Not just us, but the cats, too. I was expecting King Boo to attach himself to my leg for two days like last time, and for BK to fall into another pit of despair for a couple months. But they were all comfortable within an hour and acting like they’d lived here forever after about a week.

It’s all a bit strange, but in a good way. Sometimes I’ll glance into the kitchen and it’s the most natural thing in the world, like I’ve been looking at that sink for years. But then I’ll occasionally wake up in the middle of the night in a “Where am I?!” panic. That’s happening less and less, though, and it only lasts a few seconds. We’re all settling in quickly and easily, and if I had any doubt about whether buying this house was the right decision this would quash that.

And as we were making our decision on whether to buy this house, one of the things we kept in the Pros column was that while it’s an 84-year-old house, the inside is basically brand new. “We won’t have to do anything to it!” we kept saying.

Well, sure, for the most part there is less to do here than there would be if we bought a house that hadn’t been renovated. We don’t have to replace appliances or fix broken windows. But, as you know if you’ve ever bought a house, there is always work to be done to make it yours. For some reason the builder didn’t install any mirrors in the house, and at first I thought that was a blessing in disguise because that meant I could pick out my own mirrors. But you know what? Trying to find and transport a framed, 55-inch-wide mirror is a pain in the ass. We finally installed a smaller mirror over the pedestal sink in our half bath downstairs, but I can’t find an already framed mirror that is both the correct size and not heinously ugly to go in our master bath to save my life. So I guess I’m going to get a custom-cut piece of mirror glass and frame it myself… later. I don’t even want to think about what a hassle it’s going to be to install that sucker. Let’s hope liquid nails have some good holding power and the Gods of Levelness are on our side that day.

We’re mostly unpacked, although when we emptied out our storage unit that we had in Murfreesboro we just kind of vomited all the boxes into the guest room upstairs. So we’ve got that to deal with, plus hanging curtain rods and getting pictures framed and figuring out what kind of landscaping we want to do, and some bigger, more pipe-dreamy things down the road.

But! We did get one mirror installed last weekend, plus a toilet paper holder and towel racks, so that was exciting. No, seriously. I completely took for granted how mirrors and toilet paper holders always just seemed to be there waiting on me when I moved into a place.

I’m not too concerned about the leisurely pace we’re going with regard to unpacking and setting things up, though. We’re planning on being here for quite some time. Maybe forever. So no need to rush. I just need to make sure we don’t fall into a trap made of our own laziness and find ourselves with the same to-do list five years later.

In case you hadn’t heard, we bought a house

I had an epically long post written about the whole experience, beginning with when we first saw the house (late October) and ending with when our offer was accepted (late December), but I got superstitious about posting it before closing so I never did. And now, I’ve talked so much about the whole process on Twitter and Facebook and with anyone I see that I think posting the whole long, drawn-out story would be overkill at this point.

I’ve journaled it all for myself, but I think all I need to post here is this: On Jan. 21, 2014, Ian and I closed on a gorgeous blue house that was built in 1930 (but renovated last year). I finally have that stone porch I’ve always wanted. And a driveway. And a backyard. With lots of trees!

We hired movers and got most of our stuff moved in the weekend of the 25th, so we’ve been here almost two weeks now. We’ve got our apartment until the end of the month so we still have some things over there that we’re being lazy about moving over, but we’ll get it all eventually. We spent last weekend in Asheville, so we’re still living a bit in boxes here and there. And we have yet to buy mirrors for both bathrooms, which is kind of a weird way to live… without mirrors. Like vampires.

The cats adjusted really well this time. When we moved from Murfreesboro to Chattanooga last summer it was hard to watch them adjust, BK and King Boo especially. This time around, Gordo predictably gave zero fucks again and was the first one to explore everything. But BK and King Boo only hid under the bed for a short period of time—I don’t even think it was an entire hour. They were skittish for a while; anytime Ian or I would get up from the couch quickly they’d jump, but after a week they were acting like they’d been living here their entire lives. I think all of the windows and hiding places to explore are helping a lot.

It’s odd, though: I feel like I’ve settled in quickly and easily, too. The apartment never really felt like home, mainly because its setup was like a hotel (main entrance, with apartment entrances indoors) and there was so much neighbor noise everywhere. Here, it’s just us and the neighbor’s wind chimes mixed in with the occasional traffic hum.

There are times I catch myself feeling so comfortable with my surroundings that I have to remind myself I haven’t lived here forever. But on the other hand, there are times I’ll walk into a room too quickly and have to remind myself where I am. It’s an odd mixture of emotion that I’ve never experienced before. Although, I don’t think I’ve ever really given this much thought to how I feel about where I dwell. I’ve found I’ve become more mindful of that since moving to Chattanooga, but I think it’s due to age more than location.

But yes, here we are. Settling in, setting up our life again in a way that feels permanent and comforting.

Stuff and things

BK seems to be healed, although she refuses to get up in her treehouse for some reason. I think it’s probably because she fell trying to jump up in it while she was sick, and now she must be scared of it. But unfortunately this means that instead of sleeping in the treehouse most of the day like she used to, she now sleeps in her little hidden corner of the closet and we don’t see her too often. Hopefully when we move she’ll start using it again.

Oh yeah, we’re moving. We bought a house. I haven’t told the story of how that came about on this blog yet because, well, I’m superstitious. So that will come after we move, as long as everything goes well.

Related to that, I have been stressed out as fuck for the past month or so. I feel like one of those circus people who have a million plates spinning on sticks, and if one falls I’ll lose all of them and my life will come crashing down around me. So I’m holding everything just so, trying not to breathe too quickly, trying to smile and pretend like everything is OK when in fact I’m on the brink of the whole charade crumbling. I’m sure that sounds dramatic. It is. But I just need to get through these next two weeks and I think I’ll be OK.

The Treehouse of Peace

I can’t really pinpoint when the rift began, but I could definitely feel it all of last year. I suppose, if pressed, I would say that it started when we brought home King Boo. That’s when I would say BK got angry with me.

She’s always been Ian’s cat, more or less. When we first adopted her, she depended on both of us. I was her mom, he was her dad. But as she grew into a teen and then an adult, dependence turned into tolerance and she doled out affection like a reward, as most cats do. She’s now planted herself firmly into crabby old lady territory, where she will kiss you one day and swish her claws the next. It’s a gamble. She’s still sweet, but it’s balanced with salty.

I am not sure how to refer to our trouble, BK and I. She started sitting with me less. She had always slept on Ian’s pillow, but often she would wedge herself between us and sometimes lay next to me. That waned, and she would hardly deign to let me pet her. You’d think Gordo moving himself to the upstairs floor of the house would have been a clue, but I just assumed she was doing that thing cats do. Where they change their minds. Get moody.

But now I am almost certain that she was upset with me for bringing home King Boo. She was the baby kitty. She was the young’un. And then we brought home something that required her to confront the truth that she was no longer the youngest being in the family. Maybe she became aware of her own mortality, the way we all do when we hit middle age. And despite Ian and I both bringing King Boo home, she knew he was my baby. My cat. And so she started pulling away.

When we moved, I carried all of the cats in my car. I sweet-talked to her the whole ride here. When she was afraid to leave her carrier once it was in the apartment, even after Gordo spent time sitting with her, I sat on the floor and spoke in a calm voice. I told her she was safe. I smelled like home.

She was so mad at us for moving her out of her house. The house she was supposed to guard. She spent every day in bed for a month, and because I work from home, I spent some time every day with her as she lay in that bed. I pet her. I told her she was safe. I made sure I got her favorite toys and played with her.

Eventually, she started to get up out of the bed more. She still laid with Ian more often, but on weekdays she started coming out of the bedroom and finding me at my desk. She would nuzzle her head into my hand and purr. She would bring toy mice to me.

A month or so ago, I bought this giant cat condo that we call the Treehouse. I bought it for BK and King Boo because they like to be up high and climb on things, respectively. King Boo took to it immediately, scaling it using only his nails on the scratching ropes, but BK couldn’t figure out the ladder. Ian tried lifting her up onto it, but she couldn’t figure out how to get down so she would jump nearly six feet onto the hard, concrete floor. I winced a few times watching her. She rarely used it, and I can’t say I blame her.

But then I had an idea. I brought one of our kitchen chairs over next to the Treehouse and set her up at the top. Sure enough, she jumped down to the chair and then to the floor. And I guess once she realized she had a safe way down, she felt it was OK to use the ladder to get up. She stopped sleeping in the bed all day and began perching herself atop the Treehouse, where she could keep an eye on me or look outside over the traffic.

One day as I was driving to Nashville for work, Ian texted me a picture of BK and King Boo in the Treehouse together. Considering how previously she couldn’t be within three feet of him without growling or lashing out, this was incredible. I assumed it was a one-time thing, but I soon noticed her up there with him every day. For hours on end, they will nap next to each other in the Treehouse. I’ve caught her grooming him as he sleeps a few times.

Double occupancy!

And then, a strange thing happened.

I woke up in the middle of the night and realized I was spooning her. She did the same thing the next night, and has done it every night since then. At some point in the middle of the night, she wakes me up by licking my nose and paws at me until I lay the right way and spoon her, both of our heads on the pillow as she makes biscuits in the palm of my hand and falls asleep.

During the day, now, she sleeps in the Treehouse but will come down to check up on me. She will sit by me on the couch sometimes. The rift I felt before seems to have faded. I have to wonder if it’s because she finally stopped hating King Boo and doesn’t have to blame me for his annoying existence anymore. Or maybe it’s because we, as a family, moved to a new place and she realized that everything is temporary and she shouldn’t take her family for granted.

I can’t talk to her to figure out what she has been thinking, obviously. But if it’s possible to have, lose and then repair a friendship with a cat, I’m pretty sure that’s what happened.

Rotten

Ian and I were all excited because we thought we had found our new grocery store. The first Bi-Lo we went to was not good, but then we went to the one in Red Bank and were impressed. It’s next to a liquor store that has a great selection of Prosecco. It has half of an entire aisle dedicated to vegetarian and vegan dry goods.

But we discovered the squash we’d bought was rotten in the middle. And the ground beef Ian bought had a rip in its packaging and was spoiled, which we didn’t notice until he had thawed it out to cook.

Maybe we’ll try the one on Signal Mountain Road next.

And yes, I realize how mundane and awful I am for blogging about grocery stores.

Rediscovering the mundane

As we were preparing to move, I thought about a lot of things. For weeks my brain was a flurry of planning and organizing and strategizing and stressing as I tried to figure out how to keep everything in line so that when Ian started his new job we would have somewhere to live and all of our stuff would eventually show up.

It all came together pretty well, much to my surprise. The fact that Ian’s new company provided us with relocation assistance helped a lot, as did having saved up my vacation days so I could deal with the movers, but I think only having a couple weeks—only two weekends—to find a place to live really made us narrow down our priorities quickly and not waste time nailing down our moving plans.

When we finally got Ian, the cats and myself all together in Chattanooga, and all of our stuff was moved in and mostly unpacked, I realized I hadn’t given any thought to the mundane yet frequentl tasks I had taken for granted. Like grocery shopping. Yes, there is a Whole Foods within walking distance, but we aren’t millionaires so we can’t afford to do our regular weekly shopping there. We had lived at our house in Murfreesboro for so long that it was just second nature to head to Kroger when it was grocery shopping time. Or Publix if I was planning on buying a lot of produce. But in Chattanooga? No idea.

First off, there are no Krogers here. Which isn’t a bad thing, but after 16 years of living in Murfreesboro I had grown accustomed to seeing a Kroger on every corner. Google showed me that Bi-Lo was going to be my best choice for a close, decent grocery store in my area, and there were three within a couple miles of our apartment. The first one we went to was small and had a shitty selection, but the next time we tried one in Red Bank and it was awesome. We went back last night and I discovered they have a huge vegetarian/vegan selection of items throughout the store. I used to love Bi-Lo, but all of the Murfreesboro ones were bought out by Publix a few years ago. I love Publix, too, don’t get me wrong, but it is a little more expensive and I just have a weird nostalgia for Bi-Lo.

And despite living here for nearly three months now, I can only tell you with certainty where one gas station is in this town—and that’s only because I can walk to it from my apartment. (I don’t drive much anymore, so I have only gotten gas a couple times.) Finding the bank was easy because there are a ton of branches for my bank all over the place. I still haven’t found a new primary care physician, but I don’t know if I will. My insurance doesn’t require a referral if I need to see a specialist, and I don’t have any chronic conditions that would require a PCP (knock on wood). So I think I’ll probably just go to a walk-in clinic the next time I get sick. That’s what I ended up doing most of the time in Murfreesboro, anyway, since my PCP never had same-day appointments.

A lot of moving feels like starting over. I guess it is, but that’s not a bad thing. It’s kind of neat that even the most mundane tasks have become an exercise in exploration. Even if that does mean I’ve become an old lady.

The new, still

We’ve lived in Chattanooga for three months now and it all still feels new. I can’t remember if that’s what it’s supposed to feel like when you move to a new city. The last time I moved I was 18 and relocating for college. Well, for many reasons, but I was starting college. It was really easy to make new friends because everyone was doing that, whether they’d lived in Murfreesboro their whole life or had just moved there, too.

This time around I’m not making friends as quickly, but there are other things that are easier. I have Ian, my partner-in-crime. I have the cats. I didn’t have to live in a dorm and then try to buy furniture on minimum wage when I got an apartment. Basically, I am not completely broke and alone this time. And Ian and I are having what we’re calling our Blow It Out Year, where we’ve been going out almost every night to get to know our new city. Most places we can walk to, so we’re getting to see little nooks and crannies as we stroll by. Things we’d miss if we drove everywhere.

I don’t want to compare my two “move to another city” experiences too much because they were at completely different times in my life. Both times I was ripe for change, but for completely different reasons. And both times I fell in love with my newly adopted city.

Murfreesboro was so good to me. I built a family there. And now I can’t wait to see what Chattanooga has in store for us.

And just like that, it was done

Last week was a bit of a stress fest thanks to the buyer for our house being out of town the week before and not getting her paperwork completed in time for us to close via FedEx on Thursday, which had been the plan ever since she chose the one day in September that would not work for us as the closing date. People from our realtor’s office kept sending me documents from the buyer’s real estate agent that referenced Friday for closing, and I kept emailing back, “How many times do I have to tell you guys that we are going to be out of town Friday?!”

Finally I sent a stern email letting them know that if we did not receive the documents by 3 p.m. on Thursday everything would be signed on Monday, meaning the buyer would not be able to move in that weekend.

That seemed to light a fire under someone’s ass, because around 2:45 p.m. Thursday I got everything emailed to me. Then I had to rush over to BlueCross so Ian and I could print and sign it all in front of a notary. Luckily the notary there was cool with notarizing things on Thursday with Friday’s date, too. Jeez.

I emailed everything back, and we ran by FedEx before they closed later that evening to overnight the originals. We crossed our fingers it would get there in time and then left Friday morning for our trip to Music Midtown. Friday afternoon I got an email saying the buyer’s agent had forgotten to include some papers and could we please sign and return them sometime that day. Um, no. Like I had been saying for more than a month—we were not available on Friday. I mean, Jesus Christ on ice skates, people.

The papers weren’t anything that would hold up the buyer taking possession, though, so as far as we know she was moving into the house as we were enjoying festival beers and watching CAKE. Everybody wins! (We signed and emailed back the additional papers this morning, so we should be all square now. Although I won’t be surprised if I get another email asking for more signatures next week.)

Yesterday afternoon FedEx knocked on our door as I was working and handed me a check for the proceeds from the sale. I was expecting it to take a week or so to get the money, so that was a very nice surprise. And we both got emails from SunTrust saying our mortgage had been paid off—well, I got one saying our payment due was $0 and Ian got one saying our monthly billing had been canceled, which seems right in line with the slightly confusing way SunTrust likes to do business.

So, I guess we’re done. It’s been kind of anti-climactic, but I guess that’s what happens when you close via FedEx and not in person. It was no less stressful, that’s for sure.

Oh, and here’s something that our parents never could have done when they sold their first house: I looked up the person who bought our house on Facebook. Her mother was her real estate agent, so I figured she had to be young and, therefore, would have a Facebook account. I was right. I saw that on Friday she changed her profile picture to show her holding up the keys to the house and she seemed really excited to be moving in. So that made me feel good, although the whole thing is still kind of bittersweet.

I had to laugh, though, because Ian’s camouflage key—the one he had made as a joke—was right there, front and center, in the picture. So I wonder now if she’s trying to figure out if we are rednecks who just happen to have liked a modern, funky color scheme.

A symphony of meowing

We knew moving the cats to another city would be an ordeal. On July 20, we loaded each of them into their own carrier and then into the back seat of my car, the rest of which was packed full of everything we didn’t want the moving company to handle that we hadn’t already moved to Chattanooga the weekend before. Ian drove his car, too, which was also packed to the gills with our belongings. We were basically the Clampetts.

BK cried the whole way. But Gordo, who nine years ago when we moved completely flipped his shit—sending three grown men running—was completely calm. He chilled in his cat carrier the whole way down, even over the mountain when BK was singing the blues louder than the music I was playing.

King Boo was silent. He was so scared. Every once in a while I heard him whimper in response to BK’s cries, but for the most part he sat wide-eyed and frozen.

BK has been singing the blues the whole way. She especially hates rain showers and driving up the mountain (but was cool with driving down it).

When we arrived at our new apartment, Ian went up first to make sure the sealant on the floor was dry (they had resealed the concrete a few days prior), and then we hauled all three carriers up all three flights of stairs because the elevator was broken. Of course.

We set the carriers in the bedroom and closed the door so the cats wouldn’t be overwhelmed by too many new sights and smells immediately. We opened all three carrier doors and sat down on the floor, but only Gordo would come out. Considering he had screamed and cried and had to be drugged with both thorazine and valium the last time we moved, I was in awe of how normal he was acting. He literally did not have one shit to give about being uprooted from his previous life and home. He just wanted to check things out.

But after he walked around a bit, he must have noticed that the other two cats were still scared. And then I witnessed what is probably one of the coolest things I have ever seen a cat do: He started comforting BK and King Boo. He crawled into BK’s carrier and laid with her for a while, purring. Then he got up and crawled into King Boo’s carrier and did the same thing. He went back and forth, mashing himself in there on top of them, purring and cuddling. Let me note: None of these cats *ever* cuddle with each other. They get along, but they have never ever cuddled. I’m no veterinarian, but I saw this as him going out of his way to comfort his brother and sister because he knew they were scared.

Is it possible to feel your heart break and swell at the same time? Because that’s how I felt watching him.

Gordo knows King Boo is scared so he got in his carrier with him.

Eventually, BK and King Boo came out of their carriers to eat and drink and use the litter box we set up in the bedroom. Ian and I inflated the air mattress we’d brought with us and piled blankets on it, and later that night we had all three cats sleeping on it with us.

But poor King Boo was more nervous that weekend than I’d ever seen him. He’s always been affectionate with me, but Saturday night he made sure that at any given moment he was touching some part of my body. Instead of sleeping above the covers in the crook of my knee like he usually does, he burrowed under the blankets and wedged himself right next to my stomach, making sure that he was as close to me as possible. It was like I was the only thing in the world he trusted to keep him safe.

I left Sunday evening to drive back to Murfreesboro since I had to meet the movers the next day, and Ian said King Boo slept right up next to him that night. But by the time I got back to Chattanooga on Tuesday night, he was right as rain. A little freaked out by all of the boxes, but he was back to strutting as he walked.

BK was depressed for a couple weeks after the move, but we made an effort to pay extra attention to her every day and it seems to have helped. She is mostly back to normal now, although we do still find her sleeping in the bed a lot instead of hanging out in the living room with us in the evenings. I’ve always heard that female cats are more territorial than males, though, so I imagine she is holding a grudge because we took her away from the house she diligently guarded for nine years.