We threw an air mattress on the floor like you throw a frozen meal in the microwave. You know it won’t be satisfying, but you know it will get the job done. And quick.

We lived on fast food and fast options, the same clothes from the same suitcases for 3 weeks. Snacks to mitigate the need for meals, crumbs of progress. Somehow never seeing what you wanted, somehow never having your cravings fully met.

And then we were here, with a living room full of boxes and a house with no hot water. A jarring blank slate, an empty life to be created.

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I didn’t expect it to be so hard. We moved into a “new” house when we got married; we had boxes to unpack and things to buy and new ideas to meld. But this? This is not just a new house, it’s a new neighborhood. A new state. Not just new walls to decorate, but new cross streets to learn. Before I didn’t know which shelf to store our extra towels, but I knew my favorite coffee shop. I was deciding which drawer in the bathroom to take, but I knew how to get to Target. This time around we are picking out new rugs and also learning new freeways. We are organizing a kitchen and also organizing ourselves.

It’s not only a new house to fill, but a new life to figure out. Are we bikers now? Do we walk to dinner 3 times a week or still cook all our meals? Are we king bed kind of people? (Yes.) Are we decorating a house to host people or creating a safe haven for ourselves? We aren’t just picking out a new couch, we are figuring out if we’ll have any friends to bring home to it.

I open a box the military so kindly packed for us, and then a stranger so unkindly re-packed somewhere in the middle of America: one shoe (not the other!), a tortilla press wrapped in a white dress shirt, 7 books, a sweater, some cat toys. I look at the contents and wonder what to make of this, where to even start – like one looking at an empty pantry wondering how to cobble together dinner without leaving for the store. Everything here, it seems, leaves us with more questions. Everything takes so much time.

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It feels like we are baking a life from scratch.

a new life from scratch

We are baking from scratch, and we don’t even know what we’re making. Is this homemade puff pastry or store bought pie crust? Sweet or savory? Gluten free?? How does one start gathering the ingredients when you don’t even have a recipe in mind? When the end result is a mystery, it feels crazy making to be the one in charge of decision making during the process.

We plan to get rid of our too-large pile of blankets before remembering we now live in a place with …actual weather. I stare at my truly astonishing collection of puzzles and think surely, I don’t need all of these. Then I am reminded I will soon be a military wife with a spouse on deployment, and assumingly in need of distractions. How do you prepare for a way of living that is completely unknown? How do you plan for a life you can’t fathom?

I discover my box of décor from years of hosting bridal showers that turned into years of hosting baby showers – and I wonder if I’ll have any need, if I’ll have anyone to throw a party for, in this new place. I find kitchen supplies, largely unused for two years, and wonder if they should just be donated – or if I’ll be a baker once again. As I unpack pieces of who I’ve been before, I don’t know if they fit here. I don’t know if I fit here.

It feels like we are trying to set up this make believe life that we aren’t really sure if it’s real. We don’t really believe it’s ours.

a new life from scratch

We are baking from scratch, so we start with the basics. No recipe? We add to taste. A nice place to sleep, a church to call home. A coffee shop and a cocktail bar. A TV hung and a couch to sit on. Plants for him, books for me. A pinch of this and a dash of that. Bring it to simmer. Hope you like the smell.

Some nights, it’s like science: yeast and the right temperature and a set time and certain amount of bubbles in the dough. One thing goes wrong and it all goes wrong. You go to bed angry with each other because the house is still in boxes and you don’t know when your shoes are and you aren’t really sure what this life is yet.

Some nights, it’s like magic: never too much chocolate, never too much vanilla. No matter what you do, you end up with dreamy aromas coming from the oven. You go to bed laughing at the absurdity and exhaustion of creating this new life; you aren’t really sure where this adventure will take you.

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Care packages and sweet cards and just checking in texts come one by one and soon they build to a baker’s dozen. I am reminded we are here alone, but we are not alone. Our support system might be far, but it proves supportive nonetheless. We built a life in San Diego, and we will build one here, too – brick by brick, ingredient by ingredient – in this unknown place.

We are starting from scratch, but we aren’t starting from nothing.

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