In Limbo

Hello from Zimbabwe! We finally arrived on Wednesday night and it is now Sunday evening. We’ve spent the past few days finding our feet and settling into our new home. Dan has jumped into work on the farm and the girls are I are unpacking and learning our way around town.  I have so much to write about: the goodbyes, the flights over, our new house. I will get to those. But I promised myself I would be honest on this blog, so here goes.

I am struggling. Falling apart, really.  I had fooled myself into thinking that since I have been here multiple times, the transition wouldn’t be hard for me.  I was wrong. Very, very wrong.  It turns out that I am not as adaptable as I thought.  I have an irrational fear of the unknown, and now I am surrounded by it.  I also don’t like change.  And suddenly, everything is different.  Normally I am pretty good at hiding this.  I can put a smile on my face and pull off an air of confidence with the best of them.  I guess that theatre degree comes in handy after all! But right now, if you ask me how I am, be prepared for tears, because I cannot control them.  This fear of change and the unknown, coupled with my propensity to immediately go to the worst case scenario in every situation is going to make for a rough couple of months ahead.

To give you a glimpse of what this has been like for me, let me walk you through our first night in our new home.  We have been in transit for almost 48 hours.  Kristin slept like a champion on the plane but is moody and unpleasant to be around, Leanna has only napped here and there and Elizabeth watched The Goonies on repeat, refusing to sleep. Dan and I have basically been awake since we left Chicago.  We arrive at our new house on Thursday afternoon and Dan immediately has to leave for a meeting.  I am left alone, exhausted, with 3 equally exhausted children, in a place that is totally foreign to us.  Our house is beautiful, my mother in law has gone all out making sure that we have everything we need and are as comfortable as possible.  But I feel like a complete stranger here, like I’m invading someone else’s space.  Nothing is familiar and I don’t know what to do with myself. I basically wandered around, trying to catch my breath and hide my tears from the girls.  We had dinner at Dan’s parents’ house to distract us for a few hours but then we were left on our own again. We managed to get everyone off to bed.  The girls and Dan fell asleep quickly, overcome by fatigue.  I laid in bed, sobbing, wondering what the hell I have just done.

It is about 10:30 when the rain starts.  Normally I love a good storm when I am sleeping but I am not familiar with the sounds of this house yet and the rain is making it difficult to tell if what I am hearing is normal house-settling sounds or someone breaking and entering. (Reference that worst case scenario thing I mentioned in the beginning of this post…) I laid awake, listing to every noise and rethinking every decision I have ever made in my life. At about 12:30 the power goes out and Leanna simultaneously wakes up.  Normally not a big deal, right? Well, at home I would rub her back, put on a CD of lullabies and go back to bed.  We don’t have a CD player yet and there’s no power anyway, so off to Plan B. Rock her  to sleep and go back to bed.  Except we don’t have a rocker.  It’s on a barge somewhere in the middle of the ocean and won’t arrive for two months.  Plan C is taking her into the living room and cuddling on the couch with the Food Network playing softly in the background.  Oh yeah, no power.  We do have a generator but I feel bad about starting it in the middle of the night.  It is loud and I don’t want to wake up the neighbors, so I bring Leanna in bed with us and hope for the best.  That doesn’t work, she’s asking for food and hitting us in the head . By now the big girls are awake and having a party in their room.  We’re nearing 2:30 at this point.  Leanna is quickly heading towards a fatigue induced breakdown and the girls are getting wilder by the minute.  I am nearing hysteria.  As their mother, I should know what to do to soothe my children and I am at a total loss.  Everything I would normally go to is gone and I have no idea what to do.  Dan swoops in and herds the girls off to the dining room for a candlelit picnic.  Dan and the girls sat around the table eating bananas and discussing their favorite things about the new house.

I sat in silence, wiping away the tears that were falling faster than I could catch them.  Everything I know is gone and I don’t know how to deal with it.  Everyone else seems fine, tired, but fine. They are laughing and having fun with the experience.  What is wrong with me? I know that a power outage and jet lag is no big deal, but at that moment, I feel like I am at the base of a mountain that I am required to climb and I have no idea where to begin, let alone how to get to the summit.  My chest feels like there is an elephant sitting on it and my head is pounding from the now hours of constant crying.  All I can think is that if I was at home on the farm in Iowa, I would be fine.  And that is gone. I have ruined our lives with this move.

But the picnic has worked and by 3:30, everyone but me is back asleep.  I last looked at the clock at 4:30, still through a veil of tears. I know, that from the outside looking in, this must seem ridiculous.  So there was a thunderstorm and the power went out, get a grip.  Believe me, I have been telling myself that over and over again since I got out of my dad’s car at O’Hare Airport in Chicago and the anxiety set it.  But explaining how that night affected me is the best way to get how I am feeling across.  Every new thing is gigantic and I am completely overwhelmed.  I don’t know how I’m expected to act or what I’m expected to do and that has me in a complete tailspin.  The fact that I am falling apart and the rest of my family is marching on like troopers makes me feel like a failure.  And I know we are only a few days into this, but that doesn’t make a difference in my mind.

I am fortunate to have an incredible support system.  Although he admits that he is at a loss for how to help me, Dan would move mountains if I told him it would make me feel better.  He has put aside any anxiety he must be feeling and has been my my side.  He is my rock and just his presence brings me peace.  My in-laws have been great. My mother-in-law has taken it upon herself to guide me through the ins and outs of life in Zimbabwe and is a true lifesaver.  She has shown me around town, held my hand as I’ve cried and assured me that no one thinks I’m crazy for being this upset.  (Hopefully she’ll be this nice when she’s training me for that half-marathon we’ve got coming up…) My sister-in-law has been checking in on me, putting plans into place to get us into a routine and making sure that we can keep our American traditions and favorites in place.  My father-in-law has been leading Dan into the world of African farming and feeding us!  And then there’s the wonderful world of FaceTime and What’s App.  I have been able to see my parents, my sister and my co-workers smiling faces and give them tours of our house.  Hearing their voices has been like medicine for my heart. Many tears have been shed on the screen of my iPhone but many smiles and reassuring words have been as well. I have also texted daily with my family and closest friends via What’s App.  It’s amazing to be able to text like I did at home.  We are so fortunate to have technology on our side.

So that’s where I’m at.  I’ve improved a lot since that first night.  I have gone long stretches without tears and the anxiety is only making it difficult to take deep breaths, not impossible.  I know that there will be bad days ahead, but there will also be better ones.  Each new experience will bring a new wave of fear, sadness and longing for the familiarity of home, but will also bring excitement and adventure.  I’m trying to plan each day, as I find that I do much better when I know what to expect. The first day of school, Dan getting busy at work and me being on my own must days will be difficult road blocks I must face.  But I will find a way to keep myself busy and settle into life, one day at a time. I must remember, it’s only a bad day, not a bad life.  As my father would say, this too shall pass. It’s all OK in the end. If it’s not OK, it’s not the end.  It’s only day 4.  It’s only the beginning and I will be OK.

Thank you for supporting us on this crazy journey. I promise we’ll get to the fun stuff soon!




  1. Oh my goodness, Kati. Thank you for being honest because it helps me know how to pray for you. Adventure always looks adventurous until we’re knee deep in the yuck and feel like we’ve screwed up. It’s normal. And it’s ok. Please give yourself time to feel what you need to feel so you don’t get stuck. You are amazing. You really are. Wish I could give you a great big hug!!!!

  2. Sue Dolan

    Kati, You will get through this!! I think a lot of your feeling were jetlag and relief that you got to Zim. without any major problems. You are a strong person and will find your way. I have faith in you. Love you Aunt Sue

  3. Amy Greer

    I wish I could just hug you for a bit. You have not failed. These feelings are normal. It will get better, but it will take time. If you can get your hands in this book – After the Boxes are Unpacked by Susan Miller, it might be a comfort. It is dated, but the main points are timeless. Pausing to pray right now. Hopefully, you’re asleep. :)

  4. Ashley

    Hang in there honey! You aren’t crazy, that’s a big change. Not being well rested always makes things so much worse too (and so do cranky kiddos!). We’re thinking of you.

  5. Angie Benson

    Kati: You are so loved and supported, even if it’s from afar. Sending prayers for your comfort and transition, friend.

  6. Cassie

    You are so strong inside. I’m sure it doesn’t feel like it right now but hold onto the faith that so many have in you. I would give anything to be by your side and take those “baby steps” with you. Remember all the reasons that you told me you were going to Africa, write them down and refer to them often. I want more information on the What’s Up App and how to Facetime with you. I hope you know that you can contact me any hour of the day and I will try and be what you need. I love you Kate!

  7. Annaliese Seedall

    Dear Kati
    This is from your aunt who you have never met but who has experienced what you are experiencing…….. Even though we have never met I feel that I really need to write to you and just tell you that all will be well in the end.

    When Mark, I and the 2 children (aged 4 1/2 and 6 1/2) moved to New Zealand 12 years ago I also cried all the way on the plane and for a long time after. We knew three people in NZ, Mark did not have a job to go to and we had enough money with us to last for 6 months before we would have to dip into long term investments. The journey ahead definitely felt like this monstrous mountain and you are this tiny person right at the bottom with no idea on how to navigate the dangers and reach the top safely. Absolutely everything was foreign and strange, people talked with a different accents, they laughed at different things and it seemed that all of the rules of life you were familiar with were no longer correct.

    Well,12 years on life is amazing and when I look back our journey seems surreal. Mark found work in our 6th month in NZ, at that stage we had enough money left to pay the rent for a month, buy groceries and buy a small second car as we needed to go in different directions in the morning and there was no bus that could take the kids to school. You have already talked about the biggest positive thing that came out of our move (and you have only been there a few days) and that is how our move deepened and strengthen my relationship with Mark. You will experience a depth of relationship with Daniel (sorry, I don’t know him as Dan!) that only tough times brings on and this move will make you a much stronger and wiser person which can only be a good thing.

    I bet you are thinking that it is easy for me to talk like this now the tough times are past…. you really need to know how to get through today, tomorrow, next week, next month, next year and the future. Well you have already said it yourself and your lovely friends are saying the same thing……….. one day at a time. Turn to Daniel for support, talk to Brink and Sharon, Leanna and Ouma (my wonderful mother), let them know how you are feeling, they are all very special and kind and will do anything to help you settle because if you are settled and happy, the rest of the family will be settled and happy. I don’t know if you have faith but what helped me the most those first 6 months was the belief that God has lead us along this journey so he was guiding us every step of the way. Even though the path that I saw was unclear and I had no idea where we were going, I knew that God was walking in front of us guiding us along the way. I am not sure if you know the quote “Footprints in the sand” but that was my favourite one during that time of my life (If you don’t know it, google it) . It will be tough but take Cassie’s advice about writing down your reasons for going to Africa and do refer to them often and lastly ………it will get better. You have Daniel and the girls and they are the most important things in your life .
    Lots of love Aunty Annaliese

  8. Kristin Lenz

    I love your line “it’s a bad day, not a bad life”. Thank you for sharing so openly about your feelings! It really touched me! I have had those kind of feelings and tears over our adoption of an older child, the what have we done to our family and rethinking every decision. The crying so hard all the time… I’m glad everyday is getting better and better and that you have so much support around you!

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