Tuesday, May 05, 2015

10 years in Oregon

Today marks the 10th anniversary of when I left California for Oregon. I came here with my husband and child, who was 3 at the time. Originally, I didn’t want to leave California. Specifically, I didn’t want to leave my family, who lived close by. My parents, siblings, nephews. My older brother lived 2 hours away in L.A. I was so close to many of them and I really didn’t want to leave them, especially my mom. I also didn’t want to live somewhere where there was no family, I didn’t know anybody and it’s not like there was a job waiting for me in Oregon, like there had been for my husband. I was happy right where I was but he was not. He wanted a better job. Better opportunity. A better life for our child. After 2 weeks of his talking to me about it, I finally agreed to the move. My parents and I thought things would not work out for the best and we’d move back, but that didn’t happen.

We spent 10 days living in motels until we found a place to live. We actually got a place to live on my husband’s birthday.

I was devastated to learn that all of the things I had left behind in California HAD NOT been claimed by my family, as we had tried to do. What happened was, we had too much stuff to fit it all into the truck, and I had asked my parents and siblings to help me get the stuff out of the garage and somewhere or another. The problem was, we were living in a duplex, and our neighbors had the garage door opener, not us. So we could not get into the garage to get my stuff. And they refused to answer the door anytime we knocked and wanted to ask them to open the garage for us. So, none of us ever got to it and I was forced to leave it behind because we had to be in Eugene on a certain date. (It was a stupid arrangement, I know. We should have been able to get into the shared garage!!) My family had assured me they’d go get my stuff but that did not happen in time. The landlady in California hauled it all off to the junkyard. There were some irreplaceable things I had lost. It bothers me even still.

My husband and I had been having problems in our marriage even before we left California. The problems only got worse and it was harder still because I didn’t have any family around or living nearby to help out with that. I got to the point where I decided to divorce him. I was set on this decision. I later learned that I had to wait 6 months to become an official resident of Oregon before I could file for divorce. That did eventually happen and we were divorced for 7 months. During that time, first I was hoping that my daughter and I would have a better life with someone new who I had THOUGHT I had found love with, but that never happened. Then I tried to move back to California to be closer to my family again but I just didn’t have the money for that or the resources. So I gave up on THAT idea, too. Then I had a fling with someone who I got together with ONLY because I was constantly being pressured to get with someone new from someone in my family, and THAT was a disaster! (And I learned to never again bow in to that kinda pressure. It’s MY life, not THEIR life. Lesson learned, ya know?)

Meanwhile, my child was struggling with the divorce and I felt bad because her dad was depressed over the whole thing. We talked a lot and he helped us out with some things. He became more present in our lives again even though he was not living with us anymore. (I had moved out of our apartment and into a small 2-bedroom house which I felt was a suitable temporary residence.) I started to think I had made a mistake and that my daughter would be happier if her dad and I were together again. Instead of focusing on trying to make ME happy, I started focusing on trying to make my child happy. Her pain was my pain, too. It killed me to see her deal with her sadness over what happened with me and her dad. I cried when she cried. I just wanted her to be happy again. So, her dad and I eventually reconciled and remarried because the divorce was just too hard for our daughter. (We had NO counseling and NO resources.) Also, I was desperate for another child.

I am glad I made the decision to give him another chance. It has been a long, hard road for both of us but we eventually got to a point where our second marriage was happier and it still is. Our marriage is stronger than ever now and I fell in love with this man all over again. He proved to me he could be the husband and father I wanted him to be. Just goes to show that people CAN change and it’s worth it to give someone a second chance.

Still, it wasn’t like that at the beginning. Things were still patchy between us, even though we were back together again. And it didn’t help that I still had feelings for that other person. I eventually got to a point where I realized, you know, this wasn’t right. I can’t love two men at once. I had to pick one – the RIGHT one. The one who was actually IN my life. The one who was actually making an effort to be with me. So I erased all of that from my heart and my life. I had to forget that other person. My heart was not in the right place and it HAD to be in the right place, because it was part of why I was so miserable for so long. And I eventually got to that point. I gave my husband my WHOLE heart, not just part of it. (And this is why I like to say, “Follow your brain, because your heart is an idiot.”) My husband and I both worked together to work out those issues we were dealing with. We wanted to be together, we wanted things to work this time around, so we were BOTH willing to step up and work things out. And now things are even better than before. It took a long time to get there but we hung in there, stayed committed, and we got to that point.

And, that other child? That is where Jesse enters the picture. Soon after we got back together again, I was thrilled to learn that I was pregnant with my second child. I was just as thrilled to learn I was having a boy. I’d always wanted a son and now I was going to have a son. That was a great feeling. (I feel very blessed to have one girl and one boy. Of my siblings, I am the only one to have just one of each gender! My older brother has 3 boys, my older sister has 3 boys, my younger sister has 2 girls and a boy, etc.) Little did I know the challenges that lay ahead in raising a boy, but I would not have changed anything at all. I am happy with my son and grateful he is in my life. And Jennifer has proven she can be a good big sister – even though she and Jesse tend to fight sometimes.

Here is a picture of Jesse taken hours after he was born:

And here is a picture of Jesse now. He is 7 years old. This picture was taken at the Eugene Public Library:

And while I'm at it showing pictures, here's Jennifer shortly after we moved to Eugene:

And here is Jennifer now:

This is me then:

And this is me now:

Sometime after Jesse was born, we moved out of the tiny house on West 11th into a bigger house my husband was able to find for us thanks to someone at his work. (I LOVE this house, by the way, even though we do not own it.) Fortunately, this house is located in an amazing neighborhood with amazing neighbors. We all look out for each other, really, and there’s a neighborhood watchgroup that sends out alerts of suspicious behavior, etc.

I have also made some amazing friends here in Eugene. They are not all in my neighborhood but I have met them through my kids’ schools and just from seeing in the area. I am so very grateful for all of the friends I have made here in Eugene. One of them is like a sister. She’s just awesome!

A lot has happened in the 10 years we have lived here, for all of us. We have had quite a few changes, gone through things and experienced firsts here in Eugene. I had some growing up to do and I have definitely filed a lot of my experiences under “things to learn from.”

I had to learn how to ride the city bus, because up until that time, I had never used public transportation. At that time, I didn’t have a car, and walking everywhere with a young child was becoming inconvenient. I also had to apply for public assistance, for the first time as a parent. Up until then, I looked down on people receiving food stamps or money from the state to help out in hard times. I kept thinking I would NEVER ask for handouts. Well, I had to ask for handouts, because life got pretty hard for a while there. It was definitely a wake-up call for me in viewing people receiving food stamps, as well as the experience of receiving and using food stamps. I had to become a smart shopper and meal planner to make that $10 a month work for us! I also had to abandon my desire to be a work-at-home mom, because work was really scarce, and try to get a job outside of the home. I applied for several jobs and eventually landed two, where I worked part-time (it was babysitting and housecleaning). THAT was also an adjustment and quite a change for me, too.

Jennifer is now a teenager. She had her first sports experience playing baseball through KidSports (where Jesse now plays soccer), her first surgery that was in Portland and her first date. She has made some awesome friends who she couldn’t dream living far away from. She went to preschool here, which I was surprised to learn I had to pay for (preschool was free in California, at that time). And now she has been learning how to manage when being left home alone, since she is legally old enough to be left home alone.

Jesse has had ALL of his firsts here in Oregon, because he was born here. He is the only one of us to be born in Oregon. Jennifer and I were both born in California. Her dad was born in the Northeast. Jen and I do still share that “California philosophy” about life but Jesse is a TRUE Oregonian in that he loves the outdoors, he’s active, athletic and he’s concerned about the environment. (And, hey! I DO care about the environment, but I’m not a fanatic about it.)

Things have definitely been pretty interesting here in Oregon. I have blogged about a lot of the things that we have gone through while living here. I actually started blogging because it was my way of staying in touch with family back in California and keeping everybody updated. (My parents and some of my siblings eventually moved to Illinois, to be closer to my mom’s family.) It has been hard living far away from family. I have not seen some of my siblings for years. The original plan was to go to California once a year to visit with everybody but for some reason, we stopped doing that. (My husband’s family lives in California, too.) So we have not seen family for a long time. My sister, Millie, and sister-in-law, Allison, came to visit us once, but that was about it. It has been hard. I recently saw some of my sisters in Illinois and that was just awesome. (We’re talking about planning a reunion!) I miss the closeness of my family. I miss being able to walk over to my sister’s house and chat over a cup of coffee. I miss being able to have a sibling nearby for emergencies or some other. (And I have definitely learned the importance and value of being self-sufficient because we have HAD to be self-sufficient!!)

But, even so, we do have a good life here. We have a good set-up for the kids here.

My husband has a good job he was eventually promoted at. And he still works there after 10 years!

My children have good doctors, healthcare options, recreational opportunities, athletic opportunities, as well as good schools with amazing staff. They have good friends, too, and some of them are like family to us. We’re even an emergency contact for one of them.

And I, as a deaf person, have had good options available to me through the city and state. I HAVE experienced quite a bit of discrimination against the deaf here in Eugene, but for the most part, things have gone well. I never really did fit in at my church because they stopped putting everything on the screen for people to read, plus my ASL interpreters both left, but that’s okay. While I was still a Christian, I worshipped in my own way. The kids missed going to church but I could never really find another one that was deaf-friendly. Eventually, we gave up on that and nowadays we aren’t really religious so much anymore, so it’s not really an issue. As to employment, I DID manage to enroll in a childcare training program and I was working there, too, but that also came to an end. (I don’t think I’ll be returning to that line of work, but no way will I ask the state to remove me from their system. I had to jump through too many hoops to get into that system at all!) I have continued to work from home with the writing, but I no longer pursue it. These days, I just write books (which I do not get any advances for, but I have an amazing publisher who I wouldn’t dream of leaving!). I am trying to get SOMETHING in place to develop some kind of connection with the community or the city or even the state. You know? My husband has something keeping him here. My kids have something keeping them here. But I…really don’t have anything keeping me here. Really. And it bugs me because I think I kind of need to have that. Some kind of “connection.” I don’t have that connection! No church. No group. No social club or anything. I have had health issues preventing me from doing specific tasks, but after all that’s cleared up, I plan on doing some volunteer work until I can get a job somewhere. SOME kind of job. Anywhere. Then hopefully I will have that connection. A reason to stay in Oregon come what may. (And I know I have my friends here, but I have friends all over the place. Friendship is not something that exists only because we live in the same neighborhood or city. I still have friends back in California, actually.)

After 10 years of living in Oregon, I can say it has been quite a ride. So much has happened. So much has changed. Life has really taken many turns and there’s been a lot of plot twists. We’ve had good times, we’ve had bad times. We’ve gone through so much. We have loved, lost, dealt with heartache, had our struggles and some pretty major challenges. We have had to go through losing people we loved (both of my parents passed away in Illinois) and not seeing people we loved. Not really having that family closeness that I once knew. My heart aches because my kids can’t visit their two remaining grandparents anytime they want to (and Jesse only saw my parents once in his life!). But this is all stuff that we have to carry on our shoulders. This is all stuff that has helped us to become the people that we are today. We learned from all of it. We grew from all of it. We recognized mistakes made and the lessons learned. And we are grateful for every one of those experiences, because we learned from it all, grew stronger from it all, and survived it all.

I like to say “Life is the adventure!” and, you know, it’s true. Life really is an adventure. Life, real life, is where we learn, we grow and we overcome. We have challenges, we have struggles, we have painful experiences and scary experiences. But we also have some good experiences, too. Those are the experiences that we need to embrace and hold onto. I often think I have so many stories to tell – stories about life and all the things that happen in it. Life is the adventure, but it’s also the story.

And this was the story of how life has been for us after 10 years of living in Oregon.   

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