So, I’ll be honest and say that I have not had much time to “reflect” on decisions as I’ve been going along these past 5+ years. Of course there are times when I look back and think “wow, that was a great move” and certainly times when I’ve questioned the path we’re on as a family and how decisions I’ve made have affected that path. All in all though, I feel that we are on the path we’re meant to walk. I think sometimes it takes distance from decisions to truly see their impact. For example, at the time we were selling our house 2+ years ago things felt chaotic and urgent, but the reasons we decided to sell seemed to make total sense to us. And they still do. But, in changing our mailing address, while we knew were changing our path a bit, I don’t think we realized how much life would change. Friends who we were close to then are now much harder to coordinate with and thus we don’t see them as often. Routines that were once daily – walking to the park, the daily Starbucks visit – have changed. I am still hitting up my beloved Starbucks (don’t hate) and we certainly still go to the park, just not “the park with the big slides” or “the slowest Starbucks ever”. I’m honestly not sure how the moves we have made have affected our boys other than the fact they have made it known that they prefer a “stairs” house over our singe level mid-century charmer. And that’s actually one of the reasons I wanted a smaller, one level home. Can’t you just envision the broken bones that would ensue after a cool “trick” jump from the top stair or something of the like? If not, I am happy to lend the boys to you for an afternoon.
I digress. The bottom line is that I’m coming to a point of reflection on the decisions we’ve made over the past couple of years. This reflection has led to a feeling of uncertainty of how to proceed. In the past 3 years a lot has happened and of course, a lot more will happen. My feeling in reflecting over the past few years is that I’m proud of the work I’ve done, but also the overwhelmed by how much more there is to do. A catalyst for the changes I started making 3 years ago was something I didn’t even realize I needed until one day it bonked me on the head. Back in 2012, I was searching for a “remote” office (read: coffee shop) that wasn’t located in a strip mall next to my house (AKA the slow Starbucks). I ventured over to downtown Petaluma one summer day to work from ACRE Coffee – the hippest new coffee shop around – and stumbled upon a new business across the street called WORK. Intrigued, I stepped in and was greeted by co-owners Natasha and Matt who explained that this stylish mid-century modern space we were standing in was now home to Petaluma’s first co-working space. What a breath of fresh air. Since then, I’ve worked off and on from WORK (read more about it here), if for nothing more than to sit along side others who would otherwise be in their own little pods at home or the local coffee typing away.
Something that I’ve gained from coming to WORK has been a fresh perspective on what’s going on in the world around me. Previous to finding this place, I had been working at home quite a bit as our twins were only a little over a year old and our older son not quite 3. I had quit watching the news (too much negativity and fear) and didn’t have time to read the newspaper. WORK began to serve as the news for me. At least while I was there, I could edit out the stuff I didn’t want to hear by simply putting in my earbuds and cranking up the volume of Pandora’s “The Shins” station. But, what I came to realize was that these people were talking about things that actually mattered. Or at least things that began to matter more to me. Not who shot who today or anything of that ilk. More like: how can we produce less waste as a society or how much it costs to make an egg sandwich from scratch at home vs. the cost of a McMuffin. (The later might not seem important, but it is actually a deeply important topic that has to do with socioeconomic status, education, and availability of good, nutritious food in our country.) But, I digress. I haven’t the faintest idea what political party many of my co-WORKers subscribe to or what, if any, religion they practice. And that’s the great part of it. I can go there to listen, talk, do my work and get away from my house all the while learning something new almost each time I visit. I began to feel enlightened.
It’s amazing what starts to happen when you suddenly start looking up and out after years of “head down in the trenches”. My eyes opened to the changing world around me and I began to change too. It began with simple things like riding my bike to commute the 4 ish miles from home to downtown. Next, as Neils and I weighed the decision to sell our home, the idea of what we wanted from our next home began to change. Admittedly, this was not all due to WORK, but it was the catalyst for me to start thinking in a different way. Like, do we really need a 2000+ sq. ft. home just because we have 3 kids? And does that home really need to be brand spankin’ new or even built in the last 20 years? What do we really want for our family and kids? Big questions that required lots of thinking and analyzing (constant analyzing, if you know me). But, what we figured out by asking ourselves some hard questions was that we really wanted a place with ample outdoor space so the kids could be outside the majority of the time we are at home. We also figured out the we preferred an older home with character vs. a newer home with more amenities and space. A very big decision that we made during the year between when we sold/bought (we rented for a year) was that we would share a property with my mom, who lived in a 3 bedroom/3 bathroom townhome about 1/4 mile from us in Petaluma. She was living alone and the space was far more than she needed. In addition, rental rates were rising and we all needed a long term solution that made sense for everyone. So, we embarked on looking for a property we all 3 agreed on. No small task for this group. My mom preferred a less rustic space, whereas Neils and I were fine with a fixer upper. During that year we looked at properties in rural West Petaluma, Penngrove, Santa Rosa and Cotati. It became clear towards the end of our year lease that we might not find something that appealed to my mom, Neils and I collectively. We were frantically look at any new house that came on the market while at the same time trying to figure out where we might be by the Fall so that we could make a decision for our oldest son’s entry into elementary school. To say I was a ball of stress would be a severe understatement. And seemingly overnight things changed.
Don’t know how or why, but we found a lovely charter school for our son on the northwestern edge of Petaluma. It would be a drive from our rental if we still lived there, but it would be worth it as we both felt this was the right school for our son and our family. The following week I saw a house listing pop up on the MLS that looked too good to be true – mid century, 3 bedroom/2 bath house on 1/3 acre lot with a legit granny unit in the back. We made an offer and much to my surprise, it actually all worked out. I was sure that some sort of hiccup would prevent the deal from going through, but it didn’t. Even the hiccups that happened did not delay our closing and we were homeowners again on March 18, 2014!
While we only moved 5 miles from our East Petaluma suburban neighborhood, it was clear that things would be different here. For starters, the first neighbor to greet us was Cowboy Bob who lives next door. Outfitted in wranglers, boots, a cowboy hat and a belt buckle that would impress my late grandpa, Bob moseyed over to introduce himself one afternoon as I was painting the kitchen. As a native Texan, I had to appreciate that we’d landed ourselves next to a real, live cowboy. Next, we discovered our backyard to be laden with fruit trees (plum and fig) and wide open to anything else we might want to plant. This was a vast difference from the tiled patio that served as a backyard in our rental. The reality is that time moves a little bit slower here, just 5 miles from where we started, and we like that. We downright love it. I, more than anyone else in my family, need to have my external surroundings match what I’d like to achieve within myself. I still feel like a spastic chicken the majority of the time, but when I give myself permission and the time and space to relax, I feel so thankful that this is where we landed. It’s been almost 18 months now since we moved and I am still constantly striving to make changes, but I’m also realizing that some of these changes will just have to come in time. My biggest challenge now is to take the advice my mom gave me to settle in to my life and let things marinate. Here’s to trying!