NOTE: I just completed Part III and it still has about 4,000 words. Don’t give up Dad!
I know what you’re thinking, “Disneyland, lip sync, RFL! Why is he complaining about stress?! Sounds like fun!”
Sure those were fun moments, but all the while the stress from the up and down paychecks were killing me. Yes, I had the one good month, (and we were somewhat dumb for blowing some of it on vacation), but in between there were a few times I made anywhere from $750 to $900 a month. Making our monthly mortgage payment was rough. Surviving was tough.
On top of that I was wrapped up in being the Sky Valley Chamber of Commerce President, I was being nominated for the Toastmaster presidency, I was leading the youth group at our church every Wednesday, and none of that was leading to more clients. Not that that’s why I do what I do, but I had hoped it would help, just a smidge!
Lis and I needed to make a decision, and when I returned from vacation in June I expected to be motivated to kick some insurance butt. Instead I was still burnt out, and looking for a way out.
We made the decision to not go to Hillsboro. It just didn’t feel right. We thought about offices in North Marysville and Bothell. Nationwide thought about lower King or Pierce County. Something was still pulling us towards Spokane, actually a town outside of Spokane called Liberty Lake.
To confirm our desire to live on the other side of the mountains, the five of us ventured to Spokane Valley to see if we still liked it. We walked through a couple of homes. We drove around to see how far school, the library, parks and bike trails were. I made sure minor league baseball was nearby, and a Buffalo Wild Wings. Everything was within 10-15 minutes, with most everything we needed within five minutes.
Liberty Lake was especially nice. The homes were newer, there were parks everywhere. You could jump on a bike and head to a trail within miles. The schools were some of the best in the state. Cost of living was less expensive than our little town. Nothing made us question the area.
As we pulled into the hotel parking lot the Brazil-Germany World Cup semifinal was just getting started. The hotel didn’t have ESPN, so we had to follow via the Internet. As I pulled up the score I noticed that it was quickly 1-0 Alemanha, I struggled to find a feed to watch the game, 2-0. At halftime it was 4-0, and I was quickly reminded about February’s Super Bowl where the team I rooted for was done before the game even got started. Still, watching the World Cup was fun. I always root for the United States and Brazil (for obvious reasons), and once again, I started to like, and understand, the game of futebol even more.
When we returned home things became more clear. Our decision had been made clear, it was time to blow things up and start all over. As of August 1 I would do the incredibly tough thing of closing the office, and walking away from a dream that I was able to accomplish, but unable to succeed at. We would leave behind our family and friends. We would walk away from our house, and the community we loved. KABOOM! It was time for a new beginning.
I have to thank the people of Nationwide for supporting me the last two years. Their support was amazing, and even as I crawled through months, they were still super-supportive. The hardest part of closing the office was knowing that I had let them down. Incredible people, and as a whole, Nationwide was filled with people like them from the top to the bottom. I’m very grateful for the opportunity they gave me. If I had to do it over again I’d start in a bigger area. I’d have money set aside in savings for the struggle. I wouldn’t do it with a family of five.
As the Sultan lip sync had done in May, something else popped up and added some fun into my life. Okay, so maybe it didn’t pop into my life, after all I started it myself.
The Sultan Satire was first used to poke fun at all the crap that people were complaining about on the Sultan Facebook page. Little did I know that it would slowly gain a cult following. Like Batman, I kept my identity hidden from the community. I couldn’t let people know that the Chamber president was writing jokes about our little town, and the people who resided in it.
I had so much fun coming up with story ideas, and then writing the faux news reports. It allowed me to put my mind into something totally away from all the stress.
Articles titled: “Citizens Surprised, Library Has Resources Not Only Public Restrooms,” “Citizens Warned! Man With Backpack Cruising Thru Sultan!” “Family of Five Seen Riding Bikes In Town; Citizens Concerned,” and “STUDY: Burglaries Less Likely to Happen When Doors Locked.”
I had a blast writing it, and really, some of my best writing came from the month I wrote for The Sultan Satire. Check it out here.
I have to admit. I miss you Sultan Satire!
Meanwhile in Sultan, I emceed the main stage at the Sultan Shindig, and even participated in another lip sync performance, with kids! It’s all about the kids right?
Finally in July, Lukas participated in his first live fantasy football draft. He did well, without much assistance from his father. In fact, he finished in fourth this season. Meanwhile, his dear ol’ dad was the No. 1 team going into the playoffs and finished eighth. The Padawan had quickly surpassed the Jedi.
By August we had confirmed our desire to bail. The office would be closing on August 1. Our last weekend with church would be at our annual camp-in. We would have one last hurrah at Johnsonville before we made like the Jeffersons and moved to the East Side.
The first weekend of August was emotional.
At the camp-in the church recognized us for the service we had done with the church the last nine or so years.
Pastor called us up, shared some fun stories, allowed the youth to share something about me and the three years I spent with them, and then I made the mistake of attempting to convey my love for the second family that the church had become. Sorry, I was a little weepy.
This was the first church I really belonged to. I came to them as a disgruntled, question-filled 20-year-old in 1997. The first sermon I heard was from the assistant pastor, who ended up being a mentor of mine, and he used the NBA All-Star Game as a backdrop. I was sucked in.
I committed my life to Christ in the church. When Lis and I decided to return to church, we returned there. Four days later she was diagnosed with leukemia, and the church quickly wrapped their arms around us for support.
We became heavily involved organizing events like movie nights, Fourth of July pancake breakfasts, and New Year’s Eve parties. I led Youth Group for two years, building everlasting relationships with the teenagers, who ended up teaching me more about the Word, than I taught them.
The recognition was a touching end to our time there, and we will forever be grateful for what our church family has done for us. We made a lot of close relationships, all that have helped in our faith growth.
The day after our camp-in Lukas and I were baptized in Lake Roesiger. As I’ve mentioned before I love creating memories. I had put off being baptized for 15 years, waiting for that special moment, possibly with my future wife, or my child. Well, when Lukas made the decision to follow Christ, and be baptized, I figured this was a perfect opportunity to dip myself into Holy Water (or at least the waters of Roesiger).
What made it even more fitting was that we were getting baptized just days before we left for Liberty Lake. I felt it only fitting that the Pastor I had befriended, and that had helped me grow, be the one that baptized me. In an emotional moment, he thanked me for letting him baptize me – no thanks needed – and just like that I had accomplished my want for making my baptism an incredibly precious moment.
That afternoon we had our “Get Lost Johnson 5” party. Family and friends from all walks of our life showed up to visit with us. We had a wonderful time with everyone. Thank you to everyone that shared in our moment.
Of course, never one to miss having his own special moment, and to pull at my heart-strings, my brother-from-another-mother Jerry rolled up blasting Boyz II Men’s “It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye (to Yesterday).” Well-played Big Dog, well-played.
That afternoon we had a blast listening to music, playing volleyball with kids from my Youth Group, people from church, friends from basketball, friends from school, Lukas’ friends, it was wonderful. Definitely one last Johnsonville hurrah!
A few days later my mom, Lis, a close friend of mine, and myself packed up most of the U-Haul, before my brother and my dad helped with the second round.
The Johnson Five rolled out of the Sky Valley on August 5, ringing the bell by the Sultan Post Office, before heading over the mountains.
I started a new job the following week, again working for a small insurance office. The people I work with are great, but insurance is insurance.
I had hoped it might escape me, but when I saw it got to Big Dog I knew it was headed to me. Yes, the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge phenomenon hit us and well … here we are! I know people hated on the social media trend, hated on the fundraising opportunities, hated because that’s what we do, hate, but it was fun, and we used it as a positive spin that allowed me to teach the kids about this horrible disease.
We celebrated Lia’s sixth birthday, and she also began her first year of school, attending the Central Valley Kindergarten Center. Finally! She’s been ready to attend school for a couple of years now, but at last, she finally became of age and Lis was pumped! She’s always been a quick learner, and very social, so we worried that she might be a little too talkative in class. Turns out we were wrong.
In October we received an email from the teacher. Not knowing what to expect I was very proud to read that, “Just wanted you to know how awesome I think your daughter is. She is always kind and a good listener. Whenever we get new students, I put them next to Lia because I know she will be a great help to them. It is so nice to have a jr. teacher like Lia in our class.”
Um…can you say HUGE SMILE ACROSS MY FACE! Sure the lip sync thing made me pretty proud, but receiving this, and seeing that she is excelling in school, more proud.
We of course had a Frozen birthday, and it was nice that our family, and Ian, drove over for her party. Thanks guys!
Not much else I can say about my daughter. I have written quite a bit about her the last few days, and though personally 2014 may have been a struggle, Lia’s 2014 was a success.
Our favorite show is The Middle, and this year is #TheYearofSue, Sue being the middle of three kids, and the only girl. Yes, we can relate a little too much. Well this year very well could’ve been #TheYearofLia. She’s busy, dramatic, persistent, intelligent, witty, has a love for God that even her teacher commented on during conferences, and … special. I look forward to watching her growth, but as a dad, I’m a bit worried. Wait, no more worries Kevin!
Speaking of new life, my brother and his wife, announced that she was pregnant. The duo have been attempting to have kids since the night of their wedding, but through some difficulties were never able to. After trying everything from acrobats to velcro (I’m only kidding, right?), they decided to try In Vitro Fertilization. Success! Currently they have a healthy baby in the oven, and are expecting in June. I know attempting to have this baby was a very trying time for them, and I’m happy that they made it out alive, and am very proud of their new journey.
Lukas celebrated his first double-digit birthday, and since we just moved here, and his two closest friends were out-of-town, we celebrated by taking the family to bowling, bumper cars and miniature golf. Family came over the mountains to join us, and what turned into a botched birthday party, turned into one of the best and relaxing birthdays we have celebrated. Easy, inexpensive, and fun for all ages, we’re already looking forward to Year 11!
I won’t go into too much about Lukas, as you can read about my little buddy in October’s post “The Greatest“. Yes, he’s my mini-me. He tends to worry or stress easily. We both have a love for sports and Star Wars (though all three have that love for Star Wars), and he loves to do his imaginary football in the front yard. He continues to excel in school, flying under the radar, just consistently doing well, often above grade-level. I did the same until I reached sixth grade, which for Lukas is just two years away, that’s when I’ll need to make sure he doesn’t travel down the same path I did. He’s interested in college, and already has a list of where he wants to go (mostly because of college sports), but let’s make sure he stays in that mindset.
I started working part-time for the Spokesman-Review, the third-largest newspaper in the state. I’m in the sports department putting together sections of the sports page. It’s fun, puts me back in an environment I’ve always loved to be in, and pays okay. Nice extra income for doing something I consider a hobby.
We started November by selling our house in Sultan. What a relief! We had put it on the market in June, and within 17 days we had sold it. However, because we were short-selling we had to go through the long, drawn out process of the bank processing our paperwork, and making sure we were short-sale worthy. We were told months prior to us even putting the house on the market that we were definitely short-sale worthy. The process went smoothly, and I have to give props to Joe Platz and his Selling Snohomish team for making it fairly easy on us.
And because the stress of regular life wasn’t enough, we had a slight scare with Lis’ health when two black spots were found in her breasts. You can read about that in my post called “Concern Level: Zero!” It was a little nerve-wracking, especially when you’re having biopsies, traveling to and from places called “cancer treatment centers” and waiting patiently for results. It turned out to be nothing. Praise!
The first snow fall came in Spokane, and a day after my co-workers told me to pack extra clothes and blankets because I might end up in a ditch somewhere, I ended up in a ditch somewhere. I’m still unsure of what happened. Was my 4-wheel drive not locked in? Was it too windy, that my little Tracker slipped on the snow-covered road? Were my tires too bald? Either way, it didn’t matter, after fish-tailing twice, the third time took me into a spin that ended up into a rock canyon. It sucked! But after the way 2014 had been going, I wasn’t surprised.
In other November news: My buddy got Seahawks tickets so we drove over the mountains and I spent a day hanging out with two of my longest-tenured buddies at the Seahawks game. Well worth the mini-trip, and will probably continue to make it an annual tradition. … I didn’t head out to the stores for Black Friday, but instead my deal came to me. The Star Wars: The Force Awakens teaser trailer was released at about 10 a.m. that morning. The first few views gave me the chills, a small tear, and lots of excitement for December 2015. We continued to watch it, and watch it, and watch it. What was cool was seeing the excitement it not only brought me, but it brought the kiddos. If you haven’t seen the trailer click here. Below is Levi’s reaction to probably the 10th time we viewed it. … With our family in town for Thanksgiving, we closed out November by visiting the Coeur d’Alene Christmas light show and parade. It was fun to be festive, but the frigid temperatures, coupled with the sideways rain and sand from the lakeshore, caused a little discomfort. But memories right? Memories!
After messing up my car and realizing it’s going to cost me $2,200 to fix just the physical damage, Lis and I sat down and thought long and hard about departing with her ’99 Ford Windstar and my ’01 Chevy Tracker. Both cars needed both physical and mechanical repairs that would cost us close to $10,000 total to fix. No joke. With my second job, her somewhat part-time job of cleaning the church twice a month, we figured if a dealership could meet our financial requests, we might, just might, be able to get ourselves our first new vehicle since we purchased the Tracker in October ’03.
We knew we were fond of the Dodge Grand Caravan, so we stopped into Dishman Dodge in the Spokane Valley to check them out. Instead we found a Chrysler Town & Country (the “luxury” version of the Caravan), that was a year newer, had better features than the Caravan, and was listed as the same price. SOLD! The dealership was very no-hassle, they met our budget guidelines, and by the end of the four-hour ordeal we had ourselves a new and improved family trickster, with so many fancy features we had no idea how to work them.
The van has been amazing. I no longer fear for my life when I take to the wintry roads. It’s bigger, safer, more comfortable, and since I know little to nothing about the mechanics of vehicles, it lets us know when we need to fill up the tires and oil. Plus it has a DVD player, which would be awesome if the boys didn’t have the motion sickness of their father, and threw up minutes after their eyes were off the road.
The move east was God’s way of telling me to stop and focus on the things that matter most, Him and my little family.
And overall it’s been healthy for us. I care too much about what people think, so when nobody wanted to get together I found myself getting offended. When one of my best, good friends who lived hours away would drive past my house on his way to our other buddies house, it bothered me. Why didn’t he want to stop and visit?
Yes, one of my other big faults is my consistent way of stressing myself or worrying about things that are out of my hands. It’s a work in progress.
It wasn’t easy to pack up the family and uproot them from the only place they’ve known. It wasn’t easy for me to leave behind a community, friends and family I had spent the last 20 years with. People may have thought we were crazy. Some may have thought we were brave. I think we were a little of both. It took a lot of letting go to make this happen, and other than the day I spun into a rock (headed to an office I volunteered for), it’s been wonderful.
We found a church just five minutes away that had things we were looking for in a church. There were plenty of kids, most in our age range. The church had gone through some recent, and positive changes. A new pastor within the last year, a new youth director within the last few months. They emphasized the importance of small groups, something that was incredibly important in our spiritual growth. We found a group that fits us perfectly with five other couples all in our age range, with kids all in our kids range. And just like that I was teaching 4th and 5th grade Sunday School on an every-other-month basis, and Lis was helping in the nursery on a once-a-month basis.
Sure it can get cold here, but it’s dry. Lukas can still go out in the front-yard and toss the mini-pigskin around when it’s 30-degrees. Just bundle up! (Kind of funny how quickly we get used to sub-40 degree weather) No worries about dragging wet and mud into the house.
The commute is basically nonexistent. I drive 25 miles to work, and it takes me 27 minutes in the morning and 40 minutes in the evening. Everything else is 5-10 minutes – even Idaho.
There’s still a very old-school way of doing things here. The neighbor kids will knock on the door to ask the kids if they want to play, I’ll walk 10 steps to the neighbors to watch Monday Night Football with him, during the summer we had a bonfire in our driveway.
During the summer we were able to leave our house via bike and end up riding 10 miles to Post Falls, Idaho, or 8 miles to the Spokane Valley Mall. And during the summer the Golf Cart Phenomenon happens, where golf carts come out of every garage and show up at the grocery store, or at movie nights at the park. Ask my dad and Erik, they found this both amusing and interesting.
Were we running from the stress that everything was bringing us? I guess it could look that way.
Did we feel that a move to Liberty Lake would be better for raising our family? I guess you could look at it that way.
I hope to look back at 2014 and think of it like we did 2005, when Lis was diagnosed with leukemia. It was a trying year all around, but in the end it allowed us to grow as a person, and family.
I hope to look back at 2014 and laugh about how I would stress or worry about every little detail, but how it taught me to “Let It Go.”
Bring on 2015. The #YearofChill!