Yes. The rumors are true. We’re moving to Alaska. Again.
You know those stickers that runners put on their cars—26.2 or 13.1 with an oval around ‘em? I want one of those. Only I want one that says 3.092K. Mmhm. 3,092 miles. That’s how far it is from our house in Colorado to Glennallen, Alaska. It’s even further from Greenville, SC. 4,103 miles—that’s how far we drove last time. So I might need one for that trip too. 4.103K. Nobody else will have a clue what they mean. But I’ll know. Those are looooong drives.
The first time we did it, we had a 7 year old, a 5 year old, a 3 year old, and a 1 year old. That, in itself, deserves a sticker. It was . . . long. The second time we did it, we had a 16 year old, a 14 year old, a 12 year old, a 10 year old, and a 7 year old. Decidedly easier. But. We also had 2 cats, a big dog, and a guinea pig. The critters added their own special . . . flavor . . . to the trip.
Moving is never easy. I seriously cannot fathom how my military-family friends do it time after time. Maybe it’s easier on some people than others; maybe some just learn to deal with it better. I really don’t know. I just know I
detest er, strongly dislike it. For one thing, I’m sentimental and my husband likes to purge. I spell “stress” M-O-V-I-N-G. Seriously, the most difficult times in our marriage, bar none, have been during moves. We get along great otherwise. Once settled, we’re golden.
For example, we both absolutely loved Alaska. We loved the place and we loved the people. Small communities, for better or worse, are tightly knit. This dynamic is especially true in places where life is tough, and you have to rely on one another. The Copper River Valley is a kind of arctic Mayberry. We got to know folks deeply. We walked the same valleys and celebrated the same triumphs. Life wasn’t easy, but it was rich. Together. And we loved it.
We both really like Colorado Springs too. However, our transition to Colorado has been challenging on multiple levels. The job we moved 3,094 miles for Paul to do was a massive disappointment. In the weeks between accepting the position and our arrival, the work situation began to change. Shortly after we got here, it unravelled. Dramatically. And was no longer a fit.
Aside from the sucker-punch of sacrificing a life we adored for the disappointment of an ill-fitting job, we also faced a cultural adjustment. Somewhere in there, we became small-town folks. Don’t get me wrong, people in Colorado are awesome. It’s just that life here is fractured. People are busy—and they’re busy doing different things. We were busy in Alaska too, but there, because it was so small, lives naturally overlapped. Your busyness lined up with your friends’ busyness. You were busy together. The same people attended Bible study, hockey games, and PTO meetings. You ran into each other at the gas station, the post office, and the telephone co-op. I can count on one hand the times I’ve bumped into someone I know while out and about in Colorado Springs. That’s not bad; it’s just different. And it makes building relationships—deep ones, I mean, beyond a superficial, “Hey, how ya doin’?”—really, really tough. It’s doable, over time, but it takes focused intentionality.
So, Colorado has been a challenge and Alaska was wonderful. Plus, my parents live there with four of my nieces and nephews! You’d think I’d be beyond eager to go back, right? But I’m not. Sharing this is risky, but important. We’re headed back to a very small community filled with people I love. I would never, never want them to think I don’t want to be there. I DO! Our visit over Thanksgiving reminded me of just how much they all mean to me. I count it an honor and privilege and a joy to do life with them. But they’re savvy enough to sense when someone isn’t whole-hearted about something, and I respect them too much not to be honest. I am torn about moving back. In reflecting on why that is, exactly, I landed on a few reasons. (Be warned. Some are flat-out carnal.)
1. I’m lazy. Life in rural Alaska is hard. We hauled our drinking water. We harvested, butchered, and packaged our own meat. We drove three to four hours each way to do most of our shopping. Paul and our boys cut and split the wood we used to heat our house every winter. All of that is just normal, everyday life. Most everyone up there does the same. It’s hard. And extreme temperatures aren’t just cold—they can be deadly. So if you’re wise, you lug full winter gear with you everywhere you go. And maybe an arctic-temp–rated sleeping bag or two. We have seven people in our family. I’ll let you do the math. And while you’re adding, don’t forget to save room for two or three hockey bags. And maybe some groceries. Speaking of groceries, shopping at Sam’s Club, in the dead of winter, in Anchorage, Alaska, ain’t no cake-walk. For one thing, we shop BIG. We only went to town (Anchorage, that is) once every month or two. So an average grocery run meant 8–10 gallons of milk, 12–14 loaves of bread, multiple cases of canned goods, ginormous bags of pet food . . . . You get the picture. It was a LOAD. Then, you had to get that load from the store to the van, often in subzero temps, across an icy parking lot. A pitted, gouged, snowplow-scraped parking lot. I can feel the teeth-jarring workout just thinking about it. And then, when you got home . . . it all had to be hauled inside. Whew! Grocery shopping in Colorado Springs is waaaay easier!
2. I love to shop. I especially love Anthropologie and TJ Maxx. Alaska has neither.
3. I don’t like change. Really, I don’t. I don’t even rearrange my furniture. I get it how I like it, and I’m good. For years. We lived in the same house in Alaska for nine years. I rearranged the living room once. And even that time, it wasn’t my idea.
4. I put my all into making a home for my family. Truthfully, I think this may be the biggest reason I dread moving. (This one and the next, for sure.) I’m a feeler. When I do something, I put my whole heart into it. Which probably explains why I don’t do hobbies. I can’t. It’s all or nothing for me. And with five kids . . . well, that’s pretty much all the “hobby” can handle. So my home—the home I make for them and for my man—is big. And leaving it is hard. Excruciatingly hard. It feels like I’m leaving part of my heart behind. And I am.
5. I value relationships. This one’s the other biggie for me. I am a people-person. Big time. I love people! I love being part of their stories and their growth and their struggles. And I like sharing mine with them. So saying goodbye to friends takes another chunk out of my heart.
At the same time, those last three are also the reasons why I know I’ll be just fine once I get there. I mean it when I say that we love the people in the Copper Valley. Being back over Thanksgiving this year, it felt like we’d never left. We shared meals and stories and laughter with family after family. What a treasure of friendships we have there! Everywhere we went, people grinned when they saw us and said, “Hey! Welcome home! We’ve missed you all!” and, “When ya comin’ back?” And they meant it. That’s pretty special.
I look forward to making our new house there a home, making it ours and making it welcoming to company. I look forward to doing Bible study and having coffee with my girlfriends, to keeping score at hockey games, to knowing my kids’ teachers—and them knowing all of my kids, not just the ones they teach. I look forward to being near my parents again and being Aunt Misty and Uncle Paul, every day, to the four kids they’re raising. The more I think about those things, the more I look forward to going back.
Yes, I’ll miss Colorado. I’ll miss the weather and my front porch and the mosquitoless summers. I’ll miss our neighbors and other friends we care about here. And, on the carnal side, I’ll miss our hot tub—and TJ Maxx! No, I won’t ever love Sam’s shopping in Anchorage or packaging meat. But, if I let them, goodbyes and hardships and disappointments simply serve to remind me that nowhere on this earth is perfect. Nowhere is truly home. Not yet. And, if I let them, the people and places I love can remind me that I have a Forever Home that my soul longs for and that will fill all the empty places in my heart. One day.
I really look forward to that! Somehow, I don’t think I’ll mind that move one bit. I won’t even need a sticker.