the surreality of our life
November 18, 2010

Malcolm at almost 16 weeks!

Well, hello. It’s been a while. I thought I’d just jump in without any sort of plan for the blog. Just writing.

And here’s what I’ve been wondering lately…

Did it ever really happen?!

Did we really live on an island?

I know we did. I have evidence. So much happened in those ten months. Yet, it all feels like someone else’s life. It feels so far away and untouchable. I try to mentally place myself back in Friday Harbor and everything clouds over like a dream.

We’ve been in Chicago now for almost three months. When we first arrived it all felt strangely normal. Strange because a sudden life change and move cross country with an infant shouldn’t feel so normal. Right? But we know this place. We’ve lived here before. Familiarity welcomed us home.

But the last few days all I’ve been thinking about is how different we are now than when we last lived here. We’re not the same people. We’ve come so far and gone through so much. This thinking leads me down a path of memories and my brain has a hard time sorting them out in a way that it all makes sense. How did we go from Chicago to LA to Chicago to Friday Harbor to Chicago? It’s not the how that matters but that we did. And that where are now is here. Chicago. Live in the now. Yes? This is my challenge.

Yesterday I went for a run through my neighborhood (the first run without the jogging stroller as Grammy Pammie was babysitting Malcolm) and I couldn’t help but contrast the setting with San Juan Island and L.A.

Here I was running through city streets and stoplights. There isn’t even a single stop light on San Juan Island.

Here the terrain is flat. Flat. Flat. Flat. In L.A. and on San Juan Island there are hills. Hills. Hills. Hills. I miss those.

Here I was surrounded by humanity. On SJI, I was surrounded by nature.

Here the architecture is all the same (mostly)… brick. Brick. Brick. Running in I loved seeing the exciting and different architecture of the homes from Spanish casitas to mid-century modern masterpieces.

While running I travel back to L.A. on my memories and then Friday Harbor. And I’m suddenly sad. Missing it. Missing both worlds. Then remembering how when we moved to L.A. we missed Chicago. So much. For three years. It really took three years to love L.A. And then we fell hard.

So what?

Am I doomed to this awkward three-year transition period? Perhaps. But hopefully not.

Will we always miss something about where we used to be? Most likely yes. But isn’t that a good thing? That we have something to miss only tells us that we’ve lived some amazing adventures and have been happy.

I feel so grateful to have lived for those ten months in Friday Harbor. An experience I truly never would have experienced had our lives not taken an unexpected turn. Living there was a gift. Experiencing the place, the community, the people… I can’t say enough.


In keeping with the LOST comparisons, I don’t go as far as Jack to say “We never should have left the island!” But I do wonder what life would be like had we stayed. When I mentally place myself there now… as in What would it be like if we were still living there? The answer is that it would be hard. Bob would most likely be commuting every week again. Malcolm would have no relationship with his grandparents. I would be missing my family terribly.

So being in Chicago is the right place to be. For who we are today. The here and now.

And man, we love being here. See? You probably didn’t expect that. This is what we have a hard time reconciling. How can we love being here and be happy here when we also miss there? And then? Both L.A. and Friday Harbor? Two places that couldn’t be more different.

It’s maddening.

Or maybe it’s just life.

Our life. That has always had a surreal bent to it.

Today Malcolm and I went to a mama and yoga baby class in the neighborhood (walking distance). To our right was a mom and her seven-week old son. To our left was a mom and her eight-week old son. I looked at these little babies and started to cry. Because it’s already gone so fast. He’s already 16 weeks. Today. That’s four whole months! Malcolm at that tiny 8-week size seems so long ago. I adore every stage, but miss each one as it inevitably disappears.

Even Malcolm’s birth seems surreal. I think about that and wonder, Did THAT really happen?! I miss it. I miss being pregnant. I miss giving birth (did I really just write that?!) And how is that? Why is that the past seems surreal and I romanticize even the most painful moments?

Looking for a way to reconcile it all. Again, maybe that’s impossible.

Maybe that’s just life.


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10 months on an island
September 14, 2010

The Walkers at Germanfest in Lincoln Square

Where to begin?


It’s me.


In Chicago now.

That was fast, right?

Just a few weeks ago we were on the island. Now we’re here. In our new home. A three bedroom apartment in the Lincoln Square neighborhood of Chicago. Almost completely unpacked. Almost.

Crazy, right? I think so.

How on earth did we get here?

Well…it’s been a wild ride.

Remember how…

Remember how I had this blog called Love in the Time of Foreclosure about how we were trying to be better people and turn a bad situation into an opportunity while facing foreclosure?

And remember how we narrowly avoided foreclosure and sold our house in a short sale along with 90% of our possessions?

Remember how we had nowhere to go so my family said we could live with them while we got back on our feet… so we packed our car with the possessions that remained and drove from L.A. to Chicago… and then how a reader of Love in the Time of Foreclosure offered us an amazing opportunity?

Two years on an island. Yes. This angel reader offered us a caretaking gig of a 1910 farmhouse in the San Juan Islands. And remember how we jumped at that opportunity?

Remember how we packed our car again and drove from Chicago to Friday Harbor, WA?

And remember how when we arrived at the farmhouse in Friday Harbor we thought the house was haunted, I was afraid of the silence and dark and we felt totally isolated?

And then how we got pregnant?

And then made friends and fell in love with the place and people and got used to the quiet and realized it wasn’t haunted?

And remember how I got a job that I loved working the front desk of a hotel in Friday Harbor?

Remember how Bob had to commute from Friday Harbor to San Francisco for the last four months of my pregnancy making us a “commuter couple”?

Remember how we had to take an hour long ferry ride to the mainland?

Remember how we had a baby boy named Malcolm James Walker?

And remember how we were supposed to be on this island for two years. But then Bob got this call to be in Chicago for work and how we didn’t want to be apart anymore so we jumped at this call to move back to Chicago. For job. For family. For Malcolm?

And then how we packed the car up and drove from Friday Harbor to Chicago. This time with a baby.


All of that. ALL OF THAT happened within the span of 14 months… if you count back from the first move. The move from L.A. to Chicago. That was only 14 months ago. 14 months!

We have dramatically altered our life’s course and moved THREE TIMES zigzagging across the country in the last 14 months.

And now we’re home.

It’s crazy.

It happened so fast.

It’s surreal.

Everything that Bob said in his last post… ditto.

And now we’re home. I already said that, didn’t I? Probably because it really does feel like home. Because it is. And with a new baby it feels good to be exactly there. Home.

When we accepted the caretaking gig, we set some goals for the two years.

GOAL #1: Have a baby

GOAL #2: Eliminate all debt

We fulfilled goal #1.

We’re still working on goal #2.

We were supposed to be there two years. It turned out to be ten months.

The people who are taking over the gig (taking care of the house) are fantastic. The ideal people. A family. I’m so glad for them. I feel so much better knowing that we left our post in good hands.

I feel like I should have more to say. Something that makes sense of our lives. But there isn’t anything. I can’t just “sum it all up.” There’s too much.

Did we plan this?


Do we plan anything?

Well… not really. I mean. We try. We do. It’s just that things don’t usually go the way we plan.

What about Malcolm?

Yes. We planned him. In fact, he’s the one example of perfect planning. We said we wanted to have a child while we were on the island. We arrived to the island at the end of October and by Thanksgiving we knew we had created a child.

Just like that.

It makes me think.

Were we on the island just to have Malcolm? I kind of think we were. Seems that way, doesn’t it? He is this amazing gift in our lives. And I wouldn’t change a single thing that has happened that led us to having him.

Do we miss the island?

Of course!

Are we glad to be here?

Of course!

Will I keep blogging?

Of course! Just… not here, I guess. I mean not on “Two Years on an Island” because… well, we’re not on an island anymore.

So could I just change the name of the blog?

Well, that wouldn’t be right.

So start a new one?

Maybe. I guess that makes the most sense.

But what will it be called? And what will I write about?

Good question.

How about starting a new one with a name that wouldn’t have to change no matter where we are living or what we are doing. Okay. Perhaps that would be wise. Less confusing to readers? Perhaps. I don’t know.

Without foreclosure and without the island would people still want to read?

Good question. What would be the ‘hook’?


All good questions.

No answers in this post.

Just thoughts.




All right. Enough, already.

Time to wrap this up. Malcolm could wake up any second.

Speaking of Malcolm… he did so well on the road trip. As did Pablo.

Pablo enjoys a Wyoming sunset along I80

They are both so adaptable. Which is incredibly useful in this family. Adaptability. Given how much we tend to like change.

My mom said something like this: “The only constant with you guys is change.” Was that how you said it, Mom? Close, right? True.

So…. uh, well, if you have any ideas or suggestions for the blog I’d love to hear it. I’ll have a couple more posts here before making any decisions as to the future. If you’re someone who reads this blog to hear about life on San Juan Island, may I recommend another blog by a wonderful writer and lady, Jennifer Furber: Baby by the Sea

And if you’d like to see how big Malcolm has gotten (and watch him smile), here is a link to a video:

Steph reads Oh the Thinks You Can Think to Malcolm

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how to get to the island
February 23, 2010

Convenience is not a reason anyone would choose to live on an island. Especially not San Juan Island. Convenient it is not. There is no bridge connecting us to the mainland. No chunnel. No. To travel back and forth from the island to the mainland, we are at the mercy of the ferry schedule.

The ferry takes an hour and five minutes if you are traveling direct from Friday Harbor to Anacortes. However, Bob and I once spent over 5 hours in one day on the ferry. How?

Well, it was a Saturday and we were trying to get on the 8:05 ferry. We arrived to line up at 7:15 only to find out that it was already full. We were turned away and told to return for the next ferry… which wasn’t until 11:15. But that ferry stops at Orcas, Lopez and Shaw before going to Anacortes. We could have waited for a later, direct ferry but didn’t want to run the chance that we would miss it. So we got on this incredibly indirect route.

We didn’t make it back until the last ferry of the day… which is also a “local” as opposed to direct. It took even longer than usual because just as we were finally heading to Friday Harbor from Orcas Island, the captain got on the loudspeaker to tell us that a couple of passengers had failed to disembark at Orcas and we were going to turn around to let them off. But first we had to wait for another ferry to unload their passengers. And that’s how we ended up spending over 5 hours in one day on the ferry.

So… all of this is to demonstrate how challenging it can be to get to our little island. Usually we just pass the time on the ferry by either reading or playing games. Our new favorite is Bananagrams. Do you know this game? It’s so much fun and really easy to carry around. Seriously, check it out. Especially if you’re a Scrabble or Crosswords fan.

Anyway, the ferry terminal in Anacortes is a 1.5 to 2 hour (depending on traffic) drive from Seatac (the Seattle airport) and the ferry ride (if direct) is an hour and five minutes after that. Don’t forget the wait time. You generally need to arrive about an hour ahead of schedule this time of year to be sure you make it. It’s apparently ungodly longer in the summer.

Now, we recently returned from a two-week vacation in Los Angeles. My new play “American Home” was being workshopped at The Blank Theatre in Hollywood. So we went for that and to see friends. We drove down so that we could return our leased vehicle. And we flew back. The plan had been to leave our “new” car (a 1995 Volvo wagon with 195,000 miles on it) at friends house in Seattle so that we had a way back to the island. That plan went out the window Day 1 of our drive down when the car sputtered and quit. We called AAA and had them tow it back to Friday Harbor to our mechanic who had just done a bunch of work on it.

Our mechanic felt so bad that this happened to us that he offered to pick us up in his Cessna from the airport so that we would have a way back to the island. And that’s what he did! On Saturday we landed in Seattle and found our way over to Boeing Field where he said he would meet us. He arrived just after we did and forty minutes later we were landing in Friday Harbor. Amazing! It was such a thrill. We were so lucky to have clear skies and a pristine view. It was totally exhilarating. And so much better than taking the ferry. We have the best mechanic ever!

But I don’t know how we’ll ever travel by ferry again.

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