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.

Yet…

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.

Thoughts?

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10 months on an island
September 14, 2010

The Walkers at Germanfest in Lincoln Square

Where to begin?

Hi.

It’s me.

Stephanie.

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.

Well…

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?

No.

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’?

Hmmmm….

All good questions.

No answers in this post.

Just thoughts.

Fragments.

Bits.

Pieces.

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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a friday harbor 4th of July
July 5, 2010

Last year we were in Humbolt, Iowa celebrating the 4th with Bob’s family on our journey from L.A. to the Chicago suburbs. This year we were in Friday Harbor… which as you know is quite the opposite from Humbolt, Iowa. But neither disappoint in a plethora of Americana and John Deere tractors. (I guess that’s redundant.)

Anyway, I thought I’d share some of the images from the parade. So away we go…

This was taken about an hour and a half before the start of the parade. During the parade, there wasn’t an empty seat to be found on Spring Street.

A couple of weeks ago, my friend Jennifer told me that she had bought a little muscle t-shirt for Pablo. She was organizing a tie-dying party to dye clothes for the parade. She and her girls thought this little dog tee was a hoot. And so did I. I joined them for the party and as everyone dyed clothes for their children, I dyed a wife beater for my dog. Well, I also dyed a onesie for my baby. But it was the Pablo tank that had me there.

So you see the result. The poor little guy was not happy. Not at all. I left it on long enough to snap a few pictures for evidence. And that was all. It came right off. I promise.

This is Pablo’s friend Valentino (Tino for short.) He is a Smooth-Coated Brussels Griffon… also known as a Petit Brabancon. He belongs to our friends Juniper and Sean. Who are also Pablo’s friends and took care of Pablo for ten days when I was in Chicago this Spring. Don’t worry. He did not witness Pablo in the tie-dyed tank.

Oh, Lady Liberty… what have you done to your hair?!

Loved this.

The folks from the UW Marine Labs were playing Bull Kelp as instruments… adding a uniquely Friday Harbor element to the parade.

Why? No idea. But as a huge Back to the Future fan, who cares. It was awesome.

I love how easy it is to support local agriculture here on San Juan Island. One of the local farms was handing out sweet peas instead of candy. Delicious.

Check out our seats. I’m particularly in love with the foot rest. This is such the perfect pregnant lady position. July 4th marked 20 days until my due date. And I was feeling it.

the pig war picnic

After the parade we walked with the throngs of people up to the historical museum for the Pig War Picnic. It’s called the Pig War Picnic as an homage to the beginnings of the U.S. Occupation of the island. The Pig War was a confrontation in 1859 between the British and the Americans over the occupation of San Juan Island. A pig was the only casualty in the confrontation.

A pig was also a casualty of the Pig War Picnic. Not sure how many. But enough to feed the hungry residents and tourists on San Juan Island delicious pulled pork sandwiches.

The picnic was followed by a nap… then came the fireworks. We watched from a small park in town in our awesome reclining beach chairs, dressed in several layers and snuggled under a wool blanket. Yes, it was cold.

It was a wonderful weekend. I particularly enjoyed the fact that I got Bob for an extra day.

A note about the tourists.

The island was invaded by tourists this weekend. Which is good for business. Makes getting around a bit more challenging, but we planned accordingly. The ferries were on overload all day today… packed with tourists trying to return to the mainland. I overheard one tourist today in a deli asking about the best place to watch the fireworks.

“Not that we’ll ever be back here on the Fourth of July seeing as we’ve been stuck here all day,” she said.

Getting to Friday Harbor is not easy. And sometimes leaving can be even harder. It takes determination and a heck of a lot of patience. The best way to do it in the summer, it seems, is without a car. Walk-ons do not have to wait.

As for residents who need to get off island, say to have a baby? Well… I’ll save that for a post in the next day or two. The most important thing is HAVE A PLAN. AND A BACK-UP PLAN.

Have a great week, everyone.

P.S. Mom arrives on Wednesday on a one-way ticket! And this is my last week of work. It’s almost baby time!

what a difference a year makes
June 30, 2010

Pablo & I on the Mt. Finlayson trail on SJI - photo by EM Lewis

It’s June 30th.

The day almost went completely by without me realizing the significance. Bob just reminded me.

One year ago today we finished clearing out our house in Silver Lake, closed the door, drove away, handed over the keys, drove towards Chicago with nothing but a blank slate and received the e-mail that would lead us to this house on an island…

That was one year ago today. Twelve months. Just one year!

I just re-read the post that I wrote that morning and I can remember all of it so clearly.

The exhaustion. The feeling of just being ‘done.’ The despair. The OVERWHELM. I was so over it all.

I remember feeling hot, sweaty and smelly. I remember the ache of my feet hurting. (That’s not hard given that my feet ache now for a completely different reason.) The pure exhaustion.

I wrote that I never wanted to have stuff ever again. I took pictures of our stuff out on the curb. I remember feeling like it would never end. Like we’d never be done and the house would never be empty.

But eventually it was. Empty. And the stuff… gone. And we had nothing in front of us but possibility.

On that day one year ago I never would have predicted that in just one year I’d be about ready to have a baby and living in a 1910 farmhouse on San Juan Island.

Isn’t it amazing how much can happen in one year?!

I truly feel blessed.

Reading my post from June 30, 2009 on “Love in the Time of Foreclosure,” what moves me the most is the thought of our friends. How much they helped us… were there for us every step of the way. And how much we’re supported by everyone around us now. Both friends from far away and new friends here on the island. Your support and generosity means everything to us. Thank you!

Last year we said goodbye to a house/ This year we say hello to a baby

Another thing that occurred to me while reading that post…

I wrote about my meltdown on our last night in the house- June 29, 2009. There was a moment where I just sat on the kitchen floor and cried to Bob, “I can’t do it. I can’t. I just can’t!”

As soon as I read that I thought about child birth.

I thought about my impending labor and how there is likely to be a very similar moment.

Me crying to Bob that I can’t do it. I can’t. I just can’t. I’ll likely be exhausted and beyond pain and just done. And I’ll cry to Bob. And he’ll be there to remind me that I can. And then I will. Somehow. But instead of the end result being a blank slate, it will be a baby boy. A new addition to our family.

A year ago today our lives changed forever.

And they are about to REALLY change forever all over again. Just 12 months later.

How do I feel about all of that? Humbled. Grateful. Inspired by life.

Thanks for reminding me, Bob. I guess it’s a good thing that the day almost went by without me remembering. But I’m glad to have the opportunity to acknowledge how far we have come. It’s good to be grateful.

If you’d like to read the post I wrote one year ago today, here it is:

“The Last Night (I Can’t Wait To Have Nothing!)” – Love in the Time of Foreclosure

And if you know anyone who is in the process of losing their house or facing challenging times…. please share this post with them. I believe it helps tremendously to see how much can change in just one year.

Thank you!

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Bounty Hunter – my new job title?
June 4, 2010

Police found Colton Harris-Moore's photograph on a stolen digital camera AP Read more: http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1946950,00.html#ixzz0pvkvzeky

So have you heard about the kid who has been stealing planes and boats in the San Juans? The one who has been on a two-year burglary spree?

His name is Colton Harris-Moore but he’s perhaps better known nationally by the nickname given to him by the press:

The Barefoot Bandit

Here’s the deal with this kid.

He’s 19-years-old. In 2008 he escaped from a group home and began living in the woods and stealing from homes on his home island- Camano Island- and the San Juans.

He is 6′ 5″

He’s stolen planes (apparently taught himself to fly by reading flight manuals… but doesn’t know how to land because he always crash lands the planes)

He’s flown over restricted air space during the Vancouver Winter Olympics

He’s stolen boats

He has robbed an Orcas Island family-owned natural food market twice and caused several thousands of dollars of damage.

A drawing of bare feet was left as a "calling card" after the burglary of the Homegrown Market on Orcas Island. (AP Photo from Komonews.com story)

After the most recent break-in he drew a chalk outline of bare feet on the floor and wrote “C Ya!”

The owner of the market set up camp in the market and slept there on the floor with his dog thinking that Colton might return and he wasn’t going to let him get away with it again.

Most recently he burglarized a home on the southern tip of San Juan Island (THIS island) and stole a boat that the authorities found on Lopez Island. Here is a story on that from The Seattle Times.

The fans

This 6′ 5″ brat has a huge following. Huge.

He has legions of fans that are so dedicated they’ve made t-shirts, written songs about him and yes, started a Facebook fan page and fan club.

They see him as a Robin Hood figure. Which is ridiculous. Because although he had a difficult childhood, he does not steal only from the rich and he’s certainly not giving to the poor. Unless you count him. Alone.

His fans see him as a survivalist who is “sticking it to the man.”

Well, if the man happens to be an independent business owner of a small market on a tiny island. Then, sure.

You can see by my tone that I am not one of his fans. But I believe that his fans are the reason he hasn’t been caught yet. They won’t turn him in. No way. Not unless the reward is big enough. And it’s not. $5,500 to turn in a cult hero is not enough. I’m sure he has people helping him. He’s 6’5″. That’s pretty dang tall. And yes, there are plenty of places to hide in the islands. These islands are rural and forested. But, he’s 6’5″.

Am I focusing too much on his height?

Bring in the bounty hunters

The residents on Camano Island are so fed up with his antics and the fact that he hasn’t been caught that they have taken matters into their own hands. They called in the help of some bounty hunters.

I first learned about this guy back in October when we first landed on the island and our friend Chris (who brought our stuff up from L.A.) was here. One of us came across a story about him and then we just kept going back and forth researching. Chris found his Facebook fan page.

We couldn’t believe how many fans he had. And we were sure that there would be a bidding war over the film rights to his life. Which only further annoys me. But, I do have to admit. There’s a great movie waiting to made in all of this.

The reward

Bob and I have since joked about catching him for the reward. I believe the reward is now up to $5,500 thanks to a $2,500 contribution from Bounty Hunter Rocha. And someone is offering $50,000 for him to surrender. That, I don’t get. Where would that money go? Why is there so much for his surrender as opposed to his capture? Can someone explain this to me?

Anyway, the other day my friend Jennifer posted something on Facebook that she had just talked to someone who had seen Colton out at Wescott Bay. That’s just a 10-minute drive from our house. And apparently the Sherrif lives out there. Could it really have been him?

Jennifer joked about becoming a bounty hunter and I offered my services as her pregnant bounty hunter assistant. She said only if I had a mullet and a wife beater.

It just so happens, Jenn, that Bob has a mullet wig and I have a maternity wife beater. So should we do this?

As much as I would love to traipse around in a mullet wig and maternity wife-beater tee…

And as much as the $5,500 would help us right now, I’m not going to be carving out any time to look for this kid.

But someone catch him already! I’m getting tired of looking at his smug face. Which was recently caught on security cameras at the Lopez Island Marina. Here is that story.

And Colton, if you’re reading this, we lock our doors and have NOTHING of value to steal.

By the way, my friend Jennifer has a really great blog that is also about island life and her life specifically- as a mother to three daughters. It’s called Baby by the Sea. Check it out. She’s an awesome person and has been really helpful to me with maternity clothes, baby stuff, loads of helpful information and friendship.

Links

If you’re fascinated by this story and want to research more, here are some links for you:

Catch the Barefoot Bandit – The Colton Harris Moore ANTI-FAN site dedicated to catching him. (By the way, they are organizing a community meeting on Orcas Island. So if you live on Orcas and are interested in attending, contact them at: CatchTheBarefootBandit@gmail.com)

America’s Most Wanted Teenage Bandit – Time Magazine Article

Washington’s Most Wanted

Teenage Bandit May Have Struck Again – Seattle Times Story

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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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