Saturday, November 19, 2011

To Tulsa and Back in 13 Months

Shortly before Easter in 2001, Craig came to see me at work one day...unexpectedly.  He came to tell me that he had just been let go from his job.  We were both equally shocked.  Devastated.  He was mortified.  Scared.  He had just come off a favorable performance review and was given a raise just a few months prior.  A new management company had come in and decided they were "going in a different direction."  Whatever.  If anyone knows Craig, they know that he is one of the most honest, hard-working people around.  In fact, he's a workaholic, if anything.

We had just bought a new house.  He was stressed and panicked.  He started to question whether or not he even wanted to stay in the golf business.  He considered buying a local pizzeria.  About the same time he decided that wasn't for him, he was offered a job in Tulsa, Oklahoma.  Craig and I had talked about the fact that we did not want to raise our kids in California.  We both had agreed we would eventually move back to Texas or Oklahoma.  So, here was our opportunity. 

The long story short...we moved.  We sold our house in Palm Desert and had a nice little nest egg.  But for dumb, dumb reasons I cannot even begin to explain, I did not want to go.  I felt like California had become our home.  We had good friends.  A life.  Our kids were born here. 

We moved to Tulsa and we were instantly welcomed by everyone.  A close family friend of Craig's lived there.  His sister was in Norman.  Other than that, I knew no one.  Everyone was so good to us, but I managed to find things wrong with being there:  The night we drove into Tulsa, we went to a grocery store.  I am looking up and down the aisles for the beer and wine....I finally ask an employee, "Excuse me, where can I find the wine?"  Employee:  "I'm sorry, ma'am, we don't sell wine here. They sell that at the liquor store.  But they're closed." 

Oh and by the way, they close on Sundays, too...I found out, in a very inopportune time. 

Looking back, the only thing that sucked about our time in Tulsa was my attitude.

We rented for a while and then bought a house.  A great house in a wonderful neighborhood.   The day we closed escrow on our house, we drove over to see it.  We pull into our driveway to see our neighbor, a guy about our age, mowing his lawn.  His neighbor, also a guy our age, mowing his lawn, too.  How cute, I thought....people mow their own lawns out here....

We get out of our car, and these two guys immediately come over and introduce themselves to us.  Instant friends.  Their wives...equally great.  From day one.  Our neighbor had a son.  When I asked how old he was, Tanya (the mom) tells me that he is about to have a birthday on June 3rd.  "Oh, that's my birthday, too!" I say.  A week later, on June 3rd, I am in the house, unpacking, and Tanya comes to the door, with flowers and a birthday balloon for me.  I will never, ever forget that she did that for me. 

Our neighbors were great.  We sat in the driveway and drank wine and watched the kids ride bikes, we BBQ'd, we watched football together and went out together.  Thinking about it, living in California, we have never lived in a neighborhood where we have had the same relationship with anybody.  Not even close.  We have never had one neighbor introduce themselves or welcome us. Is it a California thing?  Or we just are unlucky?  Hmm...

So, over time, it becomes clear that I need to work.  Craig's income is not enough and we are dipping into our savings every month.  I am finding jobs that are paying $6.50 an hour and they want me to work 40 hour weeks.  Do the math.  It's not even going to pay for child care.  Eventually, I find part time work as a runner for an oil and gas accounting firm and another part time job working at Pottery Barn Kids at night and weekends. 

Craig could see that I wasn't happy.  But, I was really starting to be.  Trying to be.  We made great friends.  Our kids were in great schools. A mom at Chandler's school said the words to me, "Happiness is a choice.  You can choose to be happy here."  It was an "aha" moment for me...just a little too late. 

After a year, Craig was offered a job back here in the Desert.  At La Quinta Resort.  At the same time, a tile contractor that had done work for the builder I worked for heard that I might be coming back and they offered me a job.  We both were going to have good jobs....did we want to move back?

Craig insisted we'd be happier if we went back.  I wasn't so sure.  Poor Craig.  He'd do anything to make me happy.  He had seen how unhappy I had been over time there.  He thought this was the right thing.  For three weeks, we tried to make the decision.  One day it was "yes" we were definitely going.  And the next day it was "no."  We were a mess.  I was a mess.  I cried every day.  My sister-in-law said it best..."If in doubt, the answer is NO."  It's advice I try to live by, now. 

So....we move back. 

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