Wednesday, March 22, 2017

California Dreamin'

When I decided to go to college in California, one of my sisters changed the ringtone for her phone so it played "California Dreamin'" by the Mamas and the Papas when I called. That song has been playing in my head for the past few weeks because I'm feeling a little sad to be leaving the dream.

The day after Zack came home from his deployment he rather serendipitously got an offer to return to Arizona for work for the next few years. We were so suprised because living back home near family was something we did not think was possible until after Zack's retirement. Over the past year there's been a lot of changes and preparation for our move home:

-Zack went back to recruiting school (round 2) so he lived there during the week and we saw each other on weekends.
-We started to build an amazing house and had a lot of fun picking out all of the little details.
-In the middle of the night on October 30th, some unknown persons snuck into our building site and BURNED DOWN OUR HOUSE one month before it was going to be finished. It was a complete loss.
-I finished my comprehensive exams which was a grueling process that had been filling me with anxiety for months and finally culminated with me writing and defending three awesome papers based on a huge booklist. Shout out to Zack for being amazing during all of it!
-Our house was torn down and the process of building it started from scratch.
-Zack and I went through all of our belongings and had a big garage sale and then donated a ton of stuff. Since we've moved 4 times in 7 years we've kept a lot of things in an effort to make each house more homey and familiar so it was time to purge a lot!

In the spring of 2013 when we first found out we were moving to San Diego County we were a little disappointed. However, I knew we just had to make the best of it- and we really have. Zack had to move all of our belongings and Nash (Risa wasn't born yet) to Camp Pendleton while I was in Indonesia for the summer. We'd been married a little over three years and when I returned from Indonesia I joined him- neither of us knew anyone, I was even afraid to drive on base at first or on the California freeways and it didn't matter much because we didn't have anywhere to go!

When we were living in Arizona, before this, Zack was working a high stress, time-consuming job, I was finishing my last classes for my PhD (ending the first phase of a long process), we were busy leading Young Life and doing related activities several nights a week (which was a blessing) and I was teaching. We had so many people and things and activities in our life our fuses were often very short with each other. There were a lot of great things in our life but something still just felt missing.

I tell everyone now that moving was the best thing we have done for our family. The past four years have been so amazing. I can really say that our marriage has become something so awesome! There was no magic trick to it- we just ONLY had each other to rely on, we ONLY had to focus on us, and we entered a completely new phase of our relationship.

In our time here we've discovered a lot. We experimented with vegetarianism for a year and found all kinds of new foods and cooking techniques. We started hiking and have gone on trails all over base and off base almost every weekend. We adopted our second dog, Risa, who has brought us a ton of joy. We've explored the area and spent a lot of time in Temecula, San Diego, Carlsbad, Oceanside, Escondido, Vista, La Jolla, Del Mar, and Fallbrook. We found a great church and became involved with a growth group and the military ministry which gave us some amazing friends. We've made lifelong friends in our neighborhood. The two of us have read dozens of books together and spent a lot of time together with devotionals. We've done projects like upcycling a bookcase, filing cabinet, dresser, and china cabinet. We marched with thousands of women in men in support of women's rights in San Diego. We gardened and grew vegetables and flowers. We've hosted countless friends and family over the past few years and given them a little glimpse into our sweet life here.

When we found out we could move back to Arizona and be close to family and friends we were excited but also nervous. We don't want to lose the beauty of what we have here so there's been a lot of deep conversations about how to keep our little family strong in changing circumstances. Moving home brings a lot of joy but also big changes- a return to that high stress job for Zack, a trip back to Indonesia for me and the writing of my dissertation.

Risa won't have all of the beautiful hills to gaze out at during the day like she likes- instead she'll have a beautiful back yard with a big cinderblock wall. No more having to FaceTime our baby nephews just to see them- we will get to be there to help them grow up. We won't have to be worried about rattlesnakes but we will have to look out for scorpions. We won't live in a neighborhood where Welcome Home banners are the norm and you can ask anyone for a cup of sugar or help with something. For most of the year we will have to walk the dogs early in the morning or late at night- no more midday walks, runs and hikes. No more Zack coming home at 4:30, in time to play with the dogs and help cook dinner. No more seeing flames on the hills behind our house and waiting for the evacuation siren. No more deployments- for now. No more scrambling to find my military ID and waiting in lines just to get onto base. No more ridiculously loud artillery noises that make Nash have to take Prozac and sometimes hide in our bathtub. Even little things like being so close to grocery stores and movie theaters will be a big change for us since we have lived pretty far out!

So I guess when we move next week it will be all about balance- remembering these great years here and taking with us what we can. Finding the joy in all the things we have back in Arizona- our family and old friends- and making time for just each other.

California, we'll miss you, and thank you for your role in making our little Jenner family what it has become.