Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Make that 510

Yes, folks, we have moved to the booming metropolis of Cokeville, Wyoming!

What the...?

Only my family and close neighbors even know we've moved because the decision was made so quickly that I have been too busy to even blog about it. Now, don't get the wrong idea. This decision was made in haste, but not without a couple of years worth of thought put into it.

Cokeville is right on the border of Utah, Wyoming, and Idaho, just 30 minutes east of Bear Lake.
We have been coming to Cokeville for 10 years, visiting our friends Brian & Becca Nate. You may recall reading about one of our visits last fall during the high school homecoming football game. When we first started coming to Cokeville, I thought it was a cool place to visit, but I could never live here. I'd go crazy in such a small town! But your perspective changes once you have kids who are old enough to start having memories of their growing up years.

Starting about two or three years ago, Dan and I started thinking, "this would be such a fun place to be a kid." We both have memories from our childhood of a place where we could run wild and be free, where we could just take off riding bikes or go exploring. Lily hadn't had that experience, partly because she was too young, but also because when you live in a city, your parents won't let you go anywhere because they're worried about traffic and psychos and other parenty-type things.

The thing with living in a small town like Cokeville is that you can't just move there and expect to find much work. To work in town you have to either be a school teacher or be able to tolerate working at the Flying J. You could be a rancher, but last I checked, that only paid about $1800.00 a month unless you owned the ranch. Talk about scraping by your whole life! So for a long time, the thing that held us back from seriously considering a move to Cokeville was our financial situation. Dan was in graduate school and once he graduated, he had to find some kind of viable career since research just wasn't going to pay the bills. Brian and his brother regaled Dan with tales of big money to be made working in the oil fields, and we seriously considered it for awhile, but in the end Dan decided that it didn't make sense to spend 6 years getting a PhD and then go be a roughneck with a bunch of guys who didn't even graduate from high school (plus he couldn't stand the thought of living in a trailer for a week at a time with a bunch of drinking, swearing, got-no-ambition losers.) OK, that sounded totally snotty. No offense, of course, to Brian who has moved his way up and manages a rig as a driller, and makes a very fine living, thank you very much!

When Dan started his own business drafting patents last year, it was touch and go for awhile, constantly worrying about when the next paycheck would come. I was making decent money with photography, but I knew I couldn't make that kind of income in a small town of 500. I needed to be where the rich clients were. So we stayed put, dreaming of small town life, wondering if it could ever be a reality for us.

Fortunately, (and with lots of prayer) Dan's job has stabilized and he is finally making good money. We are making good progress on our debt and it looks like we will have everything except Dan's student loan paid off in just over a year. Oh, and just an aside, I made the final payment on my student loan last week. 9 years of bondage and we are finally free from that one! Anyhoo, we had been living at my Mom's for 2 years, about 18 months longer than we intended when we first moved in. At the time, it was a necessity because of our finances, but now we were finally in a position that we could afford to live on our own. In July we started looking for places to rent in American Fork, Alpine, and Lehi, but everything decent was at least $1100.00 a month. We looked at our debt snowball and decided that it just didn't make sense to spend that much money on rent while we were still trying to pay down our debt.

We were ready to be on our own, and I think my mom was ready to have her space back, so we were disappointed. Then one day at the beginning of August, Dan came home and said, "it's time," that even if it meant slowing our debt payoff schedule, it was worth it to be on our own. The neighbors across the street were moving out, so we thought it would be ideal, or at least easy because we could stay in the same neighborhood and keep Lily in the same school. We started to plan a move.

It's kind of funny, but one event sticks out in my mind as sealing the deal for me on the whole moving thing. Some of Lily's friends were over one afternoon and one of the girls thought it would be fun to hang off one of the pegs on the tack rack that holds all of my Grandad's old cowboy garb, bridles and chaps and belts and such. Of course, being 8 years old, her weight ripped the tack rack out of the wall. When Lily called me down to look at the disaster, my stomach sank. If there is one thing in my Mom's house that is precious above all other things, it's that tack rack. There is so much history and emotion tied up in those cowboy things of her dad's. I knew right then that we had reached the limit of my Mom's hospitality. She has been so generous to let us live with her for so long, and the girls have loved living with Grammie, but I knew that she was at a point in her life that she needed her space back. And I was tired of always feeling guilty when the house was dirty or stressing out when Amelia colored on the walls or one of the girls spilled something on the carpet.

I'll be the first to admit that pride is a big contributing factor to our decision. Though we know it was a good decision and the right thing for our family to live with mom for the time that we did, it doesn't change the fact that we were a little embarrassed about our living situation after two years. It seemed like everyone we knew not only lived on their own, but they owned their own homes. Keeping up with the Joneses has never been important to us, but we wanted a place of our own, a place we could call our own (even if we still had a landlord.) That being said, I was pretty attached to the neighborhood we were in because I'd made some good friends and Lily loved her friends and school. So the house across the street seemed ideal.

"$1250.00 verses $400.00." That is the standard answer Dan gave when we told people we were moving and their eyes would bug out of their head, they'd look at us like we were short a few cards in our deck, and say "Why Wyoming?" as if it were the armpit of the universe, or at least comparable to moving to the mountains of West Virginia and having Lily inbreed with her cousin or brother.

The answer is simple. Brian's dad has a rental house. It's small, only about 800 square feet, but it's a stand-alone home and it's only $400.00 a month. The more we thought about the house next door, the more we realized that Cokeville made much for sense for our financial plan. The struggles of self-employment were finally paying off when we realized that Dan's job pretty much allowed him the freedom to work from anywhere. We knew we could move to Cokeville and still maintain the same income. Since I had made my decision to cut back on photography and mostly be a full-time Mom, it seemed that the stars were aligning at last!

Dan's work plan is to commute to Salt Lake (about 2 hours and 15 minutes) early on Tuesday mornings, stay overnight at the law firm on Tuesday and Wednesday (they have little sleeping quarters set up for the attorneys pulling all nighters.) Then he'll drive home to Cokeville in time for supper on Thursday evenings. He has figured that putting in 3 long days will be enough hours that he'll rarely have to work at home.

I haven't decided whether or not I'm going to do photography here or not. The average income here in Cokeville is only about $35,000 a year and while there are many who make more than that, I just don't feel like I can charge what I've been charging for photography. I have yet to determine whether I'm willing to lower my prices and treat my photography more like a hobby than as a bread winner. I love the landscape around here and it would be so fun to photograph people with their horses and such. But I don't want to devalue my talent either, so I'm still just thinking about it for now. In the meantime I'm just going to enjoy setting up my new house and working on some personal photo projects.

Here is our little house, called the Perkins House, after Brian's Grandpa Perkins who was the original owner of the home.

The original house was built around 1914, I think, and then an addition was put on in the 1950's. With only 800 square feet, it's hard to imagine how small the house was before the addition!

The tan house in the background on the right is Brian & Becca's house, right next door.

We arrived in town on Friday, August 22nd and we have been staying with the Nates while we do some painting in the Perkins house. That will be a blog post all its own! We hope to move all of our stuff in this weekend.

Cokeville is famous for it's great athletics and prides itself on winning several state championships in many different sports over the years, as shown by the sign at the beginning of town.

There's also great hunting and Dan enjoys playing in the mountains with Brian and his family each fall. Here's a shot of Raymond Mountain, just north of town.

I'm still adjusting to the beautiful sunrises and sunsets each day, the quiet, and the beautiful stars at night. It's a beautiful place to be and I'll surely be posting lots of photos of the town in the months to come.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

It's no longer a mystery

Praise the Lord, we're havin' a boy!

I've tried not to admit how bad I wanted a boy because I didn't want to get my hopes up or make the poor kid feel bad if she was a girl. But when the ultrasound technician told us it was a boy, I gave Dan a big ol' high five and when the she left the room I let out a big "whoo-hoo!" Dan was like, "Did you really want a boy that bad?" After telling him yes, he was like, "I just assumed it would be another girl." The night before he'd told me that when we were expecting the first time, he wanted a boy. But then we had Lily and Dan figured out the whole girl thing, then continued to perfect it with Amelia. He said, "Now I know what to do with girls, but I don't really know what to do with a boy." He's all paranoid that his body is going to go completely south by the time the kid is Lily's age, and he won't be able to do any fun physical activities with him. Whatever...he'll totally be coaching his Mighty Might football team!

Here are the pictures:

Profile. Dan swears it looks just like Lily, but then again, don't all baby ultrasounds look pretty much the same? The bubbly looking stuff in the background is the umbilical cord.

Showin' the boy parts with pride. Imagine he's sitting on a glass table and you're looking up from the bottom. You can see his pelvis with his legs stretched out towards the top and the important "package" right in the middle. (Honey, I promise this is the one and only time I'll show your penis to the world. I limit myself to cute naked butt cheeks in the future.)

A little foot on the left.

Arm and hand. He's got his thumb stretched out and fingers curled up. I wonder if he's a thumb sucker. If he is, we plan to fully indoctrinate him with the binky the minute he comes out.

Now, don't even bother asking about names. Dan says he'll start discussing it with me around December 15th. For now, we're sticking with Mystery Baby or Mystery Boy. I don't really have any strong opinions, but I imagine we'll choose something traditional and old fashioned since that's what we did with Lily and Amelia.

Here's me, 18 weeks pregnant. I feel so big already, but when I look at this picture I think, "Oh you ain't seen nothin' yet honey. You'll be as big as a house by the time this little boy is ready to come out!"

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Amen, Sister!

Lily said the funniest thing while we were driving in the car yesterday.

Lily: "You wanna know the worst time to get married?"

I'm thinking she's going to say a season or time of the year.

Me: "When?"

Lily: "When you're thirteen."

I smile in the driver's seat and look back at her in the rear view mirror. She's all business.

Lily: "You wanna know why?"

Me: "Uh-huh."

Lily: "Well first, you're all sassy and crabby then. And second, who do you know that's your boyfriend when you're thirteen?"

Me: "That's exactly right, honey, exactly right."

Friday, August 1, 2008

Gram's Memorial Service

Almost all of our family returned to Sheridan, Wyoming for our Cox family reunion from July 10-12 with the express purpose of burying our Gram.

I have many photos to post from the rest of the reunion, but right now I want to write about Gram's memorial service.

Gram chose to be cremated, as did Grandad nearly 18 years ago. It seems that most people around here don't do cremation, so it was a curiosity for me. At first I thought it was a little strange, but Gram had a wonderful article in her "Just in Case" book about cremation. It's called "Light, Like the Sun" and you can read it here. It has made me think that that's the way I want to be buried.

My Mom and Aunt Jane picked out a beautiful urn for Gram. It suited her perfectly; silver, with wildflowers, and not too ornate. Simple and classy.

The day of the memorial service, July 10th, was a hot but gorgeous day. It reflected Gram's personality, bright and cheerful with the sun shining. So many of her old friends showed up and there was an atmosphere of joy as many friends who hadn't seen each other in quite some time enjoyed their renewed acquaintances.

Victoria Bales was a close friend of Gram and Grandad's for decades. She is an artist and did two lovely paintings of my Grandad, one of him on horseback with the Big Horn Mountains in the background (1970) and another portrait of him when he had a beard, with his horses in the corral in the background (1980). Victoria loved Gram and said that she trusted her implicitly. When she decided to get divorced from her first husband, Gram was one of only two people Victoria told, knowing that Gram would not judge her and would offer her support and love.

My Aunt Jane (left) and my Mom (right) with their cousin Douglas MacGregor and his wife.

I love this picture of my brother Don chatting with Terry Punt, who was one of the mountain men up at Kearney Lake when Gram and Grandad were caretakers there. Don spent several summers there as a teenager and Terry was somewhat of a mentor to him. I love that Terry still sports his long hair and beard, just like he did 20 years ago!

Nicholas with his daddy, Don.

Even Becky's son Connor seemed to realize it was time to sit still and be reverent.

Lily and her cousin Faith (Don's) admiring all the flowers by Gram's grave.

Each of the family members wore a piece of MacGregor tartan ribbon, even little Emma (Becky's) , just 3 weeks old.

The Methodist minister did a beautiful job with the service giving a great message of hope and talk of the resurrection. I gave a short life sketch and my brother Don talked about how Gram was the true essence of a Christian woman and she instilled those values and passed on that legacy to all of us.

This is my favorite picture from the service. Lily really loved her Gram and she was not at all disturbed or scared about her death. Mom kept the urn here at the house until we were ready to go to Wyoming, and every once in awhile Lily would go downstairs and stroke the urn and talk about Gram.

Jim Niner, a Sheridan local, sang a beautiful cowboy song about the beauties of Wyoming. He has a wonderful throaty, raspy kind of voice, just perfect for an old cowboy song.

My cousins Chris and Katy and their dad Kenn Pilch. I love Avy and her sassy cowboy boots and Sedona's crazy hair blowing in the wind.

The service ended with a bagpiper (what was his name, Mom?) playing "Amazing Grace". He knew Gram and was tickled pink and honored that Mom asked him to play for the funeral. What I loved was that he continued to walk among the trees and play other songs after the service was over, leaving a wonderful spirit as we all mingled and shared thoughts of Gram.

Before we left Sheridan, we went back up to the cemetery to see Gram & Grandad's grave one more time. Lily had her bear that she chose from Gram's belongings after she died. She named the bear Jeanette.

This is the whole family plot. It was so peaceful to see Gram laid to rest next to her cowboy. As I looked out across to the Big Horn Mountains, I thought, "I can't think of a more beautiful place to arise on resurrection day, to share in the joy of eternal life with your family."