It was a deliberate shift. I think it boils down to the fact that life has been pretty challenging over the last year and a half and every time I sat down to write on my blog I just felt like a whiner. I'd write a few sentences and think, "nobody wants to listen to me bitch and moan." Or more often, I'd want to talk about personal struggles but because so much of our personal problems stem from relationships, I didn't feel it was appropriate to talk about publicly. After all these years I've finally developed a filter for my mouth. Imagine that.
Let me tell you the truth about the oil field. The only good thing about it is the money. Everything else completely sucks. It takes a toll on us as a family to be apart and we're constantly trying to readjust when Daddy is home, only to have him leave again. Dan dreads every time he leaves for a hitch, his job is very stressful and in my opinion it's affecting his health. He's been sick more in the last year than he has been any other time. He works long hours and doesn't get good sleep so his body is not prepared to fight off infection.
In May Dan changed positions and companies and is now a directional driller instead of a mud engineer. The change has the advantages of higher pay and more potential for upward mobility, but Dan has forfeited a regular 2 week on, 2 week off schedule (which honestly he only took a full 2 weeks off once or twice as a mud engineer) to basically being on call 24/7. One nice thing about the new job is that instead of going to different rigs all over Wyoming and western Colorado, Dan is working exclusively in Pinedale, WY which is only 2 1/2 hours away. So even if he's only going to be off for a day he can come home. He typically works about 5-7 days and is home for 2-3 days, but we never know what the schedule is going to be. When he first took the job we were thinking that since Pinedale is so close the kids and I could go up and see him regularly, maybe spend the weekend, but he is working nights and sleeping days so it doesn't really work out.
View of two the many natural gas rigs in Pinedale, July 2010.
Typical scenes on an oil rig
Inside Dan's trailer as a mud engineer, December 2010. He is in similar accommodations now, but he does his work up on the rig floor instead of in his trailer.
Every few months Dan and I talk about other job possibilities, but we just keep coming back to the fact that nothing else he could do would pay as much, and more importantly, we really don't want to raise our kids anywhere else so Dan is very limited in the work that's available. In Cokeville you can either work at the schools, ranch (which is really just an expensive hobby) or work in the oil field. There are a few city or county jobs but they are few and far between. I like the idea of Dan getting his teaching certificate online and teaching at the high school, but it would be a 50% reduction in salary and currently the science teacher position is filled anyway. I've talked to Dan about it at length but the bottom line is that it is his responsibility to provide for our family and I have to respect what he feels is the best way to do that. We are still working to get out of debt, should be done, student loans and all, in about a year. That weighs heavily on Dan's mind as well as getting money saved to buy a house and some land for our horses.
I'd be lying if I said I don't care about the money. It has been such a relief to be able to buy what we need without stressing about it. I can buy nice boots and coats for the kids. We can fix the things we need to fix with the house and the car. I don't have to spend hours clipping coupons and researching sales to meet the grocery budget. We can afford to take a little trip now and then. It is vastly different than where we were the first half of 2010 when Dan had very little patent work and we finally had to stop paying some bills because we simply didn't have the money. But we've traded one kind of stress for another. We don't worry about making it every month, but we worry about how much longer we can tolerate this lifestyle. Dan is frustrated about the direction his career has taken, especially after all the hard work he put into his PhD, but he doesn't see any viable alternative. It's hard seeing him so dissatisfied. We all miss him and long for the time when we can be a "normal" family again. But the reality is that we'll likely be doing this oil field thing for at least 5-10 years.
Adjusting to the oil field life has been a process and the challenges have changed over the last 17 months. At first it was just hard to be alone, to be the only parent present to handle all the stuff with the kids. Then it was hard adjusting when Dan started being home more. I felt self-conscious, like someone was looking over my shoulder and judging the way I handled the kids and the house. Then I started to resent Dan's dissatisfaction with his job and life in general and it was just easier when he was gone. I felt a lot of guilt for having gotten to that point and was depressed about how our relationship was languishing. I complained to Dan a lot about his attitude and was overly sensitive when he pointed out things I needed to adjust in my own attitude or my parenting. Because I was frustrated with the constant cloud he carried around his head, I made it nearly impossible for him to speak freely. I was nit-picking him and making him feel unwelcome in his own home. We had a big blow-up and it was a huge wake-up call for me that I needed to show Dan a much greater measure of love.
In terms of my personal psyche over the last year, I have struggled a lot. My big mouth has gotten me in trouble a few times and that has been a contributing factor to why I've largely withdrawn into myself. I just didn't want to piss anybody off. I've learned to keep my opinions to myself, but more importantly, I've learned not to judge as harshly as I have in the past. You just never know what struggles people are facing or the unique circumstances that contribute to their decision making process.
In some ways I'm proud of the growth I've experienced this year. I like this quote by Elder Orson F. Whitney:
“No pain that we suffer, no trial that we experience is wasted. It ministers to our education, to the development of such qualities as patience, faith, fortitude and humility. All that we suffer and all that we endure, especially when we endure it patiently, builds up our characters, purifies our hearts, expands our souls, and makes us more tender and charitable, more worthy to be called the children of God." (quoted in Spencer W. Kimball, Faith Precedes the Miracle , 98).
I am learning more patience, learning to rely a lot on the Spirit in my personal relationships. But in a lot of ways I'm not real happy with the person I am right now. Despite my depression I have always felt fairly confident and seen myself as a well-adjusted, well-grounded person. I am usually the kind of person who offers encouragement and tries to uplift people. But in the last year I have been the person that has needed encouragement and uplifting and I just feel so needy. I don't like that. I prefer being on the giving side of service rather than the receiving side.
With the challenges of the last year, the Lord has blessed me with a wonderful friend in Cokeville, the kind of friend that I can just show up on her doorstep unshowered with my snotty kids in tow and just say, "We needed a change of scenery. Can we hang out?" Or if Dan's home for a limited time and he needs some personal attention, I can send the kids over to my friend's house so we can...y'know. Or if my kid needs stitches for the second time in 3 months, she can come watch the other kids while I go to the ER at 10:00 at night.
Mack in the Montpelier ER after busting his eyebrow on my bed frame, November 2010
Karla Toomer was a direct answer to prayers after my friend Zoe died and there was a change in the dynamics of some of my other friendships in Cokeville. I was lonely and mourning and I prayed to find a friend that could fill the void. One night the kids were driving me bonkers, Dan was gone, and I thought, "I need a girls night out." I thought of different people I could invite and Karla's name kept coming to mind. It was somewhat of a surprise because I didn't know her well. She worked with Dan on the Volunteer Fire Department and I'd done a family picture for her the previous year, but that was about all the contact we'd had other than occasionally passing each other around town. I called her up, we went to Blondie's Diner, and we have been great friends ever since.
Karla and I at The Power of Moms retreat in Park City, UT, April 2011
Karla and my long-time best friend Lori, who lives in Minnesota, counseled me through many hard days this past year. I am so thankful for good friends. And I am working to rebuild some friendships that suffered this past year because of my selfish desire to retreat.
Lori and her girls Gracie and Audrey came to visit this summer and it was the highlight of my year. So, yes, despite all my whining there have been good times too.
I'm feeling better now that I'm blogging again. Because I've struggled with how to articulate my thoughts, I've avoided blogging and just written in my journal when hard things were going on. But if one of my descendants reads my journal in the future they will think I lived a miserable, frustrated life. Do you have that tendency also? To only write in your journal when things are difficult? I need to have a record of the happiness in my life and the blog is a wonderful place to do that. Looking at pictures and telling stories helps me remember my blessings and reminds me of the love I have for my family. And it's important for Dan to see all that's going on when he's at work. I appreciate all the sweet comments from my online friends who have wondered about my absence. I hope to get back to the woman I'm supposed to be.
P.S. Lily says, "i love cats."