Jobs, house, my business, one of our cars … gone. Twenty years of a life built in the area where my wife had grown up lie in ruins.
It’s a little dramatic but it felt that way at the time, and looking back that feeling hasn’t changed. When we were at the end our rope, a Skype interview ended with a job offer from Tonasket Schools to Kim that provided us with the “knot” that kept us from falling off. A job, in the kind of rural environment that we’d grown to love, at the height of our desperation…at the time it almost didn’t matter where.
Kim jumped right in with the TSD crew and fell in love with her first group of kindergarten kids that arrived in the fall. It took me a bit longer to start living my life again. I did some manual labor, some freelance writing and photography, tried to start a sports website with little knowledge of the people or culture here.
I won’t lie: I was mourning the loss of my business, Buckland Media, which was a high school sports website in our rural corner of Michigan. I poured my heart and soul into it, but when the economy flatlined in 2008, Kim’s 15-year teaching job and my business were both casualties. I’d given every once of myself to make that business work, but still it surprised me that getting over losing it was almost like processing the death of loved one: Denial. Anger. Bargaining. Depression. Acceptance.
Making it through that first year happened largely because of the people at Tonasket Free Methodist Church, who became our family when we had no one within five hours’ drive. It was because of the encouragement one of my friends there that I applied for the Gazette-Tribune job when it opened up in 2011.
And it’s been that family that has supported me during my time at the G-T, people who knew me before I was “the reporter” – some that don’t even read the paper much. There were times it was truly refreshing when someone had no clue what I’d written that week.
Working here has been great on many levels. I’ve met people I might not have met without being on the job; great people, some of whom I had almost nothing in common but found that I loved being with.
I’ve learned a ton about local government, schools, and the health care system – sometimes against my will, but always with the desire to communicate dispassionately and accurately what was going on.
But I’ve also learned that my passion for sports is as strong as its ever been, and I’ve been ready to try my grand sports website scheme again … a little wiser, and a lot more comfortable with where I’m at both in terms of living here and where I am in life.
Which brings me back to our church, where there are some changes taking place. Theresa Wise, wife of Pastor Ron Wise, retired after 18 years of serving as the church’s administrative assistant. When that half time job opened up, and I read the job description, it was like a Godsend, and I don’t use that term lightly.
I’ve been toying with finding a way to launch a website again; doing so without risking everything we’ve rebuilt in the last four years seemed unlikely. The church job is 20 hours a week, more or less. The skill set is up my alley, and considering how our church family has helped us to heal and grow these past few years, it’s a way that I can use the things I do well to serve those that have embraced us.
The cool thing is, I feel that way about these communities as a whole. People have drawn us in and woven us into the fabric of what is a really cool place to live.
So, my time on staff at the G-T comes to a close (though you may still see my name in these pages from time to time).
It’s time to begin a new chapter, and I’m excited to find new ways to invest myself in my church and community. I probably won’t be at any council or board meetings in the near future, but other than that, I’ll see you around. Especially if there is a field or gym involved.
P.S. Check out my new website, www.okvalleysports.com, when it launches next week!