•5:20 PM
Well, there it is! We moved to Oregon, DH got in a job he loves, we bought a house, I had my real Christmas tree and... are we done? Is the sparkle of all things fast and new gone?

Oh no. No no no.

Things HAVE happened and I hope they always will. I looooove change and progress and possibilities around the corner. DH was promoted to Lead Line Cook after just 6 months, the minimum waiting period for promotions at his job! He's been told by his superiors that he is one of the best cooks they have ever hired and the management sees him as a 'key player' in the future growth of the Allison, which is quite an honor. *proud wife*

I have a driving ambition in encouraging my sister and her husband to venture out West (and if you even MENTION to me you want to move - you'll be on my hit list, too!) They have the itch to move out of Minnesota, and I am presenting Portland to them with great fanfare and allure. When Kelsey visited us a week ago, she played in the Pacific Ocean, the mountains, hiked up a waterfall, the zoo, downtown vintage shopping, Jory restaurant, the beer movie theater, Voodoo Doughnuts and probably a dozen other things in her 7-day stay, all in the cocoon of balmy spring-like weather that remained in the 50's the entire time. So far, pleased to say, it seems to be working.  I hear September 2012 is Final Decision Month for them.

As for the house - lots of work to do! But it's ours, and the kids yell, and I work out and do laundry at 11pm and don't worry about who can hear me. Awesome.

Last of all, we got a bunny. A pregnant bunny. Due next week! Who wants a baby bunny?

Anyway, we've finally come home, and this glow, this warmth, this deep-seated satisfaction of finally being settled after years of striving to 'arrive', so to speak, is immensely gratifying. We're content with days of DIY house projects and punching the timecard in the general quietness - for now. :)
•2:45 PM
House hunting in this economy, in our price range, in this area of the country - is a complete rat race! Every house we've been interested in enough to offer on, has been scooped out from under us sometimes even before we got the chance view the property! Investors throwing in their cash offers, properties that banks won't finance because it needs too many repairs or simply doesn't have a fridge, 5 other offers on the table, short sales and all their funny laws and ways... we haven't gotten anywhere.

Now one of the properties we wanted to offer on but couldn't because 3 other offers had already been submitted the day before and the bank chose another, went back on the market yesterday. This time we're the first offer in. Last night, I felt immense peace and excitement. That same anticipation I was assured with the night before we sold our house, and right before DH got invited to Oregon for his first interview. It's incomparable, and the message feels clear. I am sure this is... it.

AAAAAAAGGGGGHGHHHH before I could finish this post, our realtor called!! We got it we got it we got it!!!!!!

•9:50 PM

Now that DH is out of the film catering gig and received his last paycheck, I can finally spill the goods! I already said he wanted to leave the job because of the insane hours and relatively low food quality. But there was a whole lot more to it.

I guess you hear it all the time - the film industry is hard and cold. But if you're like me, you were probably thinking of it from the talent's point of view. Constant rejection and criticism, the casting couch, things like that. I was surprised, maybe more than I should have been, that it's hard and cold all the way down to the ground level behind the scenes.

It's a 100% fear-driven work environment. They do not want you to feel comfortable or secure about your position on the crew. I didn't mention it before because our mortgage lender would not have liked to hear this at all, but DH's company signed a contract with the production company every single night to be hired for the next day and the next day only. The upper echelon on set (the producers and execs) are rich, powerful and moody because they can be, and because it works to keep your performance on its toes. They know what you are being paid and they know 200 people would jump into your place in a dead second.

There is no loyalty to speak of, even within the catering crew. It truly is every man for himself. Mysterious 'complaints' run rampant on the set, and any one of these could be grounds for your termination, whether or not they are true, or even important (for example, if one person out of 120 thinks the table seating is too tight - and she happens to be dating one of the producers). DH was expressly warned not to do any special favors outside of what they were under contract for without speaking to his boss first, because today's kind gesture could become expected as an entitlement tomorrow and if you refuse to do it again, you may find yourself out of a job depending on whom you've ticked off.

Frenchy, DH's boss, has been in the business for over 20 years and seems comfortable playing any game that needs to be played to cover his own back. Sadly, it was hard to respect him in the end. It was interesting to me that his longest term employee has been there only three years (and he's on the verge of leaving as well). Despite the money to be made and stars to meet and the parties to go to, no one can do it for long. It's too demeaning, and too lonely.

The heavy paycheck was great, of course, but it came with many strings and ugly feelings, and the uncomfortable knowledge that it could end at any moment for any trivial reason at all. It's no way to live.

For us, anyway.
•8:54 PM

Ah...heh. Yep!

So it sure is good that God prepared us for the decision we made this week. Had He not, would we have been able to make the decision we did? Would the decision have even been on the table? You know what, I don't think so. We would have never been where we are now, physically and spiritually, if He hadn't brought us through so many storms. And now the financial waters may get kind of rough again, but our souls are soothed, and even assured that this is the right road.

DH decided to accept the job at the restaurant, at a rather crippling pay cut. If we had not gone through Dave Ramsey's Total Money Makeover and rid ourselves of debt, saved a bundle and learned how to limit our living expenses, it is pretty much a given that we would not have been able to afford to take it. But I trust my husband's relationship with God as much as my own, and he feels strongly this job opportunity was a clear answer to his prayers. There certainly were many 'coincidences' of timing and events that made it very easy for him to nab the position. Almost like he was being prodded and pushed along towards it through doors opened by invisible hands.

Apart from the initial wage issue, DH is going to absolutely love the work ahead of him. The kitchen has its own gardens on site to grow produce, and close relationships with local farmers for pork and beef. The executive chef who hand-picked DH for the position previously worked under Thomas Keller at the French Laundry, which is pretty much any chef's nirvana. DH will finally be able to grow as a chef again, and have a good chance to advance up through the ranks (he's going in at the bottom). We have absolutely not given up on Paris, either. We're getting closer, in a roundabout sort of way. :)

I prayed that the wage would be 'enough', and even though, yes, in all honesty a few indignant tears may have squeezed their way out (how many times should one man be asked to 'start over' in the only field he's worked in for 14 years??), they have dried up now and I trust that it is indeed enough, simply because that's what we will be given for now. I am so, so glad that we learned that money cannot be our comfort and safety - only God can be that, and His arms are so much wider and loving than the hard, unfeeling god that money makes - counting on that god just stresses me out!

So DH has just two more days on the set. I do not know what this is going to do to my chances of going to the wrap parties! But it's cool. I'm going to get my husband back from the land of 17-hour shifts, and he's going to be inspired in his work again. He's even going to take a week break in between the end of this job and the start of the next. A whole week to rest and spend time with the boys and I, maybe take a drive down to CA to see the redwoods and hit 'Ripley's Believe It or Not' museum along the way.

To make it even better, DH's dad  'happens' to be stopping in for a visit one of those days! It'll be the first time his dad has ever met Theo in person. DH would not have been able to be off work from the set that day if everything didn't happen when it did, and he would have missed what is definitely going to be a rare and special time for our continentally-divided family. Life is good.

Thank God for change, and for new adventures! Let's get this show on the road!
•8:03 PM

Is there any such game as shuffle rummy? I don't know, but it sounds like an accurate metaphor for the way things are shifting around for us these days.

I've skipped a lot of news because I didn't know how to put it in a blog. It was mostly about money and the decisions it influences - not always the best fodder for a public diary. But I've come to see now that I can't skip over it completely, or else none of the subsequent stories would make sense.

So, here is the powerpoint summary of life since March:

1. DH has been earning decent money working for the film industry. Between his job and Abbamart, we'd have a 6-figure joint annual income for the first time ever. This blows our minds. And boy, is the sushi good out here!

2. DH has sacrificed almost every waking hour for the job since we moved to Oregon. Most nights he sleeps an average of 5 hours before pulling yet another 15-17 hour day. He spends the weekends basically in a daze of fatigue, trying to catch up before doing it all over again. Doesn't leave a whole lot of time to enjoy our new locale.

3. Despite having a healthy income and no debt or shoddy payment history, we found underwriters would not approve a home loan to us based on the contractor-type nature of his job. We wouldn't be able to secure a mortgage unless he stays with this job for 2 years (ack!) and shows continuous projects, or joins the Union.

4. DH's culinary spirit has been a bit depressed by buffet catering out of a truck every day. Not even having daily casual conversations with Amanda Seyfried makes up for it (thank goodness, I guess?? See inset).

5. DH's boss revealed he is going to move his company to Louisiana, which is apparently a hotbed of movie-making activity - who knew? - in September, or sooner. It took DH about .0019 seconds to decide he did not have any desire to follow him there, no matter how many blondes in lace bodysuits roam the bayou.

I had really wanted to be in a house by the time Samuel started school this September, but ironically the very job that brought us here and is supporting us so well is only reason we can't get one. At the same time, DH is becoming physically weary, and really does long to be in a restaurant kitchen again and stretch his skills with all the new ingredients available here. So all these intertangled bits have been tying my mind up, even though I know God is in control. He always is, which is why I didn't feel the need to panic this time around as the job search to fill the upcoming gap began. And ended just as quickly.

DH was invited to a group interview last Wednesday for an amazing restaurant he'd applied for twice before when we lived in MN. He was politely turned down both times then, so it was nice to get the invitation. However, of course it was scheduled for the middle of one of his bazillion-hour shifts, and he didn't go. They called him two days later, wondering why he didn't show, and if he was still interested!

They set a time for him this morning with the executive chef, who flat-out told DH he thinks he is the right person for the job. The chef remembered his applications from MN, and says he wished he had called DH then - he hadn't believed he was serious about making the move! Even though they would like him to start as early as tomorrow, they said are willing to wait for him if he needs to finish up things with Frenchy for a couple of weeks.

How amazing, right?? We feel completely humbled and grateful again for our Father's care. So many gifts in such a short time. If he starts this new job, our mortgage broker says approving us for a mortgage will be so much easier. We will also know what he can expect to be earning for the long term, instead of the unsustainable (but awfully fun while it lasted) megabucks from film catering. Yeah, we don't yet know what's on the table as far as wages at the new job. That will be talked about next week. But I believe God will provide enough.

I like this. DH is pretty thrilled, too, about the thought of working in that kitchen with all it's top-of-the-line equipment and locally grown ingredients. I can see the wheels turning, bringing us closer and closer to our new home, in every sense of the word. Just around the bend, now... maybe even by fall.

•11:52 AM

 I know DH is completely blasé about the whole thing (or maybe it's clinical-level exhaustion), but the boys and I visited him on set for the first time yesterday to watch him in action, and it was about one of the coolest things ever. When we were driving closer to the set location, there started to be little yellow signs tied to the street poles saying 'LEVERAGE' with arrows pointing out the turns. That was exciting. Then I had to talk to someone at the parking lot entrance. I told him I was there to have lunch with DH in catering, and he pointed me to 'Crew Parking'.

The boys and I found the base camp where DH was set up and then mainly lurked around the catering truck and tent to wait for lunch to begin. Christian K. was one of the first to come striding up to the table to table to eat. No thoughts of 'he looks shorter/fatter/paler/disappointing in person' here. Quite the opposite - he practically sparkles. Seriously. Like he walked - go figure - right off a tv set. He was tan, cut, upbeat and friendly with the cooks, complimenting them on the dishes and flipping his hair around like no one's business. DH says he comes out for lunch pretty often (many main actors just have production assistants run them food in their trailers).

Timothy H. made an appearance not too much later. He doesn't come out to the truck to eat very often, so I guess we were lucky yesterday that his son was on set so they came together to get some grub. He was tall and calm, mostly cuddling and speaking quietly to his son while they waited for their meals.

And of course I had to have an awkward moment with him. All Theo's fault, as most of my awkward moments are (usually involving his penchant for spontaneously stripping his pants off at inappropriate times). I was watching the boys play outside in the lot several feet behind TH, and Theo had just splashed into a deep puddle and soaked his pants up past his knees. I was just sort of playfully reacting to it by putting both of my hands up to my cheeks in a sort of Home-Alone-esque expression and that's when T turned around and caught my eye.

And he smiled and WINKED at me. 

Interpret that how you might, but I have no other theory except that he thought that was my faint-of-heart 'star-struck' face and he was throwing me a bone.

I wanted to crawl under a table and die!

OK, so now I have -80 dignity points with TH. Thanks a lot, Theo.

Anyway, beyond the cast, just watching the ebb and flow of activity on set was so much fun. Everyone is communicating constantly in their headsets ("Gina probably has two more takes and she'll be down to lunch,") and little go-carts are zipping about everywhere, and the extras were getting all dolled up in 1920's era evening wear, getting their hair curled in rollers and bowler hats cocked at the right angle, and red lipstick done in front of the lighted mirrors. It's just like everyone's getting ready for a play - and I guess essentially they are.

The boys loved the catering truck where DH works. They know really nothing else of what's going on, except that their Papa cooks in this big kitchen truck, and they are beyond impressed! His boss invited them to come inside the truck and watch him work, which I was surprised about (considering liability and whatnot). They loved the spigots of never-ending juice on the outside, and Mike the driver gave them a tiny toy monkey.

All in all, we stayed about three hours watching all the activity and in the end got to sit down with DH and his co-workers and eat some pasta before they had to start cleaning up. Let it be noted that this is the first time in our entire relationship of 14 years that I have gotten to visit him on a work lunch break! 

I'm proud of DH for being a part of a production like that, something that so many talented people are working so hard on. And I overheard CK say the chicken in the pasta was just awesome - yeah, my husband made that. :)

•6:03 PM

I woke up in the middle of the night not too long ago, and in my foggy 3am brain, I could just grasp at the tail end of this cool dream - our family had made the move to Oregon, DH was cooking for tv shows and movies, and I was about to start shopping (and working out amongst the moss-enrobed pines) for my dress for the wrap party.

Then I grinned like a lunatic at myself in the bathroom mirror and literally boogied my way back to bed - my bed that is safely anchored under a patch of pine trees right outside of Portland, empty because my caterer husband has left for the set over an hour ago - to envision what sort of pretty cocktail party dress and shoes I finally have a decent excuse to buy.

I'd had a lot of those dreams in the past year - the we-made-it-there-everything's-going-fine dreams - only to slowly surface and see I was still existing quite solidly in our unfortunately-decorated orange bedroom with brown marbled wallpaper in Detroit Lakes, with no hint of reliable employment in sight and the ever-present dread of having to visit 'the weird tenants' this week.

So what with already being so happy and thankful for our prayers having been answered about all of this, it's with a little trepidation, a bit of guilt (here it comes again) and a lot of shyness that I admit... I'm asking God for more.

A house.

It's been just 3 weeks since I got here, but I can barely think of anything else. We are so close to being truly HOME. This apartment, while quite nice and safe and happily not boasting the brown/orange/green color scheme of Detroit Lakes, comes with a Japanese businessman upstairs who unwinds by singing some karaoke into an impressive sound sytem every Saturday night and the constant threat of receiving a lease violation if I use the washer/dryer after 10pm (or fail to use the fan while I cook, or hang curtains without prior approval, or my bike rolls 6 inches off the patio, etc., etc.). You get the gist of it. This isn't really OUR place.

I can't wait to make a home for my family again. I've got stars in my eyes, dreaming of pretty paint colors, sparkling lights, a fenced yard with a puppy. And the best part is I wouldn't have to ask anyone if that's ok with them first!

We know the responsible thing to do would be to put this job DH has been given to good use and put together a 20% down payment. That would still be hard to achieve (and more hard to wait for, especially since we rented this apartment with only a 6 month lease in hopes of being in a home by then), but God has brought us this far; I know He'll give us His patience and wisdom and bring this whole journey to completion; I really can't wait to see what He's got in store for us.