NOTE: THIS IS PART TWO OF A 3-PART SERIES ABOUT OUR COMMUTER MARRIAGE AND MARATHON MOVE! Join us on the journey that’s been our primary focus for three years…

Overall, our plans for the next 60 years were good. Move, sell, pay off debt, downsize, retire, and live happily ever after. Sounds good, right?

Easier said than done. Who knew we’d own multiple homes yet live separately for most of three years? It was a commuter marriage and a marathon move for which we didn’t sign up.

Extenuating circumstances overruled our ‘but-it-looked-good-on-paper’ plans. The economy. Jim’s chosen career. Multiple layoffs. And later, a worldwide pandemic was added, just for fun. Yet, we kept taking one day at a time. Ultimately trusting God, but humanly stressed to the limit, if that makes any sense. Perhaps we were stressed when we forgot we were to trust? 

In any case, time was not our friend. We had too little of it and too much work to do. The first six months flew by without much at all being accomplished. We had moved enough to make our new place livable, but much of our accumulated stuff was still at the cabin and our country home.

The house was not ready to sell. Nor was the cabin. Thankfully, our banker extended our bridge loan for six months so we could breathe again.

Jim’s chosen career path is economy-driven and volatile. He’s always been a loyal, long-term employee, working for only a small number of local employers in the first four decades of our marriage. That was normal for us. Get up. Go to work. Come home. Repeat tomorrow.

But, it’s been a feast or famine in the pipeline industry for a few years. After his first-ever layoff, he has had to go where the work was, and it wasn’t nearby. It was in Oklahoma. Thankfully, we were able to buy a used travel trailer, not realizing it would be home for Jim for much of three years.

Economic dips cause layoffs which result in no income, and that happened over and over again. At least we were together during layoffs, but then he’d get a call and be gone again. It became our new reality, and not one we liked.

The lifestyle is common to military families – it’s called deployment. I’ve watched my brother (USAF, Retired), sister-in-law, and niece adapt to the necessity of such a lifestyle. Such families understand the difficulties of maintaining normalcy at home when there’s an empty seat at the table. Family dynamics change.

The stay-at-home spouse assumes 99% of household chores, disciplining children, taking care of business – everything. With zero ‘alone time’ and more responsibilities, it can feel as if the absent one has it easiest. Not always true. That spouse struggles with being alone, disconnected, missing events, and feeling isolated by distance. Family dynamics change again with every homecoming! It’s difficult. I lived it for short periods when our kids were young. Each goodbye and each hello resulted in adjustments.

Though the shifts in family dynamics weren’t as drastic for us as senior citizens and empty-nesters, Jim and I had adjustments, too.

In Oklahoma, Jim was close enough to drive home on Friday nights but had to leave home by Sunday afternoon. We’d do his laundry and repack it, then we would work toward getting our marathon move accomplished. Drive to our old place. Load the trailer. Drive to our new place. Unload the trailer. Every weekend.

Jim would go back to Oklahoma to work, and my week was spent unpacking boxes, putting things away, arranging furniture, hanging curtains, and decorating in this small-town USA. Then I’d go to the country to pack boxes so we could do it all over again the next weekend. Progress was being made but our anxiety level was through the roof. Was there an end in sight? I didn’t know.

Eventually, we sold our much-too-small shop at our new-to-us home. It was easily dismantled and removed by the buyer. Then we hired a contractor to build a bigger shop on a concrete floor and I found myself the hands-on general contractor. Jim would have much preferred to oversee the project (and I would have been thrilled for him to do so) but he was still out of state so my job included communicating with line spotters, city inspectors, the builder, the crew, and utility companies. OMGoodness!

Once our new shop was built, I expected things would move more quickly, but that wasn’t exactly the case either. We ended up renting a large storage shed in our new town which was getting fuller and fuller as Jim brought things from the old shop. The hardest part was deciding what to move and what to walk away from. Downsizing became overwhelming.

Somewhere in the middle of our efforts, we decided to shift our focus to the cabin and at least get it sold. We finished a couple of projects there, loaded up everything, and moved out. Then, we listed it and waited. And, waited. And, almost took it off the market. It was shown several times but no immediate offers and time kept flying.

Jim’s next gig was in Texas – as if Oklahoma wasn’t far enough. It was now too far to drive home on a weekend. And, he worked six days a week, so there was no chance of making the commute in one day.

I kept working at our country home. It was now nearly empty (though the garage was full), freshly cleaned from top to bottom, and minimally staged. It was ready to list as soon as Jim moved things from his shed and finished a few projects.

But, yet another unexpected complication loomed on the horizon.

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