About Choosing Change…
There’s a pandemic you say? Oh…well, why not move 6,209 miles away from our current home? When there is change and unrest in the world might as well add to it by making BIG changes!
The Short Story
I thought about putting the long story first and then thought I’d save those of you who would prefer the quick version.
You’re welcome and you’re welcome.
So, we are moving back to the mainland! What? It’s true. We will be moving to Oregon as soon as possible (hopefully by August). There are many factors (see Long Story) and we are devastated to be leaving our island home. We have loved our time here and will miss the people, the beaches, and the beauty terribly. We know that it is the right thing to do for our family at this time and are SO grateful for all the wonderful experiences we have had here.
The Long Story
On Monday, May 11th Stewart turned 40. He spent the day enjoying hearing from and responding to many friends from years past that shared thoughts and memories with him. On Tuesday, May 12th, we had a Zoom faculty meeting at the school that Stewart and I have been working for the past 3 years. In that meeting, our Head of School discussed the impacts that Covid-19 has had on our small island school. Just as many schools across the nation are facing the same issues of what to do about the 2020-2021 school year, our school is no exception. Our Head of School shared with us that should enrollment not continue to improve, there may be some teachers – as many as 20 – who may not be offered their contracts to return in the fall. The Head of School also said that if we should feel the need to look elsewhere, to go ahead and do that and offered to be a reference if needed. It was a really hard faculty meeting – especially for those in leadership.
Stewart and I got off the Zoom call (really done with those) and counseled with each other regarding our options. As teachers of the arts, we knew that typically specialty teachers are the first to go in those instances. We thought – merely for self-preservation – we’d need to start asking the question about other options and what we would and should do if we were not offered a contract. We started to ask the questions that are always scary – “What else is possible? What else does God have in store for us?”
We talked with our boys about the happenings of the meeting. We said we were starting to think of leaving the island. We prayed as a family and asked for guidance. Miles came to each of us individually and expressed his concern about the upcoming hurricane season – he didn’t want to go through another storm. This broke our hearts knowing that he was experiencing a little PTSD each time the wind blew. We began looking at other options. From Alabama to Washington, we started to look into other locations and job possibilities. We landed on Oregon.
Oregon is beautiful and we have visited there several times as a family and love it there. We knew we wanted somewhere near the ocean but not too cold and not ridiculously expensive to live. Oregon seemed to fit the bill. Stewart started to throw his resume out and we began the search for homes.
A Hard Decision Made Even Harder
During the faculty meeting on May 12th our Head of School said that we would each have a one-on-one meeting to discuss our contract for the 2020-2021 school year sometime over the next couple of weeks. We found out on May 25th that our meeting would be the morning of May 28th. We spent from May 12th to the 28th agonizing over all the “what if’s” and the MANY possible scenarios. Stewart also had a couple of interviews for positions in Oregon.
Finally…the 28th arrived. As we drove to the school for our meeting, I had a pit in my stomach and felt very nervous. What was going to happen? Stewart and I had opted to combine our meeting – as whatever impacts one of us impacts the other. We were lead into the Head of School’s office and invited to sit. We sat there and made some idle chit chat – each of us wearing our masks and trying to communicate through this awkward moment without being able to see each other’s mouths. Then, the Head of School told us that we were both being offered our full contracts. We were truly surprised. We shared our surprise. We also told the Head of School that we had been looking into other possibilities and there was a possibility that we would be leaving – to which there was sincere surprise by the Head of School that at OUR school the arts would EVER be in consideration of cutting. We are so grateful for administrators who TRULY value the arts. It is, sadly, a reality that we had to consider.
We thanked the Head of School, took our envelope with our contracts, and headed home. We now had a harder choice ahead of us – and only a week to decide. Had we not been offered our contracts, it would have made our decision to move onto other adventures much easier. However, as with many things, God often offers two equally great paths and then expects you to exercise faith and choose only one. He will always offer blessings no matter the path – though it is up to us to make the move.
We talked with the boys and decided to have a family fast on Sunday. We spent the next several days praying and discussing and….praying some more. We also continued to look forward to Oregon. On Sunday, after we finished our fast we each said that we felt like it was time to move on from St. Croix and Oregon was where we were supposed to be.
Sharing Hard Decisions Makes Me Cry
On Monday, Stewart went to the school and spoke to the head of school to let him know that we would be leaving. On Tuesday we had a faculty meeting where the Head of School was going to be discussing the possibilities for the next school year as well as letting the rest of the faculty know who would not be returning. The meeting got to be on campus (for those who felt comfortable) with social distancing – of course. If I thought the Zoom meeting was hard, this was worse. When it was announced that we would be leaving I couldn’t stop the tears from flowing. Then some of our colleagues shared some words about us….and I cried more.
It Is Real
Now that it had been said outside of the walls of our home, it was more real. We were moving. This is our island home where we thought we would be at least a little longer. We have just finished our bathrooms. We just got everything “done” in our home and finally to a place that we didn’t have things like tile falling off walls and now we are going to leave it? Yes. That is how God works with us, I guess. I started to joke that we are like Mary Poppins of houses, we come somewhere, we fix things up, and then when the wind changes, we go.
Our house is now (as of this writing) for sale. So, if you know anyone who wants to live in paradise -between the best neighbors in the world, on the most beautiful island in the Caribbean, and get to know the most wonderful people…we’ve got a house for them! You can find the listing here.
We are here in St. Croix until the house sells. So if you are here and want to say goodbye, you’ve got a little bit of time. If you are elsewhere, like in Oregon…we’re coming! Stewart has accepted a job at Tillamook High School teaching drama. If the house doesn’t sell before he needs to be in Oregon in August, he will go and I will stay for a while.
Take Courage and Move Forward
We have had feelings of “sticking” – like things aren’t moving forward and we have to keep reminding ourselves to just continue to have faith. As we had our family scripture study recently, there was a scripture about Ammon, a missionary, who was going to teach the Lamanites and he had prepared – he was ready to move forward. I am sure that he felt some “sticking” too. The scripture says that “the Lord did visit them with his Spirit, and said unto them: Be comforted. And they were comforted.” Then it goes onto to say Ammon and those with him “took courage to go forth”. This meant a lot to me as I have been feeling – not necessarily doubt about the decision – but the fear that comes with uncertainty. There is SO much uncertainty and turmoil in our world right now that it seems like it could be easier to just hide in my house and do nothing. In those times, I take solace that I can receive comfort and remember to “take courage and move forward”, “For with God, nothing shall be impossible”.
“God is weaving his tapestry according to his own grand design. All flesh is in his hands. . . . We have no need to fear. We have no need to worry” President Gordon B. Hinckley
I hope that any of you who are feeling that fear of uncertainty can take inspiration from us. If nothing else, you can at least have a good chuckle thinking about those “crazy Shelley’s” moving 6,000+ miles during a pandemic!
With 2020 being a crazy year…what things are you grateful for that have happened? How are you creating change?