Wednesday, February 2, 2011


The Wild Woman’s Whitewater Rafting Adventure was an annual event with my group of single mom friends. We would head out to a remote, pristine little Shangri-La located in the North Cascades mountain range in Washington State, approximately forty miles south of the Canadian boarder as the crow flies. There we would raft the main river over Father’s Day weekend when the water was running high and we knew our kids would be with their dads.

During these trips, we usually encountered an adventure or two, like the time one friend in her short cut off jeans and cowboy boots attracted the attention of one too many cowboys. Or when I fell out of the raft during a class four rapid, was sucked into a hole and saw God. We somehow always managed to survive with only minor scrapes and more than a few hangovers. But one year was different.

That was the year, after drinking one-too-many chocolate martinis, we all decided to pile into the red jeep and see what sort of trouble we could get into at the local cowboy bar. And that’s where I met Bill, a quiet, handsome, long-haired hippie; the future love of my life. He had uncharacteristically come to that notorious bar to hear a band he liked, and was casually standing in the corner sipping a beer, when he caught my eye. There was something quiet and gentle about his demeanor that appealed to me after years of being married to someone who was not. Plus I had vowed to be the first “Wild Woman” out on the dance floor so I asked the quiet hippie to dance. Or, rather, I dared him to.

“Are you going to stand there all night drinking, or do you want to dance?” was my now-famous opening line. Why he didn’t run for the hills is anyone’s guess, but dance, we did, and then we talked for hours. In the following weeks, we began a steady correspondence, back-and-forth visits, and a cross-mountain romance.

Three months later, Bill was living with me and the girls in Seattle. And to this day, we’re still not sure why we clicked so well. We just did. The girls loved him, I loved him, and he loved us back. We wanted to build a life together, and somehow, I knew that we would.

But Bill did not love Seattle and often missed his valley home. His passion was nature, sustainable building (he was a carpenter by trade), and living a simple life. My passion was my career, my kids, and maintaining my complicated life. I had no idea how to make it all work. But I had just started an outreach campaign around a documentary on voluntary simplicity, and the idea of downsizing my “stuff”, working less, getting out of the city, and having more time with my kids was increasingly attractive. Bill encouraged me to explore where that road might go. He also maintained his home in the valley: a tiny trailer on 30 acres with an amazing view, where we would regularly visit. I have always been a city girl, but each time we went I felt a little more comfortable with the primitive lodgings, wide open skies, and miles of mountains and woods. I knew Bill was hoping we could all move to the valley someday but I wasn’t ready.

At the same time, my life in the city was becoming more and more untenable. I had a new boss who wanted me to go from conducting large, impactful outreach campaigns to writing her personal memos. I had to refinance my home to buy out my ex- husband, and was now living beyond my means. My bills were piling up, the freeway was always clogged, and my kids were in daycare (or school) ten hours a day. Traffic, stress, and guilt began to work their magic until one weekend in the valley, as Bill and I were sipping coffee in the sun on a bed of warm pine needles, and taking in his incredible view, I finally said, “Okay, let’s do it. It’s time to move.” Had I known what I was getting into, I might never have uttered those words. But looking before I leap had never been my strong suit, and leap I did.

Three months later we had sold my home, quit our jobs, negotiated a new parenting plan with my ex-husband, got married, and bought a tiny 1904 log cabin on several wooded acres in our valley paradise. I was ecstatic! Not only was I getting away from my ex-husband, tyrannical boss, high housing costs, and mind-numbing traffic, I was also living in a beautiful environment with low over head, a wonderful man, and more time with my girls.

Bill was thrilled to be home and found work easily in his trade. I had some savings after selling my home, and could afford to take a little time to figure out what I was going to do with myself. My youngest daughter, Rose, was four years old when we moved, and had been in full time daycare since she was one. I was thrilled to have the time to get to know my kids again.

That first summer, Emily, my eldest (age 9) spent the summer with her father in Seattle, the youngest, because of her age, spent that first summer with me and Bill in the valley. Em came home and started public school in the fall, while Rose went to the local Montessori. There was no getting up at 6:00 a.m. to hustle them to daycare, no long commute in terrible traffic, and no stressful job. Em had a 10 minute bus ride to school, which picked her up in front of our door. Rose went to half day Montessori and spent the rest of the day with me. Bill worked and earned just enough money for us to get by. We were happy, in love, and life was good.

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