27 January 2009

To Oregon or not to Oregon

I got a ton of rest over the weekend. Maddie and Riley and I spent both weekend mornings just goofing off at the house and wearing pajamas. M&R are getting so creative in their play and are starting to really love to play together. They turned our couch into a go-kart this weekend, loading it with stuff then fastening their seatbelts and donning life jackets (?) as they set off on their adventures. They played a silly game of "hold my pajamas," racing around the house while holding fast to the backs of each others' footie PJs. They shared their toys and collaborated on projects. I don't expect this to happen every weekend, but it's like we hit a new developmental phase and they suddenly realize the power of their collective minds. It's amazing and wonderful.

I thought a lot about the comments on my Stress post. One thing that keeps coming up is the idea of the twins and me moving back to Oregon.

It seems so obvious, does it not? Why not just sell the house, pack up my stuff, and move back? My parents are as helpful and wonderful as I make them out to be, and in my heart, Oregon is home. In fact, if all had gone as planned, John and I would be living there now. We had decided to move there the summer after our wedding, but once he was diagnosed and we had our ducks in a row with insurance and all, it just didn't make sense for us to move while he was sick.

But now, here I am, rattling around in a house filled with painful memories, far away from my family, in over my head with my mortgage, and potentially out of a job. It's the perfect time to go back.

I could go. I've thought about it. But things are never as simple as they seem.

For one, there's the little matter of employment and the related issue of health insurance. I work in publishing. There is essentially no publishing industry in Oregon. So I need to think about how I can apply my skills to other types of work or undertake a career change. I really enjoy working in publishing, and when the time comes to move back to Oregon, I'll be sad to say goodbye to my career, although at the same time, I recognize that it's just a job. Yes, I could freelance, but the market is just awful right now; most of my freelancing friends are sitting idle, and they're good. Plus I'm not designed to be a freelancer. I don't deal well with the uncertainty of the workload/money, and I'm not good at setting my hours and keeping with them. In any case, the unemployment rate in Oregon is 9%, so the market isn't good even for people with a career track. Then there's the insurance part of the equation. No job = no health insurance = very, very bad.

Yes, I could live with my parents for a while, and I'm sure that no matter when we move back, living with the 'rents for a while will be necessary and welcome. They could help me financially and logistically while we made the transition. But to move in with no idea about what I could do for work and no thoughts on for how long we might be staying is not reasonable to me.

And let's talk about all this help my parents could give me. My mom and m stepdad live in one city, the city we'd likely move to. My dad lives in another city, two hours south. My dad is retired, but very busy with traveling and hobbies. My mom still works full-time. My stepdad is about to retire and has a lifetime's worth of projects awaiting him. Yes, they would all help me in any way the could, but they could not drop everything and become my nannies and financial resources. My mom and stepdad also have two other grandchildren, my stepbrother's kids, with whom they spend a lot of time. My family and the friends I already have in Portland would be a tremendous help to me, but they are not a magic bullet cure.

I recognize that there will be no perfect time to move back, and my goal is to go before the twins start kindergarten, which gives me a few years. I have been giving thought to what I could do work-wise in Oregon to pay the bills (which will be lower in Oregon, but so are salaries) and give me time with the kids; I have some ideas, but they involve going back to school, and I've been looking into programs.

I recognize that part of not moving now is just my personality. I don't do well at all without a plan. Selling my condo is a first step in that plan, one that will give me some financial freedom to start tinkering with the next steps: saving for school if I go that route, getting the nest egg built back up if I want to buy a house again. I'm in a tough spot right now, facing many changes. For some people, and entirely new location might be just the right thing, but for me, I need to move a little more slowly. I don't think it will ever be easy to make the move back across the country, to leave behind an incredible network of support that we've built up, to say goodbye to the only place John and I lived together. But even knowing that it will never be easy, now does not seem like the right time to me.

If I stay here, if I sell the condo at a loss and move in with my friend, I can start saving money that will see us through the transition we will face when we move to Oregon. I can explore my options for work and start laying plans to go back to school if I go that route. In that situation, if I lose my job, it's not a financial catastrophe. I could consider part-time work, or a job that is less demanding and pays less money. I think the situation of living with my friend, while not a solution that would work for everyone, is one that could work very well for my family and for hers. I am not 100% certain that this is my decision, but it is the one that is emerging as the front-runner.

There were lots of great comments and questions on my last post ranging from creative ways to deal with childcare to queries about how we make ends meet each month. Because I have virtually no secrets from the Internet, and because I'm very open about finances, here's the deal.

A commenter asked about Social Security death benefits for the twins and me. We do recieve them. Well, the twins do. Since I'm working, I don't recieve anything. If I were to quit working, I'd receive a bit, but not a great deal, since there is a family maximum and what the twins are receiving is close to that. Currently, the twins' SS benefits pay our mortgage every month. My salary (doesn't quite) cover(s) daycare expenses, groceries, heat, electric, and all that stuff of life. John did have life insurance, but not much, and I dip into that every month to cover what my salary and the SS benefits don't.

The live-in au pair idea as an alternative idea to traditional daycare or nanny setups is a great one. Unfortunately, our house is too small. We have 1,100 square feet, two bedrooms, and one bathroom. I would love to be able to have an au pair join us, but space does not allow it, I'm afraid.

It seems like there were other questions, but I'm blanking on them for now.


Single Parent Dad said...

Seems like you have a lot to mull, but are getting through it well, and without getting too drawn in.

I think it is good to have an assembly of a plan, and to have played out the possible scenarios in your head, even if they don't happen.

Who knows what tomorrow, or even Thursday, might bring?

jenn said...

It does sound like the pros outweigh the cons for moving to Oregon, but the no job/insurance problem is a tough one. Have you considered teaching? Some states have a certification program where a certain amount of time working in the "read world" is accepted in lieu of taking all the certification courses. Excellent benefits.

Susan said...

Geez Snick....you do have a lot and it is so easy for us to comment away isn't it? :) I like the idea of trying to sell the condo, move in with a friend and start planning the move to Oregon, i.e. looking for job, place to live, etc... Hang in there. We are backwards with two people working - life is tough right now. We need more pics of those cute little twins of yours....they sound like they are in such a cute stage.

Giovanna Diaries said...

Tough decisions....
The worst is not knowing which way to go...but you can only take one step at a time. The rest will all work itself out. It always does.
Sending you some hugs!!

Watercolor said...

Great thoughts.

Temi said...

Clearly SS Benefits are WAY too high if they'll cover a mortgage payment!
That's insane.

No wonder there's not going to be anything left for the rest of us who deserve it after working most of our lives to support others.

Since most people don't receive that significant amount from the state/country as a hand out, I'd say you're in a much higher bracket than most of the hardworking people who have to support their children on their salary alone. Consider yourself lucky!

Snickollet said...


Your comment made me laugh out loud.

You're right! I'm SO LUCKY that my husband died at the age of 33 and that my children will get to know him! That mortgage payment from the government is WAY BETTER than having a living spouse/father!

Hilarious. Thanks for giving me perspective.


Jennifer said...

Snick - Don't even dignify comments like Temi's with replies. She's not worth getting your dander up.

My heart goes out to you with all these tough decisions. They certainly will not be easy ones to make. Being in the military, we move around quite a bit, and while I know it's different b/c I move with my husband, just know this: with change comes great possiblities and new starts. Each time I move some sort of door has opened (careerwise) which would not have had I not moved. So, while the unknown can be daunting, it can also be embraced. Good luck!!

Karyn said...

So much to think about! I do not envy all the decisions you face right now. It sounds like you're moving in the right direction.

Continue sharing and don't give Temi's comments another thought (??). Glad it made YOU laugh...

Snickollet said...

Oops--I was typing so fast that I made a mistake in my reply to Temi; what I meant is that my children will NEVER get to know John.


s_ivan said...


Maybe temi is onto something. Maybe John got pancreatic cancer on purpose so that his family could free-load off temi's hard-earned money. I can't believe you didn't think of this sooner. That's just the kind of guy John was.. for shame, for shame.

Badger said...

Ah yes, we recipients of survivor benefits are absolutely raking it in. Oh wait...

Once you earn more than (I think) $13000/yr, you no longer qualify for survivor benefits as a widow. Because $13000 puts us in that "higher bracket." This benefit also ends when our children hit 16 because, suddenly, at age 16, kids cost less.

You should totally come to Oregon, Snick. We can go out together and spend our Social Security checks on spas and Prada and mock the "little people" who still have spouses and dual-incomes.

Anonymous said...

I second the poster who suggested you consider teaching! Since you work in publishing, perhaps teaching Language Arts or Reading/Literature or English at a middle school level would be a "related" career for you to consider. Certainly higher paying than publishing. And think about having summers, school breaks, etc. off when your kids are off (no childcare costs when they are in school)! Not to mention great benefits.

Make!Do! said...

Portland State has a masters in publishing program and often hires people to help teach - people who actually have worked in publishing are preferred to academic wonks, I believe.

Snickollet said...

Teaching is the go-back-to-school option I'm most strongly considering. I'm looking into programs here in Boston and in Portland, esp. programs for certification as a Reading Specialist. My publishing background is in early reading materials, mostly supplemental phonics, so Reading Specialist would be a good fit.

Anonymous said...

The idea regarding teaching is definitely of merit. Many private schools, as well as some charter schools, do hire teachers who may not necessarily possess the standard teaching certifications, but who are nonetheless excellent educators.

Put Temi on auto-ignore. Obviously this person is speaking from a position of ignorance. I (among many, I am sure) am very gratified to know that (some of) our taxes go toward humanitarian purposes.

I'm sure you will find and make the right decisions for yourself and your children. Thanks for sharing the process ... it is enlightening to follow your logical musings.

... Leslie

CamSpot said...

(horrified by Temi's comment)

I know this is a huge undertaking and it sounds like you are at a crossroads. I wish you clarity and wisdom in your search!

In my humble opinion, being near family/friends/support/assistance will be a decision you won't regret. It's a big step, and it sounds like you're weighing the odds well.

Best of luck to you in your decision!!!!!

LP said...

hey snick,

way to put temi in his or her place! I hope that came out differently than Temi wanted it to sound.
Anyway, something that has worked for me in the past when I've been unhappy at work (I realize that isn't your situation) is to send out a resume. Sounds simple, and it is...it makes you feel like you are being proactive at a crazy time in your life. Maybe you could check out some jobs in Oregon and send out your resume, or even apply to a graduate program. If you don't hear anything, oh well, but if you do it can't hurt to check things out. I am a big believer in that things do eventually fall into place...you just need to help the pieces find their place.
By the way, I was in Oregon this summer - GORGEOUS! Seems like a nice place to raise kids. I guess any place seems better than our FREEZING, snowy Boston weather right now!

ann ominous said...

Hi snick,

I don't know if this is still open...but thought if it was you might be interested?


Karen said...

I don't know much about publishing, but surely the large universities in Oregon have academic presses? Probably a pretty small job pool. And if you leave your current job, can't you COBRA your insurance for 18 months?

There are so many choices ahead for you. You are handling them admirably. Thanks for sharing all the ups and downs with us.

amber said...

temi sounds like a peach. :|

education sounds like it would be a good fit for you. i know you're wrestling with a lot of difficult decisions, but it sounds like you're putting a lot of thought into them and coming up with some good solutions that fit your family. {{hugs}}

Holly said...

I found your blog on a friends blogger roll and checked it out one day. I keep reading it but this is the first comment. Have you checked out University Press jobs in Oregon?

My family recently had the same conversation about moving. Now does not seem like the time to move out of state and sharing a home with a friend sounds like it would work great. Good luck.

Melissa in Grafton said...

Snick, you might want to also consider jobs in corporate communications. Many larger companies (and colleges) have their own in-house corporate communications staff who come from the ranks of the publishing, public relations, or writing/editing/proofreading fields. Might be a legitimate job option in a region where there isn't much of a publishing industry per se.

Just another thought to add to the mix... :)


Anonymous said...

I am in HR and about COBRA yes, you can carry COBRA BUT!! Check for networks, ours makes it difficult if you are out of network (read:out of state). I recommend ehealthinsurance.com to my friends and family as an alternative to high priced insurance (really is there such a thing as low cost health insurance? I haven't found it yet!) Shop for coverage costs, it might help.

Natika said...

Portland State is a great option.
It's snowing in downtown right now! Yeah!
The city is so pretty when it snows...remember?
I still think you would be happier in Oregon. Family can be helpful both physically and mentally.
You always seem to fawn over the PNW.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like your weekend was what winter weekends are made for. Love those kind.

Teaching was the first option that came to mind while I reading this.
Glad to know it is on your list of ideas.

If moving to back to Oregon was something that you and John had planned together, then that should be the direction you are heading.
All paths seem to be leading you that way, and it would be like closure for you with all that you have gone through losing and since losing John, not leaving him behind, but moving forward and living that part of a dream that you had together, just like having children, and where they should be raised.

Teaching may be where you are meant to find that person that helps complete your life. The person that is inside of you, as well as the other person that you are meant to spend life with.

Anonymous said...

Hi Snick, I love the reading specialist idea. Have you thought of renting your place out until the market is better and this will create a nest egg. You could probably find a property management firm to manage the process when you move to oregon.

You can work as a teacher's aide while you get your certificate.

I think you are right to want to develop a plan. Since I had kids, planning so critical since you are not accounting just for their welfare but their welfare too.


spoiledonlychild said...

All this advice is going to make your head spin. So I'll just say good luck with some tough decisions. And holy crap, Temi cannot be serious, can she/he? Seems to have forgotten that you and John have both worked and paid into Social Security. It's not like you're sitting around the house eating bon-bons and getting welfare. Some people really need to get a grip. And I hope that if Temi ever has a spouse die, she will return the benefits to the government.

Anonymous said...

This is anonymous Alice again. I meant can you rent out your place till the market gets better and sell. You live in Boston and there was a hot housing market there a couple of years ago. Seems like you live in a cute and nice neighborhood...

Good luck...Alice

Andrea said...

Okay - I am just a lurker on your blog. Somehow connected thru another blog, and keep coming back. You are so strong. I think about you a lot and appreciate you sharing through so much. As my husband and I contemplate our own twnhome houseing and selling... could you RENT your condo out and get enough to pay the mortage. Could you HIRE a rental management company to do it for you and break even until the market gets better. They would take care of finding the renter, getting the rent, and maintaining it. You would probably still have to pay you association fee. Also, if you were to move to Oregon (selling or renting out condo)... could you work at Caribou Coffee or Starbucks Coffee until you found a career track job. Both offer health insurance, even to part time staff I believe. Just some thoughts that crossed my mind as I read about you...

Rachel said...

I vote for going back to school, and Oregon, when it's feasible. It sounds like you would have a great support network there.

The thing about school is that you can often get health benefits through the university. Might even be some sort of scholarship for single moms.

Or you can write your memoirs. :) I know what you mean about the freelance thing, but maybe you could explore writing as a way to bring in some extra $ right now.

I'm glad you are enjoying the twins. Sending lots of positive decision-making-house-selling vibes your way.

The Dukes said...

If you went back to school in Oregon (or anywhere) you would be on a (usually) inexpensive student health insurance plan and could add the kids on, right? Maybe?

Anonymous said...

My first thought after reading this post was that you had a long list of reasons NOT to move back to Oregon. So while a move back there is rattling around in your head, it doesn't sound like now is the time to go. It sounds more and more like selling and moving in with your friend is the right move for you. No decision you make is permanant... once (if!) you move in with your friend, you can re-assess and think about what/if anything is next.
Best wishes in making this big decision!

Bobbie said...

Have you asked your neighbor (co-owner?) if he's interested in buying your townhouse? Maybe he has a family member who might be interested?

Leah said...

I say go to Oregon, get a fresh start and be with family. You will have a little after the sale of the house right? That simple no but you will have to take the leap. I will pray for you.

abernier said...

Oregon - YES!

I think that if you're making a move anyway, moving in with grandparents that the kids know and love, and whose love for them is ABSOLUTE, is better than moving in with a friend. Granted, your friend is of course wonderful, but getting to know a grandparent is much different.) It seems that your parents are already really good with your kids and to you, so despite having busy lives, they could help you parent. I was raised by my mom and my grandmother, and although I missed having a dad (he had multiple sclerosis), knowing my grandmother as well as I did has been one of my greatest blessings. It sounds like a blessing you could give your kids.

OTRgirl said...

Catching up after being away. That would all make me overwhelmed and want to totally shut down. I'm amazed that you can just keep going.

What I admire is that you know yourself well enough to know that incremental (yet vital) might be a better transition than moving to Oregon right away. I do like the idea of sharing resources with another parent. It sounds like a challenging, but creative solution.

Anonymous said...

You need to do things slowly, step by step and that is a great thing to know about yourself. I'm more of a "hey, let's move next month" kind of gal because once I know where I'm going, I start to feel like I'm waiting for that life to begin. I blame the military for that personality trait.

I wondered if Oregon was still in your future since you started dating. Which is not to say that dating is getting married, but falling in love with someone who is rooted in the northeast would certainly complicate moving to the northwest.

I don't have to tell you that transitions, even the ones we want, are hard. So be gentle with yourself.


MDT said...

Pointedly ignoring all of your very valid hesitations about it, I'm going to be completely unhelpful and again root for moving to Oregon.

Heck, I'll be your au pair :)

Elizabeth said...

Snick - that is a lot to mull over, especially with snarky comments like Temi. Seriously.

Come back to Oregon! It's snowing in Eugene right now! Don't you remember how pretty it is here with the big trees covered in snow? Univ of Ore has a teaching program and Western Ore in Monmouth is also a great teaching school. Plus its almost dead center between Portland and Eugene. I know you will make the right decision for your family, you're doing such an amazing job in (beyond) tough circumstances. I for one think it would be great to have you back. If you can't come back to Portland, what about Seattle? Its only a few hours away from Portland but might have a larger publishing base. Downside is housing is expensive...yowza. Anyway, good luck with your mulling. Lots of love from Oregon, I do hope you move home.

Anna said...

What a wonderful stage M and R are at! Hold my pajamas sounds hilarious to watch :) So many things to consider in the moving equation... You may have discussed previously, but I can't recall - what initially brought you to Boston?

A couple of random "I have a friend who did..." thoughts on transitions out of journal publishing:

* one friend moved into a university communications office, from a project management/editing job to one involving more writing, editing, and publicity-type contact with other departments;

* another did a 1-year Grad Dip program in writing and PR and then moved to a medical foundation to head their v small publishing team, mostly project management work producing newsletters for the general public through to putting together treatment guidelines for health professionals in that area;

* another did a Grad Dip in multimedia - web and graphic design programs - and is now working for a company that (I think) does web stuff for zoos and museums;

Your teaching thoughts sound really interesting too. But if you didn't want to go back to school straight away, in the publishing/comms field you could consider hospitals, research institutes, nonprofits, universities/colleges (esp if you were considering Corvallis as well as Portland?), large accounting or law firms - a number of different places that all have publishing needs.

Good luck with all this - I'm totally with you, too, that gradual=good.

Sadia said...

The decision may make itself; after all, no decision leaves you where you are!

It sounds like you have two "right" choices to choose between. That's far better than two lousy options, right?

We went through a similar decision-making process recently; why not really put family first, move to Washington, and get jobs once we get there? Then, my husband rejoined the army, making our choices on location essentially moot! Where the army sends us, there we go.

Tam said...

It sounds to me like you've already made your decision to stay & move in with your friend while researching ways & a timeline to move back to Oregon. That sounds good.

You said you wanted to do it before the twins started Kindergarten ~ good plan my friend!

I have a 4 year old & time flys! I live in the nw & I want to move to Oregon or Washington state before he starts school ~ yikes, that in a year or two. I just closed my business & am working from home as a transition so your idea of downsizing & planning is where I'm at, too.

Maybe we'll meet up in the future on a playground in OR :) Be good to yourself ~ you are a good Mom & person.

Anonymous said...

I am delurking to mention that if you are looking into Reading Specialist Programs in the Boston area, you may want to check out the MGH Institute of Health Professions. They are located in Charlestown.

Elaine said...

At least you could laugh at Temi's response. Some people have no class.
Although I don't know you personally, I do admire you. When the time comes to make a decision, I trust you will make the right one for you and the kids.
Elaine from MT

Anonymous said...

This might be too late but maybe you could call up the bank that holds your mortgage and see if they will modify the terms of your mortgage. Some people have been able to get their interest rates cut these days without the haggle of refinancing. And maybe you can also appeal to your county/city assessment board so that your property taxes will be lower or even get some $ back from previous payments.

I understand these don't solve your negative cash flow problem but it can't hurt to try.

Roads said...

Well, I wish you all the best with your decisions. Tricky stuff.

I'm a dad and not a mum so my perspective might well be different. But I'd say that whatever you do it has to done for your own reasons and not because of this situation you're in just now.

You're right that your parents (if they are anything like mine) would really love to help, but it's asking a lot to impose the whole of a life on them.

And it's hard to go back to another life you had before when everything else has changed. So for what it's worth (not much), I'd favour sticking it out and trying to keep making it on your own.

By all means make the logistical compromises to let it work, but I'd be extremely wary of moving across the country in the search for some nirvana of additional childcare support.

Because attractive as that idea is, the kids will be in school before you know it, and then your needs will change.

Anyway, it's just a different view. You'll make up your own mind, and (this is sneaky) that's really just my point...

Anonymous said...

Temi --

Snick's kids are receiving social security death benefits, which all minor children who lose a parent are entitled to receive. The monies which fund those benefits are those which their father paid into the system during his life, money *he* would have received had he lived to retirement age.

Let me say that again, using smaller words: Snick's kids are getting their dad's social security retirement money because he doesn't need it.

So, take a deep breath and untwist your knickers, no one's taking your money.

No love,


Anonymous said...

I'm sure I don't have to say it, but your writing is fantastic! Considering your blog following, why not write a book in your (little, I know) spare time?

Anonymous said...

As a single mom to a young son, I can relate to a lot of what you're dealing with. One thing I wish that I had done differently is move less often than I did. Stability is key for young children...and the more you move, the less stability you can give. The end result is that you're moving to Oregon anyways. Why put your kids through the upheaval of two moves in order to get to the end result?

I'm not very good at voicing how I feel, so please know that I'm not trying to be condescending or judgemental. Nor am I trying to be harsh in how I word things. Only you truly know what is best for you and your children.

I wish you luck!

- Angie

Anonymous said...

i'm sure you could find someone by networking through friends/family in Oregon who would love to have you rent out their guest house or basement apartment,etc in order to help them make their mortgage payment. Also, many of the schools with special needs programs like to blend the school population with non-special needs kids. Typically, (at least here in Georgia) they start the classes at age three. That would put the twins at that age group this fall.
just a thought you might want to check into.

Tiffany said...

My husband and I are going through a similar situation. We are ready to leave where we live but we have a house holding us back. We actually decided to rent out our house on a lease option and rent a smaller and cheaper house in town - this has helped us financially but we have been here the last 11 years and are ready for a change. We would love for our house to sell but it also needs a TON of work that buyers, especially now, are not willing to do. So for now we are stuck.