When you know for sure

About 15 years ago, the hubbs and I were working corporate jobs in Houston, Texas.  Our life was fun but our jobs were  fast paced and often stressful.   On a whim, I signed up for a three-day class that took me out of my office cube and into an interactive workshop. This seminar required participants, through a series of interviews, questionnaires and homework assignments, to create their own mission statement. Most attendees were nearing the end of their careers and beginning to think about what was next; I was the youngest by easily a dozen years.

The last day, each of us stood before the class and presented their personal manifesto.  Perusing mine, not one item on it had anything remotely to do with work.

Highlights included:

1.      I want to live in 4 seasons

2.      I want an older house with a screen door

3.      I want the boys to be close to their families

4.      I want to have a dog again (Houston is hot and humid most of the time, and not a desirable outdoor clime for anything sporting fur).

At the end of the class, I tucked my list into my Franklin Planner, went back to work and proceeded to forget all about it

Flash forward a few years … Hubbs and I found ourselves outgrowing our cute little brick home. We realized we could afford a bigger house so off we went, gallivanting through open houses and poring over floor plans.  All of the homes we looked at were big and glorious and about 2 feet from each other.    Hubbs could sense my frustration and one night, sitting out under that big Texas sky, he asked me what was up. “All the houses are beautiful and you don’t like any of them. Why?”  I looked at him with total clarity and said, “I want to live in the 4 seasons again, with a screen door and a dog and have us be near family.”  He quietly commented that “we could do that in Michigan but that’s not possible.” And I said,“why not?”

And once we entertained the “why nots” it was like someone had given us the key to the kingdom.  We could feel the possibilities again.

His mother was ailing, his Step-Dad was overwhelmed trying to care for her and our boys, now 12 and 5 were at as good of an age as any to make a move. Our careers were going great but we figured we could get work anywhere.  We listed our house, sold it in 30 days, rented an apartment over the phone and gave notice to our companies.  They thought we were nuts but I’ve never been so sure of anything in my life.  At the last minute, my employer asked if I’d consider working remotely for a year while they went through a merger.  Consider? Heck yeah I’d consider it. 🙂

It was a sweltering June day 12 years ago that we shoved the last of our belongings into a 24 foot U-Haul.  Tears streamed down my face as we left our neighborhood behind; I drove the SUV – as packed with our suitcases and as many snacks  as a 5-year-old could hold.  Oldest boy, then 13, jammed his 6’2” frame into the truck cab with Dad for a bouncy, squeaky ride cross-country.  We had 2-way radios for communication between us.  Three days later, we rolled into Grand Rapids on a mild Michigan morning.  I’ll never forget that feeling; it was the feeling of coming home.

They loaded up the truck and moved to Beverlee … Hills that is … swimming pools, movie stars. {{}}

And now as I look back on that time, I marvel that we pulled it off.

I look at our boys and grin when I realize that they grew up knowing their family, enjoying the seasons, banging a screen door closed …  and loving on their dog.

When did you know something for sure?

Categories: Attitude, Determination, Family, Growth, Home, Life, Personal, Thoughts, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 61 Comments

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61 thoughts on “When you know for sure

  1. I don’t know if I’m “certain” of anything, short of our Lord, family and a few close friends. I love your story, thank you for sharing it. Great stuff. 🙂

    • I am certain of those same things, Rich Ripley. This was a story that, at the time, seemed ridiculous to many. It seemed right to us and, thankfully, it’s worked out – MJ

  2. I have a feeling, workshop or no, you would have still found your way home. Random thought: apple trees…aaah…Michigan has apples…and cherries.

    • Have I mentioned our house sits less than a mile from a 100 year old apple/cherry orchard? (working farm, original family owners) 🙂 MJ

  3. Love how you did this together… how the realization of what you needed came over the both of you and you made it work without doubts.

    My without a doubt moment was when I decided to make not working outside the home a possibility so I could be with my babies as they grew up.

    • Oh it was an exciting time! We made the decision in 99 and the move in 2000; we were at a point in our careers that we had some bills paid and a bit of $$ in our 401Ks and yes we took the hit to make this happen. We also both took pay cuts here and our housing costs way more … but the trade off was entirely worth it. I know that if something happened to either one of us, the other would stay here. Can’t say that about where we were.

      I loved your “without a doubt moment” and can see it paying off with your great relationship with your kids 🙂 MJ

  4. im on a cross road right now, and i wished my path forward was as optimistic as yours sounds

  5. When? Bout the time I couldn’t see my horse under me or my hand in front of my face halfway through that train tunnel. Ugh.
    Recently, I have learned: “It doesn’t have to feel good to be right but it has to be right to feel good” and that’s how I know something is for sure. Too bad I didn’t learn that one sooner.
    Family, four seasons, screen doors, kids and dogs..right on!

  6. Great post. I haven’t been reading anything lately so I was also surprised and pleased to see your lilacs.

  7. It’s amazing where a little faith can take you 🙂

    • Yes it is. We had those silly 2 way radios between vehicles; when we crossed the State line, I remember Hubbs’ deep voice over the airwaves saying, “Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to the great state of Michigan.” All four of us cheered 🙂 MJ

  8. Oh I have felt “for sure” several times in my life
    Marrying my husband
    Having my two children
    Working part-time while the Kids “grew”
    Watching my grand-children instead of having them in day-care
    Starting to write my blog
    Moving to the high desert to live out our days on a 1-acre ranch
    God Bless your courage

    • Yes, Yes, and Yes 🙂 Looking back, I have many “for sure” moments that are similar to yours. Thank you for weighing in, Susie!

  9. Love when it’s ‘for sure’ usually comes with a gut acknowledgement for me. Nice to move forward and not look back in regret.

  10. Love it, MJ. I had a dream about 2 months after meeting Sara that I had fallen in love with her. I woke up the next morning knoiwing we would spend the rest of our lives together. Admittedly, it’s only been 6 years–but she’s the best thing that has ever happened to me. Dreams really do come true.

  11. Awesome post, MJ! I’m lad ou followed your dreams 🙂

  12. What a wonderful story, MJ. When you know – you know.

  13. This is great, MJ! That’s a giant leap of faith, love the spirit of, “We can do this!” I can hear that screen door banging!

    • When I think of my prairie ancestors traveling thousands of miles to sights unknown … many with their worldly possessions on their backs .. I think .. how can we not? And yeah, those 2 boys have wrecked one screen door already; it banged shut so many times that the top hinge fell apart & we had to get another 🙂 MJ

  14. There have been a few times in my life when I held my breath and jumped right in without having any idea how deep the water was. Luckily, I can swim. Or at least paddle :-). Love your story of bravery and happy after.

  15. Great story, MJ. We both wrote about screen doors this week! 😉 I was sure when I married Motor Man.

  16. I can’t think of a personal story that relates to this, but I have a close friend who has just gone through discernment to become a minister, and he is experiencing exactly this same path. The “knowing” it’s right even though it is not the easiest, most financially sound or logical thing to do. He just knows the rightness of it.

    • Sometimes we just know and I think those are the instances that we should pay the most heed … despite the naysayers. MJ

  17. What a great tale of following your dream even though it seemed an uncertain path at the time. Wonderful.

    • It wasn’t without some adjustments … the first winter here, West MI rec’d 110 inches of snow between 11/13 and 12/25. HOLY DINAH I had never experienced that .. fun but OMG. Still .. I wouldn’t change a thing about it and I smile when I look back at our fearlessness and naivete. 🙂 MJ

  18. Loved your story! I must admit it caused some soul searching this morning. I/we have made several decisions that, in hindsight, I would not make again. Then I thought that all the things I’m sure about relate to love, not circumstances. Love of husband, family, friends…those I’m sure of. I’m so glad that your decision turned out well, and that it has been a rewarding choice. We’ve had those as well! But job/location decisions seem less predictable to me. Anyway, thank you for making me think and for sharing a sweet story with a happy ending. Can’t have too many of those! ~ Sheila

    • It definitely could have had a different ending, that’s for sure. And we’ve made many decisions we’d never make again, most of them having to do with $$ spent. But … at the end of the day … I love living here. I’m glad I made you think … ponder on sweet friend 🙂 MJ

  19. Sounds like you had the power of ‘vision boarding’ behind you even if it was just a list you physically wrote. How fortunate that you took that class. Your family seems truly happy with the move.

    • Making a list can be a powerful, powerful tool. I’m a list-maker, but the challenge has been putting MYSELF on the list .. this move was absolutely about “what do you want out of life and what are you willing to do to get it?”

      Cheers to you Renee!

  20. I loved this post, MJ. Isn’t it amazing how quickly things can change? And there are always those certain points in our lives when we simply know it’s the right time. We might not even know how we will do it, but we just forge ahead. Maybe it’s fate. You guys were meant to make that move at that time. I’m feeling I’m at that point right now in my life. And I’m ready for a big change!

    • Thank you, Darla …. It is amazing how quickly it can change and also at how quickly that thought, always lurking near the surface, bubbles over into an idea. You are right: we were meant to make that move at that time. We had 10 good years with Hubbs’ Mom before she passed and I wouldn’t change that for any 401K I used to have. I’m dying to find out what your big change will be 🙂 MJ

  21. What a great story, MJ! I can just picture you all cheering as you crossed the state line. It takes courage to just pick up and move and change your life. We did that too, when first I, and then my husband, resigned from the Air Force and decided to live in Arizona. It was scary and hard for a while, but we knew it was right.

    • True story, Jeanette. We did, indeed, cheer as we crossed the state line. We also cussed in parts of Arkansas when we stopped for the night, found our hotel, got out into the distinct smells of a beef feedlot next door AND found out it was a dry county. Hubbs and I really wanted a beer – heck we woulda shared one – but there were none to be had. We fell into bed out of sheer exhaustion. I’m so glad you had a similar experience with your move to AZ; you’re right, it’s scary, but sometimes I think we just have to push through the fear to get to the good stuff 🙂


  22. dugthomp

    i remember that truck. i remember driving it and unloading it. do you remember the first time we all got together at your appartment? i also remember how good it was to have you all back in our lives.

  23. Yes! I remember you and Bob helping to park it and to unload it and the first time you saw our youngest standing at the screen door of the “compartment” (as he called it) and you felt you were staring at your childhood friend – my hubbs. I do remember the first time all 6 of us + kids got together and it was a late, rowdy, unforgettable night :). It’s good to be back… Hugs, MJ

  24. alanamokma

    Ohmygosh, I LONG for this. I long to know for sure what we should do right now in our lives. We have no children, and both have jobs we could truly get anywhere. It seems every other week we are trying to figure out if we should stay in the area or move. I want that “know for sure” feeling!

    • Start with a list of what you don’t want .. sometimes making that one helps the priorities to bubble up to the surface. 🙂 MJ. I will say this .. when you know, you know with such a ferocity that everything else suddenly just falls away.

      • alanamokma

        interesting idea to start with what I DON’T want. I always try to focus on what I do want… I think Josh and I will have fun with this exercise. thanks!

      • my pleasure!

  25. What a great post! And I’m so happy you are living the life you wanted. I had a similar feeling when I left my job in March. Everyone asked if I was scared. What about money? And all that. But I was never more sure of anything in my life. I was not sad for a minute to leave and I know for sure I made the right choice.

  26. thank you for sharing this part of your life with us! I can feel the whoo-hoo’s as you crossed into Michigan. Can’t put a price tag on contentment.

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  31. “…it was the feeling of coming home” brought tears to my eyes, and this is the second time I’ve read this! The first time was two years ago. I’m glad you asked the “why not” questions.

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