And Now For Something Completely Different

Big changes in my life, new look for my blog. It’s a thing.

A lot has changed since my last Big Life Update, but it’s not really a story for the Internet. The edited version is that over the past year or so I came to the realization that Anza was no longer the right place for me and the kids. I felt like Luke and Elizabeth weren’t getting the socialization they needed in that tiny, remote town, and they themselves had begun to chafe at the isolation and lack of stimulation. There’s a sort of cliff that too many teens fall off in Anza when they reach a certain age, with nothing at the bottom but drugs, alcohol, unplanned pregnancies and unhealthy relationships. While I didn’t necessarily see Luke or Elizabeth going that route, the town doesn’t seem to offer much in the way of constructive alternatives. Gardening isn’t the kids’ thing, and even I found myself with less and less time to tend the homestead as my writing and editing work picked up. And then Steve got engaged, reopened the child custody case, made some wildly unrealistic demands and accusations and generally created an unlivably hostile environment for us. It felt like time to leave.

The thing is, it’s not easy to get permission to move children out of state, or even out of their local school district, during a custody dispute. Especially in a situation where it appears to the casual observer as though the parent who is remaining behind has all the supportive resources (family, finances) and the parent who wants to leave has little to none. Any chance l had of getting permission to leave with Luke and Elizabeth rested on two things: their determination to be with me, and my ability to prove that relocating them was in their best interests. In other words, I had to demonstrate that the move would improve the quality of their lives, and that I wasn’t just obstructing their relationship with Steve out of spite. I took a long look at their needs and interests, and realized that what they really need is to live in full-blown civilization for a while, with stimulation and diversity and decent schools. When I mentioned this to Luke and Elizabeth, they got very excited and agreed that city life sounded like a fantastic change of pace. At least for a few years until they graduate, and then they can make an informed decision about where they want to live.

The court also looks at whether you have friends or family where you’re going, to provide social support. Once I ruled out the qualifying places that were too expensive, too rural or just not what we wanted, Dallas-Fort Worth was the obvious choice. We have friends who live in a family-friendly suburb right between Dallas and Fort Worth, with great schools, parks, libraries, museums, theaters and all of the urban excitement and entertainment that the kids could possibly want at this point in their lives within 20 miles in any direction. To put that into perspective, it’s a shorter drive from the center of Fort Worth to the center of Dallas than it is from Anza to Temecula where we used to do our grocery shopping. It’s a shorter drive (or walk) to Elizabeth’s new high school than it used to be just to get to a paved road and our mailbox.

Long story short, we got permission to leave, and our DFW friends said we could stay with them until we get acclimated to the area and find an apartment. We made the move about two weeks ago.

Part of me worried that we would get to DFW and realize that we had made a terrible mistake. But we had the opposite reaction — it was love at first sight. We are living in a beautiful suburb of a beautiful city. We love everything about it (except for the freeway systems, but that’s another story).

A few first impressions. In California, hardly anything is built with brick. Earthquakes shake brick buildings apart unless they’re built to all sorts of special codes and regulations. So if you see a brick building in SoCal, you can assume that a fair amount of money went into its design and construction.

In DFW, nearly everything is made of brick. They build for hail and tornadoes here, not earthquakes. So I see all these charming, beautiful brick homes and businesses and my SoCal brain subliminally interprets it as wealth. To add to the impression, DFW is very green and woodsy. In SoCal grass and trees are a sign of prosperity, since someone has to plant and water them. So I feel like I’m living in a really upscale area, what with all the grass and trees and brick architecture. It’s gorgeous, and we love it.

We’ve spent the past two weeks in a frenzy of moving, getting the kids enrolled in their new schools, choosing our favorite public library (there are four within five miles of where we live), switching over car insurance and whatnot, and generally settling in as newly-minted Texans. I’m boarding Mahogany in Anza while I find a place for her here, and that search has so far been the least-successful part of our move. Stables in this area seem to be divided into two types: full to capacity or prohibitively expensive. I’m having to look farther afield than I had hoped, but I’m sure the right place will turn up.

Meanwhile, Luke turned 13 last week, and he requested a trip to the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History.

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He has complied a list of all the local museums he wants to visit — there are tons of them in DFW — and we plan to eventually work our way through all of them.

There is a river called the Trinity that runs through both Forth Worth and Dallas. The kids and I have challenged ourselves to find out if it’s possible to hike every mile of it between Lake Worth on the west side of Fort Worth and Gateway Park on the east side of Dallas over the course of a year. Friday we made our first exploratory investigation, and hiked this bit of it in the middle:

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That’s about one mile of riverbank. I can see that this project will work better if we can arrange drop-offs and pick-ups, so we don’t have to backtrack every stretch of river that we hike.

Hiking trails in the Metroplex are a little more domesticated than we’re used to, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

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So that’s the short version of events. My long-term goals involve getting back into growing food on a smaller scale and finding a comfortable compromise between urban convenience and rural simplicity. My philosophies haven’t changed, only my surroundings. I’m curious to see how much of the homestead lifestyle I can realistically recreate here in the Metroplex.

Tomorrow: Six Flags Over Texas!

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