There's an old Chinese curse that goes: "May you live in interesting times."
By the Chinese measure, then, we are definitely cursed and for me and mine, 2007 was a very "interesting" year.
This time last year, we were comfortably settled in our big old house in Thorntown, Ind. We had money in the bank from the sale of my parents' house and were looking forward to using some of it to build a two-car, two-motorcycle garage with an upstairs photo studio and office and planned to expand our wedding and portrait photography business.
Maria was closing out an excellent year as managing editor of the Crawfordsville Journal Review, having won a wheelbarrow full of awards at the National Newspaper Association and Hoosier State Press Association contests. And we figured 2007 would be even more professionally rewarding for her.
Twelve months later, nearly everything in our lives has changed. Our garage/studio project blew up in our faces and our trusted contractor ran off with about $15,000 of the proceeds from my parents' house, after taking about $20,000 and leaving us virtually nothing to show for it.
We had a bridezilla who pretty much put me off of wedding photography for the rest of my natural life.
The departure of Karen, Maria's award-winning page designer, plunged us both into about six months of long days and nights at the newspaper, often adding up to six-day weeks and pretty much sucked the fun out of working there.
Then Maria got a call from a corporate head-hunter in Cincinnati who was helping the Jonesboro Sun search for a managing editor. Maria wasn't interested in moving to Arkansas and neither was I, but she decided to play along to see how marketable her skills were.
She's already been offered the top editorial job at another Indiana newspaper, but turned it down because the upper-level management was blind to the problems that were taking the paper down the toilet.
Maria was invited to Jonesboro for an interview and we drove down on Aug. 10 to get our first look at this place. I was strongly opposed to leaving Indiana and couldn't conceive of living in Arkansas. I wanted to dislike Jonesboro and I think Maria did too. But we didn't. It turned out to be a pleasant place full of nice people.
A few days later, Maria got a job offer. Emotional attachments aside, accepting the offer and moving to Arkansas was the only logical choice. The job at the Sun was filled with opportunity and things were only getting worse at the JR, with no sign of improving.
So she took the job and we rendezvoused here on Labor Day - she driving down from Indiana and me riding my motorcycle here after a week in the Rockies with my BMW Club friends - and began our search for a house.
Realtor Stan Dacus must have shown us 40 houses over the next few weeks until we found this place between Goobertown and Buck Snort and knew immediately that it had everything we'd been looking for, and more.
It's about 12 minutes from Maria's office and 4 minutes, 52 seconds from the nearest liquor store. That's significant, because we live in a dry county and the nearest liquor store is across the county line to the north. There's a large fenced back yard for the dogs, a big garage for the bikes and (when we get the boxes unpacked) the cars. The place is only two years old and virtually maintenance-free, in stark contrast to the money pit house in Thorntown.
And the weather is much nicer here - about 10 degrees warmer than in Indiana on any given day, with more days of sunshine than we had in Thorntown.
It was cold (30s) and rainy today in Indiana, but I went for a nice long motorcycle ride this afternoon in sunshine and 57 degrees.
At this point, the only scary loose end is getting the Thorntown house sold before the double house payments and Indiana winter heating bills wipe out our equity.
Yes, life here in northeast Arkansas is good. While Maria's family is still in Indiana, I have little left to tie me to the Midwest. My son Steve, his wife Nicky and daughter Lisa moved from Cincinnati to Las Vegas about the same time we moved here in a similarly unexpected relocation.
So with Steve in Vegas, Sean and Ruth in Portland and us in Arkansas, all of my DNA is west of the Mississippi.
But it still blows our minds that it happened so fast.
Every now and then, we wake up in the morning, look at each other and say,"What are we doing in Arkansas. How in the fuck did we end up here?"
Yes, it's been a very interesting year. It's our hope that 2008 can be an "interesting" year for someone else - maybe for friends in Indiana who we hope will join us on our Mid-South adventure.