Inspired by a facebook friend I decided to make a post that is the condensed version of my life story. Many of my friends are newer and may not know much about my past. Here is the fly-by version.
I lived in a little town nestled between big towns, known as of Lake in the Hills, Illinois. My parents were poor when I was little, but the little I remember from my very early life is pretty ok. My dad died tragically when I was only 4 and my sister wasn’t quite 2. The resulting lawsuit bumped up our families net worth and our little family of 3 moved to a new house in Algonquin and soon I was in public school. After two terrible years of public school, I was moved to a catholic school, which was only slightly better. My school years were a weird mixture of good times and personal struggles. I was a total nerd and my only friends at school were the other nerds. We had good times. Outside of school I was friends with many of my cousins and we all played a lot of video games together.
We had a a lot death and tragedy in my family alongside my Mother’s chronic illness, that had her in and out of the hospital my entire life. Sometimes I would be randomly be picked up from school by my grandma or aunt or even my Mom’s friends I barely knew and they would care for us while mom was sick. Those times were really hard on me. I was in some kind of therapy on and off that I only remember hating. I struggled in school at times and at other times found school to be far too easy and boring. I would get A’s in half my subjects while being tutored so I could pass in the others.
I started skateboarding about age 12 when my maternal grandmother died and I got to spend some time with my older cousin who lived far away, but was in town for a while. I had seen skateboarding on TV and was drawn to it, but getting to skate with my cousin sealed it. I was hooked. I got a board and skated every moment I could for the next several years. Once I could skate ramps I lived at the local skateparks. Thanks to my neighbor I discovered WARP (skatepark) shortly after it opened and found a place where I felt I like I belonged. I spent my teen years at WARP or driving around to other parks and spots with my skater friends. When I was 14 we moved from Algonquin to rural Wonder Lake, IL. Not long after, my family doubled in size when my soon to be step-father moved in with my new siblings. I now had a second little sister and a younger brother, who became my live in skater friend.
I started in a Catholic High School, but after bullying and terrible teachers I moved to Woodstock High School. School was not a focus for me. I did enough to keep my parents and teachers happy, but was only invested in my music classes, in which I met this kid named Ace. We became friends though our various musical endeavors together. Life was busy between school, family, skating, and music. So why not add one more thing by going to the local evangelical youth group!? So that’s exactly what I did. And when I do things I do them hard. I was in deep really fast. They offered the deep kind of relationships I was missing and craving alongside answers to spiritual questions. My life really changed during my zealous Christian period. I quickly became part of the worship band and became a youth leader. By my senior year WARP had been sold to new owners with almost all of us who worked there quitting our jobs (I worked there as soon I was old enough to beg for a job, and boy did I beg). Youth group was my new community.
Ace and I had become close friends and started dating around the same time. After high school I went to one semester at NIU, then came home and did one semester at community college. Then I got a job (as a nanny for my pastor’s preschooler) and moved out. Ace and I had all sorts of drama in those years, and eventually he went away to school in Minneapolis and we kept dating long distance. After a year of working and doing some school on-line I decided to go to Bible College. Our youth pastor had started a new church, and I was very closely involved with that start-up. I was the kid’s person. I designed and organized the entire children’s program. I was on the fast track to becoming ordained. But Bible college had me deeply examining all my beliefs. I was deconstructing and rebuilding my theology and it wasn’t coming out how my church community had hoped. At the same time Ace was doing the same thing at a different school and every time he came to visit he would cause friction at church with his ever more progressive beliefs.
Ace came back from school for good and we got married in 2007. About a year later we were ready to move on from our church. Our beliefs just didn’t fit anymore. We couldn’t find anything remotely progressive or inclusive in our little town, so we just started inviting people over to have dinner and discussion in our (newer, bigger) home. It was pretty awesome. I could tell a lot of stories of what happened at Mosaic, but this is getting long already. Somewhere in there I graduated from school with my bachelors, got a bunch of dogs, worked at a doggy daycare, got my black belt in Tae Kwon Do, kept skating but not nearly as often and most importantly, my nephew was born!
Vincent’s birth was really what opened me up to having a kid sooner than I had originally planed. Ace and I wanted a baby and in 2010 he was born. It changed everything. I studied everything in depth and started radically changing my lifestyle to make it healthier for my baby. I quit eating sugar, I worked on cooking my own food more often. I stopped eating fast food. I learned how to love better than I’d ever loved in my life becuase I was in love with this tiny, fat, often screaming, human.
Ace had spent years working on and off in terrible retail jobs while never giving up on his music, but we needed something more stable, and Ace was considering opening a business. He even went back to school to learn the ins and outs of small business. His dream was a tea shop/small local venue. A safe space for young adults to share their art and get some drinks and snacks. But, did we want to be stuck in McHenry (which is where we lived now) for another 10 years? The answer was clearly “no”. So the search for a new home was on. Portland was quickly the front runner when we learned that my sister was considering a move to Portland as well.
Soon, both of our small families were packed into my car and visiting Portland. None of us wanted to go back to Illinois. We all took the next year figuring out how to move to Portland. In august 2012 we arrived in Portland for good. It was a new start, one we needed after the rough break-up with our old church. We wouldn’t have to run into people around town who would unintentionally break our hearts with the things they would say. McHenry was too small and too conservative for us to stay there, we felt like we didn’t fit. Here in Portland we fit.
Here there is a space for creatives like Ace. He decided to once again get a part time job and pursue his music. I tried to stay home with Mark, but we just couldn’t afford it for long, so soon I was sitting for friends and looking for another Nanny job. Luckily I found one that grew with me from 1 day a week, to 2, to 3, and sometimes 4. The job also grew from one child to two. It got hard, but I stuck with it for a long time and it allowed us to refinance our home and pay our bills. In the meantime Ace lost his part-time job and switched to music full-time. He’s now doing a combination of YouTube, original albums, cover albums, and freelance composition.
Last summer my job got to be more stress than I could handle. It was also becoming hard on Mark and it was clear that I needed to quit. Luckily I worked for awesome people and the timing worked well and I was able to leave without any hard feelings. We had a few really hard months and I had to sell a lot of stuff to help pay the bills while I wasn’t working. But by December Ace had found some more success with his music and since then we’ve been more financially stable.
I started doing childcare again this year, but I’m already moving away from it as I start my new business, Stronger Skatepark. Skateboarding has been the one constant in my life though all of this. I’ve been skating for 18 years now and here in Portland the skate scene is bigger and better than it ever was back in Illinois, even at its height in the early 2000’s. I’m passionate about helping kids get into skateboarding and helping parents support their kids. That’s why I’m devoting the next few years of my life to to this park. Portland needs it!
Next month I turn 30, and I feel like I’m finally really getting to know who I am. I’m not sure why it took so darn long, but I’m glad I’m here. And summing up 30 years in 1500 words isn’t too bad a skill. 😉