Dear Sky Valley,
The website I used to frequently write for, PopBlerd!, had a column I loved called “Songs in the Key of Life.” In this column writers related a song to a moment in their life.
If you haven’t noticed, both songs have one significant theme (and word) in the song, “moving.”
Yes, Sky Valley, the Johnson 5 is leaving you.
For the past 22 years (minus the one year Lis and I tried to be “city folk” and lived in the Woodinville / Bothell area, and the four months I lived in Brazil with Lis), I’ve called the Sky Valley home. Twenty-two years, or 62-percent of my lifetime. That’s a pretty decent chunk of time.
I graduated in the Sky Valley, bought a house in the Sky Valley, owned my own business in the Sky Valley.
I thought I fell in love, fell in love, fell out of love and realized true love in the Sky Valley.
I found God, tried to ditch God and then got reacquainted with God all in the Sky Valley.
I had my first job, first kiss, and first (and second) kid in the Sky Valley.
All three of my kids said their first words and took their first steps in the Sky Valley.
I learned to drive, learned to love, learned to become a better writer (especially the last month or so, *wink, wink*) and learned to give back in the Sky Valley.
And I’ve built a lot of great friendships in the Sky Valley.
I know you’re wondering, “If we’ve done so much together Kevin, why are you and your family leaving us?”
It’s a long story, so we’ll keep it somewhat brief.
Last year we looked at moving our small insurance office to the east side of the mountains. We were trapped between two successful Nationwide offices (one being the biggest on the West Coast), we were located in a small town, there was no other office on the east side of the mountains.
We visited. We loved it. We decided to wait as we were still underwater (a lot of water) with this home loan. We waited too long.
A little over a year later and the east side was still in our thoughts. We again looked at moving our office, and days before we actually did, two other agents swooped in and stole our thunder. Still Nationwide thought it was the best decision – business-wise – for us to leave this small town and look elsewhere.
They looked at Hillsboro, Oregon. We looked at Hillsboro, Oregon. Hillsboro, Oregon didn’t feel right.
We looked at putting other offices in Bothell, Marysville, or further down south. Again, nothing felt right.
Meanwhile we struggled to make ends meet. Monthly income was often under our monthly mortgage payment. When looking to refinance or get assistance, financial advisors would chuckle, then ask “How the (blank) are you supporting a family of five on that?” My answer, “My wife does an amazing job at managing our money.”
And as we struggled financially, relationally we had struggles as well. Yada-yada-yada, the stress of owning my own business, and working alone, caused a lack of creativity, a dip in my interpersonal skills.
It ain’t easy starting an insurance office from scratch, in a small town, with poor signage, but it was a goal I longed to accomplish and thank the Butlers a ton for their immense support these last two years. It was a true blessing to work with them in attempting to achieve success. I have no regrets and no one, or nothing, but myself to blame.
However, after months, and months, and months of stress, frustration and financial hardship Lis and I decided it was time to pull the plug on both running our own satellite insurance office, and owning a home.
With the east side of the mountains still on our hearts and minds, a year and a half later, we decided to blow it up and start all over.
No, we don’t have family or friends over there. No, there wasn’t a dream job calling my name (though I tried a few places). Yes, I’ll still be doing insurance, but really my goal is to get into teaching, writing or youth ministry by completing school – finally.
We just really liked the area, liked the feeling that it was a close-knit community, liked that traffic there doesn’t mean the same thing as traffic here, liked that annual precipitation there is 16-1/2 inches and here it’s 99-inches, loved that the schools, elementary, middle and high, were all rated a 9-8-8 respectively on GreatSchools.org, loved that bike trails, parks and stores were five minutes away, and minor league baseball, movie theaters, Gonzaga basketball, and Buffalo Wild Wings were all 10 minutes away.
I know Sky Valley, you’ve been great to us, but sometimes it’s time to make a change. When my buddies went off to either college or the military I foolishly followed a girl around, spending all of my should-be-traveling money on gas, movies, and … I really have no idea! I’ve never been that far from “home.”
We’ve been through a lot Sky Valley. You’ve allowed me to become a better person. After Lis got sick you were there for us, and because of what her illness did to my life, we were able to work together to make a difference, not just within myself, but within the community.
It starts with the American Cancer Society’s Relay For Life. First, let me say, you’re welcome! Because of my partner-in-crime, Jerry “Big Dog” Dixon and myself you’re now the the ACS RFL of Sky Valley, NOT exclusively Monroe but “of Sky Valley.”
Lis’ victory over leukemia, thanks to prayers and support from friends and family, made me want to give back and for the past nine years I’ve participated heavily in 10 RFL events. And in doing so, it showed me a passion I had for wanting to give back and serve others. I have made wonderful memories and friendships from this event (SEE: Dixon, Big Dog), and leave knowing that I’ve put just a tiny stamp of “Kevin” on the future of this event (at least via the lip sync competition).
I look forward to joining and helping the event over there grow, knowing I can bring some experience to an event that is still in its infancy.
From the RFL I started to give back to my small church. The church I became a Christian in, the church that this Sunday, three days before we bail, I’ll be baptized in, by my Star Wars loving friend and Pastor, and the rest of my church family that I have spent 15 years with.
I started to give back first with events and then by taking over the youth program. I built amazing relationships with teens, and as much as I like to take credit for helping them grow in their faith, God knows that in all actuality, they’ve helped me grow more. I thank them for hanging out with me every Wednesday night for two years, and for helping me figure out that I may have found one of my spiritual gifts: The gift of hanging out and building relationships with yutes.
Thanks to the church and the youth group, Lis and I know what to look for when we begin our “new church” search. We want programs that our kids can get into, but programs that I may be able to assist with.
Once we were able to open an office in the community that we lived in, I was able to give back.
I became a Chamber member and then Chamber president (boy, was I way in over my head), I joined Toastmasters (and they too tried to make me president), I helped organize the rebirth of the Sultan Tree Lighting Festival, I coached a 3rd-4th grade basketball squad, I helped write the PTO newsletter, and I emceed the Monroe Fair Day’s Parade (multiple times) and the Sultan Lip Sync (and won twice!).
After my mom, I may miss this part the most Sky Valley.
I’ll miss how a small town like ours makes us all seem like we’re part of one big family. You know everyone that is out making a difference. I can consider the Mayor, and two of the pastors in town as friends, can wave “Hi!” to the school district Superintendent and the Sheriff has they drive by. I’m on a first-name basis with small business owners, the librarians, the dudes at the local tavern, the dudes that own the local taverns, and the principal of the elementary school. I even get a “What’s up Kevin?!” from the Highway 2 Freedom Runner as he steals honks from me in front of my office.
All this sounds silly, but when you’ve touched that many people in your life, and they’ve touched yours, it kind of makes you feel both special and maybe you’re doing something right.
Yes, this Sky Valley is what I’ll miss.
I feel I’ve made a small difference with you, and thanks to you and the experience you’ve given me, I feel I can make a small difference in my new community.
We’ve had a solid run Sky Valley. Twenty-one years. There’s been a lot of growing and maturing, and I thank you for laying the foundation for the person I’ve become.
Thank you very much Sky Valley.
In the words of The Jeffersons theme song, “We’re moving on up, to the east side…” And in the words of the Rascal Flatts song “Moving On” …
“I never dreamed home would end up where I don’t belong. I’m moving on.”
Goodbye Sky Valley. We love you and will miss you.