Paul has a preliminary interview with a school in North Carolina today. For Paul, quality of life is all about the geography. The town butts up against a massive wilderness refuge and he was satisfied. Nevertheless, he’s ambivalent about getting the job. Moving the family from one coast to another is a tremendous uprooting – we’ve no family, no friends, no connections — nothing to recommend us to the place. There’s just … work … and the geography.

Elsa wanted to look for a dress for her 8th grade graduation today. I sighed. It’s going to be hard to sever ties with Prineville, Oregon. The track team wants her to run the relay. The volleyball team wants her to travel to San Jose this summer to set for the 14s team. She wants to travel to Portland with the Honor Society in May. She wants to do all these things. Greta is beginning to form the bonds as well. She wants to run track this spring. She’s got a guitar recital in May. She wants to go to 6th grade outdoor school with her class.

Ingrid and Dagne are the perfect age for a major move. We were about to sign up Ingrid for Little League. When we mentioned a big trip around the states, she dropped the idea like a hot potato. “I want to travel and see things, Mommy,” she said. “I want to go camping and play outside!”

A few years ago, Elsa and Greta would have said the same thing. Now, they’re conflicted. It’s natural, I know, for older kids to start forming relationships outside their family, but it doesn’t make our present situation any easier. Moreover, some of the connections we have here are irreplaceable. Since sports are such a major part of our lives, we’re amazingly lucky with the coaches we have.

Tennis is usually a sport outside of our financial range, but with Lloyd, Elsa’s tennis coach, he fundraises and offers scholarships for those kids who are serious about tennis. He’s worked with Elsa since she was five or six – marking her as someone with talent. When I pulled up to her first tournament with my 15-passenger 1990-something van, I looked down the row at all the Volvos, Lexus’s, and Mercedes and wondered if I should turn around and leave. Now, I don’t worry about it so much. Apparently, money doesn’t always win. The parents stand around talking about investments and vacation homes. Then, they see Elsa play and they wander over to me to ask me about what club she’s associated with and who’s her coach. It always gives me a secret pleasure to point to Lloyd, about 5 ft. 3, with his farmer cap and wranglers on. Sometimes, he’s still got paint on him from the contracting work he’s done. Looks can be deceiving. Prineville always makes a terrific showing at the tournaments, thanks to Lloyd. It’s actually the most affordable sport the girls are involved in.

In our volleyball club, one of our teams is ranked 3rd in the nation. And the high school team just won their fifth state championship title – a record for all Oregon schools. It’s not even much of a competition anymore. Here in Prineville, volleyball state championships have become kind of … ho-hum.

For a sports-minded family, Prineville has been a lucky place to land. I didn’t even mention the dance studio, which used to be a passion for my girls, but eventually became unaffordable for us. Imagine the opportunities our girls have right here in Prineville – about the deadest town in the U.S.A. as far as employment.

It’d be easier to leave if the opportunities for our kids were less tempting, if the town was less friendly, if the coaches were less encouraging, less stellar, if they wouldn’t make it so easy for us. If the rest of Prineville were like its employment rate, we’d be long gone.

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