I didn’t have to make the decision by myself after all.

I called Paul to wish him a happy birthday. He’s 39 today. After the girls and I sang to him, he got down to business.

“I’ve been thinking,” he said. “I know that if you took that job there’d be about three months of all-out-war with those boys and then they’d figure out you mean business and they’d start learning and then you’d fall in love with them and you’d rise to the top like you always do.” He paused and I agreed with him that … after awhile, the job would grow on me. Giving begets loving.

“But,” he continued, “you want to be home with the kids and I want you to be home with the kids. We’ve done this all before. There’s nothing for me in Prineville. If Prineville wanted me, they’d have given me a job, but they didn’t. I’d just wait around at home being depressed again.” I agreed with him here, too. I added that Robin had called and said the same thing. She said,

This is so last year.

We’ve tried this before. I work full time, but my salary doesn’t really cure the problem. We’re all miserable. Paul does the dishes and cooks the meals and cares for us, but all the while, he’s sinking, sinking, sinking. At least, once a week, I get down on my knees and pray for a way out, for a way to make home, home. I want to be the hub of the wheel of the family, the heart of the home. There’s a quiet desperation, a thin veneer over waves of despair.

This opportunity is old hat. It’s a hampster wheel — a lot of work and going nowhere.

I confess to Paul, “I was going to decide this by myself, but I’m glad you helped me. I’m glad you confirm what I was planning to do anyway. I’m supposed to know thyself. I’m being untrue to who I am if I go back to work full time. I’ve sworn that I won’t do it unless we’re starving and we haven’t gone hungry yet.”

I’ll help with the income, but family is first. In this culture, in the days we live in, I know that I can’t erect the shining barrier around our family if I’m away from them most of the day. I must hold fast to the timeful life.

“I like it out here,” Paul said. “It’s like Intervention and Mountain Classroom, but it’s on the water.” He said this while floating on the Nak-Nek river. He talked about opportunities in Kenai. I said I’d be willing to come.

“We’ll figure it out,” he said. He’s got work until October. Alaska doesn’t seem to be feeling the recession like Central Oregon is.

We both took a deep breath and the feeling of understanding and agreement passed across the air thousands of miles away.

“Good,” Paul said. “Now I can get back to thinking about you naked instead of figuring out what we’re supposed to do.”