Thursday, May 24, 2012

Choose Your Own Adventure

image credit: here

There is a temptation to make it sound more dramatic than it was, but here is the truth: three years ago, Mr. V and I went to lunch at the Cherry Cricket. When our bellies were full of cheeseburgers and pale ale, we walked around Cherry Creek on a copper-bright autumn afternoon and I told Mr. V to quit his job and take another, thus reducing our income by half.

I know.

It was a good time in our lives, our girls yummy and adorable at 3 and 5, our neighborhood in Denver full of parks and libraries and Starbucks, our grocery budget roomy. But despite our urban splendor and abundance of farmers market vegetables, Mr. V was miserable. He was in a corporate management job that he hated, where all day he took calls from people who were so upset no one else had been able to calm them down, and look, even if Mr. V managed that task, they never told him thank you. Feeling the strain his unhappiness placed on our family, I encouraged him to follow his dreams by. . . taking a class on brewing. Naturally! He'd been home brewing with a friend for years, and this level of spousal support was easy for me to manage. He took the course at night, while I was at my beloved bookstore job or sleeping. I patted myself on the back for being such a good wife and Mr. V learned ridiculous things about mash tuns and worts and all kinds of chemistry terms that I can't even begin to guess at.

I mean, honestly. Well done, me.

But hold your applause. To my stupid surprise, after the course Mr. V got an actual job offer at a brewery in Longmont that made one of our favorite beers: Dale's Pale Ale.

I have always been dreamy. I'd spent a lot of time watching Oprah and reading Martha Beck and telling my husband and myself that it was paramount we follow our dreams. This was easy to say at the time, as I had no idea what it actually meant. I thought of the whole process as rather like a wishing well: fast results, immediate worldly success. Mr. V supported my dreams by spending almost every Saturday and Sunday morning with the girls so I could go out and write for hours. Now Mr. V had an opportunity not to be a brewer, but to work on the canning and packaging line at a brewery he really loved. It was time for me to make good on all that talk.

He'd be earning a single digit amount an hour.

To make it work, we'd have to move out of the neighborhood I loved and move in with his mother and teenage sister and brother.

Thinking about it now, I still can't believe it, but we did it. On a chilly Halloween, we packed up our house, said goodbye to life as we knew it, and fell asleep that night, after trick-or-treating, in a bedroom that shared a wall with the room my mother-in-law had decided to share with my daughters.

If you are thinking, Cozy!, know that I am thinking about all the once placid pioneers who used to go mad over cabin-bound winters and murder each other, which should give you some idea as to how our winter went.

It was one of the most difficult times Mr. V and I had ever faced. Mr. V took the car to work and I spent long days alone with the girls in a home that wasn't my own, never certain when his mom would be in and out from her job or the teenagers would show up with crowds of loud friends and decide to turn up the amp on the electric guitar. There were seven of us in a four bedroom house and it was often untidy and crowded and maddening.

During the dire cold nights of that winter, the house, I kid you not, heated by a wood-burning stove to save money on bills, our faith began to waver. We considered moves to Arizona, Oregon, Montana, New Mexico. I gave up on the dream over and over again, called uncle, told the universe I'd had too much. "We followed the dream," I clearly remember saying to Mr. V one terrible night. "Now let's follow the money."

When we couldn't bear it another minute, a shot in the dark paid off and suddenly Mr. V expected a job offer from the great Brew Dog. I started researching immigration to the UK and we were ready to move to the northern-most tip of remote Scotland. I wanted this very badly. I imagined myself in wellies, walking a misty coastal landscape to a tiny general store to buy haggis and tea.

Just before Mr. V was set to leave for a two-week interview/informal training session, Oskar Blues offered him a promotion. We took it rather than moving to Scotland to earn just above minimum wage. We moved out of his mom's house and into a tiny house in Longmont that I was ashamed of. I didn't have anybody over for a year. In some ways, life was harder then than it had been at his mother's, because I expected things to be better by now. Limited intangible dreams to an arbitrary clock and got mad when they didn't arrive on time. Then one day, just in time for Christmas, Mr. V went to a company party expecting beer and little smokies and came back with a bonus and a raise.

Now I see that those things I thought I wanted--corporate securities, Mr. V in jackets and ties, a mortgage in Denver--never would have fit us well. Right now Mr. V works for a company I love, where employees skateboard around from the brewery to the "Anti-Corporate Office"; a company that lets me take the employee's free yoga classes, that gave away a car at Christmas to the company's longest standing employee. It was worth it, it was so worth it, all that time spent wandering in the dark to land here, in the sun.

Ships come in on their own damn time is all I know for sure.

My one regret is that we didn't get to move to any of the places we'd talked about moving to. I have an adventurous heart. Colorado is gorgeous, but I've lived here thirty-one years and I've always wanted to live somewhere else. It's a dream I'll never let go of. I want to see every last thing in this world.

A few weeks ago, we learned that Oskar Blues is expanding to Brevard, North Carolina.

Mr. V and I are flying out this weekend to have a look.


  1. WOW. This is so exciting! I often worry that my dreams are so exhausting for my husband. He does not feel this way - he believes in them so fully that it makes me weep. He has been the one to say to me - "Follow your dream! Be happy!"

    It takes a brave spouse to say those words.

  2. I guess I should have added that Noah has worked two jobs for 18 months so I can write. But I don't know, I thought it was getting long.

  3. I didn't think 'crazy' but i did think brave as bloop. Holy bloop.

    That was a great story. Although, i have to admit i like having a little window into life in Colorado. It's a great place. Regardless however, i hope you get to satisfy your yen to travel. The Rockies will be there for a long, long time, that's for sure.

  4. Our grandparents lived in Brevard for years. I have incredibly fond memories of that place because it's beautiful, and it's where I decided that I wanted to play music (my own little dream that I'm never sure if I should follow...).

  5. My husband would like to do the same thing - go to school for brewing, that is. He has also been a homebrewer for years, and is quite good, invents his own recipes from scratch, makes his own yeast, etc. Last week we did our own 30 gallon batch.
    He doesn't want to go into business by himself, but the classes are so expensive! What would you recommend? Can you help us with some suggestions at all?

  6. Hi Anon! Noah went through the Siebel Institute of Brewing and Distillery. I don't know if that was essential, not everyone he works with has a certification. Your husband's best bet is probably to apply like mad and take any job he can get at a brewery--Noah started out on the canning line. It was hard but worth it in the long run. Just don't do it for the money :) Best of luck!

  7. Brevard is beautiful....
    the mountains in that area are no Rockies, but there is some snow in the winter and summers aren't TOO hot (as they are in the rest of North Carolina)

  8. Ooh. My heart belongs to the Rocky Mountains, but as you know we ventured out several years ago. We didn't follow a dream, though. Against all kinds of advice, we followed the money to Phoenix. When I'd had enough, we followed a bit of a dream to Austin.

    I can't wait to hear what you think of North Carolina and hope if you move, you don't do it before I can see your face in Colorado!

  9. Great story! And how exciting, going away for the weekend, checking out a new place, dreaming of what could be, might be, trying to picture yourself somewhere else, etc. Have fun!!

  10. Dear Anon, it turns out the Siebel Institute and the Institute of Brewing and Distillery are two different places, and Noah says the Institute of B & D was cheaper.

  11. This post made me so happy.

    I've been lucky enough to be surrounded by people who believe in the importance of following their dreams, especially my husband. And I love that. I believe in the maxim. But damn if sometimes the road isn't long and full of anxiety.

    He and I are not on the edge of a move, but on the edge of other things, so I can relate to much of what you share here. Thank you for adding a few drops to the well tonight. Dreams are good, good things. :)


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