One year ago, my husband, Justin, and I sold our house in Houston. We had been looking for a different house for over a year. With nothing hitting the spot, we decided to step out onto the ledge, and just sell. When we still couldn’t decide on a new home, we took up residence with my parents to think for a bit.
Caveat: We have six children, four adults “mostly” out on their own, and two little boys; Sam (11) and Charlie (9.) So, we means Justin, myself, Sam, and Charlie.
It was something different, and my parents live on a lake in North Houston. Water is life to me. Having a view of the water or being able to walk out into the water feeds my soul. So, being at my mom and dad’s was a fun break and a blissful seat on the dock. Nearly every day I found myself on that dock, my toes skimming the water. I love that lake. And, Houston’s explosive cloudy displays, are like a brand new range of mountains every seven seconds. They look fake or alive or both.
Out on the dock I would talk to the Universe out loud and list all the things I believed were important for us in a new home. The moon on the water brought me so much, legitimate joy, I was tempted to sleep where I landed. However, I’m also kinda fancy and like my own guest bed.
We made the most of our time living on the second floor of my mom and dad’s house. Not just reveling in the natural beauty of the lake and gigantic pines, but visiting, cooking, swimming, and resting. For a while it was ideal, and it stayed darling. But we all knew we would eventually need our own space.
My parents traveled to the French Riviera for three weeks in June. While they were away, Justin and I did some upgrades on their house. Still in limbo ourselves, we had THREE storage units. I “shopped” some of our things to bless my parents, and barely made a dent in the madness of stuff stored. Every time we would go to the storage units I would start to heave with panic. As the huge metal door rolled up and this mountain of stuff sat stacked to the ceiling with what I did not know looming over me, I would just pant with anxiousness. And this is what I said every single time Justin would open the storage door, "What is it? What is this stuff?”
I didn’t want it. And I didn’t want to put it in another mediocre location, call it home until we changed our minds, and hauled it to the next stop. The one thing I knew was I just wanted it all to go away. Granted that sounds like I am cold as ice, but I wasn’t considering getting rid of all of it. I mean I would keep some photos, maybe our wedding album.
However, I felt wholly unattached and unafraid to let go of… everything.
In July we went to Hawaii to visit our son, Luke, who is a student in Honolulu. With nowhere to be, we extended our stay from three to six weeks. “The four of us” is a new concept since Maggie, John, Luke, and Sophie, are no longer living with us. I admit, it was fun. I learned that when you walk into a restaurant with two children, rather than what could be a university basketball team, you are readily seated. And they don’t send an armed guard to monitor the buffet.
During our stay in Honolulu, we had a two-bedroom Air BNB with four plates, four forks, and four towels. It was tidy. I felt like I felt when my parents left me in San Angelo, Texas in 1991 to attempt to go to college. It felt new and exciting. Don’t get me wrong, I love my first batch of kids, the Originals, as we call them, who were all still at home when we adopted Sam and Charlie. But so much has changed - and Justin and I were not sure how to maneuver the next phase. Let’s face it, we are 50-something, and parenting is not for suckers.
So, sitting on the balcony of our high-rise, rented condo, Justin and I began to discuss what we wanted the next years of our lives to look like. We came to the conclusion we had no precise idea. However, we did know to parent Sam and Charlie effectively whilst keeping our sanity, we needed a plan.
I had just finished my fifth Women’s Non-Fiction book, an illustrated devotional, 90 Days Stress Free: Renovating the House that Worry Built. And things were on track with the publisher for me to start creating more art for the project. I had also just launched my first fiction novel, Five Minutes on Charles Street. Justin’s role as my business manager was quickly growing into quite a thing. While in Hawaii, we learned that another piece of my art was showing up in more stores around the country. We were excited but not distracted. It didn’t feel like we were on vacation but more like we were finally home. We worked and the boys did school every day that we were on the island. When the afternoon rolled around and math facts were checked and art was submitted, we were outside. The four of us were either in the ocean, by the ocean, or climbing a mountain to see more of the ocean.
Two days before our return to Texas, Justin and I sat on the lanai watching the sky explode in a kaleidoscope of magic over the Pacific when I said; “I don’t want to move to Hawaii. It’s too far from our other kids, it feels too big, too drastic.” Neither of us spoke for a few minutes, but when we did, it was in definitive tones.
We would go back to Texas and purge our lives of everything because we were moving to Hawaii no later than February 19, 2023. We have been married for almost 31 years, I don’t know that we have ever been so entirely sure of something. Which probably says something about us and the births of our biological children. I’m not sure what it says, but something.
In October we would drive from Houston to New York to visit our daughter, Sophie. We would stay at a BNB for a month and help Sophie settle more into her Manhattan life. Then we would return to Texas for the holidays. And then… we would cut our belongings down from three storage units to one 8x10 unit. We would give away truckloads to family and friends. We donated so much to Good Will we had an assigned parking spot. We had a few moving sales and when the dust had cleared, we went through the last of what we thought we wanted to keep, and we got rid of that too.
I won’t speak for Justin ( well, all of the time,) but it felt brave and adventurous to just let it all go. And before we knew it we stood in front of seven suitcases and one ENORMOUS canvas duffle which held my easel. One of the suitcases was completely full of Legos. Another held only a few sentimental pieces and some kitchen items we love. The rest of it was some of relevance, but stuff is stuff when you are unattached.
We would ship only one item, Stolen Jesus. The picture I stole from a YMCA which inspired the title of my first book, “Stolen Jesus: An Unconventional Search for the Real Savior.” I set an alert on my phone with United for four one-way tickets to Oahu.
We were purged, primed, and ready.
There was only one issue left unresolved. Where we would live when we arrived on the island.
And this is when the What if Wow life magic really revved up…
Keep in mind I have been deep in writing and creating for over two years about believing in something bigger, more wonderful than we could imagine. During that time I continued to practice the methods I shared in my last two non-fiction books, Well, Girl and Rest, Girl. And I created another practice with the 90-Day Devotional and another for families, The Digital Peace Pact, with my writing partner, Katie M. Reid.
The Digital Peace Pact was the crowning jewel and added to our family’s now habitual practice of What if Wow. But the catalyst for letting go and taking this huge risk? What if Wow! And Love or Fear? Love or Fear is a fundamental teaching in the Digital Peace Pact.
In Rest,Girl I first shared the What if Wow! Practice. Basically, it is capturing worst-case scenarios and desperate grabs at peace for the feel-good endorphins of something extravagant to teach the brain what it means to believe in something and EXPECT better.
So Justin and I did this with every worry. Instead of: What if it is a mistake and we are stuck in the middle of the Pacific Ocean with two little boys and no belongings?!? We would pick our highest, most hopeful words to express what we wanted (love) over what we didn’t want (fear.)
Wow, wouldn’t it be perfect if we could step into the footprint of a family leaving the island? And wow! What if we could buy their furniture? Then we could land and just start living! And we wouldn’t have to junk up the island! We can really show the boys how essential it is to treat the island with tender care!
And this settled our minds a wee bit, but then the holidays were over. Justin flew back to New York with Sophie to get her further settled before our departure. I’ll be honest, I was starting to panic. But I reached for my What if Wow journal and sorted it out.
Wow, what if we could step into the footprint of another family, buy their furniture, and just start living? And wow, I would love to have a mango tree! With twinkle lights! A lanai with a view of the ocean would be wonderful! Oooh! And what if we were within walking distance to the beach?!? I would love to have a room for the kids to come visit, one that is private. And wow! It would be so cool to have an art studio with a sink! I have always wanted a house with a kitchen on the second floor, with sliding doors that open the whole house to the lanai! Wow, it would be a dream come true to have a gourmet kitchen with gas appliances and a pot filler.
I did this for three days as I drifted off to sleep. And some might say that it’s silly or nonsensical. But I would argue, worry doesn’t serve any better. On the third night after the wow rotation, I woke at 3:44 am with the thought LUXURIOUS.
Now, the house I was what if wowwing, was just an idea, a list of wishes if you will. Honestly, our budget was not so “gourmet kitchen with an art studio and private guest entrance,” and more like “studio apartment, hot plate, common toilet in the lobby.”
Well, by Hawaii costs anyway. But, I jotted the note to self in my WOW journal, “LUXURIOUS.”
The next day, Justin and Sophie were out doing Big Apple things when I got an alert on my phone. LUXURIOUS must-see!
Of course, we couldn’t see in real life. But, when we learned that the family currently living in the house was leaving the island and wanted to sell us their furniture, things got WOW fast. I called Justin, who was on the Staten Island Ferry with Sophie, and told him, “I think I found our house.”
I grappled with this post. I know it sounds like a lot of white girl - hippie talk. But I feel it is important. What we think, what we believe, and what we truly know - require some effort and understanding. When you change your mind, everything changes. And I am committed to writing these life truths and making everything I share a blessing.
The family whose foot print we stepped into, set us up beyond anything we could have imagined. Their generosity, which was exceedingly more than what we purchased, has been a humbling and precious gift. We have teased that this house is magic. Recently I said, “I need to get some popsicle molds from the store so we don’t waste smoothies.” Moments later, I opened a drawer, and inside, popsicle molds. There has been hardly a thing we gave away that wasn’t here waiting for us.
I love that. And I love to be in tune with what is for us and what is not.
So, we bought four, first class, one-way tickets to Honolulu. (I'll explain the first class part in a future post, but it is actually a pretty neat hack.) Everything went off without a hitch. Well, until we landed, but I’ll save that for another time as well.
We arrived at our new house after midnight. Fell into beds that were all but turned down for us. Early, like oh my gosh - SO early the next morning, while the boys slept, Justin and I tiptoed around our new place.
I wasn’t surprised to see a lighted mango tree. I knew about that. I knew it was one block up from our favorite beach. And I knew it had magnificent views with an open air concept out onto the enormous lanai - one of two lanais. But I didn’t know the details of an apartment, with an art studio with a sink or the private guest room with an en-suite. When we realized the enormity of the space, and the details we’d been blessed with, we were speechless. Justin had reminded me that Hawaii doesn’t have natural gas, so, although my kitchen was on the second floor, my gourmet gas kitchen and pot filler was a pipe dream. Still, I was excited to see the kitchen.
Justin fumbled for the lights and then swung around, his arms wide. “Jami, I’m going to need you to remain calm.”
Gas appliances - converted to propane and a pot filler. I was somewhat calm. Since the beginning of our house tour and our arrival in the kitchen, I legit sprained my ankle. Which is also another story for another time.
However, now I can say: MY HOUSE IN HAWAII HAS A FREAKING POT FILLER!
And an office, which I barely considered, but was one of Justin's "wow must haves." The front door is stunning and although it wasn’t on my WOW list, doors are a regular obsession of mine. In fact, every section in my upcoming book, 90 Days to Stress-Free has one of my watercolor door paintings in it.
I am here to testify. One Wow at a time, we can take back our minds and take back our lives, relationships, careers, homes, faith, everything. We can take back everything. I am glad you are here. I have a lot of new words bubbling up. If you have been on my website before, you’ll notice things are very different. I will explain in posts to come. If you are new here, I hope you will stick around, please subscribe to my email. I am looking forward to sharing so many adventures and experiences with you.
Friend… It is just getting good.
Love, light and Jesus be all over you! Jami
GO GO GO - Grab your copy of the Digital Peace Pact and the Check your selfie supplement on Amazon! This super fun workbook has changed everything for my family and Katie's. We are so proud to share it with you!