3 Common questions I am asked, is how long have you lived here? where did you come from? and how did you end up in Ashland? The answer is not short, but I will attempt to tell the story here.
7 years ago, after two life-changing events when we were living in Philadelphia, PA, Ashley and I decided we needed to make a change of address. We needed to move.
The first event was finding out how polluted the water in the Schuylkill River Trail was after having my daughter play in it and the second was being threatened by a man in an oncoming car when walking my daughter to the park in Philadelphia.
My daughter was sick for weeks after the first event, and experiencing the fragility of my daughter's little body to the pollution of the water, made me feel angry and helpless. It was so overwhelming to me at the time, that I set my intent to find a place where my daughter could play freely in the clean and fresh water.
The second event was even more demoralizing, I was walking my daughter to the park on the side of the road without a sidewalk and a man swerved at us. I was shocked and I raised my arm in a demonstrative way. This infuriated the man, and he got out of the car and he threatened to kill me. What was I to do with my little daughter as the man threatened me, not even noticing I was walking a stroller? 10 years before I would have confronted him, now I knew my only choice was to slowly walk away. It was like seeing a bear, who had been hibernating all winter, ferociously ready to devour his prey. I took one step at a time, in the most peaceful and non-threatening way. As I made enough distance I turned the stroller around to hear him yell, that if I wrote his license plate down "he would find and kill me."
It was time to make a change. This was not going to be easy, but I realized there was no turning back.
Months later we found ourselves visiting Eugene, Oregon to finalize a job for my wife and find a place to live. However, everything felt off. The company was nice, but it did not feel like home and for the life of us we could not find a single place to live for our price range. We finally decided after endless searching throughout our visit to just go for a ride. We ended up 3 hours south in Ashland, Oregon. We pulled off the highway and drove into town. Upon our arrival, we came to the Ashland, Plaza where there were an organic juice and salad bar. After finishing our delicious meals, we walked along the creek the Plaza runs beside to find a Pride Parade underway. The joy of the people drumming, singing and dancing was just too much. The wings and rainbows were so much fun! There was so much love and joy here. The LGBTQ+ community is so inclusive and happy we I felt at home.
Then we walked through the magical park to the playground, and I was overtaken with a state of joy. There were kids in the creek and running joyfully around the playground. This was going to be home, other than the obvious problem that we had spent months planning and preparing for a move to Eugene. It was one of those moments, where you just have to trust your heart and not your logic. My wife looked up jobs on craigslist and found an opening in her field. We took a leap of blind faith and threw all our plans to the wayside and said yes to this calling in our hearts.
My wife interviewed and was offered a job in Ashland within a week and we gave the movers a new address. Magically within two weeks, we were living along that creek, and the rest is history.
Yesterday, we were walking to the park and realized the Pride Parade was today, 7 years to the day of our first visit. We went and played in the leaves at Lithia Park along the creek and met a beautiful family from San Fransisco who joined us in throwing leaves up in the air and having them fall all over us. They had been coming to Ashland for over 15 years, but this marked the first time to bring their daughter. She was the same age as my daughter was when we moved here. Seeing her innocence and joy, made me realize all that had transpired. I was again overwhelmed by what life we had brought us. The little girl was so excited to play with my daughter and my son who was born here in our home in Ashland just a year after we arrived.
Then we walked over to the Pride Parade, and we found signs, T-shirts, and voices full of love and inclusion. The messages were "love is love' and "this is what love looks like", after 7 years in Ashland, it is home. My kids play all spring through fall in the creek and they ride their bikes to school. It is safe and happy. We shop at the Ashland Food Cooperative, with all organic food, which is one block from our office and two blocks from our home. Ashley no longer commutes for two hours a day to the office in Philadelphia, working 50 plus hours a week. She owns her own business and works just under 40 hours. She has a five-minute walk down our street to get there.
She is the best Husband I could ever ask for, and I am the best Wife she could ask for, we have mixed roles to the domestication we were raised in. The Truth is that we are just people, two people who chose each other, to be life partners together. The fact that I am a man and she is a woman is irrelevant. I trust her with all of my being. She has helped me discover myself. I am a stay at home Dad, who teaches people to love and accept themselves.
As I watched our friends in the parade, who are clients and members of our community, I felt at peace. Two life-changing events which could have created anger and resentment for the rest of my life fueled courage to make a change, which started with us. Coming to Ashland challenged me as a stay at home Dad, and although the environment changed to clean water and a happy community, the real work began. I had to come to accept my choice to stay home with my kids. So many times, I have questioned, if I was a failure. I have no career or accomplishments to rest my hat on, but I have a life, which I am so grateful for.
This was an outward journey to fight my mythological dragon, to overcome my inner demons. We all have to accept ourselves for who we are and not who we wish to be. I know today that I say yes to me. I say yes to this community I live in, to my Ashley's courage of starting her own business in such a small town and succeeding.
The Pride Parade makes me so happy, to me, it symbolizes the truth and power of love and acceptance of who we are. For that, I am speechless and full of Love. Thank you for listening to our story, may it inspire you to accept your own.
If you can't accept your current story, may it inspire you to create a new one!