The Real Reason We Left California

This is MY house for always.  I know the deed says otherwise but it knows it and I know it even if the people living there don’t know it.  We restored it and loved it and made it better and painted it PINK.

My mother thinks we moved to Oregon because Philip couldn’t find work in California.  I don’t think she’s alone in that misconception.  I think quite a few people have come to believe we had to leave, that we had no choice, that we were broke and jobless and were seeking greener pastures.  Only one of those things is true.  Oregon really does have greener pastures than California and we thought it might be nice to live near them.

It’s true that the reason we had to sell our house is because Philip couldn’t find a job that paid enough soon enough to be able to keep it.  We refinanced our house after he lost his job so we could buy ourselves time but ultimately it was like chopping our feet off right before running a marathon.  Maybe things would have been different if I could have been looking for work too but I broke my hip two days after Philip was laid off.  And then right as we knew we were going to have to sell our house, Philip spectacularly broke his arm in such a way that he required surgery and a collection of titanium pins to put it back together.

This is all really old news.  What is apparently not well understood is that we sold our house at a really nice profit.  We cleared about a hundred and fifty thousand dollars.  It wasn’t quite enough to buy another house in our neighborhood (at least, not while we had no employment) but we could easily have afforded to rent a house for quite some time while Philip looked for work and there was never a doubt in my mind that he would eventually have found another good job.  We didn’t have to leave.  We could afford to stay until we straightened ourselves out.

So we came to Oregon with $150,000, completely solvent, and with A+ credit, and a whole lot of hope and the spirit of adventure.

We’re leaving Oregon bankrupt (though solvent), with two foreclosed homes behind us*, and destroyed credit, hope, and health.

So the real reason we left is because we were feeling bitter about things like not being able to get any health insurance in California and that whole Cobra scam is so expensive you practically have to be royalty to afford it.  We left because I couldn’t bear the thought of watching other people live in MY house.  I wouldn’t want to have lived in any other neighborhood in Santa Rosa, I loved where we were.  Throughout the years I had toyed with the idea of us eventually moving to a large piece of property where I could really get into homesteading.  I had toyed with the thought of moving to a small town.  Because that’s what I do.  I constantly think ahead and wonder how things might be in different scenarios but the truth is that I was wonderfully happy in my pink stucco Tudor style house.  I loved my garden full of roses and espaliered fruit trees.  I loved my gorgeous windows through which the sycamore trees looked magical in winter.  I loved my neighborhood full of walnut trees and gardens and people I enjoyed spending time with and I felt I belonged there.  I may have thought I wanted property eventually in an abstract way but I was not ready to let that house go when I had to let it go.  I don’t think I ever would have been ready to let it go.  I will always think of it as mine.  I don’t care that technically other people own it and live there.  It’s my house.

Philip decided that if we had to make such a big change as move from the house we loved he would rather make a really huge move and do something completely different and because I had always daydreamed about returning to Oregon before we settled in the J.C. neighborhood, he suggested we consider moving to Oregon.  And that felt like the better choice.  Housing prices were lower in Oregon so we could actually afford to buy a house there.  It felt like California was rejecting us, chewing us up and spitting us out, each time trying to push us farther and farther away.  So we took the cue and planned our bittersweet exit.

We were Portland bound.  We even put an offer on a house there.  If we had stayed with our original plan I don’t think we’d be moving back to California now.  It was the curious question of a friend that veered us off course into the wilds.  She asked me “Why are you moving to another city?  Aren’t you always talking about wanting property or to move to a small town?  Why don’t you look at some of the small towns outside of Portland like Oregon City?”  She was right, of course, I had toyed with these ideas for a long time.  I had such fond memories of living in Ashland (Oregon) as a kid and was angry for a long time after my parents forced me to move back to California.  So I stopped focusing on Portland and instead did a bunch of online research about the small towns within what we naively considered “commuting distance”.

I didn’t have much time to figure out where we were going.  I didn’t want to rent a place first and then look for a house to buy.  I hate moving and just wanted to find the place to move to and be done with moving.  In hindsight I can see that this was stupid.  Finding a house to buy is something you should take your time with.  Finding a community to move to is something you should also take your time with.  Looks can be deceiving.  Communities can hide their true nature under a very different public face.  But I rushed and consequently, we paid.

I found McMinnville.

*The two foreclosures are related to each other – they are not two separate bad financial mistakes.  I just feel the need to point that out.  They were both covered by our bankruptcy because we owned them at the same time and it was not being able to sell the one because of the market crashing that CAUSED us to go bankrupt and losing the house we are living in was almost a certainty from the start of that whole financial falling out.


  1. Kathy says:

    Angelina, thank you for telling your story. I have heard pieces of it, here and there but never the full story. Wow. You guys have been kicked in the gut far too many times and I think it’s amazing that you’re still standing to tell your story. The illnesses, lost houses and all that comes with that, well those are war wounds you have. You have fought battles and won. I hope with all my heart, that you shout to the world how many hurdles you’ve crossed to bring you all back home, both physically and in your heart. You have been a beautiful friend to me and I love you greatly.

  2. Chelsea says:

    I’m sorry Oregon was bust, but I’m NOT sorry you’re coming back!

    Exorcise your demons if you must, but don’t be too hard on yourself, mental torture is way worse than anything the Russians can dole out…

    At least you guys had the balls to try something new, not many do.

  3. angelina says:

    I’m not sorry we came here – we had some pretty good adventures in spite of all the ruination. I learned a TON about myself and I think it was instrumental to my writing life and that has been really important to me. But I’m so excited to come back to Santa Rosa it feels like 2 months is an ETERNITY. And yes, Philip is especially happy to have had this experience because before we moved up here he never lived more than 70 miles from the place he was born. He had a phone interview today for a job he really wants and it went well – YAHOO!

    I know that you are busy with school and working but I am looking forward to snatching cups of coffee with you or maybe a walk around Spring lake once in a while and, of course, cooking!!

  4. angelina says:

    I love you too, lady!! I’m considering having Philip take me into the city this weekend and next weekend because once he leaves it’s going to be much harder to get myself there. I’ll send you a message when I know for sure and you can let me know if there’s any chance of a nice long chat over coffee – like maybe two Saturdays in a row? Must get some time with you!! We’ll obviously get to chat online as we always do – but it’s so good to get together in person.

  5. Chelsea says:

    Oh yeah, it’s all about the cooking. It will be great having you back. We can share our favorite food stamp recipes!

    Plus, Sophie is very interested in sewing, my skills can only take her so far….

  6. Jayne says:

    You don’t know me, but reading your story is like reading the very words in my journal. I, too, left Ventura, CA after living there my entire life (45 years) back in 2005, and moved to Franklin, TN. I HATED selling my house in Ventura. It took 4 years and lots of sweat equity to redo my little cottage, and to build my beautiful English garden in the back. But I, too, was losing my job of 20 years with little prospect of getting another one without commuting to LA, and was up for a little adventure (something I had talked about for years and years). I, too, put in an offer on a house within one week of moving here. To my surprise, it took 16 months to find a job. This led to bankruptcy, a short sale, and to top it off, I’ve had a car accident, lost 2 jobs and went through a bout of breast cancer last year. So, I left California with $250,000 cash, A+ credit and high hopes. I return to California with bad credit, broke and with health issues. But, I return to people who have known and loved me my whole life and the familiarity of home. It’s unfathomable to me now that you should do financially better in states other than California, but that was exactly the opposite for me. So, I get it. Totally.

  7. angelina says:

    I feel like I could cry reading your story here! I’m so sorry that you’ve had to go through so much hardship and that your story is so much like mine! I don’t know you at all but I feel like hugging you. There is really nothing like being around people who love us and to know we’re home. Here’s what I have to say to both you and me: at least we had the guts to try something different, to seek adventure and new experiences. Lots of people never have the guts to do that. I wish you so much good fortune and am happy that you’ve returned to where you are loved and feel at home! xoxo

  8. angelina says:

    I can’t wait to see Sophie and Sam again! I’d love to help teach Sophie to sew though I think your skills are pretty great, actually. Still, it would be fun to be part of that.

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