I’d been at BPAmoco for a year when Rick and I moved from one end of Cherry Tree Lane to the other. Let me explain. My boys were in daycare at Apostles Daycare prior to starting grade school, and a little girl named Mackenzie was in their class. Mackenzie’s mom, Shawna, had built a house on the other end of my street that I was drooling over. Tucked back into the woods with a bridge over a stream, it was designed like a mountain home complete with mountain laurel throughout the property. A year or two earlier, while Rick and I and the boys had been on vacation in North Carolina, renting an authentic log cabin near a stream, I had said another one of those really deep prayers: “God, I’d love to live in a house like this.”

In September 1999, on the weekend of Jackson’s birthday, I ran into a neighbor at an AA meeting. “Did you know Shawna is selling her house?” she asked. I was all ears. The acquaintance worked in marketing and Shawna supplied her with printed hats, mugs and the like that were produced in the basement of Shawna’s house.

Before heading to Jackson’s birthday party, I called Shawna on the phone: “Is it true? And can I come see it?” After the party, we beat feet to her house, and I fell head over heels in love. I had to have that house. Thing is, we weren’t exactly looking to move. Rick was working through some emotional issues of his own just then, and what’s more, the house, as it stood, was basically a one-bedroom house. Sure it had three and a half baths and a basement that could be finished—once the printing equipment had been hauled out—but there were presently no bedrooms for the boys.

But I didn’t care about any of that. I wanted that house. Rick balked, I cried, and long story short, we signed a contract with Shawna contingent on the sale of our house. We’d gotten to her before she’d signed with a realtor, so she gave us 30 days before she’d list it and the price would go up $20,000, likely taking it out of our reach.

Upon reflection, it’s a minor miracle that our house sold in 30 days. Just keeping the place clean that long with two little kids was no small feat. Plus I’d convinced Rick to go along by promising I would handle everything, including all the work with a contractor necessary to finish the basement. On one of the first nights in the house, with all our beds piled into the one large master bedroom, I laid there listening to rats chew on the woodwork under the floor. I’ll tell you what, I’d bitten off a lot.

A short three months after moving in, tackling one issue after the next as needed, I found myself at a meeting in Colorado with marketing communications colleagues from all areas of BP. I don’t know what bug had crawled up their butt, but the people from BP headquarters in London were not a fan of me. It was like being back in the third grade and having people sneer and snub you at the lunch table.

Two days in and I had had enough. Their cruel and unusual treatment was doing jumping jacks on my childhood wounds and I was in a lot of emotional pain. By then I was starting to work with the Pathwork teachings, but still had a long ways to go. Talking with Rick on the phone, I learned there was a water leak in the ceiling of the basement, and that’s all I needed to hear. Claiming a plumbing emergency, I called a van early the next morning and made a beeline for the airport.

While I was at the airport, I talked with Bob, a friend and colleague, who informed me that a huge announcement had just been made: Our high-performance plastics division was being sold. In truth, our management had lobbied hard for this. BP did business in pipelines and railcars and we sold plastic in boxes and bags. As one manager put it, “our entire business was lost in the rounding.” More jokes would surface over the coming months: For BP, the ideal manufacturing plant has a computer, a man and a dog. The dog is there to keep the man from touching the computer.

I shared my saga with an AA friend, including the lead-up about all the jobs I’d left, and now here I was, miserable again. “Maybe this time,” she said, “Your work is to stay.” So that’s what I did. But since I was back in a large chemical company, I got the best of both worlds: I stayed with the company but changed departments.

At a sales meeting mid-year in 2000, I heard that an E/E (Electrical/Electronics) marketing manager was moving on, but that his spot wouldn’t be backfilled. Plink. I heard the nickel drop. That would be my next job. I raised my hand for the role and was told what I already knew: they weren’t filling that position. Then my phone rang.

During the preceding year, Kathy had moved on—she was a sharp marketing professional but a bit over the top, and she’d clashed badly with Russ, our VP of sales and marketing—and now she was calling to ask me out to lunch. Truthfully, I wasn’t too keen on going to work for her at her new company, but I didn’t mention that part when I let it be known I was talking with Kathy. Russ got wind of this, and he was a man who didn’t like to lose anyone. And so, not long after that, I became the E/E marketing manager.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, the water leak in the basement ceiling had been caused by a coupling in a condensate hose that had come apart. That hose was rerouted into a shop drain, instead of the woods on the far side of the moon. But in solving that seemingly small problem, a much larger one showed itself: polybutylene plumbing. The bad news was, we had it, everywhere. The good news was the class-action lawsuit hadn’t quite run out of time, and we qualified.

When this whole escapade was over, our water line from the street to the house had been replaced. But since it had to meet up with the gas line to go under the bridge, and since the (seemingly missing) tracer line for the gas line couldn’t be detected, the poor guys running the ditch witch were digging in the dark. And seriously hoping to not see a big flash of light. They made it.

The interior of the house also had to be replumbed, which was no small feat in a house covered by tongue-and-groove pine on nearly every vertical surface. Shower tiles were replaced, special enclosures were built, and new outdoor spigots were improvised. In short, the crew did amazing work. I was impressed.

Oddly, this had not been caught by our inspector. And thank God for that. With all the molehills I was hurdling over to get us into that house, this would have been a mountain we likely couldn’t have climbed. If only we had known, and I was so glad we hadn’t.

Toward the end of the downstairs water-mess cleanup, I was taking care of Jackson while Rick took Charlie with him to the store. Divide and conquer was often our maneuver. As I was sanding the drywall on the ceiling, trying to vacuum the dust from the air before it landed in my eyes, Jackson, who was four, was pestering me for something. One can imagine my fuse was short, and I fired off a quick command to let me finish!

Not too much later, I noticed it was too quiet. So I put down all my tools and went to check on Jackson. But he was nowhere to be found. I was going through the house calling his name and I was starting to panic. Did I make him feel so bad he walked off down the street? This was before cell phones, and so I started walking around the neighborhood. No Jackson. Finally, in tears, I called the police.

Within five or ten minutes, a cruiser was coming down our driveway. But just before he got there, I’d finally spotted Jackson. I tearfully told the officer I had found him, and the officer was greatly relieved. He asked to come in and see for himself. There Jackson was in the dimly lit entryway, curled up in the folds of the rug that had been pulled out of the room with the water damage, sleeping like an angel.

Walker: A Spiritual Memoir by Jill Loree

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