Tag Archives: moving

The 15-year-decade

salvador-dali-persistence-of-memory-clocks-meaningDon’t worry, this won’t be one of those look-back posts where I sum up everything that happened to us last year.

Though, admittedly, 2015 was a big year.

But it’s been a big decade, for that matter.

Only they don’t have names for 15-year increments. At least they don’t have common names everyone can use like decade or century.

There’s actually an old name for 15-year cycles that comes from medieval Europe called the indiction and which had to do with a periodic reassessment of an agricultural or land tax.

What I’m talking about is the last 10 years of our lives, a cycle that I can’t quite fit nicely into a decade.

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The Back Story

WanderlustIt all started with an insatiable wanderlust.

And a girl who wanted to go along for the ride.

We have traveled to dozens of countries together. We’ve lived in seven cities in five states. We’ve moved 26 times in our 20 years together.

And it’s time to come home for a while.

Every adventurer has a home base. And for us, that home base has always been Salem, Oregon. If you’ve seen it, you know it’s the perfect place, sandwiched between the Cascade Mountains and the Coast Range, full of rivers and lakes and trails. A perfect place for an adventurer to keep his or her legs fit and eyes ever looking towards the next vista.

Continue reading The Back Story

The Resident’s Curse

Our house in Palos Heights
Our house in Palos Heights

Last night my wife and I tallied all the places we’ve lived in our nearly 20 years together.

In that time, we’ve moved more than 20 times. And the longest we’ve spent living in one location was a little over three years in a double-wide trailer on the outskirts of Salem, Oregon while I attended the University of Oregon.

That was 13 years ago.

Continue reading The Resident’s Curse

Home is where the heart is, but my heart is nomadic –

I rode the bus to work with our CEO Torey Malatia the other day. We chatted about a bunch of little things, and then he asked me if we were settled in.

That’s a question we get a lot.

I used to think I knew how to answer it. Now I’m not so sure.

When I said, “yeah, we’re pretty settled in now,” he said, “No, I mean does Chicago feel like home yet?”

It would’ve taken too long to answer that question with its real answer, so I just said, “yes, in a roundabout way, it does.”

The routines are set, the train rides are a blur anymore, and the lake from the windows at WBEZ on the pier is a palate of grays and blues like picking muted ties that never quite stand out.

But does it feel like home?

We lived in Hawaii on and off for several years.

It never felt like home.

We lived in Missoula, Montana for three years. It felt like home, so we bought a house there. Then I was laid off, and it felt a lot less like home.

Alaska never felt like home.

But when my boss there asked me if we were settled in, I always resisted the desire to tell him that we were more dug in than settled in.

Cheryl and I met in Oregon. We were married there. We had two of our three children there.

I attended university there.

Our families live there.

It never really felt like home for me, just a base of operations. And I always had an overwhelming desire to flee it.

I’m not sure I’m qualified to know what feels like home, much less explain to someone else that it feels like home.

They say home is where the heart is, but my heart is nomadic.

It’s the curse or the blessing of having parents who are missionaries.

They also say that not all who wander are lost.

The definition of lost is – unable to find one’s way; not knowing one’s whereabouts.

I can accurately say this describes me for the last 5 to 10 years.

I feel like a place will only start to feel like home when you know it like the back of your hand.

This has not been my experience.

In Alaska I did not drive for the first year, and as a result, I did not know my whereabouts. I trusted my global position to the pilots and drivers for whom Alaska is home.

Here in Chicago, I trust the train drivers and the bus drivers as well as the maps and GPS on my phone. I don’t have that familiarity of place. Sometimes I take a different road home, and I’m in another world for a while.

Home, for me, is where my best friend lives. It’s where the three lives that we created tend to dwell in a cacophonous chaos that mysteriously adds to my life. And for me, I’m whole as long as they’re in the same time and space that I’m in.

So yes, Chicago feels like home. For now.

Out of the Shadows in Chicago

A month ago today we were driving through the badlands of South Dakota stretching our drive time from 12 to 16 hours in order to reach Chicago by the 6th.

We stopped to see where General Custer met his demise, but we zoomed past Mount Rushmore due to imminent darkness.

By mile 3,500, we were anxious to get to the next place we’d call home.

There was a palpable excitement in the car. I told the kids everything I knew of Chicago to try to give them perspective.

But we all hungered to taste it individually.

Today we drove across town to spend some time with my co-workers in the City Room at WBEZ. The kids asked if we’d be going through downtown. And because I do not yet know how to best navigate around this city, I said yes.

The truth is we love to drive under the shadows of the tall buildings in downtown Chicago. We love to cruise up Lakeshore Drive and drink in the sights.

We enjoy the cinematic adventure that takes place in the darkened windows of our Buick SUV as we drive through neighborhoods with distinctive and individualistic names.

We discussed the Willis Tower-once-Sears-Tower conversation for a fifth time today as we drove past its monolithic dominance once again.

This is what I love about living in a city. Although we do not live in the city properly, we feel it’s our own. The kids have already started to fall for the sporting teams, and I have no doubt they’ll be asking for Cubs, Bulls and Blackhawks jerseys by Christmas this year.

We have a favorite beach, and though we’ve only really explored our neighborhood and Chinatown so far, we’ll love taking the double nickle to Cermak to eat dim sum every chance we get.

I took the kids to Navy Pier to drop off some books and desk decorations on Saturday. They were awed at the awesomeness that is the happiest place in Illinois. Truth be told, so am I.

I walk by that Ferris Wheel turning slowly in the afternoon sun and smile every day. I hope I’m doing that 10 years from now. And if you know me, then you know that means something.


Anchorage to Chicago: The rest of the journey –

Days 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9 I had hoped to blog the entire trip from Anchorage to Chicago, but our time in Missoula was gloriously filled with too much friendship, if such a thing is possible. So I’ll break it all down into one post, we’ll call it Anch to Chi, the Highlights. Day 5 – Plains, Mountains and Borders We left Edmonton early, as everyone was looking forward to a couple days of rest in Missoula. The sun sprang up like a northern flower and showered us in golden warmth all the way to Calgary. The plains can be boring, if you have no imagination or if the sky doesn’t put on a show for you. Today we talked about seeing our friends, about living in Chicago and about the last few days.  After Calgary, the plains gave way to verdant hills that grew into mountains. The trail through the Canadian Rockies is beautiful and perhaps underrated.  The border crossing back into the U.S. was uneventful. A border guard asked if I had any guns. I said no. He looked at me for a long moment and said, “You coming from Alaska and all, I find that hard to believe.” I had no answer for him, and he let us go.

Days 6 and 7 – Missoula, our Mountain Home Our heart is in Missoula. So is our house, for that matter, but it’s the people from our community there that we miss dearly. The three greatest buddies a guy could have were waiting for me with a growler of beer when we finally arrived around 11 p.m. We conversed for a few minutes around a roaring pine-cone fire. As I recovered from more than 2,000 miles of driving through Alaska, the Yukon, B.C. and Alberta, I wanted to sleep, but the thought of missing out on any time with these guys kept me going. Though it was a blur, with kids farmed out across the city and trying to see as many friends as possible, I felt rested when we went to bed on our last night there. Day 8: A Thousand Miles in a Day I woke up motivated to get some miles under my belt. With Missoula in my rear view, Chicago and a new life loomed up over the badlands and all the flat country in between.  We flew across the familiar Montana countryside and gassed up just the other side of Billings. From there on out, everything was unfamiliar. New miles, new states for the kids’ collection. I had wanted to see the site of Custer’s Last Stand, or more appropriately these days, The Battle of Little Big Horn, for many years. When we left Montana in 2010, it was with some regret at not having seen so much of the breathtaking state. So we stopped and scoped out the battlefield in record time, hoping to make up the time with the 75-mph speed limits. Somewhere between the flattest parts of Montana, Wyoming and the South Dakota border, we saw the sky darken like night falling fast. The cold metallic gray filled the horizon all the way to the ground. Lightening struck in the distance, and rain drops plopped on the hood and window of the car like some giant’s tears.  Within a few moments, the skies opened, and a deluge filled the world around us. Traffic on I-90 slowed to a crawl as every driver lost visibility instantly. Cheryl and I scrambled to find the emergency flashers so the semi behind us would notice us before plowing through us. We crawled through the storm at 5 or 10 miles per hour. Eventually the sky lifted a little as the storm bounced off of us before setting down a few miles away and off the interstate. In a few more miles, the roadway was completely dry, evidence of the storm’s whimsical nature. We reluctantly passed by Mount Rushmore and the Badlands National Park, hoping to put ourselves within 8 hours of the windy city by midnight. Day 9: Minnesota, Wisconsin and Illinois We left our Alaska-chilled hotel room on the border of South Dakota and Minnesota in a sultry morning heat blanket. We opted for air conditioning over gas mileage. Minnesota did not disappoint, the verdant fields were a great relief after the drabness of the western Midwest. Amish country rolled past our windows as if we had gone back in time. Suddenly we were at the banks of the Mississippi River. And even though the last 1,500 miles were in unfamiliar territory, there was something so final about crossing the wide blue boundary marker.  Wisconsin’s eastern border is beautiful country, worthy of coming back to explore someday. But the 101-degree heat and the road ahead kept us on the highway with the air conditioner blasting.  Madison loomed in the distance, but we drove through and lunched on the other side of the city.  The toll roads are the tell-tale sign that you’re nearing Chicago. We scrambled for change and dollar bills as we drove through half-a-dozen collection stations.  The blue dot on my iPhone’s navigation app drew ever closer to Our new home in Palos Heights. Finally we left the freeway and struck out over land, navigating out way through Oak Park, Worth and finally Palos Heights. The neighborhood, shaded as it was by huge oak trees, was as idyllic as one could imagine. Driving through, I could see my kids riding their bikes to their friends’ houses or skateboarding down the quiet streets as neighbors water their lawns. It wasn’t too hard to see this new place as home.  But more on that later. Tim

Sex Changes and Other Confusing Things About Moving

Today was a traumatic day for the kids, which means it was a traumatic day for their parents, of which I’m told I am one half. 

We started the day with a cat we suspected was male and which we were calling Oliver. He showed up on our doorstep a month ago, and a week later we were feeding it. I think I was in the middle of reading about Hemingway’s cats when it happened, and I let me guard down a bit. 

Knowing we couldn’t take the cat with us to Chicago, we decided to price out the cost of getting a health certificate in order to fly the cat to Seattle to live with some friends there until we decide if we want to buy a place in Chicago. 

In order to facilitate the health certificate for the cat, we realized we’d need the same in order to transport Morris the leopard gecko with us across Canada and back into the United States. 

While at the veterinarian, and while digesting a $92 bill for a health certificate for an 8-inch gecko, the doctor informed us that our little Morris was actually a girl. He actually showed us the private parts and then apologized to Morris saying, “I know, it’s improper.” Something he said several times to what I’m now calling Alanis Morrisette.

Isn’t it ironic?

In order to assuage our disbelief that Morris wasn’t the manly killer of crickets in his terrarium that we once thought he was, the doctor told us a story of male cats that have bladder stones and which then must undergo a sex change operation in order to survive the surgery. 

Apparently the owners of these cats are frustrated at having to rename their cats after the surgery. 

After the shock of learning Alanis (The Gecko) Morrisette’s real identity, we decided to forego the health inspection on the cat and have it checked for a microchip that might reveal who the cat’s owner was. 

We went to Anchorage Animal Control, and the kind ladies at the front desk called a veterinary technician to perform a quick scan. 

It turns out that the little cat we’d been calling Oliver for a month was actually a trouble maker named Sam. 

We know from experience that Sam likes to jump into cars, and it seems that during a past move made by his owners in Eagle River, some 20-30 miles from Spenard, he must have become mixed up in a moving van and wound up on our doorstep, which is confusing for more reasons than just the obvious. I mean, how would you (Alaskan friends) like to wake up and find yourself on a doorstep in Spenard? 

The Animal Control folks called the owners who were shocked that their little hunter and troublemaker was alive and well and living in Spenard. Within a half hour, we had reunited our new little buddy with his family and his twin brother. 

But this was not without its problems. Cole was with us, while Carson and Gabrielle were with their grandparents. This meant that two of three would not get to say their proper goodbyes. 

There is no way to prepare children for the unexpected loss of a pet. So why even try? 

Cheryl broke the news to them, and Carson, as you might expect, was devastated. He couldn’t decide if he was more angry that he’d been calling Alanis (The Gecko) Morrisette Morris for more than two years or the fact that he didn’t get to say goodbye to Oliver/Sam. 

All I know is this. With all the problems in the world, when your cat has a literal sex change or your lizard undergoes metaphorical sex change, your children are not going to handle it well. Handle with care, and realize that in the grand scheme of things, these little detours in life are just new experiences that are free or inexpensive, and you get to play psychiatrist, which, although extremely dangerous, is really quite fun. 


The Two Alaskas

Alaska picked an interesting time to put its best foot forward. The temperatures are hovering around 70 degrees, while huge cumulonimbus clouds spend the afternoons going nuclear over the Alaska Range. 

I haven’t seen Denali in weeks. It’s warm enough to sit outside until midnight, if you can stand the northern vampires that descend on you like a 600-Hz mini chainsaw of blood and horror. Slap one, and you’ll leave a memorable blood splatter. 

We’re nearing the Solstice, and as I’ve stated several times on this blog, I’m a bit adverse to the Midnight Sun. I think I’ve traced it back to my childhood in Europe, when parents a little more liberal than mine would allow their children to stay up until the sun set, while my bed time never fluctuated. Regardless of where the sun was on its daily journey, I was in bed at 7 p.m., listening to the sounds of children playing outside my window. 

Today, if I try to lay down and sleep while the sun still is casting a glow into the basement, I’m restless like I was when I was young. 

So I stay up late and write. 

Looking back on a year and a half in Alaska, I find myself having lived out a fine adventure indeed. Even as I admit the many things I did not do, the list of accomplishments I did not…accomplish, I’m flush with memories of remote villages, the smells of diesel and fish in Unalaska, Nome on the day they crowned the youngest-ever winner of the Iditarod, the stillness of an Arctic Circle village at 50 below. 

Journalists get a little deeper than the general tourist experience, and I’ll be forever grateful to the lady who brought me to Alaska, because she understood that I needed to get to know the place more than just the words in the book, “Coming Into the Country.” 

My wife and children had a different experience. They never got to see the two Alaskas. Instead, they spent a year and a half in Anchorage, which is like a cold Seattle. 

They saw moose and bears and spent a memorable few days in Halibut Cove. Cheryl and I spent a sleepless night above the one bar in Cordova, before a day-long salmon-shark fishing expedition. 

We drove to Fairbanks in the spring and saw the Northern Lights during the World Ice Carving Championships, and we soaked in the thermal waters at Chena Hot Springs. 

You can’t live this life and afford it too. That’s the beauty of adventure, of living life to the fullest. My children didn’t get to see all the things I got to see, and if you can imagine what I see on a daily basis as a journalist, well, that’s a good thing for their sake. But I tell them everything else. I relive my experiences for them much the same way my dad relived his adventures for my sisters, my brother and I. 

A year and a half later, Alaska still is a place of mystery. No less intriguing to me than it was before I ever set foot here.


There are millions of miles of wilderness, countless villages to see, and a handful of people I still want to meet. 

As someone told me today, “You now have a place to stay whenever you want to come back to Alaska.” 

And while that’s true, when you come to Alaska to visit, you see the Alaska with its best foot forward. The place as it was meant to be. The glistening glaciers and the slap of a big halibut against the decking on a fishing boat, the slow pull of a diesel train leaving for Talkeetna or points beyond. 

This was my chance to see the real Alaska, and from what I can tell, I liked it. 

The High Price of Fatherhood

I don’t know what conversations my dad had with his father when he decided to move across the pond to Europe. 

I know my grandfathers always enjoyed having family around them, in close proximity. The more the merrier. 

In fact, I’m often envious of my cousins, aunts and uncles who got to enjoy so much more of my grandparents’ time than I did. 

My dad had a calling, and you don’t mess with callings. Somewhere deep down, my grandfather must have understood that. 

Perhaps that’s what helped him deal with the grief of having a son many thousands of miles away at a time before communications technology shortened that distance. 

I remember the times we’d visit their home in Pacifica, California. After so much food and fun, we’d hop in the car for the long ride back to Oregon. We’d all look back at Deda and wave at him as his eyes filled with tears. He’d stand in the driveway long after we were gone, and my grandmother would tell us that Deda wouldn’t eat for days after we were gone. He’d just mope around with no appetite for anything. 

It’s a strange relationship between dads and sons. You spend half a life raising them, growing them, praying that they will turn out better than you, do bigger things than you accomplished and reach further than you were able. You spend the other half lamenting the fact that they accomplished all of that so far away from you. 

At least that’s how it goes in my mind. 

I don’t know if my dad and his father ever had a conversation about why he had to live so far away or if there was a mutual understanding for the necessity of distance in their lives. 

My grandfather always had family near him. He had grandkids to keep him company and a table-full of people when he wanted. 

My dad has grandkids to keep him company, when he’s not traipsing around some mysterious former Soviet Republic that ends in stan. He’s got children near him to keep him company and help with the heavy lifting when necessarily. 

And yet I still feel the pang of regret at the fact that this career has taken me so far away. 

Of the cluster of Akimoffs that set up shop in the San Francisco Bay Area many years ago after stepping off a boat from the Philippines after a journey across the length of China after a grueling trek from their home in the Soviet Union, you can imagine it would be desirable to settle down. And settle down they did.

At first one or two made their way north of the city to settle in Santa Rosa. But at a little over an hour’s drive, this was not much of a barrier to a tight-knit family. 

It wasn’t until the 3rd generation came of age that the family began to spread out. My dad being the lone exception. With the Akimoffs spread from Santa Rosa, California to Salem, Oregon, the cousins ventured out. Some went back east for a time, others went north or south but stayed on the West Coast. 

My wife and I bounced around in Hawaii for a while, did a stint in New Zealand and ventured as far east as the Rocky Mountains of Montana. Then it was back to the West Coast, albeit Alaska. The Ring of Fire has some hold over us, at least until recently. 

In this great adventure, one spends an awful lot of time looking forward. Even now as I plan a crazy 4,000-mile move from Alaska to Chicago, I’m looking that direction. 

I haven’t spent a lot of time, until today, thinking about what this move means for my extended family. What it means for my dad. 

We haven’t had a lot of conversations about that. And perhaps you don’t. Maybe the way life works is just one experience built on top of another, formed, in a way, by the random nature of human beings. Perhaps it’s not always as purposeful as we think it is. 

At any given moment, I desire to be sitting around the big oak table in my parents’ house. I loved being only 5 minutes away from them and showing up for dinners and Father’s Day celebrations. 

In that confusing desire to have your sons eclipse you, it’s sometimes difficult to remember in so doing, they may have to go to the far corners of the earth. 

I doubt very much that my grandfathers or my own father hesitated in their support for their sons. If they worried, they kept it deep inside. If they felt the painful separation keenly, they did not burden their sons with that knowledge. 

Even as I embark on another journey that will carry us to a different part of the country, one that the Akimoffs have not staked out nor called home before, I think about my own sons and their journeys only starting to form in their minds. 

What will I do when they go away for college and do not return to whatever nest they left? What will my thoughts be when my grandchildren are growing up 3,000 miles away from me. 

Therein lies the hight cost of raising a family. Never mind the financial obligations, which are huge today. What about the emotional costs like these? There is no stock broker, no financial analyst or counselor who can prepare you or save you from these events. 

Many years ago, in an age that still is romantic to me, men built castles and fought wars to protect their families and to insure that their name would carry on. The ambitious ones carved out large swaths of land for their childrens’ children to govern and to profit from one day. 

Today our castles are investment portfolios and real estate markets that fluctuate on a fossil fuel economy. 

Our profitable lands belong to global holding companies, and there is no longer thought given to succession. 

Today we push out kids from the nest and tell them to fly further, do better, build more, have bigger ideas and accomplish more than we did. 

They are flush with knowledge at their fingertips. There is more information available to them than to all the world combined before them. 

I cannot carve a life out for them with the strength of my sword. Like the sometimes cold and unfriendly animal kingdom, I can only let them go and hope they fly straight. I can pick them up from time to time when they fall, but I’ll mostly watch until they’re out of sight and wonder how they did. Much like my grandfather did, and much like my father probably does. 

They say the world’s longest journey is about 18 inches. It is the journey between a man’s mind and his heart. There are no maps, no lighted pathways and the only voice of guidance is often mistaken for our own. 

But it’s a journey every man who has ever breathed has taken on his own. 

Chicago: The Backstory

It all started last summer. I walked off a plane at O’Hare and into a sultry, hazy Chicago afternoon. 

I made my way to the “L,” and passed through the suburbs and into the heart of the big city teeming with life.

It was such a contrast from Alaska. The clothes people wore flowed and billowed in the heated breeze. Glasses clinked and sweated on the outdoor tables. 

The smells of food wafting through the air, the tall buildings soaring up into the deep blue, the life going on in small spaces. I had forgotten how much I love big cities.

When I moved my family to Alaska in 2010, I promised them that if they could do one year in Alaska, and if after that they were not happy, I would do my best to move them along to something more their speed. 

They far exceeded my expectations. Two winters later, and I could tell that the glue that bonds you to a place was not setting up for us. 

It’s not that you get tired of waking up to the sun rising over the Chugach Mountains or the ebb and flow of the tides on Cook Inlet. Alaska offers so much to the lifelong dreamer, the isolationist, the rugged individualist, the hunter, the fisherman and the adventurer.

There has always been a price to pay for coming to Alaska. The cold, the loneliness, the cost of living, each taxes you individually. If Alaska is your dream, your end of the road, you pay those taxes willingly, knowing exactly what they extract and making up for it in whatever way you are gifted. 

After surviving a winter that saw record-breaking snowfall in Anchorage, I could see the signs of weariness on their faces on the weekends during breakup when we couldn’t do anything until the ice melted and the mud dissolved back into dust. 

The view from Alaska is amazing. While you have to go to Wales to see Russia, you can get a pretty amazing view of the Lower 48. So it wasn’t difficult to look around the country at the opportunities starting to open up.

Home to Oregon, Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles. We’ve been there, done that. 

The mountain west. Boise, Salt Lake, Colorado Springs. 

The Midwest? 

I have a list of favorite cities. Kyiv, San Francisco, Portland, Budapest, Vienna, Copenhagen. These places are magical for various reasons. But something about Chicago intrigued me. The food, the culture, the mess of life, the architecture, the wealth of stories inherent in a city of that size. 

Trying to mix your passions with the needs of your family is not easy. Nothing blends particularly well. 

I have worked at newspapers, but I know very well how tough the world is for the newsman these days. 

Television news is thriving and struggling with tides of behavioral and technology change. 

Aside from writing stories about people, my love for journalism resides in the place where it fits into our modern lives. The chance to explore the different platforms and financial systems that support great journalism has been a side bar and now a focus in my career. 

The confluence of Chicago, WBEZ and great journalism is still a little hard to believe.

You start with an application. You proceed to a phone call. Many phone calls. Visits, Skype, emails. And then you commit to going. To driving 3,000 miles in a U-Haul to set up all over again. 

It’s simultaneously slow and blazingly fast. 

This is just the beginning of it. All that goes into the beginning of a story is too much for a prologue. 

It’s time to turn the page and see what the rest of this story holds.