Faith, Family, and the Last Frontier

jenna-postThe oilfield is a major component of our lives, right after our faith and our family. Not only has it helped shape who we are, but it has also brought us to where we are. My husband (who I refer to as my Hot Oil Man) started in the OF by driving a water truck for a service company in Northern CO a few months before we were married, in ’03. He started out working a 6 day on/2 off schedule. We were young, childless, energetic…..and it suited us. I’d wait up for him at night, and get up early to pack his lunch and see him off every morning. He….. correction…..we put in a lot of long, hard hours as he started working his way up the ladder.

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From the start, I knew I was different from the “other” wives, the ones that weren’t oilfield wives -the 9 to 5ers. Sometimes it was hard to keep from laughing when someone would ask, “Why can’t he just take a day off?” if there was social event to attend. As if anyone in the OF can just “take a day off”!! They didn’t get it.  The OF doesn’t care if it’s Labor Day, your birthday or Thanksgiving.  The work isn’t done until the work is done.  Period.  It doesn’t stop at 5:00.  I think my HOM took a total of 3 days off in 7 years, and one of those was to get married. The oilfield isn’t exactly known for being warm and fuzzy, it’s hard work with high expectations. OF workers and wives alike have to be willing to go the extra mile an work the extra hour.

The years flew by. We sold our first home and bought one with “room to grow” (more bedrooms). We became parents twice, first to our daughter in 05 and then our son in 08. Thankfully, because of my HOM’s career, I am able to stay home with the kids, a luxury that I don’t take for granted. After about 6 years at the same company in Northern CO (and moving up as far as possible), it was time to look for bigger and better things. We both needed change. I was sick of our cookie cutter house in suburbia, I was sick of our 1/10 acre yard, I was sick of looking out my window and looking into my neighbor’s house. I needed room to breathe. My HOM was miserable at work and I wasn’t much happier at home. We relied on our faith and each other that things would work out. So we started the job search, not knowing where it would lead, but ready to go. We looked into several places, including Alaska which we both seemed to like. But nothing came of it. Then we considered North Dakota and even took a road trip to look at real estate. My husband got a job offer in ND and we accepted it. We SO ready for change! But….after putting pen to paper we decided it was too much of a pay cut and we turned the job down. Back to square one. After a few more months of being less than satisfied at his current job, my HOM was re-offered the position in ND. Alaska was all but forgotten, having not heard anything in about a year since he turned in a resume. Once again we were thinking about accepting……and once again we got cold feet. We were up late one night talking about the ND job, and how if we turned it down yet again, we were sure that bridge would be burned for good and this might be our only chance at change. Maybe it was the answer to our prayers?? But at that very minute, the phone rang – – it was a job offer from a Hot Oil Company in AK! We had had faith that there was something bigger and better out there for us…and it turned out to be not just big, but ALASKA sized!! It was a good offer, a good company, good pay, 2 and 2 schedule…all the things we were wanting. After turning down the ND job again, my HOM started working in Alaska and quickly became a hot oil operator at the north slope. He commuted back and forth to CO the first year and a half at the job. The travel was tough on him and I was still feeling suffocated. I felt like I was not providing my kids with the kind of life experiences and adventures that I wanted them to have, I felt like we were just going through the motions. I don’t want a superficial life, I want more than that for my family.  We had friends from school, we had different friends at church, another group from dance class, etc etc. It felt like we were constantly being pulled in 50 directions, but without putting down any real roots.  So, we decided to make the move up north.   It was a major leap of faith – we bought a house sight unseen, packed (most) our belongings in a 40 foot container, jumped on a plane, and left all our friends and family behind as we journeyed 3,000 miles to a place where I knew no one but a realtor.

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And here we are today, in the last frontier!  Happily living in Wasilla, AK  for the last 2 years. I enjoy the 2 on/2 off schedule – yes, you read that right, I actually like it. A lot. It would have been hard when the kids were babies, but since they are a little older now they understand why daddy is gone, and appreciate it when he’s home. The two weeks together are awesome. When my HOM worked the 6 and 2 he might have slept at home each night, but he always left for work before the kids were up, and there were many times he would get home after they were in bed. Or worse still, the times that he would just walk in the door and get his boots off……..only to be called out again. Those were the truly heartbreaking moments, especially for the kids. With the two and two, he gets to leave work at work, and best of all – he only has to work 6 months a year! Granted, it’s not ALL peaches and roses, of course we have difficult times. There’s always that adjustment period right after he leaves, of me getting back into my “single parent” groove, and when he’s gone and I get stressed about something, he gets frustrated that he’s not there to help me…but overall, it just works for us. Now, that doesn’t mean you won’t hear me complaining from time to time, or feeling sorry for myself every now and then (especially when it snows four feet and I have to clear the driveway), but overall, it is a positive thing for our family and that’s ALL that matters.

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I definitely feel more grounded here in AK, and we have put down deep roots like I had hoped — not outwardly, but inwardly instead — into our family. Into each other. We are closer now than ever (that tends to happen when you don’t know anyone else in the entire state. hehe) The fresh air and scenery feed my soul. This IS the life experience I wanted to give my children….adventure, hard work, nature, and space to play. I’m also dealing with wild critters, dark winters, and endless hours of sunshine during the summer, and so far I’ve survived it all! I am definitely still learning how to be “Alaskan”, but I have made it through my first decade as a ROW, and I can’t wait to see that the next decade holds!

I would to love to hear from other ROW and especially NOW (northern oilfield wives). Comment and let me know your story, and where the OF has taken you……

About jenna

Jenna has been an oilfield wife for over 12 years. Her Hot Oil Man husband started working in the oilfield a few months before they were married. The oilfield has lead them all the way from Northern CO to Alaska, where they've lived in the Matanuska Valley for 4 years. The family consists of their two children; a strong-willed daughter age 10, and a goofy son age 7. And of course what family would be complete without a couple of dogs and rabbits thrown in the mix. Jenna is a stay at home mom who doesn't “stay at home” much, and enjoys gardening, baking, reading, watching movies, four wheeling, hiking, fishing, and LOVES shopping. Since moving to the last frontier they have also started home schooling, which is another adventure all it’s own.

Comments

  1. We’re so glad to you have on board, Jenna. Alaska is a place I’ve always wanted to visit, so it will be exciting to learn more about it through your OF family. Thanks for sharing yourself with us!

  2. Thank you! I’m excited to be here.

  3. So excited to have you join us and hear more about your life! It looks absolutely beautiful there!

  4. My husband and I are both lifelong Alaskans, only having left for college. We live in Wasilla as well and my husband has worked in the oilfield for 14 years. We also have an 8 year old and 5 year old–as well as twin 9 year olds. I bet we’ve crossed paths somewhere around town. 🙂

    • I bet we have crossed paths! So tell me this Amber, since you are a fellow Wasilla – ite, where is the best place to get a coffee? I’m overwhelmed by all the different little drive-thrus and therefore I have only been to Starbucks since I moved here! But I do prefer locally owned businesses…mocha moose? The one with a mountain on top? Which is best?!

    • I’m so glad to hear from another NOW!

  5. FelissiaW says:

    I live in Eagle River and have grown up all around AK. I met my husband in MT and as soon as we were married I convinced him this was the place to raise a family. I also encouraged him to work on the slope as I was working there as well. I got pregnant and became a stay at home, while he has thrived on the slope. Im very happy with the way things have worked out these past two years. 🙂 To us this is the perfect life. As you said there are hard times (I feel you with the shoveling!) But there is so many bonuses that make up for it. We are now discussing where to buy our first home in south central AK.

  6. Janie Snelson says:

    We went to AK last year on an Association of Drilling Engineers national board meeting, stayed 10 days for vacation, and fell in love. I could seriously seriously live there. Love your story, Jenna!

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