Jason is graduating from college next week, and we’ll be closing the Tucson chapter of our life soon. We began this journey only three years ago, and I’ve gained a lot of perspective in a short amount of time.

We moved to Tucson having never been here before. We pulled into town in our 2004 Ford Explorer on a nearly 100-degree day – June 19, 2014. I remember that date well because it was the day before Jason’s college orientation.

I was immediately in awe of the mountains – those lovely tall Catalina mountains, and the incredibly blue skies. Those, along with the cactus and other interesting vegetation, will always be wrapped in my memories of our time in Tucson. 

From the west side. Looking across Tucson to the Catalina Mountains.

While we were seeking a permanent rental home, we’d rented a vacation condo. It was a steal of a deal because NO ONE was renting vacation homes in Tucson in June!

Our condo was on the second floor, and it was there that we realized that we needed to have a one-story home for Aura (our black dog). She was almost 13 years old, and we saw how difficult it was for her to go up and down the steps to go potty. Plus, Jason and I weren’t keen on cooling a two-story home in the desert.

Elle & Aura hanging out at the top of the steps of our condo rental waiting for Jason to get back from orientation.

People probably thought we were crazy for pulling into a town we’ve never been to and only giving ourselves 12 days to find a place to live. Perhaps we were. I’ll be the first to admit that I was stressed about it, but I also knew it could happen because we’d spent a lot of time researching the area (home locations in relation to the University, crime rates, rental costs, etc.) prior to pulling into town.

We found a one-story home on the west end of Tucson, nestled up against the Tucson Mountains. We were able to move on July 1 (yay!), but our household belongings weren’t being delivered until July 7. We’d anticipated this, so we had an air mattress and lawn chairs packed in the Explorer, and we’d found a few pots and pans that came with the house. But we’d forgotten to pack towels and sheets, so we needed to buy those. We also picked up an inexpensive smart TV so we could watch Netflix (once we had Internet hooked up) and a card table. We were living the life!

Since we didn’t have anything to do at the house, we spent that week getting familiar with Tucson. One fun excursion was hiking Gould Mine Trail in the Tucson Mountains. It wasn’t a long or strenuous hike (2.4 miles), and it gave us a chance to take in some of the beautiful scenery unique to the Sonoran Desert.

Our first “selfie” in Tucson – at Gould Mine Trail.

Saguaro cactus – slow growing, taking 15 yrs to reach a foot tall and 50-75 yrs to grow its first arm.

Another “gem” that we welcomed with our move to Arizona was the ability to purchase beer, wine, and alcohol in grocery stores, something that we couldn’t do in Pennsylvania. If you wanted beer, you needed to go to a beer distributor; if you wanted wine or alcohol, you need to go to a state store. (Pennsylvania has since revised that law – thank goodness!).

It was at Total Wine where we discovered the wall of tequila!

From me to Jason, that entire wall is filled with dozens of selections of tequila.

Jason and I have always approached these life-transition situations in a positive way (or as the Army says, “suck-it-up-and drink water.”), but it is important to mention that there was an uneasiness that came along with our move to Tucson.

  • We were leaving stability behind for something completely foreign to us. We had no support system here. We knew no one! 
  • We were leaving behind a steady paycheck and job for school and the unknown.
  • We were concerned about our new location and safety.
  • We were worried about how our old “girls” would handle the intense summer heat and how to pay the electric bills to keep us comfortable (BTW, $225 a month).

But we worked through all of those concerns (and probably others I’ve forgotten) one by one.

This was the last photo of SGT. & Mrs. Wittler – taken before he flew back east. Next photo of us together, he was retired!

The dreaded point in that first month was Jason going back to Pennsylvania to complete his military contract and then head to Washington, D.C. to officially sign out of the Army.

He was only gone three weeks, but it was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. I had to dig way deep into my strong Army wife persona. Did I mention we knew no one here?? At the time, the thing I hated the most was taking the girls for their evening walk. Living here is a new kind of dark at night (no ambient or street lights), and I was nervous about stepping on something that would bite or sting!

But I took it one day at a time, and eventually, he pulled into Tucson with car #2 and the rest of our hand-carried belongings. We’d sold our house in Pennsylvania by then and were officially Tucson residents.

A time to reflect …

Looking back, those first few weeks in Tucson were some of the best weeks of our lives. Jason was ready to be retired from the military (and I was equally done with being an Army wife), and we had our focus set on accomplishing the next big goal – earning his college degree.

While Tucson has tested me in unforeseen ways (maybe someday I’ll write about them), I am so incredibly thankful for this experience. Never in a million years did Jason and I think that we’d live in the southwest part of the United States. But pursuing his degree took us in this direction, and we approached these years as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to experience something completely different. I am glad we did.

And even though we have no idea where our next journey will be (as of this writing), we do know we’ll be okay. Tucson taught us that.

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