Editor’s Note: This is the first in an occasional series of personal reflections by Jewell on the challenges and rewards of making a new life for herself and her family in Sierra County.
Hi. I’m new here in Truth or Consequences. I am an artist, stay-at-home mama to two beautiful beings, wife to Nick, loving daughter to Kimberly Rae Jewell (of Kimberly’s Guesthouse Kitchen), hobby gardener, and so much more. My family and I moved to TorC from Purcellville, VA, in August, and we have been adoring our time here so far. Let me share with you a bit of the why, how and “what next?” of our move.
Since before I moved to northern Virginia 12 years ago, I knew that I would not be there long. My art was not accepted widely there. I was denied shows where mostly watercolor or oil-painted old barns or farm animals were all the rage. My art was “too fun” or “a little too colorful” for local galleries. I lived in Loudoun County, the most affluent county in the country, but not many wanted to buy more than a print. I was selling more online to strangers across the world than to locals and realized I could do that anywhere with a post office.
My mom came for her annual visit in February and was basically trapped with us due to the pandemic arriving in our area soon after. We watched as many lost their jobs, their livelihood and, some. their lives. Political tension was high, as we lived so close to D.C. While we had made a happy home and family in northern Virginia, my mom saw that there were not many opportunities for us to thrive as she knew we could. Besides, my husband’s job dangled by a thread.
While his company was considering whether to let Nick go, Mom made us an offer we would have had a hard time refusing. She would let us live with her and my stepdad Bill Schiller for as long as we needed. I was surprised how on-board my husband was, especially since he had never been to Truth or Consequences. We had discussed moving out of “NOVA” a few times, but never got around to it. With life as we knew it changing before our eyes, we welcomed a change.
T or C and I have known each other about 15 years, but, in all honesty, I always thought of it as a last resort. In my young eyes, it was solely a retirement town, a place for old people like my grandmother and great-aunt to rest their weary bones. During visits after Mom and Bill moved to town, I noticed how the town had changed for the better. My last visit here was in 2017, with my eldest kiddo, Calvin, now freshly 4, in tow. Feeling more at home, I brought up with Mom and Bill the prospect of us moving west but I was privately worried my husband would be completely overwhelmed by the culture and climate differences. Sure, I was a weirdo and he had loved and married me, but would he really know what he was getting into if he agreed to move?
Sometime this spring, Nick and I took the leap, we made the decision. We were moving. It felt a lot like our decision to get married. We didn’t even have to ask each other. Our talks became more and more about details of the move, which seemed to be destined.
Moving day. The pods were loaded, mostly. We cleaned the house, mostly. We said goodbye to friends and family, somewhat. Leaving them has been the hardest part of the move, and not being to see everyone one last time due to the need for self-isolation made things even harder. I’ve explained to Calvin repeatedly that we’ll try to see his friends and relatives via video chat soon. But knowing that in-person visits will not be possible for a long time has been rough on him—and me. Luckily, Calvin and 18-month-old Daisy have been able to fill the roles of BFF for each other. Their bond is nothing short of beautiful.
On our last day of driving, we stopped in El Paso for lunch and made it to Truth or Consequences by early evening. Mom had cleaned and painted the house before our arrival. I’ve never felt more welcome anywhere than in the home Mom and Bill have made for us. It’s truly magical.
Despite being “outsiders,” we’ve been made to feel extremely welcome where ever in town we go. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that we already have a built-in network of friends and acquaintances. I feel as though everyone who knows my family here already loves me by association.
Now that we’ve settled in, I’ve been tending the garden, pruning, composting, reviving the vegetation. Bill has been awesome at nurturing trees and ice plants, but the weeds are even more awesome, so I’ve had to quickly learn how to adapt to high-desert growing conditions. I don’t have it all worked out yet, but things are coming to life; every sprout is a joy. I am extremely interested in permaculture and hope to incorporate regenerative practices into our own garden, as well as in other places locally.
I’ve also secured some funding to get a studio and plan to display my art here at the house. I’ve never had a designated workroom of my own. After moving in with Nick 11 years ago, I completely took over the dining area we have had, but that’s not going to cut it anymore. I’ve been a side-hustle artist for 16 years; the time has come for me to get serious and to give myself credit, time and space to build on my accomplishments. The town is so full of amazing artists; I’m excited to have found the perfect place to make my mark.
Right now, Nick and I don’t have jobs, just like so many other Americans. We are pinching pennies and rubbing them together gently in hopes they’ll repopulate the coffers. Yet, even in the midst of crisis, we are happy, hopeful and free.