Thursday, May 22, 2008


After all the considering over the past several months, one area of the country really stood out to Brad and I as a place that might just provide a nice balance of all the things we would hope to find in our "dream home." We have been increasingly excited about the state of Virginia (especially northern Virginia) and felt like God might have laid it on our hearts for a reason. We talked with some friends who live there who just made us more and more excited to see it for ourselves- so we took a trip there last weekend to find out if this is a possibility for us. The answer was a resounding YES! We just fell in love with the greater DC area, and here's why.

1. Halfway: This area of north/central Virginia is roughly halfway between Brad's parents (moving to Hilton Head next year) and mine (staying in Michigan). Everything in life seems to be a trade-off. If we had the ability to stay close to one set of GP's the other side would be likely to become the ones our kids don't know as well. We are so blessed to have two sets of parents who are wonderful, loving examples of healthy marriages and family. We both deeply want both sides of the family to be involved in our kids' (hopefully plural soon :)) lives. By moving halfway between, we don't isolate either side of the family, though we do miss out on the everydayness of generational interaction. I do feel especially sad about the idea of moving far away from my mom especially as this has been a wonderful season of closeness for us. But I feel in my heart that it is not for us to stay here. I can't really explain it, but it certainly does feel like we're being chased out of our comfort zones this year and that God has different plans for us than just for us to be comfortable in a place we have come to know and love.

2. Beautiful: Almost the first thing I noticed when we got in the car in Baltimore and started driving down to our friends' house in Springfield was how GREEN everything is!! It rains a lot there and so there are so many beautiful growing things. Trees are everywhere- thick, mysterious forests where the light filters through the green leaves, bathing everything in a sort of flickering springtime glow, with the dark spires of tree trunks marching away as far as the eye can see. I love woods! I am sure that they look especially beautiful when the trees change color in the fall.

3. Historical: Talk about history! Sheesh! There's just no better place in the country than right in this area!! There is so much to learn, so much to see right there, hands on. It's awesome! The Saturday we were there, we decided to go visit Mount Vernon, George Washington's home. We saw his tomb and his house and a small-scale farm operation like would have been there in his time. We had a great time tromping around outside on a perfect, sunny day. It would be so awesome to live so close to so much history, especially as this is something that interests me and Brad. Here's our little family with the Potomac in the background.

5. Other Cool Stuff: In case we ever got tired of delving into our country's fascinating history, there are a million other cool things to do- many that are just a little day trip away. The ocean is just about 2 hours away (maybe closer), the mountains (and even some skiing) are about 2 hours away, and we can even get to NYC in about 5 or 6 hours. Someday it would be so awesome to take a driving tour of New England in the fall, see the colors and explore the other historical areas- maybe even zip up to Maine- perhaps continue a bit further north and see Prince Edward Island, home of one of my heroines, Anne Shirley. :) I'm pretty sure we could live in this area for years and never run out of cool stuff to do and see.

4. Fredericksburg: Pretty much the coolest place to live! It's about 50 miles south of DC and about 50 miles north of Richmond, so it's right between two big cities with tons of awesome stuff to check out and explore. BUT, it's also a pretty neat town its own right. We went to visit Fredericksburg on Monday because Brad had some interviews there. It's kind of got a "small town" feel to it, despite its proximity to much larger cities. When we went to visit, we talked about how we wouldn't want to live there if we were just going to have to drive 45 minutes away everytime we wanted something, but I was just delighted to find that in addition to this cute little "historical" downtown area with some fun restaurants and little shops...
There is also a more modern center of commerce with literally EVERYTHING I would have planned to be in my dream town- I had to clap my hands and cheer (in the car of course) when I saw the Costco! :) I simply couldn't move somewhere that didn't have one so this was a real sticking point for me. :) There is also a lovely little mall (and for REAL shopping, there is the world's largest and coolest outlet mall about 30 minutes away) and all the chain restaurants we love to eat at when we're not going out for a special meal. There's Target and WalMart (though I never shop there because I hate them) and grocery stores and farmer's markets and all that fun stuff too. So we could totally live there and be very happy.

Housing costs in the DC area are kind of astronomical. I think it's pretty crazy to pay $800,000 for a townhouse or condo or a teeny tiny house sitting right next to another one- and to live really close to DC this is what you're looking at. One thing I really really want in whatever area we settle in is the ability to have a "normal" house in a "normal" neighborhood- sidewalks, fenced backyards, a little bit of space between houses so kids have room to play and grow and run. Big trees and beautiful parks to walk to. It's not super easy to find a place like this close to DC where normal people can afford to live. BUT Fredericksburg, while still a far cry from housing prices in Grand Rapids, IS accessible to normal people- and unlike most people who might move to that area, we would not have to consider the cost of commuting to the city because Brad would work at whatever hospital is close to where we live (or really we will live somewhere close to whatever hospital he decides to work at!) We had a realtor take us around in the afternoon while we were there and he showed us some pretty nice neighborhoods that looked like what we might be looking for and within a price range that (after we got done choking) we could probably afford after Brad finishes residency. So it's a definite possibility

Brad had two interviews on Monday and while I should probably not post too many specifics in such a public format, he really enjoyed talking with them and feels like there is definitely reason to think that he might find a good fit in the Fredericksburg area. This is Mary Washington Hospital, the big medical center in the area. They've got a higher level NICU and take care of lots and lots of patients in the surrounding areas. Brad would certainly have no shortage of business here! Apparently the area is about 10 OB/GYNs short of what they should have to effectively care for the population.

Fredericksburg, while not quite so heavily wooded as the area further north where our friends live, is still home to many trees, and is actually the site of a rather important Civil War battle. Here we are, standing next a restored Civil War cannon, right in the middle of where the Battle of Fredericksburg was waged. How cool is that?!
So, bottom line, we accomplished the goal of our trip by finding out first-hand that Virginia (and specifically Fredericskburg) is a possibility for us. This excites me so much because even though i truly HATE moving, having done it more times than I would wish in my growing up years- I believe that God is planting this dream in our hearts because He wants us to be here. I don't know why, but I have sensed His leading this year perhaps more strongly than ever before- maybe because circumstances in our lives are forcing me to ask the questions and really listen to the answers as never before. There is a long road yet ahead. No commitments have been made, nor will they be made for many more months yet, but I have a feeling that we are on a road that will bring us back into this area. It's exciting and scary at the same time!!