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!!

Saturday, March 22, 2008

My List- Part Three

Last night our Good Friday service at church had to be canceled because of SNOW!!!!! We got about 6 inches last night... Snow on Easter weekend feels like a giant slap in the face. There should be green things and flowers, NOT snow! So I all the more diligently pour my thoughts into imagining a better place to live! :)

14. Outdoor Activities/Physical Fitness: I would like to live someplace where people go outside a lot and get moving! I know I once saw a thing online or on TV that ranked states for levels of physical fitness... but I can't seem to find what I'm looking for. Basically, I would like our next home to be a place where fitness is a part of life; where instead of sitting home watching TV, our neighbors would be outside playing with their kids or walking at the park. Exercise and outdoor play is such an important part of development for kids (and it wouldn't do me any harm either) that I want Carolyn to have every opportunity to play outside and develop her muscles- and her imagination because outdoor play is often so much less structured than indoor. I have many happy memories of growing up in our backyard in Lubbock TX, which by most people's account wouldn't have been the prettiest place in the world, but to me, I thought it was a magical place where I could make anything happen. Carolyn needs an outdoor place like this, too. Michigan is at a real disadvantage here because you simply cannot go outside regularly for about 6 months out of the year!!! You're stuck inside without a whole lot to do and you just go stir crazy. We need to be somewhere warmer where you can actually be outside and breathe the fresh air!!

15. Low Profile for Terrorists: Michigan has a bit of a boost in this area because I don't think many terrorists would be interested in bombing all our little farms and towns in West Michigan. Some of the other cities we're considering aren't... quite... so low profile... :) [we are actually exploring some of the extended DC area cities as possibilities]. At any rate, wherever we live, I think we definitely need to be someplace where we have an escape route. I get the chills whenever I think about those movies where something terrible happens and the whole ginormous city is trying to get out on two major highways that are all completely packed. We definitely need to leave close to a way OUT if we live near a major city... just in case.

16. Basements: Over the course of my moving experiences, I have found that there are some communities where all the houses have basements and other communities where none of them do. Our basement is one of the best things about our house. It isn't finished so right now we just keep (a lot of) junk down there... but the possibility and potential to almost double our square footage is there- a bonus! I want to live somewhere where a basement just comes with the house. Plus it is a good place to hide if there is a tornado.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

My List- Part Two

I've been thinking about my List a lot lately; it's a potent dream, creating your very own Utopia- fun to think about, even if it never really could exist in real life. So without further ado, I will continue my list of Criteria for Our Next New Home.

7. Within driving distance of family: This is where it really hits home for me. Even if I ever do find Utopia (or something close enough to it...) it could never be wonderful enough if it were too far away from the people I love best. We spent 3 years together in Phoenix when we were newly married and I can't think of anything better for a young couple to do to really establish their marriage than to move physically away from their families of origin. But for the last almost 3 years we have been close to both our families and have had the tremendous joy of sharing these days of wonder and discovery and miraculous growth of our daughter. And I can think of very few things more valuable to the growth of a child than to have the influence of the previous generations and to be embraced with the love of extended family. I love being able to just hop in the car for the weekend and go visit my parents. I love that my mom and dad have come to babysit Carolyn the weekends that I've worked. I love that whenever I have a need for a go-to gal when my childcare arrangements fall through, Carolyn's Nana is always wiling to step in. It would be hard to be too far away to enjoy all that! But there isn't anything constant about life except that it's always changing! At any rate, Brad's parents will soon be moving to Bluffton, SC, where they plan to retire, and even if we stayed right here, we would be a couple days' drive away. My parents are looking to us girls to make some more permanent decisions about where we'll be before they decide where they want to settle in the end... and no one knows for sure, but it seems likely that they will stay somewhere around the Midwest/Michigan area (unless the Texas relatives come up and steal them away by force to Lone Star Land). :) My sister Michelle lives in Chicago; who knows where Laura will end up, and Brad's brother and sister live in Raleigh- for the time being. So I think Utopia would have to optimize all those things so that we would not be horrifically far away from anyone. I would say that I'd like to be within at least a 9 hour drive from everyone because this is do-able in a long day of driving.

8. Close to a Southwest Airlines City: Although they're getting some flack now for not being quite on the up-and-up about aircraft inspections (which makes me nervous...), SWA has been good to us in the past. They have cheap fares and good service. I like flying SWA. And did I mention they were cheap? I'd like to live within about 3 hours of a city with SWA service so that we could easily get wherever we wanted to in the country with a quick drive and flight.

9. Better Road Conditions: Indeed, it would be difficult to find a place with poorer road conditions than Michigan! Due to the horrible winter weather, our roads are pitted with potholes that take the construction workers a hundred years to fix and next year it'll be just the same. Summer construction projects seem to be very inefficiently run and result in extended traffic snags. Rather than focus the resources on fixing a small number of projects quickly and well, they seem to like to tear up all kinds of things at the very beginning of the summer and then spend the next 6 months tinkering around all over town- then sometimes by the time it snows, some of the projects are done. AND apparently I heard that there is some kind of really good road surfacing material or something that they could use to fix the roads in a more permanent way, BUT, the unionized construction industry won't allow it because it would put them out of work! What?!

10. Better Economics: Speaking of unions, I think I would like to be somewhere that isn't as driven by them as this area is. Clearly the auto industry is suffering in a major way and ultimately will be on its way out, I think. I'd like to live somewhere where people are not as depressed as people are around here. It's the weather, and it's also just the "feeling" since so much of our economy depends on the auto industry that is failing and many people are either out of work or in jeopardy. I don't know much about economics, but I know it isn't good in Michigan. I remember Phoenix being an exciting place to live, with lots of young people who were excited about their jobs and stuff. I'd like to live somewhere with a more robust economy.

11. Good Education System: This is a plus for Michigan because there are many good schools here. BUT... it also seems that in many of the smaller cities around here, kids in high school aren't encouraged to go to college like they are in some places. For Brad and me, it was just a given that we would go. I know that this is a blessing that many other people do not have... but you just cannot get by in today's world without an education. I would like Carolyn to grow up somewhere where she is expected to go to college, where all the other kids go to college, and where academics are highly valued. Clearly a lot of this will come from her family- but I think it would also be good for her teachers and classmates to encourage this.

12. Reasonably Conservative: I don't want to live in California where my child would be indoctrinated into a very liberal point of view from a very early age. I know that she will ultimately have to learn to think critically and to integrate the truth of God's Word into her thought processes and learn discernment to be able to separate truth from falsehood. But I think there is something to be said for the parent's responsibility to shelter a young child from being unduly influenced by the world until he or she is ready to handle the responsibility (or until he or she reaches an age at which she must begin to be accountable, ready or not!) We aren't sure yet whether we will choose public school, private school, or home school- but I would like public school to be an option for Carolyn, so I'd like to live in a reasonably conservative community where family values are upheld even in the public schools.

13. Not Too "Christian": We currently live in an area that is very "Christian." There is a church on every corner and nearly everyone is involved in some way- and even those that aren't still generally live by basic Christian morals. This is a good thing and a bad thing. The bad part is that all this "shelter" easily lulls one into a false sense of security. It is so easy to blend in when everyone around you essentially thinks the same things- to not really LIVE the radical life change that true faith in Christ and the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit brings. It was actually much harder to find a church here than it was in Phoenix because there are so many choices and there is SOOO much complacency- and we are so guilty of it ourselves! In Phoenix, in order to be a Christian, you had to be counter-cultural- and the adversity of the community around us bound us together and we grew in our faith by leaps and bounds. In Grand Rapids, you really don't have to be any different from the world- and most of us, if we're honest, don't really stand out that much. I want to be different. I want to really LIVE my faith- and I want to live in a community that forces me to choose, where it will not be so easy to blend in, where being a Christian means something more than just going to church on Sundays. We need this. Because Utopia really doesn't truly exist on this earth. Our lives here really only count for how they impact the greater Hereafter. We must go where we can grow.

Well, I think that about wraps it up for this segment of My List. I will continue to post as ideas occur to me!! Oh, and if you read my last post and were confused about my thoughts on proximity to a major city, what I meant is that I don't want to be any farther from a major metropolis (not necessarily Chicago) than we currently are to Chicago.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

My List- Part One

Since we have yet to receive specific "marching orders" from God, I thought maybe I could give Him a little help (ha!) with this description of the "perfect" place to live. :) It is likely that it does not exist... but what's wrong with a little dreaming? :) Here's my list of key features. :)

1. Four Seasons: preferably each season of approximately the same length and intensity. Not a lot of frigid cold or scorching heat. Minimal humidity, but I am willing to put up with some as a trade-in for the excessive amounts of snow and ice we currently live with. I'd like there to be some snow; just not as much or for as long. I would also like there to be a good deal more sun than we currently see here in the Land of One Million Clouds.

2. Pretty: while I have found in my experience living in multiple different places that almost any place can be truly pretty, there are some things I find especially lovely and as I design our new home, I'd like to incorporate some of them.
-Trees: preferably aspen trees, my favorites. I also love the tall, stately, huge deciduous trees that change beautiful colors in the fall.
-Mountains: there is a great love for the majesty and beauty of the mountains, no doubt instilled by my parents and our frequent trips to the Rockies when I was a kid. I would absolutely love to live somewhere where we could just pick up and go take a hike as a family, or go camping, or just escape into a world where something bigger than us surrounds us. I'd be satisfied if mountains were driving distance away- they don't have to be in our back yard.
-Water: something about living in Michigan, especially West Michigan, has made me really come to appreciate the beauty of a large body of water- and also the fun to be had in various types of water sports. It'd be great fun to own a Jet Ski or something and be able to get out there and zoom around the water. If the water happened to be the ocean, so much the better! I have always held a great fascination for the motion and power of the waves and the seemingly endless possibilities of the seashore. I'd love to live somewhere where the music of the ocean could be part of our life.

3. Reasonably close to civilization: I like to get out and "do stuff" so I'd like to live relatively close to a larger city with interesting things to do- no further than we live from Chicago now- and I think ideally a little closer- maybe within 2 hours.

4. Reasonably far from city dwelling: While we liked the wide variety of things to do and places to eat in Phoenix, we did not like the traffic, the smog, the "packed-in" feeling of living so close to so many other people. I'd like to live somewhere where I feel like I'm still in a smaller community- someplace with nice parks and open spaces where I can see the lovely things God made instead of just the things built by human effort and design.

5. Good Restaurants: some places we'd love to live nearby would include PF Chang (or its little brother Pei Wei), Cosi, Roy's, and Chick Fil A. One of our very favorite things about Phoenix was the wide variety of restaurants to choose from. We really enjoy getting out and trying new places and also going back to old favorites. :)

6. Shopping: some sort of outlet mall would be nice. I love getting a good deal- and I'm afraid I might be one of those really dreadful people with a twisted connection between the Visa card and the pleasure centers of the brain. I am sure I get a little jolt of dopamine whenever I swipe my card for something I really wanted, and an extra dose if I've gotten a good deal! Unfortunately, the same does not hold true for when I'm paying bills. :(

Well, it's time to get our day started so I'd better wrap up for now. But this will be a regularly appearing post, because I have lots more ideas! Stay tuned!

Other contributors and commentators: What would be on your list?! What are some things I should add to mine? It's kind of fun to dream! :)

Thursday, February 21, 2008


That is my mother's Blogger name. If you read the comments to my last post, you will learn that she is "Transplant" for a very good reason- she has been uprooted and transplanted more times than are easily countable- as a kid and then also as part of our moving menagerie during my growing up years. And now she has lived for more than 10 years in the unlikeliest place imaginable when she considered her future years ago: the frozen cold North of Michigan (the rest of the family has never quite gotten over our move away from Texas)! So she is truly Transplanted.

And since this blog is likely to become a long-winded conversation between my mother and me (since no one else could possibly be truly interested enough to read about the minutia of my thought processes and will only be interested in large announcements which will certainly be made on our regular blog), I have decided to invite my mother to become a contributor on this blog.

I also figured I should invite my husband to contribute... as it is his future, too. :)

Looking forward to interesting conversations in the months to come. :)

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Start Where You Are

Sometimes when you are trying to make a decision, it is best to just start with where you are. So here we are, in Grand Rapids, Michigan. What are some pros to staying here?

1. The Spring just can't be beat- to see the world come all alive again after being dead and gone for so many months is truly inspiring.
2. Our House- has a huge jacuzzi bathtub that I love, a neighborhood we like a lot, and an unfinished basement that would be fun to see fixed up to add more space for our family to grow. Extra bonus: if we stay here, we could possibly ride out the housing market downturn and not lose money on our house. :)
3. My Job- I love working for Meijer. They have been good to me- have been super flexible with my hours, and I know and love what I do there. It would be a challenge to move to an entirely different community or state and potentially have to take another state's pharmacy law exam... ugh!
4. Fairly Low Cost of Living- it is much cheaper to live here than it is to live in Phoenix, or in many larger cities.
5. The Grass Probably Isn't Greener- it is usually true that the grass is not necessarily greener on the other side of the fence. Any community is going to have its downsides and troubles and probably they aren't any worse or better than what we have here.
6. Proximity to My Family- Brad's family is moving to South Carolina in '09, so they will not be close to us unless we move to SC (an unlikely scenario)... but my parents and both sisters live within just a few hours of here, so we see them frequently. It has been such a blessing in this time of life to be close to family. I would be very sad to live too far for quick day trip to see them.
7. Relationships and Roots- this is probably the number one reason I'd want to stay here. It took a good 2 years after moving here, but we finally have begun to develop deep and meaningful relationships with people that we would miss very much if we had to leave. I truly hate that "transplanted" feeling

On the flip side... what are some drawbacks to staying in Grand Rapids?

1. W-I-N-T-E-R! This winter has been the worst one I can remember! Especially now that Carolyn is here, I truly hate the cold, snowy, icy, gray, dreary, cloudy weather in the winter. Although there are some pretty moments when the snow is sparkling in a few feeble rays of sunshine and clinging to the trees like frosting in a land of gingerbread houses- it seems as though winter lasts FOREVER! I feel stuck in my house, unable to get out and go anywhere without being afraid of being smashed to bits on the roads- and if we do get out, we are severely limited on where we can go... most of the time we end up at the grocery store or the mall- and if I let Carolyn work out some of her wiggles in the play area at the mall, I am just asking for her to get sick! It seems like a never-ending cycle. I am sick of it. Right now I feel like Michigan is trying to boot us out!
2. Too Small-Town- While we like the feeling of a smaller town, it can be a little oppressive at times. There are a few good restaurants, but not really a whole lot of variety of places to eat and things to do. It would be fun to live somewhere with a little more going on.
3. Depressed Economy- Anyone who reads the news knows that Michigan isn't doing so hot with pretty much all its eggs in the downward spiraling auto industry. While the cost of living remains pretty low, it's a little bit of a bummer to live in a place where things just aren't up and moving. There's a real lack of positive "energy," for lack of a better word, here.
4. Crazy Governor with Nasty Mole- We aren't big fans of the folks up in Lansing making the tax laws that benefit the bureaucracy and those who live off it at the expense of people who dare to make a bit more than average (after much hard work and significant sacrifice). I just finished doing my taxes. I'm not a fan of Michigan tax law. And besides, Governor Granholm really should get that thing removed (but I guess I can admit that that's a side point :))
5. You Mean, We Might Stay Forever? This next move is our last forseeable relocation. God may lead us to go somewhere else later on down the line, but neither of us has that impression at this time. In all likelihood, the place we settle next will be where we stay to raise our kids and live out the majority of our lives... and when I think about that place being here, in Grand Rapids... some "free spirit" part of me feels trapped- like I'm locking myself in to never reaching beyond where we are now... my sense of adventure (which typically has to work pretty hard to get past my even deeper sense of "roots") just feels like it would be boring to stay here forever!
6. Obstetrical Saturation- this is probably the number one reason that staying here may not be a viable option for us. There are more than enough OB/GYNs in this area to meet the current demand and there really isn't a whole lot of room (that we know of) for Brad to set up the kind of practice he really wants.

So there you have it, the pros and cons list. Thanks for reading this far, Mom! :)

Sunday, February 17, 2008

First Post

So we moved to Michigan 3 years ago, feeling like residency would last forever and it would be a long time before we had to make any more decisions. And now it is sneaking up upon us- We have less than a year and a half to go before we will need to begin a whole new phase of our life together. And where should we go? Should we stay here? Will we pick up and move on to a new adventure? When will we know? How will we decide?!

I guess I always figured that when the time came, we would get our "marching orders" from the Lord and I still believe we will. He has never failed to lead and guide us as we've listened with open hearts for what He has for us.

Up until fairly recently, I think I had my heart closed off in a sense. I hate moving with a passion- having done it 8 times in my life- and I'm not really anxious to do it again. The housing market where we live is one of the poorest in the country and we'd likely lose money if we tried to sell our house. It took awhile, but I feel comfortable and happy here now, with friends I would greatly miss if we had to leave.

But as we've begun earnestly seeking God's will on this, I have felt a really deep sense of peace about whatever may come... and on top if it all, the spark of adventure has been lit inside me! I'm excited to see where He brings, and to dream of new and exciting things until He makes it clear to us where He wants us to go.

So if you're as interested as my mom is in the inner workings of my mind... then by all means, follow along. I'm not sure how often I'll post, but as I have ideas and thoughts to share, I will document them here.