Walla Walla, or bust! Putting California in the rearview mirror.
April 22, 2018 was the day my family loaded up in our cars and headed north to Walla Walla, Washington, marking a significant day in our search for Ecotopia. A month later, I am finally taking the time to capture the moments, thoughts, and feelings of this major transition in our life's journey. There were so many days that I had wanted to journal about my experience, however, once we made the decision to move to Walla Walla my time was packed more than ever. Our decision to move to Walla Walla was a conversation that lasted for three years.
After Stella and Sparrow were born in 2011, Jennifer and I realized that with four girls and a three-bedroom house we would outgrow the house before we knew it. We gave ourselves a five-year deadline to make a decision, and prepare a plan to either rebuild our Sunnyvale home, or move. As we got closer to our deadline, our hearts were pulling us toward moving. We developed some criteria to begin our search for our next hometown. We wanted twice the house for half the price, a family focused community, beautiful scenery and outdoor activities, less than 100,000 people, and a diverse culture. Additionally, we wanted to live where there was clean air and water. Our search started on the eastern half of Colorado. Paonia, then Monte Vista. Then, I saw the movie Gasland. The rise in fracking in Colorado concerned me. So, a new criteria for our next hometown was added to the list: no fracking operations in the state. I looked at the map of fracking in America, and learned that close to two-thirds of America has shale (the layer of earth that is fracked for natural gas). Northwestern America was one of the few areas that did not present opportunities for the fracking industry. So, our search turned to Oregon, then Washington, and we narrowed our decision to Walla Walla. In October, 2017 we rented an RV and took a road trip through Oregon, and visited Walla Walla.
During our stay in Walla Walla, we drove past all the houses we had saved from our online searches. We discovered that the wine industry in Walla Walla has been taking off. The rest of the time, we spent walking around the downtown area and trying some local restaurants. Well, actually we kept visiting the same restaurant, The Maple Counter Cafe. It has a wonderful atmosphere, great service, and fantastic food. The girls were won over by the bear-shaped pancakes!
The excitement of making this decision, and putting our plan into action, naturally comes with sacrifice and consequence. However, we were able to balance the sacrifices and consequences with benefits and opportunities.
In the summer of 2007, Jennifer and I bought the house Jennifer grew up in. Zoë was six-months old, and the first iPhone was about to be released. It was also months before the housing bubble popped. We lost 40% of our house value in the first six months of our ownership. We reassured ourselves with the advice from our parents, that the price would come back up with time. The house was built in 1956. The last update was in the mid-1990’s, when a living room was added. But, the rest of the house had hardly been touched. When the time and money was available, we worked on the house and landscaping. In part because I enjoy construction projects and getting my hands dirty. You can check out pictures of the changes in the Santa Ynez Gallery. Even with all the work we did, and Jennifer’s lifetime of memories in the house, the housing prices continued to reach outrageous heights in the Bay Area through 2017 and into 2018! The potential selling price of our home helped seal the deal, and make our plan look financially possible. Apparently, we were not alone in this decision - KTVU - South Bay Exodus.
The sorrow of separation was hard for our girls, especially Zoë and Willow. For the most part, I was able to personally put those feelings aside by emerging myself in packing and preparing the house for sale. Jennifer and I made every effort to talk with the girls and include them on discussions about the move. Often, they did not want to talk about it, and we tried to find a balance of making them talk about their feelings and what the road ahead would look like, with giving them space and time to process. That being said, I knew I would miss being near my family. On my side fo the family, we would see each other a handful of times each year, usually at birthday parties and holidays. As our moving date got closer, sadness would fill my heart on the drive home from those remaining gatherings. The realization of the time and effort it would take for us together again hit me hard. We are fortunate to live in the time we are in. Technology makes it easier for us to stay connected. FaceTime lets us see each other, and making the calls on our iMac brings the other person closer. And we are able to share pictures and videos. Not the same as being there with each other, and being able to hug one another (Willow makes this point known regularly!). However, it does keep us connected.
On the way home from seeing my family in Dublin and Walnut Creek, we would drive by Fremont were my mom's body is buried. Passing the beautiful hills reminded me that I would not be able to visit her grave site in a long time. That being said, I had only visited her grave twice since she passed away in 2012. I miss you so much mom! I am most grateful that she lived a Christian life, and was a major influence in connecting me with Jesus. My personal relationship with the Lord has seen many twists and turns through my life, and my mom was always there guiding me back. In 2016, Jennifer and I made a commitment to raise our family in the church. After church-shopping for six months, we found a wonderful church family at Crosswalk Community Church. Singing songs on Sunday reminded me so much of my mother. She had a wonderful singing voice, that I am sure is filling Heaven. And, while we will miss the Crosswalk community, our devotion to Christ that was fostered there, and an app where the church shares the sermons, will keep us connected to the community. And, I know that having a relationship with Jesus will continue to keep my mom's spirit alive in my heart, and help me share her memory with her granddaughters. In our time exploring Walla Walla, we have spent considerable time visiting all the antique stores here, something I know my mom would have enjoyed thoroughly.
The Bay Area is a beautiful place.The excitement of being around cutting edge technology. The open spaces in the hills, and along the bay. The abundance and diversity of amazing food. One can do just about anything one desires. Yet, finding the time and money to do it had gotten increasingly difficult for us. The bay area is the most expensive place to live in America. And more people keep moving there! High-density housing is going up at astonishing rates. And more cars are filling the already congested roadways. When I moved to the Bay Area in 1992, it was easy to say that traffic congestion was better than Los Angeles. Now, it is in close competition. With all the development happening in the area, I realized that the next time I visited the area it will look very different than the community I was a part of. That was slightly comforting by reinforcing the impermanance of this world. So, all the wonderful times we had living the Bay Area we will continue to hold dear. And with that, we say, "see you later Bay Area." as we move forward into the next amazing chapter of our lives.
Thank you for reading, and stay tuned for the next post about our unfolding journey on our search for Ecotopia!