Waco, Texas Inspires Us

Melinda and I both grew up in Southern California. In the 1980s and 90s, California seemed like a great place to race a family. Property values were not very high at the time, and the moderate weather year round makes it easy for families to let their kids run in the backyard or at the beach. And with over 10 million people living in the area, there are plenty of jobs, museums, malls, and other activities. 

But when Melinda and I got married in 2013, Southern California doesn't feel like the same place we grew up. Fighting traffic every day is like fighting for your life. Property values are higher than ever, even after the great recession. And the culture of California has changed. It's no longer a place for new families to start. Instead, it's a place for singles to find a new career, or for aggressive business people to make money in real estate or other investments. 

But for a newly-wed family, with young kids, California is not the right place to raise a family anymore.

In 2013, Melinda and I talked about buying our first home. But the math did not add up. We could quality for a home, at best, in the $400,00 range. And in Southern California, you can barely purchase a Condo for that price. No family with young kids dreams of raising their kids in a Condo. 

Melinda quickly knew that if we wanted to raise a family, we couldn't just sit in California waiting for us to suddenly start making a seven-figure salary just so we could live in our dream home and build a family. She knew we had to move away. And with our first son, Jayden, coming soon in the next 7 months, Melinda had homesteading and hospitality on her mind. Her gift is to make home feel like a place that everyone in the family belongs to, without prioritizing one person's preferences over the other. So finding the right home, with every detail accounted for, is something that is always on her heart and mind. 

I was hesitant, though. We both grew up in this area, and although I agreed it's not the most family-friendly place in the world, everything we knew was in Southern California. It's where we met, got married, and all of our friends and family are. 

But I agreed that we would start thinking of alternatives. Our first attempt was in Northern California, outside of San Francisco in the Napa or Sonoma wine country areas. I love the vineyards of Napa, so I was totally excited to look there as a first start. But we quickly found that the prices weren't much better. And worse, the quality of homes was far lower. Maybe we would afford one of these homes, but they were total dumps. The homes we saw in the $400,000 range were falling apart, and needed substantial repair. After a week of searching, we went back home discouraged. 

A month later, we start looking at San Diego, only to find a similar situation. So on our next vacation, we try Portland. Melinda loves Portland, but it did not inspire me. So we tried Seattle the following year. And I love Seattle. The landscape, the oceans, the modern buildings, and billion-dollar tech companies. Seattle is a place I easily fell in love with. But in the Winter, we had 30-degree days and our son Jayden had nothing to do but run around in the house all day with no place to let lose. 

To me, Seattle was the place to move. There were some affordable places, and Seattle is a working town. People there stay in doors and work. And they work at places like Amazon, Starbucks, or Microsoft headquarters. And those are all companies I really respect. Plus, Seattle has some of the most amazing modern residential architecture. I love pretty much everything about the area. 

A week after we get home from vacation, Melinda is scheduled for her 20-week ultrasound for our second son, Josiah. And we get probably the most devastating news of our life. Josiah has spina bifida, of the most severe kind. He has severe swelling inside his brain, his spinal cord is severed above the lower back, and he is fully paralyzed from the waist down. 

The news is so devastating, that we lose all our ability to stay mentally grounded. We spend weeks trying to understand what spina bifida is, is there a cure, what do we do, and every other thought in between. 

Almost all of our doctors recommend abortion. Spina bifida is severe, and they say there is very little quality of life.

Justin Wood