Series: Our transplant journey to the desert – How are we doing now

Welcome back!

This is the final part of a series on our transplant journey to Arizona. If you haven’t read my first post for this series, you can catch up here.

We have officially lived in Arizona for two years now. I would love to say that our life is perfect in the East Valley but its not. As I said in my last post, we still endure hardships and obstacles. If I am being honest, probably the hardest life lessons we have learned to date as a family and individually. Not to say that we don’t love it here because we so love living in the Phoenix metro area. I believe its the best decision we have ever made for our family.

This move has been a huge learning experience for our family. Our overall family dynamic had not changed because we didn’t really depend on anyone else to help with childcare. I believe the biggest changes for us was the convenience of having family close by. Our biggest changes were in our finances, business opportunities, and overall environment.

Don’t listen to the negativity

The biggest obstacle we faced when we began our transplant story was the enormous amount of backlash we received from family. With the exception of a handful of family members, everyone told us we were making a huge mistake moving out of state. Only until recently has extended family been truly supportive and accepting of our move.

What we learned from this experience was to trust our gut and do what is best for our family. While we loved the convenience of living close to family, we knew that our day to day life would drastically change for the better once we moved to Arizona.

My husband and I also say that we became actual adults and also learned more about ourselves. Once we settled into our new life in the desert, we knew we would have to ensure our financial ducks were in a row. So we hired a financial adviser to help us navigate our present and future financial responsibilities. We are well on our way to creating a life and legacy for our kids. This also ignited passion projects that we had put on the back burner because of financial strains.

Open for business

Once we moved to the East Valley, I was able to acquire a remote position for a software consultant company based in the Bay Area. This gave me the ability to talk to adults and refresh my skills while still having the ability to be home with my son. While this sounds like an ideal situation, it comes with time management challenges and a toddler sitting on my lap while I finish a call. Surprisingly, remote workers are pretty common for those living in Arizona. I have met more remote professionals in this metro area than in California.

My husband graduated from a local gunsmithing college – YES its a thing – at the beginning of this year and has opened a gun broker company. He will now have the opportunity to serve those in the community while carrying out his passion. Gilbert is also very supportive of small businesses so the process of opening a business was seamless. This is absolutely something we could not do in the Bay Area with all of California’s firearms laws. I am so proud of all my husband has accomplished to open this business. Its no easy feat.

Lifestyle improvements

Before living in the East Valley, we lived in the East Bay in California. The city we lived in had a bad rap. After almost ten years of living in this city, we knew that we wouldn’t grow as a family and individuals without making a drastic change. It came to a point that my husband would tell me which gas stations, grocery stores, and fast food restaurants were not safe. Honestly friends, looking back, this was no way to live. Our kids deserved to live in an area that they felt safe in.

Now living in Gilbert, our kids experience things they never had before. They’ve gone to the mall without adult supervision; they are able to walk to their friends’ houses; they are able to walk home from school; and we feel safer in this community. Don’t get me wrong, there’s still crime in Gilbert but compared to the city we used to live in, we basically live in ‘Leave it to Beaver’.

Lifestyle in Arizona is slower. Whenever we have family or friends visit, they always express how nice people are in Gilbert. These are not isolated events, Gilbert isn’t nicknamed Kindness USA for nothing. I have learned to wave to my neighbors when they drive by my house; have a conversation with the person in front or behind me in line; and to be kind to complete strangers. This is one of the top three reasons why we love living in Gilbert. This town is very community based and you see it on a daily basis. Compared to the Bay Area where everyone seems stressed out and always in a hurry. We have learned to enjoy life in the desert as well as get to know our neighbors.

Building a community

One of the hardest things we left behind in the East Bay was our church family. This amazing group of individuals blessed our family with the foundation of a Christ centered community. Because of them, we have learned that the only way we were to survive in the desert without immediate family was to create a community of our own. We knew the first place to look would be a church in our town. It took over a month and emails to our California home church to find one that fit our family. Two years later, we are well immersed in our new home church and our relationship with Christ has grown exponentially.

My husband and I currently serve in multiple ministries while our kids serve the preschool aged kids on Sunday mornings. In doing this, we have created a group of like minded individuals who love God and love people. It has been a true blessing find our new church home.

Managing mental health

Mental health is still a big topic in our house. It has been a pretty rough two years adjusting to our kids’ new diagnoses but over time we have learned how to help them manage it and move forward. I am so proud of all the work my kids’ have done to speak about their needs and feelings. Navigating teenagers is hard enough and having teens with different diagnoses makes these formative years even more complicated.

My mental health is currently pretty stable. My depression has decreased but my anxiety has now become my biggest obstacle. I still have insomnia but the cannabis and CBD has helped me get more restful sleep. Which does help with my overall mental state. I have learned what tools work and how to manage on hard days. I am definitely working towards a more solidified workout routine and I feel that I am closer than I have ever been to being more transparent with what I need overall.

The future looks bright

Reflecting on our transplant journey has given me an appreciation for how my parents immigrated from the Philippines to the US. Leaving their native country, their family members, all they have ever known and moved to a foreign land in search of the ‘American dream’. While moving to another state is nowhere near as difficult as moving to another country, I appreciate why my parents immigrated and what they scarified to provide a better life for my siblings and I.

Sorry family, we are not moving back to California. We are able to provide so many more things in Arizona and a lifestyle that we only dreamed of. I believe wholeheartedly that God has huge plans for us here and I cannot wait to see what he has in store for us. If you are thinking about relocating out of California, come and visit us. I know you will be pleasantly surprised.

Series: Our transplant journey to the desert – Something’s got to give

This is will be a short two part series on our transplant journey to Arizona from the Bay Area.

Happy House-iversary to us!!! As we end year two of living in Arizona, I reflect on what brought us here and the current status of our lives. This move was a long time coming and honestly, the husband and I always had a nudge from God that we would leave the Bay Area one day. We just didn’t know when and how it would happen but God knew and he moved mountains for us.

I am going to prematurely give you the conclusion of this post because I think it’s important to state that our lives here in the desert aren’t stress free, perfect or magical. While our financial status has changed for the better, we are still in a state of getting everything in order. Our marriage still has its ups and downs. Our kids still think we are so uncool and struggles they are working through. Friends, life still happens and even if my social media posts look amazing and beautiful in our gorgeous backyard – we still struggle with anything and everything you can imagine. I will expand on that later on in this post. Let’s go back to the beginning and how the move happened. 

Something’s got to give

Realistically, a family of seven should have a difficult time moving out of state but we generally didn’t. Our move was as stress-less as it could get. I know that sounds impossible and believe me, we did too. Once I layout how everything came about, you will see that God was making a way for us in probably the quickest timeline ever.

2017 began with quitting my job because my depression and anxiety became unmanageable. It was one of the darkest and lowest times in my life. To make matters worse, our financial situation was also become unmanageable with the rise of expenses and my loss of income.It became increasingly unsafe in the neighborhoods and the community around our home. So much so that the husband had given me strict order to not frequent certain grocery stores, gas stations, and any parks close to our house.

This was no way to live. I felt like a prisoner in my mind and now a prisoner in my own city. I knew we had to make a drastic change or we would drown in debt, live in fear of our community, or even lose our home. The straw that broke the camel’s back was a conversation I had with a teacher our daughters’ elementary school. She informed me that at the end of this school year, 12 teachers were leaving and the librarian was retiring. When a drastic change happens at any school, it’s not good. The acting principal also left after only one year – red flag. So I brought up moving out of the Bay Area again with my husband. He agreed.

Hope arises

Around that time, one of his cousins reached out and invited us to Arizona to take a look at the community they lived in. She spoke about how the town was ideal for young families and it is significantly more affordable than the Bay Area. Obviously. The statistics she gave me that really peaked my interest in checking out Arizona was that the town she lived in was just dubbed the safest town in the US. Ding-ding-ding! The husband and I planned to make the drive during Spring Break while we were in LA.

When we arrived in the East Valley, the husband and I just fell in love. We loved how wide and clean the freeway was, we appreciated how clean the town was kept, and get this – people were nice and talked to you. They allowed you to merge into their lane, minimal honking, and people always yielded or allow you to go first. I remember thinking – Are we in Leave it to Beaver? – obviously not but I was amazed there was a community that existed like this. I wanted into this community like yesterday. I prayed about it in the deepest part of my heart. Thankfully she also arranged for us to meet one of her really good friends who was also a realtor. Well played cousin. Well played. So we talked shop and we were off to plan how we would actually accomplish this. 

Nothing is impossible with God

Where do we even start? It was so overwhelming to think about all the moving parts that needed to take place perfectly in order for this to even be possible – job, house, schools for the kids, and a home church. Those were our top priorities and we had a timeline of moving before school started at the beginning of August. It was now the end of April. 

First things first, the husband needed a job. We knew there would be a possibility that he would take a pay cut since we were moving to an area with a lower cost of living. We adjusted our house budget to also reflect a 25% pay cut. He refreshed his resume and began to apply for as many positions as possible and also sent his resume off to his cousin who basically knew everyone in the Valley – like she is a networking machine. He didn’t hear anything back for almost 3 weeks and once he did, well the phone interviews kept rolling in.

The husband would strategically take phone interviews on his lunch break, in his car, while at work. Once he secured in person interviews – a totaled five – he booked a flight to Phoenix. He made the trek to the desert solo with a laundry list of things to do in a short five day time period – secure an offer letter, look at potential schools for the kids, and find us a house. I stayed behind to keep our house running as smoothly and as normally as possible. I was also purging and cleaning our house for our potential move. Who trust their husband to choose their house for them? Me apparently. 

My husband is a banker by trade and has been in the business basically since our oldest was born. So he has a unique skill set and apparently it was sought after in the Phoenix metro area. SCORE. Soon he was wheeling and dealing with three potential companies – salary, annual commission, amount of vacation days, benefits start date, and a signing bonus. He was shooting for the stars, friends, it was impressive to watch.

Guess what – HE GOT WHAT HE WANTED. 

I was shocked and even more so when he told me his base salary would be more than what he made in the Bay Area. What!?! Once he received his offer letter, we sent it off to the lender and we settled on a house budget. We purged and cleaned and donated probably 50% of our belongings.

Looking back, I wish we left more things behind but that’s near nor there. Our Arizona realtor recommended a realtor in California that was in same brokerage company to make the transaction smoother. We met with her and we knew she was the perfect agent for our situation. She was very knowledgeable about the market and basically guaranteed that we would sell our home for at least 5% above the asking price. The cherry on top of the cake was that she was a Christian. We prayed with her at the end of our meeting and did exactly as she told – no questions asked. Purge more,  cleaned more, minor repairs, and deep clean the house.

At the beginning of June, we put our house on the market. We decided since it would be difficult to do multiple open houses we would do private showings during the week, a broker’s tour, and one Saturday open house. All unconventional to the normal tactics of selling a home but she knew what she was doing.

The Monday following our open house, our realtor wanted to meet with us first thing in the morning. She had a serious look on her face and told us we had a big decision to make. She handed us a stack of papers. It was ten – YES 10 – offer on our house: two at asking price and the rest above asking. We cried. How is this all happening so quickly? We narrowed it down to two offers and let them battle it out. We ended up picking an offer that was 15% over asking price. 

Tears of joy were shed by us and our realtor. Our God is so good. 

The same day we put our house on the market. We put an offer on our dream home. When we first looked at the listing, I told the husband that it was way above our budget – which is wasn’t – and there was no reason for us to have that much house – it was 3,700 square feet. He reasoned with me that it was the only house he saw that was move in ready with a backyard that was completed. Ok fine, let’s do it. We learned the next day that the house had three offers two above asking and ours at asking price. I was heartbroken. I knew the drill because we just accepted an offer. Our realtors both agreed that we should write a letter to the homeowners on why they should pick our offer. So the husband wrote the most heartfelt letter anyone could write. It worked.

So many tears again. I can’t handle this God. Its too many blessings all at once. Our realtors worked their magic and closed on both houses in 22 days. If you’ve ever bought and sold before, this timeline is unheard of. Yup, that’s God working again folks. So if you look back at the timeline, this all started in April; we put the house on the market at the beginning of June; and at the end of July, we moved 50% of our belongings on a moving truck and shipped our cars to Arizona.

See where we are today

I have met many other families that have attempted to move out of California with less children, financially more stable than us, and in a better position overall but their moves were so much more difficult or they never happened. The more I reflect on our transplant story, the more I can see where God made a way for us to move here. This one instance in our life has changed our relationship with Christ forever. We believe He has a purpose for us in Arizona and we are eager to see what he has in store for us.

I will conclude this series in two weeks with a two year status update on where we are today. How our marriage is going, the kids, acclimating, and our overall general status in the desert.

Please join me next week with a special interview with an amazing Filipina therapist. You won’t wanna miss it!