Well, we have been here since 8/1 – kids have been here since 8/8/2014. Some quick observations after the first three weeks:
- Living – we have a nice apartment which is bigger than our last place. I think all of us are getting used to the new layout because it is a lot different than our last place. The rent is more than what we were paying in MN. It is a much bigger complex and we haven’t seen very many people out and about. Maybe they stay inside in the summer like people do in MN in the winter. We live relatively close to many things like Target, Costco, etc. We are still learning where things are and how to navigate the roads and the traffic.
- Work – I have a bit more responsibility and my days are busy. Not much has changed except it is nice to be around people again. After the layoff happened, I was sitting in an area that was relatively empty, there were people in other areas on the same floor but our jobs did not have interaction. This has been the easiest adjustment thus far since I already knew most of the people because of my frequent trips here since 2012.
- Commuting – Since we are down to one car after selling the Honda before we left MN (Honda had issues and no A/C) I have been taking public transportation to work. We live right across the street from a train station. I take a DCTA (Denton County Transportation Authority) train for one stop (5 mins) to the Trinity Mills DART station to transfer to the Green Line train to Farmers Branch (two stops) and then I get off the train at Farmers Branch and the bus stop is right there at the station. I ride the bus and it drops me off right across the street from where I work. Then I have to cross said busy street (taking my life into my hands – it is not that bad) and then walk down a long driveway. I am usually at work within 1 hour from the time I leave home and then I do the same thing again in the afternoon. It is interesting being a part of the sub-culture that exists on public transportation. I will say this, the buses and trains are very timely and I am thankful for air conditioning on these warm days. My son came and rode the bus and train home with me on Friday afternoon so he got to experience what I do everyday to get to work and back home again. Because I use several modes of transport between two providers, I have to use a regional pass which costs $10 a day, or $50 a week or $160 a month. I just purchased a weekly pass but haven’t purchased a monthly pass yet. It is definitely an adjustment not having a second car!
- Education – this has been one of the hardest decisions that I have ever made. Joseph was in a Christian school from K-2 grade and he did very well there, most importantly, he trusted Christ in April of this year. Christian school is unbelievably expensive. A comparable Christian school here in TX vs MN is going to be about $2k more per year which we do not have in our budget. We tried to get Joseph into a Classical Charter school (he is still on the waiting list) but were unsuccessful in doing so for this year. He is going to attend public school this year and we went and met his teacher and some of the other school staff and everyone seemed very nice and kind. He will be in a class of 20 students (TX has a law that does not allow class sizes to exceed 22 students per 1 teacher) There will be 11 boys and 9 girls. We will see how he does this year.
- Church – this is another factor that has weighed heavily on my heart throughout the entire process. Our family has been a part of Fourth Baptist Church for a long time. I came in 2002, my wife came in 1999 and our children have been there since they were born, so it is the only church they have ever known outside of visiting with their grandparents, cousins or going to hear dad preach. I am very thankful for the opportunities that I had to serve in the various ministries of Fourth Baptist Church. It is an adjustment going to church and not teaching, ushering or serving in any capacity. The second week here we went and visited the church where my bosses husband is the pastor – we have enjoyed visiting there in the past, but the drawback is that it is 45 mins to 1 hr west of here… long drive both ways. Today we visited a church that we visited when we were here in June – it is only 15 mins from our home but the issue still seems to be with the music – a little too contemporary for our family. Everything else is great, the preaching is good, the people have been friendly (some of them even remembered us from our June visit) but getting past the music issue may be difficult. We are aware of two other churches that are similar to what we came from in MN but both of those are 45 mins away as well – one south of us and one east of us. Being in the “Bible belt” I did not think that this would be an issue, but it has become one because we are finding two types of churches: 1) Ultra-conservative and ultra-legalistic 2) Church services that resemble a rock concert or performance. We are not finding (at least not yet) anything that is between both extremes. So we keep searching and praying for the right church that is within a reasonable driving distance. We greatly miss our friends at Fourth Baptist Church in Plymouth, MN and going through this experience has given us a greater appreciation for the role of the local New Testament church in the life of the believer.
- Location, Location, Location – no matter where you live in this area, things seem to be spread out. Nothing seems to be close. I stated in an earlier paragraph that we are close to Target and Costco, but Trader Joes and Whole Foods are considerable distances from us currently. We seem to be driving more to get from place to place. We were definitely spoiled being 15 mins from work and very close to Trader Joes, Costco, and Whole Foods in Maple Grove.
- Weather - yes it has been warm here, we have had several days of over 100 degree temperatures, but nothing too unbearable. You drink more water and stay inside. I do not want to see my first electric bill. We have all the ceiling fans running and the air is set at 77 degrees and I hope I don’t have to take out a loan to pay the bill! I think things will be different once we get into Fall and Winter, a definite adjustment for those of us who were used to below zero temperatures and lots of snow. Last winter took its toll on everyone both mentally and physically…
- Cost of Living – there is no State Income Tax here in TX, so it is like getting a raise, but there are some trade-offs. 1) Sales tax is higher – 8.25% compared to 7.275% – does not look like much but that also translates into higher property taxes as well. 2) There is tax on clothing here 3) Rent is more expensive here 4) Gas is a bit cheaper 5) Food is a bit cheaper 6) Utilities are more expensive. I am thinking that the “cost of living is cheaper” argument may not have much merit by the time we have lived here for one year.
As you read this, please pray for our family as we continue to assimilate and get adjusted. Pray that we will be able to make connections with people, not only where we live, but that we would be able to find a good, solid local church and that Joseph would have a good school year as well. Its only been three weeks, and we still have a lot to learn and some growing to do as well in this process. We have learned a lot along the way. We would love to hear from you.