Prodougal son

Look out Michigan: here we come. Go East, (not so) young man. We’re baaaack!

Could the clichés get any cliché-ee-er?

But, yes, after absorbing the near-daily raindrops, inhaling the pine needles’ bouquet garni, and experiencing the maddening – nay, eye-popping – growth of the Pacific Northwest (or PNW, as the flatbellied, grunge-geek locals call this part of God’s Evergreen Earth – not that they believe in God, but I digress), we have decided to return to our roots. To our families. To home. To Michigan. Five years hence.

Grand Rapids, here we come.

The decision to make the move was cemented after visiting The Wolverine State last July, feeling the summery warmth of Lake Michigan and, more importantly, another kind of warmth: that of family and lifelong friends. We’re trading the Space Needle for Art Prize, hipsters for autoworkers, and lots of rain for lots of snow. All propitious exchanges, those.

Michigan just fits like a glove, or, I guess, a Mitten, as the state’s often earmarked. And, Grand Rapids just feels right. It’s a new start – this time, on our terms compared to when we had to move west just to buy diapers and food. Trust me: five years ago, Michigan’s job scene was dismal. I’m keeping my Seattle-based gig, though, but working within the Great Lakes’ friendly confines.

But, really, it was a spate of elements – some stronger than others – that pulled us toward the land of pleasant peninsulas, fudge shops and fresh water coastlines. What are those, you ask? Well, you’re in luck. Although the reasons to pull the Seattle Plug are legion, they coalesce nicely into three categories:

  • Why Mich. No. 1 — Traffic/growth/congestion. The PNW has experienced massive growth. For example, more than 1,000 people move here to Seattle – monthly. One Seattle tech company reportedly hired nearly 100,000 people (globally) in a three-month span, and is planning on hiring another 100,000. Wait! What? You see, in our short time here, I’ve lost not only freeway lanes to urban sprawl, but also parking lots and, ashamedly on occasion, my temper. It’s getting so congested in Seattle that local officials are even talking about placing tolls on city streets. Got a hankering for a Big Mac? That local drive to MickeyDees will cost you — per mile — if this becomes a reality. Although there are good things that have come with this growth, the scales have tipped so much that there’s simply more that’s challenging than rewarding about these goings-on. For instance, my commute is, in a word, rotten. By moving, I’ll save 500 hours a year by working from home. And, since time is something that can’t ever be replaced, that means that — in addition to saving my sanity — I’ll instantly and daily get back more memory-makers with my wife, my kids, my friends, myself.
  • Why Mich. No. 2 — Cost of living. Michigan wins this argument hands down. Quick example. I can get a Michigan omelet for $4.29. In Seattle, $4.29 is merely the waiter’s tip on that same omelet. And, there’s this: CNN’s cost of living calculator states that if you make $100,000 in Grand Rapids, you’d have to make $171,000 in Seattle for an equal quality of life – with housing being 168 percent higher in the Emerald City. Too, I recently paid over $4/gallon for Seattle gas, too. Oh, and, on a single income, I can actually afford a home – a real home – in Michigan. You know, the kind with grass.
  • Why Mich. No. 3 — Family and lifelong friends. Michigan obliterates Seattle on this score, similar to how Tiger Woods once vaporized the field when leading after three rounds. It’s not even a contest. Many in my family have not even met my now 21-month old. I miss them. We need to correct that. We are correcting that. Eastward!

I could go on and on, including my love of Big Ten football, playing beer league hockey, snarfing coney dogs, and stuffing my Fat Tuesday Face with pazckis, but you know what I mean.

Why Seattle was necessary

Things matter. I like things. And, we will we miss certain things, of course, about the PNW, including some of the great friendships we made. The natural beauty here is unassailable. We’ve learned to appreciate the breath-choking vistas of hiking — physically and mentally daring ourselves (even when the kids were quite young) to do things that tested our familial mettle. From trekking up active volcanoes with glaciers affixed, to frolicking in and tubing atop fresh mountain snow, the earth’s crust here is hard to beat geologically – in spite of the rain.

Did I mention it rains a lot in Seattle? It rains. Yes. It does.

But, in Seattle, we’ve also grown, we’ve changed. We had to. For once we fried the Moving-West Egg without the support (or, maybe, the distraction) of family and friends all around us, we had only ourselves to hold onto. To examine. To figure out.

That desolation, tough as it was, proved to be an auspicious and purifying forcing function. I remember so clearly my feelings when we first arrived. I was riding up the elevator at our new, temporary housing and thinking: “what the hell did I just do to my family?” Leaving all I’d known for as long as the Lions have sucked wasn’t easy. Wasn’t natural. Wasn’t familiar. “No,” I thought; “not this. Why this?” “Hello, God…is this microphone on?”

I went from knowing just about anybody to knowing just about nobody. Not easy for a home boy like me.

And, there were other challenges, too. Tough ones. Life-changing ones. Examine-your-marriage ones. Dealing-with-cancer ones. But, because we were forced to look at and deal with it all, we dug deep, got the help our marriage needed, swallowed our pride, and – because God is good – emerged better and stronger on the other side as a result. We even brought another little Anter into the world. He loves his dada.

Importantly, that was then, but this is now. And, we’ve been blessed with a dream home for family and friends to visit. A place that actually has (or, rather, soon will have) a yard — half an acre of it. A new house that, with love, will morph into a new home. Our home. Our Michigan home.

Feels good just saying that: “our Michigan home.” Can I get an Amen from the Midwest congregation?

So, Michigan, bring on what Seattle couldn’t: the snow, the bitter cold, the mugginess and the mosquitoes – well, okay, I guess we’re not looking forward to every little thing that The Mitten has to offer, but you get the point.

Come visit us. Let us visit you. Let us inhale the touristy, fudgy smells of Mackinac Island. Bathe us in your unsalted, unsharkified lakes. Let us feel the warmth of your Midwestern friendliness vs. the “Seattle Freeze.”

Giddy up, Michigan.

We’re ready for you. Are you ready for us?

— 30 —

12 thoughts on “Prodougal son

  1. I am so happy your April Fools Day post was true! Happy to have you back in the great state of Michigan, even if you aren’t as close as Oakland County. When will the move happen?

  2. Can’t wait! We have been friends since ’96???? Missing your family grow has been hard and so glaf you are heading back to your MI roots! See you soon!

  3. So glad you are coming back to the land of milk and honey. I bet you are thrilled to make the trip. R ight now we are all hunkered down with the virus on the horizon. Just taking it easy. Love, Mar

  4. To all the Anter’s. So So So glad you are coming back!! Doug, your words in many places moved me to tears! It will be a joy, a blessing, a grace to have you back home. Yesterday, Lent ended. 40 days! Today we begin the Triduum. Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday – Easter, but something else is happening. Your story reminds me of the Jewish people – on this night – Passover, the Jewish people left their bondage in Egypt and wandered 40 years in the wilderness (PNW). During that time they had to learn to give up their ways & learn to solely and completely trust that God would one day bring them home. Then and finally then they arrived at the Promised Land. You like them – a biblical welcome home – to Michigan!

  5. Hi, I am Judy Knowlton’s daughter, Melissa. I enjoyed reading your blog. Love the pictures of your family you shared as well. We moved from the Port in 2017 to the south end of the country, lol, and come back for the lovely summers in Michigan. We have a little cabin in Twin Lake near Grand Rapids. Hopefully we can get with E lainy and us all meet up one of these summers. I am sure you will enjoy the W MI with all the activities and beauty, we love it! Be safe!

  6. Great post! Sounds all to familiar. Having made the same journey over 4 years ago we have never looked back…. well maybe a time or two when mosquitoes where horrible. Welcome to the neighborhood!

  7. Hi Dougie…Finally read this post online in detail. Glad to have you back in the mitten, albeit in the Grand Rapids area. You guys chose wisely as GR is both beautiful and homey, especially for growing families. And…you’re close enough to American Coney to stuff your face!!!!

    We are hearing more and more about people moving out of urban cities and back to the suburbs. I think the craving for city living ends when you have kids and they can’t walk outside to play…There’s no grass…just constant and endless cement or asphalt.

    Didn’t know about the cancel. Life sucks and God generally throws all of us with a curve ball that we didn’t expect. But it makes us stronger in the end.

    Be well in GR and stay in touch!


  8. This! All of it!
    Just knowing our future is back in the mitten leaves me with a peaceful feeling. It’s time to go home.
    Thank you for sharing your family’s journey home, Doug.

Leave a Reply