Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Here at Last OKI...Part II

Missed Part I? Go back and read it first to catch up.

After my mom and I spent a long weekend on OKI in mid-May, we had plans to end the month by taking my grandparents down and introduce them to where we'd be moving. The night before that trip, my parents got a call from Matt, and it wasn't a good one. He had an accident while helping a friend move and was at the ER in Chicago with a broken ankle. Hoping we'd find out the next day that the break wasn't too serious, and not wanting to disappoint my grandparents, we left for the beach as planned the next day. At about the time we arrived, Matt called with an update. His break was worse than first thought, and eventually we'd find that he'd require two surgeries and nearly 10 weeks of staying off his ankle completely. That's a whole different post though, and not my story to tell. What I will say is that during that trip to OKI with my grandparents, we fit in showing them around the island, delicious food, and beach time in around meetings with the builder my parents had chosen, looking at house plans, and making arrangements to get to Chicago to be with Matt for his surgery. It was a crazy start to June, that's for sure!

Our traditional "1st lunch" at Fishy Fishy

June continued to be crazy! The day after we all got back from the beach, my parents flew out to Chicago for Matt's surgery. My dad came back home after less than 48 hours there to take over dog duty while I flew out for a fantastic trip to the US and British Virgin Islands! Matt had his surgery while I was out of the country, and Echo had surgery on his leg to remove a cancerous tumor the day after I got back.
Jost van Dyke, BVI
My mom ended up staying in Chicago all the way through the summer, while Dad and I took turns visiting there and holding down things here at home. June was also when my parents decided on a house plan and we took care of the paperwork to officially divide their parcel back into 2 lots, with me buying the one they weren't building on. We all became accustomed to notaries and Priority mail, since we were taking care of everything long distance from two different cities! And about that house plan, remember when I said that my mom always had faith that I'd be moving too? Well they put together a house plan that would be perfect for the three of us to live together, with two Master bedrooms on separate floors. You know, just in case it all worked out for me to move. (And the whole time, I was thinking there was no way.)

I celebrated the 4th of July in Chicago with my mom and Matt, and by the end of my Chicago trip, even more changes were in store. What I haven't mentioned yet is that in the midst of all the craziness of May and June, there was even a little more going on. I happened upon a job posting that sounded pretty perfect- the description was exactly what I wanted to be doing, in the field I wanted to work in, and it was a full time telecommuting position- which means I could work from home. I couldn't pass up sending my application and resume in, but knowing how many applicants there were, pretty much forgot about it for nearly a month after I applied. So you can imagine my surprise when I received a request for an interview for that job. Well, that interview turned into three rounds of interviews, and in early July I was officially offered and accepted the job. Starting August 1, I'd be embarking on a new career and working from home...which meant there was nothing to prevent me from making the move to Oak Island. What's even more fitting? I got the phone call with the offer while I was in Chicago- out on a short walk with my mom, the person who kept telling me that it would all work out for me to move.

It wasn't the ocean...but Lake Michigan had to do!

So to finish July, and soak up what would end up being my last summer off, Echo and I took off to visit and explore Oak Island on our own the week before I started my new job. We spent tons of time on the beach, watched sunsets from The Point nearly every night, and checked out house progress. At this point, the lot had been cleared and that was it....but it was pretty exciting to see!

OKI lot is cleared!
Echo loved being a beach dog!
Best travel buddy

On August 1, I started my new Instructional Designer position. Writing this 5 months later, I can say that even without the upcoming move, making this career move was one of the best decisions I could have made. For the first 11 years of my career, I'd always been a teacher in some capacity and I'd always worked for the state of NC. As much as I loved teaching, this new position has showed me just how ready I was for a break. Also in August, my mom finally came home from Chicago- and the house construction finally got started.

In September, October, and November, we made several more trips to the island to check on things with the house. Not because we don't trust the builder, who is amazing, but because it is SO HARD to know your house is being built and not be able to see exactly what is going on daily. Most of these trips were just mom and me- because although my dad is excited about the move, he does not get excited about traveling back and forth. We feel pretty lucky that he tells us to go and that he'll be just as happy staying home and taking care of the dogs. One of those trips in September was special because we took my grandparents back to the see the house. At that point it was just framed, but seeing that only made us more excited!

OKI House in progress

In December, Matt came home and we made time to take him down to show him where he'll be visiting the next time he comes back to North Carolina! Having Matt see the house just made it feel "really real," and we were ecstatic at all the progress that had been made! It was also the first time since mid-October that my dad had been there in person! Also in December? My parents sold their house...without it even being listed! In another sign that everything was meant to be, our fantastic real estate agent called my parents to let them know she wanted to show the house to a couple- even though she knew the plan was that my mom and I would move when the OKI house was finished, and my dad would stay behind long enough to list and sell the house. We have three dogs and knew showing the house with them around would be way too much trouble! Well, in just another in a string of 2016 surprises, the couple loved the house and it was under contract the next week!

So, here we are in January of a new year. In less than two weeks, we'll be moving to Oak Island. Not to our house- but to a rental for a month or so until our house is finished. And yes, as my mom and dad keep correcting me every time I say "your house", it is our house. At least until I move forward on the plans to build my house on that second lot.

Almost finished!

There is one more little  twist of fate, coincidence, kismet, or whatever you want to call it that I'll close with. Remember in Part I when I reminisced about that trip to the little beach house on Long Beach? Well, back in 1999, Long Beach and Yaupon Beach were consolidated to found the Town of Oak Island. So all these years later, we're returning to live in that sleepy little beach town where we had so much fun on vacation. We spent a while trying to figure out where exactly Aunt Sarah's house was on the island after we realized that Oak Island and Long Beach were one and the same, but could never quite nail down the location. A couple of months after the lots had been purchased and construction on the house started, one of my mom's relatives reached out to see if she realized that the house we'd visited before was on the very same street where we're now building a house. In fact, it was actually just a couple of houses down- but no one could remember the exact number and none of the houses looked like we thought they should.  While going through pictures last week in preparation for our move, I unearthed these. And it finally gave us the address we'd been searching for. In case you can't see those tiny numbers, they read "326."

Nearly 3 decades ago...who knew we'd live across the street one day?
So where is that house in relation to ours? To give you an idea, my address will be 331, and the house we stayed at? It was 326. The house is still there- but the numbers aren't on the front, and it is now painted a different color with a storage building out back....so of course we didn't recognize it.

I've never been much of a believer in signs, but how's that for it all being meant to be? I've always been a planner and I've never liked change, especially change that I wasn't in control of or driving. In all my life-planning, I'd have never guessed that 2016 could have brought the changes in my life's direction that it did. But I have to say, that if nothing else, 2016 taught me that sometimes, you just have to have a little faith and trust (and maybe pixie dust), because even though it may be hard to believe at the time, sometimes those changes in direction end up leading to something that you may have hoped for, but never really believed could happen.

Here's to finally answering the ocean's call!

Monday, January 2, 2017

Here at Last OKI....Part I

It's no secret that I have always loved the beach, a feeling that was probably passed down from my mother in the same way that I got my father's blue eyes.

Over 25 years ago, my parents and grandparents took my younger brother and me on a beach trip. We stayed at my grandfather's sister's house in Long Beach, and although the weather wasn't great for being out on the beach, Matt and I both remember that trip. We remember staying up way past our bed times to play Uno with the whole family and getting to take a ferry ride to visit an aquarium. Matt and I grew up being lucky enough go on many vacations, so it wasn't the vacation itself or even the beach that made this particular trip memorable, but it was the way that the 7 of us spent most of the trip hiding from the rain in a tiny little beach house just laughing and being together.
Late night UNO
Leaving the Ft. Fisher Aquarium

Twenty six years and a lot of life after that trip, in January of 2016, I made the decision to put my house up for sale. I didn't have an exact destination in mind, but knew that I wanted to move to a different neighborhood and the time seemed right for selling. I was lucky enough to know that I could move in with my parents for a while to give myself time to decide on my next step. Thanks to a great market and a fantastic real estate agent, I had two offers on my house in 3 weeks of it being for sale. I accepted an offer and a closing date was set for March 31. I worked on moving into my parents' house and moved my furniture into storage.

One weekend in February, the three of us went to dinner at Old Stone Steakhouse and were talking about the unbelievable quickness of my house being sold. My dad said, "Well, instead of you saving to look for a house in Belmont, why don't we just all move to the beach?" Moving to the beach is something my mom has talked about wanting to do for my whole life, so as great as the prospect sounded for them, I didn't really think much about it.

Until, that is, one day in March when I got a text from my mom that read, "Your dad says that you and I should go check out houses at the beach this weekend." You see, while looking for a house to rent for our summer beach trip, I happened across a house for sale on Oak Island that looked great in the listing (HA!....that's foreshadowing....). I sent it to my parents and jokingly told them we could all go in together and buy this house and make that move. The joke was on me, because that weekend, my mom and I set off on a 24 hour mission to check out a few NC beaches. We drove straight to Southport, stopping at Fishy Fishy Cafe for lunch, then drove all around different neighborhoods in Southport before going to check out the house I'd found on Oak Island. That house was definitely NOT the one, but we continued our trek, making our way north to check out neighborhoods in Ocean Isle Beach and Sunset Beach before returning the next day. The only decision that we really came to that weekend was that Oak Island just didn't seem like it was for us. To be honest, thinking about moving to the beach was still just a fun game to me, seeing as how I knew I'd be hard pressed to find a job in any of the areas we looked in.

Even though it kind of seemed like a far fetched dream, it started to get a little more real in mid-March when Matt flew down to spend a weekend in Asheville with us while I ran the Biltmore Half Marathon. The reason it started to seem more real is because my parents actually told Matt that they were thinking of moving to the beach....but it would probably be a long process. Or so we thought. At the end of March, I signed the closing papers to finalize the sale of my house.
My first house

The day after that, my parents and I drove back down to the coast to investigate a little more...but this time, with a real estate agent, which meant we are actually looking at houses, not just driving by. By this time, my parents had decided they were definitely going to move, but I was still in limbo. I was debating between moving with them (which meant finding a house we all agreed on and going in together on buying), finding something of my own, or just renting their house back in Gastonia once they moved and visiting as much as possible. My dilemma was that I really wanted to move to the beach, but I knew I couldn't do it without finding a new job. So again at the end of this trip, no real decisions had been made except that.....our search focus was now Oak Island. Yep, the one place my mom and I had already decided we didn't want to be. The thing is, after looking at nearly 20 houses over the course of 2 days in Calabash, Sunset Beach, Ocean Isle, Supply, Oak Island, and Southport, we all agreed that if we were going to move to the beach....we were going to move to the beach. And after spending time on the island, we ended up falling just a little in love with it, a feeling that seems to grow each time we spend more time there.

By April, it seemed that my parents or I were making frequent trips to the island. After looking and looking at houses, we finally decided we weren't going to find the "perfect" house, so we changed the search to looking at lots. It didn't take long to find a pretty perfect lot. By the end of April, my parents had closed on a parcel of land on Oak Island that was actually 2 lots that had been put together by previous owners. That meant that we could easily separate it back out into 2 separate lots and build 2 houses. Since I still wasn't sure that I would be moving, knowing that I had the option to build my own house when the time was right for me seemed pretty perfect. It's probably worth mentioning that although I was constantly in doubt that I would be moving to the coast with my parents or any time in the near future, my mom never looked at it happening any other way. Any time I said something about their big move, she made sure to correct me and tell me that she had faith that we'd all be moving together.

I celebrated finishing up my yearly contract at Cleveland Community College in mid-May by spending a long weekend in OKI with my mom, meeting with their builder, checking out the lots, and soaking up as much Vitamin Sea as possible. My mom was dreaming about the day she'd be moving to the island for good, and I was just thankful that if nothing else, I'd get to spend weekends and summers at the beach!

At this point, I was super excited for my parents but really had no clue what the next few months had in store.