Wednesday, April 3, 2013

It's getting real in here, folks...

Remember a few days ago when I sat staring out the window at a frosty, bleak, altogether un-Spring-like tableau, and fantasizing about relocating to somewhere warmer, sunnier, and more hospitable? Well. In less than a week, the whole situation has spiraled from "daydreaming wistfully" to "researching hypothetically" to "moving...possibly...but not imminently". Let me explain: you see, when I visited California on my solo cross-country road trip back in '96, I felt an unexplainable sense of belonging. Like I should live there, even though I'd spent my whole life on the East Coast. I can't exactly put my finger on what drew me--scenic beauty, laid-back atmosphere, healthy and active lifestyle, care for the environment...and, oh yeah, SUN. (And yes, the correct answer is "all of the above". I knew you'd get it right, well done!)

That vacation was probably what planted the idea in the waaaaayyy back of my mind--that in a future, unspecified "someday", I'd actually like to reside there. Of course the timing wasn't right; Husband (then Boyfriend) and I had been busy managing our long-distance dating relationship for about a year. Then we consolidated households in Maryland, settled into our current town, had children...etc. But I've just never been able to shake the thought of eventually becoming a Left Coaster. What finally pushed me over the edge was not actually the recent late-March snowfall (although I did take it as a personal insult), but rather the culmination of years worth of disgruntlement with our regional climate. More specifically: it seems that I'm freezing for about a third of each year, then sneezing, stuffy, dripping with sweat, and suffering humidity-headaches for another third. (The few months in between are great...but fly by far too quickly...) I've. Just. Had. Enough.

Soooo...with my typical nerd fervor, I threw myself into the task of digging up data and facts and compelling arguments to present to my skeptical family, in order to drag them--I mean "gently persuade" them--to join me on Team California. The first criterion I used, naturally, was Meteorological Profile. I diligently searched other areas of the country, and eliminated them if they proved to be either A) colder than here in the Winter; or B) hotter/more humid than here in the Summer. I systematically inched my way across the map, westward, little by little....and ended up in the Golden State anyway. Since California of course covers a LOT of ground, next I worked to narrow it down by seeking cities recommended as being family-friendly. Along with the previously considered weather information, this gave me a much shorter, more focused list from which to work. (Keep in mind, all of this began happening over the past weekend, so my bemused family got to observe me surrounded by materials, intently staring at a computer screen, occasionally calling out a pertinent statistic for anyone within earshot to admire. They were watchful, but not worried...yet...)

Along the way, realization slowly began to dawn on the boys (all 3 of them) that perhaps I wasn't merely joking. Maybe this didn't represent a passing fancy, but an endeavor they should take more seriously. Thus, Derek's reaction was immediate and forceful: "I'm NOT going." (I tried to kindly but firmly disabuse him of the notion that he was allowed to exercise Veto Power. He seemed surprisingly shocked and dismayed at this...) But I knew I might have a shot when Husband, initially a naysayer, ("Why should we move? Everything's fine here!" Um...speak for yourself...) stopped by the nearest AAA branch on his way home from work and brought me a California guidebook. Then he emailed me the next day to let me know that the company he works for has offices in California. (That's the spirit, honey!) Riley's entire reaction consisted of "Can I bring all of my stuffed animals with us...ALL of them?" Receiving an affirmative answer, he nodded contentedly and agreed to do whatever we wanted. (Who knew he'd be the flexible one in this equation? Let's hope it lasts...) Research continued at a rapid pace, so I checked back in with Derek to gauge whether his opinion had changed--nope, he remained adamantly opposed ("I'm not leaving my friends! Or my yard! Sigh...we'll try again later, sweetie...)

Having chosen 7 cities to delve deeper into, I cracked open my notebook and got busy making charts (I swear, in a previous life I must have been a Librarian). Population, average high and low temperature ranges, humidity levels. So far, so good: all seven made the cut based on these factors. (Grouped into "cooler" or "warmer" on my own personal invented scale. Have I mentioned I'm a geek?) However, the next little detail separated the...Wealthy Jones'...from the Middle Class Joes: median home prices. Holy guacamole, Batman...we might HAVE to live in a cave! Oh-kaaaay, that helps (or painfully hinders, depending on how you look at it) target fewer of my preferred locales. A bit more Googling...Cost of Living Index corroborates this as well. Then...I found a totally cool Real Estate website and completely lost my focus clicking on Houses for Sale. I even got Derek to sit down next to me and look at some pictures...and after I broke the traumatic news that at California prices, we would NOT be duplicating our half-acre yard...he conceded, "Fine. But we have to be really close to a park. Like reallllyyyyy close." (Hey, that almost sounds like...could it be...cooperation and acceptance? Yesssss!)

Well, for now my computer and I are exhausted. My head's swimming with facts and figures, my eyes are practically crossed, and as the old Far Side cartoon said, "May I be excused? My brain is full." The tentative plan is: visit this Summer, scout around, make sure we can see ourselves living there...and if everything seems like a "go", take the leap after school adjourns in 2014. The next big step in Operation West Coast Whirlwind involves plane tickets and hotels. But first the resident Librarian/Travel Agent/Life Planner...needs some sleep!

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