Moving. You can’t always get what you want. But we got what we needed.

On my May 11 post, I spoke about Our Impulsive Move to Florida

This month we celebrate our fourth year as Floridians. When our tiny 1870’s home sold in a day, I looked at Jim and asked, “What the hell do we do now?”  Our buyer wanted to close in two short months. We had no clue where we would live.  Jim replied, “We start packing.”

What made our Grove Avenue experience so excellent were the wonderful neighbors.  They became dear close friends over our eight years there.  We, neighbor/friends, shared wine on front porches, dinner’s in our kitchens, afternoons chatting about everything and nothing.  And we helped one another.  If a living room ceiling needed painting, a group of us showed up rollers in hand.  Are you rearranging the furniture?  We’ll lift the sofa. Do you need a ride to the airport or someone to let the dog out?  Not a problem.

Those friends were puzzled by our impetuous decision, and possibly a little unhappy.  We had a great time on Grove Avenue.  It was sad to break up the team.  But as we prepared to move, the team showed up.  Our buddies spent hours up to their knees in newsprint paper, wrapping our belongings and piling our lives into brown cardboard boxes destined for Florida.

Over the five previous winters, while visiting Florida, Jim and I had explored different cities and towns.  We had fallen in love with Dunedin–pronounced Done Eden– a town that reminded us of our Village of Barrington.  Dunedin regularly has public activities in the center of town.  Art shows, Farmer’s Markets, Vintage furniture sales.  There lots of fun restaurants, antique stores, and interesting shops.  It is on the Gulf of Mexico and oozes old Florida charm.

The Pinellas Trail runs through the heart of town.  The Trail stretches thirty-eight miles from St. Petersburg north to Tarpon Springs, connecting several county parks, coastal areas, and communities and is a popular destination for bikers and walkers.

So we drew a circle around Dunedin and went to work finding a VRBO to stay in while we hunted for a house.  Our belongings were destined for a Uhaul storage unit.  The day we actually climbed into our cars to leave Grove Avenue was bittersweet.  I wept hugging Brookie and Earl, Judy and Chuck, Doug and Charki.

Jim drove my little green car, Maude the Mini-Cooper.  Bronson and I followed in Jim’s silver SUV.  Several days later we arrived at our temporary home on Rowena Drive, Dunedin.  It was raining.

Actually, it was a deluge.  Think Noah and the arc. That’s how it pours during Florida’s long hot, humid, wet summers.

We spent two miserable months in that rabbit warren of a funky old home. The Rowena house must have started out as a tiny one bedroom, one bath.  But over many years it had been added onto willy-nilly, with no thought for flow.  For the first week, I was constantly getting lost.  Where is the kitchen again?

Every day the skies turned black, thunder shook the glass in windows, lighting streaked through the heavens and rain pelted the house in never-ending sheets.  There was no covered outdoor seating area.  We were trapped in a dark, dank, confusing home.  Living without our belongings, not knowing a soul except Cyndee, our realtor.

Plus it quickly became clear we were not going to find a home within walking distance to downtown.  I wanted to be on Scotland or Aberdeen Streets.  But nothing with our desired specifications was available in our price range.  It would have meant buying another little old fixer upper.  Neither of us was up for that again.

As tropical storms splashed down on Rowena, I spent sleepless nights on the computer hunting for a house.  I cried a lot.  I worried incessantly.  I wanted my old life back.  I became more and more convinced moving had been a horrible mistake. I tried to buck up, telling myself, “Alice, if you cut your hair, you can’t wear braids. Move forward.”  But it broke my heart that my beloved braids were no longer an option.

Our search needed to be widened.  Giving up the dream of downtown Dunedin was a painful pill to swallow. Previously, I’d spent too many years tethered to a car.  I had loved the freedom of our village, walking to the library, Cook Street Coffee Shop, Wool Street Restaurant.  We were two blocks from the train to Chicago.  What now?  So many long rainy days were spent in regret.

Jim, my mellow fellow, met my moans and tears with patience, repeating his mantra, “Don’t churn, we’ll get there.”

Ultimately we found a home with everything on our wish list except walks to town.  After our closing, when the house was ours, we drove from the rabbit warren on Rowena to Palm Harbor.  We sat on the back patio, under wide covered roof,  rocking in white wicker chairs left by former owners.  We watched the never-ending rain.  We marveled, “This is our home.  This is where we’ll build our lives.”

I’ve realized God didn’t intend for me to be in downtown Dunedin, he intended for me to be in a suburban neighborhood in East Lake, Palm Harbor.

So here we are, and here we’ve been for four happy years.  We’ve made fabulous new friends.  Across the street, neighbors have invited us to be part of their loving family.  Another fun couple takes us out of our comfort zone by initiating interesting activities.  Jim has numerous golf buddies.  A new friend and I formed a book club. We meet monthly and have interesting conversation fueled by good novels, good food, good wine.  I am a regular member of a Bunko group.  I was honored to be invited since Bunko is a  game of true skill!

We still see Brookie and Earl when they winter here, plus we visit on our trips north.   Charki and Doug retired and bought a home forty-five minutes away in downtown St. Petersburg.  Judy and Chuck visit every winter and we make sure to see them in August when we are in Chicago.

Our impulsive move to Dunedin didn’t pan out as I assumed it would.  And that’s good because our lives are even richer than expected.



Our Impulsive Move to Florida

In the summer of 2013, Jim and I moved from the Chicago suburb of Barrington, Illinois to Florida.  We left my dream house….but that was good because other dreams came true.

Prior to marrying in 2005, we decided neither of us wanted to live in the houses we’d occupied previously.  I hated his townhouse.  Sure, it had a great view overlooking a lake.  But every house in the neighborhood looked the same– tan. If you were daydreaming while driving you could easily end up half a mile past his place before realizing your mistake.  I called his neighborhood “Brown Town”.

Moreover, it was in a gated community.  I’d had enough gated community living to last a lifetime.  I wanted a home where friends could come knock on my door anytime they chose to.  Furthermore, nothing was within walking distance.

The home I lived in was south of his, in the darling village of Barrington.  Locals simply call it “The Village.”   Restaurants, boutiques, grocery stores, churches, the train to Chicago were all within blocks.

My house was a 1920s Sears Bungalow.  It had a big front porch. Somewhere along the way, someone had enclosed it with cantilever windows.  No, they weren’t pretty, but I could lock the porch door and spend hot summer nights sleeping on the daybed I created.  It was camping without the icky parts.

The kitchen needed updating, as did a bunch of other stuff.  Yet it was mine!  For the first time in my life I’d been able to make each and every decision regarding my home.

Jim and I compromised, agreeing to sell our houses and buy one we both loved.

Shortly thereafter, while headed back to Brown Town, Jim passed an 1880’s farmhouse two blocks from mine.  It had come on the market, “For Sale by Owner,” that morning.  We made an offer the same afternoon.   A month or so later, before closing, we took our “walk-through”.  The house was nothing like we remembered.  We grimaced, looked at each other and asked, “What were we smoking?”

Charmed by location we overlooked the many dreadful design flaws.  It took us nearly a year to remodel.  I hand-painted and fired ceramic sinks for two bathrooms and painted a tile mural for a back-splash. Everything but one exterior door was scrapped and replaced, including the landscaping.  Our Village home became a little jewel box.  I swore the only way Jim would EVER get me to leave 502 South Grove Avenue was in a pine box. (Believe me, as I was making never-ending remodeling suggestions, that pine box may have entered his mind!)

Grove sink
I painted the sink in the powder room.  Loved those cool light fixtures.
Unable to find our photos, I lifted these photos from Zillow.  The woman who purchased our home moved on.  We left the Daniel Boone School sign with the house.  I just seemed to fit in on the corner of Russell and Grove.  Isn’t that twisty tree enchanting?  It dropped dreadful, purple, driveway-staining berries.  But I saved it from Jim’s threatened ax.

Prior to our move, we’d been spending a large part of frigid Chicago winters on Floridian Anna Maria Island.  We drove back and forth.  Driving home in early spring of 2013, I turned to Jim and nearly shocked him into swerving off the road when I declared, “You know what? It’s time move to Florida!”

He gave me twenty-four hours to change my mind, then he called a realtor.  We got home on Tuesday, listed on Friday and sold that darling little old lady for cash, a bit over full price, the next day!

Now here we are—Floridians!

There is a positive thinking/manifestation story in all of this.

  1. I always wanted my own crooked old house.  I got it in my Sears Bungalow.
  2. I’d  long dreamed of living in a porch swing house. 502 South Grove had a sweet front porch. We hung a swing.
  3. For years I fantasized about someday having a big screened in patio.  Yup, we’ve got that here! The natives call their pool screens “cages.”  We have a cage.  It’s a dandy, mosquito free space with a large overhang providing much-needed shade in the heat and cover from the summer downpours.
  4.  I’m working on manifesting our next dwelling. Someday, when we no further want to take care of yard and pool, and no longer have Bronson, our wonder dog, we might just relocate to St. Petersburg.  Perhaps a condo within walking distance of the many activities St. Pete has to offer.  For now, though, we love it right here.   Life is very good!  Very good indeed.