Road To Home Ownership: Signed, Sealed…

Now all we await is the delivery (e. g. construction). That’s right, this time about a week ago we were told to make our deposit so that the contract could be drawn up.
As soon as my wife noticed that she had received the message, somewhere around 2 PM on Tuesday prior, she zipped out of her workplace and got to work shoring up the dollars needed to complete the transaction. As she worked on the form from home at about 4:30, I sat on the bed across from her computer desk in the small room that occupies the top floor of this apartment feeling a range of emotions. I think even the Pomeranian sensed that major change was afoot as she bounced back and forth between me and the desk, getting me to pet her as her tail wagged hard enough to generate wind. Dogs really can feel what we’re going through better than most humans can.
After checking and double checking that everything was as correct as she could get it she whacked the “Submit” button, and a good piece of dough along with our hopes and dreams raced down the wire. Confirmation came that all had been done on our end, and we just twiddled our thumbs waiting for the contract which arrived on Thursday evening. In it we learned our address, on a road that does not actually exist just yet but will soon. We will also be required to inhabit the residence for at least two years, but after making a decision of this magnitude I would bet that we will remain there for a good deal longer. We are already over four years in our current apartment anyway, so that should be no problem. I do not think there were any major hold-ups therein, other than a noting of the amount of time the company was giving itself to have the house constructed before we could be released from the agreement. As I’ve said before, that’s going to be the biggest “fingers-crossed” portion of this, as of course some of it—weather, supply chain issues — is out of their control. Anyhow, we did all the fun electronic stuff to put both of our signatures on the contract, and now we basically are just awaiting that distant closing sometime towards the end of the year and hoping to secure enough funds to clear that final hurtle. I guess the best news here is that we do avoid all that due diligence and outbidding madness, and thus will experience a lot less stress.
Meanwhile, we’re doing a few trips by the area and really familiarizing ourselves with it. Google tells you a lot, but just driving around and taking a look says a lot more. (And yes, we are avoiding that pesky alarm by staying far enough away from the actual residence). I guess the only real challenge I see so far will be that my work commute time will nearly double. But I’m ok with this, more so in the morning than in the evening when I wish to just get home, but we’ll just see how everything plays out. Transportation should be no problem at least, since though we are on Raleigh’s fringes, almost in Garner, we are at least still within Raleigh city limits. It’s hard to find something affordable and yet close enough to my current employer, but I can live with that sacrifice. More podcasts, books and the like will just be taken in on the ride.
I do not know when the next installment of this series will be posted, but probably shortly after building commences. Oh and that’s another thing, the contract says we must meet with our builders 3 times to discuss how things are being laid out and whatever tweaks we wish to make. We’ll be bringing along someone who kind of knows what they’re looking at with regards to construction to help us with this. More once all that fun gets started. Till then, continue to wish us luck.

Road To Home Ownership: Against All Odds

We’ve been approved! Turns out we were number 12 on the waiting list for one of those new construction townhomes being built in Southeast Raleigh. There were four people sparring for two homes, and we were fortunate enough to snag one as some backed out. This is thrilling, and while there is still much to work out before out probably late-year move-in, we are cautiously optimistic.
First, of course, we have to pay the deposit and sign the contract. This will likely not be accomplished till the end of the month, but if we are able to do so it will lock in the property’s price even as the market continues to edge the area’s value upward. And yes I am somewhat conflicted, understanding that we are kind of taking advantage of urban gentrification, but I guess I justify it by noting that apartment rentals are becoming out of hand and we thus need something with a fixed rate. Heck, I would love it if everyone who desired to do so could actually own a home or at least stay in a place they could afford without having much of their income sucked into it.
Anyhow, once that’s done we’ll just sit back on our haunches and watch as construction progress is being made. This will largely be out of our control, and we’ll mostly have to hope that weather, labor, and supply issues don’t dog us throughout the process. Let us hope we are able to get to this and future steps!
In anticipation of obtaining the home, I accompanied my wife to check out a model today so that I could get a general feel for the place. And just as I had when entering our current residence, I immediately liked the sense of homeliness therein. There were things about the layout that I couldn’t fully understand until I had experienced them.
For instance, the downstairs is pretty much an open floor plan, with no walls to separate living room from dining room and kitchen. Before checking this out, I wondered what it would do to my spatial awareness and ability to navigate easily. But it doesn’t actually seem too challenging, especially once we have our furniture all in and arranged just so and I can use that for reference. The model had couches and tables inside, so that one could get a sense of what the space would feel like when occupied. The most interesting aspect is that we have a tall counter in the dining area that can be sat at with stools, and that the sink is an island completely unattached from the walls. That will probably take some getting used to. We’re to have a single sink, as even the person who was showing us around said she had a “personal vendetta” against double sinks since they make it harder to rinse and soak larger dishes. My wife is a big fan of the single sink concept as well.
We went out the back door, where there is just enough room to set up a couple of chairs. This is basically all I need. The front also contains a little porch area, so I’ll be able to scamper around to whichever portion is in sunshine at the moment, or shade if we are in the hottest parts of summer. The only drawback about being out back is that there is an AC unit right there on the porch, but I’m hearing that now on our apartment’s balcony on this beautiful 70-degree day, so that is a feature common to most homes. Why haven’t we made AC’s quieter yet?
We came back inside and made our way upstairs, finding the stairs built into the left-side wall about midway as seen from the front door. They were full of turns, and it’ll be good exercise going up and down. The master bathroom is a good size with a fiber glass shower, and the room is a little longer than our current one and will allow for a small sitting area. But I rather liked the one that would likely be my man cave, since I can picture my speaker sounding good in that slightly less echoey space than the one I have here. As we sat in comfortable chairs in that room, my wife lobbed impressive fastball questions at the salesperson, and she noted she should make a list of them. They also discovered that they both enjoy crafting. Shortly there after, we departed.
We tried to drive around to where our house would be constructed to see if we could take a picture out there, but apparently they have a security system rigged up. As the car idled in that spot, alarms began going off and messages saying we needed to leave flashed, so we hightailed it out of there. I still got to explore the neighborhood with my cadre of GPS apps, learning where some of the closest restaurants and grocery stores were.
So that’s what we’ve got going on now. It’s exciting to have suddenly come so close, even when things looked unlikely a short month ago. Amazing how quickly circumstances can change. I will be back to update more as this continues to unfold.

Road to Home Ownership: What’s New Is New Again

I begin by noting the start of ValDayVersary. As I’ve written before, this is our own personal holiday that starts on our wedding anniversary (1/27) and ends on the first Saturday after my wife’s birthday unless her birthday (2/18) is also on a Saturday. It of course encompasses Valentine’s Day as well. This year, as last, we are spending it relatively quietly with ordered dinners, flowers and other stuff for her, and the reflections that four years of marriage bring. Ah I miss those first two years when trips to Florida were involved, but for now I travel vicariously through books. I am doubtless aware that what we have is a beautiful thing, and I couldn’t be more fortunate, though we’re hoping maybe we’ll be able to get rockin’ and rollin’ again for Number 5. These blasted Covid variants will largely dictate that, though.
Along with, of course, whether or not we have decided to purchase a house by then. There have been some crazy occurrences in that department, not surprising given that the Raleigh market is the 3rd most in-demand in the country and, well, we are still learning how this whole process works.
First, a couple weeks ago we came close to getting an offer. It was going to be sight unseen, meaning that we hadn’t even walked into the property and had seen few pictures of it. We were going on assurances that things were new and updated, and that there were no serious structural problems. The issue was its price. The would-be seller wanted nearly 20% more than Zillow said the property was worth. If the appraiser said it was indeed worth a lot less, we would be on the hook for the difference immediately as our loan wouldn’t cover it. We were told that the seller would be willing to negotiate in the event of this happening, but with there being no telling if he would get anywhere near the appraised price we were not willing to assume such risk. It likely would have been a nice place, but I’m not sure any place is worth sticking one’s neck out to that extent. Truthfully though, you almost have to roll the die in such a way to get a spot up here, thus jumping the bidding line that will occur once the home is put on the market. Unless…
Now we’re considering purchasing a new townhome that hasn’t even been constructed yet. It would have 3 bedrooms and two baths, thus meeting our needs, and be well-located near the interstate in Southeast Raleigh. Projected move-in is September or October, giving us more time to stack some dough in preparation. But we had to place our names on a wait list and see if we get called about one being available, as I think determined through a lottery. We shall see if we are so fortunate. Till then or barring some other unexpected happening, we’ll likely just deal with this too-high rent for a little longer.

Road to Home Ownership: A Dream (Possibly) Deferred

Happy New Year, y’all! We made it through 2021, with its particular trials and tribulations, and it is my greatest hope that we will finally round some kind of corner and see happier, more prosperous times ahead. It is time to get that journey started, whatever it will look like for you. I certainly no longer bother making specific resolutions, but I know what kind of work I need to do to get there.
As discussed a couple of entries ago, we had hoped to accomplish a major life marker and land ourselves a house. But… reality is already starting to set in. The dream has not ended, but it might be put off for a while.
Between our first viewing and my second, which happened on January 1, my wife and her sisters had looked at a few other town and single-family homes. The thing that happens every time though is that someone is already ready to bid, and they can pay top dollar immediately. We are, after all, in a buyer’s market where there are tons of buyers but few sellers. So people rush any property that becomes available.
So on this Saturday, we had located a home that was excellently priced, but with the understanding that the new owner would make some mostly cosmetic but needed fixes. It was located in Durham, north of downtown, and because we had already made an unsuccessful run to a property just off Roxboro Road, an unfortunately distressed section, we were a little nervous going in. This place was also fairly close to Roxboro Road, but not on the same end. The neighborhood as we drove in looked like a nice place to live, with homes that clearly go for the top end of the price scale and groceries within a half mile. Stores are to me an important metric of how others view the area and its money-generating potential, a sad truth but one that is consistent in this society.
As we pulled up to the place around 10 AM, other would-be buyers and their realtors arrived as well. Our realtor was about 20 minutes late, so my wife and her sister cased the outside of the house, noting obvious issues that would need working on such as the deck and other parts made of wood. Shortly thereafter, we stepped inside.
First, I was blown away by the Southern-style front porch, a wooden structure that would make one feel great sitting on a rocking chair and reading way back in that quiet. (And that was sort of the only possible issue, it was a good ways back from the main thoroughfare which would make me wonder about the ease of getting transportation. I’m pretty sure that it could have been done though, as we were within a four-minute drive of the nearest bus stop).
Immediately past the front door and to the left is the Master bedroom. It was about the size of our current Master, which is to say not super large but big enough to fit our king-sized bed and two nightstands. It also contained a bathroom. My wife loves the idea of having that room on the bottom floor.
From there, we strolled through the ample living room, which contained a fireplace, and kitchen and up the stairs to the three rooms above. The only thing that would really need fixing other than said issues with the wood was the carpet, which was very deep but probably not that great looking. In our dreams at least, we would work on these projects, including a repainting of the walls, over time as we enjoyed living in this luxurious space.
Outdoors, there is a spacious two-car garage and the deck, which was rotting in some places. I loved again that one didn’t hear the constant roar of AC as we do in our current spot, or traffic as one might in many others. In short, this place was absolutely ideal for both of us given what we are really seeking in a home. And it’s a rare place these days that has character, not just feeling “cookie-cutter”.
But alas, it was not meant to be. Our realtor poured water on our dream as soon as we rolled out in the car, saying that if we were to acquire it, we would have to pay to repair the deck prior to closing as required by our loan. More than that though, and not surprising, the place had pretty much already been snapped up by a construction-type company that will renovate it and sell at a significant profit. Ah well, such is things with this. I guess what I will try and do now, especially as travel is largely off the table anyway, is to just try and keep the ol’ bank account rising and try to be prepared for all of what one must do to acquire a place. This experience has definitely been… educational. We shall see.

2021 Wrap: On Achievements, TikTok, and Books

What a year, folks. As I reflect on the happenings of 2021, I find it hard to believe that it is already close to wrapping up. It is, in many respects, yet another year lost to COVID. Let’s just pray that it will be the last such.
I guess I should focus most of my energy in this post on locating whatever nuggets of positivity that existed this year. Still looking… Nah, of course something worthwhile had to happen. I guess my elevation within my employer to a sort of assistive technology tutor is a major one. I say “sort of,” because I don’t know if one would feel entirely comfortable with what I’ve instructed. I can say though that I worked hard, did my research, paid close attention to the students’ needs, and tried to make sure that what I taught them was relevant.
I’d spent this past year doing JAWS for Windows tutoring, which as longtime readers would know also led me to purchase my current Windows computer and return to this platform from the Mac. Next year’s challenge, and a much more immediate and difficult one in some ways, will be to help probably those entirely new to the computer to learn some basic keyboarding skills. We’re going to use a program called Talking Typer, which helps people learn to type by speaking the letters aloud and informing of such metrics as Words per Minute and errors. I’ll need to brush up on this myself, and do hope that something I learn can help others unlock the vast power of computing.
I should also work to unlock my own power by digging back into this writing thing. I fell off of blogging over the last three months, but hey I’ve been reviewing books on Goodreads like crazy since May. Given that Book Reviewer still remains my career dream, the constant practice couldn’t have hurt.
To that end, and inspired by an NPR story on the rapid rise and influence of “BookTok,” I created a TikTok account. This, I guess social media, site allows for short three-minute videos and people, especially young ones, post on just about everything under the sun. Not surprisingly this is a very visual medium, but I did find some posts where book reviewers actually listed their titles aloud. I may (or may not) take a shot at recording my five-star reads there at some point, but am not impressed with the overall accessibility of the app. For instance, I find it difficult to follow those I am interested in with VoiceOver on the iPhone, and just navigating between videos is a real challenge. I hope some of these things can be fixed, so that a totally blind person could derive at least minimal enjoyment from the app, and perhaps more importantly tap into this vast crowd to gain exposure and other kinds of opportunities.
Just in case I never do post those reads in such a way, I’ll list them here. Note that not all books were released in 2021, just read by me herein. And just in case you do not choose to read my list below, I’ll close by wishing you and all of us a happy, healthy, and safe 2022.
2021 Five Star Titles: A listing of all the books I awarded this designation on Goodreads.

  1. Clap When You Land, Elizabeth Acebedo
  2. The Actual Star, Monica Byrne
  3. The Meaning of Mariah Carey, Mariah Carey
  4. The Last Train to Key West, Chanel Cleeton
  5. The President is Missing, Bill Clinton
  6. Return to Palm Court, Stephanie Edwards
  7. The Night Watchman, Louise Erdrich
  8. A Good Neighborhood, Therese Anne Fowler
  9. Mother May I, Joshilyn Jackson
  10. The Love Songs of W. E. B. Du Bois, Honorée Fanonne Jeffers
  11. How The One-Armed Sister Sweeps Her House, Cherie Jones
  12. Lies That Bind, Amanda Lamb
  13. Dear Edward, Ann Napolitano
  14. Eternal, Lisa Scottoline
  15. Great Circle, Maggie Shipstead
  16. Nerves of Steel, Tammie Shults
  17. Will, Will Smith
  18. Concrete Rose, Angie Thomas
  19. The Turn of the Key, Ruth Ware
  20. Project Hail Mary, Andy Weir
  21. The Book of Lost Friends, Lisa Wingate
  22. The Sea keeper’s Daughter, Lisa Wingate

Road To Home Ownership: First Viewing

There are, in my opinion anyway, three major pillars of adulthood: marriage, childbirth, and buying a home. Any or all of these may or may not happen, but whenever they do they tend to be markers of memory as well as potential sources of stress and change.
We’ve done the first, will probably never do the second, and… we’re just beginning our journey toward the third. That’s right, my wife and I are considering purchasing a house! After a while, one realizes that apartment rental is less and less attractive as that charge rises exponentially every year, and there is no return on investment. More fundamentally though, of course, is that the place just isn’t ours. So it can’t be customize to our liking as much as otherwise.
The challenge, as we’re already seeing in real color, is the startup costs. Down payments, Earnest money (whatever that means,) due diligence fees, inspection, appraisal… we’re going to be slowly nickel and dimed until we run screaming, and it’s likely going to take longer than we wished to get it all sorted. As such, this post will be first in an ongoing series, the last of which I hope to write from wherever out new abode is.
Speaking of, we got to check out our first possibility today. Getting to that point has already been a process that has taken nearly a month (a month? Wow, that time has flown). Paperwork had to be gathered and income verified before our lenders determined the amount of mortgage for which we could be pre-approved. I’m surprised that many don’t do it this way, choosing to find a home first then see if they can get the money they need to purchase it. With our pre-approval in hand, we could get a sense of what would be realistic if indeed we ever do clear all these pesky startup costs.
Anyhow, we arrived at the Southeast Raleigh property at 11 AM Saturday, early but not too bad I suppose. Her sister came along for the viewing as well as our real estate agent, given to us by the Teacher Next Door program my wife is using to spearhead this process. We entered a two-story townhome that was freezing, because it was empty and had no power. The bottom floor is not carpeted, which my wife very much preferred. The main issues were a lack of adequate storage and kitchen space, and on the second floor a carpet that needs replacing and some knicks and knacks that made the place look less appealing. Also, the master bedroom is likely too small to fit our fairly sizable bedroom set. Finally we were concerned about possible flooding in back based on the shape of that land in a large storm.
So no, we will probably not be getting that property. It was informative to take a look though, and I found our agent to be very good at really assessing what is going on in a place and relying it to us in an easy-to-understand way. We’ll just see if and when this all plays out.

LABOR DAY: The Grind Continues

Happy Labor Day! As I like to say, this is the one holiday where you are supposed to relax and just take it off. Of course I say that knowing full well that not everyone gets to take it, as stores, restaurants, movie theaters and other businesses continue to operate. But hopefully many at least get off early or have a day of relatively light traffic.

I know that most of my posts of late have been jobs-related, but that aspect has been the most salient for me as uncertainty continues during this period.

Thankfully, I am still working at my job. I guess I didn’t write about it in my last such update, perhaps because it wasn’t happening yet, but now in addition to the afore-mentioned Employee Resource Group, I am tutoring an individual in JAWS for Windows, the computer program used by many blind and low vision people to hear on-screen text spoken aloud. I have sort of done this before, way back in 2016 when working with a blind individual to acquire basic email and internet skills, but as I’m not really a teacher it’s challenging for me. My “student” insists that he is learning something, and the Workforce Development Specialist at our employer keeps “kicking me in the butt” to keep me going. I know I need this, if I am ever going to really advance. I of course also need to get some real training and a certification in this area myself to really take it to the next level, which is what I think she very much has in mind.

Even as I work to advance myself in this area, I am exploring other possibilities which I will go more into should anything come of them. But let’s just say that I’ve learned a thing or two about persistence as I worked to file applications on sites that are, to greater and lesser extent, accessible. One of the reasons I’m being forced to rethink what I am doing and where is changing transportation needs. My wife had been taking me to and from work faithfully for the entire time I’ve been back during the pandemic. But her job has now changed. This means she definitely can’t take me home everyday, and fortunately the bus line I need to bring me back to the Cary bus depot is still available. It also means that taking me in the morning is tougher, as our schedules don’t exactly line up. Sadly, that morning bus no longer runs, and the door-to-door service I use says they do not have available drivers at the time I’d need, arriving by 7 A.M. Like everywhere else, they’re suffering from driver and other staffing shortages. So it’s a hard problem for me to solve without spending a truckload of cash each day. I do not yet know what the answer is.

On the whole though, life is trending upward in exciting ways. I’m enjoying what’s left of this summer and my 42nd year of life (I’m turning 42 next Monday but that means I will have completed 42 years). I’m happy and finally healthier, as I worked out that the biggest issue behind my heart rate acceleration was that I wasn’t consuming enough water. Since I’ve corrected that, blessed relief and much better sleep have occurred. Small changes, but ones that required me to listen fully to my body. I hope all is well in your corner too, and will be back with more soon.

The Heart Knows: On My Second ER Visit and Anxiety

The first thing I noticed in the hospital, as I lay at about a 45-degree angle in that bed, was the bells. As I listened, some in my room synchronized with others in other parts of the ER, drifting apart and coming together with a somewhat soothing regularity. I also had to contend with the calls on the intercom, often in code: “Cassidy, you have a call on 5 7 8 3 6.” And on and on. Sleep? Hardly, especially as the automatic blood pressure cuff squeezed at chosen intervals.

Yes that’s right, I made a second trip to the Emergency room in two years, this time mainly because on waking the morning of Saturday the 24th, my heart was just about pounding its way out of my chest. A rather vivid nightmare had launched me out of bed and towards the bathroom to relieve myself, and as I moved my rate jumped to frightening levels. I told myself, Just lay back down and it should begin to decelerate. But when it didn’t, a sort of panic feedback loop resulted that made me incredibly nervous, until I finally made the tough decision to wake my wife at 5:30 AM and head on in.

Of course by the time I arrived at Wake Med Hospital, things in my chest were back to relatively normal. Even so, I stayed in that cold Emergency department room (door closed by the doctor to protect against the frightening and surging Delta variant of COVID, for almost 6 hours. In addition to the blood pressure cuff, I had some 12 leads attached to my chest to measure whatever was happening in there, the pulse monitor on my finger, and a couple of blood draws done. The second was completed in my hand by an intern, and honestly it didn’t feel good. That spot still sort of hurts.

Thankfully, nothing unusual was found while in that setting. Still, I am going to visit a cardiologist (again) just to be sure that nothing is going on that should get treatment.

Why am I telling you this story? Because I, along with those at the hospital, believe that the primary reason I may have experienced this episode is mental health/anxiety. It builds so slowly and insidiously that one barely notices until physical health effects are felt. Ever since my heightened awareness, I have noticed that I tend to have fewer heart surges (noting that on Saturday night after my discharge I nearly had one again due to the anxiety over that morning’s trauma). As such, I have really started doing the deep-breathing exercises my Apple Watch recommends, which I’ve found can often help me relax whenever I find myself in stressful situations which is nearly constantly as an adult right?

Especially as we are still battling this seemingly endless pandemic, I implore you to be aware of how your own mental health, and by extension physical health, is being effected, and take time to take care of yourself. And as far as I go, keep me in mind next Wednesday as I go into the cardiology office and hope that there are no bigger issues afoot. I guess I am just glad that I can get these things looked at now, and while I think our medical system is good, I very much decry the costs with which one must contend while trying to simply stay alive.

On Job Changes, and What To Do Next

I’m suddenly finding myself in the same place that many have during this pandemic: with a rapidly changing job situation. Shipment and order slow-downs have led management to do something they hadn’t in the entire nearly eight years I’ve been there, downshift most departments to four days a week until further notice. Only one area is still working at 5 days, because they tend to have a lot of demand.

So as this new landscape unfurls, I am more than ever considering what other kinds of things I can do. The most likely answer, of course, is some kind of freelance writing But how to get paid for it?

I have been reviewing books for Reedsy Discovery for almost a year now, though admittedly my new selections from their catalog have dropped off of late. This is because I am putting more time into my GoodReads profile, in the hopes that I can get a site like NetGalley to allow me to review titles before they are published, the way a burgeoning reviewer really makes his mark. To that end, I have and will continue to review every book I read for the rest of 2021.

While I enjoy reviews, I know they’re not likely to be the true moneymaker I’ll need to generate enough income to at least supplement that which I get from the job. So I’ve tried to sign up for a big freelance site and app called Fiverr. I find it somewhat difficult to navigate though, and wonder if they just have layered-on accessibility without making sure that the underlying structure really works for blind folks. So I’m about to start googling around to see what if any other ideas might exist. Too bad my music site gig from a couple years ago no longer works, as that was as easy as pumping out 1000-word narratives and getting the 50 bucks on the other end.

I guess not all has been iffy on the job front though, as I am participating in what we call Employee Resource Groups (ERG’s). My group is LC (I)mpact (cute name, right?) Anyway, our job is to help LCI connect with its internal and external communities more effectively. For me, this means I’m getting to flex my writing muscle a bit as I generated the campaign that I presented throughout the plant to drum up interest and try to get people to tell their stories of volunteerism through written and audio interviews. I would like this aspect to continue, as I need the experience in both of those areas.

Have you made any significant job changes during this pandemic? What kind of side hustle do you have going, and is it proving to be lucrative. I saw somewhere that a record of new startups were created last year, as people are moving into other areas either because they are forced to or just having been locked in made them see things in a different light.

The Tidalist: …And I Run Up 2000 Stairs

Well that last is a hilarious exaggeration, but you’ll see what I mean in a bit. Yeah yeah yeah, it’s been a month since I last wrote in this thing. It has also been a month since that wonderful, relaxing trip. But I’m still going to capture the second half of it as best I feel like. After all, memory is fallible, maleable, and all-kinds-of-things-ible anyway, and all that really matters is the story.

If what I have of it serves, and even the bestselling author John Grisham confessed to being “too lazy” to go back and make sure his book series still fit together, I stopped on that Monday May 3. This was the only day we didn’t get in the pool, well other than that Thursday when it was far too cold to do so. What we did do on Monday evening was have some delicious spaghetti with homemade meatballs. This was the only non-breakfast meal they prepared in-house, because hey we’re on vacation!

Tuesday dawned as easy and relaxing as the rest, but it was the birthday woman’s big day. As it happened, it was also the day the temperature swelled well into the 80s. Did this stop me from going outside? Is water wet? So after happily warming myself on the porch, my wife and I made our way to the store to pick up some odds and ends for the night’s celebration. First, she moseyed along that crazy endless road of highway 12 that always makes me feel like we’re experiencing the kinds of space time dilation that the theory of relativity predicts. There wan’t a whole lot to see, though.

When it came time to cut the cake, one baked by her mom and re-frosted after the first frosting attempt had gone awry and tasted strangely for some unknown reason, we teleconferences with her sisters who were not able to attend. It was fun, and of course has become the norm during these pandemic times anyhow. Then those of us who were there had Sooey’s again, with me choosing their cheeseburger and somewhat bland fries (I wish I had tried the beer-battered onion rings). The burger was quite delicious, despite that.

After eating, we went back out and, after taking a casual stroll along the sea with our niece in tow, took another dip in the kiddie pool. This time, the water was near-scalding. It felt sauna-like for a while though, and even though by the time we exited I pretty much had to, I found myself feeling uncharacterstically chill.

This chill followed me into Wednesday, as I prepared for the day’s main event, a “discussion” about a possible position within my company. Sadly, kind of as I struggled to decide if it was the right move for me, that position has not worked out to date. But that’s ok, I still gained confidence from the smoothness of our conversation.

They had opted to rent a tent and have some company set it up by the ocean with chairs and the like, and while I had missed the morning’s fun prepping for the talk, my wife and I did have a picnic out there with “hotdogs by the sea”. It was pleasant just basking in the shade and listening to her describe the National Geographic-type scene of seabirds swooping down to pluck fish from the waves then soaring away with their still squirming prize.

And now we come to the stairs. I had already told her before we embarked that I wanted to climb the Currituck Lighthouse, because I couldn’t imagine what that would even feel like. The lighthouse has, I think, approximately 209 steps (remember that part I said about memory and fallibility?) But our 7-year-old niece, on seeing that, declared ‘I’m not going up those 2000 steps, y’all can do that on your own!” So my wife, brother-in law, two nephews and I went for the $10 climb, while her mom, sister and said niece stayed on the ground. Going up was the hard part, believe me! I was glad they were at least broken into sections of 7-10 steps apiece, and by that last landing I thought my heart would explode from my chest. We stepped out into a whipping wind after emerging from an indoor well, and after snapping a few queasy pictures and taking a look over the railing, my wife decided it was time to reverse course. I had worried about this part, but fortunately going down was a cynch.

A cool, rewarding hot fudge sundae from Dairy Queen and a Wendy’s burger that we had to drive 30 minutes to get made up the rest of that evening. If you do go out there, just be prepared for the near lack of name-brand restaurants.

And that basically made up the trip. Thursday was spent relaxing inside, as the temperature had dropped into the lower 60s and the drivers wanted to rest up for the long trek home the following day. I did take one last wind-chilled sit on a chez longer on the porch, gleaning what little sun I could and enjoying the roar of the ocean till I could take no more.

Hopefully more of those trips are in my future, and especially as we begin to crawl out of our shells again. The isolation had its pluses and minuses, but on the whole it was a very welcome experience.