Ah, Friday afternoon. The best time of the week.
For those of you new to Beyond the Gilded Cage (or who forgot about this very important feature of the blog), Friday is when I share the songs I’m singing and the drinks I’m drinking.
Both are inspired by whatever might have happened in our lives during the week, from the mundane to the major.
It’s usually a short post, followed by a playlist.
But since we’re all getting reacquainted here, I thought I’d answer one of the most common questions we’re asked:
Why did you decide to live in Florida?
We always assumed we’d move back to the Sunshine State, if for no other reason than we really hadn’t thought about it that much. Mark and I both grew up here, went to college here, got married here, bought our first house here. Our youngest child was born here.
Mark’s mom and sister still live in Florida, and much of the rest of both our families visits on a regular basis.
But we started having second thoughts about three years ago when we really got serious about retirement. Florida’s not known for great schools (we have an eighth grader and a 10th grader). Job salaries aren’t the highest. Houses aren’t the cheapest.
And that’s when and why planned our great RV adventure: To find somewhere else to live. Our main priorities were that we find a place within one hour (or less) of nice beaches or big mountains, and that it have good schools.
That left us wide open. We liked, and even loved, many of the places we visited. Colorado, especially, was a favorite.
After awhile on the road, though, we started to yearn for something familiar. Florida has beaches. Water. Sand. Wildlife. Glorious sunsets and sunrises. Warm weather. And great benefits for veterans.
When we were younger, we always dreamed of living on the water. Now, maybe, we could make that a reality.
We were only familiar with the west coast of Florida, particularly Manatee County, where we both grew up, and Pinellas and Hillsborough counties, where we lived when Mark was stationed twice at MacDill Air Force Base.
Those areas didn’t provide the type of schools we were looking for, and waterfront property was beyond our grasp.
We researched other options in Florida. We started with schools. Not only were we looking for certain criteria such as high ratings and friendly staff, we also wanted something small. The latter was very important to our 10th grader, who specifically requested a school with less than 2,000 kids, and “the smaller the better.”
On paper, we found what we were looking for school-wise in Brevard County, on the state’s east coast. We flew back here in February of last year and checked it out. We came back again in early May with the RV. We went over to the west coast for a few weeks, then came back across the state again just after Memorial Day.
We’ve been here ever since.
We visited three high schools in Brevard County. We looked at real estate listings. We drove through neighborhoods. We talked to as many locals as we could. We had done this same routine in Colorado Springs and in Tampa.
The kids picked their favorite of the three schools – a junior/senior high school with 1,000 kids total in grades seven through 12. Luckily, this was also our favorite town in the area. It’s small and laid back, much like my hometown was back in the day.
We looked at about a dozen houses, and finally settled on a little pink house on the water, a five-minute walk from the beach.
We moved in Sept. 1.
I think we always knew Florida was “home.” It just took us 10 months and 44 states to prove it.
TGIF, people, TGIF …
Here’s our Friday playlist, in homage to our new abode, and to my husband for making this journey home with me:
“Settle down, it’ll all be clear
Don’t pay no mind to the demons
They fill you with fear
The trouble it might drag you down
If you get lost, you can always be found
Just know you’re not alone
‘Cause I’m going to make this place your home.”
“Mother, mother ocean, I have heard you call
Wanted to sail upon your waters since I was three feet tall
You’ve seen it all, you’ve seen it all.”
“Our house is a very, very, very fine house with two cats in the yard
Life used to be so hard
Now everything is easy ’cause of you.”
“My heart’s like an open book
For the whole world to read
Sometimes nothing keeps me together
At the seams
I’m on my way
I’m on my way
Home, sweet home.”
“No I cannot forget where it is that I come from
I cannot forget the people who love me
Yeah, I can be myself here in this small town
And people let me be just what I want to be.”
“But these are my people, this is where I come from
We’re givin’ this life everything we got and then some
It ain’t always pretty, but it’s real
It’s the way we were made, wouldn’t have it any other way
These are my people.”
In an old lawn chair
With an ice cold beer
Got nowhere to go, no place I’d rather be
Yeah the grass don’t get much greener
And life can’t get no sweeter
And if the good Lord’s willin’,
I’m a keep on chillin’, refillin’ and flyin’ high.”