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Oddball 2010: The End of Act 1

As 2010 draws to a close, let’s all take a moment to look back at the Oddball Update’s eighth year on the web and ask, “Whatever happened to that Chief Oddball guy? He never posts anything anymore.” To be honest, sometimes Chief Oddball asks himself that same question. But with just a few days left in the calendar year, I’d like to announce my pledge (or at least sincere desire) to resume posting in earnest as 2011 dawns.

And with everything happening in my life right now, there couldn’t be a more opportune time.

Things have been fairly quiet on this blog in the last couple of years, but it’s been nothing compared to the last six months or so. For it was right around that time when my wife and I first visited the new home of my employer in Frisco, TX, and decided that we were going to take the monumental step of relocating there from Florida. That touched off a whirlwind of activity and a roller coaster ride of positive and negative emotions, filling our future (and most of our present) with uncertainty. I all but stopped posting here, if for no other reason than I didn’t want to talk about things that I wasn’t sure would happen. And since it was hard to think about anything but the home sale or our move, there was little else to say anyhow.

My wife Apple and I watched as the long, boring Florida summer season transitioned into the beginnings of another snowbird tourist season with no offers on our house anywhere to be found. As local real estate prices continued to gradually decline, and faced with selling what was apparently one of the least desirable lots in our community, we became numb to the possibility that we wouldn’t be able to move at all. We settled into our routines and tried to forget about it.

And then, out of nowhere, an offer showed up right before the Thanksgiving holiday. The best kind of offer, too; the buyer was an investor and less picky about the property’s details, had cash in hand, and was ready to close in 30 days. The only problem was the offer itself: it was significantly less money than we had hoped for. Had we taken it outright, in fact, we would have owed $5,000 of our own money to the bank just to satisfy our mortgage.

Despite this, we briefly considered just accepting the offer as it was. We were really desperate to move, given that it would open up so many wonderful opportunities — both present and future — for us. After chewing on it for a while, though, we decided to counter offer at $10,000 higher and hope to at least break even, or walk away with a few thousand if we were lucky. The local real estate value trends painted a pretty bleak picture, especially for our model of house, making it increasingly unlikely that we would be able to do much better.

The entire four-day Thanksgiving weekend went by before we heard any response to our counter-offer, and to be frank, I though the buyer had bailed. Owing to how insular and resistant to change that I had become over my last five years of working at home in relative social isolation, I was practically relieved at the prospect of the offer falling through. A very base part of me was, by now, wishing that it would all just go away so I could return unencumbered to my escapist pastimes.

Thankfully, before I could sink entirely into such a rut, the buyer returned with just as little warning as when he had initially appeared. This time he had agreed to meet us halfway to our counter-offer, meaning that we could break even on the sale of our house. Yes, this meant walking away with effectively no profit from the sale, but more importantly in these economic times, it also meant walking away debt-free, owing nothing. Seeing what could be our best remaining opportunity in front of us, we decided at last to take it.

But the fun was only just beginning. Our acceptance started the clock ticking on a four-week deadline before the buyer would close on the property — one full week of which would be spent in Frisco, coincidentally, on a trip that we had already booked in advance. This gave us three effective weeks to pack, load, clean up and get everything in order. We were, by now, running on pure hope and adrenaline, so it never even occurred to us that this timetable would be a tall order to fulfill. Armed with precious little in the way of experience or help, Apple and I rolled up our proverbial sleeves and vowed to conquer the entire process as best we could.

The result has been nothing less than “a December to remember,” with apologies to those Lexus commercials. At times over these past three weeks, I’ve wondered just how in the hell we were ever going to get all of our monumental amounts of stuff packed and loaded into anything short of an aircraft carrier. This was despite taking the opportunity to throw away vast amounts of cruft, ranging from heaps of old magazines and Betamax cassettes to housewares, clothing and even furniture (much of which we donated). Along the way I spent four days cleaning out one closet, nearly fell out of an attic, and met a guy at the county recycling center who was a dead ringer for Hulk Hogan. At least I can’t say I’ve been bored.

Since Apple and I were seeking to avoid repeating a financial mistake that we (and many others) made a few short years ago, we decided to close on the sale of our home before buying any new property in Texas. This left us with nowhere to move our belongings to, so our only realistic option was to put our stuff in one of those PODS. You’ve probably seen their commercials: “Put it in a POD!” So that’s what we did, ordering one of their largest (8’x16’x8′) containers for delivery on Christmas Eve and hoping that all of our stuff would fit in it. At a friend’s recommendation, we booked two local professionals from Luke’s Moving to help us load it.

Unfortunately, come loading day, we filled the POD to capacity and still had a fair amount of stuff left over that simply would not fit in it. I had to call and order another POD — this time the smaller 8’x7′ model — for emergency delivery the next day. To the credit of everyone involved, this all went as smoothly as I could possibly have imagined. Luke and his brother from Luke’s Moving, in particular, were two of the nicest guys imaginable and actually made the daunting process of shoving our entire lives in a box as pleasant as possible.

And I have to tell you, the thought of some local fogey blowing a gasket at the sight of two big storage containers on our driveway in his pristine neighborhood makes me laugh even now. Even more so because we somehow managed not to violate any rules while having them there; the PODS drivers arranged them with such manic precision that even the all-important sidewalk remained completely clear at all times. In retrospect, I was far more worried about the PODS’ effect on the HOA Nazis than I should have been.

This final week saw us loading the rest of our stuff into the second POD, watching both containers get trucked off to the climate-controlled safety of the local warehouse, and loading all of our essentials into Apple’s car for the big road trip to Texas. Today we closed on the sale of our house, handed over the keys and the garage door openers, and breathed a big sigh of relief. (Then followed it up with a celebratory dinner at Home Thai Sushi Bar, one of the few local eateries for which we’ve still found no equivalent in Frisco.)

In between, my parents arrived to celebrate Christmas with us and lend a hand during the final stages of our move. Both Apple and I are beyond grateful for their help, support and love this past week, without which I don’t know what we’d have done. We’re also grateful for the Christmas gift they brought us, a 32GB iPad 3G on which I’m composing this very entry. Though the iPad really did seem like “just a big iPhone” when it debuted, it really is far more useful — and fun — than I had imagined. We’re already both addicted.

This evening, with the closing behind us, Apple and I booked our hotels for the road trip we’ll be embarking on from Naples to Frisco this coming weekend. Thanks once again to the Shatnerian power of Priceline.com, we scored a 3-star hotel on each of the two nights of our journey for $40 a night. Our first stop takes us to Tallahassee, Florida’s capital city, followed by Lafayette, LA, the heart of Cajun and Creole culture in the south. Our GPS is loaded up with the latest map data and our destination coordinates, and in the coming days I’ll get 3G service activated on our new iPad. Fully bedecked with this entourage of technology, we should have everything we need at our fingertips.

After all of this, I haven’t even touched on that week we spent in Frisco at the beginning of December. It was amazing, filled with new sights and activities, and more importantly, lots of good friends who had plenty of encouraging words and sage advice to share. It’s almost dream-like, the amount of great things that we’ll be able to enjoy and experience once we move in. We also found time to look at some homes that week — over 20 in all — with still more to visit as soon as we roll back into town in a few days. With luck, we’ll find the place we want to call home in very short order and will make it through the financing and purchasing process successfully. I can’t wait to have a new (and larger) place to call our own!

Through it all, I expect to do a lot more writing on this site, keeping track of what’s happening, how we’re getting on, and keeping our friends and family up to date. With the conclusion of 2010 comes the end of what I’m calling Oddball Update Act 1, covering the last decade of our lives together here in Florida. Now that we’re on to Texas, it’s time to begin Act 2 — an act of even bigger and better things, more realized goals and dreams brought to fruition.

Stay tuned for the next evolution.

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