The Canterburys - Christmas 2008

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Jerry and Nancy in Pisa, Italy

Hope and Change

This year’s theme is hope and change! If you watched the presidential election campaign at all, I’m sure you picked up on that. And didn’t the campaign seem like a Broadway musical at times?

"Anything you can change, I can change better! I can change anything better than you!"

"No you can’t!"       "Yes I can!"

"No you can’t!"       "Yes I caaaaaaaaan!"

The two of us decided to take this theme upon ourselves. If we had any hope of enjoying warmer weather each winter then we needed to change where we lived. And nothing demonstrates the change in our lives more than the new address at which we find ourselves this holiday season – far from the familiar, venturing into the unknown.

Now a decision like this doesn’t come easy. But after moving back to Cleveland 10½ years ago, Jerry found that he really hates winter. Really hates it. Loathes, despises, abhors it. Major cabin fever for months at a time. Gray in the sky and snow on the ground his idea of purgatory.

And Cleveland is defined by its bad winter weather.

So over the years we have had multiple conversations on the topic. Jerry’s job with IBM is such that he travels to the client site anyway, so he can live most anywhere, just needs an airport. Nancy on the other hand has worked at Key Bank for years in a pretty good position, one that would be difficult to just walk away from. So we'd talk and say, "Someday, if anything ever happens to Nancy's job, we're pulling up stakes."

Now we actually went through a similar process 3-4 years ago. Nancy had taken a leave of absence, so we were investigating the possibility of moving south anyway. We actually had "city auditions," visiting a number of different cities to try to get the "feel" of each and decide which one to move to. Atlanta, Cincinnati, Charlotte, and Raleigh were the major ones. We nearly did the move then – actually had an offer on our house – but decided at the last possible moment to wait, to not move then.

So now comes this past February. Nancy was laid off from KeyBank, part of their major effort to outsource jobs to India. Jerry came home the evening Nancy found out. She greeted him at the door saying, "Well, where are we moving to?"

Having done a lot of investigative work just three years previous, it didn’t take too long to decide where to go. We had Raleigh and Charlotte on the short list, and put Austin, Texas on that list for a short time, planning to fly out there and check it out. We decided against that however because the temperature reaches 95º in April and stays there until November.

Some ask, "So why not Florida?" Nancy says it's too hot. North Carolina was our compromise. We (meaning Nancy) spent February and March getting our house ready for the market. We also planned two trips in the spring, to Raleigh and Charlotte, to revisit our decision.

Our first day in Raleigh, we found the house we eventually bought. We talked about whether to continue with the next trip to Charlotte or to just make the decision right then. After some long talks and analysis, we made our decision.

If you do any research, you'll soon find that Raleigh generally comes out very high on "best cities to live" lists. Charlotte makes those lists sometimes as well, but not as often. Also, Raleigh has a very diverse employment base, what with nearby Research Triangle Park (RTP), the state capital and numerous universities. Charlotte has two banks as its major employers, one of which (Wachovia) was rumored to be ripe for a buyout and which as a result of the credit crisis now has been bought out. Charlotte's airport is a hub (Raleigh's isn't) meaning that the airline travel will be a little more onerous. But at the end of the day our hearts won out and we went with Raleigh.

Frequently Asked Questions about the Move

Following are the answers to some questions we’ve been asked. Yes, our Christmas letter has a FAQ section!

We sponsored a little league baseball team in Twinsburg this year!

Life in Ohio

No doubt about it, moving is a challenge. Even though we wanted to make the move and are glad we made the move, there have been challenges.

I think it’s the simple things one tends to miss. We knew what radio stations we liked in Ohio, but haven’t found one we can settle on in NC, so the radio presets in the cars are all wrong. We knew which restaurant we’d head to if we were going out to a special dinner. We knew the fastest way to get to everywhere and a couple alternate routes besides. We knew where everything was in our house; we’re still trying to find all our stuff among all the boxes in NC. And we don’t have a basement in the new house. You don’t know how much you’ll miss a basement until you don’t have it.

On the other hand, in Cleveland we had to dial ten digits to call the folks next door, where in NC you still only need seven. NC locals don’t understand why we always start with the area code when asked for our phone number.

The Transition

We closed on the new house before the old one was sold, and with the housing market the way it’s been, we were a little nervous how things were going to work out. So with crossed fingers Nancy went ahead to NC. Nancy drove 550 miles in one long 104º day with two unhappy cats, a TV, an air mattress and some linens. She basically camped out in the new house while starting to look for a new job, while Jerry held open houses on weekends in Ohio. We kept most of our belongings in Ohio because a furnished house is easier to sell.

Fortunately the Ohio house sold not long after. It was only on the market for ten weeks so we must have done something right. Not long after that Nancy drove back to Ohio to supervise when the moving truck arrived. We were packed up in matter of hours and off we were to our new home for good.

Life in North Carolina

So how is life in North Carolina for us? It has been a big change. The house we bought was previously owned, so we are keeping busy converting it to what we want it to be, which includes taking down wallpaper and putting up new paint. This house is also on a golf course – makes for quiet neighbors – and has a huge screened porch on the back. When working from home, Jerry works from the porch when the weather is warm enough. The cats usually join him out there, watching the birds and squirrels play in the back yard. The neighborhood is great and really the reason we decided to purchase where we did.

One thing that we enjoy is all the trees. We have 20 or more trees on our property, most of them evergreens of some sort and all pretty tall. This is common throughout the area, which means that even in the winter there is still some greenery to be seen. Some of the nearby freeways are like canyons of trees, as 60’ tall pines line the roadways for miles. We enjoy walking around outside our home and smelling all those evergreens. The pine cones are enormous, perhaps 3" in diameter and 5" tall. We have quite a few oaks and sweet gums too, which means that leaf raking has become a massive effort. It seems that all our neighbors own leaf blowers, we may have to make that purchase ourselves before next fall.

The weather so far this fall has been fine. The temperatures are generally 20º warmer than Cleveland this time of year. Additionally, we get a lot more sun. One difference we’ve noticed is that when it’s not raining, the sun is shining! They may seem like an obvious statement but in Cleveland we found that we’d have gray days for days on end – no rain or snow, just gray clouds as far as you could see. Jerry often said he just wanted the opportunity to ride his bicycle year-round. So far he’s getting his wish, as on December 20 he went for a 16-mile ride on a 63º day. That probably wouldn’t have worked so well back north, as this satellite snow cover image shows.

The warmer weather of course brings more and different animals. We have a lot more bugs than we’ve seen before. The spiders are large and have to be seen to be believed – and they think they own the place! We’ve got lizards running around outside – something you’ll never see outside in Ohio. In Cleveland, it gets very quiet outside in the winter as most animals have migrated south or are hibernating. In NC, the squirrels are still active and the birds are still chirping outside.

Hurricanes are a fact of life in NC, and we know to take them seriously. At the same time, we’re pretty far inland so not as at risk of the coastal areas are. Hurricane Hanna came through this fall but resulted in nothing more than rains and high winds over a 12-hour period. Hurricane Ike bypassed us completely, snuck up through Texas and the Midwest, then did major damage in Ohio. So ironically, there was more danger from hurricanes in Cleveland than in Raleigh this year.

We’re slowly finding our way around. We still remember the day a couple months ago when someone said, "Do you know where such-and-such store is?" And we knew! Small victories…

The Rest of the Year

The move was obviously the major event of the year but not the only one.

New Orleans

We began the year with a trip to New Orleans as we followed the Ohio State Buckeyes to yet another BCS national championship game, this time against LSU. When we landed the weather was unexpectedly cold, with temperatures below freezing – for that, we could have stayed in Ohio! As is often the case we made a little driving tour of our time there, driving along the Natchez Trace Parkway as we headed to Vicksburg, Mississippi to visit the civil war battlefield there.

Other than the final score of the game, we enjoyed our time in New Orleans. We stayed in the Southern Comfort B&B in the Garden District for part of our time there, where the owner told us of her ordeals during Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath. The streetcars on nearby Charles Street finally had just resumed operating the week before. We found that the French Quarter was largely unaffected by the hurricane and that the non-stop party there continues as ever before. We stood on a balcony and threw beads to the crowd, which is actually more fun that it sounds.

Sadly, the Ninth Ward is much as you see it on TV – block after block of a city largely wiped off the map. Many of the homes were already demolished and hauled away, with an occasional house still standing as a lonely sentry looking over the empty streets. During our tour of the area where a dentist told us how he was engaged by the recovery effort to help identify victims found in the homes through their dental records. The dental records themselves had to be retrieved from now-closed dental offices.

The Colosseum at night


Our major vacation this year was to Italy for 2½ weeks in October. When people ask, "What part of Italy?" we respond, "All of it!" We spent five days in Rome where we saw all of the major sites. We visited the Vatican including the Vatican Museums, the Sistine Chapel, and St. Peter’s Cathedral. The burial site of Pope John Paul II was particularly moving; everyone was very somber and one young girl sobbed as they remembered the late pontiff. We also visited the sites from the Roman Empire days, including the Colosseum, the Circus Maximus, the Roman Forum, Palantine Hill, and the Appian Way.

From Rome we rented a car – an Alfa Romeo – and moved about the rest of the country. Driving in Italy is an adventure in its own right, as on city streets you have motor scooters weaving between the cars and on the freeways you have aggressive tailgaters who expect you to stay out of their way so they can blast past you at 100+ mph. Yet the roads were generally good, although in construction zones the lanes were quite narrow as were a couple of the mountain road.

We drove past Mt. Vesuvius to see the ruins of Pompeii before spending a couple nights in the seaside town of Sorrento. Next we moved on to Pisa and its leaning tower. It’s a little known fact that there are a number of leaning towers in Italy but Pisa’s is the most famous – talk about the power of marketing! Next were a couple days in Florence, home of the Renaissance.

We parked the rental car for a few days when we arrived in Venice. Now we all know that Venice is a city of canals, right? But does that mean the buildings just sit in the water? Is every building surrounded by water on four sides? What are the logistics of the place? Having been there I can now tell you. Venice consists of a number of small islands. There are no roads on these islands, but there are sidewalks. There are also bridges connecting some of the closer-together islands and water taxis and water buses connecting the farther-away islands. So no, there isn’t water on all four sides of the buildings. But once you reach Venice, once you’re dropped off on the dock, you have to walk to where you’re headed. A key memory of our visit there is of tourists dragging their luggage behind then as the walk from the dock to the interior of an island, looking for their hotel.

From Venice we headed back to Rome to catch our flight home. Along the way we visited the tiny country of San Marino, situated high on a mountaintop in northeast Italy, and Assisi, home of St. Francis.

The Cats

Our cat Snickers passed in late December 2007. She was 18 and had been with us since we found her as a kitten in Wilmington, Delaware. We were sorry to see her go, but she lived a good long kitty life.

Jackson and Spookie continue to keep us amused and enjoy the new house. They often can be found on the screened porch trying to figure out how to catch one of those squirrels – or even just a leaf fluttering past in the wind. We found out through experience that Jackson is not a big fan of veterinarians. He’s one of those cats that goes into pure defend-and-attack mode when he’s not happy, and that’s exactly what happened at our vet’s in Ohio. His records were transferred to NC so that when we needed to go to the vet near our new home, we found there was a huge yellow "caution!" sticker on his file. Spookie on the other hand is just happy to be with someone – anyone – and has never met a lap he didn’t like. He is aptly named as he tends to startle easily. Both our boys are very happy and slightly pudgy cats.


The New Year

We hope the holidays and the New Year find you happy and healthy! We welcome visitors and hope we’ll be able to see you sometime soon.

Nancy and Jerry Canterbury

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Last updated 2009/01/17