Orange County...our old stomping ground and "home" for some of the best 5 years of our lives. I'm sure to those in the field of realty, Orange County is a prime location. Daddy and I went to college at a private Christian university here and continued living in the "OC" for another year after graduation. When looking into colleges and trying to decide where to attend, I remember thinking specifically about what the campus would look like in my head. Curiously, growing up in "the foothills" I really wanted a flat campus in the college I would choose. Strange requirement I know.
Early on I thought Pepperdine in Malibu would be a great school (who wouldn't?), but after visiting I didn't care for the hillside campus and it just didn't feel "right" to me. Loyola Marymount had the lush, green and flat campus that appealed to me, but it wasn't until visiting Southern California College (now Vanguard University) that I truly found the picturesque, sunny, flat and friendly campus that felt like "home" to me.
Over the next five years Orange County was my home and I loved it! I loved the sunshine, the beaches, the frozen yogurt (I <3 America's Cup - which is like Big Spoon WAY before Big Spoon came to be), Back Bay was my favorite place to run and Laguna Beach my favorite place for our Easter picnics. I loved the shopping (thrift stores, South Coast Plaza - and IKEA was every college student's dream), the plethora of cultural dining options and the $3 movies. Daddy and I would go on dates to Barnes & Noble in Triangle Square or grab a $5 pizza at LaVentina's and take it down to Balboa Beach for dinner. Our first year of marriage we enjoyed Haus of Pizza on Harbor & Adams and the occasional splurge at Lonestar Steakhouse or take-out from Newport Rib Company. Starbucks was a great place for studying (oh the thousands of pages I read in accounting books!). Have I mentioned the friends? The friends of course MADE these 5 years the best, without the friendships we would have just been living in a nice town, but the friendships are what made the OC our home and left with me with such deep rooted, joyful, nostalgic feelings.
All of this to say...while driving down to Disneyland on our recent vacation I was overcome with how excited I was to be back. I think my dad probably thought I was a little psycho as I drove happily through the 405 freeway traffic, giddier with each passing mile that we grew closer to what was once so familiar to me. It didn't seem like it had been 8 years since we'd moved away, it felt and looked like I was just returning from another holiday vacation with the family up north.
For our weeks vacation we stayed at my parents' timeshare resort which was perfect! It had two bedrooms, a living area, dining room, balcony, 2 amazing pools (including a kiddie pool), 4 hot tubs (2 on the roof overlooking Disneyland) and it was only minutes from Disneyland by shuttle. Having the kitchen made it super economical for meals - we brought yogurt, cereal and toast for breakfasts and I made sandwiches and snacks for our day at Disneyland. The kids really enjoyed the pool and it was fun for me to look out the balcony and see my old office a mile up the road overlooking Anaheim Stadium.
The day after Disneyland was our planned "beach day" and as we drove along the 55 freeway to Newport Beach on the spur of the moment I asked my dad to pull off on Fair Drive so I could just take a quick look at what the campus, my college home, looked like. I figured it had changed a lot in the last few years and was pleasantly surprised to find that with the exception of a new large academic center and classroom building, little had changed. I hopped out to take a few pics for nostalgia sake and my dad convinced me to stop by the bookstore to find little t-shirts for my kids. They didn't have any children's apparel, but I did find an alumni sweatshirt for myself that I love and a Father's Day gift for Daddy - a new stainless steel mug so that he will hopefully stop using the old cracked, plastic ones we still have from our Back-to-School "mugging" each Fall to take his water to work each day.
Driving around Irvine, Santa Ana, Costa Mesa, Newport Beach....so many memories flashed through my mind. I thought of the town homes I looked at with a realtor when we thought we'd buy a home. One in particular we very seriously considered buying and I contemplated how different our lives would be right now if we had gone through with it. For starters, I can't imagine there are any single-income families in Orange County, so I probably would still be working, have my CPA license and maybe be a supervisor at the CPA firm I worked at. Would Daddy be teaching or working in the high end audio/visual world like he was, installing A/V equipment for multi-million and billionaires? With me working would we have children yet? If we did, what kind of childcare would they be receiving and how good of a mother/wife would I be during tax season working 60-70+ hours a week? How often would we get to see our families? Would I be driving that silver BMW that I had my eye on back when and would Daddy have taken the time to pursue his passion for music? How tan would my white body be with the beach so close? Okay, this last one was really a joke, it doesn't matter how close the beach is if you're working all of the time.
These various thoughts spun through my mind, but despite a quick lapse in judgement while enjoying the perfect sun on Balboa Beach (Daddy called and I told him to start packing because we were going to move), I realized and was thankful for one fact...we are exactly where we are supposed to be.
We are blessed in the comfortable home that we have, the amazing friendships we have found and fostered here nurture our souls and make us better people. Having our families near is a blessing so large that it cannot even be put into words and having the ability for me to stay home and be a mother...well that is the deepest desires of my heart being met. It's so easy to always see the grass as being greener on the other side of the hill, to look at the past through rose colored glasses and fill your head with "if only's", but despite our unknown future (Daddy has 7 days left of work) we are left not merely content with where we are, but thankful and excited to see where God will lead us as the rest of our story unfolds.