Summer Summer Summer

Summer is upon us in full force, it seems. I guess I should feel lucky that it is nearly the end of July, and I am only just now feeling the heat. But man! I am really feeling it over the last couple of weeks. We had a few days in the low 80s this past week, and I found myself reveling in how cool and refreshing it felt. How sad is that? I’ll tell you: S.A.D. Extremely so.

Remember how I talked at length a few years ago about not being a fan of Spring? Yep. You can lump Summer in there, too. I am not a Summer person. I never have been. I don’t enjoy the beach. I don’t love lounging by the pool. I don’t sunbathe. Not that anyone really can sunbathe any more, but I never did it even back when we still had ozone. I’m so pasty-white that I’m practically invisible. Seriously. I bet I could get sunburned from looking at a picture of the sun. I’ve never been a big fan of participating in Summer sports. When school was out for the Summer, I was that strange kid who was looking forward to reading all day long.

After becoming a Mom, I found myself looking forward to Summer more than ever, especially after my daughter started school. Summer was “Mommy time”, meaning it was my time to spend with my sweet little girl without the interruption of school or homework or projects or lessons or after school activities. It was a time to read stories together, take walks in the evening, and just generally slow down. During the school year, it was like my daughter belonged to the whole world. But she was all mine for the Summer.

Summer this year should have been more of the same, but doubled. My daughter is going into her senior year of high school, so this is pretty much my last chance at a “Mommy time” Summer. I should have been looking forward to walks and talks and going to movies together and all the things.

But, of course, this Summer is not at all like any Summer that has come before it. And y’all know why: The ‘Rona. It’s like my brain was so busy trying to catch up with the reality of life within the pandemic that I wasn’t mentally ready for Summer at all. It’s like I had no idea Summer even existed until it was upon us in all of its sweltering, sizzling glory. I know that sounds goofy. How could I not know Summer was coming? Of course, I knew it was out there. It’s just that everyday life has been physically and mentally exhausting since Spring. It’s almost like time stopped completely when we went into social-distance-at-home-quarantine back in March. I know the outside world has continued to turn. But the things that were touchstones for me have all stopped because we seldom leave our house. I feel like I went to sleep one night in the crisp Spring coolness of a March evening and woke up to find myself in the midst of a sizzling July day. It’s disconcerting.

Has this last Mommy Summer been a total bust? No. Not at all. Because, amid the anxiety and worry and mask wearing and cleaning off groceries and staying at home … In and around all of that, the little moments of life continue on. I’ve had evening walks with my daughter. We have binged anime together. We share popcorn every evening. We have hung out in her room and talked. There have been so many fabulous talks. I love hearing my daughter’s opinions and thoughts on things. I have learned a lot this Summer, and I have realized something pretty fantastic. There is an amazing, kind, and wise young woman standing where my little girl of yesterday used to be. And you know what? I think that might make this the best Summer yet.

A Week of “Meh” …

Last week was a week of “Meh”. Remember how I mentioned I was doing some contract work for a local nonprofit organization? And remember how I mentioned that I was enjoying the work? And remember how I mentioned that I was starting to feel more alive and better about myself than I had in years?

Yeah. Well … that’s all gone. Thank you, COVID-19. I found out last week that I won’t be getting any more contract work for now. Luckily, the company feels it’s a temporary pause. They didn’t cancel my contract, and they told me they are looking forward to having me back on the team when things go back to normal — whenever that might be.

I’m not mad about getting shut down. I totally get it, and, honestly, I was not surprised. I felt really fortunate to be getting work as this pandemic started rolling across the U.S., but, in the back of my mind, there was that feeling of dread. You know the one I mean: that nervous, sinking feeling that tells you things are going too well, and that you are soon in for some disappointment.

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It sucks. I don’t think I’m overstating things when I say that. The people I was working with were very apologetic. I know they feel terrible about it. But, really, they have no reason to. It’s not their fault. It’s not my fault. It’s just the way things are for right now. Times are uncertain. We have no idea how long we might have to huddle in our houses. Maybe only until the end of April. But maybe all the way to June. Or maybe even longer. Everything feels uncertain and scary now. Businesses have to cut expenses. And, of course, an independent contractor is the first expense to go. I’m not angry about it. I’m just … sad.

So, my contract work dried up last Monday. Before the pandemic happened, I had applied for a job with a company in our town. Last Tuesday, I got a call from the hiring manager for that job. He wanted to let me know they are dropping me from consideration, although he appreciated my interest in the job, and he said he wants to introduce me to other people in the company’s legal department once we can all leave our houses. I came into the hiring process late, and they already had people lined up for second interviews, so I didn’t have much of a chance, from the start. The hiring manager told me this, up front. I appreciate his candor and his willingness to continue offering me some of his time and assistance. It was incredibly kind of him to make the effort to call me in person, instead of letting the form rejection letter speak for itself. But … getting rejected sucks, too. Even if you weren’t totally sold on the job (which I wasn’t), getting rejected is a blow to the ego. Last week felt like a combination knock-out punch!

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And so, I have been feeling bad about myself. No matter how much I tell myself none of this has anything to do with my skills or qualifications … No matter how much I remind myself no one could foresee how everything has had to shut down due to COVID-19 … No matter how much I remind myself that this is all a matter of bad timing and nothing more … I feel like a big, fat, ridiculous, stupid LOSER.

Depression has joined the party in my head, whispering that I am worthless and making it hard to do anything I want or need to do. It’s hard to get up in the mornings. It’s hard to work up the energy to do even the simplest household tasks. Luckily, I can’t avoid cooking, as my family still needs to eat. And the dogs still need to be fed and loved on. These have been saving graces for me. Even so, I can feel it pushing down on me — that black cloud of self-hate, tinged at the edges with feelings of failure and worthlessness.

Here’s the thing: I need to get my shizzle together and stop whining over what I have lost. Today, I sat down and thought about all the good things in my life: my family loves me, my parents are still in good health, my dogs are a constant delight, and so on. Yes, I may have lost out on something that made me feel good about myself, but my family is still okay. My husband’s job seems stable, and we are (so far) weathering this crisis pretty well. I don’t hate staying at home, which is a huge positive right now. I can still enjoy nail polish and reading and all the little things I love on a daily basis. No one I know is sick with this horrible virus. I am so fortunate in many ways, and I don’t even realize it.

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No, I think it’s not quite that I don’t realize it. I think it’s more that Depression has a way of hiding these things from me. At times when I start feeling down on myself, I have to remember to go looking for them. This isn’t to say that feeling sad over getting rejected or losing work is wrong or anything like that. On the contrary, it’s a valid feeling, and I need to let myself grieve over the things I lost. But I need to remember I haven’t lost everything. I need to remember I have also gained. And I need to remember that this loss, no matter how awful it feels, isn’t the end of the world.

Today, I took a walk in the sunshine. I felt the wind against my skin. I smelled the freshly cut grass. I raised my arms toward the blue sky above, and it was Good.

A New Normal …

So. It’s Spring! Like, officially Spring!

Aaaaand it’s snowing outside my window. Lots and lots of snow, although none of it is sticking to the ground. Talk about a “new normal”.

See what I did there? Smooth segue, right? Right!

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Last week, I was working my way through Blue Bloods on Amazon Prime —  you know, watching it in the evenings when I was done with work for the day. I don’t know if you’re familiar with the show, but it’s about a family of NYC law enforcement officers. The father, played by Tom Selleck, is the Police Commissioner for NYC. The grandfather is retired NYPD, and also served as Police Commissioner in the past. The two surviving sons are police officers, and the daughter is an Assistant District Attorney. In one episode, the oldest son’s wife, who is a nurse, suffers a traumatic injury while doing her job. This leads to several episodes where she and the rest of her family have to deal with the mental fall-out from what happened.

There is a point here, I promise. And I’m getting to it. I’m just being slow about it. In one episode after all of this happens, she tells her husband, “I just want everything to go back to the way it was before that day.”

This really hit me hard. It’s funny how you can be humming along with your life and, all of a sudden, a gut punch comes at you out of a dark corner of your mind. For me, this line was one of those unexpected left hooks right to the kisser. It got me to thinking about how often I say these same words, or some version of them, to myself.

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Three years ago this past January, my husband had a heart attack, followed by quadruple by-pass surgery. I’m not sure what to say about it, other than it shook our whole family right to the core. It sounds stupid to say we weren’t expecting it, but, of course, that’s true. I don’t think it’s possible to expect or plan for something like that. At first, I moved from thing to thing to thing, just trying to keep all the proverbial ducks in a row and keep everything going. But then, in the weeks and months that followed, my husband started to recover. And I started to let myself hope and look forward to that one day in the future, when everything would be back to normal. When everything would go back to the way it was, before that day.

Then, of course, my husband’s job change happened. It was a great opportunity, but it meant moving. So I went right from all the heart recovery worries to the finding a job and moving worries. There was a house to get ready and sell. There were plans to make. There was stuff to clear out and pack. There was a teenage daughter to console. There were months of living apart, splitting time between Illinois and Virginia. And, of course, there was the move itself: days of traversing the country like a band of hillbillies, with a car full of dogs and a U-Haul trailer full of stuff. (I can say “hillbillies” because I actually grew up in the Texas Hill Country. So I am, in reality, a “hillbilly”. I say it with love.)

This wasn’t a fun time for me. There was too much to do. There was too much stress. And I was all alone. To a large extent, I feel like I have been in this thing alone ever since the heart attack happened. But, I reminded myself, this is all a temporary thing. Once we are in our new house in our new town, things will settle down. Everything will go back to the way it was before all of this happened.

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But you know what? It didn’t happen. None of it happened. Nothing went back to normal, and nothing went back to the way it was before all of this happened. And, as I sat thinking about it, I realized I need to stop telling myself that it will. I need to stop wishing for something that can’t happen.

Because, of course, Life can’t go back to the way it was before all of these things happened. I’m not the same person I was three years ago. My husband is not the same person he was three  years ago. My daughter is not the same person she was three years ago. Because Life has flowed past us, pushing us in its wake and creating changes all along the way. We live in a different house. In a different town. We want different things than we did three years ago. In some ways, I think we no longer know just what we want. Maybe none of us knew any of that, anyhow. Maybe we never did, and we were only fooling ourselves.

The thing is, “normal” isn’t static. Just when you get to a place where you feel comfortable or like you have everything figured out, the whole thing will shift and slide out from under your feet. Just when you look at your life and think about all the things in it that you love and that make you happy, everything changes. And it’s not just life itself that changes. We change. As people, we are always changing. We are always growing. We are always moving forward. And, sometimes, we slide backward a little bit, too. If we are always changing, then “normal” has to be a shifting thing, too.

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So I’m living in a new “normal”. After so many huge changes in such a short time, I find I can’t feel comfortable in it. I can’t relax and feel happy. I’m not saying that I’m unhappy, exactly. I’m not … not completely. It’s more that I feel like I am wearing clothes that are too small. I’m edgy and unnerved and … Exhausted. I’m just so tired of all of it: grumpy spouse, grumpy child, muddy dogs, filthy floors, a flooded back yard. And blah, blah, blah. On and on and on. Now, of course, I have to include “sheltering in place” in my litany of things I’m tired of. Don’t get me wrong: I’m not tired of sheltering in place myself. I’m tired of doing it with my grouchy husband.

Last night, I was thinking I wanted things to change. But, now, I realize that’s not true. I think what I really want is for things to settle down. I want to finish unpacking all the boxes. I want to finish hanging the pictures. I want everyone to calm the frak down. I want to settle back into life without feeling like I have to look over my shoulder all the time, waiting for the next terrible thing.

I’m ready to find my new “Normal”. And I’m ready to live in it for a little while.

 

Into the Deep End … And Where I’ve Been

Y’all!! It is MARCH!! Even more than that, it is nearly halfway through March. And I have been MIA since the beginning of January. Ugh. This feels like the same song, second verse for the story of my life lately.

(Also, this isn’t part of this post, but I’ve gotta toss it in here: It is freaking SNOWING right now. As in, big, fat flakes floating to the ground outside my window and at least an inch on the ground so far. Crazy!!)

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Anyhow, where was I? Oh yeah. My life and the twisting, turning story of me being “me”. Or something like that. I wish I could come in here with some interesting, funny, and fascinating tale. But, as often is the case, the truth is more than a little boring.

Our move to Illinois is still a work in progress. We are pretty much settled into our house, but we still have a lot of things to unpack. I am amazed, on a daily basis, at how just three people can possess All The Things In The Universe. I swear the movers brought stuff that wasn’t even ours. I swear this every time I go down into the basement and start unpacking boxes. Unfortunately, each time I unpack a box, it turns out all the stuff inside it actually belongs to us. I’m still working on figuring out where to put things. I’m still working on which pictures to hang on which walls. I’m still getting my home office unpacked and put together. Aaaaand, I am still cleaning out my closet. It is all a very slow work in progress. But our new house has kept us comfortable, warm, and dry all winter long. And, apparently, even into the Spring. (Did I mention it’s snowing outside right now? Did I mention how this is crazy?) Our new house is starting to feel like “home”. And that’s a good thing.

But this post isn’t about that, not really. It’s all just background to what I really want to talk about. When you step away from your blog for a long time, you have to do a little bit of catch-up to put things into context.

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Last month, I took a deep breath and jumped, feet-first, into the deep end of Life. I have been thinking about this ever since my husband got this new job. I have been talking to him about this ever since he got this new job. Finally, I did it. I decided to jump back into the work force. Yikes! It feels weird to be typing it out loud like this. And it feels weird to read the words in black and white as they flow from my keyboard. Maybe “weird” isn’t the right word for it. Maybe it’s more that seeing the words here in front of me makes it feel more real and more scary.

I left my last job in 2002. It is now 2020. I’m sure you can do the math and instantly realize I have been a stay-at-home mom for almost 18 years. I say “almost” because there are a few months leeway between the date I actually left my last job and today. Eighteen years! It sounds like a lot of time when I type it out loud like this. It sounds like a lot of time when I roll the words around in my head. It doesn’t feel like a lot of time, because all of it passed me by in what feels like the blink of an eye. All those years of laughter and fun and silly memories. All those years of watching my girl grow into a beautiful, thoughtful, amazing young woman. I feel like I turned around three times and, suddenly, I’m a lot older and my daughter is nearly grown.

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I don’t want to face the reality of it, but my little chick is almost ready to fly the nest. I will never be ready for it. And she may not feel she is ready. But she is. I know it, and I have faith in the person she is. Next year, she is a senior, and we are in the midst of SAT preparation, college visits, and dreams for the future. She still needs me. I hope, in some ways, she will always need me: as a friend, as someone to turn to for advice, as a person who will always have her back. But she doesn’t need me to “mother” her any longer.

It was time to do this. It was time for the next step to happen, and my husband’s new job made all of this possible. I never planned to be away from the work force for this long. But I stayed in the background, keeping the home fires burning while my husband built his career. I was the parent on duty, 24/7/365, while he traveled for work and worked crazy hours and we hardly ever saw him. I’m not saying these things to throw him under the bus or anything like that. The way we ran things in our home and our family was something he and I agreed to, from the beginning. And I didn’t mind it. At the time, I didn’t feel like I was giving up anything. Because, of course, I had all those rewards: all the hugs and kisses and laughter and memories.

Now that I’ve decided to go back to work, I am starting to feel the weight of what I sacrificed. Not that I would change it. Let’s get that out and straight right now: I would not change a thing about it. If I had it to do over again, I would still do it. I would still stay home with that little girl and soak up all that love each and every day. I have no regrets about it.

But … It’s scary, going back. The weight of just how long I’ve been out of the game is heavy. And it’s hard to explain away my choices again and again. Not actually hard, but emotionally hard. It feels like being judged, in a way. It feels like people expect you to say you regret what you did, or that you would make a different choice, or that you thought about and missed working every single day that you were gone. Of course, that’s not my story, and that’s not what I have to say when asked the $64,000,000 question.

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In some ways, going back to work feels selfish. This is the first time in a long time that I’ve consciously chosen to do something that is just for me. So there’s that. It’s not like my daughter or husband are going to suffer from this choice. My husband has more regular hours now. A big reason for taking this job was the chance to move to a smaller town and for him to spend more time at home. He has some precious time now to be fully present and share in the laughter and memories. They are teenage memories now, but still just as sweet. My daughter is ready for this, I think. It will be good for her to learn some “adulting” now, before she is out of the house and on her own at college. And yet … that guilt. It is a pervasive thing.

I sucked it up, though. I told myself I needed to look that guilt in the eye and own it so I wouldn’t back away from it. And I started looking for jobs. I redid my resumé, which was a whole ordeal. I drafted a template cover letter. I got a rejection. I moved on from that and kept applying. And I got another interview, which was awesome and exciting. It was just a first-round thing, and I am waiting to hear back. Maybe I will get to move on to step two. Maybe not. But I’m out there. That’s what matters.

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In the meantime, I got a little bit lucky, too. I lucked into an amazing contract gig. I’ve been working at it since the end of February, and it’s perfect in every way. I’m able to work remotely from home. It’s with a nonprofit, and the legal department is small. This is amazing for me, because it means I get to work closely with two fantastic lawyers. It’s a part-time gig, from fifteen to twenty hours a week. This means I still have plenty of time to take care of household chores, pick up my daughter from school, and run her to various appointments. And the best part yet is that I am doing transactional work. This basically means reviewing and drafting contracts. It might sound boring, but it’s pretty exciting to me because I am learning a whole new skills set. I love learning new things!

All in all, I can’t believe I was lucky enough to snag this contract job. It is perfect for me at this moment in time. It’s a great way to ease back into the working world. It gives me some great new and recent experience to put on my resumé. And I am loving having daily chats and contact with colleagues. I feel really good about the work I am doing for them, and it is a huge confidence boost when I am able to have an in-depth legal discussion with one of my colleagues or when they tell me they appreciate my work.

On the slight downside, my new work is forcing me to re-learn how to schedule my time. I am trying to get back into good routines and habits, and it is a little bit of a slog. I will get there, but it might take a couple of months for it to happen. So far, this has meant less blogging time and more “running around crazy” time. But I am trying to settle in more and make time for all the things in my life that are important. That includes my blog, because hanging out in here helps my mental state. For now, I hope that will mean once-a-week entries on Saturdays or Sundays.

And that’s where I am right here and right now. Hopefully, I will see you guys back in here next week: same time … new story. Fingers crossed!!

 

Belated Christmas Cheer

For this post, I wanted to share pictures of some of the Christmas decorations I did for our house this year. This is our first Christmas in this house. I feel like I am still getting to know it and still figuring out what looks best where and what the house likes. This was also the first time in about 16 or 17 years that I was able to pull out all the stops and really decorate the heck out of things for Christmas. We decorated in our townhouse in Virginia, but there wasn’t as much room or opportunity for it due to space constraints and how our rooms were laid out in that house. Anyhow … Let’s just say I went a little “extra” this year. I should be ashamed, but I am NOT. (I bet you guys already knew that, right?)

So … let the post of many pics commence!

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Our Christmas tree falls into the category of “early marriage”, so it is about twenty years old. This is the last year we will be using it, as it sheds needles like crazy. Also, it used to be pre-lit, but none of the lights work any longer. We string colored lights on it every year. We found a great place to put it in our family room, and I think this tree is going out on a high note. It definitely makes our family room cozy on these cold and dark Illinois nights.

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We did net lights for the big bushes in front of our house. The funny thing is that we used to have tons of net lights when we lived in Texas. But, after living in Virginia for so long, we ended up giving them all away. We didn’t have anywhere to use them. This means we had to go out and buy brand new net lights this year. Womp-womp. Other than these and a wreath on the front door, we didn’t do much outside decor this year.

We’ve had snow a few times. I think the biggest snowfall so far was around two and a half or three inches. I thought the lights looked pretty under a blanket of snow.

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This was our entryway this year. Our front door opens right up to the back “wall” of our staircase. The stairs descend down into the family room, which is at the end of the hall to the left of this wall as you come into the house.

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This is above the previous picture. You can see this top banister as  you come into the house from the front door. I wrapped it in garland (fake, since I’m allergic to the real stuff) and lights. In our unpacking, I found some large paper lanterns that are star shaped. I didn’t put lights in them, but I hung them from the banister. The lights are pretty in the dark, and the paper stars are pretty in the daylight.

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The bulk of our Christmas decor was in the family room this year. I decorated the library, too, but I didn’t take many pictures of it. This is our mantel. I feel like I don’t have a ton of space for decorations along the top of the mantel because our TV takes up most of the room. I’m not too mad about this, as it’s a pretty fabulous TV. We spend a lot of time together watching movies or Netflix.

I hope to do a little more with the mantel next year, but I stayed kind of simple this year with just a few “Christmas Llamas” — because they crack me up. The silver deer actually stay there all year, but they feel festive, too. I wanted to put something fun and festive into the little vases, but I never figured out what I wanted to do. Next year, I shall tackle this conundrum!

It’s kind of hard to see in this picture, but I used a silver jingle bell garland for the front of the fireplace, topped off with a cranberry wreath, some Santa ornaments, and a “Noel” sign.

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I am enjoying the heck out of our built in bookcases! These are on either side of the fireplace, and I went a little bit overboard with them. I left a lot of the “everyday” stuff in place and tried to put Christmas decorations in and around them. This is the shelf on the left side of the fireplace, closest to the windows into the backyard and the Christmas tree.

Aaaand, a few detailed, up-close photos of the shelves:

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My daughter and I painted these little plaster buildings. We used to paint one each every year to add to our Christmas village. Sadly, I don’t think anyone makes them any longer. It has been a few years since I have been able to find them in stores, so I think our village is destined to remain small.

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Of course, this is a mix of old and new. I’ve had this blue glass ornament for about forever. When we lived in Virginia, I would consistently forget to put it away after the holidays, and it ended up living on the doorknob of my china cabinet. Hopefully, it will make it into the Christmas ornament box this year. The mirror stars are also old. I have had them packed away for ages, and it was fun to rediscover them this year. The little cardinals are new, and so are the round balls I scattered along the shelves.

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This is the shelving on the right side of the fireplace, closest to the double doors that lead into the library. It is harder for me to photograph, because that side of the room is consistently darker.

And, of course, some up-close photos of those shelves.

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The main thing I LOVED on this set of shelves was the little, wooden village. I find it so cute and kind of nostalgic. Parts of it light up with little battery-powered lanterns, and I could have run a string of white lights through the rest of the village. I chose not to fool with doing that this year, but I might next year. This little village was new for this year. We found it during our Thanksgiving trip to Virginia.

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I also love these little birds. They are fun for the holidays, but I like how they just feel “wintery”. I keep my holiday decor up all the way to the end of January, at least. Sometimes, I keep it up even longer than that! I like to have things that can be seasonal as well as festive. I feel like this makes it easier to stretch things out for at least an extra month.

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I’ll finish out with one last photo of the little village my daughter and I painted. It’s slightly out of order, but I wanted to try and show the whole village, because I was happy with how the different levels turned out. I bought new snow this year, and I really liked how fluffy it was. I think it is going to last for next year, too. Bonus!

I bet you guys know what I’m going to say already. Because I feel like I say this ALL THE TIME, and I sound like a broken record. But I’m going to say it, anyhow: December kicked my butt. Yep. Mark another one in the “win” column for Life and the month of December.

I had so many post ideas for the month. I had so much I wanted to say and share around the Christmas holidays. And yet, I did not do any of it. I was a little bit too busy enjoying the season to take time out for blogging. Maybe that can go into my “win” column …??

Whatever the case, we had a pretty good holiday. It was kind of wild and crazy at times, which will (hopefully) be a blog topic in the near future. We traveled a lot, and it was exhausting. Truthfully, I still feel exhausted from all of it. But I had some really great “family time” with my husband and daughter. That makes it worth every bit of feeling tired now.

 

 

A Christmassing We Will Go

See what I did there? I made up a whole new word. Hear me roar, Universe. Rawr!!

Okay,  yeah. I know, I know. It’s lame. But I’m still rollin’ with it.

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Thanksgiving in Virginia was a success. It was a long drive — 12 hours each way — so that was pretty exhausting. I didn’t even have to drive, luckily. I am such a wimp that I was exhausted and sore just from riding in the car. How dumb and goofy is that? My daughter and I passed a good bit of the drive entertaining ourselves with “Carrobics”. It’s a thing that we invented. I’m not sure yet how to spell it. I think I’ll have to keep working on it for the time being.

“Car-robics” (see what I’m doing there? testing out different spellings — ha!) is when  you jam out like a crazy person to the song that’s on the radio at the time. My husband loves to play dance music mixes when we are on the road. These tend to have a beat that gets right down to the bottom of your soul and refuses to let go. No matter how tired you are, it is nearly impossible to sit still when one of these songs is going. We jumped around and sang along, waving our arms and doing all kinds of crazy gestures. I bet we looked insane to every car and trucker that passed us on the highway. Hopefully we entertained them as much as we entertained ourselves!

Thanksgiving and the trip itself were delightful. We ate with friends who are like family to us. We have all missed them dearly. I was able to see another of my very close friends on the trip, too. And our daughter stacked her visits up on a tight schedule. I think she was the most successful of us all in the visiting department. Her friends even hosted a “Friendsgiving” in her honor. I think she had a great time, although she was sad to leave. We all were — a little bit.

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We are still getting used to our new town and our new house. It is our first Christmas here and our first Christmas in this house. I’ve been excited about decorating for all the seasons, but, in particular, for Christmas. I’m a little nervous about it, because I feel like I don’t yet know all the quirks and “ins & outs” of this house. But I am looking forward to getting to know it better as the years go by. It’s also been a while since I was really able to do things up for Christmas. I decorated when we lived in Virginia, but not that much; we were in a townhouse, which meant we didn’t have a lot of space to display or store decorations. This is another source of nerves for me. I mean, can I even remember how to “Christmas”?

Needless to say, I returned from our trip ready to get my jolly Christmas spirit going full force. And I have been working at it since Monday.

You guys … Like everything else with this move, this whole Christmas thing has turned into a process. A frustrating, maddening process. I feel like my holiday jollies are fighting me every step of the way this year.

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It all started out fairly simply. We bought this adorable little wooden village during our trip to Virginia. So I already knew I wanted to put that out. And I knew we had some decorations all ready to go in the basement. Unfortunately, the decorations that were readily available in the basement weren’t the ones we really wanted. In fact, they weren’t even the ones we use every year. I have a surplus of Christmas stuff. I tend to buy it on clearance because I love this holiday so much. And, over the years, people have given me different decorations and Christmas things. And, of course, there are sentimental family decorations in the mix, too. Most of this stuff has been stored away for the entire time we lived in Virginia. And these were the boxes we had in the basement.

It figures, right? You go into a task thinking it will be a breeze, only to find you don’t have what you need or want to accomplish it. And, then, you realize it’s going to take a lot longer than you planned or expected. Family grumbling happens. And then, an argument or two. Before you know it, no one feels like doing anything remotely holiday-related.

That about sums up what happened for me last night. I was all excited to decorate the tree and really get our holiday fun rolling. I was ready for Christmas music or, maybe, a movie, some yummy snacks, and some fun family time. Needless to say, it didn’t happen. My husband and I got into a huge fight because neither of us could remember where the lights were for the tree. Our tree came pre-lit, but it’s old, which means the “pre-lit” part doesn’t work any longer. Every year, I say we should replace it. And then, I look at the prices on new trees and decide we can use ours for at least another year. And, of course, it’s kind of sentimental for us now. I mean, it’s “early marriage”, after all.

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Anyhow, instead of fun family tree trimming, my husband and I ended up going through boxes in the garage. It was not fun. And it was not pretty. We were both mad at life and at each other. It kind of sucked all the fun out of Christmas for me.

Today, I resolved to recapture some of that Christmas fun and happiness for myself. Even though I didn’t want to go through the boxes in the garage last night, it’s a good thing that we did. It needed to be done. So that’s a positive. We found the ornaments and lights that started all the trouble, so we had those ready to go. All of this was a positive. And, no matter how mad we were at each other yesterday, we both apologized and feel better about stuff today.

So, once hubby was off to work and child was off to school, I put on some Christmas music. I started going through the older boxes. It was so much fun to rediscover treasures I had pretty much forgotten. I laughed. And, yes, I cried a little bit, too. There were some good memories in those boxes. I finally have a place where I can pull some of my beloved things out for display. I put up lights and garland. I put up jingle bells and ornaments. I hung the wreath on our front door. Tonight, after everyone got home, we ordered pizza and put the lights and ornaments on the tree.

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And you know what? It was a good day. And it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas over here. I am loving every moment, too!

Ghosts of Christmas Past (and a bunch of pictures, too!)

As in, just recently past. As expected, Christmas came and went in a whirl of activity. Remember how I posted about dreading our trip to Texas? I dragged my feet like the sulkiest toddler in the park. I dithered over getting things ready for our neighbor to take care of the pups. I dawdled over packing. I complained (to myself, silently — thank goodness!) all the way to the airport. I grumped through security. I pouted at the gate.

And guess what?

It was all for nothing! I was so silly about the entire thing, and it turned out to be a great and fun trip. We saw old friends. We laughed. We made memories. I had a really nice, albeit quick, visit with my parents. Even my mom seemed more upbeat than she has in quite a while. The only downer was that my husband got food poisoning on the last day we were in Austin, so we had to delay our trip to Kerrville for a half day. As bad as that was, he bounced back quickly. I was thankful for that! By the time we were preparing to come back home, he was feeling much better.

So, this is just a short post to give the universe a shout-out and say, “Okay, Universe! You were right! It wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. And thanks for the memories.”

It was a good Christmas. And even a good New Year’s Day, too. I hope the same is true for all of you guys. I want to close out the post by showing a few of the pictures I grabbed of our tree and other things over the holiday — here and there.

SOME SCENES FROM HOME:

I thought our tree was particularly lovely this year. This is the second or third year we have used colored lights, and I love their soft and gentle glow. I can’t take any credit for the tree, as my daughter and her friend decorated the whole thing for us. I think this made it even more beautiful and special!

I’ve been trying to get in some extra “play time” with my macro lens. And the tree ornaments were willing subjects. My husband and I just celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary in October, but we have been together for around 28 years. And we have had some of these ornaments almost that long!

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THE TRIP!!

Of course, I had to grab at least one “on the plane” picture. Unfortunately, I had stashed my camera under the seat in front of me. I didn’t want to dig it out, so I had to make do with my phone camera. Still, I think it turned out okay. We left so early that we got to watch the sun rise as we flew across the sky. Pretty special!

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SOME AUSTIN SIGHTS:

We got to visit some of our old haunts in Austin. Weirdly enough, it happened to be raining during most of our visit. We checked the weather before leaving, and the forecast was for temperatures in the mid to upper 60s and sunny weather. That is not what happened AT ALL! We definitely packed all the wrong clothes. But it worked out okay, in the end.

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AND KERRVILLE, TOO!

I think I have mentioned before that my parents live in a small town in the Hill Country. Kerrville has a population somewhere around 23,000 people. I was really proud of myself that I managed to keep up with exercising on this trip. Of course, I ate a lot of terrible things that I would never eat at home. But that’s okay! It was the holidays! And vacation!!

I love to walk all around Kerrville when I visit. In the Summer, my daughter and I stay with my parents for around a month or month and a half. I generally walk every day, either in the early morning or the evening. It was fun to walk my same route on this trip, in the chilly dampness of a winter morning.

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And, really, that’s all I have for this post! I mostly wanted to touch base about our trip and share some pictures. I have thoughts on the New Year, which I hope to share in a post soon. I would like to get back on a more regular posting schedule with this blog in 2019. So I hope to see you guys again soon!

 

A Long Post for a Bad Week

I really wanted to call it a “shitty” week, because there is no other way to describe it. But I felt bad putting that right there in my title. So I put it in the first line of my post, instead. I’m sneaky that way. Whatever. It really was a shitty, shitty week. There’s no point in sugar coating it or trying to make it better or calling it something it wasn’t.

So you guys know my husband is looking for a new job. He has been looking for a new job for over a year. Finding a new job is hard. “Hard” really isn’t enough word to describe it, but it’s what I have in this moment. So we’ll just go with it. Anyhow, I think we all know trying to find a new job is a suck-fest and a half. He has been close several times. Like, so close we felt as if we could reach out and touch it. So close we could imagine ourselves stepping into that new life. So close that it seemed impossible for it not to happen. And yet, somehow, it ended up not happening.

This week, that same, stupid scene was on a never-ending, repeat loop in the movie of my life. I had built my teeny, pathetic hopes and dreams into something coherent and cohesive. Was it a pretty design? No. Was it perfect? No. It was cobbled together with sticky tape and lumps of glue. It leaned in places and caved in at other spots. But it was there, still standing tall and keeping it together. This week came in like Godzilla and smashed it all to pieces.

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There is a large and well-known company in the town where we are from. Last year, my husband interviewed with this company for an executive position. He interviewed and interviewed and interviewed. Over the course of about a month, my husband must have talked with nearly every person in every unit that would possibly come into contact with the position for which he was interviewing.

You might think I’m exaggerating, and I wouldn’t blame you for it. But I’m not. He interviewed over the phone three times. He traveled to the town for interviews three times. The on-site interviews were, literally, all day long, where he shuffled from person to person. Everyone loved him. The hiring managers loved him. The people he would work with loved him. They loved him so much that they flew my daughter and me down to look at houses. The whole way through, he is hearing how people love him and how they are talking about him at all levels of the company and how all the talk is positive. It was a love-fest of gargantuan proportions. Seriously, this hippie love-fest made Woodstock seem like a tiny gathering of a few friends. They flew my daughter and me into town to look at houses. Did I mention that already? Yep. I did. Because this was a huge thing.

Guess what? About a week after our trip to look at housing, the company called my husband and told him thanks, but no thanks. The hiring manager didn’t even have the courtesy to contact him. Instead, it was an HR representative. With no explanation whatsoever.

I. Was. Crushed. I cried for days. I know that sounds stupid. It was just a job, after all. But my husband really needs a new job. And this wasn’t “just a job”. It was a perfect job. It would have allowed us to move back home. It would have provided us with a fantastic income. It would have answered pretty much all of our concerns and problems. Think about it. All those little, niggling doubts and irritations about money … wiped away in one swipe. This is powerful stuff.

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But, you know … Life doesn’t always happen the way you want or expect. And I know that. We all know that, right? Right. So we did what anyone does when life doesn’t work out as we want or expect. We cried a lot. And then, we moved on. We looked for other opportunities. My husband kept interviewing and interviewing and interviewing. And he got close, yet again, on several opportunities. But nothing stuck.

Until, now, a year later, when two other opportunities come up at the same company in our home town. These weren’t executive positions. And, truthfully, my husband was probably overqualified for them. But we felt we could make it work for our family. If it worked out, we would have the opportunity to move home, which would give us a lower cost of living and less bills and the ability to care for our aging parents. And, even more than that, it would give us a fresh start. Do you ever feel like you NEED a fresh start? Because I do. I’ve felt like that for a long time, deep in my heart.

After what happened last year, I was less than enthusiastic about my husband applying for these jobs. But he felt it was worth the chance, and I supported his decision. He applied. He interviewed on the phone. He went to the town, yet again, to interview. Everyone loved him. One of the hiring managers even went so far as to give my husband her direct line and her mobile number, in case he had any questions or concerns. She went so far as to tell him she was eager for him to come to work there. There was an offer. This was a preliminary offer, but, still … An offer! We couldn’t believe it. We were so excited and eager. We started researching schools and places where we should live. I realize now that we jumped the gun too much in this instance, but I’ve never been in a situation where a preliminary offer did not work out. And, in our defense, we are scared and nervous about what might be around the next corner. We needed, so much, to believe in this. We needed, so much, to believe that something good could happen for us.

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And then … Out of nowhere, it all fell apart. When the company HR representative first went over the compensation package with my husband, he talked the salary DOWN from what my husband was told in his interviews. Who does this? It was crazy and unexpected and confusing. My husband went back to the hiring manager to ask about this, and the manager told him she would work with HR to fix it. She did. They came up with a new package, and everything seemed great. The HR rep communicated the new package to us, and it seemed everything was good. This was on a Monday evening, at the close of business. Right after talking to HR, my husband emailed the manager he wanted to work for, asking for a time the next day when they could speak over the phone. He wanted to accept the job offer with her. We went to bed happy, thinking our long job search journey was done. It felt good to know we were moving home, and that what has been a stressful and pretty awful time for our family was, apparently, over.

Except … Unbeknownst to him, my husband failed to say “the magic words” when the new offer was communicated to him. The HR rep met with the two hiring managers on Tuesday morning, before my husband was able to talk with anyone in the company. He told them my husband wasn’t “enthusiastic enough” when they discussed the compensation package. He then went on to tell the hiring managers that it was his impression that my husband was only interested in promotion, and that he would never be happy in the positions for which he was being considered. The hiring managers, including the one who was so eager and excited about my husband coming to work in her unit, apparently got mad. And they rescinded both offers. Out of anger. Without even trying to discover the truth of the matter.

So, basically, the company HR representative got mad that my husband took steps to try and negotiate a better compensation package. And he went into a meeting with the hiring managers. And he did whatever he had to do to tank this entire deal. Which is pretty shitty. But what’s even more shitty is that neither of the hiring managers had the integrity to come back to my husband and hear his side of the story. Neither of them had the integrity to figure out this was, at best, a misunderstanding between my husband and the HR representative … and, at worst, an outright lie.

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WHO DOES THIS?!? I mean, seriously … Who fucking does shit like this? It’s perfectly normal to want the best salary you can get. There is no planet in the known universe where anyone, ever, would be happy with an initial offer that was LOWER than the salary communicated to them during an interview. Also, what’s wrong with wanting to move ahead in one’s career? Again, there is no planet in the known universe where people are happy to sit in a dead-end job for the rest of their lives. Or, maybe there is one place in the universe where that is the case, and we all know where that is. Right? Yeah. Right.

And what kind of manager gets so bent out of shape over the idea of a salary negotiation (which, remember, didn’t even happen; my husband was happy with the offer) that she acts in such a petty and ridiculous manner? This is business. It’s not personal. Well, it’s not personal to her. It’s very personal to us. Because she is playing with our lives and our livelihood. If interviewing for a job is like dating, this manager is the equivalent to the girl who sneaks into your apartment after a breakup and slashes all your dress shirts. I have a hard time wrapping my brain around it.

It’s not even that these were dream jobs. Or, really, even jobs that were all that fantastic. It’s that I can’t believe how mean and petty and outright horrible the HR rep and hiring managers were. And, by extension, the company itself. After all, a company is only as good as its employees. And the message this company is sending, loud and clear, is this: I will screw you over at every opportunity.

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So, yeah. All of this was bad enough to make for a crap-fest of a week. But, wait! There’s more!

My husband had an opportunity with a different company in another state. This particular opportunity has been banging around for a year. For a YEAR, the manager has wanted my husband to come work at this company. They have been talking around this thing for so long, and it always seemed like a good Plan B for us. The manager was eager for him to come work for her. She even went so far as to send housing information and set up calls for my husband with people who live in the city and work for the same company, so he could get a feel for life in this particular city.

Well, guess what? Plan B is now gone, too. After a year of saying how perfect my husband is for the job, that manager now suddenly feels he won’t be happy in the job. Really?!?! Personally, I think she promised him a salary that she found out she can’t deliver. And now, she is too embarrassed to admit it. But whatever … Either way, it’s shitty.

And then, a third opportunity fell through just yesterday. Same song, second verse. Or are we on the third verse by now? Whatever. The refrain is this: People Suck.

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It is hard to see someone you love so much treated so badly. It hurts when you have to stand by and let it happen. It hurts when you feel as if you are free-falling through a major hole in your life, and you have no control over any of it. It beyond hurts. It sucks. Right now, things suck for my husband and for my family. I don’t know what is going to happen to us. I don’t know where we are going to go or what we are going to do. I have to keep believing it is going to get better and that there is something better out there for us. But, truthfully, it becomes hard to believe any of that when so much crappy shit happens in the span of one week. I would say that at least it’s over and a new week is coming. But, honestly, I feel like I am taunting Fate at this point.

This has been one of those weeks where I feel like I’m watching all the Legos fall around me. And they are making a huge sound as they hit the floor.

A Day of Ups and Downs …

Today has been a day of ups and downs. Have you ever had one of those? It’s a hard way to live, even for a day. Because there is something I want so, so badly. And that one thing is so very nearly within reach. But maybe it isn’t possible for me to have that one thing, even though I want it so very badly. Maybe the thing I want is available and there for the taking. But maybe taking it would be a bad choice.

You see what I mean? Up and down. Up and down. Over and over again. Repeat and rewash. Ugh. It’s so frustrating.

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The thing is, I want a change. I need a change. And I think my family needs a change, too. I don’t have any empirical evidence to back this up, but I have a strong gut feeling. I also have a strong gut feeling that change is just around the corner. As a family and with regard to my husband’s job, we are at a point where change NEEDS to happen. We’re talking back up against the wall and nowhere else to go time, here.

It’s scary. And frustrating. And we have been on this train for over a year now.

I can smell change in the air. I can feel it coming toward us at full speed. Will it be our ticket to something better? Or will it just be that same old train, coming to run us under its wheels once again? Right now, it’s anyone’s guess, because we seem to be making progress toward that change … but, at the same time, we are stuck in the same old spot.

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Today, I had a few moments of giddy elation. It seemed like something definite was happening at long last. It seemed like the change we have been seeking and waiting for was right there, right within reach. And it seemed like, for once, it might actually be the change we wanted. I was so excited, my hands were shaking. I wanted to laugh and cry, all at the same time. I was giddy. That’s the only way to describe it: “Giddy”. I haven’t felt truly giddy in a long, long time.

But then, suddenly, it seemed that our coming change might not be coming at all. Within the span of a few hours, my emotions ran the gamut from unfamiliar, dizzy heights all the way back down to stomach-churning uncertainty, stress, and fear. I feel like uncertainty, stress, and fear have been my constant companions for too long. I’m tired of uncertainty, stress, and fear.

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I think that’s it: I’m just freaking tired. I want to feel excited and happy. For once, I want to feel these things without reservation. It’s not that I think things will be perfect once change comes upon us. I’m not that naive. And I don’t necessarily need “perfect”. Just … different. Or, maybe … positive. Those little things would be enough. Or maybe just stable. Maybe it would be enough for my life to be stable and simple and easy.

Change is coming. I can feel it. And I’m ready. Is it the change I want? Or is it the train, coming out of the darkness to run me down, once and for all? I have no idea. But I’m ready.

Maui Summer Adventure: Day 5, Part 2

It is a rainy, rainy night tonight in my corner of the universe. Along with rain, there is occasional thunder. And along with occasional thunder, there are two scaredy-dogs vying for the limited “cavern space” under my desk. All of this makes me wish I was somewhere else. And where might that be?

Yep! You guessed it!! My mind has turned to fond memories from our island adventure in Maui this Summer. So I thought it would be a great time to head in here and FINALLY wrap things up with the second part of my Day 5 post. If you recall, the first part of Day 5 started in the wee hours of the morning with a fairly long drive and the most spectacular sunrise I have ever seen in my life. And then, there were pancakes. Which were also pretty darn good. An amazing sunrise and lots of clouds and equally amazing pancakes is already a pretty full day. But our plans for Day 5 had only begun. Because we were headed back to THE ROAD TO HANA!!! (In my mind, I am saying those words in a movie announcer voice. Because, you know, it needs to be that way.)

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So remember how we had already traveled this road? And made it only halfway? Um, yeah. So here’s what we did: We went back to Mile 0 and started all over again. This time, we were better prepared. We had snacks. We had water. We had a full gas tank. Even our Road to Hana description app was in full working order! Of course, we were all exhausted from getting up at o-dark-thirty in the AM. But no adventure is perfect. Our time in Maui was coming to a close. If we wanted to travel down this road in order to see what we might see, we needed to jump on it!

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Originally, I thought I would organize this post in a more or less chronological order of all the sights we saw and the stops we made along the way. But the truth is that there is a LOT to see along the way. And I took a lot of pictures. And it has been quite a while since our trip. And, well, I am feeling lazier than lazy. Which means I am going to head into this post piece-meal and picture-heavy.

There were some things along the way that have stayed with me. Even now, months later, I think about the magic and wonder they inspired in my heart. And this is one of them. As we traveled the twists and turns and peered over the edges of cliffs, I kept seeing these weird, fuzzy-humpy shapes out of my window. It took me a little while to realize they were bamboo — forests and forests of bamboo, growing up the mountains all around us. It rained off and on as we drove, and, once the mists cleared, the sunlight hit the edges of every leaf. It was as if the whole world was chased in silver. Or, maybe, like I had traveled to some strange and unknown planet. It was like seeing LIFE for the first time, ever.

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Of course, there were more waterfalls along the way. Some were hidden away, far off the road and along the untraveled path. It took some hiking to reach these. I was tired that day, from getting up so early, and I didn’t have the mental energy to hike to most of them. But I managed a few. It was worth the extra effort!

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There is something life-affirming about standing under a canopy of green and feeling the world growing around you. If I closed my eyes, I could practically hear the life hum around me as the wind rustled leaves above my head and small, unseen critters rustled through the leaves as we passed. And the rain! Is there anything as beautiful as the sound of rain falling and hitting every single leaf on the way down?

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As expected, there was something to see around every twist and turn. At the bottom of every hill and the bend of every curve, things came to us. Some of them were small and delicate. Grace and beauty, right before my eyes. There were times when I found myself holding my breath as I tried to take all of it in with my eyes and my heart.

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And some of the things were mysterious. Where might they lead? Were there fairies somewhere in there, just waiting to grant wishes? Or, perhaps, biding their time until they had a chance to perform some mischief?

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We visited my beloved Rainbow Eucalyptus trees again. And they were just as incredible the second time!

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We even visited the Garden of Eden. And you know, if it could exist anywhere on Earth today, I think Maui would be the place. At the very least, it was fun to see these little guys owning their little patch of grass. Like a couple of divas or bosses in the making! Of course, they have a great teacher in their Mama. She was beautiful, majestic, and just a little scary. We were careful not to get too close!

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And, of course, there was the ocean — always the ocean. It was our constant companion, visible just over the nearest cliff or next hill. Its moods were varied. Its sound was soothing. And it was always beautiful. I think I could look at the ocean for forever.

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And, at the end of it all, a beach of black sand. It was unexpected. And mysterious. And the ocean seemed intent on taking it back, one grain at a time.

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At the end of the day, we headed for home knowing we had truly seen everything. We had hiked up cliffs. We had felt the rain on our faces. We had walked beneath canopies of lush green. We laughed and told stories. We made memories. It was a good day.