Tuesday, November 11, 2014

"Home is the nicest word there is"

Tuesday 2 September- Sunday 21 September 2014
Laura Ingalls Wilder is the author of my title quote and I couldn't agree more. Well, I do have an affinity for onomatopoeia...but it didn't fit as well. :P

We arrived back in Maryland after our road trip through the Confederacy. ;) Preston has been SO eager to return to normality and to California.  Honestly, I can't say for SURE where it is I want to be. I always very much imagined myself moving home to Maryland after a few years in California. I left things open ended before we left on our big trip, but to be truthful...I didn't think we'd return to California. 

I feel 'done' with California. Been there, did that. I think it was a great place to spend a good part of my twenties. I found my independence in California. I built a self confidence I may not have if I hadn't moved there. But, I feel that story has been told. There's not much I feel is left for me out there. I had a wonderful job that taught me SO much, but I feel it's time to move on from that. I lived in a perfect town, but returning to the same thing after such an amazing life experience seems to be...eh? Friendships that I thought were genuine and true turned out-to my great heartache-not to be so. The majority of my friends...the ones that I wouldn't need to explain myself to, that wouldn't assume the worst of my actions even if they heard from someone else first, that would laugh off any questions of my character, that would be there for me in the fun times and the bad, that would get on a plane and fly even though it scared them (you know who you are;)), that believe in me and support me and love me...they are in Maryland (or at least close to). I still do have some terrific friends in California, of course...but we will be friends no matter what. I know that. I don't need to LIVE there for them to be in my life. They are real and they are true...just as my friends in Maryland have been. California is far. California is EXPENSIVE. California is going to fall off into the ocean ;), etc etc.

But, most importantly...for me, it comes down to family. My FAMILY is in Maryland and they mean OH so much to me. I'm incredibly blessed with a wonderful, loving, supportive, flawed, hilarious family that actually spends a lot of time with one another. I don't know many people that have the relationships with their cousins and their aunts and uncles that I do. My cousin is my very best friend. I mean, that's awesome, right? I want to be around that. I don't want to miss any more exciting or mundane days in their lives. California was never meant to be permanent to me.

Preston and I talked a lot about this before we got married...but I guess sometimes ideas are harder to accept when they become REAL possibilities.

As much as I love my home and my family, I can't 100% say it's the right decision for now or for us at all. I read somewhere that in order for your marriage to survive...that it MUST come first...above all things. Maryland might be the right place for me...but is it the right place for we? I can't answer that right now. 

And so, my husband left for California the day after Labor Day. He feels so incredibly strongly about it...and he's followed my lead for these last 9 months, so I think it's time I followed his. California makes sense for Preston. We have a life there together. Our stuff is there. We can get settled and re-evaluate later. So, as much as it breaks my heart...it's back to California we will go. I hope it's not forever, but I don't know what the future will bring. It's not that I don't have a love for California...I do, I DO. I feel like I really subscribe to the lifestyle that is California...the flip flops and hoodies, the organic food, the year-round farmers markets, the sunshine, the beach, the mountains, the warm(er) weather...I love allllll those things and I can make the most of it and I can love it again, especially for now...especially for my husband's sake.

In the meantime, I got to spend these last few weeks in my home that I love with my family and friends. 

It was glorious to have so much time in Maryland. Usually I'm in and out with only a little time for each person. It's funny how when you move away and come home again...you're forced to combine people in your life that may not otherwise be combined :P When you only have 48 hours...you squeeze in what you can. But, this time...I got to spend REAL time. One on one time. I got to be bored. I got to hang around in my mom's hammock and take naps with my cat. I got to do nothing with my friends and be there for birthdays and afterschools and pizza nights. I got to take my time and soak it all in. I got to watch stupid movies with my dad and get to know his dog. I got to sit around and talk to my cousins about high school and take my other cousin out for a drink, since he just turned 21 (!!) I got to sit on my Aunt's porch and watch the sunset and just talk, talk, talk with no where to be. I got to go on a date night with my other Aunt and talk with no pressure of later plans. It was great to feel like I wasn't rushing things; that I had time for everyone. I took hikes and bike rides. I made dinners and took long walks. I spent time with my best friends from childhood and my best friends from adulthood. Seriously, it was good for my soul. I got to celebrate my Uncle's birthday at Ruth Chris-where we celebrate all family birthdays (I've missed SO many). I got to spend time with my grandmother who flew in from Bermuda. 

Important conversations with my favorite baby <3

Me and Aunt Toni

Happy Birthday Uncle Kirk!!

Sarah and I would pretend play horses when we were 7 years old...she always knew she would have real ones. I told them both, 'your momma dreamed you her whole life'. hehe!!  

Kaleb made us lasagna dinner!! (hehe kinda. Trisha and I mostly finished it;))
AND!! I got to go to one of my most favorite things ever...the Great Frederick Fair.

The Frederick Fair is an awesome agricultural event that pays homage to the true roots of Frederick County-Farming!! Frederick has come a long way since then, but school kids in Frederick actually still get the day off for the Fair. It used to be so that they could tend to the animals there, but now it's mostly to ride rides and walk around with friends ;) I love to go and see all the animals (something that TERRIFIED me as a child. I would stand at one end of the barn and cry for my parents. ha!), check out the massive tractor displays, run into all sorts of people and relatives, and eat eat EAT!! My favorite fair staples are: bean soup, candy apples, lemonade, whoopie pies, and amazing ham and cheese sandwiches made by the PA Dutch tent. Heaven between two fresh baked rolls!! Mmmm mmm!! 

This was a 'red velvet' funnel cake. OMG. I love red velvet. However, I think it was just a dyed red funnel cake :P 

While I was home, Preston got settled in California, returned to his job, and found us a place to live. He wanted to set everything up for me, I think, as a way to repay me for everything I arranged on the trip. Pretty nice guy when all is said and done ;) 

Tomorrow my momma and I pack it up and head our wagon west!! 

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Memorial Day in Kill Devil Hills

Friday August 29 2014- Monday Sept 1 2014

Much like our time in Bermuda, we do pretty much the same thing every year in the Outer Banks.

Traditionally, we start and end our summers with our family there. My grandfather's brother Fred lives there with his wife (Sandy), two daughters (Heather and Krista), and their families (Heather's husband Russell, their son Kade, and daughter Reese; Krista's husband Cooper, and their twin daughters Landry and Camille).  My Uncle Fred was a coach at Frederick High School and is a legend in my hometown. Fred has also survived more health issues than anyone I know...from having most of his lower intestine removed as a teenager, to NUMEROUS bouts of cancer, to strokes...you name it; he's a fighter and he's amazing.

My brother, who shares his name, has gotten out of more than one ticket from cops that recognized him as a relation of Fred. Haha!! In fact, my dad, my brother, and Heather's son are named after Fred (they all go by their middles names...since there is really only ONE Fred). As I said, he's a LEGEND. 

Anyway, Fred and co. have such an AMAZING and supportive family unit. It's really something to admire. :) My Uncle, Aunt, and cousins are all so kind to play host to us EVERY summer. 

Usually, some combination of my dad's side of the family heads to Kill Devil Hills for Memorial and Labor Day. It's a great tradition. I've not been able to go as often since moving to California, but I still go whenever I can.

TYpically, we all drive down in the horrendous traffic on Friday night. My dad always says that you crawl from DC just because someone in Fredericksburg tapped their brakes. Haha. Too true!!

It's also fun to be in constant contact with every group driving down in the different cars. It's kind of like a race, but not really ;) 

My dad or my uncle rent us all a house for the weekend each time, so Preston and I were fortunate enough to have an easy drive from Tarboro and spent our time, not in traffic, but sipping cold beers in the warm, ocean breezes on the deck. :P 

My family trickled in throughout the night...Kirk and Anna, Dad and Von, Mark and Nikki, and Maddie. :)

Houses in the Outer Banks are generally built with the common rooms on top, the bedrooms at the bottom, and up on stilts to avoid flooding. It's best when there is an outdoor shower. Oh yeah...outdoor showers are the best!! :D Our house this year had an elevator. 

Lancelot rode in it :D

We spend our days at the beach or relaxing around the house. We often get milkshakes from "Johns"-best eva. Since my dad started dating Yvonne, we are also treated to regular and delicious breakfasts. Yvonne is a fabulous cook and is always conscious about cooking with healthier options. 

The 'relaxing around the house' crew. To be fair, they did get off their electronic devices and played putt-putt too.

On Saturday night, we typically get North Carolina BBQ from "High Cotton"...soooo good. We always have a great time talking and catching up.

The four Freds

Outer Banks DEER!!

This year we had a rousing game of Trivial Pursuit. It was really fun and Reese did an amazing job of reading the cards. 

On Sunday, Krista and Cooper will almost always host us at a backyard party. It's incredibly nice of them!! 

It's always a great time and I love spending time with my cousins. My grandfather isn't around anymore, but I know it would mean a lot to him that we've all kept up the effort to be in each other's lives. :)

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Road Trip South

Friday 22 August-Friday 29 August 2014

Preston and I returned to Maryland for a quick 2 days that we mostly spent lounging around. Luckily, it was rainy and perfect to do nothing.

On Sunday, we piled in my car and drove south to Richmond to see my bestest friend Robin. Robin was my college roommate and probably knows me better than anyone :D

Robin lives just outside Richmond with her husband Chase and their baby Griffin. I haven't seen Griffin since he was just a few weeks old at my wedding.

Chase and Robin offered to let us stay with them for a couple days and I was super excited.

We had a great time!! Robin and Chase treated us to dinner in a beautiful waterside restaurant on the first night. I had shrimp & grits and they were divine!!

On Monday, we took Griffin to the park and had pasta for dinner with home-made meatballs. Robin has been a strict vegetarian for longer than I've known her (I've known her for 17 years. Isn't that INSANE? When did I get SO old?!), so I'm always impressed that she's willing to cook with meat for others.

Cutest smile ever.

It was a perfect couple of restful days. Robin had lots of idea of stuff for us to do in Richmond, but honestly...after seeing SO much, we are more than happy to just lay low and chilllll out.  

All clean and ready for bed!!
We were sad to leave, but Pres and I hit the road again on Tuesday.

Driving west from Richmond, we stopped at my alma mater-Lynchburg College. I don't have much fondness in my heart for Lynchburg...I don't feel that I got the best education there. The school seems more concerned with milking as much money as possible from the student body than with trivial things like education and well being. Nonetheless, I wanted Preston to see it, because it was a big part of my life. Of course, it took 30 mins to find legal parking. Always welcoming LC is ;) NOT!!

It was cool to see the changes and show Preston my old stomping grounds, but we didn't linger.

Familiar mountain views

We met my dear college friend Terrie for lunch at Panera, but I didn't take a picture. Blast!! I'm really failing at this picture things lately. :P

From Lynchburg, we started the long drive south to Asheville. We are visiting my friend Nikki, who recently moved home to Asheville from California.

The drive was BEAUTIFUL. We saw the Smoky Mountains in all their splendor. It's truly incredible to me that we have traveled so far and seen so much and yet, America still REALLY impresses. It has everything. Gosh, we are insanely lucky to live here.

Nikki and her sister Sheila were kind enough to host us for our stay in Asheville. I was also excited to see Nikki's dog Fritz. I looked after Fritz for a few days when he was a puppy. Boy, has he GROWN. Sheila has a dog too and more cats than I could count :P Ah, country livin.

We went out to dinner the first night for delicious southern fare and met Nikki's niece (Kimberly) and her boyfriend (Troy). I, of course, took no pictures.

On Wednesday, we spent the morning on the porch with coffee. It was sooo nice. 

Secret Cat Lover

Nikki and Sheila took us to Cracker Barrel for a proper breakfast. O.m.g. This was only my second visit to Cracker Barrel, but goood lawd (see my southern accent?) does that place give you a TON of food!! It was obscene.

After breakfast, Nikki took us on a tour all around Asheville. Whenever I visit someone else's town, I became painfully aware of my lacking tour guide skills :P Nikki was an impressive and gracious host. I could really hear the pride she has for her hometown. 

Asheville has SUCH charm. It's a welcoming and clean little city with an edgy side-mostly seen in the people walking around. There is lots of bright colored hair, black clothing, and tattoos. Asheville is even the craftbrewing capital of the SE United States. There's LOTS of beer to try :D

We met up with Nikki's friend-Diane-who gave us a tour of the old Southern houses around Asheville. This city seems to have so many faces...I'm amazed. We headed up the mountain to the swanky Grove Park Inn.

The Inn is a beautiful, old lodge style resort with GIANT fire places and a cozy mountain feel, despite its size. Grove Park Inn has played host to numerous celebrities and US Presidents. We got drinks on the terrace and took in the STUNNING mountain views. Kimberly and Troy met up with us too.

Ha-this didn't really turn out

But this is what we look like ;)

Goodbye Mountains

We left the Inn and returned to Nikki's with Kimberly and Troy. Nikki lives up on the mountain and has gorgeous views. We spent the evening on her deck listening to the crickets come alive with the setting sun.

Preston and I were up early on Friday to head to Tarboro. Today is Preston's grandmother's 94th birthday. 

On the way, we stopped outside Raleigh to see another college friend of mine-Chris. Chris is my best guy friend. He and I are scarily similar and I like to joke he is my twin (even tho he already has a twin). To my GREAT luck, Chris' girlfriend had JUST given birth to their baby boy!! I got to meet little Reid when he was just a few days old. He was adorable and I CANNOT believe that Chris is a father. Where are all these babies coming from?? ;)

Oh, hi there :D

I was super impressed with Katie, Chris' girlfriend. If I had just had a baby, I'm sure I'd be lounging around lookin terrible, but Katie looked GREAT. She was up and about and actually served us lunch!! Haha!! I tried to help her, but she insisted that she was fine. Reid is Katie's third baby-she has two older (and equally adorable) children from her first marriage-and she said by the third one...you just realize that life goes on. You got stuff to do. haha!! Spoken like a bonafide mom. 

We learned that Katie's and Chris' other kids are in Raleigh's year-round school program. I was fascinated with this. There's no summer vacation. It seem SO wrong. Isn't summer vacation a childhood right? Apparently, this year-round thing with long breaks is better for children...so who am I to argue? The kids were on a different rotation than many of their neighborhood friends, which I also found rotten and unfair. Man, it's tough being a kid these days. 

We didn't stay too long, since Chris and Katie had a lot going on.

Finally, we arrived in Tarboro to see Grandma Doris. Preston stopped first at a florist to pick up some birthday flowers. Apparently, the guy running the register had a VERY thick southern accent, which Preston spent the next few days impersonating (ad nauseum:P). "Are deees flowww-ars for your grandmammy?" haha.

Grandma Doris is quite the impressive lady. In her youth, Grandma Doris was an early advocate of women's rights and a shining patriot-serving her country in the Women's Army Corps during WWII. She received her pHD and was a professer at Bradley University in Illinois. Check out this page on her life. (I mean, she has a WEBPAGE).

Besides having one of the most impressive resumes I've ever seen, Grandma Doris is a phenomenal grandma and she's sweet as pie. Preston can wax poetic about Grandma Doris' amazing foot rubs, or her ability to genuinely listen, or the fact that she avoided interstates and only drove backroads to see more of the country during the long road trips she would take by herself. This woman is truly incredible and an inspiration to me.

Unfortunately, in her older age, Grandma Doris struggles with memory problems. Despite not really knowing us, she made us feel loved and welcomed. We had dinner with her in the dining room of her nursing home and spent a long time talking in her room before she had to retire for bed. 

We spent the night in Greenville, since the hotels were cheaper. Tomorrow we drive out to the Outer Banks to visit my cousins for our annual start of summer trip. 

Good Evenin Southern Sun

I hung out today with someone that is 94 years old and someone that is just a few days old...ain't life grand?