Reminiscing Once More

31 12 2016

Here we are, sitting on the cusp of another new year. I’m not going to lie, I’m a little surprised we made it.

howIfeelabout2016

Whew, we made it. That was a rough one, girlfriend.

It’s weird to sit back and think over the last year. Partly because I haven’t had much time to sit back and think at all over the last 12 months. But being New Year’s Eve, I feel ok about allowing myself these few minutes of nostalgia….

This time last year, I was overflowing with all the feels – I had diamonds on my left hand that I couldn’t stop staring at while I shimmied into my gold dress to ring in the new year in the city square in Granada, Spain. We ate grapes and cheered and sang and kissed under the grand lights and I felt like this was going to be such a great year!!!

NewYears2016GranadaSpain

So optimistically happy ❤

And a lot of really amazing things did happen this year. Since my social media is full of lists of all the crappy things that happened in 2016, I’m not going to add my own. The future is unknown, and right now a little uncertain and scary, so I’m going to ruminate on the positive.

  1. I came home from an incredible adventure in Spain, engaged to my handsome beau
  2. Grad school did not kill me, and instead I graduated
  3. After lots of anxiety and applications, I landed my first teaching position
  4. During the first week of said teaching position, our 2 families gathered together and I married that handsome beau and made him mine
  5. I turned 32, and felt ok about it
  6. Teaching proved to be the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but I made it the first trimester
  7. We bailed ship as soon as school let out and celebrated…well everything, on a delayed honeymoon in Costa Rica

And here we are! J and I are still unpacking and resettling after our adventures. We talk a lot about the coming months, years, but right now, its nice to celebrate the happiness we have right here right now.

Happy New Year!

honeymooninCostaRica

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It’s almost NOVEMBER?!

23 10 2016

WHAT KIND OF EVIL SORCERY IS THIS?!

Oh, right, it’s just time, flying by at warp speed. Did it speed up? Am I just going crazy?

Wait, my sanity has taken quite a hit lately! Regardless, I guess I’m just busier than I have been in a while. Or, like ever.

Good news, though: I’ve been teaching 5th grade for a month and a half, and no one has died! Or even been majorly injured! (Except my sanity.) I gotta say, though – teaching is HARD, ya’ll. Not so much the act of teaching content, life skills, and social skills to 31 individuals all at different levels and with different learning styles and abilities – no, that part I feel like I have down. If only that was all my job was about. But then you throw in the other things…the bus duty, and cafeteria duty, and changing schedules, and parent communication, and tracking/documenting every little thing. Don’t forget to collect evidence for the yearly teacher evaluation, and remember your month for birthday snacks, and didn’t you know everyone wears blue on Fridays?? Well they do. And that kid that won’t get on the bus needs consoling so he’ll board and everyone can go home. Staff meetings every Tuesday, new teacher meetings on Mondays, grade-level collaboration on Wednesdays, weekly catch-up on Fridays, and someone is sure to stop by on Thursdays. Don’t worry, the adventures of being across a parking lot from the main building in portables only adds to the everyday excitement! It’s just a little rain kids, we won’t melt!

So yeah, time has left me behind. Thankfully, I have the greatest group of 5th graders on the planet, and the most amazing coworkers to pull me through on a daily basis. The struggles some of these 10-year-olds are forced to face would rip your heart to pieces, but they still push on. I require all my students to write in a journal, and turn it in once a week. Some write beautiful poetry, some create incredible works of fiction, some regale me with tales of their weekend adventures. When the threat of a bad grade is removed, and they aren’t focused on spelling or grammar, they start writing all kinds of things. And man do they love science! And history! We currently have jugs of mini compost habitats for red worms on the bookshelf, and our butterfly larvae just built their cocoons! We researched butterfly facts all one afternoon, after spending the morning lost in the rainforests of Central America searching for Maya ruins. It’s been a lot of fun. If they learn anything at all in my classroom, I hope it’s to use their imaginations to problem solve, and that finding information isn’t nearly as important as figuring out what to do with it.

And I even managed to sneak off one weekend and tie the knot with that handsome JBoo of mine. Our families flew in from all over, several friends drove in from Bend, and we had an epic weekend overflowing with love. It was pure magic. We all gathered at a big beach house on the Oregon coast and just relaxed together. The weather mostly cooperated and two families became one. Since we had all weekend, everyone got to spend time together, and we bonded over ax throwing, ultimate frisbee, long walks down the beach, rowdy games, and lots of amazing food. The collaborative spirit of our friends helped us pull the whole thing off, and the whole group contributed to make the weekend go without a hitch. Despite the incredible weather we were blessed with, it turned windy, cold, and foggy Saturday afternoon for the ceremony. Thankfully, it was a pretty short and sweet affair, though we didn’t quite get all the pictures I wanted. It was too cold to stand out there! But our awesome photographer, Jon, snapped quickly and captured some fantastic pictures. He was able to shoot all during the weekend and documented the candid fun beyond just the formal ceremony. So good.

married on the coast, Rockaway Beach OR 2016

Happily ever after.

Yep, I’ve been a little on the busy side. We’re settling into a routine, and life is chugging along. We just booked our honeymoon over winter break, so we have something big to look forward. My class size was reduced to 27, from 31, which has made a big difference in my classroom. I’m figuring things out and finding my way around my school, while trying to find a work/life balance. The next time I get a chance to blog, it might be Thanksgiving…or New Year’s…but that’s ok. I have found where I’m supposed to be, doing what I’m meant to be doing, and I’m happy.

Life is good. 🙂





Houses, Home, and Culdesacs

4 08 2016

It’s been over a year since that day J and I crammed some of my belongings into his truck and I moved out of our house. Not for lover’s quarrel but for higher education. After six months in a house with several very nice dudes, my friend and classmate N offered me a room at her house.

Thus began the saga of Big K, Little K, and Momma N. Over the last 9 months, we formed a weird little family, and it was amazing. Just having someone to talk to that was going through the same things made the grind easier to bear. We were able to rant about our days, laugh at the ridiculousness, and celebrate our victories. Couch parties and copious amounts of tea and editing each other’s papers long into the night – that’s what got me through grad school.

roomies

Well, that and a fiesty little red-head, 5 years old and full of sugar and sass. Sometimes, she would creep into my room to climb into bed with me, rooting around in my pillows until she found my old teddy. She would join me on walks, and shared my afternoon snacks, and drew me beautiful pictures. I know she hated how much we were always on our computers, but she did a great job of giving us study breaks. As an extra bonus, she helped me catch up on all my Disney movies!

IMG_3955

Little K: sugar and spice and everything nice

Last Friday, I had to drive away from my new little family. They said their farewells even before J showed up with his truck. I’d been so excited to finally get to move back in with J that the shock of my sorrow took me by surprise. I had been focusing on wedding plans and my summer job and pretending to prepare for the coming school year. It conveniently slipped my mind that moving back to J’s house meant leaving my girls behind.

I sobbed.

It’s a funny thing, the concept of “home”. I’ve lived in lots of houses, in different states, with different people. And for the last 5 years, J has been my home. But I also found a home with these two, and I felt a little less orphaned thanks to them. We had community in our little culdesac, where neighborhood kids knocked on the door to sell raffle tickets for little league and ask if Little K could come play. I discovered a sense of being “neighborly” reminiscent of the ’50s. I had my local haunts and my favorite parking spot at the grocery store, and a sense of knowing my way around in our little section of town. There’s a sense of belonging that comes along with all this.

 

I’ve now been at J’s house for a week. We’re still playing tetris with our belongings, trying to make everything fit, but it’s coming together. Just yesterday, I had a small epiphany that made me feel much better: I have a home and community here, too.

J is still my home, and hopefully always will be. It’s also a wonderful feeling to live in just one place again, instead of two. I love getting to wake up to J’s handsome face each morning, and tucking Simba into bed each night. We’re all blissfully back under one roof. And our little street has a nice, friendly feel, similar to my former culdesac. The houses are close together, and everyone seems to be outside at some point, offering a wave and hello. Simba has become acquainted with the other mutts of the street, and our neighbor we share a driveway with asked me yesterday if I could haul her trash can up today after it was emptied, so it wouldn’t blow away. There’s all sorts of neighborly-ness going on.

My heart still aches for my girls, but I do get to see Momma N this weekend. I didn’t move across the country, I’m just an hour away – we’ll have lunch next week when I’m in the ‘Couve for other things. Plus: SnapChat. Boom.

So despite still struggling with our housing situation, and anxiously awaiting the day we’ll have a place to call our own, I don’t lack for a home or a community. That makes me feel better, and gives me that sense of belonging I’ve craved. I no longer have a suitcase on standby for the weekend, and I feel much less nomadic. We live in a super rad town that I’m excited to get to know better. My hard-won friends are still just down the river, and in 36 days, J and I get to say I Do.

Life goes on. Thankfully, I have two awesome ladies that I got to share it with for a little while. Grad school would have been a very different experience were it not for them, and I’m so grateful to them for allowing me to adopt them for a little while.





#tbt to Texas

9 04 2015

Since I’m super “hip” and “down with it”, I’m posting a hashtag today: #tbt. Hopefully this will convince you of my “hip-ness” and increase my “street cred”. (Is it working?!)

J and I took a nice trip down to Texas a few weeks back for lots of “throw back” – tons of trekking up and down memory lane!!

J has never been to Austin, so we jumped at the chance for a reunion with my college buddies. We took off work for a full week and I began mapping our course across the massive state. The goal: see as many friends and family as humanly possible.

Stop 1: Wichita Falls, to see my family. My mother was not pleased that I only gave her a day and a half, but she did alright. My big Broski drove down from Kansas with my insanely fabulous niece (she obviously inherited her auntie’s brilliance), my middle sister B took off work (oh yo, oh yo!), and my Daddy waxed his mustache – party time!

Though our visit was super short, we made the most of it. I spent every second with my little Hopey, hugged my Momma every time she was within reach, snuggled my niece as much as an 18-month-old will allow, and punched my brother every time he walked by. A perfect day and a half. Even both grandparents made an appearance for some pulled pork, super tight hugs, and catching up.

big sister little sisiter, dallas tx

Cruising around with my little Hope-ster!

I could write a whole post on Hope alone. She crawled into my covers each morning to snuggle, did some impressive living room yoga with me, showed me her wicked dance moves to “Let It Go”, and generally refused to be more than a foot away from me at all times.

Then there was Boop, my niece. She’s quiet and intense, watching everything with her wide-eyed, innocent intelligence. Then she’d jump in to play or dance or chase the bubbles and we would finally be rewarded with her delightful giggles.

My little mop-head, watching the family madness, waiting for her chance to jump in the middle of it all…

After soaking up the family time like a parched sponge, it was time to move on to Stop 2: Dallas. One of my closest BFF’s from college, Little L, was putting us up for the night and road-tripping with us to Austin for the big reunion. We squeezed in a visit to my first college friend and old roomie, who introduced us to her 2-week-old bebe. Much has changed since our shenanigans in the dorms freshman year! I almost wept at the sight of her beautiful family. But AIN’T NOBODY GOT TIME FOR THAT!

And off to Austin we went! My sweet bestie, KDub (yes, everyone in this post is a bestie), now lives in North Austin and gives the best hugs – how I missed all these faces! We ladies shut the boys out in the living room, cranked up the throw-back jams, and set up shop getting ready for our big night out on the town. Oh, such memories – how many times have we done this together over the years? Once upon a time, this was our weekend routine! When did I learn to get ready on my own, without their expert assistance and advice?!

Finally gorgeous, we caught the monorail downtown and had our first big-city experience with Uber to get to the restaurant where we were meeting the gang for dinner. We were first, and as folks started trickling in, my blood pressure steadily climbed. Friends I hadn’t seen for YEARS walked in that door. Pals that were once my friend-family, that saw me through my college years, that transitioned me into adulthood – they were suddenly all there again. By some miracle, I managed to smile my biggest smile, instead of cry like a baby in a corner.

How time has changed us! Marriages and babies and careers had somehow happened. We’re all strangely older, though our 23-year-old selves came out to play with us all back together, like no time at all has passed. It was simply incredible having all these people in one room together, laughing, celebrating, reuniting.

friends reunited, Austin TX

My life would be all the better if I saw more of these amazing people – now married AND expecting!

besties reunited, tearing up sxsw, austin tx

Two of my best friends in the whole world. ❤

And the group is now complete! A window to my early 20’s…

After dinner, we headed downtown. (Crazy.) South By Southwest (SXSW), the mega music, film and tech fest, was still raging, so people were EVERYWHERE. We didn’t care – MUST.DANCE.NOW. We found the first club with no cover and the booty-shaking began! (Aw, just like old times again!)

girlfriends reunited, SXSW 2015 austin tx

Added Ash to the mix during a dance break, but photo-bombed by S (and B’s eyebrow) ….

group reunited at SXSW 2015, austin tx

More of the group, this time getting photo-bombed by ME!!

After such a great night with such great people, it seemed like the trip should be over, time to pack it up and go back home to real life.

BUT WAIT! THERE’S MORE!

The trip, in fact, was only half over! More friends need to be seen! We recovered the next day with amazing breakfast by KDub, then hopped in the car with MAsh to continue south. MDawg took us through San Marcos, home of Texas State University, where I spent some of the best years of my life. We took J on a little trip down (my) memory lane, gasping at the massive changes, sighing at the sights that remained the same. Then we roamed back through the hill country to Canyon Lake, to Ash’s mom’s house, where we relaxed the day away. Towards evening, we loaded back in the car, destined for the awesome historic town of Gruene!

For 4 and a half years now, I’ve done my best to convince J that Texas can be quite beautiful, charming, even incredible at times. This trip finally proved me right. The bluebonnets carpeted the roadsides this far south, and the recent rains had turned the fields a lush emerald. We drove the back way, along the Guadalupe River, past limestone cliffs and tumbling hills and a zillion tube rentals and campgrounds. It’s easy to imagine the zoo this place turns into during the summer! Even J was impressed.

Once we arrived, I felt like a proud mamma, showing off her babies to a stranger. Gruene was one of my favorite places to go when I lived in this neck of the woods – the creaky wooden sidewalks, the historic buildings full of gimmicky wares, the best food around served in the remarkable grist mill renovated into a restaurant – and Grune Hall. The oldest dance hall in the state of Texas. All the greats have played on that stage, from Willy Nelson to Merle Haggard to Lyle Lovett to The King, GEORGE STRAIT! I wish I could have snuggled up to J for a twirl around the uneven dance floor, but not this night. We whisked next door to the Grist Mill instead, meeting the fabulous M again and my dears SB and G.

The last stop on our grand journey was east of San Antonio: SB and G’s house. (I like it to call it The Estate.) We stayed up that night as late as we possibly could, trying to catch up on the months gone by since our last visit. (Despite the fact that SB and I chat regularly…) The next day, we had a relaxing morning in their amazing house with their adorable pups, before finally setting out to hike the hill country. Mud, sweat, sunburn, and lunch later, we plopped back down in their living room to recover.

government-canyons san antonio tx

My crew up ahead in the lovely oaks and aromatic mountain laurels. I was busy getting sun burnt.

* * * * * *

For the last 5 1/2 years, I’ve been working on making the PNW my home. It’s not hard – the mountains, the rivers, the coast, the changing seasons: all sing to me and made me fall in love long ago. Even my mother has come to terms with the fact that I will likely never move back to my birth state of Texas. (Ok, she pretends to have come to terms with it…)

Strangely, most folks from Texas do not understand this and will fight to the death trying to prove that Texas is the GREATEST state ever in the whole entire world and I am obviously completely insane and utterly stupid to not only leave, but not want to come back. Think I’m exaggerating? Then you aren’t from Texas.

And yet, I return to the great country state as often as possible. Why? Roots. Family. Memories. Bar-b-que. Friends that became family.

I wish I could find the words to relay how important these folks were to me, and the depth of my gratitude for getting to spend even one evening with them again. It was like living in a #tbt post but better.

Now I’m all the more motivated to visit them all again!!

😀





Snow in the New Year

4 01 2015

Some people ring in the new year. Some people toast it in, and others sing and dance it in. Not us – oh no. We snow in the new year!

(Dang it, that made more sense in my head…oh well – just go with it.)

We didn’t quite make it to midnight on New Year’s Eve, but J and I were both fine with that. Maybe we’re old and lame, maybe we just value sleep and don’t care about the ball drop. Besides, New Year’s Day held more possibility for celebration – adventure style!

Since we both had the day off work, it was obvious we needed to spend the first day of 2015 in the great outdoors. We packed a whole assortment of gear (snow pants, snow shoes, cross-country skis, back-packs – we were prepared for just about anything) and hit the road. Snow was out there somewhere, and we intended to find it!

And find it we did, up on the lower slopes of my bestie, Mt Adams. He looked so stunning, blinding us with his snowy white shoulders in the bright sunny day. It was a glorious day to go play in the fluff!

smith butte snow park, mt adams wa

Why Adams, you’re looking mighty dashing this fine winter day!

We stopped at Smith Butte snow park and clambered excitedly out of the truck. Simba raced in circles, I fell into the snow drift in the ditch alongside the road, and J paid no attention to either of us. Despite all the gear we brought, we decided to just hike up the road, the snow being neither deep nor groomed for skiing. So off we went!

I’m sure there are folks who will think this was a terrible way to start off the year. No party, no bubbly, no shenanigans. But not to me – quite the opposite. I can’t think of a better way to get the new year off to an excellent start.

I had my two best guys there with me:

snow hiking at Smith Butte, Mt Adams WA

My two handsome fellas – the best adventure buddies around 🙂

I had the most gorgeous day to enjoy out in a gorgeous forest:

smith butte snow park near Trout Lake, Mt Adams WA

Sunshine, blue skies, and stunning scenery – yes please!

And we even had nature’s glitter falling all around us:

snow glitter, Mt Adams WA

Even nature celebrates with a little sparkle….

After all that wonderfulness, we had a warm house to go home to and warm dinner to fill our bellies. Yep, a great start to 2015 if you ask me!

I’m not really one for New Year’s resolutions – I actually use my birthday for reflection and planning, not the turning of the calendar. But I have a good feeling about this next year, a really good feeling.

I hope all of you had a great New Year’s celebration, whatever kind of celebrating it was for you. Cheers to a wonderful 2015!!

😀





Happy Christmas and Merry New Year!

28 12 2014

Another year is almost completely gone! Where did it go? Why do I ask the same question every year? (Insanity is sounding more and more familiar….)

Through the years, Christmas has always been my favorite time of year. Even when I worked in retail and saw the worst side of humanity. (Grown women throwing blows for a cheap laptop? C’mon people.) The festivity of December just excites me, and fills me with wonder and joy and all the other emotions Hallmark writes about. The lights! and the carols! and the cheer!

cutting our own christmas tree

We chopped our own little bitty tree to fit in our little bitty living room!

This year, we kept it quiet. We learned our lesson trying to travel at the holidays (or in the winter in general…) and just stay home. My heart aches at being so far from my family this time of year, but I’m blaming my extra sadness on the lack of vitamin D. We’ve seriously had maybe two full days of sunshine for MONTHS – I’m so sick of the rain!

We also didn’t get a white Christmas, which was just one more thing for me to be sad about. But as I snuggled with my boys during my full 5 days off work, all I could feel was a heart overflowing with gratitude for the abundance I have to be happy about.

Looking around our tiny little house, the colorful lights reflected off the windows and silver garland, our two-foot Charlie Brown tree shone in the corner, three bulging stockings hung from the shelf, and I was snuggled up between my sweet J and my snoring pup. Our bellies were all full, we were all warm and safe, and the three of us were together. Our own little family.

Christmas on the Columbia, Hood River OR

My boss sent a company-wide email Tuesday afternoon announcing that he was giving all of us Friday off as a paid holiday, giving the whole company 5 days of uninterrupted holiday. J and I went for long walks, took the dog hiking up in the mountains, cooked a Christmas feast together, unwrapped our gifts, and spent hours playing our new board game and helping Simba break in his new toy. It was a wonderful time for us to catch up on “us”, spending quality time with no obligation to rush off somewhere, or get something done.

Christmas tree decorations of love

And that’s all I really wanted for Christmas. To spend time with those I love, re-energize after the “holiday scramble”, and take the time to acknowledge this wonderful life we live.

I sincerely hope yall had a wonderful holiday, whichever one you celebrate. I’d give every one of you a hug if I could, so hug yourself for me. And may 2015 bring all sorts of wonderful things your way!

😀

we wish you a Merry Christmas





Moments of Hope

18 10 2014

Everyone needs a little Hope – it’s how we get through our wild, ridiculous lives. Hope fuels us, drives us, keeps us going. Lucky for me, I have 27 pounds of strawberry-blonde Hope, bundled with lots of sass, a Texas-size bossy streak, and a heart so big I don’t know how it fits in such a little body.

sassy pants in Seaside, OR coast

My Hope is in Texas, so I just get visits, always too short. In September, my mother managed to get Hope on a plane (with the help of my Aunt Mary) and fly her up to me. A whole week with family! The anticipation almost killed me, but I finally made it to the airport and squeezed everyone into my car. Mine all mine!

I did my best to show the grown-ups a good time and simultaneously entertain my Hope (and keep her out of trouble). I really wanted to show my family all the wonderfulness of this awesome place I call home, so I loaded them up in the car each day and hauled them all over the place. Shopping and wine tasting and waterfalls, of course, but I also decided they just HAD to see the Oregon coast, so we went there, too. We hiked in the forest and swam in the Columbia and splashed in the Pacific Ocean, and all the while, my little Hopey was such a trooper. Naps were sometimes skipped, and a few melt-downs did happen, but for a two-year-old used to a solid routine of ruling the house, she really did awesome.

summer swimming in the Columbia River, Hood River OR

She stripped off her dress, kicked off her shoes, and went swimming! (No, I didn’t follow suit.)

Things I learned about this fabulous little girl: she is determined, head-strong, stubborn, willful, and bossy as bossy can be. She is smart, creative, inquisitive, and very imaginative. She prefers the outdoors, loves to collect rocks and sticks, picks flowers, blows all the dandelions, chats with the birds, and wanted to take all the berries from the mountain ash tree home with her. I just love what a wild little child of nature she is, a little free soul already.

child picking wildflowers, White Salmon Wa

Picking wildflowers for Momma

eating taffy in Seaside, OR

All sass, wearing my sunglasses, eating my taffy…(I’m not sure why this picture is so blue)

first time to the Pacific, Seaside OR

SO excited to dip a toe in the ocean!

She was a little cautious about the pounding surf…at first. Then the first wave washed over her little bare toes, and she squealed with delight. And off she went, running and laughing with such abandon, the pure and simple joy of a happy child.

baby of the sea, sunset at Seaside OR

Like a child of the sea, she couldn’t get enough – despite the frigid temperature of that water

playing in the Pacific, Seaside OR

“No Keesta, like THIS”

Due to the distance between us, I always worry that little Hope won’t remember me, that one day I’ll see her and she won’t run up to hug me. Thankfully, that hasn’t happened yet, and she was just as attached to me as I had hoped. My status in life got a boost, and I became WONDERFUL. No one else could unbuckle her carseat, no one else could take her potty, no one else could sing to her before bed. We snuggled each morning when I got her out of bed, we ate breakfast together, we watched My Little Pony together while everyone got ready for the day. I was trying to soak up as much Hope as I could for the short time she was here, and to my great relief, she let me.

sister snuggles, Seaside OR

Morning snuggles and giggles between sisters

The day they arrived, it seemed like we had so much time, but before I knew what happened, we were headed back to the airport and my Hopey was gone. I cried my way home and had a difficult day of work. But then I would find evidence of Hope – rocks she had hid in my pockets when I did laundry, her little froggy toys hiding in random places, teddy grahams in the container of oatmeal, and random items from my make-up drawer tucked into the towels in the bathroom. They’re little reminders of my littlest sister. And they make me smile every time.

I can’t wait for the next visit, and all the visits after. One day, she’ll be able to come spend summers with me, and oh the adventures we’ll have!

I hope you have a little Hope, in some form or another, of your own.  😀








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