The Last One

The year is wrapping up quickly, and I find myself back on the blog today quite unintentionally.  I’m meant to be packing up our things into boxes right now, but as I reread my last post, I felt compelled to update and make one final entry here– after quite another long absence– as both a conclusion and goodbye of sorts.  I started this blog to record our travels, new experiences and transitions after leaving Denver, but it feels as though our next transition and accompanying adventures has no home on this site…

But to back up a moment–

In November, J quite unexpectedly found a perfect position with Denver’s Habitat for Humanity–an organization dear to my heart after my own Americorps experience there–and it became quite clear that his job offer also meant sticking around Denver for the foreseeable future.  In the back of my mind, I didn’t think I was really ready to make that commitment when we first got back from Florida, but it has proven to be an amazing opportunity for him, and I feel grateful that his dreams are falling into place here!  I’m so excited for him and to see what the future holds for us now that we have decided to put down some roots.  I had been feeling so uncertain with where to go/what to do next that it is a tremendous relief to have gotten an answer…Denver, it is (well, at least for now–you can’t keep a traveler tied down forever, haha)!

Around the same time, I also received a job offer from a language school in Denver, and while I hadn’t initially planned to accept it,  J’s change in plans made me reconsider as well.  I ended up subbing at the school in November for a couple of days and was excited by the energy of the students and fellow teachers there–and I began to really see the potential!  I’m due to start teaching there permanently January 5th, and I also have a couple of classes lined up back at my old university program, so I’m gonna have quite the teaching load between the two schools!

However, these past 6 months of unemployment have really highlighted my need to be engaged in meaningful work, and I’ve found I really miss my interactions with students. Staying at home with my thoughts was not nearly as fun.  I did plod along with NaNoWriMo for a couple of weeks, but ultimately was too distracted by combating the anxiety around our uncertainties and plan-making to finish my efforts.  The experience did help me realize the solitude in writing and further emphasized the awareness that I do really thrive in a more social working environment! Overall, October, November and December were really tough for me, but I can appreciate that time as one of germination, and I’m looking forward to seeing the fruits of all the seeds that were planted this fall.

And speaking of which, one of those soonest-to-ripen fruits is our delicious new place!  We are set to finally move into our next home tomorrow!!  Can you tell I’m pumped?!!! We’ve been nomads for the past 18 months, and it’s so invigorating to have an address, to have a “home” again!  There are boxes out in J’s parent’s garage–pretty much all that is left of our former Denver life–that haven’t been touched since last June, and I can’t wait to open them up again…it’ll be like Christmas all over again!  And yet, because we sold so much of our former lives, it still feels like starting from scratch.  Thankfully, this past week my mom was in town to celebrate the holiday, and we put in some serious effort becoming thrift store/Craigslist good-deal-champions!   Thanks again for everything, mom! 🙂

Which reminds me, I need to be packing!

So, I guess here’s where I get to the goodbye part.  I’ve loved this space, and I’m still amazed at how much we saw and did over the span of the past year and a half.  However, 2015 is promising a whole new set of adventures–a new Denver neighborhood to explore, new jobs for J and I, and some amazing friends to enjoy Colorado life with!–and I feel ready to archive this space as I turn my efforts to some new challenges, both professionally and personally.

So thanks for reading, all of your words and encouragement, and for allowing me to share this small moment of our lives with you.

Much love and bring it on 2015! I’m ready for you!

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a new path

 

Since we’ve been back in Denver, I’ve had a lot of free time on my hands–and that’s just wording it positively, to tell you the truth.  Although I had initially secured a job teaching in my former ESL university program, my dad’s deteriorating health conditions prevented me from ultimately accepting the position, and I’ve had no luck finding any other teaching work since then.  I’ve applied to a few K-12 tutoring companies, only to feel the painful silence of unrequited interest, and these days I begin most mornings with a perusal of craigslist and ESL teaching websites.

It dawned on me a few days ago as I was sprucing up one of my assorted resumes that I have never been unemployed (well, not by choice!) for more than a few weeks; I’ve always been able to flit from job to job, or secure something easily–perhaps providentially–without a lot of stress.  But it’s different now, and I’m finding myself rejected from jobs that I feel overly qualified for or that don’t even interest me.  Over the past week, I’m starting to consider that this is another surreptitious moment but, instead of taking direction to my next job by cosmic neon-lit arrows, the black emptiness of ’employment prospects’  is signaling that I need to forge my own path forward.

So, while I figure out just how to do that, I’ve been seeking to occupy my time with a variety of small ambitions.  To that end, J and I decided to check out a PalletFest being held in downtown Denver on the 11th and 12th of October.  The website for the free 2-day festival indicated it would include demonstrations of creative uses for pallets, along with a host of other ‘upcycling’ projects, such as clothing and home goods.  There was also supposed to be a “pallet maze,” beer garden and various entertaining acts.  I love me some good creative repurposing, and so I hoped I might draw some inspiration while there. Unfortunately, the weather decided to be a bit crap that Saturday and we got rained out about an hour in.  We managed to pack a few bits of fun in, though…

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IMG_0441 Even some non-humans were interested in checking it out…

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IMG_0429IMG_0427 Parkour obstacle course set up for those American Ninja Warrior wannabees and some stilts for the balance challenged!

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example garden ideas

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A Habitat for Humanity sponsored project teaching inmates how to craft furniture from pallets

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Art (had to get sneaky ’cause nobody likes artistic paparazzi!)

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the neverending pallet maze!

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48th in the nation for recycling…eek

I really liked the art projects, but I was most excited to garner some fresh ideas from the gardening section, being that one of my time occupiers these days is working to build a garden at the in-law’s, where we are currently living.  Waaaay back (a year ago), J and I had talked about how we’d love to start a garden there, as it is 1) a hobby his father really enjoys and 2)  “free” land for us!  Well, basically as soon as we had settled in from Florida, we started planning how to make it happen,  and decided to tear down an old, decrepit deck that had been unused by anyone save Q-dog for years.  It looked straightforward enough as we were discussing it, but the demo has ended up consuming several weekend days for us, between the 40,000 screws and the surprise trash haulaway (apparently raccoons had made a nuclear-fallout-style pantry of sorts under there!).  Here’s just a few pics from our efforts,  though we have completed even more so far…

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I’m a slavedriver!!! 🙂

 

 

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post ballaster removal, with half the joists gone too…gives you an idea of the trash!

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We also discovered tons of rotting wood under the deck as well!

For this Sunday, I’ve organized a family Working Bee, so hopefully we can get some serious help as we mulch ALL the wood we have taken down, as well as get the frame for the new garden put in!  I’m so excited to see how it all turns out, and I can’t wait to show more pictures as this project is progressing!

Besides all the construction work, I’ve found myself spending a lot of time outdoors due to our glorious on-going Indian summer.  It has been so unseasonably warm, I’m basically still wearing my Florida wardrobe with a just light cardigan for the mornings! This also means the golden and red leaves of autumn have really stuck around, basically giving me a rainbow of reasons to head over to Chatfield Reservoir with Q everyday.  I kind of feel like a fancy suburban stay-at-home mommy doing our daily park time, but one who’s incredibly spoiled…there’s no crying or dirty diapers to sort out, just a pup who wants nothing more than a ride so she can run around and practice swimming while looking adorable!

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a perfect 72 degree day

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baby, I’m just gonna shake, shake, shake, shake, shake it off!

Our ritual walks there are my absolute favorite time of day–and honestly, pretty much my main method for trying to stay optimistic about things these days.  My unemployment feels especially tough since it’s coupled with J’s efforts to start a new business, and though I can’t express enough gratitude that we are able to have such a wonderful place to stay rent-free for as long as we would like, I can’t help but get anxious when I start thinking about healthcare, savings, home-buying, and all those adult buzzwords that inevitably come creeping into my mind whenever I have nothing else to occupy it with. When we left for New Zealand, I really had never considered the possibility that I wouldn’t be able to find gainful employment again, and though it wouldn’t have stopped me from taking the leap of faith to go, it probably would have encouraged me to think outside the box a lot sooner about what to do now that I can’t just resume my old life.

I’ve been ruminating on how I could make a go at writing and perhaps even photography.  I know that bloggers make terrible money, but I probably need that experience before I can look upwards, so I feel trapped between my desire to just TRY and the fear that I won’t be successful, which keeps me worrying about money and 401k’s.

I have, however, recently decided to participate in NaNoWriMo this year, so I have a goal-oriented plan (s0mewhat!) through November 30th at least!   Basically the National Novel Writing Month is an organization that brings people together worldwide in the shared frustrations and joys of writing a 50,000 word novel in 30 days.  There are sit-in writing parties, prizes for the best stories and even swag for those types that love to utilize physical objects to prove they are ‘real writers.’  I’ve spent the last few days working on sorting out a setting, characters and plot building, and I’m just hoping I have enough drive to just chug through it.  I have no lofty ambitions towards winning or publishing, but damn if it won’t feel good to accomplish something new!  If nothing else, I hope it will help me set the habit of daily writing, which I so desperately need if I am to try and make something of myself that way.

As it stands, I’ve fallen into a little bit of a post-travel slump, where I find myself standing at the finish of one journey and not sure what to do next.  But this is a beautiful time, nonetheless, and I am thankful to have J and an amazing support system who are encouraging my ambitions.  Now, to just achieve them…

 

 

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Well, I’m back…

It’s been a long summer and a strange time in our lives.

These past couple of months in Florida were an extremely difficult time for both J and I, and although I initially had some lofty ideas about continually updating the blog to document our new lives settling into a new state and taking care of my dad, in the end I realized that I lacked the verbal abilities and mental fortitude to really capture the emotional roller coaster we’ve been on since June.  It also seemed like everyday brought some new challenge or change in direction and I had a really hard time even keeping up with it in my mind, much less find appropriate ways to talk about it.  But I know a lot of friends and family members around the world have been sending prayers and love for us all in this journey, so I figured I would take some time today to update you all on where we are now and our hopes for the next couple more months.

First of all, we’re back in Denver and have been for about 5 days.  Our departure from Florida may seem to have come quite suddenly for those who had been keeping up with our lives down there, but as I already mentioned, things with dad’s health and physical needs changed so often that we really just learned that nothing was set in stone and tried to stay adaptable to the changes.  After a series of stays (and various complications) in hospitals in Gainesville, Melbourne, and Orlando, dad was transferred to the Mayo clinic in Jacksonville to undergo evaluation for a liver transplant there. The Mayo campus is beautiful, modern and (seemingly!) well-run, and from the moment that he arrived there, it felt as though renewed energy and hope began spreading through the family again. However, as Jacksonville is about a 3 hours drive from Melbourne, it was a less-than-ideal place to begin the transplant evaluation process again.  After he was released from inpatient care there, I wasn’t sure what we would do if he was needing to be there multiple days a week for his outpatient care needs.  Thankfully, his new insurance covered the cost for an apartment rental for such a situation, and it was decided that he should remain in Jacksonville to complete his transplant testing and await a liver after he made the national list.

Meanwhile, his sister and her husband had been making frequent trips from North Carolina to be there for dad throughout the process, and so she generously offered to live with him in his rental and take over the care taking responsibilities that J and I had been doing since July.  They had been planning to move to Florida in the fall, so her decision unfortunately sped up their moving process a bit but seemed to be a perfect solution for a complicated situation.  While this was a wonderful development for dad, it left J and I unsure about how else we could help out in Florida from Melbourne while also beginning to work.  We spent about a week looking at our options and thinking over both the short and long-term implications to our decision, but ultimately came to the conclusion to return to Denver for at least the short term.  We had been living out of our shared suitcase for 7 weeks (and 11 months if you count our past year of travel–which I most certainly do!!!!) and were anxious to resume some of the plans (more on that in a minute!) we had made before we found out dad was sick.  Although I really hated to leave dad when he was still sick, I felt good knowing he had his 3 sisters and mom (plus other wonderful and helpful family members) close by that he could lean on as he prepared for his transplant.  I also had really become fond of Florida, and it was sad to say goodbye to the tropical temperatures, lush greenery and abundant wildlife we had found there.

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Before we left Melbourne, we decided to take one last beach trip and it was a beaut of a day!

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The entrance to Coconut Point, aka heaven…

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final dog day of our summer

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A bit of the commonly seen wildlife in dad’s neighborhood that I definitely miss!

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A picture of my favorite room at dad’s place–the porch! A place to relax, play the uke, hang with Q and listen to the frogs croaking and crickets chirping all night (notice the full moon peeking from behind the palm trees!)  

And so we left on Sept. 22nd, deciding to drive with my mom (who had come down about 3 weeks previously to help out as well) back to Kentucky before heading on westward.  We covered a total 2,830 miles in the span of 10 days, and it wasn’t lost on me that when we first began our adventures last July, we began by road tripping from Colorado to Florida and on to Kentucky!  It felt as if we were symbolically completing a path we had started down 13 months previously.

I have to say, I left with a pretty heavy heart, but I felt determined to think positively, remembering that nothing is permanent and that we could return to Florida with only a quick 3 hour flight anytime we wanted.  And as we crossed the state line in Georgia, my mood began lifting and I think I began my own journey to some emotional recovery at that point.  For me, there is such a Keroauc-esque energy to being on the road, and I felt the rush of excitement returning with each white center line zooming past me.  Our first night, we ended up stopping in Savannah, and took a beautiful drizzly-rain stroll around the downtown (and came dangerously close to a lightening strike as well!)  Quintessential southern charm was to be found everywhere!

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they see me strollin….

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Gotta love those mossy trees everywhere

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We walked through one of the main cemeteries downtown

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We even got a rare family photo together!

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Mom and her favorite granddog! ❤

We had a wonderful day, but unfortunately as we were walking along, my camera slipped off my shoulder and I kicked it to the ground, where it resoundingly broke!  I was gutted, and even moreso that the trip back home was just starting too!  Oh well, after a day I got over it and started grudgingly using my iPhone, but I didn’t get photos of our second night’s stop outside of Knoxville to see my cousin and her adorable kids on their awesome little suburban farm!  I guess that just means we’ll have to go back and visit again soon! 🙂

Soon enough though, we hit the KY state line (and made a brief detour to let J soak in the splendor of the original KFC!!!) and then I was back in my childhood home.  It felt like a warm fuzzy blanket to be back, especially because J and I decided to take a few extra days to enjoy the Bluegrass State in the infancy of fall.

IMG_0246IMG_0247IMG_0248IMG_0251One of our favorite moments was an impromptu 5 mile walk around Freeman Lake in town, where the fall colors and vibrancy of KY’s charm was on full display.  (I also randomly ran into a very old friend of mine on the trail, so a shout out to Joe if you’re reading this! 🙂 )

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How’s this for dog logic?? Terrified to get in the ocean, hated the pool, but a muddy pond? Let’s go swimming!

We were also able to make a couple of short trips to Louisville and Lexington to see some old and faithful friends, and it was such medicine for my still fragile soul.  I love you guys–you know who you are!

However, as each day passed, J started to feel the calling for his own hometown.  I think I probably could have stayed in KY for at least a month, but we finally packed up the car and hit the open road once more about 5 days after we had arrived.  A short but sweet visit back to my old life…

Then, westwards we went.  We took it easy for the first leg of our 3 day journey, stopping along little wineries off the windy roads of Ohio and Indiana.  Similar to the wine trail we had discovered last summer on our bourbon quest through KY, both states actually have some pretty impressive touring networks set up for passerbys to enjoy the fruits of the small vineyards that dot the midwestern landscape.  It makes sense really, cause that was about the only noteworthy stuff we saw along the way.

Our second and longer pit stop was at a gorgeous winery called Hidden Lakes, and once we saw their property, we decided to grab a couple of glasses and the dog and take a bit of a stroll around their luscious and leafy lakes to avoid the rush hour through St. Louis, which was our first night’s stop.

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Finally got to the Arch City and was able to take a load off…

We used our trusty AirBnB website again to get connected with a couple that lived in The Hill, a traditionally Italian neighborhood in St. Louis.  They were very kind, but we were mostly interested in tucking into some local pizza, a bottle of the Ohio wine we had bought earlier, and watching some glorious Shark Tank on TV (seriously that show inspires me, haha!).  Ahhh, the easy life!

The second leg of the trip was the part I was dreading the most:  9 hours through Kansas. Ugh.  It really wasn’t that bad actually (or maybe it’s like childbirth, where you just forget the pain quickly so you can talk yourself into doing it again one day).  Of course, there were lots of corn and soyfields but also more wind farms than when I had last made the journey in 2010. I think they’re mesmerizing to watch, especially when they span out across a flat horizon. Also yay for clean energy!

IMG_0311IMG_0318The real surprise though, came when we arrived at our second AirBnB rental for the night in the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it town of Lucas, KS.  The place was about 10 miles off of I-70, and as we drove north towards the town we were greeted by some crazy mosaic sculptures, a signpost pointing towards “The Garden of Eden” and a plaque proclaiming Lucas the “Grassroots Arts Capital of KS.”  Oh, and did I mention the huge vivid blue lake we drove past on our way? Who would’ve thought Kansas had more colors than brown and green?

IMG_0381IMG_0374 It truly felt like an oasis in a desert.  Lucas is Americana at it’s finest, folks.  Denver peeps, I highly recommend the next time you find yourself about 6 hours out on I70 eastbound, you make a stop for Lucas and Lake Wilson!  We stayed in an antique four bedroom lodge right across from the Garden of Eden, which turned out to be the strange retirement project of  62 year old Civil War veteran Samuel Perry Dinsmoor in 1907.   Using 113 tons of cement, Dinsmoor built 40-foot tall “trees” surrounding his log cabin to house the enormous and strange figures to create his sculpture garden, finally stopping work on the project in 1929 because he went blind!  Our lodge was full of historical photos of the project from the 20’s, as well as a picture of him at 82 looking crazy as hell with his new 20 year old beautiful wife and their toddler child.  Bizarre and fascinating!

IMG_0369IMG_0366The town itself was quaint and just plain awesome: basically just a post office, fire department, liquor store, restaurant, general store and a community theatre…oh yeah, and a bunch of artists’ studios of “grassroots arts “everywhere!  Fork gardens, flying pigs, giant concrete toilet paper rolls–needless to say we loved it!!!

IMG_0342IMG_0343IMG_0363IMG_0353IMG_0352IMG_0365IMG_0360IMG_0356We managed to get up super early the next morning and head out with the hopes of making back to Denver by 3pm.  It was the final stretch of the road, and as the landscape became more and more desolate, I knew we were getting closer to that great city at the base of the Rocky Mountains.  Our home sweet home–for now…

Since we’ve been back, it’s been a whirlwind of activities, starting with a DJ Shadow concert that night (thanks again for the tickets, C!), a full list of chores and unpacking on Saturday and then a lovely wedding celebration on Sunday with two great friends.

So, remember those plans I was mentioning about 10 ft. above?  Well, basically, J and his brother are working together to start their own construction company.  You can check it out here:  http://echelonsquared.com

Additionally, J is trying to get his own small remodeling/handyman company started in the Denver area and I’ve been working on getting his website and marketing going (I’ll be sharing the link once it’s all done!)  There are a lot of potential big (and small!) jobs coming up for them, and so I’m even taking a teaching break to focus on helping them get organized and manage some administrative duties!   It’s exciting time for all of us, and I’m looking forward to seeing where some hard work and luck can take us all.

Of course, I expect we’ll be making a few trips back to Florida over the next few months, but for now it feels good to get to enjoy the cooler temps and crisp changing leaves of Colorado with those beautiful mountains as our background.  If you’ve actually made it to the bottom of this enormous post (my hat off to you!!), you can see that life has taken us for a literal ride for these last two weeks and we’ve mostly just been hanging on for dear life.  Thanks to everybody for your sweet words, kind actions and support, and I hope to see you back here with more regularity as the dust settles beneath our feet.

Much love! ❤

 

 

 

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high tides, low times, and a double rainbow

In some ways, I’ve had more free time than ever (read: time to update the blog!), but most days I feel drained and it seems much nicer to just sit on the back porch and play ukulele than to motivate myself to do much mental work.  J and I have been in Florida for over a month now, but it feels like quite a bit more.  Full-time caregiving has been an intense change of pace, and I know I couldn’t be here doing it all without the help and support of my lovely husband (SHOUT OUT–WHOO WHOO!)  We’re hanging in there, though, and are still trying to find some time every once in a while to get out to the water and just chill! 

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birthday dinner selfie!

I celebrated my 32nd birthday here, and spent a couple of hours early in the morning volunteering for a beach cleanup through the Sea Turtle Preservation Society.  J and I saw quite a few dolphins cresting, loads of gulls, and tons of turtle shell remnants on the beach! I so hope I might stumble upon a little hatchling waddling out to the sea one night!  

I gotta say, one of the best parts of Melbourne is how lush the landscape is–so much wildlife here to see!  We have cranes that wander the swampy drainage ditches in our neighborhood, and get lots of reptile and amphibian visitors, including this new neighbor I met the other night!!

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ribbit.

Beachtime has also been improved by the purchase of a sun shade; now Q has a place to hide when J goes looking for her to dunk her into the water!  She’s actually getting more and more comfortable with the water–in fact, I even got her to willingly come in the pool up to her elbows the other day!  J persists in his ocean swimming sessions with her, but so far she’s still not convinced land isn’t the only safe option she’s got!

IMGP7206 IMGP7228IMGP7229 IMGP7226 IMGP7223 Ok, ok, enough fur baby pics…

Anyways, like I said, it’s been pretty draining, and we’ve spent the majority of the past week in and out 2 different hospitals!  Dad is stable now, but it’s clear he is progressively needing more care and so our plans for the next few months are quite up in the air still.  And that’s about all we’ve got figured out so far.  But I feel certain we are where we are supposed to be right now, and I am looking forward to where our journey is headed–I would never have imagined us living in Fla. a few months ago, and yet now, I’m completely charmed by it!  Who knows what’s around the bend, but we are both walking confidently forward nonetheless!  

However, this weekend I also learned about the untimely death of one of the first friends I ever made in Colorado, the charming and life-loving Beth McVay.  It was a gut punch to read about it, and it filled me with so much sadness, especially after all of the stress and anxiety we had had in the hospital the couple of days before.  Such a beautiful soul lost and the whole thing just so unfair! It pains me so much to think of it, and her family left befind!  I don’t really know what else to say about it, but man, yeah, just a rough week full of acute emotional moments…  

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But, to finish, I figured I’d share one more photo from the past week.  We get gorgeous sunsets here, and a couple of days ago, we were treated to a double rainbow (the second one is faint but there!!) on our way out for dinner.  It was a beautiful visual symbol of the positivity we are trying so hard to keep up here, and it served to remind me that we are blessed, indeed.  Every day is a gift.  Hugs to you!

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Latitude Limbo

Whoa! It’s been 7 weeks since I’ve been on the blog, and I’ll admit it’s been quite an intentional absence. Since I wrote that last post, my world has tilted about 180 degrees, both literally and metaphorically! In fact, looking back on my last post feels akin to having a jolting memory flashback from a vivid dream. So much has happened and changed in our lives since then and I haven’t known what to say about it all until now…

We made plans to leave Wellington on June 15th, and kept our departure a deliberate secret with hopes of surprising J’s family with our homecoming on his dad’s 70th birthday. However, our journey back also first entailed a 5-day layover in LA to see my Uncle Dale and his new wife Patti, with the added bonus of my mom flying in from KY to join us. We had a great few days of typical tourist sightseeing, culminating in my first sailing experience along the Pacific Coast of LA!  It was so hard to resist posting photos of all the beauty we saw during our time in Cali!

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J loving the ladies!

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Curious guy that hung out on the pier, hoping for sympathetic fishermen!

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So many pelicans!

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Not a green screen, haha!

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The happy newlyweds contemplating joining the yacht club!

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42 footer! Whoa

But despite our efforts to stay mum before our next flight onwards to Denver, our homecoming wasn’t as smooth sailing!  Word to the wise:  surprises are a lot harder than they look on the cool viral Youtube videos!  After a huge kerfuffle that saw our entire surprise plan go up in flames when the party got unceremoniously canceled, we were left scrambling to know what to do. We ended up having two mini surprises with J’s mom and dad separately,  but it wasn’t quite the dramatic entrance I had been dreaming/scheming since before we left New Zealand!  Oh well, that’s life, and we still made it home–no doubt J’s dad’s biggest birthday wish!

We were also blessed with some epic reunion time with friends in Denver.  We celebrated J’s birthday the following day with a Jazz in the Park party at City Park for old times sake!

IMGP7076 IMGP7079 IMGP7082Then, we celebrated the good ole’ US of A’s birthday with a Rockies game and truly stunning fireworks–we were so close that I thought we might catch on fire at the finale!!

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Trying to use the panorama on my new phone while John tried to creep out of the photo!!!

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looking contemplative, yet patriotic, on the lightrail to the game!

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Thanks again for the tickets, Mely and John!

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Not a money shot, but it was my best attempt, dangit!

Of course, being back also meant new mountain adventures under bright summer Colorado sun!  The drizzling grayness of Wellington in the throes of a wet winter seemed a million miles aways (instead of just thousands!!!)  Thankfully, we had a few friends who suggested a place outside of Bailey, CO for a quick getaway.IMGP7111

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our campsite vantage point

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nearby lake Wellington–again, sure beat damp, wintery NZ Wellington!!!!

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the hammock life is the life for me!

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With so much catching up to do with all of our friends, our busy social schedule was almost overwhelming after a year spent mostly in solitude with J!    However, one of the best reunions was with this cutie who we had missed so very very much!!!!

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We spent almost every evening at the Chatfield Res dog park. That place is amazingly scenic–a must for all Denver dog owners!!!

Things were sweet indeed, but unfortunately, our world was rocked pretty hard a couple of days after our return by the news that my father had been recently diagnosed with end-stage liver disease.  We were in the process of settling down in Colorado, but with the realization that my dad was starting to need full-time caregiving, we decided to move to Florida for a bit to help him out.  We ended up catching a flight to Palm Bay, FL on July 18th and have been working to get settled in ever since.  As you can imagine, It’s been a huge transition (hence the new blog title–which is a work in progress, so feel free to suggest catchy alternatives!!!), but we are trying to stay positive and find joy in this unexpected twist in our journey together.

J has been an absolute hero, and I’m so glad he’s here walking this path with me.  It’s a bit ironic how much our situation here mimics the solitude and uncertainty of our travels in New Zealand, but I’m glad we’ve had so much practice with living in close quarters and  relying on one another for emotional support.  It’s really tough not having our friends here, especially as we had such a sweetly brief chance to reconnect before we found ourselves staring at the Atlantic Ocean and an uncertain future; however, we are champions at dealing with on-the-fly living these days!  J has already found some work to tackle some of the expenses we still need to cover from New Zealand, and we’ve even bought a new (well, old really!) car (thanks, Mom!!) to get over to the beach and to haul around J’s tools.  My first Subaru!  Snazzy!

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Se llama…. Silvio (with one eyebrow raised)

Oh, and most exciting of all, we ended up flying our baby girl Quistis out to be with us, as we couldn’t bear the idea of leaving her again (especially with her grandma–J’s mom–on her way to Peru for 6 weeks!).  We’ve been using our free time to try to get her to become a water dog, but so far, she’s pretty unconvinced that she’s meant for anything but mountains.

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Case in point: each time we put her into dad’s pool to cool off, this is her immediate response!!

We thought she might enjoy the ocean more, but it was a pretty epic fail.  She drank two mouthfuls of salt water and then wanted to stay at least 10 feet back from the water’s edge after that.

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At first sight, she seemed willing to give it a go…

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Nope. Nope. Nope.

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Keeping an eye on Dad from the safety of solid ground

It’s been a big week for Q, and definitely for us too. Lots and lots of big changes, but again, the shift has felt similar to our many transitional moves from last year, and I’m so grateful that we have been able to apply a lot of the life lessons from NZ in this transition.  In the past 6 weeks, we’ve gone from sailing along the Pacific, to climbing boulders in the mountains to bathwater dips in the Atlantic.  It’s pretty easy to get that Jimmy Buffet song, “Changes in Attitude, Changes in Latitude” stuck in your head with a month like that!!  But still, it’s pretty beautiful life, and I’m ready for the surprises and challenges of the upcoming months…

I hope to be updating a lot more soon, and getting back into a rhythm of posting now that the blog has had a little facelift and is also transitioning with us. Check back soon and please I’d love to hear from you, my friends, near and far and wherever you are!  HUGS!!!

 

 

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the Month of May

I’ve come to realize one distinct disadvantage of consciously living in the present:  it makes one very lazy about writing up past adventures.  Obligatory blog excuses aside, we’ve been making a real effort to make the most of our remaining time here, and we’ve been rewarded with bouts of adventure pretty steadily.  In fact, as I go back through my photo collection in preparation for this post, I’m just starting to realize how much we’ve crammed into the past 5 weeks!  But that’s the beauty of life–if you’re open to her, she won’t be shy about giving you opportunities to embrace the moment!

To begin with, I absolutely must quickly re-cap our all-too-brief visit from Courtney and Brian, our Nelson housemates and fellow traveler extraordinaires!  They made a brief stop in Welly on their way northwards and home bound, and we spent a beautiful weekend exploring our favorite urban wilderness, nomming on near-US-quality Mexican food while decrying the insane winter avocado prices, and of course, playing everyone’s favorite party game–BOGGLE!  It was so good to see them again, especially in the context of a completely different environment (I doubt any aspects of our lifestyles in Welly and Nelson would ever intersect in a Venn diagram).   But what made me the happiest was being able to give them their first close encounter with my favorite NZ animal–the fur seal!!! ImageImageImage Other than splashing about in Owhiro Bay, we’ve also made time on Sundays to explore the myriad of bays that dot Welly’s landscape.  Each has their own unique spread of restaurants, boutique shopping and playgrounds, but they all offer amazing views that offer no hint we are in such close proximity to an urban area. ImageImage sunset at Day’s Bay Image Image where do the children play? (in Scorching Bay)

A couple of weeks ago was also Wellington’s annual “Free Day,” in which the majority of museums and public works are free to the public.  Whoo hoo!  J and I decided to make the most of it on bike, as we’d heard quite a few warnings against clogged motorways for that day.  It was sunny but windy as, so just riding down the street while the wind blew us out of the bike lane ended up being the biggest adventure of all!   Image One the most thrilling parts was taking the Cable Car to the top of Wellington and then flying back down the hills in about 3 minutes–talk about an adrenaline rush!

We have also been really fortunate in making friends with an awesome couple (who we met way back in December while flat hunting and have been hanging out with lots since moving back) who invited us to stay with their folks in the Hawke’s Bay region for most recent 3-day weekend in honor of the Queen’s Birthday (mixed answers on for which queen exactly we got Monday off from work, however!).  J and I had been hoping to get up that way since back in 2013, so we jumped at the chance for a local’s tour with our good buddies!   Napier is probably the most well-known town in the area, and mostly for it’s well-preserved art deco architecture.  The city was rebuilt after a devastating earthquake in 1931 with the then-current trends, and in recent years the city has taken upon itself to restore and play up the architecture and spirit of those times.   ImageImageImageImageImageImageWe also checked out the National Aquarium (hurrah for giant squid!) and saw a penguin feeding, sampled some of the local wines (Hawke’s Bay is a major NZ producer) and patroned the local farmer’s market in Hastings.  Though the weather was quite grey and blustery, I loved that there were so many deciduous trees in the area as it felt truly like ‘autumn’ for the first time for me here!    The gloomy skies just helped make the colors pop even more!ImageRach and Lyle on the moving carpet (or travelator if you’re a sucker for S.A.T. words)ImageImageYou know you’re short when a squid makes you look like a shrimpImageImageImageit’s gourd time!ImageImageImageAt ‘The Bluff’ in Napier, overlooking the port and the realities of a global market.

We also made our way to Te Mata (or Tomato, as it sounds to me!) Peak for a peek at the hills.  So pretty and such a contrast against the sea views of Wellington.

ImageImageImageIn summary, a great weekend with great people!  We’re blessed, indeed!  🙂  

And with that, May was gone with the ferocity of the Southerly winds starting to bring the chill into Welly’s air.  Our sails are out and picking up and we are certainly being blown forward, but more about that to come soon enough…

 

 

 

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transitioning

I’ve been thinking about the blog a lot lately, wanting to do a post but not really sure what specifically to write about, so I figured I might as well get a bit of my thoughts together and see how it all comes out!  🙂

First, I’ve just finished my first month working at the New Zealand Language Center Wellington branch.  It’s been full on, as I teach for 5 hours a day, usually leaving the house around 8:00am and getting home around 5:30pm.  I’ve made the transition to disciplined bedtimes and early-morning interactions pretty well though, which surprised me.  I really like taking the bus to work, even when it’s standing-room only, as I get such dedicated time in the morning to both focus on the coming day and have some abstract reflections. I’m very happy with the school, as well.  My students are so friendly and eager to learn and work hard, and having such diversity (currently teaching Thai, Columbian, Russian, Peruvian, Chilean, Japanese, Korean, Saudi, New Caledonia, and Vietnamese) makes for completely English-speaking classrooms where I don’t have to be on language police duty!  More than during my time at the Nelson English Centre, I feel dedicated to my students.  They really want to be there and they expect a lot out of me, which has really pushed me back into my creative saddle.  It’s awesome to feel their appreciation, and it makes my days go quickly.

During the evenings, I’ve done a lot of relaxing.  I’m still trying to motivate myself to be more active–these early night skies just seem to make me more interested in cuddling up!  However, I’m really stoked with the past few weekends we’ve had, and it feels great to finally be in a groove, especially after our two long weekends.  We’ve gotten to try a few local restaurants, meeting up with some friends we had made back in December here, as well as finally check out the Cuba St. night market,  a collection of booth vendors of various international street foods and random merch stalls set to live music in a covered courtyard.  J has started playing rugby with a local team called the Teddy Bears, and is occupying himself with loads of muscly lads, while this past Saturday I checked out a huge food and wine expo at the local stadium and found myself walking and eating and sampling vinos for 3 hours straight.  No wonder Jose and I are wearing each other’s pants these days, haha. (It’s only my yoga pants that he steals!) Oh, and we met two of our favorite characters from a Kiwi TV series called the Almighty Johnsons the other night when we went to an improv show!  NZ is definitely small as, especially considering one of them I had already met way back while WWOOFing in Auckland!

Mostly I’m just enjoying life.  It’s easy and though I miss our South Island lifestyle so much, I also realize that money brings you to reality from time to time when you’re traveling.  But I couldn’t be more thankful for where I’m working, and J seems to be cruising right along as well.

We climbed to the top of Mt. Victoria on Saturday night and looked out into the black nothingness to our left and towards the vibrant lit-up city to the right.

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Wellington might truly be the most beautiful city I’ve seen, and it’s so dear to my heart.  I love this place.  But I am also homesick and I miss Denver.  I yearn to be home and spend the summer camping in the mountains, hiking with Q, visiting friends poolside and just enjoying the sun.   I can feel the sand sliding down our visa hourglass, and though I get tight-chested just thinking about boarding a plane, I feel excited about flipping the hourglass over and having a full glass bowl ready in Denver.  Aughh, there are just so many plans and special events lined up for this year!! 🙂

But all is well, and I try not to think about the future too much.  A lot of people have been asking questions about what our plans are next, and honestly, we don’t really have too much of one.  If there’s anything this experience has taught me, it is that plans are useless in fate’s agendas.  So, we are stewing on quite a few possibilities, and we’ll just see what happens.  Either way, I hope to see you all before too very, very long.

 

 

 

 

 

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