On the Puppy, Delightedly

I’m going to need more than one post to discuss the Thanksgiving trip to Mississippi, but I’m going to start with the most important part: the puppy.

Boyfriend loves dogs and has been wanting one for a while. He wanted a chocolate lab. (So does my brother.) I always object. I have nothing against chocolate labs, but why have a chocolate one when you could have a black one? Or a yellow one?

We spent the last week or so at his grandparent’s hunting getaway in Mississippi, which is a few miles outside of a tiny town. One of the neighbors came by one night to ask if we’d lost a black lab puppy, which we hadn’t. I was curious though, and kept saying that we should check on the puppy to see if he’d been claimed. (I was mostly joking, but hey, wishful thinking isn’t the worst thing.)

A couple of days later, we were prepping for a bonfire when a different man came by with the same puppy and said that he’d found him running along the road and wanted to know if we’d like to have him. (He must have had some sense that we were in the market for a puppy. I’ll just assume that he was pulled in by our radiating need for puppy love, like a magnet or a force field.) Boyfriend was the one who talked to him, and then he yelled my name as he carried an armful of black something into the house.

I opened the door and there was the black something, tail wagging and sniffing around. My heart stopped for a second – a puppy! We leapt into action and lured him into the bathtub with a piece of deer steak and then boyfriend held him while I began the soaping process – yuck. So much dirt! Poor puppy just rested his head on the edge of the tub and gave us sad eyes while the water went from clear to muddy brown. Boyfriend joked that he was doing the “Carlos submission” because when the cat gets a shower he just sits there and waits it out with the most pathetic look possible.

The puppy stayed the night in our room on a blanket folded by the side of the bed. He’s house-trained and very well-behaved, minus his chewing problem. He left the room in the middle of the night and returned with my hiking boot. When I took that away from him, he returned with a slipper, so boyfriend put all shoes outside the door and closed it. Throughout the next few days, he’d run into the grandparents room to steal slippers and bring them back to his place in our room to munch on them.

I couldn’t stop smiling. He’s the sweetest thing. Boyfriend wasn’t about to let himself get so excited so soon; he wanted to wait until we figured out if we were going to keep him. (I knew we were. Boyfriend’s eyes did that shiny-gleaming-love-at-first-sight look when he watched the puppy and I knew there was no way we’d be leaving him.)

After the first night, we knew we were going to keep him. We had some work to do with the land his grandpa owns for hunting, so we took the puppy with us. He followed us around constantly, running back and forth between us, sleeping on a pile of coats in the car when we were traveling. We bought him some puppy chow and a toy, plus a leash and collar so he’ll look like a proper dog with a family.

We decided to name him Acorn (pronounced “A-kern”). We took him to the vet as soon as we got back to Denver for his puppy shots and a general wellness check. He’s about four months old and he weighs almost 37 pounds. He’s got the biggest puppy feet I’ve ever seen. The vet looked at him and said, “My, you’ve got a long way to grow!”

I’m in love.

The cat hates him, but is possibly realizing that since he’s not going to attack him, the puppy might be all right after all. Fingers crossed. We’ve been closing my bedroom door at night to separate them, but there haven’t been any daytime attacks yet, so I’m feeling optimistic. I don’t think Acorn’s ever seen a cat before, so that helps.

I’m also absolutely exhausted from the drive back and am running on very little sleep – this puppy mothering business is rough. If it’s not chewing on shoes, it’s toilet paper, or mail, or clothes, or…..

So now it’s off to work for me. I’ll post more Mississippi stories soon!

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On Thanksgiving, Excitedly

This year will be the first year in a long time I’m not in Denver for Thanksgiving. (Not counting 2010, when Mike and I were in Africa.) Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. It’s not as stressful as other holidays; there aren’t any gifts; it’s more about food than it is anything else. Since I’m not one who eagerly anticipates the shopping season, I have nothing to do that day and the next except lounge around and eat leftovers.

Thanksgiving leftovers are the best leftovers. (Cranberries! Stuffing! Gravy!)

This year is a big year. I’m going to Mississippi with boyfriend. I’m going to meet part of his family and go hunting. Oh god. Me hunting deer? I’m most excited about a road trip. I drive. He sleeps. Clears the mind.

I think I’m most nervous about deer hunting. What if I’m bored? Sitting still isn’t my strong suit. Sitting still and being quiet definitely aren’t things at which I excel. What if I actually kill one? Not likely. I told him I’d most likely either cry or be super into it.

I met his grandfather last week. We went to a hockey game and then had dinner the next night. I’m a huge fan – I love families and his grandpa had some great stories. I’m less nervous about the family liking me now that I’ve met him.

Still, I’ve never been to the South. I’ve already made the silent promise to myself not to say anything until after we’ve left. I want to take it all in and experience as much as possible. It’s going to be a very new adventure, but it’s also going to be a very necessary week off of work for me, which I’m looking very forward to.

In other news: I’m now the assistant manager at my store (officially, since I’ve been the assistant manager in all but name for quite some time now). I’ll be assisting with the revamping of the store as well as the training of the three new kids we hired. But more exciting than that is the prospect of some marketing and office work. The owner and I have yet to sit down and actually hash out all of the specific duties, but I’m thrilled about the opportunity to do more of what the marketing and administrative stuff while still being able to keep up my cake decorating and customer service.

Things are looking up, which is good. Finally a nice break for me and the chance for more positive opportunities and career growth, which are things that I’m looking forward to taking advantage of.

On Adventure, Happily

Sometimes the need for escape trumps everything else. I have never believed that it is possible to lose sight of the grand vision that is life for the blinders of the present more than I do now. There is only today, and there is only tomorrow, and the endless list of tasks yet unfinished, emails unanswered, deadlines unmet. There is no great whooping joy, no time unaccounted for, nothing but the drudgery and confinement of the current moment, the oppression of the here and now.

I never take fun days. But early last week, after getting an invite to romp around in the wilderness, I threw my hands up and (with permission from my bosses, of course), I took the day off.

We drove two and a half hours outside of Denver to a tiny swimming hole. We parked, pulled our supplies out, and hiked in and down to the small pool surrounded by rocks. It was magical. The road was freeing. I held my arm out the window, breathing in the possibility of not knowing when I’d return home. There was no set schedule. There was only the music and the company and the water.

I was nervous to jump off the rocks into the water. Some military guys that were there told me that if I jumped, they’d give me a beer. I laughed, and steadied myself, taking a deep breath. (The rock is only about 15 feet from the water, but from up there, it looks like it’s so much higher.)

I reminded myself that I’ve done one of the world’s highest bungee jumps. That didn’t help at all. In fact, I remember how much I hated that. But as I stood there, nervous, I realized that it’s something I’ll never regret not doing, and that spurred me on. I jumped.

Paradise Cove, Colorado, Guffey, Swimming hole, secret spot

(That’s my splash. And there’s Gina, who counted down for me because I am a chicken.)

It was freezing. The boys gave me a beer, and seemed very proud of me. I was proud of me. The feeling of accomplishment far outweighed the terror, but it was not enough to get me to jump again.

We had the very best day. It was the perfect way to say farewell to one of my best friends, and to be perfectly happy with a crew that I’ve come to love fiercely.

I returned home late that night, exhausted. I was in charge of hosting a small get together for a girl who graduated from a culinary program. I was tired. I offered to cook for the people, and Evan refused to let me, ordering pizza instead.

And then came Las Vegas. I dragged myself out of bed at 5 am and was ready when the car showed up to take us to the airport.

This was a cousins’ trip, a chance to bond and be with family in a fun setting. I was looking forward it, although I’m honestly not a huge fan of Vegas. I discovered blackjack this time, and had a blast – I didn’t lose! Mike is a great and patient teacher, and the dealers were all lovely.

As usual, my favorite part of the trip was the pool time.

And we saw Jersey Boys.

And we had dinner and saw another show. (Side note: the dude from 90210 who is now a Chippendale is terrible….)

All around, it was a lovely weekend.

On Wedding Weekend, Spiritedly

I forgot how much I love to travel.

Love. The other morning, I had the urge to just throw things into the back of my car (including the cat – who doesn’t hate the car as much as you’d think), and run far away. I wanted to drive until there was no more road, until I’d come upon the glorious nirvana that is endless waterfalls and starry nights that never get too cold.

I love grabbing my “mountain backpack” (that’s what I call it, I bet it has a proper mountain term) from the closet and filling it to the brim with whatever I’m going to need for the next three to five days. I love the travel-sized toiletries. I love the bits of brightly colored fabric straps that have been tied to the zipper pulls for the past four years. I love the way I feel when I wear it.

I love shouldering the always too-full pack (always. I’m going to be the worst backpacker ever) and heading into the airport. In those moments, before the back aches set in and my feet start to hurt, I am filled with the possibility of adventure, with excitement, with a tingling in my fingertips as I hand over my boarding pass to the TSA agent.

I always try to make the exact awkward face I’m making in my driver’s license or even worse (better?), the face from my passport. I don’t know if they find that as hilarious as I do, but it’s worth it.

Chicago, gold coast, streelights,

The view from my friend’s apartment downtown. Oh Chicago, your cold spring winds caught me off-guard and were terrible. But the magic of the city is palpable. Its energy flows around you. It’s sublime.

This is where Katie and Eric got married. Between those two trees. I started tearing up when I saw her start walking down the aisle. I teared up again when her dad gave a speech, but it was her mom’s that put me over the edge. It was beautiful.

White wine. Photo booth. I kept calling it a “king hat.” It’s very obviously a crown. I’ve always been good with synonyms. Dancing. It was so wonderful to see my friends. I have missed them.

On Sunday, my friend Anne drove out to the burbs to pick me up and then we went back to her place and watched new episodes of Arrested Development and got frozen yogurt. I went with her to a birthday party before heading back to Denver.

I’ve been telling Evan that I want to go camping with him (athleticism and adventurous spirits are so sexy, but I’m nervous that I don’t have enough of that – maybe enthusiasm can make up for it?). My goal is to go to Conundrum Hot Springs, which is a very lovely 8.5 mile hike each way. While I was in Chicago, with my “mountain backpack,” I took the stairs as much as possible at the train stations to practice hiking. (Obviously this is a very flawed approach, but you have to work with what you’ve got.)

Sunday was great – I woke up early and went to REI with Evan. I’m really not having great luck with not losing Nalgene water bottles (I left yet another one in Spokane), so I thought I’d try yet again.  (80th time’s the charm, right?) We’re two days in and I’ve not lost them yet.

[Hah, I just have to insert a thought here that has nothing to do with anything, except losing stuff. My freshman year of college, while being young and dumb, I lost my camera at a bar. Shortly after, my mom sent me a care package with a package of cards with a note attached that said, “Maybe these will entertain you on those Friday nights when you don’t want to go out and lose something.” I love my mom.]

After REI, we went to brunch and then, faced with the prospect of an entire day off, I went to see Jacob. There was coffee, cleaning (I owed him – he’s helped me clean so many times), and then we met up with my brother and his friends for some grilling in the park.

Delicious.

Evan was at work, so I brought him dinner – tucked into an empty 6-pack was a cornucopia (ha, mostly) of delicious picnic foods: a brat with grilled onions and German mustard, chips, grapes, and cookies.  He loved it. (Relief. I was a bit nervous that it was going to be the worst thing.)

Summer is coming and I’m in full adventure mode. I want nothing more than to take road trips and to see things I’ve never seen before. Also, I’d love to actually get around to planting my garden (too late, but whatever), and doing yard work, and relaxing in my hammock. I’m filled with the same excited anticipation that I get waiting to get on the plane. It’s endless possibility and experience and it’s all in front of me. This is going to be the best thing.

On Albuquerque, Very Belatedly

Remember that time I went to Albuquerque? Well I do.

I sort of hate whoever invented high-definition everything. The realization that I’ve got permanent bags under my eyes was not the most pleasant. I’m also very annoyed about being asymmetrical – beauty is based on symmetry instead of vibrant personality, and that’s sort of a bunch of bullshit.

Whatever. Self-depreciation doesn’t get you anywhere. Also, I’m so in love with these photos that it doesn’t matter. Some of them are profoundly radiant.

Courtesy of Matt, here is what happened there. Well, it’s a selected set of the pictures, at least. It’s bittersweet – looking at them and thinking about all of the plans we’d made. I guess that’s life for you, though.

You create relationships and then you break up, continuing this cycle until you finally meet someone and then you never break up. (I can hear Squints from “The Sandlot” now – “For-ev-er.”) That’s how life works. The best thing I ever saw on an online dating profile read “I don’t believe in soul mates. That said, I really hope I meet mine some day.” If I were a dude, I’d have that on my profile because that probably works so well. Like bringing a golden retriever to a coffee shop.

Something tells me that bringing Carlos to a coffee shop wouldn’t have the desired effect of attracting a single man. People would most likely scoot away when they thought I wasn’t looking. Maybe they make golden retriever costumes for cats? (I just made myself laugh out loud trying to imagine stuffing Carlos into a golden retriever suit, but I have a feeling that you’re probably not amused.)

eyeball

jesse and jane's duplex, breaking bad,

On the Road Trip to Albuquerque, Excitedly

We set off to spend a weekend geeking out over “Breaking Bad” in Albuquerque, the trip we’d planned on our first date. This was officially our tenth date, but it was so much more than that. It’s been so much more than that.

If you’ve never seen it, “Breaking Bad” is a show on AMC about a high school chemistry teacher who starts cooking meth because he’s been diagnosed with cancer and he wants to provide for his family. It’s an incredibly well-done show. It really asks a lot of “what if” questions that you’d never think to ask yourself and brings morality into focus. It’s well-written and it pulls at my heart in ways I never thought television could. (But then again, I cry at Google commercials, so it’s a given that I’m going to cry at this.)

I-25 to Albuquerque

I was so excited to spend a weekend away. I’ve been under a lot of stress lately, with work and the impending home purchase, so the promise of a relaxing weekend (three whole days off!) was almost more than I could bear. Matt and I have been communicating constantly since we met, but our dates are relegated to the weekends due to our jobs and the distance between us, so the thought of spending 72 hours with him was both thrilling and nerve-wracking.

We stayed at the Hotel Parq Central in Albuquerque (great AAA rate!). It was lovely – the hotel used to be a hospital, but was redone a few years ago. It’s clean, bright, and gorgeous. The hot tub is open 24 hours a day! We made sure to get as much hot tub time as possible in. The first night, they had a party at the rooftop bar, which got to be annoying. The guy working the front desk said that one guest had called to complain, saying that he would come down in his underwear and start yelling. That thought made me laugh.  Our room was a corner room in a separate building, so we had tons of windows and a huge bathroom.

But seriously, who throws a Halloween party on November 2nd? Albuquerque does. Apparently, they don’t let go of Halloween there – we were at a diner on Saturday and the waitress asked us if we had enjoyed Halloween. Very strange.

Saturday morning, we started our adventure. Matt was adorable and made us the sweetest map ever – he pinned all of the filming locations that we wanted to visit (I found the locations on a blog and sent him the link) and then added pictures and the physical addresses of each.

The first stop was the Crossroads Motel, which actually wasn’t on our map. We happened to drive by it on our first night in Albuquerque. (Oh, there was also an incident in which we attempted to get slices of pizza and were treated horribly by the manager after waiting more than 20 minutes only to be asked “Are you waiting for something?” by the girl who took our order. When we finally got a refund, the man snapped “I’m not refunding the Dr. Pepper!” Jeez, dude, chill. I didn’t ask for that. At that point, I just wanted like $5 in cash and I wanted to bail.)

We were standing in the parking lot of the motel when a man approached us, opened his wallet, and said, “DEA, what are you doing here?” Of course, he wasn’t from the DEA, but he was at the motel with his wife doing the same thing we were doing – taking pictures of filming locations. They were from Albuquerque, so we traded maps and chatted for a few minutes before moving on to the next stop: Jesse and Jane’s apartments.

One of the main characters is named Jesse Pinkman. He’s a small-time meth cook before he joins Walter White (the chemistry teacher) and their business expands. I love him, and one of my favorite story lines of the show is his star-crossed love affair with a recovering addict named Jane. They live side-by-side in a duplex, they fall in love, then (spoiler alert) she dies. It’s sad. But it’s beautiful. They are adorable together.

I knew that this was going to be my favorite spot, and it absolutely was. This was the site where I felt the most connected, not necessarily to the show, but to all of the emotions that I felt while watching it and all of the emotions that I felt while standing there with Matt. (We have some adorable couple pictures all over this property that you’ll see once they’re edited and ready for viewing.)

Jesse Pinkman's apartment, Breaking Bad, Jane Margolis,

(Jesse ends a lot of his sentences in the word “bitch.” It’s his way of emphasizing something. When I originally posted these, I posted them with the caption, “Jesse Pinkman’s apartment, bitch!” just because it felt like the right thing to do.)

Jesse Pinkman, apartment, Breaking Bad, Jane Margolis,

When we got to Walter’s house, we walked around the block, holding hands and chatting. (The curbs are seriously high in that neighborhood. I would destroy Simon. I’m very glad I don’t live there – I was driving Matt’s car, and when I parked, I purposefully parked about a foot off the curb so I wouldn’t take any chances of hitting the curb with his car!)

It was surreal.

There’s a scene in the show where the teacher, Walt, gets angry and throws a pizza on his roof, so apparently at one point, the family who lives in the house had to put out a sign that said “Please don’t throw pizzas on our roof.” Imagine going outside every day and having to get pizzas off your roof. I bet they clog the gutters and get annoying pretty quickly. (Still not the worst thing that could happen to your house after it’s been used as a filming location, though.)

Walter White's house, Breaking Bad, meth, Albuquerque

This is us posing in front of Walter’s house, but you can’t tell.

Hank and Marie (the chemistry teacher’s DEA agent brother-in-law and his wife) live in this insanely gorgeous neighborhood. Better than their house was the park nearby – we got out and hiked around and I got to climb on some rocks!

We also got to go to the Chicken Man’s restaurant! (In the show, there’s a super awesome meth dealer named Gus who owns a chain of chicken restaurants, so I call him the Chicken Man. In real life, the chicken restaurant is a real restaurant. We went and I got a soda.) It was amazing. We also went to the Octopus car wash – I’ll post pictures as soon as I get them from Matt.

Leaving was such sweet sorrow. We woke up, fully intending to go take more pictures near this gorgeous wooded area we’d seen the day before, but ran out of time and instead headed to Santa Fe. We had lunch there, walked around the Cathedral, stopped at Trader Joe’s (wine! chocolate covered cherries! chocolate covered pretzels! tea! pumpkin yogurt!) then headed back to Denver so that I could be home at a reasonable hour to be ready for work today.

On the whole, I would not return to Albuquerque willingly, unless you promised me that we could stop at Olo Yogurt Bar – where I had red velvet frozen yogurt topped with strawberries, mangoes, kiwi, gummy bears, and chocolate sprinkles. The city itself is stuck in the past – they have Furr’s cafes and lots of old neon. We didn’t really see much revitalization, but the neighborhoods that we found ourselves in were absolutely lovely. So perhaps there’s still a bunch of Albuquerque that we’re missing.

The hotel was amazing. The continental breakfast was Matt’s least favorite part, but I found it to be par for the course (they had me at Cinnamon Toast Crunch and Earl Grey tea). The shampoo was his favorite part. My favorite part? Hot tub. Sheets. Quarantine signs when you wanted privacy (a nod to the hotel’s beginnings as a hospital). We laughed when they talked about the “nurse’s quarters” because the building had a smokestack next to it…obviously not nurse’s quarters.

It was the best tenth date ever.

Denver, Albuquerque, I-25

 

I’ll post more pictures soon!

And note to everyone: VOTE! Tomorrow is election day and if you want the right to bitch for the next four years, you absolutely must vote tomorrow so you can at least say you did your part.

obama 2012, i voted, sticker, colorado,

I, of course, voted for Obama last week. Here’s hoping I won’t have to spend the next four years bitching. (According to Nate Silver’s newest forecast, I should breathe easy because it looks like Obama’s going to take the election easily. You can find Nate Silver and his election forecast on the Five Thirty Eight blog at http://www.nytimes.com.)

Nate Silver election forecast

But seriously – I care more about you voting than who you vote for. (I mean, that’s totally a lie, but I will find it even harder to respect you if you don’t vote than if you voted for someone I think you should in no way logically support.)

On Beauty, All Too Mindfully

One of his hobbies is photography. This is a wonderful habit to have. I love pretty pictures – even though I take all of my pictures with my iPhone and then use Instagram to autotune them into some semblance of “decency,” if you can call it that. (I like them. I imagine those of you who spend hours manually focusing and whatnot are annoyed by this, but I don’t care. To each their own. And my own methods are free and convenient, two things are just really hard to beat.)

But this is why I am self-conscious. I’m about to grossly generalize here, so forgive me, but as a woman, I suffer from at-times low self-esteem, self-confidence, etc. Growing into my own looks was a really rough journey for me – the nose got made fun of all the time, the lack of boobs, etc. But I think that I’ve finally arrived at a point where I can look in the mirror and be like, “Damn girl. You got this.”

Having someone who thinks I’m stunning is lovely, but I have no idea how to accept his compliments. Modesty, humility, gratitude: all of that exists in me when I hear him tell me such lovely things, but the idea makes me uncomfortable. Because it goes back to the whole “Me? How could he find me this attractive?” thought process. It’s not just a woman thing. And not all women have this, but I find that particularly girls like me, who grew up not gorgeous and not heinous, but just plain and awkward, have a hard time coming into adult beauty with grace.

Not that I’m trying to say I’m beautiful, or anything other than that. I am Katie Barry, and that’s enough for me. But I am improving in the looks department as I age, and this is a really positive thing.

Seeing myself as he sees me, or at least as his camera sees me, is really odd for me. My curiosity gets the best of me. It’s vanity at it’s finest. It’s more that I’m examining each photo, mentally picking out blemishes and fine lines and ugly, but also searching for beautiful. I see the pictures and I search to find my beauty – to validate what I want to see in myself. I want to feel beautiful because when I do, it spreads through me and carries such a tremendous amount of power in its translation from understanding to outward confidence.

I have no idea if I made any rational point there, and I’m not going to belabor it. Moral of the story: I have no idea how to act when there’s a camera in my face. I sit still, thinking of how hard it really must be to be a contestant on America’s Top Model, and I make a mental note not to judge them all so much for being stupid and vain. And after a while, I relax, forgetting or no longer caring that the camera is there. And then it’s okay.

We’ve agreed that when we got to Albuquerque, we will be tourists and have people take pictures of us together. This will be fun. It will be freeing. We will be touristy and silly and our photos will be of us and not just me.

He was playing around with a new lens the other day while I talked (of course). This is what he came up with:

and this:

 

and this, which is my favorite:

I have no idea what I’m talking about. No idea at all. He reminded that within ten minutes of meeting me, he had commented on my animated speech. It’s something I don’t realize I’m doing, but when it happens all the time. (At Dairy Queen a few weeks ago, I was asking a man how he wanted something and one of the options was “blended.” I made a crisscrossing motion with my arms, which he found hilarious. It ended up being the highlight of my day, because we bonded and laughed about that before he joked about the high quality of service and asked if the cameras were working – insinuating that’s why I was being so awesome – and then gave the cameras the “thumbs-up” just in case. Made my day. Thank you, strange blending arm motions, you give me character and positive reinforcement.)

On the Weekend Adventure to the Grand Canyon, Impressively

I didn’t think he was serious. I think we were watching Donnie Darko when it came up that I’ve never been to the Grand Canyon. “Let’s go,” he said. (For the record, they all say that. We make tentative plans and then we don’t go.)

Friday night, I left work, went to babysit, and then flew home to shower and pack. By 10pm, we were on the road, headed west. He drove until Vail – where we encountered the full force of the law, so I drove until Moab, where we switched again, and then I promptly fell asleep. When I woke up, it was 7am and we were somewhere in Arizona.

We got to the gates of the park at 8:30. After a quick change of clothes in the parking lot, we went. And for the first time, I saw the Grand Canyon. It was beautiful.

We climbed around on rocks. Neither of us had brought an insane amount of hiking gear, so we stayed near the top and just looked around. Wandered through some ruins. (Not really ruins, more like signs pointing out trees and what things might have been. Underwhelming.)

(We were staring into the sun. Terrible idea. Both of us are squinty and look miserable.)

By noon, the awe surrounding the immensity of the canyon was wearing off and the annoyance caused by fellow tourists was beginning to wear on us, so we decided to bail on the park (and the already purchased camping reservation I’d purchased).

We had lunch. (I’ve been eating salami, cheese, and bread for weeks on end and it still tastes just as good every time.) 

I asked that we find water, and he pointed to Lake Powell on the map. So off we went. Driving past the North Rim area of the Grand Canyon as you head toward Page, Arizona is like viewing the Wall in Game of Thrones. It’s amazing. It looms over everything.

We got into the park, wandered around looking for a spot to swim, and landed at a very sandy beach. We crossed a very nasty looking inlet and then hiked through some spiky bushes to an empty sandy beach area. It was empty, and so it became ours.

We decided to camp there, so we hiked back across the muck and got our stuff. And hiked back across the muck and back through the spiky bushes and down to our beach spot.

Swimming and a sunset walk rounded out our evening. We finished off the meat and cheese by the lake and fell asleep just after the sun went down. (I am a little bummed about that – I was looking forward to night swimming.)

I usually don’t fall asleep very well when I’m camping. I’m too jumpy and nervous. As 1:00 am rolled around and I was awake for the fourth time, I finally pulled out Mike’s sleeping bag and threw it over me. Snuggled into that, I fell asleep and stayed asleep. I woke up to an empty tent and a beautiful sunrise (ish).

Britt swam out to that giant rock you saw above, and I nearly had seven heart attacks once I stopped being able to see his head above the water. (I used to be a strong swimmer, but am really out of shape now and couldn’t have gotten out there even if I’d had to.) My consolation was a boat floating near the side of the big rock. In my mind, they’d give him a ride back, and that’s exactly what ended up happening. The boat came directly at me, someone yelled “Man overboard!” and he jumped to swim back to me. I waved, yelled, “Thank you!” and felt my heart start to beat again.

We packed up camp and headed home, but not before getting the car stuck in the deep sand and being towed out by a shirtless man with a cigarette dangling from his lips. “You kids have fun,” he said before climbing back into this truck and heading back to the beach. There was even a shower involved! It was outdoors with no warm water, but it may have been one of the best showers I’ve ever taken. I was so happy to stand in the spray and feel the soap slide down me and drain away into the sand.

The redness of the rock and the blue of the sky reminded me of our road trip through South Africa and made me miss the country. The Native American land that we drove through made my heart ache. Handwritten signs spelling out “Tire Shop” looked just like the ones in the South African townships. If you could replace the tract housing with metal sheets, it could have just as easily been Capricorn or Vryground. Even the roadside markets, with their handmade stalls and hand-painted signs were similar. I could sense the rawness of the whole thing, and I felt simultaneously moved and unmoved. It was interesting. It was the same mix of emotions I felt in Cape Town. Respect for the situation but understanding of the complexities that have made it so. Realization that there can be no swift change, and that the emotions that haunt those involved will not fade for generations to come, if at all.

I drove while he slept. I threw my phone on shuffle and listened to music and just let the road take me. I was happy. Once I started to ache, I pulled over, got food and gas, and then switched spots with him. I didn’t sleep on the way home – he’d brought me his Kindle to read since I mentioned that I wanted to read The Hunger Games. I got engrossed in the book while we still had daylight.

We landed in front of my apartment before 10. I hauled my stuff in and made noodles while Carlos yowled and rubbed against me, apparently surprised to see me return home. Instead of falling asleep immediately, I read a few more chapters of the book and then finally turned out my light.

The weekend was fun. I’m surprised that we traveled so well together and I genuinely enjoyed myself. I was stressed before we left because of my natural pre-trip stress and the fact that I felt like we weren’t communicating well, but as soon as we were on the road that all melted away. This continues to unfold in an interesting way, and I am quite curious to see where it leads.

On Las Vegas

I won’t lie, I was apprehensive because this was our first “Cousins Trip.” I have known these people my entire life, but hanging out with them has been relegated to family events, not adventures.

And this was most certainly an adventure. There was a lot to fit into three days, and since it was Ginger’s and my first time, I didn’t expect to do much more than the typical touristy stuff.

Oh man, my feet are sore. I wanted so badly to wear heels (who wouldn’t?), but due to the broken toe, it appears that any closed-toe shoes are impossible. (I still haven’t heard the final read on the toe x-rays taken last week, but regardless of the doctor’s decision, the pain is way too real to ignore – which I thought I would be able to do for beauty.) We walked and walked and walked. We saw so much more than I thought possible.

There was pool time, eating time, show time, sleep time, alone time…all in all, it was a really great vacation with some really great people.

On the way home, there was a girl traveling alone to spend the summer with her dad. Her mom was trying to hold in tears at the gate as she said good bye and her little sister ran up to give her one last hug. I saw the girl try and be brave with a “Don’t cry, Mom, it’s only two months.” But as soon as she was headed down the jetway, there were tears welling up in her eyes.

A woman a few years older than me was standing right by the girl and asked her if she wanted to sit together. They ended up talking for the entire flight. I think it was incredibly selfless and sweet of that woman to spend some time making a girl feel a little bit more comfortable and a lot less scared.

Quickly, some pictures:

Beetle at the airport, DIA

(This Beetle is on display in the Denver Airport. It was hand-beaded by several families over the course of many weeks. It’s beautiful!)

(The security guard after the Blue Man show. He was pretty much amazing, and I told him so.)

(I liked this flower.)

(my grumpy face. By the time we got to the airport, I was exhausted and more than ready to be home. Finding out that our flight was delayed was more than frustrating.)

Wynn, Las Vegas

(The Wynn, Las Vegas)

Black cat

(I’ve never left Carlos alone for very long. Three days was the longest. I was nervous, especially since he got out and ran to hide in the basement during our 5:00 am departure on Sunday morning. We got back to a very grumpy Carlos, although I was thrilled that he was very much alive. He had taken his collar off somewhere along the way and i still haven’t managed to find it. – old picture)

(The Las Vegas Strip)

(Sorry Ginger, the eyes looked so creepy when I tried to fix them!! I still think we both look beautiful!)

(Caesar’s Palace)

(Mike and I thought it’d be fun to wear hats. It wasn’t.)

(I touched a Blue Man!! Better yet, my favorite Blue Man! Something about his eyeballs was super cool.)

(And of course, there was pool time. Mike said he felt like Jason Segel in Forgetting Sarah Marshall because of the fruit we started collecting. It was cute.)

And now, I’m off to work! I am so late, so I expect to be there quite a bit later than usual tonight. I have a giant project that absolutely must be completed by tomorrow night  I am hoping that I can overcome the exhaustion and rock today.