Homeward Bound

This time next week we will be headed down south. And this time, it’s to stay.

Monty and I knew that this year would bring some pretty big decisions for us because this is the year that he gets out of the military. Our biggest decision was whether or not we would relocate. We went back and forth about a million times but ultimately decided to move back home to Tennessee.

I’ll admit, at first it made me feel like a failure. After all, I was only here for a year and already going back. I was worried about how that would be perceived. But then I realized that that’s stupid. I get so sick of hearing people shame others for not living in a big city or for staying close to home, and here I was doing it to myself. Everyone has different wants and needs, and I’m thankful that we have the opportunity to put ours first and do what’s best for us.

A lot of people have asked me why in the world we’re leaving this beautiful place to go back to TN. And for me, it’s a no brainer. I have loved seeing the PNW, and it has truly changed my life. But as much as I love seeing the beauty here, I also enjoy the beauty of being back home. Having the option to go eat dinner at our parents’ houses is beautiful to me. Being able to watch my friends’ babies grow up is a pretty beautiful thought, too. Moving back home doesn’t mean that our adventures are over, it means that we can share them with the people we love the most.

So, yes, we are leaving behind one of the most beautiful places on the planet, but where we’re going has a pretty good view, too.

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Camping at Rialto Beach

Well, it happened. I finally gave in and slept in a tent — my husband’s dream come true. Not to say that I’ve never slept in a tent before, but this was the first time said tent was not protected by my fenced-in backyard.

The idea of camping is not what I’m opposed to; I like being outside, and I don’t mind a little dirt . . . Lord knows I don’t mind having dirty hair. Camping just doesn’t really appeal to me, mostly because I would rather sleep in a bed. People who wear a 36″ inseam were not meant to sleep in a small tent on an even smaller sleeping pad.

Despite the fact that I knew I wouldn’t get much sleep, I agreed to go because I know our time here is limited (more on that later), and I think I would regret not trying it. So, we decided that if we were going to camp that we might as well go somewhere we’d never been – Forks, Washington.

We didn’t go to Forks for the Twilight movie tour. I actually had never read the books or watched the movies. Of course I felt obligated to watch the movies afterwards, and as much as I don’t want to admit it, they weren’t that bad.

The reason we went to Forks was because Monty picked a campground near Rialto Beach. The water that surrounds the island we live on is the Puget Sound, so we wanted to see full-fledged Pacific Ocean water with real waves.

The drive there was one of my favorite parts of the trip because the majority of it was spent on a winding road through Olympic National Park. We stopped at Crescent Lake and tried to figure out how water could possibly be that clear. When I was in middle school, we lived in Mississippi for a few years. I wish the water that came out of our faucet there was half as clear as the water in this lake.

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We eventually left the lake and made it to the beach. It was different than any beach I’ve ever been to; everything was larger than life – the waves, drift wood, rocks. We spent most of the day walking around and then decided to head to the campground.

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The campground was pretty quiet . . . if you don’t count the snoring man I had to sleep in a tent with. There was lots of green, and somehow we lucked out and didn’t get any rain. We had s’mores and hotdogs and called it a night. If camping is that easy, I’m not opposed to trying again with two small additions: an air mattress and some ear plugs.

Thanks for reading!

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Portland

This time last week, Monty and I were roaming around Portland, trying {and failing} to blend in with all of the hipsters. I’ve never been anywhere like Portland; like I mentioned in my last post, it just seems like an easy place to live. So much so that by the end of our three-day stay, Monty was browsing the Internet for jobs to see if we could make the move.

Here are the highlights from our trip:

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Deschutes and Rogue – This whole trip was Monty’s idea, and I think it was largely based off of these two breweries, or brew pubs. I’m not a craft beer drinker, so drinking a beer that was created from the yeast found in a man’s beard doesn’t sound appealing to me (yes, this is a thing at Rogue). There are breweries and taverns everywhere in Portland. These people love their craft beer.

Food – The diversity of Portland’s food spots makes it easy for you to feel like you’ve travelled much farther than Oregon. We had Indian street food at Bollywood Theater, tacos at Stella Taco, and ramen at Mirakutei. And of course you can’t go to Portland without checking out one of their food trucks parked on nearly every corner.

Powell’s City of Books – Four floors FULL of books – about a million of them, in fact. We love finding bookstores in new places, and we snooped around this one for about an hour before we gave up and just bought a postcard.

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Salt & Straw – We waited 30 minutes to get ice cream and apparently that’s normal. Salt & Straw is known for its unique flavors, so I decided to try their olive oil ice cream. Ultimately I went with the brownie mix, but at least I can say I’ve eaten frozen, salty olive oil . . . unfortunately.

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Multnomah Falls – I’ve seen pictures of this waterfall all over Instagram, and it was even prettier in person. We didn’t wear the right shoes to hike all the way to the top, so we just made it to the bridge. However, I think the best view is from the very bottom.

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St Johns Bridge – We spent a little time walking around Cathedral Park which has some pretty nice views of St Johns Bridge.

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One thing that we missed out on while we were in Portland was good weather. I wish we would have been able to see Mount Hood. Oh, well . . . I guess that means we’ll just have to try again.

A Little More Like Portland . . .

Monty and I took a trip to Portland last week, and I feel like it was what my soul needed. I haven’t been posting on here much lately because I’ve felt pretty blah — how long can you have a blog without mentioning some of the issues going on in our world? I’ve just felt like it’s a little superficial to keep posting about our trips and never mention real, real life.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably been unable avoid seeing all of the segregation and degradation that’s been going on lately. Working with teenagers I often wonder how they’re impacted by things on the news and social media, but thankfully I’m able to see daily reminders that kids handle diversity and change so much better than most adults.

It’s been disappointing to see so many people, some whom I think a great deal of, let their political views impact the way they treat and interact with people, using their religion as a means of separation instead of unity. It’s a frustrating and helpless feeling; one that I’m unfamiliar with. And it’s gone on long enough now that I was beginning to think of it as the new normal . . . until I went to Portland.

I’ve never been to a place like Portland before. People in Portland seemed authentic. They’re diverse, unique, and kind. Everywhere we went we saw people from places all over the world interacting with others who didn’t look or talk like they did. We saw people with green hair, blonde hair, and no hair, and they all smiled as we walked by. Portland seemed like a place where you could be your true self without any hesitation.

And it made me think . . . all of these things that keep flooding social media don’t have to be the new norm because at the end of the day, we choose what we say and how we act. So, I choose to try to be a little more like Portland . . . unafraid to be myself and have my own opinions, while accepting that others have a right to do the same.

 

San Juan Island

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Last weekend, Monty and I took a day trip to San Juan Island. This is just one of the eight members of the San Juan Islands. Everything that I’ve read ranks the San Juans as some of the best+most beautiful islands in the United States [see Huffington Post, Jet Setter, & Travel and Leisure]. And needless to say, it lived up to the hype.

It was a long ferry ride to SJI from Anacortes because the ferry made a stop at Orcas Island before dropping us off; it took about an hour and a half to get there. However, the long ride wasn’t too bad because it was beautiful – mountains, islands, and wildlife to look at the whole time. If we had the big bucks like some of the celebs who have vacation homes on the SJIs, such as Chris Pratt or Bill Gates, we could have taken a quick ride on a sea plane . . . but for now, the ferry will do.
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When we finally made it to Friday Harbor (one of two cities on SJI), we wanted some brunch. We decided to eat at the Cask & Schooner . . . great decision. I had the eggs benedict, and Monty had a meat pie and mashed potatoes. Yes, a meat pie; I don’t think he’s ever been happier.
We didn’t really have a plan, other than to see as much as possible. I left it to Monty to be the navigator, so our first stop was to find a lighthouse. On our way there, we started to see the water, so we stopped to read a sign on the side of the road. When we both stepped out of the car and were walking toward the sign, a fox came over the hill and approached us. It kept coming closer and closer . . . so close that the two humans had to quickly jump back into the car. Then it just sat outside of my window and stared at us. No, we didn’t pet it, but UGH we wanted to!
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We eventually left our little friend and made it to the Cattle Point Lighthouse; it was my favorite place that we visited. I felt like the girl from The Light Between Oceans, sans the baby stealing. We climbed down to some rocks that were near the water and saw some seals (or sea lions) swimming in the water. We were close enough that we could hear them breathe when they came up for air!!! It was AWESOME, and it made me realize that as much as I want to just stumble upon a whale one day, I’m not emotionally prepared to do so because the seals were about all I could handle.

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After we left the lighthouse, we were off to find the San Juan Islands Sculpture Park. It’s a park with different sculptures spread out everywhere for you to look at while you walk. On our way there, we passed a pond that was semi-frozen and hidden behind a patch of trees. We noticed that a few cars had pulled over, so of course we had to see what everyone was watching. SWANS!!! There were six of them swimming around with some ducks. It was so beautiful that it didn’t even seem real . . . so beautiful, in fact, that I didn’t even think to take pictures. I wanted to end the day at the pond with the swans, but Monty persuaded me to get back in the car.

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The last stop before heading back to town was Lime Kiln Point State Park. This is supposed to be a great whale watching spot, and it’s easy to see why . . . water everywhere you look. We weren’t lucky enough to see a whale, but I do plan on visiting again during “whale season” and seeing if I have better luck.

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We took the scenic byway back to town to get a bite to eat before heading home. Monty picked Mike’s Cafe & Wine Bar because he wanted to try their truffle oil popcorn. What we didn’t know about this place was that the crab and pork that we ordered was not actually crab and pork because this is a vegan restaurant. Good one, Mont.

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I cannot wait to go back to the San Juans during the spring. In the mean time, any suggestions on how to get invited to Chris Pratt’s house are welcomed.

2016

Things have finally slowed down enough here for me to sit down and reflect on our year. We took a very quick trip home to TN for Christmas and have been recovering from the lack of sleep ever since.

2016 was a big year for us, one that we’ll definitely always remember. I know a lot of people were glad to see it go, but that wasn’t the case for me. Like every year we had good and bad times, but we were fortunate that our good outweighed our bad.

It was a busy year filled with a wedding + honeymoon, dad’s state tournament appearance, my move across the country, my brother’s engagement, mom’s stem cell transplant, new family, deployment, baby Win, a couple of visitors, and lots and lots of exploring.

I don’t know what 2017 holds for us, but I’m excited to find out.

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Kindergarten

Over the past month, I’ve been subbing a few days a week – mostly at the elementary schools. It’s been entertaining and eye opening to say the least. I’ve taught art, 5th grade, music, 1st grade, P.E., 3rd grade, and last but not least . . . kindergarten.

I majored in secondary education, and there were reasons for that. A large one being that I do not want to touch things, like shoestrings, that are wet with an unknown substance.

I was barely 22 when I started teaching and had students who were 18 & 19 years old, and I will take a bunch of unenthusiastic 18 year olds over a group of 5 year olds ANY DAY OF THE WEEK. Kindergarten is its own beast . . . and I say that with a great deal of love, but it truly is something in a league of its own. Even the difference between kindergarten and 1st grade is mind blowing to me – it’s amazing what a year of structure/learning/social skills does for kids.

When I started subbing, I told myself that I could handle any grade for one day; after all, it’s just one day! I have since revised my ideology — I can handle any grade EXCEPT kindergarten.

Imagine standing in front of 20 small people, half of them staring at you while the other half could care less who you are or what you have to say. And then imagine yourself trying to not only talk but to teach!!! . . . Sally has taken Mary’s pencil, Jimmy is shredding an eraser in his lap, Suzy is coloring all over the desk, and then Bill & Martha have run over to the sink to splash each other. And that’s all before 8 o’clock.

When I finally had them semi-entertained enough to work on their math, it was time to go to recess. I learned very quickly that they may be little, but they are fast. I was a nervous wreck trying to walk these little people through the hallways. Forget a quiet line, I just wanted everyone to make it from point A to point B. When we finally made it outside for recess, traveling at about 1 tile block per minute, I realized that we seemed to be missing coats. Yep, back inside we went . . . CUE THE WATERWORKS! We eventually made it back out for recess and no one seemed to remember the emotional turmoil I had just put them through.

After recess, we had to do a little more learning before lunch. I tried my best tricks and learned that Simon Says was my best bet. For afternoon recess we stayed inside and played; I pretended like it was raining, but it definitely was not. It went well until a little girl popped a little boy in the mouth. She didn’t deny it, but she also wasn’t sorry. The boy finally said, “Hurry up and just say that you’re sorry so we can go play!” So, she did and off they went.

The end of the day was there before I knew it, which meant that we had all survived. I felt like I had accomplished some great feat, and they didn’t bat an eye.

As I was sitting in the classroom after they had gone home, I thought of the crazy teacher from Billy Madison. You know, the one who eats the glue while the kids are at recess. And I thought to myself, ‘I get it now. After one day, I understand.’ To do what kindergarten teachers do every single day has to be one of the most exhausting, selfless, and borderline crazy things that a person could possibly do.

So, with all of that being said, thank a kindergarten teacher . . . even though it’s not nearly enough. And if you’re still trying to find some last-minute Christmas gifts for one, pick one out that rhymes with vine AND deer!

Six Months of Marriage

Today we’ve officially been married for half of a year, so I thought that was a good excuse for a wedding post. I think that marriage is a unique + special gift, and it’s impossible to truly understand that until you experience it for yourself. I’m thankful to be married to a GOOD person whom I really enjoy being around – that’s especially important when you move across the country. Here are some pictures from the day that we made this thing official.

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Venue: The Opera House

Photographer: Woody & Pearl Photography

Hair & Makeup: Gina Hampton

Olympic Game Farm

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This past weekend Monty and I made a trip to Sequim, Washington, to visit the Olympic Game Farm. It’s one of those drive-thru parks where you can feed the animals from your car. Monty LOVES bears, and he read that this place had some that would wave at you, so we rode the ferry to Port Townsend and drove for about another hour to check it out for ourselves.

When you get to the park, they give you the option of buying wheat bread to feed the animals as you drive through. We bought two loaves but really probably needed three because we went through twice (your admission ticket lasts all day). And as you’re signing the waiver that basically exempts the animals from being responsible for your death, they kindly remind you to stay in your car at all times.

Once we started driving, we quickly realized that the llamas were going to be a problem. They’re sneaky and fast, and their long necks make them the perfect size to fit through your window and try to help themselves to bread.

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The bears, of course, had their own area . . . thankfully they couldn’t walk up to the car like most of the other animals. We got a few semi-waves out of them – it’s like they knew that we were going to feed them regardless, so they thought they would just humor us a little.

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When we arrived at the elk/bison area, there were huge signs that warned us not to stop because they would damage our vehicle. Monty drove the first lap, so we barely even slowed down because he’s a rule follower. On the second lap, I drove and we figured out that they weren’t mean, just huge.

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The OGF is the only place where you can go from hysterical laughter to complete terror in a matter of seconds. I felt like I had worked out because I was so tired from laughing . . . the best seat is definitely the one in control of the window lock. This was worth every penny, and I can’t imagine someone not enjoying this place.

Thanks for reading!

 

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These were as tall as/taller than our SUV!!

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