On this, the Last Day of My Billing Cycle

The week before Memorial Day I housesat for my friends Kudra & Porter on the Atlantic Coast. I looked forward to it as a chance for a “writing retreat”. For the short task of feeding their cats and occasionally scooping out the cat box, I had a house all to myself where I could write whenever I wanted and work on my own schedule.

Although some progress in my latest book was made, I had to learn to go with the flow little bit more than I anticipated.

First of the weather going out there was horrible, like I can’t see two car lengths in front of me for 3 of the 4 hours trip. But I made it, only to find a three car accident two stop lights away from their house. Add on another 30 minute delay and I got to my friends’ house about an hour later than I planned, ok dinner was late for the kitties but I was there.. I went to get in and my method of entry to the house was locked. Panic set in.I texted my friends who were in a very different time zone than me for alternatives and thankfully they responded quickly and with an easy solution. I was in!

I fed the cats, played with them, and settled in while the storm that had been on my heels for most of the trip raged on outside.*

*Please note that I neglected to connect my phone to their WiFi.

And now back to the first night. After a few hours there the power went off for a minute, everything came back on immediately except for the master bedroom suite. A few moments later the fire alarm in there began to chirp the song of a low battery. I think it’s important that I explain that in my house the fire alarms are all connected, so if one goes off-they all go off. I wondered if this alarm’s song had something to do with the power outage because the alarm was going off in their bedroom every twenty minutes or so. I was scared to mess with the alarm over an incident that happened at my house where I tried to replace the batteries of my alarm only to discover the connecting wires had corroded, leaving live exposed wires on my office ceiling for my husband to fix after he got home from work. With the power being temperamental and fearing the fuse box was outside in the storm I let it chirp.

A few moments later I began my bi-monthly Kawfee Talk with Octana and Red via Skype, my beeping soundtrack and voice was all the could get from my end. After the call the storm had stopped and I located the fuse box, that thankfully was inside. The master bedroom switch was clearly labeled and clearly switched off so I tried to reset only to have it flip back to off immediately.  I called my husband and together we attempted to fix the power, via FaceTime. After the reset did not work again Honey told me to leave it alone something was wrong with the ground.

We chatted a little and said good night. With the alarm still chirping I decided to write into the early hours of the morning to make myself pass out so I would not hear the chirping. My plan worked, until 6 am when my body was used to responding to an alarm clock. The chirping had increased to every two minutes so I found a step stool and thought electricity be damned I am unplugging that thing. In my 3 and half hours of sleep brain I couldn’t figure out why it was not coming off the wall, but I did find a hidden reset button and the chirping stopped. I crawled back into bed and tried to go back to sleep, I failed.

Eventually I noticed a break in the weather and I was able to sneak down to the beach and put my toes into the water, something that being four hours inland I miss. the weather predicated said it was going to be yucky the whole time I was there, so I jumped at the chance to be near the ocean, even if it was only for a few minutes.

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I felt rejuvenated, the last day’s complications faded away. I even Instagramed a live shot of the ocean. I stayed there for while, enjoying my self-dictated timeframe and went home when the clouds got darker.

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Later that day I wrote, watched Netflix on my laptop, listened to Podcasts, and drank copious amounts of tea. Later that night I Face-Timed my husband and crawled into bed, only to be woken up by the song of the fire alarm. I pressed the button I had found the day before and went back to my bedroom where the alarm in there had sympathetically joined in the chorus. I found the button on that one and then made more tea and tried to write.

On a trip back from the kettle I walked back to a scene that caught me as something special.

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I was walking back to a table that Porter had been making on the first night I met him, over five years ago. He was a close friend of our neighbor who I wasn’t expecting to meet that night. Porter was taking a break from the construction of the table he was trying to complete before Christmas Dinner so he could accommodate his in-laws who were in town. He left after a beer but a few months later I met his wife Kudra and we became friends. It had been a hard year for all of us, the life paths we had set out to have did not come to fruition as planned. A little while later they would move across the country and a few months later we would end up in the same state only a few hours away from them.

I could have never anticipated five years ago would be working on my third book, on the table he was building, thousands of miles from where our meeting began, while they were in another country with their family over their daughter’s first birthday.

That is not how you think your five year plan will go, and yay for that.

So speaking of plans when I returned home I got an alert from my wireless plan explaining that I had used 70% of my data and they would change my plan (probably forever) if I went over and charge extra. The billing cycle ended three weeks later, today. So the last few weeks I have been present, not messing on my phone in dull moments out, walking without headphones, listening to birds and cicadas, and engaging with a new group of friends we just met. And yesterday while writing in a coffee shop I wrote 3300 words, about my daily output from my “writing retreat”.

I hope that I will keep some of the habits I have had to adopt the last few weeks at least in a social setting and who knows it might help me make my book deadline!

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The First Half of January

Much like our little Groundhog friend I am poking up to see what’s going on.  January was a busy and very fun month.  My sister Firefly came to town on New Year’s Day and we crammed as much fun as we could into the two weeks that she was here.  The following two weeks were spent (happily) recovering from the weeks before.

This was the first time she had been out here during Winter.  In previous trips she always came at the beginning of summer, but she wanted to see our version of Winter.  So instead of watching out for thunderstorms while in the pool or hiking through the green in Pisgah, we found the perfect combination of layers to keep her warm outside and not overheated indoors and visited as many places as we could that did not require wonderful weather.  Thankfully almost every trip we went on had gorgeous weather.

Honey, being the wonderful man that he is, pretty much drove us across the entire state of North Carolina.  The first weekend we went to Asheville for a day trip. The sky was blue and the air was freaking cold, but we had fun.  The stores and restaurants were very crowded while the streets looked almost bare (everyone was inside) with of course the exception of French Broad Chocolate that had a line thirty deep outside.

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We promised Firefly as much chocolate as she wanted at another location if we didn’t have to stand in that line.  Perhaps next time French Broad.

During the week we went to coffee shops and book stores and of course a trip here is not complete without a trip to the Goat Farm, where Firefly got to hold a baby goat.

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The next weekend we headed to the coast.  Kudra and Porter were sweet enough to let the three of us stay with them for the weekend.  We just lucked out an Honey got to attend the local Beer Club meeting with Porter, while Kudra, Firefly, and I had a Girl’s Night with the female members of Kudra’s family down at the beach.

Kudra, Firefly, and I somehow pulled out a win on Heads Up, after trailing behind for most of the game against Kudra’s Mom, Aunt, and Cousin. There were a lot laughs and a lot of dancing, and even a few worm dances.  Some truths came out when Kudra’s cousin insisted that her Mom would not be familiar with the movie 9 1/2 Weeks and made her Mom skip the question, when it turned out the adults had all seen it together when it came out.  Haha.

And while they all seem to want to rock into the early hours of the morning, I was all ready to crawl into a ball by two am. Firefly and I made the plan to watch the sunrise over the ocean, since we were a few blocks away from the Atlantic.  Thankfully this time of year the sunrise was past 7, but it took us a lot of willpower to get our butts out of bed.  As luck would have it, it was a very cloudy morning and we didn’t really see the sunrise, but it was really cool just to be there with my sis and share that moment.  There is a picture of us there, but it will not be seen by anyone besides us because it is completely obvious on both of our faces how much sleep we got.  She as able to get a few extra winks when we got back to the house, while I stood outside on the balcony and breathed in some sea air.  Firefly really liked it there, it had two things she loves in location it’s in North Carolina and it’s coastal.

We spent another two days there and were fabulously hosted around the city.  As it usually goes on the visits out there, the time went by too fast and we justified pushing our departure time as far back as we could.

And of course when we got back I realized how quickly her trip time was disappearing.  As she gets older the conversations get more simple, but more complex. The days of her thinking I am on the “gown-ups” team, is less of the hindrance when we talk to each other now.

Firefly’s only disappoint in the trip was that she didn’t get to see it snow.  Which is a rarity here anyway, but of course the weekend after she left we got a few flurries in the morning and then full on snow a week later.  Maybe she’ll see it next year if she choses to spend her Winter Vacation with us.  If she does I am promising now that I will wait in line at French Broad Chocolate, even if it means I have to wear a parka to do it.

Revisit, Refresh

It looked like I had fallen back into the swing of blogging again, didn’t it?  Sorry…again.

The winter blues did sneak up on me a bit, that awkward time when the winter just gets annoying and everything you do or plan just seems to be in anticipation of Spring.  But there was one thing that we did not have to wait for Spring to enjoy, and that was a trip out to the coast to see our lovely friends Kudra and Porter.

Back in San Diego, when we first met them, we had heard from various sources about the incredibleness and the joy that is their St. Patrick’s Day Party.  And this year we got to go.  The evite went out and I said yes before I even knew if we had secured a couch or floor area to sleep on.  When I did speak to her later asking for dibs on some square footage in the living room, she told me that one of their guest bedrooms was available if we wanted it. Uh, yes please!  We also worked out that we would come up a day early so we could hang out and I could be her Sous Chef if needed.

A few nights before we left I started getting a bout of insomnia.  I get it from time to time, there were many things that could have caused it, the time change being the most obvious.  But as anyone who has had a few loss of night’s sleep can tell you, your personality becomes less than pleasant.  The night before we left I went to bed early but only probably got 4 hours of sleep.  I woke up at my usual time (6:30) and started making the two batches of scalloped potatoes that I was bringing for the party.  Once I was done it was time to pack the car and myself to head down the road.  I was a wreck, practically sleep walking but Honey drove and I caught a few hours of a nap on the way there.

When we got to Kudra’s and Porter’s I was a few more steps above sleepwalking, and they were cooking up a storm. At last glance the party was going to be around 30 people (hence the two batches of potatoes).  Kudra had Soda Bread piling high.

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Believe it or not this is not a staged photo, she was just piling up the bread so it would cool.

Porter was in the garage cooking up the corned beef.  Honey kept him company and they discussed beer brewing and various other subjects, while I stayed with Kudra in the kitchen and helped in anyway I could.

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We talked about what we had been up to the last few months.  Kudra and I used to walk around The Lake often and usually would be talking the whole time.  In the span of time since those walks I forgot just how much we used to share with each other.  The first few times we visited each other’s new homes and cities, we all stayed in a group of four for the most part-so those talks didn’t happen.  We realized it a little too late on one trip and while we were supposed to be saying good-bye we ended up in an almost three hour talk.  Now we try to fit in at least a little walk to talk and catch up without the menfolk around. This trip we had the kitchen to ourselves for hours and lots of talking was had.  I told her about the insomnia and she had some suggestions.  She has been taken a herbalism course and gifted me with a lovely therapeutic oil blend.

As we talked over our cooking prep about all of things that were going on in our lives, I felt more at peace than I had in a while.  My relationships in my new city are still relatively new and I know that I keep a good amount of my feelings and opinions to myself, it was very refreshing to put some more out there and to not be  worried about how it would come across.  Kudra always listens and more times that not completely understands. She has been very open with me, even from our first stroll around the lake and that has (I think) in turn made me more open with her.  Perhaps I can use that logic to have others be more open with me.

When the guys emerged from the large pot cooking we put together a little dinner and chatted together.  The plan was to participate in 5k walk the next morning, but since we were in town the rain had come to the coast once again.  Around midnight we began making promises that we would not do the walk if it was raining (we had already made the donation, so it was no loss to the cause).  We played chicken with time to see how long we could stay up and see if the rain had in fact washed out our early morning plans.  A few hours later  after much more talking and cooking, we hesitatingly got into bed.  Kudra made me a vitamin mixture before bedtime and made sure we had some lavender oil burring in our room as we slept.  Even though we only had a few hours sleep it was the best sleep I had gotten in weeks.

We all woke up the next morning, got dressed and watched as the sky opened up and rained on us the whole way there.  But about ten minutes before the walk started, the rain stopped.  We all walked quickly (trying to keep up with Kudra’s mother who was also there) and not a drop fell on us.  Later we caught a late breakfast at restaurant near Kudra’s Mom’s place and it began raining again.  It then rained for most of the day and throughout the St. Patrick’s Day Party.  It didn’t seem to put a damper on the day and after all of the wonderful food I ate I was thankful to have had morning exercise.

The party was wonderful, it was a mix of her nearby family and their friends.  The food was incredible, from the corned beef to the cabbage to the vegan shepherd’s pie to the homemade soda bread from a grandma’s recipe book.  Then the guests all brought something, serious dents were made in my scalloped potatoes even tough there were four other potato dishes around.  Someone brought around 50 “Irish Carbomb” Cupcakes and so many other delicious desserts I lost count of how many bites I took off of Honey’s plate. Porter served his incredible homemade Stout and another one of their guests brought his award winning Stout (I actually liked Porter’s more).  I also had my first glass of Moonshine.  I know, two years in the South and this is my first glass?  You can buy the regulated ones in the stores but this was actual moonshine.  It passed the the test without blue sparks and no one went blind.  It was actually pretty good, sweet as all hell, but good in a small amount.

The people at the party were wonderful,l as I expected friend’s of theirs would be.  They were warm and welcoming and tried their best to convince us to move to their town.  Which was very tempting 🙂 We have offers of boat rides and staying at beach houses the next time we blow into town (with hopefully better weather next time).

The next day Porter made corned beef hash with what little leftovers they were able to hide away and the sun finally came out for us to enjoy breakfast on their porch with some Bloody Mary’s.  The time went too quick and it after a while we had to pack our things to head home.  Honey I talked a lot on the drive back.  There has been a certain disconnect with who we feel we are here.  Nothing weird between us as a couple but rather how we are here.  Lifestyle stuff is different and while nature is more prevalent, the connection to it is not.

When we got back home we made decisions and plans regarding our reconnection.  We somehow scored a composter like the one we had in San Diego at 40% off and already assembled (which was a pain the last time).  We decided to say screw if it is “not allowed”, we can’t keep on living in a way we don’t feel comfortable with.  It is hiding behind a bush where only one or two neighbors can see and one of them said they thought it was great.  I picked up an oil diffuser and some lavender to help keep me having the same lovely sleep I had at their house.  I also got the vitamin mixture she gave me and I have felt great.  We grilled some fish in the backyard and ran into another neighbor who complimented the things we had done with the yard and agreed those cedars were horrible.  I have been sleeping better, cooking better, and even communicating better since we got back.  I didn’t realize how disjointed I felt before we left, but two nights among friends seems to have put us back into a more happy place.  As being around such wonderful people has a tendency to do. 😉

Out on the Highway

Over the weekend Honey and went on a road trip to Monterey, an actual vacation that was not for a family event!  It was a long time coming, we have taken a few “staycations” over the last few years but we haven’t hit the road and spent more than one night away from the house since we got married.  We hadn’t originally planned to go to Monterey when he requested the time off.  Long story short we thought we were going to go camping but it didn’t work out, we were planning another staycation when I got a bug up my butt about getting out of town.  Luckily  Honey agreed and I made the arrangements, I wanted to make it so all he had to do was show up.  Somehow I scored a greathotel room in Downtown Monterey for two nights at a very reasonable price.  There were some drawbacks to the place but the amazing room made up for it.  The location was ideal because we could easily walk around the town.   We usually prefer to walk around in a new city, rather than drive. I didn’t drive again until the day we left.  I had been to Monterey as a kid and then again at 16 as a stopping point between home and my parent’s friends in Northern California, he had never been so it was a whole new city to us.

Even though we were in the right town for it Honey and I did not go to the Aquarium, it was freaking expensive!  We had walked through Cannery Row (tourist lane) with the intention of going to the Aquarium but we got there and the price made us stop.  We decided to spend the money on a nice dinner instead (also we are spoiled in SD and can go to our own Aquarium).  It was interesting people watching though Cannery Row and there was some beautiful buildings and views.  There are still some old remnants of the bay’s cannery days placed next to the new, shinny cliffside hotels.

This was a very different vacation for both of us, it was more of a relaxation based trip rather than we have to see this, go here, eat there, etc.  We explored, saw some sights, felt cool breezes, and had some yummy food.  With all of this we were still back in our room by 9 pm each night.  I had brought two bottles of wine from home (ones I knew we loved) to enjoy in front of the fireplace and on the balcony overlooking the fountains in the courtyard.  Just those simple moments of snuggling with him in silence (beside crackling wood and bubbling water) were some of my favorites of the trip.  I did find it amusing that when we used the room provided wine glasses on the first night, the maids replaced them with mini wine glasses the next day.  They were cute but didn’t stop us from finishing the bottle of wine.

While we were there we enjoyed 70 degree days and cool nights, it felt like Novemeber-a very nice break after the last month of heat waves.  I realized I was out of practice with packing because I brought all of the wrong clothes.  Too cool in the day for short sleeves and too cold at night for anything but my heavier jacket, not to mention five pairs of shoes-I only wore two pairs!  Oh well, next time I’ll be back to my expert packing level again.

Another part of the trip was of course the driving, I did it all I am proud to say.  Thanks to childhood road trips and now being a nonsmoker I can comfortably drive to up to five hours without a break.  The highways we selected bookended our trip with a bit of morbidity.  When we headed to Monterey took Route 46 a two lane, near empty road-he read the directions to me, I had to stay on it for the next 63 miles-the speed limit was 55. For the first ten miles the landscape was lined with oil rigs , it eventually gave way to small hills with golden colored grass and oak trees sprinkling on the sides.  Beautiful.  Beside the Budget truck riding my butt and the occasional aderlaine rush around passing lanes, it was a very nice drive.  A few more miles in I noticed a Texaco station with a big James Dean cut out on the corner of the lot.

“That’s strange,” I said to Honey, “Why would they have a James Dean poster at a gas station?”

He said, “I think he might have died around here.”

“Really?  I thought he died in LA.”  He disagreed and then whipped out the phone to look it up (how did people survive road trip questions before these things?) sure enough we were on the route that James Dean died on.  We still had quite a few miles to go from the actual location, it turns out he had stopped at that gas station before he died.  The land around the road was still  undeveloped. I began to think that it probably looked similar to how it looked 57 years ago.   It was kind of strange seeing what might have the last sights of someone who died so many years ago.  But I’m weird and I think about those kind of things. We passed the junction where he was hit (I must admit I slowed down considerably) and then went further than Mr. Dean had a chance to.

On the way back home, not only did we have to take Route 46 but we decided to take a “shortcut” around the 5 to avoid LA during rush hour traffic.  We took Route 138, also called Deathtrap Highway.  Though luckily we didn’t know that until we got home and Honey looked it up.  That was quite an interesting road, not only was it narrow and had occasional dips that would remind me of a rising roller coaster cart, but there was no one around for miles and then suddenly there would be a car and it would be right on my ass.  I kept my road rage at bay while on the trip and let people pass me and even occasionally pulled over to the side, but it was crazy how impatient people were out there (and I was going over the speed limit ).  But our shortcut was pointless because the connecting freeway had crazy traffic too, oh well we both saw a part of California we had never seen before.

The cats did well in our absence, though my Mother-In-Law gave herself some unnecessary stress.  We had kept Rocco and Terra  in their room downstairs so they wouldn’t panic when they didn’t see us, we asked my Mother-in-Law and Apple to look in on them and feed them.  Apparently my Mother-In-Law didn’t hear Honey when he said if they got out it was okay, we just wanted to try to keep them in.  The first night Rocco slipped past her.  She came over numerous times throughout the days while we were gone, left messages with the wrong neighbor about the status of the cats, and made little food arrangements around the house so he wouldn’t starve.  Somehow on the last day she caught him and got him back into their room.  Poor Mom, I am going to make her a good dinner to say thanks-she went above and beyond.  When I got home and went down to look at them the two cats were just sitting on the futon as happy as could be.  Bailey nearly tackled us when we walked through the door.

It was a great trip and a nice break for both of us.  It was good to get away from the house for a few days and away from all of the projects we have planned for the Fall, but it was really nice to come home and sit with our purring kitties.

Until next time Monterey!

Surf’s Up in San Diego

For the last couple of days the waves in San Diego have been in the 15′-20′ range, usually  they are around 4 feet range.  So I was a “bad” little Housewife yesterday and went on a little field trip to La Jolla Cove and snapped a few photos.  I hope you enjoy them.

Sand

On Friday I went towards the coast and got my hair cut at my old stomping grounds, I got about five inches taken off so now my hair stops right at my chin, perfect for the summer. When we headed off to the Zoo yesterday I had to remind myself to put sunblock on the back of my neck because now it’s exposed.  But getting past my hair (which truly, I could devote a whole blog entry to) I had a rare opportunity to lolly-gag around the beach Friday afternoon.  When I drive that far I try to fit in as many social visits as possible, so I had lunch with John, got my hair cut, and then had coffee with The Ladies.  Between the haircut and coffee I had two hours to kill.  I did’t feel like calling up my parents and almost everyone I knew was working so I went to the beaches that I spent countless hours at as a child.

There has been a few changes to the shores of one the beaches since I was knocked around in its waves 20 years ago.  First off they removed the obstacle of rocks that separated the sandy beach form the water.  In the picture you can see light soft sand right past the black top roads, this is where the moms would set up their watch posts when I was a kid.  Armed with a large towel for them to bask upon, a straw beach bag of towels-for the soon to be freezing children, a book (hopefully not of the romance novel nature), a cooler with Sunkist drinks-that always were warm by the time you drank them, cut up oranges that burned your sand shredded skin, and of course a sticky bottle of sunblock.  From this location they would watch their children be beat up by nature’s strictest baby-sitter (and loving ever minute of it).  Right after this haven of hot sand there was a 10-15′ wide belt of gray “smooth” rocks that extended through the shore of the beach, so there was no walking around it you had cross.  It was like a payment in pain you had to pay the ocean gods to induldge in their waves.  Though the rocks were smooth, my small kid feet would always slide in the crevices between them.  No matter how carefully and deliberately you placed your feet, the rocks would either part from your step temporarily and come crashing back, engulfing your foot;  or you would step, slightly loose your balance, your ankle would turn, and the side of your foot would dive into the sand laced rocks emerging with red thread-sized lines of blood across the sides of your feet.  These small cuts made the first moments of walking in the ocean water particularly intense.  But  I loved it, I would stay out in the water for hours because there in the water, I felt best-I never wanted to leave.

Now it is a piece of cake to get the water, no payments of pain required, no sizzling rocks to walk across.  Just soft sand (which I heard was brought in from Arizona) and water.  On Friday I walked down to the shore took pictures, stood in the tide, and let my white skirt get caked with sand.  I didn’t care, sand is forgiving and lets go after a little while.  I use to find sand everywhere when I was a kid, in my bed, in my clothes, in my dresser, and in Barbie’s hair (who never went to the beach, oddly enough). The tide came in and out, sometimes drenching my skirt and sometimes only tickling my toes.  I’m sure the locals thought I was nuts hanging out in the water with a long white skirt-oh well, fuck ’em. 🙂

After a short while I thought it was the time to go, so walked up the hill that now, even in adulthood seems steep.  Imagine walking up this hill after three hours of being thrown around in the ocean.  You’re cold, your skin stinging from the sand rips that met with the immediate greeting from the ocean water, boogie board drapped over your shoulder, clinging to a towel that keeps on falling of your straight hips, and flip flops sliding off your damp feet and down the walkway.  No wonder I never wanted to get out of the water, I was greeted with how mean the land world could be as soon as I exited.

When I got back to my car I realized only about twenty minutes had passed, so I went to the other beach of my late childhood, about 15 minutes south of where I was.  I say it is the beach of my late childhood because this is where I went in high school.  The beach that I laid on getting tans with girlfriends, the one I ran on for Water Polo practice, the one boys use to take me to so they could kiss me, you know-that one.  I sat and read my book for a while watching the locals walk pass, I forget how different the lingo is out there.  There is nothing like seeing a business-looking guy say “Dude-yeah!” into his iPhone with a surfboard under his arm.

I sat on the beach and read, popping up my head every so often to look at the ocean or get lost in thought or memories.  But this beach had not changed, the shore was still the same place, there was a good ratio of rock to sand placement.  It was comforting and I decided I will go to the beach this summer, I might be wearing a million layers, but I will go.  Since high school I have been in the ocean swimming, a total of two times.  I’m not quite sure what keeps me away, I use to be a fish.  Ocean, pool, hot tub-if it was on the schedule you could expect me to be in the water from the moment we arrived and be the last one out.  I have walked on the beach quite a few times, played in the surf with John but I haven’t been submerged in the water since the days of hanging out with Mr. Big.  I use to say it was the years of Marine Biology that ruined it for me, but I still swam in pools.  Now I don’t even swim in pools.  Swimming use to be my thing, I wasn’t very good at it, but I loved it and want to try it again.  I also don’t go to the beach much considering how close we live to it, but I think it about so much and imagine it so much it feels like I am there all the time.  Once a fish, always a fish?

Right now my car has sand sprinkled around its interior, it is so familiar that it almost seems wrong to vacuum it up.  I will though, but maybe not until later next week. 😉