Tree party

On Thursday, Joel and I had our traditional Tree Party, officially kicking off Christmas 2016.

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Tree Party started when Joel was visiting me in the States in 2013, and we’ve had a version of it every year since. It’s basically us and some tasty beverages putting the tree together while eating Pigs in Blankets and watching a movie. It’s fun, it’s adorable, and I’m not even ashamed to admit that this year I started to get excited for it in September.

This year, I found a tall-ish fake tree for $12, tree lights for $8, and jewel toned baubles for $10. I think it’s the most Christmassy our tree has ever looked, and I’m really jazzed for it.

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The enthusiastic tree prepper
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Mini Frankenfurters in Blankets – yes, I had “You’re a hot dog/But you better not try to hurt her, Frank-fur-ter” stuck in my head the entire time I was rolling these guys up
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Stringing the lights
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YAY ORNAMENTS!

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I’m a little obsessed with it. I’ve been tinkering with ornament placement since Thursday, but every day I look at it and it makes me smile. I’m happy I went with multi-coloured baubles instead of red and green. It’s definitely making me think “Fun Summer” Christmas, not “holy fuck it’s hot and why isn’t it snowing” Christmas, which is awesome.

I keep hearing from my friends who have toddlers that parents only have a handful of magical Christmas seasons with their kids. At first I thought it was a bit bullshit- Christmas is awesome no matter how old you are. I always looked forward to Christmas, because it was the one of the few times my family were together laughing, eating, watching movies and having a good time – amidst the occasional drama flair up from visiting family members or my over-worked parents. With the exception of Christmas 2001 when the whole year was kinda shit and my dad was overseas for Christmas and each of us were going through some form of depression so we just said “no fucks given” and left the tree in the garage and decorated a $5 fern plant with household nicknacks on Christmas Eve (which sounds really sad, but it ended up being a fun time and thinking about it always makes me happy), my parents always made a big, big effort to make Christmas a big, big deal. We always had a huge tree with all the trimmings, presents, a giant breakfast, and lots of hang times. So the season has always been magical and happy for me.

But then I thought a bit more, and I realised that I can’t remember the last time decorating the tree as a family was a thing. And that bums me out a little. I always loved that my parents decorated for the holidays, but I never invested in the experience. And at some point I stopped participating. I mean, I helped my dad a few times by handing him tools when he hang the lights outside, but mostly I just reaped the coziness that came from their efforts.

So maybe you do only get a brief time where the magic is real and your kids want to be a part of it all – when decorating the tree is serious bizness, when waking up to open your advent calendar, or in my case – move the candy cane from the snowman calendar to the tree, when hunting for hidden presents is a top priority, and leaving treats for Santa is non-negotiable. But it seems to come back in full force when they start their own families, and their own little traditions.

And that’s kinda nice.

Your 9 Year Old Self

I saw this on Instagram today –

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side note – I want one of these boards. And I ain’t even mad at myself for it.

 

And instantly, my first thought was, “man, 9 year old Audrey would think 32 year old Audrey is pretty lame.”

And then I thought, wait – 9 year old Audrey’s day during the school week consisted of

  • taking an hour to wake up in the morning
  • fiercely debating cutting her own bangs every morning
  • sneaking her mom’s coffee
  • taking too long to pick out clothes because she was too busy fantasising about clothes she didn’t have
  • going to school where she was equal parts I CAN DO THIS and help me I’m so overwhelmed
  • walking home through the woods so she could act out little stories running through her head
  • typing out said stories on her typewriter while listening to music; or making elaborate plans to do or build or create something; or drawing killer whales, researching killer whales, becoming a killer whale, basically engaging whatever I was obsessed with at the time
  • staying in the bath (never a shower – thanks Psycho) until the water turned cold
  • falling asleep while watching a movie
  • waking up to go to bed and reading books or comic strip collections until she passed out with the lights on

And I was all “that’s basically my same routine now.” So I’m basically living like my 9 year old self was watching. And my 9 year old self thinks I’m pretty rad – I mean, I can take showers without the fear of a cross dressing schizophrenic with PTSD stabbing me to death. I mean, I’m sure she’s disappointed that I’m not a marine biologist/killer whale trainer by day, novelist by night, actress and movie director on the weekends, married to Brad Pitt and living in a log cabin with a herd of dogs, but hey. You can only do so much in 23 years. Plus, now I can stay up late watching movies whenever I feel like it. Fuck yeah.

Hey inner-child, high 5!

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So early 90’s it hurts. Not pictured: Brad Pitt Legend of the Fall poster directly to the right of those sick Aladdin wall decals.

How would your 9 year old self judge you?

xo

Things I love: The Silver Stallion

The Silver Stallion. 

The first time I saw it, I was 10 years old, at a slumber party with a couple of my friends. Before the party began, my mom took us all to Blockbuster Video to rent some movies – because staying up all night watching movies and eating junk food is the best part of being a kid. Or a 31 year old. Who’s counting. Anway.

My mom was very adamant about us only watching age appropriate movies – which really sucked when you were trying to be the coolest 10 year old in the room and your mom won’t let you rent Interview with the Vampire. My friends and I decided on a Japanese movie about giant, homicidal dinosaurs rising from the ocean to destroy Tokyo. I think it was called Dinosaur Land or something else equally irrelevant. I remember the cover was a hand drawn image of a platysaurus in the water, with a woman hanging out of its mouth, and Tokyo visible in the background. We are all super pumped.

Mom, however, showed us a movie called The Silver Stallion. And the collective womp womp womp was heard throughout the land. Who wanted to watch a movie about horsies? There were no Brad Pitt Vampires and no people eating dinosaurs and no curse words and no possibility of seeing Brad Pitt’s naked vampire butt. LAME. But mom insisted that we would love it, and we left Blockbuster both really excited and really bummed out.

Once everyone went to bed and we had the TV to ourselves, we put in the lame horse movie to get it over with. After a few minutes of hemming and hawwing and making fun of it, the room got quiet and we were glued to the screen. When it was over, we couldn’t stop chatting about it.

The gist: An Australian movie based on a popular children’s book, made in 1993. The plot is pretty simple: an author living in the bush is writing a story about the life of Thowra, an Australian wild horse, or “brumby”, and his rise to king of the brumbies while constantly outwitting the the Man in Black, who wanted to capture him. The author’s daughter reads along with the story, and falls in love with the wild horse. In a turn of events, the daughter finds out that Thowra is real, and is devastated to hear that the Man in Black has a fail-proof mission to finally capture the wild horse. The author and her daughter wait with baited breath to hear the final fate of Thowra and his reign as king of the brumbies.

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As the author narrates her story, the scenes are acted out by real horses in sequences shot amazingly in the mountains. Here’s a mash up of scenes put to the music from Requiem for a Dream, which kinda fits it perfectly (except there’s no heroin in The Silver Stallion. I mean, not that I know of)

 

It’s a dark, sad children’s story that is beautifully told – there are no silly horse voices or cheese ball animal/human friendship or “everyone is happy and learns a valuable lesson”ending. It makes you think of what separates a human from a villain. All in all, it’s just a good movie. Oh, and it stars a baby Russell Crowe as the wiley Man in Black.

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We put on Dinosaurs Eat People and barely paid attention to it, because it was super lame. There were no beautiful horses running free in the mountains, no dramatic horse fights, no crazy horse chases, no subtly dark story lines, and still no chance of naked Brad Pitt vampire butt – just badly clay animated dinosaurs and badly dubbed English lines and no gorey peple eating scenes. We didn’t even finish the movie before we put Silver Stallion on again.

And thus began the obsession. I convinced my friends to pretend to be the horses in the movie and we would run around the woods making up different Thowra stories. We would watch it whenever we got the chance (I begged my parents to rent it so often that 5 years later, when I started working at Blockbuster, the manager told me on my first day that she remembered me as “the silver stallion girl”), and it became a weird thing that bonded the three of us.

My sister Mary was always horse crazy while we were growing up, and I liked horses, but I was way more into dogs, orcas, tigers, and lions. However, once I watched this magically lame horsie movie, all I could think about were horses. I started tagging along with my dad and my sister to her horse back riding lessons, and became something of a barn rat. “Can I brush your horse?” “Can I walk your horse?” “Can I clean that stall?” “Can I do ANYTHING remotely related to being near a horse?” Eventually, I started taking riding lessons too, and that was it. I was hooked. My sister and I rode competitively and basically lived at the barn for years. And funny enough, we came to own a horse who’s name was Brumbie. Go figured.

I still have a huge fondness for the flick. I own a copy and I dust it off and watch it from time to time.And this morning when I woke up and Joel had already left for work and it was cold and pouring rain, I instantly felt like watching it. So I scoured the internet and vaguely considered trecking out to JB HiFi in the rain to buy it (movie obsession turns me into a driven lunatic bent on success) until I found it on Youtube because it’s so irrelevant that not even Amazon or iTunes will stream it.

From the title card, this movie always takes me back to being a 10 year old. It makes me think of my dream of spending my days riding my horse through the country side and spending my nights pounding out stories on a typewriter as I wear a big woolen sweater – and my vampire Brad Pitt husband brings me coffee. #dreams

My first thought was “wow, I guess I didn’t really achieve what 10 year old Audrey wanted.” But then I thought more about it, and I’m actually pretty close to this dream – I mean, I live in Australia now. And I still write (kinda), and I have a big sweat shirt and a much more handsome, much cooler, non-vampire, sexy man to bring me coffee. But I did think really hard about sending my mom $200 so she can mail me my typewriter. Annnnd I may have looked up how much horse back riding lessons cost around here. Spoiler alert – they’re expensive.

Here’s to nostalgia.  Brb, I’m going out to get a big wool sweater. And maybe a horse colouring book.

 

*fun fact, those same girls and I had another slumber party a few months later and we totally watched Interview with the Vampire. And I got in trouble. #worthit

Adventures in Moving: ep 1

I love moving, I really do. I owe it to moving around a lot as a military brat. I love moving into a new house and unpacking and getting things ready. I also love organising and culling and packing. I don’t particularly care for moving said items once they’re all packed, mostly because I don’t like sweating, (and I’m a terrible packer whose boxes always weigh at least 50 lbs) but the before and after parts are some of my favourite parts. Probably because I’m a closeted control freak and obsessive cleaning and organising is my go-to coping mechanism so hey. I could have worse personality traits.

But speaking of worse personality traits, my nostalgia has been in overtime lately and I’ve been trying to remind myself that I will miss this place once it’s gone. Because the same thing happens every time I move, without fail: I get so excited for the new place and the fresh start that I don’t think about saying goodbye. And being the sap that I am, I’ll start to miss the old place like it was a person I knew and never got to spend enough time with.

So today, we managed to move the moving mess from room to room so Joel could take photos of the property for the rental agency. And in the split moments when there wasn’t bags of donate clothes and piles of shoes or stacks of camera gear and books and packing trash and magazines and fans and de-humidifiers and clothes and old mail and what not – the place looked sparkling. And for a split second – I almost felt like I didn’t want to leave.

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With its sweaty kitchen.

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And its tiny-mirror-no-fan-and-no-way-to-not-splash-water-everywhere-while-showering-bathroom

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And its no air conditioning.

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And its one power outlet per room electrical snakes.

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And its uncovered-hunstman-and-magpie-haven-balcony.

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And its mildew-prone closet.

Despite all its flaws, it’s been a constant for the entire time I’ve known Joel. I met and bonded with him in this living room. We got to know each other through Skypes in this apartment. I wrote letters and sent care packages to this address for almost 2 years. It was our first home. So I’ve been taking the time every day to be happy in the memories I have of this place, to see if I can lessen the severity of when/if I’m hit with a landslide of feels on Jan.30 (spoiler alert: invevitable)

As Joel reads over my shoulder saying, “it’s just a house, people move all time.” And we’re only moving 15 minutes away. But still. I can’t help but feel sorry for Joel’s cold black heart sentimental, like I’m leaving an old friend. I’ll miss our big green trees and seeing fireworks from the balcony. I’ll miss how good the sunsets are and how quiet and slowly the living room fills with daylight. I’ll miss the window in the bathroom and how it’s the perfect ledge for a shower beer. I’ll miss listening to the bats in the tree outside our window. And I’ll miss that coffee shop and the barista who knows every detail about my life and how I take my coffee but whose name I still don’t know (I’m awkward).

But, we’re on to new things. And new trees and new windows and new spiders and new home offices and new day light. And we’ll have fantastic memories of our first little landing pad.

Thanks, #9. You’ve been a good pal.

 

Things I Love – Movies

Of all the things I’ve given up in my adult life, I miss my movie collection the most.

Movies have always been a huge part of my life. Growing up, we always had stacks upon stacks of VHS, and every Christmas and birthday, they were the presents I looked forward to the most. When I was 14, I finally got my own TV/VCR combo, and it wasn’t long before I had a bookcase of my own piled up with tapes. We only ever had basic cable, and I wasn’t a big TV fan when I was younger, so I relied on movies (and books and comics) for entertainment. And I was perfectly happy.

When I was 16, I started working at Blockbuster, and I got my first DVD player. My collection of tapes turned into a collection of DVDs, which filled three 75 CD books when I left for college. While in New York, I worked at Sam Goody, and I kept buying more movies. Then I worked at Borders*, and bought even more**. The first time I moved out of my parents house, it took about 8 boxes to contain my movie collection.

But then I graduated college and started to move around a bit, and it was hard to lug movies around that I didn’t watch all the time. Then I ran out of money a few times. So I started selling chunks of my collection for cash. And then I started working “real” jobs without a discount on DVDs. And then On-Demand happened. And downloading. And Netflix. And then Netflix on Wii. And Amazon Prime Instant. And Netflix on my phone. And then HBOgo. And Hulu. And by then, I forgot about buying movies.

By the time I left for Sydney, I had just 1 box of movies. 8 boxes to 1? I could feel the eyes of 17 year old Audrey searing judgement into me.

As much as I love having thousands of movies at my digital helm, I miss having a giant bookcase filled with DVDs, blu rays, and VHS (yes VHS – how else would I watch un-retouched original trilogy Star Wars?). I miss unwrapping movies at Christmas. I miss tracking release dates. I miss going to Blockbuster to pick out a weekend’s worth of movies. I miss picking up boxes and looking, judging, considering. I even miss getting my hopes up about a new release and waiting by the drop box for someone to return it. And I miss 5 for $20 sales.

So when Joel and I were walking through JB-HiFi and saw this

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our ears pricked up and we started pawing through the tables and bins. And then we saw this

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Joel made the point that for every $6.99 – $9.99 movie rental on iTunes, we could have gone to the store and bought a movie. Same financial risk as with renting a digital movie, but we’d be able to keep if it was really good. And we get the added fun of getting out of the house and picking through the titles – back in the day style. So we picked out a few titles and headed home, where I instantly opened them all and read every part of the packaging from cover to cover – another movie ritual I missed.

What’s ridiculous is that it’s barely been 8 years since I started selling off my movie collection and streaming movies, but when I talk about how I watch movies now versus how I watched movies then,I feel like it’s been 30 years. I’ve become so accustomed to instant gratification and “cloud” living that I’ve lost that appreciation for collecting and really enjoying that tangible aspect of movies. Rapid fire advancements in technology have enabled my laziness to a level I didn’t even think was possible – I mean, I was incredibly lazy before smart phones and instant downloads and online shopping. So it’s nice to have these sparks of nostalgia that bring me back to my roots.

Now if only I could find a cheap movie theater so I can go tothe movies and still be able to afford my rent.

*yes, every retail store I’ve worked for is now nearly or officially out of business.
**see, also: Why Audrey Had No Savings During School

Sweet Music

When it comes to work–my job, chores, writing, etc.–I’m better and more focused when there’s a TV on in the background. Yes, I am an over-stimulated, easily distracted, child of television. Silence drives me crazy, but the drone of an open floor office–the mish-mash of typing, too loud conversations, kitchen clanging, phones ringing, printers going, etc., drives me more crazy. What to do?

Music. The first and most obvious solution: music and head phones. Unfortunately, I’m working in an office where our internet usage is strictly monitored. So strict that I checked The Weather Channel two days in a row, and on the third day, it was blocked. With Youtube, Pandora, and Spotify definitely out of the question, and since I don’t want to eat up data on my phone, I was left wondering what I’d do for entertainment. Just anything to make the time go faster. Because anyone who’s worked in an office knows that the minutes drag by like hours when you don’t have something to keep you occupied, and office work isn’t always the most captivating. And that’s when I remembered I packed my ancient iPod with me.

It hadn’t been played or updated since 2007, and I’m not sure why I brought it with me. I hadn’t intended on using it, and I wasn’t even sure it would work. The ravages of time had taken their toll: the screen was almost entirely blacked out, and it struggled to stay on. But, after charging for 24 hours, it finally started to play. And it was like opening a time capsule.

I grew up in a very music friendly house. My mom sang and toured with her church choir, and my dad was a piano prodigy. All my siblings and I sang or played instruments, and we all had our own stereos before we had our own TVs. There was always music playing in our house and in our cars. And when I was a teenager, music became my life. I loved movies more, but music got me. After all, when you’re a teenager, no one understands you — except drug addicted rock stars. Naturally.

Music was always a great comforter, helping me gain perspective on whatever was making me sad that week. It was also a great social binder. I’m pretty sure that 90% of the friendships and relationships I’ve made have started off with shared music interests. I also love the history that music creates. My mom has mix tapes from when she was young, and when we listened to them on car trips, she would tell us the stories behind each song and why it was important to her. I remember snooping through the crawl space in my grand parent’s house and finding crates of “devil music” like Led Zeppelin and The Doors that my uncles had hidden away. I like hearing about how couples find “their” song. I was always thrilled to get a mix as a present, because it was like a little story made just for me. And conversely, I loved to make mixes for other people, and I took the task very serious. Yes, I loved High Fidelity. Nick Hornby is the man.

As I got older, though, music started to carry too much baggage. Lyrics, albums, mix CDs, everything had significant backgrounds and associations with people and places that, eventually, I was trying to move on from. The music that used to give me comfort and commiseration became a landslide of memories and too many feelings. And I felt all of it, all at once, all the time. It began to cut me to my core. Even an inspirational song could turn me into a mess. Shit. I can’t count how many times a song reduced me to tears, giving me goose bumps and heart palpitations. It was exhausting, and really counter to what I was struggling to do in my 20’s, which was “be happy.” So, a few years ago, I gave up on music. I liked a song here and there, but I stopped searching for it, and I stopped investing my energy in it. I downloaded all my old music to iTunes and gave away my CDs. I used my iPod for TV shows and movies, until someone broke into my car and stole it out of the glove box–savages.

So I was half excited, half dreading to open this little Nano and listen to all its treasures. It was definitely like opening a time capsule. The first song that played launched me back to 2001, and then year after year, until I was engulfed. There I was, driving home from college in New York, crying to A Perfect Circle. Singing Tool at the top of my lungs with Leah. Driving around in the rain with Holly, listening to The Killers. Writing a story against a deadline and getting stopped dead in my tracks by Modest Mouse’s Spitting Venom. The Whiskey pool party to the tune of Journey’s Greatest Hits. Every sad or weird moment in my life was documented. Since the screen was blacked out, I couldn’t see what song was playing. Every new track was like Time Warp Music Roulette, and I was hooked. I had my ear buds in from the moment I left our building until the moment I got home from work.

As silly as it sounds, putting music away was one of the few times in my life where I’ve felt actual closure. Compartmentalizing is definitely not something I’m good at, whereas re-hashing and beating the dead horse that is my feelings is something I excel at. So at first, I couldn’t get enough of the time warp. I remembered all the good associations, all the fun and happiness that happened with the music. I liked thinking of those memories, and I re-living the feelings that came with them was like riding the sweetest wave of nostalgia.

A week or so into my music mania, I started feeling sad. It was that indeterminate sad that doesn’t leave, isn’t triggered by anything, and makes your days shitty and worthless. I chalked it up to the crazy homesickness that came with the approaching holidays, and tried to move on, thinking it would be better once the summer was over. But the holidays passed, and it just got worse. I was stuck, dwelling on the past and shit that doesn’t even matter, but becomes all consuming when you’re sad. Everything I wanted to do was coated in layers of apathy, especially the small things I normally do to cheer myself up. Even my exciting rekindling with music was more of drag. I was worried that my depression might be coming back — which was a suuuuper exciting prospect.

I was at work, over-thinking things as usual, when I figured it out. It was a Monday, and I surprisingly woke up that morning feeling a bit more ok than I had been waking up. And I noticed that I had gotten progressively more sad after I started my iPod. And I thought back and realized I would be better at home after work, and over the weekends, but I was worse at work. And it dawned on me. That sweet wave of nostalgia I was riding had crashed and drowned me: music is making me sad. I had gone from a happy nostalgia to a sad nostalgia without even realizing it. It all made sense when I put the two and two together.

So I put the iPod away. That night, I talked to Joel about what was going on, charged my Kindle Fire, and downloaded all the TV shows and movies from our cloud. And that’s how I get through my days at work now, with the Kindle face down, and me listening to it. I’ve seen a drastic improvement to my moods. And my productivity!

Thinking in depressive patterns is a really hard habit to break. I became so accustomed to it, that it felt like normal. Depression is stealthy, and will use any avenue it can to sneak back into your life. I have to work at my perspective and reactions everyday to stay on top of it. I thought I was just feeling homesick for the holidays. But I was actually getting mired in the shittiest parts of my past, thanks to daily reminders coming out of my iPod. I might have missed my family and friends, but I was more focused on hating myself for reasons beyond my control. The music itself isn’t to blame for my sadness, it’s me and the associations I have with it, and how I have a hard time handling those associations. Music still carries the same baggage. And even though I’m in a completely different place in life than I was years ago, some of that baggage is still hard to handle. And that’s okay. It won’t get better with time alone. It’ll get better with the hard work that I put into myself. And that’s also okay.

I’ll be better with music one day. Until then, I have my kindle.

Summer Mornings

Summer doesn’t officially start for another 10 days, but it sure as hell feels like its already here.

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Filter added to adequately convey heat.

While I don’t like summer, I love summer mornings. When it’s bright and warm, but not hot. When you feel like things would be perfect if it could just stay like this forever, but you know damn well in 4 hours the humidity will be so high that it’ll be too hot to sit next to someone on the couch because the body heat is ridiculous so you lay on the floor in front of your oscillating fan and even considering venturing out of the apartment will drench you in a pool of your own sweat and leave you wondering when death will come with its sweet release.

But, the mornings are nice.

Thankfully, it’s been a cool spring, and it’s only been this hot a couple of times, including today. The weather report said it would be 93*F/34*C by 3 PM, but at 8:15, it was beautiful. So I decided to walk down the road to get a coffee before things got crazy. And it was as I hoped, a nice summer morning.  Bright blue sky, white pillow clouds, and a low set sun. Warm, not hot. Bus stops with occasional students and Friday commuters. Scent of flowers and rising humidity. Everything just felt warm and still.

And I was instantly hit with a wave of nostalgia, the same wave of nostalgia I get with every sunny summer morning. Of every last week of school. Of early mornings at horse shows. Of bleary eyed walks to 8 AM class during summer sessions. Of waiting with baited breath for mom to get home so she could take us to the pool. Of letting the dogs out first thing in the morning. Of hazy Maryland mornings when I couldn’t wait to get outside and play. Of happy hour drinks under a shaded patio. Of every shitty, humid 4th of July party, ever.

As I walked down the road, sweat glistening* on my face, awash in summer nostalgia, I thought, I don’t hate summer. A lot of good things have happened during the summer months. And maybe I’m just letting my hatred for high temperatures cloud the happy memories I do have. Perhaps my year of 2 summers will re-program my attitude. I waited for my coffee with dare I say it–summer optimism? I took pictures all the way home, thinking how lovely today would be, no matter how hot it got.

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Hello, gorgeous.

I was only gone for about 20 minutes, and it didn’t feel any hotter than when I left. But when I walked back into our apartment, it was like walking into a humidity filled Tupperware container resembling an apartment. I opened all the windows and realized my optimism was a tad premature. And lacked air conditioning

If you need me, I’ll be parked in front of the fan, wishing for winter.