humor

This Wasn’t the Plan

Go Jules Go Title Graphic This Wasnt the Plan_4SEP2019

“We’re just gonna gun it,” Erin said.

The three of us stared up the hill from the safety of Erin’s Jeep.

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“If that Sprinter van could do it, we can do it,” Other Erin said.

Less off-road-worthy vehicles lined the road, their passengers watching to see who would tackle the beast next. On the other side of the cavernous potholes sat one of the best hikes in the area.

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And in central Oregon, that’s saying something.

Erin floored it and in a matter of seconds we knew: this wasn’t happening. Other Erin hopped out of the car.

“Okay, turn your wheels this way!” she shouted, motioning with her arms. My heart raced. We were dangerously close to rolling off the edge of the road.

“Don’t worry, the trees will stop a fall,” Erin assured me.

I peered over the side of the car, clutching Uncle Jesse. I am not ready to die.

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Well, you’ve done it again, Mom.

By the time Other Erin said, “Okay, your front wheel is off the ground,” I wanted to cry.

“I’m sorry, I need to get out,” I blurted and quickly grabbed Uncle Jesse’s leash, fleeing for solid ground.

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As I scurried down the hill to join the other onlookers, overhearing Other Erin say, “Okay, now three wheels are off the ground,” I thought back to the weekend’s adventures. It was Monday, Labor Day, and I was certain I couldn’t have crammed anymore excitement into a three-day period.

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I’M GOOD.

First, there was Uncle Jesse’s inaugural 10k, after which I drank a free hard cider (because this is Oregon), promptly vomited, then hiked uphill to a picture perfect lake where a new friend floated in a unicorn raft while I watched from a hammock strung between two Ponderosa pines.

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Then I picked up some Pacific Crest Trail hitchhikers who needed a lift and ran into a family whose raft tipped in the Deschutes River rapids, waiting with them until help arrived, followed by an impromptu sing-a-long at a friend’s house. That was Saturday.

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Uncle Jesse post-10k. Show off.

Speckled between those moments were more live music, planning my first backpacking trip, skinny dipping in a lake (okay, maybe that was a spectator sport for some), and hard cider – that I did manage to keep down.

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A year ago, I was slogging away on a Masters thesis, working full-time in Corporate America, hauling my $25-a-week Trader Joe’s groceries to a third floor walk-up into a 350 square foot apartment in suburban New Jersey, scrimping and saving every penny I could. I had planned to stay in my hometown for at least three more years, until I had just the right number stockpiled in my checking account.

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Uncle Jesse finds the only place he can spread out in the tiny apartment.

A year ago, the idea of living in a place where I could hike to a new lake every day, make instant friends, and bump into neighbors on the top of a mountain (more than once), was unfathomable.

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Hey, I know you!

A year ago, I hadn’t even met the friends who would help convince me to move to Bend, Oregon, sight unseen.

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They’re very persuasive.

As I watched Steve, a stranger and Patron Saint of Pothole Navigating, climb into Erin’s Jeep and expertly back us away from certain death, I knew life had many more twists and turns in store.

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Did someone say “twists and turns”?

A short while later, the Erins and some of my other new friends toasted on the shoreline of a beautiful, almost completely private, lake. While it wasn’t the hike we’d set out to do, we couldn’t argue against our good fortune.

“To Plan B,” we said in unison.

“And Steve!”

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Steve, you really missed out. (They’re naked.)

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How has life surprised you?

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humor, Just For Fun, Kvetching

Take A Hike

Go Jules Go Take a Hike Title Graphic_29AUG2019

“Oh nooooo,” I moaned, slapping a hand to my forehead.

“What?” my sister, Lori, asked, her knuckles bone white against the steering wheel.

“I left my phone on top of the car!”

“Stop it,” she said as we rounded another butt-clenching hairpin turn.

I would have driven but my vision was, ah, obstructed.

At the last scenic overlook, I had been so distracted by taking pictures and picking up Uncle Jesse’s poop that I’d forgotten to take my phone off the roof, where I’d placed it as I’d loaded the dog back in the car.

Lori pulled over at the next viewpoint, and by the grace of Chipmunk Gods, my rubber phone case had had enough grip that my phone had stayed in place instead of flying into the Crater Lake National Park wilderness.

Mom. I’ve said it before. Get your s*&@ together.

“Should we check out the lodge?” Lori asked.

I nodded, my heart still racing. She and my niece were visiting me in central Oregon for the week, and we had decided to spend a day and night exploring the iconic landmark.

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Oh, you wanted to see more of the lake? Sorry. There was this chipmunk.

While they went to the bathroom near the gift shop, I inspected the Crater Lake Park brochure. The next day, I was planning to hike with Uncle Jesse while they went on a non-dog-friendly boat tour.

These trails are gonna be so great, Uncle Jesse!

I was excited to possibly tackle Union Peak, the park’s toughest hike, or at least scale Mount Scott, a 4.4-mile trek with a respectable elevation gain.

I simply cannot wait, Mom!

I flipped to the brochure’s hiking section and my stomach dropped. Of the 16 listed trails, only three were dog-friendly. Around parking lots. Less than a mile long.

Um…

“Looks like I’ll be going to Plan B,” I said to Lori when she got back to the car.

AND I can’t get high?

With an afternoon waterfall hike now out of the question, we decided to continue driving the heart attack-inducing, 33-mile Crater Lake Rim Drive before checking into our motel, 18 miles away.

The view from our motel.

Whispering Pines Motel was the sort of place where Betsy at the front desk scolds you for even suggesting she send an “e-lectronic mail” confirmation. Betsy handed us our key, attached to a giant log…

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and…

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…we were very, very glad we had packed extra wine.

Since it was nearing 5 o’clock, we decided to tackle dinner plans.

“Betsy said there’s a place with great pizza at Diamond Lake and we can sit outside with the dog,” Lori said. “She also told us we could come and pick out some movies on VHS. You really need to go look inside the main office, Jul.”

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One of the items for purchase in the main office.

When we got to the pizza place, Uncle Jesse and I manned the lone picnic table in the yard while Lori went inside to order. She soon returned looking triumphant.

“Well, their pizza sauce has meat – which is so weird,” she took a breath and shot me the we’re-from-New-Jersey-and-know-our-pizza look, “but they said they could do refried beans [for you] as the sauce instead.”

“Awesome, thanks,” I replied, my vegan-beggars-can’t-be-choosers hat firmly in place.

Ten minutes later, a large man bounded down the hill holding a giant red can.

“I don’t know what the hell they’re talking about in there!” he grumbled, beginning to read the ingredients on the can. We quickly realized he was the chef. “They’re trying to give you refried beans with lard instead of this tomato sauce. Last I checked vegans don’t eat lard.”

“Wow, good looking out!” I grinned.

I assured him that he was indeed correct and deserved to win whatever episode of Vegan Kitchen Wars I had inadvertently triggered. Forty-five minutes after my sister and niece had finished their meals, my food arrived.

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It was totally decent until the gnats arrived.

We spent the following hour surgically removing picnic table splinters from our hands…

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…and arrived back at the motel in time to enjoy some company right outside our door…

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…a refreshing shower…

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…and some of that new-fangled telly-vision.

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Ah, well. At least Uncle Jesse wasn’t holding a grudge.

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Not pictured: My giant bed. With me in it. And no doodle.

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Have any fun, roadside motel stories?

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Blonde Moments, humor, Kvetching, PSAs

The Mountains are Calling and I Must…NO.

Go Jules Go Title Graphic The Mountains Are Calling and I Must NO_10JUL2019

I glanced at the clock. 1:15pm PST.

No matter! I’ve still got eight hours of daylight left here in beautiful central Oregon!

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It’s 10:00pm in Oregon. Do you know where your local hard cider is?

I checked Google maps and my guidebook. Gack. Seven miles too far. I turned the car around.

When I eventually pulled into my target destination, the Green Lakes trailhead parking lot off of the Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway, I inspected the tags hanging from other cars’ rearview mirrors.

That kid at R.E.I. better have sold me the right one.

America the Beautiful Park Pass
Don’t be fooled. Apparently there are 47 different kinds of national/state/city park tags you’ll need to purchase if you want to (spoiler alert) suffer wildly.

On top of the colorful car tags, I also spotted a lot of these:

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The trailhead parking lot was nearly full, but I found an empty spot – thanks to someone who probably started their day before noon unlike some jobless hobos. I filled out a “day use voucher” (a.k.a. Evidence I Was Here Should Things Go Horribly, Horribly Awry), stuck one half in the slot beneath the signage and the other half in my backpack.

Since quitting my corporate job in March, I’d been hiking constantly. In New Jersey. Now, three weeks into my new Oregon life, I was seriously upping the ante.

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That’s how we do(odle).

The first five miles to Green Lakes, though mostly uphill, were breathtakingly scenic and only slightly buggy, with a well-marked, moderately trafficked trail.

By the time Uncle Jesse and I hit the lake and stopped to enjoy some peanuts and cherries, we were feeling bold.

“Once you’ve taken in the glory of the area, continue along the shoreline toward the east, where you’ll wrap slightly around the lake before noticing a number of side trails…” my trusty new guidebook read.

That sounds…confusing. I shook off any niggling doubts and headed east. At least, I was pretty sure it was east. Soon I found what was certainly the proper path. I persisted onward, but the lingering snow made it almost impossible to tell if I was still on a trail, let alone the right trail. I wonder what cougar tracks look like…

Every now and then we’d hit an open area and I’d gaze around hopefully. There is seriously no trail. Uncle Jesse and I bushwhacked for another seemingly endless stretch before I finally gave up. That’s it. Broken Top [mountain] is behind me, that means the water is in front of me. We’re going west (f%@&, it’s west, right?) until we hit the damn water.

The next thirty minutes felt like twelve hours, until at long last, I heard the familiar sound of rushing water.

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My Jersey self never fails to think it’s the din of ever-present highway traffic.

I spotted people on a wide, luxurious trail…on the other side of the creek. F%#&. We walked south along the water’s edge, constantly being forced back uphill to more level ground, stomping over fallen trees and coarse, woody debris. In spots where it might have been safe, if highly unpleasant, to cross, the bank on the other side was so steep, we’d never make it up to the trail.

Eventually I succumbed to our less than ideal Fate. Uncle Jesse, always eager to show off, sensed my resignation and bounded towards the water.

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It ain’t no thang!

“WAIT,” I said in my sternest Mom voice. “COME.” The water was rushing with the force of Donald Trump’s combover. Uncle Jesse stopped in his tracks, just inches from the crashing falls, and ran towards me.

I said a prayer and put both feet in. It was deeper than I thought, almost thigh-high. Okay. This is fine. It’s not so bad.

Uncle Jesse followed and immediately got scooped up by the raging current. I grabbed his collar, shocked by the water’s might. This won’t work. With not a second to spare, I gathered him in my arms, above the roaring waves, struggling to keep my balance. I made it nearly to the other side when my shin collided with something hard. A rock? A log? Holy s&#% it’s cold!

Uncle Jesse sprung out of my arms, and after a heart-attack inducing second or two, scrambled onto solid ground and up a steep hill. One more step, two, three… my head spun and my heart pounded. There. I clung to soil and suddenly realized my phone -secured in a race belt (all right, fanny pack) around my waist- had been completely submerged.

I freed it from its pouch as I crawled uphill, utterly amazed by my own stupidity.

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I suspect this will look more impressive over the coming days.

When I made it to the top, finally back on the proper trail, I looked for a place to sit down. I sucked in a few deep breaths, adrenaline coursing through my veins. You’re lucky no one is here to witness your fool self.

I decided to keep walking, glancing down at the rushing rapids. If I hadn’t caught Uncle Jesse… I tried not to think about what might have happened; the next half mile was even more treacherous than where we’d crossed.

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Quick question. Why are you so dumb, Mom?

We trudged the final, endless mile back to the car, swatting away hundreds of blood thirsty mosquitos, the pain in my left leg growing.

107…108…I did not know it was possible to sustain this many mosquito bites
and live to tell about it.

When we reached the parking lot, I peeled off my soaked, mud-covered socks and collapsed in the driver’s seat. Thirty minutes later, a dripping wet, bug-bitten, bleeding blonde could be seen purchasing several bottles of wine from the local Fred Meyer.

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And this souvenir was spotted in my trusty guidebook. (Vegan disclaimer: Many, many bugs were harmed in the making of this post, but not on purpose.)

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Had any fun run-ins with Mother Nature lately??

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Giveaway Junkie, humor, Summer is Hot, Wipe the Drool

In the Middle of the Woods…NAKED.

***Winner of my latest blog contest announced below!***

Go Jules Go title graphic In the Middle of the Woods Naked_3JUL2019

“Just past the two topless women circling the labyrinth…”

I sat in a large Adirondack chair, my chin tilted skyward. It was only 70 degrees, but the sun was determined to make an impression and I took full advantage.

“…Keep going until you hit the river, then turn left….”

I flexed my feet in the sandy grass, my calve muscles twinging.

Still with me? Okay, now keeping going until you see a yurt on your left. HI!”

I snorted, entertaining myself by imagining how I’d describe my location to friends back in New Jersey. Fleshy, human-shaped blurs passed in my peripheral vision every 10-15 seconds. Hey! Maybe my Duolingo app works off-grid…

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Me. Relaxing Taking blog notes (and selfies).

Don’t get me wrong. I know how to chill.

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See? CHILL.

But there was a lot going on here.

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By here I mean Breitenbush Hot Springs.

Never heard of it? Allow me. Breitenbush Hot Springs is a place in the middle of the Oregon woods where people go when they decide they’ve had far too much caffeine and/or clothing.

“I help coach a running and yoga retreat [there] in June! It’s right up your alley! As ‘Oregon’ as it gets! Blog fodder for days!” The Byronic Man, my oldest bloggy friend, marketed it to me late last year.

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Remember the good ol’ bloggy days?

That’s right. The Byronic Man! After eight years, we decided to meet in person for the first time under the most mundane circumstances imaginable.

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Oh. I slay me.

When the running-yoga-hot-springs-retreat topic was broached, I was prettttty sure I was calling Byronic Man’s bluff by saying, “I’m in!”

“The hot springs are ‘clothing optional,’ so we’ll be going from 0 to 60 in the getting to know you department,” he cautioned.

“Sounds like I can pack light!” I replied. “Just promise to ship my ashes back to New Jersey if there’s another cougar this year.”

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I may have had some fun with this.

It was on. I was brave now, after all. I did things like quit my job and sell all of my stuff. In fact, by the time I got to Breitenbush, I was already moved out of New Jersey and unpacked at my new apartment in Bend, Oregon – a plan that magically came together just before this intriguing hot springs retreat.

So, three days in the middle of the woods filled with nudity, shared showers, running uphill in front of strangers, and no cell service, wine or caffeine? BRING IT.

After descending a long (and I mean long) gravel driveway that gave me Maine road trip flashbacks, I checked into my Breitenbush cabin, heart in my throat. Thankfully, The Byronic Man and I had had an opportunity to meet for a beer just before the retreat, so that left only 10,327 things to worry about.

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I’m just going to say it. My hands were shaking.

The first evening kicked off with an “easy” 3-mile run.

I approached the group -ultimately 13 women and 4 men- with a big smile, hoping to make some new friends.

And you know what?

I TOTALLY DID.

I fully intended to turn this experience into a fabulous, ongoing series about how awkward and awful the whole thing was, but… it was… kinda… AWESOME. I mean, I was the only person there who wore a bathing suit, and I’m pretty sure the retreat coach has several videos of me running uphill, but… I LIKED IT. No wine or cell service in 72 hours and I’D GO BACK.

And I’m not just saying that because I lost five pounds.

I’m really sorry. I’m disappointed for both of us. But hey! I’m sure I’ll be mortified again soon!

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And the winner of THE WORLD’S BEST BEER KOOZIE AND DECK OF CARDS IS…

Encounter Soul!

Her entry begins…

The minivan was packed. Travel games galore were in easy reach of our 10, 8 & 4 year old boys. My meticulously planned itinerary was a glance away as we began our 3,000 mile, 55+ hour adventure from San Diego, CA to see my sister in Seattle, WA…”

For the rest of the tale, click here!

Encounter Soul, CONGRATS! I’ll be in touch via e-mail, and soon, this will alllll be yours:

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Blogging

The Long View: My First Cross-Country Road Trip

Go Jules Go The Log View My First Cross Country Road Trip title graphic 12JUN2019

Colorado Rocky Mountain hi-igh…” I belted at the top of my lungs, cranking up the volume. Sorry, Uncle Jesse, but this has to happen.

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S’okay. I’m used to your sh*t by now, Mom.

All right, so maybe I wasn’t actually driving through Colorado, but close-a-freaking-’nuff.

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Somewheresville, Wyoming, as seen from I-80W.

“I can’t believe you’re already in Wyoming!” Jenn texted.

“My ass can,” I fired back.

After leaving my home state, New Jersey, last Friday to embark on my very first (…and last?) cross-country road trip, I was starting to feel the burn. I was also starting to feel like I was living on borrowed time, having survived three extremely questionable roadside motels and one AirBNB in a town where Uncle Jesse and I bumped the population to 750 for the night.

Elmwood, Nebraska. …Wow, you’ve never heard of it. Huh. …What? No. I didn’t say anything. …Wait’ll Kristen at the post office hears about THIS.

As part of my latest Grand Caper -which involved quitting a very stable job and selling all of my stuff- I decided to move to central Oregon because I heard they had good beer and I still wouldn’t have to pump my own gas. Unfortunately, since they haven’t perfected teleportation and don’t ship Labradoodles who only drink ice water and hide in bathrooms because they’re scared of the dark, I was forced to drive myself.

Maybe if someone around here could pull his weight…

All in all, though, I’ve hit the jackpot. Sunny weather, friendly people, working car. I hit a few snags in Cheyenne, but my Maine road trip in April prepared me for all of that and more.

Go Jules Go car stuck in mud
Maine mud or quicksand: you be the judge.

Things I’ve learned so far, having covered New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Iowa, Nebraska, Wyoming, and (partially) Utah:

The (giant, giant) bugs on I-80 all have a death wish.

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I’ve been on a lot of highways, and I’ve never had to actually use the gas station squeegee until this trip. …Every time.

Some stereotypes are…well…

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Nebraska: Um… Yup. (Okay, in fairness, I did a quick pass through of Omaha and Lincoln, and both looked pretty great.)

Gary, Indiana is NOT what The Music Man will have you believe.

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Sorry I couldn’t get a better picture. Stopping my car would have been a baaaaad idea.

You can fit way more into a 4-door sedan than you might think.

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Photos of Cheyenne, Wyoming are invisible until an old-timey filter gets applied.

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Three days on the road turns me into a person who wears socks with sandals.

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And also a person who will tempt her dog to keep her company by giving him his own pillow.

The world is as big or small as you make it.

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OH MY GOD I HAVE A GREAT IDEA LET’S FACETIME GRAMMY!!!!!!!

As I hit the scan button on my radio for the thousandth time and massage my neck, the same thought I’d been having for days pops back up: Holy sh*t. I’m DOING THIS. I’m DRIVING -AND MOVING!- ACROSS THE COUNTRY. I remember all of the winding roads that led me to this moment and laugh. Jiggling my right leg and checking my odometer, I suddenly feel like I earned every mile and every view.

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Just For Fun, Wipe the Drool

Who Knew Connecticut Had it All

Go Jules Go I Never Knew Connecticut Had it All Title Graphic 29MAY2019Before I make the big move out west next week, two of my closest friends and I decided to spend Memorial Day weekend in one giant love fest.

We picked New Milford, Connecticut because Jenn told us to and everyone should listen to Jenn. Apparently I’ve never actually spent any time in the place just two hours from my home state, New Jersey. With Mother Nature on our side, I was shocked to discover Connecticut had it all.

WINE FOR DAYS.

NATURE FOR WEEKS.

SO MANY OPPORTUNITIES TO IMPRESS MY FRIENDS WITH MY VEGAN CULINARY PROWESS.

SO MANY OPPORTUNITIES FOR UNCLE JESSE TO IMPRESS US WITH HIMSELF (THEY LET HIM IN *EVERYWHERE*).

CHILDREN I ACTUALLY LIKED.

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“Your dog is older than me!”

GROWN-UP CHILDREN I ACTUALLY LIKED.

GOOGLE PIXEL 3 CAMERA PORN.

STORES I COULDN’T AFFORD EVEN IF I SOLD MY GOOGLE PIXEL 3.

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By the way, this photo is for sale.

FLEA MARKETS I COULD AFFORD BUT WASN’T SURE I WANTED TO.

AND LAST, BUT CERTAINLY NOT LEAST: THE MOST GLORIOUS HANDLEBAR MUSTACHE I’VE EVER SEEN.

Go Jules Go Elephants Trunk handlebar mustache 26MAY2019
The only thing wider than my smile – this beauty.

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Where have you traveled and found unexpected treasures?

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Blogging, humor, New Jersey is breathtaking

Home is Where the Start Is

Home is where the start is Go Jules Go title graphic_22MAY2019

“I haven’t gotten to bed at a reasonable hour in at least a week,” my sister, Lori, said, sliding into the driver’s seat of my car.

She pressed the “2” button on the armrest of my car door. After picking her up and explaining the floppiness of my sandals, she offered to drive the rest of the way to dinner where we were meeting a couple of friends.

My certified preowned Acura had proved worth its weight in gold over the past four years. Lori enjoyed the extra leg room her button press provided, using my car’s pre-programable driver’s seat position feature. It only allowed for two pre-programmed seat positions, and, well, I haven’t dated anyone in over two years shut up she was my number two.

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Although Jackson was definitely in the running.

Earlier in the week, one of Lori’s two indoor cats had taken off on an impromptu rumspringa, and between that, raising teenage twins, working as a 6th grade teacher, and recently cutting sugar from her diet, things were looking bleak.

“Well…I still don’t have anything to blog about for tomorrow…,” I offered meekly. “I was thinking about doing something about gratitude… Mostly since Grayson [your spoiled, jerk, OMG-I-love-him-so-much cat] is back!”

Go Jules Go Grayson the cat
“Oh that’s right. A warm bed and regularly timed meals appeal to me.”

I’ve been thinking a lot about all that I’m thankful for because many of those things I’m about to leave behind. I haven’t made any splashy announcements, but in two weeks, I leave the only state I’ve ever really called home.

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Me earlier this year, drunk thrilled to have caught the final train home to New Jersey after a New York City trip to visit a bloggy friend.

At first, signing a lease on an apartment 3,000 miles away felt amazing. I knew that feeling wouldn’t last. Because I love my life. I love my friends. I love my family. I love stupid New Jersey property taxes and stupid good bagels and the stupid feeling that I’m only ever seconds away from SOMETHING.

dear evan hansen
Today’s plans: this Broadway show. I AM SO SPOILED.

Yet at the same time I know -in that way you just DO- that moving cross-country is perfectly, exactly right. Goodbye a-hole adorable cats, goodbye #2 seat, goodbye everything bagels.

Except not really.

If quitting my corporate job in March and traveling for the past three months has taught me anything, it’s this: the world is a small place. And you’ll always have a home in it.

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Also apparently when you tell your friends you’re moving cross-country they just start buying you wine.

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Have you ever made a big move? How did it go?

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