A Birth Story

So I had a baby.

And let me just say: pregnancy was weird. Not just my reaction to pregnancy, but everyone else’s as well. People get very excited around pregnant people. Then it’s all they want to talk about with you. Sometimes the comments are pleasant and appreciated, sometimes they are not. Either way, they just keep coming from colleagues, friends and strangers alike. The bigger you get, the more freely people drop comments and observations on you.

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For the entire 9 months of pregnancy, I felt like it was not reality. Every kick, every doctor’s appointment, every beat of the baby’s heart, made me feel a little bit more like this might actually happen. Making it through each week, then month, then trimester was a small victory.

Then it got to the point that I was considered “full term.”Around the time when the baby is pretty much fully baked, though it could still be more than a month before he or she is born. I was ready to be patient at that point, fully resigned to going past my due date (as is rumored to happen to most first-time moms.) But the people around me were not prepared to be patient. Very early on the comments started of, “Any day now, huh?” And, “Wow, you’re still pregnant?”

It’s a mysterious and confusing time, the end of pregnancy. After getting to the point where I could go into labor, and discovering that there were no foreseeable reasons that I wouldn’t get a chance to have a natural birth, the waiting started. I began to feel like every moment I had being child free was precious and needed to be spent getting things done or getting some sleep while I still could.

It makes you anxious, the waiting. The not knowing. Any day now could be the day your life changes forever, but it could be now or it could still be weeks away. There’s no way to know. On one hand, I had those more knowledgeable about childbirth who were convinced I would go past my due date. On the other hand, I had all these non-experts telling me I had “dropped” and that I would give birth early, they just knew it.

My mind was doing the same back and forth. Sometimes I thought it would happen early, sometimes I was convinced it was going to be later. Thinking about it constantly was so exhausting. I almost felt like complaining about it, until I realized: this is perfect. It was exactly what I wanted. Mystery, surprise, suspense. The opportunity to go into spontaneous labor. I was ready to be patient, but at the same time, was hoping it would happen soon. Not because I was very uncomfortable or hating being pregnant (it had its pros and cons) but because I just wanted to know that the baby inside me was going to make it through the whole birth experience. To see and hold the baby as a real and concrete thing, not experience him or her as a wiggle or kick or an ultrasound image. To know that there was really a baby.

Also, I was excited for the birth. Not just to meet the baby, but to have the experience. I guess I saw it as a challenge and a rite of passage, and I hoped it was something I could handle and handle well. Trevor and I had taken hours of natural birthing classes, and my expectation and hope was to have a long, drawn-out labor where I remained calm and relaxed. I pictured low lights, a warm bath, lots of changing of positions and time spent laboring at home before heading to the hospital.

I had fears about labor as well. I feared that I would go so far past my due date that I would have to be induced. I feared that the baby would not be in the proper position to come out and then I’d have to have a c-section. I feared that any number of things would go wrong that would cause medical interventions, and I wouldn’t get a chance to even try and see how I did with natural childbirth.

Isn’t it funny what we worry about? When I actually went into labor, none of that happened. It was exactly the opposite of what I had expected, and had I known, I would have had a whole host of other fears. But I didn’t know, and that’s probably a good thing.

It all started one week before my due date. I had an appointment that morning with the OBGYN. I was struggling with the idea of letting her “check” my cervix. It’s pretty routine, but I had declined two checks already since they aren’t that informative.

But the not knowing anything was killing me and the wondering was exhausting. So I decided to get checked just to at least know if my body was progressing at all or if I should continue to count on going past my due date.

So she checked me. And the news was mostly good: Baby’s head was down, I was 70% effaced and 1cm dilated. For those who don’t speak cervix, that tiny bit of progress that was a good sign, but didn’t mean that labor was impending or anything. I was glad that the head was low and that things were happening. That was enough for me.

As I got in the car to drive to work, I felt a very tiny contraction. It was the first one that actually hurt a bit (not much). I had been having a few braxton hicks (practice) contractions that just felt like pressure and not pain. So this was new. But I had read that cervical checks can often cause contractions, so I didn’t think much of it.

These pains continued pretty much all day. I worked, went out to lunch, and talked to co-workers with the pains coming fairly often. In the early afternoon, I decided to time some of them. They were coming pretty regularly at that point, but I could still talk and walk through them. I figured it was a good sign, but could either be a false start or the beginning of a very long labor.

Since it was 3pm on a Friday, I decided I’d leave work and go home and rest. I casually mentioned to some co-workers on my way out that I was having contractions, but assured them it was no big deal. They seemed concerned. I explained that it was most likely just from the appointment that morning and would probably stop soon. And that even if it was real labor, it could be hours and hours or days and days.

I got home and I was about to text Trevor when he texted me.

T: “I have band practice tonight. Do you want me to pick up some Thai food?”
Me: “Oh. I might be in labor. But Thai food sounds great.”
T: “Should I leave work now? Should I cancel practice?” (The Thai restaurant doesn’t open until 5. At this point it was close to 4.)
Me: “Don’t leave work. I’m not sure about band practice, but I am sure about curry.”
T: “Ok. Maybe go for a walk or something.”

Ha. I thought to myself. I can’t walk right now. (That should have been a clue.)

For the next hour, I tried to get myself very relaxed as we had learned in our birthing classes. It wasn’t really working that well.

I decided to go watch Gilmore Girls.

Trevor came home with the Thai food, and I was STARVING. We watched Gilmore Girls while we ate. Usually we’d watch a show that appeals to us both, but I figured with the contractions and everything, it would probably be OK if I picked the show that night. I ate quick bites of curry and took lots of breaks to breathe through contractions. Trevor was timing them and I think they were 2-3 minutes apart.

I knew I just needed to relax enough to make the pain go away. So I kept trying. It was during one of these relaxation sessions that I felt a contraction so painful that I started to believe this was really happening. And also I started shivering.

I asked Trevor to call the doula and ask her to come. He called her, but like me, she was convinced it was due to my appointment earlier and she told him we should sit tight and relax as it would probably be a while. I told him to call her back and tell her about the shivering.

I didn’t know what was said, I only noticed that suddenly Trevor had a jacket on and seemed to be gathering things from around the house. She must’ve told him we should get ready to go to the hospital.

I put myself in one of the positions we learned in our birthing class to deal with a very strong contraction, and then (according to Trevor) I popped up and very cheerily started saying, ” I had some stuff I knew I had to pack at the last minute,” and I got up to look around the house. “What was it? Oh yes! Shampoo and conditioner!” Trevor says then he heard a series of loud moans coming from the bathroom as another contraction hit.

Our doula arrived and we decided to head to the hospital. Things were getting more and more intense and I started moaning through each contraction. Trevor and I drove in his car, the doula followed.

I probably was not great company at this time. My ability to be chipper in between contractions had gone, as it seemed like they were coming non-stop. I probably sounded like an angry cow most of the way. I could feel that Trevor was feeling tense and trying to get to the hospital as soon as possible. Every bump and turn was torture. I wanted to say, “Go slowly. Take it easy.” But talking was not my thing right then.

We somehow made it to the center for women and infants and went to check in at the desk. I sat myself down and started breathing heavily, like those women in movies from the early 90s who were practicing lamaze.

T (to check-in lady): Hi. We’re here to have a baby.
Lady: Oh! Do you have a scheduled induction?
Me: [Lamaze breathing/groaning.]
T: …. No, she’s in labor.

Feeling no sense of urgency whatsoever, check in lady started wondering aloud if there even was a triage room available for us and went to ask someone.

I began feeling like I was there but not there. The intense pain made me separate a bit from reality. It felt like those times when you get really drunk and then your friends have to take care of you (anyone?)

Next thing I knew, we were heading to a room. They strapped me in a bed in order to listen to the baby’s heartbeat and to know how he or she was doing. Things were looking good. I was asked a lot of questions like, “When did this all start?”

Talking still wasn’t my thing, and why did she ask me such a hard question? Nine months ago? This morning? A few hours ago? What do mean by “all this?”

Finally she decided to do the dreaded cervical check. She reached in, and right as she did, a very unpleasant contraction started. And also my water broke. It was one of the worst moments ever.

From then it was decided that I could be put in a labor and delivery room, since I was indeed in labor. I was told I could walk there, as it would probably “feel good.” (It didn’t.)

To my surprise, everyone started acting like it was going to be a while. I was confused, because I had a feeling it was going to be over pretty quick. But, just in case, I  asked for the drugs. My doula suggested a bath instead, which I agreed to. I had been looking forward to the giant bathtub for my entire pregnancy.

As the bath was filling up, they hooked me up to all kinds of things and tried to get an IV in me, in several places, which didn’t work out too well. Someone tried to show me what all the lines meant on all the screens, and I could not have cared less. I am not sure if I was polite to that person.

I remained in my there but not there state, and a little while went by. They checked me again and declared it was time to push! There would be no bath. And somehow, at that point, my body took over and I had very little control of when/how I was pushing. My eyes were closed and I could feel about six people around me, and it seemed they each had a hand on me somewhere. I was coached and encouraged and cheered for, but there was really no point. My body was doing it all and I was just trying to hang on as best I could.

I screamed a lot, which was not what I thought I would do in the moment. It felt so nice to scream, but apparently you’re not supposed to. You’re supposed to keep your voice low. I tried.

It seemed like forever before they could see a head. Then it seemed like forever before the head was actually coming out. Then the doctor said she wanted me to get in a certain position so that I could reach down and grab the baby when he or she was born. “I don’t want to do that!” I said. Couldn’t she see I was dealing with enough already? Could she just do me this one favor and grab the baby when it comes out?

The head was out and then a second later, the entire body came out. Next thing I knew this tiny, slimy, hairy thing was placed on my chest and I was shocked. “What is it?!?” Everyone asked.

I was still trying to take it all in. It was over. There was a baby. A real baby who was pink and crying and had so much hair! And it was here. I could have drank in just that for at least a few minutes. But inquiring minds wanted to know.

Trevor looked to see what it was, and moved the umbilical cord out of the way. It was a girl!

We had arrived at the hospital at 8:00 p.m. and Edith McMorris was born at 10:14 p.m. I had left work at 3:00, eaten dinner at 6:00. And here she was.

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The Time I Met Counting Crows

The first time I saw Counting Crows in concert, I was convinced I was meant to meet them in person. By them, I mean Adam Duritz, the lead singer. By in person, I mean form an unbreakable lifelong connection.

Sadly, the friend I had gotten to come along with me to that particular concert had to work early the next morning as a nurse for premature babies and was not interested in staying after the concert to use destiny as a way to get back stage or on a tour bus. And also sadly, she was my ride home.

Fast forward almost 10 years and the Counting Crows started offering a VIP “meet and greet” package to their concert tickets. I felt like they should have called it the “Julie McGinley, this is your chance!” package. Two years ago, they were sold out before I could buy them. But this time, they were not! So, way back in April, I bought two tickets for a September concert (one for me and one for Trevor) that included the “Meet & Greet” package.

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Really, there was very little meet and almost only greet. Because we had to wait in a line of about 40 people and you barely got to shake hands with each of them and then smile for the camera before some guy was yelling, “Next!”

And I was nervous. I wanted to say something clever, witty, memorable. Something that would prove we have this connection, you know? But waiting in that line, I knew there was no way we had a connection. I was just one of those fake fans who paid money to say I met them. They didn’t care about meeting me. They didn’t want to stand there for the photo. Someone else had the idea and they were now obligated to it.

The photo got a bit awkward. I thought that if I put my arm around Adam Duritz he would at least put his arm back around me. You know, the way you do in photos with people. But I guess he didn’t think my husband would appreciate that much. As it turns out, Trevor put HIS arm around me but I leaned into Adam Duritz hardcore as he kept standing straight up with hands in his pockets as though I was not even there.

As the photo was over, and we were leaving, I panicked knowing I had to say SOMETHING.

So I finally blurted, “I used to write you messages on MySpace!”
Adam looked shocked. “You did?” He said.
“Yep. Did you read them?”
“I have no idea!”
The end.

Later, I thought of tons of interesting questions to ask, things to say, jokes to tell. But it was too late. My one chance was over. All I have now is the awkward photo.

 

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On 4/20

For me, April 20 or 4/20 will never be about marijuana. No, I’m not much of a stoner. But also it’s because saying “April 20” never sounds fun or carefree. When referencing it, for me and thousands of others, it has a much darker feeling and represents a life-changing day. A life-ending day for some.

And, yes, it’s been 16 years. I’ve lived longer after that day than I lived before it. A statement that simultaneously feels perfectly true while at the same time feels completely impossible. Kind of the same way I feel like I had both an uncommon high school experience and a completely average one.

But every year this day comes. Every stinkin’ year. I know it’s coming because I get a weird feeling in my stomach. Then my Facebook feed turns into hundreds of profile photos of Columbines. And I guess since about year 3 or 4 I thought it should not be a big deal. But no matter how much I try to make it not a big deal, it is. It just is.

And obviously it is a big deal for a lot of people. For those who lost someone. For those who watched it unfold for hours and hours. I was lucky that day. I got out quickly. I didn’t see anything. So, all these years later, it should be done.

But, it’s not.

Years later, I’ve discovered that regardless of what I did or did not see on that day, of what I did or did not experience first hand, it changed things. It proved how easily everything you think you know about the world and your life can be erased. It proved how much impact two angry, misguided, or some might say evil people can have on your life. It was a day that someone planned to murder me, and by some luck it didn’t work out. I am still here.

But it wasn’t that way for everyone. Some people died that day. People I knew or knew of. It still seems unthinkable, but in an instant, it happened.

And some people struggle with the “how”. How can this have happened? How could this have been prevented? They get wrapped up in the hows, trying to figure out who is to blame. Maybe they want to stop it from happening again. Or maybe they are just angry and need someone they can direct their anger at. It’s hard when crazy people do things that defy explanation. We can’t blame them, especially when they aren’t here anymore. So we need to try to blame who did or didn’t do anything to stop them. Who failed to recognize the crazy; to see the evil that was brewing.

Though, I’m not sure any of us wants to be the evil-spotter, do we? We’d rather hope for the best. To see the best in people and assume that things are going to be ok. Which is why, when it’s not ok, it changes us.

And that’s where I struggle sometimes. I struggle not with the “how” because I think that is almost impossible to pinpoint. I struggle with the “what now?” Not the big picture “what now?” but the micro “what now?” of my life. This happened, and I experienced it. And what do I do with it?

Does it make you stronger when something like this happens to you, around you? I often like to think so, but I’m not sure I really believe it. I find I almost have to hide my head in the sand when similar events occur or I will get buried in emotions I don’t know how to find my way out of.

So 16 years later, I am here and still affected. What I want to say is that I am stronger, better. More compassionate and kinder. I don’t know if that’s true. I am different, somehow. But I’m still waiting on the “what now?”

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That time we went to Romance Under the Sea

Valentine’s Day. A very divisive holiday.

The first Valentine’s Day that Trevor and I were together, he said about a week before the day in question, “We could celebrate Valentine’s Day. Or we could show each other we care about each other the other 364 days a year.” I got what he was saying. Valentine’s Day was not his thing. And it seems stupid and fake to show love to someone on a day when it is expected.

But…somehow the idea of him not wanting to celebrate Valentine’s Day made me want to celebrate it even more. I guess because us agreeing NOT to celebrate Valentine’s Day meant nothing was expected. It was just an opportunity to show him that I loved him, or not. And so that’s the deal for us. Mostly we just make low-key plans, and if I feel inspired then I will make or give Trevor something, with nothing expected in return, just as a chance to do something nice.

Somewhere along the line, I heard of this Valentine’s Day dinner at the Aquarium called Romance Under the Sea. It sounded both corny and awesome and I kept bringing it up to Trevor, joking at first, but then I became more and more convinced that this was something we needed to check out. But by the time we called, it was all booked!

So we had to wait until the next year to go. I called early and made our reservation. I was so excited! I pictured us in the Aquarium restaurant, surrounded by fishes and low light. A love-themed sea-like experience with soft music and candles and lots of pink and hearts while we watched the fish swim by us and enjoyed some gourmet seafood.

In reality, it was not like that. It was crowded, loud and bright. Though we had a reservation, it seemed the dining room was not exclusively used for Romance Under the Sea guests. They must’ve saved some room for the normal Aquarium patrons because mixed in were lots of families. We were dressed up and ready for a fancy dinner, while these people had been out all day in their jeans or sweat suits wrangling their toddlers and babies. Kids were running around or coloring on their menus, people were yelling.

Once it was ascertained that we were there for RUtS, I was handed a rose and we were led to our table, through the maze of loud people, where two complimentary glasses of champagne were waiting for us. We were told that there was set menu for those of us who chose to pay more to eat next to everyone else who could order whatever they liked. The room was where the big fish tanks were, and fish were swimming, but there were about 40 rows of people between us and the fish tank.

We got a bottle of some of the worst wine I’d ever tasted. Then our food was brought to us, I think it had been made a few hours before we arrived and put under a heat lamp. As we romantically tried to raise our voices enough above the noise in order to converse, suddenly “Under the Sea” began blaring and some mermaids (yes, mermaids) appeared in the fish tank where they swam-danced to the music (educational). Shortly after their performance, the mermaids had some signs that said, “Will you marry me?” and a couple, seated much more closely to the tank, got engaged. It was so romantic.

As we finished our dinner, we found out that our purchase of RUtS included admission to the Aquarium. So we took a walk around (fish were swimming, but the other animals were all asleep.)

So, I don’t think we will do anything like that again. Trevor was right, though I think I will still find ways to celebrate the made-up, completely meaningless holiday.

Romance in Space?

 

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My Golden Year

Today I am 31 and no longer 30. The year of my age matching my “lucky number” is over. I would say I am less upset about growing another year older than I am about losing the nice round number of 30.

It has been quite a year.

It started with lots of celebrations.

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At home, and in Napa.

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Then there was an engagement.

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Which turned into future in-laws meeting and bonding.

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Family Christmas.

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The selling of houses.

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The buying of houses.

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Old and new friends getting together to celebrate.

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A wedding.

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And a honeymoon.

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It was a very busy, and joyful year.

While I’m relieved to have selling a house, moving, and planning a wedding behind me, I am still sad to say goodbye to the year I turned 30.

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Let’s see what happens at 31.

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Navigating foreign lands

So far 2014 hasn’t been much for blogging. I guess I’ve been busy planning a wedding and trying to sell/buy a house. Lucky for you, I’m not here to talk about any of that! Instead, I want to go back in time to last July when Trevor and I traveled to Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands. I never blogged about this, because I am lazy. But I’ve felt inspired to share some travel stories recently, so here’s one.

After going to the Galapagos, we visited several cities on mainland Ecuador. One was called Cuenca. We had about five days to spend there, so we decided to spend one of our days to head into the mountains to go hiking.

Step One was to get on the bus to go to Cajas National Park, the setting for our hike. We hopped in a taxi and asked our driver to take us to the bus station. Our cab driver, once he discovered we spoke Spanish, complained to us about chinese-made shoes and recommended several meaty Ecuadorian dishes for us try. Then let us out of the cab near a patch of dirt on the side of the road. We tried to explain that we wanted to go to the BUS station. He assured us that was it, and we hopped out.

Sure enough, buses did come and we saw people get on and off. But all the buses going to Cajas never stopped for us. We flagged, we chased, we thought maybe they were just stopping a ways down the road and tried to run down there. No luck. Finally, a street sweeper took pity on us and showed us where the actual bus terminal was (a real building where you could buy tickets and everything.) We got on a bus, and bought just a one-way ticket because on the way back we were supposed to just get on any bus that was heading back to town.

I had read it would be colder there as the elevation would be much higher. And I also read that the park closes at dark so people don’t get lost there and freeze to death. We arrived and the cold was a bit of a shock. We bundled as best as we could and decided to do a shorter hike.

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We pretty much just hiked around that lake, which was the shortest hike you could do. The scenery was pretty, but strange, like from another planet.

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As we hiked, we warmed up a bit. We took our time and enjoyed a few snacks as we were spending about a half a day on this little excursion.

After our hike, we used the bathrooms in the visitors center and headed out to the clearly marked bus stop to try our luck with catching a ride back to town.

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We waited for about 10 minutes, and we saw a bus coming! I was starting to get cold and was excited to be on the way back to our hostel. We jumped and waived and waited at the stop, and the bus did not slow down at all. It just kept going. Confused, we continued to wait.

I became an expert at spotting the buses far up the road so that we would be ready to flag them down when they came. There was a small clearing where you could see them for a split second, then they would disappear into the curves of the mountain and not reappear until a few hundred feet up the road.

Many buses drove past us, but none stopped. We were frustrated and getting colder by the minute, but had no where else to go and no other options. So we continued to wait. I was imagining which restaurant we would eat at that night and thinking about a warm beverage.

Eventually, more people came to wait for the bus. More English-speaking tourists (who probably had the same guidebook we had, and no clue what was going on, like us.) We made small talk with them, and watched about three more buses drive right past us without stopping. Everyone else seemed pretty laid back about it, but I was beginning to panic. What if no busses stopped? Would we end up freezing to death up here? I felt really helpless. We had no one to call (and no phones that were working). We had nothing except a guide book that told us where to catch a bus. But there was nothing about what to do if no buses will stop. There was no plan B or alternate route.

We began to consider trying to get a ride with someone who was going back to town in a car and offering them some money, but the cars leaving at this point were quite few since it was getting rather late in the day, and the few that were still leaving were already full.

As it got colder and colder, I took to walking laps back and forth near the bus stop to try to keep warm.

Finally, I decided we should risk missing another bus to walk back to the visitor’s center to speak to the park ranger dude (and warm up by the fire.)

We told him how we had been unsuccessful in catching a bus and had been at it for quite a while. He said that there was one coming in 15 more minutes and if we didn’t get on that one, he would drive us back himself (I’m telling you, being able to speak the language of the country you are visiting is invaluable.)

We went back out to wait, but in no time a jeep came out of the parking lot and waived at us. It was the park ranger. Smartly, we had not mentioned to our 6-8 other English-speaking friends that the park ranger had offered to drive us back himself. So when he pulled up, they didn’t know why he was waiving us over. We ran over to his car hurriedly, and one other couple followed us. He explained that sometimes on Saturday afternoons (as this was) it’s difficult to get on a bus because they are fuller than usual. He offered us a ride to the nearest town with a local bus going back to Cuenca, and we agreed.

His car was so warm and wonderful. I was hungry, tired and cold, but most of all relieved. He drove us about 35 minutes down, explaining he had to run errands anyway. We got into a really small town where there was a bus ready to go back to Cuenca. As we exited, park ranger dude asked us for a few dollars for his trouble. Gladly, we handed over about $10 (which was good money for a taxi by Ecuadorian standards.)

We were able to hop right on a bus from there and it took us within a few blocks of where we were staying. Success! We got to know the couple who rode back with us, and they invited us to a party that evening. Unfortunately, we had to get up super early to leave for another city, so we couldn’t go. That night we simply ate a nice dinner followed by a warm beverage, and got a good night’s sleep to prepare for our next adventure with public transit.

I still wonder sometimes what happened to those other people we left waiting at the bus stop.

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Another year over

Last year, instead of a resolution, I decided I wanted a word for the year. Something that would describe my attitude toward things and hopefully influence the way the year would go. The word for 2013 was: Joy.

At times, I would forget the word and have to come back to it. Sometimes it was hard to find the joy in every situation, but for the most part, my year turned out wonderfully. Here are some of my favorite moments.

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January.

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February.

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March.

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April.

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May.

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June.

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July.

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August.

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September.

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October.

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November (first engagement photo.)

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December.

In my year of Joy, I started a new job, I moved in with and got engaged to a wonderful man, I turned 30, I did a ton of traveling, and I had some great times with friends.

For 2014, the word is (fittingly): Grateful. It will be a big year.

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