I had so much fun on vacation, you guys. Life changing fun. I wish I could tell you all the details, but highlights will have to suffice for now.
I’ve been feeling a little bit better for the past couple of days. As much as I don’t like to talk about the bad stuff, it helps when I do. So today, instead of being pissy about being back in the Kingdom, and in celebration of my two days of no tears, I’m going to share some pictures of what may well have been the best 3 weeks of my adult life.
I’m sharing because none of it would have happened if you didn’t make it happen. I can’t explain how grateful I am, but I can show you pictures, and maybe that will be enough.
For some reason the only time I took out my actual camera on this trip was to take my baby sister’s engagement pictures…because OMG my baby sister got ENGAGED, so most of them are crappy phone pics. Crappy and fantastic. Craptastic. For those of you who follow me on Instagram, you’ll see some repeats here, but also some new stuff too. Enjoy!
My trip home started with an 8 1/2 hour layover in freezing cold (to me) Paris. When the plane touched down and I noticed that it was a gloomy, rainy day, I began to cry tears of joy. Since I was too chicken to leave the airport and explore on my own, I spent $22 on a sort of crappy Parisian breakfast at the airport and enjoyed it while wrapped up in my daughter’s pink zebra striped One Direction blanket. This tea got cold really fast, but I was in PARIS.
For the first few days of my trip I went to my Daddy’s house. That’s him manning the grill. He used to do all the cooking when we were growing up, but ever since my amazing step mom slash bff came into the picture 9 years ago, he’s happily passed the reins on over to her for everything except the actual grilling. She’s vegan but somehow makes the most amazing burgers and pot roast in the world. That’s her behind my dad…sorry Sonia. This picture was from the 4th of July.
What kind of Americans would we be if we celebrated our independence without fire and explosives?
When I go home the list of things I want to eat is usually longer than the list of people I want to see, but this year people won and I didn’t eat a lot. Except for Mexican food. I ate a LOT of Mexican food. Four times in three weeks, I believe. I have a problem.
I combined my love of people and eating one afternoon with my friend and ex cubicle mate Connie at the famous DeBrand Fine Chocolates. I consumed this chai latte float without shame or regret.
No shame or regret, because this is what I was faced with and I still only ordered a chai latte float.
Many other things happened during that couple of days at my dad’s house, including things so scandalous I couldn’t photograph them. But onto the next leg of my trip…10 days in Wild, Wonderful West Virginia.
I’m usually bored to tears when I go to visit my mom’s place. She’s usually working and most of my old friends have either moved away or moved on with their lives, so I’m usually counting down the days until I can head back to Indiana. But these 10 days…I didn’t want them to end. Most of the awesome happened in those 10 days.
For starters I did lots of driving! No word on whether or not my reproductive system has survived the damage I surely subjected it to, but it was fantastic either way. Don’t worry, I was parked for this picture.
Remember me telling you there were babies I had yet to meet? This is one of them. I finally got to meet this little dude, named Corbin, the newest member of my friend Chris’s family. You’ll hear more about Chris in a bit, but first things first…Corbin. Snot and drool and all.
I love my mom’s house because it’s peaceful and surrounded by nature. I also don’t love it because my mom is always remodeling something. Currently it’s the 160 year old house that she bought mid reconstruction. But this year her projects are tolerable and even inspiring in some ways. This is the bedroom floor, midway through its refurbishment. There’s something magical about the layers of time being sanded away to reveal beautiful wood underneath.
I got to spend a LOT of time with a special friend. You know those friends who, no matter how hard time and distance and circumstance try to tear you apart, you pick right back up where you left off? I mean, most of my friends back home fit into that definition because very few people have stuck this whole situation out with me. But this one is extra special. And while hanging out each day, I got to take in this view. We’re sitting in Ohio, and that tree covered hill in the distance is West Virginia.
My mom and I spent a lot of time together during that 10 days too. She’s thankfully (is it ok to say thankfully here?) not working so every day we got up, got dressed, and went on an adventure.
The little town I grew up in is home of the best fish sandwich in the world. I know it’s the best because I don’t eat fish and I love this sandwich. I was fortunate enough to meet with one of my readers and her husband as they passed through Wheeling and I recommended they have a fish sandwich. You’re welcome, Coleman’s. Feast your eyes, folks. That’s a famous Coleman’s fish sandwich on a bun with mayo and a side of jojo fries. My mouth is watering.
We also walked around Centre Market and checked out a few antique stores and passed by the coolest used bookstore I’ve ever seen. The sign reads as follows: “When the store is closed, please feel free to borrow them or keep them and pay me later. Anytime: if you don’t have money to buy books and need or want to read, help yourself.” The store was indeed closed, and books were hanging out on the porch, waiting for new homes.
Mom and I took an impromptu trip up to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania as well. We visited the strip district, home of quirky stores galore, including a coffee shop slash cigar lounge called The Leaf and Bean where the cigar-smoking hipster barista reignited my love of small talk with strangers. We had lunch at the famous Primanti Bros. where we ate the most gigantic sandwiches I’ve ever seen. I can still taste that sandwich, you guys. It was amazing. Yes, that’s fries AND coleslaw on the sandwich.
After lunch mom and I accidentally drove to the top of Mount Washington, saving ourselves 10 bucks on a ticket to ride the Incline. We snapped a few pictures…well, I did while my mom stood a few feet back so that she wouldn’t fall off the edge. Here’s a view of the city from the top of Mount Washington. My friends and I used to ride the train to Pittsburgh in high school and college, and I thought it was such a huge city. Compared to Riyadh, it’s teeny!
I did make my mom join me for a picture as well. Despite the fence that prevents you from plummeting to your death, she was terrified. This was a bad hair day. I don’t care.
In Wheeling I also got to hang out with the coolest 3 year old around, my niece Chloe. I’ll admit that until this summer Chloe and I did not click. But this year she and I became the best of friends and selfie takers. Here we are checking out the flowers at Oglebay Park.
I also got to spend some time with my Grandma! She and I have always had a special bond. I was her first grandchild, after all, and she’s always offered her unconditional love, even when I was a mouthy teenager and when I grew up to make some downright crazy life decisions. She is priceless to me. My mom says this is where I get my nose. I’d also like to take this opportunity to thank her for my booty. Junk in the trunk began right here, folks.
The trip with my mom to Pittsburgh was only one of THREE times I went there. On an otherwise ordinary Thursday evening my high school best friend Chris and I went for dinner and dancing. We started out at station square, a part of the city’s waterfront.
We had a delicious dinner at a place that I can’t for the life of me remember the name of because the rest of the night was that amazing. I discovered at that dinner that I apparently like asparagus. The only thing that prevented me from saying can I have fries instead of asparagus at that fancy-dancy restaurant was my pride. This was one time my fear of the judgement of others won, because asparagus is delish.
After dinner we walked around for a bit and checked out a cool water fountain music show. Here we are looking like two mothers who haven’t had a night out since they can remember and are so excited they’re not pushing strollers or saying no to ice cream for the 57th time today. This is Chris. She calls me Moo. I accidentally laughed at her when she was in the throes of brain surgery recovery. She accidentally laughed at me when I was in labor. Thick as thieves.
After dinner, Chris and I went in search of a place to dance at which point I was shocked to realize that things had changed quite a bit since my dancing days were in full swing. The first place we went had a pool on the roof. And a really cool garden on the walls. I don’t know those people and I’m sure they were wondering why I was taking their picture.
A pool on the roof with barely enough room to scoot past the other club-goers, with women wearing dangerously high heels, and copious amounts of alcohol being consumed. I’m sure if we would have stuck around long enough, we would have seen the perfect accident. But we did stick around long enough for me to decide that I could totally walk across that wall down the middle of the pool and not have to fight the crowd to get a beverage. It’s a crap picture, but it’s proof of my feat. I’m so happy I didn’t fall in.
The rest of my Pittsburgh experience will be committed to memory and/or a book someday. It was crazyawesome. And it ended with these.
I headed back to Indiana to spend the last week of my trip at my dad’s place. I spent a lot of time with my brother who had just moved back to town and I can’t explain how thankful I was for that time with him. Addiction had sadly taken him far away and made him into a person that I no longer recognized, so the time that I had with him this summer was priceless. We ate lots, he proved himself to be the perfect shopping buddy, and we even spent a night parked at the shadiest hookah lounge you’ve seen since that guy’s basement your freshman year of college. There’s never been a cooler and more inspiring little brother.
I also got to spend time with my friend Candi, who coincidentally, despite having no connection to Chris, also calls me Moo. We’ve been coworkers and have navigated affairs and surprise babies and breakups and the death of her husband together. At one point our friendship ended, but thankfully we’re back in business. We ate, went on drives, drank lots of Mountain Dew, went dancing, had a photo session, and too many other shenanigans to mention here. Please excuse my hoodie. I was cold for pretty much the entire trip.
My trip came to an end much too quickly. I spent a lot of time those last few days enjoying the weather and cherishing my family. I can’t tell you how much I miss grass….the smell of it, the beautiful deep green, and the feeling of it beneath my toes. And dandelions. Don’t kill them off, you guys. They’re so pretty.
And that green dress I am wearing in the picture is my favorite dress. I had to leave that favorite dress behind when the lady working the Delta check-in counter decided 52 pounds of luggage was acceptable, but 55 pounds was not. I’ll see you again next year, green dress.
Remember me mentioning that my baby sister got engaged?! Here’s a couple shots of her and her fiance. I hope to make it back for their wedding next year so I can show you all those pictures too.
Of course leaving is the worst part about going home, but looking back at these pictures and taking the time to share them with all of you is a great way to remember the sweetness. Remembering is the only thing that keeps me going sometimes. I’m usually pretty quiet here when it comes to the parts of my life that happen outside of my head, but it feels good to open up and share a part of my life that so many people came together to make happen.
From the bottom of my heart, thank you all so much for sending me home. I love you all.