Posts Tagged With: Redlands

Blue Bird

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The area we live in is rural.  It seems like it shouldn’t be because the Trader Joe’s is less than two miles from the house, and the nearest Target only ten minutes by car.  There is a Starbucks down the street.  But our neighborhood is bordered to the south by a fancy drainage ditch dug in the 1820s called the Mill Creek Zanja that is rimmed with eucalyptus.  There’s an empty field beyond.  To the west, we’re bordered by the orange grove side of the University of Redlands campus.  Add that to the manicured but still wild hiking trail, and it’s prime territory for critters.

We had gophers in the yard all last summer until I put chicken wire under the raised beds.  There is a hawk that makes his home in one of the eucalyptus trees nearby.  We had a family of doves try to nest in our tree last spring until they decided they didn’t like how often we used the front door.  Birds both brown and blue hop on our backyard fence. The hiking trail is forever littered with berry-filled coyote scat, and occasionally a white-tailed bunny will hop ahead of you into a bush.  House cats roam the streets. Occasionally you can hear the coyotes hunting one.

When I went out to go to work on Friday, I noticed a feather near the grapevine in our yard.  It was vibrant blue.  In fact, there was a stack of them, a pile of tiny down underneath.  No body, but obviously something got caught and torn to pieces in our yard – a bluebird.

I don’t know if it was a cat or the hawk, and there was no actual body to contend with nor any blood or gore.  But what struck me was how beautiful it was, that blue, blue pile of feathers.  The tips were striped black, and the ridge in the middle was pristine white.  They fluttered just a little in the breeze, scattering out of their neat pile and moving into hieroglyphics across the cement walkway, exposing the gray fluff underneath.

The detritus is still there.  I don’t have the heart to pick it up, and some small part of me likes to see the blue feathers, cheerful and not at the same time.  It makes me realize that even a small and unknown bird can leave something behind after it’s personal end of all things.

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A Smidge of Fall. Maybe.

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Fall in California is a precarious thing, because it’s never quite right.  I have a giant deciduous tree in my yard, and I planted the Roger’s Reds specifically because they observe the seasons.  You would think that would give me enough Fall to go on with.  Well, we’re well into October and the grape vine is still mostly green, with about 2 leaves starting to go red around the edges.  The tree is still verdant.  The purple and red sages on the walking trail Brian and I traverse every morning are blooming bright like it’s still full summer.

But if you pay close attention, we’re getting a little bit of Fall after all.  Brian and I have turned off the AC and have opened the windows, blowing the cold in with a box fan.  There aren’t any screens on the bedroom window, and that means that the kitten likes to hang half of her body out the second story if I’m not careful about closing it during the day.  Otherwise, she’s sitting in front of the screen door downstairs and chittering at the moths as they dance around the porch light.  The other two cats don’t care; they’d rather snuggle on the couch.  I have put up all the Halloween stuff, and the living room and dining room are awash in black and orange.  Just the way I like it.

Brian rolled over on Sunday morning and realized I was awake.  “If we get up now, we can probably catch the sunrise at Caroline Park,” he said.

Caroline Park is a tract of land that was left to the city in the 1930s.  It features about a mile worth of trails in a recreated sage brush environment, with a huge grass meadow on the Eastern side that isn’t connected to the other, natural park.  Brown bunnies hop through the bushes, and thousands of birds trill in the trees.  In the distance is a stunning view of the Redlands valley with mountains and sky as a frame.  It’s surrounded by a neighborhood, but it’s still exceedingly quiet.

So I threw on workout clothes, and we arrived at the little park just in time to watch the clouds over the trees turn from deep pink to bright yellow.

As we walked the trails in the new morning, I realized that it was officially Fall here, if nowhere else.  The California Buckwheat had turned black and willowy, with the auburn buds of dead flowers blooming on the entwined branches.  Some of the trees had already dropped their leaves, with only drooping yellow figs still clinging to the white bark.  We sat on a park bench, and the tree above us fluttered a speckled leaf of red and black onto my lap.

We sat there for a while, listening to the birds shout at each other in the morning, and watching the bunnies hop around, their little white tails disappearing into the bushes at the sides of the trails.  And then I went home to my green, green house.

It’s supposed to be 95 again by Friday.  One of these days I’ll get to turn on the fireplace, I hope.  I just know it isn’t going to be anytime soon.

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Ends and Beginnings

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This week has been a transition week.  Brian is taking a job right across the street from our house, starting next Monday.  Which meant, of course, that I had to drive down to Orange County (where he’s working now) and help him pack up his office.  Too much stuff for the train.  He had it mostly done when I arrived.  So we packed everything in the car and went to dinner at Taco Adobe, my favorite place in the world.

Taco Adobe is a little hole-in-the-wall Mexican food place sandwiched on a back street between two dumpy car repair yards.  There’s a derelict burger joint across the street.  But you can sit in the bright restaurant or under the blooming bougainvillea on their patio and have the tastiest meal.  They’re the first place that taught me I actually DO like enchiladas; it’s red sauce I don’t like.  They have amazing rice and tasty black beans, and their salsa is unrivaled.  Taco Adobe is one of the things I miss most about Chapman.  The other things being Leatherby Library (and it’s interlibrary loan amazingness), the way they used to pipe Christmas music through the campus speakers during break, and all of the awesome history professors.

It’s definitely the close of a huge chapter in our lives now that Brian will be gone.  There was a time when I spent more hours at Chapman (by far) than I ever did at home, between dropping Brian off at work in the mornings and staying late for ASL club meetings at night.  The campus is different now, with the Musco Center all finished, the DMAC up and running, and a new museum and all.  But it still feels the same.  It still feels like home, I realized last night as we walked to the car in the dark with the buildings shining around us.

My guess is that it probably will always feel that way.  And it definitely won’t be our last time on campus.  If nothing else we’ll see everyone at the Animation Show of Shows, and maybe at other screenings, and things like homecoming. But with Brian leaving, it feels like more the end of an era than my graduation day did.

I’m excited for the future, though.  I feel like I’ve gotten the best present in the world in the form of more Brian around the house.  He has gained back 4 hours a day in commuting time, and I think it’s going to change his life in ways he can’t even imagine yet.  There are Masters Degrees in the cards, and lots of Redlands goodness to explore.  Things are looking up.

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Book Review: Good Poems, American Places

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I mean, it’s sort of a review.  And a contemplation on America and life:

I didn’t move that far away from where I grew up and yet it still feels like a different world out here some days.  Most times that’s a good thing.  The views of bouldered green hills, snowcapped mountains, and rows of citrus make me feel like I am living in Ultimate California.  Although with my former job in my home town, I hadn’t really been able to enjoy it.

Now that I’m here, I’ve been exploring Riverside in fits and starts.  Between it and Redlands, I think this corner of the world might have been made for me.  On Tuesdays, the local movie theater screens classics.  The bakery down town has the most divine cinnamon twists.  There is a British Emporium & Tea Shop and an indie bookstore called the Cellar Door just minutes from my office.  Couple that with the civil war reenactors in Redlands, that amazing red library, and the fact that I am walking to the symphony Saturday night and I am in bliss.  I’m ready to take a walk and buy oranges at the fruit stand down the street.

For my reading challenge, I bought Garrison Keillor’s Good Poems, American Places at the bookstore last night.  It’s billed as poems for those who don’t like poetry.  I’m one of those people who scoffs at poetry, and I can support his claim because I’ve been loving it.  “The world is our consolation,” Keillor says of Americans in the introduction.  “When in disgrace with fortune and men’s eyes, we get into our car and drive.  It’s a big country.”

I was listening to someone last Saturday night tell about adventures in Uganda.  They were strange and wonderful, but I knew that it was no more than a story to me unless I somehow, by some miracle, grow deeper pockets. I am realizing while reading this collection that what I do know is America.

I know boating on a placid, icy lake to a deserted hiking spot.  I know tubing in the summer sunshine while pontoon boats rise above my head.  I know the view of the golden dome of the capital building from the high rise hotel with city lights shining brighter than stars beneath.  I know planting tomatoes in the earth in front of my semi-generic tract home, and long road trips across concrete highways.  I have seen Old Faithful burst from the ground, and I have ridden the boat to Disneyland.

The book is making me contemplative and a little melancholy, I think.  But in a good way.  There’s so much to love in this book, so many moments that I’ve also felt along with the poet.  It feels like mine in a way no other of Keillor’s Good Poems collections have.  I’m very glad I found it.

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Miscellaneous Things

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I feel like nothing happened this week, which is why there has been much radio silence over here. But when I really start to think about it there’s been a number of things:

  • I have finished draft 3 of my novel.
  • I took a diversity class at work on Transgender people and being an ally. To say it was really great seems like damning with faint praise. I learned a lot. I spent most of the day pondering the dichotomy of my love of American Girl dolls and sports, my lace tops and my refusal to wear makeup. Also, this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EFjsSSDLl8w
  • I tried out the old (but new to me) Olive Street Market in Redlands. Their sandwiches are tasty, and I have been dreaming about their sweet broccoli salad. They also have every variety of root beer known to man. I have a presentment that this will be my doom. My pocket book and my waistline will empty and expand respectively.
  • My mother gifted me two Charles Wysocki puzzles. One of them is my favorite ever. I’ve put it together at least three times and possibly more. It’s a town scene with canaries in it, and the canaries are everywhere unlikely. The other is a group of people playing croquet on a southern plantation. I finished the border this morning, and the house last night.
  • The dollhouse I’ve been building for thirteen years is now in my (real) house! I haven’t had a place to work on it since I got married, hence the 13 years… I’m thrilled to have it. I ripped the inferior staircase out of it and gave it a good clean. It will be non shell-like soon, I hope. I have wallpaper all picked out.
  • I fed the horribly neglected roses in my yard last week. There are four bushes, and they’re the only plants in the yard I don’t abhor (why Brian has a fondness for the umbrella plant, I will never know). The one we thought was mostly dead started blooming yesterday, small magenta roses about the size of a half-dollar.  

So that’s what’s going on in the sweltering suburb of Redlands. Students come back next week, and the job changes again.

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Summer Rains

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Things are settling at home. There is still a heap of boxes in the garage filled with unimportant things, like the tarot cards that I don’t quite dare throw away from the drawer in my bedside table. I have thrust so many of my high school hopes and dreams into them that if they were not full of mysticism before they must certainly be filled with some enigmatic thing now. Most of the walls have pictures leaned against them, upside down, waiting for nail and hammer. Due to the many incompetencies of the only provider in town, we don’t have internet. But we are mostly moved in to our new house. I can make tea on my stove with the vibrant blue insides. I have mowed the lawn, feeling the machine vibrate all the way up my arms and breathing in the green as I push the mower over the tufts. There are teal curtains in my bedroom, and my lavender office is my favorite room of the house.

I have been homesick for Claremont, though. I am in town every day for work, and yet it seems so distant. Perhaps it is the waffling Brian and I do at dinner time.

“Do you want to go out to eat?” I ask.

“Where?”

“I don’t know. I guess we could wander around downtown until something looks good…”

In Claremont, I could say “Sacca’s,” or “How about Dr. Grubbs?” or “Pizza n’ Such?”

In Redlands it is all foreign, and it has gone from feeling like vacation to not quite feeling like home.

Until this weekend, I thought the reason that it doesn’t quite feel like home because it is so hot in Redlands. Brian and I used to wander through the neighborhood to the Claremont Village for ice cream some nights. I was looking forward to moonlit strolls through the orange groves near our house in Redlands, but a wall of hair-frizzing heat attacks anyone brave enough to open the door, even in the evenings.

There were summer rainstorms this weekend and it made the world a lot cooler. The first was a hot sprinkling of alligator drops that brought a sweet maple-syrup smell to the air. Like when Brian used to visit his grandparents in Arizona and it would rain on the desert, he told me. I threw on my grandmother’s raincoat, Brian wore a black coat and carried a black umbrella, and we walked across campus, the hot drops still falling from the sky. There are so many nooks and crannies that I know we didn’t get into even half of them. Still, we rounded the corner of the art building to see a rusted abstract man standing amid the branches of a gray, leafy bush. There was a ceramic elephant holding a red canvas umbrella near the faculty offices. There is a building where the red shingles look like scales and Athena’s owl looks down from the middle of the porch.

Our Saturday walk was so wonderful that we decided to go again on Sunday. A black cloud loomed in the distance, but I didn’t care. A drenching and a lamppost are the only barriers between my Gene Kelly impersonation, and sometimes not even both are necessary. I love being drenched as long as I don’t have to sit in the damp clothes for hours afterward.

“We aren’t going that far,” I said.

“Let’s go to that park two blocks over,” said Brian. “The one with the big slides.”

It began to rain as we stepped onto the grass in the park. The rain was colder, coming in gusts, and the languid quality of the drops was gone.

“It’s raining!” I yelled, and I did bell kicks up the path. My shoulders became speckled darker with wet.

“Yeah, I know,” he said. And then the sky rumbled.

We took refuge in a tower above a violent yellow twisty slide. The roof leaked. The sky opened up as soon as we sat down, and showered buckets. The sky flashed.

“Did you see it? Count!” I said.

So we sat by the slide and counted how far the storm was.

“It’s getting closer,” said Brian.

“What do you want to do?”

“I don’t know, it doesn’t seem to be letting up. We’re only a couple of blocks from home.”

We climbed back down the playground equipment. I was wet through before my feet had even left the metal ladder to touch the sand below. The paths were all now rivulets of water flowing down to the wash at the base of the park. My breath steamed up my glasses, so I took them off and saw the rushing water and the puddles like an impressionist painting. It was tough work, picking a path through the rushing streams of mud and froth that ran across our path every few feet. There was no avoiding them, and so I waded through. The stairs near the Greek Theater became a waterfall, and they poured water up to my knees. We were just deciding if it was a good idea to attempt to cross the bridge over the wash when public safety pulled up in a white SUV.

“Want a ride?” the gentleman with cop mustache and graying temples asked.

“Yes please!” we said.

So we piled into the back of his car, trying unsuccessfully not to pool water on everything, and he drove us the last two blocks home.

We changed into dry clothes and cuddled up on the couch, listening to the rain still falling behind the windows. I realized that, although Redlands doesn’t yet feel like home, at no other time in my life has the California landscape been so present. Vibrant, graffiti covered freight trains race me down the freeway on my way to work every morning.   I round the bend to exit my neighborhood and there is a row of palms sheltering the orange grove that we traipsed through the other day. In the distance on three sides, brown hills recede to purple lumps beneath the sky. The sharp smell of eucalyptus is in the air. Roses bloom outside my front door.

“You know,” I said to Brian. “As stressful as this moving stuff has been, the living in Redlands part has been pretty magical.”

“Yes it has,” he agreed.

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It’s Official!

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We have officially moved in. The house is so quiet, and there is an amazing view from my bedroom window of bushy tree tops with palms rising above them, silhouetted black in the darkness.  The huge July moon peaked from behind patchy clouds last night, leaving a silver aura in the sky.  The mountains are ever present in Redlands, too.  I will round a corner and find myself staring at a vast orange grove, the brown foothills in the distance disappearing to become layers of craggy purple on the blue sky.  At night, the foothills light up like fairy dust.  I predict that I will love this place so deeply in no time at all.  I’m already infatuated.

I’m a total wimp these days.  I used to swing around 30 pound Female Court skirts on the Electrical Parade every night (those wires are heavy!), and then walk a mile or so along the parade route to make sure all the lights were chasing, not blinking, with more heavy lifting waiting at the end.  I am that hardy girl no longer.  This weekend almost killed me.  My back ached with a cold, hollow pain that is so much more than muscle fatigue.  My feet throbbed enough that it woke me up in the middle of the night with a frustrated sigh, which then also woke Brian up.

“What’s wrong?” he asked as I threw my head against the pillow.

“My feet are just throbbing,” I said.

He pulled my feet from under the blanket, drowsy and lazy, and let me drift in and out of sleep as he massaged them. They stopped throbbing. Things like this are why he gets major good husband points. It would have been a good night’s sleep if it weren’t for the nightmares of floating boxes and dire home repairs.  Oh the joys of homeownership…

The cats are also being awesome.  They have never had a house with stairs and they are slinking up and down as if they are sure to be dive-bombed by something nasty, out in the open like that.  They often yowl a satisfied call to the night, but last night they meowed soft loneliness at our bedroom door and didn’t stop until dawn.  When I went downstairs to get a drink from the kitchen, Amy followed me.  Five minutes later, Annie realized that she was alone.  Upstairs in a strange house.  She started crying again, from the fluffy place where she had been cleaning herself on my bed.

“Hey, crazy,” I yelled at her.  “We’re all down here.”  I made kissy noises, and she came trotting down the stairs, the look on her face wide eyed until she saw us.  Then, she became very intent on grooming that tail.

She’s cool.  She doesn’t need company to feel secure at all, obviously.

They both looked at me in horror when I said “goodbye cats and kittens,” and closed the door on them to go to work this morning.  I’m sure they’ll survive.

As I’m sure we’ll all survive, and thrive, in this new place and this new lifestyle. I look around every morning and think “I can’t believe I live here!” I think that’s a good sign.

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Houses, both big and little

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I am obsessed with the Tiny House movement lately.  I follow several blogs, a Facebook page devoted to pictures of tiny houses, everything Tumbleweed, and the list is growing by the day.  There is something about that lifestyle that is enchanting.  You can live in a Victorian cottage, but one that’s small and dainty.  It’s on wheels so you can drag it wherever the wanderlust dictates.  They are inexpensive, allowing many people to live debt free and in beautiful places.  I read Thoreau in high school like everyone else.  I want to suck the marrow from life and live deliberately too.

Brian and I have talked many times about not wanting a huge house, even if we could afford it.  We want enough, but no more than that.  The concept of what, exactly, is enough is a nebulous one, but I thought I was committed to non-excess.  We have been looking at houses in the Redlands area for a few weeks now and most of those have been small, generic tract homes.  That is what we thought we would end up with.

There is a plan for an 800+ square foot, 3 bedroom house on the Tumbleweed Homes website.  The B-52.  I’ve been dreaming about living in that house for a long time.  I would hire a carpenter to build everything into the house like I was living on a boat.  I would add a basement for a full laundry room and canning/root cellar area so I can be a homesteader with a huge vegetable garden somewhere outside.  Brian and I would raise our small family all on top of each other on a plot of wild land somewhere.  We would be free, and we would be happier.  Like the Ingalls family.  Green tomato pie and dancing on haystacks fill my daydreams.

This weekend I watched a documentary on Netflix about a guy, no prior building experience, who built his own tiny house in his parent’s backyard and then moved it to several gorgeous acres in the desert.  His girlfriend helped him, and it was this magical bonding experience.  There were so many interviews with other people living in tiny homes along the way.  I was left a little sad at the end of it all; not the reaction I expected.

I don’t know when, but eventually I realized that these people were living in roughly the space of my living room rug.  Well planned? Yes.  But Brian and I often feel cramped in our 600+ square foot apartment.  A lot of the problem is that we are not clean people.  Our last apartment was 400+ square feet that was always trashed, full of stacks of books and dirty dishes.  In 400+ square feet I would forget to hang up my jacket and the whole house would feel messy, because everywhere I looked there were things out of place.  One trip out of the litter box for the cat and bits of clay were spread over the entire kitchen and into the living room because they were so close together.  That was when we were behaving ourselves.  A single craft project could trash the place for weeks.  It was disheartening.

Besides my inability to be a model housekeeper, I am infamous in the plant world for my black thumb of death.  I kill the kind of plants people tell me are impossible to kill.  Houseplants, you say?  Those don’t have a chance.  I kill cacti.  I kill air plants.  I am sure that I am perfectly able to gain some rudimentary gardening skills (after all, my mother has them).  I’m equally sure that the journey is long and arduous between green reaper and homesteader extraordinaire.

And then there is the conundrum of land itself.  Have you priced land lately?  It’s so expensive!  I suppose we could build the on-wheels type of tiny home and circumnavigate some problems, but we wouldn’t be able to get permits to build anything more permanent until we owned the land.  My B-52 is not possible right now.  Brian and I priced it all out one night and found that it wouldn’t be any cheaper to live in a tiny house when all was said and done.  Maybe it would be cheaper than a mansion on the hill, but it would be about the same as our modest rent in our small apartment.

I realized also, that I really like the things that debt gives me: my elite college education, my glossy white car; the possibility of a beautiful house near orange groves with plenty of room for our family to grow.  I want Netflix, and a Target within 20 minutes of the house.  I want to be able to pick up dinner on the way home.  I can have a corgi like the one in all the blogs I follow online.  We can take pictures of them and Photoshop foam weapons into their little paws and make them run, their little stumpy legs bounding.  I can schlep groceries in my little green fiat.  I can start with not killing tomatoes, or something, and work my way up to a whole garden.  I can remember how much a loathe to quilt.

We made an offer on a house in Redlands.  The house is a block from the university on a cul-de-sac and the yard is big and weedy.  There is a vast and beautiful orange grove just three blocks away.  The house is also big at 1700 square feet.  I will have 3 toilets to pee in, if I want to.  The kitchen is HUGE.  It’s wonderful; everything I ever wanted and never thought I would get.  But here I am, the champion of enough and no more, jumping on the biggest house I can afford.  That surprised me.  It made me realize (again) that the stories I tell myself about who I am are often bunk.

But there is something about that house (that cozy, cozy house) that makes me want to cuddle up in front of the fireplace on a rainy day, and live the Tiny House Brand, semi-rural life with plenty of elbow room to spare.  Brian has already drawn up plans for our vegetable garden.  If everything goes through as it’s supposed to, I expect to be a very happy debt ridden lady.

Cross your fingers for us, okay?  We still have a lot of inspections and negotiations to go through.

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House Search

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Brian and I are looking for a house. I’ve tried to be nonchalant about it, but it’s becoming increasingly harder to do so. We think we are moving to Redlands, a history and music-obsessed, friendly town in San Bernardino County where eucalyptus line the streets and orange groves still take up city blocks. How very California of them. They are known for their small, private university and the Redlands Bowl, where people picnic and listen to music all summer under the stars. We have thought that we’ve found The House a couple of times now.

Looking for a house is a little bit terrible. It is nothing like looking at model homes or touring open houses as a looky-loo. Those I enjoy like I enjoy the Huntington Library. I can imagine living in the house (that is now an art gallery) with the grand staircase, pulling up to the pillared front door in my carriage and tucking the folds of my silk dress behind me as I step out. I can see the parties we would have on that vast lawn, white tablecloths fluttering in the breeze, the warm glow of candles, the statues of Greek Gods looking on. I can look at the tract home with the long dining room table and picture us there, lights dimmed, as I set a glowing birthday cake in front of a curly-haired child. I also know that it’s not real. It is nice to consider, but it’s okay if that never happens. Brian is infinitely better than the “boyfriend” I dreamed up when I was in high school, with his nondescript car, the fake ring he gave me, and his propensity for bringing me non-existent flowers. I assume that home ownership will be the same.

Looking for a house to own feels like a breath of hope that is strangled in possibility and what-ifs and anxiety that they won’t accept what you’re offering. The seller, whom you have never met but assume must be a penny pinching, coupon-clipping curmudgeon, holds your dream future in his hands. There are always other houses, but there is never That Exact House. You give one gasp of breath before submerging yourself into a version of your dream life and drowning there. We have only been at this for three weeks and I already want to give up as much as I want to go forward. Well, that’s not entirely true. I want to go forward just a little more than I don’t. It is the evil siren’s call of that dream future I’m drowning in, I know it.

Finding the house is the easy part, I’m told. It’s within all the paperwork and the inspections where mysterious and catastrophic things go wrong. I have a feeling I won’t be getting much sleep for a while.

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