Life Lately: Excitement & Doubt

Grand Canyon with Colorado River

I feel like these two words pretty much sum up the last several weeks. I finally got confirmation yesterday that I will be able to move to Alabama and keep my current position with my company. As of right now, I am planning to move back in late February or early March 2018. My dad needs time to get things set up and I need time to wrap my head around the reality of actually moving! (And also, winter is the best part of Phoenix, so it makes sense to enjoy that part before heading east!)

Reality is already starting to set in. I’ve committed to moving back to and being involved with my family. There is a big part of me that feels like I’m jumping from the proverbial frying pan right into the fire. Do I really, really want to do this?? Truthfully, no, I don’t. But my grandmother needs me right now and I need to get out of Phoenix. This is just one step forward down the path I’ve finally chosen. That last sentence has become my mantra…

I’ve also just recently come to realize how much power authority involvement in my firm I will be giving up. Right now I’m in the office most every day. I can see what goes on, interact and build relationships with my coworkers, play office politics, help out with various issues, join staff meetings, bake birthday cakes, etc. etc. When I move, I’ll be a one-woman show most of the time. I’ll no doubt be back to Phoenix for a few weeks during the year for meetings and big holidays, but it’s definitely going to be a very different dynamic. I know this is a sacrifice that has to be made if I’m going to move forward with my master plan, but I don’t for one second think it’s going to be easy.

I will miss all of my coworkers, but especially my dear, sweet friend M. We do stuff outside of work on a regular basis and there’s not a single day we aren’t in each other’s office to chat about things. We’ll still chat every day (online), but it won’t be the same. I’ll also miss my Phoenix friends outside of work. I’m going back to my childhood home, but I really only have one friend there that I’m still close with. So this is going to be a pretty drastic change in social life as well. I know how this is going to sound, but it’s my truth – I would almost prefer a clean break than a half-break. Right now this is just a separation before the divorce – all of the components are still there as a reminder of what was, which is bittersweet at best.

Clouds reflected on pond with reeds, Alabama

I know that with time all of this will be the new normal, at least until the next change. I know that I’ll grow, make friends, maybe (hopefully) strengthen my family relationships, and eventually move on to the next big change. All of that calms me down when the panic sets in. I did, after all, choose to make this happen. It was, and is, my choice. I know that for my health and happiness this is the right move.

But I also feel like hiding the doubts beneath the excitement is disingenuous. May 2018 would mark 10 years in Phoenix. I haven’t lived anywhere nearly so long since I left my dad’s house. This place, these people, deserve reflection and perhaps a little remorse, for I doubt very much that I will ever move back here. As various friends have moved away over the years, I’ve been struck by how difficult it is to be the one left behind. I’d forgotten how equally hard it is to be the one moving away.

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Life Lately: Heat Wave

Phoenix weather forecast

June 20-25, 2017

OMG you guys… I went on my adventure to Spain last week with my friend, had a lovely time, then returned to the deepest level of hell. My dad would say that’s being overdramatic, but there was one day where flights were canceled because it was too hot to operate the planes!! Ugh.

Monday morning I walked into the Orange County, CA airport with a sweater on; I walked out of the Phoenix, AZ airport and lost my breath. It was so hot my eyes felt like they were shriveling up in their sockets. Yes, it is a “dry heat” – ta! for the reminder – but let me enlighten you a bit on that “dry heat” – go and turn your oven on to 400 degrees (350 will also work for a 110 example; 400 is needed for the 120 effect). I’ll wait…… When pre-heated, place your face near the door and open it. That woosh that happens when you first open the door, that’s what it felt like walking out of the airport.

And Monday wasn’t even the hottest day this week! Tuesday flights were canceled because it was too hot for the planes to operate (seriously)! By Friday there were pictures all over social media showing various things melting. Luckily, the heat wave is supposed to break tomorrow, but summer is only just getting started…

So, why am I still here? Excellent question. This will be my 9th summer in Phoenix. When I first moved here, I was actually a fan of the heat. It was, after all, a “dry heat,” which at the time was much better than the tropical humidity of Miami, FL. All I really cared about was that it was warm, sunny, and free of major natural disasters. Phoenix is my shining example of that whole “be careful what you wish for” adage. Unfortunately, every year the summers are a little more difficult for me to take. I know what’s coming, but the temperatures never fail to surprise me somehow. I suspect it’s those lovely winters that do such a fabulous job of lulling me into complacency. I have a growing respect for the methods of the snow birds (summer in the north, winter in the south).

I find that the extreme temperatures wreak havoc on my body now days. I suspect the FM is to blame for that, but I’m mostly left counting down the days til there may be a break in the heat and dreaming of winter destinations. My whole outlook on climates has done a total 180 – bring on the snow! Although I’m calling this a lesson learned and heading to more temperate climes. I can always visit colder – or hotter – places, but there’s no need to live in one or the other.

Tossa De Mar, Spain

Along the Spanish coast

Yes, ladies and (perhaps) gentlemen, after almost a decade, I finally have a plan for my future that feels right, even exciting! Tentatively, this plan is to move back home to my dad’s house early next year. In an interesting turn of events, I will be keeping my current job and working remotely. If things work out okay, we may even open an east coast office; we’ll see how that goes. My five year goal is to get myself back in grad school for an MA in English Literature. Law school was my family’s dream for me; my dream was to be an English Professor. I tried their way, now I’m keen to try my own. I also have about a hundred ideas for things to do in the meantime, thinking of which keeps me sane during the long hours of intense sunshine. I have finally landed on a plan that I’m sure about – I haven’t felt this way since college to be honest, and it’s so nice to be excited about the future again!

I think I’ve needed to take a step back to reevaluate for some time now, but I had to wait until I was ready to understand what that meant. This plan allows me to stay in my comfort zone just enough to not be afraid to move forward with it. I’ll be able to help with my grandmother, and I’m hopeful that this will be just enough change to alleviate most of the stress that triggers the FM flares. It won’t be all rainbows and butterflies, I know that. I’ve resisted moving back for 15 years; I’m well aware of what awaits me. But I’m willing to give it a go, to take this step back in order to better see what my next step forward will be. The fact that I’ll have seasons again (even if not quite so pronounced as they might be elsewhere) is just a huge bonus! (smile)

Roadway through the painted desert, Arizona

My first “featured” photo on Instagram! @instagramaz

So life lately has been a combination of naps in cool places (heat fatigue is real), daydreaming about the future, and trying to appreciate every final moment here in the desert. There’s been a fair amount of travel in there as well (smile), but that will die down now until September (yay Alaska!).

Oh yes, I suppose there’s one other thing I wanted to share today… I’ve created a photography website! I’m not quite sure to what end exactly, but I felt compelled to create a separate space for my photos. It really all started with Instagram (as things do) and snowballed from there! The site doesn’t have much on there yet, but it’s been fun getting everything set up! I’ve got quite a few post ideas for this space, which I’m planning to share now that the travel is done for awhile. Then again, they say the road to hell is paved with good intentions. I wonder if that’s how I ended up here?! (ha!) Probably best to put those good intentions into play and actually post lest I land myself in another heat wave! 😉

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Life Lately: Lucky 33

Aspen Trees, Flagstaff ArizonaWeather: Unseasonably (and record-breakingly) warm
Days til winter: Unknown

As you can see the weather outlook is back. Apparently, I was a bit optimistic in my last update back in September about that whole “yay, it’s fall!” thing. What makes me really sad about the weather is the realization that winter days here are finite and every too-warm day means one less cooler day before summer strikes again. I’m slowly moving from lovingly annoyed to downright resentful of the desert these days.

I feel like I have to at least acknowledge the whole election mess. I’ve debated writing more about the whole deal but I feel like I’ve still got a lot of thoughts to work through first. Even then I’m not sure if I’ll share or not. I do know that it’s been really disheartening to see all the negativity post-election. Perhaps if I was in a better place personally I might be able to put some kind of positive spin on it all, but right now I just don’t have it in me. Truthfully, that statement pretty much sums up how I feel about life in general right this moment.

Aspen Trees, Flagstaff Arizona

I’ve been pretty quiet the last couple months here on the blog and on other pages. I haven’t had much time to update my page or keep up with my usual reading – and I really, really miss it. I miss the interaction – every time I read a post I feel like I’m catching up with a friend and it’s been a little…lonely without that. I’m determined to re-prioritize as soon as possible, but in the meantime, just know my absence isn’t by choice.

The primary reason for the quiet is a perfect storm of maladies. My teammate at work was out the whole of October with pneumonia. It was actually pretty scary there for a week or so and I can’t tell you how relieved and grateful I am to have her back. The other issue has been my own personal health.

I’ve mentioned previously that I have fibromyalgia. I’m lucky in that my symptoms generally allow me to function fairly normally most of the time. But due to a number of things (aka “life”) I suffered a “flare” at the end of October that totally knocked me flat. Just as I was rebuilding from that I got the mother of all sinus infections that took me right back down again. And through it all I had to keep up with work while trying to keep myself and Oxford alive (he’s a very high maintenance cat). The last 6 weeks have been hard – and I am so tired.

Aspen Trees, Flagstaff Arizona

Ah but today. Today is my birthday. So, I’ve been desperately trying to keep a smile on my face and to be grateful for all of the good things in my life. Even though I’m having a hard time with positivity right now, I can always find a reason to be grateful. Gratitude has become a bit of a life preserver for me on those days I can’t pull myself out of the dark. It pulls me toward hope and that’s the best first step towards getting my head back in a positive space. So there’s my silver-lining – guess I had one in me after all! (smile)

Yeah, so this wasn’t really the birthday post I’d been planning. That one was a much perkier ode to the last year, full of positivity about the future. But this one is a more truthful account of my life lately and so I’m going to leave it as written. I’m tired and I don’t have it in me to pretend today. Besides, to paraphrase the song, “it’s my birthday and I’ll [insert verb here] if I want to…”

* Photos were taken in northern AZ back in October.

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Autumn Nostalgia

Alabama dirt road

These photos may not be the most technically adept, but when I see them I’m always reminded of home. They bring back such vivid memories of fall in southern Alabama – football games, bonfires, snuggling with boys, laughing with girlfriends, baking with my mom and grandmas, and the start of the holidays. I’m immediately a teenager again and I can still feel that same confusing tug deep in my heart for some great unknown.

This week’s challenge is “nostalgia.”

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Waterfall Quest

Bruarfoss waterfall, Iceland

When I saw the topic for this week’s photo challenge – “quest” – I immediately thought of our epic quest to find Bruarfoss waterfall. I originally found the waterfall on Instagram, but when browsing TripAdvisor for location information, it quickly became apparent that it’s not found by the less adventurous. After several wrong turns and a few alternative paths, we finally found this sign lying in the mud, pointing in the wrong direction. I won’t lie, I had mud well past my knees before we found the actual waterfall, but oh those colors! The fact that we had it all to ourselves after a long day fighting other tourists for photos was just heaven 🙂

Bruarfoss waterfall Iceland

Happy weekend everyone!!

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Kitty Dreams & Street Scenes (Morocco)

Morocco cats asleep

As I depart for the land of ice, I thought it only appropriate to share just a few more photos from last year’s adventure in the desert oasis that is Morocco. By the end of the trip, one of the running jokes was all of the photos of cats that I had on my memory cards – to this day I still refuse to apologize for a single one! Morocco seems to be a land of cats and I love it all the more for that reason. (smile) I’ve included a few of my favorite kitty shots – and a few of my favorite street scenes too!

 

 

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A Moroccan Photo Safari

camels in the Sahara Desert, Morocco

For almost a year now I’ve been searching for the words to write about my experience with the Helicon Arts Moroccan Photo Safari last October. The best way I can think to sum it up – I have been lucky enough to travel so many places in this world and to meet some amazing people; this was the best trip yet.

Morocco ended up being my destination of choice because it was on a new continent (Africa), had a safe reputation, and had always seemed magical to me. All of these reasons turned out to be totally justified – particularly the magical atmosphere! I won’t go so far as to say that Morocco is my new favorite country, but I did really enjoy my time there. I think part of my problem was how similar the landscape was to the southwest, but I will say that the culture and the people more than made up for any of my reservations on the similar landscapes. For that reason and so many others, the country will always hold a special place in my heart.

Morocco_Seaside

I knew when planning this adventure that I wanted to go on a tour. I opted for a photography tour for the experience and to meet like-minded people. I researched so many companies before I found HeliconArts, but as soon as I read the photo tour description I knew it was the one for me! It’s a British company and the groups are typically small (usually no more than 8 I believe, including the professional photographer). The price was good and the customer service was fabulous! I would definitely consider booking with them again if they decide to expand their photography tour destinations!

photographer reflection

My group ended up  being incredibly diverse – 3 Americans and 3 Brits of various backgrounds ranging from 18 to 60+. We all had different levels of experience with photography, but no one felt left behind thanks to our amazing pro. It’s an incredibly rare thing to find 1 other person you get along with on a trip like this, nevermind 5, but that’s exactly what happened here. For that week, we were a family. Those awesome people made that trip, and they also make it difficult to talk about. I miss them, but hopefully we’ll all meet again on future travels…

Morocco_AitBenHaddou13

Morocco_RoadSide2_15

Morocco_Goats

I’ve posted some of the photos here and there on the blog, but haven’t really directly addressed the trip as I had planned. I’ve decided that in lieu of formal posts, at least for now, I’ll been posting photos with mini-stories on my Instagram instead. The tour goes back to Morocco this October 1-8 and as I understand it, there are still a couple spots left. If anyone’s interested, be sure to check out HeliconArts. If you have any questions, I’m always happy to answer!

As a bonus, here’s the end of trip video we shot on our last night. I think it does a pretty good job summing up just how much fun we had – and it’s likely the only video you’ll ever see of me on here! 😉

P.S.
Don’t forget to check out my Instagram for more Moroccan fun!

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