Going Back To Cali.

Just as soon as I finally sat down and told you all about our California mini-vacation, I found myself squeezed into a middle seat and headed back down south to Orange County this past weekend. 

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A week or so ago – the Saturday before Easter – I was on my way to Greenlake to meet a friend for a run, when my mom called and told me that my uncle had passed away suddenly that morning.  It was unexpected and obviously very sad and shocking. 

And despite the fact that I had never left both kids before and that everything was super last minute, I just knew that I really really wanted to be there.  So I booked my ticket, packed a bag, and said a million thank you’s to Casey for handling everything back home so that I could take off just a few days later.

In three and a half years, I have left Cullen for two short weekends away, and I have never left Graham longer than a few hours.  So I found myself sort of dazed and confused when I suddenly only needed to care for myself.

Funny how when I travel with the boys I have a million things to manage and remember, and yet we’ve never had a major travel snafu or fail.  And yet, when traveling alone and with only a small carry-on, I almost totally blew it within the first few minutes.  Casey dropped me off at the airport and I was so wrapped up in saying goodbyes and giving hugs that I trotted straight into the airport WITHOUT MY LUGGAGE.

It took about thirty seconds for me to realize it, and at that point I went flying back out onto the sidewalk screaming and waving my arms everywhere, just as Casey was pulling away.  Thankfully, he saw me and I ran over to the car, dropped a bunch of F-bombs, and then slammed the door and ran back into the airport.  Goodbye, indeed!

In a matter of a few hours I read an entire book for the first time in I don’t even know how long.  Side note – this book is hilarious, and a definite must-read for anyone who lives in Seattle (where it is set). 

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It was my dad’s older brother who passed away, and almost the entire family was there.  Aunts, uncles, cousins, second cousins, spouses, family dogs – it was so amazing to see everyone.  Other than a few people, I hadn’t seen most of these relatives since my grandparents’ memorial two years ago in Hilton Head.  Obviously I wish the occasion had been different, but I know Bob would have loved to have seen us all gathered together in celebration of his life.

We had family events and services pretty much all day on Friday, but with a few extra hours free in the morning, my cousins Sarah and Matt and I took advantage and headed to Laguna Beach to stare at the ocean. 

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The California beaches are seriously so gorgeous.  And there is something so peaceful and meditative about looking out at the water – the perfect way to spend the morning of the memorial. 

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The rest of Friday was spent remembering, reflecting, and then celebrating (because life should be celebrated!) back at my aunt and uncle’s house.  Obviously I am glossing over the private and difficult parts, as they weren’t photo appropriate and I can’t really do any of it justice with words.  But it was a wonderful day of closeness and closure, and I was so so happy I had made the journey down to be there.

On Saturday morning, despite finally having the opportunity to sleep in as long as I possible wanted – I somehow found myself on a running trail with my cousins at 7:30am.  I never regret a run, but I do regret not getting a bit more sleep when I could – ha!  We ran on a beautiful park near my cousin Lynn’s house.  And I ran six sunny miles with another cousin, Sarah!

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She does the Galloway walk/run method, which was kind of fun to try out.  I really struggle with the mental aspect of running, and I think all the walking breaks are too tempting for someone like me.  But we covered six miles which was my longest run to date, so I was happy.  I also stopped to snap a few pictures of important scenery to send back home…

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And hilariously enough, I somehow literally ran straight into my blogging buddy, Monica!  In all of Orange County (which I assume is big?) we ended up on the same trail at the same time – so fun to see her, and wish I was speedy enough that I could have kept up to run along side her for a bit.

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After the run and two giant bagels, I had time to relax at the hotel and read more of my book.  That afternoon, I headed out onto the ocean with another pod of cousins!  My cousins, Dana and Lynn, have been doing volunteer marine wildlife rescue for years and years.  We headed out on a Zodiac boat in search of salty air and marine life. 

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Apparently this is the tail end of grey whale season, and even though they have seen a few lately, the sea was pretty calm while we were out there.  We did get to see a whole bunch of sea lions and seals though, and one gorgeous dolphin.  It was plenty for me, and I was so grateful to be out on the water and surrounded by people I love who I don’t see nearly enough.

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While it was unexpected and sad, it was also a weekend that left me feeling very restored and centered.  Sometimes it takes something like death to bring a certain perspective back to life, and I returned home to find two little boys waiting for me in the airport with chocolates and flowers – and my life felt very, very full.

The funny thing is, while I went on and on about how I was worried to leave the kids for the first time – in reality, I have actually had my first trip away planned since last year.  And it is next weekend – gulp.  So I was bound to take off anyway, but now Casey got a bit of a test run. 

And it’s worth noting that he hit it out of the park.  He and the boys had a blast (as I expected they would) and by the end he was showing off and making vegan biscuits and gravy from scratch and other obnoxious things.  And so next weekend, I will jet off to Florida for three glorious days with my best friend, and I will relax knowing that it’s good for mom to get away sometimes, no matter the occasion.