Home for Christmas

When I left the United States one and a half years ago to start my Peace Corps journey in Moldova, I didn’t really plan to come home again until my two-plus year commitment was up.  This past summer I was talking to my grandparents and they encouraged me to come home for Christmas, and since it’s always good to listen to your grandparents, I took their advice and booked a flight home.

Being home for Christmas and just hanging out with my family and friends has been absolutely wonderful!  I love Moldova and my life there, but there really is no place like home.  The first couple days home were packed with things to do and people to see, so we spent a quiet Christmas at home, just hanging out and relaxing.  We ate comfort foods, watched a Hallmark movie, and played some cards.  In the evening, my mom’s parents came over and we celebrated my birthday with some yummy cake.

Yesterday morning, I went plowing with my dad.  We were super lucky to get a nice snowfall and have a white Christmas and we got a bit more snow the night after Christmas.  After he finished plowing, we went up to my family’s Christmas tree farm and took a nice walk through the farm.  It was a cold but calm day and everything was covered with a fresh coat of snow.  It was gorgeous!

Later in the afternoon, we celebrated “Thanksgiving” since none of us kids were home this year.  My dad’s family came over and we had a full turkey dinner.  It was delicious!  After, we opened some presents and had dessert.  My aunt gave me a beautiful ring that had been my grandma’s as well as a pair of earrings that had belonged to my great-grandmother, both of which were very special and meaningful gifts.

February Break at Home

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I was home this past week for our February break.  Usually my break lines up with my mom’s, who is a 2nd grade teacher, but this year, my break was a week later.  Oh well.  My brother came home the first weekend, and we all (well, minus my sister- she’s in South Africa for the semester!) went on a nice hike.  The rest of the week, I helped out in my mom’s classroom during math, watched lots of NCIS, relaxed, played my violin for the first time in about six months, and worked on a baby quilt (which I sadly didn’t get to finish).  I also ran into a man from my town that we just found out has been to Moldova a couple of times to advise a farmer there on better farming practices and such.  I ran track with and was friends with two of his sons during high school, so it was great to get to talk to him about the country I’ll be spending the next 2 1/2 years in!  He spoke very fondly of Moldova, and said he thought I would love it there, which is always great to hear.  I think it reassured my parents a bit too.

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I also sprained my ankle- thankfully, it was a very minor sprain.  I slipped on a bit of water in the hallway on my way to mom’s classroom and flew through the air while simultaneously twisting my ankle somehow- not really sure how that all happened, but it wasn’t too fun.  I even got to go to the nurse’s office- although I managed to convince her I did NOT need to go in the wheelchair.  I did that once in 3rd grade, and I didn’t care to repeat it as an adult (it was probably the same wheelchair!).  That time, I had hit my head pretty bad on the playground.  My mom was subbing at the school, and one of my classmates saw her and told her I was taken to the nurse in a wheelchair, causing my mom to panic and think I was badly injured.  I was actually fine, but the nurse was particularly cautious.  This time, my mom saw me fall and wasn’t too concerned about me.

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The weather was absolutely beautiful on Sunday, the day I had to drive back to college.  I think it reached the 60s and it was perfectly sunny!  Thankfully, I was able to spend a bit of time outside taking pictures on my film camera before heading back to campus.  Overall, it was a pretty decent break.  I didn’t really do a whole lot, and none of my friends were home, but I got to spend some quality time with my parents and brother, which is always nice.  Now back to the college grind!

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Walks in the Cemetery

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I live in a small town nestled in the foothills of the Catskills.  Regardless of where you are in the town, if you are outside or look out a window, you can catch a glimpse of the beautiful hills.  It’s a narrow valley, more like a bowl, and because of this, I can’t imagine living anywhere that lacks mountains or hills.  There is only one true mountain (Bearspring Mountain) visible from the town, but the other hills are just shy of being true mountains.

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In a small town like mine, there aren’t many parks.  Of the two parks we have, one is really small (gazebo and small playground), and the other is decent-sized but on the opposite side of town from where I live.  Neither are really suitable for taking walks.  My family lives near the county fairgrounds, so we often walk our dog, Maisa, there.  Lately, however, we have begun walking every night at the cemetery, which is just down the street.  This may sound weird,  but the cemetery is one of my favorite places in town.  It’s a gorgeous cemetery, with plenty of old headstones, gently rolling hills, and old trees and flowering bushes.

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This summer, my mom, dad, and I have gotten into the habit of taking Maisa for a walk there every night after dinner.  I love these peaceful walks through the cemetery, often right before dusk.  It’s quiet and peaceful, surrounded by beautiful hills.

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My favorite section is the old section.  The gravestones of the first settlers of my town are located there, along with those of many of my ancestors.  Some of the gravestones are truly beautiful.  I really love the taller ones.

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I believe Thomas L. Ogden was my great-great-great-uncle.  Lyman B. Ogden was a talented artist.  He was my great-great-uncle.

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I’ve been reading a book about the history of our small town.  It’s been really interesting to learn more about the town that my family has lived in for centuries.  It’s been fun to see a gravestone in the old section and recognize it from the book.  The book includes stories of many of the families and businesses.  Many of these people gave up everything to take the hard journey into what was then wilderness to start a new community.  They worked really hard to build their homes and later businesses.  They created farms, built mills and tanneries, ran general stores, and cut down lumber to send down the river to Pennsylvania to the sawmills.  It’s so hard to picture what my little town must have looked like so long ago.

Summer Ramblings

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This summer has been flying by so quickly!  I entered this summer with so many expectations and things I wanted to do, but I have to be honest and say that I have accomplished very little of those things.  I’m not really sure why, but I’ve really been a homebody this summer.  Besides work, I’ve gotten out of the house very little.  My summer bucket list has largely been ignored.  So what have I been doing this summer?

I did accomplish one very big to-do: my bedroom makeover.  I’m so happy with how it turned out.  The yellow dresser and curtains are among my favorite details!  I’ve also spent a lot of time with my immediate family, mostly just hanging out.  I’ve watched some tv, but not too much.  I’ve worked a lot.  I’m working at a farm store and cafe, which has been interesting.  It’s definitely kept me busy and has been rather exhausting, but as far as summer jobs go, it hasn’t been too bad.  I’ve read a few books.  I really loved The Things They Carried and Papertowns (which is currently out in theaters as well- I liked the book better).  I just finished The Sex Lives of Cannibals (I think the title is a bit misleading- it’s actually a really good book), which is a good memoir about living on a very remote and hot island in the Pacific.  I’ve picked blueberries several times, one of my favorite things to do during the summer.

I have one month left.  My work schedule is very full for the next four weeks.  I’m trying to figure out how to balance my full-time job and also have a fulfilling and great last month home.  This might be the last extended period of time that I’ll be home for awhile, so I want to be sure to make the most of it.  I’d love to go kayaking at least one more time, along with hike a bit.  I’d like to spend some time in the garden.  I’d like to clean and organize the house a bit (I know it’s weird, but I actually enjoy this).  If possible, it would be nice to go camping, even just overnight.  I also just want to relax, and spend time outside in the sun.  This is the first summer of my life that I have worked entirely inside, and I really have gotten very little sun exposure and spent very little time outside.  When I think about an ideal summer, I imagine a summer with a balance between resting (reading, writing, just sitting outside), adventuring (hiking, kayaking, exploring, traveling), and getting things done (working on the house, gardening).  I’m going to try to hit that perfect balance as much as possible this month.  Here’s to August and the last of summer!

Summer is Here!!

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Hmm…where to start?  My last weekend at school was a great one.  I hung out with friends, saw “Pitch Perfect 2”, got a lot of work done, walked, ate ice cream, sat out in the sun, and packed.  My last day of student teaching was Wednesday.  It was definitely bittersweet.  I’ve very happy that it’s now summer and that I’m home, but it was tough saying goodbye to the awesome kids and staff that made the last 6 weeks so great.  My student teaching experience could not have been better!  I loved the school, the kids were amazing, I felt like I was welcomed into the school “family” wholeheartedly, and I learned so, so much!  I will definitely miss the people I met.  On my last day, one of first graders told me, “The past 6 weeks have been the best 6 weeks of my life!”  I might have teared up a bit.

I packed my car Tuesday night and was on the road heading home with way too much stuff as soon as possible.  Seriously, way too much stuff.  Every year, I seem to accumulate more and more stuff.  I don’t know how it all fit in my dorm room.  It’s Sunday, and I’ve only made a small dent in the unpacking.  I have no clue where to put it all!  I’ve spent several hours today going through everything and also going through everything already in my room.  There’s still a long way to go.

I had a lot of money left on my meal card, so I also bought TONS of groceries at the little “grocery” store on campus to bring home- over 20 pounds of pasta, 8 boxes of cereal, and much more!  As you might imagine, finding places to store all that food in our kitchen has also proven challenging.

I start work on Tuesday.  I’m working at a little general store/cafe.  I’m excited (and the money doesn’t hurt either).  I also painted yesterday for friends and am babysitting some in the next few weeks.

I think this summer will be busy but good.  I have lots of things I want to do!