A life not forgotten.

I'd like to say that time makes things easier, but when you had a mom like my mom, time doesn't really change anything.

I still miss her the same. I still think about her the same. I still model my life after her the same. With every milestone I have I still wish she were here to share it with me.

For those that knew my mom, she was a lover of a few things: Her relationship with God, her family, Christmas, the Peanuts, songwriting & playing the piano, Juice Plus, our cabin at Mount Hood, our pets Daisy & Sabrina (and our other cat, Lady), cinnamon rolls & coffee in the morning, the first snow of the year, going on motor home trips, big fireplaces, Timberline Lodge, hosting parties, sitting on the back deck with a BBQ in the summer time, going to Residence Inn to beat the heat when we didn't have air conditioning, house box, studying her Bible, teriyaki chicken at Edo (which is now Sarku), champagne, Mrs. Scarston cookies, homemade crescent rolls, and many, many more. 

If she were here right now we'd probably have PF Chang's take-out (hot & pepper prawns and chicken with black bean sauce), pop open a bottle of Korbel and hang out in our sweats. Those are the times that I miss. 

Happy birthday, mom. We will always love you. 

























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We made it!

What a whirlwind of an experience. 

We put an offer in for the home we fell in love with on October 4th. 

Three weeks later we faced road-block #1 with the first bank we went with. 

In early November, we switched to a new bank and waited for three weeks to hear whether we were approved or not. 

We found out on Black Friday, November 25th, that our loan was approved but had some contingencies we needed to take care of. 

After taking care of the contingencies, the bank experienced more back-ups and delays with inter-office colds and flus, processing errors and always needing something extra. 

December 12th we found out that we almost weren't going to get the house. We waited and waited and waited, hoping everything would be okay.

December 20th, we found out that it worked out after all and that we'd be able to close on December 23rd, two days before Christmas. 

We loaded up our belongings into boxes, took down our furniture, rented a moving truck and lined up friends to help, only to find out the morning of signing papers that we wouldn't be able to close that day after all (the bank took the day off for the holidays...)

Frustrated and discouraged and with no place to stay over the holidays, we decided to rent a room at a hotel and have our own "mini-Christmas" there before Christmas Eve. On our way to the hotel on the 23rd, we received a call from our real estate agent letting us know that the seller heard what happened to us and felt bad for us and decided to give us our keys early as a Christmas present. We were going to get to move in before Christmas after all!





So, we stayed overnight at the hotel, opened our pathetically wrapped presents (paper bag material and newspapers!), enjoyed coffee with a view of Portland on Christmas Eve morning and then loaded up the bed of a friend's borrowed pick-up with our bed, couch, and of course, Christmas tree. 





We were officially going to be spending Christmas Eve in our new home. 

It's very surreal to think that the first night in our first home was on Christmas Eve, and it was quite the Christmas present to wake up to! We literally had nothing but our bed and one outfit each with us, but we didn't care. We were finally in our home. :)

Friends came over to help move and paint the next day, and then on Tuesday we got the call that our home had recorded meaning we were officially official owners of our home. No more back and forth phone calls, no more bad news, no more roller-coastering, no more exasperation with the bank, no more disappointment... God was faithful and brought us an amazingly beautiful house in a great area and with a great interest rate to boot!

We are settling in comfortably, but discovering that owning a home has its own share of expenses... now that we have our home, it seems like every space needs its own "thing," from drawer organizers to stainless steel step cans, to lamps and curtains, to blinds and garage door openers and everything in between. I have to remind myself that I don't need everything for the house all at once, and I have to be okay that the house probably won't be ready inside for at least a year. :)  

I think one of the best parts about owning a home is that I can play my piano again! 

I think about what the purpose was in going through this and what God was trying to teach us. I know that I failed the patience test many times, and for that I am humbled. It was more that I couldn't deal with the ups and downs every single day, and wanted certainty one way or another. I felt like we lived in ambiguity and limbo for 2 1/2 months, and I just wanted to know what was going to happen. I know God carried us during those times, and I am mad at myself for letting stress take away some of the enjoyment of the fall season since I was checking my email and voicemail nearly 24/7 waiting for updates. 

Throughout the whole process Timothy just said, "no matter what happens, it will be good. If God doesn't want us to have the house, it only means He has something better. And if He lets us get the house, it means it was right for us. Win-win."
He was totally right, and I think I've also learned that I need to trust my husband more. 

Now we can have our friends over again! :)

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How do I know if he's the one?

Recently this week I was reading through the blog that Diane Comer (wife of Phil Comer who pastors our old church, Solid Rock) writes called, "He Speaks in the Silence." She shares some beautiful and honest thoughts and encouragement for women (and I suppose men, too), and came across one that caused me to reflect on my own life and my own marriage a lot (as many of her entries do). 

One is particular is called "Q+A: The One" (you can read it here), and is a dialogue about "How do I know if so-and-so is 'the one,'" or "what if I miss 'the one' because I'm too (x, y or z)..." or even, "I just know so-and-so is my soul mate but they don't see it yet. How can I convince them what they're missing out on or should I keep praying that God will change their heart?" 

and finally, the one most women are guilty of:

I just KNOW 'the one' for me has these qualities: 

(here's where you fill in the blank with your preferred features of choice for your future-soul-mate-partner-who-will-adore-you-and-smother-you-with-attention-and-affection-and-be-totally-hot-and-perfect...and did I mention perfect?...)

Here's what my list looked like a few years ago:

  • Tall (like over six feet)
  • Athletic (muscular, buff, football-player-like)
  • Loves to read & write
  • Plays guitar
  • College graduate & ambitious
  • Financially stable & responsible
  • Loves the outdoors
  • Makes me laugh all the time
  • Hot (come on, don't pretend like that isn't important...)
  • Fashionable
  • Cultured
  • Loves to travel
  • Affectionate & compassionate
........among a few other qualities. Basically I turned down anyone I felt like didn't meet the criteria above because they were obviously not "the one" for me.

When T. Love and I went out for the first time, (and I use the term "went out with" loosely, because it definitely was NOT a date. We literally went out to breakfast because we were going to talk middle school teaching tips & tricks), a previous relationship I was in had recently ended and I was no place even close to considering dating someone else. And definitely not someone who didn't make "the list."

What I'm about to say is meant with the most sincerest flattery, respect and admiration, so please don't misinterpret: Going out on a date with T. Love was about the furthest thing from my mind, because he only had a couple of qualities on "the list," and therefore I wasn't interested. He was a nice guy, well-liked by everyone, but kind of annoying and definitely not my type.

However, it wasn't until we sat down, ordered food and began talking that my heart began spinning and twisting inside of me. It was as if I were talking to my future and a new chapter of my life before it had even begun. Slowly, over the course of our dating relationship, qualities from my list were being peeled away and replaced by new ones that I didn't even know I needed. I realized that my previous "list" was created to just be a comfortable extension of myself; it was one in which I knew and could predict and could relate to-- not necessarily one that challenged me to overcome or that taught me things I had never known before.

I didn't know I needed someone who was incredibly tight on the little things financially so that we could afford the big things later on (vacations, furniture, a new home...); I didn't know I needed someone who told me what he was feeling exactly when he was feeling it so there were no games, no confusion, no misunderstandings; I didn't know I needed someone who was just a tiny bit taller than me so I didn't have to strain my neck kissing him; I didn't know I needed someone who can't play any instruments or sing on-key, because he enjoys being blessed by my musical abilities instead; I didn't know I needed someone who doesn't like reading books but instead subscribes to Time Magazine in order to stay up on current events; I didn't know I needed someone who is a brilliant illustrator instead of a brilliant writer so that we could partner together writing books; I didn't know I needed someone who loves the art museum and loves interpreting the meanings behind sculptures and paintings so that I can learn from that too and apply it to my own art-- I thought I just wanted someone who enjoyed three-hour lunches in Paris cafes and who knows a fine wine when he tastes it.

Basically, I had no idea I needed someone like the man I married, because he defied nearly every quality on my "list" (except for a few-- he is definitely affectionate, hot & hilarious!). While I knew he was someone I could spend the rest of my life with, it took marrying him to realize all of the things he had that I didn't even know I needed (which is nearly an every-day discovery!) and to realize that he really was perfect for me.


-------------

I write this because I was so guilty in going off of "the list" in every date and relationship I considered. Sometimes, you've gotta go with your gut instinct and if the chemistry or attraction isn't there, it just isn't. However, I'm sure I turned down a handful of guys that could have been really great relationships or even just learning opportunities because I didn't even give them a chance (which I'm of course embarrassed about now...). 

My encouragement to anyone reading this who isn't married is not to just throw your list away; however, don't define what your next relationship is going to be like by your list like I did. Let God surprise you by being open to what might come your way. It's like trying to tell your family members exactly what to get you for your birthday and Christmas, and you won't be happy or enjoy it if you get anything less. In fact, you won't even open the present unless that's what it is. Trust in the fact that God knows you intimately; He knows what you need, He knows what's best for you, and He knows who will fill your heart in marriage someday. Give Him the opportunity to do His work and in the meantime, enjoy the season that you're in because it is definitely a special time that goes quickly. 

I heard someone reference something that John Mark Comer said this year: "The minute you say 'I do,' they become 'the one.'" (or something along those lines). Don't worry about what a soul-mate looks like or not knowing who 'the one' is yet. God does.

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Best. Cooking. Website. EVER.

I discovered the goodness that is Mel's Kitchen Cafe over a year ago when my sister started making some incredible homestyle dishes. She spilled her secret and now I'm sharing it with you: Mel's Kitchen Cafe might be your new favorite "it's-Tuesday-and-I-have-no-idea-what-to-make-in-an-hour" fallback. 

I'd like to think it will be your fall-forward, cause her recipes are just that good. 

A couple of my permanent "staple" recipes are for Skillet Lasagne (I sub out the cream cheese) and the Chicken Tortellini Bake (I don't use mushrooms). I've experimented with tons of her other recipes and they have all been as equally delicious. She also typically adds something "unique" so you're not having the same chicken parmesean as everyone else on the block is having. 

She has pre-planned meals, a recipe index of all recipes & categories you might be looking for, and my personal fav, the "BEST of" list... the best mac & cheese recipe, the best brownies, the best lasagne... 

Plus, she just has a super-fun personality and is a stay-at-home mom of four. I also like her "what should I always keep in my kitchen" list... 

Check it out and let me know what you decide to make!

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Patience (and Pinterest)





I found this today on Pinterest and it was total conviction with regards to my stress and anxiety during this homebuying process. Love this quote.


Speaking of Pinterest... do you waste time (I mean ahem, "browse for inspiration") on Pinterest as much as I do?

I wouldn't say it's become an addiction, per se... however, I find Pinterest-surfing becoming a part of my nightly computer-time routine. I totally love it for it's practicality and semblance to the ripping-out-of-magazines I used to do (what did I do again with that "ideas" binder? Seemed like a good idea at the time...); however, I have yet to actually scour through my boards and put any of the ideas to good use. 

Until this winter break, of course. 

T and I found out the offer we submitted on our home had been accepted during the first week in October. A week later, we had a lazy extended weekend in Whistler planned where we filled our time doing nothing but watching Canadian design shows and HGTV, along with discovering for the first time the world of "Pinterest."

Pinterest is everything magazine-page-ripping should be, but at the ease of our fingertips. All pages are in one place, easy to find, easy to click on, easy to print / forward / share / "like" / email... well, you get the picture. In this digital need-it-now-and-in-front-of-me-asap age, Pinterest takes the beauty of magazine page ideas and has them accessible like, now. 

Plus, all of my super-stylish and trendy friends that are likeminded with me with design ideas post great ideas and cute clothes to their boards, which I can likewise share with you all as well. It's a great borrow and share and like and post free-for-all. 

Travel, beauty, recipes, quotes, photography ideas, design ideas... the works. 

Plus, you can get a pinterest link embedded in your browser, so the next time you're on realsimple.com and see a great article for DIY guest room design ideas, you can post to your own boards so friends can borrow and share and post to their boards. 

My husband actually loves Pinterest and even told me this afternoon... I'm going to run to the store. Why don't you get some paint color ideas on Pinterest while I'm gone?



You don't have to tell me twice... ;)



PS- Here is a link to my boards if you'd like to check out Pinterest for yourself or see some of the things my friends and I have been "pinning!" 

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Updates

Since it's been a couple of weeks since I've written, I thought I'd give a few updates about what's been going on in our lives. It seems every day has brought a new adventure and either a new celebration or a new frustration. However, as difficult as it's been for me, I'm trying to figure out how to remain joyful in the small things when the big things seem discouraging. I've been deliberate about not forgetting this holiday and the reason behind it, and not getting too caught up in worry to miss all of the fun happenings this season in Portland has to offer. God is good and He does only good (whether we understand what that "good" looks like or not)... and this is something I've had to remain completely focused on, even when things haven't seemed like they were going the way we wanted them to in our lives.

Update #1: Our loan was approved! After waiting 7 weeks from putting our offer in between two different lenders, we finally were approved through the awesome guys at Infinity Home Loans. Amazing company and amazing employees. The hold up (that I was growing increasingly impatient with) was because dozens of other people in our positions had submitted applications for refinancing or purchasing homes and they were majorly backed up.  It was filled with contingencies, but on that day last week that we received the news we were both majorly excited and ran to Lowe's to start picking out paint samples. :)

Update #2: Our contingencies were approved! We went through major stress this week reading through the list of things we needed to take care of before closing and one we were almost certain we couldn't do. Because of the grace of people at the bank and from God of course, they permitted the particular item holding us up to be removed from the list, so everything else checked out totally fine! That was a huge blessing to us because it would have prevented us from getting the home altogether. Hurdle #2 out of the way!

Update #3: We move in December 15th... but only if the appraisal checks out! This is our last remaining hurdle for this process as appraisals for new construction can be a bit tedious. We'll get the appraisal results next week, then if all goes well, will sign papers for closing and get our keys the 15th-- just in time for Christmas!

Our home is nearly finished with just a few touch-ups remaining overall, and we are totally excited about making it our own. I cannot even begin to believe how incredibly stressful this entire process has been and how unprepared we were for it all. We figured hey, we have money for a down payment, we make enough, we can afford the monthly payment... but no. That's definitely not been enough for financing anymore. I feel like I will finally be able to be excited and relax when the keys are in our hands... but, we're closer than we ever have been to getting our new home!

We've made sure to do fun things around Portland so far this month and had a super fun time Black Friday shopping and spending time in the city over Thanksgiving break. We got our Christmas tree, we stayed downtown at Hotel Monaco for our annual "Christmas in the City" evening (AMAZING hotel!!!), we packed our house a little, ate turkey leftovers for about 6 days... (burritos, soup, sandwiches, pasta... it's amazing what you can do with extra turkey), and slept in. 


We're currently on the hunt for fun and affordable things to do in Portland on the weekends in December... So far we've:



  • Visited a silent auction cookie & coffee party at the Beaverton City Library and won some DVDs
  • Visited Washington Square and listened to carolers
  • Went out to breakfast at Red Star Tavern in downtown Portland
  • Shopped Midnight Madness on Black Friday at Washington Square and saved (literally) over $100... worth it! 
  • Drove around listening to Christmas music in the car and looking at neighborhood Christmas lights


and it's only December 2nd! 


We are some blessed people and we totally know that. We could seriously have so many more things to worry about. 






Buying this house has completely tested us and to be honest, I've probably failed the test 9 out of 10 times. Thankfully I'm married to someone who hasn't, and I feel bad for not being like him most of the time. I feel like that's one of a million reasons why marriage is a good thing-- our spouses show us where we need to do better.


That's probably why they're called our better halves.    


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Wednesday post #2

And now for the flip-side. The side of this whole ordeal that I am going to muster all the strength within me to focus on, that's also incredibly true and real. 

Yesterday, during the first phase of our Attitude of Gratitude project in my class, eight students, their parents and myself went on a quick "delivery field trip," to drop off all of the nonperishable food items we collected for the family homeless shelter that Community Action of Hillsboro runs for families in Washington County. In total, we collected 389 items in two weeks! It was incredibly humbling to learn of this shelter, to meet some of the families, and see what life is like when you realize you're homeless. We donated things like laundry detergent, dish soap, diapers, wipes, coffee, Thanksgiving food items, hot cocoa, baby clothes, etc., all of which serves to support not only the families at the shelter, but also families in need in Washington County who are without food on the weekends or in case of emergency. Community Action's family shelter food pantry is the only after-hours emergency food pantry in all of Washington County.
We saw the faces of families at the shelter. The children living there. People who it looked like were average families you'd never suspect were homeless. People who completely broke the homeless stereotype and seemed very humbled by what their reality was. But THANK GOODNESS for organizations like Community Action who step in and help families in need, and help to protect the children involved. The shelter we visited was in a very large, old estate home in downtown Hillsboro, which you'd never suspect was a shelter. It was very homey, very clean and very cozy. Families work hard while living at the shelter (they only get a 5 week maximum stay) to work together and keep the place clean and comfortable for each other. However, all family members have to share one bedroom together with all of their belongings, as the house is only about 2000 square feet big. Up to 22 individuals are living under one roof at any given time at the shelter. These families will be spending their Thanksgiving and Christmases there, and not in their own personal home. 

We were only able to give a little bit as a class, but even a little bit helps. I know I was impacted by this organization and these families. By their faces; their humility. By the man who looked like he could have been an employee of a major company; instead, he was quietly sweeping the floor with his young son by his side. By the efforts of coziness and normalcy that the shelter attempts to provide, and by the work of people pitching in together to help each other out.

I am thankful for my tiny apartment with a heater going, blankets, privacy and for having a roof over my head. 

I am thankful for the huge meal I bought and ate with my family tonight for Thanksgiving, and for the company there tonight: for the blessing my grandparents are to me and how they stepped up to be what my sister and I needed after our mom died. For my god-mother, Mary Jane, who embraced me as her own daughter and was the kind of mom I needed after I lost mine. For my husband, who protects me. For my niece and nephew and the joy and vibrancy they bring to my life. For my sister, who is all that I have left from our past and who understands our loss to the same degree that I do; and for Ashley, who is the kind of good friend my sister needs right now while she's sorting her own life out. 

I am thankful that I have so many family members who love me. For the meal with my other-side-of-the-family family on Sunday... Courtney, Sarah, Steve, Taylor, Bret and Ryder (and Ryan, who was working)... for the amazing food, the company, the laughter, the arguing (with Bret of course, but I always enjoy it!); from the understanding that we all have of our new family dynamics, nearly six years later. It's different, but we're still family and it works for us. We've worked hard to make it work-- and thankfully, it has. I'm grateful for that.

I'm thankful for the other-side-of-my-family, the Weiss family, where tradition unites us all as it has remained unchanged for dozens of years. Tradition on this side of my family keeps me grounded in who I am. Routine and predictability is something I desperately need at this point of my life, and the Weiss family provides it. That is something I'm incredibly thankful for. Jeopardy at 7. Thanksgiving at dad's. Black Friday shopping. Christmas morning at grandmas with "A Christmas Story" playing in the background; a breakfast of orange juice, waffles, coffee, eggs and bacon. Christmas afternoon at my dad's (stockings first, of course, with "A Christmas Story" again playing in the background). Leftovers for lunch; ham dinner at night, followed by morning-after bargain hunting on all of that Christmas decor we held out for. Unless God has other plans, this is what will happen, as it has every year the same way since before I can remember. As simple as it sounds, that predictability is part of my foundation. 

I am thankful for a husband who has the same time-off schedule that I do. That we can get coffee, read, hang out in our sweats, and that we do love being together. I really love hanging out with my husband. We fight, we make up, we fight again, we make up again. But we get each other and we love each other, and that's why it works. Not because some law or paper is binding us together, but because God made us for each other and we didn't know that until the timing was right. We are certainly not all stars and roses every day (dare I say the word couch-sleeping on this blog?)... however, the immoveable truth is that in every way shape or form, my husband is my best friend and we get over ourselves pretty quickly because that's what you have to do in marriage. Love, graciousness, patience, sacrifice and humility all take on a completely different form when you're married, and I'm so grateful for that. Marriage has completely changed me as a person, 1736% for the better. (Even if I've slept on the couch a time or three).


I'm thankful that I have a career which gives me time off with my family for the holidays. I will never forget the Thanksgivings and Christmas Eves I had to work retail. I remember the jealousy rising up; the tears stinging my eyes as I saw family after family gathering together over coffee or loading up for the road. I desperately wanted to be with my own coffee; instead, I was grinding beans and mopping floors. If I wasn't closing, I was up at 4am in order to make it to Thanksgiving dinner on time. I am SO thankful I have a job that provides well and provides time off. I will never take that for granted. 

I'm thankful that we have money for Black Friday shopping. That we can afford to buy small gifts for friends and family that we love, because we love the adrenaline and exhaustion that Black Friday brings. It's an excitement (seemingly created by retailers, but who cares?) that cannot be met any other day of the year. And I get to be a part of it. Crazy? Totally. But I'm still thankful for it. 

I'm also thankful that I have an unending support of people in my life who constantly offer me support and encouragement. From colleagues I learn from and who support me as a teacher, to Facebook friends who pop up out of the blue to send me notes that they're thinking of us. From people who have been in my life for 20+ years, to new friends who God brought at times they were needed. 

Although God may have taken away my mom and Chase for reasons I'll never know this side of eternity, one of the biggest blessings He's given me has been all of the people that have come into my life since then. Some have "adopted" me as their own daughter, some have come in to be mentors and supporters, some have been pastors, some have been friends, some have been boyfriends, some have been colleagues, some have been professors, and some have been grad school classmates. They have been exceedingly more than I could have ever expected six years ago. I am so thankful for each and every individual who has encouraged me and supported me in some way during a season in my life which I really needed it. It's something I will always treasure and appreciate.

These are all of the things on my heart and in my life that I am truly grateful for, which is more important than a dumb house, anyway.  ;)

Happy day of giving thanks for all the good things God has blessed us with, from my grateful family to yours.

(and ps. you'd better not beat me to Target tomorrow night!) ;)

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...and still waiting.

Wow. I can't believe it's been a week and a half since I last wrote. Time has flown by incredibly fast since October 1st. I remember being ecstatic about savoring the slow fall season, which is my favorite time of year. Little did I know how much our lives would change a week later. Aside from losing my mom and Chase, I've never been through anything even remotely stressful as this homebuying process has been. I feel like I want to be thankful and angry at the same time. Thankful that we have this opportunity to begin with, and angry (with myself primarily) that I have allowed stress to get the best of me. That I've allowed worry to overtake my thoughts during the day. That I check my email at least fifty times a day waiting to see if we have any word from our lender. That I keep my phone on at all times for the same reason. That I have tried thinking of plan Bs and Cs and Ds in case we don't get approved for our loan. 

I feel like I've missed out on so many things because of emails and phone calls and paperwork and waiting and stress and waiting. waiting. waiting. waiting. and waiting some more. and then still waiting. 

I completely missed October, and finally remembered it on Halloween. That month went fast. Then my birthday snuck up on me out of nowhere, and while I'm thankful that my husband did so many special things for me, I missed out on being fully present because I wondered when we were going to get "the call." And what would happen next in case we didn't get approved. 

I have started every work week with the hopeful anticipation of receiving a call; a word; an encouragement from the lender, but silence has been met on the other end. They don't have a clue as much as we don't, because there is a large back-up at the bank apparently. This has been the case for nearly two weeks. Two. weeks. of. torture. 

I'm mad at myself because I keep getting panicked. We don't have any place to go if we get denied. Two weeks is too short of time to try and secure a loan somewhere else. We had to put in our notice, and don't have plan B figured out. A hotel? Another apartment? My parents? 

I can't listen to music in the car anymore because all I do is pray, and beg, and wait, and pray, and think, and pray some more.  I want this to work out SO bad. We love the home. We love the possibility it holds for us. The neighborhood. The neighbors we've met. We understand that every good and perfect gift comes from God and that if this isn't meant to be, then something better will come around. The thing is, I don't know what to do in the meantime. Losing this house is one thing, but where will we go after that? 

I'm obviously thinking in the worst case scenario spectrum, but the confidence we once had at the beginning of this process has waned because trying to get a mortgage right now after this recession is nothing short of impossible. I am so just fervently praying for some good and speedy news from the bank. Something to help with our progress. We bought appliances... do we keep them? Do we start packing? Do we start looking somewhere else? We just need to know, good or bad. 

So the angry me is mad at myself for letting so many things steal my joy. I almost listed them all here, but I realize I need to just give it over to God. There have been so many people and instances in this process that have proven to be huge and unexpected hurdles, and it's all the strength I can muster to not become frustrated and upset at them, too. It's all so bizzare, that at the end of this, if it doesn't work out, I can only hope God gives me the peace to just look back and say, "this obviously wasn't what you had planned for us, though I'm not sure why you had us go through this."

Otherwise, hopefully we'll get a good-news phone call this week and all will be well. :)

But for those who have asked how the house process is going: still waiting.

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Transparency

This is something that's really important to me. I feel like transparency isn't for everyone; some prefer to be more guarded, some prefer to be more uninhibited. I'm a little bit down the middle. I more feel like I have things I keep private, but some things that I am entirely okay with being open about. 

I'm being transparent in that I'm admitting the reasons why I blog, why I love to write, and what I share what I do {and don't}. This is more specifically directed towards why I haven't had the desire to write on this blog lately... because I haven't been feeling like things are going well, and that's just not a good excuse. 

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I love blogging because I learn from myself. I am a teacher, but I'm also a learner. And by no means do I feel like people can learn things from my life, but perhaps some of the things I go through {continually, and in the past} can benefit someone else in what they are going through. I feel like at times, I've forged the road because I didn't really have someone's open and honest blog to read when I was going through hard times, nor did I have someone in my life who experienced loss in the way that I did when I experienced that loss. Relateability {is that an actual word?} and authenticity are huge character qualities that I value, and I want to be someone who is relatable, honest and authentic-- with the good, the bad and the ugly. 

Like yesterday. I was certainly not tooting my own horn having made a somewhat rational decision, but it was like, "Oh man. Look at the bullet that was dodged because, thank goodness, I didn't follow my flesh and emotions for once. I could have made a not-so-good situation even worse. Good thing I avoided email response and dealt with it face to face." I hope you all will have the opportunity to do the same, should you ever be in a similar situation. 

Sometimes I'll share on my blog how much I love my husband. Or how much I'm holding onto faith. Or times that we're celebrating together. Things we're excited about. Travel reviews and career developments. You know, things that are easy to talk about. 

So why haven't I been blogging as often lately? Because things haven't been so good, and I don't know what to write about. 

I realized that if I'm going to have an honest blog about how we're navigating through life, I need to be committed to it in the not-so-great times, also. Life isn't made up of great thing after an even better thing, after an amazing thing, after a, "wow, is this my life?!?!!" statement. Some blogs I read include only those times or moments, so I either worry what the heck I'm doing wrong, or am tempted with envy in the fact that, "man, their lives seem to be going so well... I wish mine were like that."
And maybe I am doing something wrong or maybe we're paying for mistakes we've made in some way, or maybe we don't have life completely figured out like other people do. Regardless of what other people choose to share, I am going to be authentic in mine that that means that there's a messy person here with stuff that happens that really stinks. When there are awesome times, I'll write about those. And when there are junk-filled times that I'm not really enjoying, I'll write about those too. 

So here's what we're currently navigating in our lives:

A home that we love, that we've been searching for for sixteen months, that we put an offer on, that was accepted, that we bought appliances for, that we've been scouring Pinterest for design-ideas for, that we applied to House Hunters for, that we visited every single day for the two weeks after offer-acceptance, bringing everyone we know with us. We relished every single first-time-new-home-buyer moment that finding this house involved... until this thing called mortgage+bank approval caught up with us. 

When we looked at this house, we got an estimate on all payment costs associated with the home before we even made an offer. We looked at the bottom line: can we afford the entire mortgage payment on one income? A solid YES. That's what we looked at and the confidence we had when we moved forward. 

We paid off all our debts (minus my student loans; T had a scholarship), we put money into savings, we cut back on travel for this year, we coordinated our lease ending, we own our own cars, we don't have kids yet, we have stable jobs (yes, it is education and yes, we don't make much... but they are career jobs, nonetheless...); we should be the ideal candidates, right?

What wasn't told to us were all of these technical hoops we'd have to jump through in order to get money loaned to us. Words like "mortgage-debt-to-income ratios" and "loan-to-value percentage" and "appraised value vs. selling price" and "5 year mortgage insurance" and "consumer credit vs. mortgage credit" and "well, even though you are not paying this car yourself, since it's in your name and you have 11 payments left until its paid off instead of 10, we can't approve you." Banks vs. mortgage brokers; inspections, appraisals, etc... Fees, fees, fees...

No one prepares you for this stuff. When you go to apply for your loan, you feel like you have a great relationship with your loan officer who knows you, knows your story, knows what you want, and then it goes into underwriting and a person only looks at you as a number and a statistic, not as a human. And then they make a decision about a very personal factor that affects the start of the next step in your life. 

The good news is that we are going through an amazing company right now where our loan is currently in underwriting (fingers crossed!), and they have treated us SO well. (We had a very bad experience prior meeting with this company with a will-remain-unnamed large world bank... NOT the route to go). If you are looking to do anything with mortgage lending or refinancing, I highly recommend Infinity Home Loans.

I feel like we've been on a gigantic emotional roller coaster, and at times I've felt like totally giving up. Timothy has said, "Megan, it's a win-win. We either get the house, or we trust that we've gone through this because God has something better for us. What could be better than His best?" 

It's very humbling when I want to grumble and groan and complain, because man. Look at the "problem" we're facing. We're trying to get a house, for goodness' sakes. It would be great not to waste money on apartment rent anymore, but we could be facing such bigger problems that we're not. God has put people in my life during this home-buying process who have reminded me that every good and perfect thing comes from Him and to keep the faith strong and not give up. I am challenging myself to be excited and optimistic through this instead of discouraged, because a home on Earth is just a temporal thing to begin with. Whatever happens, I know and trust that God has a purpose for it and it's my responsibility to just let go and see what happens. 

So that's where I'm at. Emotions will still be high, disappointment may occur, but elation and excitement could as well. I am just so thankful that we can even be going through this 'stress' right now, and that we're in a place to do so. I have a lot to be grateful for. :) 

So there's transparency for you.



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Slow to speak (for once)

I had an instance today where something happened that really bothered me and hurt my feelings. I felt the need to respond to it, so I drafted an email as a response because I didn't think I'd have time to deal with it face to face. I then got a pit in my stomach that maybe email wasn't the best way to handle it."But it needs to be said," I thought.

So I waited. I minimized the window, but still had full intention of sending it. "Maybe I just need to take a few minutes," I decided.

I walked around, did a couple of errands, and returned to the email. It had the receiver's email address typed in and everything, ready to go. 

I still didn't get a good feeling about sending it, though I felt totally justified. So, I eventually erased it and decided to just talk to them, person to person.

I am SO glad I did. Had I gone with my rash, emotional response, a whole gamut of miscommunication and misinterpretation would probably have ensued. Instead, grace could be shown and sides could be heard with full expression and nonverbal reading. 

I realized that email and Internet can be such a cowardly escape from dealing with personal conflicts, and I am so glad a relationship wasn't damaged because of my own ill-wording and expressionless text. I feel like responding to problems over email or Internet pretty much always makes the problem worse. We were able to resolve the issue quickly, understandingly, and with more honesty than words an an email would have conveyed. 

I'm thankful I went with that gut instinct-also-known-as-wisdom. I'd encourage you to resolve any and all problems face-to-face whenever you possibly can. It's like 158293 times better than email and letters that could (probably would) be misunderstood. Bring the human back to human resolution.
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Attitude of Gratitude

As a middle school teacher, I feel that it's my obligation to teach character and consideration to my students, as well as academics and critical thinking. November and December are always my favorite months because the students and I partner together in a project called "The Attitude of Gratitude." We examine our own lives and beliefs when it comes to "us" and "getting what we want," and then turn around and help out the community through donating to either a shelter, food pantry, or classroom. This year is a big undertaking because the shelter that we're donating to has a big need, but also a lot of my students come from need as well. It's a unique balance that I'm currently praying over how we can partner together and give, yet not burden families at the school who don't have much, either. 

If you would like to partner with us, we'll be supporting Community Action's family homeless shelter in November by donating Thanksgiving meals and other non-perishable food items, and we are trying to donate 1,000 items by November 22nd (we currently have 38)... 

Immediate needs are:
  • Diapers
  • Wipes
  • Bus passes
  • Baby food / formula
  • Nonperishable foods
  • Batteries
  • Coffee
  • Thanksgiving-themed foods

Then, in December, we are partnering with a local Head Start preschool classroom in Hillsboro, which is a federal program designed to provide children from high-need families with a "head start" to school before Kindergarten begins. They are taught nutrition habits, provided lunches, learn basic 

literacy skills at an earlier age and are also taught several other life skills in the program. We will be "adopting" a class of twenty students and surprising them all with new coats and a gift card for the teacher to buy supplies for the classroom. If you feel inclined to buy a new coat, donate money for a new one, or donate a gift card to Fred Meyer, we would SO appreciate your help!

Being a part of a project like this helps keep my focus on what is important-- being appreciative of what I *do* have, and not to focus or dwell on what I think I *don't* have. Please pray for us that we would be able to be a blessing to the Hillsboro community and to families in need this holiday season!

Contact me if you would like to donate or participate. :)

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NaNoWriMo

National Novel Writer's Month. 

Apparently in the writing world, NaNoWriMo is a pretty big deal and I am just now jumping on the bandwagon per the encouragement of a fellow teacher. 

From November 1 - November 30th, writers have to create a minimum-50,000 word short story / novel and once it is submitted, a complete manuscript will be compiled and mailed (winners are also selected as well). 

We all dared each other to do it, and so far I'm loving it. But that's how all "day 1s" are, right?

We're supposed to log our word count totals on our personalized websites each night, and in order to finish on time, we need to write approximately 1,500 - 1,700 a day (roughly 3 - 4 pages). I have never written that much in my life! But, I (unfortunately) challenged my students to the task and to participate in their own NaNoWriMo novel through their youth writing program.

So: my students and I are embarking on a month-long after school through NaNoWriMo, creating our own stories and trying to beat the deadlines infringed upon us by this crazy competition. The first person to beat me gets a $5 gift card to Jamba Juice! (This just puts the pressure on me to finish first!)

My novel is a fictional narrative that is somewhat close to my own personal experiences in life about a girl who grows up through tragedy, like a seed planted on rocky soil. However, I will not spoil the ending for you and instead let you read it when it's finished! My fingers will be sore from typing this novel *and* my blog in the evenings. Let's just say I'm already looking forward to December...

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Persistent faith

Man. 

Our faith is seriously in the process of being tested. We have literally been on a ginormous emotional roller coaster with our home, which comes in part from our apparent naivety in what the home-buying purchase should look like. We: looked at the bottom line, what our mortgage payments would be, could we afford it on one income (yes), what our down payment was, and what the appraised value of our home vs. the price we were paying was. We felt (and still do) confident about the particular *home*, our dream home, and what it represented for us. We thoroughly researched every nuance related to the home: what the comparable houses in the neighborhood were being paid, how many people bought homes in the neighborhood, etc. We researched mortgage rates, mortgage programs, warranties, etc. We felt SO confident about our purchase, that "us" wasn't something we thought would be a problem. 

Apparently it is. 

We've gone from watching HGTV home shows every day, planning our paint and interior design schemes and envisioning family gatherings in our living room to praying each morning, each afternoon and each evening that this home would become ours. Weird scenarios have happened to us in this process, from the banks reducing their threshold (overnight) from a 45% monthly payment vs. monthly wages down to a 41%, which knocked us out of the running, to being required to put down 10% when we only have 9% (where are we supposed to get those extra $$$$? They might as well be millions). Something that should be so EASY considering all factors on our end support a home purchase on even just *1* income, but the stringency post-recession may very well be prohibiting us from owning this home. 

I had to just cry before God today asking what we were supposed to do: Should I take these all as signs that we're not supposed to have this home and know that there is a reason for all of it? Or is He just testing our faith to trust him that He'll work something out for good and that we will get our home in the end? Every single day something happens to delay our loan processing-- needing another document, recording numbers wrong, needing to increase down payment, etc., and now we're a week and a half past where we should have been and a week and a half away from finding out of we qualify for a different loan opportunity.

Timothy and I still feel like this home is really the right one for us and we have to fight for us. We are praying for wisdom and asking God to make it clear to us if we're not supposed to own that home. But for now, we're fighting for it and doing the best that we can to remain steadfast and patient. It's just SO difficult because we really want to be connected to our home and start planning, preparing, shopping for curtains and appliances... and we have to wait. 

We would really appreciate your prayers that this new loan opportunity would work out: It's a very niche and specific loan that we actually qualify for-- a first time homebuyer, new construction, rural property loan. Our particular neighborhood actually happens to qualify for rural because it's in farm area of Washington County, and our home is new construction and we're first time home buyers. This loan approval would be a HUGE blessing, because it would actually make our payments lower than a traditional loan... it just requires a 2% up front fee which we don't have, but could trust that God would provide somehow if it's meant to be. 

Thanks for joining us on this prayer journey. It's been incredibly emotional and we are just so ready to be in our home, settled, and hosting all of you at our housewarming party. :)

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Quarterbacking

In the sake of being transparent, I am just going to let you know that I would love some prayers over our life these next couple of weeks. 

I have been waking up every morning will balled-up fists and a headache, wearily wondering what the day is going to bring. From kids trying to pick fights to family members walking out; from hopes deferred to lacking sleep, I'm just feeling incredibly weary and in need of refreshment. 

I've stopped listening to music in the morning so that I can focus and rest and pray during my commute. I'm just asking that God to give me a peace beyond anything I can imagine right now. I am not always a strong person-- I need encouragement just like everyone else.

I'm kind of feeling like a quarterback right now, running with the ball, goal in sight, but people and circumstances trying to jump on top of me, run into me, and throw me to the ground. I'm just tired. 

Two specific things you could be praying for: One, that our loan would get approved this week so that we can fully connect with our home. After our offer was accepted, we were totally excited but this loan process has been taking a very long time and we are trying not to be discouraged or lose hope. Timothy says it's a win-win, because if we're approved, we get the house, but if we're not, it means it wasn't meant to be and that God has something better. It's hard to have long-range faith, but I need to remember that. We're specifically asking for this house as the situation is so perfect for us, but we are still waiting on that final "yes," which seems like it's taking decades to receive. 

...and two, that God would just totally give me peace and allow me to be rested and refreshed in the mornings. The stress of this home purchase and the details involved, as well as many other factors have been affecting me a lot and I just want to be more patient and confident. 

--In other news, three of the four prayer requests from my previous blog have already been answered and for that I am grateful! (Especially for being able to find my glasses...) :)

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Courageous

T and I went and saw the movie "Courageous" tonight. I am still floored and stunned and speechless from it... and we've been home for an hour now. I literally couldn't talk without getting choked up for the first fifteen minutes after we left the theatre. It was the first movie in ten years that my husband cried in. Like, cried enough that when we were leaving the theatre, we both couldn't even talk to each other because we were still crying. We were still moved and challenged. 

Praise God for filmmakers with such determination and focus to produce movies about marriage and family, invest in them, and release them to the mainstream public. The theatre was filled when we went, and Courageous has been in the box office for over three weeks now. Christian media gets a bad wrap sometimes for being too hokey and cheesy, but I tell you: If you've been through something challenging and God delivered and provided for you, or if you've had a difficult time in your marriage, or experienced situations where your fathers let you down (or you feel the determination that you want to be a great father/parent to your children), "Facing the Giants," "Courageous," and "Fireproof" are movies that will encourage you in some way. 

It's so refreshing to see truth on the big screen. To see people hearing the message that their dads might have let them down or abandoned them, or they might need the strength to walk with integrity and make choices honoring to God in a movie theatre is awesome. 

For those of you who don't know what the movie "Courageous" is all about, it's from the makers of Fireproof and Facing the Giants (both great movies!), and focuses on the responsibility that fathers have in the lives of their children. It encourages fathers to be courageous, to be leaders, to be active in their faith to support and lead their families, and to not just be passive or selfish or neglectful because of busy-ness or stress. Their families need them. 

It follows a team of police officers who deal mostly with individuals on the warrant lists, many of which come from fatherless homes. Their sheriff begins researching the trends of fatherless homes, or abusive / neglectful fathers and the impact it has on children, and discovers that kids are twenty times more likely to end up in jail if they have a disconnected, abusive or neglectful father in their life. It talks about the fact that children NEED their fathers, and need fathers who will speak beauty and truth and life into them so that they can grow up assured of who they are. 

It also gives encouragement to those who do not have supportive, loving or strong fathers, or who have grown up fatherless, that they have a Heavenly Father who is far greater than any earthly father, who created us, loves us, provides for us and protects us, and that every good thing is from Him. He gives us the strength to be courageous. 

There were many tears, times of laughter, times of suspense and action, but all in all it was phenomenal filmmaking that I am absolutely going to see multiple times. The impact it could have on the fathers of our society as a whole is mind-blowing. If I had enough money to buy every person in the world a ticket, I would. So I'm just starting with my own family. :)

PLEASE see this movie if you have the time, and tell me what you thought of it. You won't be disappointed.  


 

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Boxing Match.

I am about to go and be surrounded by nine amazing, dear, close friends which is the perfect antidote to this stress. 

Our lives have felt like we're in a rollercoaster-slash-boxing match-slash-yo-yo. I thought the path to homeownership was a simple one?

At any rate, we have a few prayer requests that are currently threatening our anxiety level and we are just trying to trust God to handle the logistics. UPS loves logistics; I do not. 

1. That Prudential would get their act together and send us what we need in a timely manner. They have been a ginormous headache throughout this whole process because their communication time frames are prehistoric. Timothy is going to be an hour late for our dinner tonight because they were supposed to fax something at 4:00pm. Never did. He waited for an hour. He called back. It never showed up, so he had to leave. Wasted time. So: Prudential-- throw us a bone here and send us what we need by Monday.

2. That we would be able to pro-rate the amount of money due in December to our apartment landlord and can move out on the 17th as planned. They are asking for a whole chunk of unnecessary change to move out, and their graciousness and favor would save us a lot of money (and headache).

3. That our loan request would get approved! Everything right now is hinging on that. Our offer was submitted and approved long ago for the house, but the loan procedure has taken nearly two weeks now and it's causing us a lot of stress and anxiety. I know we need to be confident and relaxed, but we are working really hard on our end to make everything happen and getting excited, but trying not to count our chickens before they hatch.

If all of these things happened next week, one after the other, we would be some blessed people. Logistics are just reallllllllllllllllllllllllly discouraging sometimes, and your prayers for this process of ours would be SO genuinely appreciated.

(Oh. And that I would find my glasses. I have been vision impaired this entire week, and they are nowhere to be found. Even the little things matter, ya know?)   :)

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Blessings.

We've been under a bit of overwhelming stress lately, which has really reaffirmed our commitment to each other. 

We've had to define the truth of Genesis 2:24, "Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh." I don't think we realize how important this command is from the Lord until we're actually living it, nor do we realize the blessing that it holds when we realize that God is our Father and our spouse is our partner in life, no matter what else happens. It's an amazing feeling to hold fast to your partner, keep God center and stay focused on truth. 

There have been circumstances where we've had to focus on who God sees us as, who we know we are as people, and who we want to be together. 

I prayed a few days ago that God would just bless us. That He would provide light and hope and peace in our lives in the midst of our trials and that He would remind us of His presence and power. 

It's amazing how quickly He answers prayer. From our apartment lease situation being resolved to a parent calling me out of the blue to tell me how much their student enjoys having me as a teacher; from the students stopping by at the end of the day to wish me a good week, to encouraging emails from family and friends in moments we need it the most. Totally blessed beyond measure.

I'm so thankful that no matter what ups and downs life presents, God is with us. Stronger. Sovereign. Knows us better than we know ourselves, and blesses us right where we're at. Reason # 1842827164 that I am so glad I follow Jesus.

Again: friends and family, we appreciate you and all of the love and kindness and encouragement and support and generosity and fun and laughter and joy that you are to us. Thank you!

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Whistler 2011


Well. It certainly was hard to drive home Sunday morning after a peaceful and serene getaway, snuggled in the mountains of Whistler. 

Visiting Whistler has been on both of our "must-do" lists for a long time, and we never could get around to it over the summer (which is probably a good thing, because we did so much traveling then). 

Whistler's "slump season" is October, because they don't receive snowfall, but most people are back to school and not vacationing. Thus = mad $$$ discounts on hotel rooms during that time. Fortunately for us, we're only a seven hour drive away from Whistler so it's not much of a hassle to take advantage of that opportunity. 

Timothy and I stayed at a gorgeously perfect hotel called "First Tracks Lodge." We found it on Tripadvisor (which is my go-to site for hotel research), and it was ranked #4 of all hotels in Whistler. This was a good find for us because it was also the most affordable of the hotels in Whistler... win-win for us.

Oh. my. relaxation. This was probably one of the best trips I've taken in my life, and it was only three days long. T and I Pricelined a hotel in Seattle for the night on Thursday (minus a little booking hiccup + some great friends who helped compensate that loss) and were able to break up the 7 hour drive a bit. We slept in, had coffee, overlooked Lake Union from the 35th floor of the Westin and enjoyed a non-rushed morning for a change. 


Then we headed up north, crossed the border, wound our way through {totally confusing} Vancouver, admired vibrant amber and ruby-colored trees, royal blue skies, crisp air and eventually made it to our destination: Whistler Creekside. 

Whistler is divided into two parts: Creekside and the Village. Whistler Village is where the heart of all shops, restaurants and hotels are, and Whistler Creekside is about a mile away and is the more quieter, reserved sister of the town. We were totally surprised by how much of an International melting pot Whistler was, with virtually all employees being from either Europe or Australia / New Zealand. {I think they all just hang around and work part-time jobs to wait for when the snow falls again...} At any rate, we totally felt like we were at home in Europe. 

Our hotel room came fully equipped with a kitchen, fireplace, dining room table, large king bed and washer / dryer, and we never really left except to grab take-out. We loved being there! We had amazing views and it was so relaxing to sleep in, walk across the street for coffee, read our books, swim, take naps, and order more take-out. 48 hours of pure bliss. 







I was expecting the food in Whistler to blow me out of the water, but honestly, the next time we go we're just going to stop at the Walmart in Squamish (about 30 miles away) and stock up to fill our pantries. The food in Whistler is incredibly expensive and really just didn't impress me that much to go out again. 

The places we ate were "good," (however, good is the enemy of great). If you're visiting Whistler and don't have a kitchen, I really think you'll like these places:

Pasta Lupino-- (fettuccine alfredo is sooooo good; plum tomato pasta wasn't so good). Honestly, I think the only reason why I wouldn't go out for food again in Whistler is just because our kitchen is so amazing and functional and we could save a lot of money that way. I just wasn't blown out of the water with Whistler food. 

Splitz Grill -- create your own burger joint. Again, I thought they were overpriced but the fries + custom burger we had were really good. Think 5 Guys x 10 (50 guys). The staff are super friendly and their service is really efficient (though I think they stole Baja Fresh's tagline of "We don't make fast food, we make food fast"... or something like that).

Crepe Montagne -- we didn't actually eat here because we slept in too late each day and just felt like throwing our sweats on and grabbing coffee, BUT, we heard really, really good reviews about this crepe place and will definitely be visiting it on our next trip up. It's located directly next door to Pasta Lupino and across the lane from Splitz Grill (all restaurants are located in Whistler Village).

If you visit Whistler, I highly recommend staying in Whistler Creekside because it's more private and quiet, but has just as much opportunities for amenities as the Village does, just with 1/2 as many people. (Plus, there are two huge ski lifts right in the back of First Tracks Lodge hotel! Can't beat that.) Whistler Creekside has a Starbucks, an organic grocery store, a Subway, two cafes, a BBQ restaurant and a pizza restaurant (along with a few other specialty shops and ski shops). 

I am SO looking forward to going back-- hopefully soon. We would love to get a group of friends together and head up over winter break! {hint hint}






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