Fare Thee well, Golden Coast

NOTE: The following post is a bit different than my typical pieces here. You won’t find any talk about war, which is just crazy! 🙂 However, my husband and I are packing up to leave California and start a new chapter in our lives. Our personal histories are important too, and I wanted to pay a bit of tribute to that big step and give California a proper farewell salute. I hope you all enjoy it! 

On February 3 of 2009, the city of Los Angeles got a new resident. A twenty-four-year-old hopeful who was searching for something. A lot of things, actually. I’d say one of the biggest things was nicer weather. Those Iowa winters had done me in, and I longed for sunny, salty ocean breezes, warmer days, and palm trees. Lots and lots of palm trees. Palm trees that, no matter how many years I’ve lived here, I always smile at the sight of them.

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But I wanted other things too. A career, for example. I graduated from University of Iowa in 2007. I had started there as a journalism student, but the film classes I took “just for fun” ended up turning my head. I’ll never forget the sly little smile on my professor’s face when I talked to him after class one day, and he said, “I give it two weeks.”

I raised my eyebrows. “Two weeks before I fail?”

He grinned. “Two weeks before you change your major.”

It took less than that actually. By that weekend, I had already spoken to my academic advisor and changed my major to Cinema and Comparative Literature. To this day I’m not sure how my parents felt about that. Movie making and entertainment doesn’t exactly scream “lucrative career” that will help someone pay back their mountains of student loans (but I managed that eventually). Certainly no one else in our family majored in anything like that. But I did quite well in film school, especially the screenwriting and producing classes.

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But what I really wanted to do when I moved to Los Angeles was write. It’s all I’ve ever really wanted to do. All my life, I was always scratching out something at the small writing desk in my bedroom. Poems, short stories, scary stories, and yes, screenplays too. I guess I didn’t feel like I fit into the world I was born into, so I found a lot of comfort in worlds I created myself. Especially stories that took place in distant time periods. I’ve always been a bit of an old soul. Some of my best friends in school were my teachers. I felt more at home around my grandpa and his old war buddies than I did the kids my own age.

And Los Angeles is a vortex for people like me. The whole place kind of feels like the island of misfit toys. So many people come here because they don’t really fit in anywhere else, and it gives the place an energy that’s hard to beat. It’s one of the things I will always love about this city. One of the things that will be the hardest to leave behind.

So what exactly did I find in this crazy city – one of the craziest, loudest, most crowded, and most expensive in the country? For starters, I found friends. Life-long friends. My first was a grumpy old World War II vet named Dan (get to know him by clicking here). We went to church every Sunday and bonded over sarcasm and witty sermon commentary.

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I met some friends my own age too. Girlfriends who taught this tough-talking historical tomboy the delights of a little bit of girl bonding. We went out and tore up the town together some nights, other nights we just stayed in, sipped cocktails, drooled over pretty shoes we couldn’t afford and complained about men. Although most of those fine women have now moved on to other cities and places in the world, our bond is still tight and we still talk often. On the Zoom nowadays, since that’s all the Pandemic rage. Sometimes, when there isn’t a pandemic, we even manage to visit each other – in Seattle, in London, in Switzerland.

I found family too, adding some branches to the M.B. Henry tree. The husband gets top billing. I had to work my way through some real bone-headed boyfriends to find him. We worked together on an off for about five years before I looked at him one day, really looked at him, and said to myself – “dang. There’s some husband material.” At a party in Big Bear, underneath a sky filled with gorgeous stars, my husband-to-be told me he’d liked me since the day we met. A romance was born. We got engaged just over a year later, married about a year and a half after that.

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Los Angeles also made me a bona fide cat lady. The first came from my husband (boyfriend at the time), who brought her home from the shelter as a surprise. Probably one of the few times I have ever been legitimately surprised in my life. We had gone looking together, and when I met this particular cat, she flopped on her side, let me scratch her tummy, and that was it. But as I was going through a rough patch in my career, I couldn’t quite cover the adoption fee. A few days later I went home after a grueling day at work, and my soon-to-be-husband came out of the bedroom with that cat cradled in his arms. We named her Cher-Ami, but she goes by Kitty now. Nine years later, she’s woven into the fabric of our lives. I really can’t imagine a day without Kitty’s whining for playtime or her insanely loud snuggle purrs. She’s just going to have to live forever I guess. 

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More feline friends joined our nest. When my friend Dan had to go into assisted living, he couldn’t bear the thought of his cat going to the shelter, so my husband and I took him in. Cat Cat was um… a unique experience. He didn’t get along with Kitty and he peed all over our furniture whenever he was scared, upset, lonely, or just too damn lazy to walk over to his stupid litter box. But you know what? He was also the most affectionate cat you could imagine. You could pick him up and cradle him like a baby and he would snuggle up and fall asleep in your arms. Even when getting his nails trimmed, he purred and nuzzled instead of pitching a fit. The sweetest cat, even if a bit troubled. He got cancer in 2019, and we helped him gently over the Rainbow Bridge later that year. I sang “Castle on a Cloud” from Les Miserables while he breathed his last.

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Our most recent fur baby addition is the lovable Sergeant Stubby – coyote fight/shelter survivor and hair-chewer with a half-tail and a bit of a skittish streak about him. Understandable, I guess. He’s been with us for a year and a half and he’s getting more and more comfortable (and chunky). And more demanding for pets. I barely plop my butt on the sofa before he’s on me like white on rice, ramming his head under my hand so I’m forced to at least give his ears a scratch. I worry about uprooting him for a move, but I think as long as his mommy and daddy are around to feed him and scratch his bum he’ll adjust.  

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I also found a career in Los Angeles, but not quite in the way I thought I would. I did the whole film thing for a while, but it never quite satisfied me. It can be a brutal profession, if I’m honest. The hours are insanely long, you spend a good deal of them on your feet, and film sets do attract a lot of large egos who don’t always treat people very nicely. However, I also met loads of charming, lovely people who were just trying to make a bit of difference in the world. Some of my best times in California were on film sets, along with some of my worst.

While I worked on film sets to pay the bills, I also dabbled in screenwriting. I was convinced I wanted to be a movie writer, or maybe a writer on a television series. I cranked out a good half-dozen scripts or so but none of them went anywhere. I submitted to contests, rubbed elbows with a few professional writers, and even worked in a TV writers office as an assistant to try and get a leg up. No matter how hard I worked though, it never really fit. I couldn’t break in. And to tell you the truth, my scripts didn’t feel like they were very good. They always felt a bit… well, empty.

I discovered novel writing when I tried to write a screenplay about World War II. For those of you who don’t know me, this is a subject close to my heart. And as a screenwriter, it’s your job to make a blue print only. You can weave some feelings in, but the bulk of that is up to actors and directors. The realization slowly dawned on me that this is why I wasn’t much good at screenwriting. I can’t separate my emotions from my writing. I bleed too hard for that. When I tried this World War II story as a novel, it came out of me like a rushing river. A new career ambition was born. Several rewrites and rejection letters later, I am now an agented author and I am hopeful the book deal will come soon.   

Friends, a husband, cats, and a career. In addition to those biggies, Los Angeles also infused me with a restless sense of adventure. A travel itch that never fully gets scratched (and that a pandemic has left utterly devastated). I also honed my photography skills, since California has ample natural beauty and places to practice (find some great examples here, here, here, and here). And wine. In my twelve years in the Golden Grape State, my pallet advanced from Trader Joe’s Two-Buck-Chuck to the finest California Pinot Noirs. Then there are the avocados. Seriously you guys, avocados.

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So, in light of all the wonderful things I found here, why are we leaving? Well, the high cost of housing is a big reason. My husband and I can’t wrap our heads around sinking seven to nine hundred thousand dollars into a one-bedroom “fixer upper” in the middle of fire country. Even condos in the right neighborhood can go for six to eight hundred thousand.

But I think our exit plans have deeper roots. Yes, we’ve had a wonderful time here, but over the years, I’ve come to view Los Angeles as a bit like a purgatory with palm trees. It’s great for people who are young, figuring themselves out, trying to find things. It’s also the best place for anyone who wants to make it in movies. However, it’s not as easy on those of us who want some quiet and have a growing urge to put down roots. To slow down and breathe. Many families live here and are perfectly content, but my husband and I wanted a bit more. A bit more open road. A bit more fresh air and thunderstorms. A bit more yard space.

Most importantly, we wanted a bit more family nearby. We’re both from the Midwest. Living far away was all well and good when we could hop on a plane if we got lonely. The pandemic taught us that we won’t always have that luxury. As we get older, we want to spend more time with the people we love, and watch our twenty-one (yes, you read that right) nieces and nephews grow up.

While we came to this realization, we watched my husband’s family complete their renovations on a truly remarkable 120-year-old house in Indiana, near the charming town of Valparaiso. The more we saw of that house, the more we fell in love with it. Puzzle pieces started slipping into place as we thought about buying that house. There’s still some questions, mind you. Like how the hell I’m going to handle winter after twelve years of California sun. But I know we’ll adjust. Because that house had our names on it. The second we bought it, it felt like it was always ours. It felt like home.

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California was pretty good to us. It’s true that we had some terrible downs along with the ups, but on the whole it was an amazing chapter. But it’s time for us to leave our palm tree purgatory, and make space for the up-and-coming youngsters traveling here to find themselves. We will miss it, but we will be back to visit. And we will always have our memories.

So farewell, California. Be good to that next generation. They need you.

Love,

M.B. Henry

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On that note, I’m taking the month of March off the blog to get us moved and settled into our new house and home state. Visits to all of your blogs will resume in April. In the meantime, you can follow along with our cross-country drive and moving adventures (including Kitty and Stubby’s first road trip!) on Instagram, handle @mbhenry1985. 

M.B. HENRY 

132 Comments on “Fare Thee well, Golden Coast

    • 🙂 I think we’re going to love living in that house very much! And we have family in walking distance, which will be amazing.

    • 🙂 I’m very excited to go exploring around Indiana Dunes, especially after seeing all your amazing pictures from it!

  1. Good luck. Hope you get the book deal you deserve–WWII is definitely your forte. . Hope you didn’t become too left Coast for your new acquaintances. My main complaint about CA is that much of coastal CA is a desert by the sea. People want the green of back east and don’t want to acknowledge the cost that using water the state does not have to create that oasis is not going to work in the long run. (I lived in San Diego on and off for several years so I have first hand knowledge of what I am talking about.)

    • Haha! 🙂 My main political stance is empathy, and I try to use that no matter who I talk to so I’m sure we’ll fit in! 🙂 Agreed about the water – we’ve had another very dry winter out here in California… 🙁

      • We last lived in San Diego from 2013-2017. It was when CA was in the middle of a 5-year drought that was finally broken by an El Nino year. The roads in San Diego were generally bad, in an area that never saw frost. They blamed the bad roads on the rain that CA has barely seen in a few years. Guess any excuse will do.

      • Oooooh that drought was just terrible wasn’t it? 🙁 I remember it very well! I’m worried another one might be coming since we barely had any rain this year.

  2. Thunderstorms! In our brief time on the west coast (Oregon) that’s what I missed the most, the sound of rumbling thunder. Who’d have thought? Welcome back to the Midwest! Winter is terrible, but it sure does make us all appreciate the spring.

    • 🙂 I can’t WAIT to sit on our porch for the first summer thunderstorm. Cannot. Wait. 🙂

    • 🙂 Yes we are very excited to move in there. Our cats won’t even know what to do with all the room haha. 🙂

  3. Terrific autobiographical post, MB, and the best of luck with your road trip and new house!

    Did I mention before that I met my wife when she was living in Indiana (Terre Haute)? So, I have a soft spot for that state. 🙂

    • I think you did mention that once before! 🙂 How sweet! 🙂 And thanks for the good luck wishes, we’ll need it traveling cross-country in a pandemic with two ornery felines. 🙂 🙂

  4. Congratulations on your courage to make change – we fear the unknown – yet in the end, we make our decisions that feel right.
    May the road rise to meet you…and we will look forward to your safe journeys, safe return to cyberspace friends. Much happiness to you and your family…

    • “we make our decisions that feel right.” – yes, exactly. It wasn’t the easiest choice to make but in the end, so many puzzle pieces fell into place when we thought about that house that everything just felt right! I’m sure it will be an adjustment, but I don’t doubt we made the right decision. So glad you enjoyed the post and thanks so much for the well wishes.

  5. Enjoy your new life in that beautiful house, you sound like a friend of mine who took five cats with her to Canada from Hong Kong, all strays

    • If your friend can survive that, I’m sure we’ll have no problem with driving two kitties across a few states! 🙂 That must have been quite an adventure for her!

  6. Wow! That was such an endearing story. I loved it. I loved your kitty photos, and all of the personal details – well all of it.

    I hope you all enjoy your new place, and again I appreciate the wonderfully sincere story. Good luck in your new adventures, MB. 🙂

    • I’m so very glad you enjoyed it! Once in awhile it’s nice to write about our personal lives, and those stories are important to share too 🙂 Thanks very much for the well wishes! <3

    • I’m so glad you enjoyed it! 🙂 It was a wonderful time in our lives but we’re very excited for the times ahead too.

  7. Some truly engaging biography here. Your professor was most astute. Having read much of your captivating war histories, I have every confidence in your book.

    • Thanks Derrick! Fingers crossed that book deal will come soon, it would be amazing to hold my own book in my hands! 🙂 So glad you enjoyed the post and all my other ones too.

  8. Welcome home to the Midwest! I’m excited for you! As for surviving winter- you’ll want to embrace the concept of hygge. It really does help. ⛄️

    • Yes – back home to my old stomping grounds! I’m not very familiar with hygge, but I will definitely embrace our living room fireplace and lots of different hot chocolate recipes 🙂 🙂

      • That sounds amazing! Hygge is a Danish concept and kind of hard to define but it’s basically about embracing your circumstances and making things cozy. For me, a comfy chair, a great book, soft blanket and tunes on the record player make my surroundings happy. Others use plants, bread baking, fairy lights, etc. Whatever makes you happy! There are Facebook groups and all sorts of articles to help you get started. Here’s one.
        http://hyggehouse.com/hygge

      • It really is. I love winter and specifically employ these tactics during that season to make it even better. However, it’s a wonderful way to live year round.

  9. Your words are bittersweet, M.B.
    But it’s true that what works for us today might not be a good fit tomorrow. It’s a good move to recognize the feeling and act on it. Hope you are happy in your new home in Indiana.
    And hey, I love avocados!

    • Avocados are the BEST. I created and perfected my own guacamole dip recipe while living here in CA and I can’t wait to introduce everyone to it in Indiana 🙂

  10. Best wishes on your journey to Indiana! And never fear, in northern Indiana where you’re going, (a) the cities know how to remove snow and (b) everybody knows how to drive in it. Those are the keys.

    • Ahh, snow driving 🙂 It’s been awhile lol. It will be interesting to see if all those old reflexes are still there or if I will need some major practice first! One thing I never mastered was freezing rain, where really all you can do is pray you don’t have to stop for any reason haha.

  11. Good luck with the move. All of us who read this learned something about what it’s like living in Los Angeles. Can’t wait to read the future post about what it’s like to go from LA to Indiana.

    • I’m sure it will be a bit of an adjustment, but as we’re both from the Midwest originally I think we’ll figure it out fast 🙂 So glad you enjoyed the post.

    • Thanks so much! And yes at some point, I’d love to do a post about the history of our house and the renovation process. Stay tuned for that 🙂

  12. Fascinating look into your life, M. B. Thanks for sharing the adventures. Best wishes on the move to your darling new home. I won’t envy your midwestern weather (having lived in Ohio more than seven years). But I totally get wanting to be closer to family. I wish I saw my relatives more, but there aren’t nearly so many of them and they’re rather spread out – they should move here!

    I’ll be looking for your blog in April – and an announcement on your book deal!

    • I kicked around Ohio a lot as a kid in the Akron/Canton area 🙂 I still have some family around there but most of them have packed up and relocated to Florida haha. The cold will be a brutal adjustment but everything else will make it worth it I hope!

  13. Great memories. Looks like the kitties enjoyed California too! 🙂 And here’s to a new state and new adventures!

    • Yes indeed! 🙂 We’re very excited, and I think the kitties will enjoy the house too! (although maybe not the cold)

  14. A beautifully written goodbye, MB. And an interesting insight into your history. Your new house looks delightful. I’m sure you will enjoy the closer connection with your family, just as you will miss your friends from LA— and the palm trees. One thing about blogging, it doesn’t matter where you live. I look forward to continuing to follow you and your adventures. 🙂 –Curt

    • There is certainly a lot we will miss about LA but the things we stand to gain will make up for it. And I can thank the modern wonder of Zoom and blogs for allowing us to keep up with our friends here! 🙂 So glad you enjoyed the post! <3

  15. Your new home is so cute. Wishing you many years of happiness and success as you enter this new chapter in your lives.

    • Yes our in-laws did an absolutely fantastic job with this house. You should have seen the before stage haha! Thanks so much for the well wishes!

  16. This entire post brought smiles, wet eyes and excitement over your extraordinary adventures in California and those ahead in Indiana. Such a wonderful young life you have lived in CA! May God’s richly bless you and your husband in the new home, new state and with the book deal!📚🎉👏🏻

    • We indeed had a marvelous chapter on the golden coast and will miss it. However, we are also very excited about the chapter that lies ahead and the writing we will fill the blank pages with! 🙂 I’m so glad you enjoyed the post.

  17. M.B.
    So, first of all let me say, and this may sound ridiculous, I feel like I’m going to miss you. Yeah I know you’ll still be blogging and all and it isn’t as if we knew each other but for our blogs. We’ve been sort of neighbors, although San Francisco and Los Angeles have never really been cordial neighbors.

    This piece is wonderful. Heartfelt and poignant.

    You’re one of those rare people who managed to follow your dream and while that dream didn’t quite work out you found other dreams along the way that did work out.

    I was first drawn to your blog because of its subject matter – history. It’s been my passion since I got lost in Time Life books on American History when I was a kid. I love the way you present history. You are passionate about it and it shows.

    I wish you the best. Looking forward to new posts about history and your new chapter.

    • All of these things you said made my day – very much so. I appreciate very much the heartfelt words and lovely sentiment! I will miss you as well but glad we can still be friends on WordPress! 🙂 I’ve visited San Fran a handful of times over the years and have always enjoyed it! <3

  18. My years in California were some of the best in my life, and some of the worst, but that’s somehow part of the expansive charm of the place; it can contain it all. At least, it could. I’d never move back there now, for a variety of reasons, but my memories are vivid, and someday I’d like to make another trip to the wilds of northern California. I wasn’t much interested in nature when I was there, and missed a good bit.

    It was interesting to read about your various journeys — personal, academic, and so on. I hadn’t realized you graduated from Iowa. My high school summers were spent there at the speech and drama workshops established by Paul Engle. I wanted to major in English when I started college, but everyone told me it was impractical, and I ended up as a social work major. Sigh. Of course, that was quite a different time — my freshman year in college, we had 10 p.m. curfews and dorm mothers who did bedchecks! Of course, everyone learned how to avoid those bedchecks — stay out all night!

    I’m thrilled for your new adventure. There will be surprises galore, but you have someone to share them with, and that makes all the difference. I’ll look forward to the next chapters!

    • “…but that’s somehow part of the expansive charm of the place; it can contain it all.” YES – yes it can. While we went through our fair share of painful times in California, we made some of our best memories there as well. And how cool about the U of I connection. Dorm mothers hahaha I can’t even imagine. I stayed in a co-ed dorm with men and women on the same floors. We did have a floor supervisor (can’t remember what their official title was) but certainly no bedchecks!

    • Thanks much! Glad we hired movers. That’s made it go a little easier! 🙂

  19. Another Hoosier here to welcome you to your new State. Moving here at the end of winter may lose you some style points, but you get an extra year to steel yourselves for it. 🙂

    You will be calling it Valpo in no time.

    • Yay! More Hoosiers! 🙂 Yes I’m glad we’ll have some time to brace for our first winter in years haha! 🙂 And don’t worry we already call it Valpo 🙂

  20. Hello MB! Your journey that stirs my heart. The very best wishes for you both! Stop by for coffee and treats anytime. AOC 🍮🍮🍂🍮🍮🔔👌

    • 🙂 Thanks so much! We have arrived at our house in one piece and it’s getting pretty well set up now. And yes – we have a lovely coffee maker 🙂 🙂

      • Awesome! good news! I did not know about your academics. Your historical journey shares I have interpreted as travelogue excerpts. Rest up and stay inspired, dear MB. 🍃🍮🍮🍃🫖

    • Thanks very much! We’re really getting settled in now, someday soon I’ll have to do a post on the house’s history because it’s kind of cool! 🙂

  21. M.B.
    I love your story of transition! It is invigorating to make a bold move choice like you are doing. You cat stories are very nostalgic for me. We had a cat for 15 years who was a totally independent soul. He loved my wife, but only came to me when he wanted to, while I was sleeping in my recliner. I hope your dreams expand and become more than you ever thought possible. Good luck!
    Dwight

    • Thanks so much Dwight! The description of your cat sounds a lot like Kitty. She’s very close to me but only comes to my husband when he offers to play with her haha. Luckily Stubby loves both of us!

  22. Oh, and the house! Gorgeous! You’ll manage the winters, as we all do who live amidst them. 🙂 You might even find that spring has a new joy that you’d forgotten about.

  23. You have made some beautiful memories in Los Angeles. Must be hard to leave Los Angeles after so many eyers. Anyways, a new city brings in new adventures and opportunities. Good Luck with your future endeavours.

    • Yes, leaving was definitely bittersweet! But we are very happy to be settling nicely into our new home and ready for the next chapter <3

  24. Well, you can’t take the avocados with you, but you can take the writing skills. Thanks for a great, personal read. Good luck in that colorful house with your cats and your man, snuggling up to fires in fireplaces instead of outside in the trees.

    • 🙂 Yes we are loving the house so far, including the fireplaces. So glad you enjoyed the post!

  25. Change can be bittersweet but it is the only way to gain more experience and grow in my opinion. We all take along a slice of a place we spend time in. Ir always remains with us as beautiful souvenirs. You have some great memories in California. Wish you the best for making new memories in your new home!

    • Yes – bittersweet is the perfect word for such a big change. We will miss the friends we made, the beauty of the state, and the life we had there – but we knew it was time to leave it behind and we are already getting a lot of sweet out of our new place. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts, I’m glad you enjoyed the post!

  26. It was such a treat to learn more about you, MB – especially your love of kitty cats. Congratulations on all the wonderful things that happened to you in Cali, particularly the cute husband! Your house looks FAB – just like one of the many I watch on HGTV. Our house prices are going through the roof because half of California is moving to Texas – I guess they are paying us back for the great depression/gold rush/oil rush. 😄 I hope this is a wonderful new stage of your life and congrats on the book deal. K x

    • We LOVE our house very much. Today we had lunch outside on the porch and it was heavenly. The kitties seem to like all the extra space to run around too. And yes I have heard a lot of Californians are heading to Texas! And I hear you about rising housing costs. They’re going up all over the place. We were incredibly fortunate to snap up our house when we did.

      • I bet the kitties love the space! One batch of old cats loved the old bank that we lived in with very steep stairs. Enjoy!

  27. MB, I love this post for a myriad of reasons. First, I’m from Indiana, 2nd I was a history consultant for Tulare County Office of Education, 3rd, I lived in CA for 35 years, and we moved Nov. 17, 2020 to Prescott, AZ. I never thought about doing a farewell post to CA, but what a beautiful and kind idea. Thanks for sharing it. If you get tired of the extreme cold or heat in IN, come see us in Prescott and bring your cameras and your computers for writing.

    • So glad you connected to the post on so many levels! I actually love Arizona, I’ve been many times and always enjoy it. And you guys have the BEST sunsets. Pure magic!

  28. Pingback: A History of Weird Weather - M.B. HENRY

    • Thanks very much! The move went pretty well indeed 🙂 We have all our boxes unpacked already and most everything all set up. It’s been fun getting settled into a new place and neighborhood 🙂

  29. so good to read more about you … hubby is cute and that home totally amazing!

    I have five palm trees in my front and side yard 🙂 Am also an avo fan, we get plenty here and often just for the price of a drive as people can’t give them away 🙂

    Know you will be published soon … I usually don’t bother with such long posts but you write so well I know I will enjoy it! Take care and enjoy settling in 🙂

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