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The End. The Beginning. The Walmart Parking Lot.

"This is really happening to us, isn't it?"  - My husband to me, on the looming start of the semester.
Dear Readers, I have something to tell you: this day in history marks both the beginning and the end.  This is my final weekend of summer.  The fall semester starts on Monday, and I return to teaching.  I know this is true for a multitude of reasons: the calendar telling me that it's so, the three consecutive days of orientation events I attended on campus last week, the uptick of emails in my inbox, and the distinct smell of the morning air that only happens when you reach the latter half of August.

It's really happening.  We're doing this thing.

But mostly, I know the semester is starting because of the Walmart parking lot.

There are several unspoken guidelines about living in a university town, first and foremost being that you never, ever plan a trip to Walmart during move-in weekend when 40,000+ students and their parents descend upon the store to buy Sterilite plastic drawers, bed risers, Command hooks, flimsy laundry baskets, wall-calendar-bulletin-board combos, extra long twin sheet sets and comforters, cheap desk lamps, and sundry other items that they'll throw into a dumpster nine months from now when they move out.

We university townies hold this truth to be self-evident: when it's the beginning and the end, when the humid August air begins to smell a certain way, and the calendar tells you it's so, and the moon is in the seventh hour and Jupiter aligns with Mars and move-in weekend: Just don't do it.

Just avoid Walmart.

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The Much-Needed Weekend Getaway

Sometimes you don't quite know what you need, but when you get it, you realize that it was exactly what you had been looking for.  This was the case for me when I recently visited my dear friend who lives in a neighboring state for a girl's weekend.  I packed up the 2002 Toyota Camry (such a fine vehicle), drove southwest for three hours while listening to music and several fantastic sermons, and felt adult responsibilities dissipate with each passing mile.

When I arrived, I already felt refreshed.  But there was more!

Right after I set down my bags, my friend, her husband, and I drove to a ziplining adventure course where we immediately read and signed lengthy documents waiving our rights to sue in case of accidental injury, dismemberment, or death.  This always feels like an auspicious start to an adventure.  (Notice the cocked angle of my head in this picture, as if I'm asking the guide, "Are you serious?" when he explained how I must step off the multi-story wood platform and rappel to the ground.  But I did it, as evidenced by the fact that I'm able to write this blog post from the comforts of my home instead of being stranded in a West Virginia forest.)

Over the course of our adventure, we rode four ziplines of increasing length.  We traversed a suspended bridge over treetops,

and we always stayed clipped into the master harnesses and cords.  Safety first, kids.

And although I have no recollection of doing so, my friend's video captures me shouting a carefree woo-hoo! while careening down the final line at over 20 miles-per-hour.

I felt even more refreshed.  But there was more!

We made a relaxed dinner with no children asking what we'd be eating or insisting that they didn't want it, or that they didn't like it, or that they wanted something different.  We talked for hours -- hours! -- about the various conversation points that we had texted each other the week leading up to our weekend so we remembered to discuss important matters (career vs. life balance vs. calling), daily life goals (house projects, writing goals, wanting to learn how to cook better), and random quirks (ax throwing, photo organization/documentation, dodgeball leagues, issues we have with social media, increased OCD tendencies as we age, and one particularly hilarious clip from the Ellen Show.)

Because when you only get to spend one weekend a year with a friend, you don't want to forget to discuss anything of importance.  Or non-importance, for that matter.

I felt even more refreshed.  But there was more!

We drank Cheer Wine, and we went out to lunch.  We went shopping, and we talked more.  We made another dinner on Saturday evening, then we watched a movie late into the night.  We deliberated if we were up to watching a second movie, given that it already was 1:30 AM when the credits rolled on the first, and she declared, "Yes! We're only middle-aged once!" 

So we watched another.  And, for the second night in a row, we tumbled into bed after 4 AM.

But there's still more!  When I woke early on Sunday morning to pack my bags and head home, I no longer felt refreshed.  I felt like a 40-year-old who had just gotten 9 hours of sleep over the course of an entire weekend because I had been living like I was 20.

And it was wonderful.  Absolutely wonderful.

After all, you're only middle-aged once.

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The Mother of All Zucchini

Title: The Mother of All Zucchini

Subtitle: Because there's no time like the present to bake a dozen loaves of zucchini bread.

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