Tuesday, September 3, 2013

My Arkansas Experience.

A little over a month ago, Graham and I finished loading up the U-Haul, dropped our keys off at the property management office (yay! We have renters!), returned the cable box to Comcast and left Arkansas for good.

It was an incredibly hard, emotional day for me. With all of the craziness that the last month has been, I never got the chance to express that. And I don't want to miss the opportunity to reflect on what Arkansas meant to me.

(This won't be my last Arkansas post... I do plan on doing a best/worst list about everything we experienced in the Natural State =))

I moved to Arkansas on January 2, 2011. It was my first time living any place other than Charlotte. Even the one semester I lived in a dorm at college, it was still in Charlotte. It's my home, and no matter where Graham and I end up, it always will be.

The drive to Arkansas was hard. I cried on and off for about 10 hours. Once I arrived, it didn't get better. I had been there for two days when Graham found out he had to go somewhere and fix a plane. It was supposed to take a few hours. He was gone for 10 days. He returned, and we adopted Buddy, but I was still so lonely.

My Arkansas experience changed for the better when I accepted a job at Crye-Leike. It's funny. I had been offered five jobs in two months, but I wasn't desperate, so I turned them down. Then I interviewed for a part time position at a real estate company, forgot about it and went home to Charlotte for a few days. Pretty much as soon as I stepped off the plane, I had got three calls offering me three different jobs. Obviously, I took the one at Crye-Leike. The job didn't pay much, and it was only part time when it started out, but I had a good feeling about it. And I was right. I'll never forget telling my boss that I needed some time off to go home and get married before Graham deployed. I had been there for about a month, and she had four hours notice that I needed a week and a half off. She gave it to me without batting an eye.

The last place I worked at in Charlotte was a stressful, unrewarding place. It wasn't an important job, but the people I worked for were horrible people. Pathological liars, unethical, gossiping, cruel people. I went home every day and cried. And while every day at Crye-Leike may not have been sunshine and roses, the only time I cried because I was genuinely upset (I do cry when I get angry...) was the day that I left. At the job in Charlotte, I was paid well, but I told myself when I left that I would never allow myself to be in that position again. I may not have made the same amount of money in Arkansas, but I had something better.

I will be forever grateful that I made that decision. I was fortunate enough to have the most amazing boss ever, and I worked with thoughtful, kind, generous people. These people became more than coworkers, they became friends, and I miss them dearly. 

My Arkansas experience changed again in January 2012. We drove out to BFE Arkansas on a Wednesday night, and adopted a sweet, chubby ball of fur.

I have never, ever been an outdoorsy person. But a puppy needs walks. Long walks. Lots of walks. We started off walking her in the neighborhood across the street from our house, but when Graham deployed I started walking her on base. She would swim in the base lake, and then we would walk. We started off walking about 3 miles, and by the end of the summer we were walking 5-7 miles a night. And for the first time in my life, I loved being outside.

When Graham got back, we started hiking with her, and that became one of our absolute favorite ways to spend an afternoon. Arkansas is known as "the Natural State", and the best way to enjoy all that it has to offer is with a puppy.

Pinnacle Mountain in Maumelle was the hike we did the most, since it was so close to home. The first time we took her, we did the Pinnacle Trail. This. Was. Tough. At points we were literally on all fours climbing up rocks. Hermione wasn't too sure about the rocks, but she enjoyed it overall. After this first time though, we never did this trail again. We usually stuck to the base trail, which was an easy, wooded walk.

Petit Jean. This one ended up being about 5.3 miles and was a lovely way to spend the day. It was fairly close to home, only 1.5 hours away, and was a pretty easy hike.

Mount Magazine State Park. This hike was LONG. It ended up being over 7.5 miles!

Lake Ouachita State Park; Caddo Bend Trail. We did this in June of this past year, and it was my favorite. It's definitely strenuous due to the elevation changes, but the views were stunning. And of course our little swimmer loved the lake.

And of course, anytime she ends up like this, that's pretty awesome too =)

Arkansas is a beautiful place, full of warm, wonderful people. I consider myself fortunate to have spent a portion of my life there and I'm so thankful for the friends and memories I made. I was sad to leave Arkansas for several reasons. It was a great two and a half years, and I left better than I was when I arrived. I miss our perfect little house, the beautiful places we explored with Hermione, the great restaurants we discovered and most of all, the wonderful people I met.

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