Living in the Valley of the Apples

They say you never forget where you were the first time you saw a dead rat. Well, actually I don’t think they say that. Actually, I think nobody has ever said that except for me, right now. But. The fact remains, that if you have ever seen one, you will not forget where you were. I had, up until recently, thought that I had escaped the vermin infested days of my Arizona youth. And for good reason! Things were looking up! I live in California! Surely no rodent dare cross into the golden state! Well, my fellow compadres, let me tell you something. If La Jolla (where I used to live) is California’s poster-child for elegance and success and grace, Apple Valley (where I currently live) is the tweaked out step-nephew who frequents the local lock up. In fact, the area I am currently residing in is, quote unquote, on the outskirts of Felony Flats. Yes, you read that right. Felony Flats. And no, I did not make this up. It is regionally known as Felony Flats, I knew it to be Felony Flats when I moved here, and I do believe you can Google FELONY FLATS and it will point you in my very exact direction. (I feel the need to type Felony Flats as many times as possible to reiterate to my dumb-dumb, no-regard-for-my-personal-safety brain from refraining to repeat such a poor life choice in the future. Felony Flats.) The high desert is a place that people traveling through gas and go very quickly, and a place that locals may never depart from. In Apple Valley’s defense, it used to orchestrate a thriving, you guessed it, apple orchard production and was even a metaphorical oasis for movie stars to escape to, from Los Angeles. But then came a very specific apple tree destroying beetle, and gone went the orchards, and with it, the money, and with that, the livelihood of the town. It’s always amazing to me what can bring down a city. Whether it be an insect, the closing of an important business, a lack of quality water, a reputation.. whatever it is, it leaves behind thousands of people with the life changing choice to either adapt, or uproot. They say that the grass is always greener, but in this case and in this particular place, there is no grass. So it honest to goodness must be greener on the other side. That being said, I have the utmost respect for the people that chose to carve out a life in this 110 degree, dry and dusty desert. And I have about 8 more months here, so it is my mission to find the grass, literal and metaphorical, in this tough little town. But, I can tell you where the grass was most certainly NOT. It was not, by golly, in my backyard, in the back corner, where I saw my first rat. It was huge. It was as long as my hand. NOT including the 8 inch tail. It was almost cartoon-ish. It was unsettling. It was borderline scarring. But it was dead. And not IN my house. And my landlord took care of it. So perhaps, there was a little grass after all. It is my goal in life to live in a place where I do not have to deal with rodents on such a regular schedule. It is also my goal in life to make enough money to not have to think twice about paying extra for guacamole. And to have a pet pig. It’s the little things, right?

Well, Keegan has been gone a month. It is incredible to me how relative time is. How some days can take hours and some hours can take weeks. It’s getting easier, in most regards. The hard part is not knowing where he is, or how he is.. it’s the little things I miss the most. Telling him about my day, laughing about nothing and everything, just the security that his presence, even if hours away, brought me. So, I decided I would write a little bit every night and tell him about my day. Last week, I wrote and told him I ate 3 Del Taco Taco’s and a milkshake and then got really sick, because, I ate 3 Del Taco Taco’s and a milkshake. What I really need to do, is get a life. But really, it’s becoming my new normal and that is okay. (Not the taco binging, I now know my limit is 2 Del Taco Taco’s and a mini shake, just clarifying.) I know that we are going to have a deeper level of trust and understanding and appreciation from this separation that I am not sure can come from anything other than prolonged distance and a lack of communication. The thing that I keep telling myself, is that he is coming back.. and we will look back on this and be so proud of ourselves for conquering this deployment. I know that this time in the desert for me, is going to be a time for cultivating gratitude. Thankfulness for a family that supports me and loves me and is forever for me, for a steady job that is allowing me to reach my goals and dreams, and for a tough deployment that has put this country and this world in a much better perspective for me.

And on that same note, or similar note, I have found one of the keys to happiness. At least in my life. My grandma always has said that life is a roller coaster, full of highs and lows and everything in between. And you don’t appreciate the highs without the lows. And whenever she would say that, I would always think, “Uhhh, I think I can appreciate the highs all the time. Don’t need no lows for me!” (Apparently my mental train also had no formal education, but that is beside the point.) But guys, she was right. Like she said, we live in the valley. And I don’t think we should fight to live on the mountain top any more than we should fight not to live in the canyons. Being satisfied and fulfilled in the valley means that when you get a mountain top experience, it exceeds any and all expectations. Let me explain.. last weekend, my sister came down to San Diego for a basketball tournament. Now, as already mentioned, I lived in La Jolla for awhile. Absolute paradise. And I truly thought I appreciated it while I was there! The ocean, the flowers, the people, the food! But it’s so easy to get complacent, to keep reaching for better and better and not being satisfied with where you are, and I found myself not being happy. Not being happy with my job, with my lack of friends, with things I took for granted. But then I moved here. And I decided to have a better outlook, because having a positive outlook on life is the only way a person can survive here. So by the time Grace came down, I had acclimated to my new valley. And I was okay with it. BUT. I got to spend a whole day with Grace in San Diego and La Jolla, and let me tell you, I have rarely felt so much joy in my heart. Even on the drive over, watching the terrain change and the temperature drop, my heart began to swell. That day, I marveled at the many vibrant flowers, stood in awe of the mighty sea, tasted tacos (not Del Tacos Taco’s) that rivaled perfection, and truly indulged in what was, by all accounts, the perfect day. I relished the company of my sister and am so thankful for her kind spirit and generous heart. It was one of those days that, even as it’s happening, you know is going to be one of those special, special memories. So, I learned that I would take as many valley days as it takes for one day on the mountain top, for one day of pure, unadulterated joy.

So, all of that being said, did I mention where I slept that night? No? Well, let me tell you a little story. Apple Valley is about a 2.5/3 hour drive to San Diego, and I had fully planned on returning Saturday night after her games, and returning Sunday morning for more. But 5pm rolls around, and Grace and I are having the aforementioned day, and NO WAY IN HELL am I breaking that up to drive back to AppHELL Valley. So, 7pm rolls around and I have been intermittently calling hotels, googling rates and rooms, and going further into a state of denial about my continued failure in finding a vacancy. I drop Grace off at 830 at her hotel, sit in that parking lot, and continue my quest. Nothing. And by nothing I mean NOT a thing (and by that, I mean nothing under $200). But I, armed with my pride and the bank account of a pre-airline pilot, decided in no way am I about to drop that kind of money on a hotel that LOOKS SKETCHY IN THE PICTURES. I almost wanted to call some of these people back and just tell them that even their website pictures of the hotel look sketchy, and I was personally offended they could even CONSIDER charging someone that much money for such a dump. It was robbery! And I was out of luck. (I do need to mention here that my parents offered multiple times to pay for a safe hotel, but dammit I am an adult and I don’t need no help! (There is my uneducated mental voice coming back.. going to have to work on that, I think it is the Idaho coming out in me.)) But then I had a light bulb. I had an air mattress, a blanket, AND a pillow all in the back of my Rav4! You know me! Always prepared! (This is untrue, I just happened to work a 15 hour day the previous week and we are allowed to take a nap and I was too stinkin’ lazy to clean out my car.) So, after about 30 minutes of mental dilemma and steeling myself to the idea, I pulled around the hotel complex, it truly was a safe area, and parked in a lit area with lots of nice looking cars with little family stickers on the back. I then put down the back seats and started to fill up the mattress. Well, the pump thankfully is battery operated but MAN was it loud. I didn’t want people to think I was sleeping in my car, so every time somebody came even remotely within hearing distance, I slammed the back door and ran around to the driver’s side. In hindsight, I looked like some type of drug dealer or maybe even a drug consumer. But rather that than hotel-less!!! I eventually got it filled up (with only a couple of parents quickly ushering their children to the other side of the parking lot to maneuver around the cracked out backseat drug dealer, might I add!) I do need to mention, that when I moved from La Jolla to Apple Valley, Keegan helped me pack up my car. And he put items in cracks and crevices I didn’t even know existed, but thanks to him it only took one trip. However, when I was trying to put down my seats, they wouldn’t budge. So I did some investigation and I found, wedged underneath the middle seats, my long lost magic bullet, Tupperware specifically designed for salad with a separate dressing compartment (Thanks, mom) and a fork. And with the front seats now completely full of my flight bag, suitcase, and numerous other oddities, I decided to just leave it in the back with me. So there I was, in the back seat of my car, closing out one of the most perfect days of my life, nestled between a magic bullet, a salad specific container and a fork. I wouldn’t have traded it for anything. (ESPECIALLY the $200 those hotel robbers were trying to get out of me.)

Well folks, that’s it for now. I hope all is well with you. Love to all.

Maggie

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