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This last week was an adventure. My best friend's oldest (niece by way of chosen family) came to visit as part of her 16th birthday gift. She arrived on the 3rd and stayed until this morning.



Knowing what I do about jetlag, we decided to keep the first day quiet and just have fun talking, eating pizza, and letting her acclimate. She made a lot of comments about our crazy terrain ('cause the Bay Area goes from shore to mountains to desert, depending on where you are) and then commented on how cold it was in the evening.

We tried to go to Santa Cruz on the 4th, but parking wasn't happening, so we got back on the highway and went the extra distance to go to Monterey. Totally worth the time in the car, even if the weather was a bit cooler than normal. We walked down the pier first, looking into the water and saw jellyfish - a large number of them. This was my first time seeing them, and E and K were amused at my reaction. There was also a small ray skimming the bottom near the jellyfish, it didn't seem to care. As we made our way back down the pier we saw a mama otter and her baby being overly cute and they had drawn quite the crowd, all of us oohing and ahhing over them.

We wandered the boardwalk checking out the shops, commenting about dogs, clothing, and the cool sea breeze. We went over to one of the fishing wharf areas and I coo'd over a female pelican. We saw seals near there, a couple of young ones playing in the water, while their mama sunbathed on a floating tire. We decided to make our way home and since we were going to pass by a friend's place, we called up and asked if they had time to hang out. We ended up going for ice cream and a nice walk, listened to their little one babble in the way only a toddler can and just enjoyed the time with them.

Thursday was mostly spent at the house, with a brief run out for K and I to do some errands. I think we all needed the rest that day.

Friday was the Winchester Mystery House tour. I had heard about it when I was a lot younger, and it was right up K's ally. The brief story of the house was that Mrs. Winchester was told by a psychic that she needed to move to the west coast, buy some property, and build a house, and never stop building it. This was to appease the ghosts of the people killed by Winchester rifles. Mrs. Winchester took this seriously, and so the mansion was born. It's an amazing house with many rooms, windows, staircases, and a bunch of oddities. It also boasts an impressive garden with plants imported from all over world. We had a great time wandering through the house and listening to our awesome tour guides.

Later that evening we went to our dojo for sword class, juijitsu, and the monthly potluck. One of our friends talked K into trying the sword class and she seemed to have fun. We then watched E do his class, during which I made comments to K about what they were doing and how certain moves worked. We had fun upstairs chatting with people that are regularly at the dojo and some that haven't been in awhile. We shared food and hung out for a good amount of time before we decided to head home before it got too late.

Saturday morning K and I slept in while E went back to the dojo for some more time on the mat. After that we made our way into Japantown in SF and wandered through the market there. So many things to see and so many interesting restaurants. We tried to go to see the Golden Gate Bridge, but the evening fog had made its way in and had covered the bridge completely.

Sunday was a bbq/pool party at a friend's house. Lots of fun was had there, especially getting to meet new people in the area. Hopefully there will be future hang outs with some of those people, because it's always good to meet more people with similar interests (especially when they are intelligent!).

This morning we got up early, I dropped E off at work and escorted K to the airport. Neither she or I wanted her to leave, but we knew her mother wanted her back and we can't deny a mother her daughter for too long.

E and I already said that we'd love to have her back next summer. Maybe we can consider having her for a longer trip and do even more exploring of the area. Six days went way faster than I expected and I already miss her a great deal.

The visit has inspired me to look into the local Big Sisters/Big Brothers associations. I really want to be able to make a difference in the life of a teen that may not have a strong family or good influences to fall back on. I remember how hard it was for me, considering my history of depression and what not. Having an adult that will listen, not judge, and give advice - sound advice, not just "do as I say, not as I do" is invaluable. Mothers and Fathers have a different job, since they have a different investment in their children. They don't want to necessarily face the fact that their child is growing up and may turn a blind eye to a number of the things that we all face as teenagers. I want to be able to be realistic and helpful, protective, but capable of realizing that part of growing up is making mistakes, bad choices, and what not. You can only learn so much from watching other people live, and you really have to do it yourself to learn your own limits. I can understand why parenting is hard, because of that desire to protect and not want the child to get hurt, and in turn that makes it harder on the teen as they need to be able to spread their wings and take that leap as they grow closer to adulthood.

I'm sad I had to send her back home, there's a bond there that is about as strong as the bond between her mother and I. I loved seeing how she has grown and become a beautiful, young woman with a strong, but level, head on her shoulders.
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