Wow, April. What a month. Let’s skip over the parts about my blog being hacked, and work going berserk, and grad party overwhelm kicking in, and life being generally a little over the top lately and just go right to this:

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The many faces of the ocean.

Is there anything more soothing?

I’ll answer that:


Especially when you’re experiencing that ocean from a sizzling hot, sandy beach. And sometimes in the company of playful dolphins:

florida - shorts and longs - julie rybarczyk02dYes, friends, this is where I’ve been – at least for part of this past month.

I escaped to Florida on a last-minute getaway with R-girl.

My dream to take a mother/daughter trip with my graduating senior came true when I got a very generous, unexpected offer to join a good friend and her daughter at their condo for a week. R-girl and I both played hooky from our piles of responsibilities, I promised R-boy his own senior trip in a few years, I’m already looking at different places like these Antigua rentals to visit for this occasion (if I allow him to get that old), and the two of us took off for six days and five nights on beautiful Barefoot Beach, near Naples, Florida.

It was a dream.

Staying in my girlfriend Jamie’s place is basically like staying in a magazine.

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She’s pulled all of that together on a dime – painting every square inch herself, digging up bargains all over Florida, Minnesota, and the Internet – and creating a haven for the soul.

Beachy. Comfortable. Beautiful. Perfect.

And the best part is this:

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The ocean out every window.

We were warm all the way down to our toes (even me!).

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We soaked in the sun.florida - shorts and longs - julie rybarczyk18We walked miles and miles along Barefoot Beach. Which, by the way is ironically named – because this is what the beach actually looks like:

florida - shorts and longs - julie rybarczyk17Amazing for shelling. A little rough on tender toes. (Not complaining.)

R-girl and I even went on a couple of SUP (stand-up paddle boarding) adventures! And a dolphin was jumping ahead of us! I’m not even kidding! Yes, a group of guys on shore kept yelling to us that it was actually a shark but I didn’t fall for that, and I didn’t fall off my board either. (All that yoga is paying off.)

Here’s a pic of our first SUP outing, in the back bays just off Bonita Beach:

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I even managed to pull my phone out of the fancy waterproof box I borrowed to take some pics of the claustrophobic bridge we had to maneuver under. (We were basically spelunking at that point.)

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After that, R-girl and I decided we were SUP pros, so a few days later we rented some boards on the ocean itself.

Which might have been fine on an ordinary day, but we somehow ended up with the windiest, waviest ocean of the week. So, while we tried and tried to get our boards to move in a somewhat southward direction, we were basically the bumbling entertainment for hundreds of sunbathers on the quarter-mile of public beach. R-girl would be shouting, “Wait for me!” or “I can’t control this thing anymore!” while she’d be floating out to sea, and I would be yelling, “GET BACK HERE NOW” and so she would turn her board around and head in the opposite direction from me. Which I would then also try to do, but it took quite a bit of maneuvering to reverse course. So we’d give each other the 100-yards-removed silent treatment for a while.

It was awesome.

No, really. It was.

Later we’d do photo shoots on the beach at sunset to make up.

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Then we’d dress up and go enjoy an amazing dinner out.

By which I do mean “out.” As in OUTSIDE, people. One of my favorite things in the entire world: Eating outside and not being cold.

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florida - shorts and longs - 131(She’s drinking Coca Cola, calm down.)

Oh, and I found my new house on the beach:

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florida - shorts and longs - julie rybarczyk - 161But more important, I found my breath, my warmth, and myself.

And I had the absolute sweetest time with the girl who means the very most to me in all the world.

The one who will be moving on to a new phase of life before I finish my newest bottle of shampoo.

The one who was a sweet and sassy toddler like five minutes ago.

The one who will be voting in the next election.

The one who brought every kind of camera known to man on our trip, including her Instax with only 10 precious pictures on its not-at-all-digital film.

So if you made it onto one of her Instax pics, you knew you were special.

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I love you, R-girl. Forever and always. You are my sunshine.