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Summer is almost here, and it's easy to tell when I'm at a school. Most of the classrooms have started the decommission process. Student work is taken down from the walls and given to them to take home. Teachers are packing topics and units away in the cupboards. Not to mention, most -- if not all -- of the students jump off those empty walls because they're so excited about summer. That's the fun part. Ha!

I have reason to be excited myself. My aunt -- the one who lives in Missouri -- and I are going to Wyoming for a week. I absolutely fell in love with the entire state when my friend and I took a road trip through it a couple years ago. My friend and I had only planned to stay a total of two days in Wyoming, so I'm ecstatic to say that my aunt and I will be staying for a week. We're planning to go to Yellowstone, white water rafting, see a rodeo, go horseback riding, ride to a cookout in a covered wagon. The usual tourist-y stuff. And I CANNOT wait. She's excited about it, too. I was planning on taking my fancy big camera, but I think I'll wait since my other friend and I are planning to do a road trip next summer, which will include Wyoming. Of course. But I will, for sure, take a lot of pictures with my little point-and-shoot.

Speaking of rodeos, I have been to my fair share of them. Once, since my friend and I bought tickets to a rodeo, we were given free passes to the horse-track races at the facility next door. We got there early, so we decided to check it out, neither of us having ever been to a horse race. I seriously doubt I'll ever go again. For me, it's really boring between the races -- which last, literally, thirty seconds -- and I'm just not into that kind of racing. One of the horses refused to go into the chute, and it was pretty hard to watch the men trying to get it to go in the chute.

My friend and I were given free glass cups since the horse, Zenyatta, was running that day. (I do have to admit it was amazing seeing her run.) We had no clue how famous this horse was, and my aunt was appalled and amused when I told her so. Whatever. My friend and I went to the bathroom there, and while waiting in line, my friend made a comment how we should have worn a big hat like some of the ladies she saw. Then, I-kid-you-not, as soon as she said that, a stall door opened and a lady with a very large purple hat walked out. My friend and I froze, horrified she had heard what my friend said. We were joking, and hey, if you want to wear a big hat, I guess the racetrack is the place to do it. Besides, throughout our short time there, we saw even bigger hats than the lady's. She didn't seem to have heard us, and I don't know why, but I had a strong urge to apologize. I actually really did like her hat. It was a nice shade of purple.

Since this upcoming rodeo will be in Wyoming, I expect we'll be seeing a lot of cowboy hats, which I prefer. My aunt and I have been getting things together for our trip. Reservations we've made being finalized, other things to do popping in our heads and getting written down on the list. The trip is coming up fast, and I'm really ready for a break.

To top it all off, I - am - finished - with - my - Master's - degree - and - credential. YAY! I told my Taekwondo instructor, who has the title of Master, that he now has to call me Master Crystal, since I technically am one. He laughed. Student teaching was amazing, and quite rewarding. I learned a ton from the teachers and students, and I was really able to create those bonds with the students that I was missing, being a substitute this year. Even though I had a great time these past four months with student teaching, I really am glad it's all over. I'll be a teacher next year, with my own class, and it will kind of be like the icing on the cake, since that's what I've been working toward these last two years. It's nice to see something take form that you have been working so hard at for a while.

And since I now have more time on my hands, I've been trying to get back into the swing of writing. I spent a few days looking over a bunch of notes. Some of them I actually couldn't even read myself, so I know I was frustrated with whatever scene it was when I was trying to edit. I always like the space of time between books. When I've just finished a story, and I'm happy with it. Then I can look ahead and see the possibilities of a new book. What it might unfold into, the turns it will take, the enjoyment I will get from working on it -- which, of course, always comes with frustration. I've settled on a story I wasn't even planning on working on. It just sort of fell into my lap, and I'm excited to work on it during the summer before school starts back up again.

It's been really hard with the passing of my dog, Zelda. I still cry. I constantly miss her. Sometimes I even expect her to be at the foot of my bed when I wake up, and it hurts even worse when I realize she never will be. And even though my grief is still strong with losing such a wonderful dog, I have to say my connection with my other dog, Harley, has become stronger. Harley was never really anyone's dog. He did sleep on my bed, but I think it was only because no one else would let him on theirs. I did consider him my dog and have always taken care of him, but he was a butthead most of the time.

Harley really took Zelda's death hard. I was surprised because I've never had a dog act like that when another has passed. Nor have the dogs belonging to friends of mine. But we all could tell Harley was really broken up over losing Zelda. I'm pretty sure I didn't help, with all my grief. Harley still slept on my bed, and he was still sort-of Harley, but he seemed sadder. Some people might think I'm crazy, but I truly believe that our loss bonded us together. He's gotten back to his old self, still a butthead sometimes, but not as bad as before. And we've created our new routines with my nephew's dog, Lucky. Harley has really helped me since losing Zelda, and I know it would have been a lot harder if I didn't have him.

So I'll end this with a picture of Harley. He had the entire floor to lay on, and he chose inside my niece's hula hoop. That's Harley.

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