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After 4 years, time to head back home

I've spent four great years at the Gwinnett Daily Post, so I'm sad to report this week is my last at the paper - and this, my last column.

During my time here, I've gotten to do everything from reviewing concerts at the Arena at Gwinnett Center to camping out all night in downtown Duluth reporting on the Runaway Bride saga. I've met a lot of fascinating people out in the community, and interviewed celebrities including Al Gore and Martha Stewart.

My husband and I are returning to our home state of Ohio, though, and we're looking forward to living less than 10 hours away from our family and friends there.

Whenever I tell people I'm moving back to Ohio, I get the same reaction - "You couldn't wait until spring?"

They have a point. There are certainly better times of year in the Midwest, where the skies stay gray and the temperatures stay low from October clear through April. (It seems like that sometimes, at least).

But I'm just glad we're moving back before the end of December. Because if there's one time of the year I don't mind freezing temperatures and snow showers, it's Christmas.

I've always had a harder time than usual getting into the Christmas spirit here in Georgia. How can you shop for presents without being bundled up in a winter coat? How can you put Christmas lights up outside when the leaves haven't even finished falling from the trees?

I tried to tune into Warm 98's 24-hour Christmas music broadcast last weekend, but with temperatures creeping toward 80, I had to turn the air on in my car. And listening to Christmas music while the A/C blasts just doesn't feel right.

In fact, mild Christmas seasons make my list of the top things I won't miss about living in Gwinnett.

Here are a couple others:

n The traffic. I was lucky enough to live here for almost two years of the Ga. Highway 316/Interstate 85 construction project, and I won't even get to experience the smoothly flowing results. Also, I'm hoping I'll never have to drive from Gwinnett to Atlanta at 8 a.m. again in my life.

n The bugs. I'm not saying Ohio is some sort of bugless paradise. But it'll be nice to be able to walk outside barefoot without the likely probability of stepping in a fire ant mound. Or to walk into the bathroom without a giant cockroach scurrying up the wall. Or to sit on my back deck in October without getting attacked by giant, rainforest-sized mosquitoes.

What will I miss? Plenty.

Flowering pear trees that bloom in early March, followed by waves of forsythia, redbud and Japanese cherry blossoms. The incredible amount of diversity among people living in and around Gwinnett.

The well-lit grocery wonderland of Publix, with its charming store-brand packaging. The excellent on-tap beer selections of Taco Mac and the Brick Store Pub in Decatur.

And, of course, the dear friends I have met during my time in Georgia. I miss you all already.