Libraries & Leisure

Here’s my confession: I’m a workaholic.

In the nearly thirteen years we’ve known each other, my husband and I have lived in a variety of locales: Indiana, Ireland, and the Czech Republic for college, Texas, China, Suriname, and Washington, D.C. for work. And every time we hit a new spot, I’ve vowed to prioritize getting out and experiencing whatever makes that place special.

But every time, my to-do list tugs me back: to my laptop to write, my palette to paint.

It’s a flaw I’m trying to pray through. But in the meantime, I’m super thankful when people like my brother–who’s infinitely better at sallying out to try new things–come visiting.

It’s that push I need to go forth and explore.

So my brother gets all the credit for coaxing me to visit the Library of Congress–the largest library in the world, housing millions of books, penned in 470 languages. Sad as it is to admit, this is my third stint living in D.C…. and my first trip to the Library. Which is kind of unacceptable, considering my bibliophilic little heart.

But better late than never, right?

Just a handful of the many, many highlights included:

  • The gorgeous architecture of the Thomas Jefferson building
  • A complete version of the Gutenberg Bible (the 15th century innovation that rocked the worlds of religion and books)
  • A still-in-progress replication of Thomas Jefferson’s personal library, being gathered text by text from around the world
  • The Main Reading Room (one of several research enclaves accessible to anyone over 16 wishing to study… provided you can keep up with their code of conduct [Cue finger-wagging librarian])
  • The office of the Librarian of Congress (currently Carla Hayden)

Confession no. 2: I now have office envy. But it’s probably for the best that my own workspace isn’t quite so nice.

It’d be a poor fit with my efforts to combat workaholism.

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Writer Care Kit

Living far from friends and family can mean that things get done at odd times. The most recent example? My best friend Amber and I just had our Christmas gift exchange. In February. Two months late.

But the wait proved well-worth it when I stripped off green and red wrapping to find a chic little box whose contents had me laughing aloud.

To kick off your morning, an encouraging coffee cup:

“You got this.”

–Coffee

And to cap off your evening, a reassuring wine glass:

“You gave it your best shot.”

–Wine

While I’m sure writers aren’t the only professionals who experience these twin emotions across their workdays, I can’t help thinking this gift makes a particularly excellent support kit for authors. How many mornings have I woken up energized and motivated, full of confident, creative energy? Today’s the day, I’ll say. Today, I finally figure out how to…

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Wine Tastings & Touring New Towns

My first experience doing a wine tasting was at a dear friend’s bachelorette party, when we did a marathon session at five different vineyards in the Midwest, starting at the early hour of 11 a.m. (Don’t worry. We were safely D.D.ed by our handy-dandy limo driver.)

Needless to say, by the time the tasting portion of the day was starting to wine-d (get it?!) down, I was very ready to stop sipping and get something more than cheese and crackers in my stomach. But I was also pretty sold on this “tasting” thing. It was like a little adventure in a glass–you never knew what flavors awaited you in the next sample.

But I’m not into doing tastings solo, so my opportunities have been pretty few and far between–living overseas for long stretches and often being far from family and friends has that effect. But I’ve rustled up the occasional partner in crime. My bro invited me to join him and his friends at a lovely Texas winery. And on her recent odyssey to visit us in our new homestead in the D.C. area, my sis-in-law Brooke was good enough to accompany me to Great Shoals. (We abandoned the husbands at home. #SorryNotSorry.) Continue reading “Wine Tastings & Touring New Towns”

Paint Hack

#LifeHack: When your watercolor palette is on a slow-moving boat somewhere between your last post in South America and your new home in Washington, D.C., a CorningWare lid makes for a handy mixing tray for the colors in your travel kit. Who knew? (Well, besides my troubleshooting husband.) #ForeignServiceProblems #NomadicArt

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Mugs & Motivation

It’s been a quiet few weeks (er, months) around Ebb & Flow.

My preoccupation with our newest international move–this time back to the Good Ol’ US of A–is much to blame. There’s a lot involved in purchasing new cars, identifying apartments, catching up with family and friends, and coordinating three different shipments of far too much stuff. (Every time we go through one of these nomadic seasons, I fantasize about burning everything we own–books excepted–and starting from scratch.)

But the biggest culprit behind the “Mysterious Case of the Missing Blog Posts” has been the dedication of all my writing time to a massive overhaul of my historical novel. And I do mean massive: facelift, rhinoplasty, and some serious literary liposuction. As in tens of thousands of words, now gone.

I’m glad about it. With every word felled by my editing machete, I know my book’s becoming better. But… Continue reading “Mugs & Motivation”

Texas: There’s No Place Like Home

One of the many (many MANY) odd quirks of Foreign Service life is a little something we call “Home Leave.” A congressionally-mandated series of leave days following the end of an overseas posting, Home Leave is designed to help culture-shocked American readjust to life stateside.

Since July saw the official end of our time in Suriname, we’ve been spending our month-long Home Leave traipsing around the country, visiting loved ones and preparing for our move back to ‘Merica, where we’ll be posted to the D.C. area. Our trails took us from D.C. to Michigan to Indiana to Texas, seeing treasured family and friends all along the way. Continue reading “Texas: There’s No Place Like Home”

Father’s Day

 

On this Father’s Day, I think (unsurprisingly) about my dad, who’s really always been my hero. As a little girl I looked up to him completely… and honestly, none of that’s changed now that I’m a girl all grown up, and moved (at times very, very far) away from home.

My dad has given me many things. A sense of safety and security in the loving family he helped build. A drive to learn, a strong work ethic. A penchant for adventure that’s stood me in good stead in my life married to a member of the U.S. Foreign Service. A love of the outdoor world that is so deeply rooted in me. My passion for all things water-related, that, as a surfer, swimmer, and ocean-enthusiast, I find to be at the very core of who I am as a person.

These mark but a few of the gifts my father has bequeathed me. But perhaps the one that is easiest to take for granted is the support he’s provided me as a writer. Many parents, I think, would’ve been tempted to herd me (out of love, of course) toward a more stable career. Instead, my dad listened to my ideas, read and edited my early (terrible) drafts, paid for writers’ conferences and even traveled with me to attend them. He’s believed in my dream even when I didn’t. And for this writer, there aren’t words enough to say thank you.

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