You learn a lot about yourself living the Foreign Service lifestyle. There’s nothing like moving every 1-3 years, finding yourself constantly dropped in new situations and new countries, to speed the process of learning who you are (good and bad).
I, for example, have learned this: though I love me an adventure, I’m a rooted person at heart. Living in China and Suriname were irreplaceable experiences… but when all is said and done, I could be happy settling in my hometown, among the family and friends of my childhood. I’ve been to beaches in Hawaii, Mexico, Thailand, Ireland, Curaçao, Aruba, and Costa Rica. Every one of those places has stunningly beautiful coastlines, and I feel so blessed to have been able to visit.
But my favorite beach is still the slice of the Gulf of Mexico I call home.
Luckily, I have a husband who takes/sends me home whenever he can. And my recent Texas adventures didn’t disappoint. Of my 11 days back, I made it oceanside on 8 of them. That tallied up to:
6 surf sessions with my dad and/or brothers.
1 offshore boat trip to snorkel around an oil rig reef
1 line-caught fish (though it was just a feisty hardhead we were happy to send back to the sea)
1 jellyfish sting across the mouth (weirdest.sensation.ever.)
1 stalking of a sea turtle through the waves
1 very satisfying bout of “ocean-gazing”
Perhaps only my fellow ocean-lovers will get this, but for me, the sea truly is a balm for my soul. That’s where I’m my happiest, most whole self.
Society6 is, in my (slightly-biased) opinion, one of the coolest online shopping venues around. Artists can upload their original work, then see it transformed into all manner of lifestyle goods ranging from blankets to bar stools, cellphone cases to coffee mugs, shower curtains to stationary.
I was super excited to see what I could do with my paintings. But I was nervous, too. What if my work didn’t showcase well?
But thanks to my most faithful patroness (merci, Mom!), I recently got to road-test some products. The trio of beach towels she’d ordered accompanied me on a father/son/daughter surf session at one of my favorite beaches in the world–North Packery, in my hometown of Corpus Christi, Texas.
I can now report that the towels held up valiantly to the abuse of sand, sun, and saltwater. And Society6 did an excellent job ensuring every color was vibrant, every detail crisp. A pretty impressive feat, considering that it involved converting 11″ x 14″ paintings into 74” x 37” towels.
One of my favorite things in the whole, wide world is surfing. My skills are nowhere near that of my dad (who’s literally been surfing for decades) or my brother Hunter. But very few things make my heart as thoroughly, joyfully content as getting out in the waves. It’s therapeutic for my soul, in a way not even writing can touch.
And the fact that surfing’s a family affair is the very sweet cherry atop my wave-catching sundae.
During this trip home to Texas, the weather on the Gulf Coast was consistently misty, adding a cool, eerie cast to my dad and my cold-water surf sessions.
The low visibility certainly didn’t keep us from saddling up and riding out to catch some waves with the last slivers of “daylight.”
Now that’s what I call a good family portrait: me, my dad, our boards, and even my dad’s indestructible-beach-and-hunting-lease-tacklin’-carry-it-all van. The only thing missing was Hunter, who’s busy kickin’ butt at college.
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”→
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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If you’ve noticed some radio silence ’round these parts, it’s because my husband and I recently enjoyed a lengthy R&R back in the States. Usually, I’m pretty rigorous with myself about my writing time. But with long-missed friends and family to see–and a few chilly surf sessions thrown in for good measure–I granted myself permission to take a blogging break.
But of course, all holidays must come to a close; thus I’ve returned to both my writing and my Chinese language lessons.
The transition back has been less than elegant.
As I found myself staring off with my Chinese lǎo shī (teacher) at that first lesson following my six-week siesta, I knew I was doing a pitiful job concealing my lack of practice in the interim. All my vows to rehearse my vocabulary, to practice Mandarin conversations with my husband… all were forgotten in the happy busyness of the Christmas/New Year season.