Family & Fun in the Sun

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.

Continue reading “Family & Fun in the Sun”

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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Waves & Whimsy

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.

Continue reading “Waves & Whimsy”

Texas: Home, Home on the Range

I’ve already admitted that I’m a spoiled creature. But my husband took it to a whole ‘nother level when he flew me home to spend my birthday weekend with my family at our ranch in the Texas Hill Country. It was a last minute decision and I was up until 1 AM packing… but it was perhaps my favorite birthday present of all time! (And particularly generous, since the husband was sadly unable to join due to work.)

It’s hard–nay, impossible!–to capture the Texas Hill Country’s rugged beauty in late October. It’s untamed and sunshine-y and serene, unspoiled by internet access or cell service. Some moments were almost ridiculously Arcadian–my stroll through wildflower fields rife with butterflies (the monarchs are migrating right now), or when my brother Hunter and I accidentally spooked two fawns, sending them leaping lightly from a thicket. But they say a picture’s worth a thousand words, so in defiance of my writer’s heart, I’ll let my snapshots speak for themselves. Continue reading “Texas: Home, Home on the Range”

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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An Ode….

An ode (that’s technically a limerick) to my husband, in honor of his patient creativity in helping me re-plot my novel this weekend:

There once was a man whose writer wife had

Written a book whose problems drove her mad

She asked him plot questions

Nagged for edits, suggestions

With a sigh, he gave advice ironclad*

Continue reading “An Ode….”