And Just Like That

And Just Like That

And just like that it’s fall.

We spent a long weekend in North Carolina near Asheville and drove on the Blue Ridge Parkway.  The parkway that, had we continued, would have taken us all the way to Virginia in the most beautiful way possible.

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Stephen found the cutest bed and breakfast, Oak Hill on Love Lane.  I mean…

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…it’s a wonder he was able to get me back to Georgia at all!  But it turns out we have some planning to do!

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Because just like that, by the light of a fire, underneath the stars and a waxing moon, we got engaged. I was so surprised I only remember bursting into tears and saying yes.  (But I also apparently said “what are you doing?!” when Stephen started getting down on one knee :D)

Our country drives have often included discussions about our future.  IMG_0135

And now those drives include our plans for celebrating the moment we become husband and wife.  It will be next fall, at a historic home in our small town.  There will be music and cake and people we love.

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This is the start of my third year in the south and the last year was harder than the first.  So many big changes have made small changes more difficult.  I’m both giving myself a lot of room to adjust and am frustrated with myself that I’m not adjusting faster, as if comfort runs on a timeline.

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Nothing happens on one set timeline, does it?  Timelines are their own thing, meandering, and (in my case at least!) never what’s expected.

When I talked to our wedding photographer, she asked me how I hoped our day would unfold.  I told her we were going to do everything in our control to have the day be sweet, simple and reflect us but that I also knew at some point we were just going to need to let go and allow the day to unfold in its own way.

And that’s how I try and approach each day.

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We meet our friends at the little white church for our third annual front porch pumpkin pick out (TM).  One of my oldest friends came to town and celebrated our engagement while fending off a wiggly puppy who has a penchant for licking eyeballs (sorry Shan!)

The mist rises off the lake in the morning and I put on a sweater before heading out to watch the dogs crunch through oak leaves in the backyard.

Our roof is being replaced, the new arbor needs to be painted and a white picket gate sits on its side waiting for the right post to be delivered…again.

We roast chicken and potatoes and dunk grilled cheese sandwiches into my favorite tomato soup.

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The days start early with coffee, new novels and puppy snuggles.

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My timelines may meander, but I like to think of them like our country drives. The drives where I take the time to notice all of the beauty that surrounds us even in the most difficult times knowing fully that all roads eventually lead home.

Summer 2018

Summer 2018

Tap, tap, tap, is this thing on?  It has been a WHILE.  I blame the puppy.

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Fisher does too.

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Summer 2018 kicked off with a trip to Panama City Beach, Florida and it was absolutely lovely.

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Time on the beach with good friends sipping “Pink Lady Drinks”, reading books, flopping all over rental house couches, miniature golfing, floating in warm, clear water and feeling soft sand on my toes.  There is nothing that restores me more than the ocean and I can’t wait to get back there.

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This was the summer Stephen and I started running.  We hauled ourselves up to a local track and joined people of all different shapes, ages, races and fitness levels.  We ran for 15 seconds on May 29th and now we run for 30 minutes.  Stephen runs a 5k in that time.  I decidedly don’t run a 5k in that time, but after every run I still can’t believe I can run for 30 minutes.

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This was the summer we painted the kitchen cabinets for a budget kitchen update.  More on that to come!  The cabinets are far from perfect but I am so happy with them.

This was my second summer of 4th of July visitors.  My sister, niece and nephew came down and I was having so much fun I didn’t take any pictures.  It was so fun showing them our town’s parade, introducing them to everyone down here and showing them around.  IMG_8558

I got to celebrate my friend’s birthday in one of my favorite places on earth, Cannon Beach, Oregon.

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I spent a lot of time here when I lived in Oregon and it was tough to leave.

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The beach is wide open for miles, allows dogs and is a beautiful drive from Portland.  We stayed in Manzanita, which is a quieter town about 20 minutes south.  Walks on the beach, an early morning run, amazing food, company and the best gin & tonics ever (thanks Bobby!) are hard to beat.  Stephen and I are trying to figure out how to get back ASAP.

And speaking of getting back!  The band is back after a hiatus for the birth of Kelley & Eva’s (drummer and singer) twin girls.  It was so great to hear them pick up right where they left off.  The Grammy nominated keyboard player John Ginty is playing on their next single coming out soon.

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As the sun sets on summer, I hope this finds you well, restored and looking forward to what can only be described as the best season of all possible seasons.  Bring on the pumpkin patches, the apple crisps, the brown leather boots and the annual watching of You’ve Got Mail.  “I would send you a bouquet of freshly sharpened pencils if I knew your name and address.”

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Hints of Spring

Hints of Spring

I find it funny that I chose root as my word of the year and the first two months felt  anything but rooted.  Not only were there two trips (one that catapulted me across the country and another that catapulted me right back to my couch to recover) but a winter cold knocked me out not once, not twice but three times.  And then we made the decision to adopt this little guy.

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Schedules be damned.  Who cares about sleep?  Living rooms are meant to have small wooly pink pigs and green frogs dotted amongst twigs and leaves picked up from endless trips outside, right?  Because he has these eyes that get teary when he’s tired and squinty when he’s mad and they make me answer yes.

We named him Reese after Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups.  He has wrinkles on his forehead and lips, black tipped ears and a gray and white chest.  The pads on his paws are all black except for one, which is half pink.  His tail has a little kink at its tip.  The vet looked him over and said ??? about his breed.  He likes to be held when he’s tired and gives me a soft little tap with his nose when I tell him to be “oh so gentle.”

But he also only sleeps a few hours at a time.  He pitches a fit when it’s time for bed.  He swears he doesn’t have to go potty when he’s shivering pitifully outside and then decides otherwise once back in the warm house.  He bites ev-er-y-thiiiiing…plants, cords, blankets, us, Fisher’s tail, his leash, his shadow, the air.  The three of us look at him beleaguered but understanding.

After six days at home (but who’s counting), I snuck out for a few hours on Thursday and soaked up the March issue of Southern Living while getting a pedicure.  I popped in the coffee shop for a chai tea latte and sipped my way through Target before picking up two new pillows for the front porch.  I came home feeling like a new person.  Getting out of the house is good.  And so, in that spirit, we took Reese for his first country drive yesterday.

We drove familiar narrow roads, passed mended fences, baby cows and old barns before getting to my favorite covered bridge.  It was surrounded by white blossoms and slanted sunlight. We walked around the field.  Camellias, all different shades of pink, were just starting to bloom and a small waterfall tumbled across flat rocks into the creek after a few days of rain.  We stopped for a kiss underneath the covered bridge before walking back to the car.  Reese bunny hopped between us, delighted as we were at the first hints of spring. I stopped for a moment and turned back to look again before looking down at our new boy, for it’s in moments like these I realize that even the youngest (and bite-y) of roots nourish.

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The Deer in Headlights Guide to Disney World

The Deer in Headlights Guide to Disney World

I had never been to Disney World and had always wanted to go but needed to overcome my two main fears:  1) Florida’s heat and 2) amusement park crowds.  What better time to go than late January? It’d be after the MLK holiday but before President’s Day weekend, no school holidays that I knew of, temps in the 70s and the second slowest week of the parks!  We were in!  And then we got there…

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The “second slowest week” at Disney World still is a literal 8 out of 10 on the crowd scale.  It turns out that just because American schools don’t have holidays, it’s summer break in the whole southern hemisphere!  Forgot about that!  Oopsie. Turns out, there is no slow time at Disney World! Surprise!

We stood in line waiting for the bus to take us to the park.  Stood in line at the park so they could check our bag.  Another line to check our tickets. Then in line again for breakfast.  We had been in lines for over an hour and hadn’t even made it on a ride yet.

My spirits started to sag early but then we got to the Haunted Mansion and the magic started coming back.  Our stomachs dropped on the Tower of Terror, hair blew back on the Rockin’ Rollercoaster and ice cubes glowed in the Sci-Fi Dine in Theater.  It was a great trip but here are some things I’ll remember for next time.

#1: The Disney Pace

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There are blogs and blogs and blogs devoted to Disney’s food, rides, souvenirs, and anything else you can think of.  When I started planning I was nothing but overwhelmed.  I ended up getting some help from a travel agent but even that didn’t prepare me for the pace.

There are A LOT of people everywhere and all are in various stages of crabby.  We walked almost 10 miles every day, were up before 7 a.m. and stumbled into the hotel a little before 10 p.m. each night.  We saw a fight, got soaked when the sky opened up, met a racist bus driver and by the end of it became immune to kids melting down. When we got home to Georgia we didn’t move for two days.

#2: Fast Passes

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The line for Avatar Flights of Passage was over 3 hours long and rarely got below that.  It is one of the newest rides and illustrated the need for Fast Passes if you didn’t want to wait.  If you stay at a Disney resort you get to reserve Fast Passes 60 days in advance of your trip.  You get three per day but once you use all three you can use the app at the park and see what others may be available.  The Fast Pass gives you an hour window to show up at the ride and you move straight to the front of the line.  Here are a few more things to know:

  1. Choose the most popular rides first regardless of the day you plan on being at the park.  Most people plan their park visits day by day but by the time they’d get to the day they wanted to be at Animal Kingdom the Fast Passes would be gone for Avatar.  So start with the most popular ride the moment Fast Passes become available and work backwards from there.
  2. Stack Fast Passes for the mornings so that way you can scan for others in the afternoon and evenings.   Since you can’t start reserving other Fast Passes until you’ve used all three, loading them up before lunch gives you a chance to look for others into the afternoon and evenings.  We were able to ride Tower of Terror and the Rockin’ Rollercoaster three times this way.
  3. But don’t stack them too early.  Once the park opens you can bomb straight to a couple of the popular rides (think Haunted Mansion, Pirates of the Caribbean, Expedition Everest…or basically any ride but Avatar and Mine Train currently) and there is hardly a wait.

#3 Dinner Reservations

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With the (what feels like) two million restaurant options at the four parks, one (namely me) would think that it wouldn’t be a big deal to waltz in and have your pick whenever you were ready.  One (again, me) would be wrong, wrong, wrong. Thankfully I had a travel agent that knew better.  Dinner reservations are necessary.  We’d just grab Starbucks in the morning and one of the “quick dining” options for lunch but had reservations each night for dinner.

#4: Stick to What’s Important to You

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This is actually my advice for every vacation, but it somehow holds even more true at somewhere like Disney World.  The park and resorts move you through them in a way that can be hard to deviate from.  A nice dinner or two are my “must dos” on vacation and Stephen had been waiting to ride Tower of Terror for 25 years (the last time he was at Disney World, he saw signs advertising the ride the whole trip from Georgia to Florida only to get to the park and realize the ride opened the day AFTER they were leaving).  To make up for lost time we rode Tower of Terror three times (it was so fun!) and I got my afternoon tea at The Grand Floridian and a private safari with a four course meal.  They were by far some of our favorite memories.

Will we go again?  Yes.  Will it be soon and will we wear matching Disney shirts and lanyards full of pins?  No. Was it exhausting?  Yes.  Was it magical?  Absolutely.

(I’ll post more next week about the restaurants and rides we liked.) 

Punta de Mita, Mexico

Punta de Mita, Mexico

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So there I was.  November. Portland. Coming out of a meeting I turned my phone on and blinked at the number of text messages. 70.  SEVEN-ZERO messages came in between 10 and 11:00 a.m.  I braced myself for bad news until I saw the final message on a group text “Beck, are you IN or what??!!”

In the span of an hour, four friends had all but booked a long weekend in Mexico and were waiting on me.

I sat staring at my phone.  I had been to Arizona in August, Savannah in September, Minneapolis in October, Portland in November. We were on our way to New York in December and had a Florida trip planned at the end of January.  Not to mention the new sod that would be going in the front yard, Christmas, and the fact I hadn’t been in a bathing suit in so long my skin was translucent.  I did the math, carried the one, figured eating Top Ramen for a month would just make me more buoyant and typed,  “I’m in!”

I packed a few dresses and got a spray tan that did nothing but turn my feet such a ridiculous shade I started calling myself “Trump Toes.” And that, my friends, is how my orange feet and I flew into Puerta Vallerta over Martin Luther King weekend.

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After a 45 minute drive where I was able to slip back into the Spanish I’m surprised I still remember, I found myself here. The W Hotel in Punta de Mita, a small resort town.

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And um…I had no trouble settling in.

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I was worried about getting bored, but it turns out I am absoluely 100% made for inhaling books while sitting under a cabana and listening to the ocean.

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It also turns out when you put the lime in the coconut you really do feel better. (PSA, the more you know, etc.)

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We scraped ourselves off the chaise lounges just long enough to eat every shrimp taco they had or red AND green chilaquiles because who wants to pick just one?

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We also managed to get ourselves off the property to go to a colorful little beach town (Sayulita) and eat paletas (popscicles) so good no one minded wearing mango stained lips for a while.  They matched my toes!

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And just when I thought snorkeling in the Pacific couldn’t  get more magical…

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…a baby humpback whale with its parents, just 20 feet off the side of our boat, brought me to tears.

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And so while my answer originally was “I’m in,” it has changed since coming home.  Now I say vamanos.  Let’s go.  Over and over again.

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Finding January

Finding January

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Parts of the lake across the street are frozen.  This week’s weather means an iced over bird bath, chapped lips and an irrepressible urge to get out of the house only to want to come right back in again.  I eat bright clementines and scoop honey from Stephen’s family’s bees to drop in my green smoothie with enough fresh ginger to make my lips tingle.

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Light floods in now that the trees have lost their leaves.  I’m mid office makeover and eagerly await a new rug delivered by our beleaguered UPS guy that even still, post holiday, doesn’t get here until after 6 p.m. I knit this wrap from Purl Soho and wait, pondering what to hang on the walls.

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Stephen makes me laugh by talking in the clipped British accent of the Storm in a Teacup: The Physics of Everyday Life narrator as I listen to the secrets of the universe locked inside a kernel of popcorn.  He makes soup with cornbread one night and chicken fettuccini alfredo another.  Stick to your ribs food that make walks even more necessary.  We strike out, bundled up in hats and coats.  Fisher is so energetic we have to take her to the baseball field so she can literally run circles around us.  She blinks, looking into the sun, tail wagging, panting hard, tongue hanging out of her mouth before running towards us, every step saying “isn’t this AMAZING?!”

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She may be right.  January has never been a favorite, but just like that humble kernel of popcorn I think we’re starting to unlock her secrets.

One Little Word

One Little Word

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As we move into the new year I’ve been giving some thought to  “One Little Word”  and what word I would choose.

The last couple of years have felt like my feet haven’t been on the ground.  There was falling in love; the roller coaster of loss; and the combined love and loss that stem from moving to a place where breakfast burritos are no longer stuffed with bacon, egg, cheese and potatoes but with fried chicken.

Things are starting to feel more settled.  Stephen is in the kitchen browning beef for a rich ragu we’ll serve tonight as we ring in the new year with a small group of friends. Fisher is passed out from her morning routine of running after the backyard squirrels, and I look at the Bobcat in the front yard with high hopes of lush grass in the spring when my hostas and hydrangeas will, fingers crossed, come back alongside the sod that goes in next week.

I hear a quiet whisper.  My word begins to form.

Every day I think about people, from strangers to those closest to me.  I think of lessons from the past and how those lessons inform our progress.  My heart goes out to the innocent and the guilty too; for while I believe strongly in justice, I believe just as strongly in compassion.

I think about this gorgeous planet and all of its inhabitants–animal, vegetable, mineral.  I think of those with nothing and those with seemingly everything.  And I think about the beliefs and stories of groups of people–those in countries, cities, churches, businesses and government–those who love and research and risk themselves to live the truth of their stories, for better or worse.

The whisper gets louder, it senses my doubt.

What am I taking from this world and what am I giving?  I fear doing harm–hurting people with my words, my beliefs, my lack of expertise in…basically all areas but the beauty of power naps and cookies…but I worry my silence is doing just that, hurting those who need my support.

And I finally hear my word…root.

Root, quiet and strong.

Root deeply. Take just what is essential and grow so that others may have that which they need now and long after I leave.

I don’t know what will come, or even exactly where I’m headed, but I will place my feet on the ground and begin.