Friday, December 25, 2015

The Lucky One.



It's been a while, I know. 

I've been on vacation for about a week and a half at this point.  From Stavanger, Norway to Heathrow, London to Newark, New Jersey to Charlotte, North Carolina.  And that was just the flight pattern to get back to the States.  Next up we traveled from Charlotte to Key West, Florida.  From Key West to Pine Island, Florida. 

So.  A loooong ride. 

And it's been an interesting ride.  I've had some bad things happen- I've been called a beached whale (oh you know who you are...); I've sat in a bar with my father and my husband, listening to songs about scrotums (thank you Sloppy Joe's house band); I've put on more holiday weight than I like to admit (thank you fried food, booze, holiday cakes and bacon).  Not to mention the fact my silly-ass little puppy is in a kennel in Norway, probably freezing his wee blond tail feathers off....  But then I've also had some not-so-bad, but still a little wonky moments.  I've had a fruitless crabbing expedition; a couple of arguments; maybe a silent treatment or two; I've had to navigate places and people with whom I'm not utterly familiar.  

And still for all that bad, wonky, what-have-you... I'm lucky.  Like, I'm so lucky.  I'm lucky because the bad has happened alongside this incredible adventure with my family.  The wonky has happened while trying to find crabs in the shallow waters of the Gulf Coast alongside the aforementioned husband, his Mom, my Mom, my Father.  I got to come home to the people I love, with the person I love, to spend time with all loved ones. 

I am the lucky one.  My Christmas is spent with my most loved ones.  


The adventure continues tomorrow.  But for now... 

Merry Christmas to All and to All a Good Night. 

Sunday, December 6, 2015

In Retrospect...

I was having drinks with friends this weekend when the conversation turned to marriage and relationships- the trends, the success stories, the epic failures.  This conversation then mutated a little but remained nonetheless a somewhat personal storytelling time.

And, relating to the relative marriage rate of early twenty-somethings in the American South, I told my cohort the following tale:

Here's the thing- I didn't have my first "real" boyfriend until I was a senior in college.  I dated here and there; made out a time or two, but never had a proper boyfriend until I was 21 years old.  It was doomed to fail- not because of him, he was (and remains) an intellectually interesting, funny, kind, charming and genuinely lovely man.  No, it was doomed to fail because I was (am?) a cowgirl.  I wore (wear?) my independence like a mantle.  It was doomed to fail because what I wanted as a 21 year old was not what he wanted as a 21 year old- it was not what a lot of 21 year olds wanted.

In fact I had that conversation with my college boyfriend pretty early on...

Him:  So what do you want out of life?  What are your dreams?

Me:  I dunno.  I mean...

Him:  Come on, Kate, everyone has something they want. 

Me:  I guess...(and here's where the cowgirl starts snickering)...  You know, I really only want three things in life.  

Him: ??

Me:  I want a dog, a Jeep, and a house on the sea. 

That's it.  That's what I wanted from my life when I was just a pup on the cusp of graduation and a heartbeat away from being "outside the bubble."  I wanted a dog, a Jeep, and a house on the sea.  And a year after starting college, I bought myself a green Jeep Cherokee: one out of three ain't bad for 21. But ultimately, that's what broke us up.  I didn't want the four-bedroom, four-bath McMansion.  I didn't want the white wedding or the "security" of an engagement out of college.  I wasn't afraid of being alone on my own.  I wanted to adopt a dog.  I wanted to travel around, dog in tow, in a gas-guzzling, break-down prone Jeep.  And I wanted to go home to a small house- a cabin even- that overlooked the sea.  I was comfortable with myself.  And I was brave enough to think I could do it all.

Fast forward a decade, to me at 31, telling all of this to my friends over Guinnesses and glasses of wine.  This time, I laughed a little and said "I still have a Jeep... I mean, it's tagless and in North Carolina, but it counts, right?  And I've got a dog- two out of three ain't bad, either."  I laughed a little harder until one of my companions said-

"Hang on, Kate.  You've got a house on the sea.  I mean, it's an apartment, but it's a home on the sea."

And I'll be damned.  I have a dog.  I have a Jeep (I'm serious, it still counts).  And I have a home on the sea.  I sat back, sort of flabbergasted.  I look across the table at my husband, who winked at me (this is the first time he'd heard this story), and thought... well Hell.  That's what a decade of wandering, wondering, has gotten me... Three out of three.

And that ain't bad at all.

And until next time...
The Dog. 

The Jeep (at it's finest).

Life in the House on the Sea.

Thursday, November 26, 2015


So here's the thing about being thankful... it doesn't have to be for the big things.  It doesn't have to be for Peace on Earth (there's a strong likelihood that that will never happen anyway), or a sweeping amazing thankfulness for all the good that is all around you all the time.  You don't have to thank everyone for everything.  Hopefully all of the people I am lucky enough to know have some knowledge of my gratitude and feelings toward them.

The thing about being thankful is that being thankful can be about all the small things.

Except for a few minutes when the puppy had to go out and we had an impromptu run, I've gotten to spend the day with my husband.  For that I am thankful.  I got to listen to Journey... a little less thankful for that one... followed by Kelly Clarkson, on an utterly absurd playlist, while dancing around our living room.  I got a wreath, as a gift, from a Scrooge.  Thank. You.  Thankyouthankyouthankyou.

And that's just the tip of the small things iceberg.  This is Thanksgiving, you know?  It's the holiday that's about food and laughing and loving and categorically NOT about gifts and shiney things and commercialism- at least not until tomorrow.

I have a healthy, happy (and recently bigger) family.  I get to go back to the States for Christmas Holidays to see them.  I got to talk to one of my best friends this morning via Skype.  I will see another one in less than a month.  My dog is currently sleeping (small things, remember).  It only just now started raining (that might be a big thing, actually).

To all my loved ones, near and far and far-fetched and wonderful...

Happy Thanksgiving.

Be good, be happy, and eat well.

Friday, November 13, 2015

The Short Version.

I could probably pen a treatise on why- and how intensely- I dislike public transportation.  Seriously.  A treatise.  A footnoted, quote-laden, properly educational essay on how much I cannot stand public transport.

But I'm getting ahead of myself... It's really just buses.  I loathe buses.

And here's the thing- I get public transportation.  I do. And it's not like I hate all of it- honestly, it really is just the buses.  In fact, I totally support trains, metros, subways, etcetera.  There is all manner of really grand, functional and functioning, cheap, and environmentally friendly public transportation- which is a win no matter which way you turn it.

But there's something about buses.  (And here's where I have to step back from the edge of the treatise).  It doesn't matter what township, city, county, country you're in- buses are buses.  And pretty consistently awful in some way.

Take China.  In all of my blogging, I think the bus only came up once during the China posts.  Nevertheless, this one's personal.  Every time I got on a bus, which was often then, I was gawked at.  I was scrutinized.  There was pointing, whispering, nudging- and that was between everyone else.  And it was in far too close of a personal space zone.  I mean, there are 1.4 billion people sharing the same poorly planned roadways there- and it frequently felt as though 1.3 billion of them were on the same bus as me.  Hanging onto the same hand rails and bars and grips as me as we navigated potentially deadly trips to the grocery stores.


Which brings me to my next point- hygiene.  I mean, it sort of brings me to my next point.  Think of how hygienic 1.3 billion people are when crowded into the same small space as you.

So I'm riding in to work (of course on the bus) today and I notice that the seat next to me has something that resembles dried poo crusted to it.  That's the seat I started out in.  Yup.  So I can only imagine what the bottom of my pants looks like now.  And let me not get started on the two dozen coughing, sneezing kids surrounding me.  Did someone say Flu Shot? (Actually, someone did.  But that process is another story for another post... trust me.)

Buses are dirty.  They are gross (even here in pristine Scandinavia).  And I'm not a germo-phobe.  Far from it, actually.  I rarely remember to to wash my veggie, don't mind at all eating day-old something that has sat out overnight.  And if you could see the things I've plucked out of my puppy's mouth... I'm not grossed out too easily.  (Oh, but wait... Back to China...Do you know how much- and the number of different species- blood I stepped in or had dripped on me while riding on the bus?  I'm not a germo-phobe- but I don't do juices.  And those buses transported a lot of juices. )

Okay- so far: crowded, check.  Gross, double check.  Vehicles for cultural confusion as well as transportation, check.

But wait, there's more.

And this one is the real clincher for me. Getting on a bus is tantamount to surrendering all locomotive  independence (to be fair, almost all public transportation has this same effect on me). Which is basically the same insult as taking any of my cherished, hoarded, careful independence away from me.

Hear me (read me, I guess) out.  You get on the bus. You are then subject to the whim of both the bus as well as it's driver: mechanical error is just as possible as human- and easily worse.  But I digress.  You are on someone else's schedule.  You are in a moving vehicle over which the only control you exert is your physical placement- if you have even that luxury.  You are on a road, in a flow of traffic, but you have no control over either of those things.  You're not active on a bus, but supremely passive.  I hate passivity.

There could be no stops between you and your destination, there could be every stop. The passengers might start a fight with the driver- thus delay, delay, delaying you.

You could be waiting in wind, rain, hail, snow- or some combination thereof.  (And I have).

You could be running and miss it; you could be standing there and wait f.o.r.e.v.e.r.

You could get where you are going 10  minutes late or half an hour early.  You have no control.

No control at all.  You are utterly dependent.

On a bus.

And that's where this gets curtailed- because I could go on.  And then it would get not a little philosophical, not a little psychological, and not a little at all ridiculous.

A bus is a bus is a bust.  Oi.

And until next time... I think I'm free of the bus until Monday.  Happy sigh, Dearhearts.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

November Notables

Oh yes, the monthly (well, almost monthly) obsessions blog.  And, like any other obsession post, this one is scattered: multitasking schools, podcasts, the challenge of staying warm just below the arctic circle as we crawl toward winter. 

Amongst other things.

But let's begin at the beginning.  I am super late on this one, I know.  And to be honest, it would not have been on my radar at all had I not recently rekindled my love affair with BBC News- especially online.  When I lived in China, I compulsively checked BBC every day.  It was one of the unblocked news venues we could get there- and it became my inlet back into the 'real world.'  Anyhow, I checked BBC on Saturday morning to find this article.  I don't know why it really caught my eye, but I followed the link and fell down the rabbit hole.  

About thirty seconds after reading the news brief, I downloaded the entire season of Serial.  I then had a rather impolite argument with iTunes when it refused to sync the podcast to my iPod (yes, I still have one of those- which I also use obsessively).  Several words later, I started listening to the first episode.  I'm actually dreading the end of the season.  It is incredible, interesting, provocative and terribly terrifying.  

And with that teaser, I'll move on.  In October I found out that I was accepted to Oregon State University to pursue a post-bacc (a shorter, second bachelor's degree) in Environmental Sciences.  Those of you who know me know that I was that kid in college who never took math and science because I was convinced of my own failure (rightly so, I would have argued).  Two self-fulfilling prophesied degrees in History later, I still did no math or science.  In fact, two weeks ago as I sat at my computer and took a math placement exam for my new school, I realized that I have not done anything besides 'making change math' in over a decade.  Seriously.  

13 years, to be exact.  

Anywho- I've got no business fearing failure these days.  I've tasted it for sure, I've been there, and now I'm back.  And I'm utterly obsessed with my class schedule.  Building it, molding it, pouring through course offerings and catalogs; I'm getting to know how the skeleton of my time will look for the next couple of years.  It looks a lot like letters: ATS 320; GEO 323; BI 360... you get the idea.  And I'm having a blast. 

This website.  Outdoor goods on supersale?  Living in a somewhat cool locale?  Win. Win.  (Also, the  "Current Steals" are outstanding.  And addictive.)

And Thanksgiving.  It's getting to be that time- when the turkeys go off the shelves and people begin sorting out pumpkin pie? Or cherry? Or both?  Sweet potato casserole or sliced yams with mini marshmallow?  Pearl onions (no thanks but they are a staple at our house)?  Thanksgiving is sort of an ongoing obsession of mine.  This year it will be a new experience.  I've had it overseas before, that's nothing too new to me.  But this year I am mistress of ceremonies- I'm the big kahuna... I actually have to clean the bird, and stuff it, and cook it... and not kill anyone in the process or aftermath.  Plus, I will have guests.  

Yeah.  This will be entertainment at it's finest.  Stay tuned for that post. 

And until then, or maybe before. 

Wednesday, October 28, 2015


I just deleted the working title of this blog and the first two sentences.  Largely because none of those had anything to do with courage.  I had started writing a piece of nonsense loosely titled "The Short Answer."  It had every element of one of my silly posts- a puff post, if you will.

And then I got an email from a friend I have known, but not heard from in, a long time.  It started out like this:
Hey Ranger-
You've got a new name. Either you got married or you joined the world's worst witness protection program. Congrats/condolences as appropriate. 
So to begin with, I'll concede- that's what I'm up against.  The man is not a dummy and he's not even a little dull- and in fact has probably given me some of the sagest wisdom of my life (one piece of which involved, in my post-breakup madness, bourbon, a bath, and eating a steak with my bare hands.  Oh hell, hang on. Specifically it involved cooking a steak and eating it with my bare hands while downing a bottle of bourbon in the bath.  That's it.)  But here's the kicker, that's just the opening of the email.  My long-lost part-time, long distance friend then goes on to say:
I was actually reading your blog a few weeks ago. (I'm not a stalker, I happened to be in my inbox here and ran the mouse over your Google+ icon, which made me curious, which led me to your blog, etc.) You're a courageous motherfucker, pouring it all out there like that. 
Well shucks.

And hell.  That had me mulling over a couple of things... at what point, what entry, what period of my life that is written, played, poured out in this blog, did he begin reading?  Because honestly, if you begin at certain entries... you're likely to think that I should have been hospitalized... and/or lobotomized.  I hardly recognize myself- and the word courageous rarely comes to mind when I look back over the span of this thing.

In fact, had it been left up to me, that sentence would have read something like:
You're a desperate motherfucker, pouring it all out there like that. 
Because frequently, that's what drives me to do this.  To write, to unravel, to unleash all of this language and thought and emotion into the world through this particular vehicle.  Not all the time is it a bad desperation.  There are many posts that come out of me from a desperation to acknowledge, to educate, to share, to celebrate the world around me and the places I go and see; the people I know and those I meet along the way.  And that's not at all bad.  Not even a little.

But I suspect the posts he stumbled upon are the bad ones.  The ones driven by a madness and a desperation to get some of the toxic self-loathing from which I frequently suffer out of me and onto the page- because it can't hurt me there, right?  I suspect he found the ones that are less courageous than they are confrontational and maybe a little cowardly.  Because some things don't need to be talked about- or maybe they do need to be talked about, but between the privacy of loved-ones, not here in an open forum.  But even then, I think 'but I made a promise.  A long time ago.  To be honest.  Always.'  And so that desperation to write and reveal is hounded by a need to be as open as I can be.  For myself and for others.

Courage?  I'm not sure about it.  I am honest.  Or I try to be.  I am honest about myself, the state of my being, the state of my brain.  I am honest about the demons that haunt me and ride in the back of my brain like remoras.  It might not be the best policy, but it's the one that keeps me on my toes- and keeps me coming back here.

And until the madness ends or the desperation quiets- and honestly, I hope neither of those things happens- until then.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Vanity... and Potatoes.

This time last week (I'm writing this in Central European Time Zone. It's noonish here- you do the math) I sat in a taxi and watched as Dublin appeared in front of me- slowly materializing from green hills and small industrial holds near the airport, to the somewhat shabby suburban structures littering the outskirts of the city, to the mix of quaint brick buildings and pubs, and magisterial cathedrals, colleges and state houses that make up the center.

My camera was already attached to my face, eyes and fingers ready at the trigger.

Now, I am not normally a vain person- but I am absolutely when it comes to my photographs.  Especially the ones I take traveling.  If I do say so myself, I think I am not such a bad photographer.  To be fair, many places I go turn out to be "point and shoot" places- where the mountains align perfectly, or the sun scatters shadows in the most delicious patterns, or even where the rain obscures the view and creates an elusive photographic masterpiece.  It's not really me, that is, it's the destination.

And the camera.

Except for Dublin.  As we tooled around, me constantly searching for a photo opportunity, I started to question the viewfinder, and then my own eyes.  I just couldn't find The Shot.  I couldn't find the eye-catching, all-consuming, will-interrupt-the-flow-of-pedestrian-or-motorized-traffic-to-get-it SHOT.  You know it, you know the one I'm talking about.

It bothered me for a while.  I mean... the Temple Bar Food Market; Dublin Castle; Christchurch Cathedral; even the Guinness Storehouse wouldn't give up a good shot.  Okay, so it bothered me for more than a while.

Until I sat down at pub and started sipping a wine (Yes.  I drank wine.  In Ireland.  Get over it.) while taking in the scene.  There was a Hen's party at the same pub, along with a huge group of tourists, about three dozen football (European) or Rugby fans, and a host of other characters.  And sitting there, having a drink, letting the crowd and the culture wash over me, it hit me.

While I may be a vain person, Dublin is not a vain city.  There are beautiful parts to it, absolutely.  But it's not a city you go to for beauty or vanity.  It is a city you go to for laughing; for witnessing impromptu serenades, listening to a story, sharing a table or a pint or a perch, stealing a kiss in public.  It is a city with such depth of personality that it doesn't need pretty.  Perfect strangers will share a giggle with you- there are not a whole lot of major cities that can boast that particular quality anymore, not to my estimation anyway.

Once that hit me, once I let go of the need to capture the perfect picture (once I let go of my own ego) and instead focused on the city for what it is, I saw so much more.  So many colors and characters, so many moments in time.

And so, I give you Dublin:

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Il Fait du Vent

The wind is still blowing.

Yesterday the wind inspired a blog about the fall- because of the way it feels, the way it sounds, the way it pushes each step to some specific but unknown destination.  The wind is magic- an ancient, secret thing.  Especially here, especially now.

Having largely chosen to live either inland or in the mountains for the past decade or so, I had forgotten the chop and severity of sea wind, the push of it; the relentlessness.  Especially northern sea wind.

I had forgotten that when it blows like it has for the past two days, with ferocity and determination, it utterly transforms the world.  It rearranges every natural and unnatural thing to suit itself, to become itself.  When the wind kicks up here, and remains kicking, everywhere smells like the sea; every noise sounds like a storm; everything feels fateful, fated, inexplicably sinister- as though every aspect is driven by this unyielding force at your back.

I love this wind.

It is inconsiderate at 2:30 in the morning when it cracks at my windows and drives cool air and ear splitting howls into the bedroom.  It is frank, unapologetic, and quixotic.  It is the nature of the sea itself: of course the unbound wind coming off it would reflect it's unchallenged power.

And now it's time to walk in it.

Until next time….

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

October Obsessions

Fall has come to Norway.  Not that this is news- I'm not entirely sure that winter ever left Norway, forget about the fall.  Nevertheless, fall has come which has me considering all the things that I love about the season.

It always amazes and thrills me, how quickly it happens in northern climates- the transition of seasons.  One day is summer, the next is chilled, crisp, and smells of the coming cold.  Then the leaves go, then the wind kicks up, then the- hang on.  I'm wrong.  One day is summer, the next Starbucks brings out pumpkin spice lattes and the drug stores and super retails bring out Halloween candy and costumes; in the days after that, the chilled, crisp moorings smell of the coming cold. Then the leaves go. Then the wind kicks up. Etc. Etc. Etc.  And then it's Fall.

It's all about timing.

Which brings me to my first obsession- one which I've been thinking about a lot here in Norway… mostly because my only hope for it actually is the aforementioned Starbucks- The Pumpkin Spice, errr, anything.  (Really- latte, frozen yogurt, cheesecake, I'll take them all.  Or dare I shout out the laudable and honored proper Pumpkin Pie which contains pumpkin and spice and a delicious crust and the whipped cream that would also appear on the top of the latte?!?!?!?  Wait!  What?  What was that?  The sound of your mind exploding.  You.  Are.  Welcome.)  Okay, but we'll stick with the latte for now.  Because I'm not obsessed with just any pumpkin spice latte, oh no.  I'm talking about the one from the Cumberland Farms in Windsor, Vermont.  I'm talking about the over-sugared, over-processed, under-nutritionally sound pumpkin spice latte that comes out of a gas-station coffee latte maker in three convenient sizes: splurge, regret, and diabetes.  Nothing says fall to me like a stroll down Main Street in Windsor, disposable cup of delicious in hand.

Nothing, that is, until this makes an appearance on my computer or tele.  Very very much looking forward to the annual pre-Halloween screening.

Current slightly evil obsession?  Of course I have one!  Making fun of people, in my head, who are exaggerating the autumn dress code.  Yes, it's the fall- Hell it's October already.  And yes, I am in Norway where, yes, it's cold.  And yes again, even I have a shiver of "holy bananas I'm freezing my tail feathers off!" every few nights when Henry has to go out for his bedtime bathroom break and I draw the short straw.  But honestly.  It's really not parka weather yet.  None of you are Everest Sherpas, and by the way, do you know how many geese gave up down to stuff that jacket of yours?  Let's show a little respect here.

And the giant scarves (you know who you are, ladies who wrap what appear to be blankets around your head just to walk the block to the grocery store) are overkill.

That being said.  I am a hypocrite.  Big time hypocrite.  Not that this comes as a surprise to anyone.  But seriously, these boots- which are, indeed, winter boots- are a godsend.  Waterproof suede, fleece lining, and Henry-approved.  I can stand in up to eight inches of wet in these suckers without feeling it.  Toes still toasty warm.  Yes, I have already started wearing them on our morning and midnight walks.  And I'm not apologizing for it or feeling any shame about it at all…

...but I'm also not wearing a sleeping bag tied around my neck, as well, to keep warm.

Just sayin.'

Quick shout out to Asics.  Just got a pair of their running pants and I have to thank them for pretty consistently remembering that not all size XS/S women are also only 5'4".  Some of us have legs that we would like to cover all the way down to the ankle- if not over it!  And Asics has done the trick.

And once again I'm so far behind pop culture it is borderline criminal.  I have discovered (term used super loosely), on Netflix, Modern Family.  Yeah, I missed the boat by a lot of years on that one.  I'm shaking my head at myself.  Apologies.

And I think that'll do for now, hey?

In the meantime, Happy Fall, Happy Autumn, my Dearests! And until next time...

Monday, September 28, 2015

Taking Stock

Okay, I admit, it's been a while since I've been the bombastic blogger.  In fact, it's been a month since I last posted anything.

In that month I have very nearly been deported (hello snail mail, scrambling, miscommunication, drafted appeals, snail mail again and... deadlines!); gotten married; gotten a military ID (spouse not soldier); and had a birthday.

I have logged thousands of miles by air or road; made ten thousand phone calls; sent about a million emails; and made somewhere in the neighborhood of a billion mistakes.

I have cried more than I care to admit- happy and sad tears.

I have experienced what amounts to close to every human emotion.  Some of the negative ones have yet to rear their heads… But give it time.

I have been chastised, harassed, scolded, dismissed and denied- almost exclusively by people with whom I've interacted in Norway.  As an aside- I may be captivated by your country's stark and breathtaking beauty but honestly, I'm over the joke that you seem to think is appropriate human interaction.  Seriously, for people who are frequently ranked amongst the happiest in the world, some of you have got some impressively unpleasant attitudes.  So now it's game on.  If you want to fight, call me Mayweather.

Wow. That was an aside. And it's not everyone, obviously. Just a handful of winners.

In that month I gained another family, extra sets of parents, and a husband who may have more patience than than anyone I've ever met, and an extraordinarily good heart.  I have been reminded of how lucky I absolutely am.

I have been kissed, congratulated, hugged, and handed more glasses of wine and champagne than my liver actually deserved.

I got a(nother) tattoo, applied to go back to school, and learned to Stand Up Paddleboard.  Oh and I also discovered that I have a waterdog- beware rowboats, kayaks, canoes, and fishermen, Henry's coming at ya.

But the month is over.  Everyone is up to date and I'm once again online.  I'm back in Norway… harumph…. and already planning more jumps around the globe.

Next up is Dublin.

And until next time, Dearhearts.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Limbo! Not Just a Gravitationally Challenging Game

Recently I have found myself in a sort of multifaceted limbo.  So many components of my life are neither here nor there; not one way or another; they are limboing.  Yes.  As a matter of fact, I can make that noun into a verb if I feel so inclined, I'm that good.

And limbo, while far less distressing than the rabbit hole, is just an odd state.  It is a hanging state- like those little marshmallows in that horrifying jello-salad… thing.  You know the one I'm talking about.  That marshmallow is stuck, doomed.  It has been completely stripped of itself and it's self-control.  It can't sink; it can't swim; it can't move.  It can only wait, forever suspended in pinkish-orange goo, to be devoured.

That's limbo.

And, not that this will come as an extraordinary surprise, I'm no good at limbo.  I just don't do it well; I am not a marshmallow.  I suppose it's the same principle as being sick- I don't care if get better or worse, I just cannot sit there.  Meanwhile, I don't care if I move forward or backward, just let me move- sink, swim, or be devoured… just. let. me. move.  Let me shift in some meaningful direction- or at least let me pick a direction and start wading toward it.

Mixed metaphors anyone?

I'm pretty sure I'll get to a point somewhere in all this nonsense.

Oh yes, here it is…

It's not an easy thing, having to watch your world happen around you. And before everyone goes all up in arms and tells me it's my own fault, and I can absolutely be active in my own world, happening in my own world… that that's the point of it being my world, just do something about it (yes, I can also anticipate counter arguments)- go back to the notion of limbo.

Limbo is absolutely what I'm describing: some jello-like force that literally contains you within your own space.  Because of this force, this thing that is outside of your control, you become immobile and unable to participate in your surroundings.

And that's where I'm at.

Until next time, dearests.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

If Your Own Being Sickens You

Then how do you live with yourself?

The past few weeks have been a flurry of non activity and activity- of working, waiting, wondering, and worrying.  I have been all over this adopted town of mine- to Food Festivals, to new bars, to old haunts.  I have sequestered myself inside in a heap of irrational loneliness.  I've had grand times and growing distress and all of the normal day-to-day nonsense of human life.



And there's the pinch, the twist, the slash.

In all of this lovely normal there's been a growing darkness, the metaphysical hiccup- the demon that sits on both shoulders and waits. Until you have your guard down; until you feel happy and feel like maybe you can let your guard down; until you have something for it to really play with.  That little thing waits until it can do the maximum amount of harm.

Which is when it strolls up your shoulder and begins to whisper in your ear.

Not good enough. 

Never good enough.  

You should be ashamed of yourself. 

You are worth nothing. 

And the scariest bit of this little demon is how convincing it is, how clear it's voice rings.  The truth he speaks is not his but an echo of your own.  The little demon, the beast, is a part of you whether you want him or not (or her or not).  It is you, the worst of you, the very most fracture of you- but put back together in the very most terrible of ways.

It, he, she, is what makes you you- but what makes you you in the ways that you fight against and struggle against; swear at; damn; curse.

And he's come a-whisperin', Dearhearts. He's come indeed.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

The Odd-Numbered Wheel.

Except for the dog, I am alone in a hotel room.  It is something o'clock in the morning and through the thin building walls I can hear someone singing Nobody Knows the Trouble I've Seen.

Every now and then, I am confronted with the weirdness of lonely.

It is the weirdness of standing in a roomful of people and being certain that you have developed the power of invisibility; the weirdness of being able to move in and out of crowds, around them seamlessly because you are more shadow than substance.  'Going through the motions' was never more apropos.

Lonely is the weirdness of watching yourself change; feeling helpless to stop it; and then plotting your own demise in a vain, pitiable, pathetic attempt to counteract it.  Lonely is knowing yourself too well for your own good- both lonely and knowledge are simultaneously insidious and challenging and terrifying. Your Self, after all, is not a good one.

Lonely is the weirdness of a dream scream- opening your mouth wide to cry out, call out, beg for help… only to find that you have no voice. You are rendered helpless by silence.

It is the weirdness of a self fulfilling prophecy.  I am lonely, I am disheartened, so I separate myself in an attempt to keep those around me from getting stained by the strength and pull of my emotion.  Which makes me lonelier and isolated.  It makes me a masterpiece.

Lonely is a reality check.  And a rather potent one, at that.  It's that poke in the back; pinch on the arm; flick on the shoulder.  'Watch yourself,' it says, 'cause nobody else is.'

And with that.  A walk for the pup.

Until next time, dear ones.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Happy Birthday, Mommy.

Today, my mother celebrates her 29th (cough) birthday.  Which is weird (cough cough) when you consider that I am already 30 (cough cough cough).  Mathematically, it doesn't quite work.

But who ever said birthdays and mathematical sense go together? Surely not I.

Alas, I digress.

As the universe would have it, I am once again far away for a beloved parent's big day.  And while I somehow managed to spirit away a gift to her through the mail, it's not quite the same as being able to kick back and spend the day with Mom.  Or being able to call from inside the county, at an obnoxiously early hour, and sing "Happy Birthday" and the top of my lungs.  Not that I wouldn't do that from Norway, it's just… not the same.

The thing is… birthdays aren't about gifts, they are about presence. Birthdays are about being there for a person who, in this case, has always been there back.  They are about looking at a person you love and thinking 'DAMN, I'm happy you're here. (And you got here, 29 years ago {again}, on this day!).'

And the loveliest fact on earth is that I've got so many reasons to be happy for my Mom- happy that she's here, happy that she's there.  If you've ever had the luck to meet Maureen, you know that she's something else.  I frequently describe her as my touchstone, my protector, my best friend.  And this is going to be a short version of her list because it could go on for pages and I can only gush for so long before you'll stop reading.  So here we go…

She has the biggest heart of any person I've met in my life- and she loves with every last bit of it.  Her intuition is huge and stunning which lends a compassion to her that is rarely found in others.  She is funny as all hell and laughs with every iota of her being.

When you are visiting her, she's the 'In-Town Mama.' When she is visiting you, she's the 'Outta-Town Mama.'  It doesn't actually matter what relation you are to her, she'll mother you.  She is exceptionally patient when it comes to the people, or creatures, that she love most.  She's technologically backward, old-school, hates her smart phone, and yesterday described herself as 'squealing like a toddler every time I see you pop onto Gchat (gmail's version of messenger).'  She then proceeded to give me an example of her squealing like a toddler and I very nearly peed myself laughing.  She's the best.

She is one of the strongest people I know.  Period.

And someday, I'd like to be a little bit like her.

But until that day… HAPPY BIRTHDAY MAMA! (Apparently in Norway it's 'Gratulerer med Dagen'… boring), AND WELCOME TO THE FIRST OF MANY BIRTHDAY BLOGS, BABY!!  My advice for the day?  Have a re-live of September 2008, find a river, a paddleboat, and a Pina Colada.  And scene.  Wish I was there. <3

Friday, July 17, 2015

So Far, So Florence

It seems like everyone in Florence has some sort of story to tell. The homeless, the hapless, the helpless.    And they are all begging for their photos to be taken- a visual aide to their tales. 

The people here are tourists and locals, sightseers and philanderers and men and women looking for some sort of break. 

The meat, meanwhile, is looking for a cut. 

These men were sort of deliciously lazing across from a wine bar- the tenders at which were serving them merrily and without a second thought to charge.  They all have stories to tell.  And they tell them to each other.

Old meets new.  I am partial to both, believe it or not.  As much as my heart sings for the ancient world and works- there's something to be said for juxtaposition. 

Ponte Santa Trinita at sunset. 

This dude at morningtime… sheesh.

My first glimpse of the Duomo resulted in a rather emphatic, overly loud "Holy Shit."  It is the third largest church space following Saint Peter's in Rome and Saint Paul's in London. And it's phenomenally stunning- all green, white, and pink granite.  All Holier Than Thou. 

And then you see the sky and remember that it's not really the building that counts at all...

Ah Firenze.  Every time  I see that word, I think about Harry Potter- wasn't the centaur called Firenze? Wasn't he?


Gridwork, part sunshine, part two. 

And until next time… Suggestions for gelato flavors?

Friday, July 10, 2015

On Minarets, Microphones, and Magic

It's been nearly a week since my return from Istanbul and I still can't quite shake the feeling that I've done her some sort of injustice by not actually writing about the city.  I can't quite get her out of my head or off my mind.  Go with me on this one, let it flow, because it might be a bit of a ramble.

Despite my decidedly out of control globetrotting, I have never visited a predominately Muslim country.  Most of my travels have taken me to largely Christian, undecided, or otherwise inclined places. There's no rhyme, reason or prejudice here.  In the hierarchies of my travels, where I can go is where I do go- and that is much more a result of funding versus religious affiliation.  I believe I've fairly clearly established my own thoughts on religious systems and spirituality.  The one I don't buy into at all, the other I have the utmost respect for.  No surprise there.

But what may surprise is that the thing about Istanbul that struck me the most- aside from the colors, flavors, scents and scenes, visions of living history- was the religiosity there.  It is woven artfully into the day with extreme precision and delicacy.  It is careful and sometimes subtle and frequently not-so-subtle.

Hagia Sophia near the center, Blue Mosque off to the
far right.  Ten hundred thousand life-stories between.
The religion in Istanbul struck me as both blunt and gentle- there was a constancy to it that was amazingly profound but also a nonchalance about it.  Every man had prayer beads that he was constantly fingering.  Women had traditional scarves.  Scanning the horizon is a riot of lopsided buildings, skyscrapers and unsightly cranes- all punctuated by the jabbing grace of minarets.  Minarets everywhere- minarets beside minarets beside minarets.  All outfitted with microphones.

This place, this history, so steeped in religion and so aware of that, does not let you forget it.  If Istanbul can remember- so can you.

(This is where I'm going to do something very difficult- and skip the part about the Hagia Sophia. If you know me and know what some things mean to me, you'll know that the nearly three hours I spent in awe and reverence in that space were about as close to Holy as I can get.  In those three hours I remembered why History was my first love, and how History is so Holy… Hmm.. I guess I'm doing a poor job at skipping the part about Hagia Sophia.  I digress.)

And now for elementary background (and I apologize for my woeful oversimplification here)… Muslims observe Salat (Namaz in Turkey), one of the five pillars of their faith, with prayers that take the physical, mental, and spiritual aspects of (wo)man, roll them together, and demand respect, attention.  It's a time-out from life, a reminder of the bigger picture.  Salat happens five times a day.  And witnessing  that will change a person- at least for a little while.  Because Muslims pray… beautifully.  The daily calls to prayer (Adhan) which erupt from those microphone-bearing minarets around the city at prescribed times are booming, echoing, tinny, abrasive and utterly captivating.

Yes. That is me: shoulders covered, head covered,
kneeling at the Blue Mosque.  Even heathens have
Everyday there- several times a day- I'd pause for a heartbeat, wondering about the strangeness of being included in someone's religion, someone's faith, simply by having chosen to visit their city.  It was an oddly provocative gift.  And how very potent that realization is to someone like me.

Everyday there- all those several times a day- I stood quietly realizing that my adventure now had a new soundtrack.  Instead of jack-hammers and honking horns, I had the call of some appointed Muezzin guiding me through the crowded streets of this ancient place.  And in this ancient place, in those few moments, I felt an ancient magic.  It's the magic made from layers upon layers of civilization, each weighing down on the last, each bolstering the one that followed, building up to something… I don't know what yet.

It's the magic made from Spices, Sultans and Salats.

It's the magic of Istanbul.

There. That feels better- And until next time.

Sunday, July 5, 2015


I'm staring out the window of another plane.  I can't see the landscape through the clouds but I know it's there, passing beneath me.  Or rather, existing beneath me while I pass over it.

I watch the clouds, imagine the land, and wonder where is home?  What is home?

I've never been terribly discriminatory about my use of that word.  'Home.'  I guess because I don't really consider home a place, or maybe that I don't consider it a singular place.  I'm too traveled, too 'miled' for that- far too old for the luxury of staidness.  The plane I'm on at the moment reminds me of this- it's flying me from Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris to Stavanger, Norway.  For the moment, it's flying me home.

Or is it?

Because home is Charlotte, North Carolina.  Home is Windsor, Vermont.  Home is the driver's side of a Jeep that will soon be sold to the highest bidder.  Yesterday home was an eighth floor apartment in Istanbul with a rooftop terrace and an evil washing machine.

There it is- home isn't a place.  It's a space.  It's a space that you carve out for whatever small or grand period of time for yourself.  Home is the space that you make yours.  If it's only for a day, cool- that bench is homier than any other around, or that bus seat or that plane seat on a long haul trip.  If it's for a week, even better.  Because at that point, at some point, you're walking along the streets of someplace theoretically foreign and you stop when you realize that you've bought coffee from the same hidden, hardworking vendor for the past four mornings in a row.  You're not home- but you have your own 'coffee shop on the corner.' And there it is again- you are home.

If it's even longer, then you're just lucky. New Jersey, North Carolina, Paris, Maryland, New Hampshire, Vermont, China - all of these place have been my home.  And there are so many more.  There will be so many more.

It's not a place. My parents will move to Florida soon. And where they go, where they wind up, will not be the house I grew up in, but it will be home because of them. Vermont and New Hampshire will always be home because of the people I know there and the love I have known there.  Norway might not work out, I really don't know. But in a little while, I will be landing and making my way to an apartment with a warm, happy dog wanting to say hello…

And 'welcome home.'

And until next time… I'm home.

*I journaled this on a plane- typed it later on.

Friday, July 3, 2015


I literally made myself giggle with that title.  I know that I'm not really funny… but I like to tell myself that I am.

And without further adieu, the Photo Blog from Istanbul…

So far...