Readers! I've got good news... In August I was hired as an Editorial Assistant by Adventum, a literary magazine specializing in creative nonfiction, with an emphasis on wilderness and outdoor adventures, as well as nature-inspired Haiku. It's the perfect fit for me, and I'm proud to be part of the publication.
Along with reading submissions for the upcoming issue of Adventum, I also co-author The Adventum Blog. I urge you to swing by and subscribe today! By following The Adventum Blog, you'll receive book reviews, publication announcements for our many talented authors, contest information, and some creative work, too.
Whenever I post something new on The Adventum Blog, I'll include a link here, as well. Just in case you want to read more of me!
Spotlight: West with the Night (26 Sept 2012)
In 1942, Beryl Markham had more than a few harrowing tales to tell. She published her memoir West with the Night to share them with the world. Raised in Africa, a continent still shrouded in a kind of dreadful mystery to the rest of the world, Markham had trained race horses and survived a lion attack, but most intriguing of all was her time as a pilot. Continue reading...
The writer's notebook. Tucked away in pocket, backpack, or purse, it's a longstanding tradition. And while technology may press to replace the ubiquitous writer's notebook with something far more-er-digital, I can't give in yet. I have too much nostalgia for the medium used by my predecessors and heroes: Hemingway, Muir, Jan Morris and Beryl Markham. These folks traveled, absorbed the landscapes around them, and wrote. Right there in the wild. And I strive to do the same. Continue reading...
Plans for our first overseas vacation began in early 2007. A couple of friends offered us use of their summer home in Denmark. Understand, I had no real desire to go to Denmark; I'll even admit I wasn't certain of its geographic location at the time. (Somewhere near Finland, right?) But when you don't have a lot of money, you don't say no to free lodging. Period. We accepted.
Then we pulled out the map and I said, "What? Denmark shares a border with Germany? That's awesome. We can drive."
Jonathan agreed to this initial whim for two reasons. First, he was a die-hard United Airlines fan, and their European hub is in Frankfurt. Second, he liked the idea of being on the road in a country known for its beer and battlegrounds. We used our United miles for two Business Class tickets from SFO to FRA, then rented a car.
Unfortunately, no one had thought to take the map away from me in the meantime. I was sitting cross-legged on the floor of our living room saying things like, "Did you know that Germany is right next door to Belgium? Home of amazing chocolate?" and "If we drive straight west from Frankfurt to the Belgian border, we can't really avoid Luxembourg, and Luxembourg is tiny, and I love all tiny things!" and "Oh. My. Gosh. Wouldn't it be fun to make our way north from there through The Netherlands? Windmills! Wooden shoes! Tulips!"
Try as he might, Jonathan couldn't convince me to give up the chance to see all these countries in one swoop. I'd fixated. Even prying the map from my fingers and hiding it didn't stop me. I'd memorized the geography at that point.
"Then we can swing back through northern Germany and across the Danish border, hit the coast for a couple days, and drive across to Copenhagen."
You might be thinking this all sounds a little ambitious or obnoxious. And you're right. But then I want to remind you that I believed this trip was our once-in-a-lifetime chance to see it all. How often do people travel to Europe from California? It's far. It's expensive. To do it right requires an amount of time that's almost impossible to get off of work in any normal career. We had one shot, and I was going to pack it all in.
Jonathan put his foot down when I started looking at train tickets to Paris. We had 10 days. I'd selected 5 countries. That was that.
In Oslo, no two buildings are alike. Walking through the neighborhoods, you'll see many a tourist craning his neck up to stare at the Neo-Classical, Victorian, and Edwardian architecture. (Many locals are used to the beauty and history on every corner, but not I!) Most recognizable are the ornate moldings wrapping around each floor, the light, happy colors, and the distinct style of each individual building. I have my favorites, of course, but then again, I'm always happening upon a new corner of the city, something else to love.
While housesitting for a friend today, I noticed how lovely the city looked through her windows.
If you have the opportunity to visit Oslo, make sure you leave time for a long walk. The city is safe, clean, and charming at every turn. Don't forget to look up! And if you live here already, don't forget to look out!
If you're sitting around on a Saturday afternoon or a summer evening and wondering what's free to do in Oslo, I've got an idea for you. Totally random. Totally Norwegian.
Pay a visit to the Holmenkollen Troll!
Take the Number 1 Metro line up to the Holmenkollen stop. From there it's a bit of a walk uphill, but the way is well-marked. Even if you've visited the ski jump before, you may not have swung out to visit the troll. He sits in a cluster of pines facing the jump, and only when you get up close do you find he has a little friend, too.
"A troll am I. Big and tall. I sing in one of my songs. For I am big and tall. When you see me sitting at Gratishaugen, I measure almost 7 meters. Big and tall may sound dangerous, but that's not the case. I am a good troll. It is the famous Norwegian sculptor Nils Aas, who brought me here. I am made of concrete, and I guess I do look a lot like the trolls you'll find in the Norwegian folk tales collected by Asbjørnsen and Moe."
Wave goodbye to the troll and stroll down the road a bit to give your inner child another thrill at Himalaya Park. Several fun obstacles and playground-style installments on the low ropes course are available for your use and pleasure. A rope wall, a hideout, a balance beam, a swinging bridge. It's full of pulleys and ropes, and it's free! (At least, it was the last couple times we wandered through it.)
I suppose this is really meant for families with kids, but... I don't have a kid; I have a husband with an active inner child. (Which means I'm rarely bored in Oslo!) Enjoy!
I was in Livermore, California, preparing for my best friends' wedding. And by preparing, I mean embossing place cards and choosing flowers and squabbling with the wedding coordinator and cramming into a Banana Republic dressing room to try on honeymoon clothes. But I also mean that we were goofing off--er--I mean, rehearsing the ceremony. And as you can see, we know how to make rehearsals fun!
Since then, I've been cherishing their marriage (albeit from afar) for three-hundred-sixty-six days. Cindy and I have a weekly Skype date, so I get all the dish on how things are going. I couldn't be prouder of the life she and Brad have crafted together, or of the goals they've set for themselves as a couple. Life comes at us so fast, and it's so full of distractions. It's refreshing and inspiring to see two young people so focused on what makes love fun and strong. Jonathan and I miss our besties. Being able to celebrate their wedding day at the altar with them meant more to us than they'll ever know.
Happy 1st Anniversary, Mrs. & Mrs. Lackey!
"The whole object of travel is not to set foot on foreign land; it is at last to set foot on one's own country as a foreign land." - G. K. Chesterton
Next week we're headed to Copenhagen, Denmark, just for the day. It'll be our third time in the Danish capital, thanks to a cheaper-than-cheap Groupon deal from DFDS. And it got me thinking about all the places Jonathan and I have visited together in the last 10 years. Then, I got this idea from fellow travel blogger, Mrs. O Around the World. Allow me to rank 'em!
#10 Blue Mountains, Australia
Australia had long been on our list, and because it's such a long trip, we wanted to give it two full weeks on our visit in 2010. The first week we spent in Sydney, but the second week was better. We took the train east to Leura and Blue Mountains National Park. Eucalyptus oils in the trees react with the air and form the mist that hangs, ethereal and blue, over the dramatic canyons and mountain ridges. We hiked beside waterfalls, marveled at strutting red macaws, and rode the Zig Zag Railway twice!
In 10 minutes, define your personal value. What makes you valuable?
The most valuable thing I do each day is write. Something. Anything. My words are my currency. Though I suppose standard rules of economics don't apply--I have an endless supply of words, and it is rare for anyone to demand them. So, my value is artful, wrapped up in what is creative. Historically, this is not something which is valued in the sense of money. Not unless I'm really good, or am misunderstood in my own time, or am to inherit a global chain of luxury hotels and have a sex tape floating around on the internet. The value of a writer's product in terms of money is usually low. There are simply too many of us, and too few unique thoughts shared between the group. So, what else might I claim to be my value, and how may it be measured? I am also a wife--the keeper of my husband's heart, confidence, and ego. And I make my home. There must be some value to associate with the vacuum cleaner, the dish soap, and the laundry hanging on the line. Or maybe that's all relative to taste, habit, and circumstance. After all, for a woman in a third world country, her ability to balance a pitcher of clean drinking water on her head over the dusty miles between well and hearth is the difference between life and death. That's value. Measured not in dollars, but in dysentery. Or a lack thereof. If I don't vacuum, nobody dies. If I don't write, nobody even notices. Except me.
Like bouldering, but on buildings. It's one of the many things we tried this summer, if briefly.
My best friend and Ya-Ya, Amy, visited us in Oslo with her husband, Jeff, at the beginning of June. We did a bunch of fun stuff together. I loved playing tour guide in my city!
One of the best things about Ames and Jeff is their spontaneity. We're spontaneous people, too, so the four of us have a very special brand of fun. On their last night, Jeff took us running out the door, down the stairs, into the street, and down a block to the local French school. There, we set about climbing the large retaining wall that runs the length of the playground. I'm so happy I grabbed the camera while everyone else was collecting their climbing shoes and chalk bags.
Eventually, Jonathan and Jeff pieced together a pretty nifty traverse from one end of the wall to the other. As they "worked," several people wandered by us in the street. One stopped to take an iPhone photo of the crazy Americans on the wall. Another asked where we were from and, as he walked away, called back over his shoulder, "Rest in peace, California!" (We're reasonably sure he meant "Take it easy," but it's the thought that counts.)
When Ames and Jeff boarded the train back to the airport the next day, I'll admit I cried a little. There are few people in this world who know me the way Amy does. She is a piece of home; and she'd brought that feeling all the way across a world to me. And while I may have been instrumental in showing them the nooks and crannies of Oslo, building memories they will carry with them the rest of their lives, they also gave a gift back to me: I will never see the schoolyard walls in my neighborhood the same way ever again. Walking the few blocks to the market or the post office or Solli plass will always be a little more special because that wall holds a secret route, one navigated by fingers and toes, and has held the chalk echoes of our movements alone.
"Mother said you could always tell a lady by her hands." ~ Suellen O'Hara, Gone With the Wind
And I've got dirt under my fingernails. Not only is this an odd sensation, but it makes me feel even less "kempt" than usual. What's the good news? My rose, the one whose existence and survival I chronicled yesterday, is now happily rooted in its new home. And I took the opportunity to release some of my excess creative energy (pent up inside for many months now as I've been unable to scrapbook for almost a year and a half!).
As everyone knows, Oslo is one of the most expensive cities in the world. This morning, I paid 36 NOK for a glass bottle of Coke. At the current exchange rate, that's more than $6.00. And I didn't even blink. Because I've been assimilated. If I want a Coke, I pay for the Coke. Fortunately, I'm more frugal when it comes to one-time purchases that aren't exactly "necessary." In that category are things like flowerpots. My track record with flowers doesn't rate a pretty, sturdy, earthenware pot. Instead, I picked up the cheapest brown, plastic pot and saucer I could get.
And it looked like the cheapest brown, plastic pot and saucer I could get, too.
So, I upcycled my flowerpot! All it took was patience, a Sharpie, a favorite book, and a steady hand.
Step One: Pick up a cheap, plastic flowerpot. One that, if screwed up substantially in the process, you will not regret tossing off, or turning into a new project instead.
Step Two: Select a favorite passage from a book, a favorite Bible verse, or a favorite quote.
Step Three: Turn on the TV. No, really. This is going to take a while. Queue up a movie or TV show you've seen a zillion times (because you won't be able to watch it with your eyes!). My personal preference was Season 4 of Gilmore Girls.
Step Four: Take the Sharpie (mine had a fine-point... using a regular Sharpie would make this process faster, but probably wouldn't look as clean) and begin.
Step Five: Write around the pot, one line at a time. When you come full circle, drop down to the second line and begin again. My quote was long enough that I only repeated it four and a half times. If you pick a long enough passage, you won't have to repeat it at all. Take your time.
My quote, from Natalia Ginzburg's essay Winter in Abruzzi:
"Our lives unfold according to ancient, unchangeable laws, according to an invariable and ancient rhythm. Our dreams are never realized and as soon as we see them betrayed we realize that the intensest joys of our life have nothing to do with reality. No sooner do we see them betrayed than we are consumed with regret for the time they glowed within us. And in this succession of hopes and regrets our life slips by. My husband died in Rome, in the prison of Regina Coeli, a few months after we left the Abruzzi. Faced with the horror of his solitary death, and faced with the anguish which preceded his death, I asked myself if this happened to us--to us, who bought oranges at Giro's and went for walks in the snow. At that time I believed in a simple and happy future, rich with hopes that were fulfilled, with experiences and plans that were shared. But that was the best time of my life, and only now that it is gone from me forever--only now do I realize it."
It's a reminder that these days, the ones I live right now, are the best of my life. I need to hold my husband tight, so that his heartbeat exists in the palm of my hand, and actively cherish what he brings to me. Laughter. Adventure. Wisdom. Play. And a year from now, I need to remember to feel the exact same way, no matter where we're living or what we're doing then. The present is the best, and I don't want to miss it, nor do I want to hurry it away in favor of the future.
Perhaps this is why I haven't yet washed the dirt from under my fingernails.
There is a meme that has made the obligatory number of rounds on the interwebs and is now lodged, probably forever, in my life. This is Why I’ll Never be an Adult on the wonderful and hilarious blog Hyperbole and A Half. It is the story of one woman’s personal history of productivity, the ups and downs. And, as with so many great and simple stories, this one is illustrated with zany stick figures.
The thesis to all this, of course, is that the definition of an Adult is a person whose capacity for responsibility is rarely, if ever, overwhelmed by the petty rigors of daily life. You know the ones. Chores. Errands. Getting one’s child (or husband, in my case) to eat his vegetables. Working at a job that earns one money. Hitting the gym. As well, an Adult is someone who manages to fend off the temptations of sloth and gluttony, even in this world of Double Stuft Oreos and Project Runway.
The punchline is that an Adult manages to do all these things in a day, as well as to CLEAN ALL THE THINGS! Exquisite hyperbole. And the bonus punchline is that wannabe-Adults can't maintain this level of responsible productivity for longer than a couple of days. Then we breakdown, forsake all other goals, and succumb to the lazy-brained pull of the Internet. Forever. It's a cycle; one I've been churning through for years and years.
And, like any other average twenty-nine-year-old woman, I’d love to break the cycle and cross off Adulthood on my list of achievements.
So far, I haven’t. Not that my list remains impossibly long. I’ve crossed off other important milestones like Master’s Degree, Living Abroad, and Reach Eighth Year of Marriage. Not to mention the lesser goals, like Master Pumpkin Bread Recipe, Watch Every Episode of Friends 19 Times, and Defeat Gag Reflex When Scooping Kitty Litter. You see? Progress.