This Is Us

I didn’t participate in the thousands of crock-pot discussions that have peppered social media in recent weeks. Truth be told, I have only seen the pilot episode of This is Us. I liked it but not enough to watch another episode. At least, not right now. Milo Ventimigila wasn’t even enough (Team Jesse).  I’ve never really full-on embraced a weekly network television drama to the point where I have to watch the latest episode. It’s not in my blood. I’m sure I’ll end up watching This is Us the same way as Parenthood – on Netflix at my own pace.

But this post isn’t about the hit television show. Nor is about the Mark Knopler and Emmylou Harris song This Is Us from their 2006 album, All The Roadrunning (sigh – such a great album). Today is Valentine’s Day – the day makers of giant teddy bears and bad chocolate rely on to keep them in the black for the year. In our house, we acknowledge the day and exchange little gifts with the kids and each other but we’d rather chew off our own arms than go out to eat tonight and he knows better than to give me jewelry. Clay will be back after the sun sets so my gift to him this year involves bombarding his phone with questionable love-related GIFs and an inappropriate card I picked up at Target. Love is not dead in this house, folks.

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When Did Reading Become a Luxury?

As I type this post, I’m watching curling on the television and toggling between this screen and Wikipedia in attempt to have 2018 finally be the year I fully comprehend the sport. The kids are asleep upstairs, Lucy is next to me on the couch, and I’m awaiting text confirmation that my betrothed has safely arrived at his intended location. I could be using this alone time to strengthen my mind and actually read but instead, I am writing about books that I want to read. Life can be funny that way. We’re heading out of town for the Presidents’ Day holiday – while winter has been a bust snow-wise in the Washington DC area this year, we’re still escaping the cold for warmer temperatures. And my goal is to actually read a book (or maybe two!) during our little break.

In 2016, The Washington Post explored the long and steady decline of literary reading. The article mentioned how studies have shown that  literary fiction boosts the quality of empathy in the people who read it. So one could theorize that the decline in literary reading has resulted in a decline of empathy. I want to read more for many reasons, including this one. The Harvard Business Review listed 8 ways to read a lot more books this year. One such way is making a public commitment, which guess what? I am totally doing right now. At this phase in my life, reading feels a bit like a luxury. There is always something I could be doing instead of reading – cleaning, cooking, interacting with my kids, working, etc…

I love to read. But I am an all-consuming reader. When I read a book, it takes over my existence. I’m not able to simply put it down and go about my life. I sneak pages when I can and skirt real-life responsibility for printed words. For this reason, I struggle to incorporate reading into my daily life and it is usually saved for moments when I remove myself from everyday existence. I wasn’t always this way but the introduction of children, social media, and multiple streaming options into my life have all seemed to contribute to my issue. I want this to change. So I’d like to read the following books over the next handful of months…

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Our New England Adventure – Newport, Cape Cod, and Ogunguit

During the summer of 2014, we took a weeklong tour of the New England coast. We returned to northern Virginia with bellies full of fresh seafood and as much of a tan as the Massachusetts and Maine sun allowed.

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We’re apparently machinists because we chose to drive through New York City and Connecticut on a Friday afternoon. In June. It quickly became obvious that we weren’t the only ones heading to the shore that weekend. I’m sure the big city hotshots in Maseratis (we spotted five!) were rolling their eyes at our Subaru with a car top carrier but that’s how we roll – we’re so pedestrian that it hurts. After about 10 hours, we finally arrived in Rhode Island.

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The next day, we drove over the largest suspension bridge in New England to Newport and spent the morning exploring one of the oldest cities in the United States. Newport also has a strong Navy presence so as is the case with most Navy towns we visit, we cursed the majority of Army locations throughout the world (Fort Polk anyone?).

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We ate on the water, enjoying a lunch consisting of fresh steamers, grilled shrimp, and a hot lobster roll.

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After lunch we walked around the harbor some more before getting back on the road. We left fans of the smallest state and hope to return someday. After leaving the Ocean State, we rolled up the coast along Route 6, marveling at the quaint architecture found in New England, specifically the Shingle Style, Colonial Revival, and of course the Cape Cod. Before long, we were in Massachusetts.

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I’ll admit that before this trip, my knowledge of Massachusetts was pretty much limited to American Revolution history, The Departed, and Mitt Romney but not surprisingly, we fell in love with Cape Cod.

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One of the first things that struck us was just how large Cape Cod is – for some reason, I pictured it to be much smaller. We learned that Cape Cod originally only referred to the very tip of the peninsula, but over time the name become synonymous with area known today. After crossing the Cape Cod Canal, we drove along Route 28 until we reached our resort in South Yarmouth – a Red Jacket Resort.

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 We checked into our room and promptly changed for the beach.

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 Where this little girl proceeded to take her first steps.

Go Violet, go!

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The little guy spent his time on the beach building sand castles and digging holes.

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We absolutely loved staying on the beach. There is nothing I like more on vacation than being able to walk to the water. While the resort wasn’t anything fancy, it had a private beach, an outdoor pool with a splash pad area for kids, an indoor pool, and plenty of chairs, umbrellas, and toys free for use.

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We did leave the resort to eat at local restaurants and explore the area but we spent the majority of our time at the beach.

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We were only in Cape Cod for two days so seeing the Cape Cod National Seashore was our top choice for an afternoon outing. We never made it to Provincetown or the tip of the cape but I know we will travel to Cape Cod again at some point. We were able to visit Marconi Beach free of charge due to our National Parks Pass courtesy of the military, which was a pleasant surprise. Marconi Beach is known for its sand cliff (also called a scarp) that fills you with a sense of solitude because there is not a building to be seen on the horizon.

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We had a wonderful time in Cape Cod (even if Weston’s face tells another story) and had trouble wiping the drool off our chins when seeing some of the available real estate. Having a vacation home in New England does sound quite nice, doesn’t it? But Maine was calling our name.

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As we crossed the Piscataqua River Bridge, we were welcomed to Vacationland. A quick drive up Route 1 and we reached our destination – Ogunquit, Maine, which means “Beautiful Place by the Sea”.

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 Quite deserving of the name, right?

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We checked into our hotel and immediately walked to the beach. Clay grew up vacationing in Ogunquit every summer and has many childhood memories tied to the seaside town. Continually voted one of the best US beaches, Ogunquit has three and half miles of white sand beaches along with rocky cliffs overlooking the ocean. We sat on the beach with our toes in the sand, watching the tide come in before heading back to hotel for dinner. After putting two tired kids to bed, Clay and I sat out on the balcony watching the waves while savoring a cocktail or two.

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Weston and Violet had us up early the next morning so we set out to walk the Marginal Way soon after sunrise. A little over of a mile walkway from downtown Ogunquit to Perkins Cove, the Marginal Way came to be when Josiah Chase Jr. donated his land back in 1925. Described as rocky, rugged, and wild, the path itself is paved but there are plenty of rock-lined coves to explore along the way.

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Obligatory family photo.

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One of the many coves on the Marginal Way we enjoyed climbing up and around.

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Gorgeous Perkins Cove.IMG_6120

Once in Perkins Cove, we found a lobster boat departing with the hour and quickly reserved seats. We ate breakfast at a cute little coffee shop on the water while waiting to come aboard and before we knew it, we were off on our very first family lobster adventure.

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 Being out on the water in Maine was about as amazing as you’d imagine it to be.

 

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After our time on the water, we ate lunch at The Lobster Shack and the meal was easily in the top three of our entire vacation and they won our award for Best Clam Chowder (it is obviously a highly coveted award – ha!). The restaurant is unpretentious, casual, and the epitome of Perkins Cove. Go there. Now.

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 Photographic evidence.

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 We spent most of our afternoons in Ogunquit at the beach.

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One morning we drove south to York and checked out Nubble Light, the Cape Neddick Lighthouse.

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Thankfully there was only one afternoon/evening of rain. We didn’t mind too much because it gave us the perfect excuse to drive around and explore. We ended up in Portland, walked around the harbors, and ate lunch at Duck Fat, which will now make every fry I ever eat again pale in comparison.

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Clay was also super excited to introduce us to Congdon’s Doughnuts. I am happy to report that they live up to the hype and are every bit as delicious as Clay’s family herald them to be – simply marvelous. I had the maple cream and I am still dreaming about the delicious morsel of perfection.

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Coastal Maine is magical. I will forever hold the memories of this vacation close to my heart. I can’t wait to go back and explore further north on the Maine coast. And I don’t just want to return during warm weather because as Paul Theroux writes, “Maine is a joy in the summer. But the soul of Maine is more apparent in the winter.” I’d love to find out for myself.

Getting to Know Me {Year of Intention}

Yesterday morning I had coffee with a dear friend who knows me – really knows me. We can talk about anything and everything and one of my favorite aspects of our relationship is that we’re not afraid to dive into heavy topics and as a result, we’ve formed what I consider to be a deep bond over the years. And as I was driving back to the preschool to pick up my daughter, I was comforted by the fact that I have people beyond my husband who really get me. And they don’t run away when they get beyond my hard candy shell.

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I first started blogging years ago as my husband, Clay, was preparing for his first deployment and I was facing a brutal winter in Fort Drum, New York. I hadn’t landed a job yet beyond substitute teaching and I hadn’t formed the type of friendships that are vital to surviving such an experience. I was alone, I was cold, and I was scared that I’d be a widow at 22-years-old. So I created a blog and I wrote. I didn’t write about anything particularly meaningful – I just wrote. Since then, I’ve blogged on and off over the years at a variety of venues but I never considered myself a writer. I witnessed the blogging landscape change and what was once a fun outlet became a cesspool of sponsored posts and basket of words that lacked the authenticity that made blogging so great in the early years.

Last month, I declared 2018 as the Year of Intention. In full disclosure, one of my intentions this year is to dust off my previous blogs and really try to give this blogging thing a go once and for all. Analytics (yet another thing that wasn’t commonplace in the early days – bah hum bug) tell me that I have quite a few new readers beyond my immediate family and close friends so a good place to start is by answering some questions I’ve received over the past few weeks.

Getting To Know Me

Where do you live? Clay is currently assigned to an obnoxiously large office building in the Washington DC area. Because we’re priced out of most of the chic Washington DC neighborhoods that offer trendy restaurants and hip watering holes within walking distance of well-performing schools, we currently call Northern Virginia home. There’s a Trader Joes, Whole Foods, and two Starbucks within a 2 mile radius of our house so it’s pretty safe to assume that we’re living the suburban dream. Whenever we want to escape the land of infinite Targets and Mattress Firms, we drive five minutes to the nearest metro station and pretend we belong to the city that 535 members of Congress call home for at least part of the year.

If a movie was made of your life what genre would it be and who would play you? Because I think that You’ve Got Mail is pretty much the most perfect movie ever made, I like to think that my life would lend itself to frothy light-hearted romantic comedy in the genre of a Nora Ephron or Nancy Meyers movie. Although – I just watched Baby Driver and would love to see my life choreographed to music with the help of Edgar Wright. As far as who would play me? Claire Danes because we both can rock some pretty stellar ugly-cry faces. And we both have large noses {btw Claire – I say that with love and admiration!}.

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What is the strangest thing you’ve ever eaten? I’ve had both alligator and rattle snake, which I feel like most people have had at least once so I don’t consider those very  strange. I’ve also had salt & vinegar fried crickets, which were surprisingly tasty. However, the strangest thing I’ve attempted to eat was deep friend chicken feet in Chinatown in Montreal. There was a miscommunication while ordering and I was quite disgusted by the plate that was placed in front of me. I ate what I could (which wasn’t much) and then accidentally swallowed a bunch of tien tsin peppers. Let’s just say it wasn’t my favorite meal.

How do you like your steak cooked? I know I should say medium rare because I consider myself a lover of food but I can’t help it – I’m pretty sure I best like my steak medium (ducks under chair).

Do you really love 80’s/early-90s era Tom Selleck? Short answer? Yes. Long answer? What originally began as a silly conversation starter has grown over the years into quite the appreciation for the guy. You see, growing up one of my favorite movies was Three Men and a Little Lady. My 10-year-old self thought that Peter was the most dashing architect in New York City. I would imagine myself as Nancy Travis in a puffy-sleeved wedding gown, marrying Peter in a remote English village with Waiting for a Star to Fall by Boy Meets Girl piping through the church. Then Tom Selleck showed up on Friends as Richard and by that time I was a teenager and the damage was done – I was 100% all-in on Tom Selleck. Once I got to college, I would share stories about my teenage lust for Tom Selleck over beers and the rest is history – I became known for my fondness for the mustached Romeo.

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What job would you be absolutely terrible at? Anything that required extensive phone use. I’m not a millennial (actually – I think I am) but I recoil at the idea of having the schedule appointments on the phone. When I find a doctor or a dentist that utilize online scheduling software, I hear the Mormon Tabernacle Choir singing Handel’s Messiah.

What is the worst ingredient to fill a burrito with? Rice. When did that start becoming a thing? Ugh. Rice?!?

What is an embarrassing moments you’re willing to share? Back in 9th grade, I inadvertently asked my math teacher how long his “thingy” was…   ::dead::

Do you like having a husband in the Army? I met Clay two days before September 11th. He was a 2nd year ROTC cadet and I was an impressionable college freshman living in the same dorm. During our time as college sweethearts, we grew up together knowing that war would be an inevitable piece of our story. I was lucky enough to have pinned him when he commissioned and pin on his new rank during his subsequent promotions. While Clay didn’t originally set out to make the military his career, I’ve been with him since almost the beginning so the majority of decisions regarding his career, we have made together. Over the years, he has done a tremendous job at making feel like a valued partner and that my input matters. While we have gone through some really awful things that accompany war and death, I believe we’re both better versions of ourselves than if he didn’t choose this path for himself. I also like him in uniform – especially his Mess Dress. 😍

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Do you have any reoccurring nightmares? Yes! About one a month, I dream that it is finals week and I discover that I’ve been unknowingly enrolled in a class the entire semester and the final is in 30 minutes. I frantically try to cram the material but I have yet to make it far enough in the dream to actually take the final. Interestingly, the subject matter changes – one night it’s biology and another it’s French. One time, I even dreamed that it was a hydraulics class, which is especially puzzling because I studied political science and economics. Any amateur dream sleuths want to take a stab at that one?

What about you? 

I’d love to know more about you! Please feel free to answer one of the questions (or all!) or ask another question for someone else to answer. Do you have a reoccurring nightmare? How do you like your coffee? Are you more of a pancake or waffle person? What is your all-time favorite television show? Why do you read blogs?