97 Degrees and Rising

As Nelly shouted to the world in 2002, it’s hot in herre. Really hot. Washington DC is currently experiencing a record-breaking heatwave that has me thankful for our pool membership while also giving my flashbacks on our brief time in Texas. The infamous capital-area-swamp humidity isn’t helping. My coarse thick hair is weeping for SoCal and my body is wondering why my husband chose to pursue a land-locked career in the Army rather than along the coastline in the Navy. That being said, I really do love living here. But I’d like it even better if were in a cute little bungalow within walking distance of a major body of water.

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Clay was home for the majority of the weekend, which meant we attempted to squeeze in as much family time as we possible could. Which is how we ended up kayaking at noon in 99 degree weather – looking back, not our brightest idea. The kids managed to keep the complaining to a minimum and they powered through but we waved the white flag around the two hour mark.

In effort to keep this space from flatlining, I am really trying to write more. Not that I think anyone is chomping at the bit to devour my words but it’s nice to a place that I get to completely cultivate as my own. I may not be the next voice of my generation but I sometimes say things that make my friends and family laugh and the people who live with me seem to think I’m the cat’s pajamas. That has to be worth something, right?

I’ve noticed an uptick in readers as of late. Either Russia is really refocusing their efforts or some of the words I’ve written over the past few months have resonated with various members of the world population. Although, I do hope it is not those who aren’t actively seeking to destroy our well-being. So it seems like as good of a time as any to answer a few questions that may help you get to know me a little better.

Zodiac sign? I am a Pisces. I don’t really care though because I haven’t checked my horoscope since middle school. And even then I only did it because I was desperate for friends and it felt like every.single.girl in our school was obsessed. Back then, my tragically fragile self-esteem would take it personally that the horoscope for Pisces was always located at the bottom of the newspaper section. As if it were an after thought – if only I were a Cancer or a Sagittarius or a Leo. Is it possible to feel rejected by a newspaper horoscope section? Because I’m pretty sure I was continuously rejected by mine during my middle school years.

Three annoying things. (1) Slow talkers. Unnecessary pauses are positively grating and life is way too short to extend words beyond their required syllables. (2) Lack of turn signal. I’ve spent way too many minutes fantasizing about enrolling in the Police Academy, working hard, making close friends, and graduating with honors – only for the privilege of pulling over drivers who refuse to use their damn turn signal. Book em’, Danno! (3)

An embarrassing moment. I have had a lot of embarrassing moments over the years. Without elaborating (perhaps a future post?), some of them include: falling down a staircase in my wedding gown during our reception in front of everybody on the dance floor, inadvertently asking my 9th grade math teacher how big his “thingy” was in front of the class, raising my hand during English 101 as a college freshman and asking the professor to describe phallic because I wasn’t familiar with the word, and a very unfortunate incident involving unpasteurized cheese.

Five dishes you wouldn’t want to live without? (1) Double-blanched French fries. (2) Beef tenderloin/filet mignon. (3) Maryland blue crab. (4) Fresh shrimp. (5) Pho.

Well – this seems as good of a place as any to close the post. I thoroughly enjoyed writing it. However, it remains to be seen if anyone enjoys reading it. For those who have made it thus far – thanks. And for those who bailed at an earlier paragraph – you missed out on learning that I am able to sing “Little Black Backpack” by Stroke 9 without needing to look at the karaoke screen.

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Adventures in Kayaking

When Clay reported to Fort Drum, New York many moons ago, we ended up choosing Sackets Harbor, New York to be our home as young twenty-something newlyweds. For three years, we lived a few hundred yards from the Black River Bay, which is feeds into Lake Ontario. We absolutely adored living in the little resort town and took full advantage of living on the water. We purchased kayaks, made friends with a couple who owned a boat, and didn’t let too many days go by without being on the water in some form or another.

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~ Lake Ontario, New York 2007 ~

When we moved to Raleigh, North Carolina we decided to store our kayaks at Clay’s parents, who live outside of Wilmington. When visiting, we’d take them into the Cape Fear River and keep our eyes open for alligators. Our kayaks remain in North Carolina to this day because once our son arrived into our world and the Army sent us to Fort Sill, Oklahoma, it just seemed easier store them near a water source we knew we’d visit a lot.

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~ Cape Fear River, North Carolina in 2009 ~

So for the past seven years, we’ve only used our kayaks when visiting Clay’s parents. However, that doesn’t mean we’re not above renting kayaks when we travel.

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~ Crystal River, Michigan 2012 ~

We’ve kayaked down the Crystal River in Glen Arbor, Michigan.

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~ Long Bay, St. Thomas, USVI 2014 ~

And we’ve gone out at night on clear-bottomed kayaks in the Virgin Islands.

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~ Lake Lanier, Georgia 2015 ~

Over the years, we’ve cut it close with storms.

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And we’ve spent hours upon hours together on the water. It’s our happy place. I think I like it so much because it really is a great analogy for life. Kayaking is fun. It can be hard. And there will be times that you are so tired that you just want to stop paddling and coast. Just like life. Kayaking can be peaceful. It can be exciting. And it can be scary. So pretty much – kayaking is life.

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~ Lake Lanier, Georgia 2017 ~

My parents have a couple of kayaks at their place on Lake Lanier, Georgia. So when we visit, we’ve taken the kids out on the kayaks there to expose them to the sport and get them excited to be on the water. We thought about grabbing our kayaks from North Carolina last time we were stationed in the Washington DC area but the kids were really young and then the Army sent us to Kansas and then Texas – it just seemed easier to leave them there.

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~ Potomac River, Virginia 2018 ~

But guess what? We’re back in Northern Virginia. And our once-tiny kids grew and they’re not so tiny anymore. In fact, they’re both fully capable of using an oar and manning the front seat in a double kayak. Needless to say, Clay and I are thrilled.

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We took the kids to Fountainhead Regional Park this past Sunday and rented two double kayaks. We foolishly forgot our life vests at home so we had to rent those too (womp womp). We managed to get an hour of kayaking in before thunderstorms rolled in.

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We hope to pick up our kayaks in North Carolina soon and bring them home. They are single kayaks but the wells are big enough for the kids to sit with us but we will likely eventually trade them in for two double kayaks. Because a family the kayaks together, stays together.

Hello Summer. Hello Boredom.

In the 15 days since my last post the kids hit their last baseball of the season, they’ve started swim team, and school has officially let out for the summer. Temperatures in the national capital region have hit 90 degrees and we’ve been spending our evenings at the neighborhood pool. So despite it being a few days away from summer solstice, I’m officially declaring it summer for Team Huffman.

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Summer has been an interesting season in our household for awhile because we’ve moved each summer for the past three years. The little guy was four and baby girl wasn’t even walking the last time we had a summer that didn’t involve packing up our worldly possessions and schlepping them halfway across the country. Not that we didn’t have fun – we always use the transition time that accompanies a PCS (permanent change of station) to travel, visit family, and make the most of our uninterrupted time together. But for as much as I love experiencing new places and meeting new people, it can be quite exhausting to essentially start our lives over each fall. And there isn’t always the guarantee that I’ll bloom where the Army plants us. So the fact that we currently have an uninterrupted summer ahead of us seems downright exhilarating.

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So what are our plans for the summer? Well – the kids and I will be on our own a lot this summer but Clay will be home enough that we’ll be able to squeeze in a few family-of-four adventures along the way. We have our trip across the pond in a few weeks and I’m sure we will squeeze in a trip to the North Carolina coast and Lake Lanier, Georgia to visit family. We will take advantage of Blue Star Museums in the area and we will explore Washington DC beyond the standard tourist-fare. We’ll go hiking in the Shenandoah Valley and kayak on the Potomac River. And we will eat lots of Maryland Blue Crab and s’mores.

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That being said – these kids will also be bored. Their days will not be scheduled with camps, lessons, or schoolwork. They will harness their boredom and transform it into independent creative play. They will draw. They will paint. They will make a mess. And they will clean up after themselves. I will not comb Pinterest for activities to keep them occupied day in and day out. They will have time to think. Time to plan their own day. They will play outside unsupervised. They will build forts. They will fight. They will be sent to their rooms. They will read. They will be bored at times. And they will have a fantastic summer because of it. Research has shown that boredom can lead to happier and more creative kids with superior problem solving skills. So while we will have adventures and experience plenty of new things, the kids will also have a lot of downtime. When they’re able to use their own creativity and participate in unstructured play, they learn to keep themselves entertained – which is, quite frankly, absolutely essential for a happy and successful life.

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So hello summer 2018. Hello adventure. And hello boredom.

A Room Interrupted – Adventures in Rearranging Furniture

As a child, I would rearrange my room at least once or twice a year – for no reason other than I wanted change. I’d swap out my poster of a wolf howling at a moon over a waterfall for a poster of the 1992 Dream Team and I’d curate my collection of Milk campaign advertisement carefully taped inside of my closet. My original Macintosh 128K would always remain the focal point of my desk – where else would I play Stunt Copter and Brickles Plus? But almost everything else would change – at least a little bit. My desire for change in my personal space didn’t cease when I went away college or settled into married life. My dorm rooms and apartments never looked the same for long – I would grow bored waking up day after day in the same space.

Yesterday was no different.

Day in the Life – May 1, 2018

I don’t consider my life to be extraordinary – at least not in the sense of “everybody wants to be me!” My life is pretty grand – don’t get me wrong. But I’m not delusional enough to think that this little hummingbird of a blog provides people with an aspirational way of life. Isn’t that why people follow the Kardashians? As a non-follower myself – I really don’t get it but maybe the joke is on me. On May 1st, I decided to document my day from start to finish. Nothing exceptional was planned and nothing amazing happened. But as pointed out in a favorite play of mine, Our Town, “Choose the least important day in your life. It will be important enough.” So while this day may not seem that important when going against the highlight reel of my life, it is meaningful simply because it happened.

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My alarm goes off at 5:30am. I grab my phone and scroll through emails, Facebook, and Instagram – you know, the essentials. I’d like to say that I also read the top political stories of the day but I actually just bummed around Buzzfeed reading about what sandwich best represents my personality. After a few more minutes of riveting journalism, I lean over to kiss my still-sleeping husband (he didn’t have to leave until a little later that day) and popped out of bed so I could enjoy the quiet house.

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I pour myself a cup of coffee and go about getting the house ready for the day. Everyone in our house is typically up by 6:30am most days. Here in Virginia, the kids’ schools don’t start until 9am, which is quite the change from Kansas and Texas. Even though I prefer an earlier start time, I admit that it’s nice not having to rush out the door in the mornings.

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Early morning is my favorite time to write. I sit down at the desk in the living room and spend the next half-hour putting together my post about our Whirlwind Trip to Colorado Springs. Weston came downstairs just as I hit publish. He is my kindred spirit – the other early riser in the house. Clay and Violet are the night owls in the family. We cuddle on the couch for a bit and talk and then turn on the TV to watch Weston’s newest favorite show – Family Feud with Steve Harvey.

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The rest of the house soon comes downstairs, including Lucy. I make lunch for the little guy (if you’re looking for inspirational packed lunches, just keep on scrolling). I’m trying to firm up some things that decided to head south for winter, so I do squats and lunges as I assemble his honey and peanut butter sandwich.

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We then said our see you laters to Clay, who won’t be coming home that night. With his current job, Clay isn’t home much but we make the best of it by maximizing our time together when he is around. His travel schedule has given us some perspective though – we’re definitely do not take it for granted when he is home!

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The kids and I get ready for the day and before long, it’s time to walk to school. The elementary school that Weston attends (and Violet will attend in the fall) is a true neighborhood school. The vast majority of the kids walk to school and it’s one of the smallest elementary schools in the district, which very much appealed to us when searching for a home here. Walking down the street and through the woods to the little guy’s school is one of my favorite parts of the day.

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After Violet and I walk back to the house, we grab her school stuff and jump into the car. She attends the preschool that Weston attended last time we were stationed here. It’s only about 10 minutes from our house so I book it back  home after kissing her goodbye so I can do some work.

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I recently accepted another Instructional Design contract (actually – a lot has happened since the last Career Chronicles post – I need to update!) so I planned to use the three hours Violet was at school to dive deep into the material so I can meet the deadline. Unfortunately, I had a couple of issues that needed clarification and because it is remote work, I had to wait to receive a response via email. It is those types of situations that make me long for the days when I could just pop over to a coworker and ask a question face-to-face. That being said, I am incredibly thankful that I am able to work remotely – not every career field has that option.

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Not wanting to waste time, I decided to go to Aldi to pick up a few things to save me a trip later on during the day. I love Trader Joe’s and have recently started to go to Aldi once the store in our area re-opened after extensive renovations. A Lidl just opened about 20 minutes from our house but I have yet to check out it. I’ve heard their wine selection is on point. Anywhere I can save a few bucks without sacrificing quality, I’ll be there. When I get back home, I organize the refrigerator (such a riveting life I lead) and work until it is time to pick up Violet.

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When waiting for Violet’s classroom door to open, I look down and realize that I am totally rocking a stay-at-home mom look. Sketcher slip-ons? Check. Skinny jeans? Check. Universal Thread by Target shirt? Check. Lightweight cardigan? Check.

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When we get home, we eat lunch and then take Lucy on a short walk around the block. Lucy will be 13 next month and is really slowing down. She is unable to go on a walk for any significant amount of time and she has trouble breathing in warmer temperatures. We know that we have some difficult decisions to make in the next few months so we are savoring these moments with her while we can. Violet then watches TV and plays while I do some more work on the computer.

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I did manage to squeeze in a tea party and a game of War with Violet, though.

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By mid-afternoon, it’s time to go get Weston from school. Violet and I walk up there and after kissing Weston hello, I let the kids play on the playground while I chat with friends.

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When we get back home, I make some french press coffee because I’m going to need it over the next few hours. We have baseball that night so I make the kids dinner earlier than normal so they have enough time to eat before we leave. I’m not going to lie – it was macaroni and cheese. But the fact that it was dye-free and organic counts for something, right? They also had a side of peas so don’t worry, I didn’t completely fail as a mother.

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First up, I drop Weston off at his baseball game. His wrist is still broken so until it heals, he is the equipment manager for the team. I give him a kiss and tell him that I will be there later to watch the rest of the game. I’m the head coach Violet’s T-Ball team and we have practice that night at a different field a few miles away.

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It’s never fun having to be in two places at once while Clay is TDY. The timing worked out though this time so I can’t really complain. I spend the next hour corralling a bunch of 4-6 year-olds with the help of my assistant coach. After practice, I load the equipment back in my car and Violet and I head back to the baseball complex where Weston’s team is playing.

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Violet found a few friends and played in the grass while I sat in the bleachers and watched the game. I got a text from Clay saying that he arrived safely at his location and I scrolled through social media during the down times and answered some work emails. I could’ve brought a book but it was nice to just veg out for a bit and mindlessly navigate my way around the Internet.

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By 7:30pm, I was beat and ready to go home but the game went on for another 20 minutes. Just before the game ended, Weston got a nose-bleed – equipment management is hard work! The parent who brought snacks for the team had extra for siblings so that eliminated the need for me to feed them again because they ate dinner so early. I consider that a win!

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We arrived home to a Blue Apron box that I didn’t realize we would be receiving. Sigh. I probably should cancel Blue Apron because you have to opt-out of the weeks you don’t want, rather than opt-in. I have to set reminders on my calendar to cancel – you can only do so a few weeks in advance, which is frustrating. I do really enjoy the food and recipes and we’ve incorporated some new meals into our rotation that we otherwise probably wouldn’t have attempted to make. But still – make it opt-in Blue Apron! Those of you that have experience with other meal-delivery companies – are any of them opt-in rather opt-out?

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The kids get ready for bed and have me take a picture of them with ‘heart hands’ to send to Clay. We read a book and then cuddle before it’s time to go to sleep. Baseball nights always mean a later bedtime than usual and they’re asleep by 9pm.

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I am starving when I go downstairs because I didn’t eat dinner with the kids. In hindsight, I probably should have eaten something. I briefly entertain the idea of making one of the Blue Apron meals but I really didn’t want to delay eating any longer. So I threw together one of my favorite go-to meals – black beans, onions, green peppers, tomatoes, lime juice, cilantro, avocados, and jalapeño peppers. I sit down in the living room and watched TV while I ate.

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I lock up the house and head upstairs soon after, drink in hand.  I climb into bed and snap the picture above. I’m reading when Clay calls – we talk for awhile and decide to call it quits at 11pm (the phone call – not our marriage…ha!). Overall, it was a pretty typical day around here. I had hoped to squeeze in a run/workout but it just didn’t happen. You can’t win them all, I suppose.

Stone Soup – The Weekend Edition

To celebrate the value of sharing, I’ve compiled a hodge lodge of tidbits and links that struck my fancy to form the weekend edition of stone soup. Like Loverboy, we’re all working for the weekend. Clay is home this weekend (woot woot) so I don’t have to be in two different places at once, which is makes me happier than Jill Zarin if she were to be asked back to the Real Housewives of New York. Having the husband home is always a welcome reminder of how much easier it is to parent when he is around. He also makes me laugh so I rather enjoy having him around. He’s pretty cute too.

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This week was a good one despite the allergy index being annoyingly high in northern Virginia. The weather has finally turned and it appears that the cold days are on hiatus until fall. To celebrate the warmer temperatures, the kids and I are finalizing our summer to-do list because it will likely be our only summer in the national capital region this assignment.

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Are you familiar with CommuniKait? If not, you need to be. She is a travel writer and blogger and I love following her adventures. I wrote an Ultimate Weekend Guide to San Antonio for her blog as as she eats, drinks, and explores her way through Italy. Like I wrote in the post – if I had to sum up the year that my family spent in San Antonio, Texas in one sentence, it’d be: We didn’t love living there but if you haven’t been there, you should totally go visit!

A friend on Facebook recently shared this restored film that shows what life was like in New York City in 1911. I am obsessed. I love how the opening shot on the ferry has the same gates that can be seen on the Staten Island ferry today.

Chocolate by The 1975 has been playing on repeat in my head throughout the week. It’s impossible not to sing along with an accent.

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I throughly enjoyed this New Yorker piece by Molly Ringwald about her mixed-feelings toward John Hughes during the #MeToo era. The Breakfast Club was arguably my coming-of-age movie. I was blown away when I first rented it between the summer of 8th and 9th grade and I loved how it felt like a play within a movie. And of course, Bender. But watching it now as an adult leaves me with an odd feeling – there are a lot of things in the movie that are not okay. Why didn’t they bother me as a young teenager? Have times changed? Or was I just that naive and ignorant?

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And finally, I ordered Weston a pair of Crocs and they arrived yesterday. This is a momentous occasion because this marks the first time such footwear has crossed the threshold into our home. However, they are not the traditional style crocs (does that make it any better?) and I am so obsessed with his that I may end up ordering a pair for myself. What am I becoming? Who am I? Is this a crisis?

The Need to Escape – Anchored in Possibility

My previous stream of consciousness post was a very cathartic experience and the responses I received left me reassured that my thoughts are not the equivalent of survivors shipwrecked on a remote island. Instead they’re like bubbles – floating through the air until they’re popped by a finger or they naturally cease to exist by their own accord. So why not do it again? I’m not sure where this post will end up so we’re going on this journey together. There will be no beverage service, unless you count the latte I’m currently sipping while typing away in a bustling coffee shop.

This past Saturday afternoon, after a full morning of baseball, I loaded the kids and Lucy into the car and escaped north to the Philly suburbs to spend the night with my sister and her family. Earlier that morning, I just felt the need to escape. Clay was away, we had no obligations after 12pm, and I really wanted a cheesesteak that night for dinner. As I battled traffic on 1-95N and left one major city for another, a low-key sense of calm took over my body – so much so that I didn’t even mind paying $2.00 for a regular-size bag of Peanut M&Ms at the Maryland House travel plaza. I truly felt like I was escaping for the night.

But escaping from what?

By all accounts, my life is good – happy and healthy marriage and kids and we’re stationed at a place we thoroughly enjoy living. I knew I wasn’t escaping from anything tangible but I couldn’t shake the feeling of freedom as I drove along the backroads of Maryland and Pennsylvania farmland toward the city. Was it because these were the roads I learned to drive on? Likely not. While I do feel a sense of homecoming whenever I visit my sister – the only one left of our family in the area, isn’t an overwhelming feeling of comfort – the kind you get when you spend your childhood and adolescence in one area. In some ways, I feel like an imposter when back in the Philly ‘burbs because I’ve been away for so long and my memories there don’t start until I was a teenager. If anything, I’m a fair-weather Philly gal with just as much allegiance to Arizona and Michigan.

Which makes me wonder – maybe I am just bred to want to escape. As a kid, I was always focused on the road ahead. When I was in 4th grade, I couldn’t wait until middle school. When I was in 7th grade, I couldn’t wait until high school. And by the time 10th grade rolled around, I was chomping at the bit to go away to college. Choosing a university near home wasn’t even on my radar – I was determined to go as far away as my parents would let me. And to be honest – there wasn’t really a reason why. High school was fine for me. In fact, I rather enjoyed it. My childhood was safe and happy. But I didn’t want to stay. I needed to escape.

Falling in love so young wasn’t part of my plan. Neither was getting married in my very early 20s. But love has a funny way of creeping up on you when you least expect it. And to be honest, the fact that Clay is the Army has been extremely seredipitous in regards to my apparent desire to escape because we literally pack up our lives and move every 1-3 years. Is it taking the easy way out by choosing a lifestyle that ensures I always have an escape plan? Luckily Clay has the same attitude about moving and settling as I do.

Over the years, I’ve met people who feel stuck for one reason or another – they can’t move because of extended family obligations, they can’t search for a new job because instability is scary, or they resign themselves down a certain path because of societal expectations. I’ll say that it’s incredible not ever feeling stuck because no matter how much we may not like living somewhere, we have reassurance that it is only temporary. We always have an escape plan.

My roots are intertwined with my husband’s and my kids’ but not anchored to anything but possibility. I love that description – anchored only in possibility.

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We’re often asked where we want to settle when Clay retires from the Army and we always respond, “Hell if we know!” Maybe Colorado? Or Maine? Hawaii? Another country? We do love northern Arizona. The California coast is amazing. Montana would be cool too. Or northern Michigan. Perhaps Key West?

Aren’t longterm plans for the birds, anyway?

I’m sure wherever we end up by choice won’t be the last place we live. We will have an escape plan. It’s in our blood.

Okay then – I didn’t envision this post about going to Philly for the night turning into a manifesto about how we have no idea where we want to settle. Or if we want to settle at all. That’s the beauty of these stream of consciousness posts, I suppose.