Vacation re-entry would be easier with more fish tacos

Caye Caulker Belize 1_feistyharriet_April 2017

A few weeks ago Mr. Blue Eyes and I took the most lovely, long-planned and saved for vacation, we spent most of our time on a tiny Caribbean island, lots of hammocks and fish tacos and scuba diving; and then we hopped inland to visit some Mayan ruins before the sad-to-be-leaving-but-looking-forward-to-proper-AC-and-Diet-Dr-Pepper flight home.

And while I am not lounging beach-side or feasting on ridiculously cheap fresh-caught fish, I still kind of feel like I’m on vacation. The weeks leading up to our adventure were crazy stressful for both of us, mostly in a general Life Is Stressful way, but also with trying to make sure to have everything we needed taken care of for this big adventure. Life is still a little stressful, but not NEARLY what it was, and we are both literally glowing from spending a week in the Caribbean. Well, Blue Eyes is glowing and golden; I’m mostly just covered in sand fly bites that make me look like I have some kind of pox.

This may be surprising (but it totally shouldn’t be), but I can be super Type A, and I planned this vacation out like crazy. We don’t have the luxury of extra time, but do have the luxury of a little extra money, so we planned to spend our money in ways to maximize our time (meaning all travel was pre-booked, even down to the golf-cart taxi to take us and our luggage from the ferry to our Caribbean AirBnB). I spent the two or three weeks before we left finalizing all those little travel details on top of making sure our technology was all in order (cameras charged, memory cards emptied, details on phone use while abroad notated), ordering foreign currency for two countries, trying to memorize the exchange rates (2:$1 / 7.333:$1), making sure our credit and debit cards wouldn’t get flagged for fraud if we needed to use them, finalizing travel insurance, printing out every. single. confirmation. in triplicate, just in case, having the post office hold our mail while we were gone, asking a kind neighbor to come babysit my plants and make sure they didn’t shrivel and die, packing my suitcase and then re-packing my suitcase several times, having lengthy conversations with my sister on what shorts or cover ups I could leave home without missing (she was right on every single one) and what would be essential to my happiness, buying waterproof mascara and stocking up on sunscreen (I went through 3 full size tubes in one week, SPF 85, SPF 45, and SPF 30, and that is a post all by itself)…you know, the usual.

Or, maybe that is 100% not The Usual when people go on a big vacation, and maybe it was part of the reason why the weeks leading up to our trip were kind of stressful? Whatever, that pre-planning made our week away SO much more relaxed and we ended up coming in significantly under budget because I had a 15 oz bottle of SPF 85 IN MY SUITCASE and didn’t have to spend $20 dollars for a 4 oz tube, or, maybe $80 dollars for four 4 oz tubes (and $80 more for SPF 45, and $80 more for SPF 30, and, and, and…).

We’ve been back for a week or two and life is mostly back to normal…kind of. I mean, I still honestly feel like I’m on a part-time vacation. Let me explain: I still go to work, I still take care of my garden, I still make dinner and do the washing up and on Saturday I had the tremendously glamorous job of shampooing the family room rug and furniture, which is the epitome of Not A Vacation-y Experience. However, for the most part, life is easy-breezy. I’m not going to the gym every night in anticipation (uh, dread) of spending a week in a swimming suit; I’m not cutting out all sugar and carbs and happiness anymore; my To Do list is short and mostly unimportant… I spend my evenings reading…and slowly am going through and editing my photos…and, uh, hanging out on the patio and enjoying the last of the semi-pleasant weather…? I mean, I honestly feel like I’m still on vacation a little bit. And I’m afraid if I start writing about it here it will break the spell.

Dammit, I probably ruined it; it’s 1:24 am and my body is not at all interested in sleeping despite work as usually in the morning, and maybe that means the vacation spell is broken now anyway? I don’t know, but it is nice to stretch my write-y muscles here again, fish tacos or not, I’ve missed this little corner of my world.

So, what’s been up with you? Fill me in on everything.

Harriet: Age 34

Boone Hall Butterfly Pavilion, South Carolina

Happy Birthday to me, Happy Birthday to me, Happy BIRTHday toooooo meeeeeEEeeeeeee!!! (deep breath!) HaaAaappyyyy BiiiirrrrtthhhDaaaaayyy TooooOoooOooOOoooo MeeEeeeeEeeEee!

Today I am thirty-four, and that means I’ve officially entered my “mid thirties”…which I think is supposed to somehow kick-start a biological clock, or at least give me some age-related anxiety? It’s not. It’s just another birthday and I have to spend the next 4 months trying to remember how old I am all over again. (After writing the rest of this post and going through for a quick edit, it occurred to me that I have been pretty “meh” about my birthday for years. I don’t WANT to be “meh” about my birthday. A day-before-Valentine’s-Day birthday somehow seems to be anti-climactic, and there’s been a lot of Stuff that precludes me celebrating the way I want to. And I don’t like that. So. Next year for the BIG Three-Five, I shall throw a fabulous bash. I like celebrating, I love hosting people, and I’ve got a really really great birthday cake recipe.)(Moving on with thirty-four. Ahem.)

How will you spend your birthday?
In a really annoying twist of circumstances, I shall be going to work while Mr. Blue Eyes has the day off. I know. It’s stupid.

Compared to this time last year, are you: a) happier or sadder? b) thinner or fatter? c) richer or poorer?
Sadder; thinner; richer.

What did you do last year that you’ve never done before?
Went camping by myself. I felt kick-ass and super nervous, all at once.

What was your favorite discovery last year?
Overdrive! I’m only, like, 8 years late to the party, but I luuuurve Overdrive and use it to listen to audiobooks!

What do you hope to learn this coming year?
Better time management for my life as a whole, instead of just the few pockets that I have under control right now.

What would you like to have this year that you didn’t have last year?
Peace. This last year was full of turmoil on almost every front . And not just the regular dumpster fire that is meme’d on the Interwebs, but deeply personal and in my most vulnerable places as well.

What was your biggest achievement of this year?
Had you asked me this six months ago I would have gushed about negotiating a new job here in Arizona. However, uh, that has been one of the worst overall “improvements” of my career and my life. I shall write more about this soon; there is light at the end of the tunnel.

What was your biggest failure?
Letting the sadness win. And sometimes also letting the anger and darkness win. It was a rough year, ya’ll.

Where did you travel this year?
The first half of my 33rd year I was all over the place, which was exhausting and glorious, all at once. (A small sampling: New Mexico (twice), California, Colorado, Washington DC, Montana, Chicago, several trips back to Salt Lake, and visits to Joshua Tree and Sequoia National Parks.) For the last half I have more or less stayed home, and that is glorious and heart-wrenching in its own way.

Do you have a destination in mind for next year?
Yes! We have booked tickets and part of our accommodations for a proper vacation to celebrate our five-year wedding anniversary (which was in November, and/or January, depending on who you ask).

What did you get really excited about?
Vegetables in my backyard, if we have had more than two conversations I have probably mentioned my little plants at least 7 times. Also the women who serve as Supreme Court Justices.

What do you wish you’d done more of?
Finding joy in the people and activities that I know are a salve for my aching heart.

What do you wish you’d done less of?
Worrying. This is two years in a row with this answer, btw.

What was the best book you read?
Oh goodness, I love/hate this question. In the last year I’ve read almost 150 books with MANY 5-star reviews in there. In no particular order (but all non-fiction, because that’s my fave): The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, by Michelle Alexander; Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, by Dee Brown; The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, by Rebecca Skloot; The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics, by Daniel James Brown; Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsberg, by Irin Carmon and Shana Knizhnik; The Evolution of Everything: How New Ideas Emerge, by Matt Ridley.

What did you want and get?
A backyard with grass and a new patio and boxes for my little vegetables!

What did you want and not get?
Superficial Item #1: To fit back into my skinny jeans, I’m still working on it.
Superficial Item #2: A wall of bookcases to fill up.
More Honest and Infinitely Harder to Admit Item: happiness or even contentment with my life, my relationships, myself.

What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
Several months of temperatures in the low thirties and high twenties; I am not cut out for the nine months of temps over 90 degrees. It makes my brain melt.

What kept you sane?
Long conversations with dear friends, audiobooks to keep me company, wandering around art museums and exhibits, puttering with my plants.

What political issue stirred you the most?
I really don’t know if I can answer this question because I haven’t got 3,728 hours to write in all the details. Which issue? All of them. I have ranted and raved and cheered and spent emotional energy on more political causes in the last 12 months than in the rest of my life combined.

Did you fall in love?

Who did you miss?
Same answer as last year: My people in Salt Lake, my nieces and nephews, siblings, and my glorious rocky mountains.

Did you learn a valuable life lesson this year?
The grass is not always greener elsewhere. That being said, I also firmly believe that all of our choices will not  and can not result in confetti and fireworks and unicorns and solely positive outcomes; sometimes even the most carefully thought out plans–the ones with flowcharts and back-up contingencies–will fail. At that point I have to wallow for a bit, because I am human, not a freaking robot, then pick myself up and get back to work.






Previous birthday posts here: Age 33Age 32.

20 questions: getting to know you, er, I mean, me

Sometimes in order to clean out my “Draft” folder one must pick up the little bits and bobs of partially formed post-ideas and dump them into a listicle. Here is one such list, full of all sorts of random bits about me.

1. What was the last thing you put in your mouth? Dinner, which was this delicious jalapeno-corn chowder with lots of green chilies and a roux added at the end, and a splash of vinegar and sprinkled with feta and cilantro. It sounds kinda crazy, but hoo boy, is it amazing!

2. Did you play Pokemon Go? No, I don’t actually have any games on my phone…yeah, I’m that person.

3. Who most often makes you laugh? There is a small but delightful bunch of people who regularly send me funny meme-y texts, they almost always result in a giggle or four.

4. When is your bedtime? It should be something like 10:00, but it most often gets pushed to 11:45. I’m totally a night owl, and going to bed earlier is a certain kind of mental torture for me.

5. Theater or Movie?
Live theater. Every time.

6. Do you believe ex’s can be friends? Depends on the ex and it depends on the level of friendship involved. Cordial? Sure. Surface-level friendship of occasional pleasantries? Yeah. Emotional intimates while simultaneously in or trying to be in a relationship with someone else? Uh, no.

7. Coffee? Tea? Soda? Other?
My caffeine-delivery mechanism preference is Diet Dr. Pepper, the full-lead stuff is too sugary, but the acrid-ish aftertaste of Diet? I love it. Add a little fresh lime juice and I’d guzzle it all day long. No apologies either. If I’m gonna die of something, I’m okay with it being DDP.

8. When was the last time you cried?
Yesterday. Feelings are hard, yo.

9. What is one talent you don’t have, but desperately wish you did?
I would love to have a Broadway-caliber singing voice, to be able to fill an auditorium and make everyone there feel something. I can mostly carry a tune, but that’s where my talent ends.

10. Who was the last person you took a picture/video of?
Person? ….probably my sort-of nephew, on Christmas…? But, I was taking pictures of price labels at Costco yesterday to do some comparison shopping. My camera roll is LIT!

11. Are you upset about anything?
Yeah, in general on a few things and more specifically on a few more. Hashtag: vague

12. Bike? Hike? Car?
Hiking! Give me a big, ole scary mountain to climb and I am ON it! That being said, Mr. Blue Eyes gave me a gorgeous beach cruiser bicycle for Christmas and it is quickly becoming a new favorite way to navigate my neighborhood errands.

13. Do you think relationships are ever really worth it?
I think relationships are almost always worth it, people are almost always worth the time and effort and emotional investment we choose to expend. Almost always.

14. If you could have any job/career, which would you do?
If someone would pay me 2 million dollars for 20 hours a week of “consulting” that’d be great.

15. If you could live/travel anywhere, where would you go?
Live: Somewhere with four distinct seasons and sky-high granite-topped mountains.
Travel: You could literally name almost any country and I’d be cool with going there to explore, but lately I’m swooning over Iceland (this has been a decade-long swoon, btw), Belize, Scotland, and Mongolia.

16. What is the last movie you saw?
Hidden Figures, the totally forgettable title of the AMAZING movie about black women at NASA in the 1960’s who furthered the space program through the sheer genius and brilliance of their brains, and a whole lot of fighting to have their voices be heard. (I know the book had the same title, but it’s so unmemorable I had to keep looking it up to tell people to go see the inspiring movie I laughed and sobbed through! Marketing fail.)

17. Are you a bad influence?
Well, that depends on who’s asking, now doesn’t it! I, of course, think I’m delightful.

18. What is one distinctive feature about you?
Well, it used to be my natural platinum hair, then my lavender hair, now it’s kind of a washed-out inbetween that doesn’t do much for anyone, least of all me. So, in lieu of white or purple hair, I’d say probably my big mouth. I am constantly looking up random facts and stories and then I’ll jabber on and on at anyone who pretends to be remotely interested. (Example: did you know most lichen grows at a rate of  about 1mm per year? This is only 4 inches every 100 years! The oldest known lichen is 8,600 years old!)

19. What is your favorite food? (Also? Sweet, or savory?)
I could probably eat Mexican food or sushi every day for the rest of my life and not be one bit mad about it. (Also? I used to be a total sugar addict, but the last few years my tastes have shifted distinctly towards savory preferences.)

20. Introvert or extrovert?
A little of both, actually. I definitely need time to recharge my own batteries, but I also am a people person and crave and thrive off meaningful connections. So…introverted extrovert? Extroverted introvert? I dunno, something like that.

What about you? Care to answer 3 or 4 of these? Hey, I’ll even let you pick the questions! But tell me something I probably don’t know!


When “Blogging for Dummies” is actually a little too complicated for me

A few weeks ago I decided to act on an idea I’ve had mulling around in my brain for several years, the idea of actively trying to attract blog traffic. So, I ventured into the scary world of back-end blog tweaking, trying to install some plug-ins to help me track traffic and SEO and stuff…and about three steps in I realized that I was waaaaaaay over my head. So, like anyone born in the early 1980’s I started googling “self hosting for dummies” and “how can I install a plugin” and SUPER basic stuff like that. And I couldn’t get through more than the first two paragraphs before I was completely lost. After several hours I sent a text to my computer genius person, the Technology King, and clumsily explained my problem. He asked two or three questions, asked if I’d like him to just take care of it instead of try and explain over the phone and babysit me through every tiny step (YES!), and then he sent me this:

And he fixed it. Like, everything. In about 13 minutes he did all the magic coding and [insert tech terms here] stuff and I am now self-hosted, or, rather, Technology King hosted, because of course he has his own server, and he updated everything and ported it over, and gave me new options, and a whole lot of other awesome stuff I absolutely do not understand. Yet.

I’ve been tweaking things here and there, adding little bits of code and feeling super smug because it only took me 17 tries to upload a header with the words AND images where I wanted them; seriously, guys, only 17 tries. And it’s literally the same header as it was before, just, you know, slightly resized. Me and Microsoft Paint are gonna take over the world of technology, 17 tries at a time.

Great. Ok, Harriet. So what does this mean?

Am I actively trying to monetize my blog? Um, no.
Am I ruling that out for the future? …no?
Is it nice to have options? Sure. Even if I don’t completely understand what all of those options are quite yet.

Honestly, I mostly wanted to see if I could bump up my traffic a tiny little bit and figure out some basic SEO stuff. Which, given that I couldn’t figure out how to install a SEO plugin without calling for reinforcements makes the whole idea of me as the Queenpin of my own media empire completely hilarious.

But, even so, I have options now that I didn’t have before, and realizing how little I actually know about websites and code–despite blogging for 11 years–was super humbling. I’ve ever started looking around for some basic coding courses to learn some new skills.

So. That’s fun.

How much do you know about website building? SEO? Figuring out how to grow traffic in an authentic and organic way? Any websites I should pay attention to? Blogs? Podcasts? Whatever the next big thing is?


If we went to lunch…

If We Went to Lunch

One of the truly glorious things about being an adult is regular lunch dates with friends. There are few things I love more than spending an hour or two gabbing with a friend, catching up on each others lives, talking through problems and brainstorming solutions. Or just discussing our latest Netflix obsession. Serious or light-hearted, I LOVE going out to lunch. If you lived near my Arizona suburb and we met for lunch, this is what I’d tell you:

1.  Despite some really valiant efforts, I am not adjusting very well to the suburban Arizona lifestyle. I desperately miss my mountains and the cooler weather they provide and I really miss living downtown in a mid-size city (vs the outlier in suburban desert sprawl).

2. One thing that is helping is a little suburban oasis in the backyard. It’s not mountains and it’s not a bunch of local restaurants and boutique shops, but it is a little patch of green and my own veggies to tend, and that sense of home and place has done wonders the last little while in helping me find a center here.

3. For the first time in a very long while, my relationship with Blue Eyes is….good. There was a bit there a while ago where things were really quite dicey. Merging lives is hard, ya’ll. And merging married lives that have been lived seperately, and then adding moving stress, work stress, blended family stress, and the rest of it….there were a couple of tricky months there. But, without intentionally risking the good thing we’ve got going here, it seems that Blue Eyes and I are in a better place than we have been in….years. And it’s probably the best, most hopeful, and most scary thing I’ve got going for me. Best and hopeful for obvious reasons, scary because it seems like it would be so easy to fall back into that tricky place. Deep breaths, Harriet. We got this.

4. I have been working my tail off for the last 8 weeks or so to lose some fluff that has been bothering me for months years. Turns out, when your marriage is stressful AND you move AND you aren’t settling well AND your job is crazy AND, AND, AND, and you eat chocolate and ice cream to cope? Yeah, that turns right into body fluff. Regular exercise has been kind of a difficult habit to form, but I think I’m finally on the winning side of that battle. And now it’s too hot to go outside much anyway, so my summer fling with the gym looks like it might move into Serious status. Real Talk: I hit my heaviest weight ever a few months ago, 198 pounds. I am 5’7″ and that is not nearly tall enough for 198 pounds of muscle and bone and fluff. Yes, healthy is more important than skinny, but when you are 45 pounds overweight and your medical doctor AND your physical therapist tell you so? Losing 45 pounds is about my health and it is about helping my body work better and it is about confidence to try new things like horseback riding, and continue old loves like mountain climbing. But I’d by lying if I didn’t also admit that losing 45 pounds will be a significant impact on my looks and my dress size (and bra size, and pants size. Forty-five pounds is a lot of fluff).

5. With the weight loss and exercise additions, I have been pretty careful about what I eat. I eat way more veggies, way less sugar and chocolate and bread, and the same amount of cheese. I am still kind of obsessed about local eating and am excited to find a CSA-delivery service for my area that is my new go-to for vegetables and eggs.

6. Um, farm-fresh eggs in the scrambled, hard-boiled, or over-easy variety (so, breakfast) are kind of an acquired taste. They are WAY eggier than my regular grocery store eggs, even the expensive cage-free, organic-fed, brown and speckled, $6.00 for a dozen grocery store eggs. Which should tell you a lot more about $6.00/dozen grocery store eggs than farm fresh CSA eggs.

7. Working from home has been a really rough adjustment. Well, let me back up a bit. Working from home with a new boss has been a really rough adjustment. My boss started last summer and she is not a favorite of anyone in my department. She is probably the only reason I am able to work remotely, but her leadership style (i.e. lack of) has made the working remotely much harder than I thought it would be. It is hard to manage up from 700 miles away. I don’t want to say much more about this (although, in person I’d talk your ear off about it) as it still is an in-progress adjustment, but MAN, I miss my previous supervisor and work environment!

What about you? What would you tell me if we went to lunch?

(That delicious looking burrito up there? That was from a fantastic lunch at The Cutting Board with Kelsey from Rising*Shining.)

Harriet sig