Packing Lust and Nesting

tools I skipped posting on the last full moon -- the first one of 2016. Why? -- a combination of forgetting and then feeling too busy to post. Last year it was fun to post on or before the full moon -- at least once a month. That was less frequently than I was posting when I started Packing Lust in June 2012, when we were just starting off on our adventure of living overseas. Around once a month felt about right for last year, the big year of being a new parent.

After moving to Los Angeles just a few days before Christmas 2015, there's been a lot going on. We lived in a temporary furnished apartment near the La Brea Tar Pits (which was awesome -- not the pits at all) for a few weeks before finding a charming apartment mere feet from the spot Prince Charming and I met in 2010. We couldn't resist living in and around the same apartment complex where we fell in love, not to mention the fact that we have dear friends who live walking distance away. This building is almost 100 years old and the place itself has needed a bit more work to make it clean and functional than a newer place would.

There's more too. With every move, I've handled the instability and unknown somewhat well. But this last move has been harder than the little temporary moves before it that helped us to adjust to life back in the states. Since I know we're going to be here for at least a year, I have plans. I've been nesting. And I've put a lot of pressure on myself to get and keep my home cleaned, childproofed, painted, decorated, etc. And it's still not done... even though we've been here for almost a month. Which is pretty normal, except that I feel like I've dropped my writing, this blog, and everything else to work on it. I definitely overestimated the amount of projects I could get done while also making sure my 14-month-old isn't running around with scissors in one hand and a knife in the other. And while making sure that I don't miss his adorable smiles, games of peekaboo, and delightful discoveries.

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Now I'm feeling overwhelmed and sort of stagnant at the same time. I need to give us more time to settle in and find more patience with the process.

Missing my normal full moon post last month made me realize I needed to think about when and what I want to post on Packing Lust in 2016. So I'm going to keep thinking about what I want to make of this blog in this new year. Until then, Packing Lust will be on hiatus.

I like having this blog as a way to share photos and stories in packing, travel, and adventures. It's been a sort of family photo album, a way to stay in touch with anyone who wants to, and place to practice writing. But I'm not sure that with everything already on my plate there's room for it right now. We'll see.

I'm hoping to continue to share some of our adventures and simple living toolkit stuff on social media, so make sure you're following me on Instagram if you want to keep in touch for right now.

Teddy Island

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I love that we can be in a city that feels so urban with high rise buildings and a constant hum of activity, and then just a few minutes down the road feel like we are deep in the forest, complete with swamp bugs and a green canopy high above.  The green space I'm thinking of is Theodore Roosevelt Island, or Teddy Island as I now think of it, a memorial to our 26th president.

We visited on Saturday. A kind stranger took the top shot of our family gathered at the feet of the impressive statue of Teddy in an energetic pose, almost like he's dunking a basketball. Or preparing to kick a tourist.

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4 on the shoulders of giants

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The memorial area around the statue has these stone structures with quotes from Teddy on topics like MANHOOD, NATURE, and YOUTH.

 

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Crossing the Potomac via a pedestrian bridge on the way off the island, we paused to take more family photos.

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Baby in the City: Our New Life in Arlington, Virginia

We moved to Arlington, Virginia on July 15th. This could be temporary, a three month visit to the D.C. area, or we could stay longer. We are here because Prince Charming is doing some consulting for a nonprofit in this area, and of course, because we have wanderlust.

Exploring a new city with a baby (now 8 months old) is a whole new world, a world troubled by fear of poop seeping out of a diaper and onto the varnished oak table of a trendy brunch restaurant. And other concerns, like is it okay if my son licks the glass window of the metro train, and is it better to deal with the sweat and back strain involved in baby wearing or the hassle of maneuvering a stroller into and out of elevators, metros, and through the narrow hallways of a trendy brunch restaurant.

We embraced wanderlust, we embraced packing lust, and now we are embracing the result of all that lust, which is a baby. Primary upside: he's adorable.

Deeply adorable. The world -- when I can sweep away the sheer weight of responsibility, thoughts of the strongly worded letters I may write to all installers and maintainers of baby-changing stations in bathrooms, and concerns about poop, germs, and poop, and poop -- is a different place when I am out with Bump.

When we are outside (and inside, and pretty much all the time except when he is extremely hungry or sleepy), Bump acts as a representative of the office of spreading glorious happiness. I watch the faces of people approaching us on the street, the stressed students, the tired tourists, the careworn business people. Those faces transform when they get a glimpse of Bump's slow sunrise smile. They slow down. They smile. Their shoulders relax just a little bit. They sigh. They say things like,

"He smiles from his heart."

"He adorable. He is like, a model baby. He is the model adorable baby."

"Does he always smile like that?"

"Is he always like this?"

Usually I say, "yes, pretty much" in response to the last two questions, but after giving it some thought, I realize that people are hoping they are special, that Bump is smiling at them, really seeing them, seeing their uniqueness and giving them a smiles that recognizes the best in them. And he is. So I may begin to answer differently, perhaps.

Perhaps sometimes I will say, "No, he's not always like this. It's you. You've got a special soul and he recognizes that and wants to give you the gift of his smile as a way to say thank you for sharing that which is good in you with the world."

Or, maybe I'll keep letting Bump's sweet smile do the talking.

Two Charleston Trips

Charleston (37) There was a little flurry of road trips about 7-8 months ago, before Bump arrived, and one of them was to Charleston, SC.  It was a quick trip. We saw my sister-in-law and niece, and we took one of the carriage tours that the city is famous for. We admired the old fancy homes, took a quick water-view selfie, and ate a beautiful meal.2014-11-08 16.59.09

Having been raised mostly in the South, I am used to the strong connection to Civil War history places like Charleston have, including the display of the Confederate flag and monuments to fallen Confederate soldiers. However, Charming, a California boy at heart, found it strange to be surrounded by what he was educated to view as "symbols of slavery and prejudice."   I tried to explain to him that most Southerners feel a deep connection to a complex and painful history, including the Civil War, but it doesn't mean they don't condemn slavery and racism.

Seven months later, I found myself back in Charleston. This was last weekend and the city was reeling in shock and grief from the murder of nine of its African-American citizens who were killed in cold blood by a maniac who explained his actions by saying he wanted to start a race war.

In the aftermath three days ago, South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley called for the Confederate flag to be removed from the State House building in Columbia, South Carolina, saying it was a "deeply offensive symbol of a brutally offensive past." Hopefully this act will help create a more inclusive, unified state that can heal from the racially motivated act of violence that rocked the state and the country.

During this recent weekend trip, signs hung all around the city, declaring unity and thoughts of sympathy to the families of the slain and the church they belonged to. The photo at the top of this post shows one of those signs, displayed in the city market and signed by passersby.

I was there with three college friends to celebrate our 30th birthdays, which we did mostly by talking, relaxing by pool and beach, and by going out for fish tacos.

June 19 weekend in Charleston 30ish Bdays (2)

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After tacos Saturday night, we walked next door to an outdoor art showing we'd passed by earlier in the day. The large, graffitti-inspired murals had been a backdrop for an inclusive community event earlier that was open to the public. We arrived after the event closed, but walked around the outdoor area to one of the murals that was lit with votive candles lined up under it.

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We held hands and said a prayer for Charleston as dusk deepened. A fellow latecomer arrived to the art event on a bicycle and offered to take a group photo for us.

June 19 weekend in Charleston 30ish Bdays (49)

This second Charleston trip was just as beautiful as the first, but marked by a turning point that will hopefully bring good out of evil for the city.

 

Dance of the Spring Moon

1dance Prince Charming, Bump and I visited our first powwow as a family on May 3, which, not coincidentally, was a full moon.

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The Dance of the Spring Moon is a well-known event hosted by the Lumbee Tribe here in the Robeson County, NC area. In an article about the powwow in the local paper, The Robesonian, an attendee said that he heard that this event was well known in the Native American community for having the best drummers.

The annual Spring event would be a great one for visitors to the area to attend any year. The environment is friendly and educational and all are welcome to enjoy the atmosphere and learn about the various ceremonial dances and traditions of the Native American Tribes who attend.

Here you can see the Jingle Dress worn for the Women's Jingle, a dance originating among the tribes of Canada, according to the program.

Travel and Bring Back Courage as a Souvenir

It's Day 5 of the Your Turn Challenge, and the optional daily question is:

What advice would you give for getting unstuck?

I've heard this term "unstuck" a lot lately. It's either a trendy word or it's that reticular activator thing.

You feel stuck. You'd like to travel the world but you just can't get out of the situation you're in.

Everywhere you turn, you encounter another obstacle that makes it feel like you can't move.

-Your lack of vacation time
-Your fear of flying
-Your fear of getting lost, robbed, or just looking like a fool
-The 50 pound cat your mother gave you
You keep turning, and you'll keep encountering obstacles. You know there's probably a solution to each obstacle, but thinking about that hits a little too close to the truth: the obstacles are excuses.

There are two obstacles that are probably really at play:

1. No one in your circle of friends travels the way you want to travel. So you don't know what it looks like, feels like, or smells like. You have no reference and you'll have no real support.
2. You aren't willing to sacrifice what you need to give to take the trip: the difficult conversation with your boss, the time to attend the hypnosis sessions to beat your fear of flying, or the guilt and/or worry that comes with letting a stranger cat-sit.
If you have travel dreams and you feel stuck at home, know this: travel does require a degree of discomfort. Not just when you're on the road (or in the sky), but when you're interviewing strangers to look after your overweight cat, or when you are mispronouncing words in a foreign language.
So don't go. Don't do it. It's too hard. It's going to exhaust you, stretch you, and test you.
What? That's what you want? You want to get out of your comfort zone?
In that case, getting unstuck is simple. Take one step forward, even if it's a little scary and uncomfortable. Just one. And then the next.
Then bring back your courage as a souvenir. Share it with your friends. Travel - and growth -  is contagious.

Where We Are Now and The Birth of Our Son

A road race in downtown Lumberton, NC.

Where In the World Are We?

We are currently staying in Lumberton, a small town in southeast North Carolina where my family lives, and where we chose to have our first baby.

The Ecstatic Birth of Our Son

The birth of our son was an incredible experience at the local hospital. We had competent and caring healthcare providers, including a nurse who told us she was leaving her job soon and wished our birth could've been her last because it was so touching.

Prince Charming held me in his arms for the ecstatic final moments (or was it hours?) of my 15 hour overnight labor. He skipped the lavish Thanksgiving feast (that he helped cook) to be there for every moment. I rewarded him by hitting him (apparently, although I have no recollection of that) when he came too close to me with breath smelling of powder-cheese snack crackers.

Magic and Romance

Parenthood has been magical. Our little boy is so deliciously perfect he's almost edible. We delight in snuggling with him and kissing his chubby cheeks. I give him new nicknames every hour. Charming likes to discuss solutions to world hunger and poverty with him.
New parenthood has also been hard. Hard, as in, sleepless and grumpy. The romance has taken a predictable hit. You know things are bad when, asked what he would like for his birthday, your husband says "just be nice to me."
Please keep in mind my sleep-deprived and cranky state as I describe our current location.

Lumberton, The Ugly

Located in Robeson County, NC, Lumberton is known for its violence, drug-trafficking, and obesity.
Parts of the county are considered a food desert. It's franchise fast-food for as far a the eye can see. And the eye can see far, as the land is flat here in this part of the state. My high school cross-country team would go to the man-made byway overpasses to do hill training.
There are no independent coffee shops or bookstores. Two recently opened businesses include a drive-through Starbucks and a large, almost warehouse-sized sex shop.

Lumberton, The Love

There are some things to love about Lumberton. Most importantly, my family is here, and they are immensely loveable.
It's got that slow-paced, small-town friendliness. We were standing in line at the post office, asking the attendant a question about the location of some government offices she didn't know the answer to. Three people in line behind us volunteered answers and other helpful tidbits.
People here are kind, friendly, hospitable, and truly caring. They have time for each other. There isn't much elitism, and, with a population evenly divided into four main ethnicities, the racism is, at least, a fair fight.
The town is also known for its extensive healthcare facilities. It's marketed to retired couples who make use of the healthcare facilities and enjoy relatively low-cost housing.
The landscape can be beautiful, especially if you enjoy lush fields of soft white cotton buds, lanky pines, and tastefully dilapidated tobacco barns. The Lumber River hides secrets in tea-colored water that languidly flows around knobby Cyprus knees.
The weather is mild in the winter. Air conditioning is plentiful in the summer.
The Lumbee Indian tribe here has a compelling history worth reading up on. The local, incomprehensible, deep-country dialect of English has a lilting musicality.
Lumberton isn't a place I would likely choose to spend much time in if my family wasn't here.  Sometimes it feels like I have a love-hate relationship with Lumberton. But the truth is, a place is really all about its people. And if that's the true, then Lumberton is a place to love.

Cheap Travel and Skipping the Souvenir Trap

Souvenirs Two travel tips for you today:

Save by Planning Ahead

According to a Wall Street Journal article published October 23, 2014, the best day of the week to buy a plane ticket is now Sunday, when prices tend to be lower. According to the Airlines Reporting Corp, you'll find the lowest price for a domestic ticket 57 days before departure, while you'll want to purchase your ticket for an international flight 171 days before departure for the best price.  Those are specific numbers. You win by being an above-average planner and counting back from your intended trip dates to get your ticket on the cheapest day.

 Avoid Schlepping Extra Stuff

I love this tip from one of my international traveler friends. She suggests taking pictures of souvenirs instead of buying them. Next time you're shopping abroad, pause before you hand over your cash. Take a picture instead. I snapped the top photo in a crazy flea market in Hollywood, California.  This photo reminds me of the visit and takes up less space in my home than if I'd brought home one of those carafes, kettles, or bowling pins.

If you buy souvenirs as gifts, instead have someone take a nice photo of you standing in front of a landmark and give that away instead.

For more simple living tips, visit SimpleLivingToolkit.com