Whistler Blackcomb is our closest big ski resort, but I had no idea which areas were nearest to the slopes.
Cue infinitely-organized trip planner. I love figuring out where to stay, how near the mountains are to each other, and where our girls will take lessons. (Already, 2008 has had two sets of lessons. Little 2010 had lessons in New Zealand! Of course, 2013 is still waiting her turn. She has no idea what's coming.)
Needless to say, now I know. And the trip is planned. (And Whistler Village is the answer.)
If you don't know CPG Gray, go see him on YouTube. Now.
He explains complex things, like the difference between the United Kingdom, Great Britain, and England. New Zealand is part of the Realm, so new citizens swear an oath to the Queen, and she's on their money. But kiwis are largely self-governing, which confused me for a while.
I watched the video eleventy-seven times before I took this screen shot as a reminder of how The Crown works..
For five seconds, it looked like we would be living in Chicago when we returned from New Zealand. During that brief moment, I researched Chicago's public schools and neighborhoods. There was a map.
I did the same thing when we decided to move to Seattle, and I don't mind the extra work. Having a plan--even one that will change before we enact it--settles my brain. Most of the Chicago details have spilled out of my brain already, but if you want to know about Seattle public (elementary) schools and neighborhoods from someone who's researched them to the Nth degree, I'm your girl.
Have I mentioned I'm a stickler for rules? The SSS rule is that I choose an image randomly. So this week our screen shot is actually a digital photo that wound up in the wrong desktop folder. But fair is fair.
In my house, we call this guy, "Michele's Turtle," because he and I shared a religious experience. Last October, while on holiday in Australia*, we spent a day on the Great Barrier Reef. I really wanted our girls to see it, and by the time we're back in the Southern Hemisphere, there may not be much of it left! Plus, who am I kidding, I love sea life.
While my family played on the beach, I snorkeled around the reef. Blue sea stars, dozens of sea cucumbers, lots and lots of fish. I even stumbled upon a blue-spotted stingray and terrified us both.
Nearly a year later, I still wish I'd snapped a photo of that guy.
At one point, before the ray incident, I turned to find this turtle hunting for his lunch. We swam together for the better part of an hour. His grace--diving for food and reaching upward for air--mesmerized me. Eventually he swam into water too shallow for me to follow. But wow, what a day!
*When you live in New Zealand, you have to go to Australia. Also, nothing else is remotely close to New Zealand. . .and 1977 and I hadn't visited for decades. It was a great trip.
I’m talking to you, New Zealand.
That’s me holding 2013* at a picnic table in a park adjacent to a beach on a harbor nestled between mountains.
There is no New Zealand without zeal! (and prepositions!)
Six months in, I finally feel settled, and I love it. LOVE IT, as in I would not be returning to the States if staying in NZ were an option. We found an amazing school for 2008. I spent the dwindling days of summer with 2008, 2010, and 2013 at the beach, and spring is beckoning us back to the beach already.
I have a lot to say about New Zealand (and it features prominently in my newest manuscript!**)
For now: hello!
*Oh yeah, 2013 is cute. She keeps me up nights, but she’s sweet, so we’re keeping her.
**Yup, finished the first YA manuscript, too. Well, the first public draft. It’s in the hands of my early readers, and the next YA manuscript is underway.
Remember how I’m having a baby in February? To make things extra special, we’ve decided to move to New Zealand. . .in January.
When 1977 was young, he spent two years living abroad, and we’re thrilled at this opportunity. I am especially excited about our destination, because for years I have wanted to visit New Zealand.
And now we’re going. . .for years!
Don’t panic; there’s a spreadsheet, and it already includes 150 items. Things to buy, things to sell, things to give away, things to do!
(Almost) needless to say, I won’t be blogging for a while. Perhaps I’ll blog from New Zealand. But, you know, don’t hold your breath. There will be a newborn and two other children and schools and beaches and mountains!
I imagine any writing time will be dedicated to the actual manuscript, but we’ll see.
This is merely a sabbatical. If I don’t blog from NZ, expect me to be back in autumn 2014.
I’m in a bit of a funk over here. I am by no means a mindless consumer, but I’ve started trying to buy something to make me happy.
Our house is cluttered with books, and I don’t give a lick about clothes. We eat good, sometimes amazing, food, and our days are filled with fun and frolic. My family is awesome.
So what gives?
Earlier this week, I stumbled upon this website:
Like Bookshelf Porn, it’s pornography for the rest of us. And I realized what was missing. I yearn for what the Dixie Chicks called wide open spaces. Like Thoreau, I want to extract life’s honey from the flower of the world. (And, who am I kidding? A little cooler weather wouldn’t hurt.)
Right now, I can’t very well extract myself from this suburban life, but I’m actively seeking the widest spaces Chicago’s suburbs have to offer. Somehow, I know they’ll never be enough.
**Photo plucked directly from Free Cabin Porn, a totally SFW site, unless it inspires you to quit your job and move to the mountains.
You needn’t worry about your writing.
Now back from our mammoth vacation, I realize I shouldn’t have worried about writing. I’ve mentioned before that I freak out without time to write. Turns out, if I’m solo parenting on a really long road trip, and if I’m sleeping with the kids every night, and if lots of other kids and their moms are involved, I’ll be too tired to write.
That’s a new one for me. I was too tired to WORRY about not writing. And I returned with lots of new ideas. Who knew?
*Fortune Cookies are migrating to Friday, because Fortune Cookie Friday sounds better.
I often think about the pivotal moments that changed the course of my life forever. This bench represents one.
When I lived in Columbus, Ohio, I spent many hours writing, reading, pondering and dreaming on this bench. One afternoon, a woman sat next to me and confided that the bench was dedicated to her daughter, a mother of two young children, who died in a tragic accident at 35.
Fast forward a couple of years, and I was ready to leave Columbus for a promising nonprofit job in my (then) favorite state of Maine. Between Christmas and Near Year’s Eve, the decision to move sat uncomfortably in my gut.
Sitting on my bench that last week off the year, I noticed that Mary Alice Hanover-vonLunen died on January 17th. My movers were booked for January 17th; it was a sign.
Now, I don’t believe in signs, but the fact that I was searching--desperately--for a sign suggested I didn’t want to move. I called off the movers, bailed on my new apartment lease and rescinded my acceptance of that job.
These days, I wonder what my life might have been in Maine. Would I still be working in the nonprofit sector? Would I have returned to writing sooner? Would I have a different spouse and (gulp) different children?
I think of Mary Alice often. I think of her children, who are now adults. I hope they are well and happy. I am well and happy, thanks to her.
[Other stops in Columbus this week included Buckeye Donuts, Cap City Diner and Graeter’s. Yes, I was hungry. Yes, there is a slice of Seriously Big Chocolate Cake in my cooler.]
I blog rarely, because I'm busy writing books. When I do blog, I focus on writing, friendship, family, and books. Because my family's best nicknames are private, I use their birth years for shorthand: