Friday, July 1, 2016

O Glory And Wonder

Destin, FL. It was amazing, you guys. It continues to be amazing. Since we have taken this vacation multiple times and plan to do so again, I feel compelled to tell you all how wonderful it is. Our closest friends have been going to Destin, FL for 20 years. Yes, that’s right—TWENTY. So, we benefit hugely from their experience, and we just do what they tell us to do, mmkay?

Yes, this is real

The Gulf Side beach and my tiny baby, who is apparently old enough to boogie board

We stay at Destin Pointe. It’s a private neighborhood that’s a mix of real live owners living in their houses, and rentals. There is also a condo building, but it is only 6 stories high, so it’s not intrusive. There are two pools, both of which are kid friendly, with little water features, and a splash pad. One pool is right by the beach, and it has a zero depth entry with some water features; the other pool, which is by the condo building (Magnolia House) has a ramp and stairs, water features, and the splash pad.

Yep, right there. On the point, so we get the Gulf and the protected East Pass.

The neighborhood is decent size, but smaller, so it’s totally walkable to the beach even from the farthest house. Now, if you’ve got little ones, it might not be so walkable, but never fear! There is an on-demand “tram” that runs from 8 am to 5:30 pm from any house in the neighborhood to any pool or the beach. I’ve never had to wait more than 5-8 minutes for it. It’s golf cart with 5 rows, each row seating 3, plus two that sit with the driver.  We used the tram a lot this year, because even though we were close, Lis was just tired out.

All the houses come with one umbrella and two chairs for the beach. You don’t even have to lug them around—they are set up for you by 8 am on the beach, and they take them down for you after 5 pm. It’s magical. If you stay in a condo, you can rent the set for $25 a day, which is totally worth it. No hassle.

Gulf beach; umbrellas; snacking child.

There are two points of beach access—one to gulf, where all the waves are, and one to the East Pass, which is a really calm area that leads into the Destin Harbor. On the East Pass side, there is a giant wall of breakwater rocks, which form really fun tide pools, and it’s great snorkeling along those rocks. It’s not rough at all. Past the rocks, on the East Pass beach side, there is a super calm beach. There are practically no waves, great snorkeling, and it’s not busy. It’s fantastic to watch the sun set here, and it’s great for little kids. The gulf side has some mild surf and waves and great shelling. It’s still fairly calm, especially compared to the Atlantic beaches I’ve been to. All the water is that gorgeous crystal clear water that fades into emerald green and sapphire blue.

Access to the East Pass side--the path
View form on top the breakwater rocks, where people snorkel and fish

Rocks, walking down towards East Pass beach

In the past, we’ve never had a jellyfish issue, but this year, there were some small jellies. No one in our group was stung, but someone else nearby was. She said it did not hurt, more like a pinch, and she kept swimming.

Literally my view from my umbrella and chair.

In other hazardous marine life information, we DID see a shark this year. SHARK!!!!!! OUT OF THE WATER!!!!! I can hear you screaming. It turned out to be kind of anti-climatic. There were tons and tons of fish that day, more than I had ever seen before, and big fish, too. Because of that, people were kind of on the lookout. Everyone on the beach spotted the shark right away, called out and passed the message on, and we climbed out to watch the shark slide gracefully by. We stuck close to shore for a few hours, but it was clear the shark had moved on, in search of the fish it had scared off.  Our friends said that was the first time in 20 years they’ve seen a shark.

We saw dolphins! They rode the waves into the beach, then turned around and went back out again, only to ride the waves back in It was so cool.

East Pass beach at night; forgot to take a day time picture

Anyways, I’m not sure how to rave enough about this beach. The water was warm and clear; the shelling was amazing. The sand is that soft white sand, so it doesn’t get really hot, and you can walk barefoot on it. The waves were just the right size for kids, and Lis loved to float in them for HOURS. She even learned to boogie board. The best part is that it’s not crowded. The beach access is private, and because this neighborhood is on a point, there is no where else to access the beach from, so… quiet. Your chairs and umbrella do get set up in one area, but if feel like you want more space, then just mosey down the beach 20 feet, and there is no one. We sat there and played for awhile and there was not a person in 20 feet of us in either direction. Even where everyone is set up is not crowded; it’s just where they set the chairs to reduce walking from the access point. It’s also all families, so there’s no spring breakers there.

Pano of the Gulf side beach; moon on one side, sunset on other

Oh! That reminds me. Every time I have been to this beach, this great tide pool has formed at least one of the days we were there. It must just be the shape of the beach. So, there’s the ocean, and then there’s the slope up, and then it’s flat for a while before it gently curves up. On that second flat area, the waves wash up and create this little tide pool/river and man it is THE BEST.

Our general day went like this: Get up, breakfast, pack beach bag. Go to beach until 10:30 or 11. Lis then asks to go to pool; swim in pool until lunch. We almost exclusively swim in the pool right by the beach, just because. If we brought lunch to beach, then return to beach and eat lunch at beach; Lis may fall asleep in beach chair. If not, then we return to house to eat lunch; Lis may fall asleep on porch chair. Digest food, return to beach. Maybe hit the pool on the way back. Make or obtain dinner; drink gin on porch while Lis is snoring away in bed. Rinse, lather repeat.

Lake in  middle of neighborhood; looking towards the Gulf, standing on boardwalk

Same view, but sunset

Obviously, I can’t speak for every house, but I like the houses we’ve stayed in. It’s a typical rental house set up—there’s some basics there, like plates, cups, appliances, towels, sheets, etc, but you need to bring your own food, maybe your own spices, and if you have any specialized kitchen tools (like us and our French press/tea pot/hot water kettle set up), you’ll need to bring those. So far, any time we’ve had an issue, the management has been very responsive and fixed it for us while we were at the beach. Our friends did get pretty irritated one year at a house that needed some fixing up, and the A/C had some issues, but it got worked out (a/c was fixed; discount given). There’s a gate guard who is pretty vigilant about people’s comings and goings, and they have security that does patrols at night.

View from our house's front porch

This year, we stayed at Déjà Vu, and man, I love that house. The back porch was in the sun all day; the front porch was in the shade all day. Take your pick! It even had a little courtyard backyard with a grill and a path for Lis to run around and around and around. It was 2 bedrooms, 2 baths—just a little cottage, but perfect for us. It overlooked a little lake, and ahhh.

Our backyard

I think it really depends on the house as to what they come with—ours had great wifi, some board games, a grill, etc. I’ve seen some come with boogie boards and toys, but honestly, I’d rather just bring mine so that I don’t care if they wash away.

I mean, it's likely she will bite it and lose the board.

I’ve been in the condos multiple times, but never stayed there. While we prefer houses and will probably never stay in a condo (we just don’t like the elevator hassle), I have to say, those condos have it BEAT with their views. It’s a partial view of the gulf that stretches into the east pass and the harbor. There is nothing obstructing it. The sunsets are amazing. Our friends often stay there, and they like the accommodations, which I admit, are pretty nice.

Pano from condo porch. I mean, really. That's the East Pass beach view.

One of the MOST CONVENIENT THINGS EVER about this neighborhood is that if you don’t want to, you don’t have to deal with traffic. I think Destin traffic can be a bit nuts on the main drag, which is where you find all the grocery stores, of course. But this neighborhood’s quiet road dumps you RIGHT into the parking lot of the Winn-Dixie and a Target, which houses a Starbucks. There are other food related things there, too.  So, you can totally skip the traffic, just by virtue of staying here!

We’ve had some great meals out: a breakfast place (The Pancakery); lunch (La Paz and Local Market); and dinner (Hog’s Breath; McGuires; Boshamps; Island Wing Company).

We went jetskiing this year! It was great; it lasted for 2 hours, which was plenty with a kid, and we saw many, many dolphins. We were also able to go over the Crab Island, which is basically a permanent sand bar where people set up boats, restaurants on boats, and honest to god floating playgrounds. It’s perfect clear water, and we had a blast.

I could have easily stood in the water here. It's just a floating party place.



I’d love to try parasailing; our friends have rented sea kayaks and boats, and said both are great fun. Oh! There’s an honest-to-God pirate ship that you can take a pirate cruise on, and Lis is ALL ABOUT THAT.

In Destin, there’s also a waterpark right by the neighborhood, which looks like amazing fun. There’s a carnival place that has mini golf and go karting, and we took Lis go karting. She loves it. Go during the day, when it’s less crowded.




Because the breeze is so nice, and the water temperature is perfect, and the sand is white and so very reflective, I will say this: It’s easy to get sunburnt without realizing it. Be diligent with the sunscreen, and wear a rash guard. I highly recommend SwimZip.com for kids’ rash guards that ZIP OMG SO EASY. I put on 50 spf at least twice a day, wore a big brim sunhat with sunglasses, and most of the time a rash guard, and with the help of our umbrella, I escaped sunburn.

Lots of sunscreen and hats for us ghosts
East Pass Beachside, looking for pirates


Yeah. I've already started planning for next year. 

Friday, May 27, 2016

On This Day, Even More So

Memorial Day is gut wrenching, sometimes. Below is a repost of why.

_____________________________________

Serve (Jan 14, 2013)

I was four when my brother went off to the United States Air Force Academy. Although I don’t remember much about his decision to go there, I do know that one of his biggest concerns that he expressed to my parents was that I would grow up not knowing him. He and I wouldn’t have a relationship. The logistics were just against it; he would have very little vacation time while in school, and then he would be deployed, frequently, for long periods of time. 

He was right.


For years, my brother was the one that would swoop in at holiday times, and I was thrilled to see him, as a little kid. We would travel to the Academy, and then we would travel to where he was stationed. Eventually, I got older, and while I am always his kid sister, I was not his baby sister. It’s harder to know and love and have things in common that way—at least, it was for us. The distance didn’t help, and neither did the fact that we are both phone call avoiders. 


That doesn’t mean my heart wasn’t in my throat every time he was deployed to either a war zone, or an undisclosed location. When he was going on a dangerous mission (it sounds all spy like, but it’s an accurate description), we would get a very specific phone call. My younger self did not translate the situation into meaning very well, but I know now that those phone calls were goodbyes, in advance, just in case.


There have been lots of dangerous deployments and close calls over the years, and there have been great moments, moments of real triumph and joy, and thankfully, since he has advanced in rank, he’s had mostly stateside stations, with a “quick” trip here and there to Afghanistan, etc. I know that’s coming to an end. I know he is going to be deployed soon.


It’s much harder now than it was then. I’m older, I know better. We’re both older, and we have a great relationship now. We’re much closer. I understand more. I worry more. I’ve had many friends and classmates go over and come back fine; go over and come back…not quite the same; go over, and never come back. It’s not going to be for at least 6 months yet, I think, but it’s already following me around, like a shadow, where I can see it, out of the corner of my eye. 


**********


My nephew, for as long as I can remember, has been fascinated by his uncle (“unk-knu”). When my brother sent him a bomber jacket and “pilot” sunglasses, my nephew wore them until they practically corroded off him. He’s always wanted to be military. He’s always wanted to go an academy. 


He did. He’s at Annapolis. At his graduation, they did this thing where each student stood and they announced either what college they were going to, or where they had been accepted. When his was called, and they announced the naval academy, the entire school, all the present parents, everyone in the massive commencement hall stood up for him.


I know, someday, he’ll be deployed and we’ll go through this all over again. 


**********


My dad spent 30 years in the Army. He retired at the very end of August 2001. Just a few week later, when September 11 happened, he was agonized that he had gotten out. I know he tried to re-up. I overheard him and my mom discussing it: "This is what I trained for! This is what I was supposed to do! I left two weeks too early."      "I know, J. But we have our son out there, and I don’t think I could handle it nearly as well if you were still out there, too."


**********


Given my family background (there are even more in the military), I suppose it’s only natural that in college and law school, I tended to gravitate towards the military people. The way one of my military friends (actually, one from grade school) put it was that I’m a civilian, so I am a nice break from military life, but I’m also military, so I always get it. You’re the best of both worlds, he told me when he came home from the Air Force Academy one summer. Everyone at the academy needs a friend like you. I told that to one of my ROTC friends in college. He laughed, and said you are easy to be around.


That was in 2004. It’s 2013, and he died this past week, in the sand.


__________________________________________
See also here and here and here.
You know how I said above that my nephew would someday do this, too? He graduated today from the US Naval Academy as a brand spanking new Marine. And so we continue, on and on. 

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Back To Ashes

Some days, I just want to burn it all down.

I've never edited this blog. If I made a typo while writing, and I didn't catch it before posting. I've left it. I sometimes cringe when I read them, but there it is. Life is imperfect and messy and we make mistakes that we can't undo. Sometimes I think I deleting all the past entries, except for the craniosynostosis entires. People still come in startling amounts to read those, so those will always stay, but the rest? I think about taking out my magic wand and pulling it all back.

But I won't.

Some days, I put my hands on the walls of my house and I can feel them towering over me, pulling me, sucking me down, keeping me grounded here. There's a part of me--a part a hate, a part I've learned to control through years of tedious effort--that feels the need to run. Oh, my life as it was--defined by a sheer phobia of commitment--is over. Although I feel the panic sometime, and tension, I've got too many years of therapy under belt. I know that's my irrational side calling.

I won't do it.

And yet.

There are things I could burn. I could, if I was brave enough to take the steps. A good burn, a cleansing one, burning part of the forest of my life to ashes, letting what used to be, letting the new, the creative, the things hiding beneath that I know are still there, somewhere--oh yes, letting all those things loose. Let them rise, reborn from the ashes.

I want to. Oh, I want to so badly that my eyes sting. I want to burn all the work I've done. I want to set fire to my career and all the education it took me to get there. I want to stand there and watch the flames and feel them warm my face and hold my arms up to the stars and scream with joy and freedom.

The rational side of me--that would be the dominant side of me--checks me so hard, and yanks me back with that chain called panic. I've got a good job. It pays. It's worthwhile. I help people. I've gotten good at it. I can move up in it, I can advance. But, oh, I do not love it. It's soul crushing; it's weeks of tedium interspersed with days of hot sheer panic, sprinkled with hours of conflict. But it's a job that's flexible, and it gives me purpose, and the people are wonderful.

There is no joy.

I've felt, for years now, this strange burning and bubbling. I can feel the old me there, the one with all the ideas, the one that wrote and read from dusk until dawn and dawn until dusk. The one that churned out piece after piece because she could not stop. I can feel it all there, like a well that's suddenly found its source again; it's deep, it's ignored, but it's there.

This is just one of those days. I just want to burn it all down and start anew. I suppose I'm too much of a coward to ever do it, and so I creep on, seeing flames only in my dreams.

Monday, December 21, 2015

A Rey of Light

SPOILERS: Caution! Here be (mild) Star Wars: The Force Awakens spoilers! But’s its only kind of about the movie.

I’ve talked about it before—I love science fiction. For many years, if you had asked me what first touched my interest, I would have answered Star Wars. I would have told you about how I walked into the television room at age 9, and saw my mom watching a movie, eating popcorn; how I asked her what it was, because I didn’t understand what I was seeing on the screen. I would have told you how she was surprised that she had never shown me Star Wars IV, and how she had me sit and finish watching the movie with her, and how I loved even the last 20 minutes. I would have told you how I came back the next night to watch Empire Strikes Back, and the next night to watch Return of the Jedi, and how it was all over after that—I watched and rewatched the movies, bought books, imagined myself as an x-wing pilot or a Jedi or a general with the Rebels. 

That’s all true, except I’ve realized over the years that I was well and truly primed to love science fiction by reading and loving Madeline L’Engle books. I just never identified them as such, but, oh, did they ever capture my imagination. I was ready to be captivated by Star Wars, and so I was. 

My fierce (and at times, rather desperate) love of these movies often made things a bit difficult for me. I was already an odd duck in school. I was smart, but I was also athletic; I loved weird things that only boys, if they knew about them at all, should love; I was awkward looking; I was too comfortable with adults, and too uncomfortable with my peers. I was That Kid, and I was harassed, verbally and physically, accordingly. Girls ridiculed my love of science fiction; boys got especially hostile that a girl was trying to invade “their” stuff. I ended up loving science fiction and Star Wars even more because I saw in it worlds where me being a smart girl who liked different things just didn’t matter.

It still left me with the definite notion though that I was a girl who was playing in a boy’s world. I was pretending to be an x-wing pilot, but there were no female pilots in the movie; I was pretending to be a Jedi, but there were no female Jedi. I was trying to be confident and badass, and at least I had Princess Leia, but hell, I knew I wasn’t beautiful like that, and I certainly didn’t have that kind of charisma at that age.

Obviously, I’ve grown as a person and as a lover of science fiction in all its genres. I can see now the racism and sexism problems in some science fiction, Star Wars included, that I didn’t see or understand when I was younger. But loving something, understanding its flaws, and despite those flaws is more sincere than the childish devotion I had, and so I do. I love it because it opened up worlds and possibilities to me, and I love it because sometimes it’s wrong, and I learned how to see and reject what was wrong.

So, when Vor asked if I wanted to play hooky and go see The Force Awakens, there was no question. We had both been getting more and more excited about the movie. I’ve had doubts about J.J. Abrams; I was really unhappy with his treatment of the basic building blocks of the Star Trek Universe, but I knew he had a deeper love of and reverence for Star Wars than he ever had for Star Trek. I was determined to avoid any spoilers; I only watched the trailers, I stayed away from social media, I avoided my usual internet sci-fi haunts, and so on. I went into this almost blind. I had a decent guess about the plot—that it would be a search for Luke Skywalker—but other than that, I was in the dark.

It became quickly apparent that Rey, the young woman, was going to be the new Force user, and presumably, the new Jedi. They called Leia “General.” There was a female pilot in an x-wing.

I was completely engrossed in the movie, in a way that I haven’t been in years. When it ended, I was surprised to discover a lump in my throat, and while I was excited, I also felt quiet. We got into the car to head home, and Vor enthused all the way. As we got close to home, he looked at me, questioning why I was so quiet. 

“I don’t think you can understand what it means to me—what it means to many women my age and older who love science fiction and Star Wars… Vor, that was my childhood dream and my childhood play, on the screen. I pretended to be a Jedi and an x-wing pilot, but there were no women in the movie doing that. And now there is! They’re right there! Just like I dreamt as a little kid!” I was almost crying, which might sound ridiculous to you, but imagine it in the light of all the shit I put up with as a kid, constantly defending my imagination, and now… it’s there, for everyone to see and love and do.

Vor smiled and reached over to hold my hand. “I know, because I know how happy I am for Lis, and for you. I think it means everything.”


And so it does.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Capital T, Rhymes with P, Stands For Partner

Yesterday was Vor's Christmas party.

I rented a very sparkly dress from Rent The Runway (fabulous, fabulous job. I'll review that later), and we stayed downtown, and we drank and danced and had fun. We actually saw each about not at all, because it was a big night for Vor and I, so we were constantly pulled in different directions, which is to say--

Vor made partner.

I... well. I don't know how we got here. I mean, I know. But he started there as a summer associated 9 years ago, before we were married, and here we are, both lawyers with a kid, and he's a partner, and his associates are like my baby chicks that I take in at Thanksgiving and other holidays, soothe when they need it, and try to generally to be kind and thoughtful. You know, like the other partners' spouses did for me and Vor.

It was a good party. It's a good thing. I'm just still processing it, but above all, I am proud of him, and I know how much we both did to get here.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Yule Be Jealous

Every year, the symphony orchestra in our town puts on a Yuletide show. It's definitely geared towards making children happy and entertained, but there's plenty to keep adults entranced as well.

Last year, it was--of course--a Frozen theme, with plenty of other Christmas carols and fun thrown in. At one point, Santa and his reindeer showed up. After Santa did his literal song and dance, he existed stage left. The audience was quiet as they watched Santa parade off the stage up through the aisle, enjoying the spectacle. As the music faded to a hush, Lis, then 2.75 years old, stood up on her seat and yelled at the top of her lungs: BYE SANTA! SEE YOU TOMORROW! BYE SANTA!!!!!!!!!

Well over half the symphony audience--and a large amount of the actually orchestra, burst out into laugher. I admit, it was rather hilarious.

Today, we get to go again. First we head to a dinner at A Very Exclusive Club (TM), a place that's normally a bit snooty, so I take particular joy in letting Lis press her nose to their windows which overlook the beautiful city center. I do try to wipe off the nose prints, though. I have a kid, not a puppy. Well, I have a puppy, but he's not coming to the Yuletide Celebration--

--speaking of which, have I mentioned that that selfsame dog ate three dozen gingernsnap cookies this week? Yes, indeed--

Ahem. Where was I? Yes, dinner, then over to theater for holiday activities (a live reindeer for children; spiked egg nog for parents), then the show.

I can only hope that Lis repeats her performance from last year.

I'm glad we are having this chill, fun weekend, because Vor leaves on a work trip bright and early on Monday, so I am flying solo for the rest of the week. Of course, it just happens to be a crazy week for me, running an all day CLE, then presenting at a conference in another county then next day, then a full day trial, and so on.

But it is indeed the Yuletide.

Friday, December 4, 2015

A Reckoning

I’m thinking about starting either a written fitness journal, or a fitness blog, to keep track of myself and keep myself accountable. Okay, less thinking, and more trying it out.

In October, I started feeling run down. I had actually been doing well up until then—steadily losing some weight, working out, eating well. Then I felt crappy and ate nothing but pasta and mashed potatoes. I stopped working out because I couldn’t breathe and I was so damn tired. I finally went to the doctor, and lo! I had gained more than ten pounds, and I had pneumonia. So, I haven’t been able to work out for more than two months. I ate like crap. I still struggle to get in a workout because I wheeze and cough and get so tired, but it’s getting better, slow but sure.

While I was at the doctor’s office, she raised her eyebrows at me, and I thought uh oh. Here it comes. The weight shaming. She gently reminded me that I had gestational diabetes, and that diabetes runs in my family. I need to lose weight. I need to have my sugar levels checked. I need to be better about going to the doctor. 

Truth be told, I have been deliberately avoiding seeing my GP because I didn’t want to have this conversation, have a blood draw, and have them tell me that I have issues. But maybe that’s what I need.

So, starting today, I am bringing myself to a reckoning.  It’s all being recorded. I’ll try both, online and written, and see which works better for me. I know I have to be gentle right now—it turns out that pneumonia is no joke—but I can get a start. I am giving myself three months, and then I am scheduling a doctor appointment for the inevitable blood draw. If I have an issue, I need to know. I need to give myself a chance to correct it, hopefully on my own, or with better living through chemistry. 


If you want to play along, I’m at https://gracebecomingfit.wordpress.com/ . I’ve got  a plan and goals.