Saturday, July 21, 2012

World of Wonder

When you haven't left the country in a few months, you start to get antsy.

Then I saw this deal in my inbox last night. So I did what any rational travel junkie would do. I bought it. I've already been to London and spend six hours in Paris, so I'm guessing Paris will be my destination on this one and it's such a good deal that I consider it my travel junkie duty to take advantage of it.

There's been a few other deals floating around for Iceland (high on my list) and Ireland came in the other day (also on the list, being Irish and all). It's a challenge not to up and go everywhere. I'm still planning Estonia, looking like October since the summer has filled up quick.

But in the meantime, there are good books and travel blogs to keep me inspired. Right now I'm reading Mountains Beyond Mountains by Tracy Kidder and I love it. It's not a travel book exactly, but there's travel involved and more importantly it's about someone believing in something so much bigger than himself and doing everything he can to make it happen. It's about Dr. Paul Farmer who puts everything he has into improving health in Haiti, especially among the rural poor. It's the kind of story that helps you remember to work and fight for the things that matter.

I think I've mentioned it before, but definitely check out Yes and Yes. My friend Ally, the one I visited in Rome, introduced it to me and it's fantastic.

For some pretty, motivational words to hang on your walls, head the Fresh Words Market. They send free prints each month and a few are posted in my cubicle at work. I just got a few prints and journals, some for myself and some for a friend who shares my love of words and quotes. Which reminds me that I need to get them in the mail to her. They also donate proceeds to support women and children initiatives worldwide.

That's something I've started paying more attention to. Maybe it's because I work for a veterans nonprofit not, or maybe it's because it makes sense to buy things that help others, especially if you're going to buy them anyway.

Also check out Afar magazine if you haven't already. It's beautiful and fun and basically a tribute to travel and all the great things that come along with it. Plus, it gives you lots of ideas for your next adventure and gives you a chance to see the world through the eyes of people who appreciate travel like you do. And they post really great pictures on their Facebook page every day.

So, this isn't a post about a recent trip (though I still owe you all a post about Montana!) it's just an appreciation for travel and adventure. And all the things and people out there who help keep us motivated and inspired and mostly who help us maintain our sense of wonder.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Time Warp

Since I've been slacking on the blog, we'll do a time warp of the last six months to catch you up.

After the fantastic trip to Italy, it was tough to come home. I caught a miserable cold that week and was having a terrible time at work. Solution, look for new job, plan next trip. I ventured up to Annapolis for mass that weekend and visited a used bookstore I remembered from the last time I was there in either 2006 or 2007. I also managed to find the shop where I had found a bracelet on that last trip that I love. It's black and white woven threads and a silver plate with "fearless" etched into it. But, now it's faded and fraying from years of wear, but I don't care, I love it all the same. I did want a new one though, either a replacement, or another word to inspire me daily. I've written about this bracelet before and I'm still not sure if I bought it because I wanted to be fearless or because I thought I was, but now I wear it especially on days that are big, or tough, or when I need to give that little voice inside the extra boost to go big, do what needs to be done and take on any challenge.

It was cold that day, snowing actually, but it was a good day trip and a good reminder that even close to home, adventures can always be had.
Cousin Courtney and I having a blast!

February was the middle sister's wedding in Charlottesville, Va. It was a crazy, busy weekend, but a blast to see family and friends all together again. Even if my teeth were chattering as we posed for photos. The reception was at King Family Vineyards, a beautiful place just outside the city. Lots of dancing, lots of wine, a happy time.



There was also a Superbowl party with old coworkers/friends and lunch with good friends at a newish place in Fredericksburg. That town has gotten far cooler than it was when I lived there and worked at the paper. Still wouldn't move back though. There was also a trip home and lunch with great friends made in Alabama, now stationed at Langley. And of course a D.C. day that involved bad coffee and cupcakes and concluded with brain freeze at the hand of the largest margarita I've ever seen. The month wrapped up with a surprise visit from an old friend and it was great to catch up at what has become my go to Irish pub in Old Town, Murphy's.

Glacier National Park
March was full of craziness and frantic job applications and interviews. Back in January, I had declared that I would be out of my museum job by Easter, Mardi Gras tops, and we all know I'm not one to cry wolf about such things. In the midst of that the first of now several trips to Montana. I'll break that one out though, since Big Sky deserves it's own post.

There was the D.C. Rock N' Roll half on St. Patty's Day that was incredibly miserable and I swore the whole way up the hill at Dupont at mile 7 or so that I would never do this again. (Who am I kidding, I'll be doing it again next year). At least there was beer with good friends at the end of that day. Another trip home for a friend's bridal shower. I won fancy soap for winning a game and made a few new friends.

The month also brought my new job and many celebratory happy hours. As promised, I started my new job the week of Easter. Told you I don't cry wolf. And this job isn't in Maryland. Major victory.

Though I swore I'd give up races, the Cherry Blossom 10-miler was on April 1. Ran that with friends and we did pretty well considering our lack of training, well that was true for some of us, me included. The cherry blossoms had sadly come and gone already, but it was a good time even if I thought I might die at the end.

Lake Bled and the castle.
Friends got married and that was an incredibly fun occasion. There are some things about your oldest, hometown friends that cannot be replaced and it's always the best to see them again. Other old friends passed through D.C. and that meant coffee, drinks and fun conversation. Mel and Tom were in the city for a few days and we did some serious people watching on a bench near the Korean War Memorial. It's funny because we had done something similar, three years prior, on a bench at Lake Bled in Slovenia (one of the most beautiful places. Ever.). They're Canadian. My world continues getting smaller and it's a wonderful thing.

May was utter chaos. Seriously. Passport DC was happening and that might be one of my all time favorite things about the city. You get to spend entire days touring the embassies and collect so many great travel ideas and also meet new people and people from places you've been and places you're going. Amanda and I did a cultural evening at the Slovenian embassy and that was a blast, even in too high heels that my main objective for the night was to not break my ankle.

There were military blogger conferences, which meant catching up with old friends and meeting Twitter friends in real life. There was the GI Film Festival where I volunteered and highly recommend you check it out.

There were major work ceremonies and then there was Memorial Day. I now work at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund, which is the nonprofit that built the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, otherwise known as The Wall (check of out on Facebook! and Twitter!). This Memorial Day was epic. The national ceremony was at The Wall and President Obama was our keynote speaker. Kind of a big deal and kind of a crazy day in ridiculous heat. But, the event was great, we all survived and I headed back to Montana. More on that in the Big Sky post.

Jill and I in the stocks at CW
June continued the craziness with work events, trips home, the Annapolis wine festival...wine tasting in mega heat is ill advised, but fun all the same...and cookouts with my new grill and baseball games in miserable, sweltering heat. There was also another trip home with of course a trip to the Yorktown Riverfront for the market and a walk along the river. Littlest sister and I also went to Williamsburg with my Alabama roommie, Jill, who is now in Norfolk for a wine festival, of course! We also did a quick tour of Colonial Williamsburg since Jill hasn't been yet, and that just can't be allowed. I love that place.

Now it's July and the crazy lives on, as does the heat, so I went back to Montana.


Saturday, July 14, 2012

Catch Up Time

It's been far too long since I wrote here, my sincere apologies. Though I haven't been out of the country since I got back from Roma, it's been an incredibly busy few months.

But, we'll do a quick blast to the past and go back to the last day in Rome. I got an early start and met Ally for coffee near the Vatican. We had such a great visit and I didn't want to leave. We chatted about, well, everything, including how great it is that we met during a military journalism workshop in Kansas and managed to stay in touch and have become good friends. It's a good life.

Fully caffeinated, we said our goodbyes and I headed off to the Vatican Museum that I had completely missed a few days earlier. Ally headed off to work. The Vatican Museum is huge and I needed far more time to see it all, but I couldn't leave Rome without seeing the Sistine Chapel, so I booked it over there and found myself constantly scolding myself for spending too much time reading everything in all the exhibits on the way. When I got to the Hall of Maps, which is just before the Sistine Chapel, I felt torn. I'm a huge fan of old maps and these were enormous and amazing. I could spend days in there and just stare at the maps. But on I went.

You see the pictures and the replicas and you know the image and the significance, but when you walk into the Sistine Chapel, you catch your breath. It's simply incredible. The place was mobbed and that makes it hard to take in the beauty of the place, but still, you take a moment to just stop in place and stare at the ceiling. Being my odd self, I was more interested in the floor. The mosaic tile patterns were mesmerizing and I'm still a little obsessed.

There was also another chapel in the museum that I loved the most. Along the way to the Sistine Chapel, you go through a series of ornate and lavish chapels literally painted in gold. It's typical of Catholic churches, especially older ones, and it's beautiful, but it's sensory overload and just a little too much for my taste. Then you turn a corner and find yourself in a very plain, very empty chapel and it's completely quiet. It's a moment of peace after the noise and fanfare of the gilded chapels. The simplicity of it is pure beauty to me. It's a place to be alone with your thoughts, alone with your God, whoever he may be. It's a moment to hear your own heart and just be still. It's quite frankly incredible.

That said, time to get ready for Mass. Littlest sister is here and we're being good and getting ourselves to church. Today, we're headed to the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, the largest Roman Catholic church in the U.S. It's also incredibly beautiful, I spend a lot of time staring at the ceiling.