Tell me your favorite beach reads!

We’re going on a little beach getaway for the next week.

I’m super excited, but the process of packing and getting ready has been sort of stressful. (I wrote a little about it in Monday’s post.) Normally, I’d have a reading list ready to go, but I haven’t had a chance to even think about it this week.

So, help me out! What are your favorite beach reads? Anything I can’t miss? Anything that just makes you think of summer? Give me all the recommendations, y’all! And thank you! 🙂

Eight Things I Learned as a New Traveler

Y’all, we have a beach trip coming up, and I can’t remember how to pack. And when we went to a wedding last weekend, we just straight up forgot to book a hotel until the last minute. It’s like we don’t remember how to travel. And that got me thinking.

I didn’t travel a lot growing up. I didn’t fly on an airplane until well into my 20s, I didn’t leave the country until I was almost 30. My parents and I went places – the beach in summer, to visit family, that kind of thing – but big, adventurous, week-long (or longer) trips just weren’t something we did. And when I married Graham and we started traveling, it took me a while to figure out how to do it. Like, I’d never packed a suitcase for more than five days. I’d never had to consider visas or passports. It was like a whole new world, and I had to make a lot of mistakes while I learned how to live in it.

Which brings me back to tonight. As I sit here, trying to remember what one normally brings on a beach trip, I’m remembering all of those lessons I learned as a new traveler.

The scariest thing about air travel is how boring and uncomfortable it is.

I didn’t take my first flight until my mid-twenties, and I was terrified. It’s not that I thought the plane would fall out of the sky in a big ball of fire, it’s just that I was pretty sure the plane would fall out of the sky in a big ball of fire. Looking back on it now, I laugh at how ridiculous, and wrong, that fear was. What is scary? Cramming your legs into the stupid tiny space you paid all that money for and then entertaining yourself for eight hours while you try to find a comfortable spot for your tingling right foot and a non-painful angle for your scrunched up left arm.

Pack carefully.

You know that relaxed fit striped t-shirt you never wear at home? Yeah, you’re not going to wear it when you travel, either. Just put it back in the closet and walk away. Pack what you need, and nothing more. Trust me on this. You’ll thank me when your suitcase isn’t too big and heavy to carry up the stairs at that cute little bed and breakfast in the Cotswolds. Also, packing cubes are a good investment. Trust me on that, too.

Make a plan.

I was 27 when I married Graham and we went to France for our honeymoon. It was my first international trip. We worked with a travel agency to put it together, and our only regret now is that we weren’t actively engaged in the planning. We both feel like we missed opportunities in France because we didn’t know they existed. If you’re going to spend money on a trip, be active in coordinating it. Look at it as an opportunity to learn. Do your research, build a roadmap of everything you want to accomplish, and then go out and make it happen.

But don’t be too strict with yourself. 

Plans are great (see above), but make sure you don’t get lost in the planning and miss the forest for the trees. Know that not everything works perfectly (because perfection doesn’t exist in this universe), and that there will likely be surprises along the way. Let them happen!

You’ll see more if you walk.

My favorite thing to do when we travel is to get out and walk around. Walk down the local main street, walk to the museum, walk to the café. You’ll stumble across so much cool stuff you’d miss if you were in a car or on a bus. Will your feet get sore? Well, yeah, they will. Bring your most comfortable shoes. Is it worth it anyway? Well, yeah, it is. 100%. (I should note here, always be safe and careful. Stay aware of your surroundings, and make wise decisions about how you get around.)

Don’t be self-conscious.  

Part of traveling is learning, and you won’t learn if you’re afraid to go out and explore. If you don’t speak a language, just be patient and kind when you try to communicate with people. If you don’t know the customs, do some research before you leave. If you’re worried you’ll get lost, plan a route and take a map, and don’t be scared to ask for directions. If you have to wear ridiculous, bright orange waterproof overalls to paddle out to a glacier, just do it. (No one’s laughing at you, I promise.) Whatever you do, don’t let a little discomfort get in the way of having an amazing adventure.

Luxury is overrated.

I love a nice hotel. And I love, love, love a fancy meal. I like soft beds and silky sheets. My best friend in high school called me her “indoor girl.” I’m a fan of the finer things. But, priorities. When choosing where we stay, I’ve learned that the most important things are safety, cleanliness, accessibility and location, and price. Why spend major bucks on a hotel room? That’s not what you’ve traveled to see. And when it comes to food, I like to plan for a nice meal or two, and I always make a list of things I want to be certain to try, but otherwise, food is fuel. The easiest thing is just fine.

Don’t sweat the small stuff.   

Probably my best advice, in travel and in life, generally. As I’ve already noted, perfection doesn’t exist in this universe. It’s not worth worrying if you didn’t pick the right outfit for your pictures at the Eiffel Tower, or if you got tea when you wanted coffee. Those aren’t the things you’ll remember. Focus on the big picture, and on the good memories you’re making. You can’t control everything, and you’ll drive yourself crazy if you try. Just be in the moment, and enjoy the ride.

I think those are the biggest lessons I’ve learned. It’s honestly sort of weird to think of them now, and to feel like I’m suddenly new at this travel thing all over again. But I’ve always been a fast learner. 😊

So, with that in mind: What are your thoughts? Do you have any good travel advice? Any lessons learned? I’m sure there are things I’ve missed, and everyone’s experiences are so different, so I’d love to hear from you!

It’s hot outside, y’all.

It’s mid-July. This is usually about the point in the summer when I start wishing for cooler days and fall leaves and eventually (my favorite thing) snow. And, yep, we’re here.

It’s hot.

I’m over it.

I’m ready for a little relief from the 90+ degree heat (Fahrenheit) we’ve been dealing with. Not that hot compared to some places, I know, but pretty much a heatwave here in Virginia.

So, I spent today being a sweaty, grumpy mess, looking at pictures of all the wintry places where we’ve traveled.

Iceland.

Alaska.

Another Iceland. This is the beach I’d like to be sitting on right about now.

I love all the seasons, really, and I don’t think I could live in a place where there’s no variety in the weather. I appreciate that Virginia has a cool, crisp fall, a (sometimes) snowy winter, a temperate spring, and a very summery summer.

I’m just not feeling it right this minute. Which is fine. It just gives me an opportunity to daydream about snowy days. And they’ll be here soon enough.  

Real Talk: I’m in a reading rut.

I mentioned in my Q&A last week that my non-writing life has been unexpectedly chaotic this year. I’ve not been able to hike as much as I’ve wanted to, and I’ve not had time to work on some of my other creative goals. These things, I expected. Something has to give, right? But a surprising consequence of the chaos has been that I’m in a bit of a reading rut.

I read a lot. Normally over 100 books a year. I like reading. It’s a thing.

But this year, I’ve only read 24 book so far, and I’m having trouble getting excited about new books or looking for my next read. It’s weird, actually, and I’m certain it’s not permanent.

Which is where I hope y’all can come in! What are some of your favorite reads from this year so far? What should I read next? What book can I absolutely not miss? Send me recommendations! I like lots of different genres, and I love discovering new things. If you read it and liked it, tell me about it.

And I’ll get myself out of this rut, one story at a time.  

Bonus Post! More Q&A!

Y’all, I missed some questions! With apologies to Shivani (whose blog you should definitely visit!), I’m answering them now. Because they’re good questions. 😊

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When writing a story, what’s the first thing you take care of?

It varies. Sometimes a voice will come to me first and I’ll start with a character, and sometimes, I’ll have a setting in mind. It just depends on what kind of mood I’m in that day and what’s standing out most to me. That being said, the first thing I usually do when I sit down to write a story is to make myself a cup of coffee (sometimes tea, but usually coffee) and to write a few journal pages, just to get any messy thoughts and anxieties out of my head. I find everything comes out a little more smoothly after that.

How do you decide on a catchy title for a story?

Honestly, I have no idea, and sometimes, I don’t. Choosing a title is sometimes more difficult for me than actually writing the story. It’s usually the last thing I do in the process, and by then, I just hope that the story is good enough. My best advice is probably just to keep it simple. The story’s the real work and the real reward.

EDITED TO ADD:

Are you sure your house isn’t haunted?

LOL, no! It’s almost 3:00 a.m., and I’m still up writing, and the washing machine just turned itself on and off twice in a row. Do you think the ghosts want me to go to bed already so they can do their ghost things before the morning?

Q&A! (Long promised, finally delivered!)

As promised, here I am with a Q&A. Hope you enjoy it!

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Why did you start this blog?

I started this blog back in 2016. I’d left a corporate job to pursue writing full time, and starting a blog as part of that shift just sort of felt like the sensible thing to do. It never felt quite right, though, and looking back, I realize now that I was scared. I didn’t want to put my creative writing out there, because I was afraid people wouldn’t like it. And I didn’t want to share too much of myself, because I was afraid people wouldn’t like me. I more or less rebooted this blog (and myself, really) in very early 2020, after my grandmother died. She was my last grandparent, and cliché as it sounds, losing her made me realize how fast life goes, and how quickly everything can change. I stopped worrying about being liked, and started thinking about what I wanted to create and how I could get it out into the world. And here we are today.

What do you have in mind for the blog in the next three months?

More stories, more poems, maybe a couple of travel posts. I’m also really intrigued by the six-word stories I’ve been reading, so that would be fun, I think. And I’ve thought about incorporating more posts about my writing process, and more inside looks at how I build stories. Is that something y’all would want to read? Let me know!

Weren’t you going to start a YouTube channel?

Yes! And it’s coming, I promise! My non-writing life has been pretty unexpectedly chaotic this year, and I’ve had to put off really digging in and getting started making videos, but I’m still planning to make it happen. I might even write some posts about how it’s going, once I get started. 😉

Still working on your novel?

Which one? I mean, yes. I have a love/hate relationship with my novel(s) at the moment. But we’re working through it.

Who’s your favorite writer?

Neil Gaiman. I’m also very fond of Kazuo Ishiguro.

What’s your favorite book?

That’s like asking me to pick a favorite star in the sky! I really like Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro. I read it many years ago and it’s stuck with me all that time. Recently, I’ve been reading Yona of the Dawn, which is a manga series and yes, I know that’s not the same thing as a book (or is it??), and I’m really invested in the story. Would recommend. And I still find myself thinking about The Song of Achilles, which I read at the beginning of this year. So, so good!

What does your name mean?

My personal name? Katie means “pure.” My mom chose it because she liked it. I’ve come around to liking it, too, but I desperately wanted a more unique name when I was a kid. I think a lot of kids do, actually. As for my blog name, I’ve lived in Virginia all my life, and I love it here. There are lots of places I’d like to see, and I can’t wait to be able to travel again, but no matter where I end up, Virginia will always be home.

Have you ever visited Waterford, VA?

Yes, I have! It’s a lovely little village here in Virginia, named after the one in Ireland, I believe, with some interesting Quaker history and lots of immaculately preserved historic structures. Graham and I actually looked at a house in Waterford, when we were searching for a historic home. It was our second choice, but a strong one, and I think we would have been quite happy there. Or in Ireland.

Tell me more about your house.

Well, I’ll start by saying that you don’t live in an old house so much as you experience it. And you’re not really the owner of an old house so much as you’re the steward. At least, that’s how I’ve always looked at it. I grew up in a small town with lots of history, and two main streets lined by beautiful old homes, and it was always a dream of mine to own a historic home of my own. It took over a year to find the right one.

Is it ancestral?

No. It’s housed many a family in its long lifetime, and I’m sure Graham and I won’t be the last.

Did you restore it?

We’ve done a few projects, and we have a few more to do. We bought it in good shape, though.

What’s your favorite part of the house?

I have several! I write in a comfy chair by the window and fireplace in my living room, and so I’m quite fond of that spot.

I also love the stone walls in the basement.

And the view. I love the view.

And I know it might be hard to believe, but I really love my small, practical kitchen.

Easy to use, but more importantly, easy to clean!

Is it haunted?

Depends on who you ask. Graham doesn’t think so and I’m pretty sure it’s not, but some of our friends are totally convinced it is. Either way, I think it’s a happy house, and we’ve always felt very comfortable. I did have a friend ask to come in and do a ghost hunt, and I was like, “No! Absolutely not! I have to live here when you leave!”

Tell me a funny story about when you were in school.

Here’s me, in high school, playing Hermia in A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

I once argued with a high school English teacher over whether Welsh sounds like French. (It doesn’t.) I should have just kept my mouth shut, but I was the kind of kid who…well, who just couldn’t. I also got in trouble in kindergarten for using paint brushes as drum sticks. Oh, and I broke my arm pretending to be a monkey on a set of monkey bars (isn’t that what they’re for???). Is any of that funny? I don’t know. I was an academic, musical kid, and I took myself super seriously. It wasn’t until I was out of college that I really embraced my silly side.

Do you have a favorite friend?

I’m fortunate to have a great group of wonderful friends, and since I’ve been working on the Better Friendships podcast, I’ve really started looking at friends and friendships differently. All of my friends bring happiness and value to my life in their own ways, and I treasure them for who they are and for how they each make my life a little better.

What do you think of The Gondwanaland?

I’m a fan! 😊 Thanks for asking, so I could say so!

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And that’s it! This was kind of fun, I admit. Maybe I’ll do another one when I hit 500 followers. We shall see!  

Thank you for 300 followers!!

I’m so excited, you guys! I’ve hit 300 followers (plus a few more!), and I’m so grateful. I mentioned in a post when I hit 200 followers earlier this year (and I think in a previous one before that…) that I’d like to do a Q&A, and I’ve not had a chance to sit down and write everything out yet. So, if you have questions for me, post them below! I promise a Q&A post next week. 😊

In the meantime, thanks to each of you who follow my blog and read my work. I appreciate it so much, and I love being part of this wonderful, supportive, creative community. Y’all are the best!

True story, y’all…

My mom and I were having a funny conversation a couple of weeks ago, talking about how stubbornness runs in the family. Like, both families. My dad’s and my mom’s. And so I come by my stubbornness honestly, and I told her that. I added that out of the three of us, I thought I was probably the least stubborn, and my dad was the most. She said she’s much less stubborn than me. I told her she’s absolutely more stubborn than I am. (Though we both seemed to agree that my dad is the most stubborn of all of us, so there’s that, I suppose.)

This (good-natured) back and forth went on for a little while, and then Graham (poor Graham), came upstairs to make a cup of coffee. So of course, I asked him to settle the matter and declare which of us – my mom or me – was the least stubborn.

“Your mom,” he said. “You’re so much more stubborn than your mom.”

She burst out laughing. I objected. The conversation eventually moved on.

And then I sat down today to write a poem for the blog. I wasn’t even thinking of the stubbornness conversation. Honestly, I was sitting in my chair looking outside at the sunshine and the cardinals in the yard, happy as a clam.

But, well, this is what I wrote:

Please, by all means,
tell me I can’t.
There is no better way
on the face of this planet
to ensure that
not only can I,
I will.

Y’all, I think Graham may have been right…

Break Time!

I probably should have shared this at the beginning of the week, but I kind of forgot I’d planned to.

My parents are coming to visit! We’ve not seen them since Thanksgiving, and this will be our first time visiting with them since we’ve been vaccinated. I am so excited. Like, really, really, REALLY excited.

So, I’ll be taking a writing break for the rest of the week. I just want to focus on spending time with everyone and making that time count. But I’ll be back on Monday, May 31st, with a short story. And I hope it’ll be a good one.

In the meantime, I wish you all happy creating, and leave you with a cute picture of our little summer dog.

See you Monday!

It’s already Wednesday?!

I’ve been feeling a bit under the weather today. Not COVID, and nothing serious. It’s just been sort of a busy time, and I’ve not been eating or sleeping well, and it appears to have finally caught up with me. Today, since my body didn’t really give me a choice, I’ve just been lounging and resting. And then it hit me, about ten minutes ago, that it’s Wednesday, and I always write a blog post on Wednesday.

Oops…

I try to write a few posts ahead, I really do, but it doesn’t always work out. And for the last couple of weeks, I’ve been writing posts day of. And today, I haven’t written anything.

Again, oops…

But, here’s a cute picture of Annie (also lounging, but not beside me, because she’s stingy with her cuddles sometimes) instead.

And I’ll be back with an actual, real post on Friday.

*P.S. Any good book/movie/TV recommendations would be highly appreciated! I doubt I’ll sleep much tonight, and I’d love to have a good distraction. Thanks, y’all!*