Spring Gives Way to Summer

I know that the summer solstice isn’t for another couple of weeks, but it has felt distinctly summer-like here in the Florida panhandle for at least the past month. Sampson and I have been busy with projects, visitors, and travel, and that level of bustle shows no sign of abating anytime soon. I thought I’d check in with a little peek at what we’ve been up to lately.

Decluttering

Despite the fact that it is far too early to have any definite timeframe nailed down, we cannot deny that our next move is on the horizon. Neither can we deny that eight years of marriage and a series of military moves that happened to put us in successively larger houses have allowed the Law of Expanding Crap nearly unchecked play. Our next move is almost certainly going to be to a much smaller space, and we have a lot of stuff that does not need to make the trip with us.

Sampson and I are off to a decent start at being more mindful about what we want to keep. We have severely pruned our wardrobes, scrapped bags upon bags of papers I don’t even know why we kept in the first place, and even filled boxes with books to donate. That last one is the toughest for this bookworm, so I’m most proud of that area of reduction. (Our bookcases still look full, mind, but they are no longer overflowing.)

We still have a long way to go, but seeing such major progress nearly every weekend for the past several weeks is motivating. Our goal is that by the time we move, we will take with us only those things we truly need and appreciate. I don’t want to dig through boxes in the new place and unwrap items that make me go, “Ugh, why on earth did we bother to pack this?” I’d much rather be excited about being reunited with our household goods.

Atlanta and New Orleans

In an effort not to let ourselves stagnate, we took a couple of long weekends for short road trips. Sampson wanted to see The Mitty at Road Atlanta, so we made a trip of it. In addition to seeing (and hearing, and feeling) amazing classic race cars whip around a beautiful course, we enjoyed all kinds of great food we can’t get in Pensacola. Among the highlights was my first time trying Ethiopian food in Little Five Points.

For my birthday weekend, we headed three hours west and wound up in New Orleans. Although we rapidly discovered that we are way too old and crotchety for the nonsense on Bourbon Street, we discovered all manner of other delicious dining spots and even enjoyed a cocktail or three. We spent most of the day on my birthday exploring the National World War II Museum.

(He)brewing Up Summer Learning

I had such an incredible experience at Middlebury College’s Hebrew for Lifelong Learners program last summer that I signed up to go this summer, too. I must have made it sound like fun, because this time my mother-in-law will join me for the intensive immersion course. I can’t wait to spend three weeks with lush green mountain landscapes in my eyes and no English in my ears or on my lips.

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So, what have you been up to lately?

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2014 in a Dozen Photos: May-August

Missed Part I? Check out January through April.

May

May 2014: Wat Mongkolratanaram

Wat Mongkolratanaram, also known as Wat Tampa, is a Buddhist temple in Tampa, Florida.

My request was to spend my thirtieth birthday weekend riding roller coasters until my face melted, and my husband obliged by whisking me away to Tampa, Florida for some quality Busch Gardens time. The coasters were fantastic, but perhaps the best part of the weekend was our discovery that Wat Mongkolratanaram, the temple serving the local Thai and Buddhist community, hosts an open house on most Sundays. Not only did we have the opportunity to learn more about another culture, its beliefs, and its practices, but we had the best Thai food I have eaten in a long, long time. Highly recommended.

June

June 2014: Middlebury, Vermont

A view of downtown Middlebury, Vermont.

June is hot and sticky in Pensacola. June in rural Vermont is lush, green, crisp, and mostly cool. While the favorable climate was not precisely the driving factor in my decision to apply for an intense, three-week total immersion program in Modern Hebrew at the Middlebury Summer Language Schools, it sure didn’t hurt! Going to Middlebury was a big step outside my comfort zone, and not just because of the pledge all students sign to speak no English and communicate only in the target language for the duration of the course. It’s amazing how much Hebrew one can learn when one has no choice but to speak it at breakfast, lunch, dinner, and all classes and activities in between.

July

July 2014: Shalom, Chavera

Saying goodbye to my best friend from the School of Hebrew at Middlebury Summer Language Schools.

After three weeks of the most intense language study I have ever experienced, it was time to return to the English-speaking world. I know I said that these monthly snapshots wouldn’t necessarily depict super-significant, life-changing moments, but my Middlebury experience represents a turning point. I packed more Hebrew into my head than I would have through possible in such a short time, but perhaps the most important thing I learned is that after seven years out of academia, I could still hack it in a school environment. Not only could I hack it, but it energized and excited me to the point that I am preparing for a big, scary, exciting, terrifying application process in 2015. (More on that later.)

August

August 2014: The Prettiest Challah

Six strands, no problem.

I bake challah, the traditional bread for the Jewish Sabbath, frequently throughout the year. One I made in August just happened to turn out the prettiest of any I made in 2014. I was just branching out to a six-strand braid from my usual four, and this one looked good enough to eat. Which we did. With extreme enthusiasm. Of course, we do that even with challot that turn out a little derpy-looking.