Playing tourist in your own hometown

Two years ago, I shared a post with you about my first trip back to Raleigh after the big move to California. As I prepare for the same trip this year, I find myself eager to go home but anxious about not being able to see everyone or visit all the places I love. To my friends and family there, please know that I’d love to sit with each one of you for several hours and catch up. This trip simply does not allow for that luxury. I hope you understand.

I’ll see a few beloved people and eat biscuits and drink sweet tea, and that will have to be enough until the next time.

Trying to figure out which places I absolutely must visit while I’m there has me pondering: do you ever play tourist in your own hometown? What are the top three places you always take family or friends when they visit you? Is it a beautiful place? Something fun? Maybe a favorite restaurant or cafe?

I’d love to hear your top three must-see spots in your hometown or where you live now. Will you share them in the comments below?

In the meantime—though my Raleigh list would change each time I made it—here are my top pics for scenery, fun and treats.

For beauty, JC Raulston Arboretum

For fun, Pullen Park

For chocolate, Videri Chocolate Factory

I’m looking forward to hearing your favorite hometown tourist destinations!

Miles to go before they sleep

I’m back in California after a week at home in North Carolina. My husband and I were there to help with a 100-mile race that runs along the trails of beautiful Umstead State Park.

My husband is the captain in charge of the remote aid station on the course—one of two aid stations and the only one without electricity and running water. I help out as needed and also take photographs. Saturday’s weather presented challenges, though, and rain kept me under the aid station tent for longer than I had hoped.

U100_2016_ 2FT

The creek may have been happy about all the rain, but the runners got tired of it pretty quickly.

U100_2016_ 3FT

An aid station is a thing of wonder during an ultramarathon, a hive where the full range of emotions can be on display at any given time.

This is probably the most exhausting weekend my husband and I experience each year, but it’s also an amazing testament to the indomitable human spirit (and bodies, too). It has become an annual family reunion of sorts for us, and we look forward to hugging old friends and making new ones with each year’s race.

Though our bodies are crying out for sleep, our minds are busy processing this year’s race and already swirling ahead to what we’ll keep the same and what we’ll do differently at next year’s race.

Because this is the first day back at my computer, it’s my first chance to sit down and do something useful with the 1600+ photographs I took Saturday. I feel like I have miles to go before I sleep, a different sort of miles than the runners faced, but still, a task ahead of me before I can rest.


… and miles to go before I sleep

I hope you won’t mind if today’s post is shorter than usual. I want to get the photos to the runners as quickly as possible to celebrate their accomplishment, to help them remember fleeting moments of the long race, to honor them for their inspirational efforts.

How about you? What tasks do you have that mean miles to go before you sleep? Are you doing them out of love or necessity (or both)?

Snapshots from home

Plenty of folks may say you can’t go home again, and I understand what they mean. But I went home to North Carolina for a bit of rest a few weeks ago anyway. Here are some snapshots and brief thoughts of my visit home.

It’s hard to balance the need to rest with the desire to catch up with dear friends and family, and so I ended up not doing as much of either as I had hoped. I am slowly realizing that it may always be this way on the visits home, the pull of the heart to spend time with those I love and the pull of the body to rest and soak up the nature of this beautiful place.

The cows came up to the near pasture on my hike through this most favorite of places:


I always love this view but especially when the field is full of cows.


Fields of gold

I almost missed my chance at taking this hike, so busy hiking and running and walking in other loved places, but if I hadn’t gone, I would have missed the lilies blooming: Continue reading

Fear and the sharp, pointy bits of nature

A month or two ago, I began to notice dogs wearing nets over their heads. I couldn’t imagine their purpose, but one day, I asked a couple walking by why their dog was wearing the net.

“Foxtails,” they replied, pointing to the plants nearby. They went on to explain the multiple expensive surgeries ($500 a pop) their dog had to endure after inhaling foxtails. They tried to reassure me. “Your dog will probably be fine because you keep her on a leash. Ours likes to wander through the grass, and that’s where he picks them up.”

I looked at the yellow plants choking out everything else and wondered how on earth I could possibly keep my dog away from them, short of a head net.


My usual path is lined with these plant beasties, and in some places, they completely span the trail.


Not to spoil the surprise, but these aren’t foxtails.

Uncharacteristic for me, I didn’t immediately search online for more information. I told my husband about the nets and the thorny plants—we had both wondered about the nets to each other—and he said, “Oh, I hate those plants. They have vicious thorns.”

They do, these yellow plants. Brush against them as you walk or run past, and you’ll come away with scratches. Ouch. But it turns out they aren’t yellow foxtails. Continue reading

Reinventing the self and putting down roots

“You don’t let any moss grow, do you.” My new friend stated this more than asked it. If I hadn’t been the only one sitting across from her at her dining room table, I would have looked around to see who else she was addressing. I am, after all, the most moss-growingest person I know.

“I’m really very shy,” I told another new friend over chai at a quaint little coffee shop. We were getting to know each other, having giggled at first meeting that it seemed a bit like a blind date.

“You hide it very well.” I guess I do. I am shy, perhaps not as much as my younger self was, but put me in a group of more than two or three others, and I am perfectly content to listen instead of speaking.

I proved my shyness at a writers’ workshop two Saturdays ago, refusing to volunteer any answers to the larger group. I spoke up when we broke into small groups but only because it would have been completely ridiculous of me not to say anything. It was the kind of discussion intended for colleagues and friends who know each other well, an exercise in identifying each others’ voices in our writing. None of these women knew my name much less my writing. Part of me wanted to slide down onto the floor and slink out of the room at that point, but others would have noticed. Besides, my groupmates were so lovely about trying to draw me out.

I have not been in my comfort zone these past few weeks, having to stretch and reach out and introduce myself and combat my hermit-like tendencies. I don’t have the luxury of being my usual shy, reticent self here, and I’m trying to create opportunities to meet new friends instead of waiting passively for opportunities to find me. Some days bring more success than others.

As I reinvent myself, I realize I’m starting to establish new roots of friendship.

I wrote to thank a neighbor for a Christmas plant she had hand-delivered the day after I arrived here. As I wrote, I realized her gift was the only plant we had in our house, and I knew I needed something rooted and growing. Because of California laws barring plants from out of state, I had to give away all of my house plants before leaving North Carolina. Sweet family and friends took in my orphaned plants, including several jade plants I had started as a single plant at least fifteen years ago. Through writing that note, I discovered I was missing not only my human friends but also my little green friends. A trip to Trader Joe’s provided a solution:


A new baby jade plant


Another succulent that I may or may not be able to keep alive. I’ve tucked a jade plant leaf in the pot, just in case.


A third set of succulents for good measure

These new houseplants bring me a surprising amount of giddy joy every time I look at them.

I’ve realized, too, that I’m benefiting from the roots others have put down. While my husband and I haven’t done any outdoor planting, or much weeding for that matter, we are enjoying the plants and trees someone planted before us, especially the three citrus trees keeping us well supplied with fruit. No scurvy for us! My husband frequently picks an orange to take into work, and I’ve been using the clementines on salads and as snacks. What a delight that someone before us planted them for us to now enjoy.


Beyond the garden, my new friends have strong roots of their own here. This is home for them, and most remember a time of leaving “home” to move here and make this a new home. What a blessing they are to me as they introduce me to places they love and carve out time for a new friend in their own packed lives.

I know I’ll make some missteps as I reinvent my life to fit with this place, but I also hope to learn how to nourish new roots and create something worthy and flourishing here.

Have you ever had to reinvent yourself? What was the catalyst? And how well did you succeed?