Photo Favorites: Miami

It’s late—almost 1am—but for some reason my brain has been extra wired at night, lately. I thought maybe I could distract it with some soothing photo recaps. Maybe not, but sharing my final round of travel photos is better than late night eBaying. And buyer’s remorse.

Even though I was in Miami for over 2 months, I have way more photos from Cuba and Puerto Rico. Maybe because when you have more time, you feel less pressure to photo-document everything? Or…maybe it’s because Joe took a solid 85% of those travel photos, and I was mostly on my own in Miami. I’m not on top of my photo game.

Well, actually that isn’t true. I took hundreds of pictures in Miami. But those are photos of documents I was working with in the UM archives, because the photocopier costs money and photos are free. So I have folders on folders of document photos, but no one but me (and sometimes not even me) wants to look at those. Anyway, this is all related to the first photo I’m sharing, because it was taken in the archives, but it’s not of a book.


This is the view from the archives window, right as a particularly wild storm was brewing. Did you know that it storms everyday in Miami? Apparently, most people know this, except for me. I did not know this until precisely 3 days before I left for Miami, and I did not buy rain boots, but I did walk 1 to 2 miles every day to the archives. Sometimes in torrential downpours. And although I did not love that, I did love to watch the storms roll in from the comfort of my window seat. So, even though this isn’t your typical palm-trees-on-blue-skies photo, it’s a favorite.


Alright, here’s a nice palm tree photo though. I happened to be passing by the beach when this postcard-worthy sunset went down. (Pun intended). The colors are gorgeous. That’s all I really have to say about it.

But also, how long do you think people have to live in the tropics before they stop being awed by palm trees?

My final photo is from my cousin’s trip to visit me in Miami.


Toward the end of her trip, I realized that I, typically, had taken almost no photos. And in an effort to document our good times, I set up the camera over our afternoon Coffee and Chats on the Patio Hour. This photo pretty much sums up how happy I was to have her down for a visit. It also makes me really miss Miami’s endless summer. It’s a good city, but I’m mostly in this game for the weather. And the food.

And that’s the end of the travel photos! Perhaps I’ll go meditate on those storms as I try to get some sleep.


Photo Favorites: Cuba

Hello, snow! As the east coast receives the brunt of this storm, out here in the mountains, we are getting our fair share as well. Over a foot at least, anyway. Cruelly, accuweather continues to tell me about the 85 degree temps they are seeing in San Juan, so I thought another round of summer weather photo memories was in order. (See here for round one.)

In November, I had the chance to go to Cuba for a conference, and luckily for us, just weeks before, the US relaxed travel guidelines so that Joe could come too! Analysts keep talking about how the opening to US tourism is going to change the travel climate in Cuba, so it was pretty special to get to go when we did. So here we go with my favorite 3 photos from the trip.


We took many photos of the beautiful and nostalgic old-world architecture in Havana, but for some reason, it’s this photo that really speaks to me. I love the faded green paint against the gray sky, the chicken stall, and the bright laundry hanging across the balcony. Something about this seems really melancholy and lovely to me.


Here’s the water frothing up on the Malecon, the seawall that winds around Havana’s coast. In the day, we’d stroll along the wall (taking care to avoid any waves splashing over!) but the real allure is at night, when the Malecon becomes a social destination for Cubans who are looking for a place to hang out, sip rum and local Cristal or Bucanero beer, chat, play music, dance, and smoke cigars. After the conference, we’d meet up with local acquaintances to do just that, and chatting with them for hours about their lives and aspirations was one of my favorite parts of the trip.


This last photo is me and Joe on a beach outside Havana. It was a warm, windy day, and the place was mostly empty. Cuba had gotten the best of us and we’d spent the previous days recuperating in our hostel, so here we are delighted to be back out enjoying the coast. I always think it’s such a struggle to take a quick, natural-looking selfie, but here we are just genuinely feeling so happy and so fortunate, and I think this windswept photo reflects that perfectly.

I’m already feeling a bit sunnier after going through these pictures. Hope that feeling lasts once I break out the snow shovel!

Photo Favorites: Puerto Rico

Although the big storm is supposed to roll in this weekend, it’s already snowing here in W.Va. So, what better time to reflect on my travels to warmer climates? By my standards, I had quite the jet-setting season. And if you get to travel for work, you can’t get much luckier than Miami, Cuba, and Puerto Rico. Because recaps seem overwhelming, I thought I’d share my 3 favorite photos from each trip, with a little note about why I love it. Up first: Puerto Rico

We were only in Puerto Rico for 10 days, but we covered a lot of ground.  Starting with beaches:


I love the wildness of this grassy, deserted beach. The sun is just starting to peek out as storm clouds roll back over the mountains, and white morning glories dot the grass. Joe caught me with my arms spread, exalting in the loveliness.

We also visited historic sites:


This is at Castillo San Cristobal in San Juan, the 18th c. fort that guards the island’s eponymous harbor. I love the history here, and the color and texture of the ancient walls and arches, with the soft light filtering in. Also, my mom and I, just catching a break after climbing all around its many nooks and crannies.

We made it to the rain forest too, El Yunque.



Joe took this pic of me and my parents looking out the observation tower windows. I really like the series of profiles here. Good thing he is always ready with the camera! But you’ll just have to imagine the flora and fauna on the other side…

So that’s it–Puerto Rico in 3 photos! And a moment pretending I’m in the balmy Caribbean instead of battening down for a snow storm..

City mouse

My dad was raised in Southeast Washington DC, in the era just before those poor streets turned mean streets. My mother’s DC-born parents raised their family in the Maryland countryside outside DC. And together, my parents picked country over city and bought a big slice of Maryland farmland where me and my siblings grew up. Very rural. I mean, not in a dramatic, Little House on the Prairie way, but in a prepare-to-walk-a-mile-if-you-want-to-see-a-neighbor way.

For undergrad, I chose Gettysburg College. So, when I finally left the farm, it wasn’t to a big city, but a quaint little town immersed in Americana. Still, it was a town. A pretty town, where I discovered the joy of walking to restaurants and passing people on the streets. And then I studied abroad outside Madrid, growing bolder in my love for the Metropolitan life.

And then, what happened post-graduation? We–me and Joe–moved to New York City. I had visited NYC for all of 6 hours (ever, in my life) when I made the decision that I would follow Joe there to graduate school.  Growing up, DC was always “The City”. And I liked our family trips there well enough. (Coincidentally, Joe was born in the District, and spent a few early years there before being mostly raised in DC’s sprawling suburbia.) But NYC is my true city love. I could fill a whole blog with my love for that place. Maybe someday, I will. And not the glamorous shopping on 5th avenue, drinks in Soho NYC. That was never my NYC. I fell in love with the sootier Chinese street food in Flushing and rooftops in the LES NYC. And maybe a little less so with the Midtown hustle NYC where I worked, but still. We lived there for 2 years, and Joe got his degree.

Next? We moved again, to a “small” Chinese city of 6 million people. In China. An altogether different experience–equal parts crazy, eye-opening, fun, and strange.

But, for the past 5 years, we have been back to small town living in America. Which is fine–better than fine, in fact. It’s a perfectly nice place to live. But I guess my point is: part of what’s exciting about spending a fall in Miami is being back in a real city again. To discover new crowded streets and lug my groceries home over blocks of sidewalk and stop for a coffee on my way to the library.

It’s hard to say whether city life will eventually find me again in the future, but I’m going to enjoy it while I can.

Party in the city where the heat is on…

It seems a little strange that Will Smith wrote an entire song about going to Miami. Odd topic for a song, no? But those 90s beats have ear-wormed their way into my head (ick! ha) so many times this month because: I’m going to Miami!

I’ve known about the 2 month trip (!) since last spring, but I just bought my ticket and booked my accommodations this week, so now is when it starts to seem like it’s becoming a reality.  I’m going on a research fellowship, so it’s not exactly fun and games, but still exciting. Here’s the thing about grad school travel, at least in my experience: while there are opportunities to go cool places, you also have to work a lot while you are there and your budget is pretty tight. (Similar to my experiences with work travel in my previous life as a 9-to-5er, except there my budget was a bit more roomy.) So, while it’s never the “free vacation!” I might fantasize about–and I likely won’t be on any beach until the break of dawn–it’s a nicely subsidized break from the normal routine.

I’ve been busy tying up loose ends on the homefront before I head out in 3 weeks, but hopefully I’ll have some more stories to record here sooner rather than later!

Bad Habits: Airing My Dirty Laundry

I recently read The Power of Habit, and it has gotten me thinking. I have a lot of bad habits. Sure, I have plenty of good habits too. I take my vitamins. I exercise. I floss my teeth. I walk the dog. These are all good things that I have built into my routine. But I feel like when I don’t consciously build my habits…those habits aren’t so great. The book helps you think about how to change your habits, and I thought maybe I should experiment–just try to turn around a single bad habit. I decided I’d start small, and it didn’t take much thought to come up with one simple but irritating habit that I really really ought to change.

I am terrible about folding my laundry.

Girl. This is so little laundry.

I really don’t know why. I wash it, I dry it, I put it in the basket. And then I let it sit.  And sit and sit and sit. I don’t produce much laundry, maybe a load a week. It probably only takes me, maybe, 15 minutes to fold it. But I’ll just let it go for dayssss. Until I do eventually  fold it…so it isn’t even like I’m getting out of anything by putting it off.


These are my real-life to-do lists. I get other things crossed off. Much harder things!! But the laundry? There it is, day after day–that is the same load of laundry I keep referencing that never gets folded, no matter how many exclamation points I give it. Isn’t that ridiculous?



So. This is the habit I’m going to change. I’m going to fold that laundry on the day that it is washed.

The Power of Habit says that habits are formed around a ‘cue’ to perform an action, and a ‘reward’ you get from completing the action. These can be really complicated, depending on the type of habit, which is why I hope I have chosen an easy habit to start with. Seeing as I already do it, my cue shall be putting my laundry in the basket. And my reward shall be ‘not having a basket of laundry sitting on my dresser all week’. I don’t know if these will be good enough, because habits can be hard to root out. But, game on.

And updates to follow…

Leap In

I’ve been thinking about starting this blog for years. I’ve mulled over things I’d like to write about and dreamed about the kind of space I’d like to create.

I finally created a blog, but then I got hung up on where to start. What should my first post be about?? Nothing seemed right, and I spent a week tossing around half-ideas.

And then today I received a crushing reminder that life is short. There isn’t enough time to sit around wondering how to begin. We need to leap in with every chance we get.

So this is it. Post #1. Done.