Slow Livin’


Morning stroll on Robins AFB

Here we are again, dear Reader – back from another hiatus! When we last spoke I was collapsed on the couch feeling overwhelmed, out of place, and stinking of barbecue. I’m happy to report things have improved markedly these past few months as I’ve found ways to make the most of our time in Middle Georgia.

The “Winter” of My Content
As the dog days of summer dissipated, a crispness crept into the air bringing with it a sense of home (New England). Frustrating days at my job on base gave way to far more satisfying days in my home office. Even with it’s impossible deadlines and tedious conference calls, my return to marketing was a salve for my Middle Georgia sore spot. The work was familiar and, more importantly, it was mine. Not that William minded me having my own thing: “You doubled our income and you don’t even have to wear pants!”

Work trips to Boston and DC confirmed that indeed the rest of the world was busy being fabulous without me. But these trips also confirmed that civilization as I knew it wasn’t going anywhere. I indulged in gourmet donuts, bought overpriced booties, and (sort of) happily returned to my suburban situation.

By focusing on little things, I set about cultivating my own pleasant reality. I experimented with new plant-based recipes. I found a spin class that was… acceptable. In an effort to identify with my Southern counterparts, I threw myself headlong into a study of the Civil War and gave country music another shot (this time on my own terms, easing into it with classics like Johnny Cash and Mary Chapin Carpenter circa 1990).

Life moved along with a soothing hum.

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“Let’s just look”… 
It’s Sunday morning and we are indulging in our post-yoga ritual: Starbucks. Billy reads an article on his phone (probably from Foreign Policy or The Atlantic) while I sip my coffee and gaze out of the window. Across the busy four-lane thoroughfare, a sign for a Pet Adoption Event ripples in the breeze.

Billy and I had talked about rescuing a dog several times before. In Italy, we were hardly ever home and two of our adoption attempts here in Georgia were met with (somewhat insulting) inquiries about our status as a military family: “What will you do with the dog when it’s time to move?”  Apparently being military put us just above ‘Roving Band of Gypsies’ in the grand scheme of dependability.

We stroll through rows of crated pups promising ourselves we’ll “just look.” My husband wanders off and I gingerly peek into a few crates. No one really catches my eye until…

“Who’s this?” I ask a volunteer standing nearby. My voice is almost a whisper, my eyes never breaking contact with the pup’s. The man doesn’t hear me and I think maybe it’s for the best. After all, we’re just looking.

“Excuse me. Who is this?” I repeat, louder this time and surprised by my own persistence.

“This is Mary,” he says with a smile. “She’s four months old and a little sad today because her friend was adopted yesterday. Would you like to walk her?”

No. A four month old puppy? Absolutely not.

“Sure,” I reply. Where is this voice coming from?

But I already knew… Mary was ours.

Fam Status
And just like that, William and I upgraded from “couple” to “family.” Miss Mary and I became fast friends. We both love mornings, constantly furrow our brows, and look forward to a spoonful of natural peanut butter after dinner each evening. According to the rescue organization’s records, we even share the same birthday!!

On our morning strolls she often stops to sit quietly for a moment, contemplating a horse, a new sound, or a smell wafting through the breeze. Now I, too, take pause – noting the dew hanging gingerly from a spider’s web or a cardinal flitting from branch to branch.

While I am undeniably the Pack Leader, Miss Mary adores Billy. She loves chewing his sweaty socks and passing out draped over his chest.  Tuesday nights are spent at puppy training class and every other evening is spent watching my two favorites wrestle in our living room. I find myself surprisingly content here in the bellybutton of Georgia.

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Cleanin’ Out My (Metaphorical) Closet
Also headlining in my world is my new 200-hour Yoga Teacher Training. (Actually, Billy is doing it too.)

In my ten years on the mat, yoga has proven to be a safe space for me, providing zen after hectic work days and opportunities to meet with friends (before our brunch reservation, obviously). For a time, it even provided a place to grieve. After losing a loved one, I’d pull my mat to the furthest, darkest corner of the studio and cry silently as I flowed through my vinyasa – and so much more.

It should come as no surprise that “warner robins yoga” was one of my first Google searches upon hearing of our relocation. In response to my online query – and my prayers! – was Homegrown Yoga. This small, tidy studio and its unpretentious instructors offered a sense of home when I needed it most. When a flyer for a year-long teacher training popped up on my newsfeed, it was like a note passed directly to me from the Universe itself.

You see, I’ve always liked the idea of being a yoga teacher. I fantasized about living some alternative, barefoot-and-fancy-free lifestyle in the remote tropics. I could sling beers at the beachfront bar between yoga sessions. I could date more than one person at a time because I was like, so open-minded and not into possession. Heck, I probably even had a sleeve tattoo and a nose ring!

Of course, all of this was at odds with my actual Self. The Self who tires of the beach after a few days, who doesn’t care to hang out in bars, and who often struggled to find one person to swoon over at any given time. And forget about donning the carefully cultivated “effortless” boho chic trends – those harem pants in wacky prints add unwanted bulk, and the gauzy headbands printed with sacred elephants never stay put on my freakishly small head. The odds seemed insurmountable.

Sure, yoga is not a Free People spread brought to life. But there were other truths too. Truths more difficult to overcome… After all, I don’t look like a fitness model. I can’t invert with anything remotely resembling grace. And aren’t teachers supposed to inspire people? I’m not sure I’ve ever inspired anyone. In fact, I think striving to be an inspiration is a bit… arrogant.

I had nearly talked myself out of the training when a respect for yoga’s guiding principles and a willingness to get over myself won out. And how timely for this reflection to happen during Spring – the ideal season to eliminate what no longer serves us, while making room for the things that do.

Besides, why wouldn’t I make a decent yoga teacher? Don’t I actually believe in yoga’s founding philosophies? Aren’t I passionate about making it accessible to everyone and every body? Don’t I like goji berries and green juice too?! Fuck yeah! I’m totally qualified. Heck, I even climbed the mountains of Nepal with a sherpa for a few days.

With two weekends of yoga teacher training under my belt, there’s no turning back now. I’m not sure how to balance boundless compassion with my trademark snarkiness so… we’ll just have to wait and see how it all plays out. Maybe I’ll blog about it occasionally. Is anyone interested in that? It isn’t travel exactly, but it is certainly a journey.

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I Say What We’re All Thinking
So right now, dear Reader, I imagine you’re thinking: “Wow, Malia. That’s great you found a groove and all, but you sorta went a lil’ Robert Frost on my ass. This is a travel blog and – while I’m super happy for you! – your life (and blog) has become kinda…. well… lame.”

It’s okay. Really. Don’t feel badly dear Reader, I’m glad you brought it up. I, too, am concerned about my increasing lameness. Rest assured while I’m thriving (as best I can) here in Georgia, I often awake reluctantly from dreams of Italy’s coast or the crisp mountain air of Grindelwald. My wanderlust is very much in tact and, actually, William and I plan to celebrate our anniversary in Iceland this June. No doubt, we will have much to report.

(P.S. Don’t you hate it when travel junkies use the term “wanderlust”? Ew.)

(P.P.S. Did you notice I just snarked on my own blog? Damn!)

In the meantime, our family continues its quest for self improvement, taking advantage of our newfound stillness here in Warner Robins. Hope all is well in your pocket of the world!


Oh. Hello.

Coming to (Middle) America


…or something.

I’ve been staring down the barrel of rural Georgia for months now, dear Reader, and the day has finally come. The miles accumulate behind us as Billy and I drive further from Atlanta, our Thrifty rental car smelling vaguely of stale fast food. Billy mans the tunes while I babble about potential weekend trips (“…I’m thinking Savannah in September and maybe…”). Surprisingly, I feel optimistic about our new home, the traveler in me delighting in a new location. What will I find there? What will I learn?

Almost two hours and a hundred miles later, the plot twists. Blown tires litter I-75 and the road is lined with dilapidated buildings and abandoned gas stations. Billy and I fall quiet as we near Warner Robins Air Force Base.

“Maybe we’re coming in the back way? Like, if you approach the base from the south it’s probably way nicer,” I offer cheerily.

Billy nods almost imperceptibly, his eyes fixed on the road ahead.

Clouds hang dark and heavy over the base as we offer our IDs and enter the gate. Thunder rolls faintly in the distance. Outside my car window is one squat, sterile military building after another. The woman at the Air Force Inn reservation desk inquires about our time overseas and kindly welcomes us “home.” But this doesn’t feel like home. Not even a little bit.

Our hotel room offers a bleak view of the oncoming storm and a looming water tower. I sigh quietly. We live in an industrial park.

Good Morning, Warner Robins!
I am jerked from sleep by the raucous trumpeting of horns. Not the car horns of Napoli, but actual horns. With my heart racing, I nudge Billy, “What is that?!”

Reveille,” he mutters, turning away from me and back to his dreams.

“Reveille?” The frenzied tune continues to play… doot doot doo-doo-doot doot-DOO-DOO!…

“They’re raising the flag. The work day started,” my husband explains sleepily.

Well. It certainly was rousing. Leaving Billy to his slumber, I head into our suite’s living room. I turn on the news, eager to see what’s headlining in the Home of the Brave. People run panicked across the screen. Another shooting. On the next channel a red-faced Trump defends the journalistic integrity of The National Enquirer (“…we should be giving these guys a Pulitzer…”). Click. That’s enough America for now. Hungry, I drive to the commissary to do some shopping.

Land of Plenty
The American supermarket is a modern marvel! I wander the aisles slowly, pausing not always to buy a beloved product so much as to simply be near it. I rejoice in out-of-season produce and do weird things like exclaim, “There you are!” to my preferred brand of flaxseed. I’m standing in awe of the natural peanut butter options when I notice an older gentleman nearby looking distressed.

“Good morning,” I venture, catching his attention.

“Mornin’ ma’am. Well now, they gon’ went an’ moved everything around in here. Can’t find a thing I need!” he says, throwing his arms up in exasperation.

“Hmm. That is frustrating. Wish I could help. Today is my first day at Warner Robins so I don’t know where anything is either.”

“Yer first day. Is that right? Isn’t that somethin’…” and then, perhaps sensing my ambivalence, the man says, “Y’all will be fine. Just fiiiiiine!” He pauses thoughtfully for a moment before adding, “Unless yer one of them high falutin’ cityfolks!!”

He erupts into laughter. I laugh along uneasily, knowing full well I’ve been known to be “high falutin’” on occasion. We bid each other good luck and farewell. I turn my cart down the next aisle and think: I’m fucked.

I load an armful of grocery bags into the trunk and begin to feel hopeful again, my spirits lifted by the acquisition of my favorite foods. I turn on the radio and let a country song play. It’s not my usual fare but the storytelling aspect of it appeals to me. Not knowing the words, I nod my head to the beat, happily immersing myself in this new culture.

…You uppity women I don’t understand, Why you gotta go and try to act like a man, But before you make your weekly visit to the shrink, You’d better occupy the kitchen, liberate the sink….


“… Annnnd that was Kinky Friedman with Get Your Biscuits In The Oven And Your Buns In The Bed!…”

Oh no. Hell no, I think while changing the station. That was too much, too soon.

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Platitudes and Pity Parties
William and I are heading to “downtown” Warner Robins (the actual town) to run the terrifically dull errands plaguing suburbanites everywhere. You know, things like buying a car and purchasing a washer/dryer. As we cruise along the busy four-lane thoroughfare, I am visually assaulted by the fluorescent signage of fast food joints, car dealerships, and big-box retailers. An issue of Garden & Gun (yes, a real magazine) describes the area as “the seventh circle of franchise hell.” Basically, it’s everything I hate about America.

Determined not to give voice to my negativity, I remain silent. A decent enough plan, no? But my husband is an insightful and empathetic man, so when nearly six hours pass without me so much as making a peep, I suspect he knows something is amiss.

It’s raining again as we approach the base and there, soaring over the metal hangars and industrial sprawl, is the full, uninterrupted arch of a rainbow. Quite frankly, dear Reader, it irritates me. I interpret it as a direct message from the Universe telling me to buck up right in the middle of my pity party. I contemplate taking a photo of it. I could turn it into a military spouse meme by adding one of the many platitudes bestowed upon us at every challenging turn: Think Positive, Make The Best Of It, or (worst of all) Bloom Where You’re Planted. Within moments the sky darkens and I take comfort in the thunder and lightning once more.

A Lil’ Southern Comfort
But! Here’s some good news… After nearly two months of sleeping in hotels or on government-issued loaner furniture, William and I are finally in our new home! Sure, it’s on base and it was assigned to us, but it’s ours. In the past few days I’ve come to realize just how large Warner Robins AFB is; yes, parts of it lack ambiance (for lack of a better phrase), but so much of it is green! There’s a fitness trail, a golf course, a small lake, and a quiet, tidy cluster of modern homes.

We enter our single-story, ranch-style house and I make a mental note that we’ll need rocking chairs for the porch. After sweltering in Italy, I’m ecstatic about the central air conditioning. Billy runs from room to room testing each outlet and, eventually, triumphantly proclaims, “They all work!” We marvel at the miracle. (Excuse us, our Naples is showing)! There are closets and cabinets. A dining room and a patio. The house would be formidably priced in New England and utterly impossible in Napoli. It’s one block from my office, two blocks from the Fitness Center, and down the road are stables where people board their horses. Yes, yes, yes!

I place a magnet on the fridge, a small purchase made recently in nearby Perry. It reads: Together is my favorite place to be. Cliché? Maybe. But a necessary reminder in my new, transient military life.

We’re backing out of the driveway when – there it is again!

“The horns!” I shout. Billy brings the car to a complete stop.

“Retreat,” he laughs. “It signals the end of the work day. Vehicles are supposed to stop and if you’re walking home from work when it sounds, you should stop too.”

The horns quiet and the national anthem begins to play. I lower the window and stick my head out.

“Where’s it coming from?” I demand. I glance up into the trees, the sky. “I feel like I’m trapped on The Truman Show set or in The Hunger Games’ Arena.”

Billy points to a small speaker box attached to a telephone pole. I scowl at it distrustfully. The anthem is fine but I don’t like when speakers tell me what to do.

“Well, it’s a good thing you told me about it. Especially after the disaster at the movies,” I quip, bringing up an unpleasant gaffe during my first month as a military spouse. Billy shakes his head and smiles.

Unbeknownst to me, dear Reader, people stand for the national anthem before every movie shown on any military base. So it was that I sat shoving my face, oblivious to the national anthem, as everyone rose to honor our country. An unwitting defector with a mouthful of movie nachos, I finally stood and faced the dilemma of whether to chew quietly or not at all. There were no good options; I was a national embarrassment!

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Anyway… Georgia is growing on us (slowly, but surely). After all, we are in the South, home of hospitality and mindin’ manners. There’s something endearing about the way people politely address me as “Ms. Malia” – not to mention those tasty biscuits on the menu everywhere! Or how about the guards at the gate who wish me “a blessed day” as I come and go? (Some people take issue with this, dear Reader, but not me! I never turn down a blessing). Sometimes I rack up as many as three drive-by-blessings a day! Woop! You don’t get that in New England.


The Next Chapter: A Military Spouse Edition

tumblr_static_6gpu12epdoso8oowks4scg08sA (mostly) light-hearted look at my transition from Working Girl to Military Spouse. And why GEORGIA is on my mind…

Regular readers know that the past year was a flurry of change: I quit my job, got married, moved to Italy, learned another language, and assumed the role of military spouse. Conversely, 2016 was slated to be all kinds of laid back – travel, visits with friends, Saturday nights eating pizza on the couch. But these dreams were dashed when (dun dun dun!) Billy received an “exciting” leadership position in rural Georgia. Beginning in three months.

My reaction was nothing short of shock and awe. And anger. Definitely anger.

Welcome to the Family
In order to understand this reaction, dear Reader, we need to back up a bit. The Italian culture isn’t the only one I’ve been submerged in these many months; I’ve also been navigating (ever so tentatively) the terrain of my new military community.

Initially, it didn’t feel like my community at all. The self-important acronyms, the uniforms, the armed guards on my way to yoga – not really my scene. People were friendly though, often declaring, “Welcome to the family!” I responded as I do to all organizations that tout their mission or recruit too enthusiastically: with suspicion. But I had nothing against the military per se and, in my defense, I show the same ambivalence towards organized religion, political camps, and anyone who subscribes too fervently to the Paleo diet. The people were kind, the base was adequate… but it was Billy’s domain. Not mine.

Come to think of it… everything was Billy’s. The coworkers were Billy’s, the promotions were Billy’s, even the social security number given at my medical appointments was Billy’s! When asked to confirm my place in the organization, I routinely checked the box marked Dependent. Gross. Not that I didn’t have “opportunities” too – going to spouse luncheons or maybe taking an entry level job for a third of my normal pay… Ugh. Where was Independent Malia? I missed her.

Then, I decided to roll with it – we were only abroad for a year or so right? When we returned to the States, Billy would work on base and I’d be back in the office. Life would resume normally. So what if I was a housewife for now? It meant every moment William was home, the chores were done and all of our time was quality time. I made dinner every night (even though I hate cooking). I brought side dishes to the Air Force Family picnics (more cooking). I went to International Spouse Club luncheons (yes, that’s a real thing). I cleaned the house (laaaaaame!). I wrote blogs (is anyone reading?). I booked trips (okay, no complaints with this one).

But I did it all, assuming it was temporary. Sure, I was baking casseroles and being spousey, but I was doing it ironically. Like, “Hey guys, watch me wife so hard right now! Ha ha! Can you believe this shit? HILARIOUS!”

Living in rural Georgia made it…. real.

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A Fact Finding Mission
So, dear Reader, I was angry. I felt duped, if by no one else than by myself. This new position requires Billy and I to live on base, placing my professional contacts an ambitious commute away in Atlanta. To make matters worse, everyone was trying to make me feel good about it! They said it wasn’t only an opportunity for Billy, it was an opportunity for me too – for me to support him and inspire other spouses by leading by example. Huh? Nice try.

But I didn’t need to be placated, what I needed was information. So I did what anyone scoping out a new love interest or job would do: I cyberstalked. First, I consult a map. Yup, social Siberia. But! The base housing looks nice – that’s a start. Okay, what about the local Spouse Facebook page (every base has one), surely they have some events going on. Let’s see there’s the…

  • Crazy Hat Luncheon – The First Of Its Kind!   (Mmm, no thanks.) 
  • Knutty Knitters Meet Up   (Tempting… but I’d rather be Netflixing.)
  • All Natural Household Cleaner Class   (That sounds so boring I might die.)

<<Scrolling… scrolling…>>  Ah! Job Opportunities. Here we go!

  • Frito-Lay’s now hiring warehouse workers  (What’s warehouse work?)
  • Looking for volunteers to work the upcoming dog show… on POOP PATROL!!   (Sweet mother of god. Am I being Punk’d?!)

I needed help. I couldn’t talk to Billy, after all it was his overachieving that got us into this Middle (of nowhere) Georgia pickle, was it not? No, I needed someone else. And that’s when I did something drastic (for me) – I reached out. I messaged the Spouse Facebook page, explaining our upcoming move and inquiring about the area.

To my surprise, I had a response within minutes: “I read your message. It would be best to talk on the phone.” Signed, Hope.

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Then There Was Hope…
Hope introduces herself as a long time Georgia resident and military spouse. For no reason I can pinpoint, I like her immediately. And I’ll say this for the woman: she made me no promises, she told me no lies.

“Listen. I’m not gonna blow smoke up your butt. You asked about restaurants and fun and I thought, oh no! I need to talk to this woman. Bless your heart honey, we don’t really have any of that here!” she chuckles. “Don’t get me wrong though. Georgia livin’ is pleasant, but sloooowwwww. The good news is, it’s a great place to raise a family. My kids can’t fart in this town without me knowing about it.”

………. a long, pregnant pause falls over the line (if you will)……

Ignoring that comment, I tell Hope this is Billy’s first command position. When she asks which squadron he will be commanding,  I venture, “Umm… the finance one?” The Comptroller Squadron, she informs me (glad someone knows what’s going on).

“So… this means you’ll be a Commander’s Wife!” she says, sounding almost amused.

Yes, I concede. But with no official authority to exact change, I admit I’m not sure what the role entails.

“Well, people may come to you for emotional support. And you need to show face for your husband’s sake but, honey, you don’t need to be one of those wives.”

<<Let’s sidebar, dear Reader… The military takes – and needs – all types. From postal workers to biochemical engineers, every kind of educational and socioeconomic background is present in this community. The same, honestly, can be said of military spouses. But what Hope is referring to here is the occasional spouse who hits the Kool-Aid too hard.

I once heard a woman expound that by doing dishes and folding her husband’s underwear she was allowing him to focus solely on work, thereby protecting our American freedoms and allowing millions to sleep at night knowing they are safe from terrorism. (Is that the national anthem playing in the background?). What in the amber-waves-of-grain was this woman talking about?>>

I tell Hope about this conversation and she laughs.

“Folding undies for freedom? Bless her heart!” (It’s at this point I realize the phrase ‘bless your heart’ can be used as a polite, Southern way to call someone a stupid mother fucker). “Here’s the deal,” she continues, “Be yourself, okay? You might need to host the occasional white glove tea party, but BE. YOURSELF.”

White glove tea party? I change the subject, “What about working in Atlanta? I have some contacts there.”

Hope says it’s a haul while stressing, “But you can do it.” I inquire about Macon, a city closer by, and she asks if I carry. A moment passes before I realize she means a gun. 

“…Because I do. I do carry. We’re off the map here but you never know with all this ISIS stuff going on,” she confides.

Judging by everything I’d learned thus far, an appearance by ISIS seemed too much to hope for.  But I did enjoy the idea of Hope and I attending white glove tea parties and strolling under dogwoods while packing heat in our handbags. I smile in spite of myself.

“Hope….what time is it there?” I ask, realizing it was early afternoon in Italy.

“Oh, it’s around 6AM. But never you mind, I saw your message and figured you needed to talk.”

This was a woman I had never met, with whom I shared nearly nothing in common, and she took my call at six in the morning? A small voice in the back of my brain whispers, Welcome to the family. I thank her profusely but Pistol Packing Hope waves me off, insisting I save her number because, “Girl! You’re gonna need it when you get here!”

I hang up the phone and sit quietly for a few minutes. Hope confirmed my small town fears, but I begin to think about why I’m going to Georgia – and it sure as heck isn’t for you, America! It’s for my William. Because, unlike other men before him, he isn’t put off by my independent streak. He never asks me to be a little less so he can feel like he’s a bit more. And because we both know, without question, that the two of us are simply better together.

So now, dear Reader, there’s nothing left to do but get excited about Georgia. In the meantime, I’ll be here – making America great – one load of laundry at a time. USA! USA!