Guam

Life Is Best When It’s Busy

IMG_2426I’m almost afraid to write what I’m about to write, because it’s likely to come back and bite me where it hurts.

But.

This twin thing isn’t so bad.

During the two years between graduation/marriage and twin babies, I didn’t do much. I mean, I picked up writing work here and there, I worked a stint at a scuba dive shop, I hung out at the beach. But during all that, I felt like I should have been doing something more.

I found out that, like most of society, if I’m given unlimited time to relax/read/study/explore/work out/whatever, chances are good I’m just going to sit on the sofa and do basically none of the above.

In college, life was best when it was busy, every hour of the day occupied with classes and activities I believed to be worthwhile. Just enough sleep to get by. During the semesters in which I took the heaviest course loads, I tended to be happier, to learn more, to get better grades, and to step outside my comfort zone.

It’s not good for Steffani to be unoccupied.

I recall sitting on the toilet–the only time I had to myself–about a month after the twins were born, when they were starting to really keep us up all night. While sitting there, I had two groggy thoughts.

The first: I miss heated Japanese toilet seats.

The second: Finally, something I can sink my teeth into. 

So maybe I’m crazy, but having twins was exactly what I needed, and not just because I now have these beautiful little minions whose smiles can light up my entire day. It’s because I have something to do now.

It’s good to be back.

Babies times two.

Life changes dramatically. Or maybe it doesn’t. Six months ago, I was setting up shop at a Guam coffee shop drinking tea, writing web landing pages and blog posts for myriad companies. Today, I’m doing much the same thing on the other side of the world. I’m still drinking a tea latte. And I’m still procrastinating when I should be washing laundry.

Everything is very much the same. Everything is completely different.

The coffee shop is a Starbucks, not an Infusion. And I’m realizing (with some dismay) that I think I like Infusion better.

The tea latte is actually a London Fog, not a Japanese-esque earl grey royal milk tea.

And now my body is home to three heartbeats, not just one or two.

minijacoby.12weeks

minijacoby.twina

 

 

 

 

 

Throughout the first several weeks of this pregnancy, I had been much sicker than I was with Miriam. I ballooned faster. But I told myself it was just a different pregnancy–and not very far spaced from the first one, at that. I took the sickness and exhaustion as a comforting sign that I had a healthy baby growing in there.

Your body is exhausted, I told myself. You just moved internationally. What did you expect? 

My midwife suspected twins the moment she touched my belly. I should have been eleven weeks along, but my uterus didn’t seem to agree. A few days and an ultrasound later, we’d confirmed her suspicions: two healthy twins, about twelve weeks old.

So here I am again, more nervous this time around, more excited this time around, taking less for granted, playing the waiting game that is pregnancy. Lord willing, November this year will welcome two new additions to the little home we just bought.

In the meantime, seasons change and remain as beautiful as ever. As locals promised, springtime in New England really shines. The landscape shaded from brown-gray to a rainbow of colors in the space of just a few days. It’s lovely to walk outside in the cool of the morning and for it to be cool, not dense and heavy with the aroma of jungle.

I miss Guam for the familiarity of it, the friends, and the ocean. I already miss that Pacific blue that I know I’ll never see on this side of the world.

A few days ago I treated myself to a pedicure and chose the polish closest in color to that one-of-a-kind ocean blue. But even photographs don’t come close, let alone OPI’s best attempt at an ocean blue.

Nevertheless, for now, I’ll take Massachusetts and whatever it has to offer. With pleasure.

Swimming with Sharks, and The Worst Hard Time

It’s hard–really, really hard–to put yourself in the perspective of a homesteader in the Texas panhandle when you’re surrounded by views like this.

Swimming with Sharks at Spanish Steps, GuamThere are sharks in that water. Black-tipped reef sharks. And I got pretty close and personal with a few of them this afternoon.

Swimming with sharks is one of those things that divers and snorkelers around here shrug off: “Oh, sharks? Psssh. I punched one in the face last week. No biggie.”

Though I’ve done a pretty good chunk of diving and snorkeling in my two years here, I’d never seen one up close until today. And even though most Guammies don’t think it’s a big deal to see them in the water (and even though I must admit that the sharks I swam with today were pretty small by most standards), I’m unreasonably happy.

Anyway.

Soaking up the tropics–and having cool bragging rights like swimming with baby reef sharks in the wild (cough)–makes it hard to imagine a different time and place where clouds of dust rose more than 20,000 feet into the sky and smothered little homesteads and towns in the Great Plains. But that’s what I’ve been reading about.

The Worst Hard Time tells the story of the American Dust Bowl–a period of intense drought and dust storms that hit a vulnerable area at the very worst time possible.

The Worst Hard Time CoverI think it’s interesting that many Goodreads reviewers make comments like, “I didn’t finish this book. It was too depressing.” Um, the title didn’t tip you off?

You can’t read an honest book about the Great Depression in general, and the dust bowl in particular, and expect it to be anything but depressing. You just can’t.

The Worst Hard Time reminded me of John Hersey’s Hiroshima, though the two are dramatically different. Hiroshima compresses the pain of the most devastating manmade disaster in history into 152 dense pages (pages that, if you’re me, make you want to throw up at times).
The Worst Hard Time also covers a devastating manmade disaster, but in this one, you become far more invested in the lives of the homesteaders and in their dreams for the future, which makes it even harder to watch them struggle.
I can’t help but sympathize with the homesteaders’ plight. But. Their attitudes are overwhelmingly irritating. Why didn’t they just leave? I wish I could ask them if their stubbornness to stay on the land was worth the lives of the children they lost to “dust pneumonia.” All those babies sleeping with wet sheets over their cribs and Vaseline in their nostrils to filter out the dust, only to die slowly because their lungs filled with dirt.
The homesteaders couldn’t afford to leave, but they couldn’t afford to stay, either–not with banks foreclosing on their properties and the ground unwilling to grow even a carrot during the worst of the drought years. Why not go someplace where there may not be jobs, but at least the very air isn’t trying to kill them? Even though I’m baffled by the stubbornness to stay in a place that was killing them, the stories of these sturdy homesteaders did break my heart.
Though I’m miles away from West Texas now, the story of the Dust Bowl hit particularly close to home for me since I grew up near the southern end of the dust bowl at the bottom corner of the Texas panhandle. I saw the desert that was once fertile grassland, and have heard Grandma talk a little about her family who took on the (derogatory) title “Okies” with pride and made a home for themselves.
Much of The Worst Hard Time follows the folks of Dalhart, TX. I’ve been there. Really makes the history come alive when you realize that those little wide-spot-in-the-road towns have such deep (and, in this case, painful) histories.
 Dust-storm-Texas-1935
I love the way Timothy Egan weaves together the story of this time from the lives of people—German, Irish, and other settlers, including the Comanche Indians who called the land home, the old cowboys of the XIT ranch, African Americans who had the misfortune of passing through those racist communities, and those of mixed ancestry who loved the land.
Egan also covers the media’s reports of the phenomenon to the rest of the States and their not-so-sympathetic response to those living in the dust bowl during the Depression. Lots of new perspectives from newspapers, personal diaries, and interviews that we never hear about from the history books.

I kept finding myself putting the book down so I could research. A Google image search yields some mind-boggling photos of dust storms burying homes under layers of silt.

Books like this make me love non-fiction and wish there were more books like this.

Moving back across the pond

Looks like I won’t have to dream about autumn–or seasons–for too much longer. The Air Force has finally granted my little family an assignment. This coming March, our family of four (hubster + me + Niño + dog) are moving from Guam to New England.

Is it sad that the thing I’m looking forward to the most is cold weather?

We had been hoping for another overseas assignment. Now I’m thinking that Massachusetts will be foreign enough for me–I’ve always felt more at home in the South.

People keep telling me that I’m going to freeze. No, I tell them. I’m going to be comfortable for the first time in two years. Maybe for once my body won’t cry in protest every time I walk out my front door.

I’m going to miss Guam, though. The people here, the Christian community, the brilliant greens and blues around almost every bend of the road, and being able to climb up onto my roof to watch the sun set over the ocean will all turn into those memories that you can only try to relive once they’re gone.

Guam gave me my first taste of the islands, even when I was on my way to Saipan to teach English three summers ago. I had no idea I’d meet the man I’d marry while I was teaching English at Eucon International School in Saipan. Or that when I sat in a 747 heading back home and watched the cliffs of Guam drifting further out of sight, I’d be going back surprisingly soon.

Several months later, I was shipping my book collection overseas, saying goodbye to my small but precious family in South Carolina, then flying out myself with a wedding dress in my carry-on.

The hubster and I have been dreaming about New England. There will be farms that grow all kinds of real food! There will be snow in the winter and hiking and kayaking the lakes and rivers in the summer. Family will be within a day’s drive. Suddenly travel will be so much easier because flying out of Boston costs a third as much as flying out of Guam to just about anywhere.

We’ll have to bring Baby Jacoby back one day to meet the little island where the story began.

Typhooning

Post-typhoon Tanguisson Beach Typhoon Vongfong came and went. Before the storm hit, reports indicated we could expect 100-mph gusts. But the only tangible results that I’ve seen so far have been downed trees here and there, and showers of little shredded palm fronds, an unnatural fall of leaves for October on Guam.

My house feels like a cave with all the storm shutters closed. The consistently gray, soggy haze marking the rainy season on Guam doesn’t help. The partial ocean view from the patio is exponentially more impressive if you can actually see the horizon. It’s excellent reading weather.

It also makes me want to curl up on the sofa and sleep–for hours and hours and hours on end.

Volunteering at an Operation Christmas Drop golf tournament fundraiser thing on Saturday forced me to switch from night shift back to days. I went to bed around 9 p.m. last night, woke up a few times to peek out the door and listen to the wind, and otherwise slept until 11:30 this morning. Pretty sure I could sleep 14+ hours each night without a problem. Such is month 6 of pregnancy… and island-induced laziness.

When we finally crawled out of bed this morning, the husband and I drove around to see what kind of damage Vongfong inflicted. We walked up and down Tanguisson Beach in search of waves and stopped at Two Lover’s Point.

The panoramic view from the clifftop was hazy and gray (go figure) and the beach down below at Tanguisson was decorated with washed-up seaweed and shells, but other than that all remained peaceful and surprisingly blue beneath a post-typhoon sky. Hard to believe we’re leaving in just about six months! I’ll miss these lazy, rainy days and nights and the power of the nearby ocean.

Making autumn

Handknit pumpkinsIt’s hard to complain about Guam’s failure to be fall-like when the sunsets over the ocean are so colorfully surreal, even on the rainiest days.

This evening as the sun was setting, it was windy and relatively cool. The rain had let up, and those moisture-laden clouds created a breathtaking sunset. And I almost forgot to wish there were changing leaves.

Almost. Not completely. In the last week, I’ve been doing my best to engineer a personal autumn while still loving these balmy, thundery, rainy Guam days.

I’m knitting and crocheting pumpkins.

I’m sewing things with autumn-colored fabric (and remembering why I typically avoid sewing. So many pieces. Eesh).

I’m burning my Kitchen Spice and Crisp Apple Strudel Yankee Candles.

IMG_2110 (1)I’m baking homemade bread and slow-cooking cozy homemade soup and propping my feet up while my puppy curls up beside me.

I’m feeling my baby kick surprisingly hard and thinking that I’m becoming ridiculously lazy–and that I miss doing the kind of real work that leaves you tired, messy, sweaty, and rewarded.

I’m reading The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe in Spanish, mostly to make sure I still can.

Maybe it feels a little more like fall now than it did last week, even though the weather hasn’t changed.

Craving Autumn

This is what autumn on Guam looks like.

Autumn on Guam.

I love Guam. I don’t  love that when seasons are supposed to change, they don’t.

Everybody on Facebook is like, “Finally! It’s jacket weather!”

Everybody on Instagram is like, “Look how delectable this pumpkin spice latte is!”

And, of course, everyone on Pinterest is pinning harvest-inspired recipes, fall-weather styles, and autumn decor advice.

Here in Guam, the rainy season is weathering its way across the island. Today, a 7.1 earthquake interrupted the otherwise consistently drippy weather with a rumble that woke me from a dead sleep and made the house shake for over a minute. But that’s a rare variation. Temperatures are still in the mid 80’s (surprise!), and they will be through October, November, December, and ever, ever after.

Local coffee shops have pumpkin spice stuff, but it seems pointless to try to enjoy one in light of the atmospheric conditions. As I write this, I’m nursing a virgin strawberry tropical mojito (featuring calamansi, mint, strawberry syrup, and club soda), and fanning myself because even the air conditioning at Infusion isn’t quite cutting through my pregnancy-induced hot flashes.

Ah, well, maybe next year the good ol’ Air Force will send us somewhere that’s home to the seasons I’ve missed.