Jolie Guillebeau

Archive for May, 2013


Thursday, May 30th, 2013

First, a follow up from yesterday. Thanks for all your kind wishes and good thoughts. The malaria is just a bummer, but after a bit of hassle and three rounds of tests, the lump is less of a worry.

My doctor has decided we’re going to watch and wait for a while. So though that means a little more suspense for awhile, it’s mostly good news. It means she’s not concerned enough to investigate further at this point.

And at this point, suspense is the new normal. I’m getting used to living with this uncertainty. We’re being proactive and cautious, and I’m adapting to this space that I’m in.

It means some changes– I’ve been operating at the edges for a while. Things have been hectic, and I’m not very good at slowing down.

So I’m pulling in a bit. It’s probably good to step back from the edge a bit. Even though the edge is where the action is.

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Wednesday, May 29th, 2013

The past few weeks have been a challenge. First, there was the discovery of a new lump in my right breast– which always means lots of tests and hassle.

Then right in the middle of that I tested positive for malaria. I’d been feeling run down and feverish for a few weeks, and when I went to the doctor, she was a little worried. So we pricked my finger and shazam! Malaria.

Norway isn’t really a serious contender for malaria, and I hadn’t traveled anywhere else, so we’re guessing it’s a reoccurrence of the malaria I had years ago while living in Liberia.

Which is good, because that means I’m not in grave danger or anything. But it does mean that I’m tired and easily worn out, with no promise of that ending soon.

Of course, this does not make me happy. I’ve got places to go and people to see and Worlds to Dominate. We’re entering a really busy time of my year. Malaria was not part of the plan.

I’d like to look at the bright side, but right now I’m squarely in the middle of shadow.

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Tuesday, May 28th, 2013

You might already know this about me, but I’m an over-thinker. I tend to complicate things unnecessarily. So when someone emails asking me about part of a story I don’t share here, then I spend a lot of time thinking it through.

I’ve talked before about sharing bits and pieces of myself here.

I don’t hesitate to share much of myself and who I am in this space. But when I drag other people here with me, then that requires thought. Chris and I talk about this a lot, and we have a deal that if I’m talking about him or he’s talking about me, we check in with one another. It works for us quite nicely.

But what about other people? Anne Lamott says, “You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.” And she’s right. Making things pretty and sweet all the time is boring and, more importantly, not true.

But I also find myself wondering if it’s worth telling some of those stories. Telling the hard stories sometimes keeps me stuck in that space, because I can’t let it go. It’s another balance I’ve talked about in this series. (By the way, I haven’t forgotten about your birthday presents–many of them are already on their way to you.)

So I over think it. Then someone asks a simple question, and the answer becomes very complicated. So with this new story starting this week, I’m going to try to simplify it a bit.

We’ll see how that goes. Stay tuned.

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Monday, May 27th, 2013

When I started this painting, I had no idea that the story would change. I was planning to tell my stories of the sea, partly because I knew Chris and I were going to the Oregon Coast for the weekend, and I liked the idea of painting something so similar to my current experience. I really loved the paintings I did last year of something that had happened in the past 24 hours.

I was missing that immediacy and awareness, hence the landscape of the sea. I knew I’d tell the story of my quest for a sand dollar, but I certainly didn’t expect to tell the story of finding one.

Because the story changed a bit, I feel like the title of the painting needs to change, too. I choose my titles carefully, but I don’t like to take them too seriously.

In this case though, I think “Convergence” is the right word. The focus is about the space where the sea and sky meet, as well as the sea and shore. It’s about the odds of encountering a single unbroken sand dollar on the beach, despite thirty years of failure.

It’s about that feeling that comes from knowing you’re in the right place at the right time, no matter what is happening around you.




Saturday, May 25th, 2013

Since the summer when I searched for the sand dollar, I thought of my aunt Judy every time I went to the beach. And I’d half-heartedly search for the perfect shell, knowing that it wasn’t the right time or place.

But this past weekend, Chris and I went to the coast. Thursday night at dinner, Chris asked, “So what’s your goal for the vacation?”

First, I resisted the urge to say, “The goal is no goals on this vacation.” Then I thought about it, and the perfect non-goal popped in to my head.

“I want to find a completely whole and intact sand dollar.” Then I told him the story of searching for a sand dollar and how I had never found one in 36 years.

And so we planned a strategy. I planned to get up early and walk down to the quieter end of the beach in hopes that I’d find the perfect sand dollar.

Except Friday morning is was raining. I eventually made it to the beach around 10, but of course there were only broken shells. I watched as a dog stepped on one that broke just as I spotted it.

But Saturday morning, I was up early and there was one perfect sand dollar on the beach. Thirty years later, I finally have a sand dollar to take to my aunt Judy. I hope she knows (especially today) how much she means to me.

Goal completed!
(Whole painting tomorrow!)

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Thursday, May 23rd, 2013

Eventually, I gave up on sandcastles. Honestly, I was just tired of getting so much sand in my swimsuit. But I still needed a good excuse to stay out of the water.

Conveniently, I found a quest.

My aunt Judy loved sand dollars. She had several, but I was convinced that she needed another one from me. After all, she is a great aunt.

I think my idea was that if I could find a sand dollar for her, it would repay the hours and hours she spent cross-stitching the elaborate embroidery that hung over my bed. I loved that picture and wanted to give her something that she loved too.

I spent hours secretly searching for shells. There were two problems though. One, I had to stay within sight at all times. Two, I started my searches every day around 10 AM.

The odds of actually finding a sand dollar within the hundred yards I was confined were pretty small. The odds of finding one hours after the tide had gone out and the serious shell seekers had combed the beaches were non-existent. But I didn’t know that.

And since I kept my quest a secret, no one thought to revise my strategy.

So I kept looking. I walked up and down hoping with every wave that a sand dollar would just appear in front of me. But the odds were against me that summer.

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Thursday, May 23rd, 2013

One of my favorite adventures on the sea was the summer of 2005. We were sailing from Liberia to South Africa in late June.

Our third day into the sail, we had a big party on aft deck to celebrate crossing the equator. We played limbo (of course) and we all pulled out whatever we had stashed in our cupboards. Though, after eight months in Liberia, I didn’t have anything exciting left, really. I contributed a couple of granola bars and some dried fruit.

The first officer announced over the PA system when we reached zero degrees latitude, and a couple of the first graders went over to look for the red line. They were disappointed, but the rest of us laughed.

It took about fifteen minutes, then suddenly we were in the Southern Hemisphere. Someone said something about the seasons changing and we realized that it was also June 21st– the first day of summer. Except since we’d just crossed the equator it was the first day of winter.

And that’s how I experienced three seasons in 24 hours.

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Tuesday, May 21st, 2013

After feeling like a chicken, I made a solemn vow.

If I ever had a chance to jump off the side of that ship in to the Atlantic again, then I would do it no matter how scared I was.

But the odds of that happening again were pretty small. The weather had to be perfect. The captain had to be convinced. We had to have extra time before arriving at a port, which means the engines had to work perfectly for the whole voyage. And on a fifty year old ship, that was highly unlikely.

So it was an easy vow to make. And it made me feel better about being such a chicken.

Of course, you know what happened next. Four years later, we’re on our way to the same port, with the same captain and the same weather.

He makes the call and as soon as school is out, I run back to my cabin to change in to my swimsuit before I think too much and chicken out again.

Chris is there and he asked, “Are you really going to do it?” When I nod, he changes in to his suit, too.

We line up on B-deck. For safety’s sake, the captain has decided that he’ll let twenty people off at a time for twenty minutes each. Our turn comes quickly and I’m terrified. But Chris has already jumped and it’s my turn. I hold my nose and close my eyes and throw myself overboard as fast as I can.

Once the splash is over, I find Chris and I’m almost giddy. I feel so brave! I can conquer anything! Also, this is hella fun! The water is so blue and it’s fun to wave at all the crew who are up on the deck waving at us.

Wait. They’re looking kind of panicky. Sharks?! That’s what I get for being brave. Our whole group bolts back to the ship and climbs back up the net. In my head I’m planning what to do if I see fins or hear music.

The captain meets us at the door– he’s checked the radar and he’s pretty sure it’s just a school of dolphins nearby. The watchman on duty right now is also known for his pranks, and apparently it was just a quick and sudden game of telephone, where the wrong information traveled fast.

He told us we could go back out, but I decided I’d been brave enough for one day.

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Monday, May 20th, 2013

After coming face-to-face with a shark, you’d be right in assuming I stayed away from any water deeper than waist high. Between that and my quirk about getting my face wet, I generally (or always) opted for building sandcastles and then swimming in the hotel pool.

But then we moved onboard a ship.

On one of our first sails, we made better time than expected. And since we were dependent on the port’s timetable and tide schedules, the captain decided we’d just wait a few extra hours at sea.

We were in warm waters, and the weather was amazing, so he allowed the crew to swim while we waited. I watched from the deck as dozens of my friends jumped off the side of the ship and swam in the Atlantic.

And for the first time, I wished for a little more bravery than I had.  Up until that point, I’d always been comfortable being a chicken.

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Saturday, May 18th, 2013

Okay, let’s just get this out of the way. Cue the theme song from Jaws. Da-dun, da-dun, da da da da da-dun.

In 1982, my mom and I spent a lot of time at the beach. And I came face to face with a shark.

It was a day of deep-sea fishing. My mom and I were mostly along for the ride– we had no aspirations to catch anything big. But everyone else on the boat was pretty frustrated. The fish weren’t biting.

After a few hours, someone decided to grab a beer, so they asked my mom to hold the pole for a second. Within moments, she (with three other people helping her) had pulled in a 70 pound shark.

At this point in my life, I only weighed 54 pounds, so that giant fish was pretty intimidating.

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