Some of you may already know a little bit about this, but for those of you who don’t, let me tell you a little bit about what my childhood was like. My father was (still is, kinda) an employee of the US State Department Foreign Service. What this meant for us was that every 3 – 4 years, our family would pack up our house, say goodbye to our friends, and move. Usually to somewhere across the globe.

Canada, c. 1993? 94?


So, the short story is, I lived in a lot of places. The long story actually tells you what those places were. Sooo, starting chronologically we’ve got…

Hong Kong
Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
Reston, Virginia
Warsaw, Poland
Falls Church, Virginia
Taipei, Taiwan
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
Harrisonburg, Virginia
And finally, I’ve resettled back in Falls Church (for now).

Reston, VA, 1995?

Whew. Granted, not nearly the same amount of moves that your average military family has to endure, but I think the varying continents helps draws additional points in my favor. And of course, the bonus of LIVING in these kinds of places is that you get to TRAVEL to even MORE places. I’ve been to Palau, Thailand, Italy, France, Germany, the Caribbean, and all over the United States (including Alaska and Hawaii!).

angel warsaw
I actually have no idea when or where this was taken, I just love it so much.

Now, as an (almost) adult who is (somewhat) level-headed and can objectively appreciate all of the amazing opportunities I was given by living overseas, I can of course say that I had an incredible childhood. But, as a 5-, 9-, 13-, and 16-year-old? The appreciation was, um, let’s say, a little less blatant (er, sorry again, mom and pops). I had a pretty hard time adjusting each and every time we moved, and even though I would never have gotten to do a lot of pretty flippin’ awesome things if I hadn’t lived overseas, the leaving, the saying goodbye, the packing up and taking off part… it was always very hard.

Poland, 4th grade (98?) and apparently NOT HAPPY WITH THIS CLASS PRESENTATION.

But, I adapted. Because you have to. And I still had my family with me every step of the way, and I made new friends every place I moved to (and kept in touch with a few of my old friends–but you have to remember that the internet was juuuust becoming a thing during a lot of these moves, haha), and obviously, I turned out okay. And because of this particular experience–moving, which can be hard enough when you’re just moving houses or counties, let alone entire continents–I used to pride myself on my adaptability. My ability to cope with change. I even wrote my college admissions essay on it (it was quite moving, I assure you).

Falls Church, 5th grade (1999)

Falls Church, 6th grade (2000)

So by the time I was leaving in 2004 to move from Taiwan to Canada for my senior year of high school (yeah, I will say, moving right before your senior year definitely blows) I was actually pretty okay with it. Moving from the states to Taiwan in 2001 had been a horror story I’m sure my parents NEVER want to retell, so I was determined to be a lot, well, better this time around. And similarly, when it was time to graduate high school and move to college, I was pretty used to it. I was sad and would miss my friends, of course, but my adaptability kicked in and things clearly turned out okay in the end. And I really loved that super-adaptable part of my personality.

Taiwan, 2004

Ottawa, 2005

Unfortunately, the older I get (and yes, I know I’m hardly an age that qualifies as even being considered “old”, but I am indeed older than I was before) the less adaptable I become. I used to pride myself on not only dealing with, but embracing change, move to a new place, get a new job, find new friends, change my hair, take up a new hobby, whatever–all with the snap of my fingers. But now? The very concept of moving exhausts me. I think about chopping off my hair without warning (like I’ve done a zillion times in the past) and I start to hyperventilate. And I think about all the various ways that this year is going to change my family dynamic–my brother’s wedding, my sister’s baby–and I start to feel a little uneasy. Not because those latter things are bad–just the opposite! They are AWESOME things that I really can’t wait for (you should see the baby shower plans we have to celebrate that little fetus, hehehe). But, the fact remains that they will also change a lot of things. I mean… I may or may not have cried just a little when I realized that this past Christmas was “The Last Christmas” our family would be spending as a whole, same-generation unit. (Oh, believe me, I know how that sounds. I’m emotionally unstable. Just roll with it.)

Jenny’s Rehearsal Dinner, 2008

I think part of it is honestly that even with all the moves and plane rides and whatnot, the one thing that has remained pretty much CONSTANT through it all is, well, my family. So things that threaten to change our family dynamic (even in positive ways!) make me more anxious than other kinds of change. I know that probably sounds weird and selfish but, hey, so am I.

JMU Graduation, Harrisonburg, 2009

So, I’m trying to re-teach myself how to adapt. To look forward to the wonderful things that change brings, instead of focusing on what it, uh, changes. heh. And I’m making myself remember that none of the great experiences in life ever came from standing still.

Do you consider yourself an adaptable person? Or do you struggle with change?

PS: I have literally never had more fun picking out photos for a post than I did for this one. Awkward child, me? No waaaaaay. 😉


I make no secret of the fact that I love TV. Despite all of my attempts to counteract my true nature, I’m really a couch potato through and through. It is for this reason that for the better part of two years living in my house, having a TV took precedence over having a usable desk.


Here’s a closer shot (from a different, messier occasion) of that whole situation:


Er, yeah. Now, before you think that this is going to turn into some kind of resolution-y post about cutting TV out of my life, think again. I love TV. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with enjoying both quality programs and a few guilty pleasures. I am never going to be one of those people who just “doesn’t watch a lot of TV”. Pass! But I do think it’s important to make the distinction between how I view TV now, versus how Old Gretchen viewed TV.

I fully admit to being the kind of person who would actively pass up activities to watch TV. Believe me, I know how sad that sounds. I would decline going out to dinner so I could catch one of my favorite shows and nix heading out with friends on the weekend so I could clear out my DVR queue. All that sitting and TV-watching really worked up an appetite too, so I would spend hours literally resting on my laurels while I ate chips and cookies and pizza and… well, you get the general idea. Mindless eating in front of the television is something I still struggle with.


After we made the decision to cut out cable (and all live TV access) from our household, I did cut down on my hours logged in front of the boob tube. That said, I do still watch a lot of TV. Though I have kicked quite a few shows off of my list, I still vigilantly watch The Vampire Diaries (duh), Glee (not 100% sure why lately), and all the Thursday night NBC sitcoms (Community, come back!) the day after they air. I’ve really gotten into Once Upon a Time this season, and I squee with nerdy hipster delight at Zooey Deschanel in her show, New Girl. Netflix streaming has also proven to be a powerful friend.

Can’t. Handle. So. Much. Pretty. (source)

I guess the biggest difference between the old and, er, current me when it comes to this aspect of my lifestyle is that I am no longer willing to sacrifice other parts of my life for television. Except for the occasional episode of The Vampire Diaries following a particularly gasp-worthy cliffhanger from the week before (IT’S SO GOOD.), I would never pass up meeting a friend for dinner or going out to an event just so I could sit in and clock out in front of the TV. I even finally got a mount (a Christmas gift from my brother!) to put the TV on the wall and give myself a real desk like a real(ish) adult!


And to use like I’m a real writer. 🙂 Of course, let’s ignore the fact that now my TV is situated perfectly in front of my bed, and focus on the desk-clearing aspect.

In grand scheme of all the changes I’ve made in my life thus far, this one is probably pretty insignificant. Maybe if I had kicked the TV bucket completely it would seem more… monumental. But I do think it’s a nice representation of all the smaller things that get affected when you make one large change. I made my health a priority, and it hasn’t meant giving up the things that I enjoy. It just means being smarter about them. I used to use TV as an excuse to not have to interact with the rest of the world, to hole up in a private place where I could wear stretchy pants all the time and nobody would mind my stomach rolls. I love living my life now. And the lingering bits of television? Well, they’re just gravy.

What is the one TV show (or two, or six) that you just can’t seem to kick?