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Olivia, Her Grandmother, & The Coast

Since before I can remember, my maternal grandmother has regaled us with stories of the coast. For her, it was the coast of New York’s shores, as she spent her teens years in Rockaway Beach during the 1940s. She spent her days attending to her younger sister, reading books, and people watching the renters who would rent out rooms in their home, close to the water, as if it were a hotel. She claimed, and still claims to this day, that salt water is the cure-all. Emotional, physical, financial, whatever your ailment is: the sea can surely cure it. She is at peace and at home in the ocean, with the sand under her feet. To this day, her favorite activity is still walking along the boardwalk (now a slightly different coast), watching Connecticut across the misty water as she softly hums songs and smiles at passersby.

So, it was no question that when my siblings and I were old enough, it was my grandmother who would be introducing us to the ocean. This time it was the coast of Long Island; the rocky on the north, sandy on the south island. My grandparents owned a lovely beach house, and we would have to boat across a small body of water to the even smaller island on the other side. The island, consisting of houses and a small boardwalk, always felt like an adventure. The house was old, and had been passed down through my grandfather’s family. The relics smelled of endless years of sea water and salt. She would pack tuna fish sandwiches, as we held our cherished baby dolls, life jackets constricting our small bodies, braids in our hair, and my sister and I would run up the creaky wooden stairs, turn around fast, and see the water in front of us, the real world on the other side of the sea; we were safe there, and felt like story book characters.


It was my grandmother who brought us to the big beaches and after laying down towels and beach bags, took our hands and led us right into the water. She made it very clear that one does not fight the waves, but instead, embrace. Let your body be taken by the water and the water will be your guide. As we slowly learned this lesson, we let the waves lift us up, and crash us down. We learned to love bobbing in the water, the semi-large waves making us feel like we could touch the sky. This was never a question in my grandmother’s eyes: you must love the ocean, you must adore the coast, you must embrace the sea.

So, it was no question who I wanted to introduce the ocean to my son was my grandmother. On an unseasonably warm March day, when my son was around seven months old, the old crew: my grandmother and sister, and a new member, my son, packed into my car and headed to the beach. As soon as I got the stroller together, and my son strapped in, my grandmother quite literally took the reigns and walked off with my son. It was a moment in my life I will never forget. She strolled him down the boardwalk, pointing out the seagulls, sea glass, and strewn about french fry containers. She let the wind touch his face, so he could smell the sea. She told him all about Connecticut, and about how his father (my husband) was living there when mommy met daddy. We did not go down to the water that day, but nevertheless, this was my son’s spiritual baptism into the world. The queen of the coast, the siren of the sea, my grandmother, was inviting her newest sea guppie into her world.


Olivia M. Howell has been writing stories in her head long before she knew the alphabet. Born and raised on the North Shore of Long Island, where she currently resides, Olivia spends her days with her husband, Eric, and son, Weston. When she’s not writing about the trials and tribulations of new motherhood, she is tutoring Latin and history. Olivia is also an avid quilter, paleo cook, and fan of moving living room furniture around on Saturday nights. You can find her at her website, Twitter, Instagram, or Pinterest.


Lakes I’ve Known by Margaret LaFleur

There is the obvious first one, the one the suburb I grew up in is named for. If you left my childhood house on a bike and turned right, then right, then left (and stopped for your best friend on the way) and then right and went about a mile, you’d hit it. The beach was slightly rocky and the strip of sand along the edge disappeared in rainier years, but if you went at night or after summer vacation was over you could climb up the lifeguard stand and scan the water for imaginary swimmers. On the other side of town was a slightly smaller, prettier lake with an island in the middle. A boy who was a couple grades ahead of me lived in the...


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No More Running

I used to run. I don’t think you could call me a runner – my goal was always three solid miles, but running was my main work out and I attempted at least 3-4 times a week. Wow, 3-4 times a week of running? I can’t believe that is true…! Anyways, I used to run. I wasn’t good at it, but I did it for years. I mean YEARS. I started running in high school and kept it up all through college, all through adding in yoga and pilates, kickboxing, team sports, etc etc. I was also running. And then, when I moved in with Kamel running became really difficult to maintain. He doesn’t run, doesn’t really know how to...


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Guestposting: Lilybett and the Banana Plantation

While I am wrangling a newborn, posting from me will be a little sparse. Thankfully! I have some amazing stand-ins who are here to share some of their most vivid childhood memories. Lilybett is representing Australia… or, ya know… the future! And her world sounds like a fantasy land of tropical magic. I think it is a good day to be transported. Also, if you’d like to read more about her life and her son check out her blog Lilybett and Boy. In my youngest years, my family lived in a coastal town hemmed in by flood plains, a wide, brown river and wet, green mountains. A short drive away were beaches where we spent a lot of...


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Guestposting: Olivia Calls it Splitsville

While I am wrangling a newborn, posting from me will be a little sparse. Thankfully! I have some amazing stand-ins who are here to share some of their most vivid childhood memories. Olivia and her sister, Jenny, share a blog – Lovely At Your Side – and are kind of what I imagine sisters to be in my dream world of “I wish I had a sister!!” Olivia is awesome, I chat with her on twitter often, and I am very grateful she took the time to write a guest post on – what else? – her sister. Jenny also happened to be the officiant at Olivia’s wedding, so if anyone is looking for someone to marry them, check at...


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Sometimes while Kamel is up in the middle of the night changing Gabe, before he has brought him to me to nurse, I wish that Gabe will poop or pee just as Kamel is done putting on a fresh diaper just so I can spend more time sprawled out in bed like a starfish. One time in college I was short 1 load of laundry detergent, so I attempted to steal some from a girl who had left her bottle in the laundry room. Half way into pouring it the girl walked in. Probably one of the biggest oh-shit moments of my life. I never ever ever feel satisfied after just 1 (or even 2 or 3) cookies or donuts or cupcakes. Ever. I don’t think there is a baked...


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Who the hell is she?


I am a writer living in Seattle and I believe that life is a grand adventure and only boring if you believe it to be. Plus! You don't need money to have fun.

I live with my husband, a photographer by education and a maker-of-video-games by trade, and a baby named gabe in an apartment on the hill.

I am romantic about most things and I cry... about almost anything. I tell stories to entertain you, I spread stories to keep you in the loop. I am not a grammar freak, but I do know how to spell it. I am exceedingly proud of my scrambled eggs and I really could eat an entire pan of cupcakes. If I met me, I would be my best friend. I tend to be irreverent.

If you would like to chat with me or see what else I'm up to you can follow me on Twitter (betterinrealife), on facebook, or email me at betterinrealife at gmail.