on the horizon line travel blog tonga island language beaches

Parent For One Week

Posted on 1 CommentPosted in Community and Culture, Mamalode, Reflections on Life

parent for one week in tonga - bri and rob sailing adventure

So, what do you really need to be a parent for a week? Turns out you need a lot less when you’re in Tonga, a tropical island-nation in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Hell, kids don’t even need shoes in Tonga. I discovered this within the first hour of a week-long babysitting gig my husband and I set up here.

As the days wore on, I realized shoes were just the beginning of the long list of things the boys didn’t need … things that were on my list of “what I will probably need to raise a kid” after three decades of living in the United States.  We had none of the things on my list.  Read more about our week of pseudo-parenting here!

sailing in south pacific on the horizon line travel blog brianna randall and rob roberts

I Don’t Speak French – Just “Bike”

Posted on 1 CommentPosted in Community and Culture, Traveling

sailing in south pacific on the horizon line travel blog brianna randall and rob roberts

I don’t speak French. This makes me unpopular with French people, and makes it tough to get around by myself here in French Polynesia. My husband is trying to teach me the basics as we sail from one island to the next. But my Spanish-soaked brain rebels against silent consonants, and my tongue refuses to form words that start in your throat and exhale through your nose.

Instead, I smile and nod as Rob translates, feeling isolated from the culture around us. After a couple of weeks exploring towns on tropical islands, I was itching to join a conversation all by myself. I wanted to feel connected to the communities we visited. Turns out that all I had to do was replace Rob with a half-dozen kids

… Click here to read the rest of the story!

 

 

brianna randall eating a mango - on the horizon line sailing

My Birthday Present From You

Posted on 4 CommentsPosted in Community and Culture, Family and Friends

brianna randall eating a mango - on the horizon line sailing

Today’s my birthday.  33 years old, just after our 33-day Pacific passage.  I’m in paradise for my birthday, sailing to a tropical island to snorkel with sharks and gorging on mangoes (my favorite fruit) to celebrate.  I feel blessed.

I have only one wish for my birthday from readers: check out Mamalode.com today to read my published story about why Rob and I choose to find friends under age 12.  Other than that, the other items that top my birthday list are a bit more existential.

  1. Cuddling at night. It’s too hot to touch anyone.
  2. IPA, especially Blackfoot IPA. No alcohol onboard during our month-long passage.
  3. Dancing and headstands.
  4. Our sofa.
  5. Girlfriends.  And boyfriends.  And our family community.

Even though all I really need are mangoes, Rob, and a daily rainbow, here are the material things I miss most in the middle of the ocean:

  1. More cotton clothes. Polyester feels icky when it’s salty.
  2. Pictures of family and friends.
  3. Lightweight folding camp chair.
  4. A huge stash of dark chocolate.
  5. Strong tea and espresso.

While I’m at it, I’d like to give thanks for this list of my favorite things I brought with me:

  1. Pillow
  2. Yoga mat
  3. Guitar
  4. Face wipes (thanks, Mom!)
  5. Music

And for the things I left behind and won’t have to deal with in the upcoming year:

  1. To-do lists
  2. Socks and shoes
  3. Jeans
  4. Working
  5. Cold

 

 

 

crew of llyr on the horizon line sailing blog cruise pacific crossing

Meet the Crew Sailing the Pacific

Posted on Posted in Family and Friends, Ocean Tales

Llyr under sail - on the horizon line with rob and briThe Steele-McCutchin family is awesome.  Rob and I feel fortunate to have found such good people to spend a few months with, and such capable people to sail with across the largest ocean on the planet.  They bought Llyr 4 years ago because they were ready for new expeditions.  None of them had much previous sailing experience, but they took loads of offshore courses before sailing south from Maine to Panama last summer, spending 4 months cruising in the Caribbean along the way.  You might notice their red hue in the photos below, which gives away their Scottish-Irish roots (and indicates it was early in the trip!).

Their grand plan is to set Llyr up permanently in Vanuatu (Melanesia) as a research vessel dedicated to documenting the impacts of climate change on coral reefs.  During the storm season in the southern hemisphere (October to March), they’ll return to their family-owned maple syrup farm in western Massachusetts to collect the sweet nectar of New England maples.  Here’s a snapshot of Llyr’s crew:

llyr sailing pacific on the horizon line cruising blog

Meet Brooks.  He’s the skipper, the mechanic, and the weather expert.  Brooks is good-humored in his role at the helm of Llyr and his role as the oldest aboard.  He also handles stressful situations calmly (thank god), and loves to converse about theories related to everything from education to climate change to how to change to oil mast most efficiently.  As a clinical psychologist during his first career and a farmer during his second, Brooks enjoys figuring out how and why things work like they do.  You can find him in the engine room, or trouble-shooting random problems from bow to stern.

llyr sailing pacific on the horizon line cruising blog

Meet Janis.  She’s the head caretaker of this big brood aboard Llyr, keeping our daily operations running smoothly.  A fluent French speaker from Montreal, Janis is a trained anthropologist, and likes to stretch, eat dark green foods, and sew.  If you have an idea, she’ll likely be able to make it a reality.  You can find her cooking up tasty sauces or creating a wind-scoop from old flags.

llyr sailing pacific on the horizon line cruising blog

Meet Connor.  He’s 18 going on 28, a brand-new high school graduate with an EMT (emergency medical training) license, a great sense of humor and a clear head.  Connor is the first mate, and is intimately familiar with Llyr’s many electronic and navigation systems.  He’s going to spend the fall and winter in Australia this year, and planning to head to college as a pre-med major after that.  Meanwhile, you can find Connor helping his dad with troubleshooting, surfing Facebook (at the marina only), or teasing his younger brothers (gently).

llyr sailing pacific on the horizon line cruising blog

Meet Rowan.  At  15, he’s doing a much better job of leaving his social circle than I would have at that age.  Rowan is a detail guy, and sees the little things the big-picture thinkers might miss.  He loves to dive, and reads incessantly…he actually burned out his Kindle in the first week.  You can find Rowan cramming in calculus (gotta make sure he’s caught up after his few months out of the classroom!), listening to music, or scarfing down sodas or milk.

crew of llyr on the horizon line sailing blog cruise pacific crossing

Meet Gavin.  He’s the life of the party, and the youngest crew member at 10 years old.  Gavin loves to draw and write and fish and kayak and swim and jump and chat and play games.  He provides comic relief for the rest of the crew, and much-needed energy when others might be tired of chores.  You can find Gavin eating PB&J sandwiches, sleeping in the cockpit, or trying to climb the mast when his parents aren’t looking.

Team Adventure - The Montana Rescue Mission by Brianna Randall - juvenile fiction

Book Release! (Want a free copy?)

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in Community and Culture

Team Adventure - The Montana Rescue Mission by Brianna Randall - juvenile fictionSome of you probably remember when I started writing a kids’ book during grad school.  Maybe you even heard the reading I gave at a local Missoula bookstore almost a decade ago.

After I finished the novel, I shelved it for quite some time.  Then, in the midst of moving and rearranging our life, I pulled it out again.  I spent the winter months revising this fun adventure book, and had a blast sinking back into the characters.  Even though it’s geared toward 8-10 year-olds, it’s a good way to explore western Montana.

Thanks to the modern digital age, I was able to self-publish an electronic version on Amazon for Kindle owners.

Want one?  The book is FREE for the next 4 days if you click here.  After that, it’s only $.99.  Here’s the book summary.  Let me know if you enjoy the adventure!

 

Kate is a city girl who’s more comfortable wandering around the mall than through the woods. But she’s determined to brave the wilderness of Montana in order to rescue her older sister, Nicole. Luckily, Kate’s best friend Maddie is a Montana girl, through and through. They sneak out of summer camp, and are unexpectedly joined by their campmates Cody and Darren (for better or for worse!). Together, these four sixth-graders head into the woods – and straight into one adventure after the next.

Kate and her friends sail, hike, raft and ride through Montana. It’s not all smooth sailing, though: they also get lost in the mountains, run into a bear, capsize a raft in the river, and walk straight into a wildfire! Team Adventure’s rescue mission is one wild ride, and a race against the clock as they try to make it to the forest Nicole is risking her life to protect.

Join Team Adventure as they learn more about fish, mountains, wildlife, rivers and the history of the Northern Rockies Mountains. This is one fun journey you don’t want to miss!

kevin, mamie, and willow - our next door neighbors in missoula, montana on the horizon line

Happy Hillside Commune

Posted on 1 CommentPosted in Parenting

Chickens, dogs, and kiddos at the happy hillside commune - on the horizon line with bri and rob

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You might not know it, but Bri and Rob are part of a…dare I say it…commune. That’s right, call them hippies or hipsters, these two belong to the Happy Hillside Commune: A N’Amish Community. What’s N’Amish you ask?

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Well it’s NOT Amish, aka N’Amish. This lucky group consists of any number of neighbors and friends who live or gather on our street in the Rattlesnake neighborhood of Missoula. We share our fence lines, but not our husbands.  We share our wine, chicken eggs, hot tubs, and saunas, but not bank accounts.

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We share our hillside with the deer, our view of the valley, power tools, ideas, and occasionally old clothes we don’t want anymore.  In short, it’s perfect.

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There is a worn path between our houses snaking through each other’s yards. On sunny summer nights you can find us outside having family style dinners, sipping wine and gabbing. We watch the hills turn brown and glowy. Real family members stop by like Bri’s parents. There’s sure to be game on the grill. Maybe even a deer from the actual hillside or an elk from further up the valley. Friends from out of town might be there, marveling at Missoula’s off the radar coolness.

N'Amish commune dinner party at bri and rob's house in Missoula

We try to convince them that winters are cold. “Don’t tell people about Missoula” we joke. “Really, it’s dark in the winter.”  My husband and I once made a list of the essential things you need to have to make it through a Montana winter. It included: a down coat, someone to snuggle with, a ski pass, good tires on your car, and I would add…neighbors who will bring you Tylenol at 11 pm when you get the flu. I actually sent a text to one of my N’Amish members that said, “check on me in the morning to make sure I made it through the night.” She did, and I did. These are the neighbors I always hoped I’d have.

Rob has a funny way of loitering in his own yard. You know he’s working on some kind of garden projects but doing it on his own timeframe, a timeframe steeped in a molasses-like active slowness. Rob’s tropical cadence will fit right in in the South Pacific.  He often lingers at the fence or pops over into our yard like their free-roaming chickens. Happy to give advice on seedlings, lift something heavy or pass on a story about his time in Madagascar. (As a tall white man in a village where children had never seen anyone but their own, he literally made children pee themselves). Bri consistently poaches our wireless booster to talk on her cell phone.  I have seen her many a time, talking, pacing around our yard trying to stay warm while she chats.

bri, cassidy and mamie after mamie painted our faces at the park near our house - on the horizon line

The blur between our yards and worlds makes me feel loved and part of something. There is a great yogic philosopher who says that what we are missing in this world is intimacy. Not the sexual kind, but the kind that comes from knowing someone well, from removing the boundaries we live within in western society. The kind of close ties and caring that comes with time, experience, mutual compassion and group parties in the hot tub watching shooting stars. Yeah, we have that.

In a few weeks the N’Amish will be losing key members to a trip into the unknown. The Happy Hillside Commune will go virtual. Bri and Rob, as you wander the ocean, more than a little bit of us will be with you.  Your body contains the soil of this hillside. Your muscles developed from protein of the deer that roamed these mountains.  Your dog Abe continually pooped in my yard, and I didn’t mind one bit. Your heart is forged N’Amish. Don’t you forget it.

kevin, mamie, and willow - our next door neighbors in missoula, montana on the horizon line

Awesome Autumn — Let Us Count the Ways

Posted on 1 CommentPosted in Reflections on Life

Fall in Montana is pure magic…probably because it comes and goes faster than you can say “abracadabra.”  But while it’s here, it frames everything in pure golden hues and pink-cheeked smiles.

Here are just a few of the many reasons I love this mountain-studded, river-dappled state in October.  Will you share your favorite thing about fall?

Little girls swimming in pink hats, like our neighbor Ella Chapin.
Even littler girls smiling in pink sweaters, like Sophia Switalski.
A cornucopia of delicious harvested goodness at downtown Farmers Markets.
Vibrant strips of yellow cottonwoods on sparkling clear creeks.
Floating over a colorful town like a blue-green bird.
Playing “fetch the ball” for hours with kiddos at Caras Park.
Random Missoula events, like this dunk tank on a near-freezing evening at the “Pray for Snow” party.
Roasting pigs over open fires…and then eating them. Yum…

 

Rain-bright streets framing turbulent skies.
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