brianna and talon on walk with beco gemini in parka 2.5 months

I am not a superhero

Posted on 3 CommentsPosted in Cultivating Creativity

I went to an inspiring talk tonight on social media strategies. I know: most of you wouldn’t write “inspiring” in the same sentence as “social media strategies.” Totally understood. For me, though, it was the first professional development opportunity in months, and I grabbed it with both hands and a Beco-full of babbling baby.

Talon happily “wah-wah-wah’ed” loudly through the first half of the presentation until I shoved a boob in his mouth and he fell asleep. (Note: I highly recommend the Beco Gemini as it allow moms to be superheroes who walk, talk, professionally develop, and discreetly breastfeed all at the same time.) The second half of the presentation inspired me to do two things: blog more often, and drink a stout while reflecting upon the fact that I don’t really know if I like Twitter.

The Beco in action on a hike in the Rattlesnake Wilderness.  I swear there's a sleeping baby under that blanket.
The Beco in action on a hike in the Rattlesnake Wilderness. I swear there’s a sleeping baby under that blanket.

Twitter aside, I’m here with my stout, blogging. But what about? That’s what usually keeps me from blogging: the fact that I don’t have a tidy five paragraph essay with a clear beginning, middle and ending to share with all of you. I’m well-trained to produce thesis-driven pieces—I was a writing tutor for five years through college and grad school, and I taught Technical Writing and English Composition courses. Theses are the essence of writing…aren’t they?

Well, the presenter (this lovely New Zealand-dwelling Welsh man whose name consists of only two letters) encouraged us to get rid of that model. DK wants us to use audio and movies and pictures and graphics and other people’s content and whatever the hell we feel like writing/using/posting in any given moment. I sat down to try out a more organic blogging experience.

And came to these profound conclusions:

  • I prefer writing five paragraph essays.
  • I’ll try out Twitter for a few months.
  • Welsh accents are pretty awesome.
  • Sleeping babies are very sweet.
  • Stouts are imperative to my mental health.
  • I am not a superhero.

Until the return of my regularly-scheduled, thesis-driven essays, please enjoy this video of Talon and his dad taking a giggle intermission during their daily band practice:


Meet Talon Randall Roberts

Posted on 5 CommentsPosted in Parenting, Pregnancy, Reflections on Life

Talon Randall Roberts reached into the world with a hand wide open, ready to catch his parents’ hearts.  Our little dude arrived on August 14th at 12:44 pm,  weighing in at 6.9 lbs and 19.5 inches long after a 12-hour labor at the Missoula Birth Center.  Although his passport won’t show it, Talon has already visited Tonga, New Zealand, Thailand, Myanmar and several choice spots in the Pacific Northwest.  Check him out:IMG_1034

Day 3: Talon’s first visit to Rattlesnake Creek.
IMG_1023 (2)Day 1: Being born ain’t no picnic.IMG_1047 Day 6: Still a tiny peanut.IMG_1036

Day 4: Just chillin’.IMG_1042Day 7: A week-old birthday party with his new friends, Everett and Dawson.
IMG_1043 (2)
A lot of sleeping to celebrate their first play date.IMG_1044The carseat that swallows Mr. T.IMG_1022 Day 2: Daddy is comfy.IMG_1026 Day 2: Figuring life out.IMG_1032Day 3: Welcome to Montana, kiddo.

Belly Love – Photo Montage of the Baby Bump by a Creek

Posted on 1 CommentPosted in Pregnancy

Uncertain abundance.  The phrase kept repeating itself in the cobwebs between sleep and wake last night.  It captures our summer so aptly: ripe and potent, tenuous and vague.  Sands shifting beneath our feet.  Waves of love lapping at our toes.

Uncertain abundance.  This last month of pregnancy is ringed with the unknown.  The baby could come today, tomorrow, in three weeks.  His eyes and ears and fingers and toes will uncover us in ways we can’t yet understand.

Uncertain abundance.  A belly rising above the water.  A baby in a garden of glacial rocks.  A mound of life growing near trees, mountains, and green streams.

Photos taken by Rob Roberts at Rattlesnake Creek in Missoula.IMG_4289 (2)

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Buying a house in Missoula - On the Horizon Line Blog - Brianna Randall

We bought a house! (Anyone have a car?)

Posted on 2 CommentsPosted in Videos

Some people might call us hasty.  Others might say impetuous.  We like to call ourselves decisive.  Rob and I put an offer on a house exactly one week after touching down in Missoula, Montana.  If all goes according to plan, we’ll move in to the new digs on May 8th, less than one month after returning to our mountain home.

Buying a house in Missoula - On the Horizon Line Blog - Brianna RandallYeah, sure, we only looked at one house, total, before signing on the dotted line.  But to be fair, we’ve actually had our eye on it since February, when a rainy day in New Zealand found us surfing online for real estate options in Missoula.  We found it immediately: grandma’s house.  A 1970s rancher that hasn’t been updated.  Ever.  It has wallpaper and a laundry chute and a carpeted bathroom.  It’s a perfect fixer-upper for Rob, who loves nothing more than having projects to putter through.  And the only home within our budget in the fabulous Rattlesnake neighborhood near downtown Missoula.

Why did we leap in and buy a house so fast?  Well, Rob and I have been discussing the best way to keep our cost of living low while maintaining the quality of life we’ve enjoyed the past year.  For us, the biggest monthly expense is shelter.  We wanted to find a place we could settle into while not breaking the bank.  Renting seemed like a less desirable option, since we’ve been homeowners for years.

Buying a house in Missoula - On the Horizon Line Blog - Brianna Randall

Luckily for our budget, crewing on other people’s sailboats was an extremely affordable way to travel the world.  We were able to use the money we saved by not buying our own sailboat to buy a new nest of our own.  Sometimes I feel a little queasy about the fact that nest is landlocked.  But having a lower mortgage will allow us to travel more easily when the longing for the sea strikes again.

We feel unbelievably fortunate to have found a new home.  A place that we can rent out when we’re ready for the next big adventure.  A place our soon-to-born son can toddle down the street safely, wander the woods at will, and walk to his grandparents’ house in a jiffy.

Buying a house in Missoula - On the Horizon Line Blog - Brianna Randall

Now all we need is a vehicle so we don’t have to move our belongings via bike.  Anyone in Missoula have an old car, van or truck they wanna sell?  Give us a shout if so!


Spring traveling through the Northwest US - On the Horizon Line Travel Blog - Brianna Randall and Rob Roberts

Melding Back Into Missoula

Posted on 1 CommentPosted in Reflections on Life, Traveling

Transitions can be exciting or scary, slow or abrupt.  But rarely are they comfortable.  As Rob and I transition back into “real life” on land here in Missoula, Montana, we are attempting to accept the discomfort that comes with change.  Our life is full of unknowns right now: where will we live?  What will we do next?  Who do we want to be when we grow up?

Luckily, even while immersed in the unknown, it feels good to be surrounded by familiar sights and our favorite people.   Our transition back to the States was buffered by spending two weeks wandering the Northwest before settling back in Montana.  We reconnected with friends from Bellingham to Bend, stopping in Seattle, Portland and Mosier in between.

Spring traveling through the Northwest US - On the Horizon Line Travel Blog - Brianna Randall and Rob Roberts

We saw balsam root flowers springing up along the Columbia River, and mushrooms poking out amid the cedar forests near Canada.  We played with doggies and goats and chickens, told stories, caught up.  And we bought warm clothes at Goodwill to ease our heat-soaked bodies into the cold northern spring.

Now, vacation is over.  By choice, for sure, although the ending is no less poignant. Rob and I are both ready to delve into new projects, new passions, new challenges.  We’ve been back home for a week now, living in my parents’ very comfortable house and reacquainting ourselves with Missoula.  When we get overwhelmed by all the “to do’s” in front of us — find a house, a car, insurance, income — we call a friend we haven’t seen in over a year and go for a walk in the hills.

Spring traveling through the Northwest US - On the Horizon Line Travel Blog - Brianna Randall and Rob Roberts

It’s almost too easy to slip back into old habits.  But that slip seems to make the transition even harder, as we struggle to hold on to those hard-earned travel lessons.  We are working to find the balance between embracing our old lifestyle and carving out a new one that accommodates our expanded horizons.  Mostly, we’re just taking the good advice of a wise friend: be kind to ourselves, and forgive ourselves when we hit rough spots on the road as meld back into our home.

Spring traveling through the Northwest US - On the Horizon Line Travel Blog - Brianna Randall and Rob Roberts

on the horizon line - cruising and travel blog

Finding Peace in La Paz

Posted on 2 CommentsPosted in Reflections on Life

Missoula Montana downtown over Clark Fork RiverWe just got back from a lovely meal with fellow Montanans who live here in La Paz.  (I know: our recent posts make it like Montanans are rapidly colonizing Baja California).  Josh Schroeder and his wife, Nieves, welcomed us into their home., and made us prawns, pasta and plenty of wine.  We ate with his sister, mom and grandpa, who are down visiting.  They commiserated over our losses, and shared some of their own more poignant and meaningful loss of a loved one.  We laughed, broke some glasses, and heard stories of Josh and Rob catching exorbitant numbers of giant trout in Alaska.

Many folks have commented on how positive we’ve been after the rocky start to our voyage, including Josh, and his mom, Joyce.  It made me realize a couple of things:

1) I haven’t shared the fact that Rob and I had many rough spots the past week.  One of us gets cranky or frustrated or sad or pissed off at the situation at least once a day.

2) What brings us back from the low spots are people like the Schroeders, as well as of our other friends, near and far.

on the horizon line - cruising and travel blogIt does suck to get robbed, not because of the stuff that disappears, but because it’s an insult.  It makes us feel dumb, naive, played, helpless.  In fact, my morning today was one of my lowest spots yet, as I oscillated between clicking “buy now” on many of the items we just lost versus wanting to burn half the remaining 25 pounds of stuff I still have (it’s true: I packed too many clothes).  I felt like La Paz and I will just never get along, as if we’re star-crossed lovers that can’t find a groove.

During the low points, I really miss my sister, and the girlfriends who know me inside and out.  I wonder how, exactly, I think I can live without them for months on end.  But then, hours later, I’ve found that total strangers feel almost as close as the family I ached for earlier.  I’ve found that La Paz is peaceful at night, with bright stars overhead and a cool breeze that laughs away my feelings of fated doom and gloom.

If I haven’t portrayed the frustrations and pain, it’s because the low points are often overshadowed by the view from the high points.  The voids fill.  The troughs crest.  All waves recede…and roll right on back in again.

handmade cards from kids - on the horizon line sailing blog

A Snapshot of Our Last Days in Missoula

Posted on 1 CommentPosted in Family and Friends, Traveling

handmade cards from kids - on the horizon line sailing blog

Going away cards from our buddies, Jiah and Solan Grillo.











on the horizon line sailing blog - travel prep

My last bike ride through Greenough Park along Rattlesnake Creek.  It’s been a helluva lovely commute these past ten years!









on the horizon line sailing blog

The new neighborhood grocery store on our kitchen floor, post cupboard clean-out.










on the horizon line sailing blog

And the cupboards for the last few days … we practiced living on a boat by using one spoon, one bowl and one cup each.









on the horizon line sailing blog - travel prep

Remember how everything has to fit in a 12′ x 12′ area in the back of our garage? Here’s about half that space.  You can tell we like boots.









on the horizon line sailing blog - travel prep

These favorites somehow didn’t make it into the book bin in time.  Maybe because we wanted to read them until the very last minute?









on the horizon line sailing blog - travel prep

My carry-ons tomorrow.  We fly out of Missoula at 7am. (And, no, it’s not a weapon or a fishing tool … it’s my mini guitar in Rob’s homemade case.)









on the horizon line sailing blog - travel prep

The sum total of Rob’s belongings for the next 2 years: 2 sweet dry bags + travel purse + big hat.










on the horizon line sailing blog

In between moving our own junk, we helped friends move a REALLY heavy clawfoot tub up their stairs. They fed us dinner in return.







on the horizon line sailing blog

We had a continuous “free” pile at the bottom of the driveway. Most of our stuff didn’t move very far: here’s our lawn chair just across the street, and I just spotted our shelves next door.










on the horizon line sailing blog

After selling both cars mid-week, we were lucky enough to borrow the Kesslers’ jeep.  Rob had to pump up the leaking tire with a bike pump a couple of times.







on the horizon line sailing blog - kids at dinner

Goodbye dinners have been the highlight of each day, as we took a break from packing and cleaning to share meals with our favorite people.









sunset over mount jumbo in missoula - on the horizon line blog

My Place in Space and Time

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in Traveling

rainbow over Mount Jumbo in the Rattlesnake Valley of Missoula, Montana - on the horizon line

Picture yourself right now.  Close your eyes and visualize where you’re sitting, standing or lounging.  Now zoom out.  Do you have a map in your head of where you are located on this big, beautiful earth?

I do.  I’m a visual learner, and I feel disoriented if I can’t picture my place in time and space.  For instance, when Rob and I went to Philadelphia last month to visit his family, I had absolutely no visual map.  I was in unfamiliar terrain with no landmarks to guide me, and couldn’t have found north if my life depended on it (good thing it didn’t!).

For the past decade, the map in my head has been framed by mountains and rivers.  My place in space right this moment is bracketed by Stuart Peak to the north, Mount Jumbo to the east, the North Hills to the west, and Lolo Peak to the south.  I follow Rattlesnake Creek as my north-south axis when I’m navigating from home to downtown Missoula.  I’m guided by the Clark Fork River as I head west or east out of town.  My body can sense which knobby ridge the sun kisses as it rises, and as it sets.

sunset over mount jumbo in missoula - on the horizon line blog

But my body is about to leave the ridge lines, rivers and creeks that create my central axis.  My frame for pinpointing the cardinal directions will be fuzzy and out of focus as we shift between new horizons and new shores.  I’m going to have to accept the fact that I won’t always have a map in my head of where, exactly, I am — physically or mentally.  That feels overwhelming.  Exhilarating.  Terrifying.  Liberating.

Luckily, I know we will always have a well-marked and special place waiting for us in Montana, nestled squarely between the hills and creeks that so clearly define space and time.

rob paragliding with rattlesnake mountains in background - on the horizon line blog


off the rack brianna randall dancing

Last Montana Dance Performance

Posted on 2 CommentsPosted in Dance, Yoga and Fitness

off the rack afro brazilian dance bri randallTwo weeks ago, I shook my booty in a last hoorah onstage for Missoula’s signature (and super awesome) Off the Rack fundraiser event.  The purpose: raise money for our local Blue Mountain Clinic and raise awareness about sexual choice and diversity.  The unifying theme: costumes made of condoms.  My friend Gillian calls it: “Our community’s best talent show.”  It features everything from artistic body painting (yup, that’s me in green body paint at last year’s show…and Cass in a bra made of condoms…and Rob riding a bike in socks) to costume design, comedy routines and hula-hooping.

off the rack brianna randall dancingrob and bri and cass in off the rack dancingThis was my fourth consecutive performance at Off the Rack, dancing alongside Gillian and other talented teachers from the Downtown Dance Collective.  It combines all of my favorite things: I love dancing.  I love Missoula.  I love costumes.  And I love a good cause.

Check out these videos that Rob filmed to watch a few of the dances from the 2013 Off the Rack Show.  And then go check it out in person next February.

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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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So, to my new neighbors welcome, but ya’ll have some big shoes to fill.

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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

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