20 Questions with ACM Team Member Natalie Seale

Hello! I’d like to say I’m still a new member of ACM, but it turns out it’s been well over a year since I joined as a contributor! Time sure does fly when you’re having fun and being a mom. I’m a proud Brit and recently naturalized American citizen, married to a native San Antonian man I met studying in my hometown of Edinburgh, Scotland. We have one son, Alexander, who was born in October 2020, and an adorable English Cocker Spaniel called Oban.

How do you like to start and end your day?

I start the day with coffee, always. It’s typically still dark when I get up, because my son is an early riser, so as soon as the lights are on I’ve got a coffee on the go. Whatever is on my agenda for the day, I consistently make a cup of coffee and sit on the floor with him and we read stories. I usually end the day falling asleep on the sofa because I refuse to go to bed early, even when I need to. Typically my husband and I wind down at the end of the day watching or rewatching a TV series and having a glass of wine.

What’s one thing you’re learning now or learned recently?

I’m slowly learning that I cannot do absolutely everything, all of the time. Something has to give. I have always been the kind of person to throw myself headfirst into anything I’m doing, but becoming a mother has made me realize that life is a marathon rather than a series of sprints. There just isn’t scope or time for phases of rest and recovery anymore, as there were in my life before motherhood. I have to save my energies—and anxieties about how much I’m capable of—as it’s the day-to-day that really matters.

What’s your favorite place to eat around here?

For lunch, First Course Salad Kitchen, the Sweet Paris Crêperie at La Cantera, Bakery Lorraine, or Bird Bakery on Broadway. For dinner, our go-to tends to be somewhere like J. Alexander’s at The Quarry, because you don’t have to know what you want to find something on the menu!

What’s your favorite tradition (holiday or otherwise)?

I absolutely adore Christmas, but my favorite holiday tradition is actually on Thanksgiving. I love watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade that morning with coffee and cinnamon rolls. My husband and I typically go out to eat (I realize this will have to change as our family does.) and then in the afternoon, I decorate my mantel for Christmas. That night we always get a few special wines, and I make a cheese and charcuterie board for us and a few friends.

What advice would you give to your teenage self?

That the ones who succeed most and are praised the loudest at school won’t always be the ones who go on to succeed down the road. It’s okay not to be top of the class—you’ll find your level soon. I was always judged to be a middle-of-the-road student, and it gave me a real complex. When I went to university, I found great friends and really exceeded expectations academically. I went on to really enjoy studying, stayed on for a Ph.D., and completed it by the time I was 26.

What book, movie, music, etc., changed your outlook on life?

It probably sounds a little cliché, but I’d have to say the Harry Potter novels by J. K. Rowling. I was eight when the first book came out but probably didn’t start reading them until I was 11—so, the same age as Harry in the first book. With the release of the books (and later, the movies), I grew up too. It was true escapism for me, and I always looked forward to a day in the distant future when I’d read the books aloud to my own kids. We’re still years away from that, but I know I’ll love the stories just as much in the future and will love creating more special memories with Harry.

Is there any experience you think everyone should be required to have? What is it?

I really think everyone should experience travelling independently in another country, if possible. I travelled very little outside of my homeland as a child but definitely made up for it in my early 20s. Living in another country for several months at a time (first in Italy, then in the U.S.) forced me to be resourceful in lots of ways, taught me about myself, made me appreciate my own company, and showed me just how resilient I could be. It was definitely a catalyst for feeling ready and able to emigrate after marriage.

What’s one song you have completely memorized?

Oh, heaps. My mind is a sinkhole of late 90s and 00s pop hits, ha! I also know all the words to every song on “Evermore” by Taylor Swift, because my son always fell asleep to it as a baby.

What’s one hobby you’d love to get into?

Playing the piano. I’ve always wanted to. I played the flute until I was 17 and can still read music. (Maybe? I hope!) I’m hoping to finally realize this dream as my son starts MDO and then preschool.

What’s one item you can’t leave home without or is always in your bag?

As a mom, wipes. As a regular person, sunglasses. My sheltered northern eyes really struggle to drive in San Antonio without them.

What’s one thing you wish you’d known when becoming a mom or what advice would you give to a new mom?

I wish I’d known that, in the earlier years, there will be many bright spots among the hard days, rather than difficult moments among lots of good days. And that some days there might not be any great moments, and that’s okay too. Each stage is different and more difficult than the last, but more rewarding too.

When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up? How’d that work out? What do you do now that fills your days with ‘work’?

I really wanted to be an astronaut as a young child, which very much did not work out! As I grew I wanted to be an archaeologist, which again did not work out, but I did study history—one of my great loves. Before I had my son I was editing academic work, which I really enjoy and will get back to as I have more time of my own as he grows. For now, being a SAHM fills my days and is probably a much harder job than I ever could’ve imagined.

What one ‘life hack’ changed how you do something?

Gas pumps in the U.K. don’t have the little metal clip or the auto-shut-off function for when your tank is full, so you just pump as much gas as you need and get repetitive strain. You can’t imagine how life-changing this hack has been, especially now that I have an SUV!

What’s your ideal way to spend your weekends?

Quietly. Ha! Typically we try to lay low and stay home on Saturday and Sunday, walking in our neighborhood, playing in the yard, maybe going to the pool or for a coffee or drive. I try to keep a pretty busy schedule with my son all week, and my husband works from home, so it’s important for us to take it slow and make time to actually spend time together.

What is something you’re doing as a mom/parent you never anticipated doing?

Breastfeeding? I guess, I don’t know. I expected to fail at it early on and almost did due to lots of reasons. Only with a lot of help and support was I able to keep going. Other than that, I didn’t anticipate counting down the hours til bedtime. I love my son more than anything, but some days I just need it to be 7.30 p.m. 

If you grew up in San Antonio, what’s one thing that you loved about your childhood here? One thing you love that your children are getting to know? If you didn’t, tell me where you grew up, how you got to SAT and one thing you love that your children get to do/see/experience here?

While I definitely did not grow up in San Antonio, my husband did! I really enjoy taking my son to the parks and places where he used to play as a kid. I grew up in beautiful Yorkshire, England, then moved to Scotland when I was around ten. I got to San Antonio “as fast as I could” at the ripe old age of 27, a little over a year after I married my San Antonian husband. Off the top of my head, I’m delighted that my son will get to experience such a long pool season each year as he grows, and that he gets to watch the migration of the monarch butterflies. I think people here take it for granted, but it’s a beautiful spectacle for someone who grew up a long way away from their path.

What is your favorite place in San Antonio?

I really like the Landa Library.

What is your favorite restaurant?

A few contenders here—the Silo Oyster Bar at I-10 and Dominion is a consistent favorite if you enjoy fish and seafood and has the best fish and chips in San Antonio (very important for me!). For Mexican appetizers and margaritas, we typically go to La Fogata (I prefer the original location.) or to La Hacienda de Los Barrios at Scenic Loop; otherwise, I’d never say no to Dough Pizzeria for lunch and Bob’s Steak and Chophouse for a date night dinner. They have great appetizers, steak, sturdy drinks, and a solid wine list. My all-time favorite restaurant in San Antonio was Il Sogno at The Pearl, which sadly closed several years ago. Chef Andrew Weissman, if you’re reading this, please consider revisiting that dream of a concept in a new location. 😉

Another thing I love about San Antonio is…

How interested and curious people are. This is a bit of a double-edged sword because sometimes I’d like to get in and out of H-E-B without having a conversation about where I’m from and how I ended up here! But generally, everyone is friendly and people genuinely are interested in the people they encounter day to day.

What is something near San Antonio, but technically out of the city limits, that you love being close to or enjoy going to or WANT to go explore?

The Cibolo Center for Conservation in Boerne is definitely on my list! I also love the proximity to places like Fredericksburg, Bandera, and Pipe Creek, especially in the fall.

Natalie is a proud Brit, but moved to Texas at the end of 2017 to be with her husband, a native San Antonian. Their son was born in late October 2020, so her entire experience of pregnancy, birth, and postpartum has been under the cloud of Covid-19. She spent the frivolous years of her early 20s pursuing a PhD in Renaissance history, living in Venice, Italy, and teaching students. She pivoted into editing when she moved to the US, but currently has her academic pursuits on hold while she focuses on her son. Despite being in San Antonio for a few years now, she still considers herself a newbie. She loves to find out more about the history and culture of the city, explore new places, and find local businesses to support. A fastidious researcher and lover of lists, she’s always excited to share her finds and experiences with others. Favorite Restaurant: Dough Favorite Landmark: World’s Largest Cowboy Boots Favorite San Antonio Tradition: Riverwalk Christmas Lights