Friday, February 17, 2017

I don't even know what to call this so I'mma go with: Water Cheetos

This is a post I didn't want to write and I really didn't want to share. But apart from adventures in running and sugar consumption, honesty is kind of my thing around here. And maybe I'm not the only one who is experiencing complex and sometimes contradictory feelings as of late. So here goes:

So far 2017 has been a series of WTF-is-even-happening moments. I feel as if I'm leading a double life. On the outside, it's awesomeness as usual: Exploring the neighborhood woods with Pete, getting lost and getting found. Going to a Valentine's Day canal crawl at Schoen Place, where we check in and are handed a tiny cupcake that is perfect in every way. And we eat popcorn and chat with a nice bartender who tells us all about his tattoos and meditation practice. And we walk into a wine store with a sign that says "Love the wine your with" and I cringe and say (out loud, because I have no filter apparently) "That sign is incorrect and it's bothering me" and an employee overhears our conversation and immediately comes over to fix it, saying "The sign has been up for 3 days and you're the first person to notice" and then I feel bad for not being like everyone else but also wishing I had the power to point out other things that are wrong  - actual important things - and have someone immediately come and fix them (As in "That's sexist/racist/homophobic and it's bothering me." "That is a straight up lie and it's bothering me.") Running down snow covered roads, enveloped by the silence, darkness and solitude, and marveling at how life sometimes just zaps you with random moments of breathtaking beauty. Shoveling the driveway and thinking about how ridiculous it is that I am pushing around piles of what are basically water Cheetos. Watching friends complete amazing acts of physical endurance and strength of spirit. Being part of a marriage that I am severely under-qualified for and and yet have somehow been lucky enough to find.

And then on the inside, there's this seething and inconsolable ball of outrage and profound disappointment that alternates between a bloodcurdling scream and a tidal wave of expletives. Because I am so fucking weary. Of lies, greed, discrimination and fear. Of gorgeous, talented, intelligent (cis and trans) women being body shamed and silenced. Of another Grammy awards where Beyoncé doesn't win Album of the Year. There are so many problems and I feel useless at solving them. It is brutally unfair that my life is rich with privilege, opportunity and love while others' lives are not. Everyone deserves nutritious food, clean water, safe spaces, civil rights, education, love and the opportunity to build a good life. Everyone. But I don't know how to help make that happen, how to help people treat each other as people, not labels/stereotypes/adversaries. There is no us vs. them. There is only us. We are all in this life together. That is the whole point of existence, of everything. To live together, work together, make things better together. Your problems are our collective problems, your struggles are our collective struggles. We cannot turn our backs and say that does not concern me, that is not my fight. The more privileges we have, the more responsibility we have to use them for good.

I don't know how to do this. I don't have the answers. But I do know there is only one person I can change: myself. Change starts from within. I want to be a force of compassion, honesty, love and happiness in the universe. So I'm working to cultivate those things from within. I will continue to read/watch/listen to the words of people whose lives and opinions are different from mine. And try to do so with a sense of curiosity and objectivity rather than judgment so I can react with understanding rather than defensiveness. I will only engage in respectful discussions of politics/problems/potential solutions. I will strive to act with gratitude, honesty, integrity and empathy in all situations. When I make mistakes, I will apologize and make amends. When I fail, I will try again. When I feel like giving up, I will give more.

If you're reading this and you agree, please tell me how I can help. If you're reading this and you disagree, please tell me how and why. Even if we don't see eye to eye, let's try to connect heart to heart.

Lyrics of the moment: "I see problems down the line, I know they're not mine. I see darkness down the line, I know it's not fine. But don't wash the dirt off of your hands. You're doing the same mistake twice, making the same mistake twice. Come on over, don't be so caught up... Don't let the darkness eat you up..." ~José González "Down the Line"

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Dear People of Earth:

This should go without saying, but these are some heavy times and so it bears repeating over and over and over. All of my spaces - my heart, my home, my little corner of the internet - will always be open to you, regardless of your gender, race, sexual orientation, religion or political affiliation. I believe in equal rights, compassion and love for all. I believe all people are my people. I believe we are all connected, that as a society we are only as rich as our poorest member, only as free as the least free among us, only successful when we are helping each other instead of holding each other down. 

Life is hard. For some of you, it just got a whole lot harder. I have always been more of a lover than a fighter but these are fighting times. So I will love you and I will fight for you. I will fight for your rights, your liberty and your freedom of choice with my votes and words and actions. 

You are important to me. I want to hear your stories - your struggles, feelings, failures, triumphs, joys and loves. I want to connect with you, human to human. I am here (jen@fromrobotwithlove.org) and you are always welcome. 

I'm a flawed and imperfect being, so please bear with me as I stumble through this thing called life. There are times when I will fail you or disappoint you. For that I'm sorry. But I will keep trying. Because I believe that our purpose here is to be excellent to each other and to make the party of life an epic event for everyone. I believe that my purpose is to work out my empathy and compassion muscles, to strive for understanding over judgment, curiosity over contempt and reason over rhetoric, and to spread love and awesomeness wherever I can. 

Let's be friends. Let's fight oppression and discrimination. Let's be awesome together. 

From Robot, with Love. Always. 






Monday, January 23, 2017

This Is Marriage: Day 505

Pete is laying on the couch and I am propped up on his legs flying Superman style in the most fun pose we learned last weekend at Partner Yoga and Pete says "Nothing about this could go wrong" and we laugh so hard I almost fall on the ground. We spent the weekend running the River Chase loop with Steven, watching Amadeus in Buffalo (The Buffalo Philharmonic was most excellent. I wish this had been a concert instead of a play. The acting was good, I just thought the script and characters were terrible. I am so tired of pompous buffoons and petty, jealous manipulators), having important, uncomfortable conversations and taking a bread baking class at the New York Wine & Culinary Center.

And laughing. At the crackers we made that tasted like saltines but were more pita-like in consistency so I decided to call them pillow crackers. At Pete accidentally using the women's restroom at Kleinhans Music Hall when we walked into this huge room labelled "Powder Room" and I said "I think this is the women's room" but it was already too late. At Pete telling Eric how excited I was to make a rainbow colored veggie/hummus/cheese/chips tray as they are eating steaks and watching football and I was like "you know, because it's the trifecta of manliness: steak, football and rainbows." At me asking and then Googling all my football game questions. Like what are those grey things on the field, volcanoes shooting laser beams? (Turns out they are actually depicting a bridge and tower, which is far less interesting in my opinion). And where can I get one of those giant tent/coat/sleeping bag things that Brady guy is wearing? (Google did not tell me how to get a giant, tent-sized coat but did point me to some hilarious memes on the Brady coat situation and also to a life-sized bear cub body pillow. The internet is a magical place).

Whatever else is going on, there is no one who makes me laugh as much as Pete does. When I'm sick and tired, when the world at large is depressing and upsetting, I hold on to the laughter and I am eternally grateful for its presence in my life.

Marriage is a beacon of laughter, lightness and love that brightens all my days.



Lyric of the moment: "There is a design, an alignment to cry, of my heart to see. The beauty of love as it was made to be. Love, it will not betray you, dismay or enslave you, it will set you free..." ~Mumford & Sons "Sigh No More"

Thursday, January 12, 2017

New Years Resolutioning

I don't typically make New Years resolutions. I have thus far managed to avoid the  it's JANUARY! Of a NEW YEAR! Time to load up on fancy gym memberships and unicorn juice cleanses and all the joy-killing life-changing goals! fervor. I've come to realize that I'm not a goal oriented person, I'm an effort oriented person. I like the work, the effort, the striving. That's where all the magic happens. Early morning runs, trying (and failing and trying) at chin-ups, setting up automatic deductions to max out my 401K and Roth IRA contributions - those are my happy places. I love running, I love mornings, I love starting my day doing one of my very favorite things. I love working at something that's difficult for me and letting the discomfort and struggle make me stronger. I love saving my cash moneys for future adventures (or for Pete's future adventures if I die first). The distances and number of reps and dollar figures are not important, what matters is that I find joy simply in the doing of those things.

That being said, I do think there's something compelling about New Year's resolutions, there's a vulnerability in publicly vowing to better ourselves. Especially since 90% of New Year's resolutions fail (80% of people know that is a true statistic and totally not just something I made up). So I figured I would get in on the resolutioning adventure this year. Ok so truthfully, Pete made a resolution to get up and accompany me on my early morning workouts in January. And I jokingly said that for every day he did that, I wouldn't eat dessert. Except that Pete seemed to really like the idea so it turned out to be more of a commitment than a joke. So here we are. Side note: I think Pete totally got the worse end of that arrangement, as he now has to deal with me waking him up most mornings (like the zealous early bird that I am) by jumping on him and saying "Is this helping you wake up?" and with my occasional lack-of-sugar-induced grumpiness. So far, we've run at Letchworth, Ellison, and on the canal, swam laps at the pool, and gone to yoga, P90x class, spin class and something called HIIT & Ripped (which happily did not feel like getting hit by a fuckton of DOMS but sadly did not miraculously result in 6 pack abs). I have not eaten any desserts this year and mostly feel ok about it, aside from the aforementioned sugar-I-pine-for-you blues. The secret to New Years resolutions, I think, is to design your resolution to last for the month of January only. But now that I'm already aboard this resolution train, I figured I might as well add a few more intentions for the rest of the year.

New Year's Resolutioning Attempt 2017:

  • Don't do things I don't want to do. Meaning, don't eat foods I don't enjoy, don't say yes to things when I really mean no, don't cave in to the pressure of The Shoulds. Also meaning, if there's some result I want but am dreading the process to achieve said result, change the process or change my attitude so that I can want to do it instead of feeling like I have to do it. 
  • Lose weight: the burdensome weight of expectations, judgments, fears and insecurities. Replace with awesomeness.
  • Go to space as needed: the space for personal development, the space between thinking and speaking, and especially all the wild spaces. Also go to outer space if someone happens to invite me on their rocket ship in 2017 (HINT, HINT). 
  • Hold grudges (perceived slights/injustices/hurt feelings, etc) like I hold babies, which is to say, sparingly and not long enough to require cleaning up any shit. 
  • Put my money where my heart is. Be mindful of how I'm voting with my dolla dolla bills. Support causes, products and companies that align with my bleeding heart liberal values. 
  • Keep my chin up. In the physical and mental sense. (Sweet bonus: Now when I do my chin-ups, Pete joins in to do some of his own. So I don't have to watch Arrow anymore because I have my very own hot shirtless chin-upping husband. And let's face it, that show is pretty terrible, aside from the epic pull-up scenes). 
Party on, 2017


Lyric of the moment: "There's a place I dream about, where the sun never goes out. And the sky is deep and blue. Won't you take me there with you? Oh, we can begin again. Shed our skin, let the sun shine in. At the edge of the ocean we can start over again..."~Ivy  "Edge of the Ocean"



Wednesday, December 28, 2016

This is Christmas 2016

I wake up at 4:00am and I smile. It's adventure time! It is 18 degrees Fahrenheit. Two plane rides later, we exit the airport and it's 80 degrees. We have lunch with my dad in Melbourne, FL then drive six hours to Key West. We have traveled from Monroe County, NY to Monroe County, FL. It's the Monday before Christmas. Lights and tinsel abound. Christmas songs play on the radio and I laugh at the nonsensical juxtaposition. There is no White Christmas or Winter Wonderland here, only palm trees, sunshine and ocean breezes. This, I think, is how to December.



I wake up at 4:00am, bewildered and borderline poultricidal. Roosters are crowing loudly outside of the condo we have rented on the Navy base in Key West. What cockamamie fowlplay is this? Pete deadpans "So, do you feel like chicken for breakfast?" We move to another bedroom (luckily the condo we have rented has 3 bedrooms), where we are able to almost fall back asleep before being awoken at 6:00am by more ear-splitting caws from the cursed alarm cocks! Later, our bike tour guide, Bruce, tells us the chickens were brought to Key West by Cubans for cock fights, then released into the city when cock fighting was outlawed. I sleep with earplugs for the remainder of our stay.

We go paddleboarding at Boca Chica Navy Air Station, even though it is far too windy and the water is too shallow for paddleboarding. My board's fin keeps catching on the sand and vegetation and jolting me into the water. My legs get all scraped up but I don't mind because the water is warm and we get to watch the fighter jets practicing overhead.

We visit Ernest Hemingway's house and look for six-toed cats. Some of the 50-some cats who live on the house/museum grounds today are descendants of Hemingway's polydactyl cat, Snow White. Pete exclaims "This is the best $6 I ever spent. There are cats everywhere!"

Hemingway's house

Cool dude I found in Hemingway's garden

Hemingway's cats don't give a shit about your signs


We climb the 88 steps to the top of the Key West Lighthouse tower. Later we will learn from Bruce that the lighthouse had a female keeper for 30+ years, until she was fired for distributing Confederate propaganda from the top of the tower.

Pete is using his phone to navigate to Mallory Square, where we are planning to watch the sunset. He inadvertently directs us to the end of a street where a line of people has formed in front of a concrete buoy. I realize we are actually at the Southernmost Point in the continental US and Pete says "oh I wondered what all those people were standing in line for." Throughout the rest of the trip, he says things like "Who took you to see the Southernmost Point in the US?" and "We're the Southernmost bike tour in the US right now."

Southernmost Pete & Jen in the continental US

Kapok tree outside the Monroe County courthouse


We eventually find our way to Mallory Square to watch the sunset and see the unicyclists, fire jugglers and this weird, creepy statue made out of natural sponges.

I run. In shorts. Every day. Around town. On the beach. To the Southernmost Point early enough to have it all to myself. I create my own faux Fit1 workout on base. It is glorious. This, I think, is how to vacation.

We go on a boat tour where the food is surprisingly good and the "entertainment" is too bad to even be hilarious. Unless the guy was a professional drunken karaoke singer, in which case he was superb at his job. This, I think, is not how to boat. There isn't even any dessert here. I do, however, have the most excellent and tallest of company. 

We walk and bike around town, eating our weight in Key Lime Pie. Mini pies, pie slices, chocolate covered pie slices, key lime sugar cookies. I cannot overstate how legit delicious that pie is.

We drive back to Melbourne, stopping for lunch in Miami Beach. Pete has now driven 12 hours in a rental car without cruise control. Yes, apparently they do exist. I have now spent 12 hours singing to every song on the radio and asking if we can stop to pee. I am also in charge of buying the Diet Mountain Dew at gas stations and rest stops. This, I think, is how to roadtrip.

It is Christmas Eve. Pete and I swim in the ocean. We watch football. Later we eat Chinese food and mini mince fruit pies with my dad and family friends from England. It is laid back and perfect (except for the people smoking at the bar where we watched football. My lungs were horrified to learn that some places still allow smoking indoors).

It is Christmas Day. I run 6 miles on a soft, white sandy beach, past people who smile and wave. I read "Ready Player One" while Pete is swimming. We eat Christmas brinner (or whatever the word for lunch-dinner is) with my dad at the Hilton Melbourne Beach's buffet. Later, Pete and I go in the hot tub and the heated pool, then order room service (I chose chocolate lava cake. I chose wisely). This, I think, is a pretty awesome way to Christmas.






Lyric of the moment: "You and I would have our first Christmas in space. Space Christmas. Maybe it'd be better if I didn't spend at all. Sometimes the bestest presents don't cost anything at all... ~Allo Darlin' "Space Christmas"

Monday, December 12, 2016

Holiday partying when you're not Martha Stewart & Snoop Dogg

Saturday night we hosted a Welcome Home Pete/Trail Family Holiday party at our house. I love people, I love parties. But party planning quickly devolves into a panicking party as I am faced with the harsh reality that I have zero hosting skills. I would love for my hosting level to be Martha Stewart and Snoop Dogg, but it's barely even Frat Party Without The Keg. Basically, it's just red Solo cups and a plastic tub of Cheetos. Our 1200 square foot house is too small for a party of 30-40 people. I am averse to holiday decorations. (While I can appreciate them aesthetically and think they look lovely in other people's homes, the thought of buying and displaying decorations in my own home induces stress not joy). As for my cooking skills, the most charitable thing you could say about them is that I have yet to burn anything down. So I tend to be anxious whenever people are coming over to our house. I want to have people over. I want them to feel welcome and be well fed and have a good time. But I have strong doubts about my ability to deliver on those promises.

Pete wanted to keep things simple for the party so we ordered meat pizza, veggie pizza and wings. Then I made vegan and gluten free pizza so we had all the dietary needs covered. Though when I say made I really mean that I helicopter parented it (I was putting all my non-dairy eggs in this basket and I had to make sure it was at least edible and not on fire). I roasted the butternut squash. I massaged the kale. That is a thing people do to kale apparently (or else Mark is laughing maniacally somewhere at having convinced me that is a thing people do to kale). I bought what in hindsight was an excessive amount of vegan cheese. I practically climbed in the oven with it trying to determine if the crust was lightly browned enough. (WTF cooking directions?! What does lightly browned even mean? Ecru? Beige? Khaki? Burnt Umber? No probably not that last one. Why can't food just be all "Stick a fork in me, I'm done." I'm not a mind reader, pizza!)

Then I had a moment of sanity where my brain decided: You can just be who you are. And I finally relaxed. People are well aware than I am not Martha Stewart or Snoop Dogg. No one comes to my house expecting a gourmet meal or a Pottery Barn catalog or Gin & Juice. People come to my house bearing cookies and dressed in a banana costume. I am never going to throw a Pinterest-worthy party. That is not my thing. And that's ok. I am going to throw the kinds of parties where everyone is welcome, where love, laughter and chin-ups are plentiful, where somehow we always end the night dancing in the living room (and by somehow I mean because of Pete). Because those are my things.

Holidays are for dancing, bananas, cookies and Tramily.
(Thanks to Amy, Sheila & Stephen for the pics!)

At the party, I looked around and marveled at all the people who had come to see my funny, strong, remarkable husband, all the people who had filled up my 2016 with so much happiness and love. Steven pretended he was leaving every 5 minutes and went around giving everyone goodbye hugs. And I realized that was the perfect metaphor for how I want to live my life. My time here is short. I don't know when exactly I'm leaving the party of life (hopefully not for many decades). But I could be tossed out of this aliveness rave at any time. As long as I'm still here, I want to embrace it. Might as well do it literally. And Jenuinely.

And so my very best good friends, if you ever feel overwhelmed by expectations or pressures to be a certain way or do a certain thing, remember that you can just be who you are. You can say no to that thing you don't want to do. You can opt out of the traditions that don't bring you joy. You can make the holidays whatever you want them to be. Party on.

Lyric of the moment: "The moon is right. The spirits up. We're here tonight. And that's enough. Simply having a wonderful Christmastime. The party's on. The feeling's here. That only comes this time of year. Simply having a wonderful Christmastime..." ~Paul McCartney "Wonderful Christmastime"

Monday, December 5, 2016

This Is Marriage: Day 456

I wake up next to Pete! In our bed! In our house! I have had this dream so many times over the past 10 months, only to wake up and feel disappointed. But now I wake up and it actually is real. We go to the gym and work out together. We come home and I make pumpkin bread french toast (and I realize I haven 't ever made french toast before. I know, who even let me into the adulting club anyway? Someone left the door unattended for a minute and I ninja-ed my way inside, skipping right over making basic french toast and jumping face first into making fancy french toast out of bread I made myself. Ok, bread I made with the help of a bread/muffin mix). We run errands. Pete cannot find the toothpaste and I remind him it's in the medicine cabinet hidden behind the mirror. He has been away so long he's forgotten all the secret compartments (Note to self: more secret compartments. Secret compartments everywhere!) Pete builds a closet. I bring him a snack and laugh, because it is such a Pete thing to do. When we first moved into this house, his main priority was building a shelving system and adding doors to the bedroom closet. The first day he is back in our house after his deployment, he builds a standalone closet in the basement for all of his Navy uniforms. These quotidian moments suddenly feel anything but ordinary. After the year we've had, they are extraordinary.

People refer to your wedding as "the happiest day of your life." But I always secretly thought what does that say about your marriage if the best day is the first day? That it's all downhill from there? Our wedding day was an epic day for sure. We laughed, we danced, we walked on stilts and juggled and played frisbee, we ate both cookies and cake (because why choose?) But we also had so many amazing days before we got married and I knew that we would have even more amazing days in the years following our wedding. That is why I married Pete. Because every day is an excellent adventure. An adventure like picking up seaman at three different airports in three weeks (And getting the chance to use glitter and poster-boards for the first time in over a decade! And finally figuring out what to do with that weird little drawer in the kitchen: create a batteries & glitter drawer! Because really, that's the perfect blueprint for building an awesome life: energy & sparkles!) An adventure like wandering the streets of Virginia Beach, spotting a building labelled iFLY and wondering aloud what it is. And having a husband who doesn't give you that exasperated look that you have received so many times from others when you ask questions aloud as if the entire world is an oracle or Google. And then later when you send your husband a link to the iFLY website and a message that says "Indoor skydiving!!!!!!!!!!" he good naturedly says "So I'll get us tickets then?" AND THEN YOU GO INDOOR SKYDIVING! An adventure like waking up next to your life partner and realizing your life has far surpassed your most spectacular dreams.

Marriage is oodles and oodles of very best, happiest days.

Lyric of the moment: "I've come so far so fast. And it feels like a hundred years. Am I dreaming? Is it gonna last? I could be better still than anything I've done. I know you think you could do too. I know you think you feel it's true. It's the little things in life that I feel..." ~Big Gigantic "The Little Things"

Friday, December 2, 2016

Things I want to say to you

Hi Friend! (To those of you who just thought "Who are you weird person from the internet? We're not friends," Why are we not friends? Let's be friends!)

Infinity of thanks for being here. Infinity of thanks for being you! I'm so happy that our paths have crossed, whether on the internet or in person, on or off the trails. My life is better for having known you. That is the truest thing I know. I want to give you an epic hug. Like an almost uncomfortably long hug. But maybe that would be weird? I dunno. If I'm wrong and you want hugs, by all means come get some. Anytime! My door is always open to you. (Literally and figuratively. I am not great at remembering to lock the doors). In the meantime, here are some word hugs from me to you. I don't always say these things out loud in your direction but they are always true.   

You are awesome. There is no one else quite like you. You are the you-est person in the entire universe! Probably in the entire multiverse, if that is a thing. You are interesting. You are lovable. You are enough. The world might not always treat you as such. Sometimes some people might treat you poorly. But you should know that is on them and not you. Everyone struggles and sometimes people take out their struggles on others. It is not right, but it happens. Try not to take it personally. Keep doing the best you can at each particular moment in time and space. Assume others are doing the best they can.  

Life is unbelievably awesome. We are so lucky to have been given all this aliveness. But sometimes life is unfair and unreasonable and downright sucky. Sometimes it's hard out there for a carbon-based lifeform. My experience of life, reality and everything is different from your experience of life, reality and everything. So I don't know what it's like to run a mile in your shoes. But if you need a shoulder to cry on or a hand to hold or an ear to listen, I have two of all of those things! And if what you want is someone to just sit with you in your sad/mad/bad place for a little while so that you don't feel alone, I will do that with you. And if what you want is someone with whom to run all the miles/go on all the adventures/eat all the cookies, I will totally do that with you.

From Robot, With Love. All of it. All the love.

Monday, November 21, 2016

This Is Marriage: Days 437-441

I exit the plane and make my way into the terminal of Baltimore airport. Standing at the gate is a Seaman dressed in "Guacs," the Navy's green uniform. To say he is a sight for sore eyes is a vast understatement. As we embrace for the first time in 8 months, he says "You're my wife" and I laugh. It is true, yet I still find it unbelievable. I don't know how I got here. All I know is I want to stay.

It's almost midnight. We're in a rental car outside of the hotel on the Navy base. I've been awake since 4:45am (because I was too excited to sleep so I got up to run hill repeats under the supermoon). Pete has been awake for more than 24 hours. The Navy's hotel is full so we are calling local hotels from a list they have given Pete. This, I'm coming to realize, is the thing about the military. Sometimes you end up in some ridiculous situations. Welcome back, thanks for your service. You can't go home and you can't stay here! We are tired, we are scrambling to find somewhere to spend the night. We are laughing. It's moments like this where I fell in love with Pete. Moments when we're tired, moments when we're stressed, and we come together instead of falling apart. And we laugh. Because it's absurd. Because that's what we do.

I'm running through the Norfolk Botanical Gardens, after having dropped Pete off on base. Everything is sunny and beautiful. I don't know where I'm going, but I don't feel lost. I am exploring. I find lion statues and fountains and lakes. It is glorious. Later I am sitting in a coffee shop eating avocado toast and reading a book on happiness. I find it disappointing. Maybe it's because one of the chapters advises "Never retire" and I'm all like "Screw that, I'm retiring as soon as possible." Maybe it's because I already know my own personal happiness equation and it is this: People + Adventure + Effort = Happiness. Radiohead's "Everything In Its Right Place" is playing in the background. And I think this is happiness too: everything in its right place. Life is a crapshoot of sweetness and suckiness. The more I can be in my own "right" place, feeling at peace with myself, making the best of whatever happens, the happier I will be.

View from the Botanical Gardens


We are shopping at an outlet mall. We are eating wings and calzones (Pete) and pizza (me). We are going to the movies. We are having conversations about everything, from the mundane to the deep. We are holding hands and we are joking around. We are not the same people we were at the beginning of this year and yet we are still the same Pete and Jen, picking up our excellent adventures where we left off. We're still us, only better, stronger, individually and as a team.

I am running on the Cape Henry trail in First Landing State Park after dropping Pete off on base at Muster Time (The military calls it muster when they have to assemble, i.e. Muster at 0700 means to meet at 7am. I love saying this word. I say things like "Ketchup and Muster" and "Relish the Muster" and then laugh. This will never cease to be funny. To me at least). I stop to do the obstacles along the way - abs, chin-ups, tires, monkey bars. The woods are gorgeous, as always. And there are monkey bars along this trail! This is the best ever!

We're driving on a highway in Virginia. Basement Jaxx's "Where's Your Head At" is playing on the radio.
Me: "This song is grammatically incorrect. You're not supposed to end a sentence with a preposition."
Pete: "Can you end a sentence with a proposition?"
Me: (laughing) "Yes, always. It's recommended."

We're eating breakfast at Anchor Allie's in Virginia Beach. It's a sailor themed bar/restaurant. We are eating pumpkin french toast and I am doing a shot of milk (I asked for coffee with milk and the waitress brought the milk in a shot glass and I was all like "Now this is a shot I would actually do!" Pete is eating his breakfast plus half of mine after saying, when I was about to order my breakfast with no meat and only one egg, "Honey, never turn down food. I will eat it." and the waitress said "I'll just put her bacon and egg on your plate."

Milk shot. That's just how I roll.
We're walking on the boardwalk in Virginia Beach, talking and holding hands. I forget what we are talking about, something that I want to do but Pete doesn't. I say "How come when you suggest things I always say yes but you only say yes to like 50% of my things?" Pete says "Because you're off the wall, honey. Your things are like let's go to the moon." I cannot stop laughing. Then I see a sign pointing the way to Ben & Jerry's. This is one of my suggestions to which Pete agrees. It is an excellent choice. Obviously. Later we are talking about something else and Pete tells me I am "squared away," Navy slang for someone who is tidy and in good order, basically someone who has their shit together. That about sums me up: off the wall and squared away.

Virginia Beach

We are playing Pirate Mini-Golf. Half of the time I get a hole-in-two and half of the time I hit the ball in the water. Pete is a much better mini-golfer than I am, but he insists that I am winning. I say "There's no way I am winning." (We have already fished my ball out of the water at least 4 times). Pete says "You're having more fun so you're winning at adventuring."

We are back in the same country. Soon we will be back to living in the same house. But I have to leave soon to catch my flight back to Rochester. This is making me sad. I don't want to leave. I have a Pete in one hand and a waffle cone in the other and if there is a heaven, this is it. Pete says "You'll be back in 4 days and then we have 5 days together and then I'll be home 5 days after that." I am thinking of outlandish suggestions I can make so that more Ben & Jerry's seems tame in comparison. Mwahahahaha.

We are at Mount Trashmore Park. It doesn't look like a mountain, it looks more like a big hill. We wonder if it's just a mound of garbage with grass on it. Later Mr. Internet confirms that it is (it was made by compacting layers of solid waste and clean soil). We walk up and across the "mountain" and around the lake. A man on a bicycle is yelling "Andy! Andy!" Or so we think. Turns out he is actually saying "Handy!" Then he says "Handy Pete!" He is talking to Pete, calling him some nickname from Afghanistan that apparently only a handful of people know. That is my husband, Handy Pete.

We're at the airport, saying goodbye again. Airports are my favorite when we're saying hello and my least favorite when we're saying goodbye. But all the days I get to be married to Pete, whether we're together or apart, whether we're doing things extreme or ordinary, are my favorite days.

Marriage is the privilege of being with the person who makes all the days your favorite days.

Rochester from the sky at night


Lyric of the moment: "So let's hang an anchor from the sun. There's a million city lights but you're number one. You're the reason I'm still up at dawn, just to see your face. We'll be going strong, with the vampires baby. We belong, we belong awake, swinging from the fire escape..." ~Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness "Fire Escape" (New suggestion: swing from fire escapes. Also Ben & Jerry's).

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

So your Seaman got deployed: An adventure in 13 steps

In February, prior to Pete's deployment, we went to a pre-mobilization meeting in Virginia. I found it to be largely a waste of time. Not to mention that when I got up to use the restroom during lunch, I came back to find my half-eaten apple pie slice had been cleared away. The Navy took my Pete and my pie! To be fair, the meeting was full of earnest and lovely people. I got the impression that they wanted to be helpful. It's just that no one was offering any answers to the things I very much needed to know. Like: How do we stay happily married when we're thousands of miles apart and we are limited to electronic (monitored) communication? How do I not feel guilty going on runs and adventures while Pete is working long, hard days far away from home? How do I keep myself from automatically assuming the worst if I haven't heard from him in a few days? How do I stop feeling such profound disappointment in humanity for being at war with itself? How do we come back together at the end of all this? 

No one provided any answers to these question, so in the months that Pete was away, I set out to figure it out for myself. This is what happened and the adventures that ensued:

1. Drop your new husband (You have a husband?! This may never cease to astound you) off at the airport, not knowing when you will see him again. Cry. Experience a tornado of WTF feelings. WTF Navy? WTF humans? WTF is the point of any of this? 

2.Go to Alison's house and do intricate, infuriating, strangely soothing wooden puzzles with Alison, Danielle and Laura. Thus begins the tradition of ladies night dinner/puzzling get-togethers. As it turns out, wonderful friends, delicious plant-based foods and Liberty Puzzles are a surefire way to fill your heart with so much gratitude and happiness there is scarcely any room for sadness or worry.

3. Get two chances to go visit your Seaman in Virginia during his stateside deployment training. The trip to get there requires two planes, one rental car and one tunnel under the water. Even as you are thinking "This is why we need a teleporter," you cannot help but wonder at the magic of your life. You literally traveled through the air and under the water to get here, to spend these last few days together. You try your best to savor these moments, the zip-lining and trail running and mini golf adventures. But long weekends are never long enough. Soon you are driving away from him again, heading for the new home which you should be sharing together but cannot. The Navy did pay for the two of you to go to Busch Gardens, which was roller coaster filled and awesome, but this does not seem like a fair trade-off. 

4. Buy a banana costume from Mr. Internet. This will be the best $20 you have ever spent. Wear it to volunteer, cheer and dance at races. Because it's ridiculous. Because it's hilarious. Because you can say "I'm just happy to see you" and it is both funny and true.

5. Go on roadtrip adventures. With Chris, to run the Celebrate Life Half Marathon in Rock Hill, NY. With Alison and Bob, to run past waterfalls and through hail and to eat breakfast at the Ithaca Bakery. With Steven, to spectate at Muddy Sneaker and to cheer/tree climb in a Tigger costume. With the Eagans and Valones to Letchworth for running and rafting. With Alison, Bob, Steven, Mark and Todd to run Thom B. Trail Run in Hammond Hill State Forest (and sadly, to experience the thuds heard 'round the Gus). To Albany for solo adventures in Mike Doughty Living Room concert-going and to Saratoga Springs to hang out with Alison and Bob in their lake house rental. With Laura and Alison, to the Adirondacks for a ladies-who-adventure mountain climbing, cake eating birthday weekend. 

6. Discover the shortest, most toucan-and-awesome-filled running shorts online. Talk about them incessantly until you have formed a whole posse of toucan short-shorts wearing friends. Feel self-conscious about the extreme shortness of these shorts and wish that your ratio of squats done to cookies eaten was much, much higher. Realize that you can spend your time feeling self-conscious or you can spend your time feeling awesome. Go with awesome. Time is short. Wear the short shorts.  

7. Write ridiculous limericks and haikus and other terrible poetry. This starts as a way to fill up the emails, funny cards and weekly care packages you send to Pete, a way to occupy your racing brain with silliness instead of worry. And then it spills over into race reports and Facebook posts to friends before their big races. No worries, be happy, get limericked. 

8. Run. Run at all hours of the day and night. On trails, on roads. Dodging logs, dodging frogs. Run all the hill repeats. Run through the mud in a fancy dress at Mess The Dress. Run Cayuga Trails Marathon, a gorgeous elevation and popsicle filled romp in the woods. Run a 99 mile relay with your SWAT Team, which is not the fastest team but is most definitely the best dressed. Run an impromptu 50K at Mendon, burst into tears on your 4th ascent of water tower hill, yet somehow beat your previous time at this race by almost an hour. Run for 12 hours and 55 miles overnight, through sunset, moonrise and sunrise, until everything hurts and nothing hurts and you feel unstoppable and dead and so fucking lucky that this is your life. 

9. Use your muscles. Do push-ups and squats and bunny hops at Fit1 until it feels like your legs and arms have fallen off. Buy a chin-up bar and struggle until you are strong enough to eke out one unassisted chin-up. Keep struggling. Be grateful for your muscles. Use them well. Especially your heart. That's your very best muscle.  

10. Despite your best efforts to avoid them, have doubts. About your ability to run, to be a good friend/wife/person, to spider crawl backwards up the stairs (why is this so impossible, arms?), to produce anything edible in the kitchen. Instead of being consumed by the doubts, shrug them off. Embrace your weaknesses and gain strength through struggle. Practice the things that are hard until they become less hard. Be where you are without judging or feeling bad about it. (If you succeed in doing this on the regular, please send me your advice).

11. Feel the acute ache of absence, and the frustration at this third wheel in your marriage, let's call him "Navy," who is super good at making things inconvenient and complicated. Find yourself Googling "Weird facts about the Navy" to find things you like about your third wheel (because you don't like disliking things). Things like how MC Hammer was in the Navy before he developed his affinity for parachute pants. And how Navy Seals do not have pet seals (sadly), but they do have dogs, some of whom are trained parachutists! Then whenever you get upset by this whole deployment thing, your imagination kicks in. And in your head the Navy ceases to be this conglomeration of ships and weapons and stuff your pacifist brain doesn't want to think about. Instead it is replaced by images of puppies being parachuted in to fix everything with their adorableness while everyone dances to "U Can't Touch This." And you relax and realize that the Navy is just an organization of people (and parachuting dogs!) And (most) people are awesome (most of the time). 

12. Feel extreme gratitude for your people, the ones with kindred genes and the ones with kindred spirits. The best part of life is people. And for reasons unbeknownst to you, all the very best people have elected to be a part of yours. This is true wealth.

13. Finally, after the better part of a year, which has felt like an entire eon, travel once more by the magic of airplanes to meet your Seaman as he arrives in the US. Feel extremely grateful that you can afford to buy last minute plane tickets to make two trips to Virginia, so you can be there for his arrival in the States and return to spend Thanksgiving with him (He cannot return home home until December, after he completes all the post-deployment debriefing and what-not. Because deployment is the gift that just keeps on giving!) Hug your husband man for the first time in 8 months and feel a happiness like you have never known before. (And you have known happiness. As a kid, you had not one, but two treehouses). Though you are two airplane rides away from the house where you reside, the moment you run into his arms, you feel like this, this is home.

This is the path I blazed through this year of Pete's absence, a trail of laughter and tears and challenges and joy. So what do you do when your Seaman gets deployed? Everything. You cry until you laugh and laugh until you cry. You fill your life up with people and adventures and runs and ridiculousness. You go all extreme aliveness on that shit. And you feel like the the luckiest person in the entire universe. That you live a life of options and opportunities and experiences. That you are surrounded by amazing people who accept you for who you are, in all of your ridiculousness. That you have found a love that can go any distance. 

Picked up some Pete and some Pinkberry at the Baltimore airport


Lyric of the moment: "I'll be loving you always. With a love that's true always. When the thing you've planned needs my helping hand, I will understand always. Days may not be fair always. But that's when I'll be there, always...." ~Leonard Cohen "Always"