Friday, January 29, 2016

This Is Marriage: Day 145

It's funny how much my life has changed since meeting Pete, and yet those changes happened so naturally, almost imperceptibly, that I sometimes have these moments where I suddenly realize whoa, everything has changed. It's usually not the big things, like moving in together or going on a honeymoon, that make me feel this way. It's the random, ordinary, basic life routine things. Like when I went to the library and realized I still had an old library card with my maiden name on it, signed in my silly 5 year old handwriting. The librarian changed my name and address on her computer, gave me a new card and asked if I wanted to keep my old card. Normally I'm a throw-out-all-the-things person. But, I hesitated for a moment. It hit me that this library card was my oldest possession (also one of my very best possessions, next to The Cheat). And one of my few remaining Jen Pratt things (other than my house, which will soon be gone as well). But I no longer need those things. I told the librarian I didn't want the old card, she cut it up and that was that. The past was a weird and wonderful place, but I've outgrown it (luckily my handwriting has also improved dramatically). Part of becoming who you are is letting go of who you used to be.

It's funny how every day I learn more about Pete but I will still never know what it is really like to be him. His perception of "blue" is different than my perception of "blue." His experience of running a mile is different than my experience of running a mile. It is such an obvious thing, yet I forget this all the time. We were laying around and I was trying to move Pete's arm so I could get up, and his arm was so freaking heavy compared to my arm that I was like "Are your bones made of lead?! Why are your arms so heavy? How do you run with those arms? Seriously how can you even hold them up? I forget that you are a giant." Then I realized whoa, our experiences are inherently different, and actually remembering this will make everything better. When we disagree about something or do something the other doesn't understand, it's not anyone's fault, we are not intentionally trying to upset each other, we're just different carbon based entities and we perceive and experience the world differently. If I'm coming from a place of curiosity and empathy rather than a place of mindless reaction, I won't be suckered into taking things personally and being offended/defensive. Maybe we can't ever really know what it feels like to be anyone else, but we can still try to understand. And just doing that is an endlessly fascinating journey.

Marriage is a series of whoa!s, great and small.

Lyric of the moment: "Let's start living dangerously...Let's lose our minds and go f*cking crazy. I keep on hoping we'll eat cake by the ocean..." ~DNCE "Cake By The Ocean" (Yes, this is an actual song. Apparently I'm not the only one who thinks cake + ocean = best day ever).

Monday, January 25, 2016


Sometimes my adventures are big, like foreign travel and ziplining and mainlining sugar.

Sometimes my adventures are small...
Like meeting Jeff and the Valones in a Lowe's parking lot to drive to all the -port towns.
And eating skittles (Thanks Todd!) in a laundry room/bathroom while waiting to cheer on a super badass runner who busted out more miles in a single day than I could ever run in a week.
And showing up to Fit1 to find that it has been cancelled (sad face!) then conspiring with Danielle and Mike to go on a ridiculous make-your-own-adventure run with random squats, push-ups and those lumberjack things thrown in (happy face, sad glutes).
And failing to make almond butter, ending up with something more like almond paste and realizing the problem was that you can't ask a Ninja to do a robot's job (we're going to need a more powerful blender).
And accepting an invitation at 8pm on Sunday night to join Chris for his 6 mile "easy" run at 5:30am on Monday (easy for him but more like a tempo run for me) that ends by going uphill on Rich's Dugway (I cannot resist a hill. The first step is recognizing you have a problem). Bonus points because, while they came thisclose to getting hit by cars, we thankfully didn't have to witness the demise of Bambi or Thumper. No animals were harmed in the making of this run.

It's not the size that makes the adventure, it's the spirit. You can find magic and hilarity in even the most seemingly ordinary of places and moments. Life is short. Find awesomeness everywhere.

Weird laundry bathroom. Still, probably not the strangest place I've eaten Skittles.

Lyric of the moment: "The time to hesitate is through. No time to wallow in the mire...Come on baby, light my fire. Come on baby, light my fire. Try to set the night on fire..." ~The Doors "Light My Fire" (No, but seriously, the pilot light went out and I need a fireplace butler).

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

When life gives you cucumbers...

Say one day you come home to find 4 cucumbers lying on your kitchen counter and your husband says to you "In case you were wondering why we have so many cucumbers, I grabbed the wrong bag at the store." And you're not really sure what to do with all these cucumbers that have wandered into your life. I mean if they were lemons, that would be easy. Everyone knows what to do when life gives you lemons, but there aren't any helpful sayings about life giving you cucumbers. Well, friends, allow me to rectify that right now.

When life gives you cucumbers...
  • Make an after work snack (which is like an after school snack but without all the homework). Basically just cut up the cucumber into slices and dip it into things that are delicious, like hummus and pineapple salsa. Bonus points if you also have crackers for dipping.

  • Ask Mr. Internet to suggest things you can do with cucumbers. Be skeptical of his assurance that you can sautĂ© them in a pan and eat them cooked and that this actually tastes good. That's like asking a cucumber to be a zucchini, which it most decidedly is not.

  • Have an epiphany: pickles! Yes, you will make pickles! Encounter a small setback when the recipe you're using calls for a 1 Liter jar and you don't have one of those. Have another epiphany when you realize you can just use a 1L Nalgene water bottle. Combine cucumber, white vinegar, sea salt and dill in said water bottle, shake and refrigerate. Check on the water bottle periodically, pretending you are cool as a cucumber but secretly being all I'm making pickles! This is some serious Little House On The Prairie type shit!

  • Stare at your remaining cucumber, trying to change it into a zucchini with your mind. Fail. Morals: You can't make a cucumber a zucchini. Most things are better sweet, but a few things, like cucumbers, are better sour. Sometimes throwing acid on something is a good idea, like if that acid is vinegar and the something is a cucumber.

Lyric of the moment: "But pickle jars are just pickle jars. And pickles are just pickles. Ingredients ... water, salt, cucumber, garlic and pickling spices. But love is the answer to a question that I've forgotten. But I know I've been asked. And the answer has got to be love..." ~Regina Spektor "Reading Time With Pickle"

Friday, January 15, 2016

Things that are awesome

  • I came home from vacation to find my car's windshield cracked and its tire pressure light flashing. I know, that does not seem very awesome. But! I went to the drive-thru Valvoline and they put air in my tires for free (Pete has a handy tool that will do this too but on vacation it was feels like 97 degrees and back home it was feels like 7 degrees and my body was like 90 degree temperature difference, does not compute, all parts frozen. So Valvoline saved me from freezing to death while trying to put air in the tires myself). But wait, the awesomeness continues! I called my insurance company and they sent someone out to install a new windshield while I was at work. For free! Plus the guy even cleaned out my car and washed all my other windows. I used to think the "You're in good hands with Allstate" was kind of a creepy slogan. But now I feel like insurance isn't totally a waste of money all the time. On occasion it comes in handy. Good hands, not creepy hands.

  • Sometimes I go to Canal Town before work to get caffeinated beverages, but mostly to eavesdrop on the old dudes who hang out there in the morning talking about the news and politics. I like their friendly curmudgeon vibe. Plus one guy brings his dog. And sometimes they are joined by an older lady who is impeccably dressed - I'm talking fancy business suits and scarves and heels that I would never even attempt to walk in. While waiting for my mostly-soymilk-with-a-hint-of-coffee drink, I was looking at the odd new artwork on display and one of the guys said "What do you think?" I said "It's...interesting." and he said "That's certainly the word for it." The other guy said "Not my taste at all." And then the barista said "I know you ordered a small but I made you a large" (she does this about a third of the time and only ever charges me for a small. I wonder what I would get if I ordered a large? A whole coffee plant?)

  • Pete said "What do you think Costa Ricans would say if we brought them to Rochester?" and I answered "Why do you live here?" No rainforest, no monkeys, and the air is so cold it hurts your face. But we do have excellent dessert and Mountain Dew, which are both severely lacking in Costa Rica.

  • The buyer's home inspector said that we had to put smoke detectors on every floor in my house (including attic and basement) and one in each bedroom. Since I have an awesome husband (who also had this week off) Pete went over there while I was at work and installed the required extra smoke detectors. So the odds of someone remaining unaware of any future fire that may occur in my house are now infinitesimally low. But all I could think was what if the new owner sets off the fire alarms while cooking and then has to deal with the shrill beeps of 7 alarms assaulting their ears simultaneously. That is enough safety to drive anyone insane.

Lyric of the moment: "Fill your heart with love today. Don't play the game of time. Things that happened in the past only happened in your mind. Forget your mind and you'll be free. The writing's on the wall. And you can know it all if you choose. Just remember lovers never lose. 'Cause they are free of thoughts unpure and of thoughts unkind. Gentleness clears the soul, love cleans the mind..." ~David Bowie "Fill Your Heart"

Monday, January 11, 2016

Honeymoon in Costa Rica

We were standing on a platform in a rainforest, in the rain. The fifty year old guy in line ahead of us was making jokes about how little kids do it and grandmas do it, trying to get me to smile. He thought that I was afraid of heights or something, that Pete had dragged me along against my will. He was wrong. Ziplining was my idea. It was the one thing I absolutely wanted to include in our honeymoon adventures in Costa Rica. I wasn't afraid, I was annoyed. At the gloves they had given us which were wet and made my hands cold. At myself for not being tan and toned and Lululemon-y and perfect. At this whole zipline thing not being the workout I had expected it to be. It was just standing in line to get to another platform, then flying down another zipline. No real effort or strength required. In other words, it was simply for fun. And I wasn't letting myself enjoy it because it was easy and I didn't feel like I'd earned it. This was our first vacation together that was just relaxing, as in not a running vacation. I'm no good at relaxation. I struggle with stillness and idleness. A young woman was half joking/half complaining that the trek up the trail and stairs to the safety briefing platform almost killed her. And there I was, the jerk being all impatient and annoyed that we were not running up a mountain and ziplining down it.

But, as so often happens in life, it turned out to be just what I needed. Somewhere in the midst of all the soaring through the trees and traversing hanging bridges in the jungle, I let go of all the things I felt like I should be and just enjoyed being who I am, someone who is lucky enough to be in this beautiful place experiencing these amazing things. And that is Costa Rica for you: it is paradise. And I don't mean paradise as in sunshine and ocean and beaches and rainforest and the best vegetarian nachos I've ever eaten, though it is all those things. It's the lifestyle of Pura Vida (pure life), which is about living a simple, peaceful life, being grateful for friends and family, realizing that life is short but we're all in it together and that, even when bad things happen, we are still lucky to have all we have.

I can't remember how we decided on Costa Rica as our honeymoon destination. We knew we wanted to escape the coldness of winter in Upstate New York and go someplace warm, but due to all of Pete's work travels, we didn't book our honeymoon until 2 weeks before our departure. The awesome folks at Adventure Life helped us book a last minute trip with a great itinerary that included a nice mix of included tours as well as free time to make our own plans.

We left home early Saturday morning and flew to Atlanta, then San Jose, Costa Rica. We checked out a nice local park near our hotel, ate some dinner and relaxed in the hot tub. (Oh, and apparently if you want to sell a house, just leave the country. I got one offer on my house on New Year's Eve and a second, higher offer as soon as I left the US.) Sunday morning, a van picked us up at the hotel and drove us to Sarchi, a little town famous for its handcrafted furniture, and then on to La Fortuna and the Arenal Volcano area. Arenal is 5,437ft high and had a major eruption in 1968, followed by a bunch of smaller, less severe eruptions between then and 2010. Now it's pretty quiet but still neat to see. The tour group stopped at the Arenal Volcano observation point, then we spent the afternoon relaxing in the hot springs at Tabacon resort, where we also ate dinner. The rest of the group went back to San Jose but first dropped us off at our hotel for the next two nights, the Arenal Paraiso Resort & Spa.

On Monday, we did a hiking tour of the Arenal Volcano with a tour guide named Pierre. The two hour tour took us through areas of rainforest, elfin forest, old lava flows and swamp around the volcano. Pierre's descriptions of the plants and wildlife were hilarious and also made me feel very fortunate to be a human and not the white orchid that only lives for one day or the spider that Pierre pointed to and said "After the love, the female eats the male." He pointed out one particular species of  tree and told us all about how slugs live in that tree and eat its leaves, how they need 7 stomachs to digest their food and how they come down to the ground once a week to "make the poo." Pete and I were both thinking what a long time it must take a slug to ooze its way down a tall tree when Pierre pulled out his guide and pointed to a picture and we suddenly realized he had been saying sloths not slugs. So yeah, it's sloths with the 7 stomachs and the once a week pooping. We did get to see a mama sloth and her baby up high in one of the trees through Pierre's binoculars but sadly it was too far away to get a good picture or to pet (I am kidding of course. I know you're not supposed to pet the nature, but I'm still hoping that somewhere there is a sloth petting zoo that I will get to visit someday).

After the hike, the van dropped us off in La Fortuna. We had driven through the town the day before on the way to Arenal and Pete had noticed a sign that said "Gringo Petes" and he got very excited and said "I'm a gringo Pete!" We thought it was a restaurant or bar and Pete wanted to eat there, but it turned out to be some dude's house with a sign that said "Gringo Petes' Bed & Breakfast: You Make Both." Yes, Petes' not Pete's, so either there are multiple Petes or there is one Pete who hopefully is better at bed & breakfast owning than he is at punctuation.

I ate lunch in La Fortuna with my gringo Pete, then we took a taxi back to our hotel. I had seen a sign on the hotel property that said "Sendara La Catarata" which I thought meant that there was a trail to a waterfall. It was next to another sign that said "Dear Guest, hike at your own risk." Which is an invitation if ever I saw one.

So of course we followed the trail through the rainforest. It was muddy in places and started getting very steep, so we hiked back up and took the other way down which was a little less steep but still a bit precarious. We followed the trail all the way down and ended up at the river. We didn't find any waterfalls but we did get sweaty and muddy. As we made our way back up the trail and to our hotel room (which was like our own little cabin!), it started to rain, which felt great. After we got cleaned up, we ate dinner in the hotel restaurant and then relaxed in the hotel's hotsprings for a bit. Any  hotel with hotsprings on the property is my kind of place! Plus, each day they left increasingly elaborate towel sculptures in our room. The first day it was two swans kissing and the second day they fashioned the towels into a basket shape and put Pete's razor and nail clippers inside.

Tuesday morning, we made our way through the cloud forests to Monteverde by van-boat-van. It was raining. The roads were narrow, winding and bumpy. I don't think there is a more iconic travel experience than the cramped, jostling bus ride. That's how you know you are going someplace worth going. We checked in to the Monteverde Country Lodge. On our way there, I had seen a billboard sign for Don Juan's coffee, chocolate and sugarcane tour and since we had a free afternoon, we decided to go there. The tour was really neat and we got to see how the coffee is grown, harvested and processed. Our guide, Junior, also gave us samples of coffee, artisanal chocolate and shots of freshly squeezed sugarcane juice (Pete did 3 shots, I did 4!). I have never had much of a taste for coffee. I find it all very bitter and can only drink it if it's mixed with half milk, chocolate milk or hot chocolate. As it turns out, I don't dislike coffee, I'm just like a coffee snob or something. We got to taste a high quality light roast coffee made from 100% Arabica coffee beans and it was delicious - slightly sweet and not bitter at all.

Our hotel in Monteverde had an awesome courtyard with stone staircases that were just begging to be bunny hopped up and spider crawled down (with pushups at the top and bottom!), so I did my own mini Fit1 there early Wednesday morning. Then we did the zipline and hanging bridges.

It rained pretty much the entire time we were at the zipline place, but once we got back to the hotel it was sunny so we walked into town, where we ate lunch at the Treehouse Café, one of the top 10 most bizarre restaurants (according to the sign out front).

Eating pizza in a treehouse was a dream come true, even though as I feared, the pizza was not very good. The tree and the experience were most excellent though. And every other meal we ate in Costa Rica was fantastic. Both nights in Monteverde, there were wind and rainstorms all through the night. It was awesome! But the weather there was also the coldest, though it was still far warmer than home.

Thursday  morning, a van picked us up for the 3.5 hour ride to Quepos and Manuel Antonio. The views were spectacular, ranging from volcanic mountains to crocodiles to palm trees and ocean views. 

We checked into the Playa Espadilla, which was conveniently located within walking distance to Manuel Antonio National Park and the beach. We ate lunch at Las Gemelas, looking out at the ocean and eating the aforementioned amazing vegetarian nachos (most nachos without meat are just chips with cheese and a few jalapenos but these nachos had actual vegetables on them! It was an exciting day in the life of my mouth, for sure). And sweating profusely. It was 85 degrees, feels like 97! Later we swam in the hotel pool and ate dinner. 

Friday we went white water rafting on the Saverge River. It was hot and sunny and we got soaking wet, which was awesome. It was another bumpy van ride on winding dirt/rock roads with signs along the way that said "Don't worry, you're not lost," then later "The bad road ends" and "Good times begin." Which is as true of the road as it is of life. The rafting company, Amigos Del Rio, fed us a delicious breakfast beforehand and a delicious lunch afterwards. Pete and I spent the afternoon on the beach and in the ocean, then ate dinner in town. The restaurant had an appetizer called "Mad Potatoes" so of course I had to find out what that was all about. I mean, are the potatoes mad as in angry or mad as in scientist? They were tasty but I think they should be called bad potatoes because I had bad dreams that night. Still worth it though.

Saturday morning Pete and I hiked in Manuel Antonio National Park. There are options to pay more for guided tours but you can also just pay the $16 entrance fee and do your own thing, which we did. What you cannot do is bring Pringles or Lucky Strikes cigarettes into the park, a fact we learned as we saw them being confiscated from the couple ahead of us in line. The park was amazing! We hiked to two different beaches and saw tons of monkeys!!! 

Saturday afternoon, we went on a boat cruise with Dolphin Planet, where we swam, Pete snorkled, we both jumped off the top deck of the boat into the water and I went down the boat's waterslide! The presence of a waterslide made up for the fact that the food they served on the boat was fish kebobs, which I did not eat. I did drink pineapple juice and that was good. 

Pete and I had a wonderful time in Costa Rica. We didn't take many pictures, we just enjoyed spending time together and relaxing. I would love to go back someday and spend more time in Manuel Antonio. It was my favorite of all the places we stayed, because the beds were the softest and it was the warmest, beachiest and most monkey filled. This was my second trip with Adventure Life Tours (Emelyn and I went to the Galapagos Islands through them in 2010) and I would highly recommend them. The only downside to Costa Rica is that, while the food is excellent, the dessert is pretty terrible. Even the helados (ice cream) is no good. But hey, any place I can zipline through the rainforest and run barefoot on the beach (in January!) and eat all the rice, beans, plantains, guacamole and chips is my kind of place. And the guy who will go on any adventure with me, whether it's hiking at our own risk or jumping off boats or doing shots of sugarcane, is my kind of husband. 

Lyric of the moment: "Change your heart, look around you. Change your heart, it will astound you. I need your loving like the sunshine. And everybody's gotta learn sometime." ~Beck "Everybody's gotta learn sometime"

Saturday, January 2, 2016

This Is Marriage: Day 118

I was browsing the magazines at Barnes & Noble and I noticed that all the ones I liked, those about science,  the outdoors, puppies, and those with ridiculously ripped shirtless dudes on their covers, were in a section titled "Men's Interest." So I glanced over at the "Women's Interest" section, which consisted primarily of bridal and weight loss magazines. Apparently Barnes & Noble doesn't comprehend that possessing ovaries and an interest in science are not mutually exclusive. And seriously, puppies? Why are puppies considered "Men's Interest?" Puppies are a universal interest. Also, how did I not know there was a magazine about puppies?!

I don't understand why the concept of gender roles even exists. Why can't we just like the things we like and do the things we want to do? Why do those things have to be arbitrarily categorized as masculine or feminine?

I'm married and my name has changed but I'm still the same person. Except at times I feel the pressure of this concept of "marriage," with all its implicit cultural and stereotypical expectations. And the fear of failing to live up to those expectations. Then I remember that I can simply choose to opt out of all that shit. I don't have to be anyone's notion of what a woman or a wife should be. We don't have to be anyone else's idea of what a marriage should be. We can just be who we are and our marriage can be whatever we want it to be.

What I want to be is a partner in the truest sense of the word. I want to contribute to all areas of our relationship and life. The other night I made dinner (it was sesame tofu because that's my favorite Chinese takeout order and I wanted to try making it myself. It was broccoli filled and delicious.) On New Year's Day, Pete made breakfast sandwiches while I was getting muscles at Fit1 and pizza plus roasted potatoes and beets for dinner. (Somehow no matter who cooks, I end up doing the dishes. But I like doing the dishes. Also Pete thinks it's perfectly acceptable to use a pan and then put it back in the cupboard,  unwashed. Yes, that is a thing that happened.) We also put new insulation in the basement (That was all Pete's idea. My idea was to take a nap. But making the house warmer is also an idea I can get on board with).

Marriage, like life, can be anything you make it. Make it awesome. (Like coincidentally spending your 118th day of marriage in room 118 at a hotel in Costa Rica!)

Lyric of the moment: "What I used to be will pass away and then you'll see. That all I want now is happiness for you and me..." ~ Elliott Smith "Happiness"