Monday, September 26, 2016

Autumn Adventures

There are some things in life you can't control. Like the weather. (Unless you are a superhero or supervillain with weather controlling powers. In which case, please be my friend and make it sunny and warm 80% of the time). If you don't like the current weather, you can complain about it. (In which case, do so in a way that is amusing and not annoying). Or you can find ways to enjoy it until it changes. Which, if you live in Rochester, could happen any minute. I am happier when I focus on the things I like about something rather than the things I dislike. As for Autumn, other than not being Summer, there are a lot of things to like:

  • Those sunny, 60 degree days are perfect for running and adventuring. This past Saturday was the epitome of a most excellent fall day, perfect for going on Autumnal Adventures with Alison. Including: an 18 mile trail run at Mendon, the most underwhelming 2nd birthday ever (The vendor market to celebrate Hart's Local Grocer's 2nd birthday. It was mostly just samples of beer and hard cider. And there wasn't even any cake. They did, however have samples of the phenomenon known as "tomato jam," which was quite delicious), getting honeycrisp apples and apple frosts at Schutt's Apple Mill, going to Art House Day at The Little and trying to convince John that beets are delicious (he remains unconvinced). 
  • For some reason, it's the only season that has two names, Autumn and Fall. Maybe one of them is an alias! Because Autumn is a spy! Mystery and intrigue!
  • Wearing sweaters and hoodies but no coats! My favorite fall days are the ones where you can wear shorts and a sweater or hoodie, but pants and sweater days are nice too. See also: still being able to wear sandals. And those moccasin-like shoes that are basically slippers you can wear outside.
  • It is super dark in the mornings! Which does not seem like much of a plus. Except that you can totally feel like a ninja while running! But be a ninja with a headlamp unless you want to trip and fall. (Falling is a very literal way to experience Fall. Not recommended, due to problems like gravity being a real downer.)
  • Roasted vegetables! I don't like using the oven when it's 90 degrees out. Who am I kidding, I don't like using the oven at all. But I do like eating roasted vegetables and I do not have a personal chef. I am working on getting The Cheat to be my personal chef, but he remains unconvinced. 

  • Did I mention roasted vegetables? I bought a white eggplant from the Farmer's Market. It probably has some official name but I decided to call it Ghost Eggplant. Then my brain exclaimed What if it was a boat?! Filled with pizza?! Ghost Boat Pizzas!! And the captain said Make it so!

Ghost pizza boats taste way better than this picture makes them look.
I am much better at eating food than cooking or photographing it. 

  • The expression to be in the autumn of one's life means a time of full maturity. So Autumn is prime time for some good ole adulting. Like finally getting around to digging out that now giant weed that is growing from your neighbor's yard through your fence. So you get a shovel and start digging away. Then your neighbor comes out of his house because technically you are trespassing on his property and you're all like Sorry, I am massacring your yard, I am trying to get rid of this weed. And then he comes back with a pick ax and helps you and says I didn't like it either. And you have yet another reason to love your neighborhood. 
  • Saving the best for last: the colder and darker the days get, the closer we are to Pete's return home! Cold days are better if you have a manheater!
Lyric of the moment: "But I miss you most of all my darling, when autumn leaves start to fall..." ~Eva Cassidy "Autumn Leaves"

Friday, September 23, 2016

This Is Marriage: Day 383

I arrived home last night to find a large black box on our doorstep, a package of Pete's things he no longer needs overseas. I carried it inside and down to the basement. It was heavy. Fitting I suppose. This year is heavy. The box had a lock on it, but Pete had given me the combination. I could have opened it but I didn't. What's inside is just stuff, and I didn't want it to be Pete's stuff, I wanted it to be Pete. The box was not big or heavy enough for that to be true. Also, there were no air holes.

In this house, I'm surrounded by Pete's stuff. Their presence amplifies his absence. So much so that I avoid his closet at all costs. The closet is full of his clothes, it smells like him. If I go near it, I will cry. I want more than this evidence of his having once been here, these faint traces of his molecules. I want all of his atoms to be here, uniquely assembled in the way that makes up his Peteness - those arms, that laugh, those jokes.

I put the black box of Not Pete in the basement. Then I did a HIIT workout video I found on The YouTube. So the sad feels would seep out through sweat and not sobs. And because, even though I fear it is a hopeless cause, I still want to have muscles. Sometimes life is heavy. If you have muscles, you can carry the heavy things.

Over the weekend I Skyped with Pete and it was the first time I'd seen his face in over a month. It was the best. Well, second best. The best will be seeing him in person in about a month and a half. In that moment I realized my definition of home has been forever changed. Home is not this house, this stuff. Home is no longer even a place, it is a face, an embrace.

Marriage is spending your life with the face that you call home.

Lyric of the moment: "Home, let me come home. Home is wherever I'm with you..." ~Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros "Home" 

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Things I learned whilst making sweet potato toast

Mr. Internet told me that sweet potatoes can be made into toast. Like most things on the internet, this turned out to be half true. You can in fact cut a sweet potato into bread-sized slices, put them in a toaster oven, then add toppings. But the result, while delicious, will not be toast. The recipe for toast is:

Bread + Toasting Device = Toast

There are few certainties in life but this is one of them.

Not Bread + Toasting Device = Not Toast

Sweet Potato = Not Bread


Sweet Potato + Toasting Device = Not Toast

Don't get me wrong, sweet potatoes are great. As it turns out, they also make convenient slabs capable of delivering other foods into your mouth. While they can approximate the requisite crispiness, sweet potatoes are lacking in breadness, the very essence of toast, therefore they can only ever be a pale imitation at best.

Last night I made sweet potato "toasts" for dinner and topped one with almond butter, one with a fried egg and one with applesauce and cinnamon. There are a lot of other topping options I'd imagine would be just as good, but those happened to be on the ones I had in the kitchen at the time. I ate them with a side of pickled beets (because sweets and beets are good eats).

Then I made actual bread toast with almond butter and ate that too. Because it's fun to branch out and try new things but at the end of the day, just be who you are. If you're a sweet potato, be a sweet potato. Be the best sweet potato you can be. Don't try to be toast. Like my second favorite sailor man said, "I yam what I yam and that's all what I yam."

I'll probably make sweet potato toast again. It was quite scrumptious. And I'm all for foods that can be eaten sans utensils. But I will call it something else, sweet potato slabs or crisps or whatnots. Probably whatnots. Because I just want things to be as they are. Whatever they are, the weird, the wonderful, all of it. I crave honesty and authenticity. I don't want a life of pretense. I have no interest in superficial relationships. I want a life rich in experiences and balls deep in friendships. Don't give me a tuber and tell me it's bread. Come as you are and let's toast to that.

Lyric of the moment: "Come with fear, come with love. Come however you are. Just come, come alone. Come with friends, come with foes. Come however you are, just come. Come, come along. Come with sorrows and songs. Come, let yourself be wrong. Come however you are, just come..." ~Damien Rice "Trusty and True"

Thursday, September 15, 2016

The heart is a muscle

I got out of bed this morning and felt strangely off balance. My legs were unsteady, as if one was longer than the other or they were a brand new pair I hadn't yet figured out how to use. It took a few steps for my legs to settle back into themselves. I think it was the result of the massage I'd gotten the day before. My right quad and hamstring had been so much tighter than my left for so long that my body had adapted to it. Once Strat worked everything out and loosened the right side up again, it was like getting brand new legs. How amazing is that? Just a little loosening in the muscle, a bit of readjustment and BAM! I was standing on two relaxed, renewed, raring-to-go legs.

Muscles are incredible in their ability for transformation, to grow bigger and stronger through exercise, to improve in functionality and efficiency through use. The heart is a muscle. The brain behaves as a muscle, in its capacity for plasticity and growth. They too can be transformed, through the exercise of empathy, compassion and critical thinking.

I often struggle to respond to instances of hatred, ignorance and intolerance on social media and in people's words and actions. In those words and actions I see unhappy, suffering people. I wish I could find the words that would ease their suffering, that could possibly loosen up their hearts and minds, that would maybe prompt a change in perspective, that would maybe ripple outward into a paradigm shift, away from fear and towards love. Because that's what hate is - it's just the outward expression of inner fear, hurt and insecurity. Happy, self-actualized people are filled with love, not hate. They don't feel the need to blame other people for their problems or partake in Us vs. Them mentalities to feel superior over others. They can see the reality of the world, the inherent beauty and the inherent suffering. They recognize and appreciate the advantages they have been given and work to build others up instead of pushing them down.

I'm not religious. I don't think there is one book of stories that is the "right" one. I don't have the answers to the universe and all things. To me, the purpose, the meaning of life is this: work hard, love hard, play hard. Work. Put in the effort, into your life, your relationships, your community. Struggle through the challenges, the discomfort, your demons. Do the work and let it make you stronger, more compassionate. Love. As unconditionally as you can, as many people as you can. Love yourself, your life, your fellow carbon based lifeforms, your environment. Play. Be silly, laugh. Don't take life too seriously. Or too personally.

Work hard, love hard, play hard. Use those muscles as much as you can. Especially that heart. It's your very best muscle.

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

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Happiness and sweetness and imperturbability

My baseline happiness has always been pretty high. I'm lucky to have been programmed that way. But in recent years, my happiness has skyrocketed to previously unfathomable heights. To be sure, a lot of that is due to exceedingly good fortune and privilege. I have the luxury of being able to not sweat the small stuff and of having been largely untouched by the big stuff. But part of it is that the older I get, the more imperturbable I've become. Maybe it's some kind of inner peace or self-possession. Or maybe it's just that my ego has left the building, chased off by my inner Dude. The ego frets, whereas the Dude abides. So there's just not much that bothers, upsets or embarrasses me anymore. Maybe I've just grown into myself. Maybe I just realized that my time here is finite, that there is so much I want to see and do, so many people I want to know, and I am running out of time in which to do it all. So I want to spend more of that time caring about people and less time caring about what people think of me. Maybe I've filled my life up with so much love and adventure that there is no more room for self-consciousness or worry. My life is rich in relationships and experiences. And that is true wealth. Maybe it is some combination of all those things.

I'm not sure how it happened. It still catches me by surprise sometimes:

Like when Alison, Laura and I went Extreme SUPing with Jude and Sherry and it was so windy and choppy that I fell off the paddleboard (twice!) and instead of being embarrassed by my total lack of skill and grace, I was delighted by the adventure, the sunshine, the warmth of the bay. Actually, I think falling in the water was the best (and funniest) part of the whole adventure.

Like when Pete says he is going to call or Skype video me later and then sometimes he's unable to do that and my brain is all meh, it's probably not about you instead of what if he just doesn't want to talk to you because no one likes you and you're the worst at everything ever!?! And sure enough, later on he'll tell me that comms were down or they couldn't get a flight back to base that day or offer some other perfectly logical and totally-not-about-me explanation.

Like when I decided to give up dessert for the month of September to tame my voracious sweet tooth and I thought it would be difficult but it turned out to be surprisingly easy. Then Steven and I were having a conversation about diet and sugar's effects on the body and he asked me if I noticed any irritability or mood changes and I said I felt just as happy without dessert as with it. And I realized it's not sugar that makes my life sweet. Being here, this aliveness, is the ultimate sweetness.

So my friends, be sweet on each other. Be the smart and tough cookies you are. Share your slice of the pie. It's a piece of cake. The proof is in the pudding.

Lyric of the moment: "Make a list of things you need, leave it empty. Except for number one, write "love, gamble everything...If you gamble everything for love, you're gonna be alright, alright." ~Ben Lee "Gamble Everything For Love"

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

This Is Marriage: Day 365

Today is our first wedding anniversary. We've been married for a whole year. I guess it's safe to assume this is probably real. It seems like way too long for it to have been just a dream. So far marriage has been the best ever. Even though life thought it would be such a funny punchline to make us spend most of our first year of marriage 6 kajillion miles apart (approximately). A few weeks ago Pete asked me what I wanted for our anniversary. (In hindsight, I wish I'd said "A treehouse.") But at the time, I suggested that we do something to celebrate when he gets home. So Pete sent me a card with a plan for our anniversary adventure day. And of course it is totally and perfectly us.

I sent him a package of cookies from Get Caked, where we got our wedding cake and cookies, and another package with dark chocolate. Eating a piece of your wedding cake on your first anniversary is one of the few traditions I agree with. Though I had no way of sending still edible and not smushed cake to Afghanistan, so cookies and chocolate would have to do. In one of the cards I wrote, "I think we need a treehouse and a giant bear statue for our backyard. What do you think? Eat this chocolate if you agree!" Yesterday, while I was on an epic Tramily roadtrip adventure to Fillmore Glen Park with Danielle, Laura, Alison, Bob, Steven, Todd, Mort and Brooke, I got a message from Pete that said "I think we are getting a treehouse and bear to guard it because I was eating chocolate while reading your funny card." Score!

I had an epic holiday weekend, capped off by a fabulous Labor Day filled with friends, funny conversations, a 15.5 mile trail run, waterfalls, hills, legit fancy picnic-ing, hiking and sunshine. The only thing that could have made it better was if Pete had been there too. Or if he was off having fantastic adventures of his own instead of being sleep deprived and stressed out. I could tolerate the separation so much better if I knew Pete was happy to be there. Still, he makes the best of every situation. I totally love that about him. He is quite impressive in every way. Today when he called to wish me a happy anniversary, he deadpanned "Is it how you imagined it would be?" I laughed. He laughed. Because that is what we do. Obviously this is not the anniversary that either of us would have wanted. But marriage is not about everything always turning out how you want. It's taking all the random crap and nonsense and sweetness and suckiness that life throws at you and making it into the most awesome sauce, together.

I feel like a broken record for always saying this but it's true. I am the luckiest. To have Pete in my life. And such a supportive and loving community surrounding us. Cheers to many more years of laughing and adventuring, through happy times and hard times. And to getting that treehouse!

Marriage is a sundae topped with awesome sauce in a fancy treehouse.

Lyric of the moment: "If the sun refused to shine, I would still be loving you. When mountains crumble to the sea, there will still be you and me...And so today, my world it smiles. Your hand in mine, we walk the miles..." ~Led Zeppelin "Thank You"

Sunday, September 4, 2016

This Is Happily Ever After

Just this weekend alone, there have been so many times where I almost cried, moments where I thought damn it feels good to be alive, I am so happy this is my life. Sometimes I wonder how I got here. But deep down I know. I got lucky. And I struggled. I wrestled with the Doubts, the feelings of being Not Good Enough. I wrestle with them still. Yet I kept going. I keep going. Because I've learned that my life can be whatever I want it to be. I can sit around bemoaning my not enough-ness. Or I can go forth and be ridiculous and adventurous and awesome. And the latter is much more fun.

Friday night, Alison, Bob, Danielle, Laura, Jon and I piled into Gus and went to the Pultneyville Grill to eat dinner and listen to Dan's band and watch the sunset over the water on our way home. I even ate a mushroom (Because the point of an adventurous life is to experience things, even things that may turn out to be gross and fungus-y. Because you might be pleasantly surprised, or at least not horrified, to find that those things are actually goat cheesy and not entirely awful). And I felt so happy I almost cried.

Early Saturday morning, I tried to run hills at Cobbs Hill. My brain was all for it but my body, unaccustomed to going without the near constant stream of sugar with which I usually supply it, was like Woman, where is the good stuff? What sorcery is this? (Since I am apparently incapable of taking any time off from running, I have decided to focus hardcore on nutrition, active recovery and strength. So I am saying sayonara to sweets for September and instead ingesting epic amounts of vegetables, fruits and vegetarian proteins.) I asked a lot of my body this year and it delivered far beyond my wildest expectations. So if it needs to be a little slower right now, I'm just going to let it do its thing and not get all judgy and frustrated at it. Hills were not happening on Saturday. Well some hills happened, but not as many as I wanted. I switched to running flats, then came back and tried for more hills. Still no. I abandoned the hills and went back to flats. My body still felt fatigued. But the view was incredible so I ran back to my car to grab my phone and take a picture. As I was heading back uphill to take a picture, I passed a guy who said "I saw your 50K sticker. What races have you done?" So we got to talking about ultras while his cute dog jumped all over me. He told me about how he did Bull Run and was really dragging at mile 37, but they had Coke and Jack Daniels at the aid station and, even though he doesn't usually drink either of those things, he thought what the hell and took some, then felt so good he had negative splits the last 13 miles. And then I kept running and felt suddenly energized. It was a beautiful morning and I felt so happy I almost cried.

Then I went with Alison and Bob to the Ossian Mountain Run and danced in a banana costume while watching friends run up and down ski hills super fast. An old guy who I think worked at the ski resort asked me why I was dressed like a banana and I couldn't really explain it other than to say "It makes people smile." Maybe that is not even true, but it makes me smile. I just want the world to be a funnier and happier place. That afternoon, Amy told me that one of the kids asked if I'm bringing the banana costume to Valone's party. I wasn't planning on it but it seemed like an excellent idea so I did. As we were hula hooping in Valone's backyard, I told Dan and Amy's son he was welcome to wear the costume if he wanted. Later, I laughed watching him wear the banana costume while hooping with 3 hoops. Amy told me he said "I was meant to be a banana." I thought of the little bee girl in Blind Melon's No Rain video. She doesn't seem to fit in anywhere, but she just keeps dancing in that bee costume until she stumbles upon a field of other bee people and then they all dance together. And maybe that's the secret. Be(e) yourself. Unapologetically. Don't change yourself in order to conform or shrink yourself down to fit someone else's idea of how you should be.You will find your way, you will find your tribe. You will end up at a party surrounded by lots of your favorite people, having weird and wonderful conversations and eating delicious tempeh empanadas (Thanks Jennstavo!). Then Amber will hand you an anniversary card that everyone at the party has signed. And you will feel an ache in your heart at not being able to spend your first wedding anniversary with your absolute favorite husband/person. And yet, you will look around and realize you are surrounded by love. And you will feel so happy you could cry. 

Because this is happily ever after: a whirlwind of uncertainty, challenge, awesomeness and epic adventure. I hope we keep dancing together through all of it.

Lyric of the moment: "Like a river flows surely to the sea. Darling so it goes, some things are meant to be. Take my hand, take my whole life too. For I can't help falling in love with you..." ~Elvis Presley "Can't Help Falling In Love"