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.