Thursday, June 21, 2018

Things I want to say

My heart breaks on a daily basis. There is so much suffering in the world and to witness people inflicting more suffering on each other with their words and actions and policies is overwhelmingly depressing. When I read the news or the no good, very bad internet comments, I hear that Kate Nash song playing in my head: "Why you being a dickhead for? Stop being a dickhead. Why you being a dickhead for? You're just fucking up situations." I have thought of writing that on so many posts. But I don't. Because it wouldn't make anything better, it would only make things worse. And it's kind of a dickhead move in itself. Thinking like that makes me part of the problem. Besides, what I really want to say is this:

That is a person you're talking about. 
A living, breathing person with thoughts and feelings and struggles and problems.
Just like everyone else. 
Just like you. 
It's a fallacy to think you're separate from them. 

So you don't agree with someone? Disagree with them while still seeing them as a PERSON and respecting their humanity. 
So you want to fight for change? Fight with with love and compassion, not hate and vitriol. 

When I find myself getting worked up about a post or comment I don't agree with, I remind myself to pause and breathe. I say to myself this is a person, just like me. Then I comment or I don't or I donate money. But I do whatever it is after calming myself down and removing my own ego from the equation. This is harder for me to do during live in-the-moment encounters, but I am working on that too.

There is obviously so much more that needs to be done, so many things that need to be made better for so many people. But this is something I can do every day, as a start. I'm not perfect and nothing I do is ever going to be perfect. I have a lot of strong opinions and feelings about how the world should be. Whether or not you agree with them, I care about you as a person. Whoever you are, you deserve safety and shelter and food/water and education and human rights and love. You deserve that. And so does everybody else.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

This Is Marriage: Day 1018

It's 7pm on Monday night and I'm about to head home after the radio show when I notice a missed FaceTime from Pete. I call him back and he wants to call in an order for Chinese food and have me pick it up on my way home. I don't want Chinese food. I want to go home, edit and post the radio show online, eat cold food (I dislike eating hot food when it's hot out) and go to sleep. I can tell that Pete is starting to get irritated by my lack of enthusiasm for Chinese takeout. He is telling me he just spent several hours and several trips to Home Depot to install a new antenna on the roof (we don't have cable so this is how we watch Jeopardy - the only show for which I will endure commercials). I am starting to get grumpy too, then I realize what Pete wants is not necessarily Chinese food, he's just tired and hungry and wants food to materialize with little to no effort on his part (and I'm like Dude, same. Story of my life.) So I say "How about subs instead? I'm headed home, I'll pick you up." And he agrees and we get subs and chocolate chip cookies and everyone is happy and cookie-filled.

This is a very minor example but it illustrates a point I've been trying to work on. Most of the time we want the same thing. Maybe we're not always great at saying or even knowing what it is we actually want. But if we're willing to work together, we can figure it out. Together. And then everyone is happy and gets what they need. Sometimes that's easy to do. But not all problems can be solved with subs. Not all problems can even be "solved," per se. (Of course, we are very privileged and pretty much all our problems are minor).

Because Pete and I are different people. Pete sees chipmunks digging holes in the backyard and mounts a tactical operation involving a precise vantage point and a BB gun (but apparently not any sort of crime scene cleanup plan). I find a dead chipmunk while mowing the lawn and start crying, ask Pete about it and get very upset. There are some things we are just not going to agree on (though I feel like No Murdering Things should be one of them. Or at the very least be better at hiding the bodies. It's like I'm the only one in this house who's watched all 12 seasons of Murder She Wrote. Ok, so I am. But I regret nothing. The 80s outfits, guest stars and those track suits are just beyond).  Pete wouldn't have become who he is and we probably wouldn't have met without the military/seaman part of him. I wouldn't have become who I am and we probably wouldn't have met without the bleeding heart/give-the-spiders-in-the-house-names part of me. So we're different in some ways. But everyone is. We don't always have to agree, we just have to be open to understanding each other and remember that we're on the same team (Team No Murdering Chipmunks. Maybe I need to get shirts made so it is more obvious to everyone on the team). Love isn't agreeing on everything all the time, it's fully accepting each other as we are, all that we are, whether we agree or not.

We were at a wedding a few months ago and Pete made a comment to his friend, the groom, that marriage had taught him to say "Do you need space?" At first I was a little offended, like he was insinuating that I was this terrible, difficult person to live with. But then I thought, you know, that is pretty accurate. Actually, that is exactly right. As a person, I require a lot of space. Space to be as opinionated and weird and adventurous as I am (plus at least 3/5ths of any bed). Pete loves me in a way that is spacious and expansive, not restrictive. With Pete, I get to be on a team and still be my own separate person. I don't feel like I have to shrink myself down to fit someone else's expectations of what I should be. I don't feel like I am too much. I feel like I get to be all the things I am (the good, the bad and the covered-in-poison-ivy-and-bruises).

Sometimes, especially times that involve travel or waiting in line, Pete will get very upset about some minor thing for like 10 minutes and then he's over it (and secretly I find it funny and cute so I just let him freak out while I go look something up or ask someone for help or just say "It's ok"). Sometimes I will get very stressed out (usually when I am trying to do too many things at once because it's still hard for me to say no to things) until I run or cry or eat or nap (and Pete finds it funny and cute so he just lets me work it out while giving me a hug or trying to make me laugh or saying "It's ok").

Apart, we are two imperfect people. Together, we are one hilariously imperfect team. Marriage is making space to be imperfect together (and taking turns being the one who freaks out and the one who says "It's ok").

When Pete and I disagree and I'm like "George agrees with me." And Pete is like "How come George always agrees with you? I'm going to get an animal that's always on my side." And I'm like "mwahahaha, my plan is working." Then I find a stuffed fox at a store and text a picture to Pete. This is what it's like to be married to me. 

Lyric of the moment: "All of your flaws and all of my flaws, when they have been exhumed. We'll see that we need them to be who we are. Without them we'd be doomed..." ~Bastille "Flaws"

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Adventures in France & Monaco

The guttural wails reverberated through the aisles, rendering useless my ear plugs and the over-the-counter sleep aid I'd consumed. Either there was an extremely unhappy baby on this plane or someone was staging a very convincing re-enactment of The Exorcist. This was not a normal crying baby sound. It was a relentless piercing, raspy howl, more gargoyle-like than human. Pete and I had driven to Toronto Friday afternoon for an overnight flight to Paris, where we would catch a short flight to our final destination, Nice. I had expected a long, sleepless flight. Cramped airplane seats are not conducive to quality sleep, or really any sleep for me. And especially not with this demon baby on board. But the sounds emanating from this tiny gargoyle were so bizarre that we found it more funny than irritating (plus I also felt really bad for this baby that was either in pain or just really hated air travel).

Once we arrived on Saturday at our Airbnb rental in Nice, a 3 hour car ride, 7 hour flight, 1.5 hour flight, 20 minute bus ride, 7 minute walk and 2 very overtired bodies later, it was all totally worth it. The best adventures typically require a bit of discomfort. And I love everything about France - the language, the architecture, the ease of public transportation, the fact that people bring their dogs everywhere. (Except for the prevalence of perfume and smoking, both smells that I find intolerable and give me a headache). While I really love the kind of adventure vacations that involve long runs on new-to-me trails, this was going to be more of the walking all over/taking pictures of everything because everything is so beautiful and old and amazing/eating all the bread and gelato kind of adventure. I did a few short runs along the Promenade des Anglais but mostly I walked and ate a lot of crepes and laughed and slept. And I actually really enjoyed it. Maybe I am finally learning how to rest. I might have to add some "France mode" into my running routine at home, where once a month I take a week to cut back on running, walk more and eat crepes and croissants.

We arrived in Nice on Saturday afternoon to beautiful sunny skies (Nice typically gets 300 sunny days a year! Dogs and sunshine and carbs - this is my kind of place). After a much needed nap, we walked around town towards the waterfront and ate dinner at one of the many outdoor restaurants (we ate nearly every meal outside, which was great except for when there were people smoking nearby). Seated next to us was a couple from the UK who were traveling around Europe in their sports car to celebrate the husband's 70th birthday (so cute!). Our Airbnb was perfectly located only 0.25 miles from the train station and 0.5 miles from the Mediterranean Sea so we could easily walk or take the train everywhere we wanted to go.  Basically, every day we picked a town or two to explore, then walked around finding cool things to do there.

Sunday morning we walked to the train station, grabbed some coffee, a croissant (Pete) and pain au chocolat (me) and took the train west to Cannes (you can buy a roundtrip ticket between 2 destinations, like Nice and Cannes, then get off at any of the stops in between that day). Cannes is filled with high-end designer shops and it's so fancy even the buildings have Rolexes (seriously, we saw a hotel building with a giant Rolex clock built into it).
Fancy Cannes Hotel with Rolex

Fancy Cannes Giraffe

Fancy Cannes Helicopter

We walked around for a bit, then took the train back towards Nice, stopping in Antibes. We wandered the streets, ate lunch (or actually a second breakfast since I ordered a sandwich but the waiter brought me eggs, bread and jam instead. I felt bad correcting him so I just ate the bread and jam - it was really good bread. He ended up giving our order to a couple at another table and they didn't correct him either). After lunch we checked out the Picasso museum, which I found underwhelming (but maybe that's just because I don't understand art. Pete and I joked that we couldn't tell if some of the art was done by Picasso or a 5th grader).


"All around the world statues crumble for me. Who
knows how long I've loved you..."

How is this dude's head looking at his butt. And what
is he doing with those sheep? 

We took the train back to Nice and ended up eating an overpriced fancy dinner. I never enjoy expensive food, it just never seems worth it to me. But I ignored my instincts because the menu had something called a vegan salad and I just really needed to eat some vegetables. The salad sounded and looked delicious but sadly tasted kinda meh (it was just missing something, namely flavor - which I totally realize is a very First World problem). I was just mad at myself for wasting too much money on food that I didn't really enjoy. Pete's dinner was basically 3 meatballs and a teaspoon of mashed potatoes. He also ordered a bottle of wine that he thought was a small bottle but in fact turned out to be a large bottle. But he drank the whole thing because it cost 30 Euros. After dinner we found a crepes/gelato place where Pete wanted to order both crepes and gelato. He was all "This is what happens when I drink a bottle of wine and my dinner is only 3 meatballs." And I said "So, basically you turn into me?" We ordered crepes, which turned out to be huge and delicious and then Pete decided against gelato since he needed 2 hands to eat the crepes.

Monday morning we were planning to take the train East to Ventimiglia, Italy and eat pizza for lunch. But when we arrived at the train station, we found out the workers were on strike (to protest the government's proposed labor reforms) and all stops East of Monaco had been canceled due to electrical problems. Pete looked crestfallen as he said "So I'm not going to eat pizza in Italy for lunch?" C'est la vie. Sometimes adventure requires a change in plans. So we decided to explore Nice instead, via the Hop On Hop Off Bus. First we explored the neighboring town of Villefranche-sur-Mer, including the 16th-century Saint Elme Citadel (now the site of the Town Hall), the Roux Museum (a collection of hundreds of figurines depicting Renaissance/Middle Ages life) and the Chappelle de Saint Pierre (Saint Peter, patron saint of fishermen). This was one of my favorite towns we visited during our trip. The winding stone streets and colorful old buildings were gorgeous, the ice cream was delicious and admission to everything was free. It was overcast with a 50% chance of rain all day but it only sprinkled a bit here and there. We rode on the top of the double decker Hop On Hop Off Bus all day. 


Peter in front of Saint Peter's Chapel
Roux Collection

Heading back towards metropolitan Nice, we saw LaTête Carrée, a giant square headed statue designed by Sacha Sosno and housing the offices of the municipal library (sadly, you're not allowed to go inside the head, which looks like solid stone from far away, but if you get closer you can see through to the shelves of books inside it). We also saw the 7 Statues of the Massena Square, which look like 7 people sitting on tall poles (Created by the artist Jaume Plensa and called Conversation à Nice, the statues represent the 7 continents and communication between different societies). Next we hopped off at the Matisse Museum, which I liked better than the Picasso Museum) and then later at the Promenade des Anglais along the waterfront. I picked a Mediterranean restaurant for our late lunch/early dinner and it was the best meal I ate during the trip, including the best dolmades I think I've ever eaten. 

Square Head

The 7 Statues

Delicious plate of vegetarian Mediterranean foods

Matisse Museum

On Tuesday we tried to go to Italy again, this time with great success! There was still a strike but no more electrical problems, so we made it to Ventimiglia, walked around exploring the town and Pete finally got his pizza lunch. 

Jen & ice cream

Pete & Pizza

After lunch we took the train headed back towards Nice and decided to stop at Roquebrune Cap Martin because I'd read there was a castle there. It was supposedly a 20-30 minute walk from the train station to the Château Médieval de Roquebrune (a fortified castle built in 970 bConrad the 1st, Count of Vintimiglia). Pete was initially skeptical of the climb and the route we should take, whereas I was all like "Look, you can see it way up there, this is a small town, we'll just walk uphill and find it." Pete looked up the Google Map directions, but it was basically just walk uphill and climb this really neat old stone stairway for 20 minutes. It was not a strenuous walk - I did it in flipflops, proclaiming at the top "It wouldn't be vacation if I didn't make you climb something" - and it was totally worth it. The castle was one of my favorite things we did during the whole trip, and there was hardly anyone else there. The views from the top were well worth the climb (but then again, I always think the climb is worth it). 

Castle up top

That view though

Wednesday morning we boarded a van at the train station for a day trip tour to Canyon du Verdon (Europe's biggest canyon). I had originally wanted to run the trails there, but we would have had to rent a car and also Pete isn't really very excited about running right now, so we decided to do the small group tour instead. The van drove us the 2.5 hours from Nice to the canyon, around the canyon to several scenic overlooks, and finally to the village of Moustiers Sainte Marie, where we had free time to explore. The gorges were gorgeous (more Letchworth-esque than Grand Canyon-esque). 

Moustiers was one of my favorite places we visited. I took so many pictures on this trip because everything was just so interesting and aesthetically pleasing. There's a gold star hanging from a chain over the Notre-Dame de Beauvoir chapel, high atop the village. Legend has it that the star was originally hung by the knight Bozon de Blacas after he returned from a long imprisonment by the Saracens. The star itself has been replaced several times since then. We climbed up to see the chapel (of course! another climb!), ate lunch, accidentally left our backpack at the restaurant, were nicely chased down by the waiter who returned the backpack, and checked out a few of the shops. Then it was back on the van for the return trip to Nice. 

Gold Star

Pete made a friend

Thursday we did another day tour, this one to Monaco and Eze. On the way there and back our driver/guide, Victor, stopped at some amazing scenic overlook areas. Eze was one of the towns I most wanted to visit, but I kind of wish we had just taken the train here ourselves. The tour involved a stop at Parfumerie Fragonard, which was less a tour and more of a sales pitch (at one point our perfume guide told us that everyone over the age of 25 needs this serum for their face, as if it was some epic tragedy or horrible failure to be or appear to be older than 25. I am quite content to not pay 100 Euros for a kit of face creams and serums to fix my apparently unacceptably old and flawed face). Aside from the make-you-feel-insecure-so-you-buy-our-"beauty"-products sales pitch that I did not care for, perfume gives me a terrible headache. I wish I had just asked to wander around outside instead of going on the 30 minute tour of terrible awful no good very bad smells (not the official tour title). After being released from the perfume prison (not the official name), Victor dropped us off at the part of town where cars aren't allowed and we got to explore the non-perfumy parts of Eze. Which were far better and more candy filled. 

Then we headed to Monaco, the second smallest country in the world (and one of the richest). The yachts in Monaco were several times bigger than our house. Pete was like "I've just accepted that's a life I'll never have." And I was like "That's a life I never want to have." It just seems like an empty, super expensive life to me. I'd rather be rich in friendships and non-yachting adventures. Victor drove us along the route of the Monaco Grand Prix Formula 1 race (which had just taken place earlier in the week so they were still in the process of taking down all the stands/fancy 800 Euro seats). We also went to the Monte Carlo Casino and another casino where Pete lost 20 Euro at Roulette. Casinos are not my thing because if I'm going to lose money, I like to get candy in return. 

The Prince's Palace Guard

Monte Carlo Casino

The entire country of Monaco 

Grand Prix Route

Pete & Balls

Jen & Birds

Victor dropped us off back in Nice and we took the train back to Antibes to go to a restaurant called Key West that Pete had seen on our first trip there. We wanted to see if the key lime pie from the French Key West tasted as good as the key lime pie from the Florida Key West. I'm happy to say that the pie definitely did not disappoint. And that pie is a good way to end vacation. 

That Key Lime pie though

We had a disagreement when Pete "surprised" me by upgrading our return flight from Paris to Toronto to Economy Plus. I still think it was way too much money and not really worth it, but I have to admit that the seats were very nice. We were in the first row behind the wall separating the First Class passengers and I got to sit with my feet stretched out on the wall, plus the flight attendants kept giving us things like face wipes, snacks, candy and drinks. And I really can't begrudge Pete wanting additional leg room. The man is a giant and regular plane seats aren't made for giants. (Plus we got home late Friday night and he had to get up early Saturday and Sunday morning to do his Navy Reserves work). While we were waiting to takeoff we heard a familiar raspy cry and Pete said "Is that the demon baby?" It was, though he was surprisingly less upset on this flight and I don't remember hearing his wails again after that. Though maybe I was just distracted by that Economy Plus life, laid back, sippin' on ginger ale. 

But for serious, I am living a very fortunate life and I feel infinitely grateful for the places I get to go, the things I get to do and especially the people I get to know. I spent a lot of time feeling like I had no idea what I was doing with my life. Hell, I still feel like I am failing at most things most of the time. But I got to spend a week in the French Riviera/Côte d'Azur, I get to be married to a person who says things like "I love everything about you, even when you're frustrated" (though I don't know how that could possibly be true) and I get to come home to weekend runs and weird conversations and delicious breakfasts with friends. And that is worth more than all the yachts in the world. 

Lyric of the moment: "May the best of your todays be the worst of your tomorrows. And may the road less paved be the road that you follow...Here's to the lives that you're gonna change. Here's to the infinite possible ways to love you..." ~Jason Mraz "Have it All"