Transitions

When people ask, “How do you do it?!” while shaking their heads in wonder, I typically answer something to the effect of “We do what we have to do,” or “Home is where the military sends us, so we make the best of it,” or something along those lines. It’s heartwarming to have lived in many parts of the country and to have friends in nearly every state – even around the world. Overall, it makes for a global mindset having lived in many places.

While all of that is true, what is also true is that I’m really tired. I’m tired of moving. I’m tired of making friends just to have to pick up and leave when it’s getting past the initial getting-to-know-you phase. I’m tired of knowing that when I set up the next house, I will silently sigh and think to myself as I do every move, “Seems silly to hang these pictures only to take them down again in what will feel like the blink of an eye.” Or “Why bother painting when we will have to paint it all back to off-white when we leave?” I want to plant a garden and harvest for more than 2 seasons. I want to be the one to stay.

I’ve had dreams where I’ve been drinking – and enjoying it. Upon waking, I’m relieved and grateful that it was only my subconsious and that my 2.5 years are still very much intact. The handful of times where I drink in dreamland is where there is extra stress….and moving? Yup. No question.

The move here was overshadowed by the homecoming phase of Eric’s return. This time is a little different in that it’s harder on the kids. They don’t remember a lot of Washington so to them it feels like another new place. There’s an edge of unease, despite reassurances. We’ll get there, but for now we are in the transitional uncomfortable.

This time we will be moving back. Back to where we met, back to my home state. My family will be there. I already know the layout of the commissary and where the good off-base groceries are. I know how to navigate the town, and surrounding areas. I envision hiking with the dogs in my favorite locations and cannot wait to show the kiddos all the places they used to roam but were too young to remember specifics. I cannot wait to see our friends and family. Despite the rain of the pacific northwest, or rather because of it, there is incredible beauty in that part of the country. The air will be crisp, and we will arrive just in time for the holidays. After 1-season-year-round California, the change will be welcomed.

As I look around at the curtainless windows, the sea of boxes and familiar red tape gun securing our earthly possessions for another move, it feels like it’s number 359 although it’s actually our 12th in 18 years. “We are almost to the end,” I remind myself, resolutely. This phase of active duty will come to a close in a few more years and the moving will cease to be our normal. We will plant that garden, we’ll buy a home and the kids will finish school in one location. “Just a little further,” my mind tells me, borrowing the oft-used mental methods of running long distances.

Just a little further.

Picking Up Chicks

The military has afforded us the opportunity to make some incredible friends. INCREDIBLE. Friends who I cried for as we or they moved on to the next adventure. Friends who I still chat with via social media and text, and yes, even by phone. There have also been what I call “friend fails”. Those would be the people you find out much too late are just either not compatible or are flat out crazy, but slipped under the craydar (crazy radar).

I’ve pondered the wonder that is making adult friends many times, but I have to say – California is a world unto its own. How the heck do you make mom friends when you move every three years? One word about being in the military sends many potentials running for the hills, even in a military town. Why invest when you’re just gonna move away? I get it. How do you make adult friends when your kids are older than all the toddlers running around the playground…and you don’t drink….annnnnnd you are kind of an introvert?

I met one mom at school orientation. She seemed nice and the kids hit it off. She told me many great places to eat in the area and some of the local hot spots. The secrets to navigating traffic timing were shared. We saw each other at a couple of functions. It was nice, all happening organically and not too fast (wouldn’t want to rush into anything too quickly). Then I bumped into her at a store and noticed what could have been a bit of powdered donut residue just around a nostril. Or it could have been some not-blended face powder. But….it seemed to be something else entirely based on observed behavior. It was also 8:30 am. Super awkward. Not my scene.

The second day of school I was approached blindsided by a mom of a student in my son’s class at the crosswalk. “HI! I noticed your son is in my son’s class! My name is June and this is my husband Mark. You are? And are you new to the area? Oh! You’re military! So you live right here!? No? Oh, you are on the waitlist. I see. And how long are you going to be here for? Andallthe500otherquestions.” I had no idea you could interrogate someone at a crosswalk and ask that many question in the time it takes for the stoplight to cycle through 1 time. I had to sit in my car for 3 minutes sipping my coffee to digest that entirely one-sided conversation. Who does that?!

Over the summer I chatted with a nice mom at the playground in our neighborhood. She had just moved in so we were commiserating on the challenges of relocating and being in the thick of the cardboard ocean. Against my better judgement, we exchanged numbers. I haven’t heard a word from her since. Today I got a text asking how I was, and what I was up to this Saturday. It had been so long, I had to think for 10 minutes about who the heck this person was. Once I realized it was a ghost from summer past, I responded, and she then invited me to a “business opportunity” to make residual income. Obviously I need to trust my instincts. A month and a half and no word. Then boom – besties who are going into business together?! Uhhh, no. Lose my number thankyouverymuch.

Not so shockingly, Hannah has made many friends already, being the ray of sunshine that she is. (Come to think of it, Hannah might one day be the crosswalk interviewer!) She came running up to me after school last week, breathless, “MOM! My friend’s mom wants to meet you!! Come quick!”

Me: “Sure!” I say brightly! With lots! of! exclamation! points! and! fake! smiles!

Sigh.

Turning the corner I walk in the room and see a woman who is everything I am not. She literally looks like she stepped out of Vogue. I tower over her because of course she is the size of a child. I could hip check her and she’d bounce half a mile. “Hi! I’m Hannah’s mom,” I introduce myself and try not to crush the limp Barbie-esque hand she extends. Picture Real Housewives. Or Stepford Wives.

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Friend’s Mom gushes: “Oh it’s such a pleasure to finally meet you! Hannah has told me so much about you!”

Me: Blinking. ***Crickets***  ‘Finally’ meet me? School has only been in for a week and a half! What the heck has my child told her? Oh I’m sure I’m under the bus. Waaayyyy under that bus.

Friend’s Mom continues in her sing-song voice, “My daughter has been raving about how wonderful Hannah is and I was so hoping she’d find someone to be her BFF! They seem to be a perfect match! Let’s meet at the park tomorrow if you’re free to have a playdate!”

Me: Still blinking. This is all happening way too fast. Her voice is seriously like a character on SNL. (Yes, the Californians. EXACTLY like that. For real.) “Okay, that would be lovely,” I reply, continuing the ruse that I am, in fact, a functioning adult and am not panicking inside that I will have to make small talk with a stranger to whom my daughter has no doubt told our entire life story.

The following day Hannah can hardly contain her excitement. We meet up at the playground and the kids play. We chat. Lots of talk of GMOs and healthy eating. She insists that I must try a nut bar she just purchased. She laments that her “household help” that has been with her family for over two decades has suddenly moved away. “I’m simply overtaxed with committees and volunteer work – I just don’t know what I’ll do!” She asks if I have a cleaning person. I respond with the “I’m a do-it-yourselfer”-type. She tells me that I “simply must come by the house for another play date some time.” When my daughter sees this person’s beach front property, boat and hired help, she’s never going to want to come home!

I try to be an optimist/”bloom where you’re planted”/make the best of all the duty stations sort of approach to life in the military. Some are better than others, but after my track record so far, I’m just not holding my breath. I feel like I’m being Punk’d. I couldn’t make this up if I tried.

Recreational drug use, check.

Crosswalk interrogator, check.

Untethered to reality, check.

Pyramid/ponzi schemer, check, check, check.

As the saying goes, ‘I think the more people I meet, the more I like my dogs’. Based on what we’ve seen so far, if I’m friend-single this time around, I think I’ll be okay with that!

Resilience

We always say it’s not going to happen. We’ll be there for each other, even after they move. Or we move. Or we both are flung to opposite sides of the world.

And we swear, “This time. This time will be different. This time we’ll really stay in touch.”

Military friends are a special breed.

Ever so slowly, life happens. New friends slip in to our lives, boots on the ground, in the current duty station, in your every day life friends. While they open our hearts again, it becomes more challenging to keep up with kids and day-to-day stuff and maintain all those long distance friendships. They seem to get lost somewhere in the everydayness of our new home, among new friends. And we get lost in the memories of their new place.

The calls are replaced with texts. Texts start out frequent, but slowly fade to weekly occurrences, check-ins. More and more of the detail of their daily lives are missed and so it goes. Then it’s merely pictures on social media. Those pictures of their new life without you in it, those are so bittersweet.

They sting just a little. And once again you remind yourself that it’s all part of the process. This breaking of hearts. Sometimes it’s a wonder that we do this not only once, but many times over and over, risking, grieving, and being open again.

As we got up this morning from air mattresses on the empty floor, the moving truck having left the day prior, Hannah quietly asked, “Mom, can we do the ‘Why I love moving, by Hannah’ thing?”

We do this ritual in our family where I say, ‘I love Hannah because, by Mommy’ and then list out all the reasons and things I love about her. Eric and I even did this practice before the kids were born. Items on the list include big things, but also very specific things, and current milestones etc. It’s a tangible way to say “I love you. I see you. Just as you are.”

As she asked to do this and apply it to moving, I was struck by how resilient and strong she really is. This has been a tough week for the little emotional heartbeat of our family. She loves fiercely, and her heart breaks with the same passion. She listed her positives of moving – we all did. Hannah reminded us that while the sky may be overcast – the sun still shines, regardless of whether we can see it or not.

Kids are so dang resilient.

Hearts are resilient.

Tender hearts that are open enough to get broken, repeatedly, are among the strongest ones.

Fair winds and following seas, Corpus Christi!

Our Swelfies

Anyone that’s read this blog or (knows me in real life) knows that I LOVE accountability when it comes to fitness! What started out as a fun idea to take sweaty selfies and keep each other motivated to workout and be consistent has since turned into many things.

It’s often more than just physical. It’s more than just a workout photo. It’s been an accountability measure – a way to stay in touch in a Navy life that sent us to opposite sides of the world. It has kept us connected. It’s also morphed into a few years of snippets and snapshots of our lives. Sometimes it’s celebrating the new pants or kicks we purchased, how much sweat we are now dripping with, or even that glass of wine that we wanted to share, if only virtually. It’s husbands along for the ride, kiddos and fur babies getting into the workout, shoveling snow for days. It’s “Hey! Look at my workout space!” and “It’s a crappy day.” Even our spin peeps, running friends and clients have gotten in on the action! “Look at the necklace you gave me – I’m wearing it to my spin interview!” It doesn’t matter time of day, whether or not we have make up on (rarely!) or how “posed” the picture looks. It’s just a selfie. That’s sweaty.

And so much more..

I’m proud to say that Katy is not only my mil spouse sister, but my battle buddy! These pictures are just a small portion of the way we support each other. Accountability partners are key if we are to have any sort of success with life change; we need people in our lives that help hold us up and keep us to the standards we set for ourselves.

I love you Katy!

Questioning Tradition

We all have that friend. That person in your world that bucks the mainstream and does their own thing. Recently such a person in my circle posted about how they don’t celebrate many national holidays, but instead, as a family have chosen to make new traditions that align more with their values. I have to admit, my initial reaction was somewhere along the lines of, “Oh, come on. What’s the big deal about celebrating gratitude with a meal surrounded by loved ones?” I read the post a few days ago and find that I am still thinking about it as well as the online conversation that followed. Linked to her thoughts was an article about the Wampanoag side of the First Thanksgiving.

Knowing that much of what we were taught in grade school was watered down, polished up, and neatly packaged, I read the article and followed the conversation as others chimed in. Despite various opinions, the general consensus was that it’s good to question why we do the things we do.

Are we really celebrating Pilgrims, or Native American culture on Thanksgiving?
Are we celebrating a kick-off to excess spending and holiday shopping?
Are we just there to catch the game, a retail parade, and some food?
Are we celebrating a posture of gratefulness, gathering with loved ones for a meal?
Are we only getting together because that’s what we’ve always done?
Are we staring at our phones waiting for the time to tick by until we can leave a place we really didn’t want to be?
Why do celebrate the way we do?
Should we celebrate at all?

As a military family, it just isn’t possible for us to do things the same every single year. Often we have to make up new traditions for our children because who knows where we will be stationed next. (In Hawaii, for example, it’s kind of hard to build a snowman!) As a family with little ones, we’ve decided that we will mostly not travel on holidays. (It kind of ruins Christmas for a kid who spends the day in the car house hopping for hours on end.) But that’s just us, and our doors are always open for any family and friends that would like to join us. We evaluated what works and what doesn’t and made our own tradition.

In the same vein, I found myself over the past few years reevaluating our traditions around food, in part because our son doesn’t eat a large variety of foods, but also because over the last few years, we have converted to a generally more healthful diet. This year we did a smoked turkey breast (because it’s essentially 2.2 people eating it, why do we need an ENTIRE turkey?), roasted garlic green beans, rustic potatoes (rustic=mashed with skins on), some chopped salad, and diced canteloupe. No gravy (we just don’t eat it). No store-bought dinner rolls. Do we need to make apple pie AND pumpkin pie AND cheesecake? No. So we didn’t do it. Last year we did all the traditional dishes (green bean casserole, dressing, etc.) but made everything from scratch. No matter how our menu changes from year to year, what I keep coming back to, is: if I wouldn’t buy the Stove-Top canister of “stuffing” any other day of the year because I don’t eat like that, why would I do it on a “special” day, just because that’s “what we’ve always done”. Will it cease to be a special day if I don’t gorge on food that makes me feel gross?

Most of us rarely question the why of what we do. We go through the motions of our lives, ticking the seasons down the calendar and it never occurs to us to take a moment and ponder the point, or the even the benefit, of our celebrations. While we personally celebrate Christ at Christmas and Easter, we don’t have to buy into the consumerism of these or any other Hallmark holiday. We can gather around a meal with loved ones and give thanks. We can use Santa as a metaphor for the wonder, innocence and magic of the Christmas season. We can do it however we like. Traditions can be comforting, sentimental, and wonderful, but if it no longer serves a purpose, perhaps it’s time to reevaluate.

What’s your favorite tradition? Have you ever considered “swimming upstream” to buck tradition and do your own thing? Do you have a person in your world that does life a little differently? Does that cause you to reconsider how you do things? Please share in the comments!

Mommy Getaway – Day 1

After dropping my bags at the hotel, I was starving so I decided to grab some lunch.

IMG_8080-0.JPGDefinitely delicious! Not only because it was yummy salmon and fresh veggies, but I didn’t cook it! And the bonus? Eating uninterrupted!

Wanting to get some pampering in, I was sad to learn that this particular hotel does not have an in-house spa. Not to be deterred, I went to the mall where I discovered that the Nordstrom has a full spa! Not daring to get too excited, I crossed my fingers as I questioned the receptionist about the possibility of an appointment. As luck would have it, there were openings – facial, massage, mani and pedi all available! Yes, please!

After being rubbed down, pampered, buffed, polished, and completely blissed out I met up with my friend and her work colleagues for dinner. Fun people, adult conversation (and beverages) made for a great night, capped off with chatting and catching up into the night back at the hotel.

I did discover that my minions have permanently disabled my capacity to sleep in. At 5:15, I woke up wondering why I hadn’t received my usual morning wake up call. Then I remembered – I’m on vacation! So I did what anyone else would. I rolled over into my fluffy comforter, snuggled my cushy pillow and dozed off again.

Race Report: 2014 Whidbey Island Half Marathon

Running this year’s half marathon was awesome for a couple of reasons. First off, hubby was home so he was able to be with the kids AND cheer me on. It was also the 3rd in a series of 3 – so all of my race medals match! (It really is all about the race jewelry, right?!) And finally – the weather was FANTASTIC! We just don’t get stunners like this out here very often. We could see snow-capped Mt. Baker, Mt. Rainer off in the distance, as well as the majestic olympics! Simply breathtaking.

Eating breakfast, I looked out our back door and was greeted by a perfect sunrise!

Morning Sunrise

I rolled my ankle along the way which stinks, because not only did it slow my pace, it hurt! But DNF (Did Not Finish) is not in my vocabulary. The result – I walk/ran the remainder of the race, and attempted to sprint/hobble through the finish!

Collecting the medal, grabbing some grub and meeting up with hubby and the kiddos he says, “I have a story to tell you!” Meanwhile Jake is dancing around hollering, “I RAN WITH THE RUNNERS!!! I RAN WITH THE RUNNERS IN THE RACE!” Eric is grinning.

While I was running and hobbling and enjoying my views along the course, Eric was on minion management patrol. He proceeded to tell me that while chasing Hannah, Eric lost sight of Jacob. As in, could. not. find. him. This is my worst nightmare come to life. Turns out he caught some racing fever, dropped his coat, and took off with some random racers! He raced all the way around the park, and through to the finish line. Meanwhile, Eric spots Jake’s coat and starts looking for Jake. He happily runs up to Eric after his “finish” and informs him that he ran the race with the runners. (Non-racers are never allowed on the course, and definitely not minions racing through the finish line!) Leave it to ours to do just that!

We had a serious talk about how it’s his job to ALWAYS stay with us, and we HAVE to know where he is! I think this may be payback for the time I was separated from my parents at a wax museum. My parents were a hot mess of emotions when they finally caught up with me, mostly relief and anger. I had no idea I was “lost”. I was happily posing for a picture with a random wax figure. Yes, mom. I have been paid back.

At the finish line with my friend Jaye! She shaved 8 minutes of her race time for a new PR! Let me tell you, that’s not easy feat on this crazy hilly course!

2014 Whidbey Half Marathon with Jaye

 

Despite temporarily losing our kid, it was an awesome way to round out the races in Washington!

“Real” Friends

Not only was the subject of friendship a WordPress Daily Prompt today, but it’s something that I’ve been mulling over the past few weeks. Last weekend I had the pleasure of running a 5-miler with a dear friend who I haven’t seen outside of cyberspace in 6 months – entirely too long! Catching up with her was such a gift and 5 miles never flew by so fast! We chatted about all things parenting and motherhood; how the house is never as clean as we’d like, the differences between racing pre-kids and post-kids, lack of time, how it takes longer than one might expect to find your ‘new normal’ as a mother, breastfeeding woes, and how everyone else seems to be doing it better. I mentioned that if someone cares more about how your place looks when they come to visit, perhaps they should be shown the door.  She looked at me as we were running and said, “Thank you for being a REAL friend. I don’t have to pretend with you.”

That sentiment was probably one of the most touching compliments I have ever received in my life.

Honestly, I just don’t have time to be anything but real. What you see is what you get. Most days, I don’t wear make up. I love yoga pants and workout clothes. I love to laugh, really laugh – guffaw and bend over and let ‘er rip!  When I cry – it’s usually of the full-on ugly, soul cleansing variety. My hair is in a pony/bun conglomeration more often than not. I love all things touchy-feely, emotional, self-improvement, empowering and fist-pumping. The real stuff of life.

I have been blessed by wonderful friendships, mostly due to our military life. The friends you make while moving every few years aren’t like any other friendships. No one in your life, try as they might, can truly understand it’s like, what is required, and what kind of support is needed, than a fellow milspouse.

It’s hard, to be sure. If you’re leaving in two to three years, why be real? Why let your guard down? Why get invested when you know it’s only temporary? We hate the inevitable “fair winds, following seas/goodbyes/see you laters”. We all hope to stay connected, but in the back of our mind we understand that some relationships are for a specific time, even if that’s not by choice or how we’d like it to go down, sometimes it just does. It’s hard to maintain true intimacy over the miles. The web makes it easier – but we kid ourselves to believe it’s the same. We miss the day-to-day details of life. Instead we have to be content with the highlight reels until we meet again.  If making friends as an adult is like dating, saying goodbye is the worst kind of breakup.

Why risk being real?

Because it’s worth it. Even though your heart breaks, it’s always worth it. To the degree that saying goodbye sucks, it is to the same degree that being authentic and truly yourself is a breathtakingly beautiful experience.  I would not be the person I am today were it not for the real and honest friendships made along the way.

Reach out. Take the risk. Show up. Be kind. Be real.

It’s always worth it.

Being Open

Three years living in Hawaii encompassed a large amount of sun, beaches, getting fit, and personal growth more than anything. Lessons that I think I have mastered, and then something will come up from behind and smack me upside the head.

Recently I was asked to “friend” someone on social media that I’d met a few weeks ago. She seemed nice and was very enthusiastic. But I didn’t know her that well. What was my hesitation? Why be cynical? Why be so guarded? This person thought enough of me that she wanted us to get to know each other better.  It didn’t matter that I will be moving in a few months. Or that I will likely never see her again after.

I have the same issues with investing in friendships and meeting people at church. Why chit chat with people I will likely never see again since we are due to leave? Perhaps borderline anti-social, I remember the meet and greet portion of services attended as a kid with a special kind of uncomfortableness. I would often make that the exact moment to head for the ladies room, conveniently returning to my seat when that part concluded.

I have this other friend who is an open person. Until someone shows their crazy, she welcomes them with open arms. I, on the other hand, tend to be more closed off. Not as a defensive posture, but more from a self-protective nature. I tend to want to make sure someone isn’t crazy BEFORE letting them into my personal world. I often ask myself in situations what would she do?

So I thought about my Open Friend and how she would handle this. There’s a reason she has a billion virtual friends that she ACTUALLY knows. She’s open to it. By clicking a little button, I made the decision to be less guarded, and more accepting…more open and less closed off.

While silly and trivial in the big scheme of things, I’ve found that it’s the little things that all add up to the bigger picture of our nature. I want to be less like my closed off, fearful, self-protective by nature, and more open to people and new experiences.

All it took was the metaphorical click of a button to choose:

acceptance

graciousness

bravery

honesty

openness

risk

love.

And I chose to chat with a lovely couple at church. (Even though it was initiated by my daughter’s insistence that she have a cookie.) I have never once regretted being open to new people, even if I forget that at times.

What about you? Are you a naturally open person or self protective?

Good Fences?

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Yummy Chicken Tortilla Soup

We’ve been blessed by having really great neighbors most of my life. Growing up we lived next door to childhood friends. We had campouts in the backyard and our families regularly had dinner together.

After getting married, we’ve been fortunate to live next to some really awesome people, many of which have become long term friends. Part of it has to do with our experiences living in military towns, but even outside of that, we’ve definitely had some good ones which made this daily post challenge a no brainer! The daily challenge was to discuss neighbors, and the people who live next door.

Randomly when we decided to move to base housing last year, we were put in a house right next door to a co-worker of mine from a previous job! And as luck would have it, she started running about the same time I did, and we shared successes through the wonder of Facebook. And now we are neighbors.

Another neighbor saw us working out, later divulging that she would take her daughter for a stroll hoping for an invite to our sweat sessions. I had no idea. (Had I known this, the invitation would have been extended FAR sooner than when she finally got up the nerve to ask about our workouts!) Over the course of the following months, we’ve all gotten to know each other, sharing recipes, child woes, as well as fitness fun – all through the common experience of military life, parenting, and deployments.

Since Christmas, 1 of the 4 of us in our family has been sick. I’m currently typing this with tissue up my nose (gross, I know) and mouth breathing. I have no taste, and for a foodie – that stinks! What I love about my neighbors is their thoughtfulness. I’ve been sick not once, but now round 2 has reared its ugly head. We have been grateful for well wishes and soup. Neighbors have brought me soup, on more than one occasion! Of course my hubs has taken good care of us, but it’s comforting to know that people care, and take the time to show it.

Until we can shake this nasty bug, it’s nice to know we’ve got friends who’ve got our back, ladle in hand, and ready to share!