Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Imperfectly Perfect

Missy and I have been having the most wonderful week, hence the blog neglect! We haven't been doing anything out of the ordinary, just enjoying life's simple pleasures. Like homemade corn muffins with good friends. Sounds simple enough, right? Monday rolled around, and as the sun shone through my kitchen window I glanced over at my calendar. Tuesday morning coffee social. Beating through the cobwebs (exaggeration of course) I reached into the dark crevices of my pantry to see what delectable treat I might be able to whip up without a trip to the grocery store, which coincidentally is closed on Mondays. The base and I are at odds on that one. In my mind, Sunday is for God, Monday is for food shopping, but that's another topic altogether.

Anyway, back to my barren pantry. I had one thing in extreme excess: self-rising cornmeal. My mouth watered a little as I thought of one of my favorite recent recipe finds, cornbread. I'm not normally a fan but this cornbread will win any critic over! As delicious as that cornbread is, it is not exactly a sanctioned breakfast item in my mind. Next best thing? Corn muffins. And so I pulled out the laptop and began my search for one highly rated, award winning corn muffin recipe with minimal ingredients for the it's-time-to-go-food-shopping-baker. Mission accomplished, except I still didn't have quite enough of the few required ingredients. Substituting milk for buttermilk, done, but I only had water... the other problem? This recipe called for real corn in addition to my army supply of cornmeal! There's an item I can guarantee I never stock in my house, whether it be in can, frozen or cob form. I looked at my woefully depleted bag of mixed vegetables wondering just how much corn I could siphon from the green beans, carrots and peas. Exactly 1/2 a cup. After sitting Missy down for a snack so I could sort through the frozen vegetables and pull each kernel out one at a time, I had collected exactly 1/2 cup worth of corn. That made me exactly 1/4 of a cup shy of what the recipe required. I was not about to bring half-a$$ed corn muffins to my breakfast the next morning, so I phoned Rosali. Milk situation, solved. Corn situation... oddly also solved. Apparently I'm not the only household that sees corn as the codependent vegetable. Rosali was more than happy to make a corn donation, but found her freezer stocked with the same vegetable medley as mine. Thankfully Rosali is equally anal and didn't bat an eye at sifting the corn kernels out of the bag. And so, 30 minutes later I was happily headed back home with milk and 1/4 cup of additional corn. The rest of the baking went uneventfully enough, except for high-speed blending the honey butter in a shallow tupperware container. But that is really just a matter or perception. One might see a giant mess in the kitchen of butter splattered and caked onto my counters, cabinets and walls. I choose to see it as remodeling my rental home. Splash of color here and there... and there is always the comfort that in less than two years I will hand the keys back over to the base (or in the short term, that most problems can be solved by a simple phone call to housing maintenance). It takes a lot of stress out of daily life. Faucet leaking? Not my problem. Lost the screws to the door hinge? Not my problem. Missy drew on the wall behind the laundry room door? Not my problem as long as they don't inspect there... and they probably will not. Not to mention housing has extremely lax guidelines, and a very gracious definition of "normal wear and tear".

Well, I'm falling asleep as I type, so I'm going to take that as my cue to sign off! My corn muffins may not have been perfectly made, but they were perfectly delicious! Imperfectly perfect.

Good night!


Friday, September 16, 2011

Hard News & a Hike

A few years ago, one of our dear friends brought us dinner after Missy was born. I remember how nervous she and her husband were to hold Missy because she was so tiny. When I found out I was having a baby girl, my Dad told me that while boys are nice, girls are little angels sent from Heaven. Sometimes, I think those angels are too precious for God to part with, so He reserves a special seat in Heaven for them. Those little angels don't get much time on Earth, if any at all. This is what happened to this particular friend that blessed us with dinner after Missy entered the world. But my friend's arms will not go empty. God may be caring for her little angel, but He also sent her a sweet little boy to cradle. A wee little 3 lbs, I cannot help but smile remembering how nervous she and her husband were with my 4 lb baby, and how much more nervous they must be when that bundle of joy is their very own. I am sure it is a bittersweet moment for them, to say the very least.

I am not sure what else to say regarding their situation, so I guess I will just tell you a little bit about the rest of my day. Maria and I took Missy on her final hike today (I may repeat old hikes with her, but the remaining ones I have set aside are too dangerous for her to accompany me on). It was absolutely breath-taking. The hike down was nice enough in and of itself. I am always a fan of the lush greenery of the woods. But it was nothing compared to the spectacular, vibrant turquoise color of the water. Staring at it, it still seemed unreal. We sat and swam there for quite a long time. It was difficult to leave such an awe-inspiring sight. I just wanted to keep looking, taking it all in. What a wonderful final hike for Missy! That brings me to 23 hikes completed out of my goal of 44! We stopped for a fantastically healthy lunch of McDonald's (hey, we split the double cheeseburger meal at least, so that made it healthier...) and it never tasted so good. Hiking will make one ravenously hungry. But after such a nutritious lunch I am more than ready and needing a work out, so now I am pounding down a homemade iced coffee (so a few less calories than if I had purchased it out in town). Once it delivers my second wind, it is kenpo time! And of course I'll jog those fries off later tonight!

Thanks for reading!


Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Playing Catch Up

So here I am, drinking cup of coffee #4, eating some spinach quiche and polishing off the last cupcake. I know, my family doctor is cringing all the way from the medical clinic. I like to tell myself that my P90X work outs (which I finally started up again, hooray!) and my 2.5 mile jogs every day make up for my other less than impressive habits. So what have I been up to during this 10 day black out? A whole lot of staying artificially awake (shout out to Folgers on that one!), I'm now on phase 1, week 2 of P90X (one step at a time!), my jogging has increased from its initial length of 1.5 miles to 2.5 miles a day (I'm kind to myself and I don't time my jogs...) and I am hiking (uneventfully) again! I have been on two additional hikes since the hike from hell, which brings me to the halfway point in my hiking book! My original goal was to complete all of the hikes I could do with Missy on my back in her little backpack carrier (okay, ginormous, over-sized hiking monstrosity), but, since I will have completed that mission with this weekend's hike and we are only halfway through our time here, I figured I would go all out and aim to complete every hike in the book! Don't worry, Missy will be safe and well cared for at home with our darling sitter.

And that is honestly about the extent of it. I'm really not horribly fascinating you know. Missy has been seeing just how long she can postpone my purchasing a new camera (it was the sole victim of the hike from hell) by breaking everything in sight. John and I worked out a deal that if I spend under a certain amount, anything under that amount goes to my new camera. So how long it takes to save up that money is up to me. Fast forward to Missy throwing a dog bone through the glass of the entertainment center (joke's on her, I already had replacement panels, ha!) and using one of her little friend's DS systems as a bath toy (joke's on me... $200 later). She also painted on one of my couches (thank you Crayola for washable kid paint, it is greatly appreciated). I've been debating adding a recipes section to my blog (since I'm so awesome at keeping up with my blog in general...) and I have repeatedly vowed to go to bed earlier. So far I've failed myself miserably and not closed my eyes until midnight at the earliest. I am still uncertain as to what I actually do. As far as I can discern, I look at the clock at 9pm, blink and it is 1230am. Perhaps my clocks are broken... On that note, I really should get on today's work out! Thanks for reading!!


Saturday, September 3, 2011

Hike From Hell

I love hiking. I absolutely adore it and dare say it is my favorite pastime. John and I even got engaged on a hike at Yosemite National Park a few years back. It is an integral part of our lives. We have been hiking for a number of years on a variety of terrain, so I am far from new to hiking. I dare say, I know what I am doing when it comes to hiking. This is why I was so surprised to find myself and my friends in such a dangerous situation on a local trail. How could this have happened? We felt that we had taken every precaution, checked every detail and were prepared. How does an experienced hiker err so severely?

So, here is what happened. We 5 adults set out in the rain to embark on our 2 hour, one way hike along the coastline. I had been on an adjoining segment of the beachline and taken a different trail North, so I was expecting the same terrain (combined with the photos and descriptions of the "medium" rated hike in my hiking book). Once we had the cars situated on either end of the trail, the rain had stopped and the skies were clear. Not sunny, but clear. We did know there was one rocky portion over limestone that we would hike across at low tide, so we were all wearing appropriate footwear- hiking boots or sneakers. Other than that, we were expecting long stretches of sand. We had checked the tides and knew for certain it was indeed low tide, which was necessary to cross the rocky portion. Cameras in hand, we took our first photos and set out. The first thing we hit was the rocky portion. Great, no problems. Tide was low so the water was well below where we were walking. Perfect, we had timed the hike right and it was going to be a good one. More than halfway through the hike it was raining again, but not hard. We laughed that we wouldn't have to worry about the heat on this hike or stopping to take a dip in ocean. We started hitting stretches of beach where there was no sand and limestone outcroppings forced you to walk out into the ocean to get around them. Unexpected, but manageable with the low tide. The coral was a bit tricky to walk on and we did notice a strong undertow. Far from the first hike I've undertaken with a water portion, so again, no one thought much of it and we continued on. As we headed farther North on our hike, the winds whipped around the bluffs and poor weather off-shore made the water more treacherous than any of us were anticipating. Realizing we were figuratively in over our heads, we decided to call for help. Sure it was embarrassing, we had joked many a times about getting a free helicopter ride by being rescued, but the conditions were worsening quickly and the situation was becoming emergent. Going back was not an option as we'd have to fight through the same menacing waves as if we continued forward with the hike. So we were stuck about 2/3 of the way through the hike. This is when we realized all five of us, with five different cell phones, had left them all back at the cars or home assuming someone else had brought theirs. Yes, this is a horrible and idiotic mistake. We should have checked to make sure someone had a phone. But, do understand, while I always support having a cell phone on hikes, they rarely work on hikes, so it wasn't all that prominent in my mental checklist when we set out. That said, I am not excusing myself for not checking.

My heart sinking inside my chest and realizing the gravity of the circumstance, I turned and picked up the pace. This is not an easy feat to accomplish on limestone. If you are not familiar with limestone, picture coral, but much stronger. It is just as sharp, but whereas coral will break, limestone will not. It is incredible hard and jagged. My hiking shoe got snagged several times and ripped, and most of us where dawning bleeding cuts from scrambling over the stone. Tiring from battling the currents and limestone, Rebecca was imploring her husband to stop. He turned to me and asked if we wanted to rest on a small stretch of limestone where the tide had not yet reached. I could not hide my disbelief at such an insane request. The conditions were bad enough now and would only worsen with time. We had to keep moving. But they slackened their pace, more and more while Maria and I pressed hard to reach the end. When we turned around, we could no longer see them. So, we were split into two groups. I cannot describe the guilt and agony of leaving them behind. Time was not on our side and what could we really do to help them and ourselves against the crashing waves and undertow? I regretted not urging them to keep up. I was so focused on getting out, watching the water to time my movements and just to get to safety that I let them fall behind.

Maria and I treaded through waist deep water, slipping on the coral depressions and trying to steady ourselves by holding on to the sharp limestone, leaving stinging cuts on our palms. The funny thing about grabbing onto limestone is it cuts almost like multiple pinheads, so you cannot see the cuts, but my goodness, can you feel them if you get saltwater or soap in there. The limestone jutted out into the ocean again where the reef was essentially non-existent, meaning there was nothing to break the waves before it hit where we were "hiking". We approached cautiously, get hammered by waves when I looked out and saw two large waves barreling in. I told Maria to turn her back to the ocean and brace herself. We were at the base of what looks like a backward "C" carved into the limestone from the water beating there repeatedly over time. The waves crashed mercilessly into the partial enclosure, making it obvious that you would have to go in between waves or be battered and sucked out to sea. And so we held on as tight as we could with our elbows and hands wrapped painfully around the limestone and our feet planted firmly on the coral/limestone below. The waves crashed over our heads, throwing us into the rock and then sucking us back out just as violently so our feet slipped out from under us and we hung on desperately. Choking on saltwater, the next wave hit us, and as soon as it retreated we bolted up into the "C". We ran as best we could over the limestone and my stomach dropped when we rounded the corner and saw how far the limestone carving continued. I screamed as crabs jumped off of the rock onto my hiking shoes (I am very much afraid of crabs) and tried to ignore the tadpole like worms I was grabbing and had flailing on my hands as we hastily grabbed the limestone to keep a three point hold at all times. It was by far the most frightening experience of my life.

Maria and I made it to the beach at the conclusion of the trail and looked back anxiously waiting to see our friends. We could see as far back as the "C" carving, which was still quite far from the end of the trail. We waited until we saw the waves crashing completely over the top of the carving and could not fathom how anyone could pass through after all the difficulty we'd experienced with comparatively calmer waters. How could they be so far behind us? Were they even okay any more? We could call for help, have search and rescue come out and be humiliated when they turned up, or we could not call and quite realistically lose our friends. We had no way of knowing their conditions, and if they did need help, the more time that passed the less likely they would walk away from the incident with a happy ending. So we made the call. They did make it out on their own, but had clearly struggled far greater than we had. Their clothes had been shredded by the waves pushing them against the stone and they were covered in bleeding cuts. Meghan was one of the three and ran to Maria sobbing and shaking. She really did not believe they were going to make it. She and Rebecca had been pulled out by the undertow away from the relative safety of the jagged coastline. She knew she could not fight the waves and had already resolved in her mind that if she were pulled out to sea she would just give up. She was pulled under and slammed back into the limestone by another wave. She instinctively grabbed hold fearing it was her last chance to save her life. When the water receded in between waves, she found herself on top of Rebecca who was holding on just as feverishly and had hit her head on the rock. They took turns crying hysterically as they battled to reach the end, each seriously doubting they would actually make it. Meghan later told me she just kept thinking, "I shouldn't be here. This is not happening." They did attempt to stop and wait for help at one point, unsure, but hoping Maria and I had made it safely out and were able to call for help. The rising water hit them relentlessly, so they were unable to safely wait.

And that is our story. It was the worst hike I have ever been on, Meghan and Rebecca are terrified to even think about approaching the water, and all of us our feeling the soreness and stinging of the previous day's misadventure. But we are all beyond grateful. We know how fortunate we are and how poorly things could have turned out. I personally thank God for being there with us and seeing us through. I do find it interesting that a few of my friends, now aware of what happened, said they were thinking of me and were inexplicably concerned about me that day.

Will I go hiking again? The best thing to do when you are thrown off of a horse, is to get back in the saddle. Happy hiking, and I'll see you on the trail. Just not this week. Or maybe the next.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Grace Under Pressure

My father once told me courage is grace under pressure. That said, I've never felt particularly brave. I am the type of person that would rather feel angry than sad; I'd rather punch a wall than cry in a pillow. Sorry, Rosali, I cannot take up yoga because it is too peaceful. I cannot meditate my problems away, I need to run them out, or better yet, outrun them. I tend to run angrily, letting my mind wander to places I don't want to go. Each chord hit, is one step faster, one push harder. Maybe I literally run from my problems. I hate running because it hurts. My shins throb, I cannot seem to catch my breath, it's a push to keep any momentum going and pushing a 25lb child only makes it more difficult. But what is harder than any of that is processing emotional pain. I'll take physically pain any day of the week. And that is why I love running, and love to hate it.

I have always felt like I was fighting. Life just has a funny way of happening, regardless of plans or timing. Pressure. I'd like to cave in, close my eyes and float in the oblivion of darkness. Just for a moment. But where's the grace in that? Is it courage to keep walking? To keep trying? No. It's called living. And to some extent it's called loathing.

I read a book a few years ago, a woman's personal account of deployment. I wanted to scream at her, to tell her how much I hated her, what a horrible person she was and how she gave us all a bad name. She lamented daily, ignored household chores, moped about the house sleeping on the floor midday, and generally neglected her responsibilities to her child, her dog (which died), to her friends and to her husband. The icing on the cake was her patting herself on the back at the end of the book for how much she had changed and grown. I guess when you start at literally nothing, anything is an improvement, but for heaven's sake, be embarrassed, not proud.

God, I don't know where you are right now, but I know you are with me. I feel lost and forgotten, but I know you are still there. I never much cared for my living room floor anyway, it smells and is stained from far too many previous owners. Am I brave because I run instead of power-napping it on the tan abomination? Sure, I'm guilty of eating too many chocolates (I am still female...), but is it seriously reasonable on any level to just lay down and take it? Give up because life is hard? Author I despise, you have fun snuggling up to the abrasive fibers of base housing, I'm setting my alarm for tomorrow morning and trying again. They cannot all be good days, but they cannot all be bad ones either. I'm not brave, I'm not graceful, I'm not even particularly witty or interesting. I'm just living a life.


Monday, August 22, 2011

I'll See You Around

John's been gone for nearly a month and a half, and for the most part, I feel like I am all over this deployment. This is not my first rodeo, as they say, so I have been cocky over all. I've walked around with my chin up and the general attitude of, "I got this." But today, I cried. It is the first time I have cried since tearing up at the airport when I dropped John off to head to the sandbox. It was a momentary lapse of, "I can't do this." What made me cry? A video of John flying around with the rest of the crew dropping soccer balls and stuffed toys to children below. There was a slow, melancholic song I am not familiar with playing along to the video. I guess it really sunk in where John is and how dismally depressing it really is out there. To say "he's in the sandbox" is very different from actually seeing him in the sandbox. There is a nice degree of separation and an overall inability to truly grasp what it means to be there. Seeing that video broke my ability to compartmentalize the mere fact from the emotional reality of the situation. I cried watching the video, felt my heart grow heavy in my chest and had an overwhelming yearning for him to come home. I know it's not his turn yet though, it's not time. As much as I want my beloved husband home, I understand it is his turn out there. We all rotate, someone's husband has to leave for someone else's to come home. I am grateful for the person that will replace mine so John can come home. But for now, John has to be out there so someone else does not. I love you and I miss you, John. As I say at the end of every message, email and letter I send to you, stay safe. That is all that I want from you. Just stay safe so when it is your turn, you can come home to us... the same way we sent you.


Thursday, August 18, 2011

Getting My Jog On

Hello e-journal!

Never have I ever... been a runner. Ever. I have even conjectured that if my life were threatened in hot pursuit on foot, I still do not think I would run. That is how much I dislike running and that is how terrible I am at running. It isn't that running is a difficult concept. One foot in front of the other, repeat. Now just do it a little bit faster and voila, running. Except that it feels awful. I cannot breathe, my body seems to prefer bouncing up and down in place as opposed to making wonderfully long strides like a gazelle, and I am pretty sure there are certain speed walkers that can move faster than I can while "running". And so, with all of that in mind, I took up running. I know, logical, right? Turns out I don't hate it as much as I thought I did. I was pretty accurate on the lack of skill in running though. So while I may look like I'm suffering internal organ failure while jogging around the neighborhood, I am actually quite pleased with my new hobby. So far I am doing 2 miles a day with Missy and the dogs in tow (after all, it is generally frowned upon to leave small children unattended at home, so in the jogging stroller she goes). Will I be winning any races any time soon (or ever for that matter)? No, so I set my goals much lower and a lot more realistically. By the end of the year, I'd like to be up to 4 miles a day and do at least one 5K (yes, I have run 5Ks before). I would like to think both are quite possible in the next 4 months. It doesn't sound like much in my head, but we'll see how much my knees bearing down under the strain of my love-handles agree. Who knows, maybe I will become fantastically thin and fit from all this running? I know, I know... lower and more realistic goals. It would be nice though!

So long for now!