Breaking News: “Top Nine” Doesn’t Capture Most Important Moments

I use Instagram fairly regularly, probably with more regularity now that I have opted out of Facebook. I know, I know, Instagram is owned by Facebook blah blah blah.

Everyone’s been posting their “Top Nine” recently – the most liked photos in their feeds. Once again, social media panders and quite frankly takes advantage of our desire to be liked and seen and celebrated.

I share my Top Nine, because why not? But I have to add that my top moments most were not shared on Instagram for the world to see.

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I can make quite a few assumptions about 2018 from these pictures. I traveled a lot, spent some time in the hospital, exercised a bunch, and am apparently still in love with my spouse. These are all true, but there’s so much more that happened in 2018 not pictured here, like that kid who was absent on picture day.

I will spare the weary reader nine things that happened in 2018. But I will share that one of the best memories is sitting with my sister on my parents’ porch late at night pondering the recent death of our grandmother and watching an amazing Midwestern thunderstorm. I will share that the reconciliation of a friendship was culminated in lovely time spent with her and her family. I will share that the financial and childless freedom to travel to new places has really helped me settle into my unforeseen reality. I will share that my husband and I are indeed more in love than ever. I will share that modern medicine is amazing and I am forever grateful to the surgeon who listened to me and finally was able to diagnose me with endometriosis.

All those moments and more made up a painful, wondrous, family-filled year. They say that one’s formative years usually happen before age 25, but I argue that all years can be formative, some more than others. I’m thankful I have the maturity and wherewithal to really appreciate the important work that time and openness can do for our souls.

Here’s to a blessed, wonderful, hard 2018. And let’s welcome 2019 with open arms.

 

Home from my US tour

The past three weeks have been a blur. They’ve been a mix of grief, celebration, family time, traveling, sightseeing, and lots of time on a plane.

First, I went to Illinois for my grandmother’s funeral, which I posted about. Then, I came home to a full house with Aaron’s brother and his family, who flew in from Chicago. We had a fabulous time. This was the first time they visited us, and we loved having focused time with just their family. We went to Washington, DC, and saw so many things that I had already seen, but had a new or different meaning. I actually didn’t take a lot of pictures for either my trip to IL or Bruce and Katie’s trip here; I was still taking a step back with my Lenten commitment to decrease time on social media and therefore didn’t have my phone out 24/7.

In DC, we saw all that we could see along the National Mall, including the White House! I hadn’t visited DC since I was 16, and since it was the summer right after 9/11, a lot was inaccessible. We visited Arlington National Cemetery, as well, and visited graves of friends who had passed away while on active duty. Arlington is always a humbling place that takes your breath away. The next day we visited the National Zoo, where they have a baby panda.

We saw some sights closer to home, including Havre de Grace (only 5 miles away from our house!) and downtown Baltimore. Needless to say, we ate tons of crab in all its forms: crab cakes, crab dip, and I even had a fried soft-shell crab sandwich at a roadside shack off of Route 22.

On Good Friday, I flew out to Seattle from Philadelphia on a nonstop flight. I stayed with my sister Emily and her husband for a week. This was the trip that had been planned the longest. Historically, Emily and I have spent one week per year together, and in the past she’s usually visited me in El Paso. Of course when she moved to Seattle, I knew I had to see her this time.

The morning after I got there, Emily dropped me off at the Snohomish Centennial Trail, and she did yoga while I did my long run. Sunday we went to a local Methodist church for Easter service and then headed to Pike Place Market in Seattle. Many businesses were closed, but we still managed to have a great time.

Monday and Tuesday were spent in Portland by way of Amtrak. We explored the city mostly on foot, and rode the bus occasionally. We used AirBnB to book our room, and I loved the experience of actually staying in someone’s house. We hit up Powell’s Books (of course!) and a couple yarn shops. We ate great pizza and had gourmet ice cream. We literally ran into Deschutes Brewery, which we didn’t realize was on our walk back to the train station.

Wednesday and Thursday were spent mostly in Snohomish. We went wine tasting at Chateau Ste. Michelle and had lunch in Woodinville. We did laundry, and as with my sister(s) in any mundane activity, it was fun. We hiked in Wallace Falls State Park, and it was gorgeous. We ended the day with dinner in downtown Snohomish at a Mexican restaurant right on the river.

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Wallace Falls State Park, Gold Bar, WA

March was a whirl of a month, and I am glad to be home and get back in our normal routine. The ‘new’ normal of eating dinner together, not being apart for months on end, and having the ability to plan things more than a month in advance. I’ll take it.

 

Running update.

I haven’t posted here about my running in a really long time. I’ve posted about running getting me through infertility, but I think this was the last real post about training. We (my husband and I) had signed up for the IMS Arizona Marathon because it was super cheap, and relatively close to where we used to live. Well, Valentine’s Day weekend came and went without us running that race, mostly because we live in Maryland now. So there’s that.

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View from a neighborhood run

I decided after the move that I needed to get back into training. For my body, for my mind, for fun. I don’t want this to be a post about infertility because honestly I’m sick of talking and thinking about it, but I gained 25 lbs in the past two years due to stress, taking time off of hard workouts, overeating, etc. I was starting to wallow… anyone who’s dealt with depression/anxiety knows how this works… and I was close to signing up for therapy again.

But, I’m happy to report that I’m out of my funk, thanks to running and a change of life circumstances, and God. Aaron’s no longer leaving for months on end, or working unexpected nights or 24-hour CQ shifts because now he has a ‘regular’ job. It’s fantastic. And amazing. And I’m so glad we got through the past 6.5 years with the Army for him to have this opportunity. I’m also working, but part time, and really enjoying the time it allows me to have to clean, cook, take care of things, but also to use my ESOL expertise. At first, moving to Maryland in the middle of the academic year was not my first choice, but it’s turned out to be a wonderful decision.

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Trails at Susquehanna State Park

So, with all that said, I’m running the Maryland Half Marathon in May. Not officially, as I haven’t signed up yet, but it’s on my calendar. Last week was week 3 of training, I think, and I ran 15 miles total. A Yasso 800’s workout, just a plain old run, and a long run of 6 miles. We bought new shoes this weekend so hopefully that’ll help some of the stiffness I’ve had in the first couple miles of my runs. Overall, I’ve been happy with my paces and my motivation to do each run. And the endorphins, you can’t forget the endorphins!

After the half, I’d like to train for a fall marathon, and then set my sights on a spring 50K. I’ve had this goal for most of my 20’s to do a 31-mile (50K) race before my 31st birthday, which will be next April. Barring injury or other crazy life circumstances, I don’t see why that can’t happen. And the Mid-Atlantic area is full of wonderful races to choose from.

1,503 Feet of Confidence

I’m hesitant to say I’m back in the saddle of doing this 50K… but this morning’s run gave me a sorely needed confidence booster.

Monday’s run was a major bonk. We headed to the gym one day this week and I completed a 3-mile hill workout on the ‘mill. I was nervous because on Monday my right knee started to bother me. I think it was the shoes I was wearing, so back to the trusty Brooks Ghost I went. They have 300+ miles on them, but I don’t have issues like with the Mizunos.

I did some other cross-training this week, including yoga and a little weight lifting. We got weight set for our house including a 45-lb barbell and bench, so I’m excited to be able to come home from a run and get my lifting on right away.

We decided to try a 17-mile run from our house and up the mountain. For the Transmountain Challenge 13.1, I ran from the other side. But this side is actually steeper. We started out at 5:42 this morning, and ran in the darkness for quite a while. I actually like it better that way, to get started before your body realizes what’s going on. Early morning Sunday running really jives with my spirit, even if my body was tired from being up on the hour last night for whatever reason.

We both took house keys in case I decided to bow out. But as we pushed up the mountain, I felt the same strength as when I ran Transmountain. 8.5 miles would be the halfway point, but as we ran we realized we’d have to go a little past the crest of the road onto the west side of the mountain. The wind was awful. I mean, this is the windy season in El Paso, but it was cold. After we turned around and got a couple more miles under our feet, we were then running into the sun which felt amazing.

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Up and over juuuuust a little bit

I couldn’t believe that just days earlier I had totally bonked on a mostly flat run, and today I ran up up up without complaining or feeling really fatigued, even with just water and two gels and nothing to eat before hand. The sweetest reward for running up is then coming down. Some runners hate it because it tears up their quads or something, but I welcome the pain. Sick, I know. In some way it feels good. The last 2-3 miles were the worst as they were on concrete and completely flat, and there were plenty of stoplights and irresponsible drivers to contend with.

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Mile high club 😉

We got it done, and we both needed the confidence booster. I really really really want to do this 50K, even if I’m hobbling by the end, even if I’m the last one. In ultrarunning, being the last one is actually celebrated. We have 10 weeks to complete this training… and I think we can do it.

Recent events

This post is a mash-up of all the random happenings around our household over the past week. It certainly feels like much longer that my husband’s been home.. we’ve settled into a routine quickly. But as our life always is, our routines change.

Weeks 3 and 4 of 50K training were not so stellar. I did less than the recommended amount of mid-week runs, and week 3 did not have a long run. I was out with a sinus/chest infection of some sort. Yesterday after debating all weekend when to do the long run, we went out for 16 and ended up with 12.7. My legs from my ankles to my hips were on fire; the pain was comparable to the end of the Illinois Marathon.

I was disappointed… from here on out the long runs get longer and after bonking at the EP Half and now this run yesterday, I just don’t think the 50K is going to happen for me. Mentally I feel pretty good, but my body screams no whenever I go longer than 10. My right knee was hurting yesterday too, which is something I haven’t felt in about a year, even with the high-mileage months I had last fall (80, 90, 100). I really don’t want to give up on it yet, but if I can’t pound out the 16, 18 and 20-milers soon it ain’t happening. The Jemez Mtn Trail Runs have a 13.1 option so I will shoot for that. I’m obviously trying to force my body and mind into something that isn’t jiving.

On Saturday after arriving to Ruidoso for our first full weekend together after 10 (!!!!!) months, we tried the long run on some trails. I got about a mile into it before I started to hate it. I love nature, I love hiking… but the whole thing was just pissing me off. I hate having to look at my feet so much, having to stop to walk around boulders, etc. It was also cold as heck and sleeting.. or something. So we hiked back to the car and put off the long run.

I thought I’d just love trail running.. but that seems that that’s not the case, at least not right now. I have a lot of fears about trail running that I need to either accept or get over before I can tackle a race like the 50K, and those fears weren’t helped after I got lost on a 9-mile trail race in November. I need to transition slowly into trail running for my body but also for my mind’s sake. Maybe I’ll shoot for 31 miles before I turn 31. 😉 That gives me three years.

It’s been a busy (and expensive!) week with my husband back. We junked his car since the engine was shot (1996 Honda with 225000+ miles), both got new phones as he needed an upgrade and I completely shattered my iPhone… soon we’ll buy another car. We had a great weekend in the mountains just relaxing and talking. Something I’ve always loved about us is that there’s never a lull in conversation, or lack of impressive vocabulary words, something this aspiring linguist can appreciate.

March will be busy with Aaron’s trip to Illinois to visit family and my trip to Portland to present at the TESOL conference. I also need to get the bulk of my thesis written. The analysis is done, so the writing won’t be too terrible.. just time-consuming. But I’m saving that for another day, not during spring break. Here soon we’ll be propelled into the never-ending summer in the desert. 🙂

Thank you.

I wanted to post this on Facebook, but it got too long… so here it is. My emotions are running high this week (and today I’m hopped up on Sudafed, because of course I would get sick this week), but you can be assured that I mean every word.

As this deployment comes to a close, I want to thank everyone immensely for all your support and prayers throughout this time. While I’ve stayed busy and managed to hold down the fort (sometimes it felt like just barely), I could not have done it without your support.

A special thanks goes out to my adopted El Paso family who have taken me in as their own for holidays and just because, laughed with me, cried with me, run with me, served youth with me, enjoyed a coffee, lunch, or sushi date, prayed with me, gone camping in Ruidoso, taken me to or picked me up from the airport, come for me when I got lost in the New Mexican desert on a trail run, inculcated me into Mexican culture (always a dream for this former Spanish teacher), and taught this huera some border slang. 😉

When we moved here three years ago, it was the first time I’d moved more than 15 miles away from both our families. I knew that we’d find a church and make friends, but I never could have imagined the amazing relationships that would be grown as brothers and sisters in Christ. I would have gone (even more) crazy without my church family. And that’s why I encourage anyone who moves away to find a church right away. If anything, it’s just a great place to find great people who will surround you with optimism and encouragement.

Thank you also to my sister Leah (and nephew Benjamin!), my friend Jackie, my Aunt Brenda, and my cousin Anita who spent time and money to visit while Aaron was gone.. I enjoyed counting down to your arrival, and the airport became one of my favorite places in El Paso. Those times are unforgettable. The best part? I got each of you all to myself. 😉

This separation has been rough, but adversity can build character if you let it. From my perspective, it’s been the most difficult of all the separations, and I pray to God it’s the last, at least for awhile. I’ve learned to take things to Him in prayer right away. I’ve learned to dive into His Word and intercede for my friends and family. As amazing as friends are, no one can be everything to you all the time. I’ve learned to put my trust in God, the only one who can really comfort us.

I just could not imagine this journey without you all, especially those in El Paso, suffering together in the desert :p. No matter what the future holds, my life has been forever changed by your obedience to “love each other deeply” as the Lord commands.

Approaching homecoming

Shoot, guys. It’s coming up fast. According to my nifty countdown app, we are at 4% left. However, do not be fooled by my technological prowess, friends. I do have a calendar on the wall and I’ve been crossing off days with a Sharpie since I hung it up January 1.

Before we actually went through a deployment, I had all these media-fed ideas of what it would be like. Some of it has come to pass, like the uncertainty of dates, dropped Skype calls, and crazy math to figure out differences in time zones. But some of it won’t be like what you see on TV, or even from homecoming pictures and videos (which, btdubs, make me bawl my eyes out). For us it’ll be different because of the nature of his mission over there. There won’t be a huge ceremony or large formations (thank GOD)… we’re not hiring a photographer… he didn’t wear multi-cam… no skanky dresses (at least not for me!)… I’m not making glittery signs with questionable verbiage about the nature of the first night together. The moment will be more private and mostly ours. I keep thinking I’ll pick him up in the middle of the night, but who knows.

I’ve been in an emotional vacuum for these last couple months as far as the anticipation of homecoming. After you’ve been through long separations like this, you learn to shut off that part of yourself. It’s good, really, because anything else is just a roller coaster, and you save yourself from potential disappointment. But now that we’re getting so close, my emotions are sputtering to life.

For us, and for lots of military couples out there, life will be all different but the same all at once. I can’t just drop my whole life in order to reacclimate my husband to our life stateside. It’s a strange feeling, because I had always pictured being able to just fall off the face of the planet during block leave. But that’s not even an accurate picture of life. Life has been going on despite the distance… actually, lots has been going on since he left in May… daresay the most important parts of the past few years that we’ve lived here. It’s hard when you realize that there are large chunks of your marriage that you haven’t shared with each other. I can barely put in words what it’s like to be married and be “one” and all that, but at the same time not be “one.” It’s a very strange feeling. Like phantom limbs.

In the end part of reintegrating into life together is accepting that the other person has had experiences, good or bad, that have shaped them throughout the separation… experiences that you will never get to go through with them. Another part is for me to realize that I won’t have to do everything on my own anymore. I don’t have to take out the trash all the time, or call customer service, or vacuum (can you tell which “jobs” are his?). And while from the outside it may look like it’s easy to let him do those things again, there’s a defiant and resistant part of me that says, “I can do it myself!”

I like the woman I’ve become throughout this deployment. I’ve become more stable emotionally (we’ll see if that sticks…), I’ve learned to take things to God in prayer right away… I’ve learned to just take most things in stride. I’ll be 28 in April and I feel like I’m better, more of who I’ve wanted to become. If that makes any sense. I feel different this time around; definitely more at peace and less anxious.

I want to be able to be that woman when life is complete again. The problem with love and marriage and relationships is that there are emotions… a lot of them. I’ve been so used to being alone, living alone, that sometimes I just don’t react to things that I normally would have if he were here… there’s no one to immediately react to my reactions (unless I call or text a friend), so then it seems silly to react, ya know? And the dog, well, she just looks at me with her enormous, ridiculously buggy eyes and she just gets it. No explanation needed. But even though there will be someone here with me, the someone, I hope I can still have self-control about certain things.

March is going to be a busy month, and we won’t even be together for half of it. That’s right, not even half. He needs to see our family, and I will still be in the middle of the semester and then traveling to Portland to present my research. April and May will also be busy months.. but I’m hoping that after graduation, things can settle back in to normal life, whatever the eff that is. That is, of course, unless we move. 😉 See? Always on the go. Never a dull moment.

Anyway.. I just needed to get some thoughts out so I can go to sleep in peace. There were far too many voices in my head. And now I’ll get all comfy in my bed with the dog… poor thing doesn’t know what’s coming, and I don’t have the heart to tell her. 😉