The Life and Times

Another Warrior Dash, Thieving Cats, California, Alabama & that GD Yorkie

On Saturday I’m running my second Warrior Dash. Last year it was my first mud run ever and I spent a ridiculous amount of time feeling nervous and anxious about it, but then I ran a Super Spartan and the Warrior Dash’s 3.5 miles suddenly don’t seem so daunting. I’m excited for the chance to do it again though, to have a better idea of what to expect this time around, and to have the chance to improve my run time.

I don’t know what it is about mud runs and adventure racing that I love so much. I’m usually a pretty clean person, the type who can’t eat messy foods in a reasonable amount of time because I have to keep stopping and wiping off my face and fingers. I tend to not love dirt, although I did grow up making mud pies to entertain myself, but still. Coming off a race course, I don’t tend to mind the mud at all. It’s kind of nice actually, in a barn-scented sort of way.

The cats are thieves and even though I’ve been living with them for more than a year now, I still sometimes forget what awful thieving creatures they are the accidentally leave some spare keys to a friend’s houses on the dining table, only to come downstairs to find them all gone. I asked the cats, nicely, to bring the keys back, but cats are mostly useless, except for when it comes to stealing bits of shiny things, and so they both refused to help, opting instead to race up and down the stairs making awful chirping noises and begging to lick the cereal dust out of my cereal bowl, so I had to climb all around the house on my hands and knees looking under things and behind things and lifting up all the rugs until, mysteriously, the keys just reappeared in the middle of the foyer rug.

I really think they’re just fucking with me at this point.

On Sunday I fly out to California for another Toyota Women’s Influencer Network event, and while the details are still coming in, I’m ridiculously excited at the prospect of finally getting to meet so many of the other women in the group. There have been other group events, but none I’ve been able to attend and the Wanderlust adventure was just for a few of us and seeing as I’ve been in this group since its inception back in January and have only gotten to meet a small handful of the other women in the group, I’m really glad I’m finally getting the chance to meet so many of the other women all at one guaranteed-to-be-fabulous event. Fingers crossed I can get some mac & cheese in my face and cross California off my mac & cheese eating list.

I’m home just a day before heading south to Alabama after the California trip. The thing about where Andrew lives is that the airport there is very small and tiny and miniscule and so flights in and out tend to be on the very expensive side so this time I’m flying into Atlanta, renting a car and driving the four hours to his house, which sounds only mildly exhausting at this point and really, I think I can manage since it’s saving us something like $350. Also, I’ve been in the mood to drive lately, and a trek through the wilderness of Georgia and Alabama actually sounds kind of lovely. I’m sure I’ll get to hour three and start cursing the world, but for now, I’m going to keep these rose-colored glass on and pretend that the whole drive will be full of butterflies and triple rainbows.

My hatred of the Yorkie next door continues to grow. The first time I met this little dog, he humped my leg. Then, his owners didn’t have him on a leash and so, when I stepped outside with my very large and very furry husky mutts, that little shit came bounding across the yard all YAP YAP YAPPING about it and got right up in the faces of my sweet dogs and it took everything I had not to let the woofs just eat his stupid little Yorkie face. Now, he spends his days in the neighbor’s back yard and I can’t let my dogs outside for five minute without him barking about it. It’d be one thing if he just let out a few little yaps, but the tiny fucker won’t shut up. If my dogs are in the yard, minding their own business, going about their business, chewing on sticks and crunching acorns so the squirrels can’t have them, the Yorkie yaps the ENTIRE time, be it five minutes or twenty. The other day I had the window open, the Yorkie was in the back yard and Sadie ran through the living room, causing her dog tags to jiggle and the little fucker barked at THAT for five whole fucking minutes, sending me into a window slamming fit of rage.

I love dogs, I really do, but I hate that little Yorkie fuck.

The New Commute.

The hardest part about Andrew being gone is getting used to all my new routines. My mornings and nights are shadows of what they were before. At work, it’s the same thing. Andrew was the primary producer of print media in our office, while I usually focused on video content. But then he left and another coworker tore his Achilles tendon, rendering him absolutely useless in the going out to cover stuff arena, and suddenly our little staff of four was down to two and I got thrown into the wonderful world of print journalism, an arena I haven’t visited since I had my own column in my high school’s paper called “Artificial Candy Coating.”

Last week I spent four days out of six driving to training sites around the state, taking pictures and gathering the information needed to write a few stories. It was a lot of car time, a lot of car time I’m not really used to spending by myself.

Andrew and I used to operate as a team, going out to cover training and events together, with one of us focused on capturing print content, and the other focused on video. He’d do the driving, I’d do the napping, and, after last week, it seems my natural inclination upon getting into the van, our work vehicle, is to go to sleep. This works fine and well when I’ve got someone to drive me around, but when I’m doing the driving it’s conclusively ineffective.

The weird thing is I’m only like this in the van. In my own car, I’m fine. I can drive for days without caffeine or an insatiable napping desire. In fact, a few Saturdays ago I drove back and forth from Lynchburg, Va., about two hours away, and felt alert and awake the entire trip, there and back. A few days later I get in the van to drive the two hours to Virginia Beach and I’ve got to stop to get a giant cup of tea before even getting on the interstate. It’s Pavlovian, I suppose, as if there’s some weird trigger in my brain that pulls the sleepy time lever when I get in the van.

The more basic part of my daily driving experience that has been altered by Andrew’s absence is my drive to work. It’s nice, in some ways, only having to worry about getting myself out the door and only ever having to wait on myself to hurry up and brush my teeth, but it’s oddly quiet. Our morning car rides to work used to be spent talking about upcoming work events, weekend plans, dog and cat shenanigans and now it’s spent in silence. Sure, I could turn the radio on, but there’s something nice about the quiet.

So much solo driving has also meant a lot of time spent inside my own head, processing everything that’s going on. Driving has always been the time when I do the best of my thinking and that hasn’t seemed to change. There’s something therapeutic about an open road.

4 Musts for Maximum Enjoyment of Solo Road Tripping

1. Wind. I don’t know what it is, but I find I enjoy road trips far better when I’m able to have the windows down, wind blowing my hair up and around and out the windows.

2. Road Music. What I define as road music depends on my mood – sometimes I want something folksy to guide me down country roads, but other times I need something loud and fast and easy to sing along to.

3. Hydration. I’m always thirsty and can’t hit the road without a few giant water bottles.

4. Snacks. I’m a grazer by nature, generally opting to graze around my kitchen than partake in the eating of actual meals and road tripping is suited quite well to a grazer lifestyle.

Disclosure: I was selected for participation in the TWIN community through a program with Clever Girls Collective. I did not receive any compensation for writing this post, or payment in exchange for participating. The opinions expressed herein are mine, and do not reflect the views of Toyota.

May, or the one with all the emotional rollercoasting.

There have been points in the past week where I’ve felt like a very small person standing at the bottom of a very big mountain stacked with only marginally stable boulders that shift each time the wind blows. I’ve felt like I’m about to be crushed, like all the bits and pieces I’ve tucked away for safe keeping have started to fall and shift and move.

May has been simultaneously one of the best months of my life and one of the hardest. It has been the month with ALL THE EMOTIONS, the one with ALL THE CHANGES and it’s hard for me to feel stable when all the parts of my life keep shifting around and beneath me, challenging and changing the way I define myself and my life.

At the beginning of the month, I graduated. Finally. It was a long awaited moment, and an emotional one, especially considering the identity shift it provoked. I’ve called myself a student for all of my adulthood and then suddenly, because I walked across a stage and shook some hands I lost the student title and earned the graduate title which is nice, I suppose, but I really like school. I’m good at it. I didn’t know I’d miss it so much, that as soon as I was done with it I’d start craving it all over again.

I mentioned that Andrew wasn’t at graduation and that’s because he’s pursing his life dream of becoming a helicopter pilot and my graduation weekend was a pre-training weekend for him, full of pushups, power points and flutter kicks. He’s been talking about this dream since we were in Kosovo in 2007 and after a short period of deliberation, a rushed application process and a lot of crossed fingers, it’s finally happening.

After graduation came Vegas and Bloggers in Sin City, my single-most looked forward to weekend of the year. It was amazing, of course, but leaving felt like a heart punch and after four days of SO MUCH and ALL OF THE THINGS, it’s hard to come back and realize I’ve got to wait a whole year to do it again. It’s an emotional experience too, one full of heart swells and soul recognitions and hugs from friends I don’t see often enough and leaving is hard. Plain and simple, it sucks to walk away from your tribe, to bid farewell to the brilliant and amazing people who show up for the shenanigans in Vegas each year.

This past weekend we helped my grandmother pack up the house she’s lived in for 33 years and said goodbye as she headed to Texas, back to the land of her birth. I tried to explain it to Andrew on Saturday, what it meant that she was leaving. It’s not only that I’ll miss her, it’s that her house has been the one and only constant in my life. As a kid I bounced from house to house and parent to parent, never staying in one place for more than three years, and grandma’s house was the only place that ever stayed the same throughout all of those storms. There’s a comfort and a security I’ve always felt when visiting her house and to realize that it’s gone, that the one place I’ve counted on being there is suddenly no more, is more difficult than I anticipated.

This weekend we fly to Boston for a cousin’s wedding, a cousin I haven’t seen in a decade or so, and then, next week when we get home, Andrew will most likely head south to Alabama to start flight school. He won’t be home until sometime next year, if we’re lucky.

The problem is that I haven’t let myself feel any of this. Each time I feel the pin pricks of tears creeping up behind my eyes, I shut them down and shake them off. I tell myself I don’t have time for an emotional outpouring and really, I just don’t. There’s no time to feel all of these things. There’s too much to get done in the meantime, too many bags to pack and tasks to complete, so I bury it.

It’s like standing on the tracks watching the train coming, totally immobilized, bracing for the inevitable impact.

All this to say, things are changing.

Graduation

My first semester of college started at the end of August 2003. I was 19. That first semester was a whirlwind of the quintessential college experience: parties and dorm living and dining facilities and sleeping until noon each and every day.

On May 12, 2003, I joined the National Guard and had decided that going to basic training after my first semester of college was the best way to go about things, mostly because I’d already registered for classes and we’d already sent money to the school. So, in December, after a whirlwind first semester, I packed up my dorm room and headed home.

January came and off I went, to South Carolina’s Fort Jackson for the nine weeks of  basic training that involved ruck marching, tent sleeping, early morning wake-up calls, french toasts for breakfast and extensive bed making and bathroom scrubbing. From there, I went north to Laurel, Maryland for my advanced Army training in Broadcast Journalism. By the end of June, I was back home and reading to get back to school in the fall.

Fall came and I went back to school with a vengeance, anxious to make up for lost time. I plowed through my general education requirements and was set to graduate with my peers when, on a Friday in May 2006, I got called and told I’d be deployed to Kosovo and I’d need to be ready to head to Indiana for mobilization training in July or August. I withdrew from my classes, packed my bags and arrived at Camp Atterbury, Indiana on August 1, 2006.

From there we went to Germany for a short and final training period and then it was off to Kosovo, just in in time for Thanksgiving. I spent ten days short of a full year in Kosovo, and then, in November of 2007, I came back to the United States, essentially homeless and determined to marry Andrew.

We found an apartment in Richmond, got married and then began the tricky task of finding jobs. I wanted to wait to go back to school until I found a job and could figure out how to finish my degree while working full time. I didn’t start back to school until the fall of 2009 and it was slow going from there. I started with taking only one class at a time, reasoning that it was best to ease myself back into academia rather than flinging myself in the madness of paper writing and test taking after a multi-year hiatus.

I’ve earned an A in every class I’ve taken since I’ve been back at school and on Saturday I graduated magna cum laude with my Bachelor of Science degree in Sociology.

It was an emotional and amazing day. Andrew had to work out of town all weekend for this BIG THING I haven’t felt like disclosing yet, but he, along with my girlfriends, still managed to make the day an amazing one. I blogged once that I didn’t have any girlfriends and how sad that made me and then my life got filled up with amazing and brilliant women. One girlfriend threw me an amazing party, one I’m leaving the decorations up from because streamers and balloons make everything better. Stacey helped surprise me with Caryn, who was able to surprise me with the help of my amazing husband, and there was squealing and jumping and yelling and all of the joy and when I walked through Exhibit Hall A in my graduation gown on the way to my seat and looked out and saw those three amazing women cheering for me and snapping pictures of me, my heart almost exploded. My face hurt from smiling and my life just felt so full.

Harborton Adventures, Peggy Sue the Camry, & a lot of Bridge-Tunnels.

Two weekends ago my involvement in Toyota Women’s Influencer Network landed me Toyota Camry Hybrid for the weekend. I named her Peggy Sue. She was blue.

That Saturday, after I wrote half a research paper, Andrew and I loaded up the car with snacks and supplies and headed toward Harborton, Virginia, a teeny, tiny little town on the Eastern Shore of Virgina, home to my cousin, her husband and their teeny, tiny little baby girl.

To get to Harborton we had to drive in a V because Harborton’s placement on the Eastern Shore means it’s basically stuck on a little strip of land that dangles into the Atlantic Ocean. Getting there also required me to drive across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel, my nemesis. I’m not a fan of bridges or tunnels, and the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel covers a whooping 23 miles, which includes two 1-mile tunnels, is one of only 8 bridge-tunnel systems in the whole entire world, and was formerly listed as one of the seven engineering wonders of the modern world. This bridge-tunnel does not play. It is serious. Like a honey badger.

It didn’t hit me that I’d have to drive across the Bridge-Tunnel until we’d already started our trip, and I had a small moment of panic when I realized I’d be driving in an unfamiliar car across a Bridge-Tunnel I absolutely despise. Obviously, I got over it. Like a honey badger.

The worst part about crossing the bridge was realizing I’d have to cross it again the very next day. That’s just too much bridge for me, y’all.

After winding up the shore, down a few twisty roads past a few horses and farms, we finally arrived in Harborton at my cousin’s house. Harborton is tiny. There is a church. And the post office is connected to the postmaster’s house. That’s pretty much it, plus a few goats. For reals. But it’s beautiful.

We also got in a hefty dose of baby holding time with my second cousin. She’s adorable. The most adorable, really. My people really know how to make cute babies.

Also, there were cats. Two – Penelope and Gus, the one-eyed cat.

It was a brief trip, but a needed one. I’ve been swamped with school projects and work lately and have said no to a lot of things. This month is the final push for me, the final rush to the finish line toward a graduation I thought would never, ever come. I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to get my undergraduate degree, but I guess the important thing is that I’m finally getting it. And maybe grad school is next, because why not? And because the thought of not spending my time in a classroom anymore makes me sad.

We stopped at the start of the Chesapeake Bay-Bridge Tunnel at a pull-off area to take in the view on the way back. It was beautiful and so peaceful. For someone who can’t swim, I’m pretty addicted to the thought of living closer to the water.

By my estimation we drove something like 400 miles in that Camry and there was still over a quarter tank of gas left in it when it was picked up Monday morning. I missed it immediately. I didn’t expect to love it as much as I did, being that I’ve been a RAV4 driver my whole life and since I’m way more comfortable driving SUVs than driving cars, but that Camry was a dream. I’m under absolutely no obligation to wax poetic about Peggy Sue, but I want to because she was a fantastic car that took us on a much needed weekend adventure.

Disclosure: I was selected for participation in the TWIN community through a program with Clever Girls Collective. I did not receive any compensation for writing this post, or payment in exchange for participating. The opinions expressed herein are mine, and do not reflect the views of Toyota.