New Challenges & a Pair of Crocs

Things have been generally ticking along here for the past few weeks since N left, and I’ve managed to get by (mostly) unscathed. Nothing has blown up, the House Monsters are still alive, I only left the door unlocked once (double shit), and I keep threatening to spend a day on the couch watching adventure movies with a bag of PB M&Ms and bottle or wine – but that hasn’t happened. Yet. Instead, I’m looking at this deployment as an opportunity to try some new things, have different adventures, and go out of my comfort zone.

One of the first things I did – I joined a barre studio. Of course, I called it “barre”, with a french accent or something. It sounded like it rhymed with “far away”.

barre_sign

My new barre studio!

Boy – was I wrong. Whoops! But I suppose “bar studio” would give the wrong impression, even though that’s how it’s technically pronounced. That aside, I’ve never been a part of a studio before – only a gym – and I think the challenge of going to classes (something I’m not a huge fan of) and doing strength training that can improve my running and overall health – will be good for me. Other technical stuff about barre? Well – I’m undoubtedly the LEAST flexible person in the classroom, but what I lack in bendiness, I make up with pure grit. If you need someone to bang out pushups or hold a solid plank – I’m your gal. It may not be pretty, but I’ll get ‘er done. Overall, I’m finding that I enjoy the challenge, I inwardly giggle at the terminology (tuck! pulse!) and even though I don’t always feel super excited about going, I’ve committed myself to a 1-month unlimited membership and have ALWAYS felt better after each class.

Case in point – when I had a really shitty day last Tuesday, I went to an evening session of barre. As the class was ending, the instructor commented, “Congratulations, now exhale Tuesday.” So I did, and felt a lot better. After my first month is up, I’m about 99.8% positive that I’ll continue with my membership.

After this same shitty Tuesday, N emailed me that he had ordered a gift that would arrive on the 17th. Today I got a pair of Crocs in the mail –

crocs_wm

The new fashion statement at home. He says that they are, “girl crocs, as opposed to unisex crocs.” Um…they are so horrible, I didn’t realize there was a difference. But I love them.

This is quite possibly the most hideous, horrible, funny, hilarious, wonderful gift of all. When I used to think about Crocs (not that I did that often – ?), Brett Favre would pop into my head. It was horrible, and I refused to wear them forever. Then N got a pair and in a fit of desperation to take the kitty litter out one day – I put his on. They were comfortable, squishy, and convenient. I conceded (when he caught me with them on) – as long as you only wear them in the house, I suppose they are okay. But I kept borrowing his – which really DID look like clown shoes – to do little things. Apparently he noticed – so after one crap day earlier this week, he sent me a pair of my very own.

I think the House Monsters approve. As long as I only wear them in the house.

I’m also doing the “Hundred Days of Happiness” photo challenge, although I didn’t officially sign up or anything. It’s just an album on FB, and I think I would like to post one picture per day during N’s deployment. And really, the title is misleading – because not every day is a happy day and I don’t want to pretend that it is. Instead I’m looking at the project as a way of showcasing a very small part of my every day during deployment numero 5. It’s amazingly easy to remove myself, to disengage emotionally while making a photograph – the focus becomes the art and not the event or feeling; however, through the creation of art, the goal is to share a story. Good, bad and everything in-between, I’m looking forward to the challenge.

Pool_happy

Day 14, post-run happy!

Other new experiences?

Temecula wine tasting! I went to Wilson Creek, famous for it’s dangerously delicious Almond Champagne with my friend, M. Having never been there, I wasn’t really sure what to expect – but the day after hiking 21 Peaks in the San Gorgonio Wilderness, I was ready to enjoy a little bit of bubbly. The Orange Mimosa stuff was heaven and I was careful to not gulp (like I do my coffee), and instead sip. Plus, good times with an old friend – it was great. I feel so fortunate to have the people in my life that I do!

WM_friends

Hooray for friends! And Almond Champagne!

And finally – that 21 Peaks thing.

21_Peak_HikeTowards the end of last year when C and I were sketching out our hiking season, she had proposed the 17-Peak Challenge. So we put together a training schedule, figured out an extra peak (or four) to add, did a few recon hikes, strategically cached water just before our 1/2-way point, and last weekend with absolutely perfect weather – ended up hiking 21 Peaks in the San Gorgonio Wilderness.

21Peaks_topo_list

GPS track – we started on the right end and worked our way left. C kept a timesheet of when we arrived at each peak and then sent me an excel file. We are only slightly neurotic.

It was an epic day that started well before sunrise on the eastern side, brought us to the highest points of Southern California, and finished on the western edge as the sun was setting.

long_day_21_peaks

All day in the mountains = so lucky!

It was one of the MOST DIFFICULT hikes of my life, but in many ways, this also made it special. I will never forget hiking up from The Tarn after we had refilled our water supplies. Shit timing with heavy packs, going uphill through steep sand above 11K feet.I thought it couldn’t get any worse. I was wrong. Hiking up to the San Bernardino Divide Trail from Dobbs was especially horrendous, and I amused myself by searching for cairns and the trying to find the easiest route up (didn’t exist).

Marit_approach

One of my better moments – final approach to San Gorgonio summit. What a difference a week makes!

Towards the end of the day, both C and I were done – it became the sort of physical and mental battle that one doesn’t often experience in life. Though it was difficult, and all I could think about were the hokey puck sized PB cups from my friend Agnes, waiting in the cooler along with cold DWCP – we kept going. One foot in front of the other, through the ups and downs. We would take turns leading – sometimes I felt like death, so she took the lead, whereas other times I was slightly (but not much) more perky. After tagging the Washington Monument (one of 3 main survey points in CA!), we began the L-O-N-G descent to Angelus Oaks, interrupted all too briefly by Gephart Peak. My lateral quads reminded me of how much they hated descending and the mosquitoes were out in full force. Though we enjoyed the serenity of the trail, it was fan-fuckin’-tastic to see the jeep just before 8 pm. Nearly 16 hours after starting, with very little stopping along the way – we were finished. I didn’t even mind the long car shuttle to get back to Aspen Grove – I just wanted OFF my feet, a hockey puck sized PB cup, and something cold to drink other than water or nuun.

21_Peaks_montage

A few shots of our day! The large deer made me less wary of mountain lions and we were thrilled to find our water, safe at 10,600 feet.

So – here we are. It’s been almost exactly 3 weeks since he left – and like I said before, life is rolling along. I think about him every day and miss him so much. The Crocs made me laugh, but also really miss him, too. Life is just better when he’s around. There have been both good and bad moments – but like with our epic 16-hour day, the focus is to keep on moving, one step in front of the other. If we can survive a day that long, in the mountains, without getting eaten by anything or chased off a ridge by lightning – then something like a deployment shouldn’t be that bad. So for now, that’s my new focus – in spite of good, shitty, and/or everything in between – keep moving forward, enjoy when I can, recognize the humor (because it IS there), learn lessons along the way, and find the story through art.

Everything else is just icing on the cake. OR a matching pair of his & her crocs that are ONLY worn in the house….Yeah – those, too.

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