Veterans Day

Today was a gloomy, rainy, grey, and thoroughly blah day.

It’s also Veterans Day. Which, for those of you, like me, who didn’t know before now, commemorates the signing of the armistice that ended the hostilities of World War I (though the war wasn’t officially over until later). It was signed on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, which is just, well, cool.

It’s a federal holiday and apparently a bank holiday as well. So bankers and government workers get the day off, and teachers/students. Seems to me the VETERANS and service members should be the ones getting the day off, but what do I know.

Anyway, I felt pretty blergh the whole day. I really, really would have preferred to be curled up on the couch with my dog emptying my DVR, rather than working. But each time I would have such a thought, it would come with a rush of impatience at myself, because JEEZ, I have nothing to complain about.

There are families enduring months and months of separation as their soldiers are deployed.There are thousands of veterans without jobs, without healthcare, some without homes. There are thousands of active duty servicemen and women who can’t afford to feed their families because they make so little money.  There are thousands of family members who are never coming home.

That makes grousing about having to go to work at my cushy office job seem pretty pathetic.

So, when it came time for my running buddy and I to lace up and head out, I knew, despite how badly I wanted to skip, that I needed to suck it up. On a blustery, unpleasant night, we did a couple of loops around an urban park. We ran faster than I think we’ve run before, and I was kind of grumpy about that. My legs hurt. But I decided about halfway through I had better quit bitching, given that I was running on safe city streets rather than on the deck of an aircraft carrier or on a desert base somewhere. With a little help from some very loud Katy Perry, I pushed up the last hill and stood gasping, thinking about how I couldn’t wait to get back to my apartment and take this picture:

Jodi with running medal

See, last weekend, my brother, sister-in-law, and another friend ran a 5K along the boardwalk in Virginia Beach. It was a “virtual” 5K, where we paid a registration and got a medal and stuff, but ran on our own time and place. We chose a veterans awareness race for our “cause.” That I ran it with my active duty sister-in-law, who is about to deploy, was pretty humbling, and pretty cool. We didn’t get the medals in the mail until after the race was over, so there was no obligatory sharing of our hardware.

Tonight seemed an appropriate time to remedy that. Our boardwalk 5K, and tonight’s run, definitely had more meaning than most.

So, thank you to all who have served and are serving. I ran faster for you tonight. It’s not much, in fact, it’s really nothing, but it’s what I did.

On being alone

Those who make life happen while living alone are a special breed. We are (more or less) tough, low-maintenance, and pretty self-sufficient. We have carved lives of wonder and meaning out of a society that is obsessed with “matrimania” – my new favorite word – and we’ve done it with, more or less, some measure of grace. IE, we’re not raving lunatics with 50 cats and a habit of leering at people out of our windows. Go us.

We go to dinner parties alone. We travel alone. We shop – and cook! – alone. We get take out alone. We think about how to stay safe while walking in the woods, alone. We get sick, and get better, alone. We deal with the inevitable questioning of our life choices, alone. We do most things, alone.

Of course, we’re not always alone. We date. We work. We spend time with family. We have friends: wonderful people who will help move the furniture or tag along on an event. Who are there for the late-night chats or mid-day facebook messages. Who bring us chicken soup, or take a trip with us, or just basically have our backs.

And lest I lead you astray, all this alone doesn’t necessarily mean we are lonely. Don’t make that mistake, and above all, hold the pity party. Most of us alone types are pretty happy by ourselves.

Most of the time.

But not all the time.

Tonight, I’m alone, and it’s quiet and peaceful in my apartment. It’s warm and cozy. My dog is sprawled next to me, snoring mightily, feet going every which way, belly up, as safe and content as it’s possible for a dog to be. My apartment is clean, most of my errands are done; there are no dishes in the sink, a miracle if I’ve ever seen one. My body and brain are tired: my body in that lovely, jelly-legged way gleaned from a spectacular weekend of running and hiking and walking and being outside in the glorious New England fall; my mind from, well, thinking too much.

You see, I had a small taste of the other side of the coin over the last few weeks. A couple of times, I had someone to walk in the woods with, to look at the map with me when I was trying not to get us lost. Someone who offered to wash the dishes, and helped me put my AC into storage. Someone who picked the movie, packed the lunch, and helped me figure out where to put my feet on a slippery rock. Someone who needed me to offer a tissue or hand over half an orange.

I won’t lie; it was pretty nice. But it was temporary.

And now things are back to normal, and this is one of those times where it hurts a little. Maybe hurt is the wrong word. Maybe it’s more of an ache. A reminder of something that was fleetingly there, and isn’t anymore. Not a bad ache. A gentle one, the kind you get after lightly exercising a muscle long unused. It’s not the kind of ache that crushes a person. But it’s real.

Because, much as I love her, Sadie can’t help me bring groceries up the stairs.

What to do about this? Nothing, really. Time passes, aches fade. I think the only thing I can say is that I hope those of you who have that extra pair of hands around can take a moment to appreciate them. Whether it’s a boyfriend, girlfriend, spouse, friend, caregiver, or roommate, take a moment to be glad that someone is there to help you. Sure, they come with baggage, and tempers, and quirks, and all-those-super-annoying traits, but they are still there.

And sometimes, that’s just, well, nice.

Hiking in moderation

I have this funny thing about hiking.

I love it. Always have. The challenge, the outdoors, the accomplishment of reaching a goal. And the payoff of the view. Always the view. I am a view junkie.

If you were to ask me if I love hiking, I would answer unequivocally yes.

If you were to ask how often I hike, well…that’s a different story.

I’ve always felt that if only people in my life had been more in to hiking, or if I’d found myself in a relationship with a guy who likes it, I’d be a die-hard. I’d have all the proper gear. I’d know all the things like how to use a compass and how to judge pace, etc. I’d be confident and strong and fast on the trail.

Instead, I’m a wannabe. I can talk a good game, having (once) done a thru hike on the AT, and having also climbed a nice-sized hill in Rocky Mountain National Park this one time back in 2011. But I’m not experienced. I’m not strong and fast and confident. I’m just a small-town-turned-city-girl who likes to trek through the woods.

So when,  a while back, a friend and I started talking about hiking in the White Mountains, I figured, like most things hiking in my life, it was all talk.

But then, the weekend rolled around, and suddenly I was making plans to wake up before dawn, drive 2.5 hours north, and hike a couple of 4,000 foot peaks. You know, as one does.

I found myself sort of giddy. Because here’s the thing – I do love to hike. But doing it alone, for someone like me who doesn’t have the gear and doesn’t know all the things, is scary. And it’s also yet another thing I have to do by myself, with all of the self-propping-up stuff that goes with flying solo. So planning to hike with another human, and one who knows what he’s doing – well, the prospect of that was just awesome.

We met up for breakfast at Flapjacks Pancake House in Lincoln, NH (highly recommend it!) and made our plans. I, being the realist that I am, had already axed us doing an 11-mile “strenuous” hike along Franconia Ridge, because well, I knew I couldn’t do it. We’d settled on what the interwebs said was a “moderate” hike up Mt Osceola, followed by (what was supposed to be) a quick up-and-down of East Osceola, which supposedly had one really “challenging” section called The Chimney where we might have to bust out some rock climbing skills. Since I’d done that rock climbing thing once in my teens, I figured I could handle it. My friend concocted a plan to leave one car at each trailhead, thus avoiding any “out-and-back”. By the time we got to the trailhead, it was later in the day than we’d hoped, but it was a gorgeous day, the sun was out, the leaves were afire with fall color, and off we went.

And then, reality. This is the part about hiking I always forget. It’s like running. I love parts of it, and HATE other parts. Like the parts where my wimp-ass legs, used to running on flat city paths, burned after the first mile. Like the part where I knew I was setting a slower pace than my friend liked. Like the part where I needed to stop to let the lactic acid drain from my quads more often than I’d like before we reached the summit, about 3.5 miles in and up.

But there were good parts too. Much hilarity ensued when I, trudging in the lead, spotted a downhill slope and took us down it without hesitation, only for us to discover a few minutes in that I’d led us in to the New England equivalent of the jungle; machete required. We found our way back to the proper trail, running in to another couple who said, “Oh, I didn’t know that was a trail!”

“I wouldn’t recommend it,” my friend replied dryly.

We encountered that thing about hiking that I love – people are really nice on the trail. We got many encouraging exhortations:

“You’re almost there! Just 20 more minutes!”

“Just five more minutes and a bunch of mud and you’re there!”

Because we (read I) were going so slow, they were all woefully aggressive in their projections, but they were just so darn friendly about it was hard to be angry.

And then, the summit.  That magical moment when suddenly your legs aren’t tired and you feel like you could stay there forever.

Since my mom wasn’t there to freak out, we hung our legs over the edge of the cliff and ate an orange and Chex Mix and marveled at the view. I fleetingly wished for my fancy camera, but only a little bit. It was enough to just sit and take it in and not really worry about capturing it perfectly. I only took a few pictures, actually – I was just enjoying being there. That was enough.

But the sun was moving steadily across the sky, and we were committed to the 2nd peak, so we left…too soon…and struck out. I took the lead, because, well, downhill is my friend.

Alas, downhill lasted only a short while before were back on the uphill, and this time, there was nothing moderate about the slope. No switchbacks. Just up. I won’t lie, it was pretty tough for me. My legs were shot, and I had to stop a lot. And there wasn’t much to look at. But there was still good stuff. At one point, we stopped for a break, and I found a rock with moss to sit on – basically the most comfortable seat I have ever sat upon. My friend found his own rock around a bend, and for a few minutes there was just the sounds of the woods and the wind, until some fellow hikers’ words drifted up to us. And, being the super-awesome prepared companion he is, my friend busted out his GPS and announced we were actually pretty close to the top.

“How close is close?” I asked plaintively, striving not to whine, but probably not succeeding.

“Close,” he said. So up we went, and sure enough, we were close to the top. The top was nothing to write home about – a cairn of rocks and someone’s sweatshirt adorning a tree.

We’re home free! I thought to myself. Just The Chimney and then a nice stroll down to the pond, where we’d promised ourselves a picnic and maybe a nap. At this point in the hike, we’d done just over 4 miles of a 6 mile trek to the pond. I thought we were nearly done. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

The downslope of East Osceola was basically straight down. No switchbacks. No gentle grade that allows you to pick up the pace and cover lots of ground. No sirree. This was bonafide mountain goat territory. The Chimney did indeed require some rock climbing skills, but we made it through, me with a little help from gravity and my friend propping me up. But that was only the beginning.

For almost two hours, we clamored down what was basically a rock slide, made slippery by runoff and dead leaves. I probably did 25% of it on my butt, taking the coward’s way out, but recognizing that my legs were jelly and one false step could mean breaking a limb. I hugged a bunch of trees, using them to slow my momentum as I carefully and deliberately placed my feet. Love those trees. They are my friends. All the disastrous hiking stories I’d ever heard were running through my head… “inexperienced hiker gets injured, has to be rescued by rangers.” I felt bad for my friend, who was also taking it slow, but not nearly as slow as I was.

Allow me to pause for a moment to say this dude is a pretty great guy to have around in such scenarios, him being a doctor and all. And he also has the patience of a saint. Never ONCE did he make me feel lame for being as slow and careful as I was. Never once. Nor did he ever hover and try to “help” in that way that just makes an independent gal like me get all pissy. It must have been stressful for him, wondering if I would get through the hike intact, but he never showed it. That’s a good human.

Anyway, miraculously, we made it down our rockslide. At one point, I looked up at a sheer cliff to our left, and we both started laughing as we realized we’d basically come down that very face of rocks, and were unscathed. Crazy.

As we (finally) reached the bottom, we saw that most welcome sign of civilization – an actual sign on the trail. It said that the pond, our target, was another half mile in the opposite direction from where we’d parked the car. The sun was going down, but we decided to take the payoff and trek to the pond. By god, we were going to have our picnic.

So, on a deserted little pebble beach deep in the valley (for real, I’m not just writing silly words here), we chowed down on turkey and pesto and mozzarella sandwiches (did I mention my friend is awesome? He carried that stuff up and down both peaks). The only thing missing was beer, but we agreed that carrying the bottles wouldn’t have been worth it. The peace and quiet and view was enough.

There were hints of pink in the clouds – there must have been a wonderful sunset happening, but we got just a taste of it, surrounded by mountains as we were. I had a moment to just lie back and stare at those clouds, and then we were up and moving again, because we were still a good 1.5 miles from the car, and it was getting dark.

Flashlight at the ready, we set out, racing the dark and losing, setting a pretty good pace for the end of a long day, trekking over rocks and bridges and tree roots and fording a couple of streams. This was really the only part of the hike that was on mostly flat ground, and I found it the most zen-like, simply following my friend’s footsteps, placing my feet as close to where he’d placed his as I could, enjoying the beat of my heart and pace of my breath,  watching the beam of the flashlight and reminding myself how much it would suck to roll an ankle or fall on my face after all we’d managed to get through that day.

At 7.3 miles, we spilled out onto the trailhead parking lot, a little muddy, really tired, uninjured, and laughing that semi-delirious laugh of “that was awesome” – now that it was over. :)

Things I learned on this adventure:

  1. It’s good to have a resourceful friend around when you’re a wannabe hiker.
  2. “Moderate” is all in the eye of the beholder.
  3. I’ve gotta do more of this hiking thing.

On dogs in the morning.

NOTE: I wrote this on the bus, so please be kind if it’s not up to snuff.

There are some things in life that will squeeze your heart until it feels like it will pop.

Dads with babies. The first tree to turn red in the fall. Soldier homecomings. A perfectly toasted bagel with cream cheese. A hug when you’ve been without human contact for a while.

And, as it turns out, a sad veterinarian.

Now, it’s worth this caveat. It was really early when I saw my vet today. Maybe he, like me, has a hard time mustering energy in the morning. Maybe the coffee machine was broken. Maybe.

But maybe not. See, my normally effusive vet seemed, well, droopy. He was still his amazing vet self, getting down on the floor with Sadie for her exam and remembering that she’s lousy at catching food. But he was quieter than usual, and when she looked at him helplessly as he tried to toss her a treat, he rushed toward her almost desperately, telling her it was ok, she didn’t have to do anything she didn’t like, she was still awesome. The exam over, he lingered on just petting her, scratching her ears, telling her how great she is.

And when he walked us out of the clinic, he seemed to want to just hang out with her. Sadie, of course, had spotted the door and was ready G.O., but he made her linger for one last ear rub.

As I and my super healthy pooch left the animal hospital, I asked myself what could make someone like this vet sad. And my heart cracked a little, because, after all, he’s a vet, and not all animals are healthy.


30 minutes later, as I was leaving the apartment to go to work, Sadie and I did our normal departure ritual:

  • She gets excited for a moment when I approach the door…
  • then realizes we aren’t going for a you-know-what…
  • then climbs onto her quilt on the couch….
  • and presents me with her backside.
  • I give her one last ear rub, tell her I love her, and depart.

Today, thinking of my vet, I lingered on the ear rub. I thought to myself: “I might miss my bus because of this need to smoosh my face into the soft fur of her head. But that’s ok.”

I did miss the bus. By 15 seconds at the most. And it was ok.

I had to walk to the next bus stop in the crisp New England fall air. I had time to tilt my head up to watch the sun set just the tips of the leaves afire in my neighborhood. My world is poised to explode into autumn color, but it hasn’t happened yet.

It was so beautiful. Almost too beautiful for my already full heart. All I could do was be grateful and hope I was wrong about my vet.

Maybe he just hadn’t had his coffee. I hope that was it. I really, really hope so.

The kids are conspiring against me

I left the house a little grumpy today. I blame the signs in my favorite walking space, informing me that off leash dogs kill wildlife and knock kids off of bicycles (there is a campaign going on urging people to leash their dogs since a blue heron was killed recently). Since I have sometimes broken the law and let my dog off leash in that glorious space, I feel guilty and attacked.

But the kids of Boston seem determined to yank me out of my bad mood.

As I walked to work, I spotted a woman with a double stroller on the sidewalk ahead of me. A quick calculation made me realize that if she didn’t shift a little, I was gonna end up in the fence. Damn strollers, I groused silently. People with kids think they own the sidewalk. 

Then, like magic, she shifted to the side with a smile and one of the little angels in the stroller lifted his little hand and waved at me. I, feeling suitably jack-ass-like, waved back.

At the bus stop, a tired-looking mom was talking to her little toddler while her baby slept in yet another stroller.

Mom, to the toddler: You sure do have a lot of energy!
Toddler: Yep!
Mom: Can you give some to me?
Toddler: ***evil grin***


As we approached a major construction site on the bus, the mom with the toddler asked her little one if there were more excavators than yesterday. The little boy, mesmerized, didn’t answer, but all of us watched as the scoop dumped a bunch of concrete into a dump truck with a resounding clang.

Toddler, hushed, in awe: “Did you hear that?”
Mom: “Yes, I sure did.”
pause, as we all kept watching
Mom, idly: “You know, I always thought they looked like big, mechanical dinosaurs.”

The little boy was silent, still mesmerized. Then suddenly, from the front of the bus came a voice:

Bus driver: “I always thought the same thing. It’s so cool to hear someone say it.”


On the train, grandma and her grandson were having an adventure. Kneeling on her lap, the little one kept his eyes fixed outside the window, letting out a little gasp every time another train went by. A few times, he flung out a hand and pointed, whacking me in the head.

I didn’t mind. Thanks, kids of Boston.