Monday, August 27, 2012

Anniversary Together

Today Nick and I celebrated our seventh anniversary. And what's remarkable about that is not the fact that we've made it seven years... or even that seven years has gone by. What's remarkable is that he was actually here on Guam with me to celebrate in person. We had a pretty low key day. It's Monday. We both went to work and operated among our various separate worlds during working hours.

But then, remarkably, we both came home. Together. We went out to eat for Thai food. We got frozen yogurt. And we came home. Together.

As I wrote in Nick's card earlier thanking him for these incredible two years together, I followed up that thought with, "I don't want it to end!"

And I don't. I don't want this time of being together to come to an end. I want it to go on forever.

One of the things I love about Peyt's Island (which I am also struggling to figure out how to end... but not end), is that I can go back and reread what I have written this time last year. Or in August's case, two years ago. Today marks my third anniversary-related post in which I have summed up significant eras or moments in our dating or married life as a reflection on our anniversary. From 2010, we have Five Years and Counting, the post recapping the journal entry I wrote in 2001 wondering whether or not I could be a navy wife for five years. Having just arrived on Guam, my vision captures the possibilities that our two years ahead would hold, not yet knowing all that was yet to be.

A year later, my whole understanding of being a military spouse had changed. In addition to several other unexpected tragedies that year, our anniversary fell just a few raw weeks after 31 of America's toughest heroes were taken in one tragic moment. And so To Love A Warrior emerged from the depths of my soul, trying to make sense of this enormous risk we military wives take in wearing the ring of someone who carries our heart away with them into dangerous lands, never for sure knowing whether we may get it back. I spent our anniversary in Thailand with a friend, while Nick was in San Diego preparing to attend a heart-wrenching memorial service. 

This seventh anniversary was a simple one. There was no fanfare to brag about or extravagant gifts exchanged. In fact, it rained most of the day. So much so that we didn't go to Two Lovers Point to watch the sunset (we got a "rainset" instead, Nick informed me). We went to a restaurant on Guam that served great food and had a wine list that consisted of "We have red wine and white wine." We joked about boonie dogs and chickens on the side of the road on our way there. We talked about our respective days at work and our upcoming seventh honeymoon.

And then we came home. Together.

Together on Guam at seven years :)
We came home to an empty house, sprinkled with the eyesore of boonie furniture. The only decor is a smattering of anniversary cards from close family that line the microwave, and the tropical flower arrangement we dedicated to our anniversary at church yesterday... resting unceremoniously on our boonie dining table.

And yet even in this empty house, I know I have everything I will ever need. Because me and my favorite friend in the whole world are here together. I can't help but wonder if in the years from now I will look back on today and put it up there with one of our best anniversaries ever.

If only it didn't have to end...

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The Fresh Factor: Going Bananas

This Fresh Factor article about bananas posted last week. And now the timing of the headline couldn't be more perfect. This, friends, is why we are going bananas this week:

Only five weeks until go time...

Friday, August 17, 2012


After two weeks of gold-medal Olympic watching, this week has taken a decisive turn as Nick and I began sorting through everything we own preparing for the move. As we head into yet another weekend (how is it Friday again already?) just about every drawer, cabinet, closet and bin has been sifted through ahead of the movers coming... on Tuesday.

The process has been awesome in some ways. We're now at a point where we know A) where we are for sure moving and B) how much space we will have. Those two vital pieces of info have made getting rid of unnecessary stuff so much easier. As I write, there is a huge suitcase on the floor at my feet full of clothes, books, excess snorkel gear, dive books, and household items to take to the thrift store or give away to friends. As a result, drawers and cabinets and closet doors are closing easier all around. The house just feels lighter.

Going through our stuff has also had its moments of hilarity. Last night I went through all my files, filling up the recycling bin, and also running across all kinds of things I'd forgotten about... like the list of inside jokes Nick and I logged on our trip to Vancouver Island ("There is cheese in my zipper") and the photo scavenger hunt list from his 21st birthday in Annapolis (in which he went skinny dipping in the Severn River in November). In other closets, we've come across ridiculous items like the hat from my Japanese tourist Halloween costume and the sled Nick had to buy as we approached the entrance of Yosemite National Park (yes, we've been storing a snow sled here for the past two years). At one point, Nick called me over to check out a picture of him from his Plebe year at the Academy when he was running track and had dropped weight into the 140s. We laughed at how skinny he was then... and how blank his white uniforms looked without all the colorful ribbons he has since earned.

But there have been other moments throughout this process when I have found myself staggering into the reality that this impending move away from our life on Guam is really going to happen. As we were going through the outside storage shed, I heard Nick say, "Hey Peyt, look." He was holding up the ladder he had made out of PVC pipe and 550 cord to assist us and our visitors in getting out of the water and back into our boat. That one little display of string and pipe brought back an incredible flood of memories of our first months on island exploring Guam's coastline on Propeller. It was a decisively awesome era in our time here. I never would have thought I would be blinking back tears on account of a homemade ladder.

Another unexpectedly difficult moment was just last night when we took down the paisley curtains in our kitchen and living rooms. At my request after we first moved in, Nick spent an hour on each window drilling into the concrete bunker walls to install curtain rods so I wouldn't have to stare at the ugly standard-issue vertical blinds for two years. More than any other single item of decor in the house, those curtains made this place feel like home. As soon as they were down and the vertical blinds were back up, the house felt immediately different... and more than slightly less like home.
When Nick mentioned he'd also taken down the three wooden masks that distinguish the front of our house from every other identical house in the neighborhood, I once again found myself blinking back the tears. Those smiling faces have welcomed us home at the end of every day's work and after every long trip away. They are no longer there to greet us.

Wednesday night I took our youth group to the weekly festival Chamorro Village. They always have fun buying ridiculous toys, pranks, and gag items and stuffing their faces with BBQ and mango juice and banana donuts. We went back to the church to play one of our favorite games (kick the can). While we were eating brownies, we went around the room and did our usual ritual of revealing highs and lows. Highs are the best part of your week and lows are the worst. My low was the realization that I don't have many Wednesdays left. As I spoke these words, I caught myself blinking back the tears once again. And it suddenly hit me how much I am going to miss each of these kids.

Going through my grad school papers in the filing cabinet, I was reminded of a term we were instructed to incorporate into one of our semester projects. It was a trendy word in social scientific research lingo at the time. The word is liminal, loosely defined as the state of being in between two worlds. This past week I have found myself going back and forth between, "It will be so great to watch football games on East Coast time and not during breakfast this year," and "I can't wait to be in driving distance from your cousins." To "What am I going to do when I have to wear socks and jackets?" and "How am I going to get through the week without ridiculous comments from middle schoolers?"

This transition period between Guam and the States has surely begun. Over the next few weeks we will begin the rituals of getting excited about all that we have to look forward to (hardwood floors! Starbucks! family and friends!) while simultaneously saying goodbye to our favorite island spots (Dadi Beach, Palm Tree Golf Course, barbecues at Jake and Erin's). We know without question that the life awaiting us in Virginia will be a good one. But life here as we live it now is just so sweet. And so we remain floating in the liminal space between here and there... between island time and reality... between Peyt's Island and whatever awaits us in the chapter to come.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Exit strategy

The beginning of the end is most certainly upon us. This past week has been focused on the initial steps of our transition. Somehow it is already Friday of yet another week. The weeks are absolutely flying.

Julia (the Kenyan chick) during her first go at Beep Bop
Sad as I am to start the process of bowing out of here, some pieces of the puzzle have come together relatively easily to help the transition flow smoothly. Last week our church council hired someone to fill my position as youth director. I'm really excited for Julia to come on board. She has worked with the families of our church before during one of our programs last fall, so she's not a completely new face around here. It's the right time in her career to take an opportunity like this, and I know she's going to do great things for the program. She was the first person to respond to the position when we posted it on a couple of local Facebook pages. We didn't even have to advertise and we filled the job with our first candidate. Sounds like an answer to prayer to me.

This week I also met up with someone who's interested in taking over the Fresh Factor blog after I leave. I heard about this person through my friend Megan from church. Megan's friend made a comment in passing that she loves the Fresh Factor and would like to write for that blog one day. Megan said, "Funny you should say that. I know the girl who writes it and she's leaving soon." We met at her home over homemade mango banana smoothies to talk details. I couldn't think of a more perfect person to continue the column. This lady even makes her own coconut milk. I actually think she's more qualified to write the blog than I am.

Golf with the new guys
Nick has continued doing turnover with his replacement at work as well. A guy moved here in May who will be taking over his job. Crazy thing is that this same guy lived across the walkway from us in our apartment complex in Coronado while he was going through training. I got a message from him back in January saying he was coming out here after his deployment. And here he is, our old neighbor who we watched become a team guy, stepping into Nick's shoes. Nick has already cleaned his desk and packed up his gear storage in anticipation of the movers coming.

Yes, the movers are coming. I keep looking around at our cozy living room setup and blinking in disbelief that it will all disappear in about 10 days.
Our living room grew a putting green
I know we will set it all up in our new place and it will look lovely there. But it won't have this backdrop of blue skies and palm trees swaying in the breeze through the window. We also have pinned down the day on the calendar during the last week of September when we'll board a plane, writing the last sentences of the final chapter of this very special story. We still have a good six weeks left, but just knowing that day is getting closer makes me cringe a little.

Our new house... Wait... where are the palm trees?!

As easily as our exit has been so far, our entrance to Virginia Beach is strangely already coming together as well. As in, we already found a place to rent through friends, from friends, right down the street from friends. Nick and I have both been in several of the units in this neighborhood before. They are very new and really nice. It won't have a yard (no mowing), but it has enough space for my one requirement... an herb garden. It also has a garage where we will be setting up our crossfit gym. I have been in touch with several friends in the area, and I'm excited to reunite with so many people we already know.

It was exactly a year ago this week that Nick came home with the news that Virginia Beach, not Coronado, may be the best next step for us. I spent the next few weeks, months moping about the change in plans. One year later, I find myself finally getting excited to be moving there. There are a few loose ends to tie up still. I haven't decided what I am going to do with Peyt's Island just yet. And I still have no idea what awaits me in terms of what I will be doing in my new place. But I have learned not to worry about such details. As the exit strategy continues rolling and the weeks keep flying, I'm doing my best not to get ahead of the calendar... to stay present in the present... to hold on to island time and float along in paradise as long as I can.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

The Fresh Factor: Thai Papaya Salad

It's hard to believe that my trip to Thailand with Jen was almost a year ago. Thailand was a special trip for me in a number of ways, but here's a biggie. The whole premise of traveling to other places to learn how other people live and work and eat and sleep... the whole premise of traveling abroad is that you might learn something new... and that learning some new thing might somehow change you. Taking a cooking class in Thailand was the catalyst that changed the way I think about food... specifically, the sourcing of food. It's something I had always been aware of before, but it was not something I made an effort to act on prior to going to Thailand.

In taking action, I was able to pair a writing opportunity with this new passion for eating local, creating an opportunity to learn and even teach more about the food and farming available locally on Guam. My aim has been to encourage others to eat fresh, local produce and seafood, not just because it costs less or tastes better (it does!), but because it makes sense... for our families, our island, and our planet.

So this Guam Guide post is no ordinary Thai Papaya Salad recipe. This was a moment in time where everything changed. Who knew a simple green papaya from a small market in Chiang Mai harnessed so much power?

Friday, August 3, 2012

Summer Youth Group

Thought I would take a break from the trip-visitor-local produce cycle I've gotten myself into and share some other stuff I've been up to this summer on Guam. Leading the youth group at our church has been a big part of that. With the kids out of school, we've taken on game nights, movie nights, bowling, Vacation Bible School, and even a slumberparty! Here are a few pictures from our summer gatherings:
 Real-life Angry Birds! 
Bonus points: No windows were broken so there was no angry church council.
 Getting ready to play our favorite game... an LCG original...
 Beep bop! It's kind of like freeze tag in the dark... but 10 million times more awesome.
The kids ninjas around here take it pretty seriously...
Unfortunately, summer also means going away parties. We said goodbye to Cheyenne (bottom right) right after school got out in June. But don't worry, we sent her off properly with a girls group slumberparty. Mr. Nick was in Japan so we had the whole house to ourselves!

Therefore... an epic Footloose dance party ensued
as did a raid of Ms. Peyton's closet and Halloween costume box :) 
Turns out you never outgrow the fun of playing dress up into the wee hours of the morning!
 You do outgrow your ability to stay up until 5a.m. I only made it to THREE. These girls were passed out with the light on... on the tile floor... until 10 when someone's mom showed up. Slumberparty success!

Hard to say goodbye to this girl though. Cheyenne went on both Manila trips with us. Together we have witnessed miracles. After learning to love Guam, she will finish high school in Arkansas.

 Our youth helped out with Vacation Bible School
The kids had fun on their desert journey (though personally I prefer the jungle)...
Another day, another island sunset. No biggie...

Four of our youth are in their middle school band, so our youth group went to see them one night, then came back to our house (down the street from the school) for dinner and games in the neighborhood.
Summer in Guam is the perfect time for frozen yogurt outings... and general goofing off.

 This week we had one more big youth group gathering to play our favorite game, Beep Bop. This time several of the youth requested Mr. Nick to come and be one of the boppers. I don't know what they were thinking. He bops really hard.
It was also Coleman's going away party. His family went on the Manila trip with us in April. In fact, Coleman went on every trip I have planned here. He's an awesome leader among the youth and one of those personalities that will be impossible to replace around here. I have loved getting to know all of the Nelsons. They leave on Sunday to move to New Mexico. And like every family that passes through the revolving door of our church, they leave a huge hole.

Thankfully, as our seasoned families leave island for their new orders, new families are showing up. And there won't be any more going away parties for several weeks. In fact, now that we have said our goodbyes to the Nelsons, the next goodbye on the table for our church is actually... us.