Friday, July 29, 2011

Your Questions Answered Part IV: Love & Long-Distance

Thanks for all of your great comments so far, everyone! I hope I'm not boring you with these posts because I'm rather enjoying them.

This set of questions comes from Torilynn.

What was the most difficult time in your long-distance relationship and how did you overcome it? And also, was there anything that you learned to appreciate during that time when you both were apart?

For those of you who haven't read our story, I'll provide a little bit of context. Robbie and I were together for a year and a half before he enlisted in the U.S. Army as an airborne infantryman.  Up to this point we had certainly spent time apart, as there was an hour drive between our respective houses, but we were not prepared for what apart really meant.  From April until July 2004, Rob and I spoke on the phone twice, for two minutes each, and otherwise communicated solely via letters.  After OSUT he moved on to Airborne School, where we had somewhat more freedom in communication, and finally he was stationed in Anchorage, Alaska.  In October 2006 he deployed to Iraq during one of the most chaotic times of the war.  He had far too many a few close calls but happily returned to me in November 2007.  He has been out of the Army since May 2008.

(Happy sidenote: his official no-more-Army-forever date is next Thursday! I wish I could convey my excitement in something more than italics)

Can't deny how sexy that uniform is.
I think most people would imagine that I would say the most difficult time was during the deployment.  We were averaging maybe a week of sporadic phone calls for every two weeks of no contact whatsoever, at least during those initial months of the deployment.  Before he called me to tell me he had been shot and was receiving a Purple Heart, we hadn't spoken or emailed in two straight weeks.  Keep in mind that during this time I was going to college and studying abroad in Moscow. But, perhaps surprisingly, the deployment was one of the easiest times communication-wise.  I can't remember a single argument or a single misplaced word.  It was as if we both had come to a mutual, unspoken understanding about where we were as a couple and what was going on.  Our conversations were filled only with love, kind words, and understanding.

Sidenote: I'm also very lucky that my husband knows me extremely well and kept all of the horrible stories to himself, at least while he was overseas.

Pew pew pew
I would say that the most difficult time for us was when he was in Alaska prior to the deployment and I was in Beloit, Wisconsin.  I am a far more dependent/needy person than Rob is, and I found it hard to get out of my own head and have fun while he was so far away.  To be honest I didn't really enjoy college to its fullest extent for this reason.  I didn't connect with a lot of people because I was wrestling with being a crazy girl a lot of intense emotions.

As a result I definitely was an obnoxious harpy girlfriend sometimes.  I would get annoyed if he would go see a movie with his friends because I assumed it meant he didn't want to talk to me.  I'd play stupid passive-aggressive emotional games with myself.  I'd hang up on him when I got pissed. I acted out because I ached for his presence and his closeness and I couldn't have it.  It wasn't all bad and we were still pretty damn happy during his entire enlistment, nor did we ever question that we would stay together despite the bumps, but there were hard times and they were objectively mostly of my doing. Honestly it's a wonder the man stayed with me so long.

Another difficult time for us was immediately after he returned from deployment, when he was still in Alaska and I was still in Wisconsin.  Because of school and money I couldn't make it to his homecoming ceremony, a fact that will haunt me for all of my days and something that to some extent upset him as well, though he understood the circumstances.  All of a sudden the emotional baggage bullshit reared its head again after laying dormant for 13 months, and this time Rob was not in an emotional position himself to handle it as he always had.  We had a few huge blowouts but nothing breakup-worthy, and when he came home and we moved in together it was if nothing had ever happened and he had simply been gone on a weekend vacation.  A really long, really dangerous weekend vacation.

And Stalin watches over us all.
In terms of what I learned to appreciate, I think that our time apart, particularly during the deployment, made me realize how fragile life can be, and how amazing true love is when you find it.  Going through hell with someone and making it out even stronger on the other side makes you look at that person completely differently; Rob and I agree that we are so far from the people we started out as and I honestly believe it shaped how we communicate with each other and deal with our marriage on a daily basis.  Having the context of such a harrowing experience is helpful when you find yourself getting needlessly wrapped up in the obnoxious minutiae of daily life, and I don't think I would've learned to appreciate how amazingly awesome my husband is without having gone through what we did together.  I know that we can get through anything together, because we've been through everything together.

Fabulous question, Torilynn, thank you!  And thank you, readers, for getting through this somewhat rambling post.

P.S. - I was interviewed for Ashley's feature, New Friend Friday, over at After Nine to Five! Check her out, she's amazing!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Your Questions Answered Part III: Disease, Middle School & Dream Jobs

I'm going to skip my Things I Love Thursday post this week.  Haven't found enough fun things on the interwebs and I'm liking this whole question answering thing. I beg your forgiveness, loyal readers.

Today's questions come from Sara Bell.

1. Why are you gluten-free? Do you have Celiac Disease?

I am indeed the proud owner of a faulty immune system and a faulty upper intestine.  I was diagnosed with celiac disease in June of 2010, just weeks shy of our wedding.  Luckily our wedding was already pretty gluten-free (we had a baked potato bar!), but it was still an adjustment.  Rob has been an absolute blessing throughout the whole obnoxious process.

2. What band did you usually listen to when you locked yourself in your room in middle school? (Obviously you thought your life was insanely hard and did this because so did I, and everyone I know)

What a great question! In 5th and 6th grade I was positively obsessed with the Beatles.  Like in a really creepy, obnoxious, attention-getting way.  I wanted everyone to know how much I liked the Beatles.  I even sort of looked like John Lennon at one point (don't ask).  In 7th and 8th grade I grew more into an obnoxious poseur and started listening to a lot of the hits of the day, such as Nelly, Eminem, Limp Bizkit, and, of course, N'Sync and the Backstreet Boys.  I am not particularly proud of this period in my musical history, as you can probably imagine.

3. What is your dream job?

Another great question.  I used to think I'd like to be a veterinarian, but now I think I would love to be a comedy writer on a television show.  Preferably with Tina Fey please.  I doubt I'm funny or witty enough so for now it's just a dream, but a fun one regardless. I think I would also enjoy just writing in general, as long as I could maintain some level of creativity.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Your Questions Answered Part II: Negativity and Blogging

Today's question comes from Katie!

I love how you're so honest in your blog. It's something I struggle with, so I just end up posting loads of pictures, and not saying much at all for fear of being judged harshly. Do you ever worry about being judged or are you fairly anonymous?

I've always been particularly sensitive to criticism in all areas of my life, whether it be my writing, how I do my job, or how I talk to other people.  The slightest negative word can have me in tears or questioning myself or wanting to curl into a ball to stop the racing thoughts.

I am indeed extremely honest about what I go through on a daily basis on my blog.  I am a very open person, both in real life and here, and I am pretty willing to talk about just about everything because I want my blog to be an accurate reflection of who I am.  I won't lie that I grow tired of blogs that never show any flaws or negativity, because above all I like meeting people and people are not perfect or always positive.  I think my honesty gives my blog extra depth and makes it--hopefully--that much more interesting to read. My readers can correct me on that if they so wish. :)

As you said, Katie, this opens me up to criticism because I am more vulnerable.  But along with being vulnerable, I am also more genuine. I think it is because of this that my experience on my blog has been anything but negative.  If anything, my posts about anxiety, depression, and finding my own self-worth get more views and more in-depth comments than my every-day-happenings type posts.  In fact, I don't think I have received a single negative comment on any of my more "vulnerable" posts.  And indeed, writing honest posts about PTSD or anxiety or depression help to make this blog a joy and a release rather than one more way to hide my true self behind false positivity.  I don't want it to ever become a chore in that way.

I think that above all, people want to read and they want to relate.  We all want to know that what we feel is normal and that others are experiencing what we may be. If I receive any negativity down the line, I'm sure it will hurt and I'm sure I will question myself.  But at the end of the day, I will be happier that I put myself out there than if I had hidden who I am and what I think.

Do you find it easy to be yourself on your blog?

Monday, July 25, 2011

Your Questions Answered Part I: I Married my Brother and Other Thoughts

So here is my first post aimed at answering some of the questions you posed to me in this post.

This post's questions come from Deanna and Kristina (hi ladies!).

1. Does anyone ask you if Rob is your brother instead of your husband?

I have to say that this question made me laugh out loud. We get this so much, especially since I cut my hair in '03 and started wearing glasses full time instead of contacts ('05 or so).  No one has outrightly asked us if we are siblings, but I can't even tell you how many people have mentioned how much we look alike. Even his brother and mother have made comments about it. I always wonder how many strangers see us and wonder the same thing, particularly after we have shared some sort of decidedly not sibling-appropriate sign of affection. Once we went to a movie theater with Rob's dad and Rob said to me, "I wonder how many people assume we are two siblings walking with our dad." Creepy.

Taken at Christmas, 2003

2. Can you ever imagine yourself with long hair again?

Yes and no. I love the idea of long hair, but not the required maintenance.  When my hair is long it is poofy, frizzy, unruly, and obnoxiously curly.  I was reminded of this when I tried to grow it out earlier this year; I made it to the helmet-head stage before I finally gave up (if you recognize your hairdo on a man in a movie from the 1970s, it might be time to quit).  I think Rob would prefer I have long hair again, though he would never impose that on me or even admit it, but right now I just can't be bothered.

First picture together, 2002 or 2003. Notice the great variety in my husband's t-shirts.

3. Are you far- or near-sighted?

I am near-sighted.  I wore a reading glasses in second grade or so, but between you and me, I think I lied about not being able to see well to my parents because I wanted glasses (that's how cool I am and was).  They went along with my little charade since we had great eye insurance.  When I was in 5th or 6th grade my family's great myopic tradition was passed on to me and I started wearing glasses, and later contacts, then back to glasses, full-time.

4. What is your favorite gluten-free food?

I would have to say all Udi's bread products--muffins, bread, pizza crust, and bagels in particular.  They can be treated like "real" bread (as in, you don't have to freeze and then toast them) and they actually have a decent consistency.  They were the only gluten-free bread product that didn't cause my teeth to squeak against them.  If you have frozen and toasted other gluten-free breads you know what I mean by the "squeaking."

5. Have you ever had an imaginary friend?

In fourth grade I used to imagine a little man that sat inside my desk, but I never went all that far with it.  I grew up with two sisters who were relatively close in age to me, so I had scant desire to dream up one more person I'd have to fight with for space.

I'll answer some more questions as the week goes on. Hope you all are having an amazing Monday!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Moving and Weekends and Dresses and Things

First of all, thank you for all of your amazing questions.  They are so amazing, in fact, that I think I will give a few of the more involved ones their own posts.  Fun, right? It'll be nice to have some blog post ideas ready and waiting.  If you still have a question to ask me, click here to access the post.

This weekend was, in a word, exhausting.  But in an awesome way.  My father and I drove to my sister's apartment in New York to help her move to Boston.  Keep in mind that this was the hottest weekend all summer so, needless to say, we were sweating buckets.  But since I haven't been to the gym in a little while it was definitely good exercise and it was made even better by spending time with my dad and sister (and my mom a little bit, too).  The pictures below were all taken after all of the moving, when we had a yummy dinner at P.F. Chang's along with plenty of drinks.  I'm sorry that the pictures are not of the best quality; all I had on me was my cell phone. 

In other awesome news, I finally got myself an iPad.  I've been pining for one for a few months now (against all thoughts of practicality) and finally got the opportunity to take the plunge.  SO, iPad users, any must-have apps?  And does anyone have Instagram? If so feel free to follow me at tomakelovestay.

Anyway, I'm finally home now with Robbie and I took him out to eat at our favorite restaurant because I'm cool and nice like that.  And I like pomegranate margaritas. 

And now, the closest I will ever get to a "what I wore" post.

I can only begin to list the many ways in which you could mock me in this picture.  Weird pose? Yes. Weird dress poof? Yes.  Awkward smile? Check.  Go ahead and mock, I won't be hurt.

For the record I have no problem with other people doing "What I Wore" posts...I just have a problem with awkward photographs documenting my awkwardness.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Ask away!

I've seen other bloggers post similar posts to this so I figured I'd jump on ye olde bandwagon for a titch.

Don't let our badassery scare you.

Here's your opportunity to ask me any question.  Any question at all.  Once I've received a few/stop receiving questions I'll post my answers.

As a side note, I'm a pretty honest and frank person, and I'll be willing to answer just about any question within reason.

If you don't want to ask a question, then just leave me a fun comment.

I wish you all the most magical of weekends!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Blinding Me with Science (A Hiking Post)

So as some of you know, Rob got a job this summer as a research assistant for the Mountain Pond Project (you can view their blog hasn't been updated this summer yet but plenty of stuff from last year).  Essentially his advisor's research centers around testing and monitoring high-altitude ponds in Maine.  Rob works with three other college students, Amie, Sara, and Sarah, monitoring pond temperature, depth, dissolved oxygen, and other science-y things. They also create depth maps for some of the ponds that haven't yet been mapped.  I'm probably leaving something out about what they do, but it's all over my head anyway so just go read the blog.

This is the reason that he goes on all those camping trips grumble grumble.  I'd be lying if I said it didn't bum me out a little when he leaves because he's even though he's working, he's also camping and having fun with people who aren't me, and that kind of sucks for me since I'm sitting alone in my house working by meself not really having that much fun at all with anyone.  Cypress's idea of fun, i.e. rolling in dead animals, doesn't really count.

On Wednesday Rob invited me to go on one of their hikes (he's begged me to go on the camping trips as well, but my job depends on cell reception and internet access) and I agreed.  His advisor has been wanting me to take some pictures of the work they're doing for use in the blog and other promotional materials, and I was happy to oblige.

We got up early, met with the girls and set off for Saddleback Mountain in Rangeley, Maine.  We walked together for awhile but then separated (Sara, Amie and I went to one pond, Rob and Sarah went to another) and met up later.  The hike really wasn't too strenuous and it was fun getting to see what my husband does on these trips.

I thought you all might enjoy some of the pictures from the day, so here they are. My one regret is that I didn't get any pictures of Robbie and I together, but maybe next time.

  (from left, Sarah, Sara, Amie, and Robbie)

What fun have you had this week?

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Things I Love Thursday

Nova shared this last week and I had to pass it along - PUNtries of the World.

This video from Portlandia made me laugh out loud - Is it Local?

I've heard a lot of people ask for this - Alternatives to Pandora and Last.FM.

Who doesn't love the Holstee Manifesto? Click the image to make it bigger.

This funny Amazon review made me laugh. And who doesn't enjoy laughing?

If you have never seen the Drunk History series on YouTube, watch it NOW.  Click here, here, and here for my favorites.

I just saw HP7 the other day, so this is fitting: the Parseltongue Translator.

One of my favorite videos (and one that Rob and I quote all the time), Marcel the Shell with Shoes On.

The entire version of "Werewolf Bar Mitzvah" from 30 Rock.

How cute is this dress? Too bad the color would wash me out.

I used to watch this video over and over again when I was in Russia and Rob was in Iraq. Always made me laugh.

Sorry for the shorter post today. I hope you all have a great Thursday!

By the way, I finally went hiking with Rob and his coworkers...will write a post on that for Friday with lots of pictures.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Love Me, Dammit

Lately I've been dealing with a deep-seated fear of abandonment.  I didn't really realize just how severe this fear was until I found myself absolutely crippled with anxiety at the thought of my husband leaving me either for being so damn anxious all the time or because he'll finally realize, just as I did within a month of being together, that I am not worth his time because a funnier, quirkier, prettier, younger girl is out there somewhere.

I guess I realized that no matter what happens or what has happened with Rob and I, I do not feel as though I am worthy of love.

For as long as I can remember I've held the conviction that Rob will one day leave me for someone else, that it's only a matter of time, and who could blame him?  Who could love someone so flawed, what with my anxiety every time someone says "boo" (or doesn't say "boo," and it might mean they don't like me anymore), my constant lack of trust, my propensity toward talking about absolutely nothing, my short hair, my cellulite and spider veins, the fact that I drink from straws like a suckling infant (seriously, I get mocked at family events), the fact that I can sometimes come off as judgmental or self-righteous, and my gross feet.

The interesting thing here, I suppose, is that by coming down so hard on myself I am actually being far more disrespectful and cruel to Rob.  Basically I am telling the man who promised me his life, who thought of me while he was in firefights and IED explosions, who has bought me the most thoughtful gifts I've ever received, who has held me during my worst moments of body-wracking depression and anxiety, that nothing he has done counts for anything because his love for me must be fleeting, transient, and one sexy girl away from completely vanishing into thin air.

In these moments of blindness I completely forget about the way he looks at me when I'm talking, the pleasure he gets out of cooking together (the man refuses to let me cook for him), how excited he gets when he comes home and the dog and I are there to greet him, how he finishes my sentences and vice versa, how I can write "Your Mom goes to College" on our chalkboard and he can tell me exactly what I was thinking when I wrote it, how I can start a movie or TV show reference and he can always finish it or keep it going, how he's happier watching endless episodes of "Twilight Zone" or "30 Rock" with me than he would be going out with friends, or how I can't walk by him without him telling me that I'm his favorite.

I know that I will keep running into this issue of trust and self-loathing with Rob until I learn to love myself.  Loving yourself is the only true way to learn how to love another, and that is a fact.

So starting today, I am going to work harder on loving me for who I am.  Because this is the only body and mind and hopefully husband that I'm going to get.  And I can't imagine the man would've stayed with my crazy ass this long if there wasn't something awesome about me, right?

I have a feeling I'm not totally alone on this, so ladies, follow my lead and focus on loving yourself as much as you love those around you.

We all are worthy of love, not only of the love of others but also the love of ourselves.  

I hope you all are having a wonderful, love-filled week.

Also, I wanted to wish my older sister and best friend, Megan, the happiest of birthdays tomorrow! Love you, sister!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Getting to Know Us: The Refrigerator Edition

I think Rob and I are the only people I know who have a refrigerator that looks like this:

Every time we visit a friend or family member I am always struck by how positively immaculate the refrigerator door is.  Aside from the occasional Save the Date magnet or the offhand family photo, they typically maintain a relatively austere facade.

But not Caitlin and Rob's.  Our refrigerator is covered with such a mish-mash of items that I'm not always 100% sure on where they all came from.  But after suffering some anxiety about our refrigerator being so damn cluttered I realized that, as silly as it is, our refrigerator is sort of a reflection of us, what makes us laugh, what we care about, and how we feel about each other.

So, at the risk of this post coming off as a little goofy, I thought I'd share with you some of the various things we have on our refrigerator. Click the images to make them larger.

Front of Refrigerator:

1. A picture of Robbie and two of his buddies in a Chinook.
2. Rob's speech from his brother Nick's wedding.
3. A frequent customer card for our local gelato place.
4. Rob's little sister's high school graduation invitation.
5. Two tests that Rob did well from freshman year and one from this past year.
6. Can't see it because it's hidden but there's an appointment card for Rob's next VA visit.

1. A picture I took of my sister-in-law at one of her chemo appointments.
2. A card my sister gave me for my birthday
3. An ADK (Adirondack) magnet from when we visited Rob's grandfather.
4. A Barnes & Noble gift card (awesome!)
4. Our families are both pretty religious and have experienced several deaths in the last couple of years. These cards were given to us at their funerals (one for each of my grandparents and great uncle, and one for Rob's grandfather)

1. Awesome Beatles magnet.
2. Magnet from a pizza place in Anchorage, Alaska that Rob used to order pizza from.
3. A magnet we were given as part of a wedding gift.
4. The receipt from my dresser.
5. A fox from my coloring book colored to look like Cypress.
6. An Ann Taintor card I got Rob for Valentine's Day.

1. Turtle and Hippo that I colored for Rob, Snake he colored for me.
2. Certificate from our landlord entitling us to free dinner.
3. Invitation from my niece's 1st birthday party last October.
4. Picture drawn for Robbie and I by his 3-year-old nephew.

Rob and I not religious people, but for some reason attract a lot of Christian tracts.  And they all end up on our fridge. The two vertical ones were left on our cars and the "trillion dollar bill for our salvation" was given to us by a guy looking for bottles.

1. Yet another tract, this one given to us by the guy who sold Rob a gun.
2. Rob's sneaky snake again.
3. A picture of Rob's mother's side of the family.
4. A picture of Wall-E's collection, drawn by my cousin's son Wyatt.

1. The card I got Rob for Valentine's Day, because it makes me laugh.
2. You can't see it too well but the piece of paper that says "Tomorrow"  is an autograph from Nathen Maxwell, bassist for Flogging Molly, one of my and Rob's favorite bands.
3. Appointment card for my next dentist appointment.

Side of Refrigerator:
As a note for context: there was a period when I was traveling where Rob would leave for class before I'd go to the airport, so I'd spend my morning packing and leaving him fun notes. Hence all the brightly-colored post its on this part of the fridge.

Notes, notes, notes. You can see a little bit of the green from our Save the Date magnet in the top right corner.

More notes.  If you get the reference in the green note on the far left, without Googling, we can be friends.

I wouldn't read this note if you don't like sappy crap.

I've hope you enjoyed this goofy little post. I'm thinking of making this into some sort of feature, so stay tuned.

How does your refrigerator look? Is it clean or is it a veritable explosion of papers and pictures?

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Newest Tattoo Addition, Phase #1

I wanted to apologize for my lack of creativity and inspiration lately.

My rough week was quickly turned around after a visit to my tattoo artist yesterday.  I realized after spending around 6 hours there that I really needed to get out of my own head and just chat with people I don't normally talk to.

Yes, tattoo artists and other tattoo enthusiasts, I'm one of those tattoo collectors that talks to keep her mind off the pain.  I like to think my artist doesn't mind, but maybe I make him want to jump out the window.

Regardless, he did an amazing job with the first iteration of my matryoshka tattoo design that I first debuted in this post.

Here is phase #1, outline and some shading:

Sorry that you have to see my pasty and sunburned thigh.

I go back on August 13 to fill in the coloring, and I'll probably have another session to touch everything up and tighten up the whole design.

I'm madly in love with it, of course.  And one great thing about it in relation to my last tattoo--the half-sleeve--the "incomplete" version of this one looks pretty badass.  The half-sleeve, because it didn't have any strict lines, looked more like a series of brown and grey blemishes and burns after the first run.

I've decided that this'll be the last one for awhile (for reals this time) because I don't want to get all my tattoos before 30.  This last year I got three big ones and it's time to sit it out for awhile.

What have you done this weekend?

Friday, July 15, 2011

Remedial Stress Handling

One of the difficult things about writing a public blog is that you really have no choice but to censor yourself when discussing matters that involve other people. 

I wish I could go into more detail about this but I'm afraid that my approach to writing is generally that once you write about someone, that person will probably stumble upon it...and my goal in writing is not to offend or to hurt.  Suffice it to say I had a pretty rough week, and I'm still trying to determine the best way to deal with all the stress, anxiety, frustration, fear, and sadness that I've been feeling. Sometimes it feels like it's crushing me and threatening to completely engulf my mind.

My darling husband is on yet another camping trip for work (this time in Aroostook County, 6 hours away and no cell reception for miles) so I'm alone in my thoughts until later tonight.  As I'm sure the case is for many of you, being alone is just about the worst thing then you're already your own worst enemy, so I'm trying out some new de-stressing techniques.  Since I'm a pretty high-strung person I'm not particularly well-versed in the ways of effectively handling stress, so it's been a bit of a trial and error experience.

Here are some things that have helped make my day a little brighter during my recent foray into remedial stress handling:

1. A comfort lunch fit for a gluten-free American cheese sandwich with local organic strawberries on the side:

2. Slathering obscene amounts of aloe on my itchy sunburn in preparation for my first thigh tattoo session this weekend:

3. A brand-new coloring book and a box of 64 crayons:

4. Taking my adorable little slice of dog out to the field for a romp with her BFFs:

5. Writing a letter to my husband about how awesome he is.

6. Old "Twilight Zone" episodes on Netflix:

7. Cranking music in the car and singing my lungs out (especially to this, this, and this)

8. A brand-new planner with which to fill in all our upcoming activities:

9. A glass of "homemade" lavender lemonade and maybe a vodka cranberry or two later:

10. A date with myself sans telephone at the only restaurant in town that has gluten-free food our favorite restaurant while reading one of my favorite books of all time:

11. A Modcloth dress (the one mentioned in yesterday's post) that fit like a freaking glove. I won't subject you to pictures of it just yet.

12. This desktop background courtesy of Kyla Roma.

What do you do to relieve stress?