November 11, 2014

I walked downtown to see the local Veteran's Day parade and ceremony this morning, which is something I'd actually not done before in all the time I've lived here. In the past I preferred to spend the holiday in private because it's deeply personal to me; the effects of my family's military service on my life are profound, and I'm honestly still sorting out what I think about that. 

I'm proud, of course, of my brother, and my father, and all the generations of military men before them. I know they served out of love for this country, and they did so with courage and dedication- and my brother, of course, still does so. 

Sibling spent a year and four months in Iraq, but there's an entire decade of our lives I associate with the war. We watched it begin, and then we waited before his deployment, and then there was that, and then the aftermath... And sometimes the aftermath creeps back into my day to day life- as I'm sure it does, far more often, into his- and that's something I don't think I'll be able to write about properly for a long time. 

My NaNoWriMo novel is based on part of our shared experience of the war- his deployed, mine on the homefront- and it's... cathartic. It's also reminding me of things I hadn't thought about in ages. Like I went and found Jay's old blog on the wayback machine to check a particular sequence of events. He deployed for the second time shortly after Sibling came home, which was also around the time we could barely be civil to one another, but I could at least read what he had to say and know that he was all right. 

Rereading those entries is a trip. I'd like to excerpt one from December 14, 2007 here because Jay had a philosopher's mind, and he used it to write a rather fascinating reflection on our generation at war: 
It's a bizzare thing, to be a member of the Army that bombs the base first, then stays on for years to finance and construct and improve a newer and (hopefully) better one: new sites built right next to the old sites that we destroyed, sometimes on the same foundations with similar materials. We're not the first to do it, of course. The greatest empires of the past had the same policy: subdue, destroy, build, incorporate. We're just the first to do it while being surprised that it's not cheap or easy. 

Or maybe it's not that; maybe it's rather that we don't like being an empire and doing imperial things. It sounds very un-American, and I guess until recently it was. Past generations could excuse it if it was necessary to fight evil people who were stronger than we were, but ours will have to decide whether we want to do it just out of principle. I think about this a lot, because one on hand I have great firsthand faith in the goodness of America, and believe that even at our worst we are still at our best. We take responsibility for fixing everything, and feel guilty for doing it at the same time. It's kind of endearing, like King Kong trying to fall in love and rebuild Tokyo all at once, while unfailingly stubbing his toes on the skyscrapers. Thus, AIDS in Africa is our problem, and we're not doing enough, and hunger in Asia is our problem, and we're not doing enough, and then there's Darfur and Tibet and Kyoto and all the angry people who hate us for being us, and somehow, it all must come back to us, because it must. Because we have so much, and others have so little, and fundamentally that's just not alright with us. 

On the other hand, though, I think because of all this I have a growing suspicion that my generation really doesn't want to be a superpower. We have been raised with a vague notion that America is sort of a bad country that does sort of bad things, and that people sort of don't like us, and we are a generation that really wants to be liked. So much so that we would rather try to be liked and fail and be insignificant, than not try at all. When people my age ask how Iraq is going, I detect an unspoken wince in the question: how bad are we really screwing up the world? But at the same time, I think they know we're not a bad people. We have good hearts. They just need to believe it, and I don't know if that belief will win out in the end. It seems too much to risk, at times, and we'd rather everyone spend Christmas at home every year, and not be responsible for killing anyone, even bad people, and at the end of the day be able to say that for all the problems in the world, at least we never claimed to have the answers. Because once you say that you think you do, you can be judged for your performance. But no one judges the country that doesn't try. It's a page of history that no one will ever write.

Someone will write about us, though, if not by name. I wrote earlier that I'm still sorting out what it means for me to have come from a family of soldiers, but there's a broader sorting out that will have to happen for everyone in my generation. Someday- maybe not soon, but someday- we will all have to look back and come to terms with who we were during the war. 

November 2, 2014

So. New Guy wrote to me yesterday. I'd sent him a quick message during the clasico last weekend- condolences, naturally- and he wrote back (in Spanish) to tell me he hadn't seen the match, but that he'd seen Barca lose again that morning. Then he mentioned he'd be watching the Manchester Derby today, so I asked who he was supporting. He said United. Of course he did.

This boy and I cannot be on the same side. At least  not when it comes to footie.

But City won 1-0, so I'm having way more fun than he is.

Source: Tumblr

I didn't see the entire match because I had to go to Church. There was a Marist Brother there as a guest speaker; he's a teacher and a missionary, and he spoke about working in Rwanda, which was emotional stuff. It's not the sermon I was expecting on All Souls Day, but it worked. Because he talked about death, but he also talked about life, and about rebirth, and I liked that.

After Mass, I grabbed coffee and a croissant for lunch, and settled in to write my daily 1667 words for NaNoWriMo (I actially wrote more than that) and watch the New York Marathon. I got home just in time to see the elite men finish, so that was cool. And I decided I want to run this race someday. I promptly nagged my Manhattan-dwelling cousin about it, too.

We'll see.

After the marathon, there were more sports to watch. And before you think this was a lazy day for me, well, I'll agree, but it was wretched outside, so I'm fine with that. I put the F1 race coverage on as soon as it started. It's nice to have a grand prix in Austin because it means I don't have to get up early to watch it. It was a rather crazy race, though it ended with a predictable Mercedes one-two. I'm happy Daniel Ricciardo grabbed third because his smile is one of the best things in sports.

Source: Tumblr

Bonus? Bruno Senna dressed as a lobster on Halloween.

Source: Bruno's Instagram

October 31, 2014

Trick-or-treating just ended (and it is SO LAME that there's a curfew for that, and I will never grow up enough to think otherwise). I handed out candy to the neighborhood kids, none of whom dressed as characters from Frozen, and now I'm going to eat the leftover candy in order to fuel up for NaNoWriMo.

Yes, yes, it's that time again: the insane and awesome attempt to write 50,000-words in a month will begin at midnight.

For now? Have a single word:


October 30, 2014

Look at this majestic, stuffed french toast. Look at it. Envy the fact that I got to eat it.

That's from breakfast last Saturday. My Floridian pals, Mel and Anthony, came to visit me, so we had to cover some north country necessities: hiking, touristy shopping, and eating lots of awesome food from local restaurants. So, yeah, clearly we did all of that. 

And then we went to Canada. 


Why? Because there was a half-marathon in Magog, which is a very pretty town in the hills of southern Quebec- and we decided we should run it. I’m fairly certain we were the only Americans there because it wasn’t especially English-friendly. My French, which we were relying on, is totally rubbish, but lots of lovely people switched to English to help us out. 

There was really positive energy at the starting line- despite the fact that it was cold and a bit rainy- and I was ready to go and have a good race. I had one very scary moment, though, because a guy showed up on a horse. 

I know, I know. This incident illustrates why I should carry my epi pen when I travel to foreign countries.

As it was, I swallowed one of the allergy pills I had in my running belt, and tried to stay as far away from horse guy as possible. Luckily, he turned a corner shortly after I started running, so i was able to stop freaking out and enjoy myself. And I have to say that it was an awesomely-managed race on a beautiful course. It was well-marked, there were lots of water/gatorade stopped manned by spectacularly cheerful volunteers, and there was a solid police presence to keep the roads clear for runners to pass at all times. 

I figured all the hills were going to kill my time, but I actually wound up running a PR and finishing just about ten minutes behind my friends (who are, in general, better at this distance than I am). The race ended in a park along the main street in town, so there were a lot of people out to cheer, and a hype man to announce names and offer high-fives. That was great- as was the fact that they had food (AND CHOCOLATE MILK) for all the runners afterwards. 

Also? The medals and race t-shirts have moustaches on them. See?

I’m not entirely sure what that’s about, but it’s awesome.

So, all in all? It was a lot of fun, and- as they’d say in Quebec- une très bonne course. 

October 13, 2014

Today I got an email from a democratic campaign staffer. She'd heard I'd done some staff work myself back in the day. I admitted to being surprised because there aren't actually a lot of people who know that anymore. Sure, there was a time when I couldn't walk into an event without being recognized as "Kat the writer," and newspaper reporters were emailing me and calling my dorm room to ask me questions, and it was all incredibly crazy. But then the candidate I'd been working for lost the NH primary, and I faded back into obscurity as quickly as I'd risen out of it.

And that was fine with me.

One of the biggest differences between me and my staffer colleagues was that I never planned to go on with the campaign, no matter what happened. I'd never planned to be part of it at all, really. It started with a GOV300 assignment to write about a candidate and track his or her progress; I put my writing up on a blog, and one of the candidate's blog writers found it. After a few conversations, he asked me if I wanted to write for the campaign, too. I said yes, and that's how I became "Kat the writer."

I was barely twenty years old at the time. It was the fall of my junior year of college, and- unbeknownst to most everyone around me- it felt like my world was ending. The country was fighting two wars, and Sibling and his classmates- my friends- had been commissioned back in June. There was no question that they were all going to be deployed: that year, the next, the one after. One war or the other was going to come for all of them, and it was so awful waiting for it to happen. I didn't know how I'd handle it. No one knows until they actually have to do it.

It's probably not surprising that the candidate I ended up working for was loudly anti-war.

Being a writer was an extraordinary thing, and I learned so much from the process- messaging, and talking points, and calls to action- and also from the people I was working with. We knew we were part of something big, and that what we were doing was a little bit revolutionary, and we were so, so young... It was heady and surreal for all of us, I think.

I wanted to write the view from inside a field office, so I started volunteering over Christmas break in my hometown. Being "Kat the writer" had cured me of quite a bit of my shyness, so I didn't think anything of walking in and introducing myself. Most of the field staffers were just getting over the flu when I arrived, so they were thrilled to have the help. I remember going to see Lord of the Rings with them shortly after we'd all met, and just... fitting in. I was especially good with turf and data, so I ended up assisting the volunteer coordinator. And when someone higher up decided the office needed a second volunteer coordinator on staff, the regional organizer- the office boss, essentially- chose me.

I think back on that particular time in so many ways. I worked pretty much 24/7 for six weeks, and nothing has ever been so transformative for me. I grew up so much, and it was such a period of discovery. I'd never dreamed of doing the things I did- the writing or the field work- or going through any of the doors it opened for me. Sometimes it seems like it was another person entirely who did those things, but it wasn't.

We had two major events with the candidate that were both smashing successes, and I helped make that happen. Me. I remember going out to lunch with the other staffers after the first event. We couldn't stop smiling, and people around us couldn't stop smiling at us, and coming over to wish us well. We didn't even have campaign pins on at that point, but they knew who we were because we stood out; we were so alive, and righteous, and passionate.

I remember New Year's Eve, too: dancing, singing, kissing people at midnight. The primary was close, then, and we were so sure we would win. We couldn't imagine we'd do anything but win.

But it wasn't all joyful. My world was still ending. And I was in a relationship that was unhealthy, and emotionally abusive, and just... ugh. I don't like remembering the ugliness it brought out in me, but it happened. I've written on this subject before, so there's no need for me to have it all out again. Suffice it to say, it's a good thing I never planned to live the campaign life because it meant I had another life to go back to, and eventually he ceased to be a part of it.

The good and the bad parts of the experience are inextricably bound together, and they're both so extreme. As a result, it's hard to do my memories justice, and I'm sure I haven't here. I'll sum it up by going back to what I said earlier: that part of my life transformed me. It didn't change my trajectory, in the end, but it did change most everything else.

October 11, 2014

I've been saying on my various social media accounts that proctoring the SATs made me feel like an evil overlord. I mean, of all the ways to make a bit of extra money, right? I'll tell you, though, evil and overlord-y it might be, but it's also mind-numbingly dull. Obviously, it's a whole other thing for the students, and I joked with the ones in my group to try and ease some of the tension, but the only things I had to do for the next several hours were read from a script and pace the aisles.

While I was pacing my right achilles started getting sore. It's been and off-and-on problem since last fall or so, and I had been racing recently, so I ignored it. But it kept on nagging me, so when I got home I took a look at it, and discovered it's all bruised up. I hit it against a desk earlier in the week, but I didn't think it'd done that much damage. Apparently, though.

The point is it hurts.

Always have to have something wrong with me, I guess. Meh.

I was supposed to grab lunch with a coworker (the one who did not call me back all summer and is maybe trying to make it up to me), but he ended up having to stay at work later than I did. I was kind of fried anyhow (overlording... it's tough work), so I just came home and sacked out on the couch to watch some soccer.

Anyone know how to say "dos a cero" in Polish? Because, uhm, yeah... Poland over Germany... Who saw that coming?

I will make no comments about my own country's showing last night. The football gods were just being cruel during that match. Oh, and they're being cruel to Spain, too, but Spain deserves it for giving the jersey to Diego Costa. I said so during the World Cup and I stand by it.

More sports-watching tomorrow. My town's a touristy clusterf*ck- this is our busiest weekend of the year, I think- so I don't intend to venture out much.

October 10, 2014

I've worn red all week for Jules Bianchi.

I stayed up to watch the Japanese Grand Prix after I got back from the old hometown, so I saw that he had crashed- though the cameras didn't show it, of course. There was so much initial confusion about what exactly had happened, but it was obvious that it was bad. I read the news reports in four languages- two of which I can read well, two of which I'm winging- in the aftermath, but nothing gave me much information. I don't guess there will be much information until he wakes up.

I haven't been an F1 fan for very long, so I'm still forming opinions about a lot of the drivers. I've always liked Bianchi, though, because I see him as something of a kindred spirit. It seems like he's also an introvert in an extroverted profession. He's a runner, too. And he's French, so the ancestors approve.

Keeping him in my prayers- and, at the least, keeping Ferrari red polish on my nails- is such a little thing, but I'm a pretty firm believer in the effectiveness of little things, especially when they're gathered up and taken together. I imagine that, in this case, there are thousands of others doing the same little things I'm doing. It matters.

October 4, 2014

My senior year of cross country was basically one rainy weekend after another. I have a picture from New Englands of the varsity boys covered in mud from head to toe, hugging their long-suffering coach. Ben's in the picture- arms crossed, big smirk on his face.

It's fitting that this morning when my dad and I went to run his race it was equally dreary and muddy. The rain didn't really start to come down until after it was all over, so that was good, and it was a joyous, vibrant day despite the weather. I saw a bunch of my old classmates and teammates, and so did Dad- because he went to school with my classmates' parents.

I think it's cool that, despite having a nomadic, army brat childhood, I attended the same high school that my father and my paternal grandparents attended. I think it's cool that Dad and I- and Sibling, too- all ran on the cross country and track teams. 

I think it was cool that we ran together today. And that I beat him.

Dad was a state champion back in the day, so the joke was that, even at sixty, he should've been able to beat his sprinter daughter. But nah, he let me mosey my way through the course just ahead of him. I waved and chatted as I went. It's an out-and-back course, so I got to cheer for the really fast folks, too. I was glad to see a bunch of the current high school boys leading the pack- ahead of my own ex-champion teammates- and smiling all the while.

Everybody was smiling. And that was a great thing... 'cause Ben would have wanted that. He would've wanted us out there living, affirming life (I always say that's what running does), and remembering him gladly. 

So it was a great race. 

Afterwards, I sat in a stool in the kitchen and ate an egg sandwich Dad's Girlfriend made, and it was... surprisingly normal. I've written before about the weirdness of watching another woman in what I think of as my mother's kitchen... But it isn't my mother's kitchen anymore. And maybe I'm more okay with that now than I used to be. 

Funny timing, since I realized when I got back to my own apartment this afternoon, that today would have been my parents' wedding anniversary. 

Marking it as a racing day instead? Moving on.

October 3, 2014

I'm back in the old hometown to run Ben's race. My father is going to join me, but he says his run will be more of a walk. I told him it doesn't really matter. It's just about showing up.

I hope it's a nice day- the past two have been perfect- but I can return to my cross country girl roots in any weather. I had to drive past the old course to get here, and I was immediately transported back to all those fall days when Sibling and I would drive to our home meets with the radio blaring- and to junior and senior year when I'd drive myself.

I was never particularly talented at cross, but it was a lot of fun. The team was so spirited: striped tights, ribbons, stick-on jewels, face paint, and bells on our laces...

And then there were the boys. Those ridiculous, bleached-blond, undefeated boys.

I'm sure I'll see a lot of them tomorrow and we'll reminisce about the runners we were. We'll wish Ben was with us now- and the other three we lost, too- and we'll race for him.

September 27, 2014

I've had a cold all week. Cough, sniffles, headache, general achy and rundown feeling... I get sick every September and January; comes from working in a high school.

I'm pretty sure that I gave my cold to my co-teacher. Yeah, I have a special ed co-teacher in one of my Global Studies classes this year. He's there to help with the students who need the extra support- so it's a good thing- but it's throwing me completely out of my comfort zone (it's one of the many changes I've alluded to). I'm a control freak in my class room; these cold germs are probably the only thing I've been good at sharing.

I'm trying, though. He's a good teacher, he really is, but I've got eight years more experience and an associated ego... and he thinks I'm fantastic. So I feel like a jerk because I know I'm not, especially when it comes to him, and ughhhhh. 

My buddy Libby had the best pep talk phrase for things like this: You. Suck less.

I totally need to suck less. 

In other news, I'm headed to the old hometown next weekend to run a 5k. It's a memorial race for Benny. How could I not show up for that? A lot of my former teammates will be there, and runners from before and after my time, too. My father's even thinking about running. 

Two generations representing the old team... How's that for something?