Friday, August 5, 2016


When you're on the road for six months practically, it feels like every thing becomes a bad penny.

Your suitcase handles. Your task list and wifi. Your womb.

Jules took three years to make. This one three months without trying. Then it went away. How are so many parents out there going through that? Blech.

When Roger Federer won a Wimbledon, his 2004 finals opponent Andy Roddick was being interviewed and said:
"I threw the kitchen sink at him, but he went to the bathroom and got his tub."
That's how this year has felt, like Zeus went and got his clawfoot bathtub to throw at us. Yet driving into Fallon and onto Hawk Drive, with our house keys actually in hand, felt like everything was falling into place. We have another property investment and an insatiable desire to explore anything, like the Italian-Mexican restaurant and backroads on a wish list dune buggy with any loved ones daring to visit. We like our jobs if not love them. We have each other and at least one sweet, spunky, squishy, little family member.

Why is it so hard to keep perspective?

Every now and then I think, at least we don't have brain cancer. At least I have all my limbs. Five seconds later, I'm banging on my sticking keyboard, then later clamoring around in the bathroom as I refill the toilet paper roll, then later driving down the road worrying about my identity being hacked and someone stealing our tiny-ass nest egg.

Nevada's official slogan and The Killers' latest album  via

After loudly switching out the toilet paper last time, I made yet another call about scheduling paint and carpet for the new place. I was really excited to pick out this foundational stuff since we usually just shrug and sign a rental agreement in whatever city or country we land in. But when your husband tells you the house you're considering just needs paint, carpet and some zero-scaping, don't listen to him.

These three, seemingly straightforward things take a lot longer and more money than you'd think. You are not an HGTV show host. Unless you've got a slice of their talent-and-budget pie – which pairs well with sides of cooking* and gardening – buy a turnkey house.

I'm only talking to myself here, aren't I? All my friends and family seem to be remarkably motivated and trendy.

The silver lining on our Silver State home is the end is in sight. That's what Cary keeps telling me to keep me from clawing his and my eyes out when escrow lasts another month...when we have five more hours to drive...when the weeds have grown so high you need a special mower and 10 men to make your yard resemble a nice field...when we have to make extra trips to base and medical and daycare and Walmart and Safeway...when there's only fast food to eat...when there's no internet or toolboxes...when we put Julesies to sleep in the hotel bathroom again, in the travel crib I can't help but think is giving her scoliosis after being in it since birth...when the baby is removed after a trimester of nausea and other unpleasantness...when I eat tomato soup in bed and spill it all over myself, the computer and the white comforter. #burnshurt #poormaids

But then there's the hotel pool within baby monitor distance, with its Crayola desert sunsets visible over the highway signs and blackening treetops – where we could sip drinks in the new quiet and laugh more loudly.

Just that made the last hotel stretch worth it.

As I laid awake our first night in the house, on crinkly gym mats pushed together, I should've been thanking God I have my thumbs still. Instead, I couldn't help but think about moving again. I'm so deeply looking forward to having my own lair back. Laying on a normal couch with plenty of pillows and blankets. Creating our ideal cups of coffee in our souvenir mugs. Gaining back our routine of bigger weekend breakfasts and maybe kiddie pool time. Walking Butters, talking and admiring homes that have better curb appeal. Good job on those lighting features! Watching the train with the round cars slowly roll by just beyond our back fence.

However we're going to drive away again in nearly four years.

You're killing me, Smalls (she said to herself).

That's a long ways off, and for now, I'm home. It's time to heal and hit the beat and make our place like John Stone's on The Night Of.

John Turturro from HBO's The Night Of  via

*I found out why I hate cooking! It's boring. (Especially without a drink in my Japan friends' kitchens, while watching them cook and them making me laugh and feel better about everything including the sinks and tubs.) Julia Louis-Dryfus agrees.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

To Right Now

'Up in the Air' says a lot best. (via)
Shailene Woodley is known for living out of a suitcase. I loved this idea once. Carefree and limitless, more in the moment than blinded by the constant search for belongings to store in a huge space that meant hours of cleaning and unused food. The goal was to have next to nothing as we traveled the globe flying and writing.

Sometimes that makes me gag.

Maybe we'll get antsy again but right now, all I want is to have a bunch of room and stuff so I have everything I could possibly need to keep my kid happy and house cozy, give my dog the ability to stretch out. I want a big fat driveway and big fat food. Central air and people who look like me so I don't stick out.

I missed you, American comfort food. (via)
Paraphrasing, Woodley told Ellen and InStyle magazine that not having a house, a closet full of clothes, an apocalyptic stash of toiletries, means she feels more free to experience life to its fullest. She got caught in a downpour in London and asked to use someone's clothes dryer to dry her one shirt – an experience she wouldn't have had otherwise. I get the point, but really?

Who was I kidding... A year after being stationed overseas, our rental's cupboards were stuffed to the gills. Add another human being and gone were the days of meeting my husband at a port with just a light duffle.

Returning to the States, I was of course greeted by a corner of the world that didn't hit pause just because I left. A loved one lost, couplings broken. Family and friends had moved away or moved in. Construction shifted things. Issues had surfaced. People were making more money, had more kids, less pets, big yards. Was my hometown still my hometown? Was I already missing the people who knew what it was like to be all alone in another corner?

But the warmth of those ones who immediately love your kid – because they love you in that way time and effort lends – spread through my veins like the cure for cancer.

After a week in Washington we set out for a week in northern Nevada, to check in with our jobs and find a place to live. We rolled into Fallon during an early, gusty hour of the morning, after a night of driving in snow and me realizing that vertigo really does exist. Getting used to the dryness, I kept feeling a sore throat. And Cary pointed out how the water is so soft, showers feel slimy.

"Well how can we go about make it harder?"

He laughs.

"No but really."

We decided to go into Reno. We needed to figure out our cell phone situation and wanted to explore our nearby big little city surrounded by SURPRISE, I FORGOT! snowy mountains. That 60-mile jaunt resulted in seven hours in an Apple Store. At one point, Jules was face down on the Apple Watch display.

We flew to Florida for a month-long course Cary was taking. Well we tried. We got snowed in heading out. Bright side: a night at the Peppermill with a flash deal that got us a weirdly luxurious suite with columns and a jacuzzi, and access to a pool with a four-story waterfall we didn't frolic in since we all just wanted to lie down.

And of course Florida was all warm air, white beach, bayou bars and friendly faces once we got there. Coming back, there were significant delays due to storms again. At least Jules got to play on a giant plastic structure playground for an extra four hours. Just to make sure we all got sick.

There are no homes for rent in Fallon. Don't ask me why. So military families are being forced to either live in small base housing or buy. So we invested [insert petrified emoji] again in a place off "the loneliest road in America." The acre is ours so that's nice. But the house is mint green.

No second car yet. We don't have any energy left after voting and packing and unpacking and packing and unpacking and updating our giant password document. Plus, I'd rather spend that time catching up on AMC's The Night Manager and HBO NOW. Plus-plus, the rental car we have (thanks, Navy) in addition to our truck we drove south is really showing me I've been highly underestimating full-size sedans and need to reevaluate.

At least San Diego has happened. For nearly three months. Another beachfront base hotel and breakfast every day. A weird, tall water fountain toy for kids. A playground. Burritos every night. It's just a matter of time till I start feeling guilty or the family suite feels small.

We're here 'cause Cary's learning the MH-60 S(ierra). He was on the MH-60 R(omeo) before. All this means is there are less gadgets and computers, more room for riders and supplies. His humane work schedule will hopefully continue once he returns to his search-and-rescue team in Fallon, where he'll be the Longhorns' safety officer (thanks, Florida) and fly around mountainsides, rescuing hikers and ejected jet pilots.

I feel windblown and drained after that sea tour. I can't imagine how Cary feels. Where did this hard worker come from? In college, I could barely get him to do his part of our sociology project on time. Now all I want to do is somehow get the job designing Google's word art of the day. In my mind, that person is basically owner of the most impression-making art in the world and gets to doodle on random days throughout the year.


On the brink of this shore tour, I already miss Japan's clean, safe, tidy, techy, small life. I miss my old job, the guy that dyed my hair weird colors, our house, our tall teeny-weeny minivan. Sushi will never be the same. I have no deployment trump card anymore. Relationships back home are more complicated in a way different from overseas wives clubs and the solitary, mundane days of just Jules, Butters and I. But there's no geographical solution to your problems, said Tony Soprano.

I can feel my neck getting sunburnt again as I sit in my office, the Fashion Valley food court that isn't far from Jules' daycare, working remotely to barely pay that bill. None of the stores are open but Starbucks and Apple. Soon there will be shallow conversations and crying babies, outfits to admire when I look up. I will struggle to eat my bag of trail mix instead of buying a meal, to stay phone-interviewing and typing instead of seeing a movie or roaming Forever 21. I pull my hood up. It's too chilly in the shade.

Cary says I need routine more than Jules. Maybe that's because I can't count on anything in this life we created for ourselves. I'll take control where I can get it. But I was always like this, as well as lazy and apt to write things down.

This is a life, I have to keep pinching myself, that's a dream come true – even if it's not anyone else's. I checked some big typical boxes getting married young, taking in a yellow lab, having a kid and engaging in social media. But ta da, now we get to shake things up again as helicopter pilot and newspaper reporter – one whose on staff with a real desk and real live coworkers, as well as a self-proclaimed writer-in-residence in my own house that looks like a stick of spearmint gum lying lonely in a field. Such a strange American dream.

"To right now," he toasts on our first night in Fallon, in the basement of a nice Mexican restaurant on the refurbished downtown's Main Street. Jules munches on her chip and watches us. Feet pass by the windows overhead, and the sun is dipping, turning the warm desert day into its cold night. He's right. So aggravating.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Why I chose Twitter et al over Facebook

Black Friday 2015 was one of the best days of my life. It involved daycare, a Japanese movie theater and deleting my Facebook app. Cary was gone but Jules was here, and I needed a break – even though she's perfect in every way.

Our office on base was open, but I took the day off (thanks, co-worker) and still dropped Jules at daycare (hehe). Then I made a beeline to the rambling, terraced ViNAWALK. I had a plan thanks to the Toho Cinemas at this outdoor mall having a 10 a.m. showing of the latest James Bond, Spectre. I've been a fan since we bought my dad all the old VHS copies for Christmas one year and it turned out I loved the stuff; they're also a good entertainer for visiting uncles and cousins and bored guy friends.

Then bro Ty and I went to the first Daniel Craig installment Casino Royal and it changed our lives all over again, as well as made us want to visit Montenegro one day and drink Vespers. What I'm trying to say is, I was excited. Not to mention the anticipation of sitting in a large, dark, peaceful room interaction-free for a couple hours. Going to movies alone also means I don't have to constantly resist the urge to share what else I've seen the actors in.


Not many people go to morning movies or on weekdays. And in Japan, when it wasn't a holiday, there wasn't anyone under five feet tall, maybe. The parking lot was quiet but for my mini-mini-van's wheels, the mall abandoned as I walked with my coat pulled tight. The warm lobby with its smells of popcorn and coffee welcomed me with open arms.

The ticket kiosk was a breeze. With my tray of perfectly popped and buttered corn and tiny, foamy latte – don't get me wrong; I seriously contemplated the gourmet hot dogs, pizza and beer – I passed the built-in, wannabe Sweet Factory (contemplated this too) and the nicest, most well-groomed ticket-taker ever, on to the most impeccable and colorful restroom ever. I swear to God it looked like the inside of a Toontown building. Every Japanese movie theater is like the few American theaters that are luxurious, clean and focused on service and taste. Yet in Japan, they just seem to take it a step further like with everything else, from Disney to konbinis.

The movie was great.

I watched the credits scroll prettily and enjoyed the aligned baby name ideas as usual, with their sometimes-interesting job descriptions. Then I left those characters behind, doubly sad as I remembered I was almost done with my Frasier Netflix marathon. How have I watched almost all of Frasier while Cary's been deployed? Actually, as Cary pointed out, how did I watch all 10 years of Friends episodes during the time it took to get the hang of breastfeeding in the middle of the night?

Each time I finish a show, it's like leaving family behind. (Samesies for books.) Every friendship no longer viewed leaves me missing them like my real friends. Every love story leaves me wanting more. Every homey house in Parenthood makes me miss living with them throughout the season, as if I'd sat on their plush couches with them and leaked tears too, rubbed their backs and whispered their nicknames. I get coffee with my Hallmark and Lifetime movie heroins. Caroline's desk was my desk. I wanted to work alongside Archer and staff at the good Isis.

I know this deep love of entertainment can be ridiculous. I write it off as arty. Just like I pretend I watch the Oscars to see who'll win best original screenplay and best cinematography. Really, Hollywood, publishing and living as romantic a life as I can handle are all part of a quite superficial dream to feel comely, clever and free.

I sighed – the loudest noise anyone had made in two-and-a-half hours (god I love it, not to mention the zero kicking, random shooshing and potential fist fights) – and proceeded back to reality. But I had the rest of the day really. What was I going to do, I thought. I used the Thanksgiving Day on my own to clean our rock-star-hotel-room-destroyed house... Gosh, I was freezing. So I bought a new jacket. I spotted the decent burger place and hunkered down, warm and happy eating again, American to boot. I pulled out my phone. I swiped to Facebook. I paused before opening it. Here I was about to possibly ruin my good time with myself [wink].

Here's the thing about Facebook. It's pretty much constant comparison despite your level of confidence. Sure there's the excuse it's easier to stay in touch with friends, reconnect, keep our parents apprised of their grandchildren...That we need our account active for Messenger to work, or for work, or to know what's happening in the communities we're part of, or with the brands we love, or when our favorite blog has a new post. ;-) But are these false truths? I thought maybe the app was at the heart of the matter, the content another matter. I'll explain.

I deleted the app and enjoyed my second lunch with a feed of illustrated comedian comic tweets. (In the back of my mind, I fondly remembered my oracle of a friend who mentioned app deletion years ago.)

Facebook is like my new US Weekly, my new McDonald's. I love it, but I'm not really proud of it. Like when I pass up NatGeo for Entertainment Tonight on a gym cardio machine TV console, then wonder if my neighbor also thinks my incline level is pathetic. Apparently I want people to think I prefer the news, the latest local ski report and maybe even an ESPN app over good ol' FB. I definitely don't need it. Sparingly might be key. I'm really looking for viral videos and images that either make me 'lol' or want to write to the moon and back. Enter my YouTube and Tumblr apps, duh me. Insta and Pin are a bit too much of the same, but sometimes I take a pic of Jules I just have to filter the shit out of.

There's just a je ne sais quoi about Facebook. An ease. A one-stop shop. An entertaining, escapist, cathartic liking machine. You tap; you wait for the gray blocks to turn clear and vibrant; and then you get an immediate flood of social information. Which has everything to do with who you're not and what you're not doing, should be doing or wish you were doing. Thumbs down. Plus, many times there's a quirky pic or sarcastic comment, there's some dip who misinterprets it. I'm realizing privacy goes a long way toward my sanity. And I love not much more these days than sending Jules' Papa, Nana and Mimi her cutest pics via text, trolling Twitter anonymously and opening the Blogger app to edit my latest, probably dumbest opinion.

Sometimes it's OK to just enjoy the view over second lunch.


****** SOME TIME LATER ******

Cary: Have you seen this hilarious dog video Brad shared?

[Aly shakes her head quizzically.]

Cary: Oh yeah, you don't have Facebook...


Saturday, January 16, 2016

The future is fe/male

Emma Watson and her HeForShe campaign
are raising feminism awareness.
I'm slightly concerned the Super Bowl is going to fall on or near Jules' birthday every year. And it's followed by Valentine's Day. If the people in her life who like her think they can get away with Super Bowl parties and Valentine-themed birthday gifts, they better think again... But she'll likely become a better person than her mom and not only love football when the games aren't tight but easily forgo the birthday-relationship worship I apparently not-so-secretly relish. Maybe it'll make her tougher. Like the boy named Sue.

It's hard not to be extra gentle with a baby girl. Why? They all have the same makeup despite the normal variances. Long babies and babies with slightly smaller earlobes or something. They're squishy, don't have kneecaps, are guileless. I did double-takes at first but now I like how with dad home, he wipes her face free of food with more force; he isn't as ginger when putting on her shoes; he tosses her higher and makes her laugh for longer.

Last year I sat around a table of really educated women and found myself describing what a feminist is. I was being stupidly redundant for everyone probably. But it reminded me of when my brother and I were in high school and we were talking about guys and girls and dating ... and we sifted out how a feminist isn't an obnoxiously opinionated woman who doesn't care about men; a feminist is any person who believes in equal rights for all the little boys and girls. If that person also happens to be loud or shy or obnoxious or Emma Watson, it doesn't diminish or elevate the principle beyond what it just plainly is. It's not a personality trait but a belief.

And it has nothing to do with changing the rules so my T-Rex arms are in charge of restraining prisoners or missed career opportunities because I chose to have a kid.

Bro and I thought it interesting how it can be souring when women give their opinions, sometimes loudly, or are anything other than accommodating. Why can a clear voice make us inappropriate, or being submissive make us more attractive? Further, why does a man have to be extra tough or love sports? And why does the choice not to be the breadwinner tend to imply that person's mind, needs and wants are second-rate?

There's something to be said for simply growing up to be the best version of you, a sensitive leader or confident wallflower, maybe appreciating athletes instead of being one, unoffended by turns of phrase, being as little of a wuss as you can be, unabashedly wearing pink or a hoodie or clear high heels.

I was lucky to be with the women around that city patio table, women who've put their sometimes higher-earning jobs on hold indefinitely; women who're raising kids on their own; women who'd do anything for their husbands and vice versa. There are some who aren't fans of military spouses, tossing around the stereotype dependapotamus and taking all the fun out of it, because who doesn't enjoy a good Netflix marathon huh? But have they eaten the food they cook, attended the parties they plan, used the services they provide, enjoyed the free country they help protect on the homefront?

Got a lot of questions here. At least I think this much is true:

Skateboarder Chelsea Castro
Do I want to be the one to investigate things that go bump in the night? Not really. Do I want to be the one to coddle my baby child a little more? Sure! Do Cary and I both eep at cockroaches? Absolutely. Mainly, I want to live in a world, and raise my daughter in a world, where you can be exactly yourself, whoever that may be, and achieve whatever you work hard enough for, and be respected solely because you're a good person.

As returning home comes into view along with high desert life – dry heat, clear cool Lake Tahoe, Burning Man, Area 51, snow-covered sand, the real-life Simpsons house, the Vegas sign graveyard, this really cool thing – I wonder what new progress will flow after our post-holiday move back to 'Merica. Like with the first female Rangers, the new Star Wars star Rey, getting to know more female pilots I can admire as well as new friends and coworkers I can look up to and connect with as peers. The future should be limitless for us all.

"Girl or boy we fight our battles, but the gods let us choose our weapons." – Game of Thrones