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Friday, November 27, 2015

We'll Always Have Newport: Chapter 16-All Hail And Farewell

(December 2010)

The kettle bell and kiteboard no longer reside in the dining room. This apartment does not feel the same way it did six months ago. There is an air of sadness hanging around it. I miss hearing heavy footsteps on the stairs and his booming baritone voice.

These days I do not spend a lot of time sitting around feeling sorry for myself. Shortly before our breakup, I joined the choir of  a local Methodist church. My schedule is hectic between rehearsals for the Christmas program, my job, and  twice a week social outings.
I am determined to meet new people and salvage the remaining months which I have left on my lease. My goal is to relocate to Virginia or Maryland by August 2011. I am already on the East Coast so, moving should not be to complicated. The relocation from New England to the Mid-Atlantic states will be a 15 hour undertaking at most. I can sell all of my furniture and start all over again. No harm. No foul.
Somewhere down the line, maybe love will knock on my door again. One of my new acquaintances is a naval officer whom is on the verge of retiring. One night at Happy Hour, he inquires about how I got to Newport. I give him the abridged version of the story.
He listens intently without uttering a word.
"The thing about the military is that you always seem to be saying hello or goodbye. It is just how things work."
His words provide much needed comfort. The next couple of weeks will be filled with holiday preparations. My pastor has invited me to spend Christmas Day with her family. I am excited to play with her kids and forget about my sadness for awhile.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

We'll Always Have Newport: Chapter 15- Discharged From Duty

(November 2010)

One of the first things that you learn about being in a relationship with an active duty service member is to expect the unexpected at all times. During our relationship, I learned all about how quickly relationships and even marriages come together. Yet, they can fall apart even quicker.

The foundation which relationships are built on can easily shift with each deployment, change in duty station, and/or rank promotion. I learn firsthand the importance of navigating lightly through certain topics which come up during our relationship.

We spend a month going back and forth with one another about our relationship. There is love between us but, it is not enough to overcome certain challenges which have begun showing up.  The first time we broke up last year, it was because of the long distance aspect of our relationship. We solved this problem by moving into together. This time, the problem is more complicated than geographical distance.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

We'll Always Have Newport: Chapter 14-Montage Of A Love Story

(June 2010-November 2010)

We are in the midst of a grand love story. The kind that I used to secretly read during my college days. He is the  tall, strong, and brave military man of few words. I am the sassy civilian lady with the heart of gold and a knack for creating gourmet meals on the fly. Together we form this power couple of sorts.

I am amazed at how well we work together. I have never experienced anything like this before. My family notices how happy I am living in Newport. I love running a two person household and having someone genuinely care about how my day went. In turn, he enjoys our spirited discussions which can range from current events to our finances.

Just about every weekend, the Sailor and I have a standing date to fly or watch kites at Brenton Park. A few times, we have gone there with the intention to fly kites but, find ourselves gazing at the sunset instead. Somewhere in the midst of watching the glorious kaleidoscope of colors, he reaches for my hand and I lay my head on his shoulder.

After such outings, we enter the apartment in a haze of mellow feelings with a dash of hunger.
I pull out fully loaded snack plates which include deli meats, berries, cheeses, and sliced cucumbers.
Within the next couple of hours, I will run through the menu for tomorrow's meals and get the coffee maker prepped for his coffee.

He will clean the kitchen and take out the trash. Before we turn in for the evening, he will pull my close and whisper just as he does most nights,

"I am so glad that you're here."

Upon hearing those words, I will fall into a deep comforting sleep with his muscular arm thrown across my waist.

However, these tranquil times between us are sometimes cut short by the duty phone, family, and other third party distractions. One of things I am learning is that being in a relationship with an active duty service member means that there is a life outside of your relationship.

I know this on an intellectual level but, certain things become more complicated than they have to be.

There are times when I am competing with a past which is encroaching on our future and I am powerless to stop it.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

We'll Always Have Newport: Chapter 13-Civilian's Day Out

(September 2010)

I am en route to a baby shower which is located on the other side of Rhode Island. Men and children are welcome to attend but, the Sailor has to work until later this afternoon. Frankly, I do not want to bring him along. Is that terrible? I love spending time with him yet, I yearn for the civilian world. I want to sit and laugh with my new friends and not have to even think about duty stations, paperwork, or anything else related to the military.

I arrive to the baby shower and just about every woman is there with a husband and/or significant other. However, I do not even feel a bit self-conscious about arriving solo. My friends immediately inquire as to the whereabouts of the Sailor.

I explain that this is the first time in a couple of months where I have been able to just hang out with friends on my own. They all nod in agreement.

One of them hands me a mimosa and points out the location of the food table. A few hours later, I am swapping childhood stories with everyone. The baby shower is wrapping up and the hostess hands me a container filled with  two huge hunks of cake for that "hungry Sailor of mine".

I leave the party feeling lighter and a little more sure of myself. Six months ago, I had an identity that had nothing to do with the Navy and now all of that has changed.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

We'll Always Have Newport: Chapter 12-Tales From The Mess Hall

(September 2010)
The Sailor cannot cook. Correction, he can microwave and bake some things but, cooking on a stovetop is not really his strong suit. In fact, one of his attempts to cook lunch resulted in the smoke alarm going off and the death of a hardworking saucepan.However, lately, the Sailor has gotten into the habit of watching cooking shows with me. I see him plugging unfamiliar ingredients into the Google search engines. One rainy Saturday, he looks over to me and says“You know, I want to cook you something.”
“Ok,” I reply.
Crossing my fingers that it is halfway edible.
He picks up on my slight heisitation.
“Don’t worry, it’s edible,” He says grinning. “I want to make us some tahini.”
Tahini? I am not familiar with it all. The Sailor does a quick Internet search and brings up a website which discusses the ingredients as well as the history of the dish.
From what I can gather tahini is some type of dip and its origins span from North Africa to Turkey, Greece, and parts of Asia..
The ingredients for the Sailor's version include fresh dill, lemon juice, tahini paste and other things that look somewhat unfamiliar to me.  We head out to find the ingredients.  The Sailor asks me to grill up some chicken and we will dress it with the tahini. Also, we can use the tahini to dip our carrots and celery.
After pounding the pavements of Aquidineck Island for fresh dill, we finally find it tucked away at one of the local supermarket chains. I am so tired and hungry that I am tempted to ask the Sailor to stop by the drive-thru. However, one look at his earnest face stops me. We aren’t too far from home so I distract myself by listening to the music on the radio.
A few hours later, we are watching a cooking show and dining on tahini.
It turns out to be good, a little heavy on the dill but, I like it’s exotic taste. It’s tangy and a bit spicy.
My thoughts turn to the events of this day and something niggles at me.
As a couple, the Sailor and I have this dynamic energy which is great for getting things done. We click on all levels in a way that is a little frightening to both of us. Yet, we live in a bubble which revolves around the Navy and Newport.
What happens when we leave here or when the Sailor retires from the Navy?
Will our dynamic be able to propel our relationship forward?
The Sailor picks up on my inner anxiety monologue and pulls me in close for a hug. Almost instantly, I forget about my reservations and go back to watching the television chef make a salad.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

We'll Always Have Newport: Chapter 11-Shipmates

(June 2010)

The Sailor is big on partnership. This concept is difficult for a a self avowed lone wolf such as myself to put in practice. As the eldest in my family, I am used to calling a majority of the shots and writing lots of checks. Admittedly, this has been a bone of contention in a majority of my previous relationships.
I embrace his partnership philosophy wholeheartedly.  Our first assignment as partners is to pick out furniture for the apartment.  We had to keep a few things in mind. Price, is our first concern since this was a temporary place for us we didn’t want to go too crazy on the furniture. Comfort is another huge concern because the Sailor is 6’2’’ and over 200 pounds. The furniture has accommodate his frame. Space, is  the third concern because the dimensions of the living room will not hold anything bigger than a love seat and a chair.
Armed with our list of top three concerns we headed out on a rainy Saturday afternoon to browse furniture options.  
He’s a huge fan of IKEA. I like IKEA for some things but, not everything. Besides, he’s working full time taking classes and he doesn’t exactly have a lot of time to devote to furniture building. I am not really a whiz when it comes to putting that kind of stuff together . He reluctantly agrees to take the IKEA option off of the table.
The first store that we go to is a tiny somewhat dusty local furniture place. As soon as we walk in, I am hit with a vibe that screams “This place is over-priced”. The Sailor and I exchange glances. He’s thinking the same thing. However, we commit to giving the place a thorough review before we pass judgement. A sales associate approaches us cautiously. He’s not sure if we are a couple or not. I guess it’s not every day that you see a huge tatted up white guy in flip-flops and baseball hat with a petite black woman wearing a shawl, wedge sandals, and rockin' pageant hair.
Anyway, the sales associate glances down to see that we are holding hands and he goes in for the sales pitch.
“You guys here with the Navy?” He asks.
“Yes. I am on shore duty here,” The Sailor replies.
“I just moved here earlier this week. We are looking to buy a dining room set, couch, and bedroom set."

The Sales Associate nods and begins taking around us around to see the various furniture departments. He starts off in the dining room section. (Currently, the dining room is decorated with folding table and chairs combo along with the Sailor's huge duffel bag which I manage to trip over at least twice a day.)
The various dining room sets vary from large and elegant to simple and small. I have fallen in love with a small two seater table and chair set. However, I am not too fond of the price. The Sailor sees me gazing upon it lovingly glances at the price and shepherds me towards another dining room set.

Before my time with the Sailor, I  would have purchased it outright. I have more than enough money to do so but, I know that it would it damage the burgeoning partnership aspect of our relationship.  The Sailor is looking at a more modestly priced dining set and asking my opinion on it. It’s a nice standard wooden table with matching chairs. Whilst much less expensive than the one I had fallen in love with it is still rather over-priced.

“I like it but, it seems over-priced,” I whisper.
He nods in agreement.
“Let’s hold off on the dining set. It’s not like we don’t already have a table to eat off of.”
A  flurry of people enter the store and the Sales Associate gives us a look which contains a silent plea to be set  free from us.
“We’re just going to browse around some more. Thanks again for your help,” I say.
The Sales Associate nods and trots off to greet the throng of newly arrived potential customers.
We stroll around the store for a few more minutes before mutually deciding that we had enough of the dusty musty over-priced furniture store.
“So, where to next?” I ask.
“Massachusetts.” He replies.
Massachusetts? That seems a little extreme to leave to state to browse furniture. Sure, when I lived in Topeka, KS everyone went to Kansas City, MO to shop. But, that was an instance of Topeka being located right near the border of Kansas and Missouri.
Newport, RI  on the map appears to be  pretty far away from Massachusetts.  However, the Sailor assures me that people here are trained from an early age to search the tri-state area of Rhode Island, Connecticut and Massachusetts to buy what they need.
Just a few months ago,I had never been to Connecticut or Rhode Island. Now, I am headed to Massachusetts. Or Mass as the locals called it in search of furniture for my life here with the Sailor.
Rain begins pelting against the windows of the car. The mid-afternoon sun has been replaced with fog. Very similar to the weather which marked my arrival to the Enchanted Seaport. However now, with the Sailor driving it doesn’t seem so sinister. Instead, I view it as kind of romantic. A summer rain in the midst of afternoon fog. Somewhere in this reverie  lies a metaphor waiting to burst forth.
The rain has let up a little but, not completely. Surprisingly, the weather hasn’t deterred any other would be furniture shoppers. On the ride up, we decided that we should get a couch since we already have a bed of some sort to sleep on.
I am going to be the negotiater and the Sailor is going to stay silent.   The showroom is packed with couches, beds, and other types of furniture. The sales rep has no idea what to make of us. So, she wisely begins to ask us some introductory questions to get better feel for our needs.
“So, what exactly are you guys looking for?” she asks
She is a stylish middle-aged woman with large frames glasses and a heavy New England accent.
I turn on the Midwestern girl charm and give her a short version of how I came about to move to New England and the fact that we are with the Navy. The undertones were clear, we wanted something simple and affordable yet, stylish.
She looks over to the Sailor in his board shorts, T-shirt, baseball cap and flip-flops. Then her gaze flicks over my wedge sandals, tailored trousers, satin tank top and matching shawl. She was probably thinking, “How in the hell did these two get together?”
“Okay, kids I think we can do that.”
We spend the next hour sitting on couches, discussing fabrics, and prices. My main priority is making sure the Sailor’s 6’2” frame can be properly accommodated by our soon to be new  couch purchase and that it won’t take up our whole living room.
We finally settle on a latte colored micro-suede love seat. It’s comfy and big enough for the Sailor to comfortable nap on. The loveseat is $399. It’s a fair price. I feel as though negotiating down on it will give us bad karma. The Sailor looks at me expectantly.
“We will take it…but, we want free delivery.”
She pauses for a moment and then nods. We shake hands and she takes us to the sales desk.

It turns out that delivery was going to be at least a hundred dollars. The Sailor and I hi-five one another in the parking lot. The weather has cleared up considerably and the sun is shining down on us. Our first purchase as a couple.  For the first time in my life I  truly understand the concept of partnership  and why it’s so important to not be the lone wolf all of the time.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

We'll Always Have Newport:Chapter 10-Duty Calls

(September 2010)

The Navy is the silent 3rd Party which dwells within every part of our relationship.

We are sitting snuggled up on the couch binge-watching a string of bad Syfy werewolf movies.
The kind of cinematic feats which involve a basic storyline, bad dialogue, and hokey special effects.

Just another relaxing Saturday afternoon...until the duty phone rings.

In an instant, we break apart. The Sailor has the  duty phone cradled on his neck. He is in the bedroom changing from his standard board shorts and T-shirt ensemble into his Navy bdus.

I am in the kitchen pulling down a container from the freezer. It is a pork paella with brown rice red and green onions. I place it in a plastic bag and then set about chopping cucumbers and strawberries for his snack.

He grabs the bag, kisses me on the mouth, and heads down the back stairs to his car.

This whole dance takes about ten minutes tops.

My role is to give a quick"no really, it's fine" smile, to provide nourishment, and to find another way in which to occupy my time while he is out.

I respect that the Sailor has made the conscious choice to serve his country in the military.

I am grateful to him and the other men and women serving in our military. This is what you sign up for when you fall in love with an active duty member of the military.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

We'll Always Have Newport: Chapter 9-Learning My Port

(July 2010)

I love the quaintness of this enchanted seaport. I enjoy strolling through its narrow streets and snapping photos of various piers. The aroma of the beach wafts through downtown Newport.  I spend my first couple of weeks in Newport trying to learn the finer points of its geography.

I quickly discover that navigating this city by foot is relatively easy. There are plenty of landmarks which direct me safely back into my neighborhood. Yet, these same landmarks are useless to me whenever I am behind the wheel of a car.

I seem to get stuck in random roundabouts,  turned around on one way streets which taper off into dead ends, and/or trapped on bridges headed out of town. Both the Sailor and my landlord are somewhat amuse at my struggles to navigate Newport via car.

Thus far, my solution has been to avoid driving within the Newport city limits. I walk everywhere or I have the Sailor chauffeur me around. Unfortunately, gas prices are currently at an all time high and his large sedan is getting expensive to operate.

During one of our informal budget meetings, he decides to eschew driving to work for the summer in favor of riding his bike. His bike is currently locked up at buddy's house near the base.

"So, I am going to drive over with you to his house and ride my bike back to the apartment," He says.

Yikes. The street where his buddy lives  is under construction and there is wacky detour which could possibly place me on a bridge out of Newport. The terrified look on my face prompts him to take my hand.

"It's easy, we are not that far away from the apartment," His voice softens.

He gives me clear directions for getting back on the main road. I repeat them back and feel my confidence returning. He kisses me softly on the mouth and heads to unlock his bike from the front porch.

I drive down the street and take a right. So far, so good. Then, I miss the next turn and am unable to get back to the correct and it all goes downhill from this point. I manage to get back to the original street but, now I am dealing with a whole bunch of tourist traffic. Twenty minutes passes and I am no closer to getting back to the apartment. Van Zandt is the main drag in our neighborhood. All I have to do is get back to Van Zandt and I will be home free.

I find a halfway empty Dunkin Donuts and implore the  dark haired high school girl working the counter for directions back to Van Zandt.  Briefly, I explain my predicament.

"Basically, I can't let him get home before I do. He is riding a bike for Pete's sake."

She giggles whilst drawing a simple map on the back of a napkin.

I glance at the makeshift map and a synapse fires in my brain. I know exactly where I am and how to get back to the apartment.

I stroll outside towards my car with a renewed determination.

Granted, the Sailor and I aren’t really in a competition but, my pride is insistent that I make  it home before he does.

Thanks to the map, I am home within 10 minutes. As I park the car, I glance in the rearview mirror and see the Sailor clad in a bike helmet riding down the street. He slows when he sees me get out of the car.

“So, what you do while I was away,” He asks pulling me into his arms for a quick kiss.

I started to say.

“You know. I did a little sight-seeing,”

But, I am such a horrible liar that I decide to come clean.

“Well, I kind of got turned around on base and it took me 20 minutes to find the exit. Then, I got turned around in Middletown. But, I went inside a Dunkin Donuts and asked one of the clerks for directions,”

He smiles at me.

“You are so cute,” He says.

I don’t feel cute. Instead, I feel something akin to incompetence and it is not a good feeling.

Today, proved to me how much I was dependent on the Sailor to navigate my way around Newport.
“I need to learn this town a lot better,”  I say cuddling up to him on the sofa.

" It takes time to learn  a new place. You’ve lived in a few places. Did you know them perfectly after a month?”

I think back to my first days living in my previous cities of Santa Fe, NM, the Twin Cities, and Los Angeles. It took me at least three months before I felt comfortable navigating those cities.

“You’re right. It’s just so hard to navigate around this place. The streets are so narrow, there are no turnabouts, they don’t even have street lights, and the tourists... don’t get me started on the tourists.”

He lightly places his hand on my wrist.

“Are you sorry that moved here?” He asks softly.

I answer without hesitation.


He gently squeezes my hand.

"You're being kind of hard on yourself. You came here sight unseen. You found a cool apartment, got a good paying job, and have adjusted to quicker than most people could. You're doing fine. The whole navigating Newport thing will come in time."

His kind words offer up some reassurance.

I still feel as though my navigational challenges are a huge burden on him. A few days ago, I tried using a GPS like function on my old school phone and it didn't work for me. Sometimes, Google Maps sends me in a confusing loop which results in me hitting dead end roads or miles of road construction.

 Whenever the Sailor has duty, I either walk to my destinations or I call an out of state friend with GPS to get me where I need to go.

This is the first time that I have tackled a new place with a significant other by my side and I feel self-conscious about my navigational challenges. I feel this internal pressure to exude excellence in all ways. I realize that it is silly and most likely, the product of living in an unfamiliar place and adjusting to being with the Sailor full time.

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