Actually, I enjoy doing solitary things when Ben is at home more than I enjoy doing them when he's out. We'll get snacks for each other, or point out something cool to the other person, and overall it's just nicer. We hang out together a lot as well, obviously, playing games or watching shows or cooking, but I really value how compatible we are in terms of solo pursuits. I think it made my time spent raiding less of an issue than I have heard it can be for many couples, because Ben had plenty to do on his own as well.
And since we have two cats, we don't even have to argue over who gets the lap cat when gaming! Life is pretty sweet sometimes.
We usually alternate who plans anniversary excursions, and since it was my turn this year I wanted to do some new things in and around Dublin: I signed us up for a sailing class and then dinner at a nice restaurant that does Irish food in a modern way (what I mean by this is that they use vegetables, since traditional Irish food is usually mostly meat, dairy, and potatoes). But I think I had tapped out my planning mojo as well over the last few weeks, what with our trip to Cork and all the stuff we did while my friends were here last weekend. Because, we took the train down to Dun Laoghaire for the sailing class, had a quick lunch first, and then got to the sailing school to find the doors locked! I called them, and they told me the course was cancelled due to excessive wind! Apparently they'd tried calling me but had one digit wrong in my number, and didn't try email because it's still 1995, so we were at the big sailing harbor with all the boats but nothing to do. We made the best of it, and got 99s and walked out along the seawall that encloses the harbor. We could see lots of sailboats already out, between us and Howth to the north, and it was very pretty. We even saw another boat out from the school we had signed up with, but maybe they went out earlier or had more experienced people or something. Our course is supposed to be rescheduled, so hopefully at some point we will get to go sailing.
So we stopped by a market and got some nice bread and other things, and then went home to play Dominion and hang out until dinner that evening. The place we went for dinner also ended up being somewhere Ben had been before, for a work lunch, but the food was delicious and so he was happy to go again.
Being with Ben is wonderful, as usual, but celebrating our first anniversary post-grad school made me so thankful that we made it through that experience together. And so thankful that it is over, we have nicer jobs, and we live somewhere really cool! Life is going so well right now, and we are really excited about so many things to come!
He isn't as into his birthday as I am into mine, but we did have a picnic after work, and I gave him tickets to a music festival later this year which looks amazing. I love a lot of things about Ben, but I am so impressed by how hard he works, and how into his field he is. Ben is single-minded about his career in a way that I am decidedly not, so it's a joy to have seen him develop influence and cool ideas and now be at a job which he is really enjoying. He recently went to the Game Developers Conference, and each year they give all the speakers a deck of cards featuring the faces of top-rated speakers from the previous year. Since his talk last year went over well, they asked him for a photo to be in the deck of cards this year. He sent them this photo of him shuffling cards, which I took on a trip to Cape May a few years back. When he got the deck this year, he checked for his card, which looks like this:
My husband, the ace of hearts.
I'm very lucky to have such a perfect partner, and to be starting an exciting new part of our lives together. I love him more with each passing day.
Needless to say I have high hopes for us making it to a sixtieth anniversary too! I have this photo as the background on my iPod so that every time I turn it on I see this photo of us. There have been a few times when I have been stressed or in a foul mood, and then I see this and am reminded of how good at least this part of my life is. We haven't had the anniversary surprise yet, though; it's tomorrow and I am VERY EXCITED. Also, for my anniversary present for him, I actually took some inspiration from lj: one of you (who?) linked to this essay on men's scents which I read and then remembered later while trying to think of an interesting gift. Ben had mentioned how he would like to try more cologne, and though it's hard to pick a cologne for someone I hedged my bets by getting him two: Hanae Mori for Men, and Versace's The Dreamer. Success!
I have also recently been noticing the many benefits of being in a romantic partnership that is legally recognized. On top of the obvious things like tax breaks and hospital rights, the issues that I have been having with my postdoc matter less to our immediate move, since Ben will have a green card and that gives me a visa. I'm impatient to see the right to a legally recognized partnership given to everyone here in the US, but even the small steps in that direction make me really glad.
You can see the rest of his Philadelphia photos here and his overall photo website, which has a lot of great travel and art shots, here.
Recently, the Christmas gift-giving season came and went; I gave some awesome gifts and some alright gifts. But I think I figured out a deeper reason why I enjoy giving gifts. Gift-giving as an act is an expression of feeling and appreciation, but the core power of gift-giving really comes from empathy. If I want to give you a good gift, I have to put myself in your place and imagine the things that matter to you. What things do you want that are out of reach, what experiences would you enjoy, what items do you not realize you would like? Giving a really good gift is expressing to someone, "I understand you", in addition to "I appreciate you". I think this is the place where cash and gift cards get a bad rap as gifts, because you could argue that the giver doesn't know the receiver well enough to actually choose something. This is so situational, though. Many people like gift cards as a way to treat themselves to something at a place they wouldn't shop on their own, and as someone who is nearing ten years of being in the educational system away from home, cash is definitely welcome sometimes. I mean, for our wedding Ben and I asked people to help out with our honeymoon instead of buying us stuff, which was effectively a cash gift, but being able to have a nice honeymoon is what we wanted. You can also argue that wishlists dilute the empathy involved in gift-giving, although I think they can be helpful at the very least in terms of providing clues. For example, Ben loves to cook, but this means he's received a lot of cookbooks that he didn't really want as gifts; this is something that can be gleaned from the dearth of cookbooks on his wishlist. My wishlist at amazon always has a lot of running stuff, and I receive a lot of running-related presents from people (both items from my wishlist and other things). You could call this an easy act of empathy, from a certain point of view, but my perspective is that running is fundamentally cheap but has a lot of expensive, nice accessories; people who care about me are helping me enjoy running more by giving me running gifts. That shows a lot of consideration of who I am and what I care about.
And of course, today is Valentine's Day, the day when we are encouraged to turn empathy toward our partner. I love Ben and love to make him happy, so this is not a particularly unusual occurrence, but it's a good thing to focus on nonetheless. We are celebrating by having a beer tasting at home this evening, which I am looking forward to, and by finally getting a wedding album with our tax refund this year (we didn't do it immediately after the wedding because we were so financially drained). I suppose Ben is one of the easiest people to understand, for me, so being empathetic toward him is not that difficult. But most of the people that I have chosen to surround myself with are interesting enough that I want to understand them, and have empathy for them. It's inherently rewarding for me, and I think that's the root of why I like to give good gifts.
Telling the story of how I met Ben actually starts with how I met chih, who was later my college roommate and is still a wonderful friend. ( Read more... )
In general, I think it's so helpful to be conscious of the things that are going well in life, and sometimes I can lose track of that... but it's hard to lose track of this, impossible to have it slip out of mind, because it permeates everything so thoroughly. Which is also more wonderful than I could have imagined back in our long distance days.
How did I get this lucky?
The first part was going to the Penn gym to do their introductory climbing class on an indoor climbing wall. I knew Ben was interested in this, and it sounded fun when I signed up, but as the day of the class approached I started seeing the wall in the gym with some amount of dread. I wouldn't say I'm unusually afraid of heights, but I'm afraid of heights to a healthy degree for sure. The class was very small, the two of us and one other guy and the instructor, and that was nice because we were able to practice a lot and get a lot of guidance. On my first attempt up the wall, I was freaking out a little and my hands got very sweaty (which does not help!). But on the second attempt, the instructor made everyone fall twice, once announced and once unannounced, and when I felt what falling off the wall was like I got somewhat less afraid of doing it. The class ended up being a lot of fun, if tiring for my hands and forearms. And now we can go back anytime during open hours if we get a day pass (which is like $5)... we should do that!
We then went picnicking and hiking at French Creek State Park, a fairly large park about an hour from here. I picked it because it had a lot of interconnected trails, and Ben's style of hiking is more process-oriented than mine (for example, he likes to be flexible and enjoy himself, and I prefer picking a route and distance and then doing them no matter what). It ended up being beautiful and relaxing. Here's a picture, though I didn't take many:
After that we went to Stoudt's for their brewery tour, which surprisingly was given by the owner and namesake of the company. He was very funny and interesting to talk to, and the tour was pretty great. We had been on a brewery tour before, at Flying Fish, but that was before we started homebrewing, so I know I got a lot more out of it this time. We also hung out in the bar there, and bought some beer to take home (the best of the beers we got from there, in my opinion, were the winter ale and the maibock).
Next we had dinner at Amada, a tapas place back in the Old City part of Philadelphia. Some of the things we had were the gazpacho, ham and melon, chickpeas and spinach, beef shortrib flatbread, octopus, and ginger peach sangria. The food was amazing and the service was really good as well, and it was a nice cap to a very nice day with Ben. :)
I realized that I was looking at things the wrong way earlier. It's not that being in a long-distance relationship should make you good at saying goodbye for a trip. It should actually make you incredibly bad at it, or at least it made me bad at it. I have all these associations with goodbyes to Ben, with feeling lonely and burdened and trying to fill the time with anything. So if, say, I know he is leaving in three hours, I start thinking about the many, many other times that I knew he was leaving in three hours to be gone for awhile and I start feeling the same way I did then.
What's a little stupid is, of course, I was recently gone for 3 weeks and he was here. Being the one that leaves is easier, I guess, especially if you are going somewhere fun or doing something new after leaving.
I realized something fantastic though, from this. We were together for just over 4.5 years as a long-distance couple, and we have been living in Philadelphia for a little less than 4 years. This means that seven months from now, we will have been living together for the same amount of time that we had to be apart, and of course after that the long-distance part of our relationship will become the minority of our total time together. That is amazing to think about.
He has this watch, which his parents gave him as a high school graduation gift. It is a really nice watch, and the back plate has his name engraved on it, and when I first met him he wore it all the time. Actually, I remember a few times when I was really sad about the end of one of our visits, and he would give me this watch to hold on to until I saw him again, so for 2-3 weeks I would wear it and think about him. Well, some time after we moved here, something in the watch broke. He took it to a few places that do simple watch repairs and battery replacements but they couldn't fix it, and he told me at the time how he loved the watch but it would cost a lot to fix, so he set it aside and it had been on our dresser for maybe a year. I took the watch to Jeweler's Row, to a reputable watch repair place, and they found that the movement was worn out and had to be replaced. They also fixed the rotating bezel on the front, which had gotten uselessly loose. It took longer than I thought it would, but they did a great job.
So I picked up the watch today, and I admit I was a little worried that Ben would be disappointed, because he's been waiting for this for a month and it's not really a new present, just a reviving of an old present that someone else gave him. But he was blown away! :) I was surprised at how moved he was. I love giving good presents to people I care about.
At this point in my relationship with Ben, after 8+ years of being together, 3+ years of living together, and 1+ years of marriage, I am convinced that one of the key elements of any relationship is enjoying your time together. Not just in the heady, charged sense that you have early on, but as in, liking to do a lot of the same things and some different things, having similar approaches to new experiences, being excited about trying new things and exploring together, and in general taking pleasure in each other's companionship. I am lucky to have several close friends whose company I never tire of, but of those Ben is the one who is most completely and utterly compatible with me. As evidence, I present this collage of ridiculous faces he has made at me over the years as I tried to take his picture. (Not even including hilarious webcam pictures he has sent me, of which there are many.) I look at it and think of how completely silly he is, much in the same way that I am completely silly a lot of the time. I have such fun with him! :)
Every time an anniversary rolls around I try to praise some aspect of our life together which is great. It's hard to choose, though, because there are so many. But in grad school, which is not always the most fun time in one's life, what I have found invaluable is his humor and his support for me. I have so much fun with Ben, and simultaneously he is so supportive of what I'm doing and understands my feelings and worries so easily. It makes this whole thing a lot easier, and more fun. I enjoy Ben so much, and more so as time has passed. I feel very lucky. :)
On a completely unrelated note, one of our cats (Blinn we think) has started peeing in the bathtub. It's a little gross but honestly fairly convenient; it uses up litter less quickly and is easy to clean up. If only he could learn to use the toilet... he has flushed it a few times while playing with the handle, but he also drinks out of it.
Remember how I lost my wedding ring? I finally got a new one. I had been using a replacement for several months, on the slim hope that once the snow melted in the mountains where it fell off that someone could find it, but it was gone. So we finally went and got me a new one. What's kind of funny is that shortly before we did that, Ben lost his. He was trying to take a nap in our bed and apparently his ring felt itchy, so he took it off, but he couldn't remember where he'd put it because he was sort of asleep at the time. He told me, we turned our bedroom upside down and moved everything around looking for it, but didn't find anything. I was pretty sad just because it was important to me to still have one ring from our wedding, but we didn't seem able to find it. Then, that night, we had turned out the lights and were snuggling and talking a little before going to sleep. I rolled over to get more comfortable and felt something metallic against my foot: it was his ring! It got in the bedclothes somehow way down by our feet, and we hadn't turned out the bedclothes (partly because he thought he had put it on a table). It was really nice, after trying to accept that both our wedding rings were gone and while I was actively thinking about how great Ben was, to suddenly find it. It made me feel a bit better about never finding mine.
We watched the movie Rio Bravo this weekend, and I was extremely surprised to hear several of the main characters singing a song together which is a song we used to sing in my Girl Scout troop. You can see the clip of it here. It's called "My Rifle, My Pony and Me"; when I told Ben that we used to sing it in Girl Scouts, he asked, "did you change that line?" I guess most people don't think of Girl Scouts as promoting gun use, but you know, we were all about self-reliance and the wilderness. Also, the song can be sung as a call and response which is easy to teach.
Purple light in the canyon,
that's where I long to be
With my three good companions
Just my rifle, my pony, and me
Being married to Ben is a lot like living with him... some might say, exactly the same. But living with him is incredibly fun, so it works. The years pass and my feelings just get deeper, and while marriage used to scare me, now... if current trends continue, I have unplumbed depths of happiness ahead. :) I can't think of anyone better suited for me to spend my days hanging out with, so here is a picture of the love of my life contemplating his lemon ice on the boardwalk.
( a couple more )
First we went to Navajo Lake, which was about 4 hours of driving from Los Alamos. We swam there, hiked a little, and relaxed at our campsite. The next day we headed up to Durango and hiked, then ate a late lunch and drove to our campsite in Cortez the long way, along the San Juan Skyway which goes up through Silverton and Ouray. The views were amazing; I forgot how deeply I love the mountain greenery in Colorado. We camped out at Cortez and spent our last day at Mesa Verde National Park, which has amazing cliff dwellings (much more elaborate than Bandelier) and some awesome views of the Montezuma valley. I loved spending the time with my dad outside Los Alamos, and visiting some places I'd never been before... oh, and I took pictures!
( Read more... )