Thursday, November 29, 2012

Everything Changes Now

 So I never did get to give everyone the final consensus on the turkey. Well, it was awesome. Something about infusing anything else with bacon. It rocked. I had to keep lil' Mo from trying to swallow it whole.

 Because she is an adorable little T-Rex.

 The biggest reason I didn't get to finish that series, was that over the few days my kids were at their grandparents, I had a chance to really tear into the house. I got a lot of cleaning done, got caught up on all my laundry, and really got a chance to organize everything.

 I had a chance to get everything ready for Tina.

 So, please bear with me, I am about to gush.

 When we started talking last February, neither of us were looking for anything. I had all but decided to stay single forever because I had no idea to drag my children with me through a series of failed relationships and one night stands.

 So I picked single dad.

 Then Tina and I started catching up.  We talked. Lots. About everything and anything. We realized how we felt about each other back then. Things we knew, things we didn't.

 We talked.

 Every day. As the days grew into weeks, we started to realize something was going on. Something was happening. We tried to fight it. The timing wasn't right. We were on different sides of the country. We had five kids between us. I mean, that's some Brady Bunch type stuff going on.

 We confronted the feelings. We made some hard decisions. We were both scared, as we had both gone through loss, both been hurt, and we found ourselves standing in front of a door. We were looking at each other through the glass, afraid to open it. Afraid of what else would come in if we opened it.

 So we decided that if this wasn't something that had a chance, something that could go all the way, that we would both walk away from the door now. Better to leave it closed, than invite in the pain of failing.

 We decided to open the door. We couldn't fight it any more. Against all our best attempts, we fell in love.

 So the door was open. We stood in front of each other, figuratively, as we still had the problem of being on opposite sides of the country. We made plans. She decided to move out here next spring. I decided to bring my kids and I out to see her and her kids over the summer.

 We talked marriage.

 I realized I should really think about getting a ring. We should make it official.
So during our visit out there to Idaho, we did. Everything was falling into place.
The kids loved each other, and they loved the thought of being family.

 We loved each other.

 So the timeframe moved up. The move would happen in January.

 A few weeks after that, Tina and I had a reunion with a bunch of the Marines we served with. A long weekend in Virginia and Maryland without our children, and it was exciting.
 There were a few rough spots, as there often are when a lot of travel is involved, but it happened. It was wonderful to see all our friends again, especially after so long. It was also the first time any of them had seen us as a couple.

 Leaving each other again was extremely difficult, but we both had things to do. Apart. Which sucked.

 Our kids started in their schools, mine started in a new daycare, and we continued making plans for the future. I finished settling into the house that she helped me find; she started making plans for moving across the country. In December.

 We made plans for changing our lives.

 The next several months seemed like such an insurmountable obstacle as we made it through our day to day lives, but before we knew it, it was here. She was packing and organizing. I was unpacking and organizing.
We were putting two separate lives together.

 So here we are. The day before she leaves to move out here. Obviously, I'm still up writing because of nerves. I'm looking at the amazing woman who has changed my life right now as I type this. Soon, we won't be stuck talking to each other over our phones tiny screens.

 Just 2400 miles of driving ahead of her.

 And then putting everything in order once she's here.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Bacon Turkey Quest: Prep day!

 So today was the day to start off this trek to bourbon maple bacon and turkey infused madness. It was time to make good on my ideas. I drew a bath of frigid water, and made sure everything was thawed (still in the packages, to remain safe, and waited till the kids got home.

 After dinner was finished, and all my subsequent trips to the store to procure things I had forgotten were completed, we set out the ingredients and I asked the kids where we should start.

The consensus seemed to be the sugar (demarara, it has a good texture) followed by some rough ground sea salt. I added some thyme, some red pepper, some rough ground black pepper, some onion flakes and a coarsely chopped clove of garlic. And then I tossed in two bay leaves, cause, why not, right?
 I explained to Meg that bay was actually a type of laurel, and historically is believed to have purifying powers, which she though was neat, as she absorbs all bits of trivia.
 It was now time for the wet ingredients. I added some Sriracha to the bowl, just a dash, due to the fact that nothing suffers from having Sriracha added to it. That beautiful, red chili and garlic sauce makes everything it touches better. It's like magic. Then we added a splash of soy sauce. We finished it off with the players we all came to see, the bourbon and the maple syrup, a healthy dose of each.

 I began to stir it together, and Meg cheered me on with the her observations.

 "It kinda looks like vomit."

 "I noticed that. Wet Rubs kinda do."

  "It smells kinda gross too."

 I decided that was a good time to QC my ingredients. At least I knew the bourbon was good. I tasted the rub a few times, added more sugar and salt, adjusting the balance and texture that I wanted, and when I achieved what I was looking for, I decided it was time to heat it a bit, and then let it sit.
 I popped it in the microwave to warm it, and when I got it out, Meg decided to take a deep smell. I was about to warn her about the alcohol cloud that would be coming out of it from heating the bourbon, but the figured it out.

  The kids were fascinated as I separated the skin from the meat. I really believe that Meghan may have been on the right track when she announced to me a few years back that she wanted to get into forensics. She seems to be cut out for it.

 "Dad, when are you gonna open the giblet bag?"
"Is that the membrane you're cutting?"
 "What would it look like if you were doing that to a person?"
 "Would people meat look like that?"
 "Can I see the heart?"
 "Can I poke the liver?"

  Around the questions, repeated handwashings of all involved, and requests of the children to handle organs,
(Logan reminded me of the priest in "The Temple of Doom") the rub was applied under and on top of the skin, and it gave it a nice color. I rubbed it in the body cavity, and glazed the rest of the bird with it, and set those dishes aside. (And washed my hands again.)

Now it was time for the money maker. The spectacle the kids had been waiting to see. I was going to create something, that God deemed too awesome to be part of the natural world, I was going to enhance a Turkey with a "Black Carapace", of sorts, but made of bacon.

 So the surgery commenced, carefully and calmly I applied each strip of smoky pork glory to the bird, deftly sliding it between meat and skin, lubricating my fingers with leftover rub, so as not to throw off the balance.

 Several slices later, I knew it was done when I head the intake of breath from my children. "It's...glorious...," they wept, or they would have, had they not been wondering what I'd do with the leftover bacon from the pack I opened.

feel the freakin glory!

 Now all that was left was to put the bird into the fridge to, well, basically cure overnight, and then tomorrow the cooking would start. It's a promising start.

 The kids are in bed, the giblets and some bacon are simmering for some stock for making gravy tomorrow, and I am making sure my bourbon is still the quality I expect as I write this.

 It's worth noting, that while I love baking, which is technically more of a science, I really love cooking meat. While also a science, it's really more of an art to me. I tend not to measure things. I go by taste. I go by feel.
I like to go until I achieve what the Japanese call, "Umami", which roughly translates to "The taste of happiness and awesome." (citation needed.)

 Tomorrow, the roasting will happen, the suit of bacon armor will be applied, and roast veggies will be applied to the body cavity of the bird. Everything will come up to a safe temperature for a good long time, and glory will commence, or so I hope.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Adventures in Turkey

Not the country, obviously, as that isn't part of my job these days; but instead, the bird.

 This year, I have to work on Thanksgiving, do I decided that for my weekend, I would make a smaller Thanksgiving for just me and the kids. I was spurred on this endeavor by seeing the images of a bacon wrapped turkey on Facebook, and I said to myself: "Why the hell not?"

 Plus, I figured no one else in the family would try something like that, and my kids will eat nearly anything if I wrap it in bacon (note to self, try that with brussel sprouts).

 So I set off to the grocery store to purchase everything I seeded for a Maple-Bourbon turkey adventure.

 This being my first turkey ever, I was unaware that they even made pre-brined turkeys. That said, I purchased one unknowingly.

 Some of you have seen my Facebook post detailing my ideas, which I have since scrapped. Since the turkey is pre-brined, I decided to scrap that altogether, and have decided to go with a wet rub containing the aforementioned flavors.

 The idea as it is forming, goes like this (feel free to imagine a chibi-Aaron going through these steps. I do.)

 1. Thaw the Turkey. That is happening right now, safely in the fridge. It will be moved to a water bath after I get home from work.

 2. Prepare a rub for the turkey. This will consist of maple syrup, bourbon, demarara sugar, less salt than I had thought of before, pepper, garlic, thyme and probably onion. I am envisioning a body scrub type texture.

3. Rub the bird with the rub. Under the skin first, and begin placing bacon under the skin to create a more amazing creature than exists in nature. Then I will massage the remaining rub over the skin lightly.

4. Craft bacon armor for the bird. I will probably let Meghan (my oldest) do this, as she has been questioning me lately about things that can be crafted from bacon.

5. Gird the turkey in bacon armor and stuff with large pieces of vegetables. You need your veggies afterall. I'm making stuffing Stove Top separately, as stuffing outside my realm of focus.

6. Roast. The skin, protected as it is with bacon, should crisp nicely, and the bacon, lovingly basted with the drippings, should be awesome.

7. Awesome? I'm hoping so. If not, the kids will have a good Thanksgiving with their grandparents. So, one way or another they are covered.

8. Excercise. Yep, gonna need to go run after that.

So there is my plan, as it is now. Gonna try this and see how it goes. After all, the cooking process with the family is fun (frustrating) and part of the adventure for me. I'll chronicle it as it happens.

 If anyone has any tips/warnings/predictions of doom, feel free to share.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

10 November

 This day is a rough one for me these days.

 For seven years, it was one of my favorite days of the year, because it meant spending time with the most amazing people I ever had the good fortune to cross paths with, all my brothers and sisters in the great United States Marine Corps. All of whom I miss. A lot.

 Then after I got out, there was always a pang of sadness, because you can never find a brotherhood like that again, and I miss it dearly.

 This year, though, it marks one year since I lost the first love of my life. Robin passed away last year, after fighting breast cancer for 364 days. That was the lowest point of my life. Ever. I spent a couple months after that being functional enough to work and take care of my children, but spent every night drowning my hurt and trying to deaden myself enough to keep going. And putting off sleeping in an empty bed.

 I was lost. I didn't know what to do, and I had lost my best friend, the person I confide everything in. I'd lost my other half.

 In truth, I'd been preparing for it, even if I had been in denial for a long time, watching her slowly slip away.

 That night, it was extremely difficult to come to terms with the relief I felt since she wasn't suffering anymore. Then I realized it was up to me to put it all back together again.

 I didn't know where to start.

 Months passed, and I dedicated my life to growing old and alone, and telling kids to stay off my lawn, maybe strapping a bunch of balloons to the top of the house... My life was open again. And by open, I mean lacking direction.

 Then, on a whim, in between getting loaded and playing video games, I noticed a dear old friend was on Facebook, and I wondered what she'd been up to for the past 10 years. I figured she was married or at least in a relationship, but I wanted to see how she had been.

 We spent the next few months trying to talk ourselves out of where things seemed to be headed. The timing was all wrong, we were on different sides of the country, neither of us wanted to get into a relationship. The timing was wrong.

 And then we fell in love. Or were already there. It's hard to tell when you aren't looking. People had been telling me to start thinking about moving on. I didn't want to. Then I did.

 It's hard to believe how far you can come in a year. How I can go from the spot where I wished I'd have a stroke and drop dead, or may have drank too much and accidentally taken too many pills, the only thing that kept me grounded was knowing that I had to be here for the kids. I was depressed, bitter and afraid of feeling.

 Then I started getting better. Moving through. Then Tina and I reconnected, and I really think she saved my life. I was still afraid of falling in love again. That fear is oppressive. You are afraid to open your heart again, constantly worried that something will happen again and your heart will be completely destroyed this time. It's not a completely rational fear, really, but it can be overpowering.

 So I let myself love again. I tried to move cautiously, but I couldn't. Tina deserved more than that. I was also afraid that I was just trying to fill a whole in my heart, to find a replacement for Robin. That was a big worry at first, mostly because everyone says it. I wasn't looking for a replacement. You can't replace people.

 I was moving on.

 Today, I'm pretty much an emotional mess. I miss Robin deeply. I hate that my children lost their mom. I miss my brothers and sisters in arms, and part of me wishes I never got out. I miss Tina, though there is a light at the end of the tunnel as she is moving out here soon. And I'm nervous, and slightly scared about the future.

 We are putting two independent households together. Two separate lives touched by pain, but shining through together. Five incredibly headstrong and opinionated children...

 But compared to where I was last year, I am hopeful. I am happy again, against all odds. I look forward to all my tomorrows again instead of dreading them.

 And I found out I can still love deeply.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Hope and change and all that

 So the election didn't go like I hoped. That happens. That's the beauty of our system, as much as we may not love it when we are on the unsatisfied end. There are winners, there are losers, and the country moves on, the great, lumbering beast of freedom and whatnot that it is.

 For me, nothing will really change. My day to day goal is taking care of my children the best that I am able, and soon it will include taking care of Tina and her kids. As long as my government affords me that right, and isn't predatory upon me, I will abide it.

 That is the other beautiful thing about America. As much as we may not be happy about the way politics turned out, we aren't being rounded up and massacred. Our women don't have female circumcision forced upon them.

 None of us are being killed because of who we are/worship/our ethnicity.

 It could be a LOT worse.

 Obama wasn't my dog in this race, but I will respect the office and hope that it works out for him. Because I'm not going to wish failure on my country.

 I'm going to take a shower, talk to my fiance, and wake up and be a father to my children. At least some things are fairly constant.

Friday, September 21, 2012

It's been a while

 It's been a while since I've sat down to write anything.

 Hell, it's been a while since I've even thought about sitting down to write anything.

 So here I am tonight.

 I've been busy with the house, busy with wrangling all my children. I'm finding it far harder to unpack a house while simultaneously trying to keep up with the chaos that three children cause in day to day life.

 That, and the rainforest i'm trying to tame in the back yard. I knew I should have gotten it in writing when they said they were bringing in a landscaper.

 All in all, though, it's going well. The house feels more like a home every day. The kids each have their own spots, and they are loving it. They are super excited about Tina and her kids moving out too. Logan is so excited about the thought of having a brother. He decided that Michael could be his real brother. He didn't have to just be a step brother.

 I didn't feel that I needed to explain it to him.

 That brings me back to the blessing I never expected after everything that happened in my life.

 After everything that happened with Robin, I figured I just simply did not have it in me to love again. Once you love fiercely and passionately, and lose that love, you find yourself afraid. Unsure. Unwilling.

 I expected that I would be broken forever.

 God knows when we are at the spot when we are most ready for things to move forward. He knows when we need a little nudge sometimes. He puts people in our path and lets us go to see what we will do with it.

 Like so many things, it's up to us what we chose to do. I had this nagging feeling that if I ran, I'd regret it forever. As I often do, I was worried what people would think. I was worried that people would judge me for moving on. I was worried that there would be murmurs of it being to soon.

 In my paranoid way, I was worried there would be questions about how much I loved Robin, if I could move on.

 I also learned that grieving never really stops. You carry it with you every day, even after you move on. I hope that's a lesson no one else needs to learn.

 But here I am. I'm learning, every day that it's ok to be happy again. I learn anew every day that my heart is far more capable than I thought it was. I learned that with three kids of my own, there is still room to love more.

 I learned that some people get to have more than one soulmate. That took a while to process.

 But here I am, more in love than I thought I was able to be. The kids are excited, her kids are excited. Life happens while we all sit by and make plans.

 I never expected any of this.

 I'm glad I'm not the one writing my story. I'm not nearly creative enough.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

New Chapters

  So I know it's been a while since I've written anything, and I apologize for that. I hope to rectify that soon. I've been pretty busy lately.

  As it stands, on Friday, I close on my house. The kids and I will be starting to move all of our stuff for a week, then going to Idaho to see Tina and her kids for a week, and then coming back to finish the move before school starts. Busy busy.

  In a way, this is finishing the last page to the last chapter in my life, and really, starting the next one. This one is open ended so far. I don't have much of a framework to go off of. The plotline has all changed, and characters have been re-introduced. There are new goals, new plans, new destinations.

  In the past few months, I've had to accept that all my old dreams with Robin are truly gone. I think we all hold onto things like that after loss, at least for a while. Eventually, though, we need to let go and realign. Letting go is never an easy thing to do, but it's part of the healing process too.

  So here I am, starting a new chapter in my life. Moving into a new house, the kids and I finding our new spot.

  I'm deeply in love again, which I never ever expected to have happen. After Robin, I had really written off that part of my life, and was just waiting to head down a darker road than I wanted to be on. Having my kids, and getting in contact with Tina again was the only thing that kept me from that.

  The house is more than I expected to find, we just had to let go of the old dream of staying in the Central District, and accept our new spot in the world.

  The pages ahead are unwritten. I don't know where these roads will lead me. My hands are empty, to better discover what is ahead of me. I'm letting go of the old things I was holding onto and really embracing this new beginning that I have.

   I think it will always be bittersweet, but at this point, it is exciting. And frightening. I feel alive again for the first time in a long time.

   So this week finds me standing at the beginning of a new road, my kids by my side, and the best friend, love and companion I never expected to find, and her amazing and beautiful children too. (Think the Brady Bunch)

  My story has come full circle now, it was pain, but now there is hope. I'm wiser, stronger and I feel a far better person than I used to be. I am embracing this road that I am now on, and walking it in earnest.