Response to Arkansas state senator Nate Bell’s ridiculous tweet

In the wee hours of Friday morning, while Boston, a city still struggling with the awful occurrences at Monday’s Boston Marathon, was just beginning to deal with the new tragedies of the killing of an MIT cop, the shooting of an MBTA officer, a chase and shoot-out that ended with one of the Boston Marathon bombing suspects killed, and suspect #2, Dzhokhar A. Tsarnaev, wounded, but escaping and on the loose, Arkansas state senator Nate Bell (@NateBell4Ar) thought it appropriate to send the following tweet:  “I wonder how many Boston liberals spent the night cowering in their homes wishing they had an AR-15 with a hi-capacity magazine?”

Screen shot 2013-04-20 at 9.21.16 AM

First, even if the incident hadn’t occurred at Monday’s Boston Marathon, Nate Bell’s tweet would be totally out of line given those killed in Newtown and Aurora, and countless other shooting tragedies in recent memories.  I mean, who says this?  What public official encourages the clinging-to of not just guns, but weapons with “hi-capacity magazine”s?  Well, this morning, when I read this, I stunned that this is something an elected official in the United States of America would say.  I needed to write my response.  Here it is:

In case you don’t know, I’m a Southerner now living in Boston. Growing up in Kentucky and then living in Mississippi and Tennessee, I have many responsible friends and family members who are gun owners. I don’t have a problem with guns in the right hands. My family hunts and, in the past, I too have hunted. Also, I have gone trap shooting and shot at targets for fun on my family’s land. So, in this instance, my issue isn’t with guns themselves, but rather the context Sen. Bell is speaking of them. My issue is with this elected official’s suggestion that I would have slept better in the nights following the Boston marathon bombing if I had had a gun in my house. I was, and continue to be, beyond upset by the act of violence that occurred at an event I love, celebrating a sport I treasure, in a city that I have been fortunate to call home for over two years. I was, of course, more upset because I was relatively near the explosions – I heard them and felt them and witnessed people rushing away, unknowing if more explosions would follow. In the moments that followed, I maintained composure, but was silently terrified. In those moments, did I want for a weapon to provide me comfort? Hell no! The last thing I considered wanting was a weapon. In fact, I believe if a citizen had brandished a weapon as I was rushing over a bridge from Boston into Cambridge just minutes after two bombings, I would have lost it and can imagine I would have been more terrified. Luckily, I didn’t have that experience, and instead, I was comforted by the presence of officers going above and beyond to protect and serve in those moments and the long days that followed. The bit of quality sleep I did get the past week was due to the fact I knew there were many brave officers working diligently to protect me and those I love, and to catch the f*@kers who perpetuated terror on the city and people I love. I put my faith in our law enforcement officers and the government officials of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and am proud that I did so. Boston is one. Whether born and raised here, or here for only a few short years, like myself, we all love this city and we are tough. We speak our minds and defend our own, not just on Twitter or with t-shirts, but in the voting booth each election day. That’s why we have officials representing us who we trust and who are aligned with our beliefs and convictions. That’s why a city went silent yesterday and that’s why today we are beginning to heal, instead of crouching in a corner clinging to the false security of a loaded weapon. I try not to speak poorly of people, but Nate Bell is an idiot.  And, given the fact that this tweet has been deleted, and an apology has been made on his Nate Bell for Arkansas Representative Facebook Page, it seems his consultants informed him of his idiocy and attempted to control the damage.

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Well, it’s too late.  The moment Mr. Bell hit “Tweet”, he told the world how insensitive and cold he is.  He told us all how he doesn’t see the big picture and doesn’t understand the difference between a hunting rifle or a small pistol for self protection and a weapon that has the ability to kill hundreds of people in minutes.  When he said “hi-capacity magazine” he might as well have said, “I’m an idiot who doesn’t undertand the historical context in which the United States Constitution was written, but that’s okay cause I got my machine gun to keep me warm at night.” 

In the words of, Ed Bogle (@MarlboroDad), “@NateBell4ARI invite you to Boston. So you can witness true toughness, compassion and humanity. Toughest city on earth. No guns required.”

To read more responses to Nate Bell’s tweet, check out Boston.com’s piece on folk’s responses on Twitter.

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My 2013 Boston Marathon Recap

Until this morning,  everything since Monday afternoon has sort of been a blur.  I haven’t been able to focus on work. I haven’t been able to sit down and write the race reports for the two 50ks I ran the days before the bombing.  I really haven’t been able to focus on much of anything except what happened Monday afternoon around 2:50pm.

Today I awoke well rested – finally – and committed to living in the present and being thankful today.  The events of Monday will continue to haunt me for some time I’m sure.  I was about 2 blocks from the bombing — just .5 miles from the finish line.  It had been an amazing morning from the moment the alarm went off.  It all started as I sleepily but with such excitement,  sipped on my spiked coffee (I had run 2 50ks in the days prior and told my boyfriend that the only way I was waking up before 4am AGAIN was if he poured a little Bailey’s in my coffee) on the way to the Battle of Lexington reenactment.   Ken’s coworkers said we should go since we are about to move.  We enjoyed the reenactment as much as one can when sleepy and cold, and then headed back to Boston.  Ken cooked me a delicious egg scramble with veggies and salmon and avocado.  We enjoyed each other’s company and then biked over to the Boston Beer Works for a beer with some of his co-workers before hopping on the bikes again to head to the spot we would watch the marathon right around the corner of Hereford and Comm Ave.

We arrived there around 10:30 or 11 and set up our space along with our friends, Luciana, Kevin, and Buggy.  As the handcyclists whirred by, I was down on the blanket scratching away at signs for each of our friends who would be running that day.  I would look up and scream, “Woohoo!” and “Way to go!”, completely impressed by their strength and speed.  I finished the signs, and nuzzled in between Luciana and a little girl about 7 years old, whose parents were behind us.  She was enthralled with the race and I enjoyed watching her cheer.  I was greatly anticipating the elite women and was so excited to see Shalene and Kara run by.  I cheered and snapped picks, proud of the American women’s display, even though they weren’t winning.

goucher 2013 boston

Later I saw Joan Benoit Samuelson finishing up her race that will go down as an age group record.  I also saw Dean Karnazes run right by.  Then so many more runners.  The faces of many marathoners are complicated.  I like looking at them.  I can relate — I know I have been on similar journeys.  So many faces full of pain, joy, and triumph all at once.  They were only a half mile away from the finish.  They had done it.  Post-race plans were about to come to fruition.  Hugs, high-fives, well-earned beers and burgers were just around the corner.  My friends went by. I waved signs and jumped up and down and was so excited to see Adrian and Bethany glide past on their way to the finish line.  I looked for but missed my friends Justin and Mary.

As I continued to watch, interesting, 3-5 second stories unfolded in facial expressions and strides.  There were two masters runners who ran by and right before taking the turn onto Hereford the one in front by only a few strides turned back, saw his competitor behind him, smiled  a smile that said, “Damn it, I thought I’d lost him.” He proceeded to turn it up a notch and for the next several minutes I wondered who would win that race.  Then, a bit later, there was was another Master’s runner who stood out.  I leaned over to one of my friends and commented on his age on the back of his Masters bib – 78.  He was moving along and looked strong.  I noticed his hair, all askew and longer in some places than others telling me day-to-day  he had a combover, but a style like that didn’t stand a chance after 26 miles.  I commented that I hoped I was still running like him when I was his age.

I continued to look for a couple more of my friends who I was expecting to see any minute.  Then, the first bomb. The  moment the first bomb went off Ken, and our friend Adrian, who had finished the race and walked over to meet us, and I all looked at each other, then looked to the sky.  It sounded eerily like thunder from above, but it wasn’t cloudy and we all knew that wasn’t it.  Then, the second blast.  Those weren’t cannon blasts from some sort of Patriot’s Day event.  Not thunder.  I said the word we were all thinking – bomb. Ken said not yet, not to say that yet, we didn’t know.  He was right, but I knew.  I guess we all did.  I had never heard anything quite like it.  I’d never felt anything like it either. It went through me.  In those seconds after the second bombing, I scoured twitter, watched police officers huddle, each with one hand on their weapon and their other hand over ear learning what had happened.  A faint smell of smoke drifted into our space. Then, a female police officer ran into street.  She commanded that everyone get behind the barricades, off the race course.  Some runners went around her.  I mean, they were .5 miles from the finish and I probably would have done the same thing.  Those who went around were stopped by others and the number of those who stalled upon command, unknowing of the misfortune they missed by only minutes, began growing.

We gathered up our things, the posters I worked on for nearly an hour crinkled up and stuffed into a nearby trash can as we walked toward the Mass Avenue bridge to cross back over into Cambridge where we live.  As we walked, we tried to call friends and family.  Often our calls were met with that frustrating automated tone and voice informing us that our calls couldn’t be completed as dialed.  We quickly got word that the friends who had been with us earlier in the day were okay.  We continued to walk quickly home, checking behind us again and again, talking to family when we got through.  I only got one call through and it was to my grandma.  I just said, “I’m okay. I can’t talk more now, but if you’re watching the news I don’t want you to be worried.  I’m okay. We’re okay.”  I hung up.  After that, I wouldn’t get a call through for hours.

A group of friends who had taken the train into the city, along with Adrian, Ken and myself made it back to our Kendall Square apartment and were relieved.  I offered drinks, beer, and food. Posted on Facebook to let friends and family know I was okay.  Answered texts when they would come through.  Cooked for our guests – eggs and veggies and sausage.  Not a typical dinner meal, but it’s what we had that would easily feed 6, and it wasn’t a typical dinner.  I drank sweet mixed drinks that furthered my daze.  I wasn’t ready to think about it all.

That night in bed, holding Ken close, I realized how fortunate we all were.  I thought about those who had lost lives and limbs and were struck with numerous pieces of shrapnel.  I cried.  Those things are still weighing heavy on me now — the loss of life and the loss of innocence of the run.  I’m jumping and even crying when I hear loud noises.  The news is proving to be too much, and I have found myself sitting alone in a quiet room doing nothing after switching off the radio or tv.  Maybe what makes it hurt so much more is that running is where I turn when tragedy hits in my life.  When stress becomes too much.  When I need a break. When my mom died suddenly, I ran.  I ran fast – sub 6 minute mile repeats on the treadmill because I was angry.  When I was lonely and didn’t have many friends after just moving to Memphis, I created a running club.  When work becomes to much, I long to run and do.  Now, that my very cheap and effective therapy has been tainted, blackened, by some fucking asshole(s), I’m angry and sad.  And, at the same time, so amazed and touched by the heroic actions of so many.  I’m touched by the kindness and bravery.  This city, so often thought of as hardened and full of “Massholes” is a place full of good hearted people–full of “helpers”.

These last few days have been made harder still because, I’m ready to personally take back what some cowardly terrorist tried to take away — I’m ready to reclaim my running, but I’ll have to wait.  I’m dealing with an injury that occurred near the end of the DRB 50k on Sunday  and I’m unable to run.  But I know that even if I can’t run until Massanutten in mid-May, those 103.7 miles will be spent reclaiming what is mine and yours.  We each run for so many reasons and we won’t stop.  We have and will continue taking back what is ours.  I know that I’m going to be running faster and harder and with more heart than ever before.  I’m sure you will be, too.

And after Massanutten, I’ll be focused on qualifying for the 2014 Boston Marathon because it matters.  Because, it’s mine.

By the way, it ends up that the 78 year old Masters runner who I had commented on to friends moments before the bombs went off was Bill Iffrig, who was blown down by the blast when he was just feet from the finish.  After being helped up by police officers he ran and crossed the finish.

He didn’t give up, and neither will we.

I watched Bill Iffrig run by me minutes before the bombs went off.  I'm thankful that he's okay and proud that he got up and crossed the finish line.  (Photo credit: JOHN TLUMACKI/THE BOSTON GLOBE/AP)

I watched Bill Iffrig run by me minutes before the bombs went off. I’m thankful that he’s okay and proud that he got up and crossed the finish line. (Photo credit: JOHN TLUMACKI/THE BOSTON GLOBE/AP)

Long Time, No Talk: Part One

It's been awhile and we definitely need to catch up.

Hey there, folks.  It has been wayyyyy too long since I posted.  I guess I got distracted by starting my own business, an ever increasing workload (which is great!) , Ken’s return from Afghanistan, our Tour de South, our trip to Kenya, move to Cambridge from Arlington, and enjoying day-to-day life as KeJen.  But, enough with the excuses, I should have written months ago. But, since I didn’t, this post will be all about catching up.

APRIL – I launched Ginger Social – a boutique (fancy way of saying super small and run all by myself) social media management firm, focused on helping small businesses reach their customers and strengthen relationships.   I began with one fantastic client, Solid Body Fitness, and now, have six – including a Hahvad (that’s Harvard for those who don’t read Bostonian) based education journal.  It’s been a slow process but, I have met some excellent folks, learn more and more each day, and really like what I do.

The first day of Spring happens each April, as you probably know.  With Spring, generally come the rain showers that bring May flowers.  Not in Boston.  Nope, the first day of Spring instead brought a couple of inches of snow.  I halfway convinced myself that it must just snow year ’round here.

MAY – Things began warming up a bit.  I scored a great client in the Plough & Stars in May and had a great time counting down the days to Ken’s arrival home by watching lotsa live music there.

JUNE/JULY – Ahhh, June.  With 6 long months of waiting coming to an end, I prepped for Ken’s arrival home. Then, it happened.  It was remarkably good to see him!  I was nervous and excited and happy and I fell in love with him even more.

The night of Ken's arrival we went to Hooters for a televised MMA fight and because Ken loves owls. ; )

In the days after Ken’s arrival home, we packed up a house, putting everything in storage, and found an apartment.  We then flew to Atlanta for our Tour De South.  We visiting my family in Mississippi, our friends in Memphis, and my family in Kentucky before heading back to Atlanta to spend some time with his family and friends.

Our pal Greg welcomed us back to Memphis with this nice note on the chalkboard at Bardog.

Me, Memaw & Pops in West Point, MS (not the best pic, but thankful Ken took it).

Following over two weeks of driving through the South and visiting family and friends, plus camping with friends a couple of nights outside of Atlanta, we headed back to Boston.  I had to knock out a couple of meetings before we went on our big adventure.  KeJen Went To Kenya.  Yep, we spent 10 days in Kenya.  And it was   a  m  a  z  i  n  g!!!!  Many of you have heard the stories of our trip, but if you haven’t call, email or comment here and we will tell you all about it.

We got to spend about 8 hours exploring London on the way to Kenya.  We landed in Nairobi and caught a flight to Mombasa, on Kenya’s East coast where we met up with a couple of Ken’s friends who live there and stayed at a great resort called The Voyager.   We hungout by the pool, went running on the beach, went into Mombasa with our local friends and went snorkeling (me) and scuba diving (Ken) one day, too.  It was beautiful and I didn’t want to leave.  Except, we had another adventure to go on when we left Mombasa – we climbed Mt. Kenya.    I’ll write soon and share more about our trip, tell you where you can find all the pics from London and Kenya,  let you know how we are liking Boston, what we have been up to and lots more info you didn’t know you couldn’t live without.

Kwa heri (that’s goodbye in Swahili).

While in Mombasa, we did a lot of this...

Whirlwind tour of London was literally windy (check out my hair).

The Best Things in Life Aren’t Things…

We all know that life has it’s challenges and the past few months have definitely been challenging for me.  Since moving to not-quite-Boston, and especially since being laid off earlier this month, I am finding true joy in moments that I may have taken for granted in the past.

Here is a list of moments in my days that make me happy to be healthy and alive…

1. Feeling the sun hit me through a window.  This has been an infrequent sensation here in Boston, but with the arrival of Spring, while the temperature has yet to budge, the sun got the message and is showing up more often.  Yesterday, feeling the sun on my back while sitting by a living room window brought a smile to my face.  Simple moments…

2. Phone calls from dear friends and family.  Each day I miss dozens of people – family members of course, but also friends I made in Jackson, Miss. and Memphis, Tenn. Talking to any of these folks brightens my day.

3.  Skype calls from Ken.  Hearing the bubbly Skype notification of someone signing on always triggers a bit of anticipation around the time Ken normally calls.  Then, hearing his voice and seeing his face brings me pure joy.

4.  Burying myself under a soft, warm blanket with a cup of hot tea or coffee in hand makes me feel good all over – morning or night.

5. Speaking of coffee, starting the day with a good cup of coffee (occasionally with a splash of Bailey’s) can’t be beat

6.  Time on the trails – running or walking, when I am on the trails, life seems simple and peaceful.

7.  A hard workout – pushing myself to be the fittest I can be feels fantastic.

8.  Doing anything nice for others.  Putting a smile on someone else’s face, puts one on mine.

9.  A glass of wine, good music and reading a magazine, a good blog, New York Times online or even flipping through Tumblr pages is a relaxing way to spend the evening.

10. Thinking of Ken arriving home safely and enjoying this Summer with him makes me giddy.

What moments throughout your day make you happy?

Dry Erase Boards & Bikes Named James Murphy

Today, around 2 pm I heard a thud and the slam of the front porch door.  I rose from the computer just in time to catch a glimpse of a fella in all brown duds climbing into his delivery vehicle.  A package!!!  I am such a sucker for surprises, but who isn’t, right?

I went out the front door and there on the enclosed front porch was a very large package.  Not only was it large but flat.  I thought it was probably something boring like an air filter and that it had to be for my roommate, Alan.  But there printed in bold, black ink was my name on the address label.  Then, I looked over to other flap of the box and saw a description of what was inside.  The tears started flowing.

Ken's incredibly thoughtful gift for me and my new business venture

While on the phone last week, I told Ken about the large dry erase board at Revolution Fitness that I really liked.  I said that I thought I could use one to map out marketing strategies, etc.

Not only did he listen to me (we have a joke that he’s allowed not to listen to me 10% of the time, but I often think he stretches that to a much higher percentage), he got me one.

Yep, that’s right, I was on my front porch crying, holding a large box that I knew contained a dry erase board.

Now, there are a few reasons that a dry erase board brought me to tears.

1.  I miss Ken tremendously and more and more his sweet gestures and loving words make me cry.

2.  I know that Ken believes in me, but somehow seeing my new dry erase board hanging on the wall is a constant reminder that he is cheering for me to succeed.  And, I don’t know about you, but there are days that knowing I have a fan club pushes me to work harder.

3.  I am a woman and some women cry a lot.  I am a crier.  Recently, I read an article in Women’s Health Magazine explaining why women cry more than men and why they should cry whenever they felt the need.  Apparently, you don’t gain as much weight if you cry. So, ladies, stop fighting back those tears – let ’em roll down your cheeks and melt away a pound or two.

Tickets to LCD Soundsystem! Watch out James Murphy!!!

On a related note … I’m going to NYC in less than 2 weeks to see my favorite band ever play their last show at Madison Square Garden!!  That’s right, me and my BFF, Caroline, are going to see lead man James Murphy and his crew rock out courtesy of none other than Ken Herringdine – it’s my anniversary gift. How is this related, you may ask.  Well, when I received the tickets, you guessed it – I cried.

About the band…I started listening to LCD Soundsystem back in 2005.  I remember the first time I heard the song “Losing My Edge” and listening to it again and again and again, Googling all the bands Murphy was namedropping but I didn’t know.  From then on I was hooked.  I like it all; From the catchy stuff like “Daft Punk is Playing at My House” that hit some charts to the slightly more somber “Movement”, I don’t think they have released anything that I don’t like.  Murphy and his DFA Record label are brilliant.

So you get it.  I like them.  Last year, I had tickets to  Pitchfork Music Festival , the annual festival put on by oh- so-clever-when-it-comes-to-anything-music0related (semi-facetious comment) people at www.pitchfork.com that I bought mostly because I was going to be able to see LCD.

But, I bought those before I knew that I would fall totally in love with Ken and he would move to Boston and that if I went to Chicago for the festival, I wouldn’t get to see him.  I chose Ken over LCD Soundsystem and had an amazing weekend in Minneapolis instead.  Absolutely no regrets there.

From the very beginning of our relationship, I think Ken knew of my adoration of LCD Soundsystem.  He probably found out when I referred to “James Murphy” as my mode of transportation – as in, “No need to pick me up, I’ll ride James Murphy.”  In Memphis, I rode my bike everywhere.  I even went over a month without driving at all.  At one point I mentioned to Ken that maybe I should sell James Murphy (James Murphy is a vintage English commuter bike – a 1969 Raleigh Folder to be exact) and buy a bike that would be a bit more practical for commuting here in Boston.  Ken told me that he viewed James as part of our relationship, so he is still my two-wheeled supa-star and plan to keep ’em with me always.

Me on James Murphy in my apartment in Memphis

Back to work.  I think I’ll map out my tomorrow on my dry erase board.

Winning!!!!! Defeat was not an Option!

Just couldn't resist posting this

In my mind bells are chiming, whistles are blowing, foam fingers reading “KeJen is #1” are waving and people are cheering for me because I WON.  Today is the first day of Spring and that means I officially made it through my first Boston winter!!!  If that doesn’t equal “Winning!!!!”, I don’t know what does.  The first day of Spring here was beautiful – the mercury rose right up to 70 and the sun was so bright, I think I may have gotten a bit burned.  Hmmph.  I wish.  Subtract 38 degrees, throw in light to moderate snowfall followed by cold misty rain and that is what Day 1: Spring 2011 brought to the good folks of Arlington, Mass.

We did have two back-to-back days of 65+ degrees and sun last week.  Plus, I know that in a few weeks I can put away the coat and gloves and embrace t-shirt weather.

Ken won’t have to wait as long.  It has already begun to warm up nicely at Camp Stone.  I think he said it was about 70 degrees one day last week.  I would have been jealous, but even the simplest comfort and joy in his life provides me with comfort as well.  But just about two weeks ago, it was snowing there (I think Boston and Western Afghanistan have the same weather patterns).

March snowfall at Camp Stone

Enough about the weather, the real news since I last posted, aside from the arrival of Spring of course, is that Ken will be home is about 80 days, I lost my job, my grandpa had a stroke and I decided to try to freelance my way out of unemployment.

First things first…time has kind of flown by and Ken will be home in just 80 days.  That’s just a little over two months.  About 11 weeks.  Again, WINNING!

Next…Revolution Fitness, the gym where I was the Director of Marketing and Community Outreach, a job that I loved, closed on February 28th. The gym closed due to an inability to reach a workable lease agreement.  It all happened pretty suddenly and was hard on everyone.  The members (some of whom had been going to the same gym for 28 years, the trainers, the staff and especially Derek, the owner).  Derek and his wife, Sarah, have gone out of their way to make sure that we all find jobs that we enjoy (more on my new gig later).

The sad news now…my paternal grandfather, Pops George, a man for whom I have much respect and love, suffered a stroke on Friday, February 25th.  This stroke left him with global aphasia. He has been in the hospital going through inpatient rehab and was released today to begin outpatient rehab. His recovery is something that will be ongoing. Not being with my family during this time has been hard and am really looking forward to being there.  My grandmother, Memaw Mary, who since my mom’s death in 2009 has become more of a maternal figure to me, has reassured me that the family is fine with me here in Boston.  I am hoping that I can spend some time with them and help Memaw with Pops later this Spring and Summer.  I looked for a picture of them both, but couldn’t find any.  My Uncle Phil emailed me a picture of Pops that he took with his camera phone last week.

Pops George with his dog, Buck on the patio at he and my Memaw's home in West Point, MS

Speaking of my grandparents…my Memaw said she was very proud when I told her I had decided to try to go into business for myself.   I know that the freelancing world is tough – especially in the social media world, but I’m going for it and am really excited.   My focus is social media management (if you don’t know what this is, it’s a-okay – a lot of folks don’t.  This site’ll kind of tell ya.) and right now I just have two clients, but that will change.  Ginger Media (The biz name with which I am going.  If you are interested why I chose Ginger Media aside from the obvious answer of my hair color, ask) will be in full swing in no time – hopefully.  When I get a website up, you all will be the first to know.

Ken has been super supportive during all of this.  I couldn’t ask for a better friend or boyfriend during the last month.  And on top of him being super rad, his family and friends have been quite rad, too.   Thank you all for your cards, candy, candles and especially the head massager.

While I’ve been starting my freelancing business, Ken has been doing some really cool things.  He and a colleague are planning an on base 5k to support needy women and children in Herat.  I am so excited to be able to help with this and hear about it as it develops.  Also, Ken has been going on quite a few site visits – visiting his clients.

Below are a few pictures Ken sent me.  I am a big fan (read: I think he looks quite handsome) of the one of him in the Blackhawk.  If you think it’s pretty rad that Ken was riding in a Blackhawk you may want to visit this site to see how Blackhawks work.

At Camp Stone you just throw out your thumb and a Blackhawk lands

Riding in a Blackhawk looks like fun!

Besides getting to his site visit, Ken was able to see this

Write more soon…should be easier to type after I thaw out and drink some tiger blood.

I’ll Put My Money On The Groundhog

It has been nearly one month and 55 more inches of snow (nearly 80 cumulative inches in Arlington, MA) since my last blog post and I am more resolute than ever that Father Winter is not going to keep me down, even though he is truly giving it the ol’ college try. It’s not the snow in and of itself that’s the real downer, it’s the hassles it brings along with it.  One thing I have learned about Boston is that the snow doesn’t shut things down, it just makes things take longer (i.e – getting dressed, packing for the day – extra shoes so you don’t find yourself in unattractive snow boots all day), move more slowly (i.e. – train/bus delays, traffic backups), and heavier (see packing for day).  For all my complaining of the weather (Ken hears most of it – sorry Ken), I am trying to make the best of it here because Boston really is awesome.  The architecture is amazing, the people relatively friendly, the restaurants spectacular, but I am ready to enjoy this city in warmer temps!

I get to see Trinity Church nearly everyday. Right now, it's snowcapped and even more beautiful.

A born and bred Southern girl, I have always loved the heat of the summer and all that comes along with those long, hot, humid days.  Up here in Boston, in the dead of winter, I find myself more and more frequently longing for sunlight and days spent lounging in it, my freckles forever multiplying.  Even the ideas of hot car seats burning my legs and clothes sticking to me as soon as I walk out the door into air that is stifling and thick are appealing.  Yep, winter here really is that bad.

Everyday on the T I hear the longtime Bostonians talk of winters worse, but they always cap it all off by assuring one another that this is one “haush winta” (Boston speak for “harsh winter”).

Decided to take a plunge into a drift while helping my roomie get his car unstuck

All that said, there are two things that I have found to be positive about the ridiculously excessive snowfall.

The first is that, snow like this is “a great equalizer”.  No matter your age, background, social status, whether you live in Southie or on Beacon Hill, everyone has to climb over inconvenient snow piles, inch from place to place using the nearly unnavigable post-snowstorm sidewalks, and deal with the endless delays on the T due to ice and snow on the tracks and cold weather related malfunctions.  And, maybe I’m just displaying my glass half-full outlook when I list this as a positive, because when I really think about it, the only equalizing going on is probably that everyone is equally pissed at Father Winter.

The second, and only other positive I’ve come up with is that with all this snow on the ground is that the roads are more like trail than you can imagine.  On multiple occasions now, I have laced up my trail shoes and headed right out my door for a run, enjoyed the dirt trail-like cushioning of the snow, got a full body workout from maintaining my balance on rugged terrain thanks to the ice, slush and snow piles, and had to do some quick thinking when approaching suddenly ending sidewalks due to 4 foot high snow drifts. So, even though my foot is not 100%, I am enjoying some short runs, taking the road to the Minuteman Trail which I will not be able to do when all this snow melts.

I know that I have left out the beauty of a new fallen snow, but it’s just not all that beautiful to me anymore.  I’ve been looking at it for over a month now and a lot of the snow is now dingy with salt and dirt and the tracks of weary commuters trudging through.

February 3, 2011 - Minuteman Trail in Arlington during a 3 mile run

Well, enough about me and this crazy Boston winter.  Let’s talk about the “Ke” of KeJen!

Ken has now been at Camp Stone for more than 2 months.  What does that mean?  That means we are more than 1/3 through Ken’s deployment and have only about 120 days remaining!  Ken is doing well.  He is, of course, working hard most hours of the day doing his part to protect the United States and make Afghanistan a better place for its people.  When he’s not doing that, one thing he is doing a lot of is working out.  He and a colleague are working out six days a week. He is doing a lot of running around the base, riding the stationary bike and doing weights each day as well.  He is going to get “swoll up” (his words, not mine).  Interestingly, he noticed that while running he was out of breath more quickly than usual.  He realized why when he found that he is sitting at about 3,100 feet.  This is going to give him a definitive advantage when he gets back to Boston and is running at 141 feet.  Ya know, I don’t care if he beats me, I just get excited thinking about the day that we can go running together again!

Ken is also watching lots of movies (the latest being Due Date which he said I should watch if I have absolutely nothing else to do) with his colleagues, doing some reading with G and Sam, two Afghan liaisons with whom Ken works closely (they are going to get started reading The Kite Runner soon) and truly enjoying each letter and package he receives.

Send Ken a card or picture and this is where it will go. Let's fill this bulletin board up!

Speaking of letters and PICTURES, how many of you have gotten started with Ken’s Photo Challenge?  I haven’t but the competition is on.  Let’s bombard Ken with pictures.   Need a little reminder of the challenge?  Click here.

Then, there are the gifts Ken has received that took him by surprise and brightened his day like the brunswick stew that Terri sent or the thermometer that I sent him so he could no longer reply to my question of “What’s the temperature there?” with “Does it look like I have a thermometer in my pocket?”

Brunswick Stew from Terry, Note the one empty jar. Ken couldn't wait to dig in before taking a picture

The next couple of pictures are from a couple of weeks ago when it snowed on base.  I guess after I asked enough times, Ken thought he’d send me some pictures so he could show me what the weather was like at Camp Stone in hopes I’d stop asking.  Ha.  I’m just kidding.

Anyway, It really hasn’t snowed all that much since Ken’s been there (I think it snowed a bit yesterday though) and he has been pretty fortunate that the temps have been fairly reasonable.  I am glad it’s not too cold since he is sleeping in a sleeping bag in a building like the ones below.

Snow at Camp Stone

The snowy mountains of Herat, AFG

How’s winter treating y’all?  Anyone have any tricks to make these remaining months of winter a little brighter?  Shoot them my way!  You can always email Ken ( ibkenh at yahoo.com ) or myself ( jen.barker at gmail.com ) to say hello. We love hearing from you.

Stay in touch!  Ken and I are looking forward to seeing you all in a few months!

PS – Never have I had faith in Punxsutawney Phil to predict the weather with accuracy, but this year is different.  I’m desperate for Spring so my bets are on the groundhog.