Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Jonny Goes Organic: Welcome Home Lieutenant!

He's Home!!!
So, I've been a little M.I.A. this week, but for really great reason. I am thrilled to finally announce that the love of my life, Lieutenant Jonathan Roberts is finally home from nearly 11 months of military deployment. (YAY!!!) I've been busy cleaning and reorganizing our home, preparing welcome home signs and outfits, working full-time through the distraction and excitement (or at least trying to), and finally meeting him at the Armory, brining him home and spending lots of time catching up! It has been an emotional week, or weeks if you count those leading up to it, or even months if you count the 11 for which we've been separated. I wanted to share this experience with you though, because its a great example of life needing to go on despite of, or maybe better put, amidst, your new lifestyle. 

Change throws us all off - it can be extremely positive and rewarding but it can also be very difficult, especially at first. Whether it's losing a job or starting a new one, having house-guests, experiencing an injury or diagnosis, relocating - it will toss a monkey wrench into your path and it is up to you to navigate around it (the monkey wrench - not the change itself!). As the weeks and days inched closer to his return, I was [warmly] bombarded with texts, calls and emails all pretty much saying the same thing "How exciting!!". You know, in a perfect world or episode of "I'm Coming Home", yeah, it would be pure joy and anticipation. That's what we'd all like to imagine, hell, that's what I imagined every day leading up to it. But, I have to tell you - it was more like a ride on a really rocky wooden roller coaster.
There was relief, excitement, fear, anxiety, impatience - and a million other emotions - all at once. Some days I was absolutely terrified by the idea of my very controlled lifestyle changing; others, I felt numb, unwilling to believe it was really happening (anyone who has experience with the military will understand that one); and once in awhile, a superficial sense of excitement, mostly because I thought it was how I was supposed to feel. Overall though, each emotional rush left me more and more numb to what was happening. This probably isn't what you were expecting me to say and believe me, I didn't expect it either. One afternoon I was so concerned I found myself mid-workout Google-ing "emotions leading up to return from deployment" and its variations. What I was feeling was perfectly normal according to a number of different military family counseling and support group sites. I just needed to ride it out.

Preparing Myself
Me, My Sign.. Waiting
The days just before Jon's return, I was disciplined, uncharacteristically so, and probably way too hard on myself. I ate zero sugar, gluten or dairy, adhering primarily to Alexander Junger's CLEAN program I had done recently. While my emotions were numb, my body felt fantastic! I knew I would be traveling to his parents' farm and would be out of my element for a day or two and I guess I wanted to make sure I was completely on track just in case anything threw me off. I'm not totally sure why, since I'm usually very calm about traveling now. Some may suggest that I saw a major change coming and took the opportunity to exert full control over my life, planting myself firmly in preparation for any potential deterrents. Maybe. 

The day before driving north to the armory where he would be released, I prepared and packed a greenk, organic veggies, organic homemade hummus, homemade organic trail mix and organic teas to keep me on track. I searched for restaurants in Northeastern PA and found one that did offer a daily dinner special that was locally sourced, grass-fed and served with organic veggies (why they don't just offer these on the regular menu, I'm not sure). Whatever that special was, though, I'd be ordering it! I was in total control! No cravings, no tears, no crazy rush of adrenaline - complete control. Until I saw him.

LT Roberts getting off the bus
I had my sign in hand, my hair was done and my dress made me feel beautiful (I had put myself on a Nordstrom waiting list for it!!). A larger than life American Flag was hanging from two fire truck ladders and waving in the breeze. Families and friends were spread out in front of the armory in anxious little clusters. I stood there with Jon's parents; they were clearly not numb like me. It took all I had just to carry on a conversation. Even as Jon texted me that their buses were nearing, I didn't believe it. It wasn't until the motorcade rounded the corner and into the lot in front of the armory that I felt my stomach drop. 

I knew he was on the third bus but could only see the first. Motorcycles revved their engines, cars honked their horns, fire trucks rang loud and everyone cheered as each bus made the turn into the lot. I was overcome with chills, my body, seconds ago hot in the August sun, had goosebumps. Bus three. There it was. I had been videotaping the motorcade's arrival but when that third bus came to a stop right in front of me, every feeling I had suppressed for the past 11 months came rushing through me. Tears like I've never cried before. A smile I had no control over. I tried making eye contact with each soldier as they stepped off the bus, I didn't want to miss a second of Jon's return. It was him! My Jon! 

I don't know who moved quicker but the next thing I knew I was in his arms. It was pure joy, raw emotion. I had been numb because I had to be. For 11 months I had to build walls around my emotions to remain a functioning part of society. I had tricked myself into not feeling the pain - or anything for that matter. Now it was time to let those walls fall. I will never forget how that felt.

Get Your Monkey Wrench Out of My Organic Way

After hugs and kisses and pictures abound, it was time for dinner. Im REALLY happy I had planned ahead and found a restaurant with organic options because I was in la-la-land at this point! The staff at The State Street Grille warmly welcomed us with a bottle of champagne in honor of our celebration. It was a beautiful evening and we sat outside on the patio and toasted to Jon's return. 

Toasting to LT Roberts' Homecoming
A great example of how to navigate your organic lifestyle came up when it was time to order. Our waitress informed us of the specials (remember? the one I was ordering no matter what?) - Veal. I know some people love it, but it's not for me. I haven't eaten cow since I was pretty young, maybe 9 or 10 - something about it just didn't sit well with me. So, OF COURSE, the organic option that night was veal. As everyone else presented their choices, I scanned the menu for a backup plan - Aha! "I'll have the free-range roasted chicken, but can you ask the chef if he would prepare it with the organic veggies served with tonight's veal special?" The chef was more than happy to oblige and I was a very happy girl! 
My Roasted Free Range Chicken with Organic Mushroom & Broccolini

I wanted to share this real life experience with you guys so you can see first hand how I handle these sorts of obstacles. I've shared some tips on how to navigate through rough social waters in the past, here. But, despite all the preparation in the world, you will still encounter road blocks. Had there not been free-range chicken on the menu, I would have opted for wild fish and asked for the organic veggies. The point is don't feel restricted by a menu. I wanted to know my sides were organic, so I simply asked them to pair my entree with another entree's sides. It may not be what the chef would prefer to serve with chicken, especially since the original accompaniment was veal, but usually they will be more than happy to meet your dietary needs. Don't be afraid to ask. Ultimately you will save yourself a lot of worry and grief and enjoy your meal and company so much more! I know I did. 

How Its Going So Far

Gusto! Cheese Plate - Took me right back to Italy!
When I first announced the Jonny Goes Organic series, people close to us couldn't believe it. Jon? Our Jon? No way! As I shared with you guys, I was worried too, at first. But so far, it is going great! Did he order organic food the first night at dinner like I did, no. And I didn't expect him to - he just came off the plane from 11 months of eating crap. In just eating freshly prepared food he was doing a hell of a lot better for his body than he'd been able to for the past year. It wasn't long though before he was going full steam ahead. After a couple days at his parents' home we returned to ours. He surprised me with reservations at Talula's Garden, a farm fresh garden-style gem in the Washington Square neighborhood of Philadelphia. 
Sweet Summer Corn Soup with Pickles Jalapeno and Avocado
Jon ordered a local beer and I a glass of organic champagne. I immediately struck up conversation with our amazing and knowledgable waitress about the menu and how they source their ingredients. She understood my passion and made a point to always check with the chef on the source and organic nature of what I was ordering, an effort that did not go unappreciated. We shared a decadent cheese plate (Jon and I love cheese!). Although I had been avoiding most dairy products while he was gone, this was a celebration and I was confident in the food's quality. We chose the Gusto! A Slow Food Study in Rare Italian Cheese plate - it transported me back to my time in Italy. Pungent, earthy, silky cheese paired with salami picante, raw honey and figs. 

Line Caught Tuna, Pickled Onion, Avocado Dressing
Next, Jon had a beautiful Local Sweet Summer Corn Soup with crushed avocado, pickled jalapeño, and spiced crème Ffrâiche; and I a rare Line-Caught Curry Spiced Tuna and Pickled Red Onion Salad with avocado dressing. Can you say yum-mazing??? For our entrees with chose Herb Baked, Line Caught Bluefish, Fennel-Olive Glaçage, Handmade Potato Gnocchi, Heirloom Tomato ‘Puttanesca’ and “Stuffed Summer Squash,” Sweet Corn Custard, Toasted Red Quinoa, Garlic Roasted Sicilian Eggplant, and Cucumber-Sweet Herb Salad. And well, we couldn't help ourselves - we split what the restaurant titles "The Best Bowl of Ice Cream Ever" : Freshly spun hazelnut ice cream with warm brown butter madeleines. It was incredible - each course - every bite. 
Enjoying Our Time at Talula's Garden

The best part, though, was not the organic nature of the restaurant or the delicious food. It was leaving our phones in the car and taking our time. We made a promise to each other to enjoy every date night to the fullest - this meant no phones and no rushing. For photos, we brought my digital camera. We took our time with each course, not ordering the next until we had finished the one before. It was the best decision we ever made. We sat talking, eating, laughing, enjoying each other - for four hours. It was one of my favorite nights we've shared. Give it a try next time you and friends or loved ones are out - without the distraction of cyberspace, you allow yourself to be completely in the moment.

North Lookout @ Hawk Mountain
The next morning we hiked Hawk Mountain near the Appalachian Trail. I packed us organic apples, homemade trail mix, wild tuna on sprouted toast for Jon, wild tuna with organic veggies for me and a fresh beef jerky stick from a local farm for Jon as well. We hiked to the top and enjoyed our lunch overlooking the valleys below and watching hawks glide above. It was awesome! 

Jon was born in Alaska and family members from the state were in visiting when he returned home. This meant we were sent home with A LOT of FRESHER THAN FRESH Wild Alaskan Salmon! Jealous? Thought you might be :). That night after the hike I marinated a piece of salmon in my soy lime marinade, grilled some asparagus and heated up some leftover spaghetti squash. We were both in heaven - but mainly Jon. He hadn't eaten food so fresh in far too long and I could tell he was loving every bit of it. 

We've frequented a few more organic restaurants in the past week, and whipped up a number of lunches, shakes, teas and snacks. He hasn't felt deprived. In fact, in the car yesterday he said, "It might be mental, but my body already feels just... better." I think we're off to a great start. :)

Open Your Mind and Health and Happiness Will be Yours
Cheers to Healthier Happier Life! (with Organic Wine)
The key to embarking on this journey, whether alone or with a loved one, is keeping an open mind. If you open yourself up to change, to knowledge, to support, to challenges - you will find great success (this same principle may be applied to many parts of your life). Because I have adopted this lifestyle already, I am able to identify where and how Jon may become discouraged, and I am able to offer him support, suggest alternatives, and open his mind to new, better, healthier options. It is extremely important to me that he never feel deprived; and that, instead, he feel like he's been exposed to an abundance of new foods, flavors and options that he has yet to experience! Like: coconut cacao powder bars, organic sweet potato hash browns and organic pastured bacon! When you approach your organic lifestyle this way, supplemented by education and support, you will find happiness. And I'm not just talking about "phew!-I-can-still-eat-bacon" happiness, but cellular-mental-bodily-happiness. Say goodbye to guilt and that heavy belly feeling. Enjoy the way your food tastes AND the way it makes you feel. Open your mind and health and happiness will be yours. I promise you.

Keep it Real & Keep up with Jon's Journey here & on our Facebook Page

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