Thursday, September 30, 2010

Day 328: Too late

Spent too much time running around today. Forgot to write my blog entry. As expected, doc just wrote me a referral for an orthopedist for hip and knee. Also decided I needed a sonogram for my thyroid. Not sure if there is anything new wrong, but we'll see.

Too late for me to say too much of anything else because I spent the evening holding, feeding and smiling with my Lil Bit and it is now time for bed. Hopefully, we won't have anymore weird noises outside the house tonight. Nothing is scarier than hearing crashes outside. My neighbor checked out my noises two nights ago and the teacher next door to me, thinks it might be a wild cat that tipped over his trashcan last night. Whatever it was freaked my dog out. She was growling and barking all over the house. Made me think about practicing with the new shotgun.

Made it through another week - TGIF!! Woo HOooooOO!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Day 329: Time to go home yet?

It is four o'clock and all I can think is, "Hey, I've been turned into a cow, can I go home?" Those of you with children or a penchant for kids' movies might recognize this as a line from "The Emperor's New Groove." Something about this line always struck me as the utter frustration with work, I just need to leave kind of excuse. Yes, I know, udder and utter - I am so punny today.

Motherhood has turned me into a moron. I know pregnancy can affect the memory and efficacy of mental function, but I don't have hormones to blame. I just can't concentrate or focus on anything important. I feel like I am half awake 90% of the time and completely mentally absent about the same percentage. I find myself just staring into space. During my last class today, in the middle of a sentence, my train of thought decided to abandon the tracks. I went dead silent. All the kids were wondering what happened and who was in trouble. I just couldn't remember what I wanted to say about an Alexander Pushkin poem being an allusion to a Russian folk tale.

I know some of it is lack of sleep, heck maybe all of it. For those faithful readers, I know I promised to be in bed early last night, but it was not to be. A few minutes before ten, in my jammies, teeth brushed, vitamins taken, I went to put the baby to bed. When I came back to close up the computer, I noticed an IM from dear hubby. The icon showed he was still online. I immediately replied, but got no answer. I waited. First 15, then 20 minutes passed and no answer. Then he showed as idle, but still logged in. Previous deployments, we have had a conversation or email pretty much daily. This deployment I hear from him less than once a week so far, so seeing him online and missing him was really tough. So I waited. I waited and then I typed in - in five minutes I am going to bed. 10:58, he comes back from breakfast and says hello.

Of course I am all excited to talk to him, but I then didn't get to bed until midnight. Lil Bit is going through a hungry phase and has been waking up at 5, just 45 minutes before my alarm, needing to eat. While my body has gotten used to this 11-12 bedtime and I can stay awake most days, with some caffeinated assistance, my mind is gone. I feel catatonic. During my collaborative teaching time, I sometimes feel like I am just staring blankly at everyone... perhaps because I am. I certainly don't get much productive thought accomplished between the joint silliness of our wonderful group of friendly colleagues and my apparent state of moronity. I don't think that is a word, but am going with it.

I wonder - with 36 more weeks of school (which is a lot even though it doesn't sound like it) if I can make it. I can't get things graded or focus well enough to plan. I spend most of my afternoons just wondering if I can go home yet. While not a cow, feels like a good excuse. Think my principal'd notice if I used it on the sign out sheet?

Mmmm - oh, look, time to go home!!!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Day 330: On the other hand

Yesterday I wrote about how excited I am about the progress I am making with my running. Today the pinched nerve I have, not sure where, but the pain runs from my left knee into my hip. It makes it hard for me to even walk. I was feeling it today, but thought perhaps running would work out the kinks, but it was not to be.

I did manage to get through 1.25 miles, but Lil Bit was fussy so had to stop a few times for her and a few times to try to straighten my hip. I managed to jog a few times, but the pain got so bad my stomach was starting to turn. Having to quit running made me feel so disappointed that I was crying on the treadmill. I tried to stretch and kind of crack my hip, but nothing worked. Having the one thing that was working, go wrong just felt like too much today.

I guess I am going to have to schedule a doctor's appointment, which will probably lead to tests/referrals, etc. because whatever is going on is not good. Life's little bumps. Reminds me of that country song in which the guy is drinking himself into oblivion because the washer broke, the dog got sick, etc. and his friend says that is life.

I have a few friends who read this blog and worry about me. But honestly, I have those moments when I want to scream, cry, throw a giant temper tantrum and then pack those feelings up and move on. When you see me smiling at work, I am genuinely happy. I am not often someone who carries the bad stuff with me for more than a few minutes, doesn't solve anything and the pain tends to grow instead of shrink when I focus on the hurting or the sadness or anger.

I am concerned about my fitness and weight goals if this pinched nerve continues to be a problem. If I can't exercise by running, it will be hard for me to find something that I can do with Lil Bit, but there are other options. I am mostly concerned about my ability to walk, spent a lot of today trying to cover up my limp.

Chalk it up to getting older sucks! Nobody'd do it if it weren't for the alternative! I miss having someone to cry to, maybe that is why I vent to this blog. Sometimes I just need to put out what I am feeling into the universe and hope someone cares, prays, gives me a hug or thinks about giving me a hug. Not always into being touchy feely, gotta catch me in the right mood. I can tell Chad when things are hard, but I really do have to pick and choose when. If he is having a really hard time, all he needs to know is that we're fine. I can't always do anything for him, I can't always say the right thing, but I can give him the peace of mind to know I am hanging in there and that we're here loving him and waiting for him to come home.

Well, promised myself two weeks ago to get to bed on time and haven't done it yet. Lil Bit woke me up early after I was up late reading again (gotta get more boring books!). Would be nice to sleep during the week and not JUST on weekends. Think positive people!! Might be asleep before 11?

Monday, September 27, 2010

Day 331: Progress

I wrote a few weeks ago about my running goal. If you missed that entry, let me catch you up. The past two years, I have trained and run a half-marathon, but the training takes so many hours that I really can't do it with Lil Bit. I can barely get 40 minutes on the treadmill much less the 90 minutes a few nights a week and 2-2 1/2 hours on the weekend. So this year I am dedicating myself to how far I can go in the 40 minutes on the treadmill.

I started slowly, I haven't been running at all in months. My first run was mostly a walk - 2.6 miles in 40 minutes. I my plan is to add one tenth to my distance a week. I should be working up to 2.8 this coming week, but I was running at 2.7 in two days and ran 2.8 the next time. Getting to 2.8 my first run of the 2.7 week, I decided to increase my incline on the treadmill if I make distance before the end of the week.

My guess is that if I increase incline, I will have to work harder to run the same distance and will build up endurance that will help me increase my speed when I get back on flat ground. I started running at a 2.0 incline the first run of the week and ran 2.8. My next run I ran at a 2.5 incline and got to 2.88. Yesterday I ran at a 3.0 incline and got to 2.9. Today I am taking a walk and Monday is a recovery day, but my goal is to run 3.5 incline for 2.9 miles on Tuesday.

This goal is certainly important for my fitness and my goal to lose some weight while Chad is gone, but it also gives me something to work toward. I can focus on getting somewhere, doing something. When I run and start to feel tired, I picture Chad so proud of me. Last deployment, he bragged to all of his friends about my running a half-marathon and last year he got to be there on Valentine's Day to watch me cross the finish line. He was so proud of me.

While I have run 13.1 miles several times now, twice in races, I can't just pick up and go for a run with my husband. His speed is just too much for me. I can't even run fast enough for him to jog with me. His slowest mile time is minutes faster than I could run years ago. I have always wanted to be able to surprise him by being able to keep up with him. I don't know what level of fitness he might achieve during his deployment because of his being so busy, but my goal is to at least get to a point where I can keep up with him jogging comfortably.

I don't know how long I can keep up adding a tenth a week, but if I even can add .05 a week, I will still be able to run with him when he gets home. If I can keep up a tenth a week, I might be able to run with him when he is home for R&R. Working toward this "secret" goal (he doesn't know what I am doing), motivates me, makes me feel good and helps me deal with the long months ahead, because I will need it all to get where I want to go.

I have also lost 4 lbs. real not water weight pounds!! YAY!! Another plus to my running goal.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Day 332: My old friend

Hello, Sunday, my old friend, I had forgotten how lonely you could feel.

I sit here this afternoon, holding my baby girl, kissing her tiny forehead,  and I realize that my arms hurt. Yes, from holding a heavy baby seat, but mostly in the figurative sense, they are empty and miss the feel of holding him. After two days of sitting around the house alone, a month of being on my own, I miss him. Not the idea of him, not having help around the house, but for real, ache in the silent places miss him, curl up and cry miss him - the feel of his hand against mine, or hearing his laugh, or watching him be so gentle with Lil Bit.

As much as I hate to leave my now squealing (so cute!) Lil Bit every day, I wonder if having to work this year is saving me from feeling this way more often and drowning in a sea of sadness. I am so busy I don't have time to think or feel anything but drained and tired most days.

I have slept, exercised, need to eat something, but am pretty much on track for Sunday afternoon. I need to get dinner, make lunch and breakfast, etc. so starts my busy week and thus a release from my thoughts. But in the midst of my, so far mostly mental, preparations, creeps in this ache and desire to see his smile. I have swallowed a lead weight. I must be having an allergic reaction to it that is making my eyes water.

I can't sit and let it overtake me right now, too much to do, I think. But I do promise myself, if I am still feeling melancholy at bedtime, I can cry. Perhaps I will open a bottle of something new and update my wine blog, or just drink it! Maybe the sadness will pass, maybe it won't. But work is a little more appealing tomorrow than it usually is on Mondays. At least I won't have time to realize how much I am missing my best friend. Manic Monday here I come.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Day 333: Helpless

In reality, I am truly helpless to affect much in my tiny sphere of influence, but I do delude myself frequently that I have everything under control. Having a tiny person in my life has challenged this belief, but mostly prompted me to get better at control. We are working on it. I managed to get everything done this week and my house is actually at about 80% of what I would consider company clean.

I was feeling pretty upbeat and happy until Chad called. He is having a rough time this deployment. He is working about 14-16 hours a day with just enough time off to sleep. He hasn't had time to check his email in a week or look at the posted pictures of his daughter. He has no time to go to the gym due to the 15 minute call up status he is on. He can't talk about a lot of what is going on over there or what he is doing, but he sounds down.

The only thing he lives for each deployment is working out. He pushes himself to reach the peak physical condition. Last deployment he ran 3 miles in just over 15 minutes at one point. He also got down to under 5% body fat. He was really proud of all the hard work! I thought he looked a little like I needed to sit on him and feed him a biscuit, but other than a tad too lean, he did look good and he felt great about himself which always makes a man more handsome. This deployment, he hasn't much time to workout much less go to the gym. Not having the gym to focus on and the exercise to help release stress isn't good. He is frustrated and tired. Apparently his mattress is poking him with springs and smells like a toilet. 

It seems small to us who have our TVs and computers and clean sheets and nice pillows, but when everything about your life is taken away for a year, all the little stuff connects you to home and life and makes it easier to get through. What makes it hard for me is knowing, that despite the rough days I've had and am bound to have, I am really doing pretty good. I complain and cry on here so I don't have to do it very much in the real world. Hearing that he is struggling makes me sadder and ache more to have him here than usual. It is hard to be this helpless. I offered to send him things, but he said he would be resourceful. I hope my first care package gets there soon. At least then he will have a few small tangible things to remind him of those waiting here for him.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Day 334: 11 to go

I don't know how to feel today. Last night, I watched Bones on TV. Booth was wearing army ACUs. He had my attention instantly. When you're used to seeing something everyday and you don't for awhile, it is almost surprising. Plus, while David Boreanaz doesn't resemble my husband feature for feature. There is definitely a resemblance in his presence, carriage, general appearance to Chad. I could feel myself sit up straighter and lean closer to the TV. I have been so busy, I don't have a lot of time to sit around being melancholy, missing my husband. But seeing the uniform made me miss the way it feels to hug him when he comes home from work, the stiff velcro of his labels poking me with sharp corners, the fabric coarse and crinkley, the wings from his air assault badge sharp under my hands.

As of today, he has been gone a month. It feels like he just left some days, while others it feels like forever since I saw him. I think, that despite my lack of sleep. I am functioning pretty well. I do tend to get more emotional as the week progresses due to lack of sleep. I am still not getting to bed any earlier. I try, but life conspires against my sleep! Maybe next week?

While I have cried or at least teared up more in this past month than, I think, ever in my life, most of it has been due to sleep deprivation or frustration rather than sadness. I worry my give a damn is broken.  I worry that this half life of being together is making me distant and cold. Then a moment of watching a silly show with a character in a uniform that I am sure Chad would have totally ripped for being inaccurate, gives me such pause. My breath catches and for a second my heart feels heavy and pounds.  In that second, I realize I miss him so much more than I have time to even contemplate, although at night, I am totally hogging the middle of the bed. I have joked before, but I may need to break down and get a new KING sized bed while he is gone. I am getting way too used to having one foot dangling off each side of the bed while I sleep!

Well, we've got one down - just eleven to go. Wow! I do still have a long way to go on my weight loss and running goals though. Better get crackalackin'!!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Day 335: Play nicely, children!

Why can't people just be nice?? This is just going to be a quick rant about mean people on the Internet. Last night, I heard that my baby formula company, Abbott, was recalling some of its batches of Similac due to a possible contamination risk. Of course the website was clogged all day due to concerned parents like myself trying to find out which batches.

I tried to find news sites that were carrying the numbers of the recalled batches. On one site I was scrolling through comments to see if anyone had posted a link to a site carrying the information. One comment made my blood boil. She said essentially that having contaminated baby formula was what we deserved because we weren't breast feeding our babies.

How ridiculous!! I would imagine that most parents are a lot like me and my friends, doing the absolute best we can in our given situations, or in my case, in my given body. While technically it is possible to breast feed if you adopt, the process is generally difficult especially in a post-hysterectomy patient, and even in the best cases, still might not produce more than half of the milk required to sustain a child. Plus, my daughter is lactose intolerant and has to have all soy formula. She couldn't have been breastfed if I were her natural mother. Other women can't produce milk, babies can't latch on, working mothers don't have pro-lactation workplaces. There are a host of reasons why people use formula. We certainly don't deserve to be unintentionally feeding harmful things to our infants.

I understand people feel strongly about breastfeeding. I certainly think it is God's best answer for feeding our children, but also understand that you can love your child and make a different choice. I don't think my daughter should watch 98% of television. Do you love your child less than I do if you let him watch Teletubbies (mm maybe ; p )? I am teaching my daughter sign language so she can communicate with me years earlier than she will be able to speak. Are you a bad mommy because you don't know sign?  or don't think it is wise? We don't all agree on what we like on our burgers, how in the world would we all agree on raising children?

Isn't differences and tolerance the basis of our current educational policies? Yet that woman ranted about formula using mothers as if we should all raise our children exactly the same. I bet if her son is dyslexic or ADHD, she will fight to the death to get him accommodations in the classroom. All people, lives, situations aren't the same. You can disagree, offer suggestions or just shut the heck up and be tolerant of people who are different.

Goes back to that famous book, "All I Really Needed to Know I Learned in Kindergarten" if you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all and play nicely, children!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Day 336: My parents

I could spend years discussing my parents. They are so much a part of who I am. But today I was writing an example of creative writing for my students. They are working on stories about events that had they happened differently, would have prevented them from being here. My students are struggling with showing a story using creative language and sensory images rather than telling me what happened. They are writing things like this:

The day I was born was the day I might not be here if it happened differently. It was my due date and my mom went into labor early in the morning. She didn’t rush to get to the hospital because she didn’t think it was so bad. When I was born I was very small and sick. The doctor didn’t know what to do, so they decided to let me die.  My parents were very sad.  Finally they decided to try to save me. An ambulance took me to a hospital downtown Chicago. I had a surgery to close my stomach and was fine. 

Obviously this is an interesting story, but isn't told in such a way to to inspire curiosity. I am giving that to my students to look at tomorrow - and then giving them the one using figurative language. 


The first day of my life was almost my last.
    Penny rubbed her back. She wasn’t sure if this was labor or not until her water broke.
    “Bill, it’s time,” she said more calmly than she felt.
    Bill’s eyes grew wide as he flew into action. He grabbed the car keys and a small suitcase Penny had packed two weeks ago in anticipation of this moment. Holding Penny’s elbow, he guided her carefully down the steps and into the wood paneled station wagon. The day they had been waiting so long for was finally here. The birth of their first baby was imminent. Bill wondered if he would have a son or daughter by the end of the day. Little did he know that it might be neither.
    Later, in the delivery room, the doctor stood poised to deliver the baby who seemed to come too quickly and easily.  He looked down expectantly, but what he saw defied any of his expectations.
    “Doc, what is it?” Bill asked, holding Penny’s hand. She was groggy from the sedatives they used to ease the pain of labor. The doctor didn’t answer. He and a cluster of nurses whisked the baby away without saying a word.
    The doctor carefully cut away the umbilical cord so the tiny girl could breathe, but that was the least of her problems. The skin covering her abdomen had not developed. She wouldn’t make it. Sighing, he gave the worried father the news that his little daughter wouldn’t survive the day.
    Bill hovered over the bassinet, watching the tiny chest struggle to rise and fall. Tears streamed down his cheeks as he waited for the inevitable, but it never came. She just kept fighting to breathe.
    “Doc, she is hanging in here. Isn’t there something we can do?” Bill pleaded.
    Finally the doctor decided that if this itty bit of a little girl could fight so hard for her life, she deserved any effort they could make. He picked up the phone and called Children’s Memorial Hospital in Chicago and arranged for an ambulance. Within minutes he had set the right people in motion to save my life.


While I have taken some liberties with the details and shortened the account considerably, this is the story of my first day on earth. As I wrote this example for my students, I was able to put myself in their shoes for the first time. When I spent eight days watching my comparatively healthy daughter in the NICU, my heart was in my throat repeatedly. Every little positive sign gave me immeasurable joy, but every new concern or test was terrifying. I watched when they performed a head sonogram, knowing they were looking for whitening around the ventricles in her brain that would signify the birth mother had abused drugs during the pregnancy, but not knowing what her brain was supposed to look like. Every time they stopped to freeze an image, my breath felt wet and heavy. I was almost in tears by the time it was over without having any idea if anything was wrong (all good btw). 

I can't imagine seeing this little tiny person I love so much struggling to survive. The love and fear they must have felt overwhelmed me. I found myself near tears in empathy for the twenty somethings (more than ten years younger than I am now) watching their baby girl nearly die and face a critical surgery and a month in the 70s equivalent of a NICU. They were all alone. I don't think either of my grandmothers were there. My mom was left an hour away while my dad rode with me and waited for the outcome. 

Then my mom could only visit every few days when my dad could take the time to drive her into the city. When Lil Bit was across the street from my hotel, I was standing at the NICU door every three hours and nearly hysterical if I couldn't get in to see her. Penny left the hospital without her new daughter and still unsure if she would live.

I have thought about that day before and thanked God for all the pieces that fell into place in order for my life to be saved. I have understood before that my parents were worried and scared, but my perspective has changed. As a mother today, my heart understood those fears. I also am able to appreciate more the choices they made for me and the childhood they gave me. It is too bad we always appreciate the really important things in retrospect. Thank you, Mom and Dad. I love you, too! and am starting to finally understand you were just kids trying to make it through each day too. I miss you both. Wish we lived closer.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Day 337: Missing it!

Last night, my Lil Bit ate real food! This was our third attempt at rice cereal. Babies have to relearn how to use their mouths to swallow food rather than milk. It often takes awhile. The first two attempts were happy disasters. I think more food came out of her mouth than went in! Last night, though still messy, she seemed to really grasp the idea of swallowing. I was so excited when I said open and she did!! Of course I had to call the Grandmas immediately and brag on my genius daughter!

Lil Bit was under her play gym while I was on the phone with my MiL. She was just having the best time, smiling and kicking and playing. She was so cute in her little blue gingham dress with matching spankies and socks. Her demure smile peeked at me from behind a handful of damp, well-chewed skirt. She is just s darned cute!

Tonight, she was frustrated with her toys (they don't fit in her mouth) and growling at them. To alleviate her frustration, I was growling with her. Lil Bit's brown eyes grew two sizes and a full belly laugh trickled up into her smile. The joy from her laugh was contagious and I began to laugh. My laughing made her laugh, so I laughed more, so she laughed more.

But as we were bonding, all I could think was that Daddy was missing it. She was a tiny, mostly inert, itty bit when he left. Now she is rolling and eating and "talking" and laughing. The snuggles and cuddles are even more precious because she is already becoming so much more independent. I can't imagine missing this so sweet year with her. It breaks my heart to miss the hours I do when I have to go to work during the day. He is missing it all.

I always knew he missed so much with his children, but we live so far away that I don't get to watch them go through the year without him as much as I do now with her. Plus, this first year is just so jam packed with firsts. Those moments when she crosses a new milestone or overcomes something that just the day before had her confounded or is just doing something too adorable for words are moments he can't get back. I can't yell, honey, come see this. I try to call my mothers but if I called them every time she was cute, we'd be on the phone all the time. So much of my mental picture of my new family involved the bonding we would do with our new daughter. It hurts to miss sharing those moments with him more than I ever thought I could. I thought at least I would enjoy the special girly bonding time, but really it just hurts not to have him here to witness the changes and joys of her year.

Any free time I have this week will be researching video cameras. I think I might want a flip? Something easy to use and upload quickly to email or facebook and save to discs. I just can't let him miss it all.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Day 338: Getting to sleep

I promised I would write about this a few days ago and literally couldn't last night because I decided it was time to take the bull by horns and hit the sack. Enough cliches for you?

I don't think I am the only person who goes through this, but I won't speak for us all. I have a hard time going to bed when my husband is gone. I sleep just fine when I do sleep, especially with our small bed all to myself and no extraneous snoring heat source. But it is the going to bed that is the real struggle. I am having a hard time finding the words to describe this feeling, but when he is gone sometimes the thought of facing the empty bed and the even more empty next day makes it hard for me to want to go to bed.

I find myself, exhausted, on the couch, playing Facebook Farkle instead of getting the desperately needed sleep. I deliberately waste time instead of face sleep with only the seeming sea of husband-empty days, the loneliness, and the hectic franticness to look forward to.

They say depression makes you sleep a lot, but I am feeling like the sadness keeps me up. Maybe it is the stress from having all the weight on my shoulders that makes it hard for me to want to go to sleep. I don't know, but as I was talking yesterday to my MiL, I realized that this isn't new this deployment. I think his first deployment when we hadn't lived together yet, was easier in this respect because I wasn't used to having him around the house, the sounds of him shuffling around in the kitchen, slamming drawers and clinking silverware, or brewing coffee in the morning and kissing me good-bye. The second deployment, we had been married 16 months when he left and had been home for a really good stretch of time before he left. I remember going through this for the first month or so after he left. 

I am tired, want to sleep, but just can't seem to drag myself off to bed. While this would seem counter intuitive, being that going to sleep would just be that much closer to his return, it really it hard to get myself to bed. Maybe even subconsciously, I am more aware of his absence in the evenings and at bedtime. The days mostly rush by and I don't know where they went, but the nights feel more empty, the house is quieter without him in it. I do know that a year of feeling like a zombie isn't going to cut it. I am going to have to make myself be physically in bed every night at ten. If I don't fall asleep, then I don't, but I have to at least give myself the chance. While this may cut down on the number of completely worthless Farkle chips I accumulate, I have to be willing to live life on the edge - before I find myself standing on one!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Day 339: Priorities

Lil Bit in her new jean skirt courtesy of Lisa!
Sorry guys, no real blog tonight. My Lil Bit was fussy and not feeling well. She needed me to hold her until she fell asleep. I am trying to type one handed. As soon as she is down, I am gonna lay down to get some sleep. While I can apparently stay up every night to blog, I can't function for the entire week on the lack of sleep and by Friday, I am a wreck. So tonight is part one of sleeping issues army wives have during deployment - Part One, set priorities. Taking care of yourself is pretty much gotta be #1 so you can put everyone else #1 for the rest of the day.

I will keep up the writing, but some days may be shorter than others. Bedtime is ten o'clock! Period. So gotta run, take care of yourselves today!

P.S. Everything did not get taken care of. I have packages for the boys, my FiL and Chad that need to go out and they didn't get done. I have a dryer full of my clothes that will wrinkle and need to be fluffed and the vacuum only made it out of the closet and around one room today. So I go to bed with a list of things that weigh on my mind, but am trying to do so with a clear conscience because I am only one person with two arms and a healthy need for sleep and other life sustaining things. I can only do what I can do if I am going to stay sane and happy during this deployment. I chose to run this afternoon instead of do chores. I needed that for me. I am done allowing myself to get upset about things that don't get done. If they never get done, then they weren't that important. And if my house is a mess = don't visit if it bothers you. Of course, my idea of a disaster is based on my mom's house and it was immaculate, so if some clutter and dog hair don't bother you, come on over and bring a bottle of wine and we can drown our non-priorities together.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Day 340: Prettiest Girl in the world

Today I woke up ready to take care of business. There are stacks of papers everywhere. I have stuff to shred, stuff that needs filing and just stuff. Plus in the mix are things I have just been meaning to do. One of those things was to email pictures to the attorney who helped up finalize our adoption early. I can't tell you how much it meant to me and Chad to have the adoption finalized before he left. While according to the attorney, only one of us had to be there and the baby didn't even have to come, we were so disappointed to have missed her physical birth due to the fact that she was so impatient to be here, neither of us wanted to miss her second "birthday."It was a special day for us to welcome the prettiest girl in the world into our family.

While I was thinking about how special this little bundle of joy is to my heart, how words fail to describe how laughter bubbles up inside of me when her face lights up in a smile, I thought about writing a letter to the adoption agency to thank them for helping us add Lil Bit to our family. I went to their website and thought I would just take a peek at the waiting families. I knew we were extremely blessed to get chosen this quickly, but it made me understand exactly how blessed when I saw that over half of the families who were waiting when we joined the agency were still waiting.

For those of you who are not familiar with the process of adoption these days, you are not really on a list like they used to have. You used to wait on a list and when your "turn" came up, you received the next available child. Today's adoption agencies are more focused on the birth mother's choosing the right family for her baby. She comes into the agency and looks at books prepared by the agency's waiting families. She chooses a family for her child, then the family can decide if they like the match based on the mother's background and prenatal information. We were accepted by the agency on March 1. We got a phone call March 25 that a birth mother had chosen us. While she needed a little more financial support than we had planned for, we were so excited that we chose accept the placement. We had been crossing our fingers for a little girl to add to her two brothers. This birth mother was far enough along that we knew the baby was a girl and healthy 26 weeks  already! It felt like a dream.

We had been praying that it would either happen almost immediately or take a year or so to get chosen. With Chad leaving I wanted him to be able to be here and bond with the baby before he left for Iraq or not to get selected for a baby until he was almost home. With the current army climate, it is so hard to plan a life. He has been on the luckier side of the army. He has been home 15-18 months between deployments, but has been deploying every other year or so since 2003. That is a topic for another blog - but it made planning an adoption and the process really scary for us. We knew he would be going back at some point, but this time he knew he would have orders again pretty much before he came home the last time.

God's hand was in this process and we were given the most beautiful little girl. I keep asking her for her secret, how she gets prettier every day, but she isn't talking. I knew I would love her and she would change my life. I didn't know how I would just hold her and be moved to tears by that love. I didn't know she would change how I see the world and my life.

While 9 families still wait to be chosen from the list, I held my daughter for hours today while she snuggled, giggled, slept. How blessed we were to become a forever family this summer. God was watching over us. As a new mother, I now realize the responsibility that comes with loving her. I just pray that God continues to protect her daddy and keep our family safe for a long time even if we can't always be together. Lil Bit deserves all the best. She was a game changer for me. No matter how tired I am from taking care of her, house, dog, school and sometimes even myself, I wouldn't trade a second with my beautiful girl. There are no words to describe how it feels to love this hard and I am just getting started - all you Momma's out there know what I mean. What a godsend to survive missing her daddy!!!

Day 341

Technically, it is after midnight so I missed today, but I am still awake so I will try to get in a quick one. Today I was more tired than I have been in my entire life when I wasn't recovering from major surgery. I am not sure how I am still awake now, but definitely running on fumes.

Chad's dad's birthday is Monday and his present isn't finished. He is having a hard time remembering things and is not well. We don't get down there to visit much between having to travel 3 hours north to pick up the boys from their mother and having to do something with the dog. It isn't as easy to get away as it used to be pre-dog and baby.

I don't really know what to get him, if he even needs anything. So I decided to get a bunch of pictures printed from the past four years and make an album for him. I bought the album Tuesday and haven't had the energy or time to start on it. Tonight I went through as many of our photos as I could, sent them electronically to Walgreens to have them printed, and started putting them in the photo album and labelling them.

I thought that while he is sitting at dialysis or having a rough day at home, he could flip through the book and see pictures of Chad and I, the boys, and Chad's sister and of course the newest addition, Lil Bit! That way he can remember fun times we all had together and see pictures of his son being a fantastic father to his grandsons and granddaughter. I hope he will enjoy it.

I knew this would take a few hours to sit down and do, but I had no idea how long. I have to finish labelling about 40 pictures tomorrow and pack a box of things for the boys from Chad. He set somethings aside before he left for them to get a few weeks into his deployment.

I feel like I am trying to take care of all the people Chad loves while he is gone and that is a really important part of being a soldier's wife. I am the one who calls his mom and lets her know he is ok when he can't email everyone or when they are on a blackout for OPSEC reasons (operational security). I talk to his father when I can to keep in touch with him and his sister who is struggling with caring for her sick father who is losing his battle with his kidneys and mental illness. I try to call his sons every week or so. I hope talking to me makes them feel better connected to their father because I can't even imagine how scary and saddening this deployment must be for them. Even when they don't have the words or the maturity to express it in obvious ways, the weight of it must always be there. I know these people Chad loves are my job now too. They have been since we first made a commitment, but when he is gone, I have to take over the more tangible aspects of that love.

It is just an extra weight on my heart right now, but flipping through this album and watching the boys and Lil Bit grow up before my eyes and seeing Chad with his arm slung around his father's shoulders, makes me realize that the joy of being able to flip through real photographs, not digital images might just make his dad's day, even if it gets there late.

So tomorrow, hopefully Turkey pants will let me sleep in and finish all my packages and the housework will wait. Because there is more of me than I would like, but not always enough to go around.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Day 342

Her red pen poised over the sloppy pencil scratched essay, she could feel the energy draining from her body. She was reading, reading and then . . . she was standing on a cobblestone street with brick paved sidewalks talking to one of her most obnoxious students about his deplorable behavior in her class.

As his parents began to berate her, she felt the ground sliding out from under her and jolted herself awake. The exhausted, temporarily single mother/teacher, realized she had just fallen asleep at her desk. Her eyes perilously close to the sharp end of her pen. She shook herself awake and tried to continue grading.

Her heavy head slumped slowly down onto her waiting forearms. And she found herself asleep again.

This was my afternoon - I barely felt capable of getting home or taking care of Lil Bit. When we got home, she wasn't in the mood for a nap like usual. I was so wiped out I cried. So for tonight, that's all folks!!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Day 343: I got you, Babe!

Ok - this is for all the people out there worried about me. I am FINE! I am exhausted, feel like I am starring in a really crappy remake of "Groundhog Day" minus the catchy wake up jam, Sonny and Cher's "I got you, babe," but I am fine!

The days are go, go, go from 5:30a.m.-8:30 or 9p.m. Then I get to sit down and catch up on whatever I haven't done for the day. It is much harder than anything I have ever done before and it is going to get worse. She will start teething soon and be miserable 24/7. Then she will be crawling and I will have to literally sit with her the entire time I am home or buckle her into a seat, swing, highchair, jumperoo, etc. My house was BABY proofed a year ago in preparation for the adoption, but I am a long way from crawler proofed! OMG!! I am going to have to get a maid. Either that or Lil Bit will have the immune system of a cockroach by the time she is potty trained!

I barely have time to bath her and myself much less the dog or vacuum. So my house isn't as clean as I would like it. I have a pile of catalogs and mail that needs getting to. I have started random piles of to-do things that mock me from several vantage points. My DVR is, as we speak, recording things I may never watch. I have read ONE book in the past month. I am two months behind on my Parents magazine, so I am lucky I haven't killed my daughter by using plastic bowls from Target or let her sleep on recalled sheets. She is likely growing a third arm from not using bottled water for her formula.

I am pretty sure I have already ruined her life because when I try to read to her, she squirms and cries. All those days of saying, I am too tired, we will read tomorrow and now she hates it. Great, just what her English teacher mommy needs is a baby who hates books! The dog hates me and glares at me accusingly all the time. I think I am doing pretty well to keep food and water in her bowls twice a day, but I can't walk her without the baby and can't take the baby when the evenings are a balmy twelve million degrees!

Some days, everything is sweet and easy (let's call those days, mmm, Saturdays) and days where nothing goes right (mmm, maybe Mondays for that one) and days I run ragged (Tuesday-Thursday) and days that I just am happy to have another week down of a long year, but no matter how rough this gets - I can stop, look into Lil Bit's face and know that I wouldn't change a thing!

When I have a rough day, her smile lights up my face. First thing every morning she smiles up at me and snuggles into my shoulder. We laugh and sing through getting dressed and later into "duh, nuh, nuh nuh -pajama time!" Mommy sings and dances. Lil Bit just laughs and doesn't catch my allusion. We're working on her obscure 80s references, but she is just hopeless.

I know women all over the world have to do ten times more with ten times less in horrible living conditions and I have NO room to complain, but when things change in someone's life, it feels big to you. I went from staying home with three kids, two older stepsons who were great company and wonderful helpers, a husband who did 80% of the cooking and at least half of the household chores on any given day so I could spend all my time fussing over baby - to working 44 hours a week, having another 5 hours a week dropping off and picking up of the baby and doing everything at home, or at least stressing about it. Big changes! At least I can let the dust be dusty, the floor be furry and the dog smell wet doggy, if I can hold my sweet baby girl and breathe in her sweet powdery vanilla scent, singing, "I got you, babe." Maybe throw in a little Marley, "Ev'ry little ting's gonna be alright."

We're surviving. Not sure how I will make things easier or if I even can pare down my routine anymore, but this year will at least go quickly. At this rate, Chad will be home, back in my arms before I know it. How lucky to have my Lil Bit to catch me when I fall.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Day 344: Cure

Today was a continuation of yesterday. I literally was almost in tears until about noon. I think the daycare teacher had to pry Lil Bit out of my arms today. I did find what might be a good cure for the blues, even if it doesn't solve my quest to find legitimate at home employment so I can stay home with my beautiful baby. She ate real food tonight and managed not to wear ALL of it!! Aww, so sweet!

So my cure for the blues is to set a goal. I always set a weight loss goal when he leaves, but that is only because we eat, drink and be merry when he is home so much that by the time he leaves, I NEED a diet!! The last deployment I trained for a half marathon. Now those of you who don't know me might wonder what kind of diet does someone need to runs half marathons, but I am not a little runner girl. I need to diet and my running is more of a jog to a walk/jog.

This year, I have Lil Bit so training for the half is just not feasible. I don't have enough time. If I can get on the treadmill for 40 minutes, I am lucky. Once the weather cools down, I might be able to run with her in the stroller but 40-60 minutes will be probably her limit there too. To train effectively for a half, I have to run 90 minutes or longer three times a week and I don't see that happening - realistically, I don't know that I even have the energy now.

So my goal (which I am keeping secret from hubby) is to work on my speed. He hates running with me because he runs SO much faster than I do. My goal is to run for 40 minutes 4-6 times a week and work on increasing how far I can go in that time frame and at what incline. Right now, I am mostly walking with a minute of running every few minutes  at a 2 incline. Today I did 2.7 miles. I have already added .10 to my distance in three days of jogging. If I can add .10 to my distance each week, I will be able to run ridiculously fast by the time Chad gets home. I don't know that my body can handle it. I may hit a plateau at some point, but to increase by one tenth of a mile a week might just be doable!


So today I cured my blues by setting a goal, realistic, who knows? But it will keep me busy trying!!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Day 345: Motherhood part 1

I say part one because this is going to be a very long year alone, and I sense future venting will be necessary. Tonight I picked up Lil Bit from daycare and she was all smiles and laughed when she saw me. I was so happy I thought she has finally adjusted to daycare, woo hoo! We get home and I try to feed her cereal, for only the second time, so I wasn't too optimistic, but what a dismal failure. She screamed like I was murdalizing her. Tears pooled on the tops of chubby cheeks. It was heartbreaking. I finally added more formula and she took it better, but I gave up and gave her a bottle after five or six disastrous attempts.

Then she drifted off in her high chair. I scrambled into workout clothes, hopped on the treadmill, only to have the dog start whining at the top of her lungs. Our dog has something wrong with her, she is chasing her wild dingo roots or something, but her whining is ear splitting. Maggie makes beagles look positively reserved. Then the doorbell rings over and over. The kid from across the street wants to play with the dog. They come over often and take her out and play with her, which is generally appreciated, but today woke up the baby only 10 minutes into what I had hoped would be a 40 minute jog. UGH!!, I wanted to scream! and then cry.

I moved her in the chair into the office, filled her tray with toys and started running again. That bought be a few more minutes, but not even ten. Then we tried the swing, another ten minutes, stopping a few times to change directions and readjust binky. When she started crying there, I finally put her into her crib and hoped she would nap. About 3 minutes before I was done, she started crying again. So I am on the treadmill, have a goal and a plan in mind, and I have to decide if I let her cry in her crib for three more minutes, selfishly finishing off a time and distance that are completely arbitrary, or do I put motherhood first. She kept the crying to a discontented snuffle so I stayed and finished my run, but skipped cool down.

A sweat covered mess, I am holding this fussy baby at arm's length and trying to get something to eat for myself. It is already 7:20 and I haven't eaten since an apple at 3. The baby won't stop crying tonight. Usually she is quite content to sit next to me in her boppy and watch me type on the computer. Not tonight! She cried and cried. Whenever I would get so frustrated and want to cry, she would laugh at me, thinking mommy was so funny. I don't have my lunch made, her outfit pulled out of tiny wicker bins, any papers graded, a shower taken, blogs aren't written, and I am waiting for my husband to call me. She has just fallen asleep under her play gym when the phone rings and wakes her up! Love daddy, but today wish a light would flash before the ringer!!

 I know this is just a big gripe session, but today was just one of those days. I don't know why, but a hundred little things went wrong. When hubby finally called, we disagreed about whether or not I should ever stay home with the baby. He has been dirt, eat hamburger helper and Ramen every night, poor and doesn't want to scrape by like that again. I am trying my best to find a way to make some secondary income so that I can stay home, but so far nothing is really working. I can't sell stuff like Avon - have no interpersonal skills and can't sell stuff I don't use. Anything else I am good at, isn't from home. I need a real work from home job that uses my English degree!! Or winning the lottery. As my friend Ally says, mmm, don't you have to play? Shoot, knew I was forgettin' somethin'!

All I can do is pray, I guess. Pray for an answer, a sign, a vision of the winning numbers? Pray he understands that putting our daughter in daycare for almost ten hours a day is ludicrous. We picked one of the best daycares in the area and they still can't provide for her the one on one attention I do or even one on three attention. They have 11 screaming babies, and I would imagine are lucky if they can get them all fed, changed, and asleep before they have to start again.  I want to teach her things and give her a childhood to remember - full of picnics and board games, dress up and imagination. It is a sacrifice for me to stay home, the $11 bottle of Pinot Grigio I am enjoying full of peach notes is not going to make the cut. Steak and shrimp will probably be for special occasions, if at all, but Lil Bit is worth it to me and I know when push comes to shove, she is for him too.

I guess like life, motherhood is a great balancing act. The trick is making it look effortless. I don't know how my mom did it, but she did it gracefully, and I only hope I can be half the mom she is.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Day 346: Autumn Promises

A former student of mine said she read this today and it was something special to her. It is a good reminder to me as well, that I need to take risks too. Life get shorter and shorter everyday. Hope you enjoy!

Autumn Promises
A crisp apple wind
causes rust colored leaves to stutter step
down graying blacktop
and across deep green lawns.
The September air is warm in the bright afternoon sun,
but betrayed by the undercurrent of autumn
trailing the heat,
and for a moment
I can almost feel an old flannel shirt
and hear the high school band over the cheers at the football game.
I feel myself tumbling
like the leaves
back to those minutes
where everything was as fresh and new
as I was,
new folders and notebooks
waiting for me to write in them,
a new year of promises
daring to be kept,
where life was something waiting for me
instead of a pathway of regret
trailing behind me.
I also remember
being afraid
of what life would bring after the safe cocoon of high school,
so I found cocoon,
after cocoon,
to encase myself,
as if I could protect myself from risk,
from failure
finding hollow victories in being just good enough
to get by
without putting too much of myself on the limb,
but realizing now that the regrets that trail me
are more the regrets of what I didn't do,
the risks I wouldn't take,
the life I was afraid to lead.
I pull the sharp, cool air into me
with all of its hope
daring to believe,
that I can now write the pages of my future,
breaking out of my safety chrysalis
and emerge the butterfly I was always supposed to be,
casting off the past,
its hurts and failures,
willing to risk what I am afraid to lose,
in the hopes that next fall
I will again be that girl with the cotton candy dreams
and tomorrows lining up before her
breathless for each challenge and
grateful for the wonder of each day
in the crisp apple wind.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Day 347

Today was a very lazy day, both Lil Bit and I got caught up on naps and I finished watching the entire season of "The United States of Tara," a very bizarre show about a woman with multiple personalities. While the show delves into deep issues of mental illness and how our pasts create and shape us, it made me remember a sillier time.

When I was a teenager, some friends of mine and I pretended we had multiple personalities. We were a little strange - I know. But it was very freeing. We named them and created back stories for each. I don't remember how many I ended up with. I think it was around 50. What was interesting was that Jenny, Cathy and I took each different aspect of ourselves, our whims and interests and explored them. We pretended to be all these different people. There were days we spoke entirely in French. Days we pretended to be small children.

It is too bad as adults, we can't let ourselves be silly, or even different. We don't want to stand out. Our culture seems to discourage individuality despite our protestations of independent thinking. We socially punish people who don't fit our molds.

And we quit exploring who we are. What a shame that we go to college, get jobs and pigeonhole ourselves into an idea of who we are. I was very lucky that 11 years into my teaching job in a small town with too many small minded people, I met someone who saw the best pieces of me and offered to take me on an adventure. While this adventure has its ups and downs, with every new place, I am offered an opportunity to reinvent myself over and over.

Here right now, with Lil Bit and the challenge I am facing to stay home with her, I am again looking into the mirror of who I have been and deciding which pieces of her I will keep. Does this give me a chance to explore some other sides of myself? If I walk away from teaching, what am I walking toward, just being a mom? While certainly noble and something I want very much, what else can I do and who else will I be?

What will Lil Bit remember about her mother as a child? I want her to remember that I was happy, relaxed, and fun. Those have to be the pieces of me I keep. What pieces do I discard? What new pieces will I find? Can who I am be fluid?

While I am sad and longing for him today, one of the benefits of being a military wife is the time I can spend introspectively. No sense only looking at the downsides. Another thing I will keep is that I can always find a bright side, even if I sometimes need some hindsight perspective.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Day 348

Even with a short week, I, like most of my colleagues, spent the week wishing it away. We desperately couldn't wait until Friday! Then it got here and I sat at my desk at school, half trying to work, half watching a video for class, half playing "Words with Friends." I know that is three halves, but I teach English for just this very reason. Other than money, numbers are not always my friend. You can't be a distracted mathematician, screws up your equations. My mind is kind of like a circus. If you sit quietly and absorb the things happening, it works, but if you try to focus on one aspect in all the noise, lights, clowns - nothing gets done. I think that is why I crave silence so much, it allows the "voices' in my head to do what they are doing and get it over with. School is obviously not a quiet place so I find it hard to focus sometimes and by the time I get my classroom empty and quiet at the end of the day, I am so wiped I have a hard time working.

Gee, a little ADHD already!! Here I am a paragraph in and have gone from A - B - Q. I was sitting at my desk when a friend walked in. Liz must have seen something in my eyes, because she was just dropping by to say goodnight, but walked all the way into my room and asked me how I was. Until she asked, I didn't even know I was having a moment. Just a few seconds earlier the thought of the weekend filled with my little girl had made me grin. She has really started giggling. I watched the thirty second video from last night over and over today. Her laugh lightens my heart.
video

However, the same weekend without my best friend, knowing he isn't coming home, may not even be able to call or email feels like a prison sentence. I like a little solitude, heck, I like a lot of solitude, but the pressure of my own thoughts, of the hurts and failures that hang on my heart like a soul albatross get very heavy. As soon as she asked me if I were alright, the tears sprang to my eyes. I don't know that I made much sense explaining to her what was going on. I hope I didn't hurt her feelings.

This life of an army wife is sometimes so effin ineffable! There are days I just live. I pray for Chad's safety, but my day is so full that the missing him gets pushed to the back burner. Then the weekends come and the aching pain rushes in like high tide. One minute I am fine and enjoying some of the freedom that comes from this life. I ate peanut butter, raisins and chocolate chips in a ramekin for dessert. I am listening to xylophone versions of The Cure, The Ramones, The Stones over the baby monitor. I may not get everything right, but she is going to be exposed to all sorts of music! I get time to be myself as well as a wife.

On the other hand, we do this so often, that it sometimes feels more normal for him to be gone. Then I feel guilty because his absence doesn't feel too strange, and the next second, I am sobbing because hearing his voice in the recordable book we bought for Lil Bit makes me ache to have him here. We never get a normal. Everything is honeymoon because he just got back, then we have a few hiccups in sharing space and he is off to training, then he just gets back, then gone for the National Training Center, then he gets back and is gearing up for deployment so everything is honeymoon because why argue when he is leaving. A year of email and phone I love yous and absence that makes the heart grow fonder passes slower and quicker than you could understand. And we do it all over again.

I literally can be loving life one second and awash in tears the next. I hope Liz wasn't hurt when I said I didn't know how to explain it. I don't think I have even scratched the surface here of how challenging being an army wife is. I am expected to be able to be strong, buck up and find ways to enjoy myself during these long separations, but also be missing him and creating a welcoming home for him too. As much as I am balancing between all these extremes those circus tightrope walkers got nuttin' on me, gurl!

If I was feeling this down, this alone when I hadn't even left work for the weekend, I am going to be a complete wreck by Sunday 2:30. And there is no one here to catch my fall. One night, had a total break down right after Chad proposed and one of my friends commandeered my life, came over with no warning (no time to clean, fix hair, wipe off mascara rivulets) and brought beer and pizza. It is hard to be that vulnerable to people for me, but that was a great night. H - luv ya guts! And we're back to friends as a topic. Guess no man is an island.

Maybe I am just losing my mind?? Maybe some days you win, some days you lose, some days you live through and some days you wine! Any day I can count down until he comes home still counts as a victory no matter how hard crossing the finish line was. For my literary peeps, three allusions in this blog. Find 'em!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Day 349: Truth or Friendship

This week I have been writing about how grateful I am for my friends, but lately I have been struggling with something regarding friendship. I am not always the most socially graceful person. I sometimes talk too much and get so excited about a conversation that I sometimes interrupt and trample over someone else's stories. But I am genuinely concerned about the people in my life. I try to be observant and sensitive to the needs of others. I may not always be successful, but once my friend, always my friend unless you betray or hurt me intentionally. I will watch out for you, offer unsolicited advice and love in equal parts. Hug you when you need it and send you hugs by ESP when the day is too rough to let down your guard for a hug. I will email and call, and remember if you don't have Facebook and send you updates and pictures.

A few years ago I was lucky enough to make two very special friends. One, Kaitlin, decided to be my friend whether I wanted her or not. She invited me to her church for a back to school banquet that I was actually already attending with my neighbor Karla and we became friends. She is outgoing and opinionated and awesome. She dragged me into friendship after friendship, some lasting and some not, but Kaitlin made sure I got out and was brave enough to give people a chance. I tend to start off very quiet and reserved. At work, I often keep to myself and she got me out of my shell and made me learn to be more social, a skill I never had occasion to practice much growing up. It isn't something I will often admit, but making friends and being friends with people is something I really have to force myself to do. I am hate rejection and would rather be alone than be hurt most of the time, so I needed someone to force me (and she did the way only an AGGIE can) to learn to be braver.

My other friend Lisa is also someone very unique. She created a clique of sorts amongst some of the teachers at school, but it was a clique that was not exclusive. We invited pretty much anyone to join us for lunch or a jog around the school or to "book club". While some people were naturally drawn to each other or put off by some qualities, Lisa made it a point to just invite everyone who needed friends. While I still have all those friendships in some capacity, that was a special year. There were six of us who were just always there for each other. We started a running club and by the end of the year, we had all run at least a 5k-6k, some were up to 10k and a few of us were up to a half-marathon. Lisa had a way of accepting all of someone, even the parts that sometimes grated on a nerve. We had days we got frustrated with each other, but we always looked past it and found the common ground. It was the best group of friends I have ever had.

I think with my dear husband gone, other relationships obviously take center stage. This year I have felt like some of those bonds with people are changing. The ones of us still here physically still hang out, but we rarely all get together. People have created their own little circles. I guess I am feeling more vulnerable and lonely and am left here wondering how to keep the people I care about close. Wondering if there is some truths that we don't say, do we find it easier to eliminate people or drift away than to say things that might hurt? Are those little hurts now, worth losing a friend forever? How do you ask someone what is going on with our friendship without sounding creepy, stalkerish or paranoid? Even now instead of talking to people, I am blogging online. Why can't we say what we need to say, tactfully, to the people who matter the most? Shouldn't our friendships be the one place we can be honest, say what needs saying and hear what needs hearing? I am sure I step on toes, hurt people's feelings, am oblivious to running over someone emotionally from time to time, but no one says anything and I can't apologize and the relationship grows crevices that develop into abysses over time. If someone hurts us that we don't know, we have no problem honking the horn, yelling, being rude, being assertive, sharing a special finger, etc. but the minute we know the person, we clam up and let the relationship break and split rather than say something.

Why is it when we pick friendship over the truth, we end up with neither?

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

350: Got my back

Today I woke up, dragging a little bit after yesterday's rain soaked adventures and with a sore throat that keeps getting worse, to the news that school was going to start late. I crawled back into bed, snuggling with my little bug for awhile, only to get a phone call that daycare was closed. The power was out and they weren't going to open today. Panicked, I called my babysitter; she has to work today. Then I tried my friend Christen who had a group coming in at work and had to be there. Finally it occurred to me that my friend Stephanie's husband, Taylor is between army and FBI right now. Luckily, he graciously gave up his day to sit with Lil Bit and sent me a picture so I know she is ok.

But it just serves to remind me of two things: 1) How challenging it can be living so far away from family, who can often help in emergencies, and 2) how important it is to make friends wherever you go.

During emergencies, or the day to day grind, especially during Chad's deployments, my friends have been invaluable. I am a fiercely independent person. My mother would tell you I was born saying, "I want to do it myself." When I had to have my hysterectomy, my mom bribed some friends to come mow my lawn, because she was afraid I would do it myself. Sometimes, I just can't do it all; however, getting me to admit it and ask for help is really hard. This week has really taught me to learn to rely on others and accept their kindnesses.

I feel like a bad friend for asking for help. I think as adults, we are taught to be problem solvers rather than complainers. Especially in the military lifestyle, we are bombarded with the mindset that obstacles are made to be overcome, not succumbed to. Adapt and overcome is the motto! Chad accepts no excuses from his soldiers. While he tries to be compassionate, the task was either accomplished or it wasn't. Poor planning doesn't excuse failure and failure is due to poor planning. If you had planned better, you would have been able to foresee and plan contingencies for anything.

Because of my independent nature, I think I tend to overplan so that I never have a crisis or have at least two back-up plans at all times. Having a daughter and being on my own this year is going to be a test of my character. Can I ask for help? Can I relax and understand that not everything is controllable; sometimes stuff happens? Can I let the people who care about me, help? I am working on it, but feel very lucky that I have friends who "got my back" when the hurdles rise and my contigency plans didn't include floods.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

351

Well the lawn was looking kinda dry and dead and I just don't have a ton of time to run out and set up sprinklers and water it. Thank you God for the rain! I will try to remember how grateful I am tonight when I am trying to run errands in it.


In the flash flood worthy downpour, I park too close to the curb to get the stroller next to the car and can't figure out a better way to get Lil Bit into the doctor's office without becoming drenched. So I am balancing my purse, diaper bag, umbrella, shot records, blanket and car seat while stepping in muddy grass puddles and steering my very large stroller poorly. And this was only the first errand. Then we had to run into Walgreen's to pick up the photos for her birth mother's package this month and into UPS to mail it. I didn't do it, but I wished that I had someone with me to sit in the car with her. But no, I dragged her in and out, in and out and then into the grocery store. My left arm is getting very strong.

The lawn needed watering, the pool needed filling. I guess other than getting a bit wet myself, today was a good day. It is just inconvenient with a baby. Everything takes twice as much planning and coordination. For someone who already over plans everything, trying to stave off chaos, this may not bring out the best side of my personality.

I can see myself becoming totally OCD; however, I am often too tired to be too obsessive compulsive. It is all about balance, so I think about being neurotically organized, while I try to decide if the crumbs on the counter are going to attract ants. By the time I decide the crumbs are gross, I have three other things to do in the kitchen and can totally multi-task my neuroses! Everything has an upside.

Still sick and so exhausted that I can barely keep my eyes open so I am going to cut this short. Just another day in the life. I did see that someone in Kuwait was reading my blog - so Hi Honey!! Stay safe and we love you!

Monday, September 6, 2010

Day 352

And Labor Day = Lil Bit is 4 months old! Somehow she doesn't feel like such a Lil Bit anymore! She is already trying to sit up and can hold herself up with very little back support. Side to side is something else, she does the slow descent a lot. Kinda funny to watch her slowly tip over. Of course I am always there to catch her. I really wish I could be there to catch her forever. Putting her into daycare is just the first time I don't get to be the one to catch every cry or sniffle or smile and giggle. I know I will have to let her go eventually, but I think it is totally rational to want to wait to let her go until she is at least 5 years old. I mean most moms want to hold on until um 20, 40 or so = ).

Well I bit the bullet, and asked for help with the baby. I have asked friends for help before, but I hate having to do it. Despite all logic, it makes me feel like a failure, but tonight it was 4:30 and the baby wouldn't let me put her down and I was near tears overwhelmed by all that I had left to do. Don't even get me started on the things I WANTED to do, but the list of what had to be done was so long. I finally broke down and asked my neighbor and friend to come hold her so I could shower and take care of a few niggling chores. Thank you KARLA!! I was able to wash dishes, make breakfasts for the week, shower, clean out the fridge.  Felt so good to have an extra set of hands even if just for an hour or so.

We got a phone call today! The caller ID said U.S. Government, but I knew before I saw it that it had to be him. I don't know how I knew, but I usually get a feeling when he plans to call. It felt so good to hear his voice. The call center must not have been too crowded, because we got to talk for a long time. I put him on the phone with Lil Bit. Her whole face lit up when she heard his voice. It was too priceless! She was smiling and cooing back at him! I feel so much better about her remembering him if we can keep this up. She listens to her recorded storybook often and we listen to the messages on the answering machine. I have a board book full of pictures of our family, some really special ones of her and Daddy. I don't know when they go through the clingy stage, but I hope she remembers him enough not to be scared when he comes home.

One last thing to do, I have to write a monthly progress report to her birth mother and upload all the  pictures for her package. While right now, I am tired and it is just one more thing to do, I am so thankful for her unselfish heart! She could have aborted this unplanned child, or kept her despite knowing the life wouldn't be very stable, instead she saw a life for her daughter that she wanted us to provide. She chose us out of all the parents available to her and felt lucky she found us. I don't know the words to use, but I don't consider her the lucky one. She gave me the most perfect Mothers' Day gift I could ever have had. I had my daughter in my arms this Mothers' Day. A letter and a few photos are small thanks for such a gift.

Today was a day of many blessings, a phone call, a friend, and a precious little Bit of a girl turning 4 mos. Just goes to show, when the sky starts getting dark, a silver lining can always be found!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Day 353: Lonely

Today is a really rough entry because there isn't any one focus area. I feel a little bipolar - up, then down, up, then down, stressed and wiped, then worried and lonely. I don't know that I have felt much of anything consistently today except tired.

The reality of his being gone is starting to seep in. A week is just another day in the life of a military wife at this point, but the second week starts to feel real. They leave and the first few days feel a little surreal, like you just won the "I get the remote/no sharing the covers" lottery. After I get my first real cry in, the peace and calm feels a little nice, some "me" time, but that doesn't last very long. About two weeks into the deployment, something happens. For me it feels like a thunderstorm slowly crawling over the landscape. At first, the sky barely seems to darken, happening so gradually, that you're not sure when it got so dark, but then next thing you know, the rain starts to pour down on my "me" picnic.

The tears haven't started yet, but I know they are looming. I am fighting them off with finally watching "Twilight," a guilty leisure activity and I pay-per-viewed New Moon. And I'm trying not to stuff myself with frozen pizza and bread sticks. This is just the first of various holiday weekends that I will be alone.

I have a good set of caring people around me, but it isn't the same. He and I fit like two pieces cut from the same piece of wood. Our strange edges that lock us out of belonging from others are what bring us together. I am now the odd one out, third wheel, now with a new convenient travel companion. All the fun single girl type things I could do last deployment are now pretty much out of the question. Even when I have someone offer to watch Lil Bit, I can't imagine leaving her for even a few hours.

Tomorrow, she turns four months. She is too little for cake and ice cream celebrations, but the idea makes me realize that Chad will miss her actual first birthday and the missing him, his missing her makes the tears come . . .

Here comes the rain again
Falling on my head like a memory
Falling on my head like a new emotion
I want to walk in the open wind
I want to talk like lovers do
I want to dive into your ocean
Is it raining with you

and this song feels like the tears raining down. I hope he knows I am thinking of him right now.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Day 354: Crash and burn

I don't know how people do this. I know women have been single mothers or the equivalent with many more children and in much worse financial situations than I. After two weeks of trying to do this all, I feel like a bulldozer ran over me and then backed up to finish the job.  Every minute of everyday is accounted for and full.

Sunday I scrambled eggs and premade ham and cheese patties for my breakfast sandwiches for the week. Monday through Friday, I run home, after being out from 7:15-5:15, with my daughter from daycare, rinse out her bottles. While the water warms up to wash them, I clean out the coffee pot and make coffee for tomorrow. Then I wash and sterilize the day's bottles and make three more for tonight and tomorrow. Then I feed her or I start with feeding her, really depends on the volume of her crying! After that, it is time to empty and clean her bottle bag and my lunch bag. If she is napping or content, I then worry about some sort of dinner for me. So far that has been frozen dinner or leftovers from things we made before Chad left. Then I make lunch and wash dishes, lay out her clothes and mine and sit down to feed and snuggle Lil Bit again. Plus let out dog, feed dog, water dog, poor dog - cooped up all day then pushed aside for the cutey pie in the boppy.

If somehow magically this has all happened before 8, it was a good night. Usually almost nine before I get to sit. And then I am too exhausted to think. Today I got up and the weather was in the 70s and beautiful. I decided I needed to take advantage of the weather and go for a run. Probably overdid it. The past two years I have trained for a half-marathon each fall, but it has been too hot to take Lil Bit out in her stroller. I just don't know what temperature she can handle. Today was nice enough I didn't ever want to come back, but 4.5 miles was plenty for my first run in a month, and the time before that it had been two months and before that . . .sheesh! Then I came home and crashed!

I have spent all day walking like a zombie from room to room. The baby was so crabby and fussy today. I think she is sick. She sounds all sniffly and I have been feeling puny for a few days too. Between the lack of sleep and running around, I just feel overwhelmed. I needed a nap today and the baby wouldn't cooperate. She wanted to nap plenty with me holding her, if I tried to lay down with her on my chest, she would wake up and scream. If I tried to put her down, she woke up and was very put out. I finally put her on her play mat, but she can't be left there unsupervised with all the rolling over she is doing, so I lay down next to her on the cheap plastic carpeting that poorly covers a concrete slab and dozed, but it was not enough. Plus, I have been hauling around a 30 lb. car seat and baby, diaper bag, laptop and briefcase for a few weeks and have completely wrenched something. I am really trying hard to do everything myself. As hard as I am working trying to make money, I don't want to waste any on frivolous things, but I am really tempted to get a maid! I feel like so much of the time I do get to be home with Missy, I have to clean house, put away mail, file bills and the piles are growing!

I just miss having him here for so many reasons, but today, was extra hard not having his extra hands to take her when I needed to get up for a second or to fix dinner while I fed her. I think the smell of food must trigger her need to eat because it never fails that I am finally getting to sit down to eat and she needs another bottle. I just feel like today, I have crashed and burned, and it is only week 2. Sorry this isn't a deeper entry, frankly she is starting to get very angry in her swing and I have to go get her. It has taken me 8 hours of typing a sentence here and there to get this done and who knows if it makes any sense. There just aren't any more days off this year, and I have a feeling I am going down in flames, many more times. I just hope I can pull a phoenix out of my hat.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Day 355: Suck it up

Yesterday, a new wife facing her husband's first deployment commented that her mother-in-law (MIL) had told her to "Suck it Up and deal! You signed up for this." She was very upset and frustrated with her MIL. I told her I could relate.

First, my mother-in-law is AWESOME! We <3 her!! But we did have a similar conversation many years ago. It was Chad's second deployment, but my first. We were just engaged and busily planning the wedding. It was one of those days when the weight of missing him just drags me down and the emptiness he leaves in my heart twists and turns inside my stomach like a fear dagger. I don't remember exactly what I said or what she said, but the essence was this is what you signed up for. My son doesn't need to deal with your tears and weakness. You need to be strong for him.

I was taken aback. Here was the one person I expected to understand the worry, fear, longing, love and she was sharp, almost cold to my plea for support. It was one of those comments that stung for a time, but got forgotten. She is very supportive and probably reading this right now so I don't want her to think I am upset, but I have learned a few things along the way, now three deployments into this marriage.

1) After two glasses of wine, don't ask my MIL anything unless you expect the unvarnished truth! 2) Her experience and fears are different than mine. She saw me vulnerable and weak and went straight into momma bear mode. She saw the woman her son loves desperately, has gone over and beyond to propose to and make a life for, being weak. She saw her son's heart breaking when I change my mind about marrying him or marry him and eventually cheat or leave. She saw with her heart and wanted to be sure that I was strong enough to maintain a marriage during the most difficult of times and that I would be strong enough that he could leave me, children, home to go into war without worry. His mind has to be singularly focused on what he is doing or he could put himself or others in danger.

While I still have those days when I need to cry, vent, rage, she now realizes that I need those releases so I can be the strong independent woman her son needs and not lose my mind. While she will never understand exactly what I am feeling during these long stretches of time he is away in danger, I will never fully appreciate her perspective either as a mother fearful for her precious child. We are both here loving and supporting my husband and each other. Military wife/MIL lesson aside, the real lesson is to see things from someone else's vantage point before you get your panties in a wad. Often the view is surprising.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Day 356: Rant

 I hope everyone reading this understands this is my opinion, and I don't always have all the information to form the most educated opinion about complicated military decisions, but today I am really upset about the safety of my husband and the rest of the "security" forces in Iraq right now.

Tuesday night, President Obama addressed the nation regarding the war in Iraq. I wasn't able to watch it because I had to greet parents at our open house. But I caught a news wrap up version and summary, immediately followed by a General talking about the increased violence in Iraq. Can we say I was less than enthused to hear that report right now. Chad is still transitioning INTO Iraq. His regiment is primarily still in Kuwait, training and unloading equipment for a few more weeks. His biggest fear right now are the Kuwaiti drivers who apparently make the drivers in Jamaica look calm. Let me tell you THAT was a cab ride! I will worry about him in the heat, in the traffic and miss him, but it is less stressful for the days or weeks that it takes for them to transition into country and back out for leave and redeployment than it will be when he is at his post in Iraq.

I am very happy that the President is making a sincere effort to follow through on the promises be has made to the American people; however, I am concerned that maintaining a set timetable in order to fulfill those promises may take precedence over protecting American lives.  When the troop numbers have decreased so dramatically, followed by an increase in violence, shouldn't that tell us something? Are we hanging these security forces out to dry? Do they have the numbers and resources to protect themselves? Are the decreased numbers just an invitation to terrorists?

I felt pretty secure during previous deployments that our soldiers had enough of a presence to discourage most of the opposition. What about now? Are the Iraqi police and military forces really allies? A friend of mine at school told me he was concerned that this conflict is showing many similarities to Vietnam. The soldiers can't always tell who the combatants are. They are outnumbered in a harsh environment and the battlefield is sometimes unclear.

I don't know if I was just delusional before and the danger level isn't much different or if getting older has made me understand the real risks. I just don't want the government trying to use our soldiers to accomplish diplomatic goals that perhaps are a tad optimistic. I will worry either way, but want him to have the best protection he can have around him to keep him and his soldiers protected. Just my humble opinion, but don't reduce the troop levels so much they can't continue to stand for what they are defending - us!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Day 357: Flyin By

video
This week I have been struggling with something non-deployment related. I have known for many years that I would not be able to ever carry a biological child. I have grieved off and on over that. But I have had a feeling since I was in high school that I would never get pregnant. Maybe my body knew that things inside were irreparably damaged from my birth defects and complications. In any case, I hoped and prayed over having a baby for many years.

Last spring we were selected by a birth mother and six weeks later, we had Lil Bit. After the expense of adoption, I knew working this year was going to be a must; I knew working this year would be emotionally challenging; I had no idea how much it would hurt. The first day of putting her into daycare was a nightmare. My generally happy baby was a disaster. I picked her up and she was furiously fussy. She screamed and cried for hours. I literally sat in her rocking chair, clutching her and sobbing. Chad just kept walking past making sure I was all right. He finally walked in, kissed me on my head and said if you're waiting for permission to quit, do what you gotta do. Of course, if quitting was realistically an option I would have done it in July so they had enough time to replace me. However, if she didn't start adjusting to daycare, I was going to have to reconsider.

Lil Bit isn't the only one having a hard time adjusting. This weekend some developmental switch flipped in her and she has become very responsive. She has always been pretty alert. Even when she was a preemie and slept 22 hours a day, the minutes she was awake, she was bright eyed, watching everything. Sunday especially I noticed her playing with her toys, reaching for them. Her giggles and coos are musical. I who have to be constantly engaged with TV, cell phone, laptop - have turned everything off just to talk with her. My DVR is hopelessly full.

4:30 tonight, I walked to my car and started driving toward her school. Honking the horn and trying to make all five lights in between my school and hers, I felt like if I didn't get to her right then, I was going to cry. When I saw her, I had to just stand still and hold her. Five minutes, then ten. Other parents are weaving around me to pick up their children and I stand in front of her crib, blinking back tears. I don't know how I am going to do it tomorrow. When I wake her up in the morning, I just want to snuzzle her, watch her giggle, listen to her talk to her fingers. They have very intellectual conversations you know.

More than just normal motherly guilt, I waited 15 years for her. I spent more than an entire year's salary to adopt her and some of Chad's. Now I am missing this most precious time in her life. I love teaching and think I am very good at it, but I have never felt more like me than when I am with her. She and I every evening just together. While I would never wish for Chad to miss a second, I do feel like God blessed me with her in my life right now. Tonight I played 80s one hit wonders, sang poorly and loudly while we splashed all the water out of her tub and couldn't have been happier. I realized the other day that all the memories that make up me, the fall on my bike or the jumping down the stairs trying to fly or watching my mom stir breakfast over the stove on icy Chicago mornings, those moments of my childhood - these days, these moments are the images, feelings, impressions and eventually memories that she will carry like a suitcase with her into the world. It is my job to fill that suitcase with as much love and happiness as she can hold. I have an idea of who I want her to remember her mom being when she was little - fun, silly, spontaneous, gentle - THERE.

I have tried to find a way to finagle our finances, but I can't make money out of thin air. I am a budgeting genius when I need to be, but I am not magical. If I want to be able to stay home with her for a year or two someday, I have to get rid of our car payments. I need to build up some savings again and plan for a few lean years. I don't know how I am going to make it. I must watch the video of her from Sunday morning two - three times a day. By lunchtime I need to see her. My heart hurts and there is nothing I can do but survive it. One of my student's has Asperger's and his goal for today was to live through it. While he is a tad dramatic, I completely understand. I feel like I am counting days, days of school when I have to be away from her, days Chad is gone.

Uno, dos, tres, quattro, cinco . . ." Her daughters are a teacher, a nurse, a physician's assistant. We are the product of a mom who gave everything for us. Doesn't my daughter deserve the same?  I am left crying and answerless. I have no more hands to juggle all these balls and can't find a mystical answer tonight. Many other women will sympathize and say, but I went back to work, suck it up, but they won't understand the ache in my heart that she filled and that I literally think I would rather be broke and home than leave her one more day.

No pithy ending - just alone listening to her snifflely breathing over the monitor trying to resist waking her for more hugs. She and I both need the sleep. Maybe just one more peek and peck. It is never enough! Have you seen those cheeks!?! This first year, this sweetest, baby year is already FLYIN' BY and I just want it to stop. I want to freeze that hour when she is all smiles and alert and thinks I am just everything. Like a popsicle in Texas, it will be gone before I even realize how sweet it was.