Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Day 267: Scrooge?

I am not a Griswold super crazy Christmas person, but I LOVE the holidays. I decorate and turn on the tree lights every night. I drink warm cider by the fire and read books snuggled up on the couch. I make my family's traditional Christmas cookies and start shopping in October. I play Christmas carols and sing loudly and terribly. I love the sappy Hallmark movies and have watched them all. I DVR them and watch them later if I can't watch immediately. I cry at the end of most of them even when I could have predicted the ending five minutes in.

Then my husband gets deployed, and I turn into a bit of a Scrooge! I don't want to decorate, or bake, or shop. I tried really hard to get into the spirit, but I just couldn't. Here it is, almost December and I just want to close my eyes and pretend Christmas isn't happening. I want the vacation and the cold weather, but to me the holiday is all about family, being close with the people you love, and emotionally I struggle when he is gone. As is true of so many things, it just isn't any fun without him. Even when he struggles with being a scrooge himself, just being together is always better.

I know Punkin Doodle (not sure where this nickname came from, but it makes her laugh) deserves a real Christmas holiday, full of smells and songs and lights, but I just can't muster up any energy to decorate or much holiday spirit. Maybe as it gets closer, I will have a desire to decorate, but she is already almost crawling and right now a tree is just one more thing for her to get into. We'll be traveling to my sister's house, who will have a tree and decorations, but our late celebration with the boys and the in-laws again will be barren at this point.

I hate feeling so blue around the holidays. It is my favorite time of the year. I love the crisp air and bright lights against frosted greenery, the smell of cinnamon and baking bread, Bing Crosby singing "White Christmas"and snuggling cozy by the fireplace surrounded by my family and friends. I just wish I could muster up more spirit. Maybe I will once I recover from Thanksgiving, but so far not much luck there.

My heart wants to be full of holiday cheer, but I am feeling more like a scrooge. Does it make me a scrooge if I let it go this year? Next time he deploys, she will be old enough that I will need to decorate for her. She will remember that Christmas, but this year she won't yet understand and will still be full of love and fun if not boughs of holly. I just hate feeling like my first Christmas with her is a bust, but feel just too wiped out to do anything. I had two venti Starbucks and still feel fairly comatose. I just waited so long to be a wonderful mom and worry that I am cheating her. Am I a Scrooge?

Monday, November 29, 2010

Day 268: Baby plane?

So now we've traveled both ways, four plane trips. I got home last night so exhausted that I didn't want to do anything, but had my normal weekend stuff to do, plus get things put away, unpacked, etc. I am still exhausted. I am ready to crawl into bed now. Unfortunately, she is about to wake up from her nap.

Traveling with an infant, wow, so much to say. First, we traveled from one climate to another. I had a coat for me and a snowsuit for her. You can't fit a winter coat into a carry-on and carry anything else on, so I was dragging her coat and mine from state to state. In retrospect, we were outside for about ten minutes total, from the baggage claim to the car which was in the covered garage, and from the car to the house. I don't think she went out again and I didn't much either. We could have done without the coats. You just don't know how cold the Midwest is going to be this time of year. I remember years with four foot snow drifts and years of shorts and roller skates on Christmas. But in any case, two bulky coats made travel so much more fun.

Then I had my purse, a "fridge to go" ice pack bag for her formula, her stroller, and my backpack which carried diaper bag supplies, toys, laptop and electronics and my book that I didn't really get to read while traveling.  The stroller was a travel folding "umbrella" type. In order to get around expediently, I hung the jackets on the handles and bags over them. The weight of the bottle bag, purse and coats was such that every time I took Lil Bit out of the stroller, the whole production toppled over. In our home airport, one young man, took pity and helped me right it. Not so in the airport back home on our return trip. I was wrestling with changing her on a tiny leather seat, because the one family restroom for ten gates was full, the ladies' room had no changing area and the terminal seats were my only option. The seat was too short for her and slanted backwards, so every few seconds I had to rescue her from sliding out the back. People all around me saw me struggling and left the tipped over stroller where it lay and gave me looks clearly pleading to not be sitting near me and my baby.

Then the aisles in the plane are ridiculously tiny. I probably smashed a hundred people in the head with either my purse or coats. I tried to be as unobtrusive and self-sufficient as possible. I tried to be considerate and really be expedient through security. I did a pretty good job, but people sometimes are so judgmental. The good news is that I didn't have to get a full pat down or a full body screen. I don't think the airports I went through had the technology yet. Security was definitely heightened. They patted down the baby's shoes and did a chemical test on her formula. I know the terrorists are by definition crazy and horrible, but even if there were explosive in the baby's shoes, how much explosive could they have even carried? Really? But if it keeps my baby safe, I can be more tolerant.

The baby did really good in the plane for a baby, but she fussed a few times because she was tired or hungry. She really only cried for a couple of minutes, but the guy who reeked of liquor glared over his shoulder at her and me. I understand being frustrated at a baby screaming. It is just about one of the least pleasant sounds in the world; however, when a baby has a melt down, there isn't much you can do. They don't understand many words yet and can't communicate except by smiles or cries.

Lil Bit did as good as she could have. I just think that as inconvenient as flying with babies can be, the airlines could help. They could have the computers automatically place parents with lap infants near the front of the plane. They could have a storage space for three or four small umbrella strollers on board, a space that would easily be used by crew or by passengers if not needed for strollers when the overhead compartments are overflowing. Having her stroller on the plane would have made my life SO much easier. I also plan to have one bottle, two diapers and pocket wipes in my purse and a toy or two attached to the straps; everything else can be put away. I had too much stuff I was trying to carry and couldn't get to any of it during the flights.

Until they create a baby plane or parenting flight, I imagine this will be like anything else so far in mommyhood, about the time I figure it out, it will change. At least we have a few weeks to recover before our next adventure.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Day 269: not the same

Lil Bit and I have traveled to my husband's mother's house for Thanksgiving. I haven't felt like crying for weeks, but the minute I get here and sit for a few minutes surrounded by the house where we fell in love, a house literally filled with pictures of him, I start getting teary eyed at every little thing.

Maybe again it is that for the first time in months, I am not so busy I can barely get through a day and have time to think. Maybe the holiday season being in full swing without him again is making me emotional. Maybe just being surrounded by his family, his children, and pictures of him reminds me more of what I am missing. Especially with Lil Bit doing her best to learn to crawl and "talking" up a storm, we realize how much he is missing.

There isn't much to say, but a week's worth of playing and watching her try to crawl, getting better everyday, makes me and everyone else realize just how much precious time he is missing. Being home is always special and this trip was more so because I got to be with both my moms. It just isn't the same without my sweet husband.

He is always the life of the party, the center of attention with his crazy stories. He is so a teenager when he goes home, but this house with its warmth and charm and welcoming spirit is certainly his mom to me, but also brings home so much of his spirit to my heart. I pray everyday for his safe return because this life is not the same without him no matter where or what day it is.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Day 270: Step-mom

Being a step-mom is really hard. My ex-husband had three children. He had full custody most of the year of the two older children. I raised them nine months or ten out of the year for six years. They called me mom. I was their third mother: their birth mother and step-mother had both been around for about 4-5 years each, then came me. I felt a big responsibility to give them a childhood and family with more stability and love. Their step-mother before me was kind of unstable and mean to the children. Now, to her credit, she was very young when she became a step-mother to a four and two year-old. I was at least later in my twenties.

I think perhaps a large part of my decision to marry him was loving them. After a year of dating dad, I was in love with the kids. I wanted to give them family dinners and Christmas traditions. I wanted them to have memories of dancing in the rain, a lunar eclipse camp out on a school night, a Christmas cookies and special cinnamon rolls. I was part of their lives for six years. But being the main mom for the older two meant sending them to their mother's house every other weekend and for summers which was really hard.

My parents were very strict but in a loving, wholesome way. We had dinner as a family every night of my childhood. Sometimes Dad was gone or as we got older, sometimes one of us had activities, but we had a big family life with game nights and traditions. We weren't allowed to watch much television and what we watched was censored, no sex or suggestions of sex, no violence or swear words. And while as a child, I sometimes got frustrated with the rules, I now realize those restrictions kept me innocent, safe, and insulated my mind and heart from some of the ugliness of the world.

I wanted to give that to my children too. I did my best to give them as stable and loving environment as I could. Watching them go to their mother's house was really hard. Her husband was violent and abusive toward her and drank. I thought it was not the best home for them. They had few restrictions there and TV in their rooms with premium cable channels, which of course meant they found porn and such. No one seemed to be too worried about it around there. Now we know that both their mom and step-dad were doing drugs and had no business parenting anyone.

It was hard loving these kids like they were my own, wanting to give them the childhood I had, and having to send them to an environment I didn't always think was safe or agree with. I cried a lot of nights when they left for the summer, wishing I could protect them and keep them. I grieved the loss of those children so deeply I don't know how many years it took me to get over. I am so happy that they still choose to be in contact with me. Chris came by for Thanksgiving dinner and Brittany came by today with my new "grand-baby". I got to share some pretty recent experience with Lil Bit so she could get her baby to sleep. It took a few years for them to grow up enough to be able to choose for themselves if or how much contact they wanted to have. 

Now, I am a step-mother again.  When I met Chad, I didn't jump right in with the boys. I didn't want to get into that situation again. I didn't want the conflicts or the heartbreak. It took me a long time to let my guard down with the boys and really let myself love them. I still have a hard time with feeling too much for them because I don't get to be too big a part of their lives. I get really possessive and it is hard to let them go.

Love is tough all around I think. When you love someone, you put yourself in a position to get hurt, but loving a child you only get part time is extra hard. I just want to take the boys home with me. I get to missin' them somethin' fierce. They are here now for a couple days and I am getting attached again. They leave tomorrow. Just wish they could be in too places at once.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Day 271: Family

After doing everything for myself and by myself for so long, man, it has been wonderful to have a few days of some back up. Lil Bit traveled OK, but the new environment with all new people, new toys has just sent her into a tizzy. She doesn't want to eat or sleep. She wants to play with everyone, so getting calmed down to sleep just doesn't happen. Then the bed isn't hers and and she doesn't have her mobile or cd, so it is just not home and not her routine, so she's been fussy. Plus, she got a little stomach bug or something and has been feeling funky.

My sinus infection started getting better about day 8 of the antibiotics, but after two days without any, my body crashed again. So here I am with a few days to visit and I am sick again. Luckily my MIL has some antibiotics, but I just feel like garbage. The baby was up Wednesday night three times just screaming furiously. The first time, I got up and made her a bottle. She sucked a few ounces down and fell back to sleep after about thirty minutes. I snuggled her into bed with me so if she woke, she would feel secure. Two hours later the screaming started again. Yay! So up again on the couch with her and the bottle. Luckily my (step) father-in-law, whom I lovingly refer to as Dadve, saw me falling asleep trying to get her down and took over. In fact, he and mom-in-law took over for the rest of the night and I slept.

Being sick, I just don't sleep very well, but being able to sleep in and not have her crying every couple of hours was such a relief. And all day Thanksgiving, Lil Bit had someone's open arms to crawl into. I held her and snuggled down with her for a nap, but my mom played with her while I did stuff and MiL cooked and fed us all day. About 10, we started putting her down and MIL took over and fed and rocked her.

I don't know what it is about going home, but it is so nice to just have some people take care of me again. For a couple of days, I don't have to be mom. I get to be a daughter again for awhile. I wish I weren't sick to enjoy it more, but being able to just be sick and let the moms fuss over baby bit is pretty nice too.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Day 272: Thankful

I have mentioned this before, but to catch up any new or hit and miss readers -I saw an idea on a friend's Facebook to do a gratefulness challenge everyday up through Thanksgiving. I thought it was a good idea for me to spend this November, a rough month for me with Chad gone for our anniversary and the holiday, focusing on all the wonderful things in my life.

I know I get sappy during the holidays, but doing this has helped me spend at least a few minutes a day focusing on being grateful. I also have tried to not write a lot of complaining status updates. I think focusing on the positive has helped me be more positive, something I kind of forgot for awhile.

The first couple of months of this deployment, I was so overwhelmed that I literally had days when I thought I was going to have to quit my job because I wasn't holding my stuff together very well. I feel like I at least have gotten a handle on much of the daily things which helps me deal when stuff goes awry.

I think being grateful once a day has made me more aware of the blessings that abound in my life all the time. In America, we have a day where we are supposed to focus on these blessings and give thanks. In a nation where we are so rich, I wish more people focused on giving thanks.

We are so focused on consumerism and finding the best deals on Black Friday that we don't really realize how much most of us have. Most people in this country live better than so much of the world. Even some of the poorest people here live so much better than the average citizen of many countries. We have such an abundance of wealth. The more I pay attention to being grateful, the more the expression "an embarrassment of riches" makes sense.

I look around my house and see warm cozy furniture, two rooms I don't even use most of the time, a pantry full of food, plus a chest freezer full of meats and meals, a closet stuffed with clothes, a baby who has everything a baby might need, more clothes than she can wear, two vehicles that are relatively new and in good condition, three computers, iPods, iPhones, cable television with DVR, and the list goes on . . . I really have to ask myself how much of what I have is even necessary.

Plus I have money to travel to see family, buy whatever we need or want most of the time. I know that God has truly blessed me with a healthy family, beautiful children and so much more than I can ever use. While I may not have as much "stuff" next year if we decide I can stay home with the baby, I will still be tremendously wealthy in all the ways that matter.

I hope  this blog finds you as blessed and grateful this year. Happy Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Day 273: 1/4

Well, here it is. One quarter of the way done with this deployment (if it stays 12 months). Phew! In some ways, this year is going really fast. Being a full-time teacher keeps me plenty busy anyways, but adding the baby into the mix this deployment has meant the evenings and weekends are gone faster than I can process. It is going so fast. Between that and the crazy warm weather, I keep forgetting it is almost December. But this year is a paradox of emotions for me too.

This first year of my sweet baby girl's life is going way too fast. I already want to freeze her and relive all her special firsts. Being so busy and overwhelmed has meant that I spent a lot of those precious days just surviving. Now that I feel better about getting things done and have more time in the evenings, I am getting to relax more and play with her, but she is already almost seven months old. I want every day to stretch out warm and cozy like a sweet Saturday morning. I want to savor every second and do each day twice, well at least the weekends! ; P

And yet, I miss my husband. He is working his tail off in a far away dangerous place. I want each day to race by. I cross them off mentally and say a prayer of thanks for each day he survives. I want nothing more than for this year to be over and he to be home safely in my arms again. Just today, I walked by the stairwell and saw a truck just like his parked outside and I wondered for a second if it was him. Just for a minute I was struck by how much I just miss having him around, knowing he is there.

I hope the time is going quickly for him. I hate knowing how tired and busy and overwhelmed he is. He is working very long days. Sunday was one of his "slow" days, and he was working until 9:30. I really can't imagine sometimes how hard it is for him to be so far from everything and everyone he holds dear. But back to the good news, we're already one quarter of the way done. The next couple of months will race by with the holiday business and semester exams for me and then we'll be just a month away from R&R.

Now, if I could only teach myself the trick to living in the moment and racing to next August. I can't wait until I have my family back together again.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Day 274: Cows? seriously?

Last night, I had to take the dog to the kennel for the Thanksgiving break. The only kennel I could find with an opening was in Gatesville. The owner misquoted the travel time as 30-45 minutes. So I figured with decent traffic and such, it might take me an hour to an hour an a half to get the dog to the kennel and get home.

MMmmm - can we say NOT!!! First, the road she suggested was the short cut took me through winding hilly road with signs like, "Military Area: Explosives, Use road at own risk." Yes, that was very comforting when out in the middle of nowhere. If I hadn't been using my phone as a GPS, I would have called someone to let them know where to look for my body. Then the road I was on was closed and required a detour, which took me so far off course that I kept thinking I had to be lost. Then the next little orange arrow would show up and tell me to keep on keepin' on. Then the road was so steep in places that I literally could not see if the road turned until halfway down the hill. I spent half the trip feeling like I was on a roller coaster, which was extra fun with a 50 lb. dog who couldn't anticipate the dips and would fall off the back seat into my seat scaring the bejeezus out of both of us.

Then I saw it, a cow crossing sign. "Ah, I remember someone telling me to be careful because if you hit a cow, you have to pay for it," I thought, but pretty much didn't expect to see any. Until they were these GIGANTIC longhorns just grazing a foot or two from my car as I was doing the 50 MPH recommended by the signs. YIKES! Talk about scary. I have seen what hitting a deer can do, I can't even imagine the wreckage an animal at least 2 1/2 times the weight and skeletal height could do at 50 or so MPH. And it wasn't just one or two. I spent the next thirty minutes of this supposed short cut holding my breath as I passed small herds.

The darker it got, the scarier the twisty cow-ridden road got. Then the mapquest failed in its attempt to get me anywhere near my target destination. I spent an extra twenty minutes driving around in circles. Then had to fill out paperwork and debate running to an ATM for the deposit they forgot to ask me for in the first place.

I took the "long" way home, which was negligibly different and significantly easier and less cow populated. Not getting home until 7:30 with the baby unfed, me unfed, boarding passes to print, suitcases and carry-ons to pack and a baby who started screaming so fiercely that I thought she might hurt herself until she knocked herself out, made me a tad bit panicked.

I tried to plan ahead and get things taken care of in a reasonable time frame, but I never planned for cows. Luckily a friend was able to drop everything for an hour and hold Lil Bit for me while she ate and I took care of a few big things. Was everything perfectly ready for today? Nah, but we'll live and I will take out enough cash from the ATM to buy anything I forgot. Sometimes just being able to say fuggetaboutit is worth a few bucks.

Safe Travels everyone and please, be patient with crying babies. We moms have it hard enough already without worrying about YOUR trip too.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Day 275: Desensitized

My classes are getting ready to start a non-fiction unit. We're going to read a memoir from a holocaust survivor, Night by Elie Wiesel. It is a pretty dark book, but sometimes I wonder if it affects me more than it does them. I have moments where I am just overwhelmed at what a blessed life I have and the horror of what those people experienced is horrifying. I have taught this book for a few years now, and really don't see that the kids grasp the terror of the Holocaust.

People were loaded like cattle onto freight trains, burned like firewood, gassed like roaches and the world looked away. I can't imagine the screams of terror and grief, the gigantic plumes of human ash billowing from the furnaces, the abject horror of it all. 11 MILLION people, mostly Jews, homosexuals, gypsies, and the handicapped were senselessly, needlessly murdered.

While 9/11 was intensely tragic, it was so much smaller than the holocaust and the response seemed very vocal. Obviously, I was not alive to experience how people responded or didn't to the Holocaust, so I have no comparison, but it seems like while we responded to 9/11 in a mostly appropriately saddened way, that the abundance of violence in the media has desensitized us to the sadness and horror we should feel over any violent crime or death.

I watch a lot of TV. I know this. I just can't stand to be bored. My mind has to be doing something all the time. I generally have the TV on, my phone nearby or in hand, and the computer on Facebook while playing with the baby and doing chores. Now that Lil Bit is getting a lil bit bigger, I have realized she is starting to respond to the television. Anytime she hears an Apple commercial with the jazzy piano, she freezes and stares transfixed by the TV. Realizing this has made me more aware of the language and violence in many shows. In fact, I was hard pressed to find a show I can watch with her in the room much longer.

Being more aware of the violence on TV and knowing how realistic video game violence is today makes me worry if our current generation sees so much violence that it just doesn't faze them. Yesterday, watching my DVRed prime time shows, I can't even count how many people were shot, dead, oozing, corpses, etc. I realized how blase I've become regarding TV show violence and how the death of someone on the news doesn't even make the news unless they were famous or died in an extremely grisly fashion.

I know the people in TV shows aren't really dead so it doesn't bother me, but the grisliness of the gore on shows like CSI or NCIS or Bones still bothers me. I kinda miss the A-Team where bullets flew everywhere and no one ever got shot, except when necessary so Murdock had to give BA a transfusion and they made all sorts of "crazy" jokes the rest of the episode. I am willing to use my imagination for the violence. But it doesn't seem like that is the trend.

While research debates whether watching media violence translates into actual violence, I can tell from my own experiences that I am less aware of violence than I was years ago. I worry that we're losing our empathy. Too much violence still happens in our world. I know our media has turned all too blind an eye to the genocide and violence in Africa. I don't know as much as I should about it. I just worry that growing up in a world surrounded by violence that our children are being robbed of innocence and the ability to empathize.

Millions are murdered, raped and tortured all over the world everyday. Are we any more conscious of it than of the Holocaust? Are we any more offended by it? Or are we just as callous or ignorant as the former generations were to the pleas during the 40's? Is the fact that violence is piped in to our homes make us less horrified by the real violence of the world.

I wish I had answers to these questions. I do know that the TV is going to be turned off a lot more in my house. I am going to work very hard to teach my students to be horrified and angry when they see violence and injustice and make sure my daughter grows up sheltered from it until she is ready to see the ugliness in the world and be part of the solution.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Day 276: Too late

I spent all day playing with the baby and getting ready for our trip. I feel very blessed to have the life I do. It isn't always easy, but I have more than I need, a lovely home, a wonderful husband, a sweet baby and a special family and friends.

I usually make it a point to get to this blog, but today, my priorities have been elsewhere. Now it is too late to write something and get to bed which is crucial when I have such a crazy week ahead of me. I have been really good about keeping up with this, and I hope to keep doing so when home, but I am going to be super busy with my mother-in-law, Dadve, mom, friends, baby, etc.

For tonight, sorry dear readers. Going to bed. Hope you understand that sometimes life gets away from me.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Day 277: Packing list

Gearing up for the holidays! The past few years, I have been alone for Thanksgiving. Last year, Chad had Sniper school and left early November. I went to a friend's family dinner. I was glad for the invitation and it was a nice day, but nothing can replace spending the holidays with family. The year before I went to a different friend's holiday dinner too. I could have traveled home, but the expense just didn't seem worth it for a few short days at home and the long traveling days. The plane ticket, parking the car, boarding the dog. By the time all is said and done, this trip home for 4 days will cost about $700. My mom in law helped with some of the expense, but it is a lot for a short trip.

This year it is going to be a bigger hassle trying to travel with the Lil Britches, but also more important that we visit friends and family back home. She is changing so much; almost everyday I notice something new she is doing. Living so far away from everyone, I really miss being able to share that with everyone. I also can't wait to have a few extra hands. My mother-in-law and her husband and my mom will all be plenty happy to let me have a few days with emptier hands. While today I spent a few hours just holding her while she napped, (btw a total angel) it will also be nice to have a little freedom.

Following my own organizational advice, while putting laundry away today, I laid out her clothes for this week, the first couple of days of the week, and her outfits for our trip. But it's all the little things I need to pack for her and myself that make me crazy. I have so many tiny details to remember and how to have it all accessible for our long stop in Dallas. Plus, never having traveled with her, I worry about taking carry-ons and such. I think I am going to have to pull out the mommy purse for sure, but also diaper bag AND briefcase so I can take my computer.

This is getting complicated. Mmm, I am going to have to give this some thought. Hopefully, I will be able to get it all done tomorrow and be able to have everything packed. I would love to just keep out what I need for Monday and Tuesday and have the suitcase sitting ready to go. We'll see.  I am trying not to get stressed or worried and just go with the flow. If I can keep myself chill, it will be a big step for me as a person.

I have always been someone who makes lists of the necessary lists. And sometimes agonizes over organizing. Luckily, my mother-in-law has taken care of so much so I can mostly pack clothes and hit the road. It will be hard to go to work this week for just two days. I can't even imagine how hard it will be for my students. We are taking a test that takes both days, so hopefully it will help keep them calm. Gonna be torture for me though. I am hoping the test goes well, but watching them take it is going to be SO boring.

See my problem~! I start thinking about one thing that I am worried about and the next thing I know my whole brain is going on all the stuff in the recesses of my over multi-tasked mind. I can't wait for a vacation.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Day 278: Broken

I am feeling a little broken today. Last night I was carrying Lil Bit through the kitchen and my left leg almost went out from under me. I had to use the counter to support myself. It was a bit scary trying to balance myself and her on one leg.

Today I have a thyroid appointment for nodules. The doctor said that something on the ultrasound was new, so we need a needle biopsy. Oh yay!! Probably not cancer, but we're gonna stick a big needle into your neck and suck the goo out just to check. Doesn't that sound fantastic?

If this is getting older, I can't wait to see what I'm like at 60. If it is all downhill from 30, I am in deep doo doo!!

I have my hip CT on the Monday after Thanksgiving and the needle biopsy the next day. At this rate, I should be a pin cushion by Christmas! Woo Hoo! Can you tell how enthusiastic I am about all these medical procedures. I hate having to go to the doctor and now it seems like a part time job as often as I am there.

I'm afraid to tell the orthopedic surgeon that my other hip hurts, he might recommend amputation. I have never felt so young in spirit with my new daughter giving me new eyes and such joy and so old in body. I hope I can get fixed up and be active again soon.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Day 279: Strength

Today my husband and I had a rare chance to instant message online. We chatted about the baby of course. He told me a little about some certification course he had to take yesterday, and then updated me on the status of a back pay issue, which has no update. The army is taking its sweet time to resolve a back pay issue dating back to his first day in the army. He told me he has checked on it, but not heard anything yet. We said, "I love you," and "I miss you" several times each, and when I had to start class, we said good-bye.

Later it struck me how fluid our conversations have become. Two deployments ago, I would have had all sorts of questions about what he had done to check on the back pay why it was taking so long, etc. But I have learned that he is capable of handling it himself. Maybe he has learned that a little too. He certainly has gained more confidence in himself and become more of an advocate for himself in the face of his supervisors, but I too have learned to let him take care of the army side of our lives and to trust he is doing the best he can.

He also never asks about our finances or the house. He has learned that I am better at budgeting our funds than he is and that our bills are always paid on time, generally early. I also overpay most of our bills so we never owe a late fee or finance charge. Over time Chad has learned to trust that I will keep us organized and take care of his things while he has to be gone.

Our marriage has gained strength through the many separations. We've learned that we can trust each other and lean on each other's strengths. We have a lot in common, but we also are complementary. Rather than butting heads over tasks, we make a good team. We can both cook, but trying to figure out what to make for dinner every night is torture for me while Chad finds it a creative release from his day. He hates doing dishes, but I don't mind the mindlessness of it. So, he cooks, I clean up. We both feel like we're getting the better part of the deal. It works for us.

We have also had to learn how to talk to each other via chat and email. I can't hear his tone through an email and all too often, we've fought over an innocent joke that was misconstrued. But by spending some time talking about how to chat/IM and topics to avoid over electronic media, we've established ways to address things, giving each other the benefit of the doubt, taking time to process our feelings and empathize with each other's feelings before broaching a difficult subject.

The time apart is hard. In some ways, I've learned more how to be an independent woman from being married to Chad than I did from being single. I am seriously considering buying a king sized bed because I don't know how I will go back to sleeping nicely on one side of the bed after a year of hogging the whole thing. But to keep our love and friendship alive requires a strength that brings us closer even when we're actually miles apart.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Day 280: Failure

We all hate it. Most of us avoid it like the plague. Some of us choose careers deliberately considering the limited chance of it. But most of the important lessons, skills and truths I've learned have either come from failure or from risking failure.

This week I have been just having the best week with my daughter. I feel like I am finally getting the hang of this "single" mom, working parent thing. I have finally gotten a routine down and mastered some organizational strategies that really free up my evenings and weekends. I have been able to sit down before seven every night all of my chores done, both of us fed and ready to enjoy the evening. Being sick last week forced me to get super organized and now I reap the benefits.

So Monday, I was perusing my Facebook newsfeed and saw that one of my page subscriptions, Money Saving Mom, was asking for guest submissions regarding organizational strategies. After giving it some thought, I decided to send in a submission. She has thousands of readers and said she would only take one or two submissions. I know it is a long shot, but why not try out my writing chops a bit. It was hard to give good tips and have my personality shine through in 500 words, but I wrote a submission, edited, proofread, and clicked send.

Who knows how it will turn out, but putting myself out there, risking failure is taking a chance at least. Maybe with all this new found time I've managed to organize myself into, maybe I will work on another article. If nothing else, I have been writing this blog every day. I should dig out one of the novels I've started over the years and finish it.

Not tonight, I already swept and dusted  the kitchen and dusted the office and living room. I've been productive enough. But I do need to really bust out my writing chops. Ok, readers, leave me comments with character names, settings, plot ideas and tomorrow I will write a random story based on your suggestions.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Day 281: Power of parents

Today was "Walk a Day" when parents can come walk a day in the shoes of their students. Parents follow their students' schedules and attend classes like high schoolers. Most of the parents are great. Most of the students are well behaved in front of the parents, even when not their parents. Unfortunately, some parents were not positive additions to everyone's classrooms.

I had a parent text messaging through my class. Some of my colleagues had parents showing excessive cleavage. Some parents were eating and drinking in the halls. One teacher was hoarse from talking over chatty parents. We had this problem last year, so the administration stressed that all visitors must follow the same rules as students. All parents were given little pink forms reminding them of the electronic's policy, dress code, etc. What was interesting to me was that the parent that disrespected our rules in my class has a daughter who doesn't feel like the rules apply to her, whose attitude is often out of control.

Are you like your parents? Are you the best of your parents? the worst? As teachers, we often meet parents and see their children are reflections of them. Unfortunately, many times the parents explain the children. Too many times, I have met the parents and understood the children or realized that the poor child has way too much to overcome at home for me to be one more obstacle.

I know I am the product of my parents. I am the best of my parents: educated, caring, loving, thoughtful, insightful, polite, ethical, Christian. I am also the worst of my parents: neurotic, worrying, reclusive, selfish, passive aggressive and confrontational, manipulative, controlling. I see where I get each of these traits from a combination of my parents. My mother was selfless in her care and raising of my sisters and I, taught us valuable lessons everyday. My father was the deep, insightful counselor who saw past the surface and encouraged us to be better.

I am also my own unique mixture of traits, but I can look back and see where ideas formed, concepts blossomed and characteristics took root. Are we cursed/blessed then to be our parents?

Is my daughter then doomed to be me? There are so many things about myself I don't want her to be. I am antisocial and have had to work very hard the past few years to change that about myself. Eve know, unless dragged into social groups, I tend isolate myself. I want her to feel like she belongs with her friends and fits. I want her to have enough self-worth to walk away from people who pressure or abuse her, but to also understand that some self-esteem has to be earned. I don't want her to be afraid of failing. I want her to laugh so much more than I did. I was so the brooding poet, "emo", kid in college.

Parents are a strange part of our lives. They make up most of our lives in our histories and in how we continue to live as adults. Very few of us ever can make a clean break from even the worst parents. Children who survive horrible abuse as children may live relatively normal lives in comparison to their childhoods, but are never free from the scars. Just as I won't ever be free from my "Pollyanna" view of the world coming from my idyllic childhood. I still get surprised after sixteen years when I learn some of the situations my students overcome just getting here everyday.

I think we come from God as palettes full of colors, and parents teach us to blend our paints and to make our brush strokes on the canvas. Our world is forever colored by those early lessons. Knowing this certainly makes me hope to be conscious parent, conscious of my influence, of my legacy, conscious of letting Lil Bit be herself too without my constant opinion.

Parents have so much power. That eight year old throwing a tantrum in the aisles of Wal-mart will someday be an eighty year old who will most likely be living still at least a little in the reflection of his parents' parenting. Don't even get me started on what studies say about parents! I just wish more of them took the time to wield that wand more carefully.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Day 282: Different

Thursday, on our anniversary, WAND aired the updated video of our proposal story. I watched the video several times with various people over the past few days. The more I watched the four years ago me hug the four years ago him the more my mind replayed that feeling in my mind.

I remember the scratchy weathered feel of his uniform, the smell of his cologne, and the feeling of his broad shoulders under my arms as I reached around his neck to hold him. Then today I saw a soldier on a motorcycle. Something about his build and carriage reminded me of Chad. The emotions hit me so hard and so fast I almost lost my breath.

This deployment has been different. Honestly, ask any military wife and she'll tell you that every deployment is different. The marriage is different. The contact available is different. Your life is different. Our first two deployments though had more in common with each other.

Being a mom has changed everything. Taking care of Lil Bit takes every second of every day unless she has a good day and I get the first hour and last hour to myself. And then I am busy doing stuff that is life sustaining: showering, eating, restrooming (you can insert your own colorful verb here), dressing, flossing, etc. On excellent days, like today, when Lil Bit was just perfect, I have from 9:30 to whenever I get this done and get into bed.

I don't have time to miss him. I have days I get lonely, days I wish for an extra set of hands around the house, but the missing him button is buried deep and it takes awhile to get or just the right smell or sound or day. When it was just me, I had plenty of thinking time and spent a lot more of it on him. I just don't have the mental capacity. Lack of sleep and time means my brain functions at about 80% most of the time and things have to be triaged. I have to judiciously parcel out my time for myself and throwing a pity party just isn't on the agenda.

I feel bad, like I'm not a good wife, because I am not sitting here pining away for him every moment of every day like last time. I think about him a hundred times a day, I pray for him any time he crosses my mind and I have a second to throw a word or two in God's direction, sometimes just a wordless thought. God knows what I mean.

I am quite sure that being parents together is going to change our marriage. This summer we had both boys and Lil Bit. It was certainly different that our times alone, but we're used to having the boys and being parents in an on again off again way. They are here nine-ten weeks and then it is just us every night for most of the rest of the year. Being full time parents to a baby girl is going to be different for us together, so I guess I can't expect that it wouldn't be different for me alone.

I can't drop everything a run to the movies or on a whim run over to a friend's house. I am a little more isolated in that way, but on the other hand being so horribly, wonderfully busy makes the time glide by in ways it never did before. Yet, watching our beautiful baby girl growing and changing daily creates a longing for him to share it. In some ways this deployment has been easier than others and in other, harder than I could ever have imagined.

Either way it is different. And I just want him home, safe and sound. If wishes count for anything, now'd be good too.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Day 283: 10 and 20

This weekend I watched an ABC News Report on their show "What Would You Do?" about abusive relationships. They mentioned that the very first experiment for the show was an adult couple in an obviously physical argument. Only 10% of passersby stopped and offered any form of assistance to the abused woman.

Now, several years later, they did the same experiment with teens. A young man screamed at a young girl, calling her a "whore"along with various other derogatory terms. He grabbed her arms, got in her face, pushed her down onto a bench. Only 20% of passersby stopped to offer assistance.

According to their statistics, 1in 3 girls today will be affected by an abusive relationship or encounter. If that figure doesn't scare you, it should. It scares me. To me it warns me of a future where my daughter will potentially be victimized and reminds me of a past when I was. It also stood out to me because of the student whom was murdered a few weeks ago by her abusive boyfriend.

Why is this number so high? Girls today are bombarded with images on TV and other visual media portraying the current ideal of physical perfection, flawlessly airbrushed and pedestal perfect. I would suspect that many of them look to those images and see themselves as falling very short. I know I do. I can't ever live up to those standards. Even when I was younger, I had too many flaws to ever be considered cover girl material. Somehow these visions make girls feel less valuable or important if they don't meet the standards of a very narrow industry. I don't have a degree in sociology but our society puts a lot of emphasis on having a romantic partner and being "happy". Maybe girls are willing to be with or stay with someone mean or violent rather than be alone. "As long as he loves me, I can't be a complete failure" mentality.

And they generally don't start off abusive. By the time you realize he's abusing you, he's sucked you so far into his twisted world that it is nearly impossible to get out. We all know that most women stay. Very few have the courage to stand up under the abuse and even fewer to leave. Adult women with degrees and brains and successful careers can't stand up and leave most of the time. Of course teenagers who can't see past the next five minutes, who feel more pressure to conform than anyone, would have even more difficulty leaving. They are inundated with messages that they have no worth as human beings unless they look and act a certain way. Abusive men know how to manipulate and charm. They hit and caress with equal skill. It is a quicksand trap to almost everyone. Teen girls with barely formed identity are going to be more vulnerable.

So then why is the number of people who will get involved so low? Why in an age where we know what abuse looks like, we have laws against it in many forms, we have TV movies about its dangers and effects, why do we still walk past and think it is none of our business?

A famous quote says, "The only thing necessary for the triumph [of evil] is for good men to do nothing."
 I would hazard a guess that many of us have heard this or something similar before. We know that evil tends to be the natural order of things and to prevent it, good must rise up. But we stand idly by and think it is none of our business. We know that the poor girl on the bench is almost physically unable to leave. We should step in. Whether the woman is an adult or child, or a boy or man, abuse is wrong. We need to stop walking past thinking it is someone else's concern.

A little girl won't graduate this year because not enough effort was made to get her away from an abusive boy. Too many others will carry stains on their hearts for years. It is unconscionable that so few of us will take a second to stop to help someone in obvious distress. The one thing the ABC folks were able to show was that once someone stopped to help, many others were willing to jump in as well. All it takes is one good Samaritan to garner help and support for someone being abused. If all you can do is dial 911, it is still something.

Please, let this year be the year you don't walk past someone in danger.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Day 284: Letting go

I always try to stay three steps ahead of everything. This week I was too sick to care about much past my own snot filled nose. Just getting through each day required such an amazing over the counter cocktail of medication. I couldn't keep my usual pace. In stead of freaking out, it was such a great relief to slow down and let things go.

I spend a lot of time being a terminal worrier. The world is a crazy place with out of control stuff happening everyday. I have always tried to control every variable possible, as if I can stave off disaster by taking care of every little pile of junk mail or correctly folding the tiny socks into perfect pairs. I hate being out of control, looking out of control. This week I couldn't keep up the facade. It was all I could do to get to work everyday. I had to learn to let things go.

Honestly, I don't know how much I will really be able to change. I have spent about 39 years being a tad OCD, but it was so great to spend more time in the moment. I spent more time on the floor laughing with the Lil Bit, covered in spit up and drool. I know there are things that need to be done and every night I take off is work I am piling up for later, but there has to be a better way than spending every second running around. Lil Bit is growing up too fast and I am missing too much of it already.

I may be functioning around a few precarious piles of stuff, but my head aches and my throat hurts and I can barely think straight. I just don't have any more to give. Whatever energy I have has to go to Punkin Butt. She has been great. She took a nice long nap this morning, and so did I. Another long nap this afternoon let me get laundry folded. I have all her clothes for the week laid out and ready to go, matching socks and bibs too. Just taking a second here and there to do little things can give me some more freedom to feel a little less pressured.

Also, my wonderful husband told me not to worry about the yard and pool while he's gone. At least I feel like I can spend less time worrying about the fact that I don't have time to take care of one more thing. The holidays are coming and I will have plenty to stress about, but I am going to do my best not to let things get to me and what gets done, gets done. The house may not always be clean or picked up. I will try to keep it clean or picked up. This week it is still clean from the scrubbing it got last week, but not as picked up as I would like. But I am starting to feel crappy again and getting better and being a good mom has to take precedence.

I still have guilt about not doing everything perfect all the time, but I'm doing my level best to ignore it. And you know what, I think I'll sleep just fine, even if it takes two doses of cough syrup.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Day 285: Politically correct and all that jazz

Today is grade check for my students for sports and extra curricular activities. If they aren't passing everything, they can't play. You would think this would be motivating, but no, I have an astronomical failure rate. I have never had a failure rate so high, or at least it feels high to me. I have two-thirds of one of my classes failing and I feel devastated. They are failing because they refuse to turn in homework. 80% or more of it was done in class, and they still cannot turn it in.

I feel like being politically correct had its roots in being kind and tolerant, but has run rampant where we can no longer speak the truth in case we hurt someone's feelings. Children are taught to have self esteem, but don't understand earning the right to be proud of yourself. We all have the right to be loved, accepted as human beings, but the right to pride and some aspects of respect have to be earned. I understand watching the little league team that loses be disappointed and wanting to cheer them up. Who can't empathize with disheartened children, but do we do them a disservice by negating the goal they failed to achieve. If losing doesn't sting, who works to win?

What do these two ideas have to do with each other? I think the increased pressure on adults to focus on raising self-esteem has led to a severe flaw in our current educational system. Maybe this is a problem in the geographical area I live in, maybe others are seeing it as well, but students seem to feel more and more like the world owes them a life and less and less like they have to do anything to earn a place in this world.

I don't know that I have any answers today, but I do know that unlimited chances to complete assignments, minimum allowable grades, and the ilk has led to an attitude of apathy seeming to pervade our current culture. I never would have accepted a zero for an assignment. I might not have put 100% into my work all the time, but I generally wanted to do well. I often was the kid with the 98% wondering why I lost two points. It just baffles me that students will sit in class while we're working on a project, do very little and then just take a zero. This was work they didn't even need to take home. If they worked with average diligence, they should have been able to finish it in class. And it was a facebook page for William Shakespeare. They should have had so much fun with that! I made it relevant to their culture, gave them a tangible product, passed out rubrics and gave them class time to work. About 80% of what was turned in would have been failing grades for 6th graders when I was their age.

They don't equate what they do with what they deserve. I saw students turn in slop and truly believe it was amazing. But our school puts pressure on us to give the kids the benefit of the doubt, "Is failing Johnny really what is best for him in the long run?"

When did that answer quit being, 'yes'?!?!? My parents told me the stove was hot; they watched me and tried to protect me from burning myself; eventually, I either learned the stove was hot by listening or touching it. If you never let a child get disappointed, burned or failed, then have you failed him?

Most of the best things I have ever learned was from when I failed or struggled. Even if the lesson was just that I am capable of getting back up, I learned my strengths and weaknesses through the struggle. Today, we use being politically correct and leaving no children behind as a smoke screen to disguise that we're letting emotions govern reason. I am all for being kind, but the greatest kindness might be pointing kids toward things they can really feel good about instead of keeping them from failure.

I'm just afraid by the time we as adults realize we've failed them, it will be too late for our society. The movie "Idiocracy" feels more and more prophetic and less comedic every year. Water your plants people, Gatorade isn't good for them.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Day 286: 4 years

Today is a very special day. Today is my fourth wedding anniversary. My husband sent me a very nice gift. Well, my idea of a nice gift. He sent me a $50 Barnes and Noble gift card, which is plenty cool. A ticket to buy books?!?! Love it, but the best part was that he found a way to put his picture on it. The fact that he went out of his way to make a special gift card for me makes it extra special, but that is just the type of guy he is.

For those of you who watched the video of his proposal, you know he likes to be romantic from time to time and understands what those gestures mean to us girls. For Valentine's Day during our first deployment, he sent me a giant bouquet of two dozen red roses. It was at least three feet tall. He had the flowers delivered to me at school. When I got to talk with him, I asked him why he didn't just have them delivered to the house. He said, "Half the fun of getting an over the top flower arrangement is getting to show it off." While we won't often admit it, showing off the flowers and getting to revel in other people's reaction is part of what makes it fun. I know the only person who needs to know he loves me is me and that flowers aren't necessarily a sign of true love. It still is pretty special that he gets it, this really rugged, macho guy, gets the girly things that matter to me too.

I was broken hearted, full of bitterness and unable to trust, when I met Chad. His pure and simple love turned me around. He gets me, all my flaws and loves me anyways. I love him, completely. We still have our moments of frustration with each other, but this army lifestyle helps keep us constantly aware of how precious our time is together. Four years ago, I stood and made vows with this wonderful man, to respect and love each other, and knowing how hard this is, how many deployments we would struggle through, I would do it again if given the chance.

We didn't get to celebrate this day together, but I'm sure our hearts met a time or two today over the Atlantic as we thought about each other. And if all the well wishes and positive thoughts coming our way are good for another year each, we'll be happily married for another 60 years. Our story, happy ending complete with wedding and new baby was shared with thousands of people on TV today. I hope our love touched someone's heart. We have such a special connection.

Despite being a feverish, dizzy, temporarily single mom, I am a very lucky woman. I married my best friend four years ago. And love him enough to know how amazing he is. He would hate all this gushing, but he really deserves it. He takes care of me, protects our country and is a fantastic guy all around. Love may not solve all our problems, but it certainly makes them easier to survive. So this and every Veteran's Day, I celebrate my grandfather, my dad, several uncles and my wonderful husband. Even if the army only shares him every other year, half the time with a guy this great is definitely better than none.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Day 288: Stuck

I am still VERY sick, so a short entry tonight. I went to a seminar today about teaching grammar. It was very interesting. Basically we have several studies over the past 40-50 years that show how we taught and/or still teach grammar is completely useless and in fact, DECREASES the knowledge the students had when they came into our classes. Of course this might explain why tenth grade students still act like no one has ever explained a noun before.

The first study was published in 1967. Four years before I was BORN??? (yeah, I know I just dated myself).  Why then was I taught grammar in a drill and kill method? Why did I still not understand grammar until college and then only because someone made it make sense to me?

I don't know. Why then do teachers still fight so hard FOR this same ineffective method? I best people sat in this seminar and will be diagramming sentences on the board tomorrow. How do we get people to change? I don't have any answers today. I know that my methods have changed since I started teaching. I know I have found things that work and moved toward newer ideas, but I still resist change myself.

My goal for this week is to try this new method of teaching grammar. I was happy that at least some of what I am doing was part of what has been shown to work. If you're curious about the seminar, the website for our speaker was www.writeguy.net

We all need to make an effort to not be so stubborn and realize that good ideas can be new ones, too, not just the oldy but goodys.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Day 289: Sick

I have no immune system, never really had one. I was sick a lot as a kid, and now spend all day everyday around germy, snotty kids. I get sick a lot. Plus I have ALLERGIES, 24/7 which means my sinuses are a mess on a good day and ripe for conquest by any opportunistic bug.

I got sick last week and have no time to slow down or rest and it just keeps getting worse. I should have stayed home today. I really should have taken Lil Bit to daycare and stayed home to sleep. I am so sick I am miserable. I can't think, my voice is gone and all I want to do is take a nap. But I ache so much that sleep is kind of wasted too.

Yesterday I spent the day feeling SO rotten and not knowing what to do about it. I ate dry cereal from the box for breakfast. Lunch, mmmmmm, might have been a brownie from party leftovers if anything. It was one of those days I didn't even want to call someone. Complaining about it wasn't going to make it any better and calling my mom wasn't going to magically transport her to my house. I needed my mommy yesterday. I needed someone to bring me soup and crackers and watch the baby so I could nap. She just didn't really nap yesterday. She kind of "crap" naps, little 20-30 minute naps, which are not long enough to do anything for me except make me feel drowsy.

I have a horrible cough and sore throat and just overall feel like poop. I just feel so helpless. I can't do anything. Usually I could take a weekend and sleep to get over it, but with Lil Bit, no such luck. I have to just keep pressing on. I have a training tomorrow and will be absent from class already so I didn't want to miss today. Plus, I am trying to save the few sick days I have left for my surgery and Chad's R&R. I want to be able to be home with him the whole time he is home. You would think that after three or four major separations, it would get easier to go to work when he is home, but that isn't really the case. The longer he is gone, the more time I feel cheated from spending with him and those two precious weeks are even more important.

I just feel so helpless. My husband is expecting a package. In this packaged I promised to send him pictures and a video CD of the baby. I don't even know how to edit the videos or get them onto discs. I spent the entire night trying to find a stupid USB cable to hook up video camera to the computer, only to realize the port I was trying to use wasn't the USB hook up, it was the AV hook up. Finally got it plugged in and couldn't get it to make a disc. I could make a picture CD for him, but not a video cd. I don't know what the difference is or why it won't work, but I am exhausted, have started coughing with a deep throaty painful cough and my ears hurt and my doctor left his practice last week. I got the letter he was leaving two days after his last day. THAT was handy!

It was definitely a Monday. I miss my husband. I miss having someone around. A lot of people take that partnership for granted. I probably do from time to time, but if nothing else, this year of single mommyhood will decrease the likelihood of that happening again. Mommies don't get sick days. And when you follow a soldier from post to post, sometimes there isn't anyone to watch your dog or hold the baby or bring you soup.

No big lesson today, sometimes there is no answer, no solution, you just have to "soldier" through and hope things improve. No matter what, they will change, so do what you can to make them be better. On that note, Nyquil, here I come. Pillow, you're next!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Day 290: Somebody's Mom

This morning, walking through my quiet house, something about the cast of light through the curtains and the chill in the air combined with the holiday scents still lingering from last night's party reminded me of the winter mornings when I was a little girl. I could almost smell bacon and coffee and taste homemade sticky buns warm from the oven. Where did I get those associations with fall and winter and the holidays? My mom.

And it occurred to me for not the first time, that I am somebody's mom now. The memories that run so deep she can't even trace them to when they started, are going to come from me. I am so humbled by that responsibility. While she is still a tad tiny to be making memories to last a lifetime, I need to start thinking about what roots I want her to have.

I remember winter mornings, chilled through in a thin cotton nightgown, hustling to stand over the copper grate between the kitchen and dining room. Watching my mom stand over the stove, I would sway back ad forth making my nightgown into a bell of warm air. The smell of coffee tantalizing my nose long before it would ever taste nearly so delicious. The excitement of lazy days playing board games with my family, eating special holiday snacks still fills my mind. I love the holidays today because of all the special memories my family created, especially my mom.

I have tried to continue those memories and traditions for my step-children and family, but they also have their mother building memories too. Lil Bit will have only me and her father to create the memories that will be the foundation for her future.

I am not always as patient as I would like to be. I don't always have the energy I want. I can't control everything around my family, sometimes I can't even control myself, especially around chocolate, but I can wake her up every morning with a giant smile and a "Good morning, beautiful." I can make it a point to give her a positive outlook every day. I can fill my house with warmth and love even if I don't want her to eat bacon and don't always have the energy to make myself something to eat much less stand over the stove stirring Malt-O-Meal to stop the horrible lumps from forming to please our picky palates.

Today ended up with me so sick on the couch that getting done the "have-to's" for tomorrow was about all I had energy wise. I feel horrible and feel like I didn't take care of the package for Chad that I have been working on for weeks. I did at least put most of his stuff into the box, but I still haven't worked on getting the videos onto discs for him. I did upload the last month's worth of pictures so I can mail Lil Bit's birth mom her letter for the month. Then at least I don't have to mail her another one until she is a year old, not that I begrudge her the pictures, but the post office here makes getting a pedicure by with sharp bamboo spikes under your nails look fun. I guess this is just the way it rolls. Somedays I feel like I got it all on lock and other days, like an epic fail! At least if this mother/teacher thing doesn't go my way, I've got my street lingo to keep me kickin' it!

My parents had hard times; we never knew it. I guess that is the trick, to let her be a child, have innocence as long as I can. I am living her life now too. I am somebody's mom. How awesome is that?

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Day 291: Not SuperMom

Well, I asked for help today. I bribed my babysitter with a box of baby clothes (she's pregnant) to come over this afternoon and help with the baby while I cleaned house. She came over and promptly told me I was crazy, the house didn't need cleaning. While I knew it really did, I realized then that I had managed to do a good enough job this week picking up little by little that I didn't have too much to do. I still found things that I wanted to do to feel good about the house before I opened my home for a party, but I am really very proud that I managed to clean the house, take care of the baby and throw a party while being exhausted from a long week and fighting a cough/cold/sore throat combo pack.

Woo hoo - I rock! It wasn't all easy and I will be eating left overs for the entire week, but I did it. The house is immaculate. My friend Danielle and her friend Brittany stayed and did all the glasses and clean up which would have taken me forever with a fussy baby. I really appreciated that. I will still have some clean up and putting away of things tomorrow, but almost none.

This week I also had a lot of evenings where I got to sit and play with my beautiful daughter instead of feeling like I was running around like crazy. It was amazing! I was organized and figured out some tricks to keeping ahead of the day to day tasks. I am sure that the rough stuff is not behind me, but I am welcoming the break. Maybe I am finally getting a handle on this single mom stuff? I don't know, but my baby is asleep, my dog is snuggled in her bed, the house smells like cinnamon and pecan pie. I am pleasantly wiped out after a fun night with the girls and a sink full of different wines.

My daughter was happy and smiling all night. She was laughing and crinkling her nose at all the girls for hours. She easily went to everyone for hugs and snuggles. She played contentedly in her bouncer or play gym. While she did keep an eye on me, she felt secure and happy even in unfamiliar company.  And then happily clung to me when she started feeling drowsy.

I may not be "SuperMom", but I think there are days I am A super mom. While I held my Lil Bit tonight and rocked her to sleep, I wondered what she would remember of me from her childhood. Today I was silly with her, multi-tasking like a pro, laughing and smiling, trying to make even the little things fun. I don't know if her happy disposition is how she was born, but I hope that the way I love her and the silly way I sing and dance and make faces from across the room is part of why she is such a delightful child. I have no idea how much is DNA and how much is MOM but I am really proud of how well I am doing as a woman and "single"mom.

I hope when I next have a rough day, I can remember that today I felt good.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Day 292: Fort Hood one year ago

A year ago, I was sitting in a meeting when I noticed everyone around me all of a sudden on cell phones. My principal stopped our meeting to tell us that an incident had occurred on Fort Hood. I tried to call my husband, who should have been home in bed sleeping after pulling 24 hour staff duty. No answer. I figured he probably was sleeping so soundly that the phone didn't wake him, but then we heard it was a mass shooting on post. It didn't matter where I thought he was, my heart was panicked, frozen between beats for a minute, like every other spouse, son, daughter, brother, sister, mother, father experiences when something horrible has happened where someone you love is.

He finally returned my call as I was racing toward the house. He was fine and had been just really sleeping. I let out the breath I hadn't realized I was holding and continued to the house. We watched what was happening on the news and took some time to call family all over the country to let them know we were all right.

But some people weren't. Some people never got to go home again. Some soldiers processing in from overseas tours, finally home safe from Iraq or Afghanistan, were gunned down by one of their own, an American, a soldier, a psychiatrist. Some soldiers were there gearing up to leave on a combat tour and never realized the danger they would face not just on American soil, but on their own military post. There just isn't any explaining what happened, although his lawyer is sure giving it a try in court this week. The evil in men's hearts and the sickness in their souls is overwhelming. Could this have been prevented? Was he mentally unstable and treatable?

One issue I have with the military now is despite all the claims that soldiers can seek help without fear of retribution, they fear retribution. I hear them talk about anyone who seeks help is marked as unstable, he/she becomes un-promotable, therefore is eventually separated from the military. I don't know facts and figures here, but as long as soldiers who want to be good soldiers and plan to make the military a career can seek help truly without fear of it damaging their careers (as long as they are not a danger to themselves or others), horrific events like those on Fort Hood a year ago today and the increasing number of military suicides are going to continue.

Who among us doesn't have a dark moment from time to time? Some of these soldiers are dealing with deployment after deployment and the stress of time in combat, time away from family, time spent in high stress situations and on high alert. Last time Chad came home, it took him about a month to drive faster than 25 mph because that is how you drove in Iraq and you drove down the center of the road. At a wine tasting event, they had a western re-enactment. We didn't know about it, until the gun went off. I can't even describe Chad's reaction, because it was so fast from recognizing the gunfire to realizing it was not a threat, but I could see that it really upset him. His eyes filled with tears and he told me he needed a few minutes to let the adrenaline bleed from his system. He had been worried I was going to be hurt. I had never seen him that upset before. He actually walked away from the main tents of the event for awhile.

My husband still carries the remnants of his tours to Iraq, and he pretty much comes back like he never left. Other than a few minor adjustments and catching up on a year's worth of sleep (he seriously spends like three months sleeping 10 or more hours a day, wherever he can catch them), he is the same guy who left. Well as much as I am the same person he left. People of course change and grow over a year, but he really seems to handle it pretty well. He doesn't have nightmares any more than I do, or anger issues or anything, but he is an unusual person, really built to be a soldier. Not everyone is, not everyone who can pass the physical, should be a soldier.

I don't know what the answer is, stricter screening process for the military? Better mental health availability? More awareness to what is going on around you? Could someone have seen what Major Nidal Hasan feeling? Maybe not, but we can't go back and change this event any more than we can change 9/11, but we can learn from the past. If we can take anything from this awful event, it should be some ways to make sure it never happens again.

Tonight, I go to bed safe and sound. My daughter sleeps peacefully in her crib. My husband is again far away, but alive. So tonight, I go to bed blessed and thankful, but also sorrowful for those who paid with their lives for one man's cruel insanity.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Day 293: Go back

I don't feel good tonight, so short and sweet. If you didn't read yesterday's blog, PLEASE GO BACK and read it and contact your congressmen, senators and the White House.

Below is a website where you can find your officials at every level and be informed about what is happening in the House and Senate any given day.


When you see something that is unfair and ridiculous, write them. When you see people being mistreated, falling through the cracks, write them. When you know there has to be a better way, write them.

Our government is a democracy so that one voice does not overpower the many. Let the many rise up and take a stand for things that matter. Like keeping our military strong and properly compensated for the immense sacrifices they make for us!!

In a few days, deer season will open. For most of you reading this blog, it will pass you by without a thought. For Chad, deer season is his Indy 500, UFC, Superbowl and World Series all rolled into one. Other than for me and his children, my husband lives to hunt. I currently have half my garage devoted to his various hunting paraphernalia. Every year that he is home, he goes hunting and brings home his limit. He tans the hides, mounts the skull, butchers the meat. He has missed hunting season for 5 out of the last 7. Now he has been creative and found ways to get to hunt, bow hunting and muzzle loaders, and hunting Axis deer which are not regulated in Texas, but 5 out of 7 years!?!? Ridiculous. That is just one of many sacrifices he and his fellow soldiers make.

They deserve the salaries they earn. They and their families deserve the health care. If they serve for 20+ years, they deserve the best retirement and health care we can give them. Make your voice heard today.

If you don't . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  whose voice will they be hearing and what will it be saying. Please GO BACK and read yesterday's blog, get involved!

click "cool" if you write to an elected official about this issue.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Day 294: Military: Cut Pay or Cut Troops?

Seriously?? This week's Military.com newsletter came out with this as the primary article. I generally skim the headlines and read articles that seem pertinent to me or my husband and family. I came across a headline that suggested the current administration is looking to cut military pay and benefits or decrease the size of the military.

I immediately was concerned on several fronts. For one my husband's current tour is already demonstrating to me what happens when you decrease troop presence in a hostile environment. He has not told me much due to security reasons, but has been in country for two months and has seen more this tour than the past three, according to him. One country, one war - one troop withdrawal and our soldiers are seeing the results of that action. What happens to our nation's security and our troops if we decrease the number of soldiers active and prepared to defend us?

One, doesn't that just paint a large target on our backs? We've been fighting the insurgents since 2001 and been in the Middle East since 1990? If we're at this level of "success" with our current troop levels, what can we expect if we decrease in size. We can't be everywhere we are needed if we close up ranks and lower numbers to appease the budgetary concerns of congress. I have no problems admitting that we need to do something to shore up our economy. ENDing the wars would be much more effective than decreasing the number of people left fighting them.

Secondly, my husband is on his fourth tour now. Some of his platoon are on number five or six. What happens to these guys? They just keep getting cycled up for deployment? Deployment is unbelievably hard on a soldier and his/her family. Yes, they/we signed up understanding this possibility, especially those who signed up post 9/11, but that doesn't make it any easier to create a life. Being absent for year after year isn't a life. My husband has missed 4 years of his sons' lives, a minimum of 1/3 of their lives. Being married to an absent man, doesn't feel much like a marriage all too often. So many soldiers are suffering great depressions and are suicidal because their home lives have been completely destroyed and their work lives take them away over and over and over. One year was hard, the second was tough, but the third starts to feel like the norm is to be alone and is absolutely devastating emotionally as a couple. We are crazy about each other and are doing great given the circumstances, but what I wouldn't give to have him home for three years in a row. That seems like a pie in the sky dream at the current troop level, what would happen if we cut enough troops to make a difference in the national economy? How many more times can the same soldiers go?? Just the thought of another tour after this one makes me see red.

And if we're trying to cut troop levels to decrease costs, will they start looking for reasons to drop soldiers as they get close to pension time? "Ooh, you have a bad back? Well, yes, we do understand it is from serving your country in war zones faithfully over the past 18 years, but we'll have to separate you from the military at this time because you aren't fit for combat any more. Yeah, sorry about that pension you worked so hard for." If we as a society are judged by how we treat our weakest members, how much more harshly should we be judged if we mistreat those who protect us at great personal sacrifice.

Another option the government is apparently considering is cutting benefits for veterans and retired soldiers. Well, I can't speak for anything other than my personal family members, but they joined for the medical and retirement benefits. They served understanding the rewards "waiting" for them. But whoops, when they went to collect . . . nada. Oh, someone told you that you would get free health care from the military for serving during Vietnam? Sorry, no insurance for you! My father signed up when others were being drafted. He served willingly and now has no medical coverage at all. My husband and I are counting on his military retirement and medical benefits. We have bet our lives on it. If they cut what my husband is putting his ass on the line for, we don't have a future. My pension is worthless, a few years teaching here another few teaching over there, not enough to support myself on and little hope to build anything with another 8-12 years of frequent relocating.

Also, because of the frequent PCSing (permanent change of station, meaning being assigned a new home base) and deployments, many military families are single income because of the stresses of being a "single" parent regularly and holding a full-time job and because it is hard to move every three years and maintain gainful employment, much less a successful career of any kind. That salary and benefits supports the people who support the people who protect and support our country. My husband can do his job better when he knows all is well at home. Having a salary that can support all of us when necessary is part of keeping him focused on his job and keeping him and the men around him safe.

If you can't tell, totally riled up here. Breaking promises to our military professionals isn't right when millions of dollars get spent in Washington and around the country campaigning to keep their phony baloney jobs. I vote they make all campaign funds illegal. All candidates get the same air time, the same press time and the same coverage at rallies, etc. People hear them on the issues, not who can make a more creatively manipulative ad. No more fancy inaugural balls. No more voting themselves pay raises. No more junk! If we have to cut somewhere, cut the fat, not the meat of our nation. Our army, our educational system, our health care = these sustain us and maintain our people.

Lets work on creating a budget that makes real sense in every way, so we can keep the military getting pay raises at least commensurate with the cost of living if not with their sacrifice, and keep our promises to our veterans. Because the people who really serve our country deserve better than the government fat cats are offering.

The average pay for a soldier is $54,000 a year, including all his housing allowances, etc. This is for all soldiers as an average. Most enlisted make much less than this and bring home significantly less, while high ranking officers can make much more.  The average pay for a representative or senator is $174,000. Congress gets automatic cost of living raises annually, unless they specifically hold a vote to decline them. But every year decides if the military personnel get any raise at all, regardless of how much the cost of living has increased.

It took decades for the military pay to be equitable with similar jobs, we shouldn't take a step back. Quite literally, they have fought too hard for the little they have to be slapped in the face by the very government they are sacrificing their lives, families and bodies to protect!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Day 295: Shut up Karma

Last week, I assigned my students a project. They had to create a Facebook page for William Shakespeare. As a preview activity, I was asking them to imagine creating a Facebook page for me, what groups I'd be interested in, my relationships, posts, etc. One girl piped up and said, "Your status would be Shut UP!"

Everyone laughed. It is probably true. I used to use it judiciously to get the students' attention, but recently students have gotten louder and my concentration has gotten worse. I think it has become my go to maneuver instead of being a hail mary. So I decided not to use it in class any more. That was Wednesday of last week and I haven't said it since.

It has made me dig deeper into my patience pocket and teacher bag for ideas for classroom management ideas. It was a very simple decision, but I feel like it changed the tone in my classroom. Perhaps, being more polite has given me more patience. By refusing to lose control, I have actually managed to care more about my students and get less ruffled by rowdy teens.

I started giving them strikes. If they get to three, they head down to ISS for a day. I didn't have anyone get past two. I had one almost on 2 1/2, but he decided it wasn't worth the battle. I got to do this crazy thing - TEACH. Mm, feels great. I had all my students listening (well 98%) and learning. They were reading Shakespeare and getting it. How much is because I didn't say "shut up," I don't really know. I would suspect a lot of it is because I took back calm assertive control of my classroom. It doesn't JUST work for dogs. Trust me the differences between dogs and teens are fewer than you'd think.

When my Lil Bit gets mad and screams bloody murder for no apparent reason, the only thing that calms her is being silly and BIG silly. Getting upset back doesn't work, she doesn't understand anything but her own frustration and anger at that point. Tonight it was using a cold washcloth to wipe her face after dinner. It was warm at first, but cooled off and she had oatmeal all over her face. As soon as the cold cloth touched her, she went ballistic. I had to stop, take a second to look from her eyes and redirect. Same lesson - get myself and my emotions in check, then I can focus on someone else's. When I get and or stay under control, the people around me can too.

Funny how somethings in life are instant Karma. Being nice doesn't always get paid back right away or from the same person, but it pays off instantly in how we feel about ourselves, which in turn affects our next actions and so on. So Shut up is going to remain VERBOTEN in my classroom for awhile. If nothing else, for the person it pushes me to become. So Karma can keep talking as long as I remember to shut up  = p

Monday, November 1, 2010

Day 296: Restore the Sanity

All over the country this weekend, rallies were held surrounding the theme of restoring the sanity. The general idea is that Republican or Democrat, we all want what is best for our country even if we disagree about how to go about it or what it even is. Restoring the sanity is all about agreeable discord, being able to agree to disagree, being able to debate reasonable issues without animosity.

So why does it seem like adults can't do this in our regular life. As a teacher on a campus that practices a variant of team teaching, I am called to compromise with four other teachers, all of whom are at least 10 years younger than I am. They are good, talented teachers, but we come from different eras, different standards. I don't even want to think about how much education has declined in the past two decades, but considering that I graduated high school before my current students were born, I have seen a lot of changes. I am asked to compromise with people who have seen more than a decade less of education and life than I have and sometimes people who have seen twice as much.

Where is the line between someone newer who sees a better way to do or teach something and lowering standards and cutting corners? Where is the line between some old fuddy duddy who refuses to change her curriculum for anything because it is what she has always taught and holding firm to ideas and ideals that have served her well? And where is the line between holding intelligent discourse and arguing. Do we as a nation even know where that line is? Our entire nation was founded on the idea that two or more groups arguing from various vantage points would find their way into a middle truth.

So why is it so hard to talk to each other like adults. I sat in a meeting today where two people made obvious emails back and forth every time I said something. Because I disagreed with a way they wanted to teach something, I am subject to eye rolling and sneaky emails. One of my new friends told me the other day that maybe we never grow past high school. We are just better at hiding our catty, petty selves.

I don't know if that is true, but it saddens me. I try to be better than that. People often take things I say the wrong way, but if given an opportunity, I will gladly sit and discuss something and try to clear the air.  In fact I tried to clear the air with someone and now it is more muddled than ever. It makes me sad, but makes me so thankful for Chad who loves me for who I am, who gives me the benefit of the doubt and is willing to talk to me if we disagree. Even when emotions run high, maturity is being able to still treat others the way I want to be treated.

We need to restore sanity to the way we deal and treat each other as often as we can. If everyone made a conscious effort to be more tolerant and kind, maybe it would spread. We can only hope.