Monday, January 31, 2011

Day 205: the Dependasaurus

So, here it is a few months into a deployment and things are starting to look a little rough around the edges. I start counting the weeks until he comes home and deciding what can wait until he tackles it and what I should probably attempt.

Every deployment I have varying levels with defying the Dependasaurus within. As part of a couple, we have to depend on each other. We divide the workload according to our strengths, so we can spend more time together relaxing. I am not much for yard work and he could care less about balancing the checkbook. But it gets comfortable to count on someone to handle tasks for me. I get dependent.

At times when he is away, I struggle with depression, feeling sorry for myself and parking my hiney on the couch perpetually. It is difficult for me to motivate myself to take charge of things that are usually his purview. Some of it is pure laziness. I get into a pattern and fall into routines. Things outside my normal routine take extra effort and especially now, especially when the weather is icky, especially when I am still fighting off an infection or four, I just have trouble dropping that darned dependasaurus and taking care of things that just need doing.

Some of the struggle is doing things that I know he does better or that I can't do well at all. Sometimes there just aren't enough hours in the day for the things I am supposed to take care of and certain chores are just relegated to waiting. I feel badly though, knowing he is coming home to chores. Although my in-laws took care of the yard when they were here over the holidays, which was nice. The boys I pay to do it had taken off for the season, and I just never had it trimmed up one more time.

I know taking a long trip was something scary to do alone. His third deployment, I took the boys on a 3000 mile road trip to visit grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. One speeding ticket and a discussion about when not to pour barbecue sauce onto your brother later, we survived and had a great time.

Another scary thing for me was trying to do the yard work myself. We have a lawnmower that requires the use of a special bent nail in order to start or stop. Trying to remove a bent nail while blades are spinning required a special bit of fortitude this summer. But I did mow the law. I used a weed eater once and shot rock and dirt clods everywhere. It was painful and scary. There are things I will hire someone to do, but even that took a little doing for me to work up the courage to do.

Over three (his 2-4) deployments, I have learned when I need to call customer service, how to complain and be heard, how to pitch a fit when being overly solicitous and kind didn't work, how to push buttons and smack things into working, and how to hire people to do the things Chad would if he were home.

Taking the steps to take care of things myself is scary. I don't want to become so independent I don't need him, but I need to be independent enough that I don't have to need him, I can just want to.

My Dependasaurus is in hibernation. Tonight I recklessly cleaned the fridge out of significantly past their expiration date dairy products and took out the trash. But I only sighed looking at the stack of cardboard boxes in the garage, full of toys to be sorted, and the boxes of products waiting to be registered or put away dotting the foyer and living room. It is hard sometimes to face the daunting tasks emotionally, as if I am putting him away or outgrowing him by becoming independent, but I know he needs to know I can become the person I need to when he is away. And rest assured, I will save plenty of weeding and gardening to make sure he feels completely missed and needed. 

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Day 206: Art of Compromise

One of the recurring challenges of military couples is handling the R&R and redeployment. Separating is hard, but you get a rhythm to your days. The two week vacation in the middle is much anticipated but also fraught with complicated relationship issues.

He spends 6 months or so in combat, living in uncomfortable situations, feeling separated from the things that make him feel like him. During that time, he hopes and dreams and waits for this all too brief respite from the challenges, drama, and stress of the war. He thinks about home: sleeping in his bed, wearing civilian clothes, showering in private, and seeing his family. Then he thinks about all the things he isn't getting to do and wants to cram as many of them into his two weeks as possible. His request was to try to take a hunting trip to Arkansas or Missouri for geese management season.

I spend those same months just living day to day, trying to maintain the same things we share by myself. I spend those months this time with a baby who demands total attention. Even when she is very good, I always have to have her needs and moods and schedules planned before I consider my own. I love being a mother, but I miss being able to take a few hours of a break. I think about those two weeks and think about driving to get the boys, taking a trip to see his ailing father. I think about all the hours in the car just to do those two things, and get tired.

I am still not over this infection. I woke up today, feeling worse than yesterday. I hope I don't have to make another trip to the doctor. My overwhelming summary of this year so far would be tired. I need a break in a completely different way than he does. Because his sacrifice is so total, it is hard for me to put my needs before his, but I also need to consider that his break is my only break too.

This is where things sometimes get tricky. He deserves to come home and have a great time. I deserve some much needed rest and to have some help around the house. The kids deserve to have some wonderful time with their father. His family deserves to see him. Two weeks isn't a very long time to fit in all that.

Somewhere, somehow, he and I have to find a way to triage who gets priority. The kids come first. Then him and me, but what we need also has to take a back seat to what makes financial and time sense. I can't see taking four of his fourteen days to drive for him to hunt geese that we have no place to store and I don't even know if you can eat them. But we do need to find a way for him to get some downtime in nature since that is his thing. If all that gets done, then maybe I get some me time. I guess I don't even want to go anywhere or do anything, I just want to be able to let someone else chase her around for an evening or be the one to hop out of bed when she needs something.

Many couples, us included, have to find a way to process all the emotions of R&R. It is exciting, full of anticipation, but also nerves. While he's gone, you find a rhythm to daily life that doesn't include him. He explores a new world and an independence from you. Coming home, we look to reestablish the romantic ties, the relationship, but have to keep one hand over our hearts because two weeks is over way too fast.

We both picture those two weeks differently. I want him to spend every second lapping up the attention of his beautiful daughter, soaking up the rarer snuggles of his two boys, settling into the peace and quiet of our home. He tries to cram as much fun and activity into two weeks as humanly possible, at least he has in the past. The first deployment we shared, the two weeks home was a tailspin of parties. We had a blast. We spent everyday we could, just filled with friends and family. The R&R after that one, we spend a week with the boys and his father, fishing and barbecuing and spent a few days in a hotel doing fun things in the city. We then took a quiet second week for ourselves.

I don't know how this one will shake out. I do know it will take compromise from both of us. What we have to remember is how much we love each other. We have to remember how much the other person is sacrificing this year and be willing to move the sun and moon for them. If we both approach it ready to give 100%, somehow we will meet in the middle and find that most importantly, we needed each other the most.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Day 207: Feeling productive

I have been unable to do much the last few weeks, and honestly will probably leave a lot of things still undone come Sunday night, but I got home to the smell of dog funk after running errands last night. I don't know what Maggie did in her kennel, but the entire house reeked like musty dog. I pulled her kennel outside and hosed it down immediately.

Luckily we're having beautiful weather here and I can leave it outside to dry for the weekend since I don't plan on kenneling the dog over the weekend. Then this morning, I jumped out of bed, took the dog outside and brushed her, of course, covering both of us in dog hair. Then quickly bathed her before the baby got fussy.

The baby was playing nicely in her crib while I scrubbed the dog who was a least cooperative if miffed at the entire process. Then I changed the baby, got her dressed for the day and gave her a bottle, made myself a bowl of cereal, fed the baby her cereal, and vacuumed the entire house. Had to enjoy that new Dyson. If you have never tried one, they are totally worth the price. I can't believe how much cleaner the carpets look. Phew, all before noon.

I still feel a bit shaky and my head is still congested. But I couldn't face the mess one more minute. Our grass is dormant in the winter and is basically like a yard full of straw, which the dog loves to roll in. She came in covered in it several times this week, leaving trails of brittle grass everywhere, which of course the baby is drawn to like a magnet. I so far have caught her before any got past the fingertips, but it was only a matter of time.

I quickly ran out of steam after a busy morning. I took a bunch of broken naps, interrupted by a phone call from my birthday boy, my husband Chad. I know he isn't a big birthday fan, but I was glad to get to talk to him and let him know how much I value him. Since the morning was so productive, I felt justified  being lazier this afternoon.

Then my Lil Bit and I played all evening. Overall, it was a decent Saturday. I just wish it wasn't over yet. There is something so freeing about Saturdays. But I think I am going to crawl into bed, snuggle in with a book, and enjoy getting a nice long night of sleep. Wow, my idea of a great Saturday night has certainly changed in the past few years. Wouldn't trade it for anything, though. Not much can compete with snuggle baby kisses. 

Friday, January 28, 2011

Day 208: Back to school

Being absent as a teacher is a double-edged sword. While a break or a change of scenery is always appreciated, no one (or very few) can do the job while I am away. I have had a few substitute teachers in my career who were excellent and did an amazing job of teaching, not just babysitting. Most substitutes though are at best decent babysitters. Even a certified teacher of my subject matter would find it challenging to jump in and understand what we were doing.

I was absent two days for training and one day for my near death experience (dramatization disclaimer). I came back and knew I was pretty much going to have to start all over from scratch with my students. I did. I am really struggling this year so far with students who are so far from functional that I don't know what to do with them. I give directions and five minutes into an activity a student will be sitting there staring at a blank piece of paper.

"What are you doing?" I ask, mostly rhetorically.
"Nothing," she answers.
"Why not?" I reply frustrated.
"I don't know what we're doing. I mean what are we supposed to do?" she exclaims snarkily.

At this point, she's been sitting there doing nothing, rather than ask me to explain the directions again. Flummoxed, I try to contain my frustration. She is probably more frustrated than I am and needs me to treat her with kindness instead of anger. Still feeling sickly and overwhelmed at work and home, managing my emotions is tough.

I feel like instead of English, I am having to teach basic social skills. I have 16 year olds to whom I have to direct teach raising hands and taking turns, asking questions for clarification, bringing pencils. When I think about trying to also teach vocabulary, spelling, reading, literature, listening, public speaking, writing, and grammar; it flabbergasts me.

I am racing through curriculum, feeling that at best I am skimming the surface of what I used to cover in depth. My students seem less and less prepared to face the future each year. Today, the assignment was to read a standard rental agreement and answer a few questions about it. They read it and answered the questions once already, but today I used some of the strategies I learned at my conference. I had one class rise to the challenge, but many of my students would have gotten evicted if this had been for real.

I wanted to impress upon them a real world example of the importance of reading. I don't know that they grasped the concept.  I felt so demoralized by the end of the day. It didn't help that one of our assistant principals came in to lecture some of us about having too high a failure rate.

No Child Left Behind has to be the worst decision that has ever graced public education. Forcing everyone and every school to improve at a fixed permanent rate, has led to a lot of artificial inflating of grades and pushing kids through. I worry so much about how they will function outside of my classroom. I see them barely able to read, write, with very little work ethic and I can't imagine the future.

I came home depressed and again, my itty bitty Lil Bit, who is getting to be less lil, cheered me up. She was in her jumperoo just giggling. She was almost bouncing herself out of her seat and giggling until she snorted. I finally sat in front of her and laughed with her. I can't solve the problems of the world. I can barely solve my own problems. But I can love her. Today, that may be the only thing I got right, but after playing with her for giggling hours that led her to crawl into my arms and snuggle, I know I have been doing that right. 

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Day 209: Again

This year I have been sicker than I have been since my first year teaching. Every germ Lil Bit brings home from daycare is completely new to my mutantly poor immune system. Last night, my eardrum felt like it was going to burst.

I have always been somewhat sickly. I catch a lot of colds, flu, etc. But I can't help it. I take vitamins, try to eat healthy, and I still can't fight off most infections. This week I have been dosing myself with a cocktail of a variety of cold medicines trying to live up to the things my work and life require. Today, I couldn't take it any more. I had to stay home. I spent most of the day feeling awful and only perked up a couple hours ago.

As I look around the living room, that is increasingly cluttered, I feel defeated and overwhelmed. And yet, feeling unsteady of my feet, feverish, sick, I managed to feed myself and the baby, keep her entertained all day. Today, that feels like a victory.

She even stood on her own for the first time today. She pulled up on her exersaucer and while playing, let go and started to cry. She had startled herself and was afraid to move. Of course I scooped her up and told her how proud I was of her.

She was all smiles and played happily all day. Her smiles brought me such joy today in the simple happiness of a sweet, giggly little girl.

I hope my body builds up an immunity soon. Until then, I am muddling through the best I can.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Day 210: RIP Dad

I was driving home tonight after a long day of critical reading training, which is excellent stuff, but hard to be excited about with a head full of dayquil and chain sucking of cough drops.  I sat at one of those interminable lights and noticed the read window of the car in front of me said, RIP Dad in yellow window paint.

I read it once, almost like an afterthought, but then my drug addled brain caught up with what I had just read, and I looked again. I don't have to know the people in that car to know they are hurting right now. There is no story that ends with RIP Dad that isn't heartbreaking. With all the things I am struggling with daily, all of the challenges that make me feel overwhelmed, nothing I am worrying about compares to what lead to that pitiable notation on a car window.

I finally got into see a doctor and have bronchitis and ear infections and a sinus infection. I am miserable and in pain, but whenever I feel like I am at the lowest point I can reach, something reminds me to count the blessings I have. Even in my darkest moments, my blessings far outweigh my troubles. As long as the people I love are healthy and safe, even with sniffles and bronchitis, I am pretty blessed. My husband is alive and well.

Today, I remember to be grateful for that fact because someone else can't say the same thing.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Day 211: 312

I heard a statistic on the radio that said that couples fight, on average, 312 times a year. This seems to be a staggering statistic. Now the study didn't define what they considered to be a fight, perhaps just what I might term a disagreement. To me a fight involves raised voices and anger, but to other people even a cross exchange might be termed a fight.

My first thought and probably yours too, is that 312 is almost once per day. I can't imagine fighting everyday with my husband. I was worried we weren't a very positive couple because we still fight once in awhile. But we really don't argue that much. And the top ten topics they said most people fought over were all bathroom issues: beard shavings in the sink, putting the toilet seat down, cleaning the toilet, changing the toilet paper. That seems a huge waste of time to me. My husband and I argue sometimes over some little things, but we have really gotten to a point (most of the time) that we don't waste time over the silly things.

When we first got together, Chad said to me once that I had caused the world to end by squeezing the toothpaste tube in the middle. I told him that it was because he had faced the toilet paper the wrong direction. We decided to agree to disagree. We each use our own toothpaste and if I don't like the way the toilet paper is facing, at least that means he changed it. I can flip it in about 5 seconds if it bothers me.

Living this half life makes us more aware of what is important, what is worth fighting for or over. When every conversation might be our last, it doesn't make any sense to bicker. We still sometimes have short tempers or get our feelings bruised easily. It is especially easy to argue during a deployment because you don't get to talk regularly and the goals in our head don't always mesh with the goals in their heads. Sometimes they just call with a request or ridiculous topic of conversation on the day that everything has fallen apart, the last straw has landed on your back and you were already blinking back tears before answering the phone.

But mostly the old adage that, "absence makes the heart grow fonder" is very true, at least in marriages with plenty of fondness prior to absence. Trying to be more positive, at least that is approximately 312 fights we're NOT having. And maybe, if we are very lucky, we're learning that those type (beard trimmings and toilet seats) of fights aren't worth having at all. 

Monday, January 24, 2011

Day 212: Come cryin' to me

Today was a decent day at school. Nothing special happened, except that I spent the entire day coughing and hacking. Even with medicine, nasal spray and cough drops, I was pretty miserable. Teaching writing took my mind off it, but I was coughing pretty badly.

I called my doctor's office and got to leave a message for my doctor's nurse, crossing fingers that she would get it before she left. I headed home and a few minutes after walking through the door, miracle of miracles, the nurse called. I told her my symptoms and she said that I sounded pretty sick and she would fax a referral to the nearest urgent care facility. I went there about thirty minutes later and no referral.

I stood at the counter, sick, frustrated, and getting more and more upset as I try number after number to call.  All I get is automated systems and an answering machine. I can feel myself starting to cry. I am already embarrassed and frustrated. I finally just pick up the baby seat and leave. Sitting in the car, I called the nurse triage number again, leaving a second message. Unable to stop myself from crying, I drive home. An hour of my busy evening wasted. An hour of my daughter exposed to new germs, and I still feel horrible, am still coughing, and  have to head home. The staff were less than friendly or helpful and not terribly sympathetic. Five hours later and the Triage nurse never called back. I guess hacking up brown goo and an approved referral that never got faxed don't rate in the triage priority chain.

After the tearful drive home, I walk through the door, the baby is fussing to get out of her seat and I have no one to cry to. I hold her tight and just sob. She doesn't yet recognize other's crying and laughs when I cry, which is a bit disconcerting. The wasted trip was frustrating and draining and disappointing. It was one of those nights, that it reminds me how much it means to have someone to come crying home to. Even when the crying isn't literal, having that ear to listen, to commiserate makes such days easier to survive if not actually better.

I miss you, honey. Stay safe, and when you need to, come cryin' to me. 

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Day 213: Breaking point and phones

This weekend we got a phone call from Daddy. He and I are both having a rough time. In fact, I think this is the worst deployment for both of us in many ways. He is bouncing back and forth from post to post every other week or so. He never gets to feel settled or established. It is like an entire year without a home, privacy, peace. It seems strange to talk about him having peace in a combat zone, but having a bed, a room to call your own is at least a slice of peace, if not the real deal.

Of course, you know why I am at my breaking point. There are literally piles of unattended to crap everywhere. The carpet needs vacuuming but I would have to pick up in order to vacuum and since that isn't happening . . . I spend 90% of everyday feeling like a failure as a mother, wife, teacher, person and 100% of it tired. Even when I am asleep, I dream about being tired. Now that's wiped out.

Then we get a chance to talk and all we both need is to be able to vent and what happens? The phone is broken. FIVE TIMES mid-conversation I all of a sudden can't hear him. Once he called back and I couldn't hear him from "hello". I was ready to cry. He calls maybe once a month, sometimes twice. This week he needed some information for a security clearance, so he called late one night. We got a chance to hear each other's voices TWICE, woo hoo, in one week.

I know guys who can call everyday. I know wives who want that. I have never had that with him in Iraq, but our relationship started long distance. We talked on the phone for hours every night, from 7-10. It was the best and worst part of my day. Hearing his voice sound so close and be so far was torture. Being able to talk is what created our love and friendship, but it was painful to not be able to be together. If he called all the time, it would keep the sadness of missing him more present in my mind. I can't know for sure, but when we say good-bye my heart breaks a little. I can't bring myself to end the call. Every time we talk could be the last. I can't imagine saying that kind of good-bye daily.

We tried to talk about some serious stuff, but the less than wonderful phones kept interrupting us. It is time to start thinking about what happens when he comes home, what does he do next to start working toward his next promotion. What does his career progression mean for us as a couple and me as a wife? Do I teach next year, do I stay home? If I stay home for a year or two, how hard is it to get back into teaching? Will we be moving? If so, when? where?

We are both so tired, it is hard not to get emotional. He has concerns. I have concerns. We hate this separation again. We hate the problems being apart brings us. It takes so much time away from his life that he feels like he has to cram everything in when he comes back and I feel like I have to play second fiddle to everything else. I have to be understanding and share him with his dad, mom, sister, children, hunting, fishing, friends, all of which wives complain about when they see their husbands everyday. It is hard not seeing him for a year, then having to let him out of my sight for even a few days is so difficult, it hurts to write about it now, but unfair for me to ever say much to him about. The least I can do is let him have his time to himself, even when I just want to be around him 24/7 for awhile.

He will come back right when I go back to work. He will come home and get 30 days leave, and I will have to go to work everyday. I can take off, but the first few weeks of school are challenging enough to set a tone for the year without taking a few weeks off. I am trying not to cry thinking about how emotionally difficult that will be, especially if he wants to take a trip somewhere and I have to stay behind. Somehow, being without him for a night or two when he comes home is harder to consider than the next seven months without him here now.

So we're on this phone call, trying to discuss our future plans, make big decisions and he has to call me back every few minutes and eventually switch phones completely. He is trying not to break down; I am trying not to break down. The baby is alternately screaming into the phone which makes everything even, cuz now he can't hear me either. We finally decide nothing except to start looking into things and come to a decision as soon as we have some options for what he might be able to do or be next.

Before hanging up, we decide that this year is testing both of our patience and will be a good growth year so that we are more patient with each other in the future. We say a 100 I love you's before really hanging up. Never enough time, never the right words, never good enough. It is so hard to love a soldier, but so easy to love Chad that I signed up anyway. The love doesn't stop it from being hard, just makes it worth doing. 

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Day 214: About a girl

One of my biggest criticisms always seems to be that I am too worried about stupid stuff, too nervous, too neurotic. I try to fight the worrier in me. I hate that part of me sometimes. I like that it drives me to be organized and prepared, but hate that it makes me cranky or overbearing. 

For the past week and a half, Lil Bit has been sick. It started with a little bit of a runny nose and a cough. It started the day the news reported the cedar pollen count was off the charts, so it took me a few days to see that she was actually not feeling very good. Maybe it did start as allergies, but by Friday she had a tiny fever. I took her home early and babied her all weekend. Tuesday we went back to work. She wasn't feeling great, but I had no idea that she was slowly getting worse.

Every night, she was unbelievably crabby and would scream every time I put her down. Her nose kept running and her cough got worse, but I didn't want to be the crazy first time mother who panics over nothing. She started throwing up. At first it was once, then she pulled an exorcist twice in one day. Her breathing got loud and I had enough.

I couldn't picture spending the weekend with her miserable. We would have both been at our wits' end by Monday. Also, I worried that if it was more than a simple cold, she might get worse and need a trip to the hospital if I waited. Luckily I had a couple teacher friends willing to watch my students while I ran Lil Bit to the doctor. After about five seconds, the doctor recommended a breathing treatment and a check of her oxygen statistics. Turns out she had bronchiatlitis and a double ear infection. 

It was a very long day. We spent 5 hours, running to the doctor's and back to school and then to the army pharmacy and then to Walgreens. Remind me sometime to tell you what a disaster the army pharmacy is. But after two breathing treatments and some antibiotics, my little girl had turned a corner and was back to feeling happier. 

HOLY COW!! I can't remember the last time I felt so relieved. I didn't realize how tightly I had been wound, until I sat for ten minutes with her playing on the floor happily in front of me without a single tear. I felt almost guilty for having the use of both arms. 

Today, she is still pretty snotty but we had a much better day other than the fact that I woke up sick. I can take care of myself if she can give me a break. In fact, she took a nice long nap which let me lay down for a few hours. I am still pretty overwhelmed about the amount of energy it takes to do it all, and feel at the end of my rope, but I am hopeful, that if I can just keep hanging on maybe we'll have a good week soon. 

Friday, January 21, 2011

Day 215: Rowing the boat

Last night I couldn't stand it one more minute. I had to call in reinforcements. Unfortunately, local reinforcements have been few and far between, but I called in an emotional reinforcement.

She can't do much, being states away, working crazy hours between her ministry and her role as an FRG leader to the wives in her husband's unit, and being pregnant and exhausted doesn't help either, but she found a way to pitch in in a pinch. So tonight, Miss Kaitlin is my guest blogger. The following words are hers. I hope they touch your heart and mind and remind you of a friend to whom you can cry, scream, throwing a rolling on the floor fit and they won't judge, just drop down and join you.

Do you remember finals' week? You act responsibly, only studying and living off of coffee and the adrenaline of good-night kisses at 3 a.m. Despite the hours of sleep we catch, you still wake up tired and in a stupor. What got you through it? For me it was my friends and my study group. "Shared suck" is a great unity creator. remember when we all shared notes and quizzed each other before the test? Why don't we do that as grown-ups?

I taught my kids that cheating and plagiarism was bad just to see it running rampant in the workplace where we spend thousands to retrain us to work collaboratively. If we don't do it right we get sued or fired. Hm.

This week is a "finals week." Illness, work, pregnancy, and the weather have conspired against me, and my Superhero cape is at the cleaners. My phone rang tonight and I decided to answer despite the fact that it wasn't my deployed husband. It was a dear friend that lives states away; Jenna.
As we talked for a few minutes not one second went by without Allyson shrieking or hanging up the phone on me. I have learned something along the way: to show someone you love them, you have to climb in the "This-sucks-boat" and start rowing.

I learned a few things in Child Psych, Sociology, history, and the dorms: humans need to be surrounded by each other and to work toward a common goal. This is why strangers wearing the same football team's shirt can become best buddies in a bar while watching the game- common goal.
Who helps you meet your goals?

Who in your life was your battle buddy during tough times? When I started teaching, Jen was mine. I watched Jen train and run an half-marathon. I felt like we had accomplished something together. Yell encouragement for 13 miles...really. It's hard. Not running a marathon hard, however. I lucked out in that deal.

One neighbor of mine (fellow Texan) walked a mile with me and the dog and then went to the commissary with me so that she could carry the heavy items up the stairs with me. I tell you, this changed my entire day. Several friends had offered comments like "You look so tired! I hope you rest- it gets worse! (I am 6 months pregnant)" or "Oh, do you need prayer?" (YES! Always!) but the difference was made by the girl who gave me 2 hours of her day. When her hubby leaves for training or when her truck needs a jump-start again, you'd better believe I will be there instantly. This is not due to reciprocity or social is because this girl left Bible Study and lived out love when she saw me walk into a wall out of exhaustion. She rowed with me in the this-sucks-boat.

Flashing back to a Texas A&M dorm room filled with the smell of microwave popcorn, countless girls came and went crying over something. I was the Resident Advisor.
Ladies, how many hours have you spent with friends crying together or listening to tears? I submit that you showed great love. How many times have you come running for your kid or someone who needed help right then? Thousands? I believe women were made to be sisters-in-arms, raisers of one another's children, and the fiercest of advocates. I couldn't do much for Jen tonight, but I listened to her kid cry. Close enough. A large thank you to Jen and all those who, when the tests of life came up, leaned over and said, "I'm right here, and when I took the test the answer to 23 was C." While I do not advise or encourage cheating or plagiarism, I do know that we wouldn't be where we are or who we are without the people who helped us muddle through life's challenges and just came running as we cried.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Day 216: Tears and laughter

As much time as I have spent recently writing about my daughter's seemingly endless supply of tears, I had another experience with crying today. As I walked into school, I walked past another teacher with tears streaming down her face. Her eyes were red, and I could see that she was trying not to sob openly. I asked if she was OK. Someone close to her had died suddenly. I could empathize with her obvious emotions, but I didn't know the person.

I walked away feeling sad for my colleague, but thinking about the purpose behind tears. How wonderful a God we have that he created within us a release for emotions, that he created beings capable of such depth of emotion that we need a release. Our eyes need moisture to function, but what purpose do emotional tears actually serve? According to an unknown online source, tears release hormones and chemicals our bodies produce when feeling sad or angry. Another suggested they are part of a societal survival mechanism. Either way, we were made with a tool to deal with overwhelming feelings, to release pain and demonstrate sympathy or empathy.

This teacher was crying for a husband of a friend. While someone relatively close, her tears were mostly empathy. She was crying because of the pain her friend was suffering. How blessed are we to be such creatures that can feel such intense pain and suffering for someone else? It is easy to be sad, angry, happy, or frightened for ourselves, not so easy to be willing to set aside our own burdens to take time to feel for others.

Equally surprising sometimes is the laughter that erupts from something joyous. A lot of times my daughter does something especially sweet or cute that touches my heart and an unbidden laugh springs from me with such a power no comedian can summon, laughter so pure that it feels like champagne bubbles rising in the air. If tears release chemicals and hormones, what does laughter do?

After spending some time researching it. Laughter serves to relieve tension and express emotions and as a societal communication, but does not actually serve a biological function. God just gave us laughter for fun, to help us heal from our tearful and fearful moments. And he gave us, not only the ability, but the desire to share the emotions of others.

Many times tears are harbingers of horrible news, especially near a military base, but I still feel very blessed that God gave us the ability to cry them, in sadness or joy. Believe me after the frustrating week of all the bad parts of mommyhood and only few of the good, I wish I could cry. I need the release. 

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Day 217: Marriage and Marathons

I was leaving a comment on a military spouse website for this poor girl who was just being mistreated by her husband who seemingly married her while on R&R for the BAH, BAS, separation pay, dependent pay, etc. But he was not sending her any of it and openly having a relationship with another woman. I was trying to give her the best, most solid and succinct advice I could and I equated marriage to a team marathon.

I have never run a marathon, although would like to someday. I have run a half-marathon, officially twice and unofficially a few more training times and once I went 15 miles. So I at least kind of understand the commitment and metaphor of which I speak.

When I taught women in history, we discussed women's roles and rights throughout history. One subject that obviously came up often was marriage. Historically, marriage was about choosing a partner with whom to survive life. Men chose women who would bear children, cook, clean, sew, heal, etc. Wives were so crucial during various time periods that men would often remarry within months of a spouse's death because they literally could not survive alone. Women (when they had a choice) chose men who worked hard and would be good providers of homes and food. If you happened to like each other, that was nice. Many couples grew to respect and love each other, but a marriage was a business transaction, a way of saying, "This life is too hard to go it alone; howabout we tackle 'er together."

That viewpoint of marriage changed with the invention of movies, primarily. Love of course had always been in existence, but the idea of a romantic love, a soulmate was developed and perpetuated in fiction, poetry, novels, and eventually movies. Now, it seems we think our lives are some kind of quest to find our one true love and get married. Not a lot of movies deal with what happens after the wedding. Marriage is viewed as a finish line rather than a partnership.

Getting someone to the altar can be pretty tough, but it is nothing compared to living with them, day in, day out (or in my case not always physically sharing space which has its own trials) and dealing with each other's foibles, faults, strange neurotic needs that come from DNA or how you were raised. And getting along and staying married is tough. You don't just cut and run and people shouldn't just walk into it thinking it is all about getting to the church.

In fact, this morning I heard a girl on the radio today talking about how she has planned her perfect wedding, set a date, picked a menu, selected flowers, even planned a ice sculpture of her dog to place near the bar. The wedding is set for six weeks from now, the only catch is she doesn't have a fiance, or even a boyfriend. Her whole mindset was the wedding is the big deal. She was a bit cuckoo. But she seems like the embodiment of this ridiculous perception of marriage I see in our society.

I wanted my wedding to be very special. I cared about the details and flowers, but as much as I wanted it to be nice, it was more important it show how happy we were to be starting a life together. Our table decorations were a picture of a bride and groom walking hand in hand into the sunset and each one said, "A wedding is just a day, but a marriage is a lifetime of . . . " and each table's sign said something different: Laughter, Trust, Respect, Forgiveness, Kindness, Love, Friendship, Passion, Romance.

We don't always get it right. We argue. I like things neat and orderly, alphabetized and labeled. He likes things easy, breezy. I can pack a bag and be out the door in ten minutes, but worry the entire time. He will wander the house for an hour contemplating where he last saw his favorite Oakleys, while I am doing my best not to nag him about keeping them in a specific place so he can find them easier. I will start planning a month in advance and he will make plans for tomorrow. But together we balance. He calms me down and helps me relax. I help him be more organized and efficient.

We will probably fight a lot over duck hunting and finances and buying cheap beer versus microbrews. But at the end of the day, we are a team working together to survive the race intact. In the short term, some of these silly daily things seem important, but when we're 80, are we really going to remember who forgot the dog's leash, or the diaper bag or left the garage door open? Only if we make that more important than treating each other with respect and understanding that I can't succeed if he doesn't and vice versa.

Marriage is long term, forever if you both do it right, and a marathon doesn't get finished by starting the race. It gets finished by gutting it out over the hills, enjoying the smooth downturns, encouraging each other, keeping each other in the race.

When I decided to run my half-marathon, I did so after having run a 5k twice in one day. I ran and liked it so I decided to do more of it. But I spent the next four months training. Each day was part of my training regimen, even if it was a rest day. When I got to the finish line of the race, I knew I had accomplished something spectacular because I worked really hard for it. I don't know how people can think a marriage will be any different.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Day 218: Ch-ch-ch-changes

A few months ago, I had this perfect baby who went straight to sleep when I put her into her crib. She played happily in her Jumperoo or on the floor. She was OK with me being across the room and yet loved when I would play with her. She was content and easy going. Everyone teased me about being SO lucky.

Well, that all changed a few weeks ago. And it has been a roller coaster. She has been all over the map since we went back to school, but I think it has been a confluence of events: separation anxiety, teething, change in routine, new developmental stages, and lastly a cold.

After a rough night, she woke up this morning at 6 a.m. and wanted to be up. Usually she sleeps until we leave. Yesterday, she slept until nine. Today, I thought we weren't going to make it out the door. She woke up just before my alarm and screamed and screamed. At first, she was relatively content with being in her Jenny jump-up. She sat slowly twirling, snot draining down her face, peacefully watching me get ready for school. Still in my underwear, hair still in curlers, Lil Bit lost it.

She started sobbing quietly. So I stopped getting ready. I changed her diaper, got her dressed for the day, and put her into her carseat so I could finish getting ready. I talked to her, carried her from room to room, sang to her. Despite my best efforts, she started purple crying. Nothing consoled her, except rocking her back and forth, which was unproductive towards me getting dressed.

I wonder what changed. One thing I noticed, was that she started pulling up. Maybe the unsteadiness of her feet, the shaky new heights from which she now views her world scares her and makes her seek comfort and reassurance. I don't know. I do know that when she changes, I change. And about the time I start getting it right, she'll do it again.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Day 219: Spit Happens

About 9 o'clock, I went to change Lil Bit into her pajamas and her diaper that she'd been wearing for hours and hours, was nearly dry. I knew she hadn't been very hungry and had pushed away her bottle a few times, but a dry diaper was worrisome.

My mom lives in Eastern time zone so I didn't want to call her or my sister, the nurse. I called my mother-in-law instead. She did suggest juice, which I have never given her. Fruit juice is mostly junk disguised as healthy. If I want her to have the benefits of the fruit, I will feed her the fruit, but in desperation, I fill a sippy cup with a few ounces of V-8 Splash and watered it down. She drank about an ounce of that and then was willing to try her bottle again.

I thought, YAY, but not so much. A few minutes into the bottle, she coughed, and the cough quickly turned into a full on regurgitation. She was covered in it, her high chair was covered in it and some of the carpet. I carried her, dripping, into the bathroom and sat her fully dressed in her little tub, no water. I soaked up the worst of it so it wouldn't spread and went back into the bathroom, stripped her down and gave her a second bath for the day.

Of course, she wasn't ready for bed then, feeling yucky. So again, all best intentions aside, I went to bed very late. I know life isn't controllable and a baby being sick is inevitable, but motherhood is definitely some tricky stuff. As soon as I feel like I have a stage licked or have everything under control, something changes. These past two weeks have just been a nightmare about 70% of the time with her at home. And most of the 30% has been when she is sleeping~  ugh.

The house is a disaster, I have more random piles of crap laying around than I ever allow myself and toys have taken over the living room. Christmas is still in full swing. Although I may take down the wreath on the front door, so the neighbors don't know it is still Dec. 24 in my house. I barely have enough energy to survive each day, much less find any to exercise or get to one of the many procrastinated tasks around the house.

I plan to put her to bed early tomorrow, so that I have time to take care of a few things, but as we saw tonight, SPIT HAPPENS and in motherhood, the only guarantee is that you never know what is coming next.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Day 220: Opposites attract

I don't know what to say today. I have been given a strange gift/curse in this army life. I get to be married and "enjoy" being single often, although the single mom aspect has made that an entirely different challenge. I get to explore who I am as a person and not have to worry about pleasing someone else or checking in with anyone and the next year I get to be all about being a wife.

It makes for a crazy duality in my life. I was kind of already a study in opposites. I am very structured, but in the right mood, am also willing to be crazy spontaneous, hop in the car and drive to Canada spontaneous. The best part of that adventure was all the crazy stuff that went horribly wrong, like letting me navigate using only state maps, not an atlas. I took that trip very pre-gps in my college days. We didn't make it to Canada, but to the northernmost point of Wisconsin and had some fun along the way.

I am very serious and deep, but love to relax and laugh. I am crazy creative, but need routine. I am a study in opposites. My husband is the same way. He is totally tight Wranglers and cowboy boots, then Abercrombie & Fitch and then Armani and Kenneth Cole. Based on the amount of laundry he generates, he might pull off all three looks in a day. He is the kind of guy comfortable at a keg party drinking cheap beer one day and at a four star restaurant the next ordering an aged Merlot.

Maybe our duality allows us to live this half-life in a way many people can't. We can appreciate the time we have together and be totally in that moment and also find ways to survive during the times we are apart. I can appreciate holding him and falling asleep by his side, but I quit being the sleep neatly on my side of the bed girl a long time ago. I not only took over the middle, but completely changed sides. I sleep mostly on his side or in the middle. I am trying to even out the mattress, but for me, that little change would normally be a big deal. I am not so much a fan of change.

Maybe it is just my eternal optimist side trying to find the bright side of all these deployments. I hate the separation. The long times apart just have a way of feeling like forever sometimes. Around month five, it starts feeling like I don't remember what it is like to have him home. It is really hard emotionally to deal with the guilt of being able to live my life without missing him every single second and the pain when missing him does all of a sudden smack me right across the heart. Again, opposites.

Most military wives I know would completely agree with that description. I feel fine, together, not too lonely and all of a sudden, it is like my world caved in and I don't know how to get through the next minute without him. I think our strength as a couple is loving each other enough to cling tightly when we can, let go when we need space and maintain our hold across oceans.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Day 221: Sharing is caring

Yesterday I had to pick up Lil Bit from school because she was running a temp. She spent the entire day coughing, sneezing, and crying. There were points last night and today, her nose appeared like a little snot faucet. I gave her a prescribed decongestant/anti-histamine. It certainly didn't dry her up. It may have acted like a mucus propulsion system, but it certainly was not pseudo-ephedrine based, otherwise known as effective. So she dripped and hacked and basically was like a mini patient zero. A stuffed dog, monkey and giggle kitty have already been infected, and a shake lamb rattle is looking grim.

I tried to wash hands, use clean tissues for her face and mine, but after she basically was covered in snot and rubbed it all over her own face and then reached for me, I think it was a lost cause. I started feeling sick last night, but am in denial. If I pretend to be ok, I will be. Maybe not, but whining about it almost always makes it worse, so I did my best to keep up with her today, keep her from smearing the floor or dog with bodily fluids, and tried not to get grossed out by having to touch her. Ughh, I can do poopy pants, even when they are gross and it doesn't bother me, but the rivers of mucus down her face were a bit much. She was clingy and tired and cranky. It was another fun weekend of separation anxiety plus the flu, yay!

So we snuggled up and took a nice long nap today. I did get laundry done but the house is pretty much a lost cause. We were supposed to attend a semi-formal game party tonight, but she seemed worse today and I didn't want her infecting everyone. Plus, I really don't want to have to miss work if she stays sick, so I have to try to cram in as much rest as possible. She didn't seem very interested in food today, but eating with a sore throat is no fun. I don't know if she can or should have chicken soup, but maybe a few spoonfuls tomorrow wouldn't hurt.

I think this is probably harder when they are little and can't tell you what hurts. Maybe getting it myself is a blessing so I can guess what symptoms she might be having too. I know my ears feel itchy, not like an earache yet, but starting and the cough is chesty and hurts. I will definitely have to watch her to see at what point do I take her to the doctor. On a picture of Lil Bit laying on my lap today, a friend of mine posted a comment, "All you want when you're sick is your mama."

It made me stop and again realize that I am her mom. I still crave hot soup and grilled cheese and saltine crackers and seven-up when I get sick. If combined in an exact combination or sequence, I am not sure if these foods have magical properties to cure, but they do transport me back to school sick days and mommy taking care of me. Kinda sucks right now because I don't feel good either and could use my own mommy, but very sweet to think we're building those memories and a relationship right now.

Like most of mommyhood so far, it is a lot of guessing, a lot of winging it and praying not to do any permanent damage, and a lot of hoping love glosses over the rough patches. I can't read her mind. I can't make her get well, but I can hug her and never mind the glob of yuck on my shoulder or the sticky strands of my hair that she has chewed on. I can understand I am going to catch whatever plague she has and just move on to doing what she needs from me.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Day 222: 1/2 way home

This school year is hard. I love teaching and once I get to school, I can generally psych myself up to be emotionally present, not just physically and intellectually. But it has been really hard going to work to teach students who don't understand, don't care, don't respect themselves much less me. I have to leave my precious peanut, who just wants me and my undivided attention all day, every day to spend the day with students who don't even understand how precious education is in this country, world, life.

I wasn't a perfect teenager (I am sure my parents could fill you in on that anti-newsflash!) and they had strict grade requirements for me. I spent a lot of time doing the absolute minimum, but the minimum was an A or B. I could bring home a C if they had seen me studying all night, every night, going in early to ask for help, and working with a tutor. If I could pull the grade up to a B, it was less work than convincing them to accept the C. I understand kids not wanting to work and not being able to grasp how the decisions they make today affect their futures. I certainly didn't. Many of my choices changed the course of my life for better or worse in ways I couldn't even imagine, so I understand from their perspective the future is next week, not twenty-five years from now.

What I don't understand is what seems to be an increasing number of the current generation who are entirely content to be morons at worst, completely ignorant at best. They literally see no value in knowledge for the sake of being learned or educated. They don't see value in knowledge in order to be functional as adults. I don't know if its the Google syndrome, "Why bother to know anything, I can always google it . . ." mentality or just laziness, but it makes me crazy.

I find it especially hard to lose out on days teaching Lil Bit to bash my head against the brick wall that is my students. But today, it is halfway over. First semester is over! I have grades to finish and report cards to run, but it is finito! HOORAY!!!

I don't know that my husband and I have decided if I can stay home next year for sure or not, or if in this economy it just doesn't pay to walk away from a paying gig, but I can still look forward to three glorious months of peace and quiet. We're halfway home, baby girl, can't wait!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Day 223: Sisters

It is almost time for bed during a week of very little sleep, so I don't know that I will have time to do this subject justice, but I think the best part of being in my late 30s is the change in relationship with my sister, Lauren.

As little children we were inseparable, but grew apart as tweens and teens. We argued about everything and fought ferociously. We eventually got to a point where we went our separate ways, too much resentment and misunderstandings on both sides. Healing those wounds was really hard. We kinda had a serious talk last year. I had some hurt feelings and initiated some contact to clear the air. She had her own perceptions of our issues. We talked, cried, laughed and were able to bury some of the wounds we'd both been carrying around for years.

In a family headed by someone who always wanted to go deeper, analyze everything, he ended up with a family who is reluctant to ever openly discuss anything. Frank conversations are risky, open up wounds, and cause rifts sometimes. Pretending nothing is wrong may leave hurt feelings, but relationships don't end.  If you confront issues, in our family, people sometimes leave (another blog another day).

For over an hour, my sister and I talked, not like competitors or like we were trying to play the impress your family game, but finally, like friends, friends who accept each other for who they are, acknowledge imperfections and love you anyway. It took us a long time to get here, but I am really glad we did.

When she went through pregnancy issues and finally was blessed with the twins, I had a really hard time because I had just had my hysterectomy and knew I was never going to have a child. I was happy for her, but loving those babies the way I did was really hard. I was really ready to be a mom and had to watch from the sidelines. But the twins brought us closer, I made more of an effort to be in her life. And she needed me to help out with two little ones. After that all my teenage dreams of how wonderful it would be to have twins went out the window! Phew, raising one alone is hard, but TWO even with hubby and family visits was crazy town.

Then just when she learned she did not conceive using the last of their frozen embryos from the in-vitro cycle that gave them the twins, I found out I was going to be a mother after all. This time she was grieving when I was joyous. I wonder why it happened like that for either of us, but it did. It allowed us empathy I think, and we now share motherhood's disappointments, joys, frustrations, and are able to talk about our lives without feeling like we're playing the one up game. We can commiserate over the education system and economy, listen to each other and respect the places from which our opinions come.

She and I are very similar on the surface. Underneath, we operate similarly but based on pretty different priorities and sensibilities. I am not her, but God in His infinite wisdom, didn't give me her life. He gave her the tools, strengths and abilities to be a nurse, administrator, wife and mother to her twins, who are very darling and need her as their mother. He gave me my life and the tools, strengths, patience and ability to live it and to mother my precious Lil Bit the way she needs me to mother her and tolerate the military life. Then he gave us each other to lean on when our respective lives get too heavy to carry alone.

I have some friends who are so true, we can go months without talking and pick up the phone like no time has passed, who I would gladly live next to in the retirement village, but the relationship that is growing with my sister, Lauren, is on a level that I never thought we could have. She and I came from the same wonderful, crazy, dysfunctional and great family and can share the experiences from our childhood, and we can work together to deal with the issues of taking care of mom and dealing with some estranged relationships that are still painful for each of us.

I feel very blessed that I am lucky enough to be able to finally call my sister my friend. I hope the next forty years allow us to become old biddies in purple sequined hats together. If I am going to go crazy, it would be nice to share it with someone who knows how truly crazy I started in the first place.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Day 224: Ready to be a parent?

A friend of mine had this on her newsfeed on Facebook. I laughed so hard I couldn't breathe. Not my writing, but thought I would share!! 

11 Step Program for those thinking of having kids
by Amy Lawrence 

Lesson 1

1. Go to the grocery store.

2. Arrange to have your salary paid directly to their head office.

3. Go home.

4. Pick up the paper.

5. Read it for the last time.

Lesson 2

Before you finally go ahead and have children, find a couple who already are parents and berate them about their...

1. Methods of discipline.

2. Lack of patience.

3. Appallingly low tolerance levels.

4. Allowing their children to run wild.

5. Suggest ways in which they might improve their child's breastfeeding, sleep habits, toilet training, table manners, and overall behavior.

Enjoy it because it will be the last time in your life you will have all the answers.

Lesson 3

A really good way to discover how the nights might feel...

1. Get home from work and immediately begin walking around the living room from 5PM to 10PM carrying a wet bag weighing approximately 8-12 pounds, with a radio turned to static (or some other obnoxious sound) playing loudly. (Eat cold food with one hand for dinner)

2. At 10PM, put the bag gently down, set the alarm for midnight, and go to sleep.

3. Get up at 12 and walk around the living room again, with the bag, until 1AM.

4. Set the alarm for 3AM.

5. As you can't get back to sleep, get up at 2AM and make a drink and watch an infomercial.

6. Go to bed at 2:45AM.

7. Get up at 3AM when the alarm goes off.

8. Sing songs quietly in the dark until 4AM.

9. Get up. Make breakfast. Get ready for work and go to work (work hard and be productive)

Repeat steps 1-9 each night. Keep this up for 3-5 years. Look cheerful and together.

Lesson 4

Can you stand the mess children make? T o find out...

1. Smear peanut butter onto the sofa and jam onto the curtains.

2. Hide a piece of raw chicken behind the stereo and leave it there all summer.

3. Stick your fingers in the flower bed.

4. Then rub them on the clean walls.

5. Take your favorite book, photo album, etc. Wreck it.

6. Spill milk on your new pillows. Cover the stains with crayons. How does that look?

Lesson 5

Dressing small children is not as easy as it seems.

1. Buy an octopus and a small bag made out of loose mesh.

2. Attempt to put the octopus into the bag so that none of the arms hang out.

Time allowed for this - all morning.

Lesson 6

Forget the BMW and buy a mini-van. And don't think that you can leave it out in the driveway spotless and shining. Family cars don't look like that.

1. Buy a chocolate ice cream cone and put it in the glove compartment.

Leave it there.

2. Get a dime. Stick it in the CD player.

3. Take a family size package of chocolate cookies. Mash them into the back seat. Sprinkle cheerios all over the floor, then smash them with your foot.

4. Run a garden rake along both sides of the car.

Lesson 7

Go to the local grocery store. Take with you the closest thing you can find to a pre-school child. (A full-grown goat is an excellent choice). If you intend to have more than one child, then definitely take more than one goat. Buy your week's groceries without letting the goats out of your sight. Pay for everything the goat eats or destroys. Until you can easily accomplish this, do not even contemplate having children.

Lesson 8

1. Hollow out a melon.

2. Make a small hole in the side.

3. Suspend it from the ceiling and swing it from side to side.

4. Now get a bowl of soggy Cheerios and attempt to spoon them into the swaying melon by pretending to be an airplane.

5. Continue until half the Cheerios are gone.

6. Tip half into your lap. The other half, just throw up in the air.

You are now ready to feed a nine- month-old baby.

Lesson 9

Learn the names of every character from Sesame Street , Barney, Disney, the Teletubbies, and Pokemon. Watch nothing else on TV but PBS, the Disney channel or Noggin for at least five years. (I know, you're thinking What's 'Noggin'?) Exactly the point.

Lesson 10

Make a recording of Fran Drescher saying 'mommy' repeatedly. (Important: no more than a four second delay between each 'mommy'; occasional crescendo to the level of a supersonic jet is required). Play this tape in your car everywhere you go for the next four years. You are now ready to take a long trip with a toddler.

Lesson 11

Start talking to an adult of your choice. Have someone else continually tug on your skirt hem, shirt- sleeve, or elbow while playing the 'mommy' tape made from Lesson 10 above. You are now ready to have a conversation with an adult while there is a child in the room.

This is all very tongue in cheek; anyone who is parent will say 'it's all worth it!' Share it with your friends, both those who do and don't have kids. I guarantee they'll get a chuckle out of it. Remember, a sense of humor is one of the most important things you'll need when you become a parent!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Day 225: Peek-a-boo

As you've been reading, this past week was not the best for my little Punkin Doodle. She screamed every time I put her down or walked into another room. Last night, I was so tired I thought I was going to cry. I went into the kitchen to put her unfinished bottle into the fridge and she started the sobbing, trying to pull up on the ottoman I use to block the pass, so to speak. I quickly ran back into the room and yelled, "Peek-a-boo!" It took her a minute to change gears, but she did smile. So I deliberately moved out of her eyesight and said peek-a-boo repeatedly from behind the ottoman, the doorway and eventually through the pass through window into the kitchen. After a few times, I was able to finally walk into the kitchen and wash a dish, let the dog in, etc. without a complete meltdown.

After the past eight months of being a parent, I have realized again and again that God is trying to teach me to be more positive. Every time I get negative out of fear, exhaustion, desperation, frustration and I let that negativity make me cry or scream or just get angry, the baby responds by getting angrier, louder, more fearful. But when I can take a step back, find a way to spin the energy and be ridiculously positive, she responds by calming down, smiling, laughing or just taking a deep breath. She is a very obvious reflection of myself.

She can't handle my anger or impatience. Whatever her pain or fears are, when she senses any anger or instability from me, she becomes more frightened and unsettled. As long as I am in control and smiling, her ability to adapt and overcome is infinitely better. No matter how I justify my meltdowns, and I know having emotions is necessary, they are not healthy for her.

As a sane, reasonable adult, I understand that a screaming baby can make anyone cry or get angry. I understand that I need to be able to feel frustrated, angry, tired, and even overwhelmed. Yet, when I allow those emotions to overcome my judgment, it doesn't help the baby. I have to show her my calmest self, demonstrate that nothing is too much not to laugh about.

Funny how when I try to fake happiness with her, it quickly turns both of our moods around. When I finally slept enough to be able to give her my best, I was able to laugh at her antics and turn her moods upside down. A simple game of peek-a-boo helped her see my temporary absence as a game. Time and time again, God is showing me how attitude really is a choice, no matter the circumstances and that the one thing I can give a child in my home is a peaceful, positive attitude and a love for Him.

Funny how running mascara and peek-a-boo, can remind me to be a better person and to really call someone for help when I can't be.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Day 226: Sex and the City

Today, I watched Sex and the City 2. After the roughest weekend in recent months, I needed a moment for myself. I heard mixed reviews for the movie, but was looking forward to a couple of hours remembering the guilty pleasure from watching the series the first time. What was so special about the series was that it made me feel like someone understood being single, made it feel like an adventure, and yet commiserated over dating drama disasters.

Even the first time some of it was more risque than I felt necessary, but some of the joy of the show was that the open sexuality was a way of empowering women to take charge of their bodies and happiness. The movie was more toned down than most of the series, but I found myself offended by the sex scenes. I don't know what changed, but it has to be me. I think I am becoming more traditional in my old age. Maybe strong plots and characters should take center stage instead of gratuitous sex.

One scene I really loved, was Miranda and Charlotte at the bar discussing mommyhood. After the 48 hours of crying baby I had, I loved them taking turns sipping cosmopolitans and complaining about how hard being a mother is. When Charlotte stood in the pantry sobbing, I flashed back to Sunday afternoon, crying, pleading with the baby to stop crying. The harder I cried, the harder she cried. It was a train wreck, so I really appreciated when Miranda toasted to all the moms who do it all without help. I can't imagine having a nanny, but I can certainly appreciate having someone to help. My new coffee maker had brewed twelve hours early for no apparent reason. I didn't want to waste very expensive coffee, so I toasted them in return with a mug of coffee and Irish cream. I will say the combination of caffeine and alcohol took the edge off a rough afternoon.

I really hated when Carrie kissed Aiden. I've been the spouse in a marriage when someone cheated. I felt betrayed, wounded, deceived, but mostly like something precious had broken. Marriage is work, tricky, takes compromise and a large dose of forgiveness daily. The physical bond is something I think is sacred. I know people cheat whether just a kiss or more, and people forgive, but even the thought of breaking that sacred bond my husband and I share, the permanence of shattering our connection, makes me sick. I can't imagine being able to move on from there. Moving past it from either side would be so hard, the trust would be gone forever in some ways. I have many reasons I don't cheat, but that movie kiss/betrayal reminded me how important our trust is even when we argue over grocery lists or household chores, we're building a foundation for a lifetime together.

Sex and the City reminded me of being single and made me a little nostalgic for a moment for the carefree life I had pre-Chad and kids, but mostly made me realize that Married with Children was a much worse show, but significantly better reality.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Day 228: Wha happened?

Today, baby was not her usual happy self. Every time I got up from sitting right next to her or holding her, she screamed and shrieked. It was a long day. I have 100 essays to grade, a massive cedar fever headache, need to work on the video camera so I can do something with my videos that I am taking so I can share them with my honey. I need to adjust her crib, take down Christmas decorations, sleep, eat, pick up the house.

There just was no time for me today. I tried to nap when she did since she's had me up several times a night all week. If I hadn't maybe I could have gotten things done, but I needed the rest too.

Today was one of those days that missing my husband was more concrete. I needed him today. She needed her daddy too. I feel like I failed today. No amount of planning or organizing can combat exhaustion or a baby who cried and whined constantly all day. By ten o'clock, I was ready to scream myself.

I don't know how people do this. Maybe just like me, they do what they have to, spend a lot of time feeling harried and fake it a lot.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Day 229: Routine and OCD

I am a tad routinized. I know my definition of a tad is probably not yours. I am not OCD, but organization does make me feel good. I feel calm when things are finished. If I am organized, I feel like I am prepared to deal with crises. I eat the same lunch everyday. I eat the same breakfast 90% of the time. I take comfort in some routines so that I can be completely unstructured other times. I figure if I can do all the things I have to do as quickly as possible, I can relax the rest of the time. When I relax, I literally do nothing. I let myself be completely unproductive or at least 90% unproductive. I don't get much of that time any more, but I work really hard to stash away as many of those precious minutes as I can.

In order to be that organized, I have to act a little OCD. I have to keep things in the exact same place everyday, so I don't waste precious minutes looking for things. I have my daily have to's scrolled back so that I can, if uninterrupted, finish them in 13 minutes. I can then spend the rest of the evening focused on Lil Bit and letting her set the pace. But to do that, I have to plan ahead. I buy enough food in one trip to the store to keep me from having to make another trip all week. I have a set list of items I need to make the shopping easier too. I don't have to worry if I have enough milk or bread because every time I get low, it goes on my list. Very rarely do I have to make an extra trip. Each trip to the store, even a one itemer is usually 30 minutes or more by the time you park, pull out the baby, walk in, and do it all in reverse. Then how often can you get out of the store with one item? I contend it can't be done in a Walmart or grocery store! I can't usually make it under $100 much less with only one item.

All of my seeming OCD, saves me hours over the course of a week. Maybe that much structure would drive you crazy, but I don't think it is that bad. I like my house a certain way, towels folded neatly, pantry in a specific order that really only makes sense to me. But I really challenge you to walk into someone else's house and not see a structured way of doing things. My MiL comes to visit and I feel like she is critical of how neurotically organized I am, but when I visit her house, I put things back exactly where I found them. Her house is spotless and organized. Everything is exactly where it was the last twenty times I was there. Now, she is more patient when things aren't put back than I am, but I get used to living alone. Every other year for 7 years, I have the house all to myself. I would suspect most people would get pretty territorial. The time I save for fun stuff by having my structure and organization makes it worth it, but from the outside I know being organization Nazi's can be off-putting even if it is what keeps you sane.

I have worked really hard not to impose my rigidity on the baby. My sister had twins and became obsessed with keeping them on a schedule. Everyone's lives revolved around their eating, sleeping, bathing, reading schedule. Preparenting days, I thought it was a little much. While I now understand the need children have for routine and structure, I vowed not to let my somewhat obsessive need for structure dictate my child's life. And I haven't. When we are at home, she eats when she is hungry, sleeps when she is tired, plays when she feels like it, etc. I wanted to let her develop her own center not mine. And she worked herself into her own schedule to some extent, but everything varies on a day to day basis.

After two weeks at home, what I've discovered is that even a lack an organized routine becomes her routine. When she started back to school, she freaked. She hasn't slept through the night all week. She is crazy fussy. She spent one evening crying more than she did all last month. I don't want her to feel driven to organize as an adult, but I have realized that she does need a little bit of structure. I can't explain to her about what will happen in a few days. I can mentally prepare to be on break or go back to work, but she doesn't understand from today to tomorrow. She lives in a now that last a few hours. Being able to expect me, food, sleep, snacks, hugs, is important for someone so little that the whole world feels like a surprise all the time.

So, my OCDlikeishness gives me more time with my most precious Lil Bit and helps her be able to feel secure in a world that changes for her almost daily as she changes the way she views it. I can embrace it for what it is and try to ignore it when it just isn't necessary. For the record I have left toys all over the living room for three nights now because it wasn't important enough to take time from everything else.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Day 230: CAB and sleep

So last night, as I am hurrying to finish my blog and head to bed, I see my husband is online. We get to chatting. He tells me that his CO kept him from going on a mission due to the bruised bone in his finger. His truck was hit by an IED during that mission. No one was hurt, I guess it wasn't very bad, but he was frustrated at not having been there. He is worried after four tours in Iraq that he hasn't earned a Combat Action Badge. His concern is that without a CAB he will not be promotable to the next rank.

It is already past 11 o'clock, the baby has been up twice a night every night all week and now I am relishing a chance to chat before he goes to gunnery training and is out of communications for a week or so. He then worries me with limited info about conflicts. He has to maintain OPSEC, but tries to keep me somewhat in the loop. I miss hearing about his day to day. It is really hard not being able to talk about what happens to him on a daily basis. While I want him to be able to talk to me, I think it is normal to be scared when he tells me about bombs, rockets, mortars, and such.

We didn't get to say good-bye. The MWR computer crashed once during chat and we got to start again, but the second time all connection is lost, it is lost for good for tonight. But now I can't sleep. This is way too many close calls recently. It may just be my perception of danger, but it sounds like it is a lot more dangerous than it was previously. Maybe he just trusts I can handle more of the truth this time. I am not sure which is the case, but perhaps a little of both.

Being ill this week has meant I am more run down and tired. Then the baby is up twice a night, every night and is not readjusting to daycare well. I just sank onto the floor and held her until it was bath/bed time last night. Nothing got done. I am swamped at work and can't grade any papers at home with a baby who demands constant attention or is pulling up and falling over constantly. I am struggling to get up each morning, have too much responsibility at work and am wiped out. Hearing about so many close calls is making me very emotional. I am just having a rough time. I couldn't sleep. I was too hyped up with concern.

He is worried that not having a CAB will keep him from getting promoted. I worry that he won't come home. I don't know how well I will sleep tonight. If being exhausted is any indicator, maybe sleep will come easier, but I think I will spend the rest of this deployment on pins and needles waiting every day to hear he is alright. It will be a very long 8 months.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Day 231: Getting along

One of the many issues that complicate life for the military couple is how to communicate when separated. My husband and I have gotten much better at it. He has taught me to relax more. I (yes, MiL, I used to be worse) have learned to let things go. For example, someone opened a fraudulent credit card in my husband's name years ago. The creditors won't talk to me because they say my JAG created POA (power of attorney) isn't valid. In the past, I would have panicked and raced around to get this taken care of. Now, I realize that I've done what I can, if they don't want to work with me, then they can wait until he comes home. And I've learned that realistically, if worst comes to worst, they might put a negative note in his credit report, but there is a statute of limitations on how long something can be held against you, so whatever. If I find time to take care of it, great, but I refuse to stress about it or drive him crazy trying to deal from over there.

One thing we haven't mastered is how not to get so far into our own heads that we forget to bring along our partner. I have been spending this entire deployment scraping our money together so that we can be completely debt free and have a good savings account when he comes home. I have been doing this in the hopes that I can stay home with my daughter for a few years at least. Soon enough she will be in the hands of who knows whom and we will have to deal with both negative and positive learning experiences, but I really want her to love reading and learning from the beginning. I know I can provide her with that environment or at least do a better job than daycare teachers of whom some are barely out of high school and pretty uneducated. (Private RANT here - if we paid TEACHERS from 0-college what giving a child a good background is worth, we would draw and keep more people in the field) Even in our private school/daycare, signs are misspelled, rules are enforced that are not in the best interest of the children, the menu is full of white potatoes, simple carbohydrates, etc.  I just hate that I could be giving her a much more loving, educational environment here at home. Just two weeks at home and she is crawling better, pulling up to stand, kneeling, talking more and in general just making a lot of major leaps. I can see that my staying home would give her a significant advantage in the future.

My husband has been crafting a different future with different priorities. He doesn't want to be broke. If I stay home, we're going to be struggling unless I find something I can do from home, but I think living lean a few years is worth it. I thought we were on the same page until he emails me about buying a house. I got stuck in my mortgage in Illinois when we were first married. It was a constant source of worry and concern. I never knew if I was going to get a payment each month from my renter or if something would happen to the house and I would have to fix it, from several states away. I lost money on the house. I did get a tax break on my mortgage each year, but essentially I had a big headache, several second mortgages and refi's to remodel the 150 year old house and walked away pretty much even, except for the loss of the six months or so of rent my renter skipped out on and the headaches of worry over the bills. I don't want to buy again until we are sure we're settling for a long stretch.

The likelihood of us staying here permanently is slim. We are most likely going to be moving in a 1 1/2  years or so for my husband's career progression. We may come back here, but who knows. We would have to house shop and move into somewhere new only to PCS in 6-12 months? And in this market, while we could possibly afford more home than we used to for the same price and my current income would count toward purchasing, I am afraid if we move that we'd end up with two payments on one income. I was very lucky and had this job before we moved. I may not be so lucky in our next PCS. Getting stuck with two payments on one income could make us homeless very quickly.

The tax breaks for mortgages are good. Owning a home is a good investment. The sooner we start paying on a mortgage, the sooner it is paid off. Renting is temporary and your payments are just paying off someone else's investment. Chad has some good points. The hard part here is that we both do. As reasonable adults, trying to plan for a happy future together, we both have valid points of view, and both views have downsides. We're older for new parents and my taking time off of work to be Lil Bit's teacher, would cut into any retirement or college fund plans significantly. This is one of those things that it is hard not to argue about.

We used to send gigantic emails back and forth, and ended up angry, hurt, frustrated. Mostly because you can't read the tone of voice in an email and you can't explain something that might have been misinterpreted. I don't know what we will decide. I don't know how we will handle not agreeing. I do know that not being able to talk it out, discuss it in person or even by phone is really hard. It is one of the trickiest parts to being separated. We kind of have to let an issue sit for awhile, until we get a chance to discuss it over the phone. That takes a lot of maturity to have something that really matters to you and be able to set it aside.

We've managed to make it through this deployment only having one disagreement so far and it was minor a few weeks into his absence. We quickly realized we needed to find a way to talk to each other and we solved it, but nothing has really come up. I guess we'll have to wait to see what we do. As long as we act like we love each other and are a team rather than opposing entities, we should get along just fine.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Day 232: Too tired

Spent all day yesterday feeling awful. Some sort of stomach bug sneaked up on me in my sleep and attacked. I have felt pretty terrible for about 48 hours.

The baby was pretty good yesterday, but being home sick with a baby isn't exactly restful. It is those times I wish for someone to take the baby to daycare so I could take a nice long nap. That didn't happen. I got a couple cat naps, but that isn't enough for being sick.

Then the baby was not ready to go to sleep until very late last night and I woke up with her twice last night. I was still feeling cruddy this morning when she got me up at five. I almost stayed home again, but sucked it up and went to work.

So tired, still not 100% over the stomach gunk, have a long week ahead of me, and baby is pulling up on everything, so I can't leave her alone for a second. She fell over twice and pulled her toy kitchen over her head once. The only thing I can count on right now is that everything changes and I am tired a lot.

So I am too tired to wax poetic for you, I still have at least an hour's worth of stuff to do, but about 20 minutes of things that will actually get done. Missing someone to bring me seven-up and crackers today. Hard core! But too tired to write much. I am very proud though that I wrote everyday throughout my break. Good night all. Maybe I will be more inspired when my guts don't feel like I swallowed a set of jacks? could be . . .

Day 233: 101st

This week one of my emails had an article with my husband's former unit in the title:

Deadly Year in Afghanistan Takes Toll on 101st Airborne.

When we met, he was stationed at Fort Campbell, Kentucky and part of the 101st Airborne division. It is a unit with a proud history and he was proud to be part of it. So I opened this article and read it, feeling both sad and blessed at the same time. They had 104 deaths in 2010 at the time of printing, the deadliest year in the unit's history since Vietnam. It was about 1 in 5 of the deaths in that conflict.

I can't believe how many soldiers have died there in 2010. I did a little research and found several soldiers died earlier this month in an IED attack. Several more from foreign service branches have died in just the past few days. As a military wife, I feel more connected to any soldier's death than the general population might. Yet, with the 101st, I can picture the base, the majestic deer, the rolling fog and hills. None of the names of the soldiers were familiar, but somehow I feel more connected to them because they were stationed at the post I considered my first army home.

I feel blessed because Chad could have been stationed there still. If his ex-wife hadn't moved to Oklahoma, and Chad hadn't requested a transfer to Texas to be closer to them, he might still be in the 101st. So many of the recent deaths were from Chad's former division and a few were from the 4th Infantry Division, his next division. While his time in the 3rd Armored Cavalry Division has had its ups and downs, it may be what has saved his life so far.

We know, as just proved this week, he is in danger where he is. However, it seems like the danger is greater in Afghanistan where his two former units are. It feels selfish to be happy that my husband isn't one of the casualties, but it has to be normal to feel that way, too.

My heart aches for the families of all the soldiers killed anywhere anytime. The 101st soldiers just bring home the war and deaths to me. We are not quite five months into this deployment, and I worry about his coming home every day. Military wives live with death hanging over our heads in a very real way every day. We don't really get to take our spouses for granted, which is both a blessing and a curse. We know to treasure them, but also live with a big countdown clock ticking overhead all the time.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Day 234: Not yet!!

Going back to work after two weeks off is always a little hard, but this break from school was a bit more busy than I generally like to be. I need peace, quiet, solitude, and if I don't get it, just don't feel very rested emotionally. My husband recharges by hunting and fishing. I recharge by just being able to relax, no make-up, no hair styling, no worrying about anyone other than me (and now Lil Bit) for a day or two, which is why most weekends are pretty solitary for me. I take one day to just crash and one day to prepare for the week ahead.

This two week break was pretty hectic or full the entire time. I had two very long travel days. I spent a week at my sister's house, which was nice but not very quiet with twin four year olds, my sister, her husband, my mom and the holidays. My second week was full of two tween boys, sister-in-law, mother-in-law, step-father-in-law, dog-in-law and more holidays and shopping and cooking and playing games, etc.

It was all fun, and I did sleep more than I do during work and easier in my own bed for the last week, but I still feel like I have to be on, social, conversant when visiting or being visited. I love being social, just not all the time. Today I had a few hours to myself, but would love another day or two to just hibernate. All of a sudden it is time to go to bed, and I don't feel ready for work. My coffee maker died today, so tomorrow may be rougher than I hoped.

I also got lots of help with Lil Bit over the break which was greatly appreciated, but I miss having our special time too. Seems like when you live this far away from everyone it is all two-sided, love the visit and help, but wish we could do it more often for fewer days at a time; love the help, but miss our routine and special times just itty bitty and mommy.

I just wish I had another day. I need another week to get done what I should have worked on over the break, but I didn't have a second to focus on school work. Grading essays - yeah, that totally didn't happen. Hopefully, I can just put the nose to the grindstone and knock them out this week. I have a lot to do. I spent months looking forward to the holidays and it went so quickly, I just wish that wishing it to last another day could make it so, but I don't foresee a snow day in our 70 degree future. Can I say Bah Humbug to going back to work?

Bah Humbug - I don wanna work, I just wanna bang on dee drums all day. Oh well, I took some time to hit the ground running, get coffee made, lunches packed, bottles ready, but I did as little as possible today so I could enjoy the last few hours of freedom and tackle any hard stuff next weekend. Which by the way, will totally be CAVE time!! Just me and my baby.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Day 235: New Year

Phew, 2011 is here. With my MiL here, I woke up to a delicious breakfast casserole and mimosas, well cranberry juice mimosas. I made mine mostly cranberry. Then we were all lazy today. Just too tired to do anything.

After a nap, I did brace myself to fold some of Lil Bit's laundry. We have a fridge full of leftovers but were feeling too lazy to pull any of it out and turn it into meals, so I ordered pizza.

My MiL has been fussing over everyone all week. She's been cooking up a storm, fixing up a menu for New Year's and generally keeping us all fat and happy. Today is her birthday so she didn't want to have to cook. We spent the entire day in our pajamas, watching TV and slowly packing up Mom and Dadve to head home.

We gave Mom her birthday presents just before dinner: a grape spoon rest to match her grapes decorated kitchen, a silicone pie shield to protect her pie crusts. Then I had N give her a piece of paper. She opened it slowly, without her reading glasses squinting at it quizzically. On it was the description of a suite at a place called the Crow's Rest with the price marked out with the word Free. She was confused, so I said, "It's a room at a Bed-n-Breakfast to help you unwind after a long week of kids, babies, dogs, etc."

It was something I thought she would enjoy, but I wasn't prepared for her response. I watched her eyes well up, of course then I did too. She and I don't do everything the same. We have different styles about us, in some ways I wish I were more like her, and in some ways I like the way I do things, but we generally get along and enjoy spending some time together. We definitely both love my stepsons and my daughter and are over the moon about Chad.

The best present came earlier in the day when my husband got to call. We put him on speaker so everyone could talk to him. It was really nice to hear his voice and get to spend about an hour chatting. When he said good-bye, I got a little choked up. Then we put T on the phone and he started crying again. I could hear how much it broke Chad's heart to hear T getting so upset about missing his dad. There just isn't much we can do to heal the hurt of his being gone.

I hope he gets a chance to skype more often. I know that it meant a lot to the boys to see their dad. Lil Bit doesn't know the difference yet, but she recognizes his voice and grins every time he calls.

My life is going too quickly. I don't know what this year holds, but I more and more realize every day is precious, even pajama days, and I don't want to waste them on stupid stuff. I don't know if I will be able to let go of all of my worrying and strange need to organize to death, but I do have my evening routine down to 13 minutes, so at least I can spend the evenings where I really want to be, playing with my Lil Bit until my guy gets to be home with us. I don't want to wish the year away; it will go fast enough, but if I could wish my husband home sooner, that would be my wish for the New Year. His absence is felt profoundly today as I type surrounded by his children, having fallen asleep during a Santa movie, evidence of cakes and cookie crumbs and Christmas lights cheerfully decorating for a wee bit longer. A nearly perfect day, just went too fast and was missing someone too special for words.