Monday, February 28, 2011

Day 177: Home

This waiting to hear from my husband is so hard. He can't tell me about transportation or travel while in Iraq for security reasons, but it is so hard to wait. Especially with all the planning I have to do to be ready for this week, it is hard not knowing when I will have to take off to go get him from the airport. I am hoping to have tomorrow so I can take care of a few things. I have so much work to do in one day. I don't know how I will get it done.

The past two nights I have woken up in the middle of the night to check email. Then this morning, I get a text message at 5:06 a.m. telling me he will be landing just after lunch. ARghhhh! I immediately fly into high gear. I had thought I might have one more day to get things done. I had three class sets of essays to print out, four days of lessons to plan and all sorts of little nitpicky things to do, like teach all morning before I could take off to go get him.

I ran around slightly panicked for the morning, but managed (just barely) to get everything done. Then racing to get the baby and get to the airport, I got one more change of plans text message. Flight got delayed. I took care of one more errand and gave myself a few minutes to eat lunch. Then drove, shakily, to the airport. It started to sink in that he would be home in a few minutes. It was hard not to drive 100 miles per hour the whole way. I still got there in 11 minutes, when my GPS said it would take 22. I just took a route without stoplights. Lil Bit and I sat at the cafe area and waited to see a plane come in.

From the corner of my eye, I saw a plane on the runway. For a second I couldn't tell if it was taking off or landing. I kept checking the board to see which flight was coming in, but no flight was listed. I texted him, "R u here" and got back "our plane just landed." I was so excited to watch his plane pull up to the gate. Then we waited for daddy to deplane and come past the security gate. It was a pretty rare moment, just us waiting, not racing in from the parking lot, standing there excited looking expectantly from face to face.

Then he was there. After a quick hello and kiss, he scooped up his baby girl. She immediately grinned and tried to kiss him, which is little more than a poorly aimed headbutt. She remembered him and felt immediately happy in his arms. In fact, she pouted every time he put her down or gave her back to me for the first thirty minutes he was home.

While he didn't manage to stay awake past 8:30, he is home. The circumstances of his return aren't the best, and we are going to have some hoops to jump through in order for him to be able to stay for R&R as well as the emergency leave, but for today, he is home and even as I prepare to drag him off the couch, it is all that matters. 

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Day 178: Mort

Thursday night I went to bed after getting an email from my husband that he finally had leave dates. He was going to get home just in time for my spring break and probably surgery. It was exactly what we had been hoping for. Friday morning, I got a phone call from my sister-in-law that Chad's father had passed away. We spent most of the day trying to get ahold of Chad and figure out how to get him home for the memorial service. Luckily, the army is going to work something out so that he can take his emergency leave and R&R together, but it may be a bit of a juggling act to make sure he can stay long enough to be here for my thyroid surgery.

Chad's dad has suffered from renal problems for the past several years. He took a significant turn for the worse just after Christmas and has been hospitalized for the past couple of months. We were planning on taking a trip to see him over Chad's leave. It was heartbreaking for Chad to not have this last chance to say good-bye.

The last few years have been pretty tough on his relationship with his father. His dad had a traumatic brain injury when Chad was 13 or so which had some personality effects, then his genetic predisposition to some mental issues kicked in and the kidney issues exacerbated his mental state issues. It was the trifecta of confusion. His dad remembered things incorrectly, changed stories in his head, started saying and doing things that were not socially acceptable.

It was really hard to separate the person his dad was and the person he had become. We all struggled with being around him. Somehow even the simplest conversations seemed to get twisted and confused. But it wasn't something he could help. Perhaps he might have been able to get medication for some of his symptoms of depression, but the mental illness would have only gotten worse eventually anyway.

Chad's sister made the ultimate sacrifice and moved from home in central Illinois to south Texas to be with her father, to at first just help him stay organized and eventually was helping him walk from room to room, get to dialysis three times a week, pay bills, doing his shopping and errands. She took time to run to each different grocery store to get her father's preferred brands and tolerated his confusion day after day with little help from the rest of her dad's family. She was graciously able to love him even when his actions didn't seem like love.

In any case, I am filled with regret that I didn't push Chad more to visit his dad, offer him more freedom to do so or something. Mort wasn't the easiest father-in-law to love. He was sometimes very unPC and sometimes mean. He was always the most opinionated person in the room, which is tough in this family. But he was Chad's father and was gut-busting proud of the man his son had become. The last conversation I had with him he told me how proud he was of the mother I try to be to his grandsons when they are in my home and the mother I am to Lil Bit. He told me how happy he was that I was in his son's life. I sent him a photo album for his birthday of family photos from the past few years with captions next to each picture so that as his memory faded, he would be able to read where, when and who was in the picture and know that he was loved even when we couldn't be there. He loved that gift. It was such a small thing. He was so grateful for it. I am glad I did that for him, but wish I had been less selfish and done more. I could have called him more often, sent him letters and pictures.

I got caught up in surviving this deployment and now it is too late. I hope he knows that we did love him, that his son and grandsons and his devoted daughter are going to miss him, that I am sad Lil Bit won't remember him and will only know him from the stories we tell. At least he got to hold her once and was able to know how happy we were with our new addition.

Dad, we will miss you. I will pray this week to have the strength and patience I need to be there for my husband while he mourns the loss of his father. I know how hard it must be for him to feel like he wasn't there enough, even though he knows the army life didn't allow him to take the kind of role in his father's care he would have liked. I can't know how this feels, but I can make sure that my husband feels free to feel whatever he needs to and doesn't have to worry about anyone else. If that is all I can do to honor my father-in-law, then I will make sure I honor him by loving his son the best I can. 

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Day 179: First impressions aren't everything

My first day of new teachers' in service a few years ago, we were grouped according to subject area and high, middle or elementary school. There were all kinds of people in our training, some polite, some quiet and some know-it-alls. One girl in particular stood out. She was the super perky, way TOO excited new teacher. She was also a very exuberant personality who could never be considered a shrinking violet. I wanted to switch her to decaf myself. A few minutes into our introductions, I realized she was going to be teaching at my school. I groaned inwardly. This girl made me tired just watching her.

Little did I know that day, that she would gradually become one of my closest friends. We grew closer and closer as we shared the struggles of deployments and teaching and life. Now, no matter where she is or how this army life separates us, she and I will always be the best of friends. She is one of those rare friends who I can always cry to. When I can't bear the thought of bearing my soul to anyone else, I can call her. When I can't be weak in front of anyone else, I can tell her how I feel.

In fact, we turned out to be much more alike than I ever would have imagined. Even if I am nearly a decade older than she, we found common strength during our first deployments as military wives. She and I were married only months apart, grew up ten minutes away from each other in Illinois and ended up attending the same church and working together for an all too short year. In a lot of ways she is a more energetic version of me 13 years earlier.

Last night, 7 months pregnant, she drove up from her parents' home where she is visiting from Ft. Benning to visit me and my Lil Bit. She was one of the few people I confided my fears about never being a mother, or that God was trying to tell me I would be a rotten mother by making it so difficult to be one. She was the person I could call when all the baby hype of a friend or heaven forbid, student, drove me to tears. She was the one who prayed with me for patience as we waited to see if God had planned a baby for us.

And when we finally got the phone call that we were paper pregnant, I think her scream could have been heard from Georgia. She has been excited for me, scared with me, supportive and loving. She lets me mother her from time to time and still calls for advice.

We have a friendship like a fantastic novel you never want to put down. Even when you have to put it away for a little while, each time you pick it back up you're drawn right back into the story. It had been nearly two years since we had seen each other and it felt like months instead. The visit was wonderful.

Hard to believe how deep our friendship has grown, and in a few short weeks, we will be sharing the joys of motherhood as well. She taught me to be a better person, encourages me when I am weak and tired, and constantly tells me how wonderful I am just when I need to hear it.

I struggled not to cry when she drove away this morning, but consoled myself with the fact that we can't physically visit, but every phone call feels like no time has passed and we're still just down the road from each other. We may never live in the same state again or even cross paths as our husbands' military careers are going to be dragging us in opposite directions for the next few years, but I am glad I gave myself a chance to like this crazy girl, Kaitlin, and let her be a part of my life. I don't let a lot of people into the real, total me. The I didn't clean the house for you kind of friendship we have is rare and so treasured. 

Friday, February 25, 2011

Day 180: Something Borrowed

I've seen this around before and it always strikes me as interesting. Especially this year when I look at who is essentially raising my daughter, making minimum wage, speaking slang and many didn't graduate high school. In our society, where being educated has traditionally been the most crucial of skills, why are the people who educate and raise our children paid so little, forcing out many people and keeping talented people out of the profession. But people who can drag a ball down a field or put it into little holes or baskets make millions. 

So Teachers are overpaid?

Are you sick of high paid teachers? Teachers’ hefty salaries are driving up taxes, and they only work 9 or 10 months a year! It’s time we put things in perspective and pay them for what they do - baby sit! We can get that for less than minimum wage.

That’s right. Let’s give them $3.00 an hour and only the hours they worked; not any of that silly planning time, or any time they spend before or after school. That would be $19.50 a day (7:45 to 3:00 PM with 45 min. off for lunch and plan — that equals 6 1/2 hours).

Each parent should pay $19.50 a day for these teachers to baby-sit their children.

Now how many do they teach in day…maybe 30? So that’s $19.50 x 30 = $585.00 a day. However, remember they only work 180 days a year!!! I am not going to pay them for any vacations.

LET’S SEE…. That’s $585 X 180= $105,300 peryear. (Hold on! My calculator needs new batteries).

What about those special education teachers and the ones with Master’s degrees? Well, we could pay them minimum wage ($7.75), and just to be fair, round it off to $8.00 an hour. That would be $8 X 6 1/2 hours X 30 children X 180 days = $280,800 per year.

Wait a minute — there’s something wrong here! There sure is!

The average teacher’s salary (nation wide) is $50,000. $50,000/180 days = $277.77/per day/30 students=$9.25/6.5 hours = $1.42 per hour per student–a very inexpensive baby-sitter and they even EDUCATE your kids!)


I wish I wrote this but I didn’t.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Day 181: Halfway home

I've been waiting for this day for a long time. Today is officially six months since he left. Although his orders are counted in days, so technically in days, the halfway point was a day and a half ago. I prefer to count in months until we're under thirty.

We survived the first half of a year deployment and haven't even had R&R yet! It will be closer to seven months before R&R is over, so we will only have around five left when he returns to Iraq after his all too short leave.

Having the baby has made the time fly by. I am so busy most of the time that the day is over before I even was sure which day it was. All day yesterday I thought it was Tuesday, and I had a hard time remembering my doctor's appointment was today because the week seemed to be over so quickly.

But having the baby has also changed the way this deployment feels. My whole world has become all about her. I have been able to focus a lot of my heart and love onto her instead of feeling the void my husband's absence leaves in my home and life. Because of my altered focus, I feel like he has been gone for so much longer than six months. It is hard to picture him standing in the kitchen or sitting on the couch. The little tangible moments of the everyday have faded.

It does make missing him easier, but then comes R&R and all the wonderful things I started to forget I missed, the way he talks in his sleep or smiles so easily, the way he exudes joy when he cooks or tells a story making me cry with laughter, the way his hand feels when I hold it or he touches my cheek. All those memories become real again and I get lost a little bit all over again.

Knowing we're halfway through, on the downside, should make this second half easier, but really it starts to drag as we get closer to the end, just like the school year does in May. But today, I am celebrating, we're halfway home, HE is halfway home and every step closer to coming home makes me a happy camper. 

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Day 182: Anxious

As R&R draws closer, many military wives start feeling a little anxious. R&R is the only two weeks in which we get to spend time with our spouses for an entire year. There is a lot of pressure to make those two weeks amazing.

We also get a little nervous about seeing each other for the first time in so long. I don't care how many times we've been separated each reunion is fraught with nerves about how it will go. When will he know for sure what plane he is on? Where will I pick him up? Will it be weird to see each other? Will he care how clean the house is? how much weight I've gained, lost, or didn't lose?

One of the worries that seems pretty universal but no one really admits is sharing space again. Over the deployment, wives lay claim to the space in the house, reorganize, spread out. Having the freedom to do that is one of the things that makes a deployment bearable. I can't spend the year looking at empty spaces where he should be. It makes his absence too present. I don't erase him from the house, but I use his side of the bed, spread out my things across the headboard shelf. I move things I don't use to the back of the cabinets and leave things out I use daily.

When he comes home, sharing can be a source of a lot of conflict. He drops his C-bag and things start taking up room again. He has every right to have room in his own home, but it is a disruption in the daily habits that you've established while he was gone. He has to understand that he is coming home to a household that has been running in his absence and will have to keep going when he leaves again after two short weeks. She has to understand that he needs to feel at home for those weeks, welcomed and relaxed, so that he can rest and recuperate to be prepared to return.

For me, my biggest concern is sleep. I don't sleep well. My sleep is generally not restful and I am tired a lot. Maybe I am just getting old, maybe my breathing is a problem. When Chad comes home, it is going to be hard for me to share the bed. I have been used to tossing and turning as I need to. When sharing the bed, I tend to be more conscious of disturbing him so I stay pretty immobile and wake with tingling arms. It is just one of the many adjustments to our household R&R will bring. We will have the boys over R&R as well, so the house is going to go from pretty calm and quiet to wild and crazy.

It is quite an adjustment for me who has become accustomed to quiet. Once I get used to the noise and activity, I enjoy it, but when it is for such a short spurt, it is just a big change. And that is the key, being open to the change. This life of a military wife is all about change, change in plans, R&R dates, schools, posts, deployments. While it is something I have had to work very hard at, being able to roll with the punches is the only way to survive the army.

There is no magic pill to creating an idyllic, peaceful, perfect marriage. It takes a lot of hard work, compromise and forgiveness to have a marriage that works, never mind perfect. All the coming together and separating makes for a crazy relationship with more stressors than most couples ever face. The key to being able to handle those challenges is to communicate clearly, early and often and for each person to be more selfless than selfish. If both people are willing to give, both end up winning. It is when we worry too much about the I that we forget a marriage is always about an US, and there is only a U in us.

I will have to remind myself to give, to relax, to let go because I do love him, and he needs this break so horribly. But I am still going to be nervous and excited, worried and joyous about seeing him again. It is hard to look forward to it too much knowing how fast it will be over and time to say good-bye, but tomorrows are never guaranteed, just promises, so I plan to use every day I have to love him the best I can. At least having a nine month old has increased my tolerance for clutter since army gear seems to multiply like wet gremlins. Now if only I knew WHEN he might actually get here . . . 

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Day 183: Finally Home

Late yesterday evening, I sat down to watch this week's Extreme Makeover Home Edition. I knew this was the episode I'd been waiting for, the one featuring a soldier from Fort Hood.

It is always fun to see familiar places on TV and any time there is something special regarding the military it is especially touching with my husband deployed, but this show was celebrating one of the soldiers injured in the massacre at Fort Hood on November 5, 2009. Even though I am just a few miles away from post and my husband left post less than an hour before the shooting, there were details I didn't know. I didn't know 32 people were injured in addition to the 13 killed. I knew there were injuries, but so many? It was a devastating day, and I was really looking forward to watching this show that would perhaps help to rebuild some of the broken places in those who were hurt or lost someone that day.

As Jessica told the story of how she and Patrick met and fell in love, it was so similar to my story with Chad, and I realized how one bad day changed their story forever. They met by chance on vacation. We met when Chad came home for a weekend and we ran into each other thanks to mutual acquaintances. They conducted their relationship long distance after just a few weeks together. We conducted our relationship long distance after a few weekends. In less than a year, Patrick deployed. In just over a year, Chad deployed. Just listening to their story made me miss my husband and yet, be very thankful for all the great times we've shared. It just really hit home how lucky Chad and I have been; despite the multiple deployments and the heartbreak of separation after separation, we have always had each other and other than normal issues, we've always had our health.

The day of the shooting, everyone was calling their soldiers. For about 30 gut wrenching minutes, I couldn't reach Chad. Even though I "knew" he was supposed to be at home by the time the shooting started, things happen and he could have been anywhere. Luckily, he finally answered and had been home catching up on sleep after working 24 hours. He was very confused and I was relieved.

Jessica never did get through. She finally got a call telling her Patrick had been shot and likely wouldn't make it. She rushed to his side and her love gave him the strength to pull through. She stayed by him every minute. After months of grueling physical therapy and fighting the belief that he would never use his hands, arms, legs, he walked for the first time the day he proposed and danced at their wedding. Their love was tested from the get go and got stronger and stronger.

What an amazing love story in the face of tragedy. It was really a special episode showing all of the support for and from the military community. I was impressed by the strength of Jessica's commitment to her fiance knowing he might never be the same. As military wives, we face the knowledge that we are making a commitment to someone in the path of danger more often than most. We face numerous separations, fears, frustrations knowing that every knock on the door or phone call could be one bringing our world crashing around us. But none of us were prepared for it to happen here, on post, during reintegration for soldiers just coming back from a war zone. She could not have handled a challenging situation with more grace and is a testament to beautiful military wives everywhere.

I also was interested to hear about the program that Dan Wallrath started to help wounded soldiers have a home to call their own. I found an article about his charity, I am sure there are more, but here is a link to one: Operation Finally Home . We can't all make the grand gestures of ABC and CVS with their weekly affiliates, but maybe we can do something. Whether it is this organization or the USO or one of any of various charities that help soldiers and their families cope with the many challenges of this life, take a second and think about something you can do to make a difference.

This show helped one couple start a life together that they almost didn't get to lead. A house won't give them a marriage full of love and commitment, but their love and commitment did bring them a home to build a life in. We can't undo what the deranged soldier took from so many that day. We can only help those who are left behind to rebuild their lives and do our best to make sure another such tragedy never strikes again.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Day 184: Day off

This was a much needed three day weekend since I have been struggling with the flu all week. I stayed home Monday, but pushed through and was at school the rest of the week. At least I think it must be the flu since the antibiotic doesn't seem to be helping. I actually got worse Saturday and spent the entire day coughing and hacking, but felt a little stronger yesterday and still better today, but my body has just been beat down this year and I am struggling to recover. I am still dreaming of the day I can breathe through my nose again.

The house needed cleaning and I had some chores to get done. Luckily, I was feeling well enough I didn't have to nap when the baby took her long afternoon naps and was able to take care of some chores while she slept. It is amazing to me how less frazzled I can feel after taking a few hours to get some things under control. I paid all our bills and worked out our budget for the next month including some mad money for R&R. I sent off receipts for my flex account for the last charges of 2010. I still need to print out our tax return since we have to mail it this year due to the adoption credit and have some pictures and videos to transfer from camera to computer and facebook, but those things can wait. I would like to finish unpacking all the boxes from and get those broken down, but I can live with a few things undone.

I got some rest and recuperated to an extent that I feel like I am able to face the coming week. My lunches are all packed for the week and breakfasts are made and ready to go. Just taking thirty minutes on Sunday afternoon to get ahead of those chores gives me some peace of mind facing the week. It is a few more minutes I don't have to take each night. It also cuts down on doing the chore. If I get everything out at once and just make four sandwiches instead of one, it takes about the same amount of time and I only have to mess with it once a week.

But, we've had a few snow days over the past couple of weeks, which means that we won't be getting another three day weekend for the rest of the year. We won't have any days off in April or May. We will come back with two weeks in March and about 9 weeks after that. It is going to be a long stretch. I hope it will go by quickly. As much as I enjoyed this three day weekend, I would have forgone this one to save one for later.

Not much else to report today, just a quiet afternoon, hoping to curl up with a good book for a few minutes. 

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Day 185: Not this year

Today is the running of the half-marathon that I have run the past two years. With my hip and baby, training hasn't been possible. I can barely walk/jog 3 miles. It is hard for me to not be running this year. Running gives me peace, gets me out and off the couch and keeps away a lot of the loneliness and depression of the deployments.

When I ran this the first time two years ago, it felt like the biggest thing I have ever done. Below is my original blog entry about my triumphant finishing of a half-marathon.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

I started running in October. I could only run three minutes at a time with minute walk breaks, but I could tough out 30 minutes or so. One of my runnng buddies suggested that she wanted to build up to a 10k by April. I laughed and told her she was on her own - run six miles - HA. But Race for the Cure was holding a 5K in November. My mom is a survivor so I decided to try to run it for her. I finished and thought that was a pretty amazing feat for a 37 year old with a bad ankle who had never run before. I came home from that race with such a sense of accomplishment that I ran 4 more miles that day. Then I got to thinking, "If I can do that, I can run a 10k, eventually . . ." I don't remember building up to 6 - the next thing I was doing 7 miles for my weekend runs. Then my sister mentioned perhaps training to walk a half-marathon. I really thought she was crazy. People who do "those kind" of events are serious fitness fanatics, in fantastic shape. But an idea planted itself.

My husband is serving overseas in Iraq and I want to lose weight while he is gone. I imagined myself meeting him getting off the plane looking trim and when people asked me how I lost so much weight telling them running half-marathons! It seemed so crazy for this old, overweight non-athlete, but wouldn't it be AMAZING to see jaws drop and feel that sense of accomplishment?

I decided to try to train for one, even if I never signed up for an official race. This was the second week of November. By Dec. 19, I was able to run 10 miles under 2 hours. Just a minute under BUT STILL. I did that twice - then got sidelined with a flare up of an old injury. I started back training the middle of January. I ran 4-6 miles a couple of times a week and a longer run on the weekends. I ran 8 once, 10 twice and 12.34 once then began to taper down. I ran a 6K race last Saturday and walked 4 miles Tuesday and ran 7 Wednesday - then waited.

Today I stood in the dark, cold morning waiting for the start of MY half-marathon, nervous and shaking. I had been telling people all week that I was going to do this - what if I didn't make it? What if I cramped up? What if . . . what if? I got to the starting line and started running. My goal was to finish under 3 hours. I ran. I jogged. I walked, but I CONQUERED! I finished 26 minutes faster. 11 faster than I had even dared to hope. I RAN A HALF-MARATHON and slowed down for the finish so they would get a good picture.

Mission POSSIBLE - WHAT'S NEXT? Bring it on!!

Someday I hope to be able to run it again. Nothing is impossible if I can do this!!! 

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Day 186: Dust, Dog hair and tea

Today, we slept in. It felt really good to sleep in, but my stuffy nose has made me really uncomfortable. I decided to suck it up and be productive. I dusted my room, the living room, the baby's room. I washed all the living room furniture from baby slime of various sources. I even vacuumed. The house is still a far way from being clean, but it is certainly much cleaner than it was in the rooms we use the most.

Lil Bit got her first tooth today, so she's been chewing and drooling. As much as I celebrate each new thing, I want to cling to her being my little baby as long as possible. Nothing makes me happier than when she climbs into my lap for a long snuggle and just smiles sweetly as we talk.

I am still fighting whatever this junk is. I have been sick for months and nothing seems to help. It is getting pretty frustrating. I am sure people are tired of me being sick, but I can't help it. I take zinc lozenges to ward it off, antibiotics and manage most days to go to work sick enough that if I were home I'd be on the couch.

Instead, I took turns on the couch and being productive. We had to call the grandmas to tell them about Lil Bit's new tooth. My mom told me to drink hot tea and honey, so I have done a pot of that. I think I am about full of tea. It did help some. I feel emotionally better with some things getting done and having two more days to rest and take care of some overdue chores.

It is all about survival around here this week. We just can't control a lot, but I can make sure that the person who meeds me the most gets the happy, fun me, even if it is pharmaceutically induced. It was kind of just a Saturday, but a decent Saturday, sleeping in until almost 10 and getting a late afternoon nap and having things done and the baby fed, changed and in her jammies.

It is amazing what really matters when you don't have energy to worry and I found enough energy for those things today. 

Friday, February 18, 2011

Day 187: I love it when a plan comes together

I used to watch the A-team each week and wait expectantly for the crazy, twisting plot to finally work out. Then Hannibal would chew on his cigar and say, "I love it when a plan comes together." Today was a day I felt like my plan came together and really worked. I kinda wish I had a crew of cohorts with whom to share this success.

I know yesterday I said I wasn't going to write about my students anymore, but today was a GOOD day. We had a shortened day before a three day weekend, which is often a recipe for disaster, so I planned a highly involved lesson in which the students were busy and engaged the entire class period. 

And it worked!!! It felt so great to finish teaching today with wrapping up what I wanted them to learn, with the students nodding and really understanding what I was trying to show them. 

We did an activity on reading without a purpose and then reading for different purposes to demonstrate the importance of understanding why we're reading what we're reading to improve comprehension and processing. I had them read a very generalized story without any clear direction. Then read the same story with two different sets of specific purposes for reading. 

The kids were on it. They were reading and discussing with their partners. They wrote a paragraph, without looking, about the article we had read and discussed yesterday, and they all remembered the article. 

I felt amazing after teaching all day, despite still being pretty ill. The best part of the lesson was the inductive reasoning. The students didn't know where we were headed with the lesson until the very end which kept them curious and interested. Every kid left my room today feeling like they learned some skills that would be useful on closed reading tests, like the state achievement tests or skills based tests or the ACT or SAT. I felt a lot of kids mentally saying "ah ha!" today. I even heard a few say they finally saw what I have been talking about for weeks. 

My job is often challenging and draining, but days like today, days the light bulbs of comprehension glow, make it all worth it. Gosh, I love it when a plan comes together. And it is nice when the kids finally realize that maybe I know what I am talking about. 

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Day 188: Free Speech

The following is an excerpt from an article posted on the New York Daily News website. Click any of the links to get back to their home page. 
Pennsylvania teacher Natalie Munroe got an F at school last week when parents discovered she was bashing students on her blog.Munroe, 30, was suspended from her job at Central Bucks East High School in Doyleston, Pa. when vicious comments she wrote about her pupils went public.
In her blog, which has since been removed, Munroe referred to her students as "out of control," "rude, lazy, disengaged whiners," and called one "a complete and utter jerk in all ways."
"There's no other way to say this, I hate your kid," she wrote in one post. "Although academically okay your child has no other redeeming qualities," she said in another.
A few of us were discussing this story in the workroom today. We all have days we feel frustrated. We get hurt and upset. We have students we don't gel with as much as others. Yet, as educators, we are sometimes held to different standards than the general. Were her comments rude? Yes, perhaps not compared with other media, but compared to what a teacher should say about her students. Uncalled for? Maybe. Out of context? Probably. There seems like there were a lot of variables that were not taken into account. She didn't have her name on her blog. She didn't mention any students' names. She didn't say where she lived or the name of her school.  And yet, she was suspended and may be fired. 
All I know is that I won't be writing any more blogs about my students that are not glaringly positive if at all. When I searched this specific story, I found many teachers being disciplined or even fired for blogging in vague or general terms about their students. I will say there has never been teachers who didn't wish they could change their students in some way, and there are always days that are rough to be an educator. Is suspending or firing this teacher a violation of her right to free speech? 

She said some things that were pretty harsh, but since she didn't mention any student specifically and didn't violate any privacy laws, can the district fire her? I suppose it depends on the district's contractual policy about social media. 

We're not perfect, but we are asked to do an impossible, thankless job and get disrespected frequently by students, parents, and colleagues. Sometimes people need to vent, should she be fired for it?
Somehow, it doesn't seem fair to me for a teacher to be disciplined for exercising her right to free speech. I would feel differently if a name was mentioned or a student's identity alluded to, but without that information, she was vaguely complaining about her job and students; if that is a crime, we're gonna have a shortage of teachers. 

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Day 189: Want to play a game?

Ok, I want you to think about your wallet. Now close your eyes and try to list everything in it. Here is my mental list.
1. Credit Card
2. Bank Card
3. Drivers' License
4. Military ID
5. Chad's birthday check from his mom
6. $20 or so
7. Old Chicago Beer Tour Card
8. Insurance card
9. ATPE association card
10. Library card

Now go get your wallet and look through it. Add important items you forgot or would have no idea how to replace.

1. Key card for my workplace
2. My dental plan card
3. My health insurance card
4. My daughters Safe Kids Card
5. My home state card if my license expires while we are stationed out of state
6. Another credit card for which I don't have the customer service number or account # (I know, my bad)
7. A Starbucks gift card.
8. My daughter's insurance card
9. Various rewards program cards
10. Family pictures

Wasn't that fun? Not so much when this game is played with a missing wallet! I noticed it wasn't in my purse this morning as I was getting out of my car at work. I remembered having it last night when I stopped at Walgreen's for cough syrup. I willed myself not to panic, so I went into work, tense and visibly concerned, but went to my room, helped a student with her work, waited for my co-teacher to get to our room, and then dashed home to check the house. On the way, I call Walgreen's and ask them about it - no wallet, but they will call if it turns up. At this point, I start thinking about what is in it. What do I need to cancel? No biggie, then it hits all my identification is in it, my name, face, parts of social security numbers and I really am struggling not to cry. I call my MIL to have her cancel the check for Chad's birthday. I also realize I have no way to grocery shop or get gas. Deep breaths, in, out, repeat.

When it wasn't in the house, I re-checked the car and then drove to Walgreen's. I checked the parking lot and walked in even though they said they didn't have it. When the clerk at the counter where I must have left it didn't see it behind the counter somewhere, I started making phone calls. I cancelled my main credit card and drove to the bank to cancel the debit card. I called the Sec of State's office back home to find out about getting a new drivers' license. That was all I could do at that point. I went back to school and taught the rest of the day. I got a few tips on how to replace my military ID, which process is a HUGE pain, needing two forms of ID, two forms (one verified?) and my Power of Attorney and then an appointment between 9-3:30 to see someone on post to get a replacement.

But in less than two hours, I had done a lot to get a handle on the situation. Then I joined so I could start watching my credit to make sure no one stole my identity. I started looking at identity theft companies and was still comparing features of them at 2 when my phone rang.

Walgreen's had my wallet. They had it since I walked off and left it, but I didn't notice it last night and the day manager had no idea the afternoon manager had put it in the safe.

It was a really scary day, wondering what was in that wallet that I couldn't remember, wondering who had found it and not turned it in, wondering what that person might be doing with all my personal information. A lot of prayers got thrown up heavenward. And it all did work out, thanks to the honest clerk or customer who picked it up when I dropped it.

I will say the day was not a waste. I learned I need to update my file about the things I carry in my wallet. I have a file where I keep all the information on all my credit cards, etc. I need to include what else is in my wallet so I know what might be lost if this happens a little less temporarily. I also learned that my credit score is awesome, go me! I also learned that even a truly difficult situation can be managed by being calm, taking things one step at a time and taking some time to think.

You can learn from my skyrocketing blood pressure to find a safe place, not internet accessible to protect it from hackers, to keep all your information in the case you have your own moment of epic failure. I know this happens, or something like it, probably on average a few times in a lifetime. I would hope this will be the last, but probably not. Be prepared - better safe than sorry. Pick an aphorism, but take care of yourself, you are the only you? Right? let's keep it that way! 

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Day 190: Focus on the family

During previous deployments, the year was a year I got to focus on me. I worked out like crazy, dieted, ran, wrote, socialized, made new friends. This deployment has been very different. Many of the changes would have changed with or without the deployment because this year my focus is on my family.

Many TV sitcoms portray marriage as the death of all premarital friendships. They hype and hyperbole the situation to death, but it is funny because it contains a grain of truth. While not a consistent fact, in many cases those friendships change or are diminished especially if the friend is single. Being married is such a commitment that it forces a different focus. A marriage is a living breathing creature that needs a different nourishment than any other relationship and thus often draws people away from their single friends who don't understand or may mock the new responsibilities. It isn't deliberate, but I didn't go out as often, and if I did it was as a couple more often than not. While now most of my friends are married or engaged, it took a few years for some of those single, "party" friends to really drop into the background.

Such is life as a new parent as well. For one, as a single mom, even temporarily, I don't have someone to quickly watch her if I want to see a movie or have a girls' night out. My current friends are mostly childless or have spouses to watch the children so it is logistically easier for them to go out. Secondly, as this year has gone for me with being sick almost all the time (yay! daycare germs), I am too tired to go out and any night I do have energy, I have such a litany of tasks than need doing that I can't really justify going out.

And my beautiful daughter, whom I never thought I would have, is my heart. I spend 9 hours a day away from her, dropping her off around 7:45 to pick her up at 4:45. Of the hours left before I put her to bed, how many do I want to spend away from her or want her to spend away from me? I know she can't be my entire life and I need to take time for myself, but I don't remember my parents going out very often when I was little. I remember more babysitters as we got older, but my parents were home when we got home. We ate dinner together. We talked about our days. We played games and watched TV as a family. If we couldn't watch it as a family, my parents didn't watch it until after we went to bed. Oh, the forbidden fruit of Fantasy Island and Love Boat! My parents may not have had the recipe perfect, but they focused on our family, not just us kids, but our family.

I miss adult conversation sometimes. I miss just hanging out with friends. I do feel a little left out sometimes, but I want my friends to know that my home with my Lil Bit is where I am. If they want me, then come on over. I am playing on the floor with my little girl.

As I was married and then single again, I got used to being single and carefree. I had spent six years being a mom and all of a sudden had no one to worry about but me again. After I went through the grief, it was nice being able to do whatever I wanted whenever I wanted, and when my husband deploys I get to let go of a lot of the stresses of married life such as balancing his needs and wants, organizing schedules taking into account his sons and extended family, my extended family, etc.

This time though, it isn't just me. I have this little person who needs my best attention not the scraps left from my day. I have a precious Lil Bit who lights up when she sees me and giggles when we play. How could I not race to her and gobble up every second of the evening with her. She needs routine and schedule to help her make sense of the world. One tiny change in our day is monumental for her. If I go out to dinner, it changes her evening. She eats earlier or later or doesn't get the nap she is used to or misses out on an extra bath night, or won't go to bed, as she cries from her crib now because she had an extra seven p.m. nap because she is still out of whack from being sick.

I don't have to put her first all the time. I have to take care of myself so I can take care of her, but right now taking care of her is what I need. I finally have this beautiful baby I waited so long for. I don't want to miss a minute. I don't have to put her needs above mine forever, but for awhile my focus has to be on my family.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Day 191: Valentine's Day

Just a stupid, greeting card holiday, right? I don't need a day to tell my husband I love him or that he loves me. When we were dating, he was big gesture guy, sending me two dozen roses to school so I would have to show off my flowers to everyone. We've done romantic dinners and enjoyed them, but that doesn't really matter either. Today, my first email was a gift card for a spa day to use when he is home in a few weeks. I mailed him DVDs of all the videos of our daughter since he left. Considering the effort that went into figuring out how to make all my old tech work with the new, I spent a couple of weeks making those DVDs. It wasn't expensive, but hopefully he can come home feeling caught up on Lil Bit's growth and progress. We each make a gesture, but the same gesture we would make any day.

If today is important at all, it is because it is just another excuse to put someone else first. The new Hallmark commercials are really touching. I like the slogan that Valentine's Day is a day to say, "I love us." It is a very touching line. Someone on their ad team probably got promoted over that, but it did make me think.

Valentine's Day should be for celebrating US, not just the other person, but who that other person makes us be. I know my love for Chad, my respect for him, who he is brings out the best of who I can be. I think he feels the same for me. I may not be perfect, but he makes me want to try.

While we don't get to celebrate very many Valentine's Days together and I already know he will miss next year too, one of the things we can celebrate is how good we are at handling all the stuff the Army and life throws at us. So if you were lucky enough to share today with your someone special, I hope you wake up tomorrow and the next day and the next and give them 100% of everything you can everyday.

Still not feeling very good, so I will keep this short, but Valentine's Day was lonely for a lot of soldier's wives, a joyous celebration for the few whose husband's came home and a tearful good-bye for the wives who watched their soldiers deploy today. A friend of mine said she saw the tell-tale white buses driving toward the airport full of soldiers. I can't imagine why any general or whoever is in charge would make a soldier's departure day Valentine's Day. It seems like someone would think about how hard that would be and move it back a day. I don't know how things get decided, but our deployments are so routine now, someone had to have considered that flight plan and thought on some level, "who cares how hard that will be for the soldiers or their wives?" and then they wonder why soldier's commit suicide and why divorce rates keep rising. Stupid little things like taking them away for Valentine's Day, a stupid, greeting card holiday until you're alone again to "celebrate" it.

So tonight, I kissed my teeny Valentine good-night and will pray as I drift off that my other Valentine will come home safely to me always. I hope you take an extra second today to not take yours for granted. So much of life we take for granted not knowing what it is like to miss it. Army wives don't have that luxury, but on the bright side, we know what a precious gift our love is.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Day 192: Stomach flu

Last night we came home from the baby shower. I had a massive headache and an upset tummy, but I figured the glass of wine and beer I had were too much since I haven't been drinking at all. I fed the baby one more bottle and about three sips in, she erupted.

It was the worst thing I had ever seen. She couldn't control herself and was struggling to get it out without breathing it in. I had to roll her over and hold her face down so she wouldn't aspirate. I thought, oh yay, this is going to do wonders for my queasy stomach. I don't want to describe the horrors of the couch, her pjs, all the towels, etc. Suffice it to say, there are a lot of things that need washing when I can do more than sit up. I had to give her a bath, growing increasingly ill too. The headache was the worst.

About five minutes after I put her down, it hit me. Of all the struggles single parents go through, stomach flu has to be one of the absolute worst. I am so shaky that I can barely function. I tried to drink a glass of ginger ale and spilled it all over the end table and carpeting. What I did get into me made my stomach cramp. The baby is acting pretty normal, maybe a little more tired and she has very little appetite, but not too miserable, so if she feels half as bad as I do, she is a little trooper.

It was scary a few times today feeling this badly and not knowing what to do. I didn't want to risk someone else coming over and catching this. I felt too awful to want to subject anyone else to this. Luckily I have the most amazing baby. She napped a few long times today and played happily on the floor and laid with me on the couch. Her new favorite game is Pop goes the Weasel. She was so sweet today and so easy and happy, I felt badly that I wasn't up to doing more for her. We talked and watched the ceiling fan spin, we played with her giraffe and touched the fluffy feathers on her teddy bear shelf. She understands so much of what I am saying already. It was kind of an amazing day just to focus on listening to her and being with her. Minus the fluey symptoms, etc.

But today the goal was to keep her and me alive. That was it. She can't tell me how her stomach feels so I gave her small bottles and didn't push any food. Yesterday she turned her nose up at baby food several times but I thought she was just being picky until it was WAY too late, and I didn't want to push it on her today. I didn't want to eat much either. I had some toast and crackers finally because I was so weak. I am trying to gauge how she feels by my symptoms since they seemed to come on about the same time. Now I know why she was holding her head, poor Lil Bit.

I really missed having my mom around today. She moved near my sister to watch her twins a few years ago and we moved here. I understand that the military life means I don't get to be close to home, but there are days it doesn't feel fair. If I were near Mom, (mother-in-law too) someone would have been here to help with the chores or the baby. Nothing got done and I still feel pretty awful, so I decided until I am able to eat real food and keep it down without cramping, I am going to stay home.

Just another reason, I can't wait to be a two parent family again. Unless you've done this single parent thing, especially with a baby, you just don't understand how hard it is to be so alone with someone who needs your best all the time. I feel like she gets so much less than that from me way too often. My hat is off to all the single moms and dads out there. Y'all are ROCKSTARS. This is unquestionably the hardest thing I have ever done.

Hopefully taking tomorrow will help me recover and if it is just another lazy day playing with the baby, well, there are worse things. I wish I could bottle her laugh so you could understand why I am so in love with this little girl.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Day 193: An old friend

One of my closest military wife friends came to town this weekend. She moved away about a year and a half ago, first to Georgia and then to Korea. I have missed being able to just hang out and chat with her. I really wish we were closer now that she is pregnant. It would be nice to share the joy of babies together.

When she left, we threw her and her hubby a Georgia themed good-bye party. It is hard to believe how long ago that was and how transient this military life is. They are in Korea for two years.

While unlikely, it would be nice if we were stationed closer again. She was one of the "FAB FIVE" as I've started thinking of us in my head, although technically it was six of us. Six just doesn't have a ring to it. Four of us had husbands deployed at the same time although in different units which allowed us to be friends, complain and not be afraid it would get back to the chain of command or be gossip fodder.

She was one of the girls I started running with. We really got closer as we trained for races together. I am not built for speed, but loved the freedom and high of running long distances. She however, could really move. She is probably faster now, 6 months pregnant, than I was at my fastest.

We played a game at her baby shower tonight where we had to guess which feature of hers or her husbands they wanted the baby to have. It was fun. She is very petite, under 5 ft. so we all knew they picked his height. They are both funny and sweet so this baby is going to be a very lucky little guy, but I knew when I saw the trait of heart, I knew they would have to want him to have her heart. She is full of spunk and fight and love and laughter. Her husband is a little more laid back and a very nice guy, a kind of gentle soul who is going to be a great father. But Jessie just has a spark that lights up a room.

It was great to see her. Although, despite the time and distance, it didn't feel like any time had passed at all. It felt like good friendships should, like just picking up a good book. I hope it feels like that for the rest of our lives. Old friends aren't the only friends, but are the best friends because you've built treasured memories together. 

Friday, February 11, 2011

Day 194: What Teachers Make

I had a rough week. Nothing worse than usual as far as my job, but I am getting tired and run down. Too much to do and not enough time. Parent contacts and kids who don't do homework break my spirit. When my principal sent out this email this afternoon, and it made me remember I am special to 130 or so kids each year and a few each year still think I am pretty special even as they graduate high school, college, get married, have children or just want to be my friend.

The dinner guests were sitting around the table discussing life.

One man, a CEO, decided to explain the problem with education.
He argued,"What's a kid going to learn from someone who decided his Best
option in life was to become a teacher?"
He reminded the other dinner guests what they say about teachers: 
"Those who can, do. Those who can't, teach."
To stress his point he said to another guest; "You're a teacher, Bonnie.
Be honest. What do you make?"

Bonnie, who had a reputation for honesty and frankness replied, "You
want  To know what I make? (She paused for a second, then began...)

"Well, I make kids work harder than they ever thought they could. I make
a C+ feel like the Congressional Medal of Honor.

I make kids sit through 40 minutes of class time when their parents
can't Make them sit for 5 without an iPod, Game Cube or movie rental...

You want to know what I make?" (She paused again and looked at Each and
every person at the table.)

I make kids wonder. I make them question. I make them criticize. I make
Them apologize and mean it.

I make them have respect and take responsibility for their actions.
I teach them to write and then I make them write.
I make them read, read, read. I make them show all their work in math.
I make my students from other countries learn everything they need to
know in English while preserving their unique cultural identity.

I make my classroom a place where all my students feel safe.
I make my students stand to say the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag,
because we live in the United States of America.

Finally, I make them understand that if they use the gifts they were
given, work hard, and follow their hearts, they can succeed in life.

(Bonnie paused one last time and then continued.)

"Then, when people try to judge me by what I make, I can hold my head up
high And pay no attention because they are ignorant...

Do you want to know what I make?
What do you make?

So for every student I have ever had let me say -  If just once you heard my voice in your head before you did something stupid, even if you did it anyway; If just once you heard some idea or quote you recognized because you heard me say it or better yet, I made you read it; if just once you knew someone could care enough to be moved to tears with love and concern for you other than your parents; if I made you excited to be alive and capable of learning something; If I inspired you to love being educated or pushing yourself to be your best, then this is why I teach.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Day 195: Time for me

I have been really struggling with finding a balance between working full-time and being a mom. My daughter spends more time each day with the teachers in her room at school than she does me. Just saying that makes me want to cry. If I pick her up at 5 and put her to bed at 9, I only get four hours with her a day and much of that time is trying to balance cooking, eating, cleaning, feeding her, folding laundry, basically caring for the home and dog. I still don't get to spend much time with her.

Even when I spend the entire night in the same room as she is, I still struggle with giving her undivided attention. She is great at entertaining herself a lot, but I want to be an active force in her life. That said, how do I carve out time for myself. I am struggling to lose weight. I have a hole in my hip which limits the activities I can do. I am trying to walk with her, but obviously the weather affects that and my mobility is an issue. I can only do so much with her in the evening at home. Tonight, it was dinner, bath and bed so fast that I don't know what happened to play time.

I just feel like I want more time to play with her and need more time for me. I am really feeling frustrated about it. There isn't enough time in the day to be all things. I need to take time for myself, but when I do get a second there is already such a list of things I have to do. I have piles of mail that I need to take care of ( bills, forms, documentation for reimbursement, taxes, bank statements, credit cards, etc.)

Here it is ten o'clock and I had no time for exercise tonight or chores. Today's mail is still crammed in my briefcase where I put it to get it into the house when I got home from work. I brought her in, changed cloths, gave her a bottle, made dinner, fed her, cleaned up dishes, gave her a bath, finished her bottle, put her to bed, took care of dishes and nightly chores, sat down at 9:40 with a yogurt to finish this blog.

I know people do this, do it better than I am, but I am just not sure how. Tonight, I am so tired and worn down. I am not good with mess, unfinished tasks, and clutter makes me a little crazy. Maybe God is trying to make sure I learn to be a Mary, focusing on what is really important and maybe this year it isn't me.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Day 196: Random Thoughts

I didn't have anything specific going on today. It was a another seemingly senseless snow day. I didn't venture out. It was cold and windy, but it didn't seem take the day off worthy.

I did get a chance to do a little bit of packing away Christmas decor and just a bit of cleaning. But it was overall a pretty slow day.

So random thoughts -

My thermostat in the living room reads 76. If it was August and said that, I would be dripping with sweat and complaining and cranking up the A/C. So why is it that I am freezing at the same temperature in February?

I was a busy person, with a full life before I had children. Now that I have one, I look back and wonder what I did with all the time I had. I could have written novels, built a boat in all the free time I used to have. My whole day feels like someone is following me undoing all the things I just finished. Oh wait, someone is. Lil Bit is a good baby, but she is still a baby and loves messes and loud toys and . . .

Why do babies seem magically attracted to the one thing in a room they shouldn't touch? I can lay out a basket of toys for her to play with and she crawls under her Jumperoo to scrape the fireplace screen or under her Exersaucer to turn on the new Xbox. She knows not to tug on my computer cord, but will still do it when she thinks I am not looking. Way too smart for my good.

Why is the hardest part of doing the laundry taking the clean folded clothes and putting them away into drawers? or hanging them in the closet? I spend a lot of time folding laundry carefully, especially the baby's things. It takes five minutes to put it away, so why is it so hard to motivate myself to do it. The same thing can be said for the dishes. I will wash them, scrub them but won't take the two minutes to put them into the cabinets.

Why do pairs of socks go into the laundry and one random sock gets lost at least once a month? and why is it always my sock that is missing, but I can find all the teeny tiny baby socks?

Why is it harder to go to bed when I am exhausted than when I am pretty well rested?

Why is it that my husband is always on chat when I have to pee? am heading to bed? or trying to finish this blog? Not sure, but gotta go. Yay for chat!!!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Day 197: Texting While Driving

Last week, I watched a DVR recorded episode of Extreme Makeover Home Edition in which they built a home for a family that had lost a daughter to texting while driving and were trying to spread the word to teens about the dangers of such a seemingly simple behavior.

Tears sprang to my eyes a few times during the episode, but honestly, I had never given texting while driving much thought. I've done it. I've done it and realized I was starting to drift. I've done it in a hurry with the baby in the car. I didn't do it often, but sometimes I was even checking Facebook or email. I have been on my phone when I should have been all about the road.

I thought texting one letter at a time, or just glancing down for a second wouldn't be a big deal. And I have never even come close to an accident because of the phone, but . . . then the tv show made it clear how ridiculous it would be to die or hurt someone else for a silly text message that if it were really THAT important, I could just use a voice app to call them, hands free.

The issue seems to be all around me this week. I got an email about an essay contest for an editorial about the dangers of texting while driving. A friend posted an AT&T video The Last Text. I cried empathizing with the losses of the people in the video. I thought about the boy who killed someone and the girl whose sister died reading her text message. I thought about how senseless a risk it is to even glance at the phone while I am in control of a vehicle.

My daughter needs a mommy who is going to come home safely and transport her safely to and from school. My daughter deserves my best attention on the road. We can't hope that everyone around us is giving the road their best attention. If any of the other drivers around me are drinking coffee, touching up lipstick, yelling at kids in the backseat, or just suck at driving . . . I can't anticipate every possible move they might make.

Before I saw the video, I put my phone down while driving today. I only looked at it at the stoplight and in the line for the drive-thru pharmacy while stopped. I decided it wasn't worth it. I decided that my impatience wasn't worth it. After watching the video, I am glad I did. I hope that I can maintain my conviction not to text while driving, temptation rears its ugly head every time my mind isn't busy. Maybe I need to invest in books on tape, but I am going to do what I can to make sure the people I love are safe by not picking up my phone. It can w8, don't txt & drive b4 its 2 l8. 

Monday, February 7, 2011

Day 198: Always mom

Tonight my step-son from my previous marriage called. He is 22 now, but stills needs a mom. He calls and just says he called to say hello, but once I let him ramble for a few minutes it comes out that he is struggling with some pretty rough emotions. I can't imagine feeling so lost and alone, let down and ignored by the people who are supposed to support and love you, your family.

He recently found out a pretty harsh truth about his parents. He hasn't been very close to either of them in years. But he feels really disconnected from his whole family. His mother abused drugs his whole childhood, which in retrospect I think I knew something wasn't right. He lived with me most of the time, but her household was always an unstable environment. Her husband abused her in front of the kids and was at best absent or hostile to the children. A lot of this didn't come out until after I had been divorced from their father for awhile, but I hated sending them to her house even though I know she loved them. She kept choosing (and still does) the abusive husband over her own children and has convinced herself she was a good mom. On top of all that, she lied to my step-son his whole life about his father.

Her sister got drunk over the holidays and told him the truth, blow by blow. He then confirmed it with his mother.

He now knows that his father, my ex, was never his biological father. He is afraid to tell his dad this recently shared secret because he worries he will lose the only father he has ever known. Knowing how hurt he is makes me furious because his dad never treated him like a father should treat a son, like I see my husband now treat his boys. His dad always pushed him to be more manly, more like him, less into video games and Harry Potter and more into football. He never felt like his dad approved of him and sometimes if he even ever loved him. Plenty of times, I heard the ex say awful terrible things. I spent a lot of nights not knowing what to do. If I left, where did that leave the kids? But staying cost me too. (another entry for another night)

Other than his late grandmother, my step-son feels like I am the one person who will always take time to listen. I just wish he wasn't hurting so much. He said he doesn't remember being happy for a very long time. I told him he needs to find a way to be happy in himself, with himself and forget the ways his family has let him down, cut him out and hurt him. I tried to encourage him that he can make his own life and find his own friends and love and family however he defines that term.

I raised him 80% of the time for six years, until 2003. Eight years later, we spent Thanksgiving together and talk about once a month or so. But I feel I let him down. I worked so hard to give him a stable family while I was part of it, but failed in many ways especially since my marriage to his father ended with his infidelity and a complete loss for the children of another mother, home and life.

Now I am relegated to phone calls from states away and prayers that he will find the peace he needs to walk away from the hurts his family has inflicted on him and move on to create his own place in this world. I just hope that he really knows, even when he couldn't talk to me after the divorce, that I was always his mom in my heart, that I stuck it out with his dad because of him and his siblings, that when he needs a family who loves him, I am always mom, ready to listen, offer advice, smother just a little and love him. And he has a heavenly Father who loves him more than I can, and maybe I was around just long enough to let him know those two loves will never let him down. 

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Day 199: A Hallmark Day

This afternoon, I watched a Hallmark movie. They all make me cry, but this one was about a woman whose husband was a Navy pilot during WWII and was listed as MIA, but she never stopped waiting for him to come home. She was pregnant when he left, and he never met his son. Talk about a tear jerker! I cried through the whole thing. I guess after feeling the way I did last night, missing Chad so much, hating this half life without him, I should have known better than to watch it. Lil Bit crawled up into my lap for nap time and I had to wipe the tears from her cheeks that had run down mine.

The movie was part of the Hallmark Channel Anniversary celebration so every commercial break was an emotional reminder of how Hallmark cards and recordable books can be so very special in our lives. I normally wouldn't get so touched, but this year without Chad I was worried about our little girl not knowing her father.

Right before he left, I bought one of Hallmark's recordable books, All the Ways I Love You. On the back of the book is a note asking if the book has meant something to you, to write to Hallmark and let them know. I've considered writing them about how important the book has been to our family. Something along the lines of the following:

When my husband and I married, we knew we would never have any biological children together. We thought about adopting, but weren't sure we would ever be able to afford it. After years of living as frugally as possible, all the stars aligned and we brought home our precious baby girl.

My husband is a soldier and misses a lot of his family's lives. We were so thrilled when our daughter was born when he was home. He was able to spend the week she was in the NICU with us and most of the first three months of her life, including the most special day of finalizing her adoption.

He left for Iraq a week later. She was three months old. She was so small, still such a newborn. I worried about her first year being fatherless. I worried about how much he would miss and also how much she would lose not having her daddy, the snuggles, the first milestones, the bedtime stories.

So I bought one of Hallmark's recordable books, and my husband carefully recorded each page and locked the recording the day before he deployed. We started reading it daily that night. I cried when I heard his voice crack on the last line. She was captivated from the first time she heard it. Every time we read it, she stops squirming and settles in, staring intently at each page, listening closely.

As she got old enough I could hold the phone to her ear, my heart melted when her face lit up at his voice like I had never seen her smile on the phone with anyone else. She recognized his voice, she knew her father. Yesterday, she even said "Da da" on the phone to him.

We have a few weeks left to go before he gets to come home for R&R and a few months before he comes home for good. I worry about his safety everyday, and I worry about his daughter getting to know her father, but at least I know when he comes home, she will know the sound of his voice.

A lot of soldiers come home to children that are so little they've forgotten their dads or moms. The children are nervous or afraid of the stranger in their homes. All mommy or daddy wants to do is hug them hard and make every second count to make up for the many that were missed. I can't imagine the heartbreak of a parent whose child is afraid of them or too shy to go to them, but I am hopeful that my husband will not ever have to know that sadness because my daughter sees his pictures around the house and hears him read her a bedtime story every night.

As an Army wife, we do all we can to maintain the house and the family while our soldiers are gone. I have a Teddy Bear in Army uniform, pictures of him in her crib at daycare and all around our house, and his voice in a special book that reminds her not only of how her daddy sounds, but how much he loves her everyday in every way. And that has made all the difference to my precious little girl and her far away daddy, who nightly says, "I love you round and round the world. I love you through and through. And when it seems impossible to love you more . . . I do."

Day 200: not a milestone

Somehow, this nice round number should be a milestone, but it really isn't. We are getting close to the six month mark, but it is still a few weeks away. It feels like a lifetime until R&R.

This deployment has been so busy I haven't had a chance to catch my breath, rushing past in a whirlwind of chores and baby time. And yet, tonight it feels like a lifetime since I had my husband home. Somehow being too busy to miss him also makes it feel like forever since he left and maybe with him less on my mind, he feels a little more gone.

I don't know if there is a trick to this stuff. Being married and staying happy is hard enough for other families. It is extra hard to stay in love throughout the separations and deployments. I love him, of that I have no doubt, but I understand how a couple could fall apart. At some point it feels like you're just alone and I could see how easy it would be to start feeling single and acting single.

Part of what makes this so hard is that we have to act single a lot. It is part of losing that dependasaurus I talked about a few entries ago. We have to become independent and our hearts less tender so that we can survive.

When I was going through counseling during my divorce, my counselor told me that it would take a year, living through each holiday, each season without the children I had raised or my now ex-husband before I would be ready to move on. That you have to grieve each milestone before being able to put those feelings away.

And now we have thousands of military spouses on the home front essentially grieving that loss for a year, over and over, each time becoming a little more independent, a little less attached. When your husband is gone a year, home a few months and then gone for training, home and gone, home and gone and then deployed again, it is an emotional roller coaster and human nature protects ourselves from the repeated hurt by growing more callous. The first time he left, I sat with him until they made us separate. The second time he left, I sat with him on post for a few hours until they moved to the main processing area. This time, I hugged and kissed him at the front door when he left with one of his fellow NCO's.

I cried a few tears and went on with the second day of school. I went on with what I had to do. But it gets harder to have my heart in two pieces, the piece reserved for him and the piece pretending I am OK. I know we will survive this deployment because we are crazy about each other, but I would be lying if I said the separations weren't taking a toll. I wish the powers that be could understand the cost and put a cap on deployments or find a way to put soldiers serving fourth, fifth, sixth deployments on stateside duties. They wonder why there is so much suicide, divorce, abuse. People aren't meant to live like this.

It is hard to spend so much of my life missing him. It is hard to have so much of my heart walking around half a world away. They say being a mother is learning to live with your heart walking around outside your body. It is just as true of being an army wife. My heart is where he is. I just wish it were a little closer a whole lot more often. I will keep counting down until he is home, praying everyday we can catch a break and get off this deployment cycle. I don't know what we'd do with two years together, but I am willing to find out. 

Friday, February 4, 2011

Day 201: Snowday

We got an inch of snow and they cancelled school. It was nice to have the extra day to rest. I know I will be paying for it in April when we have to make it up.

I have the BEST baby in the world. She slept until nearly 9 a.m. or at least played quietly in her crib. Then she snuggled up for a late morning nap. And went down for a 3 hour nap in the afternoon, letting me nap too.

It was a day for taking care of a few little things that have been nagging at me. I finally plugged in Lil Bit's LeapFrog toy, Violet, so now it says her name, favorite food, favorite animal, and plays songs that we selected from a playlist.

I took care of one stack of mail that had been taunting me, but I have a long way to go to get the house in shape, but it was nice to take an extra day to rest and get a handle on a few things. 

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Day 203: Visitor

Yesterday I wrote about how silly Texas was being about the weather, but apparently somehow, while we can run our air conditioning when it is 110 24/7, but everyone in the state turning on the heat, freaked out the power companies so they started rolling brown outs to keep from blowing a power grid.

They might have been justified, but it takes less electricity to run heat than air and we run our AC like we're trying personally to fight off global warming. In any case, the baby's school called around 10:30 because they didn't have power and hadn't for about 90 minutes. The brown outs were supposed to last 15-30 minutes.

Not so much, so I ran and got her. I brought her to school and kept right on teaching. I know some people took the sick day and went home, but I was halfway through my classes at that point and figured we were doing group work anyway.

So I had a visitor in my classroom today. She was the biggest ham, flirting and laughing and making sure everyone commented on how cute she is. It was fun, but it was also very difficult to balance taking care of her and teaching class. I wasn't feeling very great again today, with a busy baby all day and students who were determined to push every button.

It was a long day. Long enough I turned on Barney for Lil Bit so I could lay down. She didn't like him very much. She liked the 7 minute "Monkey See Monkey Do" show, but Barney was not on her level yet, so no nap after work. I am going to crawl into bed now and hope that either I feel better tomorrow or her school starts with no power so I can stay in bed. UGH - the cold is bitter but we'll be near 70 by Sunday. Within 7 days, we went from 78 to -1 windchill and back to 68 - crazy. 

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Day 204: The Apocalypse

We live in Texas. Our idea of wintery weather is that we have some, weather that is. At least in the area of Texas in which we are stationed, our weather is primarily sunny and warm. And people here don't really know what to do when it isn't.

I grew up outside Chicago. I went to college at Northern Illinois University. While not comparable to Wisconsin or New York, we got pretty harsh weather often. Once during a severe blizzard and freeze, we did take off about two weeks, but we got four feet of snow overnight and kept getting more every time it was starting to clear. In college, we had a day the temperature was -25 and the wind chill was -50. The radio was warning us to blink often when we went outside to keep our eyeballs from freezing. School was not cancelled. People looked like they were walking at a 45 degree angle into a hurricane, but classes were held. I do not think they were well attended, but the university did not shut down.

We started getting reports of a severe cold front this weekend and yesterday. By afternoon, people were clearing the shelves at Walmart like the Apocalypse was imminent. Schools were closing. We cancelled sporting events yesterday around noon in anticipation of today.

 I will admit that when the wind started blowing 70 mph at 3 a.m., it was pretty alarming. The house sounded like it was coming down. I didn't notice any destruction in my neighborhood, except tipped trash cans, but there was a trampoline mid-road in a friend's neighborhood. Our roads were completely clear and the ice was nearly non-existent.

Despite the fact that a cancellation would have been ridiculous, I was still up at 6 a.m. watching the scrolling school closures with mixed hopes as a cancelled day today would have to be made up which is fun now, pay later. Yet, when the alarm rang a wee bit too early, I stubbornly stayed snuggled in bed until at least three channels scrolled through an alphabetical list of closures twice.

A handful of flakes began to fall during lunch. A student asked me if school was going cancelled tomorrow due to rain. For one, I can't tell right now if it is going to rain tomorrow. Two, since when is rain a cancellable offense. Wet roads, whew, what is this world coming to? How can we be expected to go to school if it is raining and cold?

Sheesh people, We drove on roads so slick people were going 5 mph. and sliding before schools were cancelled. One day my mom's area was getting 18 inches of snow while kids were heading to school and she followed the snow plow to get into work for the day. I don't know when the actual Apocalypse will come, but I doubt it will be due to either rain, snow or sleet in the southern states.

Egypt is having a real crisis. And all of our news stations spent more time on the weather this morning than the uprising of a nation. Now THAT has me worried. . .