Thursday, July 26, 2012

Blogger Challenge: Week 2

How are you like your parents? How are you different?

This is a hard question for me to answer.  It is safe to say that I know my mother better than I know my father.  I didn't grow up with them.  I lived with relatives from the time I was 3.  It's only been recently that I've reconnected with my mother.  And I think, even if I had been in contact with my dad over the last however many years, I would still not really "know" him.  He's been an addict his entire adult life, and I believe that who he is probably differs when he is on drugs as opposed to when he is off, and I would really have know way of knowing which was which.  I think I am probably more like my mother.  She and I share the same sarcastic sense of humor, and also are pretty hard headed.  I'm pretty sure my temper also comes from her side of the family.  :)

I am different from my mom in a lot of ways as well.  I was raised differently, for one.  I don't know a lot of what her home life was like.  She has several sisters and a brother (I think).  I know that not all of them have the same dad, so I don't know how long her dad was with her mom.  I know that she didn't finish school.  My dad got into drugs young so I think he never went to college, but I *think* he at least finished high school.  He's never had a steady job, never really had a place to call home.  He moved around a lot, if I remember correctly from being a kid.  I can remember thinking when I was younger that I didn't want to be like him.  I wanted a family, my family would always come first, and I would do anything and everything to make sure that I only got married once.  I am grateful that my mother and I have really reconnected over the last few years.  And I'm super excited that she gets to come out in August and meet my husband and her grandchildren!

Um....tagging blogs I read.  Well, I read my friend Kyra's a lot.  When I grow up, I want to write like her.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Blog Challenge - Week 1

Who I am today, versus me 10 years ago.

It makes my head hurt to say that 10 years ago was 2002!  Seriously!?  That seems insane to me.  Time flies when you're having fun?  Maybe.  Having fun, going crazy; it's a fine line.  So, let me see.  In 2002, I was 20, turning 21 that October.  We'd been married just over 2 years, and had our first baby, and were living at our first duty station, Fort Wainwright, Alaska.  At that time, we just had ONE kiddo.  I think it was around this time that we actively started trying for baby #2.  I am fundamentally the same person I was back then.  Meaning, the values and morals I have now, I had them back then.  Not much has changed in that regard.  I had no idea the journey we were about to embark on.  We had just decided to stay in the army, even though the plan had been to get out after his contract was up.  September 11th changed that.  We now had a baby to consider, and the economy was failing fast.  We knew we were moving at the end of that year, and were told originally that he'd be doing a six month deployment to Afghanistan.  It makes me chuckle now, of how terrified I was about the future of this country, of deployments, and the changes just in general after 9/11.  

At that time, I was working full time as a nanny for some amazing kids.  There were four of them: Sterling, Lauren, Kyle, and Bruce.  I often thought, "This could be my life in 10 years - lots of kids running around."  And then I'd shake my head and think, "HECK NO!"  Perhaps that was my own intuition that we were destined to have a big family, I don't know.  I love every single one of my children, and while yes, they are a handful sometimes (and make me want to rub my head on pavement most days), if you were to ask me which one I'd give up if I could go back, well, there's no answer for that.  I'd be missing a piece of myself if I didn't have all five of them.  Anyway, babysitting was usually a lot of fun.  The kids were always pretty good, but the parents were in the middle of a nasty divorce.  It's hard to stay out of the middle of that, especially when you feel like one parent doesn't necessarily have the best interest of the kids first.  I tried to stay out of it, but looking back, I see now I probably could have done a better job of butting out.  I ended up getting fired because the parent still at home felt like I was an "ally" to the parent who had moved out, and therefore, I couldn't be trusted.  It was very upsetting for me, because it had nothing to do with me, or the kids for that matter.  This was just trying to cover up their own ass.  I have kept in contact with them, thanks to Facebook.  And it also makes my head hurt that Sterling and Lauren have now graduated from high school.  Ah!

Chip and I were so young back then.  I don't know how we ever survived financially back then.  We were both working full time, and yet we still did not have a good handle on our finances.  Hell, we still don't.  I'd say of all our issues, the hardest thing for us has been finances.  Neither one of us really have self control.  Every year we say we are going to save money.  Every year, that never happens.  And back then, I don't remember going out a whole lot or doing a bunch of stuff, but we were always short on money.  We lived on base, so all of our utilities were paid.  Probably a very good thing!  We were in a 6-plex, second from the end.  The people next to us on the end were...interesting.  Very dramatic.  Always always causing trouble.  The people on the other side of us were fantastic.  I still talk to Jeanette.  I am grateful that she was around back then.  I can imagine I was pretty annoying.  Pretty sure I was at her house almost every day.  Brenna loved her boys, who were just a few years older than her.  And I just loved having a friend to hang out with and talk to.  Plus, Jeanette's house was always more organized than mine (read: cleaner) and it was a good distraction to go to her house and avoid mine.  We bbq'd in the summer, the kids played, and of all the people I met in Alaska, she is one of a handful I still talk to.  That was the summer that a baby that she babysat passed away.  It was a sad situation, the baby had been 2 months old.  Mom had taken the baby to the doctor repeatedly and they kept saying she just had a cold.  She ended up passing away with two severe inner ear infections and pneumonia, which was her official cause of death.  Since I was over at Jeanette's every day pretty much, I spent a lot of time with the baby.  I think about her often.  Such a sweet little girl, definitely gone too soon.

So we took our first road trip together in 2002.  We drove from Fairbanks, Alaska to Anderson, South Carolina.  It took us a little over a week to get through Canada.  It was absolutely beautiful.  We stopped in North Dakota and stayed the night with a childhood friend of mine whose husband was stationed at Grand Forks AFB, ND.  I hadn't seen her since she moved away when we were kids, so it was awesome to connect with her.  Then we drove to Minnesota and stayed a weekend with some childhood friends of Chip's.  Then on to Chicago, for a week with my family, and then the last stop was South Carolina.  We flew to Schofield Barracks, HI from there.

I look at the mother and person I was back then, and I think I am much more patient now than I was then.  Brenna was always a stubborn kiddo, and we generally engaged in a battle of wills at least once a day.  It was exhausting!  It wasn't until a few years later that I think I really truly got what being a mom is all about.  You must always win the battle of the wills - BUT - you must also choose your battles.  Some really just aren't worth fighting.  I wasn't a very good wife back then either.  I had always thought that he should be doing all these grand gestures of love and appreciation, and I focused on how he WASN'T doing that, and not at all about how I did nothing for him.  I never cleaned the house.  I hated cleaning the house.  I hated that it was expected of me to clean the house, so I never did.  Many fights came about because I did the bare minimum to keep things tidy enough for a baby around, but since she never went into the kitchen, dishes weren't a priority.  And since I did her laundry, well, why did I need to do his, too?  He's a big boy, lol.  I realized a few years later that a relationship isn't about what they are doing for you (or not doing), but it's about what you are doing for each other.  He works all day.  So I should probably get off my ass and clean up a little bit.  I do better now, but laundry is the bane of my existence.  I just need a maid for that, I think.
We've more than covered ten years ago.  Who am I today?  Still an army wife, still a mom, with just a few more kids.  I think I'm so much more mature than I was back then.  I'm definitely wiser.  I have learned so much about myself and who I am over the last 10 years.  Five kids and two deployments tend to push you to limits you never thought you had.  It's amazing what you will do to survive and thrive.  I am not one of those people who would go back and tell myself what to do or not do, look forward to or dread.  Every single thing that happened helped shape who I am.

So I think we're supposed to tag someone or a blog that we read regularly. I mostly read my sister-in-law's blog to keep up with them and my adorable little niece!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Is This Thing On?

Yes, that's right, after almost a year, I am writing a blog!  It has been a crazy, ridiculous 10 months, so while I am sorry that I haven't blogged, I've had bigger fish to fry.  Lots of changes in my life personally, most of which I'm not going into detail on a public blog, lol.  So what brings me back?  A blog challange!  Yay!  So in about 8 weeks, hopefully this will become habit enough that I write regularly.  Here are the rules, should you feel so inclined to participate.  

Here are the rules:
  • The blog-every-single-day thing seems to be a little... scary for a lot of people. So, we're shooting for once-a-week blogging for 8 weeks.
  • Blog challenges will be "due"/rollover on Sunday nights at midnight. I know this sounds a lot like a class project, but hey, we're all gluttons for punishment, anyway, right?
  • Post the challenge/challenge rules before you write your first blog-challenge blog, and link back to it with each blog-challenge post (then say blog challenge ten times fast!). This way, your readers can join in on the fun.
  • And, just to shake things up, at the bottom of each blog challenge blog, post the link to another blog you read regularly. Think of it as a grab bag for your readers. Or just utter ridiculousness on my part.
  • Try to comment on other blogs doing the challenge. Let the blogger know you're reading and doing the challenge, too!
  • Take the topics as seriously or as lightly as you would like.
  • Write as much or as little as you would like.
  • Use visuals if and how you see fit.
  • Have fun and share!

Now... For the topics!

  • Week 1: Compare and contrast: yourself now vs. yourself ten years ago.
  • Week 2: How are you like your parents? How are you different?
  • Week 3: Who and what makes up your "community?" How do you define that community?
  • Week 4: A social situation you struggle with and why.
  • Week 5: How do you define yourself?
  • Week 6: What is a goal you have or want to set for yourself? How are you going to achieve it?
  • Week 7: A funny story about something dumb you have done.
    Week 8: Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

Saturday, September 10, 2011

September 11

Our morning routine was almost set in stone.  Chip would wake up around 5:30 and go to PT.  Brenna, who was only a few months old, would hear him and demand to be fed.  I'd lay her in bed next o me and nurse her back to sleep, and then fall back asleep myself.  I loved snuggling with her.  I loved everything about being a new mom.  And this morning seemed as normal as any other.  We snuggled, she slept, and after a little while, I finally fell asleep.  I didn't know that the world as I had known it, was about to be drastically changed.

I woke up shortly after I had fallen asleep because Chip had come home early.  In my half awake state, I didn't understand what he was asking.  No, I didn't have any family in NY.  I was mildly irritated that he felt this stupid question was important enough to wake me up to ask it, even after I'd been up several times with the baby while he got to sleep peacefully all night.  Another seemingly stupid question followed that one.  No, I do not have any family in Pennsylvania.  Why in the world is this important at 6am?  By this time, I was sitting up, Brenna was waking up, and I was officially annoyed.  And then he broke the news to me.

A terrorist attack.  In OUR country.  With OUR planes.  That killed OUR innocent civilians.
He informed me that the base was at FPCON Delta.  I had seen the signs at the front gate on post, but had never seen anything but Alpha, and had no idea what Delta meant.  He'd been sent home early, since most of his unit wasn't on base, and it was taking several hours for people to get through the front gate.  I ran downstairs and turned on the tv.  We sat there in silence for a few minutes, watching in horror at those images.  I was 19 when the towers fell, and 6000 miles from home with a new baby and a soldier husband.  I cannot express how isolated and scared I felt at that moment. It was so early in Alaska, and I was in such shock that I didn't understand that the images I was seeing on tv were not live images, but in fact had taken place several hours before.  I called family and friends in an effort to reach out to people to perhaps feel some sort of safety in the midst of this chaos.  I clutched Brenna as if letting go of her meant losing her, and then I cried at the thought of being stupid enough to bring a child into this crazy and unpredictable world.  And then I looked at Chip, and wondered what this meant as far as the military. I truly and honestly thought WWIII was imminent.

That day changed the life of every American.  We could probably all play that six degrees game and somebody knows somebody who died that day, or who was in NYC.  I didn't know anybody personally who died that day, but as an American, I think I can safely say that I feel the loss.  Not only a sense of personal loss of all those lives, but the loss of life as I knew it.

I can clearly remember a pre- 9/11 and a post-9/11.  Things changed that day for the good and the bad.  It's interesting to me how much the course of my life changed because of that day.  Instead of getting out of the army, Chip reenlisted.  We were first told that he would do a 6 month tour in Afghanistan.  I remember how terrified I was of that thought.  And now I chuckle, after having been told, "The good news is, no 6 month deployment to Afghanistan - the bad news is, a 13 month deployment to Iraq."

I cried that day for so many reasons.  My heart broke for all the families and friends of those who were lost.  I gained a whole new respect for the firefighters and police officers who ran into those towers to help with no thought of personal safety.  You always see the firetrucks go by but you never really think about them.  I'd always say a prayer for whoever they were going to help.  Now, I say a prayer for them all.  I cried out of fear and anger and confusion.  But, when the tears were gone, I was ready for a fight.  That day I discovered a pride and a love for this country that I can't even begin to describe.  I'd always known how lucky I was to be an American, but that day I APPRECIATED it. 

On the 10th Anniversary of that day, I look back not with the fear and anger of a young mother, but with pride and honor at being able to call myself an American.  Our country is a great country.  We have so much to be grateful for.  We have the freedom to pursue our dreams, to speak our minds, to live our lives.  And our country is so beautiful!  I've not been everywhere, but I've seen so much.  I've seen the Chicago skyline, the Appalachian mountains, the Ohio river, Lake Michigan, Mt. McKinley, the northern lights, a Hawaiian sunset, Mt. Rainier and Mendenhall glacier.  I love this country!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Opening the Door

I expect this to be a long post, and one that gets very personal.  I heard this poem recently, and it put into words some things that I have felt for a long time but didn't know how to express.  It's amazing how something can offer so much clarity and you haven't even sought it out, or realized that you needed it.  I'll start with the poem, and then explain how it touched, and healed, my soul.

The Words
by Serena, a military spouse

The words were there all along.

I kept them chained
My back turned
Ears covered
Eyes shut tight.

Then hit my stride
began to breathe.....let down my guard.

They were waiting
Simmering there in the dark
To seize the day
And forge the crack in my defense.

Striking furiously, without mercy
They laid me




Wimpering in anguish and despair.

"I Cannot Do This Anymore."
I struggled not to hear
to block them out
to flee.

They were relentless, determined to be reckoned, delighting in their voice;
bathing over me with their poison.

"You Cannot Do This."
"You Have Failed."
The words have left their mark.


Clinging to my last reserve, I hear familiar voices pleading through the din.

Four tiny, trusting eyes
My one true love
My friend
All beckon.....

"Stay With Me."

"You Have A Choice."

Harkening to the hopeful voice

I choose to stand
And greet the light....
                          however dim.

To rise and dress the wound
replace their chains
and start again.

To live the story to its end.

There's more beyond the dark.

I struggled for the first few months of the last deployment.  My entire support system had disintigrated.  I was pregnant.  I was lonely.  I was worried.  I was scared.  I had very few people I could turn to.  I sought counseling, but all three of the counselors had one solution - move home.  But that seemed like even more stress.  How could moving across the country with five kids by myself, TWICE in one year possibly be less stressful than the life I was living at that moment?  I desperately cried out for help, and didn't feel like anyone heard me, or worse, cared.  Talking to my husband made it worse because it caused him to worry about me and things at home, thus taking his mind off his task at hand.  I couldn't breathe, I didn't recognize myself, I was broken.  I went home from the hospital after having Camden by myself.  I spent 3 days alone with all five of my kids, and I was exhausted. Physically, mentally, emotionally.  Every part of me was depleted.  I had a friend stay with me for 3 weeks, and then Chip came home for 18 days of leave, and then I was alone again, for another 9 long months.

I remember the day that this poem was my life.  It was a beautiful day, but I was in my own hell.  I needed an hour, just to breathe, to gather my thoughts, to regroup and move on.  I called every person I knew and NO. ONE. could help me.  I had one person who I thought I could depend on, but she was immersed in her own crisis.  I was sitting in my living room.  It was quiet.  Brenna was in school.  The other four were occupied.  And I was alone on my couch.  This was it.  I would either be consumed by those words: I Cannot Do This Anymore........or I would face the world on my own.  Five little lives depended on me.  They had no one else at that moment.  I HAD to put the pieces back together.  I had no other option.  It was by far my darkest hour, and the light at the end of that tunnel was so very, very dim.  But I grasped it with every fiber of my being.  I picked myself up, I walked over to my newborn son, I kissed his forehead, and made a vow to take every day ONE day at a time. 

I didn't realize until just recently how much the decision to depend only on myself had impacted my life.  We all hear about how soldiers coming back from a deployment are different.  The things they endure, the things they see and participate in, through no fault of their own, changes who they are.  But we hardly hear about how a deployment changes a spouse who is back home.  I didn't fight in a war, my life was never truly in danger, and I still had all the comforts of home.  But being alone for 15 months, being both mom and dad, and doing everything on my own.....that all changed who I am.  It's not a bad thing.  I became more independent and stronger than I ever thought I could be.  But the conscious decision to depend only on myself impacted me deeply.  I didn't realize this until I was trying to do everything on my own, even after he returned from the deployment.  Instead of him being a partner in my life, he was more a nuisance, something else I had to take care of.  It's a hard transition to make, and in the process of that transition, we moved to another duty station.  These last 2+ years have been such a roller coaster ride for us.  But, I'm learning to open that door again, to need someone again. 

The poem was part of a video that highlights suicides among military spouses.  While I've never contemplated suicide, I have been in the darkest parts of my soul.  I have seen friends and family struggle with depression, and I know that while it was my hardest struggle, it may not seem that hard to some.  Many military spouses have gone through more deployments, have had major life events and crises happen during deployments, and my journey is just one of thousands.  But it is mine.  The pain I felt is not unique.  But rather, it is what bonds military spouses together.  We can all relate.  We are not better than any other spouse, just more resilient and perhaps even a little stronger.

Thursday, July 7, 2011


I've never regretted the wedding that I had.  It wasn't the classiest affair by any means.  Who gets married in their parent's basement?  This girl.  I've always said (and, even more importantly, always believed) that it wasn't the wedding itself that really mattered.  It's the marriage. 

This train of thought is brought to you by a friend of mine who just got married, and then put up a link to her photographer's website.  I got lost on this girl's site one day, just in awe of all the beautiful weddings that she was lucky enough to photograph, and suddenly I found myself wondering what my wedding would have been like.  What kind of dress would I have had, and what kind of flowers?  What would have been my something blue and who would have walked me down the isle?  I've honestly never given it much thought.  I mean, we've been married almost 12 years now, that day has come and gone.  To be honest, I've always thought eloping was the best thing we ever did.  I was the matron of honor at my sister's wedding, and the details alone are enough to make me want to rub my head on pavement.  This was the first time that I can remember ever thinking about what it would have been like.......

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Breakdown in Isle 3

For the second time this week (and perhaps my entire life), I cried in Walmart. 

Wednesday night, we ran to Walmart, and they have a salon at the ones here.  Emma desperately needed a haircut, so I took her over while Chip walked around with the other kids.  The lady there does an awesome job on my kids' hair, so I always look fo her.  After we were done, Aubrie throws this massive fit because she wants a haircut now as well.  I figured, since she's four, that like most things, this, too, would pass.  No such luck.  The next day, Aubrie found a pair of scissors and cut her hair.  (Incidentally, these are scissors I've been looking for FOREVER, and have no idea where she found them, but am now pretty sure she's the reason I couldn't find them.....but that's another blog.)  I got all the kids ready to go and headed back to Walmart to get her hair fixed cut. Once we got there, Brenna decides that she also wants a haircut.  Fine.  Two birds with one stone.  Awesome.  Well, Brenna's haircut is a little more complicated than just a simple bob, so her haircut took over an hour.  We were there almost 2 hours before we were done, and I go to the front to pay, only to discover that my debit card is not in my purse or wallet.  Awesome.  The lady, luckily for me, was super nice, and told me I could go home and get it, not a big deal.  But I seriously cried.  I hate feeling like an idiot, or being embarrased in public.  My kids are not always the best behaved and I struggled to keep them wrangled for the 2 hours she cut their hair.  Yes, they're kids and they have the attention spans of ants, but still.  I expect a certain level of discipline, but sometimes that expectation is far from met.  And since I can't beat them in public, they can get out of hand. And after all of that, I couldn't find my stupid debit card.  This is my life, folks. 

Today was a little different, though.  I ventured to Walmart all by myself.  I went in search of the dreaded bathing suit.  (Dum dum dum!)  I hate bathing suit shopping with a passion.  I get mad at myself every time I think of going bathing suit shopping for not keeping better tabs on my suit so I wouldn't have to buy another bathing suit EVER.  I actually found a few that looked decent, and made the mistake of thinking that trying them on was a good idea.  It wasn't.  I cannot express to you how pathetic it feels to cry in the dressing room of Walmart.  So not only do I look and feel fat, but I also look and feel pathetic as well. 

I'm going to be brutally honest here.  I'm not happy with myself.  I haven't weighed this much, except when I was pregnant.  I find it nearly impossible to find time to work out, unless I want to get up really early or stay up super late.  That is slowly changing, as it's summer and I have a friend who has a daughter who can watch the kids for me now.  But I'm mad at myself for letting myself go for so long.  I am not obese by any means, but I'm not healthy, I think, either.  I hate not having energy.  I hate that none of my clothes fit me anymore, and I hate that I have friends losing weight who give me their "fat" clothes........and they fit.  I see friends who have had babies who are at or below their prepregnancy weight and I want to scream.  I know that I will never truly be my "prepregnancy" weight.  I was 19 when I had Brenna, and 116 lbs when I got pregnant with her.  I think it's fair to say that's probably not a realistic or healthy goal for me at this stage of my life. I would settle for 130.   So, at least for now, I'm going to concentrate on what I eat, and at least walking three or four times a week.  I know I need to do it, I know I need to quit making excuses, and dang it, I need to quit crying in Walmart!