Thursday, December 23, 2010

Getting Real this Christmas

Let me take you on a visual journey for a moment.  Picture in your mind a beautiful woman.  She's not too thick, not too thin.  Her hair is long and full (color of your choice) with waves that are so effortlessly whipped around by the wind.  Her skin is flawless--a complexion smooth as marble; her features are perfectly set apart and placed.   Lips and cheeks a rosy hue.  Lashes long and dark.  She's just gorgeous and you can't take your eyes off of her.  Now...imagine that same image but tweak it just a bit...she pregnant, VERY pregnant.  You can only tell it in her belly as it is quite full and round, but it takes nothing away from her beauty.  If anything, it actually adds to it, as if she were the perfect picture of the Greek goddess of fertility...and beauty.

That, my friends, is not me.  It never has been.  It never will be.  Somedays it gets me VERY down, and yet on others, I somehow, by the grace of God, can look in the mirror and she beauty.  But mostly I feel miserable.  Frumpy.  Bland.  Swollen.  Just blah.  And truthfully, I think all expectant mothers get to that point at SOME point in their pregnancy(s).  Even Little Miss Gorgeous as described above.  It can be easy for us to look at others in the same proverbial boat and think how good pregnancy looks on them, not seeing any of that in ourselves.  Because the truth is...childbearing is hard on us.  On the inside.  On the outside.  Every ounce of our humanness is burdened by this growing child inside us.  Though a miracle it is, it is one HEAVY miracle to carry around for 9 months.

But as I was sitting looking at my swollen self in photos today, feeling all pitiful and disgusting, I realized something: the first Christmas was found Mary feeling probably the very same way.  And it brought me back to reality on several levels.

Mary was surely blessed to be called to the mother of our Savior, but she was human and brought Jesus into this world in the same way every other human woman has (minus the aid of OBs, midwives, painkillers, c-sections, waterbirths or other more "modern" introductions).  Even if she had not just traveled a long distance on foot and donkey, she had to have been exhausted, burdened, and uncomfortable.  Her labor and delivery of our Lord was full of pain.  THAT was the first Christmas.  And my how it grounds me.

I like the red and green of the season as much as the next person.  The carols and bells, trees and wreaths, all make my heart smile.  I revel in sitting in a living room fully decorated with the only light being that that comes from the fireplace and the twinkle of the tree lights.  USUALLY, I do.  This year, I just wasn't feeling it as much.  I wasn't a Scrooge, but I just wasn't getting into the mood of the season the way I normally do.  And then you add on top of it the self-pitying feelings I have just described and wasn't having a very Merry Christmas at all.  Rather, I think I am having a "Mary" Christmas.

She said yes to God.  She said, "Let it be done to me according to thy will."  She knew what was going on and who that child in her whom was.  She was pregnant with Jesus by the Holy Spirit.  BUT...her engagement was jeopardized.  People were probably talking--oh! the scandal!  But it worked out.  Her faith sustained her.  And then this census is called and she must travel so far with Joseph and with the baby due anyday!  Her body was already so tired.  When they finally arrive after their long journey, there is NO place to stay!  *And here is where I must add that traveling the same distance by cushy comfy car to arrive and find that every sanitary hotel is booked solid and I must stay in a roach-motel with a baby coming...that ALONE would set me off...*  A stable is all they can find and her labor has started!  No midwife or mother or even any other woman to help her through this--no one but Joseph, and God bless him, he's a man during a time when men were NOT around or involved in the delivery of babies at all--it was WOMAN'S business strictly!  But finally, the baby arrives and she can find that sudden burst of joy-filled energy that comes over brand-new mothers.  Yet as she is trying to take it all in, to revel in the moment...here comes a sight...a group of shepherds?!  Um...okay.  What an evening! 

My point: she had tremendous faith in God.  She knew He was in charge and that His hand was guiding all the events taking place around her; yet she herself--not actually being God--couldn't have known what would happen from moment to moment.  She simply had to rely on that faith of hers to see her through those moments and say, "Lead me."  No matter how odd or bizarre, burdened or painful those varying moments were.  She just had to have faith that this was all happening as part of God's greater plan for her and ultimately her Son.

It took me up until the Eve of Christmas Eve to realize this but perhaps for the first time in a long time, I am really experiencing--whole-heartedly--what Christmas is truly about.  Knowing that through life's burdens and pains, Christ came and with Him the offer of eternal joy. 

I'm still not thrilled about how I look or feel now, but knowing that over 2000 years ago, the mother of our Savior felt the same way (at least in my mind) and that time she lived in and the things she had to endure were much worse, well...it gives me comfort.  It helps me to see through some of the uglier moments in life and instead see the beauty.  In the season.  In our homes.  In each other.  And even in ourselves.

Merry Christmas my friends!  May you find the beauty of faith in Christ this Christmas!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Done with Giving a Damn?

I am tired.  I am heading to bed shortly after I post this.  There's the problem right there.  Being tired and cranky often makes things seem worse than they are, but I can't help how I am feeling right now and so, I write...

I am tired of giving a damn.  More specifically, I am tired of giving a damn about people who don't seem to give the same level of concern about me.

I am often left wondering with many of my friends, "if I didn't ask, would you offer?"  If I didn't ask for help, would you offer?  If I didn't ask for your shoulder to cry on, would you offer?  If I didn't ask for advice, would you offer?  If I didn't ask you to call me, would you offer?  If I didn't ask to be included, would you offer?  I could go on with more examples, but I think my point is clear.

 It's hard to sit back and feel as though we don't matter to people.  In fact, I am going to go out on a limb here and guess that it is probably a number one reason behind alot of suicides, although we'll never know because we can't ask the dead questions.  And PLEASE--do not interpret my bringing up of the subject of suicide as a threat!  They are NOT one in the same...read on...

About a year and a half ago, I was sitting at a little restaurant in Bamberg, Germany with a group of ladies--friends--from church.  We were fare-welling a member of our small group and engaging in a hundred different little conversations, when somehow the entire table got latched on to the same topic--the news of a recent suicided of an Army wife in the nearby town of Schweinfurt.  Now before I go any further, please know that I do not know the victim--her name, her husband, his rank, his unit, their hometowns, NOTHING, so if you are reading this and DO happen to know more specifics behind this "case" just know that I did not and do not know anymore than what I am writing here, and I prefer it stay that way.  We all expressed our sympathies, concerns, etc. when one amongst us says rather boldly, "How can a person be so selfish!  She had a husband and kids and to take her own life...  She HAD to be selfish!"  I didn't say a word in response.  I couldn't.  Because words were not want I wanted to "do."  Lunging across the table and slapping her up-side the face was more along the lines of how I really wanted to react to her verbal response.

Selfish?  That is all she could say?!  Now, I know many people have different takes on suicide.  Fine.  We are all entitled to our opinions.  So here's my opinion: there are 2 types of suicide; they differ only in how the person gets to that point, unfortunately the end result is the same.  The first type is what I would classify as the, well, selfish type.  A person gets caught with their pants down--whether literally or figuratively--and they take their own life so as to avoid the embarrassment or burden that being "found out" would bring them.  We see this played out in Hollywood scripts quite often.  The politician who is about to be caught in the middle of a scandal.  The charity head who is caught embezzling millions from a good cause.  The "average Joe" who about to be found out by the cops as a horrible criminal and refuses to be taken in alive.  I believe those are selfish reasons yes.  I believe the Bible is referring to these as sinful.  I also believe that they account for a very SMALL percentage of the total suicides committed in our society.  BECAUSE...the second type is the majority.  They are not selfish suicides.  They are committed by people who have fallen into such deep mental illness, be it depression or some other form, that they really are no longer the person the world knew and the pain they felt was so unbearable they could no longer carry on.  In the end, they felt SO alone--no, they felt so  LONELY--that they fell into a vicious cycle that ended tragically.

So what really bothered me when that lady said that the deceased was selfish, was that truthfully, I have been LONELY and I have been DEPRESSED...it is a HORRIBLE feeling to have to endure.  I am thankful to God multiple times over that He "threw me the rope" necessary to get out of that cycle.  That "rope" was usually a person--friend or family--who called me up, visited me, sent me a card to let me know I mattered.  Something so small to them, literally meant the world to me.  And I was no where NEAR suicidal; just think about the difference it could have/would have made if I had been?

Maybe that is why I try to go out of my way to let me know I appreciate them.  Could I do better?  Absolutely, I have much room for improvement.  But 99% of the time, when someone pops into my mind, unless I am COMPLETELY unable to, I pick up the phone, jot a note, or swing by their home.  I take a bit of my time to let them know I care.

So it hurts when I feel like I don't get the same thing back.  I'll get by.  I'll suck it up and move on.  But sometimes I want to scream and just be rude as hell and say the first thing that pops into my mind: "Glad you can spend all your time with so-and-so," "I see on FB you've been in touch with so-and-so lately," "Thanks for inviting so-and-so shopping with you everytime you and not me!"  Again...you get my point. 

We've all been there.  Feeling left out.  Feeling second-best.  Feeling like we just don't matter and wondering what on earth we've done that is so "wrong."  So do me a couple of favors: if I (or anyone else) pops into your mind, let them know that AND...if you promise someone you'll do so, keep that promise because you never know when that may be the one promise they need fulfilled more than anything.

I'm off to bed now.  I feel a tad better.  Thanks for listening to my ranting and raving...

Thursday, November 25, 2010

A Thanksgiving Gamble

No worries--no money was put on the table and lost, nor was any possession or property.  In fact, it was more of a lesson learned--

If you are going to keep the floors dry so the children won't slip in water and fall down, just push an adult down...one will probably fall anyway.

Amazing words of wisdom, I know.  And I am also sure that is exactly what you expected to hear, right?  Ha!  Come with me if you will as I tell you the little story behind it...


Anyone who inhabited or, for that matter, was merely passing through our part of the country in the last 48 hours can attest to the extremely wet, cold, and generally dismal weather we've had.  After months of little to no rain, we got our back pay--in lump sum.  If only it had been colder, it might have been snow and therefore not as nasty and mucky and muddy to get out in.  All day long the rain kept coming, and as we counted every single person who would be attending Zuber Thanksgiving (29 if anyone is counting), it became obvious to me that our European counterparts are onto something with the whole "don't wear shoes inside the house" thing.  If everyone were to keep their wet shoes on, there would be little puddles throughout the house and soppy patches of carpet (and a with a dog who is phobic of peeing outside during inclement weather, we need NO help in the mysterious puddle department).  Aside from being messy, with 2 babies and a handful of boisterous young ones running about, there was the possibility that someone was going to slip and fall down as they were playing.  So I made the "command decision" to post signs at both entrances--even though one entrance was blocked by temporarily established dining table--asking for the removal of shoes upon entering.  I even called everyone and gave notice ahead of time so that no one thought I was doing this to further burden them--coming in out of nasty weather with food and belongings in tow only to be required to stop and disrobe (partially).  And for the most part it worked out fine.  Until the fall. 

Someone (and not a child) had left their shoes in the middle of the entry way right in front of the door, and Granny (my mom) was attacked by them.  Ok.  Maybe "attacked" isn't the right word.  But she went down regardless.  In the frenzied moments right before dinner is about to be served and every inch of countertop space is needed, she decided to take the now-out-of-work roasting rack that had so lovingly and dutifully hugged our turkey through it's roasting, out onto the backporch.  "A little rain will just prewash it for us!"  Famous last words?  You be the judge...but I digress.  She was a woman on a mission and as she approached the half-open door, Carl was just two seconds too slow in his verbal warning of the shoes in the way.  She tripped on them and reached for the nearest thing she could to steady herself...unfortunately it happened to be the half-opened door which is movable so she fell anyway, but ended up shutting her hand in the door, hitting her head on it, and knocking her glasses askew.  Before I go on, I must add that she is fine.  Her fingers are bruised a bit as are both knees, the glasses fixed, and the head--no worse than it was before.  She may be a little sore for a few days, but nothing serious, so rest easy. 

However, I am at the stove putting the finishing touches on the gravy when this all went down and all I did was hear the commotion and the mention of "I tripped on the shoes."  Let me give you a moment to take it in and ponder it...  Perhaps you've guessed it, but my first thought was, "#$%&! This is all my fault because I just HAD to have everyone take their shoes off!!"  Now don't be surprised by this.  I am a human.  Furthermore, I am a female human--we tend to be a bit more emotionally unstable than our male counterparts (sometimes).  And even furthermore...I am a PREGNANT and highly HORMONAL female human...yeah...that's a cocktail to approach with caution, trust me. 

Once I fully realized (which didn't take all that long) that mom was going to be fine, all I could do was stand there and stir the gravy while fighting back tears.  Logically, I knew it was not my fault.  It was no one's fault, but our hearts don't always give into logic so quickly.  When mom tried to approach me immediately then to remind me all was well, I just couldn't talk and I told her so.  It wasn't because I was a wreck or was still blaming myself, but it was because if I had started talking, I would have opened the flood gates to too many tears.  I don't use the term floodgate loosely either.  Pregnant mother of 2.  Husband deployed to combat zone.  Living in another's home.  Another family-focused holiday without my husbad--they never get easier.  Ever.  If I had started bawling because of guilt from the fall, then I would also start crying tears of relief that she was fine.  Those would snowball to tears of self-pity and sadness.  SO...in all seriousness, my stirring that gravy was my way of being the little Dutch boy with my finger plugging the leak in the dam.  And it worked.  Dinner was served--chaotic buffet style--less than 10 minutes later with nary a tear in sight.

I guess, to me, it made me thankful for contentedness (which ironically was what I was wanting to right about in the last posting anyway).  Things don't always go perfectly.  The best laid and well-intended plans can go to hell in a hand basket at a moments notice.  Tears flow.  People fall.  Gravy gets lumps.  Salads go forgotten in the fridge (sorry about that Libby...that's a story for another time).  They aren't the joyous, wondrous, "high" moments of like, but they are not tragic and heart-breaking ones either.  We will cool off, get through them, and move on without too much effort.  We are...content.  Which is 90% of life...at least.  So enjoy those "just okay" moments and be thankful for them. 

...afterall...if it's just shoes we are tripping on in life's journey, we've got it pretty good...it's a heck of lot better than tripping on a landmine....

Happy Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Please Forgive Me...

So....I've been off here for a while.  Not on purpose, well, not really.  But I feel I must offer at least this pathetic attempt at an explanation. 

To begin with, I've been having a nightly "affair" with Ancestry.com.  It started months ago, but then my severe illness in the Spring and Summer's crazy adventures forced us to part ways for a time, but we are once again united.  Steve and I love history and last year had this idea to try to trace ANY branch of both of our trees as far back as we can and give the results as Christmas gifts to our parents and siblings.  Yeah...that last part won't happen as I just don't have enough time to complete anything.  BUT, at least I got back on and I try to do a bit of research each night.  The downside to this is that I get to spend less time with you all and my precious blog.  I simply don't have that much energy. 

 All that aside however, I must tell you the deeper reason behind my absence...avoidance.  You see, I feel I have failed you, dear reader, by teasing you.  Teasing you with a title that contains the word "comic."  That leads one to believe that this blog will be funny and so far, well, I have fallen quite short of writing anything humorous for humor's sake.  I think this is because the only consistent time I find to "blog" is at night, immediately before bed, and sadly...I am usually in a piss-poor mood by that time of day.  I think the exhaustion of the day tends to turn our minds--if not well-guarded against it--to constant negativity. 

I can't begin to tell you how much I LONGED to jump on here and whip out a quirky, humorous bit worthy of a space next to Dave Barry's editorials (if you've never read his columns in papers across the country you must, he is an absolute hoot!)  Once or twice I sat behind the computer but all that I could muster words for were horrible rants upon myself, my life, my situation and just THINKING about the words I would type disgusted me.  All that self-pity boohooing!  blech.  So I just sucked it up and went to bed.  Maybe it would have done be good to have gotten rid of those emotions, but I want to be able to look back at my blog on its one-year anniversary and, for the most part, smile if not laugh.  Writing what I was feeling in the last couple of weeks would NOT fit into the category of smile-worthy.  Just leaving it alone seemed the best option.

In the end, I can't promise that I won't ever whine, rant, vent, or pity myself in any future posts, but I can promise to TRY to write some more cheerful stuff at some point, whenever that might be.  By the way...that is not tonight...far to tired already.  But thanks for checking back on occassion, regardless of the tone of my posts.

You may be asking...why on earth did she type all that in italics?!  Funny you should ask...  I originally had a completely different title and intent for tonight's posting, and the above was supposed to simply be a small disclaimer.  But when your disclaimer ends up being THIS long...it might as well stand alone.  Come by again, I love hearing from you...and you never know...the next posting might just be the first truly funny one! 

Thursday, November 11, 2010

A 21-Gun Goodbye

Disclaimer: I am extremely tired and my brain is failing me as I write this, but I felt I MUST get this posted today, even if it is chock full of typos and lacks that certain flow...

During today's Veteran's Day service on the courthouse lawn in tiny Newton, IL, a group of American Legion members formed a color guard and fired a 21-gun salute.  It was immediately followed by Taps played by trumpeters from the local high school band.  As the wife of a currently deployed soldier, that ws the point at which I could no longer hold back the tears.  And the thing about it was...it was FAR from perfect.  With the exception of a couple of them, the all-male group was older--at least 60 I would guess.  It had to be hard for some of them to stand the entire length of the program.  Some were beginning to look a bit hunched over; others had that slight limp in their gate that only age can bring about.  The actual firing of the volley of gunfire was nearly as synchronized as it could have been.  The young trumpeter charged with the echo portion of Taps had a devil of a time staying on key.  Perfection it was not.  But in that imperfection was where I found the most beauty.  Because deep down it represents what a veteran really is to our nation--a wholly imperfect human, who has the ability to see past those imperfections of both themselves and our nation and step up to accept that call to protect and defend our way of life.

But back to that color guard.  I've seen some of the sharpest color guards made up of active duty soldier, sailors, airmen, marines, and coast guardsmen.  Every one of them the relative same height and build.  Every one of them impeccably dressed with boots and helmets so shiny that if you looked at them the wrong way, your vision would be shaken.  Everyone of them so drilled in the technique that every single move they made was perfectly in step and synchronized as if they were one entity.  Amazing to behold, but no less touching than the group I saw today and have seen at so many local funerals.  It doesn't matter how sharp or how old the color guard is.  The meaning behind that firing of 21 bullets into the air is the same--it is that final goodbye said the best way they know how.

It moves me every single time I witness.  Yet, as a soldier's wife, it scares the hell out of me too.  Ask any spouse of a deployed service member and I think you'd be hard pressed to find one that doesn't live with the overwhelming burden of "what if."  What if I come home and there is a strange sedan parked in my driveway?  What if I am playing with my kids, having a ball with them, and hear the doorbell ring and jump up and answer it only to find those men in dress uniform at the door with the news I never wanted to receive?  What if I have to plan a funeral instead of a homecoming celebration?  What if I am left to raise these children alone and outside of this Army lifestyle that I have grown so accustomed to?  What if I am the one sitting at the cemetery, receiving that folded flag, hearing those 21 guns say their final goodbye?  What if?  What if?  What if?  It takes little to nothing to bring up that feeling of dread from the pit of my stomach.  And it takes most of what I've got to push it back down and carry on with the day, the week...with my life.

But WE sign up for more years in.  The Army doesn't force us to, we choose to.  It so hard for civilians to understand sometime.  WHY?!  Why in the WORLD would you "re-up" knowing you'll have to go back to Afghanistan?  And the truth is, no answer I can give them can really touch it properly.  Words just don't work.  It surely isn't for the pay, the benefits or unbelievably horrible hours.  It's something much deeper that I still can't find the words for even as I write this.  Not everyone who joins our military wants to, needs to, or is called to do it for a lifetime.  That is perfectly fine.  But I think that deep down, especially in times of war, the reasons they sign up and the reasons they stay in are the same.  Sure, some may cite the bad economy as reason for joining/re-uping, but when you know you'll have to go back to combat, missing another year of your family, more than your wallet had to do with that decision.

Maybe what it boils down to is this: the thought of a 21-gun goodbye being said to them didn't provoke fear in them, as much as it did a sense of honor, duty, and love of fellow countrymen.  Whether they served 2 years, 10 years, or 30 years, it matters not.

Which leads me to my final point...about 5 years ago there was an EXTREMELY well-written article in the American Legion magazine that shed some light on a growing--and in my opinion, troubling--trend: an increase in the number of people who say/display "we support our troops" while at the same time discourage those they love from serving in the military.  The majority of those they discussed were parents of graduating high school seniors who claimed great respect for the military but chose to actively discourage their own children from joining the military.  They were firm on their stance that there were "better options out there for my kid."  Or in other words, let those that have no other options be the ones to join and rest assured I will support them.

To them I say this: Fear not the prospect of a 21 gun goodbye; rather smile through your tears of worry and prospective grief and take comfort in knowing that someone you love is willing to put themselves in harm's way for people they have never met.  There is no more noble a calling in my book than to just that.

A 21-gun goodbye--no matter who does it or how well they do it--is a most beautiful thing.  And this American will be grateful for everyone of them ever done.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Case Study--Part IV--Conclusion

It is 4:30 a.m. as I sit down to right this.  I was sleeping just fine until Levi came in complaining because he was wet.  And he was....very wet.  So I changed him and tucked him back in pretty quickly and without complaint, but now mama is paying the price and can't sleep.

I could have surfed the web or done other pointless things, but I have put off writing more on my blog because I just wasn't feeling the inspiration to finish this "case study."  In fact the only two pieces of inspiration I am feeling to do so now are A.) being awakened in the middle of the night and left awake, and B.) to just finish this stupid thing so I can move on and write about something else, ANYTHING else!  You have no idea how many times in the course of writing this four part study I was inspired or motivated to write about many other things, but I would not let myself on account that was going to MAKE myself finish this one little project within a project.  Not fun.

SO...in conclusion, I now know I will never undertake a multiple part "study" of anything again in this blog.  Sure--never say never, but it will be HIGHLY unlikely that I ever do so again.  I've learned at least that much about myself.  In the day or two after I posted Part II, I was confronted with some rudely dealt cards in the game of life and wanted nothing better than to get on here and vent to the world on my homemade pulpit.  Seriously.  Part of me still wants to.  But I couldn't at the time because Part III was due next and it was supposed to be the happiest, most positive of my entries in this study!  What timing!  So I literally bit my tongue and dug deep to find those positives even though I wanted to throwing a toddler-worthy tantrum over how people should not treat and talk to others and on how horrible I was feeling inside.

But you know, that was perhaps the biggest lesson I did learn through this: that sometimes in life the excrement will hit the fan (at various speeds and quantities) and we just have to force ourselves to smile through it.  Even if all we want to do is focus on the fact that, "Hey people...I've got some serious issues here and I'd just like to dwell on it for a long time!"  Sometimes in life the only inspiration or motivation we have to carry on with daily life is, well, daily life.  Because otherwise, we were perfectly content to sit their and pity ourselves.  In the literal case of the poo hitting the fan, sometimes the only thing that makes us get up, shower it off, and move on is the fact that we can't stand the stench of it anymore.

In this midst of deployment, sometimes our kids are--more than ever--a blessing and a curse.  No want DESIRES to have their spouse go away for a year so that they may single-handedly care for their children.  They do, by nature, wear us out and try our patience no matter how much we love them (the children that is, although spouses can sometimes fit that bill too.)  BUT...I now wonder if those of us who have kids and endure these long deployments were given a gift in disguise.  Because you may not realize, but sometimes they are the only thing that gets us out of bed in the morning--they and the simple fact that they cannot care for themselves, so we must rise and face the day and face their needs.  I've talked with a few friends who have endured deployments childlessly.  And what they said, shocked me and made sense to me all at the same time.  You wouldn't believe how lonely some of them get.  One friend said very bluntly, "I got a job only to fill my days, but in the back of my mind, every single morning, I think to myself, I don't HAVE to go.  I can quit, not show up, call in sick and it not greatly affect me personally.  You can't and wouldn't do that to your kids."  She was right.  As much as I CRAVE that alone time, I wouldn't.

It isn't just deployments.  Feeling like that can happen to anyone at anytime for any reason--military or civilian.  But regardless, most of the time, we are all able to eventually get up and get moving and move on, even if begrudgingly.  Even if the last thing we WANT to do is sit down and list out what is going write in our lives.  We do it better than Nike does.

What I leave you with is this: watch out for each other.  That is where the true pain starts, when we feel like no one else can see or--if they do--they don't care that we are struggling to really pick up ourselves up and move on.  We get so wrapped up in daily habits and the flow of life that sometimes we forget that all a friend needs is us to sympathize with them for a short bit and then help them get up and move on.  Maybe all they need is you to start helping them see the diamond that they are beneath the roughness they see and feel.

I hate to return once last time to that ever-so-lovely visual of the room flung with excrement, but I must...just one last time...  For you see, sometimes all we desire as we sit there wallowing in that filth, trying to figure out how to begin to get out of it, is to see that door open gently and a friend walk in.  They don't mind dirtying their shoes a bit, even their hands, to walk over to you, pull you upright, maybe even hug you, and say "You are truly beautiful.  But right now, you stink.  So let's go clean you up--and me too.  We'll call a professional to clean the room, but right now, we focus on you."

Monday, November 1, 2010

Case Study-Part III--Positives

Note: I have to be honest.  I was half way to completing this section of my case study last night when a "friend" messaged me on FB and her message really upset me.  I happened to be Skype-chatting with Steve and he was able to calm me down a bit.  However, I was not able to return to my blog in the same manner at all.  So I came back tonight and reread and didn't "feel" it one bit.  So I did something I hardly ever do: I deleted the whole thing, save one paragraph I was fond of and will put in here even if it is at the end ruins the flow of the whole post.  Regardless, I just wanted you to know...


Remember how you were taught in high school composition classes to make your writing flow smoothly and appeal to the reader.  I never had a problem with that.  I guess that natural flow came easily to me.  Tonight though, I am throwing it out the window.  Because, if you've read the previous two posts to my blog you will naturally know that the next section is going to be me listing what I think are the positives about myself.  I so very much do not want to come across as a braggart and pray I still do not, but I am just going to cut to the chase and begin counting down the things I like about myself.  It probably won't flow.  I really don't care at this point...

1.) I have a body that works (for the most part) and am not truly ugly.  I have Crohn's disease and will until the day I die, but thankfully (and you really have no way of know just how thankful I really am after last spring's severe bout with it), God put a great team of GI docs in my path that found a medicine that works for me and other than the prick of the IV being inserted into my arm every other month, I feel no pain from the disease.  I wish I was more athletic and coordinated and could take up any exercise with confidence, but my body works for what I need it to do now and I know, deep down, that I could get myself to the point of running if I so desire someday.  I tried to breast-feed my first two babies and it didn't work and I get down about it still, but at least I have other means by which to feed them and they did well.  I get down about my looks, my face many times, but I know I am truly not ugly (God taught me an important lesson in vanity nearly two years ago on a flight back to the States--I'll share that in a new post soon).  My point is this: for all the cringing I do when I look in the mirror or try to compare myself physically with others, deep down I know I have so much to be grateful for.  I have all my limbs and they work.  My brain is not injured and still functions well.  I am not scarred horribly by disease, fire, or abuse.  I can speak, see, and hear.  I can taste incredible foods or horrible medicines but know the difference.  I am not locked in a life or death battle with cancer.  I am how God designed me and it all works and looks well for the most part and that is so much to be thankful for.

2.)  I am talented.  I am not the jack-of-all-trades, nor am I the master of any, but I still have God-given gifts.  I can sing.  I tend to do 90% of it in church as "just" part of the congregation or at home while working around the house.  I have a great time doing karaoke or occasionally singing in weddings or community theater.  But regardless of how it is used, it's still a gift that God gave me.  I can act.  I can do accents pretty darn well.  I can and love to make people laugh.  Combine the three and you have this temptation to try my hand at stand-up comedy, or even Hollywood (well...maybe not).  I can draw, paint, and work with pastels and I am ashamed to admit that I have the tools to do all of them and rarely--okay truthfully, NEVER--use them.  I need to and it's a bit too easy to blame the kiddos for not dragging out the easel and acrylics.  I can do calligraphy.  Taught myself to knit even, though the "scarf" died infancy over five years ago.  I can cook too.  I am not intimidated by new and strange recipes.  And all but two things I ever made turned out well...pesky crab cakes and I-forget-what-else.  It does me good to itemize this list as I am doing because if I spend five minutes on Facebook I am likely to walk away feeling like an untalented failure after reading post after post of grand meals, projects, and accomplishments of all sorts.  The truth is, I am just as talented as the next person in my own unique way.  I can't compare myself to every Tom, Dick, and Harriet that posts every accomplishment on Facebook.  I can and should turn SOME (not all of them) into motivation to return to the things I enjoy doing and know I can do well.

3.)  I am compassionate.  Do I get pissed beyond belief sometimes?  oh...you have NO idea.  But I am rarely the person that will confront another unless it is absolutely necessary and although I am afraid of getting yelled at and subsequently crying my eyes out, a good portion of the reason that I am not a "chewer-outer" is that I (sometimes too much) put myself in the other person's shoes.  I don't want anyone to read this and walk away thinking that I think I have never done any wrong nor hurt anyone.  I'm human and I know I have and I am truly sorry.  But I can say with all honesty that I find myself, multiple times a day, thinking about how I would feel if someone did or said "this" to me.  It can be a curse sometimes.  I often won't say things that can and should be said--for instance when a "friend" has hurt me--because I would feel awkward at best if someone approached me about hurting them.  So I may not always seem compassionate but I am and I am thankful for it.  The older I get the more I see people who truly don't care one bit how hard they might trample on others and it just hurts me to see it.

4.)  I am pretty good mommy and wife.  Here's what I had written yesterday concerning this: My husband, my kids, my family.  Anyone can marry.  Anyone can procreate.  But not everyone can have a family.  You've seen those public service ads aimed at young men and boys that say something to the effect of "anyone can be father, but not everyone can be a daddy."  Those ads speak some very true words and I am borrowing that wisdom here.  I am FAR FAR FAR from being a perfect mommy and wife, even the best one, and on somedays, even a good to decent one, but I chose to be here to be with them, and I love them and am so proud of them.  Steve fails to pick up after himself miserably at times.  He doesn't write me love letters that could inspire a Hollywood film.  He seldom brings be flowers "just because," and don't even get me started on his gift giving prowess (or lack thereof, but not for lack of trying bless his heart.)  Zeke is a smart and funny little boy, but he can drive me to drinking sometimes with his self-frustration and emerging attitude...not to mention the numerous moments of embarrassment he's caused me.  And Levi...words can't quite describe him, but oh that temper and stubbornness!  Yet, he's so cute.  BUT...I try to imagine, just for one second, what life would be like if any of them were taken from me, and the thought just kills me.  They are a PART of me and such a source of pride.  Yesterday I was writing it from the perspective of what parts of me I was proud of, but I want to elaborate just a bit more from another angle.  As a wife, I fail miserably at being the always loving, cheery, happy and pleasing wife, but I don't think Steve ever wanted that "perfection."  I think that just being me and be honest about who I am and how I am feeling--good or bad--is what makes our marriage work so well and happily for us.  As a mommy, I felt I got off to a horrible start with my oldest because I literally COULD NOT nurse.  The milk never showed up due to a medicine given to me during labor.  There was nothing I could do. And yet reading upon every can of formula that I was forced to buy, "breast milk is best," I was hurt to the core and wanted to bawl.  Then came babyfood...the "mompetitors" came out again and made me feel like I was feeding my baby "crap" because it was in a jar from a store.  I didn't worry that my baby/toddler might not be reading at the age of 2 or 3, or even drawing recognizable pictures.  And so on and so forth.  But the truth is, that stuff really doesn't matter! I love my kiddos so much and--barring pregnancy or illness--have no problem being goofy with them, wrestling with them, and just loving up on them.  I may not have done what some people THINK I should have and for that I am a substandard mother.  But deep down, I do what I feel is best and love them the best way I know how.  I don't think they are suffering one bit for it either.  ...although I'd still love to slug some of those "mompetitors"...  ;-)

In the end, I may be flawed, but there is plenty about myself that makes up for it.  The only real flaw is that I often forget the good things and find myself sulking about the negatives.  This little bit of itemization was helpful...when someday I post something negative and horrible about myself, just remind be to come back here and check this one out!

I'm posting this now...typos and all!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Case Study: Part II--Imperfection

In all comparison I've ever seen, the good usually comes before the bad.  The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly.  Pros & Cons.  Plus & Minus.  Perhaps it's just because it rolls off the tongue easier that way, but I have no real knowledge as to why this is.  Today, I break with tradition.  I am putting the bad, the ugly, the cons, the minuses FIRST.

My reasoning is two-fold.  To begin with, I am honestly not comfortable with bragging.  I never want to come across as that person whose life or circumstances are perfect.  I have trouble accepting compliments without justifying how the "compliment-able" came to be--(compliment) that shirt looks LOVELY on you!, (me) oh thanks--just an old Walmart buy.  So for me to have placed my talents and other "braggable" things first, would have made me feel very uncomfortable.  My other reason:  I'm just in a negative mood and have been for quite some time, so it's just naturally easier to be hard on myself and post my imperfections than to do the opposite.

So...there you have it.  I am imperfect.  And quite a bit so at that.  Actually, I'll go one step further and even admit that most of the time, I plain don't like myself.  As this portion of my case study states, I am going to delve deep into what it is that I just can't stand about myself.  My imperfection (from the inside looking out mind you) laid out for all the world to see...

#1.  I am a terribly jealous person and have been even more so lately.  I hate it.  I know it is a sin to be envious because you aren't happy and content with the wonderous work God made in you as a person.  I hate carrying around this cross of jealousy.  I have dumped it many times, but like a sick addiction, I just pick up another along the way.  It always seems that no matter what I do, what I say, what I wear...well...there is always somebody popping up that makes me just want to be them.  I wish I lived in their neighborhood.  I wish I had her body, her face, her athletic prowess.  I wish my kids aced every academic and athletic thing they are faced with just like her kids do.  I wish my husband was as outgoing and talkative as hers.  I wish I could just let go and let God like she does.  I wish I could be as good a mother as she is.  I wish I could sing like her.  I wish I could... I could go on, but I'll stop here.

#2. I struggle daily with living for the moment that God has me in right here and right now.  I long for the past or dream of the future...and too much so.  In August 2005, Steve left for a year unaccompanied in Camp Casey, Korea (I shall hereout refer to this period as our first deployment, because even though he wasn't in a war zone, he was gone for a year, in a not-so-safe place, and I had less support from the Army at that time than in later "real" deployments.)  It may sound horrible at first, but that year would have been the BEST of my adult life thus far had Steve just been with me.  I had never felt better about myself--inside and out-- than during that year.  I was in the best health of my life.  I had the "perfect" job for me and I loved it.  I was confident in my role as a mother.  I just felt truly GOOD.  So I long to have that back, but I know I can never relive any part of my past.  Sadly, I am also constantly dreaming of the future.  About where we will live.  About how our kids will be.  About travels, and plans, and projects.  And you know what...NOTHING turns out the way I dream it will be.  It's a waste of time.

#3. I'm not a pretty girl.  I struggle with my weight daily.  I am hardly ever happy with how I look, even if the only people seeing me that day are my husband and kids.  I long to be one of "those" women who, without doing hair or makeup, just look good.  A nice body that can be maintained somewhat easily with enjoyable exercise and good wholesome food yet allowing for the occassional treat.  A face with skin so smooth and features so well proportioned that makeup would only mar it and any hair style, even short and sassy, would look divine on them.  I'm not one of those.  I kid not when I tell you that 10 years ago, I was referred to three times in one week as a member of the male of our species--once I even had my nicely cropped hair done neatly and makeup on.  Let it go, I know.  But it hurt and it hurt deeply and I will never forget how ugly I felt after that week.

#4.  I have a TERRIBLE temper.  Say a prayer of thanksgiving now that most of you have never seen and will never see that side of me.  It's sad really, for it is those closest to my heart that have seen me literally blow up.  I'm ashamed of that.  I scream at my kids and lose my temper over juice spilled on the carpet, and then I'll turn around and see their sad little faces and know how I've hurt them.  No matter how many times I apologize and no matter how heart-felt those apologies are, I cannot take those words said in anger back.  But oh...how I wish I could.

#5.  I am lazy.  You know those people that have to have a fire lit under them to get them to do anything?  I hate to admit it, but I am one of them.  When it comes to doing work of any sort--paid or unpaid, home or away--unless I WANT to do it or it MUST be done, I will put it off.  I look at my dad and his work ethic and those of his generation and those before him and I am amazed.  He can't sit still.  It's not in his nature.  He WANTS something to do every day.  He'd go crazy without work.  As much as I love history, I would never have survived in the days of old when, for example, cooking wasn't a hobby one took up because they were a foodie, but because it MUST be done to feed your family of 12...oh...and it was done over a wood or coal stove with ingredients you grew or raised yourself and canned and preserved yourself, and...well...  I'd have been screwed.

There are many more smaller, trivial things about myself that I don't like, that are imperfections, but these five emcompass the majority. 

Please read Part III when I post it, because for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.  Don't walk away from this post feeling like you need to run to my home, or call me, or email because I need encouraged.  I'm fine.  I'll be okay.  I needed to write this. 

It's freeing in a way because our society just seems to glorify "perfect lives" when you know what--THEY DON'T EXIST!  And for me, personally, to go one step beyond just admitting "I am not perfect," and saying what it is about me that makes me scarred and marred...I feel better already.  See you at Part III...

Monday, October 25, 2010

Case Study: Part I--Introduction

Tonight's blog is brief.  It's an introduction and those are generally supposed to be short in nature, so it's only fitting, right?  Well...that, and the only time I get to really delve into my other passion of reading is at bedtime and I simply can't spend to much time on here if I want to comprehend what I read.

Beginning tonight, the next 4 (possibly more) blog entries will be part of this case study on...me.  Not my biography from start to finish--that would bore the pants off a pantless cartoon character (think about it...many of them aren't drawn with pants oddly enough)--but a self-done study on how I see myself right now.  The good, the bad, the ugly, the mediocre, the ridiculous, and so on.

Just know now, I won't apologize.  Truly, I am going to say what's on my mind and in my heart and some of it I would never be brazen enough to say publicly, in person, on Facebook, etc.  But this is going to be about me, by me, on my blog...I have nothing to lose.  I won't be rude.  I won't gossip.  I won't backstab.  I won't even name names even if I need to give examples.  I wouldn't dream of it because that is simply not my goal in the next few days.  My goal is to help myself overcome some issues and see myself in a better light.  To excavate my true self--my God-intended self--from under alot of crap that I've let accumulate over and around me.

BUT...in doing so, I am going to blunt and honest.  I will be whiny.  I will probably sound pathetic at times.  I may curse and lose some of the eloquence with which I usually try to write.  I may even sound like a braggert at times.  And I may not have covered all the "I may's." 

Just promise me this--if you start reading this one, you'll read this case study through to the end.  Otherwise you will, more than likely, draw some incorrect or presumptuous conclusions that if you'd just read on, would have righted themselves.

However, as of right now, my novel calls...see you in a day or two...

Saturday, October 23, 2010

This Year, I Shall Wear Gold

Gold isn't my thing.  Actually, let me clarify: in the debate between gold or silver, I prefer silver.  It suits me.  It fits me.  I simply prefer the color of it--steely and gray--over gold--yellowing and ruddy.  Does this mean that if someone were to offer me a nugget of gold, a golden chain, a ring of gold that I would turn it down based solely on its color?  No, of course not.  It's just that, left up to me and my devices, all my jewelry would be in the silver color family.

I must interject here to tell you dear reader that two of my most precious pieces of jewelry are yellow gold--my wedding and engagement ring.  They are real as are the tiny diamonds set within them; however, they are admittingly worth more to me in sentiment than in cash.  In September of 2006, my wonderful husband presented me with an "upgraded" band--an anniversary band to celebrate our 5th--of white gold, thick and sturdy, with a considerable (in my eyes) amount of diamonds flatly laid within it.  I loved it!  I wear it to this day with pride in place of my wedding band set simply because the solitaire in the original sits quite high (it's the mount NOT the size of the diamond) and catches on things including my babies, so it isn't the safest ring for a mommy to wear.  So for the past four years my fingers have been home to one ring--in the silver color family.  The yellow gold tucked safely away in my hiding spot.

Today, however, I will again adorn my finger with yellow gold.  And I will wear it proudly and at the same time humbly for the next 365 days.  The ring finger of my left hand will be home to Steve's worn and scratched, terribly simple, yellow gold wedding band, with my anniversary band placed on "top" of it to protect it from falling off.

It may shock the senses of some to think that my husband left for a war zone for a year without taking his wedding ring and that I almost seem to celebrate that fact by proudly wearing it.  Let them be shocked.  His decision not to wear it has never had a thing to do with a lack of trust, in fact, it's quite the opposite.  I could say, without lying, that working with weapons, and in rough terrain, and in the midst of battle are all good, and logical, and practical reasons for wearing no jewelry at all, other than one's dog tags.   And they are amongst the lesser of his reasons for not wearing it downrange.  But the real reason is much deeper than that.  I love the fact that when we said our last goodbyes, he lovingly placed his ring on my finger for safe keeping and in doing so it was a small moment in which we both could relive quietly and to ourselves the promises we made to each other nine years ago at our wedding.   However brief that moment was, it was a beautiful one in which I have never trusted nor loved him more.  

It will never quite FEEL right wearing two rings on that one finger, but everytime the awkwardness of it catches ahold of me, it reminds me not only of him but of how life will always have moments of awkwardness and discomfort, yet we must trudge on.  Every time he looks down at his hand and sees that worn area where the ring should be, every time he goes to fumble or play with it mindlessly (as he often does) and realizes it's missing, he will be reminded not only of me but of how those we love leave indelible, permanent markers on us for eternity and how we can take them for granted yet miss them terribly when they are no longer there.

So for the next year, I will gladly and happily done a piece of gold jewelry.  Even if it looks funny.  Even if it feels funny.  Even if I wish the original owner would claim it personally and let me see him wearing it.  This I can bear...and I will.

Friday, October 22, 2010

...And There Was Much Grinding and Gnashing of Teeth...

The title pretty much says it all.  My night last night.  Around midnight, I was joined in bed by a somewhat plumpish 3-year-old who was ever so upset, yet could not muster any words to describe his anguish.  He simply crawled into bed with me and fell asleep.  Which was followed quickly by my awakening and subsequent restless night. 

For only minutes after he fell asleep, I heard the most annoying sounds and in my tired stupor seriously thought Levi had brought two hard plastic action-figures to bed with him and, instead of sleeping, was having a party with them in my bed.  Sure--that is what I heard, but the source was instead coming from his mouth.  Levi is a teeth-grinder!  And I now know undoubtedly, that I do not like the sound of grinding teeth at all.  Not one bit.

There isn't a whole lot I can do about it...except keep taking him back to his own bed.  Which rest assured, I will do.  His 7 year old roommate, Zeke, seems completely undisturbed by Levi's unintentional flaw, so I'll let him deal with it.

My main reason in writing this was to let you know why today's entry is so short, but as I write, I realize that this revelation last night served to be a reminder to me--that all people, no matter how cute they are on the outside or seemingly perfect they seem to be, have flaws.  Period.  So easy to say but in those moments of life where jealousy and envy snag at our coat-tails it is so difficult to truly remember.

So here's to my little Levi!  You certainly didn't set out from your toddler bed last night with the intention of reminding mommy of an important lesson, but went back to it have done so. 

I love you Rex!
Signed, Your very-flawed-like-everyone-else-Mommy

Thursday, October 21, 2010

In the Beginning...

...was a very brief entry to get it all started.  It was brief because the eyes that watched the screen and the fingers that typed the words and the head that processed the thoughts were tired and wanted to sleep.  And they thought sleep was good so they just stopped and did just that...slept.

Okay, so to expand just SLIGHTLY...this is my first entry ever on my first blog ever!  I love to write and have since I was a little girl in Miss Inboden's third grade class.  The problem was...life happened and finding time to write got harder and harder, even though I had a serious lot of good friends and family members cheering me on and encouraging me to keep putting pen to paper (which I do prefer, but typing will have to do for now.)  Hopefully having this "personal" space to publish my works will encourage me to be much more regular in writing--a sort of ex-lax for the mind?  We shall see.

I chose this evening to start my  endeavor because within the next 48-72 hours Steve will step foot on Afghan soil for the second time and our little family can begin our year long count down to that joyous day of his homecoming.  What better time to turn toward an old passion of mine to help me through the rougher spots of deployment!

I do not forsee any sort of continuity of flow with my postings--thus my blog's title: Mercy, Grace, and Comic Relief.  Some may be "simple" updates about me, my husband, my children, my goings-on (that would be the grace portion).  Some may be rants about any number of things that could have me frazzled and I could therefore say things that I might regret or that might mildly offend some people (that would the mercy portion...possibly me begging for some).  And some, well...some may just be down right funny whether they are the creation of my mind or something hysterical that I witnessed or that happened to me (you guessed it...the comic relief portion). 

So...don't have expectations...I won't live up to them...but I could frankly care less.  This is, after all, MY blog and I'll cry if I want to, laugh if I want, SCREAM if I want to...you could too if you blog too.  ~yes...a LAME attempt at word play on the oldies hit, "It's My Party & I'll Cry If I Want To."~

Thank you for taking an interest; I hope I don't lose it along the way! 
 Until next time...