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!