Thursday, December 19, 2013

Black and White

Not everything is black and white.
Who is wrong and who is right?
Who can justify the fight?
Not everything is black and white.

Some of it is RED.

RED-the color of blood and war.
The things we jump to battle for
The burning need to settle score
Of trumpet blast and victors' lore.

RED-also the color of love.
Of valentines and things thereof
Of kisses and of turtle dove
The things the Prince of Peace spoke of.

What passion lies in RED!

But which RED shall I then defend?
The one of enemy or friend?
Should I face-off or I transcend?
Which message do I want to send?

For not everything is black and white.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Ten Things

A couple of weeks ago, there was a trend rolling around on Facebook where you asked your friends to create a list of "ten things" we may not have known about him/her. Now, I was never asked to create such a list. While it may have been due to the fact that I purposely avoided liking/commenting on a status so that no one could assign me a number, I am suspecting that the true reason is because y'all knew I was going to do this with it.

Sorry. Your ploy almost worked.

So here are my ten things:
(I prettied them up with pictures to make them more interesting. You're welcome.)

1. I once entered a BHG recipe contest with a strawberry limeade icebox pie. I did not win the contest, and exactly one month afterward, my magazine issues no longer included the contest details. It's possible that this was a coincidence. I think it's also possible they were trying to keep me from further embarrassment.
(It's hilarious how bad that looks to me now.)














2. I still don't know how to play my guitar. I tried to sell it before moving back to Texas, and no one wanted to buy it. Not even at a yard sale. It must have stank of poser too badly.
(Shameful.)


















3. I have subjected my son to the second child's curse. I don't have a copy of the first picture taken of my son. (The legitimate first photo was taken with a phone, which of course broke and I lost all of the files.) I called him by his sister's name less than 24 hours after his birth. I didn't have professional newborn pictures taken of him. He doesn't have a baby book. I didn't throw him a really big first birthday party like I did for his sister...
Not sure if it's because I am a bad mom or because I became a smart mom. Either way, I'm sorry you got jilted, son.
(Bonus fact: I actually remember fixing my hair before his birth so it would look good in the hospital pictures. Fail.)











4. I don't really know how to properly shoot a gun. I shoot them like this...














And like this...













And like this...

















5. I was wearing Nathan's socks on our wedding day. I managed to remember to bring everything to the venue except for my socks and my daughter's shoes. In a panic, I sent Nathan's mother back to get the shoes and forgot the socks...for the second time. Nathan rescued me by giving me his pair and letting them be my "something borrowed."
(Which means that he wasn't wearing anything under his boots, which made that night at the hotel painfully hilarious.)











6. I skipped number 6 the first time and had to come back and add it in after publishing. I don't have a picture to detail this, so I will just follow with this image and we can ponder how in the age of digital cameras, I still take pictures like this one:
















7. I own an Army Officer's Wife protocol book and have actually read it. It hasn't helped...
I was such a spazz of a 2LT's wife, that I put his rank on sideways. (You can literally see that people were trying not be annoyed at me as I fixed it!)















And this is how I act at parties, which I am pretty sure is also not advocated by the book:






















8. No matter how old I get, or how deep I start to sound in some of these blogs, I will never stop thinking that things like this are funny:

















9. An 11-year-old boy passed me at about mile 7 of this race.
When I passed him at about mile 10, I did the "Nelson Munson" laugh at him. (Not really, I just made the noise in my head.) But what really did happen was that somebody's husband jumped out of the car to take a picture of his wife running the race and told her to smile, and I very stupidly ran past her and smiled for the camera. I have no idea where my kids come by their competitive natures...











10. I still don't know what I want to be when I grow up.



















It's possible that it's because I have yet to do so...

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Candy Land

My mother has passed on many things to me over the years. A small list of them being her laugh, her wit, her love of writing, her love for over-doing special occasions, her "Snickers commercial behavior" when she is hungry, and her hatred of board games.

Oh, how I hate playing board games. And oh, how my children absolutely love them.
The thing is, they don't seem like they love them when they are playing them. I used to watch those commercials that advertised family game nights, and everyone in them was laughing, and hugging, and involved---That is not what game time looks like in my house.
Each child is arguing over what game we should play, and what color game piece each person should have, and who should get to go first--- And all that is before we start to define the winner and loser. That's when it gets really special.
Oftentimes, I intentionally throw the game so that the crying child doesn't feel totally defeated. (Which, if you can imagine, is pretty difficult to do when you are popping the stupid ball in Trouble.) It's hard to play a game and know you are going to be the loser. In some games, it is revealed at the very beginning that you are just going to get stomped. I always make my kids play through to the finish line anyway, because I figure it teaches them lessons about being a gracious loser and never giving up. Or maybe I just secretly wish that it sucks the fun out of board games so much that they won't want to play them anymore. (Practicing my evil laugh now...) But then there are those games where you think you are going to do the stomping, you are two spaces away from the finish line, and then you get bumped back to the beginning.

I hate board games. But I loathe Candy Land.

Here you go, travelling along every child's fantasy world with your creepy gingerbread-kid pawn, getting stuck in ooey-gooey gumdrops and sliding down ice cream ski slopes until you reach King Kandy's castle--whom I can only assume is the widower of the Hansel and Gretel witch. Sometimes you make it through the lollipop forest with nary a scratch. But usually, (because this is the pure evil of the game,) you find yourself four spaces away in need of the double yellow and BAM! You get the cupcake card. Back to the beginning you go.
Now, I have two younger children, so I pretty much start this game each and every time with a prayer that I am the one that will wind up with the cupcake card. But apparently, God also wants my babies to learn lessons about being gracious losers and never giving up...

Lord knows it is a lesson I am still learning myself.

Before our first Army move out of central Texas, I was a substitute teacher with dreams of becoming a classroom teacher. That career goal has shifted slightly over the years along with our address. But five years later, I find myself back in central Texas fresh out of a substitute teaching job.
As much as I hate to say it, it's hard not to feel like I got the cupcake card.

Now I don't know if any of you readers out there are as fortunate as I am and have had the opportunity to read up on exactly what the cupcake card represents. Well chin up, because today is your lucky day!
The cupcake card takes you to the Cupcake Commons, where you get to decorate cupcakes and take bicycle rides on the candy trail. Sounds nice, doesn't it? Now sure, it might not be quite as exciting as snowboarding down an ice cream mountain, but it is still good, wholesome fun.

Sometimes getting booted back to start isn't all that bad. (Maybe it's not as exciting as skiing down the Austrian Alps, but it's central Texas, for Pete's sake! So it's still pretty darn good!)

Even so, it's hard not to wonder why with all of the cards in the deck, you ended up with the cupcake.

Sometimes we get sent back to start so we can learn to be gracious losers and never give up. Sometimes we get sent back to start as an opportunity to redo the things that we whirred past the first time. And sometimes we get sent back to start to re-evaluate where we've been and discover how to blaze new trails.

Something tells me my cupcake card is due to a combination of the three. Only time will tell.

Meanwhile, I have discovered the reason that I continue to suffer through these horrible board games with my children is because they look like this when I tell them I will play with them:


Here's hoping my next card is the bonbon!

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

The Bubble

My family and I are not what people may consider very high-tech. We have no Internet on our phones. No tablets. No portable gamers. We have a very basic cable package, which has become even more basic since moving to the country. (Did you know there is still a scrolling TV Guide Channel?!?) We have one family computer that we all share--and yes, even the three-year-old gets his turn at the computer each day.

We had our homepage set to Yahoo, but with the recent events of the world today, my husband and I decided that the graphic imagery was too accessible to our little ones during computer time. We have since reset our homepage to Disney Jr. As if I already didn't know enough about what was going on in the real world...well, now I know even less.

But I have always enjoyed living with a little bit of ignorance. It's not that I don't like to feel educated. It's just that I don't have a need to know everything. And I certainly don't feel compelled to know it all the instant it happens--complete with live streaming coverage.


Maybe this makes me naive...but it makes me happy.
Maybe this makes me vulnerable...but it makes me happy.
Maybe this makes me oblivious...but it makes me happy.

And it makes me wonder:
Is it this ignorance that gives me bliss, or is it that I already know the ending to the story?

It's easy to get caught up in the worries of the world via the news sources. Our resources are being depleted. The polar icecaps are melting. The nation is broke. World leaders are corrupt. New wars are beginning. Wars that have been fought for centuries are still going on. Hate. Greed. Lust. Loss. Death. (And don't even get me started on the Kardashians...)

And in spite of it all, if I can look past the headlines to see through the haze of smoke that the earth is bellowing out, I see victory. I see good news. I see a new world.

I am not putting myself in a bubble. I have simply already put on my armor.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

I stood behind the kitchen counter wiping remnants of play-doh bits off of the surface of the counter and into the trash can. My son sat happily on the sofa watching a show, quiet and content. I realized in that moment that if this had been three years ago, the scenario would have looked much different...

My then three-year-old would have left the same play-doh mess for me to clean, but the baby would not have let me put him down to do so. The little bits would have either been picked up at the end of the day or not at all, eventually finding their way onto the floor and ground into the carpet fibers where I would forget about them altogether---until a few weeks down the road when a spilled cup of juice would resurrect them.

Now that three-year-old is in the first grade, and on most occasions is perfectly capable of drinking things without spilling it everywhere. That baby that never wanted to be put down takes himself away from the "Mommy and Me Play-doh Date" and sits on the couch to let me clean. I remember three-years-ago-me dreaming about this day...now I don't want it.

The problem with being a "stay-at-home-mom" is that eventually your kids don't stay at home with you anymore. With any luck, they will become independent and competent, and in the process render you completely useless (or so it seems.) When I would fill out forms with a baby on my hip and a toddler dangling from my leg, I remember never hesitating to write down my current occupation. I wrote it in all caps. STAY AT HOME MOM. It was a job!
Those days I would have been lucky to stop working long enough to take a shower. Today, not only have I showered (which I'm sure you're glad to know,) but I have also cleaned the bathrooms, mopped the floors, dropped my daughter off at school, played at the playground with my son, played 3 rounds of board games and an hour of play-doh, and was able to make an important phone call. (Not to mention compose a blog in the middle of the afternoon.) Three-years-ago-me can't believe that I am able to get so much done in a day. But nowadays-me knows better. I would be lying if I said I work a fraction as hard as I used to. Both of my kids are potty-trained. Both of my kids sleep through the night. I only have to dress them about half of the time. Most days they have no problem entertaining each other or themselves. I have a lot more free time on my hands. And rather than feeling blessed by the free time like I thought I would, I feel like I've been laid off of a job.

I usually have a pretty solid point by the time I finished composing one of these, but this time I'm not sure I know exactly what it's supposed to be yet.
Maybe for the mom with the babies and the play-doh smeared on your countertops and in your carpet, it's: Hang in there. This too shall pass.
Maybe for the mom who is getting ready to send their first child off to school, it's: Relish the feeling of being needed.
Maybe for the working mother, it's: Be sure to write your occupation in all caps...because some of us are jealous of your job.
And maybe for the rest of us with clean houses and no jobs and babies off at school or quietly entertaining themselves on the couch, it's: Exhale. And rather than beat yourself up for the work you don't think you're doing now, pat yourself on the back for the hard work you already did. And are doing, only now in a more timely fashion. Thank the Lord.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Biting my Tongue...and Eating a Sandwich

So my interview didn't go so well the other day, and not because I was horribly spastic. (Well, that's not entirely true. I may have been a little spastic, but I kept most of it contained.)

The reason it didn't go so well was because I told the interviewer that I would not be willing to lose any weight to prove my candidacy. I'm not sure how many of you follow my Facebook rants, but if you do, you already heard that part.

But there's more...

I had wondered if my interviewer was confused or had misspoken, or even if I had just over-reacted to the situation. Later that afternoon, I got my answer. Her follow up email stated that she was hanging onto my application, and that if I would be willing to lose an additional 5 lbs they would be happy to reconsider me for hire.

I thought long and hard about how to address her email. The non-confrontational part of me wanted to ignore it completely and just move on. But after a night of tossing and turning, I decided to respond to her email. This is what I wrote:

Thank you so much for the follow-up and for holding my application.

My BMI is currently sitting at 20, and while losing 5 pounds would not put me outside of the healthy BMI range, I do not wish to lose any weight at this time. I understand that hiring members who have shown success through the program can be a source of motivation for those who witness it. But I feel that my coming into a meeting in an attempt to lose additional weight will send the message that a BMI of 20 is not "good enough" and is something that needs to be changed. That is not the kind of impression I would want to leave with those ladies. And it is certainly not the image I would want to stand behind as a counselor. I realize that this stance may not make me an ideal candidate for the position.

Thank you for your time and consideration, and best of luck on your fitness journey.


A crazy woman driver though I may be, I am not totally crazy. I know that this woman probably opened up my email and promptly deleted it along with my application from her file. I will never cross her mind again.
But I will not soon forget this silly email or the lesson it taught me about standing up for myself. And I am proud of myself--maybe too proud. I've been walking around the house humming that old Aaron Tippin song "you've got to stand for something or you'll fall for anything." (An email and humming...Man! Don't mess with this crazy lady!!)

There have been times in my life that I've had to jump through hoops to get what I want. But there's a difference between jumping through hoops and compromising what you feel in your gut is right.

And right now my gut says that it needs a sandwich. With mayo. Because I am keeping these 5 lbs.

And while I'm making it, I think I'll hum along some more with Mr. Tippin.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Confessions of a Skinny Girl

So this several-year, stay-at-home-momma has done the unthinkable. I have perked up my resume and started submitting applications for work outside the home. Crazy talk, I know. I have a phone interview lined up with a big name weight loss company that would allow me to put my nutritional counseling certification to good use.

And I am terrified...

Terrified because I have always been horribly spastic at interviews.(Here's hoping the interviewer has stalked me on Facebook and found this blog!)

But I am even more scared that this interviewer will not deem me worthy of the job because I have never struggled with weight the way many of my would-be clients have. Perhaps this will make me un-relatable, which is never a good thing in a counseling situation. How could I ever offer advice or help guide someone out of a situation that I have never lived myself?

I have never struggled with weight. I have always been skinny. (Big shout out to my mom and dad for their helpful gene pools.) But I have struggled with food. And with weight management. And with understanding what exactly food does to my body and why.

When I was studying for my certifications, I read a passage in one of my textbooks that hit me really hard. I don't remember it verbatim and I am too lazy to look for it to quote it directly for you now, but basically, the author said something along the lines of letting go of your past to make healthy choices today, because everyone has a history when it comes to food.

When people are struggling with food, I think there is a misconception that they are struggling alone. That's not true. Everyone struggles, skinny girls included.

Which leads me to my first confession:
We are all scared.

I have never met a woman who was completely satisfied with the way her body looks. Not a one. If that type of woman exists, she is extremely rare. And I can guarantee you that every time she puts something into her mouth she is thinking about what it might do to her "perfect" body. And every time she goes into the gym, it is because she worries that she will lose her "perfect" physique.

(I am pretty sure that nature's way of keeping us women from becoming overly confident is cellulite. Thanks a lot, extra x chromosome...)

Confession #2:

Skinniness can make you a bit of a control freak.

Women who are athletic competitors are among the worst for having a history of eating disorders. Though not absolute of the running population at large, I have yet to meet a runner who had not experimented with bulimia or anorexia at some point in her life, myself included. It makes perfect sense. Runners usually enjoy the challenge of running because it pushes the barriers of what they think their bodies can withstand. How many more miles can I go? So does anorexia. How many more calories can I cut out?

Because I was very athletic throughout most of my life, I struggled with this control issue. It was almost an obsession for me. At one time, I knew by heart how many calories were in a variety of foods. I would count out each and every thing I put onto my plate, and then subtract a third so that I could reduce the caloric intake. (Good if you're eating Cheetos, but not good if you are eating a serving of oatmeal.) If I did eat the whole serving size, I would do a set of exercises immediately afterwards to purge myself. My justification was that I was eating and exercising, both of which were healthy lifestyle traits. What I didn't realize was that I was slightly starving and over-taxing myself, all while implementing a very self-punishing mindset when it came to diet and exercise. I felt like I was totally in control, but I was in fact being controlled by food--unable to fully enjoy any part of it because I had made it a chore---a punishment---a curse.

Confession #3:

We have "fat days" too.

Call us casualties of our flawed society and its ideals, but we all want a skinny body. And if we gain five extra pounds over our ideal weight, we are afraid that we look fat. (Totally ludicrous, but honest.)

I have a hard time especially when it comes to clothes. The amount of squats I have been doing lately has made all of my pants fit a little tighter on the backside. I know in my heart it's muscle, but when your pants are too tight, your brain calls it fat.

Which brings me to Confession #4:

We desperately want curves.

Many popular styles don't fit me right because I was not endowed with an upstairs region to balance out the bottom portion of my blouses. Whoever invented the shirt that bubbles at the midsection and cinches at the waist was just plain mean. And dumb.

Confession #5:
Skinny isn't everything.

I am not at my lowest weight. In fact, aside from my pregnancies I may even be at my heaviest. But though my numbers have gone up, I am stronger. The scale tips a little more to the right, but I have more lean muscle. I eat more, and I am able to run faster and longer. I am not at my lowest weight, but I may be the healthiest I've ever been.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------

So here's the skinny.

It's not about the number on the scale. It's NEVER about the number on the scale.
If the number on the scale does not make you happy, then by all means, do something to change it. But don't expect that a "magic number" will make you magically happy. I have met several skinny girls who weren't happy. Heck, I WAS a skinny girl who wasn't happy.

But I am happy now. Happy with myself and my body. Happy with my stretch marks because they mean my body was amazing enough to bear children. Happy with the four-inch scar on my knee because it means that I was strong enough to overcome an injury and heal. Happy with my bigger backside that makes my shorts too tight because it means I am getting stronger. (Take that, brain!) Not so happy with the scar on my belly because of my choice to get a faddish belly ring in college...but we can't win 'em all...

And the moment I became happy was when I faced my past misconceptions and changed my idea about food.
My moment of clarity came when I realized that I shouldn't eat food in order to change the look of my body, but rather to change the behavior of my body. I want my body to do great things. I want to run farther and faster, yes. But I also want to feel more energized so I can play duck-duck-goose for the ump-teenth time in the backyard with my kids. I want to face a day without feeling irritable and tired. I want to fight illnesses better. I want to evade the risks of diabetes and heart disease that I have inherited. I want to live longer. I want to honor my body. And I want to be an example of health and happiness for my children. Inevitably, that led me to make better choices about how I eat and exercise.

Do I like broccoli more than Cheetos? No! But I really do feel better when I pick the broccoli, so I don't miss the Cheetos.
Do I always like to hit the gym? No! I have skipped a time or two because I was "too tired." But it turns out that skipping doesn't make me any less tired the next day...because I have small children...who want to play more duck-duck-goose in the backyard...and eat Cheetos...

It's a choice. It's a lifestyle. It's a mindset. It's a balancing act. At times, it's a challenge. But now that I've gotten it right, it's a source of joy and accomplishment. And that's something I really hope I can help other people find for themselves. (So here's hoping I can speak my mind as well as I can spell it out!)

Friday, June 28, 2013

My Happy Place

About a month or two ago, I told my husband something that a good Army wife should never say out loud to her spouse: I don’t like it here.

It was really hard for me to admit. You see, I am the type of person who likes to look on the bright side of things. Maybe it’s because I’m overly optimistic. Perhaps it’s because I’m a bit naïve. Maybe it’s because I am non-confrontational. It might even be because I am a bit lazy, and simply hiding this place’s suck with happy thoughts seemed like a quick fix to my problem. But over the past several months I have grown tired of “well, at least it isn’t…” and “it could be worse” ways of thinking and I have just been stating it plainly:

I don’t like it here.

I don’t like the humidity. I don’t like the copperheads. I don’t like the ticks. I don’t like the moles that dig in our back garden. I don’t like the bunny burrows that my dog finds in our front yard. I don’t like the horrifying drop-off at the end of our street. I don’t like always having to go to “The Wal-Mart” to get what I need. I don’t like the hokey radio commercials. I don’t like the lack of sidewalks and the plethora of loud, angry people who honk at runners on the road. I don’t like the tiny, winding two lane “highways” that require said runners, farming equipment, large trucks, Bocephus-dogs, and turtles to play chicken as we try to cross each other in opposite lanes. I don’t like the lack of decent Mexican food. And I don’t like the fact that I live in such a transitional post that making friends has been especially difficult for me to do here.

It hasn’t been easy not liking where I live. As much as it sounds like I am being a big crybaby, I really do want to like it here. And as much as it sounds like I have thrown in the towel, I really haven’t given up hope. Not liking where I live is no fun, but it is a bit liberating at the same time.

First of all, it has given me ample opportunity to be overly obnoxious about how much I love Texas—and that’s always a plus. But also, it has allowed me to cut myself some slack. At first when I would hear someone talk about how much they loved it here and how many wonderful friends they’d made, I figured I must have been doing something wrong to not share the same sentiments. I must have not been trying hard enough or getting involved in the right things or sending off the right vibes. I was left with this nagging feeling of “maybe it’s me.”

But it’s not me that’s wrong. I have joined groups. I have embraced new hobbies. I have achieved new personal heights and earned new certifications. I have gone out of my comfort zone to try to make new friends—some attempts being more successful than others. I came to this place with a hopeful heart and I really did try to like it. I just don’t. It turns out that Mizzurah and I are not a match. It’s as simple as that.

This is not the first time that I have put effort into something that didn’t pan out the way I wanted it to. And I am sure that it won’t be the last. But I am not mad—at myself nor at this place. I know that I tried my best to find my roots here and I won’t blame myself for the end result, whatever it ends up being. (And quite honestly, my obnoxious love for Texas means that I will be perfectly fine remaining a tumbleweed.) But I am discovering that taking a risk is always worth it, whether the reward shows up or not. I may not like it here, but I am braver here. I am more assertive here. I am more discerning here. I am more goal-oriented here. I am becoming a bit tougher here. I might even have become a bit more stubborn here, which I am finding is not always a bad thing.

It’s that stubbornness and growth that keeps me pressing on to find my happy place in this duty station. Mostly because I hate to lose, but also because I know that the moment I stop fighting is the moment the dislike becomes my fault and not Mizzurah’s. And I don’t want that kind of negative juju getting into my head. I still want to save some room for my happy thoughts.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Game Boy

My three-year-old son is a total video game junky. Ahhh…every mother’s dream. Whenever I force him to turn off the game console and come back to join me in the real world, he recruits me to play his second favorite game: He pretends that he is Mario and I am Happy Nap and we act out various races and competitions from the game all throughout the house.

During one rousing bout of “Flag Fracas,” Happy Nap decided to take a quit intermission to remake the bed after it had been destroyed by our leaping efforts to capture the imaginary flag in the bed sand. Mario was not pleased. I believe his exact words were “Stop messing around, Happy Nap, and get back to the game!”

At that point, Happy Nap promptly turned back into Mommy and told Mario he needed to watch his attitude. (Then I stifled a laugh, because “Mario’s" seriousness was adorable.) Eventually Happy Nap returned to the game, pausing only briefly to reset the rock pillows and river blankets that we scattered across the floor during our races. He never snapped at me again, but the look on his face told me he was tired of all my “messing around.”

The first week playing our new pretend game was entertaining. Look at how creative he is! The second week it was tolerable. At least we are spending quality time together. The third week has driven me bonkers. It’s like when a baby first discovers that you will pick up an object if he drops it, and so he drops it again…and again…and again…and again. Only with this game, I am lying flat on my stomach waiting for the “signal” so I can dart up and dash down the hallway 25 times in a row. It’s almost enough to make me want to turn on the game console again just so I can make a bed in peace.

But I don’t. Mostly because I don’t want to foster my son’s gaming addiction, but also because I know that this playful phase of motherhood is going to pass by way too quickly.

I laugh at the irony of Mario’s instruction to “stop messing around.” I wasn’t messing around. I was cleaning up a mess. To me, that was the “serious business” and all the rest was play. But the more I think about it, the more I have to ask myself who was right. In this match-up of Mario vs. Happy Nap, it would appear that Mario has won yet again.

I literally run around my house ALL DAY picking up the odds and ends of our games and putting them back where I think they should go. I don’t know if I would be considered a clean-freak, but I am definitely a clutter-hater. I like having a neat, presentable house at all times so that if I am “surprised” by a guest, I can feel comfortable letting them into my home (and perhaps earn one of those gold stars I have mentioned before.) The thing is, though, I am never surprised by guests. I have made very few friends here, and certainly not to the point where they would just drop by unexpectedly. So I clean my house to appear perfect for my pretend friends. It’s like this nutty game that I am playing against myself. (And I have to say, I am not sure that I’m winning!)

I love a tidy home. I always will. It’s what brings me peace and allows me to let go and do things like lay stomach-down on the hallway carpet without grossing out. But maybe, just maybe, Mario’s words will resonate with me the next time I choose to interrupt our game to do a quick pick up. Maybe instead of focusing on the house and breaking to play with the kids, I can focus on my kids and break to play with my house.

Because truth be told, I will miss messing around with the mess-makers when they’re gone.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Super Star

This past week I checked a resolution off my to-do list and ran my very first half-marathon. It was thrilling and terrifying at the same time. Thrilling, because I was finally completing something that I had been working on for months. Terrifying, because I knew that when I finished the race I would be left with this big void. My months of training had consumed me for a while. Running became a large part of my day, what I studied, how I ate, what I wore, and what I planned things around. But all that time and energy earned me was a sub2 finish time, a medal, and a t-shirt. Once the big day was over, I got back in the car and returned to the land of “Well, Now What?” You see, the problem with making resolutions is that you will eventually achieve them and have to come up with new ones.

Maybe it was because I was coming back down from months of physical exhaustion. Maybe it was because my hormones were leveling themselves out once I cut back my training time. Maybe it was because I needed to eat some chocolate. But whatever the reason, I had myself a little breakdown. Suddenly, I felt worthless because I wasn’t training for anything anymore. More so, I felt silly for thinking that the race training would suddenly make me worthwhile. Or for that matter, that blogging or guitar playing would. Suddenly, I felt very much like a frivolous stay-at-home-mom and housewife.

Growing up, I had always been an overachiever. I always made the good grades. I always earned the gold stars. I always got the trophies. I guess I assumed that this kind of success would follow me into adulthood. I would work a big fancy job. I would make a big fat paycheck. And I would find myself an unnecessarily big house to fit all of my trophies and gold stars in. That isn’t exactly how things worked out for me, though. Somewhere down the line of mediocre jobs, interview rejections, and babies I decided that I didn’t need or even want the big fancy job anymore. Being a mom was my new big fancy job. And I was going to be the overachievingest, biggest gold star mom and trophy wife that anyone had ever seen.

I didn’t realize that this grand plan of mine was doomed to failure. (The fact that overachievingest isn’t even a word should have tipped me off. But, alas, it did not.)

I think the reason that running the race was so gratifying for me was because it had an immediate sense of accomplishment tacked to it. I could track my progress. I knew when I had achieved my goal. And I got a medal for completion. Blogging is a lot like that too. I write a blog. I can track the number of people that read it and compliment me. And I pat myself on the back for being witty and insightful.

Motherhood is so not like that. There is no immediate sense of accomplishment because your job is never done. You give them a bath and they spill milk all over themselves five minutes later. You get your kid to finally eat something other than macaroni at lunch and then your realize you are going to have to fight them again at dinner time. The second you think you are done potty-training, your kid has an accident. You get through the terrible two’s just in time to find that three-year-olds are the ones with the real attitudes…and I am sure mothers of teenagers are laughing at me now because I have no idea what awaits me there! Being a housewife is the same way. The laundry, dishes, dog hair, and dust bunnies spread upon my house every day like the plague. If by some miracle I am able to get a chore completed, a pair of little hands is right behind me to undo it, usually sheer moments before Daddy comes in the door. And perhaps I am just putting extra pressure on myself here, but I am fairly certain that the sweatpants and ponytail I regularly don make me more of an old maid than a trophy wife.

I know that all of this whining makes me sound ungrateful for the life I have, and I will be the first to admit that I sometimes I take it all for granted. I love being at home. I love my kids. And I especially love my husband and all he does for us so we can live this wonderful life. But is it too much to ask for a girl to get a gold star around here?!?!

I had a very happy revelation this week. (Either that or the chocolate finally kicked in.) The thing is moms do get gold stars. You just have to look harder for them because they are a bit more subtle. Like when your kid makes a mistake and tells you. Gold star. Or when your child genuinely laughs at you; a big belly laugh like they used to do when they were babies. Gold star. Or when you see your kids give each other a hug even though they thought no one was watching them. Gold star. True, those are a bit obvious. But even on a rough day, they are there. Like if your daughter thinks that only Hawaiian princesses are allowed to let their midriffs show. Gold star. Or when your son tells you that socks don’t go with sandals. Gold star. Or when you get him to put the lid back down after he uses the restroom. That’s a double gold star, my friend!!

The housewife scorekeeping is a little harder—mostly because I can’t decide if I am earning gold stars or if I just picked a really wonderful husband. Either way, I have decided to at least change into a pair of blue jeans for the day. Gold star.

Needless to say I am feeling a bit better now about my place in the world—and in my home. Thank you, Chocolate.
And I have decided to sign up for another race in a couple of months, which is good because with all of these gold stars I’m earning I am sure I will feel like I am about due for another medal by then!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

How to Lose a Blog in 10 Days

So I have really been horrible at this weekly blogging thing…

(Remember when I use to do a blog a day for 40 days? Yeah, neither do I. And if you do remember it, thank you for being the one other person besides my mom and my husband who read those.)

Anyway, I have been so desperate for an idea to strike me for a blog this week that at one point, I actually Googled “ideas for blog topics.” I did not find anything good ideas there. (Apparently Google is all out of blog topics too.) But I did click on a link that gave me “10 reasons why my blog is not getting as much traffic as it could be.”

Without having to rewrite the entire article, just know that I don’t write consistently enough, I write too much, I have too broad a range of topics, my range of topics is too narrow, my blogs are too long, my blogs are too short, and people don’t want to hear me talk about myself in my blogs. (I know I am missing three. They had something to do about not being interesting. We’ll pretend I don’t have that problem!)

When I began this blog nearly two years ago now, I don’t think I had any particular hopes for it, or even had any idea of why I was doing it in the first place. I started it on a whim, because I couldn’t sleep one night and because I had just watched Julie and Julia. I never expected anyone to read them. I myself don’t follow any other blogs—heck, I can hardly follow my own! But for some reason unbeknownst even now, I continue to write them. Over time they have become an outlet for me, a source of inspiration to me as well as to others, and a way for me to sort out all of the crazy in my head and in my life.

I think the reason I continue to enjoy blogging is because I approach it now with the same attitude I did that first sleepless night. Would I love to have more people read my blog? Sure! Do I like to hear people tell me how much they relate to or are inspired by what I’ve written? Absolutely! Would I love to eventually get paid for sitting around in my pj’s and typing about my kids on a laptop? Who wouldn’t?! But never at the expense of changing what it is now and what has made it so fulfilling to me in the first place.

So herein lies my promise for this blog from today until the Internet gets too complicated for me to navigate. (Because it will happen, my friends. I am technologically inept.)

…Or if Mr. Blog-Trafficking Expert prefers this as a catchier headline…

10 Reasons Why My Blog Will Never Get As Much Traffic As It Should:

1.I will ALWAYS write about myself. That is what a blog is for. And I am incredibly fascinating.

2.I will ALWAYS write about whatever I want to. It is in the subtitle of my blog, and has been since the first day…just so that there’s no confusion.

3.You will ALWAYS hear too much about my children, my God, my dreams and aspirations, my failures, my hobbies, the military life, and the general nonsense of my brain. I am an open book on here. (That’s why my mom and husband are such avid followers!)

4.My blog will ALWAYS be for readers--Not skimmers or scanners. I will post large, rambling paragraphs in small print. I will not post giant pictures of what I wear each day with a little blurb. If you are looking for me to fascinate you with blurbs and cute pictures of myself, then by all means, please find me on Facebook!

5.My posting will ALWAYS be irregular. Just like you can’t count on a rainbow after every storm, neither can you count on my blog at the end of every week. Though I am working on it, sometimes it’s there, sometimes it’s not. Sometimes you are super lucky and I post twice in a week. Sometimes the responsibilities of motherhood and the other joys or obligations of my life keep me from posting for several weeks. Sometimes I start three blogs and all of them stink, so I write a blog about my blog just so you don’t think I forgot to do it…

6.I will ALWAYS write for my audience—which is me. I started this blog for me, never intending to have an audience. Sure, I post the links each time. But I never expect people to click on it. Truth be told, sometimes they don’t. And that’s okay with me. I truly believe that if people read them, then it’s because they were meant to get something out of my journey that day, which brings me to the next point…

7.I will ALWAYS try to keep it positive. I believe that there are great lessons in the little things in life. I also believe that we are bombarded with a lot of bad news over the course of the day, and we need reminders that life is good. I won’t be naively cheerful. But I will always strive to bring hope at the end of a story. That’s the goal: To have you leave this blog with a thought, a sense of peace, or at very least, a smile.

8, 9, and 10 are that I will always try to be interesting. (What can I say?! I am working on consistency!) :)

But no matter what happens at the end of this week, or even the next year, I just wanted to take the opportunity to tell you thank you for stopping by the blog. It is for me and about me, but I am pretty darn grateful that I have you too.

… And if you have any suggestions for blog topics so I can lay off the Google searches for a while, I would be much obliged!

Monday, April 15, 2013

Perfect Timing

So I missed the deadline for my weekly blog goal this past week. I am only a little bummed about it, mostly because I am always blogging to myself in my brain.

My runs have been really good for that lately. In fact, all of my run training is quite possibly the reason I did not write out any of my brain blogs last week. And they have been mentioned in my last several blog entries. So if you are getting tired of my running stories, my apologies. I will return to the regularly-programmed random musings soon. And if you are just now checking in, I promise I write about more than running…I also write a lot about potty training debacles! (I can’t imagine why no one wants to sponsor this blog!!)

Anyway, back to the running…

To recap, I am just a couple short weeks away from my first half-marathon. My first attempt at my long run was pretty nasty. But never being one to know the difference between powering through and killing myself, I took a week off and completed another long run at the end of this week. It went much more smoothly, thank goodness. And it was probably due in large part to my “blogging.”

I love running. I always feel like life’s great mysteries are revealed to me on a jog. Maybe it has to do with the rhythmic breathing. Maybe it has to do with the steady pounding of my feet on the pavement. Or maybe it has to do with the fact that I am exerting myself too much to talk, so I finally have some peace and quiet to think. Whatever the reason, about three quarters into this run I started up a mental dialogue with myself—giving myself a mental high five and a quick pep-talk and calculating why this round was going so much better than the last time. At first I thought it was because I had been building up my endurance. I had been doing a lot of run training, after all. But I disvovered that wasn’t true. It was because of my pace. I had slowed down a little and wound up improving my time, (not to mention my experience,) overall.

Then it dawned on me…this race training has never been a test of my endurance. I have endured much more difficult things than 13.1 miles. Like when I was completing a full college load, and working full-time, and raising a newborn with no money and even less sleep. Or when I took care of a potty-training two-year-old and her week-old brother by myself while my husband was gone for six weeks of military training. Or when I survived all of the ins and outs and ups and downs of a nine month deployment. No, endurance has never been my issue. I have, however, had problems pacing myself.

Like the time when I was completing a full college load, and working full-time, and raising a newborn…

But also during the constant battle I have with myself about whether I want to work, or volunteer, or stay home, or go back to school. Or in the New Year’s resolution lists I make for myself that are 20 items long. Or how I keep piling expectations onto myself about the amount of things that should be accomplished in a single day…or how many family memories should be made in a weekend…or how many miles should be ran in an hour.

We live in a nation where families (and governments) throw themselves into debt because we think we need everything now. Right this minute. And everything in excess. We kill ourselves working to achieve somebody else’s bottom line. To cash this week’s paycheck. We waste twice as much money as we save. We miss twice as many moments as we actually live in.

I spend my life rushing around like time is slipping away from me when I am one of the lucky ones who knows I have an eternity left to live. And this is not to suggest that I should sit around and do nothing because I’ve scraped up some extra time. It is rather a gentle reminder that the timing has never been mine to begin with.
And the one who holds the stopwatch doesn’t really care how fast I finish. He only cares about how I run the race.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

The Rookie

I've been doing a lot of talk on the blogosphere about wanting to run a marathon. I still haven't fully committed to running 26 miles, but I am finally training for my first half-marathon at the end of the month...so I'm making real progress, I guess.
Last week I did my first "long run." I put it in quotations here, because depending on who the reader is "long" is a very relative term. I have recently joined a jogging club where other members routinely run 10+ miles and train for multiple marathons throughout the year. I also know that some of the members have completed ultra marathons and fifty-milers. Compared to these people, my "long run" was a mere warm-up. But I ran a touch less than nine miles, so it felt plenty long to me.
I was running on one of the troop trails on post sometime in the middle of the afternoon, and I figured that would keep me from running into any soldier training marches along the way. But as it turns out, soldiers apparently run at all times of the day.
About four miles into the run I came upon a unit ruck march. There were about 150 soldiers walking in a loose formation, each carrying around 100 pounds of gear. They were headed in the front by their company's guidon and were trailed by some kind of monstorous tactical vehicle that spilled over the pavement on either side of the trail. Being the good little Army wife that I am, I left the trail for the soldiers and ran on the grassy slope right alongside it. I was only about halfway into my run and I was feeling pretty good. I had to do a few prancing hops as I skirted along the outside of the trail to avoid falling in big holes in the grass or gracefully tripping and rolling into the road beneath me. Whether or not it was true, I felt the soldiers' eyes watching me. I was very aware of how I breathing, making sure it wasn't too fast or too loud--you know, anything that made it seem like I was exerting any effort at all. Eventually, I was able to snake my way around the soldiers and the truck and find my way back onto the trail. It only took me about three minutes. I was feeling proud that I had showcased such athleticism to those soldiers. And then about a quarter of a mile later, I realized I had to turn around and do it all again.
Upon the turn-around, I already knew I was in trouble. All of my prancy showboating had now left me with no choice but to pretend to be as athletic on the way back. But this time, I wasn't going in the opposite direction. I would have to be running with them. As I approached the armoured vehicle, I knew I would have to leave the trail again. I hesitantly veered onto the upward grassy slope. The first stretch was okay, but I began to notice that the slope in the hill was making my feet have an awkward gait. I decided the best thing for me to do would be to leave the trail completely and head for the shoulder of the road beneath to gain some flatter ground. Remember the gracefully rolling into the roadside part I mentioned before? ...That fate was only narrowly escaped. Once I found my footing again I continued my pace. For a moment, I was very happy that I was farther away from the soldiers. There was no way they would be able to hear my breath from down there--which was good because at this point it was unnecessarily rapid and loud. Since I had entered the shoulder from a hillside, I wasn't running on the best side of the road. Cars were whizzing past me from behind. Not the safest thing ever, especially in the winding hills.
I picked up my pace to speed along my passing process. For about thirty seconds, I felt like a champ again. I realized that if any eyes were on me at that moment, I was looking fierce. My Texas country music was blaring through my earbuds and I was tearing up the road. Then that thirty seconds was over, and I discovered that it was going to take me much more than thirty seconds to finish passing the group, even with my "super speed." (I put that in quotations because now I am just being sarcastic.) I was miserable and wanted to slow down. But I had this horrible realization that if any eyes had actually been on me, the brevity of my sprint would only make me look like more of a pansy. I continued my faster pace, now beginning to feel the added effects of my hopping and crooked running from before. Because I had gone down to pass the group, I knew I would have to go out and up to get back onto the trail. A few minutes later I saw the guidon flag and waited for an entrance point from the road back onto the trail--which of course was uphill. I powered up the hill, no longer caring about how loud or sporadic my breath was and just happy to be back on the trail again where I could slow back down...
That is, until I realized the whole group of soldiers could still see me directly in front of them. I continued running until I had determined that I was out of sight. I probably did it for much longer than was necessary, as I didn't want to look like a weirdo constantly checking back on them. About the time I felt comfortable with my distance, a group of soldiers in a Jeep were dropped off onto the trail beside me---I just let them pass me. Crazy breath and all.

By the time I had completed my run, I was hurting bad. I had a sharp, shooting pain in my heel that left me almost unable to walk. I had blisters on both of my feet and toes. My hamstrings were so tight, I almost could not sit down. I haven't been able to run a single time this entire week.

All because of a set of imaginary eyes I had created for myself. And because of a make-believe image that I wanted those eyes to see.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Planned Parenthood

When I was a little girl, I often played house as most little girls do. I would be the mommy and all of my little stuffed animals would be my babies, and we would spend the day feeding bottles and playing dress up and napping. All of my “babies” were named Sarah, and all of them were always perfectly well behaved.

When I was just about fourteen, my mother gave birth to my little brother. She was a bit older, of course, and since she wanted to make sure there were no complications (and because she was a true champion) she delivered naturally without an epidural. I learned two new things that day that my Sarahs never taught me: childbirth was painful and I would ask the doctor for drugs.
As the weeks went on, I learned a few more things from my little brother. Babies cry a lot. Babies poop a lot. Babies tend to sleep when you are awake and wake when you are asleep. Babies mean you eat a lot more takeout.

But I loved my little brother. And even though he smelled a lot worse than any of my Sarahs, he was so interesting to be around. I always volunteered to dress him. I would help feed him…sometimes. I could cheer him up when he was inconsolable…occasionally. I would change his diapers…when absolutely necessary. But at the end of the day, I was a fourteen year old girl wrapped up in my own little world with my own selfish ambitions. I was only doing a fraction of the work I actually thought I was, and I was gaining way more confidence in my ability to rear children than I should have been crediting myself with. My little sister had claimed that our brother was her temporary form of birth control. But for me, having him around only solidified the fact that I wanted my own little Sarah one day.

I remember planning out so many phases of my life by age. I would graduate high school by eighteen. College by twenty-two. Of course I would be marrying straight out of college. We would spend a couple of years together as man and wife and start trying for children by the time I was twenty-four. I would be a mom by twenty-five. I would want the second baby no more than three years after that. I wanted to be done having kids by thirty. Three kids might be nice. I knew I didn’t want to have any babies after thirty, because then I would be fifty before they left the house—and that would mean I would be too old to do things apparently. Somewhere in there I would find my husband. Somewhere in there I would pick a field of study. Somewhere in there I would build a career... minor details in the major plan.

Somewhere between “graduate college” and “find a husband,” I discovered I was with child. I was twenty—a bit ahead of the schedule. Suddenly my plan went out the window. I was scared. I was overwhelmed. But at the same time, I was comfortable. I knew that having a baby this way wasn’t ideal, but I had always wanted a baby so badly that I figured motherhood would come naturally to me. As if my maternal instincts would be awarded to me strictly based on the amount of “house” I played as a young girl.

I didn’t name my daughter Sarah, (chalk it up to burnout) and it is a good thing I didn’t, because she was nothing like my stuffed animals. But my previous exposure to babies had already taught me that she might be a little more work. However, she was nothing like my little brother either. (So it probably was a good call giving her a different name than him as well.)

Some things I was prepared for: I made the right call asking for the drugs, I was ready to embrace the stink, and I was aware that there was going to be nighttime crying. What I had yet to learn was exactly how much there was about parenting that I didn’t know. It took me about three prenatal visits to start to grasp how expensive babies actually are. (I’m a quick learner, I tell you.) Diapers cost a lot of money, and you burn through about twelve a day—more if your child’s father has “Magilla Gorilla hands” and keeps ripping the little Velcro tabs off the sides on accident. Those cute little outfits that you think are worth spending extra money on are going to get poop stains on them just like the six-pack of Gerber Onesies. A nursery set only stays cute if your baby refrains from spitting up/peeing on it every other night. Your baby will need a new set of everything as they completely outgrow it all every six weeks. A person who is supposedly immobile can get into more places than you ever thought possible. Your baby will always find the one place you forgot to baby-proof. Babies are apparently naturally drawn to things that will kill them, like a bug to a light. Your baby will always be hungry or wake from a nap a mere five seconds after you sit down. Babies will leave you constantly debating what is more important—sleep or showers. Babies grow up way WAY too fast.

Probably the most challenging part of motherhood for me has been the last point. When you are little and play house, when you dream about becoming a mother one day, you always imagine yourself with babies. But babies don’t stay babies for long. They don’t stay toddlers for long either. Nor do they remain preschoolers. Eventually, you are snuggled up with a kindergartener wondering how she grew so tall. Eventually, you hear her talking about how she wants to get married when she turns eighteen and have six of her own babies. Eventually, you watch her primp her hair in the mirror and realize that she doesn’t see the baby that you still see.

Hardly any part of my life’s plan has followed the route I had mapped out for myself all those years ago. I will have all of my babies out of the house before I am fifty, so I guess didn’t totally lose out. And I did have my babies no more than three years apart—though I sometimes wonder why I thought that was such a good thing. (That was a lot of consecutive diapers.) But sometimes the best plans are the ones that get ruined. It helps you refocus on those fleeting “minor details”…

Monday, March 18, 2013

Gestalt

It was the famous psychologist, Gestalt, who told us that “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.”

Without forcing you to relive my Intro to Psych class, here’s a brief lesson in case you need a refresher…
A lot of people use Gestalt’s principle when they are talking about holistic health. There’s the body, the mind, and the spirit. No one link is greater than the others, and when one link is neglected then the whole person suffers. Likewise, if each part is nourished, then the person is wholly satisfied.

I have been feeling pretty piecemeal lately. There’s Liz the wife, Liz the mother, Liz the student, Liz the housekeeper, Liz the runner, Liz the blogger, Liz the Army spouse, Liz the Texan stuck in the Midwest, Liz the girl who has owned her guitar for four years now and still can’t play it…
(I will stop there because I assume you get the point…)

There’s a lot to me. And while I would like to argue with Gestalt that some pieces of me are definitely more important than others, I am certainly feeling like the neglected parts of me are wearing down the rest.

If I haven’t mentioned it before, I love LOVE Better Homes and Gardens Magazine. I am so outwardly excited to get my issue every month that even my kids shout “Woo Hoo!” when it comes in the mail. I am not for a moment knocking BHG, (did you not catch my love LOVE?!) but I do think it has warped me a little bit.

At some point between the time I open the magazine and the time I close it, I start feeling really discouraged. How am I supposed to make my house look amazing AND cook a prize winning dinner at the same time? How am I supposed to grow a sustainable garden using succulents AND create an English rose garden in the same space? And how can I do it all while simultaneously being trendy, stylish, and healthy?!?!

I can’t. One area or another (or all of them) will not get done. And, theoretically speaking, if those are all of parts of the home and some of those parts are not being attended to, then doesn’t the whole home suffer?
More importantly, if all of the parts make the Liz and some of the parts are not being focused on, then does the whole Liz suffer? Well Gestalt…does it?!

I think my problem with this Gestalt business is that I often confuse wholeness with perfection. And unfortunately, we live in a society that calls for us to be perfect…at everything. We can no longer settle for being perfect in just one area—oh no. We must be masters of all trades. (Our Pinterest boards say so!)

We must have the perfect job, and live in the perfect house, and wear perfect clothes that sit on the perfect-sized body, and make perfect dinners, and have perfectly exciting social calendars, and have perfectly well-behaved children, and must somehow take perfect pictures of all of it to use as evidence on Facebook.

Well, I won’t let myself buy into society’s view that I have to do it all in order to have it all. I know that balance comes from pairing down excess instead of tacking on extra. Furthermore, I have come to accept that my quirky imperfections are what make me wholly “Lizzish.” But some imperfections leave room for improvement. I just have to be sure to focus on the Liz’s that matter most to me.

So, with a little help from Gestalt, I have officially established some goals for myself for the rest of this year. (Nearly four months late—because lateness is a definite part of the Liz whole.)

Mind: I WILL learn to play my guitar…finally.
Body: I will complete my first half-marathon next month. (Yikes!)
Spirit: I will blog at least once a week.

Of course, there are like a bazillion other things that I would like to learn/improve upon. And with any luck, my paired down approach to goal-setting may lead me on to quick success and you could see more “Gestalt goals” before the year’s end.

Just don’t expect photographic evidence of my goal completion on Facebook. I am a horrible photographer…Don’t tell society.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Bloom

I think the hardest part of being a military spouse is the moving…

Not the constant separation. Not the fear of things you can’t control on the other side of the world. Yes, those things are incredibly hard. But I don’t think they are the hardest. Somehow, in the wake of those moments, this fighter you never knew you were emerges and you scrap your way through those obstacles. You survive the broken toilets, the single parenting, and the sleepless nights. You form solid friendships that anchor you in your craziest moments, and you build confidence and acceptance in who you are and what you are capable of achieving. When you are reunited after a deployment, you can actually hear the “happily ever after” music playing in your head…

And then he gets reassignment orders.

The funny thing about moving is that, as stressful as it is, it is always exciting at first. I grew up my whole life in the same city and a large chunk of it in the same house. When I went to college, I was only a few hours’ drive away from home. The prospect of moving all around seemed like an adventure to me. And even though our orders have never been to places that people consider “highly desirable,” I am always happy to move forward into something new. It must be the overly optimistic part of me that does that. I should really give that part of me a stern talking-to.

It’s not that I consider it a bad thing to be overly optimistic. It’s actually a wonderful thing to be genuinely happy most all of the time. But I do need to remember not to let that part of me daydream a place into something so impossibly perfect that all it does is disappoint me when I come back down to reality.

I remember the first time we moved on assignment orders, I had this really naïve notion that I was going to walk right into about six lifelong friendships. I guess I was watching too many episodes of Army Wives or something, I don’t know. (By the way, that show is SO NOT real.) In reality, it took a solid five months before I had even one person reach out. I also thought that I would be able to come into a new city and walk right into a job. That didn’t happen either. I also didn’t live in the house of my dreams. My husband was never home for dinner. And I didn’t know of anyone who could babysit my children so I could go to Roxy’s bar. I literally hated that place for like a year. And then… I bloomed.

The Army uses the expression “bloom where you’re planted.” I think it’s just a nicer way to say “suck it up and make it better.” One of my friends simply refers to it as “embracing the suck.” However nicely or literally you phrase it, it is still hard to do.
I am no gardener. (In fact, I think I am more like the gardener you should seek out if you want a plant to die.) But I do know that a plant needs three things to bloom: good soil, sunshine, and time.

The first trick to blooming is to pick the right soil to establish your roots in. I am finding that just as soil varies from state to state, so do activities. I can’t “root” myself in the same activities in different places and always expect the same results. Every day I spend in my “new soil” seems to further prove this fact. Groups that I used to find fulfilling in my old home are not creating the same fuzzy feelings for me here. I haven’t changed, but my environment has. The good news is that every state has its own hardy state flower. And though they are different from one another, they are all equally beautiful. (And I just know that whatever springs from the soil here will make me equally happy…I just gotta find it!)

Once the roots are established in good soil, the plant needs sunshine to feed it. Just as different plants grow better in different soil, they also require different amounts of sunshine. I like to think sunshine is happiness you get from your outside sources—the people, the scenery, the weather, the local attractions, the food, the shopping, your church, your career (or lack thereof,) the amount of available family time, and on and on and on. Sometimes, I need all of these things to feel well fed. Others, I need just a few. If I am being honest, I could use some more sunshine here in the Midwest to keep me going. Lucky for me, spring is just around the corner—and hopefully a bunch of sunny days are too.

All good things take time. A seed doesn’t bloom overnight. And despite my very best efforts, a home isn’t built in a day. Trust me—it isn’t built in four months either. Unfortunately for me, time isn’t exactly on my side in this duty station. But I do intend to make the most of the time I’ve been given. As much as the over-achiever in me hates to admit it, I will not have it all here. I will not make a chain of lifelong friendships here. That doesn’t mean that I will be a hermit, but it does mean that I will not beat myself up if month five rolls around and no one has reached out. I will not reach the level of community involvement that I had in my last home. That does not mean that I will force myself to remain unattached, but it does mean that I will take advantage of the opportunity to focus on my family first and foremost. In fact, the signs are indicating that I will not actually like this place as much as I loved the one I came from. But I refuse to waste what little time I have wallowing in what I’m missing and wind up missing my chance to bloom. And I really do believe I can bloom here. (I just might need a sprinkling or two of Miracle Grow to help me out a little.)

When I do bloom here, I hope it’s as a bluebonnet…just so people never question where my true roots are found. :)

Friday, March 1, 2013

How Flattering

I submitted an article to Blog Brigade about three weeks ago that didn't get selected. C'est la vie. Then, this week, they posted a blog with a near identical premise from one of their regular bloggers. Either I am not as creative as I think I am (which is not so awesome,) or I got BLOG-JACKED! (You know, because my ideas are totally worth copying.) Yes...for my self-esteem as a writer, I will choose to believe the latter.

Regardless, I decided to post my original composition that nobody wanted right here, because I am proud of it. (And considering my family is a one income household with two kids, two vehicles, six separate college degrees and certifications, and ZERO debt, I feel like it is solid advice.)

Just for fun, I attached a link to the one they chose to use this week. Hers is better, maybe. No, hers is definitely better. But she is very welcome for the free access to my awesome idea. ;)

Copycat Blog
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Genius Original Blog:

Saving Tips from a Shopaholic
I’m going to come right out and say it. Even as I write this, I feel a bit silly soliciting financial advice. I am by no means a money expert. If left to my own devices, I can burn through a paycheck faster than you can say “storewide clearance.” In fact, practically every single money lesson I’ve ever learned has been learned the hard way. But hard knocked or not, I have learned. Perhaps my mistakes can help teach you too.

Here are five simple tips to tame the shopaholic in us all.

1.Shop your own stuff first. Move after move, the one thing I am reminded of when I see those boxes strewn about the house is how much stuff I actually have. If you are anything like me, there are about five or six boxes that are never opened from point A to point B…or D. If you find yourself in want of something, start with what you’ve got. Unless you’ve taken a real inventory of what you have, you will never truly know what you need. Now I’m not saying that everything you ever need will magically pop out of those boxes. Occasionally, you will need to get inventive. But that is where our “military wife life” will give us a leg up every now and then. One of the perks of moving all the time means you have mentally and physically rearranged your furniture and décor about a bazillion different ways, so the inventiveness should come naturally to you. Sometimes, finding the perfect piece means that you simply repurpose what you already have. A nightstand can make a perfectly good end table and vice versa. Doesn’t match the room? Break out the spray paint. Same thing works for meal time. Remember what your pantry looked like when you were five days out from clearing a house and you refused to do a big grocery store shop? That’s when the “Iron Chef “in all of us comes out. I amazed myself with what I could do with five manicotti noodles and some buffalo sauce. (Sounds gross here, but I promise it was good!) Explore your options with what you’ve got first, and you can save some big dough.

2.Know what you need. I used to be a list-free shopper. Thinking back on it now, I don’t know how I did that. But I do know I would wander the grocery store in search of food and come home with spaghetti sauce and no noodles. The magic of a list is that it not only keeps you from the frustration of forgetting those spaghetti noodles, but it also gives you a visual plan of what you are going to buy (and spend) before you even go shopping. The more specific your list is, the better. On more than one occasion, the sheer length of my list has led me to cross off items that weren’t truly necessary and has saved me some money in the process.

3.Stick to the list! If it is not on your list, don’t buy it! If I had a nickel for every time I got sucked into that shiny dollar section near the checkout aisle at the superstore…I would still be missing 95 cents of the dollar I spent and didn’t need to. Be wary of those impulse buys. Just like stores keep light up, whirling candy sticks at the side of the checkout counter to lure children, they strategically place discount bins full of pretty junk for momma to peruse. Step away from the shiny things. Your wallet will thank you.

4.Sometimes sales don’t help you save. I love clearance sections too much. While I think that buying most things at regular price is foolish, I also know that shopping the clearance aisle haphazardly can be just as foolish. I don’t want to tell you exactly how many times I have come home with 4 or 5 items I didn’t really need just because they “were such a great deal.” My favorite part of getting the receipt after shopping at any store is looking at the bottom where it says in big, bold letters “YOU SAVED $xxxxx ON THIS TRIP.” It briefly postpones the pang you feel when you look at the tiny printed section marked “Total” directly above it. I am not suggesting that you should pass on every deal you see. My point is that markdowns like these can make you lose your self-control and focus. Make the discounts work for you. Get one great deal on the one item you actually need and avoid stockpiling items there is no earthly way you can store, let alone use. Put frankly, if you buy something you wouldn’t necessarily buy just because it is discounted or you have a coupon for it, you just wasted money instead of saving it. (I am still waiting on this lesson to sink in, myself. The discount shopper in me is in denial!)

5.Shop around. The way I see it, the Internet can either be a blessing or a curse for the shopaholic. It can easily become the source of product overload or lust if you are shopping out of sheer boredom. However, it can also be a wonderful resource for researching big ticket items before you buy them. When using the Internet for the latter purpose, take into consideration all of the following: Is there a military discount offered if you purchase in store? Are there deals available to help offset/eliminate the cost of shipping? Is the item tax free? (And is there a similar item available on post that would be tax free?) Are there any printable coupons/coupon codes online? Spending the extra time to research all of your options before you buy can save you bookoos come checkout time…and possibly earn you a little wiggle room in your wallet to score the item that caught your eye when you were shopping out of boredom. (Just saying.)

Happy shopping, everyone!

Friday, February 22, 2013

Wild Angels

Yesterday I put a hypothetical foot in my mouth via Facebook. I always hate it when people tell half a story on that thing. You should either be comfortable sharing all of it or not tell us any of it, right?
Well, I became guilty of vaguebooking. I didn't say anything, really. But I did say just enough to worry a lot of people. And since I like to reserve Facebook strictly for use of posting big life announcements and sarcastic/witty nonsense, the place it seems most appropriate to share my story is this blog. Let's face it-- much to my husband's dismay, I am pretty much an open book on here. Even so, this will probably be the most difficult thing I share. But I have to write it out, or it just won't go away. The cheap therapy of blogging is a blessing and a curse that way, I guess.

Anyway, here it goes...

Yesterday we received about three inches of a rain/snow mixture. Roughly translated, that means it iced on us. When we were moving to Missouri, one of the selling points we used with our kids was that it would snow a lot here. We bought them snow pants and snow boots and got them all excited. It hasn't actually snowed a single inch since we moved here. All we get is crusty ice. Nevertheless, the kids have been promised fun times sledding in the backyard snow. And since almost all of the ground was covered in white, we figured we'd let them go for it.

I did a quick survey of the yards in front and back and decided I felt comfortable with them doing a teeny tiny slope in our front yard. The backyard hills were bigger, but I was afraid they would crash into our neighbors back fence and get hurt. This bunny hill in the front wouldn't be as exciting, but they would be safe...or so I thought...

After about thirty runs, (each only lasted about five seconds,) my two-year-old climbed onto his sled and started down the piddly hill. Normally he veered off right and leveled out between our neighbor's house and ours. This time, he must have hit a patch that kept him running straight. At first, we were laughing. What fun to be on a sled for seven seconds instead of five! But as I watched him barrel through the gap in our neighbor's hedges, it suddenly wasn't so funny anymore.

I screamed his name and started chasing after him. My husband, who had been shoveling the walkways while we played, was right behind me. Our dog was right behind him. About 40 yards from our house on the other side of the neighbor's is a draw with a dangerous drop-off. I can't tell you with confidence how far it goes down. I guess it never really mattered much until yesterday. What matters is that my son sledded over the neighbor's hedges, across their driveway, out into the street, and straight down that draw.

My husband and dog dove after him and I fell straight to my knees. One of the neighbors had run out at this point to help us. She kept asking if she needed to call 9-1-1. And then, I heard my little boy cry. It was the most beautiful noise...like that moment of relief you get after you give birth to your child and he cries. It lets you know he is alright.

After a quick assessment we learned that, no, we did not need to call 9-1-1. My little man had fallen 15 feet down the draw and walked away without a scratch. (His mother is, admittedly, not in as great of condition. But better me than him any day, right moms?)

Why do I share this horrific peek into my awful parenting tactics with you? It's to let you know that even in this crazy world, there are still miracles happening.

My two year old miraculously held onto a sled down a 15 ft drop. That stupid, plastic disc of death is what protected his little body from the rocks and trees down the draw. My little man miraculously avoided all of the pines and rocks as he fell into the draw and his sled was slowed to a stop by a small grouping of saplings just barely peeping out above the ice. My little boy literally fell off the side of a cliff and miraculously walked away without a scratch.

If you know me at all, hopefully you know I'm a believer. But I will admit, I have seen a lot of horrible things happen in this world and wondered "where are you, God?" Yesterday, when I lost sight of my son over the draw and I hit my knees, I know where God was. He was holding my baby boy.

So there you have it. That's what all the vagueness was about.
Psalm 46:1 God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.

Psalm 121:7-8 The LORD will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life. 8 The LORD will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forevermore.


Now go kiss your babies.
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As a happy after-note: Red (a.k.a. the Wonder Dog,) for his courageous acts of valor and selflessness, shall be rewarded a lot more indoor time, table food, and belly scratches. Good boy, Red.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Back from the Dead

I hardly ever get sick. Injured, yes…probably more than most people, in fact. But sick, almost never. And it’s a pretty darn good thing that I don’t, because when it happens, it is always horrible. I power through injuries with the best of them. When I get sick, though, I turn into the biggest baby you’ve ever seen. But in my defense, I’m never whining about just a head cold.

This past week, I was laid out with the holy grail of sinus infections. What started out as tickle in my throat became a horrible monster that gave me an infection in every orifice of my head. Seriously, the doctor shined the little doctor light in all the appropriate places and said things like “oh my” and “oh dear” and “poor momma.” In general, these are not things you want to hear your doctor say about your face holes. When she was done, she said something like, “I think you just earned yourself a couple of antibiotics.” She went on and on after that about how the medicine would cause drainage that might make me feel worse before I felt better, but I wasn’t listening to her as much as I was trying not to pop what I could only guess was a giant bubble that was blowing up inside of my ear. Afterwards, my body carried my floating balloon head to the pharmacy where I somehow managed to grab my prescriptions and drive me and my baby boy back to the house in the rain…which I have to figure was about ten times more dangerous than texting while driving.

I walked in the door and popped all my pills as instructed on the packaging, and then HELP.ME.JESUS. I laid there like a sack of potatoes. My entire face puffed up like it had been stung by bees, but really it was just the nastiness unclogging itself from my innards. My ear bubble popped. A migraine mounted from the building pressure. I became nauseous from the stuff draining out of my chest. Tears and other liquids streamed uncontrollably out of my face. Yeah…gross. I promise you I have seen more attractive people featured in the “Sexy and I Know It” Wal-Mart video on YouTube.

Meanwhile, my son skipped tra-la-la through the house like I wasn’t in the worst pain of my life. I have no clue what he was doing all day. For all I know, there could have been wild animals scurrying around our house. It wouldn’t have made a difference. I wasn’t lifting my beeface one inch. “Mommy, I’m hungry,” he told me at some point around noon… or two. Heck, I didn’t know. I managed to dump some dry cereal in a bowl with a piece of Kraft Single cheese next to it. Bon Appetit.

It has become basic practice of mine not to call my husband home from work unless someone is dying. Well, I sure felt like I was. And now realizing how dangerous it had been driving the car before my head sprung a leak, I figured I really should avoid handling heavy machinery now. I sent the man a text: Please pick up kid #1 from school. Not ten minutes later, he came through the door like one of the heroes in a movie. I swear I heard triumphant music playing as he laid his gear down at the front door. He picked up the girl from school, taking the boy with him. He then took them all to our daughter’s dance class and out to eat for dinner, all after bringing me chicken soup from Panera Bread and setting me up with a season of Glee. Oh, sweet victory…

For like an hour.
After laying on the couch for about a week, I had begun hating the thought of lying on the couch alone. Not wanting anyone to touch me and catch my crusty germs, but desperately missing their cuddles. Knowing I needed to go to bed early at night to heal, but hating missing bedtime stories and a chance to hang out with my husband at night. Enjoying the break from doing the dishes and laundry, but feeling guilty that my superhero husband was getting stuck with all the dirty jobs. I missed my family. I missed my life.

I guess I have been struggling with a case of inferiority lately. Being a stay-at-home mom is certainly rewarding, but I will be the first to tell you that there is much more work to do in the early years than there is when children grow into the preschool years and beyond. I have fiercely independent children to boot, so not only do they not need me as much anymore, but sometimes they don’t even really want me. Lately, (and as evidenced by my last downer of a blog) I have been incredibly bored. A little empty, even. I missed the feeling of accomplishment I got from a day’s work, and I wasn’t feeling like I was accomplishing a whole lot here.

Leave it to a sinus infection to make me realize how naïve that feeling really was. Lying on the couch completely helpless made me think of all the things I couldn’t wait to get up and do again. Things like driving my baby girl to and from school and talking to her about her day, and her new friends, and how exciting it was when that one kid from her school stuck a button up his nose. Fixing her hair for ballet practice and watching her through the window without her knowing, beaming at her as she does her toe taps that I see her practicing privately in her room sometimes. Playing video games and computer games with my little man, in awe that he already knows how to manipulate technology so much better than I do. Going down slides with him at the park and watching him learn how to ride his tricycle in the middle of the afternoon on a Tuesday. Giving high fives and “knuckles” when he does a good job on the potty, even if that means going into the customer service restroom at the grocery store three times in a single trip. Making my husband supper and sitting down all together at the table to eat…something that we definitely did not get to do often enough at the last duty station. Making homebrew with him at night and growing into a new hobby together. Checking on our babies together every night and kissing them one last time as they sleep.

I’ve got a lot going on for myself here. A beautiful, happy life and a big job that needs to get done. The most important job…the one where you grow a family.

I am happy to report that though I am not operating at 100%, it is currently safe for me to drive a car. So I can pick up my baby girl from school today and hear about how so-and-so ate a bug at recess. And I have been asked by little man to play a game of Sorry after lunch, which I happily agreed to do. I think I will even initiate a random tickle fight at some point today. Because those are the things that my job entails. Because those are the things worth living for.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Writer's Block

I can't believe this is my first blog in nearly two months. That is insane to me.

This is the longest I've ever gone between blogs. It wasn't because I didn't have an opportunity to write...I only went a grand total of five days without Internet during the move.
It wasn't because I didn't try to write...I actually started a post about my resolutions results and got about two minutes into it before running out of steam.
About three days later, I returned to the post just long enough to decide it was crappy and I wasn't going to finish it.
It wasn't even because I was too busy to write...so many days I have spent bored out of my mind looking for something to do here. Writing would have made for a pretty sweet escape.

No, I haven't written because I'm lost.

I am lost in the woods, yes. Though my last name, my accent, my love for rustic home furnishings, and my husband may have led people to believe otherwise, I am not--I repeat, I AM NOT--a small town country girl. I have never in my life lived anywhere without a mall or a Super Target. I have never in my life lived anywhere that has only one Starbucks (inside of a grocery store, to boot.) And I have never in my life lived anywhere with only two McDonald's--neither with functioning playlands. (Though the latter was not nearly as important to me until recently.)

But more specifically, I am lost because I am still trying to figure out who I am going to be here. I had this master plan to become "Suzie Homemaker" when I moved here. I knew that our time here would be brief, but I figured I could make the most of it cooking these delicious meals, decorating the new house, and planning all kinds of creative activities for the family. Turns out, I do not know how to cook on an electric gas range and burnt my first three suppers right out the gate. I was so overly excited to decorate the new house that I finished most of it the first week. And my son is so tired of arts and crafts that he won't even pick up a crayon anymore.
Apparently Suzie Homemaker will be better saved for another duty station.
So I can't be something new here, but what's worse is I feel like I can't be who I was before, either. It is too cold to run regularly here right now. (I have also learned that running in the ozarks is MUCH more challenging than running in the pass. Stupid, beautiful, wooded hills.) I have no friends to chipper up our otherwise quiet afternoons. I have no oldest child to care for the majority of the work week, which makes my quiet days even quieter. I have no organizational involvements. No clubs. No groups. No life. (No wonder I've had nothing to blog about!)

So here I sit with nothing to say. Hoping that something happens to spark some inspiration. Hoping that I learn to like my new church as much as my last one. Hoping that I'll make a friend, somehow, somewhere. Hoping that this place really is the playground I think it will be for us in the summertime when the ground thaws. Hoping that country music is right, and that small town living really is the best kind of living. Hoping that I find myself here.