Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Parenting Woes

My oldest child, Aden, is on the brink of teendom. He's only 11, but going on 22. Thus far in the four months of the current school year, I've encountered many parenting obstacles. Suddenly, our "good" kid is acting out in numerous ways and forms. I want to shake him and make him tell me what is going on in his world, but I cannot do that. I want to baracade him in his room until he's of adult age, but again, that's not possible. Instead, I'm going to use this post as a vent, a sort of outlet, before I lose my mind.

My Dearest Aden,

I wish I could tell you that at 33 years old, I know the secrets to life, success, and the world. But, I don't. I cannot even pretend that I know the secrets to parenting. Afterall, you are our eldest, our guinea pig. Just when I think I have you figured out and have the rules made to cover everything, you grow up and you find loopholes.
As your mom, it is not only my job to love and protect you, provide you with food, clothing, and a roof over your head, but it is also to provide you with a sense of moral and value, and the tools so that you can function successfully as an adult. The term success can be defined as many things, but in this house and in my eyes, success means happiness. Happiness is not easily found as an adult when you're thrusted into the cold, harsh world. One can make all the money in the world to afford anything they desire in life, but it doesn't mean they are happy.

There were no rule books given to me at your birth, even though I wish there were. There are no definitive lines. Most of parenting is grey. Sometimes I have to rely on my instincts, and honestly, I have to learn to trust them. Sometimes I just want to reach out and hold you tight, but the lessons you must learn are more important than the knot in the pit of my stomach. I overreact often, it is in my nature. And sometimes, dare I say, I am wrong.
In a few years, you'll be starting down this long and bumpy road of teen self-discovery. It doesn't really end, I'm afraid, until your mid-twenties. I wish I could give you a peice of paper that certified you as who you are, but it doesn't work like that. I'll hold your hand when you want me to. I'll guide you to the best of my ability. I'll watch you from afar, when you won't even know I'm there. I'll bit my lip to keep from picking you up when you fall, for you'll have to learn to pick yourself back up and brush yourself off.  Right now son, you're just staring at the road signs pointing out that harsh road. The choices you make now, directly affect your future.
You're growing up and that means I'm growing too. I'm learning along the way, the same as you. I wish I could tell you that I have this all down pat and I've done this all before. But I don't.

Hopefully, when you're a grown adult, lightbulbs will go off and you'll understand the reasons your dad and I do the things we do and say the things we say. Until then, you'll have to trust that we know what we're talking about. Well, at least most of the time.

The most important thing is that we love you.

Your Ma

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The Looming D Word

First of all, I want to say that I am incredibly thankful that my husband will be home this holiday season and potentially, next holiday season. I am thankful for the time he does get to spend with the kids and I. This blog isn't about being unappreciative. It's about the emotions of an upcoming deployment.

I knew Jeff would be deploying in the spring at some point of time. I knew it would be for six to eight months. I knew the job, generally speaking, that he would be carrying out. I knew it all. I've done this five or six other times. In fact, we just went through a six deployment from June to December of last year.

Now that a potential departure date has been released, it seems more real. It's also heartbreaking, because he could possibly be leaving on my birthday. Of course, it's all potential and if you know anything about the military, don't write anything in pen. Have a backup plan for your backplan. Everything changes all the time and without warning. 

Having done this before doesn't mean it will be easier. I remember a chief's wife telling me at my first Readiness Group Meeting, "Oh you get used to it." Yeah, after 12.5 years of being a military spouse, I don't really think that I have gotten used to it or that it has gotten easier. Perhaps my coping skills have gotten more refined. But, I've never get used to sleeping alone, worrying about my husband, or kissing away the tears of my children who miss their father.

As any seasoned military spouse can and will tell you, what can happen on deployment, will happen. It seems karma brings all it's downfalls in the time that our spouses are deployed.  A lot of us spouses are hundreds, if not thousands, of miles from our closest family and/or friend. Most of us do it alone. Last deployment, I took all three children to the ER with me, twice. The nurse who called me back asked if there was someone I could call for the chlidren. Uh no, not really. And that was only in the first two months of Jeff's deployment.

I'm really not looking forward to spending six to eight more months without my husband. I hate it. I go into survivor mode and never really know how exhausted I am until I see him step foot off that boat during homecoming. It's rough, I'm not going to lie. And I know a lot of folks have it worse. It doesn't make it any easier to know that.

I really just don't want to do it. But I know it's coming. It won't get here any slower just because I'm kicking and screaming or dragging my feet. Time will still move forward and he will be whisked away.

I never get used to sleeping alone, even though I joke that I have to get used to sleeping with him again when he returns. The nights are lonely, especially after the kids are in bed. Even though I am exhausted at the end of the day, it doesn't feel as if my day is complete because I haven't talked with him. And that's the part that I miss the most: companionship. Some wives joke it's the sex and it is, to an extent. But more than that, it's the conversation, the watching of television together, the waiting for each other before we retire for the night. It's going to bed next to the man I love and listening to him breathe as I fall asleep. It's the way our four year old daughter chants his name when he walks in the door from work like he's a rockstar - she won't be doing that for six months. It's the emptiness in the pit of my stomach. It's the moments I want to share with him but he's not here to experience them. It's the honor roll recognitions of the boys in school or a birthday or a holiday. It's our 13th anniversary that he will miss. It's the breaking down into tears at some stupid song or commerical on television. It's making his favorite dish for dinner and knowing he's not here to enjoy it. It's finding a sock or shirt that missed the laundry for the first couple of months. It's sleeping with his pillow. It's giving our children two hugs and kisses, one for me and one for daddy. It's answering the tough questions that little ones ask and explaining things to the older ones who have more of a grasp of what their father's job entails. It's tackling simple tasks like grocery shopping with all three kids. It's dealing with behavior outbursts appropriately - is it normal behavior or rebelllion because daddy is gone. It's turning to tell him something and then feeling silly because he's not there. It's the mountains of emails I send because my heart is hurting and my soul is brusied. It's the being strong because I have to, when I really just want to retreat into the fetal position.

I simply don't want to do it again. I've had my fill. But it's coming, whether I want it to or not. It's going to happen. His departure date will be here faster than I know it. The months are going to fly. The days are going to go by in doubletime.
I will watch him pack his seabag. I will listen as he explains paperwork like Powers of Attorney, his wills in the event that something happens to him, his specifics on his Page 2. I will lie awake all night watching him sleep. I will move in slow motion, trying to slow time down. I will talk with my children. I will drive him to base. I will watch from the pier as his ship moves away. I will curse the tugboats taking him away from me. I will stand there with my three children until we cannot see his ship any longer. And then I will stand there some more, hoping that the knot in my stomach and the anchors tied to my shoes will go away so that I can move. I will drive back to our home with tears streaming down my face. I will try to sound strong for my children. I will hug my little one and tell her it'll be alright. I will tell her that daddy's job is very important. I will tell her how he protects us from the badguys. I will try to hug my oldest one and tell him not to bottle up his emotions. I will ask, repeatedly, if he is ok only to get his nodded head in response. I will answer the millions of questions our middle child will have. I will grow weary. I will grow weak. And we will start, that day, our countdown until he is back home with us.
We will send care packages and pictures. We will make videos of us laughing and proclaiming our love for him. We will send emails saying how much we miss him. We will get through each day, because that's what we do. There isn't any other option.
We will get excited at the halfway point. We will celebrate our survival. We will continue to countdown. And when we are one month to having our Jeff home with us once again, time will taunt us. While she sped up the months and days before his departure, she will slow down in the weeks before his arrival.
The night before, we won't sleep. We will make signs and decorate our home. We will, once again, roll out the red carpet, and put up our Daddy banners. We will write on our car windows. We will get our flags ready. We will lie awake thinking the sweet thoughts of having Jeff home and life becoming  "normal" once again.
The next morning, I will do my hair, getting frustrated and downright emotional over the curl that won't stay. I will put my makeup on, smudging my mascara at least five times. I will smooth my clothes out while looking at my reflection, hoping that I'm as he remembered me and that he still thinks I'm the most beautiful woman in the world. My stomach holds butterflies as my throat holds my heart. I will dress our little one in a new fabulous outfit. We will leave for the pier way too early. We will sit in the van, until people we know start to arrive. We will laugh and talk with everyone else, but we will continue to be preoccupied with catching the first glimpse of the ship's mast over the other ships in port. We will cheer, hoot, and holler when it finally comes into sight. I will jump up and down like an adolescent school girl, and I'll feel like one too.
Time will yet again laugh at me as we wait for the ship to get to the pier. I will once again curse those tugs for being so painfully slow. I will watch intensely as the brow is put on the ship.I will jump around and move so that I can see my sailor coming off that ship. I will run to him. I will cry. I will feel complete. The kids will run. They will hug their daddy tightly. Jeff will be bombarded by the four of us who have missed him dearly for the last six months.
We will drive home to the sounds of the kids chattering over each other, catching their dad up on the last six months. He will smile and wink at me. I will still be grinning from ear to ear.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Herstory (To Be Confused with History) Part (I lost count)

I seemed to get in a little more than my fare share of trouble when I was younger. I don't know if it's because I was an only child or if it was because maybe I wasn't so good at lying. Either way, if there was trouble to get into, I was knee deep in it. Particularly when it came to writing.
It wasn't until much later in life that I came to realize the power of the word, written or spoken. One would think I'd have learned, or at least should have learned, by the numerous things I wrote down that resulted in my hide getting tanned. Apparently, I'm thick headed.
Take for instance the bus incident. Well, there were too many of those to count. The one I'm talking about is where I made out my wedding plans.  Oh yeah. I wrote them all down. How many and who were to be my bridesmaids. Who I was going to marry. What my wedding colors were going to be. Where I was going to take my honeymoon. Every detail was mapped out on a single, solitary piece of paper, right down to how many kids I was going to have and what their names would be.
Now, I'm sure, every girl dreams of their wedding day. This, however, was a bit different. I just knew I this was going to be my wedding. Period. End of story. Come Hell or high water, I was going to marry this young boy who never even knew I existed. And we were going to have purple and green colors in a single story country church and vacation in Austrailia.
Somehow, my perfect plan escaped my notebook and ended up on the bus floor. And somehow that piece of paper ended up in the back of the bus where the cool kids sat. Imagine my embarrassment. Imagine my dispair. Imagine how furious my best friends felt when word got around that they were going to be my bridesmaids. I hadn't even asked them yet!
That day was a very lonely day. I piece of my heart was torn into shreds as the kids around me mocked and laughed at my dreams. Even my BFFs seemed to slowly seperate themselves from my company. I don't know how long it took before kids finally quit making fun of me.
If that wasn't enough, I got into trouble once during computer time at school. It was Freebie Friday. We could write whatever we wanted on the computer and even print it out. We could play a game. (Back then it was just Oregon Trail. No fancy World of Warcraft or SIMS just yet.) We could do whatever we wanted on that computer.  I knew I wanted to write a story on that computer, print it out and save it forever. I loved writing. Mom always said I should be a journalist. I could tell a story with more color than Crayola! And boy did I!
I had a crush on this boy Dean March. He was a tall, lanky kid. Dean had red hair and freckles, much like most of my uncles. He had real nice blue eyes. His teeth were a little crooked, but I liked his smile anyway. He had all sisters so I figured he'd know a thing or two about girls. And so, I wrote a story about Dean March.
I didn't know what was so bad about it until I grew up. I wrote my story about Dean March and it was a piece of writing that was so descriptive it got me kicked off the computers for the rest of the school year. I had imagined, in my mind, that one doesn't just have freckles in just the places people can see. I had bet that a person with as many freckles as Dean March had even had them in his hair. I thought he even had them inbetween his toes and armpits!! So, what could be more inclusive and descriptive than to say, "Dean Martin has freckles everywhere. And by everywhere, I mean: Everywhere." Who knew writing a few sentences about  freckles could get someone in so much trouble?

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving to all of my readers, my friends, and family. This year, I have plenty to be thankful for.

First and foremost, I am thankful for the three beautiful children I was allowed to born into this world and that are happy and healthy today. Thank you Aden, Jonas, and Nyla, for allowing me to grow as your mother. For challenging my beliefs and your seemingly unaltered endurance during your father's lengthy deployments. Your steadfast outlooks and pride keeps me going when I want to curl up into the fetal position. Thank you for your smiles, your hugs, your kisses, and your love. I love you all, unconditionally, deeply, and forever.

I am thankful for my handsome husband who loves me dearly and has the kindest and most tenderhearted soul I've ever met. Thank you Jeff for always believing in me when I didn't have the courage to believe in myself. Thank you for giving me the room and space to grow into the person I needed to become. Thank you, for your unconditional love and support during the toughest time of my life. Thank you for being you and loving me. Thank you for making me your wife and never quitting on us. Thank you for the three wonderful children we created together. Thank you for the sacrifice you make for your country and your family.  I love you more than I could ever express in mere words.

I am thankful for my mother, who didn't have an easy job raising me. Thank you mom, for your wise advice, loving arms, and numerous phone calls. I'm not sure what I would do without you. Thank you, for being you. Thank you for letting me fall so I could pick myself up. Thank you for accepting me for me, never trying to change me, and supporting everything I've ever done in my life. Thank you for your forgiveness of a youth gone south. Thank you for bailing me out when I make mistakes, even though I am 33 years old this year. Thank you for the love you show your grandchildren and son in-law. You mean more to us than you know. I love you, mommy.

Thank you to the late Jack Gettys who taught me that words are sharper than knives. Thank you Jack, for loving my mother and treating her like the queen she is. Thank you for loving me, though you never had to and I never made it easy. Thank you for being in my life, for it is richer than I could ever let you know. I wish I had had the courage to tell you how much you mean to me, my children and my husband. You are missed greatly and my heart hurts knowing that you are not on this earth anymore. Your wise soul and energetic spirit will be with us always.

Thank you to all of my friends who have put up with me over the years. I'm not sure I would have made it through the multitude of deployments without you all. Thank you for babysitting my kids and listening to my endless chatter. Thank you for patience while I retreated into my soul for awhile. Thank you for always believing in me. Thank you for being you.

Thank you to my family, for you all are a part of who I am. You all helped shape me into who I am today. If it weren't for the pain, I wouldn't have learned. Experience is life's best teacher, so thank you all - each and everyone of you. Thank you to those who have always been there for me. Thank you to those of you who haven't. Thank you to everyone because we can't choose our family. I am blessed to have you all in my life.

As we all gobble up our turkeys, pies, potatoes, and pumkin desserts, let us all give thanks for the things in our life that keep us going. Those things, my friends, are the things that make us who we are.

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Monday, November 23, 2009

'Tis the Season

This time of year gets me right in the heart. I'm so sappy and mushy and cry at stupid commercials on television. I'm reminded of the joys in my life as well as the sorrow.
I'm thankful for my family. I'm thankful I have three beautiful and healthy children who are bright, funny, and even mischievious. I am so thankful that my husband has a job in this trying economy. We have a roof over our heads and food on the table. We have four furbabies that we absolutely adore, though puppy training is not going as well as we'd like. I'm thankful my husband is not deployed for this holiday season, though he does have duty on the beloved Turkey Day.
But this time of year often reminds me of the things my children will never encounter or experience. The Holidays are often bittersweet because while I am so very thankful for the obvious, I am also guilt-ridden and remorseful of the life I cannot share with my children.
I remember my own childhood filled with happy holiday memories. There were cousins galore. We'd visit each side of our family. In my wee years it was my Great Grandma Frisk's house for my dad's side of the family. She had a tiny apartment and all four of her grandsons piled in it with their families. We had pies, turkey, ham, italian dishes of all sorts, cheeses, pepperoni, and of course the huge black olives that I'd get yelled at for putting on my fingers. In later years, after my great grandmother passed, one uncle and aunt would host the family function. It was never at our house, but I loved going to whomever's turn it was. The ladies would gather in the kitchen and the men in the living room. Us kids ran about upstairs pretending this and that.
On my mom's side, we always gathered at Grandma and Grandpap Edinger's house. My grandmother birthed nine children, who mostly all had children themselves. And though, each family would pop in and out throughout the day, the house was always filled. The long table on the one side of the kitchen would be filled with foods: pies, cakes, homemade buns and breads, turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy - omg the gravy was delicious - salads, dressings. From tiny eyes like mine, I knew that if I took one bite of everything on the table, I'd be stuffed for weeks. And of course, Grandpap always made sure to have flavored pop: grape, orange, Cherokee red. Cherokee red was his favorite. Us cousins all played some sort of game. Mother May I in the hallway, freezetag and Hide n Seek outside. We'd sit and chat about whatever. We played dolls. We were all together. And it was fantastic.
These are the sort of memories I am sad my children won't know. They have exactly three cousins from Jeff and I's siblings. One in Tennessee, who is all of one year old and whom we haven't met yet. Two in Oregon, who are a lot older than our own kids and they've only met Aden when he was nine months old. It's sad. Our family is spread out between Pennsylvania, Indiana, Oregon, Ohio, Tennessee. And sure, we visit from time to time on some holidays. It's not the same.
Most holidays, we spend here at home, with just us five. It's disheartening at best. It's sad for me, but not for them. They don't know the difference and have no idea what they are missing out on. But, I do. At least this year, my mom will be here for Christmas. It's part of being a military family. It's something we accept. We don't complain, because the military is our livlihood. It is what it is, I suppose.
Mom and I were talking on the phone this evening making plans for the summer and I just cannot wait until it gets here. We're going to go camping and visit family, go places and do things. It's going to be fantastic. The best part is, the kids will get to go camping with oodles of cousins. The first time they will ever get to experience anything like what I grew up with. They will get to go fishing and swimming and hiking and boating and everything with my cousins' kids. It'll be great. I kind of wish we can fast forward to that part of the year.
The only downfall is that Jeff will be deployed. He'll miss it, like he misses a lot of things. This will be our 7th deployment. I can't say it gets any easier. I can already feel anxiety creeping up on me. I absolutely detest the fact that he misses so much out of our lives. But, I can't really bite the hand that feeds us. Jeff loves his career in the Navy and I am proud of his sacrifice. The kids put him on a pedastol, where he deserves to be, and I suppose that is good enough for me.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009


This is a less organized, more personal post this evening. If you, the reader, aren't interested in the internal, emotional struggle that I am currently enduring, please click the red X at the top right hand corner of this page.
I had a blog where I posted all my inner turmoil but it's now gone. I posted a lot in the recent weeks after my stepdad, Jack, passed away. All of my sorrow and grief, I typed away at the keyboard, late at night when I couldn't sleep. Things I couldn't say outloud. Things I couldn't tell anyone. Things I couldn't bear to let escape outside of my mind.  Things have been a lot better since then. They really have. Tonight though, it's been a rough night. Extremely so.
I suppose I wasn't ready, though I thought otherwise. I watched the movie, My Sister's Keeper. If you haven't seen it, it's a real tear-jerker. If you've recently lost someone to cancer, it's an emotionally outpour of any emotion you had tucked deep inside you. And that is exactly what happened.
Both Jeff and I sat there as the credits rolled with tears streaking our faces and snot pouring from our noses. We sat there in silence for a few minutes, maybe trying to compose ourselves. Jeff came over to sit by me on the couch and tried to hold me close, but I just couldn't.
I couldn't relinquish that release of emotion that I very much need. He told me that throughout our 12 years of marriage that I lectured him consistently on keeping his emotions bottled up inside and that now, at this very time, I was doing the same. And he was right. I could barely mutter the words, "I can't" when he asked me why. I didn't want to tell him why. I didn't want to speak. I wanted to compose myself and move on. I wanted to pass this moment by and know that I'd be okay.
Instead, I swallowed my tears and said that I have to be the strong one. I can't cease to function. I have a family to take care of that depend upon me. I can't just curl up in the fetal position and just stop. It's not an option for me. I have three children and a military husband who is in and out to sea constantly. I don't have the option of wallowing or simmering in my own emotion. I just don't.
He said he thought I needed it and he's most probably correct. And if it were any other emotion other than grief I would have no problem what so ever releasing it on his shoulder. If I were angry instead, I'd yell and scream. If I were hurt, I'd blubber away through my tears. If I were crying happy tears, I'd smile through it. I am just not equipped to deal with this sort of grief.
Instead, I sucked it up and put my slippers on. I walked into the kitchen and started mindlessly cleaning. Anything to keep my hands and my mind busy.
A lot of people may not understand what Jack was to me. He was probably the only other man, other than my husband, who has loved me unconditionally, for me. He was the one adult in my life who didn't want to fix me. He treated me like an adult and he expected me to treat him and my mother with respsect. Respect, something I never knew anything about until he walked into my life. He accepted me as his own daughter without any hesitation.
He taught me a lot about life that, at the time, I may have blown off, but I have kept each one of those wisdom filled conversations tucked away in my mind. He trusted me the way no one ever had. He's the one that taught me that life is way too short for grudges. That things are, just because they are. There may no be no rhyme or reason. He also taught me that I have a voice and to use it. He told me once that words are powerful, so choose them wisely.
He loved my mother all of his heart and soul. He treated her like the queen she is. I am greatful for that. When everyone else in her life, including myself, treated her with anything other than love, here he was. Her knight in shining armor.
He accepted my apologies for my poor teenage behavior without batting an eye. He was there when I needed advice. He never steered me wrong. He accepted my husband and my children as if they were his family for years. There were no steps in this family. We were all his. He made sure to remember my kids' birthdays and he made sure mom bought them adequate Christmas gifts (not that mom had to be reminded, but you know.). Something my own dad doesn't do, ever.
I feel incredibly guilty over my teen years and my poor choices, poor behavior, the things I said, the things I did. I don't think I can ever apologize enough for those years. I feel guilty that I was not there in his last hours, that I never thanked him for being the man he is to me, to my mom, to my husband and to my kids.  I should have been there to help my mom. I should have been there, by his bedside. Instead I was here, at home, pacing the floors, making sure I had everything I needed: numbers to amcross, emails to Jeff's command, three kids packing, making arrangements for our two guinea pigs, two cats and Bo, the pain in the ass doxie.
It's been three months since he passed and it hurts today the same as it did the day he passed. I feel as though my chest is going to implode and my head is simply going to burst off of my shoulders. I have never, in all the things I have been through in my life, felt anything as awful as this. And if, by chance, I let it out physically, I know I'll lose my composure. I'll just lose it. I can't say it outloud. I can't say what I'm feeling outloud because the words just don't come. They are there, on the tip of my tongue. But they can't be spoken. If I speak them, the tears start and my chest hurts and I just want to curl up in a ball. I think my mom said it best when she said, "It feels like my heart is being ripped out of my chest." Because my god it does. Exactly so.
And I can't believe he is gone. Just like that. Gone. I'll never be able to ask his advice again. I'll never be able to pick up the phone and call him. My children will never hear his voice tell them a story of his youth. They'll never hear the wise advice he had in his voice. He's gone.

Herstory (To Be Confused with History) Part III

There's part of the story that I've left out. Not on purpose, but because it's sort of hard to tell. Some folks think it the most tragic thing ever. I think it the most interesting part of my childhood. It's not a bad thing, not at all. I wasn't like all the other kids at school and I knew I was different from them. I was even different than all my cousins too. I used to think it was something special, that set me apart. But, the more I thought about it, the more I wasn't so sure.
You see, when I was three, I was adopted by my aunt and my uncle. My biological mother ran off somewhere and my biological father was down on his luck. There weren't many jobs available and he wanted to head a few states over to find work. But, his big problem was that he didn't have anywhere to stay and little money. He asked his brother and his wife to take care of me. It seems the most logical thing to do given all the circumstances involved. The thing is, they didn't want to get attached to me and have me ripped from their clutches. They asked to adopt me. My biological father said yes.
People say I was too little to remember, but I do. That morning seemed special. My uncle was wearing his best dress and my aunt was in the bathroom primping. She was blowing drying her gorgeous brown hair as I watched with my elbows propped up on my knees. She was so pretty and I hoped to someday look like her.  I was watching her put her mascara on and suddenly the idea popped into my head.
My aunt and uncle were great at explaining things. It also helped that I was extra, super smart too. (I already knew my alphabet and numbers by then.) My eyes lit up like Christmas trees and I posed the question, "Does this mean I can call you Mommy?" Well, my aunt seemed kind of surprised but I could tell by the grin she was trying to hide that she was pleased. She told me I should probably go ask my uncle. I skipped through the kitchen into the living room and posed the question to him. He put his magazine down and had me hop up on his lap. He pondered a bit and asked a few questions. Was I sure that's what I wanted to do? Well, of course it was! He said he supposed that'd be alright. Suddenly, the butterflies in my tummy went away and I ran back through the kitchen into the bathroom and told my aunt that my uncle, I mean Daddy, said yes. She scooped me up and squeezed me real tight.
We all piled into our car and drove for what seemed forever. The building we were heading to seemed huge. The steps were large and the pillars bigger than anything I'd ever seen before. I don't remember a whole lot other than the floors were super shiny and the light was really bright. I remember seeing my grandma and some of my other family in the big room filled with benches. I remember talking to a guy in a robe, the judge. He asked me all sorts of questions about my new mom and dad. He was real nice, but I was still nervous. I wanted to vomit all over him.  There's really not much more to tell. We had to wait and see if the judge thought my mom and dad should adopt me.
It seemed like a long time after, but my biological father came back to see me. He had a new job and new place to live. He wanted me to go back with him to Tennessee. Well, I didn't know what was going to happen. I was excited to see my biological father but I didn't want to leave either. It was the happiest, yet most confusing time in the four years I had lived thus far.
Now, my dad fully believed in making educated decisions. He believed in talking things out. He also believed in letting me make my own decisions. So at four years old, I had to decide whether or not I was going to stay with the parents I told the old guy in the robes I wanted to live with or my biological father who lived in a place I had never heard of before. It was a tough decision. On one hand, a new mysterious place with new friends, a new house, and a place that was warm more than it was cold sounded great. Not to mention, my dad was back and wanted me afterall. On the other hand, my aunt and uncle had cared for me, loved me, tucked me in, and took me in when no one else could or would. I didn't want to hurt my mom and dad. But I wanted to go with my daddy. And so, I did.
My daddy had a girlfriend down in Tennessee. They lived in a tiny little house that was longer than it was wide. There wasn't a whole lot of grass but there was lots of dirt to play in. They took me school shopping so I could attend school down there. I picked out this awesome lunchbox with these rockstars on it. They wore face makeup and had big hair. You guessed it, KISS. I just knew that was going to make an impression on my soon to be friends. I was wrong. I got called a devil worshiper. I didn't even know what a devil was let alone a worshiper. I just guessed it was something bad and denied it with all my heart.
Things with my dad wasn't as strict as with my mom and dad. I had early bedtimes and had to be polite. I had to say my prayers at night and eat with my silverware. Here in Tennessee, my dad didn't require such antics. He was just happy to have me with him, and the same went for me.
One night, my dad asked if I wanted my ears pierced. He had his left ear pierced and it was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. My mommy had her ears pierced, but she rarely wore jewelry besides her wedding ring. I exclaimed that I did, indeed, want holes in my ears. I'd be so grown-up! My dad got a potato and some ice. He put the ice on my ear for a really long time. Sometimes it burned, sometimes it was just numb, which is what it was supposed to do. Then he put the potato behind my ear and grabbed an earring. The idea was to punch the earring through my numb ear and have the potato stop the earring so it didn't go all the way through my ear. I wanted my ears pierced so bad I could feel it. But the fear of having that earring go through my ear terrified me. I cried. I screamed. I couldn't do it. I chickened out.
I had one great best friend where we lived. She lived in a similar trailer in the same court as us. She had white hair like the clouds and dark skin like dirt. She was a real beauty. Her name was Angel as I guessed her momma thought she was the best behaved kid ever. She was a bit older than I and she had brothers, older ones. She taught me a lot of things I probably shouldn't have known at that age. She showed me how to spit and not drip it on my chin. (I could probably spit a good two feet if the wind was just right.) She taught me to make mudpies and sling them at her brothers and not feel bad if I hurt one of them. She showed me how to put tiny little pebbles in them that would really sting those boys. She taught me how to smoke a cigarette and not cough doing it. (The key was to not take all that smoke in your throat and just hold it in your mouth.) She was sneaky too. We never, ever got caught!!
One night I had played so hard that I was so tired. I didn't even eat my dinner. I just went to bed. I was warm and toasty in my tiny bed down the hall and I woke up to people talking. I couldn't make out what they were saying, but it sounded as if they were being quiet on purpose. I had convinced myself that I had to be dreaming. The only folks that ever came to the house were Angel and her brothers. Sometime later, maybe a few minutes or maybe even an hour, I was awakened by what seemed a real Angel. She had a halo and everything. As my eyes became clearer, the halo was the ceiling light and the woman was my mom. My mom!!! But wait, what was she doing here?
From what I could gather in my sleepy fog was that the old guy in the robes that I talked to awhile back saying I wanted to be with my mommy and daddy in Pennsylvania, finally got those papers in the mail. It was official. I was their child. I wasn't quite sure what to think or make of it. I mean, if that old guy said I was, then I guess I was. And they weren't going to just give me up. Not after we went to that big building and I swore on a bible that I wanted to be their kid. I swore on it, right there in front of the old guy, my mommy, my daddy, my gramma, and a whole bunch of other people who wore suits. I couldn't just go back on my word, right? I guess it took the judge awhile because when you get old, things take longer.
My mommy and my other uncle packed up my things in the tiny car. We drove all night long and part of the next day to get back to Fombell, Pennsylvania. When I went back to school, I heard the same thing about the stupid KISS lunchbox. Mark Manners not only called me a devil worshiper everyday, but also made fun of my new southern draw. I begged and pleaded my mom to buy me a new lunchbox but she said there was nothing wrong with the one I had. Besides, my biological dad bought it for me, didn't I want to keep it?

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Herstory (To be confused with history) Part II !!

My father had four brothers. My mother had six brothers and two sisters. Needless to say, we had a very large extended family. Every holiday we'd venture to each side of the family's designated house to devour impeccably prepared foods and desserts. We had mashed potatoes, real ones, not that fake stuff you find in resteraunts. We had gravy and corn, ham and turkey, baked chicken, homemade buns and rolls. Honey butter and real butter. We also had that stuff in a container that was weirdly soft though it was cold. We had pies and cakes. Apple pie, pumpkin pies, pecan pies, minced meat pies, and pepperoni pies. My mom would pile my plate high of a little bit of everything. And I had to eat it too! There were, afterall, less fortunate kids who didn't have even real potatoes to eat. And some of those kids spent holidays at restraunts instead of family gatherings.
My mother's father, Grandpap, would make sure to keep a variety of flavored pop in a cooler on the front porch. My eyes would grow as big as saucers as I'd try to choose just one flavor. This was a treat. Afterall, I was only allowed to drink milk, water, and Kool-aid at home. The only catch to the flavored pop was that we kids had to leave the Cherokee Reds for grandpap. Those were his favorites.
The oodles of cousins and I would run around outside playing various games such as Hide-n-Seek and Freeze Tag. We'd spend a good portion of time going over the rules and deciding who was It first. We'd put our shoes in a circle and one of my cousins, usually an older one, would go around pointing to each of the shoes in the circle saying, "My mother punched your mother in the nose. What color was the blood?" The person whose shoe she pointed to had to yell out a color. Usually this ended up with arguing. The more reserved cousins would think that periwinkle or aquamarine couldn't possibly be a color for blood. Blood was obviously red and the person stating the unique color (usually me) was only trying to cheat. So, we'd result to something else. All of our shoes in the circle and the older cousin would say, "Eenie meenie miney moe..." 
After all was said and done, half of the cousins would retreat to the porch or inside while those of us hardcore players would hide and run like our tiny lives depended upon it. At the end of the day, my hair was frizzed out from my pony tail and I was sweating like one of those working horses back home.
And then we'd go to my dad's side of the family, where everyone mostly sat around watching television while us kids would go upstairs. We were only allowed to go upstairs. Everytime one of us cousins ventured down for a drink or to tell on each other, we were redirected back upstairs to play. The only thing these cousins ever wanted to play was house. Boring, in my opinion. And because I was a girl and the oldest, I had to be the mom.
I was never one for babydolls and barbies. I didn't want to be a mom when I grew up. I fantastized about business suits and high heels that went click, clack on the flooring. I wanted to be in charge, a boss. I didn't want to work hard for a living. I didn't want to sweat and get all smelly. I wanted to fill out paperwork and use staplers. I wanted to wear pantyhose and skirts above my knees. Mom only let me wear pantyhose on Easter Sunday and those weren't even pantyhose. Those were more like tights and they were white. And she made me wear those stupid bonnets that all the old church ladies would say was "adorable." Ugh. And my skirts were never skirts. Mom took me school shopping at Sears every school year. She bought me five dresses and two pairs of jeans. The dresses would have been okay if they were even remotely cute. Instead they had this flappy thing in the back and lace around the bottom. I looked like an overgrown baby and the kids in the lower grade levels were not so kind with compliments. I also didn't have those fancy tennis shoes like my cousins. I had these brown things that appeared to have an M on the toes. I used to argue with her that I had to wear tennis shoes for Gym day and she would tell me that those brown things were tennis shoes. I wanted to scream they weren't, but I knew better.
My oldest female cousin on my mom's side used to hand down clothes to me when I was in middle school. I used to think I was the bee's knees. I'd dress myself according to what I'd think she'd she would wear together and put hairspray on the side of my hair to make it fly out like wings. I was the cat's meow waiting for the school bus at the end of my drive and I knew it. When I got on the bus, my bus driver, the evil Miss Cindy, would snicker. As if she knew anything about looking nice, sitting there in her oversized sweaters, sporting a wart next to her thin lips. (I secretly thought she was a witch.) I'd take a seat in the middle. The front of the bus was reserved for ill-behaved students and nerdy kids.I was neither and I wouldn't be caught dead conversing with the nerdy kids. As if my reputation didn't suffer enough. I couldn't sit in the back of the bus because that's where the cool kids sat and I wasn't one of those either, though I hoped and prayed that the threads I wore would allow me internship into their circle.
As each kid entered the bus from their assigned bus stop, they'd pass me and look at me. I didn't dare look them in the eye, that would seem to eager. Instead, I just non-chalantly pretended to be interested in something else...the seat in front of me, an overweight mom in her bathrobe waving from the front porch, a dog chasing the bus. And one by one, they laughed hysterically at me. And the laughing would continue when I got to school and their friends would join in.
When I'd get home I'd put those clothes in the laundry and vow to never, ever, ever wear them again. Somehow, they made their way back into my drawers the next day and I'd have to wear them again the following week. How could I make my mother understand that those clothes were the demise of my social stature?
When I was ten or twelve, maybe nine?, I received a bicycle for my birthday. It was beautiful. It was white. It had a silver sparkling banana seat and a basket in the front with flowers. It sported white and silver training wheels, which of course I didn't needed. (I was too old for training wheels, you see.) It wasn't what I wanted, but I knew better to complain and was thankful to have a bike at all. What I wanted and what I pointed out was a BMX with mag wheels and brakes on the handle bars, and definetly not with training wheels. I wanted it in black and yellow, like a bee. I wanted to tricks like my good male friend. I also wanted to ride that sucker down the tallest hill at the Wheeley Jumps.
I said thank you and enjoyed all the family that came to my party. After everyone left, I stood by my bicycle staring at it. I checked out the chain, all greasy and smooth. I kicked each wheel, they were stiff with air. I hopped on it and rode down our driveway. At the end I wasn't quite sure how to stop so I put my feet down. It didn't stop me but the bank next the mailbox did. Ouch. Everyday, I'd ride my bike up and down Celia Road in front of our house. I was bound and determined I was going to learn how to stop and learn to ride without training wheels. My dad tried to teach me but only got frustrated. It was up to me. I had to learn. And learn fast. No one my age was riding their bikes with toddler wheels.
One day our neighbor, you know, the meanest girl in existance, came riding down the road. Now, her bike had a banana seat too. Somehow, it was much cooler than mine. She started laughing and calling me a baby. She said I was a big chicken and started doing chicken brawks and flapping her arms like wings. I yelled at her that I could ride her bike without training wheels just fine. It's just that my dad didn't have the time to take mine off yet. And then...she dared me. Crap. A dare. Now I had to prove to her that I could ride her bike.
When was I going to learn to keep my big mouth shut? I just knew I was going to throw up. The color in my face vanished. I was trying to make myself invisible. What would happen if I just ran into the house? I could just run in there, lock the door and never, ever come out again. Then something happened.
Suddenly, this mean girl turned nice. It was weird, but I liked it. It was as if she knew in her heart of hearts that this was something very personal to me and that she should not tease me about it for once. She said she'd teach me to ride her bike. That there was really nothing to it and it just took practice. She pulled her bike up into the yard where I was and offered it to me. I looked at her. This was odd, her being nice and all. I hopped off my bike and hopped onto hers. It was much bigger than mine. If I sat on the seat, there was no way I could touch the ground with even my tippy toes. I told her not to let go of me. I was trying not to show it, but I was terrified.
Mom always said that when I borrow something that I needed to return it in the same shape, if not better shape, as when it was given to me. If I wrecked this girl's bike, I would be responsible for fixing it. My dad would be very upset to learn that not only was I riding someone else's bike when I had my own that was perfectly fine, but also that I had wrecked it. I knew I would wreck it. I couldn't even ride my own bike with training wheels without wrecking it. I was caught in a dilemma. I really did need to learn to ride a two wheel bike. But, if I ruined her bike, I'd have to give her mine and then I'd not have a bike at all. What was a girl to do??!
While I was debating on whether to just say thank you but no thanks to the mean-turned-nice girl, something happened. She let go. She gave me a huge push and simply let go of me. She was laughing this wicked evil laugh. I couldn't touch the ground to stop, not even with my tippy toes! I closed my eyes tight. Maybe I'm just dreaming. My feet found the peddles and I peddled that sucker like there was no tomorrow. I started going faster and faster. I wasn't wobbling. I wasn't swerving to the left and to the right. I was riding the bike! I was riding it! I was doing it! This bike and I, we took off through the yard, down over the embankment, across the gravel driveway, through the garden, and straight ahead was the electric fence with barbed wire. And I, not being able to stop. Not remembering that the breaks where right there on the peddles. Not being able to put my feet on the ground, not even with my tippy toes, I rode that bike straight into the fencing.
I knew for sure I'd be in a heap of trouble. The wheel was bent and the tire flat. The chain popped off. The bike was no longer in ridable condition. Somehow, I was able to get down off the bike without assistance. I turned to look at the mean girl. She was just standing where she pushed me with her mouth agate as if she were trying to catch flies. I guess she didn't think I'd ruin her cool bike. I was really in for it now. I expected my mom to come out of the house and call me by two of my three names. (That's how I knew what kind of trouble I'm in. How many names mom used.) I looked up to the porch and no one was there. I looked back down at the bike thinking maybe my imagination got the best of me, yet again, and that perhaps, just maybe, the bike was still in prime shape as when I was pushed. I was wrong. Dead wrong.
The bike jerked out of my hands and the mean girl started pushing it onto the road and up to her house. She never said a word to me. Hopefully, my mom didn't see what had happened. Since the mean girl didn't tell on me, if mom didn't see, I could escape the incident trouble-free and no one would be the wiser.
I retreated to my bike on the other part of our yard. I kept an eye on the front porch, hoping that no one would pop out there to use my two names. I picked my bike up and walked it over to the lilac bush next to the house - my designated parking spot. I climbed the steps slowly and entered the house. No one said a word to me. I had escaped trouble afterall. Whew.
The next day or maybe it was a couple of days later, my dad took those baby wheels off of my bike. He said he figured that since I took off on ol' mean girl's bike like I did that I was ready. I braced for what was sure to come next: a lecture and grounding of a lifetime. But it never came. My dad smiled that wrinkle eyed smile at me and chuckled. He saw my hesitation and probably wondered why I wasn't so fast to hop on my bike. He winked at me and told me to have at it. I looked up at my mom who was on the porch smiling at the two of us. This was really weird. I must be in that show Twilight Zone that everyone at school talked about. 
So I did. I got my now two wheeled bike and took off. I started beaming from ear to ear. This meant new hopes and bounds for me! I could ride my bike with the best of them. I had showed that mean girl that I could really ride her bike. I was a two-wheel bike riding gal now and have been ever since.
I rode that bike all over. I rode it up past the landlord's house, around the bend to the railroad tracks. I rode it down around the bend past the Narrow's. I rode that bike to the creek to pick up frogs and tadpoles. I rode it down to the stream in the pasture to collect rocks under the bridge. I rode it on the other side of the road of the creepy banana spiders and their extensive webs. I know they were teasing me as I rode by, far, far on the opposite side of the road from them. I pulled over when the huge coal trucks came by. I didn't want them hitting me. Then I got bold and started racing them. I'd get the honk from their truck horns and start to giggle.
One day, I went flying around the bend by the Narrows and hit the gravel too fast. I tried to use the brakes to stop. I pushed backwards just like my dad reminded me. My back tire went the opposite way as I was trying to move. And then it stopped suddenly. I flew over the handlebars and hit the gravel. I scooted up on my belly and face. I tried to put my hands out to stop me but they only landed beside my moving body. My bike ran me over and that darn coal truck never stopped to see if I was ok. I was mad. I stood up to first access the damage to my body. It was sore and I thought I felt something trickle from my face. My hands were torn and had some red stuff on them. I wiped the liquid from my chin with the back of my hand and looked at it. Blood. Great. I was in for it now. I wasn't supposed to wear my school clothes outside and this was probably why.
I was bleeding through my shirt, just a little. I had scrapes clear up to my elbows. It hurt to ball my hands into fists. My chin was sore and it hurt a little to breathe. I picked my beloved bicycle up from the ground and there was not a darn tooting thing wrong with it. I walked it up to the house, up the driveway and parked it. I walked into the house and mom started into what I thought was hysterics.
She immediately took my shirt off to look at my upper torso. Yep. All scraped up. Some even had gravel stuck in them. She looked at my palms, my arms, my elbows. She put a washcloth on my chin and told me to hold it there. I did. Though I didn't want to. disappeared into the bathroom. Oh no. I knew it. I looked around for a hiding spot. I looked at the door hoping I could make a dash for it. I wasn't in much pain but I knew there was going to be a lot when mom came out of that bathroom. I was about to make a conscious decision to make a break for it when mom came out and said, "Now this won't hurt a bit."
Won't hurt who a bit? Because it stung like hell to me! She put hydrogen peroxide followed by bactine in all my cuts, scrapes, bruises and what nots. I was mad. I was just perfectly fine without all the stinging. I would have been fine. My torso, elbows and hands were not going to fall off just because they had a tiny bit of gravel in them. My chin would have been just fine too. Have you ever seen anyone without a chin? I mean besides the guy that you see in chewing tobacco prevention videos. No one, to my knowledge, had ever lost a body part from a mere bicycle crash.
She brought out the band-aids and fixed me all up. Dried my tears with a paper towel. She kissed my forehead and told me to be more careful. All my friends will now know that I wrecked my bike. You know, the bike I had bragged about saying that I could ride it faster than any other kid in our county. I was going to be a laughing stalk.
I went back outside and sat on the top step of our porch. I stared at my bike. How could it do something like that to me? I got rid of the training wheels. I made it cool!! We were no longer being laughed at!!
Well, I'll show everyone! I hopped on that bike and took off down the gravel rode. I rode that bike into the Wheely Jumps. I didn't know what I was doing. I didn't know what my plans were. I didn't know where I was headed. I just knew I had to prove myself. I rode it right on into the Wheeley Jumps and started looking around. I put my feet down, gazing upon the hills. I could do it. If I could ride mean girl's bike over the bank, through the garden and straight into the fence and live, I could surely survive the smallest of the hills on my own bike. Right?
I was sizing up the hills with my new no training wheels necessary ability and not so good braking ability on gravel, when the boys showed up on their gas guzzling, smoke producing dirt bikes. I couldn't really tell who was who because they had helmets on their heads. They also had gloves on. Why someone wore gloves in the middle of summer, I had no earthly idea. But, hey, I'm not judging. Cyndy Lauper wore a ponytail on the side of her head and she was pretty famous.
The last of the bike riders stopped next to me. He took his helmet off and it was Fred Mcdermin. His family lived across the pasture. Their were seven of those boys, him being the middle. His older two brothers were out of the house and married. The younger two were a handful, so their mother said. They were always getting into trouble of some sort. One time I saw Fred driving a tractor down the road with just his feet and he had this gorgeous grin on his face. Then he took his cowboy hat off to me and continued down the road. He sure was handsome. I loved his chipped tooth in the front and the freckles across his nose. He had more of them in the summer than in the winter. He had the clearest blue eyes I think I've ever seen on a person.
Fred nodded up towards the hill and asked me if I was going to take a ride. I replied by saying I was thinking about it. He grinned at me. He told me he thought I needed to grow a few feet before I tried. Then he put his helmet back on, messed up my hair like I was some sort of dog, then took off on his bike and popped a wheely. I couldn't believe he touched me. He really touched me. My stomach did flipflops and I was frozen. I couldn't move. I wanted to move forward and just show him and the rest of the boys that I wasn't some little girl. But I couldn't.
He was right. I needed to grow up. If I was ever going to ride the Wheeley Jumps, I needed to grow up. Or did I? I was bound and determined, I was going to ride those hills, regardless of how big I was. And so, I turned my bike around and went home.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Herstory (To be confused with history)

I hail from a long line of Italians located in the hollers of Western Pennsylvania. Fombell, Pennsylvania, to be exact. I grew up on a rental property of a working farm. There were three houses, including the main house where the owners lived. They had horses, cows, billy goats, cats, and a pair of the meanest Doberman Pinchers I have ever come into contact with. The family that lived in the other rental house had a daughter a few years older than I with a disposition equal to that of the dobermans. She was, by far, the meanest girl I have ever had the displeasure of knowing.
Our rental home was furthest from the mainhouse, over the hill and a small pasture length's away from the barn. I could see exactly two houses from my front porch, but even when squinting, I couldn't see the people who lived in there. The cars looked like matchbook cars and the houses something one of my cousins had in a lego set. I often imagined helmet hair on those people, much like the ones in those there lego sets.
On three sides of our house, we had pasture. Three seperate ones. Fenced with electric fencing and barbed wire. Those ornary cows and horses seemed to get out a lot. It was pure entertainment watching our landlord's hunky son and his friends try to rally up those resistant critters. The other side was our road. For years, I only new it as RR#1, but it's proper name is Celia Road - now named Celia Drive. Directly across the fence was our mailbox, followed by what seemed a neverending corn field. On the other side of the corn field was a railroad track followed by the good ol' Connoquennessing Creek. (That's pronounced "Connie kwi nessing crik" for you city folk.)
Shortly after passing our house, our road made a ninety degree bend. On that bend was a dirty road we used to call the Narrows. The Narrows was, well, a narrow road. Only people who knew the road well and the occassional lost folk ever ventured on the road. It was a windy road that took one through an exhilirating adventure through the wilderness. On one side of us we'd have a leaking wall of rock and the other an unguarded dropoff to sudden doom. It was exhilirating because one never new if they were really going to make it out of there. Well, just about everyone but us. We had an orange Ford Fiesta. That sucker could fit anywhere. The Narrows followed the Connoquennessing in all its turns, crossing the railroad tracks here and there. It passed a Girl Scout Camp, where I attended many, many day camps in my time. The road came out onto a paved road a couple of miles away. Follow that paved road a few feet and you'd have the Fombell General Store. It was here that I made the discovery of penny candy. Swedish fish, fire balls, Pixie Sticks, gummie worms and bears, jaw breakers, and much, much more sugary heaven to be piled into my teeny tiny paper bag and costing less than my entire week's allowance. There was, afterall, a God - that guy the grown-ups talked about at the weekly social gathering we called, Church.
I left out one very important place!! I can't believe it. There was this place we locals called, "The Wheely Jumps." To people who may not know what the place was, or that it even had a name, it was where the neighborhood boys would come to jump their dirt bikes. It was a succession of hills and mounds made by dirt and other junk. It was where tractors and various other equipment went to die. I'm pretty sure a tetnus shot was the only requirement to get into this place. I would watch from the corner of our yard as the dreamy boys, several years my senior, would take dares and tumble their loud bikes down the largest of those hills. Those hills seemed huge to my tiny eyes. It's also where my father, who later in life became a gunsmith, sited in his guns, customer guns, and we all took part in target practice. Target practice wasn't what you see on the television. No fancy bullseyes, those were reserved for Turkey Shoots. No, these were beer cans, pop cans, and clay pigeons.
Our yard was very large. We had a gravel driveway we drove up and a big oak tree that shaded it. At the end of our driveway was a rusted old barrel with holes in it. We burned our paper trash there. My mom had a clothesline out back. And our beagles had their dogboxes close by. My dad made me a sandbox with my name carved into the seats. We had a huge garden and a rosebush my mother often cussed at located at the end of our drive. In the back of the house, we had a grapevine where I'd steal enough grapes to give me a short case of diarrhea. My cousins and I used to fling them at each other making large, purple stains on our clothing which resulted in our parents shaking their heads at us.
Our house had two porches, but we only used one. The bathroom was downstairs, which at the time, I thought was just weird. WHO has a bathroom downstairs? Apparently, just us. (It was later learned that the bathroom was an afterthought as the house was built when outhouses were still prim and proper.) We had a living room, kitchen, and bathroom downstairs. Two bedrooms and a large hallway area upstairs. And we had a dark, creepy, cluttered, cobweb covered basement. Half of it would flood during rain and snow meltoffs. I always dreaded going down there. It was scarey and pitch black.
I never had a door on my room, just an orange lace curtain in the doorway. Whomever lived in the house before us must not have believed in privacy. I never figured out if the curtain was so orange from age or dye. My parents' room was located at the back (or front depending upon how you looked at it) of the house. There was a long hallway to get to. It had a hook lock on the top of the door, which I never understood. Was it intended to keep someone in? Or out? At any rate, it had a bright yellow door. Everytime I was allowed to go inside (after knocking and stating my business of course), I found green linolium and a beautiful canopy bed. His and her closets, a dresser, a chest of drawers, a sewing table and machine, the dog's bed, and some sort of night stand. It was the largest and most beautiful room in the house. 
Our kitchen was pretty primitive by today's standards. We had a green propane stove with matching refridgerator and the green faux wood paneling that was so popular back then. We had a heavy wooden table and a deep freezer. (Both of which was later claimed by my father's gunsmithing business' paperwork.) We didn't have a dishwasher, unless of course, you counted myself. We had poorly painted orangish-brownish-greenish vomit colored cabinets to the right of the sink that held our dishes. On the left we had a red counter that I think was supposed to mimic marble. We also had cupboards underneath the counter made of wood. One double cupboard for spices and what not and one for pans. 
We had an Irish Setter that was my partner in crime. I dressed her in my blankets. She was a wizard one day and a matron the next. Rusty was the sort of dog that would let me ride her as a pony if that's what I wanted. She was trained as a bird dog, a working companion of my father's. She was a gentle soul who never breathed my secrets. She loved me unconditionally and waited by my side faithfully. We also had three beagles who were hunting dogs as well. But, you know, I never quite knew what they hunted exactly. Rabbit? Perhaps? One time I ran away, taking our oldest beagle, Squirt with me. I packed my hobo stick full of I can't remember what, took the leash and down the road I went. Squirt and me, we were buddies. We were going to start a new life together, just him and I. After breathing a sigh of relief that I successfully traveled far enough to be out of eyesight of my home, I started with a spring in my step, a smile on my face, and a sick feeling in my gut. Along came my father's puttering yellow Dotson truck. He rolled up beside me and asked what I was doing. I told him I was running away. Far away. Away from him, mom and everyone else. He told me to get in the truck. Now, I knew better than to disobey my father. If I had refused to get in the truck with him, I would have had my hide tanned with the leather belt he kept in the basement hallway. It had two purposes: 1. Sharpening his hunting knives and 2. Beating my ass. Reluctanty, Squirt and I got into the rusted old truck. My father turned us around and we headed back to our house. Funny, it took me all morning to make it as far as I had gotten, but it was only a two minute or so truckride back home. Damn, the luck! The only thing he said to me was that the next time I ran away, not to take his dog. I expected to hear something along the lines of we missed and love you, Bobbi Lee. Please don't run away from us again. All I got was that single sentence, "don't take the dog." Hmph.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009


The purpose of this blog was to live my life. I mean, LIVE my life, not just exist in it going through the motions and end up looking back to the past wondering what I did and why I never achieved my goals or acted upon my aspirations. I haven't been doing too well on that front. I'm frustrated to say the least.

Everything in this life cost some form of money. For example, I want to take up photography. The camera alone is almost a grand. The lenses, add on a couple more thousand. The bag alone? It's over a hundred. Then there's the all the little accessories that go with that will nickle and dime me.
I am sitting here looking at the Christmas lists my three children have concocted from their wildest imaginations. I'd need the income of an actress to accomplish successfully purchasing five things on Aden's list. If I had the salary of said actress, I can guarantee you, I wouldn't be writing this blog nor wondering how to acquire the equipment to achieve my goals without going into a mountain of debt. Then again, even some A listers are going bankrupt. (Check out Nicholas Cage and Whitney.)

My point is, how do I purchase anything without going into debt? I don't think it can be done unless I save for a very long time. Let's face it, my husband is in the military and we aren't silver spooners. So, saving or financing are our only options. I hate to finance anything. We just got out of debt. But I look around my military neighborhood and wonder, HOW do these people live? Obviously their vehicles alone cost more than their measely military paycheck. Many, many of these people have spouses who work for minimum wage or not at all. Yet, most drive spendy brand new vehicles and their kids are sporting the latest in fashion trends on their bodies and riding in the latest motorized vehicle that does not require licensing. One cannot tell me that they've saved for said merchanise for years.

My grandfather was a garbage man way, way before I was born. I think the proper term is trash engineer now?? Anyway, he would collect trash in all kinds of neighborhoods: well-to-do, poor, middle class, etc. He said that the folks in the high class neighborhoods had can foods and hamburger in their trash. The folks in the middle class had T-bones and reminants of fresh veggies. The folks in the poorer neighborhoods had very little, if any, trash at all. I think there's a lesson in that. He said that all too often he'd go to collect the payments for his services and find that most of the upper class homes had little to no furniture in them.

I should be happy I have three happy (for the most part) and healthy children, that I have a roof over my head, and an income in such trying economic times. And I am. Do not read into this. I am just wondering how people live beyond their means and not have a coronary. I've stated a hundred times and I'll say it again right now, I think living beyond a person's means is what caused the downfall of our economy.

People get credit and run with it. They buy and buy and buy until the credit is maxed out. Then what? They consolidate those credit cards and then spend more. Susie needs a new pair of shoes though she has 15 in her closet that are brand new that she never wears because they aren't the style and the kids will make fun of her. Or Joe Schmoe down the street has a brand new Harley so Jake Schmake next door has to buy one too, though he has a perfectly fine mode of transportation sitting inside his garage.

Now, I'm not pointing fingers. I have had my fair share of "military credit." It has provided us with furniture from time to time. It has also robbed my husband's paycheck and made us pay twice as much in interest. I always warn newcomers to the military of this credit. It's easy to get caught up in a "housefull of furniture for $99 per month!" It's also easy to get caught in the web of military lenders. Before one knows it, they owe the equivilant to tuition to a four year university at 40% interest.

I guess what it boils down to is a need versus want. To Jeff and I, needs are what keeps us alive: food, air, water. Wants are everything else. I want a second vehicle because it's a pain to get everyone up at the ass-crack of dawn to take him into work on days that I need the van or he gets underway. I want that beautiful silver, satin lined Coach Bag. I have a pair of tennis shoes, dress shoes, and flip flops. I don't NEED another in a different color. But man, it would be nice to have four or five more pairs just because I love shoes. 

I NEED to live life, not just exist in it. I NEED to fullfill my dreams and aspirations. I NEED to have hobbies as an outlet and something that is just mine. So, do I NEED the camera equipment or is it a want? I don't know.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

New Family Member!

We've been wanting to add a puppy to our already fur-friendly family for a bit now. The kids absolutely adore animals and I haven't met a furball I haven't fallen in love with yet. I was trying to exercise some responsibility by telling myself to wait until after Christmas. This way, we'd not have vet checkups and training to pay for and attend. I wanted to wait to get either a Great Dane or a red Doxie.

That didn't happen. I saw an ad on Freecycle for free pitbull puppies.  I'm not a huge fan of pitbulls. Though I haven't met one I haven't liked. I do believe that any domestic canine is true to its training and treatment. I don't believe that all pitbulls are bad. I don't believe that all are attackers. And so I, stupidly, asked for a picture. That was my first mistake.

I instantly fell in love with the little brindils and reds. They were absolutely adorable. Even their mama, two years old, was a beauty. I contimplated Jeff's reaction to returning home this weekend to a puppy in the house. I tried to judge the reaction of the boys' faces when I asked them if they wanted to pick one out to bring home. The boys' faces won.

I know puppies are a lot of hard work. I know it's almost as if having an infant all over again. I know they chew things and use the bathroom in the most inconvenient of places. I know they whine and cry. I know they must be taught right from wrong. I know that puppies are work, just like children. But, I didn't care.

I told the kids to get their shoes on. Even through countless, "Where are we going?" I never said a word. They were begging me, pleading with me....Mom, where are we going?? And they tried to guess...Busch Gardens? The Zoo? Grocery Shopping??? WHERE??!

We get to the lady's house and she brings out a a big bin. She sat it down on the sidewalk in front of her home. Jonas leaned over and peeked and his eyes were as big as saucers. "MOM!! Puppies!! Are we getting one?!" Aden was speechless but wore a big, huge grin on his face. Nyla was just in awe. I don't think she's seen so many squirmy baby canines in her life.

I told them to go ahead and choose one, but that we needed a girl because Bo, our Doxie, didn't care for male dogs. (That and I didn't want to deal with the battle of testetosterone that would surely ensue if we got a male puppy.)  And so, the woman pulled out three females for us to choose from: one red and two brindels. The one brindil had been a lot smaller than the other two as she was only on puppy food for a day or so. We placed her back in the bin. She obviously needed a few more days with her mama.  The other brindil immediately took to us and so that was it!

This puppy whined the whole way to the pet store. She cried and whimpered and whined. Poor thing. We purchased her a bed, a crate, a collar, a few toys, some good puppy food as she was being fed puppy chow, and some training treats. It totaled to a lot more than I had anticipated. But, at least she has her necessities. On Saturday, I will take her to the puppy clinic to get her first round of shots and a checkup. I'm curious to see her actual age. The human mama told me she was six and a half weeks, but I'm thinking she isn't that old yet.

It may be a bit too early to tell, but she seems to be pretty smart. She's catching on to going outside to potty. She knows her name. She is even taking to her crate suprisingly well. Overall, I'm pleased.

When I emailed Jeff pictures of her, I didn't say anything about her being ours. Instead, I just emailed the pic and that was that. He responded with, "What is that?" And I said, "You can't tell?" He retorted with, "Is it in our house?!" I jokingly replied by saying, "I don't know, is it?" At first I thought he was upset, but then he emailed saying he could never be mad at me.

He is an animal lover just like me. I know once he sees her and watches her play with Bo, he will fall deeply in love with her too.  She leaps with what seems like so much effort and growls this infectiously silly growl.

The big suprise here is that the boys are actually being responsible with her. Which, I am completely thankful for no matter how long (or short) it lasts. They take her out to potty and tell her good girl. They help clean up accidents. They have been picking up things on the floor so the puppy won't eat it. They've been correcting her when she chews or bites on them or their clothing. They are really knocking my socks off with their eagerness to help raise and train this pup. I am in awe, truly.

I leave you tonight with her picture, so that you too can fall in love with all of her beauty.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Out With It!

Throughout Jeff and I's 12 years of marriage, three children, and only four moves with the military, we have accumulated a lot of "stuff." We are far from the show "Hoarders." But, we are pretty bad. I am constantly drowning in laundry. Constantly. It is NEVER, EVER, EVER, done.
We have comforters, sheets, and towels that are in new to poor shape. I keep them around because I'll never know when we'll need a rag for washing the car, or extra bedding, or whatever. Somehow, I always find every single towel, comforter, and sheet in the laundry room. Whether they are dirty or not, someone puts them in the dirty clothes.

We have clothes out the wazoo. And it's not just your normal three kids amount of clothing. I have clothes for each kid that they've 1. Just grown out of, 2. About to grow into, 3. Will grow into one day, 4. Saving for special occassion, 5. Looked super cute in as an infant, and finally 6. Currently fit them. And, the boys, for some odd reason, tend to bring down every single ounce of clothing they own, whether it fits them or not, whether they've worn it or not. Quite, frankly, I'm sick of it all.

I'm sick of the mountains of laundry. I look at it, daily, and get so frustrated that there's ALWAYS so much laundry. It really wears me down. It wears me out. It makes me angry. I spend way too much time and energy on something as simple as laundry. It's got to stop.

So here is my plan:

1. I'm throwing out all of the children's bedding. ALL OF IT. Gone. In the trash. Rubish. It's outta here.

2. I'm buying each child one comforter and two sets of sheets. So even if two of the three kids has dirty bedding, that's only 3 loads of laundry max.

3. I'm throwing out all of Jeff and I's bedding but two comforters and two sets of sheets. That's all we should need, right?

4. I'm going through the kids clothes and making them try on Everything. If it doesn't's getting thrown out. If it has a hole in the knees - it's getting thrown away. If it has a get the point. I'm done saving clothes for play, what if, and maybe we'll need.

 5. I'm throwing away every single towel that has a stain, rip, or tiny tear. Mom got us new towels and we bought new towels last year. Everything that isn't in those two categories is getting thrown away (or at least donated to the local animal shelter).

6. If Jeff and I's clothes don't fit, right this second, it's going in the trash. I won't fit in the skirts I wore in high school. I'll never wear that little black dress again. The size ten jeans I wore straight out of bootcamp is never going to find their way past my 33 year old thighs again. And sorry Jeff, that pair of green cords with the holey crotch has got to go. The shirt we have five duplicates that have the sleeves cut out, Honey, they are all gone. You don't wear them. They look tacky. No one wants to see your armpit hair anyway.

And though this seems like a no-brainer to some. Let me explain. We have three children and are a military family. Children, grow like weeds. The clothes I bought my son, Jonas, no more than three months ago, no longer fit. It is expensive to clothe children these days. It is expensive to clothe children during any era. We probably do save a pretty penny by saving clothing from one sibling to the next, accepting hand-me-downs from friends and family (which I deeply appreciate).  I go through clothes, and sort them out. I place them in bins and trash bags and put them up. But somehow, someway, everything finds their way to the laundry room. And I'm simply just done.

I want to spend my time with my family making happy memories. I don't want to spend it fighting with the boys over what is dirty and what is not, what doesn't fit, what doesn't, and why their bringing every piece of clothing they own down to be washed. I want neat closets. No, I need, neat closets. I need this never-ending laundry to be DONE.

Monday, October 19, 2009

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H1N1 History, Facts, and Prevention

pLast week, my son who is nine years old brought home from school an H1N1 vaccination permission slip form. He can receive the vax for free at his elementary school. I told him my concerns over the vaccination. I expressed to him that my job as his parent is to keep him safe, even if it happens to be from the government. His concern is that he will be suspended for not receiving the vax. The school district, nor the state, has issued a mandate for the vax. I suppose if they did, I'd be one home-schooling mamacita. However, his concern is purely based on rumors.

Now, before anyone goes hostile on me, let me explain. I'm not normally against vaccinations in general. My children are up to date on their mandatory vaccinations. I'm not one of those crunchy moms who think that vaccinations are associated with Asperger's syndrome. (There is no research to prove it. Besides, the courts just ruled on it over the summer as such.) Being crunchy is not bad at all. I'm just not one of them. I'm also not a conspiracy-theorist. I don't think dental fillings are tracking devices. I don't think 9/11 was an inside job. I am not one of those folks that pick apart every news article to read between the lines.

With that said, let us look at the proof of the H1N1 and why, we as parents, should not be vaccinating our children.

1. The CDC reports that there are, on average, 36,000 flu related deaths in the United States alone. They look at death certificates that have respiratory or circulatory listed as cause of death.
2. To date (October 17, 2009) the WHO says that 4,735 deaths have occurred WORLD WIDE due to H1N1 related deaths. Of those deaths, 3,406 were here in the United States, 86 of which were children.
3. Causes of death with H1N1 related flu - most common is respiratory failure, followed by pneumonia, high fever (brain damage), dehydration, electrolyte imbalance.
The WHO declared a Pandemic for the H1N1 which sent a bunch of folks into hysterics. The word pandemic means: "Widespread; general" What it doesn't mean is death, plague, or anything else that requires alarm. All it means is that the H1N1 is found a lot of places around the world. Cancer, the common cold, strep throat, and many, many other incurable diseases are also pandemic but we do not receive vaccinations for them. Yes, H1N1 is an incurable disease.
1. The first Swine Flu pandemic occurred in 1918. 50 to 100 million people worldwide died from this outbreak. It is still not clear whether the outbreak came from the pigs themselves or from humans. The swine population tested positive for this new flu strain directly after a seasonal human flu virus swept the country.
2. The second outbreak occurred February 1976 at Fort Dix. One person died, four other hospitalized. The swine flu never made it outside Fort Dix. Another influenza strain, "H3N2," which is not a swine flu strain, was spreading and caused panic. Public health officials declared it an Pandemic and suggested to President Ford that the public be vaccinated. The H3N2 was detected from January to March 1976. October 1, 1976, swine flu immunizations began. Because three elderly died shortly after receiving the vaccination, the public became outraged and thought the vaccine to kill folks. However, of the 1100 cases of Guillian-Barre Syndrome was recorded but roughly 530 of them were linked to the vaccination. But if you look at the numbers, the vaccine killed more people that the flu did.
3. In 1988 a pregnant woman died from the H1N1 after her husband had visited a swine exhibition. She developed pneumonia. Her baby was successfully delivered before she died. Roughly 19 of the 25 people who visited the exhibit tested positive for the virus but never got sick beyond mild flu like symptoms. There was no community outbreak.
4. In 1998 swine flu was found in four states. Within the year, the virus had spread throughout the swine population. The strain found here was a mixture of bird and human flu. This hybrid virus is what is found in today's outbreak of H1N1.
5. August 20, 2007 the virus was found in the swine population in the Philippines. It had a less than 10% mortality rate, but the government still placed the meat on code red.
6. Six of the eight gene segments of the 2009 H1N1 Pandemic rose from the 1998 H1N1 virus. It is considered a triple hybrid (avian, human, and swine flu), not just a swine flu virus. Ironically, it is the pigs that have caught the virus from humans. The swine population first came in contact with this strain after a worker from Mexico came down with the illness. The vaccine protects against the H1N1 that is NOT transmitted from or to pigs, but from person to person.
Other Noteworthy Research
1. Deborah Burger, a registered nurse and President of the California Nurses Association is quoted as saying, "What sort of gets lost in all of this in this rush to mandate these vaccines, is the employers right now aren't even doing the basics to protect the nurses and the patients," in this article from ABC news.

Dr. Rosenfield, a doctor who appears every Sunday on Fox News, is an advocate for the H1N1 but he says he's even confused. He goes on to say, "No one doctor has enough patients who've had the flu that can tell you what it does or doesn't do. And that's true for the vaccine. All I can do is report to you the FDA, WHO, and other establishments have found out about the flu." He goes on to say, "Everyday you read about deaths, they still aren't as many as the regular flu."

3. The pharmaceutical company Baxter is in charge of the vaccinations, even though they are involved in a very large scandal where their vaccines were tainted with live avian flu virus. Baxter sent live bird flu virus to 18 countries. And I'm expected to get a shot for the H1N1 that was researched, produced, and distributed by this company?!

4. Dr. Rima E Laibow MD of the Health Freedom and the Natural Solutions Foundation is urging people to not receive the H1N1 vax. In her most recent newsletter she states, "WHO has declared a Level 6 Pandemic and issued vaccination guidance which is legally binding on 194 nations declaring vaccination is necessary. We believe accepting the untested, unnecessary and unsafe vaccine OR running the risk of incarceration is unacceptable."

5. According to the WHO, there is still no evidence that the H1N1 has mutated away from the original H1N1 found in Mexico and US back in April.

1. Wash your hands. Thoroughly wash your hands with soap and hot water for at least two minutes. And wash them several times throughout the day. This isn't your mom telling you to wash your hands before dinner or after restroom use. This is wash your hands periodically throughout the day: after talking on the phone, before and after eating, after restroom use, after handling money, after shaking hands with someone, after touching something like a grocery store door or shopping cart. If you use hand sanitizer use an ALCOHOL based one. The non-alcohol based hand sanitizers do absolutely nothing to sanitize your hands.
2. Keep your hands out of your mouth. Your hands are the gateway to germs. It touches and picks up every germ imaginable. Keep your hands clean and out of your mouth, away from your eyes, and out of your nose.
3. Disinfect household surfaces. This can be done with diluted household bleach solution or a household disinfectant such as Lysol. Spray or wipe down toilets, sinks, doorknobs, telephones, television remotes, computer keyboards, tabletops, chairs, etc.
4. DO NOT send your kid to daycare or school or the store or out to play with a fever. A fever, no matter how insignificant, means there is infection in the body. Regardless if little Timmy only has a temperature of 99.5 degrees Fahrenheit with no other symptoms, it does not mean that he should go to school, attend karate, make that touchdown pass, or visit his friends. It does mean he should stay at home, where whatever infection he has, is contained and not infecting other children or places where others may pick up whatever he has. By sending a child with a fever into the public, not only is the child able to transmit whatever infection he has, but he is also more susceptible to contracting whatever other infection is out there.
5. Cover your mouth. By covering your mouth when you cough or sneeze, you are containing the little droplets of saliva that may have infection, whether it is the common cold or the H1N1 virus. Don't cough into your elbow. Don't sneeze into your chest. Cover your mouth with your hand or a tissue preferably, then wash or sanitize your hands directly after and throw the tissue in the trash.
6. Deal with your stress. It is a proven fact that if one is stressed, one will get sick. Learn to manage stress in a healthy manner.