I'm just an ordinary girl doing ordinary stuff.

I just happen to be a single mom in the military.

My kids are part of the military too.

When I deploy, their heart breaks too.

They're strong little guys.

Being their mom is the most humbling experience I've ever had.

Follow the adventures

See if you can keep up with me as I serve my country holding my kids in my arms.

Friday, December 31, 2010

On Love and the Past

"Honey, you know that stores do sell toothpaste with the flip-up caps, right?"

"Well, yeah," I answered, astonished how easy that solution was.  Patrick and I were just having a conversation about relationships.  I am a huge chicken when it comes to this topic.  My entire life, I've had nothing but dysfunctional relationships.  Growing up in a home infected with domestic violence, I never knew what a healthy relationship looked like.  And I made some bad choices, choosing very unhealthy partners.  So when Patrick and I talked about relationships, I told him that I didn't think I could ever live with a man again.

I went on to tell him that I didn't think I could deal with the stress of having someone complain about the house not being clean enough, the food not cooked on time, the kids not quiet, etc.  "I even leave the cap off the toothpaste," I insisted.  And that's when he stumped me with that remark.

And after that answer, I went on, "Well, my home is really busy!  It's never perfectly clean.  There's always toys on the floor, laundry never ends and after the kids go to bed there are more chores to be done."

"Babe," he replied, "I wouldn't just stand around and watch you manage the house and kids by yourself.  I'd help, you know."

One thing that never ceases to surprise me about our relationship is that he constantly reminds me that I'm no longer in one of those past relationships.  Whenever I visit with him, I'm never left to cook by myself.  He helps.  He washes dishes.  He doesn't just go off and play on his computer.  He spends time with me, even if it's just to join me in playing fetch with his dog. 

And another thing-- there's no pressure!  For anything!  We don't text each other every hour of the day.  We're both busy people.  He has his own business, his own kids.  He doesn't question why I don't text or call him as often as I'd like.  There's this really cool, calming sense of understanding between us.  He doesn't expect me to drop what I'm doing for him, even though I'd jump at an opportunity to chat with him.  He's secure enough in our relationship that he doesn't feel it necessary to nag me for attention. 

Lots of the bad things in my past come back to haunt me in this relationship.  But I combat them with this relationship's facts, the person I'm with now and the person I am now.  I'm stronger, able to see clearly and am quicker to identify unhealthy behaviors.  And Patrick consistently shows up in the "healthy" department.

I told my therapist once, "Even if he and I don't work out for some reason, I'm confident that at least this relationship has shown me what a healthy one looks like."  Of course, I'd rather we work out instead!  But the point is, I'm glad I have such a good opportunity to experience having a good relationship and to know what one feels like.

Last Outstation Visit

I am currently at another location, far from my camp.  I brought with me a backpack stuffed with a few days' worth of clothes, meds and toiletries.  A smaller pack that held my camera and laptop sat with me on the helicopter.  We would only be at this location for a short time to fulfill one mission.

The helicopter ride is always fun.  I'll never get tired of it.  I really love the part where the aircraft starts.  The blades rotate slowly, then faster and faster.  The whole helo shakes until it stabilizes.  Then the doors are shut and it's time to get going.  Unlike a plane, the helo doesn't speed down the runway til it gains enough speed to lift off.  Nope.  It just lifts off!  It's the coolest experience!  Then it hovers around a little and viola!  You're up high into the sky, slowly sailing over the waters and islands.

Being so high in the sky is amazing.  When you're in flight, you get to see the designs of the earth.  How beautiful everything is!  I love how small everything looks down below.  And I really like how beautiful land looks from a distance.  You would never know that anything bad happens there.  Everything looks peaceful and quiet. 

One thing I do enjoy about the outstations is the fact that the military personnel always adopt the local dogs.  Dogs here aren't taken care of very well.  So the ones on the camp are super spoiled because our troops take a good liking to them.  There's just something about dogs that make people happier.  :) 

My room was cool, I didn't have to share with anyone.  But it isn't the cleanest and the sheets smell.  But it's a small sacrifice.  And it's only a few days. 

So I spent all day yesterday talking with the people assigned here, getting to know them.  They are a cool bunch.  They work hard and play hard... well as much as one can out here, anyway.  Today, I played with the dogs.  LOL  They are really sweet. 

This evening, something sad lingered in my heart.  I'm having some conflict with a friend of mine and I'm sad about it.  So instead of hanging out with the outstation crew during their New Year's Eve celebration, I stayed in the room. 

 And that's when my cell phone rang. 

M called!!  He was wishing me a Happy New Year's at about 8am in his timezone.  How sweet is that?  He just wanted to call and see how I was doing and find out when I was returning home.  My heart just bounced with joy.  This guy, thousands of miles away, called me on a day I was feeling sad.  And now that I think of it, he's getting a little too good at doing that!  lol  If you read Care Package, you'll see that M has an amazing sense of good timing.  When he was here on my deployment with me, he always knew what to say and/or do at the right times.  He knew when I was down or upset and he never let me alone to continue those feelings.  He always did something to cheer me up.  So, just like he always did when he was here, he came at a time I needed some cheering up.

I'll be heading back to camp soon.  Can't wait to sleep in my own bed, eat better food in our chow hall and get back to wrapping up my deployment!  Almost done!

Sunday, December 26, 2010


Prayers are interesting.  Reading that, my Christian brothers and sisters might be thinking, “What do you mean ‘interesting?’ Prayers are incredible!”  And yes, they are incredible!  But for the new believer and for believers who forget, prayers are indeed interesting too.  Throughout the bible, you will find that when people have prayed they “cried out” to God.  And God listened.  They had a remarkable relationship with Him.  He was a living God and not some Santa Claus in the sky.  When they were in need, they cried out to Him.  And when they worshipped, they praised Him with joy. 

God does listen.  And He does answer prayers.  And that’s the scary part—how do we know?  As a new believer, I prayed for things I thought I needed.  And I prayed for things I knew I needed.  And when God answered, it was never the way I expected. 

For instance, last year I was struck heavily with financial burden.  I wasn’t receiving child support.  So I prayed desperately for financial help, expecting Him to change X’s heart and pay the child support.  Instead, God worked through the people around me.  One person suggested Angel Food Ministries for groceries.  Someone suggested I see a financial counselor about budgeting.  And people around me including my deployed brother helped me financially.  So, although I prayed for financial help and expected child support, God gave me even more!  He gave me a family.  He gave me resources.  And He enlightened me to manage my budget so well I could lead a class on it.  He answered my prayers and gave me what He knew I needed and not what I thought I needed.  And not in the way I thought I should have them answered.  Sometimes when you pray, you’ve got to really invest some time to think about what you’re asking for.

A friend of mine told me a story about how his own friend prayed for more time with his family.  He worked a lot and barely saw his wife and kids.  Well, he lost his job.  And at first, he asked God what that was all about.  “I prayed for one thing and I got fired.”  What he realized only later is that, he had an opportunity to spend more time with his family and losing his job brought him and his wife closer together as she helped him find a new one.  God works in ways we can’t imagine.  And sometimes when He answers prayers, we don’t always hear Him.

Last night, my prayer was answered and it didn’t dawn on me until moments after it happened.  Lately, I’ve been praying for God to help me stay with Him.  Meaning, I wanted to follow Him.  I wanted to have a relationship with Him.  But like all humans, I stray.  I curse a lot, something I rarely did pre-deployment.  I smoke more than my lungs can handle.  And I fight the urge to judge people in my mind.  So I’ve been praying for God to work in my life, to keep me walking with Him and to let me hear Him when He sees me walking away and He calls me back to Him.  In worship service last night, I prayed with all my heart.  In desperation my heart cried out to Him, telling Him I wanted to follow Him but that I have trouble fighting the human side of me.  By the end of the service, I knew He heard my prayer.

When I got to my room, my roommate Anna (also my bible study sister) and I were chatting from the other sides of our curtain dividers.  She told me, “I have a book for you.”  Intrigued, I opened my curtain and she stood there with a book, Forgotten God by Francis Chan.  “It is about the Holy Sprit,” she began.  “I’ve noticed that you have a really good understanding about God and our relationship with Him.  But you’ve told me before how you have trouble referring to scriptures that talk about how Christ lives in us.  And this book is about the Holy Spirit.”  I was humbled.  In our bible reading sessions, I always have a hard time using scriptures as examples or references and she got me a book that would help.  “A lot of people automatically know the Godhead—the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.  But most of us only focus on the Father and the Son and we forget the Holy Spirit.  I think it could help you.”  I hugged her, touched by such a gift.

Later as I sat in the smoke pit, I picked up the book and started reading.  In the second page of the Introduction, page 16, Chan says “If I were Satan and my ultimate goal was to thwart God’s kingdom and purposes, one of my main strategies would be to get churchgoers to ignore the Holy Spirit.” (para 3)  Immediately I thought, “Oh my gosh, she thinks I’m one of those people who go to church but don’t really even live their lives as Christians.  She thinks I just go to service and bible study and put on my Christian veil and then take it off as soon as I leave!” 

And then I asked myself, “Well, do I live a Christian life?”  And that’s when it hit me.  God answered my prayer through Anna.  No, I don’t believe she saw me as a fake Christian.  If I looked at myself as an outsider, I would see a pretty good person.  I don’t gossip.  I don’t hurt people.  I love helping others.  Sure I curse and smoke, but I never treat others unkindly.  When I think about it, I am indeed a pretty good human.  And Anna knew because of our discussions, that I honestly had trouble referring to the bible for guidance on how to live my life.  And this book is simply that—a book that reminds us about the Holy Spirit and that when It lives inside us, our lives really do change!  She wasn’t judging me and telling me I needed to be more Christian-like, she saw that I needed help.  God heard my prayer and worked through Anna to give me something that could help me “stay with Him” as I prayed so desperately for.

And not only did He answer my prayer, He answered it the way He knew was an amazing way.  He didn’t just peek through the clouds and command, “Combat Boots Mama, REMEMBER TO FOLLOW ME!”  He’s God, isn’t He?  He could do that.  But he DIDN’T.  He chose to use Anna, who just glows in Christianity, to help me.  By doing that, he gave me someone human I could relate to and connect with.  Someone who could help me stay on my walk with Christ.  He gave me a friend.

How awesome is God?  We will never stop being surprised at what He’ll do next.  I am so grateful for Him.

Thank You, Father, for being such an incredible God.  For being The God.  You have the power to move mountains just to show us You are there, but instead You choose to work in ways that are humble and ways that help us in more ways than we asked for.  So I thank You for all the good You have done in my life, whether they come through challenges or in the form of friendships.  In Jesus’ name, I praise You.  Amen.

C H R I S T M A S!

So this year's Christmas was different.  The whole week prior to it, I have felt nothing but tired and homesick for my kids.  We were doing so many projects trying to spread Christmas cheer not only to our troops but to the local community as well that I actually found myself Tweeting something along the lines of "Christmas blows.  Can't wait for it to be over."  I was tired!  When we weren't actually doing the projects, we were planning more projects and receiving requests for even more!  It was nonstop.  And I wanted to just stop, breathe and be with my kids!  But after we ended Christmas night, I stopped and realized it really wasn't a bad Christmas.  It was different than others, but it wasn't bad at all.

Everywhere I turned, people were talking about what their families were doing back home.  I was surrounded by people who felt the exact same thing I did.  And sharing our stories of our families, we kind of got a little closer.  On Christmas night, all of us watched our clocks anticipating the times when our families would wake up to their Christmas (time zones make things interesting) so that we could make phone calls and get on Skype to be with them.  Passing the time, we played card games and told jokes.

When I finally Skype'd my kids, my eyes swelled with tears of joy.  It could be a heck of a lot worse.  I could have NO internet connection.  I could be unable to make a phone call.  But there I was sitting in front of my computer, watching my kids open their gifts and hearing their squeals and laughter as they showed me their toys.

After I ended our Skype session, I picked up the phone and called my Patrick.  Although I missed him so much, it was wonderful being able to hear his voice and wish him a Merry Christmas thousands of miles away.  He ragged on me for smoking and I ragged on him for his ginormous coffee intake.  We talked about what would we do when I returned.  Not THAT, dirty people!  I've decided to save myself for marriage... and yes I'm serious!  It's one of the things I'm doing to strengthen my relationship with God.  When I return, Patrick's going to help me move into my new home.  And we're going to drink wine and I'm going to cook us a beautiful dinner.  And we're going to cuddle. 

Then, I went to bed at 6 a.m.  Whew!  When I laid in bed, I thought about Christmas.  And I was grateful.  One the holiday that celebrates Christ's birth and our salvation, I got the opportunity to appreciate the little things in life that we all take for granted like the noises our kids make and the work it takes to cook a Christmas meal, serve others by sacrificing my own energy and time to helping them celebrate Christmas, build friendships by being with others who were also missing their families, and appreciate my relationship with a guy who loves me by hearing his voice thousands of miles away. 

So, this year's Christmas was different.  It was special.  And not to mention, I did get gifts!  M and Lynn sent me gifts that told me they loved me and that they knew who I was and what kind of person I am.

I pray you all had such a blessing as I did.  Merry Christmas.

Daily Bible Reading Plan

A couple of ladies and I decided to start a bible reading group.  Wherever we were in our bible reading, we wouldn't stop our progress but we would all stick to one new reading plan so that every time we met, we would all discuss what we learned.  It's meant to add to and not replace, our growth with God.  After our first meeting, I was so excited and relieved to have someone to share my faith with!  I felt really connected with people who had love for and given their lives to Christ.

To help me learn from and retain what I read, I've decided to start a reading journal.  In the journal, I'll describe the overall chapter(s) and what we ladies have discussed about it.  I'll also talk about my feelings and/or experiences relating to what I've read.

If I wrote a journal on the reading, it'll be linked in the list below.  I'll try to post them as often as I can!

Daily Bible Readings

Day 1:  Creation and Temptation
Genesis 1-3

Day 2:  Remembrance
Joshua 1-5

Day 3:  Prophecy
Psalms 1-2

Day 4:  The Test
Job 1-2

God's Sorrow and Judgment
Isaiah 1-6

A King is Born
Matthew 1-2

Paul Reminds Us About The Law
Romans 1-2

Commitment and Faith
Genesis 4-7

My Brother's Keeper

If you read Hitting Is Unacceptable, you'd already know that No Hitting is a big lesson I had to teach Caden.  He took to this lesson so well that he even corrected me after I swatted Charlie on his butt once.  Hitting is not acceptable in our house, period.  Of course, that means outside our house too.  No spanking either.  I believe there are always more effective ways to discipline and/or cope with stress that don't result in inflicting pain and fear and encouraging unhealthy behaviors.

So when I started babysitting a little girl around Caden's age, Lisa, things got a little challenging.  Lisa is 3 and a half, only a few months younger than Caden.  She is a beautiful little girl with the sweetest smile.  But boy, can she throw a tantrum like you wouldn't imagine.  And when she decides she wants to pick on someone, she'll go right up to them and hit them.  

One day I was cooking lunch while the kids were in the living room.  Still in my line of sight, Caden and Lisa sat on the couch watching a cartoon while Sean (at the time he was one) sat on the floor playing with his blocks.  As I was washing my hands, Lisa provoked a No Hitting lesson that I wasn't prepared for.

She climbed quietly off the couch, nonchalantly strolled over to a quiet and unexpecting Sean.  After quickly scanning his toys, she picked one up and with all her might whacked him over the side of his head.  My poor little guy cried out as he fell over in pain.

Before I could get to him, Caden flew off that couch so fast I barely knew what was happening.  Like a lion, Sean's older brother hauled butt towards Lisa and shoved her so hard that she fell right on her rump and landed on her back.

Looking down at her, with his index finger pointing at her face, he said "There is NO hitting in this house!  Hitting is hussable!!"  "Hussable" is how Caden says "unacceptable."  His face was very stern with disapproval.  "You don't hit my brother!"

So, I had a crying Sean in my arms as I checked his head and a crying Lisa on the floor staring up at a protective big brother Caden who was still standing over her with a very stern look on his face.  Whew.  The incident called for lots of "sorry"s and "are you okay"s. 

Although Caden was only looking out for his brother, I still had to teach him that he had indeed broken the No Hitting policy as well.  The human side of me was just a little happy that Caden had been so protective of his brother.  But it didn't stop me from having to add more details to the No Hitting rule.  

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Operation Santa

Not many people are familiar with my deployment location.  When I was outprocessing my base, I got many looks of confusion about what I was to bring with me.  It is not a common deployment, so I was asked lots of curious questions none of which I could answer.  I even got the “Oh you’re going on a vacation!  That’s no deployment!”

But being out here is no vacation.  It’s not shaking with mortar attacks, but it sure as heck isn’t a day at the beach.  We’re still a bunch of deployed folks stuck in a box surrounded by barbed wire and concrete walls.  We still miss out on holidays, birthdays, anniversaries and other special events that we want to share with our loved ones.  We don’t get free access to the civilian life outside (except for rare occasions like shopping for supplies).  We are deployed.  Plain and simple.  Just like all deployments, many of us would rather be home.

So when I see people leave the mail room with a box in their arms, I know without a doubt that a friend sent them something special because of the grin on their face.  And I know when someone leaves empty handed, their tight-lipped smile tells a story of hope for a package one day.  This Christmas, my boss and I decided to bring packages to EVERYONE deployed out here.  We wanted each person to hold something in their hands that was sent to them by someone who cares.

The first step was brainstorming.  What could we get them?  How?  Who could we go through?  Easy peasy.  Everyone here loves most of the same things:  hygiene products, coffee, snacks, feel-goods (for girls, nice smelly stuff and for guys, cigars and … guy stuff) and believe it or not—toys.  Yep.  We like puzzles, games, footballs, teddy bears, anything that brings out the kid in us.  Rubik’s Cube is HUGE. 

The “how” and the “who” came easily—USTroopCarePackage.com and other care package companies that exist solely to support the troops.  These companies are just incredible.  And you’ll see why soon.  Once I researched places that supported the military, I simply submitted requests for a REALLY BIG care package donation.

I contacted US Troop Care Package, describing our mission and giving them an estimate of how many troops were out here.  In a month, we received HUNDREDS of mini Christmas stockings filled with candies!  But we didn’t want JUST candies.  We wanted our troops to feel special. 

Every month, we do a “recess.”  Yep, like an elementary school type of recess.  Without the jungle gym of course.  Basically, we brought out brain teasers and snacks and announced that it was time for people to stop what they were doing and stretch!  Get some fresh air, play a brainteaser game.  Take a break.  ToySmith once donated a sample of toys like the Rubik’s Cube and other puzzles.  Everybody who went to recess absolutely loved it.  We got so many notes of appreciation.  Their morale lifted immediately!
So I contacted ToySmith directly through e-mail and told them how much our troops appreciated their products and asked them if they would kindly donate a Christmas donation of toys.  I immediately received a response from them and a few weeks later, several boxes of games and toys came in the mail!

The stockings and the toys were certainly a huge blessing!  Well, God had a better idea.  He drove people from the United States to send wonderful care packages “just for the troops during Christmas.”  And He enabled us to do a big shopping trip for more care package items.

Sorry, Prancer, Santa's got a new ride!

Operation Santa took place.  And Christmas was brought to our deployed sites.  Not by reindeer… but that wasn’t a big deal.  Because gifts came to our troops by way of special military distribution.  Helicopter, baby!  A few boxes came on small planes as well!

We were able to distribute large boxes filled with Christmas goodies to all of our troops both on and off our camp.  We were just ecstatic to have been able to do this!

A huge THANK YOU goes to US Troops Care Package, ToySmith and all our friends and family!  We couldn’t have done it without you!

The Deployed Folks' Santa

Santa's new transportation!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Joke of the Week

So I came across an old joke I read years ago.  I swear I almost piss myself everytime I read it.  So I thought since we're in the spirit of giving that it would be wise to share it with you.  Heads up, it's a long one-- but it's SO worth it.  I promise.

Texas Chili Contest

For those of you who have lived in Texas, you know how true this is. They actually have a chili cook-off about the time Halloween comes around. It takes up a major portion of a parking lot at the San Antonio city park. The notes are from an inexperienced chili taster named Frank, who has visited from Springfield IL.

Frank: "Recently, I was honored to be selected as a judge at a chili cooking contest. The original person called in sick at the last moment and I happened to be standing there at the judges' table asking for directions to the Coors Light truck, when the call came in. I was assured by the other two judges (native Texans) that the chili wouldn't be all that spicy and, besides, they told me that I could have free beer during the tasting, so I accepted."

Here are the scorecards from the event: (Frank is Judge 3)

Chili #1 Eddie's Maniac Monster Chili
>Judge #1 -- A little too heavy on the tomato. Amusing kick.
>Judge #2 -- Nice, smooth tomato flavor. Very mild.
>Judge #3 -- (Frank) What the hell is this stuff?! You could remove dried paint on my driveway. Took me two beers to put out the flames. I hope that's the worst one. These Texans are crazy!

Chili #2 Austin's Afterburner Chili
>Judge #1 -- Smoky, with a hint of pork. Slight jalapeno tang.
>Judge #2 -- Exciting BBQ flavor; needs more peppers to be taken seriously.
>Judge #3 -- Keep this out of reach of children. I'm not sure what I'm supposed to taste besides pain. I had to wave off two people who wanted to give me the Heimlich maneuver. They had to rush in more beer when they saw the look on my face.

Chili #3 Ronny's Famous Burn Down the Barn Chili
>Judge #1 -- Excellent firehouse chili. Great kick. Needs more beans.
>Judge #2 -- A beanless chili, a bit salty, good use of peppers.
>Judge #3 -- Call the EPA. I've located a uranium spill. My nose feels like I have been snorting Drano. Everyone knows the routine by now. Get me more beer before I ignite. Barmaid pounded me on the back, now my back bone is in the front part of my chest. I'm getting pie-eyed from all the beer...

Chili #4 Dave's Black Magic
>Judge #1 -- Black bean chili with almost no spice. Disappointing.
>Judge #2 -- Hint of lime in the black beans. Good side dish for fish, or other mild foods; not much of a chili.
>Judge #3 -- I felt something scraping across my tongue, but was unable to taste it. Is it possible to burn out taste buds? Sally, the barmaid, was standing behind me with fresh refills. That 300-lb woman is starting to look HOT...just like this nuclear waste I'm eating! Is chili an aphrodisiac?

Chili #5 Lisa’s Legal Lip Remover
>Judge #1 -- Meaty, strong chili. Cayenne peppers freshly ground, adding considerable kick. Very impressive.
>Judge #2 -- Chili using shredded beef, could use more tomato. Must admit the cayenne peppers make a strong statement.
>Judge #3 – My ears are ringing, sweat is pouring off may forehead, and I can no longer focus my eyes. I farted and four people behind me needed paramedics. The contestant seemed offended when I told her that her chili had given me brain damage. Sally saved my tongue from bleeding by pouring beer directly on it from the pitcher. I wonder if I’m burning my lips off. It really pisses me off that the other judges asked me to stop screaming. Screw those rednecks.

Chili #6 Pam’s Very Vegetarian Variety
>Judge #1 -- Thin yet bold vegetarian variety chili. Good balance of spices and peppers.
> Judge #2 -- The best yet. Aggressive use of peppers, onions, and garlic. Superb.
> Judge #3 -- My intestines are now a straight pipe filled with gaseous sulphuric flames. I pooped on myself when I farted and I’m worried it will eat through the chair! No one seems inclined to stand behind me anymore. I need to wipe my butt with a snow cone.

Chili #7 Carla’s Screaming Sensation Chili
>Judge #1 -- A mediocre chili with too much reliance on canned peppers.
>Judge #2 -- Ho-hum; tastes as if the chef literally threw in a can of chili peppers at the last minute. **I should take note that I am worried about Judge #3. He appears to be in a bit of distress, as he is cursing uncontrollably.
>Judge #3 -- You could put a grenade in my mouth, pull the pin, and I wouldn’t feel a thing. I’ve lost sight in one eye, and the world sounds like it is made of rushing water. My shirt is covered with chili, which slid unnoticed out of my mouth. My pants are filled with lava to match my shirt. At least during the autopsy, they’ll know what killed me. I’ve decided to stop breathing; it’s too painful. Screw it; I’m not getting any oxygen anyway. If I need air, I’ll just suck it through the 4-inch hole in my stomach.

Chili #8 Karen’s Toenail Curling Chili
>Judge #1 -- The perfect ending, this is a nice blend chili. Not too bold, but spicy enough to declare its existence.
>Judge #2 -- This final entry is a good, balanced chili. Neither mild, nor hot. Sorry to see that most of it was lost when Judge #3 farted, passed out, fell over, and pulled the chili pot down on top of himself. Not sure if he’s going to make it. Poor fella, wonder how he’d have reacted to REALLY hot chili.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Shopping for the Troops

Recently, I got a chance to do a big shopping trip for the troops that are deployed in my location.  Of course, we couldn't get individual gifts for everyone so we had the idea of putting together care packages for different offices and outstations.  The gifts I bought were basic quality of life stuff like hygiene items and snacks.  Simple things, I know, but we deployed folk are simple people with simple desires. 

Shopping took place in a big city far away from our camps.  It was nice to get away and breathe some fresh air, see some different sites and enjoy some really cool privileges.  My balcony had a great view overlooking the hotel pool and the sea!  In the morning, I got to see the ships in the distance.  Totally blessed to have been given such a great opportunity.

One thing about malls is that you'll always find some really interesting items for sale.  If you stop and look, you'd be amazed at some of the beautiful things you can find.  Of course, most of the time you'd probably get ripped off.  But still!  It's cool to just look at them... if you can manage to escape the sales rep. 

One sales person really tried hard to sell me a rock tied to a rope and said it was supposed to give me protection.  I kept telling her it was definitely a cool idea but that I wasn't interested and was just looking.  I really was just looking and simply wanted to check out the cool colored stones and interesting designs.  But she followed me around, so I thanked her and walked away.

I'm not much of a crowd person.  I totally tense up in malls, festivals and other environments that are filled with people and noises.  Don't know what's up with that, I just know I don't like it.  So it's quite a stressful thing for me.  When I'm home, I don't stay in Walmart any longer than I have to.  My grocery shopping is really mission-oriented.  Get the stuff on the list and get out.  So although getting to leave the camp and stay in a nice hotel was a real treat, I definitely had to work for it and I was certainly tired and ready to get back!

I was able to buy shampoos, lotions, body wash, and so many other hygiene products that are hard to get our hands on!
People actually thought I was working at the store as a stocker because my cart was filled with all these items!  I had people speak to me in their language, asking where they could find certain items.  I had workers look at me weird, probably wondering why they had never seen me working there before.   

I also bought coffee, tea, hot chocolate and a bunch of cookies and other snacks!!

Not sure what's up with the Gizmo picture?  Check out the Gizmo Project!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Boots Off!

Sometimes in the middle of our deployments, we are allowed a few days off.  It helps troops refresh themselves mentally, physically and emotionally.  It's an essential priviledge that is intended to help our people maintain their sanity so that they can maintain focus on the mission.  It is an awesome treat!

So I recently got to go on my little vacation.  I went back home to see my mom, sister, and other relatives I haven't seen in years.  Although I didn't get to see my kids, I was able to reconnect with family as well as my culture.  Being away from my roots has allowed me to forget the sites, smells, tastes and beauty of where I'm from.  So of course I was ecstatic to get to go back in time and take a visit into my childhood.

Balati.  It is my native word for "sea cucumber."  One of the weirdest things you can find at a beach!  This is the one thing my siblings and I would dread whenever we got to spend a few hours under the sun, in the sand and swim in the crystal clear beach water.  Our dad used to pick this thing up and hurl it at us so that it would squirt this nasty gummy bodily fluid at us.  The poor things.  When we went to the beach, I made it a goal to find one, pick it up and NOT throw it for once. 

First of all, the balati looks like a sunken turd.  Yes you read right.  Look at it.  It looks like someone pooped and it sunk.  Gross!  And it's super slimy with a very smooth texture.  It's just SO weird.  When you're wading in the water and not paying attention, you'll know when you step on one and your immediate reaction is normally the feeling of creepiness!!  At the same time, I think they are such cute creatures.  All they do is lay on the floor of the beach, lazy as a couch potato.  And they're so defenseless when some jerk grabs them and hurls them at people.  Can you imagine just lounging around, daydreaming and then getting picked up and next thing you know you're flying through the air uncontrollably and slamming right into a screaming human?  Awful.  I should make a Save the Balati T-shirt.  Hmmm... maybe I should!

At the beach, I got to watch my neice bury my nephew in the sand.  She was very determined to cover her brother.  He is such an awesome big brother.  He laid there perfectly still and patiently as she made him into a giant lump of sand.  She even got his forehead.  I can't imagine how much time he had to spend to get all that sand out of his hair, ear and probably his nose!  LOL Kids don't care, though.  I love that about them.  The best part of the beach was watching these guys play.

One of the best things I got to do on my vaca was to drink fresh coconut juice and eat Munha (the young, green coconut).  I hadn't had this since I was a kid.  When I saw that my sister had a few coconut trees on her property, I begged my uncle to cut me up a coconut.  It was AWESOME. Unlike regularly eaten coconut, Munha's meat is soft and jelly-like.  It is incredibly sweet.  My mouth is watering just thinking of it.  Anyway, to do it properly, you've gotta use a machete to chop the husk until you get to the inner shell.  Once you hit that, you only want to get a slice of it so that it makes a hole.  Then, you drink the juice straight from the coconut!!  Yumm.  After that, you chop it in half and use the chopped husk to scoop out the soft Munha meat.  Check out the pics below for a visual!

The absolute best thing about my trip was getting to spend time with my mom and sister.  It has been too long since the three of us ladies got to hug each other and just hang out.  I miss my sister so much.  We never got to enjoy each other's relationship as adults.  We grew up the way sisters grow up and then I joined the military and we lived separate lives.  I absolutely miss being able to just have my sister around.  I used to write stories and she'd read them every time I was done with a chapter.  She'd tell me what she liked or didn't like.  She is my all-time favorite reader.  And I miss having her around.

My mom and I went to a salon and got our feet done.  YAY FOR GIRL DAY.  OMG It is amazing how pampered you feel when you get a foot spa and pedicure done after spending 12 hours a day in combat boots every day.  I got to sit in a massage chair, soak my feet in hot salted water, get them rubbed and pedicured.  Probably one of the best forms of pampering you can afford when you're on a tight budget.  It was really cool getting to do something like this with my mom.  Wish we were closer so we could do it more often, at least on occasion.

And finally, one of the things we did on my vacation was this:  My mom adopted a cat.  She works all day long and goes in on weekends, gets called in on her days off, just a good old fashioned work-a-holic.  :P She's single, has her own place that she decorates just the way she likes.  But has no one to share it with at the moment.  So she wanted a cat.  His name is Edward.  He's a gorgeous, regular domestic short hair.  But he is really skittish.  The vet techs said he probably wasn't handled very often as he is really scared of people.  When we brought him to my mom's house, we kept his box open so he could come out on his own whenever he was ready.  And he stayed in there for HOURS.  But finally, at night, he spent a long time playing with the toys we got him.  Of course, he'd run and hide if we made a move LOL.  But I think he'll come around in time when he gets used to my mom's presence.  I think they'll both be very appreciative of being together.

I'm glad I was able to not only take a break from the deployment for a few days, but to visit my family.  It was a priviledge I'll always be grateful for.  Now I'm back to work, ready to get my hands dirty in busy-ness.  Very much refreshed!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

The Gizmo Project

Being away from my kids is really hard.  For all of us, not just for me.  Although they're very well taken care of and absolutely loving their aunts and uncles, they still wonder where their mommy is.  A part of me feels really terrible about this, as if I've abandoned them.  The first month I was gone, Caden would randomly say "My mommy is at work."  He'd be playing and would just stop and say that.  And I knew without a doubt that it was because he was thinking of me and it was almost as if his way of coping with my absence was to tell himself out loud that I'm at work.  Sean, on the other hand, was the one I wondered about.  He was so young when I left him- only a year and a half old.  I'd wonder sometimes if he would forget me.  But my brother told me one day that Sean would see my picture and yell "Mommy!"  A big part of me was sad for him and another part of me was happy that he didn't forget me.  But it really makes me sad that they have to deal with the absence of their mom.

Deployed people deal with this in different ways.  Some Skype their kids every day, some rarely contact their families, and some spend loads of money sending gifts through online shopping.  One of my friends wears a bracelet his daughter made and sent him.  It makes him think of her every time he sees it.  I've taped their pictures all over the walls of my side of the room and every night before I sleep I look at their smiling faces.  But what about them?  How do we help our kids know that we think of them often?

My boss does something really cool to ensure his son knows.  Every time we travel to an outstation, he takes with him one of his son's legos.  It's a tiny little lego man.  He takes a picture of his lego man by the window of the plane and sends it to his son.  It really lets his son know he thinks of him.  So I've decided to try this with Gizmo.

The Gizmo Project will be a picture of Gizmo in every place of my deployment.  Since I just started this recently, I wasn't able to take pictures of a bunch of cool places.  But I'm making up for it by taking as many photos as I can.  I'm going to blog about each place Gizmo has been.  When I'm done with this deployment, Gizmo will be in Caden's arms and I'll end it with that picture.  I'll be making a little storybook about Gizmo's travels.  I'm hoping Caden will find this just as exciting as I do!

So be on the lookout for Gizmo blogs!  Hopefully I can accomplish this with huge success!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Love Is Not For the Lazy

We go through life crushing on people and thinking that all we need is that first hot phase to make it last.  We do things for that other person that we wouldn’t do for anyone else.  We go out of our way to make them feel special.  And over time the newness kind of wears off as we get used to that other person’s presence.  The flowers stop coming.  We have sex less often.  We stop getting excited when that person calls.  The conversations go from talking about things we want to happen to things that happened that day.  We sit across each other in a Starbucks and barely look at each other.  I hear about people who were married 25 years and get divorced after their children go to college because “they fell out of love.”  Bullshit.  The truth is, they stopped working at it.  They got lazy in their marriage. 

“I love him, but…” But what?  Love doesn’t end with a “But.”  If “but” comes after “love,” the statement is an excuse.  Why can’t people be more ballsy and just say “I don’t love him anymore because …” A friend of mine told me “Love should be used as a verb more than an adjective.”  I think if we used love as a verb in our relationships, we would actually figure out how to make that 25 year old marriage a celebration and not something that was just an excuse to our own failure at relationships. 

Love needs nurturing, it isn’t something that just appears and then is expected to stay lit with passion on its own.  People in love are happy because they are excited about each other, appreciate each other as individuals, and feed each other emotional treats that keep that fire lit.  When you think about the first few months of a romantic relationship, you remember that flutter in your belly.  What gave you that flutter?  Dates.  Notes.  Phone calls.  And whatever else kept you interested.  The day one or both of you forgot to do the work was the day you failed. 

Now I’m not na├»ve enough to believe that every good relationship has to be filled with awe inspiring romance.  But I do believe that a good relationship requires both people to love each other and to woo each other so that they don’t forget what the feeling is like.  We get so caught up in the “catch” game that when we’ve won our prize it’s almost as if we believe we don’t need to do anything more after. 

Of course every relationship will have its challenges.  People bicker.  It’s gonna happen.  It’s normal.  I get it.  But when you look at the person you love, do you actually look at them as if you love them?  Do you look at them as if they are valuable to you?  When you argue about something, do you stop and see the frustration on their face?  When you’ve said something mean to them, do you feel how sad you’ve made them feel?  Do you treat them as if they were the most important thing in your life? 

Why does the romance stop?  And please don’t use kids as the excuse.  That’s just sad.  Kids are the one thing that too many divorces are blamed for.  How can the very bond between two people be the cause of its destruction?  No.  Kids are a challenge that test a marriage but if that marriage fails because of “no time” or “she just let herself go,” that’s such a load of crap.  Children are supposed to be an opportunity for a marriage to grow.   Sure it’s going to be hard, but isn’t it worth it?  Men, get off your ass and help your woman out.  Don’t let her get mentally and emotionally drained to the point where she forgets she’s also a woman and not just a mom.  Women, get your sexy back!  Of course having children is tiring, get a damn stroller and take them jogging with you.  Have fun being a mom, but don’t neglect your husband or yourself. 

Whether or not you have children, you both have a responsibility to your marriage.  Work at it.  Fight to stay in love with each other.  Remember what the other person is passionate about, what drives them wild.  And remember that about yourself!  So many people say they’ve lost themselves or have forgotten their dreams.  Isn’t it worth it to fight for that stuff?  Do you really want to be that woman who sits and has that sad look on her face?  Life is such a wonderful gift, why the hell would you waste it?

I don’t know about you, but I want to be in love.  I want to leave a love note on a friggin bathroom mirror so that my “other half” would find it in the morning before I woke up.  I want to stay up late talking about nothing.  I want to wake up in the middle of the night for some spontaneous love making.  I don’t want to be lazy in my relationship.  You know what I want to be lazy in?  Saturday mornings.  That’s it.  But I don’t want to find myself sleeping next to someone two feet away and wonder if he is even in love with me anymore.

Love is worth fighting for.  It’s worth working for.  Don’t you agree?  So get off your ass!  Love is not for the lazy.