Friday, September 30, 2011

The End. Probably.

Wow. So this blog did not go the way I thought it was going to go.

Scratch that. The way I hoped it was going to go. I pretty much thought it would turn out exactly like this.

We're winding down on this deployment. As we speak, bags are being assembled for single soldiers, banners are being hung in the appropriate places and 500 housewives are wondering if a weed-whacker wouldn't be more appropriate than a razor.

What have I learned? Well, I've RE-learned that I have no discipline. I've learned that for all my good intentions, people still basically get on my nerves. I've learned that a two-week window of sex out of an entire year IS NOT ENOUGH. I've learned that stress is an even bigger bitch than I am.

Mostly, I've learned a new kind of respect for the spouses that have done this more than once over the last 10 years. That even though people do mostly get on my nerves, I still want to help them. I know what this burden is now - first hand - and I want to support efforts to ease it. I'll have to see where that desire takes me.

I've also re-learned that my husband is my friend, and one of a very small group of people with whom I reciprocate unconditional love. I've found proof of depths in him that I maybe only suspected before.

I've learned where the strengths are in our family dynamic. And the weak spots. That my kid is rapidly leaving childhood. Maybe a little too rapidly for my brain to comprehend. But I've learned that my heart knows it, anyway.

Every deployment is different every time, for every person. This idea was repeated to us ad nauseum before his battalion left last October and I heard it but I didn't really understand it. I think I do, now. Certainly I've seen a number of spouses handle it differently. Hopefully, this will be the last time R goes into a combat zone on the orders of his Commander in Chief. But if it's not, I know next time will be different. We'll be older, more experienced, more weary. Lots of things will be different, even though the stress will be mostly the same.

I've learned - again  - that the best you can do is take each day as it comes. Funny how the most trite lessons are the ones that have to be relearned over and over.

Thursday, June 30, 2011


One of the things about R's job this deployment for which I am grateful is that he doesn't move around a lot. As an engineer, he gets to basically stay in one spot until the project is finished, and because he's not currently attached to a combat engineer unit, those spots are relatively safe and secure.

Not that he hasn't had the other experience, too. He was in Iraq in 2003, and those conditions - no matter what the soldier's job - were.... hmm, well, enough has been said on that subject elsewhere. My point being that when it comes to the logistics of this deployment, I am well aware of how lucky I am.

Spoiled, some might say. I do so little worrying, that when a seemingly innocuous change occurs in R's position, I am alarmingly freaked out by my own anxiety.

Recently, he had to travel some 1300 miles from one relatively safe location to another relatively safe location. It wasn't the locations (both familiar) which bothered me - it was that 1300 miles in between.

How would he be traveling? It's never a non-stop trip, where would he be stopping? Would those stops even be voluntary? Was the mode of transport safe? What if his transport was shot at? What if it broke down? What if 101 other possible scenarios happened during travel time?

Seriously? It's not even the first time this deployment he's covered those same 1300 miles! Get. A. Grip.

I'm not a worrier - much too lazy, basically. I have a firm belief in controlling what you can control and letting the rest sort itself out. (This belief was a hard won result of unlearning control-freak tendencies. Oh yes, I've seen the other side, AND IT AIN'T PRETTY.) This allows me to acknowledge the basic bitchiness of fate without taking it personally.

But worrying about R over those 1300 miles made me feel very vulnerable. Like maybe Fate was the popular kid in middle school and she was alternately laughing at me or threatening me. (I survived that, too, so I'm not sure why that makes a good analogy, except that it's a craptacular feeling.)

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Let's take a walk.

Yesterday I dropped Ro off at a friend's house in a little village about 10 minutes from our house. I brought the dog and drove still further out, in search of a novel setting for the dog to sniff. I didn't have to go far (about 3km outside the village) to find a shady spot to park and an inviting path. Thought you might like to come along...

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Wee bit o' rant

This deployment has been an adjustment for Ro, no doubt about it. But aside from one marked crying jag and a few reminders that letters are just as important as email, she's done remarkably well. She does remarkably well with most life changes, from stuff she can't affect (like puberty) to stuff she would be well within her rights to blame her parents for (like moving her around a lot).

She recently had her last day as a middle-schooler which was also sadly her last day with her best friend (whose own parents move around a lot - it's kind of a recurring theme in the Army), and the whole day saw her gently philosophical - a little bittersweet nostalgia that she acknowledged as it passed through her but equally optimistic about moving on.

Someone said I was lucky that my kid had that kind of attitude.

The fact that they thought it was luck silenced any further comment I could have made on the subject.

"Luck" is giving birth to healthy baby with no debilitating genetic disorders. "Luck" is watching her progress from toddlerhood to childhood without being subsumed by autism. "Luck" is taking her to a school that doesn't blow up from a gas leak. These things are lucky. The rest is work.

I'm not in a place anymore where I feel like I have to defend my work as a parent. Ro does that easily for me with her intelligence, honesty and humor. For a while there, I did kind of run around going "You see how well-adjusted my kid is? WELL THAT'S REALLY HARD WORK, SUCKERS! THEY DON'T HAND OUT YOU'LL-BE-FINE-PILLS TO PUT IN THE FORMULA, YOU KNOW!" Fortunately, I'm mostly over my astonishment that something as stable as my kid could come from a stunned 21 year old single mom who made $8 an hour and nursed a serious chip on her shoulder.

Mostly. *ahem*

But I am still, consistently, and even regularly bowled-over flabbergasted that the parents of Ro's peers haven't yet figured out the difference between luck and IT'S-CALLED-PARENTING-YOU-YAHOOS.

My kid ain't perfect, y'all. She's not great at finishing a job that she's lost enthusiasm for (or never had in the first place). She can turn a mole-hill into Mount-fucking-Everest in 2.6 seconds flat (a trait most adolescent girls share and which she may or may not grow out of). There are a couple of other things that make her human that may stick with her into adulthood, none of which concern me overly much and certainly none of which surprise me.

They don't surprise me because I pay attention. Not just to her, but to myself. I rarely do all the dishes in one go - I hate that chore and procrastinate as much as possible. Ditto brushing the dog or washing the car. So I can see how she wouldn't have picked up stick-to-it-iveness from me. I almost never employ tact at home (it's so exhausting!) and while she'll compulsively (and annoyingly) play devil's advocate with me, her friends and teachers tell me she's quite the straight-talker at school.

She rolls with the punches because I taught her - through instruction and example - how. She doesn't base her self-worth on what other people think of her because we don't shiv-a-git what other people think about us at home. She likes bad puns and slapstick because her dad makes her laugh with that stuff all the time. (They are huge fans of that Wipeout show - it's more fun for me to watch them watching the t.v.)

Ro isn't the way she is out of luck. Partly it was circumstances (based largely on my choices - which, hello! weren't always good ones) and mostly it was a determined effort to treat her like a person capable of rational thought. Listening to other parents of my acquaintance talk about their kids like glitchy robots incapable of self-determination makes me want to HOLD A MIRROR UP TO THEIR SOUR, PINCHED FACES.

Look, Aristotle said that the unexamined life wasn't worth living. I say it sure as hell isn't worth passing onto your kids.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

From Beat generation to Bleat generation

I watched "Howl" a few days ago. The 2010 Rob Epstein mish-mash of surrealist animation, docu-drama and James Franco as Allan Ginsburg (Franco was hovering around brilliant, btw). Anyway, it's an okay movie, but parts about the obscenity trial got me to thinking.

The so-called "Beat Generation" was a sort of reactionary art form against the tide of conservatism and enforced normal of American culture after WWII. My perception of it (removed, as I am, by a couple of generations) is that while the mainstream of society was running around sort of manically going, "Everything's fine! We're all great! See how normal we are with our little Johnny and Suzie and Fido and our spiffy new Chrysler," there was this seething mass "This ain't right" grumbling under the surface. And yeah, every generation has that element, but put in the context of post war years, with parents who had grown up hungry and come back from Europe or the Pacific dead... you can see how an entire generation of young people would go - "Um, no." How they would fidget and whine and sulk in the childhood of the counter-culture, until they busted out in the full on rebellion of the 1960's.

The reason this got me to thinking is because Ro's generation is to the Iraq & Afghanistan wars what the beat generation was to WWII. I hold out a ridiculously optimistic hope that those wars will be over (that's a subjective goal and one better defined in another post, but for now insert your own definition) as she and her peers come into their own after high school and I can't help but wonder - what kind of counter culture will they embrace?

I suppose that all depends on what we insist on teaching them is "normal" now, doesn't it? And I'm not just talking about aquamarine hair-dos courtesy of Lady Gaga, or the inherent selfishness of politicians and pro-sports figures. Yes, media is more prevalent in our lives than ever before, but I still believe that kids take their cues from their parents. It's not Congressman Weiner's uh... weiner that will make an impression on kids, it's how their parents react to it. It's not the repeal of the gay ban in the military that will shape young minds, it's what they hear at home about it.

This isn't to say that kids automatically perpetuate their parent's attitudes into adulthood. Of course not. But whether or not their own life experience diverges from the values they were taught will determine how pissed off they get as they try to find their own way.

A military community is an interesting microcosm of American parenting. It seems sort of equally divided into Whatevers and Control Freaks. The children of Whatevers have no experience with self-discipline or the civic benefits of social conformity while the children of Control Freaks don't learn to think for themselves or navigate situations outside their parents' comfort zone. What will they bring to the table, collectively, ten years from now?

I think it's safe to say obscenity trials are a thing of past. At least, in the legal sense. While we no longer take poets to task for using the word "fuck," we still castigate our public figures for having the sexual sensibility of a 13 year old. In an age of portable internet access, digital manipulation and 24 hour news - what will Ro's generation rebel against?

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

...wherein I create a vacuum.

I suck.

I know I suck.

Bring the criticisms, bitchez! Bring. It.

It is genetically impossible for me to start a project and bring it to a successful and satisfactory completion. Please see: Dog sleeping in her own bed (nope), Exercise plan (bwahahahahaaaa!), Learning 100 French verbs (le WTF?), Showering every day (ehhh...), etc. So you can see how this blog was doomed from the start.

Also, I have a confession to make. I have been fighting my nature. To be fair, I didn't know I was fighting my nature, I thought I was just undergoing a particularly painful transformation into a positive, well-adjusted, serene earth-mother type who smiled graciously all the time and bestowed benevolent advice like throwing flowers petals around in slow-motion arcs.

Pardon me for a moment (sensitive eyes should avert themselves):

Turns out I was actually having adamantium surgically grafted to my skeleton and I've recently woken up snarling. And with mutton chops. (Mutton chops are those extra pockets of fat that poke out from under the sides of your bra, right?)

R has already been home for his 2 week r&r and left again. And while those 2 weeks were perfectly enjoyable, stress-free and full of family- and couple-quality-time in equal balance, they did make me realize a hard truth.

I have been FAKING IT. The FRG bullshit, the million-and-one projects I outlined for myself, the sympathetic sisterhood with my fellow army wives... Fake, fake, and fake. I realized, as I left him at the train station, that I am absolutely, unequivocally not up to the task of treating the 2nd half of this deployment like I did the first.

Clue number one: "Smiling graciously" on me looks more like "Oops, sorry - I think a fart just came out of my mouth."
Clue number two: Positive can piss off.
Clue number three: Benevolent advice and flower petals are equally useful - which is to say, like tits on bike riding fish.
Clue number four: Suck it.

I quit as FRG co-leader (see aforementioned handicap re: completing things). I trashed my long term to-do list. I bought every season of Smallville on DVD. I'm getting used to doggie morning breath.

The thing is - I do tough. I just don't do it with a smile. I thought I could, and I think I really gave it a good ol' college try, but I have 30+ years of survival tactics that fit me like a pair of old jeans and I can't play dress up anymore. So if you were coming here to see the new and improved A, complete with keep-your-chin-up affirmations and kindness and understanding... Sorry. I kicked that bitch's ass.

I'll post when I feel like it. It may or may not have a picture. Probably I'll rant a lot. Definitely I'll let my freaky, hyperbole-flag fly. And the rest of the world can reference clue number four.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Conversations with the warrior.

The sun is back. Mostly I'm happy about this because it means the return of my motivation in all areas. I throw open the curtains on my huge picture windows and light floods my inner spaces. Like a solar panel, I can feel myself charging up - skin stretching, cells expanding, soul surging. Seratonin practically bursts forth from my head, like a fully-formed warrior.

But then on the exhalation, with all my nerves tingling in newfound awareness, it comes to me that something is missing. After four months, it's not a surprise - there's no jolt back to the state of normal that defines this year - it's just a reminder. A two-fingered jab into the fleshy part on the back of my shoulder that says, "Hey you, remember me?"

Yes, of course. How could I not? You keep turning up like a bad penny. When I'm fixing dinner, you haunt the shadowed doorway. When I'm brushing my teeth, you grin maliciously from a corner of the mirror. When I wrap my arms around his pillow, you're the sound of only one heartbeat pulsing in my ear. You're there with every random thought that I want to share and every funny story that I know would make him laugh.

The reminder is silent.

Of course you don't have anything to say now. There's no need, right? Not when I acknowledge you as the proverbial elephant in the room. Well, I'll do you one better. Not only do I acknowledge you - I accept you, you pale, insubstantial substitute for the real thing. You aren't my enemy. You're my weapon. One of many, together with the smiles of our daughter, the energy of our dog, the sunshine and the activities, the goals and the projects - they're all weapons to fight the real enemy. You've got a double edge, sure, every sword does. It's taken me a while to learn how to use every tool in my arsenal. 

Insidious and ghostlike you may be, but as long as you're hovering around the edges, I know what's important. You remind me of what's worth fighting for and the real enemy - indifference - doesn't stand a chance.

Monday, March 7, 2011


Shortly after I took this picture, Heidi and I tried to grab the same stick, in the same place - at the same time. The difference was, she used her teeth and I used my hand. This scenario did not end well for anyone. 

So I've been gone awhile, in case you haven't noticed. After being laid low by a disease state throwback to the plague, I re-emerged to find that the world did not, in fact, stand still while I was sick and all the things I had committed to before being overrun with guerrilla viral germs were still there, impatiently awaiting my attention. This led me to think that perhaps my next commitment should be to a loony bin, but then I looked around my house and thought, "And the big difference would be....?"


Somehow - and actually I know how, but I'm not going into it right now because the self-pity card plays better when I feign ignorance -  I ended up with volunteer positions at our garrison's Public Affairs Office and as a delegate at our local-level AFAP conference. The PAO job is on-going (roving-reporter type) and the AFAP delegate (see the link for more info about that if you're curious) turned into a public speaking gig that made my hands shake and my knees knock. (I'm not a huge fan of public speaking - my own or anyone else's. But it's my own that makes my heart do an impression of a rock drum solo. Other people's just annoy me.)

All this hasn't left me a lot of time to ruminate on the trials and tribulations of a deployment which was KIND OF THE IDEA. While my sanity has benefited, sadly this blog has not. The good news is that motivation has returned with the sunshine and I'm sure I'll have some biased and emotional opinions to spew all over the place soon. 

Tuesday, February 8, 2011


I seriously had ambitions for this week, but this -->
has become my whole world for the moment. Only with more pounding migraine pain.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

We now return to our regularly scheduled madness...

In true poltergeist or bad penny fashion, I'm back! A break seems to have been the right remedy because I feel refreshed and energized and ready to tackle the year like the Army Wife version of David Harris (LB for the NY Jets who leads the NFL in tackles and yes, I totally had to google that info).

I have spent my time taking stock of how I really want to spend my time and what subjects I really want to talk about, as well as modifying my volunteer commitments to suit my time, temperament and skills. Turning this into a once-a-week picture blog is, right now, the most visible result of that decision-making process. Of course, I reserve the right to post more often if inspiration strikes, but it's a more efficient use of my style to do something really meaningful once a week rather than something obligatory every day.

I have been on-again, off-again about whether or not to drop the FRG co-leadership position which has been challenging in some not-great ways, but after talking it out with the other person, I think we've reached a compromise that will allow me to contribute in the ways I'm good at, while sparing me the headaches that come from proverbially bashing my head against the brick wall aspects.

Part of the FRG decision had to do with another volunteer commitment that I've assigned myself and which I'm a little hesitant to reveal yet because I haven't officially started. I will say that it's an incredible personal opportunity to polish some of my skills that may (just may, mind you) lead to professional opportunities later. I am really excited and can't wait until I'm able to share more!

There have been personal development classes, interesting reading, meandering dog walks through frozen fields, a kid who made first runner up in her school spelling bee, internet problems, noisy basement construction, trip planning, photo taking, soldier supporting, dog hair vacuuming, dish washing, laundry sorting kinds of activities that seem to advance on me like a stampeding herd of water buffalo, then trickle away once completed in a careless sort of distraction - completely uninterested in me after I've tied myself into knots to accommodate them!

I may be assigning a bit more enmity (not to mention intelligence) to a pile of dirty clothes than it strictly deserves, but I swear the dishes are conspiring against me to multiply in the night.

Not to bore you with talk of the weather, but the self-restraint Mother Nature has shown in NOT snowing or raining on us in several days (even going so far as to allow a blazing winter sun to shine through - twice) has contributed immensely to my good mood. In further proof that I am incurring a huge karmic debt by revelling in my good fortune, I give you this week's picture, for which Heidi actually sat still and posed, turning her head to look at the camera instead of rushing over to knock me off my squat and licking me to death.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Station Break

I'm putting this blog on a brief hiatus while I... a.) work on a couple of other projects I have going on and b.) figure out exactly where I want this blog to go.

My goal was to be nakedly honest with every picture and post and I find that trying to keep up that level of intensity on a daily basis is just too much. At the same time, allowing myself to slip back into glib and self-congratulatory humor leads to laziness on my part, and I find myself lacking motivation to post every day. I'm leaning strongly to modifying to a once-a-week post, which will improve the quality of my pictures for sure, but I still have to come to terms with the level of candidness I thought I wanted to post here.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

This will be here until somebody knocks it down in a drunken Fasching haze.

We took the Christmas decorations down this weekend. Usually, I'm itching to take them down the day after Christmas, but we didn't have many up this year and nothing that was in the way, as a tree seems to be after the presents are put away. Also, Germans keep celebrating the Christmas season right up until Fasching in February, so there are still decorations scattered about town.

Case in point:

Found this as I walked the dog around downtown Schweinfurt today. Everything is closed on Sunday, and that makes for a nice stroll when the sun is out - which it totally was today!! To tell the truth, I'm relieved the holidays are over. Ro did a fantastic job of keeping the holiday spirit around, but I could tell she was trying extra hard because I was... uh... not trying as hard. I wouldn't go so far as to say "sulking," but definitely not feelin' it.

With the weather taking a break from the doom and gloom, and the holidays safely tucked away in their boxes in the basement, I can start focusing on 2011 and all the awesome stuff that is going to happen this year. Awesome, expensive stuff - but totally worth it!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

It's not too big!

People sometimes ask me how I maintain such a positive attitude in the face of this deployment. I usually look over my shoulder to see who the heck they're talking to, and then when I realize they mean me, respond, "I play with dolls. Voodoo dolls of every member of Congress." It's a great stress reliever!

But honestly, I have to give props to my daily walk with my dog. I don't really push myself physically - it's not like I jog or anything. But that's mainly because I have a hard time staying upright when I'm LAUGHING SO HARD.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Ma petite Cezanne

Ro asked me what I wanted for Christmas this year and I said a 26-inch waistline and a private, nekkid reading of "To A Mouse" from Gerard Butler. She gave me a look that could wither a marble statue and asked what I might like from her for Christmas. I asked for some of her artwork to put in a little frame and went to sulk about my waistline.

I'm not embarrassed to tell you that I totally cried when I opened this. Big, fat, drippy tears that dumbfounded Ro and that she will no doubt remind me of when next I tell her to stop being so dramatic.

Sunday, January 9, 2011


I wanted to have the thank you note in my in-laws' hands before I posted this picture, but since their note is still sitting on my desk waiting to be mailed, I guess that's not going to happen.

This is one of three (three!!) awesome, awesome cookbooks they sent me for Christmas. This one is 612 pages and in addition to giving a brief history of sauce making (ancient Greeks used fermented fish guts - blech), includes the hows and whys and what-with's of basically every kind of classic and modern sauce-making concoction you can think of! I'm so excited I don't even care that I ended that sentence with a preposition!

Anyway, I'm anxious to start my self-appointed lesson plan. The first class is on... lemme see here... [flipping pages] - ah, Liaisons! Oooh, sounds so illicit, doesn't it? Leave it to the French to make "thickening agent" sound dirty.

Okay, I'm off to liaison with something butter based. See you after my heart attack!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

In my defense, part of my brain is still missing.

Yesterday the mothership of all headaches crashed landed into the back of my head and search and rescue had to go looking for my brains under all the debris. It was messy. And incapacitating. Ergo, no picture.

Today, miracle of all miracles, THE SUN CAME OUT. I know! I was so excited that I packed the dog into the car and raced downtown to hang out in the sluice-ways of mud (formerly known as sidewalks) with the rest of the town. And forgot to check my camera for the memory card. But rather than drop the ball two days in a row (which makes it hard to keep track of which day I'm on) I'll just post a picture I took last week, and we'll pretend it's from today, okay? No? Not okay? Well, tough, it's my blog.

This is the head of a stone fountain in a park not far from where I live. I had to get right up on this sucker before I could figure out that was an upturned face. Pretty grotesque, really.

Thursday, January 6, 2011


Just squeaked this pick in today. School was cancelled due to the 4 inch sheet of ICE coating every surface outside. I found this out at 6 a.m. when I let the dog out to pee and promptly fell on my butt. Which was still in pajama pants. Stop laughing, dammit.

Anyway, I decided to make a huge batch of caramel corn and Ro and I had a movie afternoon. What good is staying home if you can't rot your teeth AND your brain at the same time?

Also, today is day 75 out of 365. It's too long. And not long enough.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Bright Spot.

This is either a new school or a new wing to the old school that it sits next door to. (He he. "Old school.") It was completed last year. I love the bright colors in the snow. Behind this building sits a couple of fields that in the summer grow wheat and it's symbiotic little sidekick, red poppies. I can't wait to see that landscape!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

It's still snowing.

And I hate it a little more EVERY DAY. Which has absolutely nothing to do with this picture, I just felt like getting that out there.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Happy New Year

I hereby renew my effort to post a picture EVERY DANG DAY!
Yes, I know I'm a day late for new year's resolutions - the irony is not lost on me, I assure you.

It's so hard when the sun has been in what seems like permanent exile - everything is gray, gray, GRAY. And photography is supposed to be about writing with light, right? NOT VERY INSPIRING, MOTHER NATURE.

I imagine this means even more reliance on my reluctant (or oblivious, as the case may be) models, Heidi and Ro.