Dear Crazy Brunette Lady in the Beige Honda:

I know that the construction going on in Michigan gets annoying.  I know that being stuck in traffic really sucks, especially if you’re late for something.  Especially if you’re in a hurry.  I get that.  I really do.

I also know how hard it can be sometimes to merge into crazy freeway traffic.  It’s hard to judge sometimes if the big semi is going to change lanes or if the cute guy in the silver pickup truck is going to slow down or speed up so that you can get in.  It’s frustrating sometimes, that’s true.

However.  Today, that was MY cute guy in the silver pickup truck.  And he was simply driving home from an important meeting in our state’s capital.  You saw him.  You saw him in his Army camo with the “Iraq Veteran” license plate.  I know you flipped him off lots and lots of times, to express your discontent at his driving style.  I know it made you really mad when you were continually flipping him off and he smiled and waved as he passed you by. 

But for you to then scribble a note on a piece of paper…for you to speed up to pull alongside him and press that note on your window for him to read…for you to write “You should have died in Iraq”…I wonder what you’ve been through.  I wonder what in life could have made you so angry.  What could have made you so bitter?  How could you have become so unfeeling?

My Sarge has a wife who loves him.  He has three children who adore him.  His parents care for and respect him.  He is a productive member of society who pays his bills and recycles.  He drove the streets of Baghdad every day for a year, trying to avoid the roadside bombs and sniper fire.  He lost a friend over there.  Other friends are dealing even now with PTSD.  He spent a year away from his family, wondering every single moment if he would ever see us again.

But I’m sorry that the traffic was bad.  You’re right.  That sucks. 

I’m going to pray for you tonight, as I lie in bed waiting for sleep to come.  I’m going to pray that you can let go of the anger.  That you can find some peace.  It must be miserable to be so miserable.

And then I’m going to snuggle up to Sarge and say goodnight.  And I plan to thank God that Sarge didn’t die in Iraq, no matter what you say should have happened. 

I hope your drive tomorrow goes better.

-Bunchy

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Home Again

There are many things about being a military wife that are difficult and unique.  My husband is, at times, gone more often than he is here.  He was in Iraq for 15 months a few years ago, and has recently heard that he will be deployed again (we’re not sure where) next summer for a year.  Then there’s the whole risking your life thing.  And the fact that considering what he does, he doesn’t make a whole lot of money.  For many, there’s the constant moving away from friends and family, though because of Sarge’s specific job, that’s not an issue for us.  The list can go on and on.

Perhaps one of the most unexpected challenges, however, has been a battle of dependence vs. independence.  The nature of being a military wife dictates that you need to have a good measure of independence in you.  There are many times when your soldier will be away for weeks (or months) on end, and you need to be able to make it on your own.  While I’m not big on handy-man type stuff around the house, I’m very used to doing the rest all by myself.  A lot.  I taxi the kids from baseball and gymnastics and doctor’s appointments.  I handle the money and try to keep the house clean.  I make decisions on discipline, bedtimes, house rules, and sibling fights.  I do it all.

When we sign the kids up for sports or other activities, I do so based on if I can get everyone where they need to be by myself.  If I make plans for me, I always do so with the thought of needing to have a babysitter in place just in case.  I’ve hosted parties and attended parties all by myself.  I’ve hired house repairs and car repairs, and purchased new appliances on my own.  I’ve redecorated, rearranged, and reconfigured all alone.  I’ve even coached Spike’s baseball team when none of the regular coaches have been able to go.  (It didn’t go so well, in case you’re wondering.)  I am very capable of…and very used to…doing it all on my own, and doing it fairly well.

But then Sarge comes home.  And he tries to find a place to fit in, when we’ve made new rules, or have been fighting the same battle for a week, or have started doing something a bit differently, and he hasn’t been a part of it.  He wants us to need him, as any man does.  And yet….we have to NOT need him so much of the time.  We’ve had to learn to get by without him, as a necessary part of our life.  We have to be able to survive as just the four of us.

So when he comes home we start this battle of trying to figure out how to move forward without the resentment.  And it’s always a battle.  He resents that we saw this movie or went to that restaurant without him.  I resent that he missed Blondie’s recital or wasn’t home to help when Goo was so sick.  He resents that I moved his favorite chair or that the garage became such a mess after he had just cleaned it.  I resent that I haven’t had time out with my friends or that he came in and dropped all his Army stuff in the middle of my clean kitchen.  He resents that I changed the rule about letting the dog outside without his knowledge, and I resent that I suddenly have to make him aware of every plan or all my whereabouts all the time.  There’s just always this resentment.

So we talk about it.  We work past it.  We figure it out.  Sometimes a little of the resentment remains but we try to be patient and eventually even that dwindles away.  And soon, things are comfortable again and we’re back to being one happy family. 

And then he leaves.  Again.

We’ll keep talking.  We’ll keep battling our way past it.  We’ll keep on keeping on, because we love each other and because we want this all to work out.  But there are days…there are times….like today, when I’m just so tired of the cycle.

Progress

Me:  (snoring)
Goo:  Mom!  Mom, wake up!
Me:  Hmmmm?
Goo:  Mom, can I have a snack?
Me:  (silence)
Goo:  Wait, don’t answer that.  I know what you’re going to say.  “No, but   you can have breakfast!”  Alright, I’ll have breakfast.  (Walks away.)

Me:  (washing dishes)
Goo:  Mom!  Mom, can I go play with my Army guys?
Me:  (silent, thinking through my answer)
Goo:  Wait, I know what you’re going to say.  “Okay but everything you take out you’re going to have to put away!”  Don’t worry…I will.  (Walks away.)

Me: (on the phone)
Blondie:  Mom!  Mom, can I go outside and play with Molly?
Me:  (holding up my finger for her to wait a moment)
Blondie:  I know, I know.  You’re on the phone and if I can’t stop interrupting I’ll have to go to my room.  (Walks away.)

Me:  (waiting by the side door with my purse so we can go to Spike’s baseball game.)
Spike: (yelling from his room)  Mom!  Mom!  Have you seen my baseball glove?
Me:   (thinking)
Spike:  I know, I know.  My baseball glove is not your responsibility.  I’ll keep looking.

Wow, it’s only taken 4,973, 503, 426 times.  But I think they might be getting it!

Growing Up

Yesterday my kids and I were invited to my friend R’s house to swim in his fabulous pool, complete with diving board, slide, and changing rooms.  Seeing as it was in the 90’s and I don’t have air conditioning, we were quick to accept the invitation, and I brought my famous cheesy potatoes and a batch of cookies to contribute to the event.  When we arrived, we were told that R’s 15 year old daughter S was having a birthday sleepover that evening, and many of the girls sleeping over would be swimming with us.  No problem!  The more, the merrier.

So there we were.  Me, my 6 year old son, my 10 year old daughter, and last but not least my 14 year old son Spike.  And about six 15 year old girls.  Did you catch that?  My 14 year old son, and six 15 year old girls.  In their swimsuits.  They swam in the pool and jumped off the diving board.  Then they went over to the volleyball net and played a quick game of volleyball, and then they went swimming again.  Hours of fun in the hot, hot sun.

As everyone was lining up to get our dinner, I was standing next to Spike, and nudged him with my elbow.  He looked at me, and I looked pointedly around me.  “Boy, you sure are lucky.”  I said.  I expected my sweet, innocent son to look at me questioningly, cock his head to the side, and say, “Why?”  I expected him to be clueless about why I, as his mother, would smile teasingly at him and tell him that he’s a lucky boy.  I was preparing to explain myself. 

But Spike didn’t ask why.  He didn’t look confused.  Instead, he just smiled mischievously, and shrugged, and walked off to join the girls at the picnic table.

Ug.

Oh Happy Day!

Today is, officially, the first day of Spring.  For those of you who live in sunny Florida or mild Arkansas or desert-y Arizona, this may not mean much to you.  I read some of your blogs and you have pictures from yesterday of your kids in shorts and sandals playing on the playground, or you are describing the baseball games your son played, or wondering what kind of flowers are popping up in the front yard of your new home.  For those of you up here in the North, like me, however…the first day of Spring is all about hope and renewal.

Hope that my children might once again be able to go outside and play and get the heck out of my hair while I’m trying to make dinner or sweep the kitchen floor.  A renewal of determination to actually Spring clean this year.  A hope that I might once again see the laundry room floor, since spring and summer mean less laundry.  (They do!!  Shorts and t-shirts are much smaller than jeans and sweaters!  And in summer, we eliminate pajamas altogether as my kids just sleep in their underwear!)  A renewal of health as I can finally get back outside and walk with my friend B without stepping in snow up to my knees or worrying about slipping on ice and cracking my noggin.  A  hope that my teenager’s brain won’t shrivel up and die from the video games he plays all winter long, as he’ll be back outside  playing baseball and basketball with his friends.  A renewal of the color in my skin, which during the winter just turns a ghastly, pasty white. 

See?  Hope and renewal.  And don’t tell me that it’s only 21 degrees outside.  I KNOW it’s only 21 degrees outside.  Trust me.  I sent my children to school in their bulky down jackets and winter hats and gloves.  I know it’s 21 degrees.  But it’s a signal that winter really WON’T last forever.  It will come to an end.  Someday.  I think.

Until then, I’ll be doing laundry.

It Must Be Genetic

My nine-year-old daughter is a packrat.  She saves everything from old shoe boxes to school papers from first grade to the tags that we take off her new clothes.  Every nook and cranny of her bedroom is filled with stuff that she’s buried away like a squirrel in the fall.  I’ve wondered for a long time why she is like that.  After all, I am probably the complete opposite of a packrat…throwing stuff away if I can’t find a good place to keep it.  But today, I found a clue to her behavior.

I was lying on the bed, chatting with my husband about our plans for the day as he cleaned off his closet shelf and cleaned out his top dresser drawer.  As I watched the items that he pulled out and sorted, I came to the realization that packrat-ness runs in the family.  And the more he pulled out, the more I laughed.

From his closet shelf, Sarge took a bayonette for an AK-47, a large roll of glow-in-the-dark tape, and a gun-cleaning kit.  He found an 18-year-old Army cap for his dress greens, a couple of military medals, a pair of red suspenders, and some ear protection for when he practices shooting.  He also pulled out a magnetic tool picker-upper-thingie and, strangely enough, an antique clay thrower. 

Then he moved on to his top dresser drawer.  It has not been deemed a “junk drawer” officially…it is supposed to hold his socks and underwear.  However, after seeing what he pulled out of it, I may need to relocate the socks and underwear.  The top drawer collection included two maps of Michigan, two armbands that were worn in Iraq, two exercise bands given to him by his physical therapist (which have never been used, by the way), and some paperwork on how to control your cholesterol.  He also pulled out a padlock, a deck of “All American Dad” playing cards that one of the kids got him for Christmas a couple of years ago, an old pair of glasses, two old cell phones, and a “make your own office stamp” kit, which in all fairness he gave to me and I just haven’t used yet.  The more he pulled from that drawer, the more I laughed.  He tried to defend himself, saying that he isn’t a packrat at all, but by the end, I think even he was amused.  I told him it would make a great post, and he tried to act mad at me about using him as fodder for my blog.  But I think he saw the value in such an array of objects being pulled from such unlikely places. 

So it seems that Blondie comes by her packrat habits naturally.  She’s just a chip off the old Sarge.  Mystery solved.

Parental Guidance NOT Required, Apparently.

Right.  So the whole “posting every day” thing?  Not so much.  Life sorta, you know, got in the way.  You know how it goes.  And plus there’s Facebook. 

Yesterday Blondie came home from school sporting some wicked road rash on her face.  I mean…really nasty.  I was shocked, and wondered why the school didn’t call to let me know.  Turns out, it happened on the way to the bus stop yesterday morning.  She had to walk a city block, and this happened.  (Seriously, how do you even get road rash on the bridge of your nose??  I’m not sure I understand.)  She was bleeding.  She was crying.  She was hurt and upset.  Did she turn around and come home to tell me that she was hurt, so I could clean her up and then drive her to school?  Nope.  She just got on the bus, crying and bleeding.  When she got to school, she went to the office to clean up a little.  She wanted to call me.  They said there was nothing I could really do, since those were just scrapes on her face.  They gave her a Band-Aid and sent her back to class. 

Now it’s true that I couldn’t have done anything but offer some sympathy.  It’s true that by that time, most of the pain was gone and the bleeding had stopped and she was fine.  I wouldn’t have gone to school to pick her up.  I wouldn’t have left work to check out her injuries.  I would have simply listened to the story, asked if she was okay, and told her I was sorry she was hurt.  I would have let her know that if she is ever injured on the way to the bus stop again, she should come home and let me know.  I would have given her a little Mommy-love and told her I would see her after school.  Instead, my nine-year-old daughter went through an entire school day looking like she was a member of a fight club, and I didn’t know anything about it.

I’m not mad at the school.  I’m not going to call and yell at someone.  I’m sure they get a gazillion kids in the office every day wanting to call home for some reason or another.  I guess it just bothers me that I didn’t know what was going on with my own kid.  Even if it was an injury that didn’t really need medical attention, it was still an injury.  And I am, after all, her mother.  I would have wanted to know about it.  I did want to know about it.  Instead, my little girl came home looking like this:

roadrash1

I know, right?

Pity Party

This past year, Sarge has been away a lot.  I mean, really…a lot.  A week here, two weeks there, four days up north, three days down south.  Whatever it was…he was gone a lot.  Some of it was boring.  He was in Grayling for much of it, and really…there’s not much to do in Grayling.  But some of it was fun as well as work.  He spent over two weeks in Germany.  He spent a few days at a conference that took place in a golf resort.  Wherever he went, it was at least a change of scenery.  A change of pace.  A new adventure.  And while he was gone, I was here.  Packing lunches and doing laundry and making dinner and taxi-ing kids from place to place.  Did I complain?  Well, actually…yes, a little bit.  But I tried to console myself with the thought that it was much better than it was when he was in Iraq.  Fifteen months was hard…two weeks is nothing.  And I’m not worried about his safety or his life.  I can do this.  Right?  Besides, it was just a fluke that he had to be gone that much.  Next year would be much better.

Today, I found out what is planned for him so far…when he has to be gone in 2009.  The list is not complete…there are often other trips that come up here and there.  But his tentative schedule takes him away from home not only a weekend a month, but also for a total of nine weeks, May through August.  Which means that with all the weddings I’m coordinating in May and June, and him gone so often through August, that’s our summer.  Our summer is already gone, and it’s not even 2009 yet.  Do you know how depressing that is??

For the most part, I’m used to it.  I’m used to the Army not giving a damn whether or not our family actually gets to spend time together.  I’m used to doing this whole “mom” thing by myself a good portion of the time.  I’m used to “goodnight, Daddy” phone calls and not talking for a couple of days in a row and handling it all on my own.  You get used to it.  But let me be clear.  It’s not fair.

I do okay for a few months.  I keep the home fires burning and work 25 hours a week and make dinner and make sure everyone has clean underwear and socks.  My kitchen floors aren’t always mopped and the bathrooms aren’t always spotless, but I do okay.  But after a while, I need to get away for a little bit.  I’m not talking a month in the Bahamas.  I’m talking a couple of nights in a hotel at least an hour away.  A change of scenery, where I can relax without thinking about all the things I should be doing.  A little bit of time where I can slow down and have a new adventure and just be ME for a while without all the other stuff getting in the way. 

Am I jealous of his travel?  You bet I am.  He gets to go to Germany again!  He gets to be all by himself in a hotel room and have complete silence.  The crazy thing is, he doesn’t even really like it.  He doesn’t like to be by himself for a whole evening.  He gets bored in a silent room.  Grrr.

So I have decided.  If he’s going to be gone much of the summer, I am planning a trip this Spring.  I’m not sure where I’ll go, or what I’ll do.  I don’t know how it will work out.  I’m not sure if I can find a girlfriend or two to go with me or not.  Regardless, I’m making it happen.  Who’s in???

Remember Me?

My reasons for not posting sooner are seven-fold.  No, really.  Read on.

First of all, I have not worked in 14 years, and truth be told, it’s kicking my butt.  Not the work, exactly.  I can do the work.  And it’s not the stress of having Spike babysit the other two kids while I’m at work, even though he calls me about a bazillion times while I’m at work to find out if he can make turkey bacon or play “Go Go Gourmet” on the computer or because his sister is not listening to him.  Yeah, that’s not fun.  But I’m dealing with it.  It’s okay.  And it’s not all this extra money lying around.  (HA!  I tried to get through that with a straight face but it didn’t work!)  No, it’s the office politics thing.  I’m so not used to the office politics thing.  I should have expected it.  I should have prepared myself. (Is there a way to prepare??)  I should have seen it coming.  But I forgot.  Have I mentioned it’s been 14 years since I last worked outside the home???

Secondly… just one word.  FACEBOOK.  Are you all on there??  Do you get as obsessed as I do??  No, truthfully, I haven’t had much time to pour into my Facebook page yet, but I have been in contact with friends from my past and it’s been kinda fun.  I can’t wait until next week when I might have a little time to play around on there and figure out just how to do things.  Ooooh, and if you’re on Facebook, email me and let me know so I can be your friend!!!

Third.  My kids go back to school on Tuesday.  Usually, by this time, I can’t wait.  And I am excited that I will be able to work while they’re at school and I won’t have to pay Spike to watch his little brother and sister anymore.  But summer flew by much too fast.  I’m not ready for helping with homework.  I’m not ready for early mornings and making lunches.  I’m not ready to be done camping for the summer.  Blondie needs new shoes.  Spike needs new jeans.  Goo needs a little of everything.  They all need school supplies.  And I am running out of time.

The fourth reason I haven’t posted sooner is that despite the fact that there seems to be so much going on here right now, I couldn’t think of anything to write about!  Really, do you seriously want to hear about my new job and my boss and the other girl in my cubicle??  Do you want to hear about what a terrible mother I am because I realized yesterday that Goo hasn’t had a bath in a week?  Do you want to hear me whine about how I can’t seem to have any willpower and lose weight?  Are you interested in our game-system dilemma and how we can’t decide which one to buy for the kids?  Do you care that we had our pet snake “sexed” and we now know that Tiny is a girl?  Do I write about these things?  Are they good enough for a post?  Will you read them?

Okay, so it’s not seven-fold.  But seven-fold sounded better than four-fold.  But I’ll try harder.  I’ll write about all those things.  I’ll be here.  I’ll read your posts.  Promise.  After this weekend, that is.  This weekend, we’ll be camping.

Bringing Home the Bacon

I have a job.  Like, a real 25-hours a week, honest-to-goodness job!  I haven’t worked outside the home in fourteen years, since I was pregnant with Spike and my doctor put me on bedrest.  I worked my second day today, and I enjoyed it, actually.  It’s a lot to get used to.  I’m not accustomed to working to a deadline or having a boss or office politics or a staff lunchroom.  It’s all new to me.  But I actually feel, once again, like I have a mission.  Don’t get me wrong…I loved staying home full-time with my kids.  I loved being there for them 24/7.  And truthfully, I miss that a bit.  But at the same time, it’s nice to have people counting on me to do something all on my own.  It’s nice to accomplish something and think…there!!  I did it!  It’s nice to have an administrative assistant (I have one!!  Crazy, right???) that I can give all my grunt work to.  It’s just nice to be in an office again. 

My kids will all be in school full-time in the fall, and I will have a few days at work, with a day or two at home to get some stuff done there and to have some time to myself.  It’s really a perfect schedule for me, and I’m so excited for the opportunity.  But I will have less time for blogging and such.  You won’t see me as much.  I’ll still be reading.  I’ll still be writing when I can.  I’ll still be wondering what’s going on in all my blog-buddies’ lives.  I’ll still be here.  But until I get used to this whole job thing, I’m lying low for a bit.

But I’ll let you know when I bring home my first paycheck in fourteen years!!!  🙂

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