Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Wednesday Weigh-In

I was a wee-bit scared to hop on the scale this morning.  I didn't exercise at all while we were on vacation over Christmas and my eating routine was completely-off.  So, I didn't know what to expect.

Fortunately, with all the desserts, Starbucks runs (with whip), butter and fast food at the airport, I only gained one pound.  I have 3 more pounds to go to reach my goal... however, Joel's homecoming is approaching fast so I need to rededicate myself to healthy eating and schedule plenty of dates with the elliptical machine.

But first, I'm enjoying one last muffin for breakfast.... Wish me luck!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Baby's New Accessory

My baby has a new accessory... a helmet.  Yes, I am the proud momma to a "helmet baby". 

Autumn was diagnosed with plagiocephaly - basically a significant asymmetry to the shape of the skull.  A lot of babies have a flat spot, due to SIDS and having to place babies to sleep on their backs to reduce the risk.  But even with the amount of time that Autumn spends sitting up and on her belly, her "flatness" was not getting better - it was getting worse.

So, we had many doctor's visits this fall, took some xrays and saw a plastic surgeon.  Fortunately, the plates her in her head are all open so we didn't have to go the drastic route of surgery, but three physicians all advised me to have her go to an orthotic specialist to get fitted for a custom helmet.  Joel and I talked on the phone and via email a lot about this, but it was really hard to be the only parent here to make the final decision.

The night after we saw the plastic surgeon, I was doing some research on the Internet and saw an article that talked about how Tricare (the military insurance) will not pay for baby helmets.  (You can read that article here.)  I was shocked when I read that article and immediately went to Tricare's website to look up their coverage, and I was surprised to see it in black and white.  They weren't going to cover it.

The next day, we got in to see the orthotic specialist and the owner happened to be the person who saw Autumn.  We did all the measurements and the 3-D scan and I mentioned to him that I was 99% positive that Tricare was going to deny the claim, but that I would look into grant money to pay for it.  He kept telling me not to worry about the money, but to focus on Autumn.  I was stressed because I knew that Joel and I wanted to go ahead with the helmet and treatment, but everything in total cost around $3800.  The helmet itself cost $1800 and then there is about $2000 in visits, treatments and measurements.  We're a military family and $3800 is a major chunk of change for us.

As we left that first appointment with the orthotic specialist, I went to make an appointment for a follow-up visit.  As I was talking with the receptionist, she mentioned that the owner told her that he would accept $1500 for the helmet and all the treatments that are needed for Autumn's care.  I couldn't believe what she said - that's a $300 loss for the cost of the helmet alone and then he would be eating all the cost for the treatment  My mom was waiting with Grace in the car.  I told her what just happened and both of us just sat in the front seat of the car together and wept.  God was taking care of us.

I came home and emailed Joel all the details about the visit and told him I would start looking into grant money that was available through an Indiana non-profit for military families.  Over the next week, I did my research and started to gather the paperwork I would need to submit for the grant, but I was still waiting for Tricare to deny the claim.  They did and it shook me.  I was so mad.  Joel and I don't feel entitled because we're a military family, but believe me, he works hard for what we have.  I was mad because I knew by research I had done, that the baby helmet was very common, was approved by the FDA and so many insurance companies pay for them.  What made even less sense, was that Tricare didn't have any problem paying for the half-dozen doctor's visits and all the xrays that lead up to her diagnosis.  They paid almost as much in all those medical costs as the cost of the helmet.

I shot off any angry email to my congressman ... I'm pretty sure their kid wouldn't go without and they're the ones who decide what military insurance covers...  Anyway, that's a major soapbox issue that I'll just leave be.  I made a random post on Facebook about having to work on the grants, and what came next floored me.

In the four hours after I made my angry Facebook post, six people contacted me.  Each of them said that they would happily pay for Autumn's helmet in full so that we weren't burdened by it.  Six people willing to shell out $1500, without question.  I was completely humbled, and will admit that I cried.  A lot, actually.  I felt so alone in all of this - with Joel overseas.  And it meant the world to know that so many people were willing to care for our little girl in such a generous way.

So, 10 days later, Autumn's helmet came in and I was able to write a check for $1500 without a worry.  It was paid in full and my only worry is now for Autumn's treatment.

She's rocking the helmet, I must say.  Who wouldn't rock a $1500 accessory with such pride?

Cast all your anxiety on Him, for He cares for you  I Peter 5:7

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas

Wishing you a very Merry Christmas!  Whether your loved one is home or far away, I pray that you would find joy today.

"For unto us a Child is born,
Unto us a Son is given;
And the government will be upon His shoulder.
And His name will be called
Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." - Isaiah 9:6

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Wednesday Weigh-In

Just wanted to let you know that I'm on break from my normal Wednesday weigh-in.  It's Christmas and I'm trying to be as good as I can be...  next week I'll see what damage I've done.  And then I'm sure the elliptical machine and I will be back to our regular visits.

Merry Christmas and enjoy it in all its deliciousness.

Friday, December 17, 2010

MilSpouse Friday FIll-In

Thanks to Wife of a Sailor for a very Christmas-themed fill-in this week!

1.What is the best gift you have ever received or given? from Jessica Lynn Writes
My engagement ring... it was one of the best moments of my life and started something great!

2.Do you celebrate holidays differently when your loved one is deployed/gone or do you keep tradition? from The Albrecht Squad
This is our first time celebrating Christmas while Joel's overseas.  I'm trying hard to keep things as they always are.  If anything's different it's that I'm spending a lot more time with family this year.

3.If you celebrate Christmas, do you put an angel, star or something else on the top of your tree?
I have a star on our tree.  I'm obsessed with stars - probably because of the symmetry.

4.What are your three favorite websites?
The 3 I visit the most are: Hotmail, Facebook & Blogger
The 3 I love to visit are:  Pottery Barn, Sephora &

5.On your man do you prefer… boxers, briefs or boxer briefs? Or commando? (yeah, I’m starting to get desperate for questions!)

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Pay Increase

Read more here about what will most likely be the military pay increase for the coming year.

Good news is the House bill proposes for increases in Housing and Subsistence allowances.

Monday, December 13, 2010

The Bump for the Little Troop

My Gracie is quite the little troop.  In her short 4 years of life, she's been through 3 deployments.  I knew that as she got older, that each deployment would get more difficult for her.  She's close with Joel - they're best buds, and I have learned, that I'm no-where near as fun.  (I've been told.)

Grace has had some separation anxiety since the beginning of this deployment.  I've worked hard to be intentional about letting her know what I'm doing, where I'm at in the house, what the agenda is for the day and week...  These things all help her feel a bit more secure.  She sleeps in bed with me, follows me around the house (including the bathroom) and is a worrier.  Now, if Joel was here, I promise you, that she wouldn't be in bed with me and I wouldn't tolerate her following me into the bathroom.  But I've learned that you have to be extremely flexible when parenting during a deployment.  My main priority is giving my girls a sense of security when their daddy is away, and if that means that she crawls in bed with me every night, then so be it.

The last few months have been pretty smooth sailing for Grace.  As long as she knows what to expect and how many more months until Daddy comes home, she's pretty well set.  She's obedient and respectful.  Until recently.

I feel that we've taken a million steps back the last few weeks.  Grace is talking back, hitting me, coming out of her room at bedtime (like a thousand times a night)... she's crying about having to go to school, going to bed, going to the bathroom, taken a bath, going to Sunday School.  You name it, it's a problem.  I know what she's going through and why she's doing this - she's had it with this deployment.  She's finished.  Done.

But so am I.  If you've been through a deployment, you know there's a wall you hit after a certain point.  I hit it last month.  You don't think you can go on another day.  You feel that you're completely zapped of energy and emotion.  You don't want anyone to have any expectations of you whatsoever.  You just want to crawl in bed and wake up the morning that your loved one comes home.

Grace is there.  She's hit her wall and waiting for Daddy to come home isn't an option.  She's done waiting. She's done being good.  She's over it.  I am, too.

So, I give her extra hugs and kisses.  I put my to-dos aside and play princess one more time.  I read an extra book with her at night.  I let her pick out treats now and then when we're shopping.  I spoil her.  She deserves it and she needs it right now. 

I just hope and pray that the behavior stuff works itself out when Joel comes home. Please, Lord!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

A Baby Changes Everything

I love Christmas.  And even with Joel's absence, my Christmas spirit is in high-gear.  Our small tree is up, the stockings are hung, all the presents are bought and Christmas music has been playing pretty much non-stop in our house for the last month or so.  I have a lot of Christmas CDs and there are definitely those songs that I am always drawn to and have on repeat.  Faith Hill's A Baby Changes Everything is one of those songs that I just love to hear and sing with... and cry to.

The words are powerful and her singing is perfection.  I'm so thankful that some two-thousand years ago, my Savior came to earth, as a baby, and changed everything.  He changed the world, He changed the hearts of man, and He changed my life.

The last stanza of the song is so powerful:
My whole life has turned around
I was lost but now I'm found
A baby changes everything


I'm sure you've already heard it, but if not check it out!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Wednesday Weigh-In

Happy Wednesday!

I lost one pound this week!  I was a pretty good-girl this week and worked out and watched what I ate.  I also made sure to not binge while watching The Biggest Loser last night - instead I did squats during the commercials.  *pats self on back*

So, I have 2 more pounds to go to make my 25 pound weight loss goal.  I'm still kind of shocked that I've lost 23 pounds... it's a good feeling.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

150 Days

We've made it through day 150.  I had to look over my calendar again and make sure I counted right because 150 seems like such a big number and I can hardly believe I'm still feeling sane at this point.  But I am.  People ask me all the time how I'm doing and I usually say "well" or "really well"... it all depends on the day.  But I'm still saying "really well", and I know that for me to say that at this point, with all that's gone on in the last 150 days, that it has to be a God thing.

I know so many people are praying for us daily.  I know because I'm told all the time and it means the world to me that so many people are standing next to us right now. 

Our pastor and his family came back to church today after a 4-month sabbatical.  When they left in August, I was anxious, because it was just another change from normal and security for me.  It was great to hear today all that God did in their lives and in their family during this time - they are renewed.

Sometimes a time away renews a person.  Sometimes time away from those we hold the most dear renews us far beyond what we could imagine.  Our church was renewed, refreshed and strengthened even during our pastor's absence.  It was great to see how our church came together to pick-up the slack and become a united front.

The same thing is true of this deployment.  People are always surprised when I say we're doing well and that my marriage to Joel is strong, despite his absence and what he's doing overseas.  But the same principle applies for us as it does to our pastor and our church family.  When you are away from those you love the most you: 1) realize how much you count on them 2) realize how different your life is with them away 3) realize that you can do more than you ever thought 5) realize that your life is absolutely better with them there, but they are not the head of your life.  And a very important #6 for us, is that your realize how often you put that other person in the place that God should have. 

So, 150 days done, with plenty of lessons learned, and I'm sure, more to come.

Strength for today, and bright hope for tomorrow
Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside!

Friday, December 3, 2010

MilSpouse Friday Fill-In

We're back with MilSpouse fill-ins, courtesy of Wife of a Sailor.  So, glad she has power back and has finally warmed-up!

1.If you were given $1,000 right now, how would you spend it?
I'd use it to pay off debt.  I really, really want to get rid of my student loan and pay off our other debts!

2.If you had to choose a movie title (a real one that already exists) for your life story, what would it be?
"Woman on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown"... It was a movie from 1988 and is really "Women" but I cheated and changed it.  I've never seen it, but some days (like today), the title seems appropriate.

3.If you were a teacher, what subject would you like to teach?
English.  I had a great English teacher my Junior year of high school who really opened my eyes to how fun grammar can be and it because of her that I did so well writing papers in college.  I'm kind of a geek and actually have a grammar book next to my bed to read at night.

4.Has being a MilSpouse changed how you view holidays or how your holidays are celebrated? If so, how? If not, what hasn’t changed?
Most definitely.  I treasure the times our family can be together and I think Joel and I really appreciate the holidays we are able to spend together. 

5.What is your favorite Christmas (or whatever holiday you celebrate) memory?
One year, my family traveled home to Illinois from North Carolina right after an ice storm.  Thankfully the road were pretty clear, but I remember how gorgeous the mountains and trees were - all covered in the most beautiful, glistening ice.  It made a long ride home really enjoyable.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Wednesday Weigh-In

Finally!  I finally lost a pound - the same pound I gained a few weeks ago.  I'm back to where I was one month ago.  So, 3 more pounds to go to meet my 25 pound goal.  I plan to dust off the elliptical machine and get back on it this week - it's been horribly neglected the last few weeks.

I think I figured out why I've been staying steady the last few weeks, even with a stomach flu thrown in...  The Biggest Loser.  It's the show's fault.  See, The Biggest Loser airs on Tuesday nights, right before my weekly weigh-in.  And I love that show, but I don't know if I'm alone on this one, but watching that show makes me hungry.  Really, really hungry.  And not just, hey, maybe I'll sit down with the apple.  But, I'm talking about a row of Oreos and some milk to wash it down.  I need Oreos in order to watch people lose weight.  Twisted.  I don't get it.  So, I'm blaming the show on my plateau this past month.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

A Bittersweet Season

Since Joel and I have been married, we've been separated plenty for important dates and events...(I started to list them and then got depressed seeing them glaring at me, so I deleted them)...   But with all the birthday's, anniversaries, and holiday's, Joel's always been in-country for Thanksgiving and Christmas.  Now, that's not to say that we've celebrated every Thanksgiving and Christmas together - but we've at least seen each other for a bit during those days before he had to go work at the base.  (No, civilians, military bases do not shut down on holidays...  but that's a rant for another day)  *sigh*

I knew that this Season would be hard.  I knew that I would have to be extra cheerful for the girls, so that it is special for them and so they don't feel that there's a big Daddy-sized hole missing.  The word that keeps popping in my mind as I think about what I'm feeling during this time is bittersweet.  This season, for me, is both pleasant yet painful. 

After 8 years of Thanksgivings and Christmases together, Joel and I have our routine, our traditions and our roles: 
- I make the stuffing that he loves. 
- He bakes a pumpkin pie, because I hate to bake. 
- He grumbles as he pulls all of my Christmas stuff out of the garage and asks me every year, why I need so many decorations.
-I drag him to store after store to look at more Christmas stuff
- He sets up the tree while I decorate the house
-We listen to Christmas music as we decorate (his pick is Bing Crosby while I have to fight him to let me put in Josh Groban)
- I watch him from the window as he sets up our deer outside
- I then listen to him rant as he has to fix a broken deer and replace bulbs on said deer
- After the decorating is done, we sit on the couch and cuddle with just the light from the tree
- He watches Grace so I can wrap all the presents at once
- Grace and Joel decorate a gingerbread house together
- I look forward to seeing what ornament Joel ordered from New Hampshire with all of our names inscribed on it

I love our holiday routines.  And this year is obviously different.  I got all the boxes out of the garage and got things set up as the girls napped over a 3 day period.  Then Grace helped me to decorate the small tree this year, because the big tree was too much for me to do without Joel here.  The house looks as cozy as it always does around this time of year, but it feels different. 

I promise you that I'm trying to be cheerful.  I love Christmas - it's my favorite holiday.  I love that I get to see Autumn's eyes grow big as she sees the lights on the tree and her stocking hanging from the mantle.  I love that I get the chance, once again, to tell Grace about a tiny little baby that came to earth to do great things for us.  It's still a magical time, because the meaning of this season didn't change because Joel's overseas. 

So, I'm focusing on Christ and trying not to focus on the emptiness that I feel with Joel being gone during this time.  We have much to be thankful for, and I'm thrilled to spend this time with my two girls, who help me to find joy in the simple things that Christmastime brings.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Wednesday Weigh-In

I've intentionally ignored my weekly Wednesday Weigh-In post.  There hasn't been anything exciting to update you all on as I haven't lost weight these last two week.  I still have four pounds to go in order to meet my 25 pound goal.  I even had the stomach flu this week and yet, the scale didn't budge.  The stomach flu.  Hello?  That's frustrating.  I was sure the stomach flu was going to at least have one positive present for me.

So, tomorrow's Thanksgiving - my brother-in-law and sister-in-law are cooking this year, so I can only imagine that the food will be amazing!  My plan is to enjoy everything, but not to over-indulge.  We'll see... I'm a sucker for mashed potatoes.  And pie.  And bread.  Uh, I'm in trouble.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

A Surprise Homecoming (Not Ours)

Ellen did an amazing thing for Thanksgiving by reuniting a soldier with his family for Thanksgiving.  Make sure to have tissues on hand if you're anywhere as emotional as I am.... This was really touching and I must admit that although I'm completely thrilled for this family, I still kinda wish I were in her shoes.

Oh, and if you're wondering, yes, I did just discover how to embed video.  That's why we have this going on in the last two posts.  Don't judge.  Just love.

Monday, November 22, 2010

My Anthem

1.  a song, as of praise, devotion or patriotism
2.  a piece of sacred vocal music, usually with words taken from the Scriptures

There are times in life when a song does the best job of summing up the state of my heart.  I have a list of songs that over the years, have had a place to help me celebrate, mourn and heal.  Just a few days after Joel left, I head a Bebo Norman song on the radio that I've enjoyed in the past, but suddenly it rang true to my heart.  I've been listening to it over and over again - often in tears - and sometimes, in the backseat of the car, I can hear Grace singing along.

So, for those who feel broken, empty, tired or afraid, maybe this anthem that has helped me, will ring true for your soul, too.

I'd love for you to share an "anthem" of yours either past or present!

Friday, November 19, 2010

MilSpouse Friday Fill-In

Thanks Wife of a Sailor!

1.If you had to be shipwrecked on a deserted island, but all your human needs – such as food and water – were taken care of, what two items would you want to have with you?

1) My ESV study Bible & 2) Chapstick
2.If you were a salad, what kind of dressing would you have?
Ranch.  Everybody loves it, so therefore, everyone would love ME!

3.If you had to live on a ranch, what kind of animals would you raise/own?
Sheep.  They are so cute!

4.If your life was was portrayed as a movie, who would you choose to play you and your significant other?
Wentworth Miller would play Joel, because he has the Joel-scowl down pretty well.  And for me (only because I've been told a bunch that I kinda look like her) would be Angelina Jolie.  Of course, Angelina would have to put on about 40 pounds.

5.What was the last thing you put a stamp on (envelope, duh, but what was in the envelope)?
Oh, I wish I could share... but it's a bit of a surprise and some of the people who read this will be receiving it.

Monday, November 15, 2010

My Body Battle

There is a reason why I only pull out the scale once a week before my Wednesday Weigh-In posts.  My desire to be "healthy" can become unhealthy and very compulsive without much warning.

Control is the name of the game for me.  It still is.  When life seems out of control, there are a few things that I can easily manage, and food is one of them.  Somehow knowing that I have self-control with what goes in my mouth helps me think, believe and feel that the craziness of life is a little bit more manageable.  Every time life gets tough, I turn to food either as a way to seek comfort or a way to "manage" things that are unmanageable.

College became, for me, the time of constant transition.  Starting school, beginning new friendship, forging an identity outside of my family, deciding a career path...  Everything was new and different, and hard.  I mean really hard.  I had no idea who I was or what I wanted to do with the rest of my life, and I found myself suddenly playing the part of adult.  My parents weren't there to make decisions for me.  My friends were hours away and I felt out of my element.  So, I jumped head first into controlling my food - not with the intention of losing weight.  Eating as little as possible made the worries and stresses seem a little less difficult.

Over the next year or so, I would go back and forth with periods of hardly eating and then whatever weight I lost during that time, would quickly come back.  During my sophomore year, I was feeling alone and depressed after transferring to a new college and food, once again, became my means toward finding normalcy.  I remember that for about a month, all I ate was iceberg lettuce with a bit of ranch dressing for flavor and cereal bars.  To wash it down, I'd drink Coke.  Lots of Coke.  So, without much in my stomach except for Coke, I had constant heartburn and I would wash down Tums, with well, more Coke.  When I wasn't doing stuff for school or busy with other activities I would run at night.  And not just a jog around the block, but a hard run, until the world started to spin.  It was my way of beating myself up for the fact that I felt out of control.  I dropped about 20 pounds in about 2 months during that time.

The summer that Joel and I met was a stressful time for me.  My plan was to finish my Senior year as a part time student so that I could work more and save up money.  So, the summer before my senior year, I had signed up to do a full-time internship as well as two independent PE classes.  I would work 32 hours a week and then have school work to turn in for my internship as well as many hours of workouts and homework for my PE classes.  If I wasn't working or hanging out with friends, I was running.  I started losing weight quickly because I had to put in about 7 hours of workouts a week just to fulfill my class requirements, and I was working out more in addition to that.  I felt overwhelmed with the amount of responsibilities I had during that time - exercise was no longer making me feel as in control, so I started to purge.  Purging somehow made that overwhelmed feeling go away for a while.  All the stress, anxiety and feeling not good enough went away when my stomach felt totally empty.

Toward the end of that summer, I got really good at purging and could do it within just a few moments of trying.  I would lie to my roommates  when they'd ask me what was going on and just tell them that I had a nervous stomach.  But one day, my best friend came into the bathroom while I was getting sick and asked me why I was doing this to myself.  I said something to the effect that I couldn't help it.  But with her persistence I finally told her it was the only way that life felt better for me.  All of my stress and anxiety over not doing well enough in my studies, disappointing my professor and realizing that my college experience was ending soon - it all felt better when I dumped those feelings into the toilet.  Somehow.  Twisted logic, I know.

So, exercising and purging became my medicine.  It cured my anxiety and my stress. I got thin - probably the thinnest I had been since junior high.  I felt great, in control and ready to finish college strong.  Joel and I started dating during this time and I struggled hiding what was going on.  Soon he found me hunched over the toilet and asked me what I was doing.  I told him the same lie that I told my friend and I think he bought it for a while.

I felt empty and ashamed.  I knew what damage I was doing to myself.  It was reckless and unhealthy.  I knew who God made me to be and I knew what I was doing couldn't fit into that plan.  Not only what I hurting my body, I was hurting my relationship with God - because as long as I took "control", God couldn't have the place in my life that He deserved.

"For your formed my inward parts;
you knitted me together in my mother's womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.  Wonderful are your works;
my souls knows it very well.
My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, everyone one of them,
the days that were formed for me,
when as yet there were none of them.
How precious to me are your thoughts, O God!
How vast is the sum of them!
If I would count them, they are more than the sand.
I awake, and I am still with you."
 - Psalm 139:13-18
God made me perfect.  Nothing I could do could ever add to that.   He wanted to be Lord of my life and for years, I had taken that role upon myself.  I controlled everything and I could finally see the damage from my work.  My compulsive need to control food, purge and exercise to beat myself up had made me worn and tired.   Perfection is hard to maintain and the mask it requires you to wear is burdensome.
So, over a period of time, I stopped wearing that mask.  I realized that those who were supposed to love me the best would love me even when I wasn't perfect.  I needed to love me even though I wasn't perfect, too.  And most importantly, I had to remember that God never expected perfection from me.
"But he said to me,
'My grace is sufficient for you,
for my power is made perfect in weakness.'
Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses,
so that the power of Christ may rest upon me." 
- I Corinthians 12:9
I still struggle with control.  Ask my husband... he could go on and on about this one.  And I know I will probably always, in some way, be tempted to take my weight to the extreme with hopes that it will make me feel like I have it together.  But, see, I have these two precious girls in my life.  They will someday notice how I talk about food, my weight and exercise.  Those two little girls will either see their momma talk about those things and treat them in a healthy way or in a destructive way.  I hope Grace and Autumn never go down the path of self destruction like I did.  I hope they learn, at an early age, that God made them perfect.  It's my job as their mother to help them understand that truth and it's a job I take very seriously.  Those two little girls are my accountability - and I'm so thankful for that.

Friday, November 12, 2010

MilSpouse Friday Fill-In

Thanks, Wife of a Sailor!

1.Were you named after anyone?
I only have a completely foggy memory of this.  But, yes, my parents named me after a Jill they knew through church-connections from the Chicago-area.  I remember that I met her once, briefly, as a child, but I can't say I really know anything about her.

2.What color, if any, are your toenails usually painted?
I usually go for a variation of red - either really bright in the summer or really dark during the rest of the year.

3.How do you flush a public toilet? Hands? Feet? Something else?
Feet, as often as possible.  Except for those tricky bathrooms that have a round push button on the wall.  I've nearly fallen over on the floor trying to manage those with just one foot.

4.When you were a little kid, which TV character did you have a crush on?
I thought Ricky from Silver Spoons was so cute!

5.Let’s say you had to lose one of your five senses (sight, hearing, touch, taste, and smell). Which one would you choose? Why?
Smell.  Only because it seems that it would be the least life-altering. 

Thursday, November 11, 2010

By His Heart

Joel deployed 126 days ago.  126 mornings without his girls to wake up to.  126 days without being able to hold his two little ones.  He is thousands of miles from a life he left behind so he could serve.  Joel and so many other soldiers are thousands of miles away from those they love.  They eat, sleep and sweat war and a mission that is bigger than any of us could imagine.  They fight so that we can lay our heads down at night in peace.  They fight so that we can go about what we consider to be busy and stressful lives.  They fight so that their loved ones will have a secure future.  They fight so that people who are strangers to them can be free.

Thousands of miles away from home, Joel is at work with a tiny flag in his breast pocket.  The flag is close to his heart, and he serves, like so many thousands of soldiers today, to maintain the freedom that our flag represents.

To those who serve today and to those who served in the past - thank you.  Thank you for your sacrifice, your unwavering commitment and your drive to keep us safe and our future secure.  We honor you today and we pray for you always.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Retailers Cheapen Tomorrow's Meaning

I'm not going to rant tomorrow on Veteran's Day - so I'll do it today instead.

I know I'm a bit biased, being a wife of a veteran...  But I HATE Veteran's Day sales and advertising.  Seriously, I have to change the channel every time a Macy's Veteran's Day sale pops on TV flashing images of shoes, jewelry and coats with the U.S. flag streaming in the background.  A few years back I was shopping at Macy's on Veteran's Day and asked the lady who checked me out if they offered a Veteran's discount.  She looked at me like I had just asked her if they sold llamas or something.  Like it would be so absurd to assume with all the red, white and blue balloons and streamers all over the store, that they were actually acknowledging that Veteran's Day meant something more to them than a discount and their bottom line.

Joel and I never expect to get any advantages because of his military status and his deployment history.  His service is just that, a service.  I love that some companies like Disney and Applebees, honor veterans and their families with a free meal or discounts on vacation packages.  I think that's really thoughtful and even though we've never taken advantage of those offers, I respect those companies for reaching out to those who've served in a tangible way.

I wrote Macy's and told them what I thought about their advertising.  I didn't get a response and I didn't expect one.  But tomorrow, on Veteran's Day, I will write them again and next  year, I'll do the same. 

Wednesday Weigh-In

Happy Wednesday to you all!  Another kinda sad day of weight gain for me - just one pound, though, this week.  I know everyone has a bit of weight fluctuation, so I'm trying not to to beat myself over being up a pound this week.  Trying.  So, I now have 4 more pounds to meet my goal.

I know I said last week that I intended to talk this week about some of my body image struggles.  And I absolutely intend to!  It just seems that this very broad and very personal topic has been hard for me to write about.  Every time that I've sat down to write about it, my thoughts are all over the place.  So, I just need another day or two (I hope) and I'll try to get back on it and write again.  I promise!  Honestly, my past body image struggles completely affect how I deal with my current goals toward health and weight loss, so I really want to talk about it!

Friday, November 5, 2010

MilSpouse Friday Fill-In

Thanks, Wife of a Sailor for another great list of questions.

1.A different twist on last week’s question. This week, the first question is: what’s the nicest thing a MILSPOUSE has ever done for you? (brought to you from navy_smurfette)
Honestly, I've been really touched by the unique ways that military wives have come out to support and encourage me.  One particular MilSpouse comes to mind, however.  A sweet lady that goes to my church is a "retired MilSpouse".  A few weeks ago, she gave me a newspaper clipping and this is what it said:
"Although my husband's status has changed, I still consider myself a military spouse, and I must say this: Military spouses are not government-issued, and they are one of a kind that never goes away or ever fades away.  Our love does not come once a year on Valentine's Day.

To all the readers of Stars and Stripes around the world, may you be comforted as I have with these words.  'Fear thou not, for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.' - Isaiah 40:10.

With courage, purpose and devotion from the depth of our hearts in supporting those who serve our country, I know we'll continue.  May God's grace and unfailing love comfort you day by day."

2.How often do you drive faster than the speed limit?
Well, I'm from Chicago where speed limits are really just treated as suggestions.  So, there you go.

3.Did you have a nickname in school? If so, what was it?
Thanks to a classmate if 4th grade, Kitty Litter stuck around for a while, from a play on my maiden name.

4.If your life was a book, what would the title be and how would it end?
"My Journey Toward Contentment"
I would hope the book would end with my will finally submitting to God's.  And I know that's an incredibly broad statement, but as I look back and what I've gone through at this point in life, my struggle has always been contentment and I hope that someday I will let go of that struggle and rest, I mean really rest, in God's perfect plan for my life.

5.Look back (in your planner if you have one) to September 14th… what did you do that day?
September 14th was day 68 of this deployment and I had a stress echo scheduled at 12:45 pm.  Yeah, that was a fun day.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

My Baby's 6 Months!

Autumn turned 6-months just a few weeks ago.  My baby's growing up!  She's now rolling over from both her belly and her back.  She's holding on to toys better and is for-sure a mommy's girl.  Autumn's such an easy-going baby and I'm so blessed by her.

Here are a few pictures I had done last week.  She's currently working on four teeth, so she wasn't thrilled to be there and she wasn't giving smiles that day.  But she's even cute while grumpy.

My friend, Stephanie, made the tutu for Autumn.  She has a fan page on Facebook called Cutie Pie Accessories.  Look her up!

Wednesday Weigh-In

This week was just so-so with eating for me.  I managed to share one brownie out of an entire pan with Grace and I think I've eaten my weight this week in hummus.  Seriously, that stuff is good.  But, I did manage to still lose one pound this week.  That makes the total weight loss since Joel deployed (118 days ago) to 22 pounds and I have 3 more to go to make it to my goal weight.  Woo-Hoo!

A few weeks back, I saw my doctor about another issue and asked her about what she think my ideal weight would be... Well, as of today, I'm at that weight!  It feels great to know that I'm healthy and I do feel so much better about myself.

On my next Wednesday Weigh-In post, I want to share some about my own struggles with body image and how I try to keep that balanced now with my venture toward personal health.  So, be on the look-out for that.

Happy Wednesday to you all... cute baby pictures are coming soon!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Go Vote!

It's Election Day and I hope you either plan to vote or did so already!!!  I remember how excited I was the first time I was able to vote and I still love the feeling of getting in the voting booth and pushing the button for my candidate.

This is an important election, and I hope that you get out and make your vote count today.  So many have fought and died for our freedom to do so.  We honor them by taking a few moments each year to help decide which direction our great country should go.

Democracy is the only system that persists in asking the powers that be whether they are the powers that ought to be.  - Sydney J. Harris

Politicians are like diapers. They both need changing regularly and for the same reason. - Author Unknown

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Friday, October 29, 2010

MilSpouse Friday Fill-In

Hope you all had a good week!  Join in on the Friday fun at Wife of a Sailor.

1.What’s the nicest thing a stranger has ever done for you?
When I was a Junior at college, another student and I were chosen to receive a scholarship by an older couple.  At the scholarship awards banquet, we had the opportunity to briefly get to know them over lunch and I was really humbled that this couple, who didn't know me, would be so generous to help me with some of the cost of my college education.  That scholarship took effect my Senior year, and I remember when I was working on projects or studying for a test, that couple would come to mind, and I was reminded to work especially hard in order to respect their generosity.

2.If you are having a hard time going to sleep, what do you do to help yourself?
This is very timely, because the last few weeks have been terrible for me come bedtime.  Lately I've been going for the bottle of Benadryl.
3.Name something that makes you wish you were a kid again.
I really miss the vacations we had as kids... it was wonderful to not have to do my laundry, pack, plan, pay or have to drive. 

4.What is something you never believed until you experienced it?
I never understood that unimaginable love that you can have for your child.  I remember how I instantly fell in love when we heard Grace's heartbeat for the first time.  We're blessed to have two such beautiful souls in our life and I never could have imagined that I would love two people who are so much work, so much.

5.What can’t you say “no” to?
If Grace asks me to go to the mall, I can't say no.  Why would I?

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Wednesday Weigh-In

Happy Wednesday!  This morning was madness in our house - trying to get everyone up, fed, dressed and out the door.  I even managed a shower, so that's a plus!  Somehow in the craziness of this morning, I managed to pull the scale out and was thrilled with what I saw - I lost 2 pounds this week!  As of today, I'm down 21 since this deployment started and I have four more to meet my goal of 25. 

After I dropped Grace off at school I went to the grocery store with Autumn and this crazy, kinda scary looking guy kept coming up to me, wanting to see the baby.  I don't understand why strangers think they can get all in your baby's face and why they think they can touch them.  So, I kept moving the cart away from this guy and putting myself between him and Autumn.  I struggle with trying to be gracious and making sure that my kids are safe.  By the time we were leaving the store I was feeling frustrated and I just wanted to get home and away from Mr. Crazy.  A store employee stopped me before I could get to the door and I almost snapped at her, but then she pulled out a bouquet of flowers and asked if I would like them.  Honestly, I started to tear-up.  That's exactly what I needed, and so far it's been the highlight of my day.

Take a moment today in the midst of your to-dos, trying to handle your family responsibilities and crazy people around you and look for ways to bless others!

Monday, October 25, 2010

The Strong with the Weak

Sunday's are hard.  I really miss Joel being with us on Sunday mornings at church.  I miss teaching Sunday School with him and seeing how much fun he has goofing around with our kids.  I miss us dropping Grace off at her Sunday School class together and I mostly miss us sitting next to each other during service and worshiping as a family. 

I wake up half-dreading going to church, because I know I'm just going to miss Joel.  Usually that missing-Joel-feeling turns into crying.  I've always been a church-crier.  Yes, I'm the one week after week with the tissues out.  The songs always get to me, the prayers get to me, watching the other families sit together gets to me.  And don't even get me started on baptisms.  I cry like a baby.

So, I know come 7 am on Sunday morning that I'm going to be a mess in just a few hours.  Yesterday, our Pastor took a few minutes to remind us of all the people in our congregation that are really struggling.  Every time he mentioned someone who had just lost a parent or whose cancer is getting worse, I felt like I was getting a punch in the gut.  There are so many people, good people, hurting.  These people are really struggling.  But week after week, we all come together - the strong with the week, and we worship.  I cried because my heart hurt for them.  Yes, this is a tough time for our family with Joel overseas.  But we're all relatively healthy and well.  I was so encouraged to be surrounded by a loving Church family - some are struggling, some are not.  But we all worship the same God and I know we're all praying for each other during the week.

Yes, Sunday's are hard - not just for me.  But I never leave wishing I didn't go to church that morning.  I always leave reminded of how great our God is, how much He has done for us and how loving His people are.  Next Sunday will be hard, I'm sure.  I can guarantee that I'll be asking my mom if she has any tissues in her purse.  But I can't wait to be with my church family again.

"I was glad when the Lord said to me 'Let us go to the house of the Lord!'" - Psalm 122:1

Friday, October 22, 2010

MilSpouse Friday Fill-In

Head over to Wife of a Sailor and join in on the fun!

1.Are you a night owl or an early bird?
Naturally, I'm a night owl.  I love to stay up late and work on projects and watch TV and movies.  My girls have completely changed that, and now in order to beat them at their game, I get up early so that I can at least get a shower in before they get up.

2.What makes you jealous?
I don't think I'm really a jealous person. However, there have been a few girls from Joel's past that have tried to get in touch with him again and that really, really bothers me.  Hello, ladies?  He's taken.  I won!

3.Have you started Christmas/holiday shopping yet? When will you finish? (There’s only 63 days left!)
Yes!  I started this spring, actually.  I think this is the best I've ever done.  I would say I'm about 80% done and it feels so good.  My goal is to be done before the end of November.

4.What would you have a personal chef make you tonight?
I'm really in a surf 'n turf kind of mood.  So, I'd ask for a steak (medium-rare), grilled shrimp, a baked potato and asparagus. 

5.Where was your first kiss?
Technically on the playground in first grade.  Some little boy chased me down and kissed me by the slide.  But my first real kiss was on a porch swing.

Confession time... I feel like a bad blogger this week.  The girls and I have all been a bit under-the-weather and I'm soooo tired.  I have a few blog post ideas floating around in my head, but if you have anything in particular that you'd like me to talk about, let me know please!  I promise to do better next week.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Wednesday Weigh-In

Hooray for another pound lost!  I have 6 more to go to make my 25 pound goal.

I have only worked out a few times this week, so the pound is kind of a surprise to me.  My goal this week is to get out at least 3 times with the girls for walks and get on the elliptical at least twice.  Indiana's getting chillier, so I know it's going to be nearly impossible to get out with the girls soon for walks.  I need to take advantage of every day that the weather is nice and get out!

Today is Joel's day off, so I'm excited to get a call from him tonight.  I've been pretty emotional the last few days - missing him at random times throughout the day.  Yesterday was particularly hard on me, but I am blessed with my two girls who don't mind getting lots of extra hugs and kisses when their momma needs an extra helping of affection.  I think I've been putting on a brave face the last few weeks and it's finally caught-up to me.  Hopefully hearing Joel's voice tonight will make all of it a bit better.

Happy Wednesday, everyone!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

100 Days

Today is day 100 of this deployment!

100 breakfasts, lunches and dinners with my girls.
100+ good mornings hugs & kisses.
100 too-quiet nights.
15 grumpy garbage days.
17 pounds lost.
20+ trips to the grocery store without my man to help unload the groceries.
15 overseas phone calls.
4 episodes of The Office without someone to laugh with.
3 trees trimmed.
10 doctor's visits.
13 Sunday mornings feeling a bit lonely seeing all the other families together at church.

One day at a time.  One foot in front of the other...

Friday, October 15, 2010

MilSpouse Friday Fill-In

Thanks, Wife of a Sailor and the other MilSpouse bloggers who came up with this week's questions.  This post is a great break from the heaviness of this week!

1.What are some things on your bucket list? (from New Girl on Post)
I was hoping to wait another 40+ years before I had to think about a bucket list... but here's mine
  • See Macbeth on stage
  • Buy a necklace from Tiffany's
  • Get a tattoo
  • Visit The Smithsonian
  • Rent a Jeep Wrangler and vacation through the east coast in the fall
  • Shoot a taser
  • Be debt free

2.How long have you been a MilSpouse and where have you been stationed so far? (from Raising Roscoe)
Since July 2003.  We've only been stationed in Indiana as Joel's in the Guard.

3.What is a list of songs that sums up your life so far? (from Confessions of a Sailor’s Wife)
How You Love Me - Bebo Norman
Back to Me - Bebo Norman
Let Me Fall - Josh Groban
Love Song - Third Day
Top of the World - Carpenters
Hot n Cold - Katy Perry
It's Your Love - Faith Hill & Tim McGraw

4.What is your favorite kind of pizza?
BBQ chicken

5.What are three good things in your life right now?
I have a husband who I adore, I have two beautiful girls and I have an amazing support system

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Home from War - Part II

Read Part I here...

Just a few months after Joel came back from Iraq, we were in the midst of a terrible game of tug of war.  We were completely out of sync with one another and our marriage was at its lowest point.  I felt like I was walking on eggshells in my own home because his mood was so unpredictable.  There were some rare moments when Joel was really engaged with Grace and I, but for the most part he was either completely withdrawn or angry.  The war had completely changed him.

When I tried to talk to him about how he was doing emotionally and spiritually, he became very guarded.  I'm sure he was trying, in his mind, to sort through his feelings and was having a hard time communicating them to me.  Most likely, he just wasn't ready to communicate those things with me but I kept pushing him which just made him more withdrawn.

Our marriage was falling apart.  We were disconnected, angry at one another, communicating poorly and intimacy wasn't even an option for me, because I didn't feel love, appreciated or respected.  Funny thing, because I'm positive Joel was also not feeling loved, appreciated or respect, but it was because there was no intimacy.  Like I said, we were totally out of sync.

It was around Christmastime, four months after Joel's homecoming, that I was feeling absolutely hopeless.  Joel and I weren't making any progress, and if anything, I thought that our marriage was just getting worse.  We were in bad shape and I didn't see any improvement in Joel.  I was tired, exhausted really.  No one around us knew the struggles that we were dealing with in our relationship, and I was so wiped out from not only having to deal with a marriage that was falling apart, but trying to keep it a secret.

It was around that time that the D Word entered my mind.  I didn't see any hope for us at that point, and I was tired of trying to hold it together.  I remember sitting with a close friend of mine over lunch and telling her, through my tears, that I wanted out and that divorce had become an option for me.  What I appreciated most, was her loving silence.  She didn't have any words of advice for me.  She knew she couldn't relate.  But she offered her love and prayers for both Joel and I.  Finally, someone knew our struggle, our hurt and my desperation.

I really struggled with the idea of divorce.  Joel wasn't unfaithful.  He never hurt me physically.  He always provided for our needs.  And I knew that he loved me even if he didn't always communicate it and show it well.  And I knew in my head, even though I didn't always feel it in my heart... I still loved him.  I loved him so much that it hurt my soul to know how hurt he was.  But I didn't think love would be able to repair, what I thought, was a hopelessly broken marriage.

I knew part of him was broken and I felt angry toward the military for using him up and just tossing him back home.  I've mentioned before how messed-up the system is.... I was advised just a few weeks before Joel came home that if our soldier needed help, the best bet would be for them to find a counselor/psychologist that would accept cash payment.  Any sort of paper trail would just hurt their career and reputation.  It was because of the broken system that I knew Joel's best bet to getting better was for me to help.

He needed me.  I vowed to him and God that I would stand by him for better or worse.  I promised him on our wedding day that I would love him tenderly.  I knew I had failed him in that regard.  I loved him but I was trying to push him to get better - to deal with transition from war to home life.  I wasn't always patient, kind or gentle.  So, there it was -he needed me.  And in order for me to help him, I needed to start with the basics and learn to love him better.  I needed to keep my vow to stand by him and to be tender with him.  He needed tenderness.

I remember going back and rereading I Corinthians 13, where Paul lists the attributes of love.  I knew I was far from loving Joel the way that God wanted me to...
"Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude.  It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with truth.  Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never ends"  - I Corinthians 13:4-8

Who Joel was at that time was not the same man I married.  Time had changed him.  War had changed him.  Those were two things that Joel could not control.  It's just how it was and it was no one's fault.  He needed me to help him.  He needed me to stand by him and love him better, purer, deeper and truer than I had loved him before.  He had done the hard work for 6 months, now it was my turn to do the hard work and work to heal his wounds.  Divorce was not an option.  It would not have healed any wounds.

So, I stood by him.  I decided, in my heart and before God, to love Joel.  He was broken, but I knew God would give me strength and wisdom and I prayed that God would give my husband those things as well.  The road to reconciliation had to start with someone, and it started with me. 

The road back to a healthy marriage was difficult.  It took a lot of hard conversations - but it started with the hardest.  I told Joel that I would do what it took to make our marriage work and put it back on track.  But I needed him to know how desperate I had become and that the idea of divorce had been on my mind for a while.  He was totally shocked that I was hurting that badly.  But we decided at that moment to do that hard task to work on ourselves and to love each other better.

We made a decision that night to recommit ourselves to make our marriage work.  I think a lot of people experience something similar in their relationships -  whether it be a spouse, a parent, a child or a friend.  Sometimes you just have to choose that no matter what it takes, you're going to make it work.  The work is often hard and long, but both of you are committed. 

Our reconciliation wasn't quick or easy.  It took many months of rebuilding a strong foundation built on trust, love, commitment and God.  We knew that in order to be the best for one another, we needed to start with a right relationship with God first.  For us, we knew from past experience, that when the God-relationship was broken, our marriage and family would be broken, too.

I thought for a time that Iraq had shattered our marriage.  For a time, Iraq had broken my husband.  No one can come out of a war experience the same.  And it's true, Iraq did drastically change our marriage.  But now, looking back three years later, I know that Iraq ultimately changed our marriage for the better.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Wednesday Weigh-In

Happy Wednesday to all of you!  I was pretty nervous about this morning's weigh in, but I'm happy to report that I'm down one pound this week.  I'm thrilled that I lost the pound that I gained last week, so I'm where I was 2 weeks ago.  7 pounds to go!

I want to give some blog love today... first to my fellow MilSpouse blogger at Faith & Deployments.  She just welcomed her husband home from overseas and it's been a trying wait for her - he kept calling her to tell her he was on his way, and then plans changed.  I can't even imagine that kind of emotional roller coaster.  Way to go, girl!  And enjoy this unforgettable time with your soldier!

I also want to introduce you to a life-long friend of mine over at Lap-Band Momma.  We've known each other all of our lives and I'm so proud of her journey to weight loss and health.  If you've ever considered weight loss surgery or if you're just curious, please follow her story.  She just started blogging last month, so it won't take long for you to catch up with her.  So far she's chronicled her weight loss journey from when she started gaining weight back in high school until where she is today.  I had so much fun with her when she came to visit me and my family last week.  I hadn't seen her since she had the Lap-Band procedure 18 months ago.  I have so much respect for her as I had no idea how much life changes once you have this type of surgery.  She has a little boy who is just two weeks younger than my Autumn and she's an RN, so I think she offers a unique perspective.

I'm in the middle of writing the second part to my Home from War post.  These have been so hard to write, but I've found it to be a therapeutic process.  It'll be up tomorrow, so keep an eye out for that.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Home from War - Part I

This post will probably make more sense if you've read the other posts I've written about marriage.  Here they are:
State of Our Union, The Very BeginningPre-Kids and Homecoming Driven.

Let me first start out by saying that this particular post has been very difficult to write.  I have put a lot of thought into what I wanted to share publicly.  Above all, I want these posts about our marriage to hopefully encourage you and help those who have either gone through a wartime deployment, or may go through one in the future... So, here it is.

After six months of deployment, Joel came home from Iraq in August 2007.  The day that I waited anxiously for finally came.  It was time.  I remember sitting in the airport with Grace on my lap, and just thinking about all the time I spent over the past 6 months just yearning for this moment.  And it was finally here.

Joel walked through the doors of the terminal with his arms wide open.  That moment was a blur.  I just wanted to hold on to him.  I wanted to study Grace's reaction toward him.  I wanted the television cameras to go away so we could just be.  Above all, I just wanted to hold on to him, to get his bags in the car and to go home and leave the deployment behind us.

It was on the ride home that I realized that things were different.  As I was sitting next to him in the car and holding his hand, I felt disconnected.  It's hard to describe, but I felt like a stranger was coming home with me.  Six months changes a person.  Six months as a single mom and having to make all the decisions changes you.  And certainly six months in a war zone changes you.  I knew there would be an adjustment but I was not prepared to feel so disconnected from him immediately.

We had a welcome home party, looked at his Iraq pictures and unpacked his bags.  As far as I was concerned, the Iraq-saga was over.  But slowly during the first few weeks back home, Joel started sharing about his experiences and I quickly discovered that Iraq came home with him.

I knew Joel would be different.  I knew war would change him.  I knew that he would see things, experience things and do things that would leave an imprint.  But I wasn't prepared for him to be so different.  The Joel I knew was patient.  Iraq made him angry.  The Joel I knew was sensitive toward me.  Iraq made him rude.  The Joel I knew was tender toward Grace.  Iraq made him quick-tempered.  The Joel I knew was consistent.  Iraq made him moody.

The man I loved was different. Iraq changed him.  And I didn't love what Iraq did to him.  I struggled  to love the man that he had become.  And that's what our marriage became - a struggle.  It was like Joel and I were on opposite ends of a rope playing a terrible game of tug of war.  He was pulling me in - wanting me to understand who he had become.  And I was pulling him toward me - wanting him to become who he once was.

Part II coming soon...

Friday, October 8, 2010

MilSpouse Friday Fill-In

Thanks, Wife of a Sailor, for another great week of questions!

1.What is the longest road trip you’ve ever taken?
My freshman year of college I was a part of a choral group.  Over spring break, we went on tour through the south.  We started in Iowa and went through Tennessee, Georgia and finally ended up in Florida.  It was a week of hanging on the bus and singing.  Great memories were formed during that trip!

2.Do you collect anything? Tell us a bit about it.
I'm kinda embarrassed to admit this, but I collect makeup.  I know, vain, right?  I've loved makeup since I was 10 and started hanging out in the drugstore looking at all the pretties in the makeup aisle.  As I've gotten older and money's allowed, I've abandoned drugstores for Sephora, Ulta and the makeup counters.  Joel, fortunately, supports my habit even though he doesn't get it.  So, MAC, Chanel, Dior, Estee Lauder and Urban Decay have become my collection.

3.What is your favorite part about being an adult?
Eating what I want for dinner.  Joel and I would go every once in a while to a chocolate shop or Krispy Kreme for dinner when we were first married.  Now, I have my two little chicas to think about, so those days of indulgence are not as frequent.

4.What song brings a tear to your eye?
"Be Still My Soul"
Here's the first verse:
Be still, my soul; the Lord is on thy side;
Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain;
Leave to thy God to order and provide;
In every change He faithful will remain.
Be still, my soul; thy best, thy heavenly, Friend
Through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.

5.Describe your first plane ride (how old you were, where you were heading, etc).
I was a few weeks old when my family went to Tulsa, OK to visit my grandparents.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Wednesday Weigh-In

Here it is - my reward.  A Whopper with cheese.  I told myself that I could go ahead with this treat if I met my 15 pound goal and since I've gone past that, I treated myself to this last week.  It was delicious, but I felt heavy and sluggish the rest of the day.  I suppose that's a good sign.  I've been eating much better and sticking to a healthier diet, so a heavy meal, like this, always makes me feel totally gross.  That's why it's an every once in a while type thing.

I know some may see a reward like a Whopper counter-productive to losing weight and getting in shape, but for me, knowing that I can treat myself every once in a while, keeps me from thinking about these kinds of foods all the time and craving them constantly.  If I withheld completely from fatty, salty and sweet foods, I would binge on them.  That's just me.  So, that's why I let myself have a treat every now and then.

Anyway, back to my weigh-in for the week.  I am up a pound from this time last week.  I'm kind of upset about this, but Joel and I were emailing last night, and he reminded me that weight fluctuates and that as I work-out more, I'll be adding muscle which may "mess-up' the scale every now and then.  So, I'm just telling myself that I added a pound of muscle this week.  But that's probably not true.

Today marks day 90 of this deployment.  I think we've all done remarkably well so far.  Joel and I are communicating well and I think still maintaining a long-distance marriage pretty well.  I'm not feeling completely overwhelmed taking care of Grace and Autumn and I feel pretty optimistic about the deployment at this point.  I keep telling myself that I've done this before and I can do it again. 

Thank you all who follow this blog.  Starting out, I didn't think I'd ever get more than 10 followers.  But, I'm really amazed that I don't personally know the majority of my followers.  Thank you for coming along on this ride and for sharing about you!

Happy Wednesday!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Homecoming Driven

Grace was born at the end of the winter in 2006.  I had just quit working a job I loved and Joel was working full-time for the Guard and also going to school full-time.  Now after finally establishing our relationship and our roles in it, things turned a bit upside down with parenthood added to the mix.

No one tells you that parenthood is going to completely transform your marriage.  No one tells you, as a woman, that taking care of your baby and  your post-pregnancy body is going to leave you without any strength left.  Becoming a mom completely rocked my world.

Joel and I once again transitioned after Grace was born.  I was trying to be the best momma to my new little mini-me and was having a hard time emotionally giving up the working-girl Jill.  Joel felt like I wasn't giving him enough attention and I honestly, at the time, didn't feel like I had any more to give.  We had some crazy fights during this time.  I was still completely emotional from just having a baby, so I know I didn't always act rationally when Joel wanted to discuss things.  But because I was so irrational, I was convinced Joel was the irrational one.  Honestly, there was a whole lot of irrationality in our household during that time.

It took us a few months to get in the groove of having a new little person become a part of our family.  But by the fall, we were working hard to make it work.  It was during that time that we found out that Joel would be deployed soon to Iraq.  We let that news just sit with us for a while before we told family.  I wasn't handling the news well and the anticipation of him leaving was killing me.

In February 2007 Joel left for Iraq.  He walked out the door with all his bags and I collapsed on the floor.  I knew the next 6 months were going to be tough and suddenly I was thrown into single parenthood.

Joel's Iraq deployment was hard on me.  Grace was 11 months when he left, and still not sleeping through the night well.  I was trying to figure out how to manage the household without Joel's help or advice.  I was completely anxiety-ridden over Joel's safety and was an emotional wreck.  I cried myself to sleep more nights than I'd care to remember and I was worn-out from being Grace's mom and dad.  At night, I would sit in bed with the calendar and just stare at the days, weeks and months that had gone by and look to the weeks ahead wondering what it would feel like for Joel to come home.

So, Joel's homecoming was what I was fixed upon.  It was all I could think and dream about - the sight of him coming through the glass door at the airport with his arms wide-open.

A few weeks before he came home, the base's Family Readiness offered a briefing for family.  The briefing was basically useless.  I was most excited to hear from a psychologist they brought in to talk about post-deployment transitions and PTSD.  She was a non-military psychologist, but had worked closely with many war veterans.  She basically told us that our soldier's best bet, if they were experiencing problems, was to find a counselor/psychologist who would accept cash payment so there wouldn't be a paper trail.  She said that if our soldier saw a counselor and the military knew about it, that it would create too many career problems, so it was just best to do everything hush-hush.  I couldn't believe it!  I still can't and it makes me sick... but that's for another time.

I was excited yet totally stressed over the thought that Joel would be home soon.  I was having a hard time sleeping and developed TMJ, to the point that for about 5 days, I wasn't able to close my jaw.  All I wanted was a date.  THE date. 

I wanted him home.  I wanted his homecoming.  I wanted for our family of three to be together and for us to leave the deployment, war, loneliness and hard times behind.

Little did I know that the hardest time was about to come.

"Hear my cry, O God,
listen to my prayer;
from the end of the earth I call to you
when my heart is faint.
Lead me to the rock
that is higher than I,
for you have been my refuge,
a strong tower against the enemy.

Let me dwell in your tent forever!
Let me take refuge under the shelter of your wings!"
Psalm 61:1-4

Saturday, October 2, 2010

My Red Sauce

Here's the red sauce I cooked up today.  It's for a lasagna I'm putting together for dinner Monday night...  My house smells so good right now!

I mentioned my lasagna in yesterday's post and since it's a friend's family recipe, I won't share it.  (Don't hate me).  But I've added a few of my own touches, including bacon and a touch of sherry.  I saute the onions in the fat from the bacon.

I wish Joel was here to share this with us - it's his favorite meal that I make. 

Hope you're all having a fantastic weekend!

Friday, October 1, 2010

MilSpouse Friday Fill-In

Go over to Wife of a Sailor and join in on the fun!

1.What is the silliest get-up you have ever worn outside of a Halloween party? (from To The Nth)
At my former job, I took a lot of tours of manufacturing plants.  I think my favorite look was a business suit, dress shoes covered in steel-toe protectors, a hard hat, ear plugs and goggles.  I think it'll be a trend here soon.

2.What is something that you gave up in order to live the military lifestyle? (from Pennies from Heaven)
My job.  Joel and I had a lot of discussions before Grace was born regarding whether or not I would stay home full-time.  The decision was completely in my court.  I knew that Joel would start deploying soon after Grace was born, and I I didn't want Grace or any of our other kids to feel abandoned while Joel was overseas if I was working, too.  So, I decided to stay at home full-time in order to give our kids as much consistency as possible. 

3.If money wasn’t a factor and you could go anywhere in the world, where would it be? And why? (from Life and Times of a Displaced Jersey Girl)
I've said it before... I'd love to go back to Alaska.  It was beyond gorgeous and there is so much there to see and experience.

4.If you were going to join the military, what branch would you join? Or which MOS/rating would you choose? (from And You Never Did Think)
The Army?  Honestly, I don't know.  The military would never want me.  I hate camping and I hate to run.

5.What is your favorite thing to make for dinner? (from Armendinger Party of 4)
When I have the time, I love to make lasagna.  I've talked about it before - but I learned a family recipe from the mother of a good buddy of mine from college.  It's amazing.  A bit time consuming.  But one of Joel's absolute favorite dishes.  But for an everyday dinner, I love making steak.  After a whole lot of practice, I think I do a pretty good job with our indoor grill pan!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Wednesday Weigh-In

I lost 2 pounds this week! 

So, I've lost 18 since this deployment started and I have 7 more to meet my 2nd weight-loss goal of 25 pounds.  I feel really good about this week - I ate well, and tried to sneak-in workouts around taking care of my girls.  I don't know how it is for you, but I find it difficult to schedule 20-30 minutes for myself to workout when I have the girls to take care of.  So, I started working out randomly throughout the day.  I'll do squats while I'm waiting for dinner to finish on the stove, push-ups during commercials on TV and ab/back exercises while I'm holding the baby on the floor.  Oh, and I count an hour walk at the mall as exercise!

I saw my doctor yesterday for something non-weight related, but asked her what she felt my ideal weight would be.  So, we looked at the BMI chart together and talked some about it and she told me what she thought my healthiest weight would be.  Right now, I'm 4 pounds from that.  She told me to keep nursing, and it'll just fall off.  She's right, it's hard to give up nursing when you know 1) how healthy it is for your baby and 2) that you're burning approximately 500 calories a day doing it without much effort.  So, yes, nursing is part of my weight-loss strategy.  I'm not too proud to admit that.

Thanks so much for your encouragement in all of this.  It helps to know how many of you are cheering me on and how many of you look forward to my weekly weight updates.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010


Here's my third post about our marriage.  If you're interested, here are the first two posts:
State of Our Union and The Very Beginning.

So, after I decided to finally get in the picture and actually join our marriage, it was great!  We had a lot of fun and without a doubt, became best friends during this time.  We were both working - Joel was working full-time for the Guard and I was in sales for a health care network.  We both enjoyed our careers, had great friends and were really enjoying our marriage.

Much of that enjoyment may be because we had very little conflict during this few year period.  Our jobs had us working opposite shifts - I worked typical office hours and Joel worked from mid-afternoon until after midnight.  We rarely saw each other.  Seriously.  We say each other Saturday and Sunday mornings and Monday night after I came home from work.  Other than that it was just a quick kiss before I left for work in the morning. 

When we did get to spend time together, it was usually dinner out, watching movies at home and spending time with our friends and families.  We loved to take a long weekend here and there and get away.  Usually we'd go out to some nice restaurants, stay in great hotels and just relax.  Joel and I were still learning a lot about each other and working to figure out what are roles were as husband and wife.

So, this time was pretty drama-free.  It was also pretty stress free.  We both loved our jobs, lived a simple life, didn't own a home and didn't have much responsibility outside of work.  It was peaceful.  But you know what the say about the quietness before the storm...  More to come soon.

Friday, September 24, 2010

MilSpouse Friday Fill-In

Thanks Wife of a Sailor!

1.What characteristic about yourself has either been strengthened or weakened due to your experience as a Military Spouse? (from The Albrecht Squad)

I think I'm a lot more confident.  I'm confident in my abilities to take care of my kids, to handle all the chores around the house and to make decisions about finances.  The military life has made me more confident to be honest with others and stand-up for myself, even when I'm judged for doing so. 

2.What is your favorite vacation spot and why? (from ‘Tis the Life of the Army Wife)

I went to Alaska with my family in high school and it was the most amazing vacation.  I would love to go back some day, and hope to be able to go with Joel and our girls.

3.If you could have any fast-food restaurant in the food court on base/post what would you pick? (from The Only Pink in a House of Blue)

I love a good 'ol crappy cheeseburger from McDonald's!

4.Where did you go on your honeymoon? (from Pennies from Heaven)

Joel and I went to North & South Carolina.  We just rented a car and went wherever sounded fun that day.  It was so unorganized (which is so unlike me), but it was incredible.

5.If you could have any job in the world regardless of money, degree or experience, which job would you have and why? (from Proud to Be a Navy Family and The Calm Before The Storm)
I would love to do marketing again!  I think I would still choose to be in health care marketing, but more on the development side of things.  Marketing is so creative and there's a certain amount of risk, which keeps it exciting.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Wednesday Weigh-In

Well, I'm a little disappointed.  I didn't lose any weight today.

I guess I'm not all that surprised.  I didn't eat great this week and skipped out on two work-outs.  I had pizza this weekend and Burger King and Wendy's this week.  Now granted, I had chicken sandwiches at Burger King and Wendy's - but who am I kidding thinking the chicken sandwich makes up for the fries?

It's a fresh week and I get to make good choices this week.  I'll go grocery shopping later today, so hopefully I'll avoid temptation...

We'll see.

I've lost 16 pounds so far during this deployment, so I'll try not to beat up myself too badly.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

5 Months Old!

My baby girl is 5 months old!  I can't believe it and I don't want to believe it.

I love the baby stage.  I love all the cuddling that goes with it and the constant smooches.  I love the fact that I can get away with baby talk in public.  I love Autumn's chubby cheeks and all her rolls and dimples.  I don't want to let go of the itty-bitty baby stage.

To celebrate Autumn's 5 month birthday, I gave her what any good baby would want:  rice cereal.  It's kinda gray and smells like dirt.  What's not to love?

Autumn had no idea (obviously) what was going on.  She did great getting all strapped into the high chair.  (Is a 5-point harness really necessary?)  She didn't love the first bite, but did well with the rest of her cereal.  Success.
Hey, Cutie - please stay small a little while longer!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Care Packages 101

A friend of mine emailed me this weekend asking me for tips on care packages.  She knows someone who's about to be deployed and wanted practical tips on care packages.  So, here are my tips...

Each deployment location is so different, so the needs of the soldier will be different depending on where they're going.  They may not be able to tell you exactly where they're going before they leave, but they should be able to at least tell you what they would enjoy when they're there.  For example, Joel always requests that people not send him bulky things that he'll just have to carry home or have to pay to get sent back.  Some bulky things just get left there for the next unit coming in.

Here are some things that Joel loves to get:
  • Flushable wipes
  • Deodorant
  • Aleve
  • Gold Bond
  • Pictures/Drawings from home
  • Letters/Cards
  • Magnets for his locker
  • Batteries for his camera
  • Crossword puzzles
  • Magazines
  • Homemade goodies
  • One-serving drink mixes (he loves the KoolAid mixes)
  • Trail Mix
  • Oreos
  • Tea bags
  • Coffee
Keep in mind that most likely, your care package is going to the Middle East.  It's hot there.  Things melt.  There's nothing like being teased with homemade treats that are inedible because they're all melted.  That being said:
  • Don't send chocolate.  Chocolate trail mix, chocolate chip cookies, chocolates bars... they will not survive.
  • Aerosol cans
  • Alcohol - It can be done, but don't risk it.
  • Letters/notes from home about problems at home.  Keep letters fun, encouraging and light.  They have enough on their mind, wherever they are, and they need to keep focused on their mission.  They'll have plenty of time to get caught-up on all the drama they missed when they get home.
  • Your care package will go via USPS.  You will drop it off at a branch and they will ship it to a military base.  From there, it will go on a military plane and fly to your soldier's destination.  Packages can take up to 10 days to get there.  This deployment, packages take 6-7 days.
  • You package will need a Customs Form.  On the form you will need:  your address, your soldier's address, a list of the items in the box including the quantity of each item and the approximate value of all the items in your care package.  (I always bring a list with me of all these things, so I'm not stuck there wondering what I have in the box.)
  • The custom form only has 4 lines to list the items in the box - so if you're sending more than 4 different kinds of items, you may need to fill-out 2 forms.  I've gotten creative with this.  For example, if I'm sending 6 different kinds of snacks, I will list it as "snacks" and write 6 as the quantity.
  • When in doubt, ask.  I've found the Post Office employees to be so helpful!  They are always willing to take the time to answer my questions and they have always been very patient with me. 
  • Pack the box well.  I always keep brown packing paper around to fill in open spaces in the box.  Remember, both the USPS and the military are handling your box.  Just saying.
  • Double and triple tape the seams and edges of the box.
That's all I have.  I'm sure I'm missing some helpful tips, so I'll ask other military and MilSpouses to add any of your thoughts, tips or suggestions.  What have been some of your favorite things to send/get?