Ordinary Water Curse

Government quarters are not without their challenges. The biggest challenges I faced as a dependent spouse always happened during one of my husband’s deployments.  This ordinary lady faced many cursed quarters moments over the years. This blog is about the water curse deployment.  I spent a great deal of time actually cursing during this curse.  I look back now and laugh. Back then, it was not that funny. Ok, it was somewhat funny then too. It is always better to laugh than cry! Choose laughter my friends!

The deployment started out normal enough. We said good-bye to our soldier and started the fun adjustment time of moving from a two-parent family to a single parent family. Not sure what trespass I committed, only there must have been one.  A couple of weeks in, I was going through the normal nighttime take a bath/shower routine (ok, fight) with my two boys. It was while the second child was in the shower that I went into the downstairs powder room.

drowning-bathroomIt was raining in the powder room. Water was pouring in through the wall, the ceiling, the vent, and the light fixture. I immediately called in a work order. Calling in a work order for government quarters is  like calling the maintenance folks in an apartment only less reliable. I ended up calling in a work order repeatedly. I came to realize that the water raining into the powder room was from a burst pipe inside the walls taking. This broken pipe was moving the wastewater out of the shower and sink upstairs. So a little over four weeks and about 100 showers later, someone finally showed up to look at the “leak”.  He had the nerve to tell me I should have called the issue in sooner! As if! GRRRRRRRRRRangry-face

Understand that our quarters only had two bathrooms, the powder room on the first floor and the full bath on the second. We had no choice but to use the one and only shower. I suppose we could have avoided showering, used the kitchen sink to clean up? No that is just gross. Therefore, for weeks it rained in the powder room.  Every night after shower time, I washed all our towels so we would have dry towels for the next mop up job.  The powder room was a total loss. The wood cabinet was beyond salvaging, the lights were water logged, and the floor warped.  It took two full days to repair it all.  No water at all in our home for those two days.  I took us to a hotel during the repairs.

Three weeks later, our dishwasher filled the kitchen, powder room, and some of the living room with water. After mopping up, I again called in a work order and proceeded to wait for a response.  At least I could avoid using a dishwasher. I did dishes by hand for about two weeks while waiting for a new dishwasher.

hotwater-heaterA few more weeks later, the bottom fell out of the hot water heater. I kid you not! The whole bottom just rusted all the way around dropping the bottom to the ground. Thankfully, the hot water heater was not in the house, but in a small shed just outside the kitchen door.  It was nearly six weeks before we were the proud recipients of a new water heater.  Six weeks of cold showers, cold-water cold-showerlaundry, and dishes.  The shed thankfully survived, mostly because of the two-inch gap between the walls and the concrete floor. The plants on that side of the house really thrived. I guess they liked a constant supply of water. I had no way to shut off the water trying to go to the water heater without shutting off the whole supply to the house! Who comes up with these freaking designs?

The final straw was the garden hose. Yes, I still had to water the plants on the other side of the house. I was using the hose watering plants and trees when it failed spectacularly. I was drenched. I think I stood there a few seconds sort of stunned speechless. Then I burst into tears and the cursing commenced. I gathered up the hose and tossed it into the dumpster. I was done with water. The plants could survive or not on their own.

For months, I managed to hold on to my sanity (if not my temper or sense of humor) through one water-based crisis after another. Not exactly positive about what finally appeased the curse, but for these small things, I am grateful! An ordinary year made extraordinary by a water curse. Building memories that still can make me laugh aloud at a sequence of very water full events.


Ordinary Military Base Housing

Living on a military base meant creative solutions to many ordinary home comfort decisions. Ordinary families personalize their homes, both inside and out. This personalization may include painting walls, unique lighting fixtures, fancy faucets/fixtures, furniture, appliances, and landscaping projects or gardening. The changes we make to our homes can be dramatic or barely noticeable yet each change adds a particular style or flair. More importantly, each change helps create that sense of home.  Military families are usually living away from their extended families. So building that sense of home on a military base is vital.

Most home comfort choices are severely limited while living in government quarters. Housing offices on military bases have more rules than even the most stringent Home Owners Associations (HOA).  While changes are possible to the interior of government quarters, all must be undone when moving out. Everything painted or changed most go back to the original. Have you ever tried to cover a bright “impact” wall paint with cheap flat white paint? Have you tried to remove wall decals or wall boarder without tearing the dry wall? Exhausting!  Since military families rarely live in the same area more than three years, changing then undoing changes is time-consuming and pricy.

I have painted walls, put up boarders, changed small fixtures in government quarters. Then, I have fought the inspector when out-processing from those quarters. It can be absurd to argue over the exact shade of flat white put back on the walls. Nevertheless, I have had that argument. I have filled holes in walls with everything from newspaper and spackle to toothpaste to cover damage from a door handle banging into the walls (kids are great!). Holes I am positive where there and poorly repaired from the previous occupant. Hey, pay it forward. If the doors came with a stop to prevent wall damage before we arrived this whole process might have been avoided.  Nope, nothing is that easy.

After a time I learned a few tricks to personalizing the interior of our home without wallblanketruining the walls or creating tons of work to move out.  I would add color to walls by using large hanging blankets. This was a twofold benefit, changing out bright colors are as easy as putting up a new blanket, and a muffling of sound between the walls where the blanket hangs is a huge plus.   Put up wall boarders or wall decals using adhesive putty. Removal is easy and clean! A twin/full size flat sheet is a wonderful canvas for hanging posters, pictures, etc. Simply tack the sheet up high on the wall then use straight pins or safety pins to add items to the sheet. The sheet allows much more room than the average corkboard for displaying a variety of keepsakes, a perfect solution for a teen’s room.

flowerbarrelPersonalizing exteriors spaces on a military base has its own set of challenges. No digging allowed was a familiar refrain on most military bases. The solution is container gardens. We used a variety of containers including five-gallon buckets, whiskey barrels halves, and kiddie swimming pools. I am always amazed at the variety of herbs, vegetables, and flowers that thrive in a container garden. My husband has the proverbial green thumb. He would plant tomatoes, bell peppers, hot peppers, corn, carrots, peas, green beans, squash, pumpkins, watermelons, and a variety of herbs. All in some type of container, a favorite was the small plastic kiddie pools.kiddiepoolgarden

One of my favorite memories of our military time revolves around our container gardens. When our boys were very young they used to snitch vegetables out of the garden. No shame at all, both boys when asked if they had been eating out of the garden would immediately respond NO! Never mind that both wore the evidence.  They pulled up any root vegetables, wiped the dirt on their leg, or arm, or chest and commenced eating. Stripes of dirt and flecks of plant matter decorating little bodies.  I am positive that we never had a carrot that grew longer than a thumb. Tomatoes rarely had time to turn red. Bell peppers, jalapeño’s, snacked on long before picking size. Even the herbs were graze worthy. Honestly, the only crop not pulled up and eaten before it was mature was the pumpkins.  The pumpkins only made it because they were for pie. No Jack-o-lanterns for us, pumpkins equaled pie, conversation over.pie

We fashioned our home in a variety of government quarters during our 26 years with the Army. Inside and out we made small changes to each set of quarters that provided comfort and personalization. Our ordinary lives grew and thrived.  Memories to cherish built with each change. Most important this ordinary lady learned that home really IS where the heart is, and that my heart is with my family. Building a comfortable living space in temporary quarters is easier knowing that.

Ordinary Courtship

A couple of months after my 18th birthday I ran away from home and joined the Army. Seriously, I did not tell a soul that I was leaving until the day the recruiter came to the house to pick me up and put me on a plane to basic training. Now, I am sure this confuses some, but most of you will get that the home life was not exactly stellar. Joining the Army may seem a bit extreme but to me at that time it was the only way out. Not telling anyone  that running away to join the army is the right path, just that it  saved that ordinary young woman extraordinary arguments. To face facts the younger me was not up the weight class of my mom in arguing, so I jumped ship, ran for the hills, got out of dodge! I guess at 18 I was an adult and  did not need to actually run away, but it seemed the best at the time. When we are young extremes seem much less extreme. Really, how is joining the Army to go off and get shot at better than dealing with family drama? Boggles the mind and really not recommending this as a solution to others. Heh, I learned that we drag all our issues with us wherever we go – just saying. So might as well learn to deal.

So two months in South Carolina for basic training, then nine months in Georgia for Military Occupational Specialty training led me to my permanent duty station at Fort Detrick, Maryland. Before going to Maryland, I flew home to California to pick up my clothes and car and made the drive to Maryland for my first duty station. My grandfather, Popo, made the drive with me, five of the very best days of my life. When we made it to Maryland, one more night in a hotel then I put Popo on a plane home and headed to my first unit. Since it was Labor Day weekend, I was assigned a temporary room and given directions where to show up on Tuesday after Labor Day.

No sense of unpacking the car of more than necessities when I would be moving rooms in a couple of days, so bored I headed to the day room. A day room for you non-military folks is basically a common area in the billets for soldiers to relax and socialize. The room often contains a television with a variety of seating areas.  This particular day room had one other feature, the extra duty soldier responsible for manning the desk and answering the phone. A very cute guy with who I commenced flirting. We chatted, laughing and both of us flirting like mad for the better part of an hour before anyone else showed up in the day room.

The new guy who entered the room was a mess. Seriously, a complete mess. He had on very old and threadbare cut off jean shorts, a t-shirt that I was pretty sure was also threadbare in the places that still had fabric. Definitely his Sunday best, holy for sure! Do not get me started on the ball cap on his head, really let’s not go there. I will just say that I have seen better caps on the side of the road that have been run over by dozens of 18-wheelers. Enough said. Add in a pair of shower shoes, a fashion maverick in the making. On top of this fashion wonder was the road rash on one whole side of his body, cheek, elbow, knee all scraped to hell and gone. The icing on the cake here was the BCG’s he was wearing too! (BCGs is military talk for Birth Control Glasses, in other words the most butt ugly glasses the Army will provide for you free of cost!)bcgs

New guy inserted himself into the conversation (read flirtation) I was enjoying with the desk duty guy. Ok, so new guy was sweet, and funny, geeky and just would not go away. Sort of annoying really, but really sweet. An hour or so later, new guy asks if I had seen anything of the town yet, and what I was planning for dinner. I had not, and had no plans. Not sure how it happened but just a few minutes later I was in a car with new guy on my way to a tour of the local town and to grab a quick dinner. During the driving tour I found out that the road rash was from a motorcycle accident the previous week. The BCGs were because he could not bend his elbow enough to get in his contacts. The clothes, well let’s just say there is no real explanation that I have figured out, and I have lived with the guy for 30 years now, so yea, no taste at all in his personal clothes.

The whole evening was wonderful, we had dinner at a Roy Rogers since as a California girl I had never heard of the place. We drove around for hours and ultimately ended up in Gambrill a state park not far from the base. The lookout points were amazingly beautiful in early fall, still so green with just a few hints of the fall colors starting to show. The park had a swing set that we sat on for hours more, talking, always talking. We had so little in common, yet so much in common. It was strange and wonderful. Over those hours new guy went from sort a sort of goofy looking geeky guy, to a handsome young man who I was starting to really like.

The whirl wind began. From a goofy guy inserting himself into a flirtation to a guy I could not get rid of. Seriously, he was everywhere I was, every turn he was there. Persistent devil, I will give him that. I tried ditching him. I tried flirting with others, the lets just be friends route. All of it was sort of flattering really in an annoying sort of fashion of why the hell can I not get this guy to leave me alone you stalker you! I think we had been dating for a month before I realized that we were dating, and that he was serious. Capital letter SERIOUS. How did I know he was serious? Well because he told me he was planning to marry me, raise a family and grow old. All with me. After only ONE month!

To say that I was taken aback by that conversation it to understate it excessively. A couple of months later, in a hotel room in Georgia (after we had just spent a day as six flags in Atlanta). My soon to be husband pops the question, sort of. What he actually said was “so when are you going to make an honest man of me?” He was giving me those sad puppy dog eyes, looking so put out as if I was purposely compromising his virtue. I laughed, a lot then I took pity on him and we were married nine months after we first met. Yep we met and married in nine short months. My husband likes to tell people that he went away for training and came back to a wedding. And he did not want to disappoint me, so he married me. Huge favor he was doing me, the ass.

We were both on active duty and could not get any leave time to go meet each other’s families before the wedding. I got to talk to his parents frequently on the phone. Since he came from a military family they completely understood our not visiting before the wedding. My family, sigh, let’s just say the drama never goes away. Running away did not change it, or fix it. I think the thing that hurt the most was when my baby brother called in tears. Evidently, my mom told him that the reason I was not going to be coming home to get married (grew up in California – married in Maryland) was because I did not love him (my brother) enough. At least that is how an 8-year-old interpreted his mother’s rants. I was seriously annoyed, enough was enough. Called dad and told him I was flying my brother out for the wedding.  Dad took care of everything, which means that mom came out with my dad and brother. Yea!

My soon to be husband spent the two days before our wedding, and the day after our wedding annoying my mom. I think he was having way too much fun. She hated him, and he just kept up the hick routine to annoy the hell out of her. That and he would hum random tunes, or whistle through his teeth random notes. At the time I could not figure out what was up with that nonsensical noise. Honestly, I think he did it to keep me sane. Pretty sure he did not like my mom, and every time I would be close to tears he would start again. The whole long weekend I was not sure if I wanted to smack the crap out of him, or laugh hysterically. I chose laughter, a theme in our marriage. We celebrated our 29th anniversary this year. Years of love, laughter, tears, and fears. An anything but ordinary beginning for an enduring relationship that started with flirting, with someone else!

Ordinary Blended Family

A blended family today appears almost common place. Many people are eschewing marriage altogether while raising children. While other men and women marry and divorce several times, treating marriage as a temporary or disposable commodity. Men and women trading spouses at (to me) an alarming rate. The concept of yours, mine, and ours is very easy to find now. The first time I remember even knowing about blended families bradybunchwas in the 1969-1974 family comedy series The Brady Bunch. Two widowed parents fell in love, got married, and blended their three children apiece into one big happy family.  While plenty of hijinks ensued for the Brady’s blended family, the overall cohesiveness was solid. If only it was that easy to blend two different families under one roof.

Blending two families together takes work. According to Parents Magazine it can take between two to five years for a blended family to establish. From my own experiences, if certain people in that blend do not wish to do the work the concept falls apart. A long time ago, on a planet far, far way this ordinary lady participated in a blending family experiment. Mom with her three children meets/marries man with his three children. They all move in together and live happily ever after. NOT! I really wanted the Brady Bunch experience but instead I think we got the Addam’s Family. Although come to think of it, I believe the Addam’s Family got along rather well. Hmmm the Bates family did not have enough children, so I cannot think of a really good comparison.addamsfamily

Not so surprising, most of our blending issues came from the kid’s side.  I was excited at first, I was going to have sisters. I have two younger brothers, so sisters would be a fun experience. The boys were both sort of indifferent about gaining new sisters. The oldest about 12/13 was in his own little world, and the youngest only about four could care less as long as he had food.  Age wise two of our new sisters were older than me and one is about 15 days younger. For the sake of anonymity, I will call the new sisters, Bitchy, Clueless, and Judgmental. Pretty sure the new sisters were not excited about adding siblings, step or otherwise to their family.

Bitchy, the oldest, pretty much hated everyone. She never made any effort to get to know me or my siblings. We were completely beneath her notice. In fact, I believe that the only time she ever spoke to me while we were all living under the same roof was to make rude or cutting remarks. Nothing has changed in the last 33 years, she still only talks to me to snarl something rude. Bitchy and Judgmental both played (and still play) a good game to mom, friendly and sweet. Note that behind moms back the things both said/say about mom are not repeatable in a polite audience. Oddly, I love Bitchy’s husband. He is a sweetheart who is way too good for her.  Heh, no accounting for his taste in wives. Bitchy has two children. Both follow their mother’s lead and either avoid me completely or give me dirty looks when she is around.

Clueless, the middle step, was completely a follower. She would do or say whatever her siblings told her to do or say. She really did not have any actual malice in her (and still does not) but she needed their approval. I believe that had she any backbone of her own back then that we could have become friends. I am sad that we never had this opportunity. When clueless finally moved out from under the cloud cover Bitchy created, we lived so far apart it would have been very difficult to bridge that gap. I feel a bit sorry for Clueless, 33 years later she has finally getting a clue (and her own life – go Clueless!) and because of it she is learning all about rejection from her siblings. A new and not very endearing emotion to drag through. A process I am intimately familiar with from that side of the family. Clueless married and has two beautiful boys, who every time I have met them have been polite to me, more than I expected.

Judgmental was the most difficult of the three to live with back then. She was only about 15 days younger than me, which meant we went to the same school. Shared some classes, and knew the same people. Let me paint of picture of Judgmental from high school, she is tall (about 5’11”), chocolate-brown hair, green eyes, and a skinny size 0 to 4 sort of crowd person. Very involved in her “cliques”. I am a couple inches shorter at 5’7”, red hair, brown eyes, and Rubenesque, size 12 – 13 size person (back then a bit more Rubenesque now). Therefore, I was fat, ugly, worthless, unfashionable…. The hits never stopped. Nothing I did or could ever do was good enough for her and since we shared a room I was never allowed to forget it. Judgmental’s favorite pastime was to cut me down in front of her friends and mine. At 16 this is devastating to a young woman, and I suffered for years with self-doubt. Even today I have a real issue with negative body-image because I can still hear her sniping and put downs.scales

My self-esteem took a huge battering thanks to Bitchy, Clueless, and Judgmental. The scales would could not balance in my favor. In a very short amount of time I went from looking forward to new sisters to looking for a way to get out of the house, permanently. Which I did at 18 by joining the Army. Today, 33 years later I have at best a very superficial relationship with these three. We see each other maybe once every five years at some family gathering, and only two of them are friends on Facebook (Bitchy never sent or accepted a request). Not that I really pay that much attention to either Clueless or Judgmental’s social media, but at least it is something.

The hardest part in this blending experience was that I felt like I had lost my motheryoursmineours completely. As a teenage girl, our relationship was already rocky, but at least we had one and I knew I could lean on it if I needed to. Early in the blending process that was gone completely. I became a second class citizen in my own mother’s life. Mom spent so much time sucking up to the new children there was little room for me or the boys. We felt that loss deeply. Each of us escaping in our own ways as soon as we could. My relationship with mom is still deeply scarred. I doubt I will ever feel that I can confide in her or lean on her in hard times. I love her, but she does not hold the place of importance in my life that I see in other mother daughter relationships. This makes me very sad. The Brady Bunch we are not.

The one bright spot in the blending experience – DAD! This man, who married mom loves all six of us equally. He never made me feel like I did not belong in his life. He is the treasure that I cling to in our blended family. He adopted me and my brothers very early on and as far as he is concerned we are his.  So he was blind to the drama in our home, no one is perfect. Pretty sure it would surprise him to know his girls are not the best of friends, and never have been. If not for this man, I am pretty sure there would be no relationship left between me and mom – he brings us together.  Oblivious, truly but loving, that is my dad.

secretformulaAs near as I can tell there is no secret formula for blending two families together. I have found no shortage of data on the subject but no real answers. Our family failed miserably from my view-point. We still feel like two families who are tossed together constantly but do not really like each other. We have very little communication in our little blended experiment, and what we do have is broken. That does not mean the successful blending of two families is impossible; so if you are trying to blend a family this ordinary lady wishes you the best of luck!

Ordinary Dogs Life

This ordinary lady currently plays butler for two dogs. Dogs provide a boundless source of companionship. They can have a positive impact on your health and your mood by helping reduce blood pressure and anxiety.  Let’s face it, dogs are cute, cuddly, great listeners. They love you even when you are in a pissy mood.  The health benefits are so clear that dogs are even used in hospitals, long term care facilities, shelters, and retirement homes. Our dogs are family.  Sort of like the loud, demanding, spoiled child at the family reunion.

So our family has two dogs. We have the old man, and the young pup.  Truthfully, I had no real desire for a second dog at first. When we noticed to the old guy slowing down we thought that maybe a companion would help perk him up. So the journey began in finding a second dog who could blend with our established family.  This process was not as easy. Mostly because our old man is well, a bit difficult. Haha, difficult she says. I cannot think of a word that really describes the mean ass.

A friend of ours volunteers with a rescue organization call Operation Paws for Homes (OPH). OPH operates out of Maryland, Virginia, Washington DC and South Central PA. OK Warning, shameless plug next. OPH rescues dogs of all breeds and ages from high-kill shelters reducing the numbers being euthanized. They do not have shelters or physical locations, foster families care for all rescued dogs. 100% donor funded, the goal is to find forever homes for all dogs abandoned in shelters.  We had a fantastic experience with the process of adopting our second dog. Sincerely recommend that folks looking for a dog in the area look these folks up!

snoopy-1So let me tell you about our old man first, Snoopy, is a Jack Russell Terrier who weighs in at or about 20 pounds.  My husband and sons brought Snoopy home from visiting family several states away. They called and asked if they could have him; I said NO. So, they brought him home anyway. This was about 14 years ago now. At the time Snoopy was about 10 or 11 months old. Yep that makes him 15 now. We are pretty sure he is going to outlive us all, mean ass little bastard that he is! Old age is not being kind to Snoopy’s temperament. Currently, he has two moods, asleep and pissed off. Lately, he is managing to be pissed off in his sleep. My sister-in-law had evidently kidnapped Snoopy in the dead of night from a family member who was abusing him. She needed him out of state to hide her crime and my boys were suckers for a sob story, so the dog was ours.  I have been actively trying to give Snoopy back for a couple of years now. Seriously, he is mean!

Snoopy has so many odd quirks I have no idea where to begin. One of the first quirks we noticed is that he barked at his food. Put food in his bowl and the barking begins. He will bark a few times, grab a mouthful, toss the mouthful on the floor, bark at it again, and then eat it.  Twice a day for 14 years now, this is what we have put up with. I think the family favorite quirk is his sneezing every time he tries to growl for a sustained period.  The growl starts up and sure enough a few seconds later a sneezing fit commences. Really tough to be taken seriously when you have a sneezing fit. Snoopy loves to be under covers. He is very dedicated to getting his way in his cover preference so even in 100 degree weather I have a blanket at my feet to toss over his grumpy butt. As I write this blog, he is sitting under a blanket at my feet growling anytime I move, or if he hears a noise, or if he breaths. Sigh. snoopy2

While not a huge fan of being outdoors, Snoopy will stay out if his human butlers are out. When he was younger he would burrow into the flower beds in what the kids called his jungle explorer mode. Amusing to call his name and have his pop his head up above the blooms. Snoopy was cheerfully high energy when he was younger and even now in his old age has a few high energy moments. Only now his high energy moments are dedicated to growling or snarling at anything and everything especially CK.

babyckIntroducing or second dog, rescued through OPH, Clark Kent (who we call CK). CK is a Labrador retriever mix who weighs in now at or about 85 pounds. CK was born in the foster home where his mom was a pregnant rescue. He was one of 8 puppies, and the runt of the litter. CK weighed in at six pounds when we brought him home with us.  This was half the size of his siblings. He was so adorable we could not resist. During the dog search process, CK was one of the only dogs that Snoopy seemed indifferent to or at least not hostile towards.  We actually wanted a slightly older dog. That is not how our dog hunt worked out.

Please note: eight week old pups are as much work as eight week old humans. Thankfully, our youngest was home for the summer to shoulder some of the work. House breaking went very quickly, mostly I think because CK had a vendetta against the pads.  Leaving him alone with a pad for even 30 minutes meant that pad was so much confetti. Then he would cheerfully pee beside the shreds. So just like a potty training toddler, we put CK in the grass every hour. He quickly got the hint. For the first four months, this meant we were carrying him on the stairs to the grass as he was legs were too short for stair climbing. Nighttime potty trips meant two flights of stairs. Yes, just like an infant, CK was up at least twice a night at first. So many nighttime trips up and down the stairs carrying a wriggling pup. Thank you youngest son for teaching CK to use stairs as soon as he was tall enough!

CK grew, and grew into the 85 pounds of pure Zen. I love watching him when the butterflies or bees are out I force. I have watched him sit in the grass concentrating so hard on some flying object that flies over his head. He falls over onto his back to keep watching. CK loves to lay on the sofa beside me and hold my hand in his mouth. He will suck on my thumb for a bit. Then he will snuggle his head under my arm pillow with his paw tossed over my arm. Snoring commences. He loves to put his nose against my nose and blow puffs of air at me – the doggy version of blowing kisses.  CK has a thing for elbows, he nibbles them, both of them before he is done. He also likes to try and nibble on ears.

CK’s favorite pastime, bar none, is to play Frisbee. He carries at least two Frisbees withckfeisbee him everywhere. He pottys with them. He sleeps with them. If at any time one of his human butlers stands up (or looks like they are going to stand up), CK snatches up the Frisbees and waits. Trust me, I have not gone to the bathroom in over a year without first tossing a Frisbee. Rain, sleet, snow, hail, blistering sun, the Frisbee is thrown at least 20 times a day. The Frisbee toss is hysterically funny. CK will work to catch the first one, then wait for the second one. He does not put the first Frisbee down. Oh no, he keeps it in his mouth while he knocks the second Frisbee out of the air with his head, body, or feet. Then he carefully drops the first Frisbee on top of the second. Stacking them neatly to pick both up and carry them around.

House play for CK includes a doggy version of peek-a-boo and pillow fights. CK plays both of these games with my husband. Both are very amusing to watch too! Peek-a-boo is a blanket tossed over CK’s head with my husband then tapping either side of CK’s head. When tapped, CK tries to nip the hand that tapped him through the blanket until he manages to toss the blanket off. Another version is my husband’s hand under the blanket with CK trying to pounce on the moving hand.  The pillow fighting is interesting. Husband smacks CK with the pillow, while CK pounces around trying to snatch the pillow. Usually, his furiously wagging tail knocks into things and over balances CK who will tumble off the Sofa. Only to pounce right back on the sofa to encourage another smack with the pillow.

Snoopy is not amused by any of this play. He hates the Frisbee. In the house play he snarls and growls to get on my husband’s lap to stop the nonsense.  Any toy CK has (except the Frisbee) Snoopy snatches away. Half the time Snoopy snarls if CK even walks into the same room.  Bad attitude runs into Zen master.  Zen master simply takes another route to his goal or waits until one of the human butlers has a hand on the mean ass to keep him under control. CK even waits until Snoopy is done eating before he eats his own meals. Whoever heard of a Lab waiting for anything to eat? Our silly 85 pound dog lets himself be bullied by a 20 pound dog. Yet the whole time Snoopy is snarling and snapping at him CK’s tail is wagging with joy. They are both nuts! But, they bring hours of amusement and tons of love.

Ordinary Pregnancy, part 2

My extraordinary husband pointed out that this ordinary lady left out a few very important parts of my original post on pregnancy. Most of what I left out revolved around him and heroics of course! Plus, I should mention that he laughed and laughed at the title of my blog – Ordinary Lady.  This wonderfully supportive man told me that I am anything but ordinary that I am in fact extraordinary. He might be prejudice, or buttering me up for something. That could go either way. But the fact that after 30 years together he still says he believes I am more than ordinary makes me smile – even if he is nuts.

I am going to revisit one of the seven pregnancies that I mentioned in the first pregnancy blog, my second pregnancy. This pregnancy has some very important roles for my husband, and to give the devil his due, I did not mention them previously when I should have.  His strength, support and belief in me, and in us were my rock. I was very firmly tethered to him during this time in my life – and still today. Any time any of those tethers became frayed, he added a new one to keep me with him, safe.  He still does this for me after 30 years. He is my safe place. He has always had a gift for making me laugh in even the direst of situations (a gift he uses shamelessly to get out of trouble he deserves to be in too!).

My second pregnancy was going along very normally at first.  One little off note was that my husband and I enrolled in birthing classes early because his military unit was going to deploy him during the eighth month of pregnancy. I learned that in our area the classes were normally in the seventh to eighth month. So we were a bit early for our Lamaze classes. So Monday night at this class, I was teased by all the other moms-to-be for my tiny belly. Sort of a ritual in these weekly classes was getting on the scale to see if we had gained any wait in the past week. I had gained 1 pound from the previous week on the scale. The first time in a couple of weeks of classes I had shown a weight gain. Only time in my life that weight gain for me was slow was during pregnancy. Heh!

The next morning, was my regularly scheduled prenatal appointment. My husband could not make the appointment because he was on duty. The appointments were pretty routine anyway, so he would not miss much. So we both thought. First clue something was wrong was after the initial screen process began. First thing at every appointment was please pee in this cup – the nurse then did a regular protein test. She tested twice, I watched her dipping the little test strips. Odd, but not alarming. Next it was up on the scale, weird I was 12 pounds heavier than the night before at the Lamaze class. Next the nurse took my blood pressure. Then asked me to stand up and took it again. Then asked me to lay down and took it again. Yes, now I was starting to worry this was not normal.

The nurse told me she would be back in just a couple of minutes to please remain laying down. About five minutes later she was back, took my blood pressure again and asked me to get back on the scale for a moment. I was up another 10 pounds from the first time on the scale, less than 30 minutes previously. This really freaked me out. This time the nurse asked me to lay down and specifically on my left side. The doctor would be in immediately. The next hour is a bit of a blur, I know I was never left alone, that my blood pressure and weight were both climbing at an alarming rate. An ambulance was called to take me to the hospital. My husband was called to let him know I was on my way to the local hospital. He could meet me there.

I have very few memories of the local hospital. Everything was moving so quickly, including the decision to deliver the baby. I was 25 weeks along, the local hospital did not have neonatal services I was going to have to move hospitals. The decision was made to send me to Walter Reed Army Hospital, more than 45 miles away. raceNo ambulance this time a helicopter was called. Oddly, I was not feeling bad/sick yet, but the concern of the doctors was contagious, I was scared to death.

I use humor a lot when I am scared, and I remember joking with the police officer who rode with me in the helicopter that he should write my husband a ticket now so that when he shows up at Walter Reed shortly after us the ticket would be waiting. The officer laughed as intended. But the joke was on him, I do not think I had been at Walter Reed more than maybe 10 to 15 minutes when my husband appeared. The officer was still there with me, and walked out laughing when he saw my husband. The next little bit was a blur as I was prepped for surgery, C-section delivery.

My husband’s first trial or heroic act came right before I was wheeled into surgery. The surgeon asked my husband for a decision, that if only one of us could be saved, me or the baby who should he work to save first. My response was the baby. My husband said to save me. He was adamant, me first baby second. We could try for more kids, or adopt, but he needed me to survive. What an epically horrible thing to ask anyone. Yet, there was no hesitation in his response, just a decisive statement. Save my wife. I hated that decision. But, if our roles were reversed, I know I would have made the same one. I was too drugged, and too emotional to make that decision which is why the call was my husbands. Took me a long time to understand that this was the correct decision.

Our son, Cody, was born weighing one pound 15 ounces at 12 inches long. He was struggling for life. On about day six it was decided that he needed still better medical care and he was transferred to Georgetown University neonatal intensive care unit. The doctors did not have much hope for his survival yet everyone was still fighting for him. I was at Walter Reed, our baby in Georgetown, my husband and mom had finally gone home for the night to eat and sleep after spending the day bouncing back and forth between two hospitals. It was late and I was suddenly convinced that something was wrong, seriously wrong. I called home, and asked my husband to call Cody’s hospital. He assured me that if there was something wrong the hospital would have called, but he would call them anyway, I needed to sleep. A very short time later, I looked up as my door opened, my husband, and mom were following my nurse in to the room. I knew before the words were spoken. That night Cody had passed away. I came very close to following him.

To say I freaked out is to understate the issue. I was still on the critical list, my blood pressure still out of control. That night all my alarms were ringing, the crashcartcrash cart was pulled into the room. Medical professionals were pumping my IV with meds to calm me down, everyone talking at once preparing for the worst. I am not sure it was a conscious decision on my part but it was almost like I was willing myself to die with my son. All those medical people in that room could not have saved me.

My husband, he saved me. He and he alone was the only voice I finally heard in those moments. He was pissed. I remember the words he shouted at me very clearly. Shouted while sitting on the bed facing me shaking my shoulders and shocking the hell out of everyone present. “Damn you, you will not die on me, I lost a son tonight, and I will not lose a wife too. Live damn you. You will live!” My hero! Seriously, he is my hero. Still, I am pretty sure you are not supposed to scream at a dying person, but he gave me something to focus on outside of myself and my pain. I locked my eyes on his, and knew he would keep me safe. I took a deep breath and let the morphine take me under, let myself begin to heal. Twice he fought for us in this hell week, and twice he won for us both, that is a true hero.

Ordinary Guilt

Guilt is an interesting emotion. Guilt can have positive and negative ramifications – though most will consider it negative. As a rule, this ordinary lady does not often feel guilty over something that I did (or didn’t do).  Mostly because if I didn’t do it, then there is no need. If I did do something, I probably had a pretty good reason and therefore no need of guilt. Wouldn’t life be great if it always worked that way? Oddly the rare times that I did feel guilty about something were usually times where I had no control at all. Of course, there is even an exception to that as well. So if I am not in charge, did not make the decision to do something a specific way, how come I felt the guilt?

Part of the answer is that I was raised Catholic and being Catholic takes guilt to an art form for many. So maybe I was not that great a Catholic? With the not feeling guilty over the least little thing. Growing up I remember the church teaching/preaching feelings of guilt on a number of topics/taboos including abortion, sex before marriage, masturbation, birth control, divorce, marriage to someone not catholic, not attending regular mass, not agreeing with every word out of the priests mouth, jay walking, talking out loud in class, or any topic of the moment that fits a need of the nun or priest talking. I was a fairly intelligent kid, caught on pretty quickly to the theme. If the religious figure said it was bad and we did it anyway, we should feel loads of guilt. What a crock!

I just could not get on board with feeling guilty about sins I had not yet committed. Or feel guilty about something silly like disagreeing with Sister Mary Catherine about the exact color of a tree. Yep that happens and by the way it really is not healthy to disagree with a nun, they have rulers and know how to use them!  I have never understood why I should feel guilty about something normal such as birth control or sex education classes or disagreeing with someone. Even some of the sins I was accused of couldn’t really get me upset. I mean really, was it my fault in first grade that my long hair moved when I moved my head? Why should I feel guilty over brushing someone’s paper off their desk with my hair? I did not mean to do it. I did not do it on purpose. There was no malice intended. Besides, I sort of think that this falls under one of Newton’s laws right? The law of motion? Sister Mary Catherine thought it was a sin that should send me to my knees.  Sister Mary Catherine had a huge list of sins, most of which are nonsense. I am pretty sure all the nuns tickets1I knew had sin accountability quotas and worked diligently at making sure they made those quotas. Sort of like speeding tickets for the police, nuns hand out a large variety of sin tickets to repent.

On the serious side, guilt can paralyze, cause resentment, and depression.  Each of my miscarriages left me feeling guilty. Truly a painful time that the head and heart cannot seem to adjust to the fact that there was nothing I did or could have done to change the outcome. The failure of my body to carry the baby to term without complications was devastating. In my own head I was guilty of the greatest sin ever, killing my unborn child. Yes, that is absolutely how I saw each miscarriage. Statically, one in four pregnancies end in miscarriage. The reasons are many and varied but not often as a direct result of anything the mom did or did not do. The absolution from this guilt was years and years in the making. Still, at times the old guilt haunts me, but my brain is a bit stronger now and can hold off the heart’s insistence that I should be guilty of something.  On the other hand guilt can motivate positive change – though according to Psychology Today, guilt is not the best motivator.

The most memorable time that I truly and sincerely felt guilty and was motivated to change something I had done was when my youngest was six years old just starting out in first grade. Some brain trust faculty member thought it would be a good idea to have a speaker talk to the kids about the dangers of smoking cigarettes. I did not get to see this lecture first hand. I am pretty sure that I would have objected to some of the content if I had. Or at least objected to the fact that the content completely traumatized my youngest son. No one can lay on the guilt trip better than a traumatized child.

When you add in a precocious child that likes to read and knows how to research a topic both online and in a library. A child with a very sharp mind who can ask very pertinent questions you have the makings of a great guilt trip.  This lovely child came home and the trip on the guilt train began. Cue the crocodile tears, wobbly lip and very dramatic dialog. Seriously, I felt like I was on a Hollywood sound stage as part of an unfolding after-school special. The dialog went something along these lines:

Me: hello, how was your day?

Son: (tears, lip wobble, slight sob in voice) you are going to die.

Me: What?

Son: You are going to die! and I will be an orphan with no mommy to see me grow up, and go to college, and get married. I will be all alone! (heavy sobbing here)

Me: WHAT? Who told you I was going to die?

Son: (more sobbing) the lady told us at school, that if you smoke cigarettes you will die, and you smoke so you will die! (barely coherent)cryingchild

Me: I am not going to die

Son: YES YOU ARE, the LADY SAID SO! (hysterical crying)

So, this conversation went on, and on for quite some time (hours, days, weeks even). The whole time my lovely youngest child would sniffle and sob about all the things he was going to have to do without a mom. You know, since he was destined to be an orphan and all. No idea where my husband was in this orphan thought process, but I guess since he did not smoke he did not count. Every day my offspring had some new bit of data or information to toss at me. (Trust me, there is not a nun out there that could have done a better job of guilting me!) So the end result of all this guilt being heaped on my shoulders, I have not had a cigarette in about 16 years. That is right, I let a child of six guilt me into quitting smoking. I suppose there are worse things in life. But seriously, I had to get off that train, the load of guilt was guilt-tripkilling me. Not to mention the child who was up for best actor in the Oscars for that year!

So the moral of this little blog entry about guilt – little kids are as good as or better than nuns at tossing guilt. Seriously, guilt can be a heavy load for an ordinary lady (or man) to carry around. If the load you are carrying is getting to be too much for you, reach out for help. A parent, friend, sibling, pastor, priest, nun (yes even a nun), or a medical professional can provide help. Sometimes simply talking an issue out with someone you trust can make all the difference.  A little guilt is good for the soul, but too much can really damage us.