Saturday, March 31, 2007

My Saving Grace

I just came home after spending EIGHT HOURS house shopping today. I am "motion sick," worn out, hungry, dirty AND we didn't find a house for her. The price of homes in Florida has gone nuts. EVERY house has at least doubled in value in the last 2-3 years --- some only in one year. We are looking for a small house in a decent neighborhood and the MINIMUM available is at least $175,000. And we're talking small --- 1,000 to 1,200 square feet; even 2 bedrooms 1 bath. Nothing is selling, no one is buying but the prices are sky high. I just don't get it. We found the perfect house in the perfect neighborhood and it's $215,000. My daughter is 23 years old and that's a bit much to take on even with her hunky boyfriend.

Anyway, house shopping is a nice distraction for both my daughter and myself and keeps our minds off the "boys" for a while. Kylee and Austin are so close (they are only 17 months apart in age--he's 22) and his deployment is going to break her heart. She and Stef, who is 27, have spent more time together since Austin went in the Army so they do have each other. Stef lives about an hour away and with the boys in the Army, I put a lot of pressure on Kylee to "be there" for me. I try to make up for it by always being there for her -- I think "we" made a sweet Pink Power Ranger costume. "We've" also won contests at her work; similar to when "we" won the poster contest when she was in third grade. The best thing is the "thanks, Mom" whenever I help her with something.


We've Got a Date

Austin will leave the US this coming Friday.

He's ready, willing and able to go and I'm very proud of him.

Anyway, it's a gorgeous morning in Florida and I'm going house shopping with #2D (Pink Power Ranger).

Thursday, March 29, 2007

What? Huh? Yeah, Sure I'll Do it...Wait a Minute

A few months back a "joined" the Florida chapter of the Blue Star Mothers. I sent in my registration form, my dues and $ for a pin. Hadn't heard a word back, no pin either. Then today I got my first communication from the chapter president. Would I (along with others) be willing to attend a Soldier's funeral in Winter Haven on Saturday on behalf of the Blue Star Mothers? What? Huh? Yeah, sure I'll do it. . .wait a minute! Am I up to that kind of emotional experience? Before my brain even thought about thinking I replied to the e-mail, "I'll go." I even signed my husband up as a member of the Patriot Guard! Just wait until I tell him about that.

One of my sweetest friends called me about some plans we'd made for Saturday and when I told her what I was going to do -- "ARE YOU UP TO THAT? YOU CAN'T GO ALONE! I'LL GO WITH YOU. ARE YOU SURE YOU WANT TO DO THIS? YOU NEED TO GIVE THIS SOME MORE THOUGHT! THIS DOES NOT SOUND LIKE SOMETHING YOU SHOULD BE DOING RIGHT NOW!"

She's probably right.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Better Not

Not a good day AT ALL. Maybe tomorrow I'll be able to write.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Leaving on a Jet Plane

We just had lunch together and are leaving for the airport soon. The lump in my throat isn't the baked potato I just ate. Three hours and counting down quickly; half a xanax (don't worry, I have an Rx) has me functional. This is my last post while my son is within arm's reach. I'll see you all "After".

Monday, March 26, 2007

Iguana Poo

Jan Wesner wrote about me in her blog for the St. Pete Times today ( Thanks so much Jan -- I really do appreciate you and what you are doing for all of us.

An aside--don't let the St. Pete Times and the Tampa Bay thing confuse you --- the Tampa Bay Lightning play hockey in the St. Pete Times Forum in TAMPA and the Tampa Bay Devil Rays play baseball at Tropicana Field in ST PETE.

Liberal Army Wife posted an amazing comment on Jan's blog that more accurately described how I feel about "my baby" going off to war than even I could have done myself. She and I have e-mailed each other a few times and our sons seem to be cut from the same jello mold.

Jan... honest, it's different. I waved my one and only baby boy off to Iraq in 2003, and my husband is there now. The gut check when there are wounded or KIA, is the same. But I know my husband is sensible and can take of himself and his troops. But that child??? the one that painted his room black, cut his own hair when he was 5 the later buzz cut was not unattractive) the baby who needed his blankie at ALL times. nd who kept Wicket The Ewok on the bed for a long long time... that's my Baby. I need to help him cross the street, teach him to sort his socks... You are going to give him a gun??? are you NUTS??? someone is shooting at him>??? Hey, stop picking on my boy....You get the picture. yes, he was 24, almost 6 foot tall, has a better aim than anyone else I know, but hey... that's my baby.

My baby is 22, 6'3" around 220, earned his EIB on his first try straight out of boot camp. But how much time do we spend looking for his wallet? keys? shoes? He had Ruffy the talking dog in his bed for years and I'd still have Ruffy if his iguana hadn't pooped all over him -- never let them have the run of the house!

Out of desperation I e-mailed my DIL to ask her if there was anything I could possibly do to keep my #2 son from going to Iraq. She didn't say no, but she said I should not even think of doing anything b/c my son would feel that he'd let his buddies down and didn't do his part for his country, etc. The more I thought about it I had to CALL her and ask again -- "Did you say that I COULD do something but I just shouldn't?" It never hurts to ask -- twice. Again, the sensible officer in her tells me that while it is a lot to ask of a mother, to even try to keep him here would be wrong. Then she asks, "why didn't you act like this when (#1) was going?" Big difference between the two sons. If #1 had any idea I was doing all this whining about #2 he'd be furious with me; if I'd done it about him he would have not sent me flowers for my birthday.

Just Great

We're saying goodbye to #2 son tomorrow afternoon.
I had left a voicemail for my daughter-in-law this weekend just to check in since I hadn't heard from her or my #1 son (her husband). I e-mailed her this morning to make sure everything was ok; she e-mailed back that she had been at a soldier's funeral Saturday. Just great.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

My "Baby" is going

Raw, gut felt emotion. That's what I'm posting today. After a day of work and a couple of glasses of wine, I'm ready to unload. Our youngest is home for his "goodbye" visit. He got in this a.m. and spent most of the day w/ his sister. They're having a Ninja party Friday night and are working on costumes. I should say that WE are working on costumes. These two are 22 and 23 and I thought I was through with costumes. But my daughter has theme parties all the time and they always have a lot of fun. She is incredibly creative.

My son's unit had a briefing last night and whatever was said there has caused him to make a very important decision. He was recently given a P3 profile -- whatever that means -- and if he turned it in he would have either gotten 3 months of TOC duty w/ physical therapy in Iraq or stayed back for three months and done physical therapy at his post. He has decided to NOT turn in the new profile and is going with everyone else -- as everyone else. No special consideration of his knee surgery at all. He looks good, walks fine, his mood is good. Something flipped a switch in his mind last night and now he is either resolved or determined to spend the year+ in Iraq doing whatever is commanded of him. I'm very proud of him.

He's "my baby", though, and I'm heartbroken. As I mentioned in an earlier post, his Last Will and Testament arrived in the mail last Saturday. I asked him today if he couldn't have warned me about that. He said, "Oh, yeah, they told us to call home and tell you to expect it, I must have forgotten to do that." I told him that "next time" (as if there could be a next time) he MUST warn me and that how I felt when I opened that envelope was one of the worst experiences of my 51 years on this planet.

Watching my daughter and my son working together on their costumes was very nostalgic. It almost felt like it did when all the children were at home. "Empty nest" is hard enough without adding two of them being in a war. Now I've got at least six, if not eight, months with my two sons in Iraq. I wonder if they will ever see each other over there. The oldest is a company commander in the 1st Infantry and the youngest is a "grunt" in the 2nd Infantry. One is in Mosul, the other will be going to Baghdad as part of Pres. Bush's "surge".

Why, why, why, MY children. Of course, we always hear "better your son than mine." But every other soldier mother is just like me and just as deserving of their child(ren) returning to the US whole and ready to go on with "normal" life. I want grandchildren and lots of them. That's how I thought my life would be. We live in a small town, have been in the same (historic downtown) house for 20 years. I pictured all of my children marrying their high school sweethearts and living down the street with my grandchildren always coming over to visit. My oldest son's high school sweetheart does live "down the street" but she's married to someone else. And I love my son's wife very much.

When I was growing up we moved all over Florida. My father was a Baptist preacher and if you have any experience with Southern Baptists you know of all the turmoil they bring on themselves and then the pastor "has to go". (We've gone to the same Presbyterian church for over 15 years with the SAME PASTOR.) Anyway, my three brothers and I had NO ROOTS. So when I had children I vowed they would have roots and a "family home" to always return to. Even though none of their rooms are the way the left them, they LOVE coming here. My daughter still lives in this small town and my step daughter lives close by. But the boys -- they just had to go off on these Army adventures.

As a person I am all about JUSTICE. If I see anyone being mistreated or discriminated against I MUST take some kind off action to right the wrong. Maybe that's what infused my boys with the will to serve their country. It has certainly gotten me in a lot of trouble in my adult life. Most recently I suggested a discrimination in favor of a male co-worker and was interrogated by our HR person as if I was a criminal. But the company changed the situation with that male co-worker so I was right. But has anyone said anything to me about being right? Of course not.

I've been making a lot of contacts in the last few weeks. I'm trying to establish a support network to help me survive my two sons involvement in this war. I'm not alone and I know that. So if you're a Mom out there and can "feel my pain", please get in touch with me. Especially if you are in Florida. Let's get together and cry together.

If you listen to country music -- as I do -- listen to "The Baby" by Blake Shelton and cry along with me 'cause "that one is my baby".

Monday, March 19, 2007

Getting Involved

This weekend I signed up to do some sewing for Just looking at the clothing items they need breaks my heart. But somewhere some mother's son or daughter is wounded in such a way as to need these clothes. I can sew -- I can't stop a war or even keep my own children out of it -- but I can sew.

Our youngest son is coming home for his "goodbye" visit Wednesday morning; he'll be here until the following Tuesday. There is still a chance he'll either stay back for three months or have the TOC duty for three months in Iraq due to his knee surgery. Either way, duty in Iraq is inevitable, but three months gets our other son within three to four months of coming home.

The old saying "my heart is in my throat" is more than a saying -- it truly describes exactly how I feel physically. I've tried to remember the days when there was no war but I can't even recall what that felt like. The only year we had none of the three in Iraq was 2005. A friend had come over to our house in Dec 2001 and remarked "I don't even realize there IS a war until I come over here." That was when the US invaded Afganistan and our daughter-in-law was serving in Uzbekistan. I'd just come through cancer surgery and that, together with our daughter-in-law's deployment, made the memories of that time very odd and uncomfortable. Throughout 2005 both my son and his wife were "on notice" of possible deployment together so there was no comfort there either.

Has anyone ever really imagined how life must have felt during World War II? What I'm going through now is NOTHING compared to that time in history -- especially for the people in Europe who were being bombed while their husbands and sons were fighting on the front lines. Imagine just receiving a LETTER once in a while and not knowing where your family members were. I panic if I don't get an e-mail everyday. I think a lot of Americans forget history -- what are the major events in history? Wars. Human nature seems driven toward conflict. The people who hate and pass the hatred onto their children are, in my opinion, the makers of wars. When a person is raised from birth to hate another race or religion and brought up to want to kill the "enemy" how can there be any hope of establishing what we think of as "normal life" in their communities?

Just thought for this day.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Reality Reality

Today a large manila envelope arrived addressed to me; return address--U.S. Army. Knowing my younger son is deploying soon, I expected a form letter similar to the Family Readiness Newsletter we received a few weeks ago. I casually opened the envelope while sitting in our back yard relaxing in the sun. What it contained literally took my breath away.



Reality SMACKED me HARD in the face! For about 15 seconds it was that "knock at the door and there's a black car in he driveway" feeling. Then I broke down and cried harder than I have in a very long time. My "baby" is really going to go to Iraq where people will try to kill him. To talk about it and know it in my head was bad enough. To see printed, notarized, official and specific proof that my baby will face such danger as to require such a document leaves me without words . . .

Friday, March 16, 2007

Wounded Knee

Son #2 has been declared "deployable" by the medical staff responsible for his well-being. He had knee surgery on Feb. 21, has had TWO physical therapy sessions, and still cannot straighten out his leg completely. Apparently he will be on "T.O.C." duty for the first three months in Iraq while he continues to heal -- monitoring radios and performing non-combat functions. And, after all, "there IS physical therapy in Iraq." He'll be home next week for a few days to "say goodbye". I'm again dreading those last few minutes with one of my sons before he goes "off to War." If anyone is going to be in the Tampa airport on 3/27, look for the puddle next to the tram servicing Delta -- that'll be what's left of me. Why can't they let the families go to the gate "just this once". Certainly these are special circumstances. Has anyone ever asked for permission and had that permission granted?

Two sons in Iraq, my only sons. Is there a pill for that?

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Babysitting Fat Boy

When our oldest son left for Iraq months ago, he entrusted his 2003 100th Anniversary Harley Davidson Fat Boy to my husband. He even bought a trailer to bring the bike to Florida in. While my husband started riding the bike immediately I just couldn't go with him. Enjoying our son's prized possession while he was in a war was just as unthinkable, unfair, illogical and just plain wrong in MY head.

Whenever I would consider riding on the back of the bike I constantly thought about my son: how excited he was when he bought the bike, how much fun he and his wife had riding together, the rides my husband always put together when our son was in town. Then there was the 8 1/2 x 11 page of instructions he left on how to clean it and a suitcase full of specialized brushes, clothes and GLOVES. Needless to say, there was a real sense of guardianship in taking care of this bike for our son.

So on a really beautiful Sunday afternoon in December I took my first ride. The entire time my mind stayed on our son. Tears streamed down my face as we cruised around the countryside. I wanted to yell to everyone we saw -- "This is our son's bike and he's fighting for your freedom -- do you understand that?" And to myself "He's eating MREs and spitting sand and we're having fun on HIS bike." Something is VERY wrong with this picture!

I'd love to say I got over it and have enjoyed many pleasant rides but that hasn't happened. There is too much of my son "in" that bike. My husband rides quite a bit. He enjoys "getting away from it all" on Saturday and Sunday mornings for a few hours. I know he is appreciating the trust placed in him and the opportunity given to him. But he's not a mom. He doesn't get it.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Chickens at the door

The more I read what other soldiers' mothers have to say, the more similar our fears seem to be. From a Time magazine story "A Mother's War". . .

. . . The grandfather clock in [this Mother's] house chimes nine times when the other clocks say it's noon because the grandfather clock is set to Baghdad time. [She] has figured out how to tell if someone is in her driveway by squinting at the reflection off a certain glass-covered picture in the dining room, so that if it should ever be two men in uniform, [she] will know they have arrived before they start ringing the bell and before she is obliged to look directly at them and hear what they have come to say.
My method is to freeze wherever I am and scream at my husband "WHO IS IT?, WHO IS IT?" Several Sundays back I was upstairs getting ready for church when our two dogs starting barking wildly. There WAS definitely someone or something OUT THERE -- no doubt. And I was definitely not going downstairs to face them. From the top of the stairs I yelled to my husband in my best panicked voice: "WHO IS IT?, WHO IS IT?". My husband can't seem to look out the door either, so he looks out a window on the side of the house. It's CHICKENS! Probably 10 chickens had found their way into our yard -- one even onto the roof of our neighbor's house. We were both put into a state of terror by CHICKENS! Harmless chickens. Not "two men in uniform"; chickens. I love chickens.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Sharing sorrow, #1 Son, #2 Son

Please read Melissa's blog at
Her fiance was killed in Iraq on February 8, 2007 and she is sharing her love, her loss and the story of her life since "that knock on the door."

My first blog reads overly dramatic to me now. If my oldest son "finds" it he'll tell me to "calm down, woman!" As a "true American Soldier" he is just doing his job and doesn't appreciate his blubbering mother whining about it. He left home for West Point in 1996 and we've become accustomed to only seeing him now and then but we still miss him so much.

On to #2 Soldier Son: the doctor has told him that three weeks of physical therapy will strengthen his leg muscles so much that he will have no more knee problems. And, "besides, they have physical therapy in Iraq." Why does this sound like something George W. would say? AND, since his unit is deploying to Baghdad in a little more than three weeks and he is coming home to "say goodbye" in two weeks (for a week) --- where's the three weeks of physical therapy? Before he had the knee surgery he could not straighten out his left leg! Does anyone have advice?

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

What does fate hold?

Our youngest son (Army Pfc.) returns to Ft. Lewis tomorrow after two weeks' recuperation from knee surgery (training injury). If his knee checks out OK, he will deploy to Baghdad in early April; if not, he will stay safe a while longer, perhaps permanently. He didn't "make weight" once while in the enlistment process and a of mine friend suggested I feed him lots of cake and candy. My response was "I will accept the grace that fate has provided (a few more weeks with him home), but I will not tempt it." Now the suggestion of a bat to the knee (Tanya Harding-style) comes to mind but again, fate will decide my son's future.

The "last goodbye" with our oldest son is a lasting memory -- I can still feel the extra compassion in his hug and the unspoken knowledge that we might never see each other again. Every e-mail I receive from him provides a peace of mind that lasts until a few days go by w/o any contact; then an e-mail and the cycle begins again. Because he is married we are no longer his next-of-kin. If something were to happen to him would WE be notified immediately or hear word from his wife? Or will grace prevail?

And now the other one goes...or does he?