Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Austin's girlfriend Kayli has started a blog and it is GREAT! Please go have a look!

I put this back on top because Kayli's blog is absolutely wonderful. I've never met Kayli but she has given me enormous strength in dealing with Austin's deployment. We talk on the phone, e-mail or IM. What would I do without her?
Isn't she gorgeous?

Kayli---you are the BEST!

Another Rant

There is no more wine in the house. I think I'd drink wine vinegar at this point. Anything to escape from my real life.

Where are my boys? Why aren't I running them around all over town, to soccer, band practice, Odyssey of the Mind, drama rehearsals, ROTC drill practice; why am I not making six costumes for a 5-minute play; or helping someone with homework?

I feel a HUGE crying spell coming on tonight. It could be "hormonal" --- menopause where art thou?

Adding to my discontent -- I work for the Boss from Hell in an office of very few people, making the Boss from Hell even more a part of my working life b/c there is a low dilution factor? Why do I sit in a corner in an industrial building 20 miles from my home, day after day after day with no positive feedback and few challenges? THE MONEY! That's why. It's really good money! So does that make me a work-whore?

I'm reading a book called "The Recipe for a Perfect Marriage," and it is an eye-opener. The central character looks back at her grandparents' "perfect marriage" as her model for her own (clock-ticking, settling); then the story is told from her grandmother's point of view (arranged, forced) --- perception is everything.

I say that because I wonder if there are people out there who truly enjoy their jobs (I know I was talking about marriage, but that was just a segue into "perception"). Wouldn't it be wonderful to earn one's living doing something that also brought one "bliss"?

That's one of my favorite words, "bliss". If you say it to yourself a few times you'll feel the way it effortlessly rolls and then hisses off your tongue. Bliss. Because you have to bring your lips together for the "B," it's almost like a kiss, but with ambiguous emotion because of the ending "hiss."

I need more wine.

Austin's girlfriend Kayli has started a blog and it is GREAT! Please go have a look!

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Blog Design, Yellow Flies, New Friend, Back to School

I do not like my generic blog design. I'm going to hire a blog designer and hopefully the new look will be a more accurate reflection of my "style." I'm also considering changing the name to "Army Mom in High Anxiety." A better title would include Mother of the Bride b/c that new role brings on another level of high anxiety, albeit a more pleasant one. Any suggestions?

Yellow flies suck! Well, actually they don't suck, they bite! I'm trying to enjoy the great outdoors in my beautiful backyard while being circled for attack by yellow (deer) flies. Even though I think I'm completely covered in insect repellent, they will find a vulnerable piece of flesh on which to inflict pain and my bliss will be ruined. Last year I put up fly traps (btw, they smell like a sewer) and caught about 10,000 flies but not one yellow one. Any suggestions?

Yesterday I had lunch with a new friend -- Karen. Her son was in Iraq for 15 months with the 172nd Stryker Brigade out of Ft. Wainwright in Alaska. You might remember this Brigade as the one that had already begun sending soldiers home when its tour was extended, forcing 300 soldiers to RETURN to Iraq after being home for only a short time. Can you imagine?

We live about an hour and a half away from each other in Florida. It was GREAT to talk with another mother who knows exactly how I'm feeling right now. She also shares my concerns about the apathy of most Americans towards the war these days. "War, what war? Oh, that." is what I think non-military-related people are thinking -- IF they even think about it at all.

Another shared topic of concern is our own extended families either complaining about their 'little' problems or NOT caring enough about our BIG problems --- our sons' lives being in danger! I loved the story of her sister wanting her along when she left her daughter at college. "How will I ever be able to leave her and drive off by my myself?" Excuse me?

As for my experience with my brothers and their families, you'd think Kris and Austin are just on vacation or something. None of them ever call to check on the boys, and certainly never to see how I'm coping.

Another issue for me is that I work in an office of predominantly Jehovah's Witnesses (it WAS a family-owned business) and they don't even believe in the flag, government, voting, and "we choose to stay neutral" on issues of national security.
Don't get me wrong, they are very kind people and offer hugs when I'm sad; "we just can't talk about it."

Back to School - with the newest craziness going on over in Iraq, my initial fear level has returned, leaving me in need of a HUGE DISTRACTION. Light bulb -- Get a college degree!!! I spent a year at FSU 30-some years ago, got my MRS, he got is PhD, we got a DIVORCE. I tried to community college several times but it just didn't work.

Karen told me that Eckerd College in St. Pete has an accelerated Program for Experienced Learners with a lot of distance-learning courses. I looked online at the photos of the 2007 graduates -- it was like looking in a mirror! So I'm applying tomorrow hoping to start in August. Creative Writing degree, here I come!

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Ironically, when I checked "the funniest blog. . ." there was a very tragic story of a blogger "NYC Watchdog" who lost his son DJ (Puppy Monster) Thursday in a drowning accident. Another blogger has set up a PayPal account to accept donations in the form of purchases of graphics like this one. The money will be given to the father to help him with funeral expenses.

I checked around and this seems very legitimate, and very sad. I 'bought" ten of the graphics. Both of these blogs are not what I'd call mainstream, but a parent losing a child is globally horrific. So if you feel compeled, go do your part to at least relieve some of the financial burden of this heavily emotionally burdened man.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Funniest blog I've ever read --- Boobs, Injuries and Dr. Pepper --- I just had an evening of the best giggles (I know, "get a life").

Thursday, June 21, 2007

My Friend Ann

My friend Ann called tonight (see "My Friend Kenny" post). I could tell immediately that this wasn't just a "hi, how are you" phone call. She needed me (I love to be needed, but usually I'm the needy one).

Kenny's headstone had been installed today and she asked me to stop by and look at it "one day" and let her know if it was okay (she lives 3 and 1/2 hours away). I said "I'll go right now and call you back," jumped in the truck and was there in five minutes. The headstone is nice; it's simple in design --- except for that Gator (UF) in the middle. But isn't it great that people can express themselves on such a once revered object?

Also at the grave site are two "foot stones" (??); one at Kenny's feet w/ his first and middle names, birth date and death date. There's also one where one day (hopefully a very long time from now) my wonderful friend Ann will "rest." It has her first and middle names and birth date with space for her, well, I don't have to say it.

When I called her back, I said, "I really wasn't expecting to see 'your' name carved in stone." She had intended to tell me about that but had forgotten. It was definitely a strong jolt of "reality" or "mortality." Seeing Ann's commitment to her husband go beyond "until death do us part," reminded me of the empty space in her heart that will never be filled and I could almost feel the intensity of her pain.

I didn't cry or even get weepy at the cemetery. But I hurt physically -- my heart felt really heavy, almost like gravity was pulling at it. Having gotten to the "acceptance" phase of grieving for Kenny, my mind won't allow me to think about him very much. It's still too painful for me so I can only imagine how it is for my friend Ann.

As I was leaving the cemetery I saw a cat standing on an elaborate headstone and I asked him (in my head -- can't let people see me talking to a cat), "how many lives do you have left?" He even looked like Thomasina (I just really dated myself)! He didn't answer me, but he reminded me that we all have only ONE life; even Thomasina and this distant cousin; and I feel like I'm wasting mine.

Rockin' Girl Blogger Tag

Michele at Rocky Mountain Retreat tagged me with the Rockin' Girl Blogger Tag! It's my favorite color (but she's Canadian so it's my favourite colour). Michele is definitely a kindred spirit. She's always just an e-mail away if I need her --- and, unfortunately, I need her a lot.

Now I'm supposed to tag five Rockin' Girl Bloggers. I'll have to do that tomorrow b/c I'm way too stressed out to give that proper attention. But I WILL do it.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Austin called his girlfriend today! She let me know he is OK. They talked for only about two minutes.

Operation Arrowhead Ripper? HuH?

Does anyone know if Austin's unit is part of the "Offensive"? I tried to find news on tv last night but all CNN, Fox and MSNBC cared about was Bloomberg's change of party affiliation. How many times can they say the same thing?

Where is Giraldo when you need him? Shouldn't he be over there drawing the battle plans with a stick in the sand?

My article has been well received in good ol' Plant City! Every friend I saw since Friday had already read it and greeted me w/ "I loved your article in Focus!" It's tough being famous in a small town (b.s. ing here). BUT I have decided to go back and finish my degree -- in writing! I never knew what I wanted to be when I grew up and now I do because I have a Focus --- get it? Focus?

Monday, June 18, 2007

I'm Published!

On June 15, 2007 I became a "published author". This was in our local paper Focus Magazine. The photos included were the profile photo from this blog and Kris in full body armor.

Home Grown Heros - A Mother's Tale

Two unique PCHS graduates are currently serving our country in Iraq; both with the U.S. Army. What makes them unique? They are brothers and they are my sons.

Cpt. Christopher “Kris” Matthew (left, in Iraq wearing full body armor) graduated from PCHS in ’96 and from West Point in ’00. Kris is the Commanding Officer of the 111th Sapper Company (Combat Engineers) out of Ft. Riley, Kansas, which deployed to Iraq in Sept. 2006. This is his second tour and his expected return date is January 2008.

Kris’ wife, Cpt. Katie Matthew, is also a West Point grad and is presently the Aid to the Commanding General at Ft. Riley. Katie has served in Uzbekistan and Iraq, in ’01 and ’04, respectively. She and Kris have both been offered teaching positions at West Point. Katie will begin her Masters’ program in the fall and Kris will begin upon his return from Iraq. Once their Masters’ degrees are complete they will teach at West Point for at least three years.

Pfc. Austin Matthew is an ‘03 PCHS grad. He enlisted in the Army in Oct. 2005. Austin is a “foot soldier” with the 4th Stryker Brigade out of Ft. Lewis, WA., which deployed to Baghdad in April as part of the new “Surge.” Austin’s expected return date is July 2008. Both Kris and Austin had their tours extended from 12 to 15 months.

My husband and I chose to raise our boys (and our girls, Stephanie Ross, PCHS ’97 and FSU ’01, and Kylee Matthew PCHS ‘01) in Plant City because it is still one of those special places where people retain old-fashioned values of citizenship, community and faith. Our family has attended the Evangelical Presbyterian Church of Plant City for many years. We still live in our historic home in “downtown” Plant City, known to our children as “home base.”

It has been very hard to accept that both of my sons are in Iraq at the same time; I don’t think it’s right for more than one child from a family to be in harm’s way like this. The “Private Ryan Act” is a popular myth that many think would prevent this situation. One soldier of any given family would actually have to be killed in action before the other one would be allowed to return to the U.S.

The photo of me and Austin from the day we took him to the airport after his “goodbye leave.” Holding his hand while he walked away until there was just expanding space between us was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do. The last time I saw Kris he gave me hug like none other; it spoke volumes of what the future could possibly hold.

My sons are very typical of today’s American Soldier. They took the oath to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic;” and to “obey the orders of the President of the United.” Today’s soldiers are in Iraq because that is what is required of them to do their jobs, and they take their jobs very seriously.

During one recent IM (instant messaging) session with Austin I posed a silly (but wishful thinking) question. I asked him if I could somehow get the President to allow him to come home from the war, would he come home. His answer was very emphatic, “only if all the other guys get to come home too.”

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

And a Bad Day is a Bad Day and Sucks!

Kris and I had brief "words" via e-mail yesterday. I won't share the details but he was extremely rude to me (somewhat normal at times) and for once I told him how I felt about it. He's in a war and now he thinks I'm really mad at him. I was, yesterday. I was very hurt, yesterday.

He sent me three e-mails today that I did not respond to --- mostly because he didn't ask questions, he just passed on information. But then Kylee called me because he e-mailed her to tell me to respond to him. By the time she got in touch with me he'd e-mailed that he was going to bed. So now he's gone to bed thinking I don't love him any more.

And I'm the one always yelling "Free Pass, Free Pass," he's in a war so whatever he says should be shrugged off. My knee-jerk reaction was to let him know how rude I thought he was and that it was unacceptable to "speak" to me like that. Then the "SEND" button called out to me --- "click me, click me, click me NOW!" And I did.

So what if something should happen to him before he checks his e-mail in the morning? (I did send an e-mail around 4 p.m. our time.) After all these years this probably wasn't the best time to "stand up" to him.

Friday, June 8, 2007

A Good Day Is a Good Day -- I'll Take It!

Today is a better day -- after I posted last evening I went to bed (around 7?). I flipped and flopped around until 1:30 a.m., took a xanax so I could actually fall asleep and did. Maybe I just needed to actually rest for a long period of time; not necessarily sleep.

When I left work this afternoon I tried not to think about this war mess and didn't get into that nasty funk before I got home. AND, my daughter doesn't work Fridays so she cleans my house (in exchange for me paying her property taxes this first year) and it was very nice to come home to clean. I'm a bit of a slob myself so having her clean up for me on Fridays is very refreshing.


These two photos are from Kris' unit in Iraq yesterday (the "Assassins). I ordered the flag from the Patriot Guard who sent it directly to them. Here the flag is flying below their Engineers' flag. I asked Kris to take some photos of him and "his" men next to the flag pole -- he said he'll do that tomorrow.

The way they painted this building is extremely cool. For those of you that don't recognize it, that is the emblem of the Engineers; like the two crossed rifles are the emblem of the Infantry.

This is me on the cruise back in February --- aren't I lovely? I'm expressing my distaste for the food; it was yucky. When people see this photo they usually say, "It doesn't look like you had any problems with the DRINKS!" I did not. This "face" also shows how I feel about living through this time --- it's yucky!

I could probably type all night, but I'm going to post this now because it's storming like crazy --- we need this rain!!!

Back again, I forgot to post this photo. It is my husband and Kris in our barn with the bikes. When Kris and the gang (his wife and four friends) were here they rented Harleys (except for Kris, who brought his here for us to keep) and took a couple of long rides. The "Hub" has since shaved off the "goat-t" and I like his regular face much better.

Why is it that every time I put in a photo it goes up to the top and then I have to adjust all my spacing and stuff all over again? Does anybody know? It's VERY frustrating and I really don't need any more frustrating things in my LIFE RIGHT NOW!


Thursday, June 7, 2007

I Don't Want to Do This!

Why did my sons do this to me? Why isn't there somewhere I can go, something I can do that will completely distract me until this is all over (one way or another)?

Instead I sit here on my comfy chaise w/ my laptop, day after day searching for something that's not out there. Searching for someone, something, that will make this all go away. Something that will make it just a bad dream and when I wake up my family will be all together and safe again.

Depression symptom: I don't even want to go shopping. As trivial as that sounds, that's an 8 on a 1-10 scale. A 9 I probably would not get out of bed and go to work; a 10, I'd be comatose. I've never been a 10 but I'd like to be right now. I can visualize it --- a ward of soldier mothers all lined up in old fashion hospital beds w/ iv drips to keep us asleep until our sons come home --- the Twilight Zone.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Microderm Abrasion OR Just Calm Down?

I had a choice to make last Saturday and I did NOT choose wisely. All of the stress I have allowed my brain to endure has resulted in my normally clear, clean, smooth face becoming a battlefield (pun intended). Aren't we through w/ zits by 50? OK, 51? And I have so many age spots that nobody calls me "freckle face" any more; it's just "Spotz, can you take a look at this?"

Here is how you can actually relive my very own microderm abrasion treatment. Go to the hardware store and buy some really coarse sandpaper --- you know the kind with gravel embedded in it. Using that, scrape your face off in strips starting at your scalp and work down in 1/4" intervals. Next, do that on your neck (oooh, can you feel it?) Then fall asleep under a 10,000 watt heat lamp for about three hours. Ok, you're almost there.

NOW, WRITE A FRICKIN' CHECK FOR $140!!!!!!! Can you feel THAT?

It's Tuesday, so I had this treatment over three days ago. My face feels like someone poured hot wax (mixed with iron filings) on it and then stuck my head in the freezer. This morning, AFTER thoroughly scrubbing my face in the bath, I looked in the mirror and saw Lon Chaney, Jr. AND Sr. staring back at me --- and THEY were scared! OMG.

I wised up and canceled the rest of my appointments.

Monday, June 4, 2007

A+ on the Test !!!

I'm coming back to where I belong. My sons being in this War is the most important aspect of my life at this time and I have to write about it; I have to hear about it from others.

Hopefully what I have to say next will put to rest what bothered me the most about "milblogging." I found it entirely unreasonable and downright deceiving for some people to portray themselves as righteous, all-knowing, "better than thou," and practically heroic in blogs about WAR! There is no place in milblogging for snobbery, conceit, self-promotion or exclusion. I have been extremely disappointed with several members of the milblogging community and that is most likely why I wanted out of it.

BUT (isn't there always a big but?), there ARE genuine kindred spirits, supportive shoulders and REAL heros out there blogging. Those I choose to rejoin.
I think I feel better already. And I'm NOT deleting this post later because I don't want to hurt any feelings. If you recognize yourself --- get off my blog! That sounds like a song, "Hey, hey, get off of my blog; go on your own where you are a snob."
I'm feeling even better. Sarge Charlie --- I see you every where and you are GREAT! And to think we have been on the same cruise ship. Dub --- you are a delightful slob and I hope Mrs. and Miss Dub get you help when you get home. Butterfly Wife, Kila, Claire, Michele, Mel, Mel's Mom, LAW, Dixie Chick, ArmyMomTimesTwo, Jan, you gals rock! If I didn't list your name here it's not because I think you are "one of them," but rather short-term memory loss prevails.

Just for giggles I'm going to post some photos. I always find that photos make blogs more readable.

Totally random photos -- two of the eight trees we lost when Hurricane Jeanne came through in 2004. My mother's name was Jeanne and I think she did that kind of damage to my psyche.

July 1, 1996 when I said goodbye to Kris at West Point. This is a horrible photo but definitely worth it's 1,000 words. Talk about bittersweet.


Sunday, June 3, 2007

This is Only a Test - Do Not Adjust Your Set!

Hello....anybody out there?

Several people have told me they miss my blog so I'm testing how I'd feel about posting to it again. I've been to all of your blogs periodically --- just can't stay away.

Several good things have occurred to improve my sadness. The war is over! No, that's not true -- but I made you think, didn't I?

Most recently a family from the Strykernews.com forum "adopted" our family to support and encourage us as parents and our sons as soldiers serving in Iraq. This family had THREE family members in Iraq at the same time. Connie, the mother/wife, had her son, brother and brother-in-law to worry about! So I'd say they can definitely relate to how I'm feeling these days.

Connie is quite the digital artist. She made the "tag" on the left in a matter of minutes. I absolutely love it. She's made several others for me that I'll post later.

Kris is still in Mosul; he e-mails at least once a week. Austin is in the middle of the "Triangle of Death" and we haven't heard from him in two weeks. Their Platoon goes on missions for 30-60 days where they have no running water, electricity, communications, so it will probably be a few more weeks before we hear from him. Their Brigade lost 9 soldiers in their first month in Iraq. His permanent duty station (Ft. X) lost 22 soldiers in May.

If any of you remember what I wrote about my work situation, that has completely turned around. I finally got my review two Friday's ago and it was "very good" and I got a nice raise. My boss has had an attitude adjustment that we all have benefited from. I still fall apart about once a day at work but can usually go hide until I can calm down. Everyone knows why I arrive at work with makeup on and an hour or so later I've got puffy red eyes, a big red nose and no makeup on at all.

Another good thing --- I've been invited to join a support group in Tampa that's been in place for a few years. They got my info from Joy, the Florida Director of Sew Much Comfort. It'll be nice to have some local people to see face-to-face who understand how it is.

Over at LaLaLandWithJoAnn I've been describing the cruise we took in Feb. that unfortunately ended sadly when we learned of the death of our friend Kenny. I'm trying to re-write the fun events so the memory of the cruise won't be completely associated with sadness.

And my daughter is engaged and we're planning a wedding! We can't set a date until we know when Kris' return date will be and when he'll be able to come to Florida AND if Austin can get a definite R&R date. Otherwise we'll have to wait until July 08.

I've got two minutes left on my allotted Internet time so I'll sign off now.