Monday, July 30, 2007

More Photos Tomorrow!

Generators at some locations in Baghdad are non-operational; thus no A/C ---- we have a contact on the ground in Baghdad who works for the contractor that supplies and maintains these generators.

My son's "forum" will not allow me to get the word out that if other sons are suffering in this intolerable heat and taking risks because of it ---- to let me know. Now is the time!

sjross at tampabay (

My son's "location" has now had power for THREE DAYS! YEAH!

Saturday, July 28, 2007


Censored by request

This morning I was contacted by XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX regarding the inoperative generators!!!!! He responded to a comment I left on the XXXXX website. I called him in Baghdad and gave him the necessary information. This is his e-mail:

"I would like to fix those generators. Where are they located, in particular which site?"

(I removed his name and contact information.) He was so genuinely concerned (hopefully) and I just kept saying "Thank you, Thank you, Thank you, Thank you . . ." Finally I said "if I stay on the phone I'm just going to keep saying THANK YOU!" He promised to call me tomorrow to report on any progress! If he doesn't, I'VE GOT HIS NUMBER and a BLOG to post it on!!!!!

I don't know when I've been so excited about anything! I talked to my FIA (Friend In Arms) for TWO HOURS after speaking with the XXXXXX rep. this morning. I also contacted the local tv reporter who has been helping me! And, of course, CNN!

IF (I am still cautiously optimistic) this happens and our soldiers are provided relief from the overwhelming heat and lack of electric power, I will proclaim LOUD AND CLEAR that we (ordinarily people like you and me) CAN use our voices and resources to do our part in this war. WE CAN HELP OUR SOLDIERS!

LAW (Liberal Army Wife) --- if it weren't for you I never would have known to or thought of contacting XXXXX. You are and have always been my ROCK!

Friday, July 27, 2007

My "Friend In Arms"

My "Friend In Arms" (Kathy) has started her own blog. Please go visit her and offer your support and encouragement. Her son is deployed in Iraq in the same unit with Austin. Long story/short: we have a large support group over at; about a month ago one of the members decided that we mothers should be paired up to develop closer relationships. Kathy and I were assigned to each other but we'd already been e-mailing and talking on the phone, so it was really a fun surprise to find out that we had become official "Friends In Arms".

I'd estimate that 20-25 e-mails pass between us every day. I've never met Kathy but I feel like I know her so well. We're both mothers of soldiers who are fighting a war and we just want them back home w/ us. Kathy is a homemaker and caretaker of a foster child who lives in New Jersey. I work full-time (plus) 20 miles from home in Florida. If I need anything and don't have time to find it, Kathy does it for me. She is absolutely amazing. She's new to blogging, so help her along as much as you can!

I'm still working on the "situation" and sent out over 100 more e-mails today. So far, no solution.

Thursday, July 26, 2007


Austin was able to IM for a few minutes yesterday. I can't go into the situation, but I've got three national organizations working on a solution. I also contacted our Congressman's office, who contacted the House Liaison for the Department of the Army in Washington, DC. I e-mailed several well-known milbloggers, the NY Times, the Washington Post, Anderson Cooper. I'm one pissed off Army Mom.

The comments on my last post were great -- Butterfly Wife, if I ever meet you I'm going to knock all the dust off your wings! No, just kiddin'. I always blamed Kris for getting snippy with me when it was probably me treating him like a child that caused the snippiness. It's so hard to think of my children as adults. Kris is a West Point grad, an Army Captain, a company commander and I still want to hold his hand when he crosses the street (but they won't let me go to Iraq with him). It was almost surreal when my psychologist so bluntly pointed out what I've been doing.

Why does it take the eyes of others for me to see?

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Getting "Over It"

Well, I had the cutest post going when my computer when SPLAT! The battery has NO charge in it at all (i.e., it's toast) so if the adapter cord comes lose for a second it shuts down. This is try #3 to get something posted. I should have known to remain in that uncomfortable position and NOT move an inch and thus dislodge the adapter cord.

Remember SAVE OFTEN!

I was writing about my new (male) psychologist who is very skilled in asking the right questions and following up with specific instructions, assignments, exercises for me to do to get my depressed brain out of the dumper. It has taken me years to realize (just today) that I cannot go to a woman psychologist (sorry Deborah) because I can't dump out all my emotional baggage on a woman. I remember telling my woman psychologist before my last woman psychologist that I just didn't want to ruin her day! But I can sure dump on a man.

And thank you, Lala, for your comment --- I plan to stop rocking soon! Just as soon as I finish reading all these damn self-help books. Actually, that comment was the kick in the butt I needed to get out of the pity-party.

I got a funky new haircut and color last night and I love it. Hopefully I'll be able to recreate what my friend Carol did on my own. She used some new spray stuff with a flat iron and when she turned me back to the mirror I thought I was going to start receiving transmissions from Mars! But after taming it with some wax it is the BOMB! (should I use the word bomb?) I was going upstairs and I said to my husband (who is firmly planted on the sofa in front of his HDTV w/ his sound system blaring) "isn't my hair the best?" He said "your SMILE is the best!" Maybe I should wear one of those more often, huh?

Kris e-mailed today and he is safely back at the FOB; no word from Austin in a while. But NNIGN, right?

One topic I discussed w/ my shrink today is my unwillingness to let go of my children. I'm fighting something I can't control (my words, not his) because I want them all back in their rooms in this big old house with me! I want to drive them to soccer, church, ROTC, band, cheerleading and on and on --- but they're grown and on their own. They are all financially independent and very responsible adults. My shrink had the nerve to ask me if my soon-to-be 30 year-old son really needed me treating him like he is 10. Can you believe that?

The nest is empty, the babes have flown; like it or not, we're all alone.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

I Shouldn't Have Watched That . . .

CNN aired the story of four fallen Marines who were all killed in the same vehicle in January 2005. After two years the family members have found that time DOES NOT HEAL and they remain in almost unbearable pain.

And there are almost 4,000 other families! That is one number I never want to be a part of. As for myself, my life would be over. As I've probably said before, there might be a functioning human body walking around that looks like me, but my heart would die along with my child.

The pile of self-help books beside my bed keeps getting higher and higher. Some I've finished, some I've almost finished, some I've half finished and some I just started. I think I need a self-help book on how to focus on reading one self-help book at a time.

I'm going through a workbook about Relaxation and Stress Relief. My neck is so tense that it's hard to find a comfortable position to even sleep. I'm going to a new psychologist and am hoping to make some progress. He recommended the workbook and yet another self-help book.

Then there are my journal entries. Some are raving mad, horribly sad and definitely all reveal my complete confusion in trying to cope with both of my sons being in a War.

There are online support groups, forums, advice. But I wish so badly that I had a close friend to talk to who would understand how this feels.

I joined a local book club to meet people who like to read (I hope they don't choose self-help books); I'm going to try a meditation/yoga studio this week.

I'm thinking about ordering a MacBook.

I've signed up to take an online creative writing course taught by a well known British author.

My boss was nice the past two weeks. I've been somewhat put on notice that the new computer system the company will be installing in the next six months will make my job obsolete. I'm trying to not focus on that too much. "It's a Job, Not Jail," is the title of a self-help book that I'm about 2/3rd finished reading.

Here is a photo of my "Devil Dog." She's a Schipperke and she loves me bunches but does not like men at all. She has come to tolerate my husband and he her, but she acts like she's big stuff around my boys until they walk towards her and she runs away like a chicken.

Her name is Meika and contrary to her appearance in this photo, she is a very loving, possessive, protective doggie. She has the cutest underbite and her lower right teeth stick out over her top lip.

Like our other dog, a Vizsla Weimaraner mix, she is constantly underfoot. Never get either breed if you like your privacy. They are GREAT company though. Eva, the V/W, is just a big, clumsy, smart, loveable dog and she is sweet to everyone, even men.

New Blog Design on the Way!

Okay, the template I was using was too ugly to keep, even temporarily! So it's this one for a while and then the debut of a very customized blog design by Lindsay w/ Splatdesigns --- she is great!

It's a typical Sunday for us: my husband is working on our "This Old House" and I'm going to go shopping. What could be better? Gee, children not in a war? But like they say, "When the going gets tough, the tough go shopping!" I'm just doing my part!!!!

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Today I attended a soldier's funeral on behalf of the Florida Chapter of the Blue Star Mothers. I also road to the cemetery with the Patriot Guard and stood along side them holding a big American Flag. This was the first funeral of a serviceman that I've been emotionally able to attend.

Sgt. Monty Hobley was killed Sunday while riding his motorcycle. There is a tribute to him on the website of his riding club. From watching the slide show, it appears to me that Sgt. Hobley enjoyed life, and when his Uncle spoke at the funeral he assured everyone that he loved the Army. The funeral was very uplifting and unlike any I'd ever attended. He was buried with full military honors less than a mile from my house.

I've been trying to get my husband involved in the Patriot Guard. We have Kris's Harley while he's in Iraq. I'm not a fan of motorcycles for obvious reasons. But the Patriot Guard is an amazing group of people and performs an important role in honoring America's heroes. I called my husband during the 12 mile procession and asked him to go park somewhere on the route just to see the devotion of these men and women and the patriotism they bring to such a somber event.

When we turned the last corner into the graveyard I saw his car parked in the distance.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

The Goodbye Girl

"Back in the day," one of my favorite songs was "The Goodbye Girl." Now I've because "The Goodbye Girl," or maybe "The Goodbye Woman."

We just dropped Kris and Katie at the airport. He starts his journey back to the Sandbox and she goes back to Kansas. I wish I had started taking photos of our goodbyes at that airport years ago. It hasn't changed much but we sure have. Some things will never change: I still try to get that one last glance of him (now them) and still cry every time I drive away.

Kris's father has never lived in Florida so Kris flew many times as an "unaccompanied minor." He went to Paris with his father once, but I think his father flew here and they both left the US from Tampa. Kris spent a West Point summer in England; a WP spring break in Ireland; Katie spent some WP time in Greece. I don't even have a stamp on my passport. But I've been to Ft. Benning to watch Kris jump out of airplanes and for Austin's Basic Training Graduation; Ft. Bragg; Ft. Riley; MacDill AFB (the Officer's Club even); Aberdeen Proving Grounds; Ft. Knox.

One night Kris, Katie, my husband and I were out to dinner and Trace Adkins' song "And Then They Do" was playing. I mentioned how sad that song makes me feel; Kris' response was that it's a happy song -- the children are all growing up, leaving the nest and starting great lives of their own. Ah, perspective.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Michele (Rocky Mountain Retreat) Made me Do IT!

Yet Another Goodbye soon

Kris isn't even back to the house after flying home from a week in the Bahamas and I'm already dreading our next goodbye. This time he will only have five to six months left in the Sandbox; then on to grad school. What a relief that will be.

Austin was able to IM several times this week and I finally bought a webcam. They are so inexpensive, I don't know why I waited so long. I suppose I knew I wanted to see him and why would he want to see his ol' mom. When Kylee was IMing w/ him and he could see her, he said she didn't look like herself. Maybe he'll get accustomed to the way we look on webcam. He looks great to me!

There hasn't been much to blog about these days. I would HIGHLY RECOMMEND that you visit for not only the description of a recent mission but also an amazing picture of a sunrise. This guy has a great career in journalism ahead of him. I wouldn't be surprised if he hasn't already signed a contract.

I just finished reading Stumbling on Happiness by Daniel Gilbert, a Harvard psychology professor. While the book doesn't provide the answer to finding happiness, it is a very informative and humorous look at humankind and the workings of our brains. Now I've started reading This Time I Dance written by another Harvard person, a law grad, who found her truth not in legal briefs and courtrooms, but in creative writing. Do you see a pattern here?

If anyone has any reading recommendations, send them on. I love to read but sometimes don't know what to read next.

Guess what I did today other than read? Nothing! I am a slug.

Friday, July 13, 2007

A Funeral I Wish I Had Been Brave Enough to Attend

Pfc. Jonathan M. Rossi, US Army
Hometown: Safety Harbor, Florida, U.S.
Age: 20 years old
Died: July 1, 2007 in Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Unit: Army, 2nd Battalion, 12th Cavalry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, Fort Bliss, Texas
Incident: Killed when insurgents attacked his unit using a makeshift bomb and small arms fire in Baghdad.

Thursday July 12, 2007

Yesterday I and other Blue Star mothers sadly attended the funeral of Pfc. Jonathan M. Rossi of Safety Harbor, Florida. He was one of our brave young men who gave his life in the line of duty to his country. My heart aches as I write this. God bless all our sons and daughters who serve.
I am a member of the Blue Star Mothers of America, Florida Sunshine 91 Chapter out of Jacksonville, Florida. As I live over 4 ½ hours travel time away from Jacksonville, I do not attend any meetings. My home was open to any Blue Star Mother or family member who wished to come on down to show support for the Rossi family. The Chapter members were to co-ordinate with the Patriotic Guard. For information reference the Patriotic Guard please access their web site: For information on the Blue Star Mothers of America, Inc. Florida Sunshine 91 Chapter out of Jacksonville, Florida please go to:

Andria Mocek traveled from Jacksonville, Florida on the 10th July 2007. It was an honour to have met Andria. She has two sons serving, one is a Marine and the other son is “doc” a Navy corpsman attached to the Marines. Andria was to present the gold star banner to Jonathan’s dad. His father is a retired SSGT who served in USAF. He wore his uniform with pride.
Andria and I talked all evening, until my husband Louis run us off to bed, reminding us that we would have to leave early to get to Safety Harbor. Although miles distance it is not that far, the road to get there is the hub to get into Tampa to work in the morning. We left Hernando Beach at 7.30 a.m. and arrived at 8.50.a.m. Andria had already contacted the Army Major we were to meet. We took separate vehicles as she was to leave from Bushnell National Cemetery after the service.

The Patriotic Guard were to be there at 8 a.m. When we arrived there were over 100 Guards being briefed on their duties. They made Andria and I very welcome. When they found out that we both had two sons serving, they came over and gave us lots of hugs. The guards are made up of men and women who work very hard to honour our fallen heroes. I was so impressed with these wonderful people. One of the ladies told me that if a funeral falls on a weekend that there could be several hundred of them. She said many of them worked and were unable to get leave. Others had taken the day off to honour Jonathan and his family. Many of them had served their country, and their leather jackets would tell which branch they had served in and unit. Or if the were a Vietnam or Gulf Vet, etc.

We met several blue star moms there, I am sorry to say I did not get all their names, Robin and Clay Cunningham and Judy Crews attended. One mother’s son told her to attend. He had been Jonathan’s platoon leader. She was surprised when a young soldier read out his tribute to Jonathan. There were, of course, a lot of tears.

Please access this web site for a reporters account:

The Guard lined the walk way to the church with the American Flags held high. The church was packed. As well as the local Priests there was the base Priest from McDill AFB helping with Mass. As the funeral possession wound its way 72 miles from Safety Harbor to Bushnell, through four counties I cried. We drove through Pinellas, Pasco and Hernando into Sumter County to Bushnell. What an outstanding job the Sheriff Departments, State Patrol and Fire Departments did. As we drove through Pinellas every Fire Department came out and lined the route. The men stood at attention and saluted farewell to one of our brave soldiers.
The Guards drove off in front, and some behind, if there was not a police car at the lights, the guard was there, holding back the traffic as we went through all these lights. There are a lot of lights in 72 miles. There were many people driving in the funeral possession. We had a few incidents where motorists would cut in, the guards immediately got them out so we could travel unheeded to Bushnell National Cemetery.

At the cemetery the Guard once again lined the walkway with their flags. Folding of the flag, presentation of the flag by a two star General to Jonathan’s dad. Then we walked to Jonathans resting place. We met more blue star moms who had driven from all over Florida, to show that they cared, and they cried along with us as we mourned for one of our sons.
Andria presented SSgt Rossi with the Gold Banner. Very hard job to do. No parent ever wants to receive this banner. For information reference Gold Star Banner please access:

Why have I written this? This had been very, very difficult to write, and I do not profess to be a writer. Since I returned I have had many emails from people who wanted to attend, but due to other commitments or because of distance were not able. After my seventh email writing over and over again the same thing and bawling me eyes out, I decided to just put it all down.
God bless the Rossi Family. God bless all who serve. God bless my blue star brothers and sisters.

Jan Zabel. Blue Star Mom.
Mother of Kendal. United States Army
Mother of Aaron. United States Navy

Saturday, July 7, 2007


Here's another screenshot of that sweet child of mine (Austin) from Tuesday.

On the 4th of July my older son (Kris) arrived in Tampa at 10 a.m. Since he wasn't expected until three in the afternoon, when he called his wife (Katie) she ran downstairs, "I've got to get a shower, Kris is landing at 10 am!!!!!!", she got fixed up and drove away with a HUGE smile on her face.

I wanted to go to the airport too but being the gracious mother-in-law that I intend to be, I didn't even ask. I just wanted to see them when they first saw each other after such a long time. But that moment was not mine to have.

Later that day we went to my brother's house for a "get together." Kris and Katie arrived a couple of hours later. I set up my sister-in-law's MacBook, got on Yahoo IM with Austin and had webcams going both ways. Everyone took turns "talking" to him. I got NO time other than to look over shoulders. But it did my heart good to see everyone so excited (especially Kris and Austin).

Yesterday afternoon K&K, Kylee, Steve (DH) and two friends went to Game Works in Ybor City, then saw the Transformers movie, and finally had dinner. I didn't go along for a lot of reasons but mostly to give everyone time w/ K&K w/o me --- the mother who is scared they'll be hurt just playing a video game. My new name is "worry wart."

K&K flew to the Bahamas this morning; they'll be back next Saturday and we'll have 3 or 4 more days with them. Kris will go back to Iraq and Katie will return to Kansas to begin work on her Masters' Degree. I'm not in the "dreading the upcoming goodbye" mode YET but I know it's coming.

Austin called about an hour ago. Since I hadn't heard his voice in so long and with a lot of static on the line I didn't realize it was him at first. He sounded good until it was time to hang up; I think he was going to become emotional so we said our "I love yous" and goodbyes quickly. His knee is bothering him again (long time readers will know that he had knee surgery in Feb.) I asked him why he wasn't going to the doctor. He said "because there really is no point in going," to which I said, "they might send you home!" His response was, "But I don't want to go home."

The commitment he has made to the Army and to our Country absolutely amazes me. Even though I really want him home NOW, I told him how proud of him I am and that hearing him say those words gave me the extra strength that I need to get through this. Knowing that both of my sons WANT to be serve our Country no matter what is asked of them does give me comfort.

On I saw the story of 600 service personnel who reenlisted IN IRAQ on the 4th! These incredibly brave people just take my breath away with pride! Maybe the Army will raise the maximum age to 51 soon and I can do my part -- just don't make me cook!

I've had a sense of peace since Tuesday. Hopefully that feeling will last for the full two weeks of Kris' leave. Austin voluntarily assured me that he'd call before his unit moves out again. So until then they are both reasonably safe. It feels good to breathe deeply and let the tension go. I think I can actually relax, laugh and enjoy myself for a while.

When Austin called this afternoon I had been cleaning the house and was hot and sweaty. I mentioned that to him and he said "YOU DO NOT KNOW HOT!" Reality check -- I will never complain about the weather again and especially not to him.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Austin on WebCam TODAY!!!!!

Yeah! Austin is back at the FOB for a week or so of rest. He now has wireless internet (he's in his bunk using his laptop in this photo), and an Iraqi cell phone. Isn't he so very cute? This is a screen shot from our IM/webcam session today.

We "talked" for at least an hour. I've got a bunch more screen shots that I'll post --- it took me about 45 minutes to figure out how to convert this screen shot into a photo (take a screen shot of the document containing the screen shot, paste that in Paint, save as a .jpg, edit w/ MS Picture Editor).

Katie is here! We both had pedicures this afternoon. She's napping and now that I've posted my news about Austin, I'm going to nap too. Kris arrives TOMORROW at 3 in the afternoon!!!! Elvis has left Iraq!

Monday, July 2, 2007

Hopefully our #1 son is on his way out of Iraq! We haven't heard anything yet. I read what Teflon Don (Acute Politics) experienced in his journey home and it could be 3-4 days of waiting and traveling. Katie will be here tomorrow and that'll make the wait easier. I can only imagine how thrilled she is to be seeing her husband again after almost 10 MONTHS!

Still no word from Austin.

I've been weepy almost all day. There's relief that I'll see my oldest son in a matter of days and there's fear of what my youngest son is enduring. Today I received a link to 100s of photos of Austin's company --- didn't see him at all. None of the soldiers looked sad or miserable in the photos. I'm sad and miserable.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Blog Design/Weekend!

My blog design is so icky that I've been avoiding my blog altogether. Hopefully the redesign will be ready next week. This is a temporary "fix".

This weekend I had two opportunities to spend time w/ other military parents.

Friday evening I had dinner with Joy Campbell, the Florida Director for Sew Much Comfort, Deb (an SMC volunteer) and two couples with the Tampa Area Marine Parents Association (T.A.M.P.A.) I'm helping Joy with a database for tracking volunteers, supplies and distribution. SMC is testing a nation-wide database and will import our data next week. Joy "is a Joy" and really does great things to facilitate SMC's service to wounded soldiers.

The Marine group has invited me to join their support group. Joy and I went to their monthly meeting on Saturday and enjoyed hearing all the fun stories from get togethers over the past few years. We met at a pizza parlor named Semper Pi -- promise! It is also a "museum" for all things "Marines"; the owner is known as "Sgt Major." They had a few items for the other service branches so I wasn't completely out of place. And we are ALL in this together!

Still no word from Austin -- we know he is in the middle of Operation Arrowhead Ripper and that his battalion lost another soldier last week. I send a letter almost everyday and just sent off a large package. If he is not at the FOB, he might not be able to keep the things we sent him. There have been many reports of theft of personal items while these guys are out on missions and I'm wondering if Austin still owns a laptop.

Good news, though. Katie will be here Tuesday, July 3, to meet Kris when he arrives in Florida for his 14 days of R&R. He leaves Iraq Monday (that's TOMORROW!!!!!) and his 14 days start counting off when he gets here. They will be spending a week in the Bahamas and staying with us both before and after that trip. The guys are planning a motorcycle ride, which is becoming a tradition whenever Kris is in town.

So one day this week I will be seeing one of my sons!!!!!!!!!! July 5th is Kylee's birthday and she's excited about the possibility of one of her brothers being here. Kylee and her fiance have passes to Disney and w/ Kris and Katie's military discounts I can see a trip over that way too. We really enjoy having dinner at the Whispering Canyon Cafe in the Wilderness Lodge. Cafe is an understatement because they serve huge amounts of really great food --- all you can eat!