Friday, October 31, 2008
Now if I could just get him to say, "أنا أريد أن يغسل أطباق ونظّفت منزل [فروم نوو ون"
أنت تجلس ويسترخي, أنا سيطبخ عشاء
Either one of those would find me fainting dead away with joy and excitement!
Hee hee hee hee....
(I will do dishes and clean house from now on)
(You sit there and relax, I will cook dinner)
Right up until the moment I heard someone gruffly yelling, "WHO DARES ENTER THE CAMP OF THE MUJAHADEEN!!!!!", some kids squealing and running, then... "COME CLOSER SO I CAN SEE YOU!"
It was my neighbor. I peek around the corner of the house, and he's set up a tent in his backyard with a brazier. Not a "camping in the woods with your kids" kind of tent; but the "living in Afghanistan your whole life" kind of tent. He had it staked with torches and to his motorcycle, prayer rugs on the ground, his dog next to him, fire going and tea cooking over the fire, along with his dinner. He was dressed in traditional robes and head scarf, with dark sunglasses on, face barely showing. He was eating chicken with a knife and telling kids to come back tomorrow for dog dinner. Amelia and I went over to take pictures and talk to him, and he gave her a chunk of apple while she sat on his rug. He had scimitars (authentic) and it looked like a few other daggers, but I couldn't tell for sure. I realized the music was Afghani, and he told me that the setup was authentic. He should know, as he just came back from a deployment from there not too long ago.
He was asking the kids who came by to join him in his war against the Soviets. He was actually re-enacting a history lesson while he was speaking, but the kids didn't know it. He told me kids are more afraid of him when he dresses like ordinary people (one year it was a monk with robes, a bible and Franciscan chants). There's something ironic about ghouls, goblins and vampires being scared by a monk! ;)
The funniest kicker to all of this, besides the fact that you probably couldn't get away with this anywhere but here??
My neighbor is the head chaplain for the whole base. :)
Well, it turns out they do in many ways. At this particular base, I hear more jets than cars. I hear more birds than cars. I hear more boats than cars. And I hear more kids playing soccer than cars. Heck, I hear more kids in general than I hear cars. It's partially because of where we're located - close to the water and away from the main thoroughfare of the base. Partially because it's a much smaller base with a much smaller (but no less important) main mission.
I see stars, and lots of them. I saw a few more before all the houses on this street were finished and the old streetlights were turned back on, but thankfully it's the soft yellow lighting. I love the old street lamps they salvaged, lining the streets. I love the beautiful old historic homes still here. I love the particular language of Marine bases - "Quarters One" refers to the CG's house, always, no matter who the CG of the base is. Which, by the way, used to be two old barns they pushed together and have made into a house, according to one of the current occupants at a recent tour.
I love that I can walk to my friend's houses for dinner, to talk, to get support, to get emergency help, to have a play date... all of which I have done at one time or another. Of course, I didn't walk much when it was super hot out but that's besides the point :).
I love it that when Rafe wasn't here, I had emergency surgery and the sirens alerted the entire neighborhood to the situation - which caused a neighbor who didn't know us that well to turn back around and check to make sure Amelia was taken care of when he was on his way to work at 5 in the morning, and caused the CG (Commanding General) to send representatives to find out what happened and to stay posted on how I was doing and if I needed any help whatsoever. I love it that the CO's (Commanding Officer) and FRO's (Family Readiness Officer)at two units worked together to make sure that I had help, that my family could use the commissary, that Amelia was taken care of. I love it that the CDC (Child Development Center) is 3 blocks away. I love it that the soccer games are playing in my back yard (a huge field) and Mia and I can watch them out the window when we are eating dinner. I love the sounds of 3 year olds playing soccer.
I love that I can see the water from my front windows. I love that the porches are so wide and shady that it creates a whole outdoor playroom - with enough room for a home made sand table (out of tubs), an easel (from a garage sale), chairs and other miscellaneous toys for kids to come over and play with. There's an outlet there, so I moved a fan to the porch also and it's quite fun.
I love seeing the new recruits, running into each other like puppies when they try to line up the first few days, arms outstretched once they stop and try to get in the right order. I like to listen to them sing cadence as they run, and to see the incredible tenacity of the drill instructors. It's quite funny a lot of the time. As one of my neighbors said, the drill instructors scare her. If they say hello, she feels like saluting and saying, "Yes SIR!" automatically. The Drill Instructors are definitely a breed within a breed of the Marine Corps. The first few months I lived here, I couldn't drive past the recruits on graduation day without tearing up. They looked so proud in their uniforms and so young. Their families were proudly walking along beside of them, and when you saw their families you could see how much they had changed in the months they had been earing the title of MARINE. I love going to the graduations.
I love the ceremonies, listening to Taps play, to the trumpet/bugle wake up calls in the morning and the last notes at night. I love that when a hurricane threatened, they had a mandatory town hall meeting (I'm such a geek) to give us the update, along with insurance information from Tri-Command. With Rafe being gone, it felt much safer to be here than to be anywhere else in this area. I love that my house is basically on stilts and situated so there is a lot of light streaming in the windows.
There's a lot in life to be grateful for.
Thursday, October 30, 2008
BOWLING GREEN, Ohio (Oct. 30) - Republicans John McCain and Sarah Palin accused the Los Angeles Times on Wednesday of protecting Barack Obama by withholding a videotape of the Democrat attending a 2003 party for a Palestinian-American professor and critic of Israel. The paper said it had written about the event in April and would not release the tape because of a promise to the source who provided it.McCain and Palin called Rashid Khalidi a former spokesman for the Palestine Liberation Organization, a characterization Khalidi has denied in the past. Both candidates said guests at the party made critical comments about Israel...
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
I often have trouble sleeping at night with Rafe gone, and last night was no exception. I had finally started to drift off around 2 am, when I heard Amelia crying in her room. I went to go check on her, and she was completely awake. And very happy to see me. The conversation went something like this:
Mia: "MOMMMMMMEEEEEE!!" with a happy voice and a big smile
Me: Mia, are you ok? What's wrong?
Mia: "tories, mama." (She wants me to read her stories)
Me: It's in the middle of the night, we can't read stories. You need to go to sleep"
Mia: (in her perkiest, happiest voice) "Mommy bed?" (she wants to sleep in my bed)
Me: Ok (Yeah, I'm a real hold out. It didn't take much. I love to snuggle with her)
So I bring her to my bed and we get snuggled in, and she is laying there yapping away. She tells me to "koze er ice" (close your eyes) and then leans in reaaaaaaaaaaaaaly close and kisses my nose, then starts giggling, which makes me laugh. Pretty soon she's delighted with this turn of events and starts patting her little fingers on my face, hugging me and kissing me and laughing hysterically. Before long, we're both laughing and playing and by the time we're finally settled down again in the covers (to which she says, "cozy, mama!") it's almost 3 am.
For a brief moment, I considered stopping the play and bringing her back to her own room. But I loved that time out of space feeling, where all worries and chores and expectations were suspended. It was night time, it was funny, and there was nowhere we had to be and nothing we had to do. It was pure sweetness to feel her warm little body next to mine, snuggled into me and breathing softly as she went to sleep.
Best of all, I was woken up this morning to an extremely cheerful, hyperactively happy child giving me kisses and hugs and saying, "Wake up, Mommy!" The only thing that would top that would be Rafe being here with us.... so he could get up with her and let me sleep in!! :)
Old Fashioned Play Builds Serious Skills
(the link to the full article; an excerpt below)
Clearly the way that children spend their time has changed. Here's the issue: A growing number of psychologists believe that these changes in what children do has also changed kids' cognitive and emotional development.
It turns out that all that time spent playing make-believe actually helped children develop a critical cognitive skill called executive function. Executive function has a number of different elements, but a central one is the ability to self-regulate. Kids with good self-regulation are able to control their emotions and behavior, resist impulses, and exert self-control and discipline.
We know that children's capacity for self-regulation has diminished. A recent study replicated a study of self-regulation first done in the late 1940s, in which psychological researchers asked kids ages 3, 5 and 7 to do a number of exercises. One of those exercises included standing perfectly still without moving. The 3-year-olds couldn't stand still at all, the 5-year-olds could do it for about three minutes, and the 7-year-olds could stand pretty much as long as the researchers asked. In 2001, researchers repeated this experiment. But, psychologist Elena Bodrova at Mid-Continent Research for Education and Learning says, the results were very different.
"Today's 5-year-olds were acting at the level of 3-year-olds 60 years ago, and today's 7-year-olds were barely approaching the level of a 5-year-old 60 years ago," Bodrova explains. "So the results were very sad."
Sad because self-regulation is incredibly important. Poor executive function is associated with high dropout rates, drug use and crime. In fact, good executive function is a better predictor of success in school than a child's IQ. Children who are able to manage their feelings and pay attention are better able to learn. As executive function researcher Laura Berk explains, "Self-regulation predicts effective development in virtually every domain."
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
Isn't this cool? What a great alternative to all the concerns about toxins in plastics that hold our food these days. I was recently sent some information about that by one of Rafe's aunts and it kind of blew me away. I was quite happy to run across this information tonight.
Clemson University develops EarthBottle
The compounded resin formula behind the EarthBottle is the brainchild of Danny Roberts, assistant vice president of Public Service and Agriculture, and David Gangemi, director of the Institute for Nutraceutical Research at Clemson. These natural polymer-fiber bottles are recyclable, biodegradable, petroleum-free and stronger, lighter than glass and more durable than most other bottles.
The materials have the potential to replace plastic for automotive parts, agricultural and industrial fabrics and biomedical parts. And the EarthBottle protects contents from spoilage.
Monday, October 27, 2008
That's a VERY conservative estimate for me in actual dollars lost over the years due to disorganization.
That money comes from overdue or late fines, missed bills, missed deadlines (and the resulting fees), misplaced drivers license and resulting tickets, missed check refunds that went past their expiration date. It comes from the lawyer's fees sometimes incurred when trying to rectify above situations, and a few times bail bond fees and once, a plane ticket fee to go back to the town I had left because otherwise I would have missed yet another court date because I forgot about it.
It comes from not maintaining property (cars, etc) in a timely fashion and then having to spend a lot more when things broke down.
Buying things that didn't work and then never returning them, even though I "meant" to. Buying things more than once because I couldn't find the ones I bought previously.
It comes from working so many hours that instead of cleaning and doing laundry, I went and bought new clothes because that was all I had time for. I didn't even have time to try them on; I just bought a few choices and took them home, wearing the ones that fit. Meaning to return the ones that didn't, but never doing so. Not shopping for bargains, but going to stores and walking in, grabbing something and leaving in about 10 minutes. I used to buy new underwear and socks ALL the time when I was working as an Exec. Chef on my way home - I'd zip into Walmart for groceries and pick up a few more socks.
That figure could easily be doubled or tripled when you take into account that I never organized my future or retirement and instead of saving for that, often gave large chunks of money away randomly (by large, I mean between $300 and up to $1000) on an impulsive moment and a misguided attempt to do the one right thing that would turn someone's life around forever. I actually still have the impulse to give all my money away, but I don't do it anymore. I think about it all the time, though. I think it helps that it's not really "my" money anymore, but Rafe's. I stopped that when we married. What's really crazy is that I helped almost complete strangers to me but not my family, and I have no idea why. The impulse would happen and BOOM, a check would be written. I did that even when I didn't have money to pay my own bills, but I didn't worry because I wasn't organized enough to see what a mess I was in. I never worried about money or my future. I haphazardly invested in retirement.
Disorganization has cost me a lot in relationships also. I think about my friends and people I love all the time. All the time. I am one of those people who would be much happier living on a big compound with all my family in houses scattered close by, big Sunday meals with everyone together. But for some reason I can't seem to reach out when I'm not in physical proximity. I lose addresses and phone numbers over and over again. Until this year, I had to call my mom or my sister every time I wanted to talk to one of my brothers because I lost their phone numbers on the scraps of paper I had written them in. I bought organizer after organizer and would lose them, or not use them consistently. I've lost touch with dear friends and became too embarrassed at not contacting them or missing important dates (once even a wedding). I failed a friend who ended up in jail and asked me to pay his bills for him. He gave me a $400 check to do so - in 1998 - and I just found it two weeks ago. I also found the list of addresses of people he had asked me to mail and tell of his predicament.
It kept Rafe from feeling comfortable about inviting people to our home when we first married. It kept him from feeling peace in our home because of the psychic noise that clutter and disorganization creates. It kept us from going out and enjoying ourselves sight seeing new places we lived because we stayed home on weekends cleaning and going through things, again and again. I turned down invitations to go places and do things because of clutter and disorganization. People who are organized don't feel comfortable in unorganized spaces. I'm sure that before I married, I probably lost a date or two with that as a factor.
I was/am late to things regularly looking for stuff. I lose my keys all the time because I can't focus on where I put them. I get distracted so easily that I can go into one room to clean something or get something and forget why I walked into the room by the time I get there. I make lists upon lists and often read them, only to realize that by the time I got to the bottom of writing the list, I had written something again that I wrote at the top of the list... totally forgetting I had just written it! When I'm stressed out, this happens more often.
My clothes don't match much of the time because I could never find what I was looking for in the overcrowded closet. I just grabbed and went.
Sometimes it is extremely hard for me to focus from one moment to the next. Ideas jumble around in my head and I start projects all the time but never finish them. Ironically, what I can focus for long periods on are things that both interest me AND require intense concentration at the same time. My daughter, my husband, reading, cooking. Sometimes the problem I have is with too much focus - I zero in on one thought and simply lose all other thoughts, no matter how important. I'm usually reminded of the previous thoughts when a crisis happens and I have to deal with what I forgot about before.
Why am I writing this today? I wanted to be honest out loud. This is the area of huge struggle in my life. It causes me stress and anxiety, yet sometimes I feel like I'm swallowed up by the enormity of organizing. It's probably really hard for someone who is organized to relate to. But I also want to talk about progress. I stopped spending money like crazy a few years before I met Rafe. But I couldn't seem to stop collecting paper clutter. There is probably so much more that disorganization has affected that I haven't written about here. I am determined to change, and have been changing for the past few months. I worked on this once before, when we lived in Jacksonville. But the outside stress on our lives there made it slow going, and once I had started to get a handle on it, we moved again and it threw me into a tizzy. It is not something that comes naturally to me.
My goal is that our house is peaceful, comfortable, and a sanctuary for my family. To me, that means less clutter (MUCH less clutter), simple living. We really don't need much. Rafe has been my biggest motivation in this endeavor. I have changed so much for the better since I met him. It's one of the first things my family noticed about me after dating Rafe... just that I was more human, more down to earth, more grounded.
I love this blog; and I really wanted to share this entry
"When I heard the Catholic notion that each of us has a vocation, and that it's not about what you'll do but whom you'll serve, it sounded outrageous. Insane, even. In this worldview, living for yourself is not a valid option -- regularly taking time for yourself, yes; but structuring your life around selfish pursuits, no. It went against everything I believed. It seemed to even go against common sense.
But, as I've also said many times before, when I tried it, the proof was in the pudding. The way years of underlying angst melted away, how all areas of my life suddenly had so much more order and clarity, that feeling of peace I'd always yearned for but had never experienced (and wasn't even sure it was possible to experience) -- there was no doubt in my mind that Christianity had a lock on the answer to the meaning of life. Through a life centered around agape, self-giving love, I found He who is Agape itself; I found what every human who's ever lived desires most, whether they know it or not: God."
Saturday, October 25, 2008
She says, "Food you!" when I tell her to get into her car seat and she won't do it, but she insists it is her turn to climb in. I say that I will count to 3 and if she is not in, then it will be my turn (which I hate the whole count to 3 concept yet I do find myself doing it sometimes). So she scrambles in to the seat and then yells out, FOOD YOU! (As in "I fooled you!")
Sometimes out of the blue, she will yell at the top of her lungs, "DON' DO DAT!!", with the emphasis on the word "DAT!!", and then say, "Noah push". It makes me laugh because she's obviously reliving the time when Noah was at our house and he pushed her and we were teaching her to stand up for herself. When he was here, she could only say it in a teeny tiny little girl voice, like she was unsure she should say it. She's been working on her delivery!! haha. I can hardly wait until she sees Noah again to see if she can pull it off. She sounds determined when she's yelling it in the car, which oddly enough, is the only place she remembers about it.
Right this very second as I am typing to you, she is wiping her baby's bottom with a diaper wipe and then putting their diapers back on. She has 2 babies that she made me put diapers on this morning, now she is taking them off and taking their clothes off and wiping their bottoms. She yells out "DID IT!" when she gets some part of it done properly (to her standards). She is sitting here in her jammies looking very serious while she's doing it. It's Saturday, and I let her wear her jammies all day if she wants to on Saturdays. When she wants help she says, "hope peeze!" and now she just asked me for help getting the baby dressed again.
"wan it!" means "don't want it" when it's accompanied by a negative shake of the head (as I tried to give her 2 wipes when she only asked for one to wipe the babies) Ok, now she's undiapering them again. I am giving you a play by play.
"oh babeese hepping dem, DID IT! I DID IT!" (she is saying she is helping the babies) "Yes, you did do it, Amelia" "Uh huh. Oh babeese dry. mommy, med-sin babeese. Mia chanchin diper. Mia potty. Mia bow moo-ment" (she was giving diaper rash medicine to the babies)
oh rafe, this is cracking me up. She just put the littlest baby in the microwave and I asked her why she did it and she said "baby bath". She's holding the baby by her legs upside down for a few moments, then says, "baby done!" Now she's trying to squeeze the baby back in the microwave again. 'baby - boo ice" (baby has blue eyes) Now she's trying to put the big brown baby in the microwave. The baby is hanging upside down in the toy microwave. I am telling her we don't cook babies, that's not nice. So she hugs the big baby and I tell her she's a good mommy to her babies.
I spent a whopping $4.00 and picked up 16 items - all the children's clothes were 25 cents! Amazing! I found some good play clothes, nothing fancy, and some shoes in sizes 2T to 4T. I would say about 6 items she can wear now over the winter (shirts, a playjacket, 1 pair of play shoes) and the rest over the next year or two. But the other sizes were in such good condition that for a quarter I couldn't pass them up.
I love thrift stores, especially the ones that have a mission (like hospice, or CAPA, etc). I don't go in them very often, but I have picked up some needed things for Amelia at bargain prices. I have even found toys with a few pieces missing, or loved on, or something small broken, and picked them up. Mostly because with kids, they suffer wear and tear anyway. Although Amelia is actually really good with her toys and hasn't messed up anything yet; it is usually the other kids that come to play here that I have to worry about. One time I bought one of those play xylophones that was missing its "drumstick" that attaches to it on a string. It just had a poor lonely string. I bought it for $2 and went home and gave her some of her old baby spoons with the soft rubber coating to use as drumsticks. It worked great and she loved it! I've found puzzles and books that same way. I figure, if she was the 4th kid, she'd be getting hand me downs and torn toys anyway, so no reason to spend top dollar every time to get a perfect toy. Not to say that I have anything against perfect toys, but at this age....
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
Today I went to the polls to make sure that I can vote on election day and that all my stuff is in order. Turns out that even though I have a registration card, my ID needs to be either a SC Driver's License OR I need to bring a recent bill with me that day that has my name and current address. Good to know. I can also vote early, which I think I am going to do this week.
Why would I vote early? Well, considering the amount of people I saw in line today who are voting early, I can only imagine how long the lines are going to be, and how confusing it is going to be, to vote on Election day. Literally, it's 12 days until the election and the place was packed and the line was snaking outside the door, with more people driving up as I left.
So, if you don't have all day to wait around to vote, I suggest you plan ahead and vote early if you can. You won't regret it. Unless, of course, you vote for Obama.
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
It seems to me that everyone who is FOR Obama is not only ready to elect him President, but to crown him King and perhaps even a minor deity, if not a major one. Obamites are practically frothing at the mouth in their haste to say laudatory things about him. I bet if they are crossing the road, they don't look both ways either... Just straight ahead. ;)
Monday, October 20, 2008
There may be a reason other than security that the campaign doesn't want Signator talking to the press.During Obama's 2004 Senate race, in the weeks after Obama's convention speech had marked him as a rising star, Signator accompanied Obama to an African-American parade in Chicago. According to an Obama biography by Chicago Tribune veteran David Mendell, the crowd chanted "O-ba-ma! O-ba-ma! O-ba-ma!" and gave the young candidate such a passionate reception that Signator, identified by Mendell as Obama's "driver and bodyguard," joked that he "thought Barack was going to rise up over the people and start saying, 'My children, my children, I have come to free you"
Sunday, October 19, 2008
In Obama's book "Dreams from my Father", Obama confesses that he harbors the same negative racial stereotypes as Rev. Jeremiah Wright, his mentor for 20 years. On pages 198 to 204, Obama says that Black Nationalism, a steady attack on the White race would be justified if it could deliver. On page 100, Obama says he went out of his way to choose Marxist professors as his friends. Obama wrote: "To avoid being mistaken for a sellout, I chose my friends carefully, the more politically active black students, the foreign students, the Chicanos, the Marxist professors and punk rock performance poets."
Now during his National NAACP speech earlier this year, Sen. Obama discussed economic justice. "I've been working my entire adult life to help build an America where economic justice is being served," he said at the group's 99th annual convention in Cincinnati.What most people do not understand about economic justice (since the Presidential race is all about the economy) it is simply a term that means punishing the successful and redistributing their wealth by government fiat. It's a euphemism for socialism. In his latest memoir he shares that he'd like to "recast" the welfare net that FDR and LBJ cast while rolling back what he derisively calls the "winner-take-all" market economy that Ronald Reagan reignited (with record gains in living standards for all). Obama also talks about "restoring fairness to the economy," code for soaking the "rich" — a segment of society he fails to understand that includes mom-and-pop businesses filing individual tax returns.
- Akindele Akinyemi
"A retired military officer in Pacific Grove alerted me to the Obama-Odinga connection, and Obama's active campaigning and support of Odinga in 2006.
Others were able to confirm that Obama did support Odinga, and that that Odinga incited racial violence that led to the deaths of over 1,500 and the displacement of 500,000 more.
Obama did "campaign" for Odinga by any reasonable take, and Obama's trip to Kenya was paid for by the US taxpayers. Past that, your own mileage.
Specifically, during his 2006 Kenyan tour Obama gave a speech in Kenya ripping on the existing government and then toured with Odinga, during which tour he "starred" at several Odinga rallies. It's pretty tough to find a way to rationalize that away from stumping FOR Odinga, given Obama's "star" status in Kenya during the trip. Before Obama went to Kenya on that trip, Odinga visited him in Washington several times over two years, and he sent his foreign policy aide as an advance man."- Tully
By the way, I agree with Joe the Plumber. I think that even Bill Gates shouldn't spread his wealth around if he doesn't want to. He owes no one. He made the money and it's his right to do whatever he wants with it. The biggest problem I have with the whole spread the wealth theory is that far too often people without money aren't poor because it's impossible for them to MAKE money, it's because they can't HANDLE money. They have poor money habits and throwing more money at them isn't going to solve the problem. I can say this because I had poor money habits and lots of people I know do or did, and until those habits change, all the money in the world won't help. The only thing it will do is to help keep them from taking responsibility or feeling the consequences of their actions.
That's not to say that I don't believe in giving, or in charity. I choose much more carefully these days where my charitable contributions go. Just like every other investment, I want a return on my money and I'm not interested in sending it to a giant black hole where nothing ever changes. When I lived in KC, I remember helping a lot of my employees or friends or even strangers out who were in "emergency situations", often with hundreds of dollars. I did it because I truly believed that this one act of kindness was exactly what they needed to get over the hump and make it through so they could start living a better life. Not one single person's life was ever changed for the better, and looking back I was quite often snookered and didn't realize it. I went with my own bills unpaid, helping others with children, feeling sorry for them because my life was just a smidge better than theirs.
In the times since, I've come to realize that people only change when the pain of staying the same becomes greater than the pain of changing; and throwing money at the situation often made it bearable when it should have become unbearable and forced people down a different path. I've also greatly regretted a lot of the choices I made concerning money in the past. Amelia's Granny J gave us a great book for teaching kids about handling finances, and you can be sure that will be greatly used in this house. I don't want her to be as foolish as I have been and wasted as many opportunities as I did. I hope to ingrain Biblical stewardship so that the process is automatic for her. It will be the second greatest freedom she will ever have - the first being the freedom found in Christ Jesus if she becomes saved.
Friday, October 17, 2008
Thursday, October 16, 2008
It's one of my favorite websites - because it's hysterically funny; it's hysterically funny because it's all true and I remember those days.
WHEEEE!! It feels so good to have some of this stuff sorted and finally let go of some of it. Letting go is the hardest part. Lots of items have memories and I loved everything I had. But lots of it no longer suits me, or I have to admit I will never get around to "that project" after having passed it up so many times before. I've begun to take pictures of things that have meaning for me, but no longer have a place in my life for some reason or another. Now, instead of keeping the object I wasn't using and was boxed away, I can keep the picture and have a lot less clutter! The whole house is beginning to run more smoothly. I took a picture of all I'm donating today.
Our accountant gave me this great FREE website for listing what we donate. It adds everything up for you and stores it for 2 years, so you have it handy when it comes time to do taxes in one easy printout.
I also found a neat literacy project for donating old magazines. I just donated 178 (4 bags full) to CAPA, but I think I will try it the next time. I still have 19 boxes of magazines to go through. It's so hard to part with some of them - they're great reference. But I think as the house becomes less and less cluttered, I'll find it harder and harder to keep them as they will be messing with the whole "zen" feeling I'm trying to achieve.
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
15 October 2008Hello MTT 0110 families,I hope this letter finds you all in good health and spirits. The team has performed magnificently since my last letter and we have been extraordinarily busy here in Baquba. Over the past seven weeks we have completely reorganized the team, supported the Iraqis through very demanding counterinsurgency operations, and watched every 1st Division MTT, spare us, complete their deployments.
Operationally, we have put over a thousand miles on our vehicles in the past month. It is clear that our brigade has made a significant impact. The area we operate within was one of the most contested areas for Iraq. Since the brigade has started working here, however, the landscape has changed. Schools are opening, roads are being cleared, displaced families are returning to their homes, and locals have created their own "Sons of Iraq" group (young men who support Iraqi Security Forces with information and local security). It is a great pleasure to be a part of it all.The most significant news for those back home is that the team has changed significantly. The 1st Battalion MTT is now merged into our team. Unfortunately, out of this combined group, I could only retain 21 Marines and Sailors. From the old MTT0110, we will lose GySgt XX, SSgt XX, and SSgt XX. These three Marines will be reassigned to a new team with a completely different mission. I expect within a week or two they will be able to contact their wives and provide a new contact for family readiness although all three families are absolutely welcome to remain in contact and involved in our KV network. We are currently coordinating a new mailing address for the three Marines that are being reassigned and I would recommend holding off on mailing anything to these three until their situation has stabilized -- probably within a couple weeks. I have asked all three to call home and answer any questions their wives may have. Additionally, we will add five Marines and one Sailor from the old 1st Battalion MTT. I am coordinating the new names with XX XX so you can all welcome them to the MTT0110 family. We are holding a farewell barbeque today complete with steaks, coleslaw, and non-alcoholic beer.
Yesterday, we remained on our small camp and conducted our first team shooting competition. The events included one-on-one soda can shooting races, discriminating fire courses (shoot bad guy vice good guy pictures), and team board cutting where we divided into two teams with the winner being the first team to shoot their board so thoroughly in one spot that it cut in half. The whole day was a good break from the daily routine and there were plenty of laughs and some impressive shooting. In the finals of the soda can competition, Captain XX defeated SSgt XX -- but only within seconds. Lance Corporal XX, Sergeant XX, and Captain XX all shot very well.
I would like to express my sincere appreciation to XX XX and those of you who have participated in the "get togethers." As our team gains some of the former MTT0110 members, I believe these get togethers will help create some additional relationships.As I always, I sincerely appreciate all the support you provide us. We have passed the three month hurdle -- 33% complete and counting!Semper Fidelis,LtCol XX XXMTT 0110
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
The first time I met his Nana, it was at a Thanksgiving Dinner at Sherlene's house, and I was scared to death to go inside. I can't remember why, but Rafe wasn't able to be there at the same time I was, and I had to go and meet every single person for the first time by myself with the exception of his mom and sister. (Now that I look back, I think, what kind of person would let their brand new girlfriend walk into a lion's den alone?!?! and I cant' believe he did that). What I remember most about that first visit was seeing Rocky outside and he waved me on into the house, being welcomed inside by Sherlene, and immediately hearing Nana yell, "You must be Rafe's girlfriend! Come on back here so I can talk to you!" She was sitting at the round table in the back of Sherlene's kitchen, and most everyone else was in the livingroom or on the front porch. Frank was sitting in his chair by the door, with a big smile on his face and a friendly hello. Believe it or not, I felt much better after that. I liked that she was direct and bold and she was asking me all kinds of questions. She always seemed very interesting to me, and I enjoyed our conversations on the phone when we were able to talk occasionally. I feel very lucky that I was able to meet his Nana and Papa before they passed away.
Braden was just a baby when I met him that day. I think he was actually in the crib by the front door, up against the wall. If I remember correctly, Julie and Nathan were on the couch and I think football was on the TV. When I first met his girl cousins, I was stunned at how gorgeous they were. All three of them could be models. Not only that, but they were really down to earth and very nice. One of the best things was watching them with their parents - it's one of the most loving and closest families I've seen. They genuinely enjoy each other's company and it's a delight to be around them. They are all very intelligent, talented women.
I not usually a person who is too star struck; partially I think because over the years so many famous people have come into the places I've cooked for or stayed at hotels I've worked at. But I have to say it's a bit different when it is someone in your own, albeit extended, family. I personally think it's really cool to have someone I'm related to be so talented as to make it to the Dallas Cheerleading Finals. If you're from Texas, you will realize what a big deal this is; and if you're not, then I'd just like to say that Football is like a second religion to most Texans. Rafe's aunt sent me a video of one of his cousins during a tryout. What's really amazing about this woman is that she doesn't even do this full time!! She has a full time, intense job and is just that talented that she made it this far!!
Anyway, because I feel like helping Rafe's aunt brag and I think it's so cool, here is the link to the video - Britt is the last dancer, and you can see her also in the very beginning of the link.
It's difficult cooking fabulous meals for one; I've gotten out of the habit of cooking anything that takes more than 10 minutes to throw together for Pasta Girl. Lately I've been craving meat. I have always loved vegetarian meals, but it's not cutting it for me anymore. The past few days I've been on a small cooking binge and let me tell you, it's YUMMY!
Everything in this house just feels homier with the smells that have been wafting through here. It seems less lonely, somehow. Tonight I imagined Rafe was going to be coming through the door soon, and what he would think when he smelled the ribs slow roasting in the oven. I made on of my favorite dishes, my mom's ribs & sauerkraut, but a little differently. I rubbed the ribs with fresh chopped garlic, caraway and fresh ground black pepper, then slow roasted them in the oven for about 2 hours. In the meantime, I mixed onions, cabbage, sauerkraut, more caraway, brown sugar and beer in a Le Creuset Dutch Oven (love those things!! I got mine on a closeout sale - never buy full price!) and threw it in the oven to slow cook also.
Amelia actually helped me with throwing things into the pot and she had a blast. I took pics, to be posted later.
Now that the ribs are nice and crusty, I put them into the Dutch Oven and threw it back into the oven to cook for another hour or two. I'm loosely following a recipe I found over the weekend. I'm a big fan of caraway. The house smells incredible - buttery, meaty, like it's cold outside and there's a fire going. Never mind that people are still wearing shorts and tank tops here and it's humid and hot outside. I've got my AC going full blast.
I also roasted some chicken and made Arroz con Gandules for a side dish (just followed the recipe on the side of the can; however if I make it again I'm going to add more chicken stock and salt). It was easy and fabulous. What is really funny is that was for a potluck dinner I went to last night - where the host had also made the same rice dish!! And neither one of us had ever seen anyone else ever make it!! Great minds think alike.
I was able to buy the ribs on sale for a little over a $1 a pound at the commissary; so I cut them in half and slow roasted the other half with bbq spices. I accidentally left them in the oven for 6 hours - but the oven was at 200 degrees so it worked out perfectly. Literally falling off the bone and so tender they melt in my mouth. I think that will be the way I do it from now on. I've served Rafe some terrible ribs in the past. I know now that I just didn't cook them long enough or that I cooked them at too high of a heat. I just poured bbq sauce over them when they were done and chowed down. I did not miss that PB&J that Mia was having AT ALL!
Tomorrow I'm going to make ham and bean soup with some ham scraps I had in the freezer and can of beans that have been calling my name. Serve them with some crustry French Bread... maybe Amelia won't notice that there's ham in there if I chop it up finely enough.
Sunday, October 12, 2008
I was actually able to get 4 emails from Rafe today! I feel like Christmas came early. Things must be slowing down for them right now.
Don't you love it when the story starts like that?!?
Anyway, I forgot beer, caraway seeds and milk for Amelia. I don't even drink beer, but I'm trying a new recipe for ribs that calls for one can of beer. So I swung by Walmart tonight, picked up the milk, the caraway seeds, and one box of frozen chinese food. I was trying to find just one can of beer for sale, I stood in front of the beer for a long time, trying to figure out which beer would give the ribs the best flavor. I wanted a dark beer, but how do I tell what's a dark and what's not? I was pulling out bottles and holding them up to the light, squinting at them.
It was all fun and games until one of Amelia's day care teachers went by the milk section, right across the aisle. She gave me the funniest look, and as I was walking to the check out section I realized why. I had Amelia pushing the cart, a 6 pack of beer in my hand, and the only thing in my cart was a small amount of food for me and ... nothing else! It reminded me of the people who go to the convenience stores and pick up a few things but what they really came for was the beer. She knows Rafe is deployed, so I can only assume she thought I needed the 6 pack for drinking!
Friday, October 10, 2008
"The statistics on sanity are that one out of every four Americans is suffering from some form of mental illness. Think of your three best friends. If they're okay, then it's you."Oh boy, am I in trouble! I think my three best friends are fabulous! Actually, it's four, so I'm in double trouble!
-Rita Mae Brown
My husband will live or die by his misguided decisions and his desire to hold "kumbaya" talks while holding hands with the enemy.
If you are not registered to vote, please don't tell me. I won't be kind about your laziness and total lack of responsibility to the way your country operates and I certainly won't have any patience when I hear you complain about how things are going. As far as I'm concerned, you lose your rights to whine about the government when you don't participate in the process when you have a chance.
No one person or party is perfect, but you do have the burden of choosing the individual you feel is best suited for the office. Hopefully you are also doing your research and not just regurgitating what you hear in the evening news. Know what issues are really important in the big picture, not just your immediate concerns. Presidents have long term impact.
As for me and my house, we're voting McCain. It will be good to have a president in the White House who has actually served, and a president and vice-president who have children in the military. It's been a very, very long time since we could say that about a ticket.
Wednesday, October 8, 2008
I filled up the tub a little too high one night on accident, and she ended up on her belly, floating and scooting along that way. We'd been reading a bedtime story about dolphins a lot at night, so she would swim along, grinning at me and exclaiming - "Daw-fin, Mommy!! I daw-fin!" I keep telling her that when Daddy comes home, he will teach her how to swim and take her to swim lessons.
In the meantime, she's discovered a lot of fun things to do in the water. Last night and tonight she would lay her head in the water on one side, and then sing or talk, and laugh, and say "ears!". At first I couldn't figure out what she was doing (duh!! I'm so slow). I finally realized she was listening to the different sounds her voice makes under water. About halfway through tonight, she started saying "POP!" in the middle of singing, until we were both laughing so hard that I fell off my little bath stool. "I sing-in, Mommy!! I sing-in!"
And it's the best song I've ever heard :)
Sunday, October 5, 2008
Today is kind of a relaxation day. I hope that we have more of them. I will use my time to catch up on some work, do my laundry and write you this email. I might study some Arabic too.Things have been moving at a constant, but slow pace here. The Iraqi government is very bad about planning things out well, so as we come close to a departure point, it gets delayed even further. It is like a carrot dangling out there in front of us and our counterparts. This has happened to us about five times in the last month. I just want to get settled down into our own battle space and be near Marine units. I have spent the longest time in this particular battle space and it feels good to get to know the nooks and crannies out there. I am able to make suggestions to my counterparts based on enemy patterns and the terrain I see out there. There are bad guys out there who would have been captured or killed a long time ago had this been a Marine Infantry Battalion doing business. Sometimes I wish we could bring a Marine infantry unit in here and just go to town. They would have a heyday.I met a 90 year old Hajji yesterday out in the middle of nowhere (which is our operating area). This guy remembers meeting with the British back in the 1920's. They took one of his father's sheep and bunch of tea without even paying for it. He did not know there was an Iraqi military until a soldier demanded to see identification on the outskirts of Baghdad in the 1970s. He is just an old farmer guy who is the eldest member of his tribe. When he saw me and I introduced myself and greeted him in Arabic, he just became all smiles and started talking a million miles per minute. He said that he knew and remembered me (I had never met him) and that he was so thankful for the ice and cold water that I brought for him and his family on some prior occasion. He said that his family prayed for blessings upon me that night as they enjoyed the cold water and ice. I told that we perhaps met in a different life. He just smiled and offered me a pillow to rest my elbows on as I sat out on his porch and listened to the conversation taking place between the Iraqi Officers and our staff.The ride back to our command post was bumpy because of all the “potholes” in the road.
Friday, October 3, 2008
I kept his name on a list, and hers, for a long time. It seemed to be the least I could do to remember him - every time I ran across the name I would think of or pray for them. I ran across it again today, cleaning out old boxes and going through papers.
His name is HM1 Gilbert Minjares, Jr.
I hope, if anything ever happens to Rafe, someone somewhere will do this for him also.
When you get to the page, type in "johnson" as the password.
For some reason, that link isn't working, so try www.herdofbirdz.com and then go to "client proofing", then type "johnson" as the password.
One of my nieces decided to donate her hair to locks of love. Before she did, my sister wanted to take some pictures of her with a local photographer. This photographer is incredible! If you're in the Dallas area and need one, give her a buzz. She might be coming out to the Beaufort area in the future, so if you're in my area and need one, give her a buzz also.
And, can I say that my sister is absolutely gorgeous???!! And those are only 2 of her 9 kids. She's a great mom.
I think it's fun to have so many nieces and nephews. I have from oldest to youngest (these include my brothers and sister in law's and my own kid):
Thomas baby unknown!
FIFTEEN KIDS!! I wish I could get them all together in one place and have a big huge party.
Thursday, October 2, 2008
Another blogger's view on Obama (military wife)
"I refuse to lower myself to bickering and slinging mud in the direction of Obama. I will, however, share a little something that main-stream media isn’t sharing (because you must admit, they are very Pro-Obama). When Obama visited Iraq in July, 2008 he barely spoke with the troops. In fact, an email from someone over there states that Obama looked at the troops ”as if they were scum.” Obama had scheduled photo shoots with the troops. He didn’t dare touch the troops for a second longer than necessary to snap a publicity photo. The basketball? Totally scripted. By that point in Obama’s tour with the troops, they had to order troops to play with him. Obama’s conduct in Iraq was inexcusable. These are the men that fight for our freedom, and they are being treated like trash. None of this was ever covered in the news, why? because the media is hell-bent on getting Obama elected. Oh, and I left out the really raunchy parts of the email from Iraq. "
Images It’s a hot afternoon. One hundred and twenty something and I’m soaked to death from a previous mission. I have to admit I didn’t worry about traffic during rush hour (hummers prevent that) nor did I worry about what to wear….it was pretty determined for the next oh, 7 months.
Now, as I drive the streets of Washington DC, I wonder how some of these people got their drivers license. I guess I will chalk it up to one other thing I will get use to again. The sight of green grass, bushes and the feel of rain. It’s been rainy here lately and I finished a nice cigar standing outside as it began to sprinkle and the pour. The neighbors thought “what is that nut job doing?” but if you go a year or so without seeing clouds or rain, then you begin to understand.
As Dirt people, your skin was tattooed with the dirt from the area. Crow feet on the corners of 20 year old Marines eyes and characters to match. Talking with them now after our return I laugh as we all share the same opinions of the states and how people take it for granted. The same feelings I had after every other deployment.
With everything going on in our world these days, remember, yes congress is getting a self alignment, banks are scared to loan, but know that that steely eyed warrior out in northern Iraq is ready to keep the wolf at bay.
You have running water, you probably had a starbucks this morning and your paper is still in your driveway for the love of god. You will have a good dinner tonight and after watching the biggest looser or some other feel good show you will hit your rack and get a solid 8hrs of rest.
Although the week is almost over, remember it can always be worse……so stop your bitching and kick some ass. Have you really made a difference this week? If you haven’t, shame on you. If you have, then you can look at your self in that 100watt lit up bathroom mirror that your Mrs loves and say, I can do better.
Tough times don’t last, tough people do!"
One Marine's View
That link can explain it far better than I can. While the significance of him not even knowing the name of the guy on his bracelet might have gone over less educated heads, it was glaringly obvious to anyone in the military. Most people don't know that McCain has worn that for years, long before he ever mentioned it to anyone.
And since we're talking politics tonight, let me remind everyone that if you have to choose between a President with little to no experience and an enormously steep learning curve, and a Vice-President with little to no experience and a slightly less steep learning curve, it's obvious that you choose the VP. Especially when she's going to be the VP for a man who is notorious for wanting to take away some of the vast power Cheney was handed during the last 8 years. She will not be making policy decision, people. She'll be the best XO to his CO. We're not voting Palin vs Obama. We're voting McCain vs Obama. And I, for one, do not want his learning curve to take place on my shift.
Today I walked in and she was busy putting some toys away (obviously she takes more after Rafe than me). She noticed me, said hello, but was intent on finishing her project first. Another little girl next to her kept telling her, "Mia! Mommy!!" and pointing to me. Apparently she started to get a little worried that Amelia was being a bit too nonchalant about mom being at the door, so she grabbed Amelia's hand and turned her around to face me and yelled again, "Mia!!! Mommy here!" I guess Amelia figured she couldn't ignore me forever, because she finally got the hint and came running.
As she was leaving, Amelia turned around to wave goodbye and yelled out, "Bye bye, fwens!! Bye bye fwens!!". Walking down the hallway, she kept saying, "Mommy, fwens!! Mommy, fwens!"
She's so darn cute.
Wednesday, October 1, 2008
1/2 cup baking soda
1/2 cup vinegar
Pour the baking soda in first, then the vinegar.
That is the recipe, but I didn't follow it. I sprinkled in what was left of my baking soda box (about 1/3) directly into the water over the drain and then followed it with an equal amount of vinegar (I just eyeballed it). I wish Amelia hadn't been asleep because she would have loved watching what happened next. It bubbled and fizzed up like alka-seltzer and then died down. I figured nothing much was going to happen and went to bed; but not before I noticed a few air bubbles coming up from the drain. I just thought it was still part of the reaction.
This morning, much to my surprize, the tub is empty! It worked!!!
That really helps make up for the fact that I tried to put together a cheapo Walmart play tent for Amelia (that Rafe has put together before with no mishaps) and broke the rods. Amelia kept asking to play in the broken tent all day and I felt really bad that it is pretty much useless now.