Monday, January 30, 2006

Only in the agony of parting do we look into the depths of love. ~George Eliot (Mary Ann Evans)

He's gone again. Probably somewhere over the Atlantic right now.

At 6:30am he left to pick up his last Starbucks (Venti, quad, mocha!!!) and McDonald's for the boys and me. I couldn't eat much, robotically taking a few bites of pancakes.

Shannon met us at our house to offer moral support and immortalize the experience with a camera. How ironic that we document the pain, no?

She asked me how I was doing and I immediately broke down. I was holding it in all night long and that made me crack. But it was a neccessary release of pressure.

We saw him off this morning and his flight was delayed so it was bittersweet to lengthen the goodbyes. (It was nicely private though because Delta put us in their Crown room club, or whatever it's called. I think the only reason the dozen business men on their cells and laptops didn't mind our hyperactive kids was that Terry was in uniform.)

We hugged and kissed outside the elevator. He didn't want to see us off at the gate, it just gets too emotional to watch him take the "walk down the plank." I felt the need to tell him the things you would say to someone if it was the last conversation, I don't know why.

"I'm so glad we pushed through early parenthood, college, law school, grad school. I love you and wouldn't change a thing."

I suppose it has something to do with the title of this entry.

If I continually write about college, it's because it was our life for the first five years of our marriage. We were children raising a child. Shudder (And yet, Gabe scored in the 99th percentile for the NNAT just last month so I guess we did something right.)

I came home took a Valium and slept for four hours. (I had a TMJ incident during his leave. Haven't been able to close my jaw completely for a week now. The Valium is supposed to relax the muscle and allow the disk that was injured in my jaw, to slip back into place. Whatever, drugs that induce sleep are my best friend.)

It's strange because on the one hand, I'm ecstatic to know that we are in the final countdown to him coming home permanently, but also scared, like we're pushing our luck or something.

I took Heidi's advice and took a lot of pictures during his visit. I took NOT ONE of him coming home. I preferred to bask in the happiness of his return and not worry about getting a good shot :) But about half way into his leave I picked up the pace and took some pics and video, mostly of the boys wrestling.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Thursday Thirteen

An idea from my new blog friend Jess Riley - 13 Things about me that you wouldn't guess by looking at me.

1) I am 1/8 Irish. My great grandpa's last name was Rose, and he married my great grandma who was Mexican. I've always wondered what it means to be 1/8, 1/2 something, what is it? My toe is Irish???
2) I weigh almost the same amount of the combined weight I gained with my two kids. I know, I know, I'm just bragging. But I deserve it because I was a house with my first son. He weighed eight lbs, the rest was a result of Chinese food and tuna fish sandwiches.
3) I am totally addicted to blogging but I can't sit down to finish an article to save my life. My husband is threatening to go back to Iraq early if I don't get off the computer. But he bought it for me so it's his own damn fault. I love him though because he looks like Ricky Martin. "Shake your bon bon..."
4) I was published in Reader's Digest when I was 16 and I got $400 for it on my 16th birthday.
5) I was homeschooled for five years and hated every single day of it.
6) I used to play the violin and piano. My mom used to make me play for an old folk's home when I was 10. I still remember the smell and this old lady who bragged about how she still had all her teeth. But I also felt very sorry for the people who never had any visitors. I promise to visit my mom when I send her out to pasture.
7) I had dinner with Bill Gates....and 20 other students. I noted that we had a child the same age. He looked at my like, "How did you get this scholarship and why are you here?" I wanted to crawl under the table and disappear.
8) Bill Gates Sr. kissed me (blush)
9) While we're talking celebrities, I met Evander Holyfield and he looked down my shirt when I bent over to get my camera out of my bag. I knew it was him because I saw the ear. It doesn't look so bad.
10) I've never done drugs. Not even weed.
11) I stole one of those orange construction cones one time. My way of rebelling since I didn't do drugs.
13) I don't think I've had a night of interrupted sleep since about a month before my first son was born. That was seven years ago.
14) These lists always make me sound nerdy and boring as hell when in fact I am a very fun person to be around!

Every your list!!!

Love and Marriage

I've been trying to formulate a response to Marie's comment on my last entry. She always helps me think things through a little deeper so forgive me as I wax philosophical now.

The comment brought a flood of questions to my mind such as, how does a marriage last? How can one person possibly fulfill you for, in my case, the next 80 years? Is it routine that keeps us safe and makes us stay or does it drive one to find excitement with someone else, only to repeat the cycle with them as well? I'll admit that if I were to turn back time, knowing what I know now, I'm not sure I could in good conscience make a promise to love and cherish someone for that long. (Love, yes, cherish maybe not :)

As a 20 year old with a baby to raise, I made that promise and I'm committed to fulfilling it. But I don't want my marriage to be reduced to a mere contract. Contracts are cold, vetted rules with little room for mistakes and forgiveness, which any relationship is chock full of. Although, with almost ten years in this relationship, I know a marriage takes a lot of of those negotiating skills. (This is not to say that there aren't deal breakers in a marriage. I believe there absolutely are.)

So to the question, am I contradicting myself by wanting routine and excitement? I don't think so. I think you need both to make a relationship last, it's just that each must occur at the appropriate time. Agreeing on when those times are...well I guess that's where the relationship lives or dies. (I am full of contradictions though. I suppose it's because I'm still figuring myself out. ) But as to my marriage and family, I have to put that question in today's context - I LIVE the clatter of the unknown, the clatter of war. The unknown is - is he alive and safe today? And I certainly can live without that noise now, I long for routine now.

Of course he will probably return safe and sound (although with some hearing loss from an IED). Eventually this will be a memory and we'll perhaps slip once again into a yawning routine that draws the eyes elsewhere. But by that post I meant that when this is all done, I hope I remember that even when we're not in the middle of a deployment, unless maybe you're Amish, life is unpredictable and we should enjoy every minute of it simply because we have it. And as Americans, we have it better than MOST. (And I'm pretty damn proud of Terry for serving.)

Donna Britt's recent column in the Washington Post is sort of related. She writes that no one is immune from problems:

"I'm talking about the immunity that most of us believe on some unspoken level is ours -- the kind that's supposed to protect us from life's ills....

You can be a universally respected journalist for one of the nation's finest
newspapers, living on what one neighbor called "the ideal Mayberry RFD block,"
and be killed during your evening walk. You can be one of your working class
community's best-known and -loved political figures and discover that a pair of
youngsters whom you invited into your home are holding a gun to your head."

While the article rather a downer I took it as a reminder that, damn right, none of us are entitled to a problem free life. I have no guarantee that my husband is coming home. Of the widows of soldiers and Marines that I've encountered, they weren't any different from me. Moms and wives living routine lives, so sure that their guy was coming home - and they died. Let's appreciate each moment (I know, the most original thought EVER) and enjoy even the monotony.

That felt good. Think I'll go read some Frankl.

Like everyday is the last

I didn't plan on writing very much while Terry was home, but I'm having a moment.

It didn't take very long for us to go back to "regular" life. I found myself asking him to take out the garbage or stop Asher from certain death, or change a diaper, etc etc. We slipped back into our routines so easily that I was encouraged by the prospect of him coming home for good, instead of freaking out that he would be some sort of alternative PTSS version of himself.

But this slide into normalcy is not a good thing. I don't want to be the way we were before the deployment. I want to keep this stirring in my heart, this anticipation of being with him, with our children. I want to always think of this day, or even this moment as our last and let the rest of the crap the usually makes me crazy, fall away; the arguing over if we have a router or a wireless card in storage, where the CIA is located, what road gets us home the fastest. I'm even trying to relax on the old annoying habits like his ear piercing whistle, or absent minded act of placing an item anywhere it will fit (as opposed to my "a place for everything and everything in it's place approach") - they don't matter when you look at us in this light. I know this sounds so Oprah, but it's true.

When you look at someone you love and think, I'm so glad I chose you to share my life with you, I don't want to waste a minute quibbling over shit that doesn't matter, life is sweet like sinking your teeth into a fresh melon, not like the rush (followed by a crash) from a triple mocha that we experience in the beginning of a great relationship. Example: he took down all the Christmas decorations and packed every tiny ornament in wrapping and tucked each glass ball in its case while I took a two-hour nap. I wanted to offer my body on a plate for that! It was so simple and stupid but I was so appreciative of it.

Each night we make dinner and eat as a family. I think I miss this the most while he is gone. Then, like synchronized swimmers, I clean and he gets the boys ready for bed. It's like clockwork and it, well, it works. And I enjoy it.

And before I Pollyanna my life anymore, I still think our lives would make a good reality show. We are fire and ice. Friends actually used to have a good laugh watching us spar at parties (all in good fun of course) and SOME thing is always happening around here. But these routines of dinner, bedtimes, caring for our children, planning the future or planning a day out, are what I enjoy the most.
I hope we hang on to this new attitude like a captured butterfly; tight enough to keep it but not enough to crush it's perfection.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Home for now

It's not for good, but he's home for now. I'm taking the time to write while he is escaping his reality with some American Idol reality - there's irony in there somewhere considering his American reality is as raw as the war wounds in his head and heart, and Idol is so far from ANYONE's reality. He walked out of the room when I watched one of my "reality" shows because he just can't stomach the people who breakdown into tears because they just spilled their latte and the last time he cried was thinking about his soldiers in arms who didn't make it home to their families, will never experience the love of a partner, or even go to college. He makes the exception for Idol because it never fails to entertain and doesn't take itself too seriously.

**we interrupt this blog to bring you the new title to "Skating with celebrities" - "Skating with people you may have seen on Hollywood Squares, E True Hollywood Story or, Where are they now?"

Anyway. We spent the first 72 hours at home, relaxing eating, and celebrating a belated Christmas. It was perfect. The days lulled by like a lazy summer day. We had our first day out today. Gabe went to school, Asher to daycare, we drank too much coffee and did a lot of free reading at the bookstore. Then we stocked up on beer ('cause while we went on cruise control through the past three days, we plowed through a whoooolleee lottta beeer! - and by we I mean for every one I drank, Terry had four) So, fully stocked on beer, malt liquor and Sangria mix, we plan to relax again tomorrow :) Aaaaagggggggggghhhh. Loving life right now. Never want it to end...

but I know it has to.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

What Asher and I did today... PLAYED!

I'm a moderate

This is not an invitation to launch into specific controversial subjects. I don't want my blog becoming a war zone. This is just for fun.

I took a Democratic loyalty quiz. I was curious because, as you can assume, this deployment experience has given me pause on some issues. (Although, I don't care why we are in a war, if my husband is there, we are 100% on his side!!! We can talk about why later.) Here were my results:

Your score is 5 on a scale of 1 to 10. You are a moderate. You agree with Democrats on some issues and Republicans on others, while rejecting the blind, naked partisanship of both sides. You base your vote on issues rather than ideology and principle rather than party, which makes you the quintessential swing voter the media loves to fawn over.

Interesting...I do like to be the center of attention. "Put the camera on me, Bob"

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Visiting uncle George with my brother

"Hope"ing for Christmas 2007

Just because he's cute

Just because he's cute

This woman walked around all day in Arlington with her umbrella up and not opened and it wasn't raining. Tourists....

Money, cigarettes and the American Dream

If you haven't seen Fun with Dick and Jane or Cinderella Man and you plan to, you may want to skip this part. Spoiler WARNING!

Hollywood broke it's oath and imparted a moral lesson to me recently (unintentionally of course). Compare these two scenarios: In "Fun.." the characters resort to robbing stores and banks after losing their jobs and selling everything they own. The erstwhile upstanding citizens are now desperate criminals (masked as WASPS, with one child, one dog, one 5,000 square foot house, and one Spanish speaking nanny). They justify their thieving spree since they have lived all their lives as upstanding citizens, played the game by the rules and still got screwed by corporate America. (In the credits, the producers thank MCI WorldCom, Enron, etc.)

Cut to Cinderella Man.

It's the Depression. A washed up boxer can't find work and his children are living on one slice of baloney and watered down milk a day. He returns home one day to find that his son has stolen food. The boy is sitting at the table staring at the unopened link of sausage (I imagined he is salivating and his mother is punishing him with the torture). His father orders him to come with him and return the sausage. As they leave the butcher the father bends down, holds him by the shoulders, looking him in the eyes, and not mean, but firmly he says, "No matter what happens, we never steal. Do you understand that?" The boy learns the lesson and in fact, when the father's luck changes he actually returns over $300 to the welfare office he humbled himself to ask help from when they had no food, no heat and no work.

While "Fun" is fiction, and Cinderella Man is based off a true story, I think "Fun" reflects many attitudes today. "I played by the rules and got screwed so I can ____________ [enter law bending activity here.]" Whether it's robbing a bank or fudging on your taxes (and I think we're all guilty of something in between these ends) I think today there's more of a sense of entitlement than there used to be. Imagine if everyone who had suckled off the government's teat paid back? Or hell, even paid it forward? What's that line, "Ask not what your country can do for you?...."

****End Spoilers*****

On a completely different subject. I read the most interesting article in the Post. It was basically all about the future of smokers in DC, since a ban looks inevitable. I didn't really know what to think. Was it glorifying smoking? Or just telling the truth? Or just being cute? It began: "Sure, we'll all live longer, but how will this affect the future of flirting? No smoking in bars, if the city pushes such legislation through, means no excuse to approach a stranger, unless you count You look familiar, which doesn't count."

It went on to talk about "social smokers" (my husband is a recovering social smoker) who only smoke when they drink or are at a party (was that redundant?) One interviewee (NOT a social smoker) calls these people, "posers." Gosh, I HATE posers, them and their life expectancy. It also talked about how girls ignore nonsmoking guys (is this really true? I've never been single in a bar if you can believe that). And then the first shoe drops (the second being lung cancer) the not-sexy, non-posers; "those people outside the office buildings. One hand clutches an unbuttoned coat collar. The other holds a cigarette." And you're freezing your ass off. That is the future of bars in DC, just in case you planned to visit with your Marlboros.

I don't care of people smoke in a bar. Us nonsmokers should EXPECT smoke in a bar. It's not like you're there to eat organic food and practice Yoga. You're there to get hit on, drink beer, do shots and forget about your general health. Smoke is actually an ingredient in the cloud of misjudgment that makes the guy with the crooked teeth, rythmless hips, and shameless bragging look charming, flirtatious and rich.

While we're on the subjects of financial desperation, heavy drinking and tobacco addiction, I'd like to share with you my jolt of cosmic pessimism the other day in the bookstore. I had just picked up my new book, YOU the Owner's Manual, began a new writing idea and was feeling pretty positive about "making it" as a writer one day, when what do I spy on the shelf as I'm almost to the exit?

Bait and Switch; the futile pursuit of the American Dream.

Which brings us full circle to the beginning of this blog entry. I could take this omen as a challenge - or I could just go get a drink and smoke a pack with the rest of the suckers who stupidly bought the line in the Declaration that encouraged us to pursue life, liberty and happiness. Tell that to Barbara! And for the love of God give that woman a drink.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Family Ties and Goodbyes

Today my brother and sister left to return to Seattle (actually the Tri-Cities for those of you who know Washington). I was surprisingly sad to see them go. Let me explain that. When I booked their flights back in October, I mostly didn't want to be alone during the holidays. I expected to do a lot of parenting instead of having a break myself, but it turns out they really made a difference being here for two weeks. I enjoyed their company as siblings instead of as an aunt or a parent. I guess I need to explain that too. They have a different father than I do and I am several years older than them. My sister is 14 and my brother is 16. We also have a brother who is 19 and another brother who is 12. I have a full sister who is 24. Our father's whereabouts are unknown, although we did know him at one time. Ok, now that, that Brady Bunch explanation is out of the way I can move on.

I usually start any visit with them with an interrogation; how are you doing in school? how is mom (cancer treatment a year ago)? is your dad still working? I think they hate it, but they know I only do it because I care. But after a couple of days we're just family. There's no grilling about life, although I did lecture a couple of times about the importance of college, College, COLLEGE!

I was surprised to even feel a little envious of them. That emotion would take more time to explain than I care to donate to this blog. I look at my sister and I see my mother when she was younger. (How's this for a brain twist? My sister is only three years younger than my mother was when she had me!) Anyway, I look at her and I think of how my mom used to be; young, happy, exciting, beautiful, sought after, smart. Now she's like this shell of a person. She spends her days "fighting for her life" as she puts it. Although she is free of cancer, she still experiences seizures so she treats herself with a special diet that takes a lot of preparation and she is terrified to leave the house for fear of erupting into a seizure in public. Again, too much to explain here.

I was jealous though, because despite all their financial, health and educational troubles they are a family. They have their father, each other and whether they realize it now or not, that will be such a comfort to them as they go on in life. I often feel alone because I am so much older than them and can't really talk to them like most people do with their siblings. Then again, I have learned that MOST people don't have the greatest relationships, whole, half or otherwise related to their siblings ;) I guess the best way to explain it is I feel like an orphan. Ugh. Is that too dramatic? Sorry. I was self reliant at an early age, so that's the only way to explain it..

In the end, they were on the verge of tears as well. My sister was especially sad because she IS the only girl at home now and she was too young to remember living with me. (I moved out at 17 so she was five) In fact I barely remember what they were like when I lived at home too. Isn't that weird? Anyway, in a sick way, I felt better knowing that it was painful instead of a relief to see them leave. I love them and I hope one day we will all be a close family, no matter how far apart we are, geographically or otherwise.

Where in the world is Monique

Where I've been in my travels. Only one perecent of the world!!!

create your own visited countries map

create your own visited states map

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

I got a new attitude

This was in my word-a-day email:

The wheel of time keeps moving. The old year goes away and the new yearclaims its place. There's a reason we call it the "wheel" of time. The word"annual" comes from the Latin annus meaning a circuit of the sun, hence a year.Flowers don't bloom any differently just because a new year has begun.Clouds move at the same pace whether it's a new day or a new century.Yet for humans these convenient markers along the trail of life are quiteconvenient.We brood about what happened yesterday. We plan things for the next week.And with a new year, we feel our knapsack of time is replenished. Again.What we missed doing last year we might be able to accomplish this time.And so the wheel turns.Ultimately, it's all relative. A story goes that a man prays to God.God appears and the man says, "Lord! Our billions of years are your onesecond. Our billions of dollars are merely a penny for you. Could yougrant me a penny?" God smiles, says "Certainly! Back in a second," anddisappears.May all your wishes be granted in the new year!

Haha! I love that line, replenishing our knapsack. I feel that way this year. The last couple of years have been emotionally swampy; my mom, Terry, adjustment to being "jobless" (I use that term loosely), but I am pushing myself to be optimistic for 06. Maybe this will be the year I get more active, write more, read more, and strengthen the bonds with my family.
Dare I list my goals? I do:

  • Take swimming lessons. I'm a terrible swimmer and I want to have a new form of cardio besides pounding endless miles on a treadmill going nowhere.
  • Take acting lessons. A totally new side of my brain to exercise.
  • And the usual goal to continue writing.

What are yours?