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Nov 4

Deployment treasure map

Posted on Friday, November 4, 2011 in Army wife, Me

I’ve been surprised by how much I’m missing my husband lately. We’re not halfway through the deployment yet—getting close though—and I’m feeling a little lost. So I’m going to go through a bit of a self-inventory and share it with you. (Actually I’m sharing more for the benefit of a future me.)

First, I’m going to get out a little anger that our soldiers keep re-deploying. We shouldn’t be able to learn from the first and second deployments in order to deal with the subsequent ones. I’m sure there are a lot of doctoral theses being written because the length of our wars provides so much data. Soldiers have always been good, easily captured research subjects.

But back to me. I was very prepared at the beginning of the deployment. I had gone through a sizeable portion of my grief over Mom’s death. I had trips planned to see my brother’s family and to go canoeing. I had enough work to make me feel productive, and still had plenty of time to garden. I even created this treasure map at my in-laws. My MIL and I each thought about what we wanted to happen in our own lives while the soldier boy was away. That’s mine below.

I’ve actually done pretty well. I have made an effort to stay in touch with friends. I’m not great at that, I tend to forget that I need to work on friendships. And I can spend too much time alone.

HabMoo and I have been communicating well and expressing love as best a couple can over the Internet ether. No real fights. No protracted times of feeling like we just aren’t connecting. (Those times do happen. His energy is low, or mine is, or Skype keeps failing as we try to talk. I don’t think there’s any way around that. We just don’t let them scare us.)

What else in on that construction paper? Boots. Yes, I did buy another pair of cowboy boots. I see two boots on there so I guess I get to buy another pair. I better save that for February. Or maybe later this month. Or whenever that metalic silver pair goes on sale.

Fitness. I joined a gym and have been go regularly. My heart thanks me, I am sure. I walked almost every day during the early summer before I got the membership. I discovered a Three Rivers Park nearby and plan to go cross country skiing there if we get good snow and weather.

I’m not so sure that I have met the embrace change challenge, but I’m getting better at that all the time. In fact, I feel like another sizable change in me is on its way. Maybe it’ll be me becoming freespirited. That’s not how I would ever describe myself. Others might. But there’s a difference between not caring what others think, knowing that they always think differently than you anyway, and being a free spirit. I have plenty of internal restraints. A full cupboard of them. Maybe more of a pantry.

50 Uses for Your Cat. Yeah, I’m going to fail that one. I think I’ve become better trained by my cats in the last few months. I jump even more quickly for them. They have perfected their pitiful cries and demanding yowls. And the neighbor trapping one of them didn’t help matters.  I think they have found more uses for me than I have for them.

The last is the house for sale. I’m working on that. The realtor (trademarked professional) is already sending us emails. I’ve been packing up a few things getting ready to show the house. I’m not terribly optimistic about the market, but I think we’ll be able to sell it and find something we like. Our requirements are pretty minimal.

Best for Whatever seems to sum it up pretty well. Whatever comes along, I have to believe that I’ll be ready for it. I hate the way the word whatever is used these days to dismiss another’s comments, to acquiesce to the inevitable, to fill space between verbalizations. Whatever, the way I see it, is more like Doris Day’s que sera, sera. The wheel of fortune turns and you’re off on a new adventure.

Wow. I sound positively optimistic and brave. Honestly, I am trying to rein in my fantasies about my husband’s homecoming. I’m trying not to speed past the holidays. I’m trying to dance to the beat here and now in this room instead of the ones in my head and heart and spleen (does anxiety live in the spleen? Let’s say it does.) But right now I do feel capable of feeling lonely every night without feeling truly alone. And I’m very sure that I’ll be able to give up the body pillow once the man is home.

Nov 1

From spruce beer to lattes

Posted on Tuesday, November 1, 2011 in Military Spouses

Beef: on the hoof to Mongolian BBQ

Yesterday I was reading about the problem Civil War soldiers faced of finding their food infested with flour beetles and having to decide if they should dunk their hardtack and let the beetles float out, or just toast the bread and eat them cooked. That’s a long way from my husband’s biggest food complaint during the war in Iraq in 2005: the dining facility (DFAC) temporarily ran out of onion rings. Times have obviously changed. But how much?

During the Revolutionary War the Continental Congress passed legislation to fix the components of a soldier’s food allowance. It included beef, peas, flour, milk, spruce beer, soap, and a candle. Next to the lack of vitamins A and C, the biggest problem was the lack of salt. Not just the lack of salt in the rations, but the lack of salt in the country. Salt was used to preserve meat and the salt had to be imported from the Spanish. The solution was to force the soldiers’ food to follow them and hopefully find pasture nearby. When the cattle didn’t have good forage or roads, the soldiers’ provisions dwindled. (Eventually the British West Indies sold salt to us and butchery on the battlefield once again referred primarily to humans.

Wars were tough on cattle. During the spring of 1778 when soldiers were starving, suddenly the cattle finally made it to camp. Unfortunately there were more cattle than could be eaten. Without forage for the cattle or salt to preserve carcasses, the cattle starved.

Later this week the soldier I know best will head to the DFAC in Kuwait for its unique version of Mongolian BBQ.

Rum or coffee

Current soldiers might envy the first soldiers in the U.S. Army. In 1790, the daily ration of four ounces of rum was reduced to only two, but they might get rum, brandy or whiskey. When you consider that they were probably drinking from the same water source as their cattle, the alcohol was probably a good idea. But boozing it up was a fact of life during Colonial times. I’ve read that they got cherubimical by imbibing such alcoholic delights as Rattle-Skull, Stonewall, Bogus, Blackstrap, Bombo, Mimbo, Whistle Belly, Syllabub, Sling, Toddy, and Flip.

None of these drinks were officially available to soldiers after the rum ration was eliminated in 1832. But then Congress must have felt bad about it and allowed enlisted men constructing fortifications or surveying an allowance to pay for their own ration of alcohol. By 1865, even that provision was eliminated.

What beverage replaced the booze? Coffee and sugar. During the Mexican War soldiers also got a bit of vinegar.

Temperance leaders tried to prohibit alcohol on military bases after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. However, policies to encourage moderating soldiers’ drinking were as strong as they got. For the most part officers saw a reasonable amount of drinking as good for morale.

Brewers were required to allocate 15 percent of total annual production of beer for use by the armed forces; local draft boards were authorized to grant deferments to brewery works who were highly skilled and irreplaceable; the Teamsters were ordered to end a strike against Minneapolis breweries because beer manufacturing was considered an industry essential to the war effort; and near the end of the war, the army made plans to operate recaptured French breweries to ensure adequate supplies for the troops (Rubin, 1979, p. 240).

While young soldiers were fighting in Vietnam, the argument was made that if you were old enough to die for your country, you were old enough to drink. Many states lowered the legal age to 18.

Alcohol is still enjoyed and abused by soldiers, even those serving in Islamic countries. Alcohol is fairly easy to get from the locals or have delivered by mail disguised as mouth wash. Heavy drinking is often seen as a symptom of PSTD or as influencing the actions of soldiers involved in criminal acts in Iraq or Afghanistan. Nevertheless, Sen. Jim Webb, a Vietnam veteran and former war correspondent has suggested letting troops in war zones drink alcohol as a way to relieve combat stress.

Coffee is easily available. It’s in the MREs and on bases. Tea is a little harder. The Canadians, Brits, and others have it in their MREs, but not the Americans. My poor husband arrived at his base in Kuwait only to discover that the Starbucks there was out of Earl Gray tea.

Food choices

Potatoes became part of the daily ration during the Civil War, as was pepper. And dried beans added to the variety. WWI saw the addition of butter (or margarine or lard). A total of 17 different food items were available on the list of possible rations. By 1927 this number was up to 23, mostly because of food prices and substitutions.

Now even MREs (meals ready to eat) have great variety. And they are available for purchase by the general public who uses them for disaster preparedness or camping trips. Personally, I find several of them to be rather good and better than most freeze-dried camping foods. The cheese tortellini with marinara sauce is probably my favorite.

The menu plans for DFACs includes menu standards that “should support menu planning for special dietary considerations. Vegetarianism and religious dietary requirements are normally addressed within the framework of the daily menu items offered.”

Sutlers to Starbucks

Sutlers would procure provisions for the military through the Civil War. They were civilians who followed the armies or who received a license to sell to an army post.

Now we have food provided free to soldiers via the DFAC and lots of privately owned establishments you’d easily find in your local shopping area. For example, Camp Arifjan has such fast food favorites such as: Pizza Hut, Charley’s, Hardees’s, 3 Subways, Burger King, Pizza Inn, Taco Bell, KFC, Baskin Robbins, Hawaiian Ice, Panda Oriental, Nathans Hot Dogs, Green Beans Coffee, Hole N One Doughnuts, 2 Starbucks. It only has three DFACs.

Starbucks really are everywhere. See this map of how to get to store 5546. I assume they are preparing to close down shops in Iraq now.

The contracts of modern day sutlers can be lucrative, but they are also costly. Food has to be imported. The contract proposal for the 2011 contract has this line: “The prime vendor bears all risk and responsibility for personal injury or death of its employees or agents or subcontractor employees or agents or for any damage to, loss of or demurrage of equipment during the transportation of product into Iraq.” As the Washington Post reported: “The Kuwait-based Public Warehousing Company/Agility, which has had the Iraq contract from 2003 through this year, has said 30 of its employees have been killed, 200 injured, 300 trucks destroyed and 700 more damaged over the past six years.”

Even with the availability of cinnamon dolce latte, war still sucks.

Oct 16

Soothing my cervix

Posted on Sunday, October 16, 2011 in Me

My cervix is chronically irritated. What am I to do? I do not have cancer; I do not have HPV; but I have had positive PAP results since 2002.

What could be irritating my cervix? It’s not like it has to help kids with homework, or put together IKEA furniture, or buy groceries on a Friday after work. It doesn’t have a bank account or in-laws or drive an old car. So how am I supposed to calm it down?

Are there meditation classes for the cervix? Should I download the sounds of a wooden flute playing over the sounds of waves breaking upon a beach? And then hold my iPod between my legs as I play it?

Can a cervix hold a grudge? Should I take it in for counseling? Help it work through its issues with the neighboring uterus? Maybe it learned that my vagina is longer and it has short cervix syndrome? Or maybe it’s upset with me for not allowing it to “ripen” and let a baby pass through? (I did not know that the cervix would ripen. According to one website it means the same thing as softening. But I immediately pictured it turning swelling up, turning red, and falling out. Eek.)

Maybe my cervix is just grossed out. The PAP results keep showing problems with its squamous cells. That’s a great Scrabble word, but it sounds icky. If I learned that someone called me squamous I’d be upset, but I think I’d get over in a matter of weeks, not years. I’d be a little upset maybe, but not inflamed.

Maybe I just have a crotchety cervix. Like the Andy Rooney of my reproductive system.

My cervix seem to have been irritated ever since I started having sex with the opposite sex. Is my cervix a committed radical lesbian separatist cervix? It’s possible I suppose, but even when my husband has been deployed for months on end, it’s still been irritated.

What if it just likes being the center of attention? I’ve had four different doctors during this cervical hysteria so I don’t think my cervix has a crush on my doctor. Maybe it’s a masochist who likes the pain of a colposcopy (biopsy procedure.)

If my latest PAP results are also positive I may be taking a trip to Mayo where I hope they will serenade my cervix and make it feel pretty and the center of attention. If they do another colposcopy I expect them to use only the finest white wine vinegar—maybe with just a hint of tarragon. The Mayo is a class act, right?

If this post made you feel a bit uncomfortable, do not do any Google searches. You’ll find photos one woman took of her own cervix every day for a month. Mine will not be getting that kind of attention. I don’t care how irritated it gets.

Sep 29

Bullwinkle Wiener Roast explained

Posted on Thursday, September 29, 2011 in family

For some reason, some people find the concept of the Bullwinkle Wiener Roast–or maybe just the words themselves–to be funny. So I thought I’d better explain.

The Bullwinkle clan has gathered for an annual reunion since before my time, even though there are very few people who still bear the name. A less well-attended wiener roast was later in the fall. The is still August and usually held in a church basement, but it used to be held at our house.

I remember Daddy getting the ponies out for rides or hitched up to a wagon or cart for additional rides. I remember the year we planned to have the reunion at a park unless it rained. It didn’t rain at our house so we went to the park and found it empty. Everyone else had seen rain and when we got home tables were set up in the yard. I also remember my mom saying “You don’t clean before you Bullwinkle reunion, you clean after.”

Less well attended, and perhaps not even regularly scheduled, was the Bullwinkle Wiener Roast. It was held on someone’s farm. Grandma B always held court near a heat source such as a stove. I don’t really remember her being anywhere near the fire. The cousins my age all called her Grandma Great which made me intensely jealous. As the very last of the 23 grandchildren I had to call her Grandma B.

The cousins would all play together and occasionally ask important questions like “Who do you belong to?” The correct way to answer was to name one of the Bullwinkle siblings. I got to answer with my father’s name while others had to name a grandparent. Or maybe they were one of Tom and Jean’s foster kids. Or a cousin’s friend who was instructed to give Tom and Jean as an answer.

I remember playing around the old threshing machines my uncle kept. There was a bee’s nest in one and I got stung. I ran towards the house crying. I had to get past all the men who were sitting outside and who responded to my cries by arguing about bees and telling bee stories. Luckily I made it into the kitchen where some aunt or cousin took care of me. In case of injury, always run to the kitchen.

We would typically play hide and seek in the dark. It’s terrifying to be outside after dark trying to hide in a yard you don’t know. This year my great-nephews and great-niece tried playing in their own yard after we had eaten and it was dark. They are very brave children.

My sister and I have done our best to recreate this annual event from our childhoods. Essential to the wiener roast are hot dogs, a big fire, popcorn balls, caramel apples, and exaggerated story-telling. This year I skipped the popcorn balls, and made Daddy’s donuts. Beverly skipped the carmael apples, but I did bring some Sweetangos. Larry and Beverly probably took care of most of the stories.

The Bullwinkle Wiener Roast has become a very small event. I don’t think it occurs any longer in Illinois. We now hold it in Minnesota with Mom and I being the only actual Bullwinkles.

This year we didn’t have Mom but we did have my brother and his wife. The year before we had a bigger event with my oldest sister, her grand-daughter and her husband and kids. It’s more fun when there are lots of kids around. And it’s sad not to have an elder Bullwinkle on hand. (I am not yet an elder Bullwinkle!)

I wish I had photos from the 1970s but all I have are these more recent ones. We’re building our own traditions now. Enjoy.


Sep 4

What I learned as a child that you probably didn’t

Posted on Sunday, September 4, 2011 in family, Me

From Daddy

Only Daddy can use the horse medicine
Sometimes Daddy would come in from the barn with purple splotches on his skin. I envied these, but was not allowed to use the horse antiseptic myself.

Sometimes teeth can be found in the barn

My father did not like to wear his teeth. But back in the days when he was trying to get used to them, he would take them out when his mouth got too sore and then he’d lose them. He found them in the barn more than once. And once he picked them off the bale of hay and put them back in when someone came by.

Falling Rock is a missing Indian boy

I loved hearing the story of why there are highway signs asking people to watch for Falling Rock. I hope he’s reunited with his mother someday soon and they move back to the mountains he loves so much.

From Mom

Bread and butter saves relationships

Whenever two people are walking and something comes between them like a post or a tree, you must say “bread and butter” or you will fight. I taught this to my great-nephews and great-niece this spring. I’ve got to do all I can to keep those relationship strong so they’ll visit me in the nursing home.

Friends, foes, money, beaus, travel

Look at your fingernails. If there’s a spot on your thumb then you have a new friend in your future. If you have one on your index finger, you’ll make (or have made) a new enemy. You get the idea. There’s nothing in my future.

From my sister

You can be identified by your bite marks

Yes, I frequently bit my sister when I was little. But she was a lot bigger than me and she would sometimes hit. You can also be identified by a handprint left on a thigh.

Aug 20

Board games rated

Posted on Saturday, August 20, 2011 in Uncategorized

HabMoo went into a major kick to buy board games before he went to war. Since I rate all the books I read on GoodReads and am kind of in the habit of rating, I thought I’d do so here. At least until GoodReads expands into GoodPlays or something.

My brother used to give my sister and I the best board games when we were young. It wasn’t until we were adults that we discovered that the playing pieces in board games were sold in packages. He must have played every game he gave us first. I understand completely.

I’m not including card games, customizable card games, or dice games here. For some reason I decided to allow a living card game.

Board games of my childhood

I don’t list here games like Password and Concentration, but I probably should. I liked both of them, but don’t think we owned them. There was also a game that had ghosts that glowed in the dark, I think. No one liked to play it with me.

Marbles – I think other people know this as Aggravation. Daddy made the board. Everyone in the family would play. We jumped the corners after a direct corner landing, and moved backward on every throw of a 4. I loved this game. *****

Battleship – I played this game most as a child, but I used to make an old girlfriend laugh by pretending to play “air battleship” where you just shout out random numbers and letters. I played the real game with a great-nephew who just liked to make designs with the pegs; he didn’t care if he hit anything or not. ***

Chess – I love many chess sets but play without skill. **

Masterpiece – Featured paintings from the Art Institute of Chicago. Daddy would play this game sometimes and he always bought the forgery. Mom always bought the Mary Cassatt. The artwork was great and the game play moved at a good pace. I didn’t really get into the role of an art dealer, however. *****

Clue – I never owned this game, but I usually won when I played. I liked the movie and I liked the game, but not enough to own. ***

Crazy Clock – Most kids grew up with Mouse Trap. I had Crazy Clock instead where you kicked the man out of bed. Much more fun. ****

Mystery DateI think this was the name of the game. I played it at one slumber party. It had a door you opened to see what your date looked like. Boring and the door didn’t seem to ever work right. Doesn’t deserve even one star.

Risk – I thought this was the best game ever until I played it a third time. It takes so very long to play. The artwork is nothing. **

Stock Market Game – I remember that taking the career of deep sea diving seemed to be our favorite choice. You could buy stocks from Alcoa, International Shoe, J. I. Case, Western Publishing. We played this a lot. *****

Stratego – I remember the TV ads for this. It was strategic and had fun playing pieces. ****

Big Business – The neighbor kids and I found this game in one of their closets and gave up on the instructions and made up our own rules. I’m going to withhold a rating, but we did play it more than once and even used a few of the written rules.

Monopoly – Protect me from this game. I love it that my husband also hates it. *

Parcheesi – Maybe if I had just fought in the Civil War, it would have seemed exotic and  I would have liked it more. *

Rock-O – Maybe shouldn’t count because it’s played with cards, but the cards have special holders and stand vertically, so I’m calling it a board game. The original game got boring, but then came Super Rack-O. ***

Tripoli – More of a card game, but ours came with a container for chips so I’m counting it anyway. It’s a card game so that gives it its stars. ***

Board games of my adult years

Apples to Apples – Only played this once with good friends. It made us laugh. That’s good enough for me. The only limitation I can see is the need to buy new cards after you learn how your friends and family think. ****

Ascension: Chronicle of the Godslayer Deck building games don’t really have to have great back story, but this one suggests the existence of one without providing even a few paragraphs of flavor text. My husband sold this game; he should have asked me first. I might want to kill the cultist again one day. ***

Battles of WesterosThis should be the best game ever, but it’s not. You have to spend too much time fiddling with game pieces. It’s such a great concept, but just isn’t fun. *

CavetrollIt’s a quick playing strategic game. I like the hero and monster figures. ****

Chaos in the Old World – The artwork is great: it feels seedy and nasty.  Four races have different ways of winning the game. It’s challenging and competitive. *****

Chez Geek – Not as fun a Munchkin. You need to play with the right people who are willing to act silly. ***

Citadels – Easy to learn and quick to play. The artwork isn’t special but I do like how your characters can change each turn and you can temporarily kill another player. There’s some strategy, but no pondering or planning moves ahead required. ****

Cosmic Encounter – One of the alien races is a whiner—it can whine for power. Who wouldn’t want to play that character? I seem to win at this without actually trying, so I love it. You can pick on other players even though the game randomly decides who you attack. There are plenty of races so each game is different. This game’s strategy might not work for the next game. *****

Cranium – I could do without the cards that require you to hum. I haven’t played a game yet when I didn’t laugh at someone. I approve of that in game play. ****

Cyclades – You bid for the favor of the gods. That’s pretty cool and I usually get nervous and don’t enjoy bidding. The map and artwork are fun. It seems well balanced. You can hold a conversation while playing, but it does require long and short term strategy. ****

Dark TowerThis almost fits into my childhood when I look back at the technology involved. The game was monitored by a small computer inside the black plastic shell of the tower and suddenly brigands would attack. I still remember the sound for that. It was a lot of fun one summer, but it went out with the trash eventually. **

Descent: Journeys in the Dark –I don’t have much experience with this type of dungeon crawling game. Lots of pieces to manage. I’m reserving judgment for now.

Dungeons & Dragons: Wrath of Ashardalon – Just started playing this cooperative adventure game. Aside from the nasty rolling boulder that follows you around like a puppy, it’s been fun. The odds of winning or losing seem pretty even. The artwork is OK. ***

Five Straight – My parents introduced me to this game. We played it often. ****

Fury of Dracula – Who doesn’t want to chase Dracula around Europe? I’d give it another star if it was more fun to play without five players. It feels a bit like clue, but with more strategy and one person gets to be Dracula. ****

Game of Thrones – We played the board game once and were not hooked. The LCG is much better. **

A Game of Thrones: The Card Game – This living card game is too complicated to just play for a lark, but it’s very interesting and challenging. I need to spend some time with it, build my own deck, and then learn how to win with it. But I’m not going to go play with the game designers like Alex has. I’m a graceful loser, but I don’t enjoy getting my teeth kicked in repeatedly.

Huggermugger – Very good word games. The board element of it wasn’t quite as good. ***

Ingenious – I suck at this game because I really just want to make pretty patterns. I also suck using the iPod app. But it involves strategy so I enjoy it. ***

Lord of the Rings Trivia Game – I played this two or three times. By trivia, I mean trivialities. One question asked if someone turned left or right at the top of the stairs. As much I love LoTR, I got rid of the game. *

Mancala – Yah, yah, yah. It just doesn’t have enough variation. *

Memoir ’44 – This game lets you recreate and play key battles in Europe in 1944. I assumed that meant I’d be bored by the game. But the game play is great. It involves strategy and the luck of cards. It’s so well balanced that HabMoo and I sometimes play one scenario twice in a row. We just switch roles. The map is a simple game board, but you build upon that with extra squares so it is easily customized. Except for my issue with not being able to easily distinguish the gray figures from the green figures, I love this game. The expansions are just as good. *****

Munchkin – The fun depends on the players. I’ve really had fun playing it and I’ve been frustrated playing it. If your players are comfortable with the game and are willing to be a bit silly, then it’s a great game. ****

Space Hulk: Death Angel – The Card Game –  An enjoyable game if the game doesn’t beat you too badly.

Ticket to Ride – The geography of this game drives me crazy. It interferes with the game. But it’s easy to play and involves secrecy and messy up the plays of other people. **

Sequence – Feels a little like a card game. It’s fun and easy to play but not something I really want to play again and again. ***

Settlers of Catan – Easy to learn, competitive, can screw with other players, and can carry on a conversation while playing. ***

Small World – I really enjoy this game. It’s not your typical world domination game because the world is just so small. It’s a fantasy setting that doesn’t take itself seriously. It never plays the same way twice. *****

Thunderstone – A deck-building game that I really enjoy. Sometimes the random draw of monsters and heroes really screws you over. But sometimes it’s fun to yell at the game.

Upwords – I do not play Scrabble and don’t care for Boggle, but this game is fine. I enjoyed playing it while watching TV.  **

Warhammer: Invasion – I’m not very good at this game. Nevertheless, it moves fairly quickly and is probably well balanced. It looks dirty and

Aug 19

Confessions, aka TMI

Posted on Friday, August 19, 2011 in Me

I’ve had a sinus infection and cold this week. After I ran out of tissues (I only use Puffs–one of the only brands to which I am loyal) for a while I just let my nose just drip onto my t-shirt. Once that made me feel too gross I used clean cotton underwear to collect my snot.

This is one reason why I should not be allowed to live alone.

After realizing that no one was going to see me in my underwear for almost a year, I went out and bought granny underwear. I am so comfortable right now. Nothing riding up, nothing falling down, nothing too tight. It was so comforting to have granny panties to wear while I was sick. (I recall Mom complaining when I was around age 6 that she and I were wearing the same sized underpants. I love feeling loose and free, but I worry that I’ll wet my pants if I don’t have underwear on. It could happen; it’s too risky to try.)

I sometimes don’t bother with a spoon when eating fruit out of a bowl. I just suck the stuff into my face. It’s fruit. Fruit is meant to drip down your chin.

One reason why I should not eat in front of other people.

I am once again playing the games Phantom Brave and Dawn of War: Dark Crusade. I can play the same game for 100s of hours. I am not only a cheap date, I am also a cheap gamer. This time around I am playing Phantom Brave with only the Putty characters and I just won. That does not mean that I will stop playing, however.

I am a slave to food in my refrigerator. Right now I must get through the giant tub of yogurt, freezer jam a friend gave me, some cheese I bought by accident and which contains peppers I do not like, and the damn celery I bought when I must have been possessed by an alien who wanted to learn about how chewing works. I have made three meals out of a Chipotle burrito even though the guacamole was brown because I could not throw it away. Yesterday I ate the last of the potatoes and felt great relief. I blame my mother for teaching me this food guilt and the  onus of food responsibility. It drives HabMoo crazy.

I know what one reader is thinking. “But you have salad dressing that’s over 2 years old!” So what? I will not be cowed by condiments! Things in bottles have no power over me. Unless it’s shampoo. I will be so happy when I use up my current smelly shampoo and can start of the good stuff.

I eat stale foods. As a wedding gift, a friend of mine gave me an open bag of Cheetos because I LOVE stale, orange, puffed cheese stuff. This week I finished a bag of stale chips. (Food really doesn’t have to be cold in order to make me feel obligated to eat it.) This I blame on the neighbor lady next door when I was growing up. Her kids and I would charge into her kitchen and beg for food. She’d respond by giving us whatever she wanted to get rid of. So I have clear memories of eating stale Saltines and stale coconut flakes.

I argue a lot with my cats. I always lose. I blame my mother for that. She used to sit at the very edge of her chair during meals because our cat, Penny, would be sitting on her chair. Mom never wanted to bother her or make her get down. This annoyed my father, who in later years, would turn the AC on for their Himalayan cat.

I don’t always read all pages of a book. For example, right now I’m reading one of the Game of Thrones books and I skip right over the chapters about characters I don’t find interesting. When I re-read Lord of the Rings, sometimes I skip past Tom Bombadil.

There are people who actually respect me and love me. Go figure. For them I am grateful. I clean up OK when necessary. Observation changes the one observed. I need to be watched.

Aug 10

Fitting into fitness

Posted on Wednesday, August 10, 2011 in Army wife, Me

What I want right now is a salt lick for humans—something salty not covering a chip or cracker. I’d usually crave the chip, but right now I just want the salt.

I am back from working out at the gym. Yep,  I said it. I have been working out at a gym. I even own some gym clothes. This bothers me.

I do not own cropped yoga pants. I haven't fallen that far.

I am not now, nor have I ever been, an athlete. My high school girlfriend made me learn tennis and play on the school team one year. I did play varsity badminton without urging, and loved it, but that’s the sole athletic endeavor I’ve ever really enjoyed. Oh, and hiking, which I’m not sure counts because there are no rules and no special equipment is necessary.


I joined a gym because the geeky boy I married is turning into a geeky biker and runner. He keeps growing more muscles. I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to keep up with him since he’s got so many fewer years slowing him down, but I want to hike up a hill with him and not keep stopping along the way to wait for me to stop panting like an overheated shar-pei.

So I looked around and found a gym with “free” tai chi and yoga classes. I figured those would be more gentle ways of encouraging myself to activity. I could do those a few times a week and later think about doing more on my own. Joining the fitness center—they aren’t called gyms any longer, I guess—was a cultural experience.

Apparently this fitness center caters to cougars. I really hate that term, but it seems appropriate here. There was an attractive young man at the front desk, an attractive young man to give me a tour, and an attractive young man to give me my free session with a trainer. They smiled, they talked about how clean everything was, they asked me questions about myself, and they pushed offers on me like my Aunt Mil would push her homemade cookies. When I hesitated about an offer, mostly because I was still in shock to be in such a place, they’d offer a slightly better deal—available only if I signed up today. They had me agreeing to all sorts of obvious things, saying yes to their questions, and then slipping in the question about what package deal did I want to buy. They were well-taught salesmen.

I bought a membership. The place was clean like they said. It was uncrowded. There were lots of shiny pieces of equipment. There was a sauna which I’d probably never use, but I’m from Minnesota where saunas are heavenly places in the winter. I did not buy the services of a personal trainer, however. First of all, the number of pretty boys walking around made me wonder if any of them felt like gigolos. I felt like I was being manipulated by testosterone. Also I was asked why I wanted to work out and what goals I had. I talked about wanting to avoid another should injury, wanting to build bone density, and wanting to increase my endurance. The handsome dude just kept talking to me about weight loss and looking better. I did get him down from $50 an hour to $25 before I had sat long enough to regain enough strength to walk back out the door. Oh, and I think he’s starting to bald on top.

My first yoga class was taught by a tall transvestite. I’m sure he’s a straight and very masculine transvestite. Don’t ask me how I know this. I read Blink and learned about someone spotting a forgery in a manner of seconds, So I’m confident in the snap judgment I made with no real evidence. He’s the only one of their yoga teachers I’m actually comfortable with. The others move much too quickly and I’ve left their classes with sore wrists.

Mostly I now go to do whatever the proper verb is for using the elliptical machine. Walk? Ramble? Circle? Row? I do whatever it is and sweat into my eyes while listening to audio books. I find that I almost enjoy it. I like being read to and it helps me avoid the Kardashians who seem to be on at least one TV screen at all times of the day. (I now know that Kardashians are humanoids and that somehow an Olympian is related to them.)

I’ve learned how to lengthen my workout by my choice of books. For example, right now I listen to The Poisoner’s Handbook until I start to feel queasy. I tell myself it’s the book and not the exercise. I stop, take a sip of water, change the audio track to Bossypants and let Tina Fey get my energy level back up for another 20 minutes. This works better than listening to women with British accents read me a novel. That works for walking around the neighborhood, but is too somnambulant for strenuous exercise.

I have been working out almost daily now for three weeks. I have lost the 3 pounds I gained during the first week. My heart rate no longer shoots into the 90% range as soon as I near any equipment. I have learned how to get into and out of sport tops so I’m feeling pretty good. But last night during my second Latin Heat class the instructor stopped class to ask if I was OK. After class I caught a glimpse of my face and saw why she asked. I was purple. It’s not a good shade for someone sporting copper-red hair.

I still have to practice thinking of myself as someone who works out. I am trying to think of it as an extension of the Army wife thing. It’s what Army wives do when their husbands are away. It’s not who I am. It’s just a way of coping. This doesn’t really help but will have to do for now.

HabMoo has said that he will be writing a blog post about his own self-loathing about becoming a biker and someone who runs in the heat of the desert. Maybe we’ll bond over this, but I prefer bonding over Lord of the Rings, and Game of Thrones, and Disgaea.

Aug 6

Pining for my man and his touch

Posted on Saturday, August 6, 2011 in Army wife, Military Spouses

Written a few days ago…

Ever wake up some days and just feel like you’re a toddler? You want something—everything, really—and don’t want any help getting it, but you need help and you’re hurt if things don’t go right or aren’t about you. You’re peeved that the world isn’t revolving around you as it should. That happens to me with some regularity. But today I felt like a teenager.

Not the live-for-today, crazy, imperious, vibrant and vital teenager. No, I was never that teenager. I’m talking the teenager who is insecure, but diligently well-behaved, worried about the future, and feeling and fearing some portentous loneliness. I lived with that “I’m smart and mature” attitude behind which knelt the one fearful of asking questions and worried that she’d never be loved in the right way. And today it revisited.

I took care of responsibilities today, and missed my husband. I was smart and mature. But I didn’t want to be. I couldn’t stop looking ahead into the months of deployment ahead and fearing how I’ll handle it and who I’ll be when it’s over.

I pine for HabMoo like a girl pines for a teen idol. I think about him throughout the day. I wonder what he’s doing. I wonder what he’d say if he was here. I long for him to notice me. I read everything I can about him. Luckily he keeps a blog, sometimes uses his Facebook or Twitter account and contacts me directly through email and Skype.

So I don’t have any real complaints and the anxiety feels undefined. I hear from HabMoo daily. The deployment means we’ll have another honeymoon period when he returns. I feel secure in the relationship. Work is good. I have interesting and supportive friendships. I’m intellectually challenged. But I feel this weight, nevertheless.

When I wake up as a toddler, I need structure and routine until I find my place in the world around me again. I need to hold off on really important decisions for a day. I can provide for that toddler by myself most of the time. But the teenager is harder to support. The teenager needs what?

For me I think much of it comes from the absence of touch. I think my greatest fear of growing old is that people won’t touch me except to examine some medical symptom. Wives joke about missing sex, but what I really miss is being able to lean up against someone who stands strong and accepts my weight. I miss touching feet under the table. I miss the hand around my waist turning me in the correct direction. I miss the unconscious brushing of skin against skin. It’s better than any anti-anxiety drug for me. It’s that assumption of acceptance you can make when someone touches you. It’s the affection and support.

Touch quiets my adolescent mind and assures it that life is progressing just fine and that I have my place in it. It reminds me that I’m not alone in facing the unknown future.

Today I spoke with HabMoo and told him about what I was feeling. As I spoke I realized that I was looking forward only into the fall and winter. I could choose to look ahead to next summer instead. He’ll be home and hopefully we’ll have a new house. And then I’ll probably worry about the next schooling he has to do in another state for weeks, but will have the knowledge that if I could survive a deployment, I can survive a two-month class.

Jul 6

Day One

Posted on Wednesday, July 6, 2011 in Army wife, Military Spouses

My soldier boy is now “deployed”

At least in my mind, today was HabMoo’s first real day of deployment; I won’t see him again until he gets leave, probably sometime mid-winter. I am now a single married woman.

I gave myself today and tomorrow to feel blue and mope. But I woke up feeling much better than I have for several days. Even while HabMoo was home, I was anticipating his department and now that it’s here, I feel like I can finally pick myself up and begin my new routine. I unexpectedly feel competent and optimistic today.

This post is really just for me, in anticipation of the next deployment which will eventually happen. Here’s what I need to remember about the deployment-before-deployment:

  • I will miss him even while he’s sitting next to me. This anticipatory loss is sometimes worse than the real thing.
  • His presence will sometimes bother me. My heart thinks: If he’s going, why doesn’t he just go now?
  • I am no good at planning things when I’m not sure how his schedule will impact mine. But I should do it anyway. People will forgive me for screwing up dates and I need the support of others.
  • Friends help. Family helps. Pets help. A routine helps. Walking helps.
  • His family has their own grief that is theirs, not mine, and I don’t have to understand it.
  • Even if I don’t want to clean the house, I’ll feel better if I do.
  • I need a menu and grocery shopping plan for cooking just for me.
  • My husband is very good at expressing love in person and from a distance.
  • He’s also good at accepting, but not taking on, my confused feelings. Trust him and don’t worry about protecting him from your own feelings. He wants to be missed.
  • If the usual stuff doesn’t comfort (like re-reading favorite books) then try something else. This time it seems to be listening to books and cross stitching.
  • It helps to keep doing things I do only because he wants me to (like unplugging the coffee pot or turning off the car radio) because it makes me feel connected to him. Doing everything my way for a little while feels good, too.
  • When he comes home on leave, make sure to plan something you want to do and not let the schedule be completely dictated by his family, his friends, and his interests. He wants to do something for me, too.