Tuesday, December 24, 2013

"Legs" the Elf and the Holiday Smack Down

I've never been comfortably able to wear a cute little short skirt. Santa brought me my body, so he's done here!
Tonight, I'm playing Legs the Elf around the house, trying to get things ready presents wrapped. But… we don't have our tree up yet...

And that's where Legs is a big of a moron.

You see, it's the holidays. Christmas Eve, in fact - my favorite day of the year usually.  But instead of waking up excited, it just doesn't feel like Christmas Eve, despite my best efforts. 

I've been stealing moments of joy where I can, but it's been a real challenge to shake the near-constant feeling of disappointment.

Now, I'm willing to admit a certain amount of angst probably has to do the Year of Firsts since Dad passed away. I'm mad that I can't call him and say hi when I went. I'm mad that my mom is miserable.  This time last year, my family was visiting. The tree was up and decorated. The house was filled with goodies and company.

This year, we canceled our party to spend the weekend together. Instead, we spent it working. 

I practically had to pull My Sailor's leg to get him to go to two holiday shows with me, though we had fun both times once he was there. 

 We never finished putting up our Christmas lights.

Our tree is still on the balcony, leaning against a wall.

I never got the bedroom decorated. 

Today, My Sailor and I had planned to go to the gym together, but after waking up, My Sailor opted to go spend some time with his family in the city. I'm not going to make him "choose" between time with me and time with them, but I gotta admit, I'm just a tad offended. See, today he's having fun baking with his niece. Last night, after being shot down when it came to going Christmas light hunting multiple times, I had to basically refuse to sit down in order for him to start baking with me. When all was said and done, we had a good time baking, but it wasn't something he was excited about (though he was a HUGE help when it came to some of the dirty work). 

When My Sailor was wanted to spend time with me, it hasn't been out doing a holiday activity. He's so worn out that it's "Let's sit down and watch something." It just feels like 'another night'.  (I can't blame the guy. By the time he gets to sit down at night, the last thing he wants to do is drive an hour to see Christmas lights. He wants to enjoy just being at home. He deserves that and it's truly endearing, in it's own way.)

When Legs found herself complaining to a DEPLOYED Air Force spouse, who is spending the holidays in Italy, far away from her children and husband, it became clear it was time.

Time for a Holiday Smack Down. 

It went something like this - 

Legs: "But I didn't get to do what I wanted to do before Christmas!"
Smack Down: "Have you flown solo so long that you've forgotten how to be flexible when it comes to others?"

Legs: "But it's Christmas Eve and we're not doing ANYTHING traditional!!"
Smack Down: "Since when has ANYTHING about you BEEN 'traditional'? Besides, you did get to attend 2 shows, your local tree lighting ceremony, and go cut down your tree down. Don't exaggerate. Isn't part of growing a family creating new traditions over time?"

Legs: "But, it's Christmas Eve, My Sailor is home and he chose to change plans at that last minute to not spend the day with me!"
Smack Down: "How often does he have time off to visit with family? Much less during the holidays.  Don't make people choose between family members. Your spouse always loses that game no matter what they choose. Part of being awesome is being awesome to your spouse. Besides, you like flying solo, right?"

Legs: "Well, yeah…some time to myself is nice, but I spend a lot of time alone by circumstance. When it happens by choice, especially around the holidays, it kinda sucks. I expected this to be a big, fun, romantic season since it's our last Christmas without kids, and actually our first Christmas where it could just be the 2 of us getting in some good snuggle time. All of that would be a helpful distraction from the fact that Dad's not around and Mom is miserable. I envisioned strolling through Christmas lights with hot chocolate, taking cute couple self-shots, watching holiday movies together and just enjoying that warm glow of Christmas. We've been so busy, we don't have time to create traditions, much less do any of that. That's not the family dynamic that I want for our family - pulled in so many directions that we put ourselves last.  We've been so stressed, we've been bickering a lot. Yes, I like flying solo, but I don't want to like it to the point where I choose it over company - and I'm very close to that point. I'm starting to see my life the same way I did a few years ago - a great big full adventure that is just lacking one thing - romance. I don't want that."

Smack Down: "Now we're to the heart of the matter. This holiday isn't living up to your expectations. Now, expectations aren't a bad thing, Legs. They are good, healthy, and the product of hope most of the time. All good things. The problem with these particular expectations, Legs, is that they didn't seem to include anyone else's wants/needs/desires. You just expected someone else to want everything you wanted and be excited about going along for the ride. You wanted someone else to feel the way you do. That hasn't worked out, so you're disappointed. You know that flying solo is fun, but you also know very well that it gets lonely. You know what? That's okay. It's okay to be disappointed when things do go as you expect them to or when you don't get what you want. Life rarely gives us either of those. What's not okay is taking that out on other people. Other people have the right to their feelings. So, for tonight, go pour yourself something festive to drink, make yourself salmon for one, and enjoy your flying solo time. Trust me, this time next year you might wish for some peace and quiet."

Legs: "Alright, Smack Down. You have good points. Besides, I'm a Submariner's Wife! I can roll with anything. It's part of the job description, right?"
Smack Down: "Damn skippy. That's the spirit! And, by the way, I think Santa came early, because, damn girl, those legs!"

Legs: (Giggle) "Yeah, you're right. I've got a lot to be grateful for."

Saturday, December 21, 2013

"Today, I was going to" or A Child's Heart

Bunk Beds for the Kids
Today, I was going to rave about snow. I woke up to a dusting of it, and some thick ice over the ground.

Today, I was going to rave about my lifting. It seems that my back squats are back on track and that I'll definately be lifting more than my body weight by the time the Power Lifting competition rolls around.

Today, I was going to complain about work. It seems there just aren't enough hours in the day. Here I am, working at 1am, and I'll be up in a few hours at it again.

Today, I was going to complain about deadlines. I have an article due in tomorrow (ideally - though my editor is cutting us some holiday slack).  Our bunk beds for the kids were supposed to be delivered... and are still in Oregon...

Today, I was going to complain about the Navy. My Sailor's upcoming schedule, upcoming pay changes (in the negative direction), and the challenges with our upcoming adoption are, well, challenging.

But tonight there is something a lot more important to write about.

There is something a lot more important to call attention to.

Today, I'm asking for ALL my blog readers (ye brave, ye few), all around the globe (yes, I'm talking to you, China, and all my other international readers).... this time, I have a call to arms, people.

Remember this cutie I blogged about earlier in the week?

His family is still at the hospital, waiting by his bedside to try to help him recover from his heart transplant and collapsed lung.

No, he wasn't in an accident. He was just born very very sick. But that didn't deter his forever-family from bringing him home. Fingers and my big brother share the same name. He's a fantastic kid I haven't had the pleasure of meeting yet, but hope to when I next get out to the East Coast.

Gotcha Day - August 2012
If there is one thing adopting has taught me, it's the that heart is able to fully engage and embrace situations we never thought possible. Fingers is one of those. With his forever family pulling for him, there's no doubt this kid can go far.

Fingers at his big brother's Marine graduation w/ his entire Forever Family
There's just one problem.

He's still in the ICU.

It seems like when 1 thing goes right with Fingers' recovery, something else goes awry. This time, it seems Fingers had a stroke during all of this treatment. He's lost some motion on the right side, as I understand it. Due to a trick of his anatomy, Fingers has some organs that are flipped flopped. The heart is on the right side of his chest, for example.

So please, do a sister a solid and say a prayer or send some positive vibes or howl at the moon or whatever you do, to send some healing vibes to the East Coast please.

We really need a win this year.

We really need this miracle kid to make it.

I am humbled every day by the challenges his Forever Family faces. I know I can't compare my journey to theirs. This is Fingers' book to write. It's a marathon, not a sprint. But it's also a marathon no parent, sibling (he has 9 of them), or friend can possibly train for.

Hang in there, Fingers...

Thursday, December 19, 2013

"Becoming Santa" and Trading Fluff for Buff - PROGRESS PHOTOS!

This year, My Sailor and I are running short on time when it comes to preparing our house for Santa. We haven't gotten a chance to get a tree yet, and I doubt we'll completely finish decorating outside this year. We have family coming over tonight and the roof is icey, so I think we'll forgo hanging more lights tonight. In fact, it's supposed to SNOW after midnight! I'm pretty excited about that - even if it means I'll be running the heaters all day long.

With all this Christmasing comes my annual sharing of one of my favorite Christmas goodies that will have you believing in Santa. If you haven't already checked it out from my previous blogs, don't miss this documentary this Christmas.

(Psst... you can see the whole thing for free by clicking here - but I'm buying a copy, since I've watched it about 8 times over the past 2 years.)
No, I don't get paid anything for sharing these things. I only share what I think is fantastic and worth my time. Since it's worth my time, it's worth yours. Trust me. Time is a commodity we don't exchange lighting around here.

Speaking of time and its value...

(I'm the queen of awesome lead-ins today! If you've followed my blog for any specific amount of time - this kind of organized, cohesive thought never  happens...)

Exactly 1 year and 9 days ago, I took my first "before" photos. I knew I was starting something, but I assumed it would be yet another go with Medifast - a largely liquid, super reduced calorie, no carb diet. After a conversation with a co-worker and My Sailor, I opted to sign up with a personal trainer at the YMCA instead.

Since then, I've done my homework and traded in calorie counting for putting better fuel rather than 'filler'. I opt for more natural food rather than processed food 95% of the time. I still enjoy a beer about once a week, and I enjoy a glass of wine almost nightly. I still have some candy when I go to the movies. And I've lost about 7-9lbs since this time last year. But I learned a LOT of very valuable things. Here's just a quick recap of where I've come (more detailed account of the year-in-fitness coming in a later post).



Today - Where did that belly go?!

Sure, it's made my hands look like this...
But I'm not afraid of real whole food anymore.

My go-to-quick breakfast - Full Fat Goat Greek Yogurt w/ local honey and blackberries, and green tea.
 And I'm stronger than I ever dreamed I'd be - and I'm not done yet.

12/19 - Sneaking in a little flexing
NOTHING happens over night. I'm still just an infant when it comes to this journey. It took a SIGNIFICANT investment of time and effort to get this far. But I wanted it baddly enough, got the help I needed, and continue to press on.

I wonder what next years photos will look like...

Latest Gym shirt

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Kindling for Winter

Gordon Harvey (a history professor, marathon runner, college department head, triathlete, retired podcaster, and active blogger in the south - seriously, click on either of those links to check out his amazing hard work and life changes that have paid off dividends - he's been one of my constant inspirations for years) once said that even a 'bonk' of a run is "hay in the barn". I think he meant that even if the gas gets into the tank slowly, it's still gas in the tank.

Alright, so I know I just replaced a metaphor with a metaphor, but sometimes things stick. I find myself going back to the "hay in the barn" metaphor when I need to remind myself that every little bit of work done may only seem like a tiny blip in the grand scheme of things, but it's one step closer to the ultimate result.

This year, I have a new metaphor.

2013 was 'kindling for the winter'.

Lots of awful things happened in 2013.

Friends and family remain forever changed by the loss of loved ones, either through death or dissolution. Some for the worst, some for the better. But either way, forever changed.

Family members I never imagined I'd live without, I now do.

Friends moved away.

We've had to restart the adoption process all over again, throwing away over $300 in the process.

My 2nd Cousin, Fingers, fighting to recover from a heart transplant.
Friends and family have been fighting for the lives of their children - children who did nothing to deserve the debilitating circumstances they find themselves in. Everyday it breaks my heart to hear of the new challenges they face - things that they never dreamed in a million years they'd face. I do what I can from a distance, but I share in their feelings of helplessness, shedding what hope I can as we all try to make sense of the inconceivable.

But there are some things,
things that seem dry, shriveled up, dead, and useless,
that are most useful in creating something new.

That is the Kindling.

As much as there were times where I felt so brittle that I'd shatter into a thousand little pieces - there were a million little sparks that held me together.

I've achieved more than I thought possible physically. If you told me last January that I'd be lifting over 100 pounds (today alone it was 235lb deadlifts four times), I would have laughed at you in disbelief. Now, my body has completely changed shape.

I've grown professionally, as a writer this year - even if it resulted in very little published work (yet). It resulted in lots of lessons learned to keep getting better and better.

I participated in my first Strongman Competition, and did really really well.

Evil Twin and his family - Minnie Mouse on Warrior Woman's lap
is fighting a degenerative brain disorder that mystifies doctors,
but quitting is not an option for these guys.
I have found inspiration in my amazing friends and family members who continue to forge ahead in the treatment of their children. They never give up hope, even when faced with the worst. They never throw in the towel. They will never go quietly into that dark night. They will fight with all they have in them. They continue to inspire me.

New friendships have been forged. Those that have moved away inspire me with their courage to start over, or their courage to go home. (Sometimes, that's the hardest thing to do.)

New lives have come into the world.

New destinations have been discovered.  Catalina with my mom and new pieces of Orlando have been discovered.

My relationship with my immedate family has grown stronger, despite the distance. I've seen them at their best, even under the worst of circumstances. Lessons learned years ago have come into play once again, and are openly shared as we hike through the year on our own paths.

Those are the sparks.
Something warm.
Something beautiful.
Something fierce and free.

All it takes is a little bit of kindling and a tiny little spark to have a roaring fire.
So when I look into 2014, I can't help but see that there is a warm fire already building.

Maybe it's the kindling that remind us of just how warm, and how needed, those little sparks are. It's the hard, painful, cold times, that remind us to search for sparks to stay warm. Sometimes the difference between the cold and the warmth is in our perception.

As with fire - all it takes is one spark.
(Bonus points to those of you who catch the Disney references.)

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Flexibility, Friendship, and a Guest List

Last Friday, Trainer Guy and I fine tuned some of my lifts, as we usually do in the gym. One of the challenges I have, is that I'm really flexible. Sometimes too flexible. These overhead squats were tougher than they needed to be, in part because my shoulders go pretty far back. Sometimes that makes it hard to find a 'sweet spot' and lock out the arms for those moves. 

But more often than not, being flexible has been a 'pro' more than a 'con'. This month so far has been an amazing work out of that. 

I'll spare you the run down of the absolutely crazy schedule that is ramping up around here (we'll just say, the green tea and coffee tend to flow in gross amounts around here lately). But despite all that, I've made some time to catch up with friends and family here and there, beyond the occasional text or Facebook message.

As our 1st annual Holiday Open House zooms up this Saturday, it's been really interesting to note some of my more cherished friendships aren't with people you might expect me to pal around with.

You see, when I was a kid - let's say elementary school aged - I had a very hard time making friends. Being a creative introvert who constantly felt like she was on the outside looking in at the 'party' was a hard thing to shake. I've learned that all experiences happen for a reason though. When I was a kid, a good chunk of my friends were adults. I'd rather have hung out with people 15- 20 years my senior most of the time. Especially when it came to women. Most of my friends in my age bracket through middle school and high school were boys. It probably has something due to the cruelty of kids and my constant search for answers and understanding that made it challenging to relate to girls my own age. But whatever the reason, I find that it's resulted in a wonderfully eclectic group of people in my life.  Many of which have children older than me. But I don't feel like their 'child'. More like their sister.

One great example - take my Strongman Sisters:

None of these ladies competed in my age bracket - but they were all 110% in my corner and cheered me on. They continue to keep me on my toes in the gym.
See The Lady In Grey at the far right? She can out box jump and out run me any day of the week and twice on Sundays.
See Sunshine there in yellow?  She's probably one of the best cheerleaders I've ever met, and inspires me by continuing to be the hero of her own story, despite the obstacles. If she can keep at it, what are my excuses?!

See the Equestrian Queen behind me in black? She nips at my heels (within 5lbs) of my bench press max. She's also adopted several kids in the same age bracket and sibling group idea that My Sailor and I have. We see a lot of each other in, well, each other.

 Even if My Sailor wasn't able to make it that day, I'm sure they would have seen me (and each other) through to the end. Though I'm just begining to know each of their journeys, I count myself lucky to have fallen in with them.
The Lady in Grey, Sunshine, and I at Trans Siberian Orchestra Concert this winter
I also have a fabulous set of friends that are all over the country. Many of them are within 10 years of my age bracket, now. Some are married with kids, some just have one or the other of peice of that equation. I've worked hard at those relationships as our lives go different directions, and meeting up whenever possible is always a lively time.
Halloween 2007 w/ Bon Bon (in case you haven't guessed, I'm the one in green)

2009 with Sistah' Girl (introducing me to my first tequila shot)

2010 Disneyland with Mrs. B.

Mrs. Win and Me in 2012  (Annual Disneyland Trip)

Sharing a drink (literally, that's 1 drink) with Smiley and her main squeeze.

I could go on and on. If you're not specifically mentioned, please don't be offended. (It's probably just because I didn't have a digital photo of us handy.) I usually get along better with men, but friendships are like the tide. They tend to ebb and flow. We're all in different stages of life.

Honestly, I feel there is something to learn from just about everyone I've met. Even people we may find... abrasive.. but there are just certain people I hope rub off on me.

And I'm lucky enough to call them friends.

Monday, December 9, 2013

"How Badly Do You Want To Pee?" - My Motivational Statement

I'm not great at motivating people to come to the gym. Most of my work outs are with hired help (Trainer Guy) or flying solo. Sometimes My Sailor is along for the ride, but more often than not he isn't. (With his crazy schedule, I can't blame the guy.)

I just generally keep flying the 'bat signal' (as Trainer Guy calls it) and inviting people until they either stop talking to me (because they see the change and aren't ready to make it themselves, or they know I'll invite them on a hike/walk that they really don't want to do anyway and disappearing is easier than actually saying 'no'). Either ya come along for the ride, or ya don't. I'm just me on my own ride, happy for company, but content to fly solo if that's the case.

Not very good traits for someone considering getting into personal training, right?

But, before you write me off, here's my #1 go-to motivational statement.  Let me know what you think. Comment away!

"How badly do you want to pee?"To me, it seems like life is a lot like those"Choose Your Own Adventure" books I used to stay up reading by flashlight in my bedroom well past my bedtime. (For which I was often BUSTED.) Just like the books, there are always unforeseeable factors involved, but, for many things, I get some form of choice.
Let me lay this little "Choose Your Own Adventure" on you -

(For complete effect, run tap water or a waterfall sound effect as you read this.)

You're sitting in a meeting room during a very important meeting. The speaker is showing no signs of letting up soon. In fact, he/she is only 1/2 way through the material. You're sitting and sitting... and that glass of water or cup of coffee/tea is testing the limits of your bladder. You just kind of had to 'go' when you came in, but it's been at least 45 minutes since then and you're bladder is aching, about to explode. You've shifted your weight as much as possible or bounced your leg as much as possible. You're about 30 seconds away from wetting your pants right there in public with your co-workers surrounding you.

What do you do? You have the following options:

A) Pee your pants in public and deal with the fall out.

B) Excuse yourself as quietly as possible.

C) Wait for your bladder to rupture, and deal with the fall out of not only wetting your pants in public, but the embarrassment of 911 being called for you.
(Now, get up and turn off that water or waterfall soundtrack and go to the restroom. It's okay. I'll wait.)

I think it's safe to say that most (toilet trained) reasonable adults would opt for B, given the options in the scenario above.

Pause for a moment and think about why though.

Why wouldn't we want to wet ourselves in public?  We'd relieve the pressure instantly and be done with the pain of an aching bladder. However, it is usually a sign that we aren't capable of taking care of ourselves. A whole new world of experiences open up when a child becomes potty trained. Also, we'd be stuck in these wet, stinky, uncomfortable clothes all day, or the act of changing would significantly disrupt our day. It could also damage our reputation. In the world of social media, little is truly 'private'.  So an adult having an accident is rare. It could also mean that the adult is sick and unable to control his/her bladder - and unable to take precautions for such a scenario. Basically, nothing 'good' comes out of that scenario (unless you want to take revenge on your office chair...). Socially, it's bad news. Professionally, it's bad news. Health-wise, it's even worse news (especially if your bladder ruptures and you have to be rushed away in an ambulance for something completely preventable.)

So...ready to have your mind blown?
Okay, not really. But I firmly believe that people only change under 2 conditions.

Condition #1
They HAVE to in order to survive.

Condition #2
They WANT to more than ANYTHING.

 I'm not talking about the person you know that 'wants to' quit smoking or 'wants to' lose weight or 'wants to' eat better. I'm talking about the person who wants to like they want to go to the restroom. I'm talking about the person who is doing the adult-version of the pee-pee dance because they want the change so much.

Now, that said, no one potty trained themselves.

has a team of 'professionals' helping them along. For potty training, it's usually the parents or guardians. For health related issues for adults, it could be a team of doctors, therapists, trainers, work out buddies, or accountability buddies. There are as many ways to learn and incorporate new healthy habits as there are ways to learn to go to the bathroom. Some parents use stickers or rewards to teach their kids. Others wait it out. Others nag their kids into it. There literally millions of different, creative routes to take, but the goal is the same.

So, don't want to lift weights and cross train like me?
Want to walk your way to wellness?
Want to work out 6 days a week for that oh-so-delicious-'cheat'-day?
Make those work outs count!
Want to swim your way into next summer's swimwear?
Go for it!
Want someone to call you and check on your eating habits?
There are lots of GREAT journal apps and even groups you can go to.

Afraid someone (like me) will 'judge' you in the gym? You're probably right. I'm Human. I will Judge you. But it's not what you think...

Here's me honestly passing judgement.

The more obviously physically challenged you may be, the more inspirational you are to me. I know how badly your feet/ankles must hurt, but you're doing it away. I know how much you worry about others 'staring at you', but you're doing it anyway. I know how you don't think you'll ever get to that magical shape you're dreaming of. I'm intimately acquainted with the shame those that struggle with weight are. BUT you're not letting it get in your way any more.

You're taking care of yourself - doing something no one else can do for you.
You're excusing yourself from your usual routine (exampled by the business meeting) to handle your business (or bladder).

And if you're totally physically fit and powering through a work out, I'm probably looking at you wishing I were that good at pull ups, push ups, running, etc, but knowing that, if I keep working at it, I'll get there.

But I know, deep down, that until you want the end results as badly as you don't want to wet yourself in public, you don't really want it.

So.... How badly do you have to pee?

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Duck and Cover! Video Blog!

Completely unedited... so... I apologize in advance for Clydas snoring through the background. (My antics no longer phase or impress him.)
If you haven't seen Frozen yet, it's probably the best Disney movie in a VERY long time. Brave, while pretty, didn't impress me. Frozen, based on an old folk tale, proves that 'love conquers all'... but it almost never conquers in a way we expect it to. Two things I firmly believe in. 

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Missing Peices on Thanksgiving

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, and I'll be celebrating it with My Sailor! It's also something of a special anniversary for us, and it's (finally) safe to say that this year, we'll get it right. (Because someone else is doing the cooking. ;) )
He's not sure if he'll have Friday off, but I'll take Thursday and run with it!

My Brother and Dad

As the holiday approaches, I'm excited and a saddened too. I find myself listening to classical music and talk radio more than usual.


Because Dad used to listen to them while he worked from home.

Lately, I've been drinking my coffee black (the only healthy way to drink it anyway).


Dad, Me, Mom
 Sometimes I get paranoid that I won't be able to remember the sound of his voice.

Then My Sailor reminds me that I just need to relax about it.

Because the truth is, I'll never forget.

My Dad was far from perfect. It's easy to make someone who's past away seem only angelic in hindsight. But no matter his flaws, he was My Dad. And no matter our flaws, he loved his family. I keenly remember the feeling of love in the house as the fear ran rampant during Dad's final weeks. The love seemed to outweigh the pain and the fear. It was nearly a palpable haze that filtered through each room of the house.
Dad and His Brother
 These first holidays without him are odd. There is a certain strangeness to knowing that I don't need to call him to talk to him.

Because Dad used to.

I have so many wonderful memories of holidays spent with my family, even if Thanksgiving was probably my least favorite. 'Feasting' has never really been my thing. Last year, my family had an early Thanksgiving together (where most of the above photos are from). This year, we're scattered throughout the country. My brother is working in California (group homes don't shut down just because it's a holiday - someone has to be there for the kids and that someone is usually my brother). My mom is headed to the house of friends in Arizona. My Sailor and I are staying local to our Washington region, especially since we didn't know if he'd have the day off until last night, and we still don't know if he'll have the day after off.

When we make a trip back to California in December, I know I'll be visiting Dad's grave marker and his memorial stone at the San Deigo Public Library. (Dad was really excited about the library, but never got to see it completed. He was a big reader. He has a memorial stone there now.)

I'm truly did win the Parent Lottery. Both of my parents have been amazing examples of what it's like to claim someone as family, not because they look like you or sound like you,
but just because they are who they are.
And that makes you a family.
It's made this whole journey into adoption a lot less scary.
It makes it a little easier for me to tap into that faith that our kids are out there.
It makes it easier to believe that we (My Sailor, our future kiddoes, and me) are a family; we just don't know it yet.

So, in honoring the experience of missing Dad, and the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday, I'll close this blog with a link to something I wrote back in April, because it just seems fitting.

Dear Dad, Thank You

Take some time to hug your family and friends a little closer this Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Choose Wisely- Navy Edition

It's almost noon and My Sailor is still in bed. He's gotten more sleep than I have today, but that's pretty rare. It doesn't happen all that often.

I see lots of 'jokes' online about military spouses/girlfriends. Some are legitamately funny, but I really hate how so many of them seem to de-value the lives of those who aren't in the military lifestyle. Take this little gem for example:

Source - Anonymous facebook page


I guess I'm a weirdo, but I really don't find this funny - or things that demean the civilian experience by attempting to compare it to the military experience.

Might as well compare a fry cook to a truck driver. Both are essential peices of the puzzle of society with their own unique lifestyle challenges. They really are two different worlds, and we (military spouses) don't bridge that gap by "my life is harder than yours" contests.

So, Military wives/Girlfriends/boyfriends - this is for you.

 Don't compare your journey to anyone elses. No good can come of it. Your journey and your pain is unique, beautiful, and heart--wrenching. Just as the journey of any civilian is beautiful and unique, beautiful, and heart wrenching in its own way.

It's perfectly valid for people to miss their spouse/lover after a few hours or a day or so. By invalidating their emotions, you make it easier for them invalidate yours as well with statements like, "Well, you signed up for it." We military spouses can either build a bridge, or perpuate a stereotype. The choice is yours. Choose wisely, for my sake.

That said, the results from the latest Advancement Test is out! And we're not advancing. Again.

 Now, this is the first time in my life I've ever relied on someone else's income to make ends meet. Before we bought the house, I've always been able to CYA with my own income, so relying on someone else's income as well makes me a bit nervous. It's something I'm working on.

With neither of us seeing raises in over a year, and our expenses about to increase significantly (raising kids isn't inexpensive), 2014 is bound to be interesting. But we're rearranging some things, so we'll see how it goes. We've been great at keeping our credit card debt down, and our last trip-without-kids is going to be a pretty big bash, but we already have plans in motion to pay that off immediately.

Finally - we still don't know about Thanksgiving, so we'll see how things go. We have heard he has Friday off, which I do too, so we'll see how things pan out. We'll have to pick and choose how much work vs fun to have with whatever time we have.

In the end, civilian or military, isn't that all any of us can really do?

Friday, November 22, 2013

References for Parenting Permits and Thanksgiving in a Can

My Sailor has been really hammering his side of the adoption paperwork pyramid, which is awesome. It's nice to feel like we're actually making progress as our first home visit is 19 days away. I'm more excited about the visit than nervous, which is suprising. Most adoptive parents talk about being scared or nervous, but so far, it just feels like a step in the right direction and it fills me with hope.
As part of this whole adoption thing - we sent out our reference letters to friends and family for the adoption. Last night, I heard back from one of them that also read the Cure to Over Population blog. Her reply? "I read your blog about everyone having to go through a vetting process before becoming a parent - with questions like this, if that were true... Man would the world be a different place!"

In case you're wondering, the questions are likely something only a marriage counselor would know. I can't think of a single friend or family member that could answer all of them adequately.

Here are the questions our friends and family are being asked about us.

1. How long and well have you known this couple and what kinds of activities do you share?

2. Please describe in detail your impression of both applicant 1 and applicant 2. Tell us about each applicant's personality, strengths, weaknesses, ability to handle crisis and frustration, and interests.

3. What is your impression of their relationship? What adjustments have they had to make? How do they make decisions, and how do they settle disagreements? What is the greatest strength of their relationship and the greatest weakness? Who do they turn to for support?

4.Are you aware of a loss that either person has suffered? If so, how did they handle the loss?

5. Have you observed this couple around children?  If so, what age of children, and in what situations? How have they reacted to children (for example, their ability to talk with children, set limits, type of discipline used, the way they dealth with disabled children or children of a different race)?

6.  How do you feel this couple will meet the demands of parenthood? How will the addition of an adopted child affect their relationship and family life? What will be the greatest change they will need to make?

7. Do you have any additional information you feel would be important to share?

Now, I don't know about you, but most of those questions our friends and family will struggle to answer. Not because we haven't spent time around kids, but because we're rarely together in the same place long enough for people to really intimately get to know both of us. Even family. Go figure.

If you've followed this blog for over a year, you probably know that My Sailor and I aren't good at Thanksgiving. We're okay at other holidays, but honestly, we just haven't had that many holidays where both of us are in the same state (or on land), to really hit our strides yet. I've never been big on 'feasting' anyway, so it's okay by me. Our first Thanksgiving included Ramen noodles (which has now become a lunch time tradition). Our second included a deployment, and the third included over cooked goat.

This year, determined to celebrate in style, I booked an Argosy Thanksgiving Dinner Cruise since My Sailor wasn't supposed to be working this holiday.

Well, I learned last night that that may change. It's not set in stone yet, but it's 50/50 right now.

I also learned that the $255 dinner celebratation tickets are non-refundable, but they are transferable. So if I opt not to use them, or My Sailor can't make it and I can't find a "date", someone will be getting a pretty awesome early Christmas present...

But that said, it's sort of my fault. I usually make sure the tickets are completely refundable before I buy them, but, since My Sailor is supposed to be in 'off crew' (meaning he's not supposed to be doing more than working a regular day shift - though he's been taking required night classes and, starting next week, when he's not doing that, he'll be working an early morning shift).

There has been a lot of chatter on the Navy wives facebook pages that encourage spouses not to have expectations.

I refuse to believe that.

Expectations are healthy! The trick is to set realistic expectations. I don't expect My Sailor to be at home all the time, or ever, come to think of it.
If I buy tickets to an event, I familiarize myself with their refund policy. I also am prepared to either fly solo to said event, sell the tickets and do something else, or invite a friend instead.
If he's available to come, great!
If he can't, that's okay. He's not doing it 'on purpose' so it's completely counter productive to resent him for that disappointment.
Besides - if I'm looking forward to several different options (spending time w/ friends, flying solo, or having some extra cash in my pocket) I don't really lose.

So no matter what happens this Thanksgiving - I'm covered.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Breaking out the Bikini - PROGRESS PHOTOS!

December 2012 - The "Before" Photo
I remember taking my first "before" picture. My self esteem in the gutter, but I knew I had two choices.

Do something to change that


Decide I wasn't worth it and give up.

Well, I've never been very good at giving up. 

Even though I've had nearly every single reason a woman can have for 'giving up'.

Go back and check out previous blog entries if you're curious, but they range from medical conditions to deployments and death. It's been a remarkably tough year.

But I'm very quickly recognizing that, well, I'm tougher.

This Thanksgiving (which will continue to be grain free for me) finds me especially grateful for all those people who inspire me every day, and support me in this journey and all the other crazy places this life takes me. From Facebook buddies, to intimate friends and family, to people that are somewhere between, it's been a fun and crazy ride that I'm glad to take with ya'll.  I don't have photos with all of you, but here are a few inspirational moments on my list.

My Fellow Strong Sisters

400lb tire flip tie breaker and fellow Lady of Lifting
My Sailor and friends accomplishing a Zombie 5k - where I set a new 5k Personal Record (30:31) 
Working out in Disneyland Hotel - Proving That Awesome Doesnt' Need A Vacation
Here's some of November's progress!

Are you ready for the craziest bit of all? 
I've Only Lost FOUR POUNDS since I started Training 3x/week!
The scale is only one small tool in my arsenal.
When I started, I couldn't run a mile. 
Now, most of my miles 10 minutes. In fact, I ran a 50 second 200m sprint yesterday.
When I started, the 45lb bar was 'heavy'. Now, I back squat and deadlift over 200lbs.

And something tells me I'm not done yet...

Thursday, November 14, 2013

The Big Push

I should have known. 

As recently as Veteran's Day, I was reminded that no mountain is climbed overnight, but with support and some creative thinking, anything really is possible. And 'nearly impossible' doesn't mean completely impossible. 

With some creative thinking and flexibility from good friends and social workers, we were able to come up with a plan that might just get this thing rolling and done by December. 

Very little in life can be accomplished without an amazing support crew, and I couldn't be more grateful for mine. SuperMom continues to inspire me with the way she fights her family, and encourages me never to give up. She reminds me that the kids are out there, somewhere, counting on us, so it's worth every effort we can make. That fact can get clouded when the mountainous 'to-do' list seems overwhelming.  One of my fellow StrongSisters who has already 'been there done that' lined up with some creative solutions and helped me stay objective about the 'to do' list.

And My Sailor has been very supportive as well. This hasn't been easy on him either, and I'm sure he's feeling the pressure as well. He has a great support crew too. His Chief has armed him with the support he needs to get his arsenal of weight loss on. 

So we've got the plan. We've got the help. We've got the support. Now all we need to do is stick to it! 

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

"The Vacant Space" Chapter ???

Don't Compare Your Chapter 1 to Someone Else's Chapter 20.
Where exactly is 'Chapter 1'?

I think, in some cases, it's easier to pinpoint than others.

Did my 'Chapter 1' in fitness begin when I signed up with Trainer Guy? Or did it start when I started doing Zumba 5 days a week in 2012? Maybe it started when My Sailor was deployed and I started running every day and picking up a spinning class? Did it start in 2004 when I started my second low calorie nearly-completely-liquid diet? Or did it start in 2009 when I jumped back on that plan and added in 'Bike n' Brunch Sundays' into my week?

Did it start when I played rec sports as a kid?

Or the first time someone called me fat?

I can't possibly pinpoint it. I can say that 'Chapter 1' of my 'screw the scale' adventure started this year, for sure. Getting stronger and fitter has changed the power I used to give the scale. Now, when it's in my favor I celebrate a little. When it isn't it isn't a big deal.

For other things, 'Chapter 1' is pretty cut and dry. 'Chapter 1' of my adventure as a military wife began when I married My Sailor. 'Chapter 1' of my adventure as a homeowner clearly started with this house (the condo didn't count).

'Chapter 1' of my adventure as an adoptive parent has yet to being...

And though I know I should 'cherish' this intermediate time, the fact is, I'm over it. I like dreams. I like hopes. I like the certainty of taking one little step at a time. And, for the last month or so, it's felt like we're getting closer to the adoption bit by bit.

But yesterday, it felt as if we took a few giant leaps back. See, here was the original plan:

Complete the Home Study by the end of December 2014.
Dive on the waiting referral lead that we had.
Hopefully this would delay My Sailor's upcoming deployment and he'd be able to stay home for paternity leave and bonding time.

But here's the reality of it -
My Sailor's schedule is starting to hit the "crazy making" again. As an example, whether or not he's working on Saturday has changed 3 times between Monday and Tuesday alone. Who knows what today will bring. Most days for us start around 4:30am and end around 11pm, and, while we're told he'll have weekends off, he's also starting into night school soon. We've done night shifts before. It means that he won't have energy for ANYTHING else, aside from the odd movie out every once in a while.

Which means completing things to get our home study and licensing by 2014 has gone from 'going-to-happen-no-matter-what" to a near-impossibility.  That doesn't mean it won't get done. Just not done right now.

But it does mean that I am almost done. Maybe it's because we're still early in this book, but it's taken about 10 years for me to get through Chapter 1 ("Partnership") and into Chapter 2 ("Build a Family") - and this is one emotionally exhausting book. Frankly, I'm getting to the point where I'm almost ready to close this book and put it down, permanently. I know you readers are probably looking for a 'silver lining' kind of post, and there is a silver lining to this.  But I have to say, even I have my limits on the amount of near-constant disappointment and discouragement I can handle. This process has tested and stretched every bit of it. While it's easy for me to see people well into Chapter 20 ("Jr.'s First Speeding Ticket") it's perhaps easier for me to see a different Chapter 20 ("My First Volunteer Vacation to Africa to Build a School"). I can pretty much control the latter one. The former? Well, it's proven that I have little to no control over it what so ever.

So, I'm not comparing my Chapter 20 to anyone else's Chapter 20.

Most of my friends at this point have kids, and that's great. That's their book and their journey, and I'm happy to share it with them. I enjoy spending time with them and their kids.

Before I make this sound 'easy', I've had my own gut wrenching melt down when I discovered that it appears our adoption plans are hitting pause yet again. I sobbed inconsolably and wanted nothing more than to be left alone to moarn the dream and find another one. After all, this relocation has challenged me to let go of dreams I never thought I'd let go of. I haven't been involved in a show for 2 years, though I've patronized a few. I still write, but I have only recently been able to persue it as a career path - and that may be going on the shelf again unless some paying gigs materialize, as the money may soon outweigh the personal fulfillment and the daily responsibilities can't continue to go uncared for. My writing time this morning went towards doing some much neglected cleaning, and the lawn is nearly knee high - again - since I didn't get to finish mowing it last time.  Responsiblities have a way of taking priority over the things I 'want' to do. 'Want' and 'Need' are 2 different things. (Don't worry - the blogging isn't going anywhere, and I'm sure the work outs won't go anywhere either. They are my sanity.) I'm still feeling the ripples of all that and, I won't lie - a lot of fear and uncertainty about this future. This pause could require us to do just about everything over again if we don't get a referal in time, and referals can take years to get. If that happens, we'll have to start over - again.

It took us 2 years to get this far, so if that happens, I'll probably just be done. I'll find some other way to contribute to the world that doesn't involve raising children. Not every person is ment to be a parent - and that's okay.
Maybe the empty room in our house is meant to always be a pet room. Maybe it's meant to be a guest room. Maybe it's meant to be an office. Maybe it's meant to be a kids' room. Maybe it's meant to be a roommate's space?

I can't pretend to have an answer to that. Right now, all of it seems too many pages ahead to flip to.

My journey through life isn't the same as others. My Chapter 20 isn't the same as someone else's. Life isn't a "page to stage" comparison, and and 'should-ing' myself to death certainly won't help anyone.

Truth is -
I'm married to an awesome guy who is part of something less that 1% of 1% of the country is part of.
And it rules about 98% of our lives.

I'm not complaining. I know I signed up for this, just like he did. Neither of us were exactly clear on what it meant, but we knew it wouldn't be easy. And that's okay. Few things in life worth having are.

He'd hoped it would be 'easier' when he signed up, because he'd be deployed less, but we had no idea the havoc an unpredictable schedule could wreck on things like adoption.

Even if we did, I'm not sure our choices would have been any different.

This is our book. These are our chapters.

Friday, November 8, 2013

The Cure To Over Population

You Do Not Want To Hear This...
But I have the Cure to Over Population...

I am convinced that if every person who ever had a baby was required to go through the process to become a licensed Foster Parent prior entering parenthood,
there would be a lot less babies in the world.
Seriously, if there were a way to require people to take these courses, there would be no unwanted children in the world, I'm convinced.

How many people would never put themselves at risk for pregnancy if they had to do a background check on the other biological donor part of that equation?

Now, I know my background. My Sailor knows my background. I know his background.
We're a set of the lucky ones.
Nothing they uncover will result in surprises, tension, or divorce because, well, there's nothing new to uncover.
 But for SO many couples, I'm sure that's not the case.
Secrets are toxic.

Our example:
In his youth, My Sailor had a lead foot when it came to the gas pedal. He's never hit anything or anyone, but he's had his fair share a few speeding tickets.
At one point in his life, he was moving a lot and he got a speeding ticket. Having a lot on his plate, it got lost in the shuffle and he ended up having his license suspended. At that point, it wasn't a big deal because he was taking the bus.
 Well, that got his attention and he paid the ticket. End of drama, right?


Both his job and the licensing board requires documentation of the speeding ticket issue. In fact, he has to write a letter talking about the circumstances ("I was speeding.") , what he's learned from it ("I shouldn't have sped and should have resolved the ticket immediately."), and how the experience will make him a better parent ("I'll teach my kids that if you obey the speed limit, you don't have to worry about getting tickets. If you do get a ticket it, take care of it immediately."). To add insult to injury, the courts in Michigan say it'll take 3-8 weeks to get the paper that says the issue was resolved... We only have 6 weeks where we know he'll be home every day. So once again, time isn't on our side, and we're at the mercy of hard working social workers and an interstate government system.

While I don't have any speeding tickets, I'm sure I'll be explaining my previous marriage to a social worker in detail eventually as well.

These are things we did over 10 years ago that have been put behind us, but still crop up.

I'm pretty convinced that, if these types of background checks were required for having kids - I doubt that many people would produce.

Because of this specific hiccup, we're in danger of not getting our homestudy and foster license done before his next deployment.
If it isn't done before his next deployment, this will be looking like a 3 year process. No, that's not for international adoption. That's for domestic.
While I have faith that everything happens just when it's ment to, and I know that being annoyed isn't going to change what has to happen in order to make this work.

But I think we could seriously cut future population in half (at least) if every parent were required to fill out the mountain of paperwork adoptive parents have to.

(This future adoptive parent rant is brought to you by coffee - and a huge stack of paperwork.)

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

November - Bigger than Christmas?!

See that guy there? He's full of surprises.
Monday night, I sat down to work on my Novel. (In case you didn't know, it's National Novel Writing Month. Click here for more info. Yes, Teyar, Ashta and Sihaya are the staring characters, and Silent will most definately be making an appearance... most likely more than one since you can't tell Ashta's story without him.)  My 2010 Acer kept trying not to crash with every 5th keystroke. Since I have a tendancy to 'make do' and I'm patient, I used the time my computer was taking not to crash to make a few more notes on my homestudy autobiography.  After watching me get about 3 sentences written in roughly 30 minutes, My Sailor benignly asks, "What time is it?" I check the time, "About 8pm. Why?" He stood up, "I can't take it any more. We're going to get you a new laptop. Let's go." And with that, our coats were on and we were out the door. I protested a little, but My Sailor let me know (in January... he's no good with secrets, which is an endearing trait 99% of the time) that he was getting me a MacBook for Christmas. 

Christmas came early and, about an hour later, we were setting up my MacBook pro. Today is the first day I've really had a chance to sit down and write on it since then, and got about 800 words down in under 2 hours, so I'm predicting this 50,000 word novel won't be too much of a slog. It will also effectively fill up all my free time this month.

I won't lie. There is a near petrifying anxiety in this foray into the fantasy world I once knew so well. I wonder, "Will it be good enough?" "Will anyone read it?" "What will critics say?" "Will anyone 'get it', or will this just be another bit of entertaining drivel?" "Will these characters mean anything to anyone other than me?" "Will this ever get picked up as more than just a National Novel Writing Month project, like the hundreds (or thousands) of others out there?" It's a pretty intimidating project. I've had a bit of writer's block on Dad's book, so to hammer this one out in a month is very daunting.

So far, I've over come that by taking a deep breath and reminding myself that I've been writing Ashta and Sihaya Shadowcare (my leading characters) since I was a teenager. I know them better than anyone. Their stories are compelling. They are not for the faint of heart (or stomach - these are books my kids won't be reading until they are AT LEAST teenagers). I've already done so much of the work. I just need to tell their story in one place. I just need to put the peices together. I just need to tell the story of these remarkable creatures that live in my imagination.

It's that simple. The story is already there. The characters are already there. It's just a matter of getting it out now.

I used to say, "Writing is like giving your soul ink." Even in fiction, a little bit of every character is a peice of the author.

That said, let's update you on other things. The Contractor is still trying to find a way for us to fund the 2nd story, but I doubt that's going to happen just yet. Maybe in a few more years once we have some extra equity behind the house. For now, we really need to move the water heater into the laundry room and get a stackable washer and dryer. That is pretty much a necessity. Then there are the "His", "Hers", and "Need To Happen Someday But Can Wait" projects.

His: Central heating installation. (Probably off the table due to the expense of adding a unit, closing off all the currently installed baseboard heading and adding vents.)

Hers: Raising the ceiling in the kid(s)'s room. (Might be off the table depending on cost. Recessed lighting adds to the value of a house, but the roof is only about 6'5" high in that room, which might make bunk beds impossible.)

NTHSBCW: (Hey, we're a Navy household. Acryonams fly around so fast it's practically its own language.) Sealing up the extra front door. (Yes, we bought a house with 2 front doors. While we love our quirky little house, it's a tad draftier than it needs to be at times.)

We'll see what's possible soon enough.

One more surprise - I've made the first purchase for the kid(s)'s room! Though I plan on replacing the photo inside it with one of our wedding photos (rather than this photo of our engagement weekend while we were still long distance).

In the meantime, on the work out front, I can feel my Bench Press getting better and better! Yesterday I did about 5 reps of 85lbs. Since my max was 100lbs when I started this, it's exciting to think of where that's going!  Most of all, right now I find the gym comforting. It's something I can control and it's a safe way of building my confidence while I'm learning and growing. It gets the endorphines going while working out the Cortisol (aka stress), effectively keeping things like depression and anxiety well under control. It hasn't been an easy year by far. I mean, we've had a death in the family, stumbled through the adoption process (which sometimes feels nightmarishly challenging), dealt with deployments in the middle of all that, and the usual 'hiccups' that pop up in every life. Committing to my health has made it all managable. It's something I've been able to take with me to hotels when I travel, to restruants when I eat out, and, well, into my everyday life. This is one habit that's here to stay.

And finally, an adoption update! Our homestudy fees are paid and now we're working on the paperwork and, well, checking out the construction side. There are a few hiccups that might prolong the process past December. My Sailor had a license suspended in his teens (pay your speeding tickets people...). Though it's been taken care of YEARS ago, the courts still need records of it being handled, and he has to write a letter of what he's learned from the experience and how it will make him a better parent. We also need to compile a list of all the places we've lived in the last 5 years (which is MUCH harder for him than for me, so a lot of this does fall on My Sailor).  We need to get our reference letters out so people can fill out those forms and return them to us, and we need to continue to get the house ready.

It's going to be a VERY busy month!

As I elluded to earlier - it's still the 'year of firsts' around here. Dad's birthday would have been this month. Then there are days like Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years, etc... Most of the time I'm great about keeping things in perspective, but it's safe to say that I feel the absence of Dad more acutely this month.

And I'm even more grateful for the time I have with my family. My kids may not know their Grandpa, but I'm sure his legacy of goofy, warm, occasionally embarassing love will live on well through me, my brother, and my mom. While she has her own legacy to share, I believe we are each changed by the people we love, no matter how long they stay in our lives.

The great thing about smashing all that we can into this month is that our vacation at the end of December will feel AMAZING....