Why yes, I do look stunning at night!

We may be the worlds most unromantic couple at night.  Maybe it is the injuries, maybe it is that we are “old”, or maybe it’s the way everyone is and we all just pretend to sleep in a disturbing amount of mascara where wearing silk pajamas and sleeping on satin sheet.

Last night I noticed that while wearing my night guard, my speech has a stunning resemblance to that of the ssssssnake in the movie “The Jungle Book”.  His night guard can’t quite withstand the clenching of his jaw and usually ends up flying out in the night, often to be lodged in my hair or near his feet.

Now that you have that awesome mental picture, please add three body pillows (complete with mis-matched clearance-rack pillow cases) and 4 regular size pillows.  Crowded yet?  Add the special leg wedge for Mitch that holds his pelvis stable while he sleeps.

We top off this lovely image with a CPAP (an assistive breathing device for those with obstructive or primary sleep apnea).

While my bed will never make the cover of any home-decor magazines, it is what allows Mitch to be comfortable at home, and allows me to sleep in the same bed as my husband post injury.  While certainly not the traditional idea of a romantic or relaxing bedroom, it is one of the happiest sights I see: that despite horrific injuries, I still have my husband.

I am blessed.


Man Skills

You want me to what?!

In our house we have had pretty stereotypical gender roles. I clean, bake, do laundry, grocery shop, etc… He did the lawn mowing, car stuff, and killed spiders. Then Mitch got blown up. So now, instead of him killing spiders, I stand in the living room having one-sided arguments with the dog about who has to do the smashing. (The dog always wins and goes to sleep while I dispose of the intruder.)

My dog completely not caring that I am about to be carried off by a pack of rabid tarantulas.


Spiders aside, I am now learning some new skills, like fire building, lawn mowing and wood cutting. Skills that are certainly okay, and probably good, for a woman to have, but none the less new to me. I think there may be a good reason I was born with baking skills and not lawn mowing skills: my yard looks something like blind beavers mowed the lawn while consuming large amounts of absinthe. Practice makes perfect, right? Since we have a riding mower Mitch does a lot of the mowing (Praise Jesus!) and my “skills” are only on display about once a year.

Car care, well I give up. I outsource for that. Mainly because I have a strong aversion to placing my hands any were I cannot see, something that is apparently required for anything more than checking fluid levels. I know how, I just don’t. We all have issues-don’t judge.

This is actually 4 rows deep, and no, I did not do it all alone.

This summer I taught myself how to split wood. Yes! Score one for Anna! It was a steep learning curve. My daughter asked me if I was okay. Twice. Then she suggested I ask the neighbor for help, which seems like a really brilliant idea for a seven year old, until I realized the neighbor she was referring to is the elderly man who lives up the hill. (It must have looked really bad to her, that she thought he would better at it.) However awkward and time consuming my splitting efforts were, they paid off and we now have a tidy stockpile of firewood.

manual labor: more fun than you are imagining!

… And a savings account for a hydraulic splitter.

Now that it is time to actually use said firewood I am practicing my fire building skills, which I will say I am good at. Perhaps I am channeling my inner Laura Ingalls, but my fire was quick-to-ignite and warm, so that is what matters!

25 ideas for keeping more money in your pocket

I noticed today that one of my favorite bloggers, Patrice Lewis has challenged readers to come up with 25 frugal tips for everyday living.  We all know that you don’t join the military to get rich, and if you are now living on disability because of your service, you are probably catching on that you will never be monetarily rich.  We all know why the commissary is empty the day before payday-everyone is out of cash.  So here are my favorite ways to make those dollars stretch:

  1. Make it at home.  Bread, Laundry Soap, greeting cards, birthday/Christmas gifts and much more can all be made at home with a minimal amount of time and effort.  If you don’t know how to bake or cook, now is a great time to pull up youtube and start learning new skills!
  2. Repair it!  Many things can be fixed at home, by you without much expertise.  The lamp with bad wiring?  You can buy a complete wiring set at the local hardware store, and you don’t have to be an electrician to install it.  Button popped off?  Check out youtube and learn how to sew on a button (and now is a good time to pilfer through your husband’s sewing kit that he hasn’t used since bootcamp!)
  3. Plan ahead: it is much cheaper to carry and sandwich bag of dry cereal in your purse than it is to fork over a dollar (or more!) for candy bar out of a vending machine.  It is also healthier for you and sets a much better example for your kids.
  4. Store a case of bottled water in the car for those dying-of-thirst moments where you are tempted to stop for a beverage.  Healthier than soda, and much cheaper!  I pay less than $3.00 for a case (24 bottles) of water, instead of spending $1 per water at a convenience store or fast-food place.
  5. Buy it used!  January is a great time for shopping for like-new appliances, barely worn dress clothes and more.  Some many Christmas gifts end up at the local donation center after the recipient realizes that the rice-cooker from Aunt Edna will only be used twice a year, and those matching sweaters for the Christmas picture were only flattering for Cousin Phil!
  6. Leave your debit card at home.  Seriously.  It is much less tempting to buy that cute little sweater that catches your eye, if you know that you only have enough cash with you to buy the things you need.
  7. Search online for free movie rental-codes.   Redbox and Blockbuster rental kiosks regularly have codes for free rentals if you sign up for their newsletters.
  8. Check out your local library!  While many bases have libraries, don’t forget your civilian options too.  Libraries are not just about books anymore: many offer DVD’s, CD’s books on CD, and Kindle Lending services.  While you are there ask if they have children’s story time or any other events.
  9. Skip the pets.  Yes, this might be a little radical for some, but if you are thinking about adding a furry relative to the family, remember that it isn’t just food (and litter) but also routine vaccines, vet trips, annual licenses, emergencies and any damage they may cause.
  10. Drive less.  That doesn’t mean you have to become a homebody, but plan all your outings for one trip, or try carpooling.  If you only need one thing at the store, try asking a neighbor if she will pick it up for you when she goes.
  11. Volunteer more!  Keeping yourself busy means you will have less time to think of ways you can spend money.  Volunteering doesn’t mean leaving your house, many non-profits can use blog writers, envelope stuffers, web designers, etc.  Bonus: helping your community while saving money!
  12. Use it up.  I know you have done it: you are almost out of shampoo/dish soap/laundry detergent so you pick up more while you are out, and when you get home you toss the old bottle because it only had one more serving in it and you needed a place for the new one.  Assuming you use a bottle every 2 weeks, that is 25+ uses  a year that are thrown away.
  13. Ditch the paper towels.  Invest in a bundle of your favorite color washcloths (Target is a great place to check for these) and use them for napkins, cleaning up spills, etc.  For really gross things, like potty accidents, keep old t-shirts, town towels, or other rags on hand that you can throw away without guilt.
  14. Price compare for healthy foods.  Many places like VitaCost (Vitacost is also offering $10/off your first order right now!) and Green Polkadot Box offer good prices on healthy foods delivered to your door.  This is especially good if you have special dietary requirements, like gluten or dairy free foods.
  15. Buy your special kids clothes at consignment or thrift stores.  Most consignment stores have very high standards and only accept “like-new” items.  ThredUp is an online consignment store, and from my experience their products are the highest of quality.  Look in the phone book for consignment stores in your area, or check out ThredUp for a $10 credit to new customers.
  16. Investigate your coupon options.  Many websites offer couponing tutorials, and a pretty good idea what kind of products you can get free or cheap with a few minutes of clipping each day.  Charlene over at MyFrugalAdventures has a great couponing tutorial.  Beware of the excitement of coupons, and don’t be tempted to buy things that you won’t use, just because there is a coupon.
  17. Buy in bulk.  Warehouse stores, like Costco and Sams can be useful if your savings are greater than your membership fees.  You can ask to visit a store and look around before committing to a membership, just tell the person at the door.  Many regular grocery stores also offer bulk food bins where you can purchase just enough pasta, spices or cereal for a single recipe, and eliminate waste.
  18. Trade goods/services with your neighbors.  Especially if you live on base it can be easy to find other families to exchange childcare, carpool duties and more.  Don’t be afraid to offer lawn mowing, housecleaning, pet sitting, or other services in exchange for what you need.
  19. Group buying sites, like Groupon and Living social offer everything from discounted race entry for runners, to half off home goods.  Keep a list of items/events that you are interested in and watch the deal sites.  Remember only to buy the deal if it was something you were going to get anyway, don’t be tempted by a deep discount on Polka lessons if you hate dancing!
  20. Become a staycationer!  Check out the local museums, amusement parks, and natural wonders in your area.  Pack a lunch and stay local, save yourself the cost of hotels and dinner out, and if you are blessed to live in an area with public transportation, use it.
  21. Barrow what you can.  This doesn’t mean being the pesty neighbor who constantly asks to use things, it means not buying what you don’t have to!  If you are only going to use a punch bowl once in your life, see if you can barrow it from a friend or neighbor.  If you are only going to use an edging tool once per season, see if you can rent it from the home improvement store.
  22. Sell the things you don’t need.  Craig’s List, base classified ads, yard sales and online auctions are all viable options for getting rid of seldom used furniture and outgrown snow-suits!  (And if you can’t sell it, don’t forget donations to Goodwill are tax deductible!)
  23. Clear out your clutter!  If you have to buy a new potato masher because you can’t find your old one, you aren’t saving any money!  Save yourself even more money by keeping your refrigerator clean, and you will have less waste.
  24. Investigate Season passes to local attractions.  If you live buy a zoo that your family likes to frequent, it can be much cheaper to purchase a season pass, and if you have a season pass, you will be less tempted to spend money on random activities when your kids ask “What are we going to do today?”
  25. Ask about a military/Veterans/AARP/AAA/Whatever discount everywhere you shop!  Many places offer unadvertised discounts to military, fire, law enforcement, seniors or club members.

Take a few minutes at the beginning of each week to plan what you need to get done.  This is a good time to think about errands (can you combine them into one or two trip?) Plan a menu around what you have in the freezer, and make any needed arrangements for childcare or transportation.  You can save yourself the last minute costs of eating out or calling a cab by planning ahead.   Little things can add up very quickly and make the days before payday a lot less desperate!

Dramatic Auditions: the line starts over there.

Sadly those who most need to apply this will believe it applies to everyone else.  I saw this constantly in the family readiness groups, and now watch it transpire daily with the families of wounded warriors.  Unless you are auditioning for Jerry Springer….

Don’t make drama.  Seriously.  No one else has time for it and you aren’t making yourself look good by bashing anyone else or having a public display of dysfunction.

We have all been wronged.  Deal with it.  If it is a criminal problem, use the proper authorities to take care of it.  Otherwise start acting like an adult and get on with life.  You are going to do stupid things.  Yes, I said it: you WILL screw up.  Intentionally, unintentionally, directly, indirectly, you will do things you regret.  …and so will everyone else.

Think about it.  When you accidentally turn in front of traffic you feel bad, but if someone else does, they surely meant to cut you off, right?  If Linda ignored you at the last family readiness meeting, it must have been because she was mad at you, right?  (Never mind that she was just diagnosed with a frightening medical condition…)

My point is that if you don’t know what is happening, don’t create a reason.  Sometimes people do things that are irritating, stupid, or downright cruel.  If it is something you can work out without causing yourself more harm, then do it.  If it is something inexcusable or something that you cannot get passed, move on.  Don’t keep living it.

If whatever is happening is intentional, do your best to move on or extricate yourself from the situation, and then get on with life.  In the scheme of life it really doesn’t matter that Linda made snarky comments about your hair, or that Enda intentionally stole your assigned parking space.

Deployments come and rumors start.  Joan’s husband might be sleeping with the neighbor’s goat, but is that your business?  Edna might just be a horrible person, but does telling everyone about it make her less horrible?  If the rumors are about you, live so that no one believes them: don’t compromise yourself.  (The only exception to this is if you legitimately suspect there is a crime such as child or domestic abuse, in which case, please report it to the authorities, see that there is follow-up, and then keep your mouth shut.)

Either fix it or leave it, but engaging other people, and causing more stress for yourself is not a resolution.  You cannot “win” at drama.  Proving you are right is not helpful if you injure yourself or others along the way.  I see a lot of wives who want to “prove” they are right by getting everyone on their “side”.  Ladies, we are not in middle school, and this is not a popularity contest.  Take care of yourself, and let everyone else worry about their own issues.

What Happens When The Super Highway of Life Turns Into a Dirt Road?

We have all been there.  Cruising down the highway of life at 90 miles per hour 70 MPH (because we always obey the speed limit, right?) everything is going as it should, minor bumps are soon passed and we are enjoying the scenery.  All of the sudden there’s a detour, not an exit that takes you to paradise, but rather an exit that isn’t on the map, and has your GPS yelling at you in a strange British accent, telling you that “you are now traveling in the wrong direction!  Recalculating”

trying to navigate this?

When my husband was injured we took that exit.  Gone was the fresh new pavement and reflective green road signs telling me which way to go.  We were now cruising down a dirt path in a covered wagon (I think it may have only had three wheels!) trying to read Boy Scout trail markings from the 1800’s, with no one else in sight…

So what do you do when the super highway turns into the Oregon Trail?

1)      Cut yourself some slack.  Or a lot of slack.  However much slack you need to get through right now.  Things are not ok, and might not be for the foreseeable future.  Let go of everything that is not essential to the wellbeing of your family.  No one is going to die if you wear yoga pants and skip the makeup today.  Shockingly, your family will survive if you have to eat frozen dinners or take out this week (or month!).  As long as everyone is clean and fed, you can survive.

2)        Write it down!  That means everything.  You aren’t going to remember every single thing, and you will only beat yourself up for forgetting (see #1 above).  Buy a notebook, steal a stack of sticky-notes from work, swipe a roll of TP from your neighbors, but find something to write down everything you need to do or might need to reference later.  Getting yogurt and diapers may seem easy to remember right now, but when you are in the market and have just answered your seventh call in ten minutes, it might be a little more challenging to remember!  (Also, try remembering those seven phone calls after you make it home with your yogurt and diapers.)  Write. It. Down.

3)      Call in those favors!  The neighbors that you always let use your parking space?  Let them know that for now, you need it.  The coworker who asks if you want a coffee while she is out?  Take her up on it!  The friend who asks if you need anything while she is at the warehouse store?  Yes!  Right now it would be great if she could bring you a 55 gallon drum of peanut butter!  When people offer, let them help!  Now is not the time to be pressing your super-woman cape and stuffing yourself into leotards you haven’t warn since 1998, let other people do some grunt work for you right now!

4)      Don’t make things harder on yourself in the long run.  Watch you funds.  When we are in crisis mode we tend to forget about the long-term impact of our situation.  Maybe this means only spending cash, and locking up the debit/credit cards to avoid those “feel good” purchases.  Maybe this means breaking out your emergency fund to avoid the stress of worrying about how you will pay for _____ right now.  Either way, you need to plan for how you are going to deal with the financial impact of your current detour.

5)      Breath.  Nothing lasts forever.  Whether or not this chapter in your life has a happy ending, the pain you are facing right now will not always be the all-consuming nightmare you are currently in.  Things will never be the same, and you will always carry the scars of this trip down the rutted trail, but that doesn’t mean that things are not going to get better.  Maybe better than before—but you will have to keep going to find out.

6)      Don’t be afraid to get professional help!  You can’t handle everything.  That’s ok.  Counseling, support groups (online or in person), childcare, lawn maintenance—if you need help get it!  If you are active duty or retired, call up Military Onesource and ask for help, they can connect you with the right people.  Civilian?  Call your local United Way, Church, Synagogue, or community action program and let them know you need help, even if they can’t help, they usually know people who can.

We all experience crisis in our live; big ones, small ones, short ones, long ones.  Some we leave behind, some we work through, and some we just have to live with.  Remember, that no matter the crisis, you can move forward.  Whether you spend a day, a month or a decade on the Oregon Trail you will eventually get back on the highway.  …Just don’t die of dysentery while you are looking for the on-ramp.  (And if you don’t understand that, pretend that you do, because I don’t want to feel old.  Mmmmk?)

Wounded Warrior Conference…Rubin Tibor

Anthony & I attended a Wounded Warrior Project conference not too long ago and the highlight of our entire weekend by far was the speech given by Medal of Honor Recipient, 2 time POW survivor as well as Purple Heart recipient Rubin Tibor. His biography on the page was enough to make everyone who’d read it prior to him even getting up on stage stand out of respect and reverence for his service. The stories he told were of dedication in the face of discrimination and disrespect, commitment in the face of defeat and despair and love of country even when it could be looked at as if his country had forgotten about him. It was just so incredible to see such passion from a man of 85 years. He could emotionally stir a room and make them laugh hysterically within a few sentences. His daughter even spoke a little bit and just said he wants other generations to know that basically with everything that you fight for there will be more obstacles but keeping your head high and a sense of humor helped him tremendously. He wants to tell his story so that others who face injuries and adversity could maybe learn something and be inspired to know that Mr. Tibor still has the same commitment to his country now than ever before and wants to share his experiences so that others may be inspired as well. I hope very soon that we’ll have a chance to hear him speak again since he is such an exceptional gentleman.

The Army citation for the Medal of Honor reads:
For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty: Corporal Tibor Rubin distinguished himself by extraordinary heroism during the period from July 23, 1950, to April 20, 1953, while serving as a rifleman with Company I, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division in the Republic of Korea. While his unit was retreating to the Pusan Perimeter, Corporal Rubin was assigned to stay behind to keep open the vital Taegu-Pusan Road link used by his withdrawing unit. During the ensuing battle, overwhelming numbers of North Korean troops assaulted a hill defended solely by Corporal Rubin. He inflicted a staggering number of casualties on the attacking force during his personal 24-hour battle, single-handedly slowing the enemy advance and allowing the 8th Cavalry Regiment to complete its withdrawal successfully. Following the breakout from the Pusan Perimeter, the 8th Cavalry Regiment proceeded northward and advanced into North Korea. During the advance, he helped capture several hundred North Korean soldiers. On October 30, 1950, Chinese forces attacked his unit at Unsan, North Korea, during a massive nighttime assault. That night and throughout the next day, he manned a .30 caliber machine gun at the south end of the unit’s line after three previous gunners became casualties. He continued to man his machine gun until his ammunition was exhausted. His determined stand slowed the pace of the enemy advance in his sector, permitting the remnants of his unit to retreat southward. As the battle raged, Corporal Rubin was severely wounded and captured by the Chinese. Choosing to remain in the prison camp despite offers from the Chinese to return him to his native Hungary, Corporal Rubin disregarded his own personal safety and immediately began sneaking out of the camp at night in search of food for his comrades. Breaking into enemy food storehouses and gardens, he risked certain torture or death if caught. Corporal Rubin provided not only food to the starving Soldiers, but also desperately needed medical care and moral support for the sick and wounded of the POW camp. His brave, selfless efforts were directly attributed to saving the lives of as many as forty of his fellow prisoners.

So as you can see he is definitely our hero and we couldn’t thank him enough for coming out to do the seminar and share his stories with us. Complete bad ass?! I think so! This man inspired me to look into our own backyard and see what hidden gems are within our own family tree. I found quite a bit and now and going to tirelessly work on crafting another blog dedicated to our families military history and anything they have to say from the past and for the future generations to pass on their knowledge so that it is not lost through time.

Chicago/Brooke Army Medical Center

We’re back from Chicago and Texas! It can be hectic and a little crazy getting ready to go on trips with kids so I apologize for not writing as I should have. My house looks like a tornado blew through here between the dogs, kids and husband. The one thing I can say is that I finished washing clothes from both trips the other day. It never ends though. There’s enough junk mail, newspapers and school paperwork to save the entire rainforest in my opinion. Nothing is vacuumed or dusted but I’ve been wiping down stuff and cleaning the kitchen for what seems like all day and part of the night. How does it get so dirty? I leave when it’s decent and when I come back its filthy! Typical.
Chicago was interesting! LOL! Everyone went once but I went twice; once to just see the sights, see a Navy Graduation and get the lay of the land. The second time was just this past weekend for about 36 hours to actually see my cousin in her Navy graduation from bootcamp. She’d gotten a stress fracture before we’d gone the first time around but we decided to go anyways since the days off were already scheduled and everything was a go. Whoever named Chicago the “Windy City” was not exaggerating. It’s breezy here in Oceanside due to the constant Pacific Ocean breeze. We were NOT prepared for that weather and were reminded of that fact as soon as we stepped out of the rental car and onto the streets of downtown Chicago. This second time around Chicago wasn’t windy at all and I swore US Airways dropped me in Texas because it was in the 80’s when I got off that plane. The next day it was in the 40’s by the time graduation was over so it was never boring weather wise. LOL! We’re very proud of our new Sailor and know she’ll do great in Engineering school. Marine Corps & Navy = interesting holiday get togethers. LOL! 
Our Texas medical trip surprisingly was a lot of fun and very laid back. We drove all around the hill country and back to Houston like we were truck drivers! The kids and puppies stayed with our family in Houston and the doctor appointments were in San Antonio which isn’t too far away. Somehow we crammed in a lot of activities in such a short time. We got to go to some of our favorite Texas restaurants like Whataburger, Shipley’s Donuts, Taco Cabana, Casa Ole, Bill Miller BBQ, and Jacinto City Café. Being able to see and socialize with relatives we hadn’t seen in quite a while is always so great!
Anthony and I got to meet some really great people at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio. This base is home to a very prestigious hospital that has a separate clinic called Center for the Intrepid that specializes in helping those who were wounded and have limb limitations. On day one we got our bearings on this new base, checked into the Army database system, found the Marine Corps area, and as an example if he had broken a leg he was casted for a tester brace. We went back on another day after the tester had been molded for fitting. The doctor needed to see where adjustments would need to be made to accommodate his leg shape, range of motion inabilities with Anthony’s goals in mind for physical activities and exercise. We got to see online the previous case studies where the Soldiers and Marines would walk with no braces, their prior brace and then this new dynamic one. Seeing was believing and I still couldn’t believe it! With no brace and even their original brace these guys were cautiously walking slowly with an obvious limp. When placed into this new dynamic bracing system which is not bulky, heavy or binding these heroes were able to perform fast agility movements where there were none before, climb mountains and not just pass but excel in PFT’s & CFT’s. We were only there a little over 2 weeks but we’ll be back in June and July for a whole month for his physical training with this new brace so he can learn how to walk, run and function in this brace. It will be like nothing he has experienced yet. We are just so blessed and thankful for this opportunity and hope that others have outstanding doctors and case managers like ours who will offer this brace to them to help improve their life.
What has improved my life as the matriarch of this family is once again the people who have stuck by us through all of the changes, ups and downs and irregularities in our life over the past year. Everyone is always busy it’s just part of this life. Everyone helps someone in their own way whether big or small. While in Houston I got to see my friend from grade school in Texas which I consider my sister since we’ve known each other so long. Even though we don’t see each other everyday or talk our conversations are just as we do speak everyday and are so deeply meaningful. I love that girl to death and will always be here for her no matter what. As far as this time zone; I’ve been under a lot of added stress here lately and no matter what’s going on in their lives a few ladies have made the effort to help us out even when I didn’t ask for it and more than ever expected. They may not know it themselves but somehow they’ve been able to pop up at the just the right times when I needed an ear, a pick me up, a shoulder, or a helping hand. I’ve said it before it does take a village to not only raise a child but to thrive being a Marine loved one. Having friends and loved ones is that special incentive to get me through the day sometimes when nothing else is going right. The ladies and their husbands enrich our lives and make it so we don’t have to stress as much about the little things in life. Our biological families may not be here physically but we do have each other on this base and I am thankful for that. All of my friends though have been this outstanding and I wish I had more time and the resources to catch up with all of them because friendships are very important. Even though I know it’s impossible I wish this atmosphere never changed and it was always family oriented and inspiring. When it’s good it is very good and when it’s not gelling it is all jacked up. Thankfully the amazing women in my shoes in one way or another have been here (but are always still here via FB) or are here to help get each other through the not so good parts.
We go back to Texas soon and the husband can’t wait to endure this physical therapy at BAMC to get back on track with the Marine Corps career he always wanted. Anthony signed up for a marathon on base and we are looking forward to doing more in the near future for Wounded Warriors Battalion and with the Marine Corps.