How to help when tragedy strikes

Yesterday in Connecticut the world experienced a horrific tragedy: the loss of children.  These are little people who may have gone on to change the world, and their tiny lives have been snuffed out by a man full of evil.  When things like this happen, we all hurt, but what can you do?  You can pray, you can donate funds to help the families with expenses (there will be many), you can send cards/letters of support, or help support a memorial for the victims.   …all of those things will help.

What do you do when it strikes closer to home?

We all know someone, or will know someone who experiences something horrific in their lives: the loss of a parent, spouse or child, and nothing is more devastating.   What do you do?  How can you help?  You don’t know what to say, so you throw out a vague “I am so sorry!  …call if you need anything.” Then you stand awkwardly aside while your friend bumbles through their grief, because the reality is there is nothing you can do to take that pain away.

Now for the good news:  You Can Help!!

With any sudden loss, your life gets thrown into chaos.  Many times someone in the throes of grief and shock doesn’t know what kind of help they need, and if they do, they are hesitant to burden others by asking for help.  Here is a list of ways you might be able to help, some cost a little bit of money, and some cost nothing but your time.

  • Babysit.  Can you watch a couple of kids for a few hours to give both the parents and the kids a break?  Parents have things to deal with, phone calls to make, and tears to shed.  Kids need a chance to be kids: pop in a movie, make some popcorn and provide some much-needed attention.
  • Walk the dog.  Or offer to keep fluffy for a few days if that is a feasible option for your living situation.
  • Offer to be a point-of-contact for updates: there may be a million friends/relatives calling for updates, and that can be hard for the grieving individual to deal with.
  • Mow the lawn, trim the hedges, take out the trash, sweep the porch or whatever outside chores need to be done: there will be a lot of visitors in the days to come and those outside things will probably slide for a bit.
  • Pick up/drop off kids for school/sports/church if you have time or are headed that way.
  • Paper products: seriously.  There will be a zillion visitors.  Things like extra tissues (get the good kind!), paper towels, paper plates, coffee cups, plastic forks/spoons, toilet tissue and guest towels are all helpful items.
  • Food.  Not just meals for the family, but consider trays of finger foods for the visitors.  Cookies, veggie trays, crackers, cheeses, grapes, etc…   For the family, consider meals that will not leave leftovers, delivered in disposable containers.  Healthy meals with plenty of fresh produce will be greatly appreciated.  (Make sure you ask about food allergies and label your meals with every single ingredient!!!)
  • Gift cards: gas, groceries, coffee, spa (who couldn’t use a massage during this time?) pet boarding, movie theaters, etc… There will be a lot of extra expenses for the family, so if you are financially able, any gifts will be appreciated.

While this is a challenging time for everyone, please be there for your friends and family.  Even if you don’t know what to say, it is ok to say “I really want to be here for you, but I don’t know what to say.”  In a time of need, being there means more than saying pretty words.  Offer to pray with/for them, offer your physical assistance and offer your quiet companionship.

Don’t take it personally if you are rebuffed: emotions are running high and there is a lot going on.  Don’t give up, just step back, let them know you are ready and willing to help, then check back in in a day or two.  Continue to love them and remember this will take time for them to recover and develop a sense of normalcy.


Setting Goals for the New Year-Military Press article

Sometimes when people hear the words ‘goal or resolution’ it’s almost like a scary movie moment.  You’ve seen this before and are screaming at the screen, “No. Don’t do it!”  Although, try not to be too scared, pessimistic or standoffish this year when you create that New Years goal; it can be fun, if you let it.  “Just Do It” and try for something new, crazy, adventurous or financially responsible for the next year.

Let’s start a new craze like bringing the 80’s back, jeggings, Pinterest or Elf on the Shelf but free, less creepy & weird.  My idea is simple; just change your way of thinking about goals.

If you’re idea of goals is 100% negative and you know you’re going to throw your resolutions out the window almost as soon as you say it then don’t go as big.  Realize that you can achieve a small goal while working on the larger picture and your results will seem less daunting.  For instance, try to save $20 from each paycheck to put away specifically for holiday spending for next year.  You’re not saving an extreme amount of money at one time but you’re building up to what will be about $500 or more when December rolls around again.

Also, I’m not guaranteeing that on Dec 31st what you wish will magically be easier to do.  When you promise yourself, “I’m going to run 3 marathons by the end of the year” and you get winded by climbing the stairs; we have work to do.  Some things will need to be accomplished to get to marathon status but it’s absolutely attainable & one day at a time.  Rome wasn’t built in a day and anything worth fighting for usually easy but you’ll succeed.  Keep good motivators exercising with you, free financial advisors to keep you on track, find a Jane Wayne Day happening & keep striving for your goals.

It’s easy to get discouraged in 2012.  We’re almost all accustomed to instant gratification via email, text, television, Google, Skype, credit cards, ect and sometimes have forgotten it takes time to achieve some big steps and goals in life.  If you want a more communicative marriage, to start college, get a job, buy a horse, work on your Masters degree, have a baby, invest in the stock market, buy a house then you’ll have to do some homework and fight for what you’re working towards.  Marine spouses are no stranger to adversity and this year doesn’t have to be one of them if you set your mind to achieving a new goal out of 2013.  Whatever it is you intend to do always remember to think of others before yourself, love your Marine unconditionally (your kids too maybe), send handwritten cards because they mean more, volunteer when you have the time but do not forget yourself in taking care of everything and everyone else.

Happy New Year my Steel Magnolia’s of the Marine Corps!

Simple Baking Goddess 101

Crockpot candy is a family tradition in my husbands maternal side. Years ago, I asked for recipes and everyone was more than happy to share!! This is one of my favorites!

Ya’ll know me the easier the better. It’s a fun family cooking project that can be done in November and there will but some around for holiday entertaining!


1-16 oz. jar SALTED peanuts
1-16 oz. jar UNSALTED peanuts
1-4 oz. bar German Sweet Chocolate (broken)
1-12 oz. pkg Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips
1 1/2 bars of (24oz) WHITE Almond Bark (broken) (Walmart has Plymouth Brand)

Cover and cook in crockpot for 2 1/2 hours on LOW. Do not lift lid or stir for 2 1/2 hours. NOTE: looks like it has not melted, but it is!

Turn off.

Add 2 tsps of vanilla extract then mix/stir well and drop by teaspoon onto waxed paper. Cool and store in tight-covered container. Makes 115 or more pieces. (You can freeze easily too!)




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.

At least my 5 year old son isn’t pregnant…

Last week we had the joy of a visit from the stomach flu. Yikes, my normal bouncing, loud, energetic, hyper, busy (you get it yet?) five year-old turned into barf-a-saurus Rex. To my delight he is the least dramatic barfer I have ever met, merely turning his head to the side, doing his business and the continuing on. The downfall to this is that he doesn’t happen to care where “the side” is, and will throw up on/in anything.

After 12 hours of nothing staying down I realized that dehydration was quickly becoming a threat. Being an emergency medical professional, I know how hard it can be to access care after hours without a visit to the emergency department, so I gave the doc a call and asked for some anti-nausea medication before things got out of hand.

Blessedly, we were quickly ushered into the clinic, where my son informed the doctor he was “fine, just throwing up a lot”. (His definition of “fine” is different than mine.) Doc declared what I suspected: a touch of the stomach flu and ordered the meds to be picked up at the town pharmacy.

Once in the pharmacy I filled out all of our new-patient paperwork and plopped down in the chair with my now-crabby 7 year old and my sickly boy in my lap. The pharmacist said it would be a bit because we were new, he had to call the insurance company to verify coverage. He suggested some ginger loli-pops to settle tummies while we waited, and of course Sickly was thrilled with having “candy” to eat while we waited.

Twenty-minutes later the pharmacist was starting to (loudly) argue with someone on the phone, and then turned to me and asked if I was “certain he didn’t have other health insurance?”

I asked to speak with the insurance company, and before I could even say hello, the woman on the other end of the line informed me that she “didn’t know what kind of game (I) was trying to play, but federal fraud was going to land (me) in prison!” Ummm, yeah. I am not real fond of the idea of rooming with our favorite DIY/homemaker/chef Martha What’s-Her-Name, but I am also pretty sure I haven’t committed any federal crimes lately.

I politely asked this woman what she was talking about, and she informed me that she had “proof” that my son has other health insurance, and that I am running a scam. She continued a lengthy diatribe about “people like you” and my “free” health insurance.

So now I am standing in the pharmacy talking on a phone from 1983 with its twisted-up cord stretched over the counter while this woman accuses me of random federal crimes and my 5 year old sits on my hip and rests his head on my shoulder. Finally I get out her what this “proof” that she has consists of.

Wait for it…

She tells me she has a copy of the statement showing that he used his state medical coupon to pay for his birth control pills, in July.

(About this time he throws up ginger-lollipop down my back.)

I asked her why she thought my 5 year old boy would be on birth control? …She not-so-politely explained that is how she knew I was a fraudster.

I hung up on her, apologized to the pharmacist who was now mopping up the ginger-scented puddle off the floor, and proceeded to pay cash. (Good reason to have an emergency fund, because you never know when your son’s birth control pills will cause a financial crisis.)

While the problem was very quickly resolved the next day, with the assistance of the Federal Recovery Coordinator, I was still rather upset that my family had to experience it. (and there was no “proof” of anything, but rather a rogue employee)

The moral of this story is: Have a back-up plan in place! I will get the money refunded to me by the insurance company, but it was the emergency fund that saved our hide in this case. Even federal health insurance is not bomb-proof, and while CHAMPVA and TriCare are good, they tend to have more problems than the private sector, so be prepared for an uphill battle.

What are you afraid of?

I admit it: I am scared of the dark. So if I am the only adult at home, I sit around late at night shopping for ridiculously overpriced bed linens (that I could never afford) while talking to the dog about how busy I am and I wish I didn’t “have” to be up so late. Yes, it’s an issue, and while I am glad you all grew out of that when you turned 4, I did not. So here I sit in the light, typing this, while lamenting with the dog about our late nights.

My Partner in crime, TxGruntwife (A.K.A. the dollar store flower thief) and I were covering some of the many reasons I am perfectly safe alone in the dark. I may live in an old farm house, outside of screaming distance from any of my neighbors, in a region where we suffer regular power outages, and have no cell service, and have a protection order against my stalker… but still, there are many reasons I cannot fit the horror movie victim profile:

1.) I am not a blonde with giant plastic knockers. Sorry if I just ruined anyone’s fantasy, but the unfortunate reality is I am probably less hot than you imagined. Everyone knows in the horror movie it is always a pretty girl who gets killed by the fisherman in the rain-slicker (which could be half the population of New England), or the deranged logger (half the population of the Pacific Northwest). So my chances of surviving the night increased slightly thanks to my bra size and dirt-colored hair.

2.) While we are on the topic of appearance, my wardrobe may just save my life! Anyone ever see the victim get offed while wearing her husband’s faded PT gear and fuzzy slippers? I think not. So while, they may not be flattering, the OD green may just save my life. (Bonus: stretchy waistband for the late-night snacking done while waiting to be killed by logger-fishermen.)

By the way, the dog has now given up on me and begun snoring as I write this. Apparently his concern about boogie men is slightly less than his concern for napping.

3.) I am also lacking the necessary tools to fend off a serial killer. Such things as large, dull kitchen knives are not existent in my home. Also conspicuously missing from the set are: little-league baseball bats, hockey sticks, brass candle sticks and other random, ineffective self-defense items. Though I admit the legos strung across the floor of my house would be a good deterrent to anyone not wearing heavy-soled boots… The movie is never as exciting when the victim takes down the creep with a 12 gauge as he is coming through the front door. (Actually that would be rather anti-climactic, don’t you think?)

4.) The final missing element is the cast of characters. Every axe-murderer film has some essentials: the jock, the hunky love interest, the security guard/cop/former SEAL who dies saving everyone else, the nerd that should have been picked off first, but somehow survives (to hook up with Miss blond Plastic-chest) and the best friend who shows up at the end to wrap a blanket around the wet, but triumphant victim. (My bestie lives entirely too far away to drive that far just to wrap a blanket around my wet shoulders. ..also, it is not wet where I live, so I do not see this need. So never mind that…)

All in all, I think I am safe from the blue collar ax-murderer crowd. However, I think I might get eaten by wolves…

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!