Learning to fight fair…with a Marine.

IMG_1133This post is long overdue.  I don’t know why I wrote this article first.  Maybe because when we woke up, Anthony totally went all men-o-pause and thought I said something I didn’t.  I was like, “whoa, I didn’t call you stupid or think you couldn’t talk to and get your point across to the doc.”  Let’s be clear, I may have been thinking it, and I should’ve just gone and did it myself but I didn’t say it!  Bless his heart.  😉

We all know, men are very simple.  The average man wants two or three things out of daily life and only uses 7,000 words a day but they aren’t counting Marines unless grunts are included.  They use maybe 3,000-4,000 a day.  This is no bullcrap.  I’ve caught Anthony just glazed over eyes, looking at my mouth moving but he ain’t listening to me!  I think sometimes they have so much on their minds they can’t multitask like our Google brains can.  Ohh, those sound like fightin’/challenge to me, men?!  They wouldn’t be able to juggle everything like we do in a million years.  Cue the Lifetime, man hating music.  LOL. Just kidding men.

So after a little “Semper Gumby” moments through our PCS across the country with two teenagers, my husband, two dogs and two guinea pigs (yes, pigs) we all survived yet got to practice what we preach a bit. It could’ve been worse right?  Don’t laugh too hard ok.

So let’s be clear, we’ve found two main points that really help us in positive communication and overall in our Marine Corps family.   I’m no Oprah or Ricki Lake, well maybe since she gave good advice too sometimes and I do accept wine if you somehow get extra attention from your spouse.  IMG_0302

Active Listening. If you’re already thinking of something sarcastic to say before the other person isn’t even done talking, you’re not fighting fair. When we were first married this happened a lot. He would tell me something & I was literally creating an Excel spreadsheet in my head of all the points I could make. Guess I wasn’t “fighting fair” by actively listening & being in the moment to hear what he was actually saying after he said that first sentence because I was creating Excel columns and rows.

No Negative Rebuttals. If constructive criticism is aimed at you and you quickly think of something negative, counterproductive or completely irrelevant to the entire conversation about that other persons flaws, character or habits, you’re not fighting fair. Once, we were discussing where to eat for dinner; which I somehow in my mind flipped his comment around because I know he said I was overweight and need to eat healthier. I told him that MAYBE he shouldn’t use the bathroom with the door open while talking to me. It took us a while to eat Subway again afterwards since it was such a “remember when you went nuts…” moment.  We laugh now. 7 years later.IMG_0329

Both points apply to both spouses.  Now with age and time come maturity for some.  Well this is the Marine Corps so these tips may not work while he’s wasted at a Dining In or the Ball.  In those instances we know they’re all the same age, crazy teenagers. It can also apply to dealing with other people who may not have the same common sense, manners or common courtesy as yourself.  Somehow it can be tougher to keep your calm in these situations so tread lightly…(cough, cough, military spouses…) IMG_1135

When conversations go negative, most people shut down and don’t even listen after a certain point & you start going in circles about the same thing.  Sometimes it’s wise to not even begin or get into it depending on what it’s about.  If its the toilet paper roll on wrong or the toilet seat down, there are worse things in life to holler about so perspective and rationality come into play here.  If he gets whole milk instead of 2%, just send his cute ass back to the commissary and get some chocolate and wine while he’s there.

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My husband aka (his cute little ass I’d send back to the commissary)

Momma always said, if you don’t have anything to say, don’t say it at all.  I don’t think everyone got that lesson.  Just saying.  She also had this little plaque in the kitchen that said, “The way to be seen is stand up, the way to be heard is speak up, and the way to be appreciated is shut up.”  I always wondered if my dad gave it to her.  LOLLL.

Marines (men in general) have a short attention span so make your words count (remember they don’t use very many in a day) & get your point across as calmly as possible. Despite wanting to shake the shit out of them and slap them silly, breathe, and even though they probably see the red in our eyes and Lorena Bobbit twitchy hand, maybe respond in your best and calmest “Horse Whisperer voice” and say, “Babe, I’m always thinking of you and what will be best for all of us and I’m only trying to help.”   After all, Bryan Adams says, “When you love someone, you’ll sacrifice. Give it everything you got…” Arguing should be the minimal part of your lives. Your spouse is the best part of this Marine Corps lifestyle and the reason you’re in it. Just eat the damn Subway and keep your possibly overreacting comments to yourself to avoid the awkward stories your family & even strangers will hear over and over.

Love, laughs and hugs to y’all!

-Crystal

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New Year in Sacramento then stuck on the Grapevine!

I hope everyone had very blessed past few weeks! It has definitely been a roller coaster of emotions, expectations, and events on this side! We stayed at home for Christmas. We went to the movies to watch True Grit and Gulliver’s Travels. True Grit by the way was as good as it was going to get without John Wayne in it. Anthony and I liked it and it was pretty close to the original one.
We decided on a whim to head to Sacramento to see family for the New Year. Overall the trip was fun and we had a great time! The weather didn’t cooperate and it rained almost the entire time but it was a lot of fun catching up with everyone nonetheless. Sometimes California can be wetter in some months than others and also I hear (now that we are home) that we are in an El Nina climate so it will be an interesting next few months.
This was my first drive up the West Coast so I didn’t quite know what to expect.  We left rainy and windy Oceanside at 0430 on the Thursday before New Year’s to head up the I-5 North; we stopped only 3-4 times and made record time by getting there around 1130! It was a quick trip, I was psyched about the drive and I couldn’t believe it was so fast! It was almost identical to traveling to Texas except the gas stations are a lot higher priced and there are less cow farm smells. I found out along the way that there is this one huge mountain (the Grapevine) that goes on and on and weaving in and out of these huge inclines. As I continued up this massive thing the thermometer on the rental car continues to decline. The kids were oohing and pointing because there was snow just a few hundred yards away from them. I noticed I was about at a half of a tank and so I decided that we should stop since I didn’t know when I’d be able to stop again. At this point I didn’t know if we’d ever get out of this mountain! It seemed like forever but I saw a sign for a city called Gorman and stopped at a Shell station. On the dash it said it was 27* outside and I am wondering whether we should get out to use the restroom or should we wait until it’s warmer on the other side of the mountain. I knew the dog wasn’t going to get out in that weather so I left him there in the car, open the door to step out and almost bust my arse getting out of the car trying to stand up!!! OHHHH MAN! I couldn’t believe I almost ate it hard on slippery ice!!! REALLY! UGH!  Anthony thought it was funny! He’d already gotten out of the car. We got in the building and the attendant graciously informed us that we were NOT out of the mountain and not even to the summit yet!!! I knew we had to get out of that cold ass place as fast as possible! HA HA!
Sacramento is beautiful! It has a lot of history and one way streets! LOL! We had a lot of great food and I learned a few things!  We had great time and enjoyed seeing Anthony’s for the New Year! It was too quick of a trip so we’ll be going back very soon! We didn’t get to go by Travis Air Force Base to check out their base or even go to Oakland, San Francisco or anywhere where Man vs. Food went! A friend also told me that in San Fran there is a Marine Corps hotel that gives deep discounts for active duty so that would be awesome to just get pictures of!
Getting back from our visit on 01/02/11 was a completely different story! Coming back we knew the weather still wasn’t going to be the best of conditions so we bought snow chains and had blankets and food in case we got stuck or had to sleep in our car. We drove on the I-5 South until we saw a sign that changed our plan of action. At Coalinga about 2 hours away from the massive mountain (almost home for us) one of those large “Weather Alert” signs displayed that the Grapevine was closed! So we called his Aunt in Sacramento, who’d been tracking our progress to let her know the latest development. We agreed with her that it might be best to spend the night and gather a new game plan. The trick was finding a place to stay at. I was almost positive that everyone on the congested I-5 had the same idea as we did and so I wasn’t very hopeful that we’d get a bed for the night. Well, thankfully I was wrong! Good ol’ Motel 6 was vacant and we were able to get our next plan together. We decided that even though we were off of the JCT 198 that it would kind of be back tracking so we would try to go further down the I-5 to the JCT 41. It wasn’t something that I was happy about considering that I’d never driven this road and didn’t know what to expect on top of the fact that just fear of the unknown can be stressful when driving with some of the most important 2 and 4 legged people you know in the car!
Nonetheless it had to be done so here we go on the road again like Willie Nelson at 0430 again the next morning. Surprisingly there was no traffic and not even really any rain to slow us down so I was almost overly optimistic! After about 30 minutes on the I-5 South I see the exit for the JCT 41 and exit. I saw lots of lights, gas stations, restaurants and cars. I continue on the JCT 41 which is only a two lane road and slowly but surely everything starts to disappear. I see even less lights and less gas stations, less restaurants and only one set of brake lights in front of me. I realize that I am driving up a large hill but cannot see anything because it is pitch black! No street lights, highway lights, or anything. Oh & as I notice all of that there are also NO shoulder guards or even a real shoulder on this very narrow stretch of road! JUST GREAT! Just when I thought it couldn’t get more nerve racking on this unknown road I start seeing upcoming signs.
The first was “High winds” which wouldn’t be too bad if I would have been in the day time able to see the oncoming car and descending drop off to the left and right of the road but I’ve dealt with those conditions before so no biggie.
Then I saw “Flooded” and I thought okay well that’s promising. I don’t know if it was a sign left over from the previous rains or if it is a caution to watch out for huge puddles that I couldn’t see if I wanted to because it was completely dark!
The next one was “Dust Storms”. This was when I realized how insane I was for driving on an unknown road to me so early in the morning for the first time ever. Jokingly, I told Anthony to start keeping track of them because honestly where were we that we could possibly encounter all of these weather situations at once!
We then came upon “Falling Rocks” which was another AWESOMEEEEEEE in my book because once again I couldn’t see said ROCKS falling from who knows where! One of the last I remember was this amazing obstacle course looking sign. I had never seen anything like it and felt like I was in one of those arcade games playing the car game in the Indy 500!
Thankfully we were able to navigate our way through the chaos and came home in less than record time but it was an adventure none the less.
That was a trip that we will never forget coming back that unknown and mysterious way. I feel more confident in my driving abilities now and will be looking forward to our next adventure very soon! It’s always good to experience or learn something new but hopefully we’ll have a little more time to better prepared next time. We’ll let you know how the next trip goes!

Care Packages during the Holidays

So the time has come to focus on the holidays! Christmas is typically the main event so I wanted to keep it limited to that for now. For my ladies and gentlemen who have loved ones overseas on watch this one is mainly for you. Besides keeping their presents under the tree for months or doing a Christmas in Julys.  What else can you do?

Last two deployments I became known as the ‘Care Package Queen’ because of Gaby.  I sent at least one almost every week or every other week.  It kept me busy, entertained and always thinking of something new to send him. I sent everything from the usual trail mix to specialized items like Covert Thread Socks (www.covertthreads.com) which specializes in every climate kind of socks and undergarments for military and law enforcement imaginable. The thing to do now a days is to completely customize the box inside.  Thanks to websites like Pinterest there is always some new DIY project that would show him how unique and awesomely creative you are!  If you have kiddos don’t forget to get them in on the action! 🙂

The USPS Holiday delivery dates are about to be here so I hope everyone is prepared!

2010 USPS Holiday Timelines
Addressed To                          Express Mail®/ First-Class Mail®/Priority Mail/Parcel Post®
APO/FPO AE ZIPs 090-092  Dec 18/////////////Dec 10/////////////////Dec 10//////////Nov 12
APO/FPO AE ZIP 093           N/A//////////////////Dec 4///////////////////Dec 4////////////Nov 12
APO/FPO AE ZIPs 094-098  Dec 18//////////////Dec 10/////////////////Dec 10//////////Nov 12
APO/FPO AA ZIP 340           Dec 18//////////////Dec 10/////////////////Dec 10//////////Nov 12
APO/FPO AP ZIPs 962-966  Dec 18///////////////Dec 10/////////////////Dec 10//////////Nov 12

This time of year I love MarineParents.com since there is a Care Package Idea for every occasion. Need a way to warm them up, Patriotic theme, Christmas, Birthday, Halloween, Poker Party ideas or anything like that?! Go there! I will put some on here for ideas and I typically brainstorm off of their ideas posted. Some of these items is a given and I sent them more than once and on a pretty regular basis as he needed them. I used an Excel Spreadsheet so I knew what I sent the last time and didn’t send the same thing over and over or if he didn’t need it or like it then I would know not to send it again.

Warm Them Up:
Hot Tamales, flamin’ hot Cheetos, hot sauce, hot nuts, cajun spices, Fritos and Jalapeno Dip, Atomic Fire Balls, Cinnamon Gum, Red Hots, Hot-Flavored Planters Peanuts, Mini bottles of hot sauce, Cinnamon TicTacs, Icy/Hot Sore Muscle Rub, Crystal Lite Iced Tea, Andy Capp Red Hot Fries, Jalapeno Jelly Belly Beans, a Hot Rod magazine and Tums

Cold Season:
some cough drops, kleenex, tea, instant noodle soup, hot chocolate,

Christmas Ideas:
those little Christmas trees that they sell in all of the mail order catalogs (Lillian Vernon, Oriental Trading Company, etc.) that come with their own ornaments, mini Christmas stockings, candy canes, little candy bags of coal (bubble gum ones), the green and red M&Ms for the holidays, an Advent Calendar. There are also little pine trees (about 4″ tall) that have a mineral solution on them. You add water to the little base, and these color mineral salts “grow” on the tree and look like colored snow and decorations. Of course this all depends on where your Marine/Sailor is stationed at because if he is out patrolling in Afghanistan he can’t carry a Christmas tree around with him but if he is on a MEU out in WESTPAC or somewhere then it might be easier for the guys to put up and maintain your holiday decorations.

And my favorite trick of the trade is Cake in a Jar!

CAKE IN A JAR
It’s basically a mini cake inside of a mason jar. It arrives moist and fresh and tasty!
Here’s how to make them: Get wide-mouth canning jars. You can find them at Walmart, other stores, or online. Boil the jars to sterilize.

1 package of cake mix or any cake recipe

1. Make the cake batter according to the instructions or recipe
2. Grease the jar by liberally spraying the inside with cooking spray
3. Fill jar no more than 1/2 way with batter
4. Place jars on cookie sheet on rack in the oven. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean @ 400 degrees
5. While baking, boil jar lids in a pan of water
6. When cake is done, take on jar out at a time and cover with hot lid. Screw on jar ring tightening it slightly
7. The lid will seal as it cools. Listen to hear the “ping” as they seal.
8. As the cake cools, it will pull away from the jar slightly. That’s ok; it just means that it will slide out of the jar easily.
9. DO NOT FROST cake in the jar! Send frosting along.
10. Make sure you wrap the jars well (bubble wrap is preferable, but wadded newspaper or clothing and other items will pad it too)

Don’t forget to include a couple of plastic knives for the frosting and some plastic forks.

Even if you don’t have a Marine or Sailor overseas you can still contribute to their holidays at http://www.carepackageproject.com/sponsor.asp for only $22 or the USO at https://www.uso.org/DonateHolBrandCPDD2010.aspx?src=WH10CPDD10 for only $25. There are so many outstanding organizations who help our Marines and Sailors out there and even ones who are here injured like the Wounded Warrior Project and Semper Fi Funds.

I LOVE this time of year since everything cool is during this month! No seriously, my birthday, my kids’ birthdays, my husbands’ birthday, our anniversary and even my dog’s birthday is ALL in this month (Amber’s is 11/29 but still a Sagittarius lol)! Ladies if your husband is home have fun ordering him around for once and having him hang lights on the roof, get tangled up in the inflatable characters and try figuring out where to plug in all of the extenstion cords.  Deck the halls, sing Christmas carols, volunteer for the elderly or needy and just enjoy the family time together.  Hold your family a little tighter this year because as I’ve said before there are many out there who won’t ever get a chance to do so again. Hope I didn’t miss anything on the list above!

Merry Christmas everyone!

Things to NEVER ask a Marine Wife…

 -Author Unknown; found floating around on the internet…awesome though & I added some of my own quick wit to some of these
Things to NEVER ask a Marine Wife…
1. “Aren’t you afraid that he’ll be hurt?” (This one ranks in at number one on the “duh and NO SHIT” list. Of course we’re afraid. We’re terrified. The thought always lingers at the backs of our minds —but thanks alot. brilliant, you just brought it back to the front. Maybe next you can go ask someone with cancer if they’re scared of dying.)
2. “I don’t know how you manage. I don’t think I could do it.” (This is intended to be a compliment. Though, its just a little annoying. Here’s why: it’s not like all of us military wives have been dreaming since childhood of the day we’d get to be anxious single moms who carry cell phones with us to the bathroom and in the shower. We’re not made of some mysterious matter that makes us more capable, we just got asked to take on a challenging job. So we rose to the challenge and found the strength to make sacrifices.)
3. “At least he’s not in Iraq.” (This is the number one most annoying comment for those whose husbands are in Afghanistan. What do they think is happening in Afghanistan? An international game of golf? )
4. “Do you think he’ll get to come home for Christmas/Mothers Day/anniversary/birthday/birth of a child/wedding/family reunion, etc?” (Don’t you watch the news? No! They don’t get to come home for any of these things. There are no personal time off days, sick days, or any civilian things like that. He cant call in to work. Please don’t ask again.)
5. “What are you going to do to keep yourself busy while he’s gone?” (Short answer: Try to keep my sanity. Maybe there’s a military wife out there who gets bored when her husband leaves. For the rest of us, those with and without children, we find ourselves having to be two people. That keeps us plenty busy. We do get lonely, but we don’t get bored, and drinking massive amounts of wine always helps keep me busy.)
6. “How much longer does he have until he can get out?” (This one is annoying to many of us whether our husbands are deployed or not. Many of our husbands AREN’T counting down the days until they “can” get out. Many of them keep signing back up again and again because they actually love what they do or they VOLUNTEER AGAIN and AGAIN to go back to Afghanistan b/c there is work that needs to be done.)
7. “This deployment shouldn’t be so bad, now that you’re used to it.” (We do learn coping skills. We figure out ways to make life go smoother while the guys are gone. But it never gets “easy” and the bullets and bombs don’t skip over our guys just because they’ve been there before. The worry never goes away.)
8. “My husband had to go to Europe for business once for three weeks. I totally know what you’re going through.” (This one is similar to number two. Do not equate your husband’s three week trip to London/Omaha/Tokyo/etc. with a 6-15 month or more deployment to a war zone. Aside from the obvious time difference, nobody shot at your husband, your husband could call home pretty much any time he wanted to, and he flew comfortably on a commercial plane. We do not feel bonded to you in the slightest because of this comment and, if anything, we probably resent you a bit for it. Comparing a 12 month combat deployment to a few weeks business trip is like comparing a Hyundai Excel with a Mercedes convertible.)
9. “Wow you must miss him?” (This one also gets another big “duh”. Of course we miss our men. There are some wives who do not and they’re now divorced.)
10. “Where is he exactly? Where is that?” (I don’t expect non-military folks to be able to find Anbar Province on a map, but they should know by now that it’s in Iraq. Likewise, know that Kabul and Kandahar are in Afghanistan. Know that Muqtada al Sadr is the insurgent leader of the Mahdi Army in Iraq and that Sadr City is his home area. Know that Iran is a major threat to our country and that it is located between Afghanistan and Iraq. Our country has been at war in Afghanistan for seven years and at war in Iraq for five years. These basic facts are not secrets, they’re on the news every night and in the papers every day —and on maps everywhere.)
11. “Well, he signed up for it, so it’s his own fault whatever happens over there.” (Yes, ignorant, he did sign up. Each and every day he protects your right to make stupid comments like that. He didn’t sign up and ask to be hit by anything, he signed up to protect his country. Oh, and by the way, he asked me to tell you that “You’re welcome.” He’s still fighting for your freedom.)
12. “Don’t you miss sex! I couldn’t do it!” (hmmm, no I don’t miss sex. I’m a robot. seriously…military spouses learn quickly that our relationships must be founded on something greater than sex. We learn to appreciate the important things, like simply hearing their voices, seeing their faces, being able to have dinner together every night. And the hard truth is, most relationships probably couldn’t withstand 12 months of sex deprivation.)
13. “Well in my opinion…..” (Stop right there. I didn’t ask for you your personal or political opinions. Unless you’ve walked in my husbands shoes or my own you have no idea how we live or feel…keep it to yourselfCivilians have no idea on this subject so try not to interject your thoughts and opinions into my life.  The negative and emotional comments are counterproductive so don’t even say them!)
Last, but not least….
14. “OH, that’s horrible…I’m so sorry!” (He’s doing his job and he’s a complete bad ass. Don’t be sorry. Be appreciative and please take a moment out of your comfortable American lives to realize that our Marines/soldiers/airmen/sailors fight the wars abroad so those wars stay abroad.)
If you want to say anything, say thank you. After all, we are sexually deprived for your freedom 🙂