Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Packer Who Didn't

Quote that rubbed me just the right way this morning:

"If you want your life to be a magnificent story, then begin by realizing that you are the author and everyday you have the opportunity to write a new page." - Mark Houlahan

I love this. Being a book whore, and a writer in progress, I especially appreciated this quote instead of all the over-used typical dance-in-the-rain crap. I hate those! No more dancing in the rain while nobody is watching junk! A person can do almost anything if they know nobody else is watching them. You want to enjoy life? Have the nerve to dance in front of people! Just don't do it on a table, pole, or accept singles for it.

Tangent over. I hope.

I'm just procrastinating. Unfortunately, it's what I do... fortunately, I'm aware and working on it. Today is our first official single digit day! 9 days until the big day... the day we leave SoCal, leave the Marine Corps, and move back home. I thought I would take a minute to dive a little deeper into my thoughts about this whole thing. I'm certain that I have been very negative about the Marine Corps and California. It's not that petty, those are just the quickest ways to express my unhappiness.

Regarding the military:
Mustache Man and I were married for just over two years when we talked it over and decided he would enlist. I've wondered if it was perhaps harder for us because we had our married life together before the military came along. A lot of the other military wives I have come to know married into this lifestyle. My conclusion is that being a military family is hard no matter what. I don't think that our 13 month deployment was more difficult than a 6 or 9 month deployment. Gone is gone.

We had a few reasons for enlisting. We wanted Mustache Man to be able to pursue his education. We couldn't have afforded the student loans, and the GI Bill was a great solution for us. Mustache Man had a dream of being a fighter pilot, but that wasn't going to happen. When we started dating, he gave up the idea of being in the military because he didn't want to be away from me. We got married just 2 1/2 months after he turned 18. When he promised to love me forever, I personally resolved to make sure that he wouldn't miss out on opportunities or life experiences because he married me at such a young age. Mustache Man did 4 years of JROTC in high school, and while we knew he wouldn't be a fighter pilot, I didn't want him to wonder "what-if?" later down the road. The medical and dental benefits were also desirable.

The benefits have been great. Mustache Man is planning on starting college in the fall and his GI Bill will pay for everything. Because of the medical benefits, we have our 2 beautiful children for whom we haven't had to pay any hospital expenses. I've had my tubes ties free of charge - we no longer have to worry about paying for birth control or about a "surprise" baby down the road. We even appreciated moving away from Washington. While we missed "home" severely, we were able to completely leave our families and grow closer together and create our own family identity.

The costs - Mustache Man has been gone so much. While we've formed our own family identity, we've also fractured our family in a way. We knew to expect all the training (boot camp, combat training, then his MOS *read: job* training). We knew before we signed papers that he would go on a deployment. What we didn't expect was for him to be gone for a total of 4-5 months every year for weeks, and sometimes a month, at a time as a regular part of his job. We didn't expect for his normal working hours (when at home) to be from 6:30 am to whenever the guy in charge decided to let him come home (sometimes 8 or 9 pm). I certainly didn't expect the stupidity Mustache Man deals with on a daily basis. Every Thursday the Marines have to field day the barracks, and since the CAG came back from deployment (and especially since Mustache Man was relocated to his current battery), this includes married Marines who don't live at the barracks. One of the Thursday's this month found the entire battalion in the parking lot picking grass and weeds out of the cracks in the parking lot because some big wig was on a power trip. I am tired of my children not seeing/knowing their father. Every time we get into a routine, Mustache Man leaves again for 3 weeks, maybe a month, and we get thrown into a "single parent" scenario. When he gets home again, Ayslyn doesn't have that special bond with him anymore, and Zach has no idea why Dad was gone and is suddenly back again.

A lot of everyday people (read civilians) look at our life and say "but the military pays you for housing!" or "you have a guaranteed paycheck and free medical!". Those are true statements. But what do we have to give in order to receive those things?

I spent 13 months praying my husband would be safe and come home. I gave birth to our first child 6 months into the deployment. My husband came home to a 7 month old son. I've been so, so, so alone. My heart has been broken, knowing that my husband can't be reliable because he has to answer his phone at all times of the day and on weekends, and is expected to go into work at a moment's notice. Any say he has had over his life was signed over to the United States Marine Corps.

This last year has been a time of decision for us. For the first time in 4 years, we are choosing what we can do with our life. We did talk of re-enlisting in the beginning - but my bottom line wouldn't be matched by the Marine Corps. I handed Mustache Man the power over our lives. I told him that I respected him as the head of our household and the choice was his. I told him, honestly, that I hated this lifestyle and some days I felt like I couldn't do it anymore. BUT, if this was the way that he wanted to provide for our family, and if this was what he wanted to do with his life, I would support him in his decision and stand next to him in it.

He ultimately made the decision to "get out". I'm so grateful for my husband, his hard work, and all of his sacrifice. He is the greatest man I know.

So we're picking our family up and going home. We're going to make the life we've always wanted for ourselves. In 9 days, we get to stop waiting, push the play button, and move forward onto the next chapter. Finally.

It's a great thing to get back control over your life, your family, and your decisions. If I could do it over again, I don't know if I would choose to do the same thing. My only advice is this: never give away the power over your life.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

The Girl Who Played Mechanic

Yesterday I had the pleasure of accompanying Mustache Man to the Auto Skills Center here on Camp Pendleton. Let me just say, I think this is one of the best resources Camp Pendleton has! If you work on your own vehicle, I highly recommend it. Because we were replacing the front shocks and the leaf springs on our truck, we used a lift, which cost us $5 an hour. Included in that fee was use of the Skills Center tools (wrenches, sockets, pneumatic stuff) which is extremely convenient if you don't have many tools (we do, but why take our own when we can use theirs?). We worked on the leaf springs first. We replaced them with slightly upgraded leaf springs which more or less gives our Ford F150 an F250 rating. Overall it betters our towing/hauling experience. It also lifted the truck about 2 inches which made Mustache Man very happy. It was definitely a project. The bolts were rusted in, and even after applying quite a bit of Power Blaster, it was still a battle getting the bolts loose. I used pneumatic tools for my first time ever, and enjoyed the experience. There were a couple other spouses at the Skills Center with their respective military member, but for the most part they sat in their vehicle looking bored out of their minds!

After installing the new leaf springs, we replaced the front shocks. We planned on replacing all 4 shocks, but the rear ones are still en route, so I may end up changing those out in our drive way this week. The first shock was quick and easy, and we were sure we were going to have our project wrapped up in no time. We started the passenger side shock and, much to my frustration, realized that the accessory pack hadn't been packaged with the shock. This meant we had no washers or bushings or nut to install the shock with. The washers and bushings on the old shock had been mangled and we couldn't reuse them, and the old nut was too small to fit on the new shock. I called 4 Wheel Parts to see what we could work out, and they told me to just come to the store and they'd get me what I needed - the catch was that they closed in 45 minutes.

I raced down there like a bat out of hell. Normally, I'm really good about not speeding or driving erratically, but I couldn't imagine what we would do if we couldn't drive the truck home or how we would pay for the solution. I had to take a different gate than I am used to exiting Camp Pendleton, and plugged the store's address into our GPS. Not only did I hit every single red light, but the signs at one crucial intersection weren't accurate and I got lost. I broke down, cried, called Mustache Man sobbing, called the guy at 4 Wheel Parts sobbing, and ended up making it in time. Then, I ended up working with not the guy I talked to on the phone, but some other idiot who was a complete jerk. He treated me like I knew nothing, and was extremely rude (his first comment to me was that it wasn't his first day on the job, and his last comment was that I should be careful with the open end of the box). I was pretty disappointed - Mustache Man always raves about how great the guys at 4 Wheel Parts are, and this was my first experience there alone. Mustache Man is contemplating calling or going in and finding the guy who "helped" me... and I'm not discouraging him!

All in all, we ended up getting the last shock installed and were able to leave right as the Skills Center was closing. Here are some pictures of our project for your viewing pleasure.

Our truck on the lift

New shock, old shock

New leaf spring, old leaf spring

Inner/under view of installed new leaf spring

Me working on the front passenger side shock

Saturday, January 22, 2011

The sun will come out tomorrow

Mostly because I'm in California. But figuratively speaking, I'm hopeful that tomorrow will be an amazing day.

Today was fast and hard. I took a unisom pill, so here's a quick overview before I pass out. Pictures and details to come tomorrow.

- Today I played mechanic with Mustache Man at the Auto Skills Center on base. We replaced the leaf springs and front shocks on our truck.

- While at the Skills Center, I tried to save a caterpillar. It literally dove off my hand while I was walking it to safety.

- Realized we were missing parts, ran to the store to get them, got lost (causing a breakdown and much panic) and barely made it before they closed, and was treated like crap for being a woman (I'm assuming).

All in all, it was a welcome kind of stress. It was nice to have a project to work on without having to referee kiddos every couple seconds. 12 Days until moving day!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Ghost of Birthday's Past

Birthday Girl!

Mustache Man at his finest

Steve The Zombie, our new favorite target!

Friday the 14th was my birthday. I'm at that fantastic part of life where I still look forward to getting older. I'm eager for the big 2-5. To celebrate, I got a fabulous new haircut, and to the local gun range with Mustache Man for a few hours. (We were very blessed to have a friend volunteer to take our 2 munchkins and add them to her pile of 3 kids for a few hours.) It was so dad gum freeing to not have to carry a diaper bag, change a diaper, or feed a mouth. For 3 hours nobody called me "Mom". At the end of those 3 blissful hours, I missed my kids. That was a wonderful feeling. Sometimes I wish I had the opportunity to "miss" my children more often.

My in-laws sent me "Living Write" by Kelly L. Stone, a book I'd had my eye on for quite sometime. I already have "Time to Write", so just one more left to a complete set! Here is the web address for her website and blog, check it out!

Speaking of... my kids are simultaneously napping at the moment, a feat that is becoming more rare as the days go by. I'm going to take advantage of this brief pause and flip through "Living Write".

What do you do with your sacred moments of peace?

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Oh what a beautiful morning!

It's just a scant minute after 7 am, and the hum of garbage trucks resonates through the neighborhood like it does every Thursday morning. Very soon, my son will pop out of bed and tear out of his room, down the stairs to the window by our front door, and rip the blinds aside. Hearing the trucks, but probably not seeing them, he will excitedly look back towards me and exclaim "Mom! Beep-beeps!" (He calls them beep-beeps because of the noise they make when they back up).

Last Thursday, I was still abed still a-snoozing when he did this. This week, I am awake and happy, and looking forward to it. I can't wait to hug him good morning and ask him if he would like his vitamin and some cereal (he always does, of course).

In fact, just now as I took a quick pause to open the blinds and let the early morning sunlight in, he came rushing down to see his beep-beeps. And he was just in time to watch the one right outside our house. His hair is disheveled and his eyes are still sleepy, but he has an excitement and zest for life that I wish I still had sometimes. These are the moments where motherhood has truly blessed me.

Not only do I get the extreme privilege to be a mother to two, beautiful and spunky children, but I get to experience childhood again through the eyes of my children.

In 3 weeks, life with change for us. We will move on, away from the Marine Corps and California, and towards what I hope to be an even happier time for our family. Zach has asked to watch Thomas the Tank Engine and has settled onto our bed, in his Thomas pajamas with his milk. I'd better get on that... one day, Zach will wake up and he won't want to lay next to me to watch cartoons. I'm going to love on my boy while I still can.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

My Writing Life

Or current lack thereof.

During the Fall, I was on an amazing roll. I had inspiration, I had energy and motivation, I had progress.

Then, I hit a bit of a speed bump. We visited some of my family for Thanksgiving. The visit was wonderful, and I loved it. But because of the visit, I took time off of writing. A lot of time. About 3 months of it. See, I'm working on a memoir. And I didn't want my writing, and the voice of my memoir to get mangled up by my emotional baggage. It's been hard, I've thought about writing almost everyday since I stopped, but I think the time off was good. I'm ready to start again. Where's my pen? Where's my paper?

Now if I could just make myself get up in the morning with Mustache Man, I think I'll be alright. We made a date to go to bed early tonight (and by bed, I mean to sleep), so tomorrow will by my first official writing morning of 2011. I can do this, with a lot of green tea and a lot of coffee, I can do this.

I wanted to share a post I ran across for 33 different ways to start the day.

Tomorrow, I think I may have to open the windows and shock myself awake with the cold air.

What's your favorite way to start the day?

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Packing/Moving Progress


And a busy 26 days they will be. Mustache Man and I plan on being all packed up and ready to go a week before our actual moving day, which gives us even less time... but, we will be prepared this time, instead of scrambling and cramming.

Ayslyn has started growing out of her 6-9 month clothes, which thrills me to no end. As I've always said, I love watching my kids grow up! We got a jumperoo off Pendleton Yard Sales, and she is delighted with the standing and bouncing she can now do on her own. Zach is full of energy, and I'm eager to have a backyard he can burn his energy off in. We hope to get a family dog soon after moving into our new place - we've been waiting rather impatiently for one. We've been day dreaming about our new home, and all the happiness and new opportunities we hope to experience in it.

Mustache Man is steadfastly applying to whatever jobs he comes across, and while I know we are both concerned about not yet having a job lined up, we are taking great comfort in the blessings in our situation and our family.

I am still "contemplating" exercising and writing, and fighting my dead/inspiration-less feelings. The stress of packing and our continuing job hunt is exhausting. I'm sure it's all in my head and an excuse, but I have hope that I will perk up once we are back home with the trees we love and the rain we've missed.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

The apple doesn't fall far from the tree

Moment of shame for me - I threw a temper tantrum this morning, as is evident from my last post. I'm not proud of it, and it is something I am aware that I struggle with. My 2 year old isn't the only one in this family who has trouble managing emotional ups and downs.

A little jam with the toast.... an update!

I got my navel re-pierced! I had to take my original piercing out for the last 3 or 4 months of my pregnancy with Zach (ironically, that was where I got my first stretch mark). It closed up, and I wanted to wait until I was finished reproudcing before I thought about having it done again. With my tubal ligation, my belly button was "reconstructed", so it's pretty bumpy and weird looking, and there's a lot of scar tissue considering how small the surgery was. So, finally, I decided to do it. I wanted my "pretty" back, and I'm loving it! I was worried that it might be more painful since I'm hefting my two kiddos around, but there have been only a few minor incidents. I had it done on the 28th (it was a Christmas present from Mustache Man).

Our nightstand project is about complete! Mustache Man applied the last coat of varnish last night! Now it's just a matter of getting the hardware painted. We were originally going to try to replace the hardware with something newer and less 80's/90's style, but I'm having some trouble matching the posts. We test painted one of the drawer pulls last night, but Mustache Man thinks we may need to get something to remove the old finish first. Either way, pictures will be following soon!

Operation Get out and Move Home: The house is steadily being packed away. We are moved out of half of the upstairs, and now only using the kids' rooms and their bathroom. We've primed out bedroom. I would say about 50-60% of the house is packed. I've been selling furniture and things we don't use/need on the yardsale website. That's been great! Making room, moving less stuff, and collecting a small amount of cash in the process. We had our pre-inspection today, and the guy said our house looked great and that it was well taken care of - all we need to do is basic cleaning and move everything out by the final inspection.

My kids contiue to be a challenge and a joy. The older they get, the more crazy about them I seem to be. Zach is talking more and more, and Ayslyn is crawling around and pulling herself up. We're trasitioning her from bottles to sippy cups slowly. Zach's potty training has been fantastic!

As for me, I'm plugging along trying to stay sane amidst all the crazyness and extreme change. My lowest weight during 2010 was 134 (I think, it may have been a pound or two less), and after all the Holiday food and extra eating I do with Mustache Man home, I only gained 2 pounds. I have hit the gym again, and hope to make it a habit this year. I did not make any New Year's Resolutions, for the first time ever. I have things in mind that I would like to have happen, and like to accomplish, but I'm going to take this year like I've tackled the past 4... one day at a time.

Speaking of which, Mustache Man applied to another Sheriff's Dept. last night. They will stop accepting applications in 2 weeks, and we should hear back 2-3 weeks after that if he is a candidate. More on our job hunt later.

What kinds of big change are you expecting this year?

Rants and raves from yours truly

Dear Well Meaning People of the World,

I'm sure your intentions are good.


Seriously. If I hear one more individual tell us we are coming back to the "real world", I will flip out. And all the irritation that's been building will end up pouring out of me on one poor soul.

For 4 years we have had a "guaranteed" paycheck. We have had medical & dental insurance. We've recieved a housing allotment. However, Mustache Man has worked his ass off for all these things - it may have been guaranteed, but that man has never once sat back and slacked off. Don't you dare try telling me that my husband hasn't worked hard for everything we've had. He gave up being present at the birth of his first child, and missed out on the first 7 months of our son's life. He's run himself into the grown just to function on sometimes no more than an hour or two of sleep. He spent 13 months in Iraq. Get off your pedestal before I take you off of it.

Secondly, we've been job hunting for months. We've been hardcore looking and applying since the beginning of September. Mustache Man is on waiting lists for so many departments. We're not a family who doesn't look ahead into the future. There's been little else on our minds. Do us, and yourself, a favor and get out of our life and back to your own. Take a hard look at yourself - maybe you'll realize you need to get off your soap box and work on your own unperfect life.

One helluva pissed off wife and mother