Friday, January 29, 2010

Moving along...

We've been moving toward this day for twenty years, and now that it's here, it feels a tad anticlimactic. That's okay. We've had too much excitement over the last oh, seven years, we are welcoming a bit of calm transition with open arms.

At long last, after what seems like a lifetime of preparation and paperwork, Pete signed the last of his military forms today. Walking out of the transition office with a HUGE smile on his face, he said simply, "I'm done." And with that, his military career ended. Like I said, it was anticlimactic. We then went over to the post exchange and purchased that all-important "Retired Army" baseball cap that is standard for retirees, and picked out a "US Army Retired" window cling for each of our vehicles. You could say he's just SLIGHTLY excited. I have lost count of the times today he's said "I'm retired!"

What's pretty funny about today is that when we left the house this morning, he had an odd look on his face; offering a penny for his thoughts, he obliged and told me, "This feels like I'm stepping off the edge of a cliff into a fog, where I can't see anything below my feet but I *know* that the ground is just a couple of inches down under the fog". Pretty heavy stuff all of a sudden. I think that's the most philosophical he's gotten in several years! Needless to say, he stepped right onto that ground and will take the first few steps into what other retirees have described as "a whole 'nuther world" on Monday, when he starts his job a few miles from where he's worked for 18 months. This time, his work day is fixed; he will have a real, dependable schedule, but he'll have to choose what to put on when he dresses himself. Big changes!

As if ONE huge life change wasn't enough, our son added yet another BIGGIE to our day when he showed up unexpected with a "gift" for his girlfriend...Grandma, sit down. Our not-so-little boy, all on his own, went and picked out a beeeeutiful 5/8 karat diamond, set in white gold, and proposed tonight. She. Said. Yes. In a year or so, after he comes back from Afghanistan, we'll be gaining another daughter! He's done pretty well for himself this time, and we couldn't be happier. Now to introduce her to the complexities of being an Army wife!?

I am really beginning to understand Pete's cliff/fog metaphor!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Super-sized lives?

I've got to step out onto my rant platform for a minute, k? My mind has been reeling ever since I watched some random show while getting the baby to sleep, and I am not going to be able to let it go until I fuss and fume about it a bit, so bear with me.


Why on earth is America (as a whole, yes, I'm making a sweeping generalization here, sorry...) so OBSESSED with super-sized lifestyles??? What is going on, people??? What on God's green earth would possess someone to spend a million dollars decorating their FOYER (and yes, I pronounce it FOY-er, not foy-AY, so call me uncultured, I could care less) and in doing so obscure and totally wreck a perfectly gorgeous view of God's creation??

People, people, people....why, oh WHY does a family of three or four "need" a 4,500 square foot house???? Better yet, as I glance through Pete's "bathroom reading", I find a house that someone is making incredibly high-tech that is a whopping sixteen-THOUSAND square feet. WHY???

I just don't get it. Quite honestly, if you're a regular HGTV or DIYNetwork watcher, you might get the impression that it's the norm to own a 3, 4, or 5,000 square-foot house and have some strange need to incorporate massive quantities of fine natural materials into your decor (which, of course, MUST be designed by someone properly trained in the art of color matching and couch-picking). There's just way too much of this need-for-excess being pushed no matter where you look. And in a recession, no less, so of COURSE those of us who can't afford to spend $45,000 to redo our kitchen because we simply cannot stand another day of laminate countertops feel like we're just...oh, I dunno, CHEAP?

Nope. Not here. There is amazing freedom in saying I don't CARE if my resale value is increased tenfold, I just don't feel the need for fill-in-the-blank. And here's where the sweeping generalization ends...because I know there are many, MANY people who feel the same way--and that number seems to be growing--and who are more interested in simplification and enjoying the smaller, more meaningful things of life rather than indulging in excess.

For now, I will laugh maniacally at the ridiculousness of seeing someone boast that he spent $220,000 on a chandelier for his foyer. What other reaction can there be? Am I supposed to be impressed? To tell you the truth, the older I get, the more impressed I get with frugality and resourcefulness than in luxurious displays of "wealth". I guess I've grown jaded. Too many times I've witnessed YOUNG (and by young, I mean VERY young....barely squeaking into their 20's) couples struggling to make ends meet but yet somehow feeling the need to walk around with high-end toys. It boggles the mind. The sense of entitlement in people today is just crazy. And the idea that we somehow "need" the best of the best is just as laughable.

When we were in Germany, we did the typical touristy thing and visited "the" castle--King Ludwig's Neuschwanstein in Fussen, which is the castle that Disney modeled Cinderella's castle on. Thing was, this rather young ruler was obsessed with opulence. Gold-gilded walls, beds, was just ridiculous. It was easy to point out the craziness in that, but to come back to modern-day America where so many "average" people are now just as obsessed with it? An 18-inch-thick "floor" of water for guests to be greeted by? Monet-inspired paintings on your tile? Fiber-optic color-changing water walls? If I want to walk on water, I'll go outside and skip in the puddles with my kids. My fridge is covered with paintings that are far more valuable to me than a Monet anyday...and a wall of water? Gimme a break.

**Stepping back down off of my rant-box.**

I like being able to put my feet up on my furniture. I don't mind my kids playing with paint on our dining room table...and you know what? I'm beyond happy with my $35 sets of Wal-Mart Better Homes and Gardens dishes. I think they're purdy, and I don't care what anyone else says. So there!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Video of Kasey

I'm putting this here mostly because I just really don't like YouTube and Grandmas needed a way to see what Kasey's up to these days. Trying to crawl, already! Just too much going on, she's far too ready to be in the mix! You gotta love "the lip", too....

Saturday, January 23, 2010

The changing of the guard?

In a few DAYS (I can't believe we're finally to that point!!!), Pete will be taking off his beret for the last time...unless he gets a moment of nostalgia in a few years. His retirement won't be "official" until the end of March, but he will be wearing polos and casual slacks to work when he starts his new job on February 1st. He had to rub that little point in to our son the other day, who is just a year and a half into his own military career and is...well, let's just say he's not all that fond of camouflage at the moment! LOL

Ironically, the same month Pete will retire, Jon will deploy to Afghanistan for a year. We've randomly commented on the oddities of having father and son in active service consecutively over the last 18 months, but pretty soon, that will end. We'll have one more "retired" soldier in the family and only one actively serving. It feels a bit like the changing of the guard for our family in some regards, and it's a whole lot easier to deal with than I ever thought it would be.

I grew up civilian, oblivious to the lives of those who served our country in the military, with the lone exception of my uncle. I didn't know much about Richard; all I really knew was that he lived in some pretty exotic places (Congo, Morocco, Paris, Helsinki) and he couldn't tell us what he REALLY did for the Army. I also knew we didn't see him but every five or six years, at best. I knew my father and both grandfathers served in the Navy and the Army Air Corps, respectively, and I had heard my dad's ridiculous tales of raiding the officer's mess and stealing their prize turkey. That was pretty much it for my military knowledge. I certainly didn't have the slightest clue what I was marrying into, that's for sure! Mine has been on-the-job training from day one. If there is any other lifestyle that is more difficult (and sometimes hostile) toward family unity, I haven't found it yet....but the heartwarming satisfaction of knowing the family is contributing to a good far greater than our own is worth more than the security and "padded living" we give up to stand behind our soldier.

Now, though...for us, that focus is shifting. In a few months, instead of being the one leaving, Pete will be standing with the rest of us as our son takes on that responsibility. Many people have asked me how we feel about that, and my answer without even the slightest hesitation is that I couldn't be prouder. Our son has, on his own, decided to follow the footsteps of his father, grandfathers, and great-grandfathers and will be serving our great nation on foreign soil. He stands tall and proud, in a uniform that represents a nation full of wonderful people. Regardless of political policy, our military will continue to fulfill its duty at home and overseas in a respectable manner, and I have no doubt in my mind that wherever the US military goes, it does good in a land that greatly needs goodness.

For those who have, I do not look forward to the day my son gets on that plane. I will pray every day for God's protection, and I'm sure I'll probably lose a lot of sleep, just like I did when his father was away. But I have no doubt that this is Jon's path, and I am proud to play my passive part in such a patriotic heritage.

It will be odd...and a little sad, I must admit, to replace our dual-Liberty Star ribbon with a single. Pete will probably feel just a tad "lost" for a while too. He'll be okay. He was trained well.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

A brick of reality upside the head

Pete is seventeen days away from wearing his uniform for the last time. Well, almost. He'll have to wear it one last time for his retirement ceremony in March, but as of the end of January, he'll have worked his last day as an active duty soldier. We had to attend THE briefing of all briefings today--the one that really drove home the fact that WE ARE GETTING OLD FAST!!! It was the briefing where we had to decide on survivor benefits, talk about life insurance policies, Medicare, and (gulp) burial plots and military funeral honors. ACK!!!!!! By the time we left, I could nearly HEAR my joints creaking. I think I aged fifteen years in two hours.

We can't be "that" age yet, can we?? Pete turns 39 on Saturday; I am still two years behind him. Yet there we sat, with a five-month-old bouncing and making growly noises on my lap, listening to a retirement counselor give us some very ugly news about some things we'd rather not even think about at our ages. Why? Well, we HAVE to.

Unfortunately, military retirement tends to yank our Peter Pan heads out of the proverbial sand in the blink of an eye and introduces us to a WHOLE new life we just aren't ready for yet.

Our eldest daughter came home from work (at Burger King) ranting about the crudeness she puts up with in her fellow burger-flippers. Meanwhile, her dad and I are still reeling from our double dose of reality today. I feel very old right now.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Simple Woman's Daybook, 1/11/2010

FOR TODAY, Monday, January 11, 2010...
Outside my window... the thaw has begun; it is warmer now at 35 than it has been in a week. The birds are out, snacking on the seed I laid on the grass for them to munch on during the freeze.
I am thinking... that I need to fill the feeders again when it warms up enough to get outside. We've been so cold inside with the heat pump broken this last week that we just haven't had much inclination to go outside where it's REALLY cold.
I am thankful for... space heaters and warm socks.
From the learning rooms... we are revamping the courses Kelsey's had problems with and putting more emphasis on college prep now that she's decided that's the course she wants to take.
From the kitchen... banana bread this afternoon after I get to the store to restock our staples. There's nothing quite as comforting to the nose or the tummy after a long battle with a stomach virus than warm, fresh-from-the-oven banana bread. I think a pot of homemade chicken soup may be in order for dinner.
I am wearing... flannel pajama bottoms and two long-sleeve tees. My socks are now wet from walking across the drenched bathroom rug to see if Kelsey left me any hot water to take my shower with, and my toesies are freezing!
I am creating... shopping lists. Not much else. I don't have the creative juice left in me after the last couple of days.
I am going... to take Kelsey to work, and then go to Wal-Mart to shop. Not my favorite task, but it's gotta be done!
I am reading... the Real Simple December mag that I picked up at the thrift shop the other day, plus three different books on gardening. I'm trying to think warm thoughts.
I am hoping... that this stomach bug is gone now that everyone (except Danica) has had it. She's had more exposure to it than the rest of us have, so maybe (hopefully) she's got an iron-clad immune system?
I am hearing... giggling. Music to my weary ears.
Around the house... space heaters, piles of blankets, and laundry that never got folded tell the tale of the weekend's activities. Pretty much all that got done was a lot of lying around. How come none of us feel rested? We're getting the sick-mess cleaned up now that the big people feel better. It's nice to have Pete home most of the day even if he does spend a lot of time looking at government job listings and working on his VA disability paperwork.
One of my favorite things... hot cinnamon tea. It's been heavenly since the temperature dropped to have that little extra oomph of warmth at the end of the day.
A few plans for the rest of the week: just daily life (hopefully it's without any more throwing up) and then Pete's birthday on Saturday. Jon will be coming home this weekend so I'm going to try to plan something that's fun for all of us.
Here is picture for thought I am sharing... our front yard guests snacking in the remaining snow.

If you'd like to participate in this week's Simple Woman's Daybook, hop on over to Peggy's site and join in!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Rough start.

It is now ten days into the new year and for all intents and purposes, it's not going so well. For the last six days, we've been pretty much sidelined with a nasty stomach bug that is bringing life to a grinding halt when combined with a heat pump that doesn't want to work once the temperature outside drops below 30....and it's been below 25 for the last four days! We are more than just a little weary of wearing as many layers INside as we do outside, and it's not fun hanging out on a bathroom floor when the floor is 50 degrees.

BUT....this too shall pass. Eventually. Just another of those things we have to put up with as life goes on. The part to fix our heater will be in tomorrow (even if tomorrow it'll once again be above freezing outside) and hopefully this stomach bug will be gone SOON.

If nothing else, we've had a good opportunity to familiarize ourselves with how things work here in the winter. New house, new learning experiences. We know we definitely have to find a more effective way of heating the house than by a heat pump; it doesn't stay below freezing ALL winter long here, but when it does dip down that low, it's kind of important to have a method of heating the house that actually works. We are most certainly going to get the fireplace and chimney serviced so we can use it, and Pete wants to make it a pass-through fireplace (is that even possible??) so we can heat both the living room and the dining room. We are going to be redoing the floors in both bathrooms when the tax money comes in (yay, we qualify for the first-time homebuyers' tax credit by a technicality!) and we are thinking that electric radiant heating both in the bathrooms and in the kitchen would be an excellent way to warm three of the coldest rooms in the house. We'd love to convert the whole house to radiant heat....maybe one room a year? I'd hate to have to rip up the hardwood floors in the dining room and schoolroom, though.

We've also decided the last week or so that the bathroom remodel WILL include a new bathtub. To fill an entire bathtub with near-scalding hot water and have it be cool by the time one steps foot in the tub is not a good thing. Cast iron may hold heat well, but it also saps all the warmth from your bath!

OH well....we did at least get to enjoy a few days of snow here, and that's not a common occurance from what I understand. The girls have really enjoyed it, and I've had a blast watching the gorgeous birds that are darting around the property. There's just something about a cardinal in snow that makes you think God was an art lover! I've got a ton of pictures from our "snowstorm" (haahaaa....we've lived in upstate New York, and I assure you, we KNOW this was nowhere near a snowstorm), but I'll share my favorite with you. Jamie, still remembering the frozen-tongue scene from A Christmas Story a few weeks ago, wanted to see if a tongue would freeze to wood too. This child is going to be dangerous as she gets older, I think.

Friday, January 1, 2010

The beginning of a new beginning.

This morning, I was so thrilled to greet Pete with a steaming cup of coffee after sleeping in (to the horribly "late" 8am) with these words:

"You retire from the Army this year."

THIS YEAR. In fact, with a humongous grin on his face, he countered my statement with this:

"I'm out of a job in 30 days."

Um.....wait a minute there. Thankfully, he was pointing to the beginning of his "terminal" leave (doesn't that sound positively awful to the civilian ear....I assure you, however, it is a WONDERFUL thing) the first of February. While remaining on the Department of Defense payroll as an active duty soldier, he will be able to draw his regular Army paycheck while being "on leave" and available to work another job. Double dipping! He's THRILLED. And I am too.

Somebody in the military's secret satellite service somewhere spying on us overheard that conversation and just HAD to make sure that our joyous beginning to the New Year began with our heads firmly planted on terra firma, however. About lunchtime, he got a call from his first sergeant (albeit a repeatedly apologetic phone call) informing Pete that he'd been placed on staff duty--sitting at the barracks manning phones and essentially babysitting whichever soldiers had no home to go to for the holidays and the ones coming back off of Christmas exodus early. So there he sits, the first day of the last year he'll serve as an active duty soldier, manning his post until 8am tomorrow. Funny, we were just joking the other day that as of Monday, he'll officially be once the process starts its final countdown with the beginning of the clearance process, he can't pull duty anymore. This was literally THE last opportunity the unit had to put him on staff duty. FIGURES!!!!!!

I've had a rough afternoon/evening. With one sick and not-so-happy almost-five-month-old, a sixteen-month-old who is suffering from a lack of mama-lap time, three little girls who are still on a sugar-and-food-coloring high from the last two weeks, a teenage daughter who still hasn't quite figured out how to be a productive member of the family, and a son that I can't bear to look at for very long because I KNOW I'm seconds away from realizing he's going to Afghanistan in a couple of months.....I'm just not really enjoying my last day as a forced-single-mom. I'm tired, I'm sore, I have baby snot caked all over the entire front of my shirt, and I'm craving a Sonic Mocha Java Chiller something terrible. I've already broken my own resolution to keep my temper under control after the thirteenth trip back into the girls' room trying to get all four of them settled.

Can you see it?

I'm suffering from a bad case of selfishness. Not a good way to begin the New Year. I'm going to go grab my sword, do some communicating with the Commander, and do some battle before I go to bed alone. This year may mark the end of my "career" as an Army wife, but first and foremost, I'm still a soldier. My post needs manning.
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