Monday, December 24, 2007

Merry Christmas!

Bob convinced me to pick three names from the last two posts, so thanks to my good husband, he and Jack drew three names for the book and tea drawing.

He had so much fun with this (and so did I) that look forward to a new Get in the Car launch for 2008 that includes a lot more give-aways. Giving is fun!

Without Further ado, will the following people contact me with their addresses?

Wheels on the Bus

I'm Being Held Hostage


Merry Christmas, all!

Friday, December 21, 2007

Sasquatch Lives

So I was visiting a blog I really enjoy reading yesterday and she extolled the virtues of her new Telly Sevalis 'do.

(and like this blogger I will now take a moment to please ask any male members of my family to go away and not visit my blog. Thank you.)

You know what I'm talking about, no? She got herself a Brazilian in anticipation of reuniting with her husband. A Brazilian renders you completely hairless down there. You must employ someone other than your obgyn to smear hot wax anywhere there may be hair. And you can't just lay there. You have to lift your legs and contort. And stuff.

See, I guess I'm old. And too attached to being a mammal.

For example, we have hair on our heads to protect our brain and keep us warm. The same can be said for men's nether regions. The day I see Bob pour molten wax on his 'nads to be pretty for me is maybe the day I take a lady Schick to the rain forest in my underwear. Maybe.

Maybe I'm intimidated by the task at hand. It is said that your clothes actually fit better. At first I guffawed, because come on. How much hair do you have that your clothes would fit differently if it were suddenly waxed off?


I just can't imagine what kind of power tool would do the job.

So for those of you who are young and smooth and wear thongs as a regular way of life: hat's off. But only for a moment, because aren't you cold?

Does anyone wear Hanes for Her cotton underwear anymore or am I living in the dark ages?

p.s. Don't forget to stop by for your chance to win some books (yes, I have two: one funny and one really good one) and tea. Just come out and say hi by Sunday.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Philanthropy Thursday

This month is such a hectic month. Full of joy, but also full of stress. December marks the holidays, and also the half-way point in school for us moms.

We've been busy.

Driving, planning, shopping, cooking, feeding, cleaning, working, mailing, helping, yelling and just trying to get it all done.

So moms, today's Philanthropy Thursday is for you.

Just drop by the blog and say hi sometime this week and by Sunday I'll draw one of your names and send you a book and some tea so YOU can unwind. I would add a fifth of vodka in there, but the mailing laws get a little sticky (Lawyer Mama am I right?).

Stay sane and enjoy the holiday break.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Coookies and An Announcement

Light posting today.

I'm hosting a neighborhood/book club cookie exchange tonight and I'm still baking. I hope everyone's Wednesday is wonderful.


Even though I probably shouldn't have posted the last post because I wrote in in frustration and after a glass of wine (a big glass) I wanted to THANK all of you for making me feel supported and understood.

Being understood is great.


Announcement time: I have been a contracted writer for these people for a while now, but they kept delaying their site re-launch...but now that the check is on the way I'd like to point you parents over to the Nickelodeon website, Parents Connect. I'm writing for them in their preteen department, under the "spills." It's a great site for parents of kids of all ages...

Monday, December 17, 2007

Misunderstood and Miserable

I HATE being misunderstood. Hell, who doesn't?

But I think I have an actual phobia.

It goes back to fourth grade. This girl, Jamie, (her real name, and if I could remember her last name, I would write it here - I would put the little snot's social security here if I had it) accused me of taking a pair of her earrings from her house during a sleepover.

I didn't take the earrings.

The entire fourth grade, egged on by Jamie, thought I did. She wrote me nasty notes. My parents found the notes in my backpack and although I denied it as vehemently as I could, I was never convinced in my fourth grade head that they believed me. It ate me alive. The same girl, with some of her sycophants, later made prank telephone calls and told the people they were calling that they were me. My parents confronted me, and I remember being too shocked to say much. I remember thinking, why would I tell the person I pranked who I was? What am I, stupid?

So, I have a real achilles heal with things like this.

Today, one of my close friends, P., called me from her art gallery. We were chatting, and she said, "Guess who's here with me today?"

I couldn't guess, and she said it was S., a mutual friend of ours. I shrieked in my non-subtle way and joked about how jealous I was that I couldn't work at her gallery, too, with Jack on my back. I joked that Jack was my "seeing eye toddler" and she laughed. We talked about other things, then hung up.

Later, S. called me. (she doesn't read this website, but I want to be careful regardless)

"Hey, girl! What's up?"

"Why aren't you happy for me that I'm working at P.'s gallery?"

"Ha, hah! Really, what's up?"


"S., are you kidding?"

"Do I sound like I'm laughing?"

To make a story short and less pathetic, she thought that I was unhappy she was working with P. She thought I was angry that she had "my job" and that I wasn't happy for her. She was pissed. She hung up on me.

Oh. My. Gah.

This is so far from reality it is comical. I love P. but I wouldn't ever work for her while I have a baby. I know that this wouldn't work out. I just love my friends' company and want to be around them. P. knows this. We have an honest rapport, and S. is a little newer to our "group." I think she's really sensitive, but this just kills me. I am fiercely loyal to my friends, and the fact that she even thought I was capable of pettiness with my "peeps" indicated to me that she didn't quite know me well enough to be in my inner circle. I was devastated. I am devastated.

I left long stalker messages on both her machines telling her I was thrilled she decided to go back to work, that she must have some how crossed some wires in her interpretation of my dorky comments, that maybe P. didn't explain to her how much I was kidding, what have you. I was pathetic.

Then I called P. who swears she laughed when she hung up with me and joked with S. She said S. seemed a little miffed, but P. assured her I was teasing, that I wasn't actually jealous of her having the job, just that I wished I could be there with the two of them. I believe her.

So eventually S. called me back. She forgave me. Which of course eats me up even more, since there is NOTHING to forgive.

This whole thing stinks.

Wiggy Wiggy Wha?

My girls are members of a dance company. Chloe is a modern/lyrical dancer and Maddie took a liking to hip hop over a year ago and hasn't looked back.

Her team is actually really good and has traveled to other states, won competitions, and even performed at Disneyland. It's not their talent that makes me giggle.

It's that the team is comprised almost entirely of really white over-privileged girls with names like Maddie, Britney, Kelsey, etc.

They are so gangsta.

They come on stage in their baggy hip hop gear, hair in low pigtails, bangs drawn over one eye, heads cocked in a "don't mess with me, yo" way, and they knock it out to songs like Lean Like a Cholo, or Fuego ("you think you're gangsta cuz you did time...") or anything by Kanye West.

And again, they are really, really good. But I can't help but wonder about the kids who all started the hip hop movement, the ones living on the streets, or the projects. I think about the kids for whom "hood" means the place where they live that may have the occasional drive-by rather than the pale pink Ambercrombie and Fitch hoodie they wear over their private school uniform. Even though that's against uniform policy. Badasses.

The parents in this dance company pay ridiculous sums of money to let their baby girls writhe and shake and they even send them to dance conventions where former Emmy winning choreographers turned C listers teach these adolescents how to give authentic 'tude on the stage.

Can you hear the girls back at the hotel whining to their moms that they thought Beyonce's choreographer was going to be there? The same girls who aren't even in high school yet and who have a Starbucks habit and actually know what Juicy Couture is?

My girls recently made the company this month, after a lot of time taking dance lessons and I am so on the fence. I see the enormous pride in their eyes over having beat other kids out for a spot on the teams, and yet I wonder if by crossing over to the "other side" we won't be able to get back again.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

The Chafing of the Nuts - 16 Years of the Nutcracker

Every Christmas since my sophomore year in college has seen us at the Nutcracker.

Every. Christmas.

By the time Bob and I had been married for two years, he had had enough. The last time we saw the Nutcracker as a married couple with no kids (oh, the blessed D.I.N.K. years) he fell asleep before Clara did and was snoring loudly by the time the Sugarplum Fairy made her appearance. I remember being so angry with him, and we had one of those fights that D.I.N.K.s have - you know, stupid fights where you argue in the taxi all the way home to no responsibilities other than your cat and we made up in the morning, after we had slept in and got ready for brunch with friends.

Excuse me while I go sob gently in the corner for a moment and carve out my uterus with a rusty knife. Oh, all the rusty knives are somewhere outside buried 'neath the tree house, you say? Damn kids.

Anyway, when the girls were little, Nutcracker time was really special for me them. I got to pretend they were the type of little girls who regularly donned crinoline and bows and played tea party with me, rather than the Lord of the Flies -esque ruffians who liked to dig shallow graves for neighborhood children who displeased them.

This year, after Christmas shopping for items like night-vision goggles and duct tape, I took the girls out to The Nutcracker as is our custom.

Me: [clapping hands together] Oh, don't you girls look beautiful! Honey, take a picture!

Maddie: I am way overdressed mom. Can I wear jeans?

Chloe: I like wearing my dress mom. In fact, I love it [snarky look at sister].

Later, at the theater...

Me: [attempting to hold their hands, which keep slipping out of mine in between bouts of heavy sighing and hissed whispering of Moooom, not here, okay!] Sniff, this is just so special, girls. I want you to know I treasure these moments, where it's just the three of us, and we're having...

Maddie: Oh my God! It's Hannah and Leah! They will think I am such a dork for wearing this dress! [slinks down in seat and zips up parka over head]

Chloe: Hannah! Leah! Over here!

Me: You look beautiful! No one in this small town dresses up for anything anymore, I say let's set the bar higher, ladies!

Maddie: [muffled, under parka] I am so embarassed. This is so lame.

Chloe: Mom, Maddie has hair in her armpits.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Ask The Wrinkle-Rexic

It's that time again! Time where you can ask me what troubles you with your moisturizer, what ails you with your exfoliation routine, and how are you going to smooth out that cellulite in time for your Christmas party (you can't, really, but I have a great temporary solution if anyone is interested).

I'll be checking in sporadically today, so be patient. You ask a question, it will get answered. I just may be at the post office for a while.

Today I thought I'd focus a lot on natural products for your skin, especially things that may be in your kitchen cupboard already, waiting to be smoothed on under your eyes, or feet, or thighs.

So, let's get started, shall we?

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Philanthropy Thursday

Please go over to Bossy's site and send her daughter warm healing prayers. Her beautiful girl had her smile literally ripped off her face by a vicious dog.

I believe in the power of prayer, so let's send the healing vibes back East to Bossy and Daisy.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

These People, They Get Me. They Really Get Me

p.s. My Green Living column is up over at Smart Mama...would you check it out?

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Another Snow Day. Yay?

Yeah, the kids are thrilled. I have to be honest here and tell you they are cramping my style. I need the time when the baby naps to sew Christmas bags, pack up Christmas boxes, and go over the list of what is still yet to be done.

I realized yesterday that on a typical day I am never alone. Those moms who have kids in school all day are in a club I won't be eligible for at least three more years. Four if Jack's kindergarten is half-day like Jacob's.

I have started sprinkling Ortho-Novum on my breakfast cereal. If I don't stop breeding I will die with someone velcro-ed to my leg.

I am in a whiny place this morning, so keep moving if you're not wanting some self-pity along with your morning coffee and blog reading.

The problem with having all the kids home all day is that they just don't do anything according to plan. I had the baked gingerbread men all cooled and on the counter yesterday ready for them to decorate and they decided they wanted to bicker and argue over who got the first dog-ride in the toboggan. Or over who breathed louder. Or which kid was my favorite. I am very big on having a favorite kid of the day. It keeps the others in line. You never know when lady luck will shine on you at my house.

So. Today? I am contemplating just leaving them to their own devices while I sled into town and mail packages to relatives on my husband's side of the family. Which reminds me, I need to let him know what he got everyone.

It also reminds me of my Christmas list. I never make one, only because hello, I'm the Mom. Moms are supposed to be Christmas. Anyway, this year I got selfish. I handed the list to Bob and he visibly blanched.

"I, I don't think I can pull this off, Jen," he stammered. "Don't you want a shiny new car, or a little somethin' somethin' from Tiffanys?"

I stood firm. "No. It is this list, in its entirety or nothing at all."

Here is my list:

Replace the toilet seat on Chloe's toilet. It has needed it for the past 18 months.
Caulk and paint over any holes or divots in the kids' walls.
Ditto for exterior issues.
Fix the hinge on the front coat closet door.
Install lights under the kitchen cabinets.
Finish installing the remainder of the handles/knobs in kitchen
Repair picture frame in stairwell that babysitter broke
Take the garbage out

Monday, December 10, 2007

Snow Day

The kids are ecstatic, gleefully bouncing about the house like carbonation.

Why are they never this eager to wake on a regular day? ;)

Our poor dog is being readied to strap on her harness and skijorr our field. Only they don't have cross-country skis, so they are sitting in the toboggan and being pulled around. I am only moderately okay with this. Too many trees + a very strong German Shepherd = head injury.

Bob was so excited about the snow last night that he made me come outside while I was getting the kids ready for bed and sit in the toboggan and let Ella pull me around to see how much weight she could haul.

That's right. She can pull 95 pounds.

Shut up.
editor's note: I really do not weigh 95 pounds, people. That was a joke. I am adding this because I generally do not like people who starve themselves into pubescence and I want you all to like me.
My real weight is 100 pounds.

Friday, December 07, 2007

The Golden Compass Debates: This Christian Woman Can't Wait to Go

Alrighty. I already have something up for today, but I had to write this, as I just received maybe the fourth or fifth email from "concerned" people who want me to teach my children about censorship and fear.

A lot of people have their panties in a bunch over the Golden Compass and it is driving me nuts.

If your belief in your faith and your God is so strong, how is a movie going to shatter your reality? Are you wanting to teach your children that anything different from your small paradigm is to be feared, reviled, and boycotted or censored?

Fear-based hysteria shaped a lot of people's views on the Harry Potter books and movies. Those books are such a wealth of creativity and an impetus for reading with children previously reticent to read that after the broo ha ha has died down, it all seems a bit silly, no?

Teaching your children to think for themselves, to stay strong in their convictions in the face of oppositional forces is certainly healthier than teaching them to be afraid.

I want my children to believe and let others believe what they will. We cannot change others, but we can certainly change ourselves. The sooner my kids learn that one, the happier they are going to be.

Should we waste our time passing judgment, perpetrating fear, loathing, and nonacceptance?

Or should we try to peacefully go about our lives?

We can't wait to see The Golden Compass this weekend, and I suppose if some movie changes my convictions, my beliefs weren't that strong to begin with.

I am so tired of the bashing of other human's beliefs that seems to be still acceptable these days.

Tree Trimming and Snow Prep

We've got a storm coming, and I have a bare pantry. So....I will be preparing the hatches for weather today. For all of you on the coasts who have been suffering through the crazy weather, I hope all is well.

We plan on braving the elements tonight and doing the town's First Friday art activities. There will be a chili feed, which is not only free dinner, kids! but cozy and delightful sounding as long as there are not gale force winds. If there are, we're doing pizza and staying home.

Stay safe, have a great weekend, and enjoy your kids.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Philanthropy Thursday

Even people who don't normally give back to their community tend to change their stripes during December. It's amazing how many bell ringers, volunteer gift wrappers, or soup kitchen helpers are out there this time of year. It's wonderful to see.

What would our world be like if that level of community spirit were carried through all year? If we planned on sponsoring hungry families in April, or held swimsuit drives in July so all children could have a nice suit to swim in during the heat?

One way we can affect a sea change is through our kids. When I was growing up, holidays were all about yours truly. How many presents were under the tree for me? Did Santa get my revised list? I didn't really start to change until my own child was born, which is when I was snapped out of my own little world and forced to be a lot of things I hadn't been growing up.

When my kids were younger, Christmas was for them much the same it was for me: all about the stuff. Now, with the oldest three, it can be so much more than that. They've always been taught the religious reason for the season, and Christmas Eve sees our family in church advertising the many reasons why four kids isn't always the smartest idea (Jacob melts, literally starts to dissipate when forced to wear "handsome" clothes. Dress shirts have been known to sear his skin on contact and his behavior usually reflects this). But the lesson of giving in December has been somewhat downplayed, only because I wanted them to think about it all year, too. And because they were babies.

I think if I can get my kids to see that Christmas is about giving, during the most kid-centric time of year, then it may just seep into them year-round.

This year, we've taken a play on the 12 Days of Christmas and cut out 12 trees. On each tree, we wrote something we wanted to do as opposed to buy for Christmas. At least four of the trees had to make other people feel special, and this has replaced the laundry list of presents they want for themselves. They're aware that Santa will still make the rounds at Casa Get in the Car, but what surprised me was their willingness, even excitement, to do this.

Some of the activities:

make fudge (see pic)
collect all spare change in house (we have those big crayon banks everywhere) and cash in to buy canned food for food bank.
Go caroling
make cookies and drive around giving them away to friends and family
Volunteer at food bank
Go to the movies as a family

You all probably do this stuff anyway - what is neat to realize (sometimes putting things to paper is all we need) is that all we really need at the holidays is to be happy, which rarely involves things. The togetherness and pulling together as a family and community are what make December extra special.
I would love to know what you all do during the holidays - we would love more ideas, and I think it becomes contagious!
ps If you're looking for a learning activity for your k-2 child, I just reviewed a wonderful tool....

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Wordless Wednesday

We have the stomach flu making its rounds over here through the kids.

You say you don't want a photo of that?

Okay, then.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007


Jack still isn't walking.

He is making huge strides (heh) with his "cruising", and even scoots around on the floor now and again. You should also know that he's never crawled. Common enough, I've learned, for kids who were intubated and on oxygen as long as he was.

Most importantly though, he is now totally just "one of the kids" and interacts with everyone like any other 16 month old. He even antagonizes his siblings whenever possible, which shows that he really is one of our kids. He pulls hair, grabs, and shrieks with the best of them. In fact, I am certain I suffer from a shattered eardrum, courtesy of me not getting to the sippy cup quickly enough.

Well-behaved children make me think "hospital switch." My kids are all definitely from the same gene pool. A little shallow, yeah, but with the good toys.

Monday, December 03, 2007

November Recovering

What a month.

Writing most of a novel (I am still going strong, with maybe a week left of writing before the editing process), a trip back East to visit my friend, Thanksgiving, and all the school/kid/family stuff sandwiched in between.

I have learned something about myself - I am only able to do one "big" thing at a time. The blogging? Pretty big thing. I spend a lot of time at other people's sites, reading, commenting, linking. It's fun, but a part-time job. Then when I ditched it last month to write something else, I was left feeling a lot more fulfilled, but missing my bloggy friends.

As I look ahead to this month, full of parties and appointments and obligations (see pic from first holiday part-ay of the month), I am wondering how some of you manage to do it all and still maintain your blogging ties. Because I am selfish, I know I'll find the time to write. Because I'm a mom, I'll be spray-painting walnut ornaments, volunteering in class, and clapping at dance recitals. But everything else? Hmmmm.

Have a great Monday, the first in the craziest month of the year. As for me, I'm buckling in and getting ready to white knuckle it until January...

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

We Didn't Cook This Turkey...

Although it nearly cooked us. I ended up making a teeny tiny 20 pounder, baked it in a cooking bag with orzo and porcini stuffing, and called it a day.

This baby weighed 40 pounds after it had been plucked, etc. As you can see from this picture, it wasn't quite plucked yet.

There is no possible way I could have shoved it into my oven, without the aid of a chainsaw.
I have never been so happy for a bland, Butterball, cook-it-in-a bag store bought bird in all my life.
I would make a lousy pioneer woman.
p.s. if you need a great book idea for a girl on your Christmas list, check out the review blog for a wonderful book.

Monday, November 26, 2007

No Mo

I had to make a choice.

No regular, everyday blogging for me for November, a la NaBloPoMo. It was that or NaNoWriMo, and the siren call of No won out.

I haven't totally lost it. I am in the last week of National Novel Writing Month. I have become a recluse. All I think about is when I can next lock myself in the office for six consecutive hours and clack away. I never thought that I would have the stamina or material to write this long, and I remember once reading about a writer who wrote every single day for an hour each day. That seemed to me to be a fantastic feat, something I would likely never achieve. Especially as a mom.

Welcome to my new life, wherein I have a wife house-husband, Bob. He has been doing the vast majority of all things domestic around here for the past month. I think I am going to propose marriage to him when the book is done. I never knew it could be like this - disappear to my work, reappear to pat the kids on the head, play with them, have dinner. Look at Bob meaningfully when they start to act up and disappear again to the office.

This becoming the "husband" has been, quite frankly, my muse.

I am a terribly blogger friend and promise to come out of my shell later today and comment on your blogs. I will be back, I promise.

I'll leave you with an image or two from Thanksgiving. Have a great Monday, all.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Our Turkey Was Walking Around Yesterday...

As we do most every year, Thanksgiving will be at our home. The kids will help me today with the pies and the baking, and we'll spend much of our time readying the house for our guests. One of the families that is spending the holiday at our house is generously supplying our turkey: a large tom that weighed in at forty pounds right before his demise. We are guaranteed that our bird is indeed a free-range organic treat, and I am hoping that at least fifteen of those pounds are feathers, blood, and organs. My oven is a small wall model and I am trying to picture stuffing this bird into my oven...he is on his way right now to the house, and I am trying to stop referring to our dinner with the masculine pronoun. IT is on IT's way, our dinner.

I imagine today is a busy day, with everyone traveling or bustling at home or working a shift and thinking of all that needs to be done after work - so to everyone who has a few minutes to sit at the computer and take a read: stay safe and have a wonderful Thanksgiving.

We truly have so much to be thankful for, and my own cup runneth over with gratitude for my health, my family's health, our happiness, and the abundance of opportunity we have in this country.

Monday, November 19, 2007


How great is it to actually miss your children? I am all for it now and again. Falling into bed, happy for even one evening of "Mommy's home! Squee!"

I know tomorrow we'll be back to normal ;)

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Coffee Tastes Better When You're in New York Without Your Kids

This is from breakfast this morning. We were

barely able to drag ourselves to the darling

cafe for our bagels and coffee after a marathon of

activities in the city yesterday (I know. It's heartbreaking).

Will report when I get home tomorrow night.

I'll post some pictures for now.
We had SO. MUCH. FUN.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Noo Yawk City!

Posting will be light - we're gearing up for some awesomeness in Noo Yawk.

We will be total dorks and plan on eating our H & H bagels in front of Tiffanys. Because we're dorks.

I can't wait - the pee is already starting to dribble down my leg in excitement.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Call In

I called Bob this morning. He's home manning the fort while I am here in Delaware visiting my friend and her family.

Men get all the credit. It's just wrong. Bob had brought Jack into the office for a meeting, and he was in the bullpen of the finance office when a woman asked him, "Why do you have young Master Jack with you today?"

He explained where I was and she stopped, her jaw practically unhinged and on the floor. By this point, several other women had stopped their work to listen (I should add the vast majority of his employees are women).

"You mean to tell me that you are taking care of the four kids by yourself while your wife is away on vacation alone?"

Bob nodded. His sphincter was already tightening for the verbal ass-kicking he knew was inevitable after relaying this exchange to me.

"You are the most awesome husband ever."

Good times. How may times over the course of the years have I gone it alone with the kids? How many have you? For me, it easily adds up to a year. Seriously. How many times has someone stopped me in the store, all four kids in tow, and complimented my multi-tasking prowess? Um, none. How many times do the women at Bob's office practically hump his leg over what a great daddy he is if he brings one of the kids in? Oh, a million.

You just know one of those Bettys are waiting for me to die in a plane crash on the way home.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007


How pathetic is this, that I whine and moan all the time about how I live in my car with my kids, my family drives me ca-razy, if I could only have a vacation, Calgon take me away and the minute Bob arranges for me to have a break I'm all whaaaaaa, my babies.

Somebody hit me upside the head.

The day before yesterday one of the girls' friends came over to play. I had thought the days of my girls playing Spy Club were long behind us, but every now and again, I am reminded that they are both still pretty young. I happen to know they still occasionally play with the dollhouse upstairs, so they're not completely grown yet. Anyway, this friend knocks at the door.

She's wearing large black headphones and carrying a gun-like device. On the end of this device is a plate-sized dish that looks like a satellite dish, it even had a little rod with a ball in the middle.

"Hi, Mrs. M. This is my spy equipment I wanted to show the girls. I just listened to your phone conversation with my mom from across the street, and I know that she's taking you to breakfast on Tuesday."

The times, they are a changing.'

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Vacation Mode

This summer I took this picture at sunset on the beach in Mexico.

I wish I were here right now with the kids, the
sound of the surf pounding, the smell of the ocean, and the feel of a cold glass full of Kristi's fresh lime margarita in my hand.

After the sun set, the kids and I laid back on a hammock in the sand and watched the stars while listening to the waves recede to low tide. It was so dark, and the sky so clear, that we could see the Milky Way. It was heavenly.

Today, I'll be cleaning house and preparing my family, because although we're not headed back to Mexico anytime soon, I am leaving in the morning for Delaware to visit my best friend. For the next six days, Bob will be the PIC (parent in charge) and I will be back east visiting and abiding by my own schedule.

It's kind of like Mexico in my head.

Stay tuned; I'm bringing the laptop with me.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Your Life is Enough

Yesterday I read the many eulogies given at my old classmate's funeral. This excerpt stuck in my heart, and for good reason. It is hard to read of the passing of someone so young and gifted and not think, "Why them? Why are people like me able to flourish and this kind woman, clearly a genius, taken from us?" It also made me spend the better part of yesterday examining my own life. This, I thought, was lovely.

A few weeks ago, at a point where it was clear that she wasnt going to live much longer, she had what she considered to be a revelation from God. For those of you who knew her, Melinda was quite skeptical, and was not in the slightest prone to divine revelations. She heard a quiet voice telling her that “Your life is enough.” “Your life is enough.” She took this to be God telling her that her life was complete. That it was ok that she didn’t have the chance to accomplish everything she wanted to accomplish. That the fact that she could not DO all the things she wanted to DO did not make her life inadequate or meaningless. And she took great comfort in this message from God.

Sunday, November 11, 2007


No stories today. An old friend has died.

She was a lovely, lovely young woman when I knew her. We were on dance team together, we were both editors on our school paper so many years ago. She went on to become an oncologist and was killed by the disease she sought to treat in others.

She was 35.

She was my friend a long time ago.
Here is an excerpt from her obituary:
From the fall of 2005 until just days before her death she was an active contributor to the message board for young woman afflicted with cancer. The comments posted before and after her death speak to the value of her presence to the other women on the board. One said. “I think we all immediately moved towards her post because we knew the tone: always kind, informative, loving, with humor thrown in for good measure. We will truly miss her.” Another said, “I remember posting about a letter someone left me that said “chemo makes tumor spread in MICE,” Melinda replied, “YOU AREN’T A MOUSE.” I read her comment, laughed, turned off my computer and had a great day.”

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Air Force Wife: Competition

This is a part of my ongoing series for the weekends in November to fulfill my selling my soul promise to NaBloPoMo to write every day. Apparently every day means weekends, so here I am. As a bit of brief background, I was an Air Force officer's wife for nearly eight years, and I have lots of stories from that time in my life. Some are hideous, and expose an underbelly to military life that no one likes to talk about. Some are wonderful and highlight some amazing times from my life. All are real, and they are all my story. I hope you enjoy them.

When I was a new officer's wife, I floundered for a long time. I was pulled out of the relative comfort and routine of my civilian life as wife and young mother. Before the Air Force I lived near college friends, family, and a large city that I had chosen to be my home for the rest of my life. I had carefully chosen where we would live for the neighborhood, the house that filled me with such pride, and the schools. As a young woman in my twenties, I had it all figured out.

We moved away twelve years ago and will likely never be back.

After four years of learning, growing, failing and enduring in Idaho, we learned that we could no longer prolong the inevitable. We would have to PCS (remember, this means "to move") to another base. Bob was in a unique position in that he had already been a Captain for some time. Due to that, and his being in the medical field, he was required to take a higher position with a large military hospital.

Where do we have a lot of big military hospitals? The south. We learned that we would be making a major cultural move to a place we had never even visited, much less lived in. We needed to be prepared. The number one thing I did to prepare for this PCS was to change my outlook on military life and turn it on its head. Before, I had done everything I could to pretend I wasn't married to the military. It was Bob's thing, not mine.

But there I was, four years later, a newborn boy and two young girls and we were in this. Good or bad, that was our life at the time. Was I going to waste any more time hating it? Or was I going to throw myself in it and see what would happen? So I struck a deal with Bob: I would be the best damn officer's wife he had never seen. I would do everything the exact opposite way I had done things in Idaho. I would throw myself in heart body and soul into the way of life he had chosen for us. If it worked out, great. If it didn't, we were done. This was no easy bargain for Bob. He had found that he loved the life. He excelled at his job, and won national awards all the time for his work in military hospitals. His former boss became the Deputy Surgeon General for the Air Force. He would go places if he stayed in.

Bob agreed.

When we arrived in Georgia with tiny baby Jacob, Chloe about to enter kindergarten, and Maddie second grade, I knew I had my work cut out for me. We were in the land of beauty pageants, The Junior League, Garden Club, and the nicest Officer's Clubs I had evah laid eyes on. The south has a large military presence, and it wasn't as bizarre a thing compared to out West, where our friends had been baffled at Bob's career choice. They all thought he was throwing away his education and socio-economic status to become Gomer Pyle.

The base we lived on was incredible. It was a city. It employed nearly 30,000 people and is the second largest employer in the entire state of Georgia. There was more than one Officer's neighborhood, in fact there were several and they were all large. As a brief aside, the military segregates the living quarters between officers and enlisted. From a battle perspective, I understood this. But I never could get my mind around the fact that my girlfriend, whose husband was a Chief Master Seargent, couldn't live on the same street as me.

We were given a house on a cul-de-sac in a lovely neighborhood that was thick with trees, gardens, a lake, and the whirring of June bugs cutting through the thick humid air. The first weekend we were there we had invitations to several barbecues and even a renewal of wedding vows. We met people fast. The old me would have been off base, looking for a job. The new, Improved, Best Officer's Wife Ever went to everything. I made friends with literally dozens of women. I joined the OSC. I manically began volunteering.

And when I say manically, I'm not exaggerating. Volunteerism is instilled as a responsibility in active duty personnel. It's basically required to get a promotion (along with a lot of other factors, obviously), and even better? The military keeps track of all volunteering you do. The school where my girls went had a log for volunteers that was carefully monitored. If I baked cookies with my spouses group and brought them to the flight line, it was noted. The time I spent as an event coordinator for the OSC was recorded, as was my service as a Key Spouse, hospital volunteer, and Department of Defense school board member. My outside interests such as the Junior League and the hours I spent off base volunteering in the community also registered. My husband's commander, the chief of medical staff, knew what I was doing. Of course, this time, I was doing it "right." People couldn't say enough to Bob about how I was such a great military wife. His boss took him aside and counseled him to keep doing whatever he was doing, because "women like me" are "force multipliers" in the Air Force. He would go far with his talents, and with someone like me by his side, he would go even further.

Let's just pause for a moment. Does this strike you as weird? Even in the thick of things, and I should point out that although I loved my time in the south, I was constantly amazed that I should have any impact, good or bad, on Bob's career. It was HIS career, not mine. I spent a lot of time alone with Bob laughing and crying over this. If I got a speeding ticket on base? Bob was pulled into his commander's office and counseled. It was that pervasive. You were not a separate entity from your husband. You were a unit, and you were both in the Air Force. that is a lot to swallow for someone like me. I love Bob. I bore the man four children. But I am not so wrapped up in him that I derive my identity as a woman from his job. Just like my fledgling career as a writer does not and never will define Bob, I don't want the same for me.

So. I kept on logging hours, baking cookies, attending meetings, counseling women who had husband's deployed, watching children for people who needed help, and flitting about the base in a constant stream of energy. Bob left for six weeks to attend a training out of state and in his absence I checked in regularly with his "First Shirt" to make sure there weren't things I couldn't be doing. How were deployed families doing? Was there another Key Spouse meeting?

It fast became my career, too.

My inlaws came out for a visit and were stunned at how our life was. At one point, Bob's dad gently told me, "It isn't a competition, Jenny. You need to slow down." A friend of mine, when told this, laughed so hard and so long that she eventually called my father in law back in Oregon and left a message on his machine. Yes it is a competition, she said. You have no idea how fierce it is between some of these wives.

She was right. There is an annual competition in the Air Force for Spouse of the Year. When I learned of this, I knew I had something tangible to pin my sights on. This would be my goal. This would be how I could prove to Bob I was giving life as an Air Force Wife the good old college try.

To be continued....

Friday, November 09, 2007


Some of you may remember Annika, my son's former preschool teacher. Her daughters attend the same school as my kids, and her youngest is in the same room as Jacob. They are good friends, so I am lucky to get to see Annika somewhat regularly.

Of course, I can't do this without giving her a hard time. Annika is one of those women who, were she not so genuine and understated, would incite jealousy and competition. I feel like I am close enough with Annika that I can openly tell her that I'm way jealous of her (in a good way, people). But competitive? Nah.

That is, until the star cookie incident.

Every year, the kindergartners at the kids' school plan a magical lantern walk around a local lake. There are lanterns set around the entire lake, the children spend weeks learning songs, and they all carry lanterns they made themselves. It reminds us how special a Waldorf education can be. A few weeks ago, there was a sign-up for parents who wanted to help with the lantern walk.

I wrote my name on the one of two slots for star cookies and walked away. Then I stopped and walked back and looked at the list again: Annika had taken the other slot.

For those of you who won't click on the Annika link, or just want a little background, Annika is perfect. Well, okay she has one flaw: she doesn't like Hillary Clinton. Other than that, perfect, I tell you! The woman has poreless skin, looks about ten years younger than me (we are the same age), has no extra weight on her frame, and has two beautiful children who would slay you with their charm if you ever met them. She's educated, with a master's in biology, and is currently working on her PhD in her spare time, defined as in between bouts of homemade cider production, constructing something necessary for her home, or helping her kids decipher which species of snake shed its skin in their yard. Worst of all? She's really, really nice. She's understated in a way that kills me. If I had half her talent, I imagine I would be an obnoxious woman, bossing people around and showing off my knowledge left and right. Annika is the type of person who can basically do anything, but would never mention it. And what I love about her the most, is I can tell her she's my Newman (Seinfeld?) and she laughs. It doesn't phase her.

So. The cookies.

I gave the star cookies not another thought until about a week ago. Life is crazy this month, and I am barely keeping all the balls in the air I have going. So when I was grocery shopping, I looked at the box of gingerbread cookie mix and thought, What the hell? and threw it in the cart. It wouldn't kill the kids to have star cookies from a mix.

Then I heard from one woman at the school how she couldn't wait for the lantern walk because Annika's famous star cookies were going to be there. Then another woman, and another. Annika!

Yesterday morning, the day of the lantern walk, Annika called me to see if she could take Jacob for a playdate after school.

"Yes! Thank you! But wait, don't you have to make star cookies?"

"No, they're already made."

"What kind did you make?"

"It's a recipe I have for gingerbread."

Newman! "Thanks, Annika. Now you are forcing my hand. Now I am going to have to use actual ingredients from my cupboards and make something that isn't from a box. You're damn straight you're watching Jacob." (remember, Annika has a great sense of humor. Thank God).

So, I made the most simple but delicious cookie I could think of: Scottish shortbread. I drizzled them with chocolate and set them in a basket. It took me all day. I wasn't going to go the extra mile with the chocolate, but then I pictured Annika grinding her cloves and nutmeg with a mortar and pestle in her sun drenched kitchen. I melted the chocolate.

I am even more behind on the writing, and will have to post the promised pictures later in the day today. You could say I was sidelined.

Last night, at the lantern walk, Annika sidled up to me. "So, where are these cookies?" she said in her German accent, which was perfect for the occasion.

"Over here, Annika, over here. Give them a try. Oh, I'll have one of your famous cookies, too."

I did. Hers were divine.

But so were mine. We both had a good giggle and went on our way around the lake.



Here is the recipe (also in comments)

1 cup butter, softened

1 cup granulated sugar

3 cups flour

dash salt

cream butter and sugar. Add 2.5 cups of flour slowly. Use remaining flour to roll dough out on. You will have to pat and smooth the dough as it is a "short" dough and will flake and crumble. Get it to about 1/4" thick and cut out.Bake at 275 (really!) for 40-45 minutes until almost golden brown. But still mostly cream-colored.I melted a dark chocolate bar and poured it in a bag, snipped a tiny tip of the bag and drizzled over the cookies.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Philanthropy Thursday Holding

I am going to have to take a break from anything serious for the month of November. NaNoBloPoMo isn't breaking me, it's NaNoWriMo that's snapping me like a twig. Like a dry, brittle stick that can't get over a plot twist and move past 12,000 words. My back is literally aching with hours of writing each day. The dog hair accumulating in the corners of the wood floors is astounding; I am considering knitting a sweater from all the animal hair that collects in my home during November and raffling it off.

I was going to write today about politics and getting involved locally no matter your affiliation, but, I'm. Just. Out. Of. Thoughts. If you have any, any at all, please give me some of yours today. I beg of you.

Later today, I will post some pictures after I get them developed from the instant camera we used on Sunday. The entire family came out to our town's mock Democratic Convention and supported our candidate and learned a little something about the process of nominating a Presidential candidate. A lot of people in this small town assume that Bob is a staunch conservative, probably because he wears a suit? I don't know. People assume we both are, actually, and I suppose it's the large family thing...I have to think about that one when I have more than one functioning dendrite.

Anyway, a woman who works with my husband watched him pull into the hospital parking lot the other day and her mouth literally fell open as he stepped out of his battered Volvo. She said nothing, but pointed at his bumper (which had a sticker affixed) and then looked at him and screeched, "Hillary??"

I have pics of the whole fam decked out in Hillary buttons and t-shirts as we worked to support her last weekend. Come on back if you'd like and see the men in my life supporting Hillary Clinton for President.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Making Statements With My Slacking

I have been doing laundry for other people for almost fifteen years. It can wear on a woman. For the last couple of years I have been a lazy sock woman, in that I have a large bin in my laundry room where all the clean socks go and I throw them in there. It's up to the kids to find socks each day.

Bob somehow manages to keep his dress socks intact and in the armoire upstairs (and this irritates me, his ability to selectively match only his socks) but everyone else is usually stuck wearing mismatched socks. It's just one of our weirdnesses.

My good friend, Just Seeking, has pointed this out to me before. It cracks her up that to a person (again, Bob is exempt) we're the family who looks great from the ankles up, but we're sad sacks if you judge us by our feet.

The only time this has bothered me was when I was watching Jacob play on the playground, and as he crawled along the play equipment, I noticed that he was wearing one white lacy ankle sock of his sister's and one large adult-sized tube sock. I went to Target that day and loaded up on fresh matching socks.

It doesn't last long, no matter how many trips to Target or Old Navy I take. Someone invariably takes a sock off, oh, say in Egypt, and one off in the car. They are never to be matched again.

For years, my oldest daughter, Maddie, has always struggled socially in school. She was the first grader who was in character as a T-Rex all day while her co-horts were playing jump-rope or planning sleepovers. For a long time, she lived in her imagination and could have cared less about the boring ways the popular girls conducted themselves at school.

In the past couple of years, this has all changed. Maddie is a superstar with her junior high peers. Unfortunately, I liken this to the poor trailer trash family who suddenly wins Powerball and can't manage their money, but that's another story.

I was talking with a mom of one of Maddie's classmates the other day and she told me a story. She said recently her daughter, a quiet girl who is well-liked but on the fringes of the class, has been coming to breakfast each day wearing mismatched socks.

"Meagan," she asked. "Go back upstairs and put on matching socks. Why do you keep doing this?"

"Mom! Don't you know anything? Maddie M. wears her socks like this and she's cool. This is how they do it now."

Who knew, my ineptitude as a laundress has been spun into social gold by my offspring.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Ask The Wrinkle-Rexic

I am currently in a 1600 word deficit with NaNoWriMo, so today I will be brief.

In the past week or so I have had several conversations on the phone, in person, and even a couple over the emails with fellow bloggers about skincare. I felt a little like Karnack the Magician with my cousin yesterday. I was going over her current regimen, bossing her around suggesting a new one, when she suddenly blurted out, "Jen! Why is my skin so much worse on one side than the other? Seriously, it's visibly worse."

"It's obviously your left side," I intoned, adjusting my magic robe and turban. She gasped.

"How did you know that?" I paused, holding back a giggle. Everyone knows that. Everyone with serious issues about skincare and an unhealthy obsession with products. Gheesh. But my cousin, she challenged me further.

"Jen. I don't want to spent a wad of money on this. Christmas is coming. I want advice that isn't going to bankrupt me." Ooh. She had thrown down the gauntlet with her challenge. It's easy to have great skin if you're willing to spend what it takes. But creatively managing your regime while on a budget? That takes thinking, friends.

So hit me up! Challenge me! Today is Ask the Wrinkle-rexic day! I'll be holed up at the computer as much as humanly possible while I get back in black with my word count. Please, this is the only pleasure I'll be partaking of today.

Give me your tired, your baggy, your un-exfoliated woes!

Monday, November 05, 2007

Breaking News

AP - In a shocking twist in the investigation to uncover the true identity of the author Get in the Car! reporters have unearthed facts more disturbing than the initial allegations.

Reporters first learned of the suspicion that Get in the Car! was actually penned by a 46 year old man when anonymous tips rolled into our office. Posts like this made readers suspect that a mother of four would not actually be this gross. Additionally, posts like this confirmed in the minds for many readers that fraud was afoot.

"Sane women don't go around wondering would it would be like to pose for Playboy after having had four kids. It's just, well, weird," said a source close to the blog.

"She uses words like 'vagina' or 'labia' way too much, and she curses like a trucker sometimes. Ladies don't do that. We all know this is the work of a perverted mind. Obviously it's some guy living in his mom's basement," replied another concerned citizen who asked only to be identified as Joan.

This fledgling reporter has stunning news. In a bizarre series of anonymous tips, many of which were telephone messages with the sounds of screaming children in the background, the author of this blog has been found. Unfortunately, due to her participation in NaBloPoMo and NaNoWriMo for November, she has been rendered mute.

Here is a transcript of our encounter:

Reporter: Is it true that you are not speaking today because you have simply run out of words due to your participation in NaBloPoMo and NaNoWriMo?

Author: Bzhhmmm.

Reporter: Do you think it somewhat presumptuous to think that you can come up with a minimum of 50,000 words by November 30? Are you aware that the average novel is 70,000 words long?

Author: Hmmmmmfthhh.

Reporter: Can we assume that you will be ready to speak to the press about your absurd blog entries after the month of November has passed?

Author: Jghhhh.....

This post is a part of Painted Maypole's Monday accept, go over and read her rules....

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Air Force Wife: Failure

Hello again. It's Sunday morning and I'm here blogging. Yawn. Good grief I didn't realize how much I liked my weekend breaks from blogging. So, in case you've just stumbled over here, I have joined the NaBloPoMo cult and we're blogging every day in November. For the weekends, I'll be blogging about what it was like for me as an Air Force Wife. Because as scintillating as my account of laundry day may be to some, I would like at least two readers for the weekend stuff.

I was a really bad Officer's wife at first. Like I said, I thought the whole Debra Winger/Richard Gere scenario was overly played out and certainly not my fantasy.

I remember early on at the first Air Base we were ever stationed at. It was a requirement for us to live on base in officer housing as opposed to in a home in the surrounding town. Not that the surrounding town, Mountain Home Idaho, had homes of any merit to offer. It was a one stoplight town. And you couldn't see the mountains. As a hospital administrator, we needed to live within five minutes of the hospital. We had just moved away from our beautiful new home in Vancouver, Washington, with rivers, parks, and forests a stone's throw from my front door. I was so proud of this house, the home that we made to bring our two girls into the world. Now, I was shuttling my babies to a post World War II track home on a dusty air base in the middle of the desert in Idaho. As we drove onto base for the first time I caught sight of a small but lovely colonial home. The shutters had been painted green, the yard was nice, and the surrounding homes looked similar. Whew. "Okay, Bob. Maybe I won't go totally postal here, at least the housing is nice. "

Nice for the colonels and generals. It was their homes I was admiring. As a junior officer we got to live in one half of an attached unit that was like two railroad cars laid end-to end. Each house had tiny windows cut high on the wall in each room, and the entire home was floored in old, yellowing linoleum. There had to be forty years of grime in the corners of each room, and it really was like living in a railroad car. Small kitchen/laundry room at one end, walk through to the living room/dining area, then down a tube-like hall with three bedrooms and an aqua-colored bathroom. It was an impossible design, made worse by aesthetics that suggested a Sergeant had designed it so that its owners could hose it down once a month for a good cleaning. In fact, I remember a relative visiting (many did over the course of our stay there) and she was so shocked at how my home looked that she blamed me. Oh yeah, good times. Because I drew up the plans for the house and then imported scads of desert dust to sweep in each day through the cracks in the windows. I remember being scolded for not cleaning under my refrigerator, or the disapproving hmms over my lack of window treatments. How could I explain that I couldn't bear to cover the tiny windows and impede any more light from coming in? That I was at the end of my emotional rope and that my daily dose of Idaho sunshine was the only thing keeping me from sinking into a deep depression and simply running away from a lifestyle I did not choose?

After a couple of months of feeling vury, vurrrry sorry for myself, I started to dig out. I was confounded by the wives that lived in my neighborhood, however, and I knew that what was working for them would not work for me. To my left was a neophyte bride who was married to a fighter pilot. She spent her days at home, waking at the crack of dawn to drive to the flight line and bring her husband breakfast. Then back at the end of the day when he had finished his sortie (flight) for some more refreshments. She and the other pilots' wives would dress up in their spouses' flight suits and practice silly cheers in the neighborhood park, so that they might perform for the men. They congregated separately, and also at the Officers Wives Club (now the more politically correct OSC for Officer's Spouse Club). I remember telling my neighbor that we were just in the Air Force for a few years so that my husband could get a lot of condensed, intense hospital experience and then take it back to the civilian world. You don't say that to most officer's wives. They are in it for the long haul, the brass ring being a full-bird colonel at minimum, maybe even a one star and the presidency of the Officer's Wives Club. You wore your husband's rank as proudly as he did, and to indicate a separateness from that was akin to high treason.

Then there was the "older" wife a few doors down. She was roughly my age now, somewhere between late thirties to forty, and she had - GASP - four children. I looked upon her as one might a specimen in a petri dish that has grown totally out of control. She was always neat, with a pressed campshirt and capris, and her four kids were mini doppelgangers for her and her husband. Buzz cuts for the boys, sensible bobs for the young girls. She was always busy, coming and going in her mini-van, unloading groceries and sports supplies, cooking or gardening. I could never understand why these women gardened in the homes that were so temporarily theirs. It wouldn't be until much later that I would learn to make the most of my present moment and not dwell on the negative.

The rest of Gunfighter Manor (the name of my new subdivision, as opposed to the old one: Fisher's Landing) was filled with women who, to a person, were members of the OWC and stayed home. Most had children, although there were several who did not. It didn't matter: Officer's Wives did not work. The enlisted side of the house, the vast majority of any branch of the military, had wives that worked. But not the officers.

So I went back to work.

First, I started volunteering. I took cases in the local town and cases from the nearest (and only big town in Idaho) city, Boise. I did home visits and case studies for children who were in protective custody so that I could help make a court recommendation for their living placement. To see all these children who had it so much worse than me, who needed a train-wreck like myself to help decide what would be best for them helped kick me out of my fog. I started to smile again. I placed my baby girls in pre-preschool offered by the base, and accepted the help of the base Chaplain's wife for their care when I needed to be gone. I was in no position to be a good mother to them, at home full time. I was saving my life.

Then I took a job in Boise, an hour and a half away, at a local women's shelter. I worked two fifteen hour shifts during the work week (5:00 pm - 8:00 am, so Bob was home with them) and then often all day Saturday or Sunday. I was on the mend. I was finding a purpose, and I was not feeling so out of control. Meanwhile, everyone in Gunfighter Manor had noticed.

Bob was approached at the hospital by the Chaplain. "Is everything okay at home? We hear that Jennifer has been working. Are their financial problems? How can we help?" In other words, what the feck is your wife doing having a life of her own and not supporting your career. This is the Air Force, dammit, and it is all about YOU.

A full-bird colonel's wife gently counseled me. It was my duty, she explained, to help raise Bob up so that he might fully do his job, to honor his rank and his mission to serve God and Country. Years later, after doing that very thing, I would receive an official commendation from the Chief of Medical Staff as being a "force multiplier" in Bob's career. But at that moment, I was finding myself and carving out something that I could say was mine, not something that I was dragged into. It furthered my rebellion, and I never went to any of the wives functions, never socialized with them, didn't attend any official base functions outside of Christmas, and basically solidified my position as pariah.

After a time, I applied for and won a coveted job at the Boise District Attorney's office in adult felony crimes. It was a full-time job, it paid well, and it meant extraordinarily long days with the commute. I enrolled the girls in the best private preschool in Boise I could find, and began my separation from Mountain Home. Soon after accepting the job, Bob and I were at the Officer's Club for a Christmas party and my beeper went off. I would need to leave to accompany a rape victim to the hospital. All the men at the table scrambled for their belts, who's beeper was it? I held up mine and said, "No worries, it's mine. Go back to your party." These men were dumbstruck. What the hell did I have a beeper for? Was my turkey done at home? The women either didn't look at me or looked at me with obvious scorn. Bad wife, their eyes said. I looked back at them, with their embroidered Christmas sweaters and their charm bracelets with charms indicating their husband's squadron (a silver flying eagle, or a plane, or the Air Force insignia) and shot them my own look right back: Spineless Sheep.

My final act as a bad Air Force Wife happened when Bob was TDY in Washington, D.C. I was on a lunch break at work and had decided to take a run through the tree-lined streets of the historic neighborhood close to downtown. I ran by a house that took my breath away. A house I had seen in my mind since I was a little girl. Turn of the century Victorian with relatively clean lines, beautiful yard, picket fence, lush trees, and on a street close to schools, markets, and town. It was for sale.

I bought the house.

After that, Bob was the one with the hellacious commute. I made Bob petition Washington, D.C. to extend his tour in Idaho so that I could continue my work. He was told it was career suicide. He did it anyway (and went on to win hospital administrator of the year some years later, regardless of the omen) and we spent our remaining time in Idaho in a happier state.

All because I was a bad Officer's Wife.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Air Force Wife: The Jewelry Party

I've joined that cult of people who, with NaBloPoMo, are vowing to post every day for the month of November. I will be posting stories about life as an Air Force Wife all month long. For seven long enjoyable years Bob was in the Medical Service Corps as an Air Force Officer. He loved it. I barely survived. Enjoy tales of my pain for the month of November.

For seven and a half years of my young adult life, I was an Air Force Officer's Wife. It wasn't by choice. I had no illusions of playing out a Debra Winger/Richard Gere An Officer and a Gentleman fantasy. No, I met my husband in college, and when we married, I was finishing my bachelor's degree, he his master's and we were well on our way to corporate bliss in the city, followed by suburban bliss in a planned neighborhood with a few kids. Maybe even a gated neighborhood if we played our cards right.

I got my gated neighborhood, only there were young men in fatigues with M-16s at the gate. The story of how we ended up as a military family is a long one, and one that will not be told today. That will take some red wine and an evening holed up in my office to relay, but by the end of the month I will. Today I will share with you a story of when we were stationed in the deep south. It was lovely, it was terrible, and it was one of the most memorable places we have ever lived. We sucked the juice out of that experience, and hopefully I have some left to go with the pith....

The south was a captivating place for me. It wasn't just all that catfish, or sultry, lightnin’ bug infused nights. It wasn't the novelty of looking at a place through Yankee-colored glasses and learning that the Civil War is still high on the minds of many Americans. It was many things, heightened by the fact that while in the south we lived in Officer housing on a large Air Force base.

It was also the parties.

If you live on an Air Force base, I don't care if you're stationed in Guam or Minot, North Dakota, you will be invited to a Stampin’ UP!, Pampered Chef, or Creative Memories party within about 4.7 seconds of your arrival. Before we PCS'd (that means "moved" in military-ese) to the south, we had lived at another base in Idaho where I had assiduously avoided all parties. I was above those, you know. And I also failed miserably at assimilating into Air Force culture because of my reticence in becoming a military spouse (yet another story, my failure to be a good Officer's Wife). So, after a few too many episodes of Dr. Phil and his incessant asking, "how's that working for you?" I decided to throw myself full throttle into Air Force life. And that included attending the parties.

It started one hot August morning. We had just arrived at the base, we still had moving boxes lining our halls and we still got lost on the way to the commissary or the BX. Then my pale pink invitation to the “Premiere Designs, Inc” party arrived in the mail. It was to be hosted by a nearby Colonel's wife and the instructions were clear: “Wear solid colors, NO JEWELRY and a smile!”

I gritted my teeth. I was going to be a good officer's wife, dammit, so I RSVP'd yes.

I will wow them all with my fresh, Western approach to life and fashion, I thought. I’ll dress in some cute khaki shorts, a Nike T-shirt and those great Teva sandals I picked up in Seattle. So my toes had three different colors of chipped polish. Big deal. They would instantly see my devotion to my daughters, who clearly have a creative streak (my youngest tried to paint a cat on my big toenail, and so what if it only looks like a bad case of fungus? They’ll only see what an accommodating mom I am). I’ll bring a bottle of champagne and some orange juice and my new friends and I will have mimosas! And we’ll buy jewelry! And they’ll tell me how cute my western accent sounds! And even if they don’t, I’ll be without my children for at least two hours. The sounds of “Born Free” drift through my head, as I imagine using my hostess’ bathroom without a toddler velcro’d to my leg. I can’t wait!

The day of the party, I ring the doorbell to my neighbor’s home, and Laura Bush answers the door. Or her cousin. Her perfectly lacquered hair doesn’t move as she takes me in, her lipsticked-smile wavering only the smallest bit as she eyes the bottle of champagne.

Hahhh,” she croons, in a soft drawl. “Come on in. Let me just put that in the kitchen for you,” she takes the champagne and holds it close to her sweater-set, that I would soon understand was ubiquitous in the field-grade officer's wives set, regardless of days with more humidity than a Russian steam bath. "Most of the ladies here would only use this for mouthwash,” she whispered as she set it behind a group photo of really well-dressed women under a banner reading “Daughters of the American Revolution Annual Rummage Sale.”

I’m led to a floral upholstered chair with lace doilies on the arms and given a glass of sweet tea as the party begins.

The Jewelry Consultant arrives and stands at the head of the room. She is wearing a simple navy sheath, hose, pumps and matching earrings, necklace, bracelet and brooch. Her hair is perfect. It doesn't move. I am still mesmerized by her hair and the fact that women still cover their legs and wear broaches when she claps her hands. The room is silent, save for the slight chattering of my teeth from the sweetness of my tea.

“Hello Ladies! Let’s get started! Now, we all have jewelry, do we not? (polite tittering and sounds of agreement). But does anyone here know the Cardinal Rule of Jewelry?”

There’s a cardinal rule? I’m sitting there trying to think of something like “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s big-ass diamond ring” when I notice one of the party guests has her arm raised. She’s sitting on the edge of her seat in the “Me! Pick Me!” position, back ram-rod straight as she reaches her arm up even higher.

The Jewelry Consultant gives her a nod and the woman recites, “Always wear earrings.”

With a patient smile, the Jewelry Consultant says encouragingly, “Close! Anyone else? No? It’s “Nevah leave your home without your earrings on.’”

There is a collective “Ohhhh” in the room. Confucius has spoken.

“In fact, Ah have a wonderful story to illustrate the importance of this rule! The other day, Ah was driving my daughter to school, when (let me just interrupt here to tell you that everyone is listening with rapt attention; you could hear a pin drop) Ah. Had. No. Earrings. On!” There is an audible hush. The women look horrified. Had I missed something? She continues, a conspiratorial smile on her face, as if she is about to share the most hilarious, knee-slapping tidbit EVER with us.

“Well, ladies. Ah had NO earrings in mah purse – you can bet Ah do now – so do y’all know what Ah did?” She’s almost squealing at this point. Even I’m on edge, so intense is her build-up.

“What?!” I yell.

“Ah took the earrings off of mah own daughter’s ears and put them on mine!” She finishes by covering her mouth with her hands, as if she had just said something screamingly naughty like, “And then Ah flashed the police officer mah titties, just to get out of the ticket.”

I’m crushed. But the rest of the room almost explodes.

“You did NOT!”

“Your own daughter!”

“Yes! And y’all can bet that will NEVAH happen to me again! Ah now have earrings in mah car, in mah purse…” she continues, but I’ve started to drift.

I’m snapped out of it when I notice the silence in the room and all eyes on me.


I’m then asked to stand in the middle of the living room so that the the Jewelry Consultant can use me to illustrate Cardinal Rule of Jewelry Number Two: Earrings Make Your Face Appear Thinner. I have one earring on, and I’m being strong-armed from side to side as the Jewelry Consultant chimes, “See? Thinner. Bigger. Thinner. Bigger.” I decide I want to go home, when I’m refreshed by the glimpse of coffee cake as I’m swiveled toward the dining room. I’m released to my seat where we have to go around the room, tell our names and what kind of jewelry we like.

Hah! I’m Angie, and I like to wear white gold and silver!”

“Hey, I’m Tammy Jo and I like yella gold.”

“Hi. I’m Jennifer. I like jewelry my husband can’t afford.” This elicits no comments on my accent or refreshing western honesty. Nothing. I take another sip of sweet tea.

I left with an earring, necklace, and bracelet set for $123.45 and my next invitation to a Home Interiors party.

“’Bye y’all!” I chirped as I left, rummaging through the cobwebs of my brain for an appropriate southern colloquialism.

“It’s all y’all…” I heard as the door shut behind me.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Leaves of Change

Not too long ago, maybe four or five years, my oldest daughter knew about boys. She knew there was something wrong with them. They were carriers of germs, they were gross, and they made sounds with their body parts.

When she was younger, she spent some of her most magical years on a cul-de-sac in Georgia. Enormous pine and magnolia trees lined our street, a forest behind us and a lake full of fish and snapping turtles just beyond the path at the end of the road. I remember her covered in the Georgia clay from an afternoon excavating, and I remember Sunshine, the turtle who became our family member for some years; I'm sure he missed the homey confines of his swamp.

Two doors down from us was the old tractor tire on a rope. Tied to a gnarled tree branch, this was where the neighborhood kids met each day. Games were planned under this tree, strategies made, and the bonds of friendship strengthened to match the weathered trunk of their tree.

Both of my daughters led a posse of young girls called the Spy Club. To the untrained eye it looked like several little girls running through all the neighbors' yards, bright green tree frogs in their fists. But if you looked closer, or found their spy logs in their room as I did, you saw that they were always on a mission.

Excerpt from a "spy log" found in my daughter's room, circa five years ago:

Spy Log, Sunday

Spy Club members need to to these things:

Practice running silently
Practice saying awooh-ha-ha. At the right time.
Spy on Liz.

After lunch: Looked at Liz through her window.
She was writing on some paper.
She put a Lord of the Rings Poster on her wall.
She saw us!
She called us imbisults. [sic]
Stupid Liz.

One afternoon, the day my daughters were grounded for the first day in their lives, I had Jacob in a baby carrier and was enjoying a late afternoon walk on our street. I saw the Spy Club girls digging in the soil near a neighbor's house, and I saw a little boy watching from his window, his face pressed against the screen so hard I thought it might pop out onto the ground.

As I neared the house, it became clear that this boy was watching the Spy Club girls dig, and it was also clear that he was sobbing. I approached the house and called in my best mom voice, "What on earth is going on?"

The girls stopped. My daughters looked up at me with dirty faces and I thought of how they always seemed to resemble a street urchin out of a Dickens novel. They were silent. The boy in the window hiccuped.

"Well?" I pressed.

"They told me I was a stupid boy. They told me I couldn't be in their," he sniffed. "They said they were going to bury me there and no one would know."

I stood there, stunned. My little girls, with their quick grins, yellow fluffs of hair and sweet dresses skimming skinned knees were digging a shallow grave. It marked the first time I had grounded them.

I sit here and wonder how that day was three blinks of an eye away, and yet also a lifetime. My oldest is now preening in her bathroom, carefully sponging on strawberry lipgloss as she adjusts her beads around her neck. She was up early today; when I came downstairs she had already made her bed and offered to help her little brother with breakfast. She is carefully watching me, waiting to see if I will say yes. Waiting to see if she can go and ice skate tonight with a group of seventh graders, to include her crush. The boy who now likes her, and has asked her to go in this group.

The old magnolia tree that stood sentry to my house in Georgia dropped thick leathery leaves onto my driveway for much of the year, and then one day I would notice that the entire tree had exploded into a crown of white blossoms. Spring was glorious in the south. I need to remember that.