Monday, February 27, 2012

Letters to a Paralyzed Husband: Be a Safe Place

When your partner married you they probably said something to the effect of, "in sickness and health, until death us do part." That was a big promise. Your disability really puts that commitment to the test. Every day you are faced with a type of "sickness." Yeah, it stinks to call your disability a sickness, but it is. Your spouse has taken on a lot.

The Bible encourages men to consider our wives as "the weaker vessel." I seriously do not like that interpretation. Instead, I consider my wife as precious and fragile. Just like fine china or a porcelain figurine she is something I cherish and value. I want to protect her and treat her with care. That's work for a guy.

Guys relate differently than ladies. We are tough. We are  gritty. We are downright mean. I'll confess that I don't always do well. All too often I will say something insensitive then excuse it with, "I was being funny." Apparently not too funny.

Sometimes I do pretty darn good, though. There are specific times I am careful to be extra sweet and supportive: as we turn in and during that extra-sensitive monthly time. Every night Dana curls up on my shoulder as we turn in and we talk about the day. Some times we laugh; some times we pray; some times we get into a deep conversation;  but it's our nightly routine. Then there are those monthly times when I'm extra sweet because I know my wife needs extra grace.

Despite my failures I have built a foundation of trust for my wife. Some times I do things that undermine that trust and have to repair my reputation. Other times the damage comes from something outside ourselves that shakes that trust. Again, I rebuff and shore up her faith in me with reassurance.

Our relationship still gets stronger. Dana knows I'm always in her corner. She knows she has a safe place to go when when the storms hit. We are a team. Nobody will ever be more important than her. Nobody will come between us.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Get Ready For Your Face To Melt Off Due to Extreme Cuteness

I was just playing around online, and ended up in my Photobucket account, which I haven't touched in years.

And I came across this.

I want to shrink him back down.
Googling how to do that. Now.

Saturday Morning Post

Good morning, and Happy Saturday, y'all.  I woke up at 7:30 this morning.  It's kind of early, but I might just write this, enjoy my cinnamon toast and my fresh coffee (we are still rocking the Christmas Blend here at the Ritter house), and snuggle back up to Mr. Wonderful and go back to sleep.

Because I can.
And I know that it won't always be that way.

I've been reading "Jesus Calling," in the mornings.  This week, I found out there is an app for it!  I don't need the app, because I have the book on my Kindle app, but you need to get it.  Seriously, the entries will take you like 3 minutes to read, and it is 3 minutes so well spent!

Speaking of apps, I heard of another app this week that I tried called "Sleep Cycle."
It's pretty neat.  You turn it on, plug your iPhone in, and lay it glass-down on your bed as you sleep.  Then, it wakes you up close to your alarm time (never after) when you are not in a deep sleep cycle.  It also analyzes your sleep for the night.  I've used it for 5 nights now and I have come to two conclusions.

1. I suck at sleeping.
2. I don't sleep long enough.

But, I already knew both of those.

At different times over the past week, our washer, then our dryer, broke.
They're fixed now.
And there's a mountain of clean clothes and towels and sheets on the chair that is approaching my height of 5 feet tall.
Mr. Wonderful is going to have his work cut out for him today.

What do you guys think of the new blog design?  I've been playing with it this week, using Picnik.  Picnik is going to shut down soon, so I'm trying to get as much out of it as I can before that happens.  I also made the buttons over to the right.  We're not watching as much TV in the evenings (nothing other than news) so I've had time to play around with it.

No deep thoughts streaming from me on this Saturday Morning Post. I hope that's okay.
I'm looking forward to a restful day today, cooking meatloaf and mashed potatoes for my favorite Wounded Warrior, and possibly making strawberry muffins.  We'll see on that last one.

Ugh. I have to go check on that washer. It's beating itself up again.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Share the Love

Today I finally scratch a big "to do" off the blog to do list.
I finally made us a FAQ page.  Check it out, and as always, let us know if you have any questions.

Also, I don't know if you've noticed, but I've been having some fun designing buttons and such for the blog.  Please feel free to grab the image above and share the love! :)

It's Friday, y'all.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Giving Up Facebook for Lent

I am not Catholic, so Lent is not something I am very used to.  I'm a good old Baptist girl, all we do is indulge!

But, seriously.  For the past several years, I have observed (or at least, made an effort to observe) Lent because I have learned that there is so much that is good about this season.  Getting rid of some fat.  Adding something good and meaningful.

Leaning in, and listening a little closer to what God is saying to you and doing in your life.

I have given up Diet Coke before.  I like it, but I can go without it.  One year I fasted shopping for clothes. (My recent dive into frugality has pretty much killed that, so it's not much of an issue anymore)  Another time I gave up complaining.  I think that was the hardest, and I definitely didn't make it 100%.

I want to fast something that is really a big part of my life, so that I can get the most out of the season.  My husband is a big part of my life.  So are the pets.  So is my job.  And politics.  And coffee.  And Facebook.

Fasting from my husband, pets and coffee is not an option.  Neither is fasting my job or politics. So, I'm going with Facebook.

You know what? I am addicted.  Hi, my name is Dana, and I'm a Facebook addict.  I check it all the time.  Not a little red notification goes by that I don't check.  I have a very "addictive" personality.  I am usually all in or all out on anything.

I have known for some time that I'm addicted to Facebook and I need to dial it back.  So, I'll see you on Facebook, on Easter.  Blog posts are set up to automatically publish to my Facebook page and the blog's Facebook page.  So that's probably how you got to this post in the first place.

I will follow up with certain messages that come through Facebook.  Like if one of you awesome blog readers contacts me, or if it's something for my work Facebook page.  But my time-killing, I wonder who has posted a new picture of this or that, or whatever in the last 30 seconds Facebooking is going to cease for the next 40 days.

Wish me well! Pray for me to learn something new, and press into the Lord during this time.  I have decided when I have the urge to look at Facebook, I'm going to read through the Gospels.  I started with John.  It's 7:45pm on the first day of my fast, and I'm on John 3.  So, this should not be a problem.

Cheers Facebook friends.

*I think I just wrote the word "Facebook" about 47 times in this post.  See?  Problem.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

A Little Planning Goes a Long Way

This morning when I left for work, I had to run back into the apartment. Twice.
Once for a pair of jeans.
And again, for a pair of flats.


Not for my work day, but for our evening plans.
Our church is having a Fat Tuesday service tonight in DC.  So, I knew Michael would be taking the metro into the City, and we would meet for dinner, then go to church.  Then, metro home, where my car is parked in a blue spot. (Thankfully I did not get any dirty looks when I parked this morning!)

I'm glad I remembered the logistics of tonight before I walked out the door this morning, because I'm wearing a black pencil skirt today, and it doesn't have much, ahem, give.  No way this girl is squatting in this skirt. 

Hence, the jeans.  I do a super squat when I lift Michael into our SUV, which I will do to get us home from the metro station later tonight.  With no jeans, there would no doubt be some sort of public nudity involved. Not saying I haven't done it before (making sure no one was around when I pulled my skirt ALL the way up, of course), but it's cold now!

And transfers in heels, which I'm also wearing to work today, are generally a bad idea.  Hence, the flats.

So, I'm prepared.  A little planning goes a long way.
There was a time that doing little things like this were a big worry for me.  I stressed about parking, and transfers and metro elevators that may or may not work.  Not saying I didn't check the metro website like 47 times today, but I think I'm getting much better.

Now to change and head over to meet my man for dinner. 
Cheers, y'all.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

On Letting Someone Else Take Care of My Man, an Update

Let's see.  I guess it's been a month or two since we started having home health aides come in and help Michael with his personal care on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

You may remember we tried this a couple of years ago, and I just hated it so much, so for a long time, I was his primary caregiver.  Even when it meant getting up at 3:00 in the morning.

I knew it was going to be an adjustment period going back to this, but we both felt like we were ready to try again, plus now we don't have to pay for it, and it would help for him to have people on a regular basis, so when I travel for work, they can be more reliable, etc.

We are doing pretty well with it!  They come at 7:00am, so it's not like it used to be when the wouldn't come until 9:00am or 10:00am and he wasn't really starting his day until 12:00pm or 1:00pm, so that's good.

There have only been a couple of times when they were several hours late, so that's good.

I have only cried about it once, so that's good. Granted, it was a big, fat, hyperventilating UGLY cry, but we got through it.

I cried because I found out these women have to come for 5 HOURS each day.  And this may sound terribly childish and stupid, but I was mad. I wish I could be in my own home for 5 hours at a time on any given day, you know?  I also cried because I noticed one day that she had folded our laundry.  Again, call me a childish, selfish stupid person, but it made me uncomfortable.  Some people would probably love to come home to their laundry being folded for them.  But it made me sad and mad.

Michael is the laundry folder around here. And he is not getting out of it!  Our situation is unique in some ways.  Like me being the bread winner.  So, I explained to Michael that the fact that he sweeps and mops every week, and takes care of the dogs, and folds all of the clothes provides a very important balance to our home life and our marriage.  Girlfriend folding the laundry messed with that balance.

So, it only happened once.

And there was one other time the bed was made really weird.  Like all turned down just on his side, and left up on my side, with no pillows.  Like you know, I don't exist.

My poor husband. He has to deal with all of my insane mess.  Honestly, after the crazy emotions pass, and I'm writing this stuff here, I realize how stupid and crazy it is, and I am reminded that I too, am a psycho, hormonal wife.  It sucks sometimes to be human.  But, hey - I'm throwing this out there - just being completely honest about my experience.  So, there you go.

I do miss our Bible reading breakfasts together.  We talked about that last night. We're going to eat dinner at the table together with some nice music in the background and not the TV news, and be more intentional about connecting during that time.  I think that will help.

But, overall, it's going really well.  Michael is very well taken care of, that is a HUGE relief.  I have been going to work earlier, and it's been good, I've been getting a lot done.  I've been better about packing lunch instead of eating out, because I have time to pack it in the mornings.  I like the fact that his bathroom stays clean even though I'm not cleaning it.  I have not found any hair weave in my bathroom trash can recently, and that is also nice.

Sometimes the fact that we have to consider someone else when making plans kind of stinks (see above text message, after I had worked like a 13 hour day), but that's okay.  I really appreciate these women for taking good care of my man, so I can sacrifice my own preference and schedule every now and then.  I'm learning.

Thanks for your prayers.

Valentine's Day 2012 (in pictures)

Since our small group meets at our house on Tuesday nights, we actually went out to dinner on Monday night.  To Chili's. For free, thanks to a gift card. :) Yay. Thank you.

Michael texted me at work Monday to ask if I wanted to go out, because his plan to make dinner at home was not coming together as he had hoped.  I was all for it.

When I got home, I saw that he was all dressed up!  You can't really tell here, but under that fleece pull-over, he's sporting a TIE.

I'm not gonna lie. I was jealous.  I wanted to be all fresh and dressed up too, but oh well. Brokaw looks jealous in this picture, doesn't he? Such a character.

I have no pictures from Chili's.  We did the two for $20 and it was amazingly yummy.

Tuesday morning, the actual Valentine's Day, we had our traditional celebration.
Which, of course, included Red Velvet cupcakes for breakfast.  Notice those hearts on the wall in the background? They were actually Christmas decorations that I left up for Valentine's Day.  Anyone else find it funny that I took my Christmas decorations down on Christmas Day, yet, this Valentine's Day stuff is still up... oops.
Then, we opened our cards. My mom always sends us something sweet.  Looking forward to enjoying a trip to Cold Stone Creamery sometime soon. :)
Our rule for Valentine's Day is that the gift has to be homemade.  Because we know we show love to each other every single day, so we don't have to spend a bunch of money to prove a point.  We keep it simple, and homemade.  So, Michael painted me this water color card with a very sweet letter on the back, just for me.

For my part, I have no pictures, of course.  I decorated his bathroom mirror with stick-on hearts, and left him notes all over the house.  It was a fun little plan! :)

I'm also working on a friendship bracelet for him. His request!
Remember making friendship bracelets? I remember making my mom and dad buy me string every time we went to Roses. Remember Roses? And those little clear plastic boxes we kept our string in, color coded, of course?

I distinctly remember having my own little friendship bracelet making small business in the 5th grade.  And I swear I could crank out a bracelet for a customer while in Math class.

Well. I seem to have lost my skillz.
Because I worked on this for a good hour, and this was all I had to show for it.
Oops.  So, yeah, I had to punt.  I made him a bracelet in a much simpler design.  And, it's actually too big, so I'm probably going to just keep going with it and make it a necklace.

So glad we are already happily in love.  Because by anyone else's Valentine's standards, this stuff would probably be a little lacking. There was no candlelight, expensive dinner on a white table cloth. There were no roses delivered to the office. No jewelry.

But I think we would both agree, it was perfect. And we are perfectly in love with each other.
Now, I need to take this Valentine's Day crap down! Haha.

A Thank You Note to The Frugal Girl

Dear Frugal Girl,

Before I found your blog, there were so many things I had never tried before.
Like making bread, and making freezer jam.
I did not cook growing up, and while I definitely ate very good as a child, I didn't eat much from scratch.
So, had I not found your blog and all of your inspiring pictures and matter-of-fact tips for saving money and cooking at home, I wouldn't be the home cook that I am now.

And I think now I'm pretty stinking good. (and clearly, humble too!)

I wish I had more time to do these things, but working full time with an hour+ commute doesn't always allow it.  But, recently, I had the chance to make bread again, and your blueberry freezer jam, and I remembered how awesome homemade can taste.

I'm no pro.  My blueberries were not mashed enough.  And my bread isn't perfectly rolled.

But breakfast sure does taste better when it is yogurt (I haven't tried making that myself yet, but I will, one day!) with homemade freezer jam, and granola... or cinnamon toast with homemade sandwich bread.

So, thank you, Frugal Girl.

Freezer February Update

Well, we're more than half way through the month of February, which I consider glorious news because I have long considered February to be the whitest, fattest month of the year. Thank God that even in a Leap Year, it's the shortest month.

I have to admit to you that I did cheat a bit on Freezer February.  I bought some chicken last weekend and made chicken mushroom stroganoff. I did. I think I spent all of $4.00 on said chicken.  Oops.

Other than that slip up, we have stuck to the rules, and have been eating the contents of our freezer.  We have emptied the whole first shelf that was full of meat.

We ate the Omaha Steaks hot dogs.
I made beef teriyaki for some friends (a wounded warrior family) and for us.
Quick recipe for you on this weeknight favorite:

Heat 2 tablespoons vegetable oil in pan.
Add strips of steak. (whatever you have on hand)
Cook through.
Add broccoli* and carrots and celery, chopped, into pan.
Simmer together until vegetables are tender yet still a little crisp.
Add a cup of teriyaki sauce with sesame seeds.
In a separate pot, make some rice.
Dish beef and vegetable mix over rice.
Enjoy with Diet Coke. :)

*This week, I used frozen broccoli, so I actually steamed that in the bag in the freezer, and mixed the broccoli in with the beef/carrot/celery mixture just as I was plating it up.  Cooked frozen broccoli would have come apart if I put it in the saute pan with everything else.

Last night we had baked lemon salmon and homemade mashed potatoes and garlic knots (oops... I bought those this week with a coupon!)

I have saved money this month on my groceries, though.  Last Saturday, I made a big Aldi trip that cost me all of $69.00.

I spent $130 this week at Harris Teeter, but it was for a good cause.  They were having "Super Doubles" so I actually saved $110, and got quite a few items for my (just starting) stock pile.

One of Michael's home health aides raided the stock pile for toilet paper. Grr. Oh well.

Anyway, Freezer February is going well.  I think the only meat we have left in the Freezer is one London Broil.  We'll take care of that this week.  There is A LOT of ice cream and A LOT of muffin batter, scones and smashed bananas for banana bread.  I am not including that stuff in my "eat by the end of February" goal, because my butt does not need to get any bigger!! Haha!

Saturday Morning Post (and a video!)

I woke up earlier than I was planning to wake up this morning. Scratch that. A certain Puggle woke me up earlier than I was planning to wake up this morning.

So, here I am.  I just started drinking my coffee, even though I have technically been awake for an hour.  I blame my iPad. That's right, MY iPad!!

Uncle Sam's refund helped me reach my goal earlier than I expected, so Michael and I both have new iPads. (Which you know because of his awesome homemade iPad cases) They are super fun.  Coolest to do list I've ever had.  Looking forward to learning how to use it more, and finding cool apps, etc.

Of course, now that he has woken me up, and been outside and been fed, Brokaw is now back asleep.  So not fair!

I've been thinking more and more lately about wanting to have a baby.  Then, I have a Saturday morning like this, where a dog wakes me up at 7:00am and I'm grumpy about it, and I remember. I am so not ready for a baby.

Today, I'm going thrift store shopping with my friend, Jessi! I am looking forward to it.  I grew up shopping in thrift stores with my Granny Nora.  She taught me how to treasure hunt!  Plus, I haven't seen Jessi in a while, so it will be fun to connect.

It's allegedly going to snow tomorrow afternoon, but I'm noticing all of the weather guys dialing back their forecast.  It's fine with me. I'm not a big snow fan! Not a big fan of Winter at all for that matter.

We're doing good. It's been a good week. I have some pictures to share, so standby for a bit of a blog-a-thon!

Now, for fun: The other night, I took a video of Brokaw tucking himself in our bed.  This is our nightly ritual, while Michael is in the bathroom getting ready for bed, Brokaw does this and I watch.  Please pardon my breathy background noise - I was trying so hard not to laugh!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Homemade iPad Cases

We got iPads! I'm really excited to use mine to get a lot of "work" done. It was so funny to see Dana get determined to get them then go pick them up first chance she got.

Now that we have them we have to protect them. The cases at Target seemed overpriced. Amazon Prime has us spoiled. Since it's the weekend there is no overnight shipping.

My crafty buddy Jason was over yesterday and my mind started racing to homemade iPad cases. It turned out great.

Mine is a long-term fix. I saw folio style iPad cases online. He and I scavenged through the cabinets for our materials. We used:
An old 3-ring binder
Athletic tape
Elastic band
Paper cutter

Jason cut the plastic around the cardboard in the binder. He sized the iPad to the pieces and scored them on the paper cutter. He scored and cut one piece to height. He then scored the side to wrap around the iPad. He cut and scored the other piece the same. He then cut the extra off the end. He used athletic tape to bind the edges and folds on the sides. He glued elastic bands to hold the iPad in place and across the front to hold the flap.

We made another case from bubble wrap for Dana's until she gets a long-term case. It was really simple. He cut the wrap to the height of the iPad and a little more than enough to go around the iPad. He taped the side and bottom with bubbles out then turned it inside out like a pillow case and taped the edges too. The bubbles were on the inside now. He taped a seam in the middle that was perforated. It actually made a nice style element.

We're looking forward to using our new homemade iPad cases.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Open Doors for Ministry Together

Tonight is the culmination of a year of really significant growth and prayers. We host our first small group. While Dana and I have both filled ministry roles in our lives, we are seeing God use us in ministry together.

About a year ago our pastor and another pastor from our church each prayed specifically that God would use us to do His work together. At a men's getaway I shared with one of our pastors the struggle we were having with my disability being in the way of our doing greater things in our marriage. He prayed for Dana to see her role and for me to be a stronger and better husband.

We have seen these prayers answered as you have responded to our story and as our church has asked more of us in our ministry. We do not feel qualified to be given such responsibilities. We do not consider ourselves significant. But we are stepping out to share our story.

Dana has worked very hard at this. She is spear heading so many of these initiatives. As you all read, post, and reach out to us you are confirming these steps of faith. Your response makes it worthwhile. I'm so proud of her and grateful for you all. We are seeing wonderful things as we grow I to doing ministry together.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Freezer February: An Introduction

I'm going to be doing  a little series here on the blog for the month, called "Freezer February."

The goal: Spend as little as possible on groceries this month, and eat as much stuff out of our freezer/pantry/fridge to clean it out.

We not only have the freezer over our fridge, but we also have a small standing freezer, so we have plenty to choose from.  This goal originally popped in my mind because I was pinching pennies in order to save for us to buy two iPads.  Thanks to our tax refund, coming soon, we now have enough to buy the iPads, so our next goal is to save up $1000 for our emergency fund, then we will get back on track on paying down debt.

I know it seems like we have out-of-whack priorities buying iPads first, THEN paying down debt, but look, it's our money, they're our priorities, so whatever.  Ahem. Getting off my own back now...

Anyway -- I'm going to be sharing with y'all periodically here on the blog, as a way of keeping myself accountable.

So today, I'm going to show you our grocery spending for the week.

I actually went to three different stores today.  Wasn't planned. The first stop (Safeway) was just a quick stop after church because we needed milk.  I made an impulse buy of Oreos and some potato salad to have with our Superbowl dinner tonight.
I spent $11.76 at Safeway. I do not like that store, but whatever, it's on the way home from church.  BTW, I had already busted into the Oreos and the milk by the time this photograph was taken. :)

Tonight, during the Super Bowl, I made a quick trip to Harris Teeter for just a couple of things they had on sale this week. Ice cream, Diet Coke and Coke and some blueberries.  The ice cream and Coke products were both buy 2, get 3 free, and the blueberries were buy 1, get 1 free.  I spent $29.88 there, and saved $41.23.

I also made a quick trip to Target with some coupons in hand for the items you see above.  I got some cat food, some yogurt and some mac n' cheese.  I spent $5.49, and saved $6.55.

So, for the week, I have spent $47.13.  Not bad at all, considering our weekly food/household budget is $100!

Now, for what we've been eating - I will do a couple posts a week to let you guys see what we're coming up with out of the freezer, but so far, we're doing pretty good!

The other day, I made this meal for my family while they were visiting:
Ragin' Cajun Penne Pasta with Chicken and Shrimp and scallions, homemade bread (YUM) and salad with yellow peppers and strawberries.

Last night I cooked some steak and onions in the skillet, topped with a little bit of homemade guacamole, some snap peas out of the freezer, one of those Knorr alfredo noodle packet things, and some of the above mentioned homemade bread.

Tonight, we are having some chicken wings out of the freezer, cooked with BBQ and jerk sauce, some fresh veggies with ranch dressing, and I rolled up some pepperoni and mozzarella cheese in some crescent rolls I had in the fridge. (I got that idea from Pinterest!)

My couponing trip is making for a really late dinner tonight, but that's okay - no one is starving around here!

Let me know if you want to join me in being a cheapskate this February!!

My Soldier Is Home

My Soldier is home.
And now, my mother can sleep.

After a year of anxiety for every car that drove down her street.
And a year of deep breaths before every phone call she answered.

My little brother is home.  Safe.
It was like a family relay race getting up to Fort Drum, NY to welcome him home.  My mom and stepdad drove from North Carolina, to my sister's house in Virginia, with Chris's truck.  Then my sister drove with them up to our place, just outside of DC.  They stayed the night here, then the next morning, I drove, and we all made our way to upstate New York.  (a jack knifed tractor trailer at 5:15 in the morning led to a GPS nightmare that sent us to Syracuse two separate ways, but that's beside the point)

We got to our hotel room, free thanks to my Hilton Honors points (yay), and started piling in there like the ghetto fabulous family that we are. Roll away bed, and all.
We took our turns getting ready, then gassed Chris's truck up, and got some dinner near the base.
It was FREEZING there, and I think it was actually considered unseasonably warm!
We made it to McGrath Gym, where the Homecoming Ceremony was scheduled to begin, about an hour early.  My sister and I hung the awesome banner she had made for him that we held in the Norfolk Airport when he came home for leave in October.

I had to get a little creative because we were originally planning to HOLD the sign, but we saw an opportunity to hang it, and realized that we would both be double fisting cameras and video cameras.  I knew my husband would be proud that I came up with a creative solution for rigging up the sign...
Yes, those are the usb cords from my sister's camera bag.  They worked.  Some rednecks thought it would be a good idea to sit in front of our sign.  Tracy and I regulated, and moved the sign right to the middle of the bleachers.  Which worked, because when Chris marched in, he said he saw the sign first thing! 

We couldn't find Chris at all! Tracy and I were both scanning the crowd with our cameras zoomed all the way in.  The ceremony was short and to the point.  I tried to take it all in, knowing this was it.  Chris is home, for good.  He has DONE THIS.  We are such a proud family!

The Army band played a few songs, an announcer talked about the Brigade's accomplishments, and how this was the first group to come home, then allowed the soldiers to be at ease, so they could give their families a hand.

Which we happily accepted.  Because this is not easy.  It is not easy to watch someone you love walk down an airport hallway, knowing in a matter of hours, they will be in the heart of danger.  That yes, they are volunteers, yes they are well trained, yes they are surrounded by their Army brothers and all of them have the pledge and honor of never leaving anyone behind.  But that's still your son.  That's still your little brother.  And no matter how big their muscles have gotten, and no matter how much camo they are wearing, there's still a part of you that sees them as a laughing, giggling, chubby cheeked little boy.  There's a part of you that thinks of that little boy first thing in the morning, and last thing at night, and your prayer life grows to a place it has never been before, because of the worrying, and the wondering where they are and if they are okay.

None of us recognized Chris until the ceremony was over, and the guys were released to their families.  I took my mom's hand, and said, "Let's go!" and we made our way to the bleachers.  There was a sea of soldiers reuniting with their families. Sons and moms and dads. Soldiers hugging their small children and their wives and girlfriends.  Then, I saw my soldier.  He was walking toward us.  He had taken his hat off and had it in his hands.  "There he is!"  I led my mom around another reunion, and had my iPhone ready to record the second she saw her baby.

Of course she got the first hug. She deserved it.  And though this 30 year old SGT would probably never admit it, he wanted to hug her too, like nobody's business.

We all had our hugs, and squeezes and pictures with our soldier.

Chris was exhausted. He had been in like 5 countries and 2 states, in one day!
We decided to just head back to our hotel room, all together, and we just laughed and talked and caught up.  It was a really special time, and I may or may not have been the only sensitive sap to cry!
We watched a local TV news report  my friend posted to my Facebook page, that you can see three short glimpses of us in!
Then, we settled in, all 5 of us in 3 beds for a short night of sleep.  Then, as early as we could in the morning, we took some more pictures of our soldier home on American soil, and started the long trek back to Virginia/North Carolina.

Chris will be "home" in Virginia in a few more months.  And you better believe, we will be putting that "Welcome Home Chris" banner to use one more time!

Let me tell you a couple more things.  Chris didn't even want us to take any pictures and post them on Facebook or where ever because he is the first of his guys to come home, and he's not really ready to celebrate until they are ALL home.  So, know that all of this is from ME, not from him, okay?  We are still praying for each and every one of the members of the 3rd Platoon, as they wrap up their missions in Afghanistan and all come home in waves.  They should all be back to Ft. Drum by the middle of March.

Another thing that I also have to note.  This sign in the gym was a huge reminder to me that not every soldier comes home like my soldier got to come home.  Standing.  Safe.  In one piece.
One soldier in particular, Derek McConnell, still isn't all the way home.  He is still fighting, in his recovery in the hospital at Walter Reed.  I have had the honor and privilege of getting to know this soldier and his family, and I couldn't stop thinking of them as we were enjoying Chris's homecoming at Ft. Drum.  Because his family didn't get to stand in the stands and wave a flag, and find their soldier in the sea of camo in the gym.  Derek was seriously wounded. He has come a long way in his recovery, thanks to amazing battle buddies, an incredible medical team and a loving family, but he isn't done climbing to glory yet.  Derek - I want you to know that Chris and all those guys have literally carried you everywhere with them since you left Afghanistan.  They carry you in their hearts, and since we sent them that flag that you autographed, they have carried that with them every time they have gone out to work.

I dedicate this blog post to Team Derek.  Climb to glory.  All the way! To the top! Team Derek, I brought back a little something from Fort Drum for y'all, and I will see you soon!

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Life Lately

Life has been busy, and I have been out of pocket for a few days, so just now, I went through my photos on my computer, to remember what has been going on in my life lately.  This is how I remember things, because otherwise, the days just swallow themselves up, and life zooms by.

By looking back at my photos, I can remember things I wanted to show/tell you.
Like this blind guy I saw on the metro, hitting on a tall, skinny, blonde girl.  I was so intrigued, I muted my iPod and listened in.  He was pretty smooth, and for the record - he DID end up getting this girl's e-mail address.  I thought it was interesting that even a BLIND guy went right for a tall, skinny blonde. My sister said they (men) can probably smell hotness. Great.

I finished the change over from our old office into a full-on guest room. Ignore the blue tape still on the ceiling in this picture. I really need to put "take pics of new stuff around apartment" on my to do list, because I keep forgetting to do this! We are really happy with the room makeover.  There is SO MUCH more space and less clutter in there now, and I actually like being in there now!
After taking a few months off because of traveling so much for work, I am now fully back on the couponing train. I'm trying Coupon Mom's strategy this go-around, which means you don't clip the coupons right away, you save the entire insert. Still feels weird to me, because I kind of like knowing exactly which coupons I have, and I kind of felt like clipping and then organizing them into my coupon wallet kind of drilled into my brain what I had.  But this method allegedly saves a lot of time.  So, I'm trying it.

I made another new friend! I met for dinner at the Front Page recently with Karen.  Karen's husband Jim is also a quadriplegic, and we seem to have lots and lots in common.  They don't live too far away from us, so Michael and I are looking forward to connecting with them again, soon.

I covered an event with the First Lady in DC. She was announcing proposed changes to the FMLA to help military family members and caregivers.

But my favorite thing about that day was seeing these people:
That is one of my favorite Wounded Warriors, Derek McConnell, his fiance, Krystina, his mom Siobhan, and Jessica Allen.  I admire all four of these people so much!

I think that does it for now. Standby for a super sappy post about my little brother coming home from Afghanistan. :)