Monday, December 31, 2012

Trillium Lake Snowshoe Trip

There's a chance I might have a new exercise addiction :) Last evening my gal E and I checked in about snow shoeing again today (she & her hub also went by themselves on Saturday). I knew that my housemate (A) has been wanting to get out and about, so we arranged for the three of us to head back up to Mt Hood.

The morning started out a lil behind, as I had to gas up and my tire pressure light was on (many thanks to the gents at Les Schwab for checking & filling my tires!), but we were only 15 minutes late to the rendezvous spot to get E & her dog. We made it up to the rental store by mid-morning, and as E owns two pairs of snow shoes already (and has a winter parking pass), we only had to rent one other pair for A. Luckily the three dogs got along (with Roxi it's hit or miss...and I honestly wasn't going to bring them today BUT couldn't bear to leave them behind while I went on an outdoor adventure that I knew they'd love) and it was a blast watching them run around like crazies along the track. We leashed them when around lots of other people, but it was so fun to see them chase each other and burrow through the snow banks :)

This was A's first time on the mountain and first time snow shoeing and she really seemed to enjoy herself, while E and I had a great time chit chatting as we walked along. (Note to self: show A more of Oregon.)

Today's trek was around Trillium Lake, which is about a 4-5 mile loop in the winter. Different views and less sun today---but still incredibly picturesque and beautiful!! Definitely a great way to spend the final day of the year!

Now, when to go again?! :) 

Saturday, December 29, 2012

First Snowshoe Trip!

I've been wanting to try snowshoeing for the last 6-10 years and my gal T and I had been monitoring the roads & weather this week to try to head up the mountain. Today was beautiful and clear--it was a completely GORGEOUS day! The mountain was packed due to it being the holiday weekend and the snow shoes were slightly different than I expected, but once I got the dogs past the crowds it was an awesome experience. The snowshoe rentals were pretty cheap and really easy to pick up from the Mountain Tracks Ski shop at Government Camp ($10 for shoes/poles, $15 for boots/shoes/poles, plus $5 for a parking pass), and all things considered it seemed like a great way to enjoy the snow, be outdoors, and get some exercise. The dogs had a complete blast and are passed out this evening on the bed. I might need to get Roxi some lil' booties as she had issues with the snow freezing to the fur between her toes... but only if I was to start snow shoeing on the regular. 

I've been realizing how much I love to be in the outdoors, how much I love to push myself, to try new things, to spend time with good friends, and to watch the dogs have today was definitely a ton of fun! ....and I was glad to really use my AWD as well :)

The girls and I might try to go back up one more time before the term starts up, but we'll see how things pan out! It'd be awesome to do a weekend somewhere either via camping or cabin, but not likely with current finances. :) Hope y'all had a happy Saturday too!

Friday, December 28, 2012

Best 12 of 2012

Time to focus on the highlights and good moments of 2012 rather than all the doom and gloom :)

So in no particular order, here are some of the best moments/items of 2012:

12) Visiting my gal Christina in San Antonio. The trip was incredibly insightful, I fell in love with the city, and it was great to be back in the south. C and I had a great time exploring San Antonio & Austin together, catching up, and helping to push each other toward better versions of ourselves. The trip also marked the reality for the separation to occur.

11) Tall D's and my two day backpacking trip this summer. Sweat, hard work, togetherness, gentleness, happy dog faces, awesome camp spot, major inclines, sore feet, a stint on the PCT, and testing out my own backpack.

10) Roadtrip to Arizona with Brook to see our other high school best gal Caitlin. Saving gas by driving the Prius, seeing the Vegas strip at night, soaking up the dry southern heat, good quality time with two of my favorite gals, hunting down the vortexes and getting Brook to the Grand Canyon. Definitely good times.

9) Savannah Trip: Surprise brunch for my 30th by my Georgian milspouse gals (Heather, Katie, Deir)---seriously was shocked they had arranged such a feat and it was so nice to have three of my favorite ladies in one spot. Equally wonderful was having Katie there for an extra day to explore, Deir's ongoing hospitality and getting my booty running again, and getting some quality moments with Ms Heather. Having dolphins swimming by less than 50ft away during the trip to the Atlantic at Tybee Island was pretty much a "once in a lifetime" moment as well!

8)  Day trip to Charleston, SC and finally getting to explore so much more of the history of the area.

7) Katie's trip out to Oregon in September. It was so great getting to share so much of this gorgeous state with her and to just spend some extra time catching up with one of my favorite milspouse gals. We also made it to one of the nation's highlights: Crater Lake and stopped by Mt Hood, neither of which I think I'd been to before!

6) Book club and extra moments with the gals. The trip to the beach, brewery nights, Saturday brunches in homes. These gals have gotten me through some rough moments, pushed me on, and created incredibly interesting conversations. Additionally the constant support and availability of T and my cousin A have brought me so much closer to them and have totally gotten me through some of the roughest of spots by helping me create and enjoy the simple moments of life.

5) Running. My number one stress coping strategy...and it proved to me that I can do so much more than I ever thought I'd be able to do. The first 5k race was a blast with Tall D. I enjoyed the 10k I completed with Sheila.....and I am so incredibly glad that I pulled out a 14 miler before the year was over!

4) New Years 2012---complete blast with a mix of both family and great friends. Couldn't have been any better honestly.

3) October trip home to spend time with D & J and to attend the Harvest Party. Had good visits with a host of friends.....and enjoyed the time in the comfort of Mom and Dad's home.

2) Refinding my mojo with teaching---feeling the passion that is present and recognizing how much I both love and am good at what I do.

1) Goal achievements and all the simple moments. Moments to focus on and feel fulfilled. Summiting Kings Mtn with the doggies, trying out kayakying, backpacking with T, relishing doggie faces in the rearview mirror of the Sorento, Sauvie Island beach days, selecting the "perfect" Xmas tree with cousin A, the recent soaking pool outing with T, happy hrs downtown.

The more I think on it, the more I can pinpoint so many special, simple moments. Even in the hardship, I still recognize that this year and my life have been incredibly blessed. And reflecting upon the last year, I re-recognize how much I have...and how many amazing experiences I was able to enjoy.

Interestingly, here's the recap from 2011.

What are some of your best moments from 2012?

Holiday Highlights

The week heading into Christmas, I felt myself on a downhill slide...and I mean, downhill.

But my first day in my hometown I loved being there....and then the next three days were R-O-U-G-H. Imagine your worst teenage angst....and then picture yourself feeling and behaving that way now-ha.ha.ha. I never thought I'd be so glad to get back to Portland but I was...

The good news is I survived Christmas....if you want to call it that. (I think this year, I mainly just tried to pretend that it really wasn't Christmas). I had some soul-to-soul teary honesty about my current status with my parents in the kitchen on Christmas Day, including having to ask them for help (which I hate). My brother had triggered a melt down the night before, but then realized what was going on and totally wrapped himself around me the rest of the time back home (he's been there, he gets it, but we females in the fam do a good job of wearing a facade over what's really going on inside so it's not like he knew how fragile I was to begin with....).

The best moments of the week included:

--- hosting my parents in my house one night while they came to visit Granny. I deep cleaned away the dust and fur that they're allergic to, washed the bedding and set them up in the king size bed, and provided them apple strudel french toast for breakfast the next morning. Plus it was kind of fun camping out with the dogs in the front room and sleeping on the futon.

--- Dad had Mom ride with me on the four hour car ride south, so we were able to get most of our catching up in during the car trip and I think she enjoyed having someone to ride with who would chat with her.

--- Two runs. A 6 miler when I ran to the bridge and back and then a 3.5 mile loop. Both days felt great and the dogs enjoyed being able to stretch their legs too. Dad also was a trooper and let me borrow his Iphone so I could listen to Pandora for the long run.

--- Two great visits with my aunt and my cousin. I don't think I've seen this cousin in the last five years...and I'd forgotten how much of a hoot he is. It was great visiting with the two of them and getting to catch up with his wife and meet his kiddo on the second visit.

--- An evening catch-up session with one of my great high school gals. We've both had a tough year and so every time we can get together, it's so nice to be able to connect, relate, and just offer support to each other. Plus it didn't hurt that our drink tab was "anonymously" picked up by an older gentleman.

--- A quick visit with my gal D and her babe E--always great to see her even if briefly.

--- Christmas Eve dinner with Mom, Dad, my bro, and his (ex) wife....and the conversation over wine and dessert that ensued surrounding the table afterwards---just like old times. Granny would have been proud that there was actually a dinner "hour."

--- Mom made her regular tradition of whole-wheat cinnamon rolls for Christmas morning....and she even surprised me by having two frozen pans that I could transport home to make. She also took me grocery shopping for snacks and high protein foods, and spent most her time making sure I was putting enough sustenance in my body.

--- Insights. Realizations that I am so much a product of my family (although not sure how I feel about it all). Hearing my Dad say that the divorce doesn't have to be thought of as a failure and that they are proud of me anyway. Realizations that I'm still making the transition from D and I being a family to being okay with being alone....outside of my family of origin.

--- Coming back to Portland. The housemate was glad to have some company when I arrived on Christmas evening....and I polished off the night with the rest of the bottle of wine while watching (and appreciating) The Christmas Carol (Scrooge is a hoot!).

--- Catching up with my out-of-state gals. Part of the reason I came back earlier than usual was to be able to visit with two of my Portland friends who don't live here anymore..and it was seriously great to see both of them. I met Christina and our mutual PDX friend Erin for lunch at a Thai restaurant downtown and then met up with Carla and her fiance at Sasquatch Brewery in SW in the evening. So nice to see them and to hear of where they're at in their recent lives (most of my friends and I don't talk consistently....but it's always a natural transition back whenever we see each other).

And then there was a great afternoon back home when the dogs got to run around at one of their favorite places:

Always admist the seemingly unending gray, little pockets of sunshine do exist. 

In the last two days I've found myself being much more pro-active and trying to clear some more of the fog away. I have to say that the last few weeks have taught me to be much more understanding and empathetic of what it's like to get lost amongst being lost. And it feels funny to say but in some ways I feel like I just "broke-up" with my ex-husband again this week---not that there was anything really romantic still in existence but I/we just made it clear that it's time for us to be completely separate entities for a long while. And honestly, in so doing, I feel like my vision has cleared up a bit. Each night I've applied for a new job and searched for many more. I'm still currently registered to take classes but I'm exploring my options, as part of me feels the need to pay down debts and do something new and different for a while. I'm back to checking off the little to-dos, focusing on the mid-size ones, and in the back of my mind planning for could-be fun outings (ie April trip to San Antonio? would mark one year from the separation, one year from my last trip there, and would allow me to see Little Big Town in concert!). There are still lots of unknowns, still lots of decisions I need to be making in the next few weeks, but somehow I feel better about it....and that (I'm learning) makes a world of difference.

While it maybe wasn't the "best" holiday, it was still nice to be with family and friends.....and I truly hope that each of you had an enjoyable Christmas filled with merriment!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Catch-Up & Half-Marathon Made

I'm feeling quieter. I'm processing. And I'm doing lots of researching...of options. Not all of which I care to share about.

What I will share is the following:
-Sometimes I really feel like I need to move. I need a new experience. A new start. A new location. An adventure--something to motivate, lead, and meet all my financial needs.
-Sometimes PDX feels too small to contain oneself and one's ex-spouse.
-Sometimes we wonder about all the what ifs and what haves--the choices we could have made in the past that didn't pan out, the things we thought would be based on the choices we did make, the choices we could make, etc etc.
-And sometimes we put off wondering, because wondering just causes even more wondering.

In the last week (a week of no blogging?!) I've done a bit of this and a bit of that:
DECISIONS: Researched jobs, contacted recruiters. Reviewed school programs and requirements...again. Contacted Bastyr and Linfield about potential visits. Ran errands. Paid bills. Wanted to start dating and thought long and hard about the reality that I'm so not ready for anything real and serious. Heck, these days I don't even know if I want to really be married again. Hemmed and hawed. Worried. Realized I'm bored. Am trying to be patient and trusting....

WORK: Finished grading. Had make-up exams. Inputted grades. Ended term. And visited my old center where I learned that the guys are not very thrilled with my replacement--sad day. Watched a documentary on the immunization debate. Looked up research potential for acupuncture & PTSD.

HEALTH: Made a real journal entry. Had a counseling appt which ended with the therapist wondering if she'd really helped--probably not, but she acknowledged that I'm in decision crunch time. -Cried. Laughed. Been annoyed. Been happy. Had my first acupuncture visit and scheduled a naturopathic visit. Went to church.

FAMILY: Talked to my parents (2x, both today). Helped finish the process of clearing out Granny's old place. Visited Granny in her new place again. Attended my cousin's holiday party and seriously had a great time chatting with her/her hub/sis and all her friends.

HOUSE: Decided not to put Christmas lights on my house. Almost burned the house down (well not really, but it did fill with smoke) due to multi-tasking and a Pinterest cooking fail. Showed three sets of contractors around the rental/property, as the landlords are taking bids on a much needed new roof. Had a great evening connecting more with my housemate.....and agreed to extend her stay into mid-end of January. Cleaned the house profusely--including wiping down almost all surfaces and for the first time ever actually mopping the kitchen floor.

DOGS: Dealt with two sick dogs (potential giardia), cleaned up their accidents, monitored their movements (fab, let me tell ya, fab), gave them pills, cooked special rice & chicken meals for them daily, return trip to the vet, and generally just lots of extra love and cuddles.

FRIENDS: Met T for happy hour. Had an awesome long evening of downtown drinking and fun with my gal R--a rough day sent us on the rounds: sushi for dinner, Papa Haydn's for dessert (I've always wanted to go), and ended at Bartini. Had two separate interactions with Tall D: Special meal prep morning for the dogs followed by accompanying him on a cross-town errand & a pre-scheduled lunch & chat that fell after Anna's vet appt. Had a phone date with one of my best gals from hs.

AND....wait for it......RUNNING & GOALS:

Today, almost best of all, I finally checked another Year 30 goal off the list: I made a total of 14 miles this afternoon! Half-marathon goal running solo is met, although technically the dogs came along---and I'm totally impressed at just how amazing they did too. Honestly I only planned to run about five miles and I set out originally without the dogs....but after making it down the street 1/10 mile I heard profuse barking gaining on me, which I recognized to be Roxi's....and recognized to mean that my two dogs were not in the yard. They were SO cute though and so excited to have figured out that this morning's contractor failed to shut the other gate, so I jogged them back and got the leashes out of the car. After hitching them up, we took off. At about mile 2.5, I realized I was feeling pretty great so decided I'd expand the loop to add an extra mile or so, except when I hit the turn around spot, I realized I would totally be able to keep going at least to the boys appt where if I really needed a ride I could probably get one, except when I got to their general area, I totally knew I could finish that loop to make at least a ten mile, and then once I hit about 8.5 miles, I figured what the heck, I felt good, I'd been smiling most the route and the dogs were holding steady, I might as well finish it out and add in some extra partial-routes to make the total half-marathon mileage. And honestly it felt good almost the whole way--no real aches or pains (I swear by acupuncture, especially since first appt was only yesterday), although I knew I'd start cramping if I stopped once I was at about mile 12. So all things considered, it turned into a 14 mile day, when I really only expected it to be a fiver.

Dogs rocked. Vibrams and feet held up fine. The rain was soothing. The wind was both a fun challenge and a motivator. My Ipod held out until 1/10 mile from the house. And I turned in the last mile nearing dark. I'm estimating about a 2hr, 30min time. Seriously---awesome. The dogs and I did it together---just like how life, this year, the future has turned out....and just as I wanted the finish for this milestone to be.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Wrapping Up the Term Wear

I still haven't made my 30 items, 30 days selections although the last two weeks helped whittle down my choices even more in terms of bottoms! The last few weeks also saw me pull some items out of the closet that haven't seen as much use, so you should notice a few items that appear new but definitely are not!

Tuesday teaching:
Pretty plain jane :) as the outfit I thought of in my head didn't pan out and this is what got thrown together instead.

(Yellow polka dot button-up, gray cardi, work-weight jean pencil skirt (target), gray suede mary janes)

Weds errands: 
Decided to wear the argyle again!

(black cami, yellow argyle sweater, skinny jeans, gray suede flats)

Wednesday teaching: 
I still remember the day I bought this sweater on a shopping trip to Tacoma's H&M. I was visiting a friend at McChord AFB and Tall D & I had just gotten together...ha! I've also come to love this skirt--it's one of the few that still fits right, it was thrifted, and I like the pattern! This outfit is also another fashion thing that I don't usually's a light weight sweater..that's tucked in.

(pink sweater, black cami, thrifted skirt, black belts & flats)

Weekend family day: 
This was the day I wanted to just sleep for hours after I'd just slept for I chose the next best thing to pajamas--black leggings, a long-sleeved black shirt, and the first sweater dress I'd ever bought (en route to NOLA no less!). Is it weird that I seriously remember where I buy stuff years later?!

Tuesday Final: 
Low on time--mimicked the outfit from Sunday and went with a military inspired shirt dress from the BR outlet a few years back over the same bottoms as Sunday....with a belt. 

What do you wear to fix chicken & rice with your ex to treat your dogs messed up stomachs? Yup my old standby: a cami, shirt, and cardi on top with skinny jeans and ballet flats on the bottom. Cozy and comfortable!

Wednesday Final: 
A more casual take on Whitney's pattern mixing today! Had to get inspiration somewhere in a short amount of time!! I almost did a khaki shirt & belt combo to better follow suit but gray skirt with gray shoes was faster!

(gray skirt, gray suede mary janes, green striped button-up, argyle sweater, & dangly green earrings)

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Random Confessions

I always love when other people do random items about's like getting a peak into the psyche and getting to know someone in a completely different way--ha!

So here are some randoms:

---Up until last year, I hated red wine--gave me a headache. I only drank white. These days a red blend is my preferred wine of choice....and I think whoever discovered that red wine is heart healthy deserves an extra gold star in heaven.

---I have less than desirable feet. Oh their shape is alright, but I'm a female who has always thought that callouses demonstrated strength and character...and I like that they allow me to walk on gravel....feet to me are for functioning, not for making pretty....

---Although, sigh, I also have a toe fungus...that I picked up either from a) high school swim team showers or b) the pedicure I got from a hut in Brazil. Either way, I'm not willing to take the harmful meds that can get rid of it so that suckers with me for life....and I just hippie-nail paint over it.

---I'm pretty sure my students are equal parts in awe and thinking I'm disgusting when we talk about infectious diseases and I share that I'm pretty sure I've had 5 out of the 6 categories...and then I tell them the story about how as a kid I was sickly and had childhood asthma....and Mom let us kids run around barefoot in the mud puddles in the Philippines...and apparently there is a tropical worm that is sometimes used as an alternative treatment method to build up immune systems etc...Hey, if it's least I outgrew my asthma :)

---I hate paying mucho buckos for a hair cut. Today I got my hair cut for the first time in two months---a trim really...and it was $38. I know, I know that's WAY less than most my friends pay to have their hair done, but still, $20 would be golden. I'm trying to figure out how I can rope Deir into giving me regular trims while she's back in state....please gal?! :)

---I'm pretty sure I have a higher testosterone level than most females. I won't go into reason #2 for this thought (I'll let you infer) but reason #1 is that I like to sweat and I like harder work-outs than most females I know. Reason #3 is that hair grows like crazy....and I hate having to shave legs And reason #4 is cause my dermatologist in high school once told me so as a reason as to why I had more than average break-outs that required his services.

---During my exchange to Argentina, I had a massive crush on one of my host brothers...and he in turn also developed a thing for me. He was tall (like 6'5"), dark olive skin & dark hair, and charming. We would banter back and forth all the time in my funny Spanish and his limited English. The catch was that he had a long term girlfriend who I really did respect...and I had a rule that I wasn't supposed to date. We spent a New Years dancing at the beach after a bonfire, walking out on a jetty where he told me the most romantic thing I've ever heard, saw fireworks, and then we watched the sun come up on 2001...and spent the early morning hours picking up the beach of left over trash. We almost kissed..but didn't, and then his girlfriend showed up the next day....and our flirtation ended. I don't know that I've ever really shared that story-ha!

---I hate the unknown moments and uncertainties of life. As much as I enjoy change...I like a plan and security to be involved in that change. And I'm most uncomfortable and panicking when I don't know what I'm doing....

---I think I need to make myself angel hair pasta. Tall one didn't like spaghetti noodles. I think I've eaten spaghetti noodles a total of 3-4x in the last 4 years....and I used to LOVE angel hair. Note to self: buy angel hair pasta.

---I wish that alternative milks could active the setting magic in pudding. It's so discouraging to want to make Jello pudding but to have to buy real milk in order to have it set up correctly!

What randomness have you been thinking of lately?

Sunday, December 9, 2012

A Weekend Review

Friday Social & Outings
--started with breakfast with my buddy at one of my favorite funky breakfast joints downtown. We had a great time and he took me to this lil shop he'd found the last time we met for breakfast--totally the type of funny place that only N would have noticed AND would have taken me to-HA! Made tentative plans to get a longer run in together in the next week or two, as he's totally wanting to join in on the half-marathon bandwagon.
--ran errands...and surprising didn't get much and what I did get (letters to finish signs), I made sure to pay with debit and not credit. I HATE having credit card debt...and I think its existence allowed me to walk out of Target 100% empty handed.
--returned home with just enough time to squeeze in an Insanity work-out and hop in the shower. Then cousin A arrived and we loaded her delish taco soup into the crossover and took off across town to Book Club. Interestingly it was just the 5 of us original members and it was really a great evening together--lots of laughter, lots of catching up, and lots of encouraging each other toward new endeavors (one of my gals is moving in Jan/Feb to the bay area....sad but happy!!). On Friday we reviewed The Happiness Project (which was November's selection) and Where We Belong (which was December's). Somehow it's my turn next month and I had just a few selections I'd brought down from my "to read" pile.....and we ended up selecting Lucy by Ellen Feldman, which was donated by Mom. It's about an affair from FDR's days---plenty of fodder for a group of females to talk about!

Granny Move Time
--the alarm went off way too early on Saturday (especially after lots of vino and lots of sugar the night before) and I brewed coffee to drink en route to Salem to help load up Granny's stuff for her big move. I'd hoped that Tall D was going to come help out like he'd said, but luckily my brother was there and my uncles & father (all in their 60s/70s) were able to do a great job too. Within the first 40 minutes, we had all the heavy stuff loaded and from there it was getting things situated in the moving truck (Dad gets the truck set "just so" and almost everything gets its own blanket coating), packing up the rest of the inside goodies, farming out more items, and loading up boxes and items into our vehicles for additional transport. The entire process went incredibly smooth and Granny did a great job supervising while remaining in great spirits.
--about 12:45 we all arrived at the new place up here and unloaded the moving truck and our vehicles. Somehow unloading seemed more tiring than the loading, and I'm not gonna lie, I was dragging by about 3:30! My cousins and my aunts did a wonderful job of tackling the unwrapping of all the trinkets, getting things situated just so inside the place, etc.
--a handful of us returned today and finished getting Granny's new apartment in order. Her new faux fireplace was set up, the bed switched out for a better fitting model, the TV hooked up, boxes unpacked, pictures hung, and part of her Xmas decorations arranged....all before the Queen arrived at 3:30pm to check out her new home. A glass of vino and some popcorn later, she remarked that it felt just like home--definitely good to hear!
--tomorrow she can officially move-in. I'm picking her up from my aunt's at 10:30 and will keep her entertained until 1:30 when she'll be able to check in at the new place. Maybe I'll take her out to lunch somewhere near her new residence....
--next Saturday we'll finish going through the old place and taking things to be donated or transporting items for storage for other family members to the family beach house. Hopefully after next weekend, all will be settled and we can just enjoy having Granny closer!
--on the emotional side of things, Granny was in great spirits both yesterday and today...and the new neighbors are quite interested in knowing who she I'm hopeful this move is going to go even better than we could have imagined!

Recoup Time
--I mentioned being exhausted, but I was SO exhausted yesterday. In fact, so wiped that I honestly barely remember driving down or back from Salem. I do remember sitting down on the move job quite a bit yesterday and I recognized about 3:30 that I hadn't eaten a solid meal yet (just snacking on items I'd brought). Luckily my cousin A has spent enough time with me in the last year that I think she recognized too that I'd hit the wall, and she gave me the words I needed to hear to make myself go home. I got home about 4pm, unloaded my rig, crammed food in my body, vacuumed the house, hopped in the shower, and was laying in bed by 6:30pm. I pushed myself to stay awake until 8ish by reading a few chapters and chatting with my housemate.....and then I passed out until about 10am this morning.
--I woke up for about an hour last night and my brain thought through a lot of things I've been worried about lately (I was suddenly adamant that I need to get a full time job and sell my car for something cheaper in order to pay off my debts & credit card; I also was 100% sure that I need to move out of the rental ASAP either to a different area of Portland or out of Oregon period) Obviously these must be things that I'm not dealing with in my daily life, so some extra time will be devoted to working through some of these decisions.
--However mainly, I slept fairly solidly for over 12 hours.....and I can't remember the last time I've done that...and honestly I could have spent all day in bed. Physically I worked out a lot this week so I think my body is tired....I also had some weird sleep nights earlier this week....I was exposed to sick germs earlier this week also.....and obviously, emotionally, I'm probably more extended than I'm realizing. Regardless of the body needed it....and I probably need to take a few more days of keeping it easy....and process some stuff I think I must be shoving to the back corners of reality.
--Tonight after getting home, I took it easy---grabbed some grub out of the fridge, got the laundry done, chatted with the housemate, and then curled up in front of the TV and watched one of my favorite movies of all time: The Family Stone (here's the thing Meredith, you have a freak just don't fly it.) (Although I'm not going to lie, the movie always stirs up some other concerns especially now with all of dad's continual health what if by the time I have kids, they never get the opportunity to know my father...I hate even saying that outloud.....return up to the statement about thoughts I'm hiding in corners....)

Tomorrow after dropping Granny off, I've got to run to campus to make copies for the final exams on Tues/Weds and for next term (the office is moving and we might not have copy machine access).

Hope y'all had restful weekends!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

The Early December Ramblings Update

----Today/tonight's been odd. Not sure why today has felt so off. Not many plans maybe. Thinking but not thinking. Lots of free time ahead. Whatever the deal....I'm in a weird space. Tomorrow morning I meet a buddy for breakfast and in the evening it's book club. I'm debating whether to take tomorrow as a rest day or just keep working out if for no other reason that the stabilization. Maybe it's just the holidays making me introspective...time to keep cracking on some goals then :)

----Last night was the final lecture of the term. Two more meeting times next week to give the final...then they have to be graded and all three courses of grades have to be inputted to the system. As of next Friday, the term is officially over.

-----As mentioned the final lectures of the term are my favorites. I spent part of Tuesday afternoon texting my friends all the fascinating things I was rereading in the text book regarding sex. This term contained the most gigglers, but the final class meeting was good and I had several students ask if they could either retake my course for fun or if I taught other courses-----this is always incredibly rewarding feedback as an instructor.

-----This evening I looked for/at available there are a couple available right now that would be pretty ideal positions....except now I'm registered for courses for the next, and a big part of me is not wanting to give up on that POTENTIAL in order to get an additional took me a couple weeks to get on the school bandwagon but I don't that I'm willing to quit that pursuit without actually giving it a try. Always the catch 22.

-----I am expecting that much of December will be invested in reading. I finally finished Mountains Beyond Mountains about infectious disease and international health, and in the last 24hrs I completed Where We Belong, our book club selection and a book about adoption--another of my passions. I still have a stack by my bedside and many unread selections in the guest room. I'm also back to being halfway through Radical---and liking it better this time.

----Which my guest room currently is housing a short-term renter. The room stayed furnished, she's here for December with the potential for longer albeit doubtful since she's working downtown and applying for jobs and options all over the city. She's incredibly nice, with Midwest charm, and she loves the animals. It's actually been really nice to have someone else in the home, even if our schedules are incredibly varying.

-----So far this week I've already logged almost 20 miles. My challenge to run on every sunny day is pushing me out many days, as we've had much more sunshine than I would have expected! Plus I needed the mental health break on a frustrating day or two earlier this week. G was supposed to run with me this evening, but ended up having to cancel due to blisters.

----I think I'm partly excited to take classes.....because honestly, I've been starting to realize that my brain isn't functioning as well as it used to. I need stimulation, I need to stretch my mind, and I need that inputting of facts and information. Maybe that is what's actually fueling this new interest to the courses I've registered for, I'm not sure. But I do know that I officially paid the rest of my bill this last week.

----Saturday is move day for Granny. Will be so nice to have her closer and here's hoping it's a good experience for her as well.

----I was stoked last week to find a Nintendo DS system in a box in the garage. Tall D had to come get some stuff this week and he also retrieved out of another box another handheld system. I've always wanted either/or but have never been willing to spend the cash on one. I also forsee part of December going to acquainting myself with either system as long as they work!

----So far, my ring hasn't sold yet :( but I'm hoping it will soon. Not that it'll put much of a dent in my credit card divorce debt but it'll at least take some of it away. I've also been contemplating selling the Wii system, but don't think I'd get much for it and am not sure I really want to do that just yet. At least for now, I'm still not buying much, I'm not planning on buying many (if any) Xmas presents, and I'm trying to only pay for stuff with debit instead of credit.

----So much deployment and military stuff has been on my heart this week. I have been thinking so much of my fellow milspouses and everything they're going through. Love these ladies!

----I had a slight financial issue with a friend this week---catching me off guard, frustrated with my bank, and unsure of more than one thing.

-----Last weekend was THE state football game which my high school participated in, although sadly the game did not end in our favor. It wasn't even close. But it was phenomenal to see the turn-out of just how many people made the 4-5 hour drive to support their community and high schools. Those are the moments that make me love smaller towns.

----Tonight I ate a frozen pizza for the first time since our Louisiana days. It was marvelous, especially along with hard apple cider! :) I also made at least two other real meals for myself this week (a loaded baked potato and an avocado/bacon/lettuce grilled cheese with a side of roasted veggies)---so I've been trying to work on the whole eating thing.

----The dogs are getting some quality cuddle time each day, joined me on one run this week, and also joined me on an errand to Costco yesterday. Ironically the Tall one also happened to randomly show up at the Costco also, so he got to love on the dogs after our separate check-outs---Anna especially is always glad to see him.

----My other goal for this month is to attempt to spend at least ten minutes combined in prayer each day, generally praying mainly for other people. So far I'm remembering to spend time in prayer although it's not going exactly how I intended.

----I'm forming a post on more divorce related stuff---not necessarily for other people but more for myself, some things I want to make sure to remember in order to hopefully offer support to others when they're grieving.

----Closet go-thru needs to getting dressed this last week I realized that for real many of my clothes are currently too big, even my skinny skirts were looser than usual. The plus side is that it really should pare down much of what's available....and I KNOW that eventually this major health kick will die down and I'll probably be back to my old sizing.

----And that also leads me to the interesting fact that suddenly my blog has been getting hits like crazy. A couple hundred in the last week or two in fact, yet there are rarely comments and I'm not entirely sure why there's this major peak all the sudden, especially since my most hit post was the one I wrote about Thanksgiving.....hmmm....interesting.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Diets, Intake, & Food Monitoring

So another health lesson oriented post: FOOD

Every term in our intro course we include a food assignment that requires students to monitor their food intake over three "normal" days, categorize their food choices, and note their emotional states during intake. Students then must input their information into the USDA Super Food Tracker site, where they can analyze whether or not they are meeting their nutritional needs both via comparisons to the recommended food groups and to recommended nutrient amounts.

Now...are there potential issues with this assignment? You bet. I honestly don't think that the USDA recommendations are the best match for everyone, many individuals these days have food intolerances which impact their ability to meet recommendations for pre-set food groups, the online system is a pain in the butt to use, and I also think that the calorie recommendations that often are given to students are set a bit high. But I think that the use of the site is a great starting point for students to recognize whether their intake is actually healthy or completely missing the boat. In reality, I also have been using the food tracker site off and on over the last few weeks, just to see how I'm doing in terms of making sure I've been eating enough (although I did re-realize that I am a fruit addict!). Some days I need to eat more but other days I'm astonished that what feels like little is actually enough (just yet another reminder that our society preconditions us to overeat.)

Beyond the food tracker site and food monitoring, we also spend plenty of time each term going over current issues with the overall food industry and we talk about changes in portion sizes. Some students have never thought about the fact that a "standard" milkshake is more than one serving and a meal from Olive Garden is over half to almost all their recommended calories for a day. On the other side, some students really have their eyes opened to seeing that they need to eat more and they almost all realize that they need to eat better.  On average, most students learn that they're not eating enough fruits & veggies, they eat too many carbs (especially processed ones), and almost all of them are under on fiber intake.

Each term we also watch clips about the current food industry. We usually either show part of Food Inc (although in the last few terms, most students have already seen it) or King Corn (which in some ways students relate to better). And I also show this TED Talk with Jamie Oliver and this lecture by Michael Pollan. The irony of all this is that sometimes I just assume that everyone in my personal life already has been exposed to this information (especially here in Portland), so I always find it funny or odd if/when someone in my social interactions starts talking to me about just learning much of this information---although I'm so glad to continue to see individuals making the transition toward healthier choices!! This term I was trying to find new videos to show my classes and came across Fat, Sick, & Nearly Dead and Forks Over Knives which had both been recommended to me by friends, students, & fellow bloggers; however I didn't show either film as I felt that the information was more one-sided (still good though!).

My personal opinion on food is that everything is a balance and that our bodies have the capacity to tell us what we're missing. Some of us have foods that just hit the spot and our bodies/minds immediately respond. A recent friend reports that avocado makes him feel more balanced, for me, blueberries immediately can snap me out of a bad mood. I DO believe that we need to more or less be eating something from all food groups and I believe that a balanced-for-us diet will provide all the nutrients we need (even though I'm not going to lie, I have a packet of EmergencE and protein powder almost every day now). I also believe that different people have an innate desire to eat different types of diets--some people should eat more protein, some can have less vegetables, etc...and they can all still be healthy as long as they are following the right diet for them. On a global scale, it's amazing to see how different diets can be, yet different populations can be equally healthy. (Well, as long as they don't integrate our horrible Western diet, and with it an increase in our Western diseases-ha!). And I'm sure it comes as no surprise that I believe that whole foods are the best and that we should eat less processed foods whenever possible.

I also am realizing more and more that our dietary needs can change over time. While I'm pretty sure I'll always be a high-fruit intake person (I seriously feel like I could eat a diet of 65% fruits and be satisfied with no negative GI effects), I'm finding myself switching more and more to a higher protein diet. And to be completely honest, for the first time in 17 years of being a vegetarian, I'm so protein hungry these days that I'm seriously contemplating adding chicken back into my diet. (I just added fish and uh, bacon, into my diet in the last year.) This doesn't mean that I should still eat some whole grains and that I don't need vegetables, but it probably means that with the increase in physical activity, my body is recognizing that I need more protein and from more complex sources.

I agree with Michael Pollan that we know so little about diet yet we try to pretend to know so much. Really for most things health related, we just need to continue to listen to our bodies and use our thinking caps to analyze whether or not our choices are truly the healthiest. We all have compromises as well, but the better we can create long-term healthier choices, the fuller our lives will be. And I'm not gonna lie, I do believe that occasionally monitoring what and how much you're eating is probably a good thing to do as well. Sometimes a lil check in can be a good thing! (And this might be TMI but with recent family events (Granny hospitalization for obstructed bowel last month), monitoring one's daily GI functions is also a great indicator of one's needs and whether or not the system is functioning at optimal.)

Monday, December 3, 2012

Recent Attire & Potential Clothing Challenge

So I know that I've mentioned this but I'm seriously getting to the point where I am pretty much wearing the same items....and I'm actually okay with it. Part of it is because of the weather (no more open toe shoes and skinny jeans are amazing for Oregon rainy season in order to avoid that soaked ankle look) and part of it is because I have less clothes that fit these days since I've gotten fitter (hence why I've tried to maintain the same size for the last 6 years!!). I've been contemplating challenging myself to a 30 clothing item challenge for 30 days...and while I'm probably already doing this, I'm just not there quite yet. :) However I might go through my closets and just create one section full of the stuff that I'm actually wearing these days. Too bad running clothes aren't acceptable everywhere!

I have pulled some older items out of the closet recently, but I've also realized that I like to re-use one of the same items back-to-back frequently, only further showing me that really I just need to complete the challenge anyway :)

Monday happy hr & Tuesday errands:
Black cami (Target) under gray floral patterned top (old Penney's); yellow cardi (Target); skinny jeans (old Walmart); black leather boots (Penney's)

Tuesday teaching:
Same outfit but with thrifted black pants

And I love the above outfit cause it screams "Portland" to me! :)

Wednesday teaching: 
Same yellow cardi (Target); burgandy dress (old Walmart); brown tights/belt/flats, wool hooded coat (old Target)

Tuesday teaching: 
Argyle sweater (Penney's), work-weight denim skirt (Target), ruffled gray suede boots

Wednesday teaching: 
same boots, burgandy skirt (Kohl's), gray button down, black cami, black belt, long black cardi (Old Navy)

Family trip & happy hr in SE: 
Skinny jeans; gray suede flats (Kmart); shirt (Penney's); old blue cardi (Target)

Mint shirt (recent Target); gray skirt (Target); same long cardi; black tights (YEARS old & Freddies); black suede flats (Kmart); black belt (from a diff outfit)

Based on these outfits alone I can already start to compile a list of items for my challenge:
Long black chunky cardigan
Wool hooded coat
Black leather boots
Black belt
Yellow cardigan
Black cami/white cami
Black trousers (only ones that fit me currently)
Skinny jeans
Mint green shirt

And being me, I'd HAVE to have at least three dresses, three more shirts, leggings, two pairs of flats, the black cardi, at least 1-2 sweaters, and at least 2-4 skirts.....hmmm I'm well on my way to designing a challenge... :)

It'd definitely make dressing easier...and I'd have less to worry about packing on any trips!
Accessories don't count do they? :)

But uh running and outdoor gear doesn't count....

What would you choose if you had to whittle down your wardrobe? Are there items you couldn't live without? Suggestions for what to include or items you think I could do without?

Christmas Decorating

Christmas Tree Hunting:
My cousin A and I headed out in the truck a little after 1pm on Friday with to-go cups of hot cocoa, and I'm pretty sure we laughed our way through every possible fiasco. A burnt her mouth on the hot cocoa, I almost got the truck stuck on the driveway letting another car pass, we had to wait 35 mins for the owner to return from town, and while in pursuit of the perfect tree we got completely and utterly soaked...BUT I think I speak for the both of us when I say that each little hiccup only made the trip more memorable and more enjoyable in fact. (Although I hope A got her taste buds back!) 

Jeans completely soaked, but here she is: my perfect tree...that I hacked through and A and I hauled from the back 40 up to the store. Way to go A! (And I don't think I'll ever forget the ol' guy telling us after he watched us huffing and puffing with said tree all the way up "well, if I would of known you gals were gonna go so far out, I would have come out with the tractor to get ya..." Ha...thanks mister!) :)

Driving the truck after all this time was SO much fun! A and I enjoyed the back roads and the bed of the truck happily transported both my trees.

Once the trees got back to the house, A and I unloaded them. While our jeans made their rounds in the dryer, we set the big tree in the stand and got her stabilized and watered.

I brought the trees in yesterday & vacuumed them out today. (The on-site shaker was broken, so I vacuumed a container and a half of old needles out of just the big one!)

And this afternoon/evening I finished hanging the ornaments on the trees.

The big one is the perfect height for the tall ceilings in the front room.

And the lil guy in the back of the house, decorated with all of Tall D and my random and gifted ornaments. 

Centerpiece on the table: scented pine cones in a random bowl with tree cuttings underneath.

At church this morning, advent wreaths were available for $2!! Perfect for the back corner by the stove and what a deal for a much needed advent display!

Cuttings, candles, & santa/ms clause ornaments by the TV

And the final product in the front room this evening: I definitely could be spending most my evenings out here sipping on vino and just relishing life & the holiday spirit.

Both my aunt/uncle and mom/dad have contributed lights for me to use on the trees and on the house, so I hope to get the outside lights up later this week/end. For now I feel like the house itself is decorated (I keep it basic) and I'm enjoying it. I even hunted out my old Bing Crosby CDs...and realized that Tall D left the copy of the new Christmas Carol that I bought last Xmas. So both of those goodies will be indulged in the coming weeks!

A few tears today, mainly because Xmas is Tall D's favorite holiday and it's sad to me to not have him appreciating and enjoying the holiday as he would in years past, but maybe he'll still get the opportunity....

Definitely starting to feel the sparkle and enjoyment possible of the holiday season however! 

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Running (& Insanity) Review

So folks, November just wrapped and I thought it might be a good idea to look back on my autumn of running.

SEPTEMBER TOTAL MILEAGE: 70.9 miles plus 5 days of Insanity work-outs
OCTOBER MILEAGE: 64.7 miles plus 3 Insanity work-outs & 3hrs yard work
NOVEMBER MILEAGE: 56.5 miles plus 6 Insanity work-outs & 2hrs yard work

--As mentioned, it's awesome to be able to feel like 4-7 miles is an average run these days. It's incredible to know that I can pull on my Vibrams and head out and know that I'll cover an amount of distance that I never would have thought that I'd be able to regularly be running. Up until two years ago, 7 miles in one day had been my I can cover 7 miles twice in a one week period. For the first time ever, I feel like I can maybe actually call myself a runner....and that this might be something I'll stick with for years to come.

--Let's talk about Vibrams. Still awesome, even on long runs, but adding the toe socks has made all the difference for excess rubbing. LOVE THEM! And honestly I've still had minimal issues compared to the times I tried to take up routine running in regular shoes.

--Scheduled Races/Runs: Tall D & I ran in my first organized race this summer and had a blast. End of September I was registered for the Run Like Hell 5k but had to miss it due to the military funeral. However this fall I ran my first 10k and had a lot of fun!

--While I didn't run a half (yet), I stuck through the overuse injury and kept up the activity. I'm still battling an occasional tightening/cramping in my glutes/hip region, which I'm contemplating acupuncture sessions or deep tissue massage for...and I'm trying to increase my stretching (and I probably should be hydrating better). The Insanity cross training and stretching has been helping with the knee however.

--Some runs are longer, some are shorter, some are faster, and some are slower. I tend to just let my body direct what it's comfortable with most days. As long as my legs are moving and my lungs are working then it's good. Speaking of which, my breath control has improved as well!

--Running continues to be great therapy. A time to either not think at all, to enjoy my surroundings and the dogs, and/or to work through something on my brain. Running got me through the rough month of September, especially as I realized that it was physically not possible for me to cry and run at the same time---on bad days I'd pound the pavement just for a straight hour of no tears. These days it's become a great mental health regulator--let's me blow off steam, tires me (and the dogs), and makes me feel like something good got completed.

--I've been trying to run at least 60 miles a month, although my long run in September in the height of half training pushed me over 70 that month. This month I came short mainly due to spending every other day on an off day...and from a week of constant rain during which Insanity subbed in. I also realized that doing the same Insanity DVD wasn't really cutting it anymore and I started rotating three of the main ones from the first half of the program---and let me tell you, within three days there was a noticeable difference in my appearance. All the rest days this last month were due to timing and also that my body has just been telling me that it needed a break.

--Let's talk about the physical effects of working out so much, although I'm not gonna lie, my skinnier core and no love handles are 100% from Insanity--I know this. But the two mixed together have created the skinniest legs I've ever had, a tighter waist than I've had in years, the first time I've had no love handles in my adult life, my arms are thinner and toned, and folks, for better or worse, my boobs have massively shrunk, as in I'm pretty sure they're two cup sizes smaller than they were in July. Wowzas! Ironically, while my waist is thinner and toned and my legs are skinnier, my rear has much more muscle than in years past, and I'm actually more or less in my regular "thin" jean size. Tops, dresses, coats are all pretty loose though--dang! Ironically though, with all the changes in the body in the last six months, my friend's scale announced that I'm still within the same 10-15 pound healthy range that I've been since I was 15; I'm just on the lowest end of it.

--The other awesome thing about running....this is the year of the half I think. My gal Christina in Texas just took up running in the spring and she completed her first half this November. My old milspouse running partner Heather trained for a fall half even while months pregnant until a short-term health issue kabooshed her attempt just the week before the race---inspiration or what?! My best gal Deir took up running this last spring/summer, completed the Couch to 5k, tomorrow run's in her first 10k (go D, go!!), and now is one of my biggest half motivators across the distance. Deir's SIL here in Oregon also took up running, completed Run Like Hell also, and has been training with Deir for a half across the distance. I found all the awesome and inspiring running bloggers I've started following: Amber, Lisa, Marisa, Lauren....and even one of the fashion bloggers I follow was secretly training and just completed her first half (way to go Whitney!) My buddy I just reconnected with jumped on my half train once I told him I wanted to complete one and has asked me to log some long runs with him over the coming months. While I don't have many people nearby who are major runners (and while I'm much more of a solo runner by choice most the time), it's been so, so, so wonderful to be "training" and running with such motivation across the distance!

--I'm still not too keen on running consistently in the rain or on stormy days, so we'll see how running continues throughout the coming months. At this point I intend to do Insanity on the worst days and have challenged myself to try to run every day that is sunny. In mid-spring, I intend to start up training again for the half following a regular schedule. Until then I hope to just run for fun and to keep my mileage up, so that training isn't too difficult.

--The other thing that running/working out has reminded me is how much of an afternoon work-out person I am. I hate running in the morning and it always feels like mid-afternoon is when mentally and physically I'm itching to stretch my legs. Morning runs feel like lead and with very few street lights and limited side walks, I'm not down with night runs, so afternoon runs still tend to be my time of choice....even if I'm usually contending with school traffic (there's a school on every single route I run in my neighborhood (at least 6-8 schools within ten miles)).

--But one thing's for sure...I'm running cause I love it, cause I need it, and cause I can! Some days I space out, some days I pray, some days I focus on the lyrics playing or the dogs sniffing, sometimes I mentally plan or review, but every day...running feeds something in me that just needs it to keep on with its fuel.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Happiness Is...

A couple weeks ago my cousin mentioned in a passing text comment that I am now a MUCH happier version of myself than in recent past years.......and I'd have to agree. In some ways I hate to admit that moving on has seriously returned a smile to my face, a confidence to my stride, and less knots in my muscles, but it's incredibly true. Sure I cried my fair sure...and every once in a while I still do...but I promise you, I'm smiling much more than I have in a long, long time. Does that mean life is perfect? Ha, by no means....but it does mean that there is a LOT to be happy about...and there's something about having the freedom to be me again that just makes life feel lighter, happier, free.....

So what's happy inducing these days:

---Comfortable, organized homes. Every time I walk in the door...I LOVE my home. I love the pictures, the ethnic and earthy elements. The zebra rug. The thick stripes painted around the dining area. The throw blankets and pillows, the focus on the fireplaces, and the candles. Yup....LOVE it.

---Teaching about stuff I'm passionate about aka the last two weeks we cover chapters on infectious diseases (FASCINATING! and I get on my soapbox about antibacterial products), cancer (and I get on my soapbox about chemical/toxin exposures), relationships and SEX. Yup..."let's talk about sex, baby..."

---Argyle sweaters. And days of stripes. Say no more.

---Rehoming the chickens....yep, with mixed feelings they got rehomed today. Most responses I've had from a craigslist ad ever....and a gentle giant relocated them to North Portland. No joke....he was taller than Tall D and had the deep voice of a lil giant....nice guy....and now, no more early morning feedings and hopefully no more rats either.

---Birds flitting in the bushes outside the windows.

---Focusing on getting my finances in order, including suspending my regular monthly charity donations that I realized were only adding to the unfortunate debt on my credit card AND securing a housemate for the month of December.

---Grilled Banana Sandwich. Split it with a friend folks and thank me (& pinterest) later. A-MA-ZING!

---Driving the Sorento...seriously. I've never been so in love with a vehicle every.single.time I get behind the wheel.

---Sweating. Insanity. Running. These slow jogs I'm doing just to get mileage in...and always with a smile on my face as I'm smacking my gum. Feeling my core working.

---The dogs pre-run. Some days I'm not too keen on taking them, but they win me over every time...The minute they start to see running clothes going on, they're in my face, and serious Anna gets her excited grin and whimper going....who can say no to that?!

---The dogs at bedtime. Both hop up on the empty side...and I try to read or grade...and they will have none of that until they get their ample love and pet time.

---Cleaning with natural products. Today I brought the baking soda and vinegar back.

---Hearing my own opinion in my head first 85% of the time, rather than the doubts of another arriving first.

---Reconnecting with my version of how the world works and realigning my values on spiritual, family, social, communicative levels...and embracing many of the opportunities that exist should one go looking for them.

---Being a better friend & family member again...and all the great moments spent in enjoyment with individuals from those categories.

---Morning cups of coffee....and a carton of eggnog in the fridge to hit that evening sweet tooth spot.

---Fireplace fires.

---Spending an evening nose deep reading nerdy international health books for fun.

---Being creative. Being inspired.

---Seeing Christmas lights going up on houses.

---Fun text exchanges and Facetime conversations.

---New Girl episodes.

---Accomplishing goals and finishing projects: productivity.

---Major's announcement that he's arrived in the mornings and should be let in. (The cat sounds slightly like a bird...)

---A post-work out shower.

---Throwback songs on the Ipod.

---The ebb and flow of routine but flexible days.

---New experiences.

---Helping others...and moments when students disclose how much they're learning.

---Holiday decorations, smells, and peppermint flavor.

---Classes wrapping up for the holiday season.

Yup, much is bringing happiness these days folks. What are you happy about lately?!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Infantry Vs Morality

So many times I've wanted to write about aspects of our military life...but bit my tongue for various reasons: not wanting to break the spousal creed, not wanting to potentially deter Tall D's growth in the profession should this blog ever be linked to one of us, not wanting to potentially hinder my own path in providing services to the military, and not wanting to generally "go off" when at times I believe most stuff is situational.

But here's the deal folks, I was a spoiled kid, the daughter of an Air Force officer, who was a quiet leader and who from what I've been told didn't necessarily push himself to move up the ranks. My take on our experiences in that military of old are skewed because I was a young child (Dad retired when I was 9) and each branch of service has its own personality. I truly have no knowledge of whether Dad developed an ego in the service. I do know that his life was his job and while he was a good father, he wasn't around much for my older siblings. He always worked either Christmas or Eve and granted the young enlisted guys leave to go home to their families. It was hard to get him to take family vacations and when we did, we usually left behind schedule. We went to church on Sundays and I remember Mom & Dad dressing up glamorously for military balls. I also remember when my parents stopped drinking to set the example for my brothers and the young airmen in the department. Dad was never one to really lose his temper, but there are stories of him litting into an airman that he learned was a wife abuser. Dad never went to war, so in that respect his experience is totally different as well, but I do remember the difficulty of his transition out of the service. After wearing the same uniform and having the same routine for 20+ years, he suddenly was left with a massively reduced income, no idea what to wear each day, and lots of idle time (& two kids left in the home). Additionally his military job (a meteorologist) doesn't exactly translate into a job outside of the service where limited positions exist...and especially when Dad is an extremely quiet man. Watching Dad through his whole experience, left me better able to connect and relate to many of the service members I helped with their transitions during my job in Louisiana.

On the flip side of that experience, what I can tell you is that I had absolutely no idea what I was getting into when I agreed to marry an enlisted infantryman, as that world is a completely different world of its own and I believed Tall D when he told me the type of man he wanted to be in this life (a man not unlike my father: a leader, a believer of God, a heart for the world, steadfast, compassionate, but with a lil more fun & beer drinking thrown in...and honestly, a man who had set my first task to help him apply to become an officer, although that didn't end up being able to happen). My ignorance withheld the truth that that type of man doesn't survive the enlisted infantry due to the culture of the institution. I should have known something was askew when my uncle scoffed that I was going to run off with an infantryman....

And here's where I'm going to slightly spout off, because I joke but I'm also dead serious that routine weekend beer pong was probably the first indication that my marriage would be doomed. The infantry culture is one that promotes the atmosphere, maturity, egotisticalness, and moral standards of a frat house. It's definitely understandable in some do you send men (& some women) off to combat, training them to kill others without much regard, and yet expect them to return home and act like the most upright of moral citizens? How do you deal with the realities of a job many love to hate AND hate to love but expect them not to want to drink, drug, smoke or sex away frustrations and sorrows? Especially in a culture that tends to see emotions and sharing as a sign of weakness? Where counseling still contains a massive stigma and where most will admit to some of the symptoms of PTSD & TBI, but its rare to have one openly admit that they actually will classify as having the diagnosis. And the reality is that those who don't conform to the behaviors of the set (or who attempt to uphold the truth of the situation) are usually hazed or thought of as the weaker set. I can't tell you the countless times I individually had a soldier share with me that they didn't like someone's choices or lifestyle behaviors or share with me what they really were struggling with, but rarely will one stand out against the grain to stand up for what they truly believe in or what they are going through. And this is an example of why: The one time I actually witnessed a soldier finally share a segment of a nighttime dream (PTSD related) that he'd been struggling with, the entire kitchen went quiet and his fellow soldiers all changed the subject and left him hanging. How do you break the cycle when the entire institution wants to live in denial? And what do you do when even leadership tends to turn their head until they have to deal with the more negative outcomes?

In reality, as negative of an influence that the infantry culture can be, it seems like the transition out of that culture is even harder on the soldier. One of the many things that the military has going for it is it's sense of camaraderie  The soldiers feel it when they work, sleep, party, etc with the same set of individuals day in and day out. They have to overlook any differences, because it doesn't matter when your life depends on the other in order to survive. The wives experience it also because generally most are going through the same thing. You understand that you're not the same individually, but you're going through the same experience and dealing with the same fears & concerns. I've never seen another setting that has the same sense of support, understanding, or camaraderie because it's rare that other occupations operate the same. Last year, in my veteran support job and in the conversations I had with several of Tall D's fellow veteran students, this need for camaraderie was continually brought to the table. And last year, I somehow attracted and developed a mini support group of about 12 diverse former soldiers from various service areas and branches, who were able to openly share their experiences, support each other, and find a similar type of camaraderie---that whole experience is limited however and only opens for those who are willing to seek it. Additionally, some veterans bond together in order to continue the moral chaos that existed while they were IN service, and I'm not so sure how well that benefits them in pursuing new goals outside of the service. The transition itself is usually a period of being lost and of needing assistance, but the soldier/veteran has to be willing to tap into the resources that exist.

There are other issues with the culture as well. It seems that many of the soldiers who choose or are put into the enlisted infantry ranks have had challenging pasts (Tall D tells me that this is historically the case as well), which might mean that the chaos that gets created in off hours is just a repetition of the life lived prior to joining the ranks. And generally speaking as individuals "mature" into adults, these same patterns exist due to the continuation of the infantry culture. Additionally, historically enlisted ranks have been paid at a rate that would allow for the survival of one individual (the soldier) and not for a family---in the past it was thought that the lower ranks would not have families (which isn't the case as much these days). Another major issue that I noticed while working in an office responsible for helping soldiers transition out of the service is that in times of downsizing, the military will cut individuals for various behavioral infractions that it is more than willing to overlook during other periods of need. Frequently these soldiers aren't granted the ample time needed in order to transition successfully. How do you prepare for separation, relocation, an identity shift, family needs, and create a new plan if you have just a few weeks (if that) until you're removed from your job? And if you have no family of origin to fall back on, then what do you do? And even for those who do have ample time to transition, why find a minimum wage job if unemployment pays you more than what you can find to do for a new job? Is it any wonder our veterans are struggling with employment, with sustaining, with accessing appropriate resources? (There's more to all this story, this is just a part of it.)

Honestly all this has been forefront on my brain for months (obviously, I lived and breathed veterans for an entire year both at home and at work last year). I'm not going to lie, I've been struggling the last few months not to be slightly disenfranchised with the whole infantry lot. Don't get me wrong, I most definitely appreciate the reality that these individuals face and the choice they make to put their lives on the line for each other and for the nation. What I'm not so thrilled with is the choices many of them make and the mentality that can be held outside of the job. Especially by those who want to head into leadership...and there's where part of all of this comes from lately. One of the fellow guys in our unit who was one of the lowest moral individuals I've ever met and who in a lot of ways Tall D started to be more and more like over time, has now announced that he wants to become an officer. Tall D and I have debated this announcement more than once in the last week, as he fully supports this choice (arguing that infantry officers need not be morally sound if they lead well in battle) and I am adamantly opposed to it (as I believe that officers are to LEAD by example both in combat and outside of work). I'm seriously so opposed that I wish I could write a letter against this individual's application packet. Why should we continue to put individuals into positions of leadership just because they're good in battle? And what makes a true leader? (Interestingly, my buddy I breakfasted with on Friday, also was enlisted infantry who became an officer...and who offered my same opinion when questioned on all of this.)

And here goes, the other reason all of this has been on my mind is because sometimes, I feel like an infantry wife/milspouse failure. I'm opposed to divorce. I'm opposed to milspouses who walk away from their soldier/veteran when the sol/vet needs her/him most. I remember adamantly telling my hesitant family that yes, there would be problems, but Tall D and I would see them through. And in reality my rose colored glasses blinded me from many of the truly underlying issues that did exist, until the reality was shared after it was basically too late. (Ironic that what we're good at professionally, isn't always what we're good at personally...isn't that the truth.) I recognize that not all of Tall D's and my problems stemmed from the military (as we obviously have fundamental differences in how we were raised and how we look at the world, plus our spiritual lives dwindled and I became that woman who banked my happiness on his happiness which only further made him unhappy because I was unhappy) and I recognize that I would tell any other milspouse that if he's not willing to get help or change his behaviors, then there isn't anything you can do but to move forward yourself.....but it still feels crappy to be doing it. I might be assertive and opinionated, but underneath, I've always been a caring and bleeding heart. While Tall D was never willing to tap into the resources as he had declared that he would, it doesn't mean that I've given up hope that he might and it doesn't mean that I'm willing to totally walk away from being his friend. Because as cheesy as it sounds, there's one infantry value that I do truly believe in...and that's the reality that you don't leave your buddies behind....

Disclaimer: I also must say that not EVERY infantryman is affected this way. And obviously from recent events (General Petrayus & others), every officer or individual (both inside and outside the military) has the potential to be morally corrupt as well. We all struggle, I get this. I wouldn't say that the beginning of my separation was the greatest show of my moral character either, I'm just as capable of having a 2X4 in my eye while pointing out the flaws of systems and others. And I don't know that the system can be fixed honestly, but I think it's a shame that it continues to exist as it does.

Updated after two hours of raking: The more I thought about it the more I realized that any choices that I still wonder at their morality or whether they were the best decisions I've made occurred while being surrounded by the military culture. Technically the choices were all within appropriate professional or societal guidelines these day but they definitely weren't the greatest representations of my values. And then I wondered why it might be that we're more likely to make those types of choices dependent upon the individuals we're routinely interacting with....Do we make questionable choices when our choices seem pale by comparison to those around us? And if that's the case....then that might explain a lot....and only furthers my belief that strong moral leadership is part of the key.

What do you think? What makes a leader? Is morality part of it? Or is that now an old-fashioned notion?