Monday, October 31, 2011

Trick Or Treat...

It's Halloween, so it's seems appropriate. Has the last 24 hours given me a trick or a treat?  So, as you know, I determined that our pending move doesn't allow me to seek the type of job I'd like. I'm just not enough of a jerk to go out, find a great, involved job, and then quit in 4 months.

I'd interviewed for a position that would have ben wonderful, challenging, and rewarding. But they independently mentioned that they would want someone who could be there at least a year, and even a term of 6 months would make them leery of hiring said person. A few days after the interview, I contacted them and told them the truth. The reward for my integrity?  I got the mass email saying "we found someone else".  Yeah, I had hoped I'd at least earn a personal response, but that's just not the way it goes.

So I contacted several staffing firms. I think it says something about this economy that one didn't even respond and one told me they had nothing. But, NRI Staffing answered. And helped. I say this because if you're in the DC area, hunting for a job, please don't let this experience turn you off. Please go work with them. I've worked with a few firms in this area, and they are by far the best.

They listened, they cared about what I wanted. Didn't balk when I stated what I wanted financially, etc. Great to work with. Except as it turns out, the position I got was terrible. The company has about 4 different systems to track their files (recipe for disaster!), and my job was to call people and ask for money. The other co-workers were nice. I can't fully explain it. But it was awful. I felt nauseous in the morning before I'd go in. As I was leaving, I felt dread about the next day.

But this isn't a rant. (Shocking, I know. I like my rants.)  This is about how we move forward. My husband came home for his weekend. And despite the stress he's under, he made a point of taking me out for a date. He rubbed my feet. And we talked seriously about things. And he gave me permission to quit. That he'd rather we keep struggling, but I be happy.    So I did.

I am blessed. I don't know what is going on, what is next, where it is we're moving (we find out in just over a week), what God's plan is for me, why exactly it is that - while the struggles are small - my life seems to be one struggle after another for the last long while. I don't know what lesson God is trying to teach me, but I think it might be about trusting him. About finding that optimism I used to have, because it was in him. About holding out my candle, as faint as I might think it is right now, not hanging my head and hogging its tiny glow.

So, I've got 4 goals for the next week or two. (We're going to go in small chunks).

1. Re-read Ruthless Trust by Brennan Manning. Study it, focus on it.  If you haven't read it, you should.

2. Get back to running and working out. Stop making excuses. Clearly, I have all the time in the world again.

3. Search for positions that match me, but fulfill me. I know they exist. A quick search found a part-time (6 hrs/day) support position at a church. Not a ton of money, but more than unemployment.  There must be other positions like this out there. I'm going to keep looking for things like this until I find one.  You are paid in more than money by any job, and there is a way to work, and feel happy, even if it's still a struggle.

4. Be understanding of my husband's stresses, and not let our current situation get me down. It is NOT an easy one as a newlywed (Kim Kardashian can shove it, she has NO idea what real newlywed adversity is), but I am blessed to have someone who loves me, cares about me, supports me, and believes in me. I'm going to focus on that.

So, Trick or Treat, this quitting my temp gig after a week thing?  I'm inclined to think it was a treat. And I'm inclined to believe that I can turn it into a treat, no matter what it looks like.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

5 Months Later...

And now the rant...

I want to preface this by telling you that we are incredibly lucky. My husband spent two years at war in Afghanistan. Despite multiple nasty situations, including IEDs and a kill box, he came home with all his appendages, and nothing blatantly, apparently wrong with him.

If you've read previous posts, you know that he has TBI. Most would categorize it as mild. You know that he was not examined, given the "mandatory" 24-hour rest, nothing. He was kept out late to fix the truck, and sent back on patrol the next morning after only 4 hours sleep.

Maybe this is why I feel an uncontrollable twinge of hurt, anger, and frustration when the Army toots its horn about how they care for soldiers, or tells me about the wonderful ways the ensure that soldiers receive immediate, in-field care. Bullshit.   Or talk about programs they are implementing to take care of soldiers, or talk about new programs to check in with Reserve members after they redeploy. Bullshit.

Here we are 5 months later. The headaches have eased and are not nearly as frequent, but he still has ringing in his ears and problems with his memory. Given his current situation, this is problematic and stressful.   But I think my favorite part of it all is that now, 5 months later, the Reserves finally felt the urge to check in on him. They did a wellness survey over the phone. They seemed shocked that he was diagnosed with TBI (a couple months later once back CONUS), but hadn't been to the VA. And now they harass him. Literally, gave him a referral number on a Friday night, and called on Saturday to see if he'd made the appointment.

Sorry people. Over the summer, he could've maybe wiggled some time off work to go to the VA (not likely. He wasn't allowed ANY time off and we were 'lucky' to get the day before and the day after the wedding.) BUT, when he called the VA, the woman who answered the phone 1. didn't know what TBI was 2. was a rude, condescending bitch when he tried to get an appointment.   Yes, this kind of treatment usually results in a person giving up.

So what Reserves? Now that he's in serious training relating to his civilian job and cannot possibly see a doctor (sorry that he's not allowed even 5 minutes off during business hours), NOW you want to get him help. Where were you when he was in Afghanistan? When he was going through the demobilization process at Camp Shelby? Over the summer?

(This whole subject links me back to the Active wife who told me she had it so much harder because her husband couldn't take time off, and can't see a doctor because it'd go on his record, etc. etc. Sorry honey, you ain't the only one who faces these issues. And going into the civilian world doesn't make life easier, because often times, they could care less about your Army life.  But we've done that rant..)

There is an entire generation of men and women who will come home from war over the next few years. Who, due to the drawdowns, will come home for good, or hopefully home from anything substantial for good. And I believe that the military is woefully unprepared to deal with the multitude of health issues these young men and women will come home with. Especially the unseen issues. The TBI. The PTSD.  I'll give them credit. They're trying.  But don't tell families like mine all the wonderful things you're doing. You didn't do right by this family. I damn sure hope you figure out how to do right by all the others.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Less Than One Percent...

Last night, Operation We Are Here ( shared something on Facebook I thought was pretty awesome. I don't know if this started with the family below, with someone else, with OWAH, or what. But THIS is a percentage I would like to see numbers of.

The "number collage" they shared last night:

I found it honest and powerful. I know I have a number of military readers who probably know this fact, but I'm not sure if you realize that less than 1 % of our population is currently serving in uniform. Less than 1 % carries the brunt of two wars. In fact, I have seen that the number is as low as .45%, which tells me that even with the families included, the sum total of those who serve is still probably less than 1 %.

We are less than a month away from Veteran's Day. And words like "Afghanistan" and "Iraq" are all too often only used by politicians or protesters. I'm not getting into the politics of budgets, withdrawing, etc. I want only to impress upon you the sacrifices made by all those who serve. The young men and women and their families. Agree with the wars or not, these families have sacrificed because they volunteered to defend us, to fight to us, and they were ordered to leave and go to war. I want you to understand and value their sacrifices. To put aside your politics and show your gratitude.

And if you are also part of the less than one percent, I would love to see you post your own number collage. It is interesting and it is enlightening.  And I thank you for your service and sacrifice.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Pop Chips...

*I was not compensated for this post. I did receive some awesome freebies, and am writing this partially as a thank you*

So, back in the day when I was employed (ugh, it feels so long ago already), we had this little shop in the lobby of our building. It was really not bad, and actually a great way to accidentally spend way too much money each week.

I am not a sweet tooth, but I love salty snacks. I was regularly tempted by the bags of "Dirty" Kettle Chips, lost will power, craved the salty snack when work got stressful, you do the math. And at 220 calories a bag, I felt my bum slowly expanding to better fill my desk chair.  I'd noticed these funny looking chips on the other side called PopChips. But they were a good 30 cents more, and the bag looked smaller.  Long story short, I bought it one day... and almost every day after that!

I can't really tell you the details of the product. I know that they are all natural, gluten-free and "popped" instead of baked or fried. I know the little bag has 100 calories, and the big bag have 360. And I know that when I can't resist my cravings, I can cannonball the big bag, and feel WAY less guilty than when I would cannonball a bag of Cheddar and Sour Cream Baked Ruffles at over 1,000 calories per big bag!

I'm quite simply obsessed with the BBQ flavor. Seriously, the combo they made is perfect. Just a little kick, not sweet. The chip itself is light and crunchy at the same time. Amazing.   No lie, I've already convinced multiple people to try these, and got my local grocery store to start carrying them. Just because I love 'em.

So, shortly before the wedding, in the midst of all that drama, I joked that the "Crunch is Calling" truck is nothing, they need a truck that brings me PopChips. Then, I tweeted @popchips and said, I need a PopChips delivery, moving my wedding 3 hours away with 12 days before the event, and stress eating!

I did not actually expect a PopChips delivery.   But!  They responded and said they'd send me some!  It took a little while (have you seen them tweet? Their social media/marketing team must be crazy busy!)  but today, there came a knock on the door, and a nice girl my age was standing there with this:

I can not lie... you know all my stress. This girl just made my week!!!  So... you should go get some PopChips (I know Target or CVS have them!)  and I will do my best to not eat alllll these little bags in one sitting : )

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

My Paleo Chicken Soup...

My husband got hooked on this diet, or 'lifestyle', called Paleo (often called the caveman diet). I don't completely understand the how or the why of it, but I try my best to join him. In general, people have found numerous health benefits to a grain-free, gluten-free diet, similar to what our hunter/gatherer ancestors ate. I tend to cheat a little...  I don't exactly *like* sweet potatoes, so I eat white, even though sweet are healthier. Paleo people are mixed on dairy, but you can't take away my Cabot cheese or greek yogurts.  Most importantly, stop eating processed foods!  And yes, go organic, grass-fed, free-range whenever you can.

So, I decided I wanted soup, and wanted to experiment. I took stock of what was in my fridge and pantry and went from there.  The result is a somewhat-tortilla(less), somewhat-enchilada, somewhat chili  chicken soup!   (Yes, it's paleo, and there are a few still-paleo variations at the bottom that I have tried, but would taste great!)

Paleo Chicken Soup

(keep all spices handy, there are places where you'll add "a shake or two" beyond what's called for in this list)

1 pound chicken breasts                  Coconut Oil
2 1/2 tsp minced garlic                    1/2 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp salt                                       1/4 tsp black pepper
1 (3/4 Cup) large onion                   1/4 Cup green pepper
2 Tbsp jalepeno                               1 tsp cumin
2 Cups chicken broth                       4 oz. tomato paste

Cut chicken breasts  into large pieces. Melt just enough coconut oil to coat the bottom of the pan. Add 1 tsp minced garlic to the oil.  On medium low heat, add the chicken breasts, along with 1/2 tsp chili powder, 1/2 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp black pepper.  Cook pieces through, but do not fry.   (note the color below is due primarily to the chili powder)

While the chicken is cooking, dice the green pepper, onion and jalepeno. (If you like spice, include the jalepeno seeds, otherwise, leave them out for a more mild soup). In a large pot, saute the pepper, onion and jalepeno in 1 Tbsp coconut oil along with 1/2 tsp minced garlic. Saute until the veggies are soft.

After the chicken is cooked, chop or shred it into small, bite-sized pieces or shreds. Add the chicken to the stock pot. At this point, add any additional spices. I used 1 tsp. cumin, a shake of taco seasoning, and an additional shake of chili powder, salt and black pepper. 

Add 2 Cups chicken broth, stir and heat through (do not boil).

At this point, you can take your soup a couple different directions...    this is the tortilla(less)/enchilada version.     Add 4 oz. tomato paste, 3/4 cup water, and 1/8 cup taco seasoning (or make your own using cumin, etc.)   Heat soup just until boiling.  Reduce heat and simmer for an hour.   Enjoy!

A few variations we can't wait to try:
 - instead of tomato paste, water and taco,  simply crumble in your desired amount of freshly cooked bacon. 
 - after adding tomato paste, water and taco seasoning, add diced zucchini and yellow squash.

(if you try this and come up with your own ideas, add them to the comments!)

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

I have, I am...

What a position I've found myself in.

Really, there are moments I have to stop, take stock of my situation, and just say, "WTF."

I've been married 3 weeks! I have a decent apartment with lots of hand-me-downs and a splatter of nice things. I have two cats that are mostly awesome and occasionally ridiculous. I have my health.

I have no job, thanks to the economy. I can't (and wouldn't) cite corporate greed. I worked for a non-profit. In this economy, we made it longer than we should have, and then, were forced to jettison all but essentially 2.5 employees.   I am running low on money.  I feel no shame in taking unemployment compensation. I've worked hard and paid into that program, and I will use it now while I work hard to find something else.

I have a husband who hasn't been home for 2 weeks of our marriage. I don't blame him at all, and I don't resent him. His 5 months of training results in a job for which I am immensely proud of him. And while the position finds me outside the military community, yet still disgustingly similar to the military life, I don't complain too much. I was frustrated to find the military community I encountered wasn't welcoming.

I have a husband who has TBI and PTSD. We are truly blessed in that neither is overwhelming. Months later, he still gets random headaches, random ringing in his ears, and yes, words seem to occasionally fall out of his head, difficult to recover, and just out of his grasp. But neither has slowed us down, or truly gotten in the way.

I have a husband who was finally, 6 months after his return from Afghanistan, and probably 10 months after the IED that caused his TBI, finally given a referral to the VA, told that someone cared and couldn't believe that he didn't see a doctor until he reached the US, and hasn't seen one since.  Well, thanks US Army Reserves. You didn't give a crap when it was important, you seem shocked by the position we're in now, and you're going to act like things are urgent now that there is quite literally no way for him to get to the VA doctor. Frustrating, yet so typical.

I am a martyr. This week, I will throw myself upon my own sword in the name of integrity. I will bow to a crappy situation, and take more crap, but I will not lie or swindle my way into temporary help at the expense of others. And this makes me indescribably sad. I feel no pride, but I know in my heart I am doing what is right.

I am probably depressed. Each of these things weighs on me. To fight, to alway believe you were meant for something more, and to then lose your job is crushing. I feel the pressure, the blame, the belief that somehow I am not good enough. To have your husband gone, yet again, right at the beginning of the marriage is frustrating. To have him gone for a reason you can't quite explain, that leaves you as an outsider, is isolating. To watch your finances slowly get worse, but know you are in a situation that leaves you unable to fight the way your ordinarily would is terrifying.

I am vindicated and I am hopeful.  I met this week with a new friend of my husband's (several actually) who empathized. Who welcomed me. And one, one held a military position that is truly impressive (and no, it had nothing to do with that bullcrap measurement we call 'rank'). And this one wasn't surprised to hear how the Reserves were treated, the lack of proper care they got. He wasn't surprised to hear our TBI story. And yet was genuinely angered. To a lesser extent than I, of course, but to an honest extent. And for the first time in a long time, no one looked down on me, no one judged me.  This weekend, in the course of 5 minutes, I showed my husband my strength, and curled in his arms crying, showed him my fears. This weekend, I was able to extend happiness to others. This weekend, I was spoiled and loved. This weekend, I was at once terrified, depressed, honest, truthful, hopeful, and strong.

I don't expect that this adventure will get easy or resolve itself any time soon. My life right now is a struggle. It takes a lot of faith and trust in God to get through. That and a lot of bubble baths and wine. But I will keep putting one foot in front of the other. I will cry when I need to. I will curl up on the floor and feel completely overwhelmed by it. I will get up and fight it. I am terrified, depressed, honest, truthful, hopeful, and strong.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Table Numbers...

So if you're like me, you attempt to DIY many parts of your wedding, but with the intent of saving money. I searched sites galore and found tons of projects that you just knew everyone had already done. And, I found tons of projects that didn't really save you any money!  So this project was 100% thought of on my own (I'm sure people have done something similar, but I didn't copy anyone else's idea...)

Here are two of our table numbers:

Grand total, it was probably $5-$6 per number...

The numbers were simple mailbox numbers from Home Depot (shown below in brass, but I actually bought the nickel finish).  I painted these with regular wall paint, which was also used on our escort card boards.

It took about two coats, and I let the brush strokes show to give it a more textured feel.

The background was made of a sheet of craft/scrapbook paper from Michael's. Each sheet cost maybe 20 cents, and I was able to cut 6  4x6" panels out of each one. Basically, I just cut out the panel in the size appropriate for my frame and used that as the background. The numbers were simply laid on top of this.

The frames I purchased were the cheapest I could find at Target, part of their ReStyle line. Thanks to Back to College time, they had packs of 4 frames for $4.99.  Don't tell, but the frames are actually neon pink and neon green!   This was the longest part, simply because of the need to cover everything (I would have to paint all but one side, let it dry, paint that side, let it dry, repeat).  Be sure to remove the glass and the back before you paint!

First, I painted over each one with the same standard wall paint from Home Depot (Glidden in a Walnut color). Once the pink and green was covered, I gave them a little texture.

Yeah, Martha Stewart's annoying, but she makes some great paints!  This little gem was at Home Depot for about $8, and is actually a Terra Cotta textured paint available in several colors. I added a layer of this on each frame to give them something a little extra.

See? Didn't even have to be perfect, but it still looked good!

Once everything's dry, put the glass back in the frame, put the numbers in, put in the art paper backing, and put the back in place (the right direction, I had to do a couple twice, oops!)...  and viola! wedding table numbers!   (Added bonus, the painting was actually very calming during all the planning!)  and now I still have some fun frames to put pictures in!