January 17, 2017

Revisiting "Through" (2016's Word)

Just talking about words of the year or commitment of any kind can be hard to follow through with.

Through. Get it? Because through was my word for 2016.

This choice was specific to deployment and....[pauses to go re-read post from last year]...it was unique to getting through an entire year of seasons on my own. I had some reflections on the "gift" of deployment that I posted in December, and now I'll share some ideas that I jotted down over the summer, which was the hardest part of this latest deployment for me. I mean, the last month always is the slowest and that was October/November, but summer was really difficult for me.

For me, through was about getting through one hassle and moving onto the next. I knew deployment would be that way. It always is. It was about getting through the seasons, the months, the weeks, the days, the hours. Through is HARD.

After almost two months of hunting, I killed a rattlesnake back in June. Initially, I assumed that if I could just kill this rattlesnake, life would be easier. A couple of weeks into carrying a shotgun around every day, I realized that this was, in fact, just one snake. Killing one rattlesnake was not going to solve my problem. There are thousands of rattlesnakes in southern Colorado and half of them probably live on or around my property. There will always be another one. There will always be something else. There will always another place for me to focus my worry and stress.

I had a revelation recently, as I waited outside the vet's office with Jett. They wouldn't let him inside the waiting room in case his cough was contagious.

This isn't brand new information, but it was comforting to realize as I was desperately waiting for things to even out: Life is just tackling one hurdle after another. That's all it can be because there will always be something else, waiting around the bend, to test you. If you're waiting for smooth sailing and perfection, it won't happen. There will never be a perfect time for anything. There will be perfect days, yes. There will not be a perfect timeline of events that make you feel like you have everything under absolute control. For example...

+ I took Jett to the vet. He started coughing and it went on for two days and was very odd. An appointment was made, $97 was spent, and we were back to giving a pill twice a day. It seems like one of these dogs is always on medication of some sort.

+The next day, I had to go to the doctor, but as I started the car, the low air pressure light came on: one of my tires was going flat.  So I went to the doctor, taking the long way, because there was no way I was taking the shorter route through the bad part of town with a problem tire. Then I went to Big O to have the tire repaired. Whilst there, they handed me a quote for new tires; I knew this was coming. I was told by Toyota a year ago that I needed new tires "soon". It's "soon". $612 later, I left Big O. When I lamented to Scott, he said, "Yes, things cost money", and I do realize that there are few better investments than good and safe tires. I knew if I put it off, it would loom over my to-do list and I was already sitting in the waiting room with a book, so another 30 minutes wouldn't be the worst thing in the world.

+Then, on the Fourth of July, my phone stopped working. A problem with the SIM card, apparently? I took the card out and it didn't solve the problem. Since I tried everything I could find to do via Google, I went to the Apple Store in Briargate, which is like an hour away. They were very nice and all. They fixed it, but since it can be a reoccurring problem, I'm to take it back for diagnostic testing and a potential new phone if it happens again.

So anyway. 

I think I've been mismanaging my thoughts. I keep waiting for things to even out, and they'll never actually even out. While it's impossible to anticipate these things (aside from the tires), I (we) have to be ready and on guard, prepared to tackle whatever comes next. It can be exhausting during this season of deployment, but it's less stressful to be flexible than it is to freak out every other day about something. Because freaking out every other day is exhausting. While I'm not advocating pessimism, it's easy to go with the flow when you're not set on things being perfect.

Looking back on that, written in July, and re-reading the Through post from March, I still really like the word through. I like what it encouraged me to do. I like that it kept me going. I like that it still applies to my life because there's always, indeed, something to go through. There will always be a struggle of some sort because that is life as a human being. I don't want a tattoo, but if I had to pick one word to get as a tattoo, it'd be the word through.

And, just to show the symbolism of where through can get you, I swapped out my Robert Frost quote for a picture of the homecoming ceremony:

I need the visual, you know? It's a good reminder that we go through things for a reason. 

January 16, 2017

My terrible, horrible, no good, very bad reading habits

Realizing that I was even thinking about writing this post lit a fire under me, so I knocked out three of these over the weekend. Just saying. 

I can't even make this up.

This is how many books I'm currently in the middle of and I just need to finish one (or two, ideally) like right now, because I'm waiting on two very-much-desired holds to come in via the Kindle from the library. That'll put me at 8 current books if I don't get going here...

I'll explain:

Raymie Nightingale. This was from the book order and I grabbed it to pre-read, thinking it'd be a contender for a read aloud. A DiCamillo book is usually a winner in some way or another. It turned into my blow-drying read: I read it while I blow-dry my hair. It's not terrible, but it's not that great, in my opinion. I see the value in it, as a middle-grade book; there's a lot of value actually. But I just am not loving it enough to cruise through it. I do a few chapters a day.

In the Woods. This sat in my car for a week because it was going to be my "I need to get my tire fixed and will need something to read for at least an hour while I wait"-book. I'm scared because I didn't like Tana French's second book (The Likeness) in this series, so I wanted to give myself a do-or-die situation with this one, to really give it a chance. Now I've only got a week to finish it and I'm like 1/6 of the way in. Sigh.

Ashes. This has been my before-bed read. A couple of chapters a night. Slowly but surely. I've been waiting for it to be released since 2011 and there's a sense of I-don't-want-this-series-to-end happening here.

The Mothers. My current audiobook. I like it. But I get distracted with podcasts SO easily. I have one or two that come out each weekday and those always take precedent over an audiobook.

The Girl Who Lied. I downloaded this for a dollar a few months ago when I didn't have anything to read, got a few chapters in, and liked it well enough, but I own it and library books always take precedent over books I own. It's just sitting there, waiting for all other options to be exhausted.

The Family Jewels. I had preordered this Rose Gardner book 6 months in advance. When it showed up, I read a little bit and then stopped because I need to conserve and preserve: the next one doesn't come out until April. I just need to read it already but I need to finish all of these library books first...

In addition to all of that, I like to pick my way through The Happiness Project again each winter, and Angi sent me a gorgeous two-volume edition of all the Little House books for my birthday. So I'd love to re-read that right now.

I really do believe I make things more difficult than they have to be, like times a million. It reminds me of Michael and the deer-hunting story.

What are your reading habits? Less abnormal than mine, I'm guessing?

January 12, 2017

Birthday S&T

My cousin sent me this gif on my birthday on Tuesday. Pretty much sums up the day when you're a teacher. No one cares. Also, they forgot to announce my name over the intercom. Just sayin. 

My teammate knows what I like though.

And Scott got me the newest, fanciest Kindle on the market. Reading will be a whole new experience (once this giant stack of library books goes back next week).

I also got a new coat (kind of similar) and this mini-backpack that I linked to on Amazon (for Scott's convenience) because I thought it would come in handy at some point and I never seem to have something like it when I need it. 

Then we had a classy dinner while watching another Star Wars movie. Plus ice cream.

Asleep by 10. This is what happens when your birthday is on a Tuesday and it's a school night in January.
That's okay though. 
I feel so much better about turning 31 than I did about turning 29 or 30. 28 was even kind of questionable. There was a lot of pressure to make the most of my 20s in those last couple of years and I hated that. 

*Not trying to relate to my Star Wars-watching goal, but as Scott says, You seem to be enjoying these movies more than I thought you would. 

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January 10, 2017

December Books 2016

#65 Rising Strong by Brene Brown C-
I feel like a person can only read so many of these books. I enjoyed The Gifts of Imperfection a lot. Daring Greatly was fine and all. Rising Strong was just a rehashing and a deep-dive of the other two. Like, I get it. It's just more than I need and want in a self-help book because it forces me to be too introspective. I'm already an ISFJ on the Myers-Briggs. I don't need more reasons or excuses to reflect. It was too specific. Reading the case studies made it hard to apply to my own life. If you like Brown's books, read it. Otherwise, you probably don't need to.

#66 The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton A
I've had such trouble getting into WWII books in the last year or so. This one broke through the barrier. In fact, I had to take a fiction break when I was done because it just pulled me in and was such an investment of time to begin with.
I read The Lake House last year and I didn't love it and couldn't understand why people were impressed with Morton (this was not an Atkinson). After reading The Secret Keeper, I would definitely try another one of her books...maybe The Distant Hours or The Forgotten Garden?

#67 The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware D
I want to say I didn't hate this. I've read the reviews by bloggers and whatnot, but all of that wasn't in my head when I started reading because I more or less stopped thinking whilst on Christmas break. I will say that Lo was the worst...talk about an unreliable narrator. She was a lot like Rachel in The Girl on the Train; always stumbling around drunk/hungover/or trying to remember what happened the night before.
Also, there were way too many characters. It was like a bad game of Clue. But imagine you're actually in it and you're drunk the whole time.

#68 Brave Like My Brother by Marc Tyler Nobelman
This was a middle-grade WWII book. We just did a chapter on WWII at school and these kids have shown next to no interest in anything I've told them since August. However, they seemed to semi-like the discussion of WWII. Therefore, I needed to keep it going. I pre-read this over Christmas break. (The last time I didn't pre-read a book...2011...a main character's father was killed in Iraq and that was not a good twist and I had no way of seeing that coming. I've since learned my lesson.)
This is good for kids because it's historical fiction but tells the true story of the "ghost army" and it plays with point of view because it's a series of letters written to Charlie, an elementary school kid, from his big brother Joe, who is off in Europe.
Ranking it for what it was and adjusting for ability level and content interest, I'd give it a B+.

#69 Faithful by Alice Hoffman B+
I read this in about three days, so that's a win. It was a very easy read. I will say that anything with dogs in it, especially abandoned dogs that are taken in by caring individuals, makes me cry. Scott told me to stop reading the book. But I finished it. And nothing bad happens to the dogs...spoiler alert.
It's a good book. Didn't turn out the way I thought it would. It was just-this-side of engrossing for me. The characters were more likable than I thought they would be.

#70 I Let You Go by Clare McKintosh B
I liked it. I get why everyone else in the world liked it a lot too. I didn't fall in love with it though. I liked the first half better than the second half.
Spoiler in white:
The second half...There was unreliable narration, there was point of view shifting, there was a villain in the form of an estranged husband, there was a new boyfriend/not a boyfriend, there was hidden identity, there was domestic violence, there was a child killed tragically, there was an affair based on power that resulted in that aforementioned child. It was too much! And my summary of cliches doesn't even touch the story of one of the main characters, the detective. That was a whole other series of "typicals".
Also, there was a dog and I was WHOLLY preoccupied with just wanting the dog to be okay. There were moments when I couldn't listen for whole days because I was so scared something was going to happen to that dog. It was a hard listen and I think it would've been just as hard to read in print. Narration was great though. 

Did Not Finish:
Among The Ten Thousand Things by Julia Pierpont
I didn't hate-hate it. It just wasn't intriguing me. I got about 1/3 of the way in? Maybe 1/2?
I liked the first chunk but then it jumped forward in time and then back again and that kind of lost me. It was depressing.


I set a goal for 2017 (hahaha) to read 75 books. I ended at 70 for 2016, so I figure I can tack 5 more on, right?

We did a goal-setting exercise at school and my example is below...

Before I showed them this, I had the kids try to guess what my goal was for the year and they kept telling me things that centered around "helping students more", "being a better teacher", "explaining more", and the like. Because obviously (#1) I don't do my job well and (#2) any and all goals I have must involve them and teachers do not ever leave the school.

I screwed up the date a bit too. 

After my sentence structure was corrected ("to provide clarification") by a ten year-old, I came up with actionable steps. These are things I do anyway (but they don't know that) and, quite literally, all I'm going to be doing is trying to add 5 extra books onto 2017.

Reading goals? Anyone?

Linking up with Jana and Steph!

January 9, 2017

The week-end

Friday began with a two-hour delay. You will not hear me complain.

I bought a turtleneck for the first time in forever. Very worth it. 

Scott came home from a hunting trip on Friday night. I really missed those dogs.

We opened an Amazon package and saw that the box set of Star Wars DVDs had arrived.

Let me explain: Since I'd never seen the movies and I realize what a cultural phenomenon the franchise is, I decided I will watch them all. I looked up a couple of different ways to do this, and the most practical seemed to be buying them for $7-8 each on Amazon in a box set. Scott loves the movies so, even if I hate them, it won't be a complete waste of money. I'm very invested in dissecting the family trees and plot lines. Like, I need context and I have to figure out what's happening.
We watched The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith this weekend because going in order is a MUST. I hope to have them all finished within the month. I'm taking a systematic approach to this.

Saturday plans got all jumbled out of sort, but we ended up at Wal-Mart and then we went out for dinner with my friend and her husband. He and Scott were deployed together, albeit in different locations, and since she and I became friends during the deployment, we decided that they should be friends too. Scott always appreciates me for things like this.

Also, Scott showed me this video because I was feeling bad about myself the other day and he was trying to cheer me up. It worked a little bit.

Sunday was prepping food for the week, as well as catching up on everything that needed to be done. I made this chicken pot pie soup for dinner and we watched the Steelers win.

Also, Primanti Brothers in downtown Pittsburgh decided they wouldn't be selling fish sandwiches while the Dolphins were in town. Methinks that Primanti Brothers and Alexis (aspiring "dolphin" trainer) should get together and take a class on dolphins not being fish.

I took down Christmas on Sunday also and now the house looks sad, but it was a productive Sunday. I got a jump on making my own birthday cake too. It's of the ice cream variety. Recipe to follow.

Hello, 5-day week.

((Linking up with B Loved Boston))

January 6, 2017

5 Things I...

...made in the kitchen.

Spinach Artichoke Dip.


Lasagna Roll-Ups.

Beer Bread.

Peanut Butter Brownies.

-1 box brownie mix, prepared and poured into a greased 9x13 pan
-Peanut butter candy of your choice (I used Peanut Butter Meltaways because my mom sent them. Reeses' Cups work... or peanut butter chips or even swirls of slightly melted peanut butter, in a pinch)

Top the batter with the candy or peanut butter. Press it in gently.
Bake according to package instructions.

Serve warm with ice cream. Or, let cool and warm up just before serving.
You could also freeze these brownies and pull them out as needed.

Needless to say, we've been detoxing this week.

January 5, 2017

Stuff and Things 1/5 (A weak one)

Warning: This is a weak post.

It's *only* Thursday, yet it's already Thursday. It snuck up on me.

Here's a quite funny recap of The Bachelor.  Sholphin LOL.

Aside from doing lots of schoolwork and it being freezing cold and my Christmas decorations still being up, I'm not sure where to go with a post today.

Yesterday was the first day the kids were back in school, and I realized by 6pm last night that I was utterly exhausted. It is exhausting to hear your own voice all day long. Did you ever think about that? This may be why I don't leave the house on weeknights...

Also, I feel like me/we are staring down so many decisions about what's next army-wise (and therefore, for my own job) that it's hard to focus and this is why I do things like watch The Bachelor. It's mindless distraction.

Scott saw a bit of it from where he was working at the table...
"What the %&$#?!", "THIS is everything that's wrong with girls!", and "I literally want to kill myself right now" are just a few of the comments he had. Monday nights are going to be really exciting for the next several weeks. He has no idea that this is what I do now. Deployment did this to me. I am a member of #bachelornation.

Tree. Still up. 

Stuff, Things, etc.

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January 4, 2017

Annual Hunting Trip

I use "annual", "hunting", and "trip" loosely. 
I rarely go hunting with Scott. He hunts at least once a week. The stars have to align in order for me to go along. I can't feel stressed out, or too busy, or even slightly unwell. I have to not be hungry and I have to be hydrated (but not too hydrated). This happens about 2-3 times a year, but since 2016 was a deployment year, I only went once. 
We went hunting for quail, which means I just walked along. 

The dogs have to wear rubber booties to protect their feet from the cactuses (cacti?). 

Scout is too fast for me to get a picture. 

^Hunting down a bird after it's been shot.. 

January 3, 2017

Funny stuffs #becauseTuesday

So then, what is the point of layering it all on if you can't go from indoors to outdoors?

My guess is that they're not reading books. 

Not so much for "tired", but because I lack "motivation". 
"" are being used somewhat ironically there. 

I think this is my favorite Friends quote.

The caption makes this. 

I really, really wanted this but thought it might be too inappropriate for work and/or Scott's work gatherings. 



January 2, 2017

Perspective and Perception in 2017

Maintain perspective. Perceive carefully. 

That's my mantra for this year. 
Maintain the perspective of where I am versus where others are, both in the effort to cut down comparison and to realize how fortunate I am. 
Perception is tricky because things are rarely as they appear. By treading carefully in what I'm assuming (because perceive and assume are pretty much the same thing), I'm not going to be making up a story in my head. 
After all, things are rarely as they seem, right?

A lot of people have been recapping 2016; highs, lows, victories, disappointments, etc. I read a post that said something about the year having "deep heartache" but the details about the year were all good things...confusing, right? This is where perspective could come in. I don't know that person's story and maybe they are choosing to make it more tragic in title or less tragic in details; I don't actually know. 

I find it very hard to recap or judge a year if it's a deployment year, and 2016 was a deployment year. Scott left in February and came home in November. The year, therefore, exists kind of on the outside of the continuum of good/bad year. It's an outlier. 2012 was an outlier too, for this reason. They're difficult to place in the grand scheme of things.

In thinking about it, the years in my adult life go like this:
2014-ugh (I hated this year so much...I can't even give definitive reasons, but it leaves a bad taste in my mouth.)

It's oddly telling, as I told Scott, that a deployment year ranks higher on the likability list than the last two years.

In the end, I know 2016 was hard on many of us for different reasons. I'd never belittle anyone's reasons for liking or disliking a year, but this is where I put on my perspective hat and zoom out a bit. While we may not all be well and good with some things that happened throughout the year, we made it through and I don't think it's "literally" been the worst year "ever". 

Do you have a word for the year? Or a mantra? Something to focus/center yourself on?