Thursday, September 26, 2013

Version 2.0

I travel for work. It’s just a fact of life for the business I’m in. People frequently say something like “Oh I’m so sorry”, upon learning that I have to go out of town. Outwardly I smile and thank them for their concern, but my inner thoughts sing a different tune. Why should people feel sorry for me? This is my profession. My family is the one that bears the brunt of my job. Missed birthdays, holidays, and endless questions like “why do you have to go” become our family norm. I mourn for time lost but look to the future and see opportunity.

I dabble in many endeavors, one of which is programming. The lifecycle of a program goes something like this: come up with a problem to be solved through programming, create the necessary code, test your program for bugs and undesirables, and release the program. Once the program has been released, the programmer has a chance to watch the creation take on a life of its own. The programmer, ever on a continuum, makes notes and starts revising the code instantly. New ideas are discovered, efficiencies are discovered resulting in a better, smarter version. We call this version 2.0.

The opportunity I see when I’m away from home is one of self-study and improvement which results in revising my code. For short trips, this might be no more than working on responding to answers rather than reacting. Longer trips afford me the opportunity for deeper study and the time necessary to make bigger revisions. For instance, time management has always been my nemesis but it’s not something that can be fixed over the course of a couple of days, the code is complex and requires thought and testing. The end result will be a more efficient program, which will be a better version of me.

So for all those road warriors out there, remember, you can look at business trips in several different ways. You can treat it like a vacation from your family, which begs the question, “What is wrong in your life that you need a vacation from your family?” You could try to re-live your single glory days. A little advice, your body can ‘t recover from binge drinking like it did when you were 23, your hair is gone or graying, and you might not be able to see your toes. Still think you should party like a rock star? You could, however take some time, conduct some self-study, revise your code and come home as you, version 2.0


That Little Wound Might Kill You

*Warning- This post contains 'graphic' pictures. Beware, oh ye of weak stomach.

So... Thursday night, I was finishing up a batch of chicken broth when I burned my arm. It was burned my wrist to my elbow, although only about two inches of it was burned enough to still be showing the next morning. That blister turned into a nasty cesspool of infection today.

Now, in February, I hurt my hand, a minor injury that they cleaned out at the emergency room and bandaged. That wound also turned into a cesspool of infection. In fact, every wound I've gotten over the last seven months has gotten infected. And swollen. And itchy.

Now, I'm allergic to latex. I've known this for about 10 years, and I take care to avoid latex in bandages. What I didn't realize is that I'm allergic to something else in bandages. Perhaps it's the adhesive. Perhaps it's in the pad. I don't know, but for whatever reason, I'm having allergic reactions to bandages.

Today, after going to the doctor, where she immediately put me on antibiotics (I'm not exaggerating when I say my burn had caused my arm to swell 1/2 inch), slathered me with silvadene ointment, and popped a latex free bandage atop it, I went to the pharmacy to get my prescription filled.

By the time I arrived, my arm had swollen and was itchy, red, and burning. Oh yes, I was having an allergic reaction to something. I immediately went to the pharmacist and showed it to her and asked if I could be having an allergic reaction to the silvadene. She said to take the bandage off because it looked like I was having a reaction to the bandage. Sure enough, by the time I got home, all the swelling, redness, itching, and burning were gone.

That redness to the right? All from the bandage.
I bought some stretchy webbing to wrap around a bandage to keep it in place and popped it on. By the time I got to my next appointment, 30 minutes later, my arm was once again red, itchy, and burning. I took it off, and once again all that stuff went away.

Dominic suggested I just rip some cloth to tie around my arm like they use to do. So, now I'm sitting at home high on Benadryl and azithromycin with an old school bandage on my arm.  I think I'll make myself some bandages and sterilize them for future use. And I have to laugh, really, because this is such a minor thing. And isn't it better to learn about allergies this way than in the middle of a surgery, as my dad did? And, hopefully, when I'm canning tomorrow, I won't cut myself and need stitches. My luck, I'd be allergic to the thread.

Monday, September 23, 2013

When It Hurts the Most

Tonight, I was watching an episode of Grey's Anatomy. In it, a man is diagnosed with esophageal cancer. Most people wouldn't experience the gut wrenching pain I got when I heard them deliver this prognosis, but I understand what that diagnosis means.

A little over seven years ago, my parents were visiting. I was listening to my father vomit once again. He had lost so much weight, but no one knew what was wrong because he refused to go to the doctor. I glanced at Gary and said, "Papa has cancer." And I was right.

A few weeks after my parents returned home, my father was so dehydrated he passed out in the doorway. My mother took him to the emergency room, where he was diagnosed with esophageal cancer. He was immediately scheduled for surgery.

While we were waiting for his surgery, my dad's best friend joked with him about his odds of recovery. He suggested going out and killing a couple people with esophageal cancer. Because the odds are 1 in 3 for a 5 year survival rate. That is, if the cancer is caught early, which my father's was not. Less than 8 months later, my father was dead.

And mostly, it doesn't hurt, except when it does...

My older brother went to prison on my 17th birthday. I remember sitting in court when they brought the jail docket in. It was traumatic, although I didn't realize until recently how traumatic. I wanted to go to court, and I don't think my parents could have stopped me, but the pain that I still experience is deep and abiding.

I've had to go to court 3 times since July. Dog problems with the neighbors. The first time, I wasn't prepared. I wasn't prepared for the anguish I would feel when they brought the jail docket in. I almost started crying. Right there in court. Because people I didn't know were in shackles.

And most of the time, it doesn't bother me. My brother being in prison was a part of my life. It just was. It wasn't my fault. It didn't define my brother. And it was only a chapter in his life. Or it should have been. But, he drowned less than a year after he got out of prison. I only saw him once, briefly, after he got out of prison before he drowned.

And sometimes, when I'm dealing with a child who is just like him, I wish he was here so he could give me advice. Because it helps to talk to someone who understands.

And mostly, it doesn't hurt, except when it does...

Tuesday, September 17, 2013


Each week, a friend of mine, Cindy at Elephant Soap, posts something she's thankful about. I've thought for a long time that this is a fantastic idea. But, I never got around to asking her if I could steal her idea. Today, low and behold, another one of my favorite bloggers, Rachel at Clean, posted about cultivating gratitude.

Throughout their short lives, I've had my children keep gratitude journals at different points. Each time, it's been because they've felt like nothing is going right, like they can't do anything right, etc. Each time, they have felt better as they realized how much they truly have to be thankful for.

It's time for me to start keeping a gratitude journal, and I will share some of it with you each week, along with Rachel.

1. I am thankful for a husband who lets his children rub his beard when they're contemplating something.

2. I am thankful for a husband who gives me the ability to follow my dreams.

3. I am thankful for children with great senses of humor.

4. I am thankful that my children are not morning people.

5. I am thankful that my children get along so well.

6. I am thankful that when my children accidentally give me a great idea for a painting, they aren't resentful of the fact that it probably means they won't see their mother much over the next couple weeks.

7. I am thankful for my hands, which work so hard and willingly to pursue my dreams.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Celebrating the Dead

In which we celebrate a long dead culture.

by Xavier

Why do we mourn the dead? Is it because we think we're better off living? Is it because we know we'll never see them again? What if, instead of mourning them, we celebrate their life? I know some people do. On this day, September 12th, 2013, I would like to think about the day September 11th, 2001, and wonder, why is this day so sad? I didn't know until a few years ago, and I don't remember what my reaction was, fear? Sadness? It was hard on me, this I know. It was one of the saddest days of my life. I will always remember those people, with sadness of course, but I will always wonder, what will it be like, I don't know, 100 years into the future? Will we start to forget? To move on with our lives? I personally think eventually we will forget, and the events of 9/11 will be lost to the mists of time. I am writing this thinking that lives should be celebrated, mourned of course, but celebrated as well.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

How Marriage is Like Cell Phones

By the Bourbon Man

Many years ago, marriages were arranged. The future couple was fortunate if they met prior to their nuptials. Some were childhood playmates, but for the vast majority, they were complete strangers. Imagine marrying a complete stranger, then being bound for life. Such things, unheard of now, were common place when America was young. That is not to say this article focuses only on America, but rather, this is the country with which the author is most familiar.

Couples found a way to make their marriage work. Some grew to love one another deeply; others merely tolerated one another. There were also the couples that were incompatible and spent their lives fighting like cats and dogs. Divorce was not accepted and couples learned to cope in various ways. Life was sexist and mistresses were common but that was a different time.

Moving forward, couples met, fell in love and got married. Some of the same theories still held true. A percentage spent their lives together being deeply in love, while others formed good partnerships based around family. There were those couples that grew apart over the years, woke up twenty years later and realized they hated their spouse. Divorce was not taboo, but neither was it common place.

Present day marriages seem to hold a couple's attention about the same amount of time as a new cell phone. The moment we gaze upon that sleek new technological marvel we decide it’s something we can’t live without. So, with little forethought our old phone is thrown away and the new one purchased. The first time the phone locks up, we curse, but chalk it up to a glitch or ghosts in the machine. As time goes on however, we come to realize that perhaps the phone isn’t perfect, maybe it has some blemishes, or a crack and it doesn’t always perform flawlessly. One day we come across an advertisement about a new phone. It’s shiny and new and has amazing features. Suddenly, the phone is no better than a couple of tin cans connected by a string. We rid ourselves of our current phone and upgrade.

We now live in an era of instant gratification. When something doesn’t work it’s easily discarded and replaced. The same theory seems to hold true with marriage today. People meet in all the normal ways, sense and attraction and get married after a whirlwind romance. Once the honeymoon is over, life continues and it’s not always easy. In fact, life is hard and chaotic. Marriage is even harder. It takes work, dedication and compromise. Unfortunately, those three words seem get overlooked too often. I used to think that people rushed into marriage. While there is some truth to that, it’s not the only reason. No longer is it “till death do us part”, rather it’s more like “till death do us part, until it gets hard, then we’ll get divorced and I’ll find someone else”. Just like the new cell phone isn’t the answer to your problems, getting divorced and re-married isn’t either. Learn to talk, more importantly, learn to listen and you’ll be amazed at how many world ending problems aren’t all that complicated.

A note from the Bourbon Girl: Gary and I have been married for over 16 years. We met in September and got married the following March. It was, indeed, a whirl wind courtship. We rushed into marriage. But, we were willing to put in the hard work. We still are. It isn't easy, especially with multiple deployments and other absences. People tend to grow in different ways when they're not together. But, you can do the work of loving someone until you learn to love the new differences about them.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

I Don't Want My Sons to be Gay

Last night, my dear son stepped into the car after his first dance class, an occasion that should have elicited bright spirits. Instead, he was downcast. I asked him if he enjoyed his class and he replied, "Well. I enjoyed the dancing. But, a couple of the girls were laughing at me because I was a boy in their dance class."

I didn't know what to say. The owner of the dance studio, a friend of ours, is always looking for male dancers. I've tried for years to get my older two children to dance. And here, persuing an activity that is custom made for my youngest child, that same child is being laughed at.

How do I explain to my child that people are ignorant and can be real assholes? Well, just like that. I apologized to him for living in a place where his love of theater, dance, music, and art is not acceptable. And I told him that if it continued that I was confident Ms. K would take care of it, and I am confident of that fact. 

But it made me angry. This summer one of the moms of one of the little girls in his hip hop camp made the comment that her husband wouldn't let their son dance because it wasn't manly. The only thing he was going to be allowed to do is play football. 

So, maybe I should pull my son out of dance and make him play football. He's got the build for it. While my other two children are long and lean, Dominic is stocky and has wide shoulders. His arm span is wider than mine, solely because of the width of his shoulders. And I'm sure he would make a great football player, but he would hate it. And really? Football is what makes you manly? You can't dance and be manly? I'm glad all my brother's Marine buddies don't know that or his wedding reception wouldn't have been nearly as much fun. 

There I sat, thinking about the road my son is going to have to travel in this part of the country to follow his dreams of musical theater, and all I could think was that I hope none of my children are gay, because I'm pretty sure I would end up in prison.

I like to fight. I like to kick people. When I am stressed, a sure fire way to relieve that stress is to punch something until my knuckles are bloody. And I have a feeling that I might like to relieve the stress of seeing people purposely hurt my babies by bloodying my knuckles on their faces.

But, in all seriousness, I don't want my children to have to put up with all the shame, guilt, pain, and frustration that society puts on them. I don't care if my children are gay, but I care if society hurts them just because of their sexuality. Have you seen the reports of the beatings of gay men in New York City? Do you see people blaming gays for the deaths of our soldiers? Do you hear the vitriol directed at gay people? 

So, when I say that I don't want my sons to be gay, what I'm really saying is that I don't want society to release a flood of vitriol on my children. And the best way to stop that is to teach society to just be nice. And do you know how we teach society to be nice? We teach our children to be nice and that there is never, but never, a valid reason to be mean or make fun of people. That will change the future adults in our society. And make the whole world a better place for everyone. 

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Salad on the Run

Sometimes, our family struggles with making dinner, lunch, breakfast, snacks... Okay, we struggle with not eating out. This week, we decided it is time for a change. One of the things we want to incorporate more into our diet is salads. We all love salads, but we rarely eat them. Why? Convenience. That's all. And, since it's just as easy to make 6 salads as it is to make one, Dominic and I made six salads. We put lots of variety of toppings in the bottom of the jars, then stuffed them with salad greens, mostly Romaine lettuce and spinach. I've seen this idea multiple places for single serving salads for lunches. But, we eat a lot of salad when we actually make it, so I made them in half gallon jars. I'm very excited about having these on hand!

Tell Your Daughter She's Beautiful

I know it's not politically correct, but I think we should tell our daughters they're beautiful.

I cannot remember being told I was pretty when I was growing up. People frequently commented on how beautiful my sister was, but no one ever told me I was pretty. I wasn't even the smart one; that was my older brother. Or the athletic one; that was my younger brother. I was the bossy one. I was the dependable one. I was the messy one.

After I grew up, still no one ever told me I was pretty. I finally broke down and asked my husband if he thought I was pretty, after 14 years of marriage. I'm pretty sure he was flabbergasted. He just never realized I didn't know he thought I was pretty.

Then, one day, I realized that I'm not pretty. I'm freaking beautiful.
My eyebrows are, well, untamable. Probably because I choose not to tame them. I never keep them plucked. I have way too many other things to do, and I don't have a good pair of tweezers. My spirit is wild, too. I just dare anyone to try to tame it. You see, I decided long ago that I am worth being. I am amazing just the way I am. I'm going to keep me this way.
My eyes aren't a perfect blue or brown. Instead, they're this messed up, crazy hazel color that changes and mutates based on my mood. Just like me. I'm a little messy, but mostly when I'm creating. And I'm dynamic. I morph and change, and it's wonderful.

My nose isn't this cute, pert little thing. Did you know, when I was a teenager, I wanted a nose job? My brothers teased me constantly about the size of my nose. It's not small, you know. And it turns red in the cold. Rudolph red. But a few years ago, I realized my nose was my own, and my face would look different if I had a different nose, and I'm sort of attached to the way my face looks. Besides, I'm quite good at giving the royal commands. So, it is only appropriate that my nose be of regal proportions.
My lips are amazing. They're not perfectly symmetrical. They're not plump. They're a bit faded. But, have you seen what they can do? They form words. Words, I tell you! They form words that can change minds and lives. They can bring people to a cause. They can smile! Oh, the smiles they smile. Did you know that a smile can bring not only joy to the bearer, but to those around them?
My skin is not unblemished, but neither is my soul. I have scars, worry lines, and laugh wrinkles. I have  emotional wounds that may never heal properly, deep chasms of pain, and memories so sweet they cover all the pain.

All my parts are beautiful. But I am the sum of more than my parts. I am even more beautiful than my parts put together. Because I am a woman who knows herself to be beautiful. A beauty that is not dependent on physical attributes, or someone else's idea of beauty. I will always be beautiful.

Tell your daughter she's beautiful. Because she is. So beautiful.


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