Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Then when DO you take a bath?

Setting: our kitchen last night, eating a dinner of burgers, fries, and baked beans and actually sitting at a real table instead of perched in front of CSI: New York.

Topic of discussion: what to do with the extra money in my tax account after we pay the IRS. Since becoming an independent contractor, I have saved 30% of every paycheck and put it in an account to pay my taxes at the end of the year. It seems as though that percentage may have actually been a bit high, thus leaving extra.

Allyson: Well, there will be a sizeable amount of money left in the tax account and we've paid off my student loans, so maybe we could put it toward something fun.

Neal: Like what:

Allyson: Umm...like a hot tub on the back porch!

Neal: I was going to put in a security camera system. They have the really nice ones at Sam's for $600. How much is your hot tub?

Allyson: Uhh..a little more than $600. But...

Neal: We have a very nice garden tub in the bathroom and you have only used it once in 3 years.

Allyson: That's because it runs out of hot water before the tub is full!

Neal: Nonsense! I'll prove it. I'll take a bath in it.

Allyson: OK let's go! Show me..right now.

Neal: I can't right now.

Allyson: Why not?

Neal: Because I don't take baths on Mondays. AND I don't take baths after I eat hamburgers. So I really can't today.

Allyson: (who cannot seem to roll her eyes enough for this statement). WHAT?? I'm totally blogging about this.

Neal: I'm sure you will....

Still no hot tub...but no security camera system either. I'm calling it a draw...

Monday, March 30, 2009

This weekend turned out to be something of an emotional rollercoaster ride for me. It started with a low-key Papa Murphy's pizza dinner on Friday and ended with a labor-intensive surprise dinner from Neal on Sunday, but it was everything in between.

Saturday: every weekend we try to find one day that we can lounge in bed, watch CNN, surf the internet and read the Kindle until about 2. We know that once the kids start coming these lazy days will be just a memory...so we're taking advantage of them now. Usually it's a Sunday, but we didn't have anywhere to be until 2 on Saturday, so Saturday was bedroom bliss. Our only obligation Saturday was to assemble care packages for Military Missions, a Lexington-based, faith-based, non-profit organization that primarily focuses on care package donations, assembly, and shipment. I stumbled across the website and the woman in charge on the LexGo calendar of events and well, as they say, one thing led to another. We began exchanging long emails about what our previous experience with military support had been, she as a Marine's mother and I as an Army wife. We started seeing that our goals were very similar and that there was an opportunity for us to partner for the greater good. Beth had divided this assembly up into 3 days so there was only about an hour's worth of work to do on Saturday. The group is extremely organized, very friendly and very military-oriented. It was a comfort and a blessing and I only regret not stumbling across them 13 months ago. They have branched out somewhat into other ventures besides care package assembly. Yard Work for the Military has volunteers that go to the spouse's home during deployment and help with yard work or, in our case, fallen branches during ice storms. And Beth's ultimate goal is to develop a network of volunteers who either donate their time and expertise or offer it at a discounted rate, such as computer assistance or plumbing repair. This has been a goal of mine all along and I'm surprised to find that someone else has seen the importance and is moving in the same direction!

Saturday night: We watched Hotel Rwanda. All I can say about this movie is that I was too stunned to cry. In 1994, when the genocide began, I was a sophomore in high school. I was on the verge of 16, anxious to go to college, and eager to assert my independence all over everyone. I think maybe somewhere I heard about it, but it was just a news clip, a blip on my radar. Perhaps not even a blip. But now, almost exactly 15 years later, I think about all of those 15 year-olds right now who are actively seeking help for the victims of Darfur, who want to feed all the children of Africa. And I think: how do I raise that child? How do I raise a child that wants to think of more than just what is in their closet or on their plate; that not only catches a glimpse of the world from time to time, but researches and responds? I wish now that I had been that child. My heart is heavy for the people of Rwanda, for the people of Darfur, for the children of Africa, for the innocent in Pakistan, and the battered North Koreans. I wish for relief at the Mexican border and peace in the Middle East. We do what we know - write the congressmen, donate the money, and pray for a better time. It doesn't seem like enough. I need to find a high schooler with a dream and a desire to make it better.

Sunday: I attended the baby shower of a lesbian couple. God answered their prayers by blessing one of them with a baby. She is a beautiful mommy - glowing from the inside, out and her partner is so supportive and loving. As the KY legislators call an end to the session and with it, the temporary death of SB 68, forbidding same-sex couples to adopt children, I think what a fitting end to the bill, and to the weekend. I've been around enough couples to see what happens when the father is too busy at work, too involved with other thoughts, to be a presence in the children's lives. My friends will never raise an unloved child. He or she will be well-rounded, thoughtful, and purposeful. He or she will never judge as it will most likely be judged. This child may grow up to be the sophomore in high school who develops a plan to save Darfur or finds a way to finally end SB 68. Until then, children in foster care wait for that same chance that this child has been given - to be loved unconditionally by 2 parents, regardless of whether those 2 parents fit the, unfortunately, socially acceptable role of mommy and daddy. God bless your baby and your loving home.

And then it was Monday.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Hot Flashes THEN Baby, for me...apparently

If you have talked to me at all in the past month or so, I have told you the story about the crazy-bitter-wench of a woman (who also goes by the title of "doctor") who basically suggested that I was going to need God's good grace and the luck of the Irish to have 3 babies after the age of 30. I realize that my body is not in the prime baby-making condition that it was 5 years ago. I'm even aware that it's not in the same quick-recovery condition that it once was. One night of tequila shooters will tell me that! But I cannot help it that I didn't stumble across Neal's hotness until the age of 27 and that he did not finally meet me at the end of a sandy boardwalk until I was 28. Likewise, I cannot help it that when Uncle Sam calls, you don't say "just a minute. Can we have about 18 months to work on this? Thanks." So, here were are. It is somewhat gratifying to know that my mother had me at the age of 30 and I turned out relatively OK. But what we're looking at is me plus 2 and apparently that is what floored dear old Dr. GYN.

This bring me to the second story of the good but daft doctor. While doing some light filing in my office, I came across some paperwork that she had given me during our first visit. It looked like a photocopy of some Journal of Medicine article about Vitamin D. OK..fine..maybe you can't tell by the impending case of melanoma that I've got going on from years of bathing in baby oil on the beaches of Hilton Head, but I'm definitely not skimping on my Vitamin D. All the same, I folded it away and stuck it in my purse. There it stayed until today when I took it out, unfolded it and realized that it wasn't just about Vitamin D, it was about Vitamin D and pre-menopausal women!! Since WHEN did the age of 30 qualify a woman as being pre-menopausal? There is something odd and troubling when I have to wash down my pre-natal vitamins with my Vitamin D for pre-menopause. Yes, I now have a few gray hairs and some wrinkles across the forehead, but I'm pretty sure I'm not pre-menopausal. Although looking back, maybe I wore my bathing suit around the house a little too much last winter....

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Who says our name hasn't been sold??

Last week, Neal came in with the mail. Then I heard hysterical laughter. Hmm..what could this be about, I wondered? Then he showed me a piece of mail for me from the American Massage Therapy Association and a piece of mail for him from the Reserves Officers Association. Wow. I always knew that we were for sale, but you would think they could be a LITTLE more subtle.....

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

And to Brooke

I'm still trying to find the cord to download the pictures so that I may write the "interesting mail" blog...may peace be with me....

More Neal-isms

I love my husband and someday he's going to get really tired of me posting these, but until then....

Last night we were full-swing into our nightly routine: Neal flosses and brushes his teeth, irons his clothes for the next day, I'm watching CNN and may or may not floss my teeth, depending on how much energy I have....waiting for him to finish in the bathroom. After he climbed into bed, I was in the closet, putting away clothes and heard him commenting on CNN to...somebody...presumably me. So, I hollered a big redneck, "HUH?" To which he says, "if they're so worried about the prisoners from Guantanamo, what about the multi-killers?" I think for a second..."Multi-killers?" He quickly corrects himself (probably for fear of ending up as the topic of a blog post) "SERIAL!! SERIAL killers!" Too bad I hadn't had a chance to take off my makeup yet. I smeared mascara all the way down my face, I laughed so hard. If, in the future, I hear a rap about multi-killers, I'm sure I will wet myself.

Monday, March 23, 2009

That's the Army for Ya

I've decided to start using Twitter as my main source of news (besides the steady stream of CNN 24-7, of course). I follow Politico, the Huffington Post (although someone, somewhere said they were going to get sued for the type of reporting they do), Bluegrass Politics, Rollcall, and several other news sources. I also follow the Army. I didn't follow them because I thought I would get any state secrets or actual truth from their tweets, but more as a source of mild humor at best. So, when I log in, I scroll down the list of news stories and, cafeteria-style, pick and choose what news to read. This brings me to last Thursday: Army will phase out stop-loss. REALLY?? We are in 1 war, headed into a second and with all the cable chatter about Pakistan, I'm wondering if there will be a third. Short of instituting a 2nd draft, I don't know how the military could sustain this sort of deployment without continuing stop-loss. But wouldn't it be nice? To think about a military that isn't stretched crepe-thin and military spouses that aren't single-handledly raising the next generation....I guess time will tell if the Army will stay true to their promise, but considering they are the ones who enforced the idea of stop-loss to begin with, I won't be holding my breath.

Monday, March 16, 2009

When Things Go BLOOM!

Fearful that I would begin to drink before the "5:30 somewhere" restriction, I went for a nice, long walk today. It started as a run, dropped to a jog, and ended with a stroll somewhere around mile 3. This happens a lot when there is more thinking than exercising going on. It's usually the reason for the treadmill. At least then, I'm being pulled along at 4.0 mph. After I solved the work crisis, resolved to remain calm, and decided to act like an independent contractor again, I looked up. More specifically, I looked at the trees. And what I saw was more refreshing than the coldest margarita, more calming than an Italian massaging my head - it was BLOOMS. Well, actually, it was just the buds...but where buds go, blooms must follow! Somewhere between wishing I was still walking on the beach in S.C. and thinking that winter would never end, the spring finally started to yawn and stretch. And all I can say is Thank God. I don't think I'm being over-dramatic here. We Kentuckians have suffered a difficult, icy, snowy, freeze-your-tongue-to-the-flagpole winter. Aren't we technically in the South? Although we are very rarely identified by name by the major cable news channels (generally we are referred to either as the Ohio Valley or the Tennessee Valley - as if we are some huge suburb of the 2 states), we were actually mentioned on all of the news channels this winter - CNN, The Weather Channel, MSNBC, Nightline, Fox, etc. We had the largest power-outage in our state's history due to a(n) historic (if someone has the correct usage of a or an in front of "historic", please let me know) ice storm followed by snow. Coincidentally, that was also the week I accidentally dropped my Blackberry Pearl in a sink of white vinegar I was using for cleaning. I may have had electricity but my soul was cold. So, all of this to say that we SURVIVED!! While it may not yet be time to get the pedicure and box up the Irish cable knit sweaters, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. We should get out and have a picnic or hit a round of golf balls because very soon we will be complaining about how it's hotter than the gates of Hell.

Stay tuned for tomorrow's blog about the interesting mail we got this evening...

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Day 2 of owning the Kindle

I have to share this because it made me laugh so hard, I almost peed the bed. Neal was talking about how he had read that Pulmonary Embolisms are "heretic". Heretic? I thought for a second. What is heretic? "GENETIC", you mean? "Well, whatever. You know what it is when it's in your family." "Hereditary?" "YES!", he says... And now we have heretic.
Genetic + hereditary = heretic. Neal has been reading the Kindle for 2 days and has now started inventing words. How creative he could be had he started reading before the age of 41.

Where have all the good men gone?

Oh AIG....you are either incredibly brave or incredibly stupid.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Just Because it's New, Doesn't Make It Better

Sometime in the past few months, the movie theater in Hamburg (for those of you unfamiliar - driving through the clusterf*%^$ of Hamburg is a lot like dropping a rat drunk on bourbon in the middle of a maze within a maze and asking them to find their way out without the use of cheese)...started showing Flashback films. We hit Ferris Bueller's Day Off for Jessica's birthday last November and bought tickets 2 days early for E.T. last month. Tonight was the scruffy-Harrison Ford adventure, Raiders of the Lost Ark. While hanging out in the lobby before the movie, we were making a note of the upcoming Flackback films for the rest of spring. I noticed that in January, they showed Old School....as in Will Ferrell, Luke Wilson, and Jeremy Piven's Old School.

One online critic has this to say about Old School: "Nerds! No. Playboy bunnies! Well, definitely not. Old School is another college frat comedy that follows the plan laid by Animal House. This one does have the difference that our heroes, Ferrell, Vaughn, and Wilson are definitely not college age anymore and rapidly approaching middle age." I wholeheartedly agree. If you are going to show that at Flackback films, then why not show Animal House instead? Don't show the re-make, show the prototype! And this got me thinking what else I would like to see at Flashback flicks on Wednesday nights. So if anyone from Regal Theater in Hamburg is paying attention, this is what we would like to see:
  • Pretty in Pink
  • Flashdance
  • Sixteen Candles
  • Gremlins
  • Roxanne
  • Howard the Duck
  • 18 Again
  • A Fish Called Wanda
  • The Secrets of My Success
  • Dirty Dancing
  • Fletch
  • Fast Times at Ridgemont High
  • Officer and a Gentleman
  • Raising Arizona
  • The Man with Two Brains
  • Mannequin
  • Spaceballs
  • Who Framed Roger Rabbit?
Just to name a few...please weigh in with your favorite 80's flashbacks...

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Enriching the marriage

Last weekend, we made a haul-butt trip down to Hilton Head Island, SC for a marriage retreat put on by the Army chaplains. It's a benefit to being deployed. You only get one retreat per deployment and I think you have to attend within a certain amount of time. Neal booked it for March - maybe to coincide with his birthday, maybe because it was going to be our first "slow" weekend since his return. But it turned out not to be so slow. We didn't get to leave until Thursday afternoon and we had to be back by Monday morning. It's a 10-hour drive each way, you do the math.

My family has been vacationing in Hilton Head since I was a teenager. Neal and I got married on the beach there 2 1/2 years ago. It is my home away from home. Or perhaps I should say that Sea Pines is my home away from home. Hilton Head Island is divided into "plantations" with each plantation offering dining, lodging, shopping, and a fair amount of resident alligators sunning around the lagoons. Sea Pines is by far, the largest and most well-known plantation. It's home to the Salty Dog Cafe, HarborTown, the Lawton stables, Guiseppe's pizza, Truffles Restaurant, and it hosted the Family Circle Tennis Tournament back in the day. It has NEVER crossed my mind to stay anywhere except in Sea Pines. The Army, as usual, had different plans. We were staying on the Shipyard Plantation - a destination that we had passed many times on our way to Blockbuster or Wendy's but had never actually been in.

Shipyard, itself, is a fairly nice plantation. More homes and less shopping than many other plantations. It had excellent beach access and if we had been looking for a less expensive house to rent, we most certainly would have looked there. The retreat was being held at the Crowne Plaza, an older hotel with a strong nautical theme. I have always been more partial to the subtle beach theme of wicker furniture and sand dollar windchimes. The Crowne's bold blue and white vertical-striped wallpaper and anchor print carpet was too much. And that was only the beginning. Stars and stripes everywhere with brass elevators. It felt a little like being on the LoveBoat. As Neal opened the door to our room, I heard "WHAT?" I was almost afraid to look. 2 queen beds set against the left wall with an unmoveable table between them. How can you miss the irony of attending a marriage enrichment retreat and sleeping in separate beds? What we learned is that the Crowne had run out of King non-smoking rooms. So, our choices were smoking or wheelchair access. Don't you go to hell if you take a wheelchair access room away from a disabled person? I don't need another reason to fast-track it to the land down under...so...

But perhaps this is a good time to mention that on our first wedding anniversary, Neal was pushing troops at Ft. Jackson, SC. After a week vacation in Hilton Head (and sleeping in my own queen-size bed), I stopped by Ft. Jackson to spend a couple of nights with my favorite husband...in his one dorm room bed. So, while sleeping side-by-side in a queen bed is not the ideal situation, it was much better than sleeping head-to-foot in his dorm Army bed.

The marriage retreat kicked off with a workshop on forgiveness. I looked around the room and noticed that Neal and I were almost the only couple cuddled up together. Apparently, some of these people REALLY needed forgiveness. The retreat was not intended to start fights or delve into deeply-seeded marital issues but to give us tools to attack these issues when we get home. The only thing is, we don't have any issues. Maybe it's annoying when he forgets to rinse the sink after he shaves or when I accidentally leave towels in the wash for 4 days...but we don't have any knock-down, drag-out fights. Well, not yet, anyway. So, with all forgiven, we head out for dinner on the town. Refer back to paragraph 1 where he says "where would you like to have dinner?" and because we aren't staying in Sea Pines, I have NO IDEA. We ended up at Catch 22 - a seafood place (obviously) that my stepmom had told me about a couple days earlier. Great raw tuna, fantastic wine, and decent scallops. Unfortunately, our meager Army per diem didn't exactly cover the tab and we made a pact to eat more cheaply the next day.

Saturday was jam-packed with workshops on communication, being friends, having fun, fighting fair, resolving issues, problem-solving and 30 minutes on sexuality and sensuality. That last one was actually of most interest because honestly, I didn't really know the difference between the 2 - although I definitely knew there was a difference! And somewhere in there was lunch at The Smokehouse near Lagoon Road. If you're looking for slap-your-mama BBQ, that would be the place to go.

Saturday night was "date night". Apparently, when you have children, you no longer do anything except cook dinner, give baths, and talk (or sometimes fight with mad, scary rage) about the kids. We have date night about once a week - whether it's ice cream at Coldstone or an 80's movie with the gang, or all-bean burritos from Moe's...there is no shortage of date nights for us. So, we traded in our romantic date night for dinner with the officiant at our wedding and his wife, who is a wedding planner. This was the first time we'd seen Rich since our wedding, although I've kept up via email with him for the past couple of years. Dinner at Marley's with this fun-loving and in-love couple was exactly what we needed. They are around couples, both loving and not, everyday and it doesn't have any effect on how they are with each other. Three hours passed like three minutes and we parted with the promise to meet up again soon. We had packing and springing forward to do.

The final day of the retreat ended with a renewal of vows by the beach. It was like coming full-circle for us. We said "til death do us part" under the warmth of sun and with a chorus of crashing waves. To end the weekend, Neal agreed to lunch and shopping in Sea Pines, even though we had a 10-hour drive waiting for us. We paid the $5 and hit HarborTown first. After stopping in Nell's, Planet Hilton Head and Camp Hilton Head, we walked around the harbor to catch a glimpse of the Murdered Millionaire's yaht. For the full story, check out www.islandpacket.com but basically this couple owned a couple of yaht clubs and parked their boat at HarborTown. They disappeared suddenly after a meeting with their accountant, who was under suspicion for embezzling millions from their companies. They were never found and the accountant slashed his wrists with a steak knife in one of their rental units. But the yaht is still parked there and as red-neck as it was, I snapped a picture. I have my moments. Then off to Guiseppe's for lunch and back on the road for the long drive.

I know that Neal and I have a strong marriage. I also know that sometimes I drag the past into our future - feelings and thoughts that don't have anything to do with him. And I know that we are blessed to have such a strong bond, even after being separated for over a year. It gives me hope that regardless of what we face, we will have the tools to address it. After this weekend, we have even more skills to discuss a hot topic without getting hot ourselves. We can "share the floor", "take a time out", and go on issue-free date nights. It may seem small, but when 50% of marriages end in divorce, it could just be huge.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

The Long Way Here

This has been an exciting technology week for me. I have not one, but two, blogs now...plus a Twitter account that I cannot figure out, and my old faithful, Facebook. When I left The Massage Center with a starry-eyed vision of creative latitude, marketing schemes, and flexible schedules, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. Oh to be an independent contractor. Truly independent. To rely on no one but yourself to get people in the door and sometimes harder, to get them to come back. Suddenly, I realize I did not always have incompetant managers, sometimes they were just very stressed.

But this is Chateau Miller. This is the great adventure of Neal and Allyson - which started with a nervous hug at Heathrow Airport and ends a lifetime from now. We have been so fortunate to have more laughter than angry words and more friends than people who want to drop us in a vat of acid. We can't wait to see what's around the bend...tonight could be my first major tofu catastrophe.