Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Hey, guess what...

It's a little after midnight, and needed to share this.
Usually I post pictures of me holding a coffee cup.
Or a paint brush.
Or a "something artsy and totally me TADA!"

But this time I only have one picture, and it's not any of those things.

One picture, and one statement.



I am going home today.

Friday, December 6, 2013

A search for words more exciting than "exciting."

It was less than a whole day ago I sat in this same spot with my journal open atop a big fluffy pillow, pen in hand, scribbling out impassioned realizations and epiphanies because I hadn't journalled in 10 days. And it is in this spot I have cried--about broken coffee cups, broken relationships, even broken plans. I have laughed at my dog and with my husband (or with my dog and at my husband). I have pondered here and screamed in rage here and dreamt of things beyond reality. I have prayed here, with more fervor and angst than many prayers made in my dubious teenaged years. 

Tonight I sit here typing on my computer, my regular old computer, which is not plugged in and does not have an ethernet cable tethering it to any sockets. I'm sitting at the computer. On the internet. In bed.


Behold, I can even take a webcam photo of myself and the awesome tapestry above my bed and I can just BAM put it on the Internet. I will pretend that doesn't sound awkward and just keep writing.

This is insignificant, on the whole, except that my compy spent the last 4 days at "the doctor." He (his name is Cornelius, fyi) got sick and wouldn't wake up starting on Sunday. So I took him to the IT department at TIU. After 24 hours of grueling tests (picture x-rays, MRIs, and blood analysis except for a computer) it was determined there was a fatal flaw in the hard drive. Everything was still there, all the data intact, but it couldn't be accessed. (Like a person in a coma!) The only way to possibly fix the problem (before buying a new compy or getting a new hard drive, two things which I don't have medical metaphors for because people aren't replaceable and neither are their brains) was to reformat the beast and re-install everything (another thing for which I have no people/medical metaphors)

So I went back to IT today and picked up Cornelius. We don't know how long he has to live. Maybe two weeks, maybe two years. The hard drive has some serious problems but at least now I have time to look for a new machine. (Kind of like those crazy dying women on hospital dramas who search for new wives for the husbands they'll leave behind.) Anyways. I am extremely grateful to have my compy back, and to have all of my data.

The other reason it's significant that I'm in bed (ha... ha... ) is because for a WHOLE YEAR Cornelius has been unable to access any sort of wifi. We had to plug him in with an ethernet cable. The only solution, which was also given to me by the awesome IT guy at TIU, was to reformat the hard drive and re-install everything. Well... we just did that. So now I have wifi. And I am taking advantage of it by sitting in bed using the internet to blog.

In other news, I am going home in 11 days. We have someone to take us to/from the aiport, someone to watch the dog (granted, we're talking about the same person for all these situations), I have created all the Christmas cards and soon will have created 80% of the presents (some have to be baked next week. Woohoo!) and after that comes packing. Yay. Packing.

The feelings I experience when I speak aloud: "Eleven days." Well, if I as a less exciting person, I would say excitement. But when teaching 6th graders I often said exciting was a boring word, because it is. Like happy/sad, good/bad, it does not belong in my excessive lexicon. I am thrilled. I am exuberant. When I think about how soon we're leaving, a strange and wonderful energy fills my body and I stop breathing and then Joey takes me to the hospital and all the nurses look at me like I'm nuts because...

Yep. Just kidding. But I do get sort of breathless if I think about it too long. Maybe that's because I have to get on a plane for the first time since 2011 and security check-ins during Christmas time are INSANE.

Needless to say, it's been a busy week, and this blog post is way longer than I was anticipating. I will now attempt to sleep.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Leaning.

You read that right--I meant to spell leaning, not learning. It is appropriate for several reasons, the first being that we are leaning into the Christmas season. (Some people rush. I sort of lean.) It's also appropriate so I can talk about the things I'm thankful for for today (and the previous 3 days.)

1. Leaning on friends. On the night before Thanksgiving (Thanksgiving Eve, perhaps?) Joey and I suddenly had plans for dinner the next day. And I needed to make a pie. Well, I didn't need to, but they said I could bring a dessert and apple pie is my go-to dessert during the holidays. So I called up a friend who not only took me to the store to buy apples but also stuck around for a few hours to play Scrabble. (This is the same friend who will be watching my dear dog while we're home for Christmas. His name is Chad, and he's awesome.)

 

2. Leaning on strangers. So we spent Thanksgiving afternoon/evening with the family of our friend Livi. This was our original option, the option which made me hesitate because there would be SO many people. But it was actually quite lovely! (The house was big enough I didn't feel anxious about all the people.) We played hand bells and a few dozen rounds of Dutch Blitz and everybody loved my pie. Joey and I ate its leftovers for breakfast today.



3. My leaning tree. We bought a Christmas tree yesterday, put it up today, and I decorated it earlier this afternoon. It is currently leaning toward me from its corner, a motion which only began maybe a few hours ago, and I'm not sure what to do. Putting the tree up in the first place is a two-person job so there's no way I can fix it myself. Nevertheless, I am thankful for it. As I carefully hung ornaments earlier today, I cried a few tears of happiness. This is the third Christmas I have decorated the tree alone, but in prior years I have cried tears of frustration and anger and absolute sorrow because I was alone, and wouldn't be going home to see my family. Today I cried because I am going home. I'm going home. My sad and pretty tree might be leaning but I'm going home.
It was pre-decorated with authentic pinecones! ;)
It came pre-decorated with authentic pinecones! ;)



4. Leaning on God. I don't use this blog to talk a lot about my faith, but every once in a while I find I can speak freely. (It's not that I don't want to talk about it, mind you, this is just not the venue I've elected for such conversations.) Anyways. In the last 4 weeks since my "prayer retreat" God has allowed me some healing, and some truth. There are a few difficult circumstances I come up against almost daily, and rather than fall into despair I have leaned into God and allowed him to show me truth through the sadness and anger. Nobody can tell you the right way to hear from God, because he speaks to us all in different ways. I am thankful for this.

So, now that it's the end of November, I might will be blogging a lot less. It'll be nice to have the pressure off, to not feel like I need to blog every day. I know, I wasn't quite on the ball with that, but I did try. December will be relaxing and I will probably blog about my trip home sooner or later.

End Day 30 (and 29, 28, & 27.) And End November. :)

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

25 & 26.

I've encountered a problem recently with my husband's job. It's not the job itself... it's how late he works. And it's not really a problem every single time but only when I have to be down there with him. It means that I am stuck waiting around until at least midnight, without the ability to blog or even use the Internet. It's the curse of only having one car.

So today is hopefully the last time I have to do this "two Thanksgiving posts at once" thing, because before you know it November will be over and we will be quite suddenly thrust into the last month of 2013.

For yesterday, I am thankful for children's books found at thrift stores. As the Storytime Queen (and a book nerd. duh.) I took it upon myself to peruse Goodwill's book section for some picture books and kids' novels. I've done this in the past just for fun, but it was even more overwhelming yesterday because I had to think of how I might plan a lesson around a book. Needless to say, a few books were put back on the shelf. I did, however, pick up a copy of the first Amelia Bedelia book, Steven Kellogg's Johnny Appleseed (which was full of gorgeous illustrations, as usual) and a book called The Way Meat Loves Salt which is a Jewish folktale version of the Cinderella story. I am already brimming with ideas for all three and can't wait to use them for storytime!

For today, I am thankful for extra time. Basically I got off of work early because it's Thanksgiving break at the school, so Joey and I actually got home before 10 o'clock and were able to sit down together and watch Once Upon a Time in Wonderland on Hulu, and we didn't start falling asleep after twenty minutes. It also means that I don't have to work until next Tuesday so I get to relax and finish all my Christmas cards. Heh.

No fancy pictures today. You probably don't care anyways.

End Day 26. :)

Sunday, November 24, 2013

The Queen Drinks a Cup of Tea.

Once upon a time I said I'd get back on track and it completely did not happen. But you'll forgive me when you find out why.

Today I essentially got paid to read children's books (ok, and write lesson plans) for 2 hours. And drink a giant cup of tea while doing it. I should probably tell you how it started.

Good work, Madame Tea Bag.
On Friday, after the most incredibly fantastic 2-hour meeting ever, I found out that I'm getting a raise. It felt like a random raise, but was actually a "you're doing a good job!" raise which is actually something I've never experienced before. Honestly, I've just been "myself" at work, doing things I love and expressing how I'm passionate about things. Just sort of jumping on bandwagons that look like they might be a fun ride. And you would think it's because I'm having such success tutoring college students or raising the GPA of all students in English courses, however, the truth is... I have the privilege of being the Storytime Queen. I've explained this in brief before, whilst being thankful for my job, but we're fully in the planning stages now. I wrote two awesome lesson plans tonight and worked on some fliers. (I don't want to go into too much detail because A. I'm tired and B. It will be more wonderful to talk about once it actually starts.)


I also now have the privilege of teaching kindergartners in the near future, which includes a session on colors/art/music. It's unbelievable! I can't explain to you how excited I am except to say that I am thankful AGAIN for my job.

So, that can be Saturday's post. Thankful for my job. Again. Thankful for the creativity I am allowed and the thrill I experience when thinking about all the wonderful books I'll get to read.

For today... I am just thankful for this big whopping mug (20 ounces, baby) of tea that kept me going tonight, and for the stack of post-it notes I left unwrapped for over a year but finally got to whip out. Like a champion.


Friday, November 22, 2013

Men.



Yesterday during a phone conversation that lasted almost 2 hours, a friend and I were heatedly discussing our frustrations concerning men, and women, and then men again, and... you get the picture. People in general make me want to rip my hair out. I figure, I wrote a post about being thankful for women, and I should probably write one about men too.

Today, I am thankful for men.

But first, I want to point out how little the world loves them.

I'm not a historian by any means, and didn't study anthropology in college, but I know a little about the history of how men have been treated in this country and how women have turned that around--and not for the better. For hundreds of years (if not forever) women have been mistreated and demeaned and belittled. There are some disconcerting ads here and here that are pretty straightforward about how the media previously viewed women. And I know it hasn't quite gotten better yet, since (on average) men still get paid more than women, receive more "professional respect" than women, but it does not excuse the way we have started to treat men.

I hate--literally hate--the way our society has portrayed men. I love men, and I think they're great! And I'm not saying that because they're all wonderful people. Trust me, I have been hurt by men, certainly by men in my family along with boyfriends and regular friends and the guy down the street. And yes, my husband too. I have not, in any way, been sheltered from the thoughtless or misogynistic behaviors of men. And when I hear/read/learn about historical or current instances of misogyny it's upsetting and frustrating.

However, I repeat: it does not excuse the way we have started to treat men.

You know, in the early years of organized education, girls weren't allowed to go to school. It was considered to be something "too advanced" for girls, and only appropriate for girls. But sometime around 20 years ago there were studies saying that now boys weren't fit for school, like we'd gotten in wrong all along. (Of course, the real problem is something else entirely, and regards the way in which we manage classrooms and teach lessons. It has nothing to do with boys OR girls) And in the same way that women used to be condescended to in the media, we've switched it over to men.

You can watch this Little Caesar's ad for pizza: click here. That poor man is not only stupid, but everyone in his neighborhood knows it. And then there's this Dunkin Donuts Coffee ad for a sad soul who doesn't know how to find coffee in his own kitchen. And you must keep in mind that these commercials aren't just saying that "men are stupid"--it's, "men are stupid, and women have to tolerantly take care of them." The man who wants to wait for pizza is "owned" by his wife, who suggests Little Caesar's. The man who can't find the coffee is saved by his wife, who knows where the secret stash is, and says, "Awesome," in a sluggish, cave-man voice because clearly his wife is a genius and kitchens are just SO hard to navigate.

Basically the world (or just America) has said, "Women have been treated unfairly forever, so now we're going to have REVEEEENGGE!!"

I'm going to stop here, before I get carried away, because I could. I could rant and rave about this forever. But the real purpose here is not just to defend men, but to show gratitude and appreciation for the men in my life.

I am thankful for my father and brothers, for their humor and affection, for board games and story telling and protecting me.
I am thankful for the other male relatives in my life, the uncles and cousins and grandparents and friends-of-my-brothers for their decency, and always treating me like a person worth talking to and not just a "little sister."
I am thankful for the male friends I had in middle & high school, for their fun-loving spirits, and because we had all finally grown out of that "can't be friends with the opposite sex" phase.
I am thankful for the male friends I made at Trinity, for their genuine and unconditional friendship--for "Bingo" time, and playing Settlers of Catan, for worship nights at the park and coffee houses and trips to the $4 movie theater and to Baker Boys for those awesome cupcakes.
I am thankful for my husband, for the man he is, and the man he will be in the days to come.

(Also... beards.)

They're not perfect. They're not always kind or sensitive or thoughtful. They're downright aggravating! But they deserve my respect, and will always have my love.

.End Day 22.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

The creative consumer.

You probably already know that there are large communities of bloggers who have one solid topic for their blogs. They write about cooking, or quilting, or fashion. And under those topics there are always sub-categories, like vegan cooking or paper-piece quilting or "thrifty" fashion--yes, an entire blog dedicated to stories about "what Lisa bought at Goodwill today" featuring high-quality snapshots of hipster clothes and a chairs to be reupholstered. Going to thrift stores is what she does for her blog. 

On the other hand, you have me. I'm thrifty because I can be, because I must be, and because I don't care what you think about where my clothes came from or my couch or the books on my shelf. (we all know the best books come from thrift stores, anyways.)

There are four ways a "lower class citizen" like myself can be thrifty. Someday I'll explain all of them but for right now here's a short list. 1. Thrift stores. 2. Online shopping. 3. The clearance section of any store. 4. Garage sales/craigslist/etc.

In light of the fact that I forgot to blog again yesterday, today I'll be thankful for two things: eBay and thrift stores. I know, that sounds sort of idiotic. I could show you pictures of all the awesome  important things I've found at thrift stores, like my book-shaped lamp ($11, irresistible for someone like me) or the green cupboard in the kitchen ($15, was necessary for surviving in a studio apartment) or the winter blanket on my bed which I mentioned a few days ago (best $2.50 I've ever spent.) I could also explain all of the best eBay buys I've made (my wedding dress, for example, or my husband's Christmas present which is incredible and I can't wait to give it to him!) Instead I'm going to showcase a few of my favorite things.

I might have mentioned before that eBay gave me $50 to spend for being such a "good seller." In my haste to find things to purchase, since I had to use the gift code all at once, I found this Mockingjay pin. I actually wore it on Tuesday, which you can see in the last blog post. It was $1.09, with free shipping. The Hunger Games trilogy isn't my favorite of all time (otherwise I would have written about that instead of The Book Thief, right?) but since reading the series I've been very fascinated with the Mockingjay symbol. Plus, it makes me look so trendy. ;)

This is a box. It's about two inches on all sides. I got it for $0.50 at Goodwill. It's not glorious or very pretty. But it has an ampersand on it. How often do you find cool things with ampersands at thrift stores? I'll tell you how often--pretty much never. It fits perfectly on my "trinket shelf"--which is another story all together.

If you're a nerd like me, you probably can already figure out what that thing is. If you're not a nerd, I guess I'll just have to tell you: it's an ocarina pendant. A tiny ocarina! Barely bigger than a fifty-cent piece. I got it at a thrift store back in my hometown, and yes, it works. I can play three whole notes on it. I don't remember how much it was, probably about a dollar. 

I saved the best for last. This is a pewter prayer box. (The chain was my grandmother's.) My freshman year in college I bought a whole bunch of these--I have a silver boxy one, very square, and the latch is a tiny leaf. I have a bronze-colored one in the shape of a heart, a poor-quality tube shaped one from a craft store (don't buy them there, EVER), and another boxy one that's copper-colored. But this one is my favorite, and it was an eBay purchase. Its importance lies not in where I bought it, of course. I've been wearing them for years, but last week somebody asked me about it for the first time in... I couldn't tell you how long it's been. A while. And I got to remind myself, out loud, "It's so you can write down your prayers and carry them around with you, so even if you forget the words, you know they still exist." I know God still sees and hears our prayers when we forget the words, but the physical reminder is very powerful. 

And you don't have to tell me... it's just stuff. They're just things. But as a person who doesn't have a lot of money, when I do buy something, I like it to be unique. I don't like wasting my time and money on something that everybody else has (except maybe important things like underwear or a coffee pot). I don't have the resources to go out and buy the newest, hippest dresses from ModCloth or H&M. Buying stuff this way also makes it easier to buy people presents--I mean, honestly, I could probably go to Walmart and find something for each of my family members, but it's WAY more fun to visit the Salvation Army store and find things that "speak" to me about my brothers or my mom or dad, and I can tell them that! "Hey, I found this, and it was perfect for you!" It means so much more than, "I got this thing at Target you'll probably like."

So there's my post for today, and yesterday. I promise tomorrow I'll blog on schedule. Well, I'll try.

I'm also taking a break from making Christmas cards, now that I've reached almost the 50% mark. My desk was cluttered with rhinestones and flamboyant Christmas paper and I just needed some desk/headspace to breathe.

End Day 21. Wonder what I'll come up with next?

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Umph.



Yesterday, for the first time in two weeks, I forgot to blog. I don't forget things often, so I'm not gonna let you make me feel guilty, and it was for a few pretty good reasons. Okay, they're "acceptable" reasons. My husband has been sick, and has come home with a fever three nights in a row. So I've just been feeling overwhelmed. I have so many Christmas cards to make, and I realized yesterday that all the stupid green cardstock I bought is not appropriate. I wanted some nice sage-y, mossy, organic looking greens and I thought there was some in the package, but what I got was crazy, exuberant, bright greens that screams (like a three-year-old), "HAPPY CHRISTMAS I'M A BIG GREEN CARD!" instead of, (in a British accent) "Hello, darling, I'm a lovely Christmas card made by an adult who possesses many papercrafting skills."

So I mistakenly took a day off of blogging (although not a day off from being thankful) and realized that I just needed some "umph." Most people and silly dictionaries spell this word with two 'o's but I prefer the 'u.' (I know, that's very German of me.) Some definitions will tell you this word means "sex appeal" but today we are definitely just talking about regular ol' appeal without the sex. Yep.

Today at work (see picture below!) I was tutoring a student and told him his paper needed some umph. This guy likes to give me a hard time (he's an older man, taking classes through REACH, blah blah blah, you don't care.) and he asked me if "umph" was an academic word.

I said yes, of course, because I like to give him a hard time too. But I said yes, it's academic as a descriptor of academic work, or an element of academic work, but not a word used within or inside of academic work. We laughed about it.

And then I gave myself some umph by talking to my boss for over an hour about the Storytime project (she also announced that my new name is the Storytime Queen, which is so unbelievably rad I can't even tell you. Seriously.) And then I gave myself even MORE umph by downloading a whole bunch of new fonts which will: a. Help me feel better about all the stupid green cardstock because I can at least have pretty lettering and b. Allow me to make posters for the tutoring center and possibly for Storytime, etc. If you're wondering, yes, I used one of my new fonts on the little quote I made.

So there you go. Today (and yesterday!) I am thankful for umph. It's so awesome it counts for two days.


Worky work & Mockingjay. 

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Today is not my day.


I imagined today differently. I didn't imagine anything specific, but I did imagine it differently. I suppose it started yesterday, things not going the way I thought they would.

My husband started his new job last week, and yesterday he had his first closing shift. We're used to closing shifts. When he worked as a pizza delivery guy, he was often home late. He didn't work that far from home, so it was easier, but we do know how they work. We miss each other. But it's normal. So he told me he would be off at 1am, and somehow I got it into my head that he would be home by 1am. 

As I'm sure you can guess, 1am came and went and he was not home and wasn't answering his phone. I had been restlessly sleeping when he called to tell me he was done, and on his way home. When he arrived he was exhausted--partially because we'd both been to the blood drive earlier that day, but also because he'd worked for 8, almost 9 hours. He also had a fever of 100.3.

We set an alarm to get up for church, because he had to go to a class during the first service. I planned on sleeping in the car. But instead we woke up and felt awful and more exhausted than we'd felt in months and so he e-mailed a friend whom we'd intended on meeting after church and we went back to sleep.

Since then it's just been an "off" day. And I could explain why, but I won't. I just feel sort of sad about some things and angry about some things and happy about a few things, but nothing is really striking me as, "Man, I'm so thankful for __________ today!" Nope. It's just not happening.

So today, I'm thankful for small things. I'm thankful for the massively comfortable blanket on my bed, which would have cost (at least) $120 in real life, but I got it for $2.50 at a Salvation Army. I'm thankful for my cup of apple cider, which is full of vitamin C. I'm thankful for this little devotional book that a dear friend gave me as a graduation present. I'm thankful that, despite a terrible and terrifying situation, my best friend and her husband are alright. And I'm thankful that a month from right now, I'll be at home, safe and loved in the company of my family.

End Day 17. Tomorrow will be kinder.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Mama.



I tried to subtly get my mother to find her favorite picture of us together, specifically a picture in which I am still a baby, or at least pretty dang cute. By this time of the month she knows, of course, that I'm going to blog about her at some point and I just blogged about my Dad so it wasn't a surprise or anything. Now some some mothers might immediately e-mail the perfect picture, or say that they don't have a favorite, but my mother's response? "They're aren't very many, because I took all the pictures!" (She also said she didn't have a favorite.)

So the photo above is all I've got. For now. I don't know where this is, or why it seems she's about to throw me from a cliff, and I'm sorry it's blurry, but I don't have any other cute pictures of little Katie and her mama. I could wait until she finds the perfect photo, but I'm growing impatient because I just want to be thankful for my mother and I couldn't possibly consider doing it anywhere but on this blog! Ha. 

Yesterday, I waxed poetic about my father and his intelligence and creativity. I could, if I wanted, talk the same way about my mother, but somehow it isn't quite lovely enough to describe her.

My mama is the kindest person you will ever know. She will exasperate you with kindness. It's not because she doesn't know how to be mean--I'm sure she knows how, she had 4 siblings, 3 of which were brothers. She just chooses not to. She chooses, rather, to use her kindness and calm temperament to persuade you to see things her way, or to at least take a chill pill. (That's not to say she's never snapped at me or shown frustration. And when she did, I almost definitely deserved every bit of it.) 

In the same way my father exudes intelligence, my mother exudes wisdom. She brims over with vital words and enchanting thoughts, and you can just tell she wants you to feel and understand everything the same way she does. I learned recently on a women's retreat that every woman has within her a sensuous one--the key being SENSE-uous, not sensual or sexual. (Don't worry, this is not going to get awkward.) The sense-uous part of a woman takes joy in her surroundings, she takes joy in herself, she is enamored with God's creation and the environments she experiences. Whatever she loves, she wants everyone to love it with her. 

This was my mama. This is my mama. Whatever she loves, she wants everyone to love it with her. This is why she is always reading at least 4 books at once and will jump at the chance to tell you about them. (Yes, my love for books definitely came from both parents. Papa taught me to tell stories, but Mama taught me to experience stories.) I could see pretty clearly, when I was little, the joy my mother took in herself. They were small things--she knew just how she liked her coffee (which is very important!), she took care in choosing the perfect (but minimal) jewelry every day, she liked to take long baths and long walks and short naps on the couch (with a book propped open nearby which she fell asleep whilst reading.) She took joy in just being herself. This is a lesson more mothers should teach their daughters. 

But most of all, she loved beautiful things. They weren't always complex, extravagant, elaborate things... but they were beautiful. Usually they were found in nature, or a painting. To prove my point I could show you every picture on her Facebook profile, especially the ones where she is staring off at a distance mountain or forest or something at a museum. But to be more concise, here are two pictures of her picking flowers. (The first photo is one I took in 2011, the second was taken by my dad back in May.)

While driving back to WA with me after my junior year, we stopped
by the side of the road to pick a whole bunch of poppies.

Somewhere in Seattle.

Does the first photo make more sense now? Does it make sense that my mother is holding me high up on a cliff? Does it look like she's throwing me into harm's way, or embracing me in a way that lets me see the world without falling into its danger? She wanted me to see something, to experience something, to revel in and engage with the beauty and mystery she saw. She wanted me to love what she loved, to find my own version of beauty in the thing she had already deemed beautiful.

I should probably also mention that she gave birth to me. AND she dutifully reads my blog. I'm thankful for those things too. :)

End of Day 16. 

Friday, November 15, 2013

Papa.


There's a scene in the 1995 version of A Little Princess, the one where Sara Crewe is preparing to say goodbye to her father indefinitely. You all know the one. She and Captain Crewe are sitting by the window, and wordlessly Sara begins tracing the lines of her father's face. He asks if she's memorizing him by heart, and she replies, "I already know you by heart." Later, after Captain Crewe is presumed dead and Sara has been working as a servant, there is that memorable night when she flees to the house next door and sees an injured man--but she knows it's him. It doesn't matter that he's scarred by the war (in more ways that one) and doesn't remember her, but Sara has him memorized--his face, his eyes, his heart. She knows who her father is.

My father's face in this photo looks the same then as it does now. His hair is obviously much grayer now, there are more smiley wrinkles around his eyes, but he's the same. Don't ask me how that works... I think it's just the way a daughter sees her father. I think it has something to do with looking up to the same man you're entire life.

Today, I am thankful for my papa. (For the record, I didn't start calling him that until I was 17, and I don't even remember why.) I know that there are plenty of inadequate fathers out there, fathers who neglect their children or abuse them or just don't love them very well. But I can be thankful for mine, regardless.

Perhaps one reason I am most thankful for him is because there are times I truly feel I do have him memorized by heart, like little Sara. And how do I know I've memorized him? Well, because I can tell you that he could easily convince anyone he's a genius--he doesn't know everything, but he can persuade you that he does. I can tell you with all sincerity that despite any outward reservation my father is an idealist at heart. He has big dreams and ideas and schemes and if you let him, he'll do the craziest, most endearing things. I can tell you that he is compassionate and genuinely cares about people, but you might not know it unless he feels like he's disappointed someone because then he gets kind of grumpy. He has an immense sense of justice, something I definitely inherited, which causes a lot of righteous anger and ranting about awful commercials on television. His creativity has inspired mine, his love for God has inspired mine, his just-plain-awesomeness has inspired mine--mostly because he has often said, "You'd have to be 10 times as awesome as you are right now to even comprehend how awesome I am." He usually says that when he's annoyed by teenagers. 

I know I talked about my childhood yesterday but I really would like to emphasize that my father was behind a lot of my artistic adventures. One summer we made a box together, like a little wooden chest, which required many trips to the hardware store and I learned how to use an electric sander and got to paint it. He was always encouraging me to write stories and read new books and go "outside my comfort zone." It's possible that he (and my mother) realized my potential for awesomeness equal to his, and wanted to push me in that direction because nobody else would.

So, in hopes that your father is as incredible as mine, be thankful for your father (or your daddy, your dad, your Papa), and for fathers everywhere. 



End Day 15. Tomorrow, my mother!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Childhood.

 

This is the picture of a perfect child. She is perfect, with her frilly dress and ruffled socks, holding a plastic bucket that used to contain peanut butter. She's perfect. That is to say, she is perfectly skilled at being a child. She is not perfectly skilled at paying attention, otherwise she would not be running toward her parents as they leave Lincoln Park without her. She is not perfectly skilled at staying upright on bicycles, judging by the band-aid on her knee. She is not perfectly skilled at doing what she's told--she has bangs because she cut her own hair with pink kiddie scissors not too long before this photo was taken, as well as the hair of a Precious Moments doll.

But those are the characteristics and incidents which make her a child, which make her beloved and precious in the eyes of her parents, and sometimes even her brothers, because it means she is not yet old enough to always know what's right. These are the things that teach her and will help her form her world because all of those imperfect behaviors are paired with other lovely things--like twenty-six carefully crafted drawings of Native Americans with exquisite details, like picking her mother bouquets of dandelions, like dutifully playing a Wise Man in the Christmas play despite her fierce wish to be Mary (or at least an angel), and like whimsically playing in the park all day and paying no attention to time because she is safe, and free, and loved. She is perfectly a child because she is not afraid.

Today I am thankful for my childhood. I am thankful for the freedom I experienced and that whatever artistic endeavor I pursued, everybody told me to go for it, even if it meant putting a kitschy tile mosaic on a hexagonal coffee table. I am thankful for years of playing with dolls and making up stories for them. I am thankful for living in a family that allowed my imagination to roam the house like a living creature.

So here are a few random photos of my childhood. And yes, it's also #ThrowbackThursday #TBT so this fits pretty well.




A. Baby Katie! B. Me and my friend Micah on a rocking horse named Misty. C & D. Awkward family photos.

End day 14. Up next, parents!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Brothers.



I used to call them "my boys," in spite of my acute awareness that they had practically inhuman abilities to torture me. I pined for their attention, knowing that I might regret it if they gave it to me. I wanted to be just like them, even if mirroring their behavior was idiot and would get me into trouble. But they were my brothers, my boys, and the connections or assumptions we make with our siblings aren't always logical or rational.

Still, after all the pranks and the teasing, they were undoubtedly instrumental in my "becoming a real person"--something which I also talked about while being thankful for women. It's true that they were often cruel in my childlike perspective. They couldn't help but be immature and childish and they thought it was hilarious when I screamed in rage. (They never made me sad, they just made me furious.) But there were other moments too. Whether or not I always felt it, I knew they loved me.

And when I got older, I knew they liked me. I was about 12 when they started wanting to hang out with ME! They wanted me to hang out with their friends, to go to their Christmas parties, to make cookies with them, to see movies and drink lattes and walk around Bell Square to look at furniture because it wasn't about what we did. It was about being together.




So, I am thankful for my brothers. I'm thankful for the way they treated me when I was little because it made me strong (and it's not my fault if they still feel guilty about it, so there.) I'm thankful for their love and encouragement, for the men they have become, and I am SO thankful that I get to see them in just 33 days!

Top picture: (left to right) Jon, Chris, me. 1991? Right picture: Me &; Jon, Sept. 2001. Middle picture: Chris, me. 1996-ish. Check out that rose-colored carpet! Bottom picture: Jon, me, Chris. 1990?

(And if you're wondering if I'm going to write a post about my parents... the answer is yes. Just not yet.)

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Books.



Last Friday my favorite book was released to the world in motion picture form. I haven't seen it yet, because I'm dirt poor, but I can guarantee the book is better. It's my favorite book. I have to think that. Right?

If you're wondering, I'm talking about The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. I first read The Book Thief six years ago, around this same time of year, and there's no way to explain the impact it had on me. I can tell you that this was during the worst year of my life, that my depression had never been so constant, and that this book--while it made me cry in the throes of every emotion humanly possible--somehow helped me stumble through a very long winter. Its words held such power that after I'd read it once, I listened to it on CD in the car. And during my freshman year of college when I had an immensely painful break-up, I read the book once more, pouring myself into its pages to find some sort of escape. The story is just that compelling. (Since then I've read the book 2 more times, once alone while working at a summer camp and once aloud with my husband.)

I'm not saying it's the Bible. I love the Bible, which has also been a solid foundation of encouragement and wisdom for me. And while I am very thankful for the Bible, and the meaning it holds for me personally, today I want to talk about something less specific. Today, I am thankful for books.

Honestly, I could be even less specific, and say I'm thankful for stories, because my true love for books started when I was very small. My dad used to make up stories for me and my brothers. He would talk about princesses and dragons and talking eagles, anything that would make our faces light up with excitement. The love for stories easily transformed to a love for books when I learned to read. From a young age books were my most adored and beloved possessions, because they allowed me to experience the world without leaving the safety of home.

There's a chance many of you readers, whoever you are, also have a deep affection for books. You probably know that books don't just let you experience other places, but also other times. A book can show you World War II, or a jungle in Africa. A book can also let you experience other feelings, like righteous anger at a villain, or let you experience other realities, such as a first-person narrative about living in slavery.

And I haven't even covered non-fiction yet. (Although, to be fair, I don't want to make this a long blog post, so I'm not actually going to cover anything other than fiction.)

I am thankful for the books that have allowed me to travel to such places and times, to experience worlds of feeling and foreign realities. I am thankful for the sanctuary they offer and the freedom they allow.

{In hopes of being transparent and not too conceited, I'll explain all the other books in the photo. The yellow book on the bottom is my Lit book from high school, which was given to me at the end of senior year since they were buying new text books. It holds many critical notes and annotations alongside some favorite short stories and poems. Jane Eyre is just above The Book Thief, which I hadn't read until about a year ago. I fell in love with it and still haven't figured out why. Above is a book of T. S. Eliot poems, a gift from my husband. Then there's The Twits, a funny book by Roald Dahl that I've loved since I was just a little girl, mostly because Mr. Twit saved food in his beard and that's hilarious. A Separate Peace was an integral part of my high school years, and taught me a lot about my own writing in regards to character motivations. The Bell Jar was read in the same year I first read The Book Thief, and was useful in forming more of my identity as a writer.}

Monday, November 11, 2013

A Place to Call Home.


This afternoon as I sit at my desk making Christmas cards, there is a thin layer of snow outside, and the tiny flakes are softly rushing toward the earth as if they too are in a hurry to get things done, in a hurry for Christmastime. Yet still in the kitchen I've hung this foiled glass leaf, something my mother sent me a few years ago, which says, "Give thanks" in tiny sans-serif letters. It quietly reminds me to be thankful all month long, that there's still time before I fly home and rest in the comfort of family, that I still have another holiday first.

Thanksgiving is still a few weeks away. I still have no idea what we're doing for that day. A friend invited us over but it was simply too large a crowd for me to handle. We're hoping we'll find a way to host it in our apartment again, maybe have two or three friends over. We're also hoping that someone with a smaller family might invite us over, because it's likely we're too broke to buy green beans let alone a turkey.

But the thought of having people come over is just another reason to be thankful: I have a place to call home.

There's a traumatic story I'd like to tell, it happened just over a week ago. I was awake at midnight, writing something. My husband was already asleep. I heard someone come through the hall door outside our apartment, they were playing music or talking on the phone. It's pretty typical around here, so I didn't pay attention. But then the locked deadbolt was clumsily unlocked from the outside. Holly, who was cozily sleeping on my feet under the desk, trotted to the door and gave a warning "woof!" I flung myself at the door as well, began to say Joey's name, began to shout his name, began to scream his name. I pressed one hand on the door handle and the other on the wall in case I needed to brace myself against the intruder.

The man on the other side of the door paused, removed his key, and uttered in a tired but non-intoxicated way, "I musta gone to the wrong building."

I should tell you, there's no way to get into the wrong building, unless you have a master key. Clearly this was a maintenance man, or some other staff. I should also tell you, my husband had still not come to help me.

Now, don't get me wrong. I'm not sharing this story to berate my husband online or tell you how awful he is. I had been gone all weekend, and Joey slept maybe 2 hours the entire time I was gone. He was so tired he didn't wake up at my screaming. And later, when I demanded that he come to the door, we had a small conversation during which he hugged me and comforted me but didn't remember it the next day because he was sleepwalking. (he did a lot of sleepwalking as a child. I'm not surprised it finally happened again, but the timing could not have been more disastrous.)

And despite all of that, I am thankful to have a place to call home. I'm thankful that we have security officers patrolling the property at all times and that the next day, after we called them, they actually came to our door to ask questions. (Yes, I know, I should have called them immediately.) I am thankful to have someplace to keep warm while it snows outside, that I have a bed to sleep in and a stove so that I can boil water for hot chocolate.

But I'm especially thankful today for the other "homes" I have--my family, which I can't wait to visit next month. My husband, who (regardless of involuntary sleep disasters) always protects me, at least when he's awake. And my home in heaven, which is probably still too far away to imagine, but I do look forward to it immensely.

End Day 11. Off to make more cards!

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Friends.

"Friendship consists in forgetting what one gives
and remembering what one receives." -Alexander Dumas

Today more than ever this sentiment rings true. I have a great deal of friends--many of them are "outer circle" friends, people I say happy birthday to but don't chat with on the phone for hours. I have a solid "inner circle," friends that receive handmade birthday cards or understand my sense of humor no matter how obnoxious I'm behaving. 

As mentioned before, I made many wonderful friends during college. I had some good friends in high school as well but so far I've kept in touch better with the people I met in college. Some of my best companions, the people who I essentially grew up with, I met at youth group or church, and many of us are still close. I now go to a new church and we've made new friends there as well, which is something I realize over again every Sunday, when somebody walks up to me and actually wants to have a conversation. Or, picture this: last month two women randomly took me out to lunch. 

My inner circle and my outer circle have become obsolete during the last few weeks, because of one very important reason: our GoFundMe account, aimed at getting us home for Christmas. With the GoFundMe page out there, in everyone's faces at least once a day, I have discovered sympathy and compassion from the most unexpected people, and in a way that always feels so... difficult. Money. Money is so hard to take from people because, wow, you have to be vulnerable and not worry about your pride because damaging it is the only way to get the help you need. 

So today I am thankful for friends. Wonderful, generous, compassionate friends who support me--not just financially, but emotionally. The kind of friends who say, "You have a dream? Go for it!" Sometimes they give me a hug, and sometimes they give me $5, and sometimes we just sigh at each other because we know how the other is feeling. I'm grateful for all of it.

As a treat, here's the latest update video with NEWS about our GoFundMe adventure! :)




Saturday, November 9, 2013

Mawwiage.


This photo was taken 868 days ago. Or, 2 years, 4 months and 15 days. I could calculate seconds and minutes and hours if I wanted to, but it's not exactly important because today I am thankful for marriage, not just the amount of time I've been experiencing it. 

When you consider that approximately 50% of all marriages (actually, it's only 50% of all first marriages) end in divorce, I've been blessed to witness enduring and incredible marriages. Both sets of grandparents were married for over 50 years. They had never been previously married, and never married again after one of them passed away. Keep in mind, they were from a different generation, one where divorces were less common and definitely less accepted.

My parents, on the other hand, were rare. (They've been married for 36 years now.) I grew up with many friends whose parents were divorced or remarried and the thought of switching houses every other weekend was mind-boggling--because as a kid, that's what I thought about. I thought about how strange it might be to have two bedrooms, and how sad I would feel if I had to choose which parent to spend Christmas with. As I matured I began to feel the weighty sorrow of my friends, who knew their parents didn't love each other anymore, who were old enough to understand the agony of a broken family. In addition to that sudden empathy I was also awakened to the respectable solidity of my parents' marriage. 

Naturally, I've experienced wonderful marriages outside my immediate family (although I seriously wish both of my brothers would get hitched. Someday.) Aunts, uncles, people at church, old family friends, they all showed me real marriages. Real marriages do not always include glamorous houses or surprise weekend getaways and every conversation is not littered with "Oh, darling, you're so enchanting!" or "Yes, my sweet, anything for you, you're my sugar-cupcake!" Arguments happen and they are normal and they do not mean you chose the wrong spouse or that your marriage is over. 

I'm thankful for marriage because it is a constant source of encouragement and exasperation, support and snark (my specialty is snark), friendship and frustration, laughter and lapses of sanity. It offers a challenge to your intellect, your patience, your sense of self, your preconceived thoughts about the world, your prejudices and your flaws. And in the same space it offers comfort, so that when the world you thought you knew becomes too much, when you are sick or exhausted or confused, someone is there to hold you and help you back onto your feet.

I know that not all marriages are wonderful. Some of them turn out to be quite awful--but that's because of the people in the marriage and the choices those people make, not because marriage itself is a negative thing. Marriage, when you choose to make it work, when you choose to love the other person despite how unlovable they might be or how unloved you feel, is beautiful, and I am thankful.


 Despite its challenges, its trials, its power to absolutely exhaust and overwhelm me, 
I am thankful for all 74,995,200 seconds (or 1,249,920 minutes or 20,832 hours or 124 weeks) 
because every second, minute and hour is still filled with love.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Education.


Just a little over five years ago I stood at a precipice, momentarily looked back at my childhood, took a deep breath which would be the last thing I did safely, and then fell into the vast canyon of adulthood. A canyon with lots of other things to fall off of. A canyon with things that would fall on me, rock of all sizes, other falling people who had lost their footing or were pushed or... I think you get the idea. I was once 19 and scared of everything and then quite suddenly I was 20 and not scared, despite the odds against me, despite the knowledge that there were monsters and creatures in this world that would surely eat me alive if they had the chance.

But they never got the chance. I sat this morning looking over my MASSIVE student loans and realized that I was overwhelmed, immensely confused, devastatingly poor, but also... distinctly appreciative.

I know, I wrote about being thankful for Joseph yesterday, and was was going to write a post about being thankful for marriage today, but I changed my mind. Today, I'm thankful for my education. 

Somehow, I survived 5 years of college. And I not only survived but I enjoyed it. I met genuine people and made wonderful friends, I was involved with Gospel Choir and sang at coffeehouses and got to be the copy editor for the yearbook, I learned all about teaching, and learned about learning. I played duck-duck-goose in a mud puddle and had giant snowball fights and got to dance on the 99th floor of the Sears (Willis) Tower. All those joyous things were worth the moments of heartbreak and bewilderment, the days where I failed a test (or even failed a class!), the ravenous depression that occasionally threatened to consume me. And these insanely hefty, daunting, mountainous student loans made all of that happen.

I'm not thankful for student loans in-and-of themselves. The amount of these loans I will not detail here, because frankly... it's a little embarrassing. But I am thankful that they made it possible for me to go to school, and made it possible for so many others as well. I'm thankful for the blessing I received for 5 straight years.

End Day 8. Marriage post tomorrow!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Joseph.



Two (almost two and a half) years ago when I married Joey... *insert meaningful sighing*... I knew it wouldn't be easy. But I knew he would be worth it, worth all the arguments and all the stress. I'm not going to write much about marriage right now because it deserves a post of its own. Today, I just want to talk about my husband.

There's a difficulty in explaining--but not understanding--the depth of affection immediately felt between us. There was a kind of raw and vulnerable honesty when we first met, like somehow we knew it didn't matter what was said, nobody would get upset or feel awkward and that regardless of our mistakes nobody was going to be rejected. And when I say "first met," I really mean it. It only took a few days to realize that this was my favorite person.

And I am so thankful for him. I am thankful for the person my husband was, and the person he is, and whoever he will be in the years to come. He is still my favorite person.

7 random reasons why (for the 7th day):
1. He takes the dog out early in the morning, so that I don't have to.
2. He makes macaroni and cheese the way I like it (the way I can never seem to make myself.)
3. He is always about 10 degrees warmer than I am, which makes for hugging, cuddling, etc. to be all the more enjoyable.
4. He is crazy funny. Especially when he talks in his sleep!
5. The look on his face when I get excited about something.
6. He usually supports all of my insane ideas.
7. His beard is awesome.


End Day 7. Perhaps a "marriage" post tomorrow?

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Work.


You all might remember an age during which our parents or teachers explained that even as children we each had our "job." Mommy has to go to work, but you have to do chores.  Daddy has to go to school and teach for work, and you have to go to school and do math. And sometimes it was hard, to see the benefit of learning long division or how to find the object of a sentence. It wasn't always easy to grasp that you might not get paid with money anything tangible, but learning was a payoff in and of itself.

The results were easier to see as we got older, and in turn the work became more challenging and difficult. But in a world where money is always "tight" and you are almost always dispensable as an employee, it's important to be thankful for having a job at all.

Today I am thankful for my job. (I am also thankful for the jobs my husband has had in the past, and thankful for the he is about to have and hopeful that it will be fantastic.) I might only work 8 hours a week and spend most of those 8 hours just waiting and waiting for students to come in so I can tutor them, but when those students do arrive I give them all I've got. I don't just tolerate my job, I love it!

Yesterday my boss invited me to head up a "story time" program for the children of students on campus. It's something she's wanted to do but doesn't have the time, and she'd been asking some of the family tutors. Apparently none of them "lit up" like I did when she suggested it. Even without saying anything the excitement was evident in my body language.

I am thankful for a wonderful boss who loves teaching, and sees my love for teaching and books, and I am thankful for the potential adventure ahead of me. (I've seriously already started thinking about different books to use and activities to go with them.)

End Day 6. More thankful thoughts tomorrow!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Nature (and some Robert Frost)

Each season, which is lovely in its own way, speaks to me--in tiny smudges of color and brushstrokes of darkness or light. It's why the half dead flower is still remarkable in springtime and the ashen tree branches midwinter still look delicately poetic. Fall holds a special place in my heart because everything turns the color of a sunset.


So today I am thankful for nature... for the leaves, the birds, the comforting wamrth of a summer day or the nostalgic bite of frosty winter air.



Nature's first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf's a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf,
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day,
Nothing gold can stay.

Nothing Gold Can Stay, Robert Frost



Monday, November 4, 2013

Women.



Much of my adolescence was spent fighting against a tomboyish nature. Alone, I thrived on femininity, I loved books about adventurous young girls (especially Laura Ingalls Wilder), I played with dolls and could spend a lifetime picking flowers. Among others, I wanted to hide myself, to blend with the population of my peers in such a way that gathered no attention, negative or positive. Even while being praised for some accomplishment I somehow felt the eyes of judgement on me, the eyes of every other girl my age.

Then one day, some uneventful and unmemorable moment between the age of 20 and 21, I bloomed--not just for the world, but for myself. I not only felt like what I thought a woman should feel like, but I believed it. I believed I could be whatever woman I wanted to be, and I didn't need to hide myself, I didn't fear the judging gazes of other so-called women.

So today, November 4th, I am thankful for women. Not because they are all beautiful, created in God's eyes to be powerful and sensuous and wise, but because I have had just the right women to show me the way. I am thankful for the women who have walked beside me on the journey of "become a real person," a journey that is difficult to take alone. I am thankful for the women in my life, and for who they are. I am thankful for their love, their support, their wisdom. I am thankful that they see me.

I could list them... but something tells me, they know who they are.

"There is in every true woman's heart a spark of heavenly fire, which lies
dormant in the broad daylight of prosperity but which kindles up and
beams and blazes in the dark hour of adversity." - Washington Irving

Friday, November 1, 2013

Receipts, Soup, & My Dog

When we were young, perhaps not so long ago, in other (simpler) Novembers, we sat in classrooms full of other littlies or maybe at our own kitchen table and at the request of teachers or parents we made quaint little crafts expressing what we were thankful for. I remember with fondness construction paper turkeys, each orange, red or yellow feather inscribed with something I cherished--usually my parents, my church, sometimes my big brothers. 

We all made them as children. Now as adults we all take this time, each of these "less simple" Novembers, and tell the world what we're thankful for every single day in social media fashion. I could resist, out of an immature resistance to be part of the crowd. (Oh no! I'm doing the same thing that so many other people are doing! I'm a conformist and I'm not unique and I'm not special!) Or, I could just do it anyways because I want to. Yep, goin' with the latter.

Every day this month I will be thankful for specific things. Some of them will be expected--my family, my church, sometimes my big brothers. Some of them will be absurd or bizarre and you will laugh, because I told you to. Or because I'm actually quite crazy!

Today you get three things, because I'm going to be out of town until Monday, so I chose one normal thing and two not-so-normal things.

1. I am thankful for Receipts

Back in January, my husband went to buy new tires. He was working as a Domino's delivery guy, and we live in the North Suburbs of Chicago, so there was lots of snow. A month after we got the tires he ran over a nail. So, that was February. Today, in November, he is finally going back to get the flat tire fixed so that we can take the spare (now quite useless) off. Having the receipt right now is crucial, because in addition to proving we bought said tires, it's stapled to a piece of paper explaining what happens if one of the tires goes flat or breaks in half or some other brainless thing tires do to themselves. 

2. I am thankful for Soup. 

I love soup. Not all soups! But hearty, brothy, good-without-saltine-crackers soup full of veggies and good stuff. My mother still makes the best soup I've ever tasted, especially turkey or chicken soup (or even better, baked potato & bacon soup), and it was a staple of my growing up years. Eating her soup was like consuming a physical manifestation of my mother's love. And the biscuits that went with the soup--heavenly! Since being married I have made similar turkey & chicken soups, never quite reaching perfection but still feeling that same warmth I did as a kid. I made soup two days ago, and ate the final broth for breakfast this morning because I felt sick all night. It still made me feel safe, and loved, even though I made it for myself. I think it's the bayleaf.

3. I am thankful for My Dog.

A year ago right now my dog, Holly, was still in Washington, trying to find a new home for when my parents moved. On December 10th, they somehow found the funds to fly her to me, and she has been my best companion since then. Currently she is under the desk, warming my feet. When Joey leaves for work on the mornings I stay here, she crawls into bed with me and won't leave until I've woken up. I've had Holly since she was a puppy--a Christmas present when I was 16. She's always been an incredibly smart dog, often too smart for her own good, and very sweet and crazy excited about people. It was hard to be here in Illinois without her, and even more difficult was not knowing if I'd ever see her again last year. Having her back has been such a blessing. 

She turned 9 on Tuesday! That's 57 in dog years.



So, Happy November, everyone! I look forward to finding more things to be thankful about in a public way that makes me not special, not stand out from the crowd, and doesn't make me unique, but in fact makes me a part of something beautiful.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Shameless

I might have mentioned a few times how much I miss my family. I miss them... quite a lot. Intensely. Let me try to get you to understand the feeling.

I'd like you to imagine for a moment that you have to move far away from everyone you love. You're not moving to a place where other family members live, or are nearby. You move someplace so far away that you feel pretty alone most of the time. You have a few good friends close by, but for holidays they go spend time with their families, so on the most important days of the year they're not around.

Now, add to that "circumstance" the inability to visit home--at all. You don't know when you'll be able to go back permanently, and you definitely don't know if you will ever get to visit home while you're gone.And I'm not talking about a couple of months. I'm not talking about one year. I'm talking about years. YEARS. Years of just phone conversations, just Internet communication, just letters sent back and forth.

Driving home is not an option, because it would cost upwards of $1000, and your car--while it isn't quite a clunker--probably would need extra maintenance to survive the trip, which you can't afford. It would also take three days to get there, three days to get back, so you'd be taking a lot of time off of work. Flying would also cost about $1000--because, I forgot to mention, you're married, so there are TWO people that need to get back to see their families. Two roundtrip tickets for that great of a distance (approx. 2000 miles) are at least $400 each. Taking the train or bus is out of the question. The train is slightly less than flying or driving, but you have to buy food no matter which you choose. These are definitely more cost-effective options, but like driving, they take too much extra time.

Every time you have a birthday, every time something fantastic happens, you can only talk about it. At Thanksgiving and Christmas you can Skype, or send presents in the mail. You can take lots of pictures and e-mail them back and forth and obsess about Facebook in a way you never wanted to but now you have to because it's the only way you can keep in touch with 90% of your family (because Grandma doesn't have one.)

...Now, before I get ahead of myself, I know what some of you will say. Get an extra job. Sell stuff on eBay (which I've done). Be more frugal, blah blah blah. Or, as one friend so blithely put it during our first Christmas here, "Make your own memories!" (We spend 90% of our time with each other and only each other, we've got plenty of "happy newlywed" memories.)

But my husband has had so many jobs in Illinois I don't know how to describe that chaos to you. Right now he's working 40+ hours as a manager at one job, but will soon be adding a second job (both paying just over $10 an hour.) And do you know what those jobs have amounted to?

Last year, I spent half of Christmas Day alone. That's right, I sat in the apartment all by myself because he was at work. He also worked on New Years Day. And the day I graduated from college, I didn't have anyone to celebrate with except for my husband, but at the last minute he got called in to work. So I, again, spent the day alone in the apartment. I also spent my 25th birthday... alone in the apartment.

Somewhere out there, some military spouse is probably growling at my blog because they have to live without their loved ones all the time. I have a few things to say about that too.

A. You probably still have more ability to see the rest of your family than I do..
B. The average length of deployment for the military are as follows:
-Air Force 4-12 months (120-360 days)
-Army 12-15 months (National Guard & Reserve is only 12 months) (350-450 days)
-Navy 6-12 months (180-360 days)
-Marines 7 months (210 days)

As of right now we have been away from our families for 819 days.

This is the last time I hugged my mom, 819 days ago.
Also, check out my pasty white legs.

I'm not writing this to complain. I have a good life and I love my tutoring job and my husband and my church. But I want to go home for Christmas. WE want to go home for Christmas. I'm not afraid of shameless self-promotion.

So I'm asking you again, to watch this video. I'm asking you AGAIN to please visit our GoFundMe page and to donate--even a small amount helps. I'm telling you again, that there are awesome prizes handmade/handwritten by me if you donate. Please watch the video, please share the site with your friends, and please consider donating. And pretty, pretty please with a gingerbread man on top... share, share, share!

video