No Man’s War

9781619023260_p0_v2_s260x420Being a military spouse is no cake walk.  The popularity of American Sniper I’m hoping will bring more attention to the lives of military families. Angela Rickett’s, a seasoned military spouse of  has detailed military life excellently in her memoir, No Man’s War. There was something about this book that really resonated. It’s hard for non-military folks to understand what military life is really like. This was especially  … for me, as my husband is in now in the last half of a 10-month deployment, and has been serving for 22 years. Maybe I should’ve waited to read the book until he came back, but I read it anyways.  There were parts of the book that I really felt her pain, and felt like she voicing all of my feelings and emotions. I really just wanted to call her and to cry with her.

She’s singing my song in this book. There were parts of it I loved, and parts that I couldn’t identify with, but certainly understood. Her husband is an army infantry officer, and his role in the military is quite different than that of anyone who serves in the Navy. Her husband is career military, with just a few more years of service than my husband. Navy life is quite different from army life. Because of this, the lives and experiences of their families and spouses are quite different too.

There’s one thing that we all experience, and that’s loss. Ricketts husband, in his multiple deployments, and their multiple moves as family, spend a lot of time apart.  “He’s the man of the house in concept alone. He is three months into a yearlong deployment in Afghanistan, with no need to even own a house key.” This was page 2. Wow. Thinking about military life, and what it’s like when loved ones are deployed, you might picture dinners eaten alone, moms and dads being absent from school programs, baseball games, birthday parties.  It’s note just that though, it’sthe stuff you can’t imagine happening, your car breaks down, the hot water heater breaks, the roof starts leaking during a major storm – all of which have happened to us while my husband was away.  Just last week with all this crazy snowy weather a pipe burst inside a wall and started flooding water in the kitchen.  Imagine me, who can’t even manage to turn a wrench, on the kitchen floor on the verge of tears without a clue how to stop the water.

No matter what a military spouse does, it’s hard to have a life or a career of your own. Angela worked before their children were born, and after they came along it became almost impossible for her to persue her own career. Her full time job became caring for them – and supporting his career, which is a feat in itself. As he became a brigade commander, her responsibilities increased too.

“Those are his accomplishments, and he doesn’t need to brag about them. It’s hard not to jump on that horse and ride the shit out of it. We want to brag about our husbands, but the wise ones don’t make this transparent, rookie move…Our husband’s accomplishments define us in a weird way. Most of us have passed up our own careers to support theirs. So we cling to his accomplishments and achievements as if they are our own.”

Throughout multiple deployments, she supported her husband, took care of their children, was active and involved with the …, and held down the fort. She deserves just as much respect and recognition as her husband gets. I’m no martyr, and I don’t need sympathy, but military life is hard. And what she has said resonates, and their struggles together as a couple, and as a family, is something most of us can relate to.

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Recognizing Black History Month

So, February is almost over, but before the month is over we wanted to recognize black history month.  Last year, I remember devoting a week to it here, and somehow the month has almost gotten away from us.  This past year has been frought with racial tension, a tension and struggle for justice that will probably not end in my lifetime.  There are so many great books that represent years of black history and culture, some of which I’ve required my students to read.  Others I read while I was still in school.  Don’t be daunted by heavy subject matter, or indifferent to the history.  These books represent so much in black history and culture – each for different reasons.

unnamedI love Toni Morrison, her writing is just beautiful.  I first read The Bluest Eye years ago, and was transformed by the experience.  The main character, Pecola Breedlove, a young black girl longs for love in her life.  The title is symbolic of her idealized version of love, and self-worth.  Beloved is another favorite of mine.  I’ve read it many times, and have assigned it to my students.  I have to say though, they haven’t loved it.  It was hard for them to see symbolism in the story.  It was based partially on a true story, which makes the story even more important.  I’ve since assigned Uncle Tom’s Cabin, which is equally important in black history, it’s just not my favorite.  Morrison, who has become a unique voice in African-American literature, won a Pulitzer Prize for this book in 1993, and has also been the recipient of the Nobel Prize.

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings never fails to humble me and touch my heart.  Maya Angelou passed away last year, and the world lost an incredible woman, a voice in the black community that so perfectly captured the struggles of many.  Through her painful memories, she reveals her pain, and her soul, and emerges as an incredibly strong woman.  The story itself is timeless, though the book was first published this book in 1969.  Long known as a talented poet and writer, this book is autobiographical, following her departure from the south.  She eventually makes her way to San Francisco, though it is difficult for her to shed this painful past.

Native Son – written by Mississippi-born writer Richard Wright, an incredible writer giving voice to blacks in the South.  This is his best work, exposing the hopelessness and poverty experienced by so many blacks of his generation.  He also bravely tackles the issues of race and class and his work.  The story focuses on the young white woman who was murdered in Chicago by a black man.  It’s such a sad story, that seems to show that the main character Bigger Thomas had been destined for nothing in his life.

I first read Invisible Man in college, and didn’t quite get it.  I’ve read it again since then, and have been moved.  The title is a symbolic of a feeling that many blacks had in the early part of the 20th century.  A nameless young black man growing up in the south, makes his way to NYC, and it is a daunting experience.  He is not empowered – he is confused, embittered, and brow beaten.  The book was first published in 1952, a critical time in black history, Ralph Ellison, the author of the book, was a graduate of the famous Tuskegee Institute.

They are worth the read, worth the time, and deserve recognition.  Black history and culture should be celebrated every day, all year round.  The month of February is a special time of reflection and remembrance.  Through these voices, the tale of African American history is told – through slavery, segregation, discrimination, and violence.  A struggle that is still real and relevant today.

Resolution check-in

How many of you last month made New Years resolutions?  Of those resolutions, have you been able to keep up??  I mentioned before that I really don’t believe in resolutions, but I did set goals for myself for 2015.  Two of my goals I’m happy to say I’m keeping up with – of course it’s only February though.  I’m squeezing in time to read whenever possible.  Staying up reading at night is still a challenge, but I use any spare time I have to devote to reading.  It’s always so relaxing no matter what I’m reading.  I just finished Revival by Stephen King last night, which was great!  I’ve also always got an audiobook downloaded to my iPod, and listen to that while doing chores, checking e-mail, any free time that I get while my daughter is at preschool.  In the past month I’ve been listening to The Giver quartet and loving it!!

unnamedOne think I am keeping up with is my goal to include yoga in my daily routine.  It was an adjustment at first, but now I’m really loving it.  I don’t consider myself to be a very spiritual person, and don’t think I could ever meditate, but there’s something so relaxing and centering about yoga.  I’ve been using the yoga app, and depending on my daily schedule have been able to fit in 5-10 minutes of yoga every day.  What I love about the app is that there are a variety of yoga workouts – depending on what time I have, and my ability level.  My cats find it so intriguing when I use the app on my phone, placing it down next to me on the floor.  Here we are doing yoga together!

unnamed-1My daughter has joined me a couple of times on the yoga mat.  She’s been doing yoga at school, and she really loves it.  I love watching her do her “yoga moves”, and the names the teacher has given each pose.  My favorite is her downward dog, which apparently they call “ponies in the barn”.  Adorable!

Getting through the rest of winter will be hard – it’s currently 14 degrees outside.  And I live in Virginia – I know there are places that are way colder than that.  Keeping up with these goals has not been easy.  I’d honestly rather hide under a pile of blankets and emerge sometime in late March!  Are you keeping up with your goals/resolutions??

Food: A Love Story

9780804140416_p0_v6_s260x420I love Jim Gaffigan.  I love stand-up comedy, and I think he’s one of the best.  Just before Christmas his latest book came out, and it did not disappoint!  Food: A Love Story, this hilarious book, written by a self-described fatty. I loved Jim Gaffigan’s first book, Dad is Fat, so of course I had to read this book too. So much of the book is pulled from his comedy, which focuses so much on food. He discusses good food, and bad food – and some of his least favorite foods (vegetables, salad, seafood).

He loves burgers, pizza, hot dogs, steaks, sweets. He’s not a fan of fruit, veggies, salads, granola bars (anything remotely healthy). He hilariously calls out seafood:

“Often on the meny, oysters will be listed as ‘oysters on the half shell.’ As opposed to what? ‘In a Kleenex?’ Even the way you are supposed to eat an oyster indicates something counter-intuitive. ‘Squeeze some lemon on it, a dabv of hot sauce, throw the oyster down the back of your throat, take a shot of vodka, and try to forget you just ate snt from a rock.’ That is not how you eat something. That is how you over dose on sleeping pills.”

As a dad of five young children he makes attempts at eating healthy, at least to set a good example. He is also a stand-up comedian, who works late at night, finishing up with a serious burger craving. He’s also on the road a lot, which makes it even harder to eat healthy, he has a section of the book dedicated to cinnabon! One of his most famous jokes is about the Hot Pocket, so of course he talks about that – describing it as basically the worst food on the planet (Secretly I love those things! ;).

“I have strong opinions about food, but I am not a food expert of a ‘foodie.’..I think of myself as an ‘eatie.’ I don’t have anything against foodies. I appreciate their love fo food and I envy their knowledge and culinary escapades, but I’m generally satisfied with what I’ve been eating.”

This book is so hilarious – seriously, I just never stopped laughing.  It’s the perfect anecdote to this never-ending, cold as hell winter!  If you’re snowed in, it goes great with a big mug of hot chocolate (lots of marshmallows!), or a Bailey’s-spiked cup of coffee!  Enjoy!

The Walking Dead

9781607060765_p0_v1_s260x420The Walking Dead series has become a major phenomenon.  Hubby and I are way behind on the TV show mostly because we didn’t have cable when it started and had to wait for it to come out on Netflix.  Then of course is the fact that we’re not comfortable watching it with our 10 year old around so we have to wait until he goes to bed.  We’re finally almost to season 3 so um for those ahead NO SPOILERS PLEASE!!! 

Anyway I had heard from friends on Facebook when the show first started that it was a comic book series as well and the TV show had gone way away from the books.  I resisted picking up those books because even with changes I was afraid I would be spoiled for the show.  Finally I gave in, at the library I found shelf full of the comic books in larger volumes. I broke down and checked out the first two.  As soon as I got home I began reading them.

I love the gritty look of the drawings.  Much of the dialogue in the series in the first episode or two comes straight out of the book.  About halfway through I noticed some changes, some of the scenes I liked so much in the TV show were not in the book, nothing that majorly changed the direction though so I was ok with that.  Then came the end of the book and um WOW!!!  MIND BLOWN!!!  HOLY BLEEPITY BLEEP!!!  I…uh…yeah lost for words at the end. 

Major difference between the comic books and the TV show, and one that I was not unhappy with, though I also understand why the change was made.  Years of teaching com arts and helping students read books then watch movies and looking at why changes were made helped me see exactly why this change had been made and I have no problem with it.  It did really change the way I felt about one of the major characters however, in the TV show I loathe that character in the comic books not so much, mild dislike maybe. 

I went on ahead and read the second volume to find more changes but again nothing bothered me.  The series are almost different enough from what I have watched and read to almost be two different things using some of the same characters though not all.  I have the next 8 volumes on hold for me at the library.  Can’t wait to pick them up and keep reading.

I’ve tried to convince hubby to read them but he doesn’t want to be spoiled for the show. I’ve explained it really won’t do that which matched what I’d heard from friends who read the comic books before watching the show.

I HIGHLY recommend picking up the books if you haven’t yet.  Into zombies but haven’t seen the show for whatever reason, love the show but haven’t read them, never read a comic book/graphic novel GO GET THEM!  You will not regret it.  I can’t wait to pick up the next set and read them. I may have to make an unusual midweek library stop just to check them out.

Blind Date With a Book

unnamedSo it’s Valentine’s Day – and it’s here whether you celebrate it or not.  I’d like to skip it this year, but that doesn’t seem to be a possibility.  Yesterday I helped out at my daughter’s school Valentine’s Day party which was totally adorable, and I spent the day before that preparing treat bags for everyone in her class.  So there’s that, I can’t avoid it.

It’s been a really long time since I’ve been on a blind date (years!)  I’ve only been on one and it’s an experience I never wish to repeat!  While at the library last week I noticed a special display of books.  Specially – wrapped books, which hid their covers, each with a cute description of what lay inside the package.  There were many to choose from, all decked out in hearts.  There were short descriptions of the books inside, including a few key words (like hashtags).  Just like someone who may have arranged a blind date, the descriptions were given to make the perfect match between reader and book.  After browsing a few, I picked one that included “British slang, cats, diary format, my life”.  Remembering how much I loved Bridget Jones and all, I thought this might be fun.

9780064472272_p0_v3_s260x420Instead of Miss Jones, or anyone remotely similar, when I opened the package this morning I got Georgia Nicolson.  The young heroine of Louise Rennison’s YA series Confessions of Georgia Nicolson’s series.  It seems like a fun read – and it was a fun surprise.  It will probably be the only thing I get to open for Valentine’s Day!  Now that my husband is in the 6th month of his 10-month deployment, I’m adding this holiday to the long list of ones that I’ve spent without him in the past year.  I think I’ll drown my sorrows with some chocolate today!

Happy Valentine’s Day everyone!  Hope yours is much more exciting than mine is!!

We Love Cooking

9780848704247_p0_v3_s260x420So today’s post is a departure than Monday’s post.  I love reading, and now that I’m a parent I’m always looking for ways to get my daughter to try new things!  For Christmas this year we got We Love Cooking, a book that was written with kids and picky eaters in mind.  My 4 year old is currently going through a very picky stage – so I can use all the help I can get.  Some mornings I wish for a list of foods that she’ll actually eat that day – and I think the list of foods she does like is quite a bit shorter than a list of the foods she doesn’t like.  The recipes were tested and developed with 12 year old twin chefs.  There are so many good recipes we plan on trying – Creamy Dreamy Tropical Smoothie, Thanksgiving  Wrap (yum!  can’t wait to make this one), and Quarter-pound Blue Cheese Burgers.

Included with these recipes is information kid cooks could use about food safety, and kitchen safety.  It’s so important to get kids involved in the kitchen – when they get involved, they might be more likely to try something new!  This book was written to get  kids excited about cooking, getting involved and becoming interested in eating a greater variety of things.  The first recipe we tried was so yummy!  I totally loved it, and she of course wouldn’t eat it.  But here it is anyways.  Because I didn’t have almond butter, I used peanut butter instead.

unnamedBanana Almond Butter French Toast Sandwich

2 large eggs

1/4 cup unsweetened almond milk

2 t vanilla extract

1/4 t cinnamon

2 T almond butter

4 T maple syrup

1 banana

4 slices of bread

Mix batter.  Crack eggs into a bowl.  Add almond milk, vanilla, and cinnamon.  Whisk to combine.

Prepare sandwiches.  Mix almond butter and maple syrup in a small bowl.  Cut banana lengthwise into 4 thin slices, then cut slices crosswise into halves.  Spread almond butter mixture evenly across bread slices.  Top 2 bread slices with 4 slices of banana each.  Place remaining 2 slices of bread over banana, sandwiching butter and bananas inside.

Cook sandwiches.  Heat a panini press to 425 or high heat.  Dip sandwiches in egg mixture and let excess drip off.  Lightly coat grill plates of panini press with cooking spray, if needed.  Arrange sandwiches on press.  Close panini press, pushing down gently to flatten.  Cook 3 to 4 minutes or until sandwiches are browned on the outside and hot in the center.

Serve sandwichies.  Place sandwiches on a cutting board.  Cut in half on a diagnal.

Enjoy!!