30 August 2008

Random Thoughts

First the frivolous: I love peanut butter!! Lately, I just can't get enough of the stuff. No, I'm not pregnant - it's not some weird craving like that (my husband is overseas, remember?) I don't know really why, but tastes are strange sometimes, you know? I used to be a huge peanut butter addict. I suppose that there's a reason that my kids like to spread it on thick. I used to go through a jar a week! Then, when I was pregnant with Becky, I suddenly couldn't stand the stuff. It made me so sick whenever I ate peanut butter, and for years, even the smell of it has been enough to turn my stomach. My kids still loved it, and I am determined not to pass on my food prejudices whenever I can avoid it, but it has been so hard to serve PB&J with a smile when I was sickened by the thought of it!! So, a couple of weeks ago, I got a craving for chocolate peanut-butter ice cream. It just sounded so good to me, but unfortunately, most brands of ice cream lately have palm kernel oil, which does not do well in my system. So I tried to ignore the craving. Then, I was at Target with Katie, and we picked up a few groceries (which I never do, but I really didn't want to make a separate trip to the grocery store). As we passed through the frozen foods aisle, Katie pointed out the ice cream that was on sale. It was the Target generic brand - chocolate peanut butter, with no palm kernel oil!! I bought it, even though it wasn't on my list, and proceeded to eat the entire 1 1/2 quart container of ice cream in only a week!!! (Usually, a container of ice cream will last me for about 1 1/2 months, because I'm not usuallly an ice cream fan...) Then, the kids asked for peanut butter sandwiches for dinner, and it smelled so good that I made one for myself as well. It was the yummiest dinner!!! I guess that whatever happened when I was pregnant with Becky has finally worn off. It just goes to show that tastes change. Just because you don't like something right now doesn't necessarily mean you won't like it tomorrow. You just have to keep trying new (and sometimes even old) things!!

Speaking of the old and the new, McCain has picked his running mate, so now it's official: no matter who we elect this year, we will have a historic "first" in the Presidential elections. Either we will have the first woman or the first black in office. So now, the question remains: Who will be the "first" to set aside petty partisan politics and work for what is actually best for this country, instead of what will make the best sound bite to make him (or her) the most popular with shallow, self-centered American voters? Who will be the "first" to risk the chance of not getting re-elected in order to truly accomplish something in his first term? Who will be the "first" to say: "I don't care about being popular, I only care about doing what is right for the American people" - and mean it? Who will be the "first" to draw together the warring political parties and work for the country as a whole, and not just for the special interests of the few who donated the most to the campaign? Who will be the "first" to put aside what he wants in favor of what we, as a nation, need?? That person would be my pick - no matter what other qualifications he did or did not have!

On another note, sometimes, I wonder at the level of incompetence in military circles. In the civilian world, I guarantee that people would lose their jobs for the haphazard way things are sometimes handled! Case in point: with our attempt to get medical clearance to go to Korea with Phil, it took 7 months for our paperwork to be processed!! Was this because my medical issues are so severe or confusing that it took them ages to wade through all of the paperwork and red tape? No. It's because they decided that they needed more documentation, but they neglected to tell me about this extra documentation... So, as I called and emailed repeatedly, wondering about the status of our application (calls that went straight to voice mail and emails that weren't acknowledged, by the way), our paperwork was sitting at the bottom of a pile of paperwork on someone's desk!! And when I finally got frustrated and physically went into the office to find out the status, I was able to get the extra medical records to them fairly quickly. I was assured: "I am going to send this off right now, and I'll tag it so that they know to rush the process. You should hear a decision within 2 weeks." So that took care of the problem, right? Wrong! The paperwork was not processed. Instead, it was pushed to the bottom of a pile of papers, and the Ssgt in charge went on leave for a few weeks - without giving her alternate any updates on anything!! It took me weeks to again get in contact with anyone (phone calls and emails unacknowledged), at which time, I found that I had been waiting in vain! My application hadn't even been submitted yet! (The alternate finally submitted my application while the gal who was in charge was on leave - I guess I'm glad she had to take leave, or I'd still be waiting to hear on that one!!)

All of that work, and what was the result? Denied, of course. In fact, they looked at our files and announced, "With these codes, you (Phil) shouldn't even be here (in Korea)!" Funny how they ignore regulations when it's convenient, isn't it? This is the 2nd time that Phil has served a remote tour to Korea in spite of the codes that say he shouldn't be sent overseas because of my brain tumor! And are they going to send him home early because it turns out that he shouldn't be there in the first place? Of course not!

So, now that our clearance has been denied for Korea, we find that my brain tumor means we have to go through the entire clearance process again for our orders to Maryland. Phil can't get his orders (which means he can't come home from Korea) until I'm cleared for that base. No problem, we turned in all of that paperwork, so they can just submit all of our information to the new base, right? Of course not! We have to go through the entire process again!

Wednesday, when Phil told me about this, I went in to the clinic here to find out why they couldn't just process it with the paperwork they have on file. Apparently, it has to be done within 6 months of his return date. So they informed me that they can't actually start the clearance process until next month because it has to be within 6 months! I'm not quite sure which calendar they go by here at the Beale AFB clinic, but my calendar at home says that there are only 4 months left before January... It's no wonder that orders sometimes take so long to get to people, if the different agencies involved in the inprocessing and outprocessing of personnel all have different, top-secret calendars with extra months! It makes sense that things would get a little bit screwy if you don't know to take those extra months into consideration when planning a move! (Too bad the rest of us don't know how to add extra time to our lives at will....)

Still, even with the extra months that they've appropriated for themselves, it seems that the staff at the clinic here can't manage time for training in privacy laws. The Ssgt in charge of this clearance process, in explaining to me why I was wrong in worrying about the time it would take to process all of this paperwork again (in addition to telling me that my past experience with her had absolutely no bearing on how well she would do her job this time: "You have to quit worrying about what happened in the past, ma'am.") - actually referenced the case of a friend of mine!! Now, I admit that I'm not a lawyer, but I was sure that it is against the law to discuss, in any detail, a case with anyone not authorized to share in that information! Now, she didn't go into much detail, but she did make some pretty discriminating comments, announcing that my friend was having trouble with her clearance because "you have to expect that when you have as many children as (they) have." Of course, I let my friend know about the exchange, and she is now in the process of filing a complaint for privacy violations. - Because it doesn't matter that this happened to be a friend of mine, and it doesn't even matter that I already knew everything about that particular case, because this friend and I talk regularly. What matters is that this Ssgt. had no way of knowing whether or not I even really knew this family - and even if I did, I am not an authorized person for her to be discussing any matter with!

And that's really a minor violation in comparison to what happened next! This same Ssgt handed me a new packet of forms to fill out and bring back to get our case started again. I took them home, and I was fairly upset, so I didn't actually get to them until the next morning. Thursday morning (a full 24 hours after I was given the paperwork), I opened up the file so that I could start filling out forms. Imagine my surprise at finding that one of the forms was not blank!! It was the education clearance form for another aquaintance of mine (not even a good friend this time, although our kids have attended school together)!! This form contained social security numbers, birthdates, addresses, signatures... all kinds of confidential information that, had I been an unscrupulous person, I could very easily put to use in not-very-nice ways!! The kicker is that I had this information in my possession for a full 24 hours before I noticed and brought it back to the clinic. For all they know, I could have gotten into all kinds of mischief with it - and they didn't even notice it was gone!! In fact, when I brought it back, this Ssgt. informed me that it wasn't a big deal, because this family's application had already been processed, so it didn't matter what happened to the paperwork at this point!! (Of course, I let this family know about the violation to their privacy, and they too have filed a complaint.)

I realize that I'm not making myself very popular with the woman in control of submitting my paperwork for the clearance process. And perhaps I'm committing "clearance suicide" by opening my mouth (especially since I gave both families permission to use my name in reporting their complaints about this Ssgt). Still, 2 privacy violations in the course of less than an hour - it doesn't make me very confident in this woman's abilities to perform her job properly! I will say that I fully intend to take my paperwork with me when we leave - I refuse to leave it in her hands, if she thinks that it's okay to distribute it to other people once the file has been processed!!

Meanwhile, the kids started school on the 20th. Well, the older 3 did. Katie started school on the 26th. Ben and Emily are in the same class this year, because the charter school they attend combines 4th and 5th grade. They do separate work, but with the same teacher. (She's really good at combining lesson plans so that they're working on the same theme and each grade level gets the appropriate skills out of the assignments.) It sure makes for interesting days, as they fight over who gets to tell me about what they learned and what they did at school. (I finally had to say that they aren't allowed to talk to me about school if they're both in the room at the time!)

I'm really going to miss the schools here when we move. It's highly unlikely that I will ever again find such a collection of such highly-qualified teachers who care so much about each student individually, who will work with each student on individual study plans, whenever necessary. I'm really going to miss walking onto campus and knowing each and every teacher and every member of the administrative staff by name, and knowing that I can call with concerns or questions at any time - knowing that they know me, they know my children, they know our strengths and weaknesses, our needs and concerns, and they know when they can call me for help as well! It's really been like a big, extended family. I really wish I could pack them all up and take them with me!

21 August 2008

Too Many Commitments - I Think I Should be Committed!!

So, here I am at 2:00 in the morning again. Why do I always find myself sitting here in the wee hours of the morning, typing jibberish when I should be in my bed, sleeping soundly?

I was just reflecting today on all of the things that I have to do in the next couple of months to prepare for our upcoming move. There is so much to be done around this house! And I have to be all packed and ready to go by the time Phil gets home from Korea, so that we'll have enough time for our drive across the country in the middle of winter (what if blizzards close the roads and it takes longer than we anticipated?) - He will get a few days of permissive TDY to look for a house when we get there, but I'd rather use that time to actually find a place to live, rather than spending it just to get to the area!! Anyway, when I look around this house and see everything that needs to be done, I honestly don't know how I will do it all by myself!

Meanwhile, my parents have planned a really fun, unofficial family reunion for the week of Labor Day in Las Vegas and San Diego. I had plans to go all summer - and now, come to find out, I have 4 doctor's appointments (one is actually for Becky) on the 4th, 5th and 8th of September. (I hadn't been concerned, because when I agreed to go to San Diego, what I heard was "Labor Day" - so I was thinking that the plan was for the week leading up to Labor Day, not the week following the holiday!)

Throw in 2 brothers who are getting married this fall. Robert and Jenn are planning to get married in November (in Vegas), and Mark and Mary are planning their wedding for December (in Cheyenne). I just found out that Mark is actually changing his wedding to the 29th, rather than the 19th of December, which is good, because that means I won't have to take the kids out of school in order to go. But I have to take them out for this Labor Day trip and for Robert and Jenn's wedding. This is stressful in itself, because the "excused absences" policy here is pretty strict. Basically, if you're not sick enough to go to the doctor, it's not excused. Even a death in the family is only excused if it's the immediate family!

But aside from the school issue, I'm starting to worry about the time that I'll have to take out of everything for all of this travelling back and forth. Somehow, I have to fit the actual packing in... and find time to spend with friends, because we'll all be so sad if we leave without even getting a chance to say goodbye to the people we've grown so close to over the past 7 years here at Beale... and still keep up with homework and church callings!

I'm stressed enough tonight that I spent several hours wandering from room to room, trying to decide which task to tackle first: Should I try to get caught up on the laundry? Maybe I should change the litter in the cat's box first? Would it be better to give the kitchen a good scrubbing? The computer room is getting pretty cluttered. Should I organize that first, since it's the first thing people see when they come to our house? - You get the picture. The point is, I was so stressed about trying to figure out what the starting point was that I never actually got started. Now, it's so late, and I really don't want to stay up all night long to clean, so it will all get pushed onto the back burner.... (That ol' back burner is going to burn out soon, if I don't get it together!!)

But I can do it. I know that the Lord will help me to figure it all out, and to start, I will just have to go on a schedule tomorrow... I'll start with cleaning up the cats' area, then put in a load of laundry. While that washes, I can take the kids to school and have breakfast (not necessarily in that order, although it's not unlikely). Then, I can change the wash and get started on this cluttered computer room, while a housing maintenance contractor comes by to fix the doors on the girls' closet (the track is so broken that it's not actually fixable, so they're removing them - and I had to go through all sorts of hoops to get that approved!) After lunch, hopefully, I'll have time to get the kitchen to sparkle before the kids get home from school. (After that, the house will be too chaotic to try to fit in scheduled catch-up tasks!)

So, if I'm going to dig in and get to work tomorrow, I had better tuck myself in and go to sleep tonight!! Thanks for listening!

17 August 2008

I've Added My Theme Songs!!

Thank you so much to my dear, sweet husband, who helped me to figure out how to add my playlist onto this blog. Now, you can all hear my theme songs! When I find other songs that fit me, I will add them to the list!

16 August 2008

Am I Technologically Impaired?

I recently found a song that, I've decided, is my new theme song. I was going to put it on this blog as the background music with one of those cool playlists that all of my friends seem to have on their blogs, but I couldn't actually figure out how to put it on here! How do you do a playlist for background music on your blog? I don't know! Sometimes, technology is not my friend. Kind of ironic, because I seem to have a reputation as someone who really knows her way around a computer or something. (Must be because of my cool computer-geek parents, I think!) Friends often ask me to come fix their computer problems for them - and usually, I manage to figure it out (sometimes with a quick phone consultation to my sweet daddy!), so I guess I'll continue with this, probably undeserved, reputation as a person who is not technologically impaired! Anyway, that was a really long way of explaining that I'll just have to tell you about the really cool song that is my newest theme song.......

Of course, as you know, I can't just say something. You have to have the whole backstory to everything, or I just don't feel like I really got my message across. Emily loves to point out how often I go off on tangents when writing on this blog.... Still, I'm going to go off on a "quick side note" (which Emily always tells me is "so not quick") here.....

If you're reading this blog, that means that you probably know who I am, and if you know me (or for that matter, if you've read the previous posts on this blog), you probably know that I had brain surgery a couple of years ago (February of 2006, actually). What you may not know was that the surgery was the easy part. I had a lot of friends walk out of my life during this difficult time, simply because they didn't know what to say or do. I understand that, it was a scary time, and many of my close friends (especially when they heard the phrase "brain surgery") were afraid that I wouldn't make it through or something. Since they didn't know how to fix it or make it better, and they were afraid that they would say or do the wrong thing, many of these friends cut off communications for a while. I'm sure you understand that feeling. How often does tragedy (in one degree or another) hit someone that we love, and we spend so much time trying to figure out the right thing to say or do that we don't say anything at all?

Anyway, I'm not bringing this up to complain. Actually, now that I'm through that really scary part, most of these friends have come back into my life - and I don't think that many (if any) of them even realize that the silence was the scariest part of the whole ordeal. So, back to my story...

When I make the hour-long (one way) drive to my myriad of doctor's appointments for follow-ups and tests and everything else, I like to listen to Radio Disney. I know, kind of silly, since I am a grown woman, but I guess I'm just a kid at heart. (Makes it kind of easy for road trips, because my kids and I have the exact same taste in music!) Well, back in 2006, as I was going to the doctor sometimes twice a week, one of the most popular songs on Radio Disney was "Unwell" (by Matchbox 20, I believe). It really struck a chord with me, and it became my anthem. I downloaded the song and burned it to a cd so that I could play it whenever I was feeling particularly alone.

All day, staring at the ceiling,
making friends with shadows on my wall.
All night, hearing voices telling me
that I should get some sleep,
because tomorrow might be good for something.
Hold on, I'm feeling like I'm headed for a breakdown,
and I don't know why.
I'm not crazy, I'm just a little unwell.
I know, right now you can't tell,
but stay awhile and maybe then you'll see
a different side of me.
I'm not crazy, I'm just a little impaired.
I know, right now you don't care,
but soon enough you're gonna think of me
and how I used to be.
Me, talking to myself in public,
dodging glances on the train.
I know, I know they've all been talking 'bout me.
I can hear them whisper,
and it makes me think there must be something wrong with me.
Out of all the hours,
thinking somehow I've lost my mind....

You get the picture, right? I don't need to type out all of the lyrics to this song, do I? Actually, that is still sort of my anthem. Because, gosh darn it, I'm not crazy, and this little brain tumor isn't really anything more than a nuisance that makes everyone treat me like some fragile porcelain doll or something.... And someday, I'll be remembered for who I actually am, not for my silly, dumb ol' brain tumor!!

Anyway, I kind of dated a guy in highschool who used to ask me to pick a song to fit my mood at any given time, so I really got in the habit of finding songs to tell my story for me. I guess I still do that a lot. So my new theme song - the story of my life lately - is called "A Little Bit Longer" by the Jonas Brothers. I love this song, and it really fits my story right now. This time, I think I will post the lyrics for the whole song:

I got the news today
Doctor said I had to stay
A little bit longer and I'll be fine
When I thought it had all been done
When I thought it had all been said
A little bit longer and I'll be fine
But you don't know what you got 'till it's gone
And you don't know what it's like to feel so low
And everytime you smile, you laugh, you glow
You don't even know, no, no
You don't even know
All this time goes bye, still no reason why
A little bit longer and I'll be fine
Waiting on a cure but none of them are sure
A little bit longer and I'll be fine
But you don't know what you got 'till it's gone
And you don't know what it's like to feel so low
And everytime you smile, you laugh, you glow
You don't even know, no, no
You don't even know, no, no
You don't even know (no, no)
But you don't know what you got 'till it's gone
And you don't know what it's like to feel so low, yeah!
And everytime you smile, you laugh, you glow!
You don't even know! Yeah! Oh! Yeah! Ohh! Yeah yeah!
You don't even know, oh!
So I'll wait 'til kingdom come
And all the highs and lows are gone
A little bit longer and I'll be fine
I'll be fine

How appropriate is this song to my life right now??? I just got the news that the doctors said I have to stay (here - instead of joining Phil in Korea) for a little bit longer (until his remote tour is over in January)! I thought it had all been taken care of, I thought that we had enough pull with all of our friends in high places so that I could go over there. And I'm so tired of all of the tests and appointments, trying to find something that they can "cure" to make me better, but none of the doctors seem to be able to find anything that they can really fix - it all just goes back to my tumor, just causing problems again. Still, I have the promise that, when it's all over, I will be fine. I may have to "wait 'til kingdom come," but it will happen. Someday, whether in this life or the next, I will be fine. Just a little bit longer, and I will be fine.

So, anyway, if anyone reading this knows how to put the songs on the background here and can walk me through it, I would still like to put my 2 theme songs on this page. (If not, and if you've never heard these songs, you should look them up. They're definitely worth listening to!)

10 August 2008

Veronica the Grouch

I've been allowing myself to complain too much lately. It occurred to me today that I've been irritated by the level of bickering and fighting among my children lately. I keep yelling at them to tell them to quit yelling.... which, now that I think about it, really doesn't make even the tiniest bit of sense!! I've been more a part of the problem than a part of the solution!

So I've set a New (School) Year's resolution for myself: I am going to spend some time each day reminding myself of all of the reasons that I am grateful for my children. And I am going to take some time to play board games or read stories with them several times a week, even if it means pulling out games or books when the house isn't clean yet!

I realized, as I was thinking about it during Sacrament meeting today, that one of the biggest irritations for me lately is that I have so much work to do, and all I want is to take time out to play with the kids! It is so frustrating to me when they ask if we can play a board game and I look around to see toys and books and dirty clothes strewn all over the house. The frustrating thing is not that they want to pull out one more thing to add to the mess (although, I guess that is a part of the frustration). What bothers me the most is that I want to play too, and I get sad thinking that I have to clean up and keep working so that the house will look nice, even when the kids are taking a break to play a fun game. So, why do I have to have a spotless house before I can play with the kids? Maybe, if I stop working for a bit and play with them for a little while, they will be more willing to help me clean up afterward.... I don't know if that will work, but I figure it's worth a shot, right? If nothing else, it will give me an excuse to play some of the games that are just sitting, unused, in my huge game closet right now....

Also, I'm going to try to get to bed earlier each night. Staying up late to try to get things done really isn't working, because all that happens is that I wind up falling asleep on the couch while trying to fold laundry or something like that. And it can't be helping with my grumpiness to be getting so little sleep each night! With that in mind, I am off to bed now!

03 August 2008

Waiting Impatiently

Well, we finally got all of our paperwork in and signed and in order for the medical clearance on July 14th. It took forever, because every time we turned in everything that was asked for, they came back with something else that they needed before they could process the application. We've been working on this since February!!!! Anyway, when they called me in to once again sign things and finalize the application on the 14th, Ssgt. Torab (the NCOIC for the medical clearances) told me that it would be sent to Korea immediately - either that day or the next, and they would put a rush on it, so we should have an answer within 2 or 2 1/2 weeks. That was 3 weeks ago, and we didn't hear a word. I know, I know, patience is a virtue, but after all of the other times that I waited and waited only to hear, "oh, we couldn't process this because we're waiting for this other thing first," I didn't really want to take any chances.

For the last week that Phil was here (he went back to Korea on the 30th of July), we called several times a day to try to get ahold of Ssgt. Torab and find out the status. We left message after message with no response. Finally, we decided that we probably weren't going to find out anything on this end. That actually made it easier to say goodbye to Phil on Wednesday, because I was certain that he would get back and find an answer waiting for him about our command sponsorship. Not so. There was nothing, and he couldn't get ahold of anyone there either!

On Friday, I went into the clinic to try to track down Ssgt. Torab in person, because that was the only way I was able to get ahold of her before (she doesn't seem to answer her phone or return messages at all). Well, guess what? Ssgt. Torab is on leave right now. I talked with Ssgt. Williams, who is filling in for her in the meanwhile, and surprise, surprise, Ssgt. Torab hadn't sent in our application!!!! Ssgt. Williams had discovered it on the desk just that morning and sent it all in, but of course, with the time difference, it was already Saturday in Korea. That means that no one will even see it until Monday morning. Then, they have 2-3 weeks to review it before they make any kind of decision!

I'm trying to be patient, but I am really having trouble with this. I've been in a major funk for the past few days, and I'm having trouble getting anything done. All I want to do is sit and read books or watch movies - anything to escape thinking about reality. But, of course, I can't do that. I have too much to do. I have to get ready to move in a couple of months, because even if we don't get the command sponsorship, we will be moving in a few months. It's hard to do, because a move to Korea will take different planning than a move to Maryland, but somehow I have to try to get ready for either possibility, because by the time they make a decision, it's going to be really rough to get everything together if I haven't already started, you know?

Anyway, I know that everything will work out the way it's supposed to - I just wish I had some clue as to what that outcome would be!!!