Friday, June 27, 2008

Not Your Granny's Afghan

I found one day that I had a preponderantly large amount of yarn in the house. You see, I hoard yarn like some might hoard water in anticipation of an oncoming hurricane. I keep every small scrap of yarn left from all the projects completed. I never throw any out. Why? you ask. I can make something out of it (the creed of any true crafter). And indeed, I finally managed to conjure something to make out of all those little scraps.

I made a 35" x 57" lap quilt, or as my fellow Etsy seller Moosethreads likes to call them, lap-ghans. It is crocheted of 600 (yes, I counted) single-round granny squares. Each granny square is crocheted with a round of ecru yarn to tie it all together. I am quite pleased with how it turned out, if I must say so myself.

My only problem...I'm not sure what to list it for. I have a price in mind, but I'm not sure if I would be charging too much, or undercutting myself. Take a look and give me a gander on what you think I might list it for in my Etsy store. Thanks everyone.

The Long Way Around

I so often encounter women who tell me of how they worry so much about what others think of them. They, in fact, worry so much that it affects their daily lives. Today I can honestly say that I do not understand why someone might torture themselves with such a thing that seems so trivial to me. But I was not always that way...

I always struck myself as a confident person in high school. I was captain of the dance team, had a great group of friends, was talented in the arts, and fairly successful in my studies. It was not until a very dear friend betrayed my trust in the most hurtful of ways that my world crashed around me (let us just say that it involved a boy...what else?). I struggled with bouts of suicidal thoughts and lost a great number of friends. I graduated without knowing who any of my friends truly were, gave up my position as captain of the dance team, no longer cared about being artful, and simply graduated with no honors. I had lost all confidence about myself and I only cared what others thought of me.

College brought about more of the same. I never cared to associate myself with most other students because they only seemed to care about partying. I cared about my studies. Heck, I was paying for it...why waste it away partying? I was an outsider and everyone around me let me know it. Because of this, I did not enjoy my college years too much.

I joined the Army while I was in college. It was scary because so much depended on what others thought of you. It mattered if the Drill Sergeants thought you were a schmuck, because they would treat you like one if you gave them that impression. And it mattered what you supervisor thought of you because they were your lifeline to being promoted. It took me a long time to realize that it truly did not matter what my peers thought of me. And once I accepted that, I was promoted fast. Faster than those who worried what their peers thought of them.

I guess being deployed to Kosovo and Afghanistan, being promoted so fast, and encountering so many different types of people in the Army is what allowed me to throw away my worries of what others thought of me. It has taken years (over ten) for me to get back to the confident person I thought I used to be. I've not taken the easy route. I have taken the long way around and it makes me appreciate the struggles that I have overcome to get where I am. I've realized a great number of things that make me confident and I would like to share them with you:

I am a beautiful woman, both physically and emotionally. I am not conceited by saying this. I know that I have a beautiful personality as I am kind, compassionate, and sincere. I do not look how I used to but am content with how I look now. And often, being content will lead to happiness. True, there are days where I hate the way I look. But overall, I feel pretty, and (typically after my husband tells me) I feel sexy. I've worked hard to get back to pre-baby looks, although my post-baby looks are different, I've accepted the things that will never change. To me, that is what makes a beautiful person. Regardless of what others think of my beauty, whether inside or out, I feel as though I am beautiful. So...feel beautiful about yourself...AND BELIEVE IT!

I am a good mother. Yes, there are days where I have yelled at my children in horrible anger, sent them to their rooms simply because I wanted a moment's piece and quite, didn't play with them every time they asked, or because I made them grilled cheese sandwiches well more than twice in one week. I tell them I love them and give them hugs every day. They are happy and healthy. A good mother gives them the basics and loves them with all the love there is to give. So...tell your children that you love them...EVERY DAY!

I am a successful and hard-working student. I'm a junior and I have a 3.995 GPA. Thank goodness my current Algebra course is simply credit or no-credit, or that GPA would have been flushed down the toilet. I study hard and give up many hours in an attempt to gain a degree. I want the degree for myself, but also so I may get a better job in order to give me children a better life. will reap what you sow!

I am a loving wife. I have a sexy husband. And it's not because we've only been married for a few years that I think this. I truly believe it. I appreciate my husband for everything that he is and does because he is not here with me. I don't take him for granted. I tell him everyday that I love him, whether he hears me or not. He has faults and so do I. We fight. We sometimes yell. Sometimes we don't talk. But despite our troubles and difficulties we still love each other and we always let the other know. We never know what day might be our last together. Life is shorter than we think. So...tell your loved one that you love them...because you never know when you might not get the chance!

The rest is just trivial. These, to me, are the things that make me confident. I am beautiful. I am a good mother. I work hard in life. I am a loving wife. Take a look at what you have to be confident about. It may be more than you think. Everyone has that confidence within themselves. You just have to find it. The road will be long and it will be long, but you will find your way around. And for those who have troubles, I leave you with the lyrics to the Dixie Chick's song, "The Long Way Around":

I've been a long time gone now
Maybe someday, someday I'm gonna settle down
But I've always found my way somehow
By takin' the long way
Takin' the long way around

Sunday, June 22, 2008

A Part Of My Past

Yes, that's me. No one bothered to tell me that you shouldn't smile in your basic training picture. I was one of the only doufus' smiling in the yearbook. Heck, I was excited about going to basic. I went to Basic Training in Fort Jackson, SC and certainly did not have the easiest of times. I realized the horrible foot problems I had once we started doing road marches. My feet would blister and split open, literally filling my boots with blood. I know that sounds gross and disgusting, but I never fell out of a road march. I eventually made it through, having massive foot issues, knee problems, and horrible marital woes (my first marriage, don't ask me about it!).

Upon graduation from basic, I attended the Airborne Orientation Course at Fort Lee, VA. Oh, the horrors! Primarily physical training for three straight weeks, we also learned about basic parachute rigging principles. I enlisted as a Parachute Rigger, gosh knows why I did that! I thought it would be exciting to jump out of airplanes! I unfortunately dislocated my hip in AOC, but having met all the requirements for graduation, I was sent to Airborne School in Fort Benning, GA. Needless to say, I didn't make it very long in Airborne School. I held a lot of grudges about what happened there, and having been sent there injured knowing I would never make it because. But "failing" Airborne School allowed me to pursue the Military Occupation Specialty that was, what I felt, my true calling.

I spent many months as a holdover down in Fort Benning. From there I went to Redstone Arsenal, AL where I attended Advanced Individual Training as an Ammunition Specialist. I learned the most amazing things here like how to rig C-4 and other explosives (yes, as a female it is a shocker to most men that I know how to do that!)

This pack that I was wearing for our end-of-training field problem weighed 65 pounds. That was over half my weight.

This was my baby...she was 63 feet long. Ever wonder why people refer to there vehicles as "she"? They are temperamental and pull "attitudes" (hmmm...just like a female!)

From AIT, I was given orders to Fort Drum, NY. I cried when I received my orders because I had heard the horror stories about that place. To give you an idea of just how bad it is, I knew soldiers while I was stationed there that had come from Alaska. And they told me it was colder in Fort Drum than in AK! I worked hard, got injured a lot (laceration to the forehead, partially severing a finger, and breaking my toe and ankle), but was promoted fast (at least faster than my peers). I was deployed to the Joint Readiness Training Center, LA twice, where I found out that I was allergic to fire ants. Lovely! I was sent to the hospital seven times in one rotation because of them!

I was at JRTC on 9/11. We were training up for a peacekeeping mission to Kosovo. Fortunately, for us, we still proceeded with peacekeeping plans. However, a lot of my friends weren't so lucky and were sent to Afghanistan when the war was first declared. We were deployed to Camp Bondsteel, Kosovo for 7 months. Kosovo was amazing! I learned a lot about myself while I was there and about how much I could endure. I held a horrible job as the Battle Non-Commissioned Officer and held the night shift. My seahut roommates did not allow me the luxury of sleeping during the day. Women can be so trifling sometimes! Even more important to the things I learned about myself while I was there, I learned a lot about other cultures and about humanity itself. The atrocities that the people of Kosovo endured forever remain with me to this day. It is the one place that I have felt like we, as soldiers, have actually done some good. It feels good to know that I might have had my small part in making someones life a little easier, less frightening, and more safe. I cried when I left Kosovo.

The beautiful Kosovo sunset. I had never seen a mountain prior to being deployed to Kosovo.

I was promoted to Sergeant deployed in Kosovo. I achieved that rank in a little under two years. I was a definite fast-tracker and a lot of my peers were angered and jealous of me because of it. I re-enlisted to be deployed to Afghanistan, as I felt like my commitment to the Army would not have been fulfilled if I did not serve in a combat capacity.

I hold some varying opinions on our place in Afghanistan, and it is probably best if I keep those to myself. While I learned a lot about myself in Kosovo, I learned a lot about others during my 11 months living in a tent at Kandahar Airfield, some things one could never possibly imagine that others' were capable of. You really learn about who people are when they are living in the horrid environment that we were living in.

I was promoted to Staff Sergeant a little bit after returning from Afghanistan. I made that rank in under 6 years and I know, had a stayed in longer, I would have made it much farther. I got pregnant and decided it was best to get out, as my husband was still in. I felt my children needed one person who was a stable parent in their life. I was not going to be that parent who left my children to be raised my family while my husband and I deployed. Not that there is anything wrong with those families that choose to do that. It is not the way I want my family raised.

So, I went into basic a shy, reserved, self-conscious girl and came out a outgoing, confident, and strong woman. Who I am today has most everything to do with the countless experiences I encountered while in the Army and the people that I know (sadly, a handful who are no longer with us). I hope that you enjoyed reading this little bit about me and have gotten to know more of who I really am, and what I have accomplished with my past.

My last photo prior to being honorably discharged.