Sunday, October 5, 2008

Where I've been

I haven't written much for the past 5 or 6 months. Once we moved here and settled in a little, I jumped right in to the finale of a big project I've been working on for several years - a research project on the impact of deployment on families with young children. I started the study about 3 years ago with my friend from ACS - Kathy Berry, and collected data right up until a few days before we moved from Ft. Knox. At the time we arrived here, we had data, but no idea how I was going to get it into shape for publication - our ultimate goal. I don't think it's an accident that we happened to move to what is called the "intellectual home of the Army". The beautiful new library here offers all the same privaleges to spouses as to the soldiers, so I had access to all the library's online holdings, free inter-library loan, and all the reference assistance I needed, often as quickly as I could log on to the computer. All within walking distance. Acting on a bit of inspiration (with a fervent prayer), I sat down with the director of the Army Research Institute here, and begged for help with the data analysis. In response, they generously put me in contact with another army spouse who worked there, and let me use a computer with the most recent version of SPSS (stats program), in a borrowed office for as long as I needed. I felt prompted that I needed to finish the data analysis and have a draft of the article completed by the time the kids finished school the end of May. I would drop Emma off at preschool Mon, Wed. and Friday morning and rush to ARI and work as quickly as I could for 4 or 5 hours until it was time to pick her up. After 2 months, with advice and supervision from my friend there, I had a draft.
As you can tell by our summer pictures, nothing much happened on the project, but I started revising/editing mid August, once the kids returned to school. The paper still needed a lot of work (organization is not my best quality). I worked and re-worked the paper, went back and read many of the original references again (including Bowlby's 1969 work on attachment). Now I think it's about ready to send out. Last week, I sent a copy to Kathy for her to review, and some slides I'd completed. We need to brief some people at Ft. Knox now that the project is completed.
I really don't know what to say about it. I'm so relieved that it's almost finished, and I've put so many hours into it (particularly since we've been here). I have had the feeling lately that for reasons that are beyond my understanding, this project is important. It's not that it's a large study revealing lots of new and critical information, because it really isn't. It definately has it's quirks and weaknesses. But I hope that the information will be helpful to our military families, and those who are responsible to care for them.
And I'm sure it will be several months (maybe longer) before we find a journal willing to publish it, and complete the review process. It's not quick.
Above all, though, I'm so thankful for the ways I've been blessed and prompted and helped and strengthened. If this work is good, it's only because of the grace of God.
Ah well, back to my children. Happy Sunday. Lisa

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Vacation Pictures- Colorado

We drove all night from Kansas and arrived in Idaho Springs, CO. Stopped for breakfast in a little mom and pop restaurant called Marion's. Here we are with our rig.

Climbing every mountain...

The Hills are alive...

Yes, Sir!

Tracy and I at Berthoud Pass, way up in the Colorado Rockies. We tried to do a family photo, but TJ had a touch of elevation sickness and stayed next to the truck.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008


I did not think that I would be one of those people who constantly relives bits and pieces of high school (the glory or the gore). Surely, I told myself, I was more mature. High school was fun, but I moved forward, made new friends, had new experiences. Left high school in the dust. Really.
Ha. So, this past weekend was my 20 year reunion. No possible way I am that old. I do not feel old. And I was only a little prepared for feeling swamped by all the familiar faces and feelings of high school. It was wonderful to see everyone again - to catch up with them and meet their families - It was an adrenalin rush and a contstant perma-grin kind of weekend. But it was also a throwback to the days of feeling insecure and one step out of synch. The days of being a nerd who reads too much, who never sluffed a class or missed an assignment. Who never really fit in. I thought this was a reunion, not a reliving of high school. But argh, it was both.

Maybe next reunion I'll have conquered all my insecurity issues and come back to meet my friends more confidently and authentically. I'm seriously thinking my only hope is yoga immersion or super intense psychotherapy. Oh man. How pathetic.

Really, though, there were some wonderful things I learned - one (thank you Tim), I have more friends than I thought I had. I was genuinely excited and happy to see everyone there. Our class was always so great about being kind and friendly with each other. That's only improved over time. two - I hung out with some great people in high school - truly compassionate, interesting, smart people. and three - high school really was filled with memorable moments - people and events that I don't want to forget or leave behind. And St. George is seriously one of the most beautiful places on the planet. How lucky I am that it was my home. How lucky I am that these great people are my friends.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

New Shoes

Emma started ballet a few weeks ago. She loves it!

Emma has new shoes of soft pink leather.

They are smooth enough to slide across the floor-

Chasse, chasse, chasse

and soft enough to tip toe tip toe in a circle

and light enough to leap and spin.

But dancing is more than shoes.

Emma has a new leotard and a pair of pink tights.

They are fuzzy enough to keep her muscles warm in a cold studio

and stretchy enough so she can bend and reach

plie, plie, grand plie.

But dancing is more than tights.

Emma has a new teacher - Miss Michelle.

She wears her hair in a bun, and plays beautiful soft music.

She teaches first position, point your toes.

Hold a beach ball in your arms, rounded just so.

But dancing is more than learning steps from a teacher.

Dancing takes practice, practice, and more practice.

It takes getting up and trying again after little slips

and not so graceful crashes.

And it takes love

So much love it fills your eyes and spills out over yous shoes until you can't be still.

But the shoes,

They're a great start.

Family Picture

This is our most recent family photo, taken after Tracy returned from Iraq this fall.

sweet dreams

My kids have all had the flu this week - the nasty, stick around for a week flu. They haven't slept well. TJ still hasn't returned to school. So, this past week, I went into Emma's room about 11 pm, as she was tossing and turning - long enough to catch this bit of sleep talking:

"Piff, puff, poof! Her fairy godmother appeared. 'You can't go to the ball like that!' she said."

Then she rolled over, snuggled under the covers and went back to her dream.
(It's a line from her favorite book, A Dream for a Princess, which she has memorized.)

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Ahhh, Culture!

This afternoon my two boys and I attended the matinee performance of a certain midwestern ballet company. The company debuted two new pieces, and restaged a classic by a modern (as in modern dance) choreographer. The lineup was too tempting, so I asked the boys if they wanted to go with me (not recommended for children under 5, said the website). The boys and I at the ballet, that's a great old school cultural event, I thought, patting myself on the back for such a wonderful stroke of parenting genius. We spent the travel time to the theatre discussing manners - the do's and don'ts when attending a live performance. Don't make loud noises, don't run, do stay in your seat....The tickets were economical, particularly as we prefer the nose-bleed section, where there are fewer uptight patrons for whom we might spoil the performance with our whisperings or need to use the restroom at inoportune times. To our delight, we had several rows to ourselves. In the smaller venue, even 3 stories up, we had an adequate view of the stage, if you don't count the handrail that hit right at eye level. Or the upstage lefthand corner of the stage which was completely blocked from our view by the curvature of the room. Details. As the lights dimmed, all of us held our breath waiting for the dancers to begin. Even from our vantage point, we could hear the clump, clump, clump of toeshoes as dancers scurried in and out of the wings, and occasionally, the heavy breathing that comes with a strenuous performance. The boys hardly moved during the first piece - breathing in the graceful lines and postures of the dancers. Plus, I had bribed them with a promise of snacks at intermission. When the house lights came up, we dashed downstairs to get a place in the long line. By the time it was our turn, Nathan was on the verge of a meltdown because he doesn't like nuts in his brownies and TJ was paying more attention to the tangerine he had smuggled in than to the baked goods. I ordered the one cookie that had no nuts or raisins and hoped for the best. We had time for two bites before the lobby lights dimmed. As the dance progressed, I whispered some cues to them - "how is this dance different from the last one? What is different about the way they move? Their costumes?" We continued the conversation out in the hall at the conclusion of the piece, when we finished our cookie and brownie and tangerine I had wrapped in napkins and smuggled into the theatre in my purse. As we returned to our seats, Nathan of course, had to suddenly use the rest room immediately. We dashed off to find the restroom so he could spend 1 minute peeing and 5 minutes washing his hands. As he finally emerged from the restroom, we were the last people in the darkened lobby. "Run, Nathan!" I urged. I quietly reprimanded myself for breaking the rules as I carried my crying son up the three flights of stairs to our seats after he tripped and skidded on the carpet. This was the beginning of the end for us. From this point, the only part that captivated my youngest son was the 4 minute section of the dance when all the dancers feigned drunkenness. I think this was more in line with our experience in our seats as I refereed a full-blown fistfight (allbeit a quiet one) between my boys, and had to physically hold Nathan's legs together so he wouldn't bang them on the chair in front of him. We were all praying for the final bows and falling curtain. As we finally slid out of our seats and moved with the crowd towards the doors, Nathan started off in a different direction which prompted TJ to yell loudly for him to "Get back over here now before you get lost!" "But mom, It's ok to break the rules if there's a really good reason!" he assured me later.
At that point, I secretly wished someone had spiked my brownie.
But all the torrid details were quickly forgotten as the boys told daddy about their trip to the ballet. "Um, yea, I pretty much liked it." said Nathan. "I was hoping there would be more marine stuff in it" said TJ. "Marine like mermaids or something?" asked dad. "No, like guns. I was thinking it would be really cool to do a ballet with soldiers, and guns, and barbed would do a forward roll and pretend to cut through the barbed wire...." I could see the choreographic juices flowing.... This was definately my child. Ahhh, culture!

Sunday, February 17, 2008

lost and found

It's been an interesting fall and winter. Tracy was gone and returned - and finally, we moved. Two really big changes for our family that have required flexibility and patience from all of us. But for the past several months, this pattern has been replaying over and over again for me in a series of smaller reunions and partings. This summer I attended my 15 year college reunion, and reconnected with several of my college friends that I hadn't realized I'd missed so much. In preparation for our 20 year high school reunion, one classmate put together a listserv and I signed up. My daily e-mail is now bombarded with snippets of conversation from people I haven't seen in half my life. And just before Christmas, I received a phone call from one of my grad school professors about a surprise reunion to honor my mentor and dissertation chair. "Will you please go through your pictures..." The request is usually the same for these events. Bring up old memories, dust off old friendships. And having recently moved, there are a large number of Army friends I'm desperate to hold on to.
This has also been a season of losses. Nathan's broken arm was a big loss for me. Loss of what? I'm not really sure, maybe it was just a clear and painful reminder of our mortality, like the "20" part of the high school reunion. Or the dear friends with the sick daughter, who lost their past lives as parents of healthy children. Losing a house, an address - an identity of sorts in our move. And a couple of weeks ago, Grandpa Ken passed away. Then there's my work - which has been limited to volunteer work for the last three years, and is a hazy memory at best.
And so now we have a new house. We have new neighbors, new schools, a new church (building at least). We're finding some new friends here, like Taven - the boy from TJ's class who showed him around his first day. Imagine walking home from school to see him walk in the door next to ours? And the neighbors across the street with the BYU license plate frame that Tracy noticed as we drove up? And I found something else new and totally unexpected - on a whim I decided to take up the Mandolin. It's been exactly perfect for me.
So what is this pattern - lost and found, gain and lose? Maybe my problem is I let go of people too quickly. I didn't keep up with high school and college friends in my rush to finish grad school and get on with my life (including having our three beautiful kids). Maybe this is a clear message to me to Reconnect. To hold on to the important people in my life (you'd think a deployment would make this more clear to me?) To hold on to a stalled carreer maybe? Even though it is a bit tempting to want to shed some excess with each frequent army move.
My kids seem to have the opposite problem. The can't seem to let go of anything. Old broken down rusty bikes, baby toys, old, soiled clothing. They have been horrifically obsessed with preventing Tracy and I from taking any of our unused possessions to the thrift store or for recycling. They have cried buckets of tears, seriously, over little wooden blocks, of reminders of a babyhood spent in Texas. Or the first bike, and memories of adventures riding cross country with friends through our fantastic Kentucky backyard. I frankly have not understood their reactions at all. "We have so much", tracy and I tell them, "We can't keep everything."
I've heard that we define ourselves by the things we hold onto and the things we let go of. Tracy and I are anxious to not be overloaded with lots of junk - but how do we help our children hold on to the memories and meaningful experiences of their childhood? How do we maintain friendships with the people we love in our attempts to raise a busy family?

Maybe this multiplicity of balance questions show that I'm in need of a good dose of yoga... or divine inspiriation. Maybe this post will actually have a yoga class? Wish me luck.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Nothing is the same after you move away

This house is ours for 4 more days. In 3 days, it will be filled from floor to ceiling with boxes, ready for the moving truck. In 3 days, it will be filled with packers invading our space. In two days, the cabinet specialist is coming to measure the kitchen for the new cabinets that will be put in after we leave. In fact, not much will be the same after we leave. The hospital tile will go, to be replaced with new wood floors and carpet in the bedrooms. The gold flecked counter tops will be torn out and replaced by something probably not so colorful. I think our wonderful kitchen that takes up 1/3 of the house will be partitioned off so there's room for a new laundry room. They're even doing away with the detachable dishwasher.
Nothing is the same after you move away.
Even the neighbors are moving, almost all of them, this summer. Soon there won't be anyone on the block who really knows us, who can tell the new people who move in to our old place stories about roasting marshmallows over our backyard fireplace, or how TJ used to terrorize the younger kids, or how all the kids would come over to our house to make cookies.
Nothing is the same after you move away.
I wonder who will wind up with the swingset? The wooden one that the people who lived here before us bought, and gave to their neighbors 3 years ago, who gave it to the neighbors on the other side of us when they left, who gave it to us. We'll pass it along to the neighbors as we leave, but they aren't far behind us.
Nothing is the same after you move away.
I wonder if there will be any trace of us left here after we leave. Seems funny to just move on without putting down roots of any kind, without leaving any hint that we were here (I mean besides the broken bits of frisbee buried in the mud in the backyard). I've scrubbed the walls pretty well, so I don't think there will be handprints left. This has been an important place for us. We survived a deployment here. We got stronger here. Emma and Nathan call this place home. Now we are just supposed to clear out of here and take everything with us?
Are home and family really so separate and distinct?
Maybe there will be a few footprints left, footnotes left of our life here. Clues that anyone with a hankering for archeology could figure out. A bead here (from Emma's famous beaded socks), a lego there...
Maybe the new occupants will wander down the hall and hear the tinkling of the piano or mandolin not knowing where it was coming from.
Or maybe they will step through the door and love the place, from the new wooden floorboards to the ceiling - just really love it, and say, "Now this is a place my family can call home." because we have.

Friday, January 4, 2008

The value of things

Ok, so the new Legos catalogue arrived just a few days ago, along with shouts from our middle child - "Mom, can you buy me something?" One would think that the Christmas toy satiation would still be in effect not two weeks past the blessed day. No. Apparently not. In attempts to teach our children the value of money and work, our standard reply to the "buy me something" question is "why don't you earn the money and buy it yourself". So, naturally, his next question to me is, "Mom, can I earn some money?" This is a loaded question. The boys know that in response to this question I will generate a list of jobs they can do around the house. (Housework, ugh!) They like to try other ideas before faced with the terrible prospect of any kind of cleaning. One favorite potential money making activity is an art sale. When they sit down at the art table to draw or write, they draw all kinds of weapons, animals, homes, etc. Normal boy stuff. But they seem to be convinced that art sales requires them to show their ethnic sensitivities, and so they draw calveras. Never heard of them? The kids got the idea from the pbs show Maya and Miguel - where there is a whole episode about a calavera (sugar mask painted in bright colors to celebrate Dia de los Muertes). And here is the standard process: Nathan draws a couple of calaveras and comes to me "Mom, I'm going to sell the big one for 10 dollars and the little one for 5 dollars." He still believes in easy money. It's always crushing to walk them through more realistic pricing. TJ has actually held an art sale before. He took an old wire shoe rack and used bent paper clips to pin the art to the shoe rack, which he then took outside and propped up against a telephone pole in our front yard. Any neighbor who happened to be out walking dogs or playing with their children was accosted (he's not a shy child) and asked if they wanted to purchase any of his drawings. He usually finds one or two compassionate neighbors who are willing to give him a dollar in exchange for two of his 3 minute masterpieces.
Anyway, Nathan must have been desperate because he totally skipped from the art sale idea to housework. "Make me a list, mama." I did - added as many jobs as I thought my 6 year old would be able to do reasonably quickly and easily. Things like wiping off the kitchen table, picking up all the toys and shoes in the living room, sorting the recycling, etc. I offered to pay him what I thought was a generous 50 cents per job. Any of the jobs could be completed in a couple of minutes. Fair is fair, and I'm not made of money. Nathan was outraged. "Mom! NO WAY! Three dollars and 50 cents for 8 jobs (there were actually only 7)?!?!" I upped the ante a bit, and offered 5 dollars if he completed all the jobs on the list, but he was still totally offended. "I am not doing these!" he yelled, and stormed off to the art table.
Maybe I should have talked with him more about standard hourly wages, so he'll know what to expect once he gets a job as a teenager (and makes 6 bucks an hour folding tacos). But all I could think of was hey, I do all those things for free.....
Ahh, the value of motherhood!