Thursday, May 13, 2010

Getting Away

I’ve abandoned my family. Well, just for a long weekend. But, it is the first time I’ve left the children for more than a local hotel overnight to catch up on my sleep. I have a thousand thoughts rushing through my head. In no particular order:


- I hope my husband doesn’t take his eyes off the three- year old and/or one-year old long enough for them to strangle themselves in the window blind cords, run out the door of the house and get run over by a car, or climb something tall and fall from a great height. I am thinking of more potential calamities, but how much screen space really needs to be devoted to this point? I’m sure you get the idea.

- My husband gave me a gorgeous pink sapphire cocktail ring which I created an entire outfit around for this trip. Of course, the ring is back at home - without me or the outfit. I hope it has a great weekend, too.

- This weekend is costing us a lot of money. I’m okay with that and my husband appears to be as well. Probably because I’m not a big spender. But, I really hope that the experience is worth the money.

- On that note, I am putting a lot of hope on this being a “Great Memory” experience. Oh, I do build things up in my head. Sometimes, just to come crashing down. I’m trying to be realistic here. Nothing can ever live up to my expectations.

- The chaos of moving and a baby who doesn’t sleep well have left me feeling the “mommy woes” lately. We aren’t unpacked and the house is usually in a state of intense disarray. When my husband is home with the children, he tends to get them to behave, clean the house to its sparkling finest, and be relatively calm upon my return. I want things to go well in my absence, but not TOO well.

- I have convinced three friends to join me on this trip. I also feel the burden of their experience being wonderful. Will they hate me if all this sucks?

Now that I’ve shared some of my neuroses, I’ll fill you in on what I’m about to embark upon. I recently moved to Washington D.C., which happens to be a glorious three hour train ride from New York City. I’m on my way to the Big Apple.

Who needs a reason to visit New York? But, I have one. It’s kind of embarrassing so try not to judge. It’s Oprah. She called and asked me to come, and who doesn’t jump for Oprah?

No, I’m kidding. It IS Oprah, but only in my best daydreams does Ms. Winfrey have my phone number. Actually, it’s a weekend festival of sorts to celebrate her magazine’s 10th anniversary. I’m an avid O reader and was willing to pay the shockingly high price for a Friday welcome reception, Saturday keynote by Oprah and “lifeshop” seminars with three of O magazine’s contributing writers, Saturday evening event with Oprah at Radio City Music Hall, and Sunday walk for charity.

I’m thrilled to share this weekend with three dear friends. Oprah was really just the catalyst for the get-together. Spending time and getting away from our daily grind is what this experience is all about.

It’s occurred to me that I haven’t really recharged my batteries in four years. Despite the burden of deployments, they do give my husband an opportunity to recharge and reassess without the family around. Probably the fact that he takes good advantages of these deployment “opportunities” is one reason why they haven’t broken him or our family the way they have impacted so many other military families.

So, for that reason, I’m excited to get away, although I will miss my husband and children dearly. I am looking forward to spending time with the woman who will be returning to them - a woman who knows when it’s important to step back and take a moment for herself.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Camp Cope

As a military family, we have faced firsthand the hardship of war.  My husband has been gone more than half of my almost four-year-old son's life.  We struggle to maintain our family bonds while he is away, and it is a constant challenge.

We've recently moved to the Washington D.C. area, and over the last three months have spent our time surrounded by military families, who seem to be in a daily state of flux as they send a loved one off on a deployment, welcome someone home, or deal with the struggles of having a parent gone.

That's why I was so excited to learn about Camp Cope (http://www.campcope.org/).  This incredible organization brings day-long therapeutic workshops to areas across the United States which are hardest hit by military deployments.

At these FREE workshops, children are divided into groups based on their age and the particular circumstance they are dealing with (deployed parent, injured parent, or lost parent).  Among their peers who are facing similar struggles, these kids are given great tools for dealing with this unique military life.  Tools which families report are helping kids do better in school, interact better with their family, and exhibit fewer behavior problems.

While the kids are in their workshops, parents can either get a day off (which is an amazing gift while your spouse is deployed) or take advantage of parent workshops that focus on parenting alone - OR attend a special couples' workshop (if their spouse is available). 

Since the program is open to children four years and up, Camp Cope even offers childcare for younger family members so everyone can focus on the resources available.

In addition to these amazing services, Camp Cope also trains local counselors on how to meet the special needs of military families.  That way, once the workshop is complete, families who need additional therapy can find the right resource in their community.

And, it's all free!

I was honored to learn more about Camp Cope from its co-founder Sarah Bravo.  She shared with me the incredible work this organization is doing - and on a shoe-string budget.  It costs just $125 for one child to attend the day-long session - a fee that is NEVER passed on to families.  Instead, money is raised through donations and grants.

That's why I am walking on behalf of Camp Cope in New York on Mother's Day, May 9.  I couldn't imagine a better way to celebrate being a mom than doing something to help children of the military community, to which my family so proudly belongs.

If you're interested in supporting Camp Cope, please consider making a donation - in any amount.  Your help truly does make a difference in the lives of our military children, who are serving our country, too!

You can donate on my fundraising page http://www.lybl2010walk.com/oliviaburley - 100% of your donation will benefit Camp Cope and is tax deductible.  Oh, and don't worry, the cost of the walk is paid through registration fees from each participant, not through your donation!

Thank you!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

F*ck*ng Light!

You would probably not guess this if you met me, but I can swear like a sailor.  The profanity laced in my speech is directly correlated with the stress I am under and exactly how sleep-deprived I am.

Mostly, I just say "crap" when I am frustrated.  I'm not exactly proud of it, but it's not that bad, right?

Then, I had a kid.  Who is very verbal.

He started saying "crap," too.

Most people attribute these sorts of bad habits that children come by to either their father or that kid down the block who doesn't get bathed frequently enough.

In this case, it's the wholesome mom who is to blame.

I never really worried about "crap" because it isn't hurting someone else.  You're not calling a name or putting someone down when you say it.  The part of it that doesn't sit well with me is that I am a lover of words - and this is really the best I can come up to express myself?  How common.

I made a concerted effort to stop saying "crap" when I heard my then three-year old son say, "Crap, I can't find my blankie."

In the last month (plus a few days), we've packed our home, found renters for our old house, visited in-laws, driven part way across country as a family, stayed in temporary housing in DC, traveled to Alabama for my husband's training, and determined that we have no idea where we'll be living this summer - plus, the baby isn't sleeping at night.

I'm swearing again.

Not just "crap" lately, either.  Words as strong as a vodka tonic - minus the tonic.

And, my wake up call to cut it out came today when I was driving the kids to the bookstore.  The light turned red, and Carson exclaims from the backseat, "F*ck*ng Light!" 

Yes, this really happened.

And, I am completely ashamed.  I did NOT make a huge deal out of it since that would only encourage him to continue saying it.  I DID explain to him that mommy makes mistakes sometimes, and saying that word is not nice at all.  I also promised him that I would try hard to say only nice words.  He helped me come up with some new frustrated words.  They are (in no particular order):
- Crayons
- Flowers
- Shoulder

So, if you hear me shout "Oh, crayons!", you'll know what I really mean.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

A Sense of Entitlement

Another day, another celebrity revealed as cheating on their spouse because they feel "entitled." What is this about? I find it so frustrating that these personal exploits are playing out in the media, but it also makes me question why so many people with power and money are unable to be faithful to their partner.

And, when these men get caught because their mistress came forward or their wife found their text messages or something else equally unsavory, does it seem sincere to anyone that they are sorry and will never cheat again? Doesn't if seem that if they hadn't been caught, they would probably have just continued with those behaviors?

Are men (yes, I am specifically talking about men here) so ruled by their anatomy that they can't control themselves? Yes, I know there are plenty of men who are faithful, but there are so many who aren't.

I overheard two married men at a family barbecue last year (one was someone I really respected) commenting on a teenage girl's body in what they thought was a private conversation. I was completely disgusted but wonder if men just can't control a physical response to women.

Of course, I know that women cheat, too. Although, it seems that women cheat for an emotional connection and usually have an affair with one person at a time.

I wonder what percentage of married men would be able to resist an offer to have sex with a hot body without ever being caught or getting a disease - a no-strings-attached, one-night affair.

I do think humans are very sexual creatures. It surprises me when women say they completely trust their husbands and know they would NEVER cheat on them. I don't think we can ever be certain of anyone that way.

This is a challenge for me in my own marriage because my husband travels and is gone for such long periods of time. It drives him crazy, but when he returns from a deployment, I always ask him to honestly let me know if he has cheated - and if it's safe for us to be physical. Of course, he could lie to me, but I have trusted him to be honest in those moments. I believe in my husband and know he will make his best effort to be true to me, but temptation, time, and distance complicate that. As so many military families have found.

Temptation, time, and distance complicate an ability to stay faithful for military wives as well. I have no interest in being with anyone else - either emotionally or physically. During his deployments, I was so consumed with our children that it wasn't an option. I also take my marriage vows very seriously. I truly believe I would fail in my marriage and let down my husband, my children, myself, and my God if I ever explored a relationship with someone other than my husband. That said, I know I'm human and have to work to be true to my husband.

We once attended a marriage seminar with very conservative leaders. My husband and I were unimpressed with a lot of the messages shared but took home one important concept - "Stay off the porch!" If you want to avoid temptation in your marriage, don't put yourself in the path of temptation. It's a good reminder for me - I have had to ask myself a few times if something might be the porch leading to cheating.

This post isn't prompted by a fissure in my own marriage but rather with the news reports of Tiger Woods, John Edwards, etc. coming forward with their affairs in the news. (I figure I'd better clarify that.)

So, what's the answer? I wish I knew! After almost eight years of marriage and two children, it seems like the more time alone my husband and I have, the more closely connected we are. Is this true for everyone else?

Since time alone is so important to us, we have to work incredibly hard to maintain that connection while he is deployed (we do it through email and Skype - thank God for Skype!). We are in the process of relocating and managing many sleepless night for our infant daughter so evenings alone and babysitters are going to be hard to come by. We're working on it every day, though...every stolen moment alone is a gift lately.

I was going to end this post wanting to celebrate the couples who are committed to each other. But, it occurred to me that sometimes it's those couples who are later revealed as being in damaged relationships. Oh well.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Stay at Home Mom vs. Housewife

I take on so few freelance writing or marketing assignments lately that I have stopped bothering to say I either work part time or work from home. I always used to point that out when I introduced myself to people. Lately, I'm too tired to care that my career is fading before my eyes while I focus on my kids.

I think I originally stayed home with them (or decided to work part time from home) out of some misguided belief that having me around all the time would be more beneficial to my kids than going to daycare or having a nanny.

As the dishes and laundry piled up, I realized that staying home with my kids came with an understanding from my husband that I would also do the housework?

Wait, I never agreed to that!

I was busy nurturing their minds! We were attending music classes, playdates, co-op parent involvement preschool, and structured activities at the children's museums. We were building blocks, forts, and stacks of toilet paper tubes. Add to that the 30-minutes of reading (double the recommendation), classical music, art, and fresh air nature hikes, and there simply was NO TIME to clean. If we had hired a nanny, I wouldn't expect her to clean the house for us, so why were these chores being put on me?

It was important to me that I clarify the difference between a Stay at Home Mom (which I was) versus a Housewife (which I was not).

As the years have passed since my first child was born, I have realized that staying home with them is more for me than them. My kids both thrive with other people. My son relishes playdates that don't involve me (there are two people who I have trusted to do this) and casually waves at me when I drop him off at his unaccompanied two-morning-a-week preschool. Kids I know that have been exposed to daycare settings or nannies are thriving and learning so much - and seem very happy. Just as happy and maybe even more educated than my kids.

I think I wanted to stay home with my kids because then I would at least know the damage that was done to them rather than wondering if they had been harmed by someone else. I raise my voice at my son more often than I care to admit. My expectations of him are more in line with a 10 year old rather than a three year old. Today, I was feeling sick, and we watched movie after movie after movie. These things wouldn't happen if he was in daycare, but the unknown scares me. What exactly would happen.

More than that fear, though, I cherish my moments with my kids. We laugh. We dance. We cuddle. Then, we cuddle some more. I wouldn't trade our days for anything.

When my daughter was born and my husband went on a long deployment, I realized that I couldn't let the housework pile up - at ALL. Since my baby is a horrible sleeper, I have no time in the evenings to do anything, and that means I have to spend a good part of each day with household drudgery. I miss the times I neglected the chores and just focused on the kids.

My husband will be horrified to read this.

But, the reality of it is that the cleaner my house is, the worse I feel as a parent. It's just not the reason I chose to stay home.

I applaud the women who are able to do it all, but I am a focus on one thing at a time kind of a girl. And this moment in time is about my kids. Even though it may not be the best thing for them. It's the best thing for me. I do hope they're enjoying the ride, though.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Vaccines, MRSA, and Other Fears - Oh My

So the sick fall season has started early this year. Everyone I know (okay, not EVERYONE) but a lot of people I know are sick. The air is abuzz with "Is it swine flu?" And often it is.

I'm terrified of my kids getting sick. Not myself. Although the idea of my kids going through life without a mother (correction, without me as a mother) can make me weep in my coffee on the right day, so it's important for me to stay healthy for that reason.

But what has me anxious is the idea that MY KIDS could get sick. Of course, they have had ear infections, colds, viruses, etc. All that normal kid stuff.

REALLY sick is what terrifies me. I have friends who have suffered this way and am amazed at their strength. I'm not sure I'm that strong.

You'd think with this great fear I have of crazy disease - H1N1, MRSA infections living on the backs of a huge percentage of the population's hands and so on - that I would be racing out to get my kids vaccinated.

What scares me more than my kids getting sick - is making the wrong choice about getting them vaccinated.

To vaccinate or not to vaccinate.

My children have had almost every vaccine. I've researched, asked questions, informally polled friends - and admittedly gotten caught up in some hype.

I completely respect people's decisions to vaccinate or not to vaccinate. I know the massive benefits of vaccinations and also understand the gray cloud that swirls around them.

My husband is forced by the military to receive a variety of vaccines. I'm grateful to them for keeping him healthy but also understand that he really doesn't have a choice (they basically own him), and he could be part of a giant science experiment.

The flu vaccine has always made me wary - and this H1N1 vaccine makes me feel even more nervous. I wish there was a crystal ball to peer into the future and know for sure that there are no side effects.

Of course, if my children were to contract the virus and have serious side effects, I'd never forgive myself. And, if they receive the vaccine and develop serious side effects (or coincidentally become ill around the same time), I'll never forgive myself.

What's a mother to do? I wish I had the answers. Right now, I'm in a holding pattern. As more people get sick around us, I feel like I am running out of time to make a decision.

Monday, September 28, 2009

What's Your Definition of a Feminist

I used my Facebook status update to mention casually that I'm a feminist. My Facebook friends had several comments on this - which surprised me.

What exactly did they think I was? Um, is there an opposite of feminist? Woman hater?

Anyway, someone asked what my definition of a feminist is, and I responded with EQUAL. Because, really, that's all it boils down to.

I think women are equal to men. What an astounding concept!

Not, of course, in physical capability. No, obviously, men simply can't touch us there as we manage to bleed and cramp monthly while we go about our normal routines (I think men would have an automatic 12 menstrual days of leave each year if they had periods), squeeze babies out of our vaginas, oversee the contraception issue in most relationships, and allow milk to pour from our breasts (yes, dudes, that's actually what those are for!) to sustain our children.

Yes, I'm speaking tongue in cheek. My husband, frustratingly, is stronger and faster than me. I admit it.

Intellectually, though, we're on an even keel. We're partners in our marriage and in life. No one is always the leader, and I'm grateful that he is mature enough to value me in that way. A lot of men aren't.

Many of them have worked for me. But that's another blog.

I understand that there are inherent differences between men and women. That was made all too clear to me after I had a son who was pulled with the earth's gravitational force toward trucks, swords, and sports.

Despite those differences, though, men and women simply are EQUAL.

While it isn't necessarily a part of my definition of feminism, I also think it's important to note that I don't believe a woman needs a man (or a man needs a woman) to function, live, or be complete. I adore my husband but would certainly have lived a productive and joyful life had we not met. I would also have managed to take care of myself (as I do when he is frequently deployed).

As Irina Dunn said, "A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle."

I guess I'm a fish who loves her bike but enjoyed swimming, too.