Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Can You Hear Me Now?.....GRRRRR!

If you, too, are the spouse of a Marine (or service member from any other branch) then you know how important any form of communication can be. You sleep with your phone beside your pillow. You forward your home phone to your cell phone any time you leave the house. You are the lady who leaves her phone on vibrate in the movie theater and church, and, on more than on occasion, you have been the lady who, as quietly as possible, makes a quick, stealth-like exit when she receives a call from the one she loves who is serving his country so far away from home.  You have pulled over into a parking lot in an obscure location because you are between two deadzones for your coverage area, and you simply cannot risk having your semi-reliable cell phone provider’s shaky network dropping this important phone call.
If you are fortunate (or unfortunate, depending on how you will view it by the end of this story), your spouse may have access to something such as Skype. I would like to point out that I think technology is fabulous…when it works. It is infinitely frustrating when it does not. And, like most new technology, Skype is your best friend when the stars are aligned and networks are clear, but it quickly morphs into your absolute worst enemy in no time.  At times, I am fairly certain it was conceived by the devil himself. So begins my story…
It was the first or second day of summer vacation, and I had let the kids stay up late the night before. So, for the first time in over a year, they actually slept in a bit. I know I should have capitalized on this and jumped in the shower, but, crazy person I am, I took care of some things around the house first. By the time I was getting ready to get that much desired shower, I heard my 2 year old son squawking over the baby monitor. As much as I wished I could pretend I simply didn’t hear him, there was no way I could ignore his incessant “MO-MMY!!!!” So,  I got him up, which in turn led to him waking his sister up, and I began making breakfast. In the middle of this, I got a text (for those of you who don’t know, if your spouse has email access, he can text you from his email) from my husband saying he would be able to Skype soon.
As much as I appreciated the heads up, I had no idea how soon “soon” was. I was afraid to get in the shower for fear I would just get all lathered up and my daughter would run in saying the computer was ringing in a Skype video call.  I was equally fearful he would see me looking like an unshowered ragamuffin.  However, I feared missing him more, so I brushed my hair and teeth (yes, I am fully aware he can’t smell morning breath there…) and made myself presentable.  Then I waited…for over two hours.  He was finally able to Skype around 12:45pm, just as I was preparing to put our son down for his nap. And this is where the real fun began.
First, the Skype video call came in on my laptop. But, for whatever reason, he could see us but could not hear us. I checked all of the settings on my computer and my webcam, and everything confirmed that my microphone was working properly.  Then we lost signal. He called back, but, for whatever reason, it came in on my Ipad 2 instead of my laptop, so we ran to get that before we lost his call. The Ipad 2 is a fabulous little piece of technology, but it’s camera isn’t wide angle like my webcam, and my kids are way too bouncy for him to get a good picture of them. So, while he is asking me to have them sit absolutely still, they are running, jumping, and flying off the furniture as if they think I am too preoccupied to do anything to stop them. They were right. I could either fight technology or them, but not both at the same time. So, we get disconnected again, and I wait for the Skype call to come back in on my Ipad. Well, imagine my surprise when it rings in again on the laptop, but then Skype freezes up and I am unable to answer the call.  It rings in again on the Ipad, so I run back to the counter to answer it there, but before I can explain the situation to him, he is gone again, lost in cyberspace.
At this point, I decide to try to restart my laptop since the Skype is still frozen up and  I am getting the “not-responding-swirling-blue-circle-of-mounting-frustration.” My laptop is just starting back up, and all of the programs are opening. We are at the “don’t touch anything or the whole machine will lock up in response to your impatience” part of the drill, and, low and behold, he Skypes in again, and it comes through on the laptop, thus locking the whole thing up. There is no way to explain this to him, though, so I try to ignore his call. Refusing to be put off so easily, he tries again and again and again, each time locking up my computer until I am to the point I would take a swim through hot lava than try to deal with technology that is clearly not cooperating at this time. But there is no way to tell him any of this.
I frantically begin sending him messages to both his work and personal email. I message him on Skype, Windows Messenger, and Facebook. Really, I tried everything but carrier pigeons, but I couldn’t explain the situation. Add to this frustrating story a 2 ½ year old little boy running through the house crying and saying, “Where Daddy go? I didn’t say “I wuv oo Daddy.” I want Daddy.” Mix that with a 6 year old’s pleading eyes just begging for the chaos to stop, and you get one stressed out Mama. I regret to inform you that when we finally did get a few minutes of semi-clear (his video picture was upside down, but why should that shock me at this point?) video chat time, I was not the sweet, loving person he had hoped to speak with that day. Instead, I was the hacked off, burnt out, evil twin who actually had the audacity to yell at him. I am not proud of that, and I have apologized and been forgiven, but by the time this was all said and done, it was nearly 4pm, and we had been at it for over 3 hours and had been disconnected more than 20 times.
We finally gave up, said our “I love you’s” and disconnected. For the second time in the nearly four months he has been deployed, I put the kids down for a nap, climbed in the shower, and cried…alot. It was the “ugly cry”, complete with blotchy eyes and tears and snot running down my face, and  I am so thankful no one was there to witness it. I cried out my frustrations, and I cried out to God.  I wept and prayed and begged God to help this get easier. All we wanted was to see that the other was okay, and it turned out disastrous. After a few minutes of standing under the hot stream and cry-praying, I felt much better. I vowed that tomorrow would be better, and I immediately emailed my husband an apology.  Thank goodness I had made that vow to myself or what happened next would have been nearly unbearable.
The next day, the kids and I were on our way to the commissary. I had forwarded the home phone to my cell phone, and I had a full battery and full bars of signal. So, I was shocked when the phone never rang, but I got a voicemail notification. I didn’t even have to listen to the voicemail to know we had missed his call yet again.  But, I listened anyway, and his disappointment was painful to hear. He never called back, and we finished our grocery shopping with heavy hearts. He later confessed that he thought I purposefully didn’t answer his call. That went over with me like a lead balloon, but then I realized how, in my frustration, I had spoken to him harshly.
So, the next day, to make sure my network didn’t drop his call again while I was at home, I turned off call forwarding. We were able to speak with him for a little bit, and he promised he would call again tomorrow. But, I was in a rush the next morning, and I forgot to forward the phones again, and we missed his call again.  The next day he messaged me that the phones were down and he would be unable to call. By the end of the week I was so frustrated, I could hardly stand it.  I felt like I simply couldn’t catch a break, no matter how hard I tried. But, then I realized something I had been missing all along.
God doesn’t Skype. He doesn’t rely on faulty networks or overworked brains who forget to forward the phone. He is always there, waiting for our call, willing to answer no matter the time of day. In some ways, I think this hellish week of communication (or lack thereof) served a greater purpose, and that was to teach me that things will not always go my way. Actually, because of the job we have been called to do, more often than not I will probably deal with some kind of adversity I would rather avoid. But, it’s up to me to call on the One who can help me. He may not steer me around it, and He may not take the obstacle out of my path, but He will enable me to plow through whatever comes my way. He’s just waiting on me to call Him.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Groundhog Day

Have you ever seen the movie, “Groundhog Day?” If so,  disregard my 10 second synopsis of the early to mid 1990’s Bill Murray film. Basically, he wakes up every morning and it’s Groundhog Day all over again. He keeps living the same day over and over and over. You’ve heard the saying, “same crap, different day…” Well, in his case, it’s the same day, just different crap.  That’s a bit how my day was today. I had only been awake a little over 2 hours and I could tell today was going to be a slightly modified, more disgusting version of the day I described in my blog “The Best Laid Plans.”
I got off to a rocky start. For whatever reason, I was restless last night and ended up watching TV (which I  almost never do anymore) until almost midnight. Then I decided to read a couple chapters of my latest Lee Child novel. So, by about 1am I was finally going to sleep. To some, this is normal.  To me, this is torture. I need at least 7-9 hours a sleep a night to even think about being able to function like a normal human being.  Since my alarm is blaring by 6am every weekday morning, I was in a self-inflicted world of grogginess this morning. I managed to get both kids ready and get Faith to school on time. I even remembered to pack her lunch. This is a huge accomplishment given my exhausted state this morning.  Rhett did not have preschool today, but errands wait for no one, so off to the commissary we ran.
I drove to the commissary at the air station, and, for the second time this deployment, felt the feeling of dread when I saw there were absolutely NO cars in the parking lot. This time, however, it wasn’t a scheduled power outage. It was because I got there 45 minutes before they opened. For some reason, in my head I got the times mixed up and thought the commissary opened at 8:30am for early bird shopping. Nope. They open at 9am. Since I had no intention of sitting in the car for 45 minutes waiting for them to open,  Rhett and I drove over to the commissary at Camp Lejeune. By the time we got there, we had been trying to tackle the day’s errands for over an hour and hadn’t even made it inside one store yet. My gut told me today was going to be one of those days, so I might as well just hang on for the ride. I hate it when my gut is right.
As I mentioned earlier, I had lots of stuff to get done. I had to get groceries, run home and unload them, get my oil changed,  take Rhett to get a haircut, and I needed to do all of this in less than 3 hours before it was time for Rhett to take a nap.  Not bad, except I had already wasted an hour playing musical commissaries. As I walked in, I realized it was payday, and the place was already a madhouse.  I got everything I needed and by the time I made it to the register, the cart was overflowing and items were teetering precariously off the sides. At the commissary, there are contracted baggers that work only for tips and they bag your items and carry them out and load them into your car for you.  They asked what type of bag  I wanted. Since I was in a hurry,  I asked for cold items in plastic and everything else in paper. That way I could easily identify what needed to be thrown in the freezer and refrigerator and drop those items off before running on to get the oil change and so on. As they were sorting my items, the bagger asked if a particular item should be in the regular or cold item pile, so I assumed they were sorting them the way I had asked.  Nope. Everything wound up in big paper bags that are nearly impossible to carry more than 2 or 3 at a time. Oh well. I actually used coupons today, and I was proud of myself for saving $5, which, coincidentally is the amount I needed to tip my bagger…
It took a little longer than planned, but I got the cold items unloaded then headed off to get the oil changed. We managed to get through this without anything crazy happening, so that was good. Rhett did, however, ask to go out and play in the shop with the mechanics. Naturally they said no, but it made them laugh. 
Then it was off to get Rhett’s haircut.  He knows that if he behaves he gets a lollipop, or, as he calls it, a “pop-pop.” So, he was good and he got his treat. It was a big mess of a thing. Incredibly sticky, too. I know this because, as I was loading him into his carseat, somehow he managed to get a huge amount of my hair wrapped around his lollipop. Great.  The result was only slightly less noticeable than that of Cameron Diaz’s in “There’s Something About Mary.” Wow, I’m really relying on my movie titles today, huh? Anyway, moving on.
We went home, ate lunch, and I got him down for his nap and we had a relatively uneventful afternoon.   Thank goodness, because the most challenging part of my day was yet to come. While he was napping, I got a chance to properly organize the frozen items I had shoved in the freezer in my haste to get on with my errands.  In doing so, I discovered some leftover turkey and, since I had already taken the trash out and wheeled the dumpster to the curb for tomorrow morning’s trash pick-up, I decided to run it down the garbage disposal.  Bad move, Jess, bad move.  The sink filled up with some nasty brown turkey scented water. I tried in vain to get the water to drain, but I eventually had no choice but to call our property manager. He informed me that, apparently, contrary to popular belief, you are not supposed to run anything down the garbage disposal. It is only there for little pieces that may accidentally fall down. Hmmm. Well, the name “Insinkerator” was very misleading, now, wasn’t it? I tried plunging. I plunged and plunged to no avail. I called my brother and he told me a few things to try. They didn’t work. In fact, it just moved some of the water from the sink to the dishwasher. He told me that might happen just as I looked inside my dishwasher to see it filling with muck.
The property manager told me a plumber would be here soon. And he was. He was very nice and didn’t even scold me for ignorantly putting small pieces of turkey down the disposal. He plunged it, but nothing happened. He had to take apart the pipe under the sink. I grabbed a mop bucket, and tons of turkey laden water drained into the bucket.  My brother had told me that this is probably what he would need to do, so I had moved all of the things (mostly cleaning products—I’m a neat freak germaphobe, remember) out from under the sink. Apparently he thought I might be the type of person who doesn't learn her lesson the first time around, so he showed me how to take the pipes apart when I inevitably did this again. 
We emptied the bucket, and I thanked him again for helping me. I hadn’t yet washed out the mop bucket, and I just sat it on the floor behind me while I went about the task of putting everything back under the sink. It was a bit lengthy because we have LOTS of cleaning products. Partly because of my neat-freak-germaphobia, and partly because we share a home with Rhett.  Anyway, I was putting the stuff back, when I happened to turn around and see Rhett.  WEARING THE MOP BUCKET ON HIS HEAD. And, if you gag easily, you better not read this, but there was a piece of turkey hanging out of his mouth. I’m pretty sure I threw up a little in my mouth. But, I composed myself and  sprang into action. In one swift move I yanked the bucket off of his mischievious little head and swiped at his mouth and found there was nothing in it. I am telling myself it just landed there when he put the bucket on his head. Please do not make any attempt to shatter that illusion!! Seriously, for my own mental health and emotional well-being, just let me believe whatever I have to tell myself to keep from absolutely losing it! I was nearly dry-heaving as I washed out the bucket and took it to the garage.
I had no idea what to do. If only there were some kind of baby safe oral bleach. Yeah, that won’t work.  I seriously considered washing his mouth with my anti-bacterial soap, reasoning that it probably wasn’t any worse for him than whatever microscopic germ was taking up residence on the piece of turkey I had just fished out of the corner of his mouth. I called my mom, who laughed hysterically. I called my brother back, and before I could even finish the story, he had already guessed that Rhett was using the mop bucket as, as he put it,  his “Darth Vader” helmet. He, too, laughed hysterically. Then he jokingly asked me if I had some Amoxicillin lying around.  I would have put him on a penicillin drip if I could have got my hands on one. I freaked out and called the Pediatric Urgent Care. I warned her my story was bizarre, and then proceeded to explain how my son came to have tainted turkey in his mouth. She didn’t laugh hysterically.  In fact, she didn’t really laugh at all. Which left me thinking, either she gets calls like this all the time, or she was making a note to call Child Protective Services on me for allowing this to happen in the first place.  She assured me his body was made to fight whatever germs he may have encountered, and told me to take him to his primary pediatrician if he started vomiting or having diarrhea.
She said I could squirt a little mouth wash in his mouth to kill anything that might still be on his tongue. I didn’t have a spray bottle, so I emptied out the Chloraseptic bottle and filled it with Listerine. I had to hold him down to spray little bursts of it into his mouth. Funny that he put up such a fuss over the mouthwash, but had no problem with the turkey that had passed through the garbage disposal.  I did this a few times, and gave him lots of water in between bursts.  I finally gave up and conceded that if he was going to get sick, there was nothing I could do about it now. All I can do is wait for the puking and the pooping to start.  Same day, different crap…
After taking care of that business, I set about cleaning the sink. I think the normal bleach to water ratio is, what, something like 10 parts water to 1 part bleach? Yeah, I reversed it and did about 100 parts bleach 1 part water and scrubbed the heck out of the sink, the stopper, the counter, everything.  In doing so, I sloshed some of the toxic mixture on one of my favorite shirts, and am now sporting a nice bleached out circle about twice the size of a silver dollar. Nice. I really should have seen that one coming, considering the way the first part of the day went.
So, with that excitement behind us, we still managed to celebrate today. Today marks 3 months that Bill has been deployed to Afghanistan. Three months down, 4 more to go.  We decided early on to commemorate this anniversary with an ice cream party, and every party has  proven  to be even more interesting than the last. We still have 4 months to go, and, at this rate, I cannot even fathom what kind of adventure we will have by the time we reach our 7 month ice cream party. Part of me fears it will merely be another Groundhog Day.  But, most of me is just grateful Bill will be home to witness the craziness of the life we have created together.