The Re-Resolution of Stiletto Momma

2014…Day Two. The Christmas decorations are wrapped and boxed again. The bushes lining the house are dark as their formerly twinkly lights are extinguished for another season.

People are returning to their pre-Christmas carol, pre-gift giving lives of work, school and business as usual. “Merry Christmas!” has been replaced with “Happy New Year!” followed shortly thereafter with, “What’s your New Year’s resolution?”

Resolution? Hmmmm…

I am rarely able to come up with a resolution much sooner than 11:59 p.m. on December 31st. I’m too exhausted from all the party planning, menu making and present wrapping to think beyond the current holiday much less think about how I want to change my life starting at the stroke of midnight.

Then I’m faced with the inevitable failure of actually keeping the resolution. The minute I resolve to get back in the gym, I want a nap. If I resolve to eat a healthy diet, I will immediately start craving Reese cups.

I have never experienced the thrill of successfully achieving a resolution…until January 1, 2012 when I wrote and published the inaugural post of a little blog named after my alter ego, Stiletto Momma. In that post I resolved to simply “Do Something New.”

Yes, it is very open ended and non-commital, but at the time I also threw out a few possibilities like learning photography and Photoshop. I did buy a good camera that year…in September. I haven’t learned to use it beyond what I read in the first half of the instruction manual, and about the only thing I can do in Photoshop is look at my pictures. I suppose that counts, but just barely.

I mentioned one other possibility in that New Year’s post two years ago.  “I’ll start a blog,” I wrote, and because I typed those words and clicked the “Publish” button, I was a successful resolutioner in the very first hours of the new year! Counting this post, I have gone on to write and publish 64 posts as Stiletto Momma–warrior of all things maternal, corporate and pointy-toed!

When 2013 rolled around, I knew exactly what my resolution would be.

Do Something New!

However, as I mentioned in yesterday’s post, 2013 was a witch of a year and a wicked one at that.  I couldn’t get around to deciding what “new” was going to be, so I stayed with what was working, and I blogged some more. Pretty soon I was blogging about what was really on my mind–my ongoing battle against Crohn’s Disease.

thegreatbowelmovement.org

My prize pack from TheGreatBowelMovement.org gave me everything I needed to raise IBD awareness in 2013.

In my quest for answers and information, I ran across what has turned into one of my favorite websites, www.thegreatbowelmovement.org, which has been making Crohn’s and Colits (the two forms of Inflammatory Bowel Disease) cool since 2010. The founders of this non-profit encourage patients and caregivers to talk about their diseases in an effort to raise awareness. They even sent me a cool prize pack complete with intestine socks and an “Ask Me About My Crohn’s Disease” hoodie.

My 2013 “new” turned out to be writing about something that has been a part of me for almost 25 years. I may have lost some readers who weren’t interested in learning about the woes of a sick person, but embracing a new mission of raising awareness for something I know quite a lot about encouraged and empowered me in a time when I needed to feel strong.

With two successful resolutions under my belt, I’m ready to declare the 2014 version. Any guesses on what it might be?

DO SOMETHING NEW!

That’s right. I’ve decided on a new “new”, and if you’ve been following along for the past few months you could very well have an idea of what it might be.

I am a writer. There, I said it. I am a writer and this year, I intend to write with more dedication and purpose than I have in a long time.

I have a master’s degree in journalism, but outside of internships during college, I have never worked in the field. Maybe I was just waiting around for the blogosphere and digital publishing to be born. Whatever the reason, I graduated from Penn State with a journalism degree and immediately took a job in marketing.

The next one was in fundraising (another form of marketing). When I tried technical writing next, I found my skills were wasted writing about boring things like databases, and moved back to marketing. I had found myself a niche, and that’s where I’ve stayed for over 20 years. I was a marketer with writing skills.

keyboard

The Hubs gave me this cute little keyboard for my iPad–perfect for a blogging resolution.

Now, I want to be a writer who knows how to market herself. You can expect to see more of Stiletto Momma in 2014. I will soon be launching a Facebook page, and I might even start Tweeting. If you’re lucky, you could get a glimpse into this impressive shoe collection I’ve been hinting at. We could even do a contest or two!

I’m starting this blog re-energizing effort with the WordPress Zero to Hero program where my favorite blogging platform will give me a daily task for blog improvement during the month of January. Today’s task is to introduce myself to my readers. If I’ve done my job, you should have been able to pick up a few nuggets of me from the above ramblings, but in addition to being a chronically ill writer who markets (or a marketer who writes) and makes unoriginal New Year’s resolutions, I am:

  • a momma to two amazing children–a six-year-old tomboy and a 20-year-old all-American boy.
  • an adoptive momma to that six-year-old who was born in Russia and became a US citizen five years ago.
  • an Army momma since the 20-year-old is a cadet at the US Military Academy at West Point. (Go Army!)
  • a football momma because that cadet also plays on the offensive line for the Army Black Knights and has been working toward that goal since he was five years old. (GoArmy!)
  • a football wife because the Hubs played football at Penn State once upon a time, coached our son for most of his football career and will accomplish seemingly impossible tasks to avoid ever missing a Penn State Nittany Lion game or a Pittsburgh Steeler game.
  • a doggy momma to the Furry One and the Fluffy One who, like the rest of the family, have clever pseudonyms in this blog because it is my choice to blog about them, not theirs, and they deserve a little bit of anonymity.
  • a fairly decent home cook whose specialty is anything her son requests and anything her picky daughter will eat.
  • a lover of shoes and all things fashion.

I am Stiletto Momma, and I resolve to make 2014 blogtastic for everyone!

What’s your resolution…or un-resolution…or re-resolution?

Five Minute Friday – Grasp

I hugged my little boy last Saturday!

Well, he’s not a little boy any more–he towers almost a foot higher than me, and when I do hug him my hands barely touch on the other side.

Post-Game

Minutes before this picture was taken the big one in the middle was crushed in a hug by the little one on the left!

But I hugged him, nonetheless, and I basked in his presence for an entire 20 minutes.

I couldn’t stop smiling.

I miss my boy, and it was fairly obvious to everyone else around us at the Wake Forest football stadium in Winston-Salem, NC, last weekend.

The hubs and I made a two-part journey from our Louisville home to West Virginia and then on to Winston-Salem to watch the Army Black Knights take on the Wake Forest Demon Deacons.

That’s not entirely true. The Hubs was there to watch the football game. I, apparently, was there to watch number 55, even if he didn’t step foot on the field.

Another momma and her boy traveled with us to the game. Army is recruiting her quarterback son, and they wanted to check out the team on the road. Even though the Black Knights fell to the Demon Deacons, he left the stadium with a new conviction to complete the application process for the United States Military Academy.

His momma left with a new understanding of what being a West Point Mom would mean for her.

As we stood outside the stadium talking with my football player after the game, she pulled him aside and enlightened him to my pride. “Your mom really loves you, you know. It made me cry watching her watch you. She never watched the game. She only watched you.”

It’s true.

Army Football

See that grin? That’s my boy!

I try to grasp every single second of my son. I didn’t watch most of the action on the field. I used the zoom lens on my camera to find the only player I cared about, and when he saw me seeing him, he flashed me the goofy grin he knows I love. I caught it on film, and I remember how my heart warmed and my smile grew.

When I grasped him firmly in my arms after the game, I knew the long drive and the exhausting weekend was worth it.

I hugged my boy last Saturday, and I am grasping on to the memory until I see him again.

Stiletto Momma

PS. Through a fellow writer of the blog My Awesome Olive Shoots, I’ve discovered Five Minute Friday. If you’re a blogger, join us every week for a few minutes of blogging inspiration!

Splendid Saturday Solitude

Most mornings, the blaring of the alarm is met with resignation. I drag myself from dreamland, glare at the numbers showing the time and remind myself that ignoring the insistent noise from the clock is not an option. I have to wake up. I have to get out of my warm, cozy bed. I have to get ready for work, and I have to do things for other people.

Even though that alarm fills me with despair during the work-week, I still find myself re-setting it Friday night. I usually stay up a little later on that eve before the weekend, catching the end of “Bride Day” on TLC, chatting with the Hubs or Facebooking with my favorite group of West Point moms. But before I turn out the light and call it a day, I reach over, adjust the time on the clock and set the alarm for 7:00 a.m.

This time, when the alarm sounds, I jump up, quickly turn off the sound so as not to wake the sleeping hubby, and smile with anticipation.

It’s Saturday!

Once upon a time, I met the dawning of Saturday with a similar delight. Back then I was about five, and upon leaving my bed, I would excitedly race to the television and eagerly tune into Saturday morning cartoons–The Bugs Bunny/Roadrunner Show, Scooby Doo and Schoolhouse Rock were my favorites.

Today when I rise early to start my weekend, I head straight to the Keurig for my coffee-on-demand–Butter Toffee, Caramel Vanilla Creme  and Cinnamon Pastry somehow give me a bigger rush than 1970s animation. Instead of heading to the television, I take my steaming caffeine and stroll to the back deck where I heave a contented sigh and gaze across the backyard.

Backyard

My view. On the really good days, the neighborhood deer come out to say, “Good morning.”

A fine layer of mist fills the air, dew coats the ground, and it is silent. I am alone–a state I find myself in only once a week. The Young One is still asleep. The Hubs, if he was disturbed by my early alarm, has returned to his Saturday slumber, and the MIL has yet to venture out for her own cup of coffee.

Experience has taught me that I have an hour before I must relinquish my wants to see to the needs of others. By 8:00 a.m., the Young One will seek me out for a bowl of cereal, the Hubs will demand my attention to plan out the weekend errands and activities, and the MIL will call for the canine to accompany her to the curb in the daily quest for the newspaper.

Deck chair

My chair. Perfect for relaxing with coffee and a book.

But for now, I have 60 minutes of solitude. I will relax in a padded rocker damp with the mist of morning fog, sip my Butter Toffee java laced with just the right amount of Italian Sweet Creme Coffee-Mate, and immerse myself in a book I’ve been struggling to find time to read all week. If I’m lucky, I will raise my eyes at just the right time to watch a family of deer emerge from the woods and take their breakfast at the tree line near the far end of the yard.

I won’t think about work. I won’t menu plan or write a grocery list. I won’t check email or log onto Facebook. I won’t cook or clean. If my relaxation and enjoyment are not the first things accomplished by a task, I don’t intend to do it for at least 3,600 seconds.

I set my alarm for an early rising on Saturday not because I have so many things to do in my day, but because I need to do nothing. I need a few minutes when I am not a mom or a wife or a friend. I am just me, doing things that make me happy. And because of this hour for me, I can return to being caregiver, spouse and adviser and do those jobs with increased enthusiasm and purpose. I love those roles and wouldn’t trade them for all the sunny summer mornings for the rest of time…as long as I have one hour once a week.

This is my time. My Saturday Morning. Silent. Solitary. Splendid.

How do you find your solitude?

Stiletto Momma

Selfless Courage on Far Away Beaches

I’ve been seeing visions of bomb craters and grave markers today. Both rest atop high cliffs overlooking Utah Beach and Omaha Beach in Normandy, France–the site of bloody battles fought as Allied Forces invaded those beaches in an attempt to liberate Europe from the Germans 68 years ago today.

American Cemetery

The American Cemetery near Omaha Beach

For the most part, the anniversary of D-Day goes unnoticed. Unless it happens to be a milestone anniversary like the 50th or the 75th, the media barely mentions the passing of another year. This morning, for example, one of the top stories on NBC’s Today was the recent engagement of Miley Cyrus to Liam Hemsworth, not the remarkable sacrifices made by “the greatest generation.”

Today, however, even with the lack of media coverage and Facebook memes, I can’t seem to stop thinking about those beaches.

Perhaps it is because I have been there. In 2006, the Hubs and I traveled to the French Riviera and Paris on an all-expense paid trip compliments of a previous employer. After several days of touring palaces and museums, we were looking forward to a change of pace and signed up for a day-trip to Normandy. The Hubs is a veteran of the U.S. Army and has an interest in military battles, and I have always been fascinated by the history of WWII. So, we went along for the three-hour bus trip, expecting to see a cemetery and some sand.

What we saw instead was awe-inspiring. The American Cemetery that sits on a steep cliff above Omaha Beach is more than a memorial. It is a glorious shrine to fallen heros with row after row of meticulously maintained grave marker crosses. I could see no posted signs requesting silence, but the quiet was deafening because there are simply no words to express the emotions that overcame our group as we stepped onto that sacred ground.

Bomb Crater

The Hubs Poses with a Crater

Here lay thousands of soldiers who gave their lives for their country, some just mere minutes after setting foot on that foreign shore. As chimes played classic hymns of prayer, tears flowed freely while we walked among the final resting place of 9,387 brave souls, approximately 3,000 of whom gave up their lives on that first day of intense fighting. The names of another 1,557 Americans who lost their lives in Normandy, but could not be located or identified are etched on the walls of a solemn garden where many stopped to offer prayers of thanks.

Omaha Beach

Field of Craters

Further down the beach are the remains of war…grassy fields pock-marked with craters from Allied and German artillery fire…German casemates (fortified structures where weapons were stored) built so securely they barely show signs of age…bunkers left fully intact except for the empty space that at one time housed a German Panzer turret…acre after acre of preserved destruction meant to remind us of the brutality of war.

These memories alone could certainly cause my preoccupation today, but I believe the reason hits far closer to home.

Bunker

The Hubs inspects the remains of a German bunker.

Last summer, I witnessed my son taking the Oath of Service during Reception Day at the United States Military Academy at West Point. I heard him, along with more than a thousand fellow new cadets, proclaim, “I …do solemnly swear to support and defend the Constitution of the United States….So help me God.” With those words, a new-found patriotism was born, and today I, like many other West Point moms, get a lump in my throat at the singing of the National Anthem. I am teary-eyed at pictures of soldiers returning from deployment, and my heart swells at the site of the Stars and Stripes waving in the breeze.

Unknown Soldier

“Known But to God”

I walked among those crosses at the American Cemetery and calculated time and again the young age of the soldiers buried there. Many were my son’s age when they walked into battle–made soldiers when they were barely men. Some were drafted into service, but others, like my son volunteered during a time of war. That, in my opinion, is the most honorable act a person can perform.

I am immensely proud of the decisions my son has made for his future, but that doesn’t mean I don’t worry about what that future will look like..

I am sure the mothers of those soldiers who fought in WWII waved the flag one minute and cried for their children’s safety the next. They probably felt their heart skip a beat when they glimpsed a man in uniform, the same way mine does when I see digitized camo. They probably smiled with comfort at a favorite garment, just as I do when I realize that wearing my favorite West Point t-shirt makes me feel closer to my child.

I can only hope that, at some point, the mothers of those lost on D-Day and the days that followed were comforted by the knowledge that their child’s sacrifice was not in vain. They are remembered. It may not be with grand ceremony, but they are remembered, and I am moved by the selflessness of their courage.

Stiletto Momma

Thy Boodle Runneth Over

I am responsible for the bounty of boodle that has taken over my oldest child’s barracks room.

Sibling Love

This is why we send boodle.

I first learned of “boodle” and the joy it can bring to both mother and child last summer while that oldest child of mine was being yelled at and put through his paces during Cadet Basic Training. In West Point circles, CBT is affectionately referred to as “Beast Barracks”, or simply, ”Beast”. In West Point Mom circles, it is known as “the dark time when I knew someone was being mean to my baby, but I couldn’t do anything about it.”

During that dark time, I was introduced to an amazing group of women dedicated to supporting each other during the 47-month roller coaster ride of life as a West Point Mom. Through the wonder of Facebook, the veteran moms of West Point scooped the new West Point moms into a warm embrace and told us we would be okay. Our children would ”slay the Beast”, and with their help, we would most certainly become fluent in military jargon.

When one exuberant mom posted that she was buying boodle to send to her son, my first reaction was to blush at the slightly illicit sound of the term. Surely, this is not something meant to be shared between a mother and her son.  As other moms chimed in at the remarkably soothing effects of boodle and the almost immediate rush of endorphins upon giving and receiving, I began to wonder if what they were doing was legal.

I was intrigued, but I was uncertain if my own heart-felt posts through social media had earned me enough trust among these women to be granted the knowledge of this well-guarded secret.  I sat back and waited for someone else to ask the questions I was too intimidated to type…

”What is boodle, and how do I get some?”

As I waited, I typed “boodle” into Wikipedia only to find out that boodle is not some type of highly addictive drug. In the mid-1880s, it was a form of government bribery.  Were these moms I respected so highly really encouraging their children to bribe their way through the U.S. Military Academy?

I didn’t believe it, so back I went to Facebook in search of more clues. The newest additions to the thread created a user’s guide to procuring and packing boodle.

“The best place to find boodle is at Wal-Mart.”

“The post office is the only place to get your supplies.”

“Use a FoodSaver to keep it fresh.”

“Send extra boodle for sharing if you can.”

“Don’t forget the bubble wrap!”

Then finally…the recipe! “Just fill it with love, moms!”

LOVE! That’s what boodle is! West Point Moms send their children love in U.S. Postal Service flat rate boxes!

Boodle

The making of boodle. See the love?

“Boodle”, as defined by West Point Moms on Facebook, is a loving reminder that someone at home is thinking of you and wants to bring a smile to your face.  It is fresh baked cookies, jars of peanuts, sweet smelling shampoo, a picture of the family dog, a card filled with words of encouragement, a silly trinket from the dollar store meant to spark a funny memory shared between a mother and her child.

Now eight months later, I am an expert at assembling boodle. So much so that during Plebe Parent Weekend last month, I was astounded by the sight of my cadet’s boodle box sitting in its place of honor above his desk.

Like all parents that weekend, I was granted the opportunity to walk inside my cadet’s room to see where he spends his time outside of the classroom. I wanted to see everything–where he hung his uniforms, where he kept his socks, and of course, how he stored his boodle.

Bulging Boodle

The bulging boodle box!

He smiled when he pulled the plastic bin from the shelf, but we all braced ourselves when he unsnapped the lid. I could tell even before he pulled the top back that this might end in disaster. The sides of the container were bulging, and the lid was bowed in the middle. The boodle had exceeded the boundaries of its box and threatened to burst into a mushroom cloud of goldfish, peanuts and beef jerky.

Yes, I supply my son with boodle. The physical contents are usually my secret recipe pretzels, cookies that can be shared with his roommates and pictures drawn by his little sister. I don’t stop filling the box until I have stuffed every empty space of each package with all the love I have stored up in his absence.

His boodle runneth over…as does my love for a young man hundreds of miles away sinking his teeth into a taste from home.

Stiletto Momma

For the Love of Camo and Sparkles

The balance of power has shifted in my home. With the Older One now taking up residence at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, the Hubs and the Dog are on their own against myself, my daughter and my MIL, who tipped the scales to the female side when she moved in four months ago.   I have waited many years for an extra jolt of estrogen to make my family complete, and while the Hubs may not be thrilled to be in the minority, I am finding most days to be a new and frilly adventure.

That is not to say that I don’t miss my son like crazy.  His absence is a very noticeable hole in the fabric of our family.   I miss him every day and am constantly reminded that the special relationship between a mother and her son is every bit as strong as the father/daughter one we hear so much about.

Camo Kid

Camo Kid - My son wearing Daddy's uniform!

When he was young though, I would get so frustrated while shopping for his clothes.  I was forced to wade my way through row after row of pretty pink shoes and rack after rack of frilly and sparkly clothes to get to the solitary line of boy shoes and the one lonely rack of gray and brown utilitarian boy’s clothes.  Apparently shopping for boys is not meant to be fun!

When he would play, it was with trucks.  I would watch him digging in the sand for hours, wondering how he could stand to have all that dirt under his nails, in his hair, between his toes.  I cringe just thinking about it, but he could not have been happier.

Later it was G.I. Joe and any toy that could cause imaginary destruction.  For the life of me, I couldn’t figure out the fascination with lining up those little green Army men, just to knock them down!  Given the path he has ultimately chosen for himself, I guess he knew exactly what he was doing.

Then came the athletics.  At first it was t-ball, then karate and soccer and basketball.  By the time we hit youth football, the testosterone that invaded my house was, at times, overwhelming.  The Hubs bought me “Football for Dummies” just so I could follow the dinner conversation. Here again, my son knew exactly what he wanted, as he now proudly holds a position on the defensive line for the Army Black Knights football team. (Go Army! Beat Navy!)

My daughter, on the other hand, is all girl. On the soccer field, she is usually not the one running for the ball.  She is the one spinning in circles and admiring her manicure as the ball rolls past.  She’s more in her element during her Saturday morning gymnastics class where her favorite part of the weekly session is comparing the bling on her leotard to the sparkles on her friends’ clothes.

Princess

Princess Sparkles makes a grand entrance.

And speaking of sparkles, her closet practically glimmers when we turn on the lights. There is no gray or brown to be seen, and the choices in the stores are endless.  Even her toys have an element of glitter, and she would never even dream of playing with them in the dirt.  In fact, dirt is the enemy. There is no sandbox in the backyard for my four-year-old girl as there was for my boy at that age.  Dirt is now “yucky” and “gross” and cause for tears, where 14 years ago it was cause for celebration.  She would, however, love to play with her brother’s G.I. Joes if I would let her.  Their only role in her make-believe world, though, would be to drive the convertible for Barbie.

For all their differences, however, they are so amazingly similar.  The Beanie Babies that entertained the Older One, now snuggle close to the Young One at bedtime.  This morning during gymnastics class, I watched her sprint down a trampoline runway and launch herself into a pile of foam blocks.  As she laughed, I turned to the Hubs and said, “The Older One would have loved that too!”  Somewhere in the future I suppose, she will prefer football to soccer as well. The football team, after all, has a corresponding cheerleading squad that wears skirts and does cartwheels.

Tonight, after baking cookies and donning Minnie Mouse pajamas, the Young One will peruse her bookshelf, searching for the perfect bedtime story.  Chances are high that she will choose the same one she has picked every night for the last two weeks–a well-worn copy of a Richard Scarry popup book that lived on that same shelf 14 years ago.

I will turn the pages.  She will pull the tabs with fascination, and we will both shake our heads sadly when she gets to that last popup and says, “My brother ripped that one.”  She will be momentarily saddened that she will never pull that last tab, but my heart will warm with the memory of a little boy whose hands held the same cherished book and smiled with delight when his little fingers made the pictures come alive.

Yes, the balance of power has shifted…, but not much has changed.  I still pick up scattered Beanie Babies and read bedtime stories.  I still chauffeur a child to sports practice, and I still love two children.  One is just a little further away than the other and prefers to wear digitized camo instead of sparkles.

Stiletto Momma