Monday, February 28, 2011

"Get into the groove...."

"...boy, you've got to prove...."

Just kidding.  Yes, I'm a child of the 80's, and if you have no idea what I'm talking, er, singing about just, uh, carry on.

But getting into a "groove" is definitely a way to keep your sanity, wouldn't ya say?  I'll be the first to say that I think getting into a rhythm in life is hard enough on it's own with kids, a job, A LIFE THAT NEVER QUITS, you know.... the basics.  But a LEO family?  Sheesh.

Someone recently asked me on Twitter if I scheduled my days.  I gave a flip "It depends on the day" ~ which was totally the truth but somewhat a cop out.  What I eventually came to share was that I have a plan; a general plan, not a minute-by-minute plan or even a hour-by-hour plan of how to structure most of my days.  Of course there are certain days we have obligations and must be out the door at a certain time -- those are non-negotiables, obviously.  I'm even less structured than I would like to be, but that's because I'm a perfectionist.  Does anyone else see the irony in that statement?!?!  I'm a perfectionist, so the less I plan the better I am about going with the flow and accepting whatever comes my way.  And with a fly-by-the-seat-of-his-pants husband with an equally unpredictable job, it's really helping me manage my expectations about accomplishments in our daily lives.

In truth, I'm not even as scheduled as Monday/laundry day; Tuesday/Bathroom cleaning day, although I'd probably be better off if I was.  However, the things I do to keep our rhythm on a daily basis are:
  1. Have everyone's clothes laid out the night before, even for the baby and me.  Since I am always up before my husband, this is an easy way to avoid the certain groaning from him as I open and close drawers looking for that always-lost sock.
  2. No one eats breakfast if they aren't dressed.  While this is not a hard-and-fast rule every single day, on days when we have places to go/people to see/things to do, it sure gets everyone dressed and ready in a hurry.  Socks have to be on and shoes are by the door for easy access when it comes down to the last minute rush to get out the door.
  3. I check our calendar the night before to make sure that everything we need is ready to go.  This includes programming my phone with the phone numbers of people with whom I have appointments the next day.  That way if I'm running late, or they don't show up, I have a way to contact them and rearrange our appointment.
  4. Everyone packs their bags the night before.  The kids' things are ready to go, I'm ready, and it really cuts down on the morning stress.
  5. Speaking of the night before?  I make sure I have a plan for all the meals the next day.  I'm in NO way a menu planner  of the caliber of Mrs. Fuzz, but if I know the night before what's happening the next day for meals, I can chop any veggies and prep as much as possible the night before, or add to my to-do list to pick up that one essential ingredient I'm inevitably missing before 5pm rolls around the next day.
  6. This one is the worst.  I'm just warning you now: I do my very very best to get up and dressed before I hear the first tentative "Mama" calling from the kids' room.  On many days, it really really.... well, it sucks.  But when I have time to get ready in peace and start my day on my terms, it cuts down on the yelling (what? ME? yell?) and frustration I inevitably feel at some point in the morning.  The other thing that's nice in our house is that the kids are not allowed to get up and out of bed without permission. 
That's just to make sure our days go smoothly and cut down on stress when things (always) come up at the last minute.  The thing that really got me going on this post, however, was thinking about how the rhythm of our days and week has been pretty hard to mesh with my cop husband's.

We get up early.
He doesn't.
We have a weekend, like the rest of the world.  Well, the same days as the rest of the world.
He doesn't.
We eat breakfast in the morning.
He doesn't.
Afternoons are for naps.
His afternoons are the prime of his day.

You know, all those basic things.  It's been a continual, conscious effort to readjust my weekly rhythm to fit with my husbands'.  We don't necessarily use Saturday as a free-for-all weekend day --  It might be Monday, Sunday, or Thursday.

What tips, tricks, and downright skulldudgery do you use to keep your family in sync with your significant other?  Please share.  I'm trying to avoid the bitter side of life so help me out, people!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

In Case Of...

Did anyone watch The Bachelor this week?  If you haven't, SPOILER ALERT.  It's been a few days so I don't think I'll spoil anything for those who actually care by telling you that Brad (the bachelor) went to visit his four remaining ladies at their hometowns.  One of the Chantals is from Chico, California, and she helps run the family funeral home.  Her hometown date with Brad started off in the funeral home.  Talk about a romance killer.

At one point, Brad admitted that he is really uncomfortable with death, and never likes to say goodbye to anyone... well, can I hammer it home any more, dear readers?  Death is certain.  Life is UNcertain!  sheesh.  No big surprise that after Chantal had him lay on one of the embalming tables and showed him all her embalming tools, she did not get a rose at the rose ceremony.  No big surprise, none at all... Serious romance killer.

But when you're a law family, death is a little more... acceptable? Accepted? Talked about?  I don't know, maybe it's not, but it should be.  At one time I had a list of all the things that should be in my husband's End Of Watch (EOW) folder.  Who to call, what he wants, what to do, important papers, all that jazz.  Really, if you are breathing (which you are, if you are reading this) you should have a folder like this, LEO or not.

So in that vein, I thought I'd share with you a recent post on Unclutterer: In Case of Death... There are some very basic suggestions as to what you should have all in a centralized location (in your "love drawer" or "legacy drawer" as referenced to Dave Ramsey).  There are also a lot of good tips in the comments section, so read that too. 

Have you done this yet?  Do you think you will (no matter if you "should")? Some people just "can't" or "won't" do it.  What LEO specific items would you suggest adding to that folder?

Monday, February 21, 2011


I'm heartbroken that no one has shared any of their family traditions!  On the heels of all that jewelry talk (that so many of you had so much to say about!), I figured for sure a few of you would chime in.  But that's OK, I'll live.

Seriously, that's not the reason I'm heartbroken, though.  I'm about to dive in to some really sad stuff and I had to start off with a little bit of levity.

It's no surprise that our husbands see the lowest of the low on a regular basis.  That's part of the job description.  I realize that I hear very little of what my husband processes every week on the job.  I used to lap up every tidbit of information he would share after shift, but as time has passed.... I don't get as much info anymore.  There are plenty of reasons for that.  It's more "normal" now.  It's second nature.  "Everything" is not new and exciting and crazy and I don't desperately wonder about every moment he is on shift any more, and he has even less of a need to share it now.  I can count on him sharing the highlights, but other than that, I know there is lots of stuff that just goes by.  And I'm OK with that.

So when my husband walks in the door after shift and starts spewing words of the venomous kind before he even has his shoes off, I immediately know it's been a bad day.

That happened recently, and it was heartbreaking.

I'm really proud of my husband, in that he thinks like a "bad guy" all the time, even more than most other cops we know.  He drives me nuts sometimes.  He's always thinking tactically -- the best way to approach on a car stop if he wants to give the bad guy the easiest way to kill him (and he promptly does the opposite); why you should or shouldn't enter a building this way or that way... honestly I can't even think of all the things to list here because I've heard them so many times, I just kind of let it go in one ear and out the other.  Lots -- but not all -- cops do this, too; but they all should.

So when he came home and was sharing heartbreak after heartbreak, it really got to me.  I wouldn't say "mistake" ~ because I am 100% against doing the whole "Monday Morning Quarterback" routine on any well-trained individual who has a fraction of a millisecond to decide if he should do x, y, or z before killing someone or getting killed himself. In every situation there are plenty of other, better options you can think of after-the-fact.  It doesn't matter.  It was all heartbreaking.  Every few minutes he would pause and say "Hm, I probably can't tell you that..."

There's no one in my life that would understand all the things he told me.  And besides, with all those caveats he kept throwing in I wasn't sure what I could and couldn't say to anyone I would talk to.  So I'm telling you.  I'm heartbroken.

Hug your special people tighter.  Send your special one off to work with extra love.  And support them when they spew their venom.  How else can you help them see the best of life, when all they regularly see is the worst?

Photo credit JerryFergusonPhotography on Flickr

Friday, February 18, 2011


Yesterday we had a rare treat, where all the stars aligned and our entire family sat down to dinner together.  Shocking, I know.  This is clearly a multi-dimensional event: the kitchen table (also known as the school room, the craft center, and the kitchen prep area) was cleaned off so that everyone had a place to sit; I actually cooked a meal that everyone would eat; and the husband got home early enough so that we could all eat together.  yay!!

People the world over say that eating dinner together as a family five times a week or more is revolutionary.  Without citing actual statistics (I'm too lazy for that!), I've heard that this phenomenon combats childhood obesity, prevents teen drug use, and reduces the incidence of divorce.  Who knows if it is true, but if you think about it....  It kinda makes sense.  You have an intentional connection with a group of people and you carve out time for them during the meal.  It makes sense to me that there are going to be other effects outside of the now-I'm-not-hungry-because-I-ate-dinner effect.

My husband and I differ in our views of the purpose of a family meal.  He believes meals are for eating.  Period.  Too much talking is bad.  Just sit down and eat your food.  It's a family culture thing.  I recall the first time I sat down to a meal with my husband's family, and it felt soooo awkward.  Everyone was eating.  No one was talking.  It was incredibly quiet compared to meals with my family.  Sure, at my house growing up we would gobble up plenty of food.... but there was always plenty of talking, too.

One of the very best touchpoints that I've added to our family tapestry is the daily "Highlights and Lowlights".  It's an easy way for each person to share about their day, picking their one highlight and one lowlight.  It gives us something to talk about, and amazingly enough, is tolerated by my husband as acceptable "conversation" during a meal.  Obviously, as a law enforcement family, it's not always at dinner time ~ sometimes it's bedtime or even breakfast ~ but each person gets a chance to share their piece, whenever it is.  It's been interesting to watch the highlights and lowlights change over time as the kids grow.  It took a long time for our now-4-year-old to figure out the difference between high ("good") and low ("bad"), and sometimes they don't even remember what we did during the day and they have to be reminded.  :)  It's been a great tool to discover what's important to our children; things that I could have cared less about are almost always one of their highlights.  It gives permission to each child to speak his mind, and be the center of the family table for a few minutes.  There are lots of positives about this ritual in our familiy.

I've heard this regularly recently, and it's so applicable to me as a mom-in-the-trenches of early childhood with three children: "The days are long but the years are short."  So true.  I get bogged down in making breakfast, washing dishes, and wiping butts and noses over and over again every day.  I treasure the opportunity to reflect, celebrate, and learn from my kids with our regular sharing of "Highlights and Lowlights." 

What kind of rituals have you woven into your family tapestry?  I'd love to add more to our family, so please share!

Image courtesy of Rubink1 on flickr.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

To Ring or Not To Ring?

I remember those first few days of my new, sparkly diamond engagement ring shimmering on my finger.  It was an outward symbol of the inner feelings I had; I loved someone, and someone loved me, and I had great hope and excitement about our future.  In reality, I didn't need that ring to accompany that burning question (the one that came right after the comment about the "nerdy girl" he met so many years ago) but it was a special symbol that I still treasure.

Then, there was the question of a wedding band.  Did I really need one?  I had a sparkly thing on my finger already.  Why did I need TWO rings instead of one?  [For the record, I did end up with one ~ a plain band studded with my beloved's birthstone. Love!!]

It may be just a "girl thang" but I definitely feel different when I have that ring on.  Even if it's just the plain band, I love glimpsing that ring on my finger and thinking about all the conversations that got us there; the huge fight we got into (and he still gave me my wedding band); the day he proposed and what a shock it was... all of these things are wrapped up in this little piece of jewelry.

So when I don't wear it, I feel "less" married.  I don't know how you can feel "less" in that way but I sure do.  Now, back in the day I bought my husband a wedding band, which he wore for a while.  But he stopped wearing it somewhere along the road.  I even bought him a "cheap" replacement because he said he wanted something different/different size/other wife (ha ha just kidding).  But he still doesn't wear it.  I guess there are lots of reasons; it's more comfy without it, it doesn't get banged up, and it leaves some mystery as to whether my man has a wife and kids at home.  Good for the thugs trying to "come after us" in retaliation, bad for the 20-year-old badge bunnies that always seem to be creeping around.

So, I'm curious.... you first responder types out there.... do you wear a ring on shift?  Does your S.O. wear one on shift?  Why or why not?

Image courtesy of Fensterbme on Flickr

In the interest of full disclosure, I was not wearing any jewelry at the time of this post!

Monday, February 7, 2011

End of Watch (the non-LEO type)

She was the heartbeat of her family, and a gracious gift to any community in which she found herself.  She hosted a baby shower at her home, in the room she and her husband had built for "company."  They had carefully chosen easy-to-clean floors, pleasant lighting, and durable (yet attractive) surfaces so they could host many others in their home as a gift to those around them.

She was so much, to so many, although many would have called her odd.  She ate differently (no sugar? no dairy? eww) than most.  She spoke differently than many.  And she definitely dressed as though she were from a different era.  But she was clothed in a radiance from her heart and life that spoke volumes about her priorities, her loves, and what really, truly mattered in life.

It's been a while since I last spoke with her.  I always found it difficult to chat with her because she tenderly poked me in the places it hurt most; in my failing relationships, my bitterness, and my anger.  But she was tender.  And gracious.  And those "hurts" didn't painfully scab up when she poked them.  They bled a little, but they healed with her tender poking and prodding.  Her honesty!  oh, what painful, beautiful honesty she always brought!

This is a true story, and as you notice, it's written in the past tense.  I received an email today informing us that this dear woman has passed away and is in the company of God and angels at this very moment. For that, I am grateful.  For knowing her, for being poked and prodded and served by her, I am grateful.  I am sad for her family, for the marching on they will do.  Her children are around the age I was when my dad passed away, and I ache for them.

She wasn't a LEO, or a LEO wife, but it was a slap in the face for me to remember....  Is my life in order?  Would anyone say anything half as nice about me when I pass away?  I have a choice every day.  Do I make the best of my choices?  I may be wishing for "tomorrow" or "another" day, but today is the day I have.  Do I make the most of it?  Are my "end of watch" papers in order?  Are my husband's?  It's not morbid, it's reality.  I believe I've said it here before, but I'll say it again.  Many of us live as though death is uncertain, when in fact, it's LIFE that is uncertain and DEATH is certain.  The day may be unknown, but it's coming.  I want to do all I can while I am able.  I hope you do too.

Rest in peace, sweet, sweet child of God.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

New Job Title

Recently I was talking to a neighbor who knows enough about us to know that my husband is around when he "shouldn't" be and gone when he "shouldn't" be.  In the course of the conversation he asked "So, is your husband a student?" to which I listlessly replied "No....."
[and now which lie do I go with?  The "garbage collector" lie?  This is a good one because usually no one knows what to say to that and the conversation dies immediately.  Or the "public employee" line?  That's a bad one, people say "What department does he work for? Does he know [my long lost cousin/best friend/mother-in-law]?" Or should I go with the "I could tell you but then I'd have to kill you" line?  sigh...]
I settled for "No.... He's not a student.  He's just a loser."

I sure hope my husband never finds out that I said that, but gee..... It sure stopped the conversation in it's tracks.  lol.