Monday, August 17, 2009
Saturday, August 15, 2009
"I stared at the sky and prayed my final prayer. "God, bring me home. I am ready," I said to myself. As soon as I was feeling completely comfortable with my death, I felt a hand grab my vest. I was being dragged across the dirt and gravel by someone I did not know. Then I saw a man in the wood line ten meters away firing an assault rifle at us. A bullet hit the shoulder of the man who was dragging me, then hit me in the abdomen and again in the leg. The man dragged me into his humvee and ordered the driver to drive. The gunner of that humvee continued to fire at the enemies in the tree lines. Someone in the truck put a tourniquet around my leg to stop the bleeding while the battle continued to rage around us.
I began to lose hope for our survival. Then all of a sudden, I heard the greatest sound I have ever heard in my life, the sound of jets flying over the battlefield. Two Air Force pilots who just happened to be in our area had intercepted our radio calls for help. They fired .40 mm rounds down both sides of the road, giving us time to escape the kill-zone and make it to the Medevac helicopter to load our wounded. I was placed on the helicopter first, then I saw one of my best friends placed beside me. He was not breathing. I started to break down. I thought he was dead but he was just unconscious. I saw many of my friends wounded that day but we fought hard. We did not give up.
As a child I had always wanted to be the "Hero". That is not the case anymore. I owe my life to a true Hero. I am thankful every day just to be alive, to have a second chance at life, to begin a new chapter with the pride and confidence that I learned from the Army and my men. I have a newfound respect for something much higher than myself, and the belief I can be great in everything I do and never surrender, never accept defeat."
Yeah, the deployments and the separations suck, but this, this right here, is why Dennis puts on that uniform every day.
Sunday, August 9, 2009
Keeping a home is a lot like pie making. It seems simple enough until you start getting advice from the experts. By the time you have gathered all the information on crust preparation, rolling pins, recipes…and parenting, cleaning, time management, marriage, financial principles, health and fitness, education, gardening and cooking, you may find yourself overwhelmed and discouraged before you even start.
But take heart. Remember that a pie doesn’t have to be perfect in order to be enjoyed and appreciated! I’ve gobbled down many pastries that would never make the cover of Bon Appetit and still found myself wishing for more.
Here are a few “Pie Making” tips that are good for Home Keeping, too:
1. Less is more: Fewer ingredients (i.e. outside activities) lets the flavor of your family really shine through. Resist the temptation to add “just one more thing” into your family’s schedule.
2. Enjoy fruit in season: Realize that there are seasons of life that are crazy, and there are some that allow for more freedom. When you are squeezed, don’t feel guilty about taking shortcuts. A store-bought crust is often a perfect solution, as can be a pizza night rather than an elaborate dinner for a busy family.
3. Don’t compare your pie to your neighbor’s. Focus on the things that matter to YOUR family, and don’t compete for cuter furnishings or more prestigious activities for your kids.
4. Don’t be afraid to mix things up. Your home is uniquely yours. Following someone else’s recipe for the perfect home may not work for your family. Find what works for you.
5. Keep your expectations simple: Pies are made to savor and enjoy, just like your home life. When you are committed to perfection, it is hard to find any joy at home. It’s really ok not to alphabetize your spices and color code your towels. Don’t set yourself up for failure by setting unattainable goals. Make small, manageable steps that keep you moving in the right direction.
6. Don’t let pie experts intimidate you. The best pie is the one in front of you. Take the ingredients you have been given, mix them up with love, and then don’t worry about things like pastry cloths vs. marble slabs. In the end, your home will be remembered by how sweet it was, and how it felt to be there. You must slow down long enough to savor what you have, instead of wishing for something better.
Learning to make pies takes time and practice. And so does home keeping. Even if you don’t get it right every time, there is no reason to stop serving up pie…or working at creating something good for your family.
The sweetness will linger to the last crumb.
Saturday, August 8, 2009
I did not partake in the grand feast last night. Instead I had a nice bowl of oatmeal. I was running late and did not feel like going to the chow hall. Oh well. I hope everybody is doing well and I can't wait to see you all again soon.
Keep being great American's and relax this Sunday, enjoy a nice cup of coffee, a nice newspaper and just breathe.
Thanks again for all of your prayers!
Thursday, August 6, 2009
Wednesday, August 5, 2009
Another option that is widely available in retail stores are Wrap-N-Mats. These are great, especially of you are using reusable containers. I don't have any experience with them, but I was thinking about getting one to use in Den's lunches since his sandwiches usually have more on them than peanut butter or plain turkey.
If you are worried about putting money into something that might accidentally be thrown away, invest in some of the small Ziploc containers. I promote Ziploc because they have significantly reduced the amounts of plastics used in their products and are BPA free. They are relatively inexpensive and there are usually coupons for them in the Sunday paper. I have read other sites that suggest reusing baby food jars, but I don't personally recommend that because I know how the girls' lunchboxes get thrown around and I would hate for there to be broken glass in there when they open it up. Another plus to reusable containers is that you can make your own Jellos or puddings from the box and then put them in the small containers to chill. Ta Da! Instant single serve puddings and jellos that are ready to pop into their lunches with no waste and tons of savings!
Tuesday, August 4, 2009
One of the other options that I was considering was this Bazura Bag. Bazura Bags come from a women’s co-op in the Philippines that set up a Livelihood Project assisted by the local village council. With almost no capital, the women found a very clever way to support themselves. Every day, children from the local schools collect over 50,000 used drink containers, called doy packs, then sell them to the co-op. The bags are sanitized and the women sew them together into attractive, durable bags. Unlike most third world factory workers toiling away in sweatshops, these women are entrepreneurs and shareholders. They work for themselves and have a positive impact on their community and, at the same time, they encourage environmentalism. These bags are a great example of the most basic principals of the green movement. They also don't just make lunchbags! There are all kinds of Bazura products, so even if you aren't looking for a lunchbox, I would encourage you to check out all the great products they have to offer.
Bento Boxes: These are a really fantastic option, although I have to admit I found them a little pricy. Bento boxes are modular systems that eradicate the need for individual disposable containers. The boxes are 100% lead free and made in the USA. The rest of the pieces are made using fair labor practices. These are definitely great if you are starting from scratch because this kit from reusablebags.com has just about everything you need in one place.
One other company worth mentioning is Built NY. Their Munchlers bags are SO cute and would be great for preschoolers and their lunch sacks would be great for moms and teens! Most elementary school kids, though, in my opinion, kind of fall in between the two.
Sunday, August 2, 2009
We will be reusing these bags again this year. Despite being thrown around, drug through the dirt and across the gravel parking lot, and various other mistreatments, they are still in excellent shape.
I did not do a whole lot of research for you on "green" backpacks because there are just so many out there to choose from. There are some things you should look for though.
1. First and foremost - STAY AWAY FROM VINYL BACKPACKS! Those characters are cute, but they are also made from highly toxic Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC). These backpacks also tend to be low quality and are almost always made in China.
2. Check out your local thrift stores - great backpacks can frequently be found for very cheap. Plus, you are reusing, which is one of the 3 R's of green living!
3. Look at the materials used in the backpack - shoot for organic cotton or other sustainable fibers. Hemp and bamboo are the first that come to mind. There are also backpacks out there made from recycled nylon or other recycled materials. Paige and Summer's backpacks are from Keen's Harvest Collection, which are made from 100% recycled rice bags and repurposed excess factory materials from their shoe production.
4. If possible, as in all things, choose MADE IN THE USA!