Sunday, December 30, 2012

The First Box of 2013

While I've had a love-hate relationship with 2012 (which you can catch up on here), I am already in love with 2013 (and it's still a day away)! Last year, John and I rang in 2012 together. For the first time in my life, I had someone to kiss at midnight. There were even fireworks and dancing that night. If I were the star of a romantic comedy, that night couldn't have been orchestrated more perfectly. 

But I digress.

Do you know how difficult it is to find New Year's decorations a month out from December 31? It's absolutely impossible. Apparently all of America does their NYE party planning within a week of the ball dropping. I visited five stores (including Wal-Mart, which I thought sold everything).  It wasn't for lack of trying, but poor John got a pretty bootlegged box of New Year's Eve stuff. Almost all of it came from the birthday party aisle. I guess last year, I should have trolled sales like I did for the Christmas care package... but everything would have said "2012." Ah, such is life.

Here are the contents for a New Year's Eve in a box: 

1. Those noise makers that uncurl when you blow them.

2. A bottle of sparkling cider. Afghanistan is a dry country.

3. Plastic champagne glasses

4. Confetti poppers (they don't have any gunpowder or flammable materials, so they're a-okay to send!)

5. More noise makers

6. A box of hot chocolate mix (because I needed something to take up some space). 

7. Candles. Yep. These were the only thing I could find that said "2013". I know, I know, the birthday candles don't make much sense, but I thought at least one thing in the box should say the year.

(Not pictured) A bag of coffee because John always needs coffee.

Because I was running short on time, I didn't have a chance to decorate the entire box, and instead, just did the flaps. If you want to do something similar, just cut a skyline out of black paper and glue it on a background of funky, Lisa-Frank-esque scrapbook paper.

I wanted to rig up the Times Square Ball Drop across the box, so that when John opened it, he'd see it hanging there (much like the birthday banner I made him). However, because every store was conspiring against me, I couldn't find a disco ball keychain (to mimic the ball) to save my life.

Who knows? Maybe next year we'll be able to be in NYC for the real ball drop! That would be awesome!

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Saturday, December 29, 2012

13 Posts for 2013

2012, wow. What a year! Strange, thrilling, maddening, challenging, frustrating, and elating... and all in just 366 days. I can't say that I'm excited that 2012 is over, but I can't say that I'm sad to see it go. 

2012 will always be the year that John proposed.  But it will also always be the year that he left for Afghanistan. But 2012 will also be the year that I traveled more than I have in a long time. It's the year I spent more time with my Grandpa, the year I started writing again, the year I began a blog, the year I completed a half-marathon. It is the year I lived in two time zones and tried to function in both of them. And, perhaps, not coincidentally, I was sicker this year than I have been for a long time.

I haven't been blogging for a whole year yet, but I thought it would be fun to take a look back on 13 posts to celebrate 2013.

As a teacher, I operate in the cycle of the school year. August 30th (or around there) always feels like the start of the new year, while January 1st always feels like more of an interlude. And since I've been blogging since the beginning of the 2012-13 school year, I thought it appropriate to categorize the posts with some high school terminology.

The Populars
These posts have gotten the most views, pins, tweets, and likes.
I sent John a box of faux sushi in September with the intent of giving him something to laugh about . I didn't expect it to be the blog's all-time most viewed post!  
During No Shave November, I sent John a mustache-themed care package with just about as much non-DFAC food as I could possibly stuff into it. 

An act of kindness made a box of bagels blog-worthy in November.

The Wall Flowers
I loved writing these posts, but they didn't get much traffic. Show 'em a little love now!
When I started wearing John's in June, I didn't realize how contentious the issue was in the military community. Nor did I anticipate the comments and questions I'd encounter.

We made it to 100 days during September. It was the first time I really wrote candidly about John's deployment and was a huge leap of faith for me. 

Because I'm a wuss, I just had to write about crying during a Sam Adams beer commercial. Yes, you read that right, and yes, there's probably a reason it's the least-viewed post in my blog's portfolio.

The Social Butterflies
These posts received the most comments. And I love reading what you have to think! It's always wonderful see a new comment notification in my inbox! 
I sent John an Advent care package this year-- 24 ornaments to hang on a paper Christmas tree. This was the inaugural post, and I was so pleased to see that it struck a chord with my readers!
During December, I sent my youngest sister what was probably the strangest thing she's ever gotten in the mail.
Just a day ago, I reached out to the blogo-Twitto-Facebooko-spheres and asked for care package help for a reader. The sense of community and response was overwhelming and touching. You are the best! 

The Teacher's Pets
My favorites. 'Nuff said.

I just loved this package-- it cracked me up. Plus, Bon Jovi. Is anything else important?

Writing this post was one of the most reflective, calming, and uplifting things I've done for myself all year. 

This was my favorite care package decoration I've made thus far, and John got a kick out of it too!

The Odd Man Out
There's always the kid who doesn't have a partner...
This is one of two recipes that John consistently asks for. It's easy, as healthy as you want to make it, and extremely shippable! 

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Thursday, December 27, 2012

Crowdsourcing a Care Package

I am eighteen years old and falling in love with my coast guard boyfriend. He has been underway once since we've been together or official as some would say. And he will be going underway once again in [the spring]...I want to send him sort of a care package. But since I cannot send it after he leaves I was hoping to find it all before he goes, and let him open [it] after he goes [underway again]...Now here comes the crazy part, WHAT THE HECK DO I GET HIM FOR ALASKA?!? Please help me find some cute ideas. I've thought of hand warmers, toe warmers, mint chocolates that he loves, and cute little proverbs we send each other. Feel free to email me back or run free with the idea. 
Thanks a million,
I think Chelsea's got a great start there. I've never been to Alaska, but just thinking about it makes me cold. I think the hand and toe warmers would be fantastic!  And, she's tailoring the care package to things she knows her boyfriend enjoys.
Here's what I suggested: 
  • olive tapenade (or other spreads)
  • salsa
  • crackers
  • homemade cookies
  • homemade granola bars (John swears by these.)
  • teas
  • coffees
  • hot chocolates
(Just be careful-- I doubt that there's refrigeration underway, so make sure that the foods you send don't need to be chilled after opening.)
  • photos
  • mini scrapbooks
  • mixed CDs (or loading mp3s onto his iPod)
  • SD cards with pictures and video
  • letters (Number them so he knows in what order to open them. If that matters, of course.)
  • a touchstone (A small stuffed animal-- like a Beanie Baby-- or something that means something to the two of you.)
I've never sent a care package to someone underway; however, it would make sense to me that most of what Chelsea's boyfriend would need or would be able to keep would be consumables. That way he wouldn't have too much to store in what, I'm assuming, will be a very small personal space. 

Have you sent care packages to someone underway? Help out Chelsea and sling her some of your fabulous ideas! Either comment, tweet, or Facebook them! 

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Wednesday, December 26, 2012

A Box in Time for Boxing Day!

Christmas Eve and Christmas Day were so wonderful! I hope that you enjoyed them, surrounded by family and delicious food, too! 

Now, as I struggle to stay awake on Christmas Day night while I wait for John to hop online, I'm finally able to publish a post about the Christmas Eve care package I sent him! 

John will be home on leave soon. (What an exciting sentence to type!) Instead of  Christmas box with Christmas presents, I opted to send items John could open Christmas Eve-- a stocking and cute stocking stuffers. This way, he was able to celebrate and we still were able to keep Christmas for ourselves when he's home on leave.

Almost a year ago today, John and I were sitting in my parents' family room when he told me he was most definitely being deployed to Afghanistan. There are no words to adequately describe those moments, except to say that that conversation is one I never want to have again.
But there was a silver lining in the timing of the announcement. After-Christmas sales. For the next month, I combed over Christmas sales and was able to grab a few things at 90%-off sales, including a stocking and a cookie plate and cup. (Yes, I did, in fact, start planning care packages a year in advance. I have issues.)

The basic theme of the stocking stuffers? Foods that Make John's Life Less Boring. John is the first person to say that he is thankful for the food he eats at the DFAC; still, it can become monotonous to always eat at a cafeteria (and eat the same basic foods) day after day.
The solution? Trader Joe's!

Trader Joe's is one of my favorite places to shop-- especially for slightly off-the-beaten-path items-- and it was perfect for a shopping spree for John's care package! I thought  including alternate salad toppings (like crab meat, clams, tapanade, salsa verde, and bruschetta) and fun surprises (fig butter, cookie butter, and the coolest thing ever-- a combination sugar, chocolate, and coffee bean grinder that I imagine John will use on everything from coffee to oatmeal) would make things a little less boring. As for non-edibles, John got sudoku puzzles, stationary, new flannel PJs, and a DVD of A Christmas Story.

I wrapped the outside of the box with Christmas wrapping paper, tied a bow, and then covered the entire thing in packing tape (and I blogged about it here). 

It's not the most creative package in the world, I admit. To be quite honest, I couldn't muster the energy, emotional capital, or time to come up with a spectacularly creative Christmas box and meet the USPS' delivery cut-off dates for APO/FPOs. The Advent box was the height of my creativity for the season. I'd like to think that despite it's ordinariness, it brought a little bit of home and Christmas cheer to Afghanistan.

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Monday, December 24, 2012

Ornament Round-Up

Welcome to my Countdown to Christmas Series. To start at the beginning, click here.  I sent my deployed fiance a box with a paper, pin-up Christmas tree and 24 small packages, one for each day until Christmas. Daily (or nearly daily) I will be blogging about the day's surprise!

Merry Christmas Eve! Today is also Day #200 of John's deployment, which is fantastic! To celebrate (and because I've run out of days of Advent), I present to you the rest of the ornaments that John opened and hung on his Christmas tree this year. 

For the felt ornaments, I haven't published templates, because I wouldn't recommend making them. (They're either ugly or more trouble than they're worth.) If you really want the pattern, let me know, and I will get it to you. 

 You might know that one of my goals for my 100 in 365 list is to make a cross stitch ornament or everyone one of John's and my family members. I love cross stitching-- especially Mill Hill kits that have bead and charm embellishments. It's not your grandma's craft, that's for sure! This ornament is perfect for John because it's a cancelled stamp (and if you're wondering why a cancelled stamp is perfect for him, read here).

I designed this ornament, but with five separate parts, it was a pain to sew together. It ended up being very fragile. I don't think it'll take more than two Christmases for it to fall apart on our tree. Maybe next year I'll try designing a simpler, sturdier holly ornament.

 Then, there's this guy. Close to my folks' house, there's a discount outlet that sells everything under the sun. I picked this ornament up because I thought it was so weird, so comical, that it would make John laugh. I mean, come on. A clear, plastic lion perched on top of a purple jingle bell? That just screams Christmas, doesn't it? No? I didn't think so either.

Finally, this is the last Pinterest-inspired ornament I tried. It wasn't a complete fail like this ornament, but it did turn out to look pretty elementary-school, and very lopsided. I don't imagine this ornament will spend much time on our tree (if any) when we're married.

Thanks for coming along with  me on this Advent adventure! Have a very blessed, merry Christmas and holiday season. Enjoy every moment of it!

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Saturday, December 22, 2012

Boxes of Comfort and Joy

Today begins something that teachers and students all over America have been dreaming about since (at least) Thanksgiving-- Christmas Break! 

To celebrate, a story about my students!

This fall, one of my dear friends and co-workers, Fitz  asked me if I would want to work on a project for John's command. Of course, I would! Eventually, the plan came into focus-- our students wrote letters (with my juniors mentoring and peer editing her freshmen) and made Christmas decorations. We invited the culinary teacher to join us, and her kids made cookies to package up and send, too!

I've told my students a little about John , but I'm extremely reticent about my life. After all, they're there to learn about English, not about me. But, it was fun to tell them a little more-- I showed them pictures of John, his coworkers, and Afghanistan. Each kid got a different service member to write, and they really became attached to them very quickly.

One of my goofy students, E, asked me, in the middle of class, if I ever worry about John. "Every single day," I said. The typically rowdy class got absolutely silent.  I told them about missing a phone call from John-- the only one I've gotten for six months. I told them that I wouldn't get to see him until January, and even then, he'd have to go back for at least another five months. You could have heard a pin drop.

My students are sixteen. They were in kindergarten when the US entered Afghanistan. Imagine that-- they've lived almost their entire life with their country at war. They don't really think about it, and they honestly don't know why we're there or why it's taking so long for us to leave. 

Writing is something that my students really don't like to do.  They struggled at first, even composing a paragraph to someone they didn't know. For many of them, this was the first real letter they had ever written (many didn't know how to address an envelope).

 Soon, though, their ideas were flowing. What did most of my students describe to their service member? Seeing the last Twilight movie. And yes, both boys and girls wrote about that. They wrote about school and their family's Thanksgiving celebrations. A student who was assigned to John added a post script recommending that he buy me something sparkly and expensive. "I'm thinking a necklace," T wrote. (Yes, T, you will be receiving an A!)

My favorite moment of the entire project was when I heard my Tasmanian devil of a student, J, sigh in exasperation. He was peer editing a letter with a ninth grader who didn't want to listen to him. "Naw, naw. Listen to that sentence. Listen to me. I'm trying to help you." He read the sentence back to her. "Does that make any sense? You think your audience will be able to understand what you're saying?" She shook her head. "No? Okay, so how can we rewrite this to make it clearer?" That is almost verbatim what I've said to J about a trillion times during the semester. It made me smile to hear him so confidently edit another paper. 

In all, we sent two boxes crammed with 80 letters, about 100 handmade decorations, two banners, and six or seven dozen cookies to Afghanistan for John's coworkers. For now, my kids are impatiently waiting to see if any of them get letters back. And I'm impatiently waiting to get my fiance back.

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Thursday, December 20, 2012

This Earns Me Coal for Christmas

Welcome to my Countdown to Christmas Series. To start at the beginning, click here.  I sent my deployed fiance a box with a paper, pin-up Christmas tree and 24 small packages, one for each day until Christmas. Daily (or nearly daily) I will be blogging about the day's surprise!

Let me begin this post with thanking you all so much for your comments and kind words. I really appreciate knowing when you all like or are going to try a craft or recipe about which I've posted. However, today, I'm posting, a grotesque excuse for a craft. 

Please don't try to make me feel better about this awful attempt. It's horrible. I know it's horrible. No spin or kind words will make it look any less horrible. 

So please, sit back and enjoy this sad, sad excuse for an ornament. I know I've gotten a boatload of much-needed comedy relief from it. 

First, let's look at the goal. When I pinned this ornament, I thought it was absolutely adorable. In fact, I decorated one of John's letters like a carved tree (see it here).  You can feel the hope and excitement radiating from my (poorly capitalized and punctuated) description.  Oh, the possibilities and cuteness this idea held!

And here's my sad attempt:

Bask in the ugliness of that photo. There's no sugar-coating that. It's plainly the work of some demented, blind North Pole elf. John's already living and working in a war zone. He shouldn't be further traumatized by the sorriest Christmas ornament ever. I sent it, though, because I had run out of time to make another, better ornament. Despite it's obvious failure, John hung it on his paper tree.

He's a keeper.

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Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Skating Through December

Welcome to my Countdown to Christmas Series. To start at the beginning, click here.  I sent my deployed fiance a box with a paper, pin-up Christmas tree and 24 small packages, one for each day until Christmas. Daily (or nearly daily) I will be blogging about the day's surprise!

 A few posts ago, I alluded to John's and my first, failed date, and I promised to elaborate later.

Later is now!

When I was a sophomore, John asked me on a date. We had been friends for about a year and had been spending more and more time together. At the time-- because I was stupid and clueless-- I didn't realize that he had actually asked me on a date... until John picked me up at my dorm room and we walked to the university skating rink together. (Don't ask me what I thought was going on.  I have no idea where my brain was at.) When we got to the rink, it was closed-- John had read the schedule wrong.

We ended up taking a walk around campus, reading historical markers, and being generally more awkward around each other than we had ever been. I was flustered and my dim brain was starting to figure out what was actually happening. The date really hit the skids when we stopped to read one of the plaques--and ended up reading about Penn State's massive strides in barnyard animal artificial insemination. 

And if that didn't kill our fledgling, struggling date, at the end of our walk, John asked me to grab some ice cream at the Creamery with him, but I had to write a paper for class. Of course, the minute I told him,  I realized how thin and flimsy my reason sounded (even though it was absolutely true). But it was too late. The date was completely, without a shadow of a doubt, ruined. Good job, Jo.

Last year, over winter break, we finally went ice skating. It was a lot of fun and righted our first first date. I found out that John had asked me to go to the rink because he knew how much I love skate, not because he was comfortable on them. I wish I had known that seven years ago.

It would be nice to tell Past Me to chill out and go get ice cream with John, but that wasn't who I was at the time (and if I'm completely honest, I'm still just as uptight). But, we do have long, interesting love story, and since we ultimately ended up together, I'm a-okay with that.

I just wish I could remember what grade I earned on that all-important paper.

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Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Shining Brightly

Welcome to my Countdown to Christmas Series. To start at the beginning, click here.  I sent my deployed fiance a box with a paper, pin-up Christmas tree and 24 small packages, one for each day until Christmas. Daily (or nearly daily) I will be blogging about the day's surprise!

Happy December 18! Today, there's no sentimental story to go with this ornament. It's a felt star with absolutely no meaning. It's just made out of cute, patterned felt, and it is one of the ornaments in the series that is the quickest to make. If you want to whip up a handmade ornament quickly, this little guy will take you about 15 minutes or less, from start to finish.  

Enjoy the free template and instructions, friends! As always, if you make one, send a photo to jomygosh[at]blogspot[dot]com! I'd love to feature you on the blog!

Have a wonderful Last-Tuesday-Until-Christmas! Cheers!

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Sunday, December 16, 2012

A Year of Dear John Letters

Welcome to my Countdown to Christmas Series. To start at the beginning, click here.  I sent my deployed fiance a box with a paper, pin-up Christmas tree and 24 small packages, one for each day until Christmas. Daily (or nearly daily) I will be blogging about the day's surprise!

Whenever my students complain about writing assignments-- which they do a great deal, I get righteously indignant. Writing is not just busy work. Writing is power. Writing changes lives.

John and I met in our college marching band, and we became friends fairly quickly. We ended up going on a date my sophomore year, which completely bombed. It was all my fault-- but that's a story for another time. John graduated, and then I graduated and we continued our friendship online-- chatting fairly frequently on AOL Instant Messenger (I feel so old typing that sentence!). John asked me out on another date. Again, I ruined it, and again, that's a story for another time. And yes, I, in fact, had a crush (of varying degrees) on John throughout college. I really wasn't trying to ditch him. I just had (and continue to have) no game whatsoever.

Being a normal, rational human being, he figured that I wasn't interested, and our friendship pretty much ended after the second-date-that-never-was. There was no animosity-- we just stopped talking to each other for about a year and a half. 

And then, John went to boot camp, and his brother posted his address on Facebook.  I wrote John a really painfully awkward letter and let it sit on my kitchen counter for a few days. It sounds exceptionally dramatic, but I swear to you, I knew that if I sent the letter, something  life-changing would happen.  

Eventually, I dropped the letter in the mail, and after a few weeks, I opened my mailbox to find a letter from John. It melted my heart. I fell in love with John months later, but I fell in love with his writing immediately. I wrote another back, and he wrote back, and soon we were on the phone for five to six hours every night (after he was finished with boot camp, of course).

Letters are still incredibly important in our relationship. After two-and-a-half years, I own two boxes full of John's letters that sit on the top shelf of my closet (and I'm filling a third now). There might be 150-200 in them, all told. John has just as many, if not more from me.

When John found out he was deployed, I decided to send him a letter a day for a year for a variety of reasons. Part of it was the challenge and discipline of doing something every single day for a year, but most of it was because I wanted him to have something to look forward to-- a tangible connection between the two of us. I love knowing that, even though there are 7,000 miles separating us, he can open the envelope and take out a letter that only I have touched. It's an old school and slow method of communication in a high-tech, instant gratification world, but it fits us completely. We're pretty old school, and it definitely took us long enough to finally get together. (But every moment waiting is completely worth it-- both before we were dating and now during this deployment. Completely worth it.)

For this ornament, I designed a letter to look a little like what I send John. In the lower right-hand corner of every envelope I send, I mark the number of the letter, so he can open and read them in order. Currently, I'm writing him #192 tonight, but I thought it was much better to embroider #365 for the facsimile. It's much more hopeful and happier that way; once he gets letter #365, he'll be home for good!

Check out the template, and make a letter ornament yourself! You could address it to Santa to make it more Christmas-y! If you do, send me a photo! I'd love to see how it turns out for you, and I'll post it on the blog!

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Saturday, December 15, 2012

I Did Not Want to Write This

Today, I was going to post another template for one of John's Christmas ornaments. And then, yesterday, Sandy Hook happened. If you don't want to read my thoughts about this unconscionable horror, I understand. It is hard to read about and watch, as we are a nation of saturation and sensationalism. In fact, I really questioned whether to write this post at all. I rarely write anything political because, quite frankly, I am so tired of the screaming-makes-right, my-way-or-the-highway, you're-the-devil-because-you-don't-hold-my-beliefs, rabid discourse of our country.

I recognize that many of you may not agree with this post; but I also know that you, my wonderful readers and friends, are rational, kind, caring, and loving people. And I know that you are saddened and outraged and disgusted by the cold murder of elementary school students. My intent is to, calmly and rationally, process my anger and frustration, and hopefully, create something that resonates with many people, regardless of their political leanings.

Time and time again, whether the shooting takes place in a mall in Oregon, a movie theater in Colorado, a grocery store in Arizona, or a school in Connecticut, the outrage is palpable.

As if we never saw this coming. 

As if we live in a nation where no one ever draws a gun on another. 

As if we had no idea there is such brutality and calculating evil in our borders.

After every mass shooting, people ask the same tired questions and make the same tired statements: Our hearts are broken. Why did this happen? Go hug your children. Who is responsible for this tragedy? Show more empathy towards each other. How do we respond to this? Carry a concealed weapon. Why are semi-automatic weapons available for sale? Prayer in schools is the answer. Why did God let this happen?

But nothing, none of that, no adage-- no matter how heartfelt or self-righteous-- can bring back a child, dead in their elementary school classroom. It can't dry  parents' tears. 

As an educator (and a living, breathing, human being), the rhetoric angers me because it is so impotent. Rhetoric does not stop bullets or prevent someone from walking into my classroom and turning a gun onto any one of my precious students. In an age of relativism, we too often allow discourse to boil down to this one idea: "You can believe what you want and I'll believe what I want, and we'll both pretend both sides are 100% right."  Because that's the easy thing to do. It's easy to sit back and continue with the status quo rather than doing the hard work of change. 

I am just as guilty as-- if not guiltier than-- the next person of passive compliance. I don't like to ruffle feathers and, while I enjoy debate, I don't enjoy conflict. And so often, the conversation about gun violence and gun control turns malicious with both sides slinging angry diatribes at each other. 

I do not see the average gun owner as a murderer or accessory to these heinous crimes. Personally, I dislike all guns-- their lethality terrifies me--but I grew up in a rural area where many people hunt. (Heck, we even got days off from school for hunting season.) I have friends who own weapons; my dad even has flintlock pistol, built from a kit, in my parents' house (I know, I know, we're up on the latest technology in Central PA).

But, I also teach in Baltimore-- a city with a chronic, debilitating gun violence problem. My five years as an urban teacher have not gone untouched by it.  I've had two students injured in shootings, one of whom is restricted to a wheelchair and will never walk again. Two years ago, we had a student gunned down in the  street, while his friend desperately ran for cover. And last year, a student took a gun into my school. Thank goodness he never pulled the trigger. But what if he had? What if he had in my hallway? Or on one of my students? Or in my classroom? 

And, my heart has broken countless times over the student essays I've read and conversations I've had with my kids who have seen their relatives shot in front of them, or who have attended funerals of friends whose lives have been-- often randomly-- cut short. My students are inured in the violence and abuse of urban poverty, and yet, when we talk about it, not a single one of them wants easier access to guns. They don't see guns as a solution or preventative to more violence. 

I won't pretend to know all of details and facts about every aspect of the gun rights/control debate; it is so multifaceted. But I do know this: if gun violence were a blind turn that resulted in multiple auto fatalities a year, we would fix the road. If this were a crosswalk on a dangerous street, we'd pay for crossing guards and red light cameras. If this were nightclub with a history of violent fights, ordinances would be created and the business given an ultimatum: clean up or close. If it were an outbreak of e.Coli because of unsafe food practices, the FDA would work tirelessly until those loopholes are closed. And if those measures failed to produce results, we'd recalibrate, fix them and try again. Because we're a nation of fixers, doers, and solvers.

But certainly, certainly the answer to this despicable crime is not to press on, pretending as if it's an anomaly. Because it's not.

How many murdered students, Christmas shoppers, and movie goers does it take until our hearts are so broken we are forced into action and into compromise?

Or do we just pick up next week, hang ornaments on our Christmas trees, wrap presents, and slowly forget about the twenty families that will be taking down small stockings from their mantles?

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Thursday, December 13, 2012

At the Heart of Christmas

Welcome to my Countdown to Christmas Series. To start at the beginning, click here.  I sent my deployed fiance a box with a paper, pin-up Christmas tree and 24 small packages, one for each day until Christmas. Daily (or nearly daily) I will be blogging about the day's surprise!

It's been a while since I've blogged about the ornaments in John's Advent care package. I have been snowed under with work-- the kids are always a little nuts before Christmas break, there are progress reports, and there's always holiday break work to prepare. But, tonight's Thursday night and I have a rare moment to myself... time to catch up on the blog!

Yesterday, John opened a package to find a very simple heart ornament. It is small (if you download the template, you'll see what I mean). As I made it, I could not get "The Shape of My Heart" by the Backstreet Boys out of my head (and now, of course, as I'm writing this post, it's back, bouncing around my brain), which is proof positive that I'm 100% a child of the 90's.

If you'd like to make one of your own, check out the free template and directions! If you do make one, send me a photo! I'd love to put it up on the blog!

In other news, this week has been the biggest-- ever-- for Jo, My Gosh! The week started out with a guest post on Deployment Problems' blog. Then, on Wednesday, the Advent care package was featured on Love From Home's blog. And, just today, Glued To My Crafts and Natural and Free notified me that Jo, My Gosh! won a Top 5 spot during their 12 Days of Christmas (Goodies) link-up! Please pop on over to any and all of these fantastic blogs-- you will love every single one, I promise! 

I am so thrilled and humbled by all of the attention Jo, My Gosh! has gotten this week. When I started this blog, I really never thought anyone (other than my mom, of course) would be remotely interested in what I have to say. I'm absolutely loving getting to meet so many fantastic people all across the globe and having the opportunity to write again!

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Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Packages, Boxes, and Bags!

Today's is just a quick post and it's not rocket science. In fact, I'm pretty embarrassed I didn't think of it myself. Instead, I saw it on (where else?) Pinterest.

I shipped John's Christmas Eve packages (another post to come in, oh, 13 days) about a week ago. I wrapped the Priority boxes in wrapping paper, tied them with bows, and covered everything with packing tape. 

It's such an easy, cute fix to making Priority boxes look festive and pretty! As long as it's secured with packing tape, you really can't go wrong!

When I took these boxes, I also had Becky's peppermint stick, a birthday present for John's sister, and two other boxes of Christmas goodies for John's command from students at my school. And I refused to make two trips to my car... so I shlepped them all into the Post Office at once. I got death stares from other patrons and a very sad, bewildered sigh from the postworker who had the awful fate of processing so many customs forms. I'd like to believe they were just jealous of my superhuman strength and extraordinary ability to balance four boxes and carry a tote packed with a gigantic peppermint stick.

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Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Do You Know The Muffin Man?

It feels like I've taken such a hiatus from my blog-- but it's only been two days! So many fantastic things have happened in the past 48 hours (some of which you'll read about in just a bit!). But I digress. I've got another Countdown to Christmas ornament post for you!

I have resolved to not say that this ornament is one of my favorites. I have an annoying habit of qualifying all of my posts that way. This is not one of my favorite ornaments. But it is a funny one. It's definitely unique. It's definitely a twist on an old Christmas standard. And it's definitely unexpected! 

When I saw this ornament on  Elsie Marley's blog, it immediately reminded me of Shrek and the scene with the gingerbread man talking to the dungeon torturer. ( "Do you know The Muffin Man?" "The Muffin Man?" "The Muffin Man!") I thought it was absolutely genius, and, because there was already a template and directions included on the blog, I just had to try it out!

I think he turned out just wonderfully, and I'll be happy to have him on our Christmas tree next December. Maybe by then I'll have a chance to make a glass of milk to accompany this little guy!

And now for some exciting news! Yesterday, I was featured as a guest blogger at Deployment Problems. I wrote a post about preparing for deployment. It was difficult to write and think about (since I prefer not to really think about the days leading up to and after John's deployment). Ultimately, though, I think it's important to talk about (even if it makes me uncomfortable). Click over and check it out!

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