Thursday, January 31, 2013

Christmas Cross Stitch

Merry Christmas a Month Late! And another check mark on the ol' 100 in 365 list! I had to keep these Christmas ornaments under wraps until after John's R&R and the two extra Christmas we had when he was home. 

I loved making these-- from shopping for the perfect ornament for each person, to stitching them, to giving them. I don't think I'll be able to do it every year, since I think I probably sank between 4-10 hours into each one (depending on the pattern). That's just not sustainable...especially if our families grow.  But I am glad that I did it this year.

(If you're interested in the technical stuff: all of these ornaments were stitched from Mill Hill kits and backed with fabric glue and felt.)

Now that my Christmas projects are over, I've started working on some very cute hangings that I can't wait to share! 

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Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Another TWO Bite the Dust!

During John's R&R, I crossed off a few more items from my 100 in 365 list. Over the next few days, I'll share those. It seems fitting to first write about the bookends of his leave-- when he came home and when he left.

First-- and appropriately-- John's return:

You've seen this picture before, but it is one of two photos immediately taken following John's half-homecoming. His brother took one in the airport of John-- and it's really cute-- but I'm in the background, awkwardly staring at something off camera, with my mouth gaping open, slinging my apish arms into my coat. In the interest of -- well, let's be real-- because I'm a little vain, I'm just going to post this photo again.

John's R&R homecoming was amazing. I'm so glad that I was able to be at the airport with his family to pick John up. It definitely did a number on my nerves-- when we saw that his plane was at the gate, my hands and arms went numb. (Don't worry, this happens a lot to me in stressful situations. I'm not having a heart attack. Yet.)

While we sat facing one set of escalators that we were absolutely positive John was going to take down to us, he took the other set, located-- of course-- behind our seats. Just as I was about to pass out from excitement, John popped up in front of us. Of course, we all freaked out-- hugs and kisses all around. I have not been so happy so quickly ever in my life.  And I have never squeezed John's hand so hard, or looked at him so many times, or smiled so widely. I should have done mouth exercises so that my mouth would not start hurting a few minutes into smiling so much.

And this scary gem is our goodbye picture. The sad thing is, we took a bunch of photos and in every single one, I look terrible-- puffy, bloodshot, red eyes, weird expressions. Just awful. So I opted for the least awful photo-- the one where I look like a creeper. And yes, this is the best one out of the eight or so that we snapped. (Did I mention I have awful coordination? I closed my eyes for this picture after I took it. I need to work on things like that.) I'll just have to embrace its awfulness.

The goodbye at the airport was much harder than I anticipated. We've always been a long distance relationship, and, unless you count the time we spent in college being in the same town (which we don't, since we weren't dating then), John's R&R is the longest, continuous amount of time we've ever spent together.

For those 15 days, it really was like John's seven months in Afghanistan had never happened. It was magical being able to talk to him without a Skype delay or a popping internet connection or having to end and restart a call five times before getting ten minutes of talk time. It was almost strange to see his face unpixellated, or to see more than just his head and upper chest at one time.  And the fact that he was 100% safe? That was the best part of all. After worrying for so long, it felt good to... not.

So having to give all of those things up at once was tough. I don't know if I cried more than I did the first time around, but I definitely cried harder. And I'm sure there were a number of travelers walking by us that I made extremely uncomfortable with my puffy, red face.  And no matter how many times we said, "It's just [a number less than seven] more months. We already did seven. It's just [a number less than seven] more," it still felt like the end of the world.

Originally, John wanted me to drop him off at the airport. And then we found out that airlines will actually issue temporary boarding passes to family members or significant others of deploying service people. So, I got a boarding pass and went through security. Then, John wanted me to leave him at departure atrium. I definitely couldn't do that. And then we were going to say goodbye in an empty waiting area before John's plane was called for boarding. But we couldn't do that either. And then we decided we were going to say goodbye before John's seating section was called for boarding. Nope, no can do.

Of course, we ended up saying goodbye when they called his section, at the last possible second. Every single moment, even ones that were soggy with tears, was precious. Walking away is always the worst. Every second, I wanted to run back and kiss him one last time or say one more thing or get one more hug, but somehow-- and thinking about it now, I really don't know how I did-- I kept walking away.

I wasn't sobbing or drawing attention to myself, but my eyes were pretty well swollen shut by that point. And I was trying to keep my head down so people wouldn't see them. I ended up almost walking into a pole. And into a garbage can. And I almost fell down the escalator stairs. It's a wonder I didn't walk into someone, but I'm certain that people were avoiding me like the plague.

And now, there's only two more items to cross off in that section of my 100 in 365 list: Make a sign for John's homecoming, and be there to see him come home.

I. Cannot. Wait.

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Monday, January 28, 2013

They Sent Letters!

Alright, here we go! I have so much to share with all of you! Now I'm a bit more put together (although the laundry still isn't done)-- look for a veritable bevy of new posts in the coming days!

If you've been reading since at least December, you'll remember that some of my coworkers and I teamed up and sent care packages full of letters, holiday decorations, and cookies to John's command in Afghanistan. (If you missed that post, you can catch up by reading it here!)

It wasn't our intention to start a pen pal program with the service members; rather, we wanted our students to write coherent, cohesive letters to someone they didn't know and we wanted to spread some holiday cheer to John's cowokers.

Over the past month and a half, we started receiving letters back! For many of my students-- who, remember are between the ages of 15 and 17-- this was the first time they had written or received a letter. In. Their. Lives. 

They were extremely excited, so we posted them on one of my bulletin boards. You can see that we amassed quite a collection of post cards, letters, notes, and pictures.

My favorite moment came when Bri opened her letter. I had been so excited to hand it to her-- she has a history of poor grades and bad attendance. However, with this project, she worked  so very hard on it, with so much care and pride, that I wanted to make sure that the response was extra special for her. 

I gave it to her the moment I saw her-- in the hallway. She opened it, and began reading. It was from John's commander and on official letterhead. At the end of reading it (after apologizing profusely for being a slow reader), she pulled a small Christmas card out of the envelope. Even though the printing of the photo on the front was a little grainy, I could make out John's commander... and John's roommate... and... John. 

And then I started tearing up in front of one of my students. Good tears, of course, but they were still tears. 

Because I teach semester-long classes, we can't keep up a pen pal program since my fall students have now transitioned to other classes. We'll have to come up with something to do this spring semester!
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Saturday, January 26, 2013

Cleaning Up

John left for Afghanistan on Wednesday morning. It was a tough goodbye, but nothing we couldn't handle. That sounds cocky, and I don't mean it to be. But after seven months apart during the "fighting season," four or five more months seems (almost, kinda, sorta) short. But more on that later. 

My bedroom is littered with my open, empty suitcase. Laundry is in piles, waiting for me to get the gumption to throw them in the washer. I've got belated Christmas presents to put away and a dishwasher to unload and then reload. There's a stack of save the dates that must, must, must be mailed this morning. While I was gone, my schedule at school changed, so I have an entirely new class to prepare for and curriculum to design on the fly. I've had to do some triage with wedding plans, and I have three guest posts I need to write. And there are two barely started care packages for John that won't finish themselves.

I'm sad that R&R is over. It will take me a few days to get myself together and get everything cleaned up and caught up.  However, I didn't want to let things go too long without posting, especially since you all left such wonderful, kind messages for John and me. 

I promise there will be many posts detailing our goofy R&R adventures. It will just take me a tiny, little bit of time to be able to look back on them and write about them with joy. I refuse to be a Debbie Downer for the last leg of this deployment. 

On that note, a few very exciting, bloggy things have happened in the last two weeks:

2) We are also currently featured on the SITS Girls for today's Sharefest!

3) We now offer advertising options! Our sponsorships are affordable and offer a lot of bang for your buck! Check it out, and advertise with Jo, My Gosh today! 

And now, on to the last part of this deployment!

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Thursday, January 24, 2013

I'm Baaaaaaaack!

I'm back! R&R was fantastic-- the best 15 days of this deployment to be sure (but more on that later). Thanks for all of the well wishes and sweet notes both on the blog and on Twitter. 

I've got lots to catch up on, but I promise, I'll have new posts up soon! (I already have a new recipe that I can't wait to share with you!)

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Monday, January 7, 2013

I've Been Waiting for This for 7 Months!

It's my hope that by the time you read this, I will have already hugged John approximately eight-thousand times. Because he's only home for such a short amount of time, I will be completely offline. That means, no tweeting, Facebooking, pinning, emailing or blogging for me. I do not want to regret wasting a moment of time that John and I have together (and with everything we have planned-- including wedding stuff-- we will need every second!). 

So, this blog will be very stagnant for two weeks. Afterward, though-- look out! I promise I'll have tons of awesome posts after I get back (including some new care package ideas for you to try).

Please feel free to comment, email, Facebook, or tweet me while I'm gone. I will get back to everyone after I put John back on the plane.

In the meantime, grab someone you love who's nearby, give 'em a hug, and do something nice for 'em.

See you later!

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Friday, January 4, 2013

So. Excited.

I am desperately trying to write this blog post without being completely distracted. I have a feeling this is going to take me twice as long to write and I'll end up with a handful of half-baked sentences when I'm done. I apologize, my lovely friends.

Usually, I'm a focused, butt-kicking, names-taking tornado of activity. This year, that hasn't been me. But right now, that really isn't me. I just cannot stay focused for the life of me.

And that's because...

This month, John comes home for R&R. 

Writing that sentence is so thrilling. 

It's been seven months since we've seen each other. I'm fairly certain that I have forgotten how to kiss in that time. (If I have, that's going to be one awkward scene in the airport.) I have to remember how to be 27 again, since my insane cross stitching binge has aged me about 53 years. (Don't mind me while I adjust my dentures.) I spent Christmas break shopping for new, cute winter clothes. I got a haircut and  I need to get a manicure and pedicure to convince John that I haven't let myself go to seed. (Although, during this deployment I've watched way too many episodes of "Honey Boo Boo" and convinced myself too many times that chocolate constitutes a legitimate dinner. I am shame-faced.)

Soon, at an undisclosed time on some day during January at an undisclosed place somewhere in the US, John's boots are going to hit American soil and R&R will begin!  

And until then, I have to keep myself busy with something, even if it's flitting from half-finished final exam that I'm desperately trying to write, to a half-written email, to an online shopping cart filled with cross stitch kits, to laundry that I keep forgetting in the dryer.

And please, just ignore the fact that I'm currently wearing half of my pjs and half of what I wore to work. I'm a happy, nervous, twitchy mess right now. I can't possibly be bothered with putting on a whole set of clothes.

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