Thursday, May 30, 2013

Bloom by Kelle Hampton

 I recommend playing Colbie Caillat's song, "Brighter Than the Sun" while reading this post.

I had heard from many friends that they enjoyed the book Bloom, but for some reason, I didn't feel that innate pull to read it right away.  For one thing I knew nothing about it, just that it was quickly turning into a best seller and soon after I learned it was written by a blogger.  I didn't know if it would be a good book for me.  I love mommy bloggers but an entire book written about a mom...could I relate?  I can't tell you exactly what made me sign-up for the pre-order or what e-mail or blog post did I see that led me that way, but I bought a copy through the paperback pre-order and waited.  When it arrived in the mail, I saw sweet Nella on the cover, exploring a beach.  I put the copy aside as I tackled in-processing at a new base. 

On my very first alert, I was incredibly nervous, anxious, and worried beyond all mental capacity.  Here I was in my role in the military and I'm sure my commander could sense that I was insanely nervous.  When it was my first sleep shift, I tucked myself into the bed mod with that copy of Bloom and fell in love with the Hampton family.  As Kelle Hampton share her family experiences, they helped calm as I did my first alerts.  If you've never read Enjoying the Small Things, you're missing out.  In that space, Kelle shares the trials, tribulations, joys, and laughter that her family goes through every week.  Bloom is just one segment of those memories, a time that starts when Hampton gave birth to her second child, Nella.  She starts her story with having the most perfect preparations in welcoming this new baby.  I had never heard of anyone not only being that prepared but even having a birthing celebration in order with champagne glasses in tow.  Her attention to detail and creativity was something that immediately picqued my interest.  However, when her new baby was welcomed into the world she found out that little Nella had Down Syndrome.  It was something that rocked Kelle to her core and kind of left her in an infantile state.  Her family and friends swarmed in to create this protective layer of love and support.  It was amazing to read that type of family dedication.  For me family means everything so it was beautiful to see that written out in a memoir.  I don't have any children, but I can imagine that anything that would create difficulties for your child or impair their development in any way would just hurt your heart. 

What I appreciated about Kelle was her brutal honesty about herself.  She was very upfront in how selfish she was at times and how in many circumstances she could only focus on her feelings because she had to take the time to wrap her brain around her new family dynamic.  A lot of her critics dislike that about her and in reading reviews of the book before I purchased it, a lot of negative comments were written about her.  Kelle touches on many similar comments in Bloom.  She wrote a blog post about her happy family and how DS wasn't going to bring them down right before they took a vacation to Southern Florida.  She had a difficult time enjoying that time off because of the comments that were made on that post.  I also saw similar comments where people basically denounced her experience.  It was almost as if people were saying because your child has x, y, z levels of DS, your experience is not reflective of my child's case of DS or what I've experienced with it.  Almost as if to chastise her on her life not being difficult enough.  That made me laugh.  It's her memoir in which she and her family choose to look at the optimistic points in their lives.  They incorporate that optimism into everyday events because they have a family and want each of their children to live life to the fullest.  Should she be sad and concerned and worried all of the time?  I certainly don't think so.  All that does is exhaust the body and mind. 

Personally I would rather spend that time enjoying what's beautiful in life.  With my job, that's what we focus on.  When we're off of work, we spend time with family and friends.  We sit outside and admire the sunshine and we laugh a lot.  Our job is exhausting and we spend more time away from our families than with them.  If we didn't choose joy, we would probably have mental breakdowns.  The term "embrace the suck" filters in and out of our minds, so we choose joy to combat those negative thoughts.

I love the dynamic that Kelle Hampton has with her family and I am so glad that she has chosen to share a part of that not only in the emotionally-stirring Bloom, but also in maintaining a blog.  She helped me out with a different situation and I'm sure she has helped thousands of people.  I am so glad that I ordered her book.  I want to read it again and highlight quotes that moved me.  If you haven't visited her blog, do so.  Her family is adorable and like I said, she is so creative!  One of my favorite "fun" posts is the Christmas party she planned. 

You should read Bloom if you want a true story that inspires and teaches perseverance.  I thoroughly enjoyed it and I think it was a beautiful book to read at this point in my life.
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Wednesday, May 29, 2013

What every 90's kid wants: a hot pink Triceratops

In my job we have partners who are usually more experienced than we are in our career field.  For me, I'm a deputy and my partner is a commander.  I am extremely lucky and blessed to have an outstanding commander who not only looks out for my best interests but encourages me to challenge myself.  She's awesome!

Anywho, we have certain sayings like #teamawesome and "you can't sit with us," a quote from the movie, Mean Girls.  We have a lot of fun together and I'm still learning a lot since I'm still very new to this.  One of our quirky isms is our love for dinosaurs.  It all started when during one of our tests, she pulled out a little orange Triceratops figurine and declared, "this is my lucky Stegosaurus."  We let her know it's a Triceratops but every since then we have loved dinosaurs and collecting them.  This past week, while I was hunting for anniversary dinner supplies, I came across this gem:


We're about to check out at Party America and there's this little shelf of doodads.  There are tons of these animals and I spot these Triceratops.  Of course my dinosaur senses start tingling and I pick one of these bright pink beauties up.  Well they're actually a case and inside:

My inner 90's child is squealing with glee!  Every good memory of Barney, the Rugrats, Hey Arnold!, Giga pets, gel pens, and so much more fills my soul as I see these itty bitty dinosaurs.  A necklace that matches the awesomeness of this dinosaur?! Say it isn't so!

So of course, I bought two.  One for me and one for her. Clearly we're besties, just in case she didn't know :)

I am totally wearing this necklace on alerts.  I can already feel the good luck vibes radiating off of them.

I also made a pit stop to Tarjay and picked up a copy of Silver Linings Playbook.  I have been waiting to read this for f-o-r-e-v-er.  If you're looking for a great online, blogger-friendly book club, this read is the choice for the Literary Junkies and you can find more information at this post.  I liked the movie although I think I'm more excited about the book- hopefully it's good!
Now I leave you with this picture so that you too can let your 90's kid dreams come true.

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Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Preview to Summer Book Swap! Link-up Here =]

Today's the day! We're all linking up for Preview to Summer: A Blogger Book Swap!
Thanks for coming on this journey with Me, Maria, Serena, Martie, Nina and Nicole.
We have loved having you as participants and we hope that you enjoyed your time blogging about books, your love for reading, and meeting other bloggers who love to read.

My swap partner was my fellow co-host, Maria, and I could not tell you how excited I was to have her as a swap partner.  All the link-up graphics and the banners that you saw throughout the entire process were created by her and she did a phenomenal job as a co-host.  Maria blogs over at I Believe in Story and has her own shop with really adorable prints.  Apart from being an awesome blogger and shop owner, Maria is a genuinely kind-hearted person who has fielded numerous e-mails from me throughout this process.  She is always there to offer a kind word and gentle encouragement.

So of course I wasn't surprised to receive a care package that is just as sweet as she is and when I opened it, the first thing I saw was this adorable card filled with mixed media ice cream cones.  Maria wrote out such a thoughtful note and although she is already one of my favorite bloggers long before I started book swaps, it only further cemented my admiration for her.

I could not stop smiling after the first thing I saw was this tote.  I love The Great Gatsby and Maria picked out this adorable bag from the company Out of Print and I was strutting about the house with it.  I may or may not have squealed with excitement.  Yes, squealed.

Maria has some great attention to detail because a long time ago (or in blogger terms, a few weeks ago) I said that I really loved this specific print from her shop and when I opened a brown folder in the package, there it was.

someday you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again
There is something so sweet and innocent about that phrase.  It feels like a verbal hug :)
She also included postcards of different covers, which I love!

Maria chose this darling book with short stories about summer.  This fits perfectly for our book swap theme! I adore this cover, it's so cute!  I haven't tackled too many books with short stories in the past and so I'm really glad that she has given me an opportunity to expand on those experiences. 

She also included one of her favorite books, Of Bees and Mist.
Here's a plot synopsis:

Of Bees and Mist is an engrossing fable that chronicles three generations of women under one family tree and places them in a mythical town where spirits and spells, witchcraft and demons, and prophets and clairvoyance are an everyday reality.

Meridia grows up in a lonely home until she falls in love with Daniel at age sixteen. Soon, they marry, and Meridia can finally escape to live with her charming husband’s family—unaware that they harbor dark mysteries of their own. As Meridia struggles to embrace her life as a young bride, she discovers long-kept secrets about her own past as well as shocking truths about her new family that push her love, courage, and sanity to the brink.

Erick Setiawan’s astonishing debut is a richly atmospheric and tumultuous ride of hope and heartbreak that is altogether touching, truthful, and memorable.

I am always excited to start a book with a strong recommendation from a friend.  Seeing that this is one of her favorites, I'm hoping to love it just as much as she does.  The elements of spells and witchcraft remind me of a fairytale and everything seems to tie nicely into the themes of the care package.

Finally she included a CD of a Canadian pop/indie group called Hey Ocean!  I love when people send me music from bands that I've never heard of because I'm always down to listen to great music.

Maria did such a great job and I could not be more thrilled!  If you love that print as much as I do, make sure to check out her shop because there are tons of other great prints as well.

Make sure to link-up below!

Monday, May 27, 2013

P2S Link-up Childhood Favorites

This week's Preview to Summer link-up is our last one before we share our swaps tomorrow!  Remember you can link-up here at The Simplicity to share with the other bloggers.  Many thanks to Nina over at run(dance)love for hosting the link-up of Childhood Favorites.  This challenge brought up so many fond memories of story times at local libraries and being introduced to chapter books from a young age.  I thought of school projects and kindergarten crafts.  I also thought of times when my mom and dad would read me stories and the time when I moved to reading them from my chapter books.  Many of these have become "classics" with me and something that I would like to share with my future children. 

Children's Illustrated Books
 Illustrations for a child and even still as an adult, bring a story to life with whimsical characters that are so easy to love.  The Rainbow Fish's tale of sharing was easily symbolized through the giving of the beautiful, sparkly scales.  Of course, with my resounding love of glitter as an adult, I think some things have stayed the same ;) Stellaluna was linked with a unit about fruit bats and I had large beanie baby toy bat that looked very similar to her that I loved as a small child.  If You Give a Mouse a Cookie spawned other similar stories but this one remains my favorite.  The illustrations and coy humor invited children to show compassion and courtesy to others with the entertaining fancies of a little mouse. 
I adored Clifford and The Berenstain Bears!  I would check out Berenstain Bears books from the library to read as many of them as possible.  I loved their family and the illustrations so much.  I was obsessed with dogs from a young age and so I loved the idea of having a large dog like Clifford.  I also loved the name Emily Elizabeth and wondered what I had to do to earn the use of two names instead of one ;)
Beginning Chapter Books
I hadn't read many of the Babysitter's Club books until my aunt picked up a huge collection of them from one of her friends.  Her friend's daughters collected them over the years and she had over a hundred of them to sell.  My aunt got the entire collection for my cousin and I to share.  I loved reading about the characters and Kristy's idea to start the club.  It was fun to "grow up" with them and see the character development as well as relationships.  When Mary Ann dated Logan, you cheered, and eventually when they broke up, it was hard but you just understood.  They were a fun group of literary characters to have in my pre-teen years.
I don't really like anything "scary" and especially nothing gory.  My "big" move was going to the section of my elementary school's library that held a large collection of Goosebumps books by R.L. Stine.  I read one and became addicted to these fast reads with plenty of plot twists.  These were my potato chip books and I would love to start collecting these again for fun.
Finally, Laura Ingalls Wilder was also introduced to me at my elementary school's library.  When it was our library hour once a week, we would walk down the hall and sit on the carpeted floor while the school's librarian would share with us some of her recommended reads.  There I learned about the Ingalls and how they lived in Wisconsin and lived in log cabins.  I read all of Laura's books and enjoyed seeing how she grew up from a little girl to becoming a teacher and eventually having her own daughter, Rose.
What were some of your favorite childhood reads?

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When I Married into the Military (The First Year)

A series of "welcome home" signs outside of the housing area we first lived at while stationed at Camp Pendleton
When I think of Memorial Day, I think of my family and the families I've met through being a Navy brat, marrying a Marine, and being an Air Force officer.  I have had so many experiences with the military.  I have known what it's like to not have your father there for your birthday and not understand because you're three years old.  I know what it's like to miss all of the major holidays during your first year of marriage because your husband is deployed.  I also know what it's like to have to pick and choose which special occasions you attend because you have alert and the mission is more critical than flying home to see a friend's wedding.  Everyday we are given choices.  Sometimes they're made for us and sometimes we have to choose the less of two evils.  We are taught quickly to appreciate the concept of time and to not worry about what we can't change.

When I married Ryan, I had spent years away from the military.  I had just started the AFROTC program at the University of Wisconsin and apart from that, I hadn't known military life in quite some time.  My dad ended his career with the Navy when I was a little kid and we moved to Wisconsin where he hoped to find better employment.  Moving to Camp Pendleton in Oceanside, California was this exciting adventure to me.  I had been watching episodes of Army Wives and I'm a huge fan, if you didn't know.  I sort of expected Claudia Joy to stroll in with some military flavor pie to help relinquish any of the stress that came with being a Marine wife.  Of course Claudia Joy is an Army wife and the obvious, not real.  When we first moved to California we stayed with friends in their apartment and I could not have been more awkward.  It was weird living with people that I barely knew and I just really wanted to have a house of our own.  When we moved into a housing area of C.P. called Serra Mesa, I was ecstatic.  Of course, there were stories.  Stories that involved new Marines with very young wives who were far too loud and rambunctious for their own good.  There was even a story of of a guy who killed his wife and tried to bury her in the wall.  I hadn't been with Ryan when he chose our house, but he was given three options and he chose a house snuggled into the middle of the housing division.  It was a smart choice.  We were surrounded by older service members and their families.  They were never too loud or rowdy.  Our house had been renovated and I was convinced it was because a woman had been buried in the previous walls.  No pets were allowed, but people still snuck in dogs.  I don't blame them.  I spent a ridiculous amount of time by myself and I would have appreciated the company of a friendly puppy.  Of course, when I moved back to Wisconsin at the end of that summer, dogs were allowed in our housing division.

Military housing is set up like a duplex.  Two houses often share the same walls.  Sometimes they back into other houses as well.  That's how our first house was; we shared multiple walls.  We had very little money.  One thing you should know about military folks, especially enlisted members is that they don't get paid nearly enough for what they do.  I submitted application after application trying to find some element of work in that area.  We only had one car, which we still have today.  I have a few pictures of our house at the time, which was small but still nice.  We didn't have a lot; just livin' off of love ;)


Right when you walked into the house, you were in the living room with a staircase directly in front of you.  Past the living room was a decent sized kitchen and a half bathroom to the left.  Up the stairs was a loft style bedroom that also had a full-sized bath.  There wasn't a door upstairs, only doors on the closets and bathrooms.  We also had a very small concrete patio that was more like a storage area for military equipment.   

Most of Ryan's income went to groceries and bills, we didn't really have anything extra to spare.  We saved and some of the extra money went into an end of the summer trip to Disneyland which I had been looking forward to for that entire summer.  Our decorations were things we received from our wedding and things that were supposed to be a part of our wedding.  We received a ton of gift cards and most of those were used to buy kitchen supplies and things like hand towels.  We started off with nothing, except for a Ninja Blender, a fancy platter, and a few other things.  

Despite being newlywed-military poor, I took great pride in decorating our house.  I was so proud of the bathroom upstairs and coordinating the towels with a military theme.  Our kitchen was red & white (Badger colors) and even our pots and pans stayed with the motif.  I was thrilled to make friends and one of the first couples that I just fell in love with were our friends Jeff and Meagan.  They were dating at the time but are now happily married (they got married earlier this year).  We've been through a lot together and they're fantastic people.  The picture above is when we had them over for dinner and we went to the county fair the next day. 

Like I said, when I first got to Camp Pendleton, I thought making friends would be a breeze.  I'm a Theta and went through so many recruitment processes that I could small chat with anybody (but seriously, I loathe making small chat).  However, I was rightfully put in my place as I learned that my housing area really wasn't set up in a way to make friends.  People kept to themselves and the hospitality that my Wisconsin neighborhoods were known for, were seriously lacking on this military base.  Of course because I knew no one, the Marine Corps needed Ryan to train all of the time.  He would be gone during the week and even weekends and I was by myself.  I soon became incredibly lonely and filled my hours with cleaning our small house (well that took an hour) to working out and going to the library.  The large base gym was down a hill from where we lived so I would walk there (since we only had one car) and the library was just past it up a very large hill.  I would often go work out and then head towards the library to check out books and movies.  We also had a neighborhood pool that I would frequent to either swim or tan.  I desperately wanted to make at least one friend and so I looked to the online Facebook groups.  There are a ton of military support sites and information pages.  I joined several and learned that many of them had more drama than support and found it more discouraging than helpful.  One of the wives needed a ride to see the chaplain and I offered to give her one.  Of course she was at a friend's house on the other side of base (C.P. is huge- like the size of San Diego) and when I got there, her friend was there with a baby in tow.  Apparently all three needed a ride to the chaplain.  I was already there and didn't really know what to say so I gave them a ride.  The same woman would text me constantly asking for rides and so after that first one, I learned to ignore the number.  That being said, that's not like me.  However, I quickly learned from people that I met that not all military wives are the Claudia Joys that we'd like them to be.  One of my good friends from back home was already a military wife for several years and taught me a lot about the base and military life.  We all come from varying backgrounds and education levels.  Some of the wives were straight out of high school and had never been out of their hometowns.  Others met their spouse the day before at a club and got married (I'm not even kidding).  We're all just really different.

However it was in one of those groups that I met one of my best friends, Ashley.  She was moving into a house across the way from mine and I was so excited to meet her.  A group of wives already living in Serra Mesa were introducing her around but to be blunt, I didn't like the group.  It turns out that Ashley didn't either.  The ladies were rude, catty, and just plain mean.  Ashley and I became fast friends and I love her style and personality.  We went to base classes together, painted pottery at the Hobby Shop, and saw movies.  We even met Tom Hardy together.

Our husbands deployed around the same time, so when I went back to Wisconsin, she went back to Texas.  Of course, we met back up again at C.P. the next summer.  No longer were we living in the same housing division (which sucked) but we had girl dates all of the time.  But back then, we were in the same boat- living in Serra Mesa and no monies.  We did everything free on base and had a ton of days spent at the beach.  We even spent the 4th of July together watching the fireworks with other friends.

We had so many memories back then that I just love and cherish.  A lot of that time I spent frustrated because I spent most of that summer by myself but the thing about military spouses and significant others is that you learn to be resilient.  You have to because if you don't learn how to be independent and flexible with whatever the life throws at you, it'll swallow you up.  At the end of the summer we took a trip to Disneyland with our friends, Meagan and Jeff.

Ryan had never been to Disneyland and it was a really fun trip.  I got my Duffy the Disney Bear and in that picture you can see me wearing a name tape bracelet.  That summer I became completely military-obsessed.  I wore the shirts, got the bracelets, supported small businesses that sold military stuff, etc.  I was all about it.  Nametape bracelets are a really popular accessory and I actually made some for awhile for friends and family.

It was such a cute trip because we got to sport our "Just Married" buttons and Ryan went on all of the rides.  I went a little picture happy with him and took hundreds of photos of everything but I know that he loved it.
There are a ton of memories to be made in this crazy military life.  You meet people from all over and they contribute to your experience and those memories that you cherish.  Living in Montana now, I still keep in contact with all of our old friends and they living in California, Texas, Wisconsin, Colorado, etc.  It's a challenging life and presents many obstacles.  But when someone comes up to me and thanks me for my service, which happened three days ago, it completely takes my breath away.  I am honored and those little things mean everything to us. 

Have a great, happy, and safe Memorial Day.

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