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Chaplain Moments: Difficult Challenges

I had a difficult time with what this week’s Chaplain Moment would be.  It was a difficult week for my squadron.  I won’t be going into it at all but since this is written primarily for the Airmen of my squadron it would be disingenuous to ignore it completely.  

It brought to mind the lyrics of a country song by Rodney Atkins:

Well you know those times
When you feel like there’s a sign there on your back
Says I don’t mind if ya kick me
Seems like everybody has
Things go from bad to worse
You’d think they can’t get worse than that
And then they do

Now, I am not saying things will get worse when you are in a tough situation but it does sometimes feel like we have been blindsided.  When that happens it usually will take some time to find our rhythm but we do that by getting back on the bull, so to speak.  

Which brings me to the chorus of the song:

If you’re going through hell
Keep on going, don’t slow down
If you’re scared, don’t show it
You might get out
Before the devil even knows you’re there

When we find ourselves in these situation the way out is to keep pushing to be our best in all areas, to encourage one another, and make sure that we stay connected and engaged with one another.  Nothing about our mission has changed.  We still have a job to do.  

Here is a challenging thought:  One of the hardest decisions you’ll ever face is choosing to walk away or try harder.  Let’s continue to try harder and make Team Morón the best it can be.

Allow me to leave you with this prayer:

“May we have strength to walk difficult paths, compassion to assist those who stumble, wisdom to make the right decisions, and certainty that we do not walk the path alone.

“Ch Taser”

Sevilla/Seville

We  love living near Sevilla, and I couldn’t wait to take my parents to see the city we love!  It was our first time taking a carriage ride there too!

The architecture in the city is amazing!

We went to the Cathedral and saw where Christopher Columbus is buried… well, at least part of him is buried here!

We took a nice carriage ride around the Plaza de Espana.  It was so beautiful!

Gibraltar

We took a day trip and drove down to Gibraltar.  So much fun and history!!

The first stop we made was to one of the Pillars of Hercules.  Apparently, there were two pillars that Hercules held on to and pushed apart or pulled together the two continents of Europe and Africa.   I can’t remember which one, but this is from the European side, looking across at Africa.   It was really windy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The next stop was a cave with beautiful lighting.  I really loved how cool it was in there.  The cave was set up to be used as a hospital during war, but it didn’t have to be used.

 

We drove on up to the “Top of the Rock” and got to hang with the monkeys for a bit.  One of the babies tried to see if Momma had any food in her purse!   They were adorable!

After we left the monkeys… we went to a cave that was used to defend the rock.  Cannons holes are still there.

           

 

 

Ipsy Bag Review – April 2017

Ipsy is a monthly subscription makeup bag that comes with five sample size products and other beauty products for $10 a month with free shipping.

This month’s Ipsy Glam bag was a red-orange ticket!

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The first item that I received in my glam bag was the MicBeauty Highlighting Powder in Shade #3. This highlight was a perfect shade for my skin tone and was very pigmented.

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The second item that I received was the Glamour Dolls Lisa Frank Angle Blush Brush. This brush was very soft, but I didn’t really like it. I felt like it didn’t pick up the product very well.

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The third product that I received was the Hanalei Aloe soothing Gel. This smelled amazing, and was very refreshing. It was kind of sticky when I was first putting in on, but once you rub the product in it leaves your face smooth and refreshed.

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The fourth product was the Ciate London Mini Bamboo Bronzer in Star island. This bronzer was very pigmented. It was the perfect shade for me and was a very warm color.

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The fifth and final product that was in my glam bag this month was the Hey Honey Besame Mucho. This lip balm was by far my favorite thing that I received. It smelled amazing and was very hydrating.

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Out of all of the products that I recieved this month in my glam bag the only thing that I wouldn’t buy was the Glamour Dolls Blush Brush.

 

— Chyna

Morocco

While my parents were visiting, we took a day trip to Tangiers in Morocco.  It was a great day with great people!!

We took a ferry ride to get from Tarifa, Spain to Tangier, Morocco… There were a LOT of people on the ferry because it was Holy Week in Spain (read about our Semana Santa experience if you missed it).   The beginning of a great day!!

The day in Morocco started with a walk through the old part of town.  It was market day, so there were lots of people selling fresh produce, spices, and plenty of trinkets.

Our guide led us to some of his friends who were charming some snakes!  My mother volunteered to have them put one of the snakes on her.

After a huge, wonderful lunch, we went for a drive around the city and out of the city for the funniest camel ride I’ve ever seen in my life.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We then went to the Caves of Hercules before making our way back to the ferry for our return trip.

Goodbye Morocco!!!

The real adventure started after we got back to Tarifa and found out our cars had been towed because we parked next to a sign that said we had to move our cars before 6:00pm.  We didn’t make it back in time, so the cars were gone, and Amy and I had to walk to the police station, ride in the back of a police car to get the cars, and drive through horrible traffic to come back and find everyone else to head home.

All in all, a very long and wonderful day!!

 

 

 

He Said, She Said: How do you Stay Connected During a Deployment?

This post was originally published on 8 April 2017 on Daily Blog.

Want to know what couples go through when they are separated because of a deployment?  The first answer is probably none of them go through the same things, but the way they choose to stay connected and cope with being apart is something we can all use when we are far away from someone we love.

I asked the same series of questions to couples in different stages of deployments and with different situations they were leaving behind.  I’ll be sharing updates about them here with you.

Here is how *Rachel and *Josh are staying connected:

SHE SAID…

Me:  Can you give us a little family background and pre-deployment plans for connectivity with your husband?
Rachel:  We are a very close knit family of four.  Jeremy and I have been married for 19 years, our daughter is 15 and our son is 11.  My son plays travel hockey and my daughter, travel volleyball.  My husband and I always kept in touch during previous deployments by letter, email and our two telephone calls a month.  Technology has definitely made keeping in touch a lot easier this time around.  I opened email addresses for both of my children through Yahoo so that he could send them messages privately.  We also all have a telephone so they are able to see their messages from him all day.  We had decided that he would video chat with us at the same time each night, which is new for me, but he found a site, TANGO, that allows for this by using Wi-Fi.  He gets up to get ready for work and calls us as the kids are getting done for the night and ready for bed.  It has worked out wonderful considering the 9 1/2-hour time difference.  We have also been able to dial him in at both of the kids sporting events as long as the building has Wi-Fi too.  It has really helped make them all feel like he is still here sometimes.

 

Me:   What has been the hardest part of adjustment?

Rachel:  This is definitely not our first deployment but definitely the toughest.  The kids are older and into many activities, which he has missed most of since leaving.  I also home-school my son, so the fact that my husband has been gone for most of the school year has been hard on me.  There are not many instances for breaks until my daughter is home.  And even after all our other deployments, this is the one that I absolutely miss him the most.  We are so close to the end of his career that I worry more about him now than I ever did before.

 

Me:       Has anything in the house/car broken since he left? 😜🙄

Rachel:  I haven’t had any technical problems with the house or car since I do make sure the keep most things up to date.  Our home security system went crazy and I had to fight with Cox to get it fixed without having to pay for it.  That is usually my bigger stressor, that I do take care of all our finances and things that need to be taken care of with the house and kids. The only thing broken is me when I cannot be at both kids’ events at the same time. I hate having to send my older one with another family, but we’ve been so blessed with help from friends.
Me:       Anything specifically working or not working to feel connected?  Technology issues or emotional issues?

Rachel:  Our nightly video chats are what keeps us sane.  Although I will say that when he doesn’t call on time, I do worry about him.  I have to remember that his Wi-Fi is not always working and that there are things happening over there that call him away.  He usually tries his best to let me know when that happens.  Email has been great too.  I usually always have a message from him.  Snail mail has been more of a problem this time.  Things are taking so much longer this deployment than many others.  And because he missed so many holidays this time, we do send him quite a few things.  He gets them but most times very late.
Me:       What Resources are you using to help cope?  Military resources or friends/family resources?

Rachel: The base we are at does not have a lot of programs suited to families.  Our deployment manager has done his best at creating events each month, but because we are a joint base and the bases are quite a distance, we usually only attend the ones that are closest to us, 2 in the last 4 months.  I haven’t made a lot of friends this time around either so the fact that I am super busy with the kids has helped make the time feel like it’s gone by pretty quickly.  But that does not leave a lot of me time and there really is not much to do here.  We’ve definitely had much better assignments during other deployments.  I know you have to make it the best that you can, so we definitely do not sit around feeling sorry for ourselves.
Me:       Any other Family members’ adjustment problems or successes (specifically if you have children)?

Rachel:  My kids definitely miss their daddy, but they are both holding up well considering the circumstances.  My daughter is a teen and sometimes she is harder to read. I know she misses him though.  She does do her best to fill him in every night about things that have happened during her day.  My son on the other hand wears his heart on his sleeve.  He has done well with but will be the one to remind me that dad is calling in 7 minutes, or dad must not be calling us since it’s past 8:30.  He asks questions about what dad does all the time and has already began making plans on what he and my husband will be doing once he returns home.  I am used to these separations but it has been a lot harder on me this time around.  I get scared when things happen, that I know he is involved with.  We’ve been together so long that I just want him to come home, what might be our last deployment time.  But I have to get up every day and take care of the responsibilities here and my kids need me until their daddy comes home.

 

HE SAID

Me:       How long have you been there and how much time do you have left before returning home?

Josh:    I have been gone for the last 131 days. I am expecting to be here around 60 more days.
Me:       What has been the Hardest part of adjustment?

Josh:    Missing out on family moments. Christmas, Valentine’s Day, School Dances, Volleyball games and practices, Hockey Games and practices, homework, television on the couch, lunches and dinners.
Me:       What is not hard?

Josh:    This is my fifth deployment and probably my last so Renee and I have been through this
many times. Our daughter (15) has been through one previous deployment, but our son (11) is getting this for the first time. The hardest thing on this deployment was seeing him cry at the airport when I was leaving knowing that he was going to have to go through this.
Me:       Do you feel connected to what is going on back home?

Josh:    I feel connected to what my family is doing back home but local news or even national news I really have no clue. I do not spend a lot of time reading about it or watching the television. To be honest I work 12 to 14 hours a day and do an hour or so in the gym followed by a couple of hours of homework per night. I do have contact with my family every day to catch up on what has happened for the day. I have been able to watch a few hockey games and some volleyball games via internet which has been great.
Me:       What resources are you using to stay resilient?  Are those local military resources or friends/family or something else?

Josh:    Am I staying mentally, spiritually, physically and emotionally resilient? Yes. We have had some very traumatic experiences on this rotation but the local family (Squadron) have pulled together to support
each other. We have some very good fitness accommodations. Our chapel staff comes over at least once every week and is very easy to get in touch with.  Emotionally, I am fine as well. Just miss my family and am ready to head home and see them again.

___________________________________________________________________________

Thank you both for your service to our country and for sharing with us how you stay connected.  I pray for a wonderful reunion for this family.

Send someone my way if you think they’d like to talk to me about their deployment.  I love hearing all the different ways people stay connected and I’m sure they will help other people in future deployments.

Chaplain’s Moment: Go Together!

As the military moves into its heavy PCS (permanent change of station) season, particularly ours, I begin to feel a certain kinship with those who have weathered the storm with me.  The great thing about a place like Morón, a remote assignment of either 15 or 24 months, is that you get to know the people you are stationed with in ways that you don’t normally do so.  It is unavoidable because “we are all we got”.  

We see each other’s everything, warts and all.  And there is good in that, allowing us to bond and connect in ways that don’t happen at a larger installation.  But there is also some bad because there is no “off” time.  There is really no place to go where you can escape from someone you either work for or works for you or see you as a peer.  

In many ways, especially for leaders, you must always be “on”.  No matter where you go there are eyes on you and after two years people have seen you at your best and at your worst.  What I don’t want to miss in that and what I don’t want you to miss is how special that is and how much of a difference that can make in what we can do.

My good friend Dave shared an African proverb with me that really struck a chord: “If you want to go fast, go alone.  If you want to go far, go together.”  You may be quicker and more efficient doing things on your own but you accomplish far more when you work as a part of a team, as a part of a family.  The proverb, of course, is about running.  Running with a partner or group helps you to go farther because they are there to encourage and push you to do better.  

I leave you with this quote by writer and runner Kristin Armstrong: “There is something sacred…about friendships forged through the miles.  We see the depths of each other–the pain, the sweat, the commitment, the frailty, the strength, and the courage.”  The “miles” spent to together as Team Morón are not easy but they are forging relationships stronger than you could ever imagine.

—— Chaplain Taser

Thirteen Reasons Why… NOT!

{Spoiler Alert}  If you haven’t seen the TV show or haven’t read the book, this review will spoil it for you.  Be Aware!!

Thirteen Reasons Why started off as a really good show, until Clay started to really get into the tapes.  The first few tapes weren’t that bad, and they were the typical teenage problems.  Once you get deeper into the show the tapes get darker and become more graphic.

I thought the last two episodes were very graphic and could be very triggering for people with a past of sexual assault, self harm, or suicidal thoughts.  There were multiple times when I had to look away and couldn’t watch anymore because of the graphic scenes.

  1. When Clay was at the basketball game and the has a hallucination of Hanna in the middle of the basketball court with both of her wrist slit.
  2. The first rape scene. You watch Hanna’s friend get raped by her boyfriend’s best friend.
  3. When clay pulls up one of his old friends sleeve revealing self harm scars and cuts.
  4. The second rape scene where you watch as Hanna gets raped by the same person that raped her friend.
  5. You listen, in great detail, of how Hanna killed herself.  You watch as she prepares to kill herself, and then you watch her kill herself.  After you have watched all of that, you watch as her parents find her and try to save her.

Through the entire show everyone says that Hanna is selfish for killing herself and that she did it for attention.  They never talk about other options and ways to get help with mental illness.  The only time they mentioned talking to someone was at the very end when Hanna “gives life one more chance” and the counselor basically just brushes her off.  I’m glad that the show is about mental illness and suicide, but I just wish that they would have portrayed everything a little better.  I would not recommend that anyone watch this show.

— Chyna

PCS: Checklists Galore

This post was originally published on 1 April on the Daily Blog.

This week I was reminded that even though I’m far from my extended family, I’m still surrounded by people who show love to us.  A retired military contractor who works here (he’s leaving Spain this week to move back to the states) found out we were moving to South Dakota and contacted Ron to see if we wanted to meet him for lunch one day to answer any questions we might have.  I’ve never met this man, and all he knows is that we have kids and we’ll be moving to his home town.  He met with us the day before he was scheduled to fly out to move back to the states.  Y’all, he wrote three hand-written pages of things that we should see and do in Rapid City and the surrounding area.  He talked to us for over an hour and went over each one of the 29 points.  It was an incredibly thoughtful thing for him to do for us and I appreciate it so much.  Speaking of checklists…

 

It’s been a couple of weeks since we found out where our next duty station will be.  We are in the middle of my checklist for the move.

  1. Search Facebook for groups.
    1. This turned up more groups than I can keep up with, so now I’m in the process of figuring out which ones I want to be in.
  2. Find out about fostering.
    1. I’ve not been able to contact the county offices because Rapid City is on the edge of two counties. Until we know where we will live, it’s going to be hard to narrow down our county office.  I have written an email to the state-wide foster parenting website, but I’ve not gotten a reply in over a week, so I need to do more follow-up work on this one.
  3. Homeschool Rules.
    1. I quickly found a wonderful Facebook group for homeschoolers and they informed me of the South Dakota homeschooling rules. More lenient that Maryland in some areas, except for mandatory testing for certain grades.  We are all satisfied with the laws except for the one who will have to take standardized tests for the first time in his 13 years of life.  Just another learning experience, right?
  4. Houses to live in.
    1. I’ve just stopped looking. I have found multiple houses that I would love to live in, but I then go down some weird HGTV inspired rabbit hole and realize those houses might not be there in five months when we move in.  So, then I turn it off and sulk.
  5. Jobs and extracurricular activity for children.
    1. Our 18-year-old wants a job, but something with animals, or coffee, or books. It seems she’s open to a lot of jobs, and she has bookmarked nearly every place that has a job opening.  Let’s hope some of them are still hiring in August.
    2. The 13-yr. old wants to take Judo with Ron. He also wants to find a scout troop and find a way to “work with birds” (but only birds of prey… they are the coolest!)
    3. The 10-yr. old wants to “do parkour or gymnastics” and find a cub scout pack for his last year before boy scouts.
  6. History of the area.
    1. Our new friend with all the information also provided some of this. Then a quick google search for a timeline of South Dakota brought up a couple of books that look interesting.  I put in an order for a couple from amazon, so we’ll start reading those as soon as they get here.
  7. Search the house for things to sell.
    1. This is the least fun for everyone except Ron. He loves to throw things away.  We’ve done most of the main parts of the house, but the kids’ rooms haven’t been done at all.  I’m saving that for when my parents visit us in a little over a week!  We have the garage sale date set, so now we’ve got to finish looking through everything so we can be ready.

 

That is only MY checklist for our move.  Things that I’ve been wondering about and wanting to make sure I know all about.

There are quite a few websites that provide comprehensive checklists for PCSing.  I’m not nearly disciplined enough to go through them, but it is nice to have those lists to look at.  One of my favorites is here.  Military.com has tons of information about the military in general, but this is one of my favorites things on their site.  It has different checklists depending on how long you have left before your PCS.  Since we will be moving sometime in August, we are too early for any of their checklists.  However, we are going to be having all of our stuff packed up at the end of May or the beginning of June.  We want to make sure there are NO issues with getting our stuff to South Dakota before we get there.

Overseas bases have furniture that you can borrow until your household goods (HHGs) arrive, and you can borrow them again after your stuff is packed out, but that doesn’t happen in the continental US (CONUS).  We don’t want to find a house and have no furniture.  I’m sure I’ll be missing my bed by then.

The earliest checklist they have is for 3 months before you move.  Since we are packing our stuff in June, I still looked through this checklist to see what I can work on.

It’s safe to say that I’m getting overwhelmed at the number of things on this list.  So, I’ll stick with my small checklist about the things I’m most excited about, and I’ll report back as we get closer to leaving.

Side Note:  We are going to work our way through every item on his list while we are in South Dakota.  I’ll be documenting our “Checklist Journey” on our family blog if you are interested.