Thursday, April 30, 2009

How to keep your son from being a mama's boy

Boys Adrift: Five Factors Driving the Growing Epidemic of Unmotivated Boys and Underachieving Young Men Boys Adrift: Five Factors Driving the Growing Epidemic of Unmotivated Boys and Underachieving Young Men by Leonard Sax

My review

rating: 5 of 5 stars
I started reading this book after hearing about it from a mom of a teenage boy. Her son is a good kid: good student, practices his faith, athletic, mannerly, but she saw warning signs of how easily good kids can go astray when they don’t have someone to help guide them. If she was concerned about her son, I figured I ought to be concerned about mine, since I have five, and three of them still have many years before they enter the turbulent teens. Best to be prepared.

It didn’t take long before I couldn’t put the book down. Dr. Sax relates stories of real boys, told by real parents, and how they were often intelligent kids, who lacked motivation for school or life outside of video games. I could easily imagine any of my boys, given free reign, could easily turn into video zombies. Girls might spend too much time chatting with their friends on Facebook, but boys like to play action-packed video games until their eyes glaze over and their heads drop to the keyboard from lack of sleep. Neither food, nor school, nor senior prom can propel them from the game machine unless a parental foot on the backside gives them an extra boost.

So it was with a great deal of expectation that I read Dr. Sax’s book on the “growing epidemic of unmotivated boys and underachieving young men.”

I suspect everyone knows at least one (or dozens) of 18 to 30 year-old males who seem to have no motivation for doing much of anything with their lives, but are often content with their low-paying jobs and single status, quite frequently still living at home with Mom and Dad. Before you call me judgmental, look at the statistics: Women now outnumber men on college campuses and in medical and veterinary schools. The number of women entering traditionally male fields, such as engineering and technology, is increasing, while the number of men entering those fields is decreasing. Where are the men going? They’re dropping out of college, or not even entering in the first place.

Dr. Sax lists five reasons for the alarming trend of unmotivated males. No, it’s not all the fault video games, although that is the first reason he lists. The others are: the feminization of education, overuse of prescription medication (for ADHD), endocrine disruptors in the environment, and the devaluation of masculinity.

He makes compelling arguments for each of the five reasons and all parents of boys should educate themselves on these topics. The one I found most interesting, and the one I’d heard nothing about was endocrine disruptors in the environment. These are environmental pollutants caused from a variety of sources, including phthalates found in plastics such as plastic water and soda bottles, pacifiers and baby bottles. These endocrine disruptors have been shown to cause early onset of puberty in girls, while having the opposite effect on boys. According to Dr. Sax, “The overwhelming majority of modern chemicals that mimic the action of human sex hormones, curiously, mimic the action only of female hormones.” They have also been linked with the disruption of brain function in the area of memory and motivation, as well as ADHD, again, affecting girls differently than boys. He also refers to these chemicals as “environmental estrogen,” as they mimic those female hormones. Dr. Sax further gives evidence that the increase in childhood obesity can be directly linked to these environmental estrogens. There are other alarming symptoms as well: male genital abnormalities, lower testosterone levels and male infertility.

Another pollutant in our environment that affects males far more than females is pornography. (See my book review on The ABCs of Choosing a Good Husband). Men no longer need women for sex, just as women no longer need men for babies. As a result, men and women are putting off marriage until much later, or in many cases, forsaking it altogether. Dr. Sax cites the number of men ages thirty-five to forty who have never been married has tripled in the last thirty years. Just twenty-five years ago it was 8%. It currently stands at 22% and is rising rapidly.

Dr. Sax also mentions the rise of contraception as a cause of the divorce of marriage from sex. (Once again, Pope Paul VI was right). Dr. Sax says, “More and more boys are discovering that they prefer a sexy image on a computer screen to a real live woman with expectations…” Some of the physical results of this dependency on pornography are the increasing number of men who need Viagra or Cialis.

And now the good news:

Dr. Sax gives hope to concerned parents (and disaffected young males) by giving concrete examples of young men whose lives were turned around by some simple changes. Enroll in an all-boy school. Get off unnecessary medications. Get unhooked from the video games and get involved in athletic competitions. Have examples of manly behavior from men. Experience the real world by getting outdoors. Do something physically demanding. Sweat.

For more information read the book and go to the website: and

View all my reviews.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

What Doctors Don't Know About Menopause

What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Menopause: The Breakthrough Book on Natural Hormone Balance What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Menopause: The Breakthrough Book on Natural Hormone Balance by John R. Lee

My review

rating: 5 of 5 stars
I'm still reading this book, but so far I'm impressed by the common-sense holistic approach Dr. Lee takes when it comes to treating women who are experiencing change of life and hormonal issues associated with menopause.

I've been having some dermatological problems for about 1 1/2 years, during which time I've been to a nurse practitioner, family practice primary care physician and numerous visits to a dermatologist. I began to suspect my problems were hormonal when the powerful medications, ointments and creams prescribed by the above medical professionals failed to give me much relief and the skin problems appeared about the same time I experience an increase in my middle...even though I was exercising frequently and I had just completed a swim marathon (26 miles in 4 weeks), I seemed to have developed a "life-saver" of padding around my waistline. I figured it was due to swimming, so I laid off swimming and went back to aerobic exercise and weight-training. Some of the padding came off, but I still seem to have more of "me" than I would like.

I had a few other minor symptoms of pre-menopause, so I started thinking maybe my skin issues were hormonally caused.

Dr. Lee's book makes mention of these and other symptoms being helped by natural progesterone cream. (Note: not all creams are created equal, so he gives a list of some of the "good" ones in the back of his book).

After only one day of using the cream, I feel incredibly better. I think my skin looks better too. Even my husband said to me this morning, "You look more hopeful than you have in a long time!"

I realize this could be the placebo effect, so I'm taking my time and keeping notes before I announce a "miracle cure," but if this can help another woman experiencing hormonal issues, I wanted to get the word out.

By the way, I have used this natural progesterone cream made from wild yams once before in my life. It was after a particularly debilitating miscarriage after 14 weeks of pregnancy. My midwife recommended it to help prevent another miscarriage, as I wanted to get pregnant again soon. I used it and was pregnant very soon after the miscarriage. That little boy is 9 years old now.

View all my reviews.

Monday, April 27, 2009

What makes a good husband?

The ABC's of Choosing a Good Husband: How to Find and Marry a Great Guy The ABC's of Choosing a Good Husband: How to Find and Marry a Great Guy by Stephen Wood

My review

rating: 4 of 5 stars
At first glance, the cover and title of this book and its partner book, The ABCs of Choosing a Good Wife were off-putting to say the least. It seemed juvenile to think one could just apply a list to select a spouse. In fact, everyone I've known who has a "list" for a spouse, usually ends up disappointed because the "perfect" partner doesn't exist except in our imaginations.

However, once I got into this book, I found the ideas riveting and somewhat frightening. The reason they were frightening is because the author, Stephen Wood, makes sense when he speaks to young women about what qualities make a good husband. Unfortunately, many of these qualities women hope their future husbands will have, such as being self-giving, considerate, patient, affectionate, generous, honorable, humble, strong, caring, responsible and mature, are often qualities that young men today are lacking. Sometimes women will fall in love anyway and hope to "change" their husbands once they're married. The truth is marriage isn't the force to change their behaviors. In fact, marriage can sometimes exacerbate underlying character flaws such as irresponsibility, immaturity, narcissism, and selfishness.

The most frightening chapter of all is chapter 18, "Ruinous Effects of Pornography on Your Future Marriage." I recently chatted with a priest friend at a party and he told me he is concerned that so many young men today have a warped view of sexuality due to pornography that they might not be able to make and keep a sacramental marriage. The plague of pornography has become so widespread, that some experts suggest as much as 70% of all college-aged men use pornography and some of these will go on to be so addicted to it that they will prefer pornographic experiences over real women.

According to Stephen Wood: "Annual porn profits exceed the combined revenues of all the professional football, basketball, and baseball franchises." And, "Every thirty-nine minutes a new porn video is created in the United States."

As if those statistics aren't scary enough, he goes on to outline the extent to which pornography has affected Christian men. "In a 1996 survey, 53% of Promise Keepers (Christian men) admitted to viewing porn within a week of attending a PK event." And, "In a (Protestant) survey, 54% of pastors said they viewed porn within the past 12 months."

He goes on to say the pornography crisis is even worse among Catholic men. It has affected Catholic men in all walks of life, from priests and deacons, to seminarians (even at the "good" seminaries), to youth group and campus leaders and students on orthodox Catholic college campuses to Catholic homeschooling fathers. Some estimates are that half of all the men attending your parish are ensnared by pornography. He estimates at least two-thirds of all eligible Catholic men have a problem with pornography. That's scary.

Pornography is addictive to men particularly because it causes chemical changes in the brain. Technology has shown us that when pornography is viewed, there are at least a half-dozen neuro-chemicals released into the brain which not only gives the viewer pleasure, but also permanently etches images in his memory. Like other addictions, greater extremes of pornography must be viewed in order for the brain to register the same feelings of pleasure. Ultimately, the man has become a slave to pornography and will choose the pictures or videos over being with his wife.

There are other issues that can kill a marriage, and Stephen Wood lays them all out, in ABC order, to help young women navigate the way to a happy and healthy marriage.

I highly recommend this book to parents as well as young women and men who are contemplating the vocation of marriage.

View all my reviews.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

I like a good cry every now and then

If you haven't heard about the recently discovered sensation, Susan Boyle, of Scotland, then you MUST watch this video:

Caution: Reading this blog may put you at odds with the Feds

Today is Tax Day. A day rued by many hardworking patriotic Americans. Peaceful protests have been planned in major cities throughout the US and those on the left are steamed. Code Pink and others are planning some tea party "crashes," and left-leaners have blamed Fox News for organizing these gatherings of "right-wing radicals."

Unfortunately, the Obama administration has linked the terms "patriotic" with those who feel it is their duty as "patriotic citizens" to pay more taxes. The Obama administration is already using our patriotic tax dollars to fund more abortions overseas, in addition to forcing doctors and nurses in our own country to participate in these procedures against their consciences. As Planned Parenthood says, the United States is going in a "new direction," and Planned Parenthood is poised to play a "unique role" in shaping the administrations "health agenda."
If that wasn't enough to give us indigestion, someone in the Department of Homeland Security (probably one of those "right-wing nut-jobs" leaked an official document earlier this week, which warns police and security personnel to keep a vigilant watch on "...those that are mainly antigovernment, rejecting federal authority in favor of state or local authority, [and]...individuals that are dedicated to a single issue, such as opposition to abortion or immigration." Michelle Malkin has a great synopsis on her blog.

It's enough to make you want to dress up like an Indian and dump a load of something into Boston Harbor!

I'll be there in spirit (and truth), if not in person, as I have mommy driving duties to fulfill that prevent me from actually driving my 15 passenger van downtown, to pay $10 to park, then herd my darling children to the steps of the capitol for the second time this month. (We already made our appearance with roughly 2,000 other homeschoolers at the capitol on April 3rd, for Homeschool Day at the Capitol...
If you want to find us in the crowd below, I'm in the bright green shirt, with a knapsack, leaning to my left to talk to my daughter in the bright red shirt, right of the statue, near the front of the crowd. Thanks to J. Will for taking this great pic and posting it on the web!)

Okay, so maybe you can't see me, but I really was there!

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Urgent! Email Dept of Health and Human Services Today

The public is allowed 30 days to comment on the Obama administration's proposal to rescind the regulation which forbades the coercion of health care workers to violate their consciences when providing "health care" such as birth control, abortion, euthanasia, sterilizations and gender re-assignment to patients.

Please inform yourself about this anti-freedom, anti-life, ANTI-CHOICE proposal and make your comments known.

As Susan Wills, the assistant director for education and outreach, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities, writes in her article, Conscience Rights: From Choice to Coercion:
Despite all their talk of "choice," the abortion industry and its supporters are determined to eliminate the choice of medical professionals and entities to not become accomplices in killing unborn boys and girls. Despite all their talk about "privacy," the abortion industry and its supporters are determined to trample on healthcare professionals' innermost zone of privacy, that "secret core and sanctuary" known as conscience. It is no longer enough, in their eyes, that women and girls can obtain potentially abortifacient drugs in virtually every pharmacy in the U.S. or that women and girls can have abortions on request in every city where there's a profit to be had. They will not rest until every pharmacy, hospital, healthcare provider, and taxpayer collaborates in the culture of death.
The 30 days for public comment is coming to a close this Thursday, HOLY THURSDAY, April 9, 2009. Just go to the website to electronically submit your comments. (Click on the little yellow balloon next to the "Add Comments" tag).
Here's what I submitted electronically:
I would like to strongly voice my concerns that the provisions to allow for a conscience clause NOT be removed or amended in any way. Health care workers MUST have the freedom of conscience to be allowed to recuse themselves from any procedure OR REFERRAL which in any way conflicts with their personal, moral or religious beliefs. Birth control, sterilization, abortion, euthanasia and gender re-assignment are all examples of the types of so-called health care that should not be coerced upon medical workers. No health care worker of any type should be forced to violate their conscience. Please DO NOT remove this clause.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Mea Culpa: my revised book review on the Duggars

The Duggars: 20 and Counting!: Raising One of America's Largest Families—How They Do It The Duggars: 20 and Counting!: Raising One of America's Largest Families—How They Do It by Michelle Duggar

My review

rating: 2 of 5 stars
Here's my revised review:

I have to correct some of the things I wrote after my initial read of this book. I confess I found myself falling far short of the cheerful and organized family I was reading about in the book and I was a tinge jealous of their huge house and amazing children. I wrote: "Tiresome! I like to read books by and about large families...trying to get some ideas for a book I'd like to write someday. What I definitely want to avoid is the 'holier than thou' preaching I found throughout this book. I also want to try to avoid the 'I know everything because I'm a mom of (fill in the blank with however many kids Michelle Duggar has at the moment).'"

Okay, so maybe that was a bit harsh and judgmental...

After some examination of conscience, I felt I needed to apologize for that untrue remark. Michelle Duggar is not "holier than thou." Her only fault might be in her unadulterated cheerfulness at being one of the most unabashedly fecund mothers currently living on the planet.
I did take exception to a few of her comments, specifically the sidebar that quotes her saying that breastfeeding doesn't prevent you from getting pregnant. I believe she misunderstands the concept of breastfeeding on demand and breastfeeding for comfort as well as for food. This was the only way I found breastfeeding to accompany infertility. Since there are photos of her newborn with a pacifier in her mouth, Michelle Duggar obviously isn't breastfeeding her newborns for comfort, thus she isn't using breastfeeding to space her babies.

Michelle has certainly taken her share of criticism for her large brood and I don't want to add to that. She also has some good ideas for feeding many mouths. But I don't see the need for "industrial" sized everything. Most of us "normal" families with more than 2.1 kids don't have the money or the space for an industrial sized kitchen or laundry room and we have to make do with the normal sized kitchens and laundry rooms we have. Most of us don't have the 10,000 square foot home the Duggars have either. And most of us don't live in rural Arkansas, where we could afford to buy the land to build our 10,000 sq. ft dream home either! I love the Duggars, but I just wish they were a bit more like my family so I could relate to them better.

Still, I think I can learn a thing or two from Michelle Duggar, that is once I get over the fact that her husband is named "Jim Bob" and each of their 18 children has a name that also begins with "J"!

View all my reviews.

Deadly Earthquake in L'Aquila, Italy

Please pray for the people of L'Aquila, Italy today as they are searching for bodies from the deadly destruction of an earthquake that struck early this morning. The quake, which measured 6.3 on the Richter scale, is one of the worst to hit the region since the deadly quake that hit southern Italy (including Naples) in 1980, killing 3,000 and leaving hundreds of thousands of people homeless.

My husband called me from work to tell me the news. We had visited there as a young couple when we lived in Naples, Italy in the late 80's. I remember L'Aquila as being a gorgeous medieval city built in the mountains. It is no wonder there is such destruction as most of the buildings are centuries old and built of ancient stone. I took the above picture on our visit to L'Aquila around 1986. It was one of countless picturesque scenes of the ancient city.

Please pray for the people of L'Aquila, the survivors and the aid workers.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

When Mom Goes to War

Note: This posting was moved from the "comments" section for Navy mom of five leaves for Iraq today. You can also read my December posting about her here.

My reason for posting this item was to share with other non-combatants, some insight into the preparation and sacrifice that our men and women in uniform make in order to serve our country and yes, fight for our freedoms. I didn't plan on making it a debate about whether or not a mom should be sent to war. In this case, the mom volunteered.

And to set your minds at ease somewhat, she is supposed to be assigned to an intell unit that will be safely enclosed in a compound away from heavy street-fighting. But as we know, the enemy has a way of bringing the fighting to the innocents, so she has to be prepared for all contingencies. But her plan is to stay inside the compound for her entire tour, keep her head down, and not get shot.

I can't speak for Eileen, but I can tell you she is a dedicated mom as well as a dedicated naval officer. She and her family have made the decision to place the needs of our country above the needs of her family for this year in their lives. This decision was not made lightly, and yes, she could have said "no," after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 changed the nature of military service from one that prepares for war, to one that actually fights in a war. Indeed, her first response after 9/11 was to volunteer, as did many patriots. Her pregnancy meant they couldn't use her at that time. She could have left the service, but she stayed in the reserves because she obviously felt "called" to serve.

I put her in the same category as Sarah Palin. Lots of folks were shocked at her gumption to think she could run for Vice President while she had a newborn child with Down's Syndrome and a pregnant unwed daughter. "She was supposed to be home taking care of her kids," they said. But Sarah Palin isn't an ordinary mom. Eileen isn't an ordinary mom either.

Not everyone is called to serve in such a heroic fashion. Most of us stay-at-home moms serve by taking care of our families at home. But perhaps she is serving something higher than herself and her personal needs. I doubt if she would be able to commit to this level of military service if she didn't have the love and support of her husband, family and friends.

By the way, she told me her father said the same thing, when he heard she was going to be activated to Iraq. He is a retired Navy admiral and was used to being the one sent on dangerous missions while his family stayed home safe. It just didn't seem right to him that his daughter should be the one called. But Eileen assured him the Navy needed officers of her specialty and rank, and no, they didn't need any more admirals over there.

So, in answer to your questions, they do need her to go. She has the training and skills they need right now.

I'm constantly amazed at our nation's all-volunteer service. We have some of the most highly-trained and highly-skilled service men and women of any nation. And they are all volunteers. She volunteered to go. And she is one of many mothers and fathers who are serving as military forces and civilians in dangerous parts of the world.

As for the question of whether or not a mom should go to war, that's an issue that a woman who becomes a mother while serving in the military has to ask herself and her family. As for me, something clicked in my brain the moment I became a mom. I suddenly had an overwhelming desire, rather a primordial need, to be with my baby. I had a very difficult time even going back to work (which was a desk, in an office in Washington, DC). I entertained briefly the notion of staying in the reserves because it was only one weekend a month and two weeks a year and the pay was quite good. But the Gulf War became a reality during this time and my mother bear instinct was re-awakened and I knew I couldn't leave my babies, for I had three by this time.

I don't expect every mom to have the same gut feeling I did, though many do. And obviously, many men feel a mother should stay safe with the children while they do the fighting.

But the facts of life today are that women are in the military and as long as these women are mothers, they face the same deployment realities the men face.

The men and women who volunteer today face the stark reality of a post 9/11 world and they all have to be ready and willing to pay the ultimate price.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

The Great Colorado Payback

For once, the government has gotten something right.

I heard the Colorado Treasurer Cary Kennedy on the radio the other day, talking about the millions of dollars of unclaimed property the state would like to return to the rightful owners. She said they even have a 14 carat diamond!

So I searched the Great Colorado Payback website for my name. I thought it would be a long-shot, but since there were hundreds of thousands of names on the list, it was worth a shot. I'm pretty sure I used to have a 14 carat diamond that I hadn't seen in a while.

First I searched the data base for my maiden name.

Nope, nothing there.

Then I searched for my married name.

Still nothing.

Then I searched for my husband's name.


I had a problem downloading the claim form, so I called the phone number for the unclaimed property office that was listed on the website. An actual person actually answered the phone after only one or two rings. Amazing! And the person on the other end of the phone, after confirming our previous address, told me my husband had $86 coming to him for a utility bill refund leftover from when we re-located to England. She said she'd mail me a claim form.

If you aren't one of the 3 million lucky ones to live in the great state of Colorado, here's a link to help you find out if your state has some of your unclaimed property.

Oh, and if you find a 14 carat diamond, just remember, it's mine.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Navy mom of five leaves for Iraq today

My friend and fellow Catholic homeschooling mom, Eileen, is headed to Iraq today. Eileen is married and mother of five young children. She's in the Naval Reserves and received training from the Army before she left. You can see my previous posting about her here.

She knew this was coming down, she said. But it was still upsetting to everyone when the date was finally announced. Nevertheless, her family and friends have risen to support her and her husband and parents will continue to homeschool the children while she's away, so mom can worry less about the kids and the kids can continue life as close to normal as possible.

I asked Eileen if I could post some of her own words about the Army training she's been receiving over the past month, in preparation for her departure. Here are some excerpts:

My first week I was in Port Hueneme, CA which is right next to Oxnard. It was not incredibly busy – mostly in-processing and medical and dental and a bunch of briefs. There were interesting moments like when I got fitted for my gas mask and chem suit and got to make sure they had a good seal by doing these weird breathing and moving exercises while inside a plastic bag. There were a bunch of really nice people that I met there who all came to Ft Jackson with me, so that is nice.

Then on Saturday we all flew to South Carolina by way of Chicago during a blizzard – love that Navy planning! Eventually we did arrive here and started to get settled. A buddy from the Naval Academy is here too, so that is great. I didn’t end up getting uniforms until Tuesday – TOTALLY annoying – so I spent the first day carrying around my weapons while wearing sweats. A very hot look, let me tell you. As you can see from my photo I have been issued both a 9mm (in the thigh holster) and an M-16. Both are “go to war weapons” for me so I actually will be taking them forward and I have to qualify on both. On Tuesday I also got issued my “Battle Rattle” which is about 65 pounds of body armor, a Kevlar helmet and knee and elbow pads. VERY comfortable. We are spending lots of quality time wearing them and loving every second of it. (In case you could not tell, that is sarcasm.) My shoulders are KILLING me and I am wiped out by the end of the day.

We have been doing a lot of shooting and that has been a blast. Literally. I realized that I had actually NEVER fired an M-16 before (at the Academy we had used M-14s to qualify with rifles). It is all going really well. I grouped and zeroed in 12 rounds which is the minimum (I realize that means nothing to most of you, but my military friends will be psyched). The 9MM is going even better if possible. I got scores of 238, 238 and 239 out of 240 on the regular range. (The 239 was actually kind of cool, because the one shot that wasn't in the 5 point area was a head shot that would have been right between the eyes. Not bad for a "miss." Kind of worth only getting 4 points for it!)

At the “stress range” where we had to run between shooting positions and lay on the ground in puddles or kneel or stand while out in the pouring rain. Plus a drill sergeant is yelling numbers in your ear to tell you which targets to shoot at in which order. I got 15, 18 and 18 on each of the 3 targets out of a possible of 18 on each one. Good to know that if necessary I can put rounds on target. I still have the low-light shooting on the 9MM and a bunch of M-16 stuff to go, but I am feeling pretty good about it. The 9MM shooting has all been in battle armor and I just can’t tell you how much fun it is to run around in that stuff, lay on the ground and try to get up and not to turtle while trying to reload. Good times. Then at the end we got to police all the brass out of the puddles. In the driving rain. While wearing 65 pounds of body armor. Really. As my friend Dean said, good to know that we made the right service selection when we chose the Navy over the Army.

But really, all in all it has been a lot of fun. We spent part of one day in the HEAT trainer which was almost like an amusement park ride. It is a pretend HMMV which rolls over and you get to unbuckle your seatbelt, land on your head, figure out how to open the door and then scramble out to take a “defensive position” surrounding it. Kind of like the helo dunk tank but not in the water while blindfolded. I thought it was pretty fun and REALLY a smart thing. I hope to never have to actually use the knowledge, but it was great to know the right way to do it. Then we got to drive around in regular HMMVs splashing around in puddles. That was really fun though I can’t see ever wanting to own a HUMMER – not exactly a cushy ride. They let us sit in every position so I got to drive and also ride in the turret.

I think that I am having more fun than most folks here. Probably my Pollyanna nature. It could be MUCH, MUCH worse. The drill sergeants are pretty great. They have all actually been deployed to the places we are going and they really know what they are doing. They know we have all already done some version of the boot camp thing so they’re not messing with us, just trying to get us ready for combat. All in all, it is not bad. I keep telling everyone that lots of rich businessmen pay good money to do these sorts of things. True they are probably not policing their own brass and at the end of the day they are most likely getting a rubdown from a Swedish masseuse, but still…

Hope this finds all of you well. Sorry I am not keeping in better touch, but by the end of the day I am truly wiped out and happy to have a hot shower and crash. I’ll update when I can, but know that I am thinking of all of you and am grateful for your thoughts and prayers. They are keeping me strong.

Much love,

Email of March 19, 2009:
Hi everyone!

Sorry that I haven't written in a while. My time at Ft Jackson came to a quick end and then I headed to Ft Bragg for a day and I got home on Friday night and haven't really taken a breath since. Let me fill you in on the end of my training. I have to say it went well. Perhaps my expectations were SOOO low that anything would have been better, but I know that the point of it all was to give us the skills that we might (but hopefully won't) need to survive combat situations and come home to our families. With that end-goal in mind, how bad could it be?

The shooting just kept getting better and better. I ended up qualifying as a Sharpshooter on Rifle and an Expert on Pistol. I would have gotten expert on rifle but when the first target came up (50m, left) I had neglected to take the weapon off of safe. Once I had remedied that situation with a few choice words the target had dropped already. And that was the difference... Oh well, perhaps another time. I would love to be able to shoot it without the body armor on. Not only do I look like a Teenage Mutant Turtle (my husband's description) but the back of the vest shoves into the Kevlar helmet forcing it over my eyes. It took a lot of adjusting plus a washcloth shoved into the top to get it wear I can see while in the prone (lying down) position. One of our drill sergeants, SGT Jenkins said, "You know, ma'am, if the Navy were smart, they'd send you to sniper school. You've got a gift, ma'am." (This was said in a crazy strong Southern accent - I believe it is a requirement to be a drill sgt - and was intended to be high praise indeed.

Frankly I could see the appeal - much better to shoot someone from 1000m while perched safely on a rooftop then at 20m with my 9mm. But I digress...) They all called me "Killer Mom" and found it very amusing that in my real life I am a homeschooling mother of 5. To be fair I find it somewhat amusing also.

One of the days we also got to shoot on the Heavy Weapons Range - an M249 SAW, an M240 and a 50cal. Very very very fun. Plus, in addition to all the regular shooting at the range we did a reflexive fire course with the M16 where you pivot left 90 degrees, right 90 degrees or 180 degrees before engaging the target. Very fun.

And we also did the stress shoot for the M16. In my last email I described our M9 stress shoot which involved running around shooting at targets while in different positions in the pouring rain and wearing our body armor. This was similar but different. We were in body armor again only it was a hot sunny day so that was different. They had us sit in a HMMWV, and then jump out, run to the range, load a magazine, run to 3 different positions and then shoot at targets while in different positions (standing, squatting, kneeling and prone). And they were yelling at us the whole time. The idea was to try to simulate some of the stress of combat. It was pretty fun and you would be surprised how fast one can move while wearing all that weight. It was so much fun that my buddy Geoff actually got in line and did it a second time. That night we did the low-light shoot with the M9. Once it got to be dusk we ran back through a target shoot with the 9mm to see how that was. Again, pretty fun.

And then the last few days went even faster. We did preparations for our convoy operations, learning about IEDs and EFPs and things of that nature. Reviewed our combat first aid training. Tuesday got a lot crammed into it because the big rotator (usually scheduled for Thursday night which takes most of our crew to Kuwait) got rescheduled for Wednesday so everything got moved around. We practiced room clearing, learned about checkpoints and played with big vehicles. Plus we did a pretend convoy which of course had every possible bad thing happen to it. Good times. I got to be a vehicle commander. I had hoped to be a gunner, but so it goes. Manning the radio and bossing people around is not actually unlike my normal life. The last day was all about weapons turn in and cleaning rooms and writing after action reports.

It is great to be here spending time with the family. It is all going much too fast. Hard to believe that I have less than two weeks now until I leave for a long time. Still, with as fast as all of that passed and as fast as this time is passing I know that the year will fly by. I really don't know how much I'll be able to write once I leave Denver. I'll do the best that I can, but in the interim know that you all are in my thoughts and prayers. Thanks for any and all replies that you have sent. I'm sorry that it is hard to find the time to respond but they always make me smile and are much appreciated. Write as much and as often as you want. If I don't write back it is because I am CRAZY busy - not because I don't care.

Lots of love to you all,