I Keep Going Back to This and to a Soldier I Never Met

Soldiers from the 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) place flags in front of the gravesites in Arlington National Cemetary, Va., May 22, 2014, during "Flags In".  U.S. Army photo by Klinton Smith.

Soldiers from the 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) place flags in front of the gravesites in Arlington National Cemetary, Va., May 22, 2014, during “Flags In”. U.S. Army photo by Klinton Smith.

I love BBQs and family outings and I’m not one of those people who are constantly screaming about how “this holiday isn’t meant for the beaches and picnics” to shame my friends who don’t take the time to consider the real meaning of the day.

Okay, maybe I do a little screaming about it. I’m more frustrated with the emptiness on social media to throw out a patriotic meme that’s the same for Memorial Day, July 4th and Veteran’s Day and then wash your hands of it. Call it a day. You’ve done your duty as a citizen.

These memes just grate on my last nerve. I'm sure they're well-meaning but I wish people would just take the time to say a few words beyond "support our troops."

These memes just grate on my last nerve. I’m sure they’re well-meaning but I wish people would just take the time to say a few words beyond “support our troops.”

But I digress. Maybe I’ll save that one for Veteran’s Day. Basically, Memorial Day is important to me. I’m a U.S. Army Veteran. My husband is a retired and combat-disabled U.S. Navy Veteran. He deployed frequently over 20+ years.

I wanted to write something to celebrate the day but I keep going back to this article I wrote back in 2010. Not really an article but a “note” in Facebook. I’m going to share it with you four years later. I hope you don’t mind.

Thinking About a Soldier I Never Met

August 21, 2010

I think there are two great things about Facebook beyond it being a place where I can blab on about anything and everything. One is obviously the ability to keep up with people I care about. I can share pictures of the grandkids with my parents; I can find out my far-more-cooler-than-me niece wants one of her friends to “hmu” lol; and when my husband was in Iraq, Facebook was one of the only ways we were able to communicate a world apart.

But I also love being able to peek into my “friends” lives. Not in a creepy, stalking-type way, but status updates are sometimes very telling of a person’s character; the type of life they lead and their beliefs. Sometimes though, status updates are clearly just for fun and I love those, too! I learn a lot from you.

Just in the past week I’ve found out one of you is pregnant; one of you jokes that if the kid on the cul de sac had tequila, he would probably sell more lemonade at his little lemonade stand; one of you posted on your way into surgery to have yet another tumor removed from the cancer you are determined to fight with every power of your being; and several of you just got a new iPhone.

But there was one post from the past few days that I haven’t been able to shake. Monday, August 16 at around 7 a.m. one of you posted about a soldier who came home this week from Iraq.

Sgt. Jamal Rhett in an undated photo. Photo courtesy of U.S. Army Staff Sgt. (Ret.) Keith Francis.

Sgt. Jamal Rhett in an undated photo. Photo courtesy of U.S. Army Staff Sgt. (Ret.) Keith Francis.

His name is Specialist Jamal Rhett. A 24-year-old U.S. Army combat medic from New Jersey on his second tour in that country.

His family was there when he arrived at Dover Air Force Base Tuesday.


I never met Spc. Rhett. I didn’t know who he was before I read your post. I believe he was one of your soldiers during his first tour to Iraq but I could be wrong about that. But I saw the pain in your loss. There wasn’t anything I could say to make it go away and honestly, I didn’t feel it was my place to try.

But I peeked in on you all week because I wanted to make sure you were okay. Just in case. I also wanted to learn more about this soldier who gave his life for me. So I did what anyone in 2010 would do, and I Googled him.

I found out Spc. Rhett was someone people counted on. He spent his childhood in Philadelphia and moved to New Jersey as a teenager. He stood up as a very positive role model in his community. High school administrators praised him for his passion to make a difference. His family talked of a young man who decided joining the Army was a way for him to follow his dream into the field of medicine.

A lot of people may not understand that, but as a U.S. Army veteran myself, I do understand. There are times when the path to your dream is hardly a straight line. Sometimes though, you find different dreams along the way. Spc. Rhett had a lot of friends. He was a good man. He was their brother. He was a fellow soldier. He was an excellent medic. I wish I had had the chance to meet him.

Spc. Jamal Rhett's Mother remembering her son after his death.

Spc. Jamal Rhett’s mother remembering her son after his death.

Our society depends on the success of soldiers like Spc. Rhett. We must not forget about him or any of our service members – some, who are on a fifth or sixth tour to either Iraq or Afghanistan – even if we read in the news that all combat troops have come home.

Spc. Jamal Rhett died August 15, 2010, after insurgents attacked his vehicle with grenades. He was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 21st Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, Schofield Barracks, Hawaii. He was promoted to sergeant posthumously at his funeral.


Hand-Washing Dishes Does the Mind Good

When I first started hand-washing dishes, I admit I did it because I didn’t feel like unloading the dishwasher. I know. Lazy. Lazy. Lazy.

But then I realized I enjoyed washing dishes by hand. Even when I’d end up throwing them into the dishwasher, I would basically have them already washed so the dishwasher kind of turned into an extra-hot rinse agent.

Warm water soothes. It relaxes me. The suds feel good on my hands.

And sometimes I like to think I'm all sexy doing dishes like Madonna.

And sometimes I like to think I’m all sexy doing dishes like Madonna.

But That’s Just The Turd I Tell People

But really that’s just bullshit. Okay, it may have started out that way but honestly washing dishes has turned into a way that affords me the luxury of not having to take more anti-anxiety meds than I already do.

There. I said it. Sometimes you people (not you, of course, just anyone) grate on my last nerve something fierce and I need an outlet and somehow I think people would think I was a little off if I sat down and started making macaroni art after dinner. Especially considering I haven’t had a toddler in about eight years. 

Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner

My little outlet is especially necessary when we have company visiting from out of town. Excusing myself to wash the dishes turned into a no-brainer when my former mother-in-law came to visit.

A nice enough lady and I sure like her more now than when her son and I were married, but I just couldn’t take the 24-hour-a-day chatter that would come with her on visits.

When she would tell me about something she made for dinner she would literally start by telling me the recipe. As in, “Well, you take a ¼ cup of baking soda and ten ounces of Gouda cheese …” not really those ingredients but they may as well have been because all I heard was blah, blah, blah, and then I had the sudden urge to whip up something for us to eat JUST so I’d have dishes to do. That was like 15 years ago and I’ve never stopped.

Now I will say that when my mother and sister come visit, they always swoop in to help out (which is totally cool) and I’ll come back into the kitchen to find the dishwasher running and no dirty dishes in the sink. That’s okay though – I like when they do that because it’s very thoughtful (and I’m not just saying that because I know they’ll probably read this lol).

Obviously the Xanax Doesn’t Always Cut It

It'll be okay. You'll get out of that coffee cup soon. I swear.

It’ll be okay. You’ll get out of that coffee cup soon. I swear.

So don’t get me wrong though. I don’t ONLY do the dishes unless I’m pissed or all worked up about something. Hardly. I’m typically the only one who does the dishes so sometimes I’m only doing them just to get them done. And yes, I do them by hand because I do actually find it very relaxing.

I let my mind race. I let it slow down. I drift off into daydreams. I reenact situations and conversations with other people in my mind. I talk to myself. And I calm down.

I have two kids. A 15-year-old daughter and a 10-year-old son – they’re awesome but sometimes they have a way about them like most kids do. I have a husband who works 2,000 miles away about one-third of each year. And his 80-year-old father lives with us and I take care of him.

Some days my mind needs a lot of calming down. And seriously, there is only so much medication my doctor can prescribe and it hasn’t become socially acceptable to start with the cocktails at 10 a.m. unless you’re on vacation or a really old, hat-wearing rich lady from New England.

In the End It’s Just Another Reason to Shop

So I wash dishes. I don’t have a dish rack drying thingy. I buy fancy dishtowels. I walk into William Sonoma or Anthropologie and browse the dishtowels like a meth addict strolls through CVS looking around for the Sudafed.

I look and stroll. I touch and stroke to find just the right absorption ratio. I just made that up – I’m pretty sure there’s no such thing but maybe I’ll check out what the pad people over at the sanitary napkin plant have to say on the subject, because I’m sure they’ve figured out absorption ratios.

Anyway … I pick them up and smell the towel (not the napkin – don’t be gross, we’re back to talking about dishtowels). I pick out the most perfect, luxurious pieces of fabric I can find. Basically, I can find any damn reason at all to shop and spend money (that’s my husband’s voice working it’s way into my head).

Anthropologie calls these things tea towels. Yeah, I know that's what they are called in highfalutin places but I think it just adds another reason for them to charge $28 for a dishtowel. Bingo! And I'm the sucker who does it!

Anthropologie calls these things tea towels. Yeah, I know that’s what they’re called in highfalutin places but I think it just adds another reason for them to charge $28 for a dishtowel. Bingo! And I’m the sucker who does it!

Meanwhile, Back at the Sink

I love having my hands in hot water. I don’t like hot showers unless I’m freezing cold but hot water on my hands is just so lovely. It reminds me of having a paraffin treatment at my favorite spa, only the spa is a lot more on the lovely side for sure!

One thing I can’t stand though is when the rest of the family becomes lazy about the dishes and just makes that assumption that since Mom likes to wash dishes so much they shouldn’t make any attempt to offer to do the dishes themselves. I understand they are busy with school work and lacrosse and baseball practice and texting their peeps and staring off into space, watching tv or just doing absolutely fucking nothing but SHEESH!! Why not offer every once in awhile just to do your part?

Yep, those are actually in my sink as I type! Mmmm. Warmed milk. Ick.

Yep, those are actually in my sink as I type! Mmmm. Warmed milk. Ick.

At the very least, rinse off your dishes when you haphazardly fling them into the sink. Nothing pisses me off more (in the dish-doing realm anyway) than someone who can’t figure out how to at least throw some water on whatever they’re putting in the sink so that it’s not disgusting when I get to it. I mean come on. How hard is it to be polite enough to do that? I do the dishes every day but it might be 12 hours after the first bowl hits the sink in the morning.

I don’t want to have to get out a jackhammer to get the half-eaten cereal (and the warmed-over milk remnants that go with it), orange juice pulp or sprinkles of Parmesan cheese left on your plate.

Don’t Make the Mother Mad

It’s just not right. Nobody wants to do that. I’m supposed to be chilling in my special dishwashing zone where the anxiety gets washed away with warm water, suds and my special towels.

It's Mommy's quiet time. Shhh. Go away. Let me relax.

It’s Mommy’s quiet time. Shhh. Go away. Let me relax.

If I end up not getting the therapeutic value from hand-washing dishes, guess what? I won’t do them anymore but will delegate the chore to one of you and I would guess that responsibility would go to whoever leaves the biggest mess of Nutella, lemon wedges and pasta in my pretty porcelain sink. And … I won’t let you use my fancy towels.

So help me keep my sanity and let me have my alone time at the sink. Please.



Working or Staying Home – It’s Not Always As Simple As a Choice

A few weeks ago a friend on Facebook posted a link to an article about how childcare is more expensive in some areas of the country, including the DC/Baltimore area. The article also discussed why there aren’t more options for parents, but mostly women, to work a different way and it really got me thinking about my own life and my former life as a working mom. Now, I don’t even know what I am. I don’t work, but I don’t consider myself a stay at home mom, either. Or maybe I’m just unemployed.

When my children were little, there was never any question I would work. I had a career I loved and I made great money. My husband (at the time, ex-husband now) had a career he loved and made even better money. We always felt like if you 1) paid enough money; and 2) paid even more attention, you could find a great place/person to take care of your children as infants and pre-schoolers. We decided very early on that we felt it was more important for one of us (me obviously) to stop working but not until our oldest got to middle school. That’s where we felt it would be the most necessary for one of us to be home.

So that’s how we operated. Although I had a great job, mine was the back burner career. I was the one who picked the kids up from daycare. Meaning I was the one who always left the office at 5 p.m. I was the one who had to carefully consider which projects I took on to determine if there was the potential for too much travel. I worked in a department where there were six directors and I was the only woman. As I would leave each night, the rest of the directors would just be getting their second wind and having their little get together in our VP’s office.

I found a new position with more responsibility and more pay and a shittier location from my home – Capitol Hill. And I worked there for four years. Four long, horrible years of fighting traffic and fighting bosses who felt we should all stay at the office till 7 p.m. Four years of driving like a mad woman (I think I picked up all of my aggressive driving skills then) and blowing through a pack of cigarettes on my drive back and forth to work each day (I’ve since quit) hoping I would make it to daycare and after school care on time without having to call a friend in a panic to ask for yet another favor to run and pick them up.

I also divorced two years into that position. So “our” great plan for me to take the easy route and not go full throttle with the career all of a sudden got thrown out the window. The problem then became, what do I do now that I have always had the back burner career? The mom who always has to leave early. The one who passed up opportunities so she could get to daycare on time.

In the end, I didn’t get the chance to make a decision on the matter. It was decided for me. There was a 25 percent staff reduction and little miss mommy worker was one of the ones laid off. I was unemployed for two years. It sucked. I couldn’t find a position. As the time went on and my marketing career stalled, I became less and less marketable myself because of the changes that were taking place in my field. I couldn’t say I had any social media experience because I missed it. I was sitting at home. I was searching for a job. I was broke. I went through years and years worth of retirement savings to continue to stay on top of my bills and mortgage. But … I was, in fact, not working when my oldest hit middle school. And that has been a blessing (she’s a freshman now).

I have re-married (and WOW, is he a patient, loving and wonderful man), I had a one-year stint as a consultant that was decent but I am still unemployed. Ever the career woman, I hate to consider myself a stay at home mom. That may offend people but it’s just something I’ve never grown accustomed to thinking of myself as. Probably because I only have custody of my kids every other week. But … I do a lot for them all of the time. I’m the one who takes the kids to practices, goes to all of the games, makes the pasta for pasta parties, helps to edit the yearbook and other fun things. I also volunteer my time to school and healthcare organizations. This is the way I try to keep my marketing skills up – by volunteering my time to run organizational social media and sponsorship teams. It makes me happy. I am glad I can be around to haul my kids around but it frankly isn’t enough.

I would love to have my career back but it just never seems to pan out. I’ve been out of the workforce since 2009 (with the exception of that one year consulting stint in 2011) and apparently I’m not the type of person companies are looking for now. I continue to look for a position but I don’t send in my resume for every single thing I see now.

I know I’m lucky – my husband can support us both – and many people don’t have that luxury. But man, I wish there was something I could do in my field, even part time. I miss that feeling. I miss the camaraderie. I miss knowing I’ve done a good job or have created something genius!! lol

It is truly a shame that employers don’t see the potential of women who want to work. Who are smart and capable; who are experienced; but for whatever reason, can only work part-time. I’d like either but I don’t think the only option for moms should be having to settle for working crappy hours at a retailer for minimum wage.


Welp … You Say Crazy Lady Like It’s a Bad Thing

Here I go. Into the master therapy session known as blogging. I think I already like her. I’m not sure I have a clear focus at the moment about what exactly I’ll be writing about but I do know that I’ll be honest, opinionated, probably not always so politically correct and not afraid to curse like a sailor. Or a soldier. Yeah, I’ll probably curse more like a soldier than a sailor.

I have a lot on my mind and most of it seems to revolve around one common theme – living in this suburban hell known as the DMV. I’m on the M side. That’s Maryland. Blue crabs, O’s baseball, Old Bay, lacrosse and a whole lot of people. Lots of people. I’ve lived here for 16 years now. I’ve never lived anywhere longer in my life. At times I’ve loved it. Now I seem to be doing time in this great state waiting for the day we can pack up and move out west. Yes, like the pioneers. lol Well, not really but it sounds kind of romantic in a Donner Party kinda way.

I am married to a lovely man. I’ve known him since 6th grade. We’ve only been married four years though. I am a mom. And I’m super proud of my kids. I will probably blog a little about some “mom” type themes but my kids are older so I won’t be annoyingly talking about diapers or time outs or babies who learned to read before the age of two. It will probably be more like annoyingly talking about sexting or lacrosse games and baseball games or mean girls who bully via Instagram or God only knows what else might come up.

I have a feeling I’ll be blogging about marriage and relationships, sex, work and the importance of having a few close friends. Maybe I’ll write about all of the asshats who piss me off with their arrogant, I’m-more-special-than-you type of way and what it’s like to be a woman in a land full of the same landscape every few miles or every few feet, whichever the case may be.

I’ll learn as I go and hopefully soon, I won’t be talking to myself! If that’s the case, I’ll also be talking to myself on Twitter @suburbanagenda, on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/suburbanagenda and on Instagram at SuburbanAgenda. So read me here, Follow me there, Like me someplace else and do whatever. But read. Wherever you are … Read. I have a lot on my mind.