Crossroads

crossroads

I wouldn’t call it Writers’ Block. I have plenty of ideas and lots of thoughts to share. I still adore writing. Yearn for it, actually.

I wouldn’t say I’ve lost interest in blogging or in social media. I maintain a curiosity for what others have to say and I feel a thrill of creativity when I think of the possibilities.

It’s not – exactly – that I don’t have time, though time certainly is an obstacle. A daunting obstacle for one who works full-time (among various other commitments) and has a forty minute commute on either end of the work day. Still, it’s not, I suppose, an insurmountable problem for one who has the proper motivation.

No, instead I’d say that I’m suffering from a kind of soul ache. Some people might call it depression, but it’s not – exactly – depression.

I’m tired. Not physically tired, but spiritually exhausted. I find lately that I don’t have it in me anymore to furiously race against the clock just so that I have a couple of hours left at the end of the day to devote to a blog post. The very thought makes me weary.

This all came on fairly suddenly, and so I have to ask myself, Why? What’s different? More importantly, What’s the solution?

Do I need to narrow the focus of my blog? Since T’s been back from The Stan, it feels less like a MilSpouse blog and more like an EverythingUnderTheSun blog.

Or – and I keep coming back to this – do I resign from the blogging world entirely and focus on a larger, more cohesive piece of writing? Maybe. I’ve always wanted to do that and, most unfortunately, I don’t have the time to do both.

Somehow, though, the thought of giving up my blog hurts me. I love my blog and I’ve put a lot of time and effort into it. I adore the people I’ve met through blogging and am grateful for the connections I’ve made. I revel in checking for comments and, of course, in reading my Odd Blog Searches.

How can I give all of that up? I know cutting the cord is always painful, but that it’s often required to move on. I just don’t know that I can do it. Yet, here my blog sits like a virtual orphan.

That hurts me, too, but I need some time to think.

So, on the advice of a friend, I’m taking a blogging sabbatical. You may see me around now and again. I reserve the right to post an occasional entry, should The Muses be kind. But I suspect I will be largely absent for at least a month or two.

I need some time away from belly shots and memes. I need to re-learn how to think in threads longer than 140 pithy characters. I need to rout the words seriously, totally and like from my vocabulary. I need to stop believing that the interverse needs to know my every thought milliseconds after it flashes across my consciousness. I need to know that I can be clever without being critical.

I need a soul vacation.

View from Glen Boulder

Pineapple Pomegranate Popsicles

Yesterday the pavement on our driveway was oozing and bubbling. Today the weather was slightly cooler – just enough to solidify the lava flow – but it was still blazing. My feet burned stepping out on the wooden planks of the porch and the metal clip of Owen’s leash was hot to the touch.

We’re Mainers. We’re supposed to be prepared for any weather, so we did what we do best: we coped. (Actually, Owen is reportedly from Arkansas and I was born in Massachusetts, but we’ve got squatters rights.)

Owen sat by the pool to beat the heat.

Owen by the pool

I sat next to him, dunked my feet and ate a wonderfully refreshing Pineapple Pomegranate Popsicle. And played Angry Birds.

What?

Now, you know you want to be as cool we are (or at least as Owen is), so you need the popsicle recipe.

First, you need these:

ice pop molds

Because store-bought popsicles are full of sugar, high fructose nastiness or other bad-for-your-body sweeteners. Not that I’m judging. Except that I am.

Pineapple Pomegranate Popsicles

Ingredients

  • 2 c. cubed fresh pineapple (canned won’t yield the right amount of sweetness)
  • 1 – 1-1/2 c. Pom juice
  • 1/2 c. ginger beer (I use Reed’s Extra Ginger Brew, which is sweetened only with pineapple juice and honey)
  • 2 Tbs. lime juice

Directions

1. Place pineapple chunks in a blender. Pour in Pom juice until just covered. Add ginger beer and lime juice. Blend until smooth.

2. Pour into ice pop molds. Leave a little room at the top for expansion as the pops freeze. (Also, the ginger beer makes it frothy. You may need to scoop out some of the foam and pour in more of the mixture.)

full ice pop molds

3. Freeze for four to six hours.

4. Enjoy! You may need to run the molds under cool water to get the popsicle out.

popsicle under faucet

But it is so worth it!

Popsicle!

Sorry. This picture is actually of a watermelon-mango popsicle I made a few weeks ago (it sounds better than it was). I didn’t take any pictures of the Pineapple Pomegranate ones because I was too busy eating them, but they are a deep red with swirls of pink froth running throughout.

Beautiful on the inside and the out!

Like this guy:

Owen by the pool

Stay cool!

Pineapple Coconut Milk Ice Cream

Creeeaaaak! Poof!

That was the sound of me opening my WordPress account for the first time in almost two weeks and blowing the dust off of my dashboard.

I don’t really have an explanation or any excuses, so let’s get down to business.

This morning I was chopping fresh pineapple and thinking about all the cool treats I could make to counter the temperatures that were bursting through the 100 degree mark like an angry bird on a mission. (The previous sentence contains a hint as to where I’ve been for two weeks.)

100 degree temps

My house, today.

Many people don’t feel like eating in the heat. I look at extreme heat as an opportunity. A delicious,  refreshing excuse to eat homemade popsicles, smoothies and ice cream.

My pineapple idea hit me harder than a Mack truck hits a moose. Not that I’m a moose. Although if I keep eating ice cream, it will become a distinct possibility. But who cares? How good does Pineapple Coconut Milk Ice Cream sound? Pretty moose-worthy, right?

So here’s what I did:

First, I ran to Facebook and posted this:

FB Ice Cream Idea

Then, oh, about nine hours later, I concocted this:

pineapple coconut milk ice cream

Let me assure you that the consumption was as spiritual as the conception. So, if you’re looking for a little religion in your life, try this:

Pineapple Coconut Milk Ice Cream

Ingredients:

  • 1 can coconut milk
  • 1 c. cubed fresh pineapple
  • 1/3 c. unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 1 tsp. vanilla (gluten-free, of course!)
  • 1/4 tsp. xanthan gum (optional, but it adds thickness)
  • 1/2 c. finely chopped pineapple (optional, but highly recommended)

Directions

1. Combine first five ingredients (coconut milk through xanthan gum) in a blender and blend until smooth. Refrigerate for about an hour for best results. (But you can proceed to Step 2 if you’re desperate.)

2. Pour mixture in ice cream maker and use as directed. I have a Cuisinart and it’s awesome. If you don’t have an ice cream maker, you could probably use these instructions, developed by the fabulous Chocolate-Covered Katie:

Mix the ingredients together in 1 or 2 shallow plastic containers. Freeze. (You could also use an ice cube tray.) Once frozen, pop the blocks out of the container (I thaw for 30 seconds in the microwave first) and blend in your Vita-Mix. (If you don’t have a vita-mix, you’ll probably have to thaw longer, but you can still get a yummy ice milk.)

3. While the ice cream maker is doing its thing, spread the finely chopped pineapple on a dish in a single layer and pop it in the freezer. Add it to the churning ice cream five minutes before it’s done. (If you are using the Vita-Mix method, omit.)

4. Enjoy! I sprinkled mine with some additional shredded coconut because I’m fancy that way.

Oh, and if you’re feeling guilty, don’t worry. T and I did a three-mile walk with nearly-full pack this evening, so I’m sure I sweated out some of those moose-inducing calories.

Probably.

By the way, I also made Pineapple Pomegranate Popsicles today (say that three times fast). It was probably the best popsicle I’ve eaten and that includes lime Freeze Pops. Any takers for that recipe?

How about you? What do you do to beat the heat?

Odd Blog Searches – the Recap!

Last Thursday’s Twitter party was a grand success.

Well, I had fun anyway.

In fact, I had so much fun that I’m planning on hosting another #oddblogsearches hashtag party sometime in August. I’ll keep you posted. As it were.

I noticed that the WordPressers generally had more to report than the Bloggers. I don’t know much about Blogger, but it almost sounded like Search Engine Terms were only available for the past week? (Blogger bloggers, any insight?) In WordPress I can see my SETs for “all time” – since the start of my blog.

And they afford me no end of amusement. I mean, come on. Someone found my blog by searching for, “giant fake tree”? Or, “hopelessly shy”? (Okay, that one I believe.) Or, “what is the first word on page 157 of the me book by jade teta”?

But I got even more of a kick out of reading the SETs from other bloggers’ statistics. In case you missed the party, here’s a quick glimpse:

OBS2
Gee, I hope Beth’s husband doesn’t find out.

OBS1
Oh dear. Poor Amber!

OBS3
There’s the million dollar idea.

Here’s an interesting fact:
OBS4
But the Grand Prize winner for the evening, was Stacey from Tangerine Monday. Not that I offered a Grand Prize. If I had, though…

OBS5
‘Nuff said.

Thanks to all who participated in the party. If you didn’t make it, don’t despair. Just join us in August!

(Follow me on Twitter for more updates.)

Did you participate in the party? What did you think? Any feedback?

MilSpouse Weekly Roundup!

Howdy and welcome to the 43rd MilSpouse Weekly Roundup! My name is Sarah and I’ll be your host for today.

MilSpouse Weekly Roundup

For those of you new to Mowenackie, my blog gets it’s, uh, unique name from my three beloved animal companions. (They are insulted by the term “pets” – it’s just not PC anymore.)

Mow+en+ackie

Mowgli + Owen + Jackie = Mowenackie

My husband, T,  is Army National Guard. He returned from a year-long deployment (his second) to Afghanistan last December. We’ve pretty much got our feet under us again, but reintegration is always a bit of a challenge, no matter how smoothly it goes.

I blog about the military, my pets animal companions and anything else that comes to mind – which is usually hiking, healthy food or my husband. What can I say, I like H’s. (Not really.) You can learn more about me on my Howdy page.

But enough about me. Let’s hear something about you. So link up, yo!

Next week’s host will be the fabulous Mrs. Mike over at The Science of Missing You. Her young family is facing down yet another deployment very, very shortly, so after you link up, please go show her some MilSpouse Lovin’.

Party Time! (Excellent)

Before I get back to my myth debunking, I wanted to let you know that I’m having a party tomorrow and you’re invited. No, really! Here’s your invitation:

Who: Anyone on Twitter
When: Thursday, 8:30 pm EST
Where: Twitter!

And now for the What:

Bloggers, you know how in your blog statistics you can see the search engine terms folks used to find or stumble upon your blog? In WordPress it looks like this:

Search Engine Terms

I glow with pleasure when someone searches for my blog by name, but other than that glad moment, today’s term crop was pretty tame. I can figure out which of my posts were connected with each and every one of those searches.

This is not always the case. On many days – if not most – the term crop is a source of amusement, wonder and downright confusion. The Search Engine Terms section has far surpassed the Spam Comments as my favorite statistics feature.

The searches can be wacky, such as, I’m a short smurf. Okay. Good to know.

Some make me wish I could’ve seen the person’s face when they clicked on the post. For instance, I’m positive that brown rice, demystified brought up this post. That person must have thought, What the…?

Some leave me scratching my own head. I can honestly say that I have NO idea where the person landed who searched for seymour paving doesn’t respond.

Ditto for my current favorite: wife groping stories while at cinema with her kids. I’m quite sure I don’t want to know for what it is that person was searching.

Some recent comments on Twitter have convinced me that other bloggers find this as hilarious and perplexing as I do. So, I thought, why not share the fun? Let’s have a hashtag party on Thursday night and swap #oddblogsearches!

Here’s How it works:

1. Make sure you’re logged into Twitter at 8:30 p.m. EST on Thursday, July 7th.
2. Get your #oddblogsearches ready!
3. Use the hashtag #oddblogsearches to Tweet your weird and wild search engine terms.
4. Use the hashtag #oddblogsearches to find and view other bloggers’ Tweets.
5. Don’t forget to comment on others’ Tweets!

The only rule is that you remember there are people behind those searches. Sure, we’ll be poking some good, clean fun at the terms as we wonder, how in the heck did that link to my blog? but let’s keep it light. Thanks!

If you aren’t a blogger, come on by anyway! It should be a few laughs. And don’t forget to spread the word!

The Mythology of the Weekend Warrior

In some circles, the National Guard has acquired the unfair stigma of producing “Weekend Warriors”. The common belief is that the Guard’s military commitment is limited to one weekend a month and two weeks out of the year.

Tee hee. It is to laugh.

In other words, Um, no.

That may or may not have been the case fifteen years ago. I wouldn’t know since I met my husband during wartime and virtually on the eve of his first deployment; a time when he was very active in the military. The fact of the matter is that these days, the commitment involves much, much more than that. And, quite frankly, that causes some problems.

Please allow me to elaborate.*

*Note that the following are from my own experiences and observations. I’m sure situations can differ widely, but you’ll at least get the drift of where I’ve gisted. (Ew).

1. Drill weekend is a sleepover.
The armory where my husband drills is a two and a half hour drive from where we live. This makes showing up for 0700 formation on Saturday morning rather difficult. T generally opts to go up Friday night in lieu of getting up at 0330 to make the long, sleepy, dark drive. It is also almost impossible for T to come home in the evenings once dismissed, so he needs to stay overnight.

2. A drill weekend is not just Saturday and Sunday.
My husband is an occifer, as I fondly refer to him, so drill weekend often starts, not with formation on Saturday at 0700, but with a leaders’ meeting at 1800 on Friday evening. T– like many members of the National Guard – holds a civilian job. He works in the world of finance, so most weekdays he sits behind a computer until 5:00 p.m.

Let’s review: T gets out of work at 5:00 p.m. It’s a two and a half hour drive to the armory. Leaders’ meeting starts at 1800.

If you do the math, you will find that it is logistically impossible for T to be at the armory in time for his meeting unless he gets out of work an hour and a half early.

Further, not all drill weekends are MUTA 4s (Saturday and Sunday). Some are MUTA 5s (starting Friday night, pushing the leaders meeting to Friday afternoon), some are MUTA 6s (starting Friday at 0700) and there is even the odd MUTA 8 thrown into the schedule (starting Thursday at 0700).

3. The armory is not equipped with barracks or housing.
T’s unit does not provide lodging for soldiers who travel great distances to drill (and there are some who come from further away than T). When they aren’t sleeping in the field, this leaves those soldiers two options: sleep on the concrete floor in the armory or get a hotel room.

EconoLodge logo

My husband, at the advanced age of thirty-nine, chooses to rest his creaky old bones in such luxurious accommodations such as the EconoLodge or the Super8. The cost of a hotel room in this area is approximately $70 per night, so T is essentially paying $140 to go to drill – about half of the salary he makes for being there. Factor in the price of the gas needed to get to and fro and the amount is even less.

4. Using civilian vacation time.
Civilian employers are required by law to give soldiers the time off needed to attend drills, Annual Training (AT), military schools or deployment. However, the manner in which they handle these leaves of absence is left largely up to the individual company or corporation. For example, while my husband has never been given any grief about being gone so often, his employer fully expects that T will use his vacation time towards these leaves until it is gone.

What this means for T (and for me) is that in a typical year, he uses his two weeks of vacation time during AT. (In a non-typical year it’s burned up in other ways.) The advantage is that during this time, T is “double-dipping”, as he calls it. In other words, he gets vacation pay and he gets paid by the military. The downside (which far outweighs the advantage, in my all-important opinion) is that AT is not summer camp. We’re not out sunning ourselves on the beach or rowing blissfully on a lake. It’s my husband’s second job. He works hard and he’s away from home.

Once his vacation time is gone, it’s gone, and we don’t get to spend any time off of work together.

And that just stinks.

5. Taking time to train.
I mentioned that the idea of “one weekend a month and two weeks a year” may have been a schedule conceived during peacetime. These days, National Guard units deploy regularly. Since 2006 my husband’s unit has served a 15-month stint in Iraq and a 12-month in Afghanistan. Those 27-months right there should be enough to debunk the myth of the weekend warrior. Should anyone need more convincing, let me make them aware that in the six months before my husband deployed in December of 2009, he was gone for nine of the 27 weeks. Nine. That’s about two additional months of missed work and missed wife.

6. Attending military schools.
Most soldiers in the Guard take their commitment very seriously. They strive for excellence and, in fact, some of them work twice as hard in order to prove their competence when stacked against active duty personnel. They fight hard to dispel the weekend warrior stereotype and to be taken seriously. They want to do well.

Doing well and advancing in the military often requires that the soldier attend different schools. These schools can last anywhere from a week to eight weeks or longer, tacking on even more time to the “one weekend a month” commitment.

So, what do you think? Have I dispelled the myth yet?

Maybe, but I’m just getting warmed up! Watch for numbers 7 -12 over the next few days.

How about you? Are you or is anyone you know in the Guard? What has your or their experience been?