First Comes Love

  In two short weeks, I will be celebrating my 10 year wedding anniversary to the love of my life.  I have been with Les most of my adult life – literally.  We met when I was 17 and he was 19.  We were two young kids working summer jobs at the Virginia Beach Resort Hotel, and we were pretty much together from that first week in the summer of 1996.  We have been together 16 years, and there is truly no one I would rather have as my partner than him.  We have been through so much in 16 years.

I wish I had started this blog years ago, before it was hip and trendy to have a blog, to share and record all of these amazing memories and experiences.  I have kept a journal off and on, and Les has kept a journal at times as well.  I plan to go back to many of the experiences and memories in those journals and re-visit them here .  My memory is not as good as it should be, and if I don’t get my stories and reflections down now, I worry that they will be lost over time.  The things I have been through, and the experiences Les and I have been through in our relationship, are not necessarily unique or extraordinary.  They are things most people can relate to personally or know someone else who has gone through something similar.  In just the last 10 years we have started careers, moved away to a new state and back home again, survived cancer, bought our first home, struggled through infertility, had three kids, and tried to maintain our marriage, family, friendships, and overall work and life balance.

Today we feel blessed to be healthy and happy.  We have everything we could ever want, including three remarkable miracle babies.  I am not saying things are perfect, because nobody’s life is, including mine.  I do know better than to complain too much though, especially when I have the gifts that I do have.  I am a pretty honest and open person, and I plan to share the good and the bad here, in the most candid way I can.  My marriage is strong, but it is not strong without hard work, compromise, and commitment.  My children are amazing, but not because I am some super parent or because they are any more “special” than anyone else’s kids.  They are amazing because they are mine, and of course I think they are awesome.  Parenting is full of some hard stuff though!  I had a heck of a time adjusting to parenthood with my first child Isabella – struggled to get pregnant, rough delivery, miserable first two months as a mom with healing, nursing, and probably some postpartum depression.  My second child, Jacob, brought his own set of challenges – more infertility struggles, a better delivery and postpartum experience, hypotonia, developmental delays, and a whole host of worries and stress that continue to humble me and scare the crap out of me on a regular basis (lots more to come on all that).  My third child, Noah, was the most wonderful surprise in the world – totally unexpected, yet so welcome.  I am glad to say that this has been my most “typical” parenting experience, although nothing is easy or typical when you have three children under the age of four in your house.

What a crazy and wonderful life!  I will take the crazy, hectic, challenging stuff about this life any day if it comes with a side of wonderful.  So much of what is wonderful is having my loving, smart, funny, interesting, caring, and adorable husband by my side.  Here’s to many more years of marriage and adventure!

Is Memorial Day Enough? The Case for Shared Sacrifice…

Memorial Day is a day that we are supposed to remember those who have died in our nation’s service.  It is a day to say thank you to those veterans and their families for their service, and ultimate sacrifice, defending our freedom.  It is a day to honor those few brave men and women who have paid the price of these wars – 6,400 U.S. servicemen and women have died in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and at least 48,000 more have been wounded.

To most Americans, Memorial Day weekend represents an extended reprieve from work and the daily grind.  It means a chance to get together with family and friends for cookouts, trips to the beach or pool, or maybe even a vacation.  Many of us will spend about two minutes thinking about the meaning of Memorial Day or actually remembering the tremendous sacrifice of the few that have served and perished.  This is not necessarily a bad thing, and I am not writing this to pass any judgement.  I am right there with most Americans that spent this past weekend with my family and friends, spending little time (except for this blog post) really doing anything significant to honor our fallen heroes.  The reason is that I do not personally know anyone who has been injured or killed in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.  I know many who have served and currently serve in the military, my father, brother-in-law, and several neighbors to name a few.  Most people in America don’t even personally know anyone currently serving in the military or directly impacted by these wars that our country has been engaged in for the past 10 years.

In my opinion, this is one of the fundamental problems of our nation in the last decade – the lack of shared sacrifice.  We have been at war with HUGE costs to our nation – $1 trillion (recent report from Congressional Research Service), 6,400 lives lost, 48,000 wounded, untold mental health/PTSD damage, lasting impacts to military families of those who have suffered loss of life, limb, or mental well-being – just to name a few.  If you are not serving in the wars, or a family member of someone serving, how have you been affected over the last 10 years?  How have you had to sacrifice?  What cost have you felt from these wars?  I don’t feel like I have felt any cost or had to sacrifice anything significant in the past decade as a result of these wars.  Unlike previous wars that our country has fought, the general population has not seen tax increases (we have actually seen several tax decreases), major non-military spending cuts, or any threat of a draft that might make us feel vulnerable or like we have some skin in the game.

This is not an argument for or against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, this is an argument for shared sacrifice.  How is it that so few in our country bear such a heavy burden for these wars, while the majority go for days, weeks, or years without a single thought or concern about our nation’s battles?  That just does not seem right.  How quickly everyone in America would be paying attention and engaged in debate if the government asked them to sacrifice before deciding to go into war.  If people knew they would pay higher taxes, or the government would need to make major spending cuts, or implement a draft – what would the support for the wars have looked like 10 years ago or today?  I am guessing that we might actually be thinking and talking about the war and whether the sacrifice is worth it, if we all had a little skin in the game.

I am thankful to all those that bravely serve our country.  I am so sorry to all those who have lost someone while defending our freedom – you and your loved ones have made the ultimate sacrifice.  How do you honor Memorial Day?  What do you think about the concept of shared sacrifice in terms of the war and how everyday Americans think about the war?

If you want to read more on this topic, here is is the link to an interesting column by Bruce Bartlett, Economist and Writer:

http://www.forbes.com/2009/11/25/shared-sacrifice-war-taxes-opinions-columnists-bruce-bartlett.html

Dance Like No One is Watching

There are quite a few things that a 4-year-old can get away with that a 34-year-old simply can’t quite pull off:  smocked clothing, light-up sneakers,  licking the bowl after eating ice cream, and possibly dancing by yourself to a steel drum band in the middle of town center.  I guess a 34-year-old could get away with these things, meaning they would not be carted off to jail or checked into a psychiatric hospital, but they certainly would be looked at a little funny.  However, a 4-year-old doing any of the aforementioned things is a pretty adorable sight.  Last night we enjoyed a wonderful family dinner at Bravo in the Virginia Beach Town Center to celebrate our niece Emily’s 13th birthday.  It was a more relaxing dinner than usual because my parents were watching our two youngest children while we took our daughter Isabella to dinner.  Isabella is pretty good at restaurants, but she is still a picky, restless 4-year-old who has a hard time sitting through a two-hour meal at a restaurant that does not have television, video games, or a playground.  Right outside the restaurant was the temptation of fountains, a steel drum band, and lots of people.  Needless to say, someone would be going for periodic breaks with Isabella and our  7-year-old niece throughout the meal.  Because my husband Les is awesome when it comes to all things kids, he volunteered to take the girls out so they could dance and prance about.

There are many things that rock about being four years old.  My husband and I often remark how awesome it is to be our daughter Isabella.  I mean last Saturday she woke up to homemade pancakes, played soccer, went to a carnival, went to an afternoon birthday party, played with her friends, watched a movie, and got a bath and bedtime story before settling in for a restful 12 hours of sleep.  THAT sounds like an AWESOME way to spend 24 hours!  Heck, if I could just get some exercise and a grown-up movie in the same day I would feel like I was on vacation, or I would feel guilty about taking too much time away from my family.  Exercise, movie, AND a play-date with my friends or my husband – that would just be crazy talk.  Twelve hours of sleep – LOL – that is really crazy talk.  I am telling you, it is good to be four years old!

I think many of the adults, and even teenagers, in the courtyard of town center probably felt like dancing to that steel drum band last night.  Some people were swaying side-to-side, tapping their feet, or had a little bounce in their step, but only the children were really dancing.  They weren’t just dancing either – they were dancing as if no one was watching them.  Spinning, cartwheels, arm waving, jumping, and dancing without a care in the world, as a kid does best.  It was a delight to watch and almost made me want to get out there and dance too, except for the fear of people watching.

Introducing… Five Spinning Plates

Hi.  My name is Jessica.  I am a 34 year-old woman living in Virginia.  I have been married to Les for almost 10 years (and we have been together for 16 years).  I am the mother to three children:  Isabella (4), Jacob (2), and Noah (1).  I work in sales 3 days/week and am home with my children and our crazy schedule the other 4 days/week.  Call this blog my mini mid-life crisis or just my way to put my feelings, thoughts, and experiences out there for the world to read.  It could also be my way to share my experiences and create a forum for other people to share their experiences and thoughts.  It may be another outlet for me to vent since my husband, and even some of my friends and family members, are probably sick of my stories and ramblings.  I know that this blog will also force me to write regularly, to actually record those funny stories about my kids and anecdotes about life, love, politics, relationships, work, success, failure, friendship, family, and everything in between.  Maybe one day, this blog will be a wonderful, and potentially very embarrassing way, for my kids to remember their mom.   I guess there are multiple reasons for starting this blog, and I hope you will join me as I embark on this journey and see what takes shape.

Like many women who are trying to balance it all, I sometimes think I have it all together and figured out, and other times I feel like all the spinning plates I am juggling are crashing down around me.  I chose Five Spinning Plates as the title for this blog because the five people in my family, including myself, are the plates I am usually trying to keep in the air.  Sometimes I am spinning 5 different plates just at work or just with one of my kids, but the title still works.  Of course I could have called the blog 50 spinning plates or 200 spinning plates because that is usually more what it feels like, but 5 seemed more symbolic and realistic for me.  In this new world of blogging and domain names that I am entering, most of the other good names were already taken anyway.

Let me put a few disclaimers out there at the outset.

1.  This is my first time writing for an audience and my first experience with a blog.  I have no idea what I am doing so bear with me.

2.  Just ignore or overlook grammatical errors.  Please and thank you.  I will do my best to correct mistakes, but I know there will be mistakes as grammar was never my strong suit.

3.  I look forward to comments and questions from anyone interested in a conversation.  My intent is not to offend anyone or hurt anyone’s feelings that may not agree with things I say on this blog.  I am doing this blog so I have an outlet to share my stories and experiences and to express my opinions and views on things.  Those topics may include politics, parenting styles or choices, books, movies, and maybe even religion.  If you don’t like what I have to say, share your thoughts and feelings or just ignore the post.

Thanks for checking out my blog.  Join me on this journey and share your thoughts and experiences with me along the way.  Enjoy!