Worthless day.

The MIL is at home for the week, since she took off three days and the county gives them two for Thanksgiving. I don’t know if it’s that it seems like she has gotten so much done while I barely managed to get eight invoices typed, or that I just had an off-day. It’s hard for me to adjust to sudden changes in schedule when not on my dime, and having her in the house with me 24-7 is not something that I would opt in to given the choice. If she helped me get more done, then yes, but it usually just ends up that I’m taking the boy back. It didn’t help that I had no real schedule for today, and somehow I feel guilty for that.

I don’t know how women did it in the 40s and 50s. Raised to it, I guess, because I can’t do it all. I can barely keep the floors swept. But then, I am cleaning and cooking for four grown adults, four dogs, and a baby – and most of the time, the dogs seem to be better at keeping their space clean than the people. It never fails that by the time I get to the back part of the house, the front needs cleaning again. And before you say anything about getting the rest of them to pitch in, let me add that I can’t even convince 354 to put his socks away in the hamper most days. (And he wonders where they all go…)

I need a maid. Or, a decent babysitter. Either would help me out tremendously.

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That lonesome feeling…

I have heard many LEOWs talk about being “married single,” the idea being that we are often left to our own devices to raise our children and socialize with our friends while our husbands are on shift, or training. I didn’t understand it quite as well when 354 and I were courting. How could I, when even though we basically lived together, we still had separate lives? After we got married, it became clearer. Married but not getting half as much time together as an average couple, having to fight to spend quality time together, having to adjust (and fast) to the stress of the job as it affected our relationship. With him on nights, it was exponentially harder – a newlywed couple, hardly together unless you counted being in the same house as “together.” He slept while I worked, and I slept (mostly) while he worked, only seeing each other in passing from one shift to another. There were nights I didn’t sleep, up worried because of the call he was on, while the dogs huddled around the bed as they sensed my worry. There were more times spent in anger or frustration that should have been spent in partnership or in discussion. I wasn’t the best wife – I never considered myself the best candidate for marriage in the first place – and I didn’t try very hard to compromise at first. There was a turning point, where both of us said and did things we knew we would regret, and we did, and we apologized. It’s hard enough to be married; it’s so many times harder to be married to someone in public safety. Human nature already makes marriage hard. The job makes it harder.

We spent almost two years out of public safety, as civilians. After he applied, and was accepted, to his current department, things went back to our normal. I’ve gotten used to having the bed to myself more often than not, which is only convenient since I have to get up at least once to feed the baby. I’ve gotten used to trying to do our chores and my projects around him asleep in our part of the house, which was easier when it was just us and the dogs (or maybe it was easier when I had almost an entire house to myself). I’m still getting used to having a car to myself again, and the ability to go places almost whenever and wherever I need or want to.

I feel the same sense of loss from my husband now that I did when we were first married, with the presence of our son in our lives. I understand more readily being married single, now that I experience it as a young mother and LEOW. My husband obviously loves our son, but there’s not much for him to do while Little Man is still… little. And worse than that, not that he means to spend so much time away at work, or asleep in the bed, but there are so many others in the home that are raising his son while he’s patrolling. We live with his parents until we get our feet under us, and a place of our own. There are always a pair of hands looking to take the responsibility of caring for our son – out of love, thankfully – when it should be me and my husband raising our child. Instead, it’s me and his parents and his aunt and uncle, with 354 kind of in the background. And it makes me sad to see him with Little Man, knowing how much he loves his boy, and knowing that the only time he gets to spend with him is the short time between sleep and shift.

It’s like being a part of two different households – two ships passing in the night, to borrow the cliche. I never knew how hard it was to be the LEO mom until now, and I suppose that’s a given. How can you know unless you’ve been there?

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A slew of LODD… How do you cope?

Today, Branding Nielsen and Jeremy Triche were shot and killed. Michael Scott Boyington and Jason Triche were wounded in a related incident. All four are deputies in St. John’s the Baptist Parish, Louisiana. Five suspects are in custody for the “ambush-style” attack in a Valero refinery parking lot.

Three days ago, a Brazos County, Texas constable was killed serving an eviction notice near Texas A&M. Brian Bachmann was 10-42, headed home to his family, and took the notice for another officer. Three other officers were wounded in the shootout. The suspect was killed.

67 officers have been killed in the line of duty, to date, in 2012. That’s obviously down from 2011, but it seems more lately that these LODDs are targeted murders of LEOs, not “occupational hazards.” Less traffic stops gone bad, and more IEDs strategically placed for maximum damage. I’m not saying that makes it worse, or that anyone should expect to die on a traffic stop any more than at a standoff with an armed suspect, but people are getting scarier by the hour. And I’m watching my husband walk out the door and drive away, knowing the possibilities.

I read about these officers like Triche and Bachman, and think of their wives getting that knock at the door. Sometimes, I think of what it would be like to be that woman, and feel ashamedly, blessedly glad that I’m not. I could be. Any of us could be “that wife,” the one who lost her husband in a gunfight with a repeat offender, or in a high speed pursuit of a DV suspect with his kids in the backseat. Thanks to God, my husband comes home and kisses our son on the forehead, me on the cheek and lips before he goes to bed.

I read about these men (and women) who are killed on the job and feel distantly sad, as if a small part of me has gone with them. We are a family, all of us on the blue line, mo matter how far apart. And yet the more I read, the more distant it feels. The guilt for feeling that way builds. These people died protecting me, just like soldiers overseas. Shouldn’t I feel more than this? Shouldn’t I be doing something about it, in my community, somewhere? They left behind families, children, parents who loved them and will never get to hug them until they all get to Heaven. How is that fair? And why don’t I feel more for their deaths than a distant ache?

I know if I cried over every LODD, if I mourned every on duty fatality, I would never get off the floor. It would paralyze me. Maybe my husband has worn off on me more than I thought. Maybe my faith is stronger than I know. Last week, I got a text from 354:

Hey I’m out on an IED call I’m 10 4 waiting on EOD call when I’m clear DO NOT CALL ME I will call you I love yall 10000s

A younger me would have chewed her fingers off with worry. When we were first married, there were nights I literally couldn’t sleep, knowing the calls he was on and the nights he patrolled. I stayed awake in the bed, waiting for him to pull in the carport, and fell asleep curled up against him. The woman I am now read that text, bit her lip, refused to worry, and prayed for his safety. I got a call a few hours later – EOD showed up and were working the call, he was fine but he was busy and would see us when he got home. Three years ago, I couldn’t have gone to bed knowing he was on a bomb call. Now, I rocked my son to sleep, said another prayer, and crawled into bed. 354 woke me up the next morning when he collapsed into bed beside me.

I don’t know if feeling distant at these LEOs is healthy, or wrong of me. I do the best I can. I am trying to make a difference in my community, sometimes in the name of those who died trying to protect it and sometimes in support of the ones they left behind. We never think it could happen to us. But it does. It has to happen to somebody, and we should feel something, however small, when it does.

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Walking the line.

The other morning in church, I was in the restroom “fixing” my son his early lunch. I came out of the restroom with him under a blanket, and met a woman with a young girl in tow. She had that “look” on her face, the one that says she’s headed to the parking lot, and someone isn’t going to be happy when they get back. The girl was trying not to cry; as Daddy called it, “sub-subbing” through the end of a fit. As they crossed the foyer and passed me, the woman stared me down as if daring me to say something. I smiled a little, and headed for the water fountain before I went back in the sanctuary. About the time they made it past my shoulder, the little girl said fearfully, “But I don’t want to go see Daddy.” I turned to go back into the service, just in time to see the mother, jaw clenched, grab the girl with one hand around her jaw and the other on the back of her neck, and jerk her into the ladies’ restroom. The girl immediately began to cry again, nearly screaming, “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, Mama!” I heard the skin-to-skin contact even after the restroom door swung closed. My stomach knotted up. I was torn between going in there and saying something, or minding my own business. In the end, I walked into the sanctuary and took care of my son, feeling like a coward.

I am all for corporal punishment. I was spanked and thumped and snatched as a child, and I turned out fine. I think the reports of increased mental instability due to spankings are a load of shit, and the folks doing the studies are largely tweaking their findings to support the anti-spanking “movement.” As cliche as it will sound, my parents were spanked, their parents were spanked, and so on. I don’t have any axe murderers in my family, just a few crazies. And we all know how to use our heads and our manners, even the lead-than-stable members of the family. I think a lot of parents in my generation, and the previous one, are using corporal punishment as an excuse to get out of the scary parts of parenting – the discipline – and they are doing their kids a huge disservice.

That said, there is a distinct difference between corporal punishment and outright abuse. My husband saw abuse everyday at his old department. Domestic situations turned violent over something small, like a dirty sock or a book out of place, often fueled by alcohol or drugs. A child routinely coming to school with new bruises every time his mom broke up with another boyfriend. Teenagers out sleeping in vehicles, at friends’ houses, in the garage, or at the park – anywhere but at home in their own beds. Abuse goes beyond discipline. Abuse is violence done for violence’s sake, done wholly out of rage on a weaker individual because of their inability to retaliate. It appears in all walks of life, from the worst-kept projects to the highest-bid mansion. It doesn’t matter where it happens or who is doing it. Abuse is unacceptable, no matter what reason you can come up with to try and justify it.

Discipline is unpleasant, but it is not ugly. It is necessary, however unpleasant. Everyone disciplines differently, and that’s fine. I believe corporal punishment works, for one, because my father implemented it (Momma tried). I knew my limitations, and I knew where the lines were drawn that would get me a serious talking to, and the one that would get me a spanking. My father never beat me, or yelled at me just for the sake of it, or told me that I was worthless or stupid or a waste of space. He spanked me when I did something I deserved it, raised his voice when I raised mine, and told me that I wasn’t using my head, that I could do better, that I was wasting my talents. To this day, I respect my father for doing his best to raise a daughter as a single father. His methods may have not been the greatest or the most appropriate by current psychological standards, but he was effective. I learned manners, I learned right from wrong, I learned limits. I was not a kid that could be talked to, or reasoned with, for a long time. I required corporal punishment because I was hardheaded, and that was what got through to me. Not every kid works that way.

But that isn’t an excuse to take it too far.

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Baby blues.

Our son has the most beautiful blue eyes. Most of the time – sometimes they’re dark gray, but more often than not, he stares at me with baby blues.

Those baby blues are the only solution to my issue of the same name. Everyone goes through it, I hear, and with my past of (undiagnosed) depression, I’ve worried my fair share about PPD. I don’t currently suffer from anything more serious than the common everyday baby blues.

And thinking about it semi-rationally, I guess I have a right to a small pity party. In the past three weeks, since our son arrived on the scene, I have spent more than two-thirds of that time in the hospital for postpartum complications, namely two complete episiotomy breakdowns, one post-delivery, and one after the surgery to repair the first breakdown. Apparently my lady bits don’t appreciate sutures, so I have been left to heal the “medieval way,” as my OB put it. I have spent more quality time with a hospital bed and IV techs than my infant son, and probably have only gotten as much time as I have with him because I’m breastfeeding exclusively. I’m afraid to go to the bathroom most of the time because I worry I could split what’s left of my sphincter and bleed out before I get to the hospital (yes, I think about this). I’m usually in pain by 1700, and wait to take a pain pill until close to 2300 because I want to make sure I can get some sleep before the kid wakes me up for his mid-morning feeding. I’m tired of being tired; of being in pain; of trying to do my job and everyone else’s too; of packing a wound that shouldn’t be there four to six times a day with wet-to-dry dressings, and wishing I could be back in the hospital only so someone else could take care of me. (And maybe deliver some morphine on demand.) I’m sick of knowing I will never have another “natural” birth – which, honestly, despite the aftermath of complications, was probably the most rewarding experience of my life. I would like to drive again, to be independent again.

Lucky for me, I’m not on required bed rest, which only serves to exacerbate my condition. I’m not required to show up for daily visits to the OB to check my wound for infection (anymore). Tucker, our GSD, has me in sight at all times, so she’s not causing all kinds of chaos of the anxiety-fueled intestinal variety. Our son is on a pretty regular schedule, which is a blessing as I’m only getting up once a night to feed him. The hardest part of my last hospital stay was agreeing to start pumping breastmilk at 2 weeks and sending him home with my in-laws every night to keep him on a schedule – he stayed with us 24/7 during the first visit for repair surgery, and it was not good for any of us. I can get around all right, though the recovery makes things a little uncomfortable, and my three weeks of mostly bed rest (unintentional but mostly unavoidable) has made me weaker than I felt during the pregnancy. And, best of all, every time I look at my son, I’m reminded of why I’m going through this in the first place.

Not Murphy’s Law; maybe Army Law.

A combination of “Hurry Up and Wait,” which I’m told is unofficially the true U.S. Army slogan, and “Everything Will Be On Hold Until It All Happens At Once.” It seems to be the thing, especially in the past couple of weeks.

Sunday week ago, I wrecked our Crown Vic. Totaled it, as a matter of fact. If it wasn’t for the pine tree at the top of the embankment, I would have rolled completely. 354 was supposed to be gone on two jobs out of state for the week; I had, as a matter of fact, just dropped him off to leave. As it was, he stayed in town. We had an appointment Wednesday, with all expectations of being in the hospital that afternoon and a baby in arm by Thursday.

Our expectations got shot down Wednesday afternoon after the results of the amniocentesis came back negative – lungs too immature to induce, come back next week – and I spent the rest of the day in a mild depressive state combined with discomfort from a pissed off kid and a disgruntled uterus. I stayed in bed and got up only when I was forced, out of awkward social necessity, to attend church that evening.

BUT that was the only bad part of the week. We sold the Crown and my POS Grand Cherokee, and put that cash to a down payment on another vehicle – a family truck, an ’02 Expedition, with enough room for the kid, the dogs and whatever else we decide to pack in it. 354 got in touch with a captain in one of the departments he had applied with over a month ago, and found out where his application had disappeared to (not file 13, thankfully). And despite getting put on standby for a week with regard to the arrival of the boy, he is more than healthy, still plenty large and growing, with a good strong heartbeat.

This week has been quieter, which has been a blessing and a curse. A blessing because it’s given us time to finish the nursery (yes, finish) and prepare the truck, get the house ready, and do… whatever else needs done. 354 has heard back from more than one department, all wanting to know (months later, thankyou) if he was still interested in a position. We’re waiting on good things from one of them soon. We got a good report from the doctor on Wednesday, and they gave us an induction date. So here I am, sitting in a hospital bed in a very comfortable room, getting ready to change my life for the better, forever. Hooked up to monitors, got an IV ready for tomorrow…

Hurry up, and wait.

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Learning by example.

The values we aspire to teach our children are important, but the values we show our children are inevitably what they learn, no matter our intention. If you teach that all people are worthy of respect, while putting down people in another class, of another race/religion/lifestyle, I can guarantee your kids will act as you do.

“Do as I say, not as I do.” That was a familiar refrain when I was growing up. As a youngster, it meant I was to listen to my father and obey his words. Now that I’m older, it has another meaning: my father knew he was a flawed human being, and wasn’t going to be bothered to change his ways to be a better example. Don’t get me wrong, he was an example of many things, some good and some bad. A lot of my “teaching” was through lots of thought on my part, not from any conscious example of his. As an adult, even if mostly in years, I know that my daddy did and said many things he shouldn’t have, and made some mighty poor decisions, as all humans do. I also know that he taught me, through example, that actions speak louder than words; that honesty, no matter how painful, is always the best policy; that sometimes you have to swallow your pride and apologize; and that if you say you’re going to do something, you better damn well follow through.

My mother taught that all opinions are valuable; that people are equal; it’s important to think for yourself; and that family will always be there for you. What she showed me was that you can get what you want by manipulating others; people are only valuable by what they have to offer you; thinking for yourself means nothing if you don’t agree with the “powers that be”; and that you can pick and choose what family you have, or at least what family you prefer to interact with when you feel like it.

From both of my parents, I learned how to be a loner with friends. Someone with few memories of the past beyond what I chose to remember, or at least create to my liking (sometimes I have trouble telling the difference). My “broken home” shaped an odd amalgamation of simultaneously repressed emotion with explicit outbursts. My life experiences through high school only served to reinforce my outlook, and if it hadn’t been for university (despite its rough beginnings), I might have mistaken my reluctance to interact with others beyond my daily scope with true independence for the rest of my life.

My parents aren’t bad people. They may not have been the best parents all the time, but they tried. What they didn’t teach, I learned elsewhere – usually the hard way. It made the lesson stick a little more, and the bigger the lesson, the better I took it to heart. In some respects, it might have been better if I had been shown by mom and dad than the life experience, but it’s too late to change it now.

This comes up in my head now that I’m about to take on full-time motherhood. I worry, like all first-time parents, if I’m going to be a good mom; if I’m going to pass on more bad things than good from my life. I think all parents should worry , at least a little – after all, how can we check ourselves if we don’t examine our words and actions? The thing that I keep telling myself is that, unlike my parents’ divided style of child-rearing, I can learn with my kids while I’m teaching them. I can teach my children that it’s okay to be human, to make mistakes and learn from them, even if that means having to apologize or make amends at the expense of pride.

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Shocking News! Police are people, too.

I love it when people take precious time to inform me that all police are assholes/thieves/power-mongers that only write tickets for a power jag; waste gas and taxpayer money by riding around aimlessly or sitting at the department; got into the job for the gun and badge; and so on. Usually, these are the same people that ask for a favor from my husband (no matter what jurisdiction they are/were in compared to his) once they find out he’s a cop. The same self-important assholes that rail against how unfair their ticket was, they were only going 68 in a 45, how dare that smug sonovabitch waste their time, don’t they know there are people out there shooting up gas stations?! The same self-righteous SOBs who explain that they were unfairly arrested a month or so ago when they only had a couple of drinks, that road sign had to have been new, and that trooper was hiding in the median – and wants to know if my husband might could get the charge reduced, even though my husband is a city officer and has no state jurisdiction, because all cops must know each other on an intimate personal basis.

Guess what, you self-satisfied jackwagon: if you didn’t break the law, my husband (and all his brothers and sisters in law enforcement) wouldn’t have jobs to do. So I guess I should thank you, my dear, for making sure my husband is employed. Continue reading

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Dear Mother-in-Law.

I love you. You’re great. Thank you for taking me into your home and your family with open arms. I got lucky as mother-in-laws go.

But you fucking irritate me. A lot.

Continue reading

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In the event of death.

On March 22, 2011, two Athens-Clarke County police officers were shot in the line of duty, following a lead on a kidnapping and carjacking by a subject known to them. Senior Police Officer Tony Howard was shot in the face and shoulder, underwent surgery, and has since returned to work, though not patrol. Senior Police Officer Elmer “Buddy” Christian died on the scene, killed before he could even open the door to his patrol car, shot through his driver’s side window by the fleeing suspect. Four days later, the subject surrendered under a blanket of television cameras and microphones, reveling in his newfound publicity as a cop-killer. Thousands of people turned out for SPO Christian’s funeral, lining miles of road between the ceremony and the cemetery to pay their respects to the horse-drawn hearse draped in the American flag; and the mourning family that followed behind, including SPO Christian’s wife, Melissa, and their two young children.

We were living out of state at the time of the tragedy, and I remember following the unfolding drama as best I could on my iPhone, through the ACC scanner, the news, and text updates. I didn’t cry, which surprised me. Officer Down. I could only feel rage, resignation, and slightly relieved – because it wasn’t my husband on the news. (And afterward, guilty for feeling that way.) My husband knew SPO Christian, went to a couple of training sessions with him. The community really stepped up for the family in the aftermath of his death, donating time and money to see that SPO Christian’s dream of taking care of his family – to build a family home, to send his children to school, to make sure they want for nothing. It’s a shame that his dream was realized so quickly, without him here to see it, under the circumstances.

354 spent four years in a city that was like a Hollywood set – pretty on the main street surface, but get off the beaten path and find nothing but ramshackle construction and dark corners. Nine housing projects and four trailer parks within 10.5 square miles and a frequent stop on the pill trail up from Florida. The census data is never correct because there’s no telling who actually lives where or for how long. Usually there were no more than four officers plus a supervisor on shift because it was all the city would spend for the officers on duty – there was no more in the budget for additional officers, a common reply – and some you couldn’t trust for backup. I did my best not to worry when he left for work, but I did a lot of praying, and a lot of listening to the scanner app on my phone. He made sure to call or text me when he could, and I tried not to call him every five minutes to check up, in case I’d be interrupting him while he was on a call. There were some dicey calls that he called in the middle of, if he had a chance, to let me know what was going on and that he was okay; often I wouldn’t get a call until after things had calmed down. I never got a call from another officer, or from dispatch, to let me know that something had gone wrong and that I could meet him at the hospital; and I never got someone showing up at the house to take me somewhere to be there when he woke up. I had a dream, while he was on duty one night, that he got shot and was in a coma. I woke myself up, crying, and couldn’t bring myself to call him and make sure he was okay, because what if he wasn’t? I finally managed to send him a text, and got an almost-immediate response, but he still came home the next morning to find me wide-awake in the bed, waiting on him. He never left the house, or hung up the phone, or stopped texting me, without saying “I love you,” no matter how tired or pissed off or tense we were with each other. It was unthinkable that the one night we didn’t say it would be the night that would change everything, and neither of us wanted to live through the aftermath of that possibility knowing that we hadn’t told each other the most important thing.

It takes a special breed to be married to a law enforcement officer, a subset of the species that is the support base for public safety and military in general. You must be thick-skinned, to withstand the stresses of not exactly knowing when your spouse will be home or what’s going on while they’re on call, to shake off the rude comments and invasive questions that strangers will inevitably pose if they find out you’re married to a cop, to ignore the demands and hopeful requests from friends who hope you can somehow get their ticket reduced or thrown out, even though they might have been going twenty over in a 45, but what’s the big deal? You have to be self-sufficient, to some degree, because you are all things while your spouse is on shift – an off day can prove useful for the big projects, but the daily tasks like dishes and laundry and car maintenance and grocery shopping is largely on your shoulders. If you’re a parent, you must often be mom and dad, because Daddy’s asleep because he worked last night, let’s go to the park so you can play and we won’t wake him, okay? You must be okay with a limited social circle, because some people cannot be trusted, and a lot of people won’t understand the quirks that your husband possesses, like a requirement to sit facing the door at a restaurant and his habit of watching every single person that goes by the table, and no, we can’t eat there because there’s a strong possibility of running into some people he’s arrested. Most of all, you must be stronger than anyone imagines, because you don’t know, and you can’t afford to speculate or you’ll never get off your ass and get things done.

Because it is the first anniversary of his death, the local paper did a “look back” with SPO Christian’s widow, Melissa. They married in 1996, bought property in the next county in 2000, had two children, and planned their lives together, including their dream house to be built on the other side of the treeline. Melissa recounts her goings-on the day that Buddy was killed, including not being able to see her husband until the Friday after, and the voicemail that he left on her phone that she didn’t listen to until that afternoon. “Hey babe — checking with you to see how you’re doing. Love you.” 

I can’t read those words without crying uncontrollably.

I can’t imagine what Melissa must have been going through when she got back to the vet school and was met by all those people. Scratch that: I don’t want to imagine it. Selfish, yes, but I can hear the same words that Buddy left for his wife in my husband’s voice. He left me voicemails often that were to the same tune when he was on duty, called me and I couldn’t get to the phone in time. I don’t want to think of all those calls that went right that could’ve gone wrong. I don’t want to think of someone coming to get me at home because my husband was shot and killed in the line of duty by some lowlife drug runner with no honor and no sense or care. No one wants to be the sudden widow, center of everyone’s curiosity and sympathy, trying to field the endless lines of people while she comforts her children and tries to shut down her brain’s useless lines of thought so she can attempt to function. But for all of us, it has to happen to someone.

My husband is the light of my life. I couldn’t imagine what would happen to me if that light were snuffed out. If my child were left without a father.

God bless you, Melissa, and all the other spouses who’ve lost their officers. We think of you, and them, every day. Thank you for taking the unwanted burden with outward grace so that the rest of us don’t have to. We are here for you.

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