Friday, December 12, 2014

December 11

Our activity for the 11th day of Advent was to have a couple of friends over for dinner.

Finally have a spacious kitchen and dining space means finding excuses to use it.  We love to entertain (as everyone on HGTV's House Hunters is contractually obligated to say) so it's always a plus when we can have some people over.  Given that Nick's office is just finishing up a grueling biennial inspection, we thought we'd invite one of his coworkers over.  He was supposed to come over when they were prepping for trial some months ago; however, Amanda was sick at that time so it had to be postponed.  In addition, one of our friend's husbands is currently at Squadron Officer School in Montgomery, Alabama.  Since he's gone during the week, we thought it would be good to have her over for some socializing, too.

We made chicken tacos with avocado, coleslaw, pepperjack on top, refried beans, and Spanish rice. Fun was had by all, except for Saru, who got nothing (and didn't like it).

December 10

Our activity for the tenth day of Advent was to take food over to the new Lt and his wife as they were moving into their house.

As noted when we discussed deployments, military culture involves frequent moves.  Although the military provides the money and manpower for moves, it nevertheless remains a stressful process.  It took us six months to really get everything set up.

The office just got two new Lieutenants.  One of them decided to live on base.  He and his wife moved in on Wednesday, about a block away from us.  We made apple and parsnip soup, curried turkey salad sandwiches on croissants, and homemade coleslaw.  Amanda spent the day with them, helping them get everything set up and generally providing moral support.

We're happy to have another couple on base who should be good to hang out with.  We just had some of our good friends move 40 minutes away, so it'll be good to have more people nearby to have over.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

December 9

On the ninth day of Advent, our activity was to see "A Christmas Story" at the local theater.

There are any number of classic Christmas movies and shows.  Amanda grew up with "Frosty the Snowman", "Rudolph", "A Muppet Christmas Carol", and "It's a Wonderful Life."  Nick had "How the Grinch Stole Christmas", "A Christmas Story", and more recently the scene from "Female Trouble" where Divine assaults her parents for failing to buy her cha-cha heels.

Nick would like to note that his family watched "A Christmas Story" long before it became a 24-hour-a-day event.  Despite seeing it dozens of times, it still inspires great joy to hear Jean Shepherd's poetic narration, feel nostalgic for a bygone era of American life, and see Ralphie in his ridiculous outfit.

No, not the bunny suit.  We're talking about his bedazzled cowboy ensemble.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

December 8

Our activity for the 8th day of Advent was to donate $15 to Operation Gratitude.

Operation Gratitude is a non-profit, volunteer based organization that "annually sends 150,000+ care packages filled with snacks, entertainment, hygiene and hand-made items, plus personal letters of appreciation, to New Recruits, Veterans, First Responders, Wounded Warriors, Care Givers and to individually named U.S. Service Members deployed overseas. Our mission is to lift the spirits and meet the evolving needs of our Active Duty and Veteran communities, and provide volunteer opportunities for all Americans to express their appreciation to members of our Military. Each package contains donated product valued at $75-100 and costs the organization $15 to assemble and ship. Since its inception in 2003, Operation Gratitude volunteers have shipped more than One Million Care Packages."

Our donation of $15 is enough to cover the cost of one care package. We didn't specify who the care package should go to or who it was from. One lucky New Recruit, Veteran, First Responder, Wounded Warrior, or Care Giver will anonymously receive a care package from us through this organization this holiday season.

"The U.S. Military is us. There is no truer representation of a country than the people that it sends into the field to fight for it. The people who wear our uniform and carry our rifles into combat are our kids, and our job is to support them, because they're protecting us."

Tom Clancy

December 7

Our activity for the 7th day of Advent was to go to church. Since moving to Mississippi, we've been really bad about going to church. As they say, Jesus is the reason for the season and any Advent activities that focus on sharing our blessings need to include going to church. It felt really good to go to Mass after so long. The traditions and rituals of Catholic Mass have always been familiar and comfortable for Amanda, making her feel at home. It is always interesting to hear how different priests approach their Homilies (the sermon after the Gospel reading).

The priest made two points in his Homily which really stood out to Amanda. He talked about how we have lots of voices filling our mind. Voices from the inside (ourselves) and from the outside (TV, movies, radio, friends, family, strangers, books, etc). This time of year, especially, with all the push to treat yourself, buy gifts, consume, consume, consume....God's voice may be hard to hear. It is important to seek his voice in quiet contemplation and make sure we always remember WWJD (remember when those bracelets were popular?!?!). He also made the point that sometimes he thinks people get God confused with Santa Claus. Santa Claus only shows up for the good girls and boys, but God is just the opposite. He doesn't show up just for those that are worthy. He knows we are imperfect and sinners. That is why he sent his only son to save us.   Important points for us to contemplate this holiday season.

"Like a shepherd he feeds his flock; in his arms he gathers the lambs, carrying them in his bosom, and leading the ewes with care." 
 - Isaiah 40:11

Sunday, December 7, 2014

December 6

Our activity on the sixth day of Advent is to donate items to Goodwill.

Over the past year of being here, we've been weeding stuff out and replacing items and generally trying to get rid of things we don't need anymore.  We've done that, but we haven't gotten around to actually donating it to Goodwill.  So during this Advent season, we wanted to make it a point of actually donating the items we've set aside.

“While we do our good works let us not forget that the real solution lies in a world in which charity will have become unnecessary.” 
- Chinua Achebe, Anthills of the Savannah

Saturday, December 6, 2014

December 5

Our activity for the 5th day of Advent is to donate wrapping paper, bows, and other accouterments to a local charity.

When Nick's Great Aunt Helen passed away this May, we were blessed to inherit some of her beautiful antique furniture. She also bequeathed us all of her Christmas stuff.  This included wreaths, tree skirts, stockings, garlands, bows, and numerous ornaments carefully packed and origins documented. Unbeknownst to us, it also included two full dresser drawers of wrapping paper and other accessories. We already have a stockpile of wrapping paper that we probably won't make it through this season. We suddenly found ourselves with about 20-30 more rolls of wrapping paper and a paper grocery bag full of bows. It would take us YEARS to work our way through this stockpile. So we decided rather than hoard the wrapping paper for the future, we should donate it to people who could actually use it.

We have been told about a couple local charities who purchase presents for children in the foster system.  We are still in the process of trying to contact people involved in theses charities, but are hopeful to contact someone soon.

December 4

Our activity for the fourth day of Advent is to assemble some items for a care package for Nick's deployed coworker.

Being a JAG, you're still a lawyer with all your lawyerly responsibilities, but have the added bonus (and sometimes curse) of also being an officer, with the duties that entails.  One of the biggest duties that comes with being in the military, though, is deploying.  In the Air Force, they tend to do 6-month deployments to overseas bases, often in combat zones, where you work 6 or 7 day work-weeks, 12 hours a day, for your entire tour.  You don't get to go home or have your dependents around, you don't get to take leave, and you are in what is generally a stressful environment.  You are, however, contributing directly to the mission in a way that isn't always as apparent when you're working in a non-deployed environment.

Members from the legal office here do deploy, and right now one of the paralegals is overseas. Given the lifestyle of constant moves, sometimes halfway around the world, and deployments where you are separated from your family and friends, it is important to take care of each other and show your support for your people. In order to show our support, the office puts together care packages at times to send over.  As part of our Advent plans, we wanted to take the time to put together a grouping of items to send over to show our appreciation and to make him feel a touch of home, missing Christmas and his family as he is.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

December 3

Our activity for the third day of Advent was to make a list.  Or, rather, a series of lists.  Not every day leaves us with a lot of spare time, and with Nick getting ready for his inspection next week and trivia on Wednesday night, we have precious little spare time.  With that in mind, we scheduled a more low-key activity like list-making today.

Since it is early in the season, we wanted to make our lists.  First, a list of people to receive Christmas cards.  It may be a little old-fashioned in this day of the new fangled Twitters and Instagrams, but we've found it a nice way to connect with people and stay in touch.  We've got a lot of friends and family all over the country and world, so it's nice to send (and receive!  hint hint) personal mail sometimes.

We also picked out a few people to send some gifts to.  We can't hit everyone, but we decided we'd send a few things to people who, over the past year, either came and visited us or let us visit them.  It's a nice way to thank people for their hospitality or for coming down (reminder: we DO have 2 guest bedrooms and are 90 minutes from New Orleans, and Mardi Gras is approaching).

Lastly, we put together our own Christmas lists.  This is something that is probably best done over the course of the year, as you think of things you want.  Amanda is on top of this, via her Pinterest page.  Nick is...less on top of it.

As some of our shopping has come at the last minute the last couple years, it's nice to at least start planning things out in advance.  Be sure to check your mail in the coming weeks!

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

December 2

Our activity for the second day of Advent is to go see a holiday movie together at the local theater. The Grand Theater D'Iberville has a program called Retro Cinema and for the Tuesdays and Wednesdays in November and December at 7:30 pm they are showing classic holiday films. This Tuesday, December 2, the film was Home Alone.

We both realized what a long time it had been since we had watched this entire movie. Amanda even suggested that maybe she hadn't seen it since it was originally in the theaters, all the way back in 1990?!?!?! What?!?!? How did we get so old?!?!?  We also realized in re-watching the movie that we now sympathize more with the Wet Bandits than with Kevin.  Instead of laughing when Marv gets an iron to the face or steps on a nail or giggling when Harry gets his head fried or slips down the stairs, we found ourselves cringing and moaning right along side them. My how the worm has turned! We had a lot of fun though, and still thought the movie held up after all this time.  Really, how could it not? With John Hughes, Chris Columbus, and John Williams working on the film, how could you go wrong?

"Happy, happy Christmas, that can win us back to the delusions of our childhood days, recall to the old man the pleasures of his youth, and transport the traveler back to his own fireside and quiet home!"
-Charles Dickens

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

December 1

Our activity for the first day of Advent is to donate $25 to adopt a veteran at the Armed Forces Retirement Home in Gulfport, MS for the holidays. A local woman who volunteers frequently at the Armed Forces Retirement Home is coordinating giving baskets of holiday gifts to 62 veterans currently residing there. This was her post on the Keesler Spouses Facebook page:

We are here!!! We are here!!!

Wow! You guys still have a blog? Yeahhh.....

So we did a very poor job of keeping up this blog while we were living in Guam. We did a whopping 15 entries in the year(ish) we were living there.

"Yeah, and you didn't even ever finish your four part Palau travel log. You quit halfway through!!!" you correctly admonish. "And," you add, perplexed, "where have you been for the last year and a half??"

Right. According to the interwebs, two of our favorite Founding Fathers had something to say about making excuses:

“It is better to offer no excuse than a bad one.”
― George Washington

“He that is good for making excuses is seldom good for anything else.”
― Benjamin Franklin