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November 2012

Post-Thanksgiving Sniffles

ImagesMy Son came home for Thanksgiving - the first time I've laid on that boy since July. He has been teaching 5th grade in East New Orleans. Like many first and second year teachers, he seems to catch every single bug his students (referred to as "scholars" in his school) bring to the classroom. 

It was heaven to have the whole family together - My Beloved Daughter was home too. But now the kids have gone back to their regular lives. I'm left with just enough turkey for a turkey curry and turkey soup, a great deal of laundry (sheets and towels) and a sore throat/sniffles/ fatigue that I suspect had its roots in  a fifth grader living in Louisiana. 

The Casanova Myth

UnknownYou know how guys are- always thinking about sex and how to get it from as many women as possible. Right? Wrong - just another one of those myths about men. Of course there are guys like that, but it turns out that for the most part, men, like women want connection and relationships. 

In his new book, "Challenging Casanova: Beyond the Sterotype of the Promiscuous Young Male," psychologist Andrew Smiler pushes back against this tired image of guys. His research shows that it's a small percentage of men who are having sex with multiple partners. Most guys are seeking people with whom they can connect, who share similar values, a similar sense of humor, cultural taste, and the like.

"What we do know is that most guys do get into relationships, they enjoy relationships, they do a lot of things in relationships that are not about sex and they're not doing them just to put up with them in order to get sex," Smiler told in an interview. "Guys get something out of relationships; they like relationships."

 This is exactly what I found in my research for the Mama's Boy Myth. Boys and men are longing connection. Thank you, Dr. Smiler. 

Sweet Boy Taken From Her Arms

This is excepted from Brian Mockenhaupt's new book, "The Living and The Dead: War, Friendship, and the Battles that Never End." The photo is of Suzanne Muller and her son, Ian. My heart goes out to her, and all military moms. It was posted on 

Vet_day_essay_rect-460x307A late afternoon sun pushed long shadows across the streets of North Danville, Vermont, where Susanne Muller had been running errands. Groceries. Auto parts store. Library. The last stop was the post office, to mail a package to her son Ian. She’d sent more than a dozen already in the short time he’d been in Afghanistan, along with 30 pounds of cheddar cheese donated by Cabot and several boxes of jerky and smoked meat from Vermont Smoke and Cure. But this package could wait. Her phone battery had just died, and she couldn’t bear being out of contact, should her husband, Clif, or any of her other six kids need to reach her, but mostly if Ian called.

She’d last spoken to him on Sunday, five days earlier. “It’s so good to hear your voice,” she had said. “I was worried about you.” She’d never told him that before. Of course she felt it; worry consumed her, and she barely slept. But she didn’t want to add to his stress, and she wanted him to feel he could share anything with her. Two days earlier, when Ian told them he’d gotten his first kill, during the March 3 firefight, she had tried to sound supportive, even let out a little cheer.

“They take our sweet boys from our arms and they train them to kill,” she says, not meant as a criticism of the Marine Corps but as a pragmatic assessment. She wanted to prepare for what war would do to him. She read about the fight in Afghanistan, learned the Marines’ lingo, and watched YouTube videos of firefights to better understand what he was experiencing. She even got her passport before Ian deployed. If he was grievously injured, he would be evacuated first to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center at Ramstein Air Base, in Germany, where he might stay for several days if his condition was unstable. The Pentagon arranges travel to Germany for the families of service members injured so badly they may not make it home, but Susanne didn’t want to waste time.

Ian figured that time could be fast approaching. Talking to his dad after the March 3 firefight, he said the platoon had a big mission coming up, and that he was uneasy. In the past he’d felt he had a shield wrapped around him in battle. Now that confidence had faded. “My luck is running out,” he said.

By late afternoon on March 11, Susanne was home, sitting on the living room couch reading a biography of Osama bin Laden. The Mullers were a Christian family, and around Vermont, more people opposed armed conflict than supported it. “I wanted to be able to intelligently support my son at war,” she says.

“Mom, there’s a cop car outside,” said her youngest son, Reuben, walking down the stairs. “And there’s a gray car out there, too.”

That set her heart to racing. She rose and walked to the door and saw four men step from the car, all in uniform: a Navy chaplain and three Marines. For months to come, that scene would replay in slow motion, often as she cried herself to sleep.

Clif was beside her now as they stepped onto the front deck. She fell to her knees. “No. No. No,” she wailed. “My sweet Ian. My sweet Ian.”

“Come up and tell us what you have to tell us,” Clif told the men, trying to be strong enough for both of them. But it was more than an hour before Susanne’s hysteria had faded and she had stopped crying long enough for the Marines to deliver their official message: that Corporal Ian Muller had been killed by an improvised explosive device while on a foot patrol in Afghanistan.

When the men left that night, Clif kicked the coffee table so hard a leg snapped, and then they cried together for hours, until every muscle in Susanne’s face ached.

At 4:00 a.m., Susanne looked at the casualty report the Marines had brought, which Clif had folded up and shoved in a pocket. Along with detailing Ian’s injuries—massive head wound, fractured left leg and right arm—it said he’d been identified by Staff Sergeant James Malachowski and the corpsman, Jesse Deller, so Susanne knew they hadn’t been killed.

Through an online parents’ support forum, she’d become friends with Alison Malachowski and Wendy Deller, and only learned later that they were the mothers of the platoon sergeant and medic at Patrol Base Dakota. Alison and Wendy wouldn’t have heard about Ian yet, because of the communications blackouts initiated after any casualty to ensure that next of kin hear through the official notification process and not from another Marine e-mailing or calling home. So Susanne made two calls, long before dawn, when a ringing phone is often the harbinger of terrible news. She could say just a few words before she started sobbing: “Ian stepped on an IED, and he’s dead.”

She would soon be making those trips to the post office again, to mail care packages to Ian’s fellow Marines in Afghanistan, after she had buried her son on a grassy hillside in the Danville Cemetery, with the White Mountains in the distance. But in the pre-dawn darkness, that sort of resolve and purpose seemed forever away. Instead she drifted, in a churning, pitching sea of grief.