Best Regards from Baghdad

My One Year in Iraq

I'm a Mother, Not a Mom. . .

January 12, 2007 - I've always thought of myself as a "mother" versus a "mom."  To me, moms are the ones who take their kids to school and pick them up.  They are the ones that go to all the parent-teacher conferences and are on a first-name basis with the teacher because they volunteer in the classroom, or they're the one who organizes all those cute parties, etc.  They are the ones that make their kids' Halloween costumes by hand - and not on October 31.  They are the ones who bake cookies from scratch.  They send out written invitations for the kids' birthday parties; they make their kids write "thank you" notes.  They organized activities for the children's games that are imaginative and educational and fun.   They are "Super Moms" and oh, I have dreamed of being one.

I, however, am a "mother."  I work outside of the home and have a "career" which keeps me gone from 8-5 and (like now) away from home and my kids.  I send e-mails to the teachers instead of meeting them face-to-face; I show up at parent-teacher conferences in a suit, with a briefcase and a cell phone.  I am the one who buys gift cards for other kids' birthdays instead of a real gift.  It's faster and I don't have to wrap it.  When I organize a birthday party, involves ordering pizza, a cake from Giant and either just letting the kids run amuck, or taking them to play laser tag. My kids eat cereal instead of getting a hot breakfast; I don't pack their lunches and I have their lunch cards automatically billed to my credit card.  We eat a lot of take-out and when I do cook, I end up with a decent meal, it's because I have used up a lot of boxes and cans.  I love my kids, but I don't spend as much time with them as I would like.  I don't cook, sew or bake (except for those cookies you buy in a package ready to pop onto the baking pan), but I do go to their lacrosse games and crew regattas and I cheer like heck.  I would defend them with my life.  I miss them more than anything.

I miss my husband, but I know we have the rest of our lives to be together.  But missing out a year of my kids' lives.  That hurts.  I'll miss their birthdays, my youngest son's graduation from 6th grade, my oldest son's first time behind the wheel of a car.  I'll miss lacrosse games, crew regattas, and so much that I can never recapture again.  Talking on the phone helps; instant messengering helps.  But nothing takes the place of their hugs.  When I talk to them, I close my eyes and picture their faces, and where they are sitting in the house and what they are doing.  That is the best I can do under the circumstances.  Being away from them is definitely the hardest thing about being in Baghdad.

The Erg-a-thon

January 20, 2007 - Tonight I did something that I was very proud of.  My son is rowing today on a rowing machine - an "erg" - to raise money for his crew team.  The idea is that each kid ergs 60 minutes and 10,000 meters and they get pledges from family and friends according to how far they row.  I decided to help my son by doing my own mini erg-a-thon here.  I vowed to erg for 30 minutes and I got some friends here at the Embassy to sponsor me.  Some sponsored me for a flat amount; some pledged a dollar a minute.

Two of my friends - Vickie and Judes - showed up at 6:00 p.m. tonight to urge me on as I did my 30 minutes and the time flew by.  Towards the end, a young woman came and when we explained what I was doing, she said it was "great."  Turns out she rowed for Princeton!  (Very famous crew team for those of you who know. . .)  She told me I had very good form and urged me on.  I stayed between 2:30 and 2:45 minutes per 500 meters, which is a steady pace.  My son told me he tries to keep it under 2:00 minutes when he works out.  I did one final push at the end o my 30 minutes and was able to get myself down to 1:58 for about two strokes.

Anyhow, I raised more than $200 for my son's crew team, thanks to my sister (Kathy), BJ (a friend from Virginia), Judes, Vickie, Dr. G, Jeff, Eric, Sandy and Mack.  And I felt like I did something special for my son.  The best compliment I got was when I told one of my friends what I was doing she said, "Anne, you're such a MOM!"  Note, please, she said "mom" not "mother."

Here is a picture of me on the erg:


But Wait! There's More!

February 2, 2007 - I am childishly pleased to add that I made it into the local newspapers back home.  After I did the erg-a-thon, I wrote to the Crew team's treasurer to tell her about it.  She sent my e-mail to the entire Crew board of directors and the President asked me if they could use my story in their press release.  I said "Sure, if it will help publicize your efforts."  A couple of days later, a reporter called and interviewed my husband.  Here are the articles I could find:

Sun Gazette:

Fairfax Connection:

A girl at school showed it to my son, who told me about it on the phone and said "Gee, Mom."  I guess that's a pretty enthusiastic endorsement for a 15-year-old.

Next Friday, I will be competing in "The First Annual Indoor Regatta" to see how fast I can erg 2000 meters.  It should take me about 10 minutes.  Meanwhile, my son will be competing in the Mid-Atlantic Indoor Springs (erging) tomorrow.  How weird is that?