Momazing Monday: Teacher and Mother of Four Walks (and Runs) the Talk

Kristy and Doug Martin with their four boys (Derek-17, Dustin – 15, Dawson – 10 and Dylan – 8)

“For years I have pushed the theory of ‘carpe diem’ to my students, and now I had to put my money where my mouth was.”

Seventeen-year teaching veteran Kristy Martin not only has “walked the talk” of this advice to her students, but she’s “run the talk,” lacing up her sneakers every day to prove to herself, and no one else, that she can go the distance.

With four boys (now ages 17, 15, 10 and 8), it would have been easy for Kristy to laugh off her husband’s desire to join the Army National Guard in 2009, when he was 38 years old. “Although it kind of hit me out of nowhere, I didn’t laugh. He said he had wanted to do it when he was younger, but because of his heart murmur, he was disqualified. He underwent testing later and the murmur had healed, so physically he was clear to go. If Doug wanted to ‘seize the moment’ and try something in his life while he still could, I was all for that.”

Wow. Her selflessness and love for her husband is inspiring. With only two little ones at home to tend to, I wouldn’t have laughed at my husband either, I probably would have cried. Or yelled. Or threw a fit. But not Kristy. Although she worried about money, house repairs, shuttling kids, etc.,  she just kept telling herself that he would be back.

It wasn’t easy, though. Doug was stationed in Djibouti, Africa from January 2011 to February 2012, and couldn’t return home from until June of this year after going through extensive physical therapy for a shoulder injury. “The thing that frustrated me the most was the uncertainty of everything – where he was, when he could call, was he OK?” Help from friends and family kept Kristy going. Although looking back, she wishes she’d accepted more assistance when it was offered. After all, raising four boisterous boys, an assortment of cats (they once had 16), an occasional turtle, frog, toad, lizard, or spider wasn’t easy.

Kristy stood by her man as he fulfilled his dream of military service, just like he’d stood by her through her journey to healthy living.

“While he was gone I was both mom and dad, and there were days that it was hard to handle. I remember freaking out when a car broke down or washer needed repairs just because it seemed like it was just one more thing I had to take care of. I also missed out on some things since I needed to stay with the boys. But Doug was also very reassuring. I would unload to him over Skype, and he had a way of just getting me to calm down and put things in perspective.”

Looking back now, Kristy is glad she and Doug seized the moment, and took the leap of faith. Doug was able to fulfill a lifelong dream, and set a great example for his four sons. The oldest boys,  Derek and Dustin, are  considering joining the military and the youngest, Dawson and Dylan, beamed with pride when their dad came to their school in uniform.

And if holding up the fort while her husband was serving our country isn’t enough of a reason for Kristy to be ‘Momazing,’ she has also been through an incredible journey of her own. In September 2004, shortly after her youngest son turned one, she decided to kick her walking routine up a notch. ” I started running in small distances just to see if I could do it.” And do it she could! She lost a total of 120 pounds, and now runs an average of six miles a day. “People freak out when I tell them how far I run, but it took me more than a year to work up to that (and only because I wanted to, not for anyone else).”

Kristy happens to live in my hometown, and she is a constant presence on the city streets. It’s just Kristy, her headphones and her perseverance, pounding out step after step. Her advice to moms who’d like to run? “Don’t feel as if you have to compete with anyone. I really don’t care how fast I am or how far I go. I just go until I am finished. Most of all, do it for yourself.”

She credits Doug for being her supporter. He stayed with the kids while she ran, didn’t complain about the new healthy foods she cooked, and didn’t chastise her for cheating or having some bad days. But aside from her family support and her iPod (you never see her without it), she also has another weight loss “secret.”

Kristy started running races last year to try something new. She’s planning to run a marathon in October, so she must like it!

“I didn’t have a “goal weight” or a structured plan. I just did what was comfortable for me. I didn’t tell people I was trying to lose weight. It was kind of like my secret. But I think what helped the most is that I was finally doing it for myself.” Well, Kristy’s journey to healthy living is certainly no secret now, and her success is an inspiration not only to moms who’d like to lose extra weight, but to those who just want to be stronger as well. Kristy plans on running the Prairie Fire Marathon in October, and I have no doubt she will finish successfully.

“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”  – Henry David Thoreau

From her courage to parent four boys while her husband served overseas to her determination to push her body to its physical limits, Kristy certainly has proven that she’s  lived (and continues to live) life to the fullest. She’s seizing each moment, and for that, she’s Momazing!

Momazing Mondays: I’ve decided to put my creative skills to use and tell the stories of mothers who are truly unique, inspirational and amazing. If I have enough stories, I’d like to post one at the beginning of every week. Please send me an email at catherine DOT poland AT gmail DOT com if you know of a momazing mother. Read other Momazing Monday stories here


Momazing Monday: Mommy Wars Don’t Matter – Mommy’s At War

A nearly 20 hour commute. Months (not weeks, or days, or hours) away from home. Desperate to hear your child’s laughter, babbling, crying, whining, anything…not desperate to escape for a few hours.

This is the reality for Tashina Miller, a medical service corps officer, serving as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker at a small Forward Operating Base (FOB) in Afghanistan. She serves a vitally important role on the Combat Stress Control Prevention team, providing counseling, education, traumatic events management, united needs assessments, and prevention classes to service members and their commands.


Mommy=Freedom. I teared up when I saw her caption on this photo from her Facebook page: “Wish I could be hugging this guy :)”

Tashina is also a mother. Her son Cooper is 16 months old and her affection for him permeates her correspondence with me. “(Becoming a mother) really does change your entire life, a change I would never take back. I guess the thing I love the most is; the way your child can just look at you and nothing else matters.”

Her story is hard to tell without tearing up. And they’re not necessarily sad tears, but happy, proud and patriotic ones. She is not only supporting her own son, but her work supports sons and daughters of other caring mothers who worry about their child being off at war. She’s good at both of her jobs.

“What I love the most about my job is being able to assist those heroes who have raised their right hand to defend their country. I admire their sacrifice to their country and believe they deserve the best services possible.” She also maintains her sense of humor, adding, “Not having to decide what to wear every morning is also a bonus; you
just put the uniform on and go.”

Tashina didn’t necessarily know motherhood was in her future when she enlisted in 2008. “It was a conscious choice to have a child knowing someday I might have to leave. I looked at all these male soldiers and they leave their children all the time. I thought, what should make me any different?”

Her limited time with her son means that every moment matters when they’re together. “From the moment my son came into the world I tried not to take any time with him for granted. I am sure all parents feel this way to a point; however, it seemed like a real focus due to my situation. I hope someday my son will be able to understand why I had to go away and be proud of the work I have done. I tell people I would never choose to be away from my son; unfortunately, the very important work I must do often takes me away from him.”

Although my heart swells with pride for her and her mission, it also breaks. While I’m bemoaning having to hear my toddler ask for “Fresh Beat Band” for the 20th time today, she’d probably give anything to cuddle on the couch and watch anything 20 times in a row with her son. She won’t see her son in person until February 2013. Just one day away from my girls and I can’t wait to put my arms around them. I can’t imagine she’ll let her son down those first few days after she comes home.

While most of us “civilian” moms wrestle with the issues surrounding the “Mommy Wars,” she’s actually been at war. A real one. In another country. Far, far from home. 

Tashina, her husband Kyle, and their son Cooper share a strong bond.

So how does she manage? “Juggling relationships and work gets difficult; not only as a mother but a wife. Again, I keep in mind to take nothing for granted. My husband posts thousands of pictures on Facebook. We Skype two to three times a day (when the internet is working). My son gives me kisses over Skype and sometimes hands me toys and food. My husband often follows him around with the computer while he plays. I have mementos and pictures I brought with me. Before I left home I read and recorded books for my son and hung pictures up of the two of us.”

And like any deployed father relies on his spouse back home, Tashina fully appreciates the load her husband bears. “There are no words to describe how supportive and completely awesome my husband is. He is very proud of the work I do. He doesn’t like the separation and wishes I was home but, knows how important my work is.”

Deployed moms are somewhat of an enigma. Rarely mentioned and often misunderstood. “We are like any other moms making sacrifices for our children and country to give those we love the best life possible.” While she may be like other moms, she certainly isn’t ordinary, but extraordinary.

Tashina with “Major Zack,” a therapy dog she uses during sessions.

She wants to share this advice with other moms in her shoes (or boots, rather). “You and your children can survive a deployment and maintain a good relationship. Military children are some of the most resilient children I have ever met. As a mom, you think leaving is going to kill you but I am still alive. Being away makes me focus on the little things I can do for my son and husband.”

Tashina, from me and so many others, thank you. Thank you for serving not only our country in such an important way, but for being such an amazing mother, raising a brave new generation of children. You are not only your son’s hero, but mine, too.

Momazing Mondays: I’ve decided to put my creative skills to use and tell the stories of mothers who are truly unique, inspirational and amazing. If I have enough stories, I’d like to post one at the beginning of every week. Please send me an email at catherine DOT poland AT gmail DOT com if you know of a momazing mother. Read last week’s story “Momazing Monday: Mother of Nine Proves Quantity and Quality are Possible.