Sunday, December 25, 2005
This is a very different Christmas for me, and to be honest, other than various holiday parties and us going to visit Al's son, Trey earlier in the month - and my Christmas bonus at work (yay!), I'm not celebrating this year. I love Jesus just as much as the next guy - but with Al due home 'very shortly' (all I can say for OPSEC reasons, sorry!) - getting all crazy about Christmas this year seemed kind of stupid to me because I would much rather get all crazy about him coming home.
I share visitation with Emelia's father - and we don't start doing Christmas visitation until next year, when she is three, but since Al wasn't going to be home yet, and I knew that fact would put a damper on the holiday anyway, I decided to let Em go with her dad up to his parent's house in St. Louis, Missouri to spend the holiday. She had never met her two cousins prior to this point - and she hadn't flown on an airplane with her dad before this either - so she has had a big holiday. Steve said that when the plane took off she said "Wheeee!".
Although it has been hard to have her gone, especially out of state, the freedom to get things done around the house has been absolutely amazing and it made it possible for me to kind of skate through the holidays without feeling loads of guilt for not getting all hyped up about them. The very most wonderful thing that this allows us to do though (can you tell I am a planner?) is that it makes it possible for all of us to be together as a family NEXT Christmas. That is our year to get Al's son on Christmas Day too - so it should be an absolutely wonderful time any way you look at it. I am so thrilled and excited to be able to pull my decorations out next year - and for us to start building new Christmas traditions all together as a brand new family - it's nice to look forward to next year for a reason OTHER than a deployment getting over with, you know? Em and I will do her Christmas this week after I pick her up from the airport - it gives me more time to wrap gifts anyway - lol.
Al is as wonderful as ever. He is still in Kuwait moving equipment - and he takes time to call me every day which makes my days go much quicker. He pays a small fee for Internet access too so I can still email him his nightly (and daily - lol!) emails also. I joke with him that I won't know what to do with myself before I go to bed when he gets home because I will try to go to the computer and send him an email still!!
He sent me this email today (one of several because the phone lines are so jammed up with calls (pooh!) - he is as lovable and crazy as ever . . .
From: email@example.com firstname.lastname@example.org
Date: Dec 25, 2005 10:57 AM
Subject: Santa came to see me
Baby, Santa came by and gave me a present. He said I would be going home soon. I have been trying to call but still no luck. Every number is busy. I love you so much your Hubby
This picture was attached . . .
Al and I send our fervent prayers that you and yours are having a very Merry Christmas and joyfilled Holiday Season! We love you!
Friday, December 09, 2005
155th BCT soldiers expected the begin coming home on Saturday
JACKSON, Miss. - About 100 soldiers in the 155th Brigade Combat Team are expected back in Mississippi on Saturday after nearly a year in Iraq, National Guard officials said.
The rest of the unit, including almost 3,500 Mississippi soldiers, is expected to arrive in waves through the middle of January. The unit is made up of soldiers from 49 different communities in the state and others from across the country.
"The members of the 155th BCT, not only provided professional combat power to the Multi-National Forces-Iraq, but developed and sustained a high level of stability within their area of responsibility by establishing agricultural cooperatives, building and supplying schools, conducting engineering work on Iraqi infrastructure and providing medical support to the local population," said Maj. Gen. Harold A. Cross, the adjutant general of Mississippi.
"They were very instrumental in training Iraqi forces to provide their own security for their Army. They are our heroes and we are ecstatic about welcoming them home ahead of schedule," Cross said.
The initial group of soldiers will land at an Air Guard base in Gulfport before loading buses for Camp Shelby, a sprawling, 136,000-acre training base just south of Hattiesburg.
"We strongly encourage the family members not to drive to the Combat Readiness Training Center on the coast but to meet their soldiers at Camp Shelby," said Lt. Col. Doril Sanders, a Camp Shelby spokesman.
Sanders said family members are urged to visit with the soldiers at Camp Shelby before they begin four to five days of demobilization, Sanders said.
The unit - with members from Pennsylvania, California, Washington, Texas, Puerto Rico, Virginia, Missouri, New Jersey, South Carolina, Vermont, Utah, and Arkansas - was attached to the II Marine Expeditionary Force.
The troops spent much of their time battling insurgents and rooting out clandestine weapons stashes in the so-called "Triangle of Death" in the Karbala, Najaf and Babil provinces of Iraq, the military has said.
Fourteen Mississippians in the unit were killed in Iraq, most by roadside bombs.
The majority of the soldiers arriving in the next few days are members of the 114th Field Artillery headquartered in Starkville. The rest of the flights will be mixture of different units.
Once they arrive at Camp Shelby, the troops will turn in their weapons and receive a mandatory briefing before they are allowed to visit with their families.
Thursday, December 08, 2005
This blog has seemingly gone so many directions since it's conception, that I'm unsure what direction it will take from here. When I originally conceived of this notion, it was to write updates about Al for his friends and family to stay in contact with him. From that point, it progressed as I progressed in my experience as a military wife to discussing deployment and other military issues. It has also served as a way for me to communicate back with Al - by posting pictures and events that have happened in our day to day life in the States.
As a National Guard wife, it is hard for me to know what to do with a military blog now that my soldier will be coming home soon. By the very nature of what we do as a National Guard family - hopefully our lives will have a very non-militaristic scope to it very soon now that deployment is almost done. For right now, I am leaving things open ended - and I hope to have things to post to everyone without boring everyone to tears. Above all, I really, really hope that my posting has NOTHING to do with another deployment ANYTIME soon!
I know that a lot of other military wives and significant others read this blog - so this next part is for them . . .
WHY DID I NOT LISTEN TO ANYBODY WHEN THEY SAID THAT THE REDEPLOYMENT PHASE (and the weeks leading up to it) WAS ONE OF THE HARDEST, AND THAT IT TOTALLY SUCKED?
You know when you look at your own personality, it is hard when you see huge glaring flaws. One of the huge glaring flaws that I see when I see me is that I have a bad habit of going "Awww, that won't ever happen to me" and turning off my listening ears. When we went into this deployment, I attacked the situation with the same voracity as I give everything else, and I really tried to educate myself on everything. Well, pretty much EVERY FRIGGING thing I read said that REDEPLOYMENT was one of the hardest phases that a National Guard/Reserve family (and regular military for that matter) can face. Well, every time I read those words, I said to myself - "Awwww, that won't happen to US - I will just be so happy to be getting my hubby home that we won't have to deal with any of that yuckiness.".
Ummmm, yeah - famous last words there.
So, in an effort to educate all the other military supporters out there who are just starting their deployments ---- Don't kid yourselves! Their homecoming is NOT easy! Bliss doesn't just happen automatically when their days in the sand start to dwindle!!
The only thing that I have in my life to compare how I have felt this last month or so is to pregnancy. I'm sorry if that's a lame analogy, but that is the only other major life event that I have to compare this to. My pregnancy was a little different than most people's because I was alone for it. That time in my life was so isolating, but isolating in a good way, I guess, because it taught me so much about myself - and just what I was capable of enduring. In so many ways, I just had to put my hands over my ears and insulate myself from outside interference and just take care of me and my soon to be Emelia. During that period of time, I really learned that I didn't need to keep anyone in my life unless it was a mutually beneficial experience - and I also learned that just breathing in and out and making it through the day is sometimes the very bravest thing that you can do.
Well, I haven't felt like that this WHOLE deployment, but I have felt that way through A LOT of this deployment. And it has only gotten more intense during these final weeks. When life is it's hardest for me, I don't want to interact with anyone but people who live in my house (ie. Emelia and me and sometimes Al). It's a wonderful coping mechanism - but it really doesn't do wonders for one's social life - lol.
What have these last few weeks felt like? I could give you so many words but a few of them would be: exciting, nerve-wracking, busy, intense, fearful, anticipatory (is that a word?), sad, happy, good and bad. I have been spending the last week cleaning my house like some kind of nutjob - reorganizing and deep cleaning every single room - eight bags of trash so far. I am usually "Queen of Organized" - but I really have the desire for the house to be in tip-top shape for Al - even though he probably won't even notice - lol. This excitement is not the same as R&R though because that really was like a vacation - I knew going into it that it would last 15 days and then life would get somewhat back to normal.
Now though, I am anticipating this totally new thing - and to be honest - I am really scared crapless. It has been hard being a newlywed with my hubby in the sand - but now that he's going to be home next month sometime, I'm worried about transitioning to our new life together too. Plus, since we dated long distance our whole relationship - the longest that we have been around one another is like three weeks at a time. So, things could get really crazy, really soon!
Al has been very good to me though, and last week, he took the time to discuss a lot of my fears with me. I really needed that - and I feel a lot better about a lot of things. Now, 'just a little longer' and this crap will be over. I am going to pretend that I am a horse in a thoroughbred race - that I have my blinders on, my ears closed to outside influences - and I am just going to keep running around the track until somebody somewhere says I can stop. I really hope all of this has a happy ending. I believe in God, I believe in Al, I believe in me and I believe in 'us' - so hopefully, everything will be great - soon.
Friday, November 18, 2005
I think everyone has a limit in life where they can't take something anymore. I can't continue to smile about this. Al has been gone since August of 2004 - and even though he will be home in less than two months, it feels like forever. I have so many worries and fears about starting a life together when we have spent so much time apart - and there are still so many blank squares left on the calendar that I can't fake this anymore.
To be honest, a lot of you probably think that I am "Mrs. Positive Attitude" - and that I have been a ray of sunshine this whole time. Well, I'm here to tell you that that's a big fat lie. The people that know me best - the people that really care about me and that have to put up with me on a daily basis - will tell you that this deployment has probably made me more neurotic than I have ever been. If I was a control freak before, I'm probably 99% worse now - just try talking to me when my cell phone rings with a call from Iraq on it - when you come back with a nub, you'll know what I'm talking about.
I'm so tired. I'm so tired of that phone call or that email being the fuel that I need in my gas tank to go on another day. I have no choice but to do this another sixty or so days - there are no options - but if there were, I would have cashed in my chips several times by now.
Before I met Al, I honestly didn't know what love was. Except maybe my daughter Emelia, I've never had to sacrifice this hard for something before. I've never had to give until I felt empty - only to wake up the next day and give some more. Al has given sacrifices equal to mine - only his have been both to me as his wife - and to our great nation.
Anyway, I'm sure you don't want to hear anymore about this. My mother, a very wise woman, must have told me a million times while I was growing up that if I couldn't say something nice, that I didn't need to say anything at all. I hope that I can come back soon with nice things to say. I want to say them, I want to say how much I love America, how proud I am of my soldier, how wonderful it is to be a military wife - but the words come back empty - they lie flat on my tongue with a bitter metallic taste. To say those things right now would be faking it - I would be lying to people that I care about - and I respect all of you too much to do that. For those of you still dealing with deployments, please know that my prayers are with you until your soldiers are home for good in your arms. Thank you to all of you again for your support.
Wednesday, November 02, 2005
"Valour-IT's online fundraising competition begins today! Let's see who can raise the most money to help reconnect our wounded warriors with the world!
WHAT: Friendly fundraising competition for Valour-IT.
WHEN: November 2nd through Veterans Day (the 11th).
WHERE: Based in the blogosphere, spreading everywhere else.
WHY: Because giving wounded warriors with hand and arm injuries access to a computer supports their healing and puts them back in touch with the world.
HOW: Blogger teams will be divided along military branches, with civilians "up for grabs.""
Now, let me tell you -- there is NO TEAM BUT THE ARMY TEAM! GOT IT?
If you love me at all - if you love Al even a little bit (can you feel a guilt trip coming on?) - PRETTY PLEASE with TONS and TONS of sugar on top - contribute to this AMAZING cause. I don't think any of us can understand what it means to wounded soldiers to be able to communicate with family, friends and the world at large while they undergo the healing process.
It's a tax-deductible donation and eligible for matching funds from companies who do that sort of thing (see: http://soldiersangels.org/valour/irsinfo.html for proof for the cautious).
The snail mail address for those who'd rather donate that way (scroll down at: http://soldiersangels.org/valour/donate.html).
Additional information: every donor during this time will receive a Soldiers' Angels Coin.
Are you convinced yet?
Go to our sidebar and click the "Make a Donation" button in the IT-Valour box OR
Go to Blackfive and click the same button to donate!
Tuesday, November 01, 2005
First, if you haven't noticed the countdown ticker on our blog - let me bring the fact that we are now over the 300 day mark to your attention - WHOO HOO! Being over the 300 day mark means that we are now below the 100 day mark in our countdown! That's right people! Even if they keep Al for every single one of his 545 days that are on his orders (which we are pretty much guaranteed WON'T happen) - we are now down to the double digits to when Al is home. DOUBLE DIGITS! If everything stays on schedule the way it is right now though, we have about two and half months left. Thank GOD. I am so ready for Al to be home and for us to be able to truly start our life together, that it's hard to focus on anything else.
Second, GOOD NEWS - the new antibiotic is working like a champ and a I FINALLY feel like a human being again - yay! I hope to post a lot more to make up for poor blogging performance this past month.
Okay . . . thank you for your patience . . . here's the pics!
Em dressed up as a "Pink Lady" from the 1950's - our Homefront Hugs family provided most of her costume - the poodle skirt, sweatshirt and undershirt - I added everything else.
And, as a bonus, evidence that I am, indeed, still alive - this is me at work today. I actually even have make-up on - lol.
Saturday, October 29, 2005
So, I dropped Em off for the night to her dad's house - and go to the clinic. They take my temp and I still have a fever - this is two weeks after I originally got sick. They took bloodwork - and my white count is higher than it's ever been. So, the dr. says that - get this - an antibiotic resistant bacteria that's causing my bronchitis. Niiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiice.So - FIVE PRESCRIPTIONS LATER - I will hopefully be getting better soon. I was supposed to sing in a special group for choir tomorrow in all three services - but NOPE - I will be home and in BED. YUCK.
AND - THIS IS THE BEST PART - Em is STILL coughing too. Soooooooooooo, I get to call her pediatrician in the morning - explain everything to them - and hopefully they will call in a prescription for her - OTHERWISE - I will have to take her to the doctor TOMORROW.
Sorry I am not blogging right now, guys!
Monday, October 24, 2005
I started feeling like junk two weekends ago - which progressed into sinus stuff/sore throat by last Monday - which led to a full scale, coughing-all-night fit last Tuesday. I missed work on Wednesday and Thursday (you know I'm sick when I miss work) - and then I had to go back to the doctor on Saturday because I still couldn't breathe.
I have: acute bronchitis, sinusitus and pherengytis - and a viral and a bacterial infection. I am on so many medicines right now (thank GOD for TRICARE!) that it's not even funny. Em was at her dad's house this past weekend, just feeling low with a fever - I called like 16 times but I was told every time that she had no congestion or cough. I picked her up last night - AS I'M STRAPPING HER INTO HER CARSEAT, I KID YOU NOT - "Hack, hack, hack".
She went to her babysitter today (my next door neighbor watches her) - and then we went to the after hours clinic as soon as I could get home from work, pick her up, and drive her back into town. Guess what? She has bronchitis. LOL. Like mommy, like daughter, I guess.
Al - my favorite nurse in the whole world - has been great - checking on me every day - double checking what medicines they have me on. If he would just come home so I could get that kind of TLC in person, life would be perfect.
I PROMISE that I will hopefully be feeling better by this weekend - and that there will be many more blog entries in all of our mutual futures (including an exciting review of the book, "My War" - by Colby Buzzell!).
Mwah! (Thank God that's an Internet kiss, and not a real one, or you'd already have the plague - tee hee!).
Wednesday, October 12, 2005
We got into town Friday night and just did a bunch of errands and ran around - so there was nothing 'newsworthy' in that.
Saturday, we got up and took Em to a park that had a really cool hand-carved carousel in it . . . Melissa and I paid double admission so that we could stay on for as many rides as we wanted. Em was free - lol.
Our first trip around, sitting down.
Being two is FUN, mom! Wheeeeeeeeeee!
By the end of the second trip around, I was kind of feeling dizzy and seasick!
After the carousel, we went outside and Em climbed around on statues that normally spray water - thankfully, they were shut off because it was kind of chilly.
Giddy up, Turtle! Giddy UP!
Trying the lion on for size.
Once we finished up there, we walked across the street and ate lunch at the "Yellow Submarine" - Em ate a corn dog with fries - and I had a philly cheese steak w/ lots of mushrooms, YUMMY! They had a game room though, so Em and I played there too!
This game would be lots of fun if I could reach the pedals!
What do you mean this isn't how you play skeeball?
The military family in us - we're blowing up 'bad guys' - lol!
After that, it was nap time. Then we got up and headed to the mall just to window shop.
Em played in a neat children's play area for a little while. I worked hard to not stress about the germs - lol.
I think Emelia might have my gift for leadership (a.k.a. 'bossiness')!
Then we went to the "Hello Kitty" store. They didn't have anything good though.
'No thank you' - Em deciding that she doesn't want to leave "Hello Kitty".
Then it was time to go back to Melissa's house (thank goodness!)
Who turned out the lights?
The next day, Melissa and I got $2.99 haircuts at a 'Great Clips' that had just opened up - on our way back to her house after lunch, I took this silly picture for Al because Captain D's is his favorite restaurant of all time:
Thanks for letting me share our weekend with you!
Thursday, October 06, 2005
For today’s entry, I wanted us to examine for a moment the things that happen to us in our life – and the way that even a negative experience can be used to benefit us . . .
I received this story in my inbox last week, and I thought that it was very applicable to what our theme was going to be for this week:
This is Good...
The story is told of a king in Africa who had a close friend with whom he grew up. The friend had a habit of looking at every situation that ever occurred in his life (positive or negative) and remarking, "This is good!"
One day the king and his friend were out on a hunting expedition. The friend would load and prepare the guns for the king. The friend had apparently done something wrong in preparing one of the guns, for after taking the gun from his friend, the king fired it and his thumb was blown off.
Examining the situation the friend remarked as usual, "This is good!"
To which the king replied, "No, this is NOT good!" and proceeded to send his friend to jail.
About a year later, the king was hunting in an area that he should have known to stay clear of. Cannibals captured him and took them to their village. They tied his hands, stacked some wood, set up a stake and bound him to the stake. As they came near to set fire to the wood, they noticed that the king was missing a thumb. Being superstitious, they never ate anyone that was less than whole. So untying the king, they sent him on his way.
As he returned home, he was reminded of the event that had taken his thumb and felt remorse for his treatment of his friend. He went immediately to the jail to speak with his friend. "You were right," he said, "it was good that my thumb was blown off. And he proceeded to tell the friend all that had just happened. "And so I am very sorry for sending you to jail for so long. It was bad of me to do this."
"No" his friend replied, "This is good!"
"What do you mean, "This is good?" How could it be good that I sent my friend to jail for a year?"
"If I had NOT been in jail, I would have been with you when you were captured."
*** Situations may not always seem pleasant while we are in them, but the promise of God is clear. If we love Him and live our lives according to His precepts, even that which seems to be bleak and hopeless will be turned by God for His glory and our benefit.
After reading that story, I felt particularly impressed to examine the last 14 months of Al being gone and the “GOOD” things that have come out of it:
- We were close before, but with him being gone – and us having to communicate so much by phone, email, letters, packages, etc. – it has really added a new dimension to our relationship. Our communication skills have really been put to the test – and I know that we will benefit in the long run from that.
- I have personally become a much stronger person. I only ‘thought’ I was strong before Al got deployed, but this situation has forced me to dig down deep inside of myself and find an inner resolve that I didn’t even know existed.
- I have really learned fully what love is about. When you can love someone across thousands of miles and without seeing them ‘in person’ for months and months at a time – and that love doesn’t diminish – but only gets deeper and deeper, you know that you have found the ‘real thing’.
- I have shipped enough packages and done enough overseas mailing, that if I ever find myself out of work, I could immediately obtain employment at the nearest post office or shipping supplier. LOL.
- I have been able to learn so many things about Al that I might not have been able to discover in ‘normal’ life --- even though he hasn’t been on the front lines, kicking down doors in Iraq – his sacrifice for his country and the citizens of Iraq has been pretty amazing to me. It’s pretty awesome to be able to think of your husband and use the words honor, sacrifice and hero when you do.
- No matter how much this deployment has sucked – we will always be able to look back on it and say ‘Oh, that was our first deployment’ – and ‘That was the deployment that we got married on’. The two weeks that he got to come home in August were so wonderful, and getting to become “Mrs. Big Al” will always be a special memory that I will treasure.
- I know that this situation has brought me closer to God. God and I got along pretty well before this, but I have really come to understand what trust and faith is all about because of this situation. I have no choice but to trust God during this time – and have faith that He is holding Al in the palm of His hand. That has been an amazing lesson!
- Finally, no matter how hard deployment is – I have one word for you . . . HOMECOMING!! I can’t explain the anticipation and excitement I had when I went to pick Al up at the airport when he came home on R&R. Regular people don’t get to feel those emotions, the heart pounding, and the nervousness – all just to see the person that you love most in the world. If you get to see your loved one every night – day in, day out – you don’t get the roller coaster thrill of seeing them for the first time in six months. I look forward so much to Al’s final homecoming too.
So, I just encourage you that, as you go throughout this next week that you would try to find the ‘good things’ that have happened as a result of the ‘bad things’ in your life. Everything happens for a reason, and there is a plan and a purpose to EVERYTHING under Heaven!!
"And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose." Romans 8:28
Monday, October 03, 2005
In honor of this marvelous achievement, I will tell you the exciting projects that I completed this past weekend:
- Re-organized my shoes. I took my spring/summer shoes and put them in a rubbermaid tote and stuffed them in the back of my closet. Then I took my fall/winter shoes and neatly made them into pairs and lined them all up in my other closet.
- Went through all of my clothes and got rid of anything that I haven't worn in at least six months. Made a big giveaway pile. Bagged up said giveaway pile into a trash bag to haul to said giveaway place.
- Went through all of Em's old fall/winter clothes and figured out what she could still wear this year. Took any clothes that she couldn't wear and matched them up in outfits to take to the consignment store. Folded up all of her spring/summer clothes and put them in a rubbermaid tote on the top of her closet.
- Took all of Al's and my CD's and took them out of their plastic cases - and neatly organized them into CD-ROM binders. This took forever as we have a lot more CD's, etc. than I realized.
I mean, WOW! It doesn't get much more exciting than that, does it? I did go shopping on Saturday and get some new fall clothes though because my stuff from last year was too big (yay!) - so that was nice. I had fun hanging my new stuff up in the closet. Looking over my 'project' list, and realizing that my life is about as interesting as a jar of white paste is pretty scary. I have huge problems with military wives who go out partying and drinking while their hubbies are deployed - but now I'm wondering . . . hmmmm. JUST KIDDING!
I also have a little news on Al - it looks like his "BOG" (Boots on Ground) time is going to be extended because of his new position. We are trying to suck it up - but it's going to be much closer to five months, rather than four months before he is home. He is busy looking over equipment and running around doing stuff every day - but he always makes the effort to call and email as much as possible - so that's nice. He has started slowly shipping stuff home too - so I know the end is in sight, I guess, maybe - lol.
I am attaching a new picture of our doughnut/donut of misery, just so you can see our progress. Please note, that for OPSEC reasons, the dates on the donut have been slightly adjusted and are not completely accurate. I always do a new one each Monday morning, and I plug in the date of the following Monday. When I plugged in today's date, it popped up with a new saying, "Congratulations! You're over the hump!". Bleerrggh. I unfortunately feel that the hump has just begun. On one hand, you want to say, 'OMG! We've got NINE MONTHS done baby! NINE MONTHS!' But then, on the other hand, you want to say, '****INSERT EXPLETIVE HERE**** I can't believe that we've got five more months of this ****INSERT EXPLETIVE HERE**** stuff left!'.
Well, I would write more, but I believe my silverware drawer is calling me. I think I will sort the big forks from the small forks. That should kill a good 15 minutes, lol!
Thursday, September 29, 2005
LEGACY OF LOVE, 9.29.05
After Al left to go back to the sand in August, I decided that I really wanted to focus on getting some more plans and goals accomplished. When he had originally left in January, I made a big list of things that I wanted to get done, and although some of those things were pretty easily accomplished, there were a few things that were a lot more time consuming and challenging to do. I realized last month that I needed some organization in my life – and I decided to get a “planner”. I even went to the Franklin Covey planner store to get it. It’s red, and it’s pretty, and it has helped me get my life in order soooo much.
The thing is, though, that it hasn’t just helped me organize stuff like dentist appointments and finances, it has really helped me see the ‘big picture’ of my life. There is a section in there called “Values and Mission” that really helps a person sit down and think about what is most important to them, and assists in figuring out not just what you want to “do” in life, but also who you want to “be”. To accomplish that, you do a ton of exercises to try and figure out who you are as a person, and what’s most important to you. In doing the exercises, I came to a very important realization that what mattered most to me was God, Al, my children and my friends and family.
One of the exercises that brought me to that realization was one where you had to imagine that you were at your 80th birthday party, and you were supposed to think about what you wanted the people that were there to say about you and what you wanted that event to be like. As I considered that event in my mind’s eye, I thought about Al being there and him saying what a good life partner I had been to him, that we were best friends, and that our love was just as strong 50 years later as the day that we first met. I then thought about my children being there (and my grandchildren too) and them being able to say that I had always been loving and caring – and that every day I challenged them to be better people. I imagined my friends (like you) being there, and us being able to look one another in the eye and smile at the joyous ride that we had gone on together – that our smiles might be laced with tears at the remembrance of good times and bad that we had encouraged one another through. I thought about people from my church celebrating the event with me, and them being able to say what an uplifting person I had been to them, and that I had modeled Christ in their lives.
In short, as I thought about that future day, I didn’t for one minute think about the clothes that I would be wearing, how many wrinkles would be on my face, or whether or not my fingers would be dripping with jewels. Instead, I thought about those closest to me, and how I wanted them to be able to say that knowing me and being loved by me had made a difference in their lives. So, as you go throughout your day today, please do not let the small things in life bother you – don’t let the petty irritations wear you down. When you feel yourself get discouraged today, take a small mental break and think about your 80th birthday. Look around that room in your mind and see all those faces smiling back at you, think about what really matters in your life. As you do, I’m sure that you won’t be thinking about cars, houses, money or jobs – instead you will think about your family and the legacy of love that you will leave behind on this earth. Let us live each day with that in mind! Be blessed.
1 Cor. 13:4-8
Saturday, September 24, 2005
It's hard to type what I need to type to y'all today. It's hard to admit to a large group of people that your life has basically sucked for the last month. It's even harder to admit that you know that you have been a complete and total "B-Word" for that month. Even if you know me "in real life" (ie. outside of the computer) - this admission may be a complete surprise to you - because other than lying low for a month and not calling anybody and not wanting to talk to people when they called me, there really haven't been a lot of signs that I have been in a horribly, godawful bad mood and that I could have easily cleaned somebody's clock for looking at me the wrong way (of course, after I had a dental work done this week, and a $1000 crown put on, my bad mood was maybe a little bit easier to recognize).
Al would probably be the most shocked to hear that I have been in a horrible mood - that's because I'm not EVER in a horrible mood to him. Heck, the reason that I feel this way is because I miss him so much and I am just "done" with having him gone. It would be pretty stupid to take that out on him!! LOL. In a lot of ways, I feel that with me being the one 'back home', that it is important for me to set the tone for our relationship. You can call it being a 'Stepford Wife' - but I have learned the hard way that a little tiny thing over the phone and the computer can be multiplied several times over several days and blow up into something absolutely stupid. It is so much easier to just be happy and loving when I do get the opportunity to talk to him.
Anyway, all of these feelings of negativity had basically culminated to the point that I have been getting NO joy out of anything. I took myself to a movie last week and while it got me out of the house for two hours and I was able to enjoy the entertainment while it lasted, the SECOND that I walked out of the movie theater, I was grumpy again. The only way that I can explain it is that it was like that show, "Night of the Living Dead", where if you get bitten by a Zombie, you become this angry, mad, "non-person" who only wants to run around and bite everyone else and make them into a Zombie too. Looking at happy people actually made me mad! Like, "How DARE they be happy when I feel this way?".
This last week, I can tell you that the dread and negative feelings inside of me had built to a point that it was hard to even take a deep breath. Like I had so much "yuck" in me - that I couldn't even breathe. I am not "depressed" - I am so fricking over being 'sad', it's not even funny. I'm ticked off! I'm tired and I don't want to do this anymore - but, guess what? I don't get any options! There are still two more elections in Iraq this year, and my soldier won't be going anywhere until they are over with. And no matter how much I support him, and support his mission, and believe in America and BLAH, BLAH, BLAH - it isn't going to bring him home any sooner!
Last night, lying in bed, I realized that I had a big, huge ball of anger in me. And as I was falling asleep, I just prayed and said, "God, I am so tired of feeling this way, please make it stop". This morning, I woke up and pulled myself out of bed, grumpiness overcoming me every step of the way, and I hauled myself to a women's conference that we were having at my church. And for eight hours, God talked directly to my heart and told me what I needed to hear to get through the rest of this deployment.
I know that not everyone is spiritual, and I know that a lot of people think that God is a crutch for weak minded people. That's fine. I will be the first person to say that I am weak and the next thing that I will tell you is that I don't care if you are an emotional Arnold Schwarzenegger, deployment can kick your butt. However, I feel about 300% better tonight about everything than I did this morning - and I know that I am supposed to tell you about it in our blog.
This is what I feel impressed to tell you if you are going through this situation:
Dealing with a deployment is like running the longest race that you have ever run in your life. You start off, and you are just so happy to finally be leaving the starting gate after months of potential deployment hanging over your head that you are jogging along and although it sucks and you hate it - you think to yourself, 'Hey! I can do this!'. I was running like a champ just like that in February when I had to have surgery and then I got sick. Then I basically tripped emotionally, fell, and then I landed SPLAT on my face. It took me several weeks before I could pull myself back up from that. I even went to the doctor because I couldn't stop crying. YUCK.
Well, after that, I got my crap together and I was just plodding along. Saying to myself 'jog, jog, jog' - doing the whole 'put one foot in front of the other', 'keep on swimming' thing. I did pretty good up until June. In June, I got to the start of a gigantic hill. I looked up at that hill and realized that we still had two full months of deployment until Al could come home on R&R and we could get married. That was another awful couple of weeks. I had no choice but to keep running up that hill, some days just dragging my butt on the asphalt and getting only a few feet, but I somehow managed to keep on going.
Finally August got here, and life was great. I was jogging along, Al came home, things were awesome! I was running and waving for the cameras, thinking, "Geez, I have this deployment stuff LICKED! I am the POSTER CHILD of doing stuff right! Just a few more months and we will be all done!". Ha, ha, ha.
Al leaves and then I turn into a undercover basketcase. I become a closet "mind murderer" who wishes death upon anyone who crosses my path. I swear I could have won the lottery this month and I would have found a way to be angry about it. Well, I hate to use another running analogy on you -- but God showed me today that I have hit the proverbial runner's wall. You know, the moment that everything becomes mental for the runner. They can make it through the rest of the race 'physically', and they honestly don't even have that much of the race left, but MENTALLY they begin to freak out, and they doubt themselves.
That is where I have been. At the wall. And the wall sucks - it hurts - and it's a very painful place to be. It's also so humbling to realize that we have made it through eight months of boots on ground time - and well over a year of total deployment - and I am at the point of being jello inside all over again. I was somehow able to give all of that over to God today. I'm not sure how, and I am pretty positive that a lot of it had nothing to do with anything that I did, but rather God working in my heart. All that I know is that I am okay now.
No matter what you are dealing with right now - no matter WHAT the problem is that you are facing . . . perhaps it's something personal, something private - something that like me, you don't want to talk about with anyone - whatever it is, you CAN make it through it. I learned today that the wall can be beneficial because it makes a person realize that they aren't a super hero - that they are just as vulnerable as anybody else. And when you are vulnerable, you are at the point that you can achieve the most personal growth. When everything is going great, and everything is awesome, you're not going to be as able to recognize the big, important, 'deep' stuff in life. At the wall, you have no choice but to face your fears and DEAL.
If you are running along and never have problems, you have no milestones that you can look back on when you finally do make it to the finish line. You have no way of measuring your run other than the start and the finish, and there is a lot more to life than the beginning and the end.
I never realized that after going through this month, that I would actually be able to say that I'm thankful for feeling the way that I have. It's such a huge relief that it's over, and such a good feeling to be done with it - but I'm also so thankful for the lessons that it taught me. I'm not sure if all of my wall got broken down today, but I do know that I feel like I can finish this race again and that my confidence is back. I am running like a spaz, and the theme for "Chariots of Fire" is playing in the background. I am running toward this winter, and I am running toward Al - and I can see the finish line in the distance. Thanks to all of you for running the race with me!!
Wednesday, September 21, 2005
In honor of Hurricane Rita, I drafted this “Top 10” list for anybody who is on the outskirts of a hurricane (I wrote it after Katrina – but didn’t think I would get to share my wisdom this soon – could there BE anymore hurricanes/tropical storms this year? Yikes!):
TOP 10 WAYS TO KNOW THAT YOU SURVIVED THE OUTSKIRTS OF A HURRICANE:
- Cars cease to be the status symbols that they once were – the only thing that makes a ‘sexy’car is how full its gas tank is.
- Speaking of sexy, nothing makes a man look better than when he is carrying a generator towards your front door.
- You feel guilty because somehow you didn’t lose your phone or your power in ‘the big storm’, but your guilt is quickly erased the next day when your power and phone have to be shut off to fix your neighbor’s lines.
- ‘Modern Conveniences’ becomes a relative term for those dealing with several days of power loss. Being lucky enough to have a roof over your head and a soft bed to sleep in sounds really good compared to the alternatives that you hear about on your battery powered radio.
- Horses start to look like a pretty efficient form of transportation after two hours spent in a fuel line to get less than 10 gallons of gas.
- Your coworkers begin to seem a lot less annoying to you after you realize how much money you can save by carpooling with them.
- You look forward to going to the office every day because you still have power and air conditioning there. As you lie awake in sticky, hot, “half-sleep”, you can’t wait to ‘push papers’ in the morning.
- You begin to wish that the looters that you’re seeing on TV would steal Geraldo Rivera too so that you wouldn’t have to listen to his histrionics anymore.
- You start to really regret not putting a chain saw on your wedding registry.
- Instead of counting down how many days your hubby has left of his deployment to Iraq, you start counting down how many days are left in hurricane season.
Tuesday, September 13, 2005
I knew that I would go into a somewhat downward spiral after Al left - being left behind in Alabama to pick up the pieces of my life, to try to create a semblance of order of things and figure out how I was going to make it through the next several months without him home. And as soon as he got back to the Sand, he was given a position that makes it so he will be one of the very last people home from his company when everyone redeploys - and I took all of that pretty hard.
Then the hurricane hit, and life just sucked - I am an extremely empathetic person, plus I live pretty close to everything. I volunteer with the Red Cross whenever I can (which hasn't been for a while, since I have been busy being a mom), but I was able to have the opportunity to help evacuees who had lost absolutely everything - who dealt with the atrocities not just in New Orleans, but all over the Gulf Coast. Being in the middle of all of that, is just really something that you can't describe. You would have to see their weariness first hand, their overwhelming thankfulness to be alive, and hear the hope that is deep inside of them - waiting for the opportunity to be fully rebuilt.
I will say that one of the hardest things that I have ever done was to work two Sundays ago with the kids who had evacuated to the BJCC in Birmingham. I guess I didn't realize that I would be directly around people who had been in New Orleans - at the Civic Center, and at the Superdome. The day before, (Saturday the 3rd), I worked as a 'team leader' in the donations warehouse moving items that people dropped off for the evacuees out to a huge floor of everything imaginable. We were isolated from the clients other than when other volunteers would come back to "shop" in the warehouse for items needed out front - it was hard, hot work - but very rewarding to know that the items would be able to be put to almost immediate use by people who desperately needed and deserved them.
The next day though, the warehouse was pretty full, so the local Red Cross told people that they would accept no more "in kind" donations, and instead, started asking for financial ones - ie. I was out of a job. I got put to work playing with the kids that didn't go to church that morning - a group of about 10-15 boys and girls of all ages. One girl, whose name I was never told, will always stick in my mind. She was 13, with high cheekbones, pale chocolate skin and gorgeous gray eyes. She had an authentic "New Orleans accent" - and she had evacuated from the Civic Center. The things that she told me that people had experienced there were just horrifying (people getting raped and beaten, babies getting trampled, no food, no water for three days). And I listened as best as I could, and looked away when I thought that I couldn't swallow my tears anymore. It was hard enough to hear that stuff on the news, but to be confronted with it first hand was next to impossible to accept.
We have roughly 10,000 evacuees in Birmingham - and we are one smallish Southern metropolis. I hope to be able to volunteer this weekend again when Em is at her dad's house. I don't know where I will end up this time - or what I will be doing - but I feel compelled to do something, anything, to help the local, hurting sea of humanity that has ended up on the doorstep of my fair city. I miss Al immensely, but he has been my rock during this time. I email him every night - and he is just as good about communicating back with me. No matter what I need to talk about, he is there for me - and I love him for that. The days have melted together and the importance of our countdown seems foolish in light of what so many others are facing right now.
All of this has been especially hard on the soldiers who are deployed from Mississippi and Louisiana. The main LA unit has gotten to come home - and about 80 guys who either completely lost their houses (or family members) should be home on leave right now from the 155 BCT. There are lots more who are left in Iraq though struggling with the urge to be on home soil making a difference - and helping their families pick up the brokenness of their lives and move forward - only the ones that lost absolutely everything were allowed to return. I know how hard it is for me to be without Al in the good times and bad, but I can't imagine having a good portion of your house gone and struggling along alone. My prayers go out to all of the soldiers and their families. The military community stands behind you.
I thought that I would share some pictures of the last two weeks:
My company let us leave at 1600 on the Monday of the hurricane (August 29th), these are the clouds rolling in.
Roughly 20 minutes after the first picture.
Around 2000 (8.29) outside my front door.
On 9.1.05 very close to my house, this is an example of the kinds of things that we dealt with in Birmingham - downed trees and powerlines - but not our whole existence taken away from us.
Driving into "town" to volunteer to help Hurricane evacuees on 9.3.05, I came across this caravan of National Guard soldiers on their way to help with the hurricane, I can't remember if they were from Kentucky or Arkansas, but I honked at EVERY vehicle, waved my hands like a freak, and gave them a huge thumbs up (ummm, all while driving my car and taking pictures - lol!).
The back of one their trucks - it is hard to read, but it says, "Show Your Support, Hurricane Katrina".
After leaving the BJCC on 9.4.05, I encountered this huge caravan of buses - there was close to 30 - I lost count. We already had a lot of people at the BJCC - but these buses brought hundreds more evacuees to be distributed all throughout the city.
Monday, August 29, 2005
Al called Saturday and he is right back in the thick of things at his FOB. He is now working in the clinic, doing the security officer position, and he will be training for another position soon too. It looks like they are going to serve their whole boots on ground time (call me a fatalist but I hadn't gotten my hopes up that they wouldn't do their whole BOG anyway - lol). Please keep him in your thoughts if you can.
Emelia hasn't been feeling herself for the past week or so either, so that has been hard. I don't want to make anybody barf, but explosive toddler diarrhea is a force to be reckoned with, that's for sure. We had to stay home from church yesterday, because I don't think she's contagious - I think she's just teething her molars, but I didn't feel that the people in the nursery should have to deal with all of that. Our big excitement yesterday was laundry, scrubbing down the kitchen, and me cleaning and organizing various drawers and cabinets in the house - we also ventured out to Walmart and we made it almost home until another attack of the killer poopies hit. YUCK. If anyone has any cures for a raw bootie, my ears are open - I have been using a double layer of vaseline and diaper cream.
I stayed home with her this morning until I got the free and clear from the Peditrician's office to try another couple of days of the 'wait and see' approach. Em has no fever, no vomiting and no behavioral changes - she just has Mount Vesuvius in her pants about five times a day. We start our new Tricare insurance on Thursday also - so it will be really nice to have no copay, etc. on this doctor's visit (I told Al that now that I am getting Army bennies, that it makes it 'a little' easier to have him gone, lol). Anyway, I am now at the office and I have been trying to slog through my many projects, but I have no real motivation to get anything done.
There's another hurricane a' comin' too - but we should just get tons of rain and strong wind. I talked to Stacy at about 1100 this morning, and they had just lost power at her house. She is close to Jackson, MS which is also where Al's mom and his son, Trey live. There are tons of soldiers in training at Camp Shelby in Hattiesburg, MS which is in the path of the hurricane - and there are a lot of currently husbandless military wives in the 155 BCT that are going to have to deal with this storm and its consequences, so please keep them in your prayers.
Staying humble in Alabama, rain, wind, poop and all . . . Melinda.
Thursday, August 25, 2005
Something kind-of neat happened yesterday as I was stumbling along the web. I discovered that on the Army National Guard site, that our blog was being listed as an example of what a National Guard blog is. LOL. It was listed under the "You Can Make a Difference"/Recruiting Action Center section on the Virtual Armory site.
If you haven't been to the Virtual Armory yet, I really encourage you to go. The National Guard is a good side career, and there are a lot of other options to help support your country and our nation's military that are listed on the site. You can't become a 'member' of the virtual armory unless you are a member of the National Guard, but you can do lots of other neat things like order a hero band (for free!) and send cool Guard e-cards. Check it out!
National Guard Virtual Armory!!!! Click HERE!!!!
Wednesday, August 24, 2005
Please pray for "Some Soldier's Mom" and her son, SPC Noah Pincusoff. She received word yesterday that Noah was "injured in a VBIED attack ... a serious spinal injury... being operated on in Iraq". Her blog has been a source of inspiration to me personally - and you can just see her love for her son in everything that she writes. My friend, Stacy, called me about this last night - and she is so upset about it. War gets very personal when it affects someone that you know and care about. All of us in the Milblog community wrap our loving arms of protection around Noah and his family right now - and we will get through this together.
On a personal note, Al has made it back to Iraq. He is not back 'home' to his FOB yet, but I don't think he minds too much. Where he is staying right now is quite a bit ritzier than his location - he emailed me and told me that he is going 'swimming in the pool' a little later today - lol. It was so good to get his phone call yesterday at work - and he had me laughing and grinning from ear to ear as usual. I love him and I miss him so much, but I'm glad to know that he is back where he needs to be right now.
Tuesday, August 23, 2005
I'm not trying to be a big complainer though, because I would much rather be able to smile and look back at those memories than to not to have had the opportunity to have them at all. We are looking at 'around' four-five months left after this. Even though the goodbye was hard, it was much better than January. There are not so many unknowns this time. And although he was saying goodbye to me and the kids, his 'home' right now is really with the other guys at his FOB.
Here are some professional pictures from our wedding day:
Melissa & Me
Tuesday, August 16, 2005
Hey Everybody! I am so sorry to have been sooooo MIA - actually, I'm not sorry in the sense that I 'regret' it, because I have had an absolutely fantabulous time just living life and enjoying the heck out of my bunny - but I'm sorry in the sense that I have ignored all of you - and not kept you up-to-date of our goings-on.
Al got home on Thursday August 4th - and we were married on August 5, 2005 at about 1:15 p.m. - it was everything that you would imagine a 'war wedding' to be . . . handsome groom, blushing bride, etc. He is still home right now and I won't say when he is leaving for security reasons ;o) other than to say that it will be 'soon'.
Thank you so much to everyone for all of your well wishes and your thoughtfulness. Please continue to keep us in your thoughts and prayers as we go through the transition of Al's R&R ending - although I certainly don't look forward to him going back to the sand, I do look forward to getting my routine back and checking up on all of you again. Sending much love to each of you across the Internet miles!!