Saturday, April 30, 2005

Day 117 - Good News!!

Well, I need to start writing in our blog again, work has been so busy that I can't write at the office and I haven't really had the energy to blog when I get home either. Spring is always a really crazy time in the construction industry - we are also conducting our annual seminar in two weeks, so I have a lot of preparation to do on that too. I'm glad to be so busy though - it sure makes the days go by fast. Today Em and I had little or nothing to do for once - and the weather was just drizzly and yucky -- we went to my friend Renee's house for part of the day and then came home and played inside the house and watched movies. When you can enjoy a good afternoon of coloring and watching "Schoolhouse Rock" you know that you have a toddler!!

I am going to start trying to look for something patriotic and inspirational for you guys to read everyday. I know that it would help me to have something to look forward to by finding it - and I hope you guys would like reading it!!

Al's unit decided to start doing leave in a different way, so it looks like he will almost definitely be getting leave now. It's still the Army - so there's always a chance that things won't work out - but Al drew #19 - out of 70+ people . . . so hopefully in July he will be home and in my arms! WHOO HOO!!

So, that's my good news! Yay!!

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Day 105 - Dust Storm

Okay, first things first - - - Al sent out a little update today, he doesn't do this very often so I thought that I would post it first . . .

Hey everyone this is an update from Iraq. Ever since I started doing the XXXXXX job I have had to keep up with the weather. We have a small weather station on the roof of our building. We heard on the radio that everyone should roll up their windows now. We did not know what was happening but a sandstorm was coming and the winds got up to 121 knots (a knot is equal to 1.1 miles) with sustained winds of 51 knots. The sky turned red and we could only see 100 feet. The wind and sand are horrible. This is our first sandstorm and we got out in it and took pictures. We are like grown kids joking around. As I am writing the wind speed is 35 knots and gusts 99. It is brown out. We can not leave the building and don't know when it will stop. We got in touch with our other FOB's and they are reporting the same. I will try to send some pics in a few days. We moved into a new tent today and the air conditioner is not as good as the last so we are gathering fans together. We should move from the tent in a month or so. I will keep you all posted. Thanks, AL

He is always Mr. Positive Attitude about everything as you can tell - LOL!! I call Al my bunny, and joked with him that after the dust/sand storm that now I need to call him my dust bunny!!

Sorry that it has been so long between entries, work has been crazy - and then my best friend Melissa came to town for the weekend - we shopped till we dropped on Saturday - and then we took Em to the zoo today - I will post pics for you tomorrow. It was really nice to have a friend to hang out with for the weekend!! Girlfriends are the best!

I wanted to close today's entry with a Robert Frost poem that that for me, epitomizes what I want things to be like when Al comes back --- a simplicity of life - of togetherness - I had to clean up paperwork to find some of his nursing credit hours that he had earned this past summer - and I found this poem that I had printed because it had reminded me of what lifetime love really is all about.

Anyway - it's not a super famous Frost poem -- but it really speaks to you if you let it.

The Master Speed ~ Robert Frost

No speed of wind or water rushing by
But you have speed far greater. You can climb
Back up a stream of radiance to the sky,
And back through history up the stream of time,
And you were given this swiftness, not for haste
Nor chiefly that you may go where you will,
But in the rush of everything to waste,
That you may have the power of standing still --
Off any still or moving thing you say.
Two such as you with such a master speed
Cannot be parted nor swept away
From one another once you are agreed
That life is only life forevermore
Together wing to wing and oar to oar.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Day 99 - Little Things

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Well, tomorrow we are about to hit day 100 of our "Boots on Ground" of deployment and I think that knowing that we are getting closer to being one third done with our one year stint is causing me to wax poetic about what is precisely that makes us miss "the other person" so much.

At the beginning of this deployment, a bunch of us National Guard wives had a discussion about how we went into auto pilot for a little while, walking through the motions of life, numb to the day in, day out elements of everything, and then suddenly, out of nowhere, something small would shock us back to reality -- and bring everything to the forefront. It was funny, for a lot of us, it was laundry. We would be doing the laundry, and a stray sock or a t-shirt that got left behind would bring back emotions that we had buried so deep and tried so hard to ignore.

There have been so many "little things" like that have made me think of Al -- tiny things really, that sometimes can make me get the biggest grin - and sometimes can instantly bring tears to my eyes. I can't smell a cup of coffee early in the morning - without thinking about him drinking his first cup of coffee - the couple in front of me at church yesterday reminded me of what I want Al and me to be like in forty years, holding hands and still in love - my throat still gets a knot in it just thinking about it.

The picture that opens this entry is of the tornado shelter that I drive by every day on my to work - it's close to my house. When Al and I first dated - and he first came out to my house - one year ago at the end of this month - he commented on the shelter - how much he admired it - how smart he thinks it is to have one, etc. And I always joked with him about it -- it became a running thing with us - I started calling him "Grandpa" because most guys admire hot cars - but not my Al, he admires tornado shelters. Well, after he deployed and he was "gone, gone", the first time I drove past that tornado shelter I bawled my freaking eyes out the rest of the way home. Of course, I had been bawling most of the way home from Mississippi anyway, so the last two miles was no big deal.

But now, that tornado shelter is so special to me, because every morning, and every night on my way to work - and on my way home, it's my reminder to pray for him -- I'm constantly praying for him and thinking of him anyway -- but it's my "extra" reminder. But it means more to me than that, it means that the little things in life - the special things - the things that you don't even know are there - until the person isn't there - you need to treasure them - you need to savor them like a fine wine. Their stinky socks that they leave on the floor? Don't crank at them for them - someday they might not be around to leave them there. Even stinky socks and tornado shelters are special. I promise.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Day 97 - Post Office

Well, this morning I had to go to a different Post Office, I normally go to the one by my work - and I usually go on the Friday after Pay Day - because I go to Walmart and the Dollar Store on Pay Day and then I pack boxes up that night. Then I go the next day and mail the boxes off - based on my system, Al then receives those boxes on the mail run two weeks later. It's a great system. It works perfectly.

Well, until Tax Day. Stupid Tax Day messed everything up yesterday. I was sitting at the office yesterday printing off the ninety million labels that go on everything from the custom forms to the boxes themselves when it hit me that it was freaking Tax Day --- otherwise known as the day when all procrastinators everywhere like to stand in line to mail stuff. Ugh. So, Al's packages got mailed this morning instead.

But, the point of the story is that I have gone four separate Post Offices now to mail Al's care packages --- and let me tell you one thing - there had better not be one person in the world that tries to talk crap about the Post Office to me. Those people have a hard job. I have now mailed TWENTY FIVE packages (yes, I know it's only April - shhhh, I'm trying to tell a story here) and I have really gotten a taste of what working in the Post Office is like. It's a hard job. So far, I have watched them have to explain how the entire mail system works to an elderly lady - then I witnessed a customer go ballistic over a 37 cent stamp and why it was no longer valid because they taped over the top of it - whew - that was a close call that day. And me, with my four to five custom formed boxes each time - I know they probably want to duck under the counter when they see me coming.

But you know what? They don't. They always look at me with a knowing look in their eye, and they say - "Who do you know that's over there?" -- and I say (most of the time trying to smile and look happy and brave at the same time) "My fiancé." Then they usually reply with something like, "Oh, well, you must really love him with all these boxes!!" And I say, "Yes I sure do!" And the conversation goes on from there. They always ask when he's coming home - and WITHOUT fail - and I'm telling you - this is FOUR separate Post Offices in four separate parts of the city - they all ask me to bring him by when he comes home - just so they can meet him - and THANK him for his service.

Do you have any idea what that means? To be thanked? I know that I pay for that postage, but man, it is worth it. For me to be able to sit in my living room every other Thursday night and pack my boxes full of "stuff" - but really I'm stuffing them full of love -- and KNOW that in two weeks - in two short little weeks, that half way across the world, Al can crack them open and dump out - and get a huge smile on his face - you have no idea what that means to me. The Post Office gives that to me. They do all that - and then they still "thank" Al for what he's doing too. There are very few "service industries" that take their jobs seriously anymore - everything seems to have lost it's lustre in the modern millenium - there doesn't seem to be any pride in any uniform nowadays. But - Al still has pride when he puts on his - and the people that work at the Post Offices that I go to in Birmingham still have pride when they put on theirs.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Day 95 - Five Boxes

Today was a care package night. I love routine. It's wonderful. It helps time go so much quicker. Every two weeks on Thursday night it's box night. Line up the boxes --- dump out the Wallyworld bags -- stuff the boxes full --- cram everything but the kitchen sink in them --- write little notes - fill out custom forms --- tape the boxes shut - label the boxes. -- stack the boxes --- wake up the next morning - carry the boxes to car - print out the address labels at work - stick them on the boxes --- carry the boxes to the post office --- chit chat to the post office people who now know me by name and who want to meet Al when he comes home -- at all THREE Post Offices that I go to. Wait two more weeks -- Repeat.

So, I have five boxes to send. I "thought" that I didn't have much to send. Ummm, yeah. I went to the Dollar Store and Wal-Mart and fixed that problem tonight. I found a bunch of fun squirt guns, frisbees, water ballons, and stuff like that at the Dollar Store. And at Wal-Mart I got some cool stuff in the sporting goods aisle and I got Al some popsicles that he can freeze - and a really cool Yatzee Texas Hold 'Em game that was new. I hope he likes it.

I wanted to share something from my Yahoo National Guard Wives Board with y'all today - it's about "Stress Management":

A lecturer, when explaining stress management to an audience, raised a glass of water and asked,"how heavy is this glass of water? "

Answers called out ranged from 20g to 500g.

The lecturer replied,"The absolute weight doesn't matter.

It depends on how long you try to hold it.

If I hold it for a minute, that's not a problem.

If I hold it for an hour, I'll have an ache in my right arm.

If I hold it for a day, you'll have to call an ambulance."

In each case, it's the same weight, but the longer I hold it, the heavier it becomes."

He continued,"And that's the way it is with stress management.

If we carry our burdens all the time, sooner or later, as the burden becomes increasingly heavy, we won't be able to carry on. "

"As with the glass of water, you have to put it down for a while and rest before holding it again.

When we're refreshed, we can carry on with the burden. "

"So, before you return home tonight, put the burden of work down.

Don't carry it home; lay them down at the foot of the cross. Whatever burdens you're carrying now, let them down and release them if you can.

"Cast your burdens on the Lord and He will sustain you." Psalm 55:22

"Come unto me all you that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." (Jesus)Matthew 11:29

May God hold you in the palm of His hands.
ps. Al is doing really good. He is staying busy with his new responsibilities. They have the Internet back up now - it had been pretty choppy this past week - but he had been able to call me every day to make up for it. He had two tacos for lunch :o)

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Day 94 - 300 Days

Wow. I can't believe it. I know it sounds stupid to read this and you probably barely know me and you can't really gauge whether I believe it or not - but I promise that I really truly don't believe it. We have made it to another milestone. Three hundred days. In this slow trickle of time - of the true sands through the hourglass - we have conquered another hurdle --- three hundred days. It makes me want to cry. Okay, you caught me. I am crying.

Every time we reach another milestone - it gives me more courage - it gives me more strength - it gives me the ability to tell myself that no matter how much this sucks, that I can do this - because I've done it for xxx days so I can do it for xxx more days. It also helps because I know what to expect. I know that the days aren't as awful as I thought that they would be. Yes, it is hard without Al - but I am stronger than I thought that I was - and I have so much support in my friends and family - and in perfect strangers that I don't even know - especially computer friends --- and even in our blog readers - your comments can brighten up the gloomiest of days!! And Al - he is truly my best friend - always has been - and always will be - he manages to email or call pretty much every day - and he gets me to smile or laugh on even the worst day --- and makes time fly by, even though he is trapped in the sand.

So, wherever you are - whatever you are doing - please toast a "Happy 300" with us!! You helped get us this far -- and we really appreciate it!! Every day from this point forward is one day closer to homecoming! (Our next milestone is 267 Days - or 50% completion of our 545 days of the written deployment orders)

We miss you Al!! Posted by Hello

Trey-man and Mama Judy! Posted by Hello

At the Co. C - 106th SB Armory Posted by Hello

Busy Girl!! Posted by Hello

Playing Outside at Al's House Posted by Hello

Trey and the neighbor dog, Lucky Posted by Hello

Trey and His Birthday Submarine! Posted by Hello

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Day 91 - "Kisses"

Well, life has been busy in our neck of the woods, I pray that "all y'all" have been doing good. Em and I went over to Jackson, MS for the weekend - we got to see Al's son Trey for the weekend - he just turned five this past week - and he is the spitting image of his father. It was wonderful to see him - and in a lot of ways, it was like spending time with Al. Their mannerisms are so similar - and Trey just has a "way" about him that echoes his father. We also went to the FRG (Family Readiness Group) meeting for Al's unit. I will have more pictures for you tomorrow than you probably ever wanted to see in your whole life!

We hit a big milestone yesterday - we are officially three months - or 90 days done. So, we have nine more months left - in some ways, Al and I are used to everything now - we have reached the "stabilization" phase of deployment - where although we're not happy that he's gone - both of us are moving on with life one day at a time - and things are pretty good for the most part. Some days though - something will happen, and out of nowhere, all those empty, lonely - "is he ever coming home" feelings will rush to the surface. You can't plan for those feelings to happen - and you can't stop them once they're there - there's no magic pill to take to prevent them either. Thankfully, they are few and far between.

Al is doing really well at his location. He has been given a lot more "non-nurse" responsibility - since the nursing side of life where he's at is pretty boring. He did warn me that he may not be able to email me as much - and I told him "GRRRR" to his new responsibilites - lol! He really enjoys the company of the guys that are with him - and I know that helps with the long days. He is happy that he is going to be busier now though, because he says that it will make the long days shorter.

Before I close, I have to tell you a little story about Al's son. When Al and I first started dating, I would sometimes drive over to Jackson, and Al, Trey, Emelia and I would hang out together. Sometimes Trey would be silly and would come up and give me a kiss on the cheek. Al would be silly right back and say in a funny voice, "Oh no! Don't steal Ms. Melinda's kisses, they're ALL mine!" And Trey would giggle, and say, "Oh no, Daddy, I got the very last one" --- and those two boys would go back and forth like that - and then it would usually end in a tickle fight between them.

Well, I was getting everything shoved into the car this afternoon (including Emelia) for the four hour drive home - and Trey was riding his scooter in the driveway. He rode up to me and said, "Thank you for all the nice presents" (for his birthday) - and I said "No problem" --- then it came time to say goodbye. I gave him a giant bear hug - and I went "Mwah, Mwah, Mwah, Mwah" - in a silly voice --- then Trey looked up at me with his big clear eyes, and said, "Ms. Awinda, will you tell my daddy something?" - so, I said, "Sure Trey-man, what should I tell your daddy for you?" -- and he said in the sweetest voice that you can imagine, "You tell my daddy that I just got every single one of your kisses".

How in the world I kept it together before I drove out of the driveway, I'm not sure. But, I got about two blocks from Al's mom's house and lost - Em was in the rearview mirror looking at me like I had lost my mind. When they say "out of the mouths of babes" they mean it.

Have a very blessed start of the week!

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Day 86 - Tons o' Pics!!

Okay, I have been absolutely awful about posting pictures lately - I have dial-up at home which makes it a pain - and I have been really busy at work!!

The first picture is my signature on a "Mommy's Debate Board" that I go to -- those women can be fierce! There are a lot of people over there who don't have any understanding of the war in Iraq other than what is represented to them by an overly biased, liberal media. There is actually a woman on that board who refers to soldiers in Iraq as "babykillers" -- so, to let the pictures speak for themselves - I included two pictures from Al's most recent medical missions.

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I don't have any other recent "Al Pics" --- so, I will post some of what Em and I have been up to - this weekend we are going to visit Al's mom and son - so I will have new pics of them next week.

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Em coloring Easter eggs.

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Dressed up for church.

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Opening Easter baskets.

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M and Em on Easter.

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Celebrating Daylight Savings Time last night when we went to Sonic for ice cream.

Sorry there were so many - I'll try to space them out better in the future!!

Monday, April 04, 2005

Day 85 - Monday - Bleergh!

Well, things have been sort of mundane here lately - without much to say, I haven't wanted to bore y'all with the hum drum that I call life!! LOL! We are at 85 days in - Al is having a hard time with the long days lately. I am cheerleading him on - but please pray for him. He never gets 'down' very often - and I know that it's getting to him. It's getting to me too - but I am in the happy land of denial - ha! I refuse to let myself get low again - there's no point to it - it does neither one of us any good -- I used to be on drama team in high school - and I got the Senior Acting award - so, even when I don't feel like it - I am going to "act happy" --- it hurts too much to be any other way, kwim?

Let's see - let me fill you in on my big exciting weekend!! Em and I took a three hour nap on Friday afternoon (shhh, don't tell!) - I worked my part time job on Saturday and Em went to her dad's house - then I came home and went to bed at 1800 -- I had a really long week at work - and a couple of nights during the week where I got less than three hours of sleep - so I was burned out by the weekend.

I was very bad and skipped church on Sunday to do housecleaning before Emelia came home. Things are much better now. It had all snowballed - and I can't stand to be disorganized. I said extra prayers last night - I know this week will be hard though because church helps me so much - it's like spiritual Xanax :o) God rocks!

Okay, I have a fun game! My National Guard board started a fun post called, "You Know You're a Military Wife/Girlfriend/Fiancée Of a Deployed Soldier When . . ." - so, I thought that I would post my own realizations of when I knew that I was full throttle into this military thing!

  1. When I realized that I had enough spare MRE's at my house to feed myself and most of my neighbors for a month in the event of a national disaster!!
  2. When I began to look forward to getting woken up in the dead of night just for short "Hey Baby!"
  3. When my car developed into a "Pridemobile" - and I started to envy other people's magnetic support ribbons!
  4. When shaving became optional!! LOL!
  5. When I started to dread the words "How long has be been gone" - and even worse, "When is he coming home?"
  6. When my best friends in the whole world started to become other military wives on Army message boards that I had never met "in real life" - simply because they understood what I was going through!!
  7. When a two sentence email from Al will make me grin from ear to ear.
  8. When the word "convoy" became a dirty word - almost as bad as "outside the wire".
  9. When the American flag became a major focal point for my home's interior decorating!!
  10. When I started to openly bawl whenever I heard the National Anthem because I had personally experienced the sacrifice that the words were originally written for.
  11. When I realized that I had several military acronym websites saved into my Internet favorites just so I could understand what the heck Al was talking about!
  12. When I started cuddling with clothes that Al left behind simply because they smelled like him (in a good way :o)!
  13. When I started to get violently upset over such a small thing as a missed phone call.
  14. When my dining room became a miniature post office/shipping station.
  15. When I developed the uncanny ability to be able to fit just about anything into a USPS flat rate priority mail box.
  16. When I realized that I couldn't go shopping anymore without looking for something neat for Al's care packages.
  17. When I got a special notebook just for writing down care package ideas and stuff to remember to tell Al.
  18. When I realized that I automatically know what time it is in Iraq without having to do the math anymore.
  19. When civilians started to look stupid to me.
  20. When I started reciting trite phrases to myself, "No news is good news", "God never gives us more than we can handle", "Just one day closer to him", "a year isn't forever".
  21. When I started attending Family Readiness Group meetings - it's AA for people with deployed soldiers - lol!
  22. When I realized that I would rather be at home by myself than around a bunch of people who don't understand what this feels like.
  23. When I started to miss his smelly underarms, dirty clothes, unbrushed teeth and farting.
  24. When I started shopping for a really good Arabic/English lexicon.
  25. When life became measured in "now" - and "when he comes home".
  26. When putting the phone next to my bed became part of my nightly routine.
  27. When emailing Al every night also became part of my nightly routine.
  28. When reading my email from Al became part of my morning routine.
  29. When Al calling at lunch became part of my work routine (see a pattern here, lol!).
  30. When I realized that I could give a crap less if I wore make up again - who do I have to impress?
  31. When I started glaring at guys who flirt with me when I am out. I am NOT cheating on my man, thank you very much!
  32. When I realized that I would sacrifice almost anything in my life except Emelia to get to see Al for even a day.
  33. When I started going up to random strangers wearing a military uniform and thanking them (and then crying) for their service to our country.
  34. When I started doing the same thing in parking lots to retirees who have military license plates!
  35. When Beyonce's song "Soldier" ticked me off because she was comparing street "gangstas" to my patriotic man - grrrrr!
  36. When I was willing to go out in the cold and the rain last Friday just to get Al the right watch batteries for his watch so I could mail them the next day.
  37. When a two hour phone call was the very best thing to happen to me all month.
  38. When I learned computer programming (more than I already knew) so I could add on all the cool extras to this blog - countdown calendar - clocks - weather - our blog has "bling"!!
  39. When "Milblogs" became one of the first places that I go everyday on the Internet.
  40. When I started saving his voicemails just so I could listen to them over and over.
  41. When I got sad when I thought of all the times that I was able to just pick up the phone and call him when he was stateside.
  42. When I got used to things always being up in the air - and when I could fully appreciate that oxymoron known as "military planning".
  43. When I started watching the Army movies that he has me order him off of Netflix just so I could marinate in the military way of doing things.
  44. When I started re-reading his old letters just because.
  45. When I started memorizing the names of the guys that he is with in Iraq and referring to them by rank.
  46. When I made this blog.
  47. When someone "dissing" the military will make every hair on my head stand up on end!
  48. When the word "Hooah" became part of my daily vocabulary.
  49. When I realized that I have come up with almost 50 ways of how deployment has taken over my life!!

Have a happy week everyone!! I have new pics to post tomorrow!