Thursday, July 28, 2005

Day 206 - Be thankful you are an American *very graphic*

As you guys probably remember, Al's MOS in the National Guard is the same thing that he does in civilian life ---> he's a nurse. At his location, he's not really needed to treat soldiers very much because he is in a relatively 'safe' area - and they let the medics run the clinic primarily - unless somebody is super sick and then they call in a doctor.

One thing that Al has gotten to do while he has been there though is to do several "Medcap" missions. This consists of them getting together humanitarian aid of all kinds, food, medicine, personal care items, ceiling fans, etc. - and then going to a remote, rural location and providing assistance to the Iraqi nationals. He has sent me videos of the missions and they are very hard to watch. They always do something for the children that's fun - like give them toys and coloring books - and watching them fight for a toy that a child here wouldn't give a passing glance is very hard.

Under Saddam's regime, access to medical care was cut off in the rural areas. Hospitals and medical treatment just weren't his priority. Unless you lived in the city - or were a part of the ruling political party - you didn't get to have access to good medical treatment. Add on to this that the Iraqi's were literally being starved to death from U.N. Sanctions while Saddam was building one palace after another - it made for a very sad situation. When we first invaded Iraq and got into the hospitals, it was discovered that the doctors were utilizing medical texts that were 20 and 30 years old. Pathetic.

Every now and again, Al will see something at a Medcap mission that a normal American who hasn't been exposed to the below third world conditions in Iraq really can't fathom. Two weeks ago, at a mission in the Najaf region - a father brought his 15 year old son in for treatment - the boy had a huge tumor on his leg. The flesh was literally coming apart because the tumor was so big. All Al could do was apply pressure - and bandage the leg up as good as possible and send the boy and his father on to the nearest military hospital.

While Al is in Iraq, I signed him up for a group that sends soldiers care packages - I wanted him to be able to get mail from someone other than me. It has been a great resource for him - and he has gotten to be really good friends with the people who have adopted him.

This afternoon (Iraq time) though, he got an email from his "Soldier's Angel" about the Iraqi boy with the tumor . . .

---------- Forwarded message ----------

From: Jeanne *****
To: Al *****
Date: Wed, 27 Jul 2005 19:16:08 -0400
Subject:: The Iraqi boy you cared for

Dear Al: It's amazing the people you meet in Soldiers Angels! Anyway, I was on the SA Blog board to catch up with stuff when I saw one e-mail about a medic and her patient. Off line, I sent along the picture you sent to us, she sent it to "her" SA medic, whose name is Rayna, so Marti sent me the copies of her e-mails and you will see mine to her. I hope all is well with you.



I am sorry to have to tell you that it is indeed the young man my medic was treating. I am going to cut and paste a few of her e-mails into this one. That will give you a better idea of what happened when he arrived at their hospital......sometimes life just stinks!!!!
(continued at the bottom)

From: Reyna *****
To: Martha *****
Date: Friday, July 22, 2005 11:27 AM
Subject:: Sad times

Tonight will be a rough night... I have to take care of a dying 15 y/o
boy... He has cancer.. And has a huge tumor the size of a large watermelon on
his leg... The cancer has spread to his lungs... He is in extreme pain and is on
his death bed... I have to watch him all night.. It is horrible... I want to cry
every time I see him.. And now I will sit with him on this hot summer night
praying for god to come get him....

From: Reyna *****
To: Martha *****
Date: Monday July 25, 2005 3:00 PM
Subject:: Allah

Hey... Well my little boy finally passed today... It was very sad... And
the dad thanked me so much for helping... He just stopped breathing very
peacefully... He was in so much pain... The dad knows no English.. So after the
whole thing me and the dad went outside and smoked and I told him that his son
was with Allah... The dad cried so much as did I... They took him home in a
wooden box on top of a taxi.. Nice I know... But we all pitched in and gave him
money for funeral expenses and the taxi....

(In response to the email about Al and the picture)
From: Reyna *****
To: Martha *****
Date: Wednesday, July 27, 2005 11:33 AM
Subject:: Yes (tears in my eyes)

That is my boy.... I stayed by his side till he took his last breath... We
had him for about a week... He went from sitting up in that picture to great
misery... He is at peace now... The Iraqi in the picture in the white is his
dad... His dad had no idea that his son was going to die we had to tell him that
in our clinic... I dont know if I told you but his dad told the interpreter that
I treated them better than his own mom... His mom gave up taking care of him...

(top email continued)
Well Jeanne, that is what I have received as far as information on the young man!

Sorry to be the bearing (sic) of sad news, although Reyna and I both agreed that he has moved onto a better place free from the pain and misery.

Take care and have a good day!!




Dear Marti:

As hard as it was to read this, I appreciate the information. I have a lump in my throat, gratitude for being in a place where I can take care of my son, and deep pride in both Al and Reyna for trying their best to help him.



My response to Al this morning when I got his email:

I'm really, really sorry baby. I'm glad that you could help take care of him during his last days --- and I hope somehow by us being there - that there will be improved medical access for the next Iraqi boy who has cancer and that he won't have to die.

I love you so much and I wish I was there to give you a big, gigantic bear hug and just hold your hand. But I will put both of them in a savings account for you.

Your M

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Day 205 - Hot, hot, hot.

Yeah, whatever. We don't know what hot and annoying is - that's for sure. Yes, we have record breaking temps here - yes, it is somewhat irksome for my car to take an extra ten minutes to cool down from the heat, yada, yada, yada. Whenever I get to feeling that way though, I just look at the weather in Iraq and I think - 'oh, I don't have it too bad'. And they are dealing with crappy air conditioning - inconsistent power fluctuations - a strong hot wind that blows most of the time - and the soldiers over there have to stay in uniform during their duty periods!

It's funny because on our Yahoo ARNG message board, a lot of the ladies are saying that when their hubbies have come home for R&R - they have actually had to keep the house hotter than normal, just because they would freeze their hubbies out otherwise. On the opposite end though, some of the guys have been so thankful to finally have access to decent air conditioning, they have turned the thermostat even cooler - lol!

Anyway, I found this article in the Washington Times today that really put things into perspective for me:

Washington's too hot? Try Iraq
By Edward Cen and Guy Taylor
Published July 27, 2005

The mercury level in Washington crested at 99 degrees yesterday -- about
21 degrees below the high in Baghdad.

While Washington's summer swelter prompted complaints
from tourists in shorts, tank tops and flip-flops, U.S. troops in Iraq face
the desert heat in helmets, Kevlar vests and combat boots.

"If you're out on patrols and Joe takes his helmet off because he's got an
itch, it's a team or squad-level infraction," said Army Lt. Col. Barry
Venable, a Pentagon spokesman.

The security posture at most U.S. military installations in Iraq has been
reduced to the point where soldiers can wear soft caps rather than helmets
and bulletproof vests when on base, Col. Venable said.

But off base is a different story. Throughout the country, standard
security posture is for troops to be wearing bulletproof vests and helmets
and carrying M-16 rifle -- at all times. Rules can vary from unit to
unit, Col. Venable said, depending on the area where a unit is conducting
patrols, and a service member who does not conform may face minor
punishment from his immediate superiors.

Not counting desert-camouflage uniforms, heavy-duty combat boots or other
equipment, the average infantryman carries more than 20 pounds of gear with
him through the blazing heat at all times.

A soldier's helmet weighs three to four pounds, and his M-16 is about eight
pounds unloaded. The weight of bulletproof vests vary -- the older the model
the heavier -- but they typically average 12 pounds.

Army Maj. Flora Lee, a U.S. military spokesman in Baghdad said in a telephone
interview yesterday that her unit was issued "camel backs" -- slim backpacks
that can be filled with drinking water -- when they shipped off for Iraq.

"We have a plentiful supply of bottled water, because the water here isn't
potable," she said. "People are just reminded to drink all the time to remain hydrated."

Preparing troops for the Iraqi summers has been a concern at the Pentagon.
Marine Lt. Gen. James T. Conway said that the heat is "brutal" and that
commanders overseeing troops in Iraq have "been concerned about it from the

"It's a brutal region, especially this time of year," Gen. Conway told
reporters at a news briefing deep within the air-conditioned corridors of
the Pentagon yesterday.

The general said efforts have been made to bring the soothing comfort of
such air conditioning to troops posted in Iraq.

"There are air conditioners ... put into the barracks, put into the offices,
that type of thing, so although you're out on patrol and it's hot and it's
miserable, when you get back in, there is relief," Gen. Conway said. "There
are some very superb mess halls that are also air-conditioned that allow
the troops a chance to regenerate before they go back out again."

In Baghdad, Maj. Lee said, respite from broiling daytime temperatures can
occasionally be found at night. "The temperature does drop in the evenings a little bit,"

the Army spokeswoman said. "Sometimes, it will drop like 30 to 40 degrees."

Iraqi evenings, however, are cool only in comparison to the 120-degree
daytime highs. The overnight low in Baghdad yesterday was 90.

On a humorous note, here is a poem that is circulating the net that is credited to a Kentucky Army National Guard chaplain that is currently serving in the sand.

"I Do Not Like This Dust and Sand"
I do not like this dust and sand
I do not like it on my hands
I do not like dust in my head
I do not like it in my bed
I do not like sand in my hair
I hate it in my underwear
I do not like this dust and sand
I used to like the color tan
I do not like dust on my clothes
I despise it up my nose
I do not like sand in my face
Invading all my private space
I do not like dust in my mouth
I do not like it north or south
I do not like sand east or west
Nowhere is where I like it best
I do not like dust in my ear
It's hard to reach, I cannot hear
When it gets in my drink and food
It affects my attitude
I like it not with ham and eggs
I do not like sand on my legs
I like it not in socks and boots
Nor on my veggies, meats and fruits
This dust and sand floats everywhere
It dances in the desert air
I like a dust storm even less
Because it leaves a gritty mess
I want to leave this sand and dust
But until then in God I trust.
Pray for Peace

Monday, July 25, 2005

Day 203 - Happy Birthday to STACY!!!

Hey y'all! Guess what? It's my deployment buddy's birthday today!! Whoo Hoo!! I have wanted to tell you for a long time what a special person she is, and how she makes this deployment bearable for me, but I have been waiting for her birthday to tell you --- so I could make a big, sappy post about it and embarrass the heck out of her. LOL.

Stacy and I became friends in a very round about way through our FRG (family readiness group) - and it didn't happen right away. It wasn't until late this winter/early this Spring so both of us had gone through several months of solo deployment already. And I can tell you sincerely that it makes a HUGE difference to know somebody else who has a soldier at Al's location - who may not be going through the 'exact' same things as me, but who understands as a whole how I feel. These last few months have been so much more bearable because of that.

In my friendships as a whole, I'm kind of weird about stuff. I have several best friends that I have made at different times and paths in life who literally live all across the country. They are the category of friends that if one of them called me up today and needed something, I would find a way to deliver for them. I used to have a bunch of acquaintances too - but between being a mom now - and Al being deployed, I have really taken stock of my friendships, and a lot of my 'friends' just kind of drifted away like chaff. It's really kind of funny though because no matter how many best friends I have, Stacy is really about the only person in my life right now who can relate 100% to this situation. So she currently has #1 status - lol. If I'm not on the phone with Al - her call gets answered next!!

I guess it's strange, because if you have never gone through a deployment - then there's no way that I can really explain to you what this feels like. I could try to qualify it with a bunch of adjectives, or maybe quantify it with statistics on how many sleepless nights I've had --- but just like anything in life, until you personally live something yourself, you can't really understand it. My other 'best friends' are great people, but they all are living normal civilian lives right now and although they are sincerely patriotic people, the patriotism that they live is not really comparable to what a military family goes through.

Stacy not only understand what this feels like, but she is also a great person as a whole. She is a true friend that whenever I need her, is there for me. There are other things I can tell you about Stacy too . . .
  • She has a great sense of humor.
  • She is a kick butt cook.
  • She is awesome at her job!!
  • She is an AMAZING mother. She is supporting her son Michael through his deployment, and she is really a textbook example of what a parent (or anyone else) should be like during something like this. She is in active competition with me as to which one of us can send our soldier more packages - and she is always available for Michael no matter what he needs. I respect her so much for the way that she has sacrificed for him during these months - and it has really given me a role model as a parent, and as a friend to look up to.
  • She is a patient wife!
  • She takes great care of her pets too - (okay, I've been to her house, her pets are really like her other children - lol!)
  • She is an awesome daughter and sister too. I respect so much the way that she is all about her family and goes all out for them.
  • Whether she realizes it or not, she has a great sense of style and flair!
  • She knows who she is, and is totally grounded in that. She is a 'real' person - and instead of being a flaky person who may be sugar sweet, but who isn't there for you - she tells you like it is, and she still has your back.
  • Forty million other things I can't remember because it's Monday and I'm sleepy - lol.

So, if y'all could do me a HUGE favor - please go wish her a VERY HAPPY BIRTHDAY, k?

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Day 201 - Two Hundred and ONE!

Yes, that's right - it's Day 201 - unfreakingbelievable, huh? Yeah, I know I'm pretty amazed too - I mean here I am typing this and my sanity is pretty much intact and everything - lol. I'm very thankful that Al and I have made it this far - and I really appreciate all the support that we have gotten up until this point - I would never have guessed at the beginning of his deployment that a blog could become such an important part of our lives - or such an amazing and therapeutic resource for us. Thanks for being there for us - and for those of you who have supported us "in real life" - thank you from the bottom of our hearts.

I especially want to thank our Homefront Hugs family because you have been so faithful during this time - and all the special things that you have done for both Al and for me and the kids have been really neat. I also want to thank Al's Soldier's Angels - and I want to thank our families - and my friend/deployment buddy Stacy for really being my rock these last couple of months. Thank you to our other friends too - hopefully you know who you are - lol.

We should have about five months or a little less give or take of this whole thing left. I'm ready for it to be over - so ready. I have lots to keep me busy the next couple of weeks though, thank goodness - I'm hoping to stay busy and shut my eyes and cruise into another month.

I also want to say really quick that I might say "we" - but Al is really the person taking on the brunt of this deployment. I have no illusions that the things that I have to deal with over here while I wait for him to come home are even comparable to what he is going through over there. I respect him so much for the sacrifices that he is making right now - and I love him even more for it (and I didn't even know that was possible). I am so proud of the 'good' that he is doing - even though the good gets muddled in politics and the 'Army Way' sometimes.

Okay, I have to get back to work! My To-Do list is screaming at me to get To-Done!! Have a Happy Weekend!

Monday, July 18, 2005

Day 196 - Great Article!!

This is the best article on supporting someone through a deployment that I have ever read. The only thing that I can't figure out is a way to get this to my friends and family without being mean about it - lol. Perhaps I can print out copies of it and keep it in my purse to distribute as needed. Hope everyone has a good start to their week!

Subject: [MilitaryPrideNews] Ways to Support a Co-Worker or Friend Whose Loved One Has Been Deployed

Ways to Support a Co-Worker or Friend Whose Loved One Has Been Deployed

What to expect

During times of crisis and war, everyone handles uncertainty, painful feelings, and separation differently. Some people with a loved one serving overseas cope by keeping busy and focusing on work. Others may be distracted or have trouble concentrating. Some people need to talk about the war with trusted relatives, friends, and co-workers; others cope by not talking about their feelings, fears, or thoughts. Many people find coping more difficult due to the ever-present radio and TV news coverage.

To a large extent, the absence of a loved one can be like living with a heartbreak that doesn't end until the person's safe return. Nothing can replace the absent person in your friend's heart or mind. Your friend may feel:

  • an acute sense of sadness and loss
  • a sense of helplessness, of not knowing where to turn
  • anger about the absence
  • constant worry about the loved one's safety and health
  • a strong sense of duty to remain strong for others
  • a compulsive need to read the news and listen to TV on a regular or continuous basis

Caring expressions of concern from friends and co-workers can go a long way in helping people left behind feel supported and less alone during this difficult time.

What can you say?

People with a loved one who has been deployed may or may not want to talk about what they are going through. Remember that this is no reflection on their feelings about you, your friendship with them, or your willingness to be available. It's important to take your cues from the other person and be there to listen if and when the person wants to talk. When you see your friend or co-worker, here are some things you can say:

  • "How are you holding up?" (Ask this sparingly, not every time you see the person.)
  • "This is such a difficult time."
  • "I just want you to know that if you would ever like to get together and just talk, I'm here."

If your friend or co-worker wants to talk, just listen. Don't be afraid of the feelings you hear. If the person begins to cry or seems upset, you might say, "Would you like to go somewhere private to talk?" Then find a private place for a conversation. In your conversation . . .

  • Reflect back what you hear. If your friend or co-worker talks about the difficulties of his or her situation, you might say, "This must be so hard."
  • Don't try to give advice. Just listen. Be non-judgmental.
  • Ask if the person has family or friends he can count on for help and support. This will help you know whether your friend or co-worker is actively seeking help.
  • Let your friend or co-worker know that you would be glad to talk again. Reassure the person that you have the time and want to listen. If the conversation needs to continue, but you don't have time right now, invite your friend or co-worker to sit down at a later time.
  • If the friend or co-worker is someone you like to do things with, make plans. Ask him or her out to lunch, or call spontaneously on a weekend or evening to go shopping, for a walk, or to a fun movie.

Ways to offer support

Know that your friend or co-worker is mentally preparing for the long haul. Despite his feelings of sadness or confusion, he is probably very aware that there is no certainty of the outcome -- when his loved one will return or whether he or she will be safe at all times. So you should try to be there for the long haul as well. Small acts of caring can go a long way in helping your friend to remain strong and optimistic.

  • Help your friend or co-worker find groups or online bulletin boards where parents or loved ones are sharing their experiences. If you live in a larger metropolitan area, help your friend find a group to share experiences with -- through the local newspaper, community resources, or the library. The military offers many resources for families of service members living on or near a military installation; help your friend get connected to these resources.
  • Check in. Find out how your friend is doing by phone, e-mail, or by just dropping by. Your conversation can be brief but still caring. You might say, "I just wanted to know how you are." Find out if your friend is exercising, eating right, and assuming most of his or her normal routines. See if you might help with an errand or help care for children to give your friend time to get out.
  • When you are together and when there is time, encourage the person to talk about her loved one who has been deployed. Laugh and cry together. Tell stories about the person. Do what seems to come naturally to your friend or co-worker.
  • Avoid political discussions about the war that could trigger sensitive emotions. Avoid "pro and con" discussions or debates about the war in front of the person. In general, avoid heated discussions about politics or war in the workplace.
  • Rejoice with your friend when a letter or e-mail arrives from the person overseas. Any extended time between contacts with the person deployed will be very difficult. Anxiety and worry will increase when communications are delayed.
  • Remember that holidays and birthdays will be tough for the person. Be sure your friend or co-worker has a place to go or has plans to socialize in some way. Celebrate in a special but low-key way. Shop for something special. Again, take cues as to what the person needs or seeks in terms of support.

It may be a long wait before your friend's loved one is home and safe. Worry and anxiety will affect your friend's daily life and routines. Friends and co-workers have to be prepared to provide ongoing support for weeks or months. Heartfelt expressions of support can help your friend feel cared for, more rooted in life's normal routines, and stronger during this difficult time.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Day 194 - Cleaning or rather, Not Cleaning

Okay, well, hmmm, I have little or nothing to write about today -- for the simple fact that I have done little or nothing all day. I have had my butt in bed reading a book or napping for a good part of the day. I'm not even cool or awesome either because I haven't been reading the Harry Potter book - I'm just reading a mystery book that I got off of Amazon because they profiled it in this month's Family Circle. I think that a person has finally reached old age when they are ordering crap because it was in 'Family Circle'. I think I'm in trouble. I'll probably start walking hunched over by Monday - and will somebody please remind me to pick up some Geritol and Ben Gay at the store, also?

I digress. What I have been in the process of telling you is that I have zero motivation. And I'm not sure why. I am an obsessive compulsive neat freak who gets sick pleasure out of organizing stuff. Nothing thrills me more than to find disorder and make it beautifully neat. Heck, my part-time job is cleaning for a friend twice a month, and if I had more time and energy, I could get more work just like that. Lately though, my own house looks quite skeery. I'm not sure if it's because in the last two weeks we have had more times of it raining buckets from the sky - than it being dry -and as I type this, it is starting to rain AGAIN --- or if it is some deeper subconscious thing.

Before you even ask, I'm not depressed, at least if I am I don't know that I am - I don't feel 'sad' on any level. And I actually have some stuff to look forward to soon - it just hasn't happened yet. So, I don't know why my house looks like this and why I turn and glance at everything that I 'could' be doing and then I slink back to my bedroom and crawl back into bed and crack my book open. I just know that I need to get my freaking act in gear. And what am I doing? Blogging. LOL.

My wonderful deployment buddy, Stacy, just hung up with me and told me that I could call her back when I got half of my house done -- I rather sarcastically told her that if she didn't want to talk to me for a week, she just had to say so - lol. So, I better get to it. Did you notice that today is Day 194? That's way better than Day 193 - because now we have less than one week until we are at the 200 day mark. Our next big milestone - whoo hoo!

Have a good weekend, I have to go do laundry - *sigh*.

Friday, July 15, 2005

Day 193 - Self Portrait Friday

Hey guys! Whew I am wiped out - BIG TIME. I am always like this on Fridays but my bunny called me at 0100 this morning - and we chatted for about an hour - so I am really, really wiped out.

I am playing along with several other bloggers on "Self Portrait Friday" -- you can find everyone else at The Grass Isn't Greener. In retrospect, I should have factored in my extremely busy day before I decided to play. Which is why the picture of me with my mug isn't getting posted until 2000 tonight. LOL.

And it is also why you are getting a very "Wilsonesque" SPF picture of me.

No make-up - my hair pulled back - wearing a hat . . . but you can see my beautiful butterfly mug. I love butterflies - but not in the weird, I collect them and have them all over my house kind of way. I just like them in a basic, butterflies are a cool insect as far as insects go, kind of way. Al is really the coffee drinker in our house - and he doesn't even mind drinking out of my butterfly mugs - Reason #599 why he is the man for me.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Day 192 - Cotton Candy

I have come to the recent realization that I could start every single blog entry that I write with the words, "Well, I . . .". I have been trying to break myself of that habit. One thing that I try to do is to not write just for the sake of writing - to not fill this thing up with a bunch of boring, tedious stuff that is so far beyond the realm of actual 'good writing' that it is the equivalent of mass produced cotton candy.

You know what I'm talking about, that cotton candy crap that they sell at the video store? That you think is going to be so good because it's been so long since you had cotton candy, and you're desperate for it - and you think somehow by spending a $1.43 that you will be able to call back a part of your childhood where you were happy and free. Instead you crack open the bag of industrialized spun sugar and find a dry lump in the bottom of the bag. A stale remnant of cotton candy that is a shadow of its former self. You force yourself to eat some of it anyway, mad that you wasted your dollar+, and you swallow your disappointment with every single dry and crunchy bite.

I don't want this blog to be your stale cotton candy, okay? LOL. I don't want you to come here with excitement and anticipation - and then walk away disappointed and say to yourself, "Why in the junk did she write about THAT?". Seriously though, I have lots of stuff that I 'could' talk about, but there some things in life that I have learned to keep private. There are tons of wonderful things on the horizon for Al and for me in the very near future - but I am making the choice to not post about them until they actually happen. I am going to blame OPSEC and PERSEC for my decision - but also, I guess you could call it being 30 and learning a few things along the bumps of life. Color me a cynic, but I try very hard to not work myself up into a frenzy about things and get super excited until they actually happen. But when I am ready to write about them, you guys will be the first to know.

In Al-land, they had a brief reality check yesterday --- everything was smooth sailing as far as I knew, he and I had emailed back and forth before lunch --- I got a wonderful lunchtime phonecall (Siiiiiigh, I looooooove talking to him!) --- and he was supposed to go to bed. Well, I kept getting emails from him (forwarded jokes, etc.) so I kind of figured that something was up, but then I thought that it might be a server delay or something. Unfortunately though, I got an email from him at 1500 my time - midnight his time - telling me that the generators to their cans (where they sleep) went out. Imagine if you will, a little metal box sitting in the hot sun with no air conditioning. Trying to sleep in one would be torture. Soooo, instead they were all assembled at the COC - hoping and praying for the generators to come back online.

And they did. Thank God. I know that he is a soldier and that it is his job to "suck it up" and keep moving --- but I still can't help imagining what his life must be like in my Americanized, 'I don't know what awful really is' kind of way. Anyway, I have now added "Not whining about the heat" and "Not complaining about the rain" to my list of things to not talk to him about. Which is kind of funny, but not funny "ha-ha" - but instead just it's just funny sad.

On a side note, I always send him stuff from the dollar aisle in SuperTarget. I find the best fillers for care packages in there. Anyway, I sent the man a poncho. And I got to hear about it for a good ten minutes yesterday. Questions that were posed to me were: 1) What am I supposed to do with a poncho in the desert?, 2) Okay, let's say it actually 'did' rain, why wouldn't I just wear my government issued Gore-tex jacket then?, 3) Honey, the poncho is BRIGHT YELLOW - do you know what a target I would be in BRIGHT YELLOW?

LOL. I told him that I guessed that I had watched one too many MacGyver shows where MacGyver is able to save the world using two matches, a stick of chewing gum and a bright yellow poncho. Too funny, huh?

Monday, July 11, 2005

Day 189 - Zilch

Whoo Hoo! Hurricane Dennis was n.o.t.h.i.n.g . . . by some miracle of God - we didn't lose power either - yay! Very yucky winds - tons of yucky rain - but that was all.

And Al had a trip today - but he is already back home safe and sound.

So, I have absolutely nothing to report - which is a good thing!!

Have a great start of your week!

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Day 188 - Hurricane Dennis

Hmmmm, soooo, this Hurricane thing doesn't look like it going anywhere anytime soon, darn it. Right now, I am sending HUGEAMONGOUS prayers to anywhere south of here - and for all those people that are about to experience Dennis' landfall. We are definitely in the path. Dennis (for right now) is back up to being a category four hurricane - which is way not good. If I remember correctly Ivan was a three - and a major havoc wreaker - with Ivan, even with being north of Birmingham, we still lost power for 3+ days and we didn't have a phone for almost a week. Not having power at the time for several days was lots of fun with a one and a half year old, I tell you! Now that Em is almost 2 1/2 she is a lot more vocal when she is not happy too - whooooo hooooo!

We are going to be okay though - as I mentioned before, it's the people south of us that I am majorly concerned about right now. Anything that happens to us will be minor compared to what happens to them. Please send huge prayers to anyone in the path of this thing.

I don't know when my next blog entry will be - it all depends on our power situation! Don't worry - Al has left me with a whole bin full of MRE's - and as I learned with our last hurricane - they're really not that bad if you're hungry enough!! ;o)

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Day 187 - Miscellaneous

Hey Everybody! Happy WEEKEND!! Whoo HOO! I got to sleep in this morning - and I was woken up by Al calling me - it doesn't get much better than that!

I just have a few brief notes to make in this entry . . .

1) If anybody has ANY clue why my TTLB (Truth Laid Bear) status won't post correctly in my sidebar I would love some advice. I don't know what I am doing wrong - but it's very frustrating. I have searched all over the TTLB website, and now today, I can't even find where he tells a person how to post their ecosystem status in their blog! UGH!! I have emailed the site owner last week to no avail -- so if anybody has their status in their blog PRETTY PLEASE with sugar on top help me!! Mwah! As a bonus, I can't get my outgoing links in "My Blog Log" to show up either - lol!

2) If possible, would any of you be willing to give a 'shout out' to two different blogs for me? The first blog owner, An American in Italy, is celebrating her 5th Wedding Anniversary away from her hubby. I would love for some more people to go and wish her a very happy and blessed fifth anniversary! Next, my new friend at A Long Strange Trip has been having some problems with people giving him a hard time about what he thinks and believes about the war. Only problem with that is that he actually has the balls to be serving - and therefore has earned the right to an opinion on the subject. He has decided to take a break from blogging for the time being, and it would be great if you could go over to his blog and show him some major support for the sacrifice that he is making for all of us right now.

3) After I posted my deployment advice yesterday - I thought of one last thing that really helps me when I am down in the dumps about this situation. Whenever I get super upset and at my breaking point, I simply stop looking at myself and I start looking at my soldier instead. Al signed up to be an officer in the Army National Guard before I met him - and he did it because he believes in what he is doing - and he believes in America. He obviously didn't know when he signed up that all of this was going to happen (or even that we were going to meet), and that he would definitely be deployed to Iraq - but the DUTY was there. It's always there, looming over the soldier's head. The Soldier's Creed, which they must memorize backwards and forwards and upside down when they are at BCT is this:

The Soldier's Creed

I am an American Soldier.
I am a Warrior and a member of a team. I serve the people of the United States and live the Army Values.
I will always place the mission first.
I will never accept defeat.
I will never quit.
I will never leave a fallen comrade.
I am disciplined, physically and mentally tough, trained and proficient in my warrior tasks and drills. I always maintain my arms, my equipment and myself.
I am an expert and I am a professional.
I stand ready to DEPLOY, engage, and destroy the enemies of the United States of America in close combat.
I am a guardian of freedom and the American way of life.
I am an American Soldier.

Al knew the whole time what he was getting into - as a Soldier - DEFEAT IS NOT AN OPTION and deployment can happen at any moment! Even if I somehow turn into the worst Army fiancee in the whole world tomorrow, and decide to give up and walk away - Al can't do that right now. You can bet your bippy that he has plenty of days over there that he would have loved to throw in the towel and tell the Army to stick it where the sun didn't shine --- heck, he would have loved to do that a BUNCH when he was in deployment training. But he couldn't -- he has honor -- and he respects that honor -- and as such he will fulfill his duty -- and he will try to do it with a smile on his face.

So, when ever I start feeling sorry for myself and start being all self-centered and feeling like a big pansy - I think - wait a minute, Al's got it much worse than me right now. He is living in a ridiculously hot climate, dust is everywhere, the food isn't awful - but he can't go to Captain D's whenever he wants to either, he has to do his business in a burning hot and nasty portajohn every day, the showers are sometimes nasty gross, he isn't always in danger - but he could be in danger at any moment, AND HE IS THE PROPERTY of the Army right now and has ZERO personal freedom. And when I think about those things, I don't feel sorry for him, because that would imply that I have a lack of understanding about the joy that he has on some basic level about serving his country - but I do realize that ANY problems or concerns that I have right are menial compared to his. And then, then I am able to suck it up - and get through one more day (just like him) with a smile on my face.

Any good relationship is a partnership - and I happen to feel that the partner that I have selected for myself is the very best one in the WHOLE world. He is wonderful to me - and even in The Sand, he does whatever he can do to support me - and to show me that we are a team in all of this. That's all anybody could ask for. So, to close, Al is also a huge reason in what makes this deployment bearable --- and it's all the more reason why I love him so very much.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Day 186 - "Strength"

I had something pretty awesome happen to me this morning --- I opened up my email and a blog reader had written to me telling me that they admired my strength in this deployment - and that they were about two months into their deployment, and did I have any good tips or advice that I could give them so that the next year and a half wasn't the worst one of their life. Well, I wrote a small novel back to that gentleman - he is supporting his girlfriend who is a deployed soldier - and I thought that it might be a good thing to post my advice here for anybody else who might be dealing with a similar situation.

If ANYBODY reading this needs help or support during their deployment, please don't hesitate to email me. I definitely don't have all the answers, but I will be more than happy to listen - and point you in the direction of some resources that have worked for me. We are a military FAMILY - and I will help any of my deployment brothers and sisters anyway I can!



Well, I don't want to feed you a bunch of crap - and because you are going through this experience right now anyway, you would be able to see right through all the fluff anyway.

No kidding this situation is hard, huh? I have had several experience in my life up until this deployment that I thought, wow - that was really hard. Well, ALL of them were a cakewalk compared to this. You say that you admire my strength - but I am in a situation where I have not been given a choice. I love Al - and because I love him like crazy, I have to find a way to survive this deployment with my sanity (and our relationship) intact.

Let me tell you, Month #2 was the hardest for me (up until this point anyway) - Month #1, I was still kind of grateful that Al had finally left because the Army had jerked us around so many times on that, that I truly don't know if I could have dealt with one more 'goodbye'. Month #2 though, I had to have minor surgery on my foot, and my friends that were supposed to help me, etc. pretty much abandoned me after I got home. I ended up being at home alone on a Friday night - puking my guts out and hobbling around on crutches - and that was my breaking point. I got through that weekend (just barely) and it hit me that no matter how bad, no matter how much, no matter how deeply I needed and wanted Al home, that it wasn't going to happen. I cried for almost a week straight. It was horrible. I have NEVER been one to believe in depression medication - I know it works for some people - but I never wanted to 'change me' - and I was worried that's what those drugs would do. But that week, I ended up at a Doc-in-the-Box crying my eyes out telling them that I needed something. That was hard.

So, I popped pills for a few days, but then that weekend I got out of town - I drove up to Tennessee to visit my best friend - and just getting out of my house and getting a breather was exactly what I needed. I stopped taking the pills that Friday - because even though they made me stop crying - I also kind of felt numb, and I didn't want to feel that way either. I know a lot of people who have had to take depression meds to get through a deployment - and that's okay too - my new motto is whatever works to get me through another day is okay.

This is a grief process - Elsabeth Kubler-Ross defined the five stages of grief in her book, "On Death and Dying", and even though we both want our soldiers home for good as soon as possible - them leaving for year ++ is definitely like a death. It's a death to the time that you would have had together - and a death to the dreams that would have existed in that time, it's also a death to you being in control of your own life - which is a very hard concept to deal with. The five stages are - denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. I encourage you to research five stages - there are lots of good books out there - because educating myself on them and dealing with them head on has really helped me. Here is a great Internet article on them: Once you finally "accept" this deployment and can leave your anger and bitterness and depression behind - then you can finally start dealing with how to make the situation better. Right now you are still grieving in a lot of ways, and that's totally okay. I have been there, done that and I got the T-Shirt - trust me!

Every single day of this process is hard - and you have to give yourself permission to deal with that. If you don't look this shitty situation square in the face and say, "Wow this sucks", every now and again - you are going to crack up. The key thing is to not dwell on stuff. If you focus on the negative of the situation, you are never going to be able to see the positives. If you don't let go of the crap of a deployment every now and again and purge it from your system, your hands won't be open to receive the blessings out of the situation either.

The key thing that you need to tell yourself right now is that it WILL get better. I have been around all this stuff since Al left for training last August - and I have seen all kinds of people and how they handle deployment. There are as many different ways of getting through a situation like this, as there are people in the world. Some go into complete denial - refusing to watch the news or educate themselves about their soldiers location and situation - I've seen these same people refuse to write their soldiers letters and send them packages - almost as if they ignore the situation, it will go away. Other people - they get really, really angry - they think that if they stay pissed off at the military for a year and a half - that it will somehow change their situation, unfortunately, I have personally found that me staying fighting mad at the Army doesn't fix anything - it just wastes my personal energy. For me, and the successful people that I have found in this situation, we just take one day at a time. I count down the days and a lot of them are worse than others - when I have a bad day, I accept it and then I move on. I don't let myself stay down in the dumps, because it's not helping anybody when I get like that.

You know that cheesy saying that a long journey begins with a single step? Well, that's how I'm getting through this, little baby steps. I have been knocked on my bootie several times in this experience - and I find that about every 3 weeks or so, I have a couple of really, really bad days. But you know what? I deal with them - and I choose to be happy even when I am having a crappy day.

A couple of years ago, I got pregnant with my daughter - and her dad decided at that time that he didn't want anything to do with her - so I proceeded to spend the next nine months of my life - trying to figure out what I needed to do to fix myself in order to be a good mom. Through that situation, I came up with my lifetime motto - and it is simply this - "Every day is a choice, you are what you live!" That means that when I woke up this morning, I had the choice to be a completely negative, "B" - who was going to go through her day finding everything wrong that I could - I could also have been 'depressed' and 'sad' and find all the awful things that I could and spend my whole day worrying. But instead, I got up, took a bath - checked my email to see if Al had written - and put one foot in front of the other.

As you have probably figured out, this deployment is going to happen no matter what - and you have to make the personal choice about what you need to do in response to it. I don't know if you have heard this story before or not, but it's excellent . . .

by Mary Sullivan - used with her expressed permission.

A young woman went to her mother and told her about her life and how things were so hard for her. She did not know how she was going to make it and wanted to give up. She was tired of fighting and struggling. It seemed as if as soon as one problem was solved a new one arose. Her mother took her to the kitchen.

The mother filled three pots with water.

In the first, she placed carrots.
In the second, she placed eggs.
And the last she placed ground coffee beans.

She let them sit and boil without saying a word.
About twenty minutes later, she turned off the burners.

She fished the carrots out and placed them in a bowl. She pulled the eggs out and placed them in a bowl. Then she ladled the coffee out and placed it in a bowl.

Turning to her daughter, she said, "Tell me what you see." "Carrots, eggs, and coffee," she replied. (You know the tone of voice.)

She brought her closer and asked her to feel the carrots. She did, and noted that they felt soft.

She then asked her to take an egg and break it. After pulling off the shell, she observed the hard-boiled egg inside.

Finally, she asked her to sip the coffee. The daughter smiled as she tasted its rich aroma.

The daughter then asked, "So, what's the point, mother?" (Remember the tone of voice.)

Her mother explained that each of these objects had faced the same adversity - boiling water - but each reacted differently.

The carrot went in strong, hard, and unrelenting. However, after being subjected to the boiling water, it softened and became weak.

The egg had been fragile. Its thin outer shell had protected its liquid center. But, after sitting through the boiling water, its insides had become hardened.

The ground coffee beans were unique, however. After they were in the boiling water...they had changed the water.

"Which are you?" she asked her daughter. "When adversity knocks on yourdoor, how do you respond? Are you a carrot , an egg, or a coffee bean?"

Think of this: Which am I?

Am I the carrot that seems strong, but with pain and adversity, do I wilt and become soft and lose my strength?

Am I the egg that starts with a malleable heart, but changes with the heat?

Did I have a fluid spirit, but after a death, a breakup, a financial hardship, or some other trial, have I become hardened and stiff? Does my outer shell look the same, but on the inside am I bitter and tough with a stiff spirit and a hardened heart?

Or am I like the coffee bean? The bean actually changes the hot water - the very circumstances that bring the pain. When the water gets hot, it releases the fragrance and flavor of the bean. If you are like the bean, when things are at their worst, you get better and change the situation around you instead of letting it change you.

When the hours are the darkest and trials are their greatest do you elevate to another level?How do you handle Adversity? ARE YOU A CARROT, AN EGG, OR A COFFEE BEAN?

Now, that I have driveled on and on, let me give you some practical advice. I am not a guy - but I have observed a couple of guys that were supporting their girlfriends, wives, etc. - and I have to say that I think that things are a little harder for y'all. First, nobody talks about the guys that are supporting their female soldiers. Everyone thinks about the family back home - but they forget that there are females in the military who have left behind boyfriends, families, husbands and kids. I think that sucks. The other thing is that 99.9% of the guys that I know are 'fixers' -- they want to get in there and fix the problem. The only challenge with that is that you are pretty darn powerless to make the war in Iraq go away - and nothing you can do can 'fix' the U.S. Military. So, you need to do what you can do to convey to your soldier how much you love her, how much you support her and how much you just can't wait for her to come home safe and sound - and back into the happy life that you had before she left. In other words, keep the home fires burning.

I do keep busy - but I keep busy maintaining and advancing the life that Al and I had TOGETHER. I also send him TONS of care packages and I email him several times a day. He is my priority in everything I do. I don't go out to bars on Friday nights - instead I stay home and get projects done around the house. I also educate myself - I am a virutual plethora of knowledge compared with where I was at this time last year - I solve my problems by being proactive and not reactive. That's what works for me.

As far as the other people in the world, one solution I use is to avoid them. I don't know if that's the best advice or not - but if I'm not around stupid people, they can't annoy me. I also don't wear my heart on my shirtsleeve - and I don't confide my deepest feelings in anybody that I can't trust. A deployment is not something that mere mortals can understand - they say assinine stuff because they have never had to go through anything like this. One thing that has also helped me is that I don't invest in anybody anymore that doesn't invest back in me. I got rid of a lot of peripheral friends that weren't really benefitting me. I had a good rule of thumb, if they didn't call me in the first three months after Al left to check on me, to see how was I doing and if I needed anything, I deleted them out of my cellphone. That may sound cold and heartless - but I didn't want anybody in my life that wasn't a benefit to me in this situation.

Okay, I have gone on forever, but I wanted to leave you with a couple of last thoughts. I don't know if you are active in church or not - but God is definitely what gets me through this situation also. I rely on Him for my strength that I don't have inside myself. Because I am so busy and I go out of town a lot, I miss church about once or twice a month - and I can definitely tell the difference on the weeks that I don't go. I am a much happier person on the weeks that my butt has been parked in that pew, that's for sure. I don't know what your path in life is, but again, I couldn't have gotten to this point without God.

As such, I have a couple of scripture verses that help me, you can take them for what they are worth.

  • Romans 8:28 - And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose

  • Galatians 6:9 - Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.

  • Philippians 4:13 - I can do ALL things through Christ who strengthens me.

As I close, let me leave you with this quote from Corrie ten Boom - who was a Christian who survived the Nazi holocaust. "Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow, it empties today of its strength."

Your deployment sister, Melinda


Thursday, July 07, 2005

Day 185 - Sending prayers across the sea.

I am not a 'newsie' -- I do follow the news, but I'm not a junky. Life keeps me too busy and I usually find out about things late. This morning, however, on my way into work, my radio DJ's were cutting in with the news about the London bombings.

Reuters is reporting that a previously unknown Al Qaeda sect is taking responsibility for the attacks. I pray for all those injured -- and I pray for the families of those who were killed. It deeply saddens me that terrorism is spreading it's bitter wings across another area of the globe. As an American, I commit myself to standing behind my British brothers and sisters during this time of grief and tragedy.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Day 184 - Al's 'Best Day in Iraq So Far'

Well, it has taken me most of the day to write this post --- not 'time-wise' but 'thought-wise' --- and I guess I sometimes I wish that Al could write to you himself. Not that I don't enjoy doing this blog (I do, immensely), but because it is hard for me to translate and convey his thoughts to you.

I know that you probably get bored silly hearing about my trivial life back here in the States, supporting my soldier - but because that's what I "know", I feel that it's more honest to be real and tell you my thoughts, my feelings, my emotions . . . not because I am horribly self-centered, but because I would feel terrible if I translated Al's emotions for you - and I somehow got them wrong. One of the worst feelings in the world is being misunderstood, and because I love Al so much, I never want to be guilty of committing that sin and then perpetuating it by posting it for the world at large on this blog.

So, I don't talk about Al's experience a lot. I show you pictures, I tell short stories, I smatter in vague generalities, but I shy away from qualifying "his" experience to you. Instead, I generally try to tell you my experience, which includes him - and to me, that seems more honest than me trying to explain a reality that I don't know anything about. Trust me, I have heard all about the conditions in Iraq, I can tell you what Al ate for breakfast today, what his favorite snacks are, who he trusts, who he doesn't, what he loves about what he's doing, what he hates -- but I can't tell you really, truly what the smell in a 130+ degree heat portajohn is like (and I'm pretty darn thankful for that actually).

On some huge level though, that also makes me sad. I want so much to be sharing things with him, and I can't ---- by the time all of this is said and done, he will have lived a year of his life away from me. With different smells, textures, experiences, people, culture, currency, thoughts, feelings, skies, seas, food, EVERYTHING - that I don't have here.

As you know, I went to the beach this past weekend, which was wonderful. I celebrated my birthday which was about as pain-free as one could expect a 30th birthday to be --- but all I wanted was Al. Well, yesterday, Al got to take his own trip. He was lucky enough to get to go on a mission - and make a side trip to the "Ruins of Babylon" - he got to see the Gates of Babylon and he got to see Saddam's Palace overlooking the Euphrates River. And he told me that it was "the best day of his life so far in Iraq".

You have no idea the joy that I felt to hear those words. How excited it made me that he actually got to have fun -- and to do something historic -- and, almost, dare I say, "touristy"? I wish so much that you could have heard the excitement in his voice - like a little kid - saying, "And I got to go here!" - and "Then I got to go there!" - and "Then we did this!" Sometimes, in this experience, I catch myself being 'happy' - and it almost feels like I need to stop it. Like I am inviting trouble by allowing myself a momentary sigh of relief. Well, yesterday, I had huge moment of bliss - listening to my bunny, hearing the pure joy in his voice - I rode a wave of security well into the evening.

Then I opened up my email this morning and my inbox was chockfull of new pictures and I was happy all over again. Everything in life and everything in a deployment is what you make of it. Yes, it SUCKS to have Al away from me - Yes, it SUCKS that we are leading virtually separate lives right now. But all of it doesn't suck - yesterday was a good day and today is a good day. And I am very blessed that I get to have Al in my life at all. I am choosing to share these pictures with you in the hopes that seeing Al so happy - and seeing such a beautiful and historic place - will bless you the same way that it has blessed me.

Al at the Gates of Babylon

Ruins 1

Looking 'up' at Saddam's Palace

Ruins 2

Palace Ceiling

Palace Roof

Al didn't do this graffiti ;o)

Al DID do this graffitti <3

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Day 183 - Happy Belated 4th of July!

Whew! Well, I fully intended on making this post yesterday - we got back in plenty of time from our beach trip (Em and I went to Fort Walton Beach/Destin for the holiday weekend) - and I was just sitting down at the computer to update everyone when we started having HUGE thunderstorms. A snap, crackle and a pop later --- we lost power from 5:30 last night until 2:00 this morning - NOT FUN!! Thankfully, Em and I were both pooped from our trip, so going to bed early wasn't a terrible thing. (I also didn't mind the excuse to not have unpack either - lol!)

Lots of things happened this weekend, I got sunburned and I turned 30 - BARF. I also ate tons of yummy food (CRAB LEGS) - had a blast with my best friend Melissa and her hubby, Luis -- and Em was an absolute angel! She loved the ocean - and had tons of fun playing on the beach. I hope that "all of y'all" (to utilize a Southern colloquialism) had a wonderful and restful weekend too!!

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