Thursday, September 29, 2005

Day 269 - Thursday Inspiration!

Hey everybody! Well, I decided to be uplifting today - I have been very contemplative lately - so I decided that since Al has several months of deployment left, that I would start something new for Thursdays. I thought that everyone needed more encouragement in their life - so I will do my part!! LOL. Hope everyone is having a good week. Al's job in the sand has been changed and moved around and jumbled a bunch, but we are trying to focus on the positives and trust in God.


“Do not kiss your children so they will kiss you back, but so they will kiss their children.”
Noah Benshea

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.

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no records of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. LOVE NEVER FAILS.”

1 Cor. 13:4-8

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Day 264 - Breaking Down the Wall

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

Day 261 - Top 10 Stuff

Well, another week is gone. I haven’t been down in the dumps but I haven’t been exactly jumping for joy either – my rhythm is messed up. With Al back in the sand – and another four to five months of this crap – just existing is becoming a way of life. There is another hurricane coming – this time for Texas though. My good friend from California is in TX right now doing hurricane relief work, so my mind and thoughts are on her right now.

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!):


  1. 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.

  2. Speaking of sexy, nothing makes a man look better than when he is carrying a generator towards your front door.

  3. 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.

  4. ‘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.

  5. 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.

  6. Your coworkers begin to seem a lot less annoying to you after you realize how much money you can save by carpooling with them.

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. You start to really regret not putting a chain saw on your wedding registry.

  10. 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

Day 253 - A Long Two Weeks.

First, let me say that I am very sorry for taking such a long break from the blog. It wasn't intentional -- after the Hurricane and all the stuff that went along with it, I just didn't feel like I had anything important to say in light of "real life" events going on. I was so glued to the news - and trying to help out locally and just being freakishly introspective - so, I apologize for my absence. I hope that it won't happen again.

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.