Thursday, December 3, 2009

"Life After the Final Goodbye"

Tales from an Army Wife: First Deployment
Installation 7

“Deployment: Life After the Final Goodbye”

Yeah, yeah. This sounds a lot like the episode of The Bachelor, “After the Final Rose.” I know, I get it. But if you think about it, these things are actually quite similar. Each one ends with a dramatic display of tears and emotion, but we all know that life has to begin and continue after that show of either disappointment or joy. The drama is over, he’s where he’s going to be for a year. So….here we are…..almost 3 weeks in. I have many incidents to highlight that have already happened, and given my previous, rather psychotic posts, surprisingly, many of the incidents are normal and quite funny. These will come later. And, I promise, you won’t cry.

I must say, my aforementioned friend, and savior during the first few days alone, Maggie Brown, was, of course and always…..right. The leading up to, was the hardest. The moment he walked away from us, was definitely a close second. But, now, we’re here, he and I talk on a semi-regular basis, the baby is okay, the dog is still depressed, and life is marching on. We’ve established our routine, now intermingled with the preparations for Christmas and my obsessive exercise due to his leave time in March, but we are functioning quite well.

They always say that things tend to happen at the most inconvenient times. “God having a sense of humor,” and all that stuff. Today was a particularly tough day in that way…..I planned on feeling sad and lonely without my husband. I planned on missing him terribly and looking at things in our home that we made or typically did together and pining for him. Those things have happened, somewhat. What I didn’t plan on was the incredible frustration that I feel. Today, we could have possibly gotten on Skype and actually looked at each other for the first time. I couldn’t get out of the dentist in time, then he was going to bed (9 and a half hour time difference, mind you), then my friend who was babysitting for me offered to let me use her computer when I got there, then his internet was down. Oh! The up and down of emotions! The “will we or won’t we” feelings! At one point during this exchange, I found myself sitting in the post office parking lot, crying. Finding a man you’d do absolutely anything for, is one thing. Actually allowing yourself to feel the roller coaster of expectations from him when he is on the opposite side of the globe is quite another. Now, keep in mind, this story puts no fault towards him, albeit he probably appears to be a source of my frustration. He has his own issues and things to deal with over there. It just so happens that I love this man, he’s gone for a solid year, and when my emotions get pushed and pulled to the edge….I pull over at the post office, thinking I’m going in to mail something and then sit in the car…..and cry.

After picking up my rather fussy daughter and heading home. I set about getting things done and trying to lift my mood. The weather was stormy here, so it was a good day to stay in, and accomplish things like cleaning, laundry, decorating…etc. I believe it was the movie St. Elmo’s Fire that this quote came from…”There is the brink of insanity, and then…there is the abyss…..which, obviously you’ve fallen into.” Yeah……….then it came…..

Washing, lunch…putting the baby down for a nap….I kept getting a slight whiff of something that smelled like one had pooped in a rubber tire. I would walk by closets and casually search. I checked the trashcan a couple of times. I even went through the toybox…just in case. Hmmmmm! Who knows? The baby soon woke, and was ready for her usual snack of yogurt. We began the snack process, which was interrupted by the FedEx man ringing our doorbell. I quickly ran to deactivate our alarm system before opening the door to receive my package. This abrupt movement didn’t sit well with my daughter, as she began to cry…and scream…and cry…and scream….and then just scream. I offered her some more yogurt, but it was too late. Because of my swift movement to the door to retrieve a package, her world had just gone up in flames. She screamed so much, I tried the old “time out” thing and put her in her crib for 2 minutes. Boy, was that fortuitous! As I returned to the living room, I discovered the source of the rubber/poop smell……My 70 pound German Shepherd felt it necessary to deposit a large, juicy pile of poop on the carpet, on the other side of the chair…the one place I didn’t think to look. My baby continued to scream from her crib, and I knew, at that moment, there was no way in hell she was coming out while I strategized the best way to dispose of, and remove the stain of…..deployment dog poop. As Sasha lay, looking ever depressed, I pinched up in paper towels, then sprayed Woolite carpet cleaner and scrubbed…and scrubbed. And, guess what… still screaming. I perservered, though. When I was satisfied with the carpet, I went to check on said, extremely angry baby. She was whimpering a bit, and her crib looked a bit like she’d spit up…..hey, laundry in process, no problem. I picked her up from her crib and brought her to the living room to play. I turned my back to go into the kitchen and then I saw her…..she had thrown up on the carpet. Wow……should I just do something on the carpet, too? I mean, everyone else in this house has deposited on it!!! Disgustingly, Sasha runs over and cleans up her “little sister’s” vomit, and I ran to get the Woolite again. I guess continual crying over a long period of time results in vomit.

You think this is the end, right? Oh no……Once everyone is calm again, I continue my quest for scrubbing the kitchen. It has begun to rain hard now. Out of the corner of my eye, I see Sasha, at the scene of her first crime, crouched. I immediately grab her by the collar, disable the alarm, and open the front door, demanding her to “Go potty” outside. Obviously, there was more to do for her…..She walked around the front yard, squinting in the rain, while I stood on the porch yelling and clapping for her to make her latest deposit outside. Meanwhile, a still sniveling baby is standing at the sidelight, looking out at us crying. Finally, Sasha gives up, so I open the door. Unbeknownst to me, the baby has her finger in between the door, so when I open it, her finger gets squished. Well, that sent her over the edge….to the abyss, rather. Screaming, we run to the kitchen for some ice, then break out something with Dora the Explorer’s picture on it and life becomes okay for her again. Sheesh! I later discovered Sasha had run over to the same spot again, and made a smaller, but second deposit on my carpet…Woolite!

I just got my evening phone call from my husband. It’s morning there, and he’s busy, so this one is typically 7 minutes. Tonight, I got 4 minutes and 59 seconds, with a promise to attempt Skype again tomorrow. Elizabeth is sleeping now. And, as I watch Sasha pace back and forth, checking on her ‘baby sister,’ I pop in to check on her, too. She’s spit out her pacifier and I look at her whole face. She looks so much like her Daddy. I want to call him right now and tell him that, hands down, we made the most beautiful baby in the world.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Installment 6

November 16, 2009

Tales from an Army Wife: First Deployment
Installation 6

There’s something about the darkness that evokes certain feelings within us. It may be mystery, fear, uncertainty, maybe even inhibition. I suppose that’s why we go on dates at night, and maybe why we feel sadder or lonelier at night, if that’s what is in our minds. I suppose this may have something or not have anything to do with how I felt, sending my husband away for a year… night. Walking out of our house, with his bags as the sun set. Loading up our daughter in the dim light of our driveway. Pulling into the base. Gravel. Soldiers wearing bright parking vests, motioning us where to go. The pink streetlights casting a movie-like glow over cold concrete hangars, metal storage boxes with the 3rd Infantry Division logo displayed on them. One soldier motioned to us, and told us “family members were only allowed in one area, as the other area was sterile.” The chill that came over me at that moment wasn’t just the autumn wind…I honestly felt like I was in a movie, slow motion, at night. The darkness covered us, but the pockets of light revealed clusters of people going through exactly what I was going through…the goodbye portion and start of deployment.

As we walked into the hangar, the darkness was cut by the huge fluorescent lights above us. A spartan arrangement of tables were in front with water, snacks, information and, of course, boxes of tissue. All around me, I saw them….the soldiers in uniform, carrying their issued automatic weapons over their shoulders. The children, running, playing, coloring, or being read to by the parent who was about to be gone from them for a year. Many single soldiers reclined against their bags, earphones in, passing the time until departure. So many personal stories filled this huge building.

The walls were lined with homemade banners. Much like those at a football game. Painted with sentiments and company names. But these banners weren’t for a game…they expressed not only thanks but the hopes of safe return for warriors…the soldiers..the fathers…the husbands…MY husband included.

The doors were concrete floor to ceiling. Rusty with large, chunky bolts and screws. I had the feeling I was inside an old, rickety “Death Star.” The darkness outside felt surreal. But, the bright light inside felt just as much. These were to be my last moments with my husband for an entire year.

I chased our daughter, as she, like the rest of the small children, didn’t understand and wanted to run. After corralling her in the stroller, the clock began to bang loudly in my ear. No longer a gentle tick, as my time was about to be up.

After an announcement, the soldiers began putting on the rest of their gear. At this point, the climate in this large area changed quickly. We all knew the time had come…I watched my husband as he wiggled into his Kevlar vest, snapped his Kevlar collar around his neck, and strapped on his automatic weapon. We pushed our daughter outside, back into the darkness. The night surrounded us again, as he would soon leave us and go to the ‘sterile’ hangar. The eerie pink lights shone around us and the chill returned. My husband kissed and held our daughter. He hugged both his parents. As we embraced for the final time, I couldn’t help but cling so tightly. This began to feel like a car wreck that you were expecting. You can’t believe it’s actually happening, it doesn’t seem real, but yet it IS happening and you can’t stop it. Every second starts being sucked away, into the darkness. I had to let go…I had to say goodbye. After the last “I love yous” he turned around, and my hand held his until it finally slipped out, as he walked away from us…into the night….

Thursday, November 12, 2009

November 12, 2009

Tales from an Army Wife: First Deployment
Installation 5

Disclaimer: Severe drama ahead..please take precaution.

When you first wake up every morning, you slowly open your eyes and see the first hints of sunlight beginning to wash away the darkness of night. You stretch, and take your first few deep, conscious breaths of the day. At this point in the ‘wake-up’ ritual, we are supposed to be thankful. Thankful that we can see, that we do breathe, that the sun is shining its way through our window, that we are alive. I pray that God can forgive me, as I haven’t felt those things the past few mornings, as when I open my eyes to the new day, I feel dread. In my mind, the morning means that another day has been “checked off” on the list. Another piece of the bridge has broken away, heading straight towards the impending chasm of……you guessed it…..departure day of deployment.

The best friend a girl could ever have is on a plane this very minute. She is about to fly all the way from California to see me. There’s a part of me that wants her to get off the plane and unpack her bags. If she gets here, I know what that means. It means that my morning dread is about to come to its full fruition. Right now, I can still wake, feeling the bittersweet sadness, but my husband is still here. Only for 3 more mornings. Where is the rewind button? Since I can’t find it, I know that my bittersweet sadness will soon become sick, like my stomach feels when I think about this..

It’s a bleak day here in Pooler, Georgia. The sky is covered with the remnants of rain clouds, and the wind has been blowing and whistling, quite loudly and eerily, actually. When I awoke, my husband had just risen himself, to get dressed and go to his half day of work. Every second he isn’t with me right now I want to just squeeze him as tight as I can, willing him to stay home, willing this deployment to not happen. I can manage coffee, but other than that, I have no desire to eat.

The “to-do’s” of my earlier entries have been completed. The bags are almost packed. All my questions are answered. All the crazy, polar-tech cold weather wear has been washed and vacuum sealed. The wills and powers of attorney are signed….there is nothing left to do now but wait….wait and pray for the days to “check off’ in the other direction. Wait and pray to get to the stage that everyone promises me I’ll get to: the routine, busy place that I naturally gravitate towards. For those of you who are reading this you’re probably thinking: “Whoever is on the plane from California is awfully brave…..this girl is going to need to some serious help.” Believe me, I know…..

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Entry 4

Tales…entry 4

Post party…

So, I hosted a party this afternoon for Mike’s co-workers…….Alpha company. I haven’t met many people he works with and I wanted to open our home to them, and get to know the guys and their families. These are the men he will live with and interact with for one year, on the other side of the world, when we can’t see him everyday. These are the men he will go on missions with, eat with, amuse himself with, and share about home with. And, these are the women and children, who will be here with us, praying the same prayers we will pray, everyday….. for 365 days.
The party was a success. The food was great, the kids got along, and I enjoyed talking to not only the wives, but the men who would be joining my husband in the mountains of Afghanistan in just a few short weeks. I enjoyed sharing with their children, and the laughter they brought to my own child. I knew, deep down, she would laugh a lot with these same children over the coming months.
After everyone left, it was just me, Mike, and our best buddy Mike Shoup, who was in town for the weekend, visiting. Elizabeth was spent and ready for bed, so we assumed our usual bedtime ritual, which consisted of turning the lights down low, bringing the milk in, and curling up on our big bed, until she fell asleep. Since she loves books so much, bringing a book in for sleepytime is out of the question, as she would get excited at the pictures and turning the pages. So, having a great memory serves advantageous for me, as I curl up, spoon-like, with her and ‘tell’ her stories. Our favorite is “Where the Wild Things Are.” Or, as I like to refer to it, as “Let’s talk about Max….” And so I began talking about Max and his wolf suit….
At that moment, Mike quietly slipped in…..he wanted to tell Elizabeth goodnight. So, he lay down on the bed, and as I ‘told’ the story, I would stop, and he would say a line, then I would, and we would repeat the process. It was a simple, loving exchange to our daughter of how we’d both memorized the book, and we both wanted her to know that we knew the story and wanted her to hear it from us as she drifted to sleep with both her parents right beside her. When the story was over, Mike left the room so she could get good and sleepy..she cried a bit, as she does when he leaves the room, but I snuggled closer to her, reassured her that she was okay, and she quieted. As we lay there in the darkness, I, too, began to silently cry…for many reasons. I cried for happiness…for the love of this child, for the love of her father. I wept for the sorrow of her being separated from him so soon from now, and I wept for the loneliness that we would feel when we both laid on this same bed, in the same darkness, and her father would be on the other side of the world.
A wise, seasoned wife at my party today said that as Army Wives, we have to just “pick up” and deal with things ourselves in this life. She’s right in so many ways. When I was sure Elizabeth was asleep enough, I picked up my sleeping daughter, and transferred her to her bed, tucked her in for the night. I then, dried my tears, picked up my wine glass, and re-joined the guys in the living room…..picked up the visit where I left off……..pick it up and keep going…..there will be plenty of time for

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

My first official entry of tales...

Tales from an Army Wife’s First Deployment

Disclaimer: For anyone reading this who knows me well, or is in my same situation: Yes, I fear for the worst, yes, I’m a drama queen, yes, I make mountains out of molehills, and yes, I know these things about myself. However, writing is my therap, my optimum way of expressing myself: the good, the bad, the ugly, and the over-dramatized. And so I begin…

A wise, beautiful woman, who is 5 months ahead of me in this particular journey, and so incredibly dear to me once said, “This will go by faster than you think. The worst part is the ‘getting ready for it.’ “ God, I hope Maggie Brown is right……

My husband and I have been married for over 2 years now. I have known about this deployment, or the possibility for it, for that long. We spent 2 years at Fort Rucker, home of Army Aviation, he completing flight school there, me working, giving birth to our first child, and knowing all the while in the back of my mind that these days were coming.

Now that we are settled in our beautiful new home in Savannah, Georgia, the clock ticks loudly in my ear. The “Big Ben” countdown to the dreaded…….’Deployment.’ Hunter Army Airfield in Savannah was our first choice, obviously because both sets of parents live in Georgia and it would be “the best thing for me while he’s gone.” We are overjoyed to be here. There is also the opportunity here for me to go back to school and get a second degree. I already know a few people here, too. I’m worlds ahead of many wives who are here, as far as friends, family and knowing my way around. All these things are great, but “While he’s gone” is still the shadow, the operative phrase, here. Seasoned Army wives deal with this much better than me, I’m sure. I’m a strong type-A person, I know what I want in life, I have to stay busy and stressed out to function properly….so is my nature, with or without my husband deployed. However, this is new and scary, and no matter how independent I am, and how determined I am, my emotions still get the best of me sometimes……hence, I write. I discovered this quirky trait/talent about myself at age 8 and have been writing when emotions strike me ever since. I am 34 years old now.

When we first arrived here, Mike was on leave so he was home with us, unpacking, hanging pictures, getting settled. He’s been signed in at Hunter for about 5 weeks now. A couple weeks ago, I went to my first ever Family Deployment Briefing. Mike stayed home with the baby. I watched the typical government power point presentation, however, this one began to hit home. These weren’t slides about plans for preparation of a 4th of July Fireworks event, which I worked with in my former government job, these were slides of what my husband’s home would look like for one year……on the other side of the world in the cold, cruel mountains of one of the most dangerous places in the world right now……Afghanistan. We’ve all heard “Iraq, Iraq’ for several years now. After understanding the difference in the two places, I honestly never thought I would wish my husband were going to Iraq, instead. This brief also told the families the route and procedure for our soldiers’ departure, how we could communicate with them while they are gone, and when they could come home for 15 days of Rest and Relaxation. As I sat through the second meeting last night, with Mike, we were told of all the resources we would have for our children, since we’d be ‘single parents’ for a year. Financial resources, community services….etc. We will truly be taken care of, if we allow ourselves to be. We were also advised to get our budgets together, wills, Powers of Attorney, life insurance, all of which I knew….just hitting home, now. The girl sitting next to me told me this was the 3rd deployment she’d been through. I thought to myself, “ Wow, you’ve actually sat here and lived this more than once?” Once again, I know with anything, once you’ve done it once, it’s a little easier the next time. I also know I’m not the only woman in the world who this has happened to, but I’m also ME, and I deal with things differently, I guess.

A few days later, the packing list came home. Now, I’ve been talking with some other wives, so I knew about what they had to buy, etc. I tackled the list with zeal, buying him 2 of everything listed, so he would have a good supply for a while, until he figured out what the PX had there….I aspired to be “Super Army Packing Wife.” What I didn’t know was how I would feel when he unloaded the gear…..the extreme cold weather polar fleece long underwear, knit tops with ACU (Army Combat Uniform) sleeves, kevlar gloves, things I’d never seen before and some, I had no idea what they would do with. However, this was clothing and gear for some seriously dangerous terrain, weather and situations. As I carefully swished the kevlar gloves in a sink full of detergent and water, as they had to be hand washed, I couldn’t help but think of my husband’s beautiful hands having to be inside gloves that were made of bullet/fragment-deflecting material. The huge, puffy gray ‘snowsuit’ I called it, was so thick I joked that he couldn’t fit inside the cockpit if he flew wearing it. But inside, I couldn’t help but think of the high altitude and how incredibly cold it must be there for him to have to wear it.
Then, there’s that damned “tuff box.” It’s a huge box that they pack their sheets, towels, books, anything they want shipped over early. He bought the box last night, and packed all the things I’d washed for him. He closed it, locked it and set it in our foyer so he could take it this morning to go on the boat. I, of course, was up several times during the night, either with the baby or just couldn’t sleep. Each time I walked past the box, it ‘stared’ at me, seemed to be taunting me, sticking out it’s figurative tongue and mocking me with feelings of doom and loneliness. How could an inanimate object ‘speak’ to you like that? And, no, this time I hadn’t had too much wine….I just answered that question on my own. When one has an active imagination like myself……My father always said I “conjured things in my mind”…I think he’s right.
I have so many things to ask my husband, we have so many things to attend to, the ‘business’ of deployment, if you will. I left the briefing last night with a million things on my mind. My husband is an intelligent, responsible man, who cares greatly about the well-being of his family, and we plan to carve out some time to deal with all these things, but until they are dealt with, my mind will continue to whir in overdrive…..listen closely, can you hear it?

The tree

Tales from an Army wife’s first deployment….Installation 2

Continuing Preparation----A much more light-hearted entry…..

In my quest to be “Super Army Wife,” I’ve taken on a daunting project….Normally it disgusts me to see how early the stores put out Christmas, yes CHRISTMAS, not holiday, decorations. This year, however, I am foaming at the mouth for them to get out, as I have decided to decorate our new home for Christmas for Mike before he leaves in mid-November. No, no one asked for me to do this, sometimes my ambition ends up getting the best of me. (If you ask my mother, I get that attribute from my father) Nevertheless, my plan is simple. A new, taller tree, to go with our new, taller ceiling. A new color scheme, balls, ribbon, tree topper, etc all in the very “in the now” blue and brown theme. (Or, in this case, dark teal and bronze) That will also involve new wreath trimmings, some new mantle décor, now that we have a mantle, and some other odds and ends throughout the house. Like I said, very simple….yes, I hear the laughter, too, not to worry.
So far, I’ve called a Christmas tree farmer, who, when I explained my situation, was more than happy to open early just for me to come get a tree. I’ve begun scouring my favorite stores, Kirklands, Homegoods, TJMaxx, all of who are slowly beginning to trickle in their décor for Christmas.

A slightly easier task…..last year, I came up with an idea. My husband is one of the worlds’ biggest Star Wars geeks. He doesn’t dress up or anything, but he knows every line in every movie, and you can even choose a track on any soundtrack from any movie and not only does he know which movie it’s from, he can begin reciting that particular scene, right then and there. This makes for interesting long car trips, and he can beat the pants off anyone in a game of Star Wars Trivial Pursuit. I decided to commemorate his love of all things Star Wars, by making his very own Star Wars Christmas tree. He’s collected several ornaments over time and displays them proudly with his Star Wars posters in his home office. Last year after Christmas, I went to Walmart and bought a 4 foot, white pre-lit tree for $10. Done. I have the ornaments, and it’s already lit, so the last thing I needed was a topper. While at Party City looking for Halloween invitations, and, yes, I DID scour to see what they had in for Christmas, I found a Darth Vader mask for $4.99. Some black wired ribbon from Walmart, and Boom! Instant tree. Yeah…..

The baby is finally asleep, now I can “use the Force” and get on with this project….I figure, it’s a while before Christmas, but these guys are black and scary, so this could easily serve as a Halloween decoration of sorts, as well as enable Mike to enjoy his tree before he leaves. So, I climbed up into the attic to retrieve said tree. Man it was hot up there! I joyfully descended the ladder, closed up and headed for the kitchen to get the rest of my supplies. I bought some floral wire to attach the mask and in case I needed to make hooks for the ornaments. Scissors in hand, I headed in to his office and placed the tree on top of his file cabinet. Obviously, some “little” people would LOVE to get their hands on Darth Vader’s face and I really didn’t want baby slobber on my handiwork, so up high was definitely the way to go. I plugged in the lights to make sure they worked, and voila, the illuminated slate was ready to be filled! First things first, the mask on the top! Wait! Where is my wire? As most of you who have small children know, while they are napping, time is of the essence, so I became frantic when I couldn’t remember where I’d set the wire down. I ran from room to room. I even looked in the garage, thinking maybe I’d laid it down before opening the attic. No sign of it. I even climbed back up into the hot abyss, that is the attic. Was it there? NO! AAAhh!!! The baby could wake at any moment, and where in the hell is that wire???? I quickly opened the pantry and downed a handful of Halloween colored M &Ms, as if somehow, the chocolate would restore my memory. Then, while chomping down on the chocolatey goodness, that I pray my 8 mile run tomorrow will burn off, I noticed the Walmart bag filled with my daughter’s new socks and pants. Aha! I never took the wire out of the shopping bag! Maybe chocolate does restore memory…..I raced on…..
Next, I cut the black ribbon into three pieces and carefully tucked them in to the sides of the tree branches. Time for the ornaments. I guess you could call this a “Mike’s favorite things” tree. Albeit mostly Star Wars, there’s a random Godzilla, and also a University of Florida football player ornament, all things he loves. Done! As I stand back, I notice I should move the ornaments around, a bit, just so they are even. Note to self: Never step into a swivel office chair to fix a Christmas tree. I accidentally spun around, on one foot, mind you, in this chair. Fortunately, I grabbed the bookshelf and kept myself from falling. Meanwhile, Sasha, the dog, who’d been following me around this whole time just stared up at me blankly. She wasn’t even worried. I wasn’t so much concerned about getting hurt, but I knew that if I did fall, the crash would wake the baby sleeping across the hall. Whew ! Good save! So, Darth and Godzilla are looking a bit too symmetrical…..Darth needs to scoot down a bit.
Me:”Okay, Darth. Sorry buddy, but were gonna have to scooch you down a bit…”
Darth: Breathing through his helmet, “Argh! But I have the force!”
Me:”That’s great, honey, but I’m going to have to FORCE your ass down a couple branches so this will look right.”
There! No more out of Darth, and the tree looks perfect! Now to wait for Mike to get home..