Saturday, September 10, 2011

September 11

Our morning routine was almost set in stone.  Chip would wake up around 5:30 and go to PT.  Brenna, who was only a few months old, would hear him and demand to be fed.  I'd lay her in bed next o me and nurse her back to sleep, and then fall back asleep myself.  I loved snuggling with her.  I loved everything about being a new mom.  And this morning seemed as normal as any other.  We snuggled, she slept, and after a little while, I finally fell asleep.  I didn't know that the world as I had known it, was about to be drastically changed.

I woke up shortly after I had fallen asleep because Chip had come home early.  In my half awake state, I didn't understand what he was asking.  No, I didn't have any family in NY.  I was mildly irritated that he felt this stupid question was important enough to wake me up to ask it, even after I'd been up several times with the baby while he got to sleep peacefully all night.  Another seemingly stupid question followed that one.  No, I do not have any family in Pennsylvania.  Why in the world is this important at 6am?  By this time, I was sitting up, Brenna was waking up, and I was officially annoyed.  And then he broke the news to me.

A terrorist attack.  In OUR country.  With OUR planes.  That killed OUR innocent civilians.
He informed me that the base was at FPCON Delta.  I had seen the signs at the front gate on post, but had never seen anything but Alpha, and had no idea what Delta meant.  He'd been sent home early, since most of his unit wasn't on base, and it was taking several hours for people to get through the front gate.  I ran downstairs and turned on the tv.  We sat there in silence for a few minutes, watching in horror at those images.  I was 19 when the towers fell, and 6000 miles from home with a new baby and a soldier husband.  I cannot express how isolated and scared I felt at that moment. It was so early in Alaska, and I was in such shock that I didn't understand that the images I was seeing on tv were not live images, but in fact had taken place several hours before.  I called family and friends in an effort to reach out to people to perhaps feel some sort of safety in the midst of this chaos.  I clutched Brenna as if letting go of her meant losing her, and then I cried at the thought of being stupid enough to bring a child into this crazy and unpredictable world.  And then I looked at Chip, and wondered what this meant as far as the military. I truly and honestly thought WWIII was imminent.

That day changed the life of every American.  We could probably all play that six degrees game and somebody knows somebody who died that day, or who was in NYC.  I didn't know anybody personally who died that day, but as an American, I think I can safely say that I feel the loss.  Not only a sense of personal loss of all those lives, but the loss of life as I knew it.

I can clearly remember a pre- 9/11 and a post-9/11.  Things changed that day for the good and the bad.  It's interesting to me how much the course of my life changed because of that day.  Instead of getting out of the army, Chip reenlisted.  We were first told that he would do a 6 month tour in Afghanistan.  I remember how terrified I was of that thought.  And now I chuckle, after having been told, "The good news is, no 6 month deployment to Afghanistan - the bad news is, a 13 month deployment to Iraq."

I cried that day for so many reasons.  My heart broke for all the families and friends of those who were lost.  I gained a whole new respect for the firefighters and police officers who ran into those towers to help with no thought of personal safety.  You always see the firetrucks go by but you never really think about them.  I'd always say a prayer for whoever they were going to help.  Now, I say a prayer for them all.  I cried out of fear and anger and confusion.  But, when the tears were gone, I was ready for a fight.  That day I discovered a pride and a love for this country that I can't even begin to describe.  I'd always known how lucky I was to be an American, but that day I APPRECIATED it. 

On the 10th Anniversary of that day, I look back not with the fear and anger of a young mother, but with pride and honor at being able to call myself an American.  Our country is a great country.  We have so much to be grateful for.  We have the freedom to pursue our dreams, to speak our minds, to live our lives.  And our country is so beautiful!  I've not been everywhere, but I've seen so much.  I've seen the Chicago skyline, the Appalachian mountains, the Ohio river, Lake Michigan, Mt. McKinley, the northern lights, a Hawaiian sunset, Mt. Rainier and Mendenhall glacier.  I love this country!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Opening the Door

I expect this to be a long post, and one that gets very personal.  I heard this poem recently, and it put into words some things that I have felt for a long time but didn't know how to express.  It's amazing how something can offer so much clarity and you haven't even sought it out, or realized that you needed it.  I'll start with the poem, and then explain how it touched, and healed, my soul.

The Words
by Serena, a military spouse

The words were there all along.

I kept them chained
My back turned
Ears covered
Eyes shut tight.

Then hit my stride
began to breathe.....let down my guard.

They were waiting
Simmering there in the dark
To seize the day
And forge the crack in my defense.

Striking furiously, without mercy
They laid me




Wimpering in anguish and despair.

"I Cannot Do This Anymore."
I struggled not to hear
to block them out
to flee.

They were relentless, determined to be reckoned, delighting in their voice;
bathing over me with their poison.

"You Cannot Do This."
"You Have Failed."
The words have left their mark.


Clinging to my last reserve, I hear familiar voices pleading through the din.

Four tiny, trusting eyes
My one true love
My friend
All beckon.....

"Stay With Me."

"You Have A Choice."

Harkening to the hopeful voice

I choose to stand
And greet the light....
                          however dim.

To rise and dress the wound
replace their chains
and start again.

To live the story to its end.

There's more beyond the dark.

I struggled for the first few months of the last deployment.  My entire support system had disintigrated.  I was pregnant.  I was lonely.  I was worried.  I was scared.  I had very few people I could turn to.  I sought counseling, but all three of the counselors had one solution - move home.  But that seemed like even more stress.  How could moving across the country with five kids by myself, TWICE in one year possibly be less stressful than the life I was living at that moment?  I desperately cried out for help, and didn't feel like anyone heard me, or worse, cared.  Talking to my husband made it worse because it caused him to worry about me and things at home, thus taking his mind off his task at hand.  I couldn't breathe, I didn't recognize myself, I was broken.  I went home from the hospital after having Camden by myself.  I spent 3 days alone with all five of my kids, and I was exhausted. Physically, mentally, emotionally.  Every part of me was depleted.  I had a friend stay with me for 3 weeks, and then Chip came home for 18 days of leave, and then I was alone again, for another 9 long months.

I remember the day that this poem was my life.  It was a beautiful day, but I was in my own hell.  I needed an hour, just to breathe, to gather my thoughts, to regroup and move on.  I called every person I knew and NO. ONE. could help me.  I had one person who I thought I could depend on, but she was immersed in her own crisis.  I was sitting in my living room.  It was quiet.  Brenna was in school.  The other four were occupied.  And I was alone on my couch.  This was it.  I would either be consumed by those words: I Cannot Do This Anymore........or I would face the world on my own.  Five little lives depended on me.  They had no one else at that moment.  I HAD to put the pieces back together.  I had no other option.  It was by far my darkest hour, and the light at the end of that tunnel was so very, very dim.  But I grasped it with every fiber of my being.  I picked myself up, I walked over to my newborn son, I kissed his forehead, and made a vow to take every day ONE day at a time. 

I didn't realize until just recently how much the decision to depend only on myself had impacted my life.  We all hear about how soldiers coming back from a deployment are different.  The things they endure, the things they see and participate in, through no fault of their own, changes who they are.  But we hardly hear about how a deployment changes a spouse who is back home.  I didn't fight in a war, my life was never truly in danger, and I still had all the comforts of home.  But being alone for 15 months, being both mom and dad, and doing everything on my own.....that all changed who I am.  It's not a bad thing.  I became more independent and stronger than I ever thought I could be.  But the conscious decision to depend only on myself impacted me deeply.  I didn't realize this until I was trying to do everything on my own, even after he returned from the deployment.  Instead of him being a partner in my life, he was more a nuisance, something else I had to take care of.  It's a hard transition to make, and in the process of that transition, we moved to another duty station.  These last 2+ years have been such a roller coaster ride for us.  But, I'm learning to open that door again, to need someone again. 

The poem was part of a video that highlights suicides among military spouses.  While I've never contemplated suicide, I have been in the darkest parts of my soul.  I have seen friends and family struggle with depression, and I know that while it was my hardest struggle, it may not seem that hard to some.  Many military spouses have gone through more deployments, have had major life events and crises happen during deployments, and my journey is just one of thousands.  But it is mine.  The pain I felt is not unique.  But rather, it is what bonds military spouses together.  We can all relate.  We are not better than any other spouse, just more resilient and perhaps even a little stronger.

Thursday, July 7, 2011


I've never regretted the wedding that I had.  It wasn't the classiest affair by any means.  Who gets married in their parent's basement?  This girl.  I've always said (and, even more importantly, always believed) that it wasn't the wedding itself that really mattered.  It's the marriage. 

This train of thought is brought to you by a friend of mine who just got married, and then put up a link to her photographer's website.  I got lost on this girl's site one day, just in awe of all the beautiful weddings that she was lucky enough to photograph, and suddenly I found myself wondering what my wedding would have been like.  What kind of dress would I have had, and what kind of flowers?  What would have been my something blue and who would have walked me down the isle?  I've honestly never given it much thought.  I mean, we've been married almost 12 years now, that day has come and gone.  To be honest, I've always thought eloping was the best thing we ever did.  I was the matron of honor at my sister's wedding, and the details alone are enough to make me want to rub my head on pavement.  This was the first time that I can remember ever thinking about what it would have been like.......

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Breakdown in Isle 3

For the second time this week (and perhaps my entire life), I cried in Walmart. 

Wednesday night, we ran to Walmart, and they have a salon at the ones here.  Emma desperately needed a haircut, so I took her over while Chip walked around with the other kids.  The lady there does an awesome job on my kids' hair, so I always look fo her.  After we were done, Aubrie throws this massive fit because she wants a haircut now as well.  I figured, since she's four, that like most things, this, too, would pass.  No such luck.  The next day, Aubrie found a pair of scissors and cut her hair.  (Incidentally, these are scissors I've been looking for FOREVER, and have no idea where she found them, but am now pretty sure she's the reason I couldn't find them.....but that's another blog.)  I got all the kids ready to go and headed back to Walmart to get her hair fixed cut. Once we got there, Brenna decides that she also wants a haircut.  Fine.  Two birds with one stone.  Awesome.  Well, Brenna's haircut is a little more complicated than just a simple bob, so her haircut took over an hour.  We were there almost 2 hours before we were done, and I go to the front to pay, only to discover that my debit card is not in my purse or wallet.  Awesome.  The lady, luckily for me, was super nice, and told me I could go home and get it, not a big deal.  But I seriously cried.  I hate feeling like an idiot, or being embarrased in public.  My kids are not always the best behaved and I struggled to keep them wrangled for the 2 hours she cut their hair.  Yes, they're kids and they have the attention spans of ants, but still.  I expect a certain level of discipline, but sometimes that expectation is far from met.  And since I can't beat them in public, they can get out of hand. And after all of that, I couldn't find my stupid debit card.  This is my life, folks. 

Today was a little different, though.  I ventured to Walmart all by myself.  I went in search of the dreaded bathing suit.  (Dum dum dum!)  I hate bathing suit shopping with a passion.  I get mad at myself every time I think of going bathing suit shopping for not keeping better tabs on my suit so I wouldn't have to buy another bathing suit EVER.  I actually found a few that looked decent, and made the mistake of thinking that trying them on was a good idea.  It wasn't.  I cannot express to you how pathetic it feels to cry in the dressing room of Walmart.  So not only do I look and feel fat, but I also look and feel pathetic as well. 

I'm going to be brutally honest here.  I'm not happy with myself.  I haven't weighed this much, except when I was pregnant.  I find it nearly impossible to find time to work out, unless I want to get up really early or stay up super late.  That is slowly changing, as it's summer and I have a friend who has a daughter who can watch the kids for me now.  But I'm mad at myself for letting myself go for so long.  I am not obese by any means, but I'm not healthy, I think, either.  I hate not having energy.  I hate that none of my clothes fit me anymore, and I hate that I have friends losing weight who give me their "fat" clothes........and they fit.  I see friends who have had babies who are at or below their prepregnancy weight and I want to scream.  I know that I will never truly be my "prepregnancy" weight.  I was 19 when I had Brenna, and 116 lbs when I got pregnant with her.  I think it's fair to say that's probably not a realistic or healthy goal for me at this stage of my life. I would settle for 130.   So, at least for now, I'm going to concentrate on what I eat, and at least walking three or four times a week.  I know I need to do it, I know I need to quit making excuses, and dang it, I need to quit crying in Walmart!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

My Thoughts About Easter

I have some profound thoughts about Easter.  (Just preparing you.  In case you miss the fact that they are, in fact, profound.)

In my experience, many churches focus on the wrong thing Easter Sunday.  I went to a church once that was HUGE.  They had this major production for Easter Sunday - singing, acting, backdrops, costumes, the works.  The production itself was amazing.  But, in my opinion, it totally missed the mark.  The entire production focused on the death of Jesus.  The DEATH of Jesus.  The crucifixion was a very dramatic scene, with scenes from "The Passion of the Christ" playing in the background.  It was incredibly moving.  And I thought to myself, "Man, if this is how they do the crucifixion, I can't WAIT to see the resurrection!"  Boy, was I in for a let down.  The tomb was empty, and Peter sang this slow, sad song about how could he have doubted Christ, and look at the sacrifice he made..........and the end.  No trumpets.  No dancing in the isles.  No celebration.  Just a sad song of regret at doubting the love of Christ for us. 

Anybody can die.  ( <---- PROFOUND THOUGHT) 

The miracle of Easter is, to me, two parts.  The sacrifice of Jesus laying down his life for all of our sins.  But, MORE IMPORTANTLY, the resurrection.  That Jesus Christ overcame death so that you and I could be truly forgiven of all of our sins and live forever in Heaven.  The miracle of Easter is not only the death of Christ, but the resurrection.  You can't have one without the other.  We buried Christ on Friday, but on Sunday, He rose again.  HE ROSE AGAIN!!  How can you NOT celebrate that?

This Easter, I celebrate the resurrection of Christ.  I celebrate that he overcame death.  I am humbled that he took my place and died a physical death so that I can live with him eternally in Heaven.  But come tomorrow, I'm going to be rejoicing that he is ALIVE. 

"Where oh death is now thy sting?  HALLELUJAH The lamb is ALIVE!!!!!!!!"

Wednesday, April 20, 2011


If you know me, then you know that when we moved here to Washington, I was miserable.  I started on this long road into depression, and everything in my life took a nose dive.  I changed as a person, our marriage took a hit, and in the midst of this crazy storm called life, I found my way home.

Chip and I are looking for a house.  We have decided to buy a house in this area, and stay for the forseeable future.  We want to plant roots here.  Despite my first reaction to this area, it took me a while to realize that it wasn't the area I didn't like.  Because, let's face it, we're 46 miles from Mt. Rainier, and we are surrounded by moutains that you can see on a clear day.  Looking at Mt. Rainier nearly every day reminds me that you have to go through the valley to appreciate the mountain top.  It is also a humble reminder that if I have faith as big as a mustard seed, that I could MOVE that mountain.  There were a lot of days that I didn't have faith, and even more that felt like the valley would never lead me to that mountain top.  But we're here, I think. I want to make the best choices for my family, and we've made some great friends, we've joined a fabulous church, and we are ready to make the next big step in our lives. 

Now, that said, this is also going to be an interesting journey, seeing as Chip and I are total opposites.  We can't even decide on bedding for our room!  If I like it, then it's a pretty safe bet that he will hate it.  One of the bedding sets that we had, he picked out.  It was beautiful.  And you know what he said?  He went into the store, picked out the set he hated the most, and bought it because he knew I would like it if he hated it!  So, we've started this process, and for the most part, we're on the same page about a lot of things.  The kitchen will make or break a house for us.  Look, I've lived in a lot of crappy army houses.  I'm going to be happy with just about anything.  But the ONE thing I want the most in a house is a nice kitchen.  I'm not picky.  I just want something that we're going to be happy in for a long time.

I'm super excited about finding the house we're going to be in for a really, really long time.  Who knows?  Maybe it'll even have a nice view of that mountain top.  :)

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Pictures? Maybe.

I may or may not attempt to upload photos to my blog.  However, if you have me as a friend on FB (and I think all of you that "follow" me do), then you have already seen the pictures.  I was just going to blog about them in more detail. 

About two weeks ago, a friend of ours from church (Scott) asked if Chip and I wanted to go on a weekend trip.  Scott works for Alaska Air, and had some companion passes to use.  He and his wife, Rachel, and another couple (Justin and Jodi) were going to go away for the weekend.  Since we haven't had a night away from the kids since Emma was a baby (almost 6 years, people), we decided to go.  We found sitters for the kids, and Saturday morning we left for Juneau, Alaska.

That's right.  I said Alaska.  Would you believe that there were plenty of seats on the flight to Juneau in the middle of February? 

Our flight to Juneau was only about 2 hours.  I do NOT fly well.  I have many issues with flying.  First would be my issues with control.  I have serious problems handing over my fate to complete strangers.  Second up would be my fear of heights.  And last, but certainly not least, is my motion sickness.  I don't really get physically ill, I just get very nauseated.  I HAVE to sleep, or lay with my eyes closed to focus my thoughts elsewhere.  Any turbulance and I have to redirect my thoughts.  My entire body tenses up.  I hate it.  But, it was such a short flight, and I made it to the flip side without incident.  (Well, except for when I almost crushed Chip's had when it looked like we were landing in heavy fog and about to drop a wing in the water right by the airport.) 

Once we arrived, though, I was fine.  More than fine, I was excited!  We rented a car, so we headed to the rental car area.  You'll also be surprised to know that the Juneau airport really isn't that big.  So you just walk down a flight of stairs and you're in the baggage claim area/rental car area.  We were supposed to get a van, but apparently it got wrecked, so we got  a free upgrade to a 7 passenger ford explorer.  What it lacked in storage room, it made up for with it's 4 wheel drive.  (Seriously, between the 6 adults, we all managed to only take about 5 carry on bags.  And we had to STUFF those strategically in the back of the explorer.  That was one of the vehicles on the list that I considered before we bought our van, and now I'm extremely glad we didn't go that route.  I have no idea how we'd ever go grocery shopping.)

The drive to the hotel was short.  When we got there, it was snowing pretty heavily, and it was super windy.  So the snow wasn't actually coming down - it was coming sideways.  It wasn't really as cold as I thought I'd be, but it was windy.  Our hotel was super cute.  It's like a B&B, but run by Best Western.  It's the smallest "hotel" in their chain.  But it's a house with these huge rooms with awesome bathrooms.

Yes, that's my husband about to pelt me with a snowball.  Lucky for him, I moved.  Isn't it cute?

Somehow we ended up with the "honeymoon" suite.  So that's why there's an extra sitting area.  But all of the other bedrooms, while they don't have a seperate bathroom like this one has, they do have huge bathtubs.  Ours was really deep and pretty wide, but the other rooms have really wide tubs, where you can sit side-by-side.  Either way, they all have jets and it was pretty awesome.  Here's some more pics from the hotel at breakfast the next morning.....

Love the hotel!  I would highly recommend it, you know, if you ever go to Juneau. 

Because of the winds, the power was knocked out when we got to the hotel.  So, we left in search of lunch.  Chip and I were stationed in Alaska, and still have friends in North Pole/Fairbanks, so I contacted Michelle to see if she'd ever been here or knew anyone who had and could recommend somwhere to eat.  Her friend suggested we try a place called the Hanger.  It's in this little strip mall right on the water in downtown Juneau, so we figured we'd give it a try.  The food is fantastic.  I had shrimp and Chip had halibut and it was so good.  If you're ever in Juneau, you should go here.  On the way out, however, we had to walk by this little pizzaria.  Oh. My. GOSH.  Best pizza EVER.  I mean, we wanted to go there just because it smelled so good.  We ended up going there for dinner that night.  We were supposed to go to the ski mountain for a fireworks and light show, but the snow and wind ruined that.  They postponed it until another night.  Boo.

Sunday morning we woke up and decided to take a trip to Mendenhall Glacier.  I admittedly know nothing about this glacier, other than it's near Juneau.  I'm sure you can go to google and look up all the fascinating facts.  We got there early, before the visitor center opened, took some pictures, and then ventured out onto the frozen lake in front of the glacier.  It was really cool.  Some of the glacier had broken off and had frozen in the middle of the lake when the lake froze.  We hiked out to a few spots for pictures, but didn't make it all the way to the glacier.  We got about a football field away from it, when we noticed some changes.  The snow up until that point had been about a knee high on me, and we couldn't even really see the ice under it unless we dug for it.  But once we got past a certain point, the snow was only about ankle height, and not only could we see the ice under it, but it was also very slippery.  I don't know if that means anything, but it kind of freaked me out a little bit, so we turned around and headed back.  But the glacier ice was beautiful....and definately worth the hike out there....

That's the glacier behind us in the distance.

A chunk of glacier....

That's as close as we got.

Another chunk of glacier ice.  I love that color blue!

So after we got done, we went back to downtown Juneau, and across the bridge to get pictures of the city (that's the first picture you see).  We just had a really good time, even if we didn't get to do a whole lot of stuff.  Juneau is pretty much shut down in the winter, as they get most of their business during the summer months.  I mean, who wants to go to Alaska for vaction in the middle of February?!  (Besides us.) 

The one thing that surprised me the most about this trip is how much it affected me.  We've talked about where we want to settle down when Chip retires, and occasionally Alaska comes up.  I mean, let's face it, it really IS beautiful up there.  Cold, yes.  But the summers are amazing and I love the snow.  I can't explain why, but it just felt like I was going home.  I don't know if that's because Alaska is the first place Chip and I lived together, or where we had our first baby, but it just felt like home.  I feel torn because I want so badly to be near family again, but I also feel like THIS is my family.  And maybe it's ok to make a path and a life of our own, and not necessarily down south.  We always said we wanted to go back to South Carolina.  That's always been the plan.  But even Chip is now looking at houses and snow mobiles and all this crazy stuff.  I mean, we're even trying to contact his branch manager to see about getting stationed back there.  It's crazy!  Or, maybe it's not.  Maybe that's where we belong.  I'm all about signs.  And I guess, if the doors open up, then we'll know.  If they don't, then we'll follow whatever path opens up for us.  I just know that I felt like I was home.  And that's big for me.