Monday, August 28, 2006

A woman's work

So I get a phone call today about a job opportunity. No big deal, I keep my resume circulating just in case someone has a job opening for oh, I don't know, a speech writer for the president or something like that (which of course I'm TOTALLY qualified for).

But this wasn't another one of those contract/temp jobs that would only be a paycheck, a lot of anxiety and hours commuting/cursing/guzzling my breakfast from an insulated cup. This job is close to my home, on a base (love my base), pays commission, is with the MWR (that's Morale Welfare and Recreation for all you civilians. They're the people who make sure soldiers and families have a little fun once in a while) - in other words, something that would actually get me out of bed in the morning, something I would probably volunteer for to be honest.

I loved working with the military and civilians as an FRG leader while Terry was deployed. I knew I was making a difference and people actually appreciated me. I would think, "Gee I wish I could get paid for this." And poof! Here is something very close to that wish coming true (and ironically I would have to give up my FRG position to take this job).

So what's my problem? This:

And this:

Taking a full time job means no more lazy days putting lipstick on Asher to freak his father out, no more trips to Seattle any day of the week, no more summer days waking up and saying, should we go out today or stay in and read, watch movies and eat pizza? Who will greet Gabe at the bus stop or take Asher to that filthy play thing at the mall? Who will plan meals and go grocery shopping and volunteer at the school so that in the evenings and weekends we can have real family time?

I know I didn't invent motherhood, but sometimes I feel like the first person to ever have to send my babies away for 45 hours a week. And before any bitches leave snotty anonymous comments on my blog, let me just say that I have made that choice before and I realize that I am privileged to even have a choice, ok? I grew up with a mom who lived on welfare, had to quit college to raise me and was forced into stripping to pay the bills.

I'm kidding. She had too much pride for welfare.

When Gabe was just about Asher's age we had to put him in full time daycare because I was in my last year of undergrad and Terry was in his first year of law school. Our schedules overlapped too much to do the "baby swap" we had managed by alternating our classes before. Plus we had moved to the other side of the state and we couldn't bum any more free daycare off our families.

It wasn't so bad with Gabe because there were too many compelling reasons for him to go. Actually just one - a full scholarship. I wasn't about to give up a free education just so I wouldn't have to kiss his curly golden head goodbye everyday. Der. I'm not an idiot. Not that I wasn't angst ridden about it. But I knew it was worth it. It was an exchange. Here he is now, a well adjusted child, taking G&T classes and an aspiring engineer (he doesn't know this yet).

Today there isn't anything tipping the scales to help me make my decision other than my self esteem and more money. It would be nice to get a bigger house, 'cause this two bedroom living is really cramping us all, but THAT was an exchange we were willing to make to have one of us home with the boys. We rent this small place because the only way we could afford to buy in this ridiculous (and mercifully declining) real estate market is IF I worked full time.

I thought I was ready to work outside the home. I feel the need to be contributing to the world in a different way, particularly the world my life revolved around for the past year. But am I just mistaking all this pent up energy from the deployment for actual ambition?

Then I was reminded of an obituary I recently read.

Kathryn Frost was the highest ranking female in the active Army at the time of her retirement. She died last Friday of breast cancer. In her obit she is quoted as saying,

"Most people wanted equal rights, but no one was asking for equal
responsibility. Commitment requires sacrifice. Somewhere along the line, to be
successful, one has to establish priorities and make choices."

Commitment. Sacrifice. Priorities. Hmm. What a concept. That's the part I always forget when I think I can "have it all." My children are my priority, but obviously there has to be some balance with them and the rest of my life, otherwise they would always get the last bite of my donut after scarfing down their own in two seconds flat...greedy little bastards...

After swallowing this insightful but bitter pill, I felt like I could at least make this decision with my eyes wide open.

And then it hits me. Frost didn't have children.


Thoughts? Anyone?

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Make it gay

Terry and I spent three days in NYC this week and somehow, at both of our nighttime venues, we ended up being one of the only straight couples around.

After catching up with our family (visiting NYC from NZ) while gorging on $12 sandwiches at Katz (the famous spot where Meg Ryan faked an orgasm on When Harry Met Sally) we went to see the Broadway show Avenue Q.

Hi-lar-ious. It is the Broadway version of Team America only the subject is human nature. It is Sesame Street for adults. And I MEAN ADULTS. Ever see two puppets have sex? It's just as uncomfortable as watching humans do it. And it wasn't a sex-filled show, some undersexed man just managed to find a way to get it in the script. The humor was really in the irreverence and airing out of humanity (or maybe just Americans). Take my favorite songs from the show for example:

(Hear Sesame street jingles as the tunes to these lyrics here)

"Everyone's a little bit racist"
Everyone's a little bit racist Today.
So, everyone's a little bit racist Okay!
Ethnic jokes might be uncouth,
But you laugh becauseThey're based on truth.
Don't take them as Personal attacks.
Everyone enjoys them - So relax!

NICKY:Oh, Schadenfreude, huh?What's that, some kinda Nazi word?
GARY COLEMAN:Yup! It's German for "happiness at the misfortune of others!"
NICKY:"Happiness at the misfortune of others." That is German! Watching a vegetarian being told she just ate chicken
NICKY:Ooh, how about...Straight-A students getting Bs?
GARY COLEMAN:Exes getting STDs!
NICKY:Waking doormen from their naps!
GARY COLEMAN:Watching tourists reading maps!
NICKY:Football players getting tackled!
GARY COLEMAN:CEOs getting shackled!
NICKY:Watching actors never reach
GARY AND NICKY:The ending of their oscar speech!Schadenfreude!Schadenfreude!Schadenfreude!Schadenfreude!

"I wish I could go back to college"
I wish I could go back to college.
In college you know who you are.
You sit in the quad, and think, "Oh my God!I am totally gonna go far!"

So you get it right?

Anyway, there was a gay-man/puppet-trapped-in-a-straight man/republican's-body storyline, which revealed all the gay couples sitting around us and at that point we felt quite conspicuous. But it was only preparing us for the next evening when we saw Michele Balan, third place finalist in the NBC show Last Comic Standing, live at the Gotham theater.

I loved LCS this year and I thought Michele would win. She's freaking hilarious. And being the blond that I am, I was the only LCS fan who didn't know she was gay. Not a big deal except when you're a straight couple with another straight couple and the comedian straight up asks if your husband is your uncle's lover, it's rather like going to high school naked . Yeah. Awkward. Every eyeball in the cozy room was fixated on us. The conversation went something like this:

Michele: (To Terry's uncle) Are you a couple? (Pointing to Terry)
Bruce: (laughing) No. This is my wife (pointing across the table to his wife, who is sitting next to me. Looking back, I see our choice of seats could have changed the entire course of the conversation)
Terry: He's my uncle. This is my wife, they're visiting from New Zealand...
Michele: (listening patiently) Ok, folks that's all the time I have tonight
Laughter - me ribbing Terry
Michele: (To Bruce) How long have you been married?
Patty: 28 years.
Michele: Did you know I was gay?
Bruce: No.
Michele: Does that change anything for you?
Bruce: No, not at all.
Michele: What's you're name sir?
Bruce: Bruce
Michele: You know that's a gay name, right?

Later she asked all the straight people to raise their hands. Us four sheepishly raise our hands and look around. Yup. Just us. Out of 100 people, we're the only straight couples, or at least those willing to admit it.

But it wasn't all about sexuality, Michele is too funny for words and nice too. We chatted with her a bit after the show. Drunk, of course. We wanted to be sure to meet the two drink minimum requirement and the two bottles of wine and pomegranate martini sure did cover it. See. Silly face with Michele -

Lastly (well, earlier that day), we had lunch at this cute little restaraunt called Home. We ate in what was essentially a backyard, but it was like a little oasis in the middle of the city. Here's a view looking up and in front.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Letting the pieces fall back into place...

One of the classes offered to us couples reuniting after a deployment is called, "Putting things back together." Now, I don't want to be caught up in semantics, but it does make you think.
One, we were broken apart while he was gone. Two, that those pieces of us can fit together the same way they did before. That's the part I have a problem with. The shape of "us" individually and therefore as a family, has changed. We're not just putting it back together, we're reshaping our lives in a way.

I have few actual behavioral differences. Asher has changed the most. He'll keep Terry at a distance still. He'll wrestle and play but won't let him put him to bed and reprimanding Asher reduces him to a puddle of tears. It's very strange. I know Asher knows this is the daddy he's seen on video and photos. He begged to watch Terry on TV, tapes he made before he left when Asher was only one. And now, here he has the chance to be with him all the time and he holds him at a distance.

Gabe seems unchanged. He reads better. Whines a little more, which drives Terry insane, but really he has adjusted well. I tuck him in at night and try to capture that excitement of daddy being home again, "Can you believe it! Can you believe he's here?" A smile will replace the bedtime frown and he'll nod his head yes. I'll ask him, "How do you feel about having him home?" He shrugs and says, "Good." "Do you have any questions?" "No." And I believe him.

If only we could accept life as simply as children. Daddy is home. Life is good. Terry and I complicate it. Ok fine, I complicate it. He's home and I'm like up and down. More up days than down as time goes on. But it's like I have this unglossy view on life now. It doesn't make sense and we have only so much control over it. It's made me sad.

But today we had one of those days that ended up being so great for no particular reason. We spent the first half getting ready for our trip to NYC to visit family. Then we decided to go see Barnyard: The Original Party Animals (I must write something about this movie, it was way too intense for kids and not quite funny enough for adults). After the bizarre movie, we walked outside to a party! Not for us, but to a weekly music event that's been taking place (unbeknownst to me) at a local shopping plaza. It was funky, salsa, swing, rock music. Perfect for a warm summer evening. People were relaxing in camping chairs all over the courtyard, young adults, old couples, parents and young kids were all dancing up front by the band and we were just swept up in the energy. Terry had to grab some ice cream and Gabe, not the dancer, went with him. But Asher! He danced right there on the sidewalk until they came out with sugar cones stacked with vanilla ice cream. He grabbed his cone and just kept on shakin' his booty. People started watching HIM instead of the band! Anyway, we slowly moved up to the dancing floor and danced as a family until the band ended their set.

Finally, no drama, no stress, no anxiety, we were just an American family soaking up a summer evening...

Friday, August 11, 2006

Reuniting Part III

Since that moment it’s been a rollercoaster of emotions. I’m so glad that I made the trek out there (though coming home I was EXHAUSTED). It was worth every penny. A MasterCard commercial is in there somewhere.

Now to the boys' reunion.

I returned home two days before he did, picked up the boys and decorated the house, the car and stocked the fridge. (Beer, meat and fresh vegetables.)
I didn’t think I would cry when he saw Gabe and Asher, I’d had my moment already. But as the passengers began to stroll off the plane and I hurried the boys into unrolling their banner and waving their flags, the butterflies reappeared.

His face lit up when he saw them. Asher was smiling from ear to ear and I was so glad that he recognized him, unlike leave when Asher took a few hours to warm up to him. Gabe watched Terry with a sense of awe. I think I'll let the pictures tell the rest of the story.

And I cried again.

I snapped photos and let them have their moment. It was beautiful.
It's the end of the deployment, but the beginning of a new life in a lot of ways. We have the adventure of working with the Veteran’s Administration, counseling, a civilian job to go back to, etc.

He is different. I am almost afraid of how he will react to being in a sterile office and a suit and tie after living in ACU’s in the desert for so long. He said he feels naked without his weapon. He has urges to run people off the road in our Durango, which he looks at with a bit of disgust for its gas guzzling characteristics and his resolve that the U.S. needs to get off oil. He’ll stare off into the distance and I wonder what he’s thinking about. I’ll catch him following me with his eyes. At first I asked, “What?” and he would just shake his head and say, “It’s just good to be with you again.” Now, I'll smile and go on with what I’m doing.

I am different. I’m a psychotic control freak about the house. God save him if he leaves the washcloth waded up in the bathroom or puts his shoes in the closet instead of by the coat rack. I stiffen when he tells me to do anything a certain way. “I’ve been alone for 15 months, I can handle it,” I’ll say. I don’t mean to be rude, but there is a mixture of anger that he left us for so long and pride that I can take care of a broken down car, a clogged garbage disposal or giant man-eating grasshoppers.
I call my neighbor. Kidding!

Seriously though, things are different. Everyone, and I mean EVERYONE, has told me that it takes 6 months to a year to get things back to "normal,"whatever that means anymore. (People offer the same amount of unsolicited advice about reuniting from a deployment as they do to a first time mom. )
Thanks for reading my rants, raves and random thoughts about deployment life. I hope you’ll keep reading as I keep writing, 'cause I already have some good post-deployment stories to tell.

I could not finish these thoughts without saying there were others in forefront of my mind. Heidi, since I know you read my blog, I'll just say that you are one of them, and Holly, you too. I thought of you both. I will never forget that you did not get the homecoming you dreamed about and probably dream of still. Though we've only had the privelege of knowing them through your shared memories, our family will never forget Sean or Tom or the rest of our soldiers. And I hope anyone who happens to stumble on my little piece of the Internet will thank EVERY single person they ever cross paths with, who has volunteered to defend the U.S. As I've said before, it's not about Iraq. We don't get paid much for what we're asked to do, but we do it anyway. The least we can do for those taken from us is speak their names and share their lives with others.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Reuniting Part II

I arrive two days before he does and I’m telling you it was like a mini vacation not having any responsibilities for two whole days. I read a new book (20 Times a Lady.) I went to a movie. I had lunch with a friend. I shopped. I slept aaalllll night long. It was awesome!

The day before they arrived my battle buddy Shannon and I sat at Arby’s and talked about what it would be like to see our husbands again. She had been there for previous lifts and gave me a detailed account of how they would come in and how different families reacted to see their soldier for the first time. I started to tear up. Then she started to cry. I cried, “Stop, stop! I’m going to start crying.” All the while an angelic two-year-old girl was sitting in the booth next to us with her family. She couldn’t help playing peek-a-boo with us during our conversation and her mother kept apologizing for the interruption. Shannon laughed, “It’s ok, we’re crying happy tears,” and told them that our soldiers were coming home the next day. They gave congratulations all around.

So the big day arrives. We decided we needed something to calm the nerves so Shannon sought out the only bottle of champagne in this small town. It was terrible! (It cost three dollars, ok?) But just what we needed…We toasted in the parking lot and I actually think I got a little bit sick trying to drown the butterflies in my stomach.

Finally, we go outside and wait for the buses to arrive. There are six. Six white school buses carrying almost 300 of the last soldiers in our division to come home. As they pull up I seriously think I am going to have a heart attack.

He doesn’t know I’m here so he won’t be looking for me. We’re all screaming and clapping and waving flags and signs…they start getting off the buses and we’re standing there just waiting for them to come to us. I literally blurt out, “Screw this!” and start running (in heels) from bus to bus hollering, "Capt R!? Where’s Capt. R!?”

I get pointed in a couple of wrong directions and suddenly someone yells, “He’s behind you!” I spin around and before I can even blink he hoisted me up into his arms and I cry for a good minute.

I could tell he wanted to lose it. He wanted to cry all the tears he didn’t for the past year; for the soldiers (Iraqi and American) who were killed, for living in the suckiest of suck, for the time he missed with us, and the relief that it was finally over - but he didn't.

More pictures:

Kissing American Ground when they landed at the airport.

Trying on his gear

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Reuniting Part I

I wrote this out and it was three pages long. So I’m breaking it up into days in hopes that you will read every word. :)

Reuniting after a 15-month deployment ranks up there with the birth of my children. It was better than my wedding day, to be perfectly honest.

The families were discouraged from traveling all the way to the place they de-mobed. It's in the middle of nowhere, hot as heck, and expensive to get the entire family out there for the 5-7 day process of making sure your soldier isn't crazy and that the Army gets the bills for all their medical issues.

Terry is not crazy but he is profoundly changed, mostly by what he saw and his living conditions.

The Army is responsible for his terrible hearing and constant headaches. Wait. Scratch that. The bottom feeding terrorists who put the IED in the path of his convoy is responsible, but the Army has to pay for the damage. His hearing is so bad in one ear he couldn't join the Army if he wanted to enlist today. He looks like an old man, cupping his hand to his right ear, squinting his eyes and saying, "What was that?"

But I digress. Back to the week - being the fiscally prudent person that I am, I put emotions aside and decided to wait for him at his home station (remember, we're a Reserve family so our soldiers are literally from all over the country). But at the last FRG teleconference we got the details on how they would arrive, where they would go and where the families who chose to attend would meet their soldiers for the first time - and I just couldn't stay home! I'm never one to miss a party and this was going to be ten times that. I decided I was going no matter what - and I was going to surprise him.

I called a friend who lives about three hours north of me and she agreed to take the boys. I booked a flight that night, reserved a hotel and a rental car and in the back of my mind I knew the Army would be true to form and change their arrival date. By that time it was into the wee hours of the morning. It was rash and unlike me to make plans spawned from a million emotions, but the vision of his surprised face and me jumping into his arms was irresistible.

And about two days later I began to panic. Rumors started flying.

"They're coming home on the 1st."

"No, the 31st."

"They'll be in Kuwait on the 31st but they could be there for four days."

"Santa Claus is flying them home."

Arrgggh! Who to believe? What to do? I agonized about whether to change my flights, hotels, cars, waxing appointments, etc. I asked a friend who flies for an airline that transports troops to HELP me. He was going to BE in Kuwait on the 28th, the rumored day that Terry would depart for the U.S. He called a friend to find out if they had flights going out that day. They didn't. I called one of the commander's on his cell phone (one of ten calls in a week) to dig for any morsel of information on when Terry would be in. He couldn't be sure either. Sigh.

Feeling stressed I go home and check my email. Terry wrote:

somebody wants us out of country. I am leaving XYZ tonight
(usually takes two days to get a flight) and they say we will be leaving Kuwait
tomorrow night...Conspiracy theories are running wild, they want to keep us from
hitting the 1 year on ground mark (makes us a little more deployable) I think
they are just trying to save money.



Yes!!!! I scramble to bump all my plans up four days, pack for me and the boys and grab my neighbor to watch my house while I'm gone - and I'm off. After about three hours of sleep that night I catch my flight to surprise Terry.

I overlooked one teensy, weensy detail - how to explain why I’m not home. He called while I was at the airport getting ready to board my flight. I lie my ass off as to why he can't talk to the boys and where the hell I am.

Told him I was going to see the shrink and the boys were going to daycare. Lies. All lies.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Our Hero is Home


This was at their demob site, I surprised him there! He'll be HOME home tomorrow and see the boys...
Complete details in future post, but wanted to share the news asap!!!!