Friday, October 27, 2006

Not a soldier, not yet a civilian

We are a reserve family. I feel that now more than ever. At an FRG roundtable today, I felt almost like an intruder. All our soldiers are home, most are back to work. Of course I know that life is not normal for all of them. If our family's experience is anything like theirs, it is a daily battle to keep “Iraq” at bay in our minds and our hearts. Post traumatic stress is a very real thing. We say it so much sometimes I think it loses it's impact. I don't have to stretch my imagination very far to see how someone could be completely immobilized by it, nor do I wonder why servicemen and women who see horrifying things bury the thoughts so deep that they don't think they need help. It sucks. You feel "weak." Who wants to feel depressed and scared all the time? At least, that's what I've heard.

So, we are a reserve family. I got caught up in having a husband deployed and so claiming my rights as an active duty family, which was fair then, but daily life as a reservist not on active duty really doesn't deal with the military that much. Well, MY daily life doesn't, or didn't, time will tell how it is from now on. He still has responsibilities that are not limited to one weekend a month.

You know what really made me realize just how different my experience is? CBS’s show The Unit. On the last episode one woman rallied her FRG to help other women who didn't have money for food because the Army didn't pay their soldier. I was like, "What?!" (Oh, that and the FRG leader asking each woman who spoke, what her name and her husband's rank was. WTF? I have never seen that happen. Reserves. My husband may outrank someone in the Army who could be his boss in the civilian world!)

Now, the Army has definitely screwed up our pay (how 'bout those mysterious "debt" payments?) but we don't depend on it like active duty families do. It pretty much covers the car payment, insurance and some change. Incidentally, one of the many wonderful things we've experienced with him going back to his civilian job, including not getting a promotion and office squatters, is missing a paycheck. I was freaking out. I was like, "Honey, haven't you been working for three weeks? Why haven't we been paid?" So I can see how your only employer not paying you is monumentally different than a drill check not coming through on time.

One more example. Today, still being on transitional benefits, I go to the post pharmacy to fill two new prescriptions, which is not as simple as going to your local grocer. I have to check in with the three Vogons, who enter prescription orders. Why it takes three when there is only one line and one computer, I don't know. I hand them my ID card, which is totally different from active duty dependents cards so before they smugly turn me away I say, "I'm on TAMP." Vogon 1 has no idea what it is so she says, "What!?" as if I just asked her to drop and give me ten. "Temporary coverage. My husband just came off orders."
"Oh. I'll have to look you up."
She grabs the card from my hand and, at which point I start having flashbacks to my local pharmacy (hm. Maybe civilian life isn't so different after all), she asks, "What are you getting filled?"
I stare at her for a minute to see if she's serious, and seeing that she is I ask, "You want me to divulge my personal medical information to you?"
She stares back at me.
Vogon 2 says, "We're not just people sitting here, we're pharmacy technicians."
Meanwhile, Vogon 3 is tsk, tsking Asher for sucking on the counter. He's just the right height to open his mouth and suck on the edge. I know. Gross. This time I agree with her and I tell him to stop. I acquiesce and hand Vogon 1 the prescriptions.
When I pick them up, one was entered wrong. She tried to kill me that Vogon witch! I wanted to go back and say something to her. If I hadn't asked how to take the pills, I would have read the label and taken about five more pills than I needed. Yeah. Not cool.

Anyway, I have a much clearer picture of how different we are then the active duty, despite a 15-month deployment. I guess it takes longer than that to really know the military life. But I have moved five times in the last 8 years…

Thursday, October 19, 2006

i luv u

Is emailing life changing information to friends and family a recent phenomenon, or is it just my friends and family?

I’m not talking about tackiness as seen in the Radio Shack mass firing I’m talking about the sharing of emotional news here, people. Heart to hearts. Remember those? It’s when human contact with someone that does not require QWERTY makes your heart flutter, eyes well up, or the tummy go flip flop. Think hard, blogging has a way of sucking it out of all of us. I know because whenever I uncoil myself from the office chair and, when the circulation returns to my legs, am drawn to the light in the living room my husband says my eyes look a little glazed, and I try to remember who he is.

(Funny how staring into the glazed eyes of their female partner stirs men’s “emotions” below the waist more than clear eyes do. )

Anyway, I'm not passing judgment or anything, but I am saying: You’re lazy.

Ok, ok, I confess I have e-moted too. Let's just agree that the blogosphere is one big dumping ground of emotions so we've all done it. But to be specific, I'm sure that I emailed news about Terry's crappy experiences in Iraq because I didn't want to make 30 phone calls and it wasn't like he was severely physically injured. It was like, "Oh, hey, thought you should know he was in an IED, but he's fine."

Crap that sounds terrible, but I'm going to share something with you, my dear bloggers, that will demonstrate just how out of control e-moting is. Pick which piece of news I have learned about friends/family via electronic communication:

a) "He cheated on me"
b) "I have cancer"
c) "I'm getting married."
d) "I'm divorced"
e) "I'm eating lunch at Panera Bread"
f) Everything but E

I'll give you a minute to think about your answer.

YES! YES! All of those but E!!! I have learned life-changing news about people I dearly love VIA EMAIL!!! While I understand why, since I don't want to make a thousand phone calls either, I'm also vain enough to think everyone is thinking about me all the time and is like, "Oh my gosh, I HAVE to tell Monique this" (and, btw, if you have a blog you ARE that person too) and so I expect people to pick up that little device with buttons on it called numbers and CALL about anything having to do with babies, babies’ mommas, babies’ daddies, anything you found out through a blood test, a urine sample, or a private detective.

Now, one could make an argument for letter writing instead of emailing too, but then we are on a downward spiral towards a chisel and stone all in the name of love or nostalgia. In our familially (is that a word?) decentralized world the telephone is still the best way to say, "I love you and want to talk to you, but I'm broke so I can't actually be there to share this news in person."

Besides, don’t people want a reaction when sharing important news? If I were to call with the sound bites I listed earlier, this is the reaction I would want:
a) "What a bastard. I’ll have him killed.”
b) "Oh my gosh you must be scared. When can I come see you?"
c) “Congratulations! Are you having an open bar at the wedding?"
d) "He never deserved you and will never find anyone as good as you.”
e) "I'll meet you there at 12"

Call me with this news people. CAAAAAALLL! Or one day you’re going to get an email from me from the grave and then you won’t be able to yell at me about it.

Huh. Now that I think about it that could be a very lucrative business.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Happy Birthday to Me

The more I blog, the more narcissistic I become. Good lord...oh well, here's to my last year as a 20 something. I now have one year to write a book and run a marathon. HAHAHAHAHAHAHA Maybe it's time to set goals for 35.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Conference photos

Here are some photos from my conference where we had the privilege of hearing Dr. Randal Pinkett, winner of The Apprentice speak. Of course, you can see my head got cut off!

Our other speaker was Rajiv Vinnakota, co-founder and managing director of The Seed Foundation.

Two different, but equally inspiring people.

And I just wanna say that I love Navy Boys.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Generation All that and a Bag of Chips

I went to my first non-military function last weekend. It was refreshing, but I felt so out of place as a stay-at-home mom and wife to an OIF vet. I was with 500 students who had just been awarded the scholarship that I am now an alum of. I was one of 20 alum invited to "mentor" these new students. I swear I laughed after the hundredth ambitious, yet doe-eyed 18-year-old girl sing-songed to me, "Well, I'm studying astrophysics, Spanish, and Mayan influence on modern technology. I play the harp, I'm captain of my crew team, and in my free time I like to find factual errors in encyclopedias." I was clutching my stomach laughing, "You want me to mentor THEM? Can they mentor ME?" Who the hell are these freaks and was I ever one of them? HAHAHAHAHAHA. Hmm.

But it was my fellow alumni who really freaked me out. Every time a new speaker presented or alum arrived late we had to go around and state our name, rank and serial number. The, "What are you doing now [that we gave you 90k in free education]?" question made me sweat more than anything else. I think I usually had to follow the guy who was an M.D./Ph.D student studying diabetes' affect on the liver at MIT , so it was always fun to watch peoples' impressed smiles turn to me while I locked my legs around my chair to keep me from bolting from the room and offered many creative answers like:

"I'm a freelancer" (no skill offered)
"I'm a full-time volunteer"
"I'm a stay at home mom"
and my personal fave
"I'm on a sabbatical from work."

I did mention once that my husband had returned home from Iraq but that elicited too many blank stares as to what that had to do with what I was "doing" now. Well, to be fair, a few people did thank him for his service. And then gave blank stares. I had to hold myself back from getting on my soapbox about how much families have sacrificed in this war.

I couldn't even relate to the lone other mother who happened to hold the same graduate degree as myself and is married to a sailor who served in Iraq. No offense to the Navy, but when she told me he spent six months on a boat, I smiled and mentally checked out of the conversation. Just not much to relate to, which was confirmed when during a night of drinking/unveiling of true personalities, she said she wasn't one of those wives who stood on the dock saying how proud she was to serve her country as the spouse of a serviceman. She confessed she would be standing in front of a news camera where they would have to bleep out every other one of her words. I responded, verbatim, "I'm one of those wives who say how proud I am." At which point the conversation ended to the sound of crickets and someone ordered another round of drinks.

I am different from this year. I still feel like a military family, but we're "bastardized" as my husband put it, from many post activities since we are no longer active duty so I don't fit in there either. I hope in time I will retain my loyalty to the active Army family, but feel more like a civilian.

Nevertheless I had a wonderful time and was truly inspired by the upcoming generation of scholars. They are incredible and will make a difference in this world I have no doubt. And to end on a good note here were some other highlights:

  • I met Dr. Randal Pinkett, winner of The Apprentice, season 5. That was cool. Pics later. I asked him why he didn't want to share his win with Rebecca, the other finalist. He got on HIS soapbox and told me why. Everyone got a kick out of watching him get excited (he was laughing, but serious too). She didn't raise any money for her charity and he raised 50k, plus he won all his challenges, so he was insulted that Trump would ask him to share the win.
  • I met a student whose dad served in Iraq as a reservist. He handled IEDs. As a civilian he is a bus driver. That really moved me, man. Talk about a citizen warrior...
  • We stayed in a kick ass hotel.
  • My room had crickets and we had to switch at 1am.
  • I ate the best food of my life
  • I met people who inspire and challenge me. I'm sure one of them will be president one day, when I will humbly take pride in my association with them.