An Army Wife's Life

Once upon a time I was a college student, then I was a teacher, and now I'm a mother. Technically, I'm currently a freelance writer... but really I am an ARMY WIFE. Expect to find... funny (at least to me) anecdotes, thoughts about la vida military, hopes, anxieties, dreams, commentaries on current events.

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Finally Lost It

Well, it was bound to happen...but I finally had a good old fashioned cry. Of all the silly things, it was a Charmed episode that did me in.

I would never admit this offline--I just want to be honest in case I can help anyone who is going or is about to go through the same thing.

And don't worry...I'm fine now. I just needed to get it out.

Sometimes I cry more readily about fictional events that strike a chord with me than about events in real life. I guess in real life I always put things in perspective but with fiction, the sad situation is designed to be viewed as tragedy. Because it is not real, it gets under my radar and then pow.

I think when you read the script, you'll see why it got to me.

If you do not follow Charmed, Piper is one of the main characters. She is a witch and Leo is her a white lighter...a person who did so much good in his life that when he died he was called to help guide those with good magic. They fell in love, which was completely taboo, but they were finally allowed to marry and they had a son. In this episode, Leo is receiving a new calling: to be an elder. As an elder, he would no longer be able to live on earth with his family.

PIPER: You asked me to marry you, and I did. You wanted a family and I gave you a son. And now you want me to just watch you just walk away?

LEO: It's not that simple.

PIPER: Then make it simple, because I'm trying really hard to understand.

LEO: Piper, if I had a choice in any of this, I would choose you. I always have.

PIPER: Then choose me now ... and let's go home.(PIPER holds out her hand and waits for LEO to take it. LEO glances down at her hand.)

LEO: Don't you think I want to?

PIPER: I don't know. And that's what scares me the most.(PIPER looks down. LEO grasps both of PIPER'S hands with his.)

LEO: (earnestly) The Elders were wrong about us. They didn't think our love could survive, but it did. Our love blessed us in ways they couldn't even imagine. (PIPER looks at LEO.) It gave you the strength that you needed to take over for Prue. It produced a baby with a greater future than any of us. And it made me ... (He falters.)

PIPER: ... An Elder.

LEO: Our love is transcendent, Piper. It lifted me up so high that this was the only possible result. Being an Elder wasn't my destiny, but yet here I am because of you.

PIPER: (shakes her head) I can't just give up. I don't know how.(PIPER starts to cry.)

LEO: You can't fight this ... not this.(She sobs and the powers of the gods leaves her. It rises out from her and heads back to the urn behind the closed cabinet doors.)(PIPER is no longer dressed in Greek garb, but once again back in her dress from the outing earlier that day.)

PIPER: How am I supposed to do this alone?

LEO: You have your sisters.

PIPER: It's not the same.(PIPER looks down.) Will I ever see you again?

LEO: I don't know. I'll always be watching over you.

PIPER: But you won't be there for Wyatt. You're gonna miss so much.

LEO: I will never leave Wyatt's side. He will always feel my presence. It's not the same as human love. He needs you for that.

PIPER: (sighs) He's got me. And I hope that that's enough. (She starts to cry again.) But what if it's not?

LEO: As an Elder, I have the power to take your pain away.

PIPER: You can't make me forget you.

LEO: No. Help you find peace.

CARE Package Theme

UPDATE: I'm putting this post on top because I'd really like some votes, people! Thanks! ;-)

There are some great sites out there with Care Package Themes. Here are some more CARE Package ideas that I've come up with.

As an FRG, we've already sent out the cookies and we are getting a combo Movie/Game Night package ready. "Work it Out" was DH's idea.

Let me know which ones you like the best and if you have other items you'd add to these packages or additional themes your soldier has enjoyed!

1. Work It Out!: sneaker balls; deodorant; gatorade powder; hydroxycut; power bars; cheap headphones; cheap tape players; workout CDs/Tapes; white gym socks (no logo)

2. Cookie Mania: everyone bakes a batch and we vacuum seal them

3. Night at the Movies: Inexpensive or pre-viewed DVD movies; stovetop popcorn; individual size movie-candy packs; entertainment magazines (like Rolling Stone); add favorite movie quotes to a poster; take pics of kids/do DVD recording with star shape in background and with sunglasses

4. Game Night: Poker Chips; Board Games; Packs of Cards; handheld games and puzzles; nut mix; snack packs

5. Texas Misses Y'all (adjust for your own state): Buy a stack of Texas postcards for people to fillout at the meeting (for their own and other soldiers); include pictures of favorite area spots; pralines or pecan cookies or muffins; Texas pens; Texas stationery; Longhorn stuff; anything useful with a Texas theme; hot sauce; BBQ sauce

6. Breakfast in Bed: Breakfast Bars, Individual Cereal Snack Packs, Powdered Juice Mix, Coffee, hot/cold mugs (saw them for $1 at Walmart), muffins; powdered creamer; instant oatmeal; poptarts

Upcoming Seasonal:

7. Winter Wonderland (may not translate around here ;-) ): hot cocoa mix; cider mix; winter cookies; have older kids/parents make and sign paper snowflakes and paste to construction paper; chapstick; hot/cold mugs (saw them for $1 at Walmart); marshmallows

8. Luck O' the Irish: make a "kiss me I'm Irish" poster with shamrocks and kisses; send hershey kisses if still cool enough out; goodluck charms; St. Patrick's themed cookies

9. Take Me Out to the Ball Game: Cracker Jacks; Peanuts; Sports Illustrated Magazine and other sports magazines; sports highlights DVDs; gum with basball cards; Nerf Balls; beef jerky; favorite team pennants

10. Are You Ready for Some Football?: Highlights DVDs, Sports Magazines, Team Pennants; Regulation and Nerf Footballs; pretzels and chips and salsa; posters of cheerleaders

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Monday, January 30, 2006


After a mini-soap opera, we have a new Battalion-level FRG leader. As a result, I know get every e-mail (usually about 10 a day) from her, my Battery-level FRG leader, our Brigade FRG Assistant, and, if it is a real banner day, from my Brigade-level FRG leader.

Recently I changed my e-mail address, with the result that everyone but my Battery level leader sends some of these e-mails go to my old address, some to my new address, and some to both.

Occasionally, e-mails I would actually like to receive do not arrive in either inbox.

We have a member who is handicapped. We have been trying to find a meeting space that will accomodate our Battalion FRG that is also handicap accessible. This took us a month--every place is either closed, closes at night, or charges.

We have a Brigade FRG Assistant, but no one can tell us what she is or is not allowed to do for us.

Although this is the family/civilian side, this is just symptomatic of the larger Army beaurocracy from the tales I hear told. Some tasks are done and re-done by five people, others seem to have no person responsible. Trying to get an answer to any question in a reliable manner is near impossible.

...and yet it moves!

I've been to the sausage factory and I've seen how the stuff is made. It turns your stomach, but somehow it ultimately does work. Thank goodness it does.

Really, the Army has just reaffirmed my belief that government's role should be as limited as possible.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Just the Blues, Not the Mean Reds

Now that DH and I have told all of our friends, I think I am feeling DH's absence a little more. Maybe it is because I would love to share all the excitement and joy with him. Maybe it is because we had this little secret (although our immediate family and some of our local military friends knew) and now it is no longer just ours.

Spreading the word was a lot of fun, though, and makes up for whatever has been lost.

As the word gets around, we are receiving tons of responses from our friends and extended family.

DH has now been gone for a little over seven weeks. Although I miss him a lot I am still feeling very upbeat in general. Today, though, with cloudy weather, no where special to be, and just a whole lot of work and cleaning to acomplish, I must admit I am feeling a little blah. Not a lot, just a little. Certainly not the Mean Reds...not really even the Blues...maybe just some lower case, robin's egg color blues.

I think sometimes it is easy to just go and go and as soon as you slow down, it all hits you--like when you injure yourself but all of the adrenaline keeps the soreness away until the next morning.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

First Real Prenatal Exam

My exam went real well. My midwife is awesome. The baby's heartbeat was strong and audible. I checked out great.

The midwife even said I had a strong, well...since there are men reading I will not say what...but the ladies know the part that helps keep the baby in place until baby is ready to be born. It rhymes with a Gaul of comic fame.

I spent the next several hours calling my closest friends. All were surprised and ecstatic. I told DH it was Operation Shock and Joy. For most of my friends, we're the first. I have one younger friend who has two already, but for those who do not know her, this is a big novelty. They all wanted to know if they could do anything, how I was feeling, whether I had an morning sickness, were we trying to conceive, and then finally they all started to attempt to calculate the conception date.

Perhaps they wanted to know if we were hanging out with them, possibly when we were couch surfing at there place, around the time we conceived?

One friend responded, "So that would be Yale class of 2027, right?"

I thought that was cute.

One of my friends was distant though. She's been that way the last few times we've spoken. She's usually so direct and I cannot think of anything I have done to upset her, so I just have shrugged it off. The only thing I can think of is that when we visit the area, we send out e-mails to everyone. I have been worried our friends may feel like we expect them to just drop everything to see us. That is not the case, it is just that the military gives us such poor notice, that we do not know leave dates until the last minute. If she's cold next time I am home on a visit, I will ask her if anything is wrong.

That was the one sour note. Other than that, it was an exhausting, but happy phone marathon.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Award Winning Army Wife

One of the things I like about blogging is I can brag about myself in a way I would never do in person. In fact, I HAVE to. It is my obligation as a blogger.

On Friday I received a phone call, "Are you planning to attend the volunteer awards ceremony?"


Well, I didn't get my invitation but it turns out I had been selected as a volunteer of the month for our Brigade.

After that, I get two more calls to see if I had received an invitation or been called. Typical Army.

I've received company-level awards before and I figured this would be about the same. So, I show up, expecting a simple ceremony for our Brigade, with maybe 10 to 20 people. Nope.

This was for the ENTIRE DIVISION, three volunteer awardees from each Brigade, AND three Purple Heart recipients. I felt pretty darn silly getting an award as part of the same ceremony for Purple Heart recipients--they are the ones who deserve all of the accolades.

I received a FRAMED certificate from the Division's "First Lady" (the commanding general's wife) and a little "medal" with the Division's symbol. There were photographers and CAMERA crews. Eek.

Then, tonight I went to a Junior League meeting. After I went made my announcements, they told me to stay at the podium. One of my fellow Junior Leaguers also has a husband in the Division and had come to support a friend of hers who was getting the same award. She told on me and announced my award to the whole meeting.


That was so sweet of her.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Mmm Mmm Good - Cookie Update

For those who were anxiously awaiting news about the great vacuum packing cookie experiment--the vacuum sealer works perfectly. DH says the cookies were still soft.

So, if you were considering one, I recommend going for it. Definitely worth the money for me!

Friday, January 20, 2006

Good News: Recruiters Meeting Goals

Army Times is reporting that Army Recruiters (AD, NG, and Reserves) met their goals for December (which are usually set low) and are looking good for January.

I wonder if we'll see a headline in the MSM anytime soon:

Army Recruiters Meeting Goals; Enlistees Continue to Support Army Mission

Not holding my breath, mind you.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Hearts and Minds -- DH's Updates

DH has continued to send regular updates from in Theater, which I dutifully pass on to friends and family. I will not share them in their entirety for OPSEC reasons, but I would like to share the jist of them with you.

DH and the other troops seem to be very upbeat and morale is high. These men believe in their mission:

While we rely heavily upon our veterans' experience, this tour (OIF IV) is very different in tone than the first three. "Hearts and minds" is our mantra -- without the willingness of the Iraqi people to take over where we leave off, our mission here will fail.

From the tone of DH's updates, I can tell you he believes in the importance of what he is doing.

In his updates, DH often notes that the insurgency seems to be focusing on the Iraqi Army and Police, which leads me to believe that the Iraqis are really taking charge of their own security--and the terrorists know this.

One of the aspects of DH's work that amazes me is the constant presence of weapons, fire, and blasts. Coming from the Northeast, neither of us is particularly accustomed to any sort of public display of weaponry, but I think the omnipresent Iraqi AK-47s would shock even the most hardcore member of the NRA:

When we are on our FOB, the chattering of AK-47s always lingers on the edge of our consciousness. The sound has become so familiar that we have to concentrate very hard just to distinguish it. Iraqi Policemen direct traffic with gunfire; insurgents take potshots at patrols. When we are on a mission, shots whistling overhead are background noise. We are starting to distinguish between the different types of explosion in our area of operations: a clean but muted burst is probably a controlled detonation of a suspected IED; a growling boom with lots of reverberations is likely a car bomb.

DH has been on a number of interesting missions, including a U.S. official visit to an Iraqi juvenile prison. The conditions he describes are heartbreaking, but at least our officials are trying to help the Iraqis fix the problems.

Well, DH is certainly no "fobbit" (one who seldom leaves the Foward Operating Base, or FOB)...he has been on many, many missions.

Although I think about his safety constantly, I am VERY happy with his platoon sergeant. This guy blows a bit of smoke, but when it comes to his job he is real high speed. When I first met him, he told me he was going to take care of my husband. Then, right before they deployed, he suddenly became DH's platoon sergeant. I think he engineered that.

My concern right now is that DH is getting enough sleep, especially now that the internet in his room is connected.

Funny side story--the FRG leader passed on a message from the commander for me to include in our newsletter. Apparently these room connections are not secure and the men need to be careful, of course, for OPSEC reasons...but we need to warn the wives that they should not send photographs (of the Desperate American Housewife type) they do not want sold on the Iraqi market.

Not that I was planning on e-mailing DH those types of pics, anyway! The most daring pics I'm sending are some pictures of my baby bump.

Thank you all for letting me share some of these thoughts! Please continue to support our troops!

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Mailing the Comforts of Home

The other day I mailed a priority envelope from the post office affiliate on post. They told me because it was under one pound, I did not need a customs form. I asked if they were sure and they said absolutely.

Today I mailed out a priority envelope from the post office in town, and they said I need a customs form.

GREAT. So, the contents of the envelopes that may or may not arrive are just some magazines, pillow cases, and DVDs.

DH packed his sheets in a tuff box that did not arrive for a couple of weeks after him--and (UGH!) did you see that mattress? Well, I guess he forgot pillow cases. If they do not arrive soon, I'll have to go buy some and send them out.

For those looking for care package items for less forthcoming soldiers, DH is now asking for beef jerky, individually wrapped granola bars, and fig newtons. He said he is on the go and it is tough to sit for a meal.

Another big hit was the corkboard. DH asked for a large corkboard and I found corkboard squares at Walmart that fit into normal priority boxes and can be assembled into one large corkboard. Dh says that corkboards cost big bucks where he is and that the squares were perfect.

An update about DH's work (to the extent I can share it) will be coming soon.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Good News - Soldiers Detain Suspected Terrorists

Soldiers Detain Suspected Terrorists, Secure Enemy Weapons Caches

WASHINGTON, Jan. 13, 2006 – Coalition forces in Iraq yesterday found and destroyed weapons caches, detained terrorist suspects, and recovered the remains of a terrorist bomber who inadvertently killed himself, U.S. military officials there reported.

These terrorists were trying to hit guys in our division. No troops injured, terrorists caught, and a weapons cache captured.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

First FRG Deployment Meeting

Tonight was our first FRG meeting since the deployment began. We decided to hold Battalion-level meetings because (1) we were not getting enough people at our Battery-level meetings AND (2) two of the Batteries did not have FRG leaders until recently (the commanders' wives were unable or unwilling to volunteer in that position).

The room was PACKED... and there were about 30 kids.

Finally one of our FRG leaders moved the kids into another room with one adult and we were able to hear the information. We've lost our funding (on the post in general) to have babysitting for these events, so we might try to trade with the other Battalions.

We did potluck and I made pasta salad (which I always get lots of compliments about).

The two FRG leaders who are teaming to run the Battalion FRG put out some useful information.

The Chaplain came to speak. However, he was very negative, very absolute, and very patronizing. He began by saying that we were all unhappy, because we looked unhappy and either he was boring or we were unhappy. Then he proceeded to tell us how we feel, how we should act to "fix this," and what we should not do.

Sorry. I miss my husband, but I am not unhappy.

I know what works for me; I might appreciate your suggestions, but I don't need your mandates.

He also went off on a tangent about how there is no such thing as "falling in love"--that falling in love is just a bio-chemical urge to perpetuate the species.

His REAL point was that real love is an act of will to help someone else, not just infatuation. Now, I don't necessary disagree with his REAL point, but I was really shocked to hear a supposedly spiritual man discount this magical aspect of choosing that one person to whom you will devote your life.

Of course it is real work to keep it going, but one this one person as opposed to this other perfectly decent option?

He may not believe in falling in love, but discounting it entirely is not a good way to appeal to a bunch of women whose husbands are deployed.

When he finished, he mumbled something to our FRG about how we weren't really interested.

I do think that we would be interested in hearing about strategies for coping with separation, especially if they were presented in a more sympathetic and engaging manner.

I really do recognize he was trying to help--and provide us with some of the tools to deal with separation.

Perhaps it is just too difficult for someone who has only deployed, but has never had his spouse deploy, to really understand where we come from. Maybe it is also a very male/female thing. The vast majority of our soldiers are male and so the spouses are female...100% in our Battery.

After that, I spoke about our website, which I administer. I put together a slide show of everyone's deployment photos and showed it at the meeting. Of course, I had to figure out how to work the projector. I'm glad I got the show operational because the wives seemed to enjoy it.

I'm also a Battery FRG co-leader. I also publish the Battery newsletter. A bit too involved?

Finally, we broke into Battery groups and made another canvas banner for our guys to hang up in there FOB and vacuum sealed about 500 cookies to ship in a care package. I really enjoy my new vacuum sealer!

Between the cooking, baking, tutoring in the morning (I volunteer tutor at the local high school), a vet appointment in the afternoon, and the meeting, I...AM...SPENT!

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Mom's Visit to Post

My mom is an East Coast liberal who came of age during Vietnam. She is ambivalent at best about the military, but she has been extremely supportive of me and DH.

Today I took her on post. This is the first time she has ever been on a military installation.

We went to the division museum. I think she really enjoyed seeing all of the old jeeps, tanks, and guns, but I noticed she had a little difficulty with the Vietnam exhibit inside.

There were some really cool old pillows from Ft. Hood's early days--one for mom and one for a "sweetheart." They should make reproductions of the pillows; they were really cute!

Afterwards, I showed her the big P/X and the better commissary.

Overall, she was really impressed with how the post is a city unto itself.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Return to Reality

My mother and I spent a lovely weekend in San Antonio and Austin, visiting the Alamo and eating out and listening to jazz. I got some nice exercise walking along the Riverwalk.

I returned to a more sobering schedule of deadlines, demands, and our first Brigade-level deaths.

Unfortunately, two members of our brigade were killed in action this weekend. I had not heard because I was not watching the news. I found out reading DH's e-mails when I returned home.

My thoughts and prayers are with them and their families, as they are with all of our troops.

I did get to webcam and IM with DH, though, so that was a comfort.

Even though my mom is here, I still have some deadlines to meet. I just finished two more articles and I have a web curriculum project due tomorrow.

Also in my inbox was a series of no fewer than five e-mails from one wife who wanted to be approved for our password protected Battalion website. The Department of the Army has it set up so that each subscription must be manually verified and approved.

I do not mind, because I know that she was anxious to get information, especially living out of town, but sometimes I wonder if people realize that they are talking to volunteers, who are just spouses like them.

Well, this week I will have some FRG activities, so I'll have more Army homefront info to share...I will also share some updates from DH.

First Prenatal Visit

My first prenatal visit was surprising painless after my other ordeals.

You show up and take a number (even if you have an appointment). Luckily, my appointment was early enough that the room had not yet filled.

Then I spoke with a nurse and filled out a ton of paperwork. She set me up with one of the midwives I requested for an appointment in just two weeks.

After that, off to the lab to take another number. Once at the desk, the nurse gave me a cup for a urine sample and another number for the bloodwork.

While there, the alarm started going off, but everyone just stayed put.

Fifteen minutes later, with the alarm still going off, I was called to get my blood drawn.

The technician was super-quick, filling up about five vials of blood.

Then, down to the basement for the nutrition consultant. I was ready for stress because one of my friends was given a hard time for losing a couple of pounds due to her morning sickness (very common) and I heard about another woman who was reduced to tears by a consultant who did not like that she was a vegeterian.

The consultant just asked if I know how to make sure I get all of my nutrients through my vegeterian diet. I said "yes," and was on my way.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Back From a Mission

Dh e-mailed (while I was asleep) to let me know he had been on a series of long missions and was going to hit the gym and then sleep!

I LOVE my man.

Welcome to my rollercoaster.

Just wanted to let you all know...not that I was worried or anything. ;-)

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

I am NOT worried

I am NOT worried.

Just because DH was calling or e-mailing or IM'ing almost every day and now I have not heard from him in the last few days does NOT mean I am worried.


I know too much about how these things work to be worried.

Most definitely NOT worried.

Okay...that's a post tonight from my brain. My heart is temporarily hibernating for its own good.

I know that I will get used to the ups and downs and communication irregularities eventually. Everything is always tougher the first time around! I had a friend who didn't hear from her husband for three weeks when he went on a partiularly dangerous mission. Then I think about our grandmothers (generationally speaking)...who went months without communication during World War II. Their husbands were sometimes gone for years, and the counted themselves lucky to get a letter every month or so.

By the way, vacuuming is EXHAUSTING when you are preggers. Really missing those DH back rubs right now.

Sorry for the randomness of the post. I've been very busy working and prepping for my mom's visit. I may have to take a couple of days break from blogging...or maybe not, we'll see.

When I come back, I may talk politics a little. I am feeling all riled up again.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Found What You Were Looking For?

I love checking out how people got to my page.

Sometimes the searches are very odd--I won't repeat them for fear of drawing more of these people in...but let's just say that I cannot imagine how their search led them here.

Other times, for the more relevant searches, I think, "I could HELP them with that!"

If you came here looking for advice about something that has been part of my experience, feel free to drop me a line...and I'll be happy to tell you what I've learned!

Oh, and I also REALLY LIKE if something interests you, please do leave a comment!

Another Symptom

Well, I finally have another pregnancy symptom to add to the exhaustion and swollenness...a headache that is on the third day of its visit.

According to my books, my hormones are spiking this week, so increased nausea and headaches are likely. Only a tiny bit of nausea (probably from the headache, actually) and still no actual "sickness," but this headache is not a barrel of laughs.

I can't tell if it is from stuffed up sinuses or if it is migraine.

I'm trying to tough it out and avoid the Tylenol as much as possible...but I did take one tablet on Saturday and one yesterday.

Since I don't really have any obligations besides my flexible work schedule...I'm trying to just sleep, steam (just on my face--don't worry), and hydrate it out, rather than subject the baby to too many meds.

I might try a half cup of tea since I do not drink soda or coffee and I haven't had much chocolate lately--the tiny bit of caffeine won't be harmful and it may open things up a little.

If I still have it by tomorrow, though, I am going to go in to walk-in hours and see if everything is normal.

Hopefully it will be gone by the time my mom comes to visit.

A back rub from DH would be heaven right now, but I guess I will survive without.