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My Barbecue Sauce Problem

My Barbecue Sauce Problem

Jul 25, 2014

Summer, once known as a time of outdoor activities and vacations, is now known as PCS season, that dreaded time of year when the Army gives and the Army taketh away. Short for “Permanent Change of Station,” you can rest assured that is is never “Permanent.” Landing somewhere new, making friends, then re-learning to say goodbye is a normal side-effect of Army life. In May, we lost our next-door neighbors to PCS season when they moved to their next duty station. This means I have a barbecue sauce problem. Let me explain. On the night before my neighbors left, we participated in a time-honored moving tradition: The Emptying of the Refrigerator. I was welcomed over to their now-empty house to go shopping in their fridge, and gladly took their frozen goods, including two packs of the good organic hotdogs, bags of shredded cheese, and some cream cheese. My friend encouraged me to also take her Sweet Baby Ray’s BBQ sauce. “It’s so good!” she said. “Really, it’s the best.” But my arms were full and I was starting to feel a little bit greedy, so I said no. Also, I was sad to see my friends go. I hated being in their empty house, already echoing with their absence. They had become family, and I hated to lose them. It started the day we moved in. It was just me, my mom, and the two kids. I had left our home in Louisiana at the last minute, hoping to beat our household goods to Tennessee so they wouldn’t go into storage. Mom met me on the way, flying into an airport on our path to be my road trip partner. My two year old was confused. My youngest, three weeks old, had terrible diaper rash from sitting in the car for two days. We were in a new town, cranky, exhausted, emotional, sitting in a sea of boxes. A knock on the door changed everything. My neighbor brought us a casserole, that time-honored Army wife tradition and staple — but despite a couple years of Army marriage under my belt, I had never had a casserole delivery. We thanked her profusely, said the oh-you-didn’t-have-tos. We closed...

Homecoming is the Beginning

Homecoming is the Beginning

May 5, 2014

Hopefully, this will be our first, last, and only deployment, and therefore our first, last, and only military homecoming ceremony. I tried not to have pre-set notions of what the day would entail, and tried to have a laid-back attitude about the whole affair. True to form, the Army had different plans, and my laid-back attitude was challenged at every interval. We were lucky in that our homecoming was only delayed a couple times, and only by 36 hours. Our Friday night arrival became Saturday morning, then Sunday middle of the night, then Sunday morning. Sunday, Feb. 9, at 3:30 a.m., I got the kids up, bundled, and into the car and made our way to post. Note: Not many people coming on to post at 3:30 in the morning. Our arrival was set for 0600, and the suggestion by the unit was that you arrive at least two hours early. With nightmarish thoughts of my husband arriving early and us not being there to greet him, I dutifully complied. I parked and unloaded children, stroller, supplies, snacks, and then boarded the bus that would take us to the airplane hanger where maybe, in two or three hours, we would get our Soldier back. Bathroom issues with my oldest were a recurring theme of our deployment adventures, and the early wake-up and deviation from routine was no match for the tummy monster. We spent a good bit of time running back and forth from our seats to the “potty.” Since it was early February, I assumed it would be cold in the airplane hanger where the homecoming ceremony was to take place and dressed us all accordingly. Of course, the hanger was more than comfortable, and there was lots of running — to the bathroom, to find a missing toddler. You may call it sweating, I call it glowing in anticipation. We got to watch the plane carrying our Soldiers come in. Well, WE didn’t, because we were in the potty dealing with the aforementioned intestinal issues, but we could hear the roar of the plane landing and made a bee-line to the flight line in time for the three-year-old to see Daddy pass...

On Losing and Embracing Praise

On Losing and Embracing Praise

Jan 29, 2014

A friend nominated me for Military Spouse of the Year. I received my nomination with equal amounts honor and horror.  I have not always embraced the role of military spouse, and I sort of wince when someone includes that in an introduction of me. At best, I was conflicted. But regardless of my reservations, it always feels good to be recognized and I didn’t want to be in last place, so I shared my nomination with others, gathered some votes, and promptly lost. Which was fine. What I hadn’t anticipated, however, was how wonderful it would feel to watch my friends and family, with no prodding from me, campaign on my behalf, share the voting opportunity with their networks, and toot my horn. It’s been a strange winter. The cold for us, like many of you, has been unrelenting due to the polar vortexing. My house has become infested with mice, a result of our property backing up to Kentucky, a state seemingly filled only with rodents. The kids passed around their winter illness for several weeks. Finally, a drunk driver rammed into our day care, rendering me without a place to put my children for one of the busiest work weeks of the year. In the midst of this, we endured the festive holiday season, and it was more difficult than I ever could have imagined. Holidays typically present logistic issues — do we travel? Which family do we visit? Should we stay at home? My husband being deployed made one decision a little easier; the kids and I went to visit my family, complete with an eight hour drive that took 12 thanks to a cold weather front and the entire state of Arkansas being under construction. Somewhere in the middle of the winter holidays, something clicked in my three-year-old. It was as if she suddenly realized that Daddy had been gone for four months, and was beside herself. When we got back home, Daddy’s absence was all we talked about. Temper tantrums were punctuated by bouts of crying, “I can’t do [insert task] because I am missing my Daddy!” One morning, she refused to get out of bed. After some not-so-gentle demanding from me,...

The Single Best Reason to Buy Girl Scout Cookies This Year

The Single Best Reason to Buy Girl Scout Cookies This Year

Dec 16, 2013

Bullies. You know ’em. Maybe it was in middle school, when the popular girls wouldn’t eat lunch with you and made fun of you because you didn’t have the right kind of slouch socks. (*Raises hand.*) Maybe it’s a boss who sabotages or takes credit for your work. Or a relative who constantly puts you down. These jerks harass and intimidate in order to make themselves feel superior; it’s a transparent cry for attention from someone with severe insecurities. The recent trend has been to bully from behind the protection of the computer screen, anonymous and therefore so much more vitriolic. My friend Josh Ackley has become a target of these bullies. Josh works for the Girl Scouts of the USA. He works in their Marketing and Communications Department, making sure girls across the country know that their voices matter. When he got the job, I was very jealous — I am a rabid Girl Scout fan. I attended Camp Wai-Lani in Florida until I was 14. I still have my Brownie sash. Through cross-country moves and divorces, the Girl Scouts was a welcome constant in my young adulthood. My positive experience with the Girl Scouts was one of the reasons I chose to attend Sweet Briar, an all women’s college. I. Love. the Girl Scouts. Josh is also an artist. When he and his friend Derek moved to New York, they formed a band called The Dead Betties. I met Josh when my friend Eric joined, and Josh and I discovered we both had experiences in our early life that gave us a shared philosophy. That was over ten years ago, and we have remained constant friends. Of all the things you could call the music of the Dead Betties, boring is not one of them. When they started out, their strong roots in punk and noise rock were hard to miss. Over time, their sound developed into a much more melodic yet still aggressive tone. All members had day jobs, but poured all their money and sweat equity into the band. The Dead Betties played shows in New York, toured the country, made albums, got signed and filmed videos. They made a point of pushing...

Getting Hard, Avoiding Harder

Getting Hard, Avoiding Harder

Dec 12, 2013

This is hard. My husband has been deployed to Afghanistan for four months and I am treading water, trying every day not to drown. The day after he left, I asked my friend Mary if it was too early to order his homecoming banner. Never one to mince words, she replied, simply, “Yes.” And so it goes; as soon as they leave, we start planning for their return. We ignore the obvious absence in our lives by planning for the come back, the reunion, for homecoming. As for us, we are past our halfway point of this deployment. My plans for self-improvement are in high gear — as in completely abandoned. I have given up on plans to transform our diet (Lunchables for dinner, everyone!). My twice-weekly personal training sessions are barely keeping up with the handfuls of Hershey’s kisses I stuff in my face every night. At this point it’s all about surviving. Outlast, outwit, outplay. Endure. Four down, two to go. And boy do I feel guilty. Because we won the Army deployment lottery. Instead of being gone nine or twelve months, a typical Army deployment, my husband will only be gone for six. I am constantly apologizing for this, in one form or another. Last month, I was at a freezer meal making party. (Seriously. Don’t judge. It was amazing. You know you want one.) The host asked me how far along we were in our deployment. I started by apologizing, my natural reflex, especially when I’m around those who have faced or are currently facing a longer separation. The host, also an Army spouse, sort of chuckled and saved me, commenting about how crazy this life is, where a six month deployment is something to praise your lucky stars for. Indeed. I live in the alternate universe where your loved one being in a war zone for “only” six months is a lucky break, something to be guilty of, something that should be no big deal, because other families are separated for so much longer. But my heart didn’t get the memo. My heart doesn’t feel lucky. The four months behind us have gone by like molasses in winter. That we...

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