Tuesday, November 4, 2008

It's a sign...

I walked into the orthotics office where I was going to be fit for a knee brace, signed in, and sat down in one of the chairs in the waiting room. I picked up an issue of Glamour magazine that was on the side table next to me and started thumbing through the pages, not really paying attention to what I was reading but at the same time being mildly amused by the trivial nature of many of the headlines. I stopped at a spread about an “edgy makeover,” as they called it, and was quite impressed by the transformation the woman had actually made. As you can see above, she started off as a sort of dowdy, tired looking blond with ratty shoulder length hair and deep set eyes, but after an “edgy” bobbed haircut and a little makeup, she literally looked 10 years younger. She looked completely different. I started thinking about what it would be like to cut off most of my hair – I’ve always wanted to donate my hair to Locks for Love to help make wigs for those suffering with cancer, but I’ve never had the guts. I had a traumatic short hair experience as an eight year old when one of my older brother’s friends asked if I was his brother, so I started growing my hair out right then and never looked back.

But today, right when I was thinking about making a big change and going for it, I heard a voice in front of me mumble “never cut bangs into your hair, miss…” I looked up and there was an older man hunched over a walker coming over to sit down a couple chairs away from me. He continued, “I was a surfer back in the sixties and I had hair down to my ankles. Now my son comes over and gives me a buzz cut when I need it.” Well, almost a buzz cut. He still had a little bit of his past with him in the form of the ever so ugly rat-tail trailing down his upper back. But on him, it was actually kind of endearing. “All that hair was just too much work. But your hair… your hair is very nice. It reminds me of the hippies when I was younger.” I thanked him, which I guess he interpreted as an invitation to tell me his life story. When he talked a mouthful of decayed teeth presented themselves to me, and he had some trouble enunciating. His eyes were slightly beady, and it looked as if he had had a stroke that left part of his face paralyzed. If he had been sitting outside on the street I would have thought he was homeless, and although when he first sat down near me I was a little creeped out, as he went on to tell me stories of his surfing days in Hawaii, Australia, Indonesia, and all the way up and down the 101 freeway, I could tell he was just an old man looking for a way to relive his good old glory days by talking to his neighbor in a waiting room.

The doctor opened up the door and called my name. I looked at the old man next to me, wished him luck with his back pain, put the issue of Glamour back on the side table, and went into the hallway. Maybe I won’t cut my hair right now, as I’m sure my husband is ecstatic to hear. Maybe I want to keep looking like a hippie from the sixties until it’s no longer age appropriate. But for some weird reason, I won’t forget the old man with a rich history who had an indescribable look in his eyes when he spoke of catching a 14 foot wave off of the North Shore in O’ahu. I should be so lucky to find something that I am so passionate about that I have that look in my eyes forty years from now.

Monday, October 20, 2008

To Mrs. Ssgt. Mike Hudson

So there I was, sitting at work, wondering when my husband would get online so we could talk on gchat. It was a busy morning but I finally had a window of about thirty minutes when there wasn’t much to be done. Whenever I have those windows of nothingness, it inevitably leads me to think about Aaron, when we’re going to be back together, how excited I am that we only (ONLY!!!) have about four more months left to go without each other. It’s such a wonderful feeling. But then, of course my wonderful feeling kind of turned sour a little bit when my Blackberry buzzed, alerting me to a new email. It was from the blogmaster, whoever he is, letting me know that someone named Mrs. Ssgt. Mike Hudson had left me a comment regarding my most recent post. I had never heard the name before but assumed it was the wife of one of Aaron’s buddies who wanted to see how I was doing or something of that nature. But no, I have found that not many experienced Army wives go out of their way to help or welcome the newbies into their circles. We are left to essentially fend for ourselves if we don’t live on or near a post, finding solace in the occasional Myspace comment from our fellow newbies, but mostly finding refuge in the only person we know who has any inkling of an idea of what is going on in our lives. None of my family and none of my friends (save one whose boyfriend was deployed while we were in college) have ever really known anyone in the military, much less been married to a deployed soldier. So I have confided in Aaron the anguish I have felt over the last 10+ months, not only because he is my husband and that’s what husbands and wives do, but because he has been through this before. He has been deployed before in far worse conditions and knows how to be a great soldier and an amazingly supportive husband at the same time. He can listen to me and help me deal with stressful situations one minute, then turn around and jump into a stryker, leading his soldiers on a successful mission the next minute. Anyways, I’m getting ahead of myself. So this Mrs. Ssgt. Mike Hudson lady, whoever she is, decided to put in her unknown two cents on my post. Here’s what she had to say:

“I was searching for military wives and came across your blog and even if I don't know you I just had to comment! You LIKE your husband worry about you? You don't think it's more important that he worries about STAYING ALIVE?!? It's one thing to vent about having a bad day, but getting pissed off and fighting is a no-no for most military wives for a good reason. We rather keep that to ourselves & vent to each other so we know that our men can focus on coming home to us in one piece. I'm sorry but you seem very naïve and selfish. You need to get your priorities straight or your marriage won't last.”

Well, oh wise one, thank you for your expert marriage advice. Now, I hate it when people turn nothing into drama, and since I’m not one of those people, I’m not going to do it. But I would like to calmly and rationally (AND WITHOUT CAPS AND EXCESSIVE PUNCTUATION TO TRY TO MAKE A POINT!!!!!!) address a few things. Instead of starting with what I did say, let’s start with what I didn’t say, shall we? Maybe I didn’t make myself clear in my previous post. Never once did I say that it’s more important for my husband to worry about me than it is for him to worry about staying alive. That would be ridiculous. I also never insinuated that I enjoy getting pissed off at him and fighting with him. That’s also ridiculous. So. I’m glad that we’ve gotten that cleared up. (By the way, Mrs. Ssgt. Mike Hudson, do you have kids? I can picture you wagging your pointer finger at me, saying “Oh, Sarah, that’s a no-no for most military wives for a good reason,” then doing the “tsk! tsk!” sound with the appropriate sign language… Just asking…)

Now, about that “naïve” thing. Without putting too much of our personal life on blast, my husband and my marriage is very different than a lot of other military marriages. What works for us is not what would work for Jack and Jill’s. What I tried to express in my previous post is that in our marriage, it is important for both of us to feel needed. We have talked about it and we have agreed on it. I know for a fact that my husband will always worry about me, because he knows I’m living alone in a place where I don’t know anybody, and in a place where the closest active base is over two hours away. He knows I don’t have the support system that a lot of Army wives whose husbands are deployed have. I’m not living on a base (but I’m not complaining – I honestly wouldn’t really want to), I’m not living near a base, and I’m not even living near my family.

So, Mrs. Ssgt. Mike Hudson, I’m sorry that it feels good to know that somebody is thinking about me and concerned for my well being. I don’t think (and my husband doesn’t think this either) that a person’s location should change how they feel about their spouse. Am I more scared now that he’s back in the place that almost claimed his life his first time around than I would be if he were safe in bed next to me? God yes. But is our relationship any weaker or at any more risk for failure because he worries about me? I would think it’s the opposite. In the beginning of this awful deployment, our brand new marriage was on the rocks. I would love to blame it on my naïveté, because God knows I was. But it wasn’t all that. It was a mixture of naïveté and weak communication, but over time we have found our groove. We have figured out how to communicate effectively and rationally, which will ultimately be the key to our successful and happy marriage.

I don’t know why someone I’ve never met decided to write negative things about my marriage. Maybe she has some issues within her marriage that she needs to figure out. But whatever the reason, I know that I do have my priorities straight. My first priority is my husband. My second priority is my stepson. My third priority is my immediate family. My fourth priority is myself. My list goes on, but my very last priority – the one way way way down at the very bottom – is being concerned with how other people think of me and my marriage. I have learned that lesson the hard way, but am so glad that I did. Especially people who have nothing nice to say and who only want to stir shit up.

Like it or not, we’re all in this war business together. I am extremely proud to be married to a United States soldier who is fighting for and who has given up so much already for your right to say bitchy things, but I’m not going to conform to the “Army wife” stereotype of being the fake smile and fake happy voice on the other end of the phone if, indeed, I am not happy. Like I said in my previous post, the whole non-disclosure thing may work in some marriages, but it doesn’t work in ours. Easy as that. Nothing more, nothing less.

Mrs. Ssg. Mike Hudson – if you happen across my blog again for some reason (even though from the sound of your comment, you’d rather eat one of those raw pig’s feet I see at the Mexican market down the street than read my blog anymore…), please feel free to comment again or leave me your email address so that we might actually get the chance to get to know each other. I’m not trying to attack you in this post, but I am trying to defend my marriage. From one military wife to another, I’m guessing you’ll understand that.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

I tell him when I'm pissed.

So here’s something that I have been having issues with since I became an Army wife, especially since pretty much the whole time I’ve been an Army wife, my husband has been deployed. When I read about or hear how other wives deal with stress and bad things happening while their husbands are away, I just don’t get it. Everybody says, “No, don’t tell your deployed husband about any bad things. You don’t want him to worry about you – all of his attention needs to be on the mission, and not on you. He’s got it bad enough as it is.” Now, for some marriages, that might work. But for me and mine, that couldn’t be farther from how it needs to be.

I feel like if I were to just put on a happy face no matter how sad or upset I was, our marriage would kind of be a fake for 15 months. As far as I’m aware, Aaron is still the man he was before he deployed, and I am still the woman I was before he left as well. When I’m sad, I need to talk openly to my husband about it. When the truck breaks down and the car gets a flat tire on the same day and I don’t have a ride to the shop so I have to run in the 105 degree weather 2.5 miles to pick up one of the vehicles and I want to vent about it, I’m going to turn to my husband for support. Don’t get me wrong – I know that what he is going through, and the conditions in which he has to slug through every dehydrating day, is far beyond my comprehension. I know that. But I also know that venting to my husband is not just me being selfish. He needs it just as much as I do. He needs to know that life has not continued in the same, easy way it was before he left. He needs to realize that I need him more than he or I really know. And if I have to go through a day that has been made harder because he’s not here to help me, I want him to know it. Not so he feels guilty or worried, but so he feels like he’s still a part of me, and that he’s needed by me. If one of those hard days happen and I brush it all off and tell him everything is fine and that I had no problems, I would be lying to myself, my husband, and our marriage.

I like that my husband worries about me. In the end, I am a pretty self-sufficient and capable woman, but it feels so good to know that the man I am with truly cares about me, because I have never cared about anybody the way I care about him. So, that being said, even though the non-disclosure thing works for some military marriages, it doesn’t fly in ours. And I think we’re okay with that.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Life and Death and Everything Inbetween

The thoughts usually start brewing in my head at around this time at night after not hearing from Aaron by the time I thought I would have. My mind starts to go into overdrive, and I start creating the scene as I would imagine it would happen. I can’t help it either – I don’t know what I’m thinking about until I’m done thinking about it.

There are times, like right now, that I realize he could be gone and I wouldn’t even know it. Since the Army doesn’t have my correct address (as far as I know), I would get a phone call from one of Aaron’s fellow soldiers. It’s not protocol, but times like those are more important than protocol would ever be. So I would get a phone call, I would crumble to the floor, and I wouldn’t know what to do next. My mom would get on the next flight down here, and if there wasn’t one for a while she would jump in her car and drive like a maniac. I know she would. But then what? Over the past 8 plus months, this scenario has gone through my head many, many times, and the endings are always different. In one ending, I shut down and keep going through life as a robot, doing and saying what other people expect me to say, just trying to hold it all together. In another ending, I go to Austin, TX, to where Aaron’s ex-wife and son live, and I sit in their living room with Diego in my arms for hours. In yet another ending, I quit my job, bail on my lease, and make my mom come to a deserted island with me for a few months. But in every single scenario, however different the endings might be, one thing is always the same. I feel lost. And destroyed. And utterly helpless.

A lot of people cringe when I tell them I think about the possibility of Aaron not coming home. A lot of people look at me like I’m the ultimate pessimist and worse, like I’m a bad wife. But, the way I see it, the ultimate sacrifice is something that needs to be thought about and respected. Is it sad and terrifying to think about? Absolutely. But in a way, I feel like if I don’t think about it or don’t give it the respect it deserves, I’m only fooling myself.

Death is only a natural part of life when it occurs naturally. But when it comes before someone’s time is supposed to be up, it’s just not fair. So many young men and women have been taken from their loved ones because of this war we are in. I absolutely refuse to say that they died for nothing, though, and when I hear anyone say that I want to slap them across the face. The ones who have died for nothing are the ones that die in drug deals gone wrong, in gang related violence, in alcohol related car accidents. Those are the people that die for nothing. The ones that have died in combat or as a result of combat have died for EVERYTHING. They have died fighting for our freedom, our independence, and our quality of life. They have died with their honor intact.

I wonder if anyone other than a military spouse can know what this feeling is like. It’s like a pit at the bottom of my stomach that won’t go away until my husband is actually physically in my arms again. It’ll be there until I can smell his cologne, feel his breath when he whispers into my ear, and run my fingers across his scars, knowing he will never have to go back to that awful place. But for now, I am left waiting for that phone call that will put my fears to rest and that will let me sleep peacefully for at least one night.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

I went to Baghdad!

A couple months ago, I had a dream. I’ve been meaning to write it down, since it’s mighty strange, and I really don’t want to forget it. Here it is:

I was lying in bed one day at my apartment in Riverside, and I decided it was time I give Aaron a visit in Iraq. I hadn’t seen him in so long, so I hopped into an open topped Humvee that was outside of my apartment, and started the drive to Baghdad. It was only about 45 minutes away (I guess that’s a subconscious testament to how I feel about Riverside), but I realized a couple things on the way. First, I realized I didn’t have any protection on – no Kevlar, no vest, no weapon, no roof, nothing. Secondly, as I drove by a mass of soldiers, some lined up in formation and others running along the side of the road doing PT, it crossed my mind that what I was doing might not be legal, especially since I wasn’t authorized to drive the Humvee I was in. Regardless of all that, I made it to Baghdad and found myself at the town bazaar. I parked the Humvee, looked in the back of it, and realized there was an M4 in the trunk. I debated whether or not I should take it with me for protection, but decided against it. Besides, it would be safe there, right?

I made my way down to the town bazaar, and immediately saw Gallagher, Demo, and Smith standing in a group having a conversation. I subtly walked up to them, and nonchalantly joined into their conversation. They turned, surprised to hear a girl’s voice, and said “Sarah??? What the f—k are you doing here???” I spent a minute saying hi, and asked them if they had seen my husband. They pointed me in the right direction, and I went off to find him. I wandered through the dusty streets, weaving in and out of the booths selling colorful fabrics, shiny trinkets, and strange-looking food, and then I saw him. It was like he had never left – there was a long, tight hug and a deep kiss, but other than that we fell into normal conversation like we had never been separated. We walked, not holding hands, because any public display of affection is against the rules of the Army. All of a sudden, as happens only in dreams, my mom was walking next to us, fluidly joining into the conversation. We continued to walk and talk, talk and walk, and when I looked down I realized I was wearing ACU’s. Aaron was nervous because he didn’t want me to get in trouble for impersonating a soldier, so we all walked over to an American resort, where there wouldn’t be any higher-ups to yell at me. As we approached the resort, I saw three people lounging on beach chairs in the front in the middle of a dusty expanse of land. We got closer, and I realized who it was. It was Mimi (my mom’s mom), Amy (my godmother), and Linda (Amy’s sister, and also my brother’s godmother). I was pretty shocked to see them on vacation in Baghdad of all places, but we sat and talked for a while before Aaron, my mom and I made our way back to the Humvee I drove there in. We got to where it was parked, I checked on the M4, and could tell there was something different about it. I picked it up, and there was a spear stuck down the barrel. Aaron then told me that whenever the Iraqis saw an American weapon lying around, they would jam a spear down the barrel so that it was annoying for the soldier to use it again. It made perfect sense in the dream, I swear.

My mom disappeared as fast as she had appeared, and Aaron and I knew our time together was coming to an end. There was another tight hug and deep kiss, and I hopped back into the Humvee and off I went. And then I woke up. Hmmmm… I wonder what it all means…

Monday, August 4, 2008

The World Goes 'Round and 'Round and 'Round...

My 25th birthday is on Friday. That’s right, it’s on 08/08/08. It’s got to be the coolest birthday ever. But aside from the coolness factor, I’ve been thinking a lot about the significance of it. 25 years old. A quarter of a century. Like I have said before, I have never been the one to dread a birthday or cry about how I’m getting so old. It’s quite the contrary, actually. I have always looked forward to my future, and love my birthday every year. It signifies the passage of time, yes, but it also inspires me to make the best of my future years as well.

That’s definitely the case this year, but I have been thinking about the past a little bit more than I usually do. I have been thinking about how life can change so drastically in a short period of time, but inevitably it comes full circle. When I was 7, my sister was born. In an instant, my world had been turned on its head, but that’s really when my life seemed to start. Sure, I had 7 years before Abbie came into the world, but once I got to hold her in the hospital and look into those blue eyes, those 7 years seemed to disappear. I know I was young, but I think I understood that the little baby I was holding was going to bring so much happiness into my life and into the lives of the people around her that I didn’t really care if I wasn’t going to be the youngest in the family anymore. About 6 years later, when I was 13, I met my best friend, Bonnie. I didn’t know it at the time, but the first day we met at a soccer practice was going to be the day that I look back on with the most gratitude and love anyone could ever have for another person (who isn’t her husband…). Bonnie and I spent the following ten years going through everything two best friends can go through – divorcing parents, high school drama, crying over pints of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream, older brother issues, summer birthday trips to Seattle, Oregon, and San Francisco, 4 (or 4 ½ in my case) college years spent in different parts of the state, lazy days by the pool at Sveadal, and riding down the bike path in Pacific Grove on surries. Everything felt like it was rolling along smoothly, then June of last year hit. Bonnie was engaged to be married in September, I had moved to Hawaii to “find myself,” and had just met the man that would later become my husband. In a flurry of 14 months, I got engaged, Bonnie got married, I got married, Aaron was deployed, Bonnie got pregnant, and I moved to the boonies to go to school. More has happened in the last year than has happened in the last 10 years combined…

The main reason I have been thinking so much about the years past is not because my birthday is coming up, but because a much more important day of birth is right around the corner – that of Bonnie and Travis’ new baby girl, Liberty. She will be coming into this crazy world sometime around August 15th, and a month after that, my own baby sister will be off to college. Life keeps going even if you don’t want it to, but it is in that continuous spinning on its axes that you get the most wonderful times and people you will ever experience. Change can be hard, but in the end it’s inevitable, so you might as well welcome it with open arms. I can’t wait until this weekend when I will be home with my family, but there will be one huge thing missing – there has been and will continue to be a hole in my heart that only one person in this entire world can fill – my husband. I would love nothing more than for him to be with me to share my special day, but really I just want him here to share any day with, because every day with him is special. Well, I need to go practice guitar, or else my teacher might kill me on Wednesday. Have a good night!

Friday, July 18, 2008

Oh, good ol' Bank of America...

I saw a commercial a couple months ago and it made me half laugh and half cringe. It’s supposed to be about Bank of America’s risk-free CDs they offer, but to me it was about something very different. I wrote down the script as I watched the commercial. Here it is:

“With most 9 month CDs, you won’t see your money for 9 months. What if you couldn’t see the sky for 9 months? Or hug your best friend or have a Cherry-Berry-Double-Swirl for 9 months? This is America! You can have breakfast at 3 in the afternoon, wear white after labor day, have Halloween in July. And with Bank of America’s risk-free CD, you can get your money out before 9 months without an early withdrawal fee. Wouldn’t you like to have that kind of freedom? Now you can, with Bank of America.”

I feel like I haven’t seen the sky in 7 ½ months. I haven’t hugged my best friend in 7 ½ months. And I haven’t been able to get a Cherry-Berry-Double-Swirl with the man that I want to share it with for 7 ½ months. And you know why I haven’t done those things? Because this is America. Sure, you can have breakfast at 3 in the afternoon (or at 2 in the morning, as Aaron and I have done on several occasions… Thank God for Denny’s!), or have Halloween in July, but how much do those things count for if you don’t have the one person around to do them with? My sky, my best friend, my Cherry-Berry-Double-Swirl, is putting his life on the line so that everyone else can see their skies, hug their best friends, and eat all the ice cream they want, and still take their money out of a CD before 9 months. If that’s not the ultimate sacrifice, what is?

Why we wait.