Monday, June 30, 2008

There aren't as many druggies and/or crazies there as you think...

So I just received the latest Women's Health magazine in the mail today. I always enjoy Women's Health, because it satisfies the bit of girliness in me ("65 Skin, Hair, & Makeup Problems Solved!" - what would I do without that article??) and also the health conscious athlete ("We've Got You Covered - Don't miss a single muscle with part five of our 20-minute workout series"), and it even does a little something for my husband ("56 Reasons to Have Sex"). But I mostly like it because it has random little facts here and there, like how deoderant really doesn't cause cancer, or that 42% of women said that if they had their cell phones, they would go places after dark that they normally wouldn't (don't worry, honey, I'm not one of those 42%...). But what caught my attention the most in this issue was a little quarter-page article called "States of Mind." It described a survey spearheaded by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration that was administered to 136,110 Americans ages 12 and older to track state-by-state substance use and mental health patterns. Here are a few of their findings:

Serious psychological distress (ages 18 and up):
Lowest: Hawaii (8.8%)
Highest: Utah (14.4%)

Major depressive episode (ages 18 and up):
Lowest: Hawaii (5%)
Highest: Nevada (9.4%)

Pain reliever abuse:
Lowest: Hawaii (3.9%)
Highest: Oklahoma (6.7%)

Notice any trends? I wonder how the results came out that way... Oh wait, I think I know. It might have to do with the 500+ beaches to relax on and soak in the Vitamin D and good vibes, or maybe it's the lush mountain greenery just begging you to inhale the pure oxygen it is gifting you. Or could it be the laid back "Hawaii time" atmosphere, that sometimes gets annoying when you have a meeting and your counterpart shows up a half hour late in an aloha shirt and swim trunks, straight out of a surfing session, but that hardly ever gets stressful? It's a combination of all of these things and more, and I can't wait to move back there to cleanse my body, mind, and spirit.

On a completely different note, I am watching Nashville Star on TV right now. Billy Ray Cyrus must be the world's WORST host of all time. All I have to say is WOW. Absolutely horrible. Ok, that's all. I'm going to bed. Goodnight!

Sunday, June 22, 2008


What is it about the human touch that makes everything feel alright? It could be a kiss on the cheek from a mom, a hug from a best friend, or the fingers of a soul mate running through your hair; no matter what kind of touch or who it is from, as long as it is genuine it will comfort you. Have you ever noticed that when you are having a bad day and have been doing everything you can to not break down throughout the entire day, all it takes is a concerned friend’s hand on your shoulder or the warmth of your mom’s hug or your husband’s caring hands on your face to unzip whatever strong front you have put up and let the tears flow out? What is it about human touch that makes us open up like that? Is it the touch? Or is it the person doing the touching?

It has been found (not surprisingly) that men tend to limit themselves to ritual touching, like shaking hands or patting each other on the back, while women touch much more warmly and gently, with hugs for example, to express support, comfort, and affection. But what about the touch between husband and wife? (Or husband and husband or wife and wife if you live in Vermont or now California…) There is some kind of electricity there that fuels the fire of life. So then what happens when you don’t have that all-powerful touch? What happens when that electricity has been rerouted for the time being? Are you just supposed to deal with an electricity –free life? Or do you dig out the candles from your emergency kit while you wait for the electrician to come fiddle with the circuit breaker so you can have some light? The candles might not give off enough light or power to live a perfect life, but they create a soft glow that can lead you down dark hallways or help you read the words on a page in a book. During a deployment, the candlelight comes from various sources - jobs, working out, friends, family, volunteering, etc. Every time you have a good day, it’s like adding a candle. Have a bad day, though, and you might as well blow all but one of them out. But all you need is one. That single candle is like one of those trick birthday candles that never go out no matter how hard you blow. I used to hate not being able to blow those damn things out, but now it’s my saving grace. There seems to always be a twinkle of light in my heart that allows me to go about my everyday life, regardless of if it is the result of 10 fully burning candles or one little spark from that last trick candle that won’t let the flame die. That spark is guiding me down a long, dark tunnel, at the end of which there doesn’t seem to be a light.

That’s ok, though, I can light my own way.

Friday, June 20, 2008

He's been in Iraq for too long.

Today I got a surprise in the mail. Well, technically it wasn't really a surprise, since I've been waiting for it for almost three weeks, but I finally got it. A box that was packed with love and care in the sandy, dusty, smelly armpit of the world (or so I see it) traveled out of that hell and made it here, to the land of the free. In it were traces of my husband - CD's and DVD's that he thought I would like, the first season of Heroes that he watched in about two days flat, an Iraqi-made puzzle ring that is one of the most frustrating things I've attempted to put together but that will be intensely satisfying once that attempt finds it full potential, two little teddy bears, some magazines, and a very funny "You Know You Have Been in Iraq Too Long When..." list. I have a feeling that when I start to think about what the soldiers over there are going through too seriously, all I will have to do is pull out this list and have a little chuckle. Here's a little sampling of it:

You Know You Have Been in Iraq Too Long When...
  • You start humming with the Arabic song playing on the radio on the shuttle bus
  • You start picturing your wife in traditional Arab dress
  • You drink the water from the tap because you want to drop 20 pounds in two weeks
  • Your idea of a fun Thursday night is to go to the Palace pool to watch the State Department folks get drunk, naked and try to pick each other up
  • You make the new guy show you his count down timer just to make you feel better about your time you have left in country.
  • You forget there are other colors than brown that can be found in places other than power point slides
  • When you call home and your kids ask "Who is this?"
  • You find it completely acceptable to pick your nose while talking to a complete stranger or member of the opposite sex
  • You go on R&R, you duct tape your child to the roof of your car, hand him a pellet rifle, and assign him a sector of fire for the ride to The Olive Garden
  • During the BUA, "DIV asked MNSTC-I for the FRAGO that MNC-I was supposed to publish, but couldn't because MNF-I hadn't weighed in, since they were too inundated with MOD and MOI wargaming the JCC's within the ISF to square us away!" is a valid comment and generates no questions.
  • You're in the Air Force, and you're on the plane home because an Air Force tour is too short to have been a long Iraq tour. Ignore this, you won't get it.

Sorry to those who might be offended by that last one, but I have to admit it kind of struck a chord with me. If Aaron were Air Force (or Marines or Navy for that matter), chances are that he would either be home by now or be coming home soon. Instead, we get to wait as long as it takes to create a human life. Ugh. Anyways, I like the list. Along with the other goodies in the well traveled box, it lifted my spirits and made me smile. That's all I can ask for.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

In His Own Words

I have been relaying what I thought was Aaron’s views on the war, where he is, and what he is doing for 6 months now. I have been acting as the middleman between a world I am getting to know and a world I used to know, thinking that I have been doing a relatively good job of it. I email my family and closest friends once a month with news, achievements, and stories from the world they will never know. I started a blog to kind of do the same, but mostly to use words as therapy as I muddle through dozens of CNN and MSNBC and FOX news reports that blare “3 Soldiers Killed in Baghdad,” “Al Sadr: New Force to Fight U.S. in Iraq,” and “1 in 8 Returning Soldiers Suffers from PTSD.” We friends, brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, and wives back home are bombarded by this news coming from every direction – TV, radio, internet, newspapers – that cannot be ignored, as most Americans do. When we see those headlines, they don’t serve as pure news or information. When most would respond with “Damn George Bush” or “Iraq still must have weapons of mass destruction” or “Those soldiers knew what they were getting themselves into,” the first (and usually only) thought that races a shot of adrenaline to the finish line of the brain is “Please don’t let that be my husband/son/daughter/brother/sister. Please.”

I never knew the extent of the mind-twisting inner turmoil that Aaron and his fellow soldiers are feeling with respect to what they are doing. Whenever I would ask him what was going on in his head, he would usually say confidently, “This is my job. This is what I have been trained to do, this is what I do love doing, and I can’t let politics influence that. Once you start thinking politically, you lose sight of the mission, and above all, you need to keep your mind on the mission.” And then, a couple days ago, he emailed me and opened a little window into his mind. I want you all to read it, really read it and feel it, since there is nothing that I could write that would even come close to matching the raw sentiments that came from Aaron’s own soul. Here it is:

I thought I’d share this with you. This country, this shit hole they call the cradle of civilization, hasn't managed to keep anything alive or keep anything from withering away and dying. As you drive around here all you see is dusty old torn down buildings, crops, people, animals, children withering away, and us stuck in the middle. Sometimes I feel like we’re this country's last hope. And then I feel like I want to completely obliterate this whole place with a MOAB, affectionately called "Mother of all bombs" by us, but actually called a Massive Ordinance Air Blast Bomb. It’s the biggest bomb short of it being a nuclear explosion. One would take out Texas. OK, that's enough with the morbid talking. My point was that one flower of all things kept my hopes up, if just for a little. At the new COP, among all the debris and the new construction and all the clearing of trees and grass they were doing, I noticed that there was a Sunflower - of all flowers, a Sunflower. Standing there all by itself, looking proud and beautiful and full of life. I’ve taken a liking to them because they always look towards the sun, kinda like they’re always looking towards the sky for something good. And it reminds me of the sun’s rays as they hit my skin and how wonderful that feels. To think that a flower feels this too is really amazing. Every day when we drove to the new COP, the first thing I would do is look toward the Sunflower and almost instantly, all that crap I saw on the way there, all the sadness, would go away. Two days ago though, I noticed that the sunflower had died. Withered away and turned brown like everything else in this place. And it made me sad. It really did. I was reminded of all the bad, the hatred, and all the darkness there is in the world. I think they've since cleared all that area now, which again is an all sad reminder that we are here. That we are not going anywhere. And that things......honestly….aren't getting any better.
That’s all.

I read that email when I was in my car (thanks to my Blackberry), stopped at a red light, and when the light turned green again I actually had to pull over. I didn’t cry, I didn’t scream, I just sat. I sat and thought. My heart hurt in almost the same way as it did when I waved goodbye to the buses pulling away from the troop at Schofield 6 months earlier. To know that this man that I am so inextricably connected to is hurting in any way – physically, mentally, or emotionally – and that I can’t do anything about it, not even give him a simple hug or hold his hand, makes my heart sink down into the depths of my gut. And to know that he can’t be the only soldier over there that feels this way, and that not one of those men can be held by their loved ones and feel any sort of physical-turned-emotional comfort from them kind of rocks me to the core. This is not how the world is supposed to be. This is not how peace on Earth is made.

I feel like I am a changed person. Six months ago I was brutally awoken to the true realities of the distant world around me, going from being an inwardly thinking, see the world through rose-colored-glasses 24 year old girl to a not-so-innocent, slightly cynical but still partly hopeful young woman. In this new world that I am getting to know it’s all about give and take, but I can’t help to hope that this war won’t take what I have given it for good. I want my husband back.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Nightmare on Iowa Ave.

Last night I had a dream. I am at the same troop at Schofield that I was at when I said my first goodbye to Aaron. It is the day he and his fellow soldiers are supposed to get home. Girlfriends and wives and children line the buildings, eager to see the ones they love after 15 treacherous months without them. The wives that have become friends through their loneliness are standing in a group, exchanging plans they have with their respective husbands for that night. Many of them, I can tell, are hoping that when their husband steps off that bus, he won’t be coming back from Iraq as an unfixable man, like some inevitably will. I, on the other hand, am standing off to the side, by myself, knowing that this will be the last time I will have to wait for my life to begin. We all hear the buses before we can see them – the rumble of the engines sends goosebumps down my arms, and as the sea of people turn their heads to the gates, I do the same. The chattering of the crowd gets louder and it turns into nervous, giddy babbling. The kids run around, getting their “WELCOME HOME DADDY!” signs ready.

In the thirty seconds it takes for the buses to pull around the corner and take their places in the long processional, I run the entire past 15 months through my head. I think of how much Aaron and I have gone through and how much we have grown, and I am so happy that we can finally go on a date that doesn’t include a computer screen or a phone. As the soldiers pour out of the buses, I see families reunited again after such a tough ordeal. I see tears, hugs, smiles, laughter, and kisses that never want to end. But I don’t see my husband. I wait and I wait and I wait, thinking that he will find me. I see Matt Gallagher, a mutual friend of ours, hugging his girlfriend Annie not too far away from me, and as I run up to him he sees me too.
“Where is he???” I gasp.
“What, you didn’t hear?” he responds.
“Hear what?” My mind races.
“Oh man, Sarah, I don’t know how to tell you this. They decided to keep him there for another 15 months. They need him to lead special missions… building a new JSS… important for the well-being of… very important role in the rebuilding process…” I couldn’t make out what he was saying over the screaming in my head. My stomach twisted and my heart broke as my body sunk to the ground. Another 15 months.

And then I woke up.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Bed of Bloody Roses

Today I learned about blood. I'm not talking about platelets and white blood cells and red blood cells - I'm talking about arterial spray, directionality of blood stains, voids, high, medium, and low velocity spatter, cast-off patterns from bloody instruments such as machetes, baseball bats, and hammers. I studied the differences in a blood stain that has been dropped from 3 inches versus 6 inches versus 1 foot versus 3 feet versus 6 feet versus 8 feet. I saw slide shows of crime scenes of homicides with unidentifiable bodies, only to scour it for inconsistent marks such as wipes, transfers, timeline issues, and vertical bloodstains. And I liked it. Call me sick, call me twisted, call me whatever you'd like, but I liked it. I was learning how to put the pieces together, and I got a step closer to having the whole picture.

I have been torn up lately about what I really, truly want to do with my life; I am interested and curious about so many completely different things that it's been very difficult to just pick one and move forward. But now, I think I've figured it out. I just need to knuckle down, get dirty (or bloody), focus, and work hard. Crime Scene Investigation is really what I'm good at, and it's what I enjoy. So there.

I just turned the TV on, and on came a marathon of Jesse Palmer's season of The Bachelor. He was bringing one of the many wannabe blushing brides into a "fantasy suite" with him, which was complete with a trail of rose petals leading to a rose petal covered bed. At first glance, I saw a trail of blood leading to a bloody bed... I guess I have chosen the right profession, but I think I need to say a sorry to my husband, who now needs to work a little bit harder to romance me, now that I've started to see blood in rose petals.

Thursday, June 5, 2008


When most I wink, then do mine eyes best see,
For all the day they view things unrespected;
But when I sleep, in dreams they look on thee,
And darkly bright, are bright in dark directed.
Then thou, whose shadow shadows doth make bright,
How would thy shadow's form form happy show
To the clear day with thy much clearer light,
When to unseeing eyes thy shade shines so!
How would, I say, mine eyes be blessed made
By looking on thee in the living day,
When in dead night thy fair imperfect shade
Through heavy sleep on sightless eyes doth stay!
All days are nights to see till I see thee,
And nights bright days when dreams do show thee me.
.::William Shakespeare::.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Pet Peeve #1

When I was driving to the post office to send off a box to Aaron after work today, I was reminded of one of my pet peeves. When I was pulling out of the parking lot, I was nice enough to not jet in front of a pickup truck about a quarter of a block down from me. I let him go by, then pulled out behind him. We both turned left at the second intersection, and as it usually does, my blinker clicked off. His didn’t. Blink, blink, blink. It bugs me. I don’t know why, but it does.

After a few blocks of driving behind him, and after being slightly annoyed the whole time, I reasoned to myself that whenever he had to turn the next time he would realize that his blinker was on. Nope. For some reason, that damn thing would not turn off. I was behind him for a couple of turns, but there it still was, blinking. “I’m gonna turn left, I’m gonna turn left, I’m gonna turn left… JUST KIDDING!” It seemed like it was teasing me. Like it knew that it was one of my pet peeves and was just there rubbing it in my face. In fact, when we were in high school, my best friend Bonnie and I actually bought mini white boards and kept them in our cars so that if we ever came across a car on the highway (or anywhere else for that matter) whose blinker was blinking unnecessarily, we could write “BLINKER” on the board and hold it up to the window as we drove by them. Just our little contribution to the sanity of the world.

So, I was finally relieved when I made a right turn towards the post office and the truck actually finally turned left, hopefully towards a mechanic who can fix his damn blinker. Even though I was going the opposite direction, I couldn’t help looking in my rear view mirror to see if it had stopped now that I wasn’t behind it to be annoyed. Blink, blink, blink. Ugh. I pulled up to the post office, happy to be away from the irksome blinker. I gathered the box and the customs form up, lugged it out of the car, and looked up. The line was out the door. But that’s a pet peeve for another day.

Oh, and by the way, Aaron spotted an IED on the way from the FOB to the COP today, and had to wait for hours on end for people (I’m guessing EOD) to come check it out. And I thought I had it bad.

Happy Birthday!!!

So... I posted a new entry last night, and now it's not here. Mysteriously gone. Buggers. The underlying theme of it was to say a big HAPPY BIRTHDAY to my husband, who is a world away in another land. Birthdays are an interesting concept. I have always loved mine (I mean, it's only the coolest birthday ever - the 8th day of the 8th month, 8 o'clock in the morning, weighing in at 8 pounds, 8 ounces... I'm a goddess in China), but some people don't fare so well on theirs. For some, it's a joyous celebration of life, and for others it's just another sad reminder that another year has passed them by. I have always looked forward to the future - when I was little I wanted to be not-so-little, when I was not-so-little I wanted to be a big girl, when I was a big girl I wanted to be able to drive, when I was old enough to drive I wanted to be in college, and so on. I was always excited for the next milestone - driving at 16, voting/buying cigs/buying porn at 18 (ok ok, voting was the only thing that related to me at that milestone...), drinking at 21, and FINALLY being able to rent a car at 25. Which reminds me - who thought up that nonsense? And what's next? Not being able to cross the street without holding the hand of the stranger next to you until you're 28? (Now, although that would encourage some interesting conversation between some unlikely pairs, it's still a little extreme.) Anyways, Aaron, to a certain extent, isn't really like that. But I think it's because he's never really had somebody to truly celebrate life with. But here I am, to the rescue! :) No matter how young or old you are, or how young or old you want to be, a birthday should be a time for love and laughter and happy ever after. My goal in my life for my family is to celebrate life - past, present and future - with excitement and happines. I have to go to work right now, but I'll try to write more tonight. I hate rewriting stuff, so I probably won't rewrite what I wrote last night, but I'll think up something else.

For my husband:
I love you, baby. I hope you have as happy of a birthday that you can out there... I'm here thinking about you and waiting for you, as always, and will be until the second you step off that bus and come back to me. I miss you honey.

Love times infinity,
Your wife.

Why we wait.