Memorial Day

Here we are in the remote Southwest. Me, the city dwelling water baby in the desert. The hot dry climate, high altitude, constant air conditioning, chlorinated pools–my skin, my lungs, my boredom! There is little for a pregnant spouse to do in this town: the strenuous hiking, horseback riding, and drinking that entertain the other residents are frowned upon for preggos. An isolated small town of strip malls of big box stores and chain restaurants. Short term jobs, volunteer opportunities, and spouse connections are few unless you have school aged kids. In a word, it’s limited. It has been a rough adjustment–I would never chose to move here. I’ll get over it, I’ll find something redeeming about this place as I have everywhere else we’ve lived, but right now, in all honesty, it’s a challenge.

Memorial Day is one of those days that for me is always a reality check. My husband is here with me. He’s home safe. Five of his brothers are not. He’s at a tradoc post and can’t possibly be deployed when our baby is born. During this deployment we supported a wife whose baby was born after her husband died and many more who birthed their babies without the support of the partners. Even the little things, like, I would love to remember what a second or third beer tastes like, but then, of the friends and classmates we have lost, almost all of them spent their last Memorial Day drinking (or forgoing) their ration of non-alcoholic beer on deployment. Who am I to complain? Last night, sighing at the lack of friends and activities for the holiday weekend, no parade, no big post celebration, no festival or live music, DH got far away and when I asked what he was thinking he quietly said, “I’m wondering what Justin would be doing this weekend. He would be having a beer right now.” We took a moment to feel what that thought brought up, which was intense. It ended without getting morose because I couldn’t help but think that in all likelihood he would have been on staff duty–their unit had a very special knack for staff duty assignments, and it made him laugh. But it’s gallows humor. A few long weekends tied down by staff duty are nothing compared to his parents knowing they will celebrate every holiday for the rest of their lives without him. He is gone. He grew up not far from here, and he would be at home in this landscape I find so foreign.

If we take days like Memorial Day to heart, for the purpose they were intended, they make our lives richer for remembering what a privilege it is simply to be alive, to have our families intact, to be able to focus on barbecue menus and beer and breaking out our summer white wardrobe. We are privileged because others in service to our country deny themselves those privileges, and many more. Some for a few months or years, some for the rest of their too short lives. We should be not only grateful for their sacrifice, but for their example, and their death’s reminder to live with gratitude. It is not a weekend to mope, but to honor, respect, and live our lives more fully, more thoughtfully, more joyously because our privileges are precious in the truest sense of the word: of great value, procured at great cost.

Welcome to Ft. Campbell (Repost)

Today while I put together a few posts I’ve not had time to format, I thought I would re-post the blog that started it all on May 22, 2012:

To fill you in quickly, we arrived at Ft. Campbell to spend the allotted 10 days hotel camping. Hooah! Sigh, not really. The pool was nice and eating out was great the first two days. Then you start to feel reeeeally crummy. We made the mistake of going on AHRN, the Army Online housing page, which it turns out is often factually inaccurate and out of date. After three disheartening days of rental home shopping we were ready to move into any affordable, safe, clean place we could find. I knew God would show us the place meant for us, but I wasn’t really sure how. Our first visit, the realtor handed us the key and said go take a look. For 800/month we could live in a dingy little house with barely more square feet than my little 1 bedroom apartment in Chicago, a galley kitchen, at least two convenient holes punched in the wall, mirrored louver doors and the kind of smell in the shag rug that screams a pet-owning smoker lived here. So when a realtor offered to take us around houses in the neighborhood we had decided we liked best, we were serious about buying and The Man had gotten pre-approved for a VA loan. The rental mark ups were absurd, I mean, this is Oak Grove, KY for goodness sake! Well, house number two of three suddenly looked like a dream come true simply because it didn’t have popcorn ceilings (seriously…they’re hideous). Three tiny bedrooms, two car garage, open floor plan and a deck looking out over farmland–we made an offer the next day. Best decision ever!

I went home for Mother’s Day weekend and loaded my car to the roof with stuff for the house while The Man moved to a Super 8 since his 10 days were up. We won’t talk about the Super 8. The morning after I returned, I picked up the keys to our new house, let myself in, and started unloading the car. A card table, two folding chairs, a foam mattress topper and air mattress, 3 rubbermade totes of kitchen stuff, my sewing machine, some laundry hampers and then all the stuff I had tucked in the crevices free-form, because I am the queen of trunk tetris. It took less than two hours. I texted The Man to see what he wanted for dinner and headed to Walmart. As I pulled in he replied, “your cooking”. Well duh. I guess he was actually (gasp) getting tired of Buffalo Wildwings! Friday night, our second night in the house, The Man was assigned staff duty officer. Over the next 12 hours he had two critical incidents to write up–some pretty gnarly stuff. I got texts throughout the night, trying to debrief a little from the stress. All in all, I got about as much sleep as he did. We had a full Scottish breakfast and took naps. Sunday I installed a new light in the dining room that I got for $18 at Goodwill, reversed the fridge door, and installed towel racks in the bathrooms. Since then it’s been a blur of yard sales, Lowes and Goodwill trips, waiting on our personal goods shipment.

Yesterday at 4:30, I’m making a mess in the kitchen with homemade salsa prep when I get a phone call that starts with “So…I’ve got mandatory fun tonight.” I put everything back to wait for tomorrow and go find a dress and put on make up: the CSM’s Hail and Farewell is at 5:45 and nobody told him until 4:30. Go Army! The Man is in a FOUL mood arriving home, the thunderstorm I’ve been listening to through my kitchen window has actually already wreaked havoc on the main road, knocking out traffic lights at two of the gates and flooding the approach to our street. Aaand I didn’t pack a raincoat in my temporary wardrobe…I guess I’d been assuming it wouldn’t rain much between the bedroom and the kitchen or something… Anyway, the dinner was lovely and awkward as hell because we knew about 1.5 people there. The Man isn’t enthusiastic about mandatory fun, but I was glad to get out of the house after a week without internet, cable, or friends. Not that I’ve had time for any of them, my honey-do list is as long as my arm, but apparently you can still get cabin fever when you don’t have time to be bored.