Saturday, November 24, 2012

The Controvertial Evolution of a Military Wife

I am not a "dig it" girl. (For those not in the military, I'm not a girl that wears something Navy every day, and decks out my house in Navy, military, and submarine stuff. Sure, I'll wear the odd Navy thing - usually when I haven't seen my husband in a while.) But I am finding that my outlook on being a Navy wife has changed.

When I lived in San Diego, I would read the paper everyday. (Yes, I'm old fashioned. I enjoy getting the paper.) And just about every day I'd see a horror story of some Marine who didn't make it home in the same condition that he left. Photos of caskets with American Flags on them didn't bring the instant punch to the gut they do now, but I still said, "Thank God You're not a Marine," to My Sailor every day.

I was told about a week ago that my 2nd cousin signed up for the Marines. Reactions ranged from shock to, "Oh, no!" My entire extended family looked at me. My reaction was somewhere between, "Well, hopefully he's out to break the stereotype we hear about Marines. He picked a tough row to hoe.  Maybe the discipline is what he needs to get his life on track. They will make sure he lives clean or he'll lose his job.  Maybe it'll be good for him."I couldn't help biting my tongue a bit as, before long, the conversation turned to, "Why couldn't he have joined one of the OTHER branches?" and the inevitable, "Why couldn't he have joined the Air Force or become a Submariner like 'My Sailor'? That's so much safer."

I didn't expect it, but quickly found that I was no longer able to bite my tonuge. I found my ire raising as I launched into an explanation of the dangers of a submariner's life to my family. Using My Sailor's words, I explained how these guys are in a boat that is 'designed to sink'.

If you really take a moment to sit with that, you realize what that means. It means that, if there is a problem the crew has to be incredibly highly trained on how to fix it because there is no where to run and RARELY is "abandon ship" an option. Have you ever heard of a successful sub evacuation?  On a Sub, there is no place to go from trouble. The whole point is to run silent and run deep. So if someone needs immediate major surgery, they are basically screwed unless there happens to be some surface fleet or port nearby. Human interaction is confined to the 100-some sailors you got on board with and live in tiny tight quarters with. Sailors walk over 10 miles a day and the scenery never changes. Not even a sunrise or a sunset. They walk on STEEL, and swinging through entry ways, climbing ladders to get around. Most submariner's suffer from knee and back pain by the time they retire or complete a contract.

Yes, it's not on the front lines where bullets are flying by. It's under the sea where a high pressure hose leak can dismember a passing Sailor. Where an accident by a few crew members having a bad day or slacking off can quickly become a life or death situation for the crew.

These are all the things that linger in the back of every Submariner's family member who is counting on their loved one to come home. There are no news reports from where these guys are going to show where their unit is or how they are doing. The whole operation depends on us (loved ones and others) NOT knowing what is going on. I can tell you from experience, ignorance is just ignorance - not bliss.

We Sub Spouses don't worry so much about the stuff you see on the news. We worry about the stuff you don't see, because those are the threats our Sailors are defending this country against.

Honestly, I was (and am) surprised. No one seems to want a loved one in the military. Part of that mentality quietly infuriates me. It feels like it belittles those who have and do continue to serve. Not everyone does it because they love their jobs or feel like 'heros'. Many do it because they want to do something bigger with their lives. Some are willing to risk their lives for the 'perks'. Many are serving as a means to an end for their education. NONE of them are serving for the money - if we paid our military folks even minimum wage for all the hours they work, every state would be bankrupt.

 I understand being afraid for your loved one while they are serving. Being afraid that, on a personal level, they'll be changed, and on a physical/psychological level, they'll be wounded. Trust me, I know that very well. I knew My Sailor before he was a Sailor and, yes, it's changed him. In big and small ways. In ways he probably doesn't even realize. But most of those ways are positive. For those that struggle with a direction, they are given a deeper purpose and a 'thank you' that you just don't get from doing any other job in this country.

 But, until I was married to the military, I never really understood what those flags on caskets ment. Now, they are an immediate reality check - and I pray I never fully comprehend the wake that echos out from beneath those flags...

They are now my worst nightmare. They are every military family's worst nightmare.

 Now, if you read my blog, you know I'm a pretty tough cookie. Sure I have a nuggety-gooey center, but I'm not easily scared or shaken. I'll admit - I thought I knew what hard was when I was considering all this. Being away from someone you love for MONTHS at a time, with little to no contact (no phones, skype, mail, just the occasional something-like-email that is read by a radio man to ensure security and may be censored or ended at any time, and is far from immedate), not knowing where they are, how they are doing, and trusting in his crew mates that I don't know to get him home safely, oh, and let's add trying to adopt in the middle of all of that -  That's hard.

But those are only the 'little' thoughts in the back of my mind.

 While I understand fully that they are distinct possibilities, I choose to focus on the time we do have together, rather than what we miss. We may not get holidays or birthdays together, but we get something unique and beautiful together.

The beauty that is a homecoming.

It's that winning-home-run-job-well-done feeling that just can't be beat.

Odds are, you'll never see a Submarine homecoming in your lifetime. These guys don't get the fan-fare of the big ships that pull into port. If their comings and goings go un-noticed, that means that everyone has done their job. The dangers we American's never see? We have these guys to thank for that.

But sometimes the attitude towards the military reminds me of a spoiled child. We want the outcome, but we don't want to be connected to it any closer than the TV screen brings us. We want the freedom, but we want 'someone else' to do the work.

The cost for our way of life here in the USA is high. There is no doubt of that and those who are serving in our military know it better than any of us - even us wives.

 But is it a job only left for those who don't have a family to object or worry? Is it only for those who struggle in the 'real world' and need the structure the military provides to grow? Is it for people with a legacy of family service and an 'obligation' to follow in a parent's footsteps? Is it a job intended only for orphans or those unable to maintain 'normal' human relationships?


Is it our responsibility to support those who choose to go to battle whatever their reasons?  Is there a more noble cause than laying down your life not just for 'your brother', but for people you've never even met? That's what every member of our military does every day - from a deck swab to an enlisted Army man, from an officer to an airman, and every single person in between.

I hope that someday our gut reaction to someone joining the military is more, "Awesome! I'll write you every day!" rather than one of "Oh no! Why?!"

Friday, November 23, 2012

Goats that go Baa - Happy Thanksgiving!

My Sailor and I are no good at Thanksgiving. Oh, we have the spirit, that's for sure. We do all the important things - like connect with family and revel in some gratitude. But we aren't very good at the food part.

On our first Thanksgiving together, I had flown from the west coast to the east coast to see him. He'd made arrangements to get dinner once I arrived, around 9:00pm in the sleepy little town. Well, the place he'd chosen decided to close their kitchen early, and by this time, I was just STARVING, so I figured we'd just stop at a gas station and grab something.

Ramen noodles it was! So we spent that Thanksgiving eating Ramen and watching Aladdin in my hotel room.

And yea know what? I didn't mind one bit. It was great.

The next year, we skipped it all together since he was deployed.

This year, we're married, living in our own first house, and don't have kids (yet). Sounds like we should be able to get it right this time, right?

You couldn't be more delightfully mistaken.

Due to our full working schedules, I didn't have a chance to go Thanksgiving Meal shopping until about 8pm the night before Thanksgiving. All the turkeys were frozen and, since it's an average of 50 degrees in the house, there was no way I could thaw out a bird in time. Not to mention we'd have to buy a roaster and all that jazz. So I bought a few turkey breasts, knowing that we had lamb at home instead if we wanted to change things up. (I have a killer lamb roast w/ gravy recipe.) I grabbed a few traditional side dishes, and went home.

The next morning, My Sailor came in around 10am (his shift started at 6am the previous morning). Needless to say, he was exhausted.

So it turned out we decided to do the lamb roast instead. My Sailor had just gotten off a 24+ hour shift that morning, so we just laid low, caught up on some TV (hulu) and got some much needed cuddle time.

But there was a problem...
Well, a couple problems.

First of all, do you ever notice that your meat thermometer is broken when you need it the most? I swear it only gets used about 3 times a year, but it's broken. It said the meet was barely 130 degrees, and it was DONE. Go figure!

Once I sliced up the meat, I realized something wasn't right about this local lamb we'd bought at a farmstand... The main problem was that, well, it wasn't lamb.

It was goat.

So instead of a delicious lamb roast, we had an okay goat roast with veggies.

And instead of pie crust, I accidently bought cresent roll dough. So instead of pumpkin pie for desert, we had homemade almond filled cresent rolls. Ya know what? They were actually DELICIOUS!

Well - the wine was great. The Cheese was Great. The Crackers were yummy, and I couldn't have asked for better company than just the 2 dogs and My Sailor.

While we've yet to get the turkey part right, I think we got the Thanksgiving Part right.

(Oh - We had Ramen Noodles for lunch, in honor of our first Thanksgiving together.)

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Nostalgia and Missing a little Magic

So what's been happening?

A bit of normalcy, believe it or not.

I know! I was surprised too!

But the night shifts are back haunting both of us. Mine include 12 hour days before I head home for an early Thanksgiving weekend with my family. It'll be a quick trip to Southern California. Sometimes, rarely, I do miss our dating days, when we could make time to drop off and pick up each other from the airport. Truth be told, I've only driven to the airport once. Every other time, I've gotten up a few hours early to ride in the bumpy, packed shuttle from our little town to the airport. While the shuttle makes a lot of sense (don't have to pay for parking) it would be really nice if he could see me off at the airport. But I'm lucky that I don't HAVE to take a plane to spend time w/ My Sailor anymore. It's kind of a silly thing to miss, but I'm feeling nostalgic of late (and I can't help envying that extra hour or two of sleep I could get if I didn't have to get up extra early to make the shuttle). I'm a girl. It's my job to miss the crazy little things here and there.

This weekend was full of lots of little things that were great though. We spent Saturday night with a linner out (lunch/dinner), followed by participating in the ArtWalk in Downtown Poulsbo (highly recommend!), a drink at my favorite local wine spot, ice cream at Mora, and a few rounds of pool. It was a great way to spend a Saturday night since the day was filled with chores me than anything else. Sunday was an "in" day. I worked, My Sailor played some SWTOR and we polished off the evening working on a puzzle and goofing off. It was a pretty much a great time. I wish we could have more weekends like this, but as the holidays amp up, so do our schedules.

But lately I've found myself longing for a life I don't quite see...yet. I can see we're on the path, but sometimes My Sailor and I meet in different places. For example, I see this childless time as a time to go adventuring - to do one last Disney World Trip as just a couple, with no friends and family en tow. Do a little dreaming together. Our lives are so busy, we don't make much time for dreaming together lately. This weekend was such a great reminder of how powerful and awesome that is. Balancing our limited time off with his needs, my needs, and our needs is challenging sometimes. It's just a growing pain, I know. 

But Military living teaches you very much to live in the moment. Though the planner in me wants to set plans for next year for 'us'. In fact, I probably will be making some plans, and if he can be a part of them, great! If he can't then that's just fine too. He's not a planner (so I'm learning). He's not the type of guy to make sure I have flowers on my birthday while he's away or a gift to mark an important day while he's gone. He had the best intentions to be, but life gets in the way. I've discovered that too - with our busy lives I've barely had time to work on my usual love letters and gags for his sea bag! It's a challenge!  We may not be able to make plans far out, but we have moments...

And the moments are certainly nice.

And I'm sure the holidays will have a little extra magic this year.

I can't wait to set up our first Christmas Tree together, decorate our first house together, bake cookies and finish sending out care packages and Christmas cards...

I guess I could just use a little injection of magic lately. I'm at my worst when I feel like I'm just treading water, rather than making progress. And the only way to make progress is to set a goal and go for it all out.

After all, without a destination in mind, how do you know where you're going?

My destination next year?  A RunDisney Marathon. Not sure which yet, but I am sure that it's going to happen. At the very LEAST a trip to Disney World during the holiday season is in my future plans whether it's with gal pals, My Sailor, or flying solo. It's been a few years (next year will actually mark 4 years since) and sometimes a girl just has to get her fix. Some women need shopping. Others need shoes. For me, it's Disney.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Wedding pictures are in!

"You've got a little powdered sugar right... there!"
Just a teaser, more coming!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Leavenworth Oktoberfest - Part 2 of 2

The view from the reading chair. Morning clouds.
I know you're all expecting a Halloween post, and I'm sure I'll get to one round about midnight. But I wanted to wrap this up while I await all the great wedding stuff so I can finally finish that months-old recap (and I will! Eventually!).

So let me lay this out while it's (relatively) fresh.

The next morning, I was the first one up. (I was also the last one to sleep the night before - lack of beer and a writing deadline will do that to a DD. I spent that time in the morning enjoying the quiet and the early morning view. I curled up with the book I'm currently reading (Blackout by Mira Grant) a hot drink, and a piece of toast as clouds started to clear from the valley. I turned on some quiet Josh Groban music on my iHome I brought along and kept the volume very low, so as not to disturb my housemates. The pages turned, the characters went on their zombie-killing way (it's a post-apocolyptic novel) and the morning felt nearly perfect.

And then My Sailor woke up and joined me, taking over the camera for a bit...

Caught relaxing

And making it decidedly more difficult to read.

Did someone say hot chocolate?
Our friends were right on his heels and very soon we were into making breakfast sandwiches. Now, I'm not usually one for breakfast sandwiches or breakfast burritos. I'm pretty particular about my breakfast foods, but these really good! Since My Sailor cooked the day before, the other couple took over most of the cooking duties this time around. And everything was delicious.

While our friends were getting ready for the day, My Sailor took a few "ghostly" photos using the reflections in the windows.

I'll admit it. This one took me a little post production.

Once we headed out, we spent the afternoon in Leavenworth's downtown. Strolling in and out of shops, the biggest hits were:
 The Oil and Vinegar shop where we strolled around a cellar shop tasting different light and dark basalmic vinegars infused with different things like figs, cherries, lavender, lemon, ginger and other goodies. They also carried infused olive oils. We ended up bringing home a delicious white basalmic vinegar, a cherry balamic aged 18 years, and a tunsian olive oil. (Homemade salads are now something we look forward to since we've turned these finds into some amazing home made salad dressings!)
 The Cured meat shop where My Sailor picked up some delicious locally made sausages and I picked up some locally made honey cremes. Tastings are a wonderful thing!
  The shops were all bustling and I can't wait to see Leavenworth during the Holidays sometime! I'm sure it'll be even more magical all lit up with snow on the buildings... Though this was so much fun, it might just become a new tradition!
 That's one thing I can say for Washington - there are no shortage of seasonal festivals here! Most towns don't have movie theaters with stadium seating (like I grew accustomed to in California), but there is a real warmth and charm here that seems to be missing from the big cities. (And trust me, when our home town has under 10,000 people in it, Escondido, California looks like a big city.)

I'll sum up the ride home with this montage. My Sailor took lots of amazing photos! Please enjoy! (He'd love to read your comments - hint hint.)