Friday, February 25, 2011

Champagne Friday: Making Love, Not War


You've reached 400 Wake-ups. I'm sorry Ally is not in at the moment. She is cuddled up to this handsome hunk of love and grits for the next 48 hours. Leave a message and she will get back to you when she dries out and cools off (she's at a hot springs resort. What were you thinking??).


Wednesday, February 23, 2011

A Break in the Routine - WW

Just a couple more wake-ups until we're together again for a few short days! As my Papa used to say, "won't be long now said the monkey when he got his tail cut off!"

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Sand for Work and Play

I hope y'all had a lovely champagne/sangria/beer/margarita/flavored water Friday and an even better long weekend. And for those of you who had to work yesterday, that is so un-American. Please let your boss know that an Army wife in middle Georgia is giving them the stink-eye rightthisminute.

I just returned from a 4-day trip to Jacksonville to visit my sister, The Queen, and the rest of her Royal Family. My nieces, Repunzerella and Sleeping Booty, kept it exciting with tennis, pool time, a trip to the beach, and a classmate's birthday party at the 7th Layer of Hell (suddenly, I realize why I had to beg long and hard for a trip to Chuck E. Cheese when I was a weeAlly. Because they don't serve alcohol there. But they should. Preferably pure grain.)

A couple of states over, the 352 is completing their field training in a very Iraq-esque environment...also known as the Texas desert. The second half of the deployment train-up is mostly field work, including convoy and IED training, and learning how to do "presence patrols". During Neal's first deployment, he was the convoy commander for many missions from the southern area of Iraq, up to Baghdad, and back. He knows how to run a convoy. And he knows a thing or two about IEDs...seeing as he had to build a model a few years ago for some training exercises in his old unit. I was sweating like an Eskimo in the Sahara until he took his homemade IED, created with some pretty rainbow-colored wires and one of my old Nokia cell phones, to drill weekend. I just knew something ridiculous was bound to happen with a device in the house that could easily be mistaken for a terrorist masterpiece. Neal doesn't half-ass anything.

So, without further ado, a few pictures from our weekend in the sand:

Mickler's Beach is fairly close to The Queen's house, so Saturday afternoon we loaded up the brood and headed to the sand and surf. We look somewhat bundled, but there were plenty of tweens flaunting their tanning bed bodies in skimpy 2-pieces. If it's possible to get hypothermia in 70-degree temperatures, I'm sure someone got it that day.

The 352 focused on IED and tripwire training over the weekend. Same sun, same sand, completely different experience. In this photo, a Soldier locates an "IED" and the rest spread out to secure the area and ensure the safety of everyone close by.

The Royal Family plays a little football on the beach. Sir Murph, the family dog, looks on and wonders how he will fit that ball into his mouth.

During a "presence patrol"...named so because they are intended to demonstrate the unit's presence in an area, Soldiers walk carefully, scanning for IEDs, tripwires, and other gifts that insurgents have left for them in the field.

On the beaches of Florida, the sand stays where it is supposed to be...on the ground, waiting for children to come and build sandcastles or bury one another. Mickler's is all-inclusive, open to families, dogs, and horses, it appears. (These are actually hoof-prints. We saw several horses with riders strolling up and down the waterfront.)

In Texas, however, sometimes the sand blows and swirls, and causes a great deal of discomfort. A sandstorm blew in over the weekend and gave the 352 their first experiences with the exfoliated esophagus. The first of many. This photo also prompted the following conversation between me and Neal:

Neal: Yeah, we got a sandstorm today.
Me: Oh, that's cool. How did they do that?
Neal: What do you mean?
Me: Well, that's just so much like Iraq. How did they get all that sand there?
Neal: They imported it.
Me: silence
Neal: suppressed laughter
Me: You're messing with me, aren't you?
Neal: It's the desert. How do you think they got it there?
Me: You're an ass.

His last 2 train-ups were in the North American arctic. I think all units deploying to the Middle East should complete deployment training at Ft. Bliss....especially since they went through the trouble of importing the sand and all.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Sangria Friday and Some Friday Funnies

Attention, ladies and gentlemen,
We interrupt this Champagne Friday to bring you Sangria Friday, in honor of the fact that as you read this, I am kickin' it at the big sister's house, sipping on something fruit-soaked. Please tune in next week, when we will return to your regularly scheduled Champagne Friday.

Also, I have hit bottom on the Google Images of champagne + military, so I'm exchanging my hijacked (not the same as hacked. As of this week, I know all about being hacked) Google Images of champagne for random photos of Neal's first tour in Iraq. He has approximately 2 photos from Kuwait. By the time he had arrived at Camp Arifjan, Big Brother had already landed and put the kibosh on photographing the joint. But there are photos from Iraq. Lots of them. So, each week we will kick off Champagne Friday with one of those. Starting with...

After reading Wednesday's WW post, many of you commented on A) how tight the living quarters are for our troops and B) the plastic mattress covers. So, let me first say to observation (A) that if you think that's tight, check out the tents that Neal lived in when he first got to Iraq in 2004, as demonstrated in the above photo. Not exactly the Holiday Inn. That's not even the Super 8. That is La Sardine Suites. He doesn't miss the tents.

And regarding the mattress covers...somehow I had not noticed them in the picture and now every time I look at that photo, that's all I see (so, thank you for that). I asked Neal if he was allowed to remove it prior to bedding down that first night. His concise answer was "no". In fact, if you are caught removing the plastic from a mattress at Ft. Knox, you will be fined. Apparently, the Army is a wipe-it-down-and-go kind of clean. I wouldn't survive 4 minutes. That's not self-deprecating. It's honest.

Next in the Sangria Friday Festivities, I would like to give a big shout-out to my girl, Kay, @ The Van Gogh Cafe, who blogged this week about her fiance, who confused polenta for placenta...I mean, during a conversation...not during an Italian meal with a grain side dish. But I let a snort loose on that one.

And 3 cheers to my husband who, during one of our last conversations before he left, said "Well, I guess that would be true. Metamorphologically speaking..." (Yes, WordCheck, I realize that is not a word). And when I couldn't stop laughing, he realized his mistake. Let's try that again and drop that whole end part, shall we?

Lastly, the following news release was in my hometown newspaper this week:

Miller going to Iraq
Army Reserve Capt. Michael N. Miller is deploying to Iraq to serve in support of Operation New Dawn, formerly named Operation Iraqi Freedom.
The captain, a watercraft operator with 25 years of military service, is regularly assigned to the 352nd Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, Macon, Ga.

 Can we just back up to the part where it says "The captain, a watercraft operator with 25 years of military service"? This is like that game, Which One is Untrue?. He is a captain. He does have 25 years of military service. However, the closest he has ever come to operating watercraft is ripping through the waves on a jet ski during spring break in college. My husband does not operate watercraft. He has never operated watercraft. But I can't decide what's funnier...that somehow this nugget of untruth ended up in our city's newspaper or the word "watercraft". Just say it 5 times and try to do it with a straight face. Go ahead. I'll wait. 

That is all. 
I hope y'all have a rowdy or relaxing weekend, depending on your age bracket. Luckily, I straddle a couple so I get a little bit of both. 

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Drive 45 Minutes and Hang a Right - WW

The men and women of the 352 have relocated to their new digs and training facility. Since you can't find it on a map, I'm not going to say where, exactly, but still uncomfortably close to the Mexican border. Here are just a few photos from the new joint.

Happy Wed-Nes-Day!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

72 Hours in the Desert

I have put off blogging about this because I was terribly afraid that I was going to jinx myself. I still am, actually. But I'm saving pictures of Neal's new home, sweet, home until tomorrow. So, here goes...

When Soldiers deploy for a Middle East mission, usually they have a train-up period somewhere in the states (I say "Soldiers" because that is how the Army rolls. I have no idea how the other branches do it). Neal's first deployment took him to Ft. Drum, NY, then on to Iraq. His second deploying unit trained at Camp Atterbury, IN before leaving for Kuwait. This time they are at Ft. Bliss, TX. The biggest difference, though, between this deployment and the previous two, is that they did a significant amount of training prior to the mobilization. That month he spent at Ft. Hunter-Liggett, CA in June and the month at Ft. McCoy, WI in October were all part of deployment training. So, the unit actually spends less time in the states before heading overseas than previous units. Because these troops only train stateside for about 6 weeks instead of the typical 8-12 weeks, they have started eliminating the 4-day pass that is given between stateside training and the flight overseas. I understand why, but I do not agree with it. Those last 4 days before shipping out are integral to maintaining high morale and strong bonds within the family. Small benefits like the 4-day pass actually lead to a higher retention rate within the Army. High retention means a larger Army and a larger Army means a less exhausted Army when the government insists on keeping us in battle for decades at a time. Of course, some Soldiers should go ahead and make a graceful exit...larger Army does not always equal a competent Army and that's where wasteful military spending comes into play. Let the Soldiers have a pool in Balad, but don't continue to employ individuals who are clearly unfit for duty. The PT test is required for a reason...

OK...sorry...that was a total tangent....

Anyway, the 4 day pass....Neal's unit will get one but they are one of the last units to do so. And, of course, the Army reserves the right to change anything and everything, usually at the very last moment. So, by talking about it, I'm terrified someone somewhere is going to say "oh the 352 is getting a 4-day? I don't think so. Send out a memo..." And that would be the end of the 4 day. I'm basically holding my breath until we drive out of the Ft. Bliss gate. It's not logical thinking, but it's a behavior you learn when Uncle Sam owns you. However, I'm quite excited about the trip that we have planned, so I'm taking a risk and sharing it with you. Then I will be crossing all of my fingers and all of toes, hoping this doesn't come back and bite me hard right on the ass.

Since I failed to blog about the last deployment, here are a few pictures from the last 4-day, April 2008:

It started with my trip to Camp Atterbury to punch his Captain's patch on him. Goodbye Lieutenant rank!

Then on to Portabella's for lunch. This restaurant no longer exists and I have to say it makes me more than a little sad. They had the most amazing grilled vegetable pizza....

Neal loves Sam's like a 5-year old loves the toy aisle at Target. I may have told him that they had just come out with a line of the most fantastic patio furniture...

He kind of thought so, too. So, we rented a U-Haul to get fabulous patio furniture home. Then he assembled it while I oversaw the process. And maybe drank a lot of Bud Light Lime...y'know, to stay warm.

Lunch on the new fabulous patio furniture. Spring arrives in KY much too late for me.

I did sort of insist that he do the taxes while he was home. I can't do our taxes. There is a lot of itemizing and math. Me doing taxes would pretty much guarantee an audit.

Our new deployment tradition...Graeter's. Or Coldstone Creamery this time because Graeter's somehow never made it to Georgia. I would trade our Cracker Barrel for a Graeter's in a NY minute.

The last hour. We got a hotel room for the last couple of hours because he wanted to sleep. I can only imagine the jokes made by the desk staff...

This time we are renting a car and heading north of Ft. Bliss (because there's not much to the east or west and driving south is completely out of the question. You know what's directly south of Ft. Bliss? Juarez. Mexico. They kill people there. No thanks. I'd prefer not to be murdered before I become a jewelry designing sensation.).

So, our first couple nights will be at the very vanilla Hampton Inn in Las Cruces, NM. Although that particular Hampton Inn got very high marks on TripAdvisor, so I'll let you know. For me it's a roof, a bed, and a free breakfast, but sometimes Hamptons go above and beyond.

Then it's exploring around White Sands National Park, which looks a little like this:

via Google 
You can hike around the park, sled down the dunes, or picnic within the park. It seems a little cruel to play in desert sands for an entire day before Neal ships out to Iraq, but he assures me that he's OK with it.

Then, we are heading north to Truth or Consequences, NM. I initially started researching this desert town because I loved the name. But then I discovered Riverbend Hot Springs and the attached lodge. The springs are, according to the lodge website, the only outdoor hot springs in the area and they overlook the Rio Grande. And that all supposedly looks something like this:

via Google 
I think that looks like heaven on a stick. If you stay in the lodge, you get to soak for free in the public springs and you receive deep discounts on the private baths. Nothing says "4-day pass" like a private hot spring.

And then we haul it back down I-85 to Fort Bliss for an 1800 check-in. And I catch the first flight back to Atlanta the next morning. Everyone who is flying out to El Paso to be with their Soldier for these last 4 days has different plans. Some are driving to Tucson, others are flying on to Vegas, but I like our trip the best. Private hot springs, anyone?

And for the record...I realize that "72 hours" is not 4 days...but the first day and last day are always half ours, half the Army's. 72 full, uninterrupted hours. From Bliss to bliss and back again.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Dorothy Parker Makes an Observation

I won't tell you how long I had to Google in order to find a Dorothy Parker quote that didn't refer to drinking, killing a man, or killing herself...but I finally found one that could, with a little leap of faith, be considered appropriate for Valentine's Day.

Love is like quicksilver in the hand. Leave the fingers open and it stays.
Clutch it and it darts away. 
~Dorothy Parker

Oh Dorothy, I wonder how you celebrated Valentine's Day...
However, you make a good point. And it's very similar to a reading from our wedding. 

But let there be spaces in your togetherness,
And let the winds of heaven dance between you.
~Kahlil Gibran
The Prophet, On Marriage

Well, we certainly have our spaces between us this Valentine's Day, but it is not the first time and it won't be the last. Neal and I have been together for 6 years and we've spent 3 of those Valentine's Days together (I know this because we spent a valuable 15 minutes on the phone last night researching it. Sometimes I think we don't have enough to talk about. Maybe I should buy a ferret. That would liven things up a bit).

We have never been a couple that went overboard on Valentine's Day, especially since it's conveniently tucked between Christmas and the anniversary of our legendary first date in England. But some part of me is still 16 and still looks hopefully in my locker for a card, a rose, a shiny. This year, I took matters into my own hands, however, and secured myself a Coach. Ladies, don't be really love it when you buy yourself gifts and then write their names on them. Embrace this simple life truth whenever possible. 

You should also embrace the clearance bins and the extra 30% off coupons that they sometimes give out at the outlet stores. And if you score a coupon, you should embrace this as opportunity knocking and throw that door open wide to let it in. 

Yes, I wrapped it myself. What can I say? I like the sound of ripping wrapping paper.

Oh honey, it's exactly what I would have picked out! It's like we have the same brain! 

I think in the future, though, I'm going to extend the same "see it, love it, buy it for yourself" courtesy to Neal because I had an epic Valentine's Day fail yesterday. 
It's incredibly difficult to buy gifts for your Soldier when he is deployed. Sure iTunes gift cards are always appreciated, but something that is truly unique and practical? Impossible. Plus, they only have X amount of space in the 2 duffles to fit it all. I would send a Wii but where would he pack it? So, I gave up trying and went to Target. 
First, this is Chief HasNoRhythm and the positively fantastic remote-controlled car that he actually got for Christmas but received in the mail from his blushing bride, DivaV, yesterday. 
Truly manly and hardcore, yes? 
And this is Neal's box after opening and photographing its contents:
 A crap-ton of chocolate (because, oddly, the chow hall only serves dessert if there is a general who is dining in the facility. There is always dessert after dinner in our house. I can't let my husband's sweet tooth just decay) and a stuffed monkey. No remote-controlled car. No box of boyhood treasures...just a stuffed animal. *FAIL*
My only saving grace is that there is a tiny bit of significance tied to the monkey. 
A) I have the other one:
Together, their little feet spell out "LOVE"

2) The commander has been giving the officers some required reading in the form of managerial books...beginning with The One Minute Manger Meets the Monkey
However, it is still not the watch that James Bond wore or a remote-controlled yellow Hummer. I hope he doesn't get beat up in the showers. 
In unrelated news from Bliss, they have moved out to the second training location. This will be all field training and, fortunately, it seems the snow and uncharacteristically bitter cold temps are finally giving way to typical south Texas weather...60's and 70's during the day. I'm sure Neal would tell you that he is glad to be training in the sun, as opposed to the last 2 deployments, where he trained at Camp Atterbury, Indiana and Fort Drum, NY. During winter. 
Also, if you are looking for completely unromantic Valentine's Day posts today, check out Amanda's awesomeness @ It's Blogworthy. I think you'll agree: life sucks a lot less after reading it.  
Cheers and Happy Valentine's Day! I hope it is full of whatever or whomever you love the mostest!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Champagne Friday and the Chow Hall Goes Green!

It has been an alarmingly long time since I've personally had a Champagne Friday and we've never had one over here at 400 me to baptize you in the time-honored tradition of Champagne Friday.

 via Military Times

OK, it's not exactly champagne, but try Googling "Champagne + Soldier" and see what you come up with. I got a photo of a tiny, plastic Soldier floating in a glass of champagne. That's not really capturing the spirit of Champagne Friday. This, however, captures Champagne Friday. These are Soldiers stationed in Iraq last year during the Super Bowl. Generally, there is a No Alcohol, No Exceptions policy in the Middle East. But, in 2009, someone pretty high in the food chain pulled some strings and now the troops are allowed 2 beers each...real, actual beers...not "near beer"...for the Super Bowl. Although, the beer that is usually served is either Bud Light or Miller Light and that kind of is like near beer for those of us who have an established tolerance to alcohol...I give the DoD props for shipping in some Heineken for our boys in camo. Also, Neal said he would gladly forfeit his 2 beers in Iraq to be home with me. And bourbon.

Anyway, as promised...another story in the continuing saga of  Neal @ Bliss. 

When the same type of training happens everyday, bedtime and formation times are the same, and transportation around post is the same, that leaves very little opportunity for spontaneity in the conversation. So, I ask him about breakfast, lunch, and dinner because, although it is pretty consistently awful, at least it is not the same everyday. When Neal first got to Bliss, he was explaining to me how the food on the chow hall line is color-coded according to its nutritional properties. 

Green = fantastically healthy. Your mother would be proud and your heart will be happy. Although your taste buds will throw you the middle finger and look longingly at that Ho-Ho.
Yellow = what most of us eat when we are "dieting"...mostly healthy with just the tiniest bit of breading and maybe an extra slab of butter...because what's a meal without a little bit of fat? And 1000 calories...
Red = Paula Deen couldn't do better herself. This meal was brought to you by Crisco and your cardiologist, who just bought himself a sweet little Porsche. 

It all looks a little something like this:

I finally got Neal to snap this picture and text it to me after a couple weeks of prodding. I think, maybe, they don't really like for Soldiers to take pictures in the chow hall...something about national security...or holding up the line. But I consider myself an amateur journalist of sorts, so I pushed the issue...all in the name of education. 

Now, Neal will eat green 99.9999% of the time...even when he's home...even when he's at Cracker Barrel. My theory is if it's breaded and covered in sauce, you can't possibly go wrong. His is if it's baked to within an inch of its life and seasoned with a little salt and pepper, that's good enough. The unexpected positive to this is that he eats everything I cook...even when it looks like it belongs on an M.E.'s table. 

So, of course when Neal is training, he feeds his body that which will, in turn, feed his mind. And that is always green. Unfortunately, where the Army excels in information, it lacks in supply. For 2 weeks, the only green food on the menu for lunch and dinner was fish. It's a good thing Neal is not pregnant. He has eaten an alarming amount of Bliss fish. But when he comes home, he will be a Skeletor version of himself...whereas I will try very hard not to be a Roseanne Barr version of myself (although...have you seen her lately? She was on one of Larry King's last shows and I almost didn't recognize her. I wouldn't say "smokin"...but I wouldn't say "straight from the diner" either. Way to go, Rosie!) 

Happy Champagne Friday to everyone and after you click away from me, you should absolutely go check out Robyn @ Fojoy. She gave me an award approximately 482 years ago and I can neither remember what it was nor find it on her blog now. But the award, while much appreciated, is not really important. What is important is that you spend a few minutes reading her wit (albeit Canadian but as I'm learning...they are actually a very witty the British) and her adventures. I promise you will not regret it. And would I lie to you on Champagne Friday? Champagne is truth try not to drink it with your dashingly handsome boss or the girl who sits across from you on the train. 


Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Apparently, I'm Stressed and Losing Moisture by the Minute

...which is sort of bewildering to me because I'm not that stressed. Let me put it this way...right before Neal's last deployment, I asked him one night if he would mind banking his sperm...y'know, in case he didn't come back. We haven't had that conversation this time, or anything like it (and, for the record, he did mind). I am busy with the business, brushing up on my French, lending FRG aid to another unit at the Reserves Center, and catching up on the 100 or so bloggers that I love like 5-cheese macaroni and cheese. And I have started watching Bones, from the very beginning (I'm not sure how I missed the bus on that show. Hellllooo Special Agent Seeley Booth. Is that a gun in your pocket, or...). But apparently, my body is stressed and I'm wicking like a marathoner coming down the home stretch...because I have eczema. It has taken 1 visit to urgent care, 2 visits to the dermatologist, 1 call to the primary physician, and several prescriptions to figure this out. Mostly because I have never had eczema before..or any skin anything for that matter. When I think eczema, I think itchy, scaly, oozy old people not Zumba'ing, kickboxing jewelry designers. Ewww!! But alas, it happened. I was breaking it down, Reader's Digest-style (her words, not mine) to sweet Shana yesterday and she suggested I blog about it because...well, she thought it was high hilarity. And I'm all for a little entertainment so here goes...

This all started with an oubreak at T-14 days. Burning, itching, weeping around my nose and we were having professional pictures done in 48 hours. It required an emergency trip to the urgent care center for some sort of treatment. A quick WebMD search lead me to believe that I had staph (probably from the stupid bacteria-laced foam mats at the gym. I have a degree in gym, I know better than to put my sweaty palms on a mat and then put them on my face...I can only blame complete exhaustion from running laps around the track during a Kickboxing class. Running laps is not kickboxing. I should know. I used to teach it. So, make that extreme exhaustion and extreme frustration.) Conversation at the Med-Stop went something like this (by the way, I had to have "Med-Stop" explained to me. It's located in the old K-Mart and looks like a medical supplies warehouse. And our urgent treatment care in KY is called Urgent Treatment understand the confusion):

"Dr": Good morning, ____ (he addressed me by my first name. If I told you, I'd have to kill you). What is the problem today?
Me: Well, I woke up with this place on my nose this, itchy, burning, weeping. I think it might be staph.
"Dr": (after looking at my nose for approximately 0.3 seconds)'s a prescription for Doxycycline. Should clear that right up. Take it with food and plenty of water. Thank you, have a great day. ("Dr" exits stage left)

I know that I am prone to exaggeration. I am not exaggerating. So, I took the Doxy and it did clear it right up, but I went off of the antibiotic a week early because I was a little paranoid that I was over-medicated...seeing how I diagnosed myself and all. My skin stayed clear long enough for us to take 2 sets of professional photos and Neal to leave on his jet plane.

Fast-forward to last Monday.

Woke up to painful, burning, and red fresh-from-a-wax red and the nose thing again.

Went to breakfast with my aunt and her husband and hoped to goodness it would get better with grits and an egg sandwich. Went back on Doxy.

Endured red eyebrows and irritated nose until Doxy kicked in on Wednesday. Made appointment to see dermatologist PA again on Friday.

Went to appointment. PA looked at me for approximately 0.4 seconds (she must have graduated with Dr. Med-Stop) and gave me a prescription for an ointment.

The monsoons came to Middle Georgia.

I went to Zumba with DivaVee and 88 other people (I know there were 90 of us in that group fitness room because the fire marshal on base has been concerned about classes being held for 90 people in a room that is meant to hold 60. So, he made us do a head-count after class on Friday. 90).

Came home and started to feel...inflamed. Took a Doxy and went to bed.

Woke up Saturday morning with both eyes and the nose back at it. DivaVee shows up at 7:45 AM to leave for Huntsville. Her daughter, Hoops (not her real name so stop dialing Social Services), plays for Alabama A&M. DivaVee, in all of her awesomeness, repeatedly assures me that it's OK if I don't go.

We go.

We stopped at 3 different pharmacies, trying to find one that was open, stocked with Protonic ointment, and not in scary redneck suburb of suburb of Atlanta.

In the meantime, I was dousing my skin in aloe because that's what you do when you have spent the last 20 years of your life bathing in tanning accelerant and lounging in UV rays, both natural and not. Aloe was helping, but not curing.

Put, probably excessive amount...looking back on it now, ointment around nose and on eyes (doc said it was safe).

An hour later, blisters broke out on my eyelids.

Flipped the eff out and called Mama Virgo while she was being massaged on Marco Island. She didn't answer.

Called my stepmother who reads a lot and is well-versed in everything from home remedies to jewelry design.

She suggested a cold cloth (y'know the beautiful and lush red of the first summer tomato? That was my face) and more aloe. And stop the ointment...apparently, I was allergic.

Laid on the bed and watched HGTV through one eye while my face burned through cold washcloth after cold washcloth. Concerned that it might be staph again, we called Housekeeping for more towels. I probably owe them a little on their water bill this month.

Considered going to the emergency room. Desperately wanted to go to the basketball game.

Got up, got dressed in new A&M sweatshirt, slathered aloe all over face and neck, and went to basketball game.

Took another Doxy and more Benadryl. (Double overtime is the only thing that kept me awake).

Ate dinner, talked to Neal about my face for 30 minutes and forgot to ask him about his day.

Took more Benadryl and slept for 10 hours. Got up and had wonderful Embassy Suites breakfast, sure that grits and pancakes would ease the situation.

Shopped at outlet malls on way home from Huntsville.

Bought sweet little across-the-body Coach purse to help ease the situation.

Called Neal 18 times in an hour, hoping that he would finally answer and approve the purchase of sweet little Coach purse (This is not anti-feminism, this is reality when you don't bring in regular, steady income. I am completely OK with it.)

Neal never answered.

I bought sweet little Coach purse and wished myself a Happy Valentine's Day.

Neal finally called back as we got to the other side of Atlanta. He also wished me Happy Valentine's Day and hoped that Coach and I are very happy together in his absence.

Arrived home, ate Popeye's shrimp po-boy sandwich like I have not been watching carbs and exercising 2 hours everyday

Did an hour of WebMD searching, inserting all of my various symptoms.

Discovered I have eczema.

Discovered that the Protopic ointment the second PA gave me is specifically for eczema (what would have helped is if she had said "I think you have eczema" instead of "Looks like just an atopic dermatitis").

Tried ointment again, in less generous amount.

Woke up with non-waxed look over eyebrows and a nose on the mend.

Got an email from my stepmother, who said I have stress-induced eczema caused by loss of moisture. She asked if I had been crying a lot lately.

No, but I've drinking my weight in coffee and wine and sweating like a guru in a lodge. Without much water intake. That could classify as "loss of moisture", right?

Continued on ointment and watched a borderline obsessive number of Bones episodes while I ate chocolate chips from the bag.

But I'm back to work today. Still just a smidge swollen, but no longer scaring the women and children.

In other news, Neal has been snowed on, iced on, lost heat in his bedroom for 3 days, and forced to drink horrific coffee due to a water main break on post. I still got the better end of the deal, but bless his heart...he has texted, called, and bought me a Coach purse, all in the name of making it better.

Tomorrow will be all about him because it's not all about me. Excepts when my face is afire. photos in this post because there is a good chance that you are eating lunch while you read this. So, just remember, I got the love, people...

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Bus Calls Are Better Than No Calls

The Soldiers of the 35-deuce are very busy right for their mission in Iraq and meeting with some of the Soldiers of the unit they will be replacing. While most of the unit is doing further training in the field, Neal is part of a smaller group who retreats to a secret secret (which is not completely ridiculous...they do have a higher higher headquarters, after all) location everyday to recreate logistical scenarios. Because of the secret secret nature of this spot, all cell phones are turned off and turned in prior to entering the building. This means I get text messages and/or phone calls when they load the bus to return for chow. My husband, in all of his infinite wisdom, realizes it is best to contact me whenever possible. Chief HasNoRhythm (who made his debut on Magnolias & Mimosas) also calls his blushing bride, DivaV, when they are en route to and from chow.

On the bus.

Over a couple of molten lava cakes last Sunday, DivaV and I coined these as "bus calls." Although, sometimes they are "van calls"... A bus call typically goes like this:

A: Hey, handsome!
N: Hey, beautiful! (This routine greeting started during the first deployment and happens every. single. time. Even in the middle of Target, even in the middle of a briefing.)
A: How's it going?
N: (saying something but only catching every 4th word due to yelping, hollaring, and the occasional cackle)
A: I didn't catch all that. Where are you all headed?
N: "I"...scream..."we are"....hysterical laughter...."toward"...someone else's conversation..."secret"...singing...
Come to think of's a lot like the camp bus from 4-H.
A: Ah...OK.

And on we go, discussing what was for lunch (fish), what they did that morning (briefings), where they are headed (secret secret location) with me piecing together Neal's words and holding the phone about 3" from my ear the entire time.

Neal, for all of his amazing super-husband qualities, cannot multi-task at all. I mean, he's just not very pretty. So, he will swear up, down, and east-west that he can carry on a conversation with me while riding a 15 passenger van with 14 other passengers and be completely devoted to our discussion. I know that's not know that's not true...and deep down in his secret secret place, he knows that's not true, too. But yesterday he said, "Well, I can call you back later, that's fine." and I halted him dead in his tracks. Because even though no one on the secret secret location bus knows how to use their inside voices, a bus call is better than no call. So, I will use my powers of deductive reasoning to determine what my husband is trying to tell me and be thankful that we have these 5 minutes here and 5 minutes there. Like exercise, it adds up over the course of the day and almost equals an actual conversation and I will take it.

I will also say that finding privacy in the Army is like that reoccurring dream I have where I desperately need to go #2 but can't find a bathroom stall with a door. I run up and down corridors and can only find toilets that are installed in the middle of large conference rooms. Just like you can't go #2 in the middle of a conference room, you can't really have a conversation with your wife on a 15 passenger van. So, I would like to say here, publicly, thank you to my husband for getting out of bed last night (in a room that he shares with 2 other Soldiers) and escaping to some privacy. It's not about phone sex, it's about hearing him say "I love you" and really really mean it. In his secret secret hiding spot. 

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Keeping Him Close

The first weekend with Neal deployed has come and gone without a come-apart or an ugly face cry...mostly because it's not polite to cry uncontrollably when you have company. And Mama Virgo really knows how to keep me, long walks around base, pedicures, dinner out. But weekends are just another day for me. Because I am self-employed and leaving the house is more of a break in the routine than the actual routine, I don't dread or fear the 2 long days of quiet. I work all of the time...Friday nights, Sunday mornings, Saturday afternoons...if I don't have another appointment on the calendar, I'm working. Many spouses don't have that luxury. When they punch out at 5 PM on Friday, they must then find some way to fill the next 2 1/2 days. Although, having children is an excellent way to fill that time.

Working for myself means that I fall into those moments of melancholy and missing him at the most random of times. There are only 2 things that pull me through those times effectively: a phone call from Neal or a keepsake close at hand. During the first deployment, keepsakes and momentos arrived almost everyday. I was being "wooed", as my grandmother would say. Flower deliveries, a Breakfast in the Country gift basket, Nikes with my name embroidered on the side, and the cards...oh the cards. And we had not even met yet! The second deployment was busier for him. Not as much downtime between convoys and less time to shop and ship. But I had a locket necklace with his picture that he had put around my neck the day he left. And there it stayed until I picked him up from Camp Atterbury 13 months later. Lying in that king size bed where the other half stayed perfectly made most of the time, I would rub on that locket and make wishes like a child at a fountain.

For this deployment, I asked for a bracelet...a very thin bangle with his deployment date on it. I have one similar that simply says "I luv u" that he had given me several years ago, so I knew he would know where to go to get another. Unfortunately, the engraving was not available on that bangle and I had to settle for a charm bracelet with a heart charm. It finally arrived on Friday morning and Mama Virgo was able to stand in for Neal as the one who put it on my wrist for its 13 month stay.

When Mama Virgo pulled out of the driveway on Sunday morning, it was 10 AM. I was up, showered, dressed, and had eaten breakfast. And church started at 11. No excuses now. What's amazing to me is no matter what day I finally show up at church, something is said or read that is exactly what I needed to hear at that moment. The chaplain droned on about the changes on the horizon (with military chaplains, they are always coming and going because they get stationed just like we do. So, why these "changes on the horizon" are so shocking is beyond me....), but one of the readings was from Hebrews 14. My eye, however wandered over to Hebrew 13. 

Keep on loving one another as brothers and sisters. Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing so, some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it. Continue to remember those in prison, as if you together were with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering. 

Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral. Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have....

Stories of Soldiers and spouses being unfaithful to one another during a deployment abound. The physical distance, it seems, is too far to build a bridge with communication and unconditional love. It becomes a test of will power to tune out these stories, to keep my imagination in check during the lull in calls and emails. A year apart, when you each have your own lives and they run parallel like the river and the road, crossing only occasionally at a bridge, can test the bonds of marriage. No spouse or Soldier can deny the tiny voices in their hearts that question. But the best we can do is have faith in each other, have faith in our marriage, and know that God will judge the adulterers and the sexually immoral. Temptation is everywhere but I stand firm in what I give in to. Yes, I will eat that molten lava cake from Chili's, but I will do so alone and wishing Neal was there to share it with me. Because...We got this!!

388 wake-ups to go!