Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Space Cadet

I wish I was leaving tomorrow. It's been a long 6 months since Ft. Bliss. An even longer 8 months since I came home to a quiet house, an empty bed, and dinner for 1. Thinking of where we've been the past 6 years only makes me long for our next adventure.

Rome from the vantage point of St. Peter's Cathedral dome.

Looking through the portal of a ship in the Baltimore Inner Harbor.

The grapes in a Sonoma vineyard where we were wine club members for almost 2 years.

Riding bareback in the ocean off St. Lucia. 

9 adults gathered on the trunk of a tree in The Redwood Forest. 

St. Paul's Cathedral, London, with a background of ominous skies.

Watching the jets take off over lunch at Hickam AFB, Honolulu.

The view from Camelback Mountain, Phoenix.

Charleston, SC on our 4th wedding anniversary. 

Hot springs on the bank of the Rio Grande.

Wedding Day, September 22, 2006. 
Oh, the places we'll go. 

This is seriously the longest 2 weeks of my life.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Champagne Friday: Passing Myself Coming and Going

Happy Champagne Friday!

I am especially jubilant today because my schedule just became a little less redonka-freakin-lous. When I returned from Kentucky at the beginning of the month, my calendar looked like this:

Home for a week
Jacksonville for 5 days (babysitting the wee me's)
Home for a week
In Chicago for a week
Home for a week
In Paris for 2 weeks
Home for a week
Hilton Head for a week
Kentucky for 3 weeks
Back to Georgia and for everyone keeping score at home, that brings us to the first of November. 

That is particularly important because, as Neal informed me this week, they have begun their 60-90 day re-deployment briefings/teleconferences with the post that they'll be returning to. This means that we are (in theory's the Army, it will change approximately 58473837282 times before he walks through the front door) 60-90 days from FINISHED. 

I think my eyes just rolled back in my head out of sheer happiness. 

Also, it's a little ironic that the one time I decide to blog about our 400-day deployments, the deployment is actually far less than 400 days. 

Dear Universe,
This is NOT me complaining.

But in true bff fashion, I was excused from the Chicago trip in an effort to take a little of the stressure (yeah, that's pressure stress) off. God love her because now I'll be in one place until I leave for Paris. And I can actually think clearly again. There is a lot to be said for that. 

To recap the last 3 weeks, though, here it is in pictures. Then I must get my workout on, followed by the tallest glass of bubbles ever...because this week, I sort of deserve it. 
The Queen, Sleeping Booty, and Repunzerella's trip to Kentucky began with a trip to the Louisville Children's Science Museum...where Army Dad taught us about momentum...or motion...or something. Anyway, as long as the wheel is spinning, you can balance it on your hand. (Bonus cool photography points: the wheel is actually spinning in this picture.)

This is the Louisville Slugger Museum, where they make the Slugger baseball bats (and first choice of weapon for many military wives). We didn't actually go in, but something tells me it can't compare to the awesome on the outside of the building.

At the Salato Nature Preserve in Frankfort, we saw the UK wildcat, Blue, up close and personal. And hiked 2 miles in flip flops and linen pants.

GO BIG BLUE! OK...he doesn't look so fierce here, but I assure you, he can take down a Florida gator without thinking twice.

And...of course....we fed the ducks. Because that's what you do. And then you cuss like a redneck sailor when they crap all over your car and deny any responsibility in the whole thing.

Lunch was at Gatti Town, where the pizza is greasy, the drink refills are unlimited and the games are 8746356% more spectacular than they were when I was a WeeAlly in 'Da Fort. Not an air hockey table in sight. But there are motorcycles and bumper cars. Hutch and Shana, get your game faces on...we are SO going back.

I refuse to feel any sort of inferiority complex simply because these bumper cars are bigger than my Prius.

Friday brought horseback riding at The Kentucky Horse Park, which was home to the 2010 Equestrian Games (Horse Olympics, basically. But Lexington rocks extra hard because we hosted the first games ever held outside of Europe. Yep, we know a thing or 2 about do).

We didn't get the same memo that Army Dad got. He was ready for a cattle drive. We looked like we were hitting up Abercrombie and Fitch.

Saturday was rum by the pool and s'mores after dinner. Sunday morning, we convoyed back to Georgia so the girls could crash at my place and then finish their drive on Monday morning.

I was home for about 6 days before it was time to head out again to my sister's for babysitting duty. As my sister prepped her library for the first day of school next week, we were frequenting McDonald's, the pool, and the movies. Oh, what movie, you ask?

The Smurfs, of course! According to Neal, the Smurfs are an 80's thing and anyone born around 1968 has an innate aversion to them. My sister and her husband had been putting off Smurfs since opening night. I, on the other hand, had been looking for some small children to accompany me so I didn't look quite so much like Kyle the Pedophile, rolling up into a movie about little blue people. But first...we had to make a McDonald's stop so the 3 of us (yes our total age is 45...your point??) could get Smurf figurines in our Happy Meal.

Yes, that would be Grouchy Smurf, sandwiched between 2 Vanity Smurfs. The fact that I got Vanity Smurf is hysterical to Neal and my mother, as they both hold the belief that I'm incapable of passing a mirror/car window/any shiny, reflective surface without looking at myself in it.

They might be right.

There may have also been a bit of beach time thrown in for good measure.

But now I'm back to work...creating, writing, and of course...reading. Good thing I have a trusty sidekick to remind me of what's really important.

Cheers to you on this beautiful Friday. My pre-pregnancy pants fit again, champagne is on sale at the Class 6, and the cats have their legs hiked up and licking their asses...all is right with the world.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Follow Me Down the Yellow Brick Road

....and right over to From the Sidelines. My sister and I are compiling our Fantasy Football team based solely on strong, Christian morals and good looks. And we only have 2 players so far. Suggestions wanted.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

A Soldier's Coming Home

I often get my panties in a knot about the lack of attention we show our service members when they arrive home in a casket instead of a plane seat. Occasionally you will hear about a funeral procession and, if people get the news in time, they will line the street waving flags to show respect and appreciation. But, in general, a Soldier's remains returning home earns a 20-second news spot and a paragraph on the second page of the paper. It happens more than we realize. It happens almost everyday. Last week, it happened 30 times.

Army Specialist Mark Downer returned home on Friday. A 2005 graduate of Northside High School in Warner Robins, GA, he was just a baby, 24...25...when he was killed in Afghanistan last week. His body was flown into Robins Air Force Base yesterday. Living so close to the flight line, I hear every plane that takes off and lands from this base. I know I heard that plane, but it sounded just like any other. No fan fare or special effects to alert me that this cargo jet was carrying someone precious. I went about my day as any other Friday. I posted my 2 RED items. R.emember E.veryone D.eployed. I titled one of them "Sacrifice." How ironic. As I was photographing "Sacrifice" in the shade of my front yard trees, a plane carrying Spc Downer was most likely flying low over my roof, preparing to land less than a mile away. Sometimes the coincidences are too great to dismiss.

But I didn't know. I don't watch the news (ignorant, perhaps, but I learned in June that it's better for my sanity). I had no idea that as I was posting my items, pricing them and writing descriptions, that Warner Robins streets were lining with people preparing to honor a fallen hero. I am so Spc. Downer and to his family, that I was not there among them. You deserve to know that his sacrifice is not in vain, your grief is not ignored, and he will never be forgotten. We are proud of Spc. Downer and I salute him today and every day. And I pray for you and your family for it is a long road ahead without the sound of your son's laughter, the joy he brings you just by being here. Thank you, Spc. Downer and thank you Downer Family.

via Google Images (Freedom Remembered: Remembering Our Troops)

If you are interested in supporting the Downer Family financially, the MJD Memorial Fund has been established at all 8 Mid-South Federal Credit Unions to support Downer's 1-year old daughter.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011


I just have to raise the roof a bit over here tonight. Neal was awarded the Army Achievement Medal for providing excellent mentoring to Soldiers while deployed. The awards ceremony took place yesterday and I hope someone took pictures in my absence.

Congratulations, handsome! I am so proud of you!!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011


Even though I have been on a countdown since 21 January (hence the name of the blog), I have not been physically crossing days off of a calendar or ripping dated pages from a stack on my desk. I've just been sort of keeping track in the back of my mind. One month down...11 to go. Or 2 more months until we are at the halfway point. 

Except that we don't exactly know when "halfway" is. Which is different from every other deployment. Because we don't know for sure that the Iraqi government is going to stick to a 31 December deadline and we don't know for sure if the U.S. will send troops home from Iraq or just shift them over to Kuwait, we don't really know how long the deployment will last. Probably less than the typical 400 days. But how much less? There's no telling...which, admittedly, at times makes me want to sit on the kitchen floor and bang my head with a ladle. But as Army Dad has taught me, I hope for the best, but expect the worst. 

The best possible outcome would be a November Homecoming. It would be about 6 weeks after I last saw Neal in Paris and just enough time to scoot back to the house, deep clean it, and prepare a week's worth of meals like I had been cooking for the past year (and not, as he probably suspects, playing Wheel of Restaurants for 10 months). Worst case? February. Which would be a 400-day deployment and, unless he was stop-lossed, the longest his tour could possibly be. And if you believe everything the government tells you, stop-loss no longer occurs.

Either way, we crossed the half-way point on July 21. I was knee-deep in townhouse brick on the 21st and completely missed the significance. And now I'm on the downhill slide. 

When I sat down this afternoon and realized how close to November we actually are (and if you haven't noticed that the end of the year is justaroundthecorner, then head to a craft store where Christmas has thrown up in at least 5 aisles), I started to think about my Deployment To-Do List (and consequently, the fact that I had never quite gotten around to blogging the list). 

Janet over at We Four Explorers has just seen her husband off for another year-long deployment and decided to create a list of books that she would like to read in his absence. We are all in agreement that compiling any sort of list will help the time pass. Putting your time and energy into checking things off will make the time at least march, if not fly. 

So, here is my list of what I wanted to accomplish this year. I have about 4 months to finish it up. And if there are items left uncrossed? Well, that's OK too. I didn't get around to learning how to pair food and wine last deployment, but Neal and I are enjoying that to-do together. 

  • Fix the townhouse brick - whatever that means. (at the sake of my sanity, but whatever. It's done.)
  • Re-learn French
  • Cook a whole chicken (unless there is removal of innerds involved. Then I'm out.)
  • Blog about the deployment
  • Get those last 25 lbs off my ever-expanding ass (14 down...9 to go)
  • Try the Paleo Diet for at least 6 months (off and on for 6 months now and really love it. Especially the "on" part.)
  • Workout everyday (or at least 5 days/week) (or at least 2 days/week...or at least twice a month. Quit judging me.)
  • Read The Hunger Games series
  • Launch the business website
  • Get the business logo redesigned
  • Spend a week in NYC 
  • Create a line of jewelry from upcycled materials (read: yard sale mania every Saturday)
  • Master my sangria recipe (I know, disappointing. You'd think this would be the first item I tackled.)
  • Keep a plant alive for more than a month (related: thank God for the hardiness of rosemary.)
  • Check out the historic homes in Macon
  • Go to the Farmer's Market on Saturday mornings
  • Plan a romantic and uberly awesome R&R with Captain Handsome
  • Practice my grill skillz
  • Visit friends in Chicago
  • Decorate the guest bathroom in KY with sweet little photos from NYC
  • Finish the wedding scrapbook
  • Find a church
  • Read the growing stack of non-Nook books...including Paula Deen's autobiography and Jen Lancaster's new one and Kartography
  • Watch "Castle" from start to finish
  • Watch "Grey's Anatomy" from start to finish (I'm a little over half way. I really should not have waited until like season 7 to start).
  • Learn how to make my own mayonnaise 
  • Go through my digital photos and delete the ones I don't want to keep forever and ever
  • Create some sort of water concoction that I won't mind drinking instead of diet soda when I'm pregnant 
  • Make a huge stack of greeting cards so that I can stop buying them all the time 
And that's where I left off. the 30 episodes of "Castle" and blogging about the deployment, have gone fairly smoothly...while finding a church (which is particularly difficult when each one is compared to the church I grew up in) and learning how to make mayonnaise (which I tried once and was disastrous) has proven more difficult. But I've made a fairly decent dent in my list and must credit that with completely missing my halfway point celebration.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Champagne Friday: The Inner WeeAlly

My sister and 2 nieces arrived on Tuesday afternoon. Since then, it's been hiking, playing pool, playing ping pong, going to a science museum, and eating pizza. And maybe taking advantage of "adults ride free" on the bumper cars at Gatti Town. Headed out for horseback riding. Be back soon!
Happy Champagne Friday!

Thursday, August 4, 2011