Boy + Girl + Army + e-Harmony = Captain and Mrs. Butters! This is what we're up to. Observations, opinions, events, images, and more.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Thank You, Veterans.

This nation will remain the land of the free only so long as it is the home of the brave.
-Elmer Davis
Today I thank all who have served our country, past and present.

The Captain
 I especially thank my husband and my hero, Spike, who served our country in Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom from January 2009 to January 2010.

I also remember my grandfather Raymond who served in the Navy during World War II, and honor my many friends and acquaintances who have served or currently are serving in the Armed Forces. Your bravery, sacrifices, and selflessness are much appreciated and valued.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

We have a new da Vinci among us.

Spike finished his in-processing last week, so for the past few days he has been learning the ropes at his new office. He deviated from the military tasks for a bit today, though. This is what he did during a break:

Yes, I got an email from him this afternoon with this attachment. The filename is "Artist Rendition of My New Truck." As you may have guessed, the Captain just got a new truck. Last night, actually. After months of meticulous research and option-weighing. He's pretty excited. Here's a picture of the actual truck he took this morning:

The resemblance to Spike's Paint picture is striking, right down to the tailpipe. I have to say, when I opened that email I lost it. Completely cracked up. I'm sure I sounded like Jane Eyre's madwoman in the attic with my hysterical cackles bouncing off the as-yet-undecorated walls. Let me tell you, folks, people will be bidding millions of dollars for my husband's artwork several years from now. Obviously.

On an unrelated note, today was Spike's Friday. I'm just a teeny weeny bit jealous.

The South rose again--I won!

In the Internet black hole that PCS-ing has been, it seems that I have won a fellow blogger's contest! And I am incredibly excited about it. Before Halloween, Mel at Head in the game. Heart in the sand. and Goodnight Moon held a childhood Halloween costume contest. Digging up pictures of me in various crazy, pint-sized outfits seemed like too much fun not to do, so of course, I entered with this post. And lo and behold, Mel picked my Civil War soldier tribute to be her winner. If only I could go back in time and congratulate my 12 year-old self! Thanks, Mel!

I had so much fun in this costume!
I'm psyched to see what my prize is...I'll be watching the mail like a hawk. This is like the adult blogger version of waiting for Santa on Christmas morning.

Lest you think I've left my love for the Civil War in the past, though, consider the following. Spike thought this photo, as well as my description of being a sixth-grade history buff, was hilarious. So while he was driving hither and yon all over post during in-processing last week, he got me this at the Cavalry Museum:

It is a tiny painted pewter figurine of Robert E. Lee, all praises be to his sainted name! (Give me a break, I was born and raised in the South.) Now my new desk has a guardian. And he may or may not be joined by some un-painted pewter Civil War soldiers I bought during my costumed glory days.

Look away, look away, look away, Dixie Land!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Yeah, it's been a little while! Last week I worked on a folding table in the middle of our new, but still very empty, living room. And I found out that spending all day in a totally empty house is kind of like living in a bubble outside of the normal time-space continuum. As in, although I'd worked all week, I didn't realize it was Friday until lunchtime. Oh well--no lasting harm done.

Spike and I have spent our non-work time poking around our new post and town, trying out different restaurants, and going on several expeditions including truck-shopping, furniture-shopping, and...a zoo. That was until yesterday, when the moving truck arrived. Now, I'm sure, our hands will be full with unpacking. Which I hope is mostly, kind of, manageably squared away by Sunday, at which point I will fly to North Carolina to tie up loose ends there, pack up my belongings, and (with Spike's assistance), schlep them and my car to Kansas.

So, sorry for the past and future blog lapses. I'm sure all of you who have moved or PCS-ed understand! I have to say, while I am incredibly grateful to have a job that moves with me, it's been extra-stessful and exhausing doing all of this while taking as few days off as possible (For one thing, I work under deadlines, and for another, I'm selfish and want to save my days off for "fun" stuff). Right now, I am incredibly jealous of Spike's upcoming four-day weekend. Onward and upward, though! The end is in sight, and then the holidays will be here to enjoy.

A few last things: I was so relieved and comforted by the responses to my last post! I'm glad to know that I'm not the only one who has the occasional military-provoked meltdown. Taking a cue from several of you, my future line will be: "I loathe the Army right now...but not you, dearest darlingest Husband!"

And lastly, I received my first blog award from Unlikely Wife: The "Your Blog is Fabulous" award! Thanks so much--I am incredibly surprised by how much seemingly random observations, emotions, and musings have the power to connect people...and by how inspiring and encouraging we can all be to one another through sharing.

The rules of this award are:
Thank the person who gave it to you and link back (done)! Pass it on to other bloggers you've recently begun reading to tell them they're fabulous, then then answer the questions below. Here are my selections:
Wookie & Co.
Knock Jessica Up

1) What is the one thing you love treat yourself to ...that you rarely do?
Give my inner foodie free reign to go to a nice restaurant and order whatever she wants. Cheese board, appetizers, entree, wine, dessert, coffee...the whole multiple-hour and mucho-dollar works. Mostly 'cause it's expensive.

2) What Book have you read that has just opened your eyes or touched you deeply?
Recently, I finished "The Hunger Games" trilogy. They are a young adult series that was recommended to me by a friend, and I was really surprised by how powerful a punch they packed. They raise many uncomfortable--and often unanswerable--questions about where our society's preferences and values are leading us, what's "justifiable" in terms of the suffering of others, what constitutes love, and much more. They're short and exciting reads...I highly recommend them. 

3) If you were reincarnated as an animal/drink/ice cream flavor, what would it be?
Animal: Owl
Drink: Nicely aged whisky, with a bit of ice to take the edge off
Ice Cream: Birthday cake

4) What celebrity do you ever get mistaken for?
Recently, I've heard the lady from Mythbusters, and Amy Adams. If only!
5) Where is Waldo?
Actually, I saw him in the Hy-Vee grocery store on Halloween.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Welcome to Kansas

We made it to Kansas!

Spike's graduation ceremony was Friday morning (yay Spike!), and then with the help of his parents, we finished packing up and wiping down the house, and hit the road. Spike's parents had generously offered to drive one of our vehicles, so we all caravaned north. Things were going well until we called the Army hotel. They'd told us the day before that they were booked, but that we could stay anywhere else in town, and they'd give us a statement of nonavailability so that we could still pay the government rate. Well, on Friday they informed us that not only were they full, but that every other hotel in town was full as well. Not good. We made some calls on our own, and sure enough--it was Kansas State's homecoming. Gah! Every hotel we could find within a half-hour drive was "No Vacancy!" we ended up driving an extra hour to Topeka so we'd have a place to sleep.

Lesson learned: Book ahead of time no matter what the hotel folks tell you to do.

I don't have a ton of time right now (might not post too many updates this and next week till we get settled...we'll see), but briefly, I REALLY like what I have seen of the area so far. Post is beautiful, and the commissary, PX, etc. are all new. The town of Manhattan is nice too--very clean and "safe"-feeling. There's a Target. (yay!) Also a grocery store called Hy-Vee that I've never encountered, but that made Spike react in much the same way I did to Target.

Okay, in closing, I have a question. Military spouses/significant others, how do you make it clear to your better half that you're frustrated with the system, not with him? You see, two things have happened:

1) We found out after the fact that one of the homes we turned down has amenities we weren't informed of (which might have influenced our choice), and
2) Our stuff won't be delivered to the new house until next Monday.

I was mad about not having all the info up front on the housing situation (makes me feel taken advantage of), and I was frustrated that we'll be living in an empty house for a week. Yes, I know, this is par for the course. But I'm new to the course. And I honest-to-goodness had a meltdown yesterday. As in, I was pouting and whining like a five year old, with a few errant tears leaking out. In the cold light of morning, I'm not terribly upset that we didn't get the house we turned down, and I know I can live with an air mattress for a week. Honestly, I think what pushed me over the edge was the complete lack of agency I have here. I'm not used to being so totally at the mercy of a larger institution, and (even though I'm excited about our life when we get settled) I feel powerless and unimportant as that settling process is unfolding.

None of that has to do with Spike, of course. I know he's trying as hard as he can to make things go smoothly as possible. And instead of thanking him, I lost it. I know he thought I was upset with him, as though he wasn't doing good enough. And that's not it at all. So: how can I better control myself/respond in the future? Any tips or tricks?

Thursday, October 28, 2010

My Temporary Office

Just thought I'd share...this is where I worked on Tuesday because it was the only room in the house not disturbed by movers hauling boxes and furniture.

Nice desk and desk chair, huh? My dad says that many of his life's most inspirational moments have occurred in this room.

Yesterday I migrated back and forth between the floor and a bag chair. Both of these made my back hurt and my bum-bum go numb-numb, so I may go to *gasp!* Starbucks to work this afternoon. Also, I have a new appreciation for furniture.

Spike's parents arrive this afternoon so that they can attend his graduation tomorrow. After that, we'll set off for Kansas! Woah.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Squaws and Good Witches and Confederates, oh my!

I had been halfway planning on doing a Halloween Costumes of my Youth post anyway, and that intention was firmed up even more when I learned about the vintage costume-sharing going on over at Goodnight Moon. If you post some pictures of your own and link up, you might get a treat. 

Sadly, I don't have very many pictures to share. They exist, of course...but most of them are in my mother's archives in North Carolina. Hence, I can't access them. However, I was able to glean a few snapshots from my brother's Facebook account, and I had one of my own in my files. Here we go!

At this point I should mention that my grandmother is an amazing seamstress, and she made Halloween costumes for my brother and me every year. Some that I don't have pictures of include Belle and the Beast, Jasmine and Aladdin, and Minnie and Mickey. One year, I was Babe the Gallant Pig and my brother was Luke Skywalker. So, not so much matchey-matchey that Halloween.

In this picture, my brother is Captain Hook, and I am Princess Tiger Lily. The pumpkin, apparently, is the Cat in the Hat.

Moving on, here I am in my Glinda the Good Witch outfit. In the interest of full disclosure, this picture wasn't taken on Halloween (this was probably during dress-up on some random day). I had a more authentic Glinda hat that I wore on Halloween, and I remember that my brother was the Tin Man that year. Here, he appears to be Davy Crockett from the waist up, and a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle fanboy from the waist down.


And lastly, my all-time favorite Halloween costume: Confederate soldier from the Civil War. Yes, Confederate soldier from the Civil War. I honestly don't remember what started it all, but by sixth grade I was obsessed with Civil War history. Obsessed. I read all the books I could find on the subject. I could have told you when and where every major engagement was fought, and what the outcome was. I was familiar with all of the prominent commanders on each side. I knew what sorts of weapons were used, and what their pros and cons were. I researched the period's culture, and knew fairly accurately what daily life was like for civilians and soldiers. Yes, I was already firmly entrenched as a nerd...but I had a blast! And nobody was surprised when I wanted to be a Confederate soldier for Halloween (I had to represent my home state of North Carolina, after all!). Sibling rivalry being what it is, my little brother insisted on dressing as a Yankee soldier. 

I took this picture with my cell phone...but maybe the graininess adds to the "authenticity?"

Johnny (or Janie) Reb and Billy Yank. After Halloween, we fought many a backyard battle in full costume. 

So, there you go! I wonder how my future kids are going to surprise me in their costume choices.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Boxed In!

The movers came today to box up our (read: Spike's) household goods. Honestly, it was not that bad! I suppose after moving seven times in as many years (if you count college dorm rooms, which I do), I guess any move in which other people pack your stuff is good. And to give these movers their due, they were pleasant and efficient. I was afraid that their presence would cut my productivity by at least two-thirds, but no...they thoughtfully left my office till last, at which point I moved my laptop onto a box and plopped down cross-legged in front of it...and I haven't moved since. And honestly, I think I was unusually productive today. Go figure.

Spike oversaw the packing and picked up a couple pizzas for the movers to eat for lunch (smart, that...), and he also fed them Halloween candy and the cookies I made on Sunday.

So now, each room is a mini-maze of boxes. I worked in my college's art gallery all four years to earn food/fun/gas/clothes/car payment money, and based on that experience I am sure that if I had more vision I could turn these box piles into some sort sculpture that provides a revealing/scathing/tragic look at modern life...but...I stuck with studying luxury arts of the Middle Ages for a reason. So, simple piles of boxes they shall remain. Until tomorrow, that is, when the movers cart them away and leave Spike and I with an air mattress, some suitcases, and the frying pan and kitchen utensils I carefully laid aside.

In all honesty, my still-short lists of military "firsts" hasn't been all that bad. First night with Spike away, first medical appointment, (part of the) first move...none were as bad as I expected. I'm waiting for the other shoe to drop. Hopefully the wheels don't fall off of the truck when we drive up to Kansas on Friday.

Friday, October 22, 2010

MilSpouse Friday Fill-In: 22 October, 2010

Oh yeah--it's Friday. Which means it's fill-in time. Which means two posts today! If it tickles your fancy, join in and read other responses at Wife of a Sailor!

1. Are you a night owl or an early bird?
Used to be a night owl. What I can only assume to be advancing age (ha), plus a husband who gets up at dark-thirty for PT, have made me an early bird. We've usually said good-night to the world by 10:00 PM.

2. What makes you jealous?
It's somewhat shallow, I know...but I have to suppress pangs of jealousy aimed toward people who don't have any student loans to pay off. If you want brutal (but hopefully not offensive!) honesty, I specifically mean people whose parents paid for their college educations, not so much the ones who won scholarships or did ROTC. It's irrational, I know...I mean, good for families who successfully hung on to college funds! It's increasingly difficult to do, I think. Essentially, I just hate having that sum hanging above my head, even though college was worth it. I feel guilty for bringing that debt into my marriage, especially since it's the only major debt either one of us has.

3. Have you started Christmas/holiday shopping yet? When will you finish? (There’s only 63 days left!)
63 days...that's plenty of time! Haven't started yet, and have no idea when I'll finish...but I've got basic ideas for all of the major people. Hence, not panicking. Yet.

4. What would you have a personal chef make you tonight?
Actually, Professor Pete has invited Spike and I over for marinated flank steak. I'm sure he'd be thrilled to know he was just referred to as our "personal chef." At the moment, though, I'm craving gruyere fodue and a prosciutto-and-goat-cheese panini.

5. Where was your first kiss?
On my then-boyfriend's couch. It was a red couch, and we were watching something on TV. I think Band of Brothers. I got started kind of late...I was 22 at the time.

Funny Face

Yesterday I got my hair trimmed and colored. It was an adventure spanning the hours of 4:30 to 8:30 (yup, 4 hours), but quite worth it. My hair is newly-red; I went a little more toward rust tones for autumn. I also got a treatment that, if it works as advertised, will retain up to 65 percent more color than normal. (If you've ever dyed your hair red, you know it fades out like no other color.)

Honestly, I buy most of my clothes at discount stores like Ross and TJ Maxx, or off the sale racks. I can only remember one shopping expedition--ever--during which I bought whatever I wanted without regard to price. (Fun at the time; slightly sickening later when I looked at my bank account.) However, I'll shell out for hair. I figure it's the one thing I wear all the time, every day. Who cares how fashionable your clothes are if your hair is, as one of best friends would say, a hot mess? So yeah, I'll spend hours and dollars to get it looking good.

I was going to take a few pictures last night to post, but my phone's camera wasn't doing a great job of capturing the new color. It's actually a lot redder than it looks here. But that's not the point. Before my little photoshoot was underway, the Captain staged a sneak attack. Here are a few of the results:

I really do love this man. I expect his rubber face to be entertaining for years to come.

Lastly, since I didn't leave the salon till 8:30, I did what any other responsible, health-conscious adult would do for supper: I went through the Mickey D's drive-thru and ordered a cheeseburger happy meal. Duh. And to my extreme delight, this is what the happy meal came in:

How awesome is that?? Pretty darn, methinks.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Miscellany...and a house!

I've been doing that thing lately where I write blog posts in my head, and then neglect to actually type them out. Oops!

Well, the big news is that Spike and I officially have an on-post house to move into when we PCS in...gulp...eight days. Somehow we went from being smack-dab in the middle of the wait list to having three different floor plans to choose from. I was momentarily distracted by the one with a sun room, but it didn't take much further discussion for Spike and I to decide that a garage was preferable to a sun room. We'll also have a small front porch and a decent amount of storage space (unless the floor plan is lying), so I'm very much relieved. Spike, meanwhile, is over the moon at the prospect of not having a 20-minute commute to PT and work every day.

What else? Well, I had my first experience with military medical centers. It was a fairly simple matter of talking to a PA so that I could get a prescription changed, but I was still fairly frightened by the stories I've heard from Spike and from some of my fantastic fellow bloggers. Most hair-raising was Spike's visit to the dentist after returning from downrange.

"I see you've still got your wisdom teeth," the dentist told him. "Two of those are pretty near the surface--I can roll them right out for you now. You're a tough guy; you don't need anesthesia."

WHAT???? Needless to say, Spike firmly told the man that he'd prefer to see an oral surgeon. Yikes.

So yeah, I was really relieved to meet my friendly, helpful PA...and to pick up my new prescription, all in under an hour. Yes, I know...I'm sure I'll run into more difficulties in the future!

Lastly, I'm getting my hair trimmed and re-colored this afternoon. I'm kind of apprehensive about it--I haven't been to a new stylist in about 12 years (unless you count the student at the Vidal Sassoon school in London. He looked more like a body builder than a hairstylist, but didn't do a bad job). We'll see what happens!

Friday, October 15, 2010

MilSpouse Friday Fill-In: 15 October, 2010

First things first: I was really surprised (in a great way!) at the response to my post yesterday on Afghanistan. I'm so glad that putting my mental ramblings down in blog form has helped to change other perspectives as well. And make no mistake--my perspective definitely needed changing. When I'm not vaguely resenting Afghanistan because I don't want Spike to have to go back (there's some honesty for you), I'm comparing coalition efforts there to the conquests of the Romans, to the Anglo-Saxon invasion of Britain, etc. (I'm a history nerd; what can I say?), and wondering if our forces can really change Afghanistan's society since they're simply occupiers, and not settlers who are actively putting down roots and assimilating. 

I think I just need to stop, well, thinking so much--because this isn't a chapter in a history book yet--it's still happening. And the photos and people I wrote about yesterday give me hope that we might truly see a positive outcome for the Afghan people--because clearly, many of them want freedom and progress as well. And as for me? Well, like I said yesterday, I'm going to try to keep a more open, informed mind...and should Spike deploy to Afghanistan again, which I know is likely, I'll miss him terribly--but I'll be equally proud that he is fighting for opportunity and growth. While, again, I'm missing him terribly. It's his job, though, and I know he is proud to do it.

Oh, and one last thing before the Fill-In. You know that "stray" dog I found a few weeks ago? The one who slipped through my fingers and left me distraught that I'd abandoned him to the dubious mercies of the world? Well, Spike and I were riding our bikes through town the other evening, and I saw him. In a yard. Behind a fence. Wearing a collar. I grinned like an idiot the whole way home. Spike was right--he had a home after all. 

And now, the Fill-In! If it tickles your fancy, join in and read other responses at Wife of a Sailor!

1. What are some things on your bucket list? (from New Girl on Post)
Here are a random few: (I really need to write down the whole list one of these days!) Have children. Skydive. Live abroad for more than three months (the current "record"). Complete the Camino de Santiago de Compostela pilgrimage in Spain. Publish a novel. Become truly fluent in a foreign language (Spike and I are planning to start learning Russian together soon!). Visit all seven continents. Earn a graduate degree. Learn how not to make plants die (I have a distinctly yellow thumb).

2. How long have you been a MilSpouse and where have you been stationed so far? (from Raising Roscoe)
I have been a MilSpouse for one month and five days! (That was easy.) When I "met" Spike, he was in Afghanistan. Then he came back to Fort Bragg in NC, which was about a three-hour drive from my home. Now we are both at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. And two weeks from today, we will PCS to Fort Riley, Kansas. That's a lot of places for under a year!

3. What is a list of songs that sums up your life so far? (from Confessions of a Sailor’s Wife)
This one's tougher than it looks! I listen to music all day while I work, but I've never really put together a soundtrack for my life. That said, I'm not going to spend too long on the list don't judge me too much based on what I'm about to write! I'm sure I could do better if I spent more time thinking.
  • I think childhood would just be a mish-mash of Disney songs, Oldies (parents played them all the time), and classical piano music (I took lessons for 14 years).
  • High school? Well, I was a big fan of...okay, I'll admit it...N'Sync. Also, while my social reputation probably wasn't as bad as I thought it was at the time, I'm going to go with the Revenge of the Nerds theme song to set the general tone of high school.   
  • College: Les Miserables. The whole thing. Just because I listened to it nonstop for my junior and senior years.
  • My relationship with Spike: "The Way you Look Tonight." He sang it under his breath on our first date, and has continued to do so ever since.   
...Okay, so my response to this question stank. I have come to the conclusion that the songs I listen to a lot don't actually describe my life. 

4. What is your favorite kind of pizza?
If it involves goat cheese, I'm there!

5. What are three good things in your life right now?
  1. Spike and our new marriage! 
  2. A full-time job that I enjoy and that I can do from wherever the Army sends us.
  3. My new Kindle. Shallow, I know...but it has opened up a whole new world of bookwormish pleasure!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Another Afghanistan

The other day, I clicked on a link that showed up in my facebook feed and read this blog post on journalist Sebastian Junger's website. Kanani Fong, the post's author,  points out that Afghanistan hasn't always been the "backwater" nation it is now. Its citizens once boasted more freedom than they currently enjoy, and its society was once developing and upwardly mobile (at least in terms of how we Westerners would define the phrase). What really captured my attention about the post, though, were the photographs it linked to. Here are a few:

Circa 1950-1960: An Afghan nurse instructs young mothers in post-natal care.

Circa 1950-1960: Afghan children participating in Scouting programs

Circa 1950-1960: Public transportation in Kabul
Circa 1950-1960: Biology class at Kabul University

Circa 1950-1960: Record store

This then/now comparison photo is especially telling:
Paghman Gardens near Kabul, circa 1960 and now
Yeah, that's the same place. And in the first set of photographs? No burqas. Ankles, shins, and knees showing! Women in school! Records that are in all likelihood Western!

Now, I know that these photographs most likely depict, as the original poster puts it, "the most progressive strata of society." And I know that Afghanistan isn't completely devoid of these things now. The lot of women there has certainly improved since the overthrow of the Taliban government, and certain sectors of society embrace Western culture (just Google Afghan Star, similar to American Idol) as well as progressive ideals (check out this article about the amazing and admirable Mozhda Jamalzahdah, who at only 26 is being called Afghanistan's Oprah).

Mozhda. I admire this woman immensely.

With all of that said, though, the fact is that I still think of Afghanistan as a backwater country on my good days, and as a hopelessly lost cause on my worse ones. On some level, it's shocking to see those old photographs and to realize that not only are the Afghan people theoretically capable of building a nation that isn't run through fear, ignorance, and oppression--they've actually been well on their way to doing it before.

That realization really brings me up short, because as I've hinted, I tend not to give Afghanistan the benefit of a doubt. From a historian's perspective, I find myself wondering if it's even remotely possible for a society to drastically change in a matter of decades. From an American citizen's perspective, I wonder if the resources we are pouring into the region are worth the supposed benefits that might come from our occupation. And from a military wife's perspective, I sometimes blindly, irrationally, and selfishly just want us to get out so that my husband will never be in harm's way there again. (I'd like to pretend that I'm more high-minded, team-spirited, and big-picture-oriented than that, but I'm not always. I'm human.)

I suppose it's good to be reminded that Afghan women could attend biology classes in the 1960s wearing pumps, pencil skirts, and uncovered hair. That knowledge really underscores just how tragic it is that currently, Afghan schools that educate women are targeted for violence.

You know, I'm not saying that I'm suddenly been converted to the "Let's stay in Afghanistan indefinitely!" camp. Honestly, I don't know how I feel about America's continued occupation of the country. Despite the optimism that these photographs and people like Mozhda inspire, I still question whether Afghanistan has the ability to become an upwardly mobile country that doesn't tolerate terrorists in the foreseeable future. I have grave doubts as to whether the damaging, oppressive, and inhumane aspects of Afghan tribal culture will ever be eradicated. And honestly, I don't have the expertise to come up with educated answers to those questions.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that it's good to keep in mind that situations are rarely as simple as we'd like them to be. It's good for me to remember that coalition forces are accomplishing good things in Afghanistan--every day. They're helping its people to take back some of what they've lost, and to reach toward completely new goals. And that's good.

Whether our troops end up staying in Afghanistan for three more years or 15 more years, I hope I can remain compassionate and somewhat open-minded. I don't want the moments when I callously and selfishly think, "Who cares? Let's just leave the Afghans to deal with their own problems," to bleed into permanence. Because Afghanistan isn't just filled with corruption, drug dealers, insurgents, and bombmakers--it also contains kids who want an education, women who want a say in whom they marry, and so many more. I just wish with everything in me that it was possible to help these people without losing any more coalition lives...or even without the necessity of never-ending deployments. (Yeah, I know that last bit is a pipe dream!)

I'm curious...does anyone else ever find themselves wanting to write Afghanistan off without valuable reminders like this?

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Back in the Saddle

It's strange how only a few days away can completely break your routine. Annoying, that. No, it's not that I mind change very much--and I'm a big fan of spontenaity--I just don't like the "return to the real world" part. You know, you muddle through a normal day, climb into bed, and then smack yourself in the forehead, saying, "Crap! I meant to do Task X (e.g., blog) today!" Is this just me? Having to retrain yourself to successfully check off all the boxes you want to after your routine is interrupted?

I'm getting my act back together now, though, pulling the pieces of daily life back into place. For what it's worth, anyway. I looked at the calendar yesterday and realized that in two and a half weeks, Spike and I will be on our way north to Kansas. Wow. Talk about a real routine breaker!

Anyway, what I really want to do in this post is thank you all for your sympathy and prayers regarding the death of my grandfather. My trip to North Carolina last week for the funeral was a quick one, but I'm so glad I was able to be present.

I'm lucky. I haven't had to attend many funerals in my life, and I have yet to lose someone whose absence truly leaves an aching rift. In all honesty, my grandfather and I were not close. Although my brother and I grew up only 15 minutes away from my father's parents and visited them nearly every Sunday afternoon when we were young, we never got a sense for who they were. As a child, I don't believe I had an in-depth conversation with either of them, and once I became old enough to do so, declining illness had intervened and made such a thing practically impossible.

I know my paternal grandparents were fond of my brother and me; I remember their smiles, and their hugs at holidays. I know from my dad's stories and from the values and character that have shaped his life that my grandparents were admirable people. They just weren't terribly demonstrative, and they weren't the type, I suppose, to reach out. I remember my mother telling me that "it's just their way" in response to my disappointment that my grandmother and grandfather declined to attend my high school graduation.

From my current vantage point, it's evident to me that my grandparents' insular lives were a result of declining health, mounting familial issues (the word "drama" would be appropriate, to say the very least), and a lack of mobility and finances. I wish I had understood that at a younger age. I'm not proud to admit it, but for years I felt borderline resentment toward my grandmother and grandfather for what I saw as their lack of interest and involvement. Now, I grieve for them because I know they worked extremely hard their entire lives, only to have their peace, finances, and retirement leached away from them through regrettable circumstances.

Well, enough vague references. Let sleeping dogs lie. You can't change the past, and all that. While I rationally agree with these platitudes, I still mourn the grandfather I didn't really know--and I can't help feeling grief for the relationship I might have had with him, and for the peaceful final years he wasn't able to have.

The funeral service and burial were well-done. It's true that those rituals are entirely for the living, and I think that the positive aspect of this one was that it brought together relatives who hadn't seen each other in awhile for no good reason, and prompted those "let's make a more concerted effort to be in each others' lives" conversations. I hope those good intentions firm up into definite actions.

The burial itself was done with military rites. Eight gentlemen from the American Legion fired a salute (such a desolate sound), and two young men from the National Guard folded the flag. My grandfather was one a rapidly dwindling number of WWII veterans.

Well, onward and upward. But I am reminded anew of the importance of family, of stories, of connections, and of memories. And especially of how important it is to cherish them now, instead of regretting not doing so after it's too late.

Friday, October 8, 2010

MilSpouse Friday Fill-In: 8 October, 2010

I'm exhausted after my whirlwhind trip back to North Carolina to attend my grandfather's funeral, but happy to be back in Oklahoma. Belatedly, here's the Friday Fill-In. If it tickles your fancy, join in and read other responses at Wife of a Sailor! 

1. What is the longest road trip you’ve ever taken?
At this point, I believe it's driving from NC to Orlando for spring break during college. (I am about to break that record, though, since Spike and I are planing to haul my stuff from NC to Kansas next month!)

2. Do you collect anything? Tell us a bit about it.
Hmmm...useless bits of knowledge? Memorable experiences? Hair colors? Actually, I really don't have any objects I collect. Up until recently, I might have said "books" because I never let them go. However, I've decided it's a good idea to de-clutter and streamline my life, so that recently included making some mature decisions about donating books that I know I'll never open again. I'm trying to extend the streamlining initiative to all of my other possessions, too. I figure this will A) help me to live in the present and not be mired down by what's no longer useful or helpful, and B) make me less inclined to have a meltdown while PCSing.

3. What is your favorite part about being an adult?
Relationships. I was blessed with some great friends and a wonderful family as a kid, but I love how much richer my relationships are now. I guess that is (or ought to be) natural--more life experience=more understanding and perspective=deeper and more authentic relationships with others. I think the younger you are, the more selfish you generally tend to be.

4. What song brings a tear to your eye?
Since Christmas of last year (aka when I started getting attached to Spike), the military life songs do. For instance, I now stay far, far away from "Sleeping with the Telephone" by Faith Hill and Reba McEntire. Sometimes Les Miserables makes me misty-eyed, too, especially "I Dreamed a Dream," "A Little Fall of Rain," "Bring Him Home," "Empty Chairs at Empty Tables," and "Finale." Okay, so that was a lot. What can I say? The entire musical is outstanding and affecting, especially when seen live with a strong cast.

5. Describe your first plane ride (how old you were, where you were heading, etc).
When I was about four years old my family flew to California to visit friends and to do the whole Disney Land thing. I remember pressing the flight attendant call light like mad because I had no idea what its function was. Needless to say, this activity was quickly aborted my by embarrassed mother. I also remember wanting to look out the window and see camels when we flew over the "desert." Apparently, while I had some conception of the terrain of the southwest, I had no idea of what sorts of organisms lived there, or of how high planes actually fly.

Monday, October 4, 2010

I'm taking a hiatus this week.

I normally try to write four or five posts during the weekdays (I largely stay off the computer on weekends), but it looks like I'll be taking a hiatus for the majority of this week.

On Sunday morning, my grandfather died in hospice care after experiencing a stroke a week and a half earlier. He hadn't been in good health for some time and his quality of life had been poor, so while this is a sad occasion for my family, it is not a sudden blow. I might write some more about things later...there are some thoughts regarding my grandfather and my relationship with him (not as close as I'd have liked for it to be) that I think it would be good to get down "on paper."

In any case, I'll be traveling to North Carolina tomorrow, attending the funeral on Wednesday, and returning to Oklahoma on Thursday. I really wish Spike could come with me, but it's not possible for him to miss three days of class on such short notice for a non-immediate family member. (I'm tempted to take the easy way out and shake my fist at the Army, but if I'm honest with myself, I know there are lots of jobs that would make such a last-minute trip difficult if not impossible for a spouse.) I know I'll be okay on my own, and I know there's no danger of me having a meltdown, but it would still be nice to have my husband's arm around me. I will say, though, that it meant a lot that Spike brooked no argument about my attending the funeral, despite a plane ticket that costs more than the mortgage on my soon-to-be-sold townhouse.

So--I'll catch up on everyone's posts later, and hopefully be back to blogging by next week. (Or maybe even Friday. Let's face it--I love to write.)

My grandfather in his WWII Navy uniform

Friday, October 1, 2010

MilSpouse Friday Fill-In: 1 October, 2010

If it tickles your fancy, join in and read other responses at Wife of a Sailor! 

1. What is the silliest get-up you have ever worn outside of a Halloween party? (from To The Nth)
Can this question cover our whole lives? If so, I distinctly remember an outfit I wore around the holidays in elementary school. It was composed of a white long-sleeved shirt, a red corduroy jumper, and (the truly silly/cringeworthy part) a dickey that was worn outside the jumper. Said dickey looked like Santa Claus. Seriously, this thing was a big oval with a hole for my head, and the front was embroidered to look like Santa's face. His beard was made of scraps of cloth. I wish I had a picture to share.

2. What is something that you gave up in order to live the military lifestyle? (from Pennies from Heaven)
I suppose I'm blessed, because nothing huge and glaring is springing to mind. Honestly, I have no qualms about leaving my old haunts or about being nomadic (working from home makes that last one a bit easier to come to terms with). I guess getting married to a military guy (or really, any guy) put the quietus on my (pipe) dream of going to London and earning my MA in Medieval Studies at King's College, University of London. Technically, I suppose that still could happen--I could earn the degree during a deployment, since it can be completed in a little over a year. If, that is, I wanted to bankrupt Team Butters. The UK exchange rate is killer.

3. If money wasn’t a factor and you could go anywhere in the world, where would it be? And why? (from Life and Times of a Displaced Jersey Girl)

If money weren't a factor...Antarctica. Honestly, I would love to set foot on all seven continents in my lifetime, and I'm pretty sure Antarctica would be far and away the most expensive trip for the least amount of time spent at the actual destination. So I'd use my free travel on that, and save my money for the rest.

4. If you were going to join the military, what branch would you join? Or which MOS/rating would you choose? (from And You Never Did Think)
Well, I was actually thisclose to applying to the Air Force Academy during my senior year of high school. If I'd sent in an application and been accepted, I probably would be an Air Force officer right now. As fate would have it though, I fell in love with Wake Forest University first, and the rest is history. These days, I'd probably give serious thought to the Army if I were to join the military, just to give myself the best possible odds for being close to Spike. I'd definitely hope to be in some sort of public relations position, as I am already an experienced press release writer.

What is your favorite thing to make for dinner? (from Armendinger Party of 4)
I don't think I have a favorite thing to make, per general, I always like trying new recipes, though...and for the past week or two, I've been craving crock pot beef stroganoff. So I'll throw that out there, since it is delicious.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

More of a "We" Than I Thought

This week, Spike has been attached to the computer in the evenings, working on a paper and a PowerPoint presentation for class. While he was thus occupied, on Monday and Tuesday evenings I busied myself with watering flowers, refilling the bird feeder, baking apple cider cookies, straightening up, cleaning the kitchen, and taking a lovely bubble bath. Last night, though, I decided to take a trip to Ross and shop. (I have to say that this was prompted by the shocking revelation that the area around Fort Riley contains no Ross, TJ Maxx, or Marshalls. Horror of horrors! At least there is a Target.)

So, after dinner I went outside and climbed into the truck. And as I pulled out of our neighborhood, I felt...weird. Then it hit me--during all of my visits to Oklahoma and for the duration of our fledgling marriage, I have never driven anywhere without Spike, with the exception of another shopping trip that was undertaken during an overnight field trip Spike's class went on.Which really isn't the same, since he wasn't here to leave behind in the first place.

When this realization hit me, my brain told me for a brief second that I should beware of becoming too much of a "we" with Spike. After all, I do not and never have wanted to be a Stepford wife whose identity is totally tied to her husband. Thankfully, the voice of reason chimed in soon afterward and quashed that first line of thought (which is probably a result of being exposed to piles of feminist theory in college literature classes).

The fact is, I am my own person...a very quirky, unique (some might even say eccentric) one, at that. Spike values me in large part because of of my individuality, and I can honestly say, to borrow a cliche, that he brings out the qualities of myself that I most like. He's also one of the few people I feel totally comfortable letting my guard down around. And so--while the hardened cynics might write my feelings off to the newlywed glow--I'm glad that I feel odd leaving my husband. I enjoyed my shopping trip, and I certainly won't shrink from going off to do my own thing in the future--but I like that I instinctively felt he should be included. We're Team Butters, after all. And especially given the nature of his job, I'm going to enjoy every single morsel of time with him that I can.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

WWII Documents

Finally, Spike's class schedule and my work schedule combined yesterday to give us a window to get me all Army Official. We went to post and got me enrolled in DEERS (Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System) and in TriCare (insurance) so I'm on the grid as an Army wife now. This process included the manufacturing of my military ID card, which---I swear--has more of Spike's info on it than mine. Also, I have to say that Natalia over at Army of Two was right--the thing really does look like a WWII document (you know, before color photographs were available).

I know this because yesterday, my dad sent me an electronic scan of my grandfather's discharge papers from the Navy, dated November 9th, 1945. Pretty interesting! In addition to bearing a marked resemblance to my brand-new ID, these papers told me that my grandfather was a Ship's Cook, Second Class, and was stationed in Hawaii for the duration of the war after enlisting in February 1942. Not a bad way to spend WWII, methinks. Also of interest: his discharge pay was $778.66, and he got $28.90 as a travel allowance. That wouldn't even buy a single tank of gas these days! How things change.

And speaking of travel allowances, our PCS (Permanent Change of Station, aka, moving) plans are firming up. We know when the movers will be coming to box things up, and this time next month, the Captain and I will be on our way to Fort Riley. I suspect the time will fly by at a frighteningly speedy rate.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Wedding Recollections

If you've been following my blog, you know that instead of coming to see Spike for my monthly visit in August, I came to stay on a one-way ticket. Because of Spike's class schedule, we ended up having to wait a bit longer to get married than I initially anticipated, but the main thing is...we did it!

Our families and friends whom we'd seen in person knew that we would be getting married at the earliest opportunity, but otherwise we kept our upcoming nuptials to ourselves. We wanted our civil ceremony and our plans for it to be private (it was a semi-elopement, after all!), and we wanted to avoid as much controversy beforehand as possible. I won't lie--once we went public as Mr. and Mrs.Butters, we encountered pockets of disapproval, hurt, and anger because we'd chosen to do what we had. Our intentions were never exclusionary or malicious, though, and I believe that most upsets are already on their way to being mended--if not there already. More importantly, I'm happy to say that most of the inevitable surprise from our friends and acquaintance ranged from the generally positive to the unmistakably ecstatic.

Personally, I grow more and more sure each day that Spike and I did what was right for us. In a perfect world, I'd have liked our families to have been present at the ceremony (as would they!), but neither set of parents could make it to Oklahoma on a few hours' notice. Plus, the more military couples I meet, the more I realize that courthouse weddings are not all that unusual for people with this lifestyle. That brings me to the real point of this post: the ceremony. I want to write my recollections of the day--mostly so that I'll have a vivid record of them in the years to come--but hopefully you guys will find them enjoyable as well.

10 September, 2010
It's lunchtime, and I'm eating a piece of peach pie--not because I'm hungry, but because I know I should get something into my stomach. My appetite is nonexistent and I'm on pins and needles because this morning, Spike told me that his class might conclude around midday. Ergo, we might have time to do a Really Big Thing: get married. All morning, I've been working in my little home office, trying squeeze every last ounce of concentration out of myself. I've also informed Bosslady that I might need to sign out early...and since she knows and approves of the reason, she has given me her blessing. 

Halfway through my pie, I give into temptation and text Spike: Hey love, how's things looking?

Almost immediately, I get a response: im on way

Suddenly, this is real--no longer a daydream. It hits me: I'm getting married today! I do some quick calculations. Already, it's after 1:00, and I know that Spike and I will want to be at the courthouse as close to 3:00 as possible, 4:00 being the absolute latest time to have an impromptu marriage officiated. I realize that I really will need to get ready for my wedding in only an hour and half--the amount of advance notice I'd jokingly told Spike to give me several times before.

I send Bosslady the "I'm leaving early to get married!" email, and notice that I'm breathing very shallowly. I quickly text a friend whose wedding I've just directed, asking her if she felt nervous immediately before tying the knot. Her response is a very quick and very adamant affirmative. Good--it's not just me. 
As I make my way to the bathroom, intent on applying makeup and curling my hair, I get a text from another friend whose intuition borders on the psychic: Married yet? I tell her what's going on, and she informs me that nerves are a another version of excitement. She also tells me just what I need to hear: This is just one moment in your life. Pray a prayer of thanks for such an amazing blessing. The hardest part is over, finding "the one."
Soon thereafter, I begin breathing normally--and a good thing, too, as it's anyone's guess what my hair and makeup might have looked like had I been hyperventilating while getting ready! 
Spike arrives home just as I'm applying my foundation and starting to curl the bottom layer of my very thick hair. Within five minutes, he has changed from his ACUs to his dress blues, and is good to go. (Men really do have it easier on the fashion and beauty front.) I ask Spike if he's truly okay with getting married on such short notice. He assures me that he is, and then disappears to the living room to give me as much privacy as possible--the best we can do since the whole "groom shouldn't see the bride before the ceremony on their wedding day" thing is already shot. 

Finally, I've painted, curled, and tweaked myself into an acceptable state. Spike tells me in heartfelt tones how beautiful I look, and just like that, we're climbing into his truck. As we pull out of our little neighborhood, I text a photographer who said he could meet us on short notice that we're on our way to the courthouse. Then, barely a mile down the road, Spike and I reach for one another's hands over the center console. We're both nervous--we admit as much to each other--but underneath our jitters, we're both sure that we're doing a wonderful thing.

The ride to the courthouse goes by surprisingly quickly, and is punctuated by numerous murmured "I love you"s and "I'm excited"s. (I'm not particularly loquacious when I'm nervous, and neither, it seems, is Spike.) As promised, the photographer, to whom I'll forever be grateful, is waiting in the parking lot to meet us. He starts snapping shots as soon as I hop out of the truck and shake his hand, and continues as we cross the street and enter the proper office in the courthouse building, which is conveniently located right off the entryway. 

We find that we're not the only folks with marriage in mind on this particular Friday. There's a private--who we later find out has just graduated from basic training that afternoon--and his fiancee filling out paperwork ahead of us. For awhile, Spike and I focus on signing our names, checking facts, and providing the proper documentation. Pretty soon, with a "You two really are a beautiful couple!" from one of the clerks, we're sent on the heels of the first bride and groom-to-be to wait for Judge R on the fourth floor.

We end up having to wait for 45 minutes or so while Judge R finishes up some other business. Spike talks to the brand-new private for a few minutes, but then wisely decides to give the kid some space since he practically twitches every time Spike looks at him, and ends each utterance with a "Sir!"--even though Spike has told him to relax. Spike and I end up chatting with the photographer, who's a teacher here in town. He actually tells us some pretty interesting facts about Lawton and Oklahoma. For example, I learn that Oklahoma technically isn't landlocked--freighters can make it all the way to Tulsa. I'm not so nervous anymore.

That changes when the door to the courtroom opens, though, emitting a deputy and an orange-clad, shackled inmate. It's our turn to see the judge, and I feel a surge of adrenaline shoot through me. Spike and I sit in the jury box while Couple Number One gets hitched, halfway paying attention to their vows while I dig our ring boxes out of my purse. Then, in no time at all, it's our turn.
We go to stand in front of the judge and grab one another's hands. At this point, I'm simply focusing on successfully breathing in and out, hoping that when my turn comes I won't flub my lines. It's not looking good, though, because I'm not sure I can draw a breath large enough to enable me to make it through an entire sentence.

Then Spike starts talking, repeating after the judge. "Meg, I love you with my whole heart. I take you to be my wife..." ...and suddenly my nerves are gone. I actually understand what the cheesy romance line "and everything else fell away" feels like. Because at this moment, the only things I'm registering are Spike's face and voice, and the way his hands are squeezing mine. I may not have gotten to see his face when I appeared at the end of an aisle, but this is every bit as precious.

Now it's my turn. I repeat my vows after the judge, not missing a single word. I think, judging from Spike's face, that I must be looking at him the same way he looked at me. I take his ring off of my thumb, slide it onto his finger, and it's done. We're husband and wife, and I know I'm grinning like a fool.
The private, his new bride, and their small party--who are all still in the courtroom--applaud us while we kiss. A few more signature, the collection of our marriage license, and we're finished--ready to exit the Comanche County Courthouse as Mr. and Mrs. Butters. And so we do. Our photographer takes a few posed photos, and then it's just us. Our first evening together as Team Butters. The first of many. We smile at each other as we close the truck doors, and hold hands over the console once more. 

"Once we went to stand in front of the judge, I wasn't nervous anymore," Spike tells me. "I was so happy because I was getting to marry my best friend."

"I know," I respond. We smile at each other again. When we get home, Spike carries me across the threshold. Welcome home, Mrs. Butters, I think to myself.

Bring on the adventure.

Friday, September 24, 2010

MilSpouse Friday Fill-In: 24 September, 2010

If it tickles your fancy, join in and read other responses at Wife of a Sailor!

1. What characteristic about yourself has either been strengthened or weakened due to your experience as a Military Spouse? (from The Albrecht Squad)
Haven't been one very long (two weeks today, actually), so at this very early date I'll go with self-discipline. I've been transitioning into working from home (wherever home happens to be) since May. Over the summer I visited Spike once a month here in Oklahoma, still working full-time, and now I'm here permanently. I think I'm actually more productive as a telecommuter, but it does take a lot of mental discipline I didn't have to exercise while in an actual office. The buck really stops here when it comes to productivity and completing things satisfactorily and on time. 

2. What is your favorite vacation spot and why? (from ‘Tis the Life of the Army Wife)
London. I love the climate (weird, I know), the culture, the museums, the history, the architecture, the Tube, the West End shows...I'll stop now.

3. If you could have any fast-food restaurant in the food court on base/post what would you pick? (from The Only Pink in a House of Blue)
Wendy's. It's fairly cheap and, in my opinion, tastier than its counterparts. Plus, I love the chili. 

4. Where did you go on your honeymoon?  (from Pennies from Heaven)
Haven't had one yet! We stayed home the weekend after we got married (although we did go out for a fancy dinner). Might take a trip over the holidays, schedules permitting.
5. If you could have any job in the world regardless of money, degree or experience, which job would you have and why? (from Proud to Be a Navy Family and The Calm Before The Storm)
I'm torn between novelist and museum curator. The first is pretty self-explanatory, and my novels would deal in some way, shape, or form with history. With the latter, I'd want to be somewhere like the Museum of London, working in the medieval gallery. 

In other news, the Captain's class has gone to a college (Oklahoma State, I think) today to be mock-interviewed by journalism students. The idea, as I understand it, is for them not to spill any secret information, while still spinning their answers to either be vague or make the Army look good. 

I can't speak for the other officers in Spike's class, but I feel really sorry for whichever poor undergrad gets matched with Spike--because I'm pretty sure he'll be using his "work voice." You know, clipped, deep, and stern. Whenever I hear it, I always feel like I've done something wrong, irrational as that is. I can only imagine how effective "work voice" is in its indented context! 

Anyone else notice a big difference between your better half's "life voice" and "work voice"?

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Baked Goods from the Beyond

Some people claim that they can communicate with deceased humans, and even with deceased animals. Well, I've got something to maybe top that in terms of rarity.

Apparently, I'm the Cookie Whisperer.

Here's what I found on the kitchen counter this morning, beside an empty plate that had once held homemade cookies (the third batch in two weeks, actually):

And this was on the back:

Something spooky is going on here for sure. Of all the people in the world, I wonder why the deceased cookies chose me??

The Army is so straightlaced...

...that it provides its instructors with official, specially-made straight edges to use when writing on a whiteboard. This is probably old news to anyone who's been in military circles for longer than a metaphorical hot second (i.e., not me)...but I thought it was pretty funny.

Here is Spike's friend Professor Pete demonstrating proper use of the Army's straight edge. 

It has a little knob in the middle that he's using to hold it up, as well as magnets on the back that I'm not supposed to tell you about because if their presence were widely known it would take away from the instructor's perceived prowess.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Thoughts on Biking

This morning, I woke up at dark-thirty to the sound of Spike's alarm clock telling him it was time for him to get up and go to PT. Blearily, I mumbled, "'sanoyyinlarmsound." Translation: "That's an annoying alarm sound." It is--this one's a very tinny "bee-bee-bee-beep! bee-bee-bee-beep!"

In response to my observation, Spike cheerfully replied, "Well, you only have to listen to it for 16 more years! Heh heh heh."

He's lucky I was half-asleep, otherwise I really would have zinged him with a withering comeback of some sort. As it was, I drowsily propped myself up on my elbows as he dressed, blinking owlishly to keep myself awake until he left the house. Then I promptly fell back asleep until a more decent hour rolled around. (Incidentally, Husband Dearest may find himself getting a new, more melodious alarm clock one of these Christmases if he's serious about keeping it until he retires from the Army.)

Actually, I should probably keep my mouth shut when it comes to getting up early. In a fit of optimism, delusion, or masochism, I told Spike recently that maybe once we PCS-ed--especially if we live on post near a fitness center--I might try to get up with him and go work out while he's at PT. In theory, it sounds like a good idea: I'd get the workout out of the way first thing, it would get my juices flowing for the day, and I could finish just in time to have breakfast with the Captain. On the other hand, IT WOULD STILL BE DARK OUTSIDE. On the other other hand, though, my workout regimen for the past couple of years has consisted of me walking to my car to go places.

That's started to change since I've been in Oklahoma with the Captain. We've been out to play tennis a few times (I succumbed to heat exhaustion/dehydration in the 107 degree temperatures the first time and spent the night alternately clutching my splitting head and bent over the porcelain god), and we've been riding our bikes around town in the evenings. So that's good.

This weekend, we stepped it up a bit and took the bikes out to the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Preserve. I have to admit, riding through the scrubby little hills was a lot of fun, even though it did drive home the fact that I am Out. Of. Shape.

We probably rode three or four miles, all told, during which I drank a bucket of water and stopped to walk just once. In my defense, it was on a hill that seriously wouldn't end. I carried my phone around in my sports bra (hey, might as well take advantage) so that I could take some pictures.

"Where can we go" indeed? Lots of places, apparently. There's an eight-mile bike trail in the Wichitas that I want to work up to.
A bike's-eye view. That's Mount Scott in the background, aka where the Captain and I got engaged.
On our ride, I discovered that whizzing down hills is just as fun when you're an adult as it was when you were a kid. I also discovered roadkill in a whole new, up-close-and-personal way. A rattlesnake, a squirrel, a pink digital camera (in pieces), and a single flip flop stood out. I also noted several cowpats and buffalo-pats. Honestly, I kind of hoped we'd ride past some longhorn or bison, but they were in a different part of the reserve that day. Probably for the best. The last thing I need is to be mauled by a pissed-off buffalo.

Yay! I had fun!

The Captain had fun too. Luckily for me, I enjoy looking at him from behind, because this was my view.
...unless he was pedaling quickly, in which case this was my view.
 You know, I could really see biking being a habit that sticks. It's enjoyable, allows you to see nice scenery, and is kind to your joints. What's not to love?

Friday, September 17, 2010

25 Things in 25 Years

Today's my birthday. 25. A quarter of a century. It sounds simultaneously young and old. Whether I'm still a kid or technically an adult (or both), I'm grateful to have come this far with so many blessings. In honor of this "milestone" birthday, here are 25 things I've done/accomplished/am proud of so far:

1. Identified and developed a talent for drawing.
This is a portrait I drew for some friends' wedding.
2. Caught lots of snakes, toads, large bugs, crawdads, salamanders, etc. with my bare hands as a kid. In some ways I was a pretty fearless tomboy, and looking back, I'm happy about that. 
3. Graduated from high school second in my class.
I was really happy to get out of there! Some people remember high school fondly...I'm not one of them.
4. Was admitted to a wonderful university.

5. Found a wonderful group of friends my first week at said university.
Here we our our sophomore year. Funnily enough, on my birthday.

6. Found my academic passion--medieval studies.
Oh Beowulf, how I love you.

7. Did art historical research at a French cathedral for a month. I was a research assistant for my professor, and determined which of these stone heads were 13th century originals and which were later replacements.
We used a rolling scaffold. Elderly German tourists loved taking pictures of us.

8. Studied abroad in a foreign country. I was at Queen Mary, University of London, for three months.
In Trafalgar Square with two of my best friends.

9. Spent the night outside on the street in line for tickets. (A London performance of Guys and Dolls starring Ewan McGregor--it was worth it.)
Also in the cast were Douglas Hodge and Jane Krakowski.

10. Conceived of and coordinated a Medieval and Renaissance Studies conference for undergraduates and grad students--speakers came from multiple states.
It really was legit! There were t-shirts!

11. Studied three foreign languages: French, Latin, and Old English. (Yes, I know two of them are dead.) Alas, I'm not fluent in any...yet.

Graduated from college summa cum laude with honors in English, and minors in history and medieval studies. (Yes. NERD.)
At this moment I was probably wondering what I was going to do with all the free time staring me in the face.

13. Worked for my alma mater for nearly two years as an Admissions Counselor. Met lots of cool kids, read many applications that ranged from compelling to flabbergasting, and traveled around the country pitching Wake Forest University!
In Boston on Admissions business.

14. Found an incredible group of post-college friends in the "real world," too (this doesn't negate my college buds, though, just makes life even better).
With one of said friends. Yes, it was Halloween.

15. Breached national security. Seriously. I (inadvertently) flew to Boston from North Carolina without a ticket. That's a story for another time, though.

16. Became a homeowner--I bought a townhouse about a month before I turned 23. My brother's Christmas present to me that year was to paint it my dream colors. Living room and bedroom are pictured below.

17. Conquered my fear of public performance and sang with my church's worship team--alto. That's the closest I ever want to come to singing in a band!

18. Volunteered in the community with no intention of padding a resume. (I'm not trying to brag--I'm actually disgruntled with myself for not doing it sooner.) I tutored kindergartners on Monday nights at a ministry in my old city. Really miss it!
Me and one of my buddies.

19. Found a job that uses my English major and that I really enjoy: copywriter and ghostwriter for a public relations firm.
Back when I had a "real" office, before I started working from halfway across the country.

20. Lived with my grandmother as an adult for a year and a half. I moved back to my hometown to start said job as a writer, and moved into Grammy's second floor. I learned a lot about her life that I probably never would've otherwise--and made many priceless memories with her. I hope I'm half as cool when I'm 86.
Grammy being introduced to the iPod.

21. Tried out every major (natural) hair color: blonde, brown, (nearly) black, and red. I chose the first two pictures because they simply crack me up. A friend was practicing applying stage makeup in the first, and in the second I'm shooting skeet. Oh--red's definitely my favorite.


22. Wrote a novel (even if it's not a very good one) during National Novel Writing Month 2009.

23. Met a good man (who turned out to be my best friend, soul mate, better half, etc.)...
On our first date--check out that Afghanistan sunburn Spike is sporting!

...and married him, one week ago.

25. Lastly--I'm still here. I've got good health, few serious worries, and family, friends, and a husband who love me. I'm living in a completely new place, with yet another move right ahead. I've got a wonderful future to look forward to!