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

Monday, May 24, 2010

A trip to the Capital (of Oklahoma, that is).

Well, it's been a bit longer than usual (if there can be a "usual" after less than a month of having a blog) since my last post...but I figured I'd spare our loyal readers entries like, "I worked, and Spike went to class!" In a nutshell, that's what we did last week. Which is fine--wonderful, in fact, to have settled into a "real life" routine like two functioning adults--but it probably doesn't make for the most scintillating reading. Hopefully what follows will be a bit more out of the ordinary. But don't get all pscyhed up for something like the Captain wrestling a longhorn steer to the ground. It's not that exciting.

Okay, so...(drumroll please)...on Saturday, Spike and I drove up to Oklahoma City! We confined our activities to a section of the city called Bricktown. You could call it touristy (because it is), but it was a lot of fun to walk around. Our first stop was the American Banjo Museum, which is brand spankin' new.

The American Banjo Museum is the red building on the left. Inside awaits a whole fun world of pickin' and grinnin'. Much to our relief, Deliverance references were limited to a few movie clips in the "Banjos in Hollywood" exhibit.
Spike surveys the banjos.
The first bit of the museum told the history of the banjo, which began in America as a homemade instrument constructed by slaves. It grew in popularity throughout the 19th century, and by the time the 1920s rolled around, was very popular. In fact, at one point (and this really shocked me!) the banjoist was one of the highest-paid members of musical groups and orchestras.

Most of the museum's real estate was (as one might guess) devoted to banjos themselves. I was surprised by the artistry that went into them--inlaid wood, jewels (one might even say bedazzling), and carvings.
My favorite was the one to the right with the ship on it.
After studying up on banjos, the Captain and I continued to walk the streets of Bricktown.

Check it out: as I blithely point out North Carolina on the mural, a space shuttle hurtles toward Canada while a group of children looks on.
Here we are by a river/canal/some sort of body of water.
Just for kicks and giggles. You know, if there was one thing I learned as a kid, it was that good things always happen when you distract a man who is trying to read a map.

Midafternoon, we stopped at a pub and got some beer. The Captain tried a heffeweisen sampler, while I tried a sampler of local brews. Turns out Oklahoma makes some decent beer. Then, naturally, we went to Starbucks. Naturally. Doesn't everybody drink coffee after having a pint or two?

Coffee time is ALL the time. Check out that expression of intense concentration.
Here, I pretend to be frightened by the large blow-up gargoyle...
...while the Captain chooses to punch its lights out.

We ate dinner at The Melting Pot (my first time eating there--a fun and filling experience!), then trekked back to our little town of Geronimo. So far, I'm a fan of Oklahoma City. We might go back at some point to check out the art museum.
Yeah, you can laugh. You won't hurt my feelings. But it is funny.

We ended our weekend on a quiet note with church at the Main Post Chapel, a trip to the commissary for groceries (yes, apparently we really are adults...though the self check-out continues to defeat us), and a trip to Ross (on my orders) to buy throw pillows. Right now I'm concentrating on the living/dining room , which is starting to look very nice, if I do say so myself. We've positioned the furniture and hung a few pictures thus far, which leaves hanging the curtains. Once that's complete, I'll take some pictures of the new and improved Chateau Butters.

I must say, it has been tough to restrain myself expenditure-wise, as my natural impulse is to go out and buy a liberal supply of art and other types of wall decor. Knowing what my downfall is likely to be, though, I have instructed Spike to continuously remind me while shopping: "We're only here for five more months. Do not spend a lot of money on this place. We're only here for five more months. Do not spend a lot of money on this place." So far, he has done an admirable job.

One final note: the Captain's gunnery exam is this Wednesday, so send up a quick prayer that all of the material (which looks hopelessly confusing to me) stays straight in his brain. Right now, he and his friend Professor Pete, who is also formerly of the 82nd Airborne and who is currently certifying to teach artillery to brand new lieutenants, are camped out on the couch talking about...hmmm...sounds like something to do with quadrants and ranges. Oy vey. America should thank its lucky stars that I'm not in charge of this stuff! No worries, though--I'm doing my patriotic duty in other ways. Like cooking two of the Army's intrepid captains enchiladas and peach cobbler, washed down by some good old North Carolina blackberry wine.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Schedules and Snipers

Life in Oklahoma is rolling along, and is already starting to take on a rhythm. Spike and I both start the day with coffee (if you know either of us well, that's a "duh!" statement). Then he's off to class, and I stay here. At lunchtime, Spike ducks in for a quick kiss and a sandwich, both of which are very nice breaks for me.

Quite unexpectedly, the past two days have seemed to go by much more quickly than days in my actual office. I'm not sure yet if that's simply due to the novelty of a new place, or if it's because I get in the zone and stay in the zone with no outside distractions. Probably a little bit of both. Whatever the explanation, I've been happily typing away at the book I'm ghostwriting. Well, I say typing, but it really goes more like this:

Type. Stop. Ponder next step. Type. Backspace. Ponder better. Re-type. Stop. Glower at screen. Check email. Type. Look out window at the bird feeder being blown down. Google a quote to throw into the text. Ponder. Type. ...and so on and so forth. For me, writing has always been a stop and go business. I suppose there are some people who can sit down, let the words gush forth in one steady torrent, and then stop. I'm not one of them. I'm more like a defective faucet that spits out water for a few seconds, stops, spits more water out, stops, ad infinitum. The bottom line is, though, that I get the job done. And that's what's important!

Meanwhile, Spike started his classes "for real" today. Last week was essentially orientation, and Monday was what the Captain described as an interminable lecture on the history of Fort Sill. It's always a shame, in my opinion, when instructors make history boring. It's not. I think the instructor should have asked all of the students to re-enact Custer's escapades. Now that would have been interesting.

Today, though, the class launched into gunnery. To quote the Captain, "Gunnery is not funnery." Right now, he's sitting across the table from me doing his homework and making faces at his binder. He's been telling me all about ideal shooting conditions (apparently the earth has to not be spinning...huh!), trajectories, rounds, charges, fuses, etc. I'd estimate that I understand about a quarter of it. There's a lot of math involved and, well, I'm a humanities girl to the hilt. I have to say, though, it's very interesting to learn about what a day at the "office" is like for him.

So far, Spike has been coming home around 4:30, which coincides nicely with the end of my workday (4:30 here being 5:30 Eastern time). Tonight I fixed beef stew, which cooked in the crock pot all day long and made the condo smell delicious. I'm going to have to start planning my menus better, though, as I currently only have ingredients for one other meal (beef enchiladas). I guess my mother was right when she called me "Susie Homemaker" on the phone today. Well, I might not be there yet--but we're working on it! And anyway, there are definitely worse things to be than a part-time homemaker.

For instance, one could be an enemy sniper. The Army lets it be known in no uncertain terms that we do NOT like enemy snipers, and Spike has posted this important message on our refrigerator so that neither one of us forgets. While I maybe shouldn't make light of what is, in reality, a very serious thing, I can't help but laugh at the anti-sniper pamphlet. Take a look:
You got that? Is that clear? KILL the SNIPER! And don't forget it!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Holy Longhorns, Batman!

Well, I made it to Oklahoma, safe and sound and on time (according to my re-routed schedule, anyway). Seeing Spike at the airport was without a doubt the most joyous moment I've experienced in the past two and a half weeks. Being here with him, I feel at home in a way that I never could in a location or a structure. In a nutshell, life with Spike is like having Christmas every day.

Based on first impressions, Lawton and the surrounding area aren't so bad...although I was right about the flat part. So much land...and so much sky! And our condo is amazing! I'll write more about it and post some pictures once it's been decorated up a bit. Spike and I moved the living room furniture around maybe a trip to Ross in the near future for curtain rods and the like? We shall see.

For now, I feel that I need to devote this blog post to the outing the Captain and I took yesterday after church. It centered around Meers, an unassuming (read: dilapidated) restaurant that Spike has raved about. Meers is one of those buildings that you imagine was built piece by piece, room by room as the need arose. Some of the floors slope, and the steps in between the different levels aren't even. Actually, it looks rather like a disreputable biker bar. But you don't go there for the architecture. You go there for the burgers.

The first time Spike described Meers' burgers to me--I kid you not--his voice got hoarse, his eyes rolled back in his head and I thought he might swoon. Luckily, he didn't, as I'm not sure I'm strong enough to catch him. You see, Meers' claim to fame is that its burgers are 100% delicious Texas Longhorn beef, and that they're huge. In those regards, Meers didn't disappoint. I photodocumented the experience for posterity.

"We're going to Meers!" the Captain exclaims. "YEAHHHHH!!! Do you see it? It's RIGHT HERE!! The anticipation is almost too much for me to handle!
"My food is here," the Captain snarls between clenched teeth as he attempts to smile for the camera. "Hurry up and take the picture, woman! I need to sink my teeth into this delicious piece of longhorn! I am a manly meat-eater and I NEED TO EAT!"
As you can see, Spike's burger was...large. Almost as big as the pie plate it was served in. Apparently there is one size bigger...a Seismic burger. Alas, I have a tiny girl stomach, and only ordered the quarter-pounder. Still, my tiny girl stomach was satisfied, and I'm pretty sure I walked out with a food baby named Jim Bob.
I signed our names in the guest book. Maybe a little differently than they're printed on our birth certificates. Maybe.
"Eeeeuuuuurrgh," groans the Captain. It's definitely a good groan. His giant man-stomach is satisfied. "Full of lots of deliciousness," he adds as he watches me type this. No worries, though--it didn't take him long to get peckish again.

There was a donkey outside of Meers. I'm trying to imitate it. Here's the conversation that occurred while this picture was being taken:
Spike: "Be careful. More people are killed every year by donkeys than by cancer."
Me: "You sure about that?"
Spike. "90% sure. Yes." out for donkeys, folks. Luckily, I escaped with my life. Obviously. Since I'm, you know, writing this blog post.

After our lovely longhorn lunch, the Captain drove me though the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge, which took me by surprise in terms of its beauty. Yes, there are mountains here, rising from the plains. As we drove, Spike and I saw bison in the distance, as well as a longhorn steer (maybe he'll be our lunch later this year) and a colony of prairie dogs. "Did you know that snipers use prairie dogs for target practice?" the Captain asked me. Well, no--but I do now. If you know any prairie dogs, tell them not to come here.

We eventually spiraled our way to the top of Mount Scott, which offers incredible views. I definitely plan on coming here again.
Great Scott! The Butters duo on Mount Scott.

No Mom--I'm not really sitting on the edge. And yes, the wind still blows in Oklahoma.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Airplane Musical Chairs

First of all, since today is Armed Forces Day, thanks again to all the members of the United States Military. This morning I thanked the Captain for serving in the Armed Forces, and he responded that he would happily be "Armed," but that I was the "Force" in our duo. Okay, I can live with that--even though Spike could probably incapacitate me one-handed in his sleep. I'm also tempted to make all manner of Star Wars references, but I'll refrain. (C'mon, how often do you get told you're the Force?)

Secondly, I'm typing away from a dubiously comfortable plastic seat in the E Terminal of Charlotte Douglas International Airport. Yes, I should currently be on an airplane, but plans have changed a bit. To cut to the chase, I was originally scheduled to fly from Charlotte to Dallas this morning, and then from Dallas to Lawton, arriving at 2:00. I arrived at the airport this morning to find that my flight to Dallas had been canceled due to weather, and was told by an airline phone representative that I had been rescheduled to fly out at 6:20 AM Sunday morning. Yuck. In addition to being sorely disappointed by the delay, I did not fancy hauling my sleepy self from bed at 3:00 AM tomorrow morning. 3:00 AM is one of those hours you almost always regret seeing, whether you've stayed up late or gotten up early.

Turns out, though, that waiting in lines and being nice to folks pays off--because the wonderful lady at the American Airlines counter was able to reroute me to Saint Louis on a US Air flight, from there to Dallas on American, and finally from Dallas to Lawton. I'll be arriving at 8:20 this evening after experiencing the luxurious economy class quarters of three different airplanes--but it's a sight better than waiting till tomorrow! I am amusing myself by watching Season 8 of Buffy, which I thankfully stuck in my bag last-minute, and will probably mosey on down to Salsaritas in a bit for some (hopefully) tasty south-of-the-border lunch food.

Nine hours till Spike...fingers crossed!

Friday, May 14, 2010

May 15th Is Armed Forces Day

As fate would have it, tomorrow--the day I fly to Oklahoma to visit the Captain--is also Armed Forces Day here in the U.S. Every year, the third Saturday in May is set aside to honor our men and women in uniform from all branches of service.

While I derive the most personal enjoyment from studying British politics before 1800 (what can I say? I'm a nerd), I'm also not one to stick my head in the sand, and I try to keep up with major current events. Along those lines, despite having waxing and waning doubts about the efficacy of Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom, I've always been proud of my country, and I have always supported American and Coalition troops. No matter what yours or my personal opinions on politics might be, the bottom line is that these men and women have voluntarily offered to sacrifice everything up to and including their lives on our behalf. They deserve our thanks and our respect.

For me, all of this was rather abstract until I met Spike. He wasn't yet a Captain then; he was a First Lieutenant in charge of an artillery platoon in the Khost province of Afghanistan. Despite his protestations to the contrary, he's actually a very good writer, and his descriptions of what daily life was like in a combat zone blew me away. Suddenly, "the war" became real to me in a way that it never had been before. Someone I cared about was in harm's way--and I'd be foolishly naive if I didn't acknowledge the fact that he might be again at some point in the future. His courage, resolve, and patriotism astound me.

Knowing Spike has made me realize on a visceral--not just an academic--level just how much honor the members of our military deserve. So if you can, thank a Soldier, Sailor, Marine, Airman, or Coast Guardsman tomorrow for what he or she is doing and sacrificing.

Since this is my blog, I'll share my one of my personal favorite ways to say "thanks" to our troops who are currently serving overseas: Green Beans Coffee's Cup of Joe for a Joe program. Green Beans Coffee has American-style coffeeshops at a growing number of bases overseas (several of which were honored by Spike's patronage)--and for $2 apiece, you can gift a member of our military with a hot (or cold!) beverage. So if you've ever wished you could buy a cup of coffee for a soldier to say thanks, here's your chance.

If you have a facebook account, you can become of a fan of Cup of Joe for a Joe.
When you buy your Cup(s) of Joe, you also have a chance to write a thank you note--and often, the Soldier who receives the beverage will respond back with a thank you note of his or her own. I've "sent" coffee several times now, and I plan on doing so until all of our troops make it back home...whenever that might be. The way I see it, the very least I can do is show my support by giving a handful of brave individuals a little taste of home. Honestly, though, I think that beyond sharing the deliciousness of coffee*, the real value of the Cup of Joe for a Joe program is that it reminds the members of our military that those of us back home remember them, pray for them, and support them.

I don't want to go on a soapbox rant here, but I don't think anyone can deny that OIF and OEF are often shunted to the fringes of the nightly news. A lot of Americans go days, weeks, months, or more without really thinking about the fact that tens of thousands of their countrymen are sleeping and eating and fighting far from home. Armed Forces Day is, ultimately, just another day on the front lines for those troops--but it's a great reminder to the rest of us of the debt of gratitude we owe them.

*Coffee is in fact delicious, and it's one of the things that the Captain and I first bonded over. For both of us, it's more than just a beverage. It's a way of life. I have been drinking my morning brew since roughly fourth grade, and Spike owns not one, not two, but three coffeemakers. In fact, to show his devotion to that blessed nectar of the gods, I share the following quote from one of his first emails to me, written somewhat facetiously from Afghanistan:
"My gunnery sergeants and I always have the coffee pot going :-) My boss still gives me a hard time about moving to my current assignment. When he told me about my move the first thing I asked him was 'Is there a coffee maker there?' I guess he was thinking I would be more concerned about enemy activity or something else trivial."
Coffee. It does a body good, no matter where in the world you are.

Note the cup of coffee in his hand-usually a permanent fixture. If the Captain were Popeye, this would be his spinach.
Afghanistan, 2009

I'm drinking a cup of coffee in front of Shakespeare's home. It seemed like a fitting way to honor him.
Stratford-Upon-Avon, England, 2005

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Spike is a PT Stud.

I have to give a quick shout-out to the Captain, who passed his PT (Physical Training) test this morning with flying colors...before 7:00 AM, and before coffee. To me, that last part is almost as impressive as the push-ups, sit-ups, and 2-miler part. Of course, Spike modestly downplays his achievements (he is one of the most humble people he knows, and he'll tell you that himself...), but I still say, "That was a job well done!"
Spike being studly.
I suppose you could argue that physical fitness is more or less part of your job when you're in the military; however, stuff like this nevertheless throws my own lack muscular and cardiovascular prowess into rather sad perspective. I do make a token effort in the form of a handful of sit-ups and push-ups each morning, but as you can see, my superpowers really lie elsewhere.

That's right, I'm a vampire slayer.
(Last Halloween, I was both a blonde and Buffy. And yes, in this picture I am slaying Edward Cullen. And no, the fact that the Captain's nickname is Spike has not escaped me. I revel in that fact with unbridled nerdy glee.)

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

I'm Making Assumptions.

I have to say, my excitement is mounting as the number of days in between me and an airplane (or two) to Oklahoma dwindles. I have received a fairly good description of my quarters from the Captain, as well as of the environment as a whole, so I’m anxious to see how my mental image compares to the real thing.

Sight unseen, here’s what I expect from Lawton, Oklahoma, and the surrounding area:

  • Constant wind. I can always tell when Spike is talking to me outside, because his end of the conversation goes something like this: “Today, I whhhhaaaaaa whha whaaaaa and I found out that next wha whhhhaaaaaaaa whaaa whhhhaaaa so I guess, eventually, we’ll whhhaaaaaa whhhhhhha whaaa wha whaaaaa artillery.”
  • A disconcertingly open landscape. I’ve lived the vast majority of my life in North Carolina, where there are lots of trees and, depending on where you are, anything from rolling hills to outright mountains. However, I’ve heard from multiple sources that Oklahoma is very flat, and lacks NC’s abundance of arboreal verdance. It’s a prairie, I guess. So I won’t be able to see what’s around the next bend, because there won’t be any bends.
  • At least a few tornado drills. Well, this is Oklahoma...and there have been a fair amount of tornadoes there in the past few days! (I've been watching the weather reports.) In the event of an actual twister, I believe that Spike and I will probably not stand outside and declare, "Do your worst! I dare you to hit me with a flying cow!" Instead, I suspect we'll either make our way to the nearby high school, or (if things are getting really dicey) hide in the bathtub covered by the mattress. That's what they told us to do in elementary school, anyway.
  • A mixed bag of shopping opportunities. Yes, I’m female, and I asked what stores were going to be available to me. Apparently there’s a mall, and not one, but two Ross’s. To an avowed bargain hunter like yours truly, that’s very good news on the home d├ęcor front and the clothing front! HOWEVER—and this is a big however—there is no Target. And they call it civilization. Blasphemy. I’m sure that all of this blog’s female readers (and some of the male ones too) understand my horror, so I’ll stop lamenting and leave it at that.
  • The makings of a temporary home. I have to brag on the Captain—he has really done his level best to get everything ready for my arrival. A brand-new condo (with stainless steel appliances!) in a very safe neighborhood, a new printer for my office, a birdfeeder, and even some potted plants, herbs, and vegetables await me.
  • A surprising amount of fun! I have to make a confession—I never thought of Oklahoma as being a “fun” state. I mean, I don’t know anyone who has gone there for vacation unless there are relatives to visit. So imagine my surprise to hear about the following: the world’s “best” hamburgers in a nearby town called Meers, a wildlife refuge with free-roaming bison, hiking trails, and a miniature replica of Jerusalem (yes, that Jerusalem). Plus, Lawton is only an hour and a half away from Oklahoma City, so Spike and I plan on Harley-ing our way up check it out.
Hopefully my assumptions aren't too far off the mark. If they are, my apologies to the Sooner State. In any case, we shall see in three and a half days!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Moving Haiku

One of the good things about PCSing (Permanent Change of Station...I'm learning that the military has a LOT of acronyms) is that the Army pays for the move and takes care of all of the packing and delivery. However, all of the risks that normally accompany moving furniture, knicknacks, and home decor across several state lines still exist.

The good news is that Spike's worldly possessions were delivered to Chateau Butters yesterday, and that his Harley arrived none the worse for wear--which prompted a sigh of relief.

The bad news is that not everything made it in one piece. Namely, a few pieces of furniture were damaged, and some of the as-yet-unopened boxes look, in Spike's words, "crunched." Annoying and disappointing, yes, but such is life. And we should be reimbursed for the cost of the damaged items.

In my typical nonsensical fashion, I immediately offered to write a moving haiku upon hearing the news. Somewhat disgruntled by the demise of his belongings (and understandably so), the Captain declined my offer, stating that reading such a poem would only stir up horrific visions of the carnage (or something to that effect...I may or may not be exaggerating just a bit). His words came too late, though, as various five and seven-syllable phrases were already wending their ways through my brain.

And so, since this ridiculous moving haiku has sprung into mental existence, I'll share it with you, dear readers. Please, hold your applause.

Furniture damaged
Two tables and ab machine
Scared to check dishes

That just about says it all, folks.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

The Reason for This Whole Thing

I’m thinking that for my first post on the new blog I ought to address the “why.” Why in the world did I start this blog? (And for that matter, why did I go to the trouble of “prettifying” it? Yup, that’s really Spike and me—or at least our arms—on the header.)

Well, for one thing, I’m hoping that it will be a convenient and sporadically amusing way for our friends and family to find out what we’re doing. Spike is in the windy state of Oklahoma at Fort Sill for the next six months, learning how to be a captain at the Army’s Field Artillery career course. Hence, I will be dividing my time between my hometown in North Carolina and Lawton, Oklahoma. Because I have the world’s coolest boss, I’ll be telecommuting from Chateau Butters for two weeks a month. (Luckily, as a writer, I don’t technically have to be physically present to do my job—and just as importantly, Bosslady likes Spike and wants us to be happy.)

Those of you who have known me for any length of time know that I’m not such a good phone correspondent, so if my name hasn’t lit up your cell phone’s LCD screen in awhile, you could 1) call me and scold me or 2) visit this blog for stories, updates, pictures, and out-of-left-field tangents! I should probably mention that you might have to prod me for new posts from time to time. As a sad little collection of notebooks that span elementary school to college will attest, I just don’t possess the journaling gene.
Beyond keeping-in-touch purposes, though, I also get the feeling that Spike and I will appreciate looking back on this time in our lives, and I think I’ll be glad I recorded little observations and anecdotes as they happened.

For those of you who haven’t heard me tell our story, I “met” Spike in November 2009 when we were matched by e-Harmony. (Hence the admittedly cheesy name of this blog—but I have to say, I’ll always be a walking advertisement for that website!) To make a long story short (maybe I’ll post a more in-depth history at a later date), Spike was deployed in Afghanistan at the time, so we communicated via email and across-the-world phone calls until he came home at the end of January 2010. We met in person for the first time on February 6th, felt like we’d known each other for years, and have been “us” ever since.

Spike and me on our first face-to-face date in snowy Blowing Rock, NC.

If you’ll allow me a moment of smarminess, I’ll confess that I’ve met my best friend and have been blessed to fall head over heels in love with him as well. Until Spike sent me that first e-Harmony communication, I had honestly never even considered the possibility of dating or marrying a military man. Even this short of a time later, though, I can’t imagine my life any other way. Spike is the proverbial “officer and a gentleman,” and I’ll forever be grateful to the Army because I doubt our paths would have crossed had he entered the workforce as a civilian (hence the “Army” in the title of the blog).

For the next four or five years at least, Spike and I are going to be living wherever the Army sends us. At this point, he’s used to moving around. Oklahoma will be my first experience with a “military” existence, and I couldn’t be more excited. I have always loved to travel and to experience new places, and I can’t think of anyone with whom I’d rather do it. Yes, I know that being an Army girlfriend and eventually wife will bring with it its own unique set of challenges, trials, and tribulations. Most likely, I can’t even begin to conceive of just how tough some aspects of this extra-ordinary life will be from where I sit right now. But a few things are for sure: I’m counting my blessings, and I can’t wait to join my love and my hero on May 15th!