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

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Apparently I'm a swooner.

The weekend before last, I nearly swooned. Yep...swooned. As in, would have needed smelling salts and vinegar rubbed on my wrists to be revived. My Southern roots are finally manifesting themselves, it seems. Fantastic. I would have written about this (yeah, I admit it) humorous circumstance earlier, but I needed some time to recover from the shame.

The Friday before last was a day I had been looking forward to--there was a Commandant's Reception on post--cocktail attire!--with a gathering beforehand at Spike's instructor's house. Since I work from home in extremely casual attire, I was thrilled when Spike told me that I'd get to look my best.

At this point, a lot of my clothes and belongings are at my grandmother's house in North Carolina (even though Spike and I are getting hitched soon, we figured there was no point in moving my stuff to Oklahoma now, only to re-pack it and haul it to Fort Riley, Kansas in a couple of months), so I excitedly hunted a new dress to wear. After dragging poor Spike to nearly every store in the mall to no avail, I finally met with success at Ross: a little black dress for the bargain price of $19.99, which was originally priced over $100. (Don't you just love deals like that?)

My fun new cocktail dress. (You know those people who post professional-quality pictures on their blogs? Well, obviously I'm not one of them yet.)
So, Friday the 20th rolled around. I fixed my hair, applied my makeup with extra care, and slipped into my dress and heels. I complimented Spike on his new shoulder boards (it was the first time he'd worn his dress blues since making Captain), and we were off to the major's house for the pre-reception...reception.

The first few minutes at Spike's instructor's house were fun. Honestly. The major is actually a part of the Australian Army, so it was interesting to chat with him and his wife as Spike's classmates and the occasional significant other trickled in. Before long, though, the dining room was packed. And that's when the trouble started.

Major Aussie lives on post in an older house, and the AC unit clearly wasn't up to the task of counteracting the body temperatures of twenty or so adults. What really did me in, though, was my dress. My flattering, fits-like-a-glove dress I'd been so excited to wear. As you can see from the picture, it's strapless, and the bodice is helpfully held in place with boning all around. Except, the boning really wasn't all that helpful--I guess I'd been modifying my breathing all evening because my abdomen couldn't expand as fully as normal. So, the heat, plus standing in three-inch heels, plus shallow breaths, plus wine made me feel fairly unsteady.

I remember listening to Spike and his classmates talk about where they were headed after the career course, and realizing to my surprise that little black dots were starting to swim in front of my eyes. I tried taking deeper breaths, as much as the boning in my dress would allow, while relying more and more heavily on Spike's arm to support my body weight--but no dice. It was either find somewhere to sit, or pitch facefirst into Mrs. Aussie's homemade sausage rolls. I chose the chair, because those sausage rolls were delicious, and I didn't want to ruin them for everyone. Plus, being revived by a bunch of professional soldiers with sausage and pastry crust smeared all over my face would have been really humiliating.

Thank goodness, sitting on the sidelines in Major Aussie's dining room prevented me from fainting, though I still felt a bit woozy for awhile. I told the Captain, who was (I believe) a bit bemused by my precipitous dive for the chair, that I would never again look down on women in historical novels who swoon. After all, I'd never have considered myself to be in any danger of doing so! I guess that's what happens when stays/corsets/boning restrict one's ability to breathe properly. Huh. Who knew?

One of my historical counterparts. Luckily, she too appears to have missed the sausage rolls in the process of losing consciousness.

And to add insult to injury, what did I see later in the evening when I walked into the women's room at the officers' club during the Commandant's Reception? A painting of a hoop-skirted Southern Belle, on the verge of swooning--I swear I'm not making this up--in the arms of a mournful-eyed Confederate soldier. Fan-freakin'-tastic. Thanks, universe. I'm not worried, though...I'll think of it Tara.

Am I the only one who's done this? Please, somebody, speak up.

...also, just received notice that Spike's wedding band shipped. We got my band and engagement ring, re-sized and ready to go, soon, we'll be able to do what I flew out here to do!

...also also, I may or may not have taken my wedding band on a test drive all day. Gotta make sure it doesn't impede everyday tasks, after all.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Welcome Home, Captain Hooker.

I don't know about every branch of the military, but Spike's sphere of acquaintances seem to be big on nicknames. You've probably been tipped off by the subhead of this blog that my man's nickname is "Butters," (yeah, like on South Park). Professor Pete has been mentioned on ArmyHarmony before, and I've also heard talk of "Gummy Bear" and "Captain Fingernails" (yuck), to name a few more.

The original Butters. Like the Captain, he's blond, optimistic, and often the voice of reason.

It's only natural, therefore, that one of Spike's closest Army friends also has a nickname: The Hooker. No, I'm not exactly sure how this nickname sprang into being...but I am fairly certain that it didn't derive from a resemblance to the Civil War general of the same name.

The Hooker, in all of his manly glory. Look at the strength in those arms, the focus in those eyes...Pride of the Army, indeed.

The Hooker is actually a really good egg. Like Spike, he's a chemical officer, and he can eat astounding amounts in one sitting. Had Spike stayed at Fort Bragg, I'm sure he and I would spend a good bit of our leisure time with Mr. and Mrs. Hooker. The two Captains have quite an entertaining friendship because they cheerfully threaten one another in most of their interactions. For example, Spike will inform The Hooker that he's bought some salt and plans to dump it in the Hooker yard in the shape of an "H," thus killing the grass. In return, The Hooker routinely threatens to serve as a mentor to Spike's future kids. (That's unsettling for me; they'll probably come home from Uncle Hooker's house and leave burning bags of poo on the neighbors' porches.)

Right now, though, I'd mainly like to point out that The Hooker seems to be one of the biggest fans (maybe THE biggest fan) of this blog, at least that I'm aware of. He's always asking the Captain when I'm going to write another post. I think they're like bedtime stories for him.

So, that being the case, I want to publicly welcome him home from South Korea, where he's spent the last month living in a tent in order to attend some sort of training, I believe. Yeah, a month's absence isn't so bad in Army terms, relatively speaking--but I know The Hooker's wife, dog, and friends missed him and are glad he's back.

Welcome Home, Captain Hooker!
May the smell of kimchi not linger long on your skin.
You can see from the Captain's loving caress just how much he and The Hooker esteem one another. I would call it a bromance, but Spike disdains that term. Also in the picture are Mrs. Hooker and Spike's parents.

Here's to friends, and to safe homecomings!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Yee-haw! (Aka, we went to a rodeo.)

I have been told by lots of military folk, ranging from "Army brats" to a major general, that one of the perks of military life is the chance to see a variety of different places and experience the cultural experiences they have to offer--if, that is, you choose to take advantage of your circumstances. Far be it from me not to take advantage of cultural happenings!

So. Army Post #1: Fort Sill, Oklahoma. Cultural Happening: Rodeo.

Well, this is the land of the cowboy! That being the case, Spike and I drove to Altus, Oklahoma this weekend and watched The Great Plains Stampede Rodeo. It was, to borrow a cliche, our first time to the rodeo.

Altus is another military town: home of the eponymous Altus Air Force Base. Exhibit A: lots of airplanes.
The Captain and I arrived at the arena and parked--we were one of approximately 549 pickup trucks, and a few horses. We saw a line of cowboy hats and large belt buckles waiting to buy tickets--but don't worry, we totally fit in. I wore my cowboy boots (for which I paid $2 at a thrift shop) and Spike wore his John Deere hat. (We figured that John Deere machinery was doubtless involved in the feeding of the horses and cattle present.)

My awesome, authentic, secondhand boots
Much to our delight, the Captain and I got to see bull riding, barrel racing, saddle bronc riding, bareback riding, team roping, tie-down calf roping, and steer wrestling.

As one might imagine, bull riding was the most impressive of the events. At the risk of sounding a bit idiotic, those animals are BIG! 2,000 pounds, to be exact, and more vindictive than the horses post-ride.

My less-than-professional shot of one of the bullriders

Speaking of bulls, Spike wants to know why those who ride the open range are called "cowboys." "Think about it," he told me. "You've got cows, which are placid and are known for cud-chewing. And you've got boys, which is what we fellows are before we grow beards, get deep voices, and become men. So, the word 'cowboy' really isn't all that complimentary." And here, he told me his grand solution to this travesty: "Instead of cowboy, it should be BULLMAN."
*I might have taken liberties with the floweriness of the Captain's language.

I thought about this suggestion and agreed with Spike's reasoning, but concluded that "Bullman" sounds like a superhero whose origins I'd rather not know. Spike says I lack vision. ...Well, perhaps. Or perhaps I'm afflicted with too much vision.

Much to the Captain's glee, the rodeo-goers were a very patriotic crowd.

I also enjoyed steer wrestling, which involved a cowboy pursuing the steer (looked like a rather large-ish calf to me), leaping off the horse, and tackling/wrestling the steer to the ground--then tying it up. The best times for this event were between three and four seconds.

Oklahoma cultural activity: success! I'd love to go to another rodeo!

In other news, Spike and I bought each others' wedding bands this past week. Mine was sent off to be sized, along with my engagement ring. They ought to be back within a week and a half, which will make another happy event (I'll leave you in...ahem...suspense as to what that is) possible. If you'll indulge me in a bit of feminine sentimentality, I do miss my ring...but it'll be nice to have it fit without wearing a ring snuggie. (I overestimated my finger by a size when Spike asked about it...clearly, I'm a big fine jewelry buyer when left to my own devices.) In the meantime, though, I've been wearing my grandmother's wedding band.

Grammy's wedding band, circa 1949.

And lastly, Spike has been hard at work on battle plans (I'm sure there's a more official name for them, but it's escaping me at the moment) in class.

Behold: the battle plans that ate the living room.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

You only need 50 cents to have a good time.

...or to change your identity. See? Spike and I purchased this incredibly convincing mustache for only two quarters from a vending machine at Lotus, the local Thai/Vietnamese/General Asian restaurant (not to be confused with the many Chinese buffets). By the way, if you're ever in Lawton, Oklahoma and have a hankering for pho, Lotus is the way to go.

If he weren't wearing a John Deere hat, he could be a dryly amused Victorian gent.
I think this guy escaped from Mario Brothers.
I'm a villain who's trying to look innocent.
"Stop talking, you twit."
In other news, it just occurred to me that Spike and I have been engaged for over a month. A month and three days, to be exact. Funny; it seems like a lot longer than that--in a very, very good way.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010


Last Saturday, the Captain and I drove up to Oklahoma City to see Restrepo. If you haven't heard of it, the film is, according to the official website,
...a feature-length documentary that chronicles the deployment of a platoon of U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan's Korengal Valley. The movie focuses on a remote 15-man outpost, "Restrepo," named after a platoon medic who was killed in action. It was considered one of the most dangerous postings in the U.S. military. This is an entirely experiential film: the cameras never leave the valley; there are no interviews with generals or diplomats. The only goal is to make viewers feel as if they have just been through a 90-minute deployment. This is war, full stop. The conclusions are up to you.
I'd say that's a fairly accurate description. Not your typical cinema fare at all. (In fact, Restrepo is atypical enough that it's only playing in select theatres--hence the drive to Oklahoma City.)

I'll admit that I walked into the movie theatre with some trepidation. Yes, this was a film that I've wanted to see for a month or so now. Honestly, though, I was selfishly worried about what I'd see on the big screen, and about how it might change my (sometimes precariously balanced) feelings on being a military wife. Let me clarify: I'm incredibly proud of Spike, and I see on a daily basis that being an officer in the Army fulfills him and makes him who he is. That being the case, it's hard for me to envision a set of circumstances that would prompt me to insist upon him transitioning to another type of career. He's my hero.

At the same time, though, I'm not one to bury my head in the sand. To the extent he's willing and able to share with me, I'll want to know what Spike is doing and facing and experiencing on his next deployment--whenever and wherever that might be. I suppose, going to see Restrepo--a film solely about a very dangerous deployment--I feared that I'd come face to face with something that would make me want to say to Spike, "No...if this happens, I don't want to know. I'd rather be kept in the dark or lied to than live day in and day out knowing that this is happening to you." I was afraid that in this documentary I'd see some aspect of a deployment that would trigger some sort of inner panic I couldn't quell.

Well, Restrepo didn't tip that inner love-worry-pride-support balance in an unrecoverable way. As much as I think is ever possible when a loved one is involved, I've come to terms with the fact that Spike's job puts him in harm's way, and that it might require him to make the ultimate sacrifice. Honestly, it makes my stomach clench up to even type those words, but there it is. It does no good to refuse to face reality. I do, however, rely heavily on faith and prayer!

Back to the main point, though. What Restrepo did do was open my eyes further to what deployed servicemen and women experience every day. As I read on one review, this platoon's experience isn't indicative of every platoon's experience in Operation Enduring Freedom. Relations with locals, and in fact the very nature of combat, might be totally different 10 miles away.

Outpost "Restrepo"
However, other aspects of a deployment, I suspect, are much more universal: the camaraderie between soldiers, the grief of losing a friend, the fear--and the hope--of what might happen tomorrow, missing family back home, wondering what and how much to tell them, fighting boredom, wondering what kind of a difference you're actually making, experiencing the simultaneous terror and exhilaration of performing your duties under fire, and feeling proud of serving alongside your buddies, to name a few. (If I'm completely off the mark here, I'm hoping the Captain can set me straight so that I can publish a retraction.)

Restrepo did a wonderful job of conveying these experiences and feelings to the viewer. Why? Because it's completely experiential. There's no voice-over, other than interviews with the soldiers themselves. The cameras simply show daily life at this particular outpost, and follow the platoon on patrols and to meetings with locals, or shuras. Politics aren't mentioned; nor is it debated whether the war is "right" or "wrong"--because those things aren't of primary importance to most soldiers downrange. They're more concerned with doing their jobs well, and with making sure that they and their buddies come home once their deployment is over.

A screenshot from the film
I'll warn you: you probably won't walk away from this documentary unaffected. I certainly didn't, and neither did the Captain, who knew much more clearly than I what to expect from it. I think something that got to both of us was how young many of the soldiers were. (Spike has mentioned this to me regarding his own experiences, too.) It's easy to forget when you read a news story that a lot of enlisted men and women are only 18 or 19 years old. It's not so easy to forget when you're watching them build and defend a vulnerable outpost halfway around the world.

I also think I came away from the movie theatre with a heightened appreciation for how strongly an overseas deployment can change and shape a person. Yeah, I have no doubt that it sucks to live in a tent or hut for a year, eat dubious food, and revise your outlook on hygiene. (Again, those are things that don't characterize every deployment. The Captain is endlessly grateful that he had access to daily showers during his time in Afghanistan!) But those things aren't lasting. What do last are the memories, the emotions, and the way the psyche is shaped. For sure, those kids aren't kids anymore. I wonder if any of them had an inkling as to how much they'd be changed when they first enlisted? Probably not. Now, some of them can barely sleep at night.

One last thing that stuck out about Restrepo: its depiction of how OEF is being fought. This isn't like some big-budget WWII film. There are no clearly-defined fronts or large-scale battles. Yes, there's shooting and fighting--but in Restrepo, we never once see who's doing the attacking. There's never a scene in which we're shown a clearly-identified Taliban combatant. Unsettling, to say the very least.

So, why do I think you should see this movie? Well, above all, I think it brings war to life in a way that's not partisan or agenda-driven. It brings a human element to talk of "surges" and "deployments" and "counterinsurgency." Actually, I'm reminded of a quote from an article I read while doing research for an unrelated work project. This is from a 2008 TIME article:
"The American who volunteers to fight in Iraq and the American who protests the war both express a truer patriotism than the American who treats it as a distant spectacle with no claim on his talents or conscience."
I think that if more people saw Restrepo, it would be more difficult for them to treat war as a "distant spectacle." I hope that it would prompt a larger portion of the public to show support for our troops, regardless of whether they personally supported or picketed OEF.

Myself, I wish I'd been able to see this film--or one like it--much sooner in life. I wish I'd been confronted with these stories and images as high school classmates enlisted after graduation. Then, maybe, I would have reacted with something more than a fleeting "Good for him!" I wish I'd been more aware of what was happening overseas as I sat next to ROTC cadets in college, idly wondering in the middle of Brit Lit class how comfortable their fatigues were. Maybe then I'd have thanked those folks for what they planned to do after we received our diplomas.

Well, I don't want to get too melodramatic here--but I do want to share my thoughts. Yes, as I've mentioned in previous posts, "this stuff" has become a lot more real to me since the Captain came into my life. But the thing is, it's been real to millions of other people for years and years--and I do think they deserve more awareness and more support than they're currently getting.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Camera Conundrum

Okay, so it's not a conundrum, exactly...more like a query. I just liked the alliteration.

I've decided it's time to start saving for a new digital camera. For one thing, my old camera was a Christmas gift my freshman year of college, which was...sweet mercy...almost seven years ago. Eons in technology years! For another thing, I've been using my little brother's slightly newer (circa 2007) camera for the past six months or so. And it's time I gave it back. (By the way, bro, it you're reading this--thanks!)

So here are my requirements. I want a camera that:
  • takes good, clear pictures in a variety of lights
  • is a point-and-shoot (albeit one with an array of settings, should I require them). While I might one day graduate to interchangeable lenses and the like, that day is not here yet.
  • is portable and durable (aka will fit into my purse and not die there)
  • will last me several years, at the very very least
  • I don't need to read an encyclopedia to figure out
Basically, I love the "look" of professional-quality shots, and I want a point-and-shoot camera that will get me as close as possible to that.

A few months ago, I saw a likely candidate on a blog I follow called Marta Writes. The author purchased a Canon PowerShot G11. Her camera requirements were very similar to my own, and she seems to be quite pleased with her purchase. (It you're interested in taking a look at what she has to say, go here.)

Now, this is a $435 camera we're talking about--not a purchase to make lightly. I'll admit it: I'm pretty camera-illiterate. But I want to spend my money wisely. If anyone has any feedback or other recommendations, I'd be really grateful for your input!

The potential next Meg-camera

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Here comes the Liz.

Last Saturday, my oldest friend Liz got married. Liz and I have known each other since she joined my church in the second grade, so we've shared a lot: sleepovers, American girl dolls, Archie comic books, acolyte duties, friends, nemeses, concerts, tears, meals, plots, and more. Now, it seems, we're sharing the experience of getting married in relatively rapid succession. I'm incredibly happy that Liz has found and married her best friend, and that the whole thing went off smoothly...especially because I was the wedding coordinator! I made sure everything and everyone was present, proper, and in place before the event, and I gave the walk-down-the-aisle cues. After seeing me rushing around before the ceremony, my dad started calling me Franck.

You know, Franck Eggelhoffer from Father of the Bride.
Finally, my career aspirations have been achieved. Luckily, I did not have to repair anyone's fake Armani "tuxado." Although I'm pretty sure I had this expression plastered onto my face a time or two. Next time, I think I'll pretend to talk into an earpiece for theatrical effect.

Now I'm happily ensconced back in Geronimo, Oklahoma, working from my little home office and basking in the fact that the Captain is no longer in a different time zone. What could be better? (Well, aside from world peace, a lottery win, a successful novel-writing career, and a lifetime supply of enchiladas, that is. If anyone can provide any of the above, you just let me know.)

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

An Ode to Frankness

It's been a fairly busy week and a half for me back here in North Carolina--hence the lack of recent posts. I've been helping my oldest friend get ready for her wedding (which takes place this weekend), moving my belongings out of my rented-out townhome (yup, I'm a land baroness), visiting friends, tying up loose ends, and missing Spike (of course). However, those are other stories for other days, perhaps--not the point of this post. Here's the point.

One night last week I went to dinner with Bosslady and my copywriting/ghostwriting Obi-Wan here at the office. During the course of the meal, Bosslady told me, "You know, when you're not here I forget how much I like you." She paused for a moment, then asked guilelessly, "Was that offensive?" Not coming from her, anyway. I told Bosslady as much. And here's why. Bosslady is always direct and honest with her employees and friends. I have realized that I find it very refreshing to be around someone who's a straight shooter AND who really has my best interests at heart. Bosslady definitely qualifies.

Feedback from folks like that leads to the greatest amount of personal and professional growth, no doubt about it. My co-workers and I know that whenever Bosslady busts our chops, she's doing it because she wants us to improve, and she respects us enough not to lie to us. It's when she STOPS calling you on the carpet that you're in trouble.

I myself am often not a straight shooter. Take my introverted nature, people-pleasing personality, and ingrained Southern politeness, and you've got a recipe for not wanting to say the hard stuff. Being falsely nice has come back to bite me in the butt often in life (usually in the form of being ashamed of myself, other times by being taken advantage of), but I just can't seem to kick the habit to the curb once and for all. Baby steps, though. Bosslady has inspired me to be more direct with my family and close friends, so we'll see whether or not her influence spreads from there. I've found that telling the tough truths has earned me more respect from some quarters, but it's also hurt some feelings since unadulterated frankness is not my habitual way.

Imagine how different your personal relationships--and the world at large--would be if everybody were frank. Not mean, not cruel, but frank. I'd like to tentatively suggest that we'd all be better off. That said, here are some of my favorite examples of Bosslady frankness, all offered out of love:
  • "You're one of the weirdest people I've ever met!"
  • "You are such a 70 year-old woman. I bet you and Spike wrap up the Cracker Barrel biscuits in napkins and smuggle them out." (We do, actually.)
  • "I finally understand your sense of humor. It's British!"
That's all my brain can think of at present. Back to Oklahoma on the 15th. That's Sunday!