The Fork in the Road

****This post is part of my series on Real Army Wives. This series follows my husband’s first deployment to Iraq in 2003, but it’s the story of the wives back home more so than the men at war. Click here for last week’s post, Alan’s Convoy Attack.*****

 

Mon., October 6, 2003

Alan,

I’ve had a week off now to think about what it is I should be doing. I really still want to be a physical therapist. The only reason I ever dropped it was because of all the science classes. So today I searched every college in a one hour radius of here, and there are NO physical therapy schools, not even any physical therapy assistant schools.

So that door is just closed to me. Now I simply don’t know what to do. And I’m unsure if I should look for part-time or full-time work. Plus, I’ve already planned long vacations for Thanksgiving and Christmas and payed for the plane tickets.

I don’t know what to do. What do you think? I’d really love to hear your thoughts. I love you, Alan.

I was talking to Elsie today too, and she said that the Army will pay for you to get a master’s degree. You just have to commit to more time in the Army. I want you to know that at this point I would be fine with that.

You are excellent at what you’re doing, and I know it makes you happy. And now I KNOW what it is like to have a job that you hate, so I think once you find something you enjoy, you should stick with that. I will always support you.

'I know what it is to have a job that you hate, so I think once you find something you enjoy, you should stick with that. I will always support you.'Click To Tweet

It’s hard with writing. Sometimes you may read things one way, but really I was saying it another. There’s no sure-fire tone of voice in writing. So let me just say this: This letter is written in a completely, gentle, thoughtful, tired kind of voice. I am a person who at this moment is just wondering what direction to go in.

It must be awesome to know what you want to do and be doing it. I wish I were as lucky as you. Oh, now I’m making myself cry…

Sarah’s husband Zack is landing in Killeen TONIGHT, in the next few hours. She’s all excited and anxious, of course. She wanted Cloe and me to go with her, but when she found out he’s getting in so late, she told us not to worry about it.

Sarah’s husband was finished with his service obligation and was on his way home. How we would miss her!

I guess my world is about to REALLY change. I’m going to miss Sarah. They’re moving in December too. I guess it’s like when Reston (Lt. Arizona) left you. Reston’s wife is supposed to find out today if they’re sending him home or not. I wonder if she found out, and if he’s coming home or not.

I broke the computer desk Saturday. I was having trouble buying a flight ticket, and I was feeling all rushed because I was supposed to be at Elsie’s to go to the hockey game. Everyone was waiting for me, but the American Airlines site kept messing up, so I was angry, and I slammed my fist down on the desk, and the shelf below just popped right out…..Sorry.

I miss you: firm, steady, calm, responsible, you. I need you.

I hate being a lazy bum like this. I hate how everybody asks me what I’m going to do.

I hate that you’re allergic to cats, and that I will have to give up Kitty.

Everything just isn’t what it I thought it should be.

And I’m going to have to wait 6 more months to see you again. How I wish you could just be here tonight. I wish you could be on that plane with Zack.

In a perfect world, huh? But of course, this is not a perfect world.

But Lord willing, one day you will be back. One day I will wake up before lunch time. One day I’ll be doing something I enjoy. One day.

I love you, Alan. You’re my husband. Talking to you is the highlight of my week.

I love you,

April

****************

Melancholy

Melancholy is not my typical state at all, but I do suppose that’s where I was when I wrote that letter.

Finding yourself at a fork in the road when you have no idea which way to go is not my favorite. It can be an exciting phase when you stop to consider the seemingly endless possibilities, but it didn’t feel that way to me.

I felt lost in the desert all over again, stuck in the middle of Texas with no plan whatsoever.

Doors all around me were closed, but I can tell you I am not one to sit around in the waiting place, content to just be. No, that isn’t me at all.

Restlessness is a feeling I cannot tolerate. That’s how I began my traveling phase.

This was 2003, well before the days of iPhones, but we did have Google Maps on our personal computers. I charted myself a course, mostly on I-10, got myself a good night’s sleep and set off for Alabama in my royal blue Pontiac Grand Am.

My parents would be so surprised when I showed up at their door unannounced!

I did call my brother, a college student at Troy at the time who lived at home with my parents, just so someone in the world knew where I was, but I swore him to secrecy.

I pulled into my parents’ driveway around 2am. I’d called Mom a couple hours prior to arriving to insure safe entry. Ha! But Dad didn’t know I was there until he got up in the morning. That was such a fun surprise!

There in Alabama, I enjoyed just being with my family. I slept in my little twin bed, in the bedroom I’d shared with my sister for most of my life. The familiar old surroundings of home and family were healthy for me. It was a good time to put my recent failure behind me and come up with a new plan for the future.

I actually spent most of the rest of 2003 on the road. Instead of staying with family through the holidays, I drove back to Texas a week later. Then I took a trip to Houston to Cloe’s parents’ house, along with Elsie, Kayla, and Cloe. After that, there was a trip to Florida with Jennings. I had Thanksgiving with my family and Christmas with both families, and I’ll have to save more about all those trips for another chapter.

I think where we run to in times of trouble or uncertainty says a lot about us.

For me, I guess I was running home to my mom. Ha! But sometimes that is absolutely the BEST course of action, isn’t it? I hope my children will know they can run to my house as a refuge too.

And you’ll be happy to know that I actually did come up with a plan, quite of my own accord. I decided to take the GRE and go back to school, to a local satellite branch of Tarleton State University. I enrolled in the graduate school to pursue a counseling certificate.

Did I want to be a counselor?

Eh…not really, and certainly not right away, but I was considering it. I felt deeply that I was too young to be counseling people. But I WAS excited about going back to school and getting back into the psychology field. My bachelor’s degree was in psychology, and I figured I could figure out my path as I went along.

Sometimes you have to jump right in and try it to figure out if a thing is for you or not!

Life as a military spouse is just like that. There weren’t many online graduate programs that I knew of, so I was doing the best I could with what I could find.

“When we are so wedded to what we think should be happening or what we want to happen, we don’t see what IS happening.”

 

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Deployment Prep: Next Week for Sure We’ll Be Flying to Kuwait


Deployment Prep: Next Week for Sure We'll Be Flying to Kuwait

*****This post is the 10th in the series The Real Army Wives of 2003the true story of our young military marriage and the friends we made in the beginning of the War on Terrorism.*****

The old BDUs were worn right up until they deployed. Notice the boxes in the background. There was so much going on.

Alan reported to work. We were so nervous and excited to begin his military career. Everything up to this point was training; now it was time for the real action to begin.

He found his unit in a fury of battle preparing. Much of the gear and vehicles needed for combat were already loaded up on trains and shipped to the docks, and the war was yet to begin.

The 4th Infantry Division was drawing up plans to enter Iraq from Turkey, but of course, all of that was thwarted once Turkey denied us access.

» Read more

Shopping and Shedding Pounds in Tel Aviv

My fit friend Julie. It was like Israel boot camp, but I could not have asked for a better person to tour with.

When I talked to Julie the week before our big trip, she mentioned that she enjoys walking, and she hoped to walk everywhere in Tel Aviv.

“Perfect, I love walking!” I said.

But then, as I got to know Julie better, I began to realize we weren’t exactly on the same level with the physical fitness. Yeah, she walks, and she runs, and she exercises.

She’s what we call fit. Super fit. I’m what we call….not fit.

My gut closely resembles this Israeli statue…

 

He’s cute, isn’t he?

I could not have found a better person than Julie to tour Tel Aviv with. We were already acquainted well enough that I felt comfortable with her, and yet we were new enough of friends that there was no arguing. Ha!!!

Besides, Julie is awesome. She is laid back, intelligent, sensible, down to earth, and an excellent conversationalist, which is perfect because I often have a super hard time thinking of what to say. She also was better than me with figuring out where we were and how to get where we were going, which is important in a foreign country!

Go ahead and laugh. You know I have no sense of direction. And maybe you THINK I talk a lot, but inside I’m working hard to think of all those words.

This is the street in Tel Aviv that runs along the beach.

Tel Aviv Boot Camp

We had a routine that worked well. Breakfast and supper were free at our hotel, so that was what we ate. We had a late breakfast, skipped lunch, and then there was 4:00 tea time at our hotel, with snacks. Then there was dinner at 6pm.

So yeah, we just skipped lunch everyday. We didn’t save any calories though. They fed us so well at the hotel, we weren’t even hungry at lunch.

 

Tel Aviv Beach

Alan and I did a little walking on the beach together too.

The Shopping

You know I’m thrifty, and Julie is too. I’m so easily influenced by who I’m hanging out with! I didn’t buy all that much, but we did walk around tons of shops and markets.

We went into Israel expecting to barter for everything. People had told us we would need to barter, and yet, that was not what we found. Maybe it’s just different in Tel Aviv, but most everywhere we went the shop owners and workers said, “No, we don’t do that here. It’s just one price.”

I bought these Coca-Cola in Hebrew shirts for my 2 biggest boys.

I scored this entire outfit at the Shuk for only $100 shekels…That’s like $35!!

Funny story:

First of all, several different people asked Julie and me if we were from Germany. ???!!?? Germany? No! America!

I found that odd, kind of funny, but also sad, considering Israel’s history with Germany.

But the funny story was the sales guy we met at the Shuk, where I bought that exercise outfit.

He was an unusually friendly young Jewish man, probably around 24 years old, a cute, small guy. What I didn’t realize at first was that he actually lives in Miami, but he was in town for an event and helping his dad in their store that day.

“Where are you from?” he asked us, after explaining the day’s sales to us.

Each time people asked, I found myself not knowing what to call our country. Isn’t that hilarious? United States of America is sort of a mouthful. So sometimes I said America, and sometimes I called it the U.S. or the United States.

That was not a sufficient answer for anyone that asked. Every single questioner actually wanted to know what state we were from.

I move every 2 to 3 years, so my new policy is to be from wherever I currently live.

This particular sales guy laughed when I said “America,” and said, “Well, yeah, I know, I mean I didn’t think you were from Germany!”

Julie and I looked at each other, mystified. Well, the rest of the country seems to think we are from Germany, and even this guy referenced it, so clearly their history left scars.

But he knew we lived in the States because he’s been living in the U.S. himself for several years.

 

We bought this from an arts and crafts fair in downtown Tel Aviv.

So we explained to the sales guy where we were from. He said to Julie, “You look like a runner!” Then they talked about running and swimming…Funny…no one ever asked me what sport I participate in……hahahahaha…

I was shopping for a cute exercise outfit, so I picked up Larges, but I’m usually borderline on sizes, so I was glancing around for a fitting room.

“Oh, you don’t need a large!” this sales guy had all the answers…”This stretches, see? You need a medium.”

Flattering, but I actually didn’t even need to try on the pants. I’m 5 foot 6 with enough hips for all 3 of us standing there. I require the large, and I’m thankful I didn’t take his advice.

Shirts are a different story. I have to try on every shirt I buy.

There I was, in a foreign country, trying on a shirt, in a storage closet, in an outdoor market area (The closet had walls. The store did not.), with Julie standing guard in the OPEN doorway, with the super talkative young sales guy, waiting outside the closet. He was waiting to “snap a photo (of me) and put it on Facebook.”

Laugh. Out. Loud. “Yeah, you are not putting this on Facebook.”

I was in such a hurry to be done with the process that I bought the shirt, without being sure if it fit well or not because I didn’t want to look in the mirror long enough for him to get a Facebook photo.

Why do I care about him taking my picture? I’m a blogger for crying out loud. Yeah, well, I’m a vain blogger who carefully crops out all chubby bits before posting pictures online, and me in a spandex work-out tank? No way was I putting that out there.

That sales guy was hilarious. He talked to us all the way out of the store, as we left, and invited us to come back and see him tomorrow.

I never did make it to the Dead Sea, but I did buy this soap at the craft fair, which was made from Dead Sea Mud.

Gotta love mud.

This was another character that we met.

 

Okay. Sorry it’s all mirror-backwards, but look how hard it is to read a receipt in Hebrew and shekels!!! If it weren’t for the numbers, we wouldn’t even know it was backwards.

That receipt was from a group dinner. Don’t worry. We didn’t spend anywhere near that much.

 

Ah! I can’t wait to go back someday.

 

P.S. I lost 3 pounds.

 

At the Dizengoff Center, a shopping mall exactly like you’d find in America, I found MY store. Yep. April is a cosmetics store.

Julie and I averaged about 9 miles a day, over 20,000 steps. We were sweat-soaked each day when we made it back to our hotel room. If you go for a week, you need to pack like 14 outfits.

By the time the trip was over, I had definitely built up my endurance. I’ve been sure to get in at LEAST 30 minutes of cardiovascular exercise everyday since we got back, so this trip was a grand success, in more ways than one!

Be sure to check out my last post on Tel Aviv to learn more about this bustling city!

 

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