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.”

 

SaveSave

My 4 Favorite Homemaking Hacks for 2018

I love Christmas break. Time off from spelling tests, chauffeur duties, graded papers, packing lunches, and best of all I’m not desperately rushing everyone to not be late…..oh how I love time off.

We always spend a few days at my parent’s house and a few days at Alan’s parents’ house, and it’s such a blessing to spend time with them and soak up the rest and good conversation.

With people you see on a daily basis, it can be easy to fall prey to simply talking about your shared problems and the annoying people you have to deal with. Ha! We all have them.

But when we get together with family at Christmas, we can re-focus on what matters and gain wisdom from others. We can always do that during the everyday too, of course, but I get the best ideas when I have some time and space to read and think!

Daniel and his favorite cousin at Christmas. They were born only a month apart.

I am reading 2 books and taking 1 online course that I’m gaining immensely from. One is on grocery budgeting and the other is on marriage. The course is about planning.

Alan even found an app for us to use for grocery shopping that has also been hugely helpful. I wanted to pass those along to y’all.

The Books

1.) How to Win the Grocery Game

I’m including an eBay link above for that one, which I do not make any money from. I just found the eBay price to be slightly better than Amazon.

This is an extremely practical book about saving money on grocery shopping. However, it was written in the 1970s and is extremely outdated. I’ve had to look for more modern ways to implement some of the strategies in this book, but it’s the strategies and the meal planning tips that make the book worth while…..if you can look past the insane price amounts on everything. You have to ignore those since this book is from the 70s!!

I’ll share with you a modern app I’ve used to help me do one thing from the book later in this post.

2.) Created to Be His Helpmeet

The above link is to the Amazon Kindle edition, but it is available in paperback on Amazon and other sellers as well. I do earn a small percentage when you buy through this link.

This book doesn’t even attempt political correctness with words like “hillbilly ugly” and “submit”. Ha! You have been warned.

But I’ve found it to be practical and helpful, a solid reminder. It has also helped me understand my husband better, as she divides men up into three groups: command types, visionaries, and steady men.

The book is about becoming a kinder, more helpful wife, and by doing that, you can’t help but improve your marriage, even if you’re married to the Grinch himself. I’m only 1/3 the way through it, but so far it has helped me to straight up be a nicer person at home with my husband.

I also love that it’s written by an older woman. She has walked through all the phases of life, and she’s sharing what she has learned.

Us with Alan’s side of the fam. Greg was MIA this year due to food poisoning. You were missed, Greg!

The App

As I mentioned above, I’ve found a more modern way to implement the grocery strategy, but it isn’t foolproof. I’m not sure if the database is leaving out all the goods from stores like Aldi and the Pig because they came up less frequently than I expected. Some work may still need to be done there.

But if you want an easy way to compare everyday prices at one store with sale prices from the circulars, this is an awesome app.

It’s called Basket.

You type in your grocery list. It gives you options for brands and lines them up by price. Try it out. You may end up spending hours on it like Alan and I have.

We put in our entire grocery list, and then we hit “compare prices”. It showed us that the cheapest way to get all our groceries at one store was to go to Walmart. However, the real issue was that Walmart was the only store that carried every item on our list.

To get the best savings, you can tell it to break it up into 2 stores. That gave us Walmart and Food Depot. In the list, it breaks down which items we should buy at Food Depot and which ones we should purchase at Walmart.

Wow, huh?

It was funny how it would switch stores as we put more groceries in!

However, Alan found that not all of the prices and sizes were available at Walmart, so checking your weekly circulars is still important.

I think this is a good tool, but it doesn’t truly replace searching through the weekly grocery ads.

 

Christmas morning

Chore Looping

Another exciting tip I got this Christmas is “chore looping,” which my sister-in-law, Amy, told me about.

For those of us who have trouble with other methods of keeping up with house cleaning schedules, chore looping is the way to go.

You make a list of tasks, like this:

  • Scrub hall bathroom.
  • Clean the kitchen.
  • Sweep and mop the floors.
  • Scrub master bath.

etc., etc. Add whatever rooms you have.

Then you work through it until you reach the end and start over, and it doesn’t have to be all in one day, all in one week, or even all in one month. You just work through the list as you are able.

Some tasks you have to write on your list more than once, like scrubbing that bathroom that all 4 boys use…bleh…

For Example:

  • Scrub hall bathroom.
  • Clean the kitchen.
  • Sweep and mop the floors.
  • Scrub master bath.
  • Vacuum.
  • Scrub hall bathroom.
  • Tidy up dining room.
  • Clean the kitchen.
  • Tidy up living room.
  • Dust the house.
  • Scrub hall bathroom….lol…again and again and again…

…And the list goes on until you’ve covered all the tasks you can think of.

Some days you do 3 or 4 of them. Other days you do 1 or none at all. It just depends on when you have the time!

If you do marathon clean, then you skip the repeats. I almost never marathon clean. Why? Because it’s exhausting, and I was always hoping I’d be affording a maid by now….lol

Daniel helping with the Men’s Pancake Breakfast at church

I’ll save my excitement of my new Brilliant Life Planner and accompanying online planning course for another day. I can’t wait to show it to you. In fact, I’m definitely going to do a Facebook Live all about this planner this week, on my Stories of Our Boys Facebook page.

I hope you all had an absolutely fabulous Christmas and are as excited about the new year as I am! Actually, I’m pretty nervous about 2018. Moving…deep breaths…deep breaths…I’m going to need all the organization I can accomplish!

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”    Jeremiah 29:11

 

 

 

SaveSaveSaveSave

SaveSave

6 Ways to Save Your Marriage During Deployment

****This post is part of the series Real Army Wives on storiesofourboys.com. This series chronicles the story of our first deployment, back in 2003.****

Once Alan had been gone for 6 months, and we were finally able to communicate regularly, we found that we began to bicker–even from continents away. We were having newlywed problems, whether we were together or not.

Alan was anxious to move us forward towards our goals in the U.S., yet he was stuck in a combat zone, feeling powerless to affect change. He wanted me to go out and buy a $70,000 house. Plus, he thought I should move us in there by myself so we could start building equity……I was like, “Heck no, I won’t go..”

I wanted him to call more. He gave me the actual reasons he couldn’t.

I was disappointed that he hadn’t had a family member send me an anniversary gift.

Granted, my expectations were HIGH, and he was never one to sugar-coat a single thing…..so we had issues….

an Iraqi flag Alan sent me in a package

On October, 1, 2003, I wrote him out this list, half-joking, half-serious, to lay out all of my expectations and avoid further arguments…

» Read more

1 2 3