New Friends, The Beefcake, & My Nemesis the Lawnmower

One day in May, Alan called from Tikrit, Iraq, where he was serving with the 1/22 Infantry. When you only hear from your spouse every two weeks or so, and then only for short conversations, maybe 20 minutes at the longest, you cherish it.

You cherish it so much you hang on their every word. Everything meant more. Everything. Alan called and gave me a general idea of who he was working with and not much about what they were actually doing. To this day, I couldn’t tell you what their average day in Iraq looked like in 2003.

It wasn’t that it was secretive stuff, probably. The thing is we had such a short time, we usually talked about other things, like whatever MY most recent crisis was.

We spent a chunk of that time exchanging the most important information we could think of. Since there were no children yet, it was all about us and our friends. Alan told me to please, please, please send him more wet wipes in the care packages. They did not have showers in the beginning. Wet wipes was the closest thing our soldiers got to getting clean.

Then he passed along a phone number, a rare occurrence indeed. Alan had a soldier in his team who lived on our same street, in a duplex identical to our own, just four or five houses down. She was also young and alone, and Alan implored me to call her.

Another amazing coincidence!

God’s provision is always there if you look for it. Our husbands were serving together, on the very same team, and she was only four houses down? Oh, I would definitely call her. I actually did!

Calling people is sort of a phobia of mine. I hate it. I get butterflies just looking at the phone. For anything! I don’t want to call businesses because they make the call take too long. I don’t want to call doctor’s offices because they ask so many questions, and there are so many decisions. And then people! What if they’re busy? What if they talk for an hour, and I can’t get off the phone? So many what ifs! I’d rather just not.

But this was different. This person had tons in common with me. Maybe she was even expecting my call. I could do this.

Roll your eyes at me if you want, but I can still remember the very first time I called Cloe, the wife who lived 4 doors down. I took out my scrap of paper, my cordless land-line telephone, and I dialed, heart pounding in my chest from nervousness.

She didn’t answer. I left a rambling message with my number. Remember answering machines??? Cloe called me back right away. Ah yes, Cloe, I know that call-screening trick. I’m the master of that game too.

I paced back and forth in the kitchen, my strawberry theme decorated, sparkling-clean-because-I-lived-alone kitchen, introducing myself to Cloe. True to my new mission of bringing people together, I invited Cloe over to my house to hang out with Sarah and Elsie and me later that day.

She actually came!

How do I describe Cloe’s appearance to you? Well, for starters, she was the baby of the group, at only 20. Cloe’s eyes are not only a lovely sky-blue, but they are framed by the longest eye-lashes I have ever seen. Just picture Snow White but with longer, much wavier hair.

We all introduced ourselves. There were only a few awkward silences. We were doing a smashing job of just sitting around gabbing and eating and getting to know each other.

Cloe didn’t seem to approve of the raspberry wine, and she did not have any. After all, she was only 20, and I was quite proud of her.

Cloe and her husband, Rob, were even more newlywed than Alan and I were. In fact, Cloe spent that whole year of deployment planning their wedding ceremony because they had only done a quick, Justice of the Peace ceremony before the deployment. So many military couples do the quick, JP ceremony because we always have hard dates and orders to work around.

Cloe and Elsie were both college students. Elsie already had her BS degree in something-or-other, but she decided to go back and get an RN certificate, at the local Central Texas College. Cloe was working on her accounting degree from Mary Hardin Baylor University.

Sarah was not in school and lived more like me, only she did have her dogs to take care of.


These sessions of talking and laughing were like group therapy for us. We had many problems in common to solve.

One issue for ME was lawn care. Elsie and Cloe’s landlords took care of their lawns for them. Mine did not.

The second week of the deployment, Alan’s cousin, Katie, and her husband Eli and son, Garrett, came over, and Eli cut the grass while Katie and I visited. I enjoyed that thoroughly, but I couldn’t ask him to do that again. Eli was a busy captain in the 1st Cav himself, and he had refused to let me pay him.

Why didn’t I just hire a lawn service??

I have no idea. I think it was just that I was so very young and inexperienced at the whole grown-up thing.

A couple of weeks later, my friend Theresa’s husband came and cut it while Theresa and I visited. He wouldn’t accept payment either.

This was so kind. People were so incredibly thoughtful and helpful, but I knew I needed to take responsibility for this.

Once, even my little 10-year-old neighbor Hannah cut my grass for me. She was all stealthy and did it while I wasn’t home. I never even would have known it was her that cut it, but that was the beauty of having Elsie directly across the street from me. Elsie’s living room window faced my duplex. She could sit there in her living room, petting her cat Reese, and watching her t.v. shows while simultaneously keeping an eye on all that went on at my place.

Elsie would drop by when she had information, or when we’d all gather for chatting and dinner. Since she was right across the street, Elsie is definitely the one that I spent the most time with. Elsie is one of those kindred spirits, who is not only ridiculously easy to talk to, but we were at the exact same place in life.

I remember that particular conversation about Hannah and the grass vividly because I was so surprised by it. Elsie reported that little Hannah cut my grass while stopping about 10 times to press her face to the glass of my front living room window to see if I was home.

You see, I knew Hannah and her brother just a little bit. Sometimes her mother wasn’t home when Hannah and Houston would get home from school. Then they would appear at my door. I would invite them inside and feed them snacks while they waited for their mom to arrive home.

Then there was that time I saved them all from Child Protective Services, but maybe I’m exaggerating a little, and that’s a story for another chapter!

In hindsight, I should have just hired Hannah to cut my grass. That would have given her some toy money, but that thought never even occurred to me.

Instead, I gathered up all of my resolve, and I dragged the push-mower out of my garage.

I looked at the mower. It looked at me. My nemesis. The lawnmower. I’m hearing the Wild West Tombstone music in my head.

Alan tried to teach me how to crank it before he deployed, but I had not truly wanted to learn, so I didn’t try very hard. If only I’d known! My strength was pitiful, and it just seems like you always have to pull that cord so hard! Then he’d talked about oil and gas, and all I heard was “Mwah mwah Mwop Mwop Mwaa Mwaaaa.”

How I wished I could go back to before he’d left and tried much, much harder to learn!! Why had I been so stupid?

I pulled the cord. Nothing. I pulled it again. Nothing. I poked around at it. I sat down on the grass.

I must have looked like a sight. Maybe I looked that way on purpose in hopes someone would feel sorry for me and come help me. I was out there in my most worn-out blue jeans, an Alabama t-shirt, a pony tail, and my glasses on. It wasn’t a pretty sight, but it was an interesting one.

I took a break, and then I started trying to pull that cord again. What a stupid invention!! Why couldn’t it just start with a button or a key like everything else?? Why make it so dang hard!!????

I don’t think I kicked the thing, but I’m 100% sure that I wanted to, but see, I was in the front yard, hoping some neighbor would look on me with sympathy. Getting violent would probably get me nowhere.

Thankfully, I did acquire an audience in the form of my neighbors, Katherine and Nick,

but you really only need to know Nick as The Beefcake because that’s what we called him for the rest of the year, but only behind his back, of course. Or maybe it was only in my head. Or maybe it was just Elsie and me that called him that.

You see, Katherine and The Beefcake lived next door to me. In fact, my grass blended right into their grass. They were boyfriend and girlfriend, and they were exactly my age, 22. The Beefcake was a second lieutenant in 1st Cavalry Division, which wasn’t deployed that year.

Katherine was an adorable gal from the state of Washington with a ton of snark and the cutest blonde bob. I super wanted my hair to do what hers did. It was always perfect, but try as I might, my hair was never going to do that.

Our duplex on move-in day–That’s the reflection of Elsie’s duplex in the window.

The Beefcake was a hispanic body builder in the medical corps. We called him The Beefcake because he liked to parade around his front yard shirtless. While yes, he did look good, it was still hilarious. All men who strut around shirt-less are somewhat comical, you have to admit.

(Remember that, my sons, just remember that.)

“Hey, we were watching you try to crank that lawn mower there,” Nick opened.

*Embarrassment. Yes, I had purposefully made a spectacle of myself, but I was still embarrassed.*

“Oh, um, yeah. I just have no idea how to crank a lawn mower. You know, I could totally cut my own grass if someone would just start the thing for me.”

“Eh, don’t worry about it. Our yards are like two feet wide anyway. It’ll be easy. I’ll cut it for ya later today when I do mine.”

Oh. happy. day. Problem solved.

I did still sort of want to know how to crank it, but at least there was this. Plus, I finally got to meet Katherine and Nick. They were extremely personable, and it wasn’t long before Katherine was hanging out with Elsie, Sarah, Cloe, and me too sometimes.

Nick decided that he would prefer that I pay him in sweet tea, so that’s what I did. I made tea and took it over there a couple of times, but then Katherine asked me to teach her how to make it. Once I taught her how to make sweet tea, they always had it in their fridge.


There were many problems of that sort that Army Wives face, and the first time you do it, that’s when the obstacles seem the biggest. This was the first deployment for all of us, and we were learning together.

Our circle was getting closer-knit quickly. Cloe started going to church with me at First Baptist, Killeen, that very first Sunday that we met, and it wasn’t too long before Sarah started coming too. Elsie went to a Lutheran church.

Our Sunday School class at First Baptist was such an active one, having socials once every month or two. Wanda, our class teacher, took an interest in each individual who walked through the door. Just talking to her made you feel special, so that class just grew and grew. It was a fun group, and everyone wanted to be a part of it.

I think it was that very first Sunday that Cloe went to church with me that we met Kayla, and then the inner circle of the John David Drive Army Wives was complete, well, at last until Tegann arrived later that year.

Kayla was from Oklahoma. She was a newlywed, around 20-years-old too. Kayla was instantly a part of the group. She was new in town and didn’t know many people, so whether I was right or not, I felt that she needed us.

Kayla is the only TWICE friend I’ve ever had. What I mean is that of all the people I’ve met in 15 years of Army life, Kayla is the only one who I’ve been friends with at two duty stations, as we re-met several years later in Washington, D.C., and resumed our friendship, that time in the form of play-dates.

Kayla is one of those people who just tells it like it is, but in a likable way. She’s not going to hurt your feelings, but she doesn’t beat around the bush. Her feet are always planted firmly on the ground.


Kayla and Me. We shared a birth month. This was my 23rd birthday, but I can’t remember how much older I am than Kayla!

It wasn’t always the whole group together. Sometimes it was just parts of the group, but I always thought it was the most fun when everyone was there.

Putting together Kayla, the truth speaker, Cloe, who was always up on the news and sensitive, Sarah, also a practical, problem-solver, Elsie, who was the life of the party, and then me, the loud laugher….it was a pleasure.

We were all smart, capable, fun-loving, but well grounded young women. We were young 20s at the same time Paris Hilton and Brittney Spears (during her head shaving phase) were making tabloid headlines, at our very same age. That always puzzled me. We all had our act together, pray for our husbands, kept our houses, studied or worked, and then there were these wild girls on t.v. giving our whole generation a bad name.

I can’t tell you that it was such a hard first year of deployment. It wasn’t hard once I had my crew. It was downright fun.

Many women began the pressure on their husband to get out of the Army as soon as that first deployment was over. We knew it was going to happen over and over again, but that wasn’t me. If Alan enjoyed the Army, I could handle that, so long as I had a good support system.


Come back next week for the next chapter, the in-laws visit and the funeral.

Want to catch up on what you’ve missed? Click here for a list of chapters.






When My Last Baby Turned 4

Educational Games for 2-8 Year Olds

When My Last Baby Turned 4

John David, enjoying a birthday cupcake

This summer my baby, John David, turned FOUR. He was quite pleased with himself.

Was I sad that my last baby is not so much a baby anymore? Well, no, not really because I have babied the stew out of him. Basically, he still looks like a baby to me, so it hasn’t hit me yet.

It was completely different when my oldest child, 7 years ago, turned 4 years old.

I wasn’t the least bit sad. I was ecstatic!! For some reason, I saw 4 as this magical hump of parenting where Joshua was going to magically be a big kid.

The push was on. Joshua was constantly pushed towards independence and accomplishments. Soccer team started at age 3. T-ball started the minute he was old enough to participate. He was drilled on academics constantly, and we read him about 15 books/day, not even exaggerating.

I would say things to him like, “Joshua, watch Caleb for a minute while I go in yonder. You’re in charge.”

Even at the time, I knew Joshua wasn’t able to help me with Caleb much. That’s just what I said, and yet, he did seem to actually help with Caleb (who is only 20 months younger than Joshua).

When Joshua would want to be carried or babied, I didn’t understand at all. Wasn’t he supposed to be more grown up? He was my biggest, my oldest, and I had little patience for much shenanigans. Walk child, walk.

Well, you may be feeling sorry for that first-born 4-year-old, and I do too in hindsight, but don’t spend too much time on it.

He’s doing swell. He is now the kind of pre-teen who is confident enough to go into the gas station, escorting a little brother, and pick out a drink and pay for it. When we lived on base, he could even ride his bike to the mini-mart, buy bread for me, and bring it home.

He can make his own meals, so long as it just involves the microwave or an apple core-er, and he can fix his brothers’ meals too.

It is pretty awesome to have that (sometimes) responsible, independent oldest son. Plus, he looks about 13, so no one ever questions his competence level to do these things. It’s working out well so far– no permanent damage done, hopefully.

And John David is sort of the opposite…..

I don’t push at all. Nope not at all. I still put his socks and shoes on him, “wipe him up”, and he never has to “keep his brother out of trouble” because he has no little brother.

He is my little velcro to the side of my leg, and I eat it up. And he eats it up. No one seems to question the fact that this is my giant baby.

But you know what? He’s going to be fine too. I’m sure of it.

He can put his shoes on himself when he wants to, and he wipes before I wipe. Mostly, I’ve let him lead on these steps—except I did have to resort to bribery “rewards” for the wiping.


JD loved staying in hotels so much this summer. He keeps asking me when we get to go sleep in a hotel bed again.

Don’t despair. This 4-year-old has many talents too.

John David is a fast learner. He can color for hours without getting tired of it. JD knows all of his letters and the sounds they make. Oh! And he loves helping me with chores!! You gotta love that!!!

Yes, I’ve babied him, but I’m hoping all will turn out well. He does know about love, discipline, and consequences. He’s super sweet and is always doing kind things for his momma.

In fact, he often prays at night, “Thank you for Mom. Thank you for Mom. Thank you for Mom.”

I’m such a sucker for that.



John David still often cuddles up in my lap and sleeps. I love it. I’m holding on to that as long as I can.


A few weeks ago, John David started K4. He was hesitant, but he went. Then they started morning drop-off for the 4-year-olds.

I pulled up to the curb where 2 pre-school teachers, and thankfully JD knows both of them, were standing to assist the 4-year-olds in getting out of their car and into the building. John David didn’t fully grasp what was going on, so he got out. They walked him to the building, and he had to walk to his classroom by himself.

The next day I pulled back up to the curb, and John David quickly entered panic-mode.

“What! No, Mom, you walk me in. You walk me in. You walk me in.” John David repeated over and over as he backed away into a corner as far as could get from the teachers and the open van door.

Time to throw in the proverbial towel.

“Got it. Ok. I got it. I’ll walk him in. I’ll walk him in. JD, sit back down in your seat, and we’ll park, and I’ll walk you in.”

I asked John David later on if he had been scared walking to class by himself that day. He looked at me with the most pitiful face, and with a shaky little voice, nodded and whispered, “I almost cried.”

Well, that did it for me. I decided right then and there that this child will be personally escorted to his K-4 classroom every single day until he asks me himself to do otherwise!!

a brotherly hug at a cousin’s wedding

See how clingy he is? Bless.

Yes, we carried him around in Washington, D.C. too.

I promise we carried our other 4-year-olds around a little bit too.

When Joshua was 4, and Caleb was 2. Joshua didn’t get carried as much since we had to carry the 35 pound 2-year-old… (Washington, D.C., 2010)


But man! They were precious too!! (D.C. Smithsonian Native American Museum, 2010)

When Caleb was 4, and Daniel was around 6 months

When Daniel was 4, Caleb was 7, and we took them to the San Diego Zoo

Yes, we are more relaxed with our youngest child, but not more lenient. I think we might even be more strict, just less worried about him doing what he’s “supposed to do”. As long as he’s obeying and being respectful, we’re good, and that’s a work in progress for ALL of us.

Okay. Well, we do let him sit on the table to paint and build Lego creations, so maybe we are more lenient in all areas except the ones above, which we deem as most important.

And yes, we bought him 5 Batman t-shirts and let him wear only Batman shirts every single day for a YEAR……

Is that so bad? Nah. I’m going with no.

Four is an awesome age. We are so lucky to get to do it one more time!




P.S. The year of Batman is over. He has informed us that he wants no more Batman toys, books, or shirts. He only wants Ninjago stuff now, because all obsessive people occasionally need something NEW to obsess over…let’s move on to ninjas.



Educational Games for 2-8 Year Olds









Real Army Wives: Sarah, Short and Cute

Real Army Wives Series Meet Sarah

left to right: Elsie, Kayla, Sarah, Me, & Cloe. Kayla’s sister was behind us.

***This post is part of the series The Real Army Wives. For last week’s post about The Coffee Group, click here.***

Okay, you may or may not get my title reference there to the children’s book, Sarah Plain and Tall, which you should totally read to your children. It’s such a great book.

I still vividly recall the day I met Sarah.

(I even have some adorable photos of Sarah…..but I left town for Hurricane Irma and didn’t pack my photo albums, so you will have to wait for those…….)

It was one of those oddly eventful days. Before Alan’s unit ever left, they hosted a Unit Sports Day, which was a fun way to break up the monotony of all the waiting for deployment.

It was February, so I wore these blue, bootcut, work-out pants I had with a white Alabama t-shirt tucked into it. My, how fashion has changed. I promise it was not weird in early 2003 to tuck in your t-shirt. It’s funny that I can often remember what I was wearing but never what anyone else was wearing…

Fort Hood had a policy of pulling people over for “random” car inspections, even if you did have your car dashboard military ID sticker in place as well as your personal military ID card. Sometimes it seemed like the inspections weren’t all that random.

That day the NCOIC, which means non-commissioned officer in charge, decided to pull me over for a random inspection. Of course, I was running late and nervous about even finding the sports day location, so I was annoyed by this. However, I complied like a good little citizen. For some reason I even had to get out of the car, though I have no idea why.

Once they were all finished inspecting my Grand Am and my paperwork, this staff sergeant handed me back my ID and said, “All done. You got a nice ass!”

Say wha??????  Well, that did rattle me a bit, but I spoke not a word, got back into my Grand Am, and drove on in a billion circles until I finally found the sports day location. I probably had to call Alan on the way there lost, knowing my typical pattern in the pre-GPS days. Oh, who am I kidding? That’s still my pattern!

The Unit Sports Day consisted of several groups of soldiers running different lengths of races. That’s all I can recall from it, and then there was a food booth, run mostly by wives. I joined the wives at the food booth, and that was where I met Sarah.

I’m sure I told Sarah my gate car inspection story, but I’m not sure if I made a lovely first impression after being flustered over the gate guard and the getting lost. Unfortunately, I also told that story to Alan in front of a few of his co-workers, who all hooted and hollered and egged Alan on to go down there and say something to this man.

Well, Alan did go down there, but we could not find the offensive staff sergeant. Instead, we found a regular sergeant who griped about how the staff sergeants were coming down there as if the regular sergeants couldn’t handle overseeing the gate, which they didn’t appreciate.

It was probably best Alan didn’t get to talk to the guy in the heat of that moment anyway. Of course, Alan’s a big dude, but he’s also very mild-mannered. I wonder if he had thought through what he was going to say.

Back at the Sports Day booth, I guess we handed out chips and hotdogs or sold them as an FRG fundraiser. Sarah and I got to talking and hit it off so nicely. Sarah was 25, and I was 22, so we had that bond of youth. Neither of us had lived in the Fort Hood area for all that long. Sarah lived in Copperas Cove with her husband and her two dogs.

Sarah is hard to describe because there are many facets to her personality. She is all at once outgoing but timid in some situations. Sarah is of Mexican heritage, but she was raised in San Antonio and had never actually been to Mexico. Her Spanish is excellent though. She is fun-loving but highly responsible. Sarah was one of those people, like my friend Jennings, who just knew how to jump in and help. That’s a gift that some people have, a highly useful one, of innately knowing the helpful thing to do and doing it without anyone asking.

Sarah is also that kind of friend who will give you the shirt off her back if you say you are cold. Also, she did an excellent job of killing ants in my kitchen that week the ants came marching in.

Sarah was a godsend.

One thing that always made me laugh about Sarah was that she never called any of her friends by their names when she would tell stories. It wasn’t, “Oh, I was at Janice’s house.” Instead it was always, “I was at my friend’s house,” which almost made it sound like she had this one friend when truly she had many.

I was amused to find that Sarah, who could not have been an inch over 5 foot 1 inches tall, was married to an enormous African-American man named Zack, who must have been about 6 foot 3. I couldn’t tell you what he was like though because that was another thing about early 2003. All of our husbands left the country before you got to know any of them.

On that Unit Sports Day, Sarah and I decided to go ahead and leave before our husbands left. Sarah’s car had a run in with one of those dirt-devil type of mini-tornado storms that had completely smashed up her passenger door window. That left her car-less that day, so I gave her a ride home.

I thought I had a cute little duplex, but Sarah’s duplex in the Cove was much smaller because it only had two bedrooms and wasn’t in as nice of a neighborhood as mine was. Sarah let me come in and introduced me to her dogs. She even gave me a potted plant that sort of became my friend during that deployment and for a couple of years afterward. I remember moving with that plant onto base housing a year later and then even to Arizona in 2005.

Sarah was a great laugher and was better at having a handle on knowing how she felt than I was. I love to laugh with friends normally, but when I have a lot on my mind, I tend to space out. Intentionally, I shut the world out while I process. Phone calls go unanswered. Text messages do not get replied to, and I will even hide in my room rather than open the door to knockers.

After Alan left, it was time to space out. Sarah called frequently. She was reaching out to me, but I wasn’t answering. Most of the time I knew she was calling, but I was not ready to talk to people, not even to friends. I just wanted to be alone with my t.v. and my board games that I played versus myself. I realize it’s almost comical, me sitting in my living room playing 4 different hands of Skipbo against each other, but I don’t know what to tell ya. That was how I coped, that and many calls to 911, but you can go back and read that story if you missed it.

After my crazy-lady wake-up call, I called up Sarah and Elsie and invited them over.

Let me clarify that I wasn’t completely isolated. I saw my church friends Ashley, Theresa, and Wanda, on Sundays, at choir practice on Wednesdays, and at events. My neighbor Elsie and I talked frequently outside. Plus, Alan’s cousin Katie helped me out, checked on me, and even sent her husband over to cut my grass.  Then there was also the coffee group once a month. I wasn’t completely alone.

But this was part of my new GOAL, to begin to focus on others instead of just myself. I reached out first to Sarah and Elsie.

Elsie and Sarah probably do not even remember it, but it was huge for me because I was intentionally focusing on facing my problems and giving back to others just like me. That was what this was about. I wanted to gather these women and make a difference. We could do this together!!!

And I knew Sarah needed me because she had called and called, and I felt bad for being such an absent friend.

Sarah looked positively giddy when she knocked on my door around dinnertime, and held up a bottle of blackberry wine. I welcomed her in, and soon Elsie arrived. That very first night it was just the three of us because we had not yet met the rest of our group of mostly neighbors.

Was it blackberry wine or was it raspberry? It was something like that. The alcohol content was so low on it that you could freeze the whole bottle in the freezer. That wine was more sugar than anything else.

The only thing was that I don’t drink. I wasn’t sure what to do with this obviously thoughtful gesture, especially after having been such a bad friend. Elsie arrived, appearing pretty happy with Sarah’s wine too, so they urged me to open it.

I didn’t even have a wine bottle opener-thing, but we quickly discovered that it was a twisty cap anyway.

Well, the Bible does say that wine is for the miserable, and I didn’t want to let them all down, so I went ahead and partook. I’m sorry to tell you that it was quite delicious, and it became the sponsored drink of choice of our Army Wives group even though none of us were drinkers. (And don’t worry. I’m still not a drinker.)

Elsie and Sarah were the perfect friends for me. They were both jolly souls who seemed to be handling this deployment thing fathoms better than I was.

That night we ate and talked and laughed uproariously, and by the time Elsie and Sarah left I felt better than I had felt in ages. It’s amazing how uplifting the countenance of good friends can be!

It wasn’t the barely-even-wine or the food that brightened our hearts. It was each other, encouraging one another, and laughing and talking about a shared trial we were going through.

No one can relate to military life like a fellow military spouse can.

We were going to survive this year just fine after all, and did you know that we had all heard from our husbands in Kuwait too? The soldiers flew to Kuwait, where they lived in tent cities and were all able to call at least once. Then there was the month of silence as the 4th Infantry Division drove into Iraq, through Baghdad and set up camp.

Alan said they arrived to cheering crowds, though it didn’t stay that way as the months wore on. Alan arrived in Tikrit, they set up their tents or trailers there, and then I finally heard from Alan again, ending the month of silence, which had coincided with my month of hiding quietly in my house.

When Alan finally called from Tikrit, he gave me the phone number of a wife who also lived on my street named Cloe. Cloe’s husband was a soldier on Alan’s Fire Support Team, and she didn’t have a crew of Army Wives to hang out with yet either. She would be my next person to call to add to this newly formed little tribe.






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