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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Mil Spouse Problems: 13 Months, The Illegal Question, & the Cat

This post is part of the series True Stories of Real Army Wives. To read last week’s post, click here.

Mil Spouse Problems: 13 Months, The Illegal Question, & the Cat

Before they rode into Iraq, they camped in Kuwait….where Alan shaved his head. You can see the tent city they slept in behind Alan in the photo.

 

Alan was good about taking photos with a disposable camera and mailing me the cameras later on. I’m going to include a few of those pictures in today’s post.

 

Wed., July 23, 2003

11:32 pm

Oh! Well, I went to choir practice tonight. I left in tears.

At the end of practice, Bruce announced that he saw on Fox News today that plans are made for year-long deployments and that 4ID is scheduled to come back in April.

Granted, I have heard this several times, but not on the news! This made it feel so much more official to me. Something about it just caused me to instantly turn on the water works. I tried to fight it, but I couldn’t.

So I got hugged many times on my way out of the room. It was just that feeling where your heart hits your feet. Alan, I just love you so much.

After choir I dried my tears, still feeling blue. But I know I have a life to get on with, so I drove on post and found Smith Middle, where I’m interviewing for a middle school science position tomorrow. That way I won’t get lost.

Then I came home. I drive up, and there’s Katherine, in her gym clothes, pouring ant killer all over the sidewalk. I started talking to her. Then Phan, their female houseguest, came outside too.

Then we all came inside our house and hung out. While we were talking, Bruce Berry called to apologize for what he said at choir about the 4ID. He was very humble sounding. I could tell he REALLY felt badly. He said something like, “I should’ve thought about you sitting back there. I’m sorry. I wasn’t thinking. I’m sorry.”

Of course, I told him I am okay and not to worry about it. Poor Bruce.

Katherine and Phan stayed over, and we ate and watched tv until 11. It was so nice. I really don’t know what I’d do without these girls.

I miss you, Alan. It hurts to think about missing you until April 2004. (That means we’re 1/3 the way through.) It hurts, but I know we’ll be okay. We’ve got a long road to hoe. It’s going to be so weird when I see you again. Perhaps it will be like falling in love all over again. Now that could be exciting!

Forever Yours,

April

 

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

Alan sent me this photo. When there are no showers, these are treasures. While Alan was overseas, I took photos he sent me and put them into a War scrapbook. He helped me with the captions later.

*******

 

 

Friday, July 25, 2003

Alan,

Hey! I’m really sorry, but yesterday was so crazy that I did not find time to write! I never even made it to sleep!

It’s 7:50 am. I’m on a plane in Dallas. It’s still boarding, and I have SO MUCH to catch you up on.

Well, Wednesday night I found out that y’all DEFINITELY have orders to remain in Iraq until next April. 13 month deployment!! Of course, the news struck me hard, but I feel so bad for you.

I mean you are spending a whole year in a horrible desert, where they speak a foreign language and many of them probably hate Americans. I am so sorry.

But I also got called Wednesday for an interview at Smith Middle School (on post). It’s a 6th grade science position. I was so excited.

The interview was yesterday.

It went okay, but I don’t expect to get the job. And worst of all, I was competing with Eric, a friend of mine from class, for the position. He just got out of the Army in April of this year. He and I are the only ones in the 4-8 class with a science concentration.

I’ve never competed against someone I know for a position before. I’m afraid he’s a better candidate for the job. My only advantage is that I have much better people skills than Eric, but I’m not sure if I really showed that in my interview because I was so nervous.

The interview only lasted 15 minutes. Well, anyway, it was only my first REAL (post-college) job interview, so at least that’s behind me!

The principal who interviewed me was pretty nice. She just kept commenting on how YOUNG I look. At the end of the interview, she actually asked me my age–which is ILLEGAL, and she knows it because she said, “I know I’m not supposed to ask this, but how old ARE you? You don’t even look old enough to be married!”

Yeah. I told her I’m 22. I really don’t think I’m going to get that job. I’ll find out Monday.

It’s weird. All this stuff is going on in my life, and my husband doesn’t even know about it. You don’t even know that I’ll be in Alabama all weekend! I’m so afraid I’ll miss one of your calls, but I doubt it because you called earlier this week already.

I was so excited that I finally had an interview that I told everybody, so when I got home from class– at like 9:30– I had exactly 7 messages to return from friends and family who all wanted to know how it went. (Your mom, my mom, Amy, Jennings, Chrisynda, Cloe, & Sarah)

I ended up talking to your sister for like an hour. Amy and I get along really well. I think we both find each other easy to talk to. I can honestly say that if I had known Amy in college, we would’ve been close friends.

So it was 11:30 when I got off the phone, and I still had to finish packing and cleaning, so it was 1:30 am when I crawled into bed.

I was so wound up, knowing I had a 6am flight and thinking about my interview and about you being gone until NEXT APRIL– I couldn’t sleep at all– not a wink.

My alarm was set for 3:45 am. At 3:30, I just turned it off and got up.

Elsie and I left for the airport at 5 am. It has been quite fun flying with Elsie. I can’t imagine this deployment without her. We’re talking about flying home together for Thanksgiving and Christmas too! That will help so much!

You will like her husband too. I know you will because he sounds so much like you. He even wrote their home church in Daleville a letter, just like how you wrote your home church. He’s a lieutenant too, but he’ll be promoted to captain in the not-too-distant future. Well, you’ve met him once. I’ve never even met him, but of course, I hear about him all the time.

Well, we’re taking off now. Remember our flight to Jamaica? I just can’t believe I have to live in memories for 9 more months. It’s not even half way over.

But I must say, time is speeding by, which is what I want, for now. By the time we move, I’m going to be so attached to our little neighborhood, I’m not going to want to leave Texas!

However, I think we should move someplace COLDER next time. Germany or Alaska, if we still need to get in an overseas tour. But if IRAQ doesn’t count as one, that’s ridiculous!

OH!!! Does it count? Oh, if it does, can I pick the next duty station?? I want to either move back home or move to Fort Lewis. I hear it’s beautiful, and I know you liked it when you were there!

Or could we just pick a duty station that our friends are at? I’d be good with that.

…….O.K. So I hate to tell you this because I know you don’t even want a house where a cat has ever been, so let me start by saying it’s only for 3 months. Eric, in my teacher class, has a girlfriend who is TDY in Qatar and needs someone to take care of her cat until she gets back. So, knowing that you won’t be back for 9 months–which will give the house 6 months between the cat and now– I jumped at the chance.

Please understand. It’s only for a little while, and I kind of NEED this. I hope you don’t mind. I thought this would be okay.

Me and Kitty, my foster cat

Tomorrow Granny Hyde turns 90, and I will be at her party. After such a rough week, it’ll be a good time for me to be with family.

Oh! I got your 2nd package Thursday with all my letters and other letters and the Army stuff. I got doubles of the Iraq pictures you sent me in the last package, and I split the doubles between Amy and our parents. Everyone was very pleased about that.

One last thing…

What should I do about Thanksgiving and Christmas? Do I still go to your grandparents’ house and Waynesboro? Yes. Yes, for Christmas I think it would be best. I’ll just go to my side of the family for Thanksgiving though.

Y’all still make the daily news. I don’t watch it much, but I get my daily CNN news breaks. The capture of Uday and Qusay (or whatever) has really lifted hopes around here. That was indeed exciting news. How has it been received by the people of Iraq?

There’s so much I want to know about your new position in Ad Dwar and who you are friends with and what interactions you’ve had with the people of Iraq. I am so proud of you. We all are.

One of the 4-42 Coffee Group wives– I WISH I could remember her name– called me yesterday. She said there’s a group of them who get together every week, and she just thought about me and invited me. I couldn’t go this week, but I’m hoping to go next week. I do REALLY want to get to know more 4-42 wives better. The lady who called me is actually a very pregnant, cute, curly red-headed woman. I only wish I could remember her name, but it meant a lot to me to be invited.

Well, I just wanted to write you a good long letter to catch you up on everything. Sure enough this makes 11 pages. Hang in there, Alan. You’re doing such a great job. It’ll be over before we know it. (I hope!)

I love you, and I’m praying for you.

Love,

April

 

Maybe you’re wondering if I got this job from the interview I mentioned.

Well, no. I didn’t, but that wasn’t too surprising. It was weeks before I got another interview, and only 3 days before the first day of school, before I solidified a job for myself. My precious Sunday school teacher advised me against it. She said I should hold out for a KISD position, as they had more resources.

Instead, I accepted a position teaching 3rd and 4th grade in one classroom, at a charter school, in one of the poorest areas of Killeen, Texas.

I knew it would be a challenge, but I was excited that someone was taking a chance on a young new teacher like me. The only thing that concerned me was the 2 grades in one classroom thing and the fact that I wasn’t trained at ALL to teach 3rd graders, especially ones who couldn’t read well.

Was I in over my head……Come back next week to see what happened!

 

Click here for the next chapter.

 

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