Army Wives Series: The First Good-bye and Watching the News

Army wives series the first good-bye and watching the news

It’s been a couple of weeks since my last Real Army Wives series post, so where were we?

Oh, yes, Alan and I were engaged. The Army was starting to encroach on my plans and change my life. Hahahahahaha Oh boy, did I have no idea what was ahead or what!

Behind? You can catch up here with part 1, part 2,and the others weren’t exactly part of the story, per se, so we are really only on part 3 here.

Probably 99% of military couples plan their wedding date around a deployment, a move, a temporary duty assignment, or training.

For us, it was Officer Basic Course and my own college graduation. We could plan it for December or January, which was unstable because we were brand new to the military and didn’t know if that would work out…

Or we could plan the big day for August, exactly when Alan had about 10 days of leave between assignments.

So we went with the August plan.

Army wives series the first good-bye and watching the news

Picture of a picture….Yes, we got married before digital photography was big…Funny story….A guest that we didn’t know caught the bouquet. She said, “Wow! I don’t even know her!” So Alyson, Alan’s cousin, snatched it up. That makes me smile.

The first good-bye

I said good-bye to Alan around May 30 that year. He was off to Ft. Lewis, Washington, and I was headed down to my parents’ house to spend the summer working, planning the wedding, and taking Genetics via distance learning.

This was our first ever attempt at a long distance relationship. Two whole months–which sounds laughable NOW.

But, oh! The drama!

You would have thought it was World War II, rather than…..Tacoma. We hugged and kissed, and made speeches, and it actually makes me roll my eyes and shake my head now to even think about it. Gracious.

Two months of separation between Alan’s commissioning and the wedding.

But that was nothing.

Once we got married, in August, we celebrated with a honeymoon to Jamaica, and then we drove from Alabama to Oklahoma to settle him into his BOQ. (Batchelor Officer’s Quarters)

I rode out there with him, spent a day there, and then I flew back to Alabama to finish my own degree, at the University of Alabama.

Army wives series the first good-bye and watching the news

Yep. That was another 4 months of separation.

I don’t even think it’s that uncommon for military couples to spend the first months of their marriage apart. This has been a common theme throughout millenia of military couples.

As a newlywed 21-year-old young woman, it was agonizing.

How many times did I contemplate throwing it all out the window and moving to Oklahoma with my lieutenant? So many times! I could finish my degree anywhere, any time, why bother with all this? Ugh.

But my husband truly loved me, and was always looking out not only for his best interest, but for mine as well. Alan would not hear of me throwing away my degree only 4 months from completion.

Transferring to another college would have put all those credits at risk. I’d worked hard on this degree, and we both decided it would be best for me to stick it out and finish that last semester at UA.

…Even if I felt like I was the only married lady on campus. Actually, I wasn’t the only one, but I WAS the only married gal still working as a Resident Assistant, living alone, in the freshman girls’ residence hall, Tutwiler.

Army wives series the first good-bye and watching the news

My 3 closest friends junior and senior year: That’s me, Jennings, Leigh, and Chrisynda

But I was with my friends, and that made it doable. How many times have my friends kept me sane over all these years? Two things, y’all, there were two things that always got me through these obstacles.

  1. My faith in my heavenly Father. He’s seen me through too much for me to ever doubt Him.
  2. The support of my friends and family.

Around that time, speculation began to circulate about the possibility of war with Iraq.

It was the fall of 2002. We had troops in Afghanistan, not in Iraq, but the news kept building. I remember the day Chrisynda came to my room to tell me to turn on my t.v.

Army wives series the first good-bye and watching the news

Chrisynda and me, 2002

Chrisynda was one of my best friends, a tallish, slender brunette with straight shoulder-length hair, and a positive attitude. She was the Alan of my friends: super responsible, practical, level-headed, beautiful, kind, caring, and fun, but always well-balanced.

She’s just one of those people who seems to know things. She was the friend who would keep my favorite snack in her room. She’d come to my room with a Walmart bag containing batteries because she knew that if she wanted to watch t.v. in my room, someone would need to put batteries in my remote control. April did not have money to spare for batteries. For Guthrie’s fried chicken tenders? Yes, I had money for that. For batteries? Never.

I remember Chrisynda came into my room, and she probably brought food with her too, and she turned on the news. It is permanently lodged in my brain how she asked me about the Iraq news.

“Did you see this Iraq stuff?”

I muttered something about avoiding all that news and hoping it wouldn’t happen. I like to live happily in denial.

“Ehh…I’m pretty sure we’re going, April. It’s happening. Do you think Alan will go?” She was so polite, but she leveled the facts with me that I don’t think anyone else wanted to talk about.

Time stood still. Wait. What? I gotta start watching the news? The news….the news…

The news was suddenly intruding into my life. It was more than a channel to flip past. What we were seeing on t.v. was affecting me directly. It had always affected me, whether I realized it or not, but now I was in the front of the line of dominoes!!

Ever since, I’ve never been able to form a non-partial opinion on anything politically related. I always think, “Wait. How will this affect me? Or this friend, or my parents, or my children?”

Some people remain objective much better than I do, but I cannot do it.

So there we were…..young newlyweds…we’d been apart for 6 months, with short breaks in between, and now there was talk of war with Iraq.

The questions swirled around me, but what could I do? How could I know anything?

All a person can do in any situation at all is to put one foot in front of the other. Do the next thing. What needs to be done today? Do that. How do I stay spiritually and physically fit to handle all this? Do that too.

Pray. Hope. Love. Cling to the good. Always hope for the best but prepare for the worst, and life went on.

Army wives series the first good-bye and watching the news

Come back next Monday for the next installment!

Every Monday: a new installment of The Real Army Wives blog series on storiesofourboys.com

 

 


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It was time to meet the Army.

Us on the day of Alan’s commissioning

In April of 2002, the train ride into the future became more like a hurry-it-up rocket trip to Mars.

It was time to meet the Army.

Meeting the parents had nothing on meeting the Army.

So there I was, sweet, innocent, 21-year-old April, twirling my brand new engagement ring around and around, filled with visions of happily ever after.

Did I skip the fact that I started dating Alan in December, and we were engaged by Spring Break? Well, yes, that’s true. If you’re looking for more on that story you can find it here: The Boldest Thing I Ever Did for Love.

By April, we were getting ready to jump off the proverbial cliff. Alan had his orders, and they were for Fort Hood, Texas. On April 15th, I met with my advisor and learned that I had enough credits to graduate in December 02, rather than wait until May 03, as planned.

So, of course, we moved up the wedding date.

Our date books were exploding with significant events.  Alan would be commissioned on May 16, and he would leave May 28th for his military assignment in Washington state. Then in August, we would be married.

But first! There was the annual Alabama ROTC spring ball with my fiancee!! Squeeaaaaal!!!!

I was all giddy and nervous to prepare for my very first formal military event. I did all sorts of things to prepare for it, like buying 10 visits to the tanning bed. (Never do that. I paid for that with an early stage melanoma, 6 years later).

I drove home one weekend and picked up my beautiful indigo prom dress. No one at college had seen it, so it was as good as a new dress.

I hung the dress on the closet door, safely in its plastic bag, not touching the ground. I could just gaze at it and smile and think about how much fun I was going to have, going to the ball with my own Prince Charming. It was going to be the perfect weekend.

I was not in a sorority, so in my 3 years of college, I had never gotten to go to any formal dances.

I was finally getting my chance, but it was going to be complicated to pull this off.

Alan earned the George C. Marshall Award for outstanding ROTC cadets, so he was at the Virginia Military Institute the week of the ball, where he got to see none other than President George W. Bush speak along with many top Generals.  This was months after 9/11, y’all, this was beyond exciting.

It was time to meet the Army.

Alan took this photo of President George W. Bush addressing the George C. Marshall award winners at Virginia Military Institute, 2002.

I’ve done my share of vicarious living through Alan over the years, but that’s okay because you couldn’t pay me all the money in the world to strap on all that protective gear and guns and stand out in the 135 degree desert, away from home for a year at a time. No ma’am. No sir. April stays local. April doesn’t want a heat stroke.

Alan was flying into Birmingham, from VMI, just in time for me to pick him up at the airport and drive us to campus, do a quick wardrobe change, and charge on to the ball. The party must go on!

Around 3pm, I got a phone call from the airport pay phone. Remember those?

“Hey, honey, I’ve got bad news and good news. Um, they overbooked this flight, and anyone volunteering their seat gets a FREE ticket…which will always come in handy…we could even go somewhere fun later. What do you think?”

I tried to hide the disappointment in my voice, “Oh….”

“But honey, even if I don’t give up my seat, the flight is delayed, so I probably wouldn’t make it to the ball in time anyway. I’m sorry. I hope you didn’t have your heart too set on going to the ball.”

Disappointment. Yes, I was disappointed, but I was also relieved. No mad dash to the airport and back and quick change of clothes. No uncomfortable silences trying to make conversation with people I’d never met before.

I put the dress back in my closet. Some other day, perhaps.


I waited until 9 or so, and I drove to the Birmingham Airport to pick up Alan. I had only been in an airport once before, to pick up another friend, and I had never flown on an airplane myself, so airports were still a novelty to me.

During the day, airports are a bustling, upbeat place, but at 9 o’clock at night, it was much different. The airport was a quiet, deserted place that night. It felt like I waited forever, all alone, in an atmosphere that was foreign to me.

It was time to meet the Army.

Waiting at an airport gives you a dangerous amount of time to think.

I remember feeling contemplative, and I couldn’t help but wonder, “Is this what my life will be like, as an Army wife? Waiting at airports alone? Always watching for his plane to land?”

I wondered….

Just how many times will I sit here, waiting for him to return?

How often will our plans be canceled because the Army had other plans?

How much should a military wife even bother to plan?

Will it always be like this? Is this just a taste of things to come?

What exciting places will I get to go to too? When will I get to go along?

I looked down at my beautiful engagement ring and wondered just what sort of adventure I was setting out on, and I hoped that I wouldn’t always be the one waiting. I wanted to join him too, for some of the fun, not the Afghanistan trips, but certainly there were many places I’d like to travel to with him.

If I had a time machine, I’d go back and give my younger self a hug that night. I’d pat 21-year-old April on the shoulder and tell her that everything will be okay.

Would I tell her that eventually she will stop going to the airport and waiting? That he can ride the shuttle? That one day she will be so buried in babies, that she will actually let him come home from a SIX-MONTH Afghanistan deployment via taxi, because who takes 3 babies to the airport at 5am after so many years of this routine?

I can’t help but chuckle at that idea. No, obviously, I couldn’t tell her that. That would not help her at all.

It wasn’t a sad evening. I had that young, filled-with-hope, love, and joy feeling, but at the same time there was a hint of reality beginning to dawn on my heart.

I was realizing and accepting that when I got married, the adventures would not always be my own. There will be disappointments, and waiting, and tears. There will be a massive amount of uncertainty, but it will be worth it. It’s just what we do for those that we love.

And I couldn’t wait to begin the journey.

It was time to meet the Army.

The cover of my journal that year was perfect. Seize the day. That is exactly what we were doing.

 

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It was time to meet the Army.

 

10 Reasons Why We Don’t Have a Dog

When we were moving from California to Georgia last year, I actually entertained the idea. That was mostly because Daniel kept asking if each prospective house “had room for his dog.” It started to melt my cold, cold, hard dog-disliking heart for a bit there.

But Alan quickly came to the rescue with a firm, “No, Daniel, we aren’t getting a dog. We don’t have room, time, or desire enough for a dog. We move too much, and when we go on vacation, what would we do about the dog? No, it just doesn’t work. It’s not time for a dog yet.”

The dogs in these photos are both types of poodles. If we ever got a dog, which we won’t, we’d get a poodle, I guess.

We don’t do dogs. The boys’ grandparents just got a new dog, and the way that it has taken over their lives is actually a prime example of why we don’t have one. ha!

This dog belongs to our friends.

10 Reasons Why We Don't have a Dog

#1–And this is the biggest and most truthful reason—No one is really even asking us for a dog. No one has begged or pleaded at all, no one is drawing pictures of dogs, buying stuffed animal dogs, or mentioning them in their prayers. Not a single boy actually seems to care that we don’t have one. So phew! No pressure is reason numero uno.

 

#2. They poop.

a lot. And people expect you to clean it up, and that’s just gross. Touching poop is gross. I’m so done with that phase of life.

#3. They pee.

…and sometimes they do that in your house, and again, you have to clean it up. I am finally at a place where all of my little humans are toilet trained, so why would I go back to that?

#4. I’m sorry, but unless they look like a puppy their whole life, like the one in the photo below, they aren’t even cute.

Sorry, I know half of you hate me now, but I’m just saying. Dogs aren’t cute to me.

Okay, granted, that one is cute, but most of them aren’t.

#5. We move every 2-3 years, which is much more difficult to do with a pet along.

Hotels, car trips, planes, waiting, house hunting. This is not a dog-friendly life style.

#6. The 1st year we live in a place, we are basically friendless, so we don’t even have anyone to dog sit for us on vacations.

Okay, yes, there are kennels. I know that, but this article is about why not, not about being positive and finding a way. hehehe

#7. They stink.

Well, they do!

#8. They lick me, and I don’t like that.

#9. Unless they are trained, they jump on you with their muddy yucky paws. 

And I certainly do not have time to train some smelly dog.

#10. And in spite of all of it, if they ever put out a concerted effort to beg us to get a dog, I’d get them one, okay. 

See, I do have a heart, but it’s coupled with a great deal of practicality, and dogs are simply not practical. They don’t even provide a service. At least cats do eat mice and things. Well, some cats do. No, we don’t have a cat either. For good reason. That would be a rather similar list. Just add allergies and ‘litter box’ to this one.

 

This may be one of those posts that makes me more enemies than friends. But, y’all!!! I have to remind myself of ALLLLLL these reasons when I see how cute my little boys are when they play with these puppies. I will re-read this post every time the boys visit Bella (the cute puppy in the photos), to remind myself why we don’t have one!!

 

 

 

Exciting Things to Come on Stories of Our Boys

Every Monday: a new installment of The Real Army Wives blog series on storiesofourboys.com
the real army wives series

Noooo…it’s not a puppy. Did you think it was a puppy? This is Nonna’s new dog, Bella. 

***This post does contain affiliate links, so I collect ad fees if you buy from my links.***

There’s a book I have been wanting to write for a while now, but I didn’t want to let the blog go either, and there’s no way I could do both.

 
Then I bought this ebook by Crystal Paine (she’s like my unofficial life coach). It’s called 21 Days to a More Disciplined Life. 

I started reading it a couple of days ago, and in the book she encourages you to write down the mega project you are not doing because it looks too hard. Then make a plan.

So I have been planning and praying about that mega project that has been on hold, and the answer came to me. Break it into chapters. Run it as a series on the blog. I may not run all of it. There may be some chapters that you will have to wait for the book.

So from now on, my friends and readers, I’m going to attempt the first scheduled thing this blog has ever done.

The Real Army Wives of the War on Terrorism series.

I am going to tell my own personal story of being a military spouse through the War on Terrorism. And if any of you would like me to run some of your stories too, send me a submission! I may have to edit it, but I will be happy to do so and see if I can work it in.

These are not war stories (sorry to disappoint some of you). These are stories of what the family experienced.

I’m also not overly wild about how lengthy my title for this series is. If any of you have a shorter title idea, I will consider it, for sure!

Just The Real Army Wives, maybe? What do you think?

Can’t wait! So when do we start?

Every Monday. Every Monday there will be a new installment of this series, and we will begin with my story of 9/11/2001 because that’s the day the course of the Army wives’ lives was changed.

The 9/11 story will be up on Monday, May 15, 2017. Before you even get your coffee, it will be in your inbox.

Pssst! Once I’ve completed the series, I’m going to put it all together in an ebook for my boys and grandchildren to read someday.

I feel like they should hear the story of what happened from a first-hand account. Wouldn’t you love to have something like that from your ancestors about their time period?

One More Big Event Coming Up

Sat., May 13, 2017, my contribution to 30 Days of Tween Parenting Encouragement will be on Like Minded Musings. If you have a child ages 8-12, head on over there and check out the other articles. 30 days of relevant articles for parents of tweens! I love this!

Eleven articles are already up, and there are 19 more to come!

Want to make sure you don’t miss my new series about real Army wives?

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I am so excited and nervous about this at the same time. Can’t wait to begin! See you Monday over here and Saturday at Like Minded Musings!

 

 

10 Months After the Move: Joy, Legos, and Hair in My Trashcan

his very first school picture

We have now been back in the South for 10 months.

I’m not fully adjusted yet. It takes me a year to adjust, and it takes 2 years for me to be fully attached with roots and friendships and all.

Until then, you settle for small talk, you get out as much as you can, you accept every invitation you can possibly accept, and you make the best of it. Also, it would be helpful to study a few maps.

I have been car shopping. I did some in-my-crazy-dreams looking at this Escalade. Laugh. out. loud.  I just wanted to see inside it.

The boys love it here. I don’t mean like it. I DO mean love it.

They regularly ask me if Dad could please just work here forever.

Their favorite thing about life in Georgia is their school. They all have made friends in their classes, their teachers are nurturing and way more patient than I would be if I were teaching them, and their brains are growing by leaps and bounds.

Such a relief!!!

The moving part makes me sad for them. We still have at least a year left here, and Caleb is already talking about how much he will miss his friends. This is a truly seasoned and wise military child.

Double trouble. They begged to sleep together that night.

I’m loving being back close to family. It makes it all worth it to me. Aside from that, living here is still growing on me. I do have a few friends and many aquaintences though, and I LOVE my MOPS group.(Moms of Preschoolers)

 

He’s obsessed.

Moving is getting less and less lonely as the months progress.

I have something that can get me past any issue. I have love. I have Alan and my boys. I have a couple of friends, and I have Jesus joy.

I’m telling you that Jesus joy is a thing. When I sit and pray and meditate on the Bible, this peace and joy fills me that is overwhelmingly comforting. There have been times when it was harder to get to that, but I am there now. I feel like I’m getting back to myself.

Caleb laid out all their clothes so they would be dressed alike for church.

I want you all to know how adept I am getting at actually keeping a PLANNER!

Yes! It’s funny. After being a fairly non-structured stay-at-home mom for 11 years, going back to working is a huge adjustment. Bear with me. As I get more organized, I know I’ll be a better blogger too!

The boys are all as hilarious as ever. Joshua has become impressively responsible with his studies. He is now taking tennis lessons too, which he enjoys.

Yes, I am living the glamorous chauffeur life.

The Eyeball villain from the Lego Batman movie

Caleb came up with the idea for his school to have a Lego creation contest, and his principal was so kind as to actually go along with that. So Caleb keeps building and destroying creations, in search of the perfect Lego entry for the contest.

In other news, Daniel now has 100 sight words, and he is so excited to go to basketball camp this summer. Actually, they are all going to basketball camp, all except JD. We are only doing day camps this year, though.

I will never live down sending them to that church camp last year where Caleb got bullied, and Joshua kept a countdown of the hours until they got home.

Sigh. You do your best. Some ideas work out less well than others. I’m their mother. I think they are turning out perfectly. Love, love, love these guys.

These 2 LOVE dressing alike.

John David has been walking around here singing the songs he has learned at preschool. I was most impressed with the way he sings the months of the year and the wheels on the bus.

Oh!!! And did I tell you that we had visitors from our California days???

Aiden was their best buddy back in their poison-oak catching, bike riding, baseball playing, woods exploring, mischief-seeking California days. 3 peas in a pod right there.

“Mom, can we get a dog?” No. After 11 years of cleaning up poop, that is not happening.

Mr. Tom has a lot of jokes, so he is JD’s favorite.

the lovely Amy and Tegann

 

Daniel occasionally gets up to some of his old tricks.

I pulled open the trash can the other day and saw THIS, but then I felt bad because he said he only cut it because it was in his eyes….yeah….you may call that a fail, but I call it raising one seriously resourceful boy right there.

You know, I’m just trying to use the power of positive thinking. It’s working.

bed time stories with, as JD says, “the best Dad ever!!”

Let me leave you with a couple of funny stories from the 3rd grade.

“Today at lunch, Monty turned SO RED because he chugged so much hot sauce.”

…..Well, I’m impressed…

“Today at recess, everybody wanted to play with Cory’s fidget spinner, but he wouldn’t share with anyone, so we all started chasing him. And then we all had to walk laps because they thought we were playing tag,” my son said, as he giggled to himself and shook his head.

Another great day in the 3rd grade, unless maybe you were Cory, and a pack of fidget spinning-wanting 9-year-olds were chasing you. Haha!!!

He is now a champion of designing your own Lego vehicles. I wish he’d kept this one together because I thought it was perfect.

So yeah, we’re almost settled in.

When we first moved in, I had such moving depression I had trouble remembering to smile or speak to people, and I had to start researching Bible verses about joy.

I’m happy to report that I’ve moved far beyond that now. Every wall has a corner. I have turned mine, and that feels a lot like joy.

Happy kids. Joshua set the record on all the basketball arcade games they had.

“Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.”  Nehemiah 8:10

The joy of the Lord is our strength. Amen.

 

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