Tuesday, September 6, 2011

I remember...

Perfectly Imperfect is another title I thought about for this particular entry, but really it is about what I remember.  What is it that matters the most, that I hold on tightly to in my mind? 

There has been a lot of wedding talk around here recently and it made me reflect a lot about my own wedding proposal, our wedding, and our life we've built together.  (I have a friend who may be having a wedding very soon and her friends and I are trying to help her plan so we can pull it together at a moments notice.  When you fall in love with a Marine you can say goodbye to being able to plan anything...)  I'm about to take a trip down memory lane so if you're not interested then you may go back to your regularly scheduled programming.

The Proposal: Which one would you like to hear about?  Technically there is more than one.  Bivins first proposed during Airport Rendezvous Weekend in February 2005.  He asked me to marry him Sunday morning.  I said yes.  Then he called my mom and sisters to ask their permission.  I went home and he mailed me a turtle ring to wear.  The second time he asked me was in July 2005.  I had flown to DC to meet his parents and he had purchased a diamond solitaire ring.  We were in his room at the barracks and I was sitting at his desk.  He knelt down beside me with the box and simply said "marry me?"  I remember them both vividly.  They weren't elaborate.  It was simply a man asking the woman he loves to marry him.  I'm so glad he did!

The Wedding:  It was the on again off again wedding...not the actual wedding part, but the when and the where part.  We wanted to be married before he left DC because we knew he would go to a deploy-able unit once he left the barracks.  (Deploy-able means a unit set to deploy, not to be confused with deplorable.  That word doesn't exist in the Marine Corps.)  We also were trying to figure out a cost effective wedding plan with people from two different states-Alabama and Ohio.  I don't know if you've looked at a map recently, but they aren't exactly side by side.  Can you say nightmare?  Ok, maybe not a nightmare for everyone but I wasn't excited at the prospect of planning something.  Throw in the ever changing Marine Corps schedule and I had an ulcer before we even began talking.  So we began hatching the Augtember plan.  I can't tell you how it began...something about getting married on the beach when we came to Alabama to visit during his post parade season leave.  The logistics of that kinda made me freak out so we altered the plan to get married in the lobby of his godfather's law office.  There were other details to sort out, but here is what I remember...

I remember shopping with my mother for the perfect outfit to wear on my wedding day.

I remember shopping with my mother and picking out the satiny ribbon, lace, and red white and blue button she used to make a garter. 

I remember hopping on the plane to fly to Dulles and meet up with my Marine so we could fly together to Alabama and get married. (Ok, technically we flew into Atlanta and Mr. B picked us up and drove us to AL.)

I remember telling Mr. B in the car that the wedding was back on for this weekend.

I remember telling Bonnie that the wedding was back on for this weekend when we met her at Sal's for dinner.  (This was when Sal's was in Odenville.)

I remember going to church the Sunday before our wedding and meeting everyone at CPC.  I received sooooo many hugs from people that I know cherish as friends and family.

I remember getting ready to meet with Burt on Sunday afternoon for a brief premarital counseling session and praying he would agree to marry us on Tuesday.  (If he hadn't agreed we wouldn't have married then.  To me, it would have meant it wasn't God's time for us to marry.)

I remember Bonnie asking me if I was sure I wanted a simple wedding.  She wanted to make sure I wouldn't regret not having a white dress, family, etc.  I told her I wanted a simple wedding.  (I thanked her this past Friday for planning such a beautiful small affair.  I told her I'm so glad we did it that way.  No regrets!)

I remember Lori Booth decorating the carrot cake Bonnie made for our wedding.  She did such a wonderful job.  I couldn't have picked a prettier cake if I had tried.

I remember getting up bright and early Tuesday morning and riding to the courthouse in Pell City to get our marriage license. (Mr B. and Bonnie made a frantic run to Sam's and I have no idea where else to grab stuff for a mini reception.)

I remember going to the flower shop to order a small bouquet.  I ended up with three pink roses and a calla lily with the stems wrapped in ribbon. 

I remember reading the letter my mother e-mailed me for my wedding day. 

I remember taking a nap on my wedding day.  We were so tired from a busy weekend of visiting in Alabama and we were up early to get our license. 

I remember Mr. B and Dave leaving to take half of the stuff to Curtis' office and swinging by to get the flowers.

I remember gathering my things to do get ready at the office and riding in to Birmingham with Bonnie. 

I remember a trucker and Bonnie exchanging friendly honks that translated into Semper Fidelis.  The truck and Bonnie's car were both sporting Marine Corps stickers.

I remember curling my hair and applying my own make-up.

I remember carefully getting dressed and asking Wendy Russell if I should wear the heart necklace Bivins gave me.  She said if he gave it to me I should definitely wear it.  She also tied the lovely bow at the back of my top.

I remember walking down a hallway holding JT Gosnell's arm and at the very end of that hallway and across the lobby was the man of my dreams-dreams I didn't even know I had at the time.

I remember marrying Bivins around 6:30pm on a Tuesday evening.

I remember it being one of the best days of my life...

Saturday, August 6, 2011

4th of July 2011

By now it shouldn't be any secret that I adore the 4th of July.  I was destined for the role as a Marine's wife.  After one facebook status post a friend of mine who is also a Marine's wife told me I was the proudest Marine wife she knew.  I'll gladly accept that.  I Love my Marine.  I'm proud of his role in our nation's story and the role his fellow Marine brothers have had-now and in the past.  I'm proud of every veteran's role in our nation's story.

*I wrote this first paragraph and have attempted to come back to this post several times this past month, but have been unable to gather my thoughts about my 4th this year.  I'm finally coming back to it and am determined to finish this post.

A few weeks before the 4th I heard Toby Keith's song "Made in America" driving home from work late one night.  I loved it!  I was hooked the minute I heard the line "Semper Fi tattoed on his left arm" and then it got even better when I heard about the old man's wife who "teaches school and decorates for the 4th of July, but says every day is Independence Day."  Bivins has Semper Fi tattoed on his left arm...and we know I taught school and adore the 4th of July.  I also cried watching the official video to the song.  I love the pictures of the families celebrating the 4th of July and their family.  Proud doesn't even come close to describing it. 

Every year I anxiously count down to the 4th of July.  The past two years I have been able to be off from work.  I'll work every other holiday throughout the year, just don't make me work the 4th.  Seriously.  On the 3rd of July Dave and I spent the day together...we ended the day by stopping by the fireworks super store picking out what pretty fireworks we would set off at the house.  This is a recent tradition.  The first time we set off fireworks was in Jacksonville, NC with the boys a week or so prior to their deployment.  Last year we bought a few more fireworks and set them off in the back yard.  This year Bivins was the master of our fireworks show.  The Sharp family, Tilly, and I gathered at the end of their sidewalk to watch the master at work.  It was a wonderful show.  A little scary at times because I thought that some of the fireworks were going to come back and hit the spectators, but still great.  A thunderstorm came rolling in so we had to have our grand finale a bit before we used up all of the fireworks, yet it was fun.  Fun, fun, fun.  I went to bed a happy girl.

I woke up very early on the 4th of July because the kitchen demo team, Bivns and Mr. B, began tearing out the lower cabinets at 7:30am.  Ewww.  A month later I can say the kitchen is looking great, but that morning I was a lil' grumpy about being awake.  They worked on putting in the new cabinets until about 3pm.  Then it was time to get ready for the fireworks show at American Village.  Then in rolled another thunderstorm.  I began texting Tilly and Crissy to find out how things were going at American Village because we didn't want to drive an hour just to find out the show was canceled.  Matt came over so he could go with us.  He was feeling a little bit reluctant about going, but I really didn't give him a choice.  He MUST go celebrate my favorite holiday with us.  They say the show is still on, so we pile into the car and off we go. 

Nothing makes me happier than an adventure with my boys, but an adventure on the 4th of July was fabulous.  We arrived at American Village to find out the rain had stopped and admission was free because of the bad weather!!  Wooohooo!  (Admission is normally free for veterans and $5 for everyone else.)  We met up with the Sharps, Postons, and Lowery's so we could scout out our viewing location on the green.  We set up our chairs and then Bivins, Matt and I were off to explore the grounds until closer to fireworks time.  There was a moment in walking the grounds that I was teensy bit worried, they shot off a cannon and the boys weren't prepared for it.  When it went off I immediately turned and looked at the boys to see if they were going to be ok.  We continued walking and their heart rates returned to normal and their muscles relaxed.  We had a great discussion during our walk as well.  We discussed the fact that coming home from the military is hard to do.  You go from being in a place where everyone understands you to a place where sometimes people fear you.  The same people you fought so hard to protect.  Matt said something about being just another grain of sand on the beach, and Dave said something about not being sand, but being a shell tossed around in the ocean, and I said something about there being people like me that scour the sand and pick up shells to collect.  I truly cherish all of my boys.  I respect them.  I'm proud of them.  We were still walking around when one of my favorite parts of the American Village program began. First, they presented the colors, the Pledge of Allegiance is said, and the National Anthem is sung.  I wanted to smack some adults and children for their lack of respect during this portion of the program.  I restrained myself and watched my Marine and our soldier friend do the same.  Then the Montevallo Community Band plays a Salute to America's Military Veterans and during each service's song those military veterans present are supposed to stand and be recognized.  This year I was blessed to stand between a soldier and a Marine during this tradition.  Then there was another song, "Duty, Honor, Country" which again made me proud that I was standing between a soldier and a Marine.  One of my favorite lines from this song is "the American man at arms above all other people prays for peace, for he must suffer and bear the deepest wounds and scars of war" and those lines are followed by the first few notes of Taps.  My teary eyes looked from soldier to Marine and back again.  Their posture changed and I knew their minds were lost in memories.  Shortly after that song we walked back to our seats and began to wait for darkness to creep in so the fireworks show could begin.  It was a lovely show indeed.  I was fascinated by the lovely colors.  There was one particular firework that looked like a container of glitter just exploded in the sky.  Delightful!  Both of my boys seemed to enjoy the show.  There were a few tough moments, but we had so much fun.  I'm proud of my boys and I'll shout it from the rooftops if needed.  Although, did you know my family is rather accident prone and I probably shouldn't try to get on a roof? 

We drove home after the show and I played with some sparklers in the driveway.  Bivins took some pictures, but because of the rain and hunidity they were really smoky and hard to see.  This picture made me laugh though...

I hope you enjoyed your 4th of July.  I hope you remembered the cost of freedom during your celebration, because our country began with a bloody battle for Independence and we've been battling for it ever since. Not all battle wounds are visible to the eye...

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Time With the Boys

It is no secret that I thrive on time spent with the boys.  (If you didn't know this, are we friends?  Have you read anything I've posted before?  Do I know you?)  Never in a million years did I think I'd ever be saying I thrive on time spent with the boys, but I do.  It makes my heart happy to have a bunch of boys over and listen to their crazy shenanigans.  We recently started watching Sons of Anarchy.  I absolutely adore this show.  Bad boys, vigilante justice, taking care of family, bikes, leather, the list goes on and on.  I turn into a child when I watch tv.  I keep begging Dave to let me have a biker gang now.  If I was a little lighter and could get away with it I'd dress like Gemma.  I love that she is the mother hen of the group of misfits.  She has given me the term "family dinner."  I know lots of people have family dinners with their blood relatives, but her family dinner means a dinner with the biker gang family.  My "family dinner" will henceforth be my group of boys, whoever that happens to be at the time.  My group of boys evolves a little each year.  It also depends on who is available and in the area.

Our tradition began in the good ol' USMC.  The first year we were married we spent Easter in DC and had Bynum and Martin over.  It was a fun time.  Favorite memories include: the jug of wine which tasted horrible and now that it is empty serves as our change collection jar and the two candlesticks that are still covered in wax from the boys getting bored and playing with the candles.  It is from this first gathering that the tradition has evolved.  Every time we stayed at our duty station for a holiday instead of driving home we would invite boys over to enjoy the holiday with us.  We have continued this tradition here in Alabama too.  We gathered at the in-laws house for Easter and it made my heart happy to have some boys over to enjoy the day with us. 
Our Easter tree at the in-laws.  Cute, huh?
We had a wonderful dinner and great desserts.  The boys definitely didn't go hungry.  I'd say they enjoyed it...

Post dinner nap time.
I spent the day how I always do when my boys get together~behind the camera trying to catch the best moments on film.  If there is a video involved then I am laughing as it records.  My boys are the best...even if they argue about being boys and insist they are grown men.  They may be grown men, but to me they'll always be boys at heart.  Spend 5 minutes with them and I dare you to disagree.  They know I love each of them dearly.

Another event with the boys was The Schaeffer Eye Center Crawfish Boil.  They do boil crawfish, and the boys ate some, but mostly it is an excuse to gather in downtown Birmingham to pay too much for beer and watch great artists and mediocre artists perform.  It is a two day event, although we only went Friday night despite my begging to go see Nelly Saturday night.  I heard something about me being old and ghetto for liking Nelly.  *Let's pause while I sing Ride With Me and relive memories of me driving the Toyota Corolla with beads hanging from the rear view mirror.  Ok, we can move on now.*  What lured me in to the Crawfish Boil was that Sublime featuring Rome (their new lead singer) would be performing.  Dave and I have seen a Sublime tribute band play a couple of times and thoroughly enjoyed it so we couldn't pass up a chance to catch the real deal (sorta).  Sublime was cool, but they played a lot of newer songs instead of the good ol' songs we love.  Overall, great performance and the new stuff sounded great, but I missed some of my oldies, but goodies.  Dave was stoked that Weezer would be performing.  Oh my goodness did I have a blast!  I knew I knew Weezer's songs, but until they came out on stage I had kind of forgotten who they were.  The opening number, Hashpipe, played and I was like "oh, I remember these guys they're really cool."  Weezer put on a fantastic show.  I should mention this show was the week the tornadoes had come through Alabama.  The tornadoes hit on a Wednesday and the concert was Friday.  The Crawfish Boil was taking up donations for the Red Cross at the event and all of the performers made sure to let us know they wanted us to have a good time.  Weezer showed us they meant what they said.  I would definitely go see them perform again.  Really cool.  Here is my newest favorite pic of Dave and I.

And one more of me and one of the boys.

Our most recent adventure was a night with the boys during Memorial Day weekend.  A friend that is now a Marine was able to come home for the weekend and we invited Matt over for some of the fun too.  In true "time with the boys" style we had a blast.  I came out from the bathroom to find this:

Boy can't be left alone.  I know this, yet I do it every time.  Lucky for me they only used up all my tin foil and didn't burn down the house or anything.  Life is an adventure, live it up, and have lots of laughs.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Made a Leap

I've been debating my future career paths.  Do I want to continue in retail?  It sure is fun.  I can take any day of the week off and the business runs smoothly.  No worries.  The down side is of course all those night and weekend shifts.  I get very little accomplished beyond work when I end up with a bunch of closing shifts in the same week.  Still no work at home though, it all gets done at the store.  Do I want to attempt to go back to school?  I think our house needs only 1 person in school and right now that person is Dave.  Also, I think I need to do a little more research about what degree I would like to pursue.  Social Work? Counseling?  Library Science? Who knows... Do I go back to teaching?  I've reached the point where I kind of miss it. 

This is what my furry boys saw last night:

Zeke says " Momma what is going on?  This thing is shooting paper everywhere."

I updated my online application for Teach in Alabama.  It is a website that the vast majority of school systems in Alabama use to post vacancies and accept applications.  Mine is officially up-to-date and available for schools to search.  I've clicked on the apply link for two different generic vacancy positions.  We'll see what happens.  What will be, will be.  

I think Zeus wants to help proofread...   
And now we wait.  We get things ready just in case some school decides they might like to talk to me about becoming a part of their staff.  We hope.  We pray.  We wait.

In the meantime Zeus has plans of his own...
I can't quite decipher his plan though.  Is it to wear the vest himself some day?  Does he think if he sits on it his poppa won't wear it?  Who knows, silly boy.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Beautiful Day

The sun was shining.  The birds were singing.  I was off to the hair salon and trying not to be terrified out of my mind.  If you've read the blog before you know I'd rather do just about anything other than find a new hair stylist. Seriously.  I think I might rather dig holes in the middle of a field or something equally tiring and dirty.  (Misadventures of a Gypsy, anyone?) However, this trip to the hair salon was not the horror show I imagined.  In fact it was down right lovely.  I think even if my hair hadn't turned out so fabulous I would have enjoyed the day anyway, but great hair makes a wonderful day even better.

The day began with this guy:
Isn't he dreamy?

He was the chauffeur (had to spell check that one) and even though Ms. Daisy grumped at him for taking too long to get ready and she had to skip her trip through the Starbucks drive thru he still happily drove her to the salon.  First we made a stop at the gas station for a Red Bull and Starbucks in a glass jar.  Then off to the salon!

We arrived at the salon ahead of schedule despite our late start.  As we parked I kindly told my chauffeur he had an hour or two to kill while I got my hair did.  He was a little bewildered for a minute.  He knew he didn't want to spend all that time in the salon with me though, so off he went to explore.

While I spent time changing into my smock, using the magic words my stylist in Ohio gave me to tell the Alabama stylist what I wanted, getting foiled up, steaming, washing, getting the dead ends cut, and then getting all dried off Dave was busy finding a delightful surprise just for me.  There are cool little shops in downtown Homewood that I hadn't had the joy of exploring before.  He hadn't explored them either until that day.  Once my hair was complete in all its fabulousness we decided to explore together, he wanted to show me some of the cool shops he found.  I wish I had a camera with me because they were so very unique and wonderful.  But first he had a surprise.  The man is wonderful at surprises.  He said "do you want to put your purse in the car and just carry your clutch?"  Great idea.  The purse does get heavy after awhile, why not?  So he unlocks the car and I go to tuck my book in the front seat and grab what I need from the purse before I put it in the trunk.  I stop though because there is a white plastic bag with a present all wrapped up in black tissue paper and tied with a twine bow.  I say "what's this?"  He says "something I found for you."  I carefully open it and am delighted to read little bits like this:

Most of the time, and I do too

I live for his silly stories.  They make my day.

Without him I'm lost

Me too babe.

Almost 6 years already? You're kidding me...

These little bits make up this lovely beauty.  As soon as we got home that evening we had to find it a place on the wall.  A place where everyone else can see its wonderfulness.

My favorite piece of word art yet.
After he unveiled this beauty I gave him a huge hug, we tucked this safely into the car, and we were off to explore the shops together.  I found an idea for the new bed of my dreams, canopy and all.  He showed me a super cool idea for a spare room couch/raft bed.  We dreamed of all the crazy things we would love to do with our house some day.  We just have to find the perfect house...

Once we were done exploring the shops of Homewood it was off to a gun store.  There's always a gun store involved in any perfect day isn't there?  Maybe not in your perfect day, but there has to be in mine. I married a man who loves weapons.  I patiently roamed up and down the gun counter with him as he carefully looked over each of the jewels.  They look like guns to me, but to him they're jewels.  Some need a little more polishing than others.  I didn't care.  I was happy to be with my man.  I also realized with each passing year my gun knowledge grows just a little bit more.  I can kinda tell some of them apart from others.  My eyes don't glaze over quite as quickly as they used to when he starts talking about them.  I can even kind of talk about them myself.  Sort of.  I am by no means an expert, but I'm learning.  After the gun counter it was the knife counter, then to look at bows (the kind you hunt with, not the ones you put in your hair), and then back to the gun counter. Sigh.  Yep, kinda bored now...but still being patient.  He found one he wanted to we wait while the paperwork is completed.  We stop by the register and we're off...

...to another gun store.  This time it is the one where he works so he can show off his newest buy.  I wait patiently and play with my new fabulous hair.  It feels nice and soft so I keep running my fingers through it and pulling it out far enough to check out the amazing color.  The boys, er guys, all ooh and ahh over his newest weapon.  They talk about refinishing it, because it looks a little rough.  It was a great deal though.  Me?  I could care less, but I'm happy in my own little world.  One of the guys says "how do I get that?"  I say "get what?"  He says "get that.  He buys a gun and you don't care."  I said "he buys guns and I don't care.  I buy clothes and shoes and he doesn't care.  The bills are paid.  I don't care."  He shakes his head still mystified.  Seriously.  It makes my man happy so I don't care.

By this time I was hungry.  I decided we needed to pause for a dinner break.  My treat since he bought me such a lovely present and I'm feeling generous.

Then we head to the second hand bookstore.  I could spend days in that store.  I found a whole stack of books I can hardly wait to read.  They're all from the military section of the store though.  I still enjoy reading girly books, but I've been captivated by the military section.  It was the perfect ending to a wonderful day spent with my man.  Days like this are rare.  Days when I don't have a million other errands I'm worrying about getting done.  Days when I can just stop and enjoy the moment with my man.  Enjoy spending time with him, enjoy Loving him in all his crazy wonderfulness.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Things I've been thinking about...

Lately, I've had a lot on my mind.  Way too much really, which is probably why up until the latter part of this week my newly found gym habit was flourishing.  I thoroughly enjoy hopping onto the elliptical, cranking up the tunes on my i-pod, and for 25 minutes disappearing into the music, the movement, and not thinking about much of anything except breathing through the next 25 minutes.  I'm working my way up to longer amounts of time, but this 29 year old body is having a tough time adjusting to the gym again.  My muscles are sore.  Everything hurts.  I'm a whiner, I know.

Some of the many things I've had on my mind:

What does it mean to be a military spouse?  How do you help prepare someone for that role without utterly terrifying them about the realities of a military spouse, especially with the nation at war?  How do you then adapt to life in the civilian world once you are no longer active duty?  How does that change your role as military spouse?  I have so many questions...and not nearly enough answers, but like any military spouse does I put one foot in front of the other and I keep on doing the best I can in all aspects of the role.  I recently read a blog that very concisely summed up some of the parts of being a military spouse.  You can read what she had to say here.  Some of it made me smile and nod, other things made me laugh out loud, and some things made me tear up at the memory of those moments in my own life.  I think she answered my question about what does it mean to be a military spouse pretty well though when she says  "I have no clue how to still my pounding heart when he finally walks through our door again, I don’t know how to pull my hands from his sand-stained neck and say goodbye, and I don’t know how to ever walk away from a man who stands while many choose to sit."  I think that is the key to any lasting relationship in the military.  Your spouse always has to be worth the wait, if not I'm not sure your relationship will make it-because the reality of military life is rather frustrating and down right hard sometimes.  I know I didn't have the worst of it either.  I'll openly admit that.  It wasn't all a rose garden, but I know it could have had a lot more thorns.

I recently read "You Know When the Men Are Gone" by Siobhan Fallon, an Army wife.  I was enthralled.  I had read a review or two about it awhile before it actually hit the shelves.  I anxiously waited for its arrival.  It is a collection of mini stories giving you glimpses into the different aspects of life as a military spouse. It left me wanting "the rest of the story" for each chapter, but I suppose that if I knew all of the story it might not have captivated me.  I made it all the way to pg 6 before stopping to write down a quote that makes all spouses that have had their loved one deploy smile and nod...

      "She hated grocery shopping, she hated cooking without a man to satiate; the only pleasure in her trip was picking out the food she would send Jeremy in a weekly package-beef jerky, Twizzlers and lollipops, hand wipes and magazines, things that could get crushed, exposed to high temperatures, sit in a box for over a month, and still manage to be consumed by home-desperate soldiers."
I remember grocery shopping with my sweet friend Anna at the commissary on Friday nights after a long week of teaching.  Shopping with a friend made the task more enjoyable.  The highlight was picking out the items we would mail out to our husbands in their next package.  Plus, it helped that once we were done shopping we would eat dinner together and split a bottle of Duplin County Wine.  Another quote contained in this same short story that made me chuckle: "Please get that Churchill-headed creature away from me.  The wives were always throwing their offspring at her as if they thought that the more she got spit up on, the more she'd want one of her own."  As if, lol.

Related to this was an incident that happened last week.  My mother-in-law told me we had some mail at their house.  Their house is listed as a permanent address on a few things from Dave's time in the USMC.  She said he had mail from the USMC. I should have asked for clarification (like read me the return address) and saved myself a few restless nights, since we didn't make it over to pick it up for a few days.  You see, the only thing I could think of that the Marine Corps might have for him at this point would be a recall notice.  The time is still ticking on the inactive duty contract.  So of course, I had to do what I do-run through every worst case scenario I could think of attached to this news.  How would I react, how was I going to deal, what would I do, what would he be doing, what happens if it all goes horribly, horribly wrong?  I tend to let my imagination run a little wild and the worst case scenario really means absolute worst case.  I won't type it, but I'll run through what little I am able to imagine in my head and think about how I'd deal.  I'm seriously afflicted.  Yet somehow, running through all the worst case scenarios makes dealing a little easier.  I feel a little more prepared.  Sort of.  I had some crazy dreams. I'm sure my sweet mother-in-law had no idea the panic that USMC mail might bring about in me.  I'm glad we eventually found out it was a letter from the VA and not the USMC.  Nope, not the same.  Not the same at all, lol. 

Pondering what it means to be a military spouse has also played a major role in another thought that is taking over a large percentage of my brain.  What am I going to do for the rest of my life? More than 10 years ago I would have told you I'd be teaching.  Even 5 years ago I would have told you that.  While I do sometimes miss the classroom and the thrill of watching students learn something new or think about something in a whole new way, the truth is there is plenty I don't miss too.  I keep debating about going back, but I just don't know.  I don't think it is going to be a retail career forever.  While I enjoy it, I'm a little wishy washy about it.  I've also been thinking about going back to school too.  This will probably wait a bit, but I'm thinking about it.  There have been a few things that have prompted me in this direction.  I'm pondering a master's degree in counseling or some such thing.  I've always been someone that people will share things with.  Even complete strangers will share things with me that they might not tell their best friend.  I don't judge them.  I don't share their secrets.  I just listen and comment as appropriate.  Rolled into that is pondering about doing PTSD type counseling.  I started thinking about it a little on the drive to DC after listening to one of the This American Life podcasts that had a story about a guy living with the effects of his life with PTSD.  It made my heart ache for many reasons, but it also made me wonder how can we be doing more to help these people?  What can we change about the process?  How can we help them return to life as usual after they've given up a part of their soul, their life, their security...?  Can we even help?  Well, I think I might like to try.  Pondering it anyhow.

I've also been reading an enthralling book entitled "What Was Asked of Us: An Oral History of the Iraq War by the Soldiers Who Fought It." I should add that the book includes Marines and I have found it extremely distracting that this particular publisher did not know that Marine is a title that is earned and as such is ALWAYS capitalized.  I want to write over every lower case m in the book, but it isn't my book so I can't.  A friend read this book and then loaned it to me to read, knowing that I enjoy reading this sort of book.  It gives brief glimpses into the lives of soldiers, what it was like for them, and how they are dealing with it now.  I have enjoyed reading this book-as much as anyone really enjoys reading about acts of war and the affects they have on people.  I quickly learned that I couldn't read this book at bedtime.  I love to read myself into sleepiness, but this is not a book that lets you rest easy if you read it right before bedtime.  I have had numerous ah-ha moments while reading and many, many things that these soldiers and Marines share make me want to stop, take notes, and write whole blogs about them.  I think I may have to go back and re-read this book doing just that.  Right now though, I have to keep reading-just not before bedtime.  There are so many things I've read in this book that just seem unimaginable to me.  I can't quite imagine dealing with these things and managing to continue day after day after day.  These soldiers and Marines did.  So have countless others just like them.  Oh my heart hurts for them.  The thing I love the most about this book is that it is written from a first person perspective.  The soldier or Marine is talking directly to you as the reader.  It makes it more real to the reader and that much more difficult to digest.  Crissy, this is not a book you should read.  In fact, you should not read the rest of this paragraph.  Other tender hearted readers or those not ok with graphic descriptions of war should skip the rest of this paragraph as well.  Look for the next italic sentence to rejoin me...  The second story shared is from a Marine from Task Force Tarawa telling about the beginnings of the battle in Nasiriya.  He talks about seeing an AAV (amphibious assault vehicle) in Ambush Alley after it had been hit by an RPG.  He said he could see the crewman inside on fire, but trying to get out (7-9of them).  He and the Doc leave their vehicle and run over to help.  He hands the Doc a leg that was laying on the ramp of the AAV and tells him to lay it off to the side because they are going to find who that belongs to.  He goes to help get another Marine out of the back, and as he was pulling him out his upper torso separated from his lower torso.  He ends up with only his upper half in his hands.  He passes it to the Doc telling him to "Put this in the back of the Humvee because Marines don't leave our dead or wounded on the battle field; everybody comes home.  Even if its a piece of you, I have a responsibility to your mom and dad to bring everything back."  Can you imagine what that would have been like?  How do you finish a task like that and then rejoin the battle?  I know, it is in the training-but still.  Another story shared by a Marine was about care packages sent from home.  This Marine was in Mortuary Affairs.  They had a big dry erase board in their meeting room with a Word of the Day.  His wife had sent him a Webster's build-your-vocabulary dictionary and every day they would choose a word of the day, write the word and the definition on the board, and then get Marines to use the word in sentences.  They would also try to see which Marine could use it with the highest ranking officer he could get to.  The Marine no longer remembers all the words of the day, but there is another Marine who kept logbooks of them.  I can see Marines doing this, it made me laugh.  Another Mortuary Affairs Marine shares that the first thing they did when a Marine came in was "we had to get his shirt sizes and his clothing sizes as a form of identification because you're issued garments when you join the Marine Corps, and it's crazy but grunts are known for wearing five different people's clothes when they go outside the wire.  They have to go on a mission, but 'hey my shirt's not dry yet.  You got a shirt I can borrow?' They go outside the wire with someone else's boots, with somebody else's dog tags.  They've got a shirt that somebody else's name is on.  So you end up with a Marine that comes in dead and he's got four different names on his person."  Wow.  I knew grunts would wear all kinds of stuff that was borrowed from someone else, but I never thought of the battle field ramifications of this.  One final story is about an MP stationed in Abu Ghraib Prison.  He was there during the infamous incidents, but while that is an interesting part of the story he had a lot more to say about other things too.  This MP tells us he is a born-again Christian and a born-again believer.  He believes that the Bible is the emphatic word of God.  He also believes that there is still a lot of good that can be done for people.  "Every morning I would go up to the roof and pray before a mission, and put my requests before God to make sure we made it home safely, and that morning I forgot, with all the chaos.  I just didn't do it.  I didn't pray."  On this particular day his job was to transport some of the Iraqi prisoners to court.  Normally when transporting prisoners they leave the cover off the back of the Deuce, the two and a half pound truck with benches in the back that is normally used for troop transport, so that the insurgents could see it was Iraqis in the back.  Today they were rushed and forgot to take the cover off.  They reach a point in the road where they would change lanes and get ready to exit the highway.  Cars begin flashing their lights to suggest trouble is coming.  The MP realizes he didn't pray today and so he begins praying while driving.  "God, I'm sorry I forgot to pray.  Please keep us safe."  They were hit.  All of the US troops were survived, but one of the Iraqi prisoners died.  The MP is troubled by this and said "God you picked the wrong guy for this job.  You picked the wrong guy to be in this country, because if I've got to deal with this I just can't take it.  There's no way I can take it.  There's no way I can handle losing like this."   His roommate, who was always picking on him about talking to God, came up to him and said "All the times you talk to God, and it paid dividends today, because all of your soldiers are alive.  And that speaks to me."  The MP realizes he didn't pray for the Iraqis, he never even thought about it, and he lost one.  Geesh.  It makes me want to just give every vet a hug, although that would probably freak them out a bit.
Okay Crissy and anyone else who skipped the graphic parts you can rejoin me.  I'm only halfway through this book.  It is taking me some time to read, process, and digest.  Some stories my mind has to ponder for a long time before I can move on to read the next one.  I think I will begin reading journal with it.  It might help me process a little better.  It has given me a lot to think about in relationship to a counseling degree.  Again, how can you begin to help when you have no idea the realities of war?  I suppose you can listen with an empathetic ear, treat them with dignity and respect, and listen, truly listen to what they do share...  I may not ever end up working towards a degree in  counseling.  I may not ever end up working with vets are on a large scale.  Who knows?  I'm still pondering.

My fortune cookie the other day said "You find beauty in ordinary things.  Appreciate this gift."  I try to, on both accounts.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Marine Corps Museum

A month later I am finally blogging about this wonderful place.  The Marine Corps Museum was our final stop on the weekend trip to DC.  I am so glad I was able to go.  The museum was being constructed while we were living in DC and was completed and open for business about a month after we moved to NC.  Dave was able to visit during one of his many 2-3 week workup prior to his deployment.  They went to train in VA and made a trip to the museum.  I was only a tiny bit jealous.  Yeah.  So, when Dave asked what I wanted to do while we were in DC the first thing on my list was visit the Marine Corps Museum...

I wrote this about the museum when we paused at Tun Tavern for a drink.  "The Marines are the best at what they do, so it shouldn't come as any surprise that their museum is amazing.  In the gallery you can walk amongst the history of our nation and the Marine Corps.  All ages can enjoy visiting the museum." 

We began our trip to the museum in the most important place-the gift shop.  I did not buy paper or pens, my mother would be proud.  In fact I didn't buy anything-at first.  I just wandered to see what kind of lovely wares were available for purchase.  I had specifically saved the majority of my spending money for the museum.  Marines put their emblem on everything they own and apparently their proud wives are no different.  (I'm kinda surprised I don't have an EGA tattooed on my butt or something. Maybe I need to go check that out in the mirror just to be sure... By the way, EGA stands for Eagle, Globe and Anchor which is the Marine Corps emblem.)  I found many, many things I would love to have.  I wanted to ponder my choices so we went to view the gallery.

The gallery is divided into different exposure points: The Legacy Walk (a quick view approach to the museum), Making Marines (a trip through boot camp), American Revolution, Global Expeditionary Force, World War I, World War II, Korean War, and Vietnam.  Each exhibit tells the Marine Corps story through pictures, videos, sound clips, and artifacts.  In the Making Marines exhibit there are videos of recruits getting off the bus standing on the yellow footprints, you can step into a sound booth and hear the drill instructor yell at you as if you were a recruit (flash backs anyone?), you can try to pick up the weight of a recruit's or Marine's pack, you can attempt to do a pull-up, and you can even visit the range.  I was unable to shoot at the range because the attendant was out to lunch, but on our next trip to the museum I plan to visit the range.  If you shoot expert at the range you can get a special coin from the museum gift shop.  We will need to dedicate an entire day to visiting the museum.  There was just too much to see and experience.

I think I really enjoyed the Vietnam exhibit the most.  You enter it by walking through a helo.  You had to watch your head, and the floor of the helo vibrated like I imagine a real one does, and then you entered a hot LZ (landing zone).  You heard the yelling, shooting, and felt the chaos of battle.  I was mesmerized.  It was at that particular exhibit that I made Dave get the camera out.  I can only imagine what it was actually like to experience Vietnam...or Iraq, or Afghanistan, or Arlington. 

Another thing I enjoyed about the museum is the age range of those visiting the museum.  From the older Marines all the way to the toddler age kiddos of Marines, and yes they do let in people with no USMC association too, lol.  There was something there to capture each age group.  I enjoyed watching the faces of the other museum patrons as well.  They were just as captivated as I was.

After our trip through the gallery we went up to Tun Tavern to grab a drink and a bottle of Jarhead Red.  Jarhead is another nickname for Marines (and not one they are particularly fond of).  Jarhead Red is a wine produced by a fellow Marine to support Marines and their kiddos.  You can read all about it at their website Jarhead Wines

After our refreshing beverage we headed back to the museum shop.  I think I spent at least an hour in there debating and deciding what items to purchase for the grand total of $100.  Some of my favorites are my USMC Wife key chain that reads: "Once a Marine Wife, Always a Marine Wife" on once side and the other side says "Wives: The strongest love in the world comes from the most supportive and dedicated women.  Those women are Marine wives.  Semper Fidelis." and is surrounded by the words "God Bless our Husbands."  Wives are proud too, ok?  I also purchased a ton of bumper stickers, a deck of cards, two rocks glasses with the EGA, a Tervis Tumbler with the EGA and lid (this is my new favorite cup), a coffee mug for Dave with the EGA, and a recipe for a Marine wife (I know what it takes, but it was cute to see a specific recipe).

Our time in pics:

You can explore more of the National Museum of the Marine Corps by clicking here to see their website.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

True North

I'm not a very good navigator.  If you've ever traveled somewhere with me you know that even if I follow the directions word for word I end up turning around at least once because even though I'm pretty sure x is where I'm supposed to turn, I second guess my self and drive right on by.  (At this point I could psychoanalyze myself, but I'll spare you.)  I can be a co-pilot and follow the directions.  I'm much more confident in that role.  I'm not sure where I was heading with that info, but ...  We made a trip to DC this weekend.  It is roughly a 12 hour drive from AL to DC.  When you stop at the knife outlet in Gatlinburg for an hour that makes it a 13+ hr drive.  That is a seriously long drive.  I drove the whole way, Dave drove the whole way, we each drove a different car.  (We were driving a car up here to sell to a friend from the good ol' USMC.)  The way back will be much easier because we will be able to trade off and we shouldn't have to stop at the knife outlet.  

I wrote the first paragraph last Saturday when we were in DC during the Martin Luther King Jr holiday weekend.  I began the first sentence of the second paragraph and then stopped.  I don't know what interrupted my thoughts, but I didn't find the time to come back to it until now...

I spent the 13 hr ish drive listening to episodes of "This American Life" an NPR show that airs on Saturdays.  A wonderful friend loaned me her ipod for the drive.  The ipod saved my sanity.  It made the first 6 hours or so pass by very quickly.  I really enjoyed the episodes.  You can download the podcasts for free.  I highly recommend them.  I think you can learn a lot about a person by borrowing their ipod.  It was fun to listen to someone else's favorite songs and random shuffle playlist.  I found a few new favorites to add to my own playlists.  (For the record I have an ipod Nano, but I need to do some revamping and updates my song library a bit.) 

The second half of the drive was spent in agonizing anxious anticipation (how's that for alliteration?).  A long car drive alone gives you a lot of time to think.  I needed some time to myself and boy did I get it.  Most of the drive was spent thinking about all of the things I wanted to do once we were back in the DC metro area and getting to see our friend Bynum again.  (One of my boys I miss dearly.)  As we crossed into Virginia the anticipation continued to grow, but I had another 3 hours or so before we would make it to DC.  My heart felt a little lighter as each mile brought us closer to DC.  I'm not sure anything could have deterred me from my path at that point.  My heart was drawing me closer home, my true north.  DC will always be home to me.  I have had many homes-Ohio, DC, North Carolina, and Alabama.  DC will always be the one that calls my heart.  I can't explain it.  I would love to move back to DC.  I'd move back tomorrow if I could.  I recently realized though that moving away from Alabama would cause me heartache too.  I love my Alabama family.  I love them fiercely.  They are such a blessing to me.  I know I will one day move from our current residence and I will cry.  I've only cried during one other mover-it was when we moved out of the farmhouse I grew up in.  However, DC still calls me.  I felt it the whole drive.  I realized it when we drove past the Nissan Pavilion where Dave and I went to see Rascal Flatts and Gary Allan in concert a month or so before we moved.  Dave sent me a text about it. My heart started fluttering and big tears rolled down my face.  We were home.  I instantly felt at peace in a way I rarely do.  I sent Dave a text back about being home.  I continued to tear up until we reached Bynum's apartment.  By this point it was almost 1am EST.  We had been up waaaayyyy too long.  We unloaded the cars and went to bed.  I only slept for a short time, but it was a peaceful sleep.  I didn't wake up a single time.  I felt refreshed.

Saturday I awoke to Bynum and Dave talking in the kitchen while Bynum made breakfast.  I lay there on the couch just listening to my boys talk.  It had been too long since I heard them banter back and forth.  Dave came to see if I was awake so I was forced to get up.  I then had the pleasure of meeting Bynum's girlfriend Kathryn.  She is so sweet!  I love her.  I feel sort of like a mother hen about my boys.  I want to see them well taken care of and meeting the ladies they choose has been fun so far.  I know they don't need my approval, but I feel a little possessive about them and want them to be happy.  I adore Kathryn and she gets my seal of approval-not that it matters.  Ok, back to breakfast.  Bynum makes a delicious breakfast.  He and Kathryn cooked breakfast for us every morning and it was yummy!  They made the best french toast I have ever had.  I thought Cracker Barrel french toast was great, but I was wrong.

After breakfast we all showered and went out to run some errands and spend the day together.  (We didn't shower together though, ok?)  Of course lasagna came up in conversation and we decided Kathryn and I would make lasagna for dinner.  It is a tradition.  It wouldn't have been a gathering with one of my boys present if there was no lasagna.  (Which reminds me I need to e-mail Kathryn the recipe.)  So we went to Safeway, the best grocery store in the world in my humble opinion, and purchased the ingredients for lasagna.  We also stopped at Gamestop, a liquor store, and Chipotle.  Lasagna takes awhile to make and we were hungry at this point.  We made it back to the apartment and unloaded the car.  Dave and Bynum watched the Ravens play the Steelers while Kathryn and I cooked.  It gave us a chance to talk a lot.  We would occasionally get score updates.  While the lasagna was in the oven I decided I needed a nap.  We had plans to go out that night and without a nap I would have been a grumpy girl.  So I slept for about an hour or so while the boys and Kathryn  watched the rest of the game.

I awoke from my nap, had some lasagna, and repaired the mess that was my hair. We then hopped in the car and headed into Baltimore.  We went to a neat little bar that was really like 3 bars in one.  It had a traditional sports bar type area, a pool table/dance floor area with a dj, and an enclosed patio bar area with a live band.  I ordered a margarita and set out to enjoy the night.  My second margarita had two shots of tequila in it, by my request.  (My husband should tell me no...)  My third margarita was my last thank goodness.  I had a grand time dancing until it was time to go home.  Wizzel was a happy girl.  Wizzel went to bed when we got back to the apartment.  Wizzel woke up Sunday morning with an upset tummy, but once she had breakfast she was fine. 

Sunday we got ready and rode the metro in to DC.  Bynum and Kathryn went with us to shop at Pentagon City Mall.  They then headed back to the apartment after lunch while Dave and I continued our trek through DC.  I miss big city shopping.  I spent a half hour in Banana Republic just looking at their sale racks.  I really miss big city shopping.  Really.  After I restrained myself from spending too much money Dave and I hopped back on the metro and went to the National Mall.  We walked from the Capitol to the World War II Memorial and took lots of pictures along the way.  I spent several minutes just listening to the sounds of the city and breathing in the air, quietly storing away the memories for later days.  The World War II Memorial is my favorite thing along the mall, unless it is the 4th of July and then it would be the fireworks.  It was dark by the time we reached the memorial, but it is a memorial that looks best at night if you ask me.  The fountains were turned off and the pool was empty because of the cold weather, but it was still beautiful.  We spent some more time taking pictures there and then we began the walk back up to the Capitol.  I had to pause halfway up Capitol hill to catch my breath.  We decided to go ahead and walk the rest of the way to 8th and I like we used to.  Once we made it to the barracks I nearly cried again.  I have so many memories of them.  Dave has many more.  I remember sitting out front in his big red truck while he went in to pick someone or something up.  I remember walking in when he moved the last of his stuff out of his room and into our apartment.  I remember going to the E Club after the Friday night parades to grab a beer.  I could go on and on.  We slowly walked back to the Eastern Market metro stop so we could make our way back to Bynum's apartment.  The city had changed, but it hadn't at the same time.  I've changed, but haven't at the same time.  It is still my home, our home really.  We spent the majority of the metro ride back in silence.  Each of us lost in our own thoughts and memories.  Each of us longing to be there again full time.  Sunday can be summed up with something Dave told me as we were standing on the National Mall "best Sunday ever."  I agree.

Sunday passed too quickly and Monday arrived before I was ready.  I'll leave the story of Monday to another blog.  I'm sleepy.  Maybe when I slip off into dreamland I'll dream of DC.  Maybe my dreams of DC won't need to be dreams forever...or maybe they will.  Maybe DC will always be my "happy place" that I love to visit and long to have all the time.  Who knows?

I'll leave you with our fortune cookie sayings from Sunday:

Mine said "Your dreams of glamour & luxury will come true."
Dave's said " Your life will be happy and peaceful."


I'm missing my true North...

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

2011 Already?

Really?  Already? Ok, fine. 

Needless to say I can hardly believe another year has passed.  There have been so many changes in my life it is hard to know where to start...

In a short rundown of things my year went a little like this: became a co-manager at LOFT, went to Chattanooga for Airport Rendezvous Wknd, did a bathroom remodel, Combs came to visit, went to the beach, Mom moved in, received 2 tickets from a super annoying highway patrolman, 4th of JULY!, 5 year wedding anniversary, quit job at LOFT, became and assistant manager at JOCKEY, life came a little unglued, a fabulous friend and neighbor helped me keep my sanity, found some super glue for the life, Bivins turned 25, and Christmas came and went before I knew what happened.  Wow.  What a year.

There are some years that pass by so slowly that I'm able to blog all the subtle changes and nuances of my life.  Other years pass by so quickly and the changes are so time consuming I am left with no time.  No time to think about, let alone blog (or journal) the changes occurring.  This was one of those years.  Some of the changes have been great.  Others have been really, really hard.  Some have been kinda blah.  I'm hoping this year will be better.  Maybe not so many changes.  We'll see how it goes I suppose.

I'm not really a New Year's Resolution kinda girl because most of the time I break them.  I'm calling them my goals for 2011.  I'm a goal oriented girl.  I'm hoping I achieve my goals.  We shall see how it goes.

Goal 1: Get re-organized!  I'm not a girl that can focus well in chaos.  I'm sure a lot of you know this already.  The changes in 2010 brought a lot of chaos to my house.  Suddenly, I can't find anything.  I can't manage to pay bills on time.  I'm forgetting stuff.  It isn't good.  So, re-organize I MUST...or else no one will want to be around me.

Goal 2: Find a routine!  A retail schedule is not conducive to a routine.  My schedule changes day to day and week to week.  It makes planning anything really hard.  Add into that hectic schedule a Mom that needs a driver and it gets complicated quickly.  A routine is going to be hard, but the important step of this routine business is going to be a work-out routine.  I need to get back into the habit of stopping by the gym either before or after work.  I have the most success in stopping after work.  I just need to add some discipline to the schedule and make sure that whenever I am able I go.  I feel better, I sleep better, life is better whenever I do.

Goal 3: Purposefully make memories and take lots of pictures!  The past few years Bivins and I have been on a picture taking hiatus-or so it would seem from my lack of updated photos.  Normally we have a camera every place we go and take pictures all the time.  The past few years in AL, not so much.  It will change this year.  The way I remember most things is by either writing them down or taking pictures.  That means I need to be purposeful this year in making memories and recording them.  (This will also help with the glue situation.)

I'm going to stop with 3 goals.  Too many goals and I just get overwhelmed in my perfectionist world.  (Oh I'm so helplessly perfectionist.  It's awful.)  Those are my goals and I'm sticking to them.  Yep.  I. sure. am.