Flashback Friday: Reporting from the Triangle of Death

[dropcap style=”color: #9b9b9b;”]I[/dropcap]n many ways, it seems like a complete lifetime ago.¬†But all it takes is a blink to return to that summer in 2007 when I was deployed to Iraq with some of the most incredible people I’ve ever known.

Eight years ago this week, I landed in Baghdad with JV and JB for our second trip through Iraq.  We all know what happened there.  Yet my experience in Iraq was definitely more than that one incident.

I hate reading about what is going on in Iraq these days. I have little interest in the¬†politicians changing their tune about it all¬†in accordance to the election seasons. It doesn’t bother me as people dissect the purpose and role the United States played in that part of the world. I feel such a disconnection from all that chatter.

But when it comes to my memories, to the things I saw happening there, and especially when I remember the people I met and served alongside over there, I remember everything clear as day and remain proud for having been there among them.

And I also remain so grateful to have made it back, to be here eight years later and remember.

You can read this week’s Flashback Friday post HERE.

Memorial Day in France

Memorial Day is an American holiday meant to honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice in defense of our country. While living in DC, we regularly visited Arlington Cemetery to pay our respects. Now, we have the ability to visit one of the many American cemeteries over here in Europe.

Continue reading

Veterans Day 2014

[dropcap style=”color: #9b9b9b;”]W[/dropcap]hen I decided to dedicate this week on the blog to our Cincinnati farewell tour,¬†I forgot about Veterans Day. And how can I not write about Veterans Day, especially when this year’s celebration was especially sweet? So before I resume posts about Ohio, here’s what today was like for us.

This year, I was the featured speaker at one of the local elementary schools. My friend Jennifer teaches there and asked if I would come in and talk. So, I participated in their assembly, which was adorable and very patriotic. The kids worked really hard, writing essays, learning songs. It was such an honor to be a part of that.

Although, I later told my friend that while I usually have no issue getting up in front of strangers, meeting with senior leaders, and in front of cameras and everything … getting up in front of kids? Oh my goodness. So much energy! I’m not sure how teachers do it every day, and I am so in awe of them for doing so. Despite my nerves, the kids were so attentive and responsive as I talked about the Air Force core values (Integrity First, Service Before Self, and Excellence in All We Do) and how those core values are similar to their own school’s core values about respect and working hard. And the best part was when all of them … I mean, ALL of them … responded with a hearty “HOORAH” when I introduced that to them. Awesome.

Afterward, I popped into one of the first grade classrooms to show them a video I made with some school kids in Afghanistan, and answered some of their questions, which ranged from topics about food, travel, different countries, and jobs in the military.

And as soon as that was over, I drove¬†across town ¬†to attend lunch with¬†the girls at their school. Martin and Jaz met me in the school lobby. By request from Lola, he was wearing his ABUs, nice and clean-shaven. We waited for Lola’s class to get to the cafeteria, and the look on her face when she rounded the corner and saw us … priceless. She was so proud to have us there, and was so eager to show me how to go through the lunch line, which food to take, and how to pay for the items.

And once her lunchtime was over, Miss C was rolling in with her class. And even though she’s in the sixth grade and getting to that age where parents aren’t cool anymore, and even though we’ve been attending these lunches with her for years (as you can see HERE and HERE), she was so excited to see us, too. ¬†It was fun listening to her explain our jobs in the military to her friends. Most already knew us, but others didn’t,¬†and they were all very sweet and welcoming.

Such a great way to spend Veterans Day.

******

Photo from 2011

I was up late last night, printing out photos for Lola’s “star of the week” poster makes me all kinds of weepy.

How is this kid almost six years old already?

Laundry, Yoga, and Other Things

As Jaz and I were waiting for Martin to join us for a web chat, Jaz was using my back as a speedway for his toy cars. The sacrifices I make for these kids…

 

[dropcap style=”color: #9b9b9b;”]A[/dropcap]s I mentioned in my last post, Martin is away from home again, fulfilling his annual two-week Air Force Reserve obligation (called “annual tour”) at Little Rock Air Force Base in Arkansas.

Once again, it’s just the kids and me at home, but this time feels a little different than the previous times Martin’s been away from home. Maybe it’s because we just did this less than two months ago, maybe it’s because it’s only for a short period of time, or maybe¬†it’s because we knew about this one for a long time and¬†everything¬†fell in place according to plan, but in any case, life at home has been pretty breezy, if not the usual controlled chaos.

Martin and the kids on the morning he left.

And for proof that things are, indeed, going swimmingly, I was able to leave the house without the children on Friday night. Ashley came over the hang out with the kids while I ran off to play bunco¬†with my friend¬†Yvonne. I’ve never played the game before, but it wasn’t hard to pick up, and I got to meet several new ladies who all lived in Germany at one time or another, or who had a connection to the military or government work. I had a blast.

Other things the kids and I have done while Martin is gone include:

  • Going to the Native American museum in downtown DC.
  • Taking up yoga. For real. Every day. Our smart TV offers an easy yoga app and the kids love doing it with me.
  • Sorting and purging all our clothes, books, and toys.
  • Got caught up on laundry. Yes. You read that correctly.

As for Martin, he’s¬†doing well down there in Little Rock. He was immediately put on “swing shift” which means he starts working in the middle of the day and doesn’t get off of work until late at night,¬†which makes it a little complicated trying to catch him for a web chat or quick phone call, especially since he’s an hour behind us.

He and the group of Airmen he’s traveled with all went on a road trip to Graceland in nearby Memphis, Tennessee. He was especially pleased when he learned that I’ve never been there myself.

He also had lunch with Livvi, who is the youngest sister of my high school best friend, Jessica, back in Northern Kentucky. The last time I saw Livvi was right after my high school graduation, and she was Lola’s age and still in elementary school. Now? She’s grown up, married, and also serving in the Air Force as a loadmaster stationed at Little Rock. The world is really that small, and I love that we can really go just about anywhere and bump into people we know.

The family that stretches together…

Anyway, he is scheduled to be back next week, and it’s a good thing. From where I sit right now, August is already looking to be a very busy month for us. The girls will¬†be heading off to spend time with family for a few weeks. We will celebrate two birthdays.

And we’ve also heard that the Princesses have returned to a certain wonderland, so we just may have to pay them a visit sooner than later, too.

*ahem*

 

 

Flashback Friday: Restlessness, Chores, and Driving Martin Nuts

An R&R moment in Doha in 2007.

[dropcap style=”color: #9b9b9b;”]Y[/dropcap]esterday moved with a frenetic pace.¬†There was my morning commute.¬†A full day of work with meetings scheduled back-to-back with few breaks in between. Then I was a part of a panel discussion at the New America Foundation (which I’ll write about in another post), where I got to answer questions about government data monitoring, information privacy, and Edward Snowden.

And THEN, as¬†if that wasn’t enough of a whirlwind, ¬†Martin was waiting for me outside the NAF building to whisk me away to the Theater Alliance‘s¬†Anacostia Playhouse¬†— a theater built into a warehouse not far from the Anacostia¬†River — for the day’s final event: attending the performance of “The Wonderful World of Dissocia” which tells the story of a woman’s whirlwind experiences with mental illness and¬†dissociative disorder.

Admittedly, not a usual place for Martin and me to land on a Thursday evening, but it was an incredible experience for a few reasons.

First, the performances were wonderful, and the story of a woman in the grips of her mental illness was very moving.¬†In one of those funny life coincidences, I just read the memoir “First Person Plural” a few weeks ago, written by a man with multiple personalities, who I learned about¬†while doing some¬†job-related¬†research, so I was familiar with the disorder, and recognized the aspects of it alluded to in the play.

Second, it was wonderful being back in a small theater environment. It’s been a long time — too long — since Martin and I attended a show like that, even though we both¬†used to work in theater all the time: me in Cincinnati, and he in Germany before our military careers. Being so close to the stage, and being able to really pick up on the details of the costumes, set, and lighting … it all brought back a sense of nostalgia, and really fun memories.

And finally, our attendance last night was especially nice because Martin and I were there as guests, the result of a really amazing opportunity the theater group extended to me.

About a week ago, I was sorting through my email late at night when I got a message from this blog’s “Contact Us” page. It was from Elliott Bales, who explained he is the managing director at DC’s Theater Alliance. He wrote that while doing research for his theater company’s upcoming production, he discovered my blog.

He explain that his company is¬†preparing for an¬†upcoming world premiere production of Obie Award-winning playwright Caridad Svich‘s play “Spark.” The play is about a¬†female soldier returning from war to an economically depressed home with a family of three sisters who have their own problems and do not understand each other.¬†Mr. Bales noted that he himself retired from the U.S. Army after 26 years, and found the¬†story to be “a poignant and beautiful representation for all veterans, and women veterans in particular.” ¬†

He spent some time reading through my blog, and based upon my writings about my personal military experiences — both as a female veteran, and as a spouse and having my loved one away from home — he invited me to¬†meet his¬†staff and discuss my¬†unique perspectives as part of their pre-production work as most of the staff never served in the military at all.

I reviewed the information and script he sent me, and responded, and we talked over the phone the next day, where we talked of our past military assignments and I mentioned that I’m the oldest of three sisters, too. It was one of those funny life coincidences, right?

Of course, I accepted the invitation, both to meet with his cast and crew, and to see their current production and become familiar with the theater and the type of work they do, as most of their productions focus on socially conscious themes with a lot of educational and community outreach in the mix.

It's intermission at the Anacostia Playhouse. Martin and I came here right after my presentation.
It was intermission at the Anacostia Playhouse. 

After last night’s show, as Martin and I walked to our minivan, with both the Washington Monument and the Capitol building lit up in front of us, we spoke about the play,¬†about the upcoming “Spark” production (which begins later this summer), and wondered about the¬†types of things I’ll share with the cast and crew, what kinds of questions they may ask, what they would want to know as they develop their characters and stories.

We also marveled at how all of this came to be, how Mr. Bales found our blog, how these opportunities stumble upon us, and how fortunate we are to be given these opportunities.

For that reason, for Flashback Friday (when I take a dip into my blog archives), I’m sharing a post that I wrote in 2007 shortly after coming home from my deployment, and the immediate adjustments Martin and I were experiencing. I was reminded of this post as I read one of the scenes in the “Spark” script, as it rang remarkably true.

You can read it HERE.

So many little life coincidences.

Flashback Friday: Commissary Run

That’s a lot of groceries, right? And nary a coupon back then in 2010.

 

[dropcap style=”color: #9b9b9b;”]M[/dropcap]artin, Jaz, and I visited our old stomping grounds this afternoon: the Fort Myer commissary which is where we did our grocery shopping when I was still active duty in the military. For those who aren’t familiar with them, military commissaries usually aren’t as expensive as civilian grocery markets, and we always found good deals there. Since it’s a good 30-to-40 minute drive (at least) from our home, we only went shopping every other month or so, filling two shopping carts full of goods to last us.

However, we stopped doing the commissary runs once Martin became a full-time stay-at-home dad and active couponer who shopped more frequently at the stores near our home. Even when he joined the military, (which allowed us commissary privileges again), we didn’t return because he was able to stretch our dollars much further through local couponing. Even when he was gone all those months for basic military training, he had shopped and planned ahead of time, so I didn’t need to go shopping (except for the fresh stuff) while he was away.

Unfortunately, this last trip of his was so last-minute, he didn’t have time to prep our cupboards and food pantry, at least not in the way he did before. Of course, the kids and I were totally fine and not wanting for anything. But I don’t coupon like Martin does, and I refused to go shopping in his place. So, we just used up what we had.

After he came home, he resumed couponing to replenish our pantry, but it takes time since not everything is on sale at the same time. Yesterday, as we used up the last can of red beans and the last box of rice, and as Jaz walked past us clutching the last box of cereal, Martin and I looked at each other and admitted, “We gotta go to the commissary and resupply now.”

So, off we went and it was a wonderful trip down memory lane as we passed my old office building, familiar restaurants, and other places we haven’t seen in awhile.

We had Jaz all to ourselves, and it was the sweetest, easiest shopping experience in a long time. It wasn’t crowded, and Martin and I were in agreement for almost all of the purchases.

“…Yes, I need THIS brand of coffee creamer. Yes, I know that costs less, but this is MORE delightful…”

The commissary still looked the same, and as we walked through the aisles full of elderly retirees and servicemembers in uniform, I couldn’t help but think of all the times we were there with the girls, when we went shopping as a family, as chaotic and overwhelming as it was.

Crazy times. But sweet memories, too.

For today’s Flashback Friday, this was a post about one such commissary run.

You can read it HERE.

 

 

Dusty Corners

Another group shot on the beach from over the weekend. Patches der Hund joined us this time!

 

Like the corners of my house, this corner of the Internet has collected dust in recent weeks. The only thing missing here — other than my presence — is a wad of pet hair, but frankly, my expectations and standards right now are pretty¬†low, I¬†wouldn’t even care if there WAS¬†a dust bunny on this page.

And I usually hate dust bunnies very much.

But I’ve since decided dust bunnies add character. Let’s just say my¬†house is exploding with character, thankyouverymuch. Continue reading

It Happens In Threes

Photo from earlier this year, but it could really be from any day at our house.

 

I’ve written about the “deployment curse” on this blog before. It’s a military thing, and not specific to deployments. It also happens when the military member leaves on temporary duty, or even just a short business trip. It’s very similar to Murphy’s Law, but in addition to the whole “whatever can go wrong, will go wrong” part of it, there’s¬†the caveat that all of it will¬†happen within the first week or two of the loved one’s departure.

And the things happen in threes, too. Continue reading