Thursday, December 06, 2012

Advent...prepping for Christmas

So, Christmas is my favorite time of year.  When I say "Christmas," I also mean Advent.  That's the time before Christmas were we wait in excitement and anticipation for our Lord's coming.  Since we are religious, it's huge in our house--which makes Christmas that much more fun!  So, here's what we are doing this Advent. 

Of course, we are decorating the Christmas Tree.  Some wait till Christmas Eve.  I don't have that kind of patience.

In all it's glory...

And we are leaving time for some "horsing" around.

Set up our Nativity, minus the Christ child.  He appears on Christmas morning.

Our Jesse Tree.  This is our first year doing this.  We read a series of stories from the Bible that lead up to the Creation story on Christmas day.  That night ,we draw a picture on our sticker symbolizing the story and put it on the tree.  I really like this.

On top of our Christmas cards for friends and family, we sent off 54 Christmas cards to injured and deployed Soldiers.

My sweet girl "helped" by drawing some pictures for the Soldiers.

More decorating.

St. Nick visited!  (Got them out just in time.)
 We are also doing an Advent Wreath and lighting it at night for dinner.  Christmas movies, fires in the fireplace, and other festive activities are on the list, too.  I love this time of year, and the anticipation for Christmas morning.  The magic, the spirituality.  It's so beautiful.  Wishing you and yours a wonderful Season, too. 

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Real life is not scripted.  True love is not planned.

That's what she's taught me.  Every day.  Ever since I found out about her being along for the ride.  The time at which she decided she was ready to arrive.  Her newborn days.  Her learning and growing. 

My sweet honeymoon baby.

We'd been married less than two weeks.  It was so fast.  Neither one of us expected it to happen so quickly.  I think everyone else did. 

I'd never been so scared in my life.  I was going to bring a life into the word.  Me.  I was barely a wife, totally unprepared.  For weeks, I was terrified.  I worried of failing the baby, of not being a good mother.  Eventually the fear dissipated, and I was so excited. 

She took four days to come, despite the long labor.  The night before her arrival, I stayed in my dark bedroom, praying she would come soon.  Crying.  Yes, the fear was definitely gone now. 

After hours of labor and many tears, she finally was laid in my arms.  And that memory is forever blazoned in my mind.  Everything and everyone fell away.  There was only my sweet daughter and me. 

"Elizabeth Marie.  That is what we will call you.  And I shall love you everyday.  I promise to try to be a good mother to you, because you deserve the best.  I promise I'll never let you feel worthless.  Because you are beautiful.  And I will do my best to make you feel that way everyday.  I love you."

I spoke the words to her, sobbing.  Because as a chapter of expectancy and advent closed, another one opened previously uncharted for me.  Of hard work.  Gut wrenching emotion.  Constantly going. 

She would scream for at least eight hours everday.  Screaming the likes of which I'd never heard.  My emotions were intense.  I had no idea what to do with this tiny life that seemed so miserable.  Colic, my mother said.  Oh, colic. 

But, we prevailed.  And we bonded.  She was my first tiny love, my trial-by-fire introduction to motherhood.  As I learned to navigate the waters of parenthood, my sweet one learned how to live.  To roll over . Crawl.  Walk.  Talk.

Through her first cries, her first fever, her first tooth, I soothed her through her pain.  Patted her back, held her close.  And she learned to love back. 

She was so tiny once.  Yet, tonight, I held her head in my arms because that's all that fits these days, and watched her sleep.  Her lips move slightly.  Her chest heave through gentle breathing.  Her curls awash on the pillow. 

She's so big. 

"Mommy.  I love you!"  She told me that today, and leaned in and gave me a kiss.  And threw herself into my arms. 

My sweet Elizabeth, you turn three tomorrow.  We have learned so much together.  Seen each other through a lot.  Learned the ropes of life, watched each other grow.  We survived a deployment.  You and me. 

My battle buddy. 

So, I make the same promise to you today, as I did three years ago:

I promise to always love you.  And to make sure I will always try so hard to show you how much you are loved.  You are so beautiful.  Inside and out.  Never forget that.  It is because of that that you deserve the stars and the moon.  Always demand it.  God loves you.  Daddy loves you.  And Mommy loves you.  With all my heart.

Life is not scripted.  It happens when we least expect it.  And through that sudden surprise, comes the realization: Love--true love--is not planned.  No.  It is beautiful.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Made-From-Scratch (for real) Pumpkin Pie

It's that time of year again that I LOVE!!!  Fall--Halloween, Thanksgiving--and the days leading up to the kick of the Holidays (though, the "Holidays" for me start at the kickoff of the first College football game.  Go ahead. Laugh.  It's okay.)

So a few years ago, right before my eldest daughter turned one, I decided to make a real Pumpkin Pie.  I wanted to really use every part of our Halloween pumpkins that weren't carved (therefore not all buggy).  I *love* roasted pumpkin seeds, but hated the idea of throwing away a perfectly good pumpkin.  I felt a challenge.  So I did my homework.

I spent some time researching how to do a homemade pumpkin pie.  Although that Fall the research was hard to come by, making a real pie wasn't as hard as I had thought.  So, I took the recipe found on a website and made it.  This year, I did it again, and tweaked the recipe.  And I'm going to share them.

Make it.  Trust me when I say you won't regret it!

So, the first year,  I used a carving pumpkin.  This year, I used some baking pumpkins, because supposedly they're sweeter.  I think you can use either.  I also reconfigured some ingredients and measurements and it was *so* much better this year.  

Just in time for Thanksgiving, I wanted to share my recipe with you.  Makes me want to write a cookbook.

Baking pumpkins (one will give about 3 cups of smashed pumpkin, which will make either two shallow pies, or one deep dish pie.)

Dutch oven with steamer basket

Potato masher

Ground ginger, nutmeg, and cloves (you can use pumpkin pie spice, but using separate ingredients like this will up the Wow Factor.  Trust me.)


Sugar, salt, eggs, evaporated milk

Brandy extract (Yes--this is the Epic Ingredient.  Trust me.)

So, I cut up the pumpkins, (the spiders are my shout-out for Halloween...because this was supposed to go up sooner...yeah, oops.)  cut out the seeds (roast them--you'll thank me for that, too!), and then I took pictures of my pretty, hollow pumpkins.

Cut them up, leaving the rinds on, like you are going to make mashed potatoes.  Put them in your steamer basket and fill the dutch oven with water underneath.  Cover and bring to a boil.

Let them boil until they are easy to pierce with a fork, once again like mashed potatoes.  Mine took about an hour and a half (but, I had a lot of pumpkin and had to split it into two batches).

When they are done, scoop the pumpkin off the rinds with a metal spoon or ice cream scoop. 

Mash with a potato masher.  If you are lucky, you have cute and happy helper to assist with the mashing.  After this, you can either split it up into three-cup batches and freeze, or continue with the recipe.  Told you it was easy.  And totally makes you feel all awesome and Pioneer-ish.

(So these instructions are for one shallow dish pie.  If you want to make a deep dish, double the recipe.  I just prefer shallow.  Not that I am shallow...anyway, moving on.)

1 and 1/2 cups of mashed pumpkin
3/4 cup sugar
1 (can be heaping) teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 rounded teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt (I don't use any, so this is totally optional)
1/4 (slightly heaping) teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 (again, can be slightly heaping) ground cloves
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup evaporated milk
1 teaspoon Brandy extract
Graham cracker pie crust (makes it taste so awesome)

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.  Mix pie ingredients in mixer, adding in order listed above.  Bake 15 minutes (less if you are using a pre-made crust--more like five to ten minutes), then reduce temperature to 350 degrees and bake for 45 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean (I start checking at 35 to 40 minutes).  Cool completely.

Enjoy.  And Happy Thanksgiving!!!

(A special thanks to my husband for helping prep the pumpkin and doing the majority of the clean up, because he's awesome like that, and to my mom who helped configure measurements in exchange for being part of the taste-test crew.)  

Leave a comment if you end up making it--I'd love to hear how it turned out! 

Saturday, November 03, 2012

I get it.  I am a minority. 

Especially in my generation.

I fell in love with my husband, realized he was going to aid me in being a better person, and...we married.  We didn't move in together.  We didn't date for years.  The "furthest" we went were sweet kisses shared before saying good night.  We walked down the aisle and, hand in hand, we stood before God and were married.  Period.

And three weeks later, found out we were expecting.  Honeymoon baby. She was born, and a few months later, we were pregnant again.  We lost our sweet baby, but the following year, we were pregnant again.  We have two daughters.  We've been married three years. 

I understand that others make very different decisions than us.  I'm not going to take that on here.  It's not my place.  I just know that my husband and I made the decisions that were right for us.  And that's all I have time to worry about--is us.  I don't make comments about those decisions others.  Because they are leading their lives.  They are responsible for their decisions.  I'm responsible for mine.

"Just make her walk!  Put her down and make her walk!"  The doctor was indeed telling me to force my less-than-one year old to walk so my carpal tunnel would heal.  "Once you are done holding her, it will heal." 

"I want more."  She stared at me, mouth open wide.  Then pretended not to hear. 

Another doctor last week: "You want more?!  How does your husband feel about that?!"


Less than a week before my husband deployed two years ago, a woman was lecturing me in the pharmacy as I waited to pick up medicine for my sick daughter: "Oh!  You don't want more!  I just got rid of my only child--she's moved out.  I'm so done!  Time for me.  Don't get pregnant before your husband's just more stress.  Just stick with one--you don't want a big family.  Trust me." 

Little did either of us know, but there was a tiny one already along for the ride. 

 I am constantly asked if I am done with the two girls, or if I am trying for a boy.  Trying for a boy?!  What in heaven's name is wrong with my girls.  They are so beautiful and such a treasure!  So many in my age bracket are putting off having children for years, and I am sad at the immense joy they are avoiding.  The decision is theirs, but children are so wonderful

Why is it that people are so shocked that I want more than two children?  A big family?  Why is this so shocking?  I keep thinking I'll get to the point with my two that I'll see why others stopped.  I haven't.  I find my children addicting.  So many kisses, hugs, funny comments.  So many lessons to teach, days to fill. So much love to give. 

Yes, there are days where I think I am going to rip my hair out.  Where I feel victorious that we all made it through the day.  But the days where I feel a joy grip my heart and manifests itself in a silent squeal because of my babies--those far outnumber the bad days.  Sure, I have five minute showers, and some days don't get make up on till the afternoon nap.  Yeah, I do not have nearly the time for myself as I used to.  Yes, life has dealt us blows and challenges I prayed I'd never face.  But when I look into the china-like faces of my daughters, when they ask for more hugs to stall bedtime, when they tell me I look "purdy" when I feel quite the opposite--these are the moments I live for

Yes, I choose to make different decisions regarding my family planning.  I don't put off tomorrow what can get done today, but it's so worth it. 

I sometimes have a hard time recalling the song to which my husband and I shared our first dance.  But, it's that last song, as the bubbles drifted around us from our guests, that comes back to me so quickly. 

"I had a good life
Before you came
I had my friends and my freedom
I had my name
Still there was sorrow and emptiness
'Til you made me glad
Oh, in this love I found strength I never knew I had"

Freedom.  That's it.  Most define Freedom so differently than I.  Freedom from responsibility, from people needing you, from constantly living for other people, free to take care of yourself.  All the time.  I smile--that's not my freedom.  I am free to love, to grow a family, add more hearts and souls and feet and hands to my family.  Free to spend a Saturday morning in the bed with my darling children, while they crawl all over us as we rise from our coma-like state.  Free to give more hugs and kisses, more laughs and joy.  

I am free.

And from that freedom, I garner strength.  To face those blows and challenges I never thought I'd have the courage to face.  

"And this love
Is like nothing I have ever known
Take my hand, love
I'm taking you home....
Where we can be with the ones who really care
Home, where we can grow together
Keep you in my heart forever "

Yes, I want more children--a big family.  What, really, is so wrong about that?  Because, I have found that the more I "chain myself" with the responsibility of family, the more free I truly am.   

Taking You Home, copyright Don Henley 

Monday, October 22, 2012

I don't pretend to understand it all.  In some ways, I don't try.  It's too much for my small, flawed mind and soul to understand.  The hurt, hate, pain, suffering, death in our world.

Everyone will do it.  Everyone will die.

The world is one large sphere of organized chaos.  People working, loving, living, hurting, dying.  Innocent, evil.  Young, old.  Rich, poor.  I see a young woman, strong and with a big heart, battling cancer.  She fights on, always smiling.  I hear of a man, working through college, who ends his life.  Mothers who bury their children.  Babies who's lives are forcibly ended before they even full enter our world.

I don't understand.  The terrible suffering.

It's in front of me--an element in the chaos none of us can escape.

But, I have to believe that, above that painful chaos--above the suffering masses--there is Him.  I have to believe it.  Because there has to be something Good, something True and Loving beyond this.  There has to be a reason for it--a Good that will come out of it.  Because I have seen great good arise from terrible moments.

In those moments of soul-shaking fear, physical or spiritual torment, or bodily pain; in those moments when we realize so coherently the end is imminent--for our loved ones or for us--He's there.  Above it all.

Above the chaotically painful parallel, there is a constant, truly good Perpendicular.

And I believe that He hears me.

Because as long as I keep my eyes perpendicular, my heart and soul faced upward, the Perpendicular will always be in view, always be in my path.  I must move forward through the parallel, trudge amongst the chaos, endure the pain and suffering.  Because at some point, even for me, the Perpendicular will call.

I will have to walk my final steps through the fire of death.

But, my path will, God willing, still be up.  Up.  To Him.

The Curer, the Lover, the Constant Good.

The Perpendicular.

Army Wife and the Pioneer Life

I have always admired the Pioneer life.  Envied the Pioneer woman.  

They literally built their lives.  Their muscles and bones, heart and soul went into producing every facet of their existence.  In this world today, with the instant gratification of smart phones, internet, mass chain stores and restaurants on every corner, people can get what they need in a matter of moments.  Furniture, rugs, plates, spoons, food.  Pick it up, swipe your card.  Done. 

The pioneers made those items; often times, they produced the materials that went into making those goods.  Everything was precious and dear.  Their food, rugs, furniture, clothes.  They made them with their hands.  Their bodies labored to produce the simplest of things.  I have found myself wishing at times to return to that simpler time.  When people valued things and persons more.  Worked harder for their happiness and livelihood.  

I see that Pioneer spirit in the Army family.  In the Army wife.  Army children.  The Soldier offers his life, his body, heart and soul for work that few volunteer to do.  The Army family ventures into new territory frequently, building a home and a life in a place completely foreign to them.  We throw our bodies into packing and unpacking our lives, building a happy home.  Our ingenuity and steadfastness mirrors that of the pioneer family.  Because it’s back-breaking work.  There’s so much risk.  Yet we continue.  Because this is the life we somehow love.  The work, the toil.  The heartache and risk.  That’s not the overriding aspect of this life. It’s the search for the right house—the one we’ll lovingly and carefully make into a home, even for a few months.  It’s watching the movers unload furniture yet again, noting damage to our precious pieces of “home”—and smiling anyway.   It’s setting up the furniture, knowing that slowly we are making a life for our family—gathering the familiar.   Unpacking, setting up, replacing the old, falling in love with the new.  Making, working.  Muscles, bones.  Heart and soul. 

I am a Pioneer.  I make our life.  I make it over and over.  I find a house, make a home.  I produce an environment of familiar with my hands, working and toiling.  I maintain the home, when my Soldier is home and away.  I endure terrible hardships and great joy, all with a smile.  I teach my children how to handle adversity, overcome the odds.  Even when it seems impossible.  I make our lives, produce a positive existence.  I turn to the other pioneer women I know.  My mother.  My Army girlfriends.  I seek advice, receive consolation.  Laugh.  Live.  Love.  Survive. 
Because despite the hardships—the irreparable damage of furniture that held my babies, the destruction of precious items we worked hard to obtain--, despite the heartache of leaving friends and family, locking our old homes for the last time, this life is so worth it.  Because we make our livelihood, our homes, our lives.  Over and over again.  Beyond the friends and family, the numerous homes, the frequent moves, the constant separation, there is a beauty that is indescribable and a victory that is unmatchable.  

Maybe it’s not envy I feel for the Pioneer life, for the Pioneer woman.  Perhaps it’s a camaraderie, a solidarity with her spirit.  A spirit that has continued through the generations, rooting itself in a love of the earth, a loyalty to our country, fidelity to our family.  A determination to forge ahead.  The way ahead may be unfamiliar, but we move forward anyway.  Because this is all we know.  Because this is our lives. 

This is our spirit. 

Thursday, October 04, 2012

I need a vacation.

No really.  I need a vacation.

I had a doctor's appointment this morning at the Air Fore Base (apparently the Army medical center doesn't see anyone over the age of 18 anymore.  Gee.  Thanks.) , and I had to navigate around the city for the first without the help of my husband.  He's a natural born navigator.  Hence the (former) pilot part.  Me?  Not so much.  It's not that I get lost a lot; I'm just really paranoid about getting lost.  So much so, that I was gripping the wheel the entire thirty minute drive through San Antonio, counting exits like my the future of my soul depended on it.

And by the way, people will tell you that everything in San Antonio is only fifteen minutes from you.  It's not.  And I hope I never find myself saying this.  Because everyone says it.

I digress.  So, I'm literally a mile from the Base and I pull out my wallet to get my ID card.  Now, you can't do anything on post without your ID.  It's basically your lifeline.  Buy groceries?  Nope.  Purchase clothes?  Negative.  Receive medical care?  Forget it.  I reach into my wallet to my ID card slot...and felt the emptiness.  I rustled around inside my purse.  Nothing.  I started to panic.  Pockets on my purse?  Not there.  By this time I had pulled inside a hotel parking lot and could see the gate from where I was parked.  I tried to think back when I had last had it.  The zoo!  I had put it back in my wallet; I had made it a point because of my doctor's appointment.  I jumped out of the car, looked in the stroller.  By this time, I was frantic.

And so I called her.  The woman who has walked this path before me.  Who knows it.  And understands it.  And has another appreciative aspect--my mother.  "They won't see me if I don't have it!"  I cried to her.  "Nope, they won't.  Did you check your purse?"  She went with me through the whole van, stroller and purse.  "What about any random pockets on your wallet?"  My mind stopped.  Yes.  I reached into my coin pocket and felt the plastic lamination in my finger tips.

"Mom!  Thank you!"  Seriously, if she hadn't said that, I would have turned around and driven home.  But, she saved me.  Again.  When I handed my ID card over to the young Soldier at the desk, I was still shaking.

That's the first time since having an ID card at ten years old, that I have lost it.  And that wasn't even that major of a loss.  That little piece of paper and plastic connects to my healthcare, my sustenance, my life.

After all of that, and then navigating around this huge city, I am going to reward myself.  With a giant hunk of dark chocolate brownie. 

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

To My Sisters

Adele's "Someone Like You" croons in the background, and I find my mind returning to a familiar place from the last few weeks.  My sisters.  My young adult sisters, just standing on that awkward precipice between childhood and adulthood.  Between girl and woman.

My dear sisters,

I do not miss that time.  That age.  I felt I didn't belong anywhere, and huge expectations were heaped upon my shoulders.  What I was expected to do, which did or did not collide with what I dreamed of doing.  And yet, I didn't completely know what I wanted to do.  I had dreams.  Large, beautiful, innocent dreams.  And they were going to require work.

I dreamt of love.  Probably the biggest thing I dreamed of, as my teenage years came to a close and I entered adulthood.  I wanted him.  And children.  Yes, even then I knew I wanted at least that.  I figured it would be easy.  I had a laundry list of attributes I wanted him to have--and not have.  I just would wait, and he would come galloping in on his white horse.


In the years that I trudged forward into adulthood, into my life, into myself, I found that this quest not just for a husband, but for the future was going to be much harder than I had thought.  It started in late high school.  I had places I wanted to attend college, boys I wanted to date, classes I wanted to take.  And it didn't happen.  I would stand in the mirror and I saw ugly things.  I did not see beauty, I did not see good.  I saw faults.  That grew larger and larger the longer I analyzed myself.  Until I despised myself.

As I watch you both standing on that precipice, I want to run and pull you back.  Because you are not that tiny child I held, that I thanked God for--another sister.  Another life in our family.  You are not the girls that danced in jammies with tape players.  That we played with and confided in.  You are not the girls that ran through the house while we chased you, that we cuddled with on the couch.  Then, we could protect you.  We could shield you from the world, from the harsh realities that will try to break you and destroy your dreams.  You are women.  It has happened.  And now you are susceptible to the demons, both inside and out, that would love to see you destroyed.  And I hate that.

I have a lifetime left to walk.  I've only been an adult for a handful of years.  And yet, I've fallen hard in grief, loss, and responsibility.  Fear, bitterness, and difficulty have attempted to leave their scars.  And some have.  I know this life is not what I had dreamed it to be.  I have had my heart broken by boys who claimed to be men.  I have fought and lost.  I have made dreams and not fulfilled them.

Don't let this destroy you.  Don't let the change, the fear, the loss that you will inevitably experience destroy you.  I see so much beauty, strength, resolve in the two women I once knew as baby girls.  I see such kindness, selfless love, and dedication in you.  Dreams will change.  Life will deal you blows.  And you will probably fail at a few things. Boys will break your heart, and you will question if your heart will ever fully heal. 

But when you look in the mirror after all of this happens, don't see who hates you.  Don't see the scars, the ugliness that isn't really there.  Please see what I see.  See the beauty, the innocence.  Resolve and Faith.  Strong wills and incredible characters.  When the dreams change and the blows come, let yourself cry.  Let me hold you.  Take this to God.  When the failure happens and those boys break your heart, remind yourself you are better than that.  You deserve better.

When this happens, see the beauty that the rest of us see lying inside of you.  See the virtue.  See God.  Because He's there.  He's waiting for you.  To see Him.  To run to Him.  He sees in you more beauty than even I see.  Pick up the pieces--your pieces--and stand up slowly.  Once you can walk forward, trudge on.  Never lose sight of the beauty waiting in the shadows, the beauty right in front of you.  Never forget that, as many people will break your heart and try to steal your innocence, there are ten times more people who love you.  Cherish you.  Who see your individual and precious beauty.

I swore I'd never let a man break my heart.  I swore I'd have a whole, unscarred heart to hand my husband.  I thought I did.  I lied to myself.  But if I hadn't handed my heart, my love to those around me, I wouldn't have been true to myself.  I live to love.  And I love to live.  And I see that in you both.  An intense desire and yearning to alleviate suffering, to love those unloved.  And so in that vocation, there will be more hurting, more scars.  But you cannot yet see the good that comes from that, even when your heart must inevitably get broken.

I cannot shield you from your broken hearts.  What that I could.  But, do not let this pain, this heartache scar you.  Do not let it steal your innocence, take your Faith.  For there is such beauty, such virtue you have to give yet.  You are at such a painful, tough time in your life.  Trudge forward.  You will find what you are searching for.  Because you are searching for God's path.  Your Faith will guide you, your pain will teach you, your love will light the way.  And, on those cold twists and turns where the light seems to have gone out, you will find me.  I will be there.  So will everyone who loves you.  And God.  He'll always be there.

My heart was broken, I have seen myself fail.  But there were promises I made to myself that, because of you two, I would not break.  When I dated the man that became my husband, I'd never loved someone so deeply, never cared for someone so much.  But that came with a horrible, gut-wrenching fear of the biggest broken heart I'd ever risked.  Even through our dating and engagement, I was careful.  I saved precious treasures of myself until we were husband wife.  Because of you two.  I had to set an example, show you it was possible.  I lived my life right--for you.  And I am happy.  A dream finally fulfilled.  Partially because of you.

Adele has a beautiful voice, but her message is skewed.  Don't find "someone like" him, who broke your heart.  Reach farther, hold out longer.  Shoot for the stars, and you will land among the heavens. 

Love Always,

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

It's easy to get caught up in complaining, noting repeatedly how hard it is.  The negatives.  No sleep.  Not sitting through a meal.  Cold food.  Frigid coffee.  Nights spent over a crib with a crying baby.  Inconsolable children.  Toilet training accidents.  Stained carpets.  No free time.  Constant parenting.

It's tough, this job.

Motherhood is round the clock, nonstop work.  Even when I am sleeping, there is a part of me listening.  Waiting.  Aware.  And watching.  I'm the first one to hear it, even if I don't move at first.  I'm the last one to fall asleep.

Because they have my heart.

But, occasionally I get caught up in focusing on the negative.  Cranky toddlers and clingy babies make for a bad day.  No housework done because the girls were so needy.  Wishing I had a little "me-time."  Hoping they fall asleep at bedtime for some quiet time.  Getting frustrated and lonely.  Because I'm here with them all day.  And often times, we stay here.  All day.

But, then, I think--well, they could not be here.   And my heart stops for a moment.  My precious girls, my beautiful children.  It puts things into perspective.

What really is important?

They are.  Not the laundry, the cold coffee, the stale sandwiches I never seem to finish.  The crying all night long.  It could be silent.  And I don't like that kind of silence.  My crib could be empty, the tiny bed barren.  The toy bucket gone.  The laundry neatly put away.  The meals on time and eaten quickly.  I could come and go as I please, with no one in tow.  Empty hands, small purse.

Instead, I wait for it every morning:

"Mommmmyyyyyy....Good mo-ning."  And I smile.  The chattering from the small room.  And I'm up.  Even if it's early.

Because life is short.  And it's fragile.  And it's so precious

And I'm blessed with two of them.  Two fresh faces in the morning, two sets of tears to wipe.  Two hearts to love, two bodies to hug.  Two sets of cheeks to kiss.  Two souls to care for.

It's not about what I don't have, what I sometimes wish for.  Those things are so transient--the food, the coffee, the sleep.  It doesn't last.

My girls.  They are here.  And they last longer than the burnt coffee and the undone laundry.  But their childhood will fly by.  The times they want a hug, want to be held, ask for snuggles and kisses.  That is important.  That's what, at the end of my life, I'll treasure and remember.  Those memories will flit through my head someday when I am alone in the house, and they are off living their adventures.  The boo-boos I kissed and bandaged, the broken hearts I mended.  The phrases that leave me laughing in tears.  When my home is immaculate, the crayons long gone.  The toys boxed up.  I'll remember.

Motherhood is so beautiful.  So worth it.  Motherhood gives way to life.  And life is precious. 

Monday, August 06, 2012

Seeing the television commercial angers me.  To my core.  The statements they make, the comparisons they draw.  It incenses me.  Because what they are living in a few short months is nothing like what the men and women live.  It in no way resemble the sacrifices they and their families make. 

Stars Earn Stripes debuts the Monday after the Olympics.  The first time I saw the television ad for it, I was irate but speechless.  Put in controlled environments that mimic war and military training, a handful of celebrities supposedly do just that--earn their stripes. 

"I know there's a chance I can die." 

Are you kidding me?!  I wonder if I am the only one upset at this show.  My husband just laughs.  I know enough about television to be sure that they are not going to put celebrities in dangerous places that could cause harm or death.  These are controlled environments--sets--designed to mirror other truly dangerous places.  The previews show the celebrities talking and "confessing" that they didn't realize how hard it'd be, that they are fearful for their lives.  The women are sporting makeup and their hair is freshly done.  The men are clean--free of dirt and grime.  They sit in front of a camera, looking totally scripted.

"This may have been a very big mistake."  


As a military brat and Army wife, I am offended by this show.  They have no idea what it takes to live this life.  They will never have to face and live through what many of our service men and women do.  They will never endure watching someone get seriously injured or witness their best friend or battle buddy die.  They don't leave for long periods to live in a primitive, hostile environment enduring little to no communication with family. 


They will play pretend, driving by explosions and screaming in scripted terror, and after the final show, return home to their mansions where their families will be waiting with open arms.  Their pay will not drastically change, they won't have to return to work within a week's time.  They will retain no battle scars, there will be no reintegration. 

Because they are playing pretend. 

"It's about honoring our veterans and our law enforcement officers."   

Then volunteer for the Blue Star Program.  Donate to the Wounded Warriors.  As a celebrity, you've got a lot of resources.  Give your time, your money.  Don't mock us,

The choice to serve our country does not last a few short months.  It does not mean controlled training in front of cameras that concludes within a few weeks.  It's ever so much more.

This life is spent in constant upheaval, constant change.  Soldiers gone frequently on trips, training exercises, deployments.  Spouses spending each day and night of a year alone and fearing the ring of a doorbell.  A cycle of preparation, gone, return, reintegration.  Moving every few years to few months.  Arriving in a new place, unpacking, settling in and making friends, repacking, leaving.  Sudden deployments, changes of station.  Seeing crying family members in our rear view mirrors, and driving the car forward anyway. 

It's hard.  It's gut-wrenching.  It will bring you to your knees, and lower.  It exhausts you, shakes your faith, and jades your heart.  It requires constant work, maintaining a family dynamic that is always changing.  Holding down a homefront for your Soldier or keeping your head down to save your life.  It's missing years of your children's life that you'll never get back; trying to bond with a baby after missing months of its young life.  It's missing your child graduating, your friend's wedding.  It's coming home to a spouse who's changed drastically and struggling to find your place again. 

It's hell. 

It's also beautiful.  Because when you find that normalcy, even if it's brief, you've won.  When you figure out the family dynamic, when your heart finally leaps when you take your newborn, when your child finally accepts you again, you've won another battle.  All you have is today.  Because tomorrow, your Soldier could ship out again.  It's living in the beautiful present, learning from the past and not fearing the future. 

Those celebrities have no idea what it takes to live a lifetime of true sacrifice.  Because they will never live it.  They will merely produce a mockery in during a few weeks.  They will have their comforts, their families, their normal.  Nothing changes for them. 

But, this is why we fight this war, why we live this life.  Because it's truly ironic.  We live this life, make this sacrifice so they have the freedom to produce television shows to mock it. 

I won't be watching it.  I am married to the real deal.  I am married to a United States Soldier. 

Thursday, July 12, 2012

We were sitting under a tree at the splash pad, and I was nearing R&R.  Less than a year before, I hadn't even met  her, and yet at that point she was one of my closest friends.  She still is.  A fellow Army wife who also went to our Church.

"It took probably eight months after he got back before things felt 'normal.'  I mean, at the time, I would think okay, we're back to normal.  And then I'd look back.  And we weren't."

Not us, I thought.  Foolishly.

The books warned me.  Fellow wives cautioned me.  It was all in a very subtle way.  Which was part of the reason I didn't understand and was not at all prepared.

"The honeymoon period will wear off, and reality will set in..."  "You both will have a readjustment period.  Give it time."

Not us, I thought.  Ignorantly.

But, we did.  Because that's part of the cycle; the natural cycle of sending someone off to war and not just living in their absence, but living in spite of there absence.  It's something most will never understand.

I treated the deployment as a challenge.  A challenge to overcome--a battle to be fought and won.  My war.  He was fighting in Iraq; I was fighting at home.  Fighting to maintain a sense of normalcy, a sense of consistency.  Striving to survive without him.  I did.  And I went so much further than that, which was a victory, and then a shortfall.  But it had to be that way.

I didn't learn to merely survive without him.  I didn't simply get through the day to day.  I managed to get beyond just surviving.  We lived.  The three of us built a life, which didn't include him.  Went on without him and in spite of him being gone.  Most women will never have to truly live without their husband and understand the magnamity behind that.  Before he left, my days revolved around his very being, around his schedule and needs.  I loved that. So innocent, so dependent.  So spousal.

And then he left.  And took all of that with him to Iraq.  I had to learn to get up for myself.  Make breakfast and eat for myself.  Lunch, naps, dinner, cleaning.  For myself.  Don make up and pretty clothes for myself.  I had to literally cut his presence out of my life.  For a year.

After it was heartbreaking, it was liberating.  I came up with my system to run the house.  Laundry on Monday, and it all got done on Monday.  Because I was doing it for myself.  To make it run more smoothly for myself.  I called the shots.  Who could come visit, and when.  Because I had to maintain a balance for us.  I kept a spotless home (for the most part), because it made me feel so much better.  It was for me.  It was such an adjustment learning to do nothing for him.  Cutting him out.  No more dinners.  No more notes in his lunch.  No more lunches.  It ripped my heart out.  But, after awhile, it became a challenge that I overcame.  I won.  I didn't need him.  I always wanted him, but I didn't need him.

And then, he came home.  And turned the house on its ear again.  After having become so good at making a life without him, I had to undo all of that.

At first, I thought we'd go back to what we were before he left, before The Good-bye.  But, that was impossible.  The woman who stood on that parade field had changed drastically from the woman who'd watched him board that bus.  The family he'd left had changed drastically; his oldest much more grown than when he'd left and there was a new tiny person to meet.

I was a very different person; I'd become drastically more independent, delightfully more sarcastic, my independence and confidence were at an all time high.  But, deeper, I was slightly jaded, a little more rough around the edges.  Because of it all.  The horrible text message that caused several weeks of worry, the internet dropping after a frantic, "Oh, my God," by my Soldier, the ensuing 36 hours I waited to either hear from my husband or the uniformed officers to ring my bell.  I had reared a toddler, maintained a pregnancy (a battle in itself, since the previous pregnancy had ended all too short), and spent two months caring for a newborn and toddler.

I realized that the "normal" that had existed before his departure would never exist again.  It was gone.  The innocence, the dependency, the naivete.  It was gone.  Now, I had to learn--we had to learn--who we were all over again.  Carve a place out for him again.  Become one.  This wounded my pride and pulled at my heart.  

It was another battle.  But, I was tired.

This time, I had to garner energy I no longer had, muster morale that had long since staled.  I just wanted normal.  When would normal come back.  And what was the point, when it was all going to inevitably change again?

And then I realized it.  It was through several Brigrade Spouses' functions.  I watched all the women as we laughed about reintegration, the ups, the downs.  Learning that all the wives had highs, and they all had lows too.  Newbies and Seasoned wives alike, we were fighting still to maintain our homefronts, battling to keep our families together.  Still.  It was the strength and the resiliency that exuded from all of us that we all in turn were hungry for.  We regained it from one another and took it home to our own families.

My father once gave me incredible advice.   "Write about what you are passionate about."  As I've walked through life, I thought I was passionate about various subjects.  I would attempt writing about them, try to convey the emotion and stories.  I could not.

But, nothing makes me more confident, more sure, than being an Army wife.  My Faith feeds the desire to keep trucking in this path.  My confidence in the truth and the virtue of this life makes me stand up tall even when I am breaking on the inside.  My raw passion about the spirit behind the mission enables me to share this.  To fight.  To win.

As Spring dawned on my little family in my Little Home, we fought to regain ground as a family.  We worked tirelessly to find our new normal.  It was a long journey.  The deployment doesn't just last a year for the Army family.  The predeployment phase, when the Soldier checks out and the family stands in his or her wake unsure of how to help.  The boarding of the buses and the family goes home and makes a life. Then, they come home, and they battle again to make a new normal.  It's a long and tiring cycle.  And it repeats itself.

The reintegration phase was such a personal battle for me.  For the first time, I was at a loss for words on where to go.  Because it brought me to my knees.  For me, it was the hardest part of the deployment.  But, when realization dawned, I stood up.  Battered.  But, I moved forward.  I took my Soldier's hand, and I grew some more. I stifled my survival pride, I realized I needed humility, and I fought back.  Hard.

And now, life is good.  Different.  So different.  But, we have learned, we have grown, and we have won.  That battle, that I thought would end on the parade field when I took my Soldier in my arms, lasted much longer.  And it was so hard.

"Nothing in life worth having comes easy." 

There's the reason behind the passion, the love I have for this Army life.  Keeping a family together and happy is so hard in any walk of life.  But, especially so in this one.  It takes guts, blood, sweat, and tears.  It will try to kill your joy and steal your innocence.  It will leave you jaded and a little bitter.  But that makes you stronger.  I will do anything to keep my family together.  I will stand behind my husband proudly, diligently, consistently as he fulfills his mission.  And when we are together--wonderfully and blissfully together--we will stand side by side and work for the consistency and love that this family deserves.

Through each battle, through every war, I have only one thing to say: Charlie Mike. 

Monday, June 04, 2012

I told him I would.  I told him, if it was feasible and conducive to his job--his mission--I would follow him.  We were only dating, but we had been talking about deployments and long-distant assignments after potentially getting married.  And I responded. "I believe in family, first.  So, if it's possible and not harmful for your job, I will follow you.  If you deployed, I would hold down the homefront and maintain a positive environment for our family.  But, if you were ever assigned somewhere where we could follow you and it wouldn't be bad for your military career, I'd follow you if you asked me to." 

I just never realized the cost that might come with that. 

He did ask.  And I did follow.  I actually initiated the idea.  He decided to change his MOS (military occupational specialty--his job in the Army) from Aviation to Acquisition Corps, just months shy of his deployment.  Though it wouldn't go into effect for a year and a half, the decision came with many changes.  Huge changes. 

Three months of school.  Intense studying, long days of classes.  I could have stayed home.  It would come easy to me now--the separation, the learning to live without him.  Because we are only just now hitting our stride of living together again.  The deployment cycle lasts much longer than a year, and it would be no problem going to back to "before."  But, I couldn't do that to he and I.  I especially couldn't do that to the girls.  Not again.  He missed his youngest girl's first two months.  Didn't hold her for two months.  And darling Elizabeth.  No.  Not again. 

But, I looked at him in our bedroom a few months ago.  Before the decision was irreversible.  Before we put the house on the market and started undoing our home.  "Do you want us to go?  Or do you want us to stay?  Because I will do whatever you need me to do."  And he wanted us to go.  So we did.

We disassembled our home, found tenants.  We had our furniture packed and we watched them load it on the truck.  No place I've lived has ever felt like home.  Until my Sundown home.  But, I emptied it, cleaned it, and walked out the door.  For him.  After five years in one place, the longest I've been anywhere, I painfully said good-bye to dear, wonderful friends.  Left a parish that felt like a family.  And drove away from my real family.  I hugged my father, tears rolling, held my mother.  I pulled my sisters close.  One more time.  Then, I got in a car, despite their own tears, their own pain.  And I drove away. 

For my family.  For my Soldier.

I thought it would be easy when I said I'd follow him.  But nothing worth having is ever easy.  And so I am in a new place, a new town.  I know no one.  My mother is no where near as accessible as she was before.  My sisters are so far.  My father...but, on we go.  This is the life I signed up for.  This fusion of human beings in this tiny apartment is my world.  I must drive on for them.  March forward for my Soldier.  Family first.  Even if that means walking away from family.  Friends.  A life. 

Because I signed up for this life.  The day I said I do to my Soldier, I said I do to a life of constant change of transiency.  Upheaval.  Separation.  Crosses.  Victories. 

I'd do it again.  I've seen more than I'd imagined in the last three years.  Been through some tough times.  But, if he asked me again, knowing the cost, I'd say yes in a moment.  Not a second thought.  Because behind that man, behind that amazing Soldier, I know is a place God called me to take.  A tough, painful calling all its own.  But, in all that pain, all that hardship, is joy.  Peace.  A burning desire to continue.  To live this life.

To follow.  Through following, we lead.  Our examples are the legacy we leave behind.  My mother kept us together as much as she could.  She followed my father--her Soldier.  And she left behind such a legacy, such an inspiration, I can only hope to live up to it.  In her footsteps that she left for me to follow, in the wake of my Soldier, I lead my family.  And we are together. 

Sunday, May 27, 2012

I really have a love-hate relationship with moving.  As exciting as it is to start a new chapter, it's also gut-wrenching to close one.  As much fun as looking forward to a new house is, leaving your current one is so sad.  Long days and late nights prepping for a move, watching the movers pack your stuff while your heart is in your throat, and arguing with them about how they are poorly packing your stuff all leads (God-willing) to a sense of victory on the other end when you are settling into your new home and finally putting the stuff away.

This is my first move as an Army wife, since we were reassigned to Fort Hood after Richard's previous assignment.  While I am having some deja vu about moving as a child, doing this as the mom/wife is SO much harder than doing this as a child.  Kids look to Mom and Dad as their comfort and stability.  So, while moving is still sad, they are taking with them their security.  Not so much with the grown ups.  My home is my comfort.  And this week, the packers tore that apart.  As I stood in the kitchen watching them pack my china, plates, cookware and watched them box up the Nursery, I kept telling myself to breathe.  That it would all make it in one piece.  That it was just stuff.  It didn't work.  But, it was worth a shot.

The next day, as they suddenly went from slow-as-molasses to speedy-gonzales (because they double-booked themselves for the week, of course), I watched in horror as they started shoving and pushing items in boxes that didn't fit.  Trying to convince them of this was next to impossible, and I truly felt a stroke coming on.  My cranium was preparing to launch.  The baby swing was being crushed, a giant concrete St. Francis was shoved down on top of collectible doll items.  I was trying to communicate with my husband via eye signals, which weren't going through because of poor signal strength.  By the time they left, I truly thought the day couldn't get more stressful.  I was wrong.

For several years, I had a plunger lying in the back most recess of my trunk.  I had put it there when I had moved out of my apartment the week of my wedding.  Since I could not reach it without crawling into the trunk and thereby damaging my pride, there is sat.  People would mock me.  Oh, yes.  But, my constant response was, "You never know when you might need a plunger."  I had no idea how right I would be.  Two weeks ago, after more teasing from my husband, I finally waited until our street was devoid of people and crawled in after my plunger. 

After the umpteenth argument with the movers about the aforementioned box, one of them asked if they could use our bathroom.  I had no problem with this.  She returned and they continued packing and we continued requesting boxes get repacked.  The box with the doll desk was never repacked. 

After they left that night, we realized that the mover had clogged the toilet.  We inspected boxes in the garage to see which one they could possibly have packed the plunger in.  There was no way to tell with their contents descriptions; they had marked Christmas Decorations "Totes and clothes."  Makes sense.  I was relieved immediately when I had a sudden thought: my plunger!  I turned to get the car keys...and then remembered.  It, too, was in a box somewhere.  Oh, if only everyone had listened.  So, out went the husband to buy a plunger...which we realized after he returned home and started plunging, was broken.  Naturally. 

The next morning, my parents brought their plunger...and to no avail, we plunged again.  By now, there was disgusting water all over the bathroom floor.  It was tracked into the hallway, and had successfully shut down total use of that bathroom.  Until my toddler somehow got in there, slipped and fell into the water.  Yes.  Ew. 

Finally the moving company sent out a plumber.  He fixed it within ten minutes.  And for five hours that day, I was mopping up foul water off my floor.  When I thought I was done, I stood up only to realize that it had seeped underneath the tiles.  I was so angry, and again felt a stroke coming on. After a few hours with a fan, the water seems to have dried. 

As we moved through this week of chaos, I survived.  The movers and packers, our life loaded onto a truck, arguments about boxes, a plumber.  Two HARD days of cleaning.  But, I survived.  My first move-out as an Army Wife is done.  We even have a funny story.  And, on a positive note, the pride that I lost climbing into the trunk of my Taurus to retrieve a plunger was restored when I was able to look at my husband and say, "See?  I told you: You never know when you are going to need a plunger."  If only more people appreciated my genius. 

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

It's unreal to me. 

I look around this house, seeing everything in its place...and a few things not in their places.  Objects clearly illustrating people live here, have used those items in the recent past.  A stapler askew on the desk.  The chairs half pushed back into the table.  Dishes drying in the sink.  To try and envision this house any other way is difficult.  To view it empty, packed up, is unreal. 

But, it's going to happen.  In three short weeks, packers will descend upon my home and un-home it.  The memories from my childhood of houses stripped of their personality will come flooding back as I hear the familiar sounds of tape being ripped off rolls and the smell of cardboard and paint fills my little house.  They  will strip the identity from it.  Yet, memories will still pour forth from the walls; memories only I can see. 

Like driving up to his home for the first time.  I remember thinking it was so small and quaint.  Inviting.  I walked in, still with that new nervousness when around him.  I complimented him on how well appointed his home was.  "Thanks.  My mom helped me."  Was his innocent and sweet response.  Weeks later, he gave me my first kiss in this living room.  We planned our wedding here, during evenings spent over binders, books, and brochures.  He carried me over the threshold of this home the night of our Wedding, and we never looked back.  We've brought two children home here, suffered a great loss, and survived a deployment.  In this house.  There are sweet little memories, like watching our daughters learn to crawl or running around the backyard on summer evenings, decorating our Christmas Tree.  And funny anecdotes, like the time I spent the night here because I was locked out of my parents' house while they were out of town.  It was our third date.  I slept in the guest room, with the door locked...just in case. 

Aspects of this home that seem standard to some, hold great memories for us.  The fireplace.  Our favorite thing has been a roaring fire in the winter, curled up on the couch just relaxing.  The first fire I built while he was deployed was both a great victory and a stinging reminder of his absence.  The room in the back of the house, with the chair rail, it started off as a weight room for a bachelor; it was transformed into a quiet sanctuary for our honeymoon baby.  Dancing in the living room to music with my girls, cooking meals for my little family in the kitchen, walking around the house wondering if it was "time" while counting contractions.  It's all here.  The memories.  The life.  And I must leave it all behind.

I have lived this way my whole life.  I know nothing else.  That is a great comfort at times.  I consider myself greatly experienced when it comes to military life, especially after being "in it" for 28 years.  Despite that, the pain is not lessened; the sense of loss no less keen in these situations.  Packing up.  Moving on.  Again.  And again.  Leaving houses that have become homes and then painfully became houses again.  Good-byes to friends you've made, especially those you've laughed and cried with.  Turning from family and walking away.  Leaving behind parents, sisters.  It hurts.

Yes, a great chapter is before us.  Full of exciting new adventures.  Yes, we will make a new home, make new friends.  Have babies in different homes.  There is much good awaiting us, too.

But those adventures do not replace the old ones.  The new friends will not take the place of those we leave behind.  No house will ever come close to the home that this place has been.

My tiny home.  My little living room that I can walk across in a few short steps.  The one that has been covered with baby toys, walkers, play pens.  That precious room that has housed my sleeping newborns.  The kitchen that has been danced in, cooked in.  My home, that has been slept in, celebrated in, laughed in, cried in.  Lived in.

In a few short weeks, I will watch them pack up my little home.  I will clean it one last time, paint it one last time.  I will look around one last time.  Walk the rooms.  Stop.  Remember one last time.  Then, I will walk out.  Shut the door.  One last time.  And move on.  To the next adventure.   

Thursday, April 12, 2012

I was born into this Army life.  Raised in it.  After a few years separated from it (because I turned 23, and therefore lost all my benefits), I married right back into it. I am thankful for the experience I can use, the knowledge I have dealing with most aspects of it, and so grateful for the example of my mother and father. 

We were driving somewhere, all eight of us Smiths in the huge van my parents drove.  I couldn't have been terribly old, maybe in Junior high.  My father was stationed at Fort Hood, and was working at Darnall.  As we drove past the post, I saw the 1st Cavalry sign.  Even then, it had made a large impression on me, though much more abstract at that young age. I could never have known that my future would be intimately and deeply touched by that unit. 

We were fiercely proud of my father, and were obviously prone to sucking up.  One of us children saw the infantry sign, and a comment:

"Ha.  Infantry.  Not as good as Medical Service Corps." 

My father pulled the van over and turned in his seat.  He was very firm.

"I know you are proud of me, and that's fine.  But let me tell each of you right now, those men that serve as Infantry Soldiers work harder, sacrifice more, and are put in far more dangerous circumstances than I will ever be.  No matter what, you owe them respect and gratitude."

That moment stuck with me.  My father has always been so humble, but his earnestness in the van that day never left my memory.

Thirteen years later, my husband and Soldier received orders that he was to serve with the 1st Cavalry Division.  And that he was deploying to Iraq. That horse, that insignia, that yellow and black has become such a source of pride and gratitude and hard work for me.  I saw him go off to training three times; he was in and out of the house constantly for three months. 

Then he left for a year.  And I was scared to death. 

When we first started with the Unit, those colors struck the fear of God in me.  I knew he would be deploying in a matter of a very few months.  With them.  Then, they become a symbol of home, of comfort.  Soon, it bespoke Pride.  Sacrifice.  Survival. 

Family.  Comfort.  Survival.

Now, I have jewelery that I cherish in black and gold.  A pin from the spouses' coffees.  A diaper bag displaying the patch.  They all have the black and gold.  That horse.  The women that I befriended in the Brigade were a comfort when I got the most horrible text message from my husband, a source of laughter when no one else understood, and a source of constant strength and inspiration as I learned to walk in far deeper foot prints of Army Wives who had repeatedly sacrificed everything to keep a family together and a nation at peace.  These women taught me so much.  How to keep a joyful face when it felt as though the world is falling in around you.  How to keep the children from worrying.  They showed me how to Hold Down the Homefront through advice and example.  They let me know it was okay to cry, to let the tears flow, every now and then. 

I don't think these women can know how much I appreciated their example as I forged my way through my first deployment.  How important their presence were in my life.  How, each time I met up with them, I was hanging onto every word for strength, comfort, and the God-given comradery. 

Our Farewell is tonight.  And next month, we leave this unit behind.  The black and gold, the horse, the incredible Soldiers that served along and protected my husband.  That sent him home.  Alive.  The women, who in my weakest moments, infused me with Army strength to keep going.  Who, in my most joyful moments, gave me increased happiness and kept me marching. 

As we leave the Cav, I leave a part of my self.  My blood. Sweat. Tears. Sacrifice.  I will forever feel a part of that Insignia, a part of their story.  Because that's what makes up that unit, that patch: the blood, sweat, and tears of all the Soldiers and their spouses who give so much, sacrifice so much, to keep this country free.  Those who fight on the front lines, drive vehicles into dangerous areas, those who come home in pieces and those who come home in boxes.  The wives, who are constantly vigilant, constantly praying, constantly fighting to keep it together at home.  Waiting.  Praying.  Sweating, bleeding, and sometimes crying.

My gratitude will ever be with the 1st Cavalry Division, for bringing my husband home.  For teaching me so much.  For being the family, the anchor, that always understood.  I will miss this unit, miss the women I waited along side.  My pride for the Army grew tenfold since September of 2010.  My pride for the 1st Cavalry left its abstractness, and became concrete.  I used to see the patch and wonder at their story.  Now, I'm part of their story. 

Forever part of the 1st Team.