Thursday, November 19, 2009

Too Much

Ashlee and I went to the Post Office today to mail Christopher his final package (mostly for the phone charger - because in about 2 weeks he will be calling me to say he is coming home!!!!!!!!!!). We happened to arrive at the same time many soldiers were mailing stuff to their new home in Iraq. I know it was Iraq, because the guy behind me in line was talking about their imminent departure. I started to cry a little bit right there in line, soldiers in front of me, soldiers behind me. There is a lot I don't know about the soldiers in line today, but some of the things that I do know are: They were most likely from a National Guard unit, so they are leaving jobs, maybe taking a significant pay cut while they serve, and their families won't have the same access to support that active duty families have. It's very likely that they are headed to at least a second tour in a war zone. They were upbeat, probably glad to be done with training here and moving on to the mission. And I know that I don't think of them often enough, and am not thankful enough for them. So, I shed a few tears and hoped no-one noticed. I really wanted to tell them I was thankful for them, to be careful, to come home safely, but I was too big a coward.

We are at the end of a long six months in our family, six months of separation and worry. This is Christopher's 4th deployment in support of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan - and the total time he has spent away from us in direct support of the war effort has been about 14 months. That is about one month shy of one average Army deployment. And, he is much less likely to be wounded/injured than Soldiers and Marines. My guess is that most active duty Army/Marine personnel have completed at least 2 deployments (but more likely 3 ) of 12 - 18 months, and the average American citizen doesn't really notice or think much about it. The military community carries much of the United States foreign policy on their backs, the Army and Marines have shouldered the biggest part of the weight in the "War on Terror" and the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan. Less than 1% of our citizenship serves in it's Armed Forces (including National Guard and Reserve members), all volunteers. Every single one voluntarily signed over many of their Constitutional rights - including freedom of speech and their right to live in order to protect and defend the Constitutional rights of the other 99% of our country. (Taken from While They're At War) What the history books say about this particular time is unknown - but right now, to me - waiting in line with soldiers at the Post Office, thinking about where they are coming from and where they are going and how long they will be there - it feels like a heavy burden that a very, very small percentage of the population carries, and it feels like too much.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Not here yet

Look at that cute girl - she makes me crazy (happy crazy and crazy crazy.) Tonight I went to the grocery store without her - Maggie is old enough to stay alone with them for short stretches - and I made it in and out in 20 minutes, and what's more, I didn't forget one single thing on my list. Not one. It was nice.
Anyway, so as to distract myself from the fact that Christopher isn't home yet, I'm going to do a few posts about lessons learned (really learning, because he isn't home yet) and things that I think will be an adjustment for us once he gets here.
Lesson #1 The last weeks are/will be the l o n g e s t. At just about every turn I think "When Christopher gets here, we will....see that movie, clean the car out(actually on the schedule for the day before he arrives so it is sparkly clean) , fix that thing, etc. I didn't do this when we had longer, but now that it's almost over, we are basically sitting on our hands, saving our money and activities till he gets home. It's making the time go by really fast, let me tell you.
Next up: the return of real food and a decent dinner start time.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Ash Bones

Halloween pictures - post trick or treat.

On Sunday morning, Maggie and Ashlee spent about 15 minutes trading candy. Ashlee especially relished shouting "No Deal" (Is that show still on?) when the trade wasn't good enough. This picture is just for you, Daniel!

This post is coming to you from the beginning of the end of swine flu (maybe, maybe not - our Doctor's not testing) week (I hope -so far no symptoms from Maggie.) I'm going to put a few more pics of Halloween up with this post, but first a story about my Ash.

Christopher called on Friday morning and the girls were out of school so that means that everyone got to talk with him. They put him on speaker phone in the living room and I stayed in the back and listened on the extension. They are always happy to talk to him (of course) and it is fun for me to listen to them talk back and forth. In the middle of the call, Ashlee asked "Are you dating anyone?" What? For a second, I didn't think that Christopher heard her because everybody was talking at once. But, he did. "Never mind" she said when he asked her what she said, trying to pretend like she didn't mean it, or that she was just teasing. But, it wasn't a throw away question and he could tell. His answer: "Your mother." "Just wondering" she said and they moved on to other things. I have been thinking about this alot. After he had been gone about 2 months, she wrote him a letter that went something like this - Dear Dad, Are you still alive? Just checking. I love you, love Ashlee. I laugh a little bit at exchanges like this, but they also break my heart alot. So, as she is dancing around the living room, laughing it up with her friends at a soccer game, playing something silly with Paige, making up a song, etc...I have thought a little bit about those questions and what they mean.
I talk/communicate with their dad 2-4 times a week, mostly through quick e-mails. But the time difference is enough that the only real chance they have to talk with him is on Saturdays/Sundays and sometimes things don't work out that he can call. So once in a while they go 2- 3 weeks without hearing his voice. I relay messages, reassure them that he loves them and misses them, but it's not the same. And sometimes I forget that they worry too. They don't express it often, especially Ashlee, and they are so happy that it's easy to make the mistake of thinking that they aren't worried/concerned. When Ashlee asked if her dad was dating anyone, she was seeking reassurance that he would come home, that her family would be back together - and he gave it to her in 2 little words. And for yesterday, that was all she needed. I am so thankful for both of them. The best part is - we are almost done 3-4 more weeks!!!!!!