Iraq Journey




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Just don’t ask me to run around the block now

May 31, 2008

We’re here.

Here means an elevation of over 10,000 ft in the Rocky Mountains.

I think I’m going to be dizzy for the next week. Every time I run walk up the stairs the room starts spinning and I gasp for just. one. breath.

I live at sea level, remember.

Oh, you mountain folk may laugh, but John is living proof that even if you grew up here, when you live way down with the commoners at a normal elevation, your lungs do indeed shrink and you can no longer run marathon-ish distances in little-to-no oxygen. It just don’t happen, peeps.

Not that I’m running, mind you. I get all the workout I need just making it to the top of the stairs.

But, lack of breath-ability aside, OH MY WORD, how I love it here. I love it here. I mean, I really LOVE it here.

Just one breath (albeit shallow) of that crisp mountain air and I’m vowing I’m never going to leave. I’m going to lean back in the grass beside that front yard tree, gaze up at the snow covered mountain peaks on all sides, and be content.

So, people back home? If you ever want to see me again, you’ll know where to find me. Sitting among the evergreens. Wearing Melanzana clothing.

But all that to say, our trip went well, we’re safely in Colorado, the kids didn’t do too much screaming in the 18 hours of drive time, and we never paid over four dollars for gas. We’re in the mountains, fighting for oxygen, discovering the wonders of Grandma’s house (”Look, look, Mommy! Oh! Look, look! Grandma’s house!”), and we’re surrounded by pictures both past and present of that guy we love.

What could be better?

I mean, a little more oxygen might be nice, but, you know…

Pack it on up

May 28, 2008

It is 8:00pm.

My boys and I, along with my mother-in-love who flew in last night, are leaving to drive to Colorado at 5am. I’ll be getting up at 4am.

I have probably five hours worth of work to do before we leave.

You do the math.

This is going to be a short night.

So since I have very little brain left at the moment, I’ll use this little moment of nursing the baby to employ the numbered list format.

Beginning presently.

1. How on earth does one pack for a month? I mean, I know I’m supposed to pack for a week or so and do laundry and all… but, seriously??? What if, on day 18, I decide nothing I have will look good and I’m pining with all my heart for that one particular shirt which will be hanging back home in my closet? What do I do then? Add that to the fact that this is JUNE in the highest town (in elevation) IN THE COUNTRY, which means that it could snow one day and be 75 degrees the next.

(You ask how I know? Remind me to tell you the story of my June wedding day sometime. The day on which we’d planned to get married on the lake shore amid the gorgeous trees, with the snow-capped Rockies as a close backdrop. The day we had to decide what to do as the dark clouds rolled in and the strong winds kicked up and our guests were being seated. The day we ended up getting married inside at the church while it hailed and poured and was completely black outside. That’s how I know. Ahem.)

This would explain why I have packed just about everything else… except for MY clothes.

2. Does anyone have any miracle solution for shin splints? Because apparently it’s not a good idea for a treadmill runner to take advantage of the fact that someone beside herself is at her house to watch her children and decide to run in the great outdoors. Which, in this case, means breathing the fresh air while running on the sidewalk. Apparently, the sidewalk is much harder on the legs.

Who knew?

Apparently, everyone except for the runner herself. Well, folks, she knows now.

She also knows it’s not a good idea to trip down her stairs. Because the combination of shin splints and a twisted right ankle is not helping her tonight. She doesn’t think it will help her while she drives a gazillion hours tomorrow, either.

3. Does anyone have the invention plans for the Magnificent Multi-Phasic Take-Your-Time-Machine? (HUGE bonus points to whoever can name the “inventor” of that “machine.”) Because I’d like one right now.

4. I totally had several more things to say. But I have no idea what they were anymore. And besides, the baby is done nursing. And my currently un-packed clothes are beckoning.

Catch ya later, peeps.

Remembering…

May 24, 2008

There is a big difference between Memorial Day and Veteran’s Day. Sometimes, in all of the three-day-weekend plans, people can get the two a bit confused.

On Veteran’s Day, I’m proud. I’m thankful to my dad, my husband–both Marines–and the many, many others who have served our country and protected my freedom.

People hear that my husband is in Iraq right now and often they tell me a sincere and sweet thank you and ask that I would extend it to him. Every time I hear it, my heart swells and I’m thankful again for these guys (and girls) and thankful I can be part, in my holdin’ down the fort kind of way, in this fight for liberty.

With Memorial Day approaching, I’ve received more of these kind sentiments than usual. I appreciate every one. I know what they are meaning–that my husband and other military guys are willing to lay down their lives. But I often wish I could say one thing…

I’m not one of the ones who truly needs to be thanked on Memorial Day. I hope and pray–with every breath these days–that I never am.

Because Memorial Day is more than just being grateful to our troops. They do indeed put their lives on the line for the rest of us. But it’s really about remembering, truly remembering, the ones who have done more. The ones who have given their very lives to protect our freedom. It’s about thanking their families. The families who are remembering them today and every single day.

So now I’m remembering… the heroes I’ve known personally or indirectly and their families. And I’m passing on some of those thoughtful thank you’s on to them.

Tim. I picture you laughing. I picture you standing with me and two other friends around the piano because you decided to throw together a quartet for special music at the very last minute. I see you with a paper hat on your head, your arm around your mom, trying to make her laugh. Miss you, old friend. Thank you, precious Watkins family.

Dan. You were always good for a laugh, hanging out in our shared front yard, teasing your pretty wife, joking with John and talking theology. I re-read your final letter, which our President read to the American people, and I can hear your voice saying each line. Thank you, sweet Lisa–my first Marine Corps neighbor and friend.

Jim. You left a legacy among people you never knew. Thank you, Mel and the Holtom family.

I think of the guys from John’s base in the Sandy Spot who just recently paid the Ultimate Price. My heart still aches and my eyes well up when I think of you and your families. Thank you to those families. We don’t know you, but you’re part of “the family.”

and so many more.

Remembering.

"See you soon," says the Daddy

May 23, 2008

I have no idea WHAT Troy is looking at. Or why that Daddy doll’s head looks a bit distorted. But, hey, it’s the best picture out of, like , TEN.

When you hug each doll, he says…

Of course, Merritt’s doll says his name instead of Troy’s

But.

Deep breath

It looks like God is doing something awesome and “See you soon” is going to be sooner than we thought.
Deep breath.

Trying to stay calm here.

As with anything in the Marine Corps, plans can change at literally a moment’s notice.

Obviously. The date for John to leave changed half a zillion times up until two days before he actually left.

But, as of right now, “the plan” is for this deployment to be shortened from 13 months to 7 months.

Did you SEE THAT?? Cut almost in half.

Deep breath.

It could change yet again. There’s always that possibility. But for now, this is “the plan.” And we’re praying, praying, it stays this way.

Deep breath.

I’m trying to suppress the urge to scream. Or squeal. Or something.

So they’ve changed the plan on us again. And this time, we are more–MORE–than willing to acquiesce.

Ha. Understatement of the century right there, peeps.

More than you ever needed or wanted to know

May 21, 2008

The boys are napping and I have strict orders from my mama to not overdo it today, since she went home this morning.

(Oh, and her thanks for coming and rescuing us before I died (drama is my friend)? A cold. She woke up sick herself this morning. What’s up with that?)

But since I’m sitting here, doing nothing (see Mom? I’m obeying. I’m listening. I’m being good. Shall we sing? Obedience is the very best way to show… oh, sorry.) I’m going to revisit some of those Q&A thingamabobs.

Heather asks: What is your favorite dessert?

Hot fudge brownie sundaes. The stuff dreams are made of.

A gooey, soft brownie (big one) with a big scoop (or two) of Breyers vanilla ice cream, with lots and lots and lots of thick hot fudge (Hershey’s syrup is a joke) and a little bit of whipped cream and a ball of uber-dyed sugar maraschino cherry–it’ll make any day the best day of the week.

Ginger asks: When did you get saved?

I was five years old and it was a Wednesday night at church. The concept of salvation was nothing new to me, but it “clicked” in my heart that night. I understood enough at five to trust Jesus for my salvation, and then He was gracious enough to continue to grow my spiritual understanding as I grew in years.

Sileena asked a whole SLEW of questions. I should do a whole post just for her questions. Or I could, you know, just answer them here. But, just so ya know, Sileena cracks me up. I think we’d have a crazy fun time if we spent a few hours together. I think we’d laugh. A lot.

Are you involved in any ministries in your church?

Right now, I serve in the infant nursery several times a month and do “little” things like taking meals and helping plan Sunday School activities. In the six months we lived here before John left, we were both in the choir and sang in one of our church’s ensembles. And before that, at our old church, the list of things we were involved in would require a post all their own. But for now, with the season we’re in, this is the involvement God has for me. And I’m doing my best to not let myself feel (wince) guilty for not “doing more.” Although I don’t always do a real good job with that one.

Did you always want to be a SAHM?

Well, given the fact that I was, ahem, nursing my baby dolls when I was two, I think it’s safe to say that yes, yes I did. Until I was about ten, I also wanted to be a second grade teacher so I could teach children to read.

Because, in my mind, there would be nothing on earth as grand as opening young minds to the wonders of Beverly Cleary’s Ramona Quimby: Age 8. Nevermind the greater benefits that go along with being able to decipher letters.

Where did you and John spend your honeymoon?

Alaska.

John had been saving his money from the time he went into the Marine Corps for two things–a ring and a honeymoon. This was his chance to shine.

So he planned a two-week honeymoon in Alaska–the first week at a bed and breakfast in Fairbanks and the second week in a tiny cabin in Denali–without me knowing a single thing about where we were going until we got to the airport the day after our wedding.

All I can say is that if there is a place on earth that gives a foretaste of heaven, Alaska is it.

What one article of clothing can’t you live without?

Long, white tank tops. They cover a multitude of, well, skin in shirts that I otherwise couldn’t wear.

Can I get an AMEN???

If you could live anywhere for a year where would it be and why? (JoyfullyHis also asked a version of this question.)

Whenever I read that question, I immediately think England. Just because I’m a hopeless romantic and, hello?? Is there any place more romantic than England?

But in all honesty, if given the chance to choose someplace to live, I don’t think I could make a decision. I spent almost my whole life living someplace I loved, not at all because I would have chosen to live there–the desert would actually be one of the very LAST places on my wish list–but because it was home and I love the people there. So while I would, of course, love to live in England for a while, and I simply love, love Colorado and Alabama, and I’d like to think Alaska would be pretty nifty, I really would be happy to stay right here at the beach, for as long as possible. We’ve been here almost a year and love it. At the risk of sounding ridiculously cliche, I’d much prefer to be near family and people I love than to choose someplace new.

Anonymous asks: How do you and John pray together (when he’s home and/or when he away)?

Well, we hold hands at the kitchen table, bow our heads and… oh, wait, I think you mean our more serious, deeper prayer times, right?

Up until the last few months John was home, our “plan” was always to have our family devotion time (i.e., the two of us) while I nursed Troy before he went to bed. John would read some scripture and often something from his own personal devotion time. Then we’d pray together, sometimes taking turns, sometimes just John, before we fell asleep.

That was the plan. Not always the reality. For a variety of reasons, we didn’t always have the “formal family devotion time” we intended–it was later than usual, Troy hadn’t gone to sleep easily, we’d stayed up reading individually too long, or we were just going through a period of inconsistency, which I think all families go through at times, whether they say so or not, ahem–and we’d frequently end up praying snuggled up before we fell asleep.

Sniff.

I miss those times.

Anyway. Moving right along.

All of that changed once Troy was weaned and started going to bed earlier, then I had Merritt, and then John left. We never really had a “plan” as things started changing, and our prayer times were almost always those before-we-fall-asleep times. We’ve had some true pouring-out-of-our-hearts and some really good mutual talks with Jesus during those times.

Now that John’s gone, we share lots and lots and lots of prayer requests with each other. It’s kinda hard to snuggle up and fold our hands over one another’s when we’re half a world apart. But often, the highlight of my day is getting an email from him that says, “Hey my bride, I’m praying for you today while such and such is going on.”

Last week John asked me to order a children’s Bible a friend had told him about (it has actual KJV scriptures instead of just paraphrases) to start reading with the boys. It’s all different now that it’s not just about the two of us adults! I have a feeling that when he gets home, “family devos” (as we call them) will be 5-10 minutes long with repeat-after-me-prayers and our serious, deep prayer time as a couple will always be snuggled up before we fall asleep.

Sorry, I have no idea how that answer got so long. It kinda sounds preachy. I don’t mean to be preachy. I don’t like preachy posts. We are not super-spiritual and we don’t have it all together. But we do love Jesus. A whole, whole lot.

Okay, I think that was the last of ‘em. Did I miss any? Let me know if I didn’t answer your question. Or if you thought of a new one.

These things are fun. I get to ramble. And we all know I’m good at rambling.