Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Jelly Beans on High

Asher is fearless.

Asher is determined.

Asher scares the crap out of me sometimes.

We live in a 3 story house. Most mornings, I'm upstairs getting ready & Mickey Mouse or Finding Nemo are "entertaining" Asher on the main floor while I try to get us out the door without being too terribly late.

When it gets too quiet, I yell down the stairs, "Aaaaasher....what are you DOOOOOOing?" And he usually answers me.

One morning I didn't get an answer...and I could hear some peculiar noises. So down I went, to see what shenanigans he was causing this time.

See how high that is? This is a photo of our kitchen cupboards, from the floor. And the streamers we put up when Jake came home. And do you recognize our lovely jellybean jar? If you can't find it, it's up in the top right corner. That was the latest hiding place for the jellybeans.

TOTALLY out of reach for a 3 year old.

Or so I thought.

He moved a chair over, climbed up there onto the counter, grabbed the jellybean jar, climbed down without incident, got the lid off, and was standing in the living room with his hand in the jar when I found him.

So, today, with approximately 4 months left of this deployment (or less!), I decided to recount the jellybeans.

Instead of having 122 in there, we've got just 95.

BELIEVE me. There've been days when I wanted my hand shoved in that jar & to eat the whole darn thing. Really. But I was committed to this daily rationing of the jellybeans. Oh well.

They've been "hidden" again, and I do hope that perhaps in 95 days, rather than 122, that maybe, just maybe, my husband will be home in my arms again.


Sunday, March 27, 2011

His Birthday


I hate lonely.

I feel so damn lonely today.

Tomorrow/today is his birthday. It's morning in Afghanistan now. The love of my life is turning 31 years old. He's in a warzone. He'll wake up alone. He'll shave his face, put on his uniform, drink his coffee, and go to work. Maybe he'll have some lunch, and work out, and eat dinner. Perhaps his friends there will do something to make him feel special today (they will). He probably won't get a hug. (The tears are streaming down my face now). Even tough guy Jake deserves a hug on his birthday. He deserves so much more than a hug on his birthday. I'm sad and lonely because I can't help but think about how much I want to give my love a hug today.

Yes, it's just another day, he'd probably tell you. Sure, he'd rather be anywhere else but there....and probably wishes he was surrounded by all the people who love him most and know him best. Well...maybe surrounded by those folks AND some of his favorite beers...But, it's just another day in a warzone. And he has a job to do...and he'll do it, and probably be embarassed by any attention his day will bring.

I sent him a card. And Asher sent him a card. I traced our son's little hand into the card with a pen. No package. No birthday gifts. No silly streamers or cake or Whitey's shakes (I wish I could have, love...) Believe me, if there had been a way to pack a box to show him how much I love him, I would. But, sorry to say, this love doesn't fit in a box.

This love. Our love. I miss it so much.

Let me tell you how amazing Jake is. This man loves me....even for all my faults. He loves me when I'm my ugliest. He's seen me SO ugly, and he still loves me. He's seen me ridiculously insecure, jealous, and completely unreasonable. I've been demanding, controlling, mean-spirited, even hateful. And yet....and yet...even for all of my shortcomings, faults, and ugliness, he loves me in spite of it all!

That is an awesome love. A love that forgives when I don't deserve it. A love that says "I'm sorry" even when I'm too stubborn to say those words. A love that knows that even thought there's not a birthday gift in the mail, still he tells me that just hearing me say the words "I love you" is the best gift for him. *SIGH* Seriously?

This war has broken me. Again. When is enough enough?

Happy Birthday, love. Wish you were here in my arms, but you're ever in my heart.



Sunday, March 20, 2011

The Thunder Rolls...

In Night Catch, a book we read nearly nightly at our house, a little boy and his Soldier Daddy play "catch" with the North Star. Being only 3, Asher has caught on to how this process works, and although we can't always see the stars clearly, we can almost always see a slice of the moon in the evening when it's time to rest our weary heads.

Asher and his Soldier Daddy have played this game with each other, where they blow each other the moon or the stars that by the time they wake up, the other will have "received" the catch.

Well, soon after we began this game, Asher came up with "blowing the funder (thunder)." Where he came up with this, or even learned the word "thunder" is beyond me...but he has shared this routine with his Soldier Daddy.

This morning we were lucky enough to catch Jake on Skype and yesterday Asher spoke nicely on the phone to his Daddy, telling him in his sweet little voice, "I miss you, Daddy." Well, prior to Mass this rainy Sunday morning, there were raindrops pelting the window and thunder rolling across the sky. As we were crossing the backyard to load into the car, a deep, long roll of thunder shook the heavens. Asher was a bit frightened looking, but mostly impressed. I reminded him that that was his Daddy, "blowing the thunder" back to him, and in his precious little voice, he looked into the sky, cupped his hand by his mouth & shouted, "Good job, Daddy...good job blowing the funder!"


R&R leave...

There are odd things that happen when you get deployed. Many expectations or realities that are never fully understood or fully grasped. One of those odd things is when you get R&R leave.

The reasons are several that R&R is an odd experience when you are deployed. The first is, the expectation of coming home....seeing family, friends and just being surrounded by civilians. When you out process, you get a briefing on the basics...the old, "don't drink too much, eat too much, drugs are bad, don't beat your wife/husband/kids/dogs/neighbors/etc, and don't be mean." When you get the brief, no one wants to be there and everyone is too busy worrying about what they are going to have to do right afterwards. Rarely is everyone thinking about the weird oddities they are going to find when they get home...or when they get back here.

For the involved individual, you are the central person for something important...whether you are the person that came up with the way to track the battle that works the best, run a program or are just involved in the everyday decision making of whatever echelon you are assigned to. When you are here, you are important, people come to you for decisions, people come to you for help...people just come to you. When you leave here...people don't come to you anymore for whatever it was they were coming to you for...they have to find someone else, someone who knows (because you did a good hand off with that person on everything they need to know to cover down for you) or is supposed to know what is going on and how to answer the questions...or they just figure it out themselves.

The same can be said for our families back home. Before I left, I was involved with my son's life in every way I could be...meal making, bath times, bed time stories, playing in the backyard - the list goes on. I was also involved in my wife's life - being a sounding board for her frustrations with work, Asher, people in general - watching Asher for an hour so she can go grocery shopping and be able to actually get what we needed instead of trying to keep Asher wrangled up long enough to find the necessary items...or very simply to just be able to give her a hug at the end of a long, tiring day and share a nice glass of wine.

So, obviously, when I left home, I tried to make sure that most of the big ticket items were taken care of. Upon returning on R&R leave, I come home to a different house...still looks the same, smells the same and is the same address...however the house is just.......different. And so are the two people and dog that live there. I was a bit worried about how my son would react to me coming home after being gone for almost 10 months (I really left home 10 May 2010) and not being active in his life...not being physically present with him. It was a bit rough the first couple of days - he didn't want Daddy to give him a bath, he didn't want Daddy to read bedtime stories, he didn't want Daddy to make his breakfast or get his movies started...those had been and were Mommy's job and he made that very clear. A few days before I left to come back, however, the tables had turned and I was back into the normal routine...just in time to mess it all up again.

Now, lets not forget about Em in this whole thing. She didn't have anyone to hand off any of the responsibilities to for the same amount of time. She HAD to be Mommy on duty 24 hours a day, 7 days week...she had no other choice. She was gracious enough to let me be able to slide into some of the responsibilities without any fuse whatsoever...I think she was just glad for a break from some of it for even just a few minutes! :) But, then I left again and now sometimes, it seems like I was never really home...because two weeks is a very, very short time. I had expected to be able to jump back into the same roles and responsibilities again and I too high of expectations...I needed to take it a little slower.

When I was getting ready to return here, I, once again, made the mistake of thinking that I would be coming back to the same thing I had left... When I returned, the same people were here, but the people were not the same. Things had happened while I had been gone, missions had been run and we, as a Task Force, had been successful in some areas and failed in others. I expected people to once again reach out to me for the information they had before, I expected people to reach out to me as a source for things they had needed before I left and that didn't happen...not right away and still is a bit different than before I left.

The biggest hurdle to all of getting over the ego of oneself and the thinking that everything will only change because YOU change it. People change, perceptions change, experiences are had, views change and people's reliance on others changes...and you just have to deal with it. You have to deal with it, because at the end of the day a saying that my mother and father taught me at a very young age is true. "The worst news in life is, you're not that important. The best news in life is, you're not that important." This saying has guided me through many times in my life. The only thing I would add is that the best news in life, is that you are important to someone...even if you don't know who that someone is just yet.


Saturday, March 19, 2011

Wise Words

At this point in the deployment, this is exactly what both Jake and I needed to hear...

"Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt have crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day; begin it well and serenely and with
too high a spirit to be cumbered with your old nonsense."

~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Wednesday, March 9, 2011


On my most recent trip east of Bagram to an undisclosed location (good attempt at mystery, huh?!) I was fulfilling my new responsibility as personal security officer for our brigade's Deputy Commanding Officer, a "full-bird" colonel. Basically, it means that I am to be attached to his hip and ensure his safety where ever we also has a different, 5 lettered title associated with it that my adult friends can probably figure out!

With the duty does come some perks...mainly getting off post every once in a while and getting to be involved in different things. One of the recent things we were involved in was giving away some bikes to school kids at an all boys school just outside one of the main firebases in the province we went to. It was pretty neat to see the brand-new bikes sitting outside the school waiting for the kids to come out and be presented them.

Well, during the waiting, the COL decided he needed a little air and came out to where I was and where the battalion commander's (one of the people the COL was "visiting") PSO (personal security officer) was. There were a few kids and adults gathered around (we had a female Air Force medic- who, I must say, held her own with all the males that were gathered around) talking and interacting with us. One kid, couldn't have been more than 13 or so, had a bike covered in bright green transparent tape. The COL got the idea (he might have been dared) to ride the bike and wave at the other people on the mission while doing so...I.T. W.A.S. H.I.L.A.R.I.O.U.S!!!! Here was a full-bird COL, in his mid-forties, riding a bicycle that looked like it could fall apart at any moment waiving to the Lieutenant Colonel that was the battalion commander standing on the front steps of the boys school! The boys and men that were gathered around us loved it, they started clapping and cheering when he took off on the bike!

Now, the funniest part, at least for me, was when the COL got off the he was swinging his leg over the back of the bike he hit the flag that was on a little wooden pole attached to the back frame of the bike...and snapped it clean off! The kids face was priceless and needed no translation - it was literally the, "What the F" face! The COL, of course, felt terrible, so he reached into his pocket and gave the kid a few dollars. That little gesture by someone of his age and elevated position meant the world to this young man. His face brightened up, he had a little more pep in his step and carried himself a bit differently.

That experience is one that can only be had in a combat are fully dressed, battle ready soldiers riding around on a kid's bike in a walled off boys school compound - UNBELIEVABLE!!

It was a great experience and hopefully, one day, I can share it in full with my son and he will appreciate what it is that his mother and I have done to provide for and protect him.


Back in the saddle...

Well, again, it has been a while since I posted! A lot has happened since the last posting, so in the interest of keeping everyones attention I am going to break down a few things over a few different posts.

Today's post is going to focus on surviving R&R leave and coming back. As all of you know I traveled home for R&R starting the 27th of January. After several "show up and wait" calls, we finally left Bagram in the very early hours of January 28th. From there I traveled through Kuwait and finally ended up in Atlanta. When I got to Atlanta on the 30th, I had a bit of a lay over. In the interest of not putting all the information about what we do and where we go between Afghanistan and US soil, if you have questions, you can always ask me over a bottle or big glass of beer! :)

Once I got into Atlanta, however, I had quite a layover. Well, I had packed for such an occasion and was able to clean my self up appropriately - fresh uniform, socks, t-shirt, shave and brush my teeth...I almost felt human again!! Anyway, the flight from Atlanta to Moline was packed, but not terrible. I had the fortunate instance of sitting next to a man that had wrestled at University of Iowa around the same time I was there competing in Tae Kwon we had a little bit of a common background to start a conversation and talked about family, being in the military, his civilian career, etc. It was nice.

Once we got into Moline, many of you have seen the pictures from my wonderful wife's was awesome from mine as well! As soon as I got off the plane I made a bee-line for a side area where I could put my computer back into my carry-on bag and walked as fast as I could towards the hallway that leads to the main welcoming area...I had been on missions that had produced less butterflies in my stomach than that walk! As soon as I cleared the corner leading to the hallway where the welcoming area was, I saw everyone standing there...and my wife holding my son (who really wanted to get down and play with his balloons!). When I saw them, I started running down the hallway...before anyone saw me! When I was a little ways away, Em finally got Asher lined up with me and we saw each other...and it was a.w.e.s.o.m.e. The feeling knowing that my family was right there was amazing and lifted so many burdens from my shoulders in that split instance...and even though my little man had grown so big, he felt light as a feather as I picked him up.

The rest of the two weeks was amazing, as has been chronicled by Em (and there will be more posts extolling the adventures of leave!) so well. It is amazing what just a little bit of a break can do to restore your mind, body, spirit and faith.

Since returning I have been busy...been on mission, been trying to get back into the groove of what had happened and what was happening, getting my head "back in the game".

One of the strangest things about being deployed is the concept of time and reality. What I mean is that when you deploy, you are so focused on what you are doing, what the next day holds and what needs to happen right now that you loose some focus on what is going on back in the "real" world. There is a trap that many people fall into - it is the trap thinking that when we leave our lives stop and everyone in our life stops as well...the reality is that no matter what (and this is a phrase I have said to Emily - and many soldiers going through a rough patch - many times) you do or what happens, you can never stop time. The sun rises and sets regardless of where you are and regardless of what you are doing...

When I returned home, things felt a little bit the same, but were very different. My son was bigger, my doggy had white whiskers under her chin, my wife was much more independent...things were very different. My son didn't want/need me to do anything for the few days - he needed his momma. Sadie returned to my arms quickly, but she was a little unsure why I had been gone for so long. Em ran the house - her word was law and that's what needed to happen, because that is how it had been since I had left.

Now, don't get me wrong, within a few days, things felt very much normal and back to the "proper order of things"...daddy helped little man with breakfast, Em and I got to relax and just enjoy each other's company...and I got to enjoy the fruits of my wife's labor of re-filling my refrigerator in my Man Cave!! All in all, the two weeks I spent at home were exactly what I needed and when I needed it.

Returning here, in the same way, I had expected to be able to roll right back into the same roles I had played when I left. That was not to be - at least not right away. Before I had left, I was the go to man for a lot of things that needed to be done from different people. Well, like with home, when I left other people got tagged with getting the jobs done. They did a great job and I had expected no less, but when you return and go to do something that you had normally taken care of only to find out it was already done, it makes you feel a little different...especially when the task is completed, but not completed the same way you would have done it (wink, wink Babe!! :) ).

Coming back from leave has been interesting...there have been some things that have happened that I am not happy about, things that make me excited and then other things that hang in the future that should be pretty interesting. Regardless of what happens in the near future, I have the light at the end of the tunnel starting to shine and I am back in the saddle...ready to finish this ride.


Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Flat Daddy Does Fat Tuesday

Tonight Asher and I went to a Mardi Gras Fat Tuesday potluck at church. However, it is a rainy night in Iowa tonight, so Flat Jake had to stay home. He does have some rain gear (a clear plastic garbage bag), but I just didn't want to risk him getting wet...therefore, he remained at home.

Still, we made sure he could join in the fun. Asher let Flat Daddy borrow his beads & mask for a few minutes, just so he wouldn't feel left out of the fun.

Doesn't he look festive?!


Saturday, March 5, 2011

Flat Daddy Love

Asher's been very "into" Flat Daddy lately. The other morning he wanted Flat Daddy so I asked "Would you like him to eat breakfast with you?" Asher replied, "No, I want Flat Daddy to watch me." So, he did.

Yesterday morning he was carrying Flat Daddy around and wanting to play with him. This is precisely one of the perfect things Flat Daddy was created for, however, with a rough and tumble 3 year old boy and a precariously thin cardboard neck on Flat Daddy, I do tend to be a little overprotective...

This morning we got a few minutes of Skype time with Jake. Asher's face just lit up when he saw his Daddy on the computer screen. We were about to set it up so that Asher could talk to Jake while he ate his breakfast...Asher even stuck his bare feet on the table and Jake pretended he could smell his "stinky feet" all the way in Afghanistan. And then....he had to go quickly and all the fun was over.

After that, Asher had his breakfast and wanted to play with Flat Daddy again. He picked up the cardboard cut out (which is about as big as him) and said, "Flat Daddy's gonna fly like a Blue Angel!" and proceeded to carry him around the living room as if he were flying like a jet. There were also copious amounts of smoochy sounding kisses from Asher to his Flat Daddy. He also ensured that Flat Daddy got a kiss from me, too. Asher also made note of something very typical of his real Daddy that Flat Daddy also has....rosy cheeks. He said, "Flat Daddy has rosy cheeks. We need to clean him." I tried to explain that Flat Daddy is NOT very good at taking baths or going he needs to leave those fun things for Asher to do by himself.

Later, Asher climbed onto my lap and told me, "I love snuggling." So we snuggled for awhile. Then he told me, "I want to lay with my Flat Daddy." So he did.

Look how his precious little hands are resting right over his Daddy's heart! I love this little one!


Thursday, March 3, 2011

Dessert (Non)Disaster!

Third times a charm, folks!

Check out THIS dessert (non)disaster! Looks pretty fabulous & delicious, doesn't it?

It's a banana sour cream cake.

I'm hostessing bible study again tonight...and as you may remember my two previous dessert disasters?

Well, tonight I'm serving a (non)disaster dessert!

Won't they all be so surprised?!

...when they find out my fantastic mother made it for me?!

Thanks, Mom, for always being "practically perfect in every way" and for always being there for me whenever I need you! Aaaaand....the cake was a HIT! They gave mad kudos to the baker extraordinaire!

See...even Flat Jake was pleased!