For our records, I threw together a few highlights from 2010 – a year with lots of travel, major changes, plenty of headaches, and loads of joy. Some of the best things like our usual walks and hikes, reading and daily meals together and other routine pleasures don’t make the list, but they were there in every month. Some non-best things like working hard all the time aren’t in there either. Who wants to remember that?
- Our first anniversary rolls around. We celebrate at a small French restaurant with authentically unhelpful and pretentious staff, but good food.
- Rumors circulate about the next posting. El Paso? Germany? Fort Hood? Somewhere in the south?
- My laptop gives up the ghost, and takes five years of photos with it to the grave. Lesson learned: back up your data.
- We spend a week in a cabin in the Colorado mountains, the same ranch we spent our honeymoon at: cross-country and downhill skiing, tubing, swimming, hiking, reading by the fire, walks, and snowmobiling.
- Carl’s little sisters fly down for their first weekend visit sans parents. We spend two nights at a cabin in the Texas hill country, hike, play charades, and introduce them to Mexican food, San Antonio style.
- Unofficial confirmation for our next posting arrives, and we wait on official orders to come through so we can begin the PCS process. We start making calculations, looking at real estate books, and cruising MLS listings.
- My parents visit, and we talk lots of real estate. They know a lot about houses and have made a lot of wise buying and selling choices. We need all the advice we can get for our first house.
- We see most of my Dad’s side of the family at an annual weekend business meeting in New York city. I eat the best steak of my life.
- Our orders finally arrive. After endless late nights and early mornings of online preparation we take a whirlwind five day trip to find a home. Scary neighborhoods, overpriced gated communities, musty houses with dead roaches, murderous dogs, a long evening in a ghetto clinic so we can get an antibiotics prescription, lots of stress, lots of excitement and anticipation, tall trees, and finally a home and neighborhood we love in the price range we want. We fly home exhausted but under contract.
- Preparation for moving while finishing up house details. Just because the Army moves your belongings doesn’t mean it’s not a lot of work. Arranging car shipments, belongings evaluations, preparing mail and utilities transfers, home inspections, re-negotiations, and repairs on the new home, calculations, contractors, hardwood flooring research. Chaos mixed with anticipation.
- Our habitually insane jobs kick up a notch as we train replacements and wrap up projects and details.
- Endless last-minute tasks. Goodbyes. I finish work in early June, ship off one car, and supervise the Army movers while they pack and load our belongings. We sleep on the floor for a week.
- Carl graduates from Fellowship and gets promoted – two big career leaps.
- Trip to see Carl’s family before they leave for Germany, plus a day with mine.
- Carl finishes his last day of work. We pack the car, and leave Texas on a roadtrip across the South to our new home. San Antonio to Louisiana the first day, with one massive thunderstorm. Overnight in New Orleans. Accidental introduction to Bourbon Street – no wonder the Taliban thinks we’re morally depraved heathen. Cafe au Lait and beignet for breakfast, then back on the road to my grandparents’ house. Call our contractor and find out he’s still working on the wood floors. Stay an extra night with my grandparents and enjoy being fed, catching up, and swimming and boating on the lake. Leave for our new home, arrive by midday. The next morning the air conditioner starts emitting explosions and puffs of smoke. Welcome to home ownership.
- We clean the house top to bottom, every corner, nook, and cranny – scrubbing walls, removing drawers, re-lining shelves, and applying liberal doses of bleach. The movers finally bring our belongings! Clean shirts! The next few days are a flurry of unpacking.
- We enjoy one last long-weekend trip before Carl starts work by hiking in a couple of state parks and swimming in a river and a perfect mountain lake. Laziness and reading in the sun after several months’ craziness and stress.
- Carl starts work, while I take a summer-long leave of absence from work to get us settled in the new house. It’s my first summer of no school or official work since kindergarten.
- My brother and sister-in-law stop by during a pre-move roadtrip of their own.
- We try to explore something new every weekend – state parks, Army MWR facilities, neighborhoods around town, a rock-climbing gym. We take many long walks around our neighborhood and fall head over heels in love with it and our new home.
- The visitors keep streaming in. Family friends stop by for lunch on a road trip of their own.
- We continue hunting (unsuccessfully) for a new church home. The options range from Catholic churches with “It’s a Small World After All” type music, to an Episcopal church with a beautiful liturgy but heretical preaching, to a country clubby Presbyterian church, and many others. Who knew finding a good church (let alone two) in the Bible Belt would be so difficult?
- I start back up with work. Same government consulting/contracting firm, new role working from home instead of an office.
- Carl’s Mom visits and we have a wonderful time with her. It’s great having a home where it’s easy to host family and friends, and a privilege to have such great people in our lives.
- We learn that Carl will deploy soon, though we don’t have dates. The weather starts to cool, and we blink and try to remember what this season called “fall” is.
- My parents visit at the end of the month and we start talking do-it-yourself home repair projects with Dad.
- Another family visit! Carl’s Dad comes back to the States for a conference and swings down our way for a weekend.
- More deployment details arrive and the hectic prep process begins in earnest.
- We take a long-weekend camping trip to the mountains for some quiet one-on-one time together before deployment. It’s a perfect vacation and a great break from the stress – chilly nights in the tent, incredible fall colours, beautiful mountains, great hikes, lovely drives, hearty food by the campfire, glittering lakes, good reading, card games, and a stop in a major city on the way home for pastries and an art museum visit.
- Carl leaves on Halloween for the first part of pre-deployment training. I spend the evening after I drop him off at the airport at a church picnic. We’ve received the gift of a new church family and community of support, just in time.
- Carl is gone for a week. Carl comes home for a week. The hardest part of preparation isn’t the actual departure date, but the leaving/returning/leaving/returning/leaving process. We collect gear, stay up very (very) late packing, and almost land in the E.R. with a last minute medical issue. Carl leaves for the second round of training at O Dark Thirty the next morning.
- Carl shoots, dons chemical gear, practices crawling out of flipped vehicles, and completes paperwork. I catch up on work.
- Thanksgiving. One thing Army life teaches: holidays are what we make of them. We’re learning not to place a huge emphasis on any one day rather than a season because nothing’s predictable. We can make ourselves miserable over a “different” holiday, or we can milk it for all the joy its worth. We’ve had exactly one semi-normal holiday: when we were engaged, we spent Thanksgiving apart. Carl had to work that Christmas and I didn’t want him to be alone on the holiday, so I stayed in Texas for Christmas that year rather than going to my parents. We still had a joyful holiday between our two apartments, and then got to fly out and celebrate as usual with our families when he finished his work week. The next year Carl had to work on Thanksgiving again. He arrived home exhausted from a sleepless day and night in the ICU at 5:00 in the morning. We were too tired to do more than sleep, talk, and roast a turkey that afternoon. Not a typical Thanksgiving or the big family gathering either of us is used to, but actually one of the most peaceful and enjoyable holidays we’ve ever had. No craziness, no drama, and lots of (sleepy) thankfulness. That year (last Christmas) we were able to spend Christmas week with family. This year Carl couldn’t leave the training area radius so I flew out to him. We ate Thanksgiving in an Army mess tent and had a great time despite mediocre food. We spent the weekend in a typical highway exit hotel and had an amazing, relaxed, and cozy weekend going for walks in a historic southern town, eating, reading, seeing movies, hiking, and talking. I hugged him goodbye and flew home. He deployed before the month ended.
- Carl has an exhausting time of it in transit. More hurry up and wait, more unpredictable times. They fly overseas, are trapped by a snowstorm, and spend several days in a filthy smelly bunk-lined warehouse with bright lights on 24-7. They finally have a plane, pilots, and clear skies and fly to another location where they stop over and camp in an arctic snow-covered tents. Eventually he dons armor and flies to Afghanistan. Carl pulls guard duty in a sandstorm on his first day in-country. They finally travel to their end location, and after yet another dusty tent he finally moves into his quarters and is delighted at the lack of sand settling on every surface.
- I spend a few days working and getting our home and yard back in shape, then travel for a week on business in the Washington D.C. area. I go home for a few more days, then drive up to my parents’ place for Christmas and New Years. My brothers, sister-in-law, parents, and grandparents make for a full and noisy house. I keep working since I don’t have much leave accrued, but enjoy being back in the snowy north.
- Christmas is joyful in its own way (repeat “flexible Army family, flexible Army family” to self as often as necessary). Carl gets a good Christmas barbecue and dinner, celebrates with colleagues, and attends midnight Mass in a tent. I go to the candlelight Christmas Eve service at my parents’ church, and we eat Christmas feasts of our own. Carl and I open gifts together by Skype. Another “unusual” Army holiday married to the best man in the world. We are blessed.