Fast Forward

deploymentHard to believe that it’s almost Thanksgiving! The year seems to have flown by . . .

Tony was promoted to Sergeant while he was over in Iraq and, just a few short weeks ago, he passed his promotion boards for Staff Sergeant. He has to do some continuing education points before he gets his new rank pinned, but I’m proud of him anyway. He was dreading this board because he felt he hadn’t studied enough. He also went through Warrior Leadership Course within a couple of months of coming home from Iraq. For the past year, his battalion has been spending time out on the training ranges. Sometimes he’s gone for a couple of days, sometimes a couple of weeks – but usually he can come home for the weekend. For the past month, he’s been out at JRTC-Fort Polk, LA. How ironic is that? He spent two years there and swore he’d never go back because he didn’t like the post. We shared a few rueful laughs about this training before I sent him off. This stint at JRTC is for an upcoming deployment.

Afghanistan.

The one word that can make me physically sick to my stomach when I think about sending my husband there.

His multi-cam uniforms and matching equipment are in the extra bedroom. New boots. I can’t stand to look at any of it.

I know it’s irrational. I know this dreaded deployment was a possibility when I married him. I was secretly relieved and happy when his last deployment was only to Iraq.

But this is my husband. And that is Afghanistan.

I’ll suck it up and be the brave Army wife. I’ll be outwardly calm. I won’t watch any news programs. I’ll pray every night for him to come home to me, as well as for our guys throughout that country to come home safely to their families. I’ll try to not puke if my doorbell unexpectedly rings between the hours of 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. I’ll try to not run to the kitchen window and look out at the front yard if I hear a car stop on our end of the block.

I’ll try.

This will be the longest deployment of my life.

Retreats at the Beach

We’ve been to two Strong Bonds marriage retreats in Hilton Head, SC that were sponsored by our brigade. The hotels were nice – can’t beat ocean-front rooms! The classes were good, and we had a lot of free time, which was even better. Still, I felt like we were on vacation and not putting to use what we’d learned.

When we had a weekend off with nice weather, I decided we needed to hit the beach on our own. Off to Jekyll Island we went, and when we got to the state park, we set the rules based on what we learned in our retreats. Then we walked on the beach for a few miles. I think this was probably the most productive, heart-felt talk we’ve had since before we got married. We finished off the day with dinner at a restaurant right on the beach and the food was great.

The retreats are a good thing. Doing it ourselves was even better.Image

The Adventures of Maximus

Maximus in one of his calmer moments.

Maximus, aka The Little Prince, managed to give me a huge scare yesterday. Seems that I should change his name to “Greased Lightning” or something along those lines. Max is a 15-month old Tabby who seems to think that he’s not only fearless, he should be able to do whatever he wants, whenever he wants. . . well, at least until Mama Jeeks puts the kabosh on his acting up.

Apparently, while Tony was paying the pizza delivery man somewhere around 6pm yesterday, Maximus bolted out the front door unseen by Tony. The delivery guy didn’t say anything; after all, a lot of folks let their cats out, right? Can’t blame either one of them for Max’s boldness. Since I’ve been feeling sick (again!), I was doing what I do best when I’m ill: Sleeping. I woke up around 9pm, fed the cats, cleaned out the litter box, and flopped down on the couch in the attempt to do some homework for a degree that I truly don’t want – but that’s another story.

I guess it was about midnight that I noticed I was missing a cat. Jeeks had been prowling around the house, intermittently meowing and cocking her head as if listening for a response. I figured Max was asleep in one of his favorite hiding places. Jeeks wanted to play, Max wanted to sleep, so he didn’t meow back at her. When Jeeks kept prowling, I started following her trying to find her adopted kitten. CocoaLoco didn’t care much. She kept at her post next to my feet and ignored the increasingly nervous Tortie searching for her baby. When I got up, CocoaLoco went to her cat bed with a look of disgust on her face – I’m sure she didn’t miss Max at all since he likes to torment her.

By 2am, I’m about frantic. I’m outside on the front porch calling Max as loudly as I dared and trying to not wake up the neighbors. Nothing. I shake the treats bag. Nothing. Bare feet and all, I trot down the stone steps and go to the sidewalk, calling for him again with intermittent shakes of the treats bag.

Nothing.

Since it’s below freezing, I go back into the house to thaw out. I searched the house again, too. Every place I could possibly think of that a cat might hide in for some undisturbed sleep.

No Maximus.

By 5am, I’ve called, searched, walked the front of the house, checked the garage, and worked myself up into tears that I couldn’t find him. I also chastised myself for not realizing earlier in the evening that he was missing. He didn’t come racing like a galloping horse to the food bowl when I refilled them. That should’ve been my first clue that something wasn’t right. I tried laying down, thinking that as soon as it got light out, I’d go looking for him. He’s just a little cat…and it’s a very cold night….and he’s never been outside.

The Girls and Max are rescue cats. I adopted Jeeks back in 2004 from a group in Keller, TX. CocoaLoco got dropped off on my doorstep when I lived in Irving, TX. I told the maintenance guy in my then-apartment complex to bring the abandoned, half-starved, totally-frozen Meezer over to my place and I’d foster her. Well, I kept her. Maximus was given to me by a friend who no longer lives her on Fort Stewart. I got him when he was only about 2 months old, maybe 3 months. After spending a couple of days hissing at him, Jeeks decided to adopt the little ball of grey, black, and sprinkled brown fur that I called Maximus. Luckily, I spent the next year saying, “Max! Max! MAXIMUS! Stop that!” so he got accustomed to his name. My cats don’t go outside. Jeeks and Max will go out on the wooden balcony we have here. CocoaLoco has absolutely no desire to be out of the warm and comfy confines of this place….well, except when the downstairs was on fire and our place was filled with smoke….then she bolted right out the front door and never looked back. Luckily, I found her and was able to calm her down to get her home. She’s not a very trusting cat and when remembering how I found her, and the circumstances of how I managed to get her, I can’t blame her.

So, after waking Tony up with my crying, I told him Max was missing. Tony’s never had pets and he can’t understand my attachment to my cats. He thinks I joke when I say they’re my children, but I’m serious. Losing Max, and my not picking up on it hours before, was extremely upsetting to me. He said he never saw Max go out the front door and I believe that. Max can haul kitty-ass when he wants to, and our front porch light is out. Given that Max is mostly black and gray, he had the perfect camouflage to escape for a little adventure that he probably didn’t figure would last as long as it did…or be as cold as it was.

Unable to stop crying and deciding I wasn’t going to sleep until I found The Little Prince, I opened a window that looked into the backyard of the downstairs apartment. Calling out for Max again, I listened and then went to lay on the couch. It would be light soon, I’d go find him then. After a couple of minutes, I heard a distinct howling meow that I’ve only heard come from Max. That’s his “I’m lost, Mama! Come find me!” mehowl that he developed shortly after coming home with me and not being able to find his way around the apartment. When he’d mehowl, Jeeks would go find him and shepherd him to where ever she wanted him to go so that she could keep an eye on him or resume her nap. Racing to the window, I called his name a few more times. Each “MAX!” was met with his meow, and the occasional mehowl.

I ran into the bedroom, tossed on whatever clothes I could find (figuring it was in poor taste to go wandering the backyard in my PJs), and some shoes….and oh yeah, a coat. Hoping that I wouldn’t fall and break an ankle or leg, and that the neighbors wouldn’t think I was a prowler and call the MPs on me (nope, I didn’t grab my ID before racing out of the house), I went around back. The closer I got to him, the more he meowed before I finally located him. He had taken refuge 2 doors down on their patio under their grill cover. He was being stared down by that family’s cat, who was at their back door looking intently at the intruder on that cat’s property. Quietly opening the gate, I called for Max again and he came running. Scooping him up, I closed the gate and high-tailed it back for the front of the building before someone mistook me for a burglar and shot me.

Once inside, Max immediately demanded to be put down so that he could investigate the house and make sure nothing had changed while he was gone. Jeeks followed him around, squawking (yes, she does squawk) at him. I’m sure the conversation went something like this: “Where the hell were you? Don’t you know you had me and Chief Mama worried? We looked all over for you! You’re grounded!!” He then proceeded to scarf down almost a bowl’s worth of food, suck down half a bowl of water, and hit the litter box before deciding he’d had a long night and it was time to sleep. His favorite place to sleep is on Tony – his back, his feet, next to him if he can’t lay on him. But since he’d put me through the wringer, he curled up with me for a little bit. I vaguely remember him walking over me and settling down on Tony’s side of the bed.

Last night’s adventures have been forgotten by The Little Prince. He sat impatiently at the back door wanting me to open it so he could romp on the balcony. I told him no, that Mama Jeeks had grounded him and that was that. He spent most of the day tormenting Jeeks and CocoaLoco. As I write this, he and Jeeks are curled up on the couch. Max has her in a loose headlock, with his head resting on hers. Where’s the camera when you need it?

Let’s hope that this is the first and last installment of “The Adventures of Maximus”. My nerves can’t take another jail-break on his part.

The State of the Union

Reintegration training done. Check.

Block leave…what a nightmare! Check!

Back to work for Tony. Check.

Tony has his own car (and that weight off of his shoulders). Check!

Tony had a couple of days off after returning from Iraq and then did about 2 weeks of reintegration training. Half-days, pretty easy stuff, easing back into a routine for work. Then came block leave, and we spent 3 weeks of it dealing with the aftermath of the downstairs apartment fire that affected our apartment. I could write a whole blog post about that alone (and I probably will). Needless to say, we lived in a hotel for 3 weeks; the cats stayed with the Gonyeas the entire time (I’ve not forgotten about vacuuming your rug!). We were miserable…the cats seemed to not mind the new digs, although towards the end, Jeeks was getting pretty feisty and scratching at the closed door quite a bit. We have to unpack everything – it’s like moving in all over again, only with 3 times the amount of boxes. Honestly, one box held just one pair of gloves. REALLY!?!

But I digress….

We did a whole lot of nothing on block leave and that was ok, too. Tony is rolling around post in his 2007 Toyota Camry and I no longer have to wake up at 0445 to get him to work. The traffic to the new Brigade complex is pretty hellacious, but I knew that’d be coming. Only two ways into the complex and about 3,000 soldiers who’ll be working there, although some do live in the complex (the single soldiers barracks).

My whole routine is jacked up. I’ve gone back to nights as of 2 weeks ago. When I’m off, I try to nap and be up most of the day for Tony so he doesn’t feel like the only time he sees his wife is when she’s snoring next to him while he’s watching TV or playing on the xbox. So my sleep schedule is messed up, and my housekeeping routine is non-existent. I can’t stand looking at those boxes, but my head hurts at the thought of unpacking them. A vicious cycle, no doubt.

Either today or tomorrow AM, Tony leaves for Warrior Leadership Course. I know he’ll kick ass in the course even though he’s nervous about it. When he puts his mind to something, he easily beats it, and he’ll put his mind to passing this course. He’s still a bit of a pessimist in that he thinks he won’t do as well as I know he’ll do. I’m gonna spend the next couple of weeks getting back into a routine. Cleaning the house (and unpacking those damned boxes!) on my days off a la the FlyLady way (www.flylady.net for those of you who are curious). I have to figure out how to strip the yellowed wax off of my kitchen floor. The linoleum was fine until the fire…grrrrrrr. I want to reorganize the closets since we have everything we own on hangers thanks to the textile restoration folks (or in ….. wait for it ….. BOXES!). His old uniforms will go in the guest room closet as soon as I fix the broken hanging rod. Gotta love Mighty Puty!

I think we’re stronger as a couple now that he’s home than we were when he was deployed. Considering we were only together for about 6 months before he left for Iraq, feeling stronger together definitely sets my mind at ease. He often said that I’d not “like the man (he’s) become” and I’ve repeatedly told him since he’s been home that he was wrong. He’s much more confident, more decisive, takes things more in stride and less in crisis mode reactions, and leaves “SGT Goodwin” at work. I love having my husband back!!

The state of our union: Stronger than ever! Love you, Goodwin! Now kick ass at WLC! ~blows kisses~

HE’S HOME!

So there we were, out on Cottrell Field….

Brandy and I got there a little after midnight since the 0515 ceremony was moved up to 0110. We met up with our awesome FRG co-leader, Caryn Shay, and we put up our signs. The time dragged like you could not believe. FINALLY, we were told that the buses were about 10 minutes away from post, and we ran out to the median just outside of the field on Gulick Ave. Yes, we waved, screamed, clapped, and took pictures as the buses carrying our soldiers rolled past. Then we ran back to the field, impatient for them to disembark and get into formation.

Time

Moved

So

Slowly!

When the first soldiers stepped onto the field, I burst into tears, alternately laughing and crying. Did I put on makeup? A little, but my mascara wasn’t waterproof. Did I remember tissues? Absolutely not. Did I remember my camera? Hell no. 😦 Was the sight of them coming through those trees one I’ll never forget? You bet your a$$ I’ll never forget it! While I couldn’t find Tony in the formation ’cause it was dark, I still held up my little sign and jumped up and down, cheering as loudly as I could while they marched onto the grass. Thankfully, the welcome home speech was short and they were dismissed. I stayed put, ’cause Tony had told me to not run onto the field or he’d not find me.

Well, he didn’t find me anyway! ~LOL~ He forgot my hair was now blonde, I hadn’t realized how much more weight he’d lost. He walked past me at least twice before I shouted, “Oh my God!! TONY!!! TONY!!!!” and waved my sign. Brandy and Caryn had to yell at him ’cause he couldn’t hear me over the din of the rest of the happy crowd. I know, some of you find that hard to believe, but I think I was too choked up to be my usually loud self. Thanks, ladies, for corralling my husband!

He was ready to go as soon as he found me. We got the obligatory hug pic, but he was chomping at the bit to get his gear and get home. Once he got his bags, we piled into the truck and went home. I think he was asleep before his head hit the pillow and I was still fretting about the floors not being mopped. So much for the welcome home romance! ~LOL~ I knew he’d be tired from the traveling – he hates the flights to and from Iraq.

Now we see if we can work through some of our just-below-the-surface issues from our huge blowout in November, or if we go to counseling.

Still, he’s home, and that’s all that matters to me right now.

The “must-have” welcome home pic!