Deployment Homecoming

Happy Halloween! Today was bananas at school. (Friday + a dance + kids in costumes + Halloween = oh my!) Somehow I kept my sanity, and managed to string together a few coherent thoughts about all that I’ve been wanting to share in regards to Stephen’s homecoming. That’s what you’re getting today, a big ol’ deployment dump. Doesn’t that sound lovely?

Before homecoming

For MONTHS Stephen had a certain date that he had been tracking would be the day he’d leave Afghanistan. Somewhere around a month out the date started getting kicked around. Sooner! Later! Way later! The original date! Sooner! Later! Ack! It was giving me heartburn and stress and anxiety (especially since a few days difference meant he’d either be here for my 30th birthday or not). In the end, he left Afghanistan 3 days after the original date; it was accurate after all!

The question mark was a type-o. LOL!

The question mark was a type-o. LOL!

As he stated in his post, the first stop was Romania. Once he got there, I knew the countdown for me was on. All the things that I had been putting off that were time sensitive (getting my hair done, waxing, picking up the dog poop out of the yard, grocery shopping), went into hyper drive. In the midst of running around, I was also worried about how we’d be in touch. I knew that the FRG would e-mail (and call and text) when he was in route, but I was fixated on not knowing exactly how his arrival would coincide with my work schedule. There were a few days of me really stewing. The apex of craziness was when I got a flat tire on the highway two days before he was due home. Sigh. Thankfully, some very kind people helped me, but there were definitely ugly, ugly tears.

Our car affectionately known as the Gold Nugget about to get towed.

Our car affectionately known as the Gold Nugget about to get towed.

Homecoming

Stephen was on track to arrive on a Monday. Very early that morning he left Romania and was en route! Meanwhile, I decided to work a half day. I considered taking the entire day off, but I kept thinking about his return from Afghanistan after his last deployment (I literally walked in circles all morning) and knew the distraction would be good for me. Plus, it was a crazy week at school and I had a ton to do, of course.

Stephen was able to call me from Maine and we spoke briefly. It was still early in the school day here (the start of 2nd period). Hearing him got me excited and also really freaked me out- I was worried that he’d arrive earlier than I expected. I ended up using flight tracker to watch him travel from Maine to Texas. That calmed me down a lot!

When my substitute showed up after 4th period, I bolted. I had to go to Discount Tire to swap cars. (The car with the flat had gotten fixed while I was at work thanks to the help of some friends, and that was the car that I wanted to pick him up in.) From there, I headed back home for a quick lunch and lots of primping.

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I had plenty of time even though Flight Tracker indicated that he was due to land early. I pulled up to the ADAG about an hour early. It wasn’t a huge group since it was only 1 company arriving, but the energy was buzzing. I went to the bathroom 3 times. I was anxious! The FRG leader suddenly ushered all of us outside – the plane was fixing to arrive. We stood in the El Paso sunshine and watched the sky waiting for the plane to appear. Eventually it wooshed into view but then took forever to taxi, and even longer for them to deplane. Eventually a line of green-clad soldiers began to stream by. I saw Stephen immediately, but he didn’t see me. I’m a shorty and a few people were in front of me. Even with my sign and screaming his name, his eyes passed over me without recognition. I scurried back inside the building. The soldiers were routed into a different room, but I knew that once they were all off the plane, it wouldn’t be long until they marched in. I wanted to stake my claim on a good spot, which I managed to do.

Less than an hour later, the music blared and the fog fogged as the guys marched in. Stephen was easy to spot, and I had my eyes on him immediately. Being the good soldier that he is, he kept his eyes straight forward and didn’t see me. Someone spoke briefly and the men were at last released.

I shouted Stephen’s name and held my sign up while charging toward him. He didn’t realize I was there until I was practically on top of him and we had the longest, sweetest hug ever. We snapped a few pictures and then headed outside to get his bags. Unfortunately, it ended up being a two hour wait. There were also some National Guard soldiers from another state on the plane with them, and for some reason, all of their bags got unloaded first. Only to be immediately reloaded. Meanwhile, the sun was setting and we were getting antsy. Eventually his bags materialized. The long day was over!

It's dark and blurry, but I love this shot of Geronimo greeting Stephen after 9 months apart!

It’s dark and blurry, but I love this shot of Geronimo greeting Stephen after 9 months apart!

After homecoming

I’m hesitant to say too much because he hasn’t even been home for two weeks, but it has been better than I had hoped so far. I wouldn’t say we’ve fallen back into our old rhythm. It’s more like, we are rebuilding our family, finding a new routine. I’m sleeping better and eating worse. Haha! I guess that’s too be expected.

The biggest thing I’ve noticed is how last time felt so unsteady. It was almost like a dream. He came home, we went to Australia, we spent a few weeks together, he went back to Germany, I moved, we got orders to move to Fort Bliss. It was constant motion. Now, I feel like we are side by side, standing still. I get all mushy and doe-eyed when he does things like take out the trash. We tagteam taking care of the dog. He’s been a real sport about doing things I want to do (going to a school basketball game, trying yoga, watching my shows with me), and that means a lot.

Hopefully there is a lot of time ahead of us before we face any more major changes – my job is stable, we are set to stay in EP for a while, there are no field problems or deployments in the foreseeable future. This is it. This is our life now. Which is a good thing because I like it.

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I know that’s a lot, but I can’t wrap-up a post about the end of Stephen’s deployment without saying that my heart is with those whose loved ones are still deployed/preparing to deploy. In the midst of our everyday lives, it’s easy to feel far-removed. I don’t feel that way; I keep y’all in my prayers.

Geronimo is 8!

Today is Geronimo’s birthday.

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My little boy, who started out as a wiggle-bottomed ball of fluff, the boy who would cry because he couldn’t get on the couch, who was afraid of his own shadow, who couldn’t walk on a leash, is eight years old. He’s a senior dog now! How did that happen?

I can’t help but think of Eleven by Sandra Cisneros. She describes growing up as like rings in a tree or nesting dolls; that you are every age you’ve ever been all at once. That’s how Geronimo is when I look at him. He might be eight today, but to me he’s also the brave international traveler that he was at six, the ball of energy he was at three, the perfect snuggler he was at five, tripping over his feet at one, and everything in between.

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It feels like I only just welcomed him into my life, and it feels like he’s always been part of it.

In honor of the furry man of the hour, I’m sharing eight fond Geronimo memories:

1. His adoption story!

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2. That time we ran (literally) into a Civil War re-enactment.

3. Geronimo’s first time swimming:

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4. Being so afraid about moving him to Germany (I cried dropping him off at the airport), and then he thrived there!

5. Geronimo’s reaction to the death of Osama bin Laden:

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6. Quizzing Geronimo on how well he knows me.

7. Geronimo participating in a 4th of July parade in Lubbock. (We were representing Stephen’s work – Above and Beyond Pet Care Hospital – and Geronimo was so not feeling the doggles.)

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8.  The great many runs we’ve shared together.

Geronimo is a perfect companion. At times he is crazy/frustrating/infuriating/bananas, but he is also loving, sweet, hilarious, and adorable. We hit the jackpot with this kid.

gmo hug

Happy birthday, Geems! We love you!

Friday Five

Another week has come and gone. ‘Twas quite a week in the life of me. (You like that quality sentence there?) Let’s get to the goods. Five things on my mind at this very moment:

1. Shameless self-promotion: I wrote a post for the phenomenal website, A Practical Wedding.

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If you don’t already read APW, you should! It’s not just about weddings; a huge facet of the website is navigating relationships and reclaiming wife. The stuff on there is amazing, and I’m still in shock that words from my brain were good enough to be included among the other genius posts. (My post from Wednesday on this here blog was also one that I spent a lot of time on. Lots of good comments so far. Check it out and join the conversation!)

2. A new obsession: The Dumb Ways to Die song.

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They were talking about this on the radio earlier in the week, and I cannot stop listening to it. So catchy and strange and cute. For the record, my favorite is “Use your private parts as piranha bait.” (If that’s not intriguing enough to get someone to click a link, I don’t know what is.)

3. Romantic moment of the week: I found a journal Stephen kept on and off during the first year of our relationship.

ich liebe dich

Homecoming, fall of 2001.

I had a really rough night recently. The usual deployment stress (not hearing from Stephen + heightened emotions following this news). But then! Then I found this journal on our bookshelf. If you want to feel loved, read the words your spouse wrote after the first time you kissed. I just basked in his descriptions of me and the joy of young love. I’m not going to share anything he wrote (he’d use a drone to strike me down if I even attempted it), but tucked in the back of the journal was a note I’d written him on our two-year dating anniversary in 2003. Here’s a little quote, “Thank you for all that you’ve given me and all that you have taught me. Thank you for always being more than I asked for and more than I could need. Thank you for loving me and letting me love you.” <3  I also have to shout-out to 2003 Amy for using a semicolon twice in that letter.

4. Geronimo related story: I was rubbing Geroinmo’s tummy yesterday and noticed something weird.

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First I thought it was a tick. Do we even have ticks in El Paso? Well, I took a real close look and realized, it was not a tick. It was his nipple.

5. Shout out: Today is my friend Julie‘s birthday!

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I’ve gotten to know Julie over the course of the last year after reading each other’s blogs and both ending up at Fort Bliss. We regularly meet up to run together, do yoga, and indulge in our love of Starbucks. I consider her my battle buddy, and life in El Paso wouldn’t be nearly as fun without her here. (Never leave me!) Wishing you a very happy birthday, friend!

Now it’s time for me and J to get birthday mani/pedis! Enjoy the weekend, y’all!

Great Strides 2014

Great Strides 2014 was last week.

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Great Strides is the annual fundraising walk for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. I walk to honor my late brother-in-law, Ben, who lived his entire life with CF and died in February of 2013 as a result of the disease.

I first participated in 2011 when the walk happened to fall on the day after Ben’s double lung transplant! How’s that for serendipitous timing? Our team was teeny tiny that day, but I can almost guarantee you that we were the happiest people on the course.

Ben looking like his usual self only one week after his double lung transplant!

Ben looking like his usual self only one week after his double lung transplant!

The following year, Ben was able to participate and led our team with gusto! Last year, we had our largest team to date, but we were missing our most important member: Ben had died a few months before the walk.

There is no cure for Cystic Fibrosis. As it takes its toll on someone’s body, it gets to a point where their best option is a lung transplant, assuming they are lucky enough to get new lungs. The cruel irony is that only 50% of lung recipients make it to five years post-transplant. This is why I’m so passionate about Great Strides and the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. I feel like my participation is a way to do something for Ben and for the 70,000 people currently living with CF. The progress that has been made in treatments and life expectancy is awesome, but I’m praying for the day that there is a cure.

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This year our team raised $1,400. Not too bad considering there were only 11 of us. I personally raised $300. Thank you so much to those of you who donated! You were on my heart during the walk.

I think the timing of the walk wasn’t the greatest (there were so many events on that day), but honestly, I also think that for some people it’s easier to not think about it. I don’t begrudge anyone that; we all grieve in our own ways. For me, it helps to participate, but I respect that for others it might make them feel worse.

The walk itself was lovely. The course was moved this year from the semi-industrial looking Fair Park to lush Vitruvian Park in Addison. This was Geronimo’s first time participating, and he loved it! Our regular walks had him in good enough shape to make the 3 mile course no problem.

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Plus he got lots of compliments. Strangers wanted to take his picture and asked me what kind of dog he was. Geronimo got plenty of pets and hugs. We were even singled out by the DJ. As we walked by the stage, he said (into the microphone), “The next time you get your chow’s haircut, don’t take him to the zoo!” I responded by shouting back, “He’s not a chow!” I have no problem admitting that he looks ridiculous, but for the record, Geronimo is a red heel/Aussie shepherd/border collie mix. No chow in him.

G-mo and I walked at an easy pace with my mother-in-law for all 3 miles. I was really proud of her for not taking any shortcuts! We got the chance to catch-up, and the fact that we went slower than I would have normally gave me just that much more time to enjoy myself. Afterwards, I went out to lunch with my mom, her boyfriend, and my mother-in-law. We were all pooped from so much time spent in the humidity, so a little Tex-Mex and a lot of air conditioning made for the perfect end to the day.

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Another great year of fundraising has ended, and I’m already looking forward to Great Strides 2015!

(You can read more about Cystic Fibrosis here.)

(You can register to be an organ donor here.)

(You can donate to CFF here.)

Oh Dallas

Good morning, merry Monday, Happy June! How the heck are ya? Sorry for *poof* disappearing. I had every intention of writing a few posts ahead of time so that while I was out of town the blog wouldn’t be silent. Well, every intention if you don’t count the lazy and procrastinatory side of me. That side had zero intention.

I’ve just arrived home from 7 days in Dallas. (Side note: if you haven’t been to Dallas, do yourself a favor and go.)

Dallas livin'

Dallas livin’

I’ve had this trip on the books for a while because Great Strides, the annual Cystic Fibrosis Foundation fundraiser, was on the 31st, and I participate every year in honor of my late brother-in-law. (You can read about Ben here.) As it got closer, my best friend mentioned that she had a few days off work and suggested that I extend my trip. So I did. Have I mentioned how smart my BFF is? Best idea ever! I thought I was doing everyone else a favor by gracing them with my presence – modest much? – but this was really a treat for me. I had a chance to get out of the house, get out my element, surround myself with family, and catch my breath. Would you believe me if I told you that while I was there I didn’t check my deployment countdown every single day like I normally do? See, overdue for a vacation. And yes, I know I was just there back in March.

I plan to do a whole post about Great Strides 2014 (this was my fourth year participating!), but for now, I thought I’d just share a few of the highlights:

My big brother and his wife graciously let me crash with them for the entire week. They have a big comfy bed in their guest room with an attached bathroom. It’s a sweet set-up.

My furry nieces and nephew. Mollie (on the floor), Charlotte (the doxie), and Jack (with the white paws).

My furry nieces and nephew. Mollie (on the floor), Charlotte (the doxie), and Jack (with the white paws). So many cuddles!

Best of all, we got some way overdue bonding time in. The last night that I was there, we just talked for hours. It reminded me of when Mike was a senior in high school and I was a freshman. He and I spent a lot of time just talking that year, and we haven’t really been able to do it in the years since.

I ate like a queen!

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Of all the amazing things I ate, I only took one food picture, and it’s of salad. Hah! Well, don’t worry, I was knee-deep in the Dallas foodie scene the entire week. Eats included Whiskey Cake, Hopdoddy, Torchy’s Tacos, Neighborhood Services, Uncle Julio’s, Goodfriend, and a few home cooked meals, too.

I spent two days with best friend Mary Beth (BFMB?).

Bonding with Brooklyn, 4 months old!

Bonding with Brooklyn, 4 months old!

It was so fun seeing her girls again. Even though it’s only been 8 weeks, they’ve both changed so much! I didn’t snag any pictures of Whitley; she was moving too fast! MB and I got some quality grown-up girls time in, too. Any time we spent together is always too short, but I’ll take what I can get. I can’t help but think how wonderful my friends are to me during deployment. We spent a lot of time together during Stephen’s 2011-2012 extended Afghani vacation and they were there for his homecoming. They still manage to take care of me even though I live faraway.

I visited my absolute favorite morning radio station, Kidd Kraddick in the Morning.

Big Al, Kellie, J-Si, Jenna live in studio!

Big Al, Kellie, J-Si, Jenna live in studio!

I started listening to them regularly when I was in high school, kept listening all through college, I even listened while living in Germany via their app! I woke up early one morning to enjoy the show in person, and it was awesome. Awesome slash totally awkward. I was the only person there, just staring at them like a goof. Two of the cast members came out to talk to me and pet Geronimo. They even gave me some free swag! (So nice!) When Geronimo and I left, it was a whole ordeal that involved walking through mud and getting splashed by cars trying to find an ATM, so we could pay for the parking garage only to discover that parking was free despite the big red signs that said “CASH ONLY!” which made me think otherwise. True Amy fashion.

Finally feeling like I’m in a good headspace.

Near White Rock Lake

Near White Rock Lake

I can’t quite put my finger on it because I didn’t feel bad before. Now, though, I feel…lighter. I loved driving by the familiar skyline, being flooded with happy memories at each place I visited, getting quality time in with my mom and mother-in-law. The only way the trip could have been better is if Stephen was there.

I’ll forgive the humidity, the bugs, the traffic, and all the other flaws, and one of these days I’ll be back for good. I love Dallas!

Puppy Sitting! & A Doggie Diet

Meet Carter!

Carter!

She is 18 months old, 40 pounds, a lab mix, an endless ball of energy, and I got to spend the entire weekend playing with her!

Carter belongs to my pal Julie. When J mentioned that she had a lot of travel on deck this month, I offered my dog-loving services. If there’s one thing I can do, it’s dog sit.

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Carter is younger and smaller than Geronimo, but it’s no surprise to me that she is the boss. Geronimo is a baby in a big body and very submissive. (I think this is a trait he leached from me.) He let her take the lead on most everything. With her energy, she was happy to literally run circles around the house, around the yard, and around the park. Geronimo and I mostly sat back and watched.

Twice we went out for a run as a trio. They both did great, and we were all tired afterwards, which was the goal. The other big event was sitting in the yard. I pulled a chair up to our fire pit, propped my feet up, and read while they did whatever it is dogs do. In Carter’s case, that meant a little bit of rolling in the dirt. I guess a dirty dog is a happy dog.

Carter is very go-go-go, so I’m sure she thought all the lounging around that Geronimo and I did was boring, but we sure loved having her for a few days.

In other dog-related news, I took Geems to the vet this week to get an update on some of his meds. The number that flashed up on the screen as he stepped on the scale made my eyes bug out. He weighs  how much?! I’m embarrassed to admit it, but the doctor’s words were “borderline obese.” I’ll just be over here hanging my head in shame.

Not happy to be at the vet.

Not happy to be at the vet.

I know my dog is a big boy, but his body is buried under a lot of fur so it’s hard to gauge exactly how big he is. Plus, he is large all over: tall, long, huge brisket. That’s normal for him. That requires a big body to go with. But not this big.

The doctor’s concern is that at his age (he’ll be 8 in a few months) this weight puts a lot of strain on his body. He’s running the risk of major hip problems. We cannot have that! I value Geronimo’s health more than my own. I would step into traffic for him without hesitation. I would fight off ninjas on his behalf. I would walk 500 hundred miles, and I would walk 500 more. You get the idea-  I want him to live a long, happy life, and I’ll do whatever is necessary.

Blood was drawn and tests were run. We have to make sure that it isn’t a thyroid problem, which is a possibility in older dogs. My gut tells me that’s not what it is, though. Assuming the thyroid isn’t the issue, Geronimo will be on a very strict doggie diet. No treats, no people food (not that he was getting much anyway), lite dog food, smaller portions. Exercise doesn’t impact weight loss in dogs, but he will continue to walk and run with me regularly as it’s good for his overall health. If we don’t see some changes on the scale in a month, then it will be time to bust out the prescription weight management food. I’m hoping it doesn’t come to that, but see above where I said I’ll do whatever is necessary.

Geronimo during what we dubbed his "teenage years." He's definitely not that skinny anymore, but who is?

Geronimo during what we dubbed his “teenage years” back in 2007.  He’s definitely not that skinny anymore, but who is as skinny now as they were as a teenager?

I’m feeling a lot of guilt over the whole situation. Stephen knows so much more about this stuff than I do (he studied to be a veterinarian during undergrad), but as Geronimo’s mother, I should be capable of taking care of him. I spent all of yesterday beating myself up over it. Now my focus is on getting Geronimo healthy and keeping him that way.

EP Marathon Training: 6 Days To Go!

You read that right. The race is less than a week away. I’m glad it’s almost here. I’ve certainly been training long enough. But I’m also scared. When the race is in the far future it’s dreamy, almost like wedding planning before you’ve set a date, all possibilities and color combinations. Now it’s reality. It’s no longer about imagining what could be but making things happen. Which is exciting, yes, but scary, too.

Before I get too far ahead of myself, last week -

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Weekly Stats:

  • Total miles run so far during training: 313.95 (19.75 this week)
  • Interval run: 5 x 1000. Tough, especially with the strangely warm weather. But I battled through each interval.
  • Tempo run: 6 mile “short tempo.” I didn’t hit my fast miles exactly on the nosey, but I was trying to take what I learned from last week’s ugly long run and apply it to my running. When I went into the wind, I pushed as hard as was reasonable without depleting myself entirely. The last mile was my fasted. I was happy when I finished. Mission accomplished.
  • Long run: 8 easy miles. Tossed my pace out the window and just ran. It was glorious.
  • Cross-training: 60 minutes of yoga, 72 minutes of walking
  • Geronimo’s miles: 4.75 miles – a huge week for him!
  • Power jam: “Flashdance…What A Feeling” by Irene Cara (“Take your passion and make it happen!” I like to sing/scream that line.)

Last Long Run

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My 8 mile long run was supposed to be at marathon pace, but I decided that I’d rather just run for fun. Geronimo ran two miles (a big distance for him these days) before I dropped him off at home and headed back out on my own. I listened to the radio on my nano, so it felt more informal. Less long run, more happy jog. It was just what I needed. Whatever was getting me down last week and making it impossible to run did not make an appearance this week. It’s a good thing because I’m plenty nervous as it is without a bad run getting in my head.

Geronimo was down for the count after his two miles!

Geronimo was down for the count after his two miles!

Weather Woes

I know that the calendar says February, but El Paso has not gotten the memo. We’ve had above average temperatures all week, and that’s what is in the forecast for next week, too. The high yesterday was 81. 81! It’s a lovely temperature when you want to go on a picnic or a walk or swimming. Not so much when you are running. Right now the race day forecast has a low of 43 and a high of 69.

That poses quite the conundrum. The majority of my training has been in cold or cool weather wearing pants and ear muffs and jackets and gloves. I have no clue what I’m going to wear or how the heat will effect me. The one thing you can say about the weather, though, is that it is completely out of anyone’s control. All I can do at this point is try to be smart (hydrate hydrate hydrate) and wait to see what happens.

Time to start thinking cold thoughts!

(Because one pre-marathon post isn’t enough, I’ve got a lovely selection of running related musings for you all week long. )