Race 4 Hope 5k Race Recap

Upon returning to El Paso from my Dallas trip last week, I immediately signed up for a race. I don’t know if it was all that time in the car during the long drive or the fact that my last race was in April, but I knew that I was ready to race. I jumped at the chance to run the J & G Silva Race 4 Hope 5k. This race was one my side of town (score!), only $20 (major score!), and benefits a woman currently fighting brain cancer. I couldn’t pull out my credit card fast enough.

Like any good race day, yesterday included:

  • waking up early
  • eating toast
  • drinking Nuun
  • arriving at the race site very early
  • waiting around

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I was expecting a small crowd, but over 250 runners and walkers turned out. We all squeezed together at the start line. It made me think of my high school physics teacher’s description of atoms. (Are you impressed that I can remember anything from high school physics? Don’t be too impressed; I can’t remember the name of the type of atoms or energy or whatever it was. I’m sure it will come to me weeks from now in the shower.) Eventually we got the signal to start and everyone sprinted like mad, me included.

Mile 1: 7:54

I was swept up in the adrenaline and let it carry me that first mile. If I wanted to finish faster than I did at the 5k in April – and I did – then I needed to aim for miles that were 8:15 or faster. This mile felt scarily easy. I guess that’s the power of running with the crowd. The shade didn’t hurt either.

Mile 2: 8:14

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The crowd started to thin out, and I settled into my own pace. I focused my mental energy on trying to think up something encouraging to shout out when the lead pack came running by, but I never saw them. (I didn’t realize that the course was a loop instead of out and back. I eventually saw the overall female winner hanging out when I neared the end, and I yelled, “What was your time?” “21:56.” Woah.)

There was a water stop right in the middle of this mile. I took about 10 seconds to walk, sip, and splash water on myself. Then it was right back to running. I tried to pick off the women ahead of me, but it was tough. The field was very competitive, and I felt like the only women I could see were way ahead of me.

Mile 3: 8:23

At the point in the race, I was feeling the mental and physical battle. It was so hot and there was no shade. I alternated between wanting to quit and giving myself mental pep talks. Thank goodness both “Eye of the Tiger” and “You’re the Best” came on my iPod. Musical inspiration at its finest.

I managed to catch up to a teenage girl in purple who I’d been chasing for nearly half a mile. I tried to surge past her, but she held my pace. We ran together step-by-step for a minute. She asked me if we were almost there. I looked at my watch and told her, “We are at 2.4.” Her response, “2.4 what?” Haha! It took all my energy to keep running and explain to her that the race was 3.1 miles, so we had more than half a mile to go. Not quite almost there. I guess she didn’t like that answer because she fell back, and I pushed on.

last .09: 8:01 pace

For the final stretch, I dug deep and gave it all I had. I was so spent at the end that I had trouble opening the water bottle a volunteer handed to me. I left it all on the course.

The finish line

The final stretch!

My stats:

  • 3.09 finish time: 25:16
  • Average pace: 8:10

5 seconds faster per mile than in April! This was also my fastest 5k since my PR back in May 2012. I still need to whittle the time down by about a minute to get a personal best, but I’m happy to see (and feel!) the progress I’m making. They say that success is the best motivator, and I have to agree.

After the race, I took my time catching my breath, cooling off, and enjoying the snacks. They had a great spread with all kinds of crackers, fruit, and plenty of cold water. I helped myself to some orange slices and half a banana. When the results were posted, I decided to see how I fared. I was shocked that I won my age group! I thought for sure there was no way given how big this race was. I hate downplaying my achievements, but I really think I got lucky that the faster women present on this particular day happened to be older than me. (The top 5 women in the 30-39 age group – the age group I will be joining in a few months – all finished under 25 minutes.)

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Priscilla, the beneficiary of the fundraiser, said a few words during the awards ceremony and got a little choked up. It was very touching to see how much support there was for her. She handed out he medals, which I thought was a great touch. I took the moment that she gave me mine as an opportunity to wish her good health. It was a nice reminder for me that it’s not just about being faster than the woman next to me or shaving off a few seconds from my time. Running is a celebration!

Next up: The Annual Up & Running 4th of July 5k!

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.)

Amy Reads: May

I’m planning to recap Great Strides 2014 later this week, but I wanted to offer up my monthly reading update before we get too far into June. I’ve managed to keep my pace up, reading 5 books and listening to 1 audio book. Not too shabby! I usually read at least one graphic novel, but that didn’t happen this month. I also find it interesting that I read more nonfiction than fiction this go around. But I’m getting ahead of myself – here’s the breakdown:

1. Night Film by Marisha Pessl (Mystery)

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Short version: A journalist investigates the curious death of a daughter of a filmmaker clouded in mystery.

The verdict: 3.5 out of 5 stars. The story is long and complicated (which isn’t a bad thing!), so if the one sentence sum up doesn’t appeal, keep in mind that there’s so much more to it than that. Pessl is amazing in the way she layers the story. She included media pieces (pages that look like message boards, online articles, text messages) in a way I haven’t seen done before. (Plus: there’s an app you can use to scan the media sections and go into a real online worm hole! Pretty cool!) I thought the plot for the most part was very well done, and I loved the constant references to the films that Cordova made and the film sets.  The lives of the characters were very deep and well thought out. If the book would have been 100 pages shorter (it’s 600 page), I might have rated it higher. Toward the end, I had grown sick of the characters and the way things weren’t coming together. (Not going to lie, I was also getting kind of freaked out by all the devil talk.) But then Pessl goes and writes a perfect ending! I was conflicted after I finished it. Usually I know immediately what I want to rate something, but this one gave me pause. Now with a little distance, I’m tempted to raise the score, but in the end, I think 3.5 is fair. If you are a mystery person, you’ll love it! If you are a mystery wuss with a short attention span like me, you’ll probably think it’s just ok.

2. The Man in the Rockefeller Suit: The Astonishing Rise and Spectacular Fall of a Serial Imposter by Mark Seal (Nonfiction crime drama)

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Short version: The story of a con-man who deceived everyone around as he climbed America’s social ladder.

The verdict: 3 out of 5 stars. The story is, as it’s billed, astonishing. “Clark Rockefeller” manages to live in ritzy neighborhoods with all the trappings (cars, membership in private clubs, multiple residences) even though he doesn’t work, never finished college, never pays taxes, and isn’t who he says he is. For 30 years, he lied about his identity a la The Talented Mr. Ripley. It’s crazy to think someone could pull off such a thing in this day and age. Not to mention, he may have murdered a few people and gave the most ridiculous TV interview ever on the Today show. (You can watch it online if you’re curious.) Still, the book itself was just okay. Some of the things the writer hits on are repetitive and honestly boring. (He points out 20 different times that Clark doesn’t wear socks. Was this to prove it was the same man despite the different names he used? It was just a weird thing to reiterate.) There’s no big takeaway at the end, no resolution (the book was published while court proceedings were still underway), no closing ‘a-ha!’ moment. It’s an incredible story presented in an average book.

3. Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? by Mindy Kaling (memoir)

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Short version: Mindy shares stories from her youth through today and imparts her wisdom with wit and charm.

The verdict: 4 out of 5 stars. Normally, I wouldn’t pick up a book like this thinking it would be too fluffy for my taste. While, it was a little fluffy, but that was exactly what I needed. Mindy is a awesome and a little bit of a mess. She’s so smart and sharp and also socially awkward. I couldn’t help but relate to all her uncomfortable encounters, and I’ve since dubbed her “Indian Me.” We get to hear terribly embarrassing anecdotes (recent and old) along with pictures as well as random funny stuff that she threw in because that’s her style. I also appreciated the times she spoke directly to teenage girls with sage life advice. She’s saying what I’d say if I talked to teenager girls, which I make it a point to never do. Really, this book just made me happy. That alone warrants a very high rating.

4. Paper Towns by John Green (young adult fiction)

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Short version: A high school senior embarks on a quest to find his flighty former BFF, which culminates in a last minute road trip with all the trappings of road trip hijinks.

The verdict: 3 out of 5. My trouble with John Green at this point is that I read his best books (The Fault in our Stars and Looking for Alaska) first, so each subsequent book has been less impressive. I hadn’t even planned to read this one until a friend suggested it. Whatever that friend really connected to wasn’t there for me. It was just meh. I was annoyed by the manic pixie dream girl trope and some of the unrealistic choices of the characters that seem to happen without consequences as a convenience to the writer. I also feel a nagging annoyance at the fact that this book surely could not pass the Bechdel test. For such a popular and talented writer, I’m convinced that he could do better.

5. I feel Bad About My Neck: And Other Thoughts on Being a Woman by Nora Ephron (memoir)

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Short version: Random blurbs on topics ranging from rent prices in NYC to cooking to haircuts in Ephron’s distinct voice.

The verdict: 3.5 out of 5. Because this book was a compilation of musings, there wasn’t any plot to speak of. That didn’t bother me, but some of the vignettes were more interesting than others. I couldn’t completely relate to the things Ephron wrote about, but I still enjoyed her style and it was a quick read.

6. Born Standing Up: A Comic’s Life by Steve Martin (memoir)

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Short version: Steve Martin’s mostly serious retelling of the events of his life with an emphasis on the years he worked as a stand-up comedian.

The verdict: 4 out of 5. I listened to this on CD during the drive to Dallas, and it was perfect in audio-book form. It didn’t hurt that Martin narrated the story. If you’re looking for funny, this isn’t it. Instead, it’s a peak into how he got so successful (hint: lots of struggling and years of being broke as a joke). He revealed less than flattering things about himself and his life, and it helped me understand and like him. (The relationship with his father was especially telling.) Martin views his work as his craft, and at the end of the book, I was left with a feeling of respect for him.

*

Total # of books read so far this year: 30

Total # of pages read so far this year: 8,856

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!

Friday Five

It’s still Friday, right? Well, it is as I’m typing this, so I figure it’s not too late for a Friday Five. I would say that I’m doing this late at night because I’ve been oh-so-busy. Nope. Not the case. Just lazy. I feel like I’m the only person who isn’t in the “I’m so busy” rat race these days. I feel so left out.

Anyway, enough of that. Five things on my mind right now:

1. My new approach to working my obliques:

Remember that part above where I said I was lazy. Yeah, it extends into every facet of my life. It's ok to be impressed.

Remember that part above where I said I was lazy. Yeah, it extends into every facet of my life. It’s ok to be impressed.

The chips are just out of reach, but since that won’t stop me, I’ll just crunch my way through the bag. Also, note the lovely pile of crumbs on my pants. No shame!

2. Geronimo got his (in)famous lion cut this week.

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My precious

Every time I look at him, I smile. I keep saying, “You’re so pretty.” That’s not weird, is it? Thanks for all the reassurance on my confession about his weight gain. Y’all were so sweet to tell me he’s not that fat. He is, but I still appreciated it.

3. I’ve been binge watching Switched at Birth on Netflix this week. It’s a good show, but I have to LOL at the Army references. (One of the minor characters is a private.)

A black t-shirt instead of your tan tee? I don't think so Private Ty!

A black tank top instead of your tan tee? I don’t think so Private Ty!

I know that it’s just a tv show, but it’s still fun to sit back feeling morally superior as I spot all the things that are incorrect. Uniform gaffes are the most common (soldiers do NOT roll up the sleeves of their ACU top!), but there are plenty of other things. Like when they kept referring to the fact that they were deploying again as a “redeployment.” Not actually what that means, but thanks for playing!

4. I thought I was behind on my reading goal, but it turns out I’m just really bad at math.

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So it turns out that the end of May doesn’t mark the middle of the year, so I don’t have to be halfway to my goal by then. Whoops. If you’re curious, the best book I’ve read recently was “Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?” by Mindy Kaling. I’ve rated a lot of books at only being middle of the road this year. Either I’ve become too harsh or I’m starting to suck at picking books out.

 5. I’ve got a trip to Dallas on the books soon.

I'll get to see these cuties!

I’ll get to see these cuties!

I’m most excited about seeing my family and friends. I was so spoiled living near everyone before! There are plenty of fun things on tap (Great Strides, visiting the Kidd Kraddick in the Morning studio, running around White Rock Lake), but I’m dreading the drive. I’ve never driven that far by myself before. (I’ve done 6 hours solo, maybe 7, but this will take me more like 10.) I’ve got a few interesting books on tape and I plan to hit up every Starbucks I see. Any other suggestions?

Have a good weekend!

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.

Strong Bonds Retreat

One of my chief complaints during Stephen’s last deployment was that I wished I had the support of the military community. I was living in Dallas at the time, and although my family  was nearby and incredibly supportive, I often wished I could talk to other people going through what I was going through. Well, I finally got my wish when I saw an e-mail about a free event for spouses of deployed soldiers: The Strong Bonds Retreat.

Strong Bonds is an Army-wide program developed to strengthen and support families. Usually it is offered as a couples event, but since our men are away, the chaplain and FRG leader for the Stephen’s battalion developed something that would benefit us as we make our way through the rest of the deployment. (I have no idea why they call it a retreat since it was a 1 day event, but that’s what they call it.)

The retreat was held in a private section of Ardovino's Desert Crossing, a local restaurant. You like my stealthy iphone paparazzi photo?

The retreat was held in a private section of Ardovino’s Desert Crossing, a local restaurant. You like my stealthy iphone paparazzi photo?

I waffled for a while about going. I wouldn’t know anyone, it might be uncomfortable, I wouldn’t know anyone, it was a long drive to get there, I wouldn’t know anyone, I didn’t know what to wear, I wouldn’t know anyone. Sensing a theme yet? It’s no secret that I’m as socially awkward as they come with the great combo of being shy, introverted, and anxious. I signed up one night on a whim (Nightime Amy is much braver than Daytime Amy) and wouldn’t let myself back out. Besides, how will I ever find people to go to things with if I don’t first go to things and meet people?

I’m so glad I sucked it up and attended because the retreat was excellent!

First off all: food. I could end right there. The food was provided for free by the restaurant and it was excellent. Even if everything else was a bust, the food alone would have made it worth the drive across town. Second of all: prizes. I walked away with a $10 Barnes & Noble gift card. Score!

Breakfast: eggs, potato pancake, biscuit, fruit. Yum!

Breakfast: eggs, potato pancake, biscuit, fruit. Yum! No photo of lunch; I ate it too fast!

I had a bit of a bumpy start. When I arrived, I sat at a vacant table figuring that other people would eventually show up and join me. But no one else showed up. So it was two tables full of people…and me. The battalion FRG leader was so sweet and told me I should move to a table with people, so I did. Everyone was super friendly, but I was embarrassed. I guess I should have expect that I wouldn’t be able to escape an entire day of strangers without making myself look foolish at at least one point.

Once we dug into the work at hand, though, I was able to loosen up and enjoy myself. We played silly games (people bingo, purse scavenger hunt, a flower riddle thing) with the people at our tables and then had discussions with the whole group. We spent a lot of time just talking. Even though I didn’t know anyone, the other women were very nice. It was refreshing to sit and talk about the highs and lows of deployment with other people who were knee deep in it.

The "toilet paper" game.

The “toilet paper” game.

One of my favorite parts was when we were asked to talk about challenges we’ve faced during the deployment so far and how we’ve overcome them. Again, I felt myself nodding along with what everyone else was saying or piping in with, “me, too!” My experiences and emotions felt validated. I was reminded of just how not alone I am in this whole thing. The chaplain pointed out the fact that we are doing it, we are getting through, no challenge has been too much, we are strong. Maybe a tad cheesy, but I felt like I was sitting up a little taller and smiling a little wider. I am getting through it.

At one point, another chaplain came by to visit and speak with us. She mostly just cracked jokes and kept things casual, but at one point she said, “I’m very thankful that I have a safe place to lay my head at night. I’m blessed that your husbands have taken up arms to provide that for me.” I had never heard someone so sincerely say it like that before. No thanks is necessary, especially not for what I do, but it was touching to hear. The whole day was just a big reset button for me. There’s still a long ways go before Stephen comes home, but I feel more ready to face it now.

The whole group

The whole group.

I was able to meet new people, laugh, eat some good food, talk about relevant issues, and get my head on straight.  The whole day was just a big reset button for me. There’s still a long ways go before Stephen comes home, but I’m ready to face it.

If you ever have the opportunity to attend Strong Bonds, I highly recommend it!