Category Archives: Military Reintegration

The Bad Wife

Once upon a time there was a curly-haired Princess who didn’t meet her Prince Charming until she was 30 years old. Then, primarily because of a 15-month military deployment to Iraq, she and her Prince did not marry for three and a half more years. Soon after the couple did marry, The Prince was off to Afghanistan for another 13 months. “But don’t worry, baby doll,” he told the Princess. “When I get back we’ll build a castle in the clouds and have little Princelings and live happily ever after.”

“Yay!” she shouted, tossing her tiara into the air and doing cartwheels around the courtyard. “You go save the world. In the meantime, I’ll hitch my wagon to a star and subsist on images of us picking out paint colors and refrigerators together.”

When he finally returned, the now 35-year-old girl greeted him with open arms and joy in her heart. She could hardly wait for the arguments over furniture and feng shui to begin. The two locked arms and pranced into the sunset.

Probably you haven’t figured this out yet, but I am the Princess.

[Sarah \s(a)-rah\ as a girl’s name is pronounced SARE-ah. It is of Hebrew origin, and the meaning of Sarah is “princess. Biblical: originally called Sarai, Sarah shared an adventurous nomadic life with her husband Abraham. She is described as being exceptionally beautiful even into her older years. The name became popular in the 16th century. (Source: baby names by Thinkbabynames.com)]

Just sayin’.

Anyway, that part about prancing into the sunset was a complete and total lie. T and I have had our share of reintegration issues, none of which have been life or divorce serious. They are your average, learning-to-live-together-again problems. Like figuring out who does what for housework, or why he wouldn’t drink out of an open glass for the first month he was home.

That kind of thing.

Then he went back to work. He took a rather large pay cut to return to a much less rewarding job where his skill set is almost entirely wasted. He went from working with groups like the Special Forces and the State Department; from having a tremendous amount of responsibility and autonomy; from working with Afghani locals to make their area more secure and their lives better. He went from all of that to sitting behind a desk and answering phone calls. In short, he went back to being like the rest of us poor working slobs who sit at computers all day long while our vertebra slowly fuse together and we get flat, fat asses, hypertension and Type II diabetes. He can now enjoy making money for someone else while barely taking home enough to cover expenses while saving for retirement.

What’s not to love?

And so, the proverbial sunset into which we were to ride, instead shattered and exploded into a quadrillion shiny, tropical pieces that rained down like lava droplets and seared the flesh off of our bones. We turned to each other in our skeletal nakedness and T said, “This stinks. I have to do something about it.”

That’s when he decided to go back to school to get his Master’s degree.

At first blush, this doesn’t seem like a bad plan. The GI Bill will likely cover most, if not all of his school expenses and in the end a lot more doors will be open to him and, consequently, to us.

However. There are a number of unknowns: Where will he go to school? Will we have to move? How long will it take? Will he go full-time?

Then there are these things to consider: Where will he work afterwards? Would he have mobility at his current company? Will we be able to stay in Maine?

Maine is not terribly notorious for job opportunities and high-paying positions. Commutes are long and the cost of living is very high. It doesn’t seem likely we would end up living in the state I love.

Of course, like a good wife, my first reaction was, “Sure, honey. If that’s what will make you happy and feel fulfilled, I’m behind you 110%.”

Hahaha! That was funny.

Actually, it was more like this:

So, you want to put our house plans on hold for another three years? Do you really think you can handle a job, school, the military and having a family?” Which was pretty rich, considering I’m not pregnant. “When are we going to focus on our relationship instead of everything else under the sun? What about what I want? What about my dreams? This is going to mean a whole lot of extra work for me and I barely have time to focus on my writing now.”

I’m not proud of my bad attitude, but I’m not entirely remorseful yet, either. No one can say I haven’t done my fair share of sucky deployment waiting. I thought this was going to be the year. I really did.

I know T is looking at the big picture and I’m not good at that. I know that he wants to be able to support his family, especially in light of my dreams to stay home and write.

But I just got him back. I don’t want to share him with anything again. Not the military, not college, not anything. And we were so close. It feels like my house dream (and my dream house) is slipping through my fingers again.

It’s not been a pleasant few weeks. There have been tears and fights and silence and more tears.

Ultimately, though, I love and adore my husband. What I need to do is work on trusting him. I need to believe that everything will come out all right in the end. I need to enjoy what we have now and not worry so much that it isn’t my exact vision for us. Maybe we’ll get to that vision someday. Maybe we never will. I need to dust off my sense of adventure and all of that patience I used to survive the deployment. I need to wait and see what happens.

“But it won’t be easy,” the Princess said. She flung her tiara on the ground and stamped her feet in rage. Then she sighed, picked up her tiara, dusted it off and put it back on her head.

The End (not really)

Friday Fill-In: 25Feb11

Welcome to Military Spouse Friday Fill-In: the PMS Edition.

 And the questions are:

1. Aside from no deployments, what is one thing you would want to make the MilSpouse life “perfect”? submitted by Oh How Delightful

I would like my husband to be married to me first and the Army second. You know. Just to shake things up a bit.

2. Just how many peppers did Peter Piper pick? submitted by Married into Army

Probably only half as many as his wife asked him to, the bastard.

3. If you could have any career in the world with nothing holding you back, what would you do? submitted by It’s My Party and I’ll Cry if I Want To

I’d write really profound and witty novels that would not only entertain, but leave a lasting impression and contribute something to this world long after I’m gone. Besides a carbon footprint.

4. Do you have a service-oriented tattoo and if so what is it? If you don’t, what would you get? submitted by The Squid’s Accomplice

I wouldn’t get a tattoo.

5. Imagine a block of time has opened up in your busy day for you to take a class in anything you like. What subject would you choose?  submitted by To The Nth

Boxing.

A T-Shirt and a Haircut

Our last day at Disney was more like a half-day. Our plane was scheduled to leave at 3:30 in the afternoon which meant Disney’s Magic Express would pick us up in front of our hotel at 12:30.

By the time we savored our breakfast (guess where?) and crammed our dirty laundry into our suitcases, we didn’t have much time. We spent a few minutes taking pictures of our hotel and – again – marvelling at the thoroughness of the theme (Africa) and branding (Disney).

I guess this is what happens when you visit Disney as an adult?

From the earthy-looking animal tapestries that hang behind the registration desk:

registration desk

…to the wooded-carved ostrich statue lamps…

ostrich lamps

…to the very shower curtain in our bathroom…

shower curtain

…everything was tribal or Mickey or both. Sometimes I felt like I was living in one of those Highlights magazine Hidden Pictures where you have to find the shapes in the drawing. It became almost a contest between T and I to see who could point out the most “hidden” branding.

I won. Obviously.

The lobby is vast.

AKL lobby

But there are cozy corners. In one such corner, there is an area rug enclosed on three sides by comfy-looking couches and armchairs. The fourth side showcases a large, low to the ground TV that plays mostly older Disney cartoons 24/7 (more branding).

tv area

Look at the little stools! So cute. We saw kids here often. I also caught T staring at the TV more than once as we stood in line at the concierge’s desk.

By 10:30 we decided we’d better get going if we were going to hit one of the parks one more time. But which one? T had seen a t-shirt over in Liberty Square that he’d wanted, but the store was closed when we were in the Magic Kingdom the night before. Up to this point, he hadn’t wanted many of the souvenirs that I’d tried to buy him – or they hadn’t had his size – so, despite the fact that I’d had almost all I could take of the MK, we got back on the bus and headed over.

We got the shirt then wandered back to Main Street USA to check out some of the shops.

Oh look! There’s a barber shop!

barber pole

Isn’t it funny how they try to make it look like an actual town? I mean, they even named this barber shop, just as if it were a real place.

Harmony barber shop

Harmony barber shop. Hm. I wonder why they named it that? Hey! There’s someone in there!

barber shop entrance

Let’s take a closer look.

T at the barber shop

Yup. That’s right. It’s my husband.

Because everyone gets their haircut while they’re at Disney World.

I mean, the least he could’ve done is add some glitter or get Mickey ears stamped on the back in blue. But no. Just a high and tight, no fade and a #2 on top.

Actually, the least he could’ve done is used a #3. I hate when he gets a #2. It’s way too short and it makes his ears look much more prominent.

Okay, I admit it! I told him he should get a haircut since a) we had time to kill, b) I was over the MK, and c) that way we wouldn’t have to do it when we got home. (We hadn’t had time before we left.)

But I never said anything about the #2.

As for why they called it “Harmony” barber shop?

The Dapper Dans

Meet The Dapper Dans. The quartet sung T a little tune as he was getting his head buzzed. I have video. But I don’t want a divorce, so I won’t post it.

As a result of my brainstorm, poor T had to suffer little bits of hair on his neck and in his ears for the entire trip home. Oops. Sorry, babe.

However, only our connector was delayed for 40 minutes, which isn’t bad considering T’s travel curse. So it could’ve been worse.

And that was our trip to Disney.

towel Mickey ears

Good-bye Disney!

The Tree of Life is Fake

I’m going to give you fair warning that if you don’t like animals, you’ll probably find this post boring. Wait! Before you close out, scroll down and watch the video of Justy at the petting zoo. Even if you don’t like animals, she’s hilarious.

Our third day at Disney started with breakfast at Boma.

Yeah, yeah. We’ve been over that before. So fast forward:

Welcome to the Animal Kingdom

In all the Disney theme parks, there is an iconic visual element as soon as you enter. Think about it: in the Magic Kingdom the first thing you see is Cinderella’s Castle; in Epcot there is the giant golf ball; and in the Animal Kingdom, it’s the Tree of Life.

These not only inspire countless oohs and aahs, but they provide the perfect photo op. Disney cleverly creates another revenue stream by placing PhotoPass photographers every fifty feet.

We never used the PhotoPass, but I did ask a photographer to take a picture of us with my camera.

Tree of Life

Everybody now: It’s the circle of li-i-i-ife, and it moves us a-a-a-all…

Sorry, I got carried away there. Anyway, the Tree of Life is this giant (and, sadly, fake) tree with all kinds of animals carved into it with amazing detail:

Eagle

The animals were carved high up into the tree…

Turtle

…but also extended right down through the “roots” which wove along some of the animal viewing paths.

Bird

We spent part of the morning wandering the paths. The colors of the flamingos astounded me.

Flamingos

Because I already have a zillion pictures picked out for this post, I won’t bore you with those of the anteater, the kangaroos, the ducks (yes, ducks), the vulture, the lemur and the monkeys. Just take for granted that there was a variety of animals from both Asia and Africa.

At one point a sharp-beaked and frightening tortoise chased me at an astounding speed, nipping at my, uh, heels.

The tortoise and the Sare.

After we emerged from the trails, we took a safari ride through the savannah and that’s when the viewing got crazy, yo.

Again, I took a million pictures, give or take 999,753, so here are two of my favorites:

Giraffe!

If I couldn’t see one off my balcony, at least I got to see one in the park.

Elephant

And, for you Jungle Book fans, here’s a picture of Colonel Hathi’s rear guard.

After the safari, we went to see two live shows: The Festival of the Lion King (which would have been amazing, had we not seen La Nouba the night before) and Finding Nemo – The Musical (which was just plain amazing).

Lunch was at Tuskers. Did I mention I love the food at Disney?

After lunch we checked out some more walking paths, one of which lead us through an aviary. This little guy astounded me:

golden weaver

As I watched him flashing overhead, he suddenly stopped on a branch, stripped off a long piece of vine and darted across to another tree. He – and I swear I’m not making this up – poked one end of the grass through a loop in what looked like a loosely formed grass wreath. He then grabbed it from the other side and poked it through another hole. He kept doing this, bobbing his head about almost too quickly to watch, until the entire vine was wound around the wreath.

weaver wreath

As he flew off to grab another vine, I, with all the subtlety of a shrieking teakettle, voiced my awe.

“He’s weaving it! Did you see that! He weaved it in there! I can’t believe it!”

T consulted the bird chart he was holding.

“Let’s see if we can find him on here. It looks like he’s a…golden weaver.”

How odd.

Here’s what a finished nest looks like. The entrance is on the bottom!

weaver nest

So cool.

As we made our way out of the aviary, we saw meerkats. This one was keeping watch while the others foraged around.

meercat

Not a bad idea, really.

vultures

One of my all time favorite areas was the gorilla pen. This silverback male was kicking back and snacking on some bamboo. His hand was as big as my head and I’m quite sure he could crush it if he wanted to. Fortunately, it didn’t look particularly like he wanted to.

silverback

His wife, who was considerably smaller but impressive none the less, was sitting up on the hill around the corner. Her baby was around somewhere and there was a small crowd hoping to catch a glimpse.

Mrs. Silverback

Is there a good way to politely tell a 200-pound gorilla that her crack is hanging out? I didn’t think so.

As we were standing there a brown rabbit ran out from behind a bush and the crowd was like, “Oh! There it is!” (Meaning the baby gorilla.)

T laughed. And made no effort to hide it. This is part of his “reintegration” process. He has no problems letting people know when they are being stupid. Because really? How can you mistake a brown, bounding animal with long ears and a cottontail with a 10-pound black baby gorilla?

As the afternoon was winding down, we headed for the petting zoo (my request). On the way there we came across an interesting game:

Match the feces
 
Okay. Moving on.
In the zoo we met Justy the Diva. Justy is a llama. She wants you to look at her. She wants you to feed her. She wants you to admire her.
 
She just doesn’t want you to touch her. Ever.
 
After the petting zoo and Fussy Justy, it was time to leave. We waited at the bus stop to head back to the Lodge. I was getting tired and probably hungry, which always makes me terribly cranky.
 
Frustrations
 
And somewhat violent.
 
nose biting
 
Clearly I was getting on T’s nerves as well.
 
mantis grip of death
 
Not sure what he is doing here, but I think it might be the Mantis Grip of Death.
 
Or something.
 
We had dinner at Jiko, which was nice, though not as impressive as Boma, even if they did bring us rosewater-scented finger cloths.
 
And because we hadn’t done enough yet that day, we headed back to the Magic Kingdom for extended hours. While we were there we caught a few rides that we’d missed the day before, such as Peter Pan’s Flight and a few others that I can’t remember.
 
Just to round out the day, which ended shortly thereafter with us crashing again, I’ll leave you with a picture of us waiting to see the 3-D extravaganza, Mickey’s PhilharMagic (which was actually kind of neat).
 
3-D glasses

This is how we roll.

Have a Magical Day!

Day Two at Disney started with another blissful breakfast at Boma. Come to think of it, all of our days at Disney started with breakfast at Boma. We had no interest in going anywhere else. It was that good.

Homer Drooling

Mmm...breakfast...

After I made love to my roasted ham with spicy tomatoes and maple-syruped cornmeal mash, we hopped on the bus for the Magic Kingdom.

This time I was ready. I had my bag and camera case off of my shoulder and open so the folks at the security tables could take a quick peek before waving me through.

That reminds me of a story T told about the trip back from Afghanistan. When his group went through security, an agent pulled one of the soldiers aside and asked him to open his bag.

“Oh, is it my pistol?” he asked. They are allowed to carry their pistols on military flights, but he couldn’t think what else it might be.

“No, your pistol is fine. But your shaving cream container is too big.”

Uh…okay.

But I digress. As usual.

We decided to work our way around the MK clockwise, starting with Adventureland. We wended our way through the Swiss Family Robinson treehouse and then stood in line for the Jungle Cruise where my entire day came crashing down around me.

Not really.

But pretty close. As we were shuffling our way through the cattle chutes like calves at branding time, a rustle in the surrounding bushes caught my eye.

“Oh, look!” I said. “Look at the little birds!”

I told you we get excited about commonplace wildlife around here.

Then, “AwwwwooOO!” That was a coo of sympathy that ended in a high-pitched squeal of misery. It didn’t come from the pig-tailed three-year olds in line. It didn’t come from the babies looking over their mothers’ shoulders.

It came out of my mouth.

One of the birds had a glob of gum stuck to the top of its beak. A long blade of dried grass was stuck to the gum. The bird would hop a few steps, put its head to the ground, then try to step on the grass and pull both grass and gum off of his beak. The grass kept slipping through his tiny taloned feet. My heart broke into a million pieces and the pieces stabbed at the place where my heart used to be.

Then I was herded around the bend by the stampede waiting for the carnival ride and lost sight of him. My eyes welled up with tears and I immediately felt like an idiot.

Pull yourself together, woman. I thought. You’re 35 years old and you’re crying at Disney World?

I swear to you that I am the only person on this continent (over 12) that could possibly be miserable in the Magical World of Disney. But there I was, struggling to hold back the waterworks as I boarded the Jungle Cruise and loathing, no, detesting thoughtless, ignorant people with every cell in my body.

It is a testament to how far I’ve come in the realm of “accepting things I can’t change” that I was able to put this behind me at all. See? Deployment IS good for something!

Still, throughout the rest of the day, and even the trip, I would occasionally picture the poor, bitty birdy struggling with his gummed beak and starte to tear up. During these moments I would turn to T and say, “Say something funny, quick.”

To which he, in all of his witty glory, would respond, “Something funny, quick.”

Yeah, thanks.

To his credit, he did come up with several totally implausible scenarios for the bird’s survival and acted, unfailingly, like he believed in every one of them. I do love him for that.

And there was one good thing that came out of the bird episode: it totally explained why you cannot find ANY gum at ANY store on the Disney property. (Actually, it’s probably more for sanitation reasons, but this reason is just as good – if not better – in my mind.)

white bird

Not the gum bird.

Okay. So anyway, the day wasn’t a complete loss. We continued to make our way around the park and hit most of the favorites: Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, The Haunted Mansion, It’s a Small World. Actually, there was one favorite that we missed. Splash Mountain was closed the entire time of our trip.

Boo.

We ate a rather nasty lunch. The quick lunches on Disney, especially if you eat gluten and dairy-free, are horrible. The big restaurants are great, but the quickies? Not so much. We did, however, discuss Disney branding and admire how thorough it was:

Disney branding

Right down to the sprinkles.

 We were also rather amazed at this kind of thing. See if you can figure out the subject of this picture:

mystery subject

No, it is not a picture of a lady drinking a Coke. (Okay, it is, but that isn’t the intended subject.) Need a closer view? Try this:

mystery picture close up

Admittedly, this is not a great shot. It just doesn’t do any justice to the scope of it. Because it was vast. And it was everywhere. Give up?

stroller parking

Stroller. Parking. Jeepers creepers, I knew I was in Disney, but this really brought it home. I totally concede that kids have the right-of-way at Disney, but I still started calling these seas of strollers, “the best birth control on Earth.”

Those and the nose-pickers. By the end of that first day at MK I’d seen enough kids in up to the second knuckle to last me a lifetime.

Then there was the kid in the confectioners shop who plastered himself to the glass of the bakery case like Peach from Finding Nemo, blocking out the light and everyone’s view. The case itself was already slimed up with fingerprints. “And nose prints,” T added, “and doggy wuffle and I don’t know what else.”

I cracked up at “doggy wuffle”, but I was ready to go.

We took a sunset ferry ride over to The Wilderness Lodge for another amazing meal.

sunset ferry ride

Then we jumped over to Downtown Disney to catch Cirque du Soleil’s La Nouba. It was beyond description. All I can say is, if you ever get a chance to check that out, do it. And if you don’t get a chance, at least jump over to the website and watch the video.

And finally…back to our room to crash again. Next up: The Animal Kingdom!

Please Do Not Scare the Animals

Okay, so back to Disney.

After we finally got there and got about six hours of sleep, we staggered out of bed, late but determined to make the most of the day.

The first thing T did was jump out of bed and open the curtains to a view that was guaranteed to reveal giraffes and lions and tigers and elephants. Well, not so much guaranteed. More like “suggested on the website, but highly improbable.” He stood there looking until I said, “Um, honey?” and pointed to a sign next to the drapes.

A sign that read something to the effect of, “For the protection of our animals, cameras are always on and pointed directly at your room, so you might want to consider putting on some boxers, buddy.”

“Oh,” T said and laughed.

It cracks me up that on the website there is a picture of a couple placidly reading the paper on their balcony while five giraffes graze in the background. Yes, because I would totally read the paper if a giraffe was walking by my window.

Not us. T and I were more like, “Ooo! Oo! Look at that! I think it’s a…oh, what do you call them? A bumble bee! Yes! Yes! It’s a bumble bee! Did you get a picture?”

Actually, we saw neither giraffes nor bumble bees from our room’s balcony, but the “savannah” was not completely devoid of all wildlife. We saw this gazellish-looking beast:

Gazellish-looking animal

And pelicans. Lots and lots of pelicans.

Pelicans

A few other birds, too, none of which I remember the names.

After T stopped scaring the animals got dressed, we made our way through the African-inspired lobby where the vaulted ceilings were hung with tribal decor.

African-inspired decor

We ended in Boma, which offered a buffet breakfast that made me want to weep with joy.

Breakfast

The happiest place on Earth.

The scrambled eggs with goat cheese and chives; the sausage, bacon and pineapple; the fresh fruit; the quinoa; the coffee and the Jungle juice…

Homer Drooling

Is it bad if my favorite part of any vacation is the food?

Incidentally, the Jungle juice is suspiciously like what they call POG juice in Hawaii. POG juice is passion fruit, orange and guava juices (mixed with corn syrup or sugar, probably). I fell in love with it when we were in Maui. The Jungle juice is every bit as tasty but with the subtle difference that it contains guava, orange and passion fruit juices. I guess GOP juice sounded too political.

Once breakfast was squared away, we had to make our way over to the Shades of Green military resort to get our discounted park hopper passes. This involved catching the bus from the Animal Kingdom Lodge over to the Magic Kingdom. From there we had to take the ferry across the lake where we caught another bus over to Shades of Green.

Fortunately the busses and ferries run often and regularly. I was very impressed with transportation on Disney and by how easy it was to get around. We didn’t rent a car and we didn’t need one. I was happy to be able to let someone else do the driving and, best of all, we didn’t have to find parking!

Still, with all of the transfers, getting over there was a bit of a hassle, but it was totally worth it because two four-day park hopper passes with a military discount were half the price they normally are, which is in the hundreds of dollars. It was also kind of cool to check out Shades of Green, which I didn’t expect to love, but which was a pleasant surprise. It was actually very nice. If we go back, we’d definitely consider staying there if we can get reservations. My understanding is that you have to book pretty far in advance.

By the time we got all that done, it was nearing three o’clock. We’d decided to do Epcot that day because that was the park with the extended hours (for folks staying on Disney property only). So that’s where we headed.

T at Epcot

We started with Spaceship Earth and took in a few other sights. Lines aren’t long at the end of January, so we didn’t need to use the FASTPASS system at all that day – although we did on other days and it saved quite a bit of time.

At 5:00 we had reservations in Mexico at La Hacienda. We had another amazing meal and T tried mole (pronounced “moe-lay”) sauce for the first time! Our waiter, who was from Mexico City and an absolute sweetheart, described the sauce for us. Once T heard it was made with chocolate, it was a done deal. Paulo brought us a little bowl of it with our fabulous, fabulous meal.

T at La Hacienda

T at La Hacienda

Notice the light-colored fleece he is wearing? Well, he managed to drip a little of the chocolate mole sauce on it. This delighted him to no end as he could now look down at his belly, then back up at me and say, “Hoe-lay Moe-lay!”

Which he has continued to do ever since.

After dinner we continued to make our way around the World Showcase. In Italy we stopped to buy me a sweatshirt because I was freezing my canoli off. In Japan I discovered a culture that is possibly more obsessed with cellulite than American.

Japanese cellulite products

Uh, no thanks. I'll just take the chopsticks, please.

And by Canada I was too cold to move. How apropos. Fortunately, Canada is the last country on the route, so we headed back to the hotel to collapse once more.

After all, the next day was the Magic Kingdom!

A Punch in the Gut

Saturday was the 60-day reintegration event for T’s unit. I’ve had better days.

Like the time I had surgery on my eyelid with a local anesthetic. Or when I fell headfirst into a baling machine in Iowa.

Okay, that last one never actually happened, but if it had, it would probably have been less painful.

Reintegration events are designed to make Guard soldiers aware of their benefits and any changes that may happen to those benefits once the soldier comes off of Title X orders, as well as ensure that they get the help necessary to make the transition to being a normal person again. They happen at 30, 60 and 90 days after the soldiers’ return.

Coincidentally, those are the time frames in which drill would be taking place, were the soldiers drilling. When a Guard unit returns from a deployment, they are not required go back to their regular drill weekends for 90 days. This gives the soldiers a chance to settle into their civilian lives and jobs and spend time with their families. They’re supposed to have 90 days free of anything military, but they keep getting called back every month for these events.

Most of them are not happy about it and on Saturday they did not make much of an attempt to hide it.

I used to look forward to these kinds of things. I really did. In the Guard in general and in T’s unit in particular, the soldiers are spread throughout the state. I know very few of them and only some of the families, so these events are – I thought – a chance to meet the people T works with and their families.

There are two problems with this: 1) T isn’t the best at introductions and 2) Most soldiers I’ve come into contact with over the years are reluctant to even make eye contact, never mind have a conversation with me. Apparently I either have thousands of writhing, hissing snakes growing out of my scalp, I smell like a jug of milk that’s been left out in the sun, or I come across like an over-eager puppy ready to piddle on the floor with excitement.

Or, quite possibly, all three.

At this particular event, folks were supposed to show up between 12:00 and 12:45 for registration. T had a meeting he was supposed to attend at noon, so we had to be there at the early end of the window instead of when the window was slamming shut (my MO).

When we got there, T registered us, picked up our name tags and discovered that his meeting was cancelled.

Well, at least I didn’t have to hang out by myself for 45 minutes.

Instead, we made our way to a table around which a bunch of soldiers and one wife were sitting. As we got there, several of the soldiers greeted T. Not one of them looked at me, said hi or in any way acknowledged my presence. The wife never even looked up from her phone. I threw a few lighthearted comments into the banter, hoping for an in. Nope. Still nothing.

I got up and left the table.

So much for meeting new people. I tossed my name tag in the trash.

The day didn’t get much better. We immediately found out that the night before, several of the guys had gone out on the town and either started or finished something. One of them ended up in the hospital. This seems to happen every time we have an event. Some of the (usually younger) soldiers get drunk and rowdy and there is a fight. Often it’s a very loud and profane fight that happens at 2:00 a.m. in the corridor of the hotel.

This does not endear the younger crowd to me. I’m old. I’m cranky. I like my sleep.

The afternoon wore on and I squirmed through two sessions where the presenters did their best to engage an audience that was almost completely non-responsive, if not downright rude. Some of the leadership was just as bad. Frankly, I was embarrassed by their behavior. I mean, they get paid to be there. The least they could do was be civil. I’d settle for quiet.

To be fair, not all the soldiers were acting like punks. There are quite a few nice guys in the unit who were very pleasant. But for the most part, it was awkward.

Finally, we had a break and everyone crowded into the halls. It was then that the next bomb dropped.

Hmm, maybe that’s a bad metaphor to use with this group.

What I mean is, the next bad thing happened. I was chatting with a soldier and I asked about T’s upcoming training course.

Now, we’ve heard about 20 different versions of what this course will look like. First it was a 2-month course down in Fort Benning. Then it was a largely online course with only two weeks in Fort Benning. Then it was four months in Benning. I’ve been on a rollercoaster with this. My husband just got back. I don’t want him to go away again and certainly not for four months.

We decided that if it was for four months that I would go with him. Yay! I would finally not be the one left behind to do the housework and take care of the animals. I could go have a new experience, too! I started to look forward to it, even be excited about it.

Silly me. I broke Army Spouse Rule #1*.

On Saturday, the newest answer that we got was that it would be two weeks in Benning, a 10-day break, then two more weeks. Um, what? That’s the worst option yet: long enough to be a huge disruption (again!) in our lives, but not long enough for it to make sense for me to quit my job and go down there with him.

I never get to go anywhere. I wanted to cry.

As we continued talking, the subject shifted to work. This soldier had just gone back to his job within the last two weeks. As he talked about what that had been like, he reiterated something T has been saying for some time now: things aren’t as exciting back here and nothing I do will be as rewarding or make as much of a difference as what I did there.

I can understand that, I think. I mean, as much as I can understand it. But what really sucked was when he turned to another soldier standing close by and asked whether he missed combat, too. The other guy’s reply?

“Oh, I’d go back in a second. I hate it here. I fucking hate it.”

I must have looked like I just got punched in the stomach, which is exactly how I felt, because the kid then looked at me and said, “Excuse my language.”

Now, I make a concentrated effort not to swear on my blog, but in real life I have a mouth like a longshoreman, so it wasn’t the language that bothered me. It was the vim with which he said it. Like he really, truly couldn’t stand it here. Like he’d never be happy at home again.

He went on to explain that there everything was taken care of for him – his meals, his clothes, everything. The only thing he had to worry about was “staying alive”. But, despite his attempts to elaborate, I went on feeling like the wind had been knocked out of me. I can’t explain exactly why.

Maybe because I know my husband has expressed similar thoughts and I feel like I can’t compete with mortars and helicopters and working with interpreters to make real and important differences in the lives of other people. Maybe because I suddenly felt insignificant. Maybe because I knew I’d never experience anything even close to what these guys experienced or accomplish anything as amazing as what they did. Maybe because it churned up every insecurity I’ve ever felt about the (lack of ) purpose in my own life.

Maybe all of the above. I really can’t say.

All I know is that it hurt. And that I’d be quite happy to slip back into ignorant oblivion again. At least I think I would.

Did I mention that I was not impressed with this day?

The only two bright spots were:

1. K was there, as she always has been through two deployments, and she gets it. Like nobody else gets it.

and

2. George. You don’t know George yet, but you will. Oh yes. I foresee that George will factor greatly into my life now, and most probably on a daily basis.

I love George.

*Rule #1: Don’t. Make. Plans.