Saturday, September 4, 2010

Adventures in Alexandria

It has been nearly two weeks since we embarked upon this new adventure in Alexandria, Va. I haven’t had time to take pictures of our home, but I thought I would try and convey through words our new life here on the East coast.

We are fortunate to have found the perfect neighborhood for our family: the school is around the corner and the area is safe enough for Hannah to walk home by herself (or accompanied by the hundreds of other kids lining the sidewalks); we have several old friends from college and our days in Japan down the street, more great friends a town over and family a mere 40 minutes away. We do our morning runs on a trail that follows the Potomac River from Mt Vernon, the home of George Washington, through Old Town, past the Pentagon and well north of Washington DC.

Our home is a classic Colonial…not as big as we thought but perfectly suited for our family. We back up to the local middle school and enjoy watching football practice nightly as we eat dinner on our deck. Even better, our kids can take their bikes and ride along the track as we look on from the comfort of our patio furniture.

Last night, we took the Metro into DC to meet up with the Zerr family for dinner at Chef Geoff's (a favorite haunt of our dear friends Stevie and Nikki Salata). TJ even asked the waitress if she remembered Stevie (doubtful but not unheard of).

From there, our families enjoyed an evening of a lifetime, as we privately toured the West Wing of The White House with TJ as our tour guide. His knowledge is vast and his personality already a staple within the presidential walls.

Our tour included the Rose Garden, Navy Mess, Press Room (my favorite), Situation Room (we had to wait outside while the security-clearance guys could go in) and the Oval Office. It was truly awe-inspiring to imagine the many Presidents sitting at that very desk. We loved every second of it.

It is safe to say that we are enjoying our experiences in DC thus far. With Navy Football kicking off this Monday, there’s no telling where this adventure will take us. We’re already planning a “roadie” with the Wills for next weekend’s game. Beat Army.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Out of the Mouths of Babes

Bill Cosby used to say that kids say the darnedest things. In my case, kids say the most awkward things at the most inopportune times. I wish every scene in my life played out “Cosbyesque” with my cherub-faced darlings walking up to strangers and making casual observances that draw ooohs and aaaahs for all of their cuteness.
Unfortunately, my reality plays out quite differently.

To illustrate, below are a few of the feelings my children elicit by their untimely comments:

Awkwardness: It was awkward when I picked Jake up from school and his teachers told me that as he sat at the lunch table, he turned to his friend and said, “Please pass the wine.”


I will take my Mother of the Year Award now, thank you very much.

Petrified: As Hannah looked over Greg’s shoulder at a photo of the incoming Commanding Officer of the Blue Angels she said, “Oh man, he’s hot.”

God help me. But to be fair, he is.

Awkward again: Checking out at the mini mart in Ikego, Japan I say to Hannah, “Please give the nice lady your toy.” Hannah says, “That’s not a lady, that’s a man.”

And all my Japan friends out there know exactly who I am talking about. I’m pretty sure Pat lived on base with us.

Pride: As I pull up in front of Hannah’s school, she throws open the door, jumps out, turns and yells, “SEE YA SUCKA!!!”

That’s my girl.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

What "PCS" Means To Me

There was a time in my life that I really had no idea what PCS stood for, nor did I care. And when I had my first brush with this acronym, I found it terribly annoying. Why not just say “we’re moving” or “we’re leaving?” Is it imperative to use PCS as a verb and a noun?

We’re PCSing (verb).

When we PCS (noun).

It was Yokosuka, Japan circa early 2006. We had just arrived after a 15-hour flight with one and a half kids in tow (I was six months pregnant). Bleary eyed and mildly confused, I remember stumbling through the base thinking it looked terribly gray and industrial. Nothing like the glamorous setting of Coronado we had left behind. And then the acronyms began. And I didn’t understand one of them. PCS…AOB…PSD…they just kept coming. All I could think was OMG.

I found the military language barrier more challenging than understanding Japanese. How hard is it to forget how to say thank you in Japanese? We sang a song about it repeatedly in 6th grade (domo arigato…Mr. Roboto). I picked that one up quickly.

ut for some reason I developed a rather deep contempt for military acronyms. It likely was my way of flexing my independence. You see, I was never asked for my social security number rather my “sponsor’s (e.g., husband). It was almost as if I didn’t exist. And that can be a tough pill to swallow for those of us considered independent, strong willed and maybe a bit egotistical.

Spending two years living on a military base changes you.

For the better.

We met lifelong friends with whom we forged unbreakable bonds. We strengthen our family. And we empowered ourselves. And this happens every time you PCS (yes, I concede).

As I reflect upon the amazing adventures this noun/verb has taken us on, I see posts from friends beginning the PCS process all over again…packing up their families to drive across the country. And they don’t do it begrudgingly. They do it with vigor and enthusiasm…because this ride we’re on is one hell of an adventure.

So, yeah, we’re PCSing in August. And I can’t wait.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The Window

As a military wife, you know there is a possibility of one day looking out the window and seeing an official-looking car pull up to your house. You disregard this thought immediately, but it never really goes away.

On May 20, 2009, I woke up as I do every day. It was 6:47 a.m. and my son bounded into my room asking for Tom and Jerry. Normally, I go straight to my recorded programs and push play. But on this morning, the news greeted me with a photo of a Seahawk helicopter. And I knew from that moment on, I would never be the same again. There was a chance Greg was flying that helicopter. There was a chance one of his friends was. In my gut, I knew it was more than a chance.

I started to shake. The reporter was mumbling something about the USS Nimitz. My shaking became almost uncontrollable. I checked my Blackberry. An email from the XO’s wife: “There has been an accident.”

On wobbly legs, I managed to make my way down to the computer. And there it was. An email from Greg confirming what I thought I knew was true. The email read, "off to go fly. I love you and will write more when I land.” There was no other email from him. He took off at 8 p.m. The news was reporting the crash occurred around 11:30 p.m. on the 19th. I threw up.

I called his best friend, also a helo pilot.

“I’m on my way,” was all I remember Mark saying to me. And Jara was coming too. I remember thinking, Oh my God, is this really happening?

I went to my window.

The window I sit in front of every day and craft documents for my clients. The window I peer out of to see if my neighbors are home. The window that tells me when my husband is home safe for the night. Today, the window represented something more. It was the one thing between me and a car pulling into my driveway. Shaking, I would peer through the blinds to see if they were here.

That morning, I vacillated between complete hysteria and total normalcy. I fed my children breakfast calmly, and as they ate, I went outside and out of earshot to pray/scream to God that this wasn’t happening.

I looked at my best friends and screamed “this can’t be happening, Greg can swim. He would swim!” And Jara said to me with the saddest eyes I have ever seen, “sometimes they can’t swim.” And she knows; she’s a helo pilot too. I sobbed, I shook and then I played with my children. Vacillating once again between hysteria and normalcy.

As the morning wore on, calls were fielded and additional information came trickling in, we began to realize it wasn’t Greg flying the aircraft. We learned only later that he had landed safely; and as he was leaving the flight deck yelled to his buddies in Indian 617 to “Fly safe. I’ll see you in the morning.” This was the last time he would see his friends again.

Sitting at my desk, staring out my window, the call came in. In the same breath, I found out it wasn’t my husband that was flying, rather his close friend, roommate and mentor. The vomit rose in my throat. It wasn’t Greg, but it was Eric. It was unthinkable. Eric has a wife and three children under three, with the youngest a three-week-old daughter. I wanted to throw up again.

And so here I sit, one year later, penning this blog looking out my window remembering the morning our lives changed forever. The fear of “what if” for me is a reality for the five families who lost loved ones that tragic night. The pain we feel is a mere fraction of what the families of Eric, Allison, Grant, Aaron and Sean endured and continue to endure every day. We remember. And we mourn.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

When Deployment Should be Over...But It is Not.

A six month deployment is bad enough. But how do you deal when the six-month deployment turns into an eight-month deployment? My answer: you just do. I have so many friends that say, "Isn't it hard to think about the fact that Greg would be coming home right now if they weren't extended?" Honestly...I just don't think about it. It hasn't even crossed my mind. Because when you are trying to keep the house running, kids fed and happy and yourself relatively put together, worrying about another two months just doesn't make the cut.

So my advice to any military wives out there struggling through a deployment. Keep your chin up; be strong for your husband; it's likely harder on him than it is on you.