October 27, 2011

The Bonds of Sisterhood.

An awful accusation was made against a dear friend of mine this last week. Let me clarify that I have never met this woman in person, but she is truly a sister of my soul. Some of you may ask why I would consider a person I have never met a "dear friend". Let me explain. She lives the same life as I do. Her husband is in the Army. Her husband, like mine has vowed to make the military his career. He has deployed to a combat zone countless times. He leads men into battle, and makes difficult decisions. They have moved from place to place. They have two young children just about the same age as mine. This woman walks in my shoes, and I in hers. Though we have never met in person, we would certainly have a lot to discuss if ever we did. And in the world of the Army, it certainly is possible.

In February of this year, one day after my 30th birthday, which I spent alone, because my husband was out in the field for another stint of training, Megan wrote something that truly resinated with me, brought me to tears because I have spent many birthdays, anniversaries, and countless holidays by myself while the man in my life, my best friend, and my partner was away in a combat zone. Her words resinated with me because my family faces many more holidays, birthdays, and anniversaries while he is away because our family CHOOSES to serve this nation in a way that most citizens of this country will never know or understand. Her words got down the nitty gritty of the relationship between a soldier and their spouse. For it is a complex one. The link to her post that I am referencing is here ---> "Promises"

A young, and inexperienced Navy wife accused Megan of stealing the words of her post from someone else, but has yet to produce evidence of such plagiarism. The truth of the matter is that for the wives of soldiers who have deployed to dangerous places in the world, continue to do so, and will do so again if called upon, Megan's words could be each of our own, if ever so less eloquently put. For only Megan has a way of writing that is wholly her own. It is unmistakably from a place within her, and written with such a raw honesty that it can only be from her. For those of us who've followed Megan's journey and have been inspired by her enduring strength, her love for her husband, her country, and her undying faith in God, we recognize what this young Navy wife has not. These are indeed Megan's words.

Us wives of combat soldiers and Marines have a unique journey, and a unique life. As I said in a response to Megan's post, we live in a world where fear should prevail, but instead hope does. Our reality, our view of this world, and our life in general should be harsh. It should be pessimistic. We have every reason to be sad, and feel sorry for ourselves. We have every reason to be bitter and angry, but instead most of us choose to lead a life of love, service, and hope. We band together in bonds of eternal understanding. We are each other. We are sisters of the soul. We walk through this life together. And despite the fact that at times each of us feels very alone, we never are. A woman who knows the same things, feels the same things, lives the same way, is only a phone call away.

When someone attacks one of our own because notoriety is today's most valuable currency, we all take it very, VERY personally. We all know there are people in the world willing to do anything to gain that 15 minutes of fame. But 15 minutes of fame is not why Megan, nor I, post our stories, and expose our lives to the public sphere. I cannot speak for Megan, but I write because I feel that families of combat soldiers are often misunderstood. This life is one I volunteered for the day I signed my name on the marriage certificate. It is one I signed up for the day I fell in love with a soldier. To me, notoriety only means that I've reached one more reader in a world where the war my husband and my family fights is forgotten. I do not get paid to write. I gain nothing of material value from this blog.

Women like Megan, and like the countless women who blog or read about military life, need not another reason to shed our tears. We don't need another cause to fight for. We have plenty. But do not underestimate the resolve of a combat soldier's wife. We come to each other's aid at a moment's notice. We band together and strengthen our ranks. For those who would rather beat us down, for those who would rather accuse than discover the truth, for those who would rather take something that truly does not belong to them, we will take lessons from our husbands, who fight for us. We will fight for what we believe, and it will not be without honor, for sometimes honor is all that's left.

Megan, you have my support. I am behind you.

October 26, 2011

Full Circle

I originally created this blog to have a place to discuss how military life affects me, and my kids. At first, it was just the superficial "this-is-how-this-lifestyle-is" kind of stuff. But for a long time there has been a desire do delve deeper into how this life makes me who I am. Selfish, maybe. Vain, perhaps. But this life has made me so much more than I ever thought I could be.

This life always leaves a huge gapping hole in my heart. Don't get me wrong. I love and adore my husband. I am his biggest fan. I'd give my life for my two children. I love my life, and I wouldn't have it any other way. But the fact is that I'm away from my family with whom I am very close, and my husband is frequently gone leaving me to lead the lifestyle of a single mother but without the single mother income. Someone we know is always deployed, always hurt, always dying. The people we make friends with are always moving away, and friends who've become like family are scattered all over the world. The harsh reality is that we are a country at war. We have been for 10 years. An anniversary that slipped quietly into the night for pretty much everyone but the military community. I've lived in fear of losing my husband to this war for nearly a decade. A fear that is made worse by the fact that we now have two small children who very well could grow up without knowing their daddy.

Through the years I have constantly been searching for a way to fill the hole. I fill my free time with friends, phone calls, my kids, movies, the internet, or furthering my education. What I've been ignoring, is the ability to fill the hole with something so simplistic I can't believe it took me this long to figure it out. Me. I fill the hole with me. I don't know if it's this place in the world, or this time in my life but it feels as though things are falling into place. I've spent years doing the things I should do. Searching for the things I should be. What I should have done was listened to myself when I was 16. I knew then what I wanted. I just didn't trust myself enough to see it through.

However my husband has taught me a little something about motivation, dedication, and fear. He's taught me that in order to be a fulfilled person, you have to do what makes you happy. He's made his way through his career doing exactly what he's wanted to do. I've always been there supporting him because I love him. He's taught me that you can't hold back from what you really want because you're afraid that it might not work out how you'd planned. And finally I realized that I needed to do the same. I needed to stop doing certain things because I should and start doing things that make me happy. I know I have my husband's love and support to do so.

So I've come full circle. I've discovered that I really did know what I wanted when I was 16. I am living a dream. I am the artist I always wanted to be. I successfully started my own photography business, and it's growing. I love what I do. I spend my days making people happy simply by doing what makes me happy. And I can physically feel the change. I've regained myself. I can't help it that I love pretty pictures, and I won't apologize for wanting to create that utopian moment for the parents of a newborn baby. I won't apologize for the desire to capture the miracle of pregnancy in a romantic and poetic way. I love everything about it.

In every way, I owe this life for the courage and the strength to finally become what I've always wanted. It may have taken me 14 years to find my way, but the point is that my past and my present have finally become one, and I'm back to being me.

October 20, 2011

Buying Something Out in Town

Since we live on base while we are here in Okinawa, I make a point to venture out into town several times a week. I have to take my son to school and pick him up each day, but I like to get out and see things. I don't have the confidence to go too far away yet, and I've already gotten side tracked once or twice, but not lost! Soon I think I will make my trip to the market in Naha.

My children and I found the closest Toys R Us, which by the way is NOTHING like ours in the states. But within the same small shopping center was a 100 Yen store - the equivalent of the dollar store in the states. We went in and I was amazed at all of the stuff! Way better than our dollar stores for sure! I am definitely going to have to make another trip there soon, but that's another story.

The following day, my quest for fabric brought me out into town again. Sure I can order anything I desire on Amazon.com, but then I have to wait at least a week for it to get here. Being that I'm an instant gratification kind of girl, I'd rather go on a little adventure and see what I can find. Especially with fabric. I need to see and touch the fabric to be certain it's what I'm looking for.

So I've discovered that there is a specific etiquette to purchasing something. First of all, in many places they have a little tray that I believe you're supposed to place the money on. I don't think you're supposed to place the money on the counter. Once you've given your money to the cashier, they speak for like 5 minutes in Japanese. I clearly don't understand what they're saying, so I just nod along and say "hai" but for all I know, they're ripping me off (I don't think this has ever really happened) and I am very greatful for the cash register, most of which are ancient by American standards, but they work none the less, to show me the amount of Yen due. Then they hand me back my change which is almost always in a fist full of coins, so now my purse weighs a ton. (I'm thinking I need a coin purse hint hint honey!) because my wallet is falling apart from all the coins clanking around in there. Once they've given me my change, the only thing they say that I DO understand is Arigato gosaimasu - thank you very much.

Conclusion is that I must must must learn whatever this etiquette is so I don't feel like the stupid American woman engaged in a bizarre game of charades!

Oh, and honey, if you're reading this, I'll take a either Coach or a Louis Vuitton coin purse. Either one would be fashionable enough to hold all of my Yen! Ha ha ha!!

October 12, 2011

Watashi Wa Watashi No Zubon Ni Un Chi Suru Tsumoridesu

Today began as ordinarily as any other. My son woke me up by lifting the blinds that keep the bright tropical sun from streaming into my bedroom at 6:15am. My husband is training again so his schedule is unpredictable and therefore the care of our children falls solely to me. Not something I'm unfamiliar with so getting into the swing of things is easy.

I begged my son for a few more minutes and sent him downstairs to watch cartoons. He's independent enough at this point to grab a banana and some cereal while I wash my face and brush my teeth, and get the baby out of bed.

I plodded down the stairs with the baby to make my coffee and pack my son his lunch. In that order. Coffee comes first. When my husband's schedule is like this I don't sleep very well so coffee is the elixir of life that allows me to pry my eyeballs open enough to drive my son to school. I was standing in front of the coffee pot with my giant mug in hand literally vibrating. The second the pot beeped it's "I'M DONE!" beep I was pouring the steaming liquid into my cup accompanied by my sugar free French Vanilla creamer. Now its unfortunate that my cups of coffee are not bottomless because some mornings, I sure wish they would be. This morning was one of those. I had 3 cups.

After all was said and done, we dashed out the door at 8:15. Traffic on the 23 is touch and go at this time of the morning and the drive can take 15-25 minutes depending. But this morning I had a plan. I was going to drop my son off at school and then head down the the running trail along the beach. It's been probably 2 months since I've run and I was looking forward to it. I didn't care how long the drive to school took. I'd get there.

I dropped off my son and drove excitedly toward the running trail. No sooner had I pulled into the parking lot than my stomach committed mutiny on my well laid plans. I have a veeeeerrrryyyyy sensitive stomach. If I get nervous, excited, scared, etc, my stomach is where all the tension goes.

GGRRAAAOOOOWWWWWMMMMMMMB! My guts are rolling. Nerves? I think I'm ok. I know I haven't run in a while but really? My guts drop into my butt. I'm standing by my trunk getting my jogging stroller out of the car. I can't believe this is happening. I turn to look at the day. Not a cloud in the sky, slightly humid, but cooler than it's been, the path is practically empty, and the ocean is a shimmering, crystal blue. Then I remember. 3, thats 3 cups of coffee.

BRRRRRRRRRRRTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTOOOOOOOWWWWWW!!!!! OMG! I glance around in a panic. I need a bathroom like NOW. But alas, there are no bathrooms to be had, not that I really care for the squattie potties that are the norm around here, and I don't have the time to walk around and search for one. I make the quick decision to get back into my car and head for home. It's a fairly short drive. . . 

Not a good plan. I spent 30 minutes in traffic trying to get back onto the military base where we live. I'd forgotten that the gate closest to where I was located is always a zoo at this time of day. I was speeding north on the 58 because the maximum speed limit is 60 kilometers per hour. That calculates out to about 37.28 mph. I was going 80 kph. I had not spotted 1 public restroom along the way. Speeding off base is BAD. If you're caught it's expensive and you can lose your license for anywhere from 7 days to 3 months depending on how fast you're going. I was going 20 over. Not good.

I began to contemplate what I would say to the Okinawan police officer should I get stopped. . . How in the hell do you say, I am going to poop in my pants! in Japanese?!?! I have no idea where to even begin, and since I'm driving so fast I most definitely cannot google it at this particular juncture. I am seriously considering putting on one of my daughter's diapers. I am close to tears because my body is so full that something has to come out somewhere and I'd rather it come out my eyes than, well, you know. . .

I make it to the gate. I'm in line. There is only 1 lane open. WHAT?? ONE M$%@&R-F%$@#$!G lane open?!?!?! ARE YOU KIDDING ME? I am the 12th car in line, and we're not moving. . . I still have to make it to the other side of base where my house is. I absolutely can not speed on base. I already have one ticket and crapping in my pants would be FAR better than what my husband would do to me if I got another. Well at least I don't have to worry about explaining what is going on to a Japanese cop. And I am pretty sure that the military police have heard every excuse in the book and would not be sympathetic unless I actually did shit in my running shorts.

To spare you the remaining details, I made it home poop-in-pants free. But this is the second time I've been frustrated by the language barrier. Oh, and by the way, Watashi Wa Watashi No Zubon Ni Un Chi Suru Tsumoridesu, means - I am going to poop in my pants - in Japanese.

October 10, 2011

Wanting to Speak Japanese vs. Actually Doing It.

"Here Honey. It's loading up!" My husband proudly announces that he's remembered his password for Rosetta Stone, which we get free through the military. Since we learned that our PCS to Japan is official I've decided that I am going to learn to speak some Japanese using Rosetta Stone. Even if I can't speak perfectly, they'll respect me for putting in the effort right?

I sit down in front of the computer screen and click on Lesson 1, and my eyes immediately bug out of my head. Everything is in Japanese characters. . .

"Konnichiwa!" The voice says cheerfully. I dutifully repeat.

"KOH-NEE-CHEEE-WAHHHH!" I stutter struggling to get the inflection right. Oh boy. This is gonna be harder than I thought.

Eventually I get through lesson 2, and 3, and then I stop. I simply don't know how often I am going to announce to the restaurant that "The boy is eating!" in Japanese, which at this point is really the only thing I can say besides Hello, and Goodbye.

Fast forward to now. Here we are living in Japan. I have mastered 4 Japanese phrases with correct inflection, and they include, "Good Day", "Good bye", "Thank you very much", and "I'm sorry". The "I'm sorry" I learned after my son spilled an entire glass of coke at our favorite soba restaurant where the staff does not speak English, and to order our meal we pretty much just point to the pictures.

So my son tips over his glass and coke and ice go flying everywhere. All over the tatami mats next to our table, all over him, and the floor. And the snooty rich Japanese family next to us were giving me dirty looks and scooting their chairs as far away from us as possible even though ZERO soda had spilled in their direction. I quickly took out my phone and googled "I'm sorry" in Japanese because I had no clue, and it was clear that no one could speak English, or had the desire to speak to me in English.

Our waitress came over with a rag and I was literally on my hands and knees wiping up the spilled soda all the while repeating "Domo Sumimasen" (I'm very sorry) to anyone who even glanced in my direction. And while all of this is happening, my son is singing "Arigato, arigato!" - (thank you, thank you) - his ONLY Japanese word, and he uses it interchangeably as hello, good bye, and thank you.

We got a few sympathetic looks from another family who had a small child about my son's age, but the snooty family was still glaring at us, and I knew they were thinking, "Those damn Americans!" I realize that whether we like it or not, we are ambassadors for our country. This family has probably had negative experiences with Americans and thinks we're all like that. So in an effort to smooth things over, I whipped out my full arsenal of Japanese words.

I walk over to their table, "Domo sumimasen." I say as I point to the spilled glass of coke and my son. I grab my son's hand and then I say, "Sayonara." I bow slightly and we leave. And my son is still singing, "Arigato, arigato!"

Clearly I need to learn a little more of the language. And maybe teach my son what Arigato really means.