Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Why Half and Half Makes Me Feel Whole

Remember the blog about self-soothing? It's hard to believe I wrote that one over 8 months ago (37 weeks ago, but who's counting?). The other day I went grocery shopping and bought Half and Half. I turned the carton over to reveal the expiration date: January 9th. Less than one month before Justin's release date! (Mark Twain said you shouldn't use exclamation points, but I'm excited.)

You should see my paper chain. It used to be woven all the way around the banister up to our bedroom. Now, it boasts just 7 little rings that entertwine with only two posts on the staircase. On Friday I can say, "Justin will be home NEXT MONTH." On Sunday there will be just 6 weeks left. How odd that I am now starting to feel like I am running out of time to get my tasks completed. I have to feather my nest. The kitchen paint needs finished (got to buy a ladder to do it), the front bedroom needs a new shade as does the old iron bed, the living room needs touched up, the base boards need cleaned, the kitchen chairs need recovered (I'll post pictures of this project later- 6 high-back oak chairs that are getting grey ticking stripe on the seats and vintage burlap sacks on the backs, finished with antique copper nail heads), the master bedroom needs new bedding and a good cleaning as does its bathroom, and on and on and on. I'm headed to New York at the end of January, which leaves me with only five weeks to do it all.

Less than a month after that Half and Half expires, Justin will board a plane back to the United States. He'll de-mobilize at a stateside Army base and make his way back to the Frankfort Airport, where he left us 44 weeks earlier. The family will come to town and we will reunite again on that little tarmac. We'll hug and kiss, eat and drink, and then I'll show our little home to him. Some things have changed since he left. I want to experience that moment together, alone. I want him to be able to take it all in. A few hours later, we'll meet the family again and have dinner at Shaker Village. Then we'll all stay up late having drinks at our house and catching up before the others retire to the hotel. We'll meet for breakfast the next morning and then spend the day in our little kitchen as everyone helps with our "Christmas in February" meal. We'll sit down to a menu of Frye-d Turkey (thanks to Jason), Mom's creamed potatoes and green beans, Giada's butternut squash lasagna, and Granny's sweet potato pie (made by me). Then, we'll open gifts which we postponed so our Soldier could experience Christmas at home. And I bet he's not expecting what I have for him. That's okay- I'm not expecting what he has for me either since he says he already has it and I never saw it come through on our American Express. Mom, Dad and Michael will probably head home the next day. His family will stay on for another day or two. And then he and I will leave for Asheville, North Carolina where we'll finish out what little time we have away from the hustle and bustle of family, work and our everyday responsibilities.

I am ready for this moment- dirty, unfinished, undecorated house and all. I am ready to begin the rest of our life together. I have to prepare my heart, although I think that is the thing that needs the least attention.

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Sunday, November 29, 2009

Clay County, Life's Bounty

I was born and raised in Atlanta.. for the first ten years anyway. The state I've lived the longest in? Alabama. Throughout my entire life, I have traveled the state known as the "heart of dixie"- moved away, moved back, and moved away again. But I've always called it home.

My parents were high school sweethearts in Ohatchee, Alabama- the homecoming queen and the center of the football team (not quite as romantic as being able to say the quarterback, but still worth mentioning). Dad met Mom when the 3rd graders were asked to go read to the 1st graders. Mom was his "student" and he thought she was cute. What isn't cute about a first grader? But I guess it was love at first sight for Dad. He asked her out when he was 14 and she was 12, and then kissed her on the school bus. The rest is history. Or is it? I believe that sometimes in life, things don't actually become history. They get weaved into our makeup and come back to haunt us from time to time.

They sought out a new beginning, at 18 and 20, respectively. They set up house one state over, in Georgia (which must have seemed exotic to them at the time). Dad went to school at Southern Tech and they both worked nights at a photo developing shop. When I was one year old they bought a house in a newly-developed neighborhood and we lived there until Dad was transferred to Huntsville, Alabama 9 years later.

While living in Atlanta, I too thought Alabama was exotic simply because it wasn't Georgia. I would claim it as if it were mine- when in reality I only went there a handful of times in a year to visit my grandparents. But for some reason, because my parents and grandparents were born there, I felt like it owned me. And when we moved there, it just seemed right. I knew I would never live in Atlanta again. It had just been a pitstop along my parents' journey together. A means to and end. A detour.

They settled in Decatur, Alabama and have lived there ever since. The only problem is, they're never there. On weekends and in between business trips, they head off to a little spot on the Alabama map that we don't even call by its city. Clay County... life's bounty.

Situated about 30 minutes south of I-20, it might be the most convenient place on earth, geographically at least. From there, you can reach Auburn (our alma mater and Justin's hometown), Birmingham and Atlanta within an hour and a half. But it's not convenience that we're after. It would be more likely to fall in love with this place if you're already in love with inconvenience. That's what you get in the country... but that's part of its appeal.

Clay County feels like home even if you're only there on weekends. It's a place where your alarm system is leaning next to your bed- fully loaded and ready to defend. Your dogs sleep with you in the small cabin built by a father's hands (and a little help from the locals). There's always enough food on the stove, in case an unexpected visitor stops in, and most often does. When there's not enough to share you do it anyway and eat less. Christmas trees are cut, not bought. There are stories told by real-log fireplaces, like the one about the man who "was so sorry he had to dig his own grave." In Clay County you discover that a pot of potatoes boiling sounds just like someone driving up the dirt road and you're not sure which outcome you'd rather have. The doors are always open, but the house isn't always clean. When a man needs help, he gets help. When a woman is home alone, the man stays outside. When a loved one dies, a tree gets planted. When a friend gets cancer you buy the things he needs to sell, even if you don't need them. When a Soldier goes overseas the men sit around and talk about the wars they fought, until he comes home and they can hear about his.

The Piggly Wiggly is twenty minutes up the road, and you have to drive 30 miles just to buy beer, but it's that inconvenience that appeals to those with an old soul- those who enjoy the leisurely pace, the unexpected, and the journey you take when you have to work a little for what you get. If this is foreign to you, then hop in your car right now and head to the spot between Lineville and Cragford. You might have to stop and ask for directions. But what's the fun in getting there if you already knew where you were going?

Saturday, October 17, 2009

When in Rome...

Before I left for my trip I went shopping. A lot. But among the new outfits, scarves and comfy Tory Burch flats, I bought the basics: Shampoo, Conditioner and Body Wash. I wasn't out of those items when I left, but I replaced them with smaller, travel-size versions to make it easier to transport. One day, I'll open up a bottle of Biolage Color Care and be taken right back to my two weeks in Italy. I like that.

I have debated whether to spare you the details of the travel, leaving just the one-liner that encompasses the whole trip... the sentence we said to one another over and over and over again while there: "I'm so happy."

But I digress. I can't help it. Read further if you like. For you history buffs not interested in my playful lease on this part of my life, you can stop after this paragraph: We saw The Vatican, The Sistine Chapel, Michaelangelo's David, The Cathedrals of Rome, Siena, and Florence, The Trevi Fountain and The Spanish Steps. We spent time exploring Tuscany, shopping in Cortona, and we visited a vineyard in Montepulciano. Justin and I hiked the Cinque Terre Trail (in one day!) and we swam in the Meditteranean Sea. But that's not what I'm writing about.

Words can do a lot to describe what we experienced. But they can't do it justice by any means. I wanted to walk in the door on Sunday at 9 pm, fresh off the plane with memories recent, and begin to hammer out my entry. But jet lag and the need to refresh myself for the impending daily routines won out. Truthfully, I have had more fun reliving the moments, and recapping them to friends. I've been unable to get through a description of our time together without shedding a few tears. It was magical. It was perfect. I could not have asked for more.

Before I left, I wrote about Justin's heart. I read back over that entry this morning and realized it was a far cry from doing his character any justice. I realize the self-indulgence that bloggers possess. For some reason, we think others want to hear what we have to say. I don't care what you take from me, my opinions and my way of thinking. But I hope you get to know my husband. I hope you get him like I do when this is all over. I hope you have that honor.

That fateful Saturday in September (seems like so long ago), I was dressed in my aforementioned knit dress and Ms. Samuels' bracelets. I was calm after landing in Rome. I had been much more nervous during my connection in Detroit... that feeling of the unknown. The stress of travel ahead. But in Rome, I exhaled. I stood in line at the wrong baggage claim for over 10 minutes- waiting, watching, to never see my bag come around the corner. I wasn't hurried like I thought I would be. I was just at peace. When I made it to my bag, I headed toward the swinging doors that protected baggage claim from the outside world. As the doors swung open I saw the partition- much like something they would have between adoring fans and celebrities at a red carpet event. Everyone was watching anxiously to see their loved ones. And there, as the doors swung back, I saw him standing, just to the right. Clad in a blue polo, khakis and tennis shoes, his hair was short and his face was more toned than I could remember. He was the most handsome man I had ever seen. I ran to his side and we embraced, my 66-pound rolling suitcase knocking into my hip. We couldn't let go for at least a minute. Tears came between our kisses even as we were giving them. He had 3 gerbera daisies in his hand. LOVE.

I was dying for someone to capture this. But the short distance between the door and where he was standing didn't allow for much time to hand the camera over and I am sure it was the furthest thing from his mind at the time. Immediately, we had an overwhelming feeling of picking up right where we left off in April. The six months between our goodbye and hello seemed to disappear. We felt the instant connection that had bonded us to one another over seven years ago. The attraction, the sense of humor, the respect and love. I was the happiest I have ever been.

That feeling stayed with me until I left his side last weekend. We spent the first week with family- amongst food and drink and love and laughter (an abundance of all those things). To try to summarize the moments we all shared together would be impossible. I could never recap the memories from that week with our parents and brothers. We traveled Rome, attended happy hour in front of the Pantheon, made friends with our wait staff, and relished in our tourist attitude. We rode the double decker bus and saw the sights like true Americans. We spent four days in a Tuscan villa that became our home away from home. We were hosted, fed, loved and nurtured by Italy. Life was so good.

During the day we were pulled in all directions. A family of 9 means 9 opinions, 9 ideas (at least!) and 9 ways to get there. But we managed. All prior personalities were left at the door- in honor of our most important guest and his newfound, albeit temporary, "freedom." At night, we ate some of the best food any of us had ever tasted. Some nights, we ate at the villa, thanks to Mom's home-away-from-home-cooking. Most meals were shared together outdoors, including those at the villa, where we ate and drank underneath the vine-covered trellis.

The family left on the second Sunday and we cried. I cried because I hurt for them not getting to experience him any more than they did. I felt so blessed to be the one who had that honor. After our goodbyes we hopped on a four-hour trainride to Cinque Terre where we would spend the next 6 days... alone.

When we arrived in Vernazza, the 2nd-most northern town on the Cinque Terre Trail, we were speechless. We were situated in the most pristine and lively of the five towns, a point I had not missed when doing my research for our lodging. We literally felt like we had rolled our heavy suitcases right into Heaven. Our quaint little room looked right out over the Mediterranean Sea. The air was so cool that night that I wasn't sure I could move from the balcony to do all the things on our "to-do list" (shower, nap, get ready, drink, eat). It was here that we began uttering the words, "I'm soooo happy."

That night and the next day, we explored our little town. It didn't take long to walk through the main cobblestone street and scope out the shops that I would frequent over and over again later in the trip, contemplating souvenirs. But it was that quaintness that had us feeling like we owned the town by the time we left. We felt like locals.

On Tuesday, our 2nd full day there, we had planned out a route that would take us on the roughly 7-mile hike along the entire Cinque Terre Trail. We hiked from our town (Vernazza) down to the most southern (Riomagiorre), ferried back up to the most northern (Monterosso) and then hiked the trail between Monterosso and our home for the week. The terrain is extremely rugged, with manmade, rocky steps most of the way. By the time we arrived back in Vernazza around sunset, we felt victorious. We threw off our hiking clothes, bought two beers from the hotel bar and jumped into the turquoise water of our port.

Wednesday was my most favorite day. We put on swimsuits and took a train back up to Monterosso, where the best beaches awaited. We rented the two beach chairs furthest from the public and sunned, swam and snorkled in the clear blue waters of the ocean. Their beaches don't have shells, but rather rocks. I taught Justin about "sea glass," a phenomenon I had only read about, and we went on a day-long treasure hunt to find the best and most beautiful. We made memories I will never forget that day. The time was peaceful and playful and the moments ahead only got better.

The next day was overcast and we were debating how to spend it. We ended up in a few shops, but napped and relaxed most of the day. Every single night was spent the same way- drinks around 7 and dinner between 8 and 9. We always spent the evenings wrapped in conversation with one another.

It was Friday evening, our last night there that we had our best talk. We had made a last-minute decision to head up to Portofino earlier that day. It rained on us and the shops were closed when we arrived. Justin and I shared hotdog and egg pizzas while the rain poured down in front of Gucci, Prada and Emilio Pucci. When we got back to Vernazzza that night, I had every intention to shower and change into a nice dress for our last night in the Cinque Terre. But good conversation turned great and I realized that after sitting down for a drink as we waltzed back into town, my biggest fan was sitting in front of me and didn't care if I got my 138-dollars-worth out of that Anthroplogie dress I had been planning to wear. We ordered drink after drink, there at the Blue Marlin, where we had shared a breakfast of eggs (the only eggs in town) most mornings. We told stories of childhood, ones I know we'd both heard before. But somehow, they all sounded new and different.

That's how the whole trip went. The experiences were new and different. But the feeling was the same. Good, wholesome, comfortable love. That's what I got. That's what he gives me every second of every day of every year.

I left him on Sunday with less tears than I had thought possible and far less than what my silly heart had dreaded leading up to it. I left him with a sense of security, of memory and wonder. I wonder what the Lord has in store for us. I wonder what He'll surprise us with next. I know for sure we weren't expecting any of this.

And now that I am home, I realize I won't need the smell of a familiar shampoo after all. The memories are so real I can almost touch them. I pray they never fade, not even a little. I want to revisit them from time to time. I want to travel back to the place where everything was just right, just for a moment. In less than four months, I will have that chance again. No, we're not planning another trip (it will be a long time before we can afford to).

He will be home. And every day with him is like a vacation.

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Thursday, September 24, 2009

Flying Solo for a Moment More

The time is here. The time I have waited for. Tomorrow I leave on the most exciting journey I have ever taken. I am headed to Italy to see the love of my life. He'll be waiting for me at baggage claim in the Fiumicino Airport. Rome bound. Love is right around the corner. Though it's been here all along.

God is so good. He knows me so well. I wanted a baby. Justin said if we weren't pregnant before he left for Iraq he would take me to Europe on his R&R. He made good on his promise. God did too. He has promised me the desires of my heart. But I feel so undeserving. To both of them.

Let me tell you about my husband. Let me tell you about his life. If you read my blog at all, then you know how it all started with us. But that's just the last seven years. Before that, he had already developed his character into will and determination, into loyalty and a kind heart. All things from which I would eventually learn. His example was noticeable from the very beginning. The silent leader. No one even knows it's him until all of a sudden everyone's following him. He doesn't shout from the rooftops that he's up front. He's just there. And you can't help but go with him.

He'll kill me for saying these things. He's too humble for this.

He didn't have to join the Army. As a matter of fact they tried to turn him away. Too old, too injured, too many traffic violations. But he kept up the fight. He knew from the moment he learned to walk that he had to learn to fly.

I didn't want him to go Active. I was never going to tell him that. I wanted to support him, but I had prayed and knew in my heart of hearts that the life wasn't meant for us. An opportunity came from above. No pun intended. And we took it. He would go on to serve in the Kentucky Army National Guard and become a Chief Warrant Officer. He started flight school the month we were married and I had a stand-in groom at our wedding rehearsal because he was learning to fly a blackhawk. We spent our first year of marriage at Fort Rucker and then moved to Lexington. Bought a house. Started new jobs. Chinook flight school. Fixed-wing flight school. On our five-year anniversary we will have spent three of them together. Our fifth anniversary will be our second together (the only other one was our first).

In October of last year he had been home about a month from his latest flight school, which had separated us for five months. He came home from work one day and said, "We need to talk." I remember where I was standing making dinner in our little kitchen (our kitchen is so small that there's really only one place to stand). I knew the moment he said it. I said, "You're deploying." I fought back tears as he told me the options. One unit would leave in April. One in August. One in November. I said, "I hope you go in April." He was floored. I don't think he was expecting that response. My reasoning? "Let's get this over with." And then we prayed. We prayed for days, for weeks, for a month. Until it was official.

Now here we are. No baby, no puppy (that was another bargaining chip he's since forgotten). I am two days away from seeing his handsome face, standing there in Rome, waiting for me at baggage claim. Praying he fulfilled my only request of handing a stranger his camera to capture the moment.

God is so good. Everybody thinks our time together will be good because we've been apart so long. Everybody thinks that's why our relationship is solid and grounded in one another's long distance love. But that's not it. It's good because it's right and real and honest. It's good because if a question is worth asking to the other, then it's worth saying yes to. It's good because God gave us this undying, fortunate, wholesome love. And for that I am grateful to Him and to him.

Thank you Justin for the man that you are. I'll see you Saturday. I'll be wearing a black knit dress and Ms. Samuels ivory bracelets (I feel prettiest when jewelry makes noise). And I expect to see you smiling, sans camera and with arms open wide.


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Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Twinkles in our Eyes

Here I am on the homefront. Waiting for him. 26 weeks left. 18 have come and gone.

It is odd how his lifestyle there has created in him an oxymoron. He is softer but tougher. It might be equal to the way a humanitarian feels when returning back from a third-world country. Gone are the entitlements and higher standards for living. But there is a new and more fulfilling entitlement- that of freedom and appreciation for life. He's not taking any crap off anybody. But he's the most compassionate and considerate man I have ever known. Even moreso than when he left.

We talk every two to three days. We have a video date about once a week and I even got to see his new mustache which he said grew in all different shades. In moments like these I am reminded of the journey our life and love has taken.

If you know us very well at all (and even if you know us just a little), you know about our struggles with starting a family. It's not something we keep a secret. Maybe one day I will sweep it under the rug. Maybe one day my new life will help me forget. But I'm not sure I want to. I have now, an appreciation for life and family that I never would have known. I guess you could say I have developed similar feelings to those that my husband will bring home next February. I guess I once knew entitlement and now I know how easily reality gets in the way of what you always expected you would one day be awarded.

We figured out it was "time" about two years into our marriage. That was in April of 2007. The very first time we tried, I got a positive pregnancy test. Justin was back at flight school and I had to wait all day to tell him the news. I wasn't even sure I wanted what I had received. I wasn't sure until that little pink line faded over the next few days and I suffered what they call a "chemical pregnancy." We went on to try and fail twice more before last November, never making it past a faint line on a few pregnancy tests.

Last November, in between doctors, and right before finally turning to some real fertility help, I found out I was pregnant again- and further along than I had ever been- at almost 5 weeks. The very next day my father called and said, "Come home. Your grandfather is dying." Justin was gone again, this time hiking his dream route on the Appalachian Trail with his childhood friend, Phillip. I couldn't tell him my sad or wonderful news. And I couldn't figure out how to feel. That afternoon, after a subsequent blood test confirmed the news, I sat on my couch waiting for him to call. Behind tears, I prayed, "Dear Lord, if you will just let me keep my grandfather, I will give this baby back." I'm not too concerned with how that comes across. It doesn't mean I didn't want what I had or that I was writing off the creation of human life. I, in no way, had any control over what would happen with that pregnancy, except to nourish my body in the hopes that I could create a healthy home for it for 9 months. I was simply offering up my own needs to God and trying to prove to him the sincerity behind my prayer. Justin later told me God doesn't work that way. But I was desperate.

We lost the pregnancy two days later- the day before Thanksgiving. On January 20th of this year we buried my grandfather. The next day, I found out I was pregnant again.

With help from a hormone supplement (one we discovered I was lacking, through our newfound saving grace of a doctor), we just knew this was it. I told strangers my news because I couldn't tell anyone I knew, and it was just too difficult to keep it in. The next week, I was in New York City at the gift mart. I was taking it easy, given my new state. But I started to bleed lightly after a few days and realized it was happening again. I was losing it. Again, devastation. I called home to my new doctor and we made plans for the future. What was causing this? To my surprise, a week and a half later, I was blood tested again, only to find that after arriving home from the trip, I was still very pregnant. But something was wrong. My levels weren't where they were supposed to be. At 7 weeks, they removed the ectopic pregnancy which had made its home in my left fallopian tube. They were able to salvage my tube and finally remove the cause of all my hormone imbalance- endometriosis. A silver lining amidst my two years of gray clouds. Finally, some answers.

Justin and I had one more chance to try before he left for Iraq. I thought that would be it. It made sense. Let me assure you, people, God doesn't always make sense. I was monitored closely in this process- assuring that all the right circumstances were there. All the stars were aligned and we just knew this would be it. I found out our attempts hadn't worked, of all days, the morning he was leaving. I remember sarcastically saying, "Thanks, God." Entitlement.

Since Justin has been gone, life went on to demonstrate to me that God knew what he was doing. Life went on to show me that He has a plan. Life went on to teach me how to make it. Life goes on for me, even though sometimes I feel like mine is the only one standing still. As my friends get pregnant, decorate nurseries and read books about child-rearing... As my husband serves thousands of miles away from me, I take a good hard look around and think, "God knows the desires of my heart. But to receive them, I must delight myself in Him."

So delight is what I will do. Please pray for us and for this journey. I hope it is a short one. But I know better than to expect it to be.

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Sunday, July 26, 2009

Y'all dunn asked fer it now!

There I was again at the Nashville Flea Market over the weekend. Can you believe it? I can't get enough of this place.

Mom and Dad met me there, accompanied by friends. They with their close friends Janet and Eddie, and I with my gal pals Libby and Lauren. We went down for the day. And what a day it was!

Lauren and I picked Libby up in Elizabethtown and got to the Flea Market around 9:30. We found a nice little parking spot and met up with my parents. Of course, we had to go see Steele first (see the entry titled "Good Stuff Displayed Bad"). It's a good thing we did. I thought Lauren was going to buy him out right then and there. She found herself an antique vacuum cleaner base painted turquoise (which she will use for her outdoor fountain), an iron coffee table with hotel flooring for its tabletop, a turqouise metal scroll for the wall, a brass lamp, and she was given a cross made of iron pipes. Yard art!

I personally found my dream decor, which I suspect will end up being my husband's worst nightmare: Three already-wired lamps made from vintage tin pails. Two were once used to hold lard (I have a feeling he will have an issue with the word "lard" on a functional piece in our living room), and one that used to hold peanuts. I asked Lauren if they were kitschy, to which she replied, "No. They would be kitschy if they were fake. These are dirty and real." Touche.

One of the most treasured memories I have of the Nashville Flea Market (albeit my memories only date back to last November) are that of the little hut that sells fresh roasted, hot-buttered corn in a husk. There, you can nibble away on something relatively healthy- I mean, it IS a vegetable- and you can also refresh your thirst with a nice cup of ORANGEADE. I know, why didn't I think of this? Someone actually said to me, "Isn't that just... orange juice?" Oh, but it's not. It's made the same way lemonade is. With sugar and water. It's divine. I had soon added two fans to the Orangeade Fan Club and it was only about one hour after the first cup that Libby offered to go back and get herself and Lauren seconds. So away she went.

Now, I am about to tell you what happened to my mother, Lauren and myself while Libby was off refilling her newfound obsession. This is not, in any way, an exaggeration (ask them for their version- I can assure you it will be the same). You will almost not believe what happened next. The three of us took off on foot, down a 45-degree angle hill to retrieve our vehicles and drive them back up the road to load our new treasures. You must have a pass to do this (which we did) and there is little to no traffic here for that reason. But alas, there we were hugging the curb of the road, walking to our cars. Let me paint the picture- we were on a paved road that was wide enough to fit three cars across. Plenty of room.

So as we are walking, I hear the loud beep of a car horn. Naturally, your first instinct is to think that you are in their way out of your own stupidity, or that you are in their way because of theirs and either way you might want to move. Well, when I turned to see that this car was riding down the middle of the road and was loaded with 4 heavy, middle-aged women holding small children in their laps it occurred to me they were just being obnoxious by honking at us innocent curb-huggers. It made me mad. And I'm a big fan of fairness, so I simply uttered, "What are you honking at?" No surprise- all four windows were down, but to my surprise, the driver was an angry mid-life-crisis road rager who must have had a target on our three little skirts (we did look cute, as Lauren pointed out and derived she must have been jealous). But here we are thinking I would have just uttered something to tick them off as they drove away. But no.

This crazy loon slams on her brakes- on the 45-degree hill- and proceeds to give everyone in the car whiplash while doing it. The two kids are thrown into the backs of the front seats and the car comes to a screeching halt. As the car stops, we hear these words from the lost soul of a woman in the front seat: "Y'all dunn asked fer it now!" I look at Mom and Mom looks at me and Lauren is already trucking it. It turns out Lauren was deathly (rightfully so) afraid of this woman using her vehicle as a weapon. But at this point, the redneck driver was flinging her own seatbelt off of her (never mind the kids- just save yourself) and GETTING OUT OF THE CAR! Mom and I are thinking "What exactly did we ask for?" And I'm mumbling to Mom, "Do you have your pistol?"

Meanwhile, we make it a good ways down the hill before we turn back to see this nutjob standing in the middle of our nice, wide road, in a middle linebacker position. She has her hands cupped around her mouth and her feet are nicely planted in a rather manly-looking plie position. And she's yelling, "I was TRYIN' to tell y'all to GIT out of the RO-AD!!!" At this point, there was nothing we could do but... laugh. And laugh we did. We laughed all the way to the shady spot under a tree where we determined the deadly vehicle would have plenty of things to run into before it ran into us. It took a good minute and a half for us to regain our composure and walk the rest of the way to the car. Only then, did we see the weighed-down nissan make its way out of the grassy parking area and disappear on the other side the guard shack. We're pretty sure they sat there for a minute plotting our deaths. But we didn't care.

We were living on the edge of our curb. And whatever we "asked for" was worth every redneck second.

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Wednesday, July 8, 2009

RC Cola and a MoonWalk

Life hasn't written much lately, or at least it hasn't given me much time to. Okay, so maybe I'm not officially a "writer," but I feel a little like a negligent mother- I haven't typed out my take-them-or-leave-them thoughts in nearly three weeks.

In that time, you would think life would have given me a little material. After all, I have since visited my parents' farm TWICE, finalized a much-cherished and much-needed trip to Italy to reunite with Justin and family (part of the time), and Lord Jesus, help us all.... Michael Jackson died.

I spent the first trip to The Farm cherishing my time with my dad, his mother ("Ma"), my sweet Granny and the rest of the family that makes me the only little gully-gully-gull- or spending time being "Lucy" as my mother refers to me. We had a low-key weekend then. That Sunday we had the local schmocals over for "Cowboy Church" a tradition that is anything but traditional... or is it? How, once, did a congregation really meet? Would they not have been surrounded by God's beautiful bounty? It doesn't get much more beautiful than Clay County, Alabama.... God's Country. Dad gave a memorable sermon and pointed out the land we were given (not by my parents, but by our FATHER), appropriately, on Father's Day. Spending time in that part of the world turns me into a different person. Not because I wasn't myself before I got there, but because it teaches me to act like the person I really want to become.... Simple, back to the roots, back to the earth. And whole.

On my second trip to The Farm, I was accompanied by friends Jessica and Michelle. We booked our Southwest flights (Louisville-Birmingham) at the last minute and I convinced them that it would be a relaxing 4th of July weekend. We arrived around 3 pm last Friday and headed straight to Flat Rock (or the Redneck Riviera, as we affectionately call it), a large stretch of limestone that slopes off into Lake Wedowee and is rumored to be the same rock that makes up Stone Mountain. There, you can sunbathe and wade in the bathwater-like lake. We drank white sangria and read books, the three of us basking in the glow of nothingness and lack of responsibilites until our cell phones got service again. It was sheer peace. As a matter of fact, we hardly talked at all. We enjoyed home cooking at the tiny cabin my father built with his own hands, and slept on air mattresses on the screened in porch. Heaven, I tell you.

Justin and I planned a trip to Italy in September and October. In Rome we will do like the Romans. In Tuscany we will do as we please. I am overjoyed. For the first week our families will join us. Our plane tickets are purchased, our hotels are booked. And there is a villa waiting for us in Cortona (where Under the Tuscan Sun was filmed). We will see Rome, Florence, Siena and Cortona with our parents and brothers. We will see Cinque Terre by ourselves- a welcomed respite from the worldly obstacles that have kept us apart. Justin and I will be together in Italy for fifteen days. I count my blessings all the time. I am the happiest woman in the world.

In other news, the King of Pop is gone. I was a fan, but not a FAN. I admit he was talented- he had his hey day. But it was over long ago. Gone were the days of his smooth dark skin accompanied by his smooth moves. Gone was the well-written music inspired by 80s-era, over-the-top flamboyancy. Gone were the early nineties when his looks had changed but his music hadn't. Gone. Why are we just mourning him now? He was gone a long time ago.

I think the hardest part of watching this fanfare over his death has been that we put all this stock into celebrity and image. We lift these people up and create idols out of them. We worship them, pine for them, long to meet them, and try to emulate them as much as possible. And for what? I beg you- I urge you- to prioritize your admirations.

I was saddened to hear of the deaths of a number of US Soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan the week MJ died. Was there fanfare over that? A televised funeral? I think not. And I don't expect there to be. I do, however, expect that we begin to look up to, respect, love, and admire the men and women who keep free the nation that produced the icons like Michael Jackson, Farrah Fawcett and Ed McMahon (who by the way, was a decorated Marine- you don't hear that in the news now do you?).

We have forgotten those who gave their lives for our freedom, but we will never forget how to moonwalk.

If heroes were actually regarded as heroes... we'd attend welcome-home cermonies like we do concerts and fan letters would be sent to the ones who really deserve it.

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Friday, June 19, 2009

"Let me tell you a something about my family..."

"We are as thick as thieves...." (for all you Real Housewives of New Jersey fans out there).
Oh, but we are.

Sunday is Father's Day. This is the first Father's Day my father has had to spend without his father. Ironically, we'll all be spending it (sans Michael, as he is in Telluride with a "friend") at our family farm- the farm my grandfather purchased many years ago. My grandfather, "Daddy Moe," as affectionately referred, passed away in January. He was 81.

Life always brings unexpected events. There are no certainties, but uncertainty. His death was unexpected and life-changing. For the past five months we have reflected back on our memories and his presence in our everyday things- the things I never even knew he had influenced.

Back in November, Moe fell ill. He had always been a reasonably healthy man- strong as an ox, and with a temper to prove it. At 78 years old, he punched a man in the face for trespassing on his property and refusing to leave. It had only been three years since that had happened. The week he went into the hospital, he and Dad were spending time with one another at the farm. My grandfather was like an M&M,- a hard coating on the outside, but in the right hands he would melt. He loved his grandchildren, and I like to think we had a special bond, as I was the only girl of 6 grandkids. But he wasn't a fanatic about capturing photographs. As a matter of fact, it struck my father oddly that he was suddenly carrying around a disposable camera that day, walking the 200 acres of land.

Somehow, I think he knew.

He was so proud to have conquered a steep hill, walking as hard as he could to keep up with my father. He was breathing heavily, but beaming with pride. We think that was the straw that broke the camel's back. Unbeknownst to us, the "pig valve" his heart had received 16 years before, was failing. That Friday, he was admitted to the hospital and never came back out.

When Moe passed away, we developed that little camera and found the last photograph of him taken in good health. There he was, standing on the front porch of my parents' cabin, proud of his land, his heritage, his country, his legacy. In his camouflage coveralls and jacket, and a hunter's orange cap on his head, his strong hands grasped the flag of the country he had once served.

He died a proud man. Proud of my father and his sister, Beth. Proud of us grandkids, proud of Helen, his wife of over fifty years. Proud of all that he had done and made for our family. Proud of this country.
My father's father. My "Daddy Moe."

My father is a writer and a painter too. Maybe we inherited that creativity trait from Moe, as I can remember receiving a letter in the mail from him as a child that included a hand-drawn picture of their dog, Sarge with a broken leg. I thought about framing the "last photograph" on the front porch. But I decided that I could honor my heritage a little more by painting it in my own style- with my own flair.

That's how Moe was. He had his own flair. He didn't live by anyone else's rules.

Dad and I got that trait from him too.

Happy Father's Day, Dad. I hope you like the painting. I'll see you tonight when my plane lands in Birmingham. Tomorrow, I'll pass you the tools as you hammer away at the barn that, one day, I'll tell my grandkids "We built together."

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Sunday, June 7, 2009

Monkeys with Car Keys

Last weekend (surprise, surprise!) I met Mom and Dad, and Marta (a long-lost family friend) in Nashville. I haven't talked much about my mother, but here's the only way I know to describe her (and by the way, it won't do her justice- trust me): A jill-of-all-trades, event-planner, Texas-music-manager, housewife-and-stay-at-home-mom-turned-LED-light-saleswoman, caterer, singer-songwriter, pistol-packin'-mama. Ok, that will do for now, although I suspect a story or two is due soon so that you come to appreciate her talents as much as we all do.

Anyway, we met there because she was planning an event, catering, booking her artist, etc. (I'm not kidding- she was doing all of that) for a friend of hers I've heard about for years. This woman, who I had never met- thank God, or my most productive years would have been spent trying to become her- is named Sara Caroline. She and my mother became friends when Mom was the owner of a wholesale linen clothing company (oh yeah, she did that too). SC was my mom's customer from a trunk show in the Nashville area, and she later commissioned Mom to make a few pieces, tailored just for her, each with its own sense of personality- a conservative jacket or top with a WILDLY colored lining- you know, in case she ever needed to pull off a "flashing" with clothing underneath, of course.

The friendship ignited when they discovered that the reason behind the name of my mother's clothing company, Blue Moon Linens, was something they had in common. On a cold Halloween day in Alabama and Arkansas (I'm actually not sure if it was really cold in either state, but it makes for a better description), two women were born under a Blue Moon- just hours apart. I never knew her, but Mom kept saying, "I can't wait for you to meet Sara Caroline. You will LOVE her!" In my wildest dreams I couldn't have imagined how much I really would.

Sara Caroline's husband, Van- who reminds me of Randy Travis, but doesn't talk as slow- is a doctor who runs Bella Vita in Dickson, TN. He supplies the Nasvhille area with good healthcare and a little help becoming more beautified, all within 30 minutes of the city. Together with Sara Caroline, he uses his position for the betterment of a community. Last Saturday, they used their roles to raise money for the Help Center, a donation-based organization that helps the needy citizens of the area and is based in downtown Dickson.

We set up the tables in a rustic fashion- as if you'd just stepped right onto a Texas ranch and had only a flask and a bandana to accompany your meal. There were raffia-tied vintage-printed napkins, big jars of lemonade and sweet tea, peanuts in the shell, and enamel-ware skillets for plates. It brought on thoughts of an old cowboy movie complete with scruffy men loudly scraping their pans with reusable, traveling forks. Go green, right?

That afternoon, after the bones of the event were in place, Mom, Marta and I had been allowed the pleasure of accompanying Sara Caroline to her Dickson home. We were in awe of the beautiful home they had lived in since before their children, Andrew and Ian (two charming, well-rounded boys with a 10-year age difference), were born. The house was oozing with character. You see, I forgot to mention, Sara Caroline is an artist. For years, I have been in awe of her creative paintings- namely a gorilla with a martini in its hand. She loves to paint apes. While in her house, after witnessing an oddly sculptured pair of wooden/leathery/furry monkeys on her kitchen countertop (a slab of onyx), I asked her, "Sara Caroline, why the fascination with apes?" Her response? "Honey, we're all just monkeys with car keys."

During the tour, we were introduced to the paintings of her mentor- the woman who had taught her the trade. In a small light-filled room between her living room and master bedroom that seemed a catch-all for the most important things in the house (namely a Pram that Van bought her before they had children- something she asked for because she simply wanted it and then used it to push the neighbors' children up and down the street), there was a portrait of a young SC. I asked her who had painted it and she said her mentor had, but with a little help from herself later on. She had gone back and "painted in bigger boobs and a bigger diamond."

Later that night, we all got ready inside the clinic. Proving that pictures aren't the only thing she paints, Sara Caroline gave me a makeover from the makeup room. After consuming a beer and some well-chosen lipstick (as I tend to lick it off as soon as it's applied), we threw the event under a rented white tent in the parking lot of Bella Vita. Guests began to arrive and partake in the tamales made by Sara Caroline's hispanic housekeeper, Hema. Someone once likened their relationship to that of Will and Grace's Karen and Rosario- a description that, in my opinion, makes them both that much more endearing.

In order to attend, guests made donations to the Help Center. Entertainment was provided by Austin Cunningham , a singer-songwriter from Garland, TX who makes friends with his audience by singing songs that do one of two things: 1. Remind you that you once experienced that, or 2. Makes you realize you want to. The tamales were good enough to make you want to slap your Mexican mama. We raised our glasses and money too. A good time was had by all.

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Wednesday, May 27, 2009

My Week in Pictures

  • The vantage point from my desk in my office at henry.brown.
  • Poppies from the wholesale florist, which I gave myself for my anniversary. Ahhemmm (coughing noise reminding my dear husband that I haven't gotten flower one from him since he left). Ahhhh, but yesterday I find out that my anniversary present is indeed en route: a pair of Slane and Slane diamond earrings. Wow- and way worth the wait! Just a note: this picture had to be taken at this exact moment... the poppies died about ten seconds later.
  • The better half of a pair of pillows I designed (I know, I know, Anthropologie is knocking down my door to get my designs...). If you are wondering what its partner says............ "Sell high."
  • My favorite photograph of Justin clapping, taken on our wedding day. When I am having a bad day, all I have to look over and see him giving me a hand.

  • My "foster friends." Only, I don't have to give them back. Elizabeth introduced me to her "family" and they have been accepting me ever since. They live by the motto "Be pretty if you can, be witty if you must, but be gracious if it kills you."
  • While it might appear that we just got finished with a hoedown in a rustic barn, we are actually posing on the patio at my favorite restaurant, Merrick Inn.
  • Also pictured: My birthday boots. Thanks, Justin! I was in dire need for a new pair. My others had been worn slap out. And yes, my dress really was that short. I only realized it when I saw myself in this photo. Sorry Mom!
  • Note: This picture was changed to black and white so that all individuals pictured to right of Courtney would no longer appear as mimes.

I wish I had a photograph to portray what happened to me on Sunday. But you will have to settle for me painting you the picture. Here goes...

Justin and I had a Skype date for our anniversary last Thursday. I would love to say it was magical. But I had actually been exercising with a friend (okay, okay, so we were really just walking the neighborhood... with beers in our hands). I hadn't showered, hadn't changed, and he called about 30 minutes earlier than expected. So, sans my date face, we Skyped. It was about 30 minutes long and the conversation was mostly what I call "business"- him telling me what he needs for the week, and me updating him on finances, home improvement, etc.

On his list of things he "needed" were the following:

  • A dictionary for letter writing. Why? you ask. Because he is a horrible speller (I'm not offending him- he knows this). So he asked for a dictionary to help him. I love this about him- never too much pride. Always willing to admit a shortcoming. I wish he would rub off on me. Ah-hem. Please don't take that literally.
  • A book of Killer Sudoku puzzles. I have never heard of this and I still don't know how he knows what it is. He hated Sudoku when he left. But I think he is learning to like a lot of things. It took me forever to find it (forever, meaning I was at Joseph-Beth bookstore for one hour and missed the entire "Games" section before finding out from my checkout girl... the original cashier I had- but I'll get to that).
  • A crossword puzzle book- medium skill level. His exact words were, "I'm too smart for the easy ones, but too dumb for the hard ones."

So there I am, books in hand. I had added a larger book with an assortment of games, as well as a memoir on the Appalachian Trail (so he can dream about hiking it with Phillip again when he returns).

I go to check out (for the second time) and I am being rung up (is that appropriate?- I don't feel like looking it up) by this dyed-red-ponytail-hippie-looking man in his fifities. While at the checkout counter, I spot three gourmet chocolate bars: Bacon, Sea-Salt-Almond, and Chili-Cinnamon. I decide this is just what Justin needs. If he likes bacon and he likes chocolate, then how about the two combined? So as the "Red-Haired Hippie" is ringing me up, I mention they are for my husband. To which he replies, "Don't pretend you aren't going to taste these." I say, "That would be a little difficult- they are headed to Iraq." Oh, boy. I just said one of the most controversial words to a man who clearly must have voted for our current president.. or at the very least Ralph Nader. And then, he says, "Are you in a hurry?" I was scared to death. There are not a lot of debates I fear. But for the next 8 1/2 months, I'm not debating this topic. Nor am I discussing it. You don't want me to- believe me. There is far too much emotion involved. And plus, I will devour you. I'm just saying...

I replied, "No." Scared to death. And then, out of his mouth, removing all judgments and stereotypes I faced looking at him, he said, "Stick around. I want to give you some books to send him. What does he like to read?"

I was floored. I couldn't believe it. I judged. I judged so wrongly. Not just be cause I was wrong in my judgment. I was wrong to judge at all.

He went to the back and then filled my bag with five books he had personally purchased for this reason. He was once in the Air Force. He wanted to be a part of my care package, and told me that each time I came in I was to ask for him and he would have more to send.

What a beautiful country. What a beautiful moment.

One day, my husband will go from his military buzz cut, back to a long ponytail (see photo), but this time gray. He'll continue to play guitar, maybe finally join a band and we will continue to collect art and listen to the music of communists (why is it the liberals that are the most talented?- I guess that leaves them with less time to spend thinking)... One day, somebody will probably judge him and he will get to explain that he once flew an airplane over a war-torn country, ensuring that a civilization was saved and given the chance to prosper in its freedoms. One day...

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To Go Box: Week 7

This week in my package to Justin (I send one every Monday)...
  1. Extra sheets for his twin bed so that he can have something to sleep on when his others are at the laundry.

  2. A quilt for his twin bed. Name a single other soul you know that would get cold in IRAQ! We used to joke about this. When we would go to bed at night he would pull the covers over his head and say, "I'm COOOOLLLLD!" And I would reply, "You won't be cold in a couple of months." Now I'm eating my words.

  3. An Auburn University pennant to hang in his "hooch," the name they give to their tiny little rooms.

  4. An Auburn University flag.

  5. Auburn University stickers so he can mark his territory, saying "AU Grad was Here."

  6. Brown Army t-shirts which I had to dig out of the tupperware bin in the garage.

  7. A "Mullets Rock" digital album. This is the greatest invention ever! They put the playlist together and sell the gift card. This particular one had about 25 songs on it, including: Don't Bring Me Down, Cherry Pie, Kiss Me Deadly and Take it on the Run. If you don't think mullets are cool, take another look at that photo (above).

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Tuesday, May 19, 2009

To Go Box: Week 6

This week in my package to Justin.... (Originally, I wrote this the other way around and realized it had to be changed. I toyed with leaving it and letting you laugh hysterically. Or maybe it's just me that thinks it's funny... Ahh, where would I be these days without my sense of humor?)
  1. A sappy anniversary card, which I am sure he saved.

  2. A photograph of his anniversary gift: A dashboard for his prized 1990 325i, who we affectionately call "Betty the Bimmer." Sidenote: I inherited the BMW from my father in college when my VW Jetta, "Marcus," blew up, burned to the ground, and forced three dorms to evacuate on Auburn's campus. Justin bought "Betty" from my family after I went off to do my independent thing (post-college), in "Rhonda," a Honda Accord. "Betty" is actually responsible for our rekindled relationship and eventual marriage. That will all come later, I'm sure, in the Frye Family Flashbacks... "What a nice use of alliteration," says the journalism teacher that failed me.

  3. A Patagonia shirt that he couldn't live without (this brought to my attention only after I mistakenly sent the North Face one last week); I sent the Auburn Aviation polo for good measure.

  4. The contents of a care package, provided by our sweet neighbor Kathy, which included: Soft-baked Pepperidge Farm snickerdoodles (sorry, Jason), some baby wipes, and a dashboard organizer... the latter of which, I am sure, was purchased at a yard sale. Kathy is a yard sale fanatic. So much so, that one time I pulled a gun on her because she was "yard-saling" in my garage at 7:30 on a weekday morning (after my loving husband left the garage door open). Smile, Kathy (she knows I love her). And that is a story I will save for later too.

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Sunday, May 17, 2009

Online Dating

Last weekend I talked with Justin and we made a "Skype date." It was supposed to be our first. I showered, put on makeup, fixed my hair, and picked out a cute outfit- all tasks that often get forgotten on a lazy Sunday afternoon. Only, it was Mother's Day, and I think phone calls to my mom and Miss Jeanni took precedence. I watched and waited and even postponed my grocery store visit until 4:00. By the time I went shopping, I realized I had been stood up.

This past Thursday, I was home and we were finally able to have our first date onscreen. It was the most magical thing I have experienced since the start of the deployment. After my roughest week yet, my morale is now at its highest. Tonight, I saw him again, only this time for 50 minutes! I can't explain how much it helps to have this technology at our fingertips. I feel like we are dating again.

Speaking of dating, our fourth wedding anniversary is this Thursday, the 21st. I love to relive the way things started between us. Ironically, the very next day (the 22nd) is our anniversary of meeting one another for the very first time. That was seven years ago. Let me paint you a picture of how it all began...

I was 21 years old and single. I had dated guys on and off throughout my junior year in college, after a string of serious relationships before that. I was finally content with the way my life was unfolding. I was ready to begin thinking about my future in politics- Washington, DC... possibly law school.

My best friend Natalie and I had made plans to ride back to our hometown together. But that fateful Wednesday night in May, during Auburn's break between spring and summer semester, I made a decision that would change the entire course of my life.

I was never one to make commitments and then foil them. That's why my decision that day surprised both Natalie and myself. But for some reason, then unknown, I bailed on our plans and spent that Wednesday night in Auburn. My phone rang around 7 pm and my two poli sci classmates (totally plutonic guy-friends) were headed up to Bodega, the local bar we frequented throughout college. It's a laid-back place that usually features live music. It was the start of summer, an even more laid-back time of year for the town. It wouldn't be a wild night- but I was home alone and up for a drink.

I had literally thrown on a borrowed v-neck top (thanks, Tiff!), a jean jacket, and some checkered black pants, with heels of course. My hair wasn't even washed! I sat at the bar between my friends Matt and Earl. It was a slow night with maybe about 20 people in the bar downstairs and about 20 people upstairs. I was never the kind of girl who went looking for bar boys. That wasn't really my thing. And even if I had been, I wasn't the kind of girl that bar boys went looking for. If you know me, then you know that my feelings are written all over my face. That is never a very good trait to have when you are being pursued. Things don't really get very far underneath a look of disgust. But on that particular night, my face must have said something totally different.

I looked up from my Raspberry Stoli and Sprite, and there he was- clad in a blue and white striped shirt, flat front boot cut khakis, and the icing on the cake: cowboy boots. It was love at first sight. I surprised the heck out of myself by making eye contact and flirting subtly across the bar. He was headed upstairs with his friend, and after taking the first few steps, beer in hand, he turned around to give me a wink and a smile. I can't really think of anything to say that would paint the picture of him walking away from me, other than what I heard Dolly Parton say one time... "I wish I had a swing like that in my backyard." Sorry, Mom and Dad. That's just what I was thinking.

That was all it took. I had to see where this was headed. All the while I was thinking, he is either the man of my dreams, or he is a sleaze who just wants to take a girl home from the bar. I had to find out if it was the former rather than the latter, and I prayed that it was. I quickly assembled my investigative team and had Earl head upstairs behind him to scope out the scene. He found him leaning against the far wall, pool stick in hand. I decided to lay low. I explained to my poli sci guys that we should chat, but that they needed to make sure they appeared plutonic, so as not to "bust up my game." This lasted for about 20 minutes. Finally, he and his friend began to walk toward us. I was in awe. He was going to speak to me... Closer... Closer... Come to Mama!

Our eyes met and he said, in a drawn out country-boy voice, "Hey, how's it going?" I replied, "Good. How are you?" He shook his head in the way a southern man does as if it replaces an answer. And he kept walking. Had my future just passed me by? I wasn't going to let it get away. So I stopped his friend who was following behind him and said, "Are y'all leaving?" At this point Justin (unnamed to me then) had already gotten to the hallway. His friend responded, "He has to pull a plane out tomorrow morning. So I'm just walking him downstairs." And from somewhere deep inside me- I have no idea what possessed me to say this- out came, "Damn." (Sorry, but that's where I was in my life- and that's just what I said). To which his friend replied, "Why, do you know him?" and I said, "No, but I'd like to."

I'm still in shock. But God was speaking (not that I think God uses the word damn) for me. God was in control. I really don't think I had any control that night at all. I was simply His puppet. To this day, I have never felt more guided in my entire life.

By this time Justin had sensed that his friend was lagging behind. When he turned to tell him he had just passed the girl he was eyeing downstairs, he spotted him a few steps back, engaged in conversation with me. He turned and walked toward us, with his hand out to meet me, using his full name to introduce himself (something I will always remember). We had a 3-minute conversation- enough time to learn one another's major, career path, political preference and name. Then he left. I was devastated. Had I not done for him what he had done for me? Was I too assertive? Should I have washed my hair?

A few minutes passed. My future was probably downstairs and out the door by now. I decided that I could handle rejection if it was through his friend, so when "Damian" came back upstairs I would let him know how interested I was in this guy. I would give him my number and ask him to pass it on to this mysterious "Justin Frye," pilot, Republican, cowboy.

Now, I know what was happening down there at that bar. "Damian" was busy convincing "Justin Frye" that I could very well be his future. And "Damian" finally won the battle that brought them both back up to the billiard room, fresh beers in hand. We spent the night discussing politics, the Bible (his "favorite book," he said that night), my membership in the National Rife Association, and eventually closed the bar down at 2 am. Damian convinced me I was in for a real treat when I saw what his friend drove. I think he was worried he would need to weed out this sorority girl who would want nothing to do with Justin Frye's 1986 Chevy Celebrity Eurosport (the Eurosport is a vital addition). Justin assured me he was a poor man, who was by-george going to take me on a date, even if it was only to McDonald's.

A week and a half later, that's exactly what he did, only it was to a Mexican restaurant. He picked me up in the aforementioned car he had inherited from his grandfather with only 36,000 miles on it (see, everything has a story), and we further discussed our common interests in God and politics, discovering that we both had an inclination toward Texas music. That night, he prayed before our meal and opened every single door. Those moments set a precedent for the rest of our relationship.

Nothing has changed, and my feelings for him have only grown and blossomed, bringing with them a new and fresh respect and adoration. He is my biggest role model, and I am his biggest fan. Those moments that fateful May changed our history and our futures. And I am forever a better woman for having what I have had with him. If, God forbid, I am ever without him, I will have known a love so true and wonderful that I could never again feel denied.

Stay tuned... Maybe next time I'll write about our second date- when he showed up in a speedo and cowboy hat.

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Friday, May 8, 2009

True Love and Sacrifice

Originally, I wanted to write about the last week and a half- an unexpected air conditioning problem that cost me $510, a trip to Washington, DC to see a good friend, and a surprise overnight at the Atlanta Airport because of bad weather- all things that have me up in arms to get back to my daily grind and flow of things. Life interfering with life, I guess.

But today, I just have to write about this picture. Yesterday was my 28th birthday. As I was about to start the daily pilates routine that was finally the fruit of my "absence of labor" (me learning how to say no to things), I received this photograph on my Blackberry. With it was a note of thanks and gratitude for me being his wife and the title of the attachment was "Happy Birthday, My Love."

I can't think of anything more meaningful to me at this moment in my life. Not a single thing. I can't imagine a more beautiful gift than the thought of my manly husband, surrounded by other manly men who want to appear even more manly in the call of duty, using not one, but two magic markers (red, in order to emphasize a HEART, of all things) and then standing in the middle of a courtyard?- I'm not sure- of barracading walls to be photographed by his closest friend. Humbling, isn't it?

Later, I got a phone call from him too. I never thought the two best birthday presents I ever received would be an email and a phone call. We talked for 23 minutes, the longest conversation we have had since he has been in-country. The past month (yes, month!) has been interesting to say the least. For the first week and a half we talked two to three times a day. He was still stateside at that point and I must say it helped in my grieving to still have constant communication. Since he has been "in-theater," we are down to phone calls about twice a week and emails maybe three times during a week. I told him never to say he is "going to call" at a specific date/time. I would worry too much if I didn't hear from him.

It's amazing how our circumstances can change an entire outlook on life. I was new to all of this a few weeks ago when I met Mom in Franklin, Tennessee for dinner (flea market weekend). I remember looking around that little town at all the people, out for dinner, enjoying the cool night air and having drinks. I thought to myself, THIS is what he is fighting for, and trying to give those people. THIS is what we take for granted. I can't help but feel a little more fulfilled in what my life offers right now. I can't help but think of what sacrifices have been made so we could be the country we are. I think so often we focus on what we don't have and so little on what we do.

When I walk through the grocery store, I look at expiration dates. When the box of crackers says it's good until November, I think, "That's only 3 months before he comes home. I can make it longer than a box of crackers." I measure everything in dates. It's called self-soothing. It's what babies do when they are learning to sleep on their own or comfort themselves in a time of need. If I were to be given what I wanted right when I wanted it, I would never learn how to become reliant on myself. After all, it is always after a sacrifice that we come out feeling the most successful.

What kind of people would we be if we all got something for nothing?

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