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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