Molasses Fast

The days are dragging their feet and my patience is thread bare.

Every day I bump into people and their first question is always…”When is Chris coming home?”

I’ve learned the hard way. There’s no easy answer to this question.

If I say he’ll be home in a month…some thoughtless people will say…”Oh, already?!?”  (it’s a response that makes me cringe). I usually smile and change the subject but behind my smile I am gritting my teeth; holding back a year’s worth of frustration, loneliness and terror.

Another response that pushes me out of a healthy heart range is….”Oh, wow…it looks like he might be getting home earlier than you thought!” …Um…seriously?!?…we are in the 11th month of his deployment.

I know the comments are well-meaning, but you cannot imagine how it bites to hear it, especially now.

We are near the end, but it’s just out of reach. The minutes are passing at a molasses fast rate.

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Barackacy

Yesterday,  I attended the 1-178th Battalion Family Readiness Group meeting in Clinton, SC. The topic was “reunification” with your soldier.

While the topic was an exciting prospect, the meeting was interesting for other reasons.

I guess the best place to start this story is at the beginning, so here goes:

A very good friend of mine from high school also has a husband deployed with the 1-178th. She lives close by… so we decided to carpool to this historic event and enjoy each other’s company. In preparation for the trip the week before, I enlisted the help of my children to clean out “Big Red” and make it presentable for company. Anyone that has a car that kids ride in on a regular basis knows that a “clean out” is a necessary step before inviting company for a spin…otherwise, riders will discover what a fossilized chicken nugget actually looks like, their clothes will be covered in Cheetos Dust, and /or they will have the “opportunity” to smell Tuck’s sneaker that has been missing under the seat since last July.

In short, “Big Red” was shiny, “somewhat clean” and gassed up for a road trip…. but, I digress. The real “meat” of this story is the actual FRG meeting.

When Amy and I walked into the room, there were 2 tables available for seating. One table was front and center and the other was tucked away in the back corner in the shadows. Of course, human nature prompts you to sit out of the spotlight, so we made our way to the back of the room to enjoy a backseat view. Little did we know, this table was hitched to the “crazy” train.

As the meeting started, a “nice” older (90 something) veteran was rolled up to our table in a wheelchair. We exchanged polite smiles and focused our attention on the meeting.

The agenda for the meeting looked long and I can assure you…it felt it too. I hate to say it, but PowerPoint has killed any “fun” that could possibly be found while sitting in an uncomfortable plastic chair for hours on end. As a result, attendees are forced to find their own entertainment within the constraints of acceptable social behavior. Amy and I have a history of enduring endless educational events, after all we took Algebra I, II, and Geometry together in high school…so it made sense that we would revert back to some of our former “coping” strategies (i.e. note writing and dry wit whispered in ear shot). More on that… but, for the moment…

Here are a few nuggets we gleaned from the briefing:

1. On the list of top things military spouses worry about during a deployment, death and dismemberment was listed 6th…you should have seen numbers 1-5. What an eye-opener!

2. I found out that I should refer to Chris as a “warrior” instead of a soldier. I kind of like the sound of that…it’s a bit macho and would definitely stroke his ego.

3. I’m not allowed to let Chris drive home from the airport. Apparently, Humvee’s have the ability to run over things, clear traffic jams and are equipped with heavy artillery….some soldiers have returned home and used these “new-found driving skills” on the interstate. I was intrigued… I’m thinking…we can outfit “Big Red” like this…. then carpool line at the middle school would no longer be a problem. As Grandmama Rebecca used to holler in her Buick as we illegally crossed 4 lanes of traffic, “Don’t worry kids, they see me!!!” ….Just a sidenote….if you see Chris on the highway in his Prius…WATCH OUT!

4. I won the door prize…which was some flavorful body wash. Personally, I think the door prize for a military spouse should have been “Calgon” with some schnapps and a babysitter. I’m not ungrateful, I just think the “extras” would have been a nice touch.

5. I learned a new vocabulary word. One speaker was talking and I believe she was referring to the word “Bureaucracy,” but every time she said it…the word came out sounding like “Barackacy.” She kept saying that the “barackacy” was holding us back. I AGREE! … No doubt, “Barackacy” is bankrupting our country.

Well, as you can imagine….”barackacy” sent me over the edge. Amy and I were tired, punchy and probably too giddy over our new vocabulary word (We both have a love of learning)…we started laughing…which in turn “awoke” our 90 something year-old table neighbor. It wasn’t pretty. He turned and looked at Amy and started yelling…”What are you writing down ?!?”… we both exchanged a worried glance…then… he starts shouting to the crowd…”Who are you people?!?”….”Can anybody tell me why the hell I’m here?!?”…”Who brought me here?!?”… “Why are you people in my house?!?”… While I am assuming this sweet man was a little confused, I have to admit…if it had been socially acceptable…I would have joined him in his tirade…we all wanted to say the same things, but instead chose to write it on a note.

Which gets me thinking….

What about the “Barackacy”?!?  Why remain silent?  Passing notes doesn’t garner the same attention as an outburst. A good “shout out” can be the “Humvee” of a traffic jam or in our case….the conclusion to a meeting that never seems to end. Unfortunately…when you choose the “Humvee” approach, you often get rolled out of the room. Even so, while they are rolling you away…folks will say, “That fella is not just a soldier, he’s a warrior!”

Calgon…take me away!… I’m not going to wait until I’m 90 to call something “Barackacy” when I see it!

I challenge you to do the same.

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In the Dog House

Today…I tackled, trimmed and tortured my yard. Last week’s freakish hail storm shredded all of my flower beds, so I was motivated to get out there and clean things up.

Step one…I called my Dad to see if he had a hedge trimmer. Of course, he had more stocked in his barn than Home Depot…so I headed over to their house after dropping the kids off at school. Sifting through the choices,  I was amazed at the size and horsepower available…but settled on a smaller version (for fear of losing a limb). Step two… I untangle the blasted orange power cord that has more knots than Tuck’s shoelaces (it took nearly an hour). Step three…I get a headache from the power cord episode so I take off my baseball cap which in turn releases my “morning hair” (Diana Ross’ got nuttin on me…hence the ball cap at all times before a shower). Step four…As I drag the cord and trimmer through the backyard gate, Moses (our “un”faithful beagle) darts between my legs and makes a break for freedom. Step five…I go into the kitchen to get lunchmeat (it’s the only way to lure Moses home). Step six….I begin roaming the neighborhood streets with my Diana Ross hairdo in my “yard clothes” with a handful of lunchmeat while hollering expletives at a dog that no one sees. Step seven…My neighbor pours an extra cup of coffee and pulls a chair up to the window…this scene is better than me chasing the garbage truck in my nightgown…clearly, I look drunk, lost or ready for a casting call on “Cops.” I was swatting the proverbial invisible fly…Moses was a “no-show” and the neighbors were entertained. Step eight…I smell the lunchmeat and discover it’s past the expiration date so I cancel the search party and head home (Moses, it’s a cruel world out there…good luck buddy). Step nine…I return to my hedge trimmer and take my frustrations out on some bushes….My hair was still “free”…(my neighbor later commented that it looked like a scene from the movie Edward Scissorhands). Step ten…In the middle of a horsepowered haze of some major bush trimming…Moses returns home, falls at my feet and throws his legs in the air (it was a little sacrificial and dramatic, but then again…he’s a member of the family). Step eleven…I forgive Moses. Step twelve…The sky opens up and rain begins to pour. Step thirteen…I give up, go inside and take a shower.

Fast forward to 4:00PM in the afternoon.  I’ve completely forgotten about the morning’s activities, Tuck’s working on homework, and Jordan arrives home. I fix her a snack and she freezes in front of the window overlooking the backyard. Apparently… Jordan notices my day’s work and the “trimmings” on the ground, but mistakes it for some of Moses’ handiwork (Moses is famous for digging up my flowers and running around the backyard with a small tree in his mouth)….Her eyes start to water…and she says, “Mom, when are you going to give away Moses?!?”  I was a little lost by her comment and then I realized what she was looking at….a dismantled backyard….it was the perfect excuse, an opening…Moses could have a one way ticket to the pound and the kids would be none the wiser…it was soooo tempting!!!…then, I remembered that pitiful pet returning home…sure, he made a mockery out of me in the neighborhood and there’s no doubt my hands would smell like expired lunchmeat for at least a day…but the guilt was fresh from giving up on him in the first place. It was like he came back, fell at my feet while I grasped a power tool and said…”Just end it now, lady…here I am.” I had my chance, but once again…I couldn’t do it! …Jordan has a photograph of Moses in her locker at school. Tuck gets up every morning and sits with Moses in his area while I fix breakfast. And last but not least, Moses snores every night (which sometimes rivals Chris) and for a fleeting moment it makes me feel like Chris is here…I sleep better with the sound.

As tempting as it was…I let Moses off the hook and told Jordan the truth about the yard.

No one was in the “dog house”…at least for today. But, talk to me tomorrow when I plant the pansies. If I find one flower in his precious snout…well, you know the rest.

Poor Moses!

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Boots in Bavaria

 

I haven’t blogged in quite a while. The reasons are many.  For one, I’ve been in Germany with Chris during his R&R leave from Afghanistan. I cannot even describe how great it was to see my sweet fella after 9 months apart. Being in the Bavarian Alps was a nice touch, but in all honesty…I have missed him so much this year, it could have been a trip to Pelion, SC for all I cared.  It was way past time to see Chris Neeley’s smile, hear his laugh, and have him within my arm’s reach. The first few hours together were surreal. We had been waiting so long to see each other, it was hard to believe we finally made it.  I couldn’t let go of his hand for fear he might not actually be there. I thought my heart would burst. It was a time we will never forget.

With Chris being our designated “family photographer” it is not surprising that he has the majority of our photos from the trip on his camera. However, thanks to some quick thinking by Jordan who insisted I take her camera with me…I managed to capture some great shots from Germany that I’d like to share. Pictures cannot do justice to the beauty of what we actually saw in Germany, but these are a good sample of our two week vacation.

Chris next to a rather large nutcracker

A German band that played during Oktoberfest. I think the "haze" in the picture is descriptive of the day. Details are fuzzy, but we had a lot of fun.

In the beer tent our drinks are served. Notice the size of those mugs!! (The beer glasses, not her)

After some time in a beer tent, I decide to go out and pet a really large horse. I also have a big gingerbread cookie around my neck. We are unsure of the message written on it in German, but I think Chris was playing a joke on me.

Doesn't Chris look great!

The countryside in Germany is beautiful.

A typical German house with beautiful flower boxes.

A picture taken during one of our hikes.

Chris at Linderhoff Castle. I didn't mean to get the fountain coming out of his head, but photography is not my gift.

A very cold day on top of the tallest mountain in Germany.

It was cold, but we managed to keep warm.

While in Germany, Chris joined the Olympic Ski Team.

A mountain, a lake, and a happy Chris Neeley

A trip we will never forget. I cannot tell you how much I already miss him.

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It’s Official…

…Chris and I are parents of a teenager.

On August 24th, Jordan Elizabeth turned thirteen years old.

I should have posted these photos a week ago, but the last month has been very busy.

Jordan had a few friends over for a “cooking party” / sleepover. It was a great party and Jordan loved every minute.

The girls made and decorated cupcakes to celebrate the BIG 13

 

 

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A Missed Milestone

Holidays and birthdays are extremely hard and emotional during a deployment, but missed milestones are the hardest.

Last week, Tucker started kindergarten in public school. It was a “first” that Chris will never get to experience. I cannot express my sadness in knowing that we will never get that day back.

When we walked to Tucker’s classroom, he stopped right before going in the door, looked up at me with his huge brown eyes and said… “Mama, I’m shaking on the inside.”

I know what he meant….I’ve been shaking on the inside since January. 

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Sensitive Servants

I’ve been told I’m too sensitive this year.

I’m guessing, but I don’t think it was meant as a compliment.

Anytime you add the adjective “too”… you are implying that something is happening in excess or to a degree that is regrettable.

Sure, I have regrets. Who doesn’t want a “do-over” on occasion?!?  There are certainly times where I could have responded or handled a situation differently. But in all honesty, I doubt I will regret being sensitive this year. What is the alternative, callousness?!?

I read a devotion today about this very subject. It said, “We miss many occasions for serving because we lack sensitivity and spontaneity. Great opportunities to serve never last long. They pass quickly, sometimes never to return again. Real servants pay attention to needs. Servants are always on the lookout for ways to help others. When they see a need, they seize the moment to meet it, just as the Bible commands us.  When God puts someone in need right in front of you, he is giving you the opportunity to grow in servanthood.  You may only get one chance to serve that person, so take advantage of the moment.  “Never tell your neighbors to wait until tomorrow if you can help them now” (Proverbs 3:28 TEV).

I am sensitive this year. Thank God!

God has allowed this so that I can feel, understand and respond differently to the needs placed right in front of me. The scales of selfishness that cover so many of our eyes have been removed from mine. I will never look at a single parent in the same way.  I will not ignore loneliness. I understand the meaning of a hot meal being dropped off. I know the appreciation of a kid being picked up because it was on the way. I’ve watched the hands and feet of Christ push a lawn mower in my yard. In short,  I’ve been surrounded by servants who were sensitive to my needs.

In my humble opinion, “sensitivity” is the prompting of the Holy Spirit to FEEL.

Our callous world teaches us to cover it up, smile for the camera and pretend everything is all right. In that context, sensitivity is not welcome or embraced. It becomes a “too”… as in “too much” for someone who’s already busy being busy.

My question is…what are you being busy about?  Is your heart too cluttered to feel compassion or see a need? Is someone in your life being “too sensitive” ?!?  

Maybe the issue isn’t the person, but your response.

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