Why is He Even Here?

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Almost exactly two years ago, I talked to Spencer on the phone about the interview he had that day. I had interviewed for the same job the previous day and immediately went to brief him, because he was the one that really needed a new job. He was also interviewing for another position. “I think if this doesn’t work out, it’s a sign that I need to do something completely different.”

Needless to say he didn’t get the job. Nor did I. I’ve been not getting jobs for years. In that same conversation Spencer mentioned joining the Army. I utilized my usual tactic, which was not engaging in a conversation about it.

At some point, it actually became a conversation, and next thing I know, the guy has an appointment at the MEPS office! That’s where people initiate their military engagement.
Spencer had always wanted to be in the military. His dad was in the Air Force for a couple years, and both his grandfathers served. Also, if you know Spencer, you can imagine that the military is where he’s supposed to be. He was one signature away from joining out of high school, but his parents told him they would pay for his college. Then he was still interested out of college, but was offered a PRN position at the gym at which I met him. Since only like 5 other graduates in America got jobs, and he liked the gym, he decided to take the position. When he finally joined, he was kind of at an impasse. There aren’t many full-time positions in the field of Health Promotion, which is the degree both of us have. (A person can find themselves working over 40 hours a week with not a single vacation day to their name). Since you can only be on your mom’s health insurance for so long, he was really interested in earning benefits. When no doors opened, Spencer felt it was a good time to pursue his dream of military service. He joined because he didn’t want to be 40 and wish he had given it a shot. Basically, he is pursuing his dream.

That’s the beauty of failing, sometimes that other idea becomes your only option and it can lead to good things.

Despite having a Bachelor’s Degree, Spencer went in Enlisted instead of as an Officer. He did this because he wanted to try for Special Forces, he wanted to earn street cred for having started from da bottom, and his interest was not paperwork and responsibility, but rather being the agent of defense.

When I first got here and realized Officers make enough money that their wives don’t usually work, I would have fleeting annoyance toward Spencer for not choosing that, but that was just me being greedy. They make more money, but they also make it home late all the time, and are responsible for other people’s mess. If you know Spencer, you know he has not interest in being bothered with other people’s business. Being enlisted was the best choice for Spencer and for us as newlyweds.

He began the debacle, I mean–process at the beginning of November 2013. Spencer’s excitement to embark on the rest of his life was palpable, much to my dismay. After some tumult with his medical testing and my hysterics, he left for Basic Training in Georgia on April 7, 2014.

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Despite the disappointments of this experience, Spencer is happy with his choice. The Army definitely has it’s ups and downs, which keep him from exploding with joy, but I can’t imagine him anywhere else. I am glad he followed his dream. Even though I knew this is where he belonged, it was hard for me to imagine myself here with him, but that’s a post for another day.

Oh, Hello, Late Twenties

morning afterI was exhausted when I woke up the morning after my 27th birthday. I wondered if that was the physical manifestation of ‘age.’ The day before, I had competed in and won my first Crossfit competition, and barely made it to dinner at Bonefish Grill. I had a strawberry ice cream cake waiting for us and our 4 guests at home, but 3 of them bailed. I love my cousin, but I wouldn’t have been mad if he tapped out, too. I was possibly the most physically exhausted I’ve ever been. I wanted to shut down in every way.

One of the girls competing against me asked how old I was. I told her it was my podiumbirthday and that I was 27. She said with a smile “I’m 22,” like that was supposed to be some sort of consolation or explanation for why I was beating her. I was much stronger and fitter at 22 than I am at 27. Now I can barely run a 9-minute mile on a good day, and I have things like priorities that include another person’s well-being that can take precedence over my fitness. I did the competition because as I age, I need to make a point to prove to myself that I’m not letting myself go.

This exchange kind of embodied everything I think about on a birthday, especially as my cute, little twenties are slipping through my fingers. I have thought a lot about how things have changed since my 26th birthday, which, by the looks of it was the epitome of my twenties. A lot has changed in this one year and I think it has been the most change I have experienced in my life since moving from newborn to toddler from 1988-1989.

Last year, I was engaged, lean, employed, idealistic, and single (I am of the school of thought that you are single until you are married). Now I’m married… not lean, unemployed, and just here.

I had thought a lot about being married and talked about it a lot of course, but I had not anticipated what it would really mean to be one with another person. I imagined myself as being a singular person in a relationship with another singular person, but we are more like one blob with each having our own arm and leg. To me that means that I have my own interests and endeavors, as does he, but all of those are still controlled by the body that we control together.

26 to 27There is not a lot left to explain about how I am not nearly as fit as I was last year. I actually lost 15 pounds over the course of 2014, and I was proud of myself. I felt in control. Now I weigh more than I did before I lost that 15 pounds and have for MONTHS. I still basically feel in control. I guess I’m easier on myself. I’m not really trying to impress people anymore. I’m also not judging people for getting fat after the wedding because I get it. I still want to lose weight though because I miss the freedom and I want to be my best self.

I don’t fit into my mint colored Michael Kors jeans now and apparently don’t fit on anyone’s payroll either. My readers are well aware of my employment status, but may not be aware of where I was a year ago. I loved the last company I worked for, I still love my manager, but I hated my job. More than a couple times I considered how long I would last if I just quit and lived off my savings. Freal. There were days when I sat in the parking lot for ten minutes just gathering the strength to go inside. It is hard not to appreciate the fact that I am no longer in that situation even if I can’t go on shopping sprees at Sephora. I understand even more how a state of being can be more valuable than money, even in terms of our family.

On the other side, I never would have expected to go through the changes I have been through with my career in this last year.Who anticipates going from a good job with a good salary to prolonged, endless, dizzying unemployment? I really thought I was a valuable candidate and now all I have to make me believe that is an orange post-it on my bathroom mirror. I never thought I would have to decide when it would be time to apply at Target. On the other side of this side, I think I’ll still be happy if I have to play a supporting role and don’t have the career trajectory I imagined. A year ago, I did not think I would go down without a fight, but now I see myself graciously acquiescing to my future on the B-team.

My birthday suit. Let's see how long it fits.
My birthday suit. Let’s see how long it fits.

When I was single I was on the A-Team! I was flirty and sassy and independent! And I was wearing crop tops. It was important to me to be my own person. I knew I was going to be sacrificing a lot as a military spouse, so my goal was not to sacrifice my individual identity.
On my birthday last year, 3 of my friends were Tindering over dessert and I was a FullSizeRender(8)little jealous! I used to like to make people like me, but now that I have this marriage, I’m not that same sprite I was last summer. Sometimes I’m so preoccupied with being married that I don’t even say ‘hi’ to people in the grocery store. I had no idea I would just change. I had no idea my idea of ideal could change. And I never thought I would ever be dependent on another person. But now I gladly lay down those ideals for security and perpetuity with this guy who has paid ALL the bills for the last 8 months.

When I was turning 26, I lived in a live, pulsing city where I took Improv classes, went to sushi happy hours and baseball games, and had multiple friends. Now I live halfway across the country in a town with no real Groupon market and no network that I belong to.  This is possibly the first time in life I realized how valuable people are. I have always striven to live life fluidly and let people go easily. Right here, people represent the construct of a whole other life I had. From my best friends, to my co-workers, to just people I saw regularly at the gym or at church. I miss them. I miss my life. This separation is what it means to close a chapter and start another.

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If I can predict where I’ll be a year from now, I’ll still be at this duty station, hopefully employed, hopefully an ambassador to women, possibly (hopefully) pregnant, so probably not having a six pack. I hope I have a better idea of what I should expect from my career. I hope I’m still hanging on to people from Missouri, but I also hope I can make a life by cultivating my people here. I also hope that even though I’ll be a year closer to 30 I will be optimistic about what is in front of me, rather than trying to find the consolation to what I have left behind.

A Lady in the Streets and a Freak with the Bleach

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I couldn’t sleep well the night before beginning my tenure as a Stay-at-Home Wife. I was nervous about how I would do and if I would earn my keep. Even though I had been married for two months by then, this was my first day as a fully functional wife. I didn’t really know what that looked like. I texted Christy early in the day. Christy is an adult I used to work with who has three teen-aged children. She knows how to be a wife, and I knew she would be there for me. She walked me through making stir fry. I don’t know if I would have ever known to buy ginger in a tube–at that point I was yet to spend days of my life learning to cook from Pinterest. Even with her help, the beef was over-cooked and the rice hard.  I was glad to have some personal direction, but I knew it was practice that I really needed.

I have gotten the practice! I came from a full-time job and working on the side so that momentum meant I expected to be productive as a housewife. I was nervous because I thought I would find out I was actually lazy and be a disappointment to my husband. What I have found is that more certain than anything, being a wife is my calling. I find actual joy in taking care of my husband, cooking nice meals, and keeping my house clean. I do everything but the laundry, which I agreed to do while I’m not working, but Spencer still does it.

I be cleaning so hard
I be cleaning so hard

Being a housewife is all you dream it to be, except I really wish I had a house-dress with a train. As a historically ambitious person, I never thought this would be the life for me, but this is the life for me! Everything I choose to do is what I decide should be done. I don’t have to deal with other people, and I can focus all my intention on what matters most to me which is my husband. Can you imagine no emails to return, no meetings, no silly projects, no one to avoid running into in the workroom? Let you mind soar. That is my life.

As a SAHW, my goal is to match my husband’s effort outside the home with mine inside the home. Not because I’m a woman, but because that seems fair. I think that when my husband comes home, the house should be clean and there should be something for him to eat. I used to literally serve Spencer as much as I could but I had to realize that was a recipe for a disaster in the event I actually get a job. To work 8 hours, go to the gym, and go get him the barbecue sauce is just asking too much! I think he is aware of this too and doesn’t really ask me to do anything for him. Also, we have an understanding that responsibilities will change when I start working.

The one main risk in being a housewife is having my security be completely dependent on my husband’s job security. If he were to lose his job, we would be looking very vulnerable. I’m not too worried about this because I have a degree and a professional work history so I feel I could support myself if I had to. Wait, I can’t get a job. Never mind; we would be doomed.

The only people who get to stay home with no kids are rich people and military spouses. At times I have thought of myself at a trophy wife. At other times, my enjoyment was that it made me feel kind of rich. I liked to pretend I could afford to stay home!  Well now I really can’t afford it. I need a job.

When you're home, you can finally shred your credit card offers.
When you’re home, you can finally shred your credit card offers.

I learned how to cook, I got out of and back in to shape, my house is decorated–I think I’ve accomplished all I needed to do at this phase of our life.I feel I’m getting less productive each day. It’s been like 3 weeks since I mopped! That’s not like me. Tuesday I put away a packet of gravy that sat on the counter for a week. That’s like me. Don’t worry, my house is still clean. You just can’t smell the bleach as often.

My next project needs to be planning a budget. It’s hard to adjust to having no income because I loved my income so much when I had it… It’s like when you break up with a boyfriend of 4 years; the process of letting go takes time. Now I accept that my income is gone, and it’s time to move on; move on to any job I can find.

Penniless or not, I still consider the time I have gotten to “take care” of my husband (and myself) to be a blessing and an investment. I’ve gotten to spend like 6 months just focusing on us, me, and crossfit! And I was very glad to get out of my last job. That alone is worth a lot to me. The next time I get time off work will be maternity leave; after that, retirement. I’ll consider this my gap year. Let’s just hope at some point it ends; preferably by employment and not maternity. Until then, I will be dusting and mopping on a semi-regular basis and meeting my husband at the door with joy.

Absence Makes the Heart Grow Fonder

cupsThe first day my husband leaves is usually a tough day. It is gloomy and boring and I usuall y plan on eating a lot of carbohydrates that day and watching “The Office” on a loop. I usually don’t cry, but if I felt like it, I would. After I adjust to his absence, I revert back to “single” mode and start taking my clothes off in the living room and letting dishes pile up in the sink. I stop really cooking and just go buy a rotisserie chicken and frozen vegetables. There are days I miss him in a very real and physical way. When I feel like that, Netflix is there.

When he’s gone I spend a little longer at the gym. I don’t actually exercise more, I’m just there. A few friends text and check on me and I appreciate it. These are the times my friendlessness is more apparent because I go stretches of day without speaking to anyone and not being able to come up with someone I could invite to lunch. I take to sleeping in the spare room, in the bed I used when I was single, because it was only meant for me.

Then one day my husband shows up at the door with body bags of stuff and covered head to toe in poison ivy. I am ready for this. The house is clean, the fridge is stocked, and my entire body is epilated– that is, hair-free. We embrace.

I wasn’t thrilled about the idea of a transient spouse. In college, I didn’t want to date this guy who was going to Medical School, because presumptively, he would become a doctor and be gone too much for me; only to find myself with a husband who will be gone for months on a regular basis.

One consolation for me is that our home is his home. I am his home. I comfort him and make him comfortable. Nothing can replace that. The fact that my husband leaves makes that all the more special. If my husband was never leaving, I would never savor him in an endless hug in the kitchen. I would rarely spend a week focused on what he wants to eat and do. If my husband never left, my thoughts would never be consumed with the next moment I will see him or how it feels to have him all on my side of the bed. If he never came home, I would seldom obsess about any little thing I could do to make him happy. Many wives say “the honeymoon never ends” because those tender moments happen again and again. I don’t think those things happen if your husband only ever leaves you to go to a few conferences for work each year.

But while I am consumed by him, he is consumed by his endeavor. When he comes home he seeks respite and I provide that, but then after I have spent weeks sleepless, bored, lonely who is giving me respite emotionally? I meet his needs as best I can, but the best he can do for me is be present, on the couch mindlessly looking at sports. No one makes me dinner or brings me gifts. No one praises me for my sacrifice or sees to my security. My soldier does not have that left to give.

I’ve only had brief moments of these feelings, but I’m only on the front end of this and I don’t have kids. I know wives grow bitter because they basically end up raising their children alone. Sometimes a wife even has to move to a new duty station alone, and they are there with no job or family besides their 5-year old and a wobbly baby on the hip, and she’s worried about her husband’s safety. I think this woman has something to be upset about.

I don’t want to be bitter so I’m never going to have kids–just kidding! (However, I don’t plan on having a bunch of kids and making it harder on myself.) I don’t feel neglected by my husband, just neglected by this situation. The best I can do to help it is to let Spencer know my feelings and specific ways he can help. If I have learned one thing about marriage it is that my husband is not going to figure anything like this out on his own.

I'll just sit here while you sleep because before I know it, you'll be gone.
I’ll just sit here while you sleep because before I know it, you’ll be gone.

Does basically being single for extended periods of time sort of suck? Yes. To have a life that goes on without him and a life that can be stopped for him is a balancing act. At times they seem mutually exclusive. Nurturing one inhibits the other. But honestly, what would life be like if I never had a reason to get all sentimental about this guy? Each time he leaves, the counter is reset. When he returns I have forgotten about how he he seems to go out of his way to pass gas in the room I am in, or how he can’t listen. I forget about those things and just remember how funny he is and how much better I sleep with him around. Maybe being with your husband every day evens out to or outweighs repeated honeymoons, but the honeymoons are all I have, and for them I will be grateful.

We’ll see if I feel the same after our first deployment…

A Day in the Life

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All Smiles!

The alarm goes off at 5:30. I usually don’t hear it, but my husband eventually gets up and gets his little PT outfit on– black Army shorts and black t-shirt, girded with a yellow, reflective belt– and reports to wherever it is they are meant to work out, by 0600. They work out and Spencer makes it back home around 7:30 or 7:45. He eats cereal, showers, and gets back in bed. I used to wake up to cook him a hot, nutritious meal, but my husband prefers cereal. He prefers cereal.

Similar to PT outfit. Soldiers are not allowed to wear ankle socks. lol
Similar to PT outfit. Soldiers are not allowed to wear ankle socks. lol

I usually get up around the time he gets back in bed and head to Crossfit at about 20 ’till 9. Spencer has to report back to his cof, Company Operations Facility, by 9:30 am, but it varies.

Depending on how long I procrastinate at the gym or visit with the other people since they are the only other people I usually talk to in a day, I make it home between 10:30 and 11:00. Somewhere around 11:30 I get a text saying “omw,” which is my cue to start fixing lunch.

Spencer comes in and removes his boots and jacket and sits down in front of the TV. We eat and he chills out, sometimes naps, until he has to report back at 1 pm. I may or may not have my eyebrows drawn in at this point. Ideally, I’m dressed and have the dishwasher unloaded by lunch, but I can get distracted easily.

I spend the rest of the afternoon doing chores, including looking for jobs. My goal

My favorite chore!
My favorite chore!

is to have the house clean by the time Spencer comes home between 4:30 and 5:30. I get a text for that, too. (In the spring he was home by 4 or earlier almost every day!) Honestly, sometimes I’ll lie around for like 3 hours and then get up and start cleaning at about 4 pm. For some reason, those seem to be the days I get “the house looks good, babe.”

When Spencer gets in, he takes his boots off at the door, and takes a shower, because he usually smells like “outside.” I usually try to have dinner ready between 5:30 and 6, so by the time he’s cleaned up and sits down, it’s time to eat. We generally spend the rest of the evening straight chillin’. And yes we go to bed at the same time, but I might iPhone for an hour on a night where I’m not that tired. We all know Pinterest and Facebook are 20 times more interesting when you need to go to sleep, so I’m not complaining.

straight chilln', B
chilln’, B

Spencer shaves every night and gets his hair cut every other weekend (when it isn’t buzzed.) I told him to let me learn to do it to save the $13, but he doesn’t want to trust me.
Before I got involved in this lifestyle. I had no real idea what it meant to be in the Army beyond going overseas and narrowly escaping death. Since a solider is not deployed at all times, they obviously have an everyday life as a soldier, but we don’t usually think about that. It’s like how we never thought of teachers having lives outside school until we saw them in jeans at Schnucks (grocery store). There are other variables and elements than what I wrote about as well, but day-to-day it is fundamentally like any job. In fact, we call it “going to work” as opposed to something like, I don’t know, “reporting for duty.” This has surprisingly been regular experience.

Isn't he precious?
Isn’t he precious?

When I was in Missouri, people were asking me how we were doing and all of my responses started out with “I mean…” Because we are happy in terms of being married to each other, but the Army isn’t really a thrilling experience, but it’s not bad either. It’s like those SourPatch Kids. First it’s sour, then it’s sweet… then it’s sour…

There is plenty I like about being in the Army. Yes, I consider myself in the Army. I wouldn’t tell someone those words, but I definitely say WE are in the Army because the Army influences almost all aspects of my/our life. I like that Spencer is still accessible during the day, and can take care of important errands if need be. Of course I like the benefits, discounts, resources, health insurance, but I also take pride in being a part of something important. I’m not serving, but I am serving a man that is serving THE NATION.

What is crazy about the Army, from my perspective, is the fact that the Army owns my husband. If he is required to stay at the cof until midnight because someone lost something, there’s nothing anyone can do about that. Or, with only a few days notice, my husband may be going out “in the field” for a whole week. On the positive side, we always get extra days off for holidays, but if we want to travel more than three hours away, we have to secure a pass.

Schools and exercises are the middle ground between daily life on base and deployments. Spencer is about to go to Ranger School in Fort Benning, GA for a minimum of 2 months. We won’t have phone contact and he only asked me for 5 postage stamps. Don’t worry, I’m not feeling sad. The wives all cope.

Extensive packing list for Ranger School
Extensive packing list for Ranger School

I don’t have kids to deal with on my own, so I really can’t complain. Our husbands also go out for field exercises for weeks with their units to get hands on experience and training. That is either on the outskirts of the post or at another station in the country. We can usually communicate by phone. Soldiers also attend schools where they usually go to a different station to go through some sort of course to increase their skills and bragging rights.

All families expect deployments. I haven’t been through it yet, but it is not as scary as it seemed 12 months ago because I have been around so many women going through it. I have never met a woman who whines about it, and no one seems to offer pity, but rather sympathy. It’s also important to know that most soldiers want to deploy! That is why they became soldiers. In spite of that, I know it’s hard for spouses to see their soldiers excited about leaving when all they want is to be a family.

At this point, I’m very pleased with how things have turned out. I was actually forlorn about my future when we became engaged. I expected Spencer to be gone a lot and berated by his work and oppressive superiors.  I know things are different in other companies and stages of the military career, but right now Spencer’s responsibility level is such that he still has something to give to me at the end of the day, and I’m grateful for that. (He is also in a specialty unit, which seem to operate better than larger units.) Some women have their wedding and their husbands deploy a week later. I feel very blessed I did not have to go through that, but if I did, I know it would only have made me stronger.