Sunday, October 4, 2009
I just want to say, Rochester, Minnesota, whoever you are, thank you. To my knowledge, you have appeared on every single one of my posts. I have no idea who you are. I am technically challenged; you may be a blog author that I follow and I haven't connected the dots. For a while I wondered if you were my brother's fiance, but I don't think so. In the end, I have no idea but I have enjoyed the mystery.
My new blog is called Scrivenery.
Saturday, October 3, 2009
A huge part of this writer's block is the perceived expectation of an audience. To admit this makes me feel silly, but it's true. I can't write because I keep thinking about how it will be received.
Another chunk is that I have finished my original story line. I began the blog to describe the deployment and now the deployment is finished. What now?
I can't seem to be able to answer the question. I figured that after time the question would be answered naturally and in a way it has. I want to write stuff that expresses my deep satisfaction with life, just the little things of life.
What stops me is my own perception of blogging; to write about the good things, or just the good things, is not interesting. After a year of being transparent on my blog about things that are deeply personal, it feels like a let down to then want to write about how having my own family has sparked a deep well of appreciation for the childhood I was given, or to write about the roast I made and how the gravy came out without lumps.
I could write about arguments with Keith, but either they are too personal to present here, or they are too minute to matter. That's another thing that complicates it for me; when he was deployed, I could easily write about my own life. Now our lives are entangled every day, in small physical routines and in overarching ways. If I write about me, I am writing also about him. He is constantly implied.
I am used to exposing myself in my own writing. I am used to the discomfort, uncertainty and the liberation that it evokes. He is not. I am constantly aware of my own responsibility in portraying my husband publicly. If I portray the best in him, then it feels as though I am short changing my audience of the other side the coin. Conversely, if I expose him in a way less than flattering than I am betraying his privacy.
That aside, the most compelling factor in my own writing is the public reaction to it. Saying this feels like a confession, I hate admitting that I care what people think about my own writing. I want to be fiercely independent, to say what I want to say and to mean what I say and to be sure of it, impervious to feedback.
But isn't being impervious to feedback imply a refusal to grow? Feedback helps chart a reality outside one's own perception. But charting that course based solely off what other people think or say is equally unhelpful. And in my writing, the pull of how others respond has become far more weighty than my own convictions or vision, and that makes me feel like a weak person.
Early on in writing this blog, I wondered about the possibility of it being published and because of that have written my blog entries less like a traditional blog and more like chapters in a book. I planned, once the deployment was finished, to close down this blog and begin the work of editing it.
I think I will go ahead with my original plan. That leaves me with out a blog, and after all this, I still like the format of blogging as an exercise tool for my writing. I am going to open a new blog for that use, and that blog will not have the comments option activated.
I still have strong mixed feelings about having a blog without comments. Am I being cowardly by not allowing feedback? That's my main question. However, the thought of simply writing is so liberating that I will risk the possibility of being cowardly. Besides, I will display an e-mail address on my new blog, so if a person feels strongly enough to want to respond to what I've written, there will be an outlet for that expression.
My other question about not enabling comments was, am I being unfriendly? A big part of blogging is the community of bloggers, the back and forth. I don't want to be unfriendly and I have deeply appreciated the community of bloggers that I have been a part of. I needed that community.
But with that community, at least for me, came this expectation of quid pro quo; that is, if I wanted comments on my blog, I would leave comments on other's blogs and vise versa. There's nothing wrong with this. And it may not be the experience of other bloggers; it just felt true for me.
This sort of back and forth commenting, with its strong positive of community and support, also requires a fairly large investment of time. It worked perfectly for me when my husband was deployed; I had the time and I needed the support. Now it no longer fits my life. I feel, in some ways guilty for pulling out of it, but I suspect this is due to my own underlying desire to please people. I'm not sure that's enough of a reason to stay in.
In fact, I am positive that it is not. I feel better already. I have yet to think of a title for my new blog. When I do, I will post one last entry in this blog with the title of the new one, in case anyone wishes to continue to read what I write.
My thanks to everyone who made this particular journey such a worthwhile one and I wish you all the best in your own.
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
Tonight the sunset was cream and gold above the mountaintops. It had rained during the morning and the deck still held dark pools of water, each reflecting the sky. My mums have died; I suspect I didn't water them enough, but the pansies I planted back in April survived the summer and still bloom, their inquiring faces peer over the edge of the planter.
The Larry household and I have begun what appears to be a never ending exchanged of baked goods. Larry started it when he wandered into the garage with a pile of crumbling peanut butter cookies. Several days later, I passed over the fence a plate of blueberry coconut cheesecake bars. Shortly thereafter a large piece of white cake flavored with some kind of liquor came our way.
The plate now sits on my counter, awaiting slices of banana bread, so I can properly return it. When I was baking the bread, I remembered how Mom always told me to save the paper wrapping from the stick of butter to grease the pan with. I remembered how she taught me to flour the pan, to tip it from side to side and tap until the flour dusted each side.
I remembered the round, dented tin that held the flour and how this abundance always reassured me as a child, when I would dip the measuring cup in. Flour, I knew was always leveled off with a knife. Brown sugar on the other hand, was to be packed in tightly and would fall out with a solid thump. I knew that to make pie crust, cold water should be added by the tablespoon and tossed gently with a fork to make sure it stayed tender.
Though I enjoy all the fat handled, brand new cooking utensils I work with these days, when it came to buying a set of measuring spoons, I bought the cheap tin set with a cheerful rattle. It's identical to the one I remember using with Mom. If only I could find the tin flour sifter with the wooden handle and the pastry cutter.
I thought of my father too, recently, when I finally became dissatisfied with the spring like arrangement of flowers on the kitchen table. In a fit of fall decorating, I strode into the dollar store and purchased, on pure instinct, bunch after bunch of fall leaves and jewel toned flowers. There is also a little bowl of fall gourds and leaves on the round table by the front door and a big, fat pumpkin on the front step, next to the pansies.
Today I helped Keith clean the gutters. He steadied the ladder while I scooped a year's worth of pine needle gunk out. The weather has been chilly this week, we both wore jackets and gloves. Since he's been on block leave, he's let his beard grow in and damn it, I'm going to be heart broken when he has to shave it off.
There was just something so pleasing about looking down into the upturned face of my blue eyed, red bearded husband, with his cap and his fall jacket setting off his broad shoulders. I concentrated on my work though, the gutters are clean. (Actually, it's a wonder I managed not to fall off the ladder.)
I took some pictures though. I tell you what, as soon as he retires, he's growing that beard back, pronto.
Friday, August 21, 2009
"No passing out, Jenny!" I said, and then bent to the task of getting on my high heeled, white sandals.
Before I left, I shut all the windows and turned on the AC. I looked around at the deeply quiet, glowing house. Every surface was clean and clutter free. I could hear the sound of the clock ticking above the mantel. It was completely unbelievable to me that when I returned, I would be bringing Keith back with me.
Driving was an ordeal. I just focused on the road and remembered to breathe. That worked out OK. I knew where I was going; the weekend before I'd stopped to locate the Special Events Center on my way to get the necessary groceries.
"Dear God," I kept praying, "please just make sure I can find a parking spot and then some place to sit down. I can't stand. That's all I ask. Just a parking space and somewhere to sit." I do find the strangest things to focus on when anxious.
I found a parking spot quite easily and stayed a minute in the car to collect myself. I had to remember distinctly to put the car in park before turning it off, made sure I had my cell phone and took off my sun glasses so I could see better; I was terribly afraid of tripping and falling on my face, as my legs were a little unsteady and the high heels weren't helping.
The Special Events Center was massive, with high ceilings and overflowing with waves of high energy. I stood inside and got my bearings, overwhelmed at first by the crowd, the banners hung every where, the blaring music.
There was a large bouncy castle for the kids and next to it, the bleachers were mostly empty. I went up three rows and sat down on the end. I had thought I would be early, but it appears others had been there for at least an hour and the place was packed. They were showing video of the men getting off the planes that were somewhere outside and with each scene there was a loud shout of appreciation from the crowd watching.
It was a while before the men appeared and every time a stray curl of smoke escaped the double doors, the crowd went wild. It seemed surreal to me that within moments, I would see Keith. I sat very quietly; I found it impossible to make any sound. I sat with my purse on the floor, my hands demurely in my lap. All I had to do was wait a few moments and he would come in those doors; the phrase "to possess your soul in patience" occurred to me more than once during that time.
Finally, they played "American Soldier" and everyone surged to their feet, banners waving. But no troops. Each time the chorus of the song came around, the crowd shouted out, but the doors didn't open. The song ended and the moderator told us all to sit down again. We were a confused, but a very amicable group of people; we all sat back down again.
Then another song began, the doors opened and every one let out a great shout. Except me, I watched mute, electrified, as lines of soldiers marched solidly into the empty space and then turned crisply to face the front bleachers. My eyes flew from face to face but I couldn't see Keith at first.
Then, as they were talking, suddenly I saw him. He was fourth from the end, in the front row. He couldn't see me; they can't turn their heads at all when in formation and I was to the side of him. In the first moment I saw his face, I knew him. He stood out, one of the taller soldiers and his face was very composed.
It was a mercifully brief ceremony; the troops were thanked, the families were thanked, a prayer was said and then we were all released. There was a general surge forward. Keith and I had planned for me to stay on the bleachers; I had sent him a text before the troops entered, letting him know in what general direction I was in.
But when he started forward, I forgot all about the plan. I ditched my purse, I literally vaulted down from the side of the bleachers (I have been doing all that working out!), made my way over the deflated bouncy castle and then looked up and saw him just a yard away from me, looking shy and delighted. I ran the rest of the way.
He felt exactly right, every inch of his six feet two were well known to me, I curled my arms tight around his neck and just breathed in the scent of him. There is a hollow in his shoulder that fits my face perfectly, I nestled in there. He smelled good to me, which is saying something, considering he hadn't had a shower in over three days.
"You little kitten," he said tenderly, amazed. When I finally lifted my face to look at him, I immediately had to kiss him and even with my heels, I had to stand on my tip toes to reach him, my hair was loose down my back; it bothers me that way, but he likes it so I'd left it like that.
The kiss quickly became so passionate and deeply personal that eventually I remembered we were in the middle of a huge crowd and drew a little away, shy for the first time. But every time I looked at him, his face delighted me and then I had to kiss him again.
"Let's get out of here," my husband said, gripping my hand tightly. And then I remembered my purse.
When I went back for it, to my horror I discovered it gone. What were the odds, I wondered? What sad, sad person would steal a purse at such an event? And then I saw the kindly, mustachioed face of an elderly man who, with his wife, had been sitting next to me. He had my purse safely in both his hands and extended it to me, his face aglow.
"Thank you!" I cried, receiving it. I thought the world a marvelously beautiful place in that moment. If a rainbow had appeared over the high ceiling and the voice of Louis Armstrong began singing "What a Wonderful World" from above, I would have taken it as a natural extension of the general environment.
We made our way through the crowd somewhat erratically, as I had to reach up to kiss him frequently; some of the way he simply put his arm around my waist, lifted me off the ground and carried me.
Outside there were tents with their bags stacked in piles and there was a great deal of confusion over where each person's bag was. They had three huge packs to carry; I ended up carrying one of them as we made our way through the parking lot.
Someone looked at me funny, I suppose it did look a little odd. I was wearing a white dress with a full, pleated skirt and heels, with a huge, camo patterned bag over my shoulder. It didn't feel odd to me though; as any Army wife knows, we are always carrying a burdens for our husbands; usually they are invisible. To be literally carrying something was almost a relief.
I was horrified to learn that I would have to drive, as no soldier is allowed until they've been home twenty four hours. I took a deep breath and negotiated the parking lot. It didn't help my concentration any to have Keith beside me, making me laugh and otherwise distracting me.
It's a miracle that coming or going nothing adverse happened.
It's still a source of wonder to me to know that at night, he'll be beside me in bed. This despite the fact that because of it, I cannot sleep. Last night, I got up in desperation and put cotton balls in my ears to block the snores. Each evening he assures me with adorable gravity that he will not snore that night. It's very cute and completely useless.
He wakes at five and he never stops going during the day. On the first afternoon back, he mowed the back yard and got the HD up and running. We sat in it late that night, listening to the radio and talking.
I still haven't gotten used to the fact that I can touch him. He is touchable, he takes up space, he fills clothing that have hung limp from their hangers for the past nine months. The first time I saw him in jeans, boots and his pale blue shirt, the sleeves rolled up, I got a little dizzy.
He has the most deliciously long eye lashes, he gets splatters of oil on his face like freckles and his muscled forearms are covered with thick, copper hair. When we went ATV riding today, many times I buried my face in the back of his neck and felt how warm and solid his chest was under my arms; I thanked God over and over again, an almost wordless prayer that Keith had come back safe and sound.
Sound. That words means so much more to me now. He's himself, he's whole. And I get to keep him!! He's not going anywhere!
"What are you gunna do with me, woman?" he teases me often, with his little wicked grin.
"Well, they will put you back to work here in a couple days," I replied with a grin of my own.
"C'mere," he said to me, the first night he was back. "I have something for you."
He gave me a little red velvet bag that I didn't even recognize at first. I opened it and saw the little enameled pill box that I'd given him before he left. I looked up at him over my shoulder, he was standing behind me, watching me.
I opened the box, inside was a thin silver ring, a tiny crucifix, and a thin piece of rolled up paper on which I had written a Bible verse. The ring was the first piece of jewelry I had ever owned and something that I had always worn, every day for fifteen years until the day before he left for Iraq, when I had taken it off and put it in the box for him.
"I kept it with me every day, on every mission," he said quietly, bending his head to my ear.
I slipped the ring on my right hand and it was as though it had never been off.
Friday, August 14, 2009
9:12am: Yay! It is officially a new day! I cross a day off the calendar and stand back to admire this incredible improvement to its design.
10:45am: Absorbed in reading the articles at realclearpolitics.com, time passes by quickly as I either cheer or boo the screen.
12:03pm: Yay! The day is half over. But no, I remember that the afternoon drags on indefinitely.
3:29pm: Listlessly wandering around the house, unable to focus on reading or cleaning or eating or any other activity. But it's almost four o'clock!! Soon it will be evening!
6:32pm: Thank goodness! Soon it will be dark and the day will be over.
8:45pm: The day is over!! Let me count the days for the zillionth time...
12:04am: It's the next day!!! Oh joy!! Now please, for the love of Pete, can I fall asleep now?
Rinse and repeat, for the past week and for several more days left to go.
People who say that the very end of deployment is one of the worst stages are absolutely right.
Oh my goodness, look at the time!! It's already 1:30pm!! Yay!!
Monday, August 10, 2009
(I have to pause to just let that sink in.)
I've been saying that to myself and others for the past two days. I remember so vividly right after he deployed, the very day, in fact. I was working the evening shift, gathering dirty dishes from dinner. I was in this haze of grief and disbelief. Deployment is such a large and bruising experience that it takes weeks to come to any kind of equilibrium within it.
"My husband left for Iraq this morning," I said, my head down.
I felt as though I were walking within a bubble, it was my first experience of the commonly experienced "deployment bubble," compounded not only by isolation from one's mate, but from everyone else around you, from general society, except those few who have also experienced it.
Sometimes it felt as though I were swimming through deep water. Sometimes I could hardly keep my head above the water and I would come up for brief gasps of air. Those were in the long, dark winter days when I would not get dressed, when the sun hardly came out and the dust lay heavy over all the surfaces of the house.
Now the journey is all but over. Yesterday I was gathering the menus after dinner. I stopped by the table of an elderly couple, ensconced in a table all by themselves, surrounded by windows that look out over a grassy expanse and then the stately buildings that line the street.
"How many more days?" asked the elderly man with a twinkle in his eyes.
"Next week," I replied and then just stood there, while the truth of this dawned on me. I was accutely aware of everything in that moment, the feel of the dry paper between my fingers, the carpet on which I stood, the bustle of dinner going on behind us in the main room, the evening light that slanted down outside across the grass.
These last few weeks have been anything but uneventful. My husband's truck got hit by shrapnel from a rocket (no one was hurt), our dogs got out of the backyard fence and were taken to the pound before I could get there to prevent it. The window of my husband's beloved Bronco was shattered on accident by our well meaning and good neighbor Larry as he was trimming the lawn.
But looking back, I won't remember those things clearly. What I will remember is the delicious experience of falling even more in love with my husband. It is, I cannot help but conclude, one of life's greatest joys to be in love with one's husband.
I am a realist in my attitude toward marriage; I assume that it will be challenging, that it will require work, commitment and dedication. I assume that human emotion will rise and fall as it always does.
So it is a most delightful experience to find my emotions swelling up so sweetly, without restraint. The thought of Keith himself causes me to grin with sheer happiness, the thought that he is my husband causes me to swoon. (Yes, I said swoon. It's a perfectly good word!)
I think he's become comfortable with the fact that I think him adorable.
"Cause I"m just so darn cute," he said the other day, and waited.
"Yes, you are!" I whole heartedly agreed, swooning.
"You crazy kitten," he said, with affectionate humor.
He already wrote down a detailed list of everything he will need accomplish on his first full day back in order to feel relaxed. He shared this with me so that we could be on the same page. I love that sort of thing about him, I love how organized and focused he is and I love how he then includes me, to make sure that I don't get the wrong impression.
The closer we move to the homecoming, the more jittery I become. I find myself staring off into space often, or not being able to complete a sentence. I can't sleep. Last night and the night before, I couldn't sleep until past one or two am. I am anxious about getting everything ready, I have a grocery list made, I have cleaning to do.
Today I have to go into work for a few hours and hopefully (please God!) I will sleep well tonight and then tomorrow I will wake up refreshed and focused and tackle the house.
Each day passes in the same way that entire months used to. The day begins and the first half passes by quickly and then the afternoon and evening drag by. I am usually awake in order to see the clock go past twelve am, at which point I always tell myself the next day has begun and mentally cross it off the calendar.
These days are filled with a strange, breathless energy. I know very shortly the entire fabric of my life will be up ended. I will no longer work, I will be up early. I will have trouble sleeping, not because of excitement, but because Keith will take up most of the bed and snore like a bulldozer. I won't have an entire afternoon to myself, I won't be able to have yogurt and blueberries for dinner and leave the dishes for the next morning.
The days will speed up and go by with a blur. September will come before I've had a chance to turn around. Family will come to visit and weddings will be attended and then there will be the move. Hopefully, at some point in there I will become pregnant.
I feel in some way as though I am waiting at a train station for the express to come through. Right now all is quiet. I hear the muted sounds of traffic from somewhere far from the platform, the sun falls down on the cement and the wind moves softly. However, I know that sweeping toward me with speed and intent is a huge, fast moving express train that will scoop me up and carry me away to places I've been imagining for an entire year and that will now become real.
I just keep waiting for that one moment when I suddenly recognize his face and hold my arms out toward him.
Wednesday, August 5, 2009
The problem is is that I'm caught in the crux of two extremely compelling forces. One, of course, is my husband's return. This eclipses everything else around me except for the other compelling force and that is my concern for and awareness of my country.
My days are all spent either standing still, lost in space, completely illuminated by the sheer, breathless happiness of knowing that very soon my husband will be in our home or lost on the internet as I research more and more about recent government policies, their impact on our country, how the government is structured, how it used to be structured, what is possible still to do and what is lost already.
I don't consider myself to be a controversial person. Or at least, I didn't. I am amiable and easy going, shy and withdrawn. I have an analytical and logical mind and a healthy dose of scepticism.
Consequently, the more I learn about government today the more I feel as if I have fallen down the rabbit hole. And I just keep falling. I keep wanting to blog about this, but first of all, my ideas keep evolving the more and more I learn and I think there's still a great deal more to learn. I don't want to present half baked political ideas.
However, I am curious. How many of you are aware that Congress voted against bailing out GM back in December and then the President took their authority into his own hands and took over the company without Congress? That is a breathtaking, heart stopping abuse of power. Fascinatingly, Bush did the same thing.
Furthermore, GM is right now not being managed through pre-established government bureaucracy, but through the Auto Task Force set up the President. Sound too weird and scary to be true? I feel the same way! That's why I'm not sure if I want to even blog about it, but follow these links and then do some research. See where it takes you.
I could go on and on, but I won't. I just wonder one more thing, what all do you think or know about these so called "czars"? Is this a good idea? What is their purpose? Who do they answer to? What precedent is there for them? How much authority do they have and where does it come from?
I'm still trying to figure it out myself. But I'll tell you one thing, I have very bad feeling about it. I will try to hold off drawing conclusions until I learn more about them though.
So, between that and preparing for Keith to come home, I've just been absorbed. And I promised myself that I wouldn't spend the whole day down here on the computer feeling like Alice in Wonderland. Today I'm going to clean the house and do some much needed grocery shopping. So I better head off and start, but if you don't hear from me as much, I'm still here and following right along.
Wednesday, July 29, 2009
It came as an incredible shock to me to realize that socialized medical care could even be debated in our Congress, that we could have elected a President who could offer it as a viable option for health care reform. It caused me not only to look more into the health care situation, but also into what it means to be American.
Our country was founded with the hope that future generations would not only understand, but perpetuate their form of government, the Republic of the United States of America. But we have squandered it. I came of age as an American only to find that my country has been all but hollowed out, ironically, usually from either good intentions or from fear.
For example, take the good intention of equality in health care, the proposed result of a universal health care system.
"In the Wall Street Journal British physician Anthony Daniels writes:
"The government-run health-care system—which in the U.K. is believed to be the necessary institutional corollary to an inalienable right to health care—has pauperized the entire population.
"This is not to say that in every last case the treatment is bad: A pauper may be well or badly treated, according to the inclination, temperament and abilities of those providing the treatment. But a pauper must accept what he is given.
"Universality is closely allied as an ideal, ideologically, to that of equality. But equality is not desirable in itself. To provide everyone with the same bad quality of care would satisfy the demand for equality...In any case, the universality of government health care in pursuance of the abstract right to it in Britain has not ensured equality. After 60 years of universal health care, free at the point of usage and funded by taxation, inequalities between the richest and poorest sections of the population have not been reduced. But Britain does have the dirtiest, most broken-down hospitals in Europe."
It would be one thing, perhaps, if a universal health care system were the only viable option. Then it might be worth it to talk about how to try and make a better state run health system. But it's not the only option, it is simply the worst option. In fact, government control is what got us here in the first place; how on earth does adding more of it, in any way, shape or form, make sense?
"When the government has made a mess of medical care by increasing its market control from 10 percent to 50 percent over the last 40 years, driving up costs by shifting them to private insurers, and when state regulators have driven up the cost of the other half of care, mandating coverage that makes private insurance unnecessarily expensive, we are told that "reform" means giving government complete control of whatever is left."
Their "reform," then, amounts to more of the same poison that has been killing us."
-Richard Ralston, July 29th 2009, The Vegan Review Journal, "STALINIST 'REFORM': A public option that destroys all options."
"We need not choose between freedom and competition on one hand and long term health security on the other. Markets can deliver both.
"Getting there requires us to move in exactly the opposite direction of current regulation and most policy proposals."
-John H Cochrane, Feb 8th, 2009, The Cato Institute, "Health-Status Insurance: How Markets Can Provide Health Security"
"Rather than endorse such big-government overkill, pro-freedom members of Congress should promote a simple concept: Let every American own and control an individual health insurance policy that can be transported among jobs, self-employment, graduate school and life's other twists and turns."
"What Americans need is a thriving market in individually owned and controlled health insurance plans. When you book an airline flight, Priceline.com does not ask, "What is your group number?" You decide when and where to fly, and then buy your ticket. At least with personal travel, your boss does not fund this. The same is true for car insurance, home insurance and often life insurance. Why must Americans shop for health insurance at work, rather than online or through independent agents?"
-Deroy Murdock, July 18th, 2009, The UnionLeader.com, "Deroy Murdock: There's no U.S. health insurance crisis"
I have no idea why this matters to me so damn much. I didn't care before. I had this vague idea that the system could regulate itself, that there was nothing I could do either way, that my vote didn't matter.
The system does not regulate itself. A republic requires the informed participation of its citizens; to do nothing, to not care, was to actively participate in its degeneration. I was failing my country.
A friend on facebook asked the question on her status: Do you know the difference between a republic and a democracy?I didn't. I didn't know the difference, to my incredible shame. It was with difficulty that I could even recall the pledge of allegiance, in which I thought vaguely the word republic might have made an appearance. It does, as children in the public school system we stood to face the flag, hands over our hearts and said the following:
"I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."
Maybe it is hopeless. There are some hours in the day when I feel certain that my country is already lost to me, as I learn more and more about how far government already extends its constitutional bounds, how far we have distorted what was originally given to us. I feel sometimes like giving up, like going back to my comfortable life of not caring. After all, how much impact can I really have anyway?
And then I read quotes like this, and I find that tears are streaming down my face.
“Let us be sure that those who come after will say of us in our time, that in our time we did everything that could be done. We finished the race; we kept them free; we kept the faith.”
Friday, July 24, 2009
First of all, I am terribly afraid of being wrong and I probably will get some things wrong. Maybe I'll make a fool of myself in public by talking about things that I don't understand. It's likely.
Secondly, I'm terribly afraid of offending people and causing conflict. I hate conflict, it makes me cringe.
Thirdly, I tend to have this kind of apathy when it comes to politics.
But lately I've had to ask myself, is that the extent of my patriotism? I'm an American. This is my country. Maybe I am in some small, but real way, responsible for it.
After all, this country has been handed down to me by others who sacrificed everything for it. It's the legacy I'm going to hand down to my children and my grandchildren. My husband is willing to give his life for this country. It seems to me that the least I can do is have an informed opinion.
I found some interesting answers to all of my questions and I will provide links and sources so you can pursue your own research and see where I am getting my ideas from and then form your own.
And I've only barely touched on these issues. I needed to in order to keep this blog somewhat readable. But there is so much else going on having to do with Health Care Reform. Don't be intimidated. If I could figure out even a part of it, you can too.
Here are the four main questions I asked:
What kind of health care reform is being debated right now?
What kind of impact has this kind of health care reform had in other countries that have adopted it?
Why is it being rushed through?
Lastly, is there another option for health care reform?
I found answers to all of these questions. I will include links, quotes and sources, in fact the bulk of this blog are other people's words. Any italics included in any quotes are my own.
One: What kind of Health Reform is being debated right now?
According to the President, he is looking to:
"-Reduce long-term growth of health care costs for businesses and government
-Protect families from bankruptcy or debt because of health care costs
-Guarantee choice of doctors and health plans
-Invest in prevention and wellness
-Improve patient safety and quality of care
-Assure affordable, quality health coverage for all Americans
-Maintain coverage when you change or lose your job
-End barriers to coverage for people with pre-existing medical conditions"
-The White House, Health Care, Guiding Principles.
Wow. Those are awesome goals. As responsible Americans, we all want to be able to provide this, to be able to say that our country achieved this. The debate is not about whether or not health reform is needed, but how to go about it.
Now it turns out there are three different ways of approaching health care coverage from a government wide point of view. One possibility is to have private companies only. The other is through a government program only. This is also referred to as "single payer" or universal health care program. The third option is a mix of the two, both private and government health care insurance and programs.
Surprising (at least to me) America is actually already on the third option. We have Medicare, Medicaid and SCHIP programs, in addition to private insurance companies that businesses voluntarily buy for their employees or that people buy as individuals.
What is being debated now (in part) is a "bridge" to cover people who do not qualify for the government programs already in place and yet who cannot afford to buy their own health care or do not have access to health insurance through their employer.
These government supplied health insurance agencies would be subsidized in order for them to be affordable to people who are in the "gap." When the government subsidizes something, it means that they artificially keep the price either low or high in order to have a desired effect.
The assumption with the proposed health care reform is, in part, that it would not be as expensive because it wouldn't cover the entire nation, just these "gap" citizens.
The main concern with subsidized government health insurance is that it would make it impossible for the private companies to compete. Let's say you can afford your health care insurance now, but it's pricey. If a government run health insurance became affordable at half the price with the same coverage, would you keep your private insurance?
"If a so-called public option is part of health-care reform, the Lewin Group study estimates over 100 million Americans may leave private plans for government-run health care. Any government plan will benefit from taxpayer subsidies and be able to operate at a financial loss—competing unfairly in the marketplace until private plans are driven out of business. The government plan will become so large that it will set, rather than negotiate, prices. This will inevitably lead to monopoly, with a resulting threat to the quality of our health care."
-Bobby Jindal, JULY 22, 2009, 4:20 P.M. ET, The Wall Street Journal, Opinion Journal, "How to Make Health Care Reform Bipartisan."
"A common myth is that universal government healthcare would be free or cost less than private healthcare. This belief violates several economic principles. First, the money to pay for health professionals, medicines, and facilities has to come from somewhere. If consumers don’t pay for these services directly, they will pay indirectly through higher taxes. Second, as the perceived price decreases, demand will increase. In other words, when people believe that they won’t have to pay for their healthcare, they will use more health services."
-David Thornton, July 2, 2009, The Examiner.com, The Problems with Universal Health Care
Another words, even if Health Care Reform is passed through that is not single payer, a government subsidized health care insurance program will put private companies out of business. They will do so because the private companies in no way will be able to lower their costs; they do not have access to tax payer money to make up for lost profit.
This will result in a single payer, universal health care program, or a monopoly on health care. We are all familiar with the economy principle of monopoly, right? For example, if there is only one company that can sell coffee makers, then that company does not need to rely upon consumer input to stay in business. It doesn't care if it sells crappy coffee makers, because it's either buy their coffee makers or go without coffee.
But we don't need to wait, even, for the economic consequence. The bill has assured that even if private health care companies don't die on their own, they will be no longer allowed five years after the passage of the bill.
"The (health care reform) bill clearly states that within five years of passage all employers must switch you over to a government managed health care plan. If you refuse, you’ll be fined by the Federal government. It will cost another trillion dollars (we are already $11 trillion in debt now) and still won’t cover every American."
-Carolina Politics Online, July 24 2009
"Also, within five years all Americans would be subject to the individual mandate to either purchase "qualifying coverage" or pay a fine."
-Edmund F. Haislmaier, July 23 2009, The Heritage Foundation, "Micromanaging Americans' Health Insurance: The Impact of House and Senate Bills"
(By the way, please read that article and click on the footnotes, they will will direct you to the section numbers of the bill actually being debated right now. I did it, because I didn't quite believe what I was hearing.)
But this is the government right? The government will surely provide quality services, right?
How many of you have parents or grandparents on Medicaid/Medicare? How many of you remember the government's response to Hurricane Katrina? Anybody been to the DMV lately?
How about looking at how other countries have set up their own systems.
Two: What effect has Universal or Single Payer health care systems had on other countries?
It costs way more that predicted and to see this, we don't have to look outside of our own country. The following is talking about the state of Massachusetts.
"The subsidized insurance program at the heart of the state's healthcare initiative is expected to roughly double in size and expense over the next three years - an unexpected level of growth that could cost state taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars or force the state to scale back its ambitions."
-By Alice Dembner, February 3, 2008, The Boston Globe, Subsidized Care Plan's Cost to Double
How about California, where Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's "universal" health care plan recently died in the legislation?
"Like collapses in Illinois, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, this one crumpled because of the costs, which are always much higher than anticipated. The truth teller was state Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata, who thought to ask about the price tag of a major new entitlement amid what's already a $14.5 billion budget shortfall.
An independent analysis confirmed the plan would be far more expensive than proponents admitted."
-The Wall Street Journal: Opinion Journal. Editorial, January 30th, 2008 "Terminated"
Secondly, countries that have adopted universal health care systems are facing reduced benefits and rationing of services.
"Canada's Medicare program arrogantly asserts that Canadians get "medically necessary services," yet the facts show Canadians endure scandalously long wait times and a dangerous lack of access to modern diagnostic and treatment-related technologies, ultimately costing lives.
"British citizens suffer under the rule of their National Health Service, directed by their House of Commons Task Force, which recommended "techniques for determining the cost-effectiveness of new technologies" with "nationally approved standards for the commissioning of new technologies."
"Western European nations, where government dictates drug prices to the end result of pitifully reduced innovation, have less access to new cancer-curing drugs, so, consequently, patients die earlier from those diseases when compared to the U.S. There is no mystery here--it has been proved the world over that when government dictates prices on services, those services become unavailable."
-Scott W. Atlas, July 21, 2009, Forbes. com, "Rationing Health Care"
"Now, however, the European welfare states are slashing benefits in the face of rising health care costs.
"A recent front-page story in the New York Times detailed the European cutbacks. According to the article, Britain, France and Germany are all being forced to limit access to care. Rationing, already extensive, is increasing."
-Michael D. Tanner, This article appeared on cato.org on September 23, 1996, A Hard Lesson on Socialized Medicine, The Cato Institute.
"Great Britain's National Health Service (NHS) was created on July 5, 1948. As with all government programs, bureaucrats underestimated initial cost projections. First-year operating costs of NHS were 52 million pounds higher than original estimates1 as Britons saturated the so-called free system.Many decades of shortages, misery and suffering followed until 1989, when some market-based health care competition was reintroduced to the British citizens2."
-The Problems with Socialized Health Care
Secondly, they face incredibly long wait times for treatment.
"In Massachusetts, which mandated universal health care in 2006, patients wait an average of 63 days to get an appointment with a primary care provider. That is seven times the wait in Philadelphia or Atlanta."
-Tom Donohue, July 21, 2009 The Huffington Post, "Achieving Responsible Health Care Reform"
"My health-care prejudices crumbled not in the classroom but on the way to one. On a subzero Winnipeg morning in 1997, I cut across the hospital emergency room to shave a few minutes off my frigid commute. Swinging open the door, I stepped into a nightmare: the ER overflowed with elderly people on stretchers, waiting for admission. Some, it turned out, had waited five days. The air stank with sweat and urine. Right then, I began to reconsider everything that I thought I knew about Canadian health care."
-David Gratzer, summer 2007, City Journal, "The Ugly Truth about Canadian Health Care"
Ok, so it's clear there are some really serious and complicated issues concerning universal health care. If so, why for God's sake rush it through Congress?
Three: Why the rush?
"There are genuine reasons the public is concerned about the state of health care in the United States. Good and fair-minded citizens may agree or disagree on the most urgent priorities and means to achieve them. But a rush to enact a massive plan hardly digested by members of Congress, let alone the public, does no service to any of us."
-Christina Fadden Fitch, July 24 2009 Syracuse.come "No Need to Rush Through Health Care Reform."
And yet it is being rushed through:
"In Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) easy-to-follow opinion piece in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, he wrote that before members of Congress even had time to read the 1,000-page bill, it already had cleared two major House committees. They didn’t even know the cost. So expensive, so complex, and potentially so powerful as to forever change the role of the federal government, and yet they’ve fast-tracked it?"
-Gorden Deal, Wall Street Blogs, July 24, 2009, 7:41 AM ET Health Care Reform: Cost and Controversy
Here's one opinion why (but just one). I happen to share this opinion. I could be wrong.
"President Obama’s Chief of Staff Rahm Emmanuel has insisted that a vote on the House health care disaster will take place prior to the August recess. There is a very simple reason for this. Obama knows that Americans are opposed to this bill coming out of the House and these Congressmen are going to catch hell when they get home over the recess. The odds are better for House passage if the vote takes place before they are all confronted with their constituents."
-Caroline Politics Online, July 24 2009
"The top Democrat in the Senate says health reform legislation will not be approved before the August recess. A White House fast-track approach to passing the legislation by Aug. 7 has caused divisions among Democrats, and it appears to be on the verge of failing. In the House, an uprising by conservative Democrats appears to be threatening the ability to pass the bill before the recess."
-NYSSA SmartBrief 07/24/2009, Smart Brief, Fast Track for Health Care Reform is Derailed
To sum up (because, really, they said it better than I could. And read this article, it's great. Very down to earth.)
"It’s a remarkable thing. We are in the midst of trying to redesign the largest health care system in the world, and we’re barely debating the merits of it. How many members of Congress will have read the 1,1018-page bill once they vote on it? How many Americans will understand what implications it has for their health care if it — or something like it — becomes law?"
-by EvanFalchukJD, July 18 2009, Get Better Health.com, "Rushing Healthcare Legislation Through Without Consensus"
We all agree that health care reform is badly needed. And as soon as possible. But certainly not before Congress knows what they are voting on. Certainly not before we, who will be paying for it, know what it is about; before we can learn about the implications of putting it through, what it really means.
Four: Are there other options?
The short answer is, yes. There are. Here are some, I thought, interesting starting points and I love how commen sense they are. They are easy to understand:
"...there is general agreement among Republicans and Democrats that we need health-care reform to bring costs down. This agreement can be the basis of a genuine, bipartisan reform, once the current over-reach by Mr. Obama and Mrs. Pelosi fails. Leaders of both parties can then come together behind health-care reform that stresses these seven principles:
•Consumer choice guided by transparency. We need a system where individuals choose an integrated plan that adopts the best disease-management practices, as opposed to fragmented care. Pricing and outcomes data for all tests, treatments and procedures should be posted on the Internet. Portable electronic health-care records can reduce paperwork, duplication and errors, while also empowering consumers to seek the provider that best meets their needs.
•Aligned consumer interests. Consumers should be financially invested in better health decisions through health-savings accounts, lower premiums and reduced cost sharing. If they seek care in cost-effective settings, comply with medical regimens, preventative care, and lifestyles that reduce the likelihood of chronic disease, they should share in the savings.
•Medical lawsuit reform. The practice of defensive medicine costs an estimated $100 billion-plus each year, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, which used a study by economists Daniel P. Kessler and Mark B. McClellan. No health reform is serious about reducing costs unless it reduces the costs of frivolous lawsuits.
•Insurance reform. Congress should establish simple guidelines to make policies more portable, with more coverage for pre-existing conditions. Reinsurance, high-risk pools, and other mechanisms can reduce the dangers of adverse risk selection and the incentive to avoid covering the sick. Individuals should also be able to keep insurance as they change jobs or states.
•Pooling for small businesses, the self-employed, and others. All consumers should have equal opportunity to buy the lowest-cost, highest-quality insurance available. Individuals should benefit from the economies of scale currently available to those working for large employers. They should be free to purchase their health coverage without tax penalty through their employer, church, union, etc.
•Pay for performance, not activity. Roughly 75% of health-care spending is for the care of chronic conditions such as heart disease, cancer and diabetes—and there is little coordination of this care. We can save money and improve outcomes by using integrated networks of care with rigorous, transparent outcome measures emphasizing prevention and disease management.
•Refundable tax credits. Low-income working Americans without health insurance should get help in buying private coverage through a refundable tax credit. This is preferable to building a separate, government-run health-care plan.
These steps would bring down health-care costs. They would not bankrupt our nation or increase taxes in the midst of a recession. They are achievable reforms with bipartisan consensus and public support. All they require is a willingness by the president to slow down and have an honest discussion with Americans about the real downstream consequences of his ideas. Let’s start there."
-Bobby Jindal, JULY 22, 2009, 4:20 P.M. ET, The Wall Street Journal, Opinion Journal, "How to Make Health Care Reform Bipartisan."
But I'll bet you this is not the only other idea out there. This is America, after all. We embrace diversity, are innovative and we love a challenge. We put a man on the moon, after all. We can figure this out and we don't have to borrow other countries' faulty blueprints or bankrupt our grandchildren to do so.
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
The sky is so huge that to see it all but filled with clouds was breath taking, clouds piled so high up into the sky that it makes clear the fact that the sky extends upward and upward and upward, miles up into the blue and the clouds were pushing their way up, their dark blue and grey flat bottoms facing the earth, their shadows covering the green of small hills and the bunched crowns of trees.
And over all the wind played, sweeping up over the valleys and the hills and pushing the clouds along, going and coming back and smelling sweetly of rain and grass. It was so cool against my face. I stood on a bluff and looked across the valley at the roots of the mountains, the mountains that were being consumed by clouds, and underneath the clouds were the small houses, the tidy, quiet roofs, the little glints from the windows, all small and packed up against the foothills, huddled down in the roots with the trees half pulled over them.
We walked around and around the little track of that park on the bluff, with the sun coming in and out of the clouds on the eastern edge of the sky and the wind came and wicked the sweat off our faces and limbs, took our words and sent them dancing away somewhere, it was as though we could hear the echoes of our own voices brought back to us on the wind and sometimes I spoke just for the sheer joy of having my words whisked away from me.
I didn't want to go home; I wanted to go to the cabin on the lake in Maine, where the screen door squeaks such a protest when opened and then slams so definitively closed, with a bang, and one's swimsuit hangs on the line and is still damp from the day before.
"What do you think if we have chickens?" I asked Keith last night.
"Chickens!" he groaned with an intensity that took me by surprise. "Oh hon, chickens are such a pain in the ass!"
"Well, I was thinking about having fresh eggs..."
"Oh, you want hens!" he exclaimed with relief. "Hon, chickens and hens are not the same thing."
"I thought they were all chickens! Anyway, I wasn't raised on a farm, so I wouldn't know..."
Other cute things Keith has said in e-mails lately:
"Honey, stop worrying about my heart. It is healthy and full of love for you...your very heart healthy tank commander (VHHTC). (a new acronym..you love me)"
After our silly argument and I wrote the blog about the acorn hitting my head:
"Hey Kitten, I am not angry, and if that acorn tree let one go on my kitten, then let's just say we will have fire wood for the coming winter..."
"Yes I am all yours, you lucky devil, you!!!!!! I love you, you are everything to me..."
"...and hey- everything that I put into those beans was planned, you little kitten...it's not like I get a little tipsy and just start going through the fridge wondering if things will be good.....that's just preposterous!!!!!! You love me...I love you, my little honey bunny!!!!!"
Saturday, July 18, 2009
I hadn't heard from Keith for a little over twenty four hours, which is very strange at this point in the deployment. I knew, rationally, that he must be fine and that he was simply too busy to get on the Internet or the phone.
Regardless, I couldn't help but notice how inside me, I started to change, one part of me going deep and silent, the other part of me chattering away on the surface, focused on day to day life. I wanted to document the strange way in which paranoia can creep up, so I started a blog, writing in a kind of stream of consciousness style.
As I was in the middle of writing this, I decided suddenly to search on line for news and I found some and I knew immediately why I had not been hearing from Keith. It had nothing to do with him being busy, something terrible had happened.
It was so unbelievable. I went from simply noticing my own fears to living them out. I wish I could explain or describe the way the fear increases toward the end of deployment, but I can't seem to find the words. I've actually been really proud of myself for not experiencing it as much as I had thought I would. Going into deployment, I thought that I would literally be paralyzed with fear for the last three months.
I haven't been, but when this happened, it was very, very difficult to keep telling myself that Keith was fine, that he would call soon. But I really didn't know if I would hear from him or from the CAO. Part of me was certain he was already dead. Another part of me was certain he was fine and I was being a drama queen and ridiculous; based on nothing but the numbers, he was most likely alive. Most of me was simply stunned, unable to think coherently.
The worst point came later on in the day, when I turned onto our street and saw immediately two police cars and an unfamiliar car parked at my curb. At my curb. Right behind Keith's truck. I couldn't breathe, I think I started to say, "Oh my god," over and over again. I was with a friend, she didn't know what had just hit me.
I'd been avoiding the house all day, out walking or out with my friend. I had discovered that I just couldn't stay there, I refused to stay there for them to come and find me. And when I saw the cars I thought, "Dear god, they are lying in wait for me. They called in the police to come hunt me down."
Completely irrational, but there was no room in me for rational thought at that moment. My friend pulled up and I saw that the police were all over at the neighbor's and the car at the curb was empty. I was suddenly weightless. I had to think very clearly about each and every action, how to close the car door, how to walk calmly.
When I got in the house, I found an e-mail from Keith. I was equally light headed when I saw it. It took a little while for the relief to reach me completely. Partly because he was still in danger and continues to be. He continues to run missions. Why the hell can't he sit at the base and stew like most everyone else? It's starting to drive me crazy.
The rest of the day I was trying to return to normal. I felt like an elastic that had been completely stretched out of shape. I thought about others who had gone though these experiences, only over and over and over again, during the Gulf War, or right now, in Afghanistan. The only thing I can think of is that a person must get almost permanently stretched out of shape, pulled right out of one's normal emotional center.
Keith was able to call much later that evening. He said, "Pray for the families of those men." He was grave and not like himself. I had been thinking of those families all day. Now that I knew more details, the horror of their situation overtook me.
I'll tell the truth, even if it's unflattering, I didn't want to think about them. I'd gone far enough down that path to have had just a glimpse of what they were going through and I didn't want to see any farther down. I didn't want to feel it any more. It wasn't that I didn't care, it was simply that it was too real.
Keith told me about a dream he'd had, an especially vivid and satisfying dream about our life after he gets back, he tells me he has many of them. Now I understand in a new way what it's like, to really know that we can live that kind of life because other people died for it.
I was talking to one of the residents that evening, during my shift. She was sitting in a chair across from the desk, waiting for dinner. A bunch of them were there, chatting animatedly away about their lives, laughing, comparing dates, forgetting things and joking about it. This particular lady had been twenty years old in 1947.
"You can calculate on up from there to eight one," she told me, her hand to her mouth, eyes twinkling. "And it's been a great ride! I've loved every minute of it."
It was so encouraging, and healing, to hear that. After all, she's lived through WWII. I'm determined to live my life in such a way that I can say the same thing too, when I reach that age. Now I just have to get through this last bit of the deployment.
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
But relieved, too, because we’ve been having it so, so good for so long. There’s only so much deeply loving, intimate and enjoyable conversations a couple can have before something's gonna give, right? It was starting to unnerve me.
I could feel Keith getting more and more tense as the end of deployment got closer. All the men, I think, are beginning to grate on one another. Most of them are not doing missions, they are in line for the phone and in line for the computer, or in line for a meal.
Strangely, Keith still in out doing missions and now also doing other things having to do with redeployment, so he’s busy and the congestion is getting to him. I just think most of them go a little stir crazy right around now.
And I was wondering when this tension was going to overflow up and into our relationship. Over and over again I could hear it creep up in Keith’s voice and each time he’d push it down. This impressed me to no end, but on the other hand, I wanted to tell him, “Just let it out.”
When Keith calls me, he is looking for a specific kind of conversation. He is looking for me to be adorably sweet, overflowing with cute anecdotes about my calm, quiet and monastic day (this being both entertaining and reassuring) and he is hoping for stories about us that he has forgotten but I have remembered, in charming detail.
In short, he is looking to be transported from the hell he is in into a cool, green oasis of love and home, and I am happy and proud to provide. Usually I can do so almost effortlessly, since I am by nature (privately) adorably sweet and giggly and generally do have calm, quiet and monastic days that I usually can recall entertainingly. After all, I am a story teller by nature.
But there are some days when I just don’t have it in me. I am tired, or distracted, or both, as I was today. Instead of amusing stories about how Abby almost got stuck when she hid under the bed during a thunderstorm and had to wiggle her way out snout first, I have boring stories about how I drove a coworker to her eye surgery appointment and then back home again.
Not only that, but instead of happily merging onto our own personal highway of future bliss, we found ourselves taking an unexpected detour into conflicting opinions regarding houses. He likes brick, I like white painted clapboard. He likes new, energy efficient houses; I like really old houses with unexpected corners and sloping floors. I like hardwood, he likes carpet.
I could go on and on and in fact, we will, for the rest of our married life. We will go on not matching up as well as we’d expected to do. Normally it doesn’t bother us. Mostly because I also like brick and old houses are charming but costly and as long as the house has a good kitchen, a wide lawn and room for a garden, I’m going to be fine with it.
And it won’t really matter anyway, because this won’t be our dream house, the one we settle into for good. There’s no reason to get into hard core housing arguments until it really, really matters and that’s a good many years away. I can store up all my angst until then, have it bubbling away like fossil fuel for a really good kick later.
I think it only mattered today because we were both just irritable. There should be a flag or something. The “I’m feeling irritable, let’s just call it quits before I blow my long burning fuse over the rhetorical question of whether or not I want electricity in the imaginary house that we will never actually live in,” flag.
Alas, having no such flag, I went on pretending my feelings weren’t hurt and he went on trying to clarify his position and neither one worked and then the conversation ground to a halt because without calling it like it was we were left with nothing more to say.
This is reality, though. This is married life; the cozy threesome. You, your beloved and the white elephant; whatever the hell it is in that moment. Usually unspoken expectations that aren’t being met, because, well, they didn’t know, it being unspoken and all. Or just the disappointment of not living up to the usual standards.
But this is when I love marriage the most. Sheer bliss makes me nervous. I like that smoky smell of burnt rubber meeting the road. It reminds me that I, the human and faulty person that I am, actually do have a faulty and human man to love and who loves me back. It’s deeply reassuring.
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
I wanted to simply do some straight out writing, so what follows isn't in any order. I did separate it out into paragraphs, but mostly it's just steam of consciousness from today, nothing terribly important; it rambles on and then it ends abruptly, simply because I was done writing. There are many run on sentences.
I might keep on doing this for a while.
Keith was telling me last night that he wants to drive hazmat trucks when he retires from the Army and we could go together, travel all around the country together and I thought that was a good idea actually, except for the extremely hazardous material that would be like three feet away from us at all times.
But I actually put myself to sleep thinking of trucking down the highway with Keith beside me, an older Keith with less hair and most of it grey and his body heavy and solid and changing the gears and the whine of it and the racket of the engine and the road passing by under the tires and how I could stretch out on the seat and put my head on his hard thigh and sleep and watch his hands on the gear shaft and the wheel when I opened my eyes and the heat of the sun and the shadows moving constantly and the gleam of light off the windshield.
And then stopping somewhere for dinner and crawling out all stiff and the air cool and leafy green and smelling truck fumes and gasoline and fried foods and stretching while the engine makes those ticking sounds. And feeling so safe, even in that dark, heated tangle of huge, sixteen wheeler trucks, because Keith is there and I'm always safe wherever he is and happy to be there, in fact, because it throws into relief exactly how safe he can make me, the pleasure of walking through the dark like that.
We'll go to the place to eat and sit down on the grubby vinyl seats and order coffee and a BLT sandwich or an omelet or a cheeseburger with fries. Only I probably won't, because it'll be hard to keep my shape with all the sitting and I'll want to, I'll know. I'll only be in my middle to late forties. I'll still be a hot mamma.
Speaking of mama, where will our kids be? Old enough to be on their own? With grandma and grandpa, playing in the lake and coming home to hang the damp towels off the line? The mica in the sand still clinging to their skin, glistening in the sun. But the oldest will only be about fifteen, the youngest about eight.
How could we leave them all summer long? We couldn't possibly bring them with us, not all of them. I'll call them and hear their voices all excited over the phone, talking about something they found, or a trip to the dump with grampa or planting something in the garden.
And I'll miss them.
But that's just one dream, who knows what life will look like by the time we get there. I got back from the vet, Lynn behaved beautifully, she is such a clever, willing little girl. She is as slippery as a little eel and clever and fierce and prone to sudden bouts of anxiety that cause her to shiver all over.
I'm starving, I scarfed down an entire sandwich of honey ham, Swiss cheese, baby spinach leaves, onion and tomato. It was delicious and I'm ravenous all over again. I want a cheeseburger.
Thinking of driving reminds me of coming back from Indianapolis that late afternoon, driving straight into the sun and the glare, for hours and my headache throbbing, the pain having expanded beyond my skull, hazy all over my head and making the edges go soft and squinting and listening to the non stop country music, the same one or two CDs that we had listened to the entire trip.
It was making me sick to my stomach to hear the same songs over and over again and I had to put on something different or else I couldn't breathe. He found the other CD at last and it was some kind of pop rock and immediately the haze lifted, broke away and I could breathe and the road dipped down into a cool lake of shadow, thick, trimmed green on either side. How tidy the houses were in Indiana, beautifully kept lawns, little brick ranches with trimmed hedges and garden gnomes and flower boxes.
We went off the main road in search of dinner and the GPS system took us way the hell out into the flat country on this back road into a dying town. We went up and down the tiny, backwater main street, half the shops closed, dingy looking, clearly in the heart of farm country, reminiscent to both of us of our childhoods but sad because of that.
We couldn't find the restaurant. We found an Amish one down the road, with a large, empty parking lot and a low roof, a rooster glinting in the sunlight high up there and inside it was quiet and large and mostly empty, the little tables covered with vinyl table clothes, the kind with the fuzzy back, looking as though it has been varnished on top.
We sat down in the dim light with relief. Keith was there, opposite me at the table, bulky and exhausted, his shoulders slumped forward, his cap shading his eyes. His hands were curled loosely, one laid out on the table. All the muscle in his arms were at rest but looking lethal even at rest, as though the energy in them was just waiting to uncoil.
It was a buffet and we got up and took greasy pieces of home fried chicken, thigh and breast and baked beans and coleslaw and corn. They had red and green jello squares and tapioca pudding, which I love. We had big, sweating glasses of iced tea. Or I had. Keith must have had, because I don't think they served beer. Maybe he got a diet Pepsi. That seems right, I can see the dark against the ice and the bubbles rising up around them, against the glass.
When we went back out we were ready for the rest of the trip, I settled into the seat familiarly, wiggling back into the leather, stretching my legs for the pedals, making sure I could reach them easily. The truck responded to the lightest touch.
It climbed hills effortlessly. It was the most amazing thing. For mile after mile I would watch for the hills just to feel the truck eat them, run straight up them without taking a breath. It was huge and high and turned easily but needed space for wide turns because of the length and I had to calculate the turning radius, swing it wide.
Where did we sleep that night? I don't remember. I don't remember getting where we were heading. But probably Bubba's.
Monday, July 13, 2009
If another civilian says to me, "Well, he'll be home soon either way," or any variation on that, I will zap them with my hidden ray gun, set to stun.
Actually, I'm doing ok; I've had two days to come to terms. And I pretty much ate my weight in junk food. That definitely helped.
"I'm going to go out and eat whatever I want!" I wrote to Keith, after I found out. "Take that, deployment!! Ha!"
It's the little things, you know?
It did help to know something, anything, for sure. We'd been waiting so long to hear confirmation that time seemed to completely stop. This was appalling to me. I would pass through several days and feel nothing, no different. I'm so close to the end now that a single day usually makes a huge impact on my perspective. To have entire days pass by and mean nothing felt like blasphemy.
So at least things are moving again and according to my original calculations, the ones I had before I hoped for better, we are actually moving right along. I actually know the approximate week that he will be home, I have marked a series of days on the calendar.
But this week? This week is dead to me. This week sleeps with the fishes for all I care. Now I'm going to go slip on my string bikini and sunbathe. Oh yeah, and later I'll try and work off an entire "family" sized bag of chips and one entire container of brownie batter ice cream. Damn, but it was good though.
Friday, July 10, 2009
But this will be a short post because I actually have no blogging ideas at all, I just wanted to support a bloggy friend.
1. I just came back from taking Abby to the vet. Holy. Crap. Ok, so let me start at the beginning. The Good Neighbor Larry called me last night and told me that a friend of theirs had noticed that Abby was carrying her ears as though she had an ear infection. This friend was a vet.
I wasn't quite sure how even a vet could diagnose an ear infection from the next yard over. I checked out Abby's ears and they seemed normal to me, but hey, better safe than sorry. Especially since Keith and Abby have this bond; they've been through a lot of painful things together and Keith loves her like a child.
He couldn't remember the name of the vet that had taken care of her before and when I called the vet on post at nine thirty in the morning on a Friday I got an answering machine. I decided not to wait around to hear back from them and made an appointment with a vet I had used before.
Abby behaved well in the car and when we showed up we were the only animals there. So far, so good. Then dog number one comes along. Abby freaks out. Like, lunging, barking, whining. Finally they sniff and she sort of calms down. Then dog number two comes in. Freak out again this time, only this time she never really settles down and then dog number three comes in, another lab.
Dear God. It is a good thing I've been working out, otherwise I might not have been able to hold her. She was barking those deep throated, ear splitting barks and I was just so embarrassed by this time that I just wanted to sink into the ground. Everyone else's dogs were behaving. I think, "This is what it's like to be a mom when one's child freaks out in the store. Stay calm."
My ears are ringing from the barks, everyone is giving me dirty looks, no one can hear the receptionist, my arms are straining, my foot is scratched.
"I'm taking her outside," I literally shout, standing up.
"Never mind, I've got a room open," shouts back the irritated receptionist.
I file away for later if one has an obnoxious dog that a room does miraculously open up in five minutes, whereas if one has a quiet, well behaved cat one sits in the waiting room for a half an hour, even though there is no one else there.
However, in the spirit of not looking the gift horse in the mouth and before Abby and I could get stoned by the angry mob, we scuttle into the room. I scuttled, I should say. Abby lunged here and there and then back again and forward and right and back and finally into the room, where I collasped into a chair and let the adrenaline slowly ease out of my body.
And of course, she doesn't have an ear infection. Awesome.
She did need her shots though, so it wasn't a complete loss. Next time, she's waiting in the car until it's her turn and then I will come get her and we're getting a harness. Lynn needed one when she was younger too.
2. I found the homecoming dress and shoes, both on sale. The dress is Ann Taylor. I adore Ann Taylor.
"Do you have some chew in?" I asked him, out of the blue.
"Yes..." he says, in this voice that says, you are weird, but I love you. "Why do you ask?"
"Because I can hear it in your voice. It sounds like you're about to spit."
"I did just spit."
Ha. I can discern the rituals of my hubby's tobacco chewing habit by sound alone. Now that is love.
Tuesday, July 7, 2009
There is a breathless quality to these days, a kind of constant effervescence. It causes the melancholy to taste almost delicious. I am not afraid to feel longing for him, to give in to it completely, because it's so close to being satisfied.
I remembered the conversations I had had with Keith the night before, and I lay in bed savoring them for a long time before I got up.
"I do know one thing for certain."
"I don't want to drive my car all the way to the new post. I want to be in the truck with you."
"I know that. That's why I'm going to sell the trailer and get one to put the car on. You will be in the truck with me."
How did he know that? I'd been worried about that for a long time and here he was, already knowing and having made plans to take care of it.
"I wish I'd known you in high school..."
"You kitten...did I ever tell you I drove the biggest truck in high school?"
"No kidding! And I had (insert unintelligible vocabulary about technical details having to do with exhaust systems here) done and I would put it into first gear and..." At which point I space out and just listen to the sound of his voice and adore the enthusiasm, becauses I love that he is this kind of man even though I'll never understand a word he's saying.
When I listen to his voice over the phone, his face is a shifting conglomeration of memory and conjecture. The harder I try to bring him into focus the more it slips away. I think I remember the plane of his cheek, the play of expression across his features and then realize that I am bringing to mind only photographs, so familiar they have taken on a life of their own.
I look over my shoulder at the past year and it's like staring into the dark. I wonder how I could have made it through, the idea of going back there causes me to shudder with horror. Every once in a while I remember some fragment of routine or ritual that I needed at that point in the deployment, a certain song, the way I would dust even the table legs, how the neighborhood looked the first time I walked around it, in late September.
I am tired of the ritualized, monastic life I've been living; I want my irrepressible husband to come home and shatter the looking glass.
Tomorrow is Wednesday. Hopefully, (hopefully) there will be only two more Wednesdays before he is home. A girl can dream.
Wednesday, July 1, 2009
But regular life is going on, just like always. Regular life for me lately consists of a lot of exercise. Really, either exercise is as good as sex or I've forgotten how good sex is. I suspect that latter. However, what I've forgotten can't hurt me and in the meantime, I'm floating in a sea of endorphins released by good old fashioned push ups.
Not to mention the pride that comes from being able to do push ups. Two weeks ago I was all excited because I could do five lady style push ups. A week later I did two regular push ups and I looked and sounded as though I were giving birth to an elephant. (Great visual, huh?)
This morning I did ten easy, did some other stuff and then did ten more. Hooha! Of course, my husband can do over eighty in a minute, but you know, I'm not in the Army. And anyway, I'm not looking to have upper arms the size of Easter hams. Muscle definition though? Hell, yeah, I'll take some of that.
I never thought I'd be one of those girls. You know, the athletic kind. I was the kind that scored points for my volley ball team by the ball hitting my forehead while I stood day dreaming, causing it then to soar unimpeded back up and over the net, where the opposing team was too flummoxed to defend themselves. I call that my secret ninja forehead attack. (I keep feeling like I've talked about that story before, but it's such a good one! And I don't feel like going back over all my blogs to check.)
Now, though! Now I have exercising outfits. I went to Target and bought some essentials after I realized that I really shouldn't go jogging in leather sandals, even if they were very comfortable. I now have cute little jogging shorts disguised as a skirt and sleeveless rayon tops with a little mesh stripe that runs down the back, making me feel faster and more fit than I really am.
The first night I worked out with my friend, I watched open mouthed as she calmly and quickly did a whole bunch of Russian twists, which is a variation on the lazy V, which is the biggest misnomer ever. The lazy V is being able to sit up only on one's butt, with legs and arms tucked up. Basically, the abbs are holding the entire body up in a v position. There is absolutely nothing lazy about it.
Russian twists are where one is in this position and then twists the upper body from side to side for as long as one can hold out. I am not afraid to state that my very first lazy v was much more like the drunken, upside down tortoise. While I flailed around, my very toes curling up in my desperation to stay upright, let alone go side to side, my friend was steady as a rock, whipping out twists and talking at the same time. Dude.
This morning, however, I was able to go from side to side one hundred times. Unless I missed my count. To put it another way, I was able to do Russian twists for most of the entire time Kenney Chesney was singing about how he went out last night, (even though he'd sworn he wouldn't) and met girls from, among other places, Maine. Naturally, a lot of beer was consumed.
Anyway, because of all this working out, my body is like unfamiliar terrain. I have muscle definition on places I didn't even think muscle existed. I actually, for one fleeting moment, glimpsed my abbs. Yes. They are not mythological after all. Like the Lochness Monster, they then dived right back under, but I swear I really saw them. I could probably produce blurry photographs if pressed.
At the dentist office, I was mistaken for an athlete. This delighted me to no end.
"I'm not really," I confessed, gleeful but honest. But there were my legs, looking damn good in shorts, tanned and muscled, on my feet sleek little running sneakers. It was as though someone had pasted a Nike advertisement over my usual self.
If it weren't for all this working out, I just don't know how I would be handling all the nerves and energy of being this close to seeing Keith. If there were somewhere written "A Girl's Guide to Deployment," exercising, preferably out of doors, would be listed in Chapter Three: Passable Substitutions for Sex. Also listed would be chocolate and French Martinis.
(Chapter One would be devoted to long distance communication techniques and Chapter Two to the absolute necessity for a community of the other deploymentally challenged.
Yep, I just made up a word, and I think it's a darn good one. Very PC. I could have used it at work many times this past year, on the phone.
"I'm sorry, sir, could you repeat that? I'm having a very deploymentally challenging day today. Month eleven, you know." He wouldn't know, of course. But still.
By the way, thank you all so much for your comments on my last post. I don't know what I would have done had I not been so fortunate as to stumble across this corner of the blogosphere.
Now, time to head off for some quickie walking lunges before bed...if only there were the exercise equivalent for snuggling...
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
I was thinking about this and joy and gratitude simply flooded through me. Suddenly, I wanted nothing more than to tell him, to tell him how much it meant to be able to count on him, to be his. Not that I haven't before, but I just needed to say it right then.
And the phone rang.
"I was just praying for you to call!" I exclaimed in wonder.
"I have some good news," he said, and tingles went racing up my spine.
His 1st sergeant has recommended him for a slot open for a staff sergeant on the advance party. If he gets it, he will be home much sooner than I have ever thought to hope for.
"So I thought that was kinda neat," he finished up, humble.
"Kinda neat?" I exclaimed. "It's the best news we've had all year!!"
He couldn't talk long, he was running out of minutes. After he rang off, I lay in bed while excitement slowly flooded my entire body, from my feet to the top of my head. I simply had to squeeze something, so I squeezed his pillow. Poor neglected pillow; finally getting some attention.
Before getting that call, for the past week or so I'd been sitting in this little bubble. I knew he would be coming home, but I wasn't feeling it. I felt numb, along with a bad case of the writer's block. I was just waiting it out.
It was as if I had been just trudging along, one foot in front of the other. When he called, it was as though I lifted my head for the first time in a long time and the change of perspective took my breath away. We are so close. He will come home some time next month. And even if he does not get the slot, he is still only weeks away. Just weeks.
I feel like a newly wed. I feel like I should be registering for things, so we can set up house.
"I'll take a week off when you first get back," I was telling him earlier. I had been silently worrying about my job and what we would do about it when he got back. I decided it was time to bring it up.
"And then go I'll go back to work until block leave, and then take off all of block leave. After which I probably won't have a job," I finished up dryly.
"You won't need it," Keith said easily. "You'll be busy packing up, organizing the house and working on your writing."
Like wow. (Yes, I watched Scooby doo as a child.) I won't need my job. 'Cause I have a household. And my writing. And getting pregnant. Yeah. I foresee investing a lot of time in the pursuit of the last goal. I think that's a definite priority.
I've never not supported myself. I've sometimes had help, but I've always pulled my weight. I've never before just let go and completely fallen back onto someone else.
It's a good thing we've had plenty of practise in developing good communication techniques during this deployment. Spending "our" money is a very different thing from spending my money. From here on out there won't be any more my money.
This is a major reality shift; Keith has had to remind me many times to call the money he makes "ours." He works so hard for it, its difficult for me to justify spending it on something frivolous. I mean, he literally risks his life for that paycheck.
God, I love my husband. I love the way he plans so carefully and realistically, and then follows through. He has a generous and loving heart; he is true blue. I love all his rough edges, his penchant for giving orders, his bloody stubborn mindedness.
I love his optimism and rock steady confidence. It took a long time for me to recognize true confidence as opposed to arrogance. Only a truly confident man can immediately recognize when he's lost an argument and admit it. Keith does that. I love that about him. He won't stubbornly go on, just for the sake of winning. He doesn't need to win, he doesn't need to brag or show off, though he does. And I love that too. Oh what the hell, I just love everything about him.
I was looking at the game I bought him yesterday and a little shiver went through me, thinking of how soon he will be here, playing that game with the speaker system so loud the walls will vibrate. He will refuse to read the instructions. He will blame it on the game if consequently he makes a few errors at first.
He will want me right beside him, as his wing man; I watch out for the snipers and help come up with strategy. I will work out a compromise whereby he goes to bed earlier than he wanted to and I watch more game that I'd really like. He will beg me to stay up later than we agreed to and I probably will.
He is going to be home, this really will come to an end. I won't have to write about deployment any more. I'm bored writing about deployment. I'm tired of talking about memories. I want the real thing!