As a military wife, I'm often asked, "How do you do it?" Most days my response is "How do I not do it?" Meaning simply that I don't feel it is a choice to do what I do every day. This is my life: deployments, seperations, weird work hours, extra dirty (and often extra smelly) laundry...all the things that come with being an Army wife. In the words of a popular athletic apparel line, I "just do it". Because I don't have an alternative. Because the alternative would be to Not do it. And that just isn't good enough for me. Mr. Smartypants jokes that he tried to warn me, that he tried to convince me to run the other way (he really did, on day three, but that's another story). I like to put on my "tough Army wife" face when people ask me that. Like it's no big deal. Like they just asked me how I tied my shoes this morning. But the reality is that it's hard. Some days I fight to put one foot in front of the other. So for all of you who have asked or want to ask, how I do it, how we do it....this post is for you.
I would like to introduce you to the bane of the existance of my inner fashionista. A.k.a. Mr. Smartypants' favorite pair of sandals. Now, he has newer and nicer sandals that he wears at times (specifically when I give him "the look" or when he thinks ahead and knows that if he comes down in these things he'll get "the look"...and don't pretend you don't have one that your better half gets from time to time, all wives have one), but these are his favorites. They rank up there with the (seriously) worn out Red Sox hoodie that is quite literally falling apart. But I didn't put this picture in this post so I could pick on Mr. Smartypants. The significance of this picture is not the shoes or their state of destruction wear. The significance in this picture is actually the time it was taken, about 2000 hours, or 8pm for you civilian types. On a normal night, these would be on his feet. But see, that's not going to happen tonight, because he's not here. He's off training up his soldiers so that they can live up to the old Army motto of "be the best you can be".
It is a fact of military life that they must go off for training. We certainly wouldn't want to send our soldiers to war without it. But it means that even though our soldiers aren't deployed (or "down range" as we often like to say), they are seperated from us. Generally it isn't months, just weeks, but seperation is seperation, especially when our time together is so limited. And so his favorite sandals sit empty and unworn in our bedroom for now. And tonight, seeing them there, without the feet that have worn them down, makes me a little sad, and a little lonely. (It probably didn't help that I have been surfing the internet, reading some blogs of other military wives. They often bring a tear to my eye.)
So I'll grab another piece of chocolate (thank you Easter bunny, please don't tell my kids), finish off the last drops of Dr. Pepper, curse myself for not making that shoppette run earlier to get more and tell you how I really do it.
1. I eat chocolate...lots of it...it makes me feel good. I don't eat other things to counteract the caloric intake from the chocolate...usually dinner is the first to go. But I eat chocolate, lest my butt decide to shrink *gasp, the horror!!*
2. I drink Dr. Pepper by the gallon *please see point 1 for application of point 2
3. I stay up late and make blog posts...it gives me something to do when I suffer from insomnia let out my inner nightowl.
I had the joy of having coffee with several wives from our company today. Many of them have never survived a deployment before. It made me think about all the ways we react to seperation. Some of us fall apart, some of us feel so out of control that we micro-manage the parts of our lives we can control. Some of us eat. Some of us don't eat. Some of us lay on the couch for 12 months. Some of us live at the gym, using the treadmill as our personal stress reliever. Whatever we do, we each find a way to cope the best way we each know how. Some of us miss our soldiers at night, when the bed is empty; some of us miss him in the morning when he doesn't come home to change after PT. But we all miss our soldier. Don't let our tough exterior fool you.
We are a resourceful bunch, using the things (or chocolate stashes) around us to cope. We live on our computers, our iphones and facebook. Hoping that maybe, just maybe, he'll have time to call. Technology is our friend, and our worst enemy. We wait. It's hard, but we do it.
Then, there are our children....I can't even begin to explain the impact seperation has on our kids...well, I could, but this military spouse blogger does a much better job. Please don't ignore this link. I beg you to go read it. It made me cry, you know, the blubbery, nose-running, snot-flying UGLY cry. And I don't ugly cry because...well...it's ugly.
So the next time you ask a military wife, "How do you do it?" Just nod and smile when she answers casually, but know deep down, it's hard work.
So I finally braved the Autobahn this past weekend. I must brag on myself and let you know just how well I did. If you aren't impressed with my driving on a freeway as a 33 year-old American, let me share some information with you.
THERE IS NO SPEED LIMIT
That's right. This is not a myth, but fact. On most open sections that are non-urban areas on the autobahn there is no speed limit. That means your nuts-o brother-in-law's uncle's cousin with the turbo-charged, nitro-infused, NASCAR wanna-be sports car can drive as fast as he would like (assuming he ships said car to Germany and gets an international or US forces in Europe driver's license). This also means that Germans grow up cruising this limitless fulfillment of the need for speed. I, however, grew up and learned to drive in the good ol' USA where there are speed limits everywhere...even the middle of nowhere West Texas. So the idea of this kind of speed, in a MINIVAN no less, is a little daunting. Smartypant's frequent caution about the dangers, snares and perils of the autobahn while he drives us around hasn't done a whole lot to boost my confidence. Finally, after driving around locally for a couple of weeks now, I decided I was brave enough to give it a shot.
I probably shouldn't have waited so long. Getting the van over 35mph was toe-tingling enough at first because it's been a month since I have driven a vehicle at normal US highway speeds. We were headed to another military base to do some shopping and were travelling caravan style with another family. Now our friend doesn't drive slow...in fact, he'll run off and leave you if you don't keep up. He started out behind me but soon passed me and later complained that he couldn't take one more minute of following me because I failed to use my cruise control. Whatever. Anyway, I managed to get up to a good speed (somewhere around 85mph) and topped out on the way home at 95mph (although I chose not to maintain that speed). Now this sounds pretty fast, but let me assure you that I was regularly passed by small cars that could pass for rollerskates.
(Yes, that is one of those Smart Cars; yes, Germans seem to love them. Might have something to do with the minature parking garages)
At one point I was passed by an Audi that was going so fast that the Herd-mobile shook and I felt like I was standing still. He was easily, EASILY driving upwards of 130mph. Not only was he driving that fast, but dude was changing lanes! If you think it is impossible to get up to that speed on a somewhat busy highway or wonder why he would bother changing lanes, let me share some rules of the road here:
Never drive in the left lane. It is for passing only. This is not a suggestion. The locals will ever-so-kindly let you know with a *ahem* polite honk of the horn that you need to move over. The left lane is used for passing. Period. End of story. So this means there is lots of lane changing going on. So with the high speeds, changing lanes can be tricky. The driver must be constantly aware of all cars on the road, even ones far behind you. When you put your blinker on and start to change lanes, it is not enough to check your blind spot, because dude in the Audi may be 500 yards back, but he's moving at close to twice your speed. Stay where you are. Once he's done trying to single-handedly blow you off the road, you can pass safely.
Of course, going that fast has it's consequences. Most insurance companies will not pay if you have an accident going over a certain speed deemed "safe" (somewhere around 130 or 140 kilometers per hour, I think). And, the faster you go the more horrific the carnage if you wreck. So with all the freedom found on the autobahn, My lead foot and I are quite comfortable with our 80-85 mph mark. I think I'll let Mr. Audi have his speed thrills and I'll sit back and enjoy the ride.
*all photos courtesy of that awesome thing called the internet*
Okay, so maybe this isn't the exact address we call home, but I can claim it as a neighbor....sort of. Well, I'm not even sure it's in the same zipcode I'm in, but it's close enough that we loaded up the kids after school one day, visited, looked around and were home for dinner. That counts as a neighbor, right?
So The Herd has stampeded it's way into Germany, stirring up as much dust as possible in our wake. The Army encourages us to "blend in" as much as possible....which we all (meaning military families living overseas) laugh at hysterically. Even without an Army uniform, we stick out like sore thumbs. My sweet Scratchy tries to blend in even adding the neccessary scarf to complete the look:
Too bad that all the locals stop and stare and point at her neon red hair. She can be quite the spectical walking in the market.
Itchy, on the other hand, is just herself...she's too busy to be concerned with what others think and that probably makes her blend in the best.
The boys have adjusted well, stretching their airplane-cramped legs in their new environment.
There isn't much that has slowed us down. We're adjusting to the new environment. New people, new sounds, new sights, new smells, and new tastes. It is sensory overload from time to time, but we manage. When we first arrived it was exhausting. A couple of hours in the market downtown left me drained, mentally, physically, emotionally. But now it's not so hard. I use my handful of German words and the locals are kind enough to help me learn a new one or two and use their (pretty extensive) English for me. I can buy carrots and potatoes from the market with no help now! Ein kilo karroten, bitte! (One kilo of carrots, please--although I'm not sure my German spelling is as high speed as my German speaking!) Not bad for 3 1/2 weeks. Scratchy and I even ventured downtown on the bus by ourselves to buy produce yesterday. She loves riding the bus. It allows her to people watch and see the city from a slightly different view. I like riding the bus because it means I don't have to park the Herd-mobile in the (tiny) parking garages downtown. I am legal to drive in Germany, as I passed the driving test. I occassionally drive over to the S family's house (they live off-post) and I drive around on our post but I have yet to brave the parking garages or the autoban....both make me a little nervous. We have friends here that drive a Suburban. Yes, the giant tank of a vehicle can be driven over here, but they don't take it into parking garages (it wouldn't clear the overhead clearance rail anyway) but they park it (parallel, no less) on the street. So I'm sure one day I will take the Herd-mobile into town and live to tell about it. Let's just hope our insurance company doesn't drop us after a few claims from scraping the van up on the concrete walls in the garages...