Where am I?

I know it has been awhile, but welcome to August and the first weeks on a college campus. I have not really had time to make crafts let alone write about them. I do apologize up front for the length, but I have a lot to say today.

These past few weeks, I have been submerged even farther into military life. Sometimes it is hard understanding that world when I am here in Iowa around no one in the service. But, over Labor Day, I was well educated on various factors of military living.

Tom was scheduled to deploy the first week of September, so I took vacation for a week to spend some much needed quality time with him, but also to learn how to navigate a base. Once you pass the highly decorated fences and ledges of Gate 4, a whole new world emerges. At first being on base is really intimidating. There are people with guns all around; helicopters and tanks are just hanging out as decoration. I mean, we are trained our whole lives to think that when we see people in military uniforms or tanks, there must be trouble. So my first thought is don’t take my hands of the steering wheel, drive the speed limit, and try not to attract any attention. So needless to say, I am freaking myself out as I am trying to take in the first few yards of my “new home”. Then I see a Bank of America, then the Craft building (Yes, calming down but then freaking out in excitement), then a Burger King, wait there are stop signs and street signs? What is this place?

The farther away that you get from any gate, the more normal and even tranquil base is. (Ok, well except the training areas and places that they store all the mobile units-then you remember it’s a base.) It is a city inside very secure and very pretty walls. Since Tom worked a few hours every day while we were there, Grace and I had a little bit of time every morning to explore our neighborhood, of which there are hundreds.

After reflecting on everything, and obviously feeling much more comfortable, I thought, this place is like Pleasantville– the movie with Tobey McGuire and Reese Witherspoon where they go to the idyllic town through a TV. Everything on the surface seems so perfect; people always friendly, everything you need is right there. If you have seen the movie, I need you to know that I am not comparing military bases to the rest of the plot of that movie, just the opening scenes of the freakishly friendly small town atmosphere.

I tried explaining this to Tom, and he argued at first saying, well we all have guns so it’s nothing like it. Then I took him on a walk with me, and he then understood. Everyone you meet says hi and wants to have a conversation. Doors wide open and kids playing in the street with no supervision (Coming from a big city, this just blew my mind.) Perfectly tailored lawns-mostly because the Army hires someone to do it. I mean everything just seems perfect. There are playgrounds around every corner in the neighborhoods. And they all have swings so they are obviously the best play grounds! And to top things off, at the top of our street there is a gas station (Shoppette) that, wait for it, sells ICEES! I mean what could be more perfect? I really don’t know how it could get better than a Cherry ICEE machine being within walking distance of my house.

All week, I felt like I was in a trance. It was very odd but awesome at the same time. Then having my first PX and Shoppette experiences rocked my world with the prices. Being a penny pincher, I am pretty sure my jaw never left the floor while we were shopping for basic necessities. The Army really tries to take care of you.

And did I mention there is a CRAFT building? Yes, that’s right, just play into my blog. They have classes for pottery and stained class and provide materials for projects for a small fee. They don’t have everything that a Hobby Lobby would, but it is a great work space for bigger projects such as furniture building that most families on base don’t necessarily have. What a wonderful world.

So what I am saying, is that if I didn’t want to, I would never have to leave the tall guarded gates of Ft. Campbell. They have anything and everything I would ever need. (Even a vet for Grace.) It was very comforting becoming more familiar with things.

And my family made me feel like I was really “in” when they called because they had gotten lost on base. “Oh yes, welcome to Pleasantville-ugh I mean Ft. Campbell. I will lead the way.” Don’t worry fam, I, too, was once nervous about my presence on the base, I remember the white knuckles. But it becomes old habit after a few times in and out of the gates to whip out that ID and flash a smile to the MPs. Oh and it made it more enjoyable when you have a dog in the back who apparently is not fond of MPs and decides this is when she will find her voice. (Grace, who never usually does more than a whimper, growled or barked at the MPs every time we went through the gates. Hilarious.)

My experience on base was great. I feel good about the impending move, and seeing our place really calmed a lot of fears. We are so well taken care of by the Army.

It was also nice to meet other soldiers, and a little scary. And by scary I mean, imagine lots of people like Tom. Crazy huh? One of his besties, I swear they came out of the womb together. They talk alike and even have similar contingency plans for when the zombies attack. (You think I am kidding, but we seriously have had a conversation about how to get a pulley system into our 2 story apartment so we can get food in without getting attacked. You learn to just go with it and enjoy the imagination, ugh I mean preparedness.) Anyway, it was comforting to finally meet people that he will be with on his deployment as well as those that will be close at home.

I also was able to meet significant others, which is also nice to hear my own thoughts being said from others. We had a nice BBQ at Tom’s buddy’s where we sat around a bon-fire and chatted away. Actually meeting these women gave me a little more confidence in what we are doing for our men and some solace that I am not alone in this experience. Although we didn’t get to know each other well, I truly enjoyed being able to meet all these people. Also another effect of Pleasantville: Base Edition, I gave Martin THREE hugs over the course of the week. Anyone who knows me, understands I don’t do physical touching. So yes, I was entranced by the military giddyness of wanting to be friends with everyone I encounter. Meeting these people really deepens the experience and makes it more real. Sometimes I feel like this is all a dream and Tom will be here next to me when I wake up.

Well that will not happen for another 9 months now. Tom officially left for deployment last week, and he is slowly making his way to his base overseas. There were a lot of emotions throughout the week. I freaked out with dread one night, the next I was beaming with pride. I kind of ran the gamete of emotions last week to be honest. I like being in control, and this is not easy for me to just go with the flow. There were parts of me that wanted to pack myself and Grace into his giant extra duffel bag because I was so scared I would never see him again. Then I would snap back into reality thinking, “1 out of 250,000 is killed. And that won’t be Tom.” Then I would think “what if he is that one?” This back and forth was my life last week. Exhausted. Then an overwhelming calm came over me once I accepted that he was gone.

The comfort though is that Tom and I have been able to talk pretty regularly through Facebook since he left. It’s not the best, but we have become experts in long distance communication. Well at least for us, we are. We understand what each other needs and when we need to be the strong one even if we aren’t there in person to do it. Yea, we are pretty awesome. Feel free to be jealous.

This was tested even more so today when I found out that after years of battling cancer and just watching his wife die a couple months ago, my grandpa passed away. You think that you can stay on top, but then you crest that hill and roller coaster plummets. It is moments like these that are the absolute hardest to be away from your “forever person.” Yea it is hard not having him here for the every day things, but when your world is shook to the core, you look for some stability. And for me that has been my relationship with Tom. He has always been able to ground me and be a rock for me. And I don’t write this to gain sympathy. My grandpa lived a full and wonderful life, and I was able to spend a lot of time with my grandparents while in grad school since they lived 20 minutes away. I was able to say goodbye without regrets and let them know how much they meant to me. And I also don’t regret supporting Tom with his dream to be in the Army. The distance is just a part of this experience that we have to accept. I tell my story about these challenges so that you don’t take your “forever person” for granted. Don’t waste the time you are lucky to have with them and find ways to still support each other when you are apart. Love so hard that they can still feel it when you aren’t around. These are lessons I have both from my Grandparents and Tom. I can always trust in that love to motivate me through.

As I mentioned, hugs give me the hebeegeebees, but I would give anything for Tom to be here to give me one now. It’s that safety net to make you feel better in any situation. Having him gone makes it hard to recover from the bad or to rejoice the good things. And yea, I have family and friends that I can lean on and share my stories with, which I have been so thankful for during this journey. Their continued support and love do help tremendously, but it is not Tom. It is simple as that. Sometimes I just want to call him up and say “I had this great conversation with a student, and I feel awesome. Love you, bye.” He lets me dork out about my work and celebrates with me. His comments of support lift me up in ways that aren’t describable. Who doesn’t love a good Jerry McGuire quote? “You {Tom} completes me.” So right now it is like I’m trying to figure out the puzzle without the edge pieces there. He knows me inside and out, and unfortunately someone else cannot take that place. Go figure-Tom is one of a kind. You have to just keep trucking on and again have faith in the love. And so I become really skilled at distracting myself and finding ways to channel that energy else where and save our news for a later day.

Hence the crafting distraction.

I have been wanting to do this particular item for a long time. Unfortunately, I was in such a hurry to work on this craft since my creative drought over the last month, I did not take before and after pictures.

Here are the steps of this craft.

1. Supplies: cookie sheet, spray paint, puffy paint, scrabble letters, magnets, glue gun, command strips. The flowers were given to me by my sister in law, so felt if you want to make those.

2. Spray paint the cookie sheet. This took a lot of coats to get it to the desired color. And be careful if you do spray paint. If you spray to much at one time, it will drip to the center. Also let it dry between each coat. I was not patient at first and tried layering on the paint which led to messiness, which led to me slowing down and adding a lot more coats.

3. I added the puff paint as an added pop.

4. I hot glued the flowers to the top for some more flare. I have been holding on to these for months trying to find the perfect project for them, and I really like how it turned out.

5. I put command strip hooks on the back to hang them up.

6. I put magnets on the back of each letter. You can buy magnet strip tape which may be cheaper than discs. I will probably have to go back and hot glue the magnets to the letter because the stickyness isn’t as great from the magnet tape.

7. Hang it up and make words.

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I hope you enjoyed my stories for today and hopefully my staff will enjoy this craft at the front desk!

Another friendly reminder:  Love unforgettably.

2 thoughts on “Where am I?

  1. Thanks for sharing Stephanie! I’m happy for you that you have found a way to pass the time while Tom is away. You’re a great wife, friend, and colleague!

  2. Pingback: Blogaventure-Year One | Real Army Wife: Duty, Honor, Crafty

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