Military Life

A Busy Couple of Months

World, it has been about four months since I have posted, and in that time so much has happened in our lives!

-Casey came home from a 6-week trip to Australia, and upgraded to a higher co-pilot status as the last step before making Aircraft Commander.

-My brother-in-law and his lovely girlfriend visited and together we toured mainland Japan

-I accepted a fantastic career opportunity on base, then was furloughed and recalled during the Government shutdown. (Yes, it has been that long since I’ve posted). I am now part of an awesome team and am really enjoying the work I am doing. It has been difficult to adjust to working full time again, but I cannot imagine going back now. I mean, how important is clean laundry anyway? 😉

-I ran my first half marathon! It wasn’t pretty, but I crossed that finish line! I need to start training again now to run another one. I was mostly miserable throughout the race, but the experience was amazing. There were thousands of people running, and people of all ages lined the streets wishing us ‘Gambatte!’ and handing out all sorts of treats, from fruit and candies to shots of awamori! I was lucky to have such a great support group among my running friends and of course Casey, who ran the race as well.

-We attended the 238th Marine Corps Birthday Ball, which was the last ball Casey’s squadron will have on Okinawa after 49 years here.

-We hosted our first of many future Oktoberfest parties, serving homemade beer and soft pretzels from scratch!

-We participated in the world’s largest tug-o-war battle in the city of Naha.

-Casey headed off to the Philippines to help with the post-typhoon humanitarian effort. His unit moved tons of supplies into areas hit the hardest by the typhoon, and moved people stranded in those areas into the larger, less affected cities so they could receive necessary medical care. He spent Thanksgiving there, where the locals threw the Marines a massive feast complete with American-style mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, turkeys, and a sweet musical performance by a local high school. It meant so much to him to be a part of that effort.

-We passed our 1- year anniversary of living in Okinawa! I cannot believe it has already been a year, as the time has flown by right before our eyes. We have spent much of this year apart, but have treasured the moments we have had together, savoring memories that will last us a lifetime. We have also made sure to enjoy our adventures alone as well, with Casey traveling the globe in his KC-130, and me making new friends to explore this beautiful little island with! There is still so much to see before our move to Iwakuni, Japan, next summer!

-Finally, the holidays have kept us busy this past month. It takes a lot to make Okinawa feel like Christmas, but I am determined to have home-cooked meals, lights, handmade cards, cookies from scratch, and Christmas music! We won’t be seeing any snow this year, but as long as we are together, it will be Christmas!

Wishing you all a happy holiday season, wherever you are. May you find yourselves happy and healthy, surrounded by people you love!

Always, Amanda

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Categories: C-130, Festivals, Friends, Goals, Holidays, Military Life, Okinawa, Separation | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

The Lives I Could Have Lived, the People I Could Have Been

I have long been intrigued by the labyrinth that is life, the twists and turns determined by our directional decisions. Even having lived a fairly simple, straight-forward life thus far, there are moments in my life that radically changed its course and thus have led me to who and where I am today. I often wonder who I would be had I made different decisions at each turn, or had those moments played out differently.

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I think back and look at the potential I had in certain areas when I was younger. I could have been a violinist, a runner, a martial artist, a lawyer, a bartender, an actress. At some point in my life these interests, however exciting or mundane, respectable or less so, could have decided who I am today. I could have lived any of those lives. Was there a point at which I made the decision not to be those people?

Well, sort of. I decided that my almost life-long dream of going to Law school to study International Law (and then save the world, single-handedly bringing an end to genocide around the globe) was not a reasonable one, given the lifestyle I had chosen as a military wife, moving every few years with my husband. At an earlier point, I had decided that being an actress or a bartender just weren’t for me.

But the rest of those people I could have been, what happened to them? At what point did I decide that I couldn’t, or shouldn’t, be a runner? Did I think that to be a runner was somehow mutually exclusive with my other interests? That must have been it, because I gave up running after I went to college and joined the debate team. And I gave up the violin even earlier, but at least I’ve continued to drag my violin from one closet to another as I have pushed the violinist in me further and further away. And the martial arts? Well, I gave that up when I joined the Cross Country team in high school, because surely I could not have done both. Why did I give all that up? Where did all those other Amandas go, successful in so many different ways, happy in their singular focus in life?

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To be fair, there were other Amandas, less happy or successful, whom I also could have been: for example, the Amanda that could have gone on to do anything but marry my husband, or the Amanda that went to another college and did not have the chance to meet some of the most important people in my life. The Amanda that stayed in an unhappy relationship forever, or the one that allowed herself to be degraded and disrespected by her mother’s husband; either of them could have lived on. Many of those versions of myself could have avoided the obstacles of being a military spouse, but none of them could have lived to be the woman that I am today.

All of these moments and decisions in my life, however obvious or subtle, happy or painful, have brought me to the life I live today. While it is interesting to look back and wonder who or where I would be had I handled those differently, I celebrate that those moments do not define me. Rather, they are pieces of who I am, who I have been, and who I can always become. I’ll never be a bartender, and I will always be Casey’s wife, but I can also be so many other people. In just a few months, I am running my first half-marathon, because I refuse to look back and say, “I could have been a runner.” Today, I am a crafter, a friend, a billing specialist, a wife, a student, a blogger, a runner, and above all, a woman who can do so many things.

Life is too short to look back at the things you could have done and wonder why you gave them up. There is always a reason for today, so we should be making our decisions every day to become the person we want to be. This way, we will never have to look back and wonder if we should have chosen a different path. We should pick up our running shoes, our violins, our LSAT study guides; and go on to live our best lives, the lives we were born to live.

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As for me, I can look back and say with certainty that of all the people I could have been, I am my favorite one. I will continue to work harder to be better and better at being happy and fighting for the Amanda that’s still here through it all.

Love always,

Me.

Categories: Goals, Military Life | Tags: , , , , , | 6 Comments

Home

Home is a funny concept. For (I’d venture to say) most people, it is fairly simple. For everyone, it is ideally a significant source of comfort and identity; a collage of memories of time, place, and people which centers you. Home gives you a sense of who you are and who you’ve been, maybe even who you’ll be. It encases a world that is purely yours. For much of my life, home has been quite complicated.

My first home was in New Jersey, although I have no memory of it, as we moved to Virginia when I was an (adorable) two-year-old. My parents bought a house in the suburbs, where I lived for the next 13 years. In that house, I lived the happiest of childhoods: wrestling as Pokemon characters with my father and younger brother; playing with frogs at the creek behind our yard; and having Easter egg hunts, trick-or-treating, and waging stink-bomb wars with the neighborhood children. When I was 11, my parents decided to separate, and I’ll never forget the time they sat us down on our old couch to give us the news.

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After that moment, home became more complex. My mother moved out and into a fairly rough apartment complex in the city. In the afternoons after school and weekend days we spent with her, I came to love it there. I remember my father’s reaction when I told him that I didn’t have a home anymore, since I now had two houses, each with one of my parents. Nonetheless, we made new memories in our new home and our old one. While I was introduced to violence, racism, and poverty in that apartment complex, my experience there imprinted me in a way I cannot separate from who I am today.

A few years later, as a freshman in high school, I watched both of my parents remarry. My mother moved in with her new husband and my brother and I struggled to feel at home in his house, despite his initial attempts to welcome us. My father then moved with my stepmother into a beautiful log-cabin style house on a dirt road in the outskirts of town. Neither place really felt like home, or at least they don’t now, as I look back on what was only a few years of my life. Those houses didn’t last long, as my mother divorced her second husband, and my father and stepmother moved yet again; this time into a bigger house with more land to suit their growing family (I now have two beautiful half-sisters).

Within the next few years, my Dad dropped me off at the University of Mary Washington, my new home for the next 4 years. In that time, I met some amazing people and learned a lot about myself. I survived living in a house with 5 other women, and made some incredible memories with them on our picturesque campus. A little over an hour away from my hometown, I was able to develop my independence while still being close enough to home to come and visit over the holidays.

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While traveling with the debate team in college, I met my husband. I knew that he was a big deal, but I had no idea that he would change my life as I knew it. After graduating from UMW, I moved with Casey to Pensacola, FL. Saying goodbye to my family and friends was really difficult, but I was excited about the adventures Casey and I had in store for us.

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In our 900- square foot home in Pensacola, Casey and I learned a lot about each other. Within a few months of living there, the Marine Corps promptly sent Casey to San Diego for a temporary assignment while he was awaiting flight school. I have never cried the way I did when I put Casey on that plane out of Pensacola, as for the first time in my life, I was entirely alone. Except for Barley, our 4-month-old beagle mix, I did not know anyone in that part of the country. I had to learn to get around the city, find a job, and start a life on my own.  Barley and I enjoyed walks along the bayou each night, and I came to love our new little home. Within weeks I found a job and was on my way to independence. When Casey came home, I felt complete. Then we moved again.

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After 9 months in Pensacola, we moved an hour north to Milton, Florida. We adjusted quickly to our new home, painting and unpacking in record time. Barley loved his new backyard, and we adopted our cat from beneath a dumpster near the house. After another 9 months, it was time to pick up and move again. Casey and I got engaged, and then headed to Texas! We spent the next year in Corpus Christi, where we planned our wedding, bought cowboy boots, got married, and then prepared for our move across the world! Corpus Christi never really felt like home to us, as we did not plan to be there long and Casey moved to North Carolina for training during our time there. While I came to enjoy parts of living in Texas, it always felt like a place in between homes (although it will always be the place where Casey and I said our wedding vows).

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After 6 months apart, Casey in NC and I in Texas, we were reunited right before we picked up and moved across the world: to Okinawa, Japan. In our concrete tower apartment on a military base, we have adjusted to life overseas, with Casey traveling the world while I hold down the fort at home. Making Okinawa home has not been easy. There is no Target to run to when I need affordable window treatments, and I can’t just pick up the phone to call family back in the states. After about 6 months of life overseas, I started to feel like I needed more, that I was missing out on all the action back in America. Fortunately, I had the perfect opportunity to come back to the states, as 2 of my best friends were getting married.

A month ago, I boarded a big plane in Naha and headed for home. America. I’ve seen about half of my favorite people in the world, eaten at all the requisite American restaurants, enjoying such quintessential comfort foods as sweet tea, Vermont maple syrup, potato salad, and black bean soup in a bread bowl at Panera (about 10 times). I’ve been to Target, Old Navy, Walmart, Michael’s, PetSmart, H&M, you name it. I’ve spent time in Vermont, Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania. Needless to say, it has been a busy month.

I stopped by the last home I lived in with my family, and felt empty when I saw someone else’s car in the driveway. I walked around the campus at Mary Washington, and realized that I’m not the only one who’s changed. My hometown, Richmond, is not the same place it once was. While I have enjoyed my time here, spent with the people I love, I have realized how lucky I am. I miss my home, my husband, my sweet dog and cat, my friends, my daily routine, all of it. I thought that I belonged to Virginia, to Mary Washington, to America. This time here has shown me that what I thought of home was too complicated.

Home doesn’t have to be where you go after a long shift at work. It’s not where you cook dinner, or go to sleep at night. Home is where you love. Where you love your family, and the sunrise, where you love yourself. The location will change. You will change. And that’s ok, because home is where your life is. Every place you call home becomes a part of you, but you make it home. My home is over 10,000 miles away, and I just can’t wait to get back there and fall in love with it all over again.

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You can’t always choose where you land, but wherever your life is, love it.

Categories: Family, Friends, Military Life, Moving, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , | 10 Comments

Where is my Husband?

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It is Monday night at about 8:30pm as I decide to sit down and write this, out of lack of both another human outlet and further drive to fold yet another load of laundry. My husband is not home and I have not heard from him since he left home almost 14 hours ago. I quite literally do not know where in the world he is right now.

This is significant only because I make it a point to (as much as possible) always know where my husband is. Being a Marine Corps pilot, he spends much of his time flying thousands of feet above the Earth, and then landing his C-130 on all parts of it. My husband loves his job, and I could not be prouder of him; but I would be lying if I said I don’t worry about him from time to time. Over the past month and a half, there have been three crashes involving military aircraft, two of which hit (figuratively) very close to home for us.

In February, a CH-46 helicopter crashed in Thailand and my husband was in the first plane on the scene. They called in rescue support for the burning helicopter and its crew, Marines who go to work in the hangar next to my husband’s. These men were our neighbors, and while I did not know them personally, I can only imagine the moments in which their wives heard of the accident. None of the crew died that day, but at least one was critically injured, and I continue to follow his recovery on Facebook.

Last week, an EA-6B Prowler went down during a training flight near Whidbey Island, Washington. One of our very good friends from flight school is attached to that squadron, and he knew personally each of the three people that died in the crash. While I was relieved to hear that our friend was not piloting that aircraft, my heart goes out to the families of his squadron in the face of this terrible tragedy. Finally, again this week another military aircraft went down, this one an Army UH-60 Blackhawk in Afghanistan, of all places. Another five lives were taken from their families that day.

These are the events that linger in my mind as I go throughout my day, reading articles and Facebook updates that disparage the military, referring to their “lavish lifestyle” or “wrongful actions” in combat. (I do not plan on going on an angry political tirade tonight, but these ignorant and offensive statements are upsetting to someone in my position).  These are the events that color my world. Tonight I do not like that my husband is not home because I worry about him, despite the four huge engines and good safety record of the C-130.

I usually know where he is, even if I can’t talk to him while he is there. The issue with tonight is that I expected him to be home. I rushed to get home by 6, when I thought he would be home. I prepared dinner, but not having heard from him, I set it aside rather than putting it in the oven. I learned that lesson years ago, when we ate the world’s driest spaghetti because I kept it warm on the stove for almost 4 hours on a Friday night while he was at The Basic School (the Marine Corps’ 6-month officer training school where they learn everything from leading marines into terrorist encampments to dressing sucking flesh wounds with saran wrap and duct tape).

Now, at 9pm I am just sitting down to eat part of our dinner, having depleted our snacks and realizing that he may not be coming home tonight. I trust that wherever he is, he is alright. I write this post tonight because these moments are difficult for me because I hate letting go of the smaller moments I like to have control over in my life. I’ve had to give a lot of the big decisions in our marriage to the Corps, so I struggle with relinquishing control of the little ones. This is a learning process. As they say, Semper Fidelis, Semper Gumby.

Now, back to that laundry!

Always, Amanda

Categories: Military Life | Tags: , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Our First Year of Marriage

One year ago today, I married my best friend. He is busy flying planes in a land far away from here right now, but that gives me the opportunity to reminisce when I would otherwise be snuggling with him in front of our wedding video. In the year that we have been married, much has changed. It has been by far the most difficult year of my life, and I am lucky that I can say it has also been the best. This was our year:

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On February 18, 2012, we got married in a beautiful outdoor ceremony near Corpus Christi, Texas. Our wedding went by in a whirlwind, but the important part is that I woke up the next morning beside my husband and we began our adventure together. At the time, we were living in Corpus Christi while Casey went through the multi-engine portion of flight school, and I worked for a local staffing firm.

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Several weeks after our wedding, Casey received the lovely golden wings he had worked so hard for, and then he went off to California for two weeks of survival training. Shortly after that, he moved to New Bern, North Carolina, for the final stage of flight training (this time in a simulated C-130).  I did not accompany Casey to North Carolina because the military would not pay for us to move there, I wanted to continue working at my job, and we had recently learned we would be moving to Okinawa. While the Marine Corps had separated Casey and I before, the pain of saying goodbye to him and remaining behind was something I was somehow unprepared for. I was lucky to have kind and generous co-workers; but being only recently married, I was mostly isolated from the military community. It was a trying time for both of us, and I was forced to learn many new things I would have avoided had I had the choice. I did not enjoy caring for the lawn, repairing my car when it broke down, running Barley and Hops to the emergency vet when they consumed poison or got stung by scorpions, or dealing with our neglectful landlord when our AC and appliances broke. I’d like to think that all of that and the sushi dates I had with myself made me a stronger person; but I would be entirely dishonest if I said that I enjoyed the overall experience.

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I was able to visit Casey once in the lovely little town of New Bern, where they have these adorable bears all over town. In August, Casey and I began our Farewell America tour. We had already said goodbye to my friends and family in Virginia; so this time we met in Vermont, where we spent some wonderful time with my family. Saying goodbye to my father and baby sisters was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.

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From there, we flew down to New Bern and packed Casey’s things into Brandy (his precious Mazda Speed 3), and headed home to Corpus Christi. We stopped in Meridian, Mississippi, to visit some of our awesome jet pilot friends before we made it back to Corpus. We spent a week or so there, moved out of our home, and packed our fluffy children into the car. You’ve already heard of our road trip to San Diego to say goodbye to Casey’s family, followed by our trip to Seattle and then epic plane ride to Okinawa. Long story short: we moved across the planet. Nbd.

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Once in Okinawa, we lived in a hotel for a week (separated from Barley and Catbeast), then moved into our concrete palace in a tower on Camp Kinser, in the southern part of Okinawa. It took awhile for our belongings to arrive, (most of which will remain in storage in Texas until we return to the US) but we have done our best to make Okinawa home. I’ve been adjusting to life here and trying to figure out in which direction to take my career. Casey has enjoyed flying the C-130, and has already had the opportunity to travel to Hawaii, mainland Japan, Thailand, Korea, the Philippines, and the Marshall Islands. I miss him while he is gone, but I am so proud of all his hard work and am so happy to see him finally reaping its rewards. In between those trips, we’ve tried to take advantage of his free time to explore the wonderful food and beautiful sites Okinawa has to offer. I promise that more on that will come in the next few weeks.

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Spending holidays, birthdays, and an anniversary apart has been difficult, but I never take our time for granted. The little moments that we share cooking dinner together, watching him wrestle with Barley and Hops, exploring this wonderful island together: all of these I have an acute appreciation for, knowing the feeling of a cold bed and an (almost) empty home. Marriage is not easy, and we have much to learn about how to deal with such important issues as cold feet in the bed and where exactly we should place our wet towels. I’m just lucky that I have Casey to share this amazing, at times chaotic, life with. I am sure we will continue to face obstacles in the years ahead, but I know that together (or not), we will make it through this adventure and come out stronger and more prepared for the next one. Happy anniversary, babe.

Always, Amanda

Categories: Marriage, Military Life, Our Story | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

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