Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Hello, Seattle!

Well.. technically Fort Lewis actually. But I couldn't resist the Owl City reference. We are definitely in Seattle area though.

After a crazy 4 days of driving and a pretty rough start*, we finally drove into Seattle area on Monday afternoon. And we were welcomed with a pretty hard rainfall. Ah.. Seattle. Way to live up to your reputation.

But the rain can't be that bad, because apparently Fort Lewis is the most requested base in the Army. Yeah. That's pretty awesome. I can see why now because the area is beautiful. We are less than a few hours drive from either the city, beach, or mountains. Amazing.

So we are now currently apartment hunting.** James is actually right now at a meeting about housing on base, because we haven't ruled that out. If we lived on base though, we wouldn't get James' housing allowance in his paycheck (but our housing would be free). And if we lived off-base we could find a place for less than what his allowance is. But he would have to drive further. We will see.

So right now I'm at the Rainier Inn, which is temporary lodging on base. It's basically a nice hotel room with a stove and fridge. I don't know the base yet, so I decided to go exploring in the best way: I went running! I ran by the airfield and got to see some chinook and blackhawk helicopters! It was pretty cool. I don't feel too bad about taking some time off running during all this, because I'm pretty sure I hurt my achilles a little in that half marathon. It does feel good to stretch my legs though, after being in that uhaul so long.

After we settle down and actually find an apartment, I'm going to have a lot of time. It's weird to not have a job. I'm not used to wearing casual clothes this many days in a row. There are tons of little coffee shops all over the place so I'm going to start trying them out. I loove coffee.

We also found out that once James gets down with in-processing (about 6 days of Army paperwork), things are going to start happening really fast. He is going to have to go to a bunch of training to get ready for his deployment, which could be anytime in December. So I'm not sure how often I'm actually going to see him. For now, I get to see him after he gets down with his paperwork for the day though, which is usually before noon. So I'm just going to enjoy that for now and not think about the deployment.

Random footnotes:
*we actually had one of James' duffel bags stolen from us right off his parent's front yard while we were packing, hit some crazy traffic on I-80 that set us back about 5 hours, and at one point couldn't find a hotel room because of a nebraska/wyoming college football game that had sold out every hotel in a 90 mile radius.
**Apparently most people don't have don't have AC here.. just heat. Even though it gets up to the 80s in the summertime. Hmmm.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Comfort Admist the Chaos

I'm in the middle of moving. My apartment is full of boxes. The good news is that my husband is be home TOMORROW night and will be able to help me pack for a couple days before we get the u-haul truck. YAY!

I decided I could still take time to make a good dinner for myself. But not too much time. This was really easy. This is all it was:

Easy Salmon Patties

1 egg
1 3 oz packet of salmon
5 or 6 Ritz crackers, crumbled up
about 3/4 cup Italian panko-style bread crumbs
Pepper to taste


Panko bread crumbs are really new to me, but I'm loving them. Then I just mashed it all together and made patties. This recipe makes about 2 1/2 hamburger-sized patties. Then I put them in a frying pan with a little olive oil and cooked on medium about 3 minutes per side. Yumm.

I know not too many people read this, but I figure that I love reading what other people do for food.. especially if it's an easy recipe. So maybe someone someday might want to try this. :)

This was also a breakthrough for me.. I actually finished a whole container of salad! Those leafy greans are the last from the container! I've actually never done that on my own before they start to go bad. Yay! Maybe this means I'm getting healthier or something.

So I had my dinner after a long day of packing, had a fun Age of Empires online-game-date with James before telling him g'nite.

Now I'm going to watch an episode of Scrubs before bed.. while wearing scrubs pants. And drinking some hot tea with honey, with the windows open, curled in a blanket. Mmmyeah. God is good.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Restless

Next week, I'm leaving this:



The beautiful, calm flatness of Illinois, for the more adventurous mountains of Ft Lewis, WA. I took this picture of a bike ride. It's going to definitely be different running and biking in higher altitude with with actual hills.

We're moving. Next week. And James is getting deployed in December for a year. Ick. Much sooner that we thought it would be. But I'm glad it's before kids are in the picture.

After talking it over with James and some close friends and family, I think I'm going to go ahead and move out to Washington with James, be with him out there for a little less than 3 months, cook him good food, be an awesome homemaker wife, but them move back to live with my family in Illinois for the year once he deploys to Afghanistan. I feel kind of weird moving back in with my family after being married almost 2 years, but they want to be there for me and it gives us that wonderful opportunity to save a lot of money by not paying rent.

Yes, I know. It's messy. We have to move everything now, because that's when the Army is going to pay for it. So we'll move everything across the country. Then when he deploys, we'll put everything in storage and I'll pack my car with the things I'll need for the year and drive back across to Illinois.

Crazy. I know.

I'm not really used to living in constant transition. I like it when things settle down and the moving is done, the boxes are all unpacked.

But that's not really Army life.

I heard Switchfoot's new song on the radio the other night.

"I am restless, looking for you"


I realized that's me recently. I even said to James on the phone yesterday (maybe half jokingly) "I don't know what to do with my life!" What am I going to do with myself for three months in Washington? What am I going to do with myself for a year while my husband's in Afghanistan? Grad school? a job? Should I just be a full-time blogger for a year? Should I be a hippie and just travel around visiting friends? I realized that possibilities are endless and it's a little overwhelming. There is a sense of independence and freedom there but it's overshadowed by an overwhelming sadness that I won't be with my best friend for that entire year.

I found the Switchfoot song on youtube and someone had posted this quote:
"You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you." - St. Augustine of Hippo

I'm going to get to live with my husband for three months. And things will be calm for a while, but we'll know the deployment is coming. I realized that I'm not going to get any sense of calm apart from God right now.

"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest." Matthew 11:28

So for now, I'm learning to roll with the punches, be comfortable in the transition, and find my rest in God.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Chi Half Marathon Race Report!


I did it! I broke 2 hours in the half marathon, breaking my PR of 2:05:05! My official time was 1:59:20. woot! I decided to stay with the 2:00 pacers. I hadn't ever done that before, but it was really helpful to have a visual representation of my goal. Every time I stopped at a water station, I would have to catch back up to them. But I guess that makes sense, because you have to make up for water stops when you are going for a certain time on your own anyway.

Oooh man. I'm so happy I did it.

5 mile split: 45:53 (9:10 average)
10 mile split: 1:30:53 (9:05 average)
Finish time: 1:59:20 (9:06 average)

So apparently the fastest part of my race was the between 5 and 10 miles. And I must have slowed down at the end.

But I didn't hit a wall this year. And I didn't use gels. Because I'm pretty sure they mess my stomach up. So what did I use?


Honey packets! That I got for free from starbucks. Mhmm. And I tried them out for the first time in this race. Probably not a great idea to try something new in a race, but I didn't do so great with my long runs while I was down in Georgia. But I got lucky because they seemed to work! My only complaint is that they were extremely difficult to open.. I had them in my running shorts pocket and by the time I got one out to use it, it was pretty sweaty (eww). I finally figured it out though and took 2 of them during the race and also stopped for several gatorade stopped. And no wall! I did slow down but it was nothing like what happened last year where I felt like my legs were jello and I was struggling to stay at maybe an 11-minute pace tops.

Soo much fun. I love this race. If I can, I'm going to do it again next year. I heart chicago. This was also on the 10-year anniversary of September 11th so everyone wore red, white, and/or blue. Here is a pic of my and my friends, who also did pretty amazing.


So.. now I've got to find a half-marathon turkey trot out in Seattle area so I can try to beat my time again!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Ranger Souvenirs & Good Food

At Ranger Graduation, they had a whole tent set up with souvenirs. With everything you could have possibly wanted with the word "Ranger" on it. They even had a "Proud Ranger Wife" shirt. But here's my problem with it.. it had Rhinestones. Ew. Not my thing. In fact, I think a lot of Army wife apparel in general ends up looking pretty tacky. But I won't go into that right now.

I already knew what I wanted before I even drove down to Georgia. A Ranger charm for my necklace and a pair of "Ranger panties" (and no, it's actually not what you think).

Okay.. the charm is pretty straightfoward, you say. But Ranger Panties?

These are Ranger Panties:

Not what you were expecting, eh? Btw I apologize for the extremely dorky picture. "Ranger Panties" are what the army calls the Ranger PT short shorts. Because guys tend to have a hard time wearing short shorts unless they are cross country runners these days. Yes, these are actual PT uniform shorts for Rangers. And since my hubby has the tab now, I decided that means I'm allowed to wear them. James also got a pair, because he's a runner too and he can appreciate such things as well (although he doesn't appreciate the nickname for them). I think it's actually a pretty common thing for Ranger girlfriends/fiances/wives to get a pair. But I do feel a certain sense of more entitlement to wear them, being a runner. But I know I'm just being silly.

And here's my beautiful Ranger charm, right next to my little Airborne wings.


So now I got my souvenirs and I'm all set to return home. I should be ready, right? Nope.

I've never been on a vacation where I cooked this much. And I never had as much time/energy to cook this much at home because of running and my full-time job. But I brought two big bags of baking/cooking stuff from home and I've been making lots of great food for my Ranger. It's been fun. I think I would have liked being a stay-at-home wife. Maybe someday. Here's a couple pics that I took.

Caprese Salad (with dried basil leaves.. because my basil plant is in Chicago and probably long dead), but the tomato made it still worth it.


Cake Batter Pancakes. 'nuf said.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Half-Marathon Thoughts

I have a confession.

I was debating not doing my half-marathon this Sunday.

Terrible! I know. But with everything going on (hubby graduating ranger school, finding out we are moving a month sooner than expected, finding out about upcoming deployment, TERRIBLE Georgia heat), I convinced myself for a while that it would be okay to ditch it. I even had several friends tell me that it was okay to not do it.

And really, it would have been.

But I need to do it. Even if I run slower than I did last year, I will hate myself less than if I totally didn't do it. Because I trained for it. I paid $80 for it. And dangit, I want my shirt and finisher's medal. And I'm going to have fun, whether I run a PR or not. (I'll just have more fun if I run the PR)

What that means: I need to leave Georiga a day earlier. Leave the sweet slowness of the South and return to busy Chicago to pack. Leave sleeping in, cooking good food, and movie cuddling to return to my lonely empty apartment. My cat isn't even there right now because she's staying with my in-laws.

So I'll be on the road for 2 days to wake up and run a half-marathon on Sunday.

A verse caught my eye the other day:
"God, not your marital status, defines your life." -1 Corinthians 7:17, The Message

I'm not an Army Wife.

I'm not a Runner.

Well.. I am both those things. But firstly, I'm a child of God, saved by Grace. And that's really the only definition that matters.

And it weird as it sounds, that's another reason why I need to run this race. This is what I trained for all those months that James was away. This is how I stayed together, focused, and how I got out of bed in the morning. I always feel so close to God when I run and that's something that kept me going. And even though it means leaving James a little earlier, he'll join me in Chicago about a week later. We'll pack everything up, head toward Seattle, and we'll begin this next chapter of our lives together.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Communication During Ranger School: A Recap

So since this was something that I googled a lot over, I thought I would write a post on my own experience of all my communication with my husband during Ranger School.

Letters:


It took about 5 days for each of my letters to get from James to me, once they were sent out (and sometimes it would take 3 or 4 days for them to be sent out). Now.. I live all the way in Chicago area, so that's why it took so long. A friend of mine that I met on twitter while our men were both are Ranger School, Lindsey, got hers in about 3 days, but she lives in Tennessee. The first letter I got was almost exactly one week after he started. A lot of times I would get 2 letters postmarked at the same time. I think it's because the RIs (Ranger Instructors) might have waited until they got a stack of mail before they bothered to send them out. My hubby was pretty good about sending them. At one point, I actually got a letter 3 days in a row!

They guys are NOT able to send letters out during the FTXs, so I would recommend looking at the schedule and knowing when they are. I know that they do change around. The last phase in the linked schedule has 2 FTXs and I know for James, they got combined into 1 10-day FTX.

I sent letters every day until the final Tuesday or Wednesday of each phase. I figured that the letter wouldn't get there until after I got to talk to him in the phone call and would get to the location after he left, so I didn't bother. Then as soon as I got the call that he passed, I wrote a letter for the next location. We were actually instructed to not write letters to the next location until we got the call from our soldier that he's moved on. You should have received the addresses from your soldier but I included them below just in case.

I had some fun with my letters and bought some star wars stamps, put gum in some of the letters, and sprayed them with perfume! And yes, you can send them gum. I would put sticks inside the envelope and tape them down so it wouldn't get bunched up and get too thick. USPS will only allow letters to be so thick. I sent him the Extra food gum (mint chocolate chip ice cream, strawberry shortcake, and key lime pie). It was much appreciated. :)

Addresses:

Fort Benning/ Phase 1 Address:

[Name and Rank]
4th Ranger Training Battalion
ATTN: Class [Your soldier's class number]*
10850 Schneider Road
Fort Benning, GA 31905

Mountain/ Phase 2 Address:

[Name and Rank]
5th Ranger Training Battalion
ATTN: Class [Your soldier's class number]*
1 Camp Merrill
Dahlonega, GA 30533-1802

Florida/ Phase 3 Address:

[Name and Rank]
6th Ranger Training Battalion
ATTN: Class [Your soldier's class number]*
6069 Walkers Lane
Camp James E. Rudder
Eglin AFB, FL 32542

*If you don't know your solider's class number, you should be able to google around to find a schedule. They never seem to post it in the same spot, so unfortunately I can't link to it.

Phone Calls:


Phase 1: At the end of Phase 1, the Ranger students will get an 8 hour pass. This took place on the Friday at the end of the phase (no matter when your soldier starts, they always report on a Sunday so the days of the week will always line up the same). Since I was all the way up in Chicago, I couldn't make the trip but a lot of SOs will meet their soldier during that time. James had to buy some things and do laundry, so he told me later that in a way, he was glad that I couldn't make it because he would have been too stressed about all the things he had to do with me being there. Intead we had several camera chats that day.

Phase 2: I got the call around 2pm on that Friday that he passed phase 2. It lasted about 3 minutes- just long enough to tell me he passed phase 2. Then later that night, around 10:30, I got another call and we were able to talk about 10 minutes. It does depend on the company.. my friend Lindsey didn't get a call until 10:30 that night because her bf's company didn't get access to the phones until that time. James also mentioned that his company let the guys with wives go first.

Phase 3: This was stressful because we thought we would get a call around dinner time on that last Sunday (5 days before graduation day) to let us know if he completely passed, but it didn't come until around 11:30pm that night. Lindsey didn't get a call until the following night (Monday night) a little after dinner time. Her boyfriend passed as well, so if the call doesn't come on that Sunday then it doesn't necessarily mean anything bad. I think it's because her bf's company didn't get access to the pay phones until that night. Then I also got a call on that Monday night. And some girls did get calls on the Tuesday as well, but my hubby's phone card had run out of minutes.

Care Packages:

Ranger students can receive care packages at the end of each phase. At the end of phase 3, they get to eat the food on the bus ride home. They can only receive them at the end of phases because the RIs control their calorie intake. Some guys will get several care packages, so there is always a lot of food to go around. I wrote a post about one of my ranger care packages here.

Passes on the Last Week:

Normally the Rangers will get a shorter (8-hour) pass on Wednesday and a longer (12-hour) pass on Thursday. For some reason, these got switched around for James' class so we got the shorter one on Thursday. They were released at about 5pm and there was a crowd of us and taxis waiting in the parking lot (Rangers aren't supposed to drive themselves for safety reasons until they are dismissed on graduation day). Then I had to drive him back that night to report back at 10pm. If they were even a minute late, it could have meant they recycled back to redo Florida phase. So everyone got back around 9:30 to be sure.

So overall, that was only a couple phone calls over a span of 2 months. Not very fun. I'm not sure if that will happen during deployments or not. I'm sure it depends on what kinds of missions he does. But I know a lot of times during deployments, soldiers to get Skype almost every night. So I'm very very glad that he's got the tab and this chapter of our lives is over.

This is just my experience.. I'm definitely not an expert or anything. Also, my hubby made it through in one shot. If your SO does have to recycle (which is nothing to be ashamed about), I have heard that he'll get to call every night while he's waiting for the next phase to start. So that's definitely a silver lining!

Also, if you haven't watched the discovery documentary, I would encourage you to do so. It covers a winter class, and my husband did a summer one.. So it was a little different because they talk about the cold in the documentary and one of the number 1 reason why people recycled in my hubby's was from passing out in the heat (some even got heat stroke).

One thing I can say though: We've been married over a year and a half now and the honeymoon phase is definitely not over. Because each time we see each other, it's amazing! I'm so excited to be moving back into the same apartment as him when he reports to his first unit. More to come on that soon!

Key Days (Days to mark on your calendars!): 
Day 0 (Sunday): This is the day that they will report.
Day 19 (Friday): 8 hour pass between Phase 1 and Phase 2. Go meet your soldier if you can!
Day 20 (Saturday): Soldiers start Phase 2.
Day 40 (Friday): End of Phase 2. Expect a phone call!
Day 41 (Saturday): Soldiers start Phase 3
Day 56 (Sunday): Expect a phone call from your soldier! note: you *may* not get the call until Monday (see above about phone calls). 
Day 57 (Monday): Soldier may be able to use the phones again.
Day 59 (Wednesday): Rangers should get an 8 hour pass.
Day 60 (Thursday): Rangers should get a 12 hour pass. (note: these passes might change. For my husband's class, they did 12 hour pass on Wednesday and 8 hour pass on Thursday)
Day 61 (Friday): Ranger Graduation!!!

More Info: 
My girlfriend Lindsey also wrote a Girlfriend's Guide to Ranger School here. I found her on twitter by searching for "Ranger School" in quotes and we figured out our men were set to graduate the same day, so we actually met at the graduation! There are a LOT of military significant others (#MilSOs) on twitter.

There is a facebook group called Ranger School Wives 2012 for wives/gfs/fiances or Ranger students. I'm not a part of it, but from what I can see, it's got some really good info on there. I'm sure it would be a great way to meet other girls with soldiers going through the same thing. There is also more info about passes on there.

This Ranger grad posted his day-by-day journal from Ranger school here. It's a couple years old but the schedules are pretty much the same. It will give you an idea of what your soldier is going through.

Also, obviously you want to keep all the letters you get. I put together a little keepsake album with all my husband's letters. Check it out here.

Disclaimer: My husband completed Ranger School in the summer of 2011. I realize that they may at some point switch up the dates of when the phone calls are happening, etc. If at some point, you see that my guide is no longer correct, please let me know!

If you have any questions, I would be happy to answer but please make sure I haven't already answered it in the blog post itself. Thanks! <3

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Ranger Graduation & Deployment News

Omygoodness. It's official. James has been graduated from Ranger School for about a week now. Feels so nice that it's finally over. His graduation was last Friday. I got here on Thursday and he was supposed to be released for his pass sometime between 2 and 4pm that day.. so I got there at 2:30 and waited until 5. :/ But he was the first guy to get to the gate (since he decided to run- typical James) and it felt so good to hug him! Then went out to dinner with his family and I had to drop him off again that night at the Ranger Battalion. That was kind of annoying. I felt like we were at our little Christian college again before we got married and had to say goodnight at curfew.

Soo so proud of him though. He was one of around 60something to graduate in one shot out of close to 400 that started in class 08-11. When we got there that Friday morning, it was actually kind of hard to find him in the crowd. But there he is! The one looking at the camera!


Ranger School Graduation was pretty much amazing. I had just been to the IBOLC graduation a couple months prior. That one was a typical, formal/boring gradation. Not complaining because I love to see him in his dress uniform. But the Ranger Gradation was proceeded by a "Rangers in Action" demonstration that lasted just under an hour. They demonstrated a bunch of what the Rangers had learned, complete with blackhawks and explosions. So cool. My little brothers lapped it up.


Then toward the end of the ceremony, we got to down to pin the tab on his shoulder. His mom did the first part and I finished it up. I was so happy! All that work for such a little thing.





So right now, I'm hanging out with James in Georgia. As soon as his out-processing down here is completed, we're driving up to move me out of my apartment in Chicago and we'll have 8 days to report to Ft Lewis! It's happening! My first Army move!

In all this, we also found out that James is going to be deployed in December. So our first Army move will be followed shortly by our first deployment. Which doesn't give us much time to get settled in Seattle area. I may even move back to family in Chicago area for that year if I still don't have a good job/friends in that area by that time. Maybe I'll do grad school. Or be a hippie for a year and travel around in my CR-V. Hmm. In the meantime, I'm sleeping in, cooking good food, and relaxing with my hubby in the calm before the storm.