Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Our Christmas Card

I haven't been a very good blogger lately. James is still in "redeployment mode," which means he goes to work early for PT and then is home somewhere between 12 and 2pm. It's amazing. I could seriously get used to this. He's got a few more days before leave starts for Christmas and we have a whole bunch of family coming. So we've been trying really hard to get the house ready. I did get Christmas cards done though.
I just love shutterfly. Although, I did have to edit it a little so I could post it on the blog. I really wanted to have a family picture with Roxy too (I seriously love MrsMollyP's family Christmas photo), but our puppy was a little too crazy.

I'm not gonna be too awesome about updating for a while. So here's our Christmas card to you. In case I don't check back before Christmas, have a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

<3 Amy

Monday, December 10, 2012

Deployments and Cars and Murphy's Law

I'm sure you are familiar with Murphy's Law. Anything that can do wrong, will go wrong. This is especially true for deployments and you'll hear it confirmed by any military significant other that you talk to.

I thought I would share with you the story of my car and the deployment. This is my Honda CR-V. 

After James left for Afghanistan last December, my mom flew out to Seattle to drive back home to Illinois with me. On the way to pick her up from the airport (James had been gone only a few days), a truck kicked up a rock and hit my windshield. I ended up having to get my windshield replaced. 

On our drive home to Illinois, my engine light mysteriously turned on. We stopped to check the oil. It was empty. No oil. My engine was actually burning oil so badly that we had to add a quart of oil every time we stopped for gas. And it's not like it's a super-old car, since it's a 2005. 

I got it back and they had to replace a gasket. The problem came back again later and they put an entirely new engine in. Then it started shuddering and the axels had to be replaced. And then the wheels. And then the rotors. And the brakes. All in the year James was gone. Oh.. also the leather seat got torn open at the seam. It's currently being held together by duct tape. 

Now thankfully, we bought a really good extended warranty when we got the car. So a lot of that was covered. Still. If you've ever experienced car problems, you can just imagine how much stress came along with each of those problems. I had to be the one to negotiate with the car guys. And they always make me nervous. I never know if they are trying to talk me into something I don't need. All while James was gone, so of course the stress was ten times more. 

So the moral of the story is that anything that can go wrong, especially if it's something that your husband normally takes care of for you, will indeed go wrong. 

We didn't keep James's car for the deployment, so the plan was always for him to get a car once he got home. He's kind of wanted to get a bigger car. Like a Nissan Xterra. We kind of already have mini-SUV, but I told him that he should get it anyway since he went on his deployment. When we trade in the CR-V in a few years, we can always just get a normal commuter car. So the other day, James takes me over to the Ford dealership to supposedly look at a used Xterra that he found online. While we were there, he said we should go look at the Ford Focus colors. 

So we do. And I love the red one. Then he tells me we should go for a test drive, and I start to get a little suspicious. Turns out, he had already done all the research and made the decision. I have to drive further to work so he decided I should get a commuter car and he will drive the CR-V. He also told me how proud he was that I got the job. So he bought the Ford Focus for me! He even made sure they put a ribbon on top. 
My early Christmas present!
James gave up getting a new car so that I could have the new one. I almost started bawling. I can't even be mad about all I went through with the CR-V this year now. My husband is amazing.

We still have the CR-V so I'm hoping it doesn't give James too much more trouble. It probably won't though. Since he's home. 

Merry Early Christmas!
<3 Amy

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Treasures

The unpacking is happening. Also, I accepted a job. Starting January 21st, I will be a Data Programmer/ Analyst for a company located in Tacoma. Slowly and slowly, I'm beginning to see the start of "normal life" falling into place.
Note the oddly positioned sleeping puppy.
When we put everything into storage a year ago, I put aside one box of keepsakes and treasures to take with me. I knew I wouldn't need these things while I was in Illinois, but I brought them anyway because there's always the chance the storage place could have burned down. And- I feel justified now in this fear because a storage place in the town next to ours did burn down, so it literally could have been ours.

This box has our wedding album, letters that James wrote me during various times he's been away, and different things that he has made for me over the years. He's actually a pretty crafty guy, and I love how it balances out with the infantry manliness. Besides the letters, this Bible might be my most treasured possession.
Let me give you the back story to this Bible. When we were still dating, James and I decided to go "on a break" to pray about our relationship and try to figure out if being together is what God wanted (not just what we wanted). Coincidently, it lined up with the start of Lent. We're not Catholic, so we don't normally observe Lent but it seemed like a good timeline so we decided to give each other up. Kind of silly, I know. But it was just for us.

We still hung out to a degree, but it was still hard. We still saw each other every day at track practice and we had all the same friends. But we weren't a couple. At the end of lent, we decided to go rock climbing and then get dinner afterwards (at McDonalds- we were poor college students). I was completely ready to get back together and I was convinced that we were.

Then James pulled out this Bible with a cover that he had made me. He had cut up all those little leaf pieces by hand. It was beautiful. And then he told me that he needed some more time alone with God. He had just discovered "The Message" translation and really liked it, so he got me a copy of it too. I just remembering saying in my head "God, I really hope I marry this man." You know how people describe that moment when they just knew? Before that night, I knew I liked him a lot. This was the moment that I knew I loved him. (Oh and yes.. we obviously did end up getting back together later!)

Sorry to be super-mushy but I wanted you to understand why this Bible means so much to me and why I nearly had a heart attack when I realized that there was a tearing noise coming from underneath the bed in our bedroom and that the puppy had my Bible.
Luckily, the cover isn't damaged. The Bible itself is hardly damaged at all, except for 17 pages ripped out of the end of Leviticus and the beginning of Numbers. I still cried. I had that box of treasures beside my bed and the puppy actually sneaked in there and took the Bible out of the box. When I saw the box open, I expected the worst. Maybe some of James's letters. I think maybe that thought upset me more than the actual damage. I was so upset that when James put his hand on my back to try to console me, he told me I was sweating and shaky. 

I have no idea why she thought the Bible would taste good. Now that I'm calmed down, I'm really thankful. Of all the places of the Bible, 17 pages in an area I honestly don't read that much (especially when I normally use a different Bible anyway) is okay. I can even replace the Bible if I need to, and put James's cover on a new one. And maybe just store this one (in a safer place) and remember it was the first one James gave me and the one that our puppy tried to eat. 

What are some things that would give you a near heart attack if your puppy or a fire got to it? Has anything like this ever happened to you? 

<3 Amy

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Meet Roxy

This is Roxy. She is a 5ish-month-old German Shepherd/ Border Collie mix. She hasn't grown into her ears and her paws yet. Which is pretty much adorable.

My husband is a huge "researcher." He loves doing shopping and researching online for everything we buy. So as soon as we found a house, he went into dog research. He's wanted a dog for a long time, but we've never been able to have one where we've lived.

A couple weeks ago, we went down to Portland area to see NAIA Cross Country Nationals. Our old cross country team (all the way from Illinois) had made it so of course, we had to go cheer them on.
Wearing our old ONU purple track jackets! 
Sitting at Starbucks, waiting for the race to start, James found a picture of Roxy online. So after the race, we went to this pet shelter to go meet her. We got to take her for a walk and found out that she loved running with us. Perfect. So we signed adoption paperwork and paid for her. It happened pretty dang fast, but James had been doing his research and we knew she was what we wanted.

Then we got a call the next day from the shelter. The guy that had been working was a fill-in and didn't do some things correctly. Apparently, we were supposed to fill out a full application for the dog. And when they adopted dogs out, they weren't supposed to be "first come, first serve." All applications were supposed to be considered before they decided who was the best owner for the dog. Yes, we already paid and signed the paperwork for her, but actually they (the dog shelter) never signed it (because the guy didn't know what he was doing) so the paperwork wasn't actually valid. Since we live two hours away, he said we could continue to "foster" her through Thanksgiving but we would have to bring her back on Saturday to figure everything out because at least one other woman was interested in adopting her.
Before we knew if her could keep her. Me trying not to fall totally in love with her yet.. (I still did)
I know. Ridiculous. In retrospect, I'm actually pretty sure we would have done well at small claims court if we wanted to push it that far. So all week and through Thanksgiving I was worried that we might have to give her back. We went ahead and filled out the application. I've owned two border collie mixes before, so we were able to put that down on pet history. And we have a backyard and we were able to circle that we are planning on exercising her "3+ miles per day." Because between the two of us, Roxy is going to go on a run each day once she is fully grown and her body can take it. So really, our application for her was stellar. I was still worried.

Then we got a call on Saturday.

Shelter guy: We received your application. We have the paperwork all ready for you to sign here, so we just gotta have you come back down so we can finalize everything.
James: So.. you picked us?
Shelter guy: Oh, yep. She's yours as soon as you come fill this out.

James got off the phone and told me. When did they decide she was ours?? Did they not realize how worried we were?? Actually, it was mostly me that was worried. James doesn't worry like I do, but that's another blog post in itself.

In conclusion, we now have a new member of our family. What about our cat, you ask? Well, she's actually still living with my in-laws until Christmas (I thought one day on the plane would be better than 4 days driving). So the day she comes home will be an interesting day.
James's new best friend.
I've never had a German Shepherd dog before, but I have heard they they can become "one man dogs." She definitely likes James more than me. I'm kind of jealous. But I do love running with her. She's not even that big yet, and I feel totally safe when she is with me. We are still teaching her to not totally pull the lease, but after about a half-mile or so, she falls in line beside us.

Basically, we love her. And we're really glad we got to keep her. :)

<3 Amy

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Ranger School Blogroll

Even though my husband graduated over a year ago, I still get more hits from Ranger School searches than from anything else. I also saw that a couple sweet ladies are linking to my Communication During Ranger School post. Thanks so much! I'm just really happy to be of help. 

I think we tend to turn to google for answers about Ranger school because it's just really hard to have that limited communication with you soldier. I had a lot more communication in any two months of my husband's deployment than I had when he was in Ranger School. 

Running Army Wife
I thought it would be helpful for all you ladies scouring the Internet for information to have a list of all us that have blogged about our soldier's time in Ranger School. Here's the start of a blogroll. I know I'm forgetting some. I have a hunch there may be more to come too. If you want to be added or know a blog that should be on here, please leave a comment! Also, feel free to grab a badge if you want!






<3 Amy

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Redeployment Life

It's taken me a while to getting around to writing this post. James is home. It's weird typing it still. I feel kind of like I got married all over again. Bittersweet goodbyes to family, moving in together, cooking dinner and doing other housewifey things, getting to sleep in a bed with my favorite person.. It all feels new again. 

Right now, James is only only going into work a few hours a day to get some redeployment** stuff done, like getting up to date on medical stuff (he hasn't been to the dentist in over a year, etc) and making sure the guys in his platoon are on track too.

It's been mostly blissful. I won't deny that there have been a couple difficulties in the transition. When I imagined James coming home, I pictured me sleeping restfully in his arms, no longer worried about his safety. Well, James snores. Something that I seemed to forget about when I was just wishing he was home. So while it's true he's home safe now, I wouldn't call my sleep totally "restful." He is still going in to work pretty early, so I do actually get a really nice nap between about 6am and 8:30-ish when I wake up. 

Is it different than before the deployment? Maybe a little. It's hard to say so far. We are still kind of in the honeymoon phase and it still feels like vacation instead of real life. James is pretty much the same guy I married, maybe just a little older and wiser from the year away. He talks a little bit about what happened and what it was like over there, but not a lot. I think he's mostly happy to be home.

In stark contrast to pretty much the whole deployment, the last 12 days have flown by. I have run exactly 1 time in those 12 days. Oops. Once things settle down into more of a routine or this honeymoon phase wears off a little, I'll have to find a race to train for. 
We had to live a week or so without furniture. It was like camping. Kind of. 
I feel behind in blogging too. We are renting a house. It's a itty bitty house, but it has a garage and a backyard and it's the first time we've lived in a house together. We got a dog. Well.. kind of. It's a long story that I will have to tell for another post. Just pray for me that we get to keep her. Also, I got a job offer. Actually two different job offers. A official one and an unofficial one. So now I've got the official one on hold while I'm trying to figure out what is going on with the other one. It's a little crazy. 

I feel like I'm already starting to forget how hard the deployment was. Kind of like how if marathoners really remembered the physical pain they went through, they wouldn't ever do another one. I don't think we really remember pain that well.  I do remember it enough that I pray daily for the ladies I know that are still going through it, and for the safety of their soldiers. I haven't forgotten you ladies! Hang in there. 

<3 Amy 

**Redeployment= coming home from deployment, even though "re" deployment makes it sound like they are being deployed again. 

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Homecoming

Alright. I admit it. I was being a little bit sneaky with you. If you read my post before James came home, I purposely made it sound like I was going to be waiting for him longer than I was. Truth is, I knew we would only be here in Seattle a couple days before he got back.

I was supposed to get a call from the FRG (family readiness group) approximately 48 hours before he landed. When I didn't get a call on Tuesday, I was sad since I figured that meant the earliest he would get home would be Friday. Then I got to talk to him on Wednesday (on instant messenger) and he let me know they would be getting home the next day. I can't tell you how awesome that was to hear! 

Me: But wait. You're coming home tomorrow? I didn't get a "48 hour" call yesterday. 
James: Looks like they dropped the ball on that then. I'm going to be home tomorrow. 

My stomach kind of flipped. It was really happening! Then as I was still chatting with him, I got the phone call. "Your husband is coming home tomorrow!" Another flip of my stomach. They told me he was landing at 6:50pm. So that night I popped a melatonin pill and a half and tried to sleep. 

I woke up super early- kind of like when you are a kid and you wake up excited on Christmas day. I got up around 8, ate breakfast, and then decided to do my make-up and hair. Then I got done and it was only 10:30am. After pacing the house for a while and regretting that I had already done my hair so I couldn't go running, I got another call from the FRG. Now he was landing at 2:20pm. It was about 11:20. Just about 3 hours! I put on my dress and was really nervous and started getting sweaty for some reason. James's aunt gave me some little towels to stick under my armpits so that my dress wouldn't get wet. I was specifically told to NOT show up any earlier than 2 hours before they land. I thought that was kind of funny. I guess maybe some excited Army wives might show up like 5 hours early if they don't say that. 
getting ready
Then a little after 12:30, my mom and I left my aunt's house for the hour drive to the base. I had my mix CD that my friend Sarah made for me playing and Mat Kearney's "Ships in the Night" came on. The part that says "I'm gonna find my way back to your side" almost made me start crying again. My hands were sweaty on the steering wheel. 

Got to the location about half an hour before the plane was supposed to land. They were a couple people already there and they had Monster's Inc playing for the kids. So we waited. Through the rest of Monster's Inc, Tangled, and Toy Story. More and more people came in and there was about 10 kids that were having trouble staying occupied. We got notified that the plane landed around 3:20 (about an hour late) and then out-processing took about 2 hours. Then FINALLY, they let us know that they would come in, do a short formation, and then be released. 

When I saw him walk in, I almost couldn't breath. My heart started beating really fast. Even though it was only a group of about 25 guys, they still made them line up for a prayer by the chaplain. Then a colonel did a short speech. I think it was something about how they are heroes (because of course, they are). But I wasn't really listening. I was trying really hard to just hold my composure. 

Then I heard the words "you're released." And I got to hug my husband for the first time in 195 days. 
First hug in 195 days and the end of a 1 year deployment!
Then I hugged him for a long time. I just kept thinking "this really isn't a dream!" I didn't cry right there like I thought I would, but I did cry later that night when he was sleeping next to me and it really sunk in. Out of relief and happiness. I'm just so glad he's home safe. 

Now we're looking for a house to rent together and just enjoying each other's company. He bought a Nexus 7 as a redeployment gift for himself and is playing with it right now next to me. It's wonderful. :) 

<3 Amy

Thursday, November 8, 2012

He's Home!

The deployment is officially OVER! He just got home TODAY! I will post more after I get some quality time with my husband. :)

<3 Amy

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Happy Election Day

I'm so thankful for my right to vote! I actually voted 2 weeks ago, but I kept my "I voted" sticker and I'm wearing it proudly today! Brave men and women have sacrificed so much for YOUR right to vote. Don't waste it! 
<3 Amy 

PS: We made it to Seattle! 

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Driving Army Wife

My mom and I are driving. A lot. We are in day 2 of an approximately 4 day trip. 
Driving along to my friend Sarah's soundtrack that she made for me!
Leave Chicago was sad and exciting at the same time. Saying goodbye to my friends and my high school group at church was hard. Saying goodbye to my dad and my brothers was the hardest. But I had to say bye so that I can be in Washington for James when he gets back. Bittersweetness at it's finest. 

Now I'm on the road with my mom (she's my driving companion and then she'll fly back to Chicago so I get to put off saying goodbye to her). Typing this up on hotel wifi. I am so excited. Leaving my parent's driveway and driving out of the neighborhood almost made me start crying all over again. I didn't used to be this emotional! I didn't even cry at my wedding. This dang deployment has made me a basketcase. 
Stopping to try to get a shot of us in our "first snow" of the year. You can kind of see it in my hair. 
Can't tell you exactly how long I'm hanging out in Seattle-area until James gets there. I'm not even sure myself, to tell you the truth. The Army has changed it on us a couple times. So we just decided to get out there early to make sure I'm there when he gets there. We're gonna hang out with of some of James's aunts and uncles that he has out there, get some good Seattle coffee, look at some houses... and probably pace around a lot. Maybe go running. Because you know I'm not going to be able to sit still. 

<3 Amy

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Happy Picture Wednesday

Thought I'd share a picture from a Halloween party a few years ago. 
John McCain and Thelma. What a couple.. haha. 
You can't see my awesome orange socks in that picture so here's the full outfit:

Happy Halloween!
<3 Amy

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Running Through Deployment

I've started packing. I'm heading out with my mom pretty soon to Fort Lewis area to search for a place to call home and wait for James. 
My running accomplishments of the deployment.  
In pretty much one picture, this is what I accomplished during the deployment. This included my 10k medal, 5 half marathon medals, the caution tape "human lives" that I claimed from 4 human runners in my Zombie 5k last Sunday, and my greatest accomplish: my first marathon medal. Theoretically, I may do another race or two in 2012 but I'm done with racing until James gets home.

I also included my Team Salute singlet. Even though it was pretty uncomfortable, I did end up wearing it in the marathon. I exceded my goal of $520 and raised $657 for Salute Inc, an organization for military families in need. The Chicago Marathon Team Salute runners (about 100 of us) raised over $75,000. Training for the marathon became about something greater than just me, and I'm so proud that I was a part of it. 

It felt strange to lay it all out for the picture and step back and think.. did I really do all that? I also added up how many miles I ran. 751 miles since the day he left. Crazy! 

And of course, all the support I had from family and friends (and fellow blogger friends!) was amazing. My #1 fan is my husband. He supported me even from across the globe in ways that he could. Like a little encouraging note with some brand new nike running clothes in the mail.  
Nike running clothes beat flowers in my book any day. 
I thank God for the ability to run. Honestly, I'm not sure how else I would have gotten through this frightening year. That many races and miles and I remained injury free- praise God! Running is my therapy and antidepressant. It's how God introduced me to James and it's how I've been able to stay a (somewhat) sane and supportive wife for him through this deployment. 

Thanks for being a part of this journey with me. We're in the home stretch. 
<3 Amy

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. - Philippians 4:13

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Scary Picture Wednesday

I did a zombie run. Again. James and I actually did one last year. This year I did one with my brothers.  This year I actually did catch 4 humans (humans had 3 flags to signify "lives" and got a 20 second head start)! Here is a picture of the zombie start. Maybe not a "happy picture" but it was really a fun race so I'm using it anyway. And the zombie dude next to me does look pretty happy.
That's me in the orange singlet and my two brothers to the right of me. I know. I look pretty scary. We added some blood last minute so I actually didn't even know I looked that scary until later. 

Then afterwards we went out to dinner and still had our Zombie make-up on. And yes, we got some stares. And scared a few children (unintentionally, mostly). It was fun. 

<3 Amy

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Happy Picture Wednesday

I'm the one rockin' Ranger shorts and the yellow socks. Yep. 
These are most of my favorite girls from the youth group that I volunteer for (including my co-leader and one of my best friends Sarah on the far right). This is back during a winter retreat and I know them and love them even more than when this picture was taken. I'm going to miss them a lot when I leave to go back to Fort Lewis.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Recovery and Relief

I hadn't heard from my husband in a several days. That always kind of makes me nervous when he's not able to give me a heads up about it. If I wake up randomly in the middle of the night, I'll sometimes check my iphone to see if I have any new emails from him.

Then this morning, he emailed me and told me that he was at his new location. He's now at a much safer place for the rest of the deployment and doesn't have any more patrols. No more worrying about IEDs or getting shot. He's on a big base with walls and barbed wire and guards with guns and lots of Americans. It took a few minutes for that fully to set in. Then I told my mom and asked her if we could break out some wine to celebrate. At 10am, haha. And then I started crying out of relief. 

The danger is pretty much over. I say pretty much, because it still makes me nervous that he's in Afghanistan at all. But really, the danger is over. I have to keep telling myself this, because I thought that I would feel a lot more relaxed than I do. There is still a part of me that will not be totally convinced until he's in my arms. 
It's been weird since the marathon. It's been 10 days and I haven't gone running at all since. I told myself that I would take a full 2 weeks off, but my brother just convinced me to do a Zombie 5k on Sunday. So I think I'm gonna have to try to do a few miles before then. It's probably a good time because I've started to feel restless anyway, especially with the beautiful weather. 
James is safer and I'm a lot happier. The ironic thing is that he's actually pretty unhappy with the new situation. He has less access to internet (long lines with 30 min limits) and only paperwork to do now. He's gonna be bored out of his mind. He did mention that at least he will be able to go running. 

I'm just sitting here after a long day and I'm praising God. For my husband's safety that I can't even totally believe yet. And for the fact that the end of the deployment is near. And for beautiful weather. And for running. Tomorrow, I'm going for a run. 

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Happy Picture Wednesday

Just in case you're new, I post a happy picture every Wednesday while my husband is deployed. This one makes me especially happy. 

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Chicago Marathon

Chicago, I always knew you would be my first. Oh goodness, where do I even start?

The Expo. It was the biggest expo that I've ever been to. I kind of felt like I was at Disneyland for runners. They had a really cool wall that you could scan your number and your name would appear with "Amy Owns 26.2" or "Amy Owns Chicago." I actually waited in a line to get this silly picture but I'm glad that I did.

Not quite yet in this picture, but just hours away from owning! 
Nike Chicago (formerly Nike Town, which just opened back up after about 6 months of remodeling) had this pretty cool thing going with the hashtag #ownchicago and the @chimarathon tag. There was this screen (that Nike Chicago also tweeted) that was made of twitter names. The more that you tweeted about it, the bigger your name was. Apparently I tweeted about @chimarathon a lot. 

@RunningArmyWife in red on the left! 
So I thought that was pretty dang cool. Then I went over to try to sign up for one of the official Nike Pace teams and hit a conundrum. There was a 4:10 group and a 4:25 group. Not a 4:15 group. Dangit. I decided that I was cautious too often with my pace so I decided the heck with it, I'll sign up for 4:10. I still figured I could use the 4:15 pace tattoo as a backup plan. This actually meant that I had to move back in the corrals (for some reason I ended up in a fast corral that I should have had to qualify for) so the number up in the picture above is not actually the one I ran with. 

The Morning-Of. I woke up at 4:30. Well, that's what time my alarm went off anyway. Jumped in the car with my parents and my brother and drove into the city in the dark. 
Seeing the Chicago Flag and the American Flag made me even more excited. 
My family stopped and had breakfast (still dark) in a Dunkin' Donuts downtown. I ate exactly one Pop Tart, which has been my "long run" breakfast ever since I discovered that it worked for me earlier on in training. I had my gels in my Camelbak, along with my iphone so my parents could use "Find My Iphone" to know where I was. 
My brother, me, my dad pre-race 
Then around 7:15, I said bye to my parents and headed off to the start. I have to admit that I was a little nervous about how hard it would be to find my corral and pace group. But it wasn't hard at all. 

I was a little annoyed to see that it was supposed to be 4:15 group that apparently got changed after the sign was printed. Oh well. Then I turned around and literally 3 feet away from me was a friend of mine from my old running club. 
Me and my friend Julie
45,000 runners and we end up next to each other in the corral? Pretty amazing.  

I kind of wish that I had taken more pictures at the start, since I had the phone. But I was just too nervous. So I put my phone away at 7:45 and waited anxiously for the 8:00 start. 

The Race. I'm not sure if it was girl-issues or just the emotion of the moment, but I got a little teary-eyed as I crossed the start line. I know! The start line? I guess it was just all that training for 18+ weeks had lead up to this moment. I quickly told myself to "man up" and concentrate, so the moment didn't last long. I ran with Julie and the pace group for about the first 8 miles or so, but they were going just a bit fast for me so I decided to drop off. 
The Garmin did work pretty well, except for a couple times in the Loop area. Just too many tall buildings. I'm pretty sure my first mile was not an 8:20. We ran right into a tunnel so I think that's what made it screwed up there. I also don't think that mile 3 was 10:58. But honestly, the rest of the splits look pretty dang close. 

I got into a pretty good pace and stayed pretty much around 9:45 on my own.  My parents took this quick video of me around mile 16. My mom is shouting "1 mile to Kelly!" because my best friend Kelly (a 2-time Chicago Marathoner) jumped in and ran with me for miles 17, 18, and 19. She was so encouraging and awesome, and it really helped looking forward to running with her. 

video
"It's going to get really hard, but you have to decide to keep going," Kelly told me at one point. She was awesome. Up until about mile 20, I wouldn't have said that the marathon was really any harder than I've worked in a half marathon. In fact, I would go as far as to say that mile 1-15 were actually pretty fun. Then 15 up to 20 was bearable. Then it hit me at 20. 

Hal Higdon said "there is something about crossing the 20-miler barrier, often referred to as 'The Wall,' that tears us apart." Even afterwards, it was amazing how many people I heard talking about those last 6 miles. All the sudden, everything started getting really really tight and hurting everywhere. My feet, my legs, my back, even my butt muscles hurt. If you look at my splits above, you can see my times start to drop. I just wasn't prepared for it mentally. Up until that point, I was on pace for a 4:15. The reason I ended up with a 4:20 was all in those last 6 miles. 

The Finish. It was pretty amazing to see the finish line. I got a little teary-eyed but I can't say I was super-happy at that point. I was happy with my time, but honestly I felt so crappy that it was hard to enjoy it. I honestly don't even remember if I raised my arms or not (like I kind of wanted to when I pictured myself finishing) because it was all sort of a blur. I do remember that I instantly felt cold. I got my little foil wrap thingy to put over my arms and I got some Gatorade. Then I had to walk .8 miles (I measured on satellite later) to meet my family at the Team Salute tent. 

The .8 mile walk was every bit as (if not more) miserable than the last 6 miles. I was in pain from the tightness in my muscles. The cold was making everything tighter. I was cold. I wished that James was there. I was thankful again for my huge sunglasses, because I cried a little bit (again) because of how miserable I was. 

Post-Race. Once I got back to the tent, everything got better. I got about 6 coats and sweatshirts piled on me, some hot coffee, and Kelly and my family was there to hug me and tell me congratulations. Eventually the trainer that Team Salute had in the tent helped me stretch out my of the tight muscles. He pressed half a dozen places and asked me if it hurt. I said yes to pretty much all of them. "Wow, you're in bad shape aren't you?" Honestly, I was kind of proud to hear that. If I had been in good shape, I could have pushed myself further, right?  

Then I got home and immediately got under my covers and went to sleep. Without even changing. I still even had my numbers on (the race bib and the pace group number on my back). Then I woke up in panic because I realized I was nauseous from being so hot. I think once my legs finally warmed up, they got really inflamed. So I took an ice bath (NOT fun but I told myself the pain was nothing compared to what I just did. It still sucked) and some ibuprofen. I guess I just wasn't expecting it to suck so much after the race

Conclusion. I completed my first marathon! Seriously, praise God. I didn't hit the time I was hoping for exactly, but it was a bit of a shot in the dark, since it was my very first one. I'm actually really happy with my time. I'm incredibly proud of myself for training for this all pretty much on my own, but I was still really sad that James couldn't be there. 

It's now really strange to be done. The whole year has been a countdown to the marathon, knowing that James comes home really soon afterwards. It's almost surreal that it's over now.  Now what am I gonna do with myself for these next couple weeks? I guess I do need to start packing.. :) 
<3 Amy

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Butterflies & A Badly-Fitting Singlet

Oh, golly it's coming fast. It's hard to believe that I signed up for this race 8 months ago. Holy cow. I just got my confirmation ticket/packet in the mail the other day. It's a 36-page participation guide booklet. I'm a little overwhelmed to say the least. Soo much information.
My pace tattoo also came. For 4:15. Ah I don't even know if 4:15 is realistic for me. I'm still going by Jeff Galloway's Magic Mile calculator.

Also, I met my goal for my Team Salute fundraising. Yay! Actually I went over. I have some awesome friends and family. Here's the only problem.. I'm not really a fan of the Team Salute singlet.
So.. in Brooks and Nike stuff, I'm pretty much always a small. This is actually a medium. It's too short, and the neck holes and arm holes are too small. Plus, I kind of wanted to wear a bright color so that my family could pick me out easier in the crowd. Since I hit $500 in my fundraising, I'm supposed to get a Team Salute running hat. I'm hoping that me just wearing the hat will be a nice compromise. I looked on the site and noticed that EVERY single person in the marathon last year wore their shirt, at least in the picture. I'm hoping that I can either exchange for a different size or just be a rebel and only wear the hat. Or only wear the shirt for the picture.

Overall, I'm pretty nervous. Of course, I had to pick the second largest marathon in the world (The New York Marathon is the only one that has more people in it). I think the sheer hugeness of the race is pretty intimidating. But also very exciting. I've always wanted Chicago to be my first.

The weather is supposed to be awesome.
A low of 37 degrees the night before and a high of 53. That's actually a lot cooler than I was anticipating too. I might even wear arm warmers for the first part of the race. My mom has an old pair of sweat pants that she said I could wear and then leave at the start (local charities come by to collect clothes that people abandon at the start), so that's my plan for keeping my legs warm.

So anyway.. I basically get butterflies whenever I think about it. I'm super-excited and kind of scared to death at the same time. I know I've done everything I could do to prepare for it, but I'm still nervous that I'll have a bad day after all the preparation that I put in. I honestly don't remember the last time I was this nervous before a race. My first half marathon? My first college race? I have no idea. But it's definitely up there.

*deep breath* Okay, how to you prepare and calm yourself for big events like this? Any tips? 

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Happy Picture Wednesday

It's time to break out the scarves! Happy Fall! 
I thoroughly believe it's not possible to own too many scarves. 

PS: James made me the two middle ones. 

Monday, September 24, 2012

Thoughts on Prayer While My Husband is at War

My mother-in-law invited me to go with her and some of her church friends to an apple orchard today. We carpooled together and the woman sitting next to me has a husband who used to be in the Marines. We got to talking about prayer. Then she said something that really hurt me.

"My parents prayed for my husband's unit every day he was deployed. Not a single soldier in the unit died. Then a week after they got back, two soldiers got killed." 

And she goes on to talk about the power of prayer. As I'm typing this, I'm even getting tears in my eyes again. I wanted to say "But I've been praying every day too." And men in James's unit have still died, and it's been heartbreaking. Thank goodness that I was wearing big tinted sunglasses. I didn't say anything. The other lady in the car mentioned how amazing that was. I noticed that my mother-in-law didn't say anything either.

What part of me wishes I had asked.. Is that supposed to be a good ending to the story? Two soldiers died. What exactly is being implied here? Do you think no one was praying for them? Now these were really sweet Christian ladies.. Lord knows we aren't perfect. I know that I'm certainly not. I just don't think they had totally thought through what they were saying, let alone what they were saying to me and my MIL.. with James still deployed.

Oh goodness, novels have been written about "the power of prayer." My favorite book of the deployment is "The Power of a Praying Wife." There are amazing stories about miracles that have happened because someone prayed. But I think we need to be really careful about how we tell these stories. There's part of me that really wishes that I had said something so that she can stop telling that story before she tells it to someone that has lost someone close. Or at least change the way she tells it.

I talked to my mom about this and she said that she felt a similar sadness when she heard a friend talk about how God healed someone from a life-threatening sickness because of everyone that prayed. She wanted to say "But my friend with cancer is probably going to die soon.. and I've been praying for her too." And so was I. Along with probably hundreds of people networked through the church. She still passed away last year.

I love the song that goes:

You give and take away, 
you give and take away,
my heart will chose to say
Lord blessed be your name. 

Everything that I own is God's. That's hard to swallow sometimes. That means that his plan could be to take something away at any moment and it might not make sense to me why. That means that he could chose to take my marriage away. I pray for James every day, multiple times a day. I hope that God will protect him. But I also realize that he's at war, doing one of the most dangerous jobs possible. When I kissed him goodbye, I had to accept that there's a chance that it could be our last. 

I think people misunderstand what the phrase "Power of Prayer" means. The power does not lie with the person doing the praying. And I think we come dangerously close to implying that sometimes when God grants us what we ask for. 

I still can't really wrap my mind around prayer. I remember asking my parents when I was a kid "If God already knows everything and knows what we want, then why do we have to pray it?" And I feel like I still really don't know the answer. It's something that I wish I could logically understand. Maybe it's less about asking Him for what we want and more about the act of humbly spilling out our hearts to Him, the Savior who loves us. 

So I'm going to continue to pray for James and his men and the rest of his unit. And when/if he gets home safely, I'm going to thank God for that. But I'm not going to say later "I prayed for James every day and so God protected him and he got home safely!" I'm just going to give all the praise to God for giving my husband back to me. 

Sunday, September 23, 2012

I Got Rid of My Countdown

I'm not saying you should too. Get rid of your countdown, I mean. If you have one. But I had to. Here's the thing about deployment countdowns.. they can make you focus so much on how much time is left until that day that you'll be happy he's home, that you might forget how to be happy now.
Day before I said goodbye. At my brother's really cold and windy rugby game. Oh.. those bangs. :/
And time goes slower when you know the exact date. Believe me, it's true. I had a little dashboard widget on my mac. Now it just has a count-up since I last saw him and a countdown to the marathon.
I don't think that counting up is bad. You'll probably see a happy tweet from me when it's been 5 months since I said goodbye to James at the end of R&R. Woohoo! Another month that we've conquered! That's different. When I had the countdown, I looked at it way too often. I got rid of it about half-way through the deployment. I cannot tell you how much "faster" things have gone for me now. And you could argue that maybe it's just because the second half always goes by faster. That could be. But I think my mindset is healthier now. I don't know exactly how much longer is left but I'm going

There's another thing out there called the "donut of misery." Basically it's a little excel document that you can plug the dates into and it will show you how much you have left in a pie-chart (or donut) form.

I think these are kind of fun to show people how far along you are without violating OPSEC. But I don't have it open on my computer and I don't look at it.

"I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances." - Phil 4:11


I know I've talked about contentment before. That's a constant struggle for us military wives isn't it? I think that the whole countdown thing isn't helping. 

Now that I'm getting closer, it's actually kind of hard to not know in the my mind approximately how many days are left. People keep asking me. I kind of have to know for planning on such. But that really isn't so much the point I guess. It's the mindset. For now, I'm only counting down to my marathon. Because that's my next adventure. And when he comes home, it will be amazing. But it won't be until after my marathon, so for now, I don't need to know exactly how much longer it's gonna be. :)

<3 A. 

Note: There's a lot of purple in this post. I swear I didn't do it on purpose.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Miles & Miles Before I Sleep

This title may be overused by running bloggers but I don't really care. I've been proud of my mileage lately. I haven't run this many miles since college. I love dailymile because I can look back at my mileage from the past year.
And the funny part is that I can see how life events have affected my mileage. James left in December for his deployment. I had to finish packing everything up and drive home to Chicago. I didn't feel much like running that month. Then he came home for 2 weeks in April. Hence the drop in mileage there too. I was so excited for him to come home that I didn't run much before he got here, and then I didn't feel like running much when he was here either.

My top 5 longest runs
And then marathon training! I love how much a good long run can boost my numbers. Dailymile even shows me my top 5 farthest runs. All of which are marathon training runs at the moment. And I'm also so excited that I've run 104 miles in September and I still have a week left!

The best part was saying to myself last night "Ah I don't really have to go to bed too early. Only 12 miles tomorrow." Then I had to catch myself. Only 12 miles. I love that I've gotten to that point in my training. 12 miles is a significant run and it's amazing that marathon training has made it no big deal to me now.


I slept in and then ran late morning on this prairie path that I've been avoiding all summer (no shade). But today it was gorgeous. And I ran with a long-sleeved shirt for the first time. Then I got home and had some pumpkin spice coffee. So perfect for the first day of fall.

Just two weeks til Chicago Marathon. I'm not sure yet what my plan is for after. I'm not sure I want to sign up for more races when I'm going to have to focus on starting to pack up. After cross country season, our coach always told us to take off a full 2 weeks from running. Maybe I'll do some biking during that time to try to prevent getting burned out. But after those two weeks, I feel like I should still run like 8 or 10 mile long runs on the weekend to not completely lose it all. But without a race.. not sure yet where the motivation is gonna come from. We'll just have to see!

<3 A.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Happy Picture Wednesday (Late.. I know)

So a friend of mine posted a picture of this stuff on facebook. I didn't even know that such a creamer existed. Where have I been? So I made a decision. I must have it. 
Unbelievably Excited
I went to two grocery stores and neither of them had it. This was discouraging. I stopped by a Target. Nothing. Then Meijer.. who does carry International Delight.. but no pumpkin (by the way, I never realized how many creamer flavors are even out there? Butter Pecan, Coconut, Peppermint Patty..). Two employees happened to be standing there so I asked them if they would be carrying it. "Um.. we should be getting that in really soon actually." Then the other said, "Actually, I think I might have seen it in the back." So he went back and got it for me! So I am literally the first person of the season to buy Pumpkin Pie Spice creamer from my local Meijer.

And since I'm currently mad at Starbucks (taking away my gold carb member free syrup and soy options), it's perfect timing. Now I can enjoy my pumpkin spice coffee at home.

Also.. this all happened on Wednesday so it still counts as Happy Picture Wednesday. In case you were wondering.

<3 A.