February 27, 2012

Almost Done

Last week I changed out of command and officially do not have a job in the Army. It's still a little strange, but in a good way. Soon I will begin clearing from the unit and turning in all my issued gear and shortly after that I will be on terminal leave. I'll still technically be on Active Duty until the end of May, but I'm basically done from here on out. Crazy.

I've been thinking lately of some of my more memorable experiences in the Army and most of them occurred during my one year deployment to Afghanistan. As a human resources officer my job was basically the same over here (stateside) as it was over there. But what stuck with me the most from the deployment was the experiences I got outside of the responsibilities of my job.

I volunteered at our aid station (I would do things like record stats (heart rate, Bp, etc) every few minutes when there was a casualty or just help the medics and docs when they needed an extra hand) and I really enjoyed it although it wasn't always easy. One time a family came in after their little girl had been hit by a car. There were plenty of people there to help, so I just sat back with the mother who was frantic and crying. I remember wishing that there was no language barrier and feeling fairly helpless. Eventually she calmed down and sat on the floor while she waited. I held her hand since I didn't know what else to do and couldn't communicate much with her. She was very pregnant and at one point she grabbed my hand and put it against her moving belly. I actually think that was the first time I touched a pregnant belly. And I remember feeling like sitting there, holding her hand, was the most important thing I could be doing at the time. She kept speaking to me, talking beneath her burka, but I have no idea what she was saying. Eventually a translator came by and I asked him to help and he explained that she was having some pain that sounded like heartburn. We got her some tums and I remember thinking that while our lives were so very different, I could completely understand her. She was a mother, worried for her child, she was a pregnant woman experiencing discomfort. Differences aside, she was a woman, just like me and it was a wonderful experience for me to just sit there and try to provide even the least bit of comfort and support. I think the little girl ended up getting taken to a bigger hospital, but I can't even really remember how she was transported or if she was ok. I just remember the mother. Eventually her family left and I smiled at the woman as she took off and remember her squeezing my hand tightly before leaving.

Another one of my more memorable experiences was when I got to travel with my boss to attend a Shura. Shura's are basically meetings that commanders will have with local leadership to discuss things that are important to the locals, projects that we (coalition forces) are working on to improve their way of life, etc.

I had no role in the meeting itself, so while it was going on I went with a few other people to pass out candy to some of the little kids in the area. As soon as the kids know you have any goodies on you (pens, toys, candy) they surround you like a mob and hold out their hand. I remember one boy saying something that sounded like "maud-a-kay" over and over, but never knew what it was he wanted. My naive American mind assumes he was asking for a marker as we would often pass out markers and pens and things for them to write and draw with. Anyway, before I unloaded all of my pockets of their sugary contents, I made sure to walk over to some little girls who were too shy to approach me. Most of the boys backed off at this point and I took my sunglasses off so that they knew I was a female and hopefully didn't look too intimating (ya know, cause I'm such a Rambo). I had to hold out my hands first, but they eventually came over and seemed really excited to get a little treat. That day was really special. It was something so little, but so rewarding for me and I remember thinking that I hope it made a difference. I hope these kids will remember the good and nice things American Soldiers would do for them, even if it was something small like handing out candy or toys, and maybe they will carry it with them as they grow older.




The FOB (Forward Operation Base) I was stationed at was co-located with Czech Soldiers. A few of them were eager to learn English and had asked me if I could teach them. Fortunately they already had a pretty good foundation, but I helped them with some reading, writing, and vocabulary lessons. We also covered military terminology. The picture below is when my friends Peter and Daniel were getting ready to return back to the Czech Republic - as a going away gift I ordered them Vocabulary for Dummies :)


Lastly, I will remember the times I got to spend with Miles while we were deployed. We weren't stationed at the same FOB, but we were fortunate enough to get to see each other a handful of times during the deployment. It will be neat to one day share these pictures with our kid(s) and it's part of our story that I'm proud of - although I can think of way more romantic places to spend your first wedding anniversary. . .



February 23, 2012

Hope.

There are several of my blog-land friends who are expecting (and even better - having) their rainbow babies and I wanted to share this picture I took a couple weeks ago.  We were getting our house "realtor ready" and had to take down everything off the fridge. This included a handful of birth announcements that I had up. And all FIVE of these are rainbow babies. So this little shout out is to all of you on that crazy, emotional, journey of pregnancy after loss. May you never lose hope that you will bring home your baby. May the love for the child you lost remain fierce and strong and may the hope and love for your unborn baby carry you through tough times. Hang in there momma(s). . . . one day at a time.


Finley's Birth Announcement. 
"Lost Loves can never be forgotten or replaced.
But if we allow it, the heart grows bigger to make room for new loves."


February 19, 2012

Celebrate Tomorrow.

Tomorrow marks one year from when my brother-in-law Daren was killed in Afghanistan. It's hard to believe it's been a year since Daren died as sometimes it feels like just yesterday he was giving me a hard time or being the brunt of jokes amongst his siblings. I spent some time tonight going through old pictures, trying to pick out a few to share. But it's hard to just pick out just a few. There are so many wonderful pictures that really capture who Daren was and how he lived his life.

Daren was my first salute after I was commissioned. He was also Miles' first salute. 

 
Daren was the Best Man at our Wedding.

When Miles and I were stationed at Ft. Campbell we drove down to Nashville for Flugtag. 
We planned to meet up with Daren who was also there, but did not expect that 
Daren and Miles would be wearing the exact same thing. 

 Daren's Ranger School Graduation (I was 7+ months pregnant with Cale)

 The Ranger Tab was just one of Daren's many accomplishments.

When the anniversary of Cale's birth approached us I wasn't entirely sure how to celebrate him. But with Daren the answer was a little more clear. Celebrate the day. Honor Daren by not just remembering him, but celebrating even the smallest of things.  So that's what we are going to do. We are going to go on a hike with some friends, eat some Mexican food and drink a Yuengling. Daren would have liked that. He celebrated each day to the utmost and we will honor him by doing the same, by being thankful for all that we have (because of people like him) and being thankful that he touched our lives.

I've shared this video before, but it's worth sharing again. Please take a moment to watch it and tomorrow as you go about your day please remember Daren and the lasting legacy he left behind.


February 14, 2012

Our Little Sweetheart

I had great intentions this Valentine's Day. I was going to make cute Valentine's with Finley's hand or foot print that I'd send to the family along with some homemade fudge cut in the shape of hearts. Well last week passed me by before I got ready, Finley got sick over the weekend, and the fudge that I did make never got mailed.  Umm, it's the thought that counts? Oh well, maybe next year. But I did snap a couple of sweet pictures, so at least there's that. . . .Happy Valentine's Day!

February 6, 2012

The Bittersweet

 A little over two years ago, we learned that the baby I was carrying was a boy! The next day later my sweet friend Jodi brought in the cutest boy outfit. Our first item of clothing for the little guy. Today was the first day that outfit finally got worn. And as I dressed Finley and was thankful he got to chance to wear this outfit with the cute little monkey, I also remembered receiving that as a gift to celebrate a different baby who we thought would get to wear it. I couldn't help but think about how many moments like this are bittersweet. A reminder of what we have lost and a reminder of what we have gained.

I mentioned recently how each milestone Finley hits is bittersweet. It's sweet to see him growing and developing, but bitter to see the time passing so quickly, but the truth is that for me the bitterness doesn't end there. I also miss seeing Cale hit these stages. These milestones he never got the chance to reach. I miss what should have been. Do I sound like a broken record? I know I do. I just can't and won't ever stop missing that baby and wishing so badly that he was here with us all.

There is a woman at work who is going to replace me at my job (because I am almost done!) and until recently, she didn't know about Cale. He just never came up in conversation, but we've been working together for a few weeks now. So it bothered me because I knew she assumed that Finley was my only child. Last week when talking with her I just said, "I want you to know, because it's just important to me as a mother, that I have another son who passed away. You met Finley the other day and it got me thinking about how rightfully so you'd assume he was my only child, but we had another" - I just explained that I don't feel right letting people assume that I only have one child, especially if it's someone that I work with on a regular basis. She thanked me for sharing that with her and I left feeling a little better. But only a little better. Because sometimes the pride I have for acknowledging Cale is tempered by the tremendous sadness I feel when I can only acknowledge him as a child in the past, a baby who died. It's gotten easier. That's for sure. But it still sucks.

Brooke's post today spoke to these same feelings. Losing Cale will never be okay. It was awful and painful and unfair and the sadness I feel as a result will never leave. How can it? The same smart Brooke also mentioned once to me (in a blog? comment? I don't remember, but it stuck with me) that we'd all be a lot healthier if we could acknowledge our pain just as we do our happiness. And sometimes it happens naturally. Like when I miss Cale when celebrating Finley's milestone. But sometimes Cale deserves his own moments. Moments where I can just acknowledge that I still miss my baby. Plain and simple, I miss him. And Finley deserves the same - his own moments. His times to be celebrated and adored without any strings attached. Sure, I'm so thankful to have him because we lost Cale, but I'm thankful to have him regardless of Cale as well.

Yesterday was my birthday. It also happened to be the Super Bowl, but as my mom pointed out, the whole country was really celebrating me! Miles asked me what I want to accomplish before my next birthday or where I want my life to be this time next year. And really I couldn't think of an answer. Sure I have little goals I want to accomplish, but I hope it's about the same next year as it is this year. I hope that I'm the same emotional mess over how quickly Finley has grown up. And I hope that I still miss Cale just as much because I never want that to diminish. I think I have come to a healthy point in my grief where I'm able to walk through life and enjoy things and I want to enjoy them and I hope I can say the same is true next year. Although maybe Finley can slow down just a little bit. . . .

February 3, 2012

The 7th Month

Finley's 7th month has been particularly heartbreaking. Because this kid is growing up so stinkin' fast. It's so cliché about how fast they grow up, but my goodness it's so true. And people always say that each milestone is bittersweet, because HOLY CRAP IT REALLY IS!

During his 7th month, Finley really mastered sitting up. He was OK at it before, but still wobbly. But not anymore. Now he's a big boy. Practically ready to go off to college.


He's also finally become a good eater this month. We waited until 6 months to introduce solids and it took him close to a month to figure out that this food thing ain't so bad. I've been making all his food which has been fun for me. I like to see his initial reaction when he tries something new. So far his favorite seems to be avocado. He hated sweet potato at first, but has really come around to like it and he gulps down applesauce.


Also this month he started crawling! It's still in that initial Army low-crawling phase, but before I know it, I'm sure he'll be on his hands and knees running all over the place. This happened on Monday and neither Miles or I had seen it before and were pretty sure he hadn't done it at daycare yet. The next day I proudly told his daycare provider that he was crawling and she said he had yet to do it for them. So I'm really glad that he saved that one for mommy and daddy.

video
This wasn't the original video I posted, but for some reason that no longer works,
so here is a short one I took on my phone.

It's great to see him hit these new milestones, but I can't help but wonder how time seems to go by so fast and wish that it didn't. I miss my little baby, the one who needed his mama for everything. My sister put it best  - "why don't you just give him the keys to your car already!?" Really Finn, please slow down.