+Wednesday, August 30, 2006+
I just yesterday received my copy of "The Blog of War" and I must say seeing my writing published in a book was thrilling. Matt was so excited, he broke out a bottle of champagne. Copies of the book can be purchased here and I can be reached via email here.

wishing matt was here @ 8:21 AM+

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+Wednesday, March 29, 2006+
Having Matt back home is incredible. Perhaps, oddly enough, the thing that's taken the most getting used to is that it feels like he's never left - I keep thinking back over the last year, wondering if it really happened. Germany came up in discussion a few days ago, and I found myself commenting that we'll have to get out there some day since neither of us have ever been. The response I got was a side-long glance and, "Um...Erika..." It was as if it had completely slipped my mind that Matt had been gone for over a year, that he had trekked through Germany a couple times to and from Afghanistan. I suspected that we would pick up right where we left off, but I never imagined it would seem like the last year never even happened. It's just a blur and all that matters is that Matt is home now, safe and sound.

I was a mess on the 18th when we went to pick up Matt. Matt's family and friends (long story there on the inclusion of the family friends, but no sense in beating a dead horse) and my parents arrived at our house at around 9 in the morning to help me hang up Matt's welcome home banner and then I decided I'd rather wait at the base than at home. We'd been told we didn't have to arrive at the base till 11 and that the ceremony would begin at 11:30, but @#%! that. We arrived at the base at 9:30. We were the 4th car in the parking lot, and as soon as we pulled into the parking lot, Matt called and said they'd just landed at the Reno-Tahoe airport and were taxing around the terminal. I got really excited, thinking it was so great I got there early since the unit landed early, but it must've slipped my mind that rarely does anything in the army work out in my favor. Sure, the guys had landed early, but as it turns out, they were without buses to take them to the base until about 11.

Meanwhile, back at the base, Matt's mom was pacing around impatiently and eavesdropping on anyone in a uniform with a walkie-talkie, and I was strangling my cell phone, fighting back vomit, and needing to pee but not wanting to leave out of fear of possibly missing the arrival of the unit. I must've accidently thrown or dropped my cell phone at least 10 times waiting for any news on the unit getting to the base. If you've ever wondered what it feels like to be on the brink of insanity, send someone you love away for a really long amount of time and then arrive at the airport 2 hours early to wait for them.

Finally the unit arrived and we knew this only because security around the doors suddenly beefed up and no family members were allowed outside the building. We had arrived early and gotten excellent seats right up front, I'd even mapped out a running path which had just been blocked by two wheelchairs, and as anticipation started to build up thicker and thicker, I started debating how rude it would be to ask the two people in the wheelchairs if they would move seeing as they were blocking an aisle. As it turns out, it didn't matter; the unit got into formation on the other side of one of the massive garage doors of the hangar we were in, it took what seemed like an eternity for the enormous door to slide open (I remember clinching Matt's mom's arm and saying about a billion times that the door could not possible open any slower), and I must've briefly received the ability to fly because before I knew it I was over the chairs in front of me, had spotted Matt, and had taken off running.

I got the first hug. In fact, I probably pissed everyone else off quite a bit because everyone else's first hug with Matt was around me. I just held on, breathing him in, feeling the solidity of his presence. Here he is, in front of me, his arms around me, not on the other side of the world. This particular picture I'm including in the post is my favorite, but you can view all the rest here. Make sure you read the captions for a "storybook" effect. He's home!! Now I can officially say WE DID IT!

wishing matt was here @ 11:07 AM+

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+Saturday, March 18, 2006+
I'm so excited I think I might throw up. I was surprised that I was able to fall asleep at all, but nonetheless, I was up bright and early (5:40 a.m.) and ready to go. I feel like a kid who knows they're going to Disneyworld today. Except for the whole nauseau thing...I don't ever recall experiencing the incredible need to vomit when going to Disneyworld as a kid. It's times like these I wish I knew some yoga moves, so I've been making up my own, mostly just to remind myself to breathe so I don't pass out. LOL.

With that said, I want to reminisce on the past 14 months, 1 week, and 6 days of my life because it's still so unbelievable to me that I've made it, that in just a few hours I will be reunited with Matt and this will officially be over. Our deployment was all a series of milestones; I remember so vividly the day Matt left - that we had to be at the base at 3 in the morning only to sit around for 2 hours waiting for a bus. We hardly slept the night before he left and we spent our last night together in a hotel room to escape The Roommate. I think we slept a total of about 2 hours only because it became mentally and physically impossible to stay awake another minute. I still remember everything I did after I watched the bus take Matt away from me - it wasn't much and involved a lot of crying. Then came the opportunity to visit Matt in Ft. Sill. And another goodbye. Then came Matt's leave. And another goodbye. I was overjoyed when August rolled around because it meant the wedding was a year away. Then school started again and I relished in the ability to stay MORE busy. I remember when the countdown rolled down to 99 days - double digits! It'll be strange to have my cell phone surgically removed from my side. I can't remember a single moment in the last 430+ days that I haven't had it with me - waking up at all hours of the morning to answer Matt's calls, jumping out of the shower with shampoo or conditioner in my hair to answer Matt's calls, pissing people off in the movie theatre as I pushed my way down aisles to get outside to answer Matt's calls, leaving hands unattended at the black jack table to answer Matt's calls. I remember the first time one of our calls got disconnected and how devastated I was. I remember the first time we had a "deployment fight" and how upset I was because the miles that separated us left me completely helpless to remedy the situation. I remember the first time I missed a call from Matt and it made waiting for the next time he'd call that much worse. I remember my birthday without Matt, Matt's birthday without Matt, a lonesome Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years, two Valentine's days without a Valentine close by (let alone on the same side of the world), and anticipation - anticipation of EVERYTHING.

But I also have an enormous amount of good I'm taking away from this deployment. I have found an independence and strength within me I never knew I possessed. A subject often approached by those just ending a deployment is that of whether or not it was "worth it" - if I could go back in time and have Matt not be deployed, would I? I don't know. It's tough to say what course the year would've taken if Matt and I hadn't had to overcome this obstacle. The moments of worry and stress I could do without, but because of that, I have nerves of steel. I am thankful to the deployment for what it's taught me about myself, for the patience and understanding it's given me, and for what it's done for mine and Matt's relationship. At the beginning of a deployment the thought of spending such an extended amount of time away from the most important person in your life is so horrifying, it's tough to immediately identify what good will come of it. Looking back over the past year of our lives, I think it's been a blessing in disguise. It gave me the opportunity to prove to Matt how much I truly do love him. It's helped our relationship to flourish and grow in a way it wouldn't have if we'd spent every day of the last year together. It taught us to be independent and that we can always rely on each other "for better, for worse." Before leaving Afghanistan, Matt wrote me an email thanking me for being there for him and for the strength I maintained throughout the deployment because it was "completely and solely the reason he maintained his sanity being so far away." I wrote back: "Even from the other side of the world, you were my biggest support during this deployment...the strength that carried me through the deployment came from your consistent love for me and mine for you...You are completely and solely the biggest reason I have kept my sanity with you this far away. You lean on me and I'll lean on you and we'll hold each other up - what would we do without each other??" We have both grown and matured so much because of the deployment, and for that, I am grateful.

The deployment has also introduced into my life an extraordinary group of women whom I love dearly and consider the most excellent of friends despite never having met them in person. They were always there to offer an understanding ear or a sympathetic shoulder, and I couldn't imagine making it through the deployment without their help and support. Christy, Karen, Jennifer, Britt, Lauren, Beth, Kim, and even those girls who I knew only through reading their blogs - you guys are amazing! I know no one else in the world as strong and supportive as you - you are all rocks and the highest caliber of military wives; you have successfully held the world on your shoulders and made it look easy. Thank you girls - it would've been so much more difficult without all of you. And I want to also thank those who've lost their loved ones in Iraq and Afghanistan; I pray for their soldiers and that God will always watch over them for they have made the most enormous and selfless sacrifice.

At the beginning and during the deployment, it seemed to drag on, to take it's precious time, but now I look back over the length of the Matt's time away and find myself wondering where the time went. It seems to have just slipped away, and I think I must've imagined those slow days and tedious weeks. Shortly I will be heading up to the base to live out the moment I've often played over and over again in my mind. It's finally here!! I'm going to be disappearing for a little while into euphoria with my fiance, but I promise to update in a week or two with pictures and all about the ceremony. Somebody pinch me, I must be dreaming!!

wishing matt was here @ 6:01 AM+

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+Tuesday, March 14, 2006+
I'm so excited I doubt my ability to form coherent sentences so if I start to blabber or make excessive typos - bear with me! After flying through numerous countries - something that began with a K or a C that I've never heard of, Germany, Ireland, Nova Scotia, Indiana (I know, not a country...) - Matt finally arrived at Ft. Lewis, Washington early early early Monday morning...so early, in fact, that when my phone rang, I said out loud to myself, "That better be Matt calling to tell me he's in the states." THANK GOD IT WAS!!!

We talked a couple times on Monday - all the while I was adjusting to the fact that finally we're in the same time zone again instead of him sailing through his days 12 and a half hours ahead of me. No more early morning calls!! Well, save for that one to tell me he was back in the states....And that certainly wasn't the typical 3 a.m. early morning call (in fact, it came at 6 a.m. which is pretty much when I should be getting out of bed for work anyway). I spent Monday with an ear-to-ear grin that just wouldn't quit.

I met up with my friend Amanda after work yesterday to start working on the massive 18-foot American flag themed banner Matt will be welcomed home with. It's not finished yet, but I promise pictures as soon as it is!! No word from Matt last night, but he knew I was meeting up with Amanda and had said he probably wouldn't call...still no word from him today either, but it is only 7:15....

Today is the day that really got the blood flowing - driving home from work I saw a Chinook flying over Reno and proceeded to scream my head off. There's a good chance the Chinook wasn't even from our unit, but nonetheless, it's one of THOSE things. As soon as I got home, I clicked on the news to watch while I did my cardio on my ridiculous little stationery bike. Lo and behold, the local station had made a trek up to Ft. Lewis to film the arrival of our unit. Better yet? I SAW MATT!! Granted, he was half cut off by the camera, there was absolutely no mistaking that it was him - at the end of the segment, my parents even called me to ask if I'd seen Matt on the news.

And best of all - I received an email at 5:31 this evening with the DATE and TIME of the HOMECOMING CEREMONY. As soon as I saw an email from the family group, I was yelling at my computer to open the email faster - things move so slow when you're vehemently wishing they would do otherwise. Are you ready for this?? Matt will be home SATURDAY MORNING!!!!!!!!!!! MATT WILL BE HOME IN THREE DAYS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

wishing matt was here @ 7:25 PM+

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+Thursday, March 09, 2006+
Well, I wasn't going to update until I got the call from Matt that he was in the states, but since some people are impatient for an update (*cough*brittkarenlaurenjennifer*cough ....just kidding, I love you guys!), I figured I'd appease everyone with a little bit of info.

As far as I know, Matt is not yet back in the states nor is he still in Afghanistan. If everything went according to plan, he should be on a plane heading back to the states at this very moment (or at least getting ready to get on that plane somewhere in some European country...I'm partly being vague because of the whole OPSEC thing and partly because I don't remember the name of the base he told me).

Originally we thought he'd be back in Reno by March 15, but a lot happened (and by "a lot" I mean, they decided it wasn't crucial to get the guys out of there in any sort of hurry) - this upset a good many people at the base they'll be demobing at as they're working on a tight schedule and that caused a lot more to happen (by "a lot more" I mean, they got their asses in gear and started moving the guys out of there). Now it's looking like sometime next weekend for Reno arrival...hey, maybe he'll be home in time for St. Patty's Day!!

I have been absolutely erratic. With Matt nearly home, I've decided it's high time I do the laundry that's been fermenting in his closet since January 2005 (a little gross, I know, but you try washing the only thing that carries your significant other's scent when you know he's not going to be home for over a year...no easy task!), so that's in the plans for the weekend. House teased me with a new episode on Tuesday and then the awful knowledge that I won't have a new episode to carry me through next week - bastards!! What was "clean enough" is sparkling now and I still find myself seeking out things that could use a little more touching up. And I've decided that nothing - nothing - in my closet is appropriate to be the outfit I wear to Matt's homecoming (if you were to see my closet, you would realize just how sad that is).

So I've started shopping. Not like that's some extraordinary feat for me. Shopping therapy is what helped me in the hardest of times during this deployment, but on the downside, I'm one of those people who's so frivolous, I should probably seek counseling for this problem...odd, how therapy can be a problem at the same time. I've figured that throughout the course of the deployment I've probably bought about 20 new outfits - that's being modest - and out of those 20+ outfits, not a single one of them is fit to be the thing I wear for the first time I'll have seen my honey in 9 months.

Yesterday I went to Target on my lunch break to pick up some birthday cards for the 23652354 billion people I know who were born in the month of March (since there's that many people in the world and all...) and a cute halter tank top caught my eye. Since I was on my break and didn't have much time, I just grabbed it without trying it on - I tell you, on the rack it looked like the perfect shirt for the occassion. I tried it on when I got home from work, and while I don't regret buying it because I will wear it, it's not that "perfect shirt."

Today I've spent perusing my two favorite websites to shop at -Forever21.com and WetSeal.com (we have a Wet Seal at the mall here, but I have issues with actually going to the store to shop because I usually end up having some sort of snotty confrontation with a "bad ass" high school girl. I simply cannot resist myself). I think I found the perfect shirt at Wet Seal. So I bought it.....and a cute dress that I just couldn't resist....See, that's the problem with browsing, I always end up getting more than I bargained for. My new shirt (and unnecessary dress) are being shipped by 2-day air and should be arriving on Saturday. Please cross your fingers for me that it's the one so I don't spend any more money!!!

I'll update again as soon as I know Matt's landed safe and sound in the good ol' U.S. of A. IT'S ALMOST OVER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

UPDATE 3/10/06: I got a call from Matt last night! The good news: he is officially OUT of the 'Stan!! The bad news: he's not back in the states yet. He listed off to me all the countries they're hopping through to get home - half of them which I never even knew existed - so it might not be till Monday that he arrives back in the states. At least the trek home has began!! I was so excited that he's finally out of Afghanistan, I laughed uncontrollably for about 20 minutes after we hung up LOL.

wishing matt was here @ 2:29 PM+

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+Thursday, March 02, 2006+
All day yesterday, I could not stop grinning. March. For 13 months I have waited for it to be March 2006, and it seemed reason for celebration when the date finally switched over to 3/1/06. On my desk calendar, March is already greasy with finger prints and pen marks from my constant wishing and hoping, from turning to March just to make sure the month still existed, to daze dreamily in the middle of the month and think to myself, "If only..." Tearing off the page for February was almost like one of those defining moments in my life - it gave me my second wind, I'm excited again. Laugh-out-loud-at-nothing excited. Cannot-sit-still excited. It'll forever be an inexplicable anomaly how after surviving over 400 days, 13 days can seem like an eternity.

By this time next week, Matt should be back on U.S. soil. I feel like kissing the ground for him. I know once he's back, I'll laugh at my impatient behavior, comment that it went by faster than I thought it would; the fact that this weekend and next are my last weekends alone is scary and exhilirating all at the same time. "Two weeks" rolls off the tongue rather nicely - it comes out like a sigh of relief, rather than a cry of agony, which is a lot what "14 months" sounded like. I don't know what to do with myself, and I don't even know how to describe what I'm currently feeling. I've gotten so used to being "in a deployment," I'm not quite sure how I'll suddenly handle NOT being in a deployment. Worrying, waiting for phone calls, living alone and lonely have become a regular part of my daily regime. I was so devastated when Matt left, horrified that I wouldn't be able to make it over a year without him, it strikes me as ironic how "used" to the deployment I've gotten. But the dominant feeling is excitement. I did not sleep last night nor do I expect to for the next 12 nights or so.

Lately I've been going through my archives, mostly reading my thoughts and feelings from the weeks before Matt came home for his R&R leave nine long months ago. How excited I was! How nervous! I remember driving to the airport to get him and how thrilled I was - I could hardly see straight. I remember pacing anxiously in front of the security gate, burning a hole in the carpet, wondering how things would be different, if they would be different, but as soon as I saw him, all my worries melted away. I fell in love all over again. Love at first sight. A few weeks before Matt came home, I wrote that, "I don't like the feeling of letting Matt go - it's close kin to that of falling down a dark hole and not knowing when you're going to hit the ground if at all - and while our 15 days together will undoubtedly make all that pain worthwhile, I'm not looking forward to our third goodbye; however, I do receive solace from knowing this is the last time I'll ever have to feel that again. After this, there's only hellos." In 13 days, he will be home. For good.

I selfishly want to be the only one to go to the base to pick him up the day of his homecoming. My feelings are so conflicting because on the one hand, I know his family has missed him very much and has every right to be present on the day he gets here, but on the other hand, I want him all to myself. I get along excellently with his mom, so I'm surprised at the feelings of discord that have recently arisen and know they have to do with Matt's homecoming. When I send her emails to update her on Matt's departure from the 'Stan and she replies with exclamations about how much she misses him and how anxious she is to see him, I feel as though she's patronizing how much I miss him and how anxious I am to see him. I know this isn't the case, but in my experience, if you can't pinpoint where the feelings are coming from, there's usually no stopping them.

His mom left a message on our answering machine last night in which she referred to Matt as "my Matt" (as in her Matt), and the possessiveness that presented itself in me at the utterance of those words was almost comical. When I told Matt about it later, he just laughed. In even the best in-law relationships, it always seems the most tension resides between a mother and daughter-in-law. Were it not for tradition, it would almost seem more appropriate if the mother were to walk her son down the aisle and give him away rather than the father walking the daughter down - females are usually the only ones who use possessive pronouns with names. In over 3 years with Matt and 23 with my dad, I've never heard either of them refer to me as "their" Erika.

But I digress. The small details I've been stressing out over Matt's homecoming - whether or not I'll have to fight his mom for the first hug, which car he'll ride in on the way home (we'll have two), how to nicely ask everyone to leave if they overstay their welcome (as in, when the feelings of wanting Matt to myself become too overwhelming to bear) - seem irrelevant and silly in a lot of ways. I know it'll all work out when the day rolls around, but my uncanny necessity to stress out trumps allowing myself to believe everything will go my way.

Regardless of my impetuous (and not all that surprising) selfishness, the important part is that he is coming home. He'll be here, in my arms, flesh and bone, safe and sound, and that is far more meaningful than imagining his mom is pulling off the gloves over "who missed him more." It doesn't matter. Ultimately all that matters is HE IS COMING HOME!!

wishing matt was here @ 11:55 AM+

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+Friday, February 24, 2006+
Nothing new. Still waiting. Dates still dancing around like unattainable goals.

I hate to say it because it'll sound the way I don't mean it to, but I'm really not excited. I don't mean I'm not thrilled that Matt's coming home - because I am - but as I'm sure those of you who've been through a homecoming and those who're close know (and as those of you just starting a deployment will know in a few months time), it's really draining to get amped up over what-ifs and ever-changing dates. I hate the word "tentative."

When we were about 2 months out from reunion, I was unstoppable - I cleaned every nook and cranny, I alphabetized our DVDs, I reorganized our linen closet; I even pulled out our washing machine and dryer and scrubbed the floor underneath and behind them. I felt rushed, like I didn't have enough time to get the house in tip top condition for Matt's return. Now that there's not a trace of grime on the grout between the tiles nor a speck of dust to be found on any surface in the house, I feel as though I have too much time.

I've started to push my physical limits in my daily workouts so that I can burn the excess energy that continues to follow me around in the absence of things to clean and inundation of time to kill. It's perhaps quite masochistic, but I find that I love waking up with sore muscles in the morning. I feel invigorated (hurts so good), and it masks the emotional pain of waiting. Not to mention I feel healthier than I have in a long time, but that's just a bonus.

When I'm not overly exerting myself, I'm hanging out on the other end of the spectrum as a TV zombie. On any given night after a stimulating work out, I can be found sprawled on a couch, drooling mindlessly on a couch pillow, and utterly absorbed in the fictional and nonfictional lives of others. I consider it a blessing that American Idol is on three nights for the next few weeks, and since the cancellation of of my favorite show Reunion I've recently become enthralled with House. I bought the first season on DVD to "catch up" on everything I've missed, and sadly, you now know my plans for the entire weekend. I'm a Fox junkie.

My days have started to merge into each other - each one is exactly like the one before it. For the past year, I've forced myself to maintain normalcy. I've fought the urge to never leave my house and never answer the phone for anyone other than Matt, and I'm glad of it, too, because, well, a watched pot never boils, but with the end taunting me from a not-too-distant position, I've completely and willingly succumbed to waiting. I leave the house for work, groceries, and a select few VIPs, though I much prefer it if they come to visit me rather than vice versa, but other than that, I implement our immense DVD collection for my entertainment and thoroughly enjoy being "pathetic." I don't feel like I'm missing out on anything. I'm not being antisocial, I'm being solitary, and I am a person who enjoys her solitude, so in reality, I can't think of a better way to "hang in there" for these last few weeks.

I have, however, ceased to care about the day I'm waiting for. I know it'll be in March, and I've accepted that's all I will know for the time being. When push comes to shove, we've been apart for nearly 415 days now, so whether we're waiting 10 more days or 25, it's really not going to make much of a difference. In a lot of ways it seems silly to me how much I've been fussing over 20 days after all we've been through. I've come to terms with my feelings of perplexity through superfluous workouts and allowing myself to wait.

wishing matt was here @ 2:22 PM+

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