+Tuesday, February 14, 2006+
Happy Valentine's Day, darlings! :) My second without Matt, but undoubtedly far better than last year's - this Valentine's I'm ending a deployment instead of beginning one. For the sake of nostalgia, I went back into my archives and read my angst-ridden post from last Valentine's Day and couldn't help but chuckle: Who was I angry at? The world? Of course, in defense of my anger, I had been prepared to spend Valentine's day in Ft. Sill with Matt only to come home to a message on my answering machine that that wasn't going to happen. Ahh, the army and I have sure had a tumultuous relationship.

For the holiday, I got a dozen tulips and perfume delivered to me from Matt (included "literature" tells me The tulip is the flower of perfect love, the symbol of lovers' eternal fidelity...In the Far East, dropping a red tulip at a woman's feet was the sign of a solemn love promise...), and in his personal card he writes about how much better this Valentine's day seems than last (yes it does!) and I'll see you in a few weeks. A few weeks!! Not a a year, not a few months, a few weeks! I wonder how I'll hold up when it's a few days (though I also wonder if that will ever happen...more on that in a bit).

Yesterday after work my best friend called me up and told me to come get my [very] late Christmas gift (or depending how you look at it, it could be an early Valentine's gift). It was meant for Christmas but took so long because she got Matt involved and they had to send something back and forth between them; this, of course, peaked my curiosity, and I've been pestering both her and Matt since I first heard about it to give me even just a clue as to what it was. Neither of them cracked - they both know all to well that if anyone can destroy a surprise, it's me.

So after an egregious build up of intrigue, yesterday I finally got to pick it up and discover what it was. It is easily one of the most thoughtful gifts I've ever received, and not in a million years what I would've guessed it was. It was a stuffed horse from one of those Build-a-Bear workshops, wearing desert camo and the most adorable little desert combat boots that are a dead-on image of the real things right down to the laces (click on image for a larger view). The best part? When you squeeze his left hoof, Matt's voice says, "I love you and miss you baby, and I'll see you soon!" All the collaboration and plotting between the two of them was a voice chip in the hoof of my cute soldier horse (whom I've named Matt, Jr). Since I got it yesterday, I've been obsessively pressing the voice button, I played it over and over for Matt when he called me last night (he was laughing so hard at me when we hung up, but God, it was great to hear him laugh!); I wonder how long the batteries will last...

When I talked to Matt last night (all the while cracking him up with my incessant pressing of the button on the horse), he gave me some bad - though I must admit not all that surprising - news. They're homecoming date has been pushed back again. Just when I thought we were in the clear with 4 weeks left - BAM! - the army shoves us right back into our 5-weeks-left limbo. It's looking now like the deployment will be closer to 15 months than 14, and I've officially given up on changing my countdown because I honestly think it's just jinxing it on some level. Once again, the end of the deployment assumes its mirage status, and I'm left wondering if it isn't. Will the countdown ever drop below 30 days??

wishing matt was here @ 11:21 AM+

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