+Monday, January 30, 2006+
I got some much needed shut eye this weekend, but now that I'm back at work, it's like my "catch up" had little to no affect. I was chuckling to myself on my drive home Thursday after work as I tried desperately to rein in my road rage, remember how I'd just written a post about how regardless of my lack of sleep I was in such a "good mood." Yeah...that didn't last long LOL. As planned, I crawled into bed at about 6, ready for a long and necessary night of sleep but ended up not falling asleep till about midnight. Ah...se la vie. Thank God for weekends.

My mom came by on Sunday and we finalized the guest list for the wedding (we originally planned on about 120 guests, but now it's looking more like 200 - holy cripes! I didn't even know we knew that many people!!). We also spent a couple hours bickering over the wording of the invitations, respond cards, and reception cards before finally coming to a compromise we were both happy with, and we officially ordered the invite! I know it's probably a little early, but this leaves room for any possible errors in printing. This is, for the most part, what the final draft will look like (there's a couple extra lines we added and the initials in the middle section will be different and I omitted some information 'cause you never know who's reading this stuff):

Invitation

It folds into thirds, so when our guests open the inner envelopes the first thing they'll be greeted with is our shining faces (that won't be as grainy as they appear in this image). I was on such a roll with wedding planning last night, I made out a spreadsheet in Excel for the master guest list, alphabetizing the names with addresses, marking whether or not they were invited to the rehearsal dinner, and color coding the lines based on who invited them (pink for my family, blue for Matt's family, and purple for mine and Matt's friends). I'm an organizational freak - stuff like this is my forte, and I love it!

When she came over, my mom brought some mail for me that had been delivered to her house - some school related stuff still gets directed there, particularly scholarship information. When I graduated high school, I was eligible for a very hefty scholarship for being a Nevada graduate and going to a Nevada university (that's the thing about the great state of Nevada - they take care of their own). My freshman year of college was a disaster, and I ended up losing the scholarship - in fact, I ended up on academic probation. Last semester, with Matt gone and with very little else to distract me from my school work, I received excellent grades; the letter my mom brought me yesterday was informing me that due to my grades raising my overall GPA, my scholarship had been reinstated! Yay me!! It was incredible news, and I'm really happy about it, so I wanted to share it :)

Matt called around midnight last night and we talked excitedly about the scholarship (he was very happy for me), about the wedding, about him coming home, about all that stuff that's incessantly occupied our minds since the beginning of 2006. He'd had the day off to have tests done to make sure he wasn't hosting some icky virus that he'd take back to the states with him - I guess it's standard procedure for guys who are 30 days or less away from leaving country. 30 DAYS AT MOST TILL HE'S HEADING BACK TO THE STATES!! We still have no concrete dates, but I would expect nothing more of the army.

I don't even think it's fully settled in yet that he's really coming home. Sad as it sounds, I've become so used to the army changing its mind, changing dates, changing everything that it's hard for me to grasp the reality of Matt's homecoming. I'm excited as I can be, which is pretty damn excited, and every now and then, the gravity of the situation will dawn on me and I'll randomly scream or squeal or move my feet around erratically, but underlying all the excitement is that fear that something will change and he won't be home in March like we expect. Of course, that's all pessimistic and just something that lingers in the very back of my mind, but I can't let it go because the cold hard fact of the matter is, you never know with the army.

On the 15th, we received the following email from the commander:

Dear...Family members,

Greetings to all, I hope all of you have had a safe and happy holiday season. The Task Force hosted a party Christmas Eve along with a bonfire. All Company's participated together in remembrance and reflection of the year's events with homemade videos and skits. It was a good break from the war to remember the reason we are here and the sacrifices we have made. During the holidays it hard [sic] on the soldier and the family who are both so far away. We received a tremendous out pouring of gifts, letters and presents which convey the thanks of a country for what we have all endured. Believe me when I say it makes a difference when support is shown throughout the nation to the individual soldier. The 1SG and myself thank all of you. We have begun the demobilization process and expect a speedy return. We are in contact with our replacements and are beginning the transfer phase. We have learned valuable lessons in the past 12 months and want to see the next Company succeed in this mission by carrying the flag even further than we have. All of the soldiers ... have grown personally and professionally, as individuals and as a unit together during the past year and have been focused on one task, and one task only, "carry the mission to our enemy". The anticipation of coming home is sometimes unbearable and frightening due to simple things like driving. We have not been able to go over 10 MPH in a vehicle for the last year, so going 60 MPH in traffic back in the States feels overwhelming. Things will be different for awhile until we get use to our former lives, and this change is going to affect everybody. We all have put heart and soul into this effort and have made sacrifices, some greater than others; however we see the effect on this country everyday. I expect we will be home in March with a total of 14 months of Active Duty service and look forward to sharing our experiences. Until then, stay the course and bless you all.
I never thought about the little things that would have changed - I only took into consideration the egregious things, the things he possibly saw that would change him, and not things like the return to total civilization, stuff like driving down the freeway at 60 mph (or, in my case, more like 75). Undoubtedly it'll take time for both of us to adjust to everything - our lives have been very different for the past 13 months - so I've begun to "prepare" myself mentally for reunion. I know it'll be a happy time, but I've also recently become aware of what an enormous change it'll be for both of us. 39 days and counting!!!!!


wishing matt was here @ 10:56 AM+
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+Thursday, January 26, 2006+
I'm so impossibly tired. My skin is sallow and dull, make-up is hiding the bags under my eyes, my eyes are bloodshot and it's taking every ounce of my being to keep them open this last half hour or so I have left of work. I have never in my life suffered from such a serious case of insomnia, but I don't care. I feel exhaused, but I'm in a great mood - Matt will be home in 43 days or less!! It seems nothing can bring me down!

Last night I vowed to go to bed super early (when I say "super early," I mean, 9 p.m. after American Idol was over, of course). I was sure I'd have no trouble falling asleep either - I was dragging my feet down the hallway, my eyelids were heavy, I felt I might experience a sudden onset of narcolepsy and fall asleep right there in the hall. After laboring through my bedtime rituals (brush and floss teeth, wash face, etc etc), I literally crashed into bed prepared for the best night sleep I'd had in a while (the night before Matt had called at 4 a.m. and we talked till 5; after we hung up I should have just gotten out of bed and started to get ready for work since my alarm goes off at 6 a.m. anyway. Instead I decided to go back to sleep and ended up hitting snooze until 7:20.....I have to leave for work at 7:30).

Unfortunately, I didn't immediately reach sleep nirvana like I'd hoped. My mind did what it's made a habit of doing every night the second my head touches the pillow: Matt's coming home soon! Oh it'll be so nice when he's laying here next to me. Oooooohh wedding wedding wedding wedding wedding. Matt's coming home and we're getting married! I wonder what I'll say for my toast at the rehearsal dinner. Gee, I'd really like to give a speech at the reception too. Gosh! Why don't I just mentally write out my entire speech for both the reception AND the rehearsal dinner RIGHT NOW!! And so it continues to race (I did mentally complete both speeches, incase you were curious) until finally I fell asleep somewhere around 1 a.m. Matt called around 4:30, and to avoid being 20 minutes late to work two days in a row, I forced myself to stay partially awake till 6:45ish when I grudgingly made myself get out of bed.

In all honesty, I'm a little astonished at my adamantine good mood. It would appear that there's really not much that can bring me down - even a few weeks' worth accumulation of sleep deprivation. I wish there was someway to effectively clear my mind at night so I can fall asleep at a decent hour, but with so much excitement overflowing my mental brim, well, I suppose I should be thanking my lucky stars that sleep deprivation is all I'm suffering from (as opposed to a complete loss of sanity).

One of my coworkers today asked me what was wrong with me - apparently no amount of make-up can cover up my tired skin, and damn those pesky blood shot eyes!! I explained the excitement of Matt coming home, the racing mind trying to comprehend how real it is, and therefore, the inevitable lack of sleep. The response I got was something along the lines of, "You're already excited? It's like 2 months away." OKAY. FIRST of all, it's a month and a half not two months (yes, those 2 weeks DO make a difference). Second of all, after the nearly 13 months of this deployment that I have thusfar endured, I think I'm fully entitled and absolutely validated in getting excited a month and a half out. If they think I'm bad a month and a half out, wait till I'm a week away - really, I can't even fathom how I'll be. A month and a half away from homecoming is merely the beginning of the end. Tonight I'm going to go to bed as soon as I get home in hopes of getting at least 10 hours of sleep before Matt's early morning call. I could sure use it for my wellbeing (and it'll probably come in handy for my sanity later on, too)!!


wishing matt was here @ 4:22 PM+
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+Friday, January 20, 2006+
7 weeks. That's approximately how much longer it will be before I'm in Matt's arms again. It could be more. It could be less. But it will be in March, and I'm hanging on tightly to the fact that in 11 days or so I will be able to accurately state that Matt will be home "next month." Come on February!! (Really we know I'm rooting for March, but I don't want to get ahead of myself. Short term goals are accomplished sooner.) 7 weeks may seem like nothing compared to the 54+ I've already done, but if they're anywhere near as tedious as the last 2 or 3 weeks have been, boy, am I in for the longest 7 weeks of my life.

The unofficial date to stop sending mail is January 23 (hooray!), so today I trekked to the post office and sent off the last package I'll be mailing Matt in Afghanistan, containing the last letter I'll be writing him while he's there. I love the word LAST! I bid adieu to the postal workers whose faces have become so familiar this last year, who know me by name and have made my "package mailing experience" as easy and idiot-proof as possible (how could I ever have afforded all those packages without the introduction of the wonderful flat-rate box?). I left the post office skipping, not giving a good damn whether people were staring and thinking to themselves how very odd it was that a 23-year old woman would be skipping, because the accumulation of all these little things will ultimately build up to the the main event: Matt's homecoming.

We've talked nearly every day this week, and all we ever talk about is our renion, but the topic never gets old. I became so adept to going days (and on the rare occassion, weeks) without talking to Matt, but now, toward the end, I've become dependent on hearing his voice to get me through the day, to help me fall asleep at night, and it makes me grin that Matt feels the same way because he continues to call me every day (the consistent 3 a.m. phone calls have taken a bit of a toll on my sleep, but it's not like I've had a good night sleep in 7 and a half months anyway...). I miss him so much, and have made it clear that I will not hesitate to push and shove his family out of the way to get to him first. I probably won't have to, but one must be prepared for everything, and while I know his family has missed him very much, I stand very firmly on the fact that no one (save for Matt) has been affected by this deployment as deeply as I have....

Yesterday I booked a DJ for our wedding, and have thusfar been able to immerse myself enough in planning to not be completely intolerant of the time seemingly passing so slowly. With the homecoming getting closer, I've even been able to start getting excited about the wedding - I've officially become one of those brides who can't shut up about her wedding. Subconsciouly I know no one cares nearly as much as I do, but consciously, I don't care that they don't care...LOL. 2006 is going to be a wonderful, wonderful year!!


wishing matt was here @ 1:34 PM+
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+Friday, January 13, 2006+
With every new year that rolls by, I (like many others) have the tendency to write the wrong date out of force of habit. Usually it only lasts through January - I'd write 2003 instead of 2004, 2004 instead of 2005 and so on and so forth. 2006 is the first year ever in my 23 years (well, probably more like 18 or 19 - God knows I wasn't writing dates when I was 1) that I haven't mistakenly written "2005." Writing 2006 on all my paperwork at work, on all my correspondence, on all the checks I sign, etc has come so naturally. And I suppose it should - I've been waiting for it to be 2006 for, well, 365 days!

Yesterday in the mail I received a bulky priority mail package with the return address of the Nevada National Guard. It was a packet - "Preparing for Reunion." Flipping through the brochure that vehemently tells you to expect your soldier to have changed, to not expect too much from your first month or so back together lest ye be disappointed, and gives you "pointers" to assist through this "difficult time," I did a little jig right there in my kitchen - dancing in a circle and releasing all my bottled-up excitement in a loud squeal. My dog was jumping up and down with me and barking. Clenching in my hands a pile of brochures with bold fonts that boast the words, "HOMECOMING" and "REUNION" made the end seem that much more real. The past year of dealing with the army has taught me to never get my hopes up, to never fall in love with a plan, and basically, to always expect things to change - ALWAYS. It's a rare and joyous event when things happen when they're "supposed" to, and slowly but surely, I'm allowing myself to realize this really IS going to happen - 8 weeks at most, and Matt will be home.

I do think about how he might have changed. I know I've changed in the last 12 months. For 7 months, I've lived in our house alone, had no one's mess to pick up after except my own, had the bed and four magnificent pillows to myself, and it'll be weird to have Matt back, but certainly not a "bad" weird. The truth is, living alone has started to take its toll on me. Many military wives have children to take care of that keep them occupied and fill their homes with chatter and life, and I know many others who have moved in with their parents for part or all of the deployment to escape the lonely clutches of the house they share with their soldier: "Without you here, this house is not a home." We have our pets. I talk to them. I talk to myself. I wonder if I'm losing my mind. I miss the warm glow the house emitted when it was a house full of love; it really has felt barren without Matt, and regardless of what one might believe about feelings of loneliness, it was even worse when I had someone renting out a room in the house - I wasn't just lonely, I was lonely and living with a disrespectful stranger. I miss the little things - curling up to watch a movie, laughing with someone, crying with someone. When it snowed, we would open all the shades in the house and wrap up together in a huge blanket and watch the snow fall. Sometimes after the snow, we'd bundle up in jackets and hats and gloves and take our dog for a walk, our breath appearing in clouds and our feet softly crunching the fresh snow. I even miss things like doing his laundry.

It's funny because I didn't think it was possible, but I miss Matt more now than I did at the beginning or in the middle. In the beginning it was the pain of a sudden loss - I missed him because we'd never been apart longer than a couple weeks, I missed him because I still had memories fresh in my mind and because I knew no new memories would be formed for a long time (apart from R&R, but let's be honest, there's only so many memories one can make in 15 days), I missed him because I didn't know what to expect of the next year, and underlying everything was the awful, unspeakable question of "What if he doesn't come back?" In the beginning, I missed him because I was scared and I wasn't sure how I could live without such an important piece of my life. When something scary happens, you're supposed to be able to turn to your significant other - your best friend - for soothing and protection, but suddenly you're alone. You have to suck it up and be strong - you have to be supportive and rational because the only thing scarier than suddenly feeling alone, is feeling alone in a strange country where people want to kill you. I missed him the beginning because I missed that feeling of security, and despite if you have a million good friends or just a few really close ones, no one can be a substitute for your soldier.

In the middle I just missed him. I realized I was going to be okay, we were going to pull through this, but it didn't change the fact that every day after work and school I went home to an empty house. In the middle, I missed his presence. In the middle is when I stopped sleeping with his clothes because they stopped smelling like him (and because they were making me break out); I stopped spraying the pillows down with his cologne because in a way it felt like I was only fooling myself. Sudden whiffs of his cologne confused me into thinking he was there, and not much in this world is worse than the feeling of subconsciously reaching out for someone and having them not be there. I didn't miss him because I worried about how I'd go it alone - like I did in the beginning; I missed him simply because I missed having him around.

Now at the end it's like a culmination of both feelings - his absence and the anticipation of whether or not the end will come soon enough (or if my head will roll right off my shoulders before it even gets here): I miss him because I'm so close to having him back. The end of a deployment is like a mirage - the closer it feels like you're getting to it, the further away it seems. I feel like a donkey with a carrot on a stick dangling in front of my nose, just out of reach, but enough to tantalize me to keep moving forward. Information keeps changing, dates keep changing, each day feels slower than the last. All my memories with Matt are no longer fresh in my mind so instead of producing a pang for recent happiness, they're recollections of better times that I want back and am so close to having back. I try to trick myself into believing that I'm still in the middle of the deployment because as backwards as that may seem, the middle was when I was the most relaxed - the initial pain of him leaving had subsided and the end was so far away there was really nothing to look forward to - but the subconscious is not an easy thing to trick, and my more frequent moments of clarity cause feelings of excitement and anticipation to build up within me that I try to release with random screams and dances, but I'm incapable of fully satisfying. Sometimes I wonder if I won't lose my mind before the end ever finally gets here...So close, yet still so far away.....


wishing matt was here @ 10:46 AM+
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+Thursday, January 05, 2006+
Well. My hiatus didn't last very long. Honestly, the way I was feeling when I made my post last week was that I'd probably feel up to blogging again around mid-January, but the truth of the matter is, I missed it, and this particular date was not one that I could just let pass unnoticed (well, that and I was really dying to see "January 2006" show up in my archive list).

Matt always jokes that when I resolve to do something, I always change my mind or give up within a matter of days (sometimes weeks, but not usually). It doesn't sound very encouraging, but it's true - he knows me so well! When I talked to him yesterday and told him that one of my Christmas gifts to myself (yes, there was more than one) was an exercise bike - albeit cliche, getting healthy is one of my resolutions - he started laughing and said, "I'm going to have to make room for it in the garage, aren't I?" Now I'm going to try my hardest to use the thing in spite of him, but well, truth be told, he's most likely right...Apparently staying away from my blog was one of those things I just couldn't stick to. By Tuesday, I literally felt like I was forcing myself to stay away from it. I thought talking about the deployment was only making it worse, but when I realized that ALL I wanted to talk about was the deployment and that talking to my friends about it was more exasperating than helpful, well, I'm sure you can figure it out from there...LOL. So I'm back from my leave of absence that ended up not being any longer than the time between any of my other posts.

My New Years was very nice; I'd even go so far as to say, "just what the doctor ordered." A few months ago, I'd promised my friend A that I'd spend it with her (she diligently insisted that I not spend the New Year alone). A few weeks before the New Year, my friend H asked me to come spend the holiday with her in her small town 2 and a half hours away. I told her I'd already promised the day to A, she got a little upset, and then went into full detail about all I'd be missing by not going out there for the New Year, which, as it turns out, was just one of those drunken spats nostalgic of high school parties and just about the last thing in the world I'd want to do on New Years anyway. I feel I've outgrown "keggers." If I have to go to a party, I prefer the cocktail genre where no one yells, "chug chug chug," everyone is of legal age, and the hosts don't even have the materials to make a beer bong. It seems even more inappropriate in the absence of Matt, and in the cranky mood I was in last week, I spared H no details in explaining this to her. I think I basically called her immature, and in retrospect, I feel a little bad about it...

As it turns out, I spent my New Years exactly as A didn't want me to - alone. On the 30th of December it started raining and it didn't stop for about 24 hours until most of downton Reno was pretty flooded. The city had to cancel the big downtown New Year's Eve hoopla, but in actuality, it probably saved the lives of a few people by preventing a few drunken celebrators from getting behind the wheel of a car. Because of its location, my house was spared any flood damage, but the weather was less than desirable for venturing out of the house and A lives all the way on the other end of town. So I stayed home and celebrated with my dog and cats; I watched movies till 11:45 and then tuned in to Dick Clark to watch the ball drop. At midnight I couldn't help but get a little choked up because this is the year that Matt comes home!! I stood outside in the freezing cold for about 10 minutes watching my neighbors blow off fireworks, and then I turned in. Better yet, I was able to wake up early Sunday morning and go spend some of my Christmas gift certificates, completely avoiding any crowds as I'm sure 80% of the city was sleeping off their hangovers. The whole weekend was ideal, and exactly what I needed - my head feels clearer, I feel calmer and more relaxed (and less inclined to rip the heads off of people who incessantly ask me if the year's gone by fast, though yesterday I did cut into a friend who told me the next 2 months should "fly by").

With the deployment winding down, things have become very homecoming oriented. Our FRG is having a reunion brief in a couple weeks and the word "reunion" has motivated me to attend despite having absolutely nothing to do with the FRG for the last 10 months. Homecoming is pretty much all Matt and I talk about anymore - we exhange piddly small talk about what's new, but more often than not, I can't hardly even remember how my day went because my mind is so clouded over with the thoughts that this really is almost over. I was so forlorn in the beginning, so convinced that the end would never come, it's almost surreal in some ways now to think that it really is only a matter of weeks before Matt will be home for good. And I'm sure I've talked about it enough that I don't need to reiterate the significance of today: One year! Not just a mere milemarker - a damn big one! A year ago today at this exact moment, I was lying in bed sobbing my poor broken heart out, wondering how in the world I was going to make it through the next year of my life without the most important person in it. But I did, and as agonizing as the road in front of me appeared exactly one year ago, I've emerged unscathed and as in love as ever. It's not over yet, but regardless of how rough the road will get over the next couple months until I reach that bright beacon of light, being in Matt's arms again - this time for good - at least it's all downhill from here.


wishing matt was here @ 10:45 AM+
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