August 3 - Last minute things... all to prepare for a year apart.
Much has been going on regarding my mother's health, and the
impact her decades-long 'on again/off again' fight against colon
cancer has had on not only her, but my brothers and I. We discovered
that she carries a genetic mutation which predisposes her to
various cancers - to include early colon cancer. (She was 41
when she was diagnosed with colon cancer the first time). My
siblings have already been tested, and I had my blood sent off
last week. It could be a month before I find out if I carry
the gene. If I do, I will have to be very proactive about getting
regular health screenings. There are some who questioned my
desire to know about this mutation, but I'd much rather know
and stay vigilant, than not know and discover I've got cancer
when it's too late to do anything about it. I don't want to
write too much about the situation in this journal, because
it is personal and emotional. And lately, I've found myself
riding a rollercoaster of emotions - first when coping with
my mother's illness, and second - when preparing to send my
husband off to war for a year. It hasn't been easy, but I am
so thankful to have Steve here with me still. He is my rock
and my strength. Oh, how I will miss him!
The camper has been cleaned up and smells brand new again.
Floors have been scrubbed, walls have been wiped down, and upholstery
has been vacuumed. I hate that our camping days are over for
a long while. But I am so thankful for the times we have had
together - exploring Alaska, enjoying the scenery and the wildlife...
the sound of birds calling, the smell of the air just before
the rain comes, the taste of blueberries picked fresh, the feel
of the morning sun as it chases away the coolness of the night,
and the sight of so many colors, patterns, and textures. I would
have chosen no other place to spend these last few months making
memories. Simple splendor abounds in Alaska. There is very little
man-made beauty, but much God-made beauty. It reminds me of
the quote by James Bailey, Photographer: "Art is Man's
nature. Nature is God's art."
The upcoming year will no doubt be difficult. I worry most
about the winter months, when night lasts forever and the cold
makes everything stop, as if in suspended animation. I will
miss the sound of my husband's voice when he admonishes me for
not wearing my hat, or not putting on my long underwear. I will
miss the sound of his keys in the door, such a familiar sound,
that both the cat and the dog run to greet him before he's even
turned the doorknob.
I have a friend who is already 7 months into her husband's
deployment. She's preparing for him to come home for two weeks
R&R. She says the time went fast. I hope she is right and
the time does pass quickly. I hope that before I know it, I'll
be sitting here, cross-legged on my loveseat, making an entry
in this journal that my husband is finally coming home.
August 5 - Colors, Creativity, and Cleaning
Steve has a four-day weekend, but we're not going anywhere.
Instead, we plan to clean out the garage. Our goal is to straighten
it up enough so that I can park the truck in there this winter.
We're going to need some wall shelves to get organized and clear
some floor space. It will make my life so much easier if the
truck is out of the elements this winter. I won't have to scrape
the windows, or brush snow off of it in the morning. And it
will warm up a lot faster too. I hope we can manage to make
This morning, I took Sedona out for a walk along the ATV path
behind our house. I was amazed to see that some of the foliage
is making the transition from green to gold to red already.
It's only the beginning of August! I'm not ready to say goodbye
to summer yet! Actually, we still do have a few more weeks of
summer, but the leaves will steadily continue to change color
until autumn comes upon us full force. Last year (September
2004), Steve took me to Chena Hot Springs on the
5th, and the photos show bright golden leaves on the horizon.
Summer melts into Fall and then Winter quickly here.
There is a squirrel who hangs out in a tall spruce tree behind
my house. She waits for me to approach the base of the tree
and then scolds me with her loud chatter and fast 'clicking'
sound. I think she does it to rile up Sedona. Sedona hates squirrels,
and this gal even throws down pinecones and debris from the
branches when the dog is with me. I find it amusing.
|After seeing the colored leaves, I came back
to the house for my camera, and put Sedona in. I went back
up on the hill, and busied myself shooting photos of the
foliage. When I approached the spruce, 'Ms. Squirrel' started
up her noisy chatter again. I stopped to take some photos
of her. When she saw I didn't have Sedona with me, she got
brave and came further down the tree, until she perched
on a branch about 10 feet above me. I clicked my tongue
back at her and she peered at me with her round black eyes,
tilting her head up. The way her mouth is shaped, it almost
looks like she's smiling. I have roasted peanuts in the
house. I think I may take her a few tomorrow. Maybe she'll
come closer and allow me some better photos.
I have been working on a pretty big project for Steve to take
with him to Iraq. I did almost the same thing for him when we
were first married and he had to go to Panama for 5 months.
I created calendar pages, using my photos and graphics - one
for each month he'll be gone - and printed each page out on
photo paper. I then put the pages in plastic sleeves. The calendar
is marked with special occasions, holidays, and other sentiments.
Each month has photos at the top which depict life in Fairbanks
for that particular month. Some photographs are landscapes showing
the weather or colors. Some are activities, such as dogsledding
or the Ice Art Championships. And some are wildlife. And there
are also photos of us and the pets.
Along with each monthly calendar, are love letters (which I'm
still working on). A letter for each month. A letter about the
things we have done together, the experiences we have had, and
of course, how much I love and miss him. The letters will be
tucked in the sleeve with the calendar page and he is instructed
not to read them until the first of each month. (They're dated)
On his calendar, there's a reminder on the first of each month
for him to read the letter. Oh, and the letters will be sprayed
with my perfume. *smile*
I'd like to share two of the calendar pages with you. Steve
hasn't seen them yet, and won't see them until he gets over
there, as they will be sealed in a manilla enveloped until he
gets settled and has a 'room' or 'space' to call his own. I'm
sure he will like the calendar and I hope that my photos and
'little nothings' as well as the love letters will keep his
heart warm and help with homesickness. You
can see January 2006 and May 2006 by clicking this sentence.
I will stay strong for Steve. And I will stay busy for my own
sanity. And we will come through this just fine.
August 10 - Friends, Babies & Sandhill Cranes
Yesterday, the day dawned bright and sunny. What a wonderful
change from the day prior - when I woke to a hazy sky that smelled
of smoke. The wildfires continue to burn in various places in
Alaska, and when the wind turns toward us, the haze and smell
come with it. It doesn't help with my asthma, and I try to avoid
being outside in it when it's bad.
I went walking with Rachael, and I think we were both glad
to get back out on the path with the furkids. Since we just
came out of a four-day weekend, both of us had a few days off
from any exercise. The first day back is usually a hard one;
the fact that we walked even further than usual led to some
stiff thigh and hip muscles. But, as always, it felt good to
I hurried to get cleaned up, as Shawna and the babies were
coming for me at noon. I neglected to post in my July Journal
that Shawna gave birth to baby Collin Alfred Johnston on July
28th - the day of the deployment ceremony. He's a big boy -
well over 8lbs and 21 inches long! I visited them in the hospital
when he was born, but haven't had the chance to visit since.
I was looking forward to seeing them all. Our plans included
lunch and then a trip to Creamers Field to see the sandhill
as always, was the picture of cuteness - with her Barbie sunglasses,
pink gingham sundress, and huge smile. She is accustomed to
having a camera in her face, and knows how to turn on the charm.
Collin (12 days old) slept a lot, and when he was awake he screamed
with hunger - typical newborn behavior. *grin*
When we got to Creamers Field, we unloaded both strollers.
I grabbed the stroller with Collin, while Shawna took control
of Courtney's stroller. The sun was very warm, and before long
we were breaking a sweat. Not long into our walk, Collin starting
crying. It was feeding time and he wouldn't be satisfied until
mama took care of him. We headed back to the car so that Shawna
could tend to him, and I took Courtney off with me to see the
Here are some photos from today's outing. (Click to enlarge)
Information collected online: Cranes breeding and migrating
in Alaska are part of a complex of lesser sandhill cranes found
from Siberia across northern Canada. They are considered a separate
subspecies from greater sandhill cranes found in southern Canada
and the lower 48 states. These birds, along with others from
Siberia and Canada, form the Mid-continent Population of lesser
sandhill cranes that winters in Texas, the southwestern United
States, and Mexico. Some cranes may travel nearly 14,000 miles
per year round trip. Cranes also mate for life.
When the cranes arrive in Fairbanks in May, it is a wonderful
sight to behold, as we know that summer is merely weeks away.
When we see them in August, the opposite is true, as we know
that winter is not far off. Nevertheless, they are a beautiful
bird to observe and photograph. I hope to get back this weekend
to take some more photos with my longer zoom lens.
I had a wonderful afternoon with Shawna, and when she brought
me home, I hugged her goodbye and burst into tears. It seems
I've been wearing my emotions on my sleeve lately, and it's
an easy transition to go from smiling and happy one moment,
to crying the next. I really hope this is only a manifestation
of pre-deployment stress, and will go away once the deployment
It was sad to say goodbye to Shawna and the babies. Shawna
is taking the children and going 'home' to NY to live with her
parents while her husband is deployed. From there, they'll go
wherever the army sends them. I may not ever see them again,
and that's what made me so sad. I'm sure we'll stay in touch
via e-mail, and I know that Shawna will continue to share photos
of the babies with me via e-mail, but it won't be the same.
I'll miss them all.
Such is the life of a military family. I love that the lifestyle
enables me to make a lot of new friends, but I hate that goodbyes
August 13 - Fall and Farewells
Our days are now numbered. In less than a week, I will say
goodbye to my husband for a year. While I have had a few days
that have been pretty emotional, we've tried to keep ourselves
occupied with getting things organized. One of our most important
goals is to clean the garage up enough to be able to park the
truck in there. Steve has this huge fear that I will end up
knocking his side mirrors off. He really needs to trust me.
He's almost through with packing up his gear, so that the 'army
room' can be converted to a guest room. We have a queen size
bed in the garage that needs to be moved up there, once the
room is emptied out. The house is still in a shambles, even
though I wake each day with grandiose ideas of cleaning. But
then, both of us just feel extremely lazy and end up cuddling
together on the sofa and watching television. I know that's
not very productive, but it seems to be what we need the most.
The cleaning can wait.
Quite a few of our friends will be leaving within the next
couple of days. Steve is lucky to be one of the last to go,
but that doesn't make it any easier. My heart breaks for those
of my friends whose husbands leave before him. As I've said
many times before, I hope the next year passes by quickly and
all of our guys come home safe and sound. I've tried to make
a list of things I want to accomplish over the next year. Mostly
I want to sort through and purge a lot of the 'stuff' we've
accumulated and simplify my surroundings. There are so many
things that we've carried from house to house - stuff we really
won't need when it's time to retire. I plan to take advantage
of local venues like Fairbanks
Freecycle and Fairbanks
Garage Sale, rather than toss good stuff in the dumpster.
I'll probably also post in some of the online groups I belong
to. I'd much rather give those I know an opportunity to take
stuff before I offer it up to the rest of the city. I don't
like to toss 'good stuff', while we have so many in the communty
who are needy.
I start back to work on August 23rd. The summer went much too
quickly for me, but I almost look forward to going back to work.
It will give me a reason to get up and out of bed three days
a week. And that's very important. My class in Photojournalism
starts on September 5th. I'm really looking forward to that
too. I haven't paid any of my fees yet, but I have time. I've
been putting it all off until I go back to work and Steve is
gone. Things to keep me busy...
Over the last few days, we've had smoke here in Fairbanks.
It's very reminiscent of last summer, but not nearly as bad
(thank goodness!). I can 'taste' it in my mouth when I wake
up and it's been triggering some asthma attacks too. I hate
to close the windows because it's also been very warm (80's)
and the wind is nonexistent. It's times like this that I wish
for air conditioning. Fortunately, at night the temperature
still dips into the 50s and sleeping - when I don't have insomnia
- is very comfortable. We go to bed kicking off just a sheet,
and wake in the middle of the night to pull on a thermal blanket.
While we still don't have night - as in pitch darkness - we
are getting longer hours of dusk and dawn. Before long, we'll
be seeing the stars again. I'm disappointed that we're missing
the meteor shower that's been entertaining people in the Lower
48. Or perhaps I'm just not waiting up late enough for this
took Sedona for a long walk yesterday through the nearby woods.
The smoke was fairly heavy, so the skies were an awful flat
gray color. But more and more foliage is changing colors. Berries
have appeared on the dwarf dogwood and the high bush cranberry
plants. The fireweed is now blooming at the top, and the leaves
on the plant are turning a brilliant red in places. I took a
pocketful of peanuts with me for Ms. Squirrel. She scolded me
from high above me on a tree branch, but I placed the peanuts
on the top of the fence - hoping she'd come down to fetch them
after Sedona and I went on our way. They weren't there when
we passed by that way again. If she didn't get them, some other
Fairbanks wildlife did.
Last night, we drove down to the Chena River to get a close
up view of the beavers who have built a lodge there. Rachael
and I have seen a baby beaver while walking in the morning.
I hoped to see the baby again, but only an adult was enjoying
We noticed some drag marks in the dirt and through the woods
and followed the path. The beavers have been busy gnawing down
trees and dragging them along this path to the river. Although
we had to push aside branches and bushes to follow the path,
we soon came to a huge clearing where the beavers have destroyed
every tree within range. This circle had to be 25 feet in diameter.
I tried to imagine such a 'small' creature dragging a long tree
behind him. What strength! And what damage they've done to the
surrounding forest! Perhaps someday I'll catch them busy at
their work and manage to snap a photograph.
August 17 - Sitting in Limbo, Saying Goodbye to a Friend, &
Sorry for the delay in updating. Lately, I just haven't been
in the right frame of mind to write here. Steve is still here.
That's a GREAT thing, but also causes its own rollercoaster
of emotions because at this time he has no date or time for
a flight out. He'll be last to go, since he has to coordinate
everyone else's departure and the shipping of cargo. That's
good for me, but not knowing a hard date and time is very unsettling
for two people who are very organized. We spend every single
moment as if it's our last, but the last week has felt like
a week of mourning, and frankly we're both exhausted. I have
so many friends who have already said goodbye to their husbands.
They keep journals too, and reading their words about saying
goodbye, and crying babies, and buses pulling away, tugs at
my heart and brings a fresh stream of tears. Perhaps I shouldn't
read these things, but they are friends of mine and their pain
is my pain. Soon, it will be my turn to write about a sad goodbye.
Rachael, Susan and LuAnn were supposed to say goodbye to their
husbands very early this morning. When I went to bed last night,
one of the last thoughts in my mind was of my three friends
- knowing that it would be their last night to cuddle around
the man they love... for a very long time. When Steve and I
woke up this morning at 6:30am, we curled into each other and
he said, "James, Stephen and Ken are probably already gone."
I couldn't help but cry for my friends. It made me hold Steve
Then, when I got up, I found an instant message from Susan...
the flight was canceled! They get a couple more days home with
their families! That's wonderful news for sure, but just makes
the separation process even harder. They had all said their
emotional goodbyes yesterday. And will have to do it again.
Susan summed it up nicely when she wrote, "It's like pulling
off a bandaid slowly." I know exactly how she feels.
night, Shawna came by with the babies, Courtney and Collin.
As I type this, she is on her way to the Canadian border as
she begins her drive home to upstate NY. She said goodbye to
Jay yesterday afternoon. When she arrived at my house, I could
see that the afternoon and the goodbye had been hard on her.
We visited with one another for an hour or so, and then I walked
her to her car. As we hugged goodbye, we both started crying
hard. As military families, we are used to saying goodbye to
friends along the way, but it never makes it easy. When you
say goodbye to someone you've grown close to, you realize that
you may never see each other again. I am blessed to have known
Shawna for the last two years. I found a quotation online that
sums up my feelings about this farewell: "How
lucky I am to have known someone who was so hard to say goodbye
to." ~ Unknown
Before I finish this entry, I want to
say Happy Birthday to my brother, Steve! I wish I could be with
you celebrating - I miss you very much! Lots of kisses and hugs!
August 18 - Special Friends & Farewell Banners
|My friend Dianne came for dinner last night. She
brought markers so we could decorate a sheet for Steve. After
a delicious dinner of ravioli with alfredo sauce and chicken breasts,
Dianne handed Steve a beautifully wrapped box. Inside the box
was a beautiful pewter angel, and a small card with this sentiment
This 'Angel of Friendship' is a reminder that God
gives us friends to experience His love for us. Friends share
our joys and sorrows, our hopes and dreams, and support us in
times of need. Yet our greatest gifts are through love and prayer
for one another. As we visualize our friends in spirit, love
flows freely; and we see all things as possible, for prayers
honoring love are always answered.
put the angel, in its blue velvet bag, in the uniform pocket
near his calf. In the other calf pocket, he has the dogtag that
I had made for him. Everyone was getting a bit choked up, but
I really lost it when Dianne took a length of yellow ribbon
and tied it around the back of the chair that Steve sits in
during dinner. She tied the first knot and I tied the second.
She completed the bow. She told Steve it would stay there until
he came home and removed it himself. It wasn't just the symbolism
of the yellow ribbon on the chair that made me cry - but the
realization that the chair would be empty for a year.
We finished the sheet as best we could. There is no need to
put Steve's last name on it. He would know it was meant for
him just because of the things that are written there. Things
we say to each other everyday - many times a day... "Have
I told you?" (This means, "Have I told you I love
you?" - which we always do, but when one of us says this
to the other, the response is always, "Yes, but you can
tell me again." And we do.) Another thing we say to each
other, especially before falling asleep, is "You're the
love of my life." And when one of us just says "I
love you" to the other, the response is always "I
love you more." So, even though there are no last names
on the sheet, Steve will know it's for him. Dianne wrote something
for him on it too.
Just then the phone rang. It was my youngest son, Brandon.
He wanted to wish Steve a safe deployment. (Brandon was over
there with the Marines when the war first started). There may
be 30 years difference in their ages, but they share a special
bond. When Dianne and I headed out to hang the sheet up, Steve
was still laying across the bed, talking to Brandon. They talked
for more than an hour. I'm glad.
drove me down to the ballfield and before we found our spot
to hang the sheet, she drove me past all the other banners,
sheets, and signs. Reading them just broke my heart. :( I made
a sort of collage of some of the sheets hanging on the fence.
(Click the photos for enlargements)
Just as we were leaving, a car pulled up behind us and a young
mother got out. She had a sheet too, but her kids were too little
to help (4 and 21 months). We offered our help, and she gladly
accepted. After we got her sheet hung up, I took a few photos
of it, and got her email address so I could email her the photos.
We didn't know each other, but yet we shared the military wife
When I got home and said goodbye to Dianne, Steve and I took
a long walk with Sedona. We headed down to the river, walking
slowly, holding hands, talking.... stopping to kiss along the
way. *sigh* I'm really going to miss our walks.
I've got him with me for the weekend. No exact date or time
still, but early next week seems fairly certain. I'm supposed
to report back to work on Tuesday, but if he's still here (or
has just left), I might email my boss and tell her I'll start
the following week. It's something she agreed to when I left
in May, so at least I have some flexibility in my return to
August 20 - Hiking on Murphy Dome & A Few Extra Days!
We finally got a date for Steve's departure. I can't be too
specific here for security purposes, but getting a hard date
and time has brought a sense of calm over both of us. Not knowing
when he was leaving had us both on edge. At least now we know
how much time we have left before he goes. And we can better
plan how we're going to spend that time.
Steve only worked a few hours on Thursday morning, so when
he got home, we decided to drive up to the top of Murphy Dome
and do some hiking. Thursday was a beautiful, smoke-free day
and we didn't want to waste it. We took Sedona with us, as she
loves the freedom of running unleashed across wide open spaces.
The view from the top of the hill wasn't as sweeping as it
is on a clear day. The range wasn't visible due to the smoke
on the horizon. Although the wind had blown the smoke out of
Fairbanks for the day, it still hung thick over the hills and
valleys off to the northeast.
We walked out to the Tors rocks, enjoying the solitude and
the sunshine. It was a little chilly up there and the wind gusted
strongly at times. But it was a beautiful day to be 'on top
of the world' and alone with one another. Hand in hand, we walked
across bouncy muskeg, taking note of the abundance of blueberries
and low-bush cranberries. Unfortunately, the blueberries are
already shriveling so we didn't stop to pick any.
On the way back up the path to the truck, Sedona took a wrong
step and injured one of her legs. She's fine today, so it was
probably just a sprain or strain. We had to slow down sufficiently
so that she could keep up, as she was favoring it heavily. The
slowdown was fine with me, as the grade rises steadily, and
I was tired myself. Here are some more photos I took. Click
to enlarge them.
My Guy and My Girl
Yesterday, my friends Susan, Rachael and LuAnn said goodbye
to their husbands. I felt very sad for them. There are no words
to ease the pain of sending the love of your life off to a war
zone. It is a pain and sorrow that is indescribable. The actual
farewell is hard enough, but I think the real sadness occurs
when you go home. Photographs on the walls... articles of clothing,
shoes, personal effects which belong to your mate... the smell
of him on his pillow or his bathrobe. He is around you everywhere
you look, and yet you can't touch him, hold him, or speak to
him. I am dreading it.
I have a friend who found a half empty bottle of soda in the
refrigerator last year before her husband deployed. He put it
there on the afternoon he left. She left it there until he came
home. The thought of pouring it down the drain upset her, because
his lips had touched that bottle. My friend LuAnn came home
after saying goodbye and found the half-empty coffee mug her
husband drank from that morning. It was still warm. She cried
as she poured it down the sink. It is so easy to understand
Last night, Steve pulled a package of chicken out of the freezer
and told me to invite Rachael and Susan over for dinner. I wasn't
sure if they'd want to come over, and that was OK too. Some
people just prefer to be alone when they are sad. But they both
accepted the invite. We were both happy to have them. Before
we ate dinner, Steve said a few words. It was so touching, and
very emotional for all of us. Next year, we plan to gather around
the table sharing a meal and celebrating their homecoming and
our friendship. God protect all of our soldiers....
My next door neighbor, Leon, is one of the few husbands who
is married to a deployed soldier. He's retired military and
has done his time in Iraq. His wife, Pat, left this past Sunday.
Last night, as Steve was closing the blinds in our bedroom,
he asked me to come to the window. The spruce tree in front
of their house is decorated with yellow ribbons. Tears came
to both our eyes at the sight.
This morning, I went walking with Rachael. It was the first
time in a long time for me. Tomorrow Susan will go with us.
We hope to walk until it's too cold to walk. This morning it
was indeed chilly. At 7:30am, it was only 39F! We went walking
an hour later, and it wasn't much warmer. My ears were freezing
and Rachael's hands were numb with cold. Looking at the weather
forecast for the next week, it appears as though we'll still
be reaching the 60s in the afternoon, but our mornings will
certainly be chilly. I suppose it's safe to say that autumn
August 22 - Making the most of our time together
Steve and I have been taking care of some chores around the
house before he leaves. Our biggest chore was readying the garage
for his truck. We were successful - which means that the truck
will have a nice warm home this winter, and I won't have to
be scraping ice and snow off of it before I go to work in the
Other than that, we've been doing lazy things - like watching
movies together, cuddling, and taking long walks in the woods
nearby. Sometimes I find myself looking at him at various times
during the day and envisioning him gone. I look over at him
as he lays stretched out on the sofa, and I imagine the sofa
empty. If I wake up in the middle of the night, I cuddle into
him and hold him close, knowing our nights are numbered. The
nights are going to be so lonely. *sigh*
we took a nice long walk with Sedona. We went in search of the
beaver family, but didn't even see a tail smack on the river.
I had my camera and took a few photos of the turning leaves.
It was a gloriously sunny day - and not a bit of smoke either.
We just had to get out in it. We walked for a few miles, taking
a path we haven't walked since we moved here. I was a bit apprehensive
about moose encounters as this path is known for them. A friend
of mine was chased by one last summer, and Steve and Sedona
encountered one near the path last fall. But there were no signs
of moose - just plenty of chattering squirrels and noisy ravens.
We saw ducks in the river, tail feathers in the air as they
submerged their heads looking for something to nibble on. They
must have been concentrating on eating; they hardly budged,
even when Sedona got into the river and started swimming toward
them. It's hard to believe that the river will soon have small
patches of ice floating on it - especially when it's a gorgeous
sunny day and feels so much like summer.
old company (Charlie Co 1-17), got "Daddy Dolls" for
all the children in the company. Even though I'm no longer a
part of the company, I still hang out with the great friends
I made there. Susan was sweet enough to get me a "Daddy
Doll", however we women without kids call them "Hubby
Dolls". The dolls are about 15 inches tall and have a clear
plastic place on the face to slide a photo of your soldier.
It comes with long hair (just in case it's a Mommy Doll), so
we gave our dolls haircuts so they'd look like our husbands.
They are so funny looking with photos of our husbands' faces
in the pocket! It looks like our guys are astronauts!
Rachael and I were joking that we're going to take all our
Hubby Dolls with us on our adventures (chick flick night, dinner
and a movie, etc.) and get pictures of them participating. Then
we'll email them to the guys. I think they'll get a kick out
of that. *grin*
As you can see by the photo at left, I gave Steve a nice "high
and tight" haircut. I also posed my Deployment Bear with
him. I'll keep both in bed with me at night. I got the bear
from my friend Marcella.
I doubt you'll hear from me until after Steve leaves. Our days
(and hours) are numbered now, and my main focus is on spending
every moment I can with him. Thank you to all of you who have
sent emails of encouragement and well wishes. They are much
appreciated and lift my heart. It's going to be a tough year
without my darling husband, but I will survive.
August 27 - Sad Farewells and finally a Phonecall!
Over the last several days, Steve and I spent nearly every
waking moment together. Keeping up with my journal was the last
thing on my mind; all I wanted to do was devote all of my love
and attention to my husband.
When we found out that Steve would be flying out early Friday
morning, our only concern was making the most of our remaining
days and hours. We were blessed with sunny blue skies, and took
daily walks in the woods near our house. We considered going
out to dinner, or taking in a movie, but then mutually decided
we'd rather 'hole up' in the house with each other. I'm so glad
we did. Our last two days together were bittersweet, but we
wanted it no other way.
||Scenes from our walk
(Click to enlarge)
I took Steve to his office at 9:30pm on Thursday night. Even
though he wasn't scheduled to fly out for several hours, there
was still much to do to prepare for the long journey. We went
up to his office, where we could be alone and sat together on
the sofa there, talking and holding each other. I stayed with
him until 11pm.
He walked me down to his truck and we said our final goodbyes.
I felt like my heart was being ripped from my chest. It was
definitely one of the saddest days of my life. Neither of us
wanted to let go of each other and I wished that it could all
be a bad dream that we'd wake up from. When I drove away, and
heard him yell across the parking lot, "I love you, Babydoll",
the tears flowed so heavily that I could barely see to make
my way home. I felt so empty inside.
A few minutes after arriving home, the phone rang. It was Steve,
calling me from his office. As painful as it was to prolong
the goodbye, I desperately needed to hear his voice again. We
ended our phone call and I fell into bed exhausted. It was so
difficult to lay in our bed without him next to me and I cried
myself to sleep.
The next morning, Steve called again. There was an additional
delay and they still hadn't left Alaska. He was on the Air Force
base nearby. I was sad that he spent the night sleeping on the
floor in a hangar, when he could have spent the night with me,
but such is life in the military. Things don't always go as
planned. I was very thankful to hear his voice again.
afternoon, I went to lunch with Rachael and then we picked up
some movies. I hosted "chick flick night" at my house
last night and cooked dinner for all of us. The movies were
entertaining and funny ("The Wedding Date" and "Beauty
Shop"), which took our minds off of our loneliness for
a little while. We all had our Hubby Dolls, so we had to get
a photo of the 'guys' watching chick flicks with us. (Something
they would NEVER do in real life!)
Susan and Rachael went home a little after 10pm and I went
up to bed. I had a very fitful night and hardly slept at all.
I catnapped on and off all night and woke up this morning exhausted.
I hope these sleepless nights aren't a regular occurrence. *sigh*
As of 9:30am I still hadn't heard from Steve, and felt the sadness
inside of me grow again. I'm not worried about the intensity
of these emotions, as I have several friends who said goodbye
to their husbands a week ago and are still having crying fits.
I'm sure it will take a few weeks for us to get past the initial
'grieving' process and get into a routine.
Then, at 10am my time, the phone rang and I didn't recognize
the number on the caller ID. It was my darling husband! How
wonderful to hear his voice! He's still in Europe - where he
was supposed to lay over only for a few hours. Their plane broke
down, so they'll be there overnight. Because of the problem,
the Air Force picked up the tab for their hotel - and they don't
even have to share a room. Steve was thrilled to get a hot shower,
and wash his uniform. He also has a phone in his hotel room,
as well as a small kitchenette and a sitting room with television.
We talked for nearly an hour. The phone card he is using (our
AT&T long distance card) has 1000 domestic minutes on it.
When he placed the call, those domestic minutes translated into
only 136 international minutes! Unbelievable! I added an additional
1500 minutes to the card so he won't run out of time. I hope
he finds a place to get more reasonable phone cards over there.
At this rate, AT&T is going to make a fortune off of us.
He's going to call me tonight, and I'm staying in to wait for
his call, since I don't know when I'll hear from him again.
One day at a time...
August 31 - Missing his Voice, Mother Nature's Cheer, Returning
The past three or four days have gone by quickly. I suppose
that's a good thing. The nights are hard. It's quiet in the
house and hard for me to fall off to sleep comfortably. I leave
my computer on and turned up loud, so I can hear if Steve gets
onto Yahoo Messenger and sends a message. It's so hard not knowing
when or if he's going to be able to call.
I spoke to him by phone on Saturday night. The connection left
a lot to be desired and I heard my sentences repeated back to
me as if I was standing in a bucket. But I heard his voice and
that's all that mattered. I was already in bed when he called.
He's 11 hours ahead of me, and it was already morning for him
and he was about to get started on another grueling day.
On Sunday, I went to a Gold Canyon Candle party with Rachael,
Susan and Marcella. It was nice to get out, sniff some fragrant
candles, and chat with other women who are also in the midst
of this deployment. I came away from the party with quite a
few candles to make my house smell nice during the winter.
After the candle party, Susan, Rachael and I went to Boston's
for lunch. The conversation took a sad turn, as Susan was feeling
pretty down. Fortunately, Rachael and I were in pretty good
moods. When one is down, the others lift her up. I am so thankful
for our friendship. When I got home I found an email from Steve.
It was very short and basically said that I might not hear from
him for a few days. That made me sad... and worried.
Monday, I walked with Rachael, and then picked up LuAnn to take
her to lunch. LuAnn's been feeling a bit down too, so going
out to eat, and then taking our cameras out shooting was good
therapy for us. We first stopped by Creamers Field to see the
cranes. There were still quite a few of them on the field, but
they were farther out than I would have liked. Nevertheless,
I did capture this gorgeous bird as he made his way across the
field. (Click all photos for enlargement)
From Creamers Field, we drove down to the Botanical Gardens.
As soon as we got out of the truck, it started spitting rain.
I like photographing flowers in a gentle rain, but it got heavier
until we finally gave up and went back to the truck. I did manage
to take a few photos of some of the colorful flowers which are
still in bloom before the deluge came.
As fate would have it, the rain stopped as soon as we got back
on the road. So I decided to drive up to the little city park
on Chena Pump Rd. There are beautiful views of the river from
there. It appears as if there are many people here in Fairbanks
who aren't ready to say goodbye to summer yet. The parking area
was full of vehicles and boat trailers. It's hard to believe
that the river will have ice floating in it in a month or so.
I took a few photos while we were there. LuAnn busied herself
carving a message of love to her husband in the sand.
Yesterday (Tuesday) was my first day back to work. I was depressed
because I hadn't heard from Steve since his phone call on Saturday
night and his email on Sunday afternoon. My day passed pretty
quickly, as I had a lot of work to catch up on, but left me
I thought a lot about Steve and wondered what he was doing.
I really missed his presence more than ever. My first day back
to work is a big thing in our household. I always complain that
the summer went too fast, and Steve sympathizes with me. He
brings me my morning coffee (which he does most every morning
anyway - I'm so spoiled!), and then he sends me off with a sweet
kiss and a 'Have a nice day, Babydoll'. And I'm always guaranteed
to get a phone call during my day to see how things are going.
But not this time. I felt empty inside as I got dressed for
work. I wanted to just crawl back into bed and mope. I thought
about Steve and wondered where he was and what he was doing.
It was 6pm where he was.
When I got home from work yesterday, there were two messages
from Steve on the answering machine. He called at 8:30am Alaska
time, thinking it was only 6:30am my time! He miscalculated
the time difference. I was so disappointed! I burst into tears.
I really needed to hear from him yesterday....
I've been sending him emails, and instant messages. But I doubt
that he's gotten them. If he did get them, he would have emailed
me. I'm so worried that he's already headed 'north' and I didn't
get a chance to talk to him before he moved. I hate that we're
separated. I hate more that we have no communication. What makes
it worse is that so many of my friends are hearing from their
husbands on a regular basis - even daily. While I'm happy for
them, I'm also envious. I miss him so much.
EDIT: I just got off the phone with Steve! We had a 20 minute
conversation, and his voice was like music to my ears, although
we still had the horrible echoing bucket sound. He gave me a
list of things to add to his care package. I reminded him that
he's got a love letter to read for his September Calendar page.
I hope it still smells of my perfume. Things are going to get
hectic now. Please keep him and all of our troops in your prayers.