Online and On Duty

002Woo hoo! My sailor finally has internet access!

I’ve recieved a number of emails including a series of portraits of my sailor in his desert gear–Afghanistan office wear. I’m as giddy as a Chihuahua who smells bacon and I can’t wait to SKYPE with him.

The best part of being able to communicate electronically with my sailor–I finally got an IPhone. To call it smart is an understatement. It takes pictures, reminds me of upcoming apointments and will track my stocks if I ever acquire any. It even has a weather app so I don’t have to bother looking out the window to see if it’s raining. (This summer, it usually is.)

It’s my new favourite possession. I never thought I’d say this about anything, but I adore it even more than my beloved toffee coloured Pippa handbag.

I clutch this marvelous device constantly so I can look at my sailor’s pictures whenever I want–currently about sixty times a day. I squint into the tiny screen, oblivious to real life around me, trying to determine if he’s really okay, or just faking it for my benefit.

Let Sleeping Dogs Lie

IMG_0416I’m not sleeping well. Concern about my sailor is one cause, but another is my new sleeping partner. She hogs the bed.

I woke up at 4:30 this morning with my butt hanging off the edge of the bed and a mere sliver of covers over my goose pimpled legs. Stretched diagonally across the centre of the bed, her busy paws shoving me away as they flexed in some rough doggie dream was Penny, beloved family pet and relatively good pooch.

Nudging her back to her own side is futile. Once disturbed, she begins a noisy ritual of fluffing the duvet with such vigour I’m surprised she hasn’t clawed a hole right through it, followed by a series of grunts and groans as she attempts to find her perfect comfy spot again. This culminates in a full Chihuahua body slam as she finally heaves herself against my chest like a bag of wet sand.

How can an eight pound Chihuahua take more room in a queen-size bed than a full-size sailor?

My new roomie is reason #327 I miss my sailor and want him home.

%$#$% Roaming Charges!

IMG_0490“Hi Sweetie. Facing roaming charges so won’t be texting long.”

What???–Our early morning for me/bedtime for him texts are going to be limited due to %$#$% roaming charges! We’re talking the highlight of my day and I wilt a little just thinking I won’t even have this inadequate contact with my sailor.

My friend D, who is an expert on most things, is appalled when I tell her. “He should have a plan,” she says. “I can’t believe he doesn’t have a plan!”

D is right as usual. My sailor should have a plan. We should all have a plan.

More importantly, we all need a plan B to get us through the rough patches when plan A inevitably goes to hell.

I patiently explain that he does indeed have a plan, which he’s followed since he was young man. Go to university, join the Navy, marry a wonderful woman, start a family and live a quiet, happy life.

My own plan is somewhat similar (well except for joining the military and marrying a wonderful woman), which may explain why we get along so well.

Unfortunately, plan B eludes me as I read my sailor’s latest text over long after he’s gone to bed, trying to connect with him across the miles.

Loose Lips Sink Ships

IMG_0191My intention in writing this blog was to create an honest online journal of my experience with a husband serving in Afghanistan. However, I held off publishing the entry about dropping him off at the airport. I wanted to keep his exact departure date a secret. I worry relentlessly and I thought he’d be safer if the Taliban didn’t know he was on his way.

When his texts starting arriving from stop overs in Shiloh, Trenton and Germany, I decided to do some research. I googled “Canadian Military Afghanistan.” I found multiple stories about the latest cohort of Canadians travelling to Afghanistan including details about their departure date, travel itinerary and arrival information. I had a minor panic attack.

Once I was able to breathe normally again I looked at the articles more closely. Front and centre on the CTV News site–a photo of my sailor striding towards the plane! Argh! Don’t these journalists know loose lips sink ships?

Luckily the Taliban is too busy scouring the internet for wives’ blogs to google mainstream news sources.

What am I Supposed to Say?

006We go out for a family dinner the night before the sailor leaves for Afghanistan. At this point we aren’t sure when he’ll return. He might be home for Christmas or perhaps not until Easter.

I measure the holidays in turkeys. He will miss one turkey dinner for sure (Thanksgiving)–perhaps three (Christmas and Easter).

I try to be optimistic and cheerful, but I don’t quite make it. I’m worried sick about him and I haven’t been sleeping well.

Worst of all, I don’t know what to say. I love you is fairly obvious as is be careful, but there should be far more profound things to share. He is positive and upbeat and I don’t want to spoil his mood with my apprehension.

We have one last coffee together at the airport before he goes through security to the boarding gate.

When I get back to the car after saying good-bye, I receive his text: I love you and I miss you already.

I reply: Me, too. Take care of yourself and come home safely.

Maybe that’s all I needed to say all along.

Container Gardens and Ball Gowns

091To combat my deployment gloominess, it’s time to focus on the positive. Here are my personal top five reasons to celebrate a military marriage.

5. Container gardens–although I’m mad about flowers, I am not a gardener because of the bugs–they frighten me. The reality of frequent moves means traditional gardening in a waste of time anyway because beloved gardens must be abandoned, but containers are portable. They can move with you. I began stuffing ceramic pots with colourful blooms and bug-free sterile soil from Canadian Tire. Suddenly, I’m a gardener!

4. Ball gowns–like most middle class Canadian women, I had few (actually no) opportunities to sport a ball gown apart from my high school prom and my wedding. I’m a bit of a girlie girl (see confession re bug phobia above), and adore dressing up in pretty clothes. Marriage to a naval officer brings regular occasions to put on formal wear that don’t exist for my peers in civilian marriages.

3. My master’s degree–no, I don’t have an M.A. in marrying a sailor, but when I moved to Halifax with him, I was unemployed, bored and lonely. (His ship was away close to 300 days during our first year together.) I took the opportunity to go back to university for a master’s, something I never would have done if I’d had a job to keep me busy.

2. Increased confidence–I naturally shy away from new experiences, and change freaks me out. Left to my own devices, I’d move back to my home town, preferably into my parents’ basement, and never leave. My horizons have been broadened immeasurably due to my marriage to the sailor and the many moves it has brought.

1. Independence–I have become a stronger, more independent woman simply because I’ve had to. Things that totally flummoxed me when we first got married, I now handle without a second thought. A flood in the basement? I can deal with that! A muffler that falls off the back of the car? Bring it on! Using a hammer to dismantle our futon to make room for our new bed? Okay, I now understand a screw driver might have been a better choice, but the point is, I didn’t let that piece of furniture get the better of me. I acted with strength and determination.

A Sailor in the Desert

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The dark side of that debonair uniform and the collection of medals my sailor sports across his chest is a single word: Afghanistan.

Sailors are supposed to serve aboard ships and live in pretty seaside towns. Nowhere in that vision is a journey to a desert on the other side of the world. He assures me that he will be safe, working at a quiet job in an office that is, above all, safe. (He repeats that word like a mantra every time I question him about his upcoming deployment–safe, safe, safe.)

I understand the mission is being scaled back and he won’t be involved in a combat role, but I also recall the list of fallen Canadians that scrolls across the TV screen every Remembrance Day and I worry.

I am outraged when I read stories of women being abused or killed and little girls denied an education because of their gender and I think, someone needs to step up and protect these vulnerable people, but my resolve weakens when it is my husband who will be in danger.

We will have SKYPE and email for private communication and Facebook for more public updates. I’m able to access news reports twenty-four hours a day, learning about the situation there in live time.

I don’t know if that makes it easier or more difficult. Wives left behind when their husbands went to earlier wars didn’t have reports of every battle, every casualty. Did they worry less because the news wasn’t so immediate?