Friday, March 4, 2011

Northern Exposure

Hubs and I are both incredibly proud to be born and raised Texans.  The love we feel for our home state is very real and very deep.  We love the heat, the smells, the countrysides, the flavors, foods, music, well this list could go on for awhile.  I myself couldn't ever see leaving Dallas, let alone my beloved Texas.  So you can imagine my surprise when our very first duty station ended up being as far away from home as possible.

I had been talking to my now husband for about two weeks when he graduated Airborne training and called to tell me that he got his orders.


I laughed for a good solid minute before I sweetly told him, "Well you have fun with that one!  Maybe I'll come visit, you know, in the summer."

Fast forward ten months later to me at the Dallas airport, newly married, crying and hugging my parents goodbye as I prepared to board the plane that would whisk me away to my new future with my husband in the Last Frontier.  

It was 65 degrees at 6am when I left Texas, and when I landed in Anchorage, Alaska in the middle of the afternoon, the temperature was a whopping 2.  Hubs met me at the airport with not one but two jackets, a toboggan hat, and a pair of the thickest gloves I had ever seen in my life.  I literally waddled out to our truck.  Throughout the ride to our new apartment, I stared in awe at my surroundings.

"How are these people driving so fast???  Don't they see the ice on the highway???" I screeched, gripping the door handle.  I mean, everyone knows that cities shut down when there's ice on the roads, don't they?  Hubs just laughed and cautioned me not to look at his speedometer.  I blanched when I saw that we were cruising along the icy roads at a good 70mph pace.  When we stopped at a light, I studied the snow drifts that stood taller than our F-150 and had to admit to myself that I had never before seen real snow in my life until that very moment.

Looking back now, I'm pretty proud of how I handled those first few months in Alaska.  I had to fight hard against my good Southern girl instincts that told me to just lock myself up in the nice, warm apartment until the snow melted.  Heck, within a month I was actually (gasp!) driving on icy roads.  I learned how to dress like an Alaskan (wear lots of light layers and stiletto boots are not practical footwear), speak like an Alaskan (snow mobiles are actually snow machines), and even defend myself from Alaskan wildlife (apparently peeing your pants then running is not the proper way to react to a bear).  I must say though that my favorite Alaskan lesson is that "Sorry, there was a moose!" is actually a legitimate excuse for being late to work.

I spent 2 1/2 years in the frozen tundra, including a year long deployment (my mother now thinks I'm the toughest woman on earth for spending a year in Alaska alone) before the Army decided we'd done our penance and moved us back to warmer climates.  When people find out that I lived there they always ask the same thing, "How did you do it?".  My stock answer is that I think I handled it so well because I always knew it was temporary, but the truth is that I loved nearly every minute of it.  I loved waking up to see enormous mountains right outside my bedroom window.  I loved having to carry a camera everywhere because I never knew when a bear or a moose would come strolling by.  Most of all, I loved the simplicity and the beauty like when you see a humpback whale jumping out of the water or a bald eagle soar by your head or touch a glacier and time seems to stand still for you in that moment.

The day we drove away from Anchorage, Alaska I told Hubs I had a feeling that it wouldn't be the last time we ever saw that place.  I'm sure that the Army will choose to send us back one day and this time we'll be better equipped to handle it.  I just pray that they let us thaw out a little more first.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Good Things Can Happen After 2AM

It was 3am when I got the phone call that changed my life forever. 

I was 26, living with my folks, working in a bank, dating a guy my friends hated, and driving home from a friend's house.  I answered the phone call from a great guy friend who I hadn't spoken to much lately since he'd started seeing his new girlfriend.  

"I met the perfect guy for you."

I immediately replied, "No thanks."  Let me explain.  This had become a fairly common occurrence at the time with all of my friends.  Every single one of them thought that I needed to get away from the guy I'd been dating (more off than on) for about a year.  And absolutely every single one of them knew "the perfect guy".  
"Just let me tell you about him before you decide, Laurie," he said.  "Trust me."

"Okay, what's the sales pitch?"

"He's a cowboy who drinks, smokes, and loves karaoke."

I'll admit I was intrigued, but those three things also described a hundred other guys that I had met over the years.  It was when my friend said "Oh, and he's in the Army" that he officially lost me.

"No way.  I don't date military guys!!"  

You know, they always say if you want to hear God laugh, just tell him your plans, and I swear, I can still hear God laughing at those damning words.  The next day, I had a friend request on MySpace from the Army boy named Robert.  He was fresh out of Basics/AIT and had just arrived at Fort Benning for jump school.  We exchanged a few emails which of course led to a few phone calls and two and a half weeks later I finally had my last first kiss. 

Now, who says good things never happen after 2am?