Friday, May 12, 2017

Chapter Outline


Growing up.
When you're a kid, all you can think about is being older. Having more responsibilities and living out on your own has this tantalizing appeal. With no one to tell you what to do & no curfews to keep you in at night -- what could be so terrible about this adult thing?

Oh, to be so naïve again.

SUNNY DAYS OF YORE

Transitioning from high school to college was bittersweet for me. I was leaving a small, rural school with a graduating class size of 25 students, where I knew everyone and was involved in every activity. I got along with my parents, loved my community, and excelled in school - graduating in the top of my class. Now, I would leave the comfort of my home & familiarity of my one stop-light town to attend to a university of about 7,000 students. It was overwhelming at first, but so exciting knowing I had the next four years to create a new image, make new friends and memories, and start a new path towards a career. Of course at the ripe age of 18, hardly anyone REALLY knows what they want to do with their life. And I was one of those unsure freshmen.

The dreaded first big decision in college... what will you major be? The problem is, I didn't have one particular job in mind that I wanted to pursue. And while I was a great student, there was no one area in which I had a true interest or passion to help me choose a college major. I could rule out a few areas right away: anything medical related (as blood and the even the smell of hospitals makes me queasy), Physics/Advanced Math (as these class caused tears on a regular basis in high school), and Art (because stick people are my go-to). But what DID I want to do? No idea.

And so, on registration day, with the mindset of choosing a major based on what I wanted to avoid doing,  I chose the great major of...*drumroll*... Mass Media, which falls under the umbrella of Journalism. I didn't even really know what that was, but it had less requirements in math and science classes, so I took the plunge. Very mature, I know. The paperwork was finalized, my major selected, class schedule set, and room arrangements ready to go --  I was officially a college freshmen.

My pink futon and I moved into the dorms, ready to take on what this first year had to offer. In this case, the dorm had to offer -- no air conditioning or ceiling fans. So my first real college life lesson was how to avoid blow drying my hair (or risk death by heat stoke) and mastering the ability to put on makeup while sweating at the same time.

I moved to campus early to participate in sorority recruitment before classes started. Somehow I wasn't selected to be roommates with another girl going through this process, but instead was paired up with a girl who was there practicing early for the college track team. I only did track in junior high, because it was part of our physical education - and my last track meet was the best thing that ever happened in my adolescent life. So roommate number one & I did not become BFFs. She went on to be one of the best athletes of our college track & cross country teams. I went on to join a sorority during recruitment, and was one of the lucky few freshmen that would get to live in the sorority house - so I packed my things and moved again about a month after classes had started. Unfortunately, roommate one's ability to be athletic didn't rub off on me in those few weeks.

I moved into the third floor of the sorority house, and took on the title of a sorority girl. Now, just to clear any stereotypes out of your head, Greek life on our campus was nothing like you see in the movies. All of the Greek housing was owned by the university and had very strict policies - just like any other college housing. Our Greek system was known for having high GPAs, following the rules without incidents, and being actively and positively involved on campus. So before you think I was living the life of Elle Woods in Legally Blonde, let me set the record straight. Although we did have mixers, themed dances, sleepovers, and nights to gather to watch The Bachelor together in the lounge. We still did know how to have fun.

Anyway, freshmen year was spent getting to know all of my sorority sisters, going to classes, dining on campus, napping, participating in campus activities, surviving finals for the first time, staying up late, homework sessions, trying to avoid the freshmen 15 while still eating a lot of cereal & easy mac, and a few parties (Sorry mom!). Just as I had through high school, I also worked some part-time jobs to help cover my expenses, which at the time included unnecessary items at Target & no bills. (Maybe I am more like Elle Woods than initially thought...). I worked for a family with 3 kids as a nanny and I answered phones at the headquarters of a retail company. Both of these worked with my activity & class schedules, plus one got me a discount for shopping purposes.

Thanks to these jobs, I could add these things to my resume for the future:
Can talk on the phone super well.
Expert snack provider & child chauffeur

And at the end of freshmen year, those were completely acceptable items to add to a resume. Because hardly any freshmen are thinking about their future careers at this point. You still have a major you aren't sure about. You still have 3 more years ahead of you for "grown up" things. Basically as the newbies on campus, you just get to dive into a world full of endless possibility, without the stress of the future pulling you under. You kind of wade around in the kiddie pool and take as many steps towards the deeper end as you'd like. All of which you do trying not to look too awkward in front of college boys. And when the year comes to a close, you think mainly of coming back to campus after a summer of tanning - to return no longer as the newbies, but as sophomores.


The second year of college is much like the first, but with the added bonus of knowing where all of your classes are without getting lost. The pink futon and I moved back into the sorority house, and felt blessed to only have to climb to the second floor. Moving on up! (Well down... but you know what I mean).

I got back into the swing of taking classes and writing papers and was busy with all the campus & Greek activities. Now that people knew who I was, I also started to take on some leadership roles within those organizations. I also continued to work my part-time jobs & really found my love for the sorority. Plus, I got the added responsibility of being a big sister -- not biologically, but within the sorority I inherited a little sister. I was feeling pretty grown-up now!

This is the year I can attest to building the friendships that have continued long past our college days. Freshmen year you meet lots of people, but sophomore year you really get to know them & find the niches & the groups of people you want to go to dinner with in the cafeteria, at 5pm, like old ladies. These are the friends you can walk into their room at any time to vent, eat, study, gossip or nap in their bed. The ones who were there to cry with you when you lost a friend back home. The ones that make you laugh the hardest & the girls that helped you celebrate and document the night you turned 21. These are still the girls that are in my life today - the ones that stood by my side at my wedding. Sophomore year was a big year.

Oh - plus I changed my major that year as well! Thanks to some advice from classmates, I officially changed my major from Mass Media to a degree in Organizational Communication. Now, I know what you're thinking... she's just making these things up. I promise it's real. Organizational Communication encompasses a lot of areas of study within communication, including speech, advertising, broadcasting, public relations, journalism, media, English and many more. It gave me the flexibility to pursue this general area while being able to pick and choose classes within all of those realms. With my degree you could kind of specialize in any of those areas within communication, while also getting classes in management and organization. For someone who had a lot of interests, but no real idea of what to do for a job, it seemed like the perfect fit. But, unlike pursuing a degree in Philosophy, it actually had some substantial options of jobs that I could do after graduation. It made my parents more at ease knowing their tuition money was getting me somewhere. Hopefully.

The year came and flew by. So many positive things happened that I really felt excited for this adulting thing. I was genuinely excited about my new major & felt like there were several job options I could really obtain in the future. I had built up my resume with leadership & volunteer experiences. I was going to be in charge of sorority recruitment at the start of my junior year. If I could be in charge of hundreds of college sorority girls, I could do anything. Right? Bring it on world: I can do this adult thing.

Or so I thought.



CLOUDY WITH A CHANCE...












Friday, November 18, 2016

He's Home! A Deployment Homecoming

320 days.
11 months.
46 weeks.

Finally, after all that time, I would get to see him. In just a few minutes I would get to watch him walk off the plane & take him home after a long deployment overseas.

Jerromy: I can't believe after traveling 7,000 miles, I am FINALLY on my last flight home!

My heart was racing; pumping with adrenaline. I tapped my foot anxiously as I sat in the airport terminal. I checked & re-checked my hair & makeup (I mean a girl wants to look good for her husband she hasn't seen in so long.) I tried my best to remain calm, but the butterflies in my stomach took over. Excitement continued to build as the minutes ticked away.

All I can think about is kissing her.  I'm so excited it's almost like I'm nervous -- the excitement has my whole body feeling energized, down to my bones.

I was on the brink of tears (again). I already cried on the way to the airport, overwhelmed with the idea that this was THEE day. Consumed with the feeling of being blessed beyond anything imaginable. In a scenario when so many things could go wrong, we made it through.

He was safe. And the deployment was over.

As the plane flew over Kearney, I started to recognize the houses, the streets; and it became more real. This is home.

The airport attendant announced the flight had landed --  He was here.

I jumped up & watched (almost in slow motion) as the pilots exited, the stairs were lowered, the luggage unloaded, and the first passenger could leave the jet. One by one people filed off the plane.

And then I saw him step down.

The people walking in front of me seemed to take forever to move forward, but I walked around the front of the plane with determined steps.

My heart was beating so loudly, it drowned out every other sound in the terminal.

All at once, I could finally see his face, his smile -- and it took my breath away.

She was standing there holding the sign she made with the biggest smile, (sigh) -- She's even more beautiful than when I left.

When he was just steps away I pushed forward and threw myself into his arms & kissed him.
He hugged me with everything he had.
I melted into him.

She came into my arms and it felt like I hadn't gone anywhere. I was right where I should be. Where I belong.

And we stayed like that, in this embrace for what felt like days. Not wanting to let go...

Busy people moved around us, headed to & from their next destination. Flights were called. For most, the day continued on.

But for us, it had stopped momentarily.

For once in 320 days, time was on our side.


Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Deployment Diaries: Part 2

Do you know how many days it is until November?
The average person would have a rough guess, but couldn't tell you exactly.
The women waiting for the end of this deployment, like myself, have the answer to this question calculated down to the approximate day, hour, minute & moon rotation.
Ok, well maybe not that last one.

We have 4 months until our soldiers touch down back in the USA. I can count that on one hand! A feat that seemed like it would never come, when the looming 12 months began. Now, we are on the 'home stretch' and ready for the moment I can start counting down days on that one hand.

Most say that the first year of marriage is the hardest and for us it definitely has been very difficult. Newlyweds separated by 7,000 miles complicates starting a new life of togetherness. But, I do think it will make our second year that much sweeter. Most couples get married, move in together and immediately get annoyed at the little bad habits of your spouse -- the things you only discover after sharing space and being together 24/7. And while I know that things will not be perfect when he returns, I don't think I will be upset if he leaves his shoes by the door, or his clothing in the dryer. Because those things will mean he is home.

And there is no place else I would rather he be.

It's disheartening to walk into a house and know his clothing will be hung on the hangers exactly as you've left it. His shoes won't be by the door, because they are aligned in the closet. You won't be welcomed by his smile or laugh. And he won't be there in the morning to walk you to the door to send you off with a goodbye kiss. The house is empty.

Even if other people are around, the lack of his presence is noticeable -- it's a constant ache in your chest. A longing that seems to grow, no matter how much you were able to talk that day.

And yet, my heart is full.

7,000 miles can't stop him from sending flower, just because. Or from crying with you, when your dad is in the hospital. It has no control over the prayers you both say for each other daily. Or the giggles you share over FaceTime. Separation doesn't stop our hearts from being poured out into messages, care packages, letters, and calls.

You have to rely on your patience, positivity, faith & trust to get you through everyday. The waiting, and the fear of the unknown, help you to look to God & to each other for strength. You count your blessings a little more often.

So if anything, I think this deployment has helped us to grow in our faith and allowed us a glimpse into the magnitude and power of love.

Because that's the thing about love, it transcends all circumstances.



*Next time I check in, my soldier will be HOME! :)



Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Deployment Diaries

Me: "How was your day, baby?"
The Hubby: "Well actually a car bomb went off less than a mile away from us -- it shook our whole building."   *(paraphrased)

Welcome to deployment...

My husband Jerromy is currently deployed and serving in Afghanistan. He left in December and will (hopefully) be back home after his 9 months there. We just recently got married in October 2015 a little before he was called to duty. This is actually his second deployment to Afghanistan, but as for me, I am new to this whole Army life. During his first deployment, Jerromy and I were friends who became pen-pals during his months across the Atlantic. So, while I was part of the first one from a distance, it was (and is) much different to have your husband overseas. My view from home is a little different than it was before.

He has been overseas now for about 4 months, although it feels like it's been about a year already. For the most part, everything has gone pretty okay. We are so blessed to live in an age of technology where texting, phone calls, and FaceTime can keep us connected despite the distance. We don't have to rely on snail mail to give updates -- although we do still send the occasional hand-written love letter. Despite the 7,000 miles and 9.5 hour time difference, we still get to talk every day and for that I am so thankful.

So fast forward to this week, when we were texting during (my) morning and (his) night. A very routine thing for us -- when I asked about his day. Turns out, it wasn't like every other day up until this point. There had been an explosion by a terrorist group just outside of where they are living. It is Afghanistan after all. So when he let me know about that bomb-- it felt like one had dropped right in my office at work as well.

He immediately assured me that everyone (in his unit), including himself, were okay. However, it turns out it did kill 28 people and injured hundreds more.

I began asking a million questions.
Tears welling in my eyes started streaming down my face.
Every 'what if' scenario played through my head over and over again.
And then praying and thanking God for answering my prayers and keeping them safe.

And you know what I did next? Get mad at him for telling me something so nonchalantly over a text message. I took out my fear with anger on Jerromy. Way to be a great wife...

The thing is, he didn't want to even tell me. He loves me too much to want me to worry about situations that could have been. He figured if he made it sound like no big deal -- then I would see it that way too. But to me, it was a BIG deal.

Although I pray for his safety every day, you don't really think about what could happen. You just can't allow your mind to go there. So when something like this hits so close to home -- it makes your eyes open. Maybe opened too much, as I cried myself into a slight panic attack in the bathroom at work. Tears of fear. Of thankfulness. Of anger.

And of praise. I absolutely know with my whole being, that God kept him safe from this terrorist attack. And I have complete faith that He will continue to do so for the remainder of his deployment.

Now, two days later I realize I could have handled it better. And wives that have been through multiple deployments would be prepared for bad news or even just scary news like I had been given. But, I am new at this and I try the best I can in each situation. Thankfully this isn't routine -- so I don't have to get good at reacting in moments like these.

I would also go through any deployment if it meant I get to be married to Jerromy. His love is worth any obstacle...

I do hope however that the next BIG text message he has to send me -- is that he is coming home <3



Thursday, March 10, 2016

Jesus, Easter & Fish on Fridays

Easter is right around the corner, which means Easter bonnets & our Sunday best, deviled eggs, and of course a visit from a furry friend. For a lot of people, Easter also marks the day when they can start to consume meat every day of the week again – as Lent will be over. The Lenten season is an opportunity for us to connect with God, but for many, Lent is synonymous with the ritual of giving up fish on Fridays and the sentiment ends there. When it began, Lent was used to help new converts prepare for baptism, with repenting & fasting. Now most Christians see these six weeks as a time to prepare spiritually for Easter. 

The word 'Lent' translated means 'spring' and although 'spring' means to burst forth, spread & grow, I fear that our culture has given Lent a completely different meaning. Although celebrated in many different ways, there are some basic principles to these 40 days I hope we start to understand...

1. Lent is not a Requirement
By this I mean that your heart should not be burdened by the idea that this is something "you are supposed to do”. If you are giving up something because your church or your family says you HAVE to and it is not truly a desire of your heart -- then you are missing the whole point. Jesus doesn't want you to HAVE to do anything for Him. He wants you to WANT to draw near to Him, to desire Him, to focus on Him. If you celebrate Lent & choose to sacrifice, know your reasons for doing so and do it with an open heart -- not a burdened one. 

2. Complaining isn't Sacrificing
Just because you choose to give something up does not mean the world has to know about it. The key to the Lenten season is humility. During this time, your goal should be to come closer to God. It isn't to draw attention to yourself for the thing you choose to give up & desire praise for your efforts. A true sacrifice is quiet. It doesn't happen on Facebook or between your friends. It happens in the stillness of your heart.  It happened on a cross.

3.  Lying isn't Sacrificing Either
If you say you are giving up a specific food for Jesus, but are really doing it to help kick-start your bikini body -- that isn't sacrificing. That is lying to yourself & to God. And binging on whatever it is you plan to sacrifice the night before Lent begins & then again Easter morning -- isn't the point either. That is giving in to the desires of your flesh instead of honoring God with your choices. You cannot sacrifice expecting to earn favor or be noticed for your good works. Truly you must not expect anything worldly in return.

4. You Don't Have to Sacrifice at All
Sometime it isn't giving up something that should be your focus. Maybe, God wants you to add something to your life instead. The goal of your Lenten season should be to grow spiritually. So, if for you that means adding a devotional time & sticking to it, or praying for a set amount of time every day -- then do that instead. Giving up something is only needed, so you can add God back into your schedule in return. 

Lent is a time to humbly come before God, focusing on his Presence, and be thankful and awed by his overwhelming forgiveness. It gives you the opportunity to sacrifice or put aside anything you hold as an idol over God. What is it that controls you? For some that is food. For others maybe the media & TV consume your time instead of worship. Maybe a sacrifice for you is to keep work at work & spend time with your family. Whatever it is -- lay it down before Him -- and take that time to meditate in God's word. Take that time and listen to His voice in your life. Take that time to honor His sacrifice for us & worship Him for all He has given you.

The purpose of Lent is to grow in God's grace. It is a time to lay down your life for the One who first showed us what it meant to sacrifice. With or without the fish.




Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Post Holiday Depression

It's that time of year...

It's the middle of January, and there is not a Christmas cookie in sight. New Years has came and went; (as did many resolutions), and the closest holiday in sight is roughly 132 days away (not that you've counted or anything). The memories of parties, dessert exchanges, Secret Santas, vacation days, and excuses to eat unhealthily lie behind us.

We have eaten our way through Thanksgiving & Christmas and popped the bubbly as the ball dropped on NYE. But now, as always we have made the resolution to eat healthy, workout, and stay away from the cheesecake. Easier said than done. Because you know what hits the shelves the afternoon of January 1st? The temptress that is Valentine's day candy --  and those conversation hearts you swear spell out the words "Buy Me" every time you walk by in Target.

So the long, dark, days stretch on from January 2nd until the first time you get a Monday off of work for a vacation -- which at the earliest could be Easter, for others as "early" as Memorial Day (which is NOT until May!).

 And you can't help but start to feel yourself catching the epidemic. No, not flu season. This time it turns out that you have a case of Post Holiday Depression.

This self-diagnosed plague I find myself to have the second our Christmas decorations find the storage tote. And it hits harder when I start to notice the dimness of neighborhoods without Christmas lights. My energy sinks as I think about the 40+ weeks we have until Santa comes again.

Also, your dwindled down bank account from all your Christmas shopping doesn't help with bringing a smile to your face. Neither does the extra pounds you accumulated thanks to mom's home cooking & the office break room treats.

And, if those things aren't sad enough. There's the cold, miserable, weather that Jack Frost sets over Nebraska for up to 5 freezing months. So, every morning you go out to scrape the ice off your windshield, you start to daydream of sandy beaches & curse Mother Nature for freezing parts of your anatomy off.

And, your P.H.D. grows stronger.

Usually, you think to yourself. Well, there is Valentine's Day! That should brighten my mood -- at least the candy will be on sale soon! And then you have internal battle of  whether or not to buy 45 Reese's hearts or to stick to your meal plan. Peanut butter has protein... so that has to be an acceptable snack, right?

You crunch unhappily on your rice cake & go right back to sulking.

Really there are no known cures for Post Holiday Depression.  Yes, binge watching Netflix helps. I assume time cuddling a baby animal would bring a smile to your face. Retail therapy always has its moments of bliss. And the thought that Full House is having a reunion will give you a ray of hope.  But the real way to battle this, I believe, is to be tanning on a beach somewhere warm and tropical.

So, if you find yourself moping with this incessant disease -- I prescribe just that.

But be forewarned, Post Vacation Depression is also just as real...








Monday, November 16, 2015

Think Before You Post...


On the day that information was released about the terrorist attacks in Paris, the world responded and united in a positive and powerful way.  Social media sites were flooded with #PrayersforParis, depictions of the national flag of France, pictures from trips to the Eiffel Tower and so many other shout-outs to the hurting nation. It was amazing to see the response of unity spread across the world, letting Paris know they were not alone. However, my concern for our social media generation is that we like to show that we are #praying for another country, but are we actually praying and grieving for others? Or are we just jumping on the bandwagon?
 
One day before this devastating attack on Paris, another 147 individuals lost their lives in an attack in Kenya. However, our generation had no idea. Why? Because the trending topic of the day on Facebook was related to the neckline of a certain Kardashian sister & her date out on the town. I kid you not.  The younger generations tend to be interested in whatever issue is brought to their attention via social media.  In 2012 it was the issue of KONY in Africa, and  in our recent past we had the day the trending hashtag was #lovewins, in response to same-sex marriages becoming legal in the US. Or who can forget the REAL scandal of the color of cups being served at Starbucks. What about children starving every day in our own country? Or those in abusive relationships happening in our own town? The homeless and hungry found in every nation? Those aren't plastered on Facebook, so they simply don't get the same cry of outrage.
 
If I had to interview people today about what had actually happened in any of the foreign nations relating to our recent events, not many would be able to tell me a straight answer. The problem is, we are a generation searching for a cause. It is like we are simply scrolling through our news feeds looking for the next big (or little) thing to offend us. So we blast our "opinion" from social media - -without fact or relevance to back it up, just to be a member of the group. Blanket statements begin to cover groups of people, because we aren't checking to see what is fact and what is a stereotype. Irrelevant articles are shared out of context to try and prove a point. Without proper knowledge or history of a subject, hundreds of people state their opinion formed by reading one article or by seeing one status -- just to be part of the argument.
 
As soon as the internet has moved on to the next big thing, the band hitches itself to another wagon. Strong opinions fade just as quickly as they were formed. Never to be mentioned again-- because the world isn't watching and waiting for you to be part of that group. There isn't pressure to be part of a trend. Temporary profile pictures fade, which is fitting, because most of the time interest in that issue is that -- temporary. On to the next thing: What will we choose to be offended by next?
 
I want to emphasize that social media is a tool that can be used to promote your cause. And I do encourage you to use it for that purpose, but out of passion and not pressure. Find a cause and be part of something bigger than yourself. But do your research and find the facts. Do not let Facebook become the only book you read. Check your sources, relate it to the context, and then become an educated advocate. Search for what breaks your heart by genuinely praying (without the hashtag). Seek for ways to help find the solution without prejudice or bigotry. Choose your battles and really think before you make a statement. I still encourage you to raise your voices -- as long as you don't do it to hear yourself speak. 
 
Let's stop being the generation of  "rebels" who are looking for a cause to follow on social media and instead let us become the generation of activists that are out there learning, growing, being, serving, respecting, and making our world a better place. As we are loving others, stepping away from our screens and putting aside our arguments, judgmental opinions, selfish nature, and defensiveness we will start to see something else rise to the surface of attention -- #worldpeace.