Army friends

When we moved to Belton over 6 years ago, one of my first friends was an Army wife. She and her children had just moved from Colorado Springs, and they were preparing for her husband’s delopyment. I also met another Army wife at church, and I became close friends with an Army wife who moved in down the street 5 years ago. I am friends with a retired Army wife, and Army spouses lived right across the street from us in our old neighborhood. In addition, I attended college in Killeen with Army spouses, Army service members, Army children, and retired Army personnel. Living so close to Ft. Hood, the largest U.S. Army installation in the world, I have learned quite a bit from my exposure to the military (especially from my good friend down the street). Here is some information I have gleaned over the years:

1. I noticed that my Army friends begin fixing up their houses immediately upon moving in. One friend told me that because of moving so often, she makes sure to get a new house unpacked and decorated as soon as possible.

My typical unpacking style takes several weeks, and I procrastinate with decorating (partly because I’m decorating-impaired). I hope to change that when we move to Little Rock in a few weeks, and I want to start hanging pictures right away. I also want to have a couple of rooms painted. I have a box left over from Topeka, KS (circa 1996) that I packed with miscellaneous items that I still need to empty. That box is one of the first on my list to unpack.

2. One family in particular amazed me with how quickly they integrated into Belton and surrounding areas, learning as much as they could about music, restaurants, outdoor activities, and other nearby attractions. I usually do a good job at meeting people since we’ve moved around quite a bit, but I don’t typically go out and explore new places very often. My friend’s enthusiasm has already influenced me  to try new things like hiking, taking the kids to DC by myself (while Paul was at a conference in Virginia), stand-up paddleboarding, kayaking, and attending concerts.

I’m looking forward to trying new things in Little Rock that we didn’t do when we first lived there. Several state parks are a day trip away, and the Little Rock downtown River Market area seems like a fun place to explore as well. I also look forward to checking out the music scene in Little Rock.

3. I have learned more acronyms in 6 years than I knew in my prior forty years combined. Here are some examples: SOP (standard operating procedure), DoD (Department of Defense), PCS (permanent change of station), TDY (temporary duty), and my personal favorite – PMS (Professor of Military Science). I also intern at the MCEC (Military Child Education Coalition), and they have their own sets of acronyms – LINN, SELI, MSTC, TMAS. My neighbor said she has made up her own acronyms over the years, including OMO (on my own).

On a trip to Little Rock recently, I found myself hoping that our move would be a PCS and not a TDY. We have moved many, many, many times in nearly 27 years of marriage (which is probably why I can identify somewhat with military families), and I just don’t feel like I can do it anymore.

I realized that even if we live in Little Rock for the rest of our lives, life is TDY and not PCS. We are not here permanently. As John so eloquently reminded me today, we are all going to die (he’s in that moody middle school phase). Nothing is permanent and change is inevitable along with death (thanks, John). My challenge is to make my time here on earth, whether Texas, Arkansas, or anywhere else, count for something. As one of my favorite songwriters, Michael Card, wrote, “When time reaches fullness, when I move my hand, I will bring you home. Home from your own place to a beautiful land, I will bring you home.”

Thanks to all my military friends for your patience with this civilian and  for teaching me to appreciate my family and my home even more. Most importantly, thank you for your service and sacrifice. Although I’ve faced moves and separations, I’ve never had to worry about my spouse or father in a war zone. I will miss you guys, and you will always have a special place in my heart.

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Cobras, Pythons, and Rattlesnakes…Oh My!

Since my last post was about John, I thought I’d share a fun memory of Catherine this time. Catherine became fascinated with snakes when she was a four-year old in pre-school. I don’t remember what attracted her to snakes, but she wanted to find out everything she could about every type of snake – the deadlier, the better.

The back story to her fascination with snakes is my phobia of snakes. I hated looking at pictures of snakes, and I never went into snake exhibits at zoos. At summer camp in the fourth grade, I dropped a large king snake on the floor when a brilliant camp counselor decided to have the campers pass the snake around the circle during a snake session. I was not going to touch that thing.

Fast-forward twenty-plus years later, and I was now faced with a daughter who insisted on checking out every single junior non-fiction book about snakes from the library. She also talked me into ordering a paperback set of books about snakes from Scholastic. I still remember the librarian’s face when we would go to the check-out desk with several books about cobras, never mind other snake books.

We read snake books over and over, and sometimes I’d scream when I’d see a particularly scary-looking picture of a snake. Sometimes I tried to turn the pages fast, but she wouldn’t let me.

We lived in Plano at the time, and I saw an article about a snake exhibit near Ft. Worth. Paul and I thought she would enjoy seeing snakes up close and personal, so we took her. Catherine was so excited to touch snakes, hold snakes, and ask the snake owners (handlers?) questions about their snakes. I figured since I had managed to look at snakes in pictures, I could force myself to look at live snakes. Catherine even asked me to touch one, so I did – very quickly.

Catherine’s snake fascination continued through Kindergarten. She drew pictures of cobras and wrote, “When I grow up, I want to go to India to see a cobra.” She was thrilled when Paul and I bought her a large, stuffed toy cobra for Christmas one year. She wanted to see a live cobra, though, so I found out the Snake Farm in New Braunfels had cobras. We went with a friend and her son, and Catherine had the time of her life looking at snakes. She asked very intelligent questions of the workers, and one let us come up and see some baby cobras that weren’t on exhibit. Then he let Catherine and her friend hold an albino python.

Catherine eventually developed other interests (I could write another post about penguins), and her fascination with snakes waned. We still have the toy cobra in a large plastic bag in a closet somewhere. I don’t have the heart to get rid of it.

Sometimes love sneaks upon us in strange ways. Who knew love came in cobra form?

Where are the Cowboys?

John used to ask questions relentlessly when he was younger. He didn’t ask the annoying “why” to every statement I made. Instead, he had some thought-provoking inquiries. At times I got tired of trying to answer his questions, but I started writing them down as I realized he wouldn’t always be an inquisitive preschooler. I compiled a list of some of John’s more humorous (although he was completely serious) and intriguing questions and called it

Where are the Cowboys?

Why do rats live in sewers?
What if we ate cake before lunch?
What if we were really aliens?
Do horses have belly buttons?
What if daddy stayed in the bathroom?
What if we didn’t have blood?
How long does it take to get to the center of the earth?
What if all the animals in the world threw up?
What if I was a black Pomeranian named Rascal?
Where are the cowboys?
What if otters were in our house?
What if I grew to be too big and you couldn’t carry me anymore?

by John Ricard, age 3 1/2 (now 12 1/2)