Monday, May 21, 2012

2 Years

Holy Moly the amount of things a marriage can go through in 2 years! We've probably done all of the "life's most stressful events" in our measly 2 years of marriage. We've moved, got pregnant, experienced a long separation followed by a long traumatic injury & recovery process, had a baby, and moved again. And we still love each other! Imagine that. It's definitely been hard, we've argued like children and fought and cried and have had every other emotion you can have. We continue to struggle with communicating effectively; we communicate a lot, it's just not always effective or constructive. We compare our problems to every other married couple that we know, to make sure we're still normal.

How many young married couples can say they've made it through what we have, and are still in love and rooting for each other all the time? I'm so glad I found someone so wonderful just four short years ago. He is so humble, compassionate, sensitive, and respectful. He tries so hard to put his family first, and he always thinks of others feelings before his own. He is such a wonderful and loving father; Cooper is so very blessed, although he will probably disagree when he's a teenager. 

I remember our wedding day very clearly still. May 22, 2010. It has only been two years. The day was absolutely perfect, and if anything went wrong, I didn't notice it. Seriously, it was perfect. We got married on the beach, and the weather couldn't have been nicer. People danced at the reception, and it was a fun wedding! How many weddings have you been to and there's that awkward "should we dance or not" moment. Not at ours. The beer was flowing, and people were filling pitchers to bring back to their tables. We had an impromptu photo booth in the corner of the room, which produced some awesome pictures as the night went on. We had about 10 best man speeches because people kept coming up to 'save' the last person, and ended up giving their own speech as well. Every single guest (about 100!) came from out of town, since it was technically a destination wedding. How loved are we, that people came that far to celebrate our special day with us! 

I thought this picture was a little ironic; us brushing the sand off our feet after our beach wedding...who knew that two years later my husband would only have one of those. (I'm obviously still obsessed with finding pictures of him with both of his feet showing. We miss his right foot. Bad.) 

Photo by: Sincerely, Liz Photography 

An adventure filled two years to say the least. I would never want to go through the recent events again, but I am glad it was with him. No one else would handle it with such grace as he has. The only reason I didn't loose my mind, was because he was/is so strong and so grounded throughout the entire process. And he continues to be. 

I hope Cooper grows up to admire his father for all he has become even though life has thrown some crazy shit his way. 

I have to stop writing now, because then I won't have anything to say for Father's Day! 

Happy Anniversary my love. If you ever read all these blogs, I hope you will finally know how much of an inspiration you are to so many people. How much we all love and adore you, especially your wifey and son. I hope you always find the good in every situation, and I hope you never lose your handsome smile and that beautiful sparkle in your gorgeous blue eyes! 

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Jason - Month 9

I lost track of the days, and his 9 months came and went. He's been going to PT every morning at the YMCA, and then going in to work. I'm not sure that he's fully comprehended that he really has no 'work' anymore. Well, while he's a part of the WTU anyway. It's a whole different lifestyle, and one that he's not fond of.

Most of our closest friends from this unit have returned home. They've had Welcome Home ceremonies every day, sometimes twice a day for the past week, and they will continue this week. We've already been to a BBQ, out to dinner, and he's played golf with a couple guys too. That was a prime example of how his 'work days' have changed. Yesterday he was done with appointments by 11am, and was told he didn't have to be there. He went to his old unit and shot the shit with some old comrades for a while. Then he came home and got really nice and said "So, um, the guys want me to play golf with them..." Meanwhile, I'm laying in bed while Cooper naps, and so I feel like I can't say no since look how productive I'm being. And quite honestly, I wanted some more alone time :) Earlier he said he felt dirty playing golf during the work day...and then when they told him he didn't need to be there, he changed his mind and thought it'd be ok.

Anyway, so that's how his time in the Army has changed. He often says he's got celebrity status here because there aren't very many combat wounded guys in the WTU, a lot of sprained ankles, hurt backs, and PTSD. I've told him he needs to keep that attitude in check, and not let it go to his head. The Purple Heart carpet will be rolled up soon enough.

Speaking of Purple Hearts, he used his VA Grant, and got a new 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee. When we get the license plates, we're totally getting the permanent handicapped plates. He got a $350 ticket the other day for forgetting to hang his placard up. Sweet.

We had to take another trip to the ER. He woke up one morning and said "Look at this..." and showed me his inner forearm with a red streak going up it. I told him not to mess around with that, but we had a lot planned for the day, and he didn't want to miss anything. Finally at 11pm, he decided it had started hurting and that he should go to the ER. Of course I'm going to go with him, and so thankfully our sweet boy slept the whole time, and went right back to sleep when we got home. They gave him an injection of antibiotics, and sent him home with two oral antibiotics. But the PA couldn't tell us anything about the rash. "I don't know, I'm just the PA." Great. Thanks.

He's had a few breakdowns when the itching got out of control. "Why me? I was just doing my job. Why do I have to do this?" Something he'll struggle with for a long time, I fear.

A sweet little boy is calling my name in the form of crying right now. Off I go, to fulfill my duties as a stay at home mommy.

Friday, May 11, 2012


Never in my life have I wanted something so bad as I've wanted to experience a Welcome Home ceremony. This past week, we've gone to three ceremonies. The soldiers are all flying home on different flights, instead of doing it by company, which would keep all the same guys together. That would just make too much sense. Jason wanted to see all of his closest buddies come in, so we had to go to three different ceremonies. The first one was new, and fun, and exciting. Jason joined the formation of guys after greeting them all getting off the plane. They were recognized in the speech, and got to stand in the front.  For the second ceremony, he didn't wear his uniform, he just greeted all the guys he knew. And the same for the third. Each time, they played "Courtesy of the Red, White, and Blue" as the guys walked in, and the screams were so loud and high pitched (the majority of people are wives, duh) it gave me goosebumps every time. And, in that moment, all three times, I felt so insanely jealous of these women, and families.

I'm not a crier, but I did cry the day he left. Just a few tears, after he hugged me and went to wait for them to call "8190". I scanned the crowd and couldn't find him, and I panicked. He came back, and hugged me again. In the pit of my stomach, I was so worried about him. "I'll be fine", he said. "I know, but it's different this time." (We found out three weeks before he deployed that I was pregnant) "I know, I'll come home to you, don't worry."

He was on the first plane to leave, too. So he was alone out there, relieving the other unit, for a couple weeks until his buddies joined him. He would whisper on the phone, "I'm so scared. The enemy is so close to us."

Those three months of deployment are such a distant memory now. We Skyped a handful of times, but the internet connection was always terrible. I sent him about four care packages; one never made it to him, and two got returned. I remember telling him to be careful, not to get too confident out there, this wasn't like his other deployments. (Like I knew what I was talking about. Ha.) I remember when he told me that one of the guys stepped on a land mine. We had a conversation about it. (about 3 weeks prior to his own incident) What would life be like? How hard must that be? "I can't imagine having to go through that." Never in a million years did I think we'd have to. I wouldn't have believed you if you told me this would be our life now. If you told me the things we would go through, I would have laughed in your face and said "there's no way I'd be able to handle that."

The last time he was deployed, we were only dating. And he was stationed in Germany, so there was no way I'd be able to get over there to see him come home without being a family member of any sort. I remember going to get him at the airport though, when he came home for block leave. We were excited, but everyone around us was just going about their normal day, having no idea we hadn't seen each other for about a year.

I told him tonight, while waiting for the guys, "Remember how I would always get mad at you for not Skyping with me enough? I would give up seeing you at all for a whole year if that meant we didn't have to deal with this." How could we have known? Of course I can do the "if only" game all night long. I can want that Welcome Home ceremony so bad it hurts, but it's not going to make his leg grow back. It's not going to change our story.

I want to know how that excitement feels. I want to run and jump in his arms again. I want him to feel normal again. I want him to stop second guessing why he was doing what he was doing. I want him to be happy. I want us to be happy. I want to be so excited I feel like I might pass out. I want to cry out of sheer anticipation. I want to be shaky and have my heart racing. I want to watch him hold his son for the first time since his leave. I want to be searching for him in a sea of Multi Cam. 

I wonder if going to these ceremonies was a bad idea. Maybe three was too many. Each time I get more and more envious. I cry out on the inside - I wanted this too. Why couldn't we have had this too? Why do you deserve this and I don't? 

I am so excited for all of our friends husbands that have finally come home, and those that are still to come. I'm excited to get back to bar-b-quein and hangin out like old times. I'm excited for Jason, to see those guys again, and I hope all of our friendships will pick up where they left off.

But at the end of the day, everyone goes home and does normal things while we come home and slather steroid cream all over to help his itchy rash, use crutches to take a shower, wear gloves to sleep at night, and get $350 parking tickets because you forgot to hang your handicapped placard up.

He gave me a big long hug in the parking lot. He saw the longing in my eyes as I watched excited wives try to help their husbands load the oversized bags they lived out of for the last year in to their tiny two door cars. I watched them just stare at their husbands in amazement, like they couldn't believe they were really here, that this was finally happening.

"I'm sorry. I know you wanted this so bad. I did too." Of course you did. No one wants to not have a right foot! I'm glad he recognized how much it's been agonizing me, though.

I have got to find peace with this. This could be considered closure, but it's still not over for us. Boy are we ready for it to be over! The thing is, no matter where we go, someone will always want to know his story. For someone as humble as Jason, it is not an interesting story, and it's not one he feels like telling over and over again. He hates telling his story. He hates any kind of attention, and now he's always going to get some form of it no matter where he goes! Unless he's wearing pants, and unless there are a bunch of amputees in one area, then he may not be as noticeable :)

We are just dying to know what the greater good in all of this is. 
No pun intended. 

Monday, May 7, 2012

Cooper - Month 4

My sweet handsome little boy!

You have grown so talkative and beautiful this past month. Mommy loves to hear your coo, gurgle, and giggle. Your eyes just light up so bright when you see your parents, and you smile so beautifully big. You love to be on your changing table, and you especially love it when you're completely naked! You just kick and squirm and giggle and think its so fun to have no clothes on :)

You've got your Daddy's very sensitive skin, and Mommy has tried so hard to find a lotion, cream, or soap that will help it. You've got very dry skin, and what Mommy thinks is eczema, although she's no doctor ;)

You're still sleeping like a champ, and I could not be more grateful for that. You do, however, still sleep in your port-a-crib in Mommy & Daddy's room because I am still a little hesitant to be a whole room away from you! Your nursery is almost finished, and when it is, I promise I'll let you sleep in there all by yourself.

You are now an accomplished flyer, as you took your first flight to Colorado! You slept the whole way, and impressed the otherwise grumpy lady next to you.

You are still rolling from your back to your tummy, but aren't really interested in being on your tummy for too long.

You carry on conversations with us, and I love to hear your voice. You have become much more vocal, and you've also cranked up the volume quite a bit, just to be sure you're being heard!

You're splashing, and trying so hard to sit up straight in the bath tub, instead of the reclined position the infant tub wants you to do. So you pretty much do a V-Up the whole time you're in the tub.

You're grabbing things and bringing them to your mouth now, and you've almost discovered your feet! You're still sucking your thumb, and Mommy is still hoping you'll forget about it soon.

You Skyped with MomMom, and thought she was pretty funny looking on the computer screen. You're starting to notice Sadie walking around, and I think you're not too sure what she is. You're definitely not too sure when she licks your face.

My favorite part of the day is waking up to your bright eyes and smile in the morning. You are the happiest then, although you'll always smile for me, the morning smiles are by far, the best.

You've met a lot of Mommy's friends in Colorado, and they all love you so much already. You are so blessed to have so many wonderful people in your life!

You have become so squirmy and wiggly. I love watching you twist and turn, except when I'm trying to change your diaper or get you dressed. One of your favorite places is on the changing table, and especially when you're butt naked!

You've also become very wiggly while nursing. I can only imagine how this will get worse as you grow. You're a mover and a shaker, and I wouldn't be surprised if you start crawling soon!

Mommy and Daddy finally finished your nursery, and you have slept in your big boy bed crib for all naps and at night time for the past two days. You are such a wonderful sleeper, and we are so blessed.

We love you, Cooper Graham!

Welcome Home Warhorse!

This is the first picture I've posted on this blog. But I love it! It speaks to me - shows the support. I'm not going to try to tell you who that is for fear of messing it up - but he is pretty high ranking.

We went to our first homecoming ceremony today. It was crowded, and the guys were late, as usual. They had a video broadcasting the guys getting off the plane, and Jason and two other wounded guys from his company were standing there shaking everyones hand as they came off the plane. He was beaming. I could tell he was so excited to be there.

It was a mix of emotions, for sure. I wasn't as excited as every other person in there, but I did feel excited and so happy for everyone welcoming home their husband or loved one. I tried to imagine what that must feel like. Last time he came home from a deployment, he was stationed in Germany, and we were only dating, so I couldn't be there. I did get excited picking him up from the airport when he came home on block leave, though. And we were only dating. I can only imagine how I would've felt today with Cooper 4 months old. He would've only seen him at his birth, and not again until now. Obviously through Skype, but that's just not the same! I wish we could've run to him and fallen in to his arms. I wish that could've been us. How many more times can I say that? Ha. I need to learn to move on.

The ceremony was short and sweet, we sat and chatted with a few people we hadn't seen in a long time, and with the other wounded guys who came in from Texas, and then we came home.

Just like that. It's over. They're home. Now what?!

Thursday, May 3, 2012


Sometimes when I sit on the couch, it feels like it's still eight months ago, and my husband is still deployed, and I'm still pregnant. When I sit there, I remember the day I got the news about Jason. I sat there for most of the day, on the phone with anyone and everyone. I was still in my purple scrubs from working the night before. I remember looking around and wondering what would happen to all of our stuff. I remember thinking, maybe these would be the last couple of days I'd have in this house. I remember when CPT F told me the recovery time is usually anywhere between 8 and 16 months, I was looking at our engagement picture hanging over the fireplace and thinking, "Holy Shit, 8 months?! I'm going to have to quit my job! Where will Sadie go? Who will move our stuff?" Even being a nurse, for some reason I briefly thought he'd fly to the US, and then come home to Colorado after about a week in the hospital. Ha, I'm an idiot. So, when he told me that timeline, that's when I remember realizing that this would be a really long road to recovery. 

And long it was, but look, we're already back home. And now I'm turning back, looking at all our time in Bethesda, and at home, and it all seemed to have gone so fast, although I know it didn't. As a matter of fact, we got back 2 days before he would've flown home from Afghanistan. The group he left with, came home 2 days after we got back. It was a weird feeling, knowing he should've been on that flight. I am 100% grateful he is home with me, but I am also 100% jealous he was not on that flight home.

I have really been feeling the selfishness of wanting to experience a welcome home ceremony lately. Everyone is getting their 'official calls' as to when their soldier will be flying in, and the only official call I got, was the one no one ever wants to get. 

We will still go to one of the ceremonies. They all come home in small groups, so he's basically just picking one to walk out with. I will go and take pictures, and I wonder if I'll get emotional, but I doubt I'll feel the giddy excitement all the other wives and family members will be feeling. 

Our conversation tonight:

"Why couldn't you have been just a few inches to your left or right? Why was it the third person? Why not the second, fourth, or nobody?"

"Do you think we'll ever stop wondering why?"

"I should be SRPing right now, and enjoying you and Cooper, and having a normal life, and going back to my normal job. Your mom would probably be here. The nursery would already have been done. We wouldn't have moved for a second time. I still can't believe it. I still can't believe this is my life now." 

"Why can't I just be normal? Why do I have to go through all of this?" 

"The Army has been such a big part of my life, I'm not ready to give it up yet. I don't know what I'll do if they tell me I can't stay in." 

He's alive. And home. Be grateful, Stephanie. 
I am.

But I'm grieving the loss of our normalcy. The fact that I never got to experience this Welcome Home ceremony is really hitting me hard for some reason. It marks the end of the deployment. Everyone is so excited because their soldier is home safe, and they can return to a normal life because the deployment is over. We can't. Maybe that's why, because I know this means everyone he was with, will come home and return to life just as they left it, while we are here still trying to figure out our new life. 

We will have to live with that deployment for the rest of our lives, while many others will just move on with it only a distant memory. 

I often wonder what life will be like 5, 10, 15 years from now. How will this affect his overall health, or his motivation. He is currently inprocessing to the WTU, and hates every minute of it. We wonder if we're still included and invited to all the Company and Battalion events even though now he's technically in the WTU. He has finally started to realize that his time in the Army will probably never be the same. 

These blogs seem to be cyclic - its like I have to have these same emotions, thoughts, and feelings over and over again so that maybe one day I will finally be able to process and accept it all. 

We will celebrate our 2nd anniversary on the 22nd. It's only been 2 years! I can only hope the next 100 years are much less eventful than this year has been. We've had more strain on our marriage in the last year than most people endure in ten years. I don't wish it on anyone. We will be dealing with the effects of this for a long time, most likely. Hopefully, we will learn to deal with the effects together. 

We've still got to get him back to doing his high kick for another picture to hang...(and subsequently another hole to put in the wall!) 

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Home Again

I will probably post a bunch of blogs because if I write it all in one, it will take you 3 days to read.

First things first, we're back in Colorado! We've only been here about a week and a half, and slowly it's starting to feel like home again. I've been trying to be patient as there really is no rush, but our house is still a disaster area. Jason always preaches to me "there's no rush" and my favorite, "just relax". So, I'm doing my best to bite my tongue and try not to want to get everythingdonerightnow like the old Stephanie would.

We literally moved in for a second time. This time was probably worse because we were coming home to a house full of stuff, and we brought 1300 lbs of more STUFF to fit in here too. Needless to say, we've already taken a trip to Goodwill. Don't tell my mother. There is another heap in the Living Room just waiting to go as well. Don't tell my mother.

We are simultaneously creating a nursery for Cooper. We've done a little bit each night, and it is nice to be able to put this together with my husband. But because of this, there have been a lot of big expenditures as of late, and that just adds to the stress. You know what else stresses me out? Putting holes in the wall. To hang pictures, shelves, curtain rods, anything. All I can think about is how we're going to have to spackle and fill them all before we leave, or whatever it is you do to holes in walls. I suppose that's not a bad skill to learn with a little boy growing up. Anything for my sweet baby boy!

Speaking of which, getting anything done with a baby around is damn near impossible. I feel terrible for laying him on his play mat for too long, because I'm sure he's getting bored with that thing. But, I'm managing. I'm learning a little about what it's like to be a stay at home mom, because right now, that's what I am. The feelings that come along with it, are new. The "I promise I got out of bed and showered today even thought it looks like I did nothing" feelings. Or the "I've been trying to do stuff all day, and now you're sitting on the couch watching TV doing nothing?!" feelings.

I've already been up to work, they're supposedly creating a PRN position for me, and that's really exciting. I will probably get to jump through all the governmental hoops again before I'm able to start, though.

I've been to two Fit Mom classes on post, TWO! I'm on a roll. Ha. No, I was hurting. Completely out of breath from walking and pushing a stroller. That's it. I mean, there were hills so I'll give myself a little credit, and we are at 6,000 feet. But, I'm still getting winded going up and down the stairs. No excuses.

I went to IKEA last weekend. Big mistake. First off, I shouldn't have gone on the weekend. Second off, I should not have gone alone with Cooper. He was great, but the logistics of it all was just a nightmare. I insisted that Jason stay home and go play golf since that's what he'd been wanting to do since I showed up at the airport with his golf clubs in a new golf bag. I didn't know shopping carts weren't allowed in the show room due to high volumes of people. Mistake number one. Oh well, I didn't bring his stroller because then I wouldn't have room for anything in the car, so I had him in his car seat in a shopping cart. I was getting the evil eye from every other person in there. I quickly tried to make my way through their maze and noticed I was probably the only idiot there alone. I finally got to where you start putting stuff in your cart (and where its allowed to have a cart) and you should've seen how long it took me to pick each item. I stood in front of the curtains mulling over two different patterns for about 20 minutes. I'd walk around and look at the curtain rods, and then back to the two different curtains. All I kept hearing was Jason saying "just pick one, they're both fine, just pick one!" (Which is why I insisted he stay home.) Same thing at the shelving. I walked through their aisles at least 5 times. Then to the baskets. Do I get four of the same kind, or two different colors, or different textures? Then when I came to the end and realized I'd missed something on my list,  I about died. It was all the way back upstairs in the show room. I was not about to maneuver the now full shopping cart all the way back up there against the flow of traffic. So at this point, Cooper has been an angel baby and slept the whole time. I wheeled the full cart in to the bathroom (probably a no no) and changed him. I tried to put him in the Moby to eat so I could finish shopping but that was too ambitious. Stuff was falling out of and off of the cart, and here I am with a now screaming baby because he's hungry. I just plopped in the middle of the self service furniture area on one of their display couches and fed him. I was so over it by then, but I at least had a moment to collect my thoughts and figure out a plan. After he was done, I paid for everything in my cart, took it to the car, and put him in the Moby. I went back in for round two. Found the things on my list I missed in the beginning, and went to get the furniture. They only had one of the items I wanted in stock, of course. So by the time we left, it was about a 5 hour IKEA trip. I will never, ever go there alone again. And I do not recommend it to anyone.

So this has been the gist of our first week and a half back in Colorado. On to the next post...