Tuesday, April 26, 2011

101 Days + 30 Years

Today marks the 101st day since Louis deployed on January 15th. Sometimes its hard to believe that days are going by so quickly. It seemed that the first month would never end, that there would always be an interminable amount of time until homecoming. And yet, some families are already seeing their soldiers home for Rest and Recuperation- the much anticipated 2 week vacation scheduled mid-deployment. "Mid" is a term used loosely to describe anytime between the 3rd and 9th month. Most of the R&Rs are assigned, with Lou's being sometime in September. At the moment, that is. :) Back before he was a platoon leader he was told he would be taking it in April, and then the day after he made platoon leader it switched to October. Now its September and I'm happy that its not April anymore as I would be saying goodbye right about now!
My GI Joe

Newness here in Kentucky:
#1 I started my job with Hosparus working flex time and have just been taken off orientation. Yesterday was my first official free flying day and I ended up in Leitchfield Kentucky, a little town an hour away from E-town, which is 30 minutes from Vine Grove. Being new to the area can be a challenge as the patients live in remote areas as well as in town. Directions are usually fairly straightforward but there are those "turn left where the old post office used to stand" or "take a right down by the cow pasture and cross over two creeks" in the way of getting to homes. These aren't so bad until you're driving around at night in rural Kentucky. Darkness changes everything! The first night I was ever on call I ended up making a visit out to a trailer in the countryside. It was right around midnight and I was pretty sure the patient was just fine, but the family needed reassuring after he had a "spell" so I offered to go and they animatedly accepted. I drove about 25 minutes before arriving to a badly graveled road. I found the mailbox at the bottom of the hill and started up the "drive". When I arrived to the top (thankfully I've been driving the F-150) the trailer sat in the middle of what looked like a "great outdoors" version of the TV show "Hoarders".  More trash, discarded canisters, lawn equipment, furniture, indoor articles of clothing/food storage I have not seen in one place. Surrounding the yard was every kind of fencing known to mankind, all flopped in different directions and propped with rocks, sticks, and other misc. etc etc etc. Beside the trailer "front porch" (created from cinderblocks and a piece of plywood) was an enormous cage of a dozen or so black birds. Yes, and it was midnight. These birds weren't blackbirds or grackles or anything remotely close to "cute", instead they looked like vultures, all hunched over a long perch that stretched from one end of the 4 foot long cage to the other.  The scene was something out of a horror film....only missing the theme music. At this point I thought, What have I gotten myself into? And then the trailer door opened and the resident stepped out in her mu mu, as 5-6 dogs rushed the truck. They were friendly, however, they were just thrilled to have another person to lick and jump on. As I found my way up the "ramp" to the front porch, the overwhelming smell of animals and unwashed humans hit me from the open door. And then I was in the living room, a tiny place smaller than most bedrooms and teeming with life in great abundance! In addition to the dogs, who all followed me in enthusiastically, the owners had 7 cats in various stages of diseases and development. One of the dogs was hand size, and she proudly informed me,"Everybody wants that dog, she had a spot on her brain and won't even grow any bigger!" I was not one of those covetous people, however. The livingroom had just enough room for a couch, more collections, the 13 animals, a hospital bed and a woodstove-stuck right in the middle! Blazing with heat, it was keeping the whole house warm. The patient's vital signs were all stable, he was feeling right pert when I arrived and my initial assessment was confirmed. He was a avid tobacco chewer and so the bucket at my feet was filled with black grit and spit. I was glad he was feeling just fine and soon realized that they were thrilled to have someone in the house visiting and wanted to tell me all about themselves and find out all about me. I spent almost an hour there, standing and holding all my equipment while listening to them tell about their lives and his sickness and at the end I had a new appreciation for my warm bed at home and for all my blessings! BTW, this just happened to be one of our signature patients, most families and patients live in regular housing in town/country and aren't hoarders. But, there are those midnight on call visits........:) I am really enjoying my work with hospice and usually work any days of the week except Tuesdays.
#2 Tuesdays are my Clarity days. Clarity is a womens' resource center in Elizabethtown that especially ministers to young women in need. We receive referrals from the local health dept. when girls come in to apply for  Passport and have to have official documentation of pregnancy. The center performs medical pregnancy tests for free, counseling, ultrasounds, and aid in the form of clothing/food/carseats/baby equipment and referrals to doctors in the area. We also are teaching classes to new mothers-nutrition,stages of pregnancy,labor and beyond. Women and their children can stay in the program until their babies are 13 months old and continue to receive help and training.  I first learned about it through my church, Grace Church and have been able to follow the ultrasound nurse in her work, as well as begin some of the paperwork/education these last few weeks. Tuesdays normally run from 9am-3pm and we seem to stay so busy! People come through the doors of all different situations and backgrounds and sometimes the stories are heartbreaking. You feel such a need to help and yet you can't fix the problems of the world. You just pray that the Lord will lead you and help you to help them as best you can. I enjoy it as well. We spend the first half hour in prayer before the day starts and its amazing to see how specific prayers are answered as the day progresses.
#3 This is the first year I've ever mowed with a riding mower or used a gas powered weed eater! We have a little under an acre here and I was comtemplating using a push mower until I ran across a riding one on Fort Knox's bookoo site. "Bookoo" is what? so many people ask me! The website http://knoxyardsales.com/ is part of a larger group started by these two brothers. There are "bookoo" sites at many Army posts now and its like a miniature craigslist, only in this case the people selling and buying are mostly military. This is great because when you post items, they typically get snatched up faster and you don't get the 300 spam emails and text messages that you sometimes have to deal with on Craigslist. Anyway, I happened to punch in "lawn mower" and one popped up that afternoon, I contacted the lady and she had listed it 10 minutes previously, plus....she lived 2 blocks away! Pretty providential as I live in a countryside area subdivision 10 minutes from post! I went and checked it out, got my first riding lawn mower lesson and that afternoon was the proud owner of a Craftsman riding lawn mower and weed eater- for $200. :) The mower is probably 6 years old and has a busted front grill which adds to its Kentucky charm, but it works and I managed to mow the lawn without breaking either it or losing a limb in the process. I feel as though my education is broadening by the day! The only drawback? I think I'm allergic to Kentucky grass, as my eyes sported red broken blood vessels and a pink hue in the next several days-prompting the contacts to come out and glasses for the week!
My life here has been made so much fuller and busy and fun with the addition of army friends-Erica,Cheryl and Mikki and new ones I've met recently through situations with Delta Company. Delta is the company Lou is assigned to and he is the platoon leader of 1st Platoon. I'm acting as the point of contact for 2nd Platoon at the moment which also has its duties and meetings. I call to talk to the families scattered across the US and give them updates when its needed. Sometimes I feel as though I will never quite get all the "army stuff" straight but I keep plugging away at it. Several weeks have been harder than others as soldiers in Delta Company have been wounded and one man killed. It brings the war so close to home and is frightening. But, we continue to do what we're doing and continue to pray for our men and their soldiers and the Lord is good to provide everything I need here at home.
Riding in the backseat of Aimee's mini van!
I was able to pop back to VA in early March for a couple of days and ran around seeing family and friends as much as possible! Hopefully I will be making another less rushed trip this summer! The 8 days I took was divided up between Culpeper, Christiansburg & Roanoke,VA, Winston-Salem, NC and Rock Hill, SC.
Dinner with Crissy at Red Lobster
Those combined with 2 days' travel made for a fast and exhilarating trip! I was able to fit in all the neices and nephews, including TJ-Debbie and Ryan's newest addition to the "Messer Grandchildren Clan"!
I did miss the birth of Brady, T and Betsy's little boy- who arrived the week after I got back to Kentucky.
Christie and the kids and one on the way!

Peter praying before Chick-fil-A

Debbie and Dolly Dingle
I'm sorry I wasn't able to see all of you, my friends! This Saturday I'm leaving on a jet plane to visit family in southern New Jersey, a little rest and relaxation in the big house. :) Mom Crist and I plan to spend a little time sewing on a 50s era dress and maybe have a chance to walk on the boardwalk at Cape May and eat funnel cake.....
Lastly, today is my 30th birthday. Its strange to think of being 30 already and it has arrived! I don't feel that much older than I did last year-and I'm sure all my decrepit-ness and grey hairs will be traced back to the deployment and not advancing age! :) I'm missing Lou so much but he sent me the sweetest gift of a necklace and earrings for my birthday so I wear them and feel that much closer to him right now.
Isn't it just beautiful?
He is able to call usually every 3 days or so, unless there is a blackout. Blackouts are when there is an injury or death and the lines of communication are closed until the Army can call the families of the people involved. Its to help from people hearing news about their loved ones via-Facebook,media or a downtown restaurant for the first time. Blackouts are scary because I don't hear from Lou I start wondering if something has happened, but after the first several days of a blackout I relax because I haven't gotten a call or visit. Maybe that sounds strange, but I think its a normal reaction judging from the wives I talked to. When a soldier dies, the next of kin is visited by a soldier in uniform and a chaplain to give them the news. Its scary to think about, but much more comforting than what happened years ago, receiving a telegram as they did in WW2. I didn't think about a lot of these details until Lou was deployed, then I started trying to learn more so I would be educated about procedures. Lou is having a lot of interactions with the enemy and is so thankful that his men have been spared so far in the encounters. They are a good group of soldiers and he feels very protective of them and their safety. I'm so proud of him and his work, in the middle of all the uncertainty! Please continue to pray for them all, for their safety and the work of the 3/1 Infantry in Afghanistan. For the mens' spiritual encouragement and growth, that they will all come home to their families when the deployment is over~
Much Love!
Kim (and Louis in spirit)