Monday, June 27, 2011

A change.

It's been suggested to me, by parties wise and compelling, that perhaps one reason that I rarely post in my blog here is because I've kept a narrow focus in the last year--Andrew and me--and a broader horizon might free my creative thoughts. Rightly so! Most of 2009 and 2010 did revolve around our great adventures of deployment, college graduation, marriage, and at last, settlement in Las Vegas. But now I'm halfway through 2011 and life is far from what I ever imagined for myself.

First of all!
I'm living in Las Vegas, in the westerly part of town known as Summerlin. We live just down the street from my job, and in walking distance from some beautiful residential areas. We're about two or three miles from the edge of the city, so if you continue down Sahara Avenue long enough,
you'll run headlong into great sandy mountains. It's a very peaceful area, with lots of green and lots of healthy, naturally-derived allergens from flowering trees, and most of the people we encounter are laid-back and jolly. Unlike our old apartment,
which was in North Las Vegas--(start typing "north las vegas" in Google and one of the first suggestions is "north las vegas ghetto")--where we had horrifically loud, rude neighbors, lived near scary projects and a full-on Mexican ranch-slum full of farm animals not a quarter mile away (no kidding), and where we were scared of being mugged at every turn. But hey, rent was really cheap. So what if you had to drive past a crime scene every once in a while? Friendly North Las Vegas indeed.
But when, after three solid months of the dirty business of job-hunting, I found a job in Summerlin (and our nice neighbors had my car towed), we decided it was time for a change.
So to Summerlin we went.

I'm working as a diamond grader, and I enjoy my job more than I can describe.
I have my nose in a microscope all day, and I adore it. Every weekday, at 6:30 AM, I curse fluently and roll out of bed, then wrangle myself eventually to drive the two minutes down the road to the laboratory, where at 7:22 AM my fellow lab rats and I queue up outside the security man-trap. At 7:26 AM we jumble
inside and tuck into our desks with our large mugs of coffee, and by 7:35 AM, the safes are opened and the stones brought in.
Oddly enough, as precise as these times seem, the whole place is relaxed and full of laughter. My coworkers can cheer me up in no time at all, if I've arrived wearing my cranky pants that day.
Tim always has a supply of chocolate on his desk ("Kit-kats are always better when they're
frozen."), Jenn daily has a new invention idea to share ("Pocket Piggies, guys! Million bucks right there!"), Richard has a muttered joke or Stepbrothers quote ("Chelsea, did we just become best friends?? YUP!"), or Sandra a protestation that "I'm not a panda just because I'm from China!" and many others. There's about 20 people in the lab proper and I daresay I like them all.

Besides, the job itself is really fun. It's... hard to describe, but it's geology combined with artistry combined with geometry and light refraction combined with solving 3-D puzzles, and yet... all of that sounds really weird and boring, but my job isn't at all. Here's a picture from my lab, of the actual back of the head of one of my actual coworkers:

On other fronts, Andrew is grand. He's coordinating a job with a private security contractor right now--lots of details, arrangements, planning to be figured out still. I think he misses the military in many ways (though in many ways he's glad to be completely free of it!), so this job will be good for him. More details to come on that front as we know them, because once he starts working on this job, alot will change in our lives again!

Oh! One last thing. We have a baby cat friend.
His name is Vivi von Chupacabra Longcat, and he's now almost 4 months old. Vivi loves to
snuggle on necks and he loves to play with chapstick tubes, bugs and everything he's not supposed to play with, like Xbox cables and refrigerators. His favorite foods include broccoli, butter, and shampoo bubbles. He's a good little guy :)

I intend to be more dutiful in my updates from now on! Let's see how well that goes :) Until next time, cheers from Las Vegas!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Viva Las Vegas

Whoosh. I find that word is apt for many moments in my life.
Well, we did it. Out of the Army and out of Washington, at long last. Essentially, we hit every obstacle available to man in our day by day struggle to get away, from lost paperwork to snow days shutting down Fort Lewis to our power getting shut off a day early (since the 2nd of December was our last day in our apartment, obviously the power company took that to mean that we would be GONE from the apartment by the 2nd, so the power was out by the night of the 30th, for some reason. Nice.) to having issues with our Uhaul and our pickup truck, to additional snow storms that halted our progress in Baker City, Oregon. However, once we were on the road, we were ON THE ROAD. And I tell you what, there is nothing in Idaho or northern Nevada worth mentioning.

The closest we came to something interesting was a tiny dusty roadhouse about 150 miles outside of Las Vegas that seriously looked like something out of a movie. Two old guys, a gas pump that didn't work, a few tumbleweeds, a blind dog, and "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas" playing on a tiny TV above a ranch-style bar.
But 150 miles outside of Las Vegas... hours after sunset... a slight glow begins to gild the blackened clouds... and 20 miles outside of Las Vegas, suddenly the city appears before your eyes like a great cascade of melted gold.

I've never been an "ooooh Vegas must be amazing and fairyland and its my dreeeam to go there!" type person. Frankly, both Andrew and I were kinda dubious about the whole "Sin City" connotation. But now, we're actually here, and our sentiments are 100% changed. (Credit to Caitlin Foreman and Cael Foreman for the following happy picture:)

I love it here. The thing is, the "Vegas" ideal is solely reflected in the Las Vegas Strip, the 1/2 mile where all the big shiny, shiny casinos live. But outside of that, this big city is just a big city, albeit a shiny one. Sure, occasional gas stations have 40-foot-high flourescent cowboys on their roofs, but besides that, there's nothing Vegasy about it. See that cowboy? He's about a mile from our apartment and we drive by him every day :)

Our apartment here is over twice the size of and twice as nice as our Washington apartment, and it costs the same amount, to the dollar. I've already applied for a few jobs, and Andrew's looking into schools (EMT or ER nursing of some sort).
Life is pretty awesome. Maybe things will calm down enough for me to actually finally get some marriage announcements printed up and get my name changed and all that!
More later. I intend to be a better blogger from now on!

But here we are, and the world is ahead of us now.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Sunday, July 18, 2010


Last night, I returned to North Carolina, after nearly 5 days in Seattle. I had nothing more than my purse, an extra teeshirt and my cellphone charger, because that's all I took with me when I got on a plane at 4:45pm on Tuesday the 13th.

That morning, I had gone to work with Dad and Ben, to help paint a cabin at Camp Highlander. Cue sweat and paint and cobwebs and working next door to a cabin full of teenage male campers whose conversations consisted of little more than rapid-fire successions of "No, you're gay!" "No, YOU'RE gay!"-- and when we stopped around noon for lunch, I checked my voicemail, hoping rather vainly for a message from Andrew (though I knew he wouldn't nearly be home yet), because he had flown out of Kyrgyzstan 20 hours before. I knew there were surely stops to be made in his journey, as usually he has a day or so in Germany before he would even start towards America.
I had a voicemail, but it was not from Andrew. It was from a private from the 1-17, informing me that Andrew would land at 1 and the homecoming ceremony would be at 3.
I immediately started hyperventilating, and all through lunch I tried to figure out some earthly way that I could get to Washington in time. All in vain. I had less than 6 hours. There was no way. So, I stopped hyperventilating and decided to be very sad instead.But once the indomitable men and I returned to the job site, Pvt. Wilkinson called again, to make sure I had gotten the message. Apparently, they are very efficient and attentive in the army. SNORT.
But I digress--the good private told me that the impending arrival was in fact to be at 1 in the morning, rather than in the afternoon. With this heartening knowledge, I thanked him, promised him that I would abuse his phone number if I needed more information or help, and hung up with renewed excitement in my lungs.
But that was not the end of it. Moments after I swore to my good brother that as long as the plane ticket were less than a thousand dollars, I would find a way to make it to Washington in time, Pvt. Wilkinson called yet again. The men were arriving sooner than expected. The ceremony was to be at 11pm, instead of 3am.

I rushed to my laptop, fought tooth and nail for a flight--not on time, not on time, can't get to the airport that fast, too expensive, too expensive--aha, $350 out of Asheville, arriving at Seatac airport at 9:41pm, oh but the airline is evil, oh but I'm scary too--and I was on my way. I took the quickest shower of my life, threw on the first teeshirt and jeans I could find, and rushed out of the house with wet hair, no makeup, and only a hundred dollars in cash in my pocket.

But I made it. I ran through Seatac, desperate to find a cab. "How far is it to Fort Lewis?" I asked a cabbie at ten minutes after 10pm.
"Fort Lewis?"
"Yes, how far?"
"That's a 70 or 80 dollar cab ride."
"Very nice. How long will it take to get there?"
"Uh, well, 20 or 30 minutes?"
"Alllllrighty then."
Nearly 40 minutes and over 90 dollars later, we made it to the visitor's center. I demanded that the unbusiness-like cabbie wait a moment, and I leapt from the car and up to the table with the wee little sign said I must sign in and get my pass. The soldier there asked me incredulously, "You took a cab from Seatac?" before I even handed him my ID, and I begged my ignorance of the area as an excuse, and when a couple near me said to the soldier that they came on post all the time and had a regular pass but needed to check in, and then made small conversation with me, I shrewdly eyed them, and then even more shrewdly eyed their SUV, and then asked in a breathless voice, "Can I ride with you, so I can release this bloody cab?"
They agreed, pleasantly, eager to help this excited young lady. I tossed my money at the cabbie, even though he looked at me (once again) like I was a nutter, and dismissed him.

10:55pm. We drive.
"Are we near the gym yet?" I asked Josh, the pleasant though rather portly man.
"It's right there," he replied, pleasantly, indicating the gym-shaped building on our left that was swarming with soldiers in ACUs and berets as well as a few jolly and meandering civilians, "We just have to find a place to park."
Oh. Private Wilkinson had advised me hours before that I should arrive at least 45 minutes early, for parking would be disastrous.
"Heh, well, if you can forgive my rudeness, I think I'll just make a run for it right now," I said, gathering my wits and my purse.
The pleasant couple laughed and said goodbye, and I was away. Across a narrow street, onto the sidewalk, into the chilly starlit air and sounds of excited activity. People were spilling out of the doors of the gym, overflowing into a small crowd of soldiers who gathered to peer into the jungles of people. The soldiers parted as I approached, unconsciously forming equal rows on either side of my path, and, much like a nutter, I giggled and trotted through with a smiling "ooh, fancy!"

I stepped through the doors at 11pm precisely. The crowd inside was ecstatic. Wives and little children, sisters, brothers, parents, husbands--noisy with homemade signs waving and anxious grins bursting out left and right. Banners proclaiming the names of the returning regiments and companies spanned the back walls, and a brass band played reverberating and patriotic songs in the front corner. Chairs and bleachers were full, people were crammed against each other, up against walls, up against the band, but nobody could bear to stand still.
And then there was the curtain. The great blue curtain that shielded an entire half of the gym away from prying eyes, the curtain behind which our men would gather in formation, the horrible, heavy, unkind curtain which was the sole enemy left in anyone's mind.

My hands are shaking even now to remember it. The band played song after song, and in every interlude, the whole assembly held its breath--is it time? is it time? is it time? But no... song after song. It felt like an hour, though perhaps it was 15 minutes, when finally a soldier came forward to a podium and said something. I'm not sure what. But was it time? Not quite yet. First, some country singer in the corner had to perform a song about men coming home from battle--they really think they need to remind us that this moment is significant and emotional????---
But at the crescendo of the song, that curtain began to lift, and we all started screaming and weeping already. Inch, inch, inch, and there were the boots of several hundred men, in perfect formation. Inch, inch, inch, knees, bodies, shoulders--
---Faces---and there he was, in the second row, a head taller than the man in front of him, and I was less than five yards away from him, standing in the front of the crowds, my arms clenched around me.

But we aren't to have our men yet. First they go at ease, and I caught my breath at the precision and discipline of every man there, who are just as desperate to rejoin their families, but who aren't to have us yet either. I'm sure a few of those stoic men are making the most secret of glances towards the crowd, searching out their beloveds.

But my soldier has no idea that I even know that he's home. As far as he knows, I'm still waiting for him to get back, get settled, get a cellphone, and call me. As far as he knows, even if I know that he was landing today, there was no way I'd know when the ceremony was. As far as he knows, even if I did know when the ceremony was, there was no way I could be there. As far as he knows, no one is at this ceremony to welcome him. As Andrew stands in formation, his mind flickers back and forth between two tired thoughts--I wish Chelsea could be here--and--this is so dumb. I don't even need to be here for this.
Still in formation, he glances to the side for a moment, and I think he sees me, but in fact, that is him trying not to roll his eyes. At last, the sergeant releases them, and Andrew turns with a bit of a sigh to leave the gym, because of course there is no one there for him. His fiance is in North Carolina, and his brother is all the way back in Afghanistan.
But then a blond woman in a royal blue tee shirt and jeans pops up a few yards in front of him, and though his mind is elsewhere, there is a slight registering of she's cute she looks like Chelsea oh well... in his head, and he keeps his path.
"Andrew," says the girl, and for a solid three seconds, he stares straight at her, almost unrecognizing, because of course Chelsea isn't here--
but then she is here and there's no way in hell that this is real---
but here she is and here his hands are touching her face---
and here he's kissing her and the rest of the raucous rejoicing crowd has disappeared because--- she's here, she's here, she's here, it's impossible but she's here---
and he's home.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

I got myself a journalist friend

Hey peeps, read this new article from The News Tribune of Seattle WA---Chelsea got herself quoted about the return of the Stryker Brigades :)

"The impact of the Joint Base Lewis-McChord troops coming back"

Enjoy :)

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Happy Birthday!!!!!

Happy birthday to my sweetheart :) Andrew is 23 years old today, and just 12 days til he comes home! yay! Andrew and our dear friend Jeremy (droll and braw husband of the lovely Caitlin)

Sunday, June 20, 2010

To the best

Happy Father's Day, Granddaddy! I miss you.