Friday, October 19, 2012

Last Day of Mountain Phase

I really struggled with the title of this post. Maybe it's because I have zero information about what's going on over there, but I've become highly superstitious these past 40 days. Seriously, do you realize that God would have ended the flood in Noah's time by now? 40 days and 40 nights. Not saying that the Almighty-created flood compares to Ranger school, I'm just making a dramatic point.

I didn't want to call this post what I did -- I should put quotes around the word "last," but then that makes it sound like I don't have faith in B. So, imagine the quotes are there, but they're there because, inevitably, someone is in this class will have to repeat Mountain Phase all over again. I just pray it's not B. But, if it is, I will survive, because I've been gearing up for this school for nearly 3 years when B. and I started dating. Hooah.

I have a lot of questions running through my mind. Did he get my care package(s)? Are the RI's really as vindictive and psycho as I think they are? Do they take note of how much mail a Ranger candidate receives, and then withholds outgoing mail from the postal office? Or am I reading way too much into this? What is the morale like in B's platoon (since it's platoon-lead operations)? More importantly... Will I be able to say the right things if the call I might get tonight is not bearing good news? Will I be able to lift him up in a time where he will be so down, and so disappointed? I'm praying for strength and patience, and for God to work through my words, if that's the case. I know there's no way I can do it without His guidance, that's for sure. I have a tendency to stick my foot in my mouth, so, c'mon Big Guy, help a sister out, please... sir? Amen.

Moreover I think about B. What he's doing, how much he's had to eat, when he might have had his shot at getting his "Go," and a million other little things. If he was reading this right now, he'd tell me (like always) to stop worrying -- and (like always), I'd respond with:

"I'm not worrying, I'm just thinking..... intently."

Yup, that's one of the little rituals that is missing while he's gone. I, the Type A personality with a penchant for over-analyzing; and he, the Type B personality who is gracious enough to put up with my neurosis, who has a constant guilt complex that he seemingly causes my over-analyzing (sweetie, if you ever end up reading this, it's not you... I'd over-analyze a million other things if you weren't Army, so RLTW).

So, on Friday, October 19th, 2012, Ranger School Day 40, with however many more days left until graduation (there's that fear of jinxing him again...), I sit at my computer at work, no appetite and phone attached to my hip.

Stay classy.
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Monday, October 15, 2012

Care Package Time!

Ok, for those of you class 11-12 procrastinators like me, you just might have one day left to send a care package. Maybe. With priority mail from Texas, this box of goodies is supposed to arrive Wednesday and only cost me a small arm and a leg to ship. It was about the size of 2 large flat rate boxes ($15/each) so for $30 flat rate would have actually cost me 40 cents more! Ha. I'm clearly out of touch with shipping rates.

I just might have gotten a little carried away with the Christmas wrapping paper (surprise, surprise) and couldn't resist sending some sweets.  Home-made chocolate chip cookies and brownies, to be exact.  I have no idea if they'll be good 5 days old in spite of my excessive ziplocking, but as long as they haven't spoiled I think M will find them quite edible.

Ashley's Darby phase care package and Courtney's themed packages are the most brilliant inspiration!  If you haven't seen them yet, go check them out!

Since I live in Columbus/just outside Fort Benning I didn't send a care package for Darby phase, so I'll try not to repeat everything the girls already posted (which I used as my guides, thank you very much!) and hit the highlights:

  - Peanut Butter +bread/crackers/graham crackers/etc.
  - Jerky
  - Nutritious/protein granola bars
  - Extra gum.  Specifically, "Extra" brand watermelon gum is rumored to last the longest.
  - Enough sweets to make them feel loved and spoiled, and satisfy cravings without making
    them sick (esp. those who are airborne qualified)
  - Fresh fruit!
  - Gatorade (I never noticed their recovery series until now...a chocolate shake
     with 20g protein? bingo! I also threw in some "energy chews"...anyone know
     if they work? or taste ok?)

  - ziplocks
  - foot powder
  - pens & pencils
  - index cards (which i forgot, oops!)
  - hand sanitizer or wipes
  - bug spray
  - chapstick
  - a new supply of pre-addressed, stamped envelopes w/his Florida address.
  - shower shoes (My husband specifically requested these.  Though they're bizarrely hard
     to find out of season.  I hope he likes pink and purple flowers...)
  - Pictures of home & family.  Due to our family med. emergency, I also managed to get
    pictures of his whole family, including da Grandma! I love her. She just taught me how
    to knit socks, is that not awesome?

I've been trying to think of Florida-phase specific items he might need, like socks...oh if I'd thought of them sooner! Can you think of anything?

I really wanted to send him an extra supply of clean, dry Fox River socks, which are supposedly absolutely amazing (and better be at $12/pair) though he bought several extra pairs on his 8 hour pass so I don't know if he'd really need extra. Thoughts?  If I come up with a substantial list I may have Amazon Prime ship it faster than I can :)

Can y'all think of any other essentials or supplies that might be useful for the Florida phase?  I'm so anxious to get the call that he passed (positive thinking) and can't believe we've all made it this far!  What are y'all doing to keep busy?

**according to the infamous Ranger School Wives facebook page, anything not on page 4 (contraband list) of the packing list is ok to send. 
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Sunday, October 14, 2012

Ranger On

Hi Friends!

How are y'all hanging in there?
For those of us with guys in class 11-12, we've only got 23 days until the first graduation week pass! Yeah!!!

Sorry to be so absent lately, but we've had one hellofa week.  In short, my dad-in-law had a medical emergency, in fact, his heart completely stopped, and we had some tough choices to make in regards to Ranger School.  I'm not usually keen on divulging personal details like this, but if my mother-in-law herself wasn't a retired Army Captain with an older son just out of the military, I'm not sure that I would have had any clue what to do.  

In the midst of all this, I've had some time on my hands.
This is a card I drew for my hubby/superhero; our last name begins with S.

For the record, my dad-in-law made it through and is making a remarkably great recovery, but when M's mother called last week, she shocked me with the news that his dad was in critical condition and wasn't expected to make it through the night.  His heart had actually stopped beating several hours earlier, and it took them an hour and a half to find a pulse and bring him back (!!!) but she waited to call and potentially pull M out of Ranger School until every doctor and nurse there confirmed that his sons needed to come NOW.

At a previous FRG event, a senior spouse mentioned that she asks her husband some critical questions before every deployment, like if anyone is sick, do you want to know?  If anyone is dying do you want to know?  Will you want to leave?  As impossible as it might be to answer that, it's good to ask, apparently.  I wish we had discussed it earlier, but I simply couldn't keep that information from him. 

So in case of any situation like this that may require emergency leave 

(when your soldier's deployed or otherwise off the grid, like in Ranger School) 
contact the American Red Cross:
(877) 272-7337

Be sure to have the Hospital name & phone number, and ask family to give the nurses permission to release information to the Red Cross.  The Red Cross representatives were beyond helpful, kind, and compassionate.  I cannot thank them enough!  

In my case, I thought I knew my husband better than anyone until they asked questions like if he may need cadre support or to receive the message from a chaplain since it would come as a which I had to answer, maybe cadre support, but in that state of sleep deprivation he might punch the chaplain...

To make a long story short, M decided to stay in Ranger School (his Dad's wishes) and finish strong with the extra motivation. He asked that I go in his place and be there for his family, so I unpacked the bags I'd so hastily thrown together for both of us, threw together clothes for a wedding and a funeral, an AMAZING friend drove me to the Atlanta airport last minute, (Shannon, you're a lifesaver!!!) and I hopped the first plane I could get on back home.  

His dad shocked us all again by pulling through, then coming off the breathing machines  (please excuse my medical ineptitude) in a matter of days rather than weeks, and then getting up and walking about in less than a week!  He's not much of a fan of hospitals...or rehabilitation facilities (I would want to get the hell out of there too) and today I actually visited him at home!  Walking around! Climbing stairs!  You'd never know his heart's been there and back again a few times this week.  

M's been through the ringer dealing with all this while at Ranger School, especially the uncertainty of thinking his dad had passed for a whole day, but cadre has been really fantastic about allowing him to call intermittently for updates and even talk to his dad for about 15 minutes last night.  For those of you who saw my vague fb updates or heard the news, thanks so much for your thoughts and prayers!  I truly believe that made all the difference in his dad's recovery and M's peace of mind to Ranger on!  

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Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Ranger Girl's Creed

Recognizing that I volunteered as a Ranger girlfriend, fully knowing the hazards of my chosen life, I will always endeavor to uphold the prestige, honor, and high esprit de corps of my Ranger-to-be. And to not burst into a sobbing wreck two days after the start of each phase.Yeah, that.
Acknowledging the fact that my Ranger is a more elite soldier who arrives at the cutting edge of battle by land, sea or air, I accept that fact that as a Ranger girlfriend my country expects me to know less, fly by the seat of my pants more, and consume more chocolate products than any other soldier’s girlfriend.
Never shall I fail my fellow Ranger SO’s. I will always bite my tongue when a sarcastic remark seems most fitting, extend sympathy, and compare my notes. I will shoulder more than my share of impatience and frustration, at whatever may be the current issue, one-hundred-percent, but no more, because anything more than a hundred percent is literally impossible.
Gallantly will I show the world that I have not been well-trained enough to deal with this crap. My constant letter writing to my soldier, insistence of wearing sweatpants at all times, and incessant baking of soothing cupcakes shall set the example for other women to follow.
Energetically will I anticipate the needs of my Ranger. I shall defeat his hunger with a slew of care packages, for I am a Ranger girlfriend with awesome Google skills. I will fight his starvation with all my might. “Modest care package” is not a Ranger girlfriend phrase. I will never leave my Ranger’s squad to fall into the clutches of hunger, and under most circumstances I will embarrass him with multiple care packages.
Readily will I display a countdown to Ranger graduation day, a tool required to fight on to the ultimate Ranger objective, and complete the Hell which is the 62 day course, though I be a lowly Ranger girlfriend.
Ranger SO’s Lead The Way!!!

Just a little something to help cheer everyone up! Happy Hump day everyone!

- Courtney 
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Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Class 11-12 Halfway Mark

I went back and forth between writing a post, and ignoring the halfway milestone of the class of 11-12. I don't want to jinx B. in particular, so I'm just going to say that his class is halfway through Ranger School. In 31 days, they will be lining up at Fort Benning to get their Ranger tab pinned on.

In a way, it has felt way, way longer than a month. Because I just got a new phone, all of my saved voice mails from him were wiped! I have 3 letters from him that I re-read every time I want to talk to him, and I've written at least 30 letters so far, sent 2 care packages, and will be sending another by the end of this week. But it feels like life can't be measured in 30 days, or hours or seconds. I feel very changed, like if I were to go back and meet myself 33 days ago, I'd have to hit myself over the head.

Back then, I just worried about this whole process. I don't think I slept a wink the night before he left because I was so nervous and worried. But you can't carry on like that, not without seriously pissing off the people around you. A couple days' moping time is understandable. Nothing past that, because you start to be "that girl" who nobody wants to be around. So I got to a new level -- wistful hoping. When I thought of him I felt/feel proud, and I know he's doing well. I can't think about anything past that. I can't control how his RI's are treating him, or how his squad is behaving on patrols. I can't even give him daily encouragement because his mail is withheld from him. I can't sneak him food, or take on his duties for him so he can go take a cat nap. There is literally nothing I can do. I'm in the dark.

Many women have said it's okay to call up to the Ranger Battalion for information. If that's your cup of tea, go for it. But, as a lowly girlfriend (haha, kidding! kind of.) I would never dare. Maybe that's my leftover fear/respect for the NCO's of his ROTC battalion. But then I translated it over to the civilian world (moreover, the oilfield world, something I grew up around).

My dad was on the oilfield rigs for weeks, even months at a time, with no communication with what would someday be his wife (but who, at the time, was just his new girlfriend). My mom worried my dad would go down in some fiery helicopter accident getting to the rig. That he'd be crushed by some of the massive machinery (incidents like that happen on a weekly basis). But she's never, ever, EVER call into his work to his superiors wanting to know if he got to the rig safely. Or if he'd be home by XXXX date. It would have exposed him to the highest amount of ridicule in an industry that is still a "man's world."

In some ways, my mom's experiences and mine are becoming sharply parallel. She's had to be the head of the household my whole life. Recently, she would tell me how hard it would be for my dad to come back from offshore because he'd want to jump right into parenting, and doing housework his way, when for months we had been doing it her way. How it would suck for her to know that my dad would be going to Pakistan to visit some of the sites he was managing, knowing that only one week ago there was a terrorist bombing on the hotel he was supposed to be staying in. How if my dad had left on a Friday, and she had the whole first weekend to herself, how hard that would be. And I realize how resilient this woman is. The argument often goes, "Well, at least your husband isn't getting shot at." To which she says "Oh, that's so true," and never tells them about the dangerous places my dad has had to go. How's that for strength?

B's not getting shot at. Yes, he's cold, he's tired, he's hungry, and he's absolutely miserable. But he's in the United States, no more than a helicopter ride away from some of the best medical care in the world.

I'd love to call up to the RTB and ask about B's progress, but I cannot. Perhaps it's because I know how the mentality of guy's works. How easy it is for us women to make them a target for ridicule, or just unwanted attention. I wish it wasn't that way, but hey, c'est la vie.

What gets me through this time is imagining the list of foods he's writing down in his journal for things he wants to eat when he comes home... And, of course, saving up for that massive grocery bill!

Halfway through, ladies. Here's to hoping you and your men stay strong.

Stay classy.

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Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Themed Care Packages for Ranger School

Goooooood Wednesday morning, ladies and gents, it's a be-ee-ay-utiful day here in lovely Houston, where it's at 60 degrees with a high of 85. The trucks are revving and it's business as usual off of Beltway 8.

While it is still a while away, the [mental] deadline for sending care packages for the end of Mountain Phase is approaching (and none too swiftly, if ya feel me on this). I plan on mailing mine on the Saturday or Monday before the phase is done. A few things to consider before mailing, though.

  1. Airborne: B. is airborne certified. If he passes Mountain Phase, and the weather for take-off/jumping is good enough, he's gonna be jumping his exhausted butt into Florida. While that man has a stomach of steel (seriously, food poisoning does not happen to him), I seriously doubt that jumping out of an ever-living plane with a stomach full of sugar is what he really needs. Projectile vomiting while projecting yourself out of a plane can't be good.
  2. Time: Reports (::cough:: Facebook ::cough::) have brought back the info that he's only going to have 20-45 minutes to eat the food. So, while I would just love to send him 3 care packages with all of the stuff I want to send him, chances are he won't be able to gorge himself fast enough... Though, now that I think about it, 20 minutes is 4 times longer than he's had to eat for what, at that time, will be 6 weeks, and 45 minutes is 9 times longer than what he's had... so maybe he will have the time. Better to have too much in a care package than too little and have him licking the inside of the box... right? (Swear, that's what they do with the MRE packets... and instead of trading MRE's for flavor, they trade them for caloric content, the higher the better.)
  3. Collective Sweets: The thing I need to keep remembering is that every single wife/girlfriend/mother will be sending cookies/candy/brownies.... While I want him to have his favorites, more than likely he'll be able to poach the sweets off of his squad mates. That's not to say that I didn't include some sweets in these "themed" care packages... Just something I am trying desperately to keep in mind. The stuff he misses the most is fruit because I suppose MRE's don't have that kind of stuff (got the same feedback at LDAC, too.)

Now, without further blather, the themed care packages!

Tex-Mex in a Box:

  • Jar of chunky salsa
  • Jar of queso 
  • Tortilla chips
    • A good alternative to tortilla chips are soft tortillas if you're concerned with the chips breaking into a million little pieces
  • Fork/spoon 
    • This is especially good if you send the chips. B. has poured the chip fragments into a salsa container with a little bit of salsa in it, and eaten it like soup. I can see him doing this again...
  • Turkey jerky
  • Fruit twists (I found some at my local HEB... review from a mom's blog can be found here)
    • B. ate all of the ones I sent him in his Darby care package.... 18 of them. That's 18 servings of fruit. Well.... ok, he had 17. I had to try one. They're delicious.

Third Grade Lunch Box:

  •  Loaf of bread
    • you can put pieces of cardboard around it in the box so that it doesn't get smooshed... but, as B. always tells me, "It being smooshed doesn't affect the taste."
  • Jar of peanut butter
    • this is a stick-to-your-ribs staple. I swear, peanut butter is the only reason my picky-eater sister made it through childhood... well, that and pasta. Additionally, Rangers have frequently requested jars of peanut butter so they can dunk cookies in it... 
      • "Oreos and peanut buttah." <--- Parent Trap anyone?
  • Jar of jam
    • B's not a big jam eater, but I think if I got a type with enough hunks of fruit in it, he'll be all over it. His favorite fruit is cherry and strawberry, so I'll probably pick something like that. Y'all feel free to go crazy on this one.
  • Jar of marshmallow fluff
    • can be swapped out for the jam. Peanut butter and Fluff sandwiches are apparently a favorite of kids everywhere... I wouldn't know, Mom didn't let us have sweets as our main course. (SO DEPRIVED, Y'ALL!)
  • Jar of Nutella
    • ditto the subpoint of the marshmallow fluff.
  • Snack-size bags of chips
    • I'd say these are good candidates for shipping just because of all that air in each bag. They can also be easily passed around so that all those men are putting their dirty paws into one community bag.
  • Instant milk
    • "EEEWWW, Courtney, that is nasty!!!!" Hold your horses, ma'am/sir. Aside from fruit, the thing that B always headed for first is the gallon of milk. Which always makes me mad because no matter what cup I have set out for him, that man drinks FROM THE JUG. Thank you, sweetheart. Anyway, the powdered milk, while not necessarily the BEST alternative, still has all of the healthy essentials needed in milk. You can get the powdered milk in mostly the same variations of the liquid stuff -- I haven't done a ton of in-store research on this, but it's something for you to look at. After all... what's a healthy third grade lunch without milk?
      • I'm even considering putting a few tablespoons of chocolate milk mix into the powdered milk... so when B. mixes it with his water, he gets chocolate milk!!! He likes strawberry milk best, so if anyone reading this knows a powdered strawberry mix, please let me know in the comments. 
  • Cookies
    • need I explain even further? NO third grade lunch is complete without cookies.
  • Wet Wipes
    • sticky kid hands, dirty Ranger fingers, tomato, toe-mah-toe, right? These babies are like gold, especially if they're the kind with soothing aloe vera in them. 
  • Plastic knives
    • Something Rangers can get that third graders cannot -- CLEAN knives to spread the jam and peanut butter!

BBQ, Baby!

  • Beef jerky
    • I recently made a trip to Sam's Club... got a 1 pound bag of beef jerky. Can't remember how much it cost, but Sam's Club is the best.
  • Summer Sausage
    • You can sub this out for the beef jerky, but be sure to provide a knife for slicing
  • Jar of pickles
    • Seriously, what's BBQ without pickles?
  • BBQ sauce 
    • For dipping?
    • on that thought, maybe provide some little canisters for them to pour it into so they don't have to pass the whole bottle around? I assume sharing on all of this stuff.
  • Sweet tea mix
    • You can pack the Mio tea squirty thing, the Crystal Light powder, or whatever, but I firmly, FIRMLY believe that sweet tea is a requirement for barbeque.
  • Chips
  • Cookies
  • Fruit Twists
  • Wet Wipes

Phew. Okay, all, I'm about done with typing. I've got a call with Canada that's going on right now, and I have a sneaking suspicion they're going to start asking me questions about my work (I know, right, the nerve of them to interrupt my blogging to ask me about WORK!). 

I hope to carry on the rest of my ideas in the next post. Feel free to add your ideas in the comments and I'll post them on my next posting!

Stay classy.

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Monday, October 1, 2012

Day 3 of Mountain Phase

Howdy from Texas, y'all! (Please tell me you heard Paula Deen's voice in your head when you read that.)

So it is the first of October (and my littlest sister's 19th birthday, happy birthday, Cheeser-Squeezer), and the third day of Mountain Phase up in Dahlonega, Georgia. According to my Accuweather app, our men are currently being pelted with about an inch of rain, in 63 degree weather. Sounds great, huh?

However, assuming they're still working (safe assumption), they'll be on day 2 of 4 of mountaineering. Yesterday they would have learned basic knot tying, belays, anchors, and rappels. I think yesterday they were privy to those famous blueberry pancakes -- apparently they're the best Army food ever. Today they're going to be tested on those components. If they fail, they get one retest, and maybe two, but never any more than that. I think it's all contingent on timing... and your RI. "It's a crap shoot with who you get," B said. "Some grade one way, the others grade another. The worst is not knowing how you did until days later, because you get 3 'sustains' and 3 'improves.'" (Civilian lingo: you get 3 things you did well, and 3 things you need to work on.)

These tests are especially important because they're learning the components that they're going to be expected to use during patrols.

Interesting notes:
  • apparently Camp Merrill has a lot of washers and dryers for the guys to use. Encouraging! I hope B. packed laundry detergent.... although even if he didn't, he'd probably just do without.
  • the best piece of advice I've read is that the guys ought to request "smart" care packages, despite the fact that they'll have a sweet tooth to put Hershey's out of business. My guess is that this advice means to request things that will fill them up and help to fill them out again. I'm compiling a list of "themed care packages" that might help with this information, and I can post it if anyone is interested. 

For the record:
  • In this post I am counting Saturday, typically "Day Zero" as "Day 1". So--
    • Day 1 = Saturday, Sept. 29
    • Day 2 = Sunday, Sept. 30
    • Day 3 = Monday, Oct. 1
    • Day 4 = Tuesday, Oct 2
    • Day 5 = Wednesday, Oct 3
    • Day 6 = Thursday, Oct 4
    • Day 7 = Friday, Oct 5
    • Day 8 = Saturday, Oct 6
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