Here Comes Nicole

Well, here comes Nicole a friendly late-season tropical system. By the time it gets here, it’s supposed to become at least a category one hurricane. Hopefully, we don’t see any strengthening beyond that although the waters off the coast are still quite warm. Right now it’s near March Harbor in the northwestern Bahamas. By the looks of it, the storm is due east of us right now.

Over the last twenty-four hours, the weather has started to deteriorate gradually. We’ve had wind and fast-moving rain storms since last evening. Speaking of fast, I got stuck in rain this morning taking the dogs out for their walks. By the time, I finished my walk around the circle, the rain was already gone. Thank God for the quick-moving rain. I already have a head cold, I don’t need to exacerbate it by getting stuck in a cold rain.

We’re not putting up our shutters since it’s not expected to be a strong storm. Luke took all the avocados off the tree last night as the fruit becomes missiles during these storms. I tried to remove some yesterday, but I could only reach four. The remainder of the avocados were up at the top of the tree. I wasn’t brave enough to get up on a ladder with the wind already moving at a quick clip. Fortunately, my husband is much braver than me. This morning we’ll bring the patio furniture and grill inside.

We usually have quite a lead-up to these storms. This hasn’t been the case with this storm. Maybe it’s because I wasn’t on my phone Saturday and Sunday that I was late to the table for this one. When I opened the local news site Monday morning, I was caught off guard by the here comes Nicole headlines. Fortunately, we have fully stocked our hurricane kit and are ready to go. We have more than enough water and supplies to weather the storm.

Deployment Diaries – PTSD

Deployment diaries – PTSD: It was just over a year ago that we said our final goodbyes to Jake in the parking lot of his local In-N-Out Burger. I can, however, feel the emotions as if it was yesterday. Understandably, I cried as we drove out of the parking lot. While saying goodbye, I tried not to cry. After all, I didn’t want my soon-to-be-deployed son worrying about his mom. He already had enough to worry about.

I can’t say that it’s ever easy to leave him, but last year it was a million times harder. There was a finality to it that comes with the great unknown of what his deployment would bring. We’ve all watched the news, and read the stories and one can’t help but worry that something similar will befall their loved one. When we left him, we left not knowing when he’d be leaving. All of those details had to remain unknown until the very last minute.

Now that he’s home and safe, the weight of the world has been lifted from my shoulders. Nevertheless, I can’t help but reflect upon the stress of his extended deployment and the weight comes back. Suddenly world events became an insurmountable source of stress. I found myself worrying to the extreme or angry that the press ignored missiles that were launched his way. It’s an odd feeling to be both angry and worried. Moreover, it’s not an existence that one can sustain without losing their kind. I found myself having to unplug.

As we settle into the post-deployment space, I worry about him and his colleagues assimilating back into regular life. After living with a heightened sense of alarm for greater than 10 months, I can’t imagine how going back to normal must feel. In their post-deployment meetings, they did two through the stages of assimilation, which is good. Nevertheless, the specter of PTSD for anyone deployed is always present. Jake and I have talked about working through the stages and burying one’s mental and emotional health during these transitions. Fortunately, my boy has the best commanders and shop in the business. They have taken care of him better than I could have ever hoped for; for which I’m forever grateful. For now, I’ll relish having him stateside. I love it!

Moving On

In Southeast Florida, we have the luxury of moving on from Hurricane Ian. Unfortunately, many Floridians will not be moving on from the storm anytime soon. As I mentioned in my previous blog, these storms have their own mind. For most of the forecast period leading up to landfall, the track was projecting a Tampa landfall. It was unusual to see how much the track was changing even less than a day out. Usually, by a day or two out, they have a pretty firm idea where it’s going. Sadly, the track moved south significantly putting a bullseye on Fort Myers.

Honestly, this was a scary scenario. The track was changing rapidly. By the time, it was clear people would have to evacuate, there wouldn’t be enough time to do it. Even for us, the track started showing Ian moving on across the state after landfall. With the rapidly changing track, it was a bit worrisome for everyone. If the track had changed putting us back in the cone, we wouldn’t have had the time to put our shutters up. Nonetheless, this is exactly why most Floridians prepared for the storm. We had water, food, batteries, and our medicines. It’s always best to be ready for the worse as we hope for the best.

Tuesday night was the worst weather in our area. We had several tornado warnings and actual tornados near us. In fact, there was an ef2 tornado 4-5 miles from where we live. To the northwest, there was another, smaller ef1 tornado. Naturally, I earned the title of mean mom during the storm. While the tornados were dropping from the sky around us, my son wanted to drive to Taco Bell. This mean mom wouldn’t let him drive during a tornado warning during a hurricane. And for that folks, I have been dubbed ridiculous.

Wednesday and Thursday it was windy, but our weather wasn’t super bad. It was difficult to watch the utter destruction of Fort Myers as this monster storm came ashore during high tide. The storm surge with this storm was incredible and deadly. Fortunately, we could stay in contact with our friends and family on the west coast for most of the day. Thankfully, our friends and family came through the storm safely. Even though we’re moving in from Hurricane Ian, I will be sharing fundraisers benefiting our fellow Floridians who have lost everything.

Utah Trip – Hiking

Our Utah trip this past summer was awesome. Of course, the highlight was being reunited with Jake, but we also had some great adventures together. One of my favorite things to do in Utah is hiking in the mountains. Unfortunately, I was not in great shape this time because I had just started running again. Consequently, the first hike in Utah’s heat and at a much higher elevation didn’t end well for me. I definitely lost my cookies going up the mountain. Fortunately, Jake and the Mayor took great care of me and we got down the mountain safely and intact.

The medicine I’m on with Calibrate is great, but nausea can be pretty bad, especially with exertion. Hence, I lost the cookies on the first hike. Our second hike was an easier trail with more shade, but the elevation and heat still kicked my arse. This time I was careful it take more breaks and keep my heart rate lower. I didn’t lose my lunch that time, but the hike kicked my butt. We did see a beautiful snake slither across the trail. Thankfully, it was not poisonous. Unfortunately, it was too quick for us, so nobody for a picture.

One of the most unique hikes we did was at the Golden Spike National Historical Park. This park is about an hour northwest of Ogaden on the northern shore of the Great Salt Lake. Rather than a hike up a mountainside, we hiked down to the shores of Salt Lake. Due to the drought, the American West has experienced, the lake is at its lowest level. Consequently, we hiked across the dried-up lake bed for more than a mile to reach the shore of the lake.

It was striking how dead birds or insects would lay preserved from the salt on the lake’s bed. As we approached the shore where the waves were breaking, there was a wide crust of salt running parallel to the waterline. As you looked out over the lake, it was a beautiful blue with haze coming off the water. It was gorgeous! Meanwhile, the waves of the lake had a bright reddish hue that made the lake look otherworldly. I was not tempted to go in the red water, but Jake and the Mayor did. They both said it felt like an Epsom salt bath. When they walked out of the lake, a layer of salt was left behind on their legs. Naturally, they collected some salt to use at home.

Beyond the beautiful hike on the bed of the Great Salt Lake, Golden Spike National Historical Park is a pretty neat place. They still have Victorian-era locomotives that travel the tracks, so visitors can see what they looked like. There is now a plaque where the golden spike used to be commemorating the coming together on the intercontinental railroad. As for the actual spike, it’s now on display at Stanford University.

There are several other hikes you can do at the park. We opted, however, to drive up to the Chinese Arch. It was a terrifying drive with a drop off of thousands feet to the right side. Meanwhile, the gravel road up to the arch was super narrow. While the arch was worth the drive, I’d probably go for the hike the next time around. I wouldn’t want to do that drive again.

My favorite hike this trip, however, was to Gloria Falls in Little Cottonwood Canyon. I love hiking the Cottonwood Canyons because it’s significantly cooler than hiking in and around Ogden. Our elevation at the start of the hike was over 7800 feet. By the time we hit the waterfall, our altitude was almost 9,000 feet. Thankfully, this particular hike is not arduous because if it was I really would have struggled. Once we got to the falls, the air temperature was in the low 60s. The rushing water coming off the mountains certainly had a chilling effect.

Gloria Falls, it’s absolutely stunning and worth the hike. There is plenty of space to take a good rest or eat a picnic lunch, which is awesome. If I had planned better, I would have brought lunch. The hike itself provides stunning vistas out over the forests of the canyon, the mountains, and the distant valley. It’s a popular hike, so you’ll want to head out early to find parking. Also, the last part of the trail is unmarked. Consequently, be sure to download the map from the AllTrails app, so you don’t get lost. Albeit, you’ll likely run into plenty of people on your way up to the falls. Nonetheless, this is a trail I’d hike again anytime I found myself in Utah.

One of the solo hikes I did on our last Utah trip was right next to the Weber Ice Sheet. It is a simple half-mile paved loop around a pond. While the boys enjoyed open skating, I enjoyed walking around the pond and picking blackberries. I was shocked when a beautiful doe crossed in front of me as she went near the pond to eat. When I looped around again, she was standing in the middle of the path just taking it all in. After seeing all the videos of bison goring stupid tourists at Yellowstone, I decided to give her a wide berth. Unfortunately, she was not there when I came back to run the next day.

All in all, we had some great hikes during this last Utah trip. Ones that I’ll certainly explore again. I’d love to spend more time hiking and exploring both Little Cottonwood and Big Cottonwood Canyons. Also, if my parents travel with us again, I think they’d really enjoy Golden Spike National Historical Park. Now back in Florida, I can tell you that I miss waking up in the mountains every morning. I love being up on the mountain exploring everything and every view it has to offer. There’s something almost spiritual about it! Anyway, I love Utah and I love hiking in Utah!

Deployment Diaries – The Homecoming!

I wrote my deployment diaries throughout the entirety of Jake’s deployment, but ultimately only published a few of them. After all, I think the ravings of a worried mother would have eventually gotten redundant for you all. Nonetheless, writing daily whether I published them or not brought me peace. Initially, I had expected that Jake would return in time for graduation. Unfortunately, given world events that was not the case.

Finally, this summer we had hints that he’d be returning stateside. Naturally, I held my breath because I didn’t want to get too excited in case he got extended again. After all, his and now our schedule is at the mercy of the military. And then the text, we’d been waiting for finally came, he was about to take off on his return flight home. Crazily, he had to wait until this point because until the plane is rolling down the runway, the military could change their mind and make them stay.

Like the stalker mom I am, I naturally found his flight and followed it throughout the night and the next day. I may have had a slight heart attack as his plane hit a radar dead zone in the middle of the Atlantic and fell off the screen. Fortunately, his plane was not in the dead zone for long and his plane re-emerged from the dead zone, I breathed a long sigh of relief.

Unfortunately for Jake, the journey home took several days with several stops. When he finally made it home, we were overseas. Oh, the irony. Fortunately, our trip was quick. Nevertheless, I was able to fill his new apartment with groceries from the Bahamas thanks to Shipt. His friends and Sgt helped him move in. Thankfully, his girlfriend was able to get there the Monday after he returned, which was awesome. I definitely didn’t want him alone.

Finally, about a week after he returned the boys and I were able to fly out and see him. Honestly, I thought my heart was going to burst from anticipation. It was a long day of flying, but we finally got to our Airbnb at around 11:30. On the ride from the airport, we had ordered pizza. It turns out it was the worst Papa John’s pizza any of us had ever had. Nevertheless, none of that really mattered to any of us as we were all back together.

When he first pulled up, we went out to greet both him and Melly, I think I hugged Jake for a good solid ten minutes. Or at least until his younger brothers started making fun of me. Some day when they have kids they’ll understand the emotional investment and the need for a ten-minute hug. As hugs go, I’d say it was the best ever. There’s no better hug than one from your child that just returned safely from deployment. During the course of that world record-setting hug, I could feel the weight of the world lift off my shoulders. No longer did I have to carry the stress of him being in constant peril in an uncertain world.

To all our friends and family that supported us throughout his deployment, we love you and thank you dearly. Jake loved all the beautiful cards, care packages, and goodies he received while being down range. He surely felt the love. His deployment was not without its scary moments, but he also had great command and a squadron that took care of him down range. He was also able to have some fun adventures that he’ll always relish. The one thing he won’t miss is the ridiculous temperatures and humidity of the Persian Gulf. Lastly, my heart is with all the military mothers that came before me who, unlike me, didn’t have the technology to communicate with their children regularly. I can’t imagine their pain. And this will close out my deployment diaries for now.

Deployment Diaries – Invasions

So invasions take on a whole new meaning when your child is actively serving and somewhere on the other side of the world. The anxiety level for this mama has reached an all time high. I’m not sure what this means for his and his buddies, but I know it’s not a positive development. We don’t really know how this will impact his time overseas, which really sucks. It’s super hard not knowing anything because we can’t really plan our lives.

Deployment Diaries – The News

I’ve found that while my boy has been deployed avoiding the news has been key to maintaining my mental health. Unfortunately, these past few weeks it’s been utterly impossible to avoid the news. With missiles flying in the Middle East, Russia knocking on Ukraine’s door and China’s Taiwan obsession, there hasn’t been much rest for the weary. It’s hard to quantify how this news hits differently with a kid deployed. There’s a perennial knot in the stomach that’s unrelenting tightening with each bit of news. Nonetheless, I need to limit my news intact. Honestly, the more I limit the news, the better I feel.

Deployment Diaries

Over the last few months, we’ve settled into the big D routine. For the holidays, we sent a bunch of care packages to him. In normal fashion, we -meaning our friends and hockey family- may have completely overdone it. In fact, he might have enough beef jerky to last a life time. In the end, the most important thing was that he knows there’s a whole army (pun intended) that support him and are praying for him back home.

Perhaps the hardest part is not knowing anything. With Goalielocks forthcoming graduation, I’d love to be able to plan a bunch of family activities and pictures. Unfortunately, we have no idea when he’ll be back home. Ugh….. It’s honestly the worst.

Deployment Diaries- Pit in stomach

So as we get through week one of deployment, I’m noticing that the pit in my stomach will not leave. It’s like I’m watching Goalielocks in net 24/7. In short, it’s not a great feeling. Thankfully, I’ve been able to chat with him via text. This has helped immensely. This weekend I’ll be distracting myself with some Curb Your Enthusiasm and the Mayor’s hockey tournament. Hopefully, this will allay the pit in my stomach even if it’s just for a moment.

Deployment Diaries – Radio Silence

All week I’ve been fighting the urge to text my boy over and over again. One I know he’s super busy. Two I know he can’t have his phone with him while he’s working. And lastly, I don’t want to be inappropriately overbearing. Nonetheless, it’s super hard. I know he’ll reach out when he can, but I miss him and I worry. Oh the horrors of radio silence during deployment.