|Hobby cartooning, graphic design, and photography.|
So. This has been the absolute most painful year of my life. It has also been the most rewarding, but if God is listening, that’s no excuse. I jest, of course, because 99% of my suffering was self-induced. In my defense, I can’t help being human. I only think I know what’s good for me, and by the time Life has corrected me, I’ve dropped my heart down the stairs and dragged it through a mud puddle. Then I stare at it for a second, aghast, and cast a dark, reproving look at God, who can only sigh in exasperation. Because of course he’s been telling me the entire time- “Oh, uh, I know it’s harder, but maybe you should CARRY your heart down the stairs instead of TOSSING it like an IDIOT… Now, THAT’S a mud puddle- you probably shouldn’t go anywhere near it with your badly bruised heart.” But at that point, I’m like, “Well, it’s not like I’m throwing it down the stairs… I know THAT hurts, but I’ve never propelled my heart through one of these before!” And it is frustrating that I’ve taken this long to drag my heart through a mud puddle, although even that isn’t entirely honest. More than a couple years ago I DIPPED it in one and was entirely unhappy with the result, but DRAGGING isn’t quite the same thing; perhaps it could have a different outcome (spoiler: it IS a slightly different outcome- instead of hurting a medium amount, it hurts a SUPER SIZE amount).
Fortunately, while hindsight is 20/20, it’s always viewed through a rose tinted glass, so here are all the cool things that happened to me this year:
I played bass with an awesome worship group in Kuwait. These guys turned a deployment which had previously been hellish into one I was reluctant to leave.
I completed our Battalion Spur Ride in Kuwait. It was actually a little bit tame, as far as U.S. Army Cavalry Spur Rides go, but as someone who avoids discomfort at all costs, I was happy I conceded to stay up twenty-four hours and break my back lugging seventy pounds of equipment twelve miles to various inane situational training exercises. It was great to work with soldiers I didn’t ever spend any time with, to support and be supported by them as we finished out the exercise together, and then lie to our Battalion Commander about how patriotic and CAV HOOAH we felt at the end. Haha it felt like church camp. I’m almost never enthusiastic or excited about anything. But I was actually pretty happy at the end of the Spur Ride, so I was only lying a little bit.
(We were told to stop smiling)
I ran a half-marathon ruck march that I’d learned about the day before. Although my knees ached for a week, I didn’t regret a minute of it. In fact, it was one of the highlights of my year.
(Aww yisss... That's the finish line)
I sang karaoke for the first time, and was absolutely terrible. “Still Alive” is a lot harder with the music and no words, just fyi. But if you’re terrible at something, never doing it isn’t going to make you any better. I want to believe that was an important lesson I learned this year, but I’m honestly still having trouble putting it into practice.
I participated in a Joint Exercise with Saudi Arabia, and planned all the training missions, with complete disregard for all the doctrine I would be learning later on in the year. It was probably best that way, because it would have been a lot more stressful for me if I had known what an abysmal job I was doing. Even some of the non-doctrinal stuff I learned later on in the year would probably have taken away from the hilarious incompetence I demonstrated. For example, letting my poor Saudi counterparts believe that we were actually planning a full on Air Assault with a company of Special Forces and an actual ground tactical plan. By the time I realized the mistake, they had their own company of Saudi SF positioned to do the mission, without any semblance of an operations order. The outcome of THAT communications blunder had ramifications I’ll probably never know the extent of. I designed the Task Force Logo and enjoyed myself strictly enforcing its correct utilization. I made some great friends, and discovered an amazing Saudi Arabian cologne; for a while I thought the Saudi’s were burning incense, but eventually I figured out that one of the 406 Scout pilots was always present when it was. I asked him about it, and he gave me a bottle of it, bless his soul. I hope I meet him again someday so I can give him the thanks he deserves. I almost hit a platoon of tanks with a bad Hellfire Missile, and had to show the video of the engagement to the Task Force Commander to prove that it was the missile’s fault, not mine.
(Practicing for the fateful Culminating Training Event in which a missile went off and did it's own thing)
I got into the best shape I’ve ever been in over the course of the year. In Saudi Arabia I found that anxiety and frustration can be dispersed with pushups, pullups, and sprints, and as neither left me alone for the rest of the year, I’ve found myself pushed farther than I normally would ever have gone. Back in Texas, a new friend asked how I’d become so “ripped.” I disagreed with his nomenclature, and I couldn’t tell him the reason was because I’m an idiot, because it wouldn’t make sense to him. So I told him I just woke up that way one morning. Not really, but the real answer is much, much more dull, as Chris would no doubt attest.
(Gratuitous. Just... Gratuitous)
I visited with my good friends Jeff and Sarah, meeting them at Austin; halfway between Fort Hood and San Antonio. For some reason my card didn’t work at the yogurt shop, so Jeff paid for me. Yes, I said yoghurt shop- Jeff and Sarah are members of a VERY exclusive club with the power to induce me to forget my vendetta against non-fat frozen treats.
I went to the X-Games with the Tyler Kim of Camp Buehring NEC infamy, and watched Travis Pastrana lose to Bucky Lasek and Scott Speed at Rallycross. I also watched Tyler almost have an aneurism through text as he waited for me to herd his cats back to the truck on the last day. Great time.
I drove from Northern Texas to Central Montana in one 19 hour day, and ended it by hitting an elk. Being a Montanan, I was bound to hit something at some point, and I’m very grateful it just damaged my car a bit and didn’t hurt me. It helped that it was already dead, too. Two valuable lessons in one- 19 hours of driving is probably at least seven hours too many, and blind corners on highways in Montana should always be treated with caution. Also, avoid spending time in Livingston.
(That's an expensive package delivery right there)
I met my new [edit lol] nephew, son of my brother and sistter from other mothers, and spent time with them and the rest of the available members of the Bitteroot Valley circle.
(Amita contemplates the possibility that she may be in over her head)
I visited Yellowstone National Park with my oldest and two youngest siblings; their first time for the latter. The weather was a little finicky, but it made for some amazing photos, and some hilarious memories. It was awesome to watch Alex and Felice have the same experience we had when we were younger, albeit with a little more material support. One Megalodon documentary and an Unsolved Mysteries episode later, we headed home, stopping at Earthquake Lake on the way back. As we continued, I found the perfect photo opportunity, and took what I believe to be the penultimate photo of the beauty of Montana. Seriously. This entire year would have been worth just that picture alone.
(Montana 1, Everywhere else 0)
I mountain biked up and beyond Mount Sentinel with Samuel. We went several times, and I was amazed at the biking memories I had completely forgotten over the last five years. On the way down on the last trip, Sam caught a rock with his front tire and executed a flawless demonstration of the term “face plant” into the same rock, earning himself two busted lips and some gnarly scrapes on his face, and earning me a glare from Dayna when I brought her husband home cut up and woozy.
(The situation DEMANDED a majestic pose and heavy after effects)
I visited San Antonio and enjoyed the Schlitterbahn waterpark with great, tolerant friends who did their best not to get frustrated and angry with me and my mopey demeanor later that night. The next morning, I got laughed down when I mentioned IHOP, and instead we had the most up-scale breakfast I’ve ever had. Who knew people add orange juice to champagne and call it a breakfast drink?
(Do you think the Mexican Army paid any attention to that flimsy little fence? Well, they must have, because that grass is GREEN and un-trampled)
I moved to Fort Rucker, Alabama, and was almost immediately blessed with two incredible roommates. They couldn’t be better if God had interviewed them in a rigorous application process, which is in direct contrast with the Craigslist email exchanges we actually had. “Hey, you’re looking for a roommate or two? I’ll be one of them,” and “I’m a Catholic girl and I promise I’m not crazy” (paraphrased, of course). I was honestly a little worried to begin with that Courtney was going to murder Sam and I in our sleep. What sane, stunningly beautiful, tiny woman choses two random, strange dudes as roommates? But she didn’t murder us, and after a while I figured out that she wasn’t putting herself at risk nearly as much as I originally thought, but that’s not a story for this medium.
(This is where I would have put a picture of the three of us, IF I HAD ONE)
Sam introduced me to snorkeling at the springs in Florida. The trips I made back to Morrison Springs were some of the best experiences of my life, and some of the only events I’ve been excited about since I finished flight school. Chasing a turtle at the bottom of a crystal-clear, white-sand river, and bringing it back to a friend who likes turtles even more than I do; diving down thirty or forty feet into a hole that looks like a hot spring from Yellowstone National Park; following six-foot carp around the rim of the deep funnel- all memories I could use to summon a powerful patronus (Harry Potter reference… sorry). Even my months-later visit in late November, when the water was murky and nightmarish, was a blessing. Any time I catch a turtle is a good time, and everyone should chase a worthy goal down into the inky blackness (literally or figuratively) at least once. It was also an interesting experience to lose something valuable (my camera) and actually find it again. Thank you, God.
(Vortex Springs; Morrison Springs' little brother)
I gave my sister away to be married to an awesome, worthy guy. It was hard on my already broken heart to be the one who had to do it, but it was the best wedding I’ve ever been to, and I hope to see seven more just like it.
(Right before Sam started rapping)
I started the Captains Career Course, and was blessed to be paired with sixteen of the most humble, down-to-earth captains in Aviation. For the first time in my life, I was specifically picked out as an important member of a team, even if it was the acknowledged worst Frisbee team in the class. Better that than be the acknowledged most unsportsmanlike, rude, self-absorbed group of people anyone has ever seen. I won’t mention any team numbers, but it rhymes with “Oo.”
(I guess I do look angry a lot...)
I wormed my way into the hearts of the two most distrustful, most adorable little dogs I’ve ever met. Ginny took a long time, but most dogs will cave if you give them enough love… I wish I could say the same for people … Luna was weak from surgery, and she was taken care of by two loving people at her weakest, otherwise I think she would have been even more distrustful than her sister. As it was, I think she has a weak memory, because it took several re-introductions before she would stop running away when she first saw me. Their eventual returned love made me happy, and watching over them for a few days remains one of my most cherished memories from this year.
I finally found a Copperhead, while mountain biking. It was a little one, and after he figured out that I knew he was there, he booked it into the bushes, but it was cool to actually see one of the snakes I was supposed to be worried about when I came to the South.
(I maintained a healthy distance from this guy... It would have been hard to explain to my Commander if he managed to bite me)
I ran two five Kilometer races, and placed second both times. In the first one, I had the opportunity to push and encourage an aspiring young runner. I conceded the race to him, but he earned it, having pushed me much faster than I would normally have run if there hadn’t been a thirteen-year old next to me. I’m sure he’ll go on to be much faster than I ever was, and I hope he can do so while maintaining more humility than I’ve managed.
I flew up to Arkansas and spent Thanksgiving with my “Stick” Travis and his family. We shot guns, looked at the foundation he’d built for his new house in a picturesque little valley, drove down the Elk River, and spent a tense, helpless few hours waiting for paramedics for Becca’s grandmother and later for news on her condition. We played several intrigue-filled games of Mafia, and watched enough Adventure Time for even the staunchest fan. I absolutely enjoyed myself spending time with such an awesome group of people, and it was hard to get back on the plane and head back to Alabama.
(The Nazis' least-favorite sniper rifle, modernized)
And finally, I’m about to head back to Montana for what I anticipate will be the best Christmas in a long time, where I’ll finally meet my smiley little nephew TRent (typo intentional), and do a few things I’ve never done before.
I hope next year is as eventful as this one was, and with a one-year trip to Korea, I think I have a good chance. Even if God sends me more relationships that I crush Tommy Boy style, next year should be awesome.