28 January 2011

Getting Used to my New Life

So, we have been in El Paso for about 3 1/2 weeks now, and it's starting to feel a little more like home! The boxes are almost unpacked; what remains is the guest room; this is the room that I stored everything in that I didn't know what I wanted to do with. Hence the reason half of it is still boxed up or the boxes have been opened, sifted through, and left for a later time. But, my goal for tomorrow is to complete that room! You would think that before you move, you would go through your house and find things that you don't really need/use, and donate them. Well, I did that at Benning. But I now have about 2 more large boxes of things that don't need to live in our house any more...Amazing what a lack of storage space will do to your "I need this" list...Actually, I'm thankful for it; I can tend to hold onto things a little too long, so this is a good thing for me!

In the past week, I have done a lot of social activities. Which seems strange, since we know a total of 4 people here. But last week I met up with one of the wives from our battalion, and we went hiking in the mountains right behind our apartment! It was a lot of fun and she helped me feel so at home here. Last Thursday I went to a coffee with some of the other wives from our battalion. Now, you must know that a coffee does not mean that coffee is always served...traditionally, it was, but nowadays it means going out to dinner, having a get-together at someone's house, or something along those lines.  I had dinner with that group of women and it was a lot of fun! There are girls my age and then women who are older than us, which I really like because they know how this Army life is and are so welcoming and encouraging! I did have a slight panic attack though...you see, El Paso is a large city. And I know this, therefore I usually allot at least 30 minutes to get somewhere. I did just that the night of the coffee, except I got lost (typical of me trying to figure out a new city...). Thankfully, I had left the map up on the computer and my sweet husband calmly guided me to the correct restaurant. I also have this thing about being late...I typically like to be somewhere at least 15 minutes early. If this means I sit in my car for 5-8 minutes acting busy and like I didn't mean to be that early, that's fine by me! Thankfully, a lot of the women were "fashionably late", so I didn't stick out too bad  =)

On Monday, my friend Ashley and I went to a "Step/Dance" class. In my mind, I figured this was a step aerobics class with fun, dancy music. WRONG. Well, we had a step, but only used it for about 5 minutes. The rest of the time we held light weights and danced around with moves like the salsa, meringue, and moves that reminded me of bellydancers. I basically laughed throughout the entire class because I felt like a goob! But it was fun!

This past Wednesday I went to PWOC, which stands for Protestant Women of the Chapel. Can I tell you how much I loved this? It felt so great to walk into a place knowing that we already had a connection: knowing Christ. The women were so welcoming and I've gotten into a Bible study on marriage--should be good!

And yesterday, I went to another class at the gym, but this one was quite serious...I basically can't move today. Or laugh...it hurts to laugh! And I think I'm still getting used to the elevation/dry air here...we ran some in class and I can't tell you how bad my throat hurts! Yes, this Southerner is not used to 0% humidity...I need to feel like I'm running through thick, semi-melted butter while in a sauna. But, the 0% humidity does mean one thing: MY HAIR WORKS EVERYDAY. Typically in the South I look like a kindergartner who told her mom she wanted to fix her own hair that day...you know, a cross between the hairstyles of the 80's and a lion. It was super attractive. And you wondered why I always put my hair in a ponytail for about 9 months out of the year...

Brian has being doing training this week for EIB: Expert Infantryman Badge. He begins the real evaluation next week, but it's basically a compilation of activities that an infantryman must know, and to get the EIB, he's gotta be really good at them! He feels pretty confident, so we'll see how it goes! I mean, he's been shooting big guns all this week--at least he'll have fun while he's being evaluated!

When not unpacking/cleaning/rearranging furniture, I've been in the process of applying for jobs. I'm sending out my transcripts/resumes/cover letters next week, so here we go!

Finally, here's a little "breakdown" of the Army structure. This totally isn't an "Army-official" website, but it gives definitions...which I like! I know I mention words like platoon, battalion, and brigade a lot, so this shows you how it builds up. I was looking for a graphic organizer, but couldn't find one...maybe I'll make one for you! This list starts with the smallest unit (a squad) and builds its way up.

Pictures are coming soon-promise!

21 January 2011

Boxes, Boxes Everywhere!

Well, our boxes have made it to El Paso!  In the past calendar year, I have packed up and moved my belongings 4 times. Ridiculous, I know. Last January, I moved in with Butler, Causey, and Sterling. In May, I moved stuff from that house and my house in Alabama into Brian's house the week before we got married. In June, I packed up the Starkville house, the Alabama room/furniture, and collected Brian's things from his house. (Thankfully for this move I had lots of help!) We took all of that to Ft. Benning. And then, December 16, all of my belongings once again were on a moving truck. And I now am at the "unpacking stage" once again! I probably could give you a verbal inventory of everything in our house and I most likely wouldn't forget anything...that's how many times it has passed under my nose! Haha! I'm learning to make an art of moving as well as purging...I already have a list of things I'm donating once most of the boxes are gone!  I tend to be really nostalgic and I really like to hold onto sentimental things...I'm learning what things really mean to me and trying not to get myself so emotionally invested in things like dishes and furniture... I know--it sounds totally lame, but when it's a table made by your grandfather, you kind of can't just cast it aside. So instead I'm getting rid of "college furniture". :)

So, as I mentioned before, OUR STUFF IS HERE! This is very exciting, because Brian has been here 3 weeks and I've been here roughly 2.5 weeks and we've had pretty much nothing to our name! We got into our apartment a week ago, but thanks to great friends here we had an air mattress to sleep on! We've done a lot of reading and watching a season of The Office on our computer. And of course, eating on the ground...we've called it "indoor camping" :). I started unpacking yesterday and then spent the whole day today working on it...I feel like we've made some good progress! Enough for me to cook dinner--whoo hoo! I managed to get the kitchen, dining room, and some of the office stuff done today, so I'm calling it a successful day.

Brian has gotten into his battalion and is really liking it so far! He's been having to do some more in-processing, which basically means running around post, getting papers signed, going to appointments, and the like. We did find out quite a bit of news though! Brian is headed back to Ranger School in February at Ft. Benning. I'll stay here during that time because Ranger School is where he basically goes to the woods/swamp for about 60 days or so...fun, fun, fun! We also found out today that when he gets back, he's getting a platoon! This is very exciting :) He'll be in charge of about 40 guys or so, and this is a great opportunity for him to get to use everything he's learned over the past few years! And he'll get to train with them for awhile, which is good because we found out that his brigade is deploying in October. He's really excited about going; me, well, I guess I knew it was coming! Soooo if you want to visit good ole El Paso, start looking at 2012... =) But I am glad that we'll have some time here to get adjusted before he heads off.

I've met some great people here through Brian's battalion, which has been so wonderful. It's so nice to make some friends--makes it feel more like home! Some friends of ours from Benning are here too which has made the transition so much easier! We've been doing a lot together and the girls and I are going to check out some of the classes at the gym next week...they offer a ton!

Brian and I have done some exploring of El Paso and we've found some neat things! Last week we went hiking, which was a lot of fun. The state park is literally in our "backyard"--open our door, and there's the mountain! We can walk to the state park from our apartment--it's so nice! I went hiking with one of the women from our battalion and she showed me some great new trails--so when you visit, bring your hiking shoes! If you're not up for hiking, there are some great wineries nearby... :)

Other than that, not much more to report! I take breaks from unpacking to job search...so far, I have a few prospects, but they're only in the beginning stages, so I won't know anything for awhile. Hope everyone is doing well!

13 January 2011

Old El Paso

Well, a month later, and we are here and attempting to get settled!

Let's recap life over the last month...the movers came Dec. 17 and packed up our house and took it away. Still waiting to get it back...more on this later!

We went home for about a week and a half, visiting with family and friends-it was wonderful! We even managed to squeeze in our annual girls' Christmas party with all of the old crew--we had a blast. Brian and I split up Christmas, spending Christmas Eve and a bit of Christmas morning with his family and then all of Christmas Day with my family. We even got the wonderful surprise of a white Christmas! The next day, we headed out to visit our family in Missouri and Kansas. Well, not all of us...the Army had some miscommunication with us, and Brian had to report about 4 days earlier than expected to El Paso. This put us in a tough spot trying to decide if/how he could come with us to visit my extended family. After much logistics and plans A, B, C, D, and E, we decided the best option was just for him to stay in Huntsville for the following 3 days and then trek out to El Paso so that he could get there in time to check in on Jan. 2. I didn't like leaving him behind, but unfortunately it was really the only viable option. So we headed out of Alabama the morning of the 26th on icy, slushy roads...it took us 45 minutes to drive what normally takes about 15 minutes! Thankfully by the time we got to west Alabama it wasn't as cold, so the road conditions improved drastically. We picked Lindsay up in Memphis, and ended up doing lots of wedding talking the whole way and pretty much the whole week! I still can't believe my little brother is getting married...but I couldn't have picked a better bride! I love her! We spent the first 3 days at Gran and Grandad's farm in Missouri playing in the perfect snow and eating our hearts out. The wetlands even froze over so the kids and Uncle Paul went walking on the ice and "iceskating"...see Facebook for the video of Lindsay and I "iceskating"...it rivals Kristi Yamiguchi.

After Gran's house we headed to Joplin to visit our other grandparents and aunts and uncles. This is where we were introduced to quite possibly the most fun video game system ever...The Xbox Kinect. Your body is the controller. It is AWESOME. Uncle Chris always has some new game for us to play, and this year we had two; an "Adventure Games" one and then...DANCE CENTRAL. Can I just say that Emily, Lindsay, and I definitely beat the game? It took us about 3 hours and we were sweating pretty good afterwards but it was so. much. fun. Seriously, you should play this game. The adventure game makes you jump around and over/under things--prepare to get a work out! I was pouring sweat--it was so much fun! There was also a downhill skiing race...watching my dad/uncle compete in this was just about the most hilarious experience of the week--they were quite the athletes and extremely competitive!

After coming home from Missouri we had about 18 hours to turn around and get back into the car! Did some quick loads of laundry (yes, I am going on a month this weekend living out of a suitcase. I'm pretty tired of the 5 shirts and 4 pairs of jeans I could pack...) and then ended the night watching Avatar. Ok, if you have not seen this, you must watch it. I was a doubter when it first came out, but I love this movie! I've already watched it again-haha!

Monday morning, the 4th, Emily and I headed out on our great trek westward. Our own Oregon Trail, if you will. Emily thankfully didn't start school until this week, so she kindly volunteered to drive out with me and then Mom flew her back...thanks Mom :)

We ended the first day of driving in Jackson, MS and spent the evening with two of my old roommates, Krystina and Karen. Krystina just got ENGAGED so we talked lots of wedding, and Karen has been subbing (and just got a job) at the high school, so this left us with lots to talk about! I'm so glad I got to see them before I left the South!

The next day Emily and I drove about 8 hours, ending in Abilene, TX. I'm sorry to say, but Louisiana didn't do much for itself as we drove through...can't say I want to live there...This day actually wasn't so bad because we hit a big city about every 2 hours, which kept things interesting! A strange thing about east/middle of Texas...when you exit the interstate, you find yourself entering a road...but opposing traffic is coming towards you. It is quite strange. They're supposed to stop, but it's still a little scary!

Day 3 proved to be the day of funny signs and landmarks and not much else. We saw lots of humongous windmills outside of Abilene (Emily has pictures on Facebook of these!), and really smell and dirty looking oil refinery, and signs such as "Prison Area: Do not pick up hitch hikers".  We also saw our first Border Patrolman! We also saw the border, but not the fence or the Rio Grande. Since being in EP though, I have seen both of those!

We arrived mid-afternoon to EP, and I can't say it was what I dreamed of...it's a really big town, something I'm not so used to. The population is around 600,000-700,000, and I promise you every building here is one of these colors: brown, taupe, rust. If the building is one of those colors, the roof is one of the other two options. You have an occasional bright orange or yellow building, but that's about it...It took awhile to get used to such a bleak landscape. Dad says it greens up during the spring/summer-I'm hoping so! The saving grace as far as landscape goes is that a good sized mountain range called the Franklin Mountains runs right through EP. They're beautiful against the bright blue sky!

We lived in "Army Lodging", aka converted barracks from probably the 30's, for about a week. Emily and I visited around 22-24 different rental apartments before deciding on one...it was exhausting and at times frustrating. I think I assumed it would be easier...I've gotten pretty familiar with a lot of roads here, but I still miss turns and get turned around frequently--hopefully this improves with time! The good news is I've seen about 15 high schools while driving around, so there could be some job opportunities! (For the record, there are 92 high schools within the EP city limits...crazy)

Brian and I signed the lease for our apartment on Saturday and got into it yesterday. Unfortunately, our stuff won't be arriving until next Thursday, so thanks to the Lending Closet on post and some dear friends who have a giant air mattress, we are able to "set up house" in the apartment until our goods arrive. The Lending Closet is a service on post that allows you to check out dishes, pots, pans, and other kitchen needs while you wait on your stuff. They also have other household items, but we only needed kitchen stuff. I packed a 9x13, some mixing bowls, and some cooking spoons but we needed a few more things in order to fix up some meals!

Overall, the transition has been OK. I think I had a more "romantic" picture of El Paso painted in my head, so at first I was a little disappointed. But, after reading a bunch of brochures, I have found some really neat cultural and community opportunities that I'm excited about checking out. And the mountains help...if they weren't here, I think I'd be pretty depressed...it's just strange that everything is flat, you can see for miles, and there are trees, but there not the trees we're used to...and they're aren't that many of them! It's also very dry here, which means my hair cooperates EVERYDAY. This is a miracle. It does mean though that I'm going through a lot more lotion!

We did get a new address and I'm planning on sending out a new address card as soon as things settle down, but if you need it sooner than that just let me know!

Brian got into his battalion this week and is enjoying the guys that he's working with. We should find out in a few weeks when they're deploying, so that's good! Right now he's in what's called the "S-3 Shop", which means he's helping with training for the entire battalion. I've been in contact with a few of the spouses from the battalion and I'm excited (and a little nervous!) about getting involved!

Hope everyone is doing well! Once internet is set up in the apartment and we get unpacked I'll share a little more about our new home!