Monday, August 30, 2010

Fort Drum - or Canada South

Fort Drum is located in upstate New York approximately 26 miles from the Canadian border.  The military base there is home to the 10th Mountain Division.  They are a light infantry division, meaning that they carry a big old rucksack on their backs and go for little walks!  Apparently in WWII, the soldiers of the 10th skied across the alps (I think).  The post is a mix of new and old, with most of the barracks still being old Temporary building (at least while we were there).  It is a beautiful area, and the housing was pretty nice, but as there are so many troops there, there is not enough space on post, and the off post housing can be as far as an hour away in Goveneur.  Scott had stayed in the barracks while we waited for on post housing, as we did not want to make that hour drive back to post in bad weather. 

Our apartment was a cute little garden style home on the second floor.  It was two bedrooms and one bathroom, with a living/dining room combo and an eat in area off of the kitchen which we used for a study, since the builder neglected to put an overhead light in that room. We had a huge laundry room which offered extra storage space.  Our garage was not attached, but the stairs were inside the garage with just the door to the landing being attached to the landing of our front door.  It was definitely nice in the winter.

Our first year there showed what it was truly like to live in upstate New York.  We saw flurries on Halloween, and it snowed so bad that by Thanksgiving, we had 5 feet on either side of the driveway.  Thankfully Scott took the snowblower safety course, so we could use the shared snowblower.  It continued to snow throughout the winter, and we were still seeing flurries on Mother's day.  It was warm in May, but it was only truly hot for about a month in July.  We learned the importance of having a good cable package.  There was not a whole lot to do in the winter.   

Of course, my thoughts on how hot it got might be slightly off, as the first year we were there I was pregnant with Aidan. Okay, so there we a couple of things to do in the winter....LOL.   I was very fortunate to be going through my first pregnancy with a good friend who was also pregnant with her first.  Our boys were born 6 days apart!  Aidan came into this world after 21 hours of labor  followed up by a C-section weighing in at a whopping 9 lbs 6 oz, and stretching out to be 24" long!  The doctors called him Moose in the delivery room and were taking bets that he was over 10 lbs.  His head circumference was 15.5 inches followed by a 15 inch chest.  Good thing he was a c-section, because it sure seemed like I gave birth to a toddler!!!  

Aidan was a great baby, and soon I found other moms to hang out with.  There was a group of us that got together on a regular basis for baby play dates.  Of course the kids were too young to play together, but it was great for us!  This is the wonderful group of babies that we had from left to right:
Kimberly, Evan, Aidan, Hannah.
They ranged in birthday from Hannah being born in March to Kimberly in September, with the boys in the middle in July.  These kids and their moms helped me make it through that first year at both Fort Drum and being a mom.
And so the first year of being at Fort Drum ended and we were still in the same location, and did not  look like we were moving anytime soon.  It was so nice feeling like we were going to be someplace for a little while.  I knew it was a hard assignment for Scott, physically, with all the road marches, but it was nice having a group of friends to rely on if you needed something.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Camping across the Country

Our next PCS move was from the Presidio of SF to Fort Drum in upstate NY.  We had just made the move cross country 9 months prior and as we looked back upon it decided that this time we wanted to do something a little different.  Travelling before, we would get up later each day which meant that we got on and off the road later each day.  By the end of the trip we were not getting off the road until almost 8 pm, and that wore on us.  So we decided that we would camp.  

Chaucer being a bulldog would need to be kept leashed at the campgrounds, so Scott devised a clever way (we thought) to keep him close.  He took an old metal office garbage can, strung some chain through a metal pipe and filled it with concrete.  We thought this would be a great idea.  It worked wonderfully until Chaucer learned that he could knock it over and it would roll!  Luckily, he usually would drag it and the lip of the can would dig into the ground.  It was definitely a sight to be seen.

We loaded the mustang and the truck with necessary items for camping and made our way north to Washington and then east towards Chicago camping along the way.  I had planned out a day's drive and we had the KOA guidebook.  Camping was actually very relaxing for us.  We woke up when the sun came up, on the road by about 8, off the road between 3:30 and 4:30, had time to relax, cook something, and get to bed early.  Chaucer loved it, the cats dealt with it, although Rhapsody did seem to figure out how to unzip the tent zipper a couple of times.  Luckily we were right there.  

We stopped in Montana to see Scott's friend, Paul and his family.  We visited Yellowstone, where it was in the 50's overnight.  That was a cold couple of evenings.  We spent the 4th of July with friends in Chicago, and then spent a week up at Scott's parents house.  After Scott's parents house we headed down to Florida as I would be staying there while we waited for housing.  We got as far as Kankakee, Illinois, when we were camping out and realized that it was so hot that even the cats were panting.  Unlike dogs, it is not healthy for cats to pant.  We packed everything up and went to a hotel.  That was the end of camping.  We made it to my parents house, Scott relaxed for a couple of days and then headed up to New York to sign in at Fort Drum.

I stayed with my parents from the end of July until the beginning of October.  I was there for about two weeks when it was decided that I needed to get a job.  I think I was driving my parents nuts!  I went to the local Kelly Services (love going to temp agencies) and got a job with a company called Brainchild.  They make educational software for their own handheld system similar to a large Nintendo DS.  It was geared towards home-school children.  I started with them just doing data entry.  They liked my work enough that they hired me on as an independent contractor authoring software when I finally moved up to NY.  I even got my mom a job there editing their software.  

Scott finally got housing in October, and Mom accompanied me up to New York since I was not to thrilled about the concept of driving up the eastern seaboard by myself with a dog and two cats.  It was pretty much an uneventful trip except for Chaucer locking himself in the bathroom when our pizza was delivered!  It took about 3 days to get there, and then Mom turned around and flew home the next day.  Finally I had finished the move and ready to start life at Fort Drum, which meant time to unpack.  

Oh yeah, when we were issued housing, they gave us a garbage can and a snow shovel in our garage.  Oh Joy!!!

Friday, August 13, 2010

The Presidio of San Francisco

So we have now gone from living under the Verrazanno to under the Golden Gate bridge.  The Presidio was a beautiful post with the architecture in the Spanish style. It had been built on the rocky tip of San Francisco overlooking the bay and ocean.  The post had technically closed when we moved there, but was told that it would still be around for a while.  Ha!  That was a joke.  We refer to it as our extended vacation, as we only lived there from October of 94 to June of 95.  We had a decent apartment on the second floor, and if you looked through the trees out our patio, you could see the beach and water.  It was pretty post, even the Burger King had an awesome view of the bay.

Chaucer used to jump up
from the back of the
After arriving there and getting our household goods settled, it was time to start looking for a job.  Before leaving INS, I had spoke with an Agent there about getting in with the FBI.  I did go through the first application, initial round of testing and had passed it all.  At that point they explained to me that I needed to complete a 24 page booklet about me, my family, and extended family.  Oh yea, they also said that if I was accepted, I would have to agree to a minimum 3 or 5 year commitment (including no maternity leave during that time).   I asked about what would happen if we moved, and they said they could try and find something close, but there was no guarantee.  Well, that was the end of that!

My next option was to apply with a temp agency.  I had used them before, and it seemed like a good idea.  They help me rewrite my resume, and found me a position with a property management company.  I start working as a receptionist, but soon added additional duties.  It was definitely easier to drive around in SF than in NYC, but it cost a fortune to park.  I had mastered the subway system in NYC, so now it was onto the bus system in SF.  Luckily there was a bus stop not to far from the apartment, and I could take that to California street and transfer onto a bus that got me within a block or two from the office.  Going home, if I could get out on time, I could catch the express bus, but if not, it was the slow boat  to china getting home.  It always amazed me how it would be sunny and warm downtown, but by the time we got up to my connection to post it would wind up being chilly, foggy, and damp.

The food there was truly different for me.  A co-worker took me to a sushi place where for $5 you could get a box lunch including a drink. That was truly good eats!  Scott and I were part of a Sunday morning brunch club.  We went down to Spaghetti Western for breakfast a couple of times, among other places.  I remember Spaghetti Western by name mainly because that was the place where the staff truly scared me with all their piercings and tattoos.  Yes I was still naive at the time and was unaccustomed to the tattoos over the whole body, and the facial piercings.  Remember, this was 1994-95, and it was not as common back then.  The food was fabulous though.

 Crissy Field where we
could walk Chaucer.
Scott's job, while still being a bandsman, was somewhat limited there.  There were not a whole lot of city events that San Franciscans wanted Army at.  I do know that he did play taps at a cool biker rally.  They also did some TDY (another army acronym meaning Temporary DutY) assignments to Oregon.  Ususally he just had a regular duty day, and came home at 3 or 4, grabbed Chaucer and took him first for a car ride and then for a nice long walk at Crissy Field.

Okay, so one downside to working in SF, Monday Night Football had usually started by the time I was home from work!  Luckily, Scott had the beer cold and the wings cooking.  It did make me miss Monday night wings at Fitzpatrick's!

Solfeggio (black) and Rhapsody
"Vegg" developed FHE
Our cat developed to Feline Hyper-Estasia Disorder while we were there.  It basically means that his skin is overly sensitive.  The Doctor gave us a prescription that we had to get filled at the pharmacy.  That was a trip!   The technician asked for his name, address, age, insurance....All I could say is that it is for my cat!  She didn't even seem phased by that.  I got the prescription and it turned out to be Valium! I have never even had that.  Let me tell you, watching a cat on Valium is a hysterical experience. He would fall off the top of the back of the chair where he was laying (just out of the blue), eat leftovers off the table (which he never did before) and couldn't jump the gate we had between the front and back half of the house.  You could see him sitting there getting ready to try and jump, and he would be swaying. We think that it might have been caused by all the kitty spins Scott gave him on the asbestos tile floor.

We left the Presidio in June of 1995, and since the last cleaning fiasco, we decided to hire a cleaning team.  The cost was not that high, and it saved the stress of trying to get it done.  The band played a ceremony where they actually marched off post with the command as a symbolic leaving post.  We left the next day.  Our next PCS move was a camping one and would take us back across country to upstate NY with family visits in Michigan, Chicago and Florida.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010


PCSing is one of many military acronyms.  It means Permanent Change of Station. Every 3 years, give or take, the military moves you.  Sometimes you get a choice, sometimes you don't. Even when you get a choice, sometimes, there could be a good choice, or sometimes, it is the lesser of the three evils.  Our first PCS move was interesting, to say the least. While most of the time they happen about every 3 years, that changes if you are closing down the post as what happened in October of 1994.  We had been married for just over a year, and had only had housing for a year, when it was time to move.

We were stationed in Brooklyn, NY and our new assignment was going to be at the Presidio of San Francisco.  That's roughly 2900 miles across the country. When you make a PCS move, several things have to happen.  First you have a moving crew come in like a plague of locusts and pack your household up.  On our fist move, they showed up at 7:30 am, and were gone by 5:00 pm.  You have to keep an eye on them to make sure they don't pack up garbage cans (with garbage in them).  Also, anything you don't want packed needs to be kept in a separate room.  Movers have gotten much better over the years, but we have also gotten better about what to expect.  I also did not know what to expect, so I was working that day, and left it all to Scott.  That's the last time we were not both on hand for a move!

So once the movers leave, you are left with an ugly apartment.  Even the best homemakers would be shocked  that first time at what it looks like.  I was not Suzy Homemaker back then (still aren't), but I have learned what needs to be done to keep it from winding up like that.  So the next step is to clean the apartment.  I don't mean just sweep and mop.  Back then it was white glove inspection.  Remember the closet doors that had the wood slots in them?  Yep, Scott spent a day cleaning those.  Did you know a stove can come apart into 13 pieces?  They all have to be cleaned.  Oh and that rubber thing-y that goes around the fridge?  Yep, inside all those crevices.  In the bathroom, lets just say, grout lines are a pain!  Oh yeah, and the best part about this, is that it doesn't matter if the place was clean when you got it or not.  The housing office had a great racket with local cleaning teams.  Most people failed the first time (us included), so then they hire a cleaning team.  We didn't.  Luckily, we had friends that were willing to help Scott during lunch so he could clear that afternoon.  

There is also like 10-15 different places on post that Scott has to go to in order for them to sign a paper saying that he has cleared their office.  Some of them are Medical, Dental, Provost Marshall, several in his unit, Commissary, PX (those were to make sure no outstanding checks were there).  You get the picture.  Last but not least is financial.  They give you the money to pay for the trip.  So Scott had his final out, and we loaded the cats and dog in the car with what we would need to make it 2900 miles, and said goodbye to Fort Hamilton.  

Scott also had a truck, but one of our friends offered to drive it as far as his next duty station of Fort Riley.  It made it easier for us to only have one vehicle to drive and he could do a Dity (Do IT Yourself) move, since he was still living in the barracks and only had a little bit of stuff.  We drove from NY to Chicago to see family and friends, side tripped it to the U.P. of Michigan to see Scott's parents, and then to Minneapolis to see Scott's Aunt and Uncle.  Then is was down I-35 to Kansas City and west to Ft. Riley to pick up the truck.  Of course, the truck had problems since it had been sitting there...4 hours and $500 later, it was okay to drive.  That truck was like a Timex...took a licking and kept on ticking.  

We continued south to Oklahoma City and started west to LA.  It was already the middle of October, and I did not want to risk getting caught in a snowstorm in the mountains going through Denver.  From LA we headed north to San Francisco.  We did take some time along the way for the Grand Canyon, painted desert and petrified forest.  I am sure there were other stops along the way, we usually traveled about 400 miles a day.  Trying to make reservations where they accepted animals was the main issue.  Luckily Chaucer was still a puppy, so he was under the 20-25 lb weight restriction that most hotels had at the time.  Since the animals were caged during the car rides, there was nothing funnier then seeing to cats hopping from bed to bed in the hotel room.  Except maybe seeing two cats jump from bed to bed followed by a Bulldog jumping from bed to bed! Talk about a dog with an identity crisis!

All in all, we made it to SF without to many issues.  It was another one of those introductions to the military.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Life Under the Verrazano

The Bridge over the
Verrazano Narrows
Fort Hamilton is located at the tip of Brooklyn, New York.  Scott was stationed there from 1992-1994.  I thought it had totally closed down except for the MEPS station when we left, but apparently from looking around for a picture, it is still there and has some nice new housing.  We lived on the first floor of a 6 story apartment building.  It was close to the band hall, Scott being able to go out the back door, hop the fence, slide down the hill, and walk into the band hall in about 30 seconds.  The post was small and kind of reminded me of the college we attended.  We could actually look up and see the Verrazano above us.  It was the bridge that crossed from Brooklyn to Staten Island.  Yes, you had to pay to get out of Brooklyn!

Being a young married couple we were able to experience New York differently than if we had lived there after having children.  It was a neat experience being able to walk up to the subway station and go downtown for the day.  The USO in Times Square offered lots of things for us to do, and if you were there after 5 pm on a Saturday evening, they would pass out any free tickets they received.  It was mostly for off Broadway shows, but they were good none the less.  

McSorley's Pub in NYC
We tended to hang out in Greenwich Village, there were a couple of pubs that the guys liked, but we also hung out at McSorley's a couple of times.  That was a neat place.  Any place where you order your beers in twos has got to be interesting.  They also had a simple cheese and cracker plate that we always had to have.  They gave you a sleeve of saltines with cheese and onions and a mug of some spicy mustard that sent tears down your cheeks.  It was yummy!!!

While we were there, I worked first for Dollar Rent-A-Car, and then for INS before it became ICE.  Dollar was an interesting experience, driving all over Brooklyn (including some areas that I would not do again!).  I even remember being part of a convoy of vehicles that we were returning to NJ that had to drive through Manhattan.  That was an experience.  I got the job with INS in February, and started commuting on the subway.  I enjoyed working for INS, basically working as a clerk, but was tasked out to do some special projects.  

Scott's job while we were there mainly focused PR and supporting the recruiting brigade.  The band was able to play some neat venues including: The Ranger's ticker tape parade, NY Yankees home opener, NY Mets games, and NY St. Patrick's Day parade.  He was also part of an Army rock band that played in the schools supporting the recruiting command.  This was a big deal in the inner city schools.  Trying to get the kids to see there was more to the army than fighting and give them an option to get away from the gangs.  

We frequented a couple of Brooklyn bars Glen Roe and the Wicked Monk being the most popular.  Scott and Paul were on a dart team with some of the locals.  Sandy and I tried out to be part of the team the following year, and while we did well for ourselves, they did not want a co-ed team.  Oh well, their loss!  That just meant that we did not have to stay sober enough to hit the board! :)   It was a fun way to spend Tuesday evenings.  Mondays we were up at Fitzpatrick's for Monday night football with free wings. And of course, who could forget the Fort Hamilton softball team.  

While we were there, we did get a new addition to our family.  We adopted Chaucer, an English Bulldog,  in June of 1994.  He was a goofy dog, and spent many a day running the barracks seeing everyone, looking for treats, and farting at the most inopportune times.  I think the worst was probably when Paul and Sandy gave him leftover eggs with god only knows what, and he proceeded to hang out in Phil's room with Julie (Phil's fiancĂ©e at the time) and let one go that totally cleared the room and got him kicked out of there!!!  

We made some good friends there (as we did at all the posts we lived at), including 2 godparents for our kids.  It is always amazing to me how military friendships can be put on the back burner and reignited at a later time, and everyone still gets each other.  It is totally easy for me to go back to friends that I made along the way and pick up where we left off.  It is a little more difficult with my friends that are not used to the military, but I am thankful for them too!!!

We left Fort Hamilton in October of 1994.  At the time we were ready to leave and begin our next adventure.  Everyone joked as we were leaving, saying the best sight was going to be the Verrazanno in our rear view mirror!  I look back on our time at Fort Hamilton fondly, it was a great assignment, and I am thankful that we were able to be there.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Welcome to the Military!

Ahh...Fort Hamilton.  What an introduction to military life.  My husband secured housing (he he, army terms) about a month after he went back to New York.  Fort Hamilton was located in Brooklyn, New York.  I think it is still there as a MEPS station, but the band left there in October 1994.

So Scott flew back from NY to Chicago and we rented a UHaul to move me from Chicago to NY.  We got all loaded and began the drive with him in the truck and me following behind in the mustang with my two cats.  It was a long trip and took us a day in a half to get there.  We got in 12:30 in the morning, and Scott said that he had some guys lined up to help unload the truck.

The next day Scott was up and out the door for PT at 6:30 (welcome to the Military!!), so I got started , trying to  put the apartment together, when at 7:45 Scott shows back up.  After looking at my quizzical face, he told me that they now have time for breakfast and personal hygiene.  They had to be back in at 10:30.  Okay, I thought, makes sense, although seemed a bit long.  We went with some others out to breakfast, he dropped me off, and went to work.

I went back to work trying to start unpacking when he showed up at 11:30. Okay, now this is silly.  He said he was home for lunch.  I am thinking, whatever happened to the motto, "we do more before 9 am then you do all day"?  We had lunch, and then he went back to work at 1:00.  Now finally I could get some more work done.  Nope, at 3:00 he was back at the apartment.  Done for the day!!!

Some of the guys came over, and had the truck unloaded in about 45 minutes.  If I thought real hard about it, I could probably come up with some names, (Paul, Rob, Phil, Gordon, Steve, Scott W.), but I am sure there were others.  

This is not how it always goes, but what an interesting introduction to being an Army wife.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010


I guess maybe I should start with who I am and the true basics.  I am a 41 (almost) year old mother to three children.  I have been married to my husband for 17 years (again, almost), and currently live in Cibolo, Texas.  I work for a wonderful company part time, and am a full time soccer mom/chauffeur.  My mother lives with us, which will be a godsend this next year.  We also have 2 dogs, 2 cats, and 3 hermit crabs.    

I have decided to blog about the next year and what it will be like to be a single parent.  My husband is going to Korea for the year, and as my children are getting older, I know that there will be new challenges for me. We have been through a deployment before when the children were much younger, and Scott had one assignment that had him travelling three weeks out of the month, so I know what to expect.  I also know that each assignment is different.  I have approximately a month until Scott leaves for Korea, so I will start with our history.

Scott and I both attended the same high school, and while I would love to say that we were childhood sweethearts, we weren't, but that is okay.  We did date some while I was still in High School, and during college, but we were not committed to each other.  I am kind of glad because it allowed us to become adults independently before we married.  We got married on August 7, 1993 in Elburn, Illinois before a ton of friends and family.  

Scott was already in the military at the time and had already returned from Iraq as he was there during Desert Storm.  He had already returned from being stationed in Germany, and told me that we would get back to Germany. 

After our Honeymoon, Scott returned to Ft. Hamilton where he was currently stationed, and I stayed in the Chicago area working until we got housing.  Being in the military, you are always on a waiting list for housing. I think the only place we did not have to wait for housing was Presidio, but that is another blog.  Eventually we did get an apartment, and my life in the military began.