My Life on the Homefront

 

by Amy Bermudez (Army)

I was laying on the couch in crusty pajamas with greasy hair while Netflix played nonstop. My guilty pleasure consumed me: Army Wives. Could I be more cliché?! My hand made an endless loop from a bag of tortilla chips to my mouth while I watched the drama of the fictional females unspool before me. Denise saves a man from a sucking chest wound with her shoelace and a chem light. Roxy owns her own business, has two young children, and never has a hair out of place. Pamela fearlessly navigates rude wives and solves mysteries. Colonel Burton’s husband is a full time psychiatrist and he is still able to meet up with the ladies for lunch. Claudia Joy unpacks her whole house in less than two days.

Weeks in to my new duty station, and I still hadn’t found a reason to unpack more than a few plates and my hair straightener. Everything has found a place now, but the boxes stayed around for far too long, the cardboard embodiment of my apathy. As fake and silly as it is, I am jealous of the TV version of Army Wives. The pilot episode is titled “A Tribe is born.” But where is my tribe? I had one once.

Julie is in Kansas now but not for long. Jennifer lives in Indianapolis, and I think she really loves it. Melissa is still in Texas, along with Santi, Roger, and G. Oh sure, we’re still friends, but we can’t go to Starbucks together or catch up during weekly runs like we used to.

Someone new works in my old classroom. It’s funny that I still think of it as mine. Belly laughs shared during lunch breaks fade into memory. Now I eat lunch alone in my new classroom, a white cinderblock monstrosity with green chalk boards and an air conditioning unit that doesn’t work.

PCSing has so much promise, so much possibility. I can imagine a new me in each new location. Fort Drum Amy is suddenly stylish in scarves and Wellies. Perhaps Fort Hood Amy visits home more often, being as it’s so close. Perhaps Fort Sill Amy wears plaid shirts and soft jeans with country radio turned up loud. Perhaps Fort Lewis Amy would finally become laid back and easy going. She’d take trips to the farmer’s market and buy fresh flowers. Perhaps Fort Bragg Amy would be boisterous with more friends than she can count. Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps.

Everyone told me about the grass, how green it is. Grass is one thing that Tennessee has in spades. Along with trees, humidity, summer storms, sweet ice tea, and sweeter southern accents. After three years living in the desert, who wouldn’t want a little grass? Answer: me.

I miss Fort Bliss. Give me back the dust and wind and the searing summer heat. Give me back Mountain Time and Mexican restaurants and people who call me “Mija.” Give me back my friends and coworkers and people who know me.

Nostalgia is a two-faced mistress. When I think back on memories, the picture-perfect moments float to the top and my mind banishes the hard times. Life at Bliss wasn’t perfect. I spent a year underemployed and over-frustrated. The puppy we fostered for a few months destroyed the guest bathroom in our rental house. Goodbye, deposit. The heat was oppressive April through August. Prickly stickers poked through the sidewalk and stabbed my running shoes and my dogs’ feet.

Why do I long so deeply for Fort Bliss Amy?

I see their faces, my tribe. They didn’t like me because I was someone else. They liked Real Life Amy with no mask. It wasn’t my cowboy boots or twangy accent. They liked the girl who didn’t have to try so desperately, the one who made dirty jokes and giggled uncontrollably after a Coca-Cola induced sugar high and figured it out as she went along.

I’ve heard my husband lament that deployments can feel like Groundhog Day. Maybe PCSing is like that, too. My life has been reset and I’m starting over, off in search of new friends and new beginnings. Same Old Me.

I don’t know how I’ll find my way, but I hope Fort Campbell Amy is brave enough to be herself.


Amy is a writer, middle-school teacher, and Army wife currently living in Tennessee. She loves running, reading, and ice cream (but maybe not in that order) and writes a popular blog, Army Amy.  Some of her published articles include “Our Military Family, Our Reality” on The Huffington Post and“Moving is Not Following” on Spouse Buzz. She has a two adorable dogs named Geronimo and Crockett.

A Temporary Home

This post is the second installation of the “Homefront Journal” series here on the Mil Spouse Book Review.

We often write about the deployments and homecomings, the flashy stuff, but what makes up the bulk of life as a military wife — particularly one who is also a writer? Guest author Lisa Stice — poet, teacher, Marine Corps wife (‘Uniform’) — shares her thoughts.

by Lisa Stice

Military life means frequent moves, which means a spouse needs to get creative about a career. I used to teach high school. For eight years, I taught at the same school and expected to teach at that school for many more years. But then I fell in love with a Marine.

That first move worked out all right. I knew well in advance where I was going and got my interviews in, my Nevada educator’s license easily transferred to a Virginia license, and the move was between school years. Easy. So easy it had me fooled that I could switch from state to state, school to school as the government moved my husband from coast to coast. California was not so easy. We knew we’d be leaving Virginia, but we got the where two weeks before the big move. Plus, it was after the start of a new school year. Plus, it would not be an easy switch to a California educator’s license. I was already a year into my MFA program, low-residency since I needed a program that would move with me, so I thought, “Maybe it’s meant to be. I can put all my time into my writing.”

Especially after my daughter was born, I became more accepting that teaching high school might be an impractical job for the wife of someone who spends not even a full three years at one duty station. And now we were moving again, and I wouldn’t have to even concern myself with searching for a job in a new place. I’m a writer now. I can work anywhere, right?

Well, it’s not that easy. Yes, I can write anywhere, but there’s more to being a writer than the solo act of putting pen to paper and sending manuscripts off to publishers. Writing also requires marketing, which includes (among other things) readings and author appearances. After trekking to colleges, libraries, bookstores, coffee shops, and the like through four counties, I have learned venues are looking for two types of readers: 1. well-known (with a first book freshly published, that is certainly not me) 2. local (with no roots in the community, that is not me either).

My writer network is in my computer network. I have lots of faraway friends who help promote me on their Facebook pages and websites. I search the web for people willing to interview and review unknown writers.

uniform

Most of all, I keep writing. Microsoft Word is a really good shoulder to lean on, and I write to her daily. I think that’s most important; I keep writing. Who cares that the little library down the street doesn’t want me to be the opening act for another writer in town. If I keep writing, maybe they’ll notice me. Maybe they won’t. I’m a poet. I obviously don’t write because I want to be a bestseller or a rock star guest writer.

Best of all is when someone unexpectedly reaches out to me. It’s so fulfilling to receive an email from an undergrad student in Boston who read one of my poems in an online journal and chose me for her reach-out-to-a-writer assignment for her class. I may not be known locally, but there’s a few people in Ireland and in India who follow my writing, and now I follow theirs. It’s the connecting that matters, not where the connections happen.

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stice_profile Lisa Stice is a Marine Corps wife. It’s difficult to say where “home” is, but she currently lives in North Carolina with her husband, daughter and dog. She is the author of a poetry collection, Uniform (Aldrich Press, 2016). You can find out more about her and her publications at lisastice.wordpress.com and facebook.com/LisaSticePoet.