Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Hope on the Horizon

          A little less than five years ago, Ryan and I made the decision to get out of the active duty Army in order for him to pursue a bachelor's degree so we could get back in the military, Air Force the next time, and eventually commission as an officer. We had sat down with Bob and Becky Clinton, friends we both really admired and respected, and with their help, mapped out our future. As we went home and prayed about it, we felt a calm assurance that we were on a good path.
          We lost sight of that goal once, when Ryan was burning out a bit from doing school non-stop two years in a row. And I had gotten used to having him around. But it only took six months of deviance for us to remember the path we had started on and why we had chosen it. The move to Las Cruces was, as we felt, inspired.  It was even quite effortless. Everything fell into place so beautifully for us to be here.
          In August 2011, Ryan began his final semester for his bachelor's degree. In preparation, he also began talking to an Air Force recruiter. He told Ryan to wait to submit any paperwork until October when the new fiscal year for the military began. So we waited. Ryan jumped through hoop after hoop, and finally, on the day when his classmates were walking the line at graduation, he was being poked and prodded as he was processed into the military. We were so excited! This is what we had worked so hard for. We were promised orders in about a week. That was December 9th. As time went on, the days got longer and the military vacation window drew nearer, until finally we were told we would not hear anything about orders until after the new year.
          That's okay, we thought. It was the last step to achieving what we set out to achieve all those years ago.  We were in. We just needed the assignment. All our hopes were centered around receiving those orders. And then, Ryan got a call. Turned out the job he was promised was no longer available. The only thing available was EOD. So, Ryan went down to the recruiter's office to get the full story. Apparently guys had been "shuffled around" and now contracting wasn't available, only EOD. No thank you, Ryan said. Complete deal breaker. EOD is explosives ordnance disposal. The Marine recruiter next door came in and tried to convince him to take it. And Ryan said maybe if he didn't have a family he would have considered it. But because of his family, it wasn't even an option. Sgt. Ullmann agreed to see if he could get him SERE Instructor instead. So Ryan came home and told me the news. I didn't take it very well, to say the least. I just sat on my bed and cried. This wasn't part of the deal! But if he could get SERE Instructor, it was still better than EOD, better than nothing! And Ryan, being the wonderful man that he is, looked me in the eye and said, "Well, maybe we can make someone else happy today instead. Let's finish building Soquel's desk." Eli came over and he helped Ryan out and kept us company.
          Then at lunch we received the call, the final blow. There were no jobs left. Ryan would not be receiving orders at this time. Now we were in full panic mode. At least I was. Ryan was patient enough to not freak out until all the details came in. Unfortunately, we haven't received any details of explanation. It felt like Ryan had just lost his job. We were counting on this job for so many things -- health insurance, dental, income. We could wait patiently and stretch our pennies the thinnest we've ever stretched them so long as we knew we just had to wait for orders. Knowing they weren't coming; that was cruel. I felt like everything we had worked towards got all shaken up. Snatched away at the last second. I was so ready for the next chapter to begin. To be done with the student-with-a-family lifestyle. To be on to the career stage. I was ready to put on my support-my-hubby-in-training hat. The doing-it-all-because-it's-gotta-get-done hat. I was ready to start packing and start the new adventure of life back in the military. After seven years in the Army and Reserves, I knew what I was getting into, and I had a plan. I had my good attitude ready. My optimism was ready. And we had told EVERYBODY who would listen how excited we were.
           Eli started mentioning the CIA, FBI, NSA, and other government agencies who were always looking for someone with military experience and a degree. We tucked that info away, but felt deeply the loss of this opportunity. We wanted to blame someone, so we blamed Obama. The day before he signed the new Defense budgets, and then there were no jobs. It made sense in my mind. This was his fault. I let everyone know on Facebook that we weren't getting orders. My sister called to check in on me. It was sweet of her to do so. However, my emotions were so raw and chafed that I couldn't express calmly the disappointment and panic I felt. All our eggs were in this one basket and they all got dropped. I was devastated. She ended up hanging up on me, which I probably deserved. I was struggling to hang on to my surety in faith that the confirmation we felt at the beginning, and even just a year ago, was still there. I was struggling to keep a smile on my face for the sake of my children and husband. And I just couldn't do it. The dust was too thick. I couldn't see anything past my own anxiety. I couldn't see past my anger at the loss of this opportunity. At the timing of it. A few minutes later, Kris called, and it was like she had put a warm blanket on me and she just let me cry there on the phone with her. After a really good cry and a nap, the dust began to settle and I could finally see that the world was not about to end after all. I could see that Heavenly Father might be protecting us from something if we had gotten what we wanted right now. Tina checked in on me, too, and it was good to talk through Plan Right Now. Ryan had given me a blessing, in which he said there was "hope on the horizon" and that the issue of his job would be soon resolved. I needed to put my faith in that.
          We finished Soquel's desk and seeing her face when we delivered it was absolutely wonderful. It is a really good feeling to help someone else be happy. Ryan started looking around different government agency websites and found some really cool jobs. When we first found out Ryan wasn't getting orders, my initial thought was that we weren't worthy of the blessings yet. And then Ryan found a job that was the same as the one he was hoping to get in the Air Force. And then I though, maybe Heavenly Father really does having something even better than what we originally hoped for. Maybe we weren't unworthy. Maybe we were just being shortsighted and we needed to take the Air Force blinders off. So we decided we ought to quit feeling sorry for ourselves, refocus our faith and started coming up with Plans B, C, D, and E. Maybe the Air Force will come around. Maybe it won't. But at least we will be doing something. With his degree, Ryan is far more marketable. And I have to thank Heavenly Father for that direction at the very least. He would not qualify for any of the jobs he is now applying for without his degree. That foundation is still standing.
          Our home teachers came to see us and shared with us President Monson's message of the ABCs of faith. That we can choose to have a good Attitude. That we need to Believe we can do the things we set out to do. And that we need to have Courage. The more time we have to think about it, the more possibilities open up. In some ways it feels like we are back on square one, trying to choose a direction for career and future. But in other ways, it feels like we are armed quite a bit better this time around. After a blessing from Brother Peterson for Ryan, and the good, timely counsel we received, we truly feel like there is hope on the horizon. Smiles and laughter have returned. Goals are being worked towards. We don't have all the answers, but we know it will be ok. Heavenly Father has shown His hand in our lives too many times for us to ever doubt Him.

Family Pictures

I tuned one of Lesa's friend's piano last week and when I was done, Lesa practiced her photography skills. The subject? Our family. I think she pretty much rocked it!

New Year's Eve

We had a small, quiet New Year's Eve this year. Ryan traded in some of his games at GameStop to get the girls "Just Dance for Kids" for the Kinect. They had a blast! They love playing dance games. And what was even more fun than watching Monica and Leah doing the dance moves? Watching Jillian totter to her feet to try and dance with them! Dad even got his groove on, too. We watched the ball drop together on the couch and Leah even made it until midnight. After our family prayer and sparkling cider toasts, Leah promptly crashed. Monica probably could have stayed up even longer, but she couldn't argue with church being the next day! It would be a new year with new beginnings!

Christmas Night

The girls got really spoiled this year. They essentially had three Christmases. One at Nana and Papa's, another at Aunty Theresa's, and one when we got home Christmas evening from Albuquerque. Monica asked Santa for only two things - the spy cars from "Cars 2" and My Little Ponies, and Leah asked only for Strawberry Shortcake. Santa definitely delivered! Which made our shopping from Mom and Dad super easy on Black Friday. I made some skirts for the girls and will have to take pictures of them in their matching skirts, but I forgot to take them to ABQ with us for church. So they didn't get to wear them then. The girls were tired, (and so were Mom and Dad!) after the drive home, so we read the story in Luke of Jesus' birth, opened gifts and then went to bed!

This was the first year Ryan and I did not exchange gifts with each other, having agreed to have our Christmas when he got orders in the Air Force. We just wanted to make sure the girls got what they wanted, and it was worth every smile and little gasp to see their excitement! And we were spoiled by all our family. It was a beautiful Christmas.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Nana and Papa

Last year, as I was looking through the year in review in our blog, I realized we didn't have any pictures of the girls with Nana and Papa! So, before we left to come back home, we had a little photo shoot in front of the tree. We got a few gems!
 Strike a pose.
 Silly faces!
We love Nana and Papa!

"Easy, It's Just A Picture!"

Maggie and John were such good sports when I asked for a picture, on Christmas morning. Before breakfast. And they turned out so cute! We really loved being able to see them and hang out.

 I don't think Ryan and I have had a recent picture taken of us, so we got one in front of the tree, too.
 Sweet girls!
 While we were taking pics of Aunty Theresa and Uncle Bruce, I told them to kiss.
 They did. And as Uncle Bruce went in for another kiss, Aunty Theresa goes, "Easy, it's just a picture!"
 It was so funny!
These are some of my favorite pics.
In my someday house, actually sooner, I'm going to have a happy wall.
And it's going to be filled with pictures of people we love purely and honestly laughing. True blue tickled pink.
Doesn't that just make you happy thinking about it? 

Christmas Morning 2011

After we got to see everyone at Mom and Dad's, we went across the river to see all the aunties and uncles. We had so much fun! A little girl talk with Maggie, Jessy and Melissa. "Just Dance" was super fun. I even beat Jessy for high score on one dance. I have to brag about my one achievement because she's on an elite dance team and is uber talented. I'm sure next Christmas she will squash me like a bug. But it sure was fun trying to keep up with her. And it was fun to watch Uncle Paul and Uncle David out dance her on a belly dancing song. HILARIOUS! We spent the night at Aunty Theresa's and got to open the girls' stockings with Maggie and John, and Aunty Theresa and Uncle Bruce.

Christmas Eve 2011

This Christmas Eve we were able to go up to spend it with family in Albuquerque. It was so fun to see everyone and I think the best part for me was watching the girls have so much fun with all their cousins. I remember reading a saying somewhere that cousins are your first best friends. This was so true, especially when as we were leaving, Monica said she, Katie, and Julie all said they were the "bestest friends". I love it!

Mark and Emily built this awesome snowman pinata and I think it should be a tradition from now on. The kids each took a turn who wanted to, smallest to biggest, until Austin was able to smash it. Ashley didn't even get a shot at it! But I don't think she minded too much. 

 Mark and Emily put little goodie bags in the snowman with all the kids' names on them and Jillian loved her marshmallows! 

This was my favorite of all the cousins on the stairs. 

Baby Steps

Jillian has begun taking her first steps. 
She got this fun walking toy from Nana and Papa for her birthday and she loves it! It's only been a month, but she is making a lot of progress. She has started standing up without pulling up on anything and even took 7 steps at once. But they are not consistent yet. She still feels more confident crawling, so we are doing our part to take her walking around the house. She'll stand up and think about taking steps, even taking 2 or 3, but then will decide crawling is safer, or more effective. I think being cautious is a part of her personality. That makes this mama happy!