Monday, July 28, 2014

Being Home: a Candid Look at Reintegration After BMT

Reintegration to Civilian Life After Air Force Basic Military Training

I've been home from Basic Military Training now for a month and a half. I can't believe how fast time is going. It's crazy that it's already the middle of summer and I'll be heading off to my second round of training at tech school in just a little over two months. Part of me is excited for that next adventure. Part of me is nervous. And this post will explain why. I'm about to give you a candid look into my thoughts about re-joining the real world after my time spent at BMT. Everyone handles the successes and stresses of BMT differently... this is a look into how I'm handling life at the moment.

Coming home—reintegration as the military calls it—has actually been a lot harder than I ever thought possible. Chalk it up to the BMT version of "Stockholm Syndrome" (where the hostage begins to identify and/or bond with their captor... in BMT it's like our bond with our MTI's, ha!)—but some days I just want to go back. Man, life there was so... simple. There was always a routine. There was always a certain way to do things. There was always something to do, somewhere to go, some rule to follow. Structure. And sure, there was drama... but it was drama that I sat back and had no part of, and I knew that I would be away from it within a matter of weeks.

After coming home, it's been mentally challenging for me to get back to life-as-I-know-it. To become a civilian again. My civilian job—working in the fundraising office of our local non-profit hospital—is great. I'm adjusting back there just fine, and if not better and more on-task than before. It's at home where I'm realizing my struggles. No longer are there 46 other trainees who I live/sleep/shower with—now it's only my poor husband who is feeling the brunt of my post-BMT stress management. Stress management... I think that's the key word there. I haven't found a good outlet for my stress (and in fact, I don't even know why I'm feeling any at all... life is truly easy these days). I've been working out 7-days a week, trying to channel my anxiety into beads of sweat that I can wipe off my forehead without a care—but it just hasn't been that easy.

In fact, I'm actually embarrassed to admit it, but I've just been so sad lately. Maybe it's a slight version of the "post BMT blues"—I was so excited for it to come, and now that it's gone, I feel an empty void there. I think I just picked up a bit of emotional baggage while at BMT and I'm having a hard time letting it go. It's turning me into a "little ball of stress," and I want nothing more than to be that carefree, low-maintenance person again. I know I can get back to that... it's just going to take some time.

I've finally arrived at the point where I want to hang out with people again, where I have started doing my nails and having fun with my makeup, and where I'm beginning to feel like a civilian... finally. While at BMT and even shortly after returning home, I didn't think I had changed at all. Now that a bit of time has elapsed and I can look back over the last several weeks, I can see just how much I changed, and how much more changing I'd like to do.

BMT was an amazing experience. I gained so much and learned so much about myself. I have big, big dreams ahead in my Air National Guard career and can't wait to move forward. I am looking forward to finishing this soul-searching and re-integration, though. Sometimes I wonder how different my mental process had been if I'd have gone straight through to tech school instead of coming home for a 4-month break. I just sort of feel like I'm in a state of limbo, and my mental thought process seems to be reflecting that. I'm promising myself now that I won't let myself experience a second round of this after returning from tech school (hence why I've felt nervous about leaving for it). In fact, I've found so much of a comfort from writing out my struggles in the past, so I'm hoping this journaling of my thoughts will help me move past what's been holding me down—me, myself and I.

In so many letters home, I swore up and down that I would never take my husband, my home or my civilian life for granted again. It's amazing to see how easy it is to forget those promises when you get back in the swing of things. This is my vow to move forward. Right now. To get back up on my feet, brush off the past, and move forward—as a civilian and Airman—ready to conquer whatever challenges lie ahead. After all, wasn't it Dorothy who said, "There's no place like home?" She's right. There's no place like home. It's time to get myself back to it.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Redfish Lake

Redfish Lake, Redfish Lake Lodge in Stanley, Idaho

A few weeks ago, Daniel and I headed up to the Sawtooth Mountains with his family to enjoy a couple days at the lake—and what a relaxing paradise it was! We vacationed at Redfish Lake Lodge in Stanley, Idaho and it was the perfectly rustic, secluded, dream-worthy place we had heard all about. The 18-room lodge sits on Redfish Lake, and is completely surrounded by the rocky, jagged peaks of the Sawtooth Mountains. We were there in late June during the work week, so it was right before the big 4th of July holiday, and hardly anyone was there—it felt like we had the place all to ourselves.

We were up at the crack of dawn (well, I was anyways) each morning hiking, running, and exploring the hills. One morning, Daniel and I beat the sun and trekked 10-miles over a beautiful hiking trail that ended at a beaver dam. That trail began just off Redfish Lake Lodge, and I'd recommend it to anyone who's looking for an easy-going, forest hike. While we were there, we also boated, fished, lounged on the beach, and ate our fair share of ice cream—consisting of at least one soft serve cone (if not two) per day.

For meals, we enjoyed breakfast at the lodge's restaurant, dined at the lodge's outdoor gazebo for most lunches, and drove into Stanley each night for dinner. We ate burgers at the Bridge Street Grill, pizza at Papa Brunee's, and a very nice steak dinner at the Stanley Kasino Club. If you visit the Kasino Club, you must try their mud pie. It's out of this world—I get mud pie everywhere I go... I just love it—and this slice was top notch. It was big enough to feed four, but as you can imagine, I ate the entire thing by myself—and savored each bite.

See more photos from our weekend surrounded by the Sawtooths below.

Redfish Lake in Stanley, Idaho
Sawtooth Mountains in Stanley, Idaho
The beautiful Sawtooths in Stanley, Idaho.
Fishing at Redfish Lake in Stanley, Idaho
Fishing off our pontoon boat. I was the unlucky one who didn't catch anything but some good sun rays that day.
Redfish Lake Lodge in Stanley, Idaho
The guys, enjoying soft serve under the shade of the lodge's patio.
Redfish Lake in Stanley, Idaho
Redfish Lake, Redfish Lake Lodge in Stanley, Idaho
Redfish Lake in Stanley, Idaho
Redfish Lake Lodge General Store in Stanley, Idaho
Redfish Lake Lodge's General Store. There were many, many treats to be found inside.
Redfish Lake Lodge in Stanley, Idaho
Redfish Lake hiking trails in Stanley, Idaho, Fishhook Creek Interpretive Trail
This is Fishhook Creek, which runs right alongside most of the trails surrounding the lodge.
Fishhook Creek Beaver in Stanley, Idaho
We spotted a beaver!
Sawtooth Mountains in Stanley, Idaho
Fishhook Creek Interpretive Trail in Stanley, Idaho

If you're in the Idaho area and looking for a getaway spot that's rustic, romantic, and boasts some of Idaho's most beautiful scenery, be sure to check out Redfish Lake. I can't wait for our next trip back.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Just a Little Bit of Blonde...

Brunette to Blonde, subtle highlights, medium length hair

Change! I love change! After giving up highlighting my hair for Bye Bye Beehive back in 2011, I thought it was time to go "back to my roots," (figuratively, of course) and put a little bit of blonde back in my life. Of my 27 years, I've been blonde for 25 of them—you can see the evolution of my hair's many colors here—so most people know me best as a blonde. In fact, each time I talk to Nanny (my grandma), she asks me if I'm back to blonde yet. I'm fairly certain I made her day when I emailed her a photo of my updated 'do.

I haven't highlighted my hair since May of 2011, and after that I let it grow out to a natural ombre until I dyed it brunette in March of 2013. I haven't touched it since April 2013... the dark brunette faded & grew out and I was more or less at my hair's natural dark (dirty) blonde state until now. I'm not sure where it will go from here (I have a tentative appointment to go blonder next month)... but it's fun to play with it. Hair is hair, right?

If you're in the Boise area and looking for a stylist, I go to Kendall at Roots Salon. I'm happy to give you her number if you'd like to book an appointment!

P.S. This is the best before & after I could muster—you've gotta love the iPhone selfie shot!

Monday, July 14, 2014

The First Post-BMT Drill

Air National Guard Drill Weekend, Air National Guard UTA

This weekend, I was privileged to attend my first Air National Guard drill weekend as an Airman in uniform. Man, that felt good! I had attended our wing's UTA's (UTA = uniform training assembly = drill) for five months prior to leaving for Basic Training, but it was different because I was part of Student Flight (where I learned what BMT was all about) and in my civilian clothes—where I felt as though I stuck out like a sore thumb. It was so much better to be at drill in ABU's... so much better.

Since I haven't received my formal technical training yet, I assumed I would be a BIT (break-in-training) instructor for Student Flight. Instead, I worked both days over in customer service learning a little bit more about my new job in personnel. I was fortunate to be able to go back and speak to Student Flight on two separate occasions, but I was also glad to spend the majority of the time in my new office. The folks over at customer service are just great. They welcomed me right in—I can't wait to spend drill weekends with them in the future.

I experienced a few highlights this weekend... first, as soon as drill began Saturday morning, I was honored by our wing's Command Chief Master Sergeant and my two new supervisors with a special presentation in front of Student Flight. Our Command Chief said some nice words about me and shared the awards I received in BMT (honor grad, Top Pt, etc) with the future trainees. It was a neat tribute to be a part of... I hadn't had any idea they were going to do something like that! To be recognized by one of the leaders who I look up to the most was so special to me.

Then on Sunday, our Mission Support Group Commander (a Colonel) gave me a special invitation to join him and our First Sergeant at Student Flight to speak about BMT and growing as an airman and person with the Air Force. We all spoke together for over an hour—I was able to share so many of my stories and experiences from BMT—it was great! After the presentation, I was awarded a challenge coin from our First Sergeant in front of my new department—talk about an honor! I feel so blessed to be a part of the 124th Fighter Wing, to be an Airman serving our country, and honestly, to be receiving some positive attention from a few leaders in my chain of command who I truly look up to and deeply respect.

This is only the beginning. While watching the sergeants work away this weekend and all of the people they helped in my new office—I knew it was going to be the right place for me. I have three months until I leave for tech school, and I can't wait to get that training out of the way so I am able to return home and begin my job as a traditional (one weekend a month only) in personnel. I've got some big dreams ahead for my career as an Airman, and I'm so thrilled to finally be getting that journey underway. It's going to be an adventure, I can tell you that. And with each drill, each salute, each day of training, and each step, it becomes more and more of an honor to serve our great country with the Air National Guard. Oh, what a journey it will be!

Monday, July 7, 2014

The 4th in McCall

Payette Lake in McCall Idaho

Since returning from BMT, I feel like we've been on one vacation after another—and I'm not complaining! This past week, we turned the 4th of July holiday into a four-day weekend and snuck off to McCall, Idaho to join my dad and his wife for the Independence Day celebration.

We fished—Daniel caught a monster!—we people watched at the Mile High Marina, ate delicious food (and plenty of ice cream), played cards, and best of all—we relaxed. For this trip, we decided to bring our bikes along—and boy, we're glad we did. We arrived in McCall and parked our car on Wednesday night and didn't touch it again until we returned home on Sunday morning. We biked everywhere we went, which was easy, considering that my dad's wife's cabin is a mile from the lake.

It was just an awesome and fun-filled vacation. Oh, and the firework show was amazing. If you're in the Idaho area for the 4th and are looking for a good firework show, Payette Lake brings only the best.

Fishing Payette Lake in McCall Idaho
Daniel did catch a much bigger fish as well, promise!
4th of July at Payette Lake in McCall Idaho
The mayhem on Payette Lake during the 4th.
4th of July at Payette Lake in McCall Idaho
Relaxing on the party barge before the big firework show.
4th of July at Payette Lake in McCall Idaho
Ready for the fireworks!
4th of July at Payette Lake in McCall Idaho
Our friends Casey and Erica joined us for the firework celebration.

What an awesome 4th it was. It felt a little different now—you know, since joining the military. It feels good. I am very, very proud to be an American, that's for sure. God bless the U.S.A.