Life As We Know It- July 2016
As I sit in my sunroom at Fort Sill with a storm beginning to brew, I’m finding it heavenly to enjoy a little peace and quiet in these morning hours. Luke is back from PT and is chilling in the living room, watching the news and enjoying a little breakfast before he has to be back at work. Here’s a little bit about where we’re at these days!
What Life Is Really Like Living On A Military Post
Living in the Field Artillery hub of the world, you do have to get used to a few cannon booms, the 5:00 p.m. and 11:00 p.m. taps, and of course, picking out your ID card every time you go through the gate. (I have actually put mine into a Velcro ID card holder that I attach to my key chain for easy access every time I drive through. So much better than digging around in my purse in search of my wallet!)
The AMAZING thing about living on base is that Luke gets to come home so much more often than at Fort Benning; here, he can drive home to shower after PT and enjoy some breakfast versus using the men’s locker room and grabbing fast food. Also, he comes home for lunch just about every day, and even though I’m not here most days since I started my job, he gets to watch TV and make a sandwich or heat up some leftovers. (I am beyond blessed that my husband is a total leftover fanatic! He LOVES them! And, sometimes he becomes disappointed if he doesn’t get to create a hodge podge meal with parts of all of the dinners we’ve enjoyed over the past week! It really helps us to save some money too, and food doesn’t go to waste, so win-win.) I know he is loving being just 5 minutes down the street from work though—literally. After his 30-minute commute in GA, this is truly a Godsend and makes life a lot easier for him and his old truck “Bessie” who used to use over $200 of gas per month driving back and forth at Benning!
We used to be “those people” who really liked separation between personal life/Army, Luke especially. He never wanted to live on post because he didn’t want to be so close to work, but moving to Oklahoma, living on post was really the only option for us for a variety of reasons. It’s actually a financially sound decision here; we save a good bit of money living on post. Plus, we felt the housing was nicer than the home we toured at Ft. Benning (for MUCH LESS here!) Then, there’s the safety factor. Like most military towns, Lawton is notorious for crime, and going through that gate each day gives you a certain feeling of security that I never felt in Phenix City. The neighbors on our street have been so friendly and welcoming!
On Day 1 of our move in, when Luke was so sick at the Marriott, I was trying to orchestrate 4 gentlemen moving our belongings in, which turned into 8 men as the evening drew near. It was chaotic, and I was trying to be in all the rooms at once to coordinate the unpacking, when they asked me for a screwdriver to assemble the TV. Well Luke’s tool kit was in his truck, back at the hotel. The movers said they would just have to leave the TV, teetering on its stand if I didn’t have one, because it was too late in the day for them to go back and get one from their warehouse. In a panic (and a hot mess I assure you, with no make up, hair thrown up haphazardly and my sweaty T-shirt and shorts from a day full of moving), I ran next door and knocked on the door of my neighbor’s home. I was close to tears just from the stress of the day, and explained my situation quickly, “I’m your new neighbor, can I please borrow your Phillips Head?” Emily was so kind and invited me into her home, introduced me to her daughter, and took me to select from a variety of screwdrivers. They were going out for dinner, and she trusted me immediately on first sight to just leave the tool back on her windowsill when we were done. Then, she invited us to a 4th of July Cookout they were hosting a couple of weeks later! Wow! Such a seemingly small thing, but I cannot tell you how much that meant to me, exhausted and stressed about my husband, about our move, living in a foreign state and knowing nobody, and she reached out in that now familiar way that fellow military spouses do. They get it. They understand when you husband can’t be there, when you’re out of your element, and when you’re the new kid on the block, and they are more than willing to lend a helping hand or to extend an invitation. In fact, this is the first real sense of community I’ve felt since moving out of my childhood home in Greenlawn Plantation. Everyone looks out for one another, waves on the street, comes up to say hello. Kids play outside, and people walk their dogs up and down the street at all hours, so even when Luke is working late, I feel safe here alone. The historic sites here are so neat, and as we take our evening strolls or jogs when I muster up the energy to continue training for my 5K in October, we pass homes built 100+ years ago, and it’s fun to imagine who lived here then, what life was like. The history has been preserved pretty well on this base and on every corner or two there is a monument, placard or other historical building alluding to Fort Sill’s past.
If you are a military couple considering living on base, I would recommend to at least give it some serious thought! It’s such a great way to meet people, the commissary is just down the street (can you say hello to super affordable, tax-free food), and we have access to two different swimming pools. Corvias Military Maintenance has surprisingly been great as well. On two separate occasions, when Luke got locked out of the house when I was out of the country on vacation, and then when our smoke detector battery died and it began beeping incessantly, Corvias was on site just minutes after our phone calls. We have nothing but positive things to say about them so far.
Exploring Oklahoma, Just the Two of Us
Moving here, I was determined to show y’all some of the great things the Sooner State has to offer. Beyond the most delicious Mexican food and possibly the best burger this side of the Mississippi at Meer’s Restaurant, Luke and I have already started planning some getaway trips that will make our time out here more exciting. The first of those trips was last weekend, when we headed down to Oklahoma City.
We drove down on Saturday and explored historic Bricktown for a while. It was blazing hot outside (my temperature dial in my car easily broke 100,) so we couldn’t stay outside too long.
Luke and I were both starving when we got into town, so we checked into our hotel and set out to find a delicious lunch spot. We ended up at Jazmoz Bourbon St. Café, a New Orleans-style restaurant. We chose to sit outside on the patio and started off our meal with Alligator Bites with a garlic-red pepper aioli sauce. Now, I’ve only had alligator once before from a Food Truck at Panoply in Big Spring Park as a child, so I was shocked by how good this appetizer was! I didn’t remember it being quite so tasty. I had the fish tacos for lunch, and Luke ordered a fried chicken meal that looked delicious except I’m just a little burned out on chicken right now with my job (more on that later!)
After enjoying our meal, we walked around a little more and caught part of a soccer game. The heat had worn us out in a matter of hours, so we ended up taking a quick nap at the hotel before heading to the Oklahoma City Dodgers Baseball Game that evening. Luke did so good picking the hotel—literally across the street from the ballpark!
It was still warm outside, but as evening fell, it cooled down slightly. I helped myself to a big helping of Dippin Dots though, and we enjoyed cheering for our team, taking a selfie with the mascot (Brooklyn), and eating the messiest hotdogs I’ve ever seen! It was such a perfect evening. Our team won, but we were really just there for the experience anyway!
We dropped our souvenir cups off in the room and then headed back out to Bricktown. Walking around Bricktown at night is so different from during the day! The place really comes alive at night with pulsating music, so many people thronging the streets, and lots more shops and restaurants open for business. This was a far cry from the heat of the day when I think we were some of the only people out; not even the snakes bothered us!
Speaking of snakes, we almost had an encounter that night. And if you know me, I am deathly afraid of snakes! We had gone to a candy store and were enjoying some after dinner sweets (CheerWine for Luke and a Root Beer Float for me) at a little seating area outdoors, when all of a sudden Luke’s eyes got big. He was facing the street, and as I turned around to look, he warned me very calmly to look at him and not look away. I was confused and he assured me to “Hit the I Believe button” and not look that way. So I stared at him for about a minute, and then he had me look to the front for another minute. I was super confused, and then it hit me (fortunately AFTER the danger had passed) that there had most likely been a snake within close proximity of me, and he knew I would have panicked. He confirmed that two women had been walking by with a 12-foot long python wrapped around them both! It came within about 6 feet of me. Shudder! I am so grateful I didn’t see that sight, which would have surely haunted my dreams! So far, my husband has shielded me from a few “snake scares” here because rattlesnakes are out in full force in the wild. He and my brother found one right beside the trail at the Nature Preserve, and we had to go into the brush to get around it—I closed my eyes of course! Luke saw a snake at the entrance to Wal Mart here a couple of weeks ago, rattling away! Yikes- I wasn’t with him. And, then he found a snake skin in our very own flower bed….Even though I deplore cold weather, I’ll be glad when summer goes and the reptiles with it!
The next day in OKC, we visited Sonic Headquarters for lunch—the only walk-in Sonic in the world! That was really neat to eat my Chicken Wrap and Cookie Dough Blast inside for a change.
Then, we headed to Langston’s Western Wear to stock up on some true cowboy clothes for our next upcoming adventure, which is a real, live rodeo! To celebrate our third year of marriage in just a few weeks, we are actually taking a weekend trip to the biggest rodeo in Oklahoma! Apparently, the little town where it is held is a historic tribute to the Wild West, and all of the store fronts are still modeled in the historic fashion found in John Wayne movies. This rodeo comes complete with cow roping, a mock bank robbery, shoot out on the town square and more! Stay tuned. We exchange traditional gifts each year, and ironically, it is the Leather Anniversary—how perfect is that! So we may or may not have pre-purchased our gifts at Langston’s this past weekend and can’t wait to wear them. This will certainly be an Anniversary to Remember!
As far as other trips go, we are thinking of visiting Dallas at some point in the late Fall, and there has even been talk of a Grand Canyon excursion in the Spring. I have relatives in Albuquerque, NM, which would split our 13-hour road trip into two even parts, so we may find a way to get to see family as well as an American must-see attraction.
Locally, I have to admit that we decided to go Pokemon-Chasing one day, just to see what all of the hype was about. We both downloaded the app on our phones and set off on a walk around the neighborhood, just to see what we could catch. We both collected the cards as kids, so we figured we might as well give it a try, and get some exercise in. Regrettably, not a single Pokemon lives at Fort Sill! We were slightly disappointed. We stocked up on some Pokeballs at the historical monuments I was mentioning earlier, and found a Poke-Battle Gym? But no actual creatures. In Oklahoma City, we saw a small chalkboard sign advertising Pokemon near the water, so we turned on the app and caught a live Rattatta. I think we’re done now—haha we never wanted to catch them all—just one! And, we accomplished our goal.
We have been very health and fitness focused here. As mentioned, I’m training for a 5k, and don’t expect any remarkable time but just to try and jog the whole thing. I’ve never been much of a runner, so this is a big goal for me, and Luke has been so supportive! He will jog with me at my snail’s pace, encouraging me along the way and never leaving me to run faster. He has really been my biggest cheerleader and plans to run alongside me in October. Additionally, I have enrolled in a water aerobics class here on post! (Yes, go ahead and laugh! Haha) I am the youngest member, if you were wondering. But, I love, love the stretching, which feels so good after being on my feet at work all week. The class is free, and the fellowship with some of the older ladies is one part of my week I would not miss. It’s a surprisingly decent workout too, and I always leave feeling better than when I came.
We are really limiting our “eating out” here, in an effort to save money, be more health conscious, and partly due to lack of options in Lawton, U.S.A. I, of course, eat daily at Chick Fil A for free, and Luke has stopped by a couple times, but I try to cook just about every night. (Sometimes we cheat and eat in front of the TV; the struggle to sit at the table is real after a long day of work!)
When I am working late, I will put something in the crockpot for Luke to enjoy while I’m out. (Typically crockpot nights involve chicken, because I can’t say I want to eat it too often at home myself! Haha) We treat ourselves to a nice meal out “Date Night” once a week, and then lunch after church on Sundays. Sundays have been the one constant when we know we are both off work together, and we love sleeping in, going to our new church in Elgin, grabbing lunch and then relaxing for much of the day to refresh for the work week ahead. Our church is near a Mexican restaurant, BBQ restaurant, and Chinese restaurant, all of which we love! So, we have a nice little rotation going there.
Making Friends In Our New Home
For moving here and knowing no one, I would say we are doing pretty well! If we were to (hypothetically) have another emergency situation where one of us was sick and we needed to call someone, we know people now! That is reassuring in and of itself—I will never forget the feeling of being in a strange, new place and literally feeling so alone. As mentioned, our neighbors are very kind and welcoming. It is a military street though, so it seems like as soon as someone moves in, two more families move out! The neighbors to our right just moved out and the neighbors to our left (the kind family with the screwdriver) move in a couple of months. The lady below us in our quadplex is moving to Korea soon to join her husband. Luke’s commander and his wife live just down the street, and they have been wonderful! I’ve gone to lunch with his wife and daughter, and we really hit it off, both being from the South! She even attended Auburn for a few years. I have really enjoyed getting to know her and their precious 10-month old daughter, although busy schedules (she’s a Mom and works full-time, and my work hours have been crazy too!), make it hard to get together.
At Church, we are friends with two of the best military couples ever—they have been so sweet and welcoming! And, of course I am blessed with my Water Aerobics Ladies. At work, there are a few very sweet girls & guys that I look forward to knowing better, and Luke has found some potential Golf Buddies at his job. We are so new that we are still in that awkward stage of “Friend Dating,” and finding those people or couples we really click with and could hang out with sometimes. One of my coworkers invited me to a Cook Out a couple of weekends back, and it was really great to meet some other families in our stage of life who share our values! I love that Chick Fil A, by nature a Christian company, leads you to others of a similar faith. That common ground makes it easy to relate! Luke’s unit had an FRG dinner this week, which was great. We all went to the Silver Spoon, the one local café that has a very neat ambience. (For such a big place, Luke and I were talking the other day that sometimes Lawton feels like a one-stoplight town. In addition to this Café, there are mostly a few chain restaurants.) It was nice to meet some of the other wives though and to hear about their backgrounds and stories!
It’s great to be surrounded by so many kind people—Army or not—that help you to feel that you’re not alone. But, in reality, this move has drawn Luke and I closer together, and he is ultimately my best friend. I look forward to hanging out with him in the evenings, eating dinner together, going for walks. He makes me laugh constantly, and I could think of no better companion. On our cross country trip, we discussed using this season to really focus on our relationships with Jesus and one another above all else, and the fact that we haven’t built any super close friendships yet has only aided us in that goal.
We still keep in touch with friends & relatives back home as well! Text, phone calls, Skype: they’ve all been lifesavers and help us feel just a little closer to the ones we love across the country. I’ve really learned that geographic proximity does not determine the strength of the relationship if you’re just willing to put in a little time and effort!
All About Work
All play and no work was certainly not for me, as I learned very soon after moving out here! I really debated what I wanted to do here and interviewed at several places before ultimately taking the job at Chick-Fil-A. It has worked out the best for our family—only 12 minutes from post, neither of us is making a monster commute as we had originally considered. I love that it is a Christian company that shares our values. For example, being off every Sunday was very important to me! I love that it is not just a restaurant but a ministry opportunity, and I’m already seeing that, not just in interacting with customers but with my colleagues. Many people work at Chick-Fil-A for their very first job, and while young, they have big dreams. I hear them talk about wanting to become doctors, accountants, teachers…And, I have a unique opportunity in leadership to encourage them in those dreams. It is great to be able to live your faith at work and to hopefully influence others for Jesus as well.
If you read my last blog post, you may know that I’ll be taking over a Director position in October, which will deal with recruitment, catering, hospitality and potentially some of the marketing aspects of Chick-Fil-A, and right now, I am an Assistant Director. I hope to use both of my positions to glorify God in service to others. I am about to enter my last week of Phase 1 of “CFA Basic Training.” When I was hired, the owner promised to run us through the gamut in terms of learning every single aspect of the restaurant. From unloading the delivery truck, to cooking the food, cleaning the kitchen, etc., I’ve done it all on my kitchen rotation these past three weeks. I am beyond grateful for my “Battle Buddy” Philip. A bi-vocational minister, he was hired as an Assistant Director at the exact same time I was, and we were given the same training schedules for the first 3 weeks. He has been by my side through it all—from chopping and spinning lettuce till our arms hurt, to getting burned by the deep fryers, to learning to bread Chick-Fil-A sandwiches and box nuggets with the best of them. We have been in the trenches of the kitchen, learning and leading. His philosophy for leadership is a good one—model positivity, faith and kindness every single day, and he has really been an encouragement to me.
Next week, we are going to be thrown in on our own, into the kitchen rotation instead of being “extras.” So, we will no longer be training but performing solo. Ahhh! If we can knock this week out, then our kitchen training will be complete, and we will move into Phase 2 of “CFA Basic Training:” Cash Register & Drive Thru for 4 weeks. I am excited to start this phase, to work with and get to know other Team Members, and to get a more holistic view of the restaurant from the Front of the House. Then, we will progress into leadership training and taking over a lot of new responsibilities on that front, from my understanding. I’m so grateful for this opportunity, which gets me out of the house, brings in a secondary income for our family, and allows me to serve others in what I consider to be one of the greatest food organizations around. Some of the shifts have been grueling—our first day was Cow Appreciation Day and we had a 12-hour kitchen shift—ouch! Haha but it was a sink or swim method, that I appreciate, and I’d like to think I’m swimming pretty well now. Those first few days were doggy paddling at its finest though. I’m not ashamed to admit my feet felt like they might die after that first day of standing when I was used to a desk job in the past! I found the greatest massage therapist my first week of work—a fellow military spouse who makes home visits! She has been a true lifesaver as my body has been adjusting to the physical aspects of the job.
In addition to Chick Fil A, I am still running Backward Bullseye Branding, my social media marketing consulting firm and am in early attempts of writing a novel! Trying to balance all of this has been both challenging and rewarding, as I feel like I am doing pretty well at getting all of my work done while still making time for family. I really appreciate a good Work-Life Balance, which I think we are achieving here.
Luke is currently the XO for a Basic Training Unit here, so as his Commander mentioned the other night, it’s Groundhog Day every 12 weeks. The training goes in 9-week cycles, with a 3-week cycle break each time. This unit is a little different than the ones he has been assigned to in the past. For one thing, Luke and the Commander are the only two officers in the Unit. The Drill Sergeants do a LOT of the work, and the officers are there more for guidance and support, from what I’m understanding. Basic training cycles have three phases: Red, White and Blue. Apparently Red Phase is the most time intensive for Luke. Since he joined the unit in a blue phase, and then had a cycle break, he is about to embark upon a new cycle in Red Phase. I am sure he’ll have longer hours, but he is looking forward to the challenge. This unit is challenging him physically as well; he’s had to do several very physical drills with the guys. Yesterday for example, he had to complete a ropes course/climbing expedition, so he comes home more exhausted here than at Benning. With both of us working long days and all of his physical labor, Early Nights have become our new MO!
Well that’s about it on our end! Have a great weekend, and thanks for following our story!
Luke and Manda