Thoughts after reading Strong by Natalie Debrabandere

I’ve gone down the rabbit hole of lesbian fiction, which is wonderful and new for me. It started with a post on twitter about the top 100 lesbian books to read, or something like that. That brought me to Bridge Essex and fun romance novels. That also brought me to this idea of lesbian book bingo – It’s a way to explore genres I wouldn’t otherwise explore and keep reading.

Jae posted a list for Women in Uniform, the first square. I chose a book called Strong. It seemed like one that would be interesting and not annoy me with inauthentic military references and I was right. What I didn’t anticipate was all the old memories and emotions it stirred up. I spent so much time lost in thought last night, apparently I need to just let it out. Feel free to ignore this, as it may not make all that much sense.

It’s been almost 20 years since I went off to boot camp. And almost 18 years since I was discharged. During those years, Don’t ask Don’t Tell was in full force, tainting an experience that would have been very different in today’s military. The daily fear of being found out. Of being constantly guarded. It all came back reading this story of two women in Afghanistan. But it wasn’t all the bad either. The massage, which was one of the ‘safe’ ways to have physical contact without getting busted for anything. Granted, the day my short term roommate walked in on Holloway and I giving massages still raised red flags for her, but it wasn’t enough to worry about. Besides, we really needed them. But, it was also part of the feeling out phase, since people couldn’t be all that out. I’m still not sure how that all happened. I just can’t remember. I think it was all a careful dance of feeling things out and then, once we were totally alone, just going for it. It’s odd what I don’t remember…well, normal for me, but I suspect other people remember a lot more of these details. So even once we were together, there wasn’t enough communication about it. It wasn’t dating. More, friends with benefits. The benefits of comfort, not sleeping alone. And that’s another thing I really related to. As the characters just shared a bed, without sex, that’s an experience that I think others will miss the depth behind. When you are constantly on guard, having that private space to just be touching and comforted means the world. Though I still don’t know how we got away with that. Perhaps the Marines on guard duty at the end of the female wing didn’t put it together, or didn’t care. Either way, I’m grateful. It made things more bearable through that time.

Another thing that stood out was including the guitar. There’s usually someone with a guitar at some point. I spent a lot of time in Pensacola learning to play the easier Indigo Girls and Melissa Etheridge songs. It helped me cope with all the challenges of being hidden. And it turns out, it’s what brought me and Sara, now the godmother to our daughter, together. I never knew at the time, but she would sit outside my door, studying and listening to my awful playing. lol But it made her feel better too. It’s so odd what comforts us. But while she is bi, she was dealing with so many demons of her own, including, I’m sure, flying under the radar. So for both of us, music was that rebellion. My favorite memories of her are hanging out in her room listening to Ani DiFranco, which felt so brazen to me.

It was such a complicated time. It was worse in the fleet, losing my friends, losing a fairly liberal command who didn’t really care what we were doing. Having to be even more closeted and not even knowing if anyone had my back. Then, that one respite, the month of CAX training where I was away from my unit on mess duty. Where again, people didn’t seem to care all that much. They were just cool. Getting to know Susan for far too short a time. Once again, not knowing how that happened. I’m just so oblivious to girls and flirting. So it’s mostly brief moments, always coupled with fear of getting caught, especially as a butch in the Marine Corps. I mean, everyone had to assume, so I was always careful. Unless drinking. And then it was only after I drank a lot. I’m grateful to everyone who didn’t rat me out. I have to remember that. But what was interesting is how less careful the more femme girls were. Susan asking me to walk to the bathroom with her, and taking my arm as we walked. It didn’t seem to occur to her at all, but I could only think how ballsy it was. At the time I thought, only straight girls thinking nothing of this. But a week or so later I realized she wasn’t actually that straight. And god, how different would it all have been if all of us could just be out, without fear of reprisal? To have all the fear and stress be about whether someone liked me, and not whether I would be busted, charged, and discharged. To not fear physical assault. I know it doesn’t matter, because what happened is what happened. But so much of that stress is still in me.

I’ve always been more repressed, more closed down. This didn’t help. I still don’t trust people easily, especially if they served. I don’t know if they’ll totally reject me. It’s stupid, I’m a grown adult with an awesome family. But the fear, it’s there. The fear of the judgment. All of it just pushed away, partially dealt with but never fully. Still shying away from even holding hands with my wife in public. Damn sure never kissing in public. It makes me a worse wife for it.

In my ritual I asked to release judgment. I had no idea it would show up like this. That’s how it works though, doesn’t it? Never how you expect it. Not always very fun. But maybe, just maybe I can open up more now. Can be a more present wife. Can live with less fear.

I know there are younger folks who still face this, growing up in really homophobic families and areas. It seems like far less of a problem though. I hope it is. I hope they can just live and love freely. But maybe they will also, someday, start to understand why the older generations can be so guarded. Can be more cautious. Because having all of your dating life occur under intense scrutiny is challenging. It wears on you. And to a person already so guarded from the world, it’s so much harder to release.

I had no idea until I read this book. And now, maybe all these tears shed and thoughts written out will allow for a new start. I wish Sara was out here to talk about this with. It will require beer. Perhaps a lot of it. I’m not sure I could actually open up still. But I think she could fill in some memory gaps. Maybe she can fly out before my parents arrive for Melody’s birthday. Or I won’t have the need by then. Emotions are complicated. And now, as I listen to my almost 3 year old rage downstairs over who knows what, it’s time to get it back together and take care of her.

CD4 injection 2

Just a note to say tonight was easier. I still found it hard to actually do the poking, but I spent far less time wrestling my brain.

My wife offered to do it but I refused. I want to do this. I need to face this fear and I don’t often push myself with fears anymore because they don’t come up. And without a drill instructor yelling, or the threat of yelling and punishment, I have time to overthink, which causes hesitation. Therefore I view this as training. Phase 1 was giving my cat insulin injections. Phase 1.5 was donating blood monthly. Phase 2 was giving my wife insulin injections. Phase 3 is giving myself injections. Phase 4, if I can get to it, is learning wilderness medicine including starting an IV. If I don’t reach that phase it’s ok though. I’ll see what opportunities arise.


In the pregnancy side of things, I met with the doctor yesterday. We’re going to try a different drug that’s significantly more expensive (follistim). I’m hoping my new VA coverage will help with it since I don’t want to spend possibly $500 on just the injections. However, they double our chance of pregnancy, while also doubling our chance of multiples (still only 20% though). I am getting enrolled with the VA and will ask about all this stuff (since in theory they cover IUI which would save us some money). I just need to figure it out by next cycle. There’s also discount programs that I can try for, but my income was pretty high last year thanks to the relocation so I’m not sure if we’ll get any help, but hey, what else is possible? 🙂

I just glossed over this, but I got my letter Monday that my disability application was approved for my shoulder, rated at 10%. That officially makes me a veteran, no matter how long I served. It’s been a long journey, I’ve been out 14 years, but it’s worth it. I don’t have to decide what the context is when someone asks if I’m a veteran (or a form asks). Now the answer is simple. Yes. And now I can use these benefits to balance out what was taken from me, like years of education benefits that would have made my life and education much better, rather than having to work throughout college when I should have been studying.

Hmm…anything else? I have a lot I want to do, just trying to get caught up so I can. Oooh, I got some cool stuff lately. An bracelet with an elephant and an infinity charm. It’s to remind me to be big, and bold, and sensitive, like the elphant. And that I’m infinite. 🙂 I also got an awesome red jasper elephant. It’s happy! And I got a venus carved from red jasper attuned to the crystal skull synergy. It’s super energetic! I figure, it will help me stay aligned with fertility. And anything attuned to Synergy is nice to have around. My three wolves are from synergy. My wife has three dragons as well. 🙂 (You can check them out on ebay.

I’m getting back into some stone work again. My cousin asked me to make her a triple bracelet to support her new life. I have it planned out tentatively, now I just need the time to string it together and see how it looks. Tomorrow night Divergent comes out (fangirl scream) and I need to swap out the headlights on my car. Since the one went out, I bought the upgraded lights so I need to change them both. Then Friday after work I’ll drive us the 3 hours or so to Glenwood Springs for a speed vacation. Perhaps I will bring my beads so I can work on them at night. I want to make myself a fertility necklace because I can and it can’t hurt.

I better get myself ready for bed. It’s late and I have a lot to do tomorrow.

Moving them on

Today we visited the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Angel Fire, NM. I wanted to go out of curiosity, and it was in an area of canyons. As we were driving I realized it was farther than it looked on the map, but the drive was beautiful. At the memorial my wife got re-acquainted with the Huey which felt like an old friend. Past life memories are interesting. Then we went to the chapel. We had all of our guards with us, and there were earth bound spirits in there. Because of our presence we helped one soul return home to be reunited with his father before his father reincarnated. And because of our guards there are 10 souls considering moving on. Many times soldiers become earth bound because of their sense of duty. Now that they see another option to serve without staying at the memorial they will likely move on. It was a very emotional experience. I saluted them all, and saluted the soul as it returned home. Apparently that helps, for them to see a living human giving them that respect and recognition.

I believe we need to make the effort to visit other memorials, just in case there are spirits who could use our assistance.

Addressing pain and Nerdfitness Update

Boy am I tired. It should say a lot that I’m already in bed and doing my journal before 10pm! This weekend the struggle has been with pain still. The guides are concerned because it seems to be ligament inflammation since it feels better after a half hour in the pool. Based on this tiny insight I’m making a new strategy. First, at yoga I eased off a lot! I rested when I needed rest and only pushed to the point of discomfort instead of super challenging. Until the pain eases up I think I have to do that. I have learned about the powerful anti-inflammatory properties of turmeric and had some in the house for my wife. We haven’t had time to have her try it (don’t want to add too many new things at once) so I decided to give it a try. I have to experiment with the dose but since it doesn’t require too long to feel the effects I will be able to see how much it helps soon. And I went swimming again today. I do a lot of stretching and floating, along with some swimming. After 30 minutes or so I feel pretty darn good! And now I have two anti-inflammatory patches on my back and ankle to hopefully speed this along.

One thing that I’ve learned while swimming is I have no endurance. Getting to the end of the ~40 foot pool is a stretch unless I’m on my back. So today I decided to try to relax more. Swimming is very stressful for me, so this isn’t a minor challenge. It was helpful though. I’m challenging myself to realize just how little I have to work. Heck, even in boot camp swim qual was terrifying and challenging. I barely passed the second time through the survival floats. I’m pretty sure I couldn’t remember how to do them now. In time I need to re-learn survival swimming, but just enjoying recreational swimming would be nice.

This week has been really hard energetically. Part of it is sleep, which has been very broken all weekend. I’m hoping if I focus on sleep first everything else will fall into place. I have done a decent amount of cooking which should help as well. Yesterday was fried catfish, fried squash, and coleslaw. I rarely make fried food so that was different. I also roasted figs in the oven and made pico so I can get my chips and veggie craving fulfilled. Today I baked chicken breast, with stove top stuffing and more coleslaw. I also refreshed our salad stuff so we’re ready to go this week for more salads. I also got more indian simmer sauces to use up other veggies and the other chicken I bought. I don’t like too much chicken, so I’m hoping this green sauce makes it fun! Especially since I picked up some naan to cut the spice with. 🙂

And now, my nerdfitness challenge update.

1. Yoga (+2 str, +5 dex)
Summary: Attend class 3x per week
Attended last saturday, sunday, wednesday. 100%
Also today (new week).

2. Stretching (+3 dex)
Summary: 2x am, 2x pm at work. Non-yoga days stretch in the evenings
This is very challenging due to my new work assignment. I set the goal before I know what it was going to be like, so I have to keep working at it. Last week I stretched 2-3 times a day at work. So I’m giving it a 50% for last week. I didn’t stretch as much as I’d like at night either.

3. Healthy Eating (+3 con)
Summary: 5 healthy dinners a week
This last week I remember making catfish and salads and meatloaf and indian stir fry. And the other days I still ate well. I need to document it better in the future, but for last week I completed this goal.

Side Quests (+2 wis)
Since we’re in the midst of paper pregnancy, I’m doing a lot of research and preparation for adoption. Therefor my side quest focuses on that. It’s a constant movement toward this goal of adoption which includes:
1. Completing the home study this month
2. Reading about parenting, foster care, adoption, and autism among other special needs
3. Researching the requirements in Colorado for adoption and taking any initial steps.

This week I’ve started another new book – The Happiest Baby on the Block which has useful information. I don’t agree with it all, but I can see how he came to these conclusions and look forward to testing out the techniques. The home study is still in progress since the lawyer and social worker have to research how to do the home study so it works for colorado. I doubt it will, but we’ll see. And it looks like getting certified to adopt from foster care is a lot of work, but I need to talk to people directly.

Life Goal
1. Declutter.
I did a little every day and it makes a difference!

4th of July memories

I grew up outside a small town. We always went to a neighboring town called Clintonville for fireworks. Everyone sat around the baseball field and the fireworks were shot from the middle. These were some up close fireworks which required you to keep an eye out to make sure all of the pieces falling back down were cooled off! It wasn’t a common occurrence though, and I have good memories of the experience. So very different from the firework displays of large cities!

Another tradition of the 4th is the Manawa rodeo. It’s actually on the national circuit, but again is a very small town. There was also a parade that we usually went to. Everyone was close enough to see and feel a part of the action. I always enjoyed the roping events and the barrel racers. I wanted to be a barrel racer for a while but never learned how. Perhaps I will still learn some day just for fun!

As an adult my favorite memory is in boot camp, 4 July 1998. We were all marched down to the parade deck. We’d been in boot camp for almost 1 month at that point, starting to get a feel for things, but this was a completely new experience. We weren’t sure how to act. While this was a treat, we were still recruits and were not allowed to act like fools. Sitting on that concrete, trying to hear the music all the way at the other end, and watching fireworks in silence was a very different experience than any other 4th of July. I was in boot camp, serving my country, where the meaning of fighting for our independence takes on a new level of understanding.

I was in O Company. I don’t know how it started, but when we saw one of those that formed an ‘O’ in the sky we would quietly say ‘O Company’. No one got in trouble, and I suspect our drill instructors saw it as a positive, reinforcing our identity in an appropriate way. Even now, whenever I see when of those ‘O’ fireworks I say it in my head. We were up later than usual that day, which made for some very tired recruits the next day, but it was so worth it. A little semblance of humanity and slightly less fear of getting yelled at for an hour.

Since then I’ve only been to one other firework display in person, also while in the military. At this point, when there aren’t kids to take, it isn’t exactly worth the drive and hours of sitting in traffic in a big city. However, that changes when we have kids. As soon as they are old enough to be scared we’ll certainly go. There are plenty of smaller towns around which are a little less intense and easier to manage logistically with kids. I’d like to cultivate simple joys, even within amazing experiences like fireworks.

Tonight I watched two specials. My favorite is the Capital 4th, in Washington DC. It’s classic, with the orchestra and live music during the show. But I can appreciate the modern approach and really enjoyed Houston’s big show this evening. Each has their place. As long as everyone gets to enjoy the experience, that’s what matters.

Happy Fourth of July everyone!

Summarizing the past few days

June 5/6

1. Shoulder Rehab
Wed: Chiro and some work done on my shoulder muscles. Did EMS at home. Doubt I had it set quite right, but I got some useful info from the chiro so it was at least somewhat useful. I can definitely feel the difference.
Thu: I plan to do tens tonight, possibly ems on the deltoid and bicep. Or I’ll wait until tomorrow to research placement more.

2. Run/Walk 3 days a week (min 20 min)
Life has made this unable to do yet. My wife fell today and has a concussion so I’m monitoring her.

3. Start using 2 min meal plan to cook 3 times a week
Cooked but not something from the plan. I need to review the documentation this weekend.

4. Review for grade 11 control (work) nightly
Wed: Studied at work. Thu: I made a list and scanned it into my phone so I can finally finish the last two questions for the personnel interview tomorrow.

5. Complete 21 day Raise Your Vibration program
Listened to day 5 today, need to do the exercise when I can focus on it better. Hope to listen to day 6 tonight still so I’m caught up

June 8

Yesterday I ran 20 minutes. I only stopped because my gastrointestinal system would not allow me to continue. I did 5 minutes of walking warmup and cooldown. I was pleasantly surprised at my endurance and comfort.

Today is my 15 year anniversary of stepping on those yellow footprints of Parris Island. It was most likely the biggest decision I’ve ever made, short of the decision to get out of the Corps later. I’m always amazed how much time has passed.

My shoulder is unhappy again and not sitting well in the socket. I did the TENS last night which felt nice.

Tonight I’m listening to day 6. Tomorrow I have 3 days to catch up on but I was out and running errands pretty much all day. On the plus side I got the living room picked up, new flowers planted so I don’t have empty planters anymore, and I have plenty of food and supplies. Hopefully tomorrow is mostly spent inside in the AC. lol

Goals for tomorrow focus on cooking, cleaning, laundry, studying finance, and a trip to the post office. That requires me getting to bed shortly and getting up at a reasonable time. I’m certainly tired so I’ll just take a hot shower to loosen my muscles and pass out.

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