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Email to the Front

Email to the Front
Coming-January, 2012

ebook exclusive

The much-demanded re-release of my memoir about life as a military family during war time.

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excerpt

Excerpt:  EMAIL TO THE FRONT, copyright Alesia Holliday

Chapter 6

The Lawn Mower SNAFU

 

June

To:  Judd

From:  Alesia

Subject:  The lawn mower is not working.

 

06/02: We just bought this thing before you left and there is no reason why it shouldn't work Maybe I need to change the oil?

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06/03: I got your e-mail about the little rubber button on the rear of the engine and pumping it. What does "prime the fuel in the mower" mean? Also, is there a correct number of times to pump the button? I pumped it at least 35 times, but it didn't seem to help.

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06/04: It's not really fair to expect me to know about flooding the engine, if you don't tell me. I'll go try again.

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06/05: It still doesn't work. I really think I need to change the oil.

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06/06: How would I know if the spark-plug wire is loose from the top of the spark plug???? I didn't even know that lawn mowers HAD spark plugs.

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06/07: What's a spark plug?

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06/08: I changed the oil. I even turned the mower upside down to make sure all the oil drained out. Then I put fresh, new oil in it. I asked the guy at the shop, so I know I got the right kind. I filled it to the top.

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06/09: Evidently I wasn't supposed to put so much oil in the mower. The smoke went away fairly quickly, though. Connor even got to go for a ride in the fire truck.

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06/10: This is ridiculous! We paid good money for this mower and nothing works. Our grass is so long, I think I saw leopards and orangutans wandering around. I am taking it back to the shop. If they think they can sell me a defective mower, they are seriously mistaken. I am not some meek person who will put up with this. I will sue them for fraud. I am taking it back first thing tomorrow morning.

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06/11: Apparently lawn mowers need gasoline.

***

Most married people develop a comfortable system of who does what. It's a big part of the reason for getting married in the first place. We all have different strengths and preferences.

He's a gourmet cook; she thinks microwave mac and cheese was a great invention. She does the gardening; he cleans the garage. After a few years of marriage, it becomes a seamless process.

Unless you're a military spouse.

Once deployment starts, the whole system ends up in the garbage. Which you now have to take out, by the way.

In our marriage, the lawn is firmly on Judd's side of the balance sheet. I'm allergic to everything green and growing; he worked in a nursery (the plant kind, not the baby kind) to help pay for college. So it just makes sense that I never had to do anything in the way of yard work.

Then came deployment.

We had a nice, sensible apartment in Florida. A lawn service came once a week, at about 5 a.m., and woke us up by firing up weed whackers underneath our bedroom window. Normal city life, in other words.

Then we moved to Washington (state of, not DC) and into a house with a lawn the approximate size of Yosemite national forest. We actually had deer wandering around our backyard eating berries off the bushes. Most people would think, "How lovely. Whidbey Island is so beautiful and unspoiled, we have deer roaming from the forest into our yard."

I thought, "How wonderful. Deer poop."

Note: It is a basic law of physics that one six-inch pile of steaming deer poop located anywhere in a five-acre yard will be found and stepped in by any child worth her $79 Nikes.

So, faced with the deer-infested yard, and being unemployed and frugal, I decided to mow the lawn myself. Planning the logistics of Mowing Day was something like Patton planning the invasion of Sicily. Only he had help.

First, I had to find something to occupy Connor, so he didn't get anywhere near the lawn mower. It's important to know that tiny boys are irresistibly attracted to anything with a dangerous engine that might potentially chop an arm or leg off. Also, Child Protective Services frowns on tying children to the porch railing.

Or so I've heard.

Then, I had to determine the range of the nursery monitor and map the areas where trees, hills, or the neighbor's karaoke machine would knock out the transmission.

Finally, Lauren had to take a nap. During the daylight. When it wasn't raining. This is easier said than done in Washington.

After accomplishing all pre-mission tasks, I began the actual mowing.

I am very proud to report that three days, two boxes of allergy medication, seven broken fingernails, and three temper tantrums later (only one of which was mine), I paid a neighbor kid $50 to mow the other two-thirds of the lawn.

The deer poop still hasn't come out of my shoes.

 

**

Chapter 36

CNN Breaking News Usually Sucks

 

January    

To:  Alesia

CNN BREAKING NEWS BULLETIN:

 

U.S. plane down in Indian Ocean. No details available.

 

To:  Judd

From:  Alesia

Subject:  Today I thought you died.

For an hour today, I didn't know if your plane had gone down in the ocean.

For an hour, I frantically searched the Internet for further news of who/what/when.

For an hour, I alternated between praying and crying—between hope and despair.

For an hour, I wondered how to tell Connor and Lauren that Daddy was never coming home.

For an hour, I regretted every harsh word we've ever spoken to each other, and wanted to yell at you for leaving me.

For an hour, I wanted to hold you, kiss you, and punch you in the nose for putting me through this.  For an hour today, I watched my world crumple, I love you so much, and I'm so glad you're safe. If you die, I'm going to kill you. Don't ever put me through another hour like this one.

***

We have the unique privilege these days of being able to see news events live. This is a privilege that, some days, I'd be glad to live without. When you turn on the television or get a breaking news bulletin beamed to your wireless e-mail, you can instantly learn that a plane has gone down, or that a member of the U.S. military has died. But it takes a lot longer to find out which plane has gone down. Or who has died.

That space in between—the black and terrifying limbo until more details emerge—is the cruelest hurt inflicted on military spouses. First, the feeling like I've been gut-punched. What plane? I know he was headed for patrols over the Indian Ocean. Is he there now? What plane was it, dammit? Why don't they give us all the news instead of doling out these flashes?

Then, searching the 'net like a madwoman. CNN, the New York Times, somebody somewhere has to know what plane it is.

Next, the phone calls begin. All the friends and family who know that he might be out there. That it might be his plane. Is he OK? Is it Judd's plane? Where's Judd? What's going on? What plane was it?

As though they believe I have a secret satellite link or psychic connection to the information even CNN doesn't yet know. It gets harder and harder to stay calm on the phone.

A hurried trip to the bathroom. I'm either going to cry or vomit, and I don't want my colleagues to see either. He might be dead. What would we do without him? What do I tell my kids? Splash water on my face and go back to the computer to search for any new word.

Then, finally, the knowledge starts to trickle in. CNN breaks some more news. The CO gets a message to his wife, or to the squadron/spouse liaison, and the e-mail chain is activated. It's not Judd's plane. It was another plane. The Search and Rescue team picked the crew up, safe and unharmed. A fervent prayer of thanks for my family and for the families of the crew members who were in that downed plane.

Back to work. Phone calls have to be returned. Documents have to be reviewed. Nobody knows that I just lived through an eternity in the space of an hour.

Excerpt:  EMAIL TO THE FRONT, copyright Alesia Holliday

reviews

"On behalf of civilian America, I salute our nation's military families, although I'm probably using the wrong hand, or something."
--Dave Barry, Pulitzer Prize-winning author and comedian

"The subject matter of Email to the Front is of vital importance.  Warm, funny, witty, and touching beyond belief, this book brings the words 'let freedom ring' down to a personal level and should be required reading for all Americans. I can't wait to tell all my readers about it."
 --Suzanne Brockmann, New York Times bestselling author

"Unfiltered, unflinchingly honest, at times both poignant and funny, E-Mail to the Front is a must-read. Not just for military spouses, it's a rare, insider's look at the sacrifices military families volunteer to face so the rest of us don't have to."
--JoAnn Ross, New York Times bestselling author

"It was a relief to pick up Email to the Front and not find the seemingly standard sugar-coated version of how strong military spouses are and how they cope well with everything. The military spouse handles the life and stress of military service the best he or she can--putting on a happy military smile, saying everything's okay, when the truth of the matter is it likely is not.  We encourage everyone to read Email to the Front. It will not only touch your heart, but it will also give you an eye-opening true look at a typical military spouse's life."
--Militarywives.com

 

 

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