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Garden Therapy

I live in an apartment, which means I have limited space for just about everything – cabinet space, furniture space, closet space, cat space. It also means that I have no real way to plant a true, in the ground garden. 

But I have a patio. 

Previous apartments have seen different attempts at container gardening from me, even just collections of plants sitting on shelves as I try to keep them alive indoors. 


Some of these efforts were more successful than others. 

Now, with the patio that I have in my apartment, I’ve been bitten by the plant bug again. 

I tried to grow tomatoes and peppers, but they decided the life I offered them was not satisfying for them and died…. as in, I watered them one morning, went to work, came home to browning, half dead plants that never recovered. 

My basil plant has been extremely successful, and seems to be contemplating taking over a small country sometime soon. 


I replaced the dead vegetables with more hardy, perennial types, such as shrimp plants, a small gardenia bush, milkweed, and some calla lilies that I was tempted by in the garden center. I can’t remember the two small plants I bought for smaller containers… but then again, I’m terrible with names anyway.  I have also been a weak willed person when it comes to the Costco seasonal garden center and obtained a few pots from them, of different varieties and begonias. 

The point is, the process of repotting, caring for, maintaining my garden makes me happy. It’s a peaceful place to sit in the evenings, with the requisite citronella candle lit to keep the Florida Mosquitos at bay. There is also satisfaction in knowing that I can keep more than a mostly self sufficient cat and less self sufficient boyfriend alive, I suppose. 

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Grand Canyon Memories

I have mentioned that I have, quite possibly, the coolest job ever, right? The job that believes so much in the mission of the agency that it sends all of it’s new permanent employees to the Grand Canyon for two weeks so that we can learn about the agency as a whole, and network with people from across the service. 

It was also, for this semi-adult who has lived a very small-radius life for most of her days, the longest that I had ever been away from home. 

Weird, right? In this day and age of technology and access to travel, I was nearly 28 before I left home for two weeks at a time. I never did sleep away summer camp, my family didn’t take long vacations elsewhere. I was traveling on my own (with coworkers, but still) for two weeks to a place I had never been. 

It was terrifying and exhilarating. 


The Canyon is one of those places that completely succeeds in making you feel small. The wonder of the training I was at, is that you can be in such a place, and manage to not feel alone while feeling insignificant. 

We went chasing sunrises, played in the snow, marveled at the elk, hiked for sunsets, cooked big dinners and bacon and pancake breakfasts, played loud music and sang around camp fires. It was the first time I had been in a room full of 50 people, and secure in the knowledge that I shared some kind of common ground with each and every one of them. We all work for the same agency. We all believe in the mission. We’re all away from home. We’re all freezing. And we’re all happy to be there. 


It was, beyond a doubt, a life changing experience. I’m happy to be home, in my familiar surroundings and where I know where I stand. But I’m also glad that my envelope has been pushed a little further, a little more open. I want to see more, and now I’m more confident in my ability to get there. 

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I am more than a deployed sailor’s girlfriend. 

Almost four months ago, I stood on a dock and watched a Navy ship pull away until I couldn’t tell the faces of the sailors at the rail apart. 

This isn’t the first time my boyfriend and I have been separated by deployment, but it is the first where I have been here from the start, saving a boat that can’t see me anymore. In the months leading up to deployment, our lives had been a flurry of underways, stocking up for deployment, signing a new lease at the last minute, moving two days before Christmas, traveling to visit his family… even the night before he left, we were tying up loose ends by selling his car before he left. 

In the months since, it’s been my job to “keep the home fires burning.” This means keeping up with bills, housekeeping, packing care packages and playing go between for the world at home and his world at sea. I keep pictures of us as the background on my phone, hanging in the apartment, as part of the rotation of pictures on the background of my work computer. People see me, the navy blue digital camoflauge, and my boyfriend’s beloved face in so many places. It’s part of what helps me get through the day, constant happy memories. 

I can understand why people associate any negative memories with his being gone. The person who makes me happy is far away, serving his country and putting himself in danger, and all I can do is send peanut butter and spaghettios with snarky cards and rambling letters. I check my phone every five seconds out of reflex, in the hope that there will suddenly be a new message. I have an unlimited data plan for the sole purpose of being able to check my email and use Facebook messenger wherever I have service. 

However, my life doesn’t revolve around his absence, somehow. 

I go to work, I take pride and not in my work and doing my own duty. I am an intelligent woman who holds two degrees with honors and wears a flat hat with pride. I go to ReFit twice a week, take too much joy in grocery shopping and planning my meals for the week, hiking trails and building my patio jungle. There is purpose to my life, and I enjoy it. 
Yet there are days when I am sad, when the depression looms. Days like my birthday, the nights when the emptiness of the apartment echoes especially loud. This doesn’t mean that my sadness is because he is gone- I would be sad whether he was here or not. I am human, in my strengths and my weaknesses. 

I am more than my status as his girlfriend. More than just the absence of him by my side at functions. I don’t define myself as a Navy Girlfriend, but that doesn’t mean that I am not proud of it. 

The next person who says that my feelings, anything but pure contentment in life, is just because he’s not here may get respectfully punched in the face. My feelings are not tied to him, my definition, my worth, does not diminish without him by my side. 

I love him, I support him, and I will follow him to the end of the earth. But I will not let him define me. 

Sincerely,

The girlfriend of a sailor who happens to be deployed as well as lucky enough to be dating a smart, kickass woman like her.