Author Archives: Victoria Terrinoni
The Great 2009 Blizzard Canceled Christmas Eve and Disheartened the Good Chaplain
The whirring sound of tires spinning on ice brought a twinkle to the Good Chaplain’s eye. He peered out the window and saw our neighbor, Kevin’s, car stuck between the street and his driveway in a snowdrift.
“Someone’s stuck,” the Good Chaplain said, glee in his voice. “I’m going to go help.”
On Christmas Eve 2009 in Moore, Oklahoma, the Good Chaplain walked around in a funk. So the commander closed Tinker Air Force Base and canceled the Christmas Eve service. The Good Chaplain never canceled Christmas services before.
That day, Oklahoma City officially received 13.5 inches of snow. It was a mess. Although Oklahoma would get some snow and ice in the winter, that amount was a lot at one time. And people didn’t know how to drive in it with their Toyotas, Hondas, and other small sedans. Everything shut down. Cars were stuck all over the place, accidents were happening as cars slid into each other, and unfortunately, some people lost their lives.
But we had just moved to the area in the late summer from Fairbanks, Alaska. So, to us, this storm was a half-day event. So nothing would have closed, and people would be out as usual. And that’s why the Good Chaplain was so bummed.
He quickly donned his winter clothing and went to help Kevin push his car off the street into the driveway. As Kevin explained, his new wife, Jen, was at work about seven miles away. Kevin was trying to go pick her up when he got stuck. It was their first Christmas together as a married couple, and neither one wanted to spend it apart.
That’s when the Good Chaplain realized he could be the hero. Hands on his hips, chin tilted up, he declared, “I can help!” So, he came home, told me what was going on, jumped in our 4-wheel drive, GMC Yukon, and off he and Kevin went to rescue Jen.
Meanwhile, I watched television and read a magazine while my mother-in-law, visiting for the holidays, paced the floor. She’s a Nervous Nelly, anyway, and having the Good Chaplain out in that weather made her anxious. At one point, she looked at me as if to say, “how can you be so calm?” I shrugged my shoulders. He’d been out in worse, and I knew he could drive in these conditions. It didn’t bother me. I was just happy that he could do something productive instead of moping around the house.
It took a while to go those seven miles and back through snowdrifts, around stuck vehicles, and up icy hills, but the Good Chaplain, Kevin, and Jen all made it home safely to celebrate a wonderful holiday with their loved ones.
Until next time,
Do you have any snowstorm stories? Let me know in the comments below.
Shameless plug: My book, Where You Go, I Will Go: Lessons From a Military Spouse, would make a wonderful Christmas gift for that special someone in your life who is in the military. You can buy it by going to the Book tab on this site and purchasing through Amazon or directly from me.
The Second Long-Distance Wedding Ceremony was Easier to Plan
Two weddings in two months are a lot to handle for anyone. It seems impossible when one is planned from Alaska and the other from Illinois. But the Good Chaplain and I pulled it off.
Illinois Girl’s wedding was outdoors in August at a venue about 90 minutes from home. The forum was a great choice — an alcove surrounded by cliffs. But that August, it was HOT. On the day of the wedding, it was 91 degrees and rainy.
The ever-optimistic Good Chaplain said not to worry about the rain. It would stop before the ceremony. And it did. Amazing. He is the weather prayer warrior. He prays for specific weather, and it happens.
Planning Illinois Girl’s wedding wasn’t as tricky as planning Mrs. Tech Sergeant’s because Illinois Girl was around to do a lot of tasks that needed doing. She and Soccer Stud took care of the venue, flowers, photographer, and cake.
Actually, Illinois Girl called me all excited one day and said, “We’re going to make cupcakes for my wedding.” At which point, I replied, “Cupcakes are a great idea, but we are not making them. Didn’t you watch that episode of Bridezillas?”
On Bridezillas, a bride decided to make cupcakes for her wedding, not considering they needed to be baked and decorated the week of the wedding. She also did not consider that her sister’s maid-of-honor was nine months pregnant. The bride was very indignant that her sister had her baby that week and couldn’t help make the cupcakes. So, no, we were not going along that route.
“But, Mom, decorated cupcakes are expensive,” Illinois Girl said. When I asked her how expensive, she said she could get them for $1 apiece, decorated. That worked out to about $200. I reminded her that was half of what her sister paid for her wedding cake.
My only disappointment with this wedding was that I missed the rehearsal dinner. And I blame the Good Chaplain for that one. We decided to camp at a nearby campground for the weekend, but we misjudged the amount of time it would take us towing the trailer to get to the venue, so we ended up pulling the trailer with us to the rehearsal. But afterward, the Good Chaplain insisted on setting up the trailer at the campground before going to the rehearsal dinner. So we arrived as most of the guests were leaving. Naturally, I was not happy, and apparently, it still bothers me today.
As we arrived at the venue on the wedding day, it was pouring rain. A big tent was set up for the guests to sit under and stay dry. Photos of the couple were taken earlier, a practice I was not familiar with. Apparently, the groom waits with his back turned until the bride comes out, and the photographer captures that first-time-he-sees-her moment when he turns around. It lessens the number of photos taken after the ceremony so everyone can get to the party faster.
As I mentioned before, the Good Chaplain is the weather prayer warrior, so he said the rain would stop before the ceremony, and it did about 30 minutes earlier. But the ground was still wet and many a high heel sunk in the mud.
But the ceremony was beautiful, my daughter was beautiful, and the reception was terrific. And 11 years later, they still live in Illinois with their two beautiful daughters, one Golden Retriever and one cat.
When the Good Chaplain deployed later that year, he said it was his wedding financial recovery deployment.
Next up, the blizzard that ruined Christmas.
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How We Accomplished Two Long-Distance Wedding Ceremonies in One Summer
Have you ever planned a wedding from long-distance? Have you planned two? Within two months of each other? If you are in the military, your answer might be yes to the first question. But, for me, the answer was a definite yes to all three!
My twin daughters, Illinois Girl and Mrs. Tech Sergeant got engaged within a month of each other and married within two months of each other. It must be a twin thing. Illinois Girl lived in Illinois. Mrs. Tech Sergeant lived in Alaska. One wedding was in Oklahoma, where we lived. The other was in Illinois. Let the games begin.
Technically, Mrs. Tech Sergeant had two weddings. This is not unusual in the military. To be included on Tech Sergeant’s orders so they could get a house on base and Mrs. Tech Sergeant could get other benefits like medical coverage and commissary privileges, she and Tech Sergeant tied the knot in January 2010 in a small ceremony in Illinois. The Good Chaplain presided over this one but said there was no way he would perform the significant rituals of both girls.
While in Illinois for her first wedding, the girls and I went dress shopping. I remembered how much fun I had with my own wedding gown shopping trip, and I wanted the girls to experience the same excitement of finding the right dress. So, we shopped at one local store and a chain store.
Mrs. Tech Sergeant found her dress at the locally owned store. Illinois Girl initially saw the dress but decided against it. I cried when I saw Mrs. Tech Sergeant in it. She looked like a princess.
There was a mix-up in our appointment times at the chain store, and the clerk said they could only take one of the girls. After explaining, forcefully, to the manager that we had two appointments, we had a confirmation of both appointments, and two of the three of us were from out of town and could not come back, they accommodated us. Illinois Girl found her gown at the chain store.
Weddings can be expensive, but they don’t have to be. My niece’s bar tab was more costly than the girls’ entire weddings! We tried to talk the girls into a double wedding since both would be inviting most of the same people, but no dice. So, we put them on a budget. We gave each girl a set amount. If they stayed below that amount, they could keep the difference. If they went over, they paid.
Mr. and Mrs. Tech Sergeant opted for a military wedding, saber arch and all, at the Tinker Air Force Base Chapel in Oklahoma and hold their reception at the Officers’ Club, saving a boatload of money. They came to Oklahoma briefly to plan the catering menu, find a cake and a photographer. The rest we planned from Alaska and Oklahoma.
The biggest obstacle was her wedding gown, which was in Illinois. We had the dress shipped to Oklahoma, but then I had to find a tailor who could alter it in short order. Mrs. Tech Sergeant wasn’t coming into town until the wedding week, and the dress had a lot of beading. The tailor fit her in and promised the dress would be ready by Friday. Unfortunately, when we went Friday for the final fitting, it was too small. The tailor claimed Mrs. Tech Sergeant gained weight since the first fitting on Monday. She did not. We needed to get to the rehearsal and dinner, so the tailor promised to work on it and call us when it was ready, which happened during the rehearsal dinner.
The wedding was beautiful, and everything worked out, despite some tense moments, and Mr. and Mrs. Tech Sergeant are happily married 11 years later with two wonderful sons, three Siberian huskies, and two cats.
Next week, part two of the wedding summer.
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How military spouses stepped in to help during the chickenpox epidemic
Chickenpox. It is a word that puts fear in the minds of all parents. They dreaded the thought of oatmeal baths and calamine lotion. And itchy, miserable kids. But, the parents also wanted to get it over with, so sometimes they would purposely expose their children to get it done. Today, many parents get to experience this because of the vaccine.
I was happy when Illinois Girl and Mrs. Tech Sergeant waited until the Good Chaplain came on active duty because I did not work outside the home. A year earlier, and it could have spelled disaster for us.
And thank God it happened at Warner Robins Air Force Base, Georgia, at a time when all the children in the neighborhood came down with chickenpox in a month. The epidemic perfectly portrayed what happens when military spouses step up to help each other out.
It started the day after I took a group of kids to the lake to see the geese. As we were walking home, one little girl stepped in a fire anthill. I quickly brushed off the ants and carried her to her house. The next day her mom called to say she had chickenpox. How do you get from fire ants to chickenpox? Clearly, they were separate incidents. The evening of the biting, the little girl was complaining that her stomach itched. Thinking maybe an ant had made it up that high, her mother lifted her shirt to find her covered in chickenpox. Her other two kids also came down with the pox soon afterward.
Kids started dropping like flies. We went a week before I noticed a spot on Mrs. Tech Sergeant’s chest and one on her back. Were they chickenpox? I waited a few days to see what would happen. No change. I called the neighborhood pediatrician, who came over. He couldn’t tell either but said if we gave her a warm bath, the blisters would probably come out if it was chickenpox. So I left the girls in the care of the Good Chaplain while I went with a neighbor on a hunt for oatmeal bath. When I returned, the rose was in full bloom.
For the next several days and nights, I stayed with my little blossom, making sure she didn’t scratch herself. We both felt stir-crazy. I called the doctor to ask if she could play outside. “Every neighborhood child is in a stage of chickenpox. As long as she isn’t running a fever, out she goes,” he said.
Unfortunately, she ran a fever on Halloween and couldn’t go trick-or-treating. If she’d felt well, she might have minded.
In the meantime, we mothers were near desperation with our itchy kids home from school for days on end. While our little ones napped or watched television, we would gather on porches to commiserate and cheer each other on. A nip of alcohol also might have occurred. Those whose children were further along in the epidemic assured the rest of us that it would be better soon. It was nice to talk to adults. And, of course, we ran errands for each other and kept everyone well stocked with oatmeal bath, passing along partially used boxes and buying more as needed.
As the epidemic wound down in the neighborhood, I realized Illinois Girl still hadn’t come down with them. Finally, both girls went to school on the first Monday in November, and that evening, sure enough, “Mommy, my stomach itches.” Here we go again. Illinois Girl’s case was twice as bad as her sister’s, but she recovered twice as fast. The following Monday, mothers in the neighborhood thanked God as all 20 children headed back to school.
We pulled together, helped one another, and made sure we each made it through with our sanity intact. That’s what we military spouses do.
Until next time,
Military deployments give a perfect example of Murphy’s Law
My son-in-law, Tech Sergeant, deployed in July 2019 for the first time in ten years. He came home at the end of January 2020. While he was gone, Mrs. Tech Sergeant experienced a perfect example of Murphy’s Law.
You know Murphy’s Law. It states in part, “If anything can go wrong, it will go wrong at the worst possible moment.” In the life of a military spouse, the worst possible moment(s) is during a deployment.
Just before leaving, the Tech Sergeants introduced two Siberian Husky puppies into their family. They are as cute as can be, but the added burden of two large dogs, on top of two kids and two cats, was a nightmare waiting to happen. The extra work was overwhelming at times for Mrs. Tech Sergeant. And then, her female cat came home pregnant, adding three cuddly kittens to the mix. I recently told Mrs. Tech Sergeant she enjoys chaos. She eventually found homes for two kittens, and this past summer, the mother cat was adopted by another family.
I worried about Mrs. Tech Sergeant when things began breaking around the house. And we are not talking about the small stuff. It was one thing after another. First, the dogs thoroughly chewed up the living room carpet. Then, a part of the basement ceiling fell, and there was a leak in the master bedroom closet ceiling, resulting in roof repairs. Between the stress of work, educating the boys during COVID, and the home repairs, I was concerned about her mental health.
The most significant breakdown happened while the Good Chaplain and I were visiting for the Christmas holidays. The furnace quit working. In January. In a mid-Atlantic state. The home warranty company sent someone out to look at it around day 5. That gentleman flipped the switch, the furnace came on, and he called it good. Unfortunately, it only stayed on for a few minutes at a time, so the Good Chaplain requested the man check it in a few minutes. Sure enough, it stopped working, and the man finally found the problem. Unfortunately, it only stayed on for a few minutes at a time, so the Good Chaplain requested the man check it in a few minutes. Sure enough, it stopped working, and the man finally found the problem.
He reported the problem to his employer, who reported it to the home warranty company. Then, nothing. After a few days, Mrs. Tech Sergeant called the service company, and they said they were waiting for the part to come in. After another few days, the Good Chaplain pretended to be Tech Sergeant and called the home warranty company. Again, they said they were waiting on a report from the service people. Eventually, Mrs. Tech Sergeant decided to get a whole new furnace.
In the meantime, Tech Sergeant returned home, and he took over the details of the new furnace. Unfortunately, it didn’t arrive when expected because a massive snowstorm socked in the East Coast. But, of course, that is the time when they needed their furnace. It finally arrived a MONTH from when the old one broke down, during the coldest time of year.
Since then, life has settled down for them, other than a few quarantines for COVID scares. (All tests were negative.) They are back down to two cats and two kids, but they just added another Husky puppy to the family. Chaos
Until next time,
Knothead the Coonhound Dog: Our Remarkable, Carefree Four-Legged Friend
Not all new friends you make when you move to a new place are human. Take Knothead for instance. Knothead was a “good ol’” hound dog that we met when we rented our first home in Millbrook, Alabama in 2004.
He was the friendliest dog. He acted just as I imagined a hound dog would act — ambling whenever he walked or plopped on the concrete for his naps.
We first met Knothead when we went to see the house we were thinking about renting. Since we were new people, he felt the need to wander across the street and say hello. His owner told us he got his name because he truly is a knot head. He’d been hit by cars a few times and one of his front paws was askew because of this.
One of our favorite Knothead stories is when his owners brought a new puppy into the mix. The puppy was a female black Labrador. Beautiful dog, but she got into everything. I might mention here the neighbors did not chain up either dog.
The puppy, whose name I don’t recall, would follow me on my walks around the neighborhood. And she was a thief. Once, when a utility worker came to my home, she left her shoes on the front porch because it had been raining and they were muddy.
When the worker came out, the shoes were gone. The puppy had taken them. The owner went around the neighborhood every so often to return items the puppy confiscated.
Anyway, Knothead was less than thrilled about this puppy development. As his owner told us, he found the puppy wandering along the side of one of the main roads in town, a couple of miles from our neighborhood. After picking up the puppy, he saw Knothead almost to our subdivision. Apparently, Knothead was trying to lead the puppy away so she would get lost. It didn’t work, but shortly after that incident, the owner re-homed the puppy.
Knothead even helped us find baby squirrels that blew out of their nest during Hurricane Ivan. Of course, his intentions and ours were quite different, but we were able to save all three babies, who didn’t even have their eyes open yet.
We frequently wonder what happened to Knothead and if he is still alive. He was one of our more unique neighbors, but he was our friend.
Until next time,
Do you have any stories about four-legged neighborhood friends? Tell me about them.
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Victoria Terrinoni is the author of the new book, Where You Go, I Will Go: Lessons From a Military Spouse available here or by clicking the Shop tab above.
September 11, 2001: The Most Devastating Day in My Life
I’m sure every blogger in America is writing about September 11, 2001, this week. Can you stand to read another one?
We all have stories about that fateful day. It is on the scale of the attack on Pearl Harbor for my parents’ generation. Here is my story.
The alarm radio went off at the usual 7 a.m. time, but this time the DJs were talking about a plane crashing into one of the twin towers of the World Trade Center in Manhattan. We just moved to Vandenberg Air Force Base on the Central Coast of California in late July. I jumped out of bed and turned on the television in our room. Just then, the second airline jet crashed into the second tower. The Good Chaplain uttered an expletive.
“We’re under attack,” he said. And with that visual and those words, I knew our world was about to change forever.
Lots of questions arose about our plans for the day. Our twin daughters were getting ready for school. Should they go? I also was to go to their school to speak to the journalism class about freelance writing. Would classes still be held? We knew the Good Chaplain would be in demand.
We called the school. Classes were still being held, but it was up to the parents if they wanted their children to attend or not. Part of our quandary was whether the girls could get back onto the base after school. I was driving them to school, but they would ride the bus home. Would the base be shut down — no one allowed on or off — by the time school let out?
The Good Chaplain called the base command post and asked the question.
“I know we will be going to Delta. Will my daughters be able to get back on base this afternoon, after school?” he asked. Force Protection Condition Delta is the highest level the base could go, which basically means a terrorist attack has occurred or is imminent. A terrorist attack definitely happened on U.S. soil that day.
“Sir, we are not in Delta,” the person on the other end of the phone line said.
“I know that, but we will be soon. I just need to know if my kids will be able to get back on base after school.”
“Sir, we don’t know that we will be going to Delta.”
The Good Chaplain sighed. “Okay, sure. Will my kids be allowed back on base after school. We’re trying to decide if we should send them or not.”
“Sir, the buses will be allowed back on base,” the command post person said.
“Thank you. That’s all I needed to know,” said the Good Chaplain.
We did end up going to school, and the girls could get back on the base, even though the base did go to Delta. I gave my talk, but we mostly talked about what was happening in New York and the Pentagon by that time. As a journalist, I really wanted to be in the thick of the story. But as a mom, wife, and military spouse, I was scared of what was to come and saddened that this happened in my country.
Strangely, the events on 9/11 did not hit me until another plane crash in Queens in November 2001. Then, I remember crying and going into the bedroom to tell the Good Chaplain.
“Another plane crashed in New York City,” I said.
“Was it another terrorist attack?” he asked.
“I don’t think so, but the plane crashed into some buildings,” I said.
Then I sat down and cried. I cried for the 260 people on board and the five on the ground who died. And, I finally cried for all those that died on 9/11 on the most devastating day of my life.
Until next time,
The Horrific Week When the Cat Died, the Girls Graduated, and the Movers Arrived
Talk about stress. One Sunday morning in the summer of 2004, as I sat in my living room at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, my 20-year-old cat, Gus, died in my arms. My twin daughters sat near me, sobbing as they had known Gus all their lives. It was heartbreaking.
But that wasn’t the significant stressor. The fact that Gus died at the beginning of graduation week is what stressed me out. The family was coming in from all over to celebrate the girls’ graduation. I didn’t have time for the cat to die.
Oh, and the Monday after graduation, the movers were coming. Should I pull my hair out now? Even as I write this 17 years later, I can feel the tension rising.
After the cat died, I laid him in his carrier and called the Good Chaplain, who was leading worship services at the time. I thought service would be over, but it wasn’t. The chaplain assistant answered the phone.
“Is the service over?” I asked.
“No, it’s communion time,” she said.
“Oh, okay. When the service is over, tell (the Good Chaplain) the cat just died. But wait until he finishes,” I said.
She didn’t wait. She crept up to the Good Chaplain at the Lord’s Table and whispered in his ear that the cat died. I made my best Homer Simpson impression. Doh!
After we made funeral arrangements for Gus, we turned our focus to the influx of company. First, of course, the house needed cleaning, the cake needed ordering, and we needed to plan menus to feed all these people.
The girls were also busy with last-minute school items — getting their caps and gowns, graduation practice, and other necessities.
Then family members began to arrive. My parents, the Good Chaplain’s mother and stepfather, and his brother’s family arrived from Illinois. His stepmom, his aunt, and his uncle came up from southern California. We needed to pick up some people at the airport, and we had to make lodging arrangements too. And, oh, yeah, the movers were coming on Monday. So several stiff drinks were in order.
Graduation Day arrived — a lovely, hot Saturday afternoon at the football field of Cabrillo High School. We did not know until we left for the ceremony that the Gay Pride annual bike trip was happening that weekend, right outside the base main gate. It was entertaining to see all the colorful outfits the cross-dressers were wearing. Until our niece exclaimed loudly with the car windows open, “Hey, that guy is wearing a dress!” Thankfully, the nice person smiled and waved at her. But it opened up a whole discussion her mother was not ready to have with her.
We sat in the hot sun listening to all the obligatory speeches and waiting for that two-second time frame when they call your kid’s name. But, instead, my mind wandered to the list of things I still had to do. I remember commenting on all the people who left after their child got their diplomas.
“Hey, I had to sit through your kid’s moment. So the least you could do is sit through mine.”
Having the last name beginning with a ‘T’ put us pretty much at the back of the pack.
After the party, family members left, except my parents. They were going to help with the move. They helped watch the packers, the loaders, and the clean-up afterwards. They said they thought it was a smooth move — everything done for us and all. Deep down, I agreed.
We moved into our travel trailer and finished up the week with a farewell lunch at the chapel. My parents thought that was cool, too, and it was.
The stress level should have abated then, but it didn’t. I had so much stress built up in me I felt I would explode. I was snapping at everyone and crying a lot too. I just wanted to get on the road. And the Good Chaplain developed hives because of all the things he needed to finish before we left town.
Eventually, I remembered the adage, “This too shall pass,” (William Shakespeare in Hamlet) and I started breathing again. And, by the time we got on the road, I was relaxed and looking forward to the new adventures we would have in Alabama.
Until next time,
Tell me about your most stressful move in the comments below.
Victoria Terrinoni is the author of the new book, “Where You Go, I Will Go: Lessons From a Military Spouse.” Check it out here.