Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Letter to the guy who wrote about the "lavish" military lifestyle I lead.

Dear Mr. Wood,

I just read your article for the Huffington Post entitled, "After a Decade of Lavish Benefits, Military Personnel Fear Cuts". I have some questions for you. Are you a veteran, Mr. Wood? Did you serve our country in one of the branches of the military? Are you affilliated with the military in any way? Where did you get the information you used for your article?

My husband is a proud member of the U.S. Coast Guard. Currently, he is aboard a ship that is patroling international waters trying to stop foreign countries from smuggling drugs into our country, Mr. Wood. He has left me and our two children behind, Mr. Wood, for four months so that he can serve our country in this way. Our only communication, Mr. Wood, is via email, and sometimes that doesn't work. We live on an Army base in Northern California, Mr. Wood, in a modest 3-bedroom home that we do not own. My furniture, Mr. Wood, has been taken apart and moved five times in the past 10 years. The screws holding my furniture together, Mr. Wood, are stripped and worn, and might not make it through our next move. Our children have lived in five places in the last 10 years, Mr. Wood. Our eldest is 10 years old. I am, at the moment, wearing a pair of jeans that I bought in 2005. They cost me around $25, and are from Target. I am sitting, Mr. Wood, at a desk that my husband bought for $40 for from a warehouse that was going out of business in 2003. My laptop, Mr. Wood, is from 2007. The keyboard is broken, and the internet runs slow, but I plugged a cheap keyboard into it, and will keep using it until it dies. All the commissaries in my area are closed, Mr. Wood, and I shop at WalMart and Target for my groceries. All the exchanges in my area have closed as well, Mr. Wood. I shop at Target and Walmart for my household needs. My children, Mr. Wood, wear clothes from Old Navy and enjoy getting hand-me-downs from my friends with older children. My parents live in Washington State, Mr. Wood. They get to see their precious grandchildren maybe once or twice a year. I drive a 2006 Ford Freestar minivan. We own it outright. Not one payment was ever late or missed. I had to speak with my son's teacher today because she's worried my husband's deployment is affecting his schoolwork. I wrote to my husband about this issue via email earlier. I hope to hear back from him some time in the next day or so. In the meantime, I will deal with it the best I know how.

Mr. Wood, do you own your home? Are you married, Mr. Wood? Where does your wife or significant other shop? Do you have children, Mr. Wood? Where do they go to college? Do you have grandchildren, Mr. Wood? Do you have the privilege to see them frequently and maybe attend their sporting events or school events? What kind of car do you drive, Mr. Wood? Do you have nice furniture, Mr. Wood? Has it been torn apart and moved even one time in the past five years? How many times a week do you dine out, Mr. Wood? At what sort of stores to you purchase your clothing? How much did you pay for your last pair of pants? If your laptop keyboard broke, would you be able to go out and buy a new one tomorrow? Have you ever had to spend more than a week or two away from your family for work, Mr. Wood? If you have, were you able to call them every night to tell them how your day was and tell them you love them and that you hope they have a good night?

If my life seems "lavish" to you, then I guess you and I have two very different ideas of the definition of that word. I think you ought not judge unless you have walked a day in any member of any branch of our military's shoes, or those of their husbands, wives, and children. Trust me, you wouldn't call our lives "lavish" after you did.


Emily A. Garris

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

This is the kind of Mother I am...

So this morning, the kids were really making me nuts with their arguing and bickering. It started the moment they got up. A lot of it has to do with the fact that Nate has no sense of the fine line between when something is funny and when it suddenly isn't any more. What he does is he knows when something is funny, so he ramps it up until suddenly it's over the top and not funny any more. Well, if something is funny, MORE is funnier, right? Louder is funnier, right? Crazier is funnier, right?? It makes for some interesting times for his sister, for sure.

Anyway, they bickered all morning long, and I thought if I had to say, "Guys, STOP!!!" one more time my head was going to explode. They were arguing in the car and I was lecturing them about how irritating it was to have to listen to them argue all the time. Blah, blah, blah...I'm sure I sounded like the teacher on Charlie Brown...owa wa wawa owawa. Then, out of nowhere, this fine specimine of parental guidance flowed over my lips:

"Whatever. How about this. When you're arguing about something, think about what it is you're arguing about. If it's not about something that's going to be of any significance in 5 minutes or even 5 seconds, stop the argument. But heck, if it's about something you're going to care about in 20 years, by all means, duke it out."

We all started laughing and the rest of the ride was pleasant and argument free. At one point Nate started in with "Siss-EE!!..." and then after a split second to think about it, "Um, nevermind."

Ahh...success. For now anyway. Stay tuned for more words of parental wisdom, folks. I'm full of it. I mean them. HA!!!

Monday, January 3, 2011

Back to Reality

Christmas break is over, children. Nate doesn't want to go to school and I forgot what I usually put in Joanna's lunch. (She's picky, you know.) It's Monday and I have a pretty typical list of Monday errands and chores I have to do. I'm glad I went to Costco and Trader Joe's this weekend. That will save me a lot of time today.

In other news...yeah...I got nothing. Hopefully since it's the first Monday of the new year, the Coast Guard will start getting some business taken care of and we can find out some stuff. So...

Dear Coast Guard,

Since it's the first Monday of the new year, maybe you could get some business taken care of. We would like to know some stuff. Like how many SKC's are you going to be making? At least 16 more, please!




Now that's a good way to start the new year, don't you think? Aren't you glad you tuned in for my random ramblings?? :) Gotta go get dressed and ready to get this party started. I'm out!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Tap-Tap-Tap...Anybody out there?

Hello. My name is Emily Garris. Remember me? I lived on a remote island in Alaska for 3 years and thought my somewhat daily ramblings were important and exciting enough to write about and publish here on this blog. Starting to sound familiar? I went to a hearing test on a military aircraft during a volcanic eruption...endured blizzard after blizzard...couldn't wait to leave...

Well, I left. It's 2011, people! I no longer live on that remote island in Alaska. I live in the SF Bay Area in California, and guess what? We quite possibly might be moving AGAIN in 2011! That, folks is what has inspired me to start writing again. Because, the name of this blog is the Garris Family ADVENTURE, right? Not the Garris Family ALASKAN Adventure. Sure, Alaska was interesting and exciting. The SF Bay Area? Not so much. I go to Trader Joe's and Old Navy on a semi-regular basis. No volcanos or blizzards here, and my ear doctor is just a short drive across town. Despite the total 180 degree turn my life has taken from living in rural Alaska to living in urban (okay, maybe suburban) San Francisco Bay Area, I realized yesterday that just because Alaska is over doesn't mean our adventure is. So, here I am. Telling you all that you might want to stay tuned. 2011 is going to be an interesting year.

Happy 2011 everyone! I hope your 2011 adventure is filled with love and happiness!

Sunday, March 21, 2010


I can't WAIT to live in a NORMAL place where:

1. I can buy yarn whenever I want. Not only that, but to live in a place where if the one Mom and Pop yarn store is closed, I can go to JOANNE FABRICS or MICHAEL'S on a Monday at 9:00 a.m. and they will be OPEN for me to buy yarn.

2. Recycling isn't such a pain in the ASS! Where I won't have to have 7,000 recycling bins in my pantry and cardboard boxes from Amazon.com won't take over my life ANY MORE!! Where my good intentions are rewarded with big recycling bins that the city will provide for me to throw all of my recycleables in and then provide me with the courtesy of paying somebody to take it all away for me.

3. I will have multiple choices of places to go grocery shopping. Where I won't be forced to shop at Walmart, a commissary the size of a shoe box, and the most expensive Safeway in the world.

4. Any grocery store will have EVERYTHING I need and it will all be fresh, edible and not have an "expires on" date of 2 days ago.

5. I can drive through town and not cringe and then want to go home and sanitize myself.

6. The best restaurant in town is not Subway.

7. I can shop at fabric stores that have more than just cotton quilting fabric and actually have (GASP!) PATTERNS!!

8. If I do happen to crave snow, I can DRIVE to it and enjoy it from the comfort of a 5 star ski resort with a spa, casino and bar.

9. My son will wear out his sneakers before he grows out of them. Where I won't buy him new sneakers only for him to wear them 2 times before the rain and snow come and he's forced to wear boots for the next 9 months straight.

10. The expression "7 degrees of seperation" is true and not "2 degrees of seperation".

Monday, March 1, 2010


As this last (yes, LAST!!) patrol's end is in sight, I really have been feeling a whole range of emotions about what it means to even be able to say those words.  Last. Patrol.  The magnitude of those two words is immense.  I did it.  I DID IT.  We did it.  We, my friends, have basically made it to the end.  I have had many day dreams about what it would feel like to be here and to say those words.  3 years ago, heck, even 3 months ago, I thought it would never happen.  It has happened.  It's happening, and I am loving every single second of it. 

I DID IT!!!!  I MADE IT THROUGH!!!  I survived, and dare I even say thrived?  I do say thrived.  I insist upon saying that, actually.  I'm pretty damn proud of myself.  I'm proud of us.  I'm proud of my kids.  I'm proud of my husband.  I'm proud of many fellow Munro spouses who transfer out with us this year who have also made it through. 

If you will humor me and my nostalgia for a moment, I can honestly say that I will never, ever forget the day we got THAT  phone call.  I was happily chatting away with a friend at Joanna's preschool in Port Angeles while we cleaned up glitter and glue off the tables while the kids played outside.  My cell phone rang.  It was Jake, and that was weird.  He knew where I was, and he hardly ever called my cell phone anyway.  I knew instantly that something was up.  Indeed it was.  That phone call put my life on a completely different course than it was on just mere seconds before.  In an instant my pleasant life had come to a screeching halt and done a 180 degree turn.  I literally thought the world was coming to an end.  I know that sounds a bit dramatic, but that's how I felt.  Kodiak, Alaska?  ALASKA???  Not only that, but a 378???  What on earth had I done to deserve that horrific punnishment?  Why was this happening to us?

We considered going geo bachelor.  For those non-Coast Guard people who might be reading this right now, that means the Active Duty member goes to the new duty location and the spouse and family stays behind.  We wrote it all down.  Pros and cons.  On paper it seemed crystal clear.  He would go and the kids and I would stay.  We had such a nice, cozy little house.  Our parents were close by.  He would come home when the ship was not underway.  It made sense.  Jake was going to tell the detailer the next day that our decision was made. 

Then, when it was time to put the kids to bed, Jake took a little extra time to say goodnight to them.  When he came out, he had a funny look on his face and said, "I can't do it.  I know we might be miserable in Kodiak, but I'd rather be miserable with you there than miserable without you."  I knew he was right.  So, he made the call to the detailer the next day and said we'd all be coming along for the ride.

And what a ride!!  It really has been a series of incredible highs and lows.  Will I miss living here?  Will I finally make my journey back to the lower 48 and find that the old addage about the grass being greener on the other side is true?  I honestly don't think so.  For me, the simple fact that Jake will no longer be on the ship automatically tips the scale to the "Heck no I won't miss a darn thing about Kodiak" side.  I will miss certain people.  If I could pack a select few with me in my suitcase to California, I would!  (You know who you are!)  I think that's about it, though.  Really!

I guess the things I will truly treasure about my time here in Kodiak are not tangible at all, but will be all the life lessons I've learned.  Sometimes I feel like I had to get conked on the head with orders here to get me to finally learn them.  First and foremost, I've learned that I CAN DO ANYTHING!  Anything from relocating my family to a strange, isolated place by myself and against my will (Yes, I came to Kodiak with the kids by myself), to taking apart the vacuum to clean out whatever is in there that's flapping around and making a noise (and then putting it all back together again)...and everything in between.  I CAN DO ANYTHING!  Yet, while I'm very proud of the fact that I have accomplished so many things by myself in the past 3 years and I pride myself on my self-relliance, part two of this lesson is this:

While I am very aware of the fact that I am fully capable of doing just about anything on my own, I don't want to.  EVERYTHING IS BETTER WITH JAKE.  I mean everything.  Even the most mundane things like doing the dishes or folding socks is better when he is by my side.  I realize this sounds so cliche and lame, but it really is a heart-felt truth for me.  And while I've always loved my husband with all of my heart, it took orders to a 378 in Kodiak, AK to truly make me aware of this.  I can't help the fact that I love him, but I would (and do!) consciously choose to spend the rest of my days with him by my side through every sock-folding, dish-doing, kid-wrangling moment.  He brings out the best in me, and I am beside myself with excitement to know that we will share our next adventure together as a family.  Oh, and trust me, ye olde salty sea wives who are shaking fingers at me right now.  I know what you're thinking.  I am not dilusional in my thoughts and understanding of what it means to be a Coast Guard wife.  I know the possibility is there that we may again do another tour on a ship.  You know what, though?  It's not this time around, and I'm going to enjoy every single ever-lovin' second of what California has in store for us! 

That brings me to another important lesson I've learned while stationed here:  GO WITH THE FLOW.  Oh, wow, what a lesson, and it's one I'm still struggling with to this very day.  In my opinion, ultimately we have no control over our lives, and to understand that, to fully comprehend that, and make choices to accept that has been one of the hardest things for me to do.  I'm a Camagna, after all, and Camagnas plan.  Camagnas think and play the "What if?" game over everything that life throws at us.  Sure, we can choose to turn right or left at a stop sign.  We can choose to have chicken or fish for dinner.  Really, though, we don't actually have true control over much, and that, on a strictly human level is hard to come to terms with.  For me, it is, anyway. 

I can truly say that living in Kodiak has put such an interesting spin on this one for me on so many levels.  Do you know that I have no clue how much gas costs right now?  All I know is that I fill my van up when it's empty (every 6-8 weeks) here on base, and that is the best deal in town.  Did I have a choice about Jake getting stationed in Kodiak on the Munro?  I surely did not, but my choice was to make the best of it, and I believe I have.  Has it been easy?  HELL no, it hasn't!  There have literally been times I've wanted to run out my front door and simply get on the next  plane out of here even if the final destination were to be Timbuktu. There were mornings in the middle of December, when the sun doesn't even start to rise until 10:00, where I lied in bed and forced myself to count 10 blessings before I got up to start the day.  Every time the ship got ready to deploy, I could feel my skin get a little thinner; the wound not yet healed completely from the patrol before. 

Those days are no more, though, and I feel the need to dignify the good of Kodiak with a shout-out.  The good in Kodiak lies with the people.  I have never, in the 12 years of being affiliated with the Coast Guard, experienced such an amazing camaraderie in a community!  In Green Bay, we had a very close-knit unit, but it wasn't like that extended out into the community.  In Humboldt, it was all about my home-town friends and family.  In Port Angeles, we pretty much stuck to ourselves and our parents.  Here, though, community is almost like the bread of life.  Without it, we would surely all perish.  Everyone here is in the same "boat" (or plane/helocopter) so to speak.  Love or hate this place, everyone who lives here surely can admit that living here has difficulties uniquely it's own, but we are all in it together, and that is what makes this place special.

One of my favorite lines in a movie is from "The Sound of Music" when Maria says (I think to the Reverend Mother):  "When the Lord closes a door, somewhere he opens a window".  I am not known to be a particularly religious person, but I love that quote, and have thought of it often during my time in Kodiak.  When we got orders here, I felt like the door wasn't just closed on me, but rather slammed.  Yet, I had to have that door slammed in order for me to learn what I've learned and meet all the wonderful people I've met.  Each friendship I've made here has been a little window that opened and brought light when I thought there was none, and for that, I am forever grateful. 

I still have several months left here in Kodiak, so this is in no way a "Goodbye Forever, Alaska!" post.  It's just my way of processing the past 3 years and the flood of feelings I've been having lately.  Thanks for reading my ramblings.  There are probably more to come.  :)

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Because I'm a slacker...

Because my husband's been harassing me to update (sheesh, you'd think he was far, far away out in the middle of nowhere or something), I now present you with a short montage of what we've been up to over the past month or so.                                        
These are my Valentine's Day Flowers.  Aren't they lovely?These are the cupcakes Audrey so kindly (and so much more expertly than I could have ever done) made for Joanna for her birthday at school.  Aren't they amazing?    Joanna at school on her birthday.Joanna and her friends.  :)Eating a cupcake.Sledding fun 2010!BNF (Best Neighbors Forever!)Hot chocolate deluxe afterwards."Deluxe" = marshmallows, whipped cream, sprinkles AND a cherry.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          That was AWESOME!Cute.  Just cute.  :)

Well, have a great one, everybody!  (and a big XOXO to the best husband ever!)