PCSing and free plastic surgery

Before I tell this story, I must pause to rid myself of all personal pride and dignity that I have left- which isn’t much. The events I am about to disclose occurred before I had children, and thus had much more sensitivity to embarrassment and concern for personal appearance.

Warning: Contains pictures of major allergic reactions. If you get queasy easily  or have a tendency to snort liquid out of your nose when laughing and drinking simultaneously, please take appropriate precautions. Thank you.

 Any military wife or child can tell you that there is a certain aura of impending disaster that hovers over a family during a PCS (Permanent Change of Station) or deployment. Moving is a stressful event regardless of circumstances, but when one adds other elements like pregnancy, injury, lost items, etc., the potential for an interesting story increases.  I have fallen victim to a few typical manifestations of this ‘curse’ that haunts the silent ranks. However, I have a few twists to the story that made things complicated for me, but will hopefully make things funny to you. I have a strike against me in the luck department; I am prone to severe allergic reactions that involve swelling (anaphylactic shock).

Our story begins with at midnight, March 4 (the only date which is a military order, mind you- March forth, March fourth- yes, it’s a pun.)  It was 2007; I was a newly-wed and had just sent my beloved, young soldier off to Fort Benning. With a hug, a kiss, and the warning, “Be careful and don’t burn the place down”, I was alone in our one-room apartment, surrounded by study materials and all our worldly possessions.  It was the era of grad school and nothing being on evening news except the saga of Anna Nicole Smith’s death. That night I sat on our queen sized bed, which took up 75% of our apartment’s room, talking to a friend on my first night of lost sleep. Suddenly, the sound of a man’s fist pounding heavily on my front door gave me a nice shot of annoyance and adrenaline. “POLICE!”

 It was midnight. I was alone. I was wearing my husband’s over-sized PT sweats. Why wouldn’t the police be banging on the door?

By now my poor green apartment door was taking a beating and I was feeling a bit indignant. I was NOT on an episode of COPS, thank you very much. I warned my friend that if I didn’t return to the phone promptly to call 911. I was going to put a stop to this.

I unlocked and flung open the front door to see a 30 something, dark haired policeman and his female partner knocking on the surrounding doors. The man looked at me exasperated. “There’s a FIRE in your building!”  he exclaimed. I am sure he expected me to look grateful and declare that a horse of a different color, Wizard of Oz style. Instead I cocked my head to the side and declared, “Then most people would yell, “Fire” and not police, sir! I grabbed my phone and house key and followed the officer through the breeze way. (I forgot shoes, however. If you’re ever asked what three items you would grab in a house fire, grab your shoes. You’ll thank me.) About 10 feet later I saw that 6 of the 8 units attached to my building were in fact ablaze and on their way to total destruction. Yes, “Fire” would have been nice.

Valuable lesson 1: ALWAYS pray over your residences!

I had prayed over the safety of my apartment before moving in and as Hubby moved in. I’m certainly glad I did—out of the 8 units, mine was the ONLY one that could be re-entered. The roof caved in on my neighbor’s unit the following night due to water damage and all the others were charred.

I was able to re-enter my apartment the following afternoon, but I first had to go to class in a borrowed t-shirt and shorts ensemble looking like…well, my apartment had burned to the ground. My eyes and throat were itching, which is to be expected from the smoke. This should be a joyful end to a disaster story, but this is where things get out of proportion, literally.

I turned in early that night, succumbing to the fatigue of the ordeal. At about 2am, I woke with labored breathing. I rubbed my hands on my face and realized I was in deep trouble. Remembering my shoes, I grabbed my important items, took 3 Benadryl tablets, and drove myself to the ER. After quite a wait, I was admitted and was told a young employee just returned from Iraq. I encountered this man an hour later as I deliriously shuffled with a gown and an IV stand to the restroom. He saw my face and exclaimed, “Holy ——!” I felt my dignity twinge, but I knew how I looked. I didn’t blame him. When I finally arrived home shortly before 5am, I thought that I should take a few pictures. Remember, this was AFTER 2 hours of IVs and medication.

2007fireer

Nice, huh? Angelina Jolie has nothing on these lips.

2007firelip

I can do the duck face without trying!

The unfortunate thing is one side of my face swells more than the other, which became evident at my first overseas PCS.

I had just completed my first year of teaching and my graduate class requirement and was eager to join my beloved in South Korea. I was at home with my family, where I would take a state certification exam the following morning. It was the only thing left to do before flying across the world to finally live with my beloved- in our second year of marriage. As I enjoyed the evening stroll with my father and our beloved yellow lab Blue, a flying asp burst forth from the inflamed pit of the underworld that houses all things evil. It promptly flew into my eye and stung. The reaction began quickly, so once again I went to bed after taking Benedryl and waited. By 5am I was searching for the frozen vegetables to help the swelling go down on my eye. By now I was in a laughing fit from the medication and natural results of the histamine. My poor mother handed me a bag of frozen peas and went to get ice without realizing the bag of peas had previously been opened. She returned to a bed scattered with green, frozen intruders and my announcement that I had, “Pead the bed”. She was not amused. At that moment Hubby called from Korea. He swears I was babbling about Chuck Norris. Oh well.

Four hours later I was in a classroom with a ball cap shielding my eye, passing the Texas Certification Exam heavily medicated. I am still a bit proud of that- I have NO idea how I managed it. Immediately afterward I went to a clinic for medication and to get a note proving that my eye was not the result of physical violence. That is taken very seriously in South Korea, so I wanted my husband to be protected from any suspicion.

Unfortunately, my eye proceeded to swell shut every night for the next two weeks. I had to meet his friends, command members, and every other English speaker on our tiny post looking like I’d done a round with Ali. Every morning I’d get up at 5 and lie flat with frozen veggies on my face. By noon it would look like this.

DSC01063

Who needs plastic surgery when you can get facial reconstruction for free, courtesy of the curse?

DSC01065

My other swelling incidences are minor in comparison, and move us on to the next part of the military moving curse- Nature.

Stay tuned for Part 2. Fires, floods, and fatigues await.

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One thought on “PCSing and free plastic surgery

  1. I remember all of this like it was yesterday. Your apartment stank like musty linen the rest of the semester. Ah, memories! *Cue singing cats:
    Memory
    All alone in the moonlight
    I can smile at the old days
    I was beautiful then
    I remember the time I knew what happiness was
    Let the memory live again

    Though for you, you’re still beautiful and are learning daily what real happiness is. Press on, dear warrior, press on!

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