13 May, 2007

SpouseBUZZ Live: Collision

Another great day among bloggers and military folks! This could get to be a habit with me... [Btw, this post is about my experiences. Next one is about observations--it was an amazing event and I was privileged to attend as a learner.]

I was there to work, so Andi put me at the reception desk, handing out name tags and goody bags (have I mentioned the "lives colliding" phenomenon? Haha). Going in, I had some small concerns that I might encounter co-workers there, but my big worry was the KEY Volunteer leader for the base where I work; we've chatted inconsequentially when she regularly brings in her children for drop-in care, so she knows me but I thought I could avoid her if I stayed alert.

So, I look up from adjusting something at the desk and who should be standing directly in front of my station but Mrs. KEY with a look of shock on her face. "What in the world are you doing here?! Do you work for somebody at the Convention Center now?" I couldn't do anything but tell her I was there to help my friend Andi, which just brought questions about how I knew her and how I could be involved with SpouseBUZZ, etc. I just smiled ingratiatingly and said with irony that I had a whole 'nother secret life, which puzzled but amused her. All in all, I figured I'd escaped pretty well. Yeah, right...

When I got the chance, I headed to the panels. The panelists had been looking for tissues to prepare themselves, but I didn't feel the need--I knew their stories and thought I was far enough removed to not be overly emotional about it. But just like hearing Chuck say for himself at the MilBlog conference what a blessing a voice-controlled laptop had been, I was a goner when I heard Carren talk about her experiences at Walter Reed.

And then she pulled out the big guns. After describing how hard it had been the last few years, she said something stunning, "I don't want my husband to be hurt; I don't want him to have missing parts and not be able to do everything he did before... but I wouldn't change a thing because as a result of his wounds 1,000 other soldiers have been blessed."

I was floored. I'd heard her discuss the idea that such good had come from their suffering, but never ever something like "I wouldn't change a thing." I desperately tried to hold back the tears welling up; I had visions of someone asking me if my husband was wounded and having to explain I was there as a civilian spy. Carren went on to describe Valour-IT as the tears rolled down my cheeks. Then she said, "It happened because a reader of my husband's blog had an idea and ran with it. She's here today."

I looked at for an exit, but it was too far away. I saw Mrs. KEY sitting in my direct line-of-sight. I started shaking my head subtly and Carren says, "There she is! She's shaking her head... in the white blouse." There was a smattering of applause and I spotted Mrs. KEY with another look of shock on her face.

That dried the tears up pretty fast, but as I sat there listening to Carren say more, I remembered the phone conversations and watching her with the wives at Walter Reed last Sunday, and how impressed I've always been with her, how unspeakably honored I am by her friendship. As soon as the panel concluded, I gave into the single-minded desire to hug her and hurried up to the front of the room. I teasingly scolded Carren, AWTM and Andi that they should've warned me about the Kleenex. Then I wrapped my arms around Carren and said, "I've always been just your friend, careful not to put you on a pedestal, just be normal with you. But I have to tell you, I've always thought you were an absolutely amazing woman. I mean, 'I wouldn't change a thing???' I can't tell you how honored I am to have been a part of something that would make you say that, and how honored I am to be your friend." I also scolded her for pointing me out, explaining Mrs. KEY as we hugged and wiped our tears.

As I finished talking to Carren and turned to leave, who should be there standing there looking at me again but Mrs. KEY, gazing on us in amazement. "You really do have a double life, don't you?"

I skipped a beat in shock, then said laughingly, "You really have no idea... In all seriousness, nobody at work knows about this except the boss and a supervisor, and I'd like to keep it that way." Her inquisitive face looked disappointed, but she nodded sagely (my coworkers already think my education makes me a snob; the last thing I need for them to know is all about Valour-IT and my blog, etc). Later that day I was handing out raffle tickets and she made a crack to her friend about "taking a ticket from that person whom we don't know" and we exchanged friendly smiles.

Ever since I discovered a few weeks ago that a blog friend works on the same base as I do (sometimes even next door!), I've had a post about blogging and anonymity brewing in me. I think events of the past two weekends have brought things to a head. I've got a lot of thinking to do, but I'll put it down in pixels when I've got it sorted out.

All in all, it was a wonderful day and I'm so glad I was there. I learned a lot on an emotional/intuitive level from being in a roomful of military spouses, and I'm so grateful that Andi insisted I attend. I'll write more about the events and attendees in my next post.