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One of the unique quirks about Recruiting life is that unlike the active-duty Army units we’ve experienced thus far, the Battalion that Andrew is currently assigned to is spread across 4 states (Minnesota, Iowa, and the Dakotas.) With the majority of leadership based in Minneapolis, the Recruiting Command holds an annual training for all of their recruiters so that everyone can discuss Recruiting things face-to-face. Spouses and children have the option to “tag along” to annual training for things like FRG-like meetings, informational classes, etc. Last year, I didn’t attend annual training because none of the spouse activities seemed interesting enough to take time off from my full-time job. However, this year when I learned there would be a military ball, I was sold! A chance to dress up in a pretty gown and spend time with my handsome soldier in his ASUs? Uh, yes please!
I missed Thursday’s daytime annual training activities due to still being at work, but immediately after I left the office, I made my way to The Cities. By the time I arrived at the Mall of America, our company was gathering for a social at Margaritaville. Did I mention that this year’s annual training was held at the Radisson Blu hotel attached to the Mall of America? It was a fun evening of socializing with everyone out of uniform.
On Friday, Andrew and the other soldiers had training during the day. The spouses from our center took their kids swimming, and since I felt like a bit of a “fish out of water” (pun intended) I opted to spend some time on my own. Too bad there was nothing for me to do at the hotel! 😉 I went over to the MoA to buy a clutch, as I had a last-minute crisis when I realized the fancy clutch I had didn’t fit my (ridiculously large) cell phone! For lunch, Andrew met me at Rainforest Cafe. Neither one of us had been there since we were kids. The interesting animatronics and atmosphere made up for the subpar food! 😉
Then, it was time to start getting ready for the ball. I didn’t want to shell out money for a professional updo, so I had decided to DIY it. Which, if you know me and how untalented I am in fashion and beauty, was a gamble. Thankfully, the Battalion Commander’s wife hosted a get-together for the ladies who wanted to DIY their hair, and we all helped each other with our hair. (I explained it to my non-military friends as ‘my husband’s boss’ boss’ boss’ boss’ wife literally curled my hair.’)
Even though I’ve been an Army wife for 3 years now, it was my first experience at a military ball (we missed the Engineer Battalion Ball at Fort Knox due to Recruiting orders.) I was so nervous before the event — I was afraid I would end up like Roxy LeBlanc (on the TV show Army Wives) at her first military function. Thankfully, Andrew and my blog friend Jen had well-prepared me for the event, and I did not make a fool of myself. I noticed some others with more military life experience than myself making a few small blunders, which was incredibly reassuring to me that I would be okay. (…Except for that soldier who grabbed his date’s butt during the National Anthem… I wish I was making that up.)
Making small talk is not my forte; in fact, I had been dreading it for weeks because of the “How many kids do you have?” question that I always get at military events. Going into the ball, I had decided to look for someone who looked as nervous to make small talk as I was and came prepared with a list of small talk conversation starters (none of which referenced children.) It helped, and I found that I enjoyed myself!
After the ball ended, we headed back to our room to change into street clothes and then went to the unofficial afterparty at a “secret” bar on the 4th floor of the Mall. Oh man, that was fun! We stayed out way too late, and I enjoyed a 56 ounce (!!!) margarita that I paid for the next day.
On Saturday morning, the soldiers had a few hours of training before they were dismissed; I didn’t mind Andy leaving to “work” that morning because it gave me the chance to sleep in late in the lovely king-sized bed all by myself. Wanting to make the most of our time in The Cities, we decided to do one more thing before we headed home, something that had been on my bucket list since we moved to the Midwest: shopping at the “Underground Target.” There’s a Salvation Army thrift store a few blocks from Target’s corporate headquarters, and the entire basement is full of brand-new donations from Target. I happily spent a few hours and a hundred dollars shopping, while Andy not-so-happily obliged me. (And even gave his opinions on every.single.item that I tried on. Bless him.) I walked away with a full winter wardrobe for pennies on the dollar and eagerly look forward to another trip to Underground Target next time I’m in the area.
A quick run to dinner at Chipotle later, then it was time to go home and rest from our exhausting weekend. Annual training + the military ball was a perfect “date weekend” in Minneapolis, and I’m so glad I went!