Tina kissed her four children goodnight Saturday evening and tucked them into bed like she had done every other night of their lives.
After they drifted to sleep, she and her husband, Lorin, snuggled and talked through the evening. Shortly before midnight, she donned military fatigues, kissed Lorin goodbye and left to join the Utah National Guard's 144th Evacuation Hospital, bound for Saudi Arabia.Tina serves as an operating room technician with the unit.
Tina and Lorin planned the evening carefully. Much like they have planned the next six months. No wrenching goodbyes. No frightening the children - or themselves - with the thought of "what if."
"A lot of good will come out of this for our family," Lorin told the Deseret News on Saturday afternoon. "The kids will learn responsibility. They will learn to depend on each other more."
So when Saturday came, the family romped, teased and recited to each other the good things ahead. Tina began reciting those things to herself in August, when the United States first erected a human shield against Saddam Hussein's aggression in the Persian Gulf.
Good things like Dana, the nanny who Tina and Lorin hired to fix breakfast, braid hair, clean house and mother Tina's brood while she is away.
"I pretty much said to her: `Name your price. You've got my prize possessions. You will be taking the place of me,' " Tina said. "She'll do a good job. The kids love her already. And she's got my kind of personality, off-the-wall and bubbly."
Good things like the expected improvement in Tina's golf game. She took three golf clubs with her when she left for Fort Carson Saturday, planning to drive golf balls through the empty desert hours.
Tina agreed to let the Deseret News share her last day with her family if the paper would stress the happy aspects of Tina's deployment to Saudi Arabia.
"I'm tired of all the gloom and doom I read in the paper and see on the TV," she said.
Anyone meeting Tina realizes immediately that she has a low tolerance for gloom. Her words spill into each other in her rush to get them out. Her vitality - punctuated by frequent laughter - seemed as much the source of the brilliance in the family room as the sunlight streaming through the lace-covered windows.
To hear Tina tell it, her departure was a string of "good things" - two words she used often. She described the bond she felt with members of the 144th - "It's like leaving one family to be with another" - and displayed a gift from friends - "I can't be sad when people are giving me all these presents."
Lorin met Tina 12 years ago during a game of tackle football that got so rough every other woman dropped out. There in the midst of the bumping, banging and bruising, Lorin saw this radiant girl.
"I liked her happiness," Lorin said. A few weeks later when he saw her clean a fish, admiration blossomed into love.
"We looked back and concluded this is probably the first challenge we've had in our married life," Lorin said. "You don't get through life without challenges. I guess it's our time."
"When Mom first told us she was going to leave, we were all really scared," said Nick, 11. "But then we decided we would write each other and send tapes every night so we wouldn't be as scared."
The couple painted the separation as an adventure to the children. Lorin bought a camcorder, tape recorder and a camera. He has already begun capturing the children's antics on film. Lorin will tape two school plays and Christmas for Tina. He will capture for her the day Lindsay is baptized a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the day Nick becomes a deacon in the LDS Church.
The children already have put together a book of cards and letters for their mother and made a tape for her to listen to on her way to Fort Carson.
And Lorin has learned to curl hair.
On the somber side, the couple made out their wills. "It's something you have to think about," Tina said. "We've talked about what if I don't come home. We've planned things out all the way to there. We're ready."
"You hope this is worthwhile. You hope it is necessary," Lorin said, watching Tina play with the children across the room. "But she can leave and be at peace."