Saturday, December 31, 2011

2012

2011 has been a pretty big year.

My G has been in school.

My big G graduated high school.

She started college.

Three of my battle buddies welcomed their Soldiers home.  (I even got to be there for one of the homecomings.)

I decided to quit a job that was beginning to cost way more than I was willing to pay.

I started selling Avon.  :)

My little G started middle school.

Dear friends of mine have battled horrendous illness.  There is both celebration and grief in writing that.

Even those things that seemed so hard at the outset, have brought strength, resilience, humor and love into my life.  It's not a bad way to remember a year.  Even as my heart is sore, I feel bolstered by the love of friends.

2012 will be an election year, a leap year, and a deployment year.

Two of those, I think are pretty cool.

This is what I pray for, as we close out 2011 and start anew--

For peace, always.

For friends who are struggling with jobs, with health, with their marriages or their children.

For more bright days than dark.

For more laughter than tears.

For us to see the rainbow, even as the clouds roll in.

For our elected officials to have wisdom, strength...  For our votes in November to really count.

For my G's safety.  Always.

Thank you, God, that I get to welcome in another year.




Friday, December 30, 2011

Well, That Sucked

Just a few days ago, I drove my Big G to her "ride" back to school.  Then I turned around and drove back home.

Far, far too often I find myself driving away from the people I care about the most.  My husband, many times, and now my daughter.

We had a wonderful visit.  Really, really awesome.  Lots of laughter, some good conversations (debates?), some talk about her future.

I think she's missed home, too.  Hugs were tighter.  Smiles bright.

Other moms of kids this age know that the better the visit, the harder it is afterwards.  How still the house is.  How quiet her room.

When she left for school, her dad left at the same time.  So it was kind of neat, just me and Little G in the house.  A difference from the usual TDY or field duty or any other "away".  It hurt, but I didn't feel ripped apart.  Then, by the time my G came home, I was already kind of used to the empty room.  Mostly.

This time... I could hear a tearing sound.  I could feel the shredding. And once again, the highway lines were leading me away from my heart.  It's getting old.

I know she'll do well.  She is an amazing young woman and I am so proud.  But still...This week, my heart has been sore.  Not the broken, ripped-apart mess it was as I drove back home.  But aching.  Perhaps even healing.


Thursday, December 22, 2011

PCS Season

You can generally tell when it's PCS season.  The moving trucks seem to multiply, the curbside loads up with empty boxes.  Depending on who is moving, either your pantry is nearly empty or your fridge gets filled with those last few things that just couldn't be used up.

I currently have two packages of salmon, three biscuit cans, and a container of peppermint whipped cream in my possession.  I will admit to a strange sort of fascination with the odd flotsam and jetsam that turns up during this particular turn of the tide.

One of the toughest things about being a military spouse is saying goodbye.  It seems like we do it on a constant basis.  Goodbye to husbands, goodbye to favorite schools and teachers and doctors...  Goodbye to dear friends.

Sometimes we are really blessed and we wind up stationed together again.

Facebook makes it easier, too, than it used to be-- we can still check in on the daily little details of our friends' lives.

But it still stinks.  The last hard squeeze, the glimpse of a face twisted in grief.  Miserable.

I've done this before.  Growing up, I never moved-- but all of my dearest friends, did.  To this day, I keep in touch with one friend from third grade whom I have not seen in person since we were 11.

I'm good at long-distance.  I guess that was all preparation for an Army life.

But I don't like this part.  It still hurts.

On the other hand, I am so blessed by the friendships I've made, thanks to the Army.  I am thankful beyond measure for what we have shared, for those conversations and those funny little get-togethers that have knitted together our hearts.

I shall miss you.

You know I'll keep in touch.  Not quite stalker-ish, but certainly here for you.

Love you, my friends.



Monday, December 19, 2011

Because There is No Such Thing As Too Much To Read

I've become a blogging addict.  There, I said it.

I like to write, I like to read...perfect.

Over the last few months, I've found so many different fun and funny blogs, so many supportive and beautifully written thoughts...

So I thought I'd share.  Lots of times I find them by looking to see what my favorite bloggers are reading.

It's sort of like looking at a friend's bookshelf and discovering new authors or series.

So here we go (in no particular order)--

Single Dad Laughing

People I Want to Punch In the Throat (violent name, but oh-so-funny and down-to-earth)
Read this post, especially.  :)

Backwoods Mom (I do not know how she does it.)

Nonstop Mom (Her either.)

Free Range Kids

Scary Mommy

The Nitty Gritty Mommy  (I have my own list of texts you don't want to receive.)

 Because Motherhood Sucks (Not really, not all the time, but there are those moments...)

Motherhood WTF (Rude words, yes, but I loved this post.)

Attracted To Shiny Things (I just found her today.)

Underachieving Domestic Goddess (Yep, found her today too. See? Addict.)

There are others, but this includes the group of must-reads as well as some pretty neat new finds.  I hope you enjoy.




Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Tuesday's Ten

1.  I really, really dislike fog.  While it looks absolutely cool, when it comes on a day where I have things planned (eg, driving all over), it is highly irritating.

2.  This is because I do not like to drive in fog.  Especially since half of Texas either forgets their lights or never learned to turn them on in the first place.

3.  The high and low points of my day occurred simultaneously-- having lunch with friends, and saying "see you after your next PCS".

4.  PCS season sucks.  Give me your thoughts on friends moving because my heart is sore right now.

5.  The second-highest point was seeing my Little G at her choir performance.  Giggly kids make the cutest choir groups.  (Once they stop running amok...omigoodness.)

6.  In just a little bit, we get new couches.  Yay!  :)

7.  In just over a week, I get my Big G home for a little while!  Even more YAY!

8.  Big G and Little G AND My G all have finals this week.  I think I'll hide away and go to the movies.  The stress level gets to be a bit much and Big G isn't even HERE.

9.  I am learning that there are a great number of things over which I have absolutely zero control.  Mostly I am okay with this.  Other times, I struggle.

10.  But tomorrow is a new day.

 


Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Jonah



Because I'm wondering where his parents are.

Because I'm wondering where his teachers are.

Because I think he's pretty amazing-- what he writes at the end takes amazing courage and strength.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Christmas Memories

There is something about this time of year that is so wrapped up in years' past, that it almost keeps the current moments from meaning as much.

Music, for example.  I love Christmas carols.  Every year I buy one new album, by favorite artists or compilation albums with songs I hadn't heard before.

Sometimes this backfires-- I learned the song "Susie Snowflake" this year and I think my ears were bleeding by the time she was done.

But I digress.

Every year I also revisit favorites, and it's as though loved ones near and far are with me, no matter where they might actually be at that moment.

I hear "Sleigh Ride", and remember how much my stepsister loved it.

I remember my Big G playing "Oh Holy Night" with the orchestra, and my heart is full.  (I also remember her playing "Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer" for a room full of retirees.  I hear their laughter once more.)

I hear "Jingle Bells," and suddenly I am a teenager again and Jennifer and I are singing loudly and joyfully on the bus, not caring who can hear us.

Even the not-so-dignified carols of the "Twisted Christmas" albums get abundant air time every Christmas, and my Mom and my brother are in my mind and laughing with me.

Every song, every lyric, brings someone I love back into the room with me.  The voices blend, the notes are clearer. Joy is multiplied because the music is shared.

Which songs will have the greatest meaning this year?  Which will be the favorite, the most-played, the newest discovery?   Play on.

If music be the food of love, play on.
William Shakespeare


Monday, November 21, 2011

Tuesday's Ten-- It Costs THAT Much?

Today my head is reeling with dollar signs.  The first few things that happened are all very good things and I am looking forward to some new challenges and experiences.  The others...not so much.

1.  As of today, I'm helping in our local library.  I love books, I love reading, I love helping people.  Great combo.

2.  I have also met the Deputy Commander for My G's group that deploys shortly.  Unless told otherwise by others who haven't weighed in yet, I'm now their newest FRG leader.

3.  What the heck have I gotten myself into...

4.  Funny...throw in some information about ACS, vFRG knowledge, FRG classes I've taken, and it makes me seem very capable.

5.  Still...what the heck have I gotten myself into...

6.  Then I take the car in to have a teeny scratch and dent (about an inch long?) looked at for an estimate.  I'm thinking, at worst, a couple hundred dollars.  The estimate, including our special two-step paint and all labor, is $900.

7.  I'll repeat-- $900.  Really??

8.  In this same day, perhaps we should not have gone to find out how much it will cost to have carpet put into two bedrooms.  300 or so square feet, total.  We're thinking a couple-few hundred dollars there, too, and it looks like a good bet for a Christmas makeover.

9.  That estimate, including free installation and military discount, is over $900 too.

10.  I'll repeat-- $900.  Really??  For two bedrooms?  Insane.


Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Tuesday Ten-- Roller Coaster

What a roller coaster day...  Not a roller coaster with the scary highs and lows and crazy loops.  Just up, down, up, down...

I have been determined to keep my hurting heart focused on joy, today, though it seems I'm feeling this:


1.  Earlier, I learned that a beloved friend and her family are facing the battle of her life.

2.  I have tried to focus on what a blessing she has been to all of us, and to how utterly comical she can make the simplest story.  So if you saw me randomly smiling to myself today, I was either thinking "Lawwwssss" or "chirruns" or thinking about putting blond back where it belonged.

3.  And I was blessed by time with my bff today.

4.  And my older daughter's fever from the weekend broke; she's feeling better.  (Hate it that she's sick there and I can't do a darn thing.)

5.  And I'm only coughing a "little" bit from being sick last week.  Yay!

6.  Then there was a fender bender.   A little one, and it will be fixed, but then there is the rest of the day with that "we are a giant car-target" feeling.  That's never fun for ANYONE.

7.  But we got rain today...I got to drive through a lot of it.  Bliss.  :)

8.  And then I got to donate some much-needed blankets, towels and sheets to our local animal shelter-- check out your local place and see what they need!

9.  Then I got to visit their AMAZING cat room (really, have never seen such an awe-inspiring kitty place).  And I got some kitty love.

10.  My heart is still heavy for a friend.  It still breaks, it still hurts.  But at the end of the day, finding joy in the small things and focusing on the positive is what gives us strength to handle the harder times.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

So-- Why Thank A Spouse?





A friend of mine, also the spouse of an active duty Soldier, clued me in to a discussion about thanking a spouse on Veteran's Day, or any other day.  

On Veteran’s Day, we acknowledge and thank our Veterans and our active duty military members for their service.  Sometimes, I get a “thank you, too!” as a spouse.  It always makes me smile.  Sometimes it catches me off guard, because most of the time I don’t think about it.

But I appreciate the word of thanks.

And I think any spouse of a service member deserves it.

Some disagree—I’m fine with that.  That's their right.  But I’d like to explain why it is important to acknowledge these spouses.

I am the spouse of an active duty Soldier. 

I don’t sleep in a tent.

I don’t carry a gun.

I don’t get multiple vaccinations for God-knows-what.

My life is not going to be on the line.

I am not given orders that I must obey without flinching. 

While my behavior can reflect positively or poorly on my Soldier, I will not get formal reprimands for the people I talk to or the way I look.

So…why thank a spouse?  What do we do?

We’re the ones who help the Soldiers stay focused. 

We bring them back from the brink, when no one else is close enough to see how much they hurt.

We give them something to come back to, a reason to fight in the first place.

We hug them, when the world is so cold.

We keep their finances and their homes and their lives running—so they can focus on staying alive. 

While the average citizen is sleeping comfortably, we are up all night talking to our Soldiers. 

Or simply up all night, praying.  Because there has been a blackout of all communications.

Or up all night, bathing a child who has the stomach flu and only wants their other parent.  

You know, the other parent who is protecting the country.

How is this different from being a single parent?  Well, I addressed that in “Single Mom? Hardly” last month.

But what do we do?  What do we REALLY do, that deserves any credit?  

Let me ask you this—was the Greatest Generation only great because of the sacrifices of our military?  

No.  They were great because our grandparents did what needed to be done to fight that fight and keep things going on the homefront.  At the time, the entire country rallied around, and anyone who could serve—did so with pride.

That’s not the case now.  But I digress.

Those who keep things running so that these Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines will have something worth coming home to, worth fighting for, well—we wage a battle of our own.

We fight against depression, darkness, and the boredom of those who forget that we are still a nation at war.

We fight against the ignorance of those who say “it’s no big deal”.  I’ve heard that “it’s no big deal” that they’re deployed.  I’ve heard that “it’s no big deal,” that I’m just doing a wife’s “duty”. 

To some extent, I agree that it’s a wife’s duty.  I’m just old-fashioned enough to think that yes, I should do whatever it takes to support my husband and keep the house running.

But, lest the rest of the world might forget, we are the ones who remember.  

These men and women are not doing this just to take care of their families.  

They are not doing this for the paycheck.  

They are not doing this for personal gain.  

They are bearing the burden for the rest of the country—and we are helping to make sure they can do continue to do it.

So, yes.  Thank a vet.  And if you know the spouse, tell them “thank you for sharing your Soldier”.   


Friday, November 11, 2011

Veterans' Day-- What to Say?



So, it's Veterans' Day, and I love all of the "thank you" and "honor a vet" kinds of things I'm seeing on Facebook and elsewhere.  I know there are people who don't think once about a Soldier or a vet until this day rolls around, and I know those whose hearts are touched every moment by the true meaning behind being a veteran or current military member.

It's all good.

The free meals, discounts, and other "we appreciate you" gestures that have popped up from certain businesses are nice.  I try not to be cynical and just try to think the best of the businesses that offer them.  But I digress.

My friend Kat is in the beginning stages of setting up an equine therapy program, and she told me that most of the clients will be wounded warriors-- those vets who didn't come home from combat unscathed.  I don't know the details, exactly.  I have heard great things about equine therapy with lots of different groups, and I think that there is a little bit of magic to be made in the saddle.

Somehow, horses don't have to be told what we need.  They don't need to know what to say, what to do, or how to avoid those awkward conversation topics.  They just are.

However, the therapists and handlers are very human.  And, like many people, Kat said she wasn't sure exactly what to say.  Or, perhaps more importantly, what not to say.

We'll start with a little bit of "what to say" to get the ball rolling.  Easy stuff first.

My own beloved Soldier told me "talk about sports".  No politics, no "are we STILL in name-that-distant-country", no hot topics.  

Ask where a Soldier (or family member) has been.  Ask where they're from originally.  Let them know "hey, I've been there!" or "Gee, I always wanted to go."

Talk about  hobbies, talk about interests...heck, just ask them about themselves.  And if they don't seem like they want to open up, let the silence be an easy one.

Let them know if a loved one is in the military, or is/was a vet.  You don't need to get into details, especially difficult ones (no talk of "Uncle Jeff was never the same after Vietnam" or "Grandma really suffered after Grandpa died in the Battle of the Bulge").  If you're proud of their service, great!  But keep it easy, keep it light.

Build some trust.

Going to be working with the military and you're not sure about acronyms?

Look them up.  :)

Want to learn about bases/posts/installations?  This site isn't official but it is a good general overview.

Now that you have the conversation started, here are some tips about what not to say.  Some of these are my own, many are supplied from other spouses.  I am deeply grateful for the spouse of a wounded warrior who gave me some good advice.

Kat, please don't be insulted.  All of these are things people have said to Soldiers and/or spouses.

First and foremost, you do NOT know how they feel.  (Unless, of course, you are also a wounded warrior or a spouse of one.  Even then it's a pretty bald assumption.)

Frequent travel for work is not the same as a deployment.  Being deployed is not "like any other job" and please don't say it is.

I personally don't really care for "I don't know how you handle him being gone so often/so long".  Heck, most of the time I don't know how I handle it either.  Thanks for pointing that out.

Not all military members like to be thanked "for their service."  My Soldier is always touched when a vet pays for his meal, or shakes his hand with a certain "I understand" expression.

But "hey, thanks for your service!" is sometimes awkward.  There is a fine line between appreciating the sacrifice that these men and women make, and sounding like you're saying "thanks for doing it so I don't have to think about it".

Please, don't ever say "you know what you signed up for".  "You knew what the risks were." We are neither psychic nor omniscient.

ASK before you photograph.  My fellow spouse, whose husband was wounded, has said "no photographs".

She has also said that people should ask her husband what happened to him-- it is his story, after all.  Perhaps ask the family members how they're doing.  How are they holding up, how can you help.  But for details on what happened-- ask the Soldier.

And knowing a wounded warrior (your uncle, your niece, your friend from college) is not the same as being married to one.  Not even if it's your own child.  It's nowhere close.

Don't ask intrusive details beyond that which you must know to help them.  If you can't see the wounds, ask if they will need help in some way that you can't predict.  If you can see the wounds, don't assume they are unable to do things for themselves.

Especially don't ask those intrusive details of the spouse or other family member.  If they need to talk, let them take the lead.

I hope this has been helpful.  Let's recognize and honor our Veterans and Service members today-- and all year long.

Need more?  Check out these links.

What not to say/do to the spouse of a deployed soldier.

What not to say to a Soldier's spouse. (I don't agree with all of these but you'd still be surprised what we get told.  I'm told that the original post was on The War Report, which is another interesting site.)

Funny, though snarky...

A bit of the Soldier's perspective.  Especially the comments after the original short post.

This one is haunting...  In memory of SPC Jason Cooper. 







Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Tuesday's Ten-- Just Not Feeling Good


1.  I'd almost rather be actually sick than just "not feeling good".  I don't know if anyone else remembers it, but George Carlin had a set that was all about the difference between being sick and "not feeling good".   No one really sympathizes with the "not feeling good"-- in the back of your mind you kind of feel like they're telling you to suck it up.

2. I do feel better than I did yesterday; at least my throat doesn't hurt any more.

3.  However, now Little G's throat hurts.  Again.  If she still feels like garbage tomorrow I'll keep her home all day and take her to the Dr.

4.  Last year she had strep at least three times.  Yay, us.

5.  When you "just don't feel good," it seems like there is something to prove.  See?  I can still get this stuff done!  Zzzzzz....

6.  I have the best husband in the world.  He set up the couch for me, first thing this morning, so I would crash out and sleep.  :)

7.  I am so glad he's home.

8.  Sometimes I think I forget to tell him that.

9.  Okay, I'm back. Husband is properly kissed and thanked.  :)

10.  In the back of my mind I've been thinking about a little boy named Jasper since early Sunday morning.  Saturday evening, they found him floating in the neighbor's pool and his mom (my cousin) gave him CPR until the medics came.  His first CT scan showed minimal swelling and no obvious damage.

Today, they took out the breathing tube and he is TICKED.  There have been a lot of people praying for this little boy with the chocolate drop eyes-- and now there are prayers of thanksgiving.  He just turned three a little over a week ago...we are all hoping that, not only is he okay, he is the same spunky little boy he was last week.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Five Stages of Deployment-- Acceptance


This is the fifth and last in a series of blogs based on Kubler-Ross’s Five Stages of Grief. These, however, are the Five Stages of a Deployment, or extended TDY, or any time our Soldier is “away”.

The time frame for these may vary depending on the spouse and on the individual couple. For example, when we first got married and I had moved halfway across the country, our first CQ involved all five stages because it happened the first day in our new home. Now, I don’t really do many of these until about the third week, or they pass so quickly it’s a mere bad mood.

Denial
Anger
Bargaining
Depression
Acceptance

I am purposefully not doing the stages in the usual order, because even Kubler-Ross says these stages aren’t necessarily complete or chronological. Each person is unique.

Acceptance:

I've taken the longest to write this particular stage, because I wasn't exactly sure what this looked like.  Is it the "hooah-hooah Army wives rock" kind of feeling?  Is it the "I'm so proud of my Soldier and my country that this is worth it" spirit?

Acceptance is the most difficult stage for me, honestly.  While I try very hard to roll with the changes and the upheaval, and while I remind myself (and others) that this too, shall pass-- it's still very hard for me not to fight against it.  I had a former coworker tell me that I was "contentious" and I think he was right.  I certainly don't like to "settle" when there are things that can be done to improve upon or change a situation. 

So, anyway, reaching acceptance is a hard one for me, especially before a deployment gets started.  I find myself bracing against the changes that I know are coming, and tensing up against the waves of deployment "stuff".   I sort of grit my teeth and grumble, thinking "here we go again".

Then, I remember what the nurses told me when I was pregnant with the girls and was having contractions.  If you think about something else, if you relax the best you can and just let the wave take you, it doesn't hurt so much.  Fighting it, tensing against it, makes it hurt more.

That focus, that ability to accept the wave and just ride with it, is what acceptance is during a deployment.  The pain doesn't go away.  The upheaval is just as intense.  It just means that we are able to go on, despite it.  

We find a new way to be, for that time.  We find our ways to cope and our ways to breathe in, breathe out...  Not the shallow, tight, omigod-this-hurts breathing that comes when we fear something or when it seems unbearable.  That comes when the bus pulls away with our Soldier in it.  It comes occasionally when the doorbell rings and we fear the worst.  That painful breathing comes when the phone doesn't ring when we expected and hoped it would.

But we find a way to relax our hearts.  We find a way to ease our minds and focus on brighter times.  THAT is acceptance.

Sometimes acceptance comes with yellow ribbons and hooah t-shirts.  Sometimes it comes when we finally get around to making that list of things to do "before he goes".   Either way, acceptance is a tremendously difficult, yet sweet, stage of deployment.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Tuesday's Ten-- YAWN



Weekday Halloweens always leave me feeling like I've left part of my brain back in the bed, curled up with the pillow.  A little sluggish, a little "I-don't-wanna", a little out of sorts.  That being said, we had a lot of fun last night.  A mostly even mix of "love this" and "pet peeve button pushed".

I'll start with the pet peeves and end on a high note.  :)

1.  If the light is turned off, don't let your kids go up to the door.  Teach your kids that the light being off means they aren't ready for trick-or-treaters or they don't have candy.

2.  Alternatively, if you aren't going to be home or don't want to hand out candy, TURN OFF THE LIGHTS.  One family at least put a note on the door saying they'd be back after trick-or-treating...but that doesn't seem particularly safe to me.

3.  Especially considering that I saw one teenager turn the doorknob at a house when no one answered the door.  Yikes!  (It was obviously NOT his house.)

4.  Please don't let your kids run across everyone's yards.  I know there are some here who haven't mowed in a long time and some others who have never cared-- but it's not up to you to decide if the lawn is nice enough for your 6 kids to trek through.

High note:

5.  Halloween costumes have a way of bringing out whimsy in people where you'd never have suspected it.  I saw a Tinkerbell in Walmart who, I'm pretty sure, is probably a non-nonsense front-desk receptionist type the rest of the year.  Her bright green shoes and sparkly wings were delightful.

6.  It was absolutely gorgeous weather.  Lots of families sat outside with their candy bowls.

7.  Little G looked beautiful last night.  She didn't want to smile for the camera but I got some pretty funny expressions on her face.  I also caught one photo of her as the sun blazed onto her hair, and the very grown-up way she held herself.

8.  Little G also got good candy.  :)  And not one single orange- or black-wrapped peanut butter taffy thing.   Yes, I know some people like those.

9.  Big G and I had a pretty nice text conversation last night, too.

10.  And the Chiefs, My G's team, won their game in Overtime.  :)


Friday, October 28, 2011

What Happened?

I hope to be back soon with another Five Question Friday-- if anyone wants to take part, I hope you'll drop me a line in comments and I'll let you know how to participate and share your Five Questions.  If you have questions about the military, or about being a military spouse, feel free to post those as well.

In the meantime, today's post--



What Happened?


She looked familiar,walking across the parking lot. The two women with her, sniping at each other and all but ignoring her-- could those be her daughters?  Really, how could that be her?

She seemed so much older. Even allowing for the intervening years I would have vastly overestimated her true age.

I'll admit...I did not stop. I did not put a hand to her shoulder and say her name. I did not, on a day when it was obvious the years had been kind to me, want her to see pity or sadness in my eyes when I looked at her. 

What happened, between then and now, that brought her pain enough to only shuffle as she walked? 

What happened, to etch those lines on her face? Her shoulders bent, her pallor not only from the gray outdoors... 

What happened?

I know, when we worked together, that her husband was nearing retirement from the Army.  I know he had one more deployment to finish, then he would PCS to another location for a year and then they could be a family again.  Together.

I know she waited for that day.  I also know she was nervous about it.  Nervous about him getting a job after retirement.  Nervous about learning to be a family again.  There are so many factors that go into creating a new life after deployments.  There are millions more that pop up after a Soldier retires.

So again, I wonder tonight.  What happened?  Did he come home safe?  How is her son?  Are they a family again?   I say a prayer for her-- for her health to improve, for her daughters to respect the mother I know she has always tried to be, and for her Soldier.  

Whatever happens.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Tuesday's Ten: Ending with Laughter



1. I started this morning editing Glenn's paper for school. I have found it nearly impossible to concentrate on this if anything else is going on.  Makes it hard to do this.

2.  Also makes it hard to do editing, too.  And that one is a paid job!  At least I'm 2/3 of the way through that piece.

3.  Chocolate makes most everything better.  Especially when shared with a friend.

4.  Lunch can be really delicious when we stick to the basics-- PB, banana, and chips.  :)

5.  I am a craft store addict.  But who could resist those little inks?  Or stamps?  Or an idea book?

6.  My name is Casey and I'm a craft store addict.  Sigh.

7.  Texas can be beautiful in the fall.  Breezy, not windy, cool(ish), bright sun.  Ahhhh.

8.  I hate it when my little G comes home from school and has had a disagreement with friends.  I hope I can help her with it.

9.  Have you seen the Subaru commercial where the dad is talking to a little bitty girl who is sitting in the drivers' seat?  And when he gets up, the girl is a teenage driver?  That commercial makes me cry every single time.  It really is like that.

10.  Ending the day with watching "Monsters Inc" is just about perfect.  Especially sharing it with hubby.  And loving our own "Boo".






Saturday, October 22, 2011

Senior Year-- for Tabatha

Dear Tabatha,

I've been reading your posts about your son's Senior year of high school, and I keep thinking back to last year when we went through some of this, too.

You mentioned he wants to go "away" to school-- in the same state, but perhaps not where you can see him every day or even every week.  I know you've joked that you're going to move there with him.

I know it's hard.

So I wanted to share some thoughts with you.  I hope you don't mind, and I hope they help.

Senior year is not just about him stretching those wings and joyously embracing the possibility of a life where he begins to make those important choices on his own.  This is also your time to begin to adjust.  You start thinking about those first moments when he won't be there, where before he was always close by and participating with family.  Things like first days of school, holidays, and even his first birthday where you can't hug him.

Catch your breath, hon.  I know it's stuck somewhere in your chest and I know these thoughts hurt.

Senior year is when you make the most out of all of these moments, without squashing him.  Take your photos, get your brief hugs, be the proud Mama I know you are.

Do.Not.Cry.

Crying is for later, or for when he can't see you and you have the chance to see him at a distance.  Wear waterproof mascara and carry eye drops.  Smile. Be Proud.  But do not lay upon him the pressure of a Mama who is coming apart.

Be strong.  I know what you've been through the last few years, and this must feel like one more hurdle and painful reminder of years' passing.  This is a time for joy, though-- you and your husband have raised an amazing kid, one who is fully capable of making those choices and reaching those goals.  This is a time for you to SHINE, because you know how far he's come from that little kindergartner or preschooler on the very first day of school.

Be proud.  Be joyous.  Cry later.

Love you, my friend.


Friday, October 21, 2011

Five Question Friday-- Semper Gumby




I have been fortunate to meet many amazing and supportive women since My G and I got married.  The first few ladies were both wives of senior NCO's and I remember feeling like they had swooped over to (almost) literally tuck me under their wings and explain Army life to me.  They were singularly dedicated to their Soldiers, yet they could also be pragmatic and very straightforward about Army life.  They gave me some advice, and then they left me alone to find out for myself what I needed to do to succeed as an Army wife.

Stephanie has always reminded me of these women.  I met Stephanie because she does predeployment and reintegration training and preparation for Army Community Service.  Her job is to give young spouses and young Soldiers (and some not-so-young ones too) the tools they need to successfully get through deployments and then to create a new "normal" once they are home.  She is also a Master Trainer, which in layman's terms means that she teaches others, how to teach like she does.  

Did I mention I've learned a lot from her?

Stephanie's predeployment talks were legendary by the time my husband returned home from his second deployment.  She would talk, with frank humor and perfect phrasing, about such things as getting the motor running after a long time in the garage-- sometimes welcoming a Soldier home after a deployment is not the wine-and-candles romance it seems, and she wanted wives to understand that physical and emotional intimacy may take time.  My battle buddies and I were tired from laughing so hard by the time she finished.

I can't talk about Stephanie, though, without talking about her Soldier.  I wish I could have met him.  Her love and respect for him is so obvious, and she is such a strong person, that I can only imagine what an amazing team they made.  It's not my story to tell, about this dedicated retired Soldier, husband, and father and the life that ended too soon.  It's a story you can read in her book, Once in a Wifetime, which I recommend to all spouses.  But I can tell you that his effect lives on in her humor and strength and example for all of us.

Stephanie, I don't know if you read my blog.  I'd love it if you did.  But I wanted to say "thank you" for all the times I've seen you pick yourself up after ridiculously long days.  "Thank you" for the example you've set for all Army spouses, of strength and humor and dedication.  And "thank you," especially, for those times when you were a friendly smile when I needed it most, or when you allowed me to be that smiling presence for you. 

I'm honored that you answered my questions.

1. What are some things you know now about military life that you wish someone had told you? 

I thought being a veteran prepared me for anything - especially being a military wife, but that was so far from the truth! Nothing prepares you for the changes and challenges you face as the wife of a Soldier except being the wife of a Soldier.

2. What is the most important thing you'd like to tell new spouses?

Don't take the hard times personally - they are not meant that way, even if they come across that way. They are the challenges you face while building something truly amazing!

3. What do you love the most?

The thing I love the most is being part of an elite group of strong, resilient and amazing women who face challenges on a daily basis that would make mere mortal women run and hide.

4. What do you find the hardest?

What is the hardest part? Sometimes it's realizing that you are not priority number 1 when you really want to be and knowing that it will be that way ----a lot. The job, the kids, the house, the bills, the dog even, may all come before you because he/she knows that no matter where you come in line, you will always be there and that someday, maybe after retirement, you will be number 1 again.

5. Tell me a story that sums up military life for you.

My favorite story about my Soldier - hard to pick just one - so many - some funny, some sad, some noble, some not so... but I have to say that my favorite is not about his time with me, but his time with our daughter. Watching this hard as nails, tougher than concrete Infantryman, laying on the floor in a tent fortress made of sheets, pillows and couch cushions, watching My Little Pony (or some other children's video) while dining on oreos and milk with his favorite little girl. This was their "COOM" time (camping out with oreos and milk). 

Mom was not invited to attend or spend the night - I was curled up in bed with a book or sat at my computer working on my own book, while two of the most precious people in my life spent a special night together, making one of their very precious memories. In theory it is their memory, but the laughter, the giggles, the smiles on their faces at the special memory shared - that's a memory, a treasure that I will have forever.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Tuesday's Ten: Things That Amuse Me



Today has been a really, truly good day.  Sure it was WINDY, but I have smiled so much today that it feels like my face may just freeze like this.

So, what tickles me today?

1.  It was interesting going to a house party where there were so many little bitties (kiddos around and under age 2).  It's been a long time since Little G was that little, and even my work in the MOPS nursery happened a long time ago.  How can such little bodies hold so much energy?

2.  The fact that my degree is a b.s. still makes me smile, 12 years after completing it.

3.  The expression on my cats' faces when they know they've screwed up, yet are unwilling to admit that running full tilt on tile with furry feet is not too smart.

4.  The fact that we can now submit cash (paper money) straight into an ATM for deposit.  How cool is THAT?

5.  My older daughter and my brother share an interest in Japanese.

6.  My younger daughter's fish is named "Peeve".

7.  Little G's tooth came out today, and she had no idea it was even loose.  The bracket and wire from her braces, however, kept it in her mouth.  Swing, swing.  Gross, yet hilarious because SHE thought it was.  :)  She said she was glad her choir teacher didn't think she had gum in her mouth.

8.  My G to Little G (joking):  Looks like you're failing your etiquette class.  Little G: It's   a good thing I don't have any, then!  My G: What?  Etiquette, or class?    (I have permission from both of them to publish this zinger.)

9.  There are people who won't get why it's funny that her fish is named Peeve.   :)

10.  I love a day when I get to text people I love.  Or call them.  Or email... Or, for some, just tell them right here-- thank you.  I appreciate that you've read this far, that you took your time for my ramblings.  Let me know in comments if you stop in.  :)  There are so many ways to reach out.  It amuses me because I'm a communicator and the fact that there are so many choices makes me smile, every time.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Beautiful in My Eyes

This post is for my two G's-- Big and Little.

The G stands for "girl", by the way-- it's not really their initial.

You are beautiful.

Your smile, from the first moment I ever saw it, just lights up my world.  You both smiled early and often as babies.  Now that you are growing up, of course your smiles have changed.  You have changed.

But you are beautiful.

I know sometimes you fret about your hair.  Or your skin.  Or your height.

Don't you see the intelligence in those bright eyes?

Don't you see the wit in the grin?

Sometimes, when you look at me, you literally steal my breath.  Poof-- it's gone.  And I'm left wondering how on earth we are so blessed.

When you were both infants and toddlers, I used to love to play with your hands and feet.  I marveled at the teeny nails and the little lines across your knuckles.

Little G, you obviously had my feet.  And even when you were really little, we called you Mini Me because you have my expressions and sometimes my way of speaking.

And Big G, your bird-like bone structure was so much like your Great Grandma that it was no wonder she smiled every time you walked into the room during visits.  Those long fingers were made for the music and crafts you love.

Those hands and feet have changed, of course, but sometimes I still find myself marveling.  I don't know if every mother reflects, 19 years later, on the miracle that happens when those two cells come together.  I do.  And I marvel that it happened twice for us.

Next week is Big G's birthday.  Since My G is a Soldier, he has unfortunately missed his share of her birthdays.  I know it kills him every time, but it's also part and parcel of the whole Soldier gig.

But this is my first one to miss.  And it's going to tear me up.

I am so fortunate that Big G is living with family while she is beginning college, because I got a first-day-of-school smile (ok, I got a scowl...still gorgeous).  I will ask for a birthday picture.

And I will look over at Little G and see her braces twinkle and her eyes sparkle.  And I will give her extra hugs because I understand now what I didn't before.

Every child is uniquely beautiful to the mother who loves them.  And to the God who made them.

And every.single.day is precious beyond measure.

Beautiful In My Eyes-- Joshua Kadison



Friday, October 14, 2011

Five Question Friday-- Me, Myself, and I

Well, it's Friday, and I always try to have a military spouse/veteran's spouse/retiree's spouse check in.


But I didn't have any new answers for my questions.  I've tried, but I know people are busy and maybe they're tired of this idea.  I don't know.  The Internet goes fast.


But I thought I'd do at LEAST one more-- and answer the questions myself.



1. What are five things you know now about military life that you wish someone had told you?

 Everyone was right about what Army life would be like. 

    Everyone was also wrong.  

    My Army family can sometimes be more important, or at least more understanding of what I’m going through, than my “family”.  

    I never realized how strong I can be.  

    And I wish someone had told me how precious each of these days is.  Even the first little crappy place we lived, in memory, is a mansion because that's where we started out.

  2. What is the most important thing you'd like to tell new  spouses? 

       GET INVOLVED.  Not necessarily on post (although that is good and can be a lifesaver), but getting involved in something outside yourself, outside your Soldier, and outside your little family can be absolutely crucial when he is in the field or training or (especially), deployed.

   3.   What do you love the most?


    I love that I “get it”—I love that the Army terms, routines, rituals, rites, and the whole patriotic mess mean more to me because I understand it and I have been blessed to live it. 

   4. What do you find the hardest?


    The sheer unpredictability of the military makes me absolutely nuts sometimes.  Joy and grief and maybes and probably-won't's and the dreaded "should"...this roller coaster is not for the faint of heart.

   5.   A story:  


    We got married in between my classes ending and finals beginning, during “dead day” at the University of Arizona.  We had two days together as a little honeymoon, and he flew back to Kansas on Mother’s Day.  I began finals the day after.  During the regular semester, I had one name.  For finals, I had another.  It would be nearly two full months before we’d see each other again, after he had finished NTC and found us a home.  I learned to drive, packed up my life, and copied down all of his mother’s recipes.  J  This all seems so old-fashioned to me now, but something tells me spouses still get married like this sometimes and will have their own “on their own” stories to tell.  




   I'd really love to hear from you.  What story do you have to share about just starting military life?  Or life in general?  Leave me a comment.  Or two.  :)

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Tuesday's Ten


Some days are good and difficult all at once.  Kind of a rock-back-and-forth, up-and-down roller coaster.  Fortunately, there were more "good" things than bad.


1.  I love mornings when I get a good hour or so in a quiet house, all by myself.  I love being around people, and I love talking/chatting/visiting, but on days when I can be by myself for a little bit, I have a better day overall.


2.  I went on Post to get the ACS home vendor packet (finally) and wow...  They practically want a sample of your blood!


3.  However, I was able to chat with three people about different things and found out more places to do events and sell great products.  :)


4.  I really should have had a bigger lunch...  My schedule is still so off-kilter that some days I lose all track of mealtimes.  I eat when I'm hungry but sometimes I don't eat enough or I eat at the wrong times and it usually catches up to me in the evening.


5.  For a job application, I had to take a typing test.  Now, I took typing in high school as a freshman.  Mom insisted (and thank goodness she did).  I'm fast on the backspace, but I've never thought of myself as a particularly fast typist.  That being said, apparently I remember more about touch typing than I thought.  I thought I'd do well, but I was stunned to get 75 words per minute.  Happy, happy...still on a high from that one.


6.  My little G is in a tired/rotten/grumpy mood.  Is this what I have to look forward to every day she's not 100% through her teen years??   I know what things were like with my Big G, but omigoodness this isn't going to be fun.


7.  That being said, her concert last night was great and I love to see her face light up like that.


8.  I also got to talk to my Mom today, which almost always makes me smile.   I told her thank you for making me take that typing class.


9.  My G got orders today, officially putting him on the manifest for next year.  I'm trying to tell myself it's a different deployment.  It's a different situation.  It's shorter-- I can do this in my sleep because, after all, I've done 15 months.  Cakewalk.  (Remember the "denial" stage I mentioned in an earlier post?)


10.  I'm determined to end this on a positive note.  There are a few clouds in the sky and the temperature is cooler and wonderful.  Chances of rain are improving, or so the weatherman says, so I am holding to that one thing that keeps me going most of my life:  Hope.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Five Questions-- Let Me Introduce You



My friend Maggie doesn't know this, but there was a time when her friendship kept me from going over a pretty dark cliff.  She, and others, helped me realize that the issue at hand wasn't something I could change or fix, and that I was still strong and worthy and "okay".  

I worked with her husband and I remember when their family came to the unit-- it was like a light had gone on in a room that hadn't seemed dark.  Their precious little boys, their love for those precious little boys, and their love for each other made the rest of the world brighter.

So here you go-- I'm glad you get to meet my friend Maggie.

1. What are five things you know now about military life that you wish someone had told you?

Sometimes things happen for a reason and God’s ways are not our ways and sometimes He uses Uncle Sugar’s employees to demonstrate that.

Sometimes there is no good reason for the way things happen with the military and you’ll be a lot happier if you just go with the flow.

Don’t fret too much about the friends you will be leaving at one duty station because chances are you’ll meet up again at another duty station. A lot of times goodbye is just for a little bit. 

Be FLEXIBLE!!! Getting wrapped around the axle about something you and your spouse are powerless to change is a total waste of energy.
Although it will be hard, sad, lonely etc., it will also be the BEST time of your life.

2. What is the most important thing you'd like to tell new spouses? 

Do yourself a favor and keep busy with something positive. Get an education, volunteer, engage in healthy hobbies, and surround yourself with others who are like-minded. There is plenty of opportunity to wallow in misery and fall in with bad company. Just don’t!!

3. What do you love the most? 

The opportunity to meet new people at every duty station; variety is the spice of life right? I have had the privilege of meeting some of the most amazing people ever, thanks to military life.

4. What do you find the hardest?

Military funerals, even if the deceased was someone you only new causally or by association. Not a single day passes by that I don’t think of our dear friends that paid the ultimate price for freedom.

5. Tell me a story that sums up military life for you. 

I went to my first duty station absolutely bitter because I was not going where I wanted to go and I was not going to be doing the job that I wanted to be doing either. The only bright spot or so it seemed at the time was that a friend from basic training was already there. (We’re still friends to this very day.) 

I got to my first unit and discovered that it wasn’t so bad after all. I made friends quickly AND I enjoyed the job after all!! My boss, to whom I shall be forever grateful, introduced me to my wonderful husband. If that wasn’t good enough, I got the kind of friends that last a life time and I keep making more with every new duty station.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Single Mom? Hardly




Since beginning this blog, I've had the fortune of coming across a lot of very talented writers and some pretty amazing blogs.  Single Dad Laughing, Free Range Kids , and others have enriched my life in ways I could never have imagined.  I've read about parents who have had to make agonizing decisions regarding life and death, I've read about giant metal chickens, and I've laughed and cried and ranted a little bit as I have read.

I have, of course, shared.  :)

This blog, titled "Non Stop Mom" is one that has stuck with me a while and I have wanted to write my response to her post for several weeks now.  She writes passionately about the difference between her situation and single parenthood, and to some extent we agree.

Military spouses whose Soldiers (Airmen, Sailors, Marines) are "away" are not single parents.

Now, while I encourage people to avoid playing the "I had it worse" game with their spouses and to try to remember that it gets you nowhere-- I'm going to dive in to this discussion a little bit here.

Because I don't think she gets it.

I agree that if we have a spouse, we are not single parents.  (There are, however, MANY single parent Soldiers out there.  That's a whole other situation.)

I agree that if our spouse can eventually step back into the role of Dad/Mom/Wife/Husband/Partner, we are not single parents.

My problem with her words is that she lumps together situations like "my spouse is sick so I'm a single dad for a while" or "my spouse works long hours so I'm a single mom during the week" with "my spouse is deployed".

Not the same thing.

Not even close.

I have friends whose husbands go away a lot for work.  Sometimes they go away once a year for a big trip, and sometimes they go away a lot by choice for other reasons.  I can sympathize with them because I believe it can be harder to pull 100% of the adult role when you aren't used to it.  I hope I am usefully supportive of them.

I have very dear friends who are single moms.  Every.Single.Day.  Even if the dad is in the picture, the role of parent isn't shared and I'm sure they can read the above blog post and identify.  They are truly doing it on their own.  Even worse, many single parents have to deal with former "other halves" who argue and postpone and question every little thing they do with and for about about their children.

I would not want to be in their shoes.  Somehow I doubt they'd like to be in mine.

I am not saying that spouses of deployed Soldiers are "single parents" and I'm not saying which situation is harder.  I haven't been in one set of shoes, and I've worn the other more than I'd care to.

They are just different.  They are both difficult.

When our Soldiers are deployed, we are Mom and Dad all rolled into one.  Except that eventually, Dad is going to come home and expect his kids to have been raised according to his wishes.

When our Soldiers are deployed, we are also Wife and Husband all rolled into one-- we mow the grass, we pay the bills, we take the pets to the vet and we keep the house from falling down around our ears.   Except that eventually, Husband will come home and expect (hope?) to find his truck and his ratty t-shirts and his comfy couch.  Sure we can (and do) make changes, but most of us make these changes with our spouse in mind.

When someone is truly a single parent, they probably don't fear for their other half's life.  They do not have nightmares, generally, about knocks on the door or the phone ringing-- they do not avoid CNN.

The target they imagine on their former partner's back may be something they fantasize about if the split was acrimonious.  Not that I've heard any such thing from anyone before.

So, please-- know that we are not "single parents" if our spouse is deployed.  And I, for one, will remember that I am not a "single parent" if he's just out of town for a little while.