Saturday, July 30, 2011

A Mother's Job

The other night, I met a lovely young woman. Let’s call her “Grace”. The group of us were talking about some pretty deep subjects, and it was obvious that there was a huge level of trust among us. Grace shared a story that breaks my heart.

Grace and her mother can’t really be in the same space together without arguing and fighting. It sounded pretty ugly, and the details aren’t important here.

Just understand this: a lovely, intelligent, funny young woman told us that, for a long time, she wondered what was wrong… with HER.

I watched through tear-brimmed eyes as she said it, and I truly could not believe my ears. The acoustics in the room were poor, I reasoned. Perhaps I heard that wrong.

How on earth could a daughter believe that she had somehow caused her mother to reject her? So much weight on those shoulders.

As the evening wore on, I got more and more angry at this mother and I didn’t even know her. Perhaps it was because I have my own daughters, and one is preparing to leave home for the first time. I could easily imagine her with a group of friends, at some far-off date, and I prayed right then and there that she would never feel the way Grace obviously felt.

So I’ll say here, what I told Grace last night.

Sweetie, it’s a mother’s job to love her children. It’s her job to protect you. It’s her job to get over herself if that is what it takes. It is her job to seek help if she needs it.

It is not a child’s job to somehow earn that love.

While every parent hopes that there will be a bond that goes bot
h ways, and every parent hopes their children will be true to the amazing potential they see—it’s the parents’ job to love.

Sometimes it’s hard to like our children. Sometimes we have to make that conscious choice that, today, we will smile more and play more and show you more love. Some days it’s a little more difficult than others. Some days it’s a little easier.

But it should never be our children’s job to earn what we should freely give. It is their birthright, their human entitlement, and it makes me so unspeakably sad that so many children go without. And so many adults, young and old, feel they are somehow to blame.

I’m glad Grace has an amazing faith. I’m glad she has a strong church family and many women who surround her with care and guidance and care. But I hope, when the darkness of doubt comes in the deepness of night, that she will remember this:

Grace, it is your mother’s job to love. You are lovable because of who you are, regardless of who she could not be.

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Thursday, July 28, 2011

Five Questions: Soldiers' Angel

My friend Leslie is a former Army spouse, but she still supports the troops in a very concrete way. She is a Soldier's Angel, part of the "volunteer-led 501(c)(3) nonprofit with hundreds of thousands of volunteers providing aid and comfort to the men and women of the United States Army, Marines, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard, veterans and their families", per their website.

Has your Soldier or Airmen or Sailor or Marine ever had a Soldier's Angel? My husband has, and let me tell you, the benefits do not end with the Soldier they support. Just knowing that someone else was sending cards or notes or the occasional care package meant that I could relax a little. I wasn't the only one supporting him. I wasn't the only one who knew he was there.

Leslie has been a member of Soldier’s Angels since 2006, adopting her first soldier in Dec 2006 while her husband was still in the Army. Becoming more active in the organization after her husband left the Army, she became a team leader for their Letter Writing Team, fulfilling the team's purpose of making sure that everyone hears their name at mail call. In September of 2010, she became the Team Admin. She oversees over 6,000 volunteers who are divided among 25 team leaders.

Somewhere in there she writes 3 letters daily to different Soldiers. She acts as a regional representative, getting people involved and doing care package drives.

She wrote to me: "I love every second of what I do, so much that I changed my college major from Forensic Science to Business Management/Public Relations. I’m not a paid member of staff -- all of my work is volunteer."

Many military spouses whose direct bond to the military ends, decide that is the end of it. Many of them go one step further and continue to serve and support the Soldiers they have come to know and love. Leslie, thank you.

Her Five Questions:

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

• Hope for the best and prepare for the worst is my favorite line of all time. At the time we got together he had been in almost 14 years so I was pretty well prepared, but even still it had its challenges.

• DON’T take everything someone says as fact; if it smells fishy it probably is, and don’t be afraid to ask questions just do it in the right way.

• In the Army there is no such thing as fair.

• Happy packers during a PCS are less likely to break your stuff.

• Even when something comes along out of left field and throws all your best laid plans down the drain, take the experience and learn from it!

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

• Educate yourself and get involved! Don’t be afraid to step outside your comfort zone a little. Make new friends, learn about the unit your husband is in, the post you are at, what is available to you etc. Knowledge is power and it pays off to be well armed.

3. What do you love the most?

• I love the bond, even now being on the other side I know that I have that “family” for the rest of my life and I will always have that support and the friendships that I’ve made no matter where life takes me.

4. What do you find the hardest?

• For me it was overcoming a lot of barriers. Having a physical diability like I do is not something commonly dealt with (in the Army). From dealing with educating PCM’s to dealing with housing for accessibility issues, it taught everyone involved something. I think it was because I became more comfortable about opening up to people, and if it helped pave the way for someone in a similar situation then it was worth it.

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

• I don’t really have a story, but all in all I can honestly say that it’s helped me figure out who I really am capable of being and that in some ways it’s okay to open up and just be who I am and not who everyone thinks that I should be.

Do you know a military spouse who might like to be part of Five Question Friday? Are you that spouse? Please send me an email or just drop a comment below. I love to hear from you.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Music for Goodbyes

Each deployment and most long field trainings have had a song.

Bon Jovi’s “You Want to Make a Memory”

Breathe “Hands to Heaven”, where the lyrics are almost more important than the music because they ache.

Richard Marx “Right Here Waiting”, which shows how long we've been saying goodbyes. (Hint-- ignore his hair.)

You get the idea.

So you would think I’d have a song for Sam. She’s not deploying, exactly, just finding her wings. Yet it feels like a deployment. She’s packing lots of stuff, she’s preparing for a place I can’t go, and there is a possibility of danger.

That’s the Mom in me coming out, I guess.

Perhaps Juice Newton’s “Sweetest Thing”. Because it’s true. loving her has been sweetest thing. The lyrics don't quite fit, but the tune of it does.

She’s my first baby, and some days I feel like I grew up with her because I was so young when she was born.

Perhaps “Unborn Heart” because I remember it playing when I heard I was pregnant with her. It's sung from the Dad's perspective but that's okay.

Or some Weird Al song, because so many road trips have been accompanied by his wacky lyrics.

The song “Go the Distance” from Hercules has always been a favorite of hers…

Once Upon a December or Journey to the Past from Anastasia, because she loves that soundtrack.

Sometimes I think my entire adult life revolves around goodbyes of one sort or another.

I should be used to this by now. There are a lot of people who have the idea that being used to something difficult (such as deployments, field duty or even staff duty) means that makes it all better.

Nope, goodbye still sucks.

We always try to say “See you when I see you”. Or “Goodbye for now.” I know other families have their own ways to deal with something so constant.

I imagine in the next couple of days I’ll find that perfect song. And it will play in my head for a month. And perhaps I’ll tear up a little, but I’ll also be so excited for her. She’s going to do great things, I just know it.

By the way, if you have a song that makes you think of “goodbye” or “good luck” or even a parent watching their child grow up—share them, please! Hello songs are also very welcome. You can post them here, in comments, or share them on the new Facebook Page for Passages/Brink.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Five Questions-- Body and Mind (Kat)

Sometimes, in the craziness of military life, spouses will decide big changes are in order. Some go back to school, some repaint whole homes, some seek self-improvement in a search for something that they can control.

Beginning in early December 2010, Katherine W. decided to make some big changes. Since then, she has lost more than 40 pounds and reduced her body fat from 35% (morbidly obese) to 15%.

You can look at her progress on her fan page, which she created to show others that they can do amazing things if they put their minds to it. She has even competed as a body athlete, which requires great focus and dedication.

You can see other amateur and semi-pro athletes on Team Snappy Cow.

All this time, things were incredibly challenging for this military spouse. Her husband had an extremely serious head/neck injury during the training that would have prepared him for his fourth deployment, sending him home early in order to recover. She lovingly refers to him as "Captain Delicious" and says he's epic--

"I mean really, who else heals up so well after a broken neck that he charges back into combat because his soldiers are in danger? The man is captain america incarnate."

"All joking aside though, I'm really not anything special. I had to work around his schedule, around his surgeries, on a single income budget with all these kids running crazy. And if I can do it then anyone else can. And if they don't think they can, send 'em to me and I'll prove them wrong. My whole goal in life changed after this experience and I want nothing more than to show other military spouses and soldiers what amazing things they are capable of. I want them to believe in themselves the way I believe in them."

I think these words make her special. This is the kind of spirit that embodies strong women, and especially strong military spouses. There is so much that we face, so much that we endure, and still there is this indomitable spirit.

Five Questions--

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

* That they can control every aspect of your life.
* Whenever you think, "they can't do that!", remember, yes they can.
* That there is no sadder and horrific sound than the seven gun salute.
* That the support you find in internet groups will sometimes be greater than the support you find from RL (real life) friends.
* That as awful as your PCM (Primary Care Manager) may be, if something happens to your soldier, they'll do everything they can to make sure he or she has the best.

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

Stay away from the commander. I don't care how unfair you think the schedule is, how much your spouse works or how many times he's had duty. Going to the commander will make his life worse and if things are that bad, your spouse knows how to access IG. Don't be "that wife".

3. What do you love the most?

Traveling to new places. Sometimes it seems like you're going someplace horrrible, but you'll find something to love eventually and by the time you PCS, you'll find yourself missing your last base.

4. What do you find the hardest?

Deployments of course. Having your soldier so far away and in danger, knowing there's nothing you can do to protect them and that you have to dig deep to find the person that you are capable of being, because you really do need to be everything to everyone at that point. But you'll find out quickly that your spine is made of steel, that if you cry in the shower your eyes don't puff up, and that you are far handier with a wrench than you ever thought you could be.

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

That sums up military life for me? Wow. During hubby's last deployment, we came down on orders for Fort Polk. We both breathed a big sigh of relief because he was deployed until three months after his report date. They'd have to cancel them and we had nothing to worry about. His dog got sick and he was sent home six weeks before that report date and we had to report after all. Six weeks to PCS from Europe to Louisiana is NOT easy, it was unexpected and disapointing, but we got it done and have had a reasonably positive experience here. Never ever think you know what's gonna happen in the army because it can change in an instant, so be ready for ANYTHING.

Do you know a military spouse with an interesting story or a unique outlook? I always welcome comments, too. Please share this blog (facebook, email, smoke signal) any way you can think of. :) Thank you!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Do you believe?

I believe—

Just yesterday a friend posted a poll that asked “Do you believe in God?” My friend didn’t want to start an argument, and so she asked that people be respectful and simply let her know why they didn’t believe, if they answered no.

I told her yes, I believe. I then asked her if she wanted me to tell her why, even though I answered yes.

She told me to go for it, so here I am.

I believe in God because I’m afraid. To not believe would turn the world into a randomized maelstrom of coincidence. There would be no true purpose, no big picture to see, no abiding hope that even evil and deepest heartache can be used for good. I can’t face that kind of world.

I believe because I’m logical. There is no random group of cells, no happenstance of geology, no accident of space and time that could explain the perfection of a baby’s newborn sleep. Or the Grand Canyon. Or the moon in perfect orbit around our planet.

I believe because I am hopeful. There is a chance for good, and a time for us to see the truth. Each and every person can choose anew to do better – today!

I believe because I am a person who loves my family, and the idea of family. My faith joins me with generations of family and with new generations to come. My faith makes me feel like I’m a part of things that are more important and more lasting than myself. It reaffirms my priorities from a self-centered view to an outward-looking attitude.

I believe because I have a good memory. There have been too many times in my life when I have felt the hands of God carrying me through grief, fear, loneliness and despair. At other times, friends and loved ones have prayed for me or for my family and I have felt those prayers carrying and supporting me as well. To not believe would be to turn my back on those times and call them false.

So there are many reasons I believe. Some may mesh with yours, some may be the very reasons you (or others) give for disbelief.

So what are your reasons? I always welcome comments.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Five Question Friday -- My Independent Friend

My friend Kelly M. is pretty amazing, too. A former Soldier herself, she had a pretty good idea of what she was getting into.

During the time I've known her, Kelly has gone from being kind of quiet and not that involved in Family Readiness activities, to being VERY involved and helping Soldiers and Families alike. This last year she has started selling Avon and grown her business quite nicely.

As her husband's unit is coming home, it's only fair to say "job well done, Kelly."

Here are the Five Questions again.

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

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

3. What do you love the most?

4. What do you find the hardest?

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

1. Tere really wasn't anything that I needed to know that I didn't already, but then again I have always been pretty independent. I had to raise kids as a single parent before. I was in the Army for a lil bit and my ex husband was in the Army. Everything was what I thought it would be.

2. You don't get a choice where you live, the Army's schedule comes first, and you have to be able to be independent cause when they are gone they can't help you. There is a thing called the FRG-- they are there to help you and give you info. There is free counseling and never be ashamed to ask for help.

3. The great people we meet, the pay is better then what he would make at home, the medical benefits because you can't get them that good anywhere else, the places you get to see, the extended family as I call it that you get in Army wives and soldiers.

4. Being alone a lot. Well not so much as alone but he is not there to tell you he loves you or to touch you or cuddle. You're cut off from things that every human needs, affection, physical contact, stuff like that. Also these are hard: work coming first most times, the late work nights, him not being around much for the kids which it hurts me just as much as him cause I am the one that gets to watch them be upset over it.

5. The good, the bad , and the wtf and omg, lol. Too hard to sum army life up. It's always changing. Army life is like a box of chocolates you never know what you're gonna get lmao.

By the way-- Did you know you could follow my blog? Did you know I LOVE to get comments? :) Drop me a line and let me know what you think.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Sisters of Another Sort

There is an unspoken bond among military wives. I don’t know enough military husbands to say the same thing about them, and although it may tick off some people, the fact is that we’ve been around longer.

We share a language of commiseration that few outside our circles would really understand.

• Why Murphy and his law are evil incarnate. (One friend calls it Murphina’s Law because no man has ever given her as much trouble as that bitch has…)

• How to ask that one question that the CO didn’t have an answer for yet.

• How to smile and tell our babies how much they are loved, while we grieve inside for all the missed moments.

• How to be both parents at the same time; it is not like being a single parent, and I wouldn’t wish that on anyone. But it is difficult in its own way, because we must get input from the other parent as if they are there, even at those times when they aren’t.

• How to make any place feel like home, moments after moving in.

And we know how to come together as a disparate group, with differences in personality and background, and bond in amazing and lasting ways.

I count several Army wives among my dearest friends. They are my battle buddies. I am not one to just “let it go” among many people, and yet with these women I can be myself, however that self is feeling that day.

We don’t even have to know each other in real life or be close friends to share that bond, though.

On July 10, a young soldier was severely injured in Afghanistan. A group of Army wives who knew each other online through a community forum started prayer chains for this young Soldier (and for his wife). He was airlifted to Germany, and his wife was trying to get to Germany as fast as she could get there—

And another Army wife, living in Germany, dealing with her own struggles so far from home, stepped up. She went to sit with him until his wife could. She went to lay eyes on him, when only other Soldiers and medical staff had done so. She went to be a spouse, sitting with her Soldier, until that Soldier’s wife could be there.

She said, afterwards, that she drove home saying “thank you, God, thank you” the whole way, because she is so blessed. She knows the truth, that the Soldier in that bed in Germany could be any of our men. That spouse, filled with urgency and love, could be any of us.

She said it wasn’t about her, only about the other wife and her husband.

I am so proud to be a member of this sisterhood. I count myself blessed to know such amazing people. Please, keep Sgt. Joshua Stahl and his wife in your prayers.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Love is a Battlefield

Army wives all seem to share the same story. Not only do we know without a doubt that Murphy (and his horrible law) will visit as soon as our Soldier leaves, but the time leading up to field duty or deployment will be filled with... Arguing. Nitpicking. Tension. Pushing them away a little, or being pushed, so it (supposedly) won't hurt so much when they're gone.

It doesn't work, of course. The house is still just as empty and Murphy still visits. Most spouses realize what is happening and find a way to calm the stress and savor the sweet.

The thing is, the same thing is happening as our first little bird gets ready to fledge, or leave the nest. Last week it seemed Big G and I could do nothing but annoy each other. We were short with each other and even seemed to be looking for reasons to argue.

This unconscious and unfortunate pushing-away made for some tense afternoons. The last thing I'd want to do is have her leave while we are on less than happy terms.

Thankfully, because of countless field rotations and our deployments (and a year where he was in Korea), my G and I figured out what was going on before it got really bad. I apologized to her, and she looked a bit baffled and apologized too.

My hope is that we have more of the positive moments, where we share a giggle or a meeting of the minds. Last night's super-s'mores were a hilarious and tension-relieving mess. Our car-buying excursions have been almost fun because we've remembered that we like each other.

Love can be a battlefield-- but it doesn't always have to be.

PS If you click on the image, it will take you to a page with the song lyrics. I have always enjoyed the song, but never read the lyrics just on their own-- I think they are amazing and they fit what a lot of us have gone through as "the day". Let me know what you think!

Friday, July 8, 2011

Five Question Friday-- First Friend :)

I started thinking the other day about how we all have such similar stories as military spouses, and yet our voices are very different. Our points of view don’t get heard very often, and when they are it can sometimes seem like we only hear the whining spouses or the “omigoodness she’s too good and perfect to be believed” super-spouses.

I’m not a super-spouse and I try really hard not to whine. I know many other wives like myself, and I hope someday to hear more from male spouses as well. I’d like to use my Friday blog to hear a little bit more from these extraordinary people. III Corps Commanding General, Lieutenant General Don Campbell, Jr. said this to a group of incoming Soldiers and spouses the other day: “Soldiers serve and they know what they are getting into. Spouses serve for the love of their Soldier.”

My friend Erica was the first one to answer my query. She is pretty amazing. I first met her when I was working on Fort Hood as an FRSA and she and her husband were in the unit. She was the treasurer for the FRG (which I wouldn’t wish on anyone) and her husband was one of the sweetly smiling young Soldiers who I loved to help the most. They now have two adorable little girls, Erica writes a blog of her own, and I am so glad to be able to say he is home safely from this last deployment.

Here are her Five Answers.

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

-Patience, patience, patience. Your patience will be tested..daily, sometimes hourly.
- Your spouse’s phone will ring at the most annoying of times.
- You can handle things you didn't know you could.
- You are stronger than you think you are.
- Your Army family really does become your family.

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

Have the right attitude. Get involved. Make friends.. They will become your strength during deployment time.

3. What do you love the most?

The closeness of the military community. The pride.

4. What do you find the hardest?

The hardest for me is the loneliness and dealing with things by myself all the time. It takes a toll and can drain a person. It's also very hard for me to hear my 3 year old say daily, hourly, "I miss daddy" when he's deployed. Very emotional.

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

Military life for me is constant deployments. I've done 3 deployments in 6 years. My husband and I got married and 4 months later he deployed for a year in Iraq. He came home and was home for 18 months and we had 1 child (and was pregnant with another) in that time frame then he deployed for a 2nd year in Iraq. Came home and deployed a year later for Afghanistan. We just finished a year in Afghanistan. Those times aren't counting when he's been away for training or work related stuff. In the last 6 1/2 years we've only been together probably 2 1/2 years at best. It's been very hard. We are in the middle of a BRAC move at the moment and we'll only be at this new post for a year before we ETS and move again.

So...What's your story? Do you know a military spouse with a unique view of things? Let me know in the comments box. Thanks!

Monday, July 4, 2011

Desiderata (For Big G)

With all due apologies and credit to Max Ehrmann, I wanted to add my thoughts to his "Desiderata." An aunt gave Big G a copy of the poem (in a book of kitty pictures) after graduation, and the poem has been resonating with me ever since.

So here goes:

Go placidly amid the noise and haste, (Learn to be quiet in chaos)
and remember what peace there may be in silence. (Learn to keep your mouth shut sometimes)

As far as possible without surrender
be on good terms with all persons. (Apologize if need be, but keep to your own truth)
Speak your truth quietly and clearly; (Stand up for yourself)
and listen to others, (Meaning me, especially)
even the dull and the ignorant; (Yes, them too.)
they too have their story.
Avoid loud and aggressive persons,
they are vexations to the spirit. (And hard to have as houseguests.)

If you compare yourself with others, (I think you’re marvelous)
you may become vain or bitter;
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself. (Taller, shorter, fatter, thinner, smarter, dumber…you get the idea. Be yourself.)

Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. (Sometimes the fun is in the dreaming.)
Keep interested in your own career, however humble; (Watch for burnout.)
it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs; (Watch out for debt, yours and the government’s)
for the world is full of trickery. (Read the fine print. Twice.)
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; (You can be a realistic optimist)
many persons strive for high ideals;
and everywhere life is full of heroism. (I love this line—always be on the lookout for good.)

Be yourself.
Especially, do not feign affection. (Don’t pretend to love someone you only care for…but if you really love, love deeply.)
Neither be cynical about love;
for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment
it is as perennial as the grass. (It comes back, it re-grows. Sometimes where you don’t expect it to be.)

Take kindly the counsel of the years, (Listen to your Mother.)
gracefully surrendering the things of youth. (No miniskirts after 35…but this does not mean you can’t enjoy a good silly giggle from time to time.)
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. (If you are strong within, you can handle a lot of stress without.)
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings. (Real life is scary enough.)
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness. (Get some rest and call a friend.)

Beyond a wholesome discipline,
be gentle with yourself. (Don’t be so hard on yourself that you lose sight of joy.)
You are a child of the universe,
no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here. (You have a right to BE.)
And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. (I'm glad I'm not the one who has to figure it out.)

Therefore be at peace with God,
whatever you conceive Him to be, (Or Her. Or Them.)
and whatever your labors and aspirations,
in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul. (Remember to breathe deep and keep some stillness within.)

With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world. (Oh, is it ever…)
Be cheerful.
Strive to be happy. (For that is all I ever wanted for you.)