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.


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 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.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

This is What It's Like

Plumbago photo used with permission; Carol LaBorde 2011

Little G and I were having a girls' day a few days ago, and she asked me (as she often does) if I could hear the song that was playing in the background in the noisy food court.  Not really, I said, and then I thought I should explain what I DO hear.

What is it like to have a moderate to severe hearing loss?

What would I like people to know?

Well, first of all, yes I do wear hearing aids and they are pretty new and they work very well.  That being said, hearing aids are not like glasses and cannot make a person have "20/20" hearing.  Once there is a hearing loss, it's usually forever.  The sound can be clarified and emphasized and all that-- but the loss is still going to affect hearing in myriad ways.

Second, it's not just a matter of making sound "louder".  I wish it were!  Hearing loss usually affects one's ability to process sound in some way or another, as well as the volume at which certain sounds can be heard.

What this means is that I might hear your voice, but I have no idea what you've said.  And sometimes hearing it again isn't enough.  And that can be embarrassing as heck for me.  I know it's frustrating for those around me.

Some days I just have "bad hearing" days.  It makes me want to retreat and just be in a quiet place.

People might be surprised to hear that loud noises are really hard to cope with-- I think it's because there is so much effort to hear, that my ears are more sensitive and thus more likely to be affected by noise or loud, sharp sounds.

I can only speak for myself.

In the food court, I could hear the following:  Little G talking.  An occasional baby cry.  A slight bit of music coming in and out -- no words, no melody, just a here-and-there (hear-and-there?) "tinkle tinkle la la".  And the ever-present rush-rush-whoosh sound that comes in very noisy environments.

The rush-whoosh also comes in quiet rooms, sometimes-- that is extraordinarily frustrating  in a way I cannot fully describe here.  Quiet rooms seem to bring out the quietest, softest, gentlest voices in people.  Which means I can't hear you.

So this is what it's like-- some days it feels like there is cotton batting in my ears, and the world is muffled and somehow gray.  Those days are exhausting both physically and emotionally-- trying to listen, trying to hear, through that fog wears me out in every way possible.

What I heard a lot of on those days, growing up, was "you should pay better attention" and "listen more".  It's not that simple.

Other days I can hear better, I can understand more, and there is music and laughter and chirping birds.

I wish I could choose which day I'd have, or do something.

Most people can't.

I can only speak for myself, of course.

But that is what it's like.