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.


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.


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.  :)