Saturday, July 28, 2012

The Roller Coaster

This deployment is so close to being done with that we are all just waiting for updates and news and itineraries.  That's a very good place to be, when it comes to deployments, so why am I not giddy with joy?

Something that very seldom gets mentioned, among the "Coming Home" episodes and news clips of sobbing little girls surprised by Daddy Soldiers, is that the week before they get home and the week after they are actually home can be among the roughest in the entire deployment.  These days leading up to the homecoming are among the most stress-filled, sleepless, anxiety- and giddiness-filled moments you could imagine.

It's truly an emotional roller coaster.

Don't get me wrong-- in a healthy family, the over-arching feeling is one of happiness that it's all going to be over and the Soldier will return home soon. In a healthy family, we are SO glad to be together again.

But "together", after great tumult, comes at a cost. There is so much that has been missed, and so much that can change in even a shorter deployment. It's gotten better now that we have such vast digital communication resources available to us, but Skype and email and Facebook chats can't make up for simply being with the other person.  Sharing the couch with them and discussing a TV show. Riding next to them in the car, "Oh, I love this song!" Or simply doing chores together. Raising our girls together.

The days before a homecoming are like those moments when you are all dressed up for a big, important, life-changing date. Giddy, happy, full of nerves... Dressing up and wanting to put your best self forward. Not only are we still the amazing person that the Solder left, but we have conquered a lot and look how strong we are! Every homecoming feels like a turning point.

Homecoming is the date, of course, but the days and even weeks (and sometimes months) after that are an adjustment period similar to having a brand-new relationship.  We are both used to having our own space and making our own decisions, independent of the other.  Over the years, we have gotten better at these adjustments but they still stink.

And every deployment, even every "away," is different. Every adjustment is unique.  Which really explains why this last week is such a roller coaster. We've done this often enough to know that some adjustments are easy. And some are decidedly not. Some of this depends on what we have individually been through during the deployment, and some of it feels like some fateful, star-aligning, algorithmic mess. In other words, it feels totally random.

I don't like random, unless it pertains to acts of kindness.

So, we are finding ways to relax and unwind while we wait. We clear our minds, we pray, we use cleaning as some sort of ritualized dumping out.

And we make room for joy.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

To Do versus Honey Do

Let me begin by saying that there must be some sort of Army rule.  Within weeks/days/"soon" of the Soldier coming home, someone must get sick.  At least this seems to be the rule in our house.  First deployment?  Our kitchen sink looked like a pharmacy, there were so many medications stacked around it.  Turns out, two of the kids had mono.  Whee.  This time, Little G is on meds for strep when I started feeling wiped out and the throat kicked in.  Yay.

So we are going a little slow.  And some things might not get done.  And I'm trying very hard not to get upset about that.

I'm also trying not to put things on My G's "Honey Do" list, that I can and should be able to get done myself.  I don't think it's fair for him to get home to a long list of stuff that needs to be done, especially if the odds are good that he'll only be with us for a short time.  He should have down time; he's had none at home for months.

Here are things I would love for him to do, but I hesitate to dump on him--

  • Put the blankets back up in the closet in his special "linen Tetris"
  • Re-hang the myriad weird tools that took a flying leap two months ago, narrowly     missing his car
  • Move the couches so I can really do the floor 
  • Help me trim the star jasmine which is getting out of control again
  • Fix the mower (and the shed door, which has remained closed after it took two of us and half an hour to close it)

These are all things I'm sure he'd do willingly.  They are also things that I can probably figure out how to do this week before he's home, energy allowing.  This list is where my true frustration comes in, regarding illness.

Here is my usual "To Do" just before homecoming--

  • Clean kitchen
  • Vacuum entire house
  • Clean linens everywhere
  • Get my crap off his side of the sink...actually put some stuff away
  • Make sure lawn is mowed (lawn guy comes tomorrow!)
  • Make tea
  • Take care of catboxes 

The problem with this list isn't that any of it is difficult.  It's that I want to make the house fresh and inviting when he's finally here.  And I have absolutely zero energy right now, plus three scheduled appointments and meetings next week, including a job interview.

So, here is a revised list for both of us:

  • Give lots of hugs
  • Talk, face-to-face
  • Yeah, ok, nookie (well??)
  • Someone else to come up with dinner ideas
  • Bring back more laughter (we laugh more when he's home)
  • Someone else to pet his cat
  • Go for walks
  • Be thankful
I think that last list is a whole lot more realistic and manageable.  The other things?  Some will get done, some won't.  And it will all be okay, as soon as he walks through that door.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The Problem With Homecoming (Is Me)

Soonish, Soonish...

I am getting to the restless, making-lists, cleaning-up stage of the deployment, and so far we are all weathering the last few weeks pretty well.  One cat has decided he's going crazy, one kid has's all good.

Let me be clear, though, that as amazing as homecoming is, it is not perfect.  It is not all flags and yellow ribbons and pretty little girls in special dresses.  It is not all perfect makeup, handmade signs and big teary smiles.

Homecoming is an event.  A single day, a few moments, of just about perfect joy.  What it leads to, though, is a process of adjustment and getting-to-know-you and finding that "new normal".  (One memorable homecoming, even the joy was dampened by the fact that all three of his girls were very ill in the week leading up to that day.  Our kitchen looked like a pharmacy.)

What makes these last weeks all the more difficult for me is that, even as plans are being made for him to come home, we are already talking about the next time he'll be gone. This is before we've even gotten used to sharing our space again!  We're discussing school for this (6-8 weeks), school for that (another 6, and during my birthday month)... We talk about the possibility of getting orders, and moving shortly after he's home.  We talk about all the little things that need to be done once he's home.

It is so hard to throw myself fully into the "OH MY GOSH HE'S COMING HOME" feeling of joy, when I know how short the time is when I'll have him.  I'm already split in two, counting the moments until he's home while I cherish the moments until he must leave us again.

In our marriage, there has never been a time when I knew he'd be home "for good".  There is no such thing.  Even in the relatively calm pre-9/11 world, there were CQ duties, NTC, STX, field time, school...   You get the idea, I'm sure.  I have civilian-world friends who always have their husbands there for school meetings, recitals, birthdays, anniversaries-- and I wonder what that is like.  I envy them the worry and exhaustion they feel when their husbands have to leave for short times, because I know that this feeling is only due to the fact that these moments are so few and far between.

Even during calm months, as any military spouse knows, duty comes at the worst possible time.  We pride ourselves on "semper gumby", remaining flexible at all times and knowing that PLANS CHANGE.

So, during homecoming preparation, I am having to put myself back on course, over and over.  Focus on him being home.  Focus on him being HERE.  Focus on the warmth in the home and the shared laughter and the shared weight of home.  Focus.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

The Rubber Room Resort

Sometimes life makes us a little crazy.  I would say "military life" except that this is the only life I've known as an adult.  I don't know any other way besides having him gone frequently, sometimes for long months at a time with only a brief respite in the middle.  I don't know any other health care program except Tricare, and I've never known a time when he could consistently make every parent-teacher meeting or concert.  I don't know any other form of "crazy," so I can't say if this is more or less nuts than what others deal with.

Such is our life.

Lately, though, change has been heaped upon us; our cup overflows with adjustments.  A child heads to college, my husband heads out for a temporary duty for two months-- Little G and I adjust to rattling around and occasionally bouncing off each other in a house built for four.  Husband comes back, time for a Christmas visit with a now-adult.  Husband deploys.  Child moves back home for the summer and so she can change school.
Thanks to Kelly for the phrase "Rubber Room Resort".
Photo from Cassy at Deviant Art.

Now it's time for the husband to come back home.  It will be four of us again.  Except, not quite.  Just as we get used to THAT, and have figured out the two-spouse, two-parent, one-kid and one-adult-child thing-- he will be off to school for several weeks.

Hence, the Rubber Room Resort.  I am in serious need of a break from this.  I'm not just riding a roller coaster, I'm changing cars in the middle of it and sometimes it seems I've even changed rides.

I'm not alone.

I have a sweet friend who recently said she was getting irritated with herself because she was an emotional mess.  She's getting very close to being able to hold her husband again, as he finishes Basic Training.  She is so new to this life, they both are, and I keep wanting to tell her-- go easy on yourself, hon.  She will face moving, job changes, life changes-- it's okay to let it out.

There is so much emotion, even for good things, when life changes. She's dedicated to her husband, to this new life of theirs, and she can't wait to be with him again.  But it is still going to be a huge adjustment, and she knows this.  It builds up over time and somehow it has to be released.  A good cry hurts no one.  The need to be alone, done responsibly, hurts no one.  

I read a pretty funny blogger, who recently wrote that she needs a vacation.  From her life.  She wrote that there have been some pretty big changes recently (doing a lot more writing, things got super-busy with work, she works from home and her kids are getting older but not quite independent)-- some simple time ALONE sounds pretty heavenly, yet not quite within her reach.  I was nodding my head, agreeing with her that I'd be going nuts in that situation, too-- until she said she was feeling guilty.

I think feeling guilty about needing a break, or about feeling an overflow of emotion, or for being human and asking for help-- I think it's a waste of time.  I can't and won't beat myself up for a dedicated five minutes to myself.  Or insisting on privacy.  If, in the course of the day, I hurt someone's feelings by being too abrupt or if something important gets forgotten-- I will apologize.  And I will try to do better.

There is just too precious little time to spend feeling guilty or kicking myself.  I have a house to clean and a homecoming outfit to buy.  And no time to spend at the Rubber Room Resort.

Thursday, July 12, 2012


I've been thinking a lot about friendship lately.  Some of it is because I have truly amazing, supportive friends.  Some of it is because friendship, like everything else, evolves and grows and adjusts over time.

I had a friend several years ago who I met in the bus line, waiting for Big G to board and go to school.  We hit it off immediately, and talked all the way back to our houses.  We lived pretty close to each other, and she invited me in for a cup of coffee and a chat.  That memory is still one of my favorites, the taste of hazelnut and the feeling of connection in the early morning.

You know those rare and amazing friendships between entire families?  We had that, briefly.  Our kids got along, our husbands got along, and there was so much laughter whenever we would get together.  For a short while, she and I worked together at the same school, and though we had very different styles we made a pretty good team for the most part.  I became pregnant with Little G, and things began to change because I had what she desired most. She has said this, herself.  Somewhere along the line, between frequent moves and her own life changes, we had lost touch.  Her number changed, she moved also, she adopted a son.  But, still, I missed her.

I kept feeling like I needed to call her.  But how?  Did she even want to hear from me?  I finally got a message to her via a mutual friend and Facebook, and we could talk.

I wish I could say that we instantly had that same feeling of connection.  I wish I could say that we still felt that bond.  We spoke of our kids, our husbands, all the wonderful changes that had happened in her life-- her new son, her first grandbaby, the teaching and advocacy work she was doing.  It felt comfortable and happy and warm, like visiting a school from which one has graduated or attending a joyful class reunion.

It felt...empty.

We must have talked for 45 minutes, maybe an hour.  We touched base on so many things that were going on, and we were still able to joke with each other.  We still spoke the same language, understanding each others' underlying meanings.  I am so, so very glad we got to talk.  I wish her the very best, and I couldn't be happier that her life is as happy as I've always wanted for her.

And yet...

I find myself missing the people who sat at that dining room table, coffee in hand, talking for hours.  We talked about positive changes we wanted to make for ourselves, our husbands, and our children.  We debated.  We teased and bantered.  She and I have changed over these years.  Obviously she is in a very happy place now; it's just a different place.

When I hung up the phone, I felt like I was closing much more than the phone line between us.  I felt good, because I finally knew she was okay and happy.  And yet I also felt sadness, because I knew what we had once had, and what would no longer be ours.

Friendships are rooms in our hearts, down a long hallway lined with doorways.  Open, swinging, solid or screened...some are glass, some are hard wood but lovingly maintained through memory's care.  Just like anything, these doors can change over time.  Some are always ajar, waiting for a call or an email or a text hello.  Some of these doors open only during special circumstances.  There is the movie-going friendship, the at-work pal, the no-matter-what-time-just-call best friend.  Each friendship is represented by its own unique entryway.

Some doors, I am learning, close.  We might walk through that room one last time to share those feelings again, smiling but separate.   And we both, firmly, close the door with a soft and bittersweet "snick".

Monday, July 9, 2012

Writer's Block

Over the last few weeks, I've had a lot of ideas for things to write about.

Deployment meals, such as they are


Motherhood, parenthood

I'd start writing things down, and all of a sudden I'd realize that what I was writing was absolute, pure crap.

I hate that.

During the last few weeks, I have been busy enough.  I started a new blog, based on a yearlong church quest-- 52 Voices, 52 Prayers.  That's easy enough to keep up with, because the journey is important to me and the topic is always the same with different venues.

I started a Couch to 5K.  Some days are easier than others.  Today I managed to get myself out of bed and it was raining.  Mmm...  Not willing to risk my phone, so I will do Wii exercises once this is done.

But I'm not writing.  Not really, not creatively.  And I'm not sure exactly why.  I have ideas, and I want to's just kind of flat-sounding once I type it out.

I will say this, though-- the best part about the last few weeks is that we are so much closer to being DONE with this deployment.  So now I can write about other things--

Counting down by trash days, paydays...  Milk expiration dates that match the homecoming week.   I'll look for any excuse to feel giddy and excited.


The "now what?" that inevitably follows Homecoming.

Hope you'll join me.