Thursday, January 24, 2013


In my dreams, I am nearly always at the home where I grew up. I walk through the same rooms where I lived then, with the view out the window the same as it’s always been. My things are in the closets, the wooden doors as familiar to me as my own skin. Sometimes, the dream is more a memory, with past players and old conversations that never were or that should have been. Sometimes the house is just a stage, set with different props and acted upon by new talent.

In my dreams, the walls know me and I am part of them.

My dreams never keep me safe at the home we have made together, where we currently lay our heads at the end of each day. I don’t return to California, or Colorado, and only seldom do I revisit the wood-paneled walls of our first place in Kansas. If I briefly glimpse that former home, the floors are bare and the rooms echo with the memories we created there.  Those homes look just as they did the day we left them, spotless and shining and vacant of everything but the role they played in our family’s story.

When I awaken and remember the night, my heart will ache. My sighs are long and deep as I realize that I was home again, and not even able to appreciate it when I was there. For while I miss the view, and the way the light plays through the rooms, I miss most the people who filled those rooms. I miss their voices, their touch, the soft scent that means home. And I hope for more dreams to return me there.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Getting Out

Since My G has 21 years in the Army, of course we've talked a lot about retirement.  We have our plans, which of course the Army has changed for us a half dozen times at least.  We are taking steps to make Plans A, B, and C work, as well.

We get asked a lot, "So, when do you retire?"

Well, it's complicated.  Every day, it seems, I hear a new story about someone getting out of the Army. And I hear stories of "what happens next".

Folks, it isn't good news.

One friend and her Soldier husband were forced to med board out from the Army after he sustained injuries. They had no backup plan, and had planned to stay in until he reached his 20. Now they are both trying to find work, find a home they can afford, and they feel stuck. From what I'm reading, there's a bit of panicky feeling, too.

One of My G's battle buddies was all set to retire, having hit his RCP (Retention Control Point). RCP essentially is the "get promoted or get out" point that the Army sets, and he hadn't reached the next promotion point when the Army thought he should have. Thankfully, he was able to take retirement. During the retirement health assessment, they did a body scan and found that he has a form of cancer that is becoming more and more common among Soldiers who have deployed. So instead of going through simple retirement, he underwent chemo, and now radiation, and later a full medical retirement.  He's still able to retire, but the Army has exacted a pretty high price from him and his wife, both physically and emotionally.

I know of a Soldier who was dealt some terrible back injuries, healed, fought the Army for proper treatment and the correct surgery, and now is getting med-boarded out of the Army because he can't properly run and has other health issues. My friend, his wife, has put in for any and every job that she is qualified for, all across the United States, because she knows they may have to rely on her income for a period of time after this process is over. So far, nothing. This is despite many of the applications coming back, saying she is qualified.

My own battle buddy says that her husband didn't make the promotion list this time around, and they are gearing up for major changes with the Army and in their lives. They were once caught without a backup plan, many years ago, and they will not do so again. Still, there is a tinge of worry and fear -- the world is an uncertain place for a veteran, even one with 20 years under his belt.

Getting out is scary, right now. We hear every day that the economy is getting better, that jobs are easier to find, that people are getting back to work, that we can afford to keep a roof over our heads.  We hear that the Dow is so high, it must be great! We hear that there are jobs that are open, and available.

(We even, sometimes, hear about companies that hire veterans specifically to help them once their Army time is done. I pray, when it is our time to get out, that we will all have found a safety net and a job.)

Not one of these Soldiers, nor their families, are asking for handouts. They want to work, and they have all pushed through incredible odds already. But I think it's time we talk about preparing our Soldiers better for "getting out". We need to talk about fixing the programs that help them transition from Soldier life to civilian life. I hear that this program works really well for the Soldiers who put in 4 or 8 years of their lives and then want to go back to school or work outside the Army. But these programs are failing the Soldiers who have given the most time and lifeblood

I think it's time we talk about the Soldiers who have put in the most time, and the deepest commitment. I think it's time we figure out a better way to serve them. Because these Soldiers are often the ones who know the most about their jobs and their installations, they are also often held back from properly taking part in transition programs because their loss will be felt so deeply. But at the same time, these are the very Soldiers who need the programs the most, and the units owe it to them to commit to making sure their Soldier-to-civilian transformation is the smoothest it can be.

So, while it's not time for us to be getting out, it is definitely our time to plan for it. And make a Plan B. And C. Or more.

Thursday, January 10, 2013


Originally from

Before that baby’s even born, the physical and emotional upheaval of pregnancy keep us awake.  Dreams, wild and sometimes theatrical, keep us from sleep.  Joints and ligaments and body parts we never knew we had, are suddenly calling to us overnight.  

Well-meaning people tell us, “When the baby comes, you can sleep when they sleep!”

Once the sweet bundle of joy is placed in our arms, a whole new reason for our sleeplessness appears.  Absolute dependence shines from those sweet eyes.  When they do sleep, we find ourselves watching them, guarding against the night. Or bathing. Or grabbing bites of lukewarm dinner.  Or staring into space, wondering, “Why can’t I sleep?”

Toddler years, terrific and temperamental, show us how even the most exhausted of children won’t necessarily sleep when they’re tired.  They fight, bleary-eyed and puffy-cheeked, against the rest that their parents desperately crave.

We briefly think, “We can rest now that they’re older!” when it’s time to send them off to school.  But, alas, we are mistaken. They have sleepovers , stomach bugs, school projects and insomnia. They wake us on Saturdays for sports and to share the dreams of the night before. Tossing and turning, we wait for nighttime interruptions.

Independent and growing fast, our children soon no longer visit us in the middle of the night.  They sleep as late as we will let them, they have whole sections of their lives that don’t involve us (much). Do we sleep now, secure in their growing autonomy?  No.  Now we think about who their friends are.  What their grades are.  Their future, their present, the diaphanous and distressing unknown that arises as our children begin to stand on their own.  We await curfew.  People tell us, and we believe, “When they move out, you can sleep.”

I have come to suspect, though, that parents are never going to rest well.  We will never consistently lay our heads down at night, safe and secure and utterly at peace.  Once our kids move out, we think about college, and safety, and whether they’re happy.  We dissect conversations, life choices, events and aspirations… The phone rings with a wrong number, at the dreaded darkest hour, and we lie awake wondering if it might have been them. If they are okay. 

If they, in turn, are sleeping.