Tuesday, December 18, 2012

When Will He Be Here, They Ask Repeatedly

I have tried to be a student of other military wives experiences as I face this deployment. I have read some very inspiring, encouraging and wise books and blogs that have been a great help to me. One of the things I have read several times from a variety of sources is that when it's time for your service member to come home you will be repeatedly asked "When will he be here?" with great enthusiasm from neighbors, friends and family. At some point this will begin to drive you crazy when you tell them repeatedly that you don't know. 

Any military spouse worth their salt knows that you have no idea when they'll be here or if they'll even actually get here any time close to when you've been told. It's totally possible their orders will suddenly be changed or their R&R will be cancelled. Again I also read this repeatedly in the spouse literature. I already knew to never hold my breath about a military timeline, but the reminder is a good done, since it's easy to get so excited that you just want them here already. A little temperance of expectations is a healthy thing.

So with R&R coming up, there is much anticipation around here for his arrival. Despite me telling people who ask that I don't know, they continue to ask. Sometimes I think they believe I am not telling them the whole truth or that I'm trying to keep something from them. But I seriously don't know. I don't.

So when they ask me for the third or fourth time when he will be here, I do feel a little, what shall we say, annoyed. I don't know, really, I'm telling you the truth. He'll get here when he gets here. Then I am reminded about the next thing I read in these same articles on homecoming. These constant questions will begin to get tiresome. Yes, they are. I smile with the sister & brotherhood of spouses on this one, knowing that we are all in the same boat!

Now if I just had five dollars for every time I've been asked that question in the last month, I would go on a super great shopping spree! And I promise you all that when he is here, I will tell you. That's not to say I won't shelter him and ensure that he gets actual rest, recuperation and relaxation. That is a must and my first priority. But dear ones, please know, I really don't know when he will be here and I realize you find this bizarre and crazy but I am totally used to it. That is life in the military.

And yes, I am completely, insanely excited to see him. And yes, he did tell me last night that his trip might have to be delayed. I smiled. I laughed...and reminded him he told me he would be here soon and I expect him to keep that promise. Then I said, "No pressure, right?" with a big smile. He'll get here when he gets here and we'll love every moment.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The Beginning of Our Deployment Story

image via

It's the middle of the night. I should be sleeping. But instead I lie in bed my head swirling to the point I feel dizzy. Concerns swirling. To Do list swirling. Fears swirling. Past history swirling. Concerns are things that are "problematic", Fears are things that terrify me -- in deployment those are very different things. Good things and bad things create a brain stew that drives me crazy to the point that I eventually force me out of bed to find something to distract myself. This is the second night in a row this has happened.

Well, actually if I am really honest with myself this had been happening on some level since last summer when Mr. Hart deployed. It is possible that it started happening the day he told me he had gotten orders to deploy. So that would be about 14 months now. But it ebbs and flows. I think there have been at least a few nights when I was able to get to bed at a normal time and fall asleep. I have a couple of posts on sleep planned. Sleep (lack of, nightmares, and all that is associated with it) is a topic unto itself.

I thought it would be a good time to tell you about how our deployment story started. First off, I'll tell you that we met in 2008. Mr. Hart was gone much of 2010 and most of 2011. So his coming and going on a regular basis was normal for us although it was all short trips, not anything over two months at a time. Sometimes we could even go with him or visit. But those short trips can be very difficult because you spend weeks preparing for them to leave, then they're gone, then it takes weeks to get back into a rhythm and just as you do they are rushing to leave again. Makes for a good bit of chaos.

When you add the challenges his daughter was facing, it was pretty much anxiety filled chaos most of the time. But the great life lesson we learned was to make the most of every moment Mr. Hart, Clementine and I had together. That has blessed us beyond belief and in some of the most stressful of days.

So one day fall day, I was in the car and the tall, handsome Mr. Hart called my cell phone. He seemed different but I couldn't put my finger on it. He began the conversation this way.

"Soooo, I won the lottery....", he said in a joking voice. Knowing he was not a gambler I assumed he must have impulsively bought a $1 scratch card on one of his frequent visits to 7-11 for a Coke Slurpee.

"What, did you win a dollar," I asked laughing.

"No, I won the deployment lottery," he said, chuckling. I think maybe he was laughing out of shock because this wasn't a "funny ha-ha" moment to be sure. This would turn our lives majorly upside down. I was not expecting that answer.

Just weeks before we had attended a Family Weekend for military spouses and children to learn all the things they needed to know if their service member was deployed. It was a full day of training for spouses & significant others from command, insurance, legal, religious, mental health, payroll and other departments who deal with deployed military members. None of those topics are fun topics to deal with and a full day of them was a bit overwhelming. I did come away with a big bag of goodies for spouses, two teddy bears for Clementine and a lot of printed information. I had pamphlets, books, binders phone lists, and contact information for all the resources available to military families.

By mid-day I could no longer remember "which who where" we were supposed to go for any situation that could come up, but I did learn that Fleet & Family Services was always a good place to start when you didn't know what to do. Mr. Hart had been deployed just before I met him but not in the war zones. With everything winding down and troops coming home, it seemed a long shot that I would ever be in the position of having a deployed service member on my hands. But as my first official induction into military life, I tried to soak in everything I could that family weekend. Even if he never deployed, this was all information that I needed to know in an emergency or even just to get around every day military life. Less than four weeks later all that would change.

Before I even asked him for more details, I was thinking about how this would implode so many of our plans. We had just gotten engaged seven weeks earlier after dating for more than three years. That was a big step for us and one that actually took me totally by surprise. I was not expecting a proposal at all the night it happened. What this new news did to our wedding plans I didn't want to think about. This would also be like dropping a bomb right in the middle of his daughter's life. We could lose all the ground we have made for her.

Even worse, was what this did to my hopes for having children, as I was already pushing the age limits when we first met.  An entire year lost. That was even more devastating that postponing our marriage. What if he came back and it was too late or what if something happened to him? I think this was the hardest reality for me to face. I really wanted more than one child of my own, in fact my crazy dreams were still for two pregnancies. I hoped one would be a set of twins so I could have my long wanted three children in a shorter time span. Fraternal and identical multiple births actually do run on both sides of my father's family so it was not out of the question. 

By the time I got home, all I wanted was details. Unfortunately he didn't have many. He presumed correctly that it would still be months away. What we didn't realize then was that we wouldn't have real orders for several months to come. So we continued to live in a world of half denial, reminding ourselves repeatedly that "it might not happen." Until there were orders, nothing was for sure. But the realities of what could be all became real to us that day. A couple of weeks later he left again until just days before Christmas.

As the holiday season began all I could think about is how he wouldn't be here the next year and how horrible that felt. Every celebration, every family tradition was marred some by knowing this. With the expectation of his deployment, we made plans to visit my family for Thanksgiving and his family for a full week after Christmas.

Around the beginning of the year, he finally found out there had been some sort of snafu and orders were straightened out and sent to him. Summer 2012 was our target date. By Spring 2012, we just had to endure six months of torturous anticipation which included him attending two military training programs and participating in two military exercises -- all away from home -- before his deployment. He would have just a couple of weeks from the last exercise until he was to report for deployment. And in that time we would need to arrange everything on the homefront for the coming year.

Everything changed that day he told me he won the lottery. And we've made the best of it, found happiness, dealt with the stress the best we can and we're attempting to THRIVE through this deployment. I can say for the most part we have. I am amazed at how blessed we have been.

How did your service member tell you about deployment? What got you through those weeks and months of anticipation?

Monday, December 3, 2012

Welcome To Midlife Navy Wife

image by MLNW

Hi. So nice to meet you. You can call me Margaret - more on that in a moment. This blog is where I will share my story as a Navy fiance then Navy wife going through deployment. We are not your typical 20-something, military, soon-to-be newlyweds. We had both been on our adult paths for a while before we met and have been together for several years now. I knew very little about the military life until I went out on a blind date with a retired Army special forces guy 18 months before I met "Mr. Hart" (as the love of my life will be known here). That brief relationship opened me up to a new world I knew nothing about and prepared me for a joyful journey with the right guy, my Mr. Hart and his daughter. We'll call her "Clementine."

Due to my partner's desire for privacy and the necessity to consider OPSEC and PERSEC I will not share names or places except in vague details. I do this out of respect for my Mr. Hart and the military, his safety and the success of his mission. "Margaret" is the name he calls me in a fancy pretend British accent when he feels the need to be excessively charming and make me laugh. This might include moments when he knows he's on the verge of the doghouse and is scrambling for sure footing...and much to my chagrin it works every time.

Because I do not live near any other military families, I am so grateful for the books, DVDs, online resources and blogs where I have been able to connect with other military spouses. Their advice and shared wisdom have been invaluable to me. I will definitely be sharing more about that in coming days. But I will say they have saved my sanity.

I have been documenting my experiences with deployment for a few months now and look forward to sharing them here with you. It has been nothing like I expected. I hope that my honest and candid stories will help other military spouses deal with the unique challenges of deployment and find some often needed comfort and understanding.

Despite the need for privacy and security online, I am very willing and interested to connect with military spouses and others interested in the lives of a deployed military family. Please feel free to email me at midlifenavywife at gmail dot com.