Thursday, December 26, 2013

Happy Holidays Dear Friends

image via mca

Happy holidays dear friends! Hope you have had a wonderful Christmas and are eating goodies, relaxing, playing games and watching fun movies right into the new year. We had a really peaceful, simple day yesterday. It was lovely. Nice gifts, family time, time with friends and phenomenal weather, beach worthy in fact.

This last week marks the first birthday of Midlife Navy Wife the blog. It's been a wonderful year to get to know so many of you here and on Twitter. We've shared stories good and bad, laughed and cried together. Thank you for your friendship, support and all you have shared with me this last year. You definitely made a huge difference in how I managed the second half of our deployment. Knowing you were out there made me stronger and helped me want to give more to others too. I appreciate so much your support and friendship!

I thought the first half of 2013 would be our big challenge, the second half of a year-long deployment -- but I had no idea what life had in store for us for the second half of the 2013. It's been deeply challenging and even here at the end of the year I don't have a lot of clarity about it all. But we're still standing and giving life our best and hoping for good things to come in the new year.

It's great to have this holiday season to slow down and be grateful for all we do have, to focus on simple pleasures and to take time to enjoy friends, family and life a little more. It is all so precious and we have no guarantees about anything so we truly must enjoy every good moment when it comes.

I have great hopes for 2014 and am determined it's going to be a great year. I'm going to sign up for a class to start out the year, maybe this one. I am ready for more optimism, more joy and more peace. There are so many great online classes out there. Mondo Beyondo is another great one. There is so much great inspiration and so many beautiful teachers out there. It's worth looking for those who inspire joy and happiness for your life and taking time to soak those good things in. No matter what is happening in your life right now you can have joy today. Sometimes you just need a little reminder from someone else.

I'll be checking in more often in the coming year. Looking forward to that. I still have lots of stories to share and look forward to more great talks with you about our shared journey and our unique experiences on that path. I send you my very warmest wishes for a safe and joyful holiday season and year to come.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Five Small But Massive Lessons From Last Year

image via MS

It's hard to believe it's already been a year since we first started getting excited that our Daddy was coming home from Afghanistan for R and R. Amazing how quickly time flies by. I am already looking forward to saying goodbye to 2013 and welcoming 2014 with open arms.

So far 2013 has been probably the most difficult and challenging year ever for me. It has really stretched me in so many ways. But I have learned a few things along the way that are really crucial to my personal development and have made me a stronger woman.

Here are a few:

1) Patience: There is nothing like deployment and post-deployment stress to teach you patience. You can't have what you want all the time just because you want it. Learning to postpone gratification is a tricky lesson. I hope I'm getting a little better at this all the time. I find that in some ways I am more patient after deployment and in some ways I am a little less patient. Trying to find the middle ground.

2) Tolerance: Boy has this been a challenging issue. I don't know what my husband went through during deployment and I don't have control over him. I have to let him work through his process on his own. I can't make things be the way I want them to be and I have to accept him the way he is for now and just pray for him and try to be supportive.

3) Love: I love my little family even more than ever. Suffering deepens love. Missing them deepens love. Being reunited and seeing us all together deepens love.

4) Humility: I have had to swallow my pride a lot of times this year. I have had to apologize for losing my cool a lot of times this year. I have had to accept that I am dealing with a lot of things I don't know much about and that ways I've successfully managed things in the past won't always work for every situation or in the future. Humility sandwich for one please.

5) Courage: I don't know how many times in the past two years I have had to manage situations full of fear that I have no control over but it has been many, many, many! Learning to live in the present moment, let go of fear and trust God has been a massive undertaking. I do live in more courage now, but it doesn't mean I don't face fears nearly daily and have to keep working at it.

A short list but a massive one. I'm off to work on more goals today. I am looking forward to a new year and great things to come and knowing that I carry with me new skills to meet new challenges that will come.

How about you? What major lessons have you learned from your military life? Are there any of these that are particularly heavy in your life right now?

Friday, November 15, 2013

The Military Today: Heroes or Dirtbags?

image via

We have had so much cheering and chanting for our military heroes over the past decade. I am proud to see America step up and support our military families. But I get a little twitchy, shall I say, when I consider the blanket statement that our military service members  are ALL heroes. Because you know what, there are a lot of dirt bags in the military. There is crime and corruption at every level. Here's an article titled When Officers Become Criminals that is pretty shocking.

There are arrogant, egotistical jackasses who like nothing better than to make life miserable for everyone around them, especially those who report to them. There are leaders who will throw a wrench in things just to be jerks. There are some who will do anything to hold other people back and promote their own agenda, their own promotions and their own retirement regardless of what is best for the military, other service members, or the country.

There are gang members in the military, full blow criminals who are there to learn the art of war to bring back to their gangs. There are scandals involving trading military secrets for whores for Pete's sake! And this is by military leaders! There are military "heroes" who have killed their spouses, who have affairs indiscriminately and destroy families at will. There are sex offenders, child porn dealers, and more. There is a reason why the military has a maximum security prison like Fort Leavenworth. Do we know how many JAG staffers spend their days investigating and prosecuting criminals within the U.S. military ranks?

If there is anyone doing damage to the high regard the military should engender it the the military service members themselves! This infuriates me. It all looks so glossy in the recruiting brochures. So noble in the change of command services. So lovely in the homecoming videos on YouTube.

But there is a dark and ugly side to our military world that needs more recognition, focus and correction. It cannot just be swept under the flag, behind medals and below the deployment homecoming headlines. As a military community we owe our country better and we owe it to ourselves to reflect that sense of sweet nobility that has been wrapped around us by our fellow countrymen since September 11, 2001.

The military top brass have a responsibility to clean ranks and set a tone and standard worthy of the highest  ethics of our country. It's time to speak it out loud and expect more from our military. This is especially deserved by all the wonderful, noble Americans who join the military with good intent and real desire to serve and who do uphold the highest moral code even when they don't see it from above and suffer the consequences of refusing to bend to pressure to give up their high standards to fit in.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Reintegration: A Life Change, Not A Timeframe

image via mca

This week I read a question from another military spouse. It was "I'm worried about reintegration. How long do I give him to readjust?" I smiled. A few months into reintegration, it's a question that will make a military spouse smile. It helped me to solidify in my mind what reintegration is not.

1) Reintegration is not a time frame. There is no magic time frame where everything will be settled and "normal." It's different for every service member and their family. You cannot say "In 90 days we stop reintegrating and it will be over" or "I'm giving my spouse two months to get reintegrated." There is not going to be one day where you will say, "We are reintegrated!" It's dangerous think about how long you will expect it to take or how long you are willing to give your partner to "get" reintegrated. You can't know what's to come or how everyone will handle it.

2) Reintegration is not a singular process. There is no step-by-step path to reintegration. Every family will experience some wildly different paths in their reintegration experience. Some will experience physical health crises, others financial crises, some mental health crises. Life does not stop moving while we reintegrate. There is no simple directional map. We each struggle to find our own way.

3) Reintegration is not a short-term experience, it's a life change. There is no point in reintegration where everything goes back to the way it used to be. Everything gets redefined. Everyone has changed, life is different. The way a marriage and family face things has to change to accommodate those changes. 

4) Reintegration is not a time of rest and recovery. I think it's easy to imagine that somehow life is going to slow down so we can catch our breath after a deployment ends. If anything it becomes more stressful as we all try to fit into new routines & get settled into the world we used to live in. Our reintegration period has been rocked by sequestration, changes in unit leadership and the government shutdown. That has not made it easier by any stretch of the imagination. Add financial concerns, serious health problems, legal issues and my husband being gone a lot and you can imagine it hasn't been a period of celebratory downtime.

5) Reintegration is not always in our control. While we can prepare ourselves and have a positive attitude we cannot control our service member or our family members and how they deal with reintegration. That can be exhausting and discouraging. Just because we believe therapy would help our service member does not mean they will be willing. Just because we'd like our homes to be tidy with no military garb cluttering entry ways or the middle of our living room does not make it so. We cannot make our children behave themselves when they need to act our their own stresses about deployment and reintegration. Acceptance, patience and persistence are vital.

6) Reintegration is not the time to put ourselves second. While we focus on the health and well-being of our service member and families, we cannot help them if we haven't taken care of ourselves. Having down time, appropriate rest, time for self, a calm environment to retreat to and the right people to talk to is invaluable to a military spouse going through reintegration. It's easy to think it's about our spouse and not about us, but everything they do affects us and how we manage all that has long term effects on our health, well-being and the survival rate of our relationships. We take all our own personal baggage into reintegration too and there are often painful realizations, changes we need to make in ourselves and healing we must do as we continue to learn and grow. It's important to take care of self so we can sustain ourselves and then others.

7) Reintegration is not the time to be together constantly. It's good to have some time apart during reintegration. I'm not saying leave for a week, I'm just saying don't spend every minute of every day together. You are accustomed to being apart, don't overload your systems and shut off your connection with the life you grew and the individuality you developed while apart. Help yourselves keep things in perspective by spending time with friends, alone or with extended family. It's amazing how a few hours away can help one see the good and minimize fears. I'm always surprised how just being away from home for even a couple of hours recharges my batteries and makes me excited to come back.

8) Reintegration is not the time to be rigid about expectations. It's easy to get defensive and start trying to make everything a fight or complaint. Pick your battles and let a lot of stuff go. It's not worth the fight much of the time. You can't bring up every little annoyance and bother. Focus on the important stuff and don't get caught up in petty arguments. Go with the flow of the changing life process rather than fighting it. But of course, make sure you're life individually and together is headed in a direction you are comfortable going in overall.

9) Reintegration is not a cheerless time. There is lots to be happy about during reintegration. You have so much to be thankful for -- your loved one came home! You are making new memories, laughing together, having time together. Do what you can to bring happiness into every day. Go on new adventures, talk about your dreams for the future, play and have fun. Be sure to see the good in every day. Be grateful when you hear your husband and kids giggling in the next room, when he walks up behind you in the kitchen and tickles you, when you have great moments of intimacy together.

10) Reintegration is not without help and support. There is a lot of reintegration support available for individuals, couples and families. Look for it! Check out the FOCUS program in your area, contact your local Vet Center,, or military family services center on base. There are lots of people willing to help you through reintegration. There are a lot of people who've been in your shoes and understand.

Another great support group is available online. Check out military spouse blogs, big ones and small ones. Connect with other military spouses online or in your area. There is a lot of support out there. Don't you dare suffer in silence or watch your happiness slip through your fingers without reaching out for some help.

Reintegration is always going to be a bit hard. Life is hard. But along with challenges there is a lot of joy to be had in reintegration and life in general. Don't miss all that good stuff by getting too bogged down with the challenges. We learn and grow through both the challenges and the joys. Don't miss the good stuff. Make your goal your life and don't get too caught up in what reintegration "should" to look like, how long it "should" last or how it went for anyone else. You just can't compare life experiences, challenges or blessings.

The best thing you can do to thrive through reintegration is to promise yourself you will take care of yourself and then do your best by your service member and family. Patience, love and kindness go a long way and experiences like reintegration are the perfect petri dish for growing more of all of those good things. Just like pre-deployment and deployment you will see yourself come through reintegration a wiser, stronger, braver person. Let it be the growing time that it is.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Thank You Veterans!

It's Veteran's Day and the one day of the year, if not every day, that we pause to thank our veterans for their service! First I want to thank my husband for his service and all those you nobly served with him this past year in Afghanistan. Then all our OEF/OIF veterans. I heard this group now numbers over 1 million. Thanks to you all!

Next I thank my two father-in-laws who were both career military. Love them both dearly and am so grateful for their commitment, sense of honor and duty. Then my extended family and all those in my family who have served, clear back to one of my great-great...grandfathers who served at General George Washington's side in the revolutionary war.

Thank you to all the men and women who have served to protect our country, our constitution, to preserve freedom around the world and for being a part of what makes America great. We honor you and recognize your sacrifices in every way we can possibly understand and with understanding that we can never totally comprehend the price you've paid for us!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Thanks For Coming Home In One Piece

DoD photo by Staff Sgt. Michael L. Casteel, U.S. Army

It's been a challenging few weeks to say the least.. I never quite realized what a let down it would be for a deployed service member to dream about coming home to their families for a year and then to come home and realize life is full of mundane pains in the ass like bills, broken down cars, driving kids around town in traffic, leaking pipes, buying groceries, paying for insurance, dealing with financial institutions,  going to the doctor and so many other things that can suck the joy right out of adult life. It is definitely a let down. I don't blame them for feeling this way but it can be hard on a family.

In other news, wanted to share an experience we had the other day. We were cleaning up the dining room and he picked up a box I didn't recognize. It was about the half the width of a deck of cards and maybe twice as thick. He mumbled something about it, I looked up, didn't recognize it and continued on. Moments later I realized it was a piece of military gear.

"What was that," I asked. He said the name of it again and I didn't quite hear it or maybe just didn't understand his "military-ese." "It's a strobe locator. It flashes up to 20-25 miles away. I it got so that if we went down in the mountains..." He didn't finish his sentence. "Hey," I said, as tears started welling up in my eyes. "Hey, look at me," I said. He had his head down then looked up. "Thank you for coming home," I said. He nodded and turned away to finish up the task he was on.

That was all that needed to be said. It was yet another painful reminder of where he was a year ago, the constant danger he lived in and the constant fear for his safety that I lived with. It was good to be reminded to be grateful he is here, despite the challenges of reintegration. Those problems seemed to minimize when I was reminded of where he was and all we have to be grateful for.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Making Memories On Our Own

image via

I have been thinking a lot recently about how many memories our little one and I have made without hubs being around. We'll never be able to get him caught up on all the inside jokes, weird things that have happened to us, places we seen, people we've met or things we've shared together. She and I have a bond that exists on a whole different plane than our relationship with her dad.

We didn't choose this, we didn't try to create our own little world, but we had to out of necessity. It makes me a little sad and I often feel caught between both worlds. Home is a different place when it's just the two of us. It's much less complicated, more tidy, everything just happens more easily and quickly.

Suddenly when Daddy is home everything changes, the way we do things, the pace of our day, how our mornings flow, what we eat for meals, how we spend our down time and how much of it we have. Things are more peaceful without the testosterone element I realize. Some days I crave that energy and some days I want it to quiet down a little bit. It's frustrating to me to feel torn between these two existences and yet  I don't see it changing any time soon. I'm not sure how to navigate it all. I guess I thought once he'd done a one-year-deployment that having him gone for a week or two would be nothing. If anything it's gotten harder in some ways and then it's almost too easy for us to get back on "deployment auto-pilot" but then it all stops as soon as he gets back and we're thrown a bit by that.

I think the divide is getting wider and I'm not sure who's fostering it and who's trying to pull people back together. Maybe this is just another bump in the reintegration process. We are definitely having to redefine what our normal is. I find we like it even less when he's gone, but we all have a little bit of a sense of relief to be apart and catch our breath. This is all very weird. Do people outside the military have anything like this in their lives.

I guess I need to reckon again with the fact that he's always going to be gone a lot. I don't think I ever felt like he'd come back from deployment and suddenly be around all the time, but it does seem like I've gotten a little bit tired of it. Oh the joys of finding our way through life and continually having to redefine what everything means to us and how it will work for us. 

Somehow I guess I will find a way to peacefully exist in these two worlds. Do any of you other military wives understand what I'm talking about? Have you felt the same? Do you have any great advice for me? I've love to hear it if you do. I am continually surprised that even though he's home there's still lots to learn and work through.

Monday, October 14, 2013

The Army Never Promised To Fix Your Mistakes

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I read Ask Ms. Vicki's advice column on last week about a wife whose husband had been court-martialed. He was in prison for something he had done that she knew nothing about. She was very angry that the military wasn't taking care of her, helping her move, etc. I can only imagine the hell her life is right now as she tries to find her way alone, pick up the pieces and figure out her future now that her husband has made these terrible mistakes and is no longer able to stand by her side. Just finding out that this was happening behind your back has to be majorly traumatic. I am sure her world has been turned upside down in every way.

While I had a lot of sympathy for this wife, something she said really upset me. "You are brainwashed to think that you take care of your husband and the Army will take care of you..." If anyone should be blamed for not taking care of this wife it is her husband. He totally, totally blew it. He was dishonest, sneaky and apparently committed some pretty serious crime. It is not the Army's fault that this man totally screwed his family over. It is not the military who is screwing this wife over.

There are a lot of support programs provided us in the military, but I do not believe for one minute that anyone in the military has encourage couples to be totally dependent on the military. I think the lesson has repeatedly been to be self-sufficient, to be prepared.

It sounds like this couple had absolutely no emergency plan in place financially or in any other way. If there is anything I have been encouraged to do by other military spouses and the military family training I have attended it is to have a plan. There are a multitude of resources to help us avoid getting into trouble, but once our spouse or we as a couple have made disastrous choices there is little the military is able, or frankly, very willing to do.

I know that military salaries can be small for some but I do believe that there is always a way to have some sort of emergency fund and plan in place. I am astonished at the luxury and excess that many, many young couples live in: huge TVs, new cars, video games, lots of shopping, travel, top of the line cell phones, expensive pets and more. We are closer to retirement than enlistment but we still try to live prudently and without excess. At any salary, living within our means is possible and a must. With good financial planning and management it is possible to have some emergency resources and funds.

I also don't believe that the military encouraged this women to have no career or be totally unprepared to hold down any kind of employment. We all have to recognize that if anything were to happen to our spouse, the responsibility to provide falls squarely on us. Even though it makes it tough to go to school as a military wife, there is nothing to keep a woman from completing school before she gets married. It is also much easier for a woman to get school and career experience under her belt before having children. Even though being apart is so hard, that seems like the only downside to being able finish school before getting married. Easy to be apart, no, but better prepared for the future, yes.

No one is forcing anyone to get married at an age where they are too young to have gotten their feet soundly in adulthood and aware of the responsibilities. On issues like these we have to take responsibilities for our choices. When people get married very young, do not prepare for adult responsibilities and do not have an emergency plan or any resources, they have basically said we're willing to go without the security of all these things and accept the consequences of whatever comes. Unfortunately I'm not sure they realize this at the time or they don't want to admit it. Not sure about which, maybe it's different for everyone.

It sounds like this is not the first time this guy has been in trouble and that he is clearly a repeat offender. If a person is going to commit crimes and regularly screw up in the military I would imagine there were big problems before the military. Perhaps more thought could've been given to his worthiness as a responsible husband and father figure, particularly before having a child with him. Sometimes we want things so badly we just insist on getting them, regardless of whether the situation is right or not. I always love the saying "build the nest before you lay the eggs." Hello Mother Nature teaching us a lesson.

Again, let me say again that I have compassion for this wife's fears  -- they are natural and normal in this situation. I'm so sorry about the bad situation she finds herself in. But it seems like there were a thousand mistakes made up to this point and it is not the Army's responsibility to clean this mess up. I am certain that no one in the Army or the military across the board said support your husband and we'll take care of you. Even if they did say this, it would be wise to believe otherwise and take care of ourselves, right? 

We have to take responsibility for our choices and be prepared for emergencies. When we make whatever efforts we can to be prepared for an emergency, we find that if crises do hit we will have broad and helpful support system under our feet and already know what our priorities should be. Never believe the notion that you can do whatever you want and someone else will take care of you. That's just crazy talk.

Friday, October 11, 2013

To Mend Broken Hearts

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It always breaks my heart to see gals in the milso community break up. Relationships are hard. Military relationships are really hard. Young relationships tend to get very serious early on when the military is involved. Long distances can be stressful. There is a lot of time apart and things can happen, choices that are not in the best interests of maintaining a healthy relationship happen. Breakups and broken hearts happen and can happen at any age. 

Military relationships require a big investment of patience, waiting and giving. It's hard to believe it won't last when we've given so much of ourselves. Sometimes the other party might not be mature enough for a relationship right now. Sometimes as hard as we try the fit just isn't right, or the time just isn't right.

I met and dated a lot of great guys in my day, but if the fit isn't right or the timing isn't right for both parties, things just can't move forward. I didn't marry all of them, but I'm glad I had the experiences I gained along the way. I try to always believe that when a relationship doesn't work out there is something much better around the corner. I have learned that often what we think is right for us is far less than the best that is out there for us. But I know letting go and trusting everything will be okay and that there is someone else out there for us is so painful.

I wanted to share this FANTASTIC list of tips from Dr. Laura Schlessinger called 7 Ways To Emerge From Heartbreak Better Than Ever. It is so spot on in great advice. There is no better revenge than coming out of a relationship better, stronger, wiser and more beautiful on the inside and out.

Breakups are pretty universal. Like death, they are one of the great pains that will touch all our lives somehow. But having these tips as a north star to guide one is invaluable. I love what Dr. Laura said about being silent and avoiding groveling. It's easy to want to try to get even or make the other party look bad, but the noblest act is silence with an attitude of "onward and upward."

Going through a breakup is rough. But with these tips, you can do it gracefully and put yourself in a healthy position for better things to come and being an even better partner in the future. I send this out as a big hug to those Milsos in break ups. I see you often online and I know you are hurting. Know that I've been there and I know how devastating it is. But know it's survivable and you can even thrive your way out of a breakup. Better things will come, better opportunities will come, a person better suited to be just the right one for you will come.

Posted with much love to you all!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

The Death Benefits/Gov't Shutdown Firestorm

image via nbc news

America I am so proud of you. You seriously rattled some cages yesterday when you learned that death benefits were not being paid to our service members who have been killed in action since the government shutdown began. I read yesterday that there are seventeen service members who have died since the government shutdown began October 1. That is seventeen families who are in one of the worst moments of their lives for whom our government has just made life more of a living hell than it already was.

I am outraged by this as the wife of a man who just returned from the war zone not long ago. I let my fury be heard yesterday in every way I could and passed the word to others to speak up. I also forwarded many more messages by others who were equally outraged. This was also all over the media yesterday as well.

By mid-afternoon word was circulating that efforts were being made to rectify this situation in congress and beyond. It's good to see the people who work for us get the direction from their bosses (us!) and take immediate action with some fear of reprisal. This is how America is supposed to work. The people tell their representatives what they want and those people scramble to make it happen.

We are so far from that reality in this country today that it is shocking. So I cheer today to see American government function as it was meant to, as a voice and representation of the people, rather than an ego trip for a few hundred people who now conduct most of their business outside the regulating eye of the citizens they represent.

Let's keep speaking up, let's keep roaring when necessary. Our "representatives" need to hear us and listen to us more. It appears they need loud, stern voices to take us seriously. Let this be a warning to our government that We Are The People. Lawmakers and bureaucrats in D.C. I am NOT proud of you, in fact I'm so disgusted by your game playing and manipulation in place of the best interests of this country and our citizens.

I want to give a big shoutout to the Fisher House Foundation and everyone who has stepped forward to contribute funds to take care of these families. This situation is so shameful and should not be happening. To see American citizens step up and take action independently is a testament to the uselessness of big government. It is a reminder that the power and efficacy to serve and care for one another is usually at the grassroots level. Nice work America. I am proud of you today!

Monday, October 7, 2013

It's Noble To Be A Gracious Woman

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I am disheartened to see that so many women have allowed themselves to become course, disrespectful and less beautiful in their manner of language, behavior and dress. Women were created to be beautiful, kind, gentle, strong, loving and brave. To see women give into the lowest common denominator of behaviors is a sad and does not bode well for the future of society.

There is nothing pretty about course language coming from women's mouths. Speaking about sweet, tender things with vulgarity cheapens your life and disrespects your partner. There is nothing funny, witty or charming about speaking cruel words. There is nothing lovely about bragging about how "bitchy" you can be. There is nothing that makes you more healthy or whole in attacking or tearing down others. Bragging that you don't care what other people think of you is silly because if you really didn't care you wouldn't sound so angry when you said it. I believe all these things make a soul weak and I see so frequently women who are at the emotional breaking point, who do not have the personal strength they need to survive their lives and the challenges that come to all.

Let me make a call to inspire women to be gracious, lovely, beautiful women. You have so much to give, are so talented, with so much inherent love to give. Let's use those things in beauty, can we. And can we turn the tide back from this disheartening path women are so angrily rushing towards that only minimizing them and diminishes all they have to give. Please do not be a contributor in bringing more ugliness, meanness and coarseness to our world. Do not let that be your legacy. Find wonderful, beautiful women and study them find out how you can become more like them and make the most of all your innate beauty and talents. There is far more for us to reach for than things that would make us weaker, less beautiful and more vulnerable to the jostling of life's challenges. There is more to each and every one of us than this. Let us rise up together and be the force for good in the world we were created to be. Much love to you.

Friday, October 4, 2013

A Reintegration Update: It Gets Easier

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My husband has been home for about four months now. I thought it was a good time to give you an encouraging update about the reintegration process. First let me say, it has been blissful and glorious and there have been a few very dark days. There were a few days sprinkled in where I was not sure our family would survive post-combat stress and other challenges. But we held it together and I came to realize that those scary moments would pass with a little space, or a good night's rest or a decent meal.

One thing I learned was to NOT exacerbate the stress situations for my husband. That meant don't do anything that added gasoline to the already burning fire. When he was upset, feeling frustrated and hopeless about his/our future the best thing I can do is let him know I love him and believe in him and our future and then leave the area and give him some space. If that isn't an option, I really have to wrangle all of my strength to not let myself get drawn into a fight and make things worse by saying things that only worsen the situation. As I went along I learned simple things I could say or do to help calm the situation down.

I also learned that there were a lot of things I could to to help my husband avoid getting to that stressed out point. These include helping make sure he eats regularly so his blood sugar doesn't get too low, getting as much sleep as possible, giving him massages to help relax muscles and making sure he gets time to work out. It also helps to make plans with friends and spend time together as a family. Sometimes it is better not to make plans and just give him some downtime and learning the difference in what he needs has been very important.

One of the harder but most beneficial things we have done as part of the reintegration process was attending the Returning Warrior Workshop. That brought up a lot of stress for my husband but I think he also realized that everyone else felt the same stresses as he did, just maybe in slightly different ways. But he found a community of people who could relate to what it feels like to return from a very abnormal situation (war) and try to reintegrate into the family and home environment. I think it was a great help for most of the attendees.

We have had some amazingly charming days as a family and together as a couple. Our reunion has been sweet. We have participated in the FOCUS program, designed to help families in reintegration build resiliency and learn to adjust to their new normal together. It has been wonderful. We have learned a lot as a family and about our individual roles in the family and how we can each bless our family. The people we have worked with have been amazingly gracious and insightful in addressing our family's unique and individual needs.

Reintegration is survivable and you can even come out of it thriving. There is a lot of help available and if you think it will help, by all means get involved in every program you can to help you through. That is my recommendation. I've have learned a lot about myself and how I think and how my upbringing has affected, for good or bad, the way I handle stress and deal with problems. That has helped me see how I can be better and do better. We've gone through that same process as a family, seeing what has worked, what doesn't work and how we can more effectively work together to have a happy, peaceful, successful family.

Don't survive all of deployment only to lose everything in reintegration. Help is available, professionally and within the ranks of all the others who have survived it. Don't suffer in silence. Reach out and see your bright, beautiful future. Four months into reintegration I am happy to see we are finding our new normal and it's better than what we had when he left for deployment.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Sometimes You Can't Tell MilSos The Truth

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Sometimes I see MilSOs online sharing their frustration about hard things they are battling and I know I just can't say what I would really like to say to them. Sometimes I just want to say "that thing you are fighting to change (or refusing to accept) is never going to change" because you know in this moment it would just break their hearts and put them in a tailspin. So you have to let them learn, little by little, the sometimes frustrating realities of military life.

Here are a few examples:

There is a reason there are so many military couples who just eloped. It wasn't because we wanted to get married by a stranger who was in a rush in an hideous courthouse chapel! I planned my wedding for 18 months before we ended up just going to the courthouse to get it done.

Then there is the pipe dream of some day following that up with a "Vow Renewal" with friends and family. I'm still hoping for that and yet staring a bit at the realities that I can't see when or how that is going to happen. I had a really awesome wedding planned and if it never happens I will be sad about it forever. But I have to move on with my life and get over it somehow. Again it's still scheduling that raises it's ugly head and other days it's money to pay for such a thing.

Another is when I hear teen Milso's swear their love is different than all the other teen lovers and they are the ones that are going to beat the odds and make it. Then I hear the constant sadness of the 19, 20, 21-year-old divorced gals with a baby, in a tailspin wondering how this could have ever happened to them. I promise you I wish every one of these couples the best, but despite best efforts, when the odds are against you, you're fighting an uphill battle. Some will thrive through it, some will make it and for some it will be a catastrophic life disaster that will set them on a path they may never recover from. When people older than you say it's tough, they know it from experience. It's okay to listen to them and then use your best judgment. Don't bite the hand that tried to protect you.

Here's another. If you stay in the military it's unlikely life is going to "settle down" or you're going to live near your parents and extended family or buy a house that you'll live in til your grandchildren are coming to visit. Again, hard things to accept.

How about the pipe dream that your house isn't going to be overrun with military gear that never gets put away. There's a good one. I know from my own complaining & tears (being slightly over dramatic but not much) that I'm not the only one in that boat.

The Murphy's Law of Deployment is another one. I'm fairly certain it's inescapable after suffering through a kitchen flood, locking myself out of the house multiple times (which I never have done in my life!), being sick for a month, not being able to sleep & then ending it all with a car accident just before he came home! Don't look for it, don't think about it, but don't be surprised when it happens. Just be ready to handle it.

All of these are PAINFUL to consider and accept. I hope for the exact opposite of all these things for my military SO/spouse sisters, really I do. And I hate when I see these kinds of things happening to them. But I try not to get caught in cynicism but instead wish them very, very well and hope for the best for them.

I guess the best I can do is celebrate their good days and it be ready to console, support and encourage if and when they need it. To be a good big sister, sometimes I just have to keep my mouth closed and let them experience life on their own terms and find their own solutions. But it sure hurts me to watch sometimes.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Post Deployment Thank You Cards

Set of 6 Hand Lettered Thank You Cards - Chalkboard Thank You Cards - Wedding Thank You Cards- Hand Lettered Card Set

Today I am sending out thank you cards to people who were super awesome supporters during our deployment. That includes a few family members, neighbors and friends. It's been several months now since my husband came back and it feels like the right now to do this now.  We've had a little time to get resettled and caught up with life and I have a little more energy now and time to sit down and think.

It seems very appropriate to just take a moment to let people know how much I appreciate all they did for us while my husband was away. It was a long, challenging year but full of wonderful blessings too. I want the givers of those blessings to know how much we appreciated all they did for us, how they helped keep our spirits up and how much it meant that they always told us they were keeping us in their prayers.

This is going to be a fun activity. I know I am going to enjoy letting our loves ones know what angels they have been for us. For the rest of my life I am going to have little posse of people I will always remember as my deployment angels. Over time they may forget us, but I know we will never forget them and I want to make sure they know.

*Aren't these thank you cards gorgeous. You can learn more about Lilly & Val and see their entire shop here. Support small business!

Friday, September 27, 2013

Deployment: Moving Closer To Family, Base or Staying Put

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One of the big decisions many spouses of deploying service members face is where to live while their spouse is gone. This was a big question mark for me as well. There are lots of ways to look at the picture.

When we first learned about his deployment, we were engaged and both living far from any family. But his daughter was close so for that reason it made sense for me to stay in this area. But we had also talked about me moving closer to my family. It turns out my parents' home would be empty during the time of Hubs deployment, so I could've saved a lot of money housesitting for them. But they live in another state.

We considered moving me close to his military base, so that I had access to base and a military and religious community who would likely be more understanding of what deployment is all about and might perhaps be more supportive. In the community where I lived, no one really had any clue about the military.

I definitely leaned toward moving closer to my family or his base. But I figured if I moved closer to base, I had no real connections with people there. I would be coming in knowing no one. Moving closer to my family wasn't a practical option because I needed to stay in contact with his daughter and would be able to have visitation with her and provide her contact with her Dad.

So in the end, for us, the best answer was for me to stay right where I was. In the end, we had a big surprise and my parents ended up moving near here for an assignment which covered our deployment plus a few weeks. It was great to have them close by. Friends and neighbors were super sweet and supportive here. Our church did a huge service project and sent about 20 care package boxes to him to share with coworkers and fellow church members. It was also good that I stayed for his daughter. Having me nearby was a major blessing for both of them.

There are a lot of decisions to make about where one will live and all of them have pros and cons. In the end there will be a lot of give and take with any decision made and once you make peace with that you are free to just live fully in the present moment of your decision. I am happy about the choice we made and know we made the right choice.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Hang Onto Your Deployment Binder

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Saturday night while I was helping my husband with his brief, we started looking for an introduction to deployment online packet (unclassified) we'd both seen before he left regarding the camp he was stationed at in Afghanistan. I searched for a good hour for it. Even though I found link after link, they all replied that the original document no longer existed. Beyond frustrating.

Desperate to find just one page of that document that he needed I kept searching but to no avail. Then I started working on all the other things my husband needed help with instead, fearing that I wouldn't be able to find the documentation we knew had once existed. Then at the last minute I remembered that I had at one time printed out a hard copy of that document for myself. I went scrambling for my deployment binder and found a copy of it within seconds.

I realize that even though I don't carry that binder around with me everytime I leave the house for a few hours anymore, and it's been a few months now since my husband came home from deployment, the information in that binder is often the only tie we have to everything we relied on during deployment and may need afterwards. There's no "undoing" the binder at this point. It's not going away. I am so glad I kept everything just as I had it while he was deployed and it was so easy to find.

I had a scanned image of the one page of the document we'd been searching for to my husband within minutes of finding it in my binder. Being organized with all the deployment related papers is still paying off even though deployment is over. It's also a great resource. It's amazing how quickly you start forgetting things. I have gone back to that binder several times just to refresh my memory about what actions we took with insurance, DMV, and other organizations while he was gone. It's crazy you forget, but you do. There is just too much going on during reintegration to keep your head on straight. Deployment is no different in that regard. Thank goodness I still have my deployment binder!

Monday, September 23, 2013

How Does He Do It?

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Sometimes I look at the things my husband accomplishes for his work and I don't know how he does it. Ridiculously long days, going without decent meals, tedious trainings and uncomfortable travel.

Saturday night I stayed up with him all night, after he'd worked all day. My Saturday has been significantly less rigorous. He was working on a brief he had to present at 0700 hours Sunday morning and after that he had a PT test -- he'd be doing all this on no sleep.

I don't know how he made it through. I am amazed at his strength. Men have an ability to just keep pushing through that truly amazes me. Some days when I see what he survives it brings tears to my eyes. I don't know how he does it. But I love him to bits for his sacrifices. I know he doesn't do it because it's fun most of the time. I know he doesn't work so hard because it's always fulfilling and interesting. He does it for our family. He's a good man.

I think men need more praise for all they do in service to the ones they love. Women often get high praise for their efforts but I think it's about time we truly recognized the god-given strengths of men and all they bring to our lives. Thank you sweetheart!

Friday, September 6, 2013

Men & Women: We Miss Each Other Differently

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Here's a lesson I've learned over the years of having my boyfriend/fiance/husband travel frequently. I always miss him most right when he leaves. Things get a little stressful, he gets super busy and I am just standing there watching him pack trying to stay out of the way. Next I have to say goodbye, dropping him off at the airport, a ship, or a base farewell. After that I am suddenly all alone, the silence is loud and overwhelming and I feel a little lost.

Then I have to get busy doing something because the missing him hurts too much. Some trips it hurts much more than others but the void is always felt immediately. I often take a fun detour on the way home to distract myself or make plans with a friend in those first few days. One of the hardest parts of those first few days is that this is when I miss him most but it's also when he will be busiest, most distracted or even totally out of contact for a while. So the missing him stings even more when you don't know when you'll hear from him or only get a quick "check in" call and have no conversations for a while. Around this time the calls always seemed to be few and far between, rushed, or non-existent. At first it made me sad that he didn't seem to miss me much when I was missing him so much. He sounded busy, too tired and distracted and being a girl I tended to take it personally. 

Then I started noticing a pattern. I missed him the very most right when he left. That was when I had to push myself to not let my emotions get the best of me. I intentionally would get busy on projects and other activities and within two or three days I was having fun, getting things done and the days started to pass more quickly and more happily. Soon I was rushing to get everything done I wanted to before he got home. Sometimes that included visits with family, sometimes it was DIY projects, or reorganizing the entire house.

Sometime around the third week of him being gone I would suddenly start getting lots of calls from him. He would want to talk a lot more. He started using more "I really miss you!" vocabulary. He was really interested in me and often sounded homesick talking about missing meals I cooked, or just wishing he could do some everyday activities with us. This would continue right up until he got home. At the same time I would be totally distracted with my projects and not feeling that deep "missing you" feeling much, even though I did really miss him. I would wish it had been like that in the beginning when I really needed him. But instead I knew how to be there for him, after all he was the the one away from home.

Once I saw this pattern played out a few times, it was easy to skip having hurt feelings at the beginning when it seemed like he didn't miss me or care about me.  Instead I just remembered he was knee deep in traveling, jetlagged, getting adjusted to completely new environments and often swamped with paperwork, assignments and projects.

Now I recognize that time for what it is and look forward to that first call or email when I can tell he is really missing me and our little family. On deployment it happened the day they ended training just before they flew out to the war zone. Boy did I get some amazing messages and calls from him in that 24-hr. period. Of course I'd been crying, missing him like crazy for the three weeks while he was in 118 degree temperatures, just trying to survive training in the blazing hot, humid south in July. That day they flew out it was like he had to say everything in his heart before he left the country just in case. I still cherish those sweet words. I added them onto the side of a picture of him and posted it on my Love Board so that I would never forget them. I try to read them often.

His big "I miss you" moments don't always happen right when mine do, or when I think I most want them to happen. But they are always fantastic when they do come. So instead of being irritated about "why" they haven't happened on my own timeline or "if" they will happen, I just look forward to that moment when they will happen. They will happen and I have to be grateful for them and cherish them and enjoy the surprise of never knowing just when and how they will happen. And I have to remember that just because it doesn't seem like he's missing me as badly as I'm missing him at the beginning, there's a reason and he will miss me soon enough.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Learning To Heed Immediate Warnings

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We are learning how to deal with reintegration stress and post combat stress. This past weekend we had an experience that gave me confidence that we are doing okay. We had gone out on a family outing, walking along a row of piers stopping at lovely shops and restaurants, viewing ships and having a lovely time.

At one point in our afternoon we turned a corner and were suddenly in a VERY crowded area, body-to-body crowds. Immediately, my husband said, "I can't do this." In my rush to get everyone to the bathroom I had forgotten who I was dealing with, a recently returned combat veteran. Crowd...not good! So we quickly went to the bathroom and he waited for us in a back walkway where the crowds were not so bad. Then I remembered that we could cross the building and be on a lovely oceanfront walkway on the back side, rather than walking all the way through the shopping center to get to that walkway.

I sprang into action, getting us out of there as quickly as possible. My husband stayed calm, I think he knew I was all over it making sure to get us out STAT. Seconds later we were out of the building and the crowds. Later, back on the street again the crowds continued to grow in the direction we were going. We decided that instead of completing our planned journey we would cut it short and find a shortcut back to our original destination where we could catch the train back to where we were staying.

Even though we cut our day short, it made total sense to get out of there. There was no reason to cause any extra stress on him, which would surely have transferred to us. I told him later I was so glad that he had immediately identified that this was a place he was not going to be able to be in and immediately let me know. That way together we acted immediately, started making team decisions and avoided a disastrous end to our day. I tried to be very sensitive to his situation and keep things as simple as possible. I gave him options for our return route and asked which he would be most comfortable with. Then he was able to call the shots and I knew he was comfortable and that made me comfortable.

Reintegration is a journey. Working together and being sensitive to his needs makes me proud of us and I know it relieves stress on him, me and our family. I am glad we are both getting better at reading warning signs and acting. I could have just said, "Oh you've got to be kidding me. We made a plan and we are sticking with it" and totally overlooked the depth and seriousness of his stress. I am so glad I didn't do that. It's easy to forget what kind of environment he spent the past year in and be very unaware of the realities of post-combat stress. Tuning into our returning warriors needs makes their journey back happier and smoother and that blesses the entire family!

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Reintegration: Returning Warrior Workshop

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Last weekend we attended the Returning Warrior Workshop. You can read all about it here. For a long time I thought this would be a really great experience for my husband and I was really glad to be able to be there and support him.

Once I was there, even though I was happy to be there, I had this intense dread come over me that I didn't want to talk about "our story" or even talk about deployment at all. I've been down that road, no need to revisit it. Sure the road ahead looks hopeful but I don't want to think about or talk about it more than I already have to. I just wanted to be done with it. Enough with revisiting the past year, enough thinking about war, the tears that were shed, the pains that were suffered, and the loneliness that pervaded everything. I didn't want to talk about emotions. I didn't want to talk about r-e-i-n-t-e-g-r-a-t-i-o-n. I'm growing weary of that word and all it's impacts.

My poor husband got there and had a wave of stress, discomfort and frustration come over him. He did not do that well for the workshops the first day. It was tough. By the last session of the day I was in tears and couldn't even go into the class I had chosen to attend. I wiped up my tears and walked back to our room, stopping at the hotel Starbucks to grab a snack and a vanilla bean frappaccino.

Walking into our room alone was just the respite I needed. It was a cave to hide in. I sat and watched the hotel tv promo of all the beautiful hotels they had in all the most amazing cities of the world for over an hour. The music was so peaceful and the escapist travel bug in me felt comforted. At the end of the workshops my husband joined me and we both watched the promo repeatedly. There was something amazingly soothing about it.

Falling asleep for a nap in his arms was the perfect recovery from a long day of hearing, thinking and talking about deployment and reintegration. The evening was a delight with a fantastic meal, recognition for each warriors and their guest, and great company with our new friends we'd made in our group throughout the day.

The next morning flew by quickly with a flurry of workshops and soon we were on our way back home to our regular world and the continued journey through reintegration. It was great to feel we had made so many wonderful connections with our Navy family throughout the weekend. It was a little lonely to return to our world having felt the support and kinship of so many on the same journey. I learned so much from the other warriors who were there and they helped me understand my husband better which I was grateful for.

Even though it was difficult at times, I am so glad we went. Reintegration isn't going away just because I want it to. We're still finding our new normal as everyone calls it. Sending out my sincere thanks to everyone who contributed to a great weekend for us and so many other warrior families.

Friday, August 23, 2013

The "He Said He'd Call" Tantrum

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It often gets me thinking when I hear MilSos express how annoyed they are when their other half doesn't call. I totally understand the desire for the call and it certainly can be frustrating when they can call you but you can't call them when you want to. I get the desire to want to spend time with them and want to hear their voices. I know the loneliness. But sometimes it just sounds very immature particularly when the other half is in a war zone, on a ship, working long shifts every day and calling is not always easy.

Here are a few reasons to consider that explain why he might not call:

1) He's worked a 12-hour shift and it was really crummy. He's allowed to be exhausted. It doesn't mean he loves you any less. His number one job is to hold himself together for his unit. That means he has to take care of himself and keep himself rested and well, which is nearly impossible to do most of the time.

2) Due to situations beyond his control he does not have any private place where he can call.

3) The situation may have changed at work and the time he thought he would be free is no longer free to him.

4) He might be missing home too much to call. Sometimes it hurts to be away more than he wants to discuss or feel.

5) He may be taking a little time to have a little fun. This doesn't always come at the perfect time, but I think they should be entitled to have fun with coworkers when it presents itself. Sometimes that might mean they have to bump a call. But again it's no knock against you.

6) Maybe his stress level is high and he doesn't want to pass that on to you. Or he just can't hear any more about your problems and complaints about the distance. There isn't much he can do to help and sometimes it becomes overwhelmingly frustrating to hear it and not be able to help.

7) Maybe he's giving you space to stand on your own and be more independent. Sometimes we gals can get a little too dare I say "desperate" sounding with our I Miss Yous and Why Aren't You Here With Mes. Sometimes we need the space to step up to the plate.

8) There may be an emergency situations. That could mean communications blackouts, they are on a last minute mission, there has been an incident they have to be totally focused on or something else that is critical they focus on. Being at home pouting and stomping our feet because we didn't get a call seems particularly embarrassing in this scenario!

I know there are other very valid reasons why they don't call some days. The key is to not take it personally or get overly worked up about it. Don't let it wreck your whole day. He's just one person, it's just one call. There are plenty of other great interactions and good things we can incorporate into a day. Part of growing up and getting older is to find balance in relationships, how we use our time, what we focus our thoughts on.

While calls are pretty fantastic and awesome, our lives shouldn't totally revolve around them. Surely we have more good we can bring to the world if we focus some of our time and thoughts elsewhere during the day. Men want to be with women more when they feel it's not demanded or necessary to keep the woman pulled together. A little independence is a very sexy thing and that allows us to be fabulous rather than annoying when they do have time to call. And I think that means they'll do more to try to call more often when they get lovely on the other end, instead of "WHERE WERE YOU!" or "I WAITED FOR HOURS FOR YOU!" screeched at them first thing.

It's great you can communicate, even multiple times a day. But if you have to go a day or a few days you will be okay. Buck up and make great things happen for you while you wait.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Post Deployment: Losing Stuff Left & Right

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It struck me yesterday that since my husband came home from deployment he's been a bit of a scatter brain and it's getting really expensive! Have you found this to be the case for you deployed service member? Are they all this scatter brained when they get home? By his own admission, since he came home he has done some really dumb things and it all revolves around sunglasses.

A few years ago he made a big investment in a pair of very high end sunglasses. He loved them, there were amazing. He took them on deployment for the first half then left them here at R and R to protect them. So a few days after he got home, he was helping me down in the parking garage with my car. A while later I drop away with the car loaded up for a trip, planning to meet him at the car shop where he was dropping off his car.

As I made the first turn around the corner from our house I saw something fall off the back end of the car. I recognized immediately that it was the case to his fancy glasses and saw it, the cleaning cloth and his beloved sunglasses in the road. I stopped immediately and then saw one car turning onto the street. I watched in horror as that one car, hit only one of the three things in the road -- of course it was the sunglasses. I died as I sat there praying, watching that car run over them. I wanted to die again because I did not want to be the bearer of bad news. It did not go well. I kid here but to some extent he is still experiencing PTSD on the glasses.

So days later, he could not find yet another pair of expensive sunglasses. (These only cost about 1/3 what the super fancy pair did.) Then he remembered that he had put them on the top of my car with his cover (military speak for hat). Again?! You've got to be kidding me, was one traumatic experience NOT enough to teach him a lesson?! As near as we can figure those glasses and his cover probably ended up somewhere on base as I was driving away, never to be seen again.

The next day he bought a new pair of borderline expensive sunglasses. Yesterday he started getting anxious because he has no idea where that pair is. He teases me about having blonde moments, but my brunette husband cannot be trusted to keep an eye on anything right now. I am determined to figure out where those new sunglasses are before it escalates into a full blown disaster. I keep telling him that I am sure they are around here somewhere but I have absolutely zero confidence based on recent events. Ack! I wish his scatter brained-ness would have manifested itself with things like losing pencils, or something else that costs less than a couple of dollars instead of a couple of hundred dollars (more or less.)

Don't be surprised if your returning loved one makes a string of dumb mistakes or isn't quite on their game when they get back. Give them some slack, encourage them about all the great progress they are making. Our $1000 sunglasses situation is not yet over, but I know every week my husband gets more settled here at home which couldn't make me happier. He's calmer, happier and just in the past two weeks I have really seen him overjoyed to be with us. He has mentioned it almost daily how happy he is to be home with his girls. I'll take that any day. We'll keep working with him on keeping track of his sunglasses!

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Being Careful Around Other Men

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One of the things I thought very carefully about before my fiance/husband deployed was being careful around other men. It was obvious to me that it could be very easy to start depending on other men too much or to be too liberal in my attention and closeness with other men while he was away. I learned that this also means after he's returned to when it takes time to reconnect. There is a certain annoyance to the reconnecting process that makes seeking other men's affections seem easier.

I am very loyal to our relationship and would never consider cheating or being disloyal in any way. But it's a slippery slope when you are lonely, your man is far away, other men offer you a sympathetic shoulder or to help you around the house.

I decided to err very far on the side of caution while he was away, because I knew how vulnerable I was to loneliness and how sad I was that he wasn't here with me. Here are a few things I determined I would do or absolutely would not do.

1) I would not have long conversations with other men. I was even careful about doing this with his brother. I tried to keep things simple and straightforward. Communication breeds intimacy and when you are missing the intimacy of your significant other it's easy to seek it out wherever it comes most easily. Getting it from other men I felt was dangerous.

2) I would not get overly involved in social media interactions or texting with other men. Social networking has a way of very quickly creating a false sense of intimacy. I wanted to avoid this. When a man is making you laugh and smile and you feel like he knows you, it's easy to get a little mixed up with the emotions. I think we all have a little alarm that goes off when we've gone a little too far. When you start to question whether something is okay or not, it's easiest to just make that your stepping away point.

3) I would not ask the same male friends for help repeatedly. When I needed help I tried to reach out to a variety of people, rather than the same friend repeatedly. Men are very sympathetic to women in need. It's how they are build. It's very easy to create a feeling of attraction out of a sense of need or of serving someone else. I also didn't want to put any unnecessary expectations on one person, nor did I want to come to rely on one person to an inappropriate extend.

4) I did now share my problems or overly unburden myself to other men. Again men feel a need to help solve problems and when you share your problems they want to help. It creates intimacy.

5) I would not be alone with other men: that's in cars, in my home, in their home, etc. Always in a group, never alone with a member of the opposite sex.

6) I would not give anyone even the slightest impression (by being overly friendly or warm) that I would consider any indiscretions while my husband was away. I know that men will show interest when they are interested, but I often see women in relationships giving every sign they are seeking intimacy or would be willing, who then appear shocked and insulted when  man attempts to act on such emotions. Keep the air very clear about your intentions.

7) I would create a Love Board to help me feel close and connected with my husband. You can read all about it here. I wrote him love letters even on days when he wasn't acting very lovable and I wasn't feeling very loving. It helped keep us close.

8) I would not obsess about my husband's flaws while admiring the talents of other men. It's easy for women to get dreamy and start immortalizing men. It's also easy for women to get hypercritical about their own men, especially when he is far away and one is missing intimacy and hugs and kisses from him. I tried to focus on my husband's strengths in my thoughts of him and my hopes for a strong future together. This wasn't always easy during rough periods, but I clung to it to get me through.

There are many stories about how relationships, marriages and families fall apart during deployments. Some people are just completely unscrupulous. You hear stories about people who act out of complete disregard for their significant other/spouse having outlandish affairs, getting involved in outrageous and dangerous behavior. There is little I could say that will stop that group from their abhorrent destructive behavior.

 Then there are the relationships that get broken because one little thing lead to another and suddenly intimacies had been created that shouldn't have been and people get confused, act, and lives again are ruined. There ideas I shared are for that group of people. For anyone who wants to strengthen their relationship and thrive through deployment I hope these tips can help you stay strong and avoid little indiscretions that can lead to big indiscretions. Great relationships have to be guarded, protected and cared for like great treasures. I hope these ideas will help you find the best way to guard yours.