Friday, May 31, 2013

The Joy Of Having My Husband Check On Me

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Last week I had to leave my husband who was still on base wrapping up his deployment. It was late afternoon and I knew I would see him again the next afternoon when he came home for good from his yearlong assignment. I had a long drive to make and it was hard to leave him, knowing he would come home the next day and we would find ourselves suddenly knee-deep in the reintegration process. We had a lot of big decisions to make and I knew that once he came home the tough post-deployment realities would set in. I cried about that on that day.

We had a beautiful prayer together and took a walk on the beach before I left. I felt a lot better. After I'd been on the road about ninety minutes, he called. It meant the world to me. He said he was just calling to check in on me. I told him how happy I was to have someone check in on me. It had been a long time since I'd had anyone check on me to see if I was safe - about a year! I don't know if he will ever understand how much that meant to me. He was all I had thought about since I left him. How I missed him. Hearing his voice on the phone let me know he was thinking of me and missing me too. An hour later he called again and we talked one more time before I got home.

Being able to hear from him and call him anytime is a delicious treat after a year of not being able to call him and having no idea when he could call. Having him check up on me and knowing he was missing me and thinking of me even though we had only been apart for an hour or two was priceless!

Thursday, May 30, 2013

A Meaningful Confirmation From My Husband

image via Yahoo!

You may have heard this very sweet story over the weekend about the 90-year-old woman who found the diary she's given to her boyfriend who died in World War II on display at the National World War II Museum. Here's a link to the original story.

My husband read it to me while we were sitting together at an eatery working on our computers. He was supposed to be updating his resume, but was very distracted. Before he even started to read the story he started getting a little choked up. His eyes teared up and his voice cracked as he read about this sweet couple.

Then he said something that I have long heard about military men. He said when a man goes to war, he clings to the thought of his woman at home to get him through. I had actually wondered in the past if what I had always heard applied to my husband. If he felt the way everyone says men in war feel about their women and families back home. When I heard him say that with tears in his eyes I knew he was speaking from his own experience. It melted my heart.

It's amazing the things I have learned about my husband and his experiences this past year in simple, every day conversations the past couple of weeks. It's interesting how things just seem to come up naturally that are deeply informative and meaningful to me. I hope I'm giving him space to feel like he can talk when he wants to. I hope he knows that I love him more than ever and think he's more wonderful than ever.

I like knowing that for all the days he was gone, it was our home and hearth that kept him going. Priceless.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The Thing I Hated Most About Pre-deployment

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Remember in Peter Pan, the crocodile that swallowed the alarm clock? That is the image I think of when I think of the one thing I most hated about Pre-deployment. In Peter Pan, even if you couldn't see the crocodile, you could hear that damn ticking clocking always in the background, getting louder and louder all the time.

That is what time felt like to me during Pre-deployment. From the moment we got word he would deploy, it was like that crocodile with the ticking clock was following us everywhere. Every day at some point the ticking crocodile would pass by. It could be while watching TV, sitting down to eat, hugging Mr. Hart, falling asleep. The sweeter the moment the louder the ticking clock became.

The crocodile would pass under our legs while we sat in the movie theater, listening to the national anthem, singing God Bless America at the ball park. Holidays were the worst. Sure we're together this Thanksgiving but next year he'll be in Afghanistan. We ended up spending the Christmas before deployment alone together which was a huge mistake. It was a failure to commit to a plan and ended in an unhappy situation that almost ended our relationship. All haunted by the thoughts of where he'd be next Christmas. New Years came and it brought the year he would deploy. In the months leading up to his deployment he was only at home about eight weeks total. And all the while that crocodile was ticking. I heard it when I needed him at home and he was gone, when we talked on the phone and Skyped. It was all practice for the real deal that would be our lives once deployment started The stress of the ticking magnified as the months and weeks passed and we got closer and closer to his deployment date. It's shadow was visible with every bit of joy we attempted to have even though we absolutely made the most of our time together in those months.

And there was no getting rid of it no matter how much I tried. It was the one thing I just had to suffer through and try to not let get me down. There certainly wasn't any way to slow down time or stop the inevitable. In the books and military handouts I received there were two things that got me through this period.

First, that Pre-deployment is awful and that there often comes a time when you just want the damn thing to hurry up and start. That surprised me. How could anyone feel that way I thought. Well, you know what, in the last week or so before he left, I did just want to get it started already. The sooner we got going the faster it would be over. We were ready, we were just sitting there listening to the crocodile clock every night, even though we were out doing a lot of fun things as a family. It was time to get the thing started.

Second, that Pre-deployment can be worse that the start of actual deployment. I found this to be true too. The stress level does go down once you have had that traumatic goodbye you've been dreading for so long. You suddenly find things shockingly quiet, you're a little lost but you have time to think about yourself a bit and try to find your footing again. It is a tough time because mostly what you do is worry a lot at first, but after being so focused on your other half, this is the time you have to take care of yourself. Things get simpler and you can actually focus on deployment instead of staring at all the fears of it without actually being in it.

That darned crocodile was definitely my biggest hate in Pre-deployment and if I had to do it again, even with what I know now that wouldn't change much. But at least I know it eventually stops ticking and life gets a little simpler and easier. It was eerily quiet once I watched that plane take off that took my man away for a year. I didn't miss that crocodile one bit!

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Surviving Deployment After R & R

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As I mapped out our year-long deployment, which began last summer I had the expectation that the winter months would be the most difficult, particularly after Christmas, when we would be past R & R and still have half our deployment to go. I anticipated that colder temperatures, less daylight and the stress of saying goodbye again would be difficult.

I continued to think about this as deployment progressed and kept feeling the need to have a really good plan to keep myself busy during those months. I didn't realize at the time that come Christmas time I would become a full-time mom to Clementine and as hard as it was to say goodbye to Mr. Hart once he returned for the shorter second half of deployment the days would absolutely fly by.

Before that I had made a plan to visit my family, work on projects, and make a lot of plans with friends to keep my busy. Seeing it all mapped out on a calendar really helped me feel I had some control over my life for that period of time and that I could make sure my life was as happy as possible during that time.

Instead my life was filled with a lot of mom work and a lot of life lessons for myself on being a good parent, having a child in school, doing elementary school homework and learning massive amounts of patience. I became a much better mom as the months went by but it was exhausting. I went through periods where I was so exhausted I was going to bed at 8:30 or 9:00 at night. I had other periods where I couldn't sleep and was sneaking naps while she was at school. It was an amazing and very fast paced life. I gave up most of my personal goals during that time and focused on home and family. Having her around was such a joy that it made every day happy and fun, full of life.

The final few months flew by as if it was a few weeks. But I was always glad I had a plan for myself during deployment and knew I could enjoy my time while Mr. Hart was away. Deployment was nothing like what I expected. The first six months were the hard part for me. I think months three through five were the most difficult for me. I think there was some depression and exhaustion playing heavily on my life.

During that time I didn't sleep in my bed, I slept on the couch. I left the TV on until I fell asleep at 3 or 4 a.m. I was withdrawn and a few days didn't even get dressed or leave the house. The projects I was working on were stressful but I had to keep going and get them done for our family. It was during the first months of deployment that I learned that the body has a mind of its own. One my husband's R & R light came on (you can read about that here) things got vastly better and I stayed pretty up the rest of the deployment.

I feel so blessed that once we started getting ready for R & R things got a lot easier for me. R & R itself was a roller coaster. I still didn't sleep all that well and still had my ups and downs, days I didn't want to interact too much with the world, but I definitely did a lot better and was able to stay in good shape most of the time. It's a stressful time and no one had the same pressures on them even during deployment. I had my own unique stresses and challenges that came with deployment and I have a lot of sympathy for women at home during a military deployment.

I think the other thing that really helped me during the last half of deployment was making friends with other military spouses and girlfriends. That really boosted my spirits to find other people who understood my life and what I was feeling. It encouraged me when the offered support and encouragement and when I could offer that for others. I laughed hard at things they shared that sounded so much like my life. It always helped me to remember "it's a military thing" not a failing of myself, my husband or our life. It was normal in the military world and lots of people lived the same experiences. Feeling that connection played a big part in helping me thrive through the last half of deployment. And to those ladies I offer a HUGE thank you. Thank you for getting me through! My twitter handle is @midlifenavywife if you want to connect there.

Deployment will in many ways be the same and be different for everyone. I'm glad I was blessed to have a great experience in the last half of our deployment, even thought it was still challenging. I had a lot of opportunities to grow and I know I am a much stronger, better, more beautiful person for the experience.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Memorial Day: My Heart Is Tender

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On this Memorial Day Weekend I want to offer my condolences to the families of those lost in recent months in Afghanistan and wherever our service members have lost their lives. As a military family we feel each death personally. We know that for every death there is a family getting the knock on the door and two visitors with devastating news.

This year I am particularly sensitive to these sweet families as I enjoy the blessings of having my husband back in the States and soon home from a one-year-deployment. I know that there are families who have not received that amazing blessing and have gone through the immense suffering that comes with losing a loved one.

I offer these families my love and prayers. I pray God will greatly bless and reward those who have died in the fight for freedom, to protect our country and our lives. I think it was not until I had my husband back in my eyesight and arm's reach that I realized how easily I could have lost him. There have been several deadly incidences in the exact area he was serving since he left. That has struck me very hard this week.

So this weekend amidst whatever fun plans you have, I hope you will take a few moments to show your respects to those who have lost their lives defending freedom around the world. I have asked my husband if we can visit the nearby national cemetary this weekend sometime so that I can pay my respects to the great troops who now watch over and protect us from above. God bless them and their families.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

The Homecoming Gear Disaster Is Here

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I'm holding back. I'm holding back. After spending weeks reorganizing the house and cleaning it from top to bottom before we left to pick up Hubs, the entire living room looks like a deserted war zone of clutter, half unpacked bags, stacks of gear and clothing. I have learned that I am not alone in this experience. It seems to happen to many military spouses. They walk in the door, you are thrilled to see them and kaboom the entire house is wrecked and covered in gear that they are too tired and busy to put away.

He was only home for 36 hours and had to head back to base. He won't be back for three weeks. So I have to accept that the living room is going to look like that for three weeks. I am not even considering moving anything because if he can't find it, things only get worse. And honestly, I have no idea where any of it would go. There is no space in this small apartment to absorb anything more. Much of it will have to go in storage on base. When that will happen is anyone's best guess.

As much as I want to say, "Gosh I'm just so lucky he's home in one piece. I should be grateful he's here to make such a mess" and for that to be enough -- and it should be -- I not yet woman enough to overlook the mess and not feel frustrated. So I have a life lesson to learn here, don't I! It's one I'm going to have to work on - a lot!

Because really it's just stuff everywhere. And I AM SO LUCKY he's home in one piece. Ah, this reintegration journey, it's not an easy one. But perhaps the greatest lesson in it all is learning to appreciate the good stuff, know what's worth fighting for and to let go of things that will heal with time. I pray my living room will heal and look pristine once again some day in the near future. Maybe by Flag Day!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Homecoming: The Things He Missed

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One of the more comical things we've experienced since Hubs came home a week ago is realizing all the things he totally missed out on while he was gone, for better or worse. The little one and I have been laughing, winking and smiling at each other on the side as we watch Hubs re-discover our world as it is a year after he walked away and headed to the war zone.

Last week we were on base at the NEX and as we walked through the Men's Department, there were several TVs playing Psy's Gangnam Style video. Hubs had no idea what it was. We were totally surprised since it have been everywhere (hello over 1 billion views on YouTube alone!) and I have seen several military/war zone remakes of the video. Hubs stood there totally transfixed, perhaps stunned. He watched the entire video, cracking up and trying to understand, as most people have, how this video became the worldwide craze that it was.

It was hilarious to watch him. The little one stood there giggling that Dad had never seen this before and watching him discovering it for the first time. We've had some good laughs together, she and I, at the humor that homecoming is fraught with at times.

Later the same day the three of us went to the Commissary with the intention to pick up some sushi for Hubs. We got a small cart and intended to pick up a few food items to take back to the hotel room and for Hubs to keep with him while he continues post-deployment training, meetings, medical checks, etc. A half hour later we'd only made it down two aisles. Hubs had to check out everything and everything looked good to him. I was reminded of an important lesson, never take him to the grocery store hungry. Holy smokes!

Forty minutes later, with a cart totally overflowing with snack foods, protein powders, drinks and fruit, we were nowhere near done. In the chips aisle, Little One looked at me and said with a big smile, "Wow, it's like Dad's discovered a whole new world." She laughed. I had to laugh too.

Another 20 or so minutes we were finally at check out. As the bagger packed our things she looked at me and said, "Are you guys staying at the lodge?" A bit surprised, I replied, "Yes, can you tell from all the easy to eat snack food?" She laughed, "Yes!" I had to laugh that she so had our number. But it makes sense, we had absolutely no food staples in our cart, no milk, bread, cheese, cereal, produce or other home necessities. It was Daddy's snack food extravaganza!

The next day as we ate at the NEX Food Court there was a news show about the Boston Marathon bombing on the TVs. I asked him if he'd heard about it and from the basic facts he gave me, I could tell that he had missed the majority of the drama and the stress the country had felt in those days. Trying to give him a  quick recap was basically impossible.

I have learned that trying to explain anything to a recently returned deployed man in more than two sentences is a futile process. How do you encapsulate all that happened in those days down to two sentences? Impossible. So I tried and may have made some progress in four sentences, but I really don't think my explanation covered it or that he followed all of it.

Not only did he miss a ton of stuff on the homefront that we'll never really get him caught up on, but there are silly things and important things in the world that he missed too. It will be interesting to see what else we uncover as we go forward. I am sure some of it will make us laugh and some will make us a little sad too.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Things We Won't Tell My Husband Episode 8

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Things We Won't Tell My Husband is a little list of laugh or tear worthy things I probably won't ever tell my husband. I'm not keeping them from him, they probably just won't ever come up in all the catch up we have to do after him being gone for a year with spotty communications. I started this weekly column because I thought other military girlfriends and wives would relate. Maybe I should've called this "things that won't mean the same to my husband as they mean to me" or something like that. 

1. How much I love that he collected and traded patches during his deployment. Such a cute boyish thing to do and so totally cool too. He has an awesome collection.

2. How much I just love to stare at him now that I get to see him for a few days. He's off again today, bummer. A few weeks now before I'll see him again.

3. Speaking of which. I won't tell him how much it's hurting me to let him go away again already. Ouch, ouch, ouch. (Okay, I told him.)

4. How much I love being able to call him on his cell or for him call me. We did not have easy phone contact while he was gone. Love seeing his name come up on my phone display.

5. (I told him this one) How much I loved seeing him cooking in our kitchen on his one night at home. He made the most killer gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches. We enjoyed them with fresh guacamole, lemonade, cherries and chips. Yum!

6. How much I love doing nice things for him. It's nice to be able to take care of him in person!

7. How much I am holding back to keep myself from chattering his ear off. Can't talk an entire year in one week. But I so want to.

8. How much I didn't realize he's missed about what was going on in America. He'd heard about the Boston Marathon bombing, but really didn't know anything about it. Not about the accused, Islamic ties, the whole 24-hour city lock down and capture, etc. Too hard to tell him the entire story in a few sentences!

9. How hilarious it was to watch him riveted to the video music displays in the men's department at the NEX when he first laid eyes on Psy and learned what Gangnam Style was. How is there anyone on earth that hasn't seen that in May 2013? Too funny. Our little one and I watched him staring and just laughed.

10. How glad I am to have a cheery little angel of a girl in our family as we are enter the reintegration process. She does not allow for grumpiness and at her age has learned that you have to control your own behavior so she's holding all the grown ups to that. When a grown up voice or voices get a little snippy or edgy she immediately sets us straight. Too cute. She's also full of hugs for Daddy and me and just a total joy to be around.

How about you? Any funny or sweet things your other half may never hear about?

Friday, May 17, 2013

Sounds I Love As A Military Spouse

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There are a lot of sounds that are very specific to the military life. Here are a few I have a fondness for that you might have a sweet spot for too. Granted all of these can be annoying when they happened at the wrong time or for too long. But in small doses they can be heartwarming.

1. The "whoop-whoop-whoop-whoop" of big helicopter rotor blades. I recognize that sound immediately from a distance now. It always makes me feel safe. Unless it's nighttime exercises and I am trying to sleep in on-base lodging a few hundred yards from the airfield.

2. The national anthem in the morning on base. I love seeing everyone stop in their tracks at attention. Again this can also be frustrating when you are rushing to get somewhere and everything stops.  But, seriously in the big picture, we're not too busy to slow down and show some respect for this great country of ours, right?

3. The sound of marching or running service members chanting cadences as they go. Cadences have a pretty interesting history. You can read about it here. In San Diego I often see Buds students with inflatable boats on their heads as they go. I always want to stop & cheer them all on. I restrain myself but it's not easy. I just want to go over & tell those instructors to be nice and stop yelling at them. Haha.

4. The Pledge of Allegiance, National Anthem and God Bless America sung by our little girl at the top of her lungs. I love that she has an appreciation for this country and patriotism that most young children have no understanding of in this country anymore. They don't even say the Pledge in many schools now.

5. The words "See you soon" said by the love of my life. We have been apart a lot over the past three years. Knowing he's coming home safe, sound and SOON is the best feeling in the entire world.

So friends, what are your favorite military sounds? I'd love to hear what warms your heart and makes you feel connected.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

What's Up With Military Boys?

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This is a little laugh about boys and by boys I mean our men who will always be little boys. Most of these are particular to military boys but they surely apply to civilian guys too. This post was inspired by meeting a Coast Guard Flight Surgeon who was my doctor at Urgent Care a couple of weeks ago who had many things in common with my husband. This is dedicated to my husband, the doc and all the curiously amazing men of the U.S. military -- and the women who love them.

1. What is up with a significant other or spouse touching or caressing your bottom in public. But if you did it to him he would tell you it was inappropriate.

2. What's up with cars. Needing more than one or two vehicles, being obsessed with gas mileage, engines, etc. What is up with being more obsessed with the well-being and protection of your car, even over people sometimes. lol.

3. What is up with being super health conscious and evangelizing it to everyone around you then eating whatever junk you want to eat on top of the protein powders and magical nutritious stuff.

4. What is up with needing so many high power flashlights, multi-tools, microscopic screwdrivers and knives?

5. What is up with all the post-it notes and pens in all your pockets that then find themselves all over the house? And why do you need to take every free junky, cheap pen you cross paths with?

6. What is up with the obsession with industrial strength hook and loop fastener (aka Velcro) and Duct Tape?

7. What's up with needing dozens of portable drink containers and shake mixers?

8. What is up with your TV channels like History, Military, Animal Planet, etc. and why do the shows have to be so loud?

9. What is up with pretending your too cool to be homesick when you clearly are?

10. What is up with the fact you are so darn lovable just as you are? We wouldn't trade you for anything!

Okay ladies, do you have any "What's Up With" questions you like to ask. Ask away in the comments below!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Lessons From Married To The Army: Alaska

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I'd like to thanks the ladies of Married To The Army: Alaska for being one of the best tutorials on spouse life I've ever had. We were a few months into our my first deployment as a military SO when the show premiered and the families on the show were just a few weeks ahead of us. That was so great. Here's what I learned.

1) I learned it would be nice to have military friends to do thing things with and have for Battle Buddies. Nobody understands what it feels like to worry about your loved one in a war zone like someone in the same boat.

2)  I learned what it would feel like for my fiance to come home for R and R and for my husband to leave from R and R. Loved watching the arrivals imagining ours was just weeks away. I also learned that being together after separations is not easy. On top of that I learned that sometimes they come home way earlier than expected and mess up your well-timed schedule which is awesome and stressful at the same time. Little did I know our man would come home two days early just like Lindsay's did. Then I cried my eyes out watching each wife say goodbye after the two-week leave.

3) I learned the value of great military wife role models. You AMAZE me Mrs. Goins! You are my role model for gracious, exemplary, loving living.

4) I learned how important it is to take good care of yourself, especially emotionally during deployment. Loved watching Blair and Rynn work through their challenges and come out even better on the other side. Plus it was nice to see what it was like for Rynn to go to counseling for the first time. That's a big step for most and it's great to see someone take it so you know you can if you need to. Seems like the lesson was there is peace on the other side.

5)  I learned about The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman and immediately had our little one take the test. Loved learning how to love her better! Again, thanks Rynn for sharing your journey! And I'm still sorry that they used that clip of your bedside meltdown so many times. I know you weren't like that the whole deployment even if they made it seem that way sometimes. Love you!

6) I learned that the TSA will allow military families to get a gate pass and go to the gate to meet their returning loved ones. I had no idea about that and neither did my husband. I had to check that out when I saw every wife going to the gate or at least trying to get to the gate to meet their husbands coming back for R and R.

I arranged it all and didn't tell my fiance that Clementine and I would be there waiting for him to walk off that plane. Even though there were lots of military personnel on the plane, I think we were the only family there, the rest of them were going on to other destinations. So it was a fantastic surprise! This was definitely the best thing I learned from the show!

Married To The Army Alaska was a gift for me in the first half of deployment. I think the first half was definitely the hardest for me. It really helped get me through. Things changed a lot for us in the second half of deployment and I was so busy that it just flew by. I'll be forever thankful for the ladies of Married To The Army Alaska for helping me get through and for all the things I learned as they shared their lives.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Slinky Lingerie VS Cute Pajamas

images via Victoria's Secret

I love having girlfriends to talk to because they help you figure out so much things about your life. It's fantastic when you realize the stuff you are experiencing or wondering about are things your friends have thought about and sometimes even already figured out. I love it when they share their philosophies and can laugh about things that happen to lots of us.

For instance, I read in a magazine recently that most men could care less about lingerie because what they really want is you OUT of the lingerie. My husband isn't big into lingerie. I always thought that was weird, based on all the junk you see on TV, in movies and in those ridiculous women's magazine articles where they are constantly pushing trampy sexuality on women.

So I asked a girlfriend about it and she laughed out loud. She said her husband is totally the same way and she thinks there are lots of guys out there that aren't that into super slinky, revealing lingerie. She said her husband's favorite look for her is a tank top and pajama bottoms. That's what he loves. She said that knowing this she tries to keep a pretty selection of tanks and pajamas that look nice and give her that sweet, girlish look her husband likes.

I'm thinking about this again because I realized that I let one important thing slip. I bought a couple of cute new shirts, new jeans and a beach cover up to wear the week of homecoming activities & reunion, I got my hair refreshed, I got a little sun on my cheeks, I gave my skin extra TLC. But I totally forgot sleepwear for the first few nights. That may be because with my current injuries the very idea of any pressure on my rib cage makes me want to cry. That's pretty sad because I've been looking forward to our homecoming honeymoon for a while now. But I'm sure we'll figure all that out and I'm definitely not going to refuse any advances by my very handsome husband. We're just going to have to be a little bit creative.

But I guess that's why I forgot to think about sleepwear. That or being distracted by all the housecleaning I needed to get done. Oh, I hate the homecoming housecleaning. I love the clean house but I hate all the work and the stress of it. Anyway, I'm suddenly on a tangent about housecleaning and seriously who wants to talk about that?! Bleeek.

So I needed to do one more quick shopping trip last Saturday. I went on a search for some cute sleepwear. It's tricky to find something that works with your body and fits the bill, but I did my best. Hope I found just the right things to let my husband know he's home and we're together.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Things We Won't Tell My Husband: Episode 7

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Every Monday I run a column called Things We Won't Tell My Husband. It's just a few things that are either silly, heartfelt or sometimes melancholy that I haven't bothered my husband about. Know that I have no problem in real life talking to him about any of this stuff. But some of this just isn't important enough to discuss in the brief windows of time we have to communicate or that he just doesn't care about. But I think military girlfriends and spouses can definitely relate, smile and laugh at these kinds of things.

1. That our little one said she and I are going to have to get secret sodas after Dad comes home. I rarely do soda but Dad never gets her soda. I'm okay with her having soda once a month or less. I don't give her anything with caffeine. So sue me. lol.

2. How excited I am to dump the Deployment Emergency Binder! Woot! I've been dragging that beast around with me everywhere for a year.

3. That the Navy has only checked in on us once since R and R five months ago.

4. That despite the fact that he talks with us a few times a week he totally doesn't get what life here has been like for the past year. He doesn't get deployment survival mode. It hasn't been easy-going, every day life around here. Can't seem to explain that to him.

5. That I haven't used his beloved VitaMix since he's been gone. I have not had time to get around to experimenting with gourmet smoothie making. But we certainly have eaten very healthily.

6. That I did a big Home Depot shop this past Saturday to get all the stuff I knew we needed and he would be looking for that I had let slip. Hello mothballs. Goodbye moths.

7. How excited I am to have him make salsa for us. Even if he makes 4 times too much every time because he doesn't use a recipe.

8. How badly I want a new dining table. First world problem I am not even going to begin to mention right when he gets home. We are currently using one I inherited years ago that is a total embarrassment. He has one in storage that is too grand for this apartment we're living in right now. How I'd love to throw those hideous chairs off our balcony and watch them smash into the concrete below!

9. That I realized if we move we'll start sharing a bathroom. Ack! As it stands, I lived here by myself when we met. So he started using the bathroom & closet in the second bedroom when he started coming here to visit and it stuck. I still have the entire closet and bathroom to myself in our room at this point. I better enjoy that while it lasts.

10. I've tried to tell him this one, but I don't know that he will ever truly understand that I am deeply sorry he's had a hard year, experienced a lot of frustrations at work and that he's so tired. I can't do anything to change that, but I do care and I am sorry. Hopefully my actions will speak louder than words once he's home.

So do you have any things you'd put on your list of things you just haven't bothered your other half about?

Friday, May 10, 2013

Collecting Vintage U.S. Navy China

While I was writing the post about the wool U.S. Navy Blankets I made the mistake of mentioning and thus remembering the U.S. Navy official china that caught my eye at the Battleship Wisconsin last year in Norfolk.

Well, you know, you can collect that stuff from antique dealers around the country and apparently there are quite a few varieties that were designed for different ranks in different galley facilities. I'm dreaming about a mixed set with all the plates of one variety, the salad plates of another, the bowls another.

I have come to the conclusion that getting cups and saucers, even when it completes the entire look is a bit of a waste because me and my people don't drink coffee or tea so I would be hard pressed to serve hot chocolate in them often enough to even come close to justifying the cost.

Coming up with a set will be a bit of detective work, but wouldn't it be fun to have a set of official, vintage U.S. Navy china in a display case. You could use them on all the military holidays for a special lunch or dinner. You can read about the history of U.S. Navy china here. I'm pretty charmed. These would be a really special treasure for a military family.

Here's another fun Navy inspired touch for home decor, Wood Anchors.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Book: Countdown 'Til Daddy Comes Home

image via Kristin Ayyar

Author Kristin Ayyar was kind enough to send over a copy of her children's book Countdown 'Til Daddy Comes Home to us this past week. It was fun to let Clementine open up the envelope and then nestle down in the couch to read it with her. It's dedicated to all the children of the U.S. Military. I loved that.

We don't have any military friends who live around us, so Clementine really doesn't have any military kids to share her military life with. Having videos and books made just for military kids really has helped us help her this year. I can't tell you how grateful I have been for anyone who has produced a video for military kids or written a book that speaks to her life. I know she feels a real connection to the kids she sees in these books and videos, especially the in-person interviews on some of the videos.

We could relate to the main character in Countdown 'Til Daddy Comes Home wanting to throw everything out of his daddy's suitcase and climb in himself. We remember our super sad goodbye day just like Kristin wrote about it. Clementine fell asleep in her dad's arms while they said goodbye. I think the emotions just overwhelmed her.

Just like the family in this sweet book we've counted down too. We've lost lots of teeth here and spent more time with extended family. Instead of a Daddy Bear we have a Daddy Doll, but we totally understand the importance of a Daddy to hug in bed at night. We've sent care packages too. Right now, just as Kristin wrote about it, we are cleaning the house, getting Daddy's favorite foods and decorating for Daddy to come home. We talked about a Daddy Daughter date and what she would like to do. This is definitely a story we felt a connection to. 

This is also a great book for Clementine to practice her reading every day. I also liked the Discussion Questions in the back that can help parents get their kids talking about how they feel. There are questions that cover all phases of deployment and can help you know how your little ones are doing. In the back there are also ideas for your own countdown and a link to the Daddy Countdown website that has even more treats and ideas for military parents. You can get to know author  Kristin Ayyar here.

This book will take a very special place in our little library of military kid treasures. You never know, maybe one day we'll have a third generation of military kids who will enjoy this book. 

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Deployment: 7 Relationships To Re-evaluate

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I'm not sure if this is a part of deployment for everyone, for some or just for me, but I'm guessing it's happened to more than just me. There are so many things that I have learned fall into that category of basic situations we all find ourselves in during deployment. One of my greatest comforts is how often I learn others are feeling and experiencing very similar circumstances as I am.

One thing I have had the chance to do this past year in the quiet of deployment days is to look at my life and re-evaluate it. Here a few areas I've looked at and made some changes.

1) My relationship with myself: I realize that in the hustle and bustle of going from calm, centered single girl to married to a member of the armed services and instant stepmom is that I had lost some of myself. Yes I've grown a lot too, but I have lost some of the best parts of myself. I had been working to stand up for that girl more often. I take more time for myself now, say no more, rest more, and love her a little more than I had been. And I am much better for it. I don't have to give my ALL to others - that is self-destructive and makes you resentful of others when it was your choice to do it in the first place! I have to be well, healthy and strong so I can give my BEST efforts to all areas of my life, my family, work, etc.

2) My relationship with my husband: Once he left I immediately found a whole host of things he does that I had taken for granted. Humbling. Sometimes when you're in the rush of every day with a spouse or significant other you don't take the time to think about how you want your life to be. This year has given me that time to remember what we really want instead of what we need to get done. Now my sights are focused on our goals with broader perspective than just getting through the day.

3) My relationship with my stepdaughter: If there is one thing I have learned this year it is patience. I have learned that so often hugs, kisses and tickles are the antidote for problems rather than disciplinary action. Learning to schedule in, with joy, thirty to forty minutes of talks, giggles & playing on my bed has pretty much eliminated time outs and grumpiness. I think it has also given her a lot of peace about Dad being gone. She is getting a lot of affection and love from me and her Dad and all the people in our life. She and I call our little after school get togethers "a meeting" as in "I think we need to have a meeting."

4) My relationship with our families: This year has strengthened my relationship with my husband's family and my family too. You can read about my funny relationship with my father-in-law here. My extended family has been so good to us too. Just appreciate them so much for that. I have also learned to take a little more responsibility for visiting my family. I don't see them enough and this year I feel a new found duty to really check in with my siblings in person on a more regular basis. My parents are getting older and I need to be doing more to help them too. I'm greatful for these reminders!

5) My relationships with friends: I have a lot of great friends around me, but neither I nor my husband have been really good about building a social circle. Because of our great church friends who have done so much for us this year we have an amazing social circle now and I am so grateful. I hope my husband will be able to enjoy it too when he gets home. I have a very hard time asking for help and I've been so blessed to have so many people offer their assistance day or night. It's also made me more aware of being there more for others as well.

6) My relationship with my talents & joys: I have turned my focus a lot more this year to doing things I love and doing things I'm good at. It's so easy to push those things aside in the name of busyness. I'm not doing that anymore. I need to enjoy these things.

7) My relationship with my time & energy: I have really tried to use my time on the important things this year and be vigilant about not wasting time doing dumb things that don't bless my life. Among these would be watching stupid TV, wasting away my time doing unimportant things rather than doing things that really mean something to me, living my dream life and daydreaming about it less, using small bits of time to get things done. I've upped my productivity, but also preserved some energy by not wasting it.

I am so glad to have had this time to revisit my dreams, goals, priorities and relationships. It has definitely blessed my life and will guide me as we go forward into our next adventures. How about you? What big questions have you asked yourself about your life during deployment. What changes have you made?

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Be Prepared For Deployment: Make A Plan

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If you have a deployment looming ahead of you it's nice to put down the worrying and actually have some tasks to work on that burn up some of that anxious energy. Here are a few things you can do to keep your mind off sadness and other thoughts that don't help you much.

1) Make a list of fun things you want to do during deployment. Make it long. Classes you want to take, projects you want to tackle, people you want to spend time with, goals you want to achieve, things you could work on that will strengthen your marriage and help you be a happier you.

2) Read the deployment books & military literature. Read the great books & resources that have been written on surviving deployment.

3) Find some military spouse blogs that you enjoy and can connect with. They are a great resource and this is a great place to make some friends.

4) Figure out where you might live. Look at several options.

5) Get your paperwork in order. Power of attorney, wills, etc. Make your "Worst Case Scenarios" plan. Talk about it and write it all down. They you won't have to be making decisions or trying to remember conversations if something does happen.

6) Talk to other MILSOs, a range of different people and get their ideas and suggestions. People who have been through it have a lot of great ideas and offer fantastic support.

7) Figure out who can be your backup people. Who can drive or pick up your kids from school in an emergency? Who could take them overnight? Who can come over if you're sick?

8) Study up on what financial & legal protections & benefits are available to deployed service members.

9) Get finances in order. Plan how you will manage finances, bills, etc.Make a list of organizations you'll need to notify he's deploying: banks, credit cards, etc.

10) Calendar out the time he'll be gone. Schedule in important dates, fun activities, breaks, etc. and look forward to checking each day off as you go. We actually got countdown calendars from the military. One for kids & one for adults. You can calendar in things like "send Christmas care packages", holidays, birthdays, etc. Seeing that there are things to look forward to and do makes it a little more bite-size and seemingly manageable.

11) Always remind yourself that the majority of soldiers come home in one piece. Don't obsess too much about what could happen. Save your energy to deal with things that really do come up during deployment that you'll need to handle. There will be some challenging situations so keep yourself strong and well with a good support system.

How about you? What action/task items helped empower you as you looked forward to deployment? Please share in the comments below. Your shared ideas and suggestions help so many.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Things We Won't Tell My Husband: Episode 6

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Things we won't tell my husband is the subject of a funny, sometimes sad, sometimes sweet and touching weekly Monday feature about things that happened during deployment that my husband doesn't need to know about. In reality he probably doesn't care much about any of these things and will find out about most of them. But mostly these are just funny to share between military spouses and girlfriends. This column in a facial expression would be angelically smiling on one side of my face and cringing on the other. So here we go.

1. That after I raced to get Clementine to her golf lesson with my hair all long and pretty, in a skirt and heels, the substitute golf teacher could not keep his hands off me. Nothing inappropriate per se, but a lot of rubbing hands on the back, putting hands on my shoulders while I stood behind Clementine talking to her, etc. His face was about two inches from mine when he asked me my name. Whew. I had to laugh. Not bad for the ego once in a while, especially when you're quite past 25 or your husband's been deployed for 11/12ths of a year or both. haha.

2. That the idea of having to rehearse an entire day of important goings on at home sometimes sounds beyond exhausting. Like my head will fall off and roll across the floor exhausting. Living it once is enough, but having to revisit it all with him sometimes is a little too much even though he totally deserved to know and I want him to. But all the explaining and question answering, etc. gets overwhelming at times. I just wish I could hit replay on a video or something.

3. How much I hate that he doesn't just spell check his emails. It's not like I haven't asked. Sometimes I swear he's typing in a foreign language. Communicating halfway around the world is hard enough already, give me a little spell check love, will ya?!

4. Speaking of spell check, when you have a little kid in grade school and they see their parent misspelling tons of words it goes against everything they are being taught at school and really bugs them. It makes me smile and I'm going to let her discuss that with her dad when he gets home.

5. That when he gets home the little one and I are going to have a talk with him about how much we love our cool base sweatshirts he sent to us and how much we hate that he had velco sewn into both sides of the hoodie pockets. (I'm laughing so hard while I'm typing this.) Talk about anal retentive military gear.

I know he absolutely LOVES the idea that one could now keep their keys & all their junk in that pocket, but Silly Rabbit, girls don't carry stuff in that pocket. That's where we like to put our hands and velcro does not feel good against the all. We'll be cutting that out after he comes home, but I don't have the heart to yet because I know he thinks he did the most spectacular thing for us ever by doing that. And how I love him for that.

6. That I'm getting battery for unused, parked 3rd car charged for the 5th time this week so it's running when he gets back. Sorry but this Mama has not had time to be able to run that car for 30 minutes every week to keep the battery charged. I tried...kinda, but when you're in survival mode with way too much on your plate, something has to go.

7. That I'm planning afternoon black ops trips to Taco Bell when he comes back. He's not a fan. I am.

8. That I'm still hoping we can have a post-deployment wedding celebration with our families and friends when he gets back. Haven't really mentioned this since we have a lot on our plates these days.

9. That I hope I remember where I've buried some of his stuff since he left. It's been a long year, I realize I may have forgotten some of my "excellent" organizational tricks to get his stuff out of the way. It seemed like a year was going to be an eternity. (I'm smiling angelically on one side of my face and cringing on the other). How many times am I going to hear "Where's my _____ ?" over the summer?! Eeek. Super scary, seriously. LOL.

10. That I'm a different person than when he left. I think I'm part the girl he met when we first met years ago (who I honestly think I'd lost for the past couple of years) and I'm now also part super soft-hearted mom and kick arse battle-hardened wife. I know he'll be different too. Hope we're ready for each other. Can't wait to start dating each other again.

So that's it for this week. Any of these you can connect with in your own life?

Friday, May 3, 2013

Things That Will Change When He Gets Home

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I've been thinking about all the things I won't be doing so much and things I will be doing more once the hubs returns from deployment in less than a month. Here are a few.

1) I'll be watching guy movies again. I think the only "guy" movie I've watched since he's been gone is Act of Valor and I fast forwarded all the violent parts. LOL. I did see it, opening night with him in a theater full of Navy folks and saw everything the first time. Thought I could skip the torture scenes the second time. The first movie on our list, I'm guessing will be Iron Man 3.

2) I'll be hearing explosions, talk of super creepy river monsters and bigfoot coming from the TV again. Sigh. LOL.

3)  I will have some help with grocery shopping & taking out the garbage! YAY! YAY! YAY! I don't know why but he likes to go to the grocery store in the evenings. If I give him a list, he'll get more than chips and fruity drinks. haha.

4) I will be sleeping better and fall asleep faster listening to his heartbeat banging in his chest. I think he has some freak "Lance Armstrong" type heart. It bangs loudly!

5) I won't be totally responsible for getting the family out the door when we go places. He'll be here to make sure we have some water and snacks and help carry stuff to the car. I seem to be the one that forgets water all the time. He's also the "baby wipes always at the ready" guy.

6) I won't be seeing a Taco Bell drive-thru much. He's not a Taco Bell guy. I am a Taco Bell girl. I keep it simple a simple burrito & taco, but we never go there together.

7) I will have to share all the Little One's affections. What I hope this really means is just that she gives and gets twice as much love around the house. I don't want my allotment cut back. haha. I think the double the love plan will work out just fine.

8) There will be someone else around who is good at picking up and cleaning up. That sounds so awesome. It's amazing how quickly the messes can pile up around here especially with a mess-prone little person.

9) I won't have people assume that every stranger I'm sitting by or walking near is my husband. This sounds silly but I've had to explain "Oh, he's not my husband," to friends I haven't seen for a while and people I don't know more than a few times. It's especially weird when it's someone I wouldn't in ten million years marry, he's way older than me, or some other odd or creepy scenario.

10) I will let my guard down and relax a little more knowing I don't have to be the Alpha Dog 24/7. I think that is going to be bigger than I  realize. Sounds fantastic!

How about you? What changes for you or are you anticipating when deployment or long separations end? I love hearing your stories.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

What The End Of Deployment Feels Like Part Two

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This is the second part in a series on What The End Of Deployment Feels Like. You can read Part One here. This of course is all from my perspective and other people might feel very differently. But if there is one thing that I have learned from great friendships and especially from other military spouses it's that we often do experience very similar emotions and situations in life. So it's great to share so we can gain from each other. Please always feel free to share your experiences in the comments section below. You never know who might read your words on just the day they needed to be inspired.

I shared the surprising not so positive feelings I've been having here at the end of deployment yesterday. Now today let's talk about the good stuff -- The blessings I feel at the end of deployment.

1) He's coming home. He's physically in one piece. There are so many people who couldn't say this at the end of deployment. If I am grateful for nothing else it has to be this!

2) We did it! We did! We did it! Hooray. Our goal was not to SURVIVE deployment but to THRIVE through deployment. I think we've accomplished that goal. It hasn't been easy, it hasn't been problem free but we have done even better than I hoped in getting through this year. We are more appreciative of each other, don't take each other for granted and our little one has been amazing through this. We have each grown and become better people. I love that. We did it and better than I hoped. 

3) We've been so blessed. I had no idea how many ways we'd be blessed during this year. There are so many wonderful people in organizations who have done the kindest things for our deployed family. Our church has gone to amazing lengths to support us and make sure I knew I had back up any time I needed it, 24/7. Our friends and family have been so good to us. Every one of these people has earned angel status in my book.

4) I have new, deeper perspectives on life. We have done something hard and it has taught me a lot of life lessons. Chief among those have been to appreciate life, time with loved ones and the blessings they bring to our lives. I've also learned to "let go and let God" in so many ways when I've had so little control of the safety  and well-being of my husband. I've also learned to take better care of myself, be even better about how I use my time and energies and to enjoy the happiness that exists in every day. Great blessings!

5) I've learned that nothing is ever as impossibly hard as we imagine it is. We just have to wake up every day and do our best that day. Honestly, deployment has been hard, I don't wish it on anybody. But it has not been anywhere near as hard as I imagined it to be. We have done really well and the time went by so much faster than I expected. It's good to remember that our imagination and fears are often our worst enemies. They often make things much scarier and intimidating than they will be in real life. We humans are capable of much more than we give ourselves credit for. Many thousands of people have survived deployment before and will yet survive. We're in good company!

Those are just a few things I'm celebrating here at the end of deployment. There are so many more things to celebrate and I can't wait to do that when we get him home. Favorite restaurants, hugs and kisses and so much more (hello homecoming honeymoon!), days at the beach, sharing stories and talking together, cooking for him, laughing together, being able to share a knowing glance from across the room. It's going to be awesome. Can't wait!

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

What The End Of Deployment Feels Like Part One

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I have mentioned this before but I am totally and completely taken by surprise at the emotions I am feeling here in the very last weeks of our year-long deployment. I honestly thought it would be all celebration and excitement, a huge sense of accomplishment, the thrill of being reunited with the love of my life, a huge wave of energy and excitement to go forward with our lives now that this year of separation is over. And yet, I am feeling more affected by surprisingly negative feelings instead. So the purpose of this post is to share a few of  the feelings that have taken me by surprise and how I hope to overcome them. I'll follow this up with a post about all the great things about ending deployment. Here goes.

I certainly don't want you to think that I am consumed by these negative feelings. They are more thoughts that sneak into my head every now and again that make me think and try to find a way to turn them around, change for the better and see the good in things.

1) Guilty -- Although I feel I have done my very best and given it my all to support my family, marriage and military husband this year, I had goals for myself that got put to the side. I am very sad about that right now. I can't go back and change that. I blame myself in part because I had control over my time and I didn't put my most important personal goals at the forefront. But I know I did a good job keeping our family thriving which was the most important thing. I suspect if I talked with any family & friends about this they would absolutely tell me not to feel that way, but I do. In part I think it also is because my husband knows my goals and knowing he will realize that I failed at those couple of goals hurts.

2) Exhausted -- I didn't realize until these past couple of weeks how the exhaustion would mount over this year. I am incredibly tired. Not sleeping well most of the year certainly had a lot to do with that as well as having an incredibly busy schedule keeping hearth and home going every day. I am very tired and need to bump up my energy for the adventure of reintegration.

3) Lonely -- I thought reuniting with my husband would be easy once he got back. We have always had a good connection and seeing him during R and R was easy and fun. But I now I can feel that we've been apart for a full year. The past few weeks we have had very little contact and I am recognizing that we will need to find our way back to each other in some ways when he returns. I know this is totally normal, but again it's one of those things you can't really imagine happening to you until you standing in the middle of it.

4) Mad -- I feel a little mad that we went through all the stress of pre-deployment, then the actual deployment, it looks like we've survived it and now I hear that reintegration might be really horrible too and that experiences that he's had while deployed and the separation we've experienced will change our lives forever. That is a little frustrating when you just want to say, "Okay America, we gave you a year in the war zone, now we'd like our life back, thanks!" To realize that it's not over just because he's coming home soon is frustrating. And I am saying this as a soon to be veteran of only one war zone deployment, although my husband is gone a lot in general. I can't imagine how so many wives feel who have been through three, four, five or more war zone deployments. God bless you families who have given up a year or years of your life!

5) Ungrateful -- I'm balancing two sides here. One side it telling me it's okay to sense that I have these feelings and to explore them to the extent that I find my way out of them. There's another side of me that is screaming, "Are you crazy, Woman!!!!!" You kicked this deployment's arse, you learned, you grew, your family grew. Of course it wasn't going to be perfect, but you gave it your all. Your man is coming home in days and he is still in one piece and ALIVE. Do you realize how many other military families only wish they could've just gotten their loved home home alive and healthy?! What in the hell do you have to complain about. You should be celebrating day and night!"

So my job now is to look at these emotions, make sense of them, realize what is real and what is total hogwash and remember that my life and my goals and my progress don't end just because deployment is ending. I can still work on my goals, I can still take the class I wanted to take, I can still travel, I can continue to thrive!

There will be great moments with my husband when he gets back. He still wants me. He wants our family. He loves us and even though he says it quietly and in rare moments I know the support we've given his this past year has been life-changing for him. We did good! I know he has grown and changed in new ways too and I look forward to exploring those. I know there is good to look forward to. I guess that is the part I knew all along. I'm making a very conscious effort this week to turn my head from these emotions to the celebratory emotions I should be totally focused on. See my next post for all that good, cheerful, exciting stuff.