Friday, June 28, 2013

Beautiful Bathroom With The Toilet Seat Up

image via 7294 Cottage Way

Yesterday morning my husband woke up early but I lounged in bed for a few minutes after he got up. So comfortable and relaxed I found myself just staring across the bedroom towards the bathroom.

The bathroom looked so nice in the early morning light. Above the window was a window treatment I had made, on the window ledge were two sweet little framed art pieces I also made. On the wall was a gorgeous metal mirror framed with painted flowers that I bought at a fabulous home store for an exorbitant price many years ago. A bright striped shower curtain in all my favorite colors hung from the shower stall, with a nice, large shaggy rug on the floor. Then I saw it....the toilet seat was left up.

Oh the horror. Did my muscles tense up. Did I march across the room and slam the lid down loud enough that he would hear it wherever he was in the house. No. I actually thought "Well isn't that beautiful TOO! That's a GREAT sign. He's home. He's here. I am so lucky."

Toilet seat, smoilet seat. I have an awesome husband and he is here, home safe after a one-year deployment. I am so lucky. What's putting a toilet seat down a couple of times a day to that?!

Actually is seems that there is quite an international debate about whether toilet seats should be left up or down. I'll leave that up to you to decide for your household, but I for one am going to forget about trying to fix this one and just enjoy that it's a sign that my darling husband is here, good etiquette or not.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Reading: Faith Deployed

image via Goodreads

During the first few weeks of deployment I held this book close as a source of inspiration to do a lot of hard things. I have turned to it many times during deployment for a voice to cheer me on, lift me up and carry me forward.

Faith Deployed: Daily Encouragement For Military Wives by Jocelyn Green is probably my all time favorite "deployment" read. It is a collection of writings by a variety of military wife authors covering a wide range of topics dealing with deployment. Subjects include living in faith rather than fear, maintaining healthy relationships and avoiding improper ones, building a stronger relationship with Christ and developing Christlike qualities.

I read it through all the way at first and since then often just turned to the table of contents to chose a topic that seems appropriate for the given day. I have been holding it particularly close the past few weeks and even reading it to my husband at night or in the early mornings in bed as a source of mutual inspiration.

Each chapter begins with personal experiences and scriptures regarding the day's topic. Then there are questions to ask oneself and then a prayer at the end of each section. It's a lovely process to go through: the teaching, the self evaluation and the asking for help from God. Beautiful! 

One of the greatest comforts I have gained during our military life is to see that my life in some ways is very similar to other military wives. That has helped me overcome obstacles of frustration and fear. When many others have experienced just what you are experiencing, it makes it all more doable, bearable and less terrible. Sometimes it allows you just to share a mutual laugh rather than let things get to you too much. I appreciate so much the experiences shared by these spiritually minded military spouses.

I was talking about something I read in this book to a friend, who has no associations with the military and she said she wanted to read it because I continue to share with her great inspiration from my reading. It is definitely a book that can inspire anyone and reach anyone in whatever life they lead. I'm going to get it for my friend. I would highly recommend this book to anyone seeking spiritual strength during deployment or in any phase of life.

Jocelyn Green is also a fiction writer and maintains a blog called Faith Deployed. It is a great place to go for more daily inspiration and encouragement. There is also follow up to this book titled Faith Deployed Again: More Daily Encouragement For Military Wives. Here's something very exciting. Jocelyn is co-authoring with Dr. Gary Chapman 5 Love Languages Military Edition: The Secret To Love That Lasts. It will be out September 1, but you can pre-order it now on Amazon. This is a little bit exciting for 5 Love Languages fans!

Are you a fan of 5 Love Languages? Do you have a favorite deployment read to share? I'd love to hear your experiences with military themed readings. Have a great day. Thanks so much for coming by.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Post Deployment: Who Am I Now?

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Now that we've finished our one-year war-zone deployment, I've been thinking about who I am now. I'm not saying I have been completely defined by the fact that my husband was preparing for deployment and then deployed for the past year but it definitely was the most impactful thing happening to us in our life up to this point. It has very much defined the daily events of my life, my greatest fears, most supportive efforts and my thoughts, health and well-being every day.

Being the family of a deployed service member is it's own special planet in many ways. After living on such a high-anxiety planet for so long now I feel like I'm taking off an entire suit of armor, putting down a huge shield I've been carrying and now putting on a tee shirt and sporty skirt and being jettisoned elsewhere. It's a big change of thought process and perspective and there is a very strange period of mourning. letting go and readjustment you have to make. Part of me wants to cover my ears and never hear another news story about Afghanistan and the other half of me feels it would be grossly disloyal to stop caring about the welfare of every one of our military members there just because my husband came home alive.

Now that we've left Planet Deployment, I feel like I am staring at a new part of the universe, considering where we want to go from here and how we want to get there. I've been looking at my goals, hopes and dreams and feel a new freedom to reach for some things, take time for myself a little more and stretch my wings more. It's a fun feeling. I like looking out over so many possibilities and thinking about where I'd like to go first.

I'm thinking about finishing up a book I started the last couple of months of deployment. I want to take  music lessons and make use of the beautiful instrument that sits in the corner of my room unused. I want to shake up our routine, check out new neighborhoods and refresh everything about our life. I'm liking this feeling. I can't wait to see where it takes me in my journey with my darling little family. It's fun to have new things to look forward to.

Some day I will get used to the fact that everywhere I go I no longer need to explain why my husband seems like just an invisible friend no one ever really sees, why my daughter, at least publicly seems fatherless, that I am not a single mother. I will get completely used to making daily decisions as a couple again. I will lay down that fearful, desperate need to check the news every night right before bed to see if anyone has died in Afghanistan that morning. I will quit imagining what I would do if two men showed up at my door in uniform to make a death notification. I'll relax more.

I knew when my husband came home we would have to reinvent our life. But I didn't imagine how much I would have to reinvent my life and how I define myself once he came home. It's a pretty interesting journey.

Have you gone through a strange personal transition once your service member came home? What surprised you? What excited you?

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Deployment: 10 Blessings In The Silver Lining

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I hear people complain so much about how much deployment sucks. It does, that's a given for a lot of reasons. But I think when people get so hung up on complaining about it they miss the opportunities to grow and improve themselves from the lessons they are learning.

Deployment is not a free pass to be miserable, whiny and grumpy all the time. It's not a time to give up on life and loaf around sad for a year. It's also not a free pass to be a total witch to anyone who dares look at you the wrong way. Sadly I see that sometimes. And as difficult and scary as deployment can be there are still harder, scarier things in life that can happen to you. Now that our deployment is over I appreciate much more the blessing that came to our family as a result of a one-year deployment to the war zone. Here are 10 blessings I received from deployment.

1) I learned to appreciate everything my husband does. The first week my husband was gone I realized he had been taking out a lot of trash every week without me realizing it. I knew he took out the trash but I had no idea how much trash we created and how often he was taking it out. There were a thousand other things like that that I realized I had been taking for granted. I learned to appreciate the big things he does and the little things. We have a stronger relationship now than we have ever had. I attribute that to deployment and to our efforts to make a good effort every day.

2) I learned to love the little things about him more. I realized my husband's great sense of humor keeps our house happy and smiling. He brings a lightness and joviality to the house that we didn't have in the same measure when he was gone. I missed his smile, all his different silly laughs, his goofy voices and him getting the car door for me.

3) I became a stronger person. Deployment requires a level of maturity that requires growth from everyone who goes through it. The deployment curse alone means you're going to have to get through hard things on your own. The strength you get from being "Brave & Strong" every day are a great blessing and confidence builder as you go forward in your life.

4) I learned to be brave and live with fear. Being afraid every day that your loved one will be the victim of a suicide bomber or IED creates a level of constant fear in your life that you have to deal with. At some point I learned to compartmentalize that fear so that I didn't make myself crazy. That has strengthened my "calm" muscles and helped me to realize that whatever comes, no matter what it is, I can find my way through it. All I have to do is deal with the present moment, I don't have to ruin every day worrying about things that haven't happened or may never happen.

5) I made some fantastic friendships both inside and outside of the military. We had some people who really stepped up when they heard my husband was deploying. They are now my special deployment angels and I make sure God knows how much I appreciate them and want Him to bless them. I would be lost without the great advice and shared giggles of other military spouses I have met online. I actually have no "in person" military girlfriends but I have fantastic support network on line who have really helped me in so many ways. Just realizing how similar many of our experiences are and how similar at times our husbands or significant others are is a total crack up and pretty big relief sometimes.

6) I enjoyed a greater closeness with my immediate and extended family. It was great to have a little more time to spend with family. Their support, cheering us on was priceless.

7) I had a little more time to rest. It was nice to have a little more downtime and schedule flexibility than usual. With my husband away, I had less cooking and cleaning duties, fewer time schedules to work around. We ate simply, we planned more outings, I sneaked more naps when I could. While I would always rather have him here, this was a little blessing I took advantage of. Now that he's home I'm on the phone with him multiple times a day arranging schedules, reviewing business and family issues and more. I love having him home, life is just more busy.

8) I learned to let go of things that bothered me and not to worry unnecessarily when things felt rocky. There are some bumpy spots in a relationship that you just know will get better only once they get home. Some days phone calls don't end on a cheery note. I learned to quickly let go of any negative feelings I had after talking with my husband because I knew they were not helpful to me. I knew he was tired, worn out, sleep deprived and in a crazy environment. I knew our situation was a little abnormal. I let a lot of things roll off my back, knowing I didn't need to let them get to me.

9)I gained a greater appreciation for life and all it's blessings. Since my husband came home I have grown to love him in deep ways I had never imagined. My new found understanding of who he is, how great he is for me and the love we have together has astounded me. I feel like that one year of deployment grew our love by ten or more years. I love just seeing him, looking at his face, seeing his grin. My patience and desire to be kind have grown tenfold. I see so much more of him and have such a deeper appreciation for the wonderful man that he is. I enjoy seeing him with fresh eyes and a gentler perspective. I feel the same increased appreciation for family, daily life, and all that we've been blessed with.

10) I gained a greater sense of patriotism and appreciation for America. I appreciate more greatly the sacrifices made by military families through the generations. I am glad to be an American. I love this country. I love the overwhelming appreciation for this country that most military families have. I love patriotism and respect for the flag, our history and our founding fathers. A year of deployment taught me to appreciate these things more.

Does anyone wish for a deployment? No, not likely. While deployment is very difficult in many ways, there are things to appreciate and learn to be grateful for. It's not all miserable, horrible and terrible. It's life and like all phases of life there are things that will be hard and there are great blessings if we look for them.

Okay, your turn. What blessings did you receive during your deployment? How is your life, your relationship, your outlook better from what you learned?

Monday, June 24, 2013

I Am Going Home, He Wrote

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Last week I was passing by one of my husband's piles of things that have not yet found a home since he returned from deployment. On top was an small yellow manila envelope. I easily recognized the written addresses as my handwriting along with three red hearts drawn on the lower right corner, signifying my husband, me and our daughter.

Then I saw something scribbled on the front in red ballpoint pen. It said, "I am going home here!" in all caps with several exclamation points and an arrow pointing to our home address. Above the home address his name had been written in with the same red ink and it was all circled.

Such a simple message but I imagined the depth of feeling behind the few words written. I wondered why he had written this. Had he written in it on a day when he was particularly homesick? Had he been scared and needed the encouragement? Was he writing this message to cheer himself on? Was this a shout to the Gods demanding that he would make it? Was it near the end and was this his way of giving the middle finger to deployment?

I know that if I asked him I would probably never get a straight answer. He might be a little embarrassed that I saw it, I'm not sure. In a way I prefer never knowing exactly why he did. But I love that he did. I love that home meant so much and that coming home meant so much - that he was looking forward to it with a level of enthusiasm that required bunches of exclamation points.

My man, like so many other men, particularly military men, is not a man who gushes emotional sentiments. But I know in his heart he is vastly more feeling, emotional and complicated than he would ever let on. I like seeing little glimpses of that part of him along the path of our daily lives. I love that envelope and I am going to make sure we save it.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

I Want To Be A Military Grade Wife

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Today I have to pass along a link to this fantastic article from SpouseBuzz yesterday by Kim Kapacziewski titled What I Learned About True Love From A Wounded Warrior. Her story is pretty amazing.

The article is a fantastic primer on being a good wife, on being a good military wife. The lessons she talks about are what make a marriage last and survive tough times - and create amazing people. Of all the fantastic inspiration in the article, one thing really stood out to me as a military wife.

Her husband Joe gave her the best compliments when he described her. He said of his wife, "The girl was long-haul material. She had the 'right stuff'. Kim was Ranger quality." Now these are not the most romantic, flowery words a man could say about a woman, but they speak volumes about the kind of woman his wife is and the kind of woman who makes a good military wife.

It got me thinking, Am I military grade? Am I Ranger quality? (My husband actually was a Ranger before switching branches before I met him). When I think of military grade equipment I recognize it as tougher, stronger, more durable than every day stuff. Think of the laptop and phone cases that are military grade. They can be dropped, banged up and knocked over and they stay in one piece and protect the important stuff.

Am I the kind of woman who does not fall apart when I get bounced around and banged up by life? Do I put fear aside and do the right thing anyway? Am I willing to do whatever it takes to accomplish our family's missions? Do I do everything I can to protect the important, breakable stuff like my marriage, my family and my husband's feelings? I want to be military grade. My husband is and I want to be his partner in every way. So I'm taking this to heart and thinking about things that I can do to be a "military grade wife".

I can already see that in some areas I have done a great job, others I have done acceptably and in a couple I need serious improvement. I'm setting this as my new mantra "I am a military grade wife" and I am going to start thinking of it in those terms. I'm taking myself to my own little Military Wife Boot Camp and breaking down my weak spots so I can build myself up better, faster and stronger. I want to show my husband that he can trust me in ever way and that I am indeed "Military Grade Quality."

Have you ever thought about being "military grade"? What does that mean to you and how do you put it into play in your relationship and family?

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

My Husband & I: The New Terminator Team

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Long story short, my husband and I found ourselves at an arcade on a very rainy night recently. It had been a super stressful day and there had been a lot of tension, even though we were both really trying hard to get through it with some grace.

This was a pretty small arcade. We weren't up for attempting to grab a stuffed animal out of a rigged machine. Some of the games didn't even work. So we somehow ended up at a two-player Terminator game.

We ripped it UP! I don't know what it was but that plastic arcade game gun felt good in my hands and it felt good to blow away some bad robots from the future. We worked really well together and were blowing things up left and right. My husband is an expert ranked marksman, which I am only now really beginning to appreciate. I had no idea that military qualification could be so much fun in an arcade.

There was an excitement and sense of power to reload and start shooting again. To cover for each other when one ran out of ammunition and to occasionally get a chance to launch a grenade. Looking back now I see a very real allegory in our experience about how we work together to defend our marriage, our family and push forward to our future. But at the time it was pure fun to burn off pent up stress and energy. And I did pretty well for a girl who knows very little about guns. I aimed, I shot, I blew up bad guys. All the while my husband was yelling instructions to me. "Go for the heads, go for the heads!....You have a grenade, use it....Okay, right now you only have a shotgun."

At the end my husband mentioned, somewhat humbly (I say that laughing) that he really had my back and helped me out a lot. While I think I held my own pretty darn well for the girl that I am, all I could think was, "Of course you did, you big stud. And I wouldn't have it any other way!"

I could have played that game with him for hours. But at arcade rates, after a few "continue playing" extravagances we stopped and forced our way back to the real world. But it was so much fun, such a great stress relief, kinda hot and looking back a great lesson about what a dynamic duo we are in the game world and even better in the real world.

Monday, June 17, 2013

No One Is Sailing Through Reintegration Babe

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The Reintegration journey we are on surely has been interesting. So many awesome highs and a few pretty depressing lows. It's unbelievable how much work it takes to put your entire life on hold to leave for deployment. Undoing it all and even just being able to remember what you did a year ago to set everything up to leave, even if you kept good records, is mind-blowing. Then there are never-ending decisions to be made about the future, the exhaustion and the emotions all over the place.

I have to say I am so proud of my husband. He has impressed the socks off me in his efforts the past few weeks. Has everything been perfect and easy, hell no. Has he gotten frustrated, been exhausted and struggled? Sure, or course he has. But he has amazed me at how hard he tries, how loving, patient and forgiving he has been and how he's tried to put the principles he learned in the post deployment/reintegration training to use in his life and with our family.

He on the other hand is not so impressed. He thinks he should be accomplishing tons more, full of energy, and perfect at every turn. Last night we had a talk about that and I felt strongly that I needed to remind him that no one is sailing through reintegration easily. Everyone is having their struggles. I imagine there are some who came home to find out one of the spouses was cheating or planning to leave the marriage. Others came home to other hardships we can only imagine and thank our lucky stars are not happening to us. I am sure no one is finding reintegration and recovery to be as easy as they believed they could make it if they just tried hard enough.

I can say that our relationship has really grown due to reintegration. We work together better than we ever have, our communication is more open and generous. We seem to take a lot less for granted, enjoy our friendship more and we are kinder and gentler with each other than we even were before. That is awesome, because we are a good team. We are really enjoying each other. Early this morning, with the sun glaring in my eyes, waking me up, I looked over at him sleeping peacefully next to me and just got the biggest smile on my face. I find him ridiculously cute, which is funny considering I went totally against type when I started dating him. As I lay there in bed I  jubilantly thought - He is here. He's with me. I love him! He loves me. Hooray!

It's good to remind our loved ones that reintegration takes a certain pace, it can't be rushed. And that everyone is having to find their new normal. No one came home to easy street with everything just as they left it and no challenges. I was grateful to have the chance to remind my dear husband that this is a marathon, it is not a sprint. You can't sprint a marathon and there is no way possible that he could ever have his entire life reconstituted in a mere 30 days. Just as pre-deployment takes a long, long time, reintegration requires a similar amount of time to move through. When it comes to reintegration the phrase "Slow and steady wins the race" seems like a pretty great motto.

Friday, June 14, 2013

The Barrage of "Why Didn't You Just" Questions

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Here's one right out of all the best deployment handbooks - When a service member returns from deployment they should refrain from repeatedly questioning their partner about why they did things they way they did. This can range from how one handled the checkbook, took care of the cars, raised the kids, moved the furniture, took care of themselves - oh there are just thousands of possibilities here.

I'm not sure why, but people in a deployed war zone seem to imagine the rest of us with nothing much to do, no stress, no financial worries, abundant amounts of time to get anything needed or wanted done and always feeling like a million bucks. They don't seem to get that the worry about them alone is enough to kill every one of us from a heart attack or stroke!!! Am I right?! They don't see that we don't sleep well the entire time they are gone, often have kids waking us up in the middle of the night.

They seem to forget that we have kids climbing on us 24-hours a day. The great part about that one is that it's a rude awakening when they get home. Huge amounts of kid energy bombarding them is a real humbling moment for them when they realize how exhausting it is after just a few minutes when you've been doing it alone for a year. They seem to forget that we have three meals to put on the table every day by ourselves and have limited amounts of time and energy to spend on the phone with insurance companies, doctors, lawyers, repairmen, banks, schools and airlines.  

I was ready for this one. Remember, I'd read all the books! But even then I still felt pretty defensive when questioned repeatedly, the first few days about how I handled things for A YEAR while he was away. (Let't not forget here that he was away for most of the two years before that as well.) I tried a variety of approaches all of which didn't satisfy him and made me feel like a little kid trying to come up with some reason to not be in the dog house. When in reality I didn't think I'd done anything wrong in the first place. No I hadn't done everything perfectly while he was gone, but by hell, the ship was still afloat and we were all still alive and the house was clean when he got here.

There is no way to ask "Why didn't you just ___" without it sounding like a put down - as if any moron could have done it better than you did. I think they think they are helping because they believe their idea would've made life easier for you. Unfortunately again that implies you made a poor choice that wore you out more than it needed to. Insulting again.

Finally, about the third or fourth day he was home I'd had enough of all the Monday Morning quarterbacking. In a moment of sheer frustration or perhaps inspiration I turned to him and said, "I can't changed anything about how I handled our home life during your deployment. It's too late now. I did the best I could do. Questioning me about how I did everything now, my dear man, is a one-way ticket to hell for you, for me and for all of us. No good can come of this."

He looked at me and said, "You're right. You're right." And that was the end of it. We have not had that conversation again since. It was amazing how he just let it go. I was seriously impressed! Sometimes you get lucky and find just the right words to diffuse a situation permanently. Whew! And now we return to our regularly scheduled blissful reintegration. I love him even more for choosing the best outcome for me, himself and our family!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

An Amazing Homecoming Celebration Date Night

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My husband and I had the joy of spending Memorial Day weekend together on base, near the beach. It was our first time together alone. It was fantastic and at times challenging. We had a special date night planned for Saturday to celebrate his return and my birthday. Unfortunately our plans kind of fell apart at the last minute, we were running very late with errands, both tired and grumpy. We decided to have a do-over later in the weekend and it was beyond perfect.

We had an amazing evening eating dinner on a balcony overlooking the bay and city skyline as the large, almost full moon rose over the skyscrapers. It was romantic and sweet and the food was amazing. It was the kind of food that stops you in your tracks with every bite. We were amazed and enjoyed delicious mouthful. For dessert the restaurant presented the birthday girl with a beautiful little three-layer red velvet cake. It was incredible.

We left the restaurant and took a walk along the water. It was such a lovely night. It was so good to be so peaceful, easy together and relaxed. Our life is so busy that this doesn't happen nearly enough. But every time we make the time, we remember again what brought us together in the first place and how much we enjoy being together. Three cheers for date night and for special homecoming celebrations!

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Organization Style: 10 Signs Husband Is Home

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These are definitely laugh so you don't cry moments around our home. Ways you know the man of the house is home.

1) Potato Chips bags are resealed with an 8" long strips of neon orange duct tape. God forbid any air get into THAT bag!

2) Daughter's clean laundry is all jammed in the wrong storage baskets. Pajamas in the shirt basket, shirts in the pants basket, shorts in the pajamas basket. This drives both of us girls cuckoo. It's such a simple system. They trust this guy with national and international security in a war zone but he can't separate clothing into four baskets with clearly defined categories???

3) Clothing is hanging from the sides of the bookshelves. The other night I had the self-discipline to calmly ask him to remove such an item without even letting my voice crack with annoyance. That's a big step for me!

4) Green duffle explosions continue to spread across the living room. I'm still not sure every bag has been opened yet. He brought home uneaten care package beef jerky. I'm not kidding.

5) There is a stack of things partially blocking the front entryway that are "headed for storage." I promise you, that unless we move, they will be there by the time school starts up in the fall.

6) Anything small that I leave out, he will attempt to clean up, "just to help out." I will never see those things again. I have a long list of things that have disappeared off the face of the earth since I met him.

7) I will clean up a small pile of clothing off the living room chair because that is a good place for him to change clothes with the plan to leave them there so he can easily find them the next day.

8) Cheap freebie pens and sticky notes covered in chicken scratch will begin appearing from every direction like termites. I will find dozens of them everywhere in the house. My high quality pens, that I take very good care of, will however all disappear.

9) All the toilet seats will be left up. I've never had a huge problem with this. I guess growing up in a house full of girls and one dad we just got used to checking and putting it down when necessary. We had to give the poor, picked on guy a break on something. But you do notice it when it starts happening suddenly and you aren't used to it.

10) Flashlights and batteries are found lying all over the house and in every car. I seriously don't think I can walk more than three feet in any direction without coming across a high powered flashlight or pile of batteries (any size) in original packaging or a plastic zip bag.

Man is it good to have this guy home. I just adore him even with all his hilarious quirks. Just seeing him puts a huge smile on my face. In fact just thinking about seeing him right now, when he's away on a short trip, makes my cheeks hurt with happy smiling.

The thing that is so funny about him is that as big as he is into being so super "stealth" in his public life and online, he could not camouflage his location if it was in our home for five seconds. His messes are more powerful than any GPS tracking device. If he's here, you darn well know it.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Plan For Homecoming Exhaustion

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Here's a little tip from our homecoming week experience. Expect to be exhausted. Your returning service member will be exhausted from deployment, the time change and jet lag. That's pretty much a given. What surprised me was how tired everyone on the homefront, we who welcomed him home were. Everyone on the homefront will be exhausted from all the excitement, anticipation and likely a lot of house cleaning and other rushed preparations at the end of deployment.

My husband was taking three or four naps a day and sleeping only half of the night the first week or so. He would be wide awake about 2 a.m. That meant a lot of times I was awake too because he's not so good at being quiet in the middle of the night. We all took long naps in the afternoons. We were just one tired, worn our bunch. Many an afternoon the three of us would crawl onto our bed and crash for a couple of hours or more. Four hour naps for my husband and our little one were not uncommon.

So plan that into your schedule as you look at homecoming. Don't pack the schedule too tightly or expect too much from everyone every day. Leave a lot of flexibility for resting up, especially for your service member. Give them a few days to catch up with things before planning parties, events and places they have to be. It's good to let them ease back into things at home at a pace they are comfortable with. It will be a challenging readjustment period.

I found myself being fiercely protective of my husband his first couple of weeks home. I wanted him to rest and take care of himself. Beyond that I was very protective of him and his energies. I didn't make any public announcement about him being home. I just let him rest a lot, made him a lot of good meals and we did a lot of cuddling as a family.

Take care of your service member, yourself and your family first and foremost. Celebrations and big events can wait. Plan on a big emotional release and being tired when that happy end of deployment comes.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Changing Out Of The Uniform

When my husband first returned to the U.S. we were staying with him on base while he went through his post-deployment phase. After a few days I realized he was still wanting to wear his uniform night and day. Even in the evenings he would not take it off. Then I realized he had been wearing it pretty much night and day for a full-year. It was what he put on every day and took off at night to go to bed for a few short hours. Then it went right back on the next morning.

The more I thought about this the more I realized that he knew where all his stuff was in all the pockets and storage spaces. For a year, he had had everything he needed within arms reach in a shoulder, chest or pants pocket. He had a routine and the uniform was his comfort zone.

Even after being in our home for a week he keeps his uniform very close to him. He hasn't unloaded the pockets or put the last uniform he wore home in the wash. Although I'm guessing the poor, worn out uniform might disintegrate in the washer after a couple of agitations. Right now the top of his uniform is hanging near our front door for easy access and the pants are on his desk.

I would've thought the first thing he would want to do once he got home was to get out of his uniform but when I realized that not only was it his "coat of armor" for the past year, but it was also his comfort zone and his mobile "home" day in and day out it all made sense. It was one of the first things that taught me empathy for his journey back from a war zone to America to our family life. That can't be an easy transition, but I'm here, walking with him patiently, letting him find his place and loving him every step of the way.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

I Can't Get Enough Of This Guy

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I have to confess that I am like a little puppy dog following my husband around. I just want to be with him every second. I could follow him around the house all day. It's a little bit ridiculous and I know it, but at the same time I can't quite help myself.

I talked with a doctor this past week about anxiety and he said that in times of high stress or adjustment everything starts to feel bigger and more scary than it is. I think there is some part of me that doesn't want anything to happen to my husband now that we've survived deployment. I don't want to risk letting him out of my sight. As if I could protect him from anything, silly right? We've already been apart quite a few nights since he first came home and I have to admit saying goodbye to him even for a few days is very hard right now. When he left a few days ago I was grumpy & not very nice all morning. I kept apologizing & explaining but I was still unable to wrangle my tense attitude completely.

I think I also am trying to make up all the time we lost this past year, even though I know it doesn't work that way and I deep down know that I don't need to feel that way. I just need to enjoy every moment I have with him, but I still feel a little crazed that I just can't get close enough to him and can't be with him enough. I realize this is an illogical response to normal emotions.

I am restraining myself as much as possible from acting like a nut. But boy do I like being around this boy and it is pretty fantastic. It's good to have him home and to love him more and appreciate him more and enjoy him more than I ever have. Despite all the challenges that come with trying to find our new way forward for our family after being apart for a year. The fun we're having is definitely a bright spot that I am enjoying every day.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

10 Things About Arguing During Deployment

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Here's what I've learned about arguing with your significant other during deployment. It happens. From what I can see everyone hits a rough patch or two during a normal deployment. At times it may feel like one's relationship won't survive deployment but most do, so hold onto that.

Here are a few more things I've learned from my own experience and from others:

1) One thing that is important to remember regarding deployment is that both parties are under a huge amount of stress. Give everybody a break. Sometimes the arguing is more about the tension that naturally builds up from the frustration of being apart. Often little things are blown out of proportion. Catch yourself and pull back when you see this happening.

2) Deployed life is not particularly fun or enjoyable. I've read that after three months everyone is sick of it and just wants to come home. From what I've seen of the military workplace is is not particularly kind or friendly much of the time. It can be very mean, brusque and selfish. Keep in mind this is the environment your other half is living and working in. An agitating environment is going to lead to agitation. Living in a depressing environment is going to bring out negative behavior. Remembering this will help you not take your partner's moods personally.

3) Being apart breeds disconnect. It just does. It inherent in the situation. Sometimes it just can't get totally better until you set eyes on each other again and remember how great life is together. Sometimes snail mail and care packages that show you know your loved one can help a couple feel more connected.

4) Sometimes one or the other party will just be in a really bad mood or very tired when a call happens. There is a lot of graciousness in just overlooking it, trying to be supportive and doing all you can to keep the conversation simple, easy and upbeat. Results will vary. (She writes with a laugh). But most of the time meeting distress or unhappiness with a little cheeriness goes a LONG way.

5) Be quick to apologize. Deployment and war are not places to hold a grudge or wait for another chance to straighten things out. Own up to your mistakes, apologize for your bad mood or your bad timing and your baggage when it creates problems in your relationship. Try to keep the relationship playing field as clean and simple as possible.

6) Stop yourself when you realize you are trying to start a fight. Sometimes we want more attention from our partners and may dig for it however we can get it. Fighting is not a good way to do that, but it often happens.  Get to know yourself and your moods and try to avoid letting this happen.

7) Loved ones far away in a deployment environment have few places to vent their built up frustrations. They may mistakenly take them out on the people they love the most. Recognize when this is happening and again don't take it personally. Learning to let them vent without feeling like you need to fix it is a great skill to have. Also, learning to brush off the negativity is vital to your own well-being. Sometimes the best thing to say is, "I'm so sorry that is happening."

8) Rarely do we need to tell a significant other that they should be sorry when they've acted badly. That usually hits them like a lightening bolt as soon as they hang up. It's easy to get angry and feel we need to set them straight, but it's much better to receive an authentic apology initiated by them than demanded by us.

9) If phone conversations seem to end badly for a while, cut back and keep them short or take a break from the phone or whatever form of communications seems to be in a negative rut. Try writing letters, sending packages or using email. A well rounded love "attack plan" goes a long way.

10) Try to overlook moods and understand what is causing a loved one to suffer. That way maybe you can help them realize that and offer some love and support that will relieve the pressure they are feeling a bit. It's easy to misplace frustrations and anger on the homefront. Helping them see what may be causing them stress may help you both.

Most importantly remember that arguing and stress on relationships is pretty normal in deployment. But it doesn't mean your relationship is doomed. You can help minimize arguments and it always helps to remember things will generally get better once they get home. Remember you are both learning and growing in your lives and in your relationship.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

10 Challenging Things About Reintegration

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I am completely aware that the fact that my husband came home from the war well and in one piece is monumental and I have profound gratitude for that. I will be forever grateful. But I have also learned that with  all that happiness and gratitude that come with homecoming, there are also challenges to adjusting to the "new normal" of Reintegration, as many have called it.

1. Not feeling connected to our little girl. She wants to be with Daddy. I don't blame her. But I miss our little girl's club, the two of us working together every day as a team to stay brave and strong, support Daddy and get through deployment. It's different now.

2. The mess. It's seriously like an olive green explosion happened in our living room. Every time I leave for a couple of hours and come back it's worse. He's unpacking, but really it just seems like more stuff is getting stacked around the house. I'm laughing so I don't cry.

3. The intense energy. For the past year our home has been a quiet, spa-like environment for two girls. Mellow, pretty, calm. Now we have Military Channel explosions and super intense Tough Guy narration going on the TV regularly. There is way more noise coming from every direction.

4. How every room feels smaller. Having a big man bumping around the apartment makes every walkway and every room seems smaller. He bumps into everyone and everything. Trying to get anything done in our small kitchen while he's in there is impossible and it seems like every time I am in there, he's right behind me, trying to pass me, standing right where I am trying to work, trying to use the water when I am working at the sink, etc.

5. My inability to give two people my complete, undivided attention. I don't know how many times I've had both of them trying to get my attention, talking over each other. It's a little overwhelming. I am learning I have to pull back a bit and be sure to take care of myself, rather than letting them run me rugged.

6. The added dirty dishes. I feel like I've been cleaning the kitchen again and again every day. Hubs and Clementine have not been on the same schedule and there have been 6-7 meals fed to one or the other throughout the day for the past couple of days. That's not going to last, I'm not going to keep doing that. But it feels like we're feeding an army rather than just one extra body every day.

7. The overflowing fridge. Hubs loves to wander the grocery store. What was once a well-organized, half-empty fridge, that contained all the necessities for a week's planned out meals, is now overflowing. The entire front half of the fridge is full of designer fruit, tea and soda drinks and 20 varieties of Greek yogurt. I can't find anything and now I have to removed 10 little drink bottles and yogurt containers to find anything I have put in the fridge even just hours before. So frustrating.

8. Blasting our daily schedule to smithereens. To survive deployment a mom needs to have a very tight schedule. I found my way to that place and boy did it make life a LOT easier! Well that schedule disappeared the moment Hubs came through the door. The little one has been late to bed and nearly late to school every day for a week. Meal, prayer, bath and homework schedules are destroyed. Everything feels a day late and a dollar short. We'll find our way back, but I sure feel like things are out of control. That doesn't help me feel peaceful or calm.

9. Saying goodbye to hubs even for a few hours. I hate leaving him. I can't stand it. I think once he came home I let my heart get a little softer and now I feel more than I did when I had my heart somewhat safely boarded up and protected during deployment. It's hard to say goodbye, even when I know I'll see him in a few hours. But it is always nice to know I'll be able to say hello again soon.

10. Watching him struggle. I think hubs has been amazing since he came home. I know it's hard for him. I've seen him get frustrated, tired of all the household noise, annoyed with all the things he has to re-start now that he is at home. I've watched him struggle to let go of the military world he was completely immersed in 24-hours a day for the last year. Watching him and knowing I can't shield him from everything is hard. But what I can do is be loving and patient.

Part of being patient is being okay with all these things and knowing we'll find our way through them. I don't obsess over them, but I do notice them and know that I need to recognize them and work my way through them rather than allow them to sour our relationship and our family. So I smile a lot and stay cheerful and yes, even occasionally hear myself sound a little naggy about some of these things. But my goal is to stay positive and remember to just love my wonderful man every day. I do adore him.

What have you found to be difficult Reintegration challenges?

Monday, June 3, 2013

10 Things I've Loved About Him Coming Home

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Imagining that everything will be nothing but rosy and you will be nothing but cheerful as reintegration begins, sadly I've found to be impossible. Yes, there is SO much to be happy about. But there are things that are hard to adjust to, even when you know the possibilities in advance. It does help to have studied up on Reintegration, but it doesn't make one foolproof unfortunately. Oh, if only I could overlook the disastrous mess our living room now is, how our daily schedule has been shot to hell and I can't seem to stay on top of anything now, and I didn't feel anxious every time I think about my husband going out of town even for a short trip. But let's get back to all that happy stuff. Here are 10 things that I love about him being home.

1.Hugs and kisses. Oh it's good to get a hug when I'm tired and have been busy all day.

2. Falling asleep next to him. After a year of difficulty sleeping, I fall asleep within seconds if I lie on my side, holding his hand with my head on his shoulder. Just thinking about that makes my heart rate quickly drop.

3. Laughing with him. He has brought so much lighthearted fun back to our home. I love how silly he can be and how much more laughter there is here when he is here. Boys, no matter how big they are, are still fun little boys.

4. His smile. Obviously he is very tired still. Sometimes when he sneaks into our room to lie down for a few minutes, if I suddenly appear right up against him on the bed, trying to curl up with him, he gets the best "What are you up to little girl?" smile on his face that totally delights me. I missed that smile. I did see it a few times on Skype but it's much better to see it multiple times a day when he sees me shimmying up to him with a big smile on my face wherever he might be.

5. Parenting backup. Hooray for someone else in the house who can say, "Yes, young lady you ARE going to get up off the floor and go brush your teeth, NOW." I got so tired of what began to feel like nagging monologues trying to cajole our little one to get up, get dressed, to get hair and teeth brushed and every other little event that needed to happen throughout the day. Yay for some help!

6. Another adult in the front seats. I love being driven around instead of doing all the driving. When we do take my car, I love having someone in the passenger seat. It has been empty for SO long! Car conversation that achieves heights grander than early grade school are divine. Oh yes, please!

7. Seeing my cell phone "Recent Calls" list almost totally filled with his name. No more of that long distance communication, at least for a while.

8. Having him check up on me. I covered this topic here. This makes me so happy!

9. Early morning conversations. One of my favorite things is us both waking up in the middle of the night and having a great conversation. I don't get how this happens, but it's when we have some of our best talks. I think it's because we're relaxed and we're too tired to be anything but authentic. Last week it was 2:00-3:00 AM. Silly, but lovely.

10. Date night. Last weekend we went out for our first date night. It was romantic and gorgeous and lovely. It felt so good to reconnect as "just us." Not the us who run a household, who need to run errands, who are parents, but the us that met and started dating a few years ago. It's nice to have a boyfriend again!

I could go on and on, there are so many things to be completely thrilled about with him home again. It's amazing, thrilling and interesting. What have been your favorite things about ending deployment and having your partner in life at home again?