Monday, September 30, 2013

Post Deployment Thank You Cards

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, September 27, 2013

Deployment: Moving Closer To Family, Base or Staying Put

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Hang Onto Your Deployment Binder

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

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

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

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

Monday, September 23, 2013

How Does He Do It?

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

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

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

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

Friday, September 6, 2013

Men & Women: We Miss Each Other Differently

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Learning To Heed Immediate Warnings

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

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

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

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

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