Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Making Memories On Our Own

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, October 14, 2013

The Army Never Promised To Fix Your Mistakes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, October 11, 2013

To Mend Broken Hearts

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted with much love to you all!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

The Death Benefits/Gov't Shutdown Firestorm

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, October 7, 2013

It's Noble To Be A Gracious Woman

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

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

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

Friday, October 4, 2013

A Reintegration Update: It Gets Easier

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Sometimes You Can't Tell MilSos The Truth

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

Here are a few examples:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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