Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Alcohol: A Fast Way To Wreck Your Life

I want to encourage you to take alcohol out of your life. I know for some this is the equivalent of me saying something like get rid of your cell phone or your car. For many alcohol is a part of every day life and every social event. It is completely socially acceptable....but it is a socially acceptable addictive drug. One that dulls the mind, reduces one's ability to think clearly and make rational decisions.

It brings on feelings of sadness, depression, anger and rage. And yet for some reason it is totally legal although it has had more influence for destruction in the lives of families than any other addictive substance in history. If you want a clear picture of this, talk to any child of an alcoholic. I know several and the life-long effects of their parents use of alcohol is never ending and highly destructive.

If you think I overstate my case, begin looking at articles about service members with PTS who have committed serious crimes and are now in prison. Almost every story involves heavy drinking and moments of absolutely disastrous judgment. Look at incidences of domestic violence within and without the military. Many if not most are alcohol driven.

Sadly, once the "calming, good time effect" of the alcohol has worn off, the reality of decisions made under the influence are impossible to avoid. Here is a story that illustrates just that, how one service member with PTS, after a long night of drinking, lost control, almost lost his life, almost took the lives of several other people and in the end lost his marriage too -- and then went to prison for eight years -- all for one stupid night of "fun."

I think the unfortunate thing is that this story only focuses on PTS as if that is what caused this service member to go off the rails. The PTS may have lead him to drink more but I am convinced it was the alcohol that lead him to the disastrous actions that ruined his life that dark night.

It is a proven fact that alcohol brings on feelings of desperation, sadness, fear and rage. All demonstrated in his actions that night. Anyone who has ever been to a college party or a bar can attest to all of these realities.

Alcohol is not all fun and games. It's not a great way to destress, unwind or spend time with friends. If you do drink socially often, think about how many times you've seen friends or couples break down into ridiculous arguments or fights after drinking for a while. How often do fights have to be broken up or contention arises that would not happen were alcohol not involved.

I see to damaging effects of alcohol too often in my military social network feeds. Too many break ups, too many fights, too many hangovers and far too many people bragging about how much "fun" they are having getting really plastered. And then they wonder why their lives are so unstable, their relationships broken and emotions so dark and hopeless.

Drinking is bad for your body and your safety (do I even need to bring up DUIs or the possibility of killing someone else while driving under the influence?)

Alcohol is damaging to relationships, to marriages, to children. When you're drunk, your kids are not drunk and they see and remember everything you may not the next morning. They are embarrassed and worried even when they see you start getting loud and silly when you have a slight buzz going. They are scared of you when they see you are not acting like your normal responsible self. It's terrifying to them and they learn not to trust you.

If you are a military spouse or service member or anyone who drinks, consider how you are using alcohol in your life. If you know someone with PTS be very alert to how they are using alcohol and if you have the chance, encourage them to avoid it at all costs. It is also important to be aware they may be mixing medication for PTS treatment with alcohol which is even more dangerous.

Reconsider how you use this powerful, addictive drug in your life. You can live without it and letting go of it has zero harmful effects. You will feel and be more healthy, see your life more clearly, make better long lasting decisions and genuinely have more happiness in your life.

Monday, September 22, 2014

10 Little Things I Like To Do On Base

Since we don't live on base or particularly close to a base, getting a chance to visit is like visiting a relative who you feel really comfortable with but don't see often. It feels safe, happy and comfortable.

I thought I'd share 10 little things I enjoy doing when I'm on base. I'd love to see you add some you enjoy in the comments section.

1. Drive along the docks at night enjoying the city skyline behind and all the shiny lights of the ships that never sleep. This is even better by bicycle. You can look around more and it's so unusually quite on base that it just feels a little extra magical. You own the roads and it feels like a great big world just for you.

2. Buy make-up. This sounds so ridiculously girly but I do love getting a good deal on a designer lip gloss. There a pretty, shiny satisfaction in that. The only bummer is how it always takes them 15 minutes to find my shade in all the drawers packed into the bases of the make-up display cases. Don't ever think you're going to just rush in and get out fast.

3. Watch planes land. There's something quite stunning about watching a gigantic cargo plane land. I am befuddled by the science behind keeping such a huge thing in the air.

4. See movies and bowl. A few weeks ago we hit the early Saturday night movie and then walked across the street for Disco Bowling. One of those events is free. The other is quite an "ouch" cost on a Saturday night. Cost for Saturday night is about three times what it is on a weekend afternoon. Zoinks.

5. Go to the driving range. Taking Clementine to the on base golf course is a crack up. Boy does a second grade girl get all the guys looking when she makes an appearance there with clubs on her back. It always cracks me up. She holds her own. I wish I could always say the same about my game. (Hit & miss...)

6. Shop designer purses. There is something extra powerful about the draw to high quality leather goods when you know the prices are incredible and tax-free. I restrain myself pretty well though. I don't remember the last time I indulged.

7. Enjoy a good car wash. Granted I'm going to get wet but for $2 for the basic time it's still pretty cheap to get the car looking good even if you add several minutes. There's a lot of satisfaction in being able to wash my own car. There are no "spray your own" car washes near our house. I have to drive to another city for that.

8. People watch. A base is a great place to people watch. It's fun to see all the different "sailor" types strut their stuff, young and old. Last time we ate on base I watched a great big sailor sit on his phone the entire time he was having dinner with his parents. His bad. I love checking out the retirees and wondering what crazy stories they have to tell. People talk a lot and they talk loudly. You can pick up some great stories.

9. Have doors held for you. No where do I see such great manners in strapping young men for holding doors open for women. And it's often accompanied by a drawled "Maaaa'am." I thank the South for this! Such a treat in a world where people seem too self-involved and lacking basic manners.

10. Feel safe. Granted there have been some violent crimes committed on military bases the past few years, but I doubt there is anywhere in the world where so many people would have the courage to jump up and get involved if the you know what ever hits the fan. And we're talking well-trained people too. What a gift to be surrounded by such can-do people.

I think soon I'll do 10 things I don't like about base. Maybe some one will listen and make some needed changes. (I can pretend my opinion matters that much, haha.)

What are your favorite things to do on base?

image via Wikipedia

Monday, September 15, 2014

Do All Military Spouses Love/Hate Storage Units?

I'm wondering if all military spouses have a love/hate relationship with packing and storage units. Remember the storage unit we had on base. I wrote about it here. Mr. Hart wanted to cut costs and I wanted to bring those things back to our home since we're looking at moving soon. So we spent part of the last two Saturdays cleaning them out and bringing most of the stuff back to our small apartment. Sigh.

It's of no concern to him where all that stuff is going while he's on active duty elsewhere. (LUCKY DOG!) But it's one to two days of work for me to reconfigure all out small storage spaces to figure out how to keep it bearable around here. Not to mention unloading the SUV monster alone.

Some of it went to hubs storage unit not far from base. We had to do a major re-org on his unit because it was a disaster. Sigh. Not to mention it just had to be the hottest day ever. Imagine him standing inside the storage unit where there is no air flow at all. We were both totally soaked to the skin with sweat. Even my hair was totally soaked through like I'd just washed it. It was awful.

I really want to burn the clothes I was wearing that day because I felt so disgusting and just never want to be reminded of that again. But I was really proud of us because we stayed calm and got it all done. Although I will admit that throughout the day there was a somewhat regular expletive tossed by Mr. Hart and by the end of the day I was about in tears from exhausting.

All I could do is stand in front of my husband, put my arms around him and just lay my sweaty, gross head on his shoulder so I would not sit down in the parking lot and cry. Exhausting work. I officially hate storage units. Haha. I was so tired today that after I got Clementine off to school I slept for almost five hours. Hello recovery! Mama's back needs some rest.

Do you have a love/hate with storage units too?

Monday, September 8, 2014

A Military Base Is Like The Bar/TV Show Cheers

I am glad to see Midlife Navy Wife is getting lots of visitors even though I have not been here enough the past few months. I hope the message of my blog continues to inspire and bless readers and visitors lives. We are definitely in this all together and the mutual support is a godsend.

I continue to be so thankful for military bloggers and writers who have saved me time and time again with their inspiring messages. Sharing their challenges has taught me how to manage my own. Sometimes I have learned that a problem we are facing isn't something that is just about us, but is a challenge many and even most military families face.

Other times I have learned a skill that was just what I needed in the moment to be the best I can be in the situation I found myself in. Other times I have felt loving comfort from the understanding of others in my own challenges. That sister and brotherhood between military spouses is such a blessing, isn't it!

This summer we had the chance to increase our circle of military friends and I cherish them. Just knowing they understand our challenges is such a gift. Plus it's so fantastic to see their family adventures online now that we are separated by many miles.

My husband is currently stationed 140 miles away for six months. It's interesting how much more intolerable this feels post-war-zone-deployment that it was before. Now I feel all our patience is a little thinner than it used to be. We used to just get through it, now we strongly dislike it and it feels like it creates discord much more quickly than it did Pre-WZD. I just made that up -- "War Zone Deployment" because what kind of good military spouse would I be if I didn't include one good acronym per post?

There definitely is something familiar about this all and being able to visit base on some weekends had been something you don't get on deployment. Base feels safe. It's like some strange retreat safety zone. Maybe it's a little like the bar Cheers, where "Everybody knows your name." On base people don't necessarily know our name but they know our life.

Since deployment ended I have spent very little time on base. Despite the annoyance of family separation again, it is comforting to be on base more often.

Friday, July 25, 2014

A Great Experience at NMFA Operation Purple Camp

Earlier this summer we had the chance to attend the National Military Family Association Operation Purple Camp. What an amazing experience. I would recommend if you're eligible to get your applications in now for upcoming Operation Purple Family Retreats and Operation Purple Healing Adventures. There is also Operation Purple Camp just for military kids.

The setting was Jackson Hole, Wyoming and Grand Teton National Park. What an amazing place to spend every day for a week. The landscapes were just unbelievably breathtaking. The Teton Science Camp, where the camp took place, was lovely. The program was super well organized and the staff at all levels was top notch professional, friendly and kind. The lodging facilities were great too. Comfortable beds, nice rooms with ensuite bathrooms.

Even more amazing is that the food at the camp was fantastic. You don't generally expect that any place that is feeding masses of people, particularly at a mountain camp. Everyone was full and happy after every meal and every meal pleased the crowds.

We saw all kinds of amazing animals including bison, moose, caribou, deer, antelope, bald eagles, beavers, sandhill cranes and so many more. We hiked, canoed, river rafted, watercolor painted in nature and did a service project in the national park too.

The best part of the camp was that we were grouped with two other families who had kids the same age as ours. This worked out so fantastically. The kids had an amazing fun time from the moment they met up in the morning until they were shipped off to bed every night. In fact they had so much fun that it was pretty tough to get them up at the 6:30 a.m. wake up call every morning. They needed more sleep.

Our three families were so compatible and we ended up making friendships that are so precious to us now. Because we don't live near any military families, thanks to Operation Purple Family Retreat we have close military family friends now. I really appreciate that! Amazing. Did not expect that to happen but what a gift.

It's was wonderful to have had time to talk and share and learn from each other's experiences. We also had the opportunity to participate in workshops put on by FOCUS (Families Overcoming Under Stress), which focused on resiliency, self and family care in the military family environment. It was great to get couples and families together to talk about such important issues that are a challenge to the military community at large.

Can I just take a moment to say if you are a military family who is struggling, there is so much help out there. Don't suffer in silence. You can contact me if you want and I will help you get connected with the right people. But please don't suffer in silence when things could be so much better.

It was tough to say goodbye and boy do we miss our friends! But I think we'll remember for a lifetime the great experiences we had at Operation Purple Family Retreat in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Thanks National Military Family Association and everyone who has contributed to the success of this program.

If you're able, may I suggest a donation, big or small, to this great organization that is doing so much to strengthen the military families of the United States. These families have sacrificed a lot for our nation.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Mother's Day Weekend Navy Style

I had to share with you my Mother's Day gifts from our little one. Navy all the way. So cute. I love how very excited she was to get her dad into the Navy Pride section of the NEX last weekend to do a little shopping for me. What a darling girl. I love that she felt so happy to give me these things and felt they would make me happy too.

It must be her age, but she really wanted to make a BIG deal about Mother's Day this year. She continually reminded her dad that it was coming up, made some beautiful things at school, it was so sweet. The keychain I was told was mean to clip onto the lanyard for a necklace. I love that. I'm hoping to go back to work soon and will likely have a badge or keypass card that I can clip on to that beauty and wear it with pride. Perfect.

Did any of you get something similar for Mother's Day? Do you get military related birthday or Christmas presents? This post from a couple of weeks ago shares a little more about our little one's Navy pride.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Flexing The Military Spouse Muscles

Boy was I channeling all you fellow military spouses and significant others on Friday night as I packed up a huge carload of stuff to take to storage by myself, including trying to figure out how to get a kid's bike in the car which seemed nearly impossible.

Already tired from a long day and ten days of the husband out of town, I put the kiddo bed. Then I started surveying the zone of boxes I had gathered from emptying out a closet here in the house, along with a few big storage bags of goodies my husband brought back from Afghanistan. I think I've mentioned here how he went overboard a little bit on scarves and such. Instead of thinking of what he spent I try translate that into how much it means he was missing us and thinking of us.

Because I had moved so many times before I met my husband, I have learned to be a great packer and organizer. I can fit an amazing amount of stuff in a car, using up every inch possible. I took a mountain of boxes and fit them into a very small sporty 4-door, which would get me the best gas mileage to drive to base to our storage.

Speaking of which, can I just tell you about what happened when we were on base a couple of weeks ago planning to go to our storage units. It was Sunday afternoon and when I went to the area where all the storage containers were they were all gone. The MWR decided to just move them all without ever saying anything to anyone. I called the base security office and they had no idea they had been moved and were none too happy that this had all happened without them being told. We're talking about an entire portable storage area being moved without alerting the renters of all the units or base security. I was not happy and of course the MWR is not open on Sundays. So I left an annoyed message. (By the way they never called me back.) I can only imagine how much angrier I would've been had I been moving and come to base expecting to put all my stuff in a moving van and leave the next morning for a PCS or other move.

When you are talking about a space the size of a military base, those units could've been moved a million places that I would never be able to find. I took fifteen minutes and did a quick drive around base and found several pods of storage units none of which were ours. After talking to my husband who was not near base at the time, I gave up. We imagined that the units were somewhere in the dark, hidden, mystery regions of base that one would never see just driving down the road.

So I decided to just go get gas and make the long trip home without ever getting to our units. As I pulled up to get gas, I looked straight ahead of me across the gas station into the old used car/motor home parking area and there were rows and rows of storage units. After I filled up with gas I eagerly drove the short distance, jumped out of my car and started row by row through a good quarter acre of units stacked in no particular order, even though every container is alphabetically labeled & numbered.

They were all stacked in alphabetical and numerical order in the old space, so it wouldn't have been too tough to just put them down as they were picked up and have them be in some semblance of order. But I must remind myself, this is the military, order and logic, while generally very useful, are not always initially put into play. Finally in the middle of the great parking lot of storage units I found our units and gained access to them. Soon I was on the freeway and headed home trying to beat traffic. Thank you providence for leading me to those units.

Anyway, I made the big trip again on Saturday. I was going to be alone all day, and I realized what better day to get all that done with no distractions (aka husband and kid). So I packed up the car Friday night and then got up early and made the drive and then of course had to reorganize the units completely to get everything to fit properly and in an orderly fashion. My husband was the last to take anything out or add anything and there is such a huge waste of space going on that I can hardly handle it. The two closet size units were really only half full.

I took the wheel off the old bike to get it to fit into the trunk. Hooray. That was a major win for me at about midnight Friday night. Once the car was full and I had put back everything I had pulled out to get the boxes out, I still had several loads of laundry to fold. So I put on HGTV online episodes and tried to relax and get the house cleaned up a bit before my long, long day. 

When I rearranged the two closet-size storage units and added the carload of stuff I had brought with me, they were still only each half full...okay maybe they are each two-thirds full now. But there is still a lot of space and I am looking forward to getting another carload of stuff out of here soon. Hello open space! So I aim to get our money's worth going forward and fill those babies up. I also got rid of a lot of stuff during the week while my husband was out of town and angel girl was at school. That is definitely the best time to throw things away, while they aren't watching.

After I finished up at the storage unit, I forced myself to take a break and wander the NEX. Unfortunately I found a really cute pair of sandals in my "hard-to-find" size and I couldn't say no. I should write a post on things we won't tell my husband which include the fact that I've picked up FIVE pairs of sandals in the 10 days he's been away. But total price was under $100 so that is pretty awesome - plus my size will be sold out and there won't be much available the rest of the summer, so it's awesome to know I have a great selection for the entire summer.

I had lunch at the Food Court while reading the base events magazine then despite the blustery, "might rain" weather I popped over to the carwash. I was horrified when I climbed into the back seat to see what a mess our kiddo has made back there. The things I found under the car seat. Ugh. So I vacuumed for a good 20 minutes, every inch of the car with low suction (boo). Then I decided what the heck I'll wash the car too. That felt good and when I was done I sent a flirty "I just vacuumed and washed your car" text to my husband who's coming home to day. 

Looking at my weekend, It's amazing what I can get done when I'm alone. I remember my single days when I used to be so hyper effective, my house was always spotless and I got tons done in the evenings and on weekends and was only half as tired as I am now. But I was only half as full of love back then when I didn't have this delicious little family. Now I am overflowing with all the love I get, so, hey it's worth it -- messier house, kid-destroyed car interiors, overflowing amounts of stuff and all.

As I was doing all of this muscle moving, I was thinking of all of you, who have moved so many time, sometimes by yourself, and who do so many challenging things that it would be nice to have a man around for. In this life our "be independent" muscles are never going to get weak, are they?! I'm glad I can still carry heavy loads on my own.

Just having to do it once in a while reminds me to be grateful for my husband and all he does and to be grateful that I'm "military grade" strong enough to handle all the sometimes tough stuff military life brings my way. Saluting all you "military grade" ladies for all you do, so often with no fanfare or notice. You are amazing. Thanks for being in it with me!

image via mca

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Proud To Be A Navy Girl

I'm starting to realize we have a real Navy girl on our hands here. It's been building for a while and certainly during Daddy's deployment it was happening but it's so cute to see our little one's continually growing devotion to the Navy.

First before deployment we were given a couple of teddy bears in camo. We named one Army and the other Navy since Daddy's served in both. Then came John Paul Jones, as we named him, the Navy eagle stuffed animal per request at Christmas. After Christmas it was a new pink camo backpack for school and green camo pajama pants.

Then of course Daddy brought her home some good gear from deployment including a Kalishnakitty tee shirt.  -- Which she is forbidden from ever wearing outside the house and particularly to school -- can you even imagine ---yikes! Trust me I've played that scenario out in my head numerous times, the call from the principal, her teacher, who is a real NUTJOB, would be catatonic!

Tangent Alert: I'm totally counting down the days until the end of the year so I can stop biting my tongue about this teacher in front of our kiddo - of course I'm still never going to say anything much to her about it, but at least this woman won't be a part of our daily lives.

It has taken massive amounts of discipline on my part to mask my intense dislike of her. (And I'm a super easy-going, "give everyone the benefit of the doubt" kind of gal!) It's been a long year since our first encounter when I realized we'd drawn the short straw for this year. But only recently has our kiddo begun to complain about her unfair practices and how psycho she seems. It's like menopause gone off the rails with that woman. Six weeks & counting!

It's kind of humorous actually that my one unhappy loon of a grade school teacher was in the same grade our kiddo is this year. Same menopausal age, same soulless, smile-less gray face, same "everything bothers me" attitude. I've reflected back on that a lot this year to remind myself that "this too shall pass" and that we all get a crummy teacher now and again.

Anyway, back to our Navy girl, last week we were on base and as a thank you for a big errand we ran for Daddy, he told her she could get one thing. Well since they took out the kid's department at the NEX (WHY?!) there really wasn't much of anything for her to get. But she gladly begged to get a Navy sweatshirt. Navy blue with pink camo letters. It's nearly impossible to get this girl to wear a jacket or sweater but guess what she's been wearing non-stop since the weekend. I'm going to have to peel it off of her for a washing eventually.

I love that she thinks the Navy is so cool. I love that she thinks it's so awesome that she has a "Navy Dad." I'm a little envious of the simplicity of her world and how she is able to live outside the bounds of all the ridiculous and often infuriating politics: from Washington, D.C. right down to Daddy's unit, and just appreciate the idea of the honor of military service.

I want to do all I can to help her build a foundation on that. She comes from a multi-generation military family, who take the honor seriously, and I want to instill that in her. I doubt she'll ever choose to serve in the military, but you never know, she may end up a loyal military wife someday so teaching her everything I can about that can't hurt.

Since my mother-in-law, who was a milspouse for 30-plus years, passed away before I met her son, I'm especially glad for all I've learned from all of you other military spouses. You've been a blessing and a godsend and have gotten me through a lot of separations, helped me figure out services, acronyms and so, so much more. Thank you for your examples! You and our little girl are an awesome reminder that I'm a Navy Girl too and to stand tall with pride that we have the honor of being a military family.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Forgetting Afghanistan

image via AP/Rahmat Gul

A year ago right now my husband was in Afghanistan and we were Skyping or talking to him on the phone from there several times a week. Checking the newswires for stories about anything going on there was a twice daily event, once in the morning and once before going to bed. Because of the twelve hour time difference, if there was any big daytime event happening there the news generally broke between ten and eleven at night our time. Not the best time of day to read scary news!

Now a year later, Afghanistan and news of the war there has slipped away from our daily conversations and my husband and I are not so up on what is happening there. Sometimes I read or hear things and have mixed emotions about telling him about them, knowing he may know the people and places vividly. I envisioned that we would stay as passionate about our commitment to awareness and those still serving there and suffering there, but in reality, life takes over and our energies have to go elsewhere.

That comes with mixed emotions and a little bit of perhaps poorly placed guilt. We cannot possibly continue to live in the heightened state of awareness and anxiety which we lived in while he was deployed. But it feels a little traitorous to move on with life and not agonize and pray every day for the safety of those deployed there and their families just like we did for our own service member and our own family. We've done war zone deployment, we know intimately how hard it is. Moving on and forward with our lives with those thoughts is difficult. How dare I not feel just as worried sick about others as I was about my own.

But somehow that is not possible and perhaps there is a time and a place, a season for everything. Maybe my season is not to agonize over Afghanistan and our deployed there right now. Their families perhaps have taken our spots in that realm. Maybe right now we are taking the spots of others who have moved on from reintegration, post deployment stress and all the transitions and uncertainty that come with that which we are currently experiencing. That is enough for our plates right now, I will say that.

Perhaps my place in all this now is to keep praying for our deployed service members and the people of Afghanistan and to keep praying for my family, all families and our country too. We served and learned great lessons and at times suffered greatly through our deployment. I know many others have before us. There is a kinship there and even if we are not all at the same heightened state of awareness and involvement. I do believe with all my heart, that we are all as one in the place of love and best wishes for our service members, their families and the freedom seeking people of Afghanistan.

We are here for you and for each other in whatever phase we may be, to bless with whatever experiences we may have to offer that may be helpful. We have not forgotten our deployed and their families, yet out of necessity we have moved to new phases. But we are always with you in spirit and in any other way we can step up to serve and offer a watchful, caring eye. I prayed for you today.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

10 Things A Military Spouse Can Control

There are so many things that are part of military life that we can't control. It's a given after a while that it's impossible to make life plans that will always stick because things always change. It's a given that your spouse will be gone a lot. Another that you will worry and sometimes not sleep well when they are in harm's way or you know they are struggling. It's also a given that the military will throw you a lot of curve balls that will turn your life upside down on a regular basis. So what can we control? How do we maintain a sense of control over our own lives and the development and growth of our life, our marriages and our families when so much is out of our control?

Here are 10 things I jotted down on a list one day that we can control. It's good to take back a sense of power and remember that there are super important things we have great influence over.

1. I have influence over my household and how we live in our home. I can help maintain a positive, loving, calm environment. Putting on peaceful music, keeping things as clean and orderly as possible, setting up rules and behavioral expectations that will create a warm, welcoming environment for the family are just a few ideas.

2. I am responsible for how I speak to my husband. I have a big responsibility to my marriage and what I bring to it. My attitude and behavior towards him have a huge impact on the spirit of our home and the well-being of our family. Even if he's in a bad mood, I have the ability to manage myself so that I don't make it worse. Sometimes it may be the reverse and I have to consider how I sound to the family and to my beloved. Taking care of myself so that I am well and sane makes a huge difference in my ability to manage myself.

3. I have 100% control over how I speak about my husband. Do I build him up in my eyes, his eyes and others? Showing disrespect to my husband in conversation with others tears him down and weakens our marriage. It also damages our relationships with others.

4. I have power to control how much time and energy I give to things outside our home. Do I let too many other activities, whether they be phone calls with friends and family or commitments to work, volunteering or anything else take away from the well-being of my family. I have to learn to balance these things so there is as little upheaval as possible for home and family -- and that I do not tire myself out and find myself constantly on empty.

5. I can control what music I listen to. Music can set the tone for calm, motivation or even sadness, darkness, anger and violence. The atmosphere I create or allow around me influences how I feel and act. Choose wisely. Sad country songs during deployment equal instant cry. Peppy pop songs help get the house cleaned faster. Workouts too become more powerful with the right music. I chose the soundtrack for my life.

6. I can control screen time. Spending too much time online or watching TV can steal precious minutes and hours from things that are really enjoyable and important to us. When my husband was on deployment I learned I shouldn't watch military movies. They made me too sad in that moment. Even now I don't enjoy them the way I did before he went to war.

Lone Survivor was tough for me. I found myself in the movie theater sitting next to my husband hyperventilating, shaking and wanting to scream at the screen to tell them NOT to let those people go down the mountain. TV can be a great momentary break from the day or it can be a total brain drain time suck where one can get lost and quickly end of staying in pajamas all day. It's easy to waste a lot of time on screens or allow them to control our moods and mindsets. On a related note, I have GREAT concerns about the damage video game addictions are having on military relationships - but that's a subject for the guys and another day.

7. I can manage my mood. It's totally okay to have a rough or sad day. But in every mood there are things we can do to help ourselves or make things worse. Sometimes a giant cry is just the right thing, other times a kick in the seat of the pants is needed, or a fantastically tough workout. Learning to know ourselves so we can help instead of make things worse is important.

8. I have great influence on how we raise our daughter. Those are decisions made best between mom and dad and when we work together we have a far better chance of success, especially when we face the change and upheaval of military life in the world of our children. When we help them learn to be brave, strong and resilient they see us as the steady shore to hold onto as they grow and while they also deal with the constant change of military life.

9. I can control how we spend our time when my husband is away working. Do I let everything slide or do I use our time to learn, grow and have fun. Sometimes it has to be a little of both and there is a balance to be found, but when I consciously use that time to build our family rather than just fall apart and wait for him to get back we get much greater rewards and build wonderful memories. We can take trips, day adventures, plan activities with other moms and kids, or have a little more downtime than usual. I have a lot of influence over whether those are sad, wasted times or happy, productive times.

10. I can greatly influence how our family feels about military life. Do I complain, nag or disrespect the life we lead and my husband's career path or do I act with dignity, respect and honor towards it? Do I take time to teach my kiddo about all the rich meaning and history of the military, of proper military/base conduct, patriotism and duty and honor? Anyone associated with the military knows that it has it's problems as any organization does, but there is a lot to love and respect and appreciate about the military. We have a great opportunity to build a stronger family and stronger kids through those rich traditions if we take advantage of them.

So, you see, it's easy to feel like the military controls everything and we just run ragged trying to keep up. But when we really look at things, we still maintain the balance of power over the well-being and happiness of our lives, homes and families. When we let the outside disturbances become small ripples (as often as possible) instead of crashing swells we are able to maintain our influence and peace within our own families and stay strong and brave.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Don't Be Afraid Of Therapy

image via mca

I've had the chance to meet and talk with a lot of therapists and counselors this past year both within and outside of the military community. It's been a great introduction to the world of counseling and all the good it can do. This image above might be your vision of therapy. It may sound a little scary, daunting, intrusive or embarrassing. But after meeting so many very competent therapists and counselors inside and outside the military community I am here to say do not hesitate to seek out help if you feel that life has become overwhelmingly stressful or you haven't felt like yourself in a long time.

Here's a great article that I very much agree with about what therapy is and isn't called Ten Things I Wish Everyone Knew About Therapy by Megan Hale. This article is full of just the compassion, understanding and encouragement I have seen in conversations with therapists, social workers and chaplains I have enjoyed getting to know over the past year.

This has been my experience as I have entered into therapy sessions for myself in the past few months. I am a pretty strong person and have always had a pretty great attitude about life. But after a string of very challenging events for our family I was worn down and had lost my ability to be my normal sunny, happy, calm self. I found myself shorter tempered, exhausted and frustrated more often than I needed to be and I felt like I was on permanent "crisis mode" after needing to operate in crisis mode for such an extended period of time. Throw in the sleeplessness and stress of my husband's year-long military deployment and boom, I was one tired, worn out woman.

So after deliberating for a while, I decided to meet with a therapist that was recommended to me by someone I met in the FOCUS program. I am glad I did because it's been great for me, but I also am glad I did it because now I can share that encouragement with others. Do it. If you feel it will help, do it. You will feel a HUGE load lifted off your shoulders in an environment where you can say what you feel honestly without worry or shame. Don't wait until things get so bad that your situation becomes a crisis you can no longer manage.

I have seen that there are great things that can happen in counseling for military kids, service members, spouses and as families and couples too. It's great to have an outside party who can point out areas where you should probably give yourself, your spouse, your life or your family a break, things that might be creating more frustration than ease, ways of thinking that may be blocking your success and to help you see the sunny side of life again.

Some of the major issues we've talked about in therapy have to do with how I constructed my mindset in my childhood and things that happened in my life then. Amazing how it flows over into so much of how I do things as as adult. I've caught myself creating beliefs that aren't exactly true or in some cases are totally false. For instance last week I mentioned a situation that I had failed at. When we looked at it, I hadn't failed the situation at all. I had done all I could do. The situation has just not worked out in my favor initially. So I had to backtrack and realize I had not failed but the situation had been a difficult one. Major difference in perspective and how it affects one's sense of self worth and ability to succeed!

I've also learned how often we misuse the words "always" and "never." As in "Things never work out" or "This always happens to me" or "I always am disappointed." Every once in a while I hear myself speak one of these words. There are no absolutes in our life experience. There are good and bad days, things sometimes work out and sometimes they don't. When things are difficult it's easy to feel like only bad things happen or when we have trouble in relationships it's easy to say the other person "always" treats us in a way we don't like. When we think things are always one way or the other we create a situation that isn't real and then we operate as if it were. A recipe for trouble.

Therapy is an opportunity to see ourselves and our lives more clearly. It's a great opportunity to refocus our thoughts and actions for more happiness and greater success in life. It can help kids to adults develop strong souls and learn life-changing skills, it can improve marriages and bring peace. It's a good thing. Be sure to find someone you feel comfortable with and have good chemistry with. Get recommendations. Go through reputable resources. You should always feel it's working for you and if it's not, find someone else who you do feel chemistry with.

But don't wait. It the thought comes to your mind repeatedly go do it. I found myself wanting to go to therapy for a good year before I really did it. I should've gone so much sooner. Why did I need to suffer for another year when I could've lightened my load with less stress so much earlier.  I also found that things would be fine during the week when we were busy and when the weekend hit we'd end up in crisis and I would have nowhere to turn, promise myself I'd call for an appointment on Monday morning and then the week would start, we'd get busy and I'd let the idea go until the next overwhelming moment occurred. Dumb decisions. But I'm glad I finally did it. It's amazing how a few little tweaks to my outlook each week have improved my life. I've learned a lot and appreciate my time to refresh my little soul and focus on my own self-care.

Have you taken advantage of counseling opportunities from the military or other sources. What did you learn and how did it improve things for you?

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Stress Trigger: Something As Everyday As Sport Cream

I hope sharing this story will help all you spouses, families and significant others increase even more your compassion for the post-war life of our service members. There are stress triggers everywhere and we don't even know it. But I believe knowing this, that there are unexpected triggers all around, will help us have even more patience and understanding for our service members.

Earlier this week I wrote about learning to recognize stress triggers. Today I want to share how I learned that there are so many triggers I would never have imagined all around us in our everyday life. A couple of days ago my husband shared with me that he and several other military guys were in a room where someone had slathered on a well-known brand of sports rub. He named the brand. Then he said it was setting off anxiety triggers for all the military guys because that brand of sports rub smells exactly like dead bodies. Wow. That blew  my mind.

I can't imagine how stressful that would be to be in an environment where you can't get away from that smell and the emotional attachments, very stressful ones, that that specific smell would trigger. It's tough to get the scent of sports rub out of your nose and I would imagine the smell of dead bodies is very much the same.

It's easy as a family member to just want things to hurry up and get back to normal and focus on home life reintegration. It's easy to overlook in our anxiousness sometimes that there is a lot more going on that we might imagine. It's good to have a lot of patience with our service members when they are faced with potential post-deployment stress landmines that could surface at any moment as they are just walking around in their everyday lives. In our homes and families, it is important that we  have understanding for this post -war reality for our service members. The scent of war is just as stressful as the visual memories they carry for the rest of their lives.

We may never know what will trigger a stress response in them, but if we can learn to recognize the signs of their stress we can immediately take action to help alleviate the situation and be supportive to them. I think when they realize that we understand and are there to help it makes getting through these situations a lot easier for them.

If any service members are reading this, I would love to get your feedback on how we loved ones can help and even share with us some of the weird triggers you have come across that might be helpful for other service member's families to hear about.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Learn To Recognize His Stress Triggers

image via

I wrote this post last fall and somehow never published it. It's a good one that I hope other people will be able to connect with and will help someone out there with the stress of reintegration. Reading this again this week was a great reminder to me too. I still need to be mindful about stress triggers. To set the stage, we went on our first little, "long weekend" vacation since he had come home from deployment. This event I am writing about happened early the morning of our last day of our trip. 

From September 2013: Yesterday I was talking with our reintegration family counselors after our daughter had an appointment. I shared with them our experience on Sunday with the crowds. They mentioned the words "stress triggers" and how great it is that I am learning to recognize them. Then it hit me like a ton of bricks that I'd totally blown it Monday morning.

My husband woke up in the middle of the night stressing out about all the things waiting for us at home. I was looking forward to just having a peaceful day before we headed home late that evening so we could miss holiday traffic. He could not sleep and kept me awake talking about every stressful thing he could think of, including the traffic and how horrible he was sure it would be.

Instead of recognizing that the traffic was triggering his stress and doing what I could to help him, I got mad. Here he was ruining the last day of our trip, yada, yada, yada. In a not very nice voice I told him we were leaving because he was determined to ruin the day and the trip so there was no point in staying another minute. I got up, started gathering up my things, then our little one's things and by the time I got to the car, I wasn't even speaking to him.

While talking with the counselors, they helped me realize that just like that call of "I can't do this" that I responded to so quickly and calmly, I could've done the same thing Monday morning. I didn't connect post-deployment anxiety with his concerns about driving home.

He was the driver for his group for the year he was in Afghanistan, so yes, perhaps he may have a little post-deployment stress about driving in crowds. Duh. I didn't even put that together until days later. I realize now that he felt responsible to get us home safely, that he was worried he'd be too tired to drive us home at night, and again that crowds and stressful situations like traffic jams are a problem.

I started thinking back to some of our more heated moments since he came back and I think I can just about attribute them all to situations where his triggers have been triggered and sometimes I made it much worse by choosing to get belligerent rather than focusing on eliminating the situation that was creating his anxiety. My conversation with the therapists was a real eye opener.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Having A Relationship With A Woman Instead Of A Girl

I saw this and it reminded me of so much of the chatter I see on Twitter. I see so many girls who are very proud to be bratty and take and take and take and only give what they want to give when they want to give it. These women expect everyone around them to cater to their emotions and their demands. It makes me sad for the men who date and marry these women.

This is a fantastic teaching principle for children. I want boys (and men!) to know this and have the power to make decisions that best serve the happiness of their lives. I think if more people understood this, there would also be a higher expectation of women to be more than bratty little girls. Bratty little girls can be found in every age of womanhood - and sadly this is empowered by men who indulge these women and take care of them when they refuse to take care of themselves.

I think this is phenomenal advice for any man and it's great guidance for we women. What kind of a woman do we want to be is a fantastic question to use as a ruler for our life choices, our behavior and how we treat the men in our relationships. I know I want to be a woman who makes others feel invigorated and inspired.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Missing My Before Husband, Finding A New Normal

Last night for some reason I was just missing my husband so much that when he fell asleep on the couch I sat on the floor next to him, held his hand and laid my head on his chest....and cried. When he woke up this morning the first thing he said was "Who moved the coffee table so far from the couch last night?" He had no idea I was there. But that's okay. It was a moment I needed to have that he didn't necessarily need to have.

This morning, missing him again and still feeling a little teary, a line I have read many times from other military spouses came to my mind. "The man you send on deployment is not the same man who will come home to you." You know what comes next, right? You've heard it a million times. "You have changed too and things will never be the same as they were before. You have to find a NEW NORMAL."

New Normal....those two words...I'm gettin' tired of them. I'm tired of New Normal. I want Old Normal, even for just a few minutes. I have to say that after all the reading and preparing I did for pre-deployment, deployment and reintegration the things the experts said again and again have pretty much all been right on the money. The only thing I have read repeatedly that has not happened at our house is that my husband has not become hyper vigilant. He does not check the doors regularly or stand guard in our home. This is very likely because of the fact that this was not part of his work while deployed even though I am sure he was expected to be on guard constantly. But he was not in an assignment that required him to be a part of base security.

But of all the stuff I read, it's pretty much all come into play at one point or another. Today it was the reality that my old guy is gone. I'm married to a different guy now. That's a weird reality. Maybe it comes more into focus on a week like Valentine's Day when I think about how simple and happy our relationship was in the beginning. That changes too over time. Getting married means bills, shared responsibilities and a huge ability to affect other people by even your smallest actions. Maybe that's a good way to look at it. Everything changes so don't hold onto anything in the past too hard. Our kiddo is changing all the time too. I wake up and she looks taller and older than she did the night before. It's weird but true. People say it all the time, that she looks taller and older all of a sudden. That's pretty crazy really, but again it's true.

Maybe my hope and prayer for this Valentine's Day is to fall in love with this new guy I am married to in a new way. Maybe I can think about how I've changed and try to help him find the new me as well. Perhaps that can be our gifts this year. To find our New Normal or at least start finding it. I'm sure it doesn't happen all at once.

image via mca