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Mar 182015
 

 

Melissa

Melissa

We just recently PCSed back to America from being stationed overseas in Okinawa, Japan. I fondly remember all the emotions from three years ago when we were making the “big move across the Pacific,” as we called it. I remember being nervous, scared, stressed and excited. Of course these are all normal reactions to moving to a foreign country that you have never visited and know little about. However, no one told me that it would be just as nervous, scary, stressful and exciting to move back to the states. Here are seven things that surprised me about moving back:

  1. American stores can be overwhelming. The first time we walked into a big box store upon returning I took a picture because I had forgotten how vast American stores can be. And the malls, y’all, so many stores under one roof. Which leads to….
  2. Selection overload, my goodness. Did you know there are whole entire refrigerated sections devoted to yogurt? Just yogurt. And that you can buy virtually any type of fruit or vegetable, no matter the season, at the grocery store? We discovered flavor combinations and brands of cookies, cereal, yogurt, chips and drinks that we had never heard of because they haven’t made their way over to Japan yet. Our first shopping trip was about two and a half hours long, and we left with hardly anything because there was just too much to choose from that I needed to revise my game plan. It is still actually tough having so many things to choose from and I find myself missing the days of choosing between item A or item B (and sometimes just item A because B is out of stock).
  3. The technology will amaze you. I am not sure about other overseas duty stations, but Okinawa ironically isn’t up to date with the cutting edge technology. When we walked into the electronics store to get a new TV we were hit with so many selections of 4K/Ultra HD, 3-D, surround sound, etc. We had to get a lesson in what everything was. Also with cell phones, we forgot what “normal” was. (Note: I hear that the cell phone systems in Okinawa changed right when we left so these statements may no longer be accurate, but they sure were for us while we lived there.)
  4. It is so strange to head out in town and not have to check how much foreign currency I have on me. I had a “yen coin” holder that was always in my purse. I will admit it was a sad day when I retired my special blue yen holder, but there is freedom in only depending on one type of currency and knowing that your debit card will work everywhere.
  5. You don’t need to plan for holidays, birthdays and other festivities months in advance. No more checking to see if a company ships to APO/FPO addresses or if they use USPS Priority verses the other delivery services. I still find myself online shopping and thinking, “Oh bummer, their stuff comes by the ‘slow boat.’” Then I have the “duh” moment of “Oh yeah, everything arrives fast here.”
  6. You can leave hoarders anonymous behind. Overseas I had what I called “two syndrome.” Virtually everything I bought I put two in the cart. Closer to Thanksgiving I found myself with copious amounts of pumpkin pie filling, crescent rolls and pie crust. I must remind myself when shopping now that there is absolutely no reason to hoard items. I don’t need to have a supply of black beans to feed an army. I can come back any day of the week and the store will have what I need.
  7. American driving is so fast. With typical speed limits starting at 65 plus miles per hour and relearning to drive on the right-hand side of the road, I am pretty sure I still have a white-knuckle death grip on the steering wheel. We have been home for a few months and I still find myself flipping my windshield wipers on instead of my turn signal or getting into the passenger side of the car thinking that it is the driver’s side. My husband has to remind me that the speed limit is 65 miles per hour and most people would prefer I go at least 55 verses my new default speed of 45. Why is everyone in such a hurry anyhow?

All in all, I will say that moving back to America after living overseas was surprisingly difficult. Before we PCSed back it never occurred to me that we might encounter some of the challenges and surprises we did. So if you are living overseas and have a PCS back to America on the horizon, don’t forget to mentally prepare. Adjusting isn’t necessarily without hiccups just because this is what you grew up. In the end, this is home and we are glad to be back. Now excuse me as I go aimlessly walk the aisles at my favorite store, in person and not online, just because I can.

Homecoming Photography: Do or Don’t?

 Posted by on November 27, 2012 at 07:00
Nov 272012
 
Staff Blogger Cassie

Cassie

Picture it. You’re there with the other spouses, waiting for the bus/ship/whatever to come in. You’ve made your signs. You’re wearing a cute dress. Your hair is perfect. Your kids are adorable, holding their little American flags and balloons. And then, there he is, stepping off the bus, bag over his shoulder. You run to him, arms wrapping tightly around his shoulders as your kids wrap themselves around his legs. You enjoy a long embrace and a deep, loving kiss before stepping away to enjoy the moment when he holds your child for the first time in months. The band is playing. Fireworks go off. Streamers float through the air. It’s everything you could have possibly imagined in a homecoming.

No. The reality is he’s exhausted, your kid has candy in her hair and has ripped out her pretty bows hours ago. Your signs have footprints on them because you had to set them down to keep your fingers from cramping and someone stepped on them. The bus is four hours late. It’s midnight. Your feet are killing you! OR, if you’re like me, you get the phone call…

“Um…I’m going to be a while. I have to make sure everything gets off the ship. Don’t bother coming to the command post yet,” even though all the OTHER wives had been united with their hubbies. Then, when he finally arrived, bleary-eyed and grumpy, I walked down the hall to find him there, where we exchanged that warm embrace and loving kiss in front of a group of 15 strangers. Not the picture-perfect reunion I expected from my first homecoming.

The question becomes: do you want a photographer there to capture it all?

This is a relatively new trend in homecomings, but it is very popular. I think back to when my kids were small and when the hubby came home. Would I want someone to capture it? For me, I think the answer is no, but to each their own. When it comes to pictures, here are the two biggest questions you might consider.

How does your service member feel about it? Your service member just spent 6 months to a year (on average) away from home, working his or her butt off. Some of service members deployed on ships, others spent months in Afghanistan, grinding it out. My advice would be to ask them ahead of time how they feel about having someone there to watch their homecoming unfold.

Will the camera distract anyone in your family from enjoying this memorable moment? It doesn’t matter what time they get back, what you look like, what he looks like or how crazy your kids are acting. Homecoming marks the end to the constant worry, semi-single parenting and desperately missing the love of your life. If you think the camera will distract from “being in the moment” of reunion, consider if the snap shots are worth it. Do you want to look back on the time and remember how awkward you felt with flash bulbs going off over your shoulder or do you want to remember how his arms felt so strong around you? If you think the camera won’t feel like an intrusion, why not capture the moment in photos?

Homecoming photography is a very personal choice that your family has to make together. For me, deployment has marked the end of something I’d rather forget but can’t, to be perfectly candid. I don’t like deployments and ours, like many of yours, were filled with a lot of heartbreak. Some of them took longer than others to get over (as I tear up while writing, I clearly still have baggage). I’m not sure I would want to capture that time, forever and always, in a photograph, because it would bring back a lot of sad memories. Instead, I’ll keep the homecoming memory in my mind, a personal reminder of how thankful I am that my husband made it home safely and that we are together again. I am thankful every day that he is by my side.

So what do you think? Does homecoming photography interest you?

Oct 042012
 

What I Wish I Would’ve Known before My Husband Deployed

Staff Blogger Kristi

Kristi

Oh, that dirty, little word…deployment. Veteran spouses brush it off saying, “Oh, another one? Let me know when you’re on your way home.” Newbie spouses are torn between their instincts to freak out and put on a brave face. In the days leading up to my husband’s first deployment, I was a classically confused newbie. I cried alone, put on a brave face for everyone else, and before I knew it he was gone.

It then occurred to me that despite the excellent presentations from our family readiness officer, I’d spent all my time worrying about the goodbye and I had no clue what to expect from day-to-day now that he was gone!

I spent the next six months learning these things the hard way.  I hope I can save you a little time!

  • Baby wipes are a hot commodity in the desert.  Had I known this, I would’ve sent the first package full of baby wipes the day I dropped my husband off!
  • Customs forms are confusing. First of all, you have to press hard enough to practically etch your information into the post office counter! Why do I list United States as the country when my husband is clearly not in the United States? I’ll be quite honest I still haven’t totally figured those things out after two deployments. My tried and true method is to simply make sure every piece of information from the deployment address ends up on the customs form. Whether you put the unit number in the zip code or street address box appears not to matter since my husband always got my packages. And, as a friendly little piece of advice, you can ask the postal worker for extra forms so you can endure this frustration at home instead of in a room full of strangers.
  • Non-military friends and strangers will take the news of the deployment worse than you. Outsiders have a hard time understanding your amazing strength and independence. It’s not their fault; it’s just foreign territory for them. They’ll ask questions that will make you mad, make you cry, and other times they’ll be so upset you may need to comfort them!
  • It’s probably not as bad as you think. War is dangerous, of course, but movies and media have a flair for the dramatics. Not every day is a scene from Saving Private Ryan; don’t stress yourself out expecting the worst.
  • Watching the news is a dangerous little game. Ignorance really is bliss, isn’t it? Unfortunately, we need the news, to an extent, to stay informed, but if you catch yourself lying awake at night obsessing over an image from a newscast it might be time to turn off the evening news and catch a good sitcom instead.
  • Deployment doesn’t equal isolated from civilization. During my husband’s latest deployment he was within walking distance to an Exchange. Clearly he didn’t need me to send survival supplies; in fact, I often wonder why he wasn’t sending me packages!
  • Something will go wrong while he’s gone. Kids will get sick. Freak storms will hit. DVD players will break with your favorite holiday movie inside the day you’re hosting a holiday movie marathon, leaving you no choice but to tear the DVD player apart. Anyone else have that one happen?

Some things I only learned once he returned home.

  • Homecomings rarely look like the movies. For six months, I pictured waving an American flag in a subtly patriotic dress with perfect hair as my husband ran to me. Yes, Chariots of Fire style (music optional). It turned out that my husband was two days late getting home and arrived around 10:00 pm on one of the coldest nights of the year. It was still one of the best days of my life even though it didn’t really match up with that perfect Hollywood image I had in my head throughout his deployment. That image carried me through some of the hardest days, though.
  • You did what?! The second you hear anyone talk about a deployment you realize that some things are classified for a reason. Words like fired, bullets, and the names of certain infamous leaders, organizations, and places are enough to send chills down any military spouse’s spine. I’m sure that there are all kinds of things that my husband experienced living in a war zone that he hasn’t shared with me, and maybe that’s the way it should be because, as we know, ignorance is bliss!

Above all, just remember that every deployment is different. We all have little things that we learn along the way. What did you learn from a deployment that might help out other military spouses?

Aug 132012
 

A New Milspouse Perspective: Adjusting to Life After Combat

Dani

Dani

All right, ladies. This is going to be a pretty candid account of the first few months after my husband returned home from his second combat deployment. Buckle your seatbelts, because it’s not all a smooth ride!

The biggest insight I gained after my husband’s second deployment was realizing that life doesn’t completely go back to normal when he first returns. It’s definitely not the fairytale reunion (or homecoming) I expected from the movies or television. I did not greet him at an airport or coming off a bus. Rather, I was ushered into a loud gymnasium after hours upon hours of waiting, in the rain, in the middle of the night.

When my husband first returned from Afghanistan, I think I had a harder time adjusting than he did. Weird, right? Let me back up.

From day one, my husband had always taught me to prepare for the worst. Prepare for the absolute worst-case scenario in every situation, because that way if something better happens, you won’t be disappointed and you won’t be overly hopeful in the process. He lived by this, and he said to remember it when he deployed.

Consequently, as month after month of his deployment passed by, I really tricked myself into believing that he wasn’t coming home. When I did get the sporadic phone call from him, I always answered and said goodbye as if it was the last time I’d ever speak to him. There were more and more stories of injuries and fatalities from the news and from the wives of men in his unit. So many days, I stood in my family room stalking the front window; nervously staring up and down my street looking for the black car with the suited ones telling me my beloved was not coming home.

Even the day of homecoming when I heard he’d landed in the United States, I was afraid the plane would crash on its way to North Carolina. Even after he landed in North Carolina, I feared the floods and awful rainfall we experienced would overtake the bus on its way to me.

And then—he was home. For the first week, I was afraid I was dreaming and I would suddenly wake up and it wouldn’t be real. That was hard! What was also hard was adjusting to living together. This was the first time we’d lived together, and as most of you know that alone takes a whole lot of getting used to on its own. I had to learn to control my OCD tendencies and to take it easy on him when he didn’t put the dishes in the right cupboard. I also had to learn to differentiate between him adjusting to living with me versus him adjusting to being back in America. Trust me, the difference is huge, and thinking one was the other caused me to be defensive when instead, I should have been supportive.

There were lots of times when I needed “my space,” because sometimes it was hard to be on my game, happy, or supportive all the time. There were nights when I didn’t want to cook, and days when I didn’t want to clean up the house. When he first got home, I felt like I was striving to be perfect at everything, to show him that I could be a good wife. Perfect at cooking, cleaning, working, entertaining, loving, relaxing, etc.

It took a few months for me to finally feel normal, like I could let my hair down for a bit. It took me awhile to realize I didn’t have to be perfect for him, and he didn’t expect that (thank goodness). If I didn’t feel like making dinner a few nights a week, we learned to order take out or go out to eat. If I had a busy day at work and didn’t clean up the house, we waited until the weekend and cleaned up together. We learned to visit with friends when we wanted to and liked to, not because we felt like we had to. It took away stress and gave our lives more breathing room and—gasp—fun!

As for always expecting the worst, well— both our perspectives have shifted on that too. My husband came back from Afghanistan with a really positive attitude… much different from the one he left with! He’s optimistic a lot and happy more, which he says is because he has a new appreciation for everything after what he experienced on deployment.

We have our good days and we have our bad days. We have days when we fight, and days when we can’t get enough of each other. But the good days outweigh the bad, and we couldn’t be happier together. It’s been a long road to get here, but things feel right. They feel balanced. He’s here for me to bounce ideas off, to show my latest projects to, to ask his opinion or advice about my work or my latest endeavor. I’m here for him to talk to about his day at work, the physical training, the scheduling, the routines, and online classes.

To those of you going through a deployment or whose loved ones have just gotten home… be patient. Stay true to yourself. Be open. Make compromises.

And be sure to give him a whole lot of love.

The New Normal: How Combat Changed My Perspective

 Posted by on August 9, 2012 at 08:00
Aug 092012
 

The New Normal: How Combat Changed My Perspective

Staff Blogger Cassie

Cassie

I remember an incident not too long ago. The husband seemed to be in a good mood when he got home. He jovially shouted down the basement stairs to Frick and Frack, announcing his grand entrance as if they couldn’t tell from the clunk of his combat boots on the kitchen floor above them. He dumped his green helmet bag, the one he’s been carrying around with him for the past eighteen years, on the kitchen table and then kissed me hello. “Why are you sitting in the dark?” he asked. It was an excellent question. I imagine I was wallowing in self-pity after my disheartening trip to the eye surgeon’s office. Long story short: I’m not a candidate for corrective eye surgery. “I’m having quiet time,” I lied.

Though he seemed to be in a good mood, I could sense that he had something to tell me, but he insisted I go first. He listened to me blab on about how horrible it was to have to wear glasses. Woe is me—poor Cassie, with four eyes forever. At the end of our ten-minute conversation about yours truly, we talked about his day, which was considerably worse than mine. One of the young men he trained the year before had been “blown up” in Afghanistan. When the hubs told me, he was sad, but not devastated. He was matter-of-fact, but not crushed. And I was equally numb. At that point, the reality of our lifestyle took over and the questions we *actually* ask came out: “Is he okay?” Not, “Oh, my gosh that’s terrible!” Not, “Are you serious? How could this happen?” Just…what’s the low down? Is he dead or alive? Is he maimed or slightly injured?

“Nope. He lost a leg, part of a hand, and took severe shrapnel to the face, neck, and torso. If he makes it to Landstuhl alive, and comes through here (Bethesda or Walter Reed), I’m going to go see him.”

If he makes it?

I nodded to him, completely understanding what he meant, absorbing that some of the injured aren’t lucky enough to make the trip to Landstuhl alive. I saw my Marine behind that loving husband and father—my warrior who has endured more than I will ever understand. He has been through a lot during this war. While it’s true that we are lucky enough to have had a “break” the past few years, he is now back in the operating forces. We know that it could have just as easily been him, and not one of his students, that was injured or killed.

At what point in our lives did these conversations become “normal?” Normal people don’t talk about people they know being “blown up” as if it’s an every-day occurrence. A few months ago, it was one of his best friends—shot through and though in the leg. Before that, it was my close friend’s husband. Being this wartime’s generation is our new “normal.”

It’s the fallen we know that go through our minds when we see a ten-second spot on the news. We relate the war to our own experiences. I remember how it felt to turn the corner on my street, searching for a CACO’s unfamiliar car, knowing our unit had lost five Marines and that the dreaded “twenty-four hour window” of notification had not passed. Was it my husband? Was it a friend? Did I know them? Regardless, someone in our unit—our family—got bad news that day, and I still live with the guilt that comes with being thankful that it wasn’t my husband. This is the reality of our lives.

It took a ten-minute conversation to remind me of a few very important things that have changed since my husband has seen war:

Sweat the big stuff vs. the small stuff. Have you ever heard the expression “nobody died” when it comes to mistakes or frustrations? Well, we’ve learned to take that quite literally. It puts things in perspective in a hurry. I didn’t have the Internet for two (very long) weeks when I moved. Nobody died. Movers broke a chandelier in my new house when we moved in. Nobody died. We didn’t get orders to Camp Pendleton, and now I’m living someplace I’ve never been. Nobody died. There is big stuff—managing grief and loss, coping with tragedy, healing the heart—and then there is small stuff. Know the difference.  And remember that if someone in line at the commissary or on the phone at the cable company drives you batty, nobody died.

The family unit can be your greatest source of strength. My kids don’t always do the dishes, or their homework, or clean up, or…wait, I’m getting sidetracked. They aren’t perfect. My husband is not perfect. But he is home. They are all safe. I am so lucky. We call it the “circle of trust.” What happens in our family—moving, school, marriage, vacations, arguments, love, and friendship—it all makes us stronger. We have learned to rely heavily on each other and grow together as a unit. Our circle of trust gets us through the day.

People are standing by to help. When my hubby came back, I didn’t understand what he had been through. I took some of his reactions personally. I felt alone. I was scared. I, too, was a little broken. If you aren’t sure if what you are feeling is okay, or if you need someone to talk to, reach out to Military OneSource by calling 1-800-342-9647. They really are here to help.

Mom Relaxing: Do Not Disturb

 Posted by on August 1, 2012 at 08:00
Aug 012012
 

Mom Relaxing: Do Not Disturb

Staff Blogger Kristi

Kristi

I often discuss with friends how in the world our households would function if it weren’t for us. I’m quite confident that many of our husbands would starve to death. How is that possible, you ask? Just think how many times you’ve seen your husband stand with the refrigerator door wide open while he asks where the leftover Chinese food, pickles, ranch dressing, or whatever else he may be searching for are. Luckily, it’s an inherited trait of many wives and mothers to have the refrigerator layout committed to memory. From across the house I can navigate my husband to that last remaining piece of pizza in the plastic baggie, on the second shelf from the top, behind the mustard.

Then there’s the added responsibility of motherhood. If I ever—if even for a second—doubt how much my son needs me, I’m reminded the instant I dare take a seat on the couch, answer the phone, or try to sneak a bite to eat. Nothing alerts my son to his own helplessness like mom taking a minute for herself. Maybe that’s why it’s so hard to allow ourselves some much needed downtime.

The truth is that I secretly love being able to run our home like a well-oiled machine. A selfish little piece of me takes pride in the fact that my husband would waste ten minutes of his day scavenging for something that I could locate in thirty seconds. As moms, we’re all pretty amazing and, as a result, we’re pretty busy.

That’s the catch to being so amazing at everything we do: we’re called upon for help at all hours for all kinds of jobs, from folding laundry, to cooking dinner, and from checking for monsters under the bed to “Mommy, I gotta go potty!”

As gratifying as it is to feel needed, there’s also something to be said for stepping out alone from time to time and knowing that the house and everyone inside will all be intact when we return. We all love our mommy jobs, there’s no question about that, but moms are allowed some downtime now and then too because there’s a fine line between that sweet first morning cry from my son’s crib, “Ma-Ma, Ma-Ma” and the 400th whiny “Maaaaaaaaaaa-ma” of the day.

Ok, we know we’ve earned a little downtime, but what are we supposed to do with it? I can’t help but feel guilty when I leave my son. I feel like I’m sneaking out every time I leave him with family members or a sitter, even if I’m just running to the grocery store alone. On a side note, when did going to the grocery store alone turn into a little mini vacation? Call it what you like, but I refuse to count standing in a checkout line listening to someone else’s kid scream because her mommy won’t let her have a candy bar while my ice cream melts as my treat for the week.

We all have our little guilty pleasures (there I go again feeling guilty for making a little “me” time). Maybe you want to exercise, paint, read a book without the threat of your toddler ripping out page 124 before you have a chance to read it, or perhaps you just want to sit down and eat a hot meal without being asked to share. My guilty pleasure during those rare moments when I’m off the clock is as simple as it gets. All I want is a little reality TV, some online shopping, and maybe an uninterrupted snack. But, by all means, shoot for the moon! If you had a free afternoon all to yourself, how would you spend it? Sleeping? Shopping? Organizing your sock drawer (yeah, me neither)? Sending emails? Gardening?

Quit talking about picking up a new hobby, catching up on recorded episodes of your favorite TV show, or reading something that doesn’t have the word “parent” in the title, and just do it already! You make time for everyone else, and now it’s time to make a little YOU time!

Jun 262012
 

Guest Blogger: Deployment Distress-Dealing With the Elephant in My Head

Blog Biography: I am a native Texan and a stay-at-home mom for my two rambunctious preschoolers (four and two). My family and I are in the beginning stages of our Army adventure, establishing roots at our first duty station, and getting ready to wrap up our first deployment. I am (mostly) loving the Army lifestyle and ready to see what lies on the road ahead!

I stated a while back that my family was on the last lap of our first deployment. If that was true, then we are now coming up on the last 100 meters.

If any of you readers are runners, you know what I mean by this. It’s the point where you are so exhausted and the end is so close in sight, that you give up all pacing and form and you just sprint as fast and hard as you can until you hit the finish line.

Yep, that’s how I feel. Running around this town like a crazy person, arms flailing wildly in all directions trying to get all the loose ends tied up before the big day, and a wide, silly grin on my face which reads, “We’re gonna make it!”

And then this stupid thought comes into my mind…”But what if?”

All spouses think it. And truth be told, that tiny thought has been in the back of our minds since the day we kissed them goodbye and watched them walk away. It has lingered there for months and months, like a tiny shadow that haunts us when we turn off the lights and lay down our heads at night.

For the most part, I try to ignore it. I busy myself with volunteer work and plan all kinds of activities with the kids so it is not such a big deal if a day or two goes by without any communications with my Solider. (I know for some of you, that time frame could be weeks. Let me just say right now, YOU are my hero!) But the beast can only stay buried for so long. Sooner or later, if I don’t deal with that little “what if” rolling around in my head, it will come back to bite me in a very BIG way. (Namely, I might find myself overly-emotional and crying hysterically in front of a complete stranger who works the reception desk at the on-installation clinic. Wait…Not everybody does that?!)

The fact of the matter is I put on such a strong front for everybody all of the time because I don’t want to worry them.

My preschoolers don’t know the real danger behind their father’s work. If I am not strong for them, will it make them fearful?

I want my family to know that I am doing well and am capable of taking care of everything on my own. If I let on that I am sad/worried/panicked, won’t that make them sad/worried/panicked in return?

I want to be someone my fellow spouses can lean on when they are hurting. Will they still want to lean on me if I have a moment of weakness?

I want complete strangers to think I am wonder woman…okay, that might just be a “me” thing!

But here comes the big kicker: I want my husband to focus solely on his work and trust that I have everything under control. If I bring up my concerns, will he worry that I am not cut out for this gig or that things are slipping without him?

Fortunately, there is no prerequisite for becoming a milspouse stating that you have to put on a strong front at all times. Sometimes, we just need a moment to cry. We need a time to hang up our superhero capes and just be normal for once…or in my case, to be the sobbing weirdo at the family clinic.

Everyone deals with deployment stress (and distress) in different ways, but here are some of my suggestions.

Make time for yourself. You juggle the kids, the house, your work, the visiting in-laws… It is good to stay busy, but you need to take a moment for yourself to decompress. For me, it’s a glass of wine in the evening and a chance to blog. I also throw the kiddos into child care for a few hours twice a week so I can go to the gym or even the grocery store by myself (HALLELUIA!). But I have a friend who shuts herself off from the world for a day, dives into a bag of chocolate, and has a movie marathon on Netflix. Whatever works for you, pencil it into your to-do list, and DO IT!

Use the buddy system. When I am feeling discouraged or blue, I grab one of my favorite gal pals and head out for coffee, or dinner, or have her over for a glass of wine. It will do wonders for you to have one person you can spill your guts to, and who doesn’t mind listening. Don’t have anyone local? I know lots of people who schedule frequent Skype dates with their sisters or a close relative when they need a pick-me-up or to blow off steam. Share your worries with someone close to you and you will always feel better for it.

Get involved. Whether within the boundaries of a military program or not, it is always good for you to get involved in a worthy project. During this deployment, I volunteered on the steering team of my local MOPS group and am doing some work with our Family Readiness Group (FRG). In both groups, I have busied myself with different and purposeful projects and have met wonderful ladies that I can laugh with and confide in. What’s more, being connected with the FRG has given me pertinent details about the deployment/redeployment and is a wonderful resource for community/organizational activities outside of our battalion. (Don’t knock it ‘til you try it! And if you tried it and didn’t like it? Try, try again!)

Talk it out. For better or worse, I tell my Soldier what is on my heart. It might make him worry a bit more about how I’m handling things over here, but I choose to keep the lines of communication open. If nothing else, at the end of it all he knows how much he means to me and how much he will always mean to me. But if that is a can of worms you don’t want to open with your service member, there are other avenues to take. Contacting the Chaplain is always a good solution, or you could schedule an appointment to chat with a Military and Family Life Counselor (your FRG can give you contact information for both). Or there are several programs that bring together families of deployed Soldiers so you can have someone to commiserate with (and join for a bunch of free, fun activities along the way).

Truth be told, that pesky “what if” is probably going to be there until I have my Soldier back in my arms for good. But now that I’ve addressed the “elephant in my head,” maybe I can get some semblance of shut-eye tonight. And Lord willing, the real snore-filled sleep will find me once my husband is back where he belongs.

Quality Daddy Time

 Posted by on June 7, 2012 at 08:00
Jun 072012
 

Quality Daddy Time

Staff Blogger Kristi

Kristi

If you’re ever looking for cruel and unusual punishment for your husband, make him participate in organizing all the itty, bitty clothes, socks, hats, and shoes that you hoard before your baby is born. For months, I looked forward to folding all the miniature shirts and pants and organizing them by size. My husband…not so much. When the day finally arrived, I was ecstatic! Five minutes into the process, I had already squealed “Awww” twice. The look on my husband’s face said he was 110% over it.

Neither one of us is right or wrong. There are things that pique my husband’s interest, and there are things that make me jump up and down (literally) with excitement. Rarely are they the same thing. Call me crazy, but my hope is that our son will be a balance of both of us. I hope he has my style, organization, and drive, and my husband’s heart, patience, and courage.

With that being said, like many military spouses, I often have to be both parents during times of separation. Sometimes I’m a successful “dad” and other times I fail miserably. My son has been known to wear my sunglasses or my big floppy hats around town. He plays with headbands and bracelets anytime he “helps” me get ready. And, yes, since he’s still too young to argue, I repeatedly dress him in cute little outfits that (not so) coincidentally coordinate with my attire. But, for any dad accidentally (or purposefully) reading this, I do make an effort to teach him a thing or two about manhood, also. He loves getting dirty, climbing, making messes, playing catch, watching football, helping his mama, and hauling stuff around the house in his toy truck. Even though I can throw a mean spiral thanks to my football-coaching dad, there really is nothing like seeing my son spend some quality time with his good ole dad. Continue reading »

Returning to a Two-Parent Household

 Posted by on April 18, 2012 at 08:00
Apr 182012
 

Returning to a Two-Parent Household

Kristi

Step right up, folks, and see the amazing military spouse and mom juggle her baby, two family dogs, dirty laundry, and a great ball of fire! OK, the fireball may be an exaggeration, but if you’ve ever single-handedly managed the kids, the pets, and the house during a deployment, then you know that it’s possible. On second thought, forget “possible.” By the end of a deployment, we could practically do it with our eyes closed, though I don’t recommend trying that at home.

As easy as we can make it look, no one ever said that juggling everything was ideal. We do it time and time again because we have to. It is our contribution to our country and to our families that we love so much, and—admit it or not—we take a lot of pride in the fact that we can have everything running like a well-oiled machine by deployment’s end.

Then, our beloved service members come home. There is fanfare, there are tears of joy, there is a long readjustment period, and—though we may deny it—a struggle to surrender the grip that we’ve had on everything for months. Suddenly we don’t have to do it all, our spouses are home once again, and are usually eager to get back into the swing of things. The only catch is that they can’t do it alone. Are we up for the challenge of teaching them our tricks? You bet…kind of.

As much as I broadcasted my anticipation for my husband to return from deployment, and some relief from single mommy duties, I wasn’t completely honest. Obviously, I wanted him home, but I’m a bit of a control freak and I was a little nervous about sharing control again. With most military couples—us included—I’ve found that there is usually a bit of a power struggle after homecoming, but I’d never experienced it first hand with a baby. I knew our son’s cries, smells (good and very, very bad), nap schedule, favorite games, and fears, including the vacuum cleaner and the guy who repaired our oven (strangely specific, I know). I knew where everything was, I had my perfected order of operations, and now everything was about to be shaken up (in a good way—but intimidating to a perfectionist, nonetheless).

Throughout the whole transition, my husband was patient with our son, himself, and my hideous critical and overbearing side. I would equate my teaching style to that of a paranoid passenger in a car who gasps every time the driver doesn’t break fast enough, grabs the overhead handle when the driver turns too quickly, and fake breaks when everything from a leaf to stray dog wanders into the direct path of the car. It’s hard to explain exactly why I had such a hard time sharing the household and parenting responsibilities with my husband. Maybe it’s because of the love I have for our son and home, or maybe I’m just crazy. Who can tell?

I found myself frustrated when my husband asked questions about where we kept the extra diapers or what to dress our son in for the day, but I was equally irritated when he didn’t ask and he did it his way (a.k.a. the wrong way).  When he wasn’t asking questions or parenting by trial and error, he was asleep which—you guessed it—also made me furious!

I know, I know. My husband is a lucky man.

No, really, I know I’m a handful. It took several days for me to realize that it was okay to share responsibility with my husband. It was okay if things weren’t done exactly the way that I would do them on my own. And, truthfully, I still find myself trying to comfort our fussy kid in one arm, vacuum with the other, while simultaneously folding laundry and making dinner from time to time until my husband walks in and reminds me that I don’t have to do that anymore. Old habits die hard, I guess. But I’m learning, as is my husband, and really that’s all we can do.

As appealing as it was to be a circus side show, I am more than ready to hang up the act for a while. Now that I’ve found a balance between ring master and care-free audience member, things are running much smoother in this two-parent household. It’s nice to know, as military spouses, that we have the power to do it all, but it’s even more comforting to know that we don’t always have to.

Apr 162012
 

Deployment Superpowers: The First Time Changes Everything

Staff Blogger Cassie

Cassie

One of the current blog call topics is all about deployment superpowers. Oh yeah, guys. I found mine during my husband’s first deployment to Iraq. Can I just say that I never thought I’d be standing with my rear in the air, scrubbing out the inside of an outdoor trash can? It’s amazing what happens when the hubby disappears and you’re faced with “clean it yourself or deal with the stench of rotten food stuck to the bottom for eight. long. months.” I voted for option A. Trash can cleaning was just one of the superpowers I discovered while my hubby was away. Here are a few others.

Plumber. I now know how to unclog a toilet with a plunger, to use a “snake” to retrieve little, metal cars from said toilet, to clean hair from drains (mostly mine, anyway), and what NOT to put in the garbage disposal to avoid a call to a real plumber. FYI—garbage disposals don’t like shredded carrots, potato peelings, or rocks from fish tanks. Just sayin’.

Fire tamer. I’m not going to lie. I didn’t know how to light the grill before my husband left, much less start a beach fire. I’m totally a pro, now. And I only burned one pair of flip flops during the learning process.

Sports ninja. I consider myself somewhat athletic. But having little boys brings new meaning to the word “energy.” Every afternoon, while the kids were outside, I stayed out with them. I learned to ride a push scooter, to skateboard, and to jump on a trampoline without breaking an arm. I even coached my son’s basketball team with another mom. We were six and two for the season, thank you very much.

CPA. Now, I will admit that I handled the finances even before the hubby left, but doing taxes ALONE, and budgeting for groceries ALONE, and buying a car ALONE are things I had never done before. We even had a no-pay-due when my husband first deployed. That means we didn’t receive a paycheck because we were overpaid two months’ worth of our Basic Allowance for Housing during a move. The lesson to be learned there? If your service member is overpaid, know that it will come out of their check eventually. Avoid these things by staying on top of your family’s Leave and Earnings Statement. Check it monthly and plan ahead! Fluctuations in pay happen A LOT.

Volunteer extraordinaire. After all our years in the military, I knew the best way to stay informed was to volunteer for our unit, which I did. What I didn’t realize, though, was that people eventually thought I knew what I was doing. I found myself in a position to mentor brand-spankin’-new spouses and help them through a time that was difficult for all of us. I also discovered that during the worst parts of that deployment, when we knew our unit had suffered multiple casualties, I had a sisterhood I didn’t even know existed. You guys? The folks I met during that deployment are some of the best friends I have in my life. Volunteering was the best thing I could have done to make it through.

Education tamer. When the hubby left, Frick and Frack (my kids…no, those aren’t their real names) were seven and five. I attended every parent/teacher conference, volunteered in the library, went on field trips, and walked my kids to school every day in an effort to ensure they weren’t going to light the school on fire when someone wasn’t looking. But, mainly, I did it because if I didn’t, no one would. And as I mentioned before, I like to be kept informed.

It’s now eight years later and my husband, it sometimes feels, is gone more than he is home. Do I miss him when he’s away? Sure. A quarter of our family is missing—a sixth if you count our dogs. But what I discovered during that first deployment is that there is a difference between surviving in the military and thriving in the military. Yes, I’ll gladly give up trash can cleaning duty the minute he walks back in the door, but I discovered that I CAN do it, along with a lot of other things I didn’t think I had the strength to do alone. That deployment changed me—in a good way. I value every minute of time with my husband even when we fight. I am a hundred times tighter with my boys. And I can light the grill with the best of them. What are your deployment superpowers?

Cheers,

Cassie

All materials copyright Military OneSource, 2012. Blog content held jointly by writer and Military OneSource, with shared rights to republish with appropriate attribution.