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Archive for the ‘Surviving Deployment’ Category

Deployment sucks.  And some days are harder than others.

Today, in fact, was a hard one.  So I Googled “surviving deployment” and got a bunch of exactly what I don’t need – mushy crap about being strong and holding on.  Crap that made me cry.  And that’s exactly what I was trying to avoid.  Bleh.

So, today’s blog post is a self-service kind of list.  It’s a way of saying FU to deployment.  And all the crying crap that comes with it.

Here’s some REAL advice.

My TOP TEN Strategies for SURVIVING DEPLOYMENT:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAStep 1: DRINK.  A LOT.  I recommend Cabernet.  But whatever.  Your choice.  Just medicate.

Step 2: SWIM.  Well, okay, that’s just for me.  But do what makes YOU happy.  If you like to cook, then cook.  If you like to dig in the dirt or drive motorcycles or dance or color or whatever.  Just do it.  Because YOU have to make YOU happy right now.  The other person in this world responsible for making you happy is oceans away.  So this falls on your shoulders right now.

Step 3: SHOP.   Buy those Manolos you’ve been having wet dreams about.  Or the Pottery Barn shower curtain that is five times more expensive than the one you have now.  Or the smart phone you’ve been dying to get your hands on.  I’m not suggesting you put yourself into debt.  I’m saying pay your bills, then use what is left over for a little RETAIL THERAPY.  You can save a little more when he gets back to make up for it.  Splurge a little for yourself.  You deserve it.

Step 4: DECORATE.  What, he doesn’t like the color pink?  Well, now’s a good time to paint the bedroom pink.  Why?  CAUSE HE’S NOT HERE.  Throw in some fluffy purple curtains with unicorns on them.  Okay, never mind, don’t do that.  UNLESS that is what you want. If it is, then do it.  Just don’t tell me about it, I might throw up in my mouth a little bit.  The point is, you have these decorating compromises you’ve made for him.  (That comfy <butt ugly> chair that he loves.  The futon left over from his college days.) But now you have a year of NO COMPROMISE.  So do whatever the last thing is that you suggested that he shot down.  You can always change it when he gets back.  For now, it will feel like a little bit of rebellion.  And it will make you happy.

Step 5:  BITCH.  Call your girlfriends and tell them how you feel.   Here’s a few suggestions:  Love sucks!  I should have married for money!  You know he has a third nipple?

Step 6:  GET BUSY.  DO everything you’ve thought about doing but haven’t.  Join a gym, take the kids to the park or the pool, take guitar lessons, hike the nearest mountain, boat in the nearest lake.  JUST do something.  You’ll experience new things, meet new people, and the time will fly by.  Basically, LIVE your life.   You knew how to live without him before you met him.  Figure out how to do that again.

Step 7:  GIVE BACK.  I’m gonna get all serious-mode on you now.  Because, let’s face it, there is always someone out there who has it worse than you.  And maybe, the best way to help yourself during this time is to help someone else.  Sign up for a river clean-up, a soup kitchen, something that you can devote your time to, something that can help you keep perspective.

Step 8:  GET DIRTY.  Forget the housework. Let the dishes pile in the sink.  Don’t vacuum that floor until you can SEE the dog hair built up on it.  Neglect the laundry until someone runs out of underwear.  I know, some of that sounds painful.  But here’s the thing – it doesn’t MATTER.  What matters is that you are happy.  And your kids are happy.  And if you have to let the dusting go one weekend because you have a waterpark to go to, well, then, SO BE IT.  Just let it go.

Step 9:  WRITE.  Your feelings are important.  You should write them down.  There are few things more therapeutic than getting your thoughts down on paper.  That’s what brainstorming is, just letting it flow.  Surviving deployment is about just that: surviving.  Don’t avoid the pain, let it out.  Don’t hold it inside, push it onto the page.  Keep a journal that only you are going to see.  If it’s private, then you don’t have to worry about anyone but you when you write it.  No one to judge you or tell you it’s wrong.  Just say whatever it is you want to say.  And you’ll be amazed at how you feel afterward.

Step 10:  FEEL THE LOVE.  Or more importantly, share the love.  The reason this is so hard for you is because you love that man.  Damnit.  Despite his third nipple.  You miss him.  And that sucks.  But it sucks for him too.  So tell him you love him and you miss him.  And you can’t wait for him to come home.  Because I’ll bet he feels the same way.  Then hang up the phone, and go back to Step 1.

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My four-year-old has been adjusting to his father’s absence better than I thought he would.  He’s never been through deployment before, so I was naturally concerned about his inability to understand and/or emotionally handle the separation from one of his favorite human beings on the planet. 

When we drove away from the airport, my guy said “I’m going to miss Daddy,” from the backseat.  Then he said, “Mamas, why are you crying?”

Luckily, he’s like me in that he is willing to talk about his emotions.  And we’ve had some moments when we’ve talked about how he feels and he starts to cry. 

In those situations, I tell him it is okay to feel sad, but it’s also okay to feel happy.  Just because Daddy is gone – temporarily – that is no reason not to feel happy.

That seems to work long enough for his attention span to switch gears to the mighty beans in his bedside table, or the bicycle in the backyard.

And he also hasn’t had too much trouble at school – until yesterday. 

We started him in a Montessori program about two months before my husband left.  He was bored, and he needed to make friends in our new town.  And I wanted to make sure he did not have to go through two transitions at once. 

I wasn’t looking for a Montessori school.  And to be honest with you, even after researching the method, I’m not sure I could explain it fully.  I was just looking for a place I felt good about, for a person I trusted to watch my son.  I looked at almost every school in my small town and the small town just south of us.  And I didn’t find anyone I connected with.  In some cases, the person I spoke with never even asked for my son’s name.  That bothered me. 

It was coming down to the wire and I found this school by Googling “best daycare in Kyle, TX” which I probably should have just done in the first place.

One of the directors of the school asked that I meet her on a Saturday, so as not to interrupt her focus on the other kids.  When we walked in the door, she got down on her knees and greeted my son first, introduced herself and had a small conversation with him before she turned her attention to me.  Then she suggested we speak on the playground so that my son could be free to run around and we could be free to talk. 

She was calm, and warm, and everything flowed easily for her.  She didn’t rush our conversation (even though it was her day off) and she answered my every question as though it were the most poignant ever asked.  By the end of our visit, I wanted to marry her. 

My son took well to the school.  No tears (from him), not even on day one.

And the teachers (or “guides”) often comment on his politeness and his focus on “work” (their word for attentive play).  And when his dad left, they commented about how well he seemed to be handling things.  He even had a talk with another boy there whose father is deployed with the Marines.  And the director said the conversation was not sad, but excited. 

So yesterday, when she called to tell me he’d had a problem, my heart nearly broke.  She said two of the girls had approached her and said he had “spit” on them.  I didn’t understand this at first (she’s Guatemalan and has an accent).  I thought she said “pissed.”  It didn’t occur to me that a four-year-old would not likely come to the teacher and say, “that boy pissed on me.”  (Imagine my relief when I realized he had just spit at – and not peed on – two girls in his school.)

She acknowledged that spitting is common, and that, were the situation different (and had she not told me that very morning how well he was doing), she would have just corrected him and moved on.  But she called because she wanted me to know, just in case this was a reaction to his situation (and also because she’d never seen this behavior from him before).

She also advised that I not bring it up unless he does (so as not to punish him twice for the same offence).  And when we talked last night, he did not bring it up.  But he did say that he missed Daddy.  And he didn’t sleep well.  So, perhaps this is harder for him than he initially let on.

So, parenting gurus/therapists/ladies at the grocery store with comments for everything – what do I do?  Keep hugging him and loving him and distract him with trips to the pool and park?  Or take him to a professional with a degree in “tell me how you feel”? 

This balance thing is hard.

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Photo by J. Stephen Conn

If Leigh Anne Tuohy and Skeeter Phelan were not enough to make you love Mississippi/Ole Miss, this story is …

To sum up, a soldier’s funeral.  An attempt by Baptist protesters thwarted by locals who don’t tolerate that kinda behavior in Mississippi.

Here’s the post from the Ole Miss message board:

A couple of days before, one of them (Westboro protestors) ran his mouth at a Brandon gas station and got his arse waxed. Police were called and the beaten man could not give much of a description of who beat him. When they canvassed the station and spoke to the large crowd that had gathered around, no one seemed to remember anything about what had happened.

Rankin County handled this thing perfectly. There were many things that were put into place that most will never know about and at great expense to the county.

Most of the morons never made it out of their hotel parking lot. It seems that certain Rankin county pickup trucks were parked directly behind any car that had Kansas plates in the hotel parking lot and the drivers mysteriously disappeared until after the funeral was over. Police were called but their wrecker service was running behind and it was going to be a few hours before they could tow the trucks so the Kansas plated cars could get out.

A few made it to the funeral but were ushered away to be questioned about a crime they might have possibly been involved in. Turns out, after a few hours of questioning, that they were not involved and they were allowed to go on about their business.

Now, I do not condone the beating of anyone in gas stations, not even an extreme religion extortionist or their meek-minded followers.  But when I hear stories like this, I think of my husband fighting a war that he did not start.  And I think of the possibility of having to deal with protesters.  At his funeral.  (I feel like I should spit over my shoulder or something, to keep that evil I just spoke <typed> from happening.) 

I don’t know what I would say or do.  I know I would not handle it with elegance.  So, it’s nice to hear about a town getting together and preventing a window/mother/loved one from having to deal.  With anything but the burial of their soldier.

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My first entry into this segment of the blog was entitled Deployment Blows.  Which it does.  But I can’t sit around and mope about it for a year.  Instead, I have to figure out how to make this work for me. 

I need a plan. 

There are many challenges associated with living without your spouse for a year:

1)      You miss him

2)      The kids miss him

3)      You are forced to mow the lawn on your own

4)      You no longer get to defer hated chores like taking out the trash or vacuuming

AND

5)      (Don’t read this, mom.) No sex (unless, of course, you have some kind of “agreement,” which we don’t).

And those are just the surface concerns.

There are also some things I didn’t think about right away, such as:

1)      Not having anyone to talk to at the end of the day

2)      Not having anyone to hold hands with/laugh with

3)      Having to pay all the bills and make all the decisions myself

4)      Having to do bathtime/bedtime routines EVERY night (instead of happily calling out “your turn” and then relaxing in front of the television while the husband wrestles two boys under five into the tub and pjs and books and teddies)

There are, in turn, some nice things about being alone that I also didn’t think about, like:

1)      I get the bed ALL to myself

2)      I can rearrange furniture/redecorate without regard to anyone else’s needs/taste

3)      My schedule is all mine – I do whatever I want, whenever I want, and I don’t have to worry about pleasing anyone but myself – and my two boys, that is.

Six Flags New England 1

Image by Troy B Thompson via Flickr

So, as part of my survival plan, I’ve decided to focus on the joys of that last list.  This year is going to be okay.  And fun, even.  Because I’m going to MAKE it fun.  I’m going to take my boys to SeaWorld and Six Flags.  We are going to eat popcorn in our pajamas in living room forts and we are going to museums to see art and dinosaurs and cavemen.

And the FIRST thing I’m going to do is redecorate.   OHHHH I’m excited already.  Stay tuned for before and after pics.

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I love April.  My allergies of January/February are gone, and the weather is warming up enough to open up the windows and let the breeze blow through the house.  My toddler is heavily entertained by the birds in our backyard, and if that doesn’t amuse him enough, a simple bucket of water and some cups keep him occupied on the back porch for at least an hour or so, allowing me to get some work done in the patio lounger – which, right now, much to my neighbor’s chagrin, is a folding camping chair.

I hate April.  This month, my husband leaves us for a year, a goodbye that will likely spur my pre-schooler’s first serious bout with loss and heartache.  And, as all military families know, every goodbye during deployment has the potential to be your last.

pic by dakaishi

So those are my choices.  I can love this month, and the bird singing to me from the railing of my back porch.   I can appreciate the cool wind hitting my cheek and the clean smell of freshly cut grass.  And I can help my children to do the same.  OR I can wallow in the fact that my husband is leaving soon, I can stress about the consequences, and I can be angry at him for putting us through it all.  OR I can have a nervous breakdown.

Hm.  Decisions, decisions.

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I haven’t written in a while. I know. I’m sorry, dear readers (all three of you).

A few things have happened, throwing my life a bit out of whack.

In the most dramatic recent change, my husband is being deployed to Afghanistan. As a member of the National Guard, he was always at risk of deployment. But for the past few years, we sailed through life in a sort of dream-like state, as that danger somehow managed not to touch us.

But now, it has.

And I’m pissed off about it.

I’ve actually been angry/grieving about it for a while now and, in a childish fit of emotion, I have neglected my blogging duties.

According to the military’s Emotional Cycle of Deployment , “pissed off” is not technically a phase I should be going through. So I’m not sure what part of the following cycle I’m actually on:

I don’t feel like I fit anywhere on the above graphic. Thus, at the Yellow Ribbon event held this past weekend (in all seriousness, a pretty informative culmination of all things deployment, where I met some pretty awesome people going through the same stress), I came up with my own Emotional Cycle of Deployment:

So, in my own estimation, I’m right on schedule. Stay tuned for the next few phases.

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