Picking Up Chicks

The military has afforded us the opportunity to make some incredible friends. INCREDIBLE. Friends who I cried for as we or they moved on to the next adventure. Friends who I still chat with via social media and text, and yes, even by phone. There have also been what I call “friend fails”. Those would be the people you find out much too late are just either not compatible or are flat out crazy, but slipped under the craydar (crazy radar).

I’ve pondered the wonder that is making adult friends many times, but I have to say – California is a world unto its own. How the heck do you make mom friends when you move every three years? One word about being in the military sends many potentials running for the hills, even in a military town. Why invest when you’re just gonna move away? I get it. How do you make adult friends when your kids are older than all the toddlers running around the playground…and you don’t drink….annnnnnd you are kind of an introvert?

I met one mom at school orientation. She seemed nice and the kids hit it off. She told me many great places to eat in the area and some of the local hot spots. The secrets to navigating traffic timing were shared. We saw each other at a couple of functions. It was nice, all happening organically and not too fast (wouldn’t want to rush into anything too quickly). Then I bumped into her at a store and noticed what could have been a bit of powdered donut residue just around a nostril. Or it could have been some not-blended face powder. But….it seemed to be something else entirely based on observed behavior. It was also 8:30 am. Super awkward. Not my scene.

The second day of school I was approached blindsided by a mom of a student in my son’s class at the crosswalk. “HI! I noticed your son is in my son’s class! My name is June and this is my husband Mark. You are? And are you new to the area? Oh! You’re military! So you live right here!? No? Oh, you are on the waitlist. I see. And how long are you going to be here for? Andallthe500otherquestions.” I had no idea you could interrogate someone at a crosswalk and ask that many question in the time it takes for the stoplight to cycle through 1 time. I had to sit in my car for 3 minutes sipping my coffee to digest that entirely one-sided conversation. Who does that?!

Over the summer I chatted with a nice mom at the playground in our neighborhood. She had just moved in so we were commiserating on the challenges of relocating and being in the thick of the cardboard ocean. Against my better judgement, we exchanged numbers. I haven’t heard a word from her since. Today I got a text asking how I was, and what I was up to this Saturday. It had been so long, I had to think for 10 minutes about who the heck this person was. Once I realized it was a ghost from summer past, I responded, and she then invited me to a “business opportunity” to make residual income. Obviously I need to trust my instincts. A month and a half and no word. Then boom – besties who are going into business together?! Uhhh, no. Lose my number thankyouverymuch.

Not so shockingly, Hannah has made many friends already, being the ray of sunshine that she is. (Come to think of it, Hannah might one day be the crosswalk interviewer!) She came running up to me after school last week, breathless, “MOM! My friend’s mom wants to meet you!! Come quick!”

Me: “Sure!” I say brightly! With lots! of! exclamation! points! and! fake! smiles!

Sigh.

Turning the corner I walk in the room and see a woman who is everything I am not. She literally looks like she stepped out of Vogue. I tower over her because of course she is the size of a child. I could hip check her and she’d bounce half a mile. “Hi! I’m Hannah’s mom,” I introduce myself and try not to crush the limp Barbie-esque hand she extends. Picture Real Housewives. Or Stepford Wives.

91ot-SDzm8L._RI_.jpg

stepford1.jpg

Friend’s Mom gushes: “Oh it’s such a pleasure to finally meet you! Hannah has told me so much about you!”

Me: Blinking. ***Crickets***  ‘Finally’ meet me? School has only been in for a week and a half! What the heck has my child told her? Oh I’m sure I’m under the bus. Waaayyyy under that bus.

Friend’s Mom continues in her sing-song voice, “My daughter has been raving about how wonderful Hannah is and I was so hoping she’d find someone to be her BFF! They seem to be a perfect match! Let’s meet at the park tomorrow if you’re free to have a playdate!”

Me: Still blinking. This is all happening way too fast. Her voice is seriously like a character on SNL. (Yes, the Californians. EXACTLY like that. For real.) “Okay, that would be lovely,” I reply, continuing the ruse that I am, in fact, a functioning adult and am not panicking inside that I will have to make small talk with a stranger to whom my daughter has no doubt told our entire life story.

The following day Hannah can hardly contain her excitement. We meet up at the playground and the kids play. We chat. Lots of talk of GMOs and healthy eating. She insists that I must try a nut bar she just purchased. She laments that her “household help” that has been with her family for over two decades has suddenly moved away. “I’m simply overtaxed with committees and volunteer work – I just don’t know what I’ll do!” She asks if I have a cleaning person. I respond with the “I’m a do-it-yourselfer”-type. She tells me that I “simply must come by the house for another play date some time.” When my daughter sees this person’s beach front property, boat and hired help, she’s never going to want to come home!

I try to be an optimist/”bloom where you’re planted”/make the best of all the duty stations sort of approach to life in the military. Some are better than others, but after my track record so far, I’m just not holding my breath. I feel like I’m being Punk’d. I couldn’t make this up if I tried.

Recreational drug use, check.

Crosswalk interrogator, check.

Untethered to reality, check.

Pyramid/ponzi schemer, check, check, check.

As the saying goes, ‘I think the more people I meet, the more I like my dogs’. Based on what we’ve seen so far, if I’m friend-single this time around, I think I’ll be okay with that!

Advertisements

Resilience

We always say it’s not going to happen. We’ll be there for each other, even after they move. Or we move. Or we both are flung to opposite sides of the world.

And we swear, “This time. This time will be different. This time we’ll really stay in touch.”

Military friends are a special breed.

Ever so slowly, life happens. New friends slip in to our lives, boots on the ground, in the current duty station, in your every day life friends. While they open our hearts again, it becomes more challenging to keep up with kids and day-to-day stuff and maintain all those long distance friendships. They seem to get lost somewhere in the everydayness of our new home, among new friends. And we get lost in the memories of their new place.

The calls are replaced with texts. Texts start out frequent, but slowly fade to weekly occurrences, check-ins. More and more of the detail of their daily lives are missed and so it goes. Then it’s merely pictures on social media. Those pictures of their new life without you in it, those are so bittersweet.

They sting just a little. And once again you remind yourself that it’s all part of the process. This breaking of hearts. Sometimes it’s a wonder that we do this not only once, but many times over and over, risking, grieving, and being open again.

As we got up this morning from air mattresses on the empty floor, the moving truck having left the day prior, Hannah quietly asked, “Mom, can we do the ‘Why I love moving, by Hannah’ thing?”

We do this ritual in our family where I say, ‘I love Hannah because, by Mommy’ and then list out all the reasons and things I love about her. Eric and I even did this practice before the kids were born. Items on the list include big things, but also very specific things, and current milestones etc. It’s a tangible way to say “I love you. I see you. Just as you are.”

As she asked to do this and apply it to moving, I was struck by how resilient and strong she really is. This has been a tough week for the little emotional heartbeat of our family. She loves fiercely, and her heart breaks with the same passion. She listed her positives of moving – we all did. Hannah reminded us that while the sky may be overcast – the sun still shines, regardless of whether we can see it or not.

Kids are so dang resilient.

Hearts are resilient.

Tender hearts that are open enough to get broken, repeatedly, are among the strongest ones.

Fair winds and following seas, Corpus Christi!

Internal Thought Vomit

Eric and I have a commonly repeated conversation, usually while driving. It goes something like this:

Me: “What are you thinking about?”

Him: “Nothing.”

Me: “Hmm.”

Him: “What are you thinking about?”

Me:”I’mwonderingwhyyouaresoquietandthisotherthingI’mworriedaboutandblahblahblahblahblahblahmorestuff,” comes tumbling out.

Him: “Oh…I was thinking about how the cotton is only a foot high now.”

Me: **Crickets**

WHAT?! I have brain on rapid fire and he’s just looking out the window and seeing what’s there. I don’t think he gets thought-vomit like I do.

“I really don’t know how you do it,” says any number of people, shaking their heads slowly as they discover we are a military family and my other half is deployed. “I could never do that.”

Yeah, you could. If it was your life and you didn’t have a choice. There are plenty of us doing it.  It sucks. There are good parts, like anything. The highs are high and the lows…well, they suck. My strategy is to tuck my chin, focus on the next right thing and move. Keep moving, keep doing, keep on keeping on. Everything we do gets us that much closer to it being over. Every missed holiday, every missed event, every school function he’ll watch via social media….it all gets us that much closer to homecoming day.

A random day of mid-deployment thought-vomit looks something like this:

It’s Saturday and we’re at the trampoline park because I feel sad that they are missing their dad. They need activity and busy-ness from time to time. They need to wear themselves out. Looking around, I’m struck by how no one smiles. Looking across the cavernous lobby, I catch sight of a couple walking to the exit with a small child, their jump time now concluded. The sweaty, flushed face looks up as she reaches to grasp the hand of one of the adults.

“They don’t even look happy,” I think to myself as I condescendingly judge them. The adult seems to carry the burdens of life physically on her back, slightly rounding at the base of her neck.

As they walk out, I continue to ponder the inner thoughts of other patrons. Cell phones in every hand, boredom tinged with a traces of anxiety, we are all watching each other, sizing everyone up. “Look at how good I’m doing at this whole parenting thing. I’ve really got my life together, ” we all think as we pray no one sees how we really don’t have it together, and we are all pretending.

Or maybe it’s just me who feels like a pretend adult.

My eyes return to my book, though I can scarcely recall the sentence I’ve read 4 times. Turns out this whole deployment business has well, ups and downs. And some of the downs, I don’t handle very well.

Thanksgiving. The 4th holiday he missed. Fourth out of the 8 or 9 that he wasn’t here to celebrate. Normally the holidays evoke gratitude and reflection. This year I was angry and irritable.

I’m angry at the political climate. I’m angry that my son is blind in his right eye. I’m angry that I can’t be with my person. My best friend. I’m angry at the sexual harassment perpetrators, the hypocrisy of politics. I’m angry at the church and myself for not loving people as well as we should, being chastened by a remarkable conversation with an atheist/agnostic who’s actions are more Christ-like than most of us who claim a relationship with Jesus.

I’m angry that I have to fear when I send my kids to school that they may not come home.

Still sober and clinging to my 9 months. I feel good about that, but life isn’t as it should be. It’s paled, almost black and white. The color has slipped a bit…my anger turning to a melancholy I can’t shake.

I can laugh. I can take my kids camping in the rain. I can joke and be social with friends. I have girl friends that I see regularly for adult interaction and coffee. I’m reading, learning and growing. I’m working at being a better dog parent/trainer. The stuff I’m learning about is awesome and I want to pick up the phone and talk to him about it, and then oh..wait. I can’t. Dang it.

I look over and see a birthday party in progress. The noise makes my skin crawl.

I’m nervous about our move to San Diego and simultaneously can not wait to get there. Once we get the transition over with, it’ll be fine, I remind myself for the 500th time.

I want to wake up and have this year over.

I try, yet again, to read my book. The kids come running up, their faces flushed. “MOM! This is so fun!” they holler over the loud music, then darting back out to play dodgeball, practice their flips and cartwheels and see how high they can jump.

They will be okay, I marvel. Borrowing some of their enthusiasm, we’re getting through it, I think. Maybe not without some bumps and bruises and rough days, but we’re getting through it.

Put most simply, my thought vomit is well, messy.

Perhaps everyone’s thought vomit is messy like that. Or not. Mine’s pretty loud. And she likes to talk and analyze. A lot.

In our pre-marriage counseling some 20 years ago, a reference was made to a marriage book, by Chad Eastham, “Guys are Waffles, Girls are Spaghetti.” In short, men compartmentalize areas of their life, like the little squares and of a waffle. Women, on the other hand, are a tangled mess of saucy goodness where everything is tangled and intertwined, like spaghetti.

Sometimes I wonder if I’ve got some sauce falling off the plate because the noodles of my mind are being twirled a bit too fast by life.

Hmmm, now I’m hungry.

Messy spaghetti, anyone?

I Was Wrong

I remember writing about solo parenting many times throughout the last deployment. Reading many parenting blogs, military support websites and feeling overwhelmed by it all, but still armed with strategies and support to muscle our way through.

As we prepared for this round, I kept thinking how much easier it was going to be. The kids are older now. They can talk and express themselves! They can bathe and dress themselves, even brush their own teeth. They help out with household chores (albeit reluctantly at times). There are no diapers. They are in school, so there will be breaks that we will all get from each other. This will be a piece. of. cake.

Hindsight is not only 20/20, it wears big-ass rose-colored glasses.

Yes, physically, this deployment will likely be easier. Yes, they will have school, that's true. What I wasn't prepared for was the depth of emotions coming from the kids.

Duh.

I know. I know this stuff. Nightly Hannah expresses frustration about missing daddy, sometimes crying, but not all the time. They will ask questions, randomly, catching me off guard. Everyone processes this stuff differently. I was not a military kid, so I don't have that experience. The spouse experience is just different. Both of them go from zero to meltdown far more quickly, which was to be expected. Logically, I get it. I've known the kids would have a hard time, that it would no question be an emotional upheaval. I guess what is surprising is that I wasn't as prepared for it as I thought I was.

I was wrong. Deployments and separations are NEVER easy.

Ever.

They don't get easier, you don't get used to them, and every one of them are different. They are their own unique snapshot of time. They all have their own challenges and victories. And don't get me started on the "Well, you knew what you were getting into when you married a man in the military. What did you expect?"

Bullshit.

For the love of all that is good and holy, stop saying that crap to military spouses! Comprehending it and walking it are VERY different.

The kids will survive, thrive, even though they miss their dad. We'll be fine. We will get through it, like every other time. It may not be perfect harmony, but We can do hard things, like Glennon Doyle Melton says.

We can do hard things.

Far from Perfect. Not Even Good. 

….Tra-la-la-la-la….skipping happily through summer, making delicious vegetarian meals for my family to savor as we gather around the table for dinner every evening…after playing merrily through our warm South Texas days….

Yeah. Keep dreaming. We are also smack dab in the middle of Crap Week. What’s Crap Week, you ask? Oh, let me explain. Crap Week is defined as anywhere from 1-3 weeks for a military family right before the service person departs. We are down to the last few days. It’s a flurry of last minute preparations, last one-on-one dates with the kids, family adventures and trying to inhale as much of him as we can. Meanwhile, he’s reminding me of house duties like replacing the filters, where the water shut off valve is, and mentioning oil change schedules, blah, blah, blah, I-can’t-hear-you-because-I’m-in-denial, blah, blah, blah. In the midst of this, I decide that going meatless is genius. I’ll wait while you cease snort laughing.

Here’s what actually happened last night:

As per usual, the kids decided to lose their minds right around 3:30-4pm. Convenient considering that that is when I’m deciding on and prepping for dinner, hubby coming home, etc. (And by “etc.”, I mean finishing up a video game that I was playing with my son, but I got engrossed in, far after he’d lost interest and moved on to antagonizing his sister, who is simply trying to watch Moana for the 873rd time. At full volume.) I reluctantly shut off the game, erasing the evidence that I’d crushed my high score.

I had planned to make yummy burgers, since I’m sure poor hubby has been craving them as we adventure into meatless territory. Finding a mere 1,876 recipes for black bean vegan burgers online, I picked one based on ingredients I had on hand. Toasting the buns we had leftover from another meatless miss, I pull them out of the oven to notice tiny little green spots.

Mold. I have moldy buns. My delicious made-with-only-4-ingredients-whole-wheat buns have grown green hair patches. Luckily I have 4 more buns of the preservative-laden “sit on the shelf and not mold for 6 months” variety. I quickly pop them under the broiler to toast while I whip up my “burgers”.

Taking them out of the oven, I eye them dubiously. I look at Eric, who is also surveying the mess. I think I know in my heart of hearts how this is going to end, as does he. He puts on a brave face for me, since I’ve already tossed the first round of moldy buns – he feels bad that this will likely all end up in the trash.

Parchement paper was *supposed* to ensure crisp edges. The internet lied to me.I feel so betrayed.

I even made this yummy plate of veggie toppings for what were going to be scrumptious burgers! Sadly, Hannah mistook the purple onion for some purple cabbage and couldn’t figure out why her mouth was burning! “Why would the cabbage be so spicy, Mom?”

Note to self, don’t eat raw onions. You know, unless you like them.
img_3128.jpg
My sad, disgusting meatless bean burger.

Eric took a bite and smiled at me, chewing slowly. I looked at him and asked, “How bad is it?!”

“Just try a bite,” he said, struggling to swallow.

It should be noted that when someone smells something awful, what is the first thing they do? YES! They offer it to someone else to smell the awfulness. I believe the same could be said of taste. “This is so gross! Here, you try it!”

I bit into it.

I immediately stood up, grabbed my plate, spit my bite out, dashed over to the kitchen and dumped it all into the trash. Hannah refused to try it after our reactions, and I didn’t blame her one bit. We were all laughing at the ridiculousness.

He made a box of mac and cheese for him and Hannah. Jacob (who’d already eaten his usual dinner and was unaffected by all of this nonsense) accompanied me to Freebirds where I had a decent dinner that I didn’t have to prepare.

I’ll call it far from perfect, but funny for sure!

 

Daily Prompt: Excitement

We military spouses have a distinct advantage when it comes to the excitement department: homecoming.

IMG_3148

There is no word that stirs such excitement, anticipation, and impatience like knowing your spouse is coming home from a long deployment. My spouse recently came home after a 1 year deployment cycle, and as each one comes and goes, the excitement of their return never wanes. Being our first deployment with children, it definitely ratcheted the excitement level up a few notches. There is nothing like watching the pure glee on the face of your child as they  wrap their little arms around their daddy for the first time after far too long.

IMG_3203 IMG_3199

My neighbor and I were sitting at my kitchen table chatting over coffee about homecoming emotion and we both ended up glassy-eyed and thick-throated. We daydream about how the kids will react, what we will all wear, and all the preparation that goes into welcoming home the missing piece of ourselves.  As we talked, we relayed past homecoming experiences, kid reactions, homecomings we watched on YouTube and other friends’ experiences.

Like my friend at our last duty station that didn’t tell her children that daddy was coming home, but wrapped him in a refrigerator box with a bow. They opened their “surprise” the next morning.  Or the parents that surprise their kids by picking them up at school, at their baseball games, or anywhere unexpected.

It’s written all over the kids’ faces through their tears. Their reactions strike right to the heart of relief, anticipation, and excitement.

And no matter how many times our families go through this process, a military homecoming never fails in the excitement department.

Reason #472 Why I Am Over this Deployment.

The countdowns have begun in my head:

“Only 1 more gallon of milk until he gets home.”

“Last 2 episodes of Deadliest Catch until we can watch them together.”

“The next grocery run, I’ll be stocking the fridge with his favorites.”

“The next time I mop the floor, will be the last time I mop it before he gets back!”

And on it goes. Sigh. The finish line is right there….

Today started rainy (it’s been rainy for the past couple of days and the kids are going absolutely CRAZY with cabin fever.) My kids need fresh air and exercise in large doses daily! They are also greatly anticipating Eric’s return with the countdown refreshed every morning. Everyday becomes a day to distract.

Just keep swimming.

With the rain, we headed to our favorite indoor playground. Then by the time that was over, we headed over to my sister’s place to visit and catch up. By the time we got home, the kids were antsy, ready to be out of the car and the weather had cleared. So outside we went. On a bike ride.

Based on this day, I should always just carry bike tools with me.

Somehow the hand brake on Jake’s bike got jacked up and the back wheel completely locked. It’s moments like these that I am so thankful for fitness and my body’s strength. It’s not always about hitting the gym and going faster on a dumb treadmill. It’s not about lifting a barbel. Working out just for the sake of working out can be awesome, but it’s the resulting strength I have grown to depend upon. It’s the times when I need that strength for doing stuff, everyday stuff. LIke today when I had to walk my bike and simultaneously CARRY my son’s bike, which is NOT light.

I confess, as more than one car slowed down to look at me – I smiled every time. That’s right. This sucks. But I got it.

I’m tired. The kids are tired. But we are slogging through, marking another red X on the calendar.

It sucks. But we got it.

Almost there.