Good Fences?

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Yummy Chicken Tortilla Soup

We’ve been blessed by having really great neighbors most of my life. Growing up we lived next door to childhood friends. We had campouts in the backyard and our families regularly had dinner together.

After getting married, we’ve been fortunate to live next to some really awesome people, many of which have become long term friends. Part of it has to do with our experiences living in military towns, but even outside of that, we’ve definitely had some good ones which made this daily post challenge a no brainer! The daily challenge was to discuss neighbors, and the people who live next door.

Randomly when we decided to move to base housing last year, we were put in a house right next door to a co-worker of mine from a previous job! And as luck would have it, she started running about the same time I did, and we shared successes through the wonder of Facebook. And now we are neighbors.

Another neighbor saw us working out, later divulging that she would take her daughter for a stroll hoping for an invite to our sweat sessions. I had no idea. (Had I known this, the invitation would have been extended FAR sooner than when she finally got up the nerve to ask about our workouts!) Over the course of the following months, we’ve all gotten to know each other, sharing recipes, child woes, as well as fitness fun – all through the common experience of military life, parenting, and deployments.

Since Christmas, 1 of the 4 of us in our family has been sick. I’m currently typing this with tissue up my nose (gross, I know) and mouth breathing. I have no taste, and for a foodie – that stinks! What I love about my neighbors is their thoughtfulness. I’ve been sick not once, but now round 2 has reared its ugly head. We have been grateful for well wishes and soup. Neighbors have brought me soup, on more than one occasion! Of course my hubs has taken good care of us, but it’s comforting to know that people care, and take the time to show it.

Until we can shake this nasty bug, it’s nice to know we’ve got friends who’ve got our back, ladle in hand, and ready to share!

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Daily Prompt: Excitement

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

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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.

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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.

The Post I Wish I’d Written…

My good friend Katy Chaffin wrote this piece. As a vet and a proud military spouse, I feel she is qualified in a very unique way to express what so many of us feel. Katy’s family is currently serving our country overseas. 

“Each time my family is separated in defense of this “Great Nation” I become increasingly disheartened. To what end are our service members and their families sacrificing so much? All the time we hear, “thank you for your service.” We appreciate those words, we really do, but often times I feel it’s just something that is said. Our country is a great and wonderful place of opportunity but it is still a very young country and we have so much to learn.

If you truly want to thank us, start taking better care of the country we work so hard to defend. Do something nice for someone. Quit teaching your children to be lazy, entitled brats and instead teach them that hard work and sacrifice are a good and rewarding thing. Teach them that it’s okay to be an electrician, or plumber, or a berry picker! All of these jobs need to be done and not a single job should be “beneath” doing and doing well.

Quit being violent to one another. Quit using harsh language and judging other races, religions and people of other sexual orientations. Walk a mile in their shoes and you’ll realize that hey, they are human just like you and deserve love and respect just like you! It’s okay to have an opinion, it’s not okay to use your opinion to oppress, bully, or dissolve the rights of another human being.

Instead of being upset and bitter about all the things you don’t have appreciate the people and things you do have. We need to stop teaching our kids that instead of working hard for things it’s okay to try and take them from other people or get ahead at the expense of someone else. Things are so much more rewarding when you work hard for them.

I love America, I am an very proud American. I just feel like our people are in a downward slide of Self Entitlement, Hate, Ignorance, and Violence. We need to teach our youth to take care of this great country we are handing down to them. Teach them the golden rule -”Treat Others The Way You Want To Be Treated”.  Just because it isn’t 100% in line with your beliefs doesn’t make it wrong – just different. Different is good, if we were all the same how boring would life be? We have a wonderful melting pot of culture in our country and we need to embrace it. Open your minds and your hearts people. It’s really that simple.”

Dear Military Mom Facing Your First Deployment With Kids

Dear Military Mom on your first deployment:

Oh mama, there really isn’t anything I can tell you to prepare for this adventure. It is hard. Simple as that.

There are days (hours, minutes) that are going to feel like forever. Dragging so slow you swear it’s been an hour and it’s only been 4 minutes. Groundhog days where you lose yourself in the day-to-day-ness of dishes, diapers, and duty.

You’ll miss your spouse so much you’ll feel it physically. You’ll begrudge any happy couple you see, only because it reminds you of what is missing right now.

There will be days that nothing goes right and you’ll wonder if it’s even worth it. Then you’ll get that call, hear their voice, and get the recharge you need to get through another few days or weeks until you get to hear that voice again.

Believe it or not, there may even be times when you don’t want them to call. It’s normal to feel that way. They are so starved for details of our days, yet can tell us very little, it’s a very one-sided conversation. After a really challenging day, the idea of relaying and reliving it again can be just too exhausting.

There will be the days that you are okay, but the kids are hot messes asking for daddy. Those are the days that rip your guts out. But you’ll get through those, too. Those are the moments that will toughen you up so you can set your pain aside to be the soft spot for your kids to land. You’ll be able to hold it together so they can fall apart.

There will be days when your non-military friends will remark on how fast the deployment is going and you’ll muster up the restraint to keep from punching them.

Then you’ll realize you’re halfway through. Maybe it isn’t so bad. As the calendar ticks down the days, the ache begins to lessen.

There will be really good days that will have only just a tinge of sadness because you couldn’t share it with your spouse.

There will be kick-butt days when you fix that bike, fix the car, or do whatever it is that you thought you couldn’t do. And you will feel that pride.

Those pride moments are powerful. As much as the recharging phone calls, these are the ones that carry you through when you want to just give up.

You’ll wipe the tears, you’ll chat with a dear friend, you’ll laugh, you’ll go to dinner, you’ll pull up your bootstraps, and you’ll keep moving. You’ll put one foot in front of the other. You’ll take one day at a time, one moment, one glass of spilled milk, one diaper change at a time. You’ll reach out if you need help. You’ll link arms with your fellow spouses and friends. You’ll make plans. You’ll workout. You’ll make goals. Even small ones like “keep the kids alive today”, and celebrate your achievements.

You may not realize it now, but the you that starts this deployment will not be the same person finishing it.

You will be better.

Trust me.

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Rosie-the-Riveter (Photo credit: SBT4NOW)

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.

What Homecomings Are REALLY Like

Most of us are familiar with this image:

With all the romance and nostalgia this photo evokes, you might be led to believe we military folk lead extraordinarily dramatic lives.

Well, we do. Sort of.

For some, the deployments get easier. I don’t agree. The longer we are together, I seem to love him more and in different ways. For me, the deployments get harder. Yes, I know what to expect, and how to rely on myself and get stuff done, but I just like my hubby, I like to hang out with him and cringe at the thought of another chunk of time spent apart.  The drama of being separated definitely proves the point that absence makes the heart grow fonder. We miss each other. Desperately. We hang on the phone as long as possible until they have to head back to work, (or sleep as they are into the next day on the other side of the world) or the kids are just making it to0 dang difficult to carry on a coherent conversation.  We look forward to emails and calls and Skype conversations and feel lucky to be living in an age where we no longer have to rely on snail mail.

But what happens when the deployment is over? We live happily ever after until the next deployment, right?

Ha!

Well, yes, and no. There is that honeymoon period where it’s all romantic and fun and frankly, it does resemble a honeymoon of sorts. As much as we plan and prepare for that perfect homecoming; the outfit, getting “prettied up” with facials, waxes, haircuts, etc., getting the kids’ outfits right, doing all the stuff around the house (mowing the lawn, cleaning the car) so you don’t have to do anything pressing for a little while, the banners on the side of the house that say “Welcome Home” – all of it – it’s great. It’s fun, and a good way to get the kids excited and participating in the homecoming festivities. The anticipation is similar to waiting for Santa at Christmas, and it seems to be amplified each time we go through this process. But more often than not, it seems that despite all the planning – it never quite goes the way I imagine it.

Usually there are other factors involved:

  • He’s jet lagged, tired and/or sick.
  • The kids get sick.
  • The flight/ship home arrives at some ungodly hour so we are dragging sleeping kids/babies along
  • I want to go see everyone and parade him around, he wants to be home and just sleep
  • He wants to go visiting our family/friends, I don’t want to share him yet
  • I want to “celebrate”, he wants to have a home-cooked meal. (Hello, ship food?! Blegh!)
  • Gasp! He has ideas of plans HE wants to do. What?! I’ve been making all the decisions for a year! Now I have to check in with someone else?!
  • I’ve vacation/adventure plans for the months after homecoming, he’s made plans too – but they fall on the same days/weeks!
  • The kids end up staying up way too late, resulting in cranky behavior
  • The kids getting up way too early, despite being up past bed time
  • The kids interfere with “other” activities!

You get the idea. While homecomings are highly emotional, very romantic and dramatic, I’ve found that the fewer expectations I place on the actual event, the better off we all are. Laying low and taking the time to just be with each other as a family is really all we need for a while. The bills, the to-do lists and the summer plans can wait. There will be time for all of that.

For now, at homecoming, my “plan” is to just enjoy the moment, let it flow and watch the kids’ faces light up again when they get to see and be with their daddy.

And I can’t wait.

Victorious Not Nauseous

This time last year, we were gearing up for what we thought was to be a 6-month deployment. Those in the military know, sometimes the plans get changed. Six months turned into a whole year deal with a 6-week “home port visit” over the holidays.

What a difference a year makes. Here is some of what this last year has taught me:

  • I am capable. Of many things. All I must do is put one foot in front of the other and try.
  • Prayer is essential.
  • Writing is therapy
  • Exercise and eating healthfully help me in more areas than just physical fitness
  • I can read the same books over and over to the kids and it doesn’t matter. We  can read Dr. Seuss, Llama Llama, and Fly Guy countless times, they still love it.
  • Good days are just a tad bit more satisfying as heads hit pillows and I think, “This one was a good one”.
  • Single parenting is not for the weak!
  • Kids are stronger than we give them credit for. They can also do more than we think. We just have to be willing to take the extra time to teach them.
  • I dislike northern winters
  • Coffee is my friend. My very, very good friend.
  • Friends and family are crucial to sanity
  • Venting is cathartic
  • Funny things happen when you live with preschoolers
  • Great neighbors make the days easier
  • Plans and goals are great, needed even. So is spontenaity and resiliency.
  • You will go insane if you do not get a good amount of sleep, coffee, and/or adult conversation
  • You will drive your kids insane if you do not get a good amount of sleep, coffee, and/or adult conversation
  • Asking for help blesses both the giver and the receiver
  • I would die without a sense of humor and the ability to laugh at the circus that is my life
  • You can connect with people you just met
  • Random people telling you you are doing a good job can make your day.
  • People taking the time to thank me for my “service” (or our sacrifice), or ask me to pass on thanks to Eric, makes me choke up. Every time.
  • No matter how many “I am woman, hear me roar” moments I may have, I still hate spiders and will pay others if I have to, to come kill them for me.
  • When I start being intentional about joy and gratefulness, there are more things for which I am grateful. You will find what you seek, in abundance
  • My kids are two of the funniest people I know
  • My kids have been two of my greatest teachers
  • I miss taking a long hot bath alone. I miss going to the bathroom alone.
  • No matter how much time passes apart, I love my husband more and more each day. If anything deployment proves the adage that “absence makes the heart grow fonder”.

As my favorite spin instructor used to say at the beginning of class, “We want you leaving here feeling victorious, not nauseous!” I started the year feeling extremely nauseous. I’m ending it feeling victorious.

And very ready for shore duty!