Thursday, November 26, 2009

recipe for a bittersweet casserole

it's a recipe for a bittersweet moment: thanksgiving with your husband on 2.5yrs, your son, first time ever in three calendar years, a deployment next year. in the three years that aaron and i have been together, NEVER once have we celebrated thanksgiving and christmas according to the calendar without duffle bags being packed or being unpacked.

in 2o06 aaron was stuck in afghanstain trying to make it home and missed our first thanksgiving by a week. in 2007 he was home for thanksgiving with his duffle bags packed and heading to iraq 5 days later. in 2008 aaron was in iraq. in 2009, he's home for both thanksgiving and christmas. in 2010, he'll be back in iraq for thanksgiving and christmas.

it's the story of our life and well, when you consider what thanksgiving and christmas are really about, it doesn't matter the date on the calendar, but being together with your loved ones. so, though we'll wake and watch the macy's thanksgiving parade and stuff ourselves with home-made, love-filled yummy dishes and put up the christmas tree, and it's actually thanksgiving across the united states and there are no packed duffle bags in the house, it doesn't matter because everyday is a day for giving thanks and making love-filled yummy casseroles. bittersweet as it may be.
2006: our thanksgiving, in december2007: our turkey was just 5 wks old. 5 days later aaron deployed to iraq for 14 months
2008: we did a florida thanksgiving with oma & opa and then a ft. polk thanksgiving with all of our 'deployed' family

Thursday, November 19, 2009

dear oprah, 2000 characters is not enough

so oprah is looking for real army wives. cool! i'm game for going to chicago, never been before, and tell america what a real army wife's glamorous life is all about, hardly anything i've seen on the lifetime show 'army wives.' so i wrote this great essay, and not saying that because i wrote it, but it was a great 2000 word essay, not a 2000 character essay, including spaces. so, i had to widdle it down, and well, i might be watching that show from my comfy couch.

so, oprah, if you're reading this, this is what a real essay, 2000 words, would look like:

i don't own a 'hump bar' or any other business. i don't recent my husband's job, what i don't nor will ever know about it, or the fact that his career will always come before mine. i have never, nor will i ever cheat on my husband. i'm not the perfect army wife, but i am a real army wife.

as each day passes, i can tell you exactly how many more until my husband deploys for the his fourth time. each night i lay awake because my anxiety keeps my mind racing, worrying what i'll do if i become 'one of them.' i've heard taps played twice, watched the folded flag be laid in the arms of friends and clutched our son tightly as the smoke cleared from the 21-gun salute. nothing can prepare you to comfort a friend and their family when their life has been shattered, not even the care team training.

i started writing a blog,, to clear my head and somewhere along the way i collected stories from my sisters, my pillars of strength that i now pass on to those who walk in our shoes for the first time. each week i type away on my blackberry a check-up for those, many i've never met, who are currently surviving a deployment. all little things i wish someone had done for me. and yet things you can't prepare yourself for until you're there, in their shoes.

in the three short years we've been together, we've spent more times apart then together. this will be the first year that we actually celebrate every holiday between labor day and valentine's day according to the calendar without having to send a single flat rate box. sure, it's a life we knew we'd have. heck, we spent 12 hours on our first date talking about it. but nothing can prepare you for this life. how do you prepare to change your wedding date because 'duty called?' how do you enjoy your pregnancy knowing that 5 weeks later the first-time dad will miss the next 15 months of your son's life? how do you prepare to handle the changes you all will experience?

you can't prepare for this life, but you can get up each day and make the most of it. between balancing a daily schedule that involves play dates for our 2 yr old, household chores, frg meetings, and just living, i struggle, but i'm learning to deal. and even after taking every class offered about ptsd and suicide, nothing can prepare you for it until it's at your doorstep. but you learn to deal, because even though he changed, you changed too and i can't stop loving him.

as the minutes tick away, you try hard not to cry. you smile, you post for what could be your last pictures together. you just become numb. you watch him board the white bus with the rest of his soldiers in the midst of the cool night and watch them drive away, praying it won't be the last time you see him alive. and then you clutch to your phone for the next three days praying for any word from him. if you're fortunate enough, he'll pass through bangor, maine, and maybe they snapped a picture of him as the was greeted by those amazing veterans and americans. until he reaches his destination, i'm a mess, on the inside. you build a routine, you keep busy, and you avoid the news at all cost. between the last 'good-bye' and 'i'll be seeing you in my dreams tonight,' you keep his words echoing in your head, 'it's just a few months out of a lifetime.'

as the weeks pass and you've built the routine, you countdown until r&r, making plans, picking out the perfect outfit, and planning a surprise a the airport for him. the next 18 days fly by way too fast. i don't think i've ever taken that many pictures of them, my husband and our son, in their entire short time together. and then comes one of the hardest days ever, you have to take him back to the airport and watch him leave, again. and what made it harder this time around is our 7-month-old son standing at the terminal window crying as we watch his plane taxi away. i cried for over an hour in the car that day. then begins the countdown again, this time to homecoming.

finally you cling to the phone again, counting down the hours, praying the sandstorms don't delay their flight, again. you wait in the crowded gym with the air stuffy, filled with excitement and sadness, knowing that some of those you send off won't be coming home, not this way. the doors finally fling open, a roar comes over all of you and you finally see his scruffy face with his over-grown fro under his patrol cap. he runs toward you, you throw your arms around him, squishing your now 15-month-old son, and not noticing the horrible smell of 3-day unbathendedness. on the inside i've been praying our son would take to him quickly. at first, it seemed like we would have a long struggle, but by bath time that night, it seems like they picked up right where they left off. and then begins the reintegration.

he reads parents magazine in between suicide briefings and psychological screenings. as he's learning everyday how to be a father, he also struggles with isolating himself from us, knowing that in a short time he will be deploying again, leaving us alone again with only a webcam and care packages to stay in touch. it's tough, giving back all those responsibilities you had to take on during the deployment. while we try to get comfortable with the idea of being a 'family,' it's overwhelming, trying to give him more control again and yet giving him all the time he needs to take on those responsibilities. we moved shortly, twice, after my husband returned after his last deployment, adding a heap of stress that others didn't have to take on.

over time i too isolate, or rather make myself so busy, that i don't have time to feel the pain or the anxiety anymore. i cry in the shower nearly everyday. sometimes i take my valium and precicot, prescribed for my back injury, to help me sleep. i waited for months to see a mental health specialist; partially afraid that my 'weakness' would hinder my husband's progress, mentally and professionally, and partially because i was just 'too busy.' it's ironic, my air force family provider was the one who noticed my anxiety and referred me, 10 months after my husband had come home.

my husband and i aren't the only ones struggling. our 2 yr old son cries each morning, clinging to my husband's leg as he leaves for work, convinced that today might be the day he leaves again to return to the webcam. i would expect him to experience separation anxiety with me, i'm the one constant in his life thus far. when we're on post, he 'searches' every uniform for daddy. we visit my husband at work at least once a week to have lunch with him, each time ending with a few tears in our son's eyes and a face of anxiety and wonderment, will this be the last time. the sound of taps, backfire, and even fireworks scare our son more then the average toddler.

it's not an easy life. it's not a life you can prepare for. it's not a life that most 27 yr olds live, but it's our life. we're the fortunate ones. we have an amazing support unit that we've surrounded ourselves with. between our parents, all with prior service to the military as either soldiers, spouses or civilian contractors, our siblings who are our leaning posts, and our best friends who call me out of the blue every few weeks to make sure we're okay when my husband is deployed. i have also sought out encouragement and strength from my online friends, nearly all who i've never met, but never let me down when i need encouragement. it's the support unit that has helped us through all of the deployment cycles. and without them, you're setting yourself up for a failure, for more struggles then you need.

so i may never make it on the cover military spouses magazine or sit before congress and speak on the behalf of all my sisters-in-arms, but the little things i do make me a real army wife with real struggles and real moments that shine.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

amazing grace, how sweet and yet somber

as i watched the memorial today, the words of the president and the chaplain and the sounds of the 21 gun salute rang in my ears and in my heart. and as i watch the families of the 13 killed for selfish reasons, i pray no more families have to collapse in tears and pain from senseless acts of out crying for help.

i watched the wife of one of the soldiers killed collapse in the arms of her causality officer. i watched the father of a daughter and his unborn grandchild kiss her picture. i watched as a soldier on crutches used all his strength to salute and honor those who have gone before him.

as we approach this veterans' day, all i can think is 'history truly does repeat itself.' my mum made the case that similar outcries for help happened after vietnam and desert storm. have two previous wars and countless waves of veterans with memories of things no one should ever have to see or experience not taught us anything? how many more outcries must there be for our society to realize that life is too precious to waste? too precious too wait on others to fix what's broken? too precious not to value and sustain.

may God be with those families and those who in the coming months will receive the dreaded knock on their doors by officers in their dress uniforms. may God be with those who have seen and experienced things at the cost of freedom and protection.

Monday, November 9, 2009

helloooo hot mess!

do you ever look at yourself in the mirror and go, 'whoa sista, you are one hot mess!'? i feel like today was one of those days. between not sleeping well lately, battling this back re-injury, and this past week's craziness at ft. hood, i feel like i should have a flashing sign about my head 'hot mess' and a box of tissues.

and to be perfectly honest, i don't know where all it comes from. sure the loss of life is a tough thing for me to deal with. and yes, anything military reminds me of the impending deployment, and sure, the lack of sleep can't be helping nor can the back pain, but come on. isn't God suppose to be there with me, carrying me? not that i'm complaining, too loudly, but this is some majorly thick sand and i'm trudging on at full speed with my heels on, but not my running shoes, with what seems like a mini-sized world on my back along with our toddler, life in general and three huge suitcases of emotional baggage.

maybe it's all a wake call. hello jackie! this is your life and you do have two choices: would you like to admit you need help after you get your big girl panties on or would you like to continue to try and tackle it all and continue to pick the wedgie out of your rear because you refuse to buy bigger panties?

i'm opting for the help. i'm diving back, okay, crawling back into my time with just God and praising Him and then asking for the help i need. and well, as cute as those tiny like pink brand undies are from victoria secrets, they just aren't made for my lovely humps. so on with the big girl panties, still in with cute print of course, and on to my rock where i know i will find the strength i need. and off to the mental health specialist.

yes, the mental health specialist. it's a woman, she's from mid-west america and seems very level-headed with no poor reviews in the past. i figure she's air force, so she should be a little saver (small joke, sorry, it's how i cope).

weeping may endure for the night, but with the morning comes great joy psalms 30:5