Wednesday, May 30, 2012

A New Adventure Awaits

This post begins the first of several that I will write about our upcoming move in July.  Let me begin by saying that I am not particularly happy about it.  I have known for quite some time that we would be leaving our home of four and a half years this summer, but my heart is still quite unprepared for the change. 

In mid to late July, we will be relocating to Quantico, Virginia for my husband to attend EWS (Evolutionary Warfare School).   I must admit, the technical details of the move have been going rather smoothly so far.  We posted our house for rent on and rented it within a few weeks.  We are very happy with the family who will be moving in and it is nice to know that we have renters shortly after we move out.  We also have found a house in Virginia, just north of Quantico, to rent for the year Randall will be attending EWS.  The house is in a great area, is very clean, has a lot of space inside and out for the kids to play, and is near a good elementary school for Keira.  It meets all of the expectations I was hoping to find, which one would think would make me content.  But there is something eating at me inside, something that gives me uneasiness about this whole situation.  It has nothing to do with renting our house, or the house we will be moving into.  What it is about is having to uproot the life we have now, where we have become settled and comfortable over the past several years, where we have made many great friends and wonderful memories, and reestablish it in a new location with new people, places, schools, roads, and not to mention tons of traffic.   

This will be the fourth move for my husband and I (fifth for me if you count moving out of my parents’ house after I got married).  All of the past moves have been easy for me because it was just Randall and I, with the exception of the move from California to North Carolina when Keira was just four weeks old.  The only thing I cared about then was that he and I were together.  But now that we have kids with us, kids that have their own little lives here in NC—friends, school, doctors who know them, a street that is perfect for them to play—it is difficult for me to think about starting over.  Kids are resilient and I know they will settle into a new area very quickly, but what we have here is all I have known as a mother.  The ease I have felt during past moves is long gone now because I am not just a wife anymore.  I am a mom who has learned everything I know about having kids here in this place.  I have discovered more about how to survive than I could have ever imagined in the years I have lived here.  I have watched my kids grow into little people with what we have around us right now.  This is the home our family knows, and I am just not ready to part with it.

I consider myself a social person.  I enjoy being around people and sharing similarities with them. However, I am slow to meet new people.  As social as I am, I have a shyness that comes out when I do not yet know a person and I tend to hold back in introducing myself.  This house is the first place where we have lived long enough for me to become part of the people around me.  I have met many other mothers and friends through the wonderful world of play dates.  I have become friends with many of the neighbors.  I became known with the other parents at Keira and Clay’s school.  I even know the faces and some names of the employees at the local stores.  It feels so good to finally know a place so well that the people know me back.  In Virginia, though, I will be starting back at square one.  I will have to learn who our neighbors are, I will have to reestablish play dates with new people, and I have to hope that I will develop some friendships along the way that are even half as good as the ones I have made here.  Right now, though, I just don’t want to!

These feelings I am experiencing, I know, are just another reason why being a military wife is hard.  Despite my lack of motivation, I keep trying to remind myself to stay positive and to look at the advantages of moving.  I need to think about the experience it will bring to my kids and how much more they will develop by making new friends.  I know that all the anxieties I am feeling will eventually pass and maybe, before long, I will feel just as settled in our new home as I do in this one.  No matter what happens, whether the adjustment is easy or difficult, the most important thing to remember is that we will be together as a family.  We will have each other and I know we will gain something great from this new adventure.  I have to try my best to think this way, if anything to practice what I preach.  If I’m going to write a blog about how the military lifestyle gives wives a chance to bloom, then I had better allow my own self to bloom! 

Monday, May 28, 2012

Happy Memorial Day!

Proud To Be An American
By Lee Greenwood

If tomorrow all the things were gone,
I’d worked for all my life.
And I had to start again,
with just my children and my wife.

I’d thank my lucky stars,
to be livin here today.
‘ Cause the flag still stands for freedom,
and they can’t take that away.

And I’m proud to be an American,
where at least I know I’m free.
And I wont forget the men who died,
who gave that right to me.

And I gladly stand up,
next to you and defend her still today.
‘ Cause there ain’t no doubt I love this land,
God bless the USA.

From the lakes of Minnesota,
to the hills of Tennessee.
Across the plains of Texas,
From sea to shining sea.

From Detroit down to Houston,
and New York to L.A.
Well there's pride in every American heart,
and its time we stand and say.

That I’m proud to be an American,
where at least I know I’m free.
And I wont forget the men who died,
who gave that right to me.

And I gladly stand up,
next to you and defend her still today.
‘ Cause there ain’t no doubt I love this land,
God bless the USA.

Happy Memorial Day America!  Thank you to all the courageous men and women who selflessly sacrifice their lives to defend our freedom.  You are true heroes! 

Friday, May 25, 2012

My Strong-Willed Child

Last night was my daughter's graduation from pre-school.  If you know my daughter, Keira, you know that she does what she wants and nothing more.  I was nervous going into the ceremony that she either was not going to do what she was supposed to do because she simply didn't feel like it, or she would do something crazy that drew extra attention to her, and not in a good way. 

When it was her time to proceed up the aisle, she walked swiftly, eyes straight ahead, stone face.  We tried to get her attention to smile, but had no luck.  Okay, I thought, that's fine.  I had done the same thing when I made my First Communion.  The pressure of everyone looking at me made me nervous, and maybe she felt the same way.  Eventually it was time for her class to perform on stage. They had three songs.  The first one was very entertaining to watch.  Each child had two paint mixing sticks and tapped them together or on their bodies somewhere following along with the words of the song.  It was fun to see how much fun the kids had with this one.  The second song was a sing along.  Keira had me laughing so hard I was crying!  She was being such a goof ball up there.  I kept looking at her and smiling, and every time she saw me she would do this really dramatic laugh and then throw her hands in her face like she was embarrassed for me to watch her.  Then she would turn and make a funny gesture at one of the boys standing next to her.  Some of the other parents around me, knowing Keira's little personality, looked over at me laughing along with me.  I could now see what was meant when another mom told me that her son thinks Keira is so funny!  So far so good, I thought.  The third and final song was a little different.  For some reason, Keira didn't feel like singing along with this one and I knew there was nothing that was going to change her mind.  Instead, she stood up there doing more silly things, but this time they didn't make me laugh.  She pretended to pick her nose, kept trying to pull the neckline of her dress over her face as if trying to hide, and even lifted up the skirt of her dress a few times (eek!) revealing the bloomers we had put on over her underwear.  At this point I was a little frustrated at her lack of composure.  The song finally ended and the graduating class recessed down the aisle.  This time, she was all smiles and waves.  Thank goodness it ended before she pulled her entire dress over her head!

A few months ago as Randall and I watched Keira in gymnastics class doing her own versions of the exercises rather than what the coach told her, Randall said, "I am the worst Marine dad ever.  My daughter has no self-discipline!"  Anyone in the military knows how strongly poise and self-control are emphasized in service-members, and I think it is sometimes assumed that military children will have the same composure.  And as parents in the military, we want to think that we can control our kids in the same way that the military controls us.  But the truth is, every child is different.  Some kids respond readily to discipline, whereas others, military brat or not, will have their own schedule and intentions and no one else is going to tell them what to do.  Despite the frustrations and I-want-to-rip-my-hair-out tempers, these strong-willed kids need to be encouraged to maintain their personalities.  They have a determination that is not found in the more mild-mannered child.  They have a way of manipulating situations to go their way.  This strong will, I am willing to bet, is the foundation for absolute success as an adult.

Keira makes me want to bang my head against a wall on most days.  I don't know how to deal with her because I cannot relate to her.  I was not a strong-willed child, at least not in the same way she is.  But I am so proud of her and who she is becoming.  She has so much determination which she is one day going to use to progress in the big world rather than figure out new ways to irritate her brother.  Parents with strong-willed children, I urge you to embrace them and encourage them.  This is difficult, and I myself need to work on it.  But there is no denying that they are going to be something big in the world someday, and we as parents must not stand in their way!    

Monday, May 21, 2012

Words to Ponder

I am short on time on this beautiful Monday morning, but I still want to leave you with something to think about today and all your days ahead.  This is one of my favorite quotes and it has applied to my life in so many ways.  The first time I read it was after my husband deployed for the second time when I was desperately missing all the happy memories from the five months he had been home.  I hated that they were gone.  I came back to it after my grandfather passed away and I was grieving the loss of not only him but the remarkable life that he and my grandmother had together.  No matter how sad I might be, this quote never fails to pick me up and get me moving again.  It tells me that everything is going to be okay.  It reminds me that the past is already gone, but the present is where I will find new hope.  Please read these words and think about them in your own life.  Write them down and come back to them every now and then.  Let them into your heart and follow where they lead you.

"When one door of happiness closes, another opens; but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one which has been opened for us." 
-Helen Keller 

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Simple Things

“Have you ever watched kids on a merry-go-round? Or listened to the rain slapping on the ground?
Ever followed a butterfly's erratic flight? Or gazed at the sun into the fading night?

You better slow down. Don't dance so fast.
Time is short. The music won't last.
 Do you run through each day on the fly?  When you ask, "How are you?" Do you hear the reply?
 When the day is done do you lie in your bed with the next hundred chores running through your head?
You'd better slow down. Don't dance so fast.
Time is short. The music won't last.
 Ever told your child, "We'll do it tomorrow" and in your haste, Not see his sorrow?
Ever lost touch, let a good friendship die, cause you never had time to call and say,"Hi?"

You'd better slow down. Don't dance so fast.
Time is short. The music won't last.
 When you run so fast to get somewhere, you miss half the fun of getting there.
When you worry and hurry through your day, it is like an unopened gift…Thrown away.
Life is not a race. Do take it slower.
Hear the music, before the song is over.”

-Slow Dance

This poem came to me when I was in high school as a chain-letter e-mail claiming to be written by a terminally-ill girl with cancer, but other reports have denied this.  Whomever wrote it surely touched many hearts with his words.  Even as a teenager, this poem moved me deeply and I have kept it in a file on my computer ever since.  Before today, it had been a few years since I read it, but now I realize how much more pertinent it is to my life.  I am now a mother who often tells my kids to “hold on” or “not today”.  I am a military wife who wishes time to speed along more often than I want to admit.  My mind is always, always buzzing with all the things I need to get done or how I should have said this or that.  At the same time, I often look at my daughter, almost five, and can’t believe she used to be a tiny baby I would hold in my arms.  I think about how I am already thirty and the older I get the faster each year goes by.  This poem reminds me that my song will only play so long.  It reminds me that if I remember to enjoy the simple things, I can make my time that much more fulfilling.

Everyone gets wrapped up in the chaos of life.  But military wives are particularly susceptible to falling into an “I can’t wait until…” mentality.  Who wouldn’t want to rush time when her husband is deployed?  We go through the motions of our days waiting for it to be over so we can cross one more off the calendar.  But by doing this, we miss the beauty and joy in each day.  How often do you stop to look at the beauty of a freshly-bloomed daffodil, or smile when you pass a field of wildflowers while driving down the road?  When is the last time you went outside at night and just gazed up at the stars?  How often do you get frustrated at the amount of noise your kids are making, when you could be simply listening to their joyful laughter?  It is these simple things that give our hearts delight in the everyday, and it is important that we remember to look for them.  Embrace them.  Savor them.  It is not money or material possessions which make us rich, but the ability to grasp the joy of the simple things and “hear the music before the song is over.”  We have the choice to race through life, or to create a life which we will look back on when we are old and know that we have lived our gift to its fullest potential.      

Monday, May 14, 2012

Turning Over a New Leaf

Here is another blog from back in 2009 when the husband was deployed in Iraq. It is one of a series of "chapters" I wrote, beginning with my Good Grief post.  As I read through the past experiences and feelings, the very ones that created a real challenge for my mind, I am amazed by how nearly three years has gone by.  During deployments, we all think they are never going to end.  We all wish that we could just press the fast-forward button and have it all be over in an instant.  But what we don't realize is that our lives are already on fast-forward.  Life really is short, and we must embrace each moment that comes our way, whether we are comfortable in it or not.  I am hopeful that this post will give a little bit of inspiration not just to military wives, but to everyone who wishes to slow down and enjoy life.    

(From September, 2009)  “Don’t it always seem to go that we don’t know what we’ve got ‘til it’s gone.”  These words, from the song Big Yellow Taxi, by Joni Mitchell and later covered by Counting Crows, say a lot about life that most of us can probably relate to.  I have always liked this song, but the words did not stand out to me until I was listening to it during a workout shortly after Randall left on this deployment.  As I listened to it, tears came to my eyes because the words hit so close to home.  I realized that all summer long I had been taking for granted the fact that he was here.  On a positive note, there were times when I would get frustrated because he would get home from work so late, something that was out of his control, but I would redirect my thoughts and remind myself to be happy that he at least was coming home at the end of the day.  On the other hand, being the incessant busy body that I am, I also used his presence to fulfill my desires to get things done.  There were rooms to be painted, outdoor chores to be completed, and continuous cleaning to be done inside the house.  Sometimes I felt guilty about pressing my to-do list onto him when he already worked so hard during the week and knowing that he did not have much time at home before he deployed again.  However, I pushed these feelings of guilt aside and we worked together to get things done.  Being the great husband that he is, he followed my lead and helped me complete the tasks.

Now, I am kicking myself for not taking more time to relax and simply enjoy his company.  Though I am happy that we got as much done as we did, I know there are things that we could have put on hold.  I was so focused on wanting to get things done that I didn’t realize that the thing I wanted most was already there.  Perhaps I should have listened to him when he would say, “Stop doing the dishes.  They can wait until morning.  Come relax with me.”  My reply was always something like, “But I can’t relax until they are done.  And if I wake up in the morning to a sink full of dirty dishes, I’ll be in a bad mood.”  Seriously, what is my problem?  Nonetheless, I have realized my faults and am determined to turn over a new leaf.  There will always be things that I would like to accomplish, but from now on the number one thing on my list is going to be to enjoy my family.  Maybe sometimes we can enjoy each other while accomplishing tasks.  However, life goes by too quickly when one is speeding through it trying to get things done.  My goal is to slow down, take time to relax, and let the pile of dishes wait until morning.  My dad used to sing me a verse from a song, “Slow down, you move too fast. You’ve got to make the morning last.”  Let this be a gentle reminder to enjoy those things that matter most in life before they are whisked away faster than it takes to blink an eye.

We are now six weeks into the deployment.  Sometimes I think about how fast those weeks have gone by, other times I feel like we should be at the five month mark by now.  Either way, what is important is that we are progressing further towards Randall’s return each day.  Every morning is one day closer to being together again and that brings joy to my heart.  We are still early in the deployment, but already I am filled with excitement for the end.  I cannot yet see the light at the end of the tunnel, but at least I am traveling through it at a consistent pace.  Sometimes I wonder if I might get myself into trouble by thinking into the future too much.  I tease myself when I think about the late dinner dates that we create for ourselves after the kids go to bed or the glasses of wine and intellectual conversations on the couch because in my heart they feel so close, yet they are still so far away.  This is a new thing for me to have these feelings so early on.  Last year at this point, my focus was on having our baby in February, not on his homecoming at the end of March.  Once the baby was born, then I would be able to focus on his return.  This time, I do not have such an event to focus on, so naturally I end up thinking about when he will be home again.  It is difficult to be so excited for something and knowing that I just have to be patient.  However, the unfailing power of prayer has given me the strength I need to grasp this patience.  This excitement that I am feeling, this early anticipation, is no doubt one answer to my prayers.  Think back to Good Grief where all my feelings of joy were lost and all I could only focus on was the fact that all the happy times we had over the summer were gone.  I prayed for these feelings to get better.  Now, joy has been restored to my heart because I know, even though it is still five months away, Randall is coming home!  

Friday, May 11, 2012

Bloghop Party post

Hello, my name is Lisa and my blog is "A Chance to Bloom."  I have been married to my Marine pilot for over seven years and we have two beautiful children. I have spent the past four-and-a-half years being a stay-home mom.  Despite being thankful for the ability to stay home with my kids, my thoughts kept pulling me to do something more.  I have always loved writing, so I began using it to express the emotions going on inside that my mouth wouldn't let me speak.  I found that it was not only an outlet for my emotions, but also a way to provide motivation and encouragement to others by sharing my own experiences and inspirations.
Although there are struggles that come with being a military spouse, I am grateful for the journey.  One of the greatest benefits for me has been experiencing the kindness, support, wisdom, and understanding of the other wives I have met along the way.  I have developed some of the most amazing friendships within this group of women.  To all the military spouses out there, Thank You for all that you do, not just for your families, but for your fellow spouses too!

Please continue to my latest post, The Will of the Wife, to read more about the wonder of a military wife and why my blog is titled "A Chance to Bloom."  You will also find helpful links for military spouses and a list of some of the other wonderful blogs I read.  My blog is only about a month old, so I am still working on adding more stuff.  I hope you like what you see so far!  And I look forward to meeting more of you and reading your blogs!

Thank you, Household6Diva and Riding the Roller Coaster for hosting this event!

The Will of the Wife

Military wives, I have concluded, are like flowers.  That is why I have titled my blog “A Chance to Bloom.”  Throughout my seven-and-a-half years as a military wife, I have quietly observed fellow wives, whether friends, acquaintances, or women I don’t even know, and have discovered that as different as they all are, there is a common characteristic present in each of them: the will to keep going.  Despite many difficult circumstances and emotional setbacks, they all continue to bloom, to keep pushing forward past the rough times and becoming stronger women. 
Helen Keller described that “A  happy life comes not in the absence, but in the mastery of hardships.” This quote grasps the life of a military wife perfectly. In the world of the military, it is inevitable that hardships will occur in the form of challenging schedules, frequent moves, raising children alone, or perhaps even the loss of a soldier.  These are not situations that any wife wishes for in her life, but I have yet to witness a wife throw in the towel and walk away.  Instead, they deal with their emotions; they grieve their husbands’ absence; they vent their anger or sadness to close friends; and then they pick themselves up and keep going.  They have a will that gives them the strength to continue on the journey.   Perhaps it is because they know their husbands need their support and don’t want to let them down.  Maybe they are following the example of their husbands' drive and dedication to their country.  It could be that they are just doing what they feel God has called them to do.  No matter what the reason, this will allows them to overcome their obstacles and truly master their hardships.

Every person’s life has seasons.  Military wives are often required to endure tumultuous thunderstorms and long, gloomy winters.  But, as I have seen so far, they have a way of pushing forward and walking toward the break in the clouds.  They keep their heads up and their eyes forward.  And when they reach the sunlight, when their spring finally arrives, they bloom beautifully with renewed strength and joy.  I am honored to call myself a military wife, not only because I am proud of my husband, but because I am a part of an exceptional group of women who have set an example for how to weather the storm.  I married into the military not knowing anything about being a military wife.  But the other wives I have met along the way have shown me how to discover my own will, reach my own spring, and allow myself to bloom.  For this, I celebrate Military Spouse Appreciation Day.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

A Matter of Pride

Two years ago, Randall signed up to be one of the pilots from his squadron to fly up to Boston for Marine Week.  He would land the helicopter on Boston Common and stand at the static display answering questions about the Cobra and give people the opportunity to sit in it.  Being that Randall’s parents live only an hour from Boston, I decided to fly up with the kids to see the family and also experience Marine Week myself.  I knew Randall would be busy with the static display and a flyover event, but he would also have time to visit with me and the kids, and my in-laws offered to take the kids to their house in the evening so I could stay in Boston with Randall.  Despite having to make the challenge of flying with a one-year old and a two-year old, I decided it would be worth it to have the chance to see family and hang out in Boston rather than stay cooped up at home all week.

As it turns out, the trip was worth it far beyond what I was expecting.  We did visit with Randall’s family, I did get to explore Boston, and Randall and I did get a few nights alone in the city.  But what I was not expecting was the overwhelming sense of pride I experienced, both for my husband and the Marine Corps, as I watched the events of Marine Week unfold.

When the kids and I landed in Boston, we made our way to baggage claim where Randall and his parents were waiting for us.  Randall was wearing his Deltas, the uniform with the bloodstripe pant, tan shirt, and white cover, as required by all the Marines participating in Marine Week.  When Keira and Clay saw him, they were thrilled to see their daddy and gave him big hugs and kisses.  I overheard some passersby commenting on how cute it was and it was neat to know that we were connected to this man in uniform.  Later that evening, Randall’s parents took the kids home with them and Randall and I headed out to a Red Sox game with the other Marine pilot who flew with Randall.  We walked along the streets towards the subway that would take us to Fenway Park.  At first, it was very intimidating for me to be walking next to two Marines in uniform, even though one of them was my own husband.  I can’t explain why, but it was as though I was walking next to two superstars and couldn’t understand how I could be so lucky be there.  But as we continued on, my intimidation turned into pride.  As people passed by, they would shout out, “Thank you for your service,” or would even reach out to shake their hands.  Furthermore, I felt safer next to these two men than I could ever feel walking around a big city.  As we neared Fenway, more people continued to thank the two of them for their service.  One guy who was trying to sell tickets chose to just give them to the guys when he saw them in uniform.  As he handed them over, he too said thank you.  My pride was quickly beginning to rise.

The next day Randall had a static display and the kids were with their grandparents, so I decided to venture out to the Quincy Market area.  Before I could do any shopping, I had to find some coffee and breakfast.  I knew there was a Dunkin Donuts on just about every corner in Boston, but for the life of me I couldn’t find one.  I finally asked someone and he pointed me to the nearest shop.  Somehow the timing and location of my breakfast venture landed me an amazing opportunity.  As I walked away from Dunkin Donuts and toward a friendly looking grassy area, I realized large black SUV’s lining the streets.  Not just any SUV, but the type you see in movies and on TV that carry somebody important.  I noticed crowds starting to line the sidewalk and Marines standing very still with their eyes directed towards something.  My first thought was, uh oh, maybe I’m not supposed to be here.  But then I saw what, or whom, they were watching.  The Commandant of the Marine Corps.  Just to be certain, I asked one of the nearby Marines if that’s who it was.  He said yes.  It was amazing to see the attention and respect each and every Marine had for this man as he walked by. 

I followed far behind so that I could perhaps get some pictures.  At one point the Commandant stopped to talk to some Marines and I took out my camera, not trying to get too close.  The Marine with whom I had spoken saw me and asked if I would like to get a picture with the Commandant.  I gladly accepted, shook the General’s hand, and even spoke to him about how my husband was a Cobra pilot, his squadron, and his deployments.  The fact that this very important person took the time to greet me was beyond my wildest expectations.  My feelings of pride rose even higher.

Later that day I passed by an area where the Marine Corps band was playing live for the crowd.  I listened as they played those marches we all know so well, including the Marine Corps hymn and, my favorite, Stars and Stripes Forever.  As I stood there I thought about the history of all these songs and the meaning they have for our country.  I thought about how far our country has come and the selfless soldiers who have fought to get us there.  I thought about our Flag and what it represents.  I thought about my freedom and how I couldn’t have it if no one was willing to fight for it.  I was thankful, and at that point my heart was filled with nothing but pride.

If you ever have the opportunity to attend this type of event, I strongly suggest you take it.  Go and experience how many people truly are thankful for our service members.  See how the military humbly comes together to make this nation great.  Watch the amazing displays provided by static displays, fly overs, or parade marches.  Observe the professionalism and respect that emanates from each soldier as they represent their country.    Just watch, take it all in, and wait for that pride to fill your soul.
The Marine Aviation Centennial Week will take place May 15th through 20th 2012 near Washington D.C.  It is my understanding that a Sunset Parade and flyover will take place the evening of the 16th.  Don’t miss this opportunity to see what your service members are doing for you!

Monday, May 7, 2012

The Gift of Gratitude

So many days of my life, I get out of bed and immediately begin scurrying to complete my morning to-do list.  Number one, make coffee!  Then it’s get breakfast made for the kids and myself, make sure the kids actually eat their breakfast, sip my coffee, pack lunches, yell at the kids for getting their breakfast all over the table, clean up the mess, tell them it’s time to get ready for school, take another sip of coffee, get myself dressed, attempt to make my hair and face look like I didn’t just roll out of bed, keep sipping my coffee, herd the kids to their bedrooms to get them dressed, attempt to understand why it’s such an issue for them to wear what I pick out, allow them the chance to dress themselves to avoid the tantrum, lash out in frustration when they decide to play with toys instead of get dressed, try to find where I placed my coffee, eventually get everyone in the car without them getting some crazy boo boo that causes crying and the instant need for a bandaid, and chug down the remainder of my coffee.  I try to take deep breaths on the way to school when the kids strapped down in their seats and I can finally breathe for the first time in the day.  I am fully aware that my morning schedule needs a total overhaul, I just haven’t gotten there yet!

Then there are the times when I wake up in the morning and feel peaceful and thoughtful.  Something in my brain is signaling me to appreciate this day before it even starts.  I think about how blessed I am to have my children, my husband, my home, and my spirit.  I ponder how wonderful my life has been and how I really have no room to complain about any of it.  I wonder why it is so easy to get caught up in the fast pace of life and forget about all that has been given to us and why it is so hard to remember to be grateful.  I am a firm believer that gratitude is one of the most important traits a person can have.  By being thankful for our experiences, the things we have, and the people we meet, we can recognize all that is good in our lives.  Sometimes even bad experiences deserve gratitude because we become stronger as a result.  For military wives, it can be difficult to find gratitude for anything sometimes.  When times are hard, it is easy to have the mentality that those bad things are “happening” to us, or that we have been dealt an unlucky hand.  Sometimes we might think, “Man, life would be so much better if we weren’t in the military.”  On the contrary, military life lends us a multitude of things for which to be grateful.  We are not unlucky in the least but, as I see it, are some of the luckiest women in the world.  Because we are subjected to such extreme fluctuations in emotion, we have the ability to see life in a new perspective.  Without those hard times, the good times wouldn't be so great.  We have the choice to view the difficulties in our lives as something to be thankful for.  And when we choose gratitude, we will find something that many people struggle their entire lives to achieve: happiness. 
Keeping a grateful attitude not only increases personal happiness, it will benefit the people around us as well.  Imagine how good our husbands feel when they know we appreciate them and all that they do.  Think about all that your parents did for you while growing up and how wonderful it would be for them to know you are thankful for their efforts (I did this, I know!).  When you experience that ultimate customer service experience that just knocks your socks off, how do you think the manager would feel to know someone appreciates how hard his staff works to please people?  We feel good by making others feel good.  I encourage you  to practice being grateful by keeping a journal of all that you are thankful for.  Send a letter to a loved one or friend letting them know how much you appreciate them.  Leave your husband a note telling him that you are thankful all of his help, or how selflessly he serves his country. When you wake up in the morning, let the first thing you do be to thank God for this day.  Here are just a few of the things I am grateful for:

1.       My wonderful husband, his ability to put up with me, his selflessness in our relationship, and his trustworthiness.
2.      Two beautiful, healthy children.
3.       Good health, for myself and my family.
4.       The opportunity to experience different places in the U.S. by moving every few years.
5.        The humbling experience of knowing that life is not as easy as I had it growing up.
6.       The great friends I have met along the way.
7.       The ability to stay home with my kids in their early years of life.
8.       A life that challenges me to be the best person I can be.
9.       The things only God could give me: a teachable heart, joy for the simple things, strength to persevere, hope for my future, and His hand to guide me through it all.
10.   The sound of the garage door opening from inside the house because if I'm not opening it, there's only one other person doing it and it means he's home!  

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Good Grief

In searching through my old writings, I came across this passage which I wrote 2 1/2 years ago as I embarked on my husband's second deployment.  I wanted to include it in this blog as proof that as gut-wrenching as deployments are, they will come to an end, I promise you!  There is no getting around the feelings we experience in those first few days and those feelings are something we must face head on before we can begin to move past them.  As much as it hurts, the more pain we feel, the stronger we will become as a result.  To those of you dealing with deployments right now, this is for you:

In a world that revolves around days, weeks, months, and years, I have concluded that time is, in fact, the enemy.  How can four months pass by under my nose so quickly?  We were having such a great time together as a family, time that was much needed after such a long seven month deployment, yet it was ripped away from us before we had a chance to realize it.  I’m not sure there is anything we could have done about it anyway.  Time cannot be slowed down.  In fact, it seems to only speed up as I get older.  I think we did a pretty good job of making the most of our time, however we did not prepare ourselves for how difficult it would be to say goodbye again.  Part of me is grateful for the fun times, laughter, and togetherness we had.  I am happy we have so many great memories to smile about.  At the same time, at least right now, I wish I could erase them so that it would not hurt so bad to let go.  I do not want to get a sick feeling in my stomach every time I turn a corner in my house and it reminds me of him.  I do not want to cry when I think of the happy times, longing for them to return.  It is too early right now to look ahead and await his return.  I do not yet have the motivation to get into the old deployment routine where I grudgingly take one day at a time, thankful when I can cross off another week on the calendar.  This time I know how it is going to be, I know what I have to do, yet the idea of doing it all over again is disheartening.
 Looking back, it was but a mere year ago that I was saying goodbye for the first time.  Though sad, I was able to see the end fairly quickly.  I stayed busy with family and friends and before I knew it, the holidays were in full swing.  Once the New Year arrived, all of my energy was centered in the excitement of him coming home in three months.  I could see the light at the end of the tunnel.  In mid February I gave birth to our son and second child.  That was the last big “to do” I had on the list before he came home.  I was more excited than ever.  Not only was he coming home, but we had a new member of the family to celebrate.  I had more to talk about when he called.  I almost didn’t care that he wasn’t home because I knew that he was coming home so soon.  I had nothing but joy in my heart as I planned, up to the day, all the details of his return and welcoming him back home.  I do not know that I have ever had so much joy in my heart.  There is nothing, at that point, that could have dampened my mood.  My husband was going to be home again and we would be together as a family.
 Now, I do not know that I have ever had so much pain in my heart.  It is as though someone ripped my heart out of my chest and then threw salt on the wound.  All that energy I had, all that joy, is gone.  I am grieving its absence so much and I do not know how to deal.  How something so great can go by so fast is incomprehensible to me.  I know that somehow I will get through this deployment too, and eventually my joy will return.  Right now, my wound is still healing and I can only pray that God will hold my hand, re-strengthen my heart, and help me see that the end is closer than it seems.  I must remember that God will not give me anything I cannot handle.   

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

A Case of Identity Crisis

Has anyone ever felt like the person you once were, the person you knew yourself to be, has gotten off the train somewhere in the past and has been replaced by a stranger?  Or maybe your self wasn't replaced at all but left an empty space which yearns for the passion and sense of direction that once filled it.  I am not sure when exactly my person got off the train, but I do know that it was somewhere in the midst of motherhood and being a military wife.  Motherhood itself, I'm sure, would have been enough to send the self's bags packing.  But military life has made it exceptionally difficult to hold tight to that person, that self, who grew up with me, who created the inner workings of my soul, and who, I know, is waiting somewhere to get back on the train.

First, let me tell you a little bit about how I grew up.  Nearly my entire family lived in northeast Ohio, in the eastern suburbs of Cleveland.  We saw my mom's family just about every week, as we all gathered at my grandma and papa's house for dinneron Sundays.  No matter how many times I went to their house, I never got sick of it.  There was so much love pouring out of the doors that anyone would be sorry to pass up an opportunity to enter.  We also saw my dad's family every few months, so it is plain to see that spending time with family was something I grew to cherish.  Not only that, my beliefs and values developed as a result of such a strong family bond and also the wisdom that my grandparents shared from their own lives.  Every form of guidance they gave me, always in a loving, gentle manner, clinged to me like glue.  I listened to their stories, watched their actions, and became determined that I would follow in their footsteps.  I had aspirations for myself to have a successful career at some point, but I also knew that part of my purpose, my passion, was to be just like grandma.  She was a stay-home-mom who cooked, cleaned, canned the vegetables from the garden, raised the kids, and entertained her family and friends in her home, all with the grace of an angel.  I knew this was considered old-fashioned in a world where women were gaining more power in the workplace, but I didn't care. I wanted to be that wife who gladly provided home cooked meals for her family, kept a clean house, and raised her kids with joy. I wanted to share my home with family and friends as often as possible.  In fact, when Randall and I were engaged, I made all sorts of plans in my head about the parties we would host at our house. 

Fast forward to now.  I am a stay-home-mom. I cook healthfully, clean, and take care of the kids most of the day.  This is the dream I had always envisioned but I never expected it to be so difficult.  I have always loved kids but despite my years of babysitting, I never knew that kids are just plain bad around their parents!  The lack of listening, the fighting amongst each other, and the whining and crying makes my blood boil!  I still like to clean, but find it increasingly difficult to complete all the chores that need to be done and get stressed when the house starts to get messy.  The few times that we have entertained a party over the years have made me realize that it can be more stressful than relaxing so we rarely do it.  Not that I don't want to spend time with friends, but I have developed into a perfectionist and find it hard to have a get-together on a whim, while planning ahead is difficult with kids.  In addition, military life has moved us away from any family so I miss out on the shared time and occasions I so loved growing up. I still love to socialize, but with the stresses of motherhood and military life bogging me down, my personality has reverted to an almost shy-like state around new people.  Sometimes I find myself thinking, "Why is this so hard?  I always wanted to be a stay-home-mom, so why am I so challenged by this lifestyle?  Where is the drive I used to have for creating a home in which people knew they were welcome?"  I have always prided myself on being a positive person in a world of pessimists, but the past few years have created a real challenge for keeping a positive frame of mind.  And that grace that my grandmother had?  That is nowhere in sight in this girl!

Don't get me wrong, I do not regret staying home with my children for one second.  Nor do I regret becoming a military wife.  Both have strengthened me in more ways than I ever fathomed and it brings me so much joy to watch my kids grow.  But I would be lying if I said I didn't wonder what else is out there for me.  What if this is all I ever do?  Whatever if noone else ever gets to know the real me?  I still have dreams for a career, and I have the education to get me there, but now days it is not necessarily education but experience that lands you the jobs.  I want to put myself out there and be somebody other than just mommy, or Randall's wife.  It doesn't help that we must move every few years and that most big Marine bases are not prime areas for careers in my field.  When I worked before kids, I received recognition and praise for my work, whereas now the things I do in the home aren't reviewed by anyone other than my family and there are no raises or promotions.  Furthermore, it is difficult to make myself known as somebody outside the home when I am struggling to keep up with the pace of home life. Unable to see what lies in the future, I find myself fearing that I will never be able to find my niche, the place where everything in my life fits perfectly in place with the dreams I desire.

Perhaps this is my purpose for now and I just need to learn to accept it and grasp it.  Despite my frustrations and struggles, I realize that I am extremely blessed and couldn't be more thankful for what has been provided for me.  I keep reminding myself that although it can feel uneasy and challenging, God has a plan for me and it may not be what I have planned.  For now, I am trying my best to stick to my roots, hold true to my values and beliefs, and maintain a positive attitude as much as possible.  If I can stay on track, hopefully the Me I have always known will jump back on the train and people will begin to know the real me.  As Helen Keller puts it, "Life is a succession of lessons which must be lived to be understood." 

How have you struggled with a loss of identy?  What have you done/are you doing to cope?  I want to hear your stories!