Thursday, December 12, 2013

Searching for Christmas Spirit

 

I don’t particularly love the television Christmas classic, The Grinch Who Stole Christmas. My inner desire for orderly conduct makes me want to scream as I watch the mean, heartless Grinch take away all the Whoville food, presents and decorations. In an effort to surround myself with happier thoughts and Christmas cheer, I tend to avoid the show altogether. But there is no avoiding the book when my kids want me to read it to them. Every year my words dance along with the repetition and rhyme of one of Dr. Seuss’ most well-known creations. Somehow it is easier to read than to watch on TV. And every year, when I turn to that page where the Grinch finally realizes that he can’t actually ruin the Who’s Christmas, my eyes fill with tears and I remember why this story is so remarkable.

I regretfully admit that I had a lapse in judgment last week. I forgot to remember all of the things that help me get through this military life. I forgot to remember the words of wisdom which I promote right here on this blog in an effort to help other military wives get through their challenges. I forgot to remember that I, ultimately, am not the one who knows what’s best for me.  And because I forgot to remember, some unexpected car trouble an extension to my husband’s trip caused me to have a negative outlook. I became sad, angry, tense, and convinced myself that the outcome of it all would be a worst-case scenario. Needless to say my Christmas spirit was nowhere in sight.

A few days later I realized how foolish I had been. What I couldn’t see in the days prior was that everything that was happening was actually for the better. Because I listened to my intuition, the car trouble ended up being very minor compared to what it could have been had I not listened to it. Because my husband’s trip was extended, he gets to spend more time at home this week. And because of a winter storm, we were able to have an unexpected day together as a family with no school and no work.

Looking back, I am so grateful for how things worked out. I am humbled and amazed by how I really don’t know what’s best for me. I now see what I thought were bad circumstances were actually blessings. And I thank God for helping me push through the fog so that I could see the light at the end.

The most amazing part of this story is that no sooner had I changed my attitude from one of negativity to one of humbleness and gratitude did the spirit of Christmas fill my heart. It wrapped its warm essence around me like a big hug and assured me that everything would be okay. That day I baked cookies while I listened to my favorite Christmas music and the kids played outside in the snow. I stared out the window watching the flakes fall gently to the ground, smiling at how Heaven seemed to know exactly what I needed.

Christmas surely cannot be found at a store. It’s found right there in your heart. It’s the memories of Christmases past. It’s the way you feel when you hear those familiar songs. It’s spending time with the people you love. It’s having a grateful heart no matter what circumstances may arise. It’s believing in the Guardian Angel who watches over you. And it’s believing that it is not you, but He, who knows what’s best for you, even if you can’t yet see it.

This year, may your heart be filled with Christmas spirit in all circumstances, and may you be surrounded by the ones you love at Christmas and always.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Out of Sight, Out of Mind?



Not too long ago I was talking with a friend and fellow military wife about the idea that the distance military life places between us and our relatives causes us to be insensitive about the important things that are going on in their lives or to simply forget about them altogether. It is true, probably for everyone, that we tend to place emphasis on whatever is happening right under our noses than on what is happening several hundred or thousands of miles away. But does this mean that we don’t care about what we can’t see, even if it deals with close family?    

It is quite the contrary. What might sometimes seem like carelessness on the part of a military spouse is actually more care and love and desire to help than anyone knows.

During my years as a military wife, my grandmother and grandfather passed away, my dad had major back surgery, my nieces and nephews were born, my mother-in-law broke her wrist, twice, and my uncle had a major heart attack, leaving my Aunt in a state of uncertainty as to whether or not her husband would survive for several weeks. Throughout the difficulties and heartbreak that my family was bearing, I was unavailable to help. The best I could do was offer my support over the phone. I attended funerals, but could not stay to help my family with the grief. I wanted so badly to be able to help, to sit around and reminisce over fond memories of my grandparents, to stop by the houses of my sisters-in-law and help with the new babies, to take a load off for my mother-in-law so she could rest her wrist, and to let my Aunt cry on my shoulder as the worst-case scenario haunted her thoughts. But these things simply weren’t feasible.

 So instead, I continued on with my life as I had to. I pushed my feelings of wanting to help aside because if I didn’t I would be useless not only to distant family, but also to my immediate family. I had to hold it together for something.

Going back to the talk I had with my friend, I think this is the reason some might think that we who move away, we who are part of the military lifestyle, are insensitive. We are forced to push forward no matter what is going on with those we love. We cannot stop time and we cannot change our circumstances. We cannot just pop over to the homes of our family members to check in. Yes, we can pick up the phone and call, but in my experience sometimes talking on the phone is yet another reminder that I cannot physically be there.

We do care, deeply. Out of sight is not out of mind, but rather is a constant hope that our families will be safe and healthy. It is faith that they will be there the next time we visit. It is confidence that the doctors will be able to heal them when they need treatment. And it is trust that our family members know how much we worry about their wellbeing even when we can’t be there.

Sometimes we forget to say what should be said. But even though our bodies are distant, our hearts are centered around the ones we love.  

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Are You a Bucket Filler?


While waiting to begin the parent-teacher conference with my daughter’s teacher the other day, there was a basket full of books in the hallway next to the classroom and a note inviting parents to read some of the students’ favorite books. Right on top was a book titled Have You Filled a Bucket Today? A Guide to Daily Happiness for Kids, by Carol McCloud. I remember my daughter having mentioned something about a bucket earlier in the year and, wanting to know more about it, I picked up the book. As I read through the pages I quickly realized that the message the story portrays isn’t just for kids. The lesson it communicates is something we desire to teach our children, but all too often we as adults forget to do the same thing.  

The book begins by explaining that everyone carries around an imaginary bucket. When the bucket is full we feel content and happy, but when the bucket is low or empty we feel sad. Buckets become full when people show us love and kindness, but they become empty when people are mean or hateful or simply ignore us.

The story goes on to explain (to kids) that they can choose to be bucket fillers by doing or saying things that make others feel special. Furthermore, when they fill other people’s buckets, they feel good about themselves and in turn fill their own buckets. Similarly, when they are mean to others they not only take away from the other person’s bucket, but from their own as well.

The kicker, for me, was the part of the book that explains that many times people who have empty buckets will often try to “steal” from other people’s buckets to fill up their own. I don’t think I need to say how this turns out, but I will: two empty buckets. How many times has someone said or done something mean to you and you wonder how he/she could feel good about doing such a thing? Chances are they were trying to fill their own bucket.

During this time of year when we focus on being thankful for all we have, I’d like to challenge you not only to be thankful, but to be a bucket filler. Go out of your way to compliment others, show kindness, help out a friend or even a stranger, and simply tell those around you how much you appreciate them. As you fill their buckets, watch as your own bucket fills.

Be the role model you want to be for your kids by showing them how to continuously be bucket fillers. Emphasize the value of showing kindness, love, and caring towards others and help them to understand how it makes others feel when they are mean or hateful. Ask them to see just how many times they can help fill a bucket each day and see how happy they are when they report back to you.  

Everyone carries an invisible bucket. Remember this always. It might just change the way you communicate with others, and it might just lead you to finally finding happiness!

McCloud, C. (2006). Have You Filled a Bucket Today?: A Guide to Daily Happiness for Kids. Michigan: Ferne Press.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

When Independence Becomes a Bad Thing


 
I have always been more on the independent side, constantly wanting to figure things out on my own and having the willpower to complete necessary tasks without needing outside motivation. I’ve never had a problem with spending time with myself on a regular basis and often look forward to some alone time to decompress.

My independence has only grown as a military wife. Over the course of three deployments, there were many, many days where my husband was unavailable to assist in essential tasks pertaining to the kids, the house, the yard, the cars, the finances, and anything else that required attention. But because of my independent nature, I managed to do what needed to be done in a timely manner and even learned some new skills along the way. It was easy to think I was completely self-sufficient and didn’t need any assistance, so I seldom asked for it.

I seldom asked for it. And while I was busy accomplishing the the to-do list on my own, my kids were vying for undivided attention. They were looking for compassion and understanding during a time when they missed their daddy so much.

Could it be that my independent nature thwarted my ability to show compassion towards my children? I remember them being upset or crying about something and I would just tell them to brush it off. I couldn’t understand why they were so needy and why they didn’t learn from my independent ways. I was foolishly unaware of the fact that my independence was causing me to be a brash and insensitive mommy.

The truth is deep down I felt the same way they did: sad, frustrated, lonely, and unsettled.

Thankfully, they always forgave me. Thankfully, they still had compassion of their own and used it towards me. Thankfully, they seemed to understand that this time was tough for me too.

But they had a different way of coping than I did. Independence was my way of coping. Feeling like I could do everything on my own motivated me to keep going and I was less likely to stumble. The times during deployments when I have struggled most were the times when I allowed myself to feel dependent on my husband even though he was on the other side of the world. When I pushed those feelings aside, I felt better.  But it also left me with a hardened heart.

Being independent is a good thing. But during deployments, too much independence can cause us to withdrawal from others who are there to help. It can cause us to place too much emphasis on chores rather than on having patience, grace, and compassion. It can prevent us from being the parents we need to be to our children. It can withhold valuable emotional support from friends and loved ones.

I hope that before the next deployment, I am able to find balance between independence and compassion. The truth is I do need others. We all do. And the only way to effectively keep them a part of our lives is to treat them how we ourselves want to be treated: with kindness and compassion. This is especially necessary for our children, who need little else than to know that we care.

Friday, October 4, 2013

It Is What It Is


How many times do you find yourself exhausted from dealing with everyday life? How often do you feel like you’re in a battle with the way things actually are and the way you want them to be? How often do you become frustrated with waiting—in line at the store, in a traffic jam, for soccer practice to be over, for the kids to go to bed—only to realize that you waited the entire day away without anything remarkable to say about it? Or, have you been waiting for your next big break, whether for a job you want, for your kids to outgrow their tantrums, or for your hard work to finally get recognized, but in the mean time you feel miserably unsettled?

This week I have been reading The In-Between, by Jeff Goins. It is an inspirational book for those who feel stuck in all the waiting of life. Through the use of his own experiences and reflecting on what others have taught him, Goins emphasizes that it is waiting periods in which we learn and grow the most. In other words, the waiting is necessary in order to create the most abundant life.
Source
At one point in the book, Goins says simply, “It is what it is.” I’ve heard this phrase many times before but never really put much thought into what it means. But this time, it made perfect sense to me. The “it” is life. Life is what it is. It happens. It is different for everybody. Some people have better luck than others, and that’s just how it is. But what truly matters is how we choose to accept the path our lives take. We can look at our lives with scorn and be forever miserable, or we can choose to learn from the twists and turns and open our hearts and minds to the waiting.
I can make a list several pages long about all the things I’ve been waiting for. I’ll admit that military life has greatly influenced the length of this list. But when I focus all my energy on what I don’t have right now, I miss out on what I do have, many of which actually come from being a military wife. As much I desire the things which aren’t available to me because we are a military family, I know that this life has already given me more than I could have ever hoped for in the nine years I have been a part of it.

It is what it is. This is life, right here, right now. I am a military wife. My kids are at a difficult age. I live in a ridiculously crowded area with too much traffic. That which I cannot change, I must simply accept. I must surrender the battle with my expectations and just let it be. If I must wait, then so be it. There is plenty of goodness in this life to fill my soul until the next big thing gets here. And when that happens, I want to know that I didn’t spend my time waiting in vain, but I accepted with gratitude each and every day as a valuable piece to the story of my life.

Monday, September 30, 2013

The Human Condition's Worst Flaw


A few nights ago, I had a dream about my grandfather, a man I hadn’t seen in over twenty-one years. He was my dad’s father and he passed away when I was ten years old. But in my dream, I was all grown up, and was attending a family reunion with every expectation of seeing him. In my mind, he was still alive. Throughout the dream, I looked for him but couldn’t find him. People all around were socializing, preparing food, playing games in the yard, but he was nowhere to be found. It was then that I realized the reason I couldn’t find him was because he, in fact, wasn’t there. The reunion was being held only in remembrance of him.

What did this dream mean? Is it trying to tell me something? Is it merely a sign that I still remember my grandpa after all these years? When I awoke from my dream, I so badly wished that he really was still alive. There are so many things I would love to talk about with him. There are so many things I would love to talk about with all of my grandparents. But sadly, I didn’t discover how truly valuable their knowledge and wisdom was until after they passed away.

Why is it that the human condition fails to recognize the value of the people with whom it associates? Why are we plagued with taking these people for granted while they are still with us? And why do the words we desire to have with them only arise in our thoughts after they are gone?

Each new stage of life brings new experiences and new lessons for which we want to find answers. Now that I am a parent, I can think of a million questions I would ask my grandparents about raising children. Now that I am more educated and have more responsibilities, I desire to be part of the discussions my grandfather used to start around the kitchen table. What I wouldn’t give to have a cup of coffee with my grandma or a glass of wine with my papa while discussing the lessons of life. And as for the grandfather from my dream who passed when I was ten years old, I wish I could know him even more and discover what his own experiences taught him about life.  

I didn’t have these desires when they were still alive. I hadn’t yet lived enough. This flaw in the human condition is not that we are ignorant or ungrateful, but is that we haven’t yet discovered the things which will become truly meaningful to us. I didn’t have a reason to ask for parenting advice when my grandmother was still alive. I didn’t yet understand how to be a part of the knowledgeable conversations my papa used to have with others. And sadly, it seems that I needed to experience the loss of their presence in my life in order to fully appreciate the how truly valuable their wisdom would have been to me.

I suppose the reason this flaw in the human condition exists because we have no way of discovering the answers to our lessons until we actually live through them. But it takes us so many years to finally live them that by the time we get there, the ones who hold the answers are already gone.

What I struggle to remember is that those who have lived the longest are not the only ones who hold wisdom. We all have our own forms of wisdom which we gained from our own experiences. We all have something which could benefit someone else’s search for answers. So rather than grieving the lost wisdom of those who have gone before us, we can instead discover the wisdom of those who are still with us. Ask what needs to be asked, and say what needs to be said. There is a good chance that the one who holds your next answer is closer than you think!

Monday, September 16, 2013

When the Ordinary Life Doesn't Feel so Ordinary


I have to admit that I have felt quite unsettled lately. As many of us do at some point or another, I have been feeling a loss of identity and wondering how to prevent myself from getting stuck in the “behind the scenes” while everyone else follows their dreams and makes a difference.

It wasn’t long ago that I felt a strong sense of identity. While my husband was deployed three times over three and a half years, my purpose was to manage the homefront. During those months, I was a single mom, financial manager, house keeper, landscaper, contractor, travel agent, and traveler all in one, and all on my own. Despite the fact that I would have much rather had my husband home with us, it made me feel good to know that I was there to comfort the kids while their daddy was away and that my efforts would help save us some money by doing so much myself. In addition, the praise received from family, friends, and even strangers for all that I did helped me keep my head high and push through the tough times.

But now, over a year and a half after the last deployment ended, the feelings of satisfaction have dissipated. With my husband home, there is no need for me to do it all because he is there to help. And despite my joy that our family is together, I can’t help but feel that my identity has gotten buried somewhere deep down at the bottom of the laundry pile.


Are deployments what define us as military spouses? Do we become so distinguished by our duties while our service members are away that when they return we go back to being just the wife? Does anyone think we are still great even when our husbands are home to pick up the slack?

Perhaps the ordinary life isn’t what is ordinary for military spouses. We learn to deal with struggles, and even to expect them. We become so used to our duties during deployments that they become part of our being, our life lines. We are the ties that bind our families together, even when one member is on the other side of the world. And when the deployment ends and we are no longer needed for the same purposes, we are left feeling that this new “normal” life isn’t actually our normal at all.

I am so grateful for this new season in our lives when my husband has been home and will continue to be home for several more years. But each new season brings a new lesson. I know in my heart that I was meant to be a military wife and now I must work hard to create my own identity rather than allowing deployments to define me.  Now that my husband is around to help, I must get myself out there and put my talents to work. I must focus on my passions. I must discover what it is that will help me find my own unique and wonderfully ordinary life.  

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Can You Imagine?


Source: www.Twintowers-newyork.com
Can you imagine being trapped on a hijacked plane, slowly realizing minute by minute that you would never get off? Can you imagine sitting calmly at your desk and suddenly have the ceiling come crashing down on you? Can you imagine fearfully racing to the stairwell to escape a 110 story building, only to find that it is jammed with hundreds of other people trying to do the same thing? Can you imagine being on the streets of a city and having debris and rubble crashing down all around you? Can you imagine not knowing if you would ever see your family again? Can you imagine lying helpless in the rubble, knowing you would never see your family again?
I can only imagine. I can only imagine from my safe little corner of the world how terrible a day that was for millions of people, people who were going about a normal day, people who had plans for the upcoming weekend, people who were going to have dinner with their husbands and wives and kids that night, people who thought that they had their whole lives ahead of them. But that fateful September day changed everything.
Our nation watched in disbelief as those stately buildings fell to the ground. We dreaded what would be next after yet another plane crashed into the Pentagon. It was a day of terror, chaos, and sadness, and it had the potential to significantly change the tone of what was a great country.
But that which is truly great cannot be undone.

Firefighters, police men, doctors, nurses and other public service figures from all over the country immediately joined forces in rescue and recovery efforts. Federal agencies, administrations, and engineers teamed up to help with clean-up operations. Several branches of the military served to provide extra security, food and shelter to relief workers, and missing family member assistance. And this is only a fraction of how our nation came together in tragedy to support each other, mourn for each other, and prove that we will not be taken down.
Today as you hold your families tight remembering September 11th, 2001, please say a prayer of thanks for being part of a nation that knows what it means to stick together. Pray for those who lost their lives to terror, and pray for those who continue to stand up to terror. Pray that our military may stay strong and capable. Pray that our leaders will have the knowledge, guidance, and tenacity to make wise choices in the war on terror. And last but not least, pray that God continue to bless our great U.S.A.

We will never forget our great loss, but we will also never forget how our nation’s heroes have helped to come out stronger in the end.   

Thursday, September 5, 2013

A Few Things I Have Learned This Summer



When I wrote my last blog post, I had no idea it would be three full months before I would be able to sit and write another one. With the presence of both kids in the house all day every day, I just couldn’t get myself into the writing frame of mind. The continuous noise and demanding energy emanating from them left no room in my mind for the inspirational thoughts and random epiphanies which often lead me to write.

But despite my lack of writing in my daily frazzled state of motherhood, I have learned many things this summer. I’ve learned more about myself, more about life, more about being a military wife. And perhaps some of them will help spark my future posts:

1.       I hate schedules, at least when it deals with mothering. Schedules were great in college when I could go to a class at 9:00 and 10:00 am and then have a break until 2:00pm. But that’s not how kids work.

 

2.       Kids need schedules. Without them, they are wild animals. With reference to #1 above, you can understand why I was so frazzled all summer.

3.       Red wine is like medicine. Okay, that makes me sound like a lush, but it’s true. A little goes a long way to help me relax a little. Oh, and 4:00 is not too early to have a glass (see # 1 and 2 above).

4.       Having my husband away does get easier, even without a daily schedule. My husband was away during the month of June. The first day was difficult, mostly because it was a Sunday which I normally view as a family day, but as the weeks went on I found myself simply accepting his absence and moving on. I knew in advanced that he’d only be gone for four to six weeks, but it still makes me hopeful that the next deployment won’t be so bad.

5.       Sometimes it’s best to just keep my mouth shut. I realized this a long time ago among peers, but have been slower to realize it in my marriage. There are times when I am angry and just want to take it out on my husband, but in reality it’s not his fault (at least when it comes to work!) Now if I could just have his boss’s phone number!

6.       Having a lot of friends is great. Having a handful of very close friends with whom I can share almost anything is awesome. In the military we have to move away from those close friends and might not be able to see them or talk to them for long periods of time. But when we finally do, we pick up right where we left off and we don’t blame each other for the lack of communication.

7.       This whole Pinterest trend has really does have value. I have improved my strength and endurance by following several of the mini workouts and fitness challenges. I have tried many of the make-from-scratch healthy recipes and found new staples for my family. I can continue to learn more about what ingredients to avoid in the foods I buy to enhance the quality of food my family eats. The only problem is the amount of time I sit around in order to pin all this stuff! (view my Pinterest page here.)

8.       Laughing really is great medicine. Every so often my kids say something that makes me laugh until I cry. Comedies on TV are worth watching to me because the laughing relieves stress. I have trouble finding humor in the everyday, unfortunately it’s just who I am, but when something does make me laugh it feels so good!

As much as I was frustrated and overwhelmed this summer, I am happy to look back on everything we did over the past few months and know that I got something out of it. Every little bit I learn makes the next thing that life throws at me that much easier. And with more deployments and teenage years ahead of me, I’m grateful for anything that makes life a little easier!

What about you? What have you learned this summer?
 

Friday, June 7, 2013

How to Get Your Grass a Little Greener



It is all too easy to fall into the “grass is always greener” mindset. And honestly, it’s true. There will always be people who have something we want but can’t have. There will always be those who have more desirable circumstances. There will always be a reason to have an envious heart.

But just because there is a reason for envy doesn’t mean we need to harbor it.

It may be a little easier for military wives to fall into this trap. It seems like every time we move, I find plenty of things with the new house that I wish were different. I think about how much better it would be if we were closer to base like the Joneses or if we had more square footage like the Smiths. When my husband goes out of town or deploys, I think about how great it would be if he had a civilian job like the guy down the street and could be home all the time.  I especially envy the mom who has the convenience of dropping her kids off at their grandmother’s house for a few hours by herself or alone with her husband. And as for the people who have the ability to take a quick weekend away from the kids? Let’s just say I am still waiting for my 30th birthday present to Chicago with my husband, and that was a year and a half ago.

On the other hand, there may be plenty of people who think my grass is greener than theirs. When I stop to think about all the things that are good in my life and in my circumstances, my envy starts to subside and I feel more content. There really is no good reason why I should spend time dwelling on what others have that I don’t because I have enough of my own to be thankful for. And at the top of that list is a great relationship with a husband who loves me more than anything and who would rather come home to be with me than go out to the bar with his friends.

By making the conscious decision to recognize and be thankful for what we have, we can climb out of the envy hole and simply be happy for others. This is not to say that we shouldn’t desire more, but rather than sitting around complaining about what we don’t have, we can get on our feet and work towards what we can have. And while we strive for improvement, we can still be content in knowing that our grass is, in fact, very green.  

Monday, May 27, 2013

We Will Never Forget...


Memorial Day is a day I didn’t really understand until the military became part of my life. Growing up, it was just another day off school and a reason to have a barbeque. My family and I would go watch my WWII veteran grandfather march in a parade, but the actual meaning of the day went right over my head.
Now, this day means so much more to me. Now, I understand the reason we have Memorial Day. It is not just a day off of work or school. Though all the local pools seem to open Memorial Day weekend, it is not the official start of summer. Though many people gather together for picnics and barbeques and fun time together, it is not a celebration. It is a remembrance of the men and women who gave their lives for the benefit of our country. It is a time to honor their courage and bravery. This day is theirs, and they rightly deserve it.

It shouldn’t have to happen. Lives shouldn’t have to be cut short so that our country can remain strong. Families shouldn’t have to bury their loved ones. Children shouldn’t have to grow up without their mommy or daddy. But it does happen, all too often. And it is the duty of the rest of us to honor the fallen for their courage and bravery, to not let their sacrifices go unnoticed, and to remember that freedom is not free.

Today, I am so very grateful for my family. We are truly blessed to be together and to have each other. There is no guarantee in the military. There is no promise that the worst won’t happen. But together we hold our hands in faith that everything happens for a reason and that no matter what, we will be okay.
On this Memorial Day, I thank the men and women who have given their lives for our country. I honor their devotion to protecting our freedom. I thank their families for their support and send my deepest sympathy for their loss. But although the death of the fallen is mourned, the life that they lived is esteemed. They are the true heroes, and we will never forget.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Military Spouse Appreciation Day: A Letter to the Spouses



Dear Military Spouses,

For eight and a half years now, I have called myself a military wife. But I will admit, it wasn’t until about four or five years into it that I began to realize the importance that spouses play in the military community. Perhaps I was simply na├»ve, or maybe I just needed to experience the hardships of deployment before I could see how it all works. I needed to experience for myself the weight of living a life in which time continues to move on even though my husband is on the other side of the world.

We cannot stop things from breaking. We cannot stop the bills from needing to be paid. We cannot stop the kids from needing to be bathed and fed and taken to the doctor’s office. We cannot stop the loneliness of the nights or the worrying or the frustration from creeping up on us at any moment. But what we can do, despite all these things, is stay strong. We can persevere. We can remain determined to get back on our feet every time we get knocked down. And what I have seen is that military spouses simply don’t know how to fail.

When I have been down, you have lifted me up. When I have needed help, you have had my back. Even if I don’t know you, I know that I can still turn to you. You are my partners in understanding this crazy military life and figuring out how to get through it with grace, or at least a shred of decency! And even though you have your own difficulties to deal with, you are always willing to do what needs to be done to help out your fellow spouses.

It has truly been an honor and a privilege for me to call myself part of such an amazing group of people, people who know the true meaning of sacrifice, support, and strength. Whether we are minutes down the road or across the globe from each other, we are bound together by this military life. We are part of a network that not only holds up the home front, but enables our soldiers to hold their heads high and focus on their duties.

I have heard many times that a military spouse has the hardest job in the military. I prefer to give that label to our service members, but I will say that military spouses have the most advantageous job in the military. We have been given the opportunity to grow and change in ways we would not have otherwise known. We have been given experiences that can help us find the understanding in life’s lessons. We have been given a chance to bloom.

 Your Friend,
A Fellow Military Spouse   


See also Military Appreciation Month: A Letter to the Heroes and The Will of the Wife

Monday, May 6, 2013

Military Appreciation Month: A Letter to the Heroes


Source: Time.com
Dear American Soldier,

Thank you is not nearly enough to say for all that you do, yet I will say it anyway. Thank you. Thank you for being brave. Thank you for believing in our country. Thank you for your fighting for freedom. Thank you for providing a place for us to feel safe when we go to sleep at night.
You didn’t have to choose this. You didn’t have to sign up for a life which would put your country first above everything. You didn’t have to choose a career which would put your life on the line for the sake of the rest of us. But the fact that you did is remarkable. To me, this is the most honorable and heroic choice anyone can make: selfless dedication to protecting our country and what it stands for.
More and more I see our society glorifying all the wrong things—reality TV shows which highlight lifestyles that are foolish and lacking in moral values; pro-sports players who commit crimes yet are still allowed to play the game; celebrity gossip; Hollywood legends who live or have lived lives of drug abuse and alcoholism—just to name a few. But you, you who must be separated from your family for many months at a time, you who must endure hours upon hours of training to ultimately prepare yourself for battle, you who have seen the darkest depths of war, are the one who truly deserve the glory.
I am just one person in a very big nation, but I want you to know that when I think about America’s soldiers, I see courage. I see men and women standing tall and dedicating their lives to protect our land. I see a work ethic above and beyond anyone else’s reach. I see the pride that brings you together as brothers and sisters, yet the humility of knowing that you are working towards something so much bigger than yourselves. I see the vulnerability of your hearts when you must mourn those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice, but I also see the immense strength you have to pick yourselves back up and fight even harder in honor of the fallen. When I think about you, I see the ultimate heroes.
As America celebrates Military Appreciation Month, I again thank you for your service. The hard work and dedication you give to the United States of America is priceless. May you forever be known for your bravery and loyalty and may God bless you in your journey as one of America’s finest. 

With Greatest Regards,
A Proud Military Wife

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Thankful Thursdays


It’s been a while since I’ve done a Thankful Thursdays post. I have had plenty to be thankful for, but I admit that I’ve been letting all the “to-dos” get in the way of focusing on my blessings. So today I am taking a few moments to think about what I am thankful for and to encourage you to ponder all the things that are making your life great right now.

This week I am thankful for:

1. Spring. It is absolutely gorgeous in this area this time of year! Cherry blossoms, azaleas, tulips...there are blossoms everywhere! Simply stepping outside and taking it all in is enough to remind me to be thankful.

2. My family. My husband and kids are the greatest part of my life.   

3. Time. Usually I don’t consider time a good thing because it always passes too quickly. But I have realized that if I step back and let time work for me instead of against me, I can calm my worries and feel much more relaxed and content.

4.  Friends. Friends who listen to what I have to say, who are there to help me when I need it, and who give me something to look forward to. Time spent with friends is always better than time spent without!

5. Moving. Yes, we are moving again, but this time just a few minutes down the road. Every time we move it gives me the chance to go through all our stuff and find what we don’t need. Getting rid of unused stuff not only de-clutters my house, but also helps to de-clutter my mind too.

6. Military life. It continues to humble me and teach me more than I ever dreamed possible about perseverance and perspective. I am so happy that this is the path my life has taken!
 
 
I'd love to hear what you are feeling thankful for this week!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Why I Hope I Never Grow Up

 
Today marks the one-year anniversary of my first blog post. When I started this blog, I didn’t have any preset expectations, I just knew that I needed an avenue to write down my thoughts and hoped to inspire other military wives along the way. Now, I am thrilled to have been able to do so for an entire year.
A few weeks ago I read through some of my first posts. It’s funny how I am the one who wrote them, yet when I revisit them it's as though I am reading someone else’s post for the first time. It’s also funny how I was so confident in what I knew then, but one year later I can see how much more I had to learn. And there’s still even more.
Military life is unique in that it is constantly changing. Even if we do happen to be stationed at one place for several years, there are still many other things which fluctuate creating challenges and frustration. Military wives constantly change along with these things. Just when we think everything is finally going smoothly and we can relax a little bit, something changes forcing us to adapt and persevere along with it. We can learn so much about one situation and think that we know it all, but as soon as the tides turn we go from professor back to pupil and start the learning process all over again.
I hope that I never become too proud to think I know it all. I hope that I remain humble and willing to continually learn from life’s changes. I hope that I will never truly grow up. Because being grown up, to me, represents finality. It means reaching the point when I can no longer mature. I don’t ever want to be in a place where I feel like there is no more that I can learn.
 Last year, I knew some. This year, I know even more. But there is still plenty to learn through this military life and I cannot wait to see what lessons the future holds.


Happy Anniversary A Chance To Bloom!

Friday, April 12, 2013

Here


 
Here. This is where I am right now. Not in the past that I find myself so desperately missing sometimes, not in the future where I wonder where this life will take me. I am here at this table writing these words. I am alive and I feel good. My kids are safe. My husband loves me. Here is where I should desire to be. Even when this moment passes and there is a new definition of here, that is where I should want to be. No stumbling over the past, no worrying about the future, but just enjoying the present and knowing that everything is going to be okay. It always is. I may not be very old, but I have lived long enough to know that. Here is the only moment that is in my control and the only moment I need to consider. Everything else will have its own here. Here as I stare out the window at the freshly budding leaves on the trees and the bright green grass of spring, I am happy.
 
 
 
Five Minute Friday is a blogging event started by Lisa-Jo Baker. Each Friday she picks one word to write about for five minutes, no editing, no backspacing, no overthinking. This week's word really spoke to me, and I actually had five minutes to do it, so I decided to join in. 
 

The Post I Hope My Husband Doesn't Get Mad About


 
Until now, I have hesitated to write any posts about relationships. Although relationship topics are big among military wives because they often have to be placed second to their husbands’ careers, I haven’t felt comfortable revealing my thoughts and feelings on such a personal subject. Plus, it is an area in which I don’t even come close to knowing all the answers!

But this past week has been an eye-opener for me. My husband, after being home from deployment for fifteen months, left for a one-week training exercise. Any military wife will tell you that fifteen months is a long time for a husband to be home. I consider us lucky that our family has been able to be complete for so long. However, I cannot deny that part of me was looking forward to a week apart from one another. With him having been around so much, I felt like I needed a break from the extras that need to be done when he’s home, like more laundry, more dishes, more picking up clothes and shoes. I felt like I needed some time to myself. I felt like I needed a rest from all those little things he does that make me so mad sometimes.

And then he left. When gave me a kiss goodbye as I lied in bed Sunday morning, I immediately began missing him. I expected to miss him as the week went by, but not so soon. As the kids and I began our usual Sunday routine, knowing that he wasn’t somewhere in the house ready to turn the corner got me choked up. The kids began asking when daddy would be home, and it was only the first of seven days. Looking at the week ahead knowing I would have to face the usual struggles with the kids on my own, I missed him even more.

As the week went on, I did the best I could to stay busy with the kids so we could all keep our sanity. Without the kids having daddy coming home from work to look forward to each day, I knew I needed to take preemptive measures to avoid fights and meltdowns. As much as I get mad at him sometimes, this week reminded me that those little things I don’t like are few and far between all the wonderful things he does to help me. Day by day, I have found my heart softening and thinking that I should just cut him some slack and start appreciating all those good things a lot more.

Military couples have a unique aspect to their marriages that many non-military couples do not. We have the chance to experience how distance makes the heart grow fonder. It reminds us not to take our partners for granted. It gives us the chance to step away from those things which get on our nerves and rekindle the feelings of love and connection that get pushed aside after a while.  It gives us the opportunity to miss each other so much that when we finally see each other again our love for each other feels that much stronger.

I am not saying that separation should be used as a means of solving relationship issues. Nor am I saying that military marriages work because we must be apart so much. But I am saying that being apart has the potential to help us to build better relationships with our soldiers and to more fully appreciate one another, which is an added benefit to living the military lifestyle.

This week has reminded me how lucky I am to have such a loving, supporting, and understanding husband. In a lifestyle where we must say goodbye all too often, there is no one I would rather say goodbye to because there is no one better to welcome home at the end. He makes missing him so worth it! 

Friday, April 5, 2013

Why I'm Taking "Busy" Out of My Vocabulary


Nearly every time someone asks me how I’ve been, my answer includes some form of “busy.” There are plenty of good things going on in my life which I could talk about and I definitely have funny stories about the kids which could steer me away from giving such a general answer, but whenever the question comes my mind seems to go blank and all I can say is “busy.”

The fact is we are all busy, and anyone asking me how I’ve been already knows I’m busy. But the word “busy” doesn’t define whether things have been going good or bad. It doesn’t reveal whether I’ve been feeling happy or sad or frustrated. It doesn’t give the person any substance for furthering the conversation. As a result, the person’s attempt to show their care and concern for what’s going on with me is spoiled.

Learning to let people help me has been a challenge as a military wife. I am used to being independent and wanting to do everything on my own, but this mindset can be detrimental to military spouses. People want to help, and many times they try to initiate it by simply asking, “How have you been?” or “How are things going?” If I am unable to provide specific and honest answers, I risk turning away the help they are willing to give and the help that I really do need.

So, I am challenging myself to take the word “busy” out of my response when people ask how I’ve been. I am challenging myself to give more defined answers and to let people know what’s really going on in my life. If they care enough to ask, I can surely take the time to provide them with a valid answer!
How have you been lately? I'd love to know the details! 

Monday, March 11, 2013

How to See the Biggest Picture

Have you ever played that game where you look at your surroundings with one eye closed and then switch eyes to see how different they look through the other eye? I remember playing this game with myself as a child and finding it fascinating how the picture changed from eye to eye without turning my head or moving my body. It seemed funny how my two eyes, which were each taking in an individual image, could work together to produce one smooth, uninterrupted picture.    

Every so often, though, one eye would seem a little blurrier than the other. The picture from one side was foggy and much less perfect than the other side. And sometimes, depending on what I was looking at, closing one eye meant removing something out of my line of sight completely. But as soon as I opened the other eye the picture became full and clear again.

Sometimes I find myself seeing my life through one eye. I am not saying I walk around with one eye closed, although my kids would get a kick out of that, but I get stuck focusing on the things which are blurry and imperfect. I get too caught up in the not-so-great that I end up completely losing sight of the things which are extraordinary.  
It is all too easy to get wrapped up in the everyday and forget to look at the big picture. When we are anxious or tired or overwhelmed, we tend to focus on the negatives in our life and wonder when we will begin to feel better. But if we allow the other eye to open, we might just find that things aren’t as bad as they seem. We might find ourselves being reminded of all the good in our lives. We might find that our perspective changes when we have the ability to see the entire picture.
When both of my eyes are open, I am calmer. I have more faith. I find more beauty in the ordinary days. I more fully appreciate my kids and husband. I am more willing to accept the trials in my life because I know that, in the grand scheme of things, they are short lived. When both of my eyes are open, I see how grand life really is.
Helen Keller may have been blind, but she didn’t let this stop her from viewing life through both eyes. Let this be a reminder that it’s not what we can or cannot see with our eyes which determines how great our lives are, it’s what we choose to see with our minds. In other words, it’s not sight but insight which helps us to see the biggest picture.  

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

When Not Knowing is a Blessing

The past few days, I have found myself caught off guard when looking at my son. He’s such a big boy now! He is so tall and plays just like boys do and his sweet face is looking more mature every day. I realize that I must begin to adjust how I respond to him to fit his growing mind.  
Why is it that I am not ready for this? Why must everything go by so fast? Why is it that we gain wisdom only after the times when we could have used it?
Only after our babies have grown up do we realize how fast they really grow. Only after we struggle through those toddler years do we realize how differently we should have done things. Only after we have kids of our own do we realize our parents were right. Only after we leave our childhood nests do we realize how much we miss home. Only after our grandparents pass away do we realize all the things we wish we could ask them. Only after we face difficult circumstances do we realize how short time really is and that we probably overreacted a little, or a lot, to the challenges we endured.
It seems to be our curse that we discover what needs to be done only after it is too late.

Or is it a blessing?
Perhaps we aren’t supposed to know. Perhaps if we already had all the wisdom we needed for life, then wisdom wouldn’t be so great. Perhaps being able to realize when and where we falter is part of the pathway to becoming stronger, better people.  Perhaps this is all God’s way of telling us to be more attentive with our time because it won’t pass our way again.


I may have taken my kids’ baby and toddler year for granted, but I am blessed to have learned the value of time. I may have regrets about how I did certain things in their younger years, but I am blessed to have learned how important it is to think carefully before I make a parenting decision. I may not have realized how much I would miss my childhood home, but I am blessed to have such wonderful memories and can work towards creating great memories for my own children. I may have missed out on some great conversations with my grandparents, but I am blessed to have learned how important it is to cherish time with our loved ones.
 
I am blessed by the lessons which life is continually teaching me. 
 
In what areas do you wish you knew then what you know now? How could not knowing have actually been a blessing? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

 

Monday, February 25, 2013

For When You Want to Get Away

Lately I have been desperately wanting a break. A break from waking up early, a break from chores, a break from my kids, a break from writing, and a break from thinking. It seems there is no time or place to find that truly quiet space where I can gather my thoughts and recharge my mind. I love my family and I dread missing out on valuable time with them. But lately I’ve just wanted to escape to a Caribbean island, allowing the sun to warm my body and staring out at the beautiful blue water, immersing myself in peace.

Source
But then I think about how if I were actually there, by myself, finally able to quiet my mind, I would just end up thinking about how much I miss those crazy kids.

So, then, if a Caribbean getaway isn’t the solution to calming my mind, then what is?
Now that I am well into my years as a mom, I understand so much more about why my own mom did things. I understand why she needed those catnaps in the afternoon or why she rested on the couch after dinner was over. I understand why she sometimes had to say no when I asked her to play with me. I understand why she got worried or frazzled by so many things. Like me, she too was overwhelmed and frustrated and tired. She, too, had too many things to do in a short amount of time. But unlike me, I never, ever, heard her complain about being tired. She just went and lied down.  I never heard her complain that she had to cook dinner, she just did it. I never heard her complain that she wanted to be by herself, she just accepted that her kids were always with her (or she dropped us off at grandma’s house!).   
Source
The truth is things are the way they are. I could continue to fight them and be miserable, or I could wake up every morning and accept them, accept that I have young kids and they are going to test my limits, accept that I am tired and decide to do the best I can anyway, and accept that my duties right now are those of a stay-home mom, to take care of the house and the food and the errands. I could accept that all of these things are sometimes a little bit harder because I am a military wife (okay, a lot harder!), and remember my faith that there is a bigger plan, a good plan, for all of the challenges I face in my life.


If, for now, my Caribbean paradise is five short minutes in the car as I drive to the grocery store, or just one chapter of the book I’ve been trying to read for months, I’ll take it. With fewer complaints and the right perspective, my getaway can be much closer than it seems.     

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

"Home": A Memo for Military Wives

Last May, Phillip Phillips song “Home” was released as a single. It quickly climbed billboard charts and is still, eight months later, popular with music stations. I don’t know if the song was written for anyone in particular, but it might as well have been written for military wives:

Hold on, to me as we go
As we roll down this unfamiliar road
And although this wave (wave) is stringing us along
Just know you're not alone
Cause I'm gonna make this place your home 

Settle down, it'll all be clear
Don't pay no mind to the demons
They fill you with fear
The trouble it might drag you down
If you get lost, you can always be found 

Just know you're not alone
Cause I'm gonna make this place your home 

When I listen to these words, I think about how well it relates to military wives. I think about how we cling to our husbands as we travel through this life of unfamiliarity, one where hardly anything is ever constant. I think about how the military is stringing us along with little say in where the road will end up, blindly facing obstacle after obstacle on the way. I think about how most of us, at one point or another, feel like we are alone in our endeavors and that we must keep ourselves together solely with our own strength. We wonder if we will ever truly feel at home.
 
And then there is an answer.  There is a message for how we can find the place that is our home. If we settle down, if we let our hearts relax and become open to this life, we might discover why we are meant for it. We might be able to see how our demons, our negative thoughts and attitudes, create fear, dragging us down and preventing us from finding peace. We might be able to remember that when we feel lost, there is always somebody who can find us because we are never, ever alone.
 
We have our husbands, our families, our friends, and our fellow military wives. We are surrounded by people who love us and are in this life with us. We have people who understand our challenges and who are going through the same difficulties themselves. Whether we realize it or not, these people are what home means to us. This home is not a particular house, nor a particular location. It is a lifestyle. It is the ones who are with us along the way. Our home is the military.
 
The next time you are feeling restless about your destiny and wondering why you are here, remember the words to this song. The next time you are feeling lost and alone and unable to find your way, listen to this song. Let it move you and inspire you. Let it remind you that you’re not in this alone. And let it bring you reassurance that no matter where you are, you are surrounded by home.