Everyone should get this kind of homecoming, at least once. I’m so happy to be back with my babies who, as evidenced by this video, are not so small any more.
Fine. Yes, I cried. Welcome home, me.
Witty Little Secret ~ A Deployment Diary of Another Sort
30 Oct 2012 15 Comments
Everyone should get this kind of homecoming, at least once. I’m so happy to be back with my babies who, as evidenced by this video, are not so small any more.
Fine. Yes, I cried. Welcome home, me.
01 Jun 2012 9 Comments
This was a big week. First I realized that I’ve poisoned my kids. Both of them. Then I put my breasts on the internet. And believe it or not, the two things are connected.
I mean it was one thing when, on the way to the emergency room during Husband’s deployment, I was thinking “what a great blogpost this will be someday!” But it’s another thing when my kids start parroting my own insanity.
Case Study #1:Me: Cooper, let’s go! We’re late! Cooper: Wait, wait one sec! Me: No, no more “secs” Coop. Cooper: Mom, no. “No more sex,” Mom? Really? Me: (crickets) Cooper: Mom. That’s bloggable.
Case Study #2:Olivia: I hate this. I hate it when Daddy leaves! AND DON’T BLOG ABOUT THAT!
(sorry, Sweet Pea, I just did …)
And how does this relate to boobs, you ask? Well, right after that, I went and I put my boobs on the interwebs. Because despite the slow family poisoning I’ve caused, there are still these moments where, in the blogging world, you are rewarded for your wit and wisdom, and suddenly, in that flash of fame, that instant of poor judgment, it feels okay to put your breasts on display just for a good story.
See I write not only here, but at SpouseBUZZ.com, a site for military spouses. THE site for military spouses. And they got this ridiculous advert in their email inbox, and they wanted someone to mock it. And they called me. Me! “And so of course, we thought of you. Will you do it?”
So, for your Friday entertainment, and in honor of all the military boob controversies that have been floating around the net this week, I give you something much lighter: my boobs. Yep. And right on the front page of military.com too, by the way.
And yes, this message was pre-approved by Husband. He’s a good sport that way.
Click on the photo for the full story … because it really will make you laugh.
06 Apr 2012 8 Comments
in deployment, family, humor, military spouse, navy wife, reintegration, writing Tags: 29 Palms, homecoming, Jacey Eckhart, marine, military family, Military Spouse, military wife, reintegration, sailor, separation, soldier, spousebuzz, war
Take it Back
Last weekend I escaped from the pelting rain and drury skies of the Northwest and enjoyed some sun in 29 Palms. I was there to talk to a group of military spouses about a tough topic: Reintegration. The theme of the SpouseBUZZ event was “Take Back Your Story.” As organizer Jacey Eckhart pointed out, dramatic television coverage of military life showcases the ups and downs, the romance, and the tragedy. We, the spouses, are revered and admired like toughened modern pioneer women on the one hand, and yet portrayed as fragile drama stripper-queens on the other. Okay, so that might be my own paraphrasing. But if you’re a milspouse you know you snicker and secretly wish you had the guts to wear that t-shirt you’ve seen: “Military Wife: Sexually Deprived for your Freedom.”
But it’s time, she said, that we take responsibility. It’s time, she said, to let our real stories be heard. It’s time, she said, to take back our story! We cheered and puffed like the underdog team at half time listening to the rally cry of their inspirational coach. She even used a colorful personal vignette to drive the point home. She spurned us on with her story about the time she had a chance to tell her story on national TV, for hours and hours. And she described her shock and disappointment when the program aired and it was about the other young mother they interviewed. It was about the wife who cried on camera. The one who was falling apart. They didn’t want Jacey – the strong independent woman slinging a baby on her hip tending the garden and fryin’ up the bacon. They wanted the waif who tugged at everyone’s heartstrings when she bawled her ever-lovin’ eyes out.
“But that’s not us! No! We’re takin’ back our story!” I says to myself. “We’re changin’ the game,” I declare. And so we told our stories in 29 Palms. We took it back. We had fun. But at the end of the day, we only took it back from ourselves. Don’t get me wrong - I felt empowered. But as I sat in the airport waiting for my flight home, I was left wondering how that would translate for me, personally, down the road.
“Down the Road” Arrives
As luck would have it, “down the road” arrived the very next morning. That happens to me a lot. Gah. I opened my email and found this:
I came upon Witty Little Secret while I was researching military families and wanted to reach out to you with a request. I work for a prominent production company that creates original programming for a national TV network and we’re creating a new series featuring relationship expert Iyanla Vanzant. For a new program in the series we’re featuring three couples who are on the brink of divorce. We’d like to include a military family because there are so many unique challenges presented in these marriages. I’m wondering if you’re amenable to soliciting marriage stories from couples who are interested in starting the healing process and being featured in our program?
I knew I wasn’t the only one getting this email, but it intrigued me. I thought immediately about what kind of story, what kind of real-life couple could pull it off. It seemed so many of us had felt “on the brink” of something terrible at some point during reintegration.
It seemed that sharing it might actually help someone else. But it was a big BIG scary monster. So I asked a group of bloggers I trust for some thick-skinned criticism, and I was surprised that most of the responses were negative:
“I have a feeling it will show the world that military marriages are doomed … I don’t like it when the media makes military families look bad … Why don’t they ever want the marriages going 20+ years strong despite the military? … Why do they want to show the worst in us? … I worry about how the inner workings and unique struggles of military marriages will be portrayed … We have a unique lifestyle and it plays a big roll in why the divorce rate is so high … Civilians tend to not understand.”
Exactly. We have to be the ones to tell them, I thought. Show them. Take back the story. And then I stepped aside and pushed my girlfriends out in front of me and said, “so yeah – you go first! Go for it, girl! Right behind ya.”
They all keyed on the same thing that triggered me when I first read the email: It all sounded so risky. Really, really risky.
Reality TV is Scarier Than War
So what does this mean? We can send our husbands off to war, give birth to and raise children on our own, build things and pay things and fix things and decide things on our own, even sit with a friend who is waiting for a phone call after we’ve all heard a chopper went down … but we can’t handle a little reality television? We are the bravest people we know (aside from our servicemembers) but we can’t discuss how we deal with the realities of rekindling a long-distance marriage? We can detail our health and even our mental health struggles (and usually even our kids’ weird pooping habits) on the very public internet, but we can’t even look an interviewer in the eye and explain what it feels like when our husbands come home and we realize that homecoming isn’t the magic pill that cures deployment?
So far the answer is “nuh-uh.”
But we can still talk about reintegration. It’s time we were respectful and brave and real about it. And funny about it. Because it’s really funny at times, too. We take ourselves way too seriously. All of us do.
Or you can always stay here a while. If you’ve ever been lonely, ever banged your head against a wall trying to figure out where to go next, ever tried molding something that was out of your control, well, hang out here. And we’ll get through it together, like we always do.
Now. Ummm. Like I said. Go ahead. You first.
01 Mar 2012 11 Comments
in balance, blogging, deployment, family, homecoming, humor, military spouse, parenting, reintegration Tags: air force, army, guard, homecoming, marines, military, milspouse, Navy, reintegration, sailor, soldier
I have a penchant for humor. People around me slap me on the back and say “Oh, you’re sooooo funny.” And that’s usually when I’m just being wry or sarcastic.
But it’s partly true only because I observe and remember things around me. Sometimes I sit and watch events unfold and they seem hysterical to me, though nobody else is laughing. I can find humor in the mundane, the trite, and the ridiculously predictable habits of humans. We are fickle and flawed and yet so determined to be clear and bright. But the key is not only in observing these things; it is in remembering them. And I’m good at it. Or at least, I used to be.
Over the course of the last four months I’ve been so focused on the transition of my husband and my family and my marriage and myself (in that order it seems) back into this non-deployment life that I seem to have lost my funny bone. I’ve either not seen the funny, or I’ve forgotten it. And that’s a crying shame because a good funny bone is an awful thing to waste. I once wrote that my motto was “quit taking yourself so seriously.” Huh. I guess I forgot about that.
Figures that I forgot to take my own good advice.
But today, I remembered. Today, I found humor in the mundane. Because today my six year old protested against his normally yummy after school snack so vehemently that it required cross examination which, after tears were shed, revealed that the true reason for his disgust was the slimy load of boogers he stealthily and invisibly smeared all over the granola bar when he thought said snack was designated for his sister’s snacking pleasure. I momentarily and silently considered making him eat it anyway, until his sister (drunk with power upon observing the scowl on my face) suggested exactly that notion which I was contemplating. Once I saw the resulting look of horror on my second born’s face, it was like a free test drive and I was relieved that I had not suggested it. So of course I did what all good mothers do: I admonished the first-born for uttering such a terrible thing.
At this point, one child was crying and the other was pouting. And suddenly, I laughed.
Oh sure, the gesture drew ire from the crying, booger-infested peanut gallery. But I laughed anyway. I laughed at myself. I laughed at the seriousness with which I approached a courtroom-like exchange regarding boogers. I laughed at the pure maniacal genius of my son and the ironic twist of fate which befalls all evil geniuses: being ensnared in their own booger trap. And I laughed at the thought that he had been unwittingly undone by his nemesis, who, after becoming momentarily power-hungry, had turned to the dark side.
Ah humor, I’ve missed you so. You are so lovely.
What is it about this ridiculous reintegration process that so completely occupies the entire space of my mind and prohibits these exchanges from making it into my memory synapses? Because these are the things worth remembering and talking about, aren’t they? These are the events that will become dinner table fare, homecoming date fodder, and legendary family fable. These are the things I want to think about. Tell you about.
So I’m resolving to focus on the mundane. Not so much because it’s entertaining, but because it’s not reintegration. If I find the funny along the way, we’ll all benefit. But as I told you last year, the shortest distance between two inevitable points is an impossibly long line of distractions. Back then it was in reference to Husband’s departure. This time, it’s in reference to his full return.
To my full return.
06 Dec 2011 11 Comments
Right after Husband’s regular coffee duties resumed, I started to notice that flickering light fixtures were shining brightly, the hot tub was mysteriously operational, and the lawn was lush and manicured. Tools were being used, cars were getting washed with pre-kid precision, and project lists were making appearances around my kitchen, often scratched on the backs of Home Depot receipts with a carpenter’s pencil. The car window was fixed. We had batteries of every kind available again.
“We” were adjusting perfectly well. Perfectly. Well.
After a few days the kids needed to return to school and we made plans to drop them off together so that Husband could meet their teachers. We managed to get out the door with a moderate amount of mayhem, and arrived at school a squeaky clean four minutes before the final bell.
Let me preface this portion of our tale by stating that I recognize Kindergarten hallways are not for the faint of heart. I accept full responsibility for failing to prepare Husband for the insanity he foolishly walked into:
And so there we were, attempting to fit four family members where two might usually go, and my son walked fearlessly through the morass and said, ”hey there,” to one of the twins, raising his hand nonchalantly and winking sideways at her. (Or me. I couldn’t tell. I reassured myself he was winking at me. I know he wasn’t.) “That’s not my girlfriend” he whispered informatively. I sighed in relief. ”I like her sister better,” he said.
I looked at another parent who I’m sure heard the entire exchange and was likely to be the twins’ mother. I smiled and gave her the “what are you gonna do” look. Like the Kindergarten Stepford Mom that I am, I used it as an excuse to say ”hurry up now, baby.”
I turned to introduce my husband to the teacher and realized he was not within reach because he was standing flush against the back wall staying wisely out of the way. He looked like he’d rather be on display in an underwater cage encircled by starving sharks.
We did introductions quickly and headed for the third grade hallway. Half way done.
I thought things were going great until I looked back at Husband. He had this weird smile pasted on his face. I didn’t realize it at first, but people were giving him the surprised open-mouth “WELL HI THERE!” smile as he passed them in the hallway.
Many of the families at our school were keenly aware of Husband’s deployment. We don’t live in a military community so it’s a little bit unusual at our school to begin with. But on top of that some had seen our picture in the newspaper, so in our little enclave he had become somewhat of a celebrity without really knowing it. Moms stopped us in the hallway. “Oh, my goodness! You’re home!” and “Welcome back!” and “It’s so good to see you!” resonated down the hallway as we attempted to walk with Sweet Pea pulling and tugging us along. Husband managed a “ha ha, good to see you too” and a “oh, uh, thank you” but was otherwise just nodding and smiling stiffly. One woman hugged him and some of them hugged me, and one even raised her hands to cover her mouth as if she was going to cry. “I’ve been praying for you!” she blurted out.
I looked at my husband’s pasted smile. He looked like a scarecrow. Friendly, but equally friendly to everyone.
The more people approached him, the more he looked like the guy in the shark tank, the more he looked like he was holding a struggling, wounded fish and the blood was trailing through the water mercilessly. I felt horrible. The bell was about to ring. We used that as an excuse to keep moving.
When we finally arrived in the third grade hallway a few of Sweet Pea’s girlfriends were milling about comparing shoes in the hallway. As we approached several of them stood with their mouths hanging open. One particularly sparkly girl hugged Sweet Pea and winked at me over her shoulder. “I just knew he’d be coming home!” she proclaimed, as if this was an unreliable conspiracy leaked by the third grade rumor society.
After goodbye kisses, I glanced back at the beaming face of my Sweet Pea, and I sensed a new easiness in her demeanor. I lingered in the doorway for a moment watching her gather up her things, and I caught a glimpse of what my little girl looks like when she rests in her father’s presence rather than his absence. I felt husband’s hand on my back, and I felt his presence, too.
Some jogging students flew passed us as the bell rang, the wind from their speeding backpacks blowing the homemade tissue paper artwork adorning the walls like a playful rustling of leaves. Moms once harried now milled about saying hello and procrastinating their morning workouts. I was sauntering carelessly, too. Until I felt the pressure of his hand on my back increase. I was suddenly almost leaning forward as I walked, and his hand was propelling me forward.
I realized it was not there for affection. It was purposeful.
Way down the hall I saw a friend from church holding her little girl, a spitfire who rivals our son in the famous quotes department. Upon seeing Husband, the little girl’s eyes lit up and her mouth opened and she put up a hand to welcome him home. At that very moment he had already leaned forward to whispered in my ear, “Keep going. Don’t stop. Let’s go.” I knew he didn’t see her, and as we closed in, there was this moment where I was trying to avoid being smashed by the weight of his urgency and still smile at the little glowing face that was waiting so expectantly to be recognized.
I stopped and he almost ran into me. I felt the weight of disobeying a direct order. Our friend laughed at our Two Stooges shenanigans. “Welcome home!” she said as her daughter bounced in her arms.
I attempted to explain away my buffoonery, as if I actually knew what was happening myself, and I failed miserably when I blurted out something relatively incomprehensible about Husband getting hugged by a stranger and not recognizing anyone because he didn’t actually know anyone here but maybe he thought he should know people but not including her of course, and I didn’t mean her, I meant this other woman, and how it was really good to have him home and it was the first time we had really gone anywhere and, you know … I trailed off. She smiled.
After an awkward silence we returned to the car. I wondered what had just happened. I looked at him.
“What’s wrong?” I asked, not knowing if I wanted the answer.
“I didn’t realize I’d be seeing people here.”
“People? Like, do you mean, as in, parents?”
This conversation was really getting dumb, and fast. Did I really just say that? Did he really just say that? I attempted to justify my remark. And by “justify” I mean I was snarky. It’s how I roll.
“Well that is what happens in the morning. Parents drop off their kids. Who did you think was going to be here?”
“We were supposed to meet teachers.”
“There were other people. I didn’t shave.”
He didn’t say it unpleasantly. Just matter-of-factly. And as I stared at him I realized he was dead serious. It made me want to laugh hysterically and cry all at the same time. I considered my odds of getting a cup of morning coffee if I erupted into idle-brained cackling. I could always feign insanity. But I was truly astounded by his understanding of how the morning was gonna go. This was truly foreign territory for me. He was walking into the scenario without the appropriate briefing and frankly, so was I. I couldn’t believe he was serious, but he was.
What must our daily life look like to a man who just returned from a place where nothing happened without a multi-level contingency plan having been considered, briefed, and followed? I remembered his hand on my back. He was exiting the unbriefed environment. Quickly.
And at that moment, I realized it. We were officially reintegrating. Nifty.
01 Dec 2011 13 Comments
Young men came home from World War II in boats. They laid in the belly of a ship and they decompressed over cards and cigarettes for weeks and they talked and they told stories. They heard stories. And they had time to think about their girls back home.
But thanks to modern travel, today’s veterans can be plucked right out of a war environment in the desert and plopped down in the middle of a luxury shopping mall a dizzying twenty-four hours later. Not too great for the romantic homecoming everyone dreams of.
Thank goodness our military is smart enough to realize that our warriors need that decompression chamber. Unfortunately the modern equivalent of the Queen Mary is a combination of red tape, medical exams, and DoD-sanctioned debriefs mixed with mandatory periods of relaxation. However, after seeing what 24 hours of planes trains and automobiles looks like (hint: R&R), I was thankful to have a Husband who was well-rested, clear-eyed, on the right side of the clock, and ready to be here.
I’m told we are now in the phase called Reintegration, but it doesn’t feel like we are integrating anything yet. We’re sort of just standing here looking at each other. When we hold hands, there is still a space between us. It’s really more like Preintegration.
I am quiet mostly because I can’t imagine being inside the mind of a servicemember who first realizes people actually struggle to make decisions like what kind of latte they want to consume that day. It must be unreal to make life and death decisions on a daily basis and then come home to discover you have no control over the mind of your six year-old. If it were me, I would put it all off and just smile and hug my family for a few days, too. So. Preintegration it is.
I’ve been reading all about what is supposed to come next, because the last time I did all this I was a newly married girl with no kids. I mean I don’t even REMEMBER reintegration the last time around. I’m entering unknown territory. Again. Just like everything else in this deployment, I’m totally winging it. At least I get points for consistency.
So when Husband came home we basically just hung out for a couple of days. We saw friends. We snuggled. We sat on the couch. We watched football. We tickled. We made and ate some of his favorite foods. We listened to stories. We went on walks. We basically just relaxed.
In all of that, I realized that I didn’t remember how to just ”be” with him. When we were alone I sat awkwardly and waited for him to speak. I just stared at him. It wasn’t the ”oh I’m so gaga in love with you” kind of staring, either. It was more like the ”I wonder what happens if you poke it with a stick and pour salt on it” kind of staring. Not that he’s a slug … gah. I’m so romantic that way.
But when he woke up early one morning and made me a cup of coffee, that’s when I knew my husband was returning. And that meant I could return with him. “Thanks for making me coffee,” I said, smiling and batting my eyes. “It’s my job” he joked.
Oh yeah, it’s his job. Oh yeah! It’s his job!
You see, I pretend that being the honored recipient of this tradition puts me on par with the likes of Michelle Obama and Laura Bush, who I’ve heard routinely have their morning cup of First Lady coffee made lovingly by their presidential husbands. Because yeah. Me and the First Lady. We’re like this.
But the best part of this beautiful ritual is that I have never once asked my husband to make coffee. Not once. One morning I simply woke up tired and late, and he made me a steaming sweet cup of wake up. I must have been in a good mood because I took a sip and said, “Oh. Thank you so much. I love it when you make me coffee. It makes me feel like a princess.”
After that, he started making the coffee. Every single morning, without being asked. And I always said thank you. And I always meant it.
By the way, don’t get any bright ideas and blame me if this method doesn’t work for you. For example I tried it with ”I love it when you put the toilet lid down because it makes me feel like such a princess.” But it’s pretty hard to refer to a repository for stinky bodily functions and simultaneously refer to yourself as royalty.
Finding a fresh pot of coffee became such a lovely ritual for me that I remember standing over my kitchen sink crying that first morning after he left, like I didn’t know how to operate a simple piece of machinery. That’s why this morning, here, now, was so beautiful. When I woke up and smelled the steam that was wafting up, I sighed out loud. When I saw the heavy moisture that rises up when hot water pours over beautiful shards of crushed brown beans, I smiled. And then I almost cried again.
I know there will be more days. There will be days where I stare into my reflection in the bottom of the cup and wonder how I’m going to convince my husband that logic is not the only factor in decision-making. There will be days where I do poke him with a stick in an attempt to see if he will actually bleed, or cry, or express an emotion I haven’t seen in a while. And there will be days when I get up and grumble, and forget to say thank you for my cup of coffee.
But for now, we have Preintegration. For now, we have the honeymoon. And for now, I will sip and smile and remember that I’m not the one making the coffee.
Mmmmm. That’s nice. Thank you.