Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The Elephant in My Head

I stated a while back that my family was on the last lap of our first deployment. If that was true, then we are now coming up on the last 100 meters.
(If any of you readers are runners, you know what I mean by this. It's the point where you are so exhausted and the end is so close in sight, that you give up all pacing and form and you just sprint as fast and hard as you can until you hit the finish line.)
Yep, that's how I feel. Running around this town like a crazy person, arms flailing wildly in all directions trying to get all the loose ends tied up before the big day, and a wide, silly grin on my face which reads, "We're gonna make it!"

And then this stupid thought comes into my mind..."But what if?"

All spouses think it. And truth be told, that tiny thought has been in the back of our minds since the day we kissed them goodbye and watched them walk away. It has lingered there for months and months, like a tiny shadow that haunts us when we turn off the lights and lay down our heads at night.

For the most part, I try to ignore it. I busy myself with volunteer work and plan all kinds of activities with the kids so it is not such a big deal if a day or two goes by without any communications with my solider. (I know for some of you, that time frame could be weeks. Let me just say right now, YOU are my hero!) But the beast can only stay buried for so long. Sooner or later, if I don't deal with that little "what if" rolling around in my head, it will come back to bite me in a very BIG way. (Namely, I might find myself overly-emotional and crying hysterically in front of a complete stranger who works the reception desk at the on-post clinic. Wait...Not everybody does that?!)

The fact of the matter is that I put on such a strong front for everybody all of the time, because I don't want to worry them.
My preschoolers don't know the real danger behind their father's work. If I am not strong for them, will it make them fearful?
I want my family to know that I am doing well and am capable of taking care of everything on my own. If I let on that I am sad/worried/panicked, won't that make them sad/worried/panicked in return?
I want to be someone my fellow spouses can lean on when they are hurting. Will they still want to lean on me if I have a moment of weakness?
I want complete strangers to think I am wonder woman...okay, that might just be a "me" thing!
But here comes the big kicker:
I want my husband to focus solely on his work and trust that I have everything under control. If I bring up my concerns, will he worry that I am not cut out for this gig or that things are slipping without him?

Fortunately, there is no prerequisite for becoming a mil-spouse stating that you have to put on a strong front at all times. Sometimes, we just need a moment to cry. We need a time to hang up our superhero capes and just be normal for once...or in my case, to be the sobbing weirdo at the family clinic.

Everyone deals with deployment stress (and distress) in different ways, but here are some of my suggestions.

-Make time for yourself: You juggle the kids, the house, your work, the visiting in-laws... It is good to stay busy, but you need to take a moment for yourself to decompress. For me, it's a glass of wine in the evening and a chance to blog. I also throw the kiddos into childcare for a few hours twice a week so I can go to the gym or even the grocery store by myself (ALLELUIA!) But I have a friend who shuts herself off from the world for a day, dives into a bag of chocolate, and has a movie marathon on Netflix. Whatever works for you, pencil it into your to-do list, and DO IT!
-Use the buddy system: When I am feeling discouraged or blue, I grab one of my favorite gal pals and head out for coffee, or dinner, or have her over for a glass of wine. It will do wonders for you to have one person you can spill your guts to, and who doesn't mind to listen. Don't have anyone local? I know lots of people who schedule frequent Skype dates with their sisters or a close relative when they need a pick-me-up or to blow off steam. Share your worries with someone close to you and you will always feel better for it.
-Get involved: Whether within the boundaries of a military program or not, it is always good for you to get involved in a worthy project. During this deployment, I volunteered on the steering team of my local MOPS group and am doing some work with our FRG. In both groups, I have busied myself with different and purposeful projects and have met wonderful ladies that I can laugh with and confide in. What's more, being connected with the FRG has given me pertinent details about the deployment/redeployment and is a wonderful resource for community/organizational activities outside of our battalion. (Don't knock it til you try it! And if you tried it and didn't like it? Try, try again!)
-Talk it out: For better or worse, I tell my soldier what is on my heart. It might make him worry a bit more about how I'm handling things over here, but I choose to keep the lines of communication open. If nothing else, at the end of it all he knows how much he means to me and how much he will always mean to me. But if that is a can of worms you don't want to open with your service member, there are other avenues to take. Contacting the Chaplain is always a good solution, or you could schedule an appointment to chat with a Military Family Life Counselor. (Your FRG can give you contact information for both!) Or there are several programs like "Hearts Apart" that bring together families of deployed soldiers so you can have someone to commiserate with (and partake in a bunch of free, fun activities along the way.)

Truth be told, that pesky "what if" is probably going to be there until I have my soldier back in my arms for good. But now that I've addressed the "elephant in my head," maybe I can get some semblance of shut-eye tonight. And Lord willing, the real snore-filled sleep will find me once my husband is back where he belongs.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

You Can Take the Girl Out of Mesquite...

Yesterday I discovered that my high school alma mater had made national news...and not in a good way.

See it here.

I read it, shook my head, and slowly made my way to the comments section to see what all the naysayers thought about it. There was much naysaying to sort through (as there should have been.) Do I think this act was done maliciously? Absolutely not. Do I think this act was completely idiotic and avoidable? Absolutely, and that was my problem with it.

The Army lifestyle brings about people from all over the globe and scrambles them together into this very small microcosm of society. I can't count the number of times in our still very new Army adventure that I've been asked "So where are you from?" I always answer, "from the Dallas area." But I am always slightly embarrassed when the person who asked the question then responds, "Oh, me too! Whereabouts?" and I have to answer,"I'm from Mesquite."

I want to make one thing clear. I am not ashamed from where I come from. I loved everything about my childhood. I went to wonderful schools, had excellent teachers that made learning fun, and had unlimited opportunities at my fingertips. My parents worked hard to provide for us, and though I now know how little the expendable income was that they had to work with, I never EVER felt like I had to go without or that I missed out on anything.

So why be embarrassed, then? Well...
Mesquite is like the red-headed stepchild of the Dallas metroplex. It carries a horrible stigma with it. If you are from Mesquite, you are likely:
a. stupid
b. honky/trashy/ghetto
c. poor
d. all of the above

FYI-The current exposure my high school has received did not do well to reverse this stigma.

I don't know why or how the stigma was acquired; but it's there. If you tell someone you are from Mesquite, (and they are not,) you almost always see this expression in their face like "Oh, I'm sorry" or "Gee, that's too bad." I have actually had someone say to me once, "Wow! You're from Mesquite? I never would have guessed that!" (And then I was sitting there wondering, "How do I respond to that? Do I say 'thank you?'")

But last night as I sat on the couch watching old Friends reruns on Nick at Nite, drinking a glass of white zin, and snacking on Tootsie Rolls, I realized how deeply rooted my hometown is in me...and how proud I am of it.

-I love my venacular and my Texas twang. I lived the majority of my childhood in the same house, but my daughter and son will be lucky to live three or four years in the same state, let alone school district. That being said, my girl has mastered the phrase "a whole 'nuther" and my son is working on a pretty cute rendention of "dag nabbit!" If I can give them the gift of a Texas birth certificate and a southern draw, then I have done well for them, by golly.
-I can eat jalepeno poppers with the best of them. I know what a good burger is because I've eaten a Country Burger. I know what a real buffalo chicken wrapper should taste like, because I know what a Sport's City is (sorry Cheddar's.) And everytime I hear a person with the names Martinez or Tino, I get a little hungry for queso.
-I can say "Sting 'em Skeeters" in all seriousness, and still consider the Texas University fight song to really belong to Mesquite High. I also know good football, because I grew up living and breathing high school football every Friday night.
-I know what a real pee-wee football and drillteam city program should look like, which is why I am sad that my children will probably never be in one.
-I am able to solicit with the best of them, because I had to hold carwashes and sell candy bars for EVERYTHING! This also makes me much more grateful now when people donate to causes...what a strange concept, that you don't have to do anything and people just give stuff to you :)
-I am one of the scrappiest people you'll know, because I had a heck of a time keeping up with the other (bigger, taller, stronger, more talented) athletes on the basketball, softball, volleyball, and track teams. I realized early on in my life that I was probably not going to be the best at anything, but that didn't mean I couldn't be really good at a lot of things--and that's what makes me keep pushing to better myself now.
-I can relate to a whole lot of different people, because our 5A school hosted a whole lot of different students. I love that I grew up all kinds of friends from all different backgrounds and walks of life.

So to conclude, I guess Mesquite isn't all that bad. Though I may try to hide under the cover of Dallas, I know my Mesquite roots are dug down deep. And that's okay, because truthfully, the next time someone asks where I'm from and I answer "Dallas, Texas" (and they are not from Texas,) they are probably going to assume that I am likely:
a. stupid
b. honky/trashy/ghetto
c. poor
d. all of the above

Just kidding! People can assume whatever they want about me, so long as they don't put me in the same category as those freaks in Austin.
Just kidding again! ;)

Thursday, May 17, 2012

The Waiting Game

Today my husband and I celebrated our 4th wedding anniversary on different ends of the planet. This was not an easy thing to do. On my end, it took a lot of racking my brain trying to figure out exactly what kind of lovey-dovey gift to give a man in a combat zone who A)doesn't have room in which to keep anything and B)has already started shipping most of the stuff he was keeping in his space back to the US. To make matters worse, I have always tried to give anniversary gifts that go along with the traditional themes. This year's theme: fruit and flowers---I was royally screwed. But I came up with a pretty ingenious idea, filled a care package full of fruit-flavored cigars, peach salsa and corn chips, fruity gum, and a promise of a new grill on which to enjoy delisciously-charred fare paired with Blue Moons and orange wedges, shipped everything off weeks early, and waited to see if everything made it to its destination in tact and on time. It actually made it there a couple weeks early.
My gift from him did, too. But for whatever reason, (and probably just to drive me crazy) my husband told me that I had to wait to open my gift until our actual anniversary. And so I waited...

Two big boxes sat in my closet for about a week and this morning when I woke up, I felt like a kid on Christmas morning. I ran to open the first of the two boxes and just as I began to see something beneath the packing material, I heard my son's voice call out to me from the monitor. Opening the presents would have to wait a little longer...
I finally got to open them this afternoon while my son was napping. (My husband follows the traditional themes too, by the way. I know, I know...he's such a sweetie!) And while I loved the gift and his thoughtfulness in choosing it for me, I was a little bit sad once everything had been taken out of the box. Looking at my pile of presents, I realized that for all intents and purposes, our anniversary celebration was over--and in effect, our anniversary was over.
So as it turns out, I am so glad he made me wait to open those stinkin' boxes. Like I said, knowing who he is, it was probably just to drive me nuts. But it played well to his advantage, because it gave me a chance to celebrate our special day on our special day, even though we are miles and miles apart.

So much of this Army lifestyle involves playing the "waiting game."
Waiting for him to come home for supper (which he usually misses and has to reheat in the microwave.) Waiting for time in service raises and promotions. Waiting to hear orders on where the Army is sending us next (fingers crossed for NC!) Waiting on training schedules/field assignments/deployment dates. Waiting for his phone calls from overseas. Waiting to celebrate birthdays, holidays, anniversaries, and other special occasions he missed at a later date. Waiting to see if the doctors will induce your labor so your husband can see his son being born. Waiting to start your own career. Waiting for the call of his return flight home.........

But the boxes were worth waiting for, and so is he.

(Additional FYI-another one of our anniversary traditions is that we have a drink in the evening out of the beer steins we used on our wedding day...sorry, babe. I didn't wait for you to do this one!) ;)

Happy Anniversay, Soldier! Here's to many, MANY more!

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Happy Mother's Day...Again

Today marks one year since I began my blog. I am so thankful for that one night where I just couldn't sleep and for the fact that I had watched Julie and Julia that night. (Ha! The truth finally comes out!) But that one fluke night was such a blessing in disguise for me. I enjoy every minute of this blogging is my guilty pleasure that I don't feel too terribly guilty about :) I write solely for me, but I LOVE hearing that so many people are able to relate to it, to laugh because of it, and above all else, to be encouraged by it.

Anyway, the very first entry I wrote was titled "Happy Mother's Day" and in a very brief and rambling 4-5 paragraphs, I wrote about my outlook on motherhood and how motherhood has validated my life. On my blogging anniversary, I felt it suitable to write on a similar topic.

My kids have driven me crazy today. Not the kind of crazy where you are not able to form coherent sentences because you are so tired from chasing and yelling at your children all day. I wish it was that kind of crazy. No, my kids have driven me the kind of crazy where it took every iota of strength in me not to have more than one glass of wine at supper tonight, put the kids to bed at 6 o'clock and eat a good 16 ounces of dark chocolate.

Aside from the usual daily activities of tattle-telling, disobeying, and blatantly ignoring my instructions, my precious angels threw some major whoppers at me today. One of my children decided that on this day he would continuously strip off his diapers and play a disgusting version of "musical chairs" on my furniture, use his newfound knowledge of opening the refrigerator door to nab a big box of chicken stock and pour it all over my microfiber sofa, and chase his sister around the house wiping boogers all over her.
My other child decided she would take the opportunity while her mommy was cleaning up these messes to have a tea party in the bathtub fully-clothed, to decorate one of her hairbows with glitter and glue on her bedroom carpet, and to jump face-first onto her brother's knee, which caused a massive nosebleed that took a good 20 minutes and two washrags to completely stop.

I'm not going to lie to you, that bottle of wine I mentioned still beckons to me.

This evening I submitted initial paperwork with hopes to return to school and earn some additional certifications. I love my babies--crazy as they are. I love being home with them--hectic and stressful as it is. But I think as I hit the submit button for my career plan, I let out a squeal of delight. I still stand firm on my position that my responsibilities lie with raising my children first and foremost, but as much as I relish in the joy that staying at home with my children brings me, I look forward to seeking validation and finding joy in something that does not require me to bust out the upholstery cleaner and clorox 5 times a day.

Motherhood has given me everything--patience that I didn't know I had, a sense of humor to deal with things that are hard, energy and strength to do things I didn't think I could, understanding and acceptance for things I can't control, humility and grace to recover when I screw up, purpose for my life today and forever after.

I find it funny that now more than ever I feel ready for the workforce. Turns out motherhood has also given me confidence--because if I can handle the craziness of my daily routine now, I can certainly handle whatever crazy-business any grownup can cook up.

And truth be told, as much as I look forward to working again someday, I know that no job can ever top my current position. After the nosebleeding and the booger-flinging finally ended, I listened at the bottom of the stairs for a while to my children giggling together as they played "Super Sam and Super Jack." Tonight my son got out of bed about four extra times, but each time yelling, "Oh Mommy! You forgot your hug!" And I bowed my head tonight with my daughter as she prayed, "Dear God, thank you for all the fun I had today." It will be hard to find perks like those in any other field of work.

So happy early Mother's Day again to all of you. We are definitely worth celebrating...and quite possibly with another glass of wine.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

The To-Don't List

I am a lazy chick trapped in a busy mom's body.

I have three different calendars in my house to track three different things (social calendar, volunteer calendar, children's childcare and activity calendar) not because I'm anal, but because all the crap I have scheduled into my days does not fit in one place. I am highly organized, but not because I have it all together--rather as a result of being highly forgetful. I make lists for everything, not because I am efficient, but because if I don't write it down it is likely to get lost in the chaos of my day-to-day. And speaking of my day-to-day, I am having some major beef with my daily to-do list.

Every evening before I call it a night, I whip out a small legal pad and a pen and jot down all the things I need to get done the following day. Then I pin that list onto the refrigerator so I can check off the things as I get to them...and can I tell you, for every check I am able to mark, at least two more to-do's are added on. This thing is like a giant weed that I can't kill.
(Side note: Need to weed the front yard...better go put that on the to-do list.)

Today, I had a goal to do a quick dust and shine on the furniture while Jack was taking a nap. Sammi was my "cleaning helper" in charge of spraying the furniture polish on the wooden surfaces.
(Side note: Need to buy more Pledge...better go put that on the to-do list.)
As we were cleaning, I started noticing all sorts of little things that needed attention-- like chocolate fingerprints down the front of my refrigerator and the school of goldfish crackers swimming underneath my sofa. The more I cleaned, the messier things started looking to me. Why were there kissy-marks on the tv screen? Who put the half-eaten biscuit in Mommy's kitchen sink? What is that substance sticking to the bottom of my foot when I walk up the stairs?
My house is not messy at first glance. I am usually pretty happy that people could come over most any day of the week unannounced and I would feel comfortable letting them in. So either my children will make the world's best secret agents or I am much more aloof than I originally credited myself as being...

Anyway, as the now "level red" cleaning commenced, I heard the dog barking at the delivery guy in front of our house. When I went to retrieve the package, I saw that the American flag we have flying out front was laying on the ground. What's more, I saw the flag pole attachment and the broken pieces of stucco that had ripped out of the concrete facade laying alongside it. First things first, I picked up the flag so people wouldn't spit on me as they drove past my house on the military installation. But after that, I had a mini-meltdown. Not only are all of my lists and calendars and schedules not helping me keep up with my house on the inside, but now I have this huge chunk of rock missing from the front of my house screaming "Look at me! I am totally neglected!" (Hopefully the yellow ribbon I have tied underneath the hole will allow passers-by to forgive me.)

I had noticed a while back that I was starting to lose my handle on things. So I put my kids in childcare twice a week to give me some time to get caught up, and ideally, to let the lazy chick inside me roam free for a couple hours. Unfortunately, those child-free hours have been filled up with grocery shopping, running errands to and fro, more cleaning, etc. etc. And what's worse, anything fun that I actually get to do during those days suddenly turns into an annoyance because it is interfering with me completing my list. Oh crap--gotta go on a run again. Dangit--better go grab some lunch. (Or the one I feel the worst to admit) Well poo--gotta sit and Skype with the husband. And as much as I feel like I deserve to do these things for myself (and more!) the guiltier I feel actually doing them. I either do these fun things without the kids, and finish up the to-do's when they are with me instead of playing with them (awful feeling) or I have to put them in childcare AGAIN so I can schedule these fun things for me at a different time (crappy feeling, too.)
(Side note: Need to reserve spots for childcare..better go put that on the to-do list.)

I know most of my stress is self-induced. I have this problem where I think that if I am not able to keep everything looking and operating perfectly, then I am somehow failing. I am smart enough to know that this isn't the case, but I am also in too deep to ignore these feelings of inadequacy. So in the spirit of list-making, I am making myself a to-don't list for tomorrow.

My To-Don't List:

-Don't start any household chores without sitting to enjoy a cup of coffee first.
-Don't miss the opportunity to snuggle on the couch with the kids before making their breakfast.
-Don't rush the kids in morning. We have nothing SO important that they need to be hurried without getting to play and mess up their rooms.
-Don't feel the need to be hovering over them every second. If they are playing happily, that only means I get extra time to get dressed, fix my hair, put on makeup, have another cup of coffee...
-Don't use my freetime farting around on Facebook (my one lazy-girl indulgence that gets enough playtime as it is.)
-Don't freak out if Nathan doesn't call; instead call mom, dad, or a friend for encouragement (and for much-deserved adult conversation.)
-Don't forget to steal extra hugs and kisses from the babies (because they are both quickly starting to think that's uncool, and I'm not ready for that yet.)
-Don't beat myself up if the beds don't get made or there are new chocolate fingerprints on the fridge by tomorrow afternoon.
-Don't cook dinner. Mommy deserves a break.
-Don't add to the to-do list. Anything that's already on there can stay, but there is no little task so pertinent that it needs steal joy from the rest of my day.

Hopefully this is a list that I am successful in checking off!