“Stillness” post Re-posted :)

I was recenly contacted by Jocelyn Green, military wife and author of “Faith Deployed: Daily Encouragement for Military Wives”. She asked if she could re-post my blog entry “Stillness” on her site – of course, I said yes.

So not only do I recommend you make a visit to her site to see my entry – but her site is LOADED with great articles and personal stories written by military wives and authors about spirtual encouragement.

Enjoy 🙂

PS: Finally added the Military Links page!

Military Links

I have been working on putting together a links page on my blog to websites relating to the military that I myself have found useful, resourceful, and informative.

I have managed to put some together along with a little blurb (my blurb) about each one.

Feel free to stop by the page regularly – I will be updating and adding links as often as I can.

I am also working on putting together a links page specific to military children – if you have any suggestions please feel free to contact me .

Our Story

I was recently contacted by Dr. Vance Hardisty, an author finalizing his upcoming book “How to Keep Romance Alive While Deployed”. He came across my blog and asked me to share my story of deployment to add to his book. I figured since I took time to write it – I would go ahead and add it to my blog. (As you read it, keep in my mind that I had guidelines to follow)

 

Here is ‘Our Story’…

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I have known my husband since I was 12 years old – he is practically a brother to my very close cousin. A friendship immediately ensued when we met which soon blossomed into a crush, then a relationship, and finally we fell in love. From the beginning we grew up together learning what love is, how to love, as well as what life entails and discovering who we are. We married at what most people would consider young and within the year we had our first child. With love and God we overcame many obstacles from dating, as my husband joined the military and was based outside the country, to being a young married couple facing the realities that marriage is not always rainbows and butterflies – especially as a military family, where you quickly learn that what you ‘sacrifice’ is more than just a ‘sacrifice’ – because it’s about believing what your husband fights for is bigger than ‘us’.

On May 20th, 2009 my husband and I celebrated 7 years of marriage while he was days into his first deployment. In a way I felt I couldn’t really express any dissatisfaction or resentment towards the military because after 12 years of military life this was my husband’s first deployment. I felt ‘lucky’ – or more so, that’s what others told me.

Since we were young we became accustomed to distant love. Growing up we were from different towns and when he joined the military we only conversed via the phone and made visits at least every other weekend when he was stationed on the east coast. Once married I adapted to my husband always being away for trainings as well as with both of us in college and grad school simultaneously, time together was constantly limited. Right before my husband deployed we were living in two different states visiting each other every weekend. We did this because we were aware that he would deploy at his next duty station and so to prevent extra ‘moves’, I stayed in our previous location until we got more information about his deployment – which thus unfolded to what is now. However, even with all that long-distant love history it was of no use when my husband told me he was deploying and more so when he deployed.

The days following the news of deployment – I continued on as though my husband told me he was going to the movies. I shoved anything relating to the deployment in the back of my mind. I learned to ignore my own thoughts and refused to accept the reality that was soon coming our way.

As the days got closer, we found ourselves preoccupied with packing our lives into brown boxes as I was heading back ‘home’ to be with family and friends for the time of the deployment. This only contributed to my denial and inability to discuss the fact that my husband would be soon leaving us. But once all the packing, storing, and unpacking was complete I felt as though I was trapped under a large boulder of cement that was pressing on my every bone prohibiting me from breathing, seeing, and feeling. It was at ‘home’ a realized that these are the moments we NEED to be together – together as husband and wife, as mother and father, as best friends, and together in love.

My husband and I are always striving for better communication. We have come a long way from where we started but are nowhere close to perfect. We always eventually express our emotions in a positive and healthy manner but our old habits continue to inhibit us from effectively communicating with each other. This weakness in our marriage usually drags on by us covertly expressing what is on our hearts and thus leads to much misunderstanding. We both find it very difficult to open up and be straight forward about what we are feeling but I knew that at this moment in our marriage the time we had to do so was limited.

The day my husband was flying back to his base to officially leave on deployment our family had a get together to say ‘goodbye or good luck’ (whatever felt better I guess). I didn’t speak, I didn’t smile, I didn’t cry, I didn’t move. I was scared about the journey we were about to embark and already felt lost because I knew there would be no guide or map to reach our destination. All I could do was hold my husband tight as though me clenching to him was what prevented him from falling off the cliff – I didn’t want to let go. Looking into each other’s eyes we both knew what we were feeling and verbal expression was not necessary but required. We conveyed our love for one another through our eyes, our touch, and ultimately our words.

For our daughters, the experience of deployment has been unique and according to their personalities. Our oldest daughter is a very understanding child and sensitive to her own and others feelings. She can easily pick up on an individual’s emotions and has natural ability to be kind and comforting.

At the tender age of 6 ½ she can understand what her ‘daddy’ is doing for our country and why he is away. She explains to people that he ‘is making sure we are safe in America and that bad people don’t hurt us’ – saying that her daddy is a ‘hero’. It has been and continues to be very emotionally heavy for my daughter. She misses him daily and of course even more so on important days – like the first day of school or her first track meet. We currently have a ‘kisses jar’ in our home to help her get through the extra-tough days. Anytime she misses her daddy being home or wishes he was around to give her a kiss we place a bead in the jar. When my husband comes home he will pay his debt by giving her a kiss for every bead that has been placed in her jar. Sort of like their own version of ‘I-owe-you’, but all for kisses. I also allow her to talk about her feelings at any moment – even if she is filled with anger at our situation. Sometimes she herself will request for some alone time and there she will cry, be angry, look at photos, draw, or just be alone. In addition she also keeps a journal and writes daily how her day is so she can tell her daddy a story when he comes home. Thus far, I trust that my daughter is handling it no better or worse than any other child in her same situation. I am only thankful that up until now she remains healthy physically as well as emotionally and mentally.

As for our youngest, who is currently only 21 months, besides the fact the she is turning into a bubbly monkey – she cannot truly grasp what has happened nor what is happening. However, I know in my heart that she is able to recognize that her father is not home by shrugging her shoulders when asked ‘where is daddy?’ Moreover she can easily identify who her father is in any picture or by hearing his voice. She has her own collection of photos and introduces her daddy to everyone any chance she gets. She will hug and kiss her daddy in the photo and pretend to talk to him on her Minnie Mouse cell phone. I make it a point to play pretend with her daily involving her father. We talk to him on the play phone or to him in his picture and sometimes even pretend to feed him using his photo. I play with her in these little ways in hopes to keep the memory of her father as a known face and voice and that the love doesn’t stop the last time she saw him but that it continues to grow as though he was here physically with her. I believe with my whole heart that she still knows exactly who he is and will be filled with excitement when he returns.

Currently we are over the half way mark of our deployment. My husband is scheduled to come home with the next 2-3 months. Thankfully, because of today’s technology, we have been able to maintain contact via email. We have used Skype (a software that enables people to communicate over the internet with a webcam) twice and that was very emotionally difficult. Seeing him and being unable to touch him was much harder than just hearing his voice. I mail him letters as often as I can as well – I have always been a snail mail person because I feel that it means more than just typing and clicking the send button. We have also had the luxury of being able to speak to one another through the phone. It’s the best feeling to hear him breathe and speak especially when it’s as close as I can get.

Worry has becomes my best friend since my husband deployed. It’s a constant fear to think of my husband being away. Even if he is not in ‘combat’ zones, I always have that ‘you never know’ feeling swirling in my mind causing my stomach to coil. Along with the fears for my husband’s safety, I also feared being incapable of handling the home front. I questioned my ability to pay all the bills on time, keep the budget in order, maintain our home clean and cozy, keep up with the car being washed and getting oil changes, and mainly – raising our daughters alone, being able to balance myself as the good cop and bad cop. For me all these fears can only be trumped by my trust in God and the love and support my husband and I have for each other.

Besides God being our ultimate backbone, I feel that if it wasn’t for the unconditional love we have, which is the biggest strength in marriage, we couldn’t get through any of this. Even when our weakness, communicating our feelings straight forward, knocks on our door we may open and let it in – but we quickly escort it back out. My husband and I have had our marriage tested in many forms since our dating days but what has never failed is our undying love. We have a commitment to our love and to our souls – we may quarrel and bicker but we know that leaving is not an option – our hearts simply won’t allow it. Our commitment, our love, and our faith is what has been assisting us all the way through this deployment. We can confidently invite all the highs and lows and obstacles because not only do we trust our faith but our promise to each other – which neither can fail us.

I am fully aware that this will not be the last deployment we face as a military family. Even though I will be a veteran home front wife at that point, I’m not sure if I would do anything different the next time around. I am certain some feelings and experiences will be the same but each deployment will have its own story and my husband and I together will have two versions to tell. I am incapable of forecasting the obstacles and/or the bliss that will approach us and even more so how we will act in response.

All I know is that I look forward to my husband’s return in a way that words are truly inadequate. I long for our face to face pillow talk at night and coffee together in the morning. For me, not is it only about believing and supporting my husband and country, but it’s also about making our marriage and I as a wife stronger. Just as another military wife said to me – “sometimes you don’t know what strong is until you become a military wife”. A statement incredibly real and accurate because there is a reason why women married to men in the military are not just ‘wives’ but we merit the title of ‘Military Wife’.

PS: Somber Sunday…time to RELAX

It’s dark, dull, cold, and rainy outside today. This, to me, is a PERFECT Sunday.

I want to take advantage of being home and look into new ideas to relax. Life is life and along with many happy moments also comes stress, anxiety, and tension. I thought I would share “8 Easy Ways to Relax” from an article I came across on Active.

 

1. MEDITATE
Meditation can be a great way to relax, especially if you are under a lot of stress. Research has shown that meditation can be helpful in lowering heart rate and blood pressure, and even improving cognitive performance.

And meditation is pretty simple to do: just find a comfortable place, close your eyes, relax your muscles, and focus on ONE thing, whether it’s your breathing, an object (a flower, or a painting) — or even a picture in your mind — perhaps you are sitting on a beach in the Caribbean. You can do this for as little as 10 minutes to experience benefits. The key is staying focused and not letting any distractions or thoughts enter your mind — being mindful is key. If you have a bit more time, take a yoga or tai chi class — both incorporate mediation, along with physical movements.

I have never really attempted to Meditate or take anything like a yoga class, but the more I read, my friend, Teresa’s blog the more I get interested in yoga. I have heard from numerous people that the moment you take one class you feel so much better and never want to try anything else. So who knows, maybe I will get into this one day!

 

2. DRINK GREEN TEA, AVOID CAFFEINATED BEVERAGES
Green tea is very soothing — it contains theanine, an amino acid that gives flavor to green tea and also promotes relaxation. It is also thought that theanine is a caffeine antagonist, meaning it counters the stimulating effects of caffeine. So, drink green tea, and avoid caffeinated beverages, since caffeine can worsen the stress response.

I did this not too long ago. I quit coffee and soda and only had water and green tea and I can honestly say that I felt wonderful – I felt healthy! But of course, stress and insomnia kicked in and with that I turned back to my forgotten friends soda and coffee. Currently I am, practically addicted to, drinking caffeine – be it coffee or soda but I PROMISE to stop today and go back to water and tea – I’ll take the headaches for 3 days – as long as it means that by the end of the week I will feel great.

 

3. CONSUME SEROTONIN-BOOSTING FOODS
Many of us crave indulgent carbohydrates like cookies, candy, ice cream, pretzels, and other sweet and starchy foods when we’re stressed, anxious, or tense. These foods can have a soothing effect in some women, and it may have something to do with low serotonin levels during these mood states. Serotonin is a brain chemical responsible for feelings of calmness and relaxation. It’s thought that consuming these carbohydrates helps boost serotonin levels, which results in feelings of contentedness and relaxation. So, enjoy these treats if they provide some instant satisfaction, but do watch your portion sizes! I recommend 100 calorie portions — 4 Hershey Kisses, or a small handful of pretzels. You may want to pre-portion out pretzels, for example, and take them with you as a snack when you leave the house. The 100 calorie packs work well too.

WELL – this have been doing for YEARS already :P! Probably my best way to relax – just need to work on the portion control is all!

 

4. CREATE A RELAXATION ROOM AT HOME
Many spas have relaxation rooms to sit in before and after treatments, and it’s a great thing to create at home too. A relaxation room doesn’t have to be a “room” per se — it can be a space in your bedroom, for example, but the key is having an area or room at home, solely devoted to relaxing. You can have a really comfortable chair or daybed, with dim lights, or candles nearby — whatever it is that you enjoy and find relaxing. This will give you an opportunity to decompress, with very little stimulus — this is key. Forget the blackberry, cell phone and laptop — this is a time to kick back and relax. You might want to read a book or magazine, but the idea is to clear your mind of distractions and stressors.

My relaxation place is my bed with my laptop or a book. I enjoy being in my bed in complete silence – usually when my oldest daughter is in school and my youngest is taking a nap – it’s my time to just be in silence. But, I do like the idea of dedicating a whole room to relax – maybe one day ;-).

 

5. LISTEN TO YOUR FAVORITE MUSIC
Listening to soothing music can be very relaxing — and slow tempos in particular can induce a calm state of mind. (It can also slow down breathing and heart rate, lower blood pressure, and relax tense muscles too). This can be particularly beneficial when you’re getting ready for a tough day at work, or if you’re in your car stuck in traffic, or, if you’re lying in bed trying to free your mind of stressful thoughts. Interestingly, music therapy has been shown to be helpful in decreasing anxiety associated with medical procedures: one recent study found that heart rate and blood pressure decreased significantly among individuals who listened to music during a colonoscopy (the control group did not experience any changes). The music intervention group also required less sedation during the procedure.

This is another one like #3 that I have already been practicing. I love all kinds of music. Music can calm me, soothe me, inspire me, motivate me – well you get the picture. And if you haven’t discovered it yet, PANDORA is the best place to listen to music. It’s my favorite music website!
 

6. ENJOY AN AROMATHERAPY MASSAGE
Getting a massage is a great way to free yourself of tension and relax, and adding aromatherapy oils such as chamomile or lavender can be particularly beneficial: one recent study found that emergency room nurses experienced reduced stress levels with aromatherapy massage: The study, published in the Journal of Clinical Nursing, found that 54 percent of the emergency room staff in summer and 65 percent in winter suffered moderate to extreme anxiety. However, this fell to 8 percent, regardless of the season, once staff received 15-minute aromatherapy massages while listening to music. If you don’t have a lot of spare time, you can get aromatherapy oils and massage tools to use at home.

Who doesn’t love a massage? But of course, when life gets busy (or costly) this can be difficult to obtain. Maybe when my birthday comes along next month I can treat myself guilt free – you know, for relaxation purposes.

 

7. INDULGE IN A HOT BATH
Heat relaxes muscles — and taking a long bath can be soothing for the mind as well. Stock up on your favorite bath salts and soaps, get a bath pillow, and decorate the room with candles. You can even create an in-home spa, by incorporating spa treatments like facials.

I can’t remember that last time I got to take a ‘bath’ but I myself find a nice long hot shower just as relaxing. It’s my place to be alone and clear my mind.

 

8. ENGAGE IN MODERATE EXERCISE DAILY
Exercise helps to boost endorphins and reduce stress — and research shows that 20 minutes each day is all that is needed to experience benefits.

I can agree to this 100%! Right before I started this blog I was actively taking boxing and spinning for months but with my daughter starting school, family being sick, and the loss of a loved one – exercise got pushed to the side. But I hope that along with kicking the caffeine habit I will get back into my exercise routine because I know that when I worked out  I had the confidence to handle any situation that came my way, just because I felt good mentally and physically.

 

Sometimes the most important thing in a whole day is the rest we take between two deep breaths.  ~Etty Hillesum

 

Now off to relax on my favorite kind of Sunday…..until next time!

Just ‘BE’.

I now know full-heartedly why I was going through so much emotional pain last week and why I felt such a strong calling to remember God is with me. I believe that my mind, body, heart, and soul was preparing for what was really coming.

This past weekend, my childhood friend (since 4thgrade I may add), lost her father at a very young age. We have been through years of life experiences. We have lived through countless birthdays, school graduations, failures, numerous other friends, silliness, troubles, boys, boyfriends, first kisses, first dates, first loves, make-up, miniskirts, dances and proms, weddings and husbands, children – I can go on and on. We have always maintained great friends throughout all the highs and lows life gives us – but this time, this low, we were not ready for.

When I was informed of the devastating news my heart began to feel a foreign pain. All my woes and worries of the past week dissolved into the air, my focus was my friend and the grand loss the world has just had.

Prior to my husband’s deployment, I had worked on an interdisciplinary palliative medicine team as the therapist to patients and families walking on the journey of a long-term illness – be it the beginning, the middle, when they were lost, and the end. I became accustomed to the cycle of life. I was with patients and their families through life’s departures at least 3 times a week. It was my job to normalize this part of life and the feelings that came attached.

However, with all that professional experience, I find myself on an unfamiliar path. I am now on the other side of the journey, going from passenger to co-pilot. The news of my friend’s fathers’ passing went through me like a jagged sword. That feeling of all your insides dropping came alive within me. I became trapped in a whirlwind of emotions unable to retrieve what, I thought, should be appropriate.

This isn’t just my friend who lost her father – but her children who lost a very ‘awesome Grandpa’, her husband who lost his best friend, and of course the family and friends, including his beloved girlfriend who lost the love of her life, all lost a very special man. I too lost a part of me. This is the person that would drive us to all our extracurricular activities growing up – including dances and parties, took us out to dinners, told us we looked beautiful, yelled at me when I deserved it, attended my graduation(s) – my sweet 16 – my wedding, always treated my daughters with the same heart he did with me, and basically made me feel like family. This part of me is now void but I can’t imagine it even being comparable to what my dear friend and her family is experiencing.

As I drove to the wake, I couldn’t feel anything. I felt numb. I felt empty. I questioned it all being real. I hoped that if I closed my eyes tight and attempted to convince myself that I was in a dream that at any moment I would be waking up and none of this would have happened. Unfortunately it was not successful…

When I entered the funeral home, I found myself searching for my friend like a parent searching for their lost child in a chaotic playground. From a distance we locked eyes. Being so focused on connecting with my lifetime friend I unknowingly passed numerous family members and friends with arms reaching towards her. Upon embracing I could feel her soul melting as her tears burnt through my heart and pierced my shoulder. She crumbled into pieces as she yearned for her father. She sobbed like the little girl I grew up with. Holding her in my arms I could feel all her mixed emotions percolating through her pores. Her tears uncontrollably flooded her eyes and face as she trembled like a leaf caught in the wind. All I could do was helplessly stay with her in the moment. I sat with her in silence. We hugged, we held hands, we cried, we laughed, and reminisced on the great memories her father bestowed upon everyone as we stared into nothing attempting to disregard the reality that we were in.

Knowing it is unattainable – all I wanted was to rip her from the pains she was feeling. It hurt my heart so much to see my friend and her family have to experience such a loss. I told her, ‘out of all the things we always complain to be too young for (ie. wrinkles and grey hair), this supersedes them all – we are too young for this, he was too young for this’. My mind began to ponder at super speed to think of the right things to say and do, but I realized (and remembered what I always told my patient’s families) that this is the time to ‘just be’ and allow her to ‘be’. Be whatever my much-loved friend needs me to ‘be’ and give her a place in me for her to ‘be’ whatever she needs to ‘be’.

All I can promise my friend is what I will be. I will be the friend she has always known. I will be there to listen again and again. I will be respectful. I will do my best to be aware of her feelings and verbal cues. I will be present. I will be with her in silence. I will be genuine. And most of all, I will BE THERE.

It’s hard to accept knowing I am not capable of healing my friend’s broken heart because I want to be super-friend and fix it all. But I know my friend needs to walk the journey of grief and she can definitely count on me being right where she needs me – beside her holding her hand, behind her giving her space, or in front of her telling her to catch up. No matter what it is, I will ‘be’ there for her.

I have no expectations for how she will feel the end of this week, next week, or even next month. All I know is that she a person with real feelings. She may have a smile brighter than the sun or feel like she was hit by an unexpected earthquake at the thought of her father or when her children ask for their ‘grandpa’ – and that’s ok. There is no right or wrong way for her to grieve.

In life we have traditions to prepare for most of our milestones. When our birthdays are close, we plan for a celebration (big or small). When we marry, we have showers and parties and plan for the big day. When we have children, we create registries, have a shower, prepare all the necessary items prior to baby’s arrival.  Even in deployments, we prepare dinners and outings before our loved one leaves and have celebrations when our loved ones return. However, in the departure from life – there is no way to prepare especially for the aftermath. The ‘events’ of my friend’s fathers’ departure may have passed but the moments will always remain. Just as I told my friend, there is no such thing as ‘closure’ because you can never close him out of your life; it’s just life with him in a different form.

Even as I come to the end of this entry, I will admit that it still feels surreal.…May God bless the daughters, grandchildren, brothers, sisters, cousins, nieces, nephews, his beloved girlfriend, and all other friends and family that have been devastated by this loss. My prayer is that you all find comfort and peace in the wonderful memories left to each of us and in the love from one another.

RIP “Boss”

 

A POEM FOR THE GRIEVING…
Do not stand at my grave and weep.
I am not there, I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow,
I am the diamond glints on snow.
I am the sunlight on ripened grain,
I am the gentle autumn’s rain.
When you awaken in the morning’s hush,
I am the swift uplifting rush
of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the stars that shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry,
I am not there, I did not die…
– Anonymous

PS: My Happy List

I very much enjoy reading Teresa’s Blog  “My Embodiment: Misadventures and Adventures of a Psychotherapists in Yoga School.” Not only is she also a psychotherapists social worker but she works very closely with military families. Her blog is a great read and very thought provoking – all should definitely visit her blog sometime.

At the end of every week Teresa likes to end her blog with a “List”. The week prior she created her “Happy List” – things to be grateful for. With my week feeling like an emotional rollercoaster, I thought this exercise might change my mood a bit.

So here I go,

My Happy List:

1- I am happy my oldest daughter is such a social butterfly– this week she began a new school and she has adapted really well and loves it! (definitely puts my heart at ease)

2- My new Grey’s Anatomy Season 5 on DVD. My favorite show! However, I could never catch the episodes when they aired since season 1! So every fall season I excitedly await the DVD to come out and this past week I bought my copy of the most recent season – I’ve begun to watch them and I love it!!!! Can’t wait to watch what happens next.

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3-  Wonderpets!!Not only do I enjoy the theme song 😉 (hehe) but my toddler adores them. More importantly this show provides me at least 30min in the day to just sit and do whatever I want or nothing (smile).

Nickjr "Wonderpets"

Nickjr "Wonderpets"

4- Chocolate covered caramel…..yyyuuummmmyyy. I thank a million times to whoever came up with idea to put these two together. My all time favorite comfort snack and this week it has played an important role in my life.

5- Target!The best and most dangerous place I can be. I go here even when I have no reason to but always come home with a cart full. This week  was definitely no exception ;-).

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6- My public commitment. I am so glad that I started this blog. I love to write! Here I found a place where I can express myself as often as I want. Writing gives me a feeling beyond verbal expression.

7- HALLOWEEN!!One of favorite holidays and it’s almost here (YaY)! I already have my daughters’ costumes and I’m shopping for mine – enjoying every minute!

halloween1

8- FRIENDS!! Even though I am always thankful and grateful for my good friends – this week I’m extra appreciative for them. We have been trough so much together in this past year alone – but what never changes is that we are always here for one another.

9- Since my husband has been on deployment I have appreciated email like I never have before. This week, as you all may know now, has been a difficult one but thanks to email my husband was able to reach out to me and know exactly what to say to perk me up.

10- And finally, shoes!Being a typical shop-a-holic, my favorite is shoes! The main reason may be because the size never changes unlike shirts, skirts, and pants but also because for me it is the most important accessory. Not only can it make or break your outfit but I can tell you a story about every shoe I own – be it where I got them or where I have worn them too. My shoes can also predict my mood if you know me well and this week I wore my Puma Simplice Flats almost every day! I guess since I couldn’t feel comfy in my heart I’d figure at least my feet would.

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And that my fellow bloggers and bloggettes is My Happy List….

I must say, it did make me smile a bit 😉

Have a great weekend everyone!

Stillness…

Psalm 46:10 ‘Be still and know that I am God…’ 

Just when I needed it the most, a very good friend of mine sent me a little reminder today that I am not alone. Of course, she is here for me too – but she was referring to a greater being than her – God. I constantly speak of how we have no control of what happens around us, but often I forget the important part is that with that we have to trust God – I have to trust God. It’s so easy for me to wake up every morning and scream at my reflection in the mirror asking, “Why me?” or “Why not me?” Instead I realize that the questions I should be asking myself is, ‘Is it even about me?’ I realize I am still young as God’s child and that I must seek direction in understanding more that my life is about Him, His plans, and His purpose.

I was raised in a Christian home, my mother has always been very close to God, and as children she would teach my sister and I the importance of praying to God and trusting Him. One would assume that being pounded with such a mantra from childhood that it would be second nature to allow God to lead my life. However, being simply human creates a barrier to my beliefs especially when society’s motto is, ‘We want what we want and we want it – NOW!”

Many of us are plagued with the title ‘control freaks,’ and the majority of us remain completely in denial. We never want to surrender any power of any situation unto another even more so if we don’t receive an explanation or reasoning behind why things are going the way they are. We want to make sense of things that occur. I know I myself prefer to plan ahead in all events and situations and, if possible, even be prepared for anything unexpected. However, I know I do not merit any explanation from God. My trusting in God means accepting what comes my way – be it happy, sad, and/or terrifying – all I can do is lean on God and ask for peace, unconditional love, and patience.

In Proverbs 3:5, the Bible says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding”. Moreover it states in Proverbs 28:26, “he who trusts in himself is a fool…” I can’t count how many times I went against what my heart was saying only to respond to what my body wanted and the result always being hurt and/or failure. It’s amazing how a simple saying of to ‘trust God’ can calm me in so many levels and make everything feel ‘right’. Just as my friend explained to me, “When you’re feeling tired or lonely or something is missing, turn to Him. He will never leave you nor forsake you, He promises!! Learn to look to and lean on Him again and he will supply all your needs.” 

God never asks us to be perfect, all he asks is that we trust him and the rest will fall into place. My will, my desires, my dreams, my goals, my ideas, my future – all need to be placed in God’s hand and allow him to have complete control. Of course I don’t intend on sitting at home until some unexplainable force comes to physically move me to where I need to go – but my prayers will transform from asking God for the things I want to thanking him for what I have and to provide me with what He thinks I need as I go through life – a life that is about Him, His plans, and His purpose.

Who am I to question what God has placed on my path? God has never left me and He has never gone back on His promises. I am blessed everyday with the necessities of life and more love than I can handle in one day. Daily blessing that I simply forget because I find myself preoccupied with the things I don’t have. A good number of us have the propensity to claim that we trust in God – but it goes beyond just a statement. When we find ourselves in a difficult situation or trial that is when we begin to question God, His love, and His plan. I will admit that I too am guilty of this. God tests our trust through trials so we can go back and lean and depend on Him only. I have come to finally comprehend that all things that have occurred in my life – be it good or bad – have happened to bring me closer to God. The Lord ‘gives and takes away’ but His love always remains.

Going through my husband’s deployment has made me realize more than before how much my family and I need faith. The first few months I moved away from God – angry at His plan. I had great friends in the state we were living, I had my dream job, and my daughters were in great schools. I couldn’t understand why God was ripping me away from my happiness – I still don’t. But I’m okay with not knowing. I questioned His existence and stored my Bible in a drawer. I was upset God could not give me what I wanted even though I knew what I want may not be what I need. I am not, and never will exclaim to be, the perfect Christian. I am a child of God and with that I will make mistakes, sin, and live in flesh but what will not change is my faith.

God has chosen my husband to be away from our family. God has chosen for my youngest daughter to only know her father as a picture and a voice. God has chosen my patience to be tested as a single mother. God has chosen that I become ‘the educated housewife’. God has chosen that I abandon my goals and dreams. God has chosen that my oldest daughter will cry for her father when she misses him. God has chosen that I cry myself to sleep because I desire my husband to be home every night.

But because God loves me…

God has also chosen that my husband and I learn the true meaning of trust. God has also chosen that my youngest daughter, at her tender age, can recognize who her father is no matter where we are and can express that she loves him by hugging and kissing his photos. God has also chosen that the patience I have accrued will help me in all days to come. God has also chosen that while I have abandoned my career, dreams, and goals, that I have the pleasure of enjoying my children – watching them grow up. God has also chosen that my oldest daughter is learning to appreciate family and life daily. And God has also chosen that I fall in love with my husband again and again every night and appreciate the little things more than I ever have before.

God’s promises are beyond my understanding and His choices may make no sense to me but I will continue to walk blindly with Him. Even through the trials and tribulations, I know God has a plan for my family and me. I trust that God loves me unconditionally, has my best interest, and desires the best for my family and I. There are countless benefits in trusting God – the protection plan is unlimited. Anything else we place our trust in can disappoint us but God will never disappoint us.

“Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the LORD God, my God, is with you. He will not fail you or forsake you. . .” (1 Chronicles 28:20).

I (HEART) NYU: My day at a PTSD and PTG workshop

The Heart of Greenwich Village, Washington Square Park

The Heart of Greenwich Village, Washington Square Park

Today my lovely sister gifted me with a day for myself. She offered to take my girls on her day off from work. I, being the proud nerd that I am, excitedly planned for a date with my brain at my alma mater, New York University (NYU), for a workshop. From the moment I woke up I had a constant smile as I was overflowing with nostalgia.

Walking towards the train station, I reminisced being a young graduate student at the school of clinical social work. I dreaded the walk everyday towards the path – and needless to say – the feeling had not changed, which may very well be a result from the fact that I had to speed walk because I was late (as I always was as a grad student). Once in the station I felt like a child riding the train for the first time. I was brimming with happiness and anxiously waiting on the platform for the 33rd street train to come. As soon as the train came – it felt like hundreds of us collectively jammed into the little rail car and packed ourselves tight like sardines in a can. There was no ‘good morning’ (or talking of any kind) and eye contact was not an option – it’s just not done (as it would be rude to do so). So there I was, starring onto the floor admiring and critiquing the other passengers shoes as I found myself  plastered against some random persons’ ‘New York Post’ like a fly on a windshield. I honestly adored every single (un-breathable) minute – I knew I was in New York City and my mind was drifting away into memory lane of graduate school.

Unaccustomed to walking in Greenwich Village, NYU’s campus, as I did in my grad school days, I felt like a calf caught in a wild elephant stampede. I was surrounded by students going in all different directions. Some running, some listening to music, some chatting, some texting, and the newbies – as you can clearly read in their eyes that they are fresh to area– looking everywhere completely lost. After crossing Washington Square Park I finally arrived at the Kimmel Building where I found the conference room that was hosting the workshop. Once in the room, I glanced at the people around me and inside, my jaw wanted to drop as I quietly starred in amazement and in awe of the brilliant minds that encircled me.

The focus of the workshop I attended was “Shared Trauma, Resilience, and Posttraumatic Growth: Reflections on the Anniversary of 9/11”. In addition to the array of extremely intelligent and highly experienced doctoral professors from NYU, there were keynote speaks. Dr. Charles Figley, also a Marine and Vietnam veteran, is a trauma psychologist from Tulane University who spoke on ‘Shared Trauma, Shared Benefits, and Shared Research Agenda’. Dr. Richard Tedeschi, key researcher and writer of posttraumatic growth from University of North Carolina at Charlotte, addressed ‘Post-traumatic Growth in the Aftermath of 9/11’. Major Thomas Jarrett, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, a very seasoned active soldier for the United States Army, and Doctoral Candidate at NYU, bestowed us with his knowledge on ‘Educating Warriors for Combat Operational Stress and Post-traumatic Growth’.

Primarily talked about was how as therapists we should not accept Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) as a consequence of a traumatic or shared experience but promote Post-traumatic Growth (PTG) not only within ourselves but to our clients as we walk with them on their journey – at their own pace of course. PTG, as I understood it, was, in a nutshell, ‘meaning making’ of an experience. PTG is both a process and an outcome, transforming responses to adversity into a growth enhancing outlook to the traumatic event that has occurred creating a new level of functioning and perspective. The best approach is to guide our clients into narrative therapy and/or “story-telling” – allowing them to become their own author.

 Major Thomas Jarrett also introduced his “Warrior Resilience and Thriving” program in which he encourages soldiers and veterans to strive for PTG and fight their “internal insurgents”. He mentioned how in his work he urges military service members to not settle with their deployments as being only a traumatizing event but to transform it into learning and empowering experiences.

Additionally, Major Thomas Jarrett touched upon a topic more close to my heart. He openly informed the audience about how stigmatization remains loud and clear in the military with seeking guidance (as I prefer it called) from mental health professionals as well as mental health still being highly under-reported. Military service members fear being called weak or unable to proficiently lead, for example, if they are under the care of a therapist. This is no secret of course, and I know the military is consistently working towards breaking down the barriers to mental health and eliminating (or at least reducing) the stigma. A process I want to be part of (even if it means my beginnings are with this blog and/or speaking to individuals as I go along my journey of military life).

Even though I am a psychotherapist social worker, I am a military wife and mother first. I will admit that I constantly fight my own battles to suppress my desire to allow the social worker in me to jump out and counsel, advocate, and treat my husband during his deployment. (I can only imagine this getting worse when he comes home.) But I know that my husband needs me to just be his wife and the mother of his children. As Major Thomas Jarrett mentioned in the workshop, family resilience is even more so important during military deployments. “If one family member crumbles, we all crumble”.

I know that it would be of no benefit if I constantly diagnosed, titled, or named the situations or circumstances my husband is facing. The only best thing I can do for my husband is to offer a listening ear with constant reassurance and letting him tell me truthfully what he feels in his heart. I cannot ask my husband to tell my gory details if he does not want to and/or if he has none! Nor can I drag out of him weeping stories of how he would rather be home.  It has to be true – it has to be him – because frankly, his deployment and experience is not about me.

What I feel and what I experience through this deployment on the homefront is my truth to hold. Just as my husband – I can only speak for what is true in my heart and from what I am ready to share. And even though we are on this road together as a family – just as when we ride in our family vehicle – we are looking out of opposite windows. I cannot show antipathy towards him for what he sees and does not see just as he cannot do the same to me. The only thing I can hope for is that when we come to the end of the road – we are together and stronger than we ever were before.

To Tell or Not To Tell – That is the Question!

 

I feel rejuvenated after a fun-family loaded long holiday weekend, filled with good food, BBQ’s, homemade sangria, and of course some sale shopping too. It’s always a blessing to be surrounded by family and I appreciate every moment – even when they make me feel like I just want to pull out my hairs.

This weekend I also went to visit my sister-in-law who has been home sick with meningitis. Since my return from our family vacation about 3 weeks ago she was hospitalized for over a week and transferred twice to other hospitals before doctors were able to finally diagnose here. Feeling helpless, it was a scary time for the family. She is a young, vibrant, healthy, and always active woman. You would never think her health would fail her. After countless medical tests and numerous specialists, our prayers were finally answered. Thankfully, doctors were able to diagnose, provide appropriate medication, and discharge her from the hospital. She is now home and slowly recuperating.

When I was first told of my sister-in-laws’ hospitalization, my husband’s oldest sister contacted me. She, being the protective older sister, mentioned she hadn’t told my husband so he would not worry. I completely understood where she was coming from. I also did not want him to worry about anything more than what he ‘needs’ handle while on deployment. So here I found myself – stuck between a rock and a hard place. Do I tell him or not?

I was expecting a call from my husband that day and all I could think is – “what if he asks about his family or his little sister?” I don’t want to lie – I never keep anything serious like this from my husband. I always tell him everything. (Ugh!) What do I do? Again, like my sister-in-law said, I didn’t want him to worry.

 After much consideration, and contemplating my options, in the end, I went with my gut feeling. I told him that his little sister was in the hospital but eliminated the extra details, such as they didn’t know what was wrong the first few days and that she had all kinds of specialists seeing her. I waited until she was properly diagnosed and treated to finally fill him in on all the specifics of her condition.

I know this is not going to be the first and last time I’m confronted with this situation in which I must battle in my mind: to tell or not to tell? Communication is always a huge factor in relationships – but even more so when there is thousands and thousands of miles between you.

I try my best to follow the tips about phone calls with your deployed spouse: try to be positive, try to not only speak of the frustrations but how you resolved the issue and to let him know that you still need him – but all I can promise is to be me and to be honest and as most wives – military or not, I don’t intend on lying to my husband either – I can only follow my intuition on deciding how to inform him about the circumstances on the homefront.

Naturally, if I’m worried, sad, or scared – I obviously want my other half to know and feel it with me – and I’m sure my husband wants to be there for me too. He is fully aware of what I’m dealing with here on the homefront – the bills, the food, the home, the cars, THE KIDS, the good, the bad, and the ugly and he wants to part of it. However, I too am fully aware of how full his hands are and my husband needs to maintain his focus on his current deployment – I want him to! His role for our country surpasses any appointment I need to make or car that needs to get fixed! I don’t want my husband to be anxious unnecessarily about the issues happening on the homefront and just as he protects my freedom I will do my best in protecting him from burning into a crisp from emotional overload.

PS: Thank You…

I survived my first week of blogging and I must admit – I am loving the public commitment! Thank you to everyone who took the time to read my first week’s entries.

My plan is that every weekend I will close my week with a post of a quote, link, article, blog, tips, videos, pictures, and the like – as a “PostScript” that I think will be engaging , educational, and/or helpful  information about families, children, and deployment.

So, here I go…

 

Today I came across this article:

Fact for Families: Families in the Military

http://www.aacap.org/cs/root/facts_for_families/families_in_the_military

A great resource for parents with children going through deployment – what signs of stress and serious problems to look for!

 

I wish everyone a wonderful Labor Day Weekend!

 

Until next week….