PS: Book Review!!! A great book for military children!

“The Little Marine and the Flag” by Carissa J. Marine

My girls received this book as a gift and they (mainly my oldest – who can understand more) was so excited to have a book where she felt she could relate to. It’s a great, cute, and educational book every military child should have – especially children in U.S. Marine Corps families.

Here is an excerpt from the Website The Little Marine:

Every morning the Little Marine wakes up to the sound of a trumpet playing.  Jumping out of bed, he looks out his window over the trees to where his daddy works.  As he watches, he sees a huge American flag being raised up a very tall flagpole.  He loves seeing that big flag.  He often tells his daddy that he wants to go see it and stand under it some day.   

Author Carissa Marine invites you along on the Little Marine’s quest to learn more about the American flag.  Entertaining for young readers, The Little Marine and the Flag is a must read that also reminds even adult readers of treasured American values. 

 

Again, I can’t say how great this book is –  so far it is still the book of choice for bedtime story in my house!

You can go to The Little Marine site to purchase it or check out your local bookstore, like Books-a-Million.

Happy Super Bowl Sunday!! 🙂

Calendar Countdown

calendar

Halloween is over! Woo-hoo! Now don’t get me wrong, my daughters and I love Halloween. We very much enjoy costume shopping, decorating, and (of course) trick-or-treating. It was a very crazy last few weeks of October (thus why no recent blog post). But, I’m back and super excited that the month of October is finished!

You see, when my husband first deployed my oldest daughter would ask how long her daddy would be away – when we would tell her about 6-7 months you could see her heart crushing because to her 6-7 months felt like an eternity (which I could understand because I too felt the same). So we came up with our own calendar for when “Daddy Comes Home” to help our daughter better understand how long daddy will be away.

Here is Our Countdown:

Mother’s day (May)

Kindergarten Graduation (June)

Independence Day (July)

Family Vacation in Spain (August)

Back to School (September)

Mommy Birthday and Halloween (October)

Nana’s Birthday, Uncle’s Birthday, and Thanksgiving (November)

Her Birthday (December) 

And then daddy will be home for Christmas!

 

Yesterday was Nana’s birthday, so now we are awaiting my brother-in-law’s birthday this weekend and then just Thanksgiving and our daughters oldest birthday (which is the first week of December). So basically, my husband is coming home soon!!! (yay) You can only imagine how excited my daughter is. All she keeps saying is – “Thanksgiving is in 2 weeks – 2 weeks – only 2 weeks” and I know that really translates to: ‘daddy is almost home’.

And of course, with the excitement of homecoming around the corner also comes a whole load of other emotions too – for both my daughter and I which I will be talking about in my upcoming blog posts.

Coming back to my routine blogging from neglecting it for some days now, I feel that it still fits everything going on in my life currently because it’s as though a new chapter is being written about my life on the homefront. Even though the actual deployment may be coming to an end, I know (very well) that experience is yet to be over when my husband is home and that even more chapters will be written.

Until next post…

Forever Young

As my birthday approaches all I have been thinking about is what another year means for me. Am I any wiser? Am I more experienced? Am I more wrinkled or saggy? Do I appear older? Should I feel old? Am I more mature or should I be more mature? Is time flying past me?

As a child all the way to teenage years I looked forward to my birthday as nothing more than presents, cake, and more privileges. It was a day I had the ‘license’ to do whatever I wanted! Birthday parties and outings were planned – every year out-doing the last. I especially remember my Sweet 16. I had an extravagant (Spanish-family type) party that resembled a wedding. I wore a big poofy white dress and had my cotillion in red flamenco-style dresses and the boys in black suits. My husband, then boyfriend, was also there is in his rank-less military uniform straight from boot-camp. I remember thinking that day I had became a real woman – 16 was the age of true maturity and independence – yea right! As the years past on, 18 was the last birthday I celebrated with the same enthusiasm I had as a child. After that, it was just another reason to go out and get together. 

Then 25 came and went.

That was the year that ‘age’ had a new definition. I wondered if now is when I could no longer be considered young or at least mid-20’s? Was it time to be called a late twenties woman and to accept that I was aging and had to start taking life seriously (or more so than before)? Yet, at the same time, I fell into the trap of anti-aging and began to ponder ways and ideas to manipulate my body’s normal transitions.

Women for years have been manipulating their bodies and appearances to come across as beautiful and young within their culture. Women succumb to many cultural traditions, from Chinese foot-binding, Burmese neck rings, African Lip Rings, Victorian corsets, to today’s anti-aging creams, plastic and cosmetic surgery, extreme dieting, and constant beautification of hair, nails, and make-up. All aiming to be the youngest, most beautiful, and sought-out woman in their community. 

You see, I come from a family of straight-forward ANTI-aging women. As a child I knew very well to never ask a woman their age. I watched my Mamita (my maternal grandmother) buy expensive creams until she found the perfect one, immediately dye her hair at the site of anything gray, constantly use lotions, and would hear her pass down secrets to my mother. The women in my family are always in constant worry about finding a wrinkle or gray strand of hair. Some more than others have facials on schedule, have nightly cream regimens, get their nails done weekly, never miss a hair dye appointment, get cellulite reducer massages, and even have had plastic and cosmetic surgery.

Basically, the older my sister and I get, the younger the older women in our family get.

My Mamita today is in the late stages of Alzheimers (bless her heart) but even with the disease her mind never ceases from asking for her lipstick – how is her hair – wanting her nails painted – and quickly snapping if you mention aloud she is ‘old’. I laugh with a heart full of love in her presence and I wonder if this is the future that awaits me – wrinkly, gray, saggy, soft, and in denial.

My Mamita at 81 years old

My Mamita, today at 81 years old!

I myself am in no way resistant to this anti-aging mentality the women of my family are infected with. I do wear make-up daily (cover-up, blush, and lip gloss at minimum), I do own a ‘pick me up’ bra, I dye my hair when I get bored of the color (which, actually, within the past year I have only done once), and I don’t normally mention my age. But – I don’t get my nails done, I have never had a facial, my lotion of choice is plain ‘ole Jergens, I only get a massage if my body hurts, and I have never done any extreme forms of beautification (such as purchasing expensive mascara).

My fears of aging are more in the lines of health and time passing me by too quickly and not completing my bucket list. We all know the saying, “they grow up so fast”, when looking at children. But I remember as a child, the days felt long, a month felt like forever, and a year felt like an eternity and now, within the past two years – days fly by, a month is quickly gone, and last year felt like yesterday. The older I get – the more I appreciate a second, a minute, an hour, a day – because if you’re not paying attention – it will pass you by.

I welcome my birthday as I did any other. Looking back into the past year I can’t believe where life has taken me. Last year, celebrating my birthday in Virginia, it never even crossed my mind that I would be back home with family and my husband would be deployed. I never knew I would spend a birthday without my husband. I never knew I had the courage and strength to raise my two girls alone – all while keeping my deployed husband active in their hearts, minds, and lives. I never knew that I would finally start sharing my writing and be out of the professional workforce. I never knew what it meant to truly lose a loved one. I never knew what it meant to see others around you begin to get sick. I never knew what it meant to be alone. I never really knew how much I took for granted. I never knew I would be feeling this way on my birthday.

Our birthdays are not about aging and appearance, it is about our life, our wisdom, our experience and that is why to the people who love us we will always be beautiful – even at 81! I look forward to growing old – because it will mean another year God has blessed me, another year I have my children, another year filled with experiences, and another year with my love.

I will embrace every wrinkle and every gray hair with open arms because they are symbols (or scars) of my life. Just this past year I have learned so much more about myself, my marriage, and my family – I can’t wait to see what I will know in the years to come.

I may never really aim to be forever young, even though I am partially anti-aging. All I know is that I will always aspire to be healthy and young at heart – and will greet life and its experiences as they come.

Tomorrow I will welcome an extra candle on my cake. It will represent my new wisdom, my new knowledge, and my new life (and possibly a wrinkle or two). And of course, you all know what my wish will be.

(Miss you beh, even more so on my Birthday)

To keep the heart unwrinkled, to be hopeful, kindly, cheerful, reverent –

that is to triumph over old age.


— Thomas Bailey Aldrich

The (im)Perfect Military Wife

When one thinks of a military wife, the immediate poster type super mom and trophy wife comes to mind – which is the Perfect Military Wife. She is sweet, calm, always kind and sincere, knows everything about the military from ranks to benefits and history. She carries herself proper and her children are always well-behaved and neatly groomed. Her home is spotless and beautifully decorated. She cooks everything from breakfast to dessert, and welcomes everyone over for dinner. She is as fit as her husband and is always educating others on healthy eating habits. She is the most understanding woman you know and never complains about life in the military. She is involved one way or another in every event on base and volunteers her time constantly to anything related to the military.

Other military wives look up to her in admiration and constantly seek ways to resemble her in any form. You can read about her in popular military magazines and newspapers and see her receive awards and certificates of appreciation. She never has an excuse to help others and is the first person on line to help her community. Each and every task, errand, chore, and event is done with a big bright smile. Her husband, family, and the military is her air – life to her is about keeping it altogether, happy, and (well, like her) perfect.

Every military wife knows what it takes to be the super-military wife/mom. Our capes hang in our closets and the third invisible arm is always ready for any situation. We often hear about how strong, patient, tolerant, understanding, and loving the military wife is – and even though this all true in just about all military wives – we fail to hear about the (im)perfect wife that at times lives dormant within all of us and for some, more often than not.

The (im)perfect military wife has some of the same characteristics as the perfect one. She is kind, sweet, sincere, and loving. However, she may not always be in her Sunday best when shopping in the commissary. She can be found in the aisle of diapers and chicken with no make-up, an un-ironed shirt, comfortable mothering flats or sneakers, in a ‘bad hair-day’ cap, and possibly in (gasp) sweatpants or track-suit, all with a frazzled face.

When asked her husband’s rank, her cluttered mind may result in her quickly forgetting and pausing to think about it. Same goes for the chain of command, the ranks and their corresponding insignia. She has yet to learn every single acronym that exists in the military but still smiles and nods when confronted with one in conversation. She lacks the knowledge and detail of all military history but can throw a great BBQ for fourth of July.

When it’s time to pack up and move again to the next duty location – she is almost never organized but instead jittery and stressed. She usually waits until the last few days to pack or until the morning the movers come to put the ‘untouchables and valuables’ to the side. And even though she has done it a hundred times – Google is where she gets all her information (every single time) about Tricare, DEERs, entitlements, ID processes, and such.

The (im)perfect military wife strives to be healthy and fit, but when emotionally drained she loves to indulge on cupcakes and cookies and prefers the couch and a chick-flick as opposed to a treadmill and water bottle. A meal for the family sometimes comes from a frozen box that mysteriously converts into a warm meal when placed in the square magical electronic thingy. She fancies the thought of hosting a dinner or just coffee and sometimes even plans the whole event – but when it comes down to inviting, her shyness to meet and talk to new people shoves those ideas to the side. And when invited to similar events, in addition to the shyness, the anxiety of speaking about possible military topics she is not fully informed on take over and she declines the invite.

When deployment comes along, no matter how long, she temporarily gets upset at Uncle Sam and cries while cursing the military for taking her love away. She momentarily resents her husband for leaving her behind and then cries for the mishmash of feelings she is having. She yearns for husband daily and misses him constantly. She easily becomes vulnerable to sleep-less nights, toddler-like break downs, going over her budget, and forgetting the car needs an oil change.

She allows her children to misbehave every now and then when daddy is away. She sometimes spoils them in an effort to take away the sadness of deployment in their eyes. The children scream, cry, pout, and have tantrums every so often – but mostly when in crowded places. At times they beg for candy on the grocery line and even for a balloon on a stick all while she frantically searches for her ID card in order to shop. They spill ketchup on their shirts and are incapable of keeping their hair neatly done throughout the entire day.

The home of the (im)perfect military wife is just like her – (im)perfect. Piles of laundry await folding on the coach and there is usually something in the dishwasher, be it clean or dirty. Now and again the garbage overflows – all depending if the husband is deployed or not. People with allergies to dust must always give a 48 hour notice prior to visiting. And the dogs roam free like the kings and queens of the castle (need I say more).

Every year she aims to be more involved and active in the community and base events. She aspires to volunteer and ‘make a difference’ but her mental, physical, and emotional exhaustion limit her as she realizes she may just not be as ‘strong’ and put together as those military wives who do. You definitely don’t read about her in magazines and newspapers and you may not even notice her if she was right next to you.

The (im)perfect military wife and perfect military wife may be different in their public appearance, mannerisms, and child-rearing ways but the core of what makes a military wife is unchangeable.

No matter the situation a military wife never loses her love, support, understanding, and patience for her husband and the military. The military wife at the end of the day is able to balance and multi-task the day’s priorities. She has the power of cure-all kisses for her children and enjoys any moment spent with them (good or bad) because being in a military family you quickly learn how to appreciate time spent together. Although it may be expressed differently, a military wife always misses her husband when he is away.

A military wife truly cares for others, especially other military wives. They try to be involved at any level – even if it means donating items or monetary gifts anonymously. A military wife knows what sacrifice is and takes it with a grain of salt. She smiles when it comes to moving (again) only because she is aware that her reaction will reflect in her children’s reaction. A military wife never likes pity and finds it difficult to accept assistance. Most importantly, she prides herself in her family, her husband, and her country.

So next time you are on base or in the commissary and you notice the (im)perfect wife in her untied sneakers, track suit, hair in clip, with screaming and crying children searching for her car keys – before you say “oh my, look…” remember that she too is a military wife. She too is strong. She too is brave. She too is caring. She too is missing her husband. She too some days is me and she too some day may be you.

Do You Really Want to Know?

A friend of mine recently found herself in a bit of a rut due to circumstances relating to her career path. Although she now feels comfortable with her decisions – she is experiencing a sense of emptiness. As though internally her hope is dwindling from being unaware of what may happen next and what the future holds – saying to herself: “I wish I knew what life had in store for me”.

I shared a little story with her about my daughter.

My daughter gets school lunch almost every day (almost – because I obviously omit the days I know she won’t eat what’s available). When I first got the weekly menu I began to read off her meals for each day of the week and she stopped me. She said to me that she doesn’t want to know until that morning on the way to school (my daughter is always very ‘clear’ in what she wants). When I asked her why – she basically said to me because it would make it ‘boring’ and she wouldn’t be ‘as excited’.

I explained to my friend that – well, to a 6 year old, the world is limited to life seen in bliss and with no responsibilities and to her excitement is vivid in little things like her lunch menu. To us, obviously our lunch menu is more of a minute issue compared to what life truly encompasses – but even so, as much as we think ‘if only we knew what life has in store for us” is beneficial, it would take away the journey, the rollercoaster, the highs, the lows, the laughter, the tears, the excitement! All this which makes us grow, learn about ourselves – and (most significant) make us who we are.

To a military wife knowing ‘what’s in store’ sounds very appealing to the listening ear. The thought of knowing every ‘next’ duty station, every ‘next’ new job, every ‘next’ new school for my daughters, every ‘next’ home, every ‘next’ deployment, and well – every ‘next’ everything – all gleams at me like sun rays on a fall-like day. What an attractive idea – to know! Or is it really?

As much as I like to plan ahead – I don’t feel ‘knowing’ would be as charming as the tempting thought. Even though my perpetual desire to be organized is alive and well within me – I also find myself unable to make decisions as small as chocolate or vanilla so thus – not knowing, more often than not, works for me.

My husband’s return home from deployment is getting nearer and nearer. I am oblivious to the precise date and I want it to stay that way until it’s so close I can touch it. For me, knowing my husband’s exact return date would, of course fill me with joy and load me with exuberance – but alongside – hand in hand would be eagerness, can’t breathe type anxiety, irrepressible tears, and an overall overwhelming feeling. I would prefer to just continue upon my journey of deployment passing each second, minute, hour, day, week, and month as it approaches.

Not knowing has so far made and persistently molds me into who I am. I never imagined publicly posted my writings in the form of a blog – let alone its birth being from being my experiencing deployment on the home front. So here I am – exposing a fragment of my existence not knowing what may or may not await me in the end, but it’s a chance I am willing to take because (not only does my faith carry me far) but no matter what I do, things will happen as it has already been written (I have never been a fan of – “things happen for a reason”).

That luring idea of ‘knowing what’s next’ echoes in our society like the plague. But the grass is not always greener on the other side. Culture pounds us with fortune tellers, horoscopes, palm readers, and other forms of divination – all in the effort to know about the future. However, even when we turn to those uncanny sources – most individuals take it upon themselves to convert the experience into a future’s buffet, picking and hearing only the pleasant and the cheerful – eliminating the frightening and the worrisome.

It’s not uncommon to ‘want to know’. It’s an old-age desire that can be tracked back millions of years ago and I am in no way immune to it. We lustfully want to know the outcomes of our future – if it will end up as we planned. Some at times may find themselves satisfied with their present that they may disregard the thoughts of the future or for moments decelerate the thinking – but then there are moments when one may obsessively search for answers about the future. But even if you accomplish your desire to know and obtain your future – then what? Do you want to just assemble yourself onto a life on a conveyor belt? Life where the pleasure of climbing, falling, and getting back up is of no meaning because the end result is already known? Don’t get me wrong – I do like seeing at least the light at the end of the tunnel – but I’m okay with waiting until I get there to see what awaits me.

Therefore I say to my friend and others who find themselves in a similar situation – don’t worry about what’s coming up or what’s in store for your future – not only would it be futile but because (more importantly), like my daughter says, – it would be boring and not as exciting 

You will never be happy if you continue to search for what happiness consists of.  You will never live if you are looking for the meaning of life.  ~Albert Camus

“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’…

a342_pillow

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