Monday, September 12, 2011

License to hunt

Man, have I been remiss in keeping up with this blog. I just haven’t gotten into a new routine yet. I refuse to let this blog come between my husband and I so I have not been updating it during our alone time. However, I can’t really update it when my daughter is awake because she wants to push all the buttons on the keyboard. I used to do it after she went to bed, but that is our only alone time now so I’ve been prioritizing him over the blog.

It has just been a busy few weeks. I am juggling so many balls with returning to work, getting the baby readjusted to daycare, and trying to get reacquainted with my husband that I decided if something had to be dropped, it was going to be this blog.

I’m sorry if you’ve been waiting impatiently to hear about reintegration. It has definitely been different. Having the baby has made it so much harder to feel like we’re getting on the same page and developing emotional intimacy again. So much of our time is focused on her because she demands so much attention, that we really don’t have much energy or time to devote to each other.

It feels like one of us watches her while the other one takes care of an errand or laundry or just does something that needs to be baby free. Then we switch.  It seems like very rarely are we both available to do anything. And my husband doesn’t multi-task well. If he’s focused on the baby, he can’t really do anything else. I can kind of listen to him tell a story or talk and take care of her, but I have to pause him quite a bit to tell her something or stop her from doing something, etc.

He got home on a Thursday. The whole family was here until the very next Sunday. I went back to work Monday, and the baby went back to daycare. He has been working on and off since he’s been home, but his time off has been filled with hunting, fishing, scouting places to go hunting, running errands for his hunting, and spending time with his sons and friends hunting. Are you sensing a trend here?

I’ve tried to be completely understanding because he spent an entire year away from his whole life, all the things that make him him, but it is taking a toll on us. He spends a lot of time preparing to go hunting or taking care of what he’s killed on top of the times he actually goes hunting or takes the new puppy to practice hunting.  I don’t begrudge him the time, but it has made it hard for us to have time together.

When he goes hunting it is usually very early in the morning, which is when I’m sleeping so that doesn’t present a big problem except for the fact that he is then tired and asleep before the baby or right as I put her down, cutting short adult time.

We just haven’t had enough time to get past the day to day conversations and really focus on having some serious conversations about us, about how we’re feeling and processing this reintegration. I feel like a failure that he's been home for a month and we're still barely more than scratching the surface of truly being together again. I know it will just take some time, but when every minute of our time is already ticking down to his next departure, I really want to get back to us.

I know it is only Sept. 12 and hunting seasons have just begun. I just hope that he starts feeling like he's done enough, been outdoors enough, so that he feels like himself again soon. We can't get back to us until he feels like himself again, so until he feels like he's OK, I guess he has a license to hunt. 

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Day +13: Not our problem

Yesterday I asked my husband what was the reintegration training he did. He said nothing, we're done with that. He was supposed to be in reintegration for three weeks.

He did about 5-6 days of reintegration training. I'm not exactly sure what they did or what else I would recommend, but considering he spent a year in a war zone, five days doesn't seem to cut it.

He came home acting almost as if he'd never left, almost. But not quite. We're doing alright. Things have been a little crazy. We had a house full of people, then both had to go back to work, and he was extremely sick, passing it onto me. I'm still sick. Getting us back to normal is hard to do until things have actually gone back to normal.

But I think we're doing well. I do know that Chad is still processing a lot of changes. He still feels strange in his own home, guilty for being here. The army did the bare minimum of training to remove liability if a soldier loses control and beats his wife, screams at his kids, kicks his dog, or kills himself.

They've come a long way in helping soldiers deal with the stress of combat and reintegrating into their homes, but soldiers are increasingly struggling with stress disorders and difficulties brought on by repeated deployments. They need newer tools to deal with newer issues.

Even my husband made a point to say that he thought that dealing with deployment stress and reintegrating would get easier since he's done it so many times, but that isn't the case. It actually gets harder. One trip overseas feels like a long nightmare, but three, four, five starts to feel like your whole life.

I know that in some ways this deployment was easier for me because I knew what emotions I would face. I knew what to avoid and how to prepare myself for difficult times. But in some ways it was the hardest. The more he's been gone, the more it feels like he's always gone and the more I worry that this will be the time he doesn't come back.

I think the army needs to recognize the different stresses placed on a soldier and his/her family after repeated separations and deployments. They've worked so hard to deal with the rise in suicides and prevent domestic violence, but it has been mostly reactionary. The military needs to get ahead of the curve and start putting soldiers through something deeper than the death by powerpoint reintegration training they do now.

I don't know what that might or should look like, but I think even the most well adjusted soldiers need more than a power point after a year in hell. I know the wives could benefit from some joint sessions as well. The marriage retreat we went on just before he left was helpful but barely scratched the surface. I wish we could have a week of more intensive reintegration with counselors in smaller sessions.

The army did what they have to do to be able to say, "It's not our problem" when guys lose it. I just wish they could find a way to do enough that there isn't a problem at all. 

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Day +12: Too much talking

I started feeling like my cold was coming back this afternoon. I forgot to take my medicine this morning. By lunchtime, I was feeling a bit rough. By 3, I could barely stand to talk. I'd been talking most of the day and had over an hour left to go.

I started downing cough drops, but they were limited in their effectiveness. By the time I got home, it was all I could do to swallow. I have been fighting to get over this cold for the past week and a half, but not having so much success. Talking for six hours today didn't make it any easier.

I came home and fell onto the couch. I know I did this last year. I don't think I was sick, but I know I was just as tired. Just out of curiosity, I went back and read some of the posts from the first week he was gone. It helped to see how sad I was, how tired I was without any relief in sight.

I may not feel 100%, but having my husband home, here to talk to, here to hold, here to share my day with, makes everything better. I still want to crawl into bed around 5 and take a nice long nap, but I'm hanging in there. It is certainly nice not doing it alone.

This might not be the most exciting entry, but for today, it is all I can manage. Any energy I have left needs to be spent with my husband, not just typing silently at the computer. 

Monday, August 22, 2011

Day +11: First Day of School

Today was one of the longest of the year, other than the day before my husband came home, the first day of school. After two months of mostly sitting down, part of the difficulty of the day is just standing. I wore a nice dress, the same dress I wore when Chad came home, with relatively comfortable dress sandals, but after standing on hard floors for most of eight hours, my feet feel swollen and bruised.

Coming home emotionally and physically tired with a lot of things to do, I was superbly grateful to have my husband home. He didn't do anything amazing, but he noticed how tired I was. He offered to let me take a break. He made dinner, which while not a gourmet affair tonight, was on the table with minimal effort on my part. He put the baby in her pj's and held her while we said her goodnight prayers.

We didn't get a lot of time together tonight between dishes, mail, parent phone calls we each needed to make, etc., but we are starting to get back into a rhythm. It has been a long time since I came home exhausted and had someone here to be supportive.

Last year, the first day of school was my husband's last night in the country. I knew I would need all of my sick days, so I went to work. I came home exhausted and had to swallow my emotions to be supportive and strong while he packed his last bags for Iraq.

I think I came home the next night, just as tired, sad, and then all alone and cried. I think I spent much of the next few months just trying to survive, begging for help without getting much in the way of actual support. It was probably the second roughest time in my life, being a new mom, single and alone with no family nearby and few friends.

I don't know how I made it, but I did. And I am supremely grateful that at least for now, this year, I get to have him home, safe and sound, loving and kind. I don't know what I would do without him. Even though after a year with him absent, I know I could manage, I know I don't ever want to try. I am crashing hard after this very long first day of school, and am so glad that he is sitting across from me painting decoys, trying to decide if he should go with an African or North American coot even if no one has any idea what he's talking about. I just like watching him be home and excited about his hobbies again. 

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Day +8-10: Weekend

I'm sorry I haven't been posting the last couple of days. It was a long week, trying to get used to working everyday again with a cold. Plus, I haven't found a new routine yet. I got used to posting after the baby went to bed so that I would have some time to write without wrestling her away from the computer over and over again.

Now that my husband is home, the time after she goes to bed is our time to relax. This week has been big changes for all of us. The new puppy requires a lot of attention. He is into everything, thinks the carpet is just more convenient grass, and chews everything! The baby is climbing and exploring the house like a maniac. Chad and I feel like we're chasing either the puppy or the baby from the time we get home until we go to bed.

Reintegrating is hard at any point, but adding a very curious toddler and puppy makes things more challenging. We're both tired and sick, trying very hard to be gracious to each other. We've done a pretty good job of getting along, sharing chores, but getting close again takes much more work.

Just like R&R, we finally needed to get wiped out and a bit frustrated with trying to get along before we were able to quit being polite and cordial and get to the real emotions. It is really hard to watch my husband get emotional, but in some ways, it was great to see him finally break down and talk to me, tell me how hard it is to come home and feel like you don't know how to live in your own home anymore.

He says the more he's been gone, the harder it gets to come back. He feels guilty for being here while there are guys still over there. He took out the new guys for a couple of nights. Chad says they weren't very well prepared or trained. He ended up chasing down bad guys with only his pistol the last night he was in country. Last night, we sat on our patio in the warm summer wind, sipping on glasses of wine, and he felt guilty for being safe at home while there were guys over there in danger, struggling with fear, and he could be helping them.

It is hard for me to hear that he doesn't feel like he has done his share. It was really hard for me to hear that he is really having a hard time being home. He says when people say, "Welcome Home" or "Thank you for your service" or "You're a hero," he feels guilty for not being better at coming home, for feeling angry that they don't really understand how hard it is for him to come home. Even people close to him, don't understand the issues he faces with coming back, rejoining our lives together and feeling at home.

You'd think that you'd judge a successful reintegration by a lack of discord, but he was doing his best to just jump back into our life and routines without any discord, but was keeping his feelings locked up, maintaining an emotional barrier between us. It took getting upset for him to let out how he was really feeling. He feels like he half remembers how to live in a normal house. He struggles with sleeping in our bed because it isn't a tiny cot with a thin failing mattress. Driving close to other vehicles makes him feel panicky. He was scared our daughter wouldn't know him or want to be around him, and that he might struggle knowing how to take care of her.

Our reintegration has been pretty smooth, but there are a lot of things that living here at home, in the states we take for granted, like answering text messages or keeping house with a woman instead of 100 guys, like talking about what you're doing, or plans for the day. I'm just glad he started telling me how hard it is for him to get back to feeling normal, how guilty he feels, how emotional it is just to be home alive.

He didn't think that he was going to live through this deployment. He worried that he had pushed his luck by surviving three deployments already. Frankly, I was afraid too. He spent everyday being afraid that he wouldn't make it home to us. Now, that he's home, he has to get used to the realities of living at home instead of the idealized version of home he kept in his head and heart through the scariest times of the year.

We are really doing ok, but no matter how hard you try to avoid the issues or prepare for the emotions of reintegration, it isn't avoiding the conflicts that makes the reintegration go smoothly, it is surviving them together, being able to smile at each other and say "I love you" and mean it everyday. Our marriage may not be perfect, but we're pretty darn close and still very much in love. It will take months of being together to really feel normal again, but we're already pretty close to good again. 

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Day +7: Duck calls

Today, my day was a little longer than my days have been so far this week. I was amazingly grateful to get a text message from my husband that he would pick up Lil Bit from daycare. I am excited for him to help out around the house with chores and the baby, but I know he needs to take his own time to gradually fit back into his life and our lives. A soldier may fly back to America from a deployment on a plane, but it takes him a bit longer to get home.

While I look forward to picking her up every afternoon, I prefer her having more time at home and love knowing that she was getting some one on one time with her daddy. It is hard for me to give up some of the parts of our routine and share the precious moments that used to be just mine, and yet, I long to share those moments with her father too. He got to pick her up today and experience her sweet little expressions and way she has of playing with the toys at school.

By the time I got home, he had her in the living room, watching Versus Channel and was teaching her how to use his myriad of duck calls. He had his six call lanyard around his neck. He would blow into her hand to demonstrate how to make the calls work. Then let her try. She even made a few of them make noise. It was very sweet. watching them together.

I know I have to share her. I know she needs a relationship with her father. There is a part of me that will be a little sad that I don't get all of her hugs and kisses any more, but being able to watch my two favorite people grow closer together, is pretty special.

He might choose to watch hunting videos with her and teach her duck calls, which would not be my choice, but could be his way of creating a relationship with his daughter. And his relationship with her will be all the more special for the fact that it is just between them. 

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Day +6: New Routine

Tonight, I came home from work early. We are doing teacher preparation things which end a little earlier than a usual day. It makes coming back easier because we can kind of ease into the long work days ahead.

I'm doing my best not to count the days we have left in the school year already. Lil Bit is in a new classroom at school this year and is not adjusting to her new classroom very well. I'm not sure I like her new teacher. I know that daycare teachers make minimum wage. It is unreasonable to expect that someone making minimum wage to have a college education, but I am concerned about how well she's is adjusting and how much she'll learn. I love her so much. It broke my heart when she started crying this morning when I said good-bye.

Tonight we came home to Daddy pulling into the drive right behind us. He pulled Lil Bit out of the car seat while I dragged in my purse, briefcase, coffee cup, etc. Such a little thing, but having someone to take a few seconds of hassle and work made such a difference.

Then Chad made dinner while I played with Lil Bit, changed clothes, etc. We ate as a family and then cleaned up together, prepping our side by side coffee makers. After dinner, I sat on the floor with our precious little girl, playing with her kitchen while daddy answered hunting emails about making duck call lanyards. He makes them custom and is looking at doing some for other hunters.

After he finished his emails, he sat on the couch tickling and laughing with her. Later he even sat on the floor reading to her. It was really cute watching him point out the sun and clouds in her book and how Jesus was playing with the little children.

I'm still fighting the cold he brought home, so we have some ways to go before we're normal, but I'm enjoying our new routine. Sharing the chores, taking turns watching the baby play, talking face to face - life is pretty good tonight, despite the severe congestion and cold. I could get used to having him around, but am afraid to. Life in the army is never certain. It's just the way it is, but it is really hard work trying not to let myself enjoy being happy too much, but I'm not going to let anything bring me down today. I don't need to borrow trouble. Tonight, I'm just enjoying getting into a new routine with my soldier home.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Day +5: Adoption Day

A year ago today we finalized Lil Bit's adoption. It was a crazy day with having to drive all the way to San Antonio to be at court and realizing we forgot all our paperwork at home. Talk about panic!! But we made it in plenty of time to have lunch with some of our extended family, finalize the adoption and completed our little family.

While she is too little to remember today, I do want to start a tradition of celebrating her adoption day with something small every year. She got a fridge dj (a learning radio toy) as a present and we went out to dinner. She loved the alfredo shells and breadsticks at Olive Garden and was amazingly well behaved.

I let her have the crayons and the children's menu for the first time. She did attempt to color with them before she started trying to shove them down her throat. It was very cute. My favorite part of dinner was watching daddy watch her. He just looks at her with such amazement and wonder. I feel so good about the job I've done while he was gone when I see him appreciating her cuteness and intelligence.

She was feeding herself and drinking milk out of a straw all by herself. I gave her a breadstick. She didn't really understand how to take a bite, but figured out how to tear off pieces and eat it. We shared a cheesecake, which she loved. I finally couldn't eat another bite, but it was phenomenal. She was adorable and very good for her age. She was also entertaining the sweet elderly couple behind us. They were eating her up.

I have spent most  of the day feeling pretty rotten from the cold that Chad brought home from Iraq. Honestly, I feel so horrible that I can barely function. But I wanted to take some time to recognize that today was a special day. I am so happy that we got to spend it as a family. I just wish the boys could have been here with us. I didn't take any pictures, but we made it a point to do something special even though she won't remember it.

I worry about how she will process being adopted emotionally as she gets older. I worry that she won't consider us her "real" parents. I worry that she will feel like we love her less or she isn't really part of our family. I've made it a point to introduce the idea that she is adopted from day one. I don't want the fact that she is adopted to ever be a surprise. I want the truth to be something Lil Bit just knows.

I can't control how she feels about being adopted. Her feelings will be her own, but I can present her the facts in such a way that she knows how special her story is, how much God meant her to be a part of our family, how incredibly much she is loved. I want her to know that being adopted, chosen, makes her special. Hopefully today is just the first of many days we can celebrate making Lil Bit our forever daughter as a family.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Day +4: Back to work

Today was my first day back to school after the summer vacation. It was really hard to go back to school this morning. My husband's family left yesterday morning and we both felt really crummy. I wanted so much more alone time with Chad.

It just didn't work out that way this week. We did get to have lunch together today, which was really nice. It was nice to be able to sit together at the table and talk without having to take turns feeding the baby or chasing the puppy around.

Tonight was exhausting. We're still trying to get back into a rhythm. He spent the whole day doing his own thing, getting his hunting groove going. But it was hard to come home to laundry soaking wet in the dryer and washer, dirty dishes in the sink, clean dishes stacked three high and mail, bills, dinner, etc.

It was just a long day, and Chad and I are trying to get back into a give and take. He has to feel pretty out of it. He came back from war, being gone a year, and is trying to remember how to do the chores, learn what the baby likes and get ready to go back to work himself.

We both had a lot of adjustments to make. He washed my good clothes in the wrong cycle and temperature, but heated up leftovers and fed the baby while I ran errands and did the dishes. We took turns folding the laundry and watched some tv before I had to carry him to bed. I better go before he gets a crick in his neck. 

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Day +3: Bugs

Today, I'm having a few issues. My husband came home very sick from Iraq and I couldn't NOT KISS him. So he's still recovering from a horrible cold, jet lag and combat.

Then I got sick and the baby got it too. She spent the entire day with snot just pouring out of her. It was really disgusting.

My throat started hurting last night, but by the middle of the night, it was so painful that I struggled to sleep. The baby was up every thirty minutes for most of the night. I was up with her for a few hours and then my husband was up with her.

For our first day alone together, we spent it sitting on the couches in the living room miserable. We are both too tired to do much or say anything much. And to top it off my computer is having issues.

And a fussy baby with a bug, a new puppy with chewing issues, a sore throat and the accompanying exhaustion, aches, etc. with a computer that won't charge has made for a rough day. For now, let's just say that reintegration has been a bit rough. Not really arguments, but we both went through so much stress and need some time to decompress. Being sick and tired is just making it harder for us to get to the next stage.

For today, we survived. But it was not the romantic, emotional reunion we had hoped for. I do know that we need a lot more time together and I have to get up and go to work tomorrow. I've never been less excited to go back to school. 

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Day +1-2: Now the work begins

Yesterday was his first full day home and it was very busy and crazy. Blogging got away from me. We planned a party for the evening, but it was too much. We didn't really have a good plan and no one really came and we partied pretty good the first night right after he got off the plane. The party was just a lot of stress and pressure on both of us and on everyone else.

I had the breeder/trainer of his duck dog bring his puppy down in the middle of the day. I surprised him with his puppy being here and he spent an hour working with his new dog. Then we spent a couple hours grocery shopping. By the time we got home, got stuff put up and cooking, it was 4:30, then Chad got a massage from his sister.

People were supposed to start being here at 6. No one came, I'm not sure why. His soldier friends had family and friends they wanted to be with and it was hard to coordinate with people whose cell phones had been off for military suspensions. My friends had prior commitments. It was hard to plan a party and change the date three times. I got really frustrated and stressed. I don't know what was happening inside, but I felt really tense and crazy and upset. Maybe I was just finally coming down off the year of being upset and tense all the time. I still think I am having a hard time processing and dealing with the flood of emotions that come now that he is home.

I just felt wound up and rushed. I have been doing what I need to do when I feel like doing it all summer, but even more so in the past few months. I haven't had to process anyone else's feelings or balance anyone else's needs for so long. It is really hard to go from being completely independent to being considerate of an entire houseful of family. Plus I just want to sit and be with my husband and he feels pulled in a million different directions. I felt pulled in a million directions. I was trying to keep an eye on the baby, the puppy, the boys, plan food, pick up the house. I just started getting really upset.

I was doing the best I could not to let it boil over, but at some point I really needed to just cry. I needed to take a break. My husband has a hard time processing, changing over to being home, and letting down his guard. Instead of being close to me, he pulls away, and just does all sorts of stuff that keeps his hands and mind occupied before he can slow down and really be home with me.

It was not the easiest day. Today was better, but a lot of people trying to adjust and deal all at once is still pretty stressful. We took our time today, looked at pictures from Iraq and didn't do much. We ran some errands and then went out for dinner.

I'm really glad to have him home, but after months of fearful waiting, now the real work begins. We have to remember how to talk to each other, how to deal when things don't go the way we wanted them to be, and how to resolve issues without conflict. It will take us a few weeks of going through some tough spots here and there before we find that rhythm again.

The hardest part is letting each other be heard and validated without getting defensive. We're both trying so hard, but that doesn't make it perfect even though we both want it to be. We have to work at being kind and being patient. We've both been through a lot separately. Sharing those experiences and finding common ground again takes some real work. The couples who think reintegration is going to be a piece of cake and don't mentally prepare for the arguments and disappointments, are the ones who may not make it. 

Friday, August 12, 2011

Day 0: Da Plane, Da Plane

Last night at 8, we got a phone call that he was officially wheels up. So that meant he was on the plane!!! Finally!!! I felt relief immediately. I hadn't realized how much stress I was under with the constant changes and waiting until it was gone. He was on the plane, it was in the air, and he is coming home today!!

Really this entry should have been "De bus, de bus" because once they come in to the airport, they are herded onto big white buses. We sit and wait for the buses to arrive. We anxiously watch the soldiers file off the buses and into the ceremony area, fruitlessly trying to find our soldier in the crowd of ACU clad soldiers.

Last time he came home, I didn't see him until he was almost on top of us. His dad saw him first. They all look so much alike and you'd be surprised after a year, you forget if he was taller or shorter compared to his  company, wonder if his face is really tan, trying to remember how he walks. I spend the entire time scanning for his face wondering if he is watching me look for him, but can't signal because he's in formation.

I always feel like such a loser because I can't find him.  But he'll find me. I can't wait to see him, but I hate all the nervous waiting and driving onto post, sitting in the sun, waiting for hours. If he wouldn't be disappointed we weren't there with a giant sign welcoming him home, I would just swing by and pick him up.

At least this ceremony wasn't in the hot sun, like last time and we saw him as soon as he ran in. They had the guys run in with a smoke machine, which is really cheesy, but in the moment, was pretty cool. They were playing all sorts of upbeat music, of which my favorite had to be "It's Raining Men", which after a year of alone time, I could totally appreciate the sentiment.

It was a pretty overwhelming day. He just felt like everything was going a hundred miles an hour, and I did too. Usually, I'm all about having everyone here, but it was different tonight. I just felt like I had a million tiny, insignificant details that I wanted to tell him all at once. I wanted his opinion on the new dishes and the new furniture. I wanted to show him how nicely I arranged his clothes for him and how clean the house is. But he had so many people vying for his attention that he couldn't focus on just me.

He wanted to tell all sorts of stories, but with cooking, picking up, keeping up with three children and drinks, it was hard to follow what was going on. I didn't do any of the cooking, but I was trying to get knives or cutting boards or direct people toward spices or tools they needed. It kind of felt like the whole world was happening all at once. I wanted to talk to my sister-in-law, then MIL and then was also trying to referee a Kinect game and chase the baby.

It was a lot of activity. We both are just wiped out. He is sick on top of being exhausted and I feel just like I want to crawl into a cave and crash. I would give ANYTHING to be able to take a few days right now and just go away, me and him (no kids) and just relax. I am glad everyone is here and they are helping with cooking, cleaning and supervising of children, but after holding everything in for a year and then being so stressed and tense this week, we both can finally relax. All we want to do is sleep.

That's the truth of the return. While Chad pushed past his exhaustion most of the evening, he couldn't go much longer, so we asked the neighbors to leave and come back tomorrow. He took a hot bath and I washed his hair and scrubbed his back and rubbed his neck. We talked for a little while and then went to bed. I got back up so I could fill you in, dear reader.

He's home. The countdown is over. But I will continue to blog for awhile longer about the process of reintegrating. Tonight, it is can we sleep together again? I can hear his snoring already and I'm in the living room, so this might be dicey. But, the Beautyrest Mattress we got, doesn't move at all when you bounce on it or roll over, the pad I put on it is a cooling pad and adds just a little extra padding to a firm plush mattress that initially feels a bit more firm than plush. He's already asleep, but will I be able to sleep with the extra noise, heat, presence?

Tonight the lesson was KISS. Keep it simple stupid! We both had all our emotions invested in this day, in the moment, and then spent the day just fighting giving in to the tired feeling we both got once the stress was gone. We had just a little too much going on this evening. If Chad weren't sick, it might not have been so bad, but he was a little loopy from being so tired and I could barely keep my eyes open after three sleepless nights waiting for final word that he was on his way.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Day 14: 40

Well, the day I've been worried about, anticipating, dreading or just planning is here. I'm 40.

Phew, had to leave some room for thought after that declaration. Yuck. I'm old. I know 70 is still pretty young really in our day and age, but my body is definitely letting me know that I'm not 20. In my head, I still feel somewhere between 28-33, until I look at someone 25 and think, "Was I that stupid when I was . . ." Those thoughts tend to put things in perspective.

My knees ache, my hips have bursitis! and I have varicose veins in my legs. I will (without hypno-therapy) never have a beach body ever again, unless you count a whale as being beach ready. I am just not the same person I was when I turned 30.

I think I dreaded 30 more because that was really a line between childhood and adulthood, being part of the youth versus the untrusted OLD Farts. In some ways 40 might be freeing. I know I'm not hip with the high school crowd and can feel free let them know that they need to get hip with me cuz I don't care if they think I'm cool.

I don't know how really to feel about it. We all want to stay looking young, but enjoy the wisdom experience and age brings. Would I want to be 25 again? Only if I could do it knowing what I know at 40!  I really just wanna have the body of a 25 year old, not actually have to go back and redo anything.

Today wasn't the best birthday. I woke up to disappointment. My email held a heartbreaking update on my honey's status. He was supposed to be in my arms in 7 minutes. But the email said his flight had been significantly delayed. I was so disappointed. I spent the day trying to put on a brave face.

I took the boys to a local touch a truck event (with baby and gp's in tow). We went to TCBY Waffle Cone Wednesday for lunch. My mother-in-law and I had pedicures scheduled for after lunch, then we ran errands, and went to buy my birthday present. I really wanted to upgrade my cell phone to a new iPhone. It was pricier than I thought when I went to check them out a few weeks ago.

Then she and I went out for drinks and appetizers. I had a big drink called a painkiller. Carrying around a slightly bruised, if not broken heart, I needed a painkiller. They wrote on the menu that each patron was limited to two per visit. I had one and a few sips of another and knew why. I finished the rest, but certainly understood why two was plenty.

I spent the rest of the night fiddlin' with the new phone. We watched "Soul Surfer" which does tend to put my issues in perspective. My husband is alive. He is coming home. My family is all currently healthy. I have beautiful children and an amazing husband/best friend.

I realize that I've learned a lot in these past 40 years. I've grown up and learned who I am. And I've started to realize that I don't have the time or energy to care if people like me. I would rather spend my time with people who like me than trying to persuade people who don't, and I definitely don't want to waste a minute more of my life being around people who hurt my feelings or make me feel like I'm less somehow than they are.

I might be crankier, more impatient, achier, and much more set in my ways, but I'm also much calmer, more focused, able to prioritize, and more content with myself. 40 isn't the same as 21, full of hope and promise, but it is full of confidence, competence and contentedness. My birthday wasn't the celebration I wanted, but maybe I realized that the date on the calendar doesn't matter any more than the number on the driver's license. I can celebrate again when he gets here and again when our friends come and this can be a week long party, and I don't have to be old just because I'm not young. Maybe that is why they call it middle age, you're too old to be young, but too young to be old.

When I turned 30, I thought it was going to be hard, but I loved my 30's. I've heard the 40's are even better. You're old enough to care about the right things, and too young to worry about a lot of other things. And I have no idea how much time I have left, I'd rather not spend much of it worrying at all. I'd hate to get hit by a bus and have wasted so much time I could have been living worrying about what people thought or if people liked me. Maybe 40 is the decade where you learn to care enough about the opinions of others not to be socially unacceptable, but not enough to keep allowing yourself to be taken advantage of. 

Day 15: Holding it together

So far today, I've managed to hold it together. A few times, the tears loomed. It really helps having the in-laws here. They are keeping us distracted. But I'm really done. I know this is the end. We're almost done. The plane is scheduled, supposedly, and probably being prepped for the tarmac or some crap like that.

But his return flight keeps getting pushed back over and over. The last few days are hard. But it was hard before we got a call telling us he would here Tuesday, 5:30 p.m. So, we get all excited and start psyching ourselves up for that time and date. Then he says, oh, we got pushed back, but we don't know how far yet. So we don't know what to think.

Then, we don't get any further information from the regiment. We didn't get any kind of official call that the flight had been pushed back until two hours before he was supposed to land. I hadn't gotten the 24 hour call and had heard from him that they were most likely delayed, so I wasn't truly expecting him today, but it was still disappointing to hear that he wouldn't be home today.

Then the message we got was disappointing. I really wanted to have him home for my birthday. I was hoping that I might get to have my birthday dinner with him. But does not seem to be in the cards. I know returns are always up in the air, but I don't remember it being like this before. They are trying to keep us super informed, but I'm not sure if that is working out.

We get information, but it changes, then they are being crazy about security, but people are posting all over their facebook information that leaks info. Then they come on yelling about info, but don't just delete the posts themselves. But they can do that and not actually give us any information about my husband's flight. They haven't even listed his flight as existing

I'm just having a hard time holding it together right now. You might not know it to look at me, but I spent today struggling against tears. We were busy. We did lawn work in 100+ degree heat. We pruned bushes and trimmed hedges, weeded the garden and fought the fire ants, repositioned sprinklers and sprayed for pests (mandatory after I saw a gigantic cockroach crawling near the backdoor). We cooked and swam and watched TV and ate ice cream sundaes.

But any time I let my guard down, I felt the emotions start welling up. It is stressful, all the waiting and the inability to plan. I haven't even let myself process how it will feel to actually see him. Technically, my birthday just started. But I have a bad feeling that we won't be getting to spend any of it together and that his flight might get pushed even further back because of people posting specific times on FB. I tried to be vague, but other people posted specifics. And now, they're saying that they'll push your soldier's return back if you post stuff. I'm really trying not to get torked off. I know they are trying to keep the soldiers safe, but if you don't want people to say anything, you probably shouldn't tell them.

It just isn't working as smoothly as they planned. And I'm getting more and more emotional about it all. I'm also having a hard time processing that I have to go to work Monday. I haven't mentally prepared for that at all. I've built up this return and been focused on just getting him home that I haven't really processed going back to work and the things I need to do to be able to do that.

Frankly, inside I feel shattered and trying to hold it together with Elmer's. The emotions of surviving a deployment get heavier some times and as the waiting gets longer and longer, I'm doing whatever I can to make it through until I see his face. 

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Day 16: Flexibility

So, we got our call Sunday night, but didn't get our second call when we should have, so now we don't have any idea when he will be home.

We're trying to plan a celebration for when he comes home. We're trying to plan for family to visit. Some are coming in from out of town, some from out of state.

Planning anything with the military is pretty hit or miss. We can't plan a vacation. Trying to coordinate physical custody of his children is interesting. We can make plans to have the boys for a holiday weekend only to find that he has field exercises or a school that is mandatory he attend. We wanted to take a special trip for our anniversary, but his unit won't give him leave. We're limited to the long weekend.

But flexibility takes on a whole new meaning when you're waiting for your soldier to come home from Iraq or Afghanistan. The civilian world plans months in advance. Sometimes events are planned years in advance. When we got married, I was waiting for Chad to come home from Iraq. He was supposed to be home in October, but his tour was 15 months instead of twelve, so when they shortened it, the changes left everything undecided. Instead of December, we were hoping October, but they might extend his tour so, planning a wedding became much more complicated. I tried to pick a date that would be after he got home, but also after his three weeks of mandatory reintegration training too. Talk about frustrating. What if he had to work on our wedding day? What if his leave was different?

Everything worked out just fine, but it was strange to a lot of my civilian friends that we couldn't plan a wedding date. Just as it is strange to people now that we don't know when he will be home for sure and once we know, we can't tell people. A lot of people who don't live in this lifestyle just don't understand having to basically live in limbo all the time.

There are no firm plans. We booked a hotel room, planned a weekend, around my half-marathon in 2010. Then he got assigned funeral duty and spent months being at the literal beck and call of the military at least once a week, sometimes twice, performing military honors for retired veterans.

It is hard. I think the waiting would be easier with a specific day and time to mentally prepare for, but that isn't what we get. We make tentative plans and hope for the best. We hurry up and wait A LOT! We cancel plans, make the best of things, miss holidays often. My birthday is Wednesday. I'm turning (gasp) 40. It is a big birthday and I would like to have my husband home to celebrate it, but there is nothing I can do but be flexible and hope for the best. I'm throwing in a few wishes and prayers while I'm at it. 

Monday, August 8, 2011

Day 17: Not enough hours

This has to be quick because it is already past midnight and I have a whole day's worth of chores to do before breakfast in the morning. We spent most of the day cleaning house and I still feel like it's filthy and needs SO much done.

Due to an unfortunate accident on the part of one of the children, who then didn't tell me about said accident and let it get nice and nasty over the past week, I spent a few hours today trying to salvage our love seat. I started just cleaning the upholstery, but the second it got wet, I knew what had happened.

On the plus side, I did get to use my upholstery attachment today. I spent quite a bit of time spraying the core of the cushions with Febreeze and Lysol. Then the cushions dried in the sun. Then I soaked them again and let them dry again. They may need future treatments, but that is all I had time for today. I washed the covers for both cushions and used the upholstery cleaner again.

As long as I had started on the furniture, I cleaned the rest of the living room set, including the throw pillows. I was surprised how dirty the water was. And how long it took to do. Luckily, the boys were helpful and did some of the smaller chores while I was cleaning the oven, doing several loads of laundry, and cleaning the couches.

I am tired, but wired. We have a return date. I can't say when, but it is soon and the more I look around at the house, the more I see that needs doing. My in-laws are coming tomorrow probably unless they decided to wait until closer to the actual return. I know they can help with some of the things I want to do, but you know how it is, you don't want the in-laws to come to a dirty house.

My husband won't care if the house is not perfect. He won't probably notice all the hard work we've put in this week. But I don't want him to come home and notice the things we didn't get done. I don't want him to walk through the door and see all the things he needs to do. I just want him to be able to come home and rest.

I'm hoping that most things will get done tomorrow so I can have some time to rest myself before I don't want to close my eyes and miss a moment. There just aren't enough hours in the day to get ready or to enjoy having him home. 

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Day 18: 15 & 7

Today my daughter is 15 months old. She is growing up so fast. I can't believe how quickly she changes. A year ago, when my husband left for Iraq, she laid on the floor and laughed, but that was about it. I think she was rolling over, but barely.

Now, she is walking and attempting to run. She is starting to talk, although baby versions of "Dada," "moo," and "yes" are her only vocabulary so far. She can communicate much more than those two vocal words She signs dog, eat, milk, gorilla, more, finished, again, bird, flower, balloon, swim, change me/potty, and so much more with facial expressions and body language. She loves books and wants me to read to her all the time. She dances and has a sense of humor.

Lil Bit is quickly becoming, not quite so lil. She is getting teeth daily it seems. In a week, she'll be back in school, learning all sorts of new things without me. It is sweet and sad all at the same time. I'm still wishing I could just freeze her the way she is. She is just so adorable. I love that she loves to snuggle with me and lets me hug and kiss all over her chubby little cheeks.

I've had a rough time this week with all the moments her father is missing. Out of her 15 months, he has missed 1 for training and 11 and a half for a deployment. He visited with her for three weeks when she was ten months old, but even I barely recognize that little girl when I watch her on the video tapes. It breaks my heart to know how much he missed. Time marched on without him.

Another way time is moving quickly, 7 years ago today I met the man who became my husband. The night we met, I thought he was cute, a little crazy, and very nice, but never going to call me. Then he called, and I wondered where this was going to go with his being in the military and stationed five hours away.

He kept calling, and I realized he was kind of awesome. I didn't want to like him. But I fell in love with him anyways. Before I knew it, 18 mos. had passed, and he was asking me to marry him. Two states and seven years later, here we are getting ready to celebrate our fifth wedding anniversary. And end our third deployment (his 4th).

All I can say is time flies when you're having fun. And drags like hell while you're waiting to have fun!! I'm counting the hours, checking email neurotically, and frantically checking the army website over and over. I am hoping to get an army message pretty soon giving me the deets on his return. Every minute feels like an hour and an hour feels like a day, which is making this week so freakin' long!

I'm going to try to focus on the positive here. Seven years, we've been together and he still makes my breath catch and heart race. He still cares if I'm happy with what he made for dinner. I still try to fold his socks neatly and match them by the amount of wear and tear. And he'll be home very soon, but I wish sooner. Still quite an accomplishment, 7 years is a great start to the rest of our lives. Here's hoping to 50 more.

Day 19: Fiasco

The last twenty-four hours or so have just been one minor disaster after another. First, my eldest step-son pulled over a set of shelves, fully stocked with heavy, pointy things, onto my car leaving a series of dents and scratches. We just paid off the car a few months ago and just seemed like a jinx. The dents are very small, probably not worth reporting to the insurance, but will hurt the value when we trade it in, which we were counting on to continue to purchase vehicles only in cash.

Then we had an incident with the pool and had to drain it partially and refill it while shocking it and filtering it. I don't even want to think about how much yuck needed to die. We're trying to run the pump, but the pump keeps shutting down. I've done everything I can to keep this pool clean and clear, but it is getting harder and harder. Maybe it is all the extra use with the boys here. They spent like 4 hours in the pool yesterday.

Last night, I was trying to pull a ivy vine kind of weed from the yard, and it happened to house a fire ant nest. My hand was immediately covered in ants. They bit and wouldn't let go. Then they swarmed my foot. Now my right hand and foot are covered in horrible bites, swollen and itchy.

This morning, trying to get the baby into the living room/baby jail, my toe got caught in the hem of my pajama pants while trying to carry the baby over the ottoman, knocking me off balance. I crashed into the ottoman, twisting my hip and ankle and slamming my shin into the wood frame. A three inch by 1/2 an inch spot was raised about 1/2 an inch almost immediately.

Then yesterday afternoon we went to run an errand and the car wouldn't start. I couldn't get a service call to the house that late yesterday afternoon, so we waited until this morning. Then we got a phone call from Chad, which was great except he was cranky and grouchy. I wasn't in the best mood after waking up late due to a dysfunctional baby monitor and the tripping incident. We almost argued over a set of car speakers from the 90's that Chad is apparently more attached to than makes sense to me. I wondered why he was keeping them. He doesn't use them, won't use them in the foreseeable future, won't ever need a car stereo that thumps serious base again, and has never done anything but drag them around from place to place. I asked him why he didn't just get rid of them. He got snippy with me about throwing them away. His comment was, "Why don't I just throw your stuff away?" Which was a little over the top! I just asked him why he was so set on keeping something that no one would buy, he didn't use and wasn't planning on ever using. I wish I had thought to remind him that he did go around the house and sell some of my things without asking me at one point.

After I got him to realize no one was threatening his things and I was just asking so we could start paring things down if we're going to be relocated soon. He told me how to go about jumping the car and getting a new battery. So, the boys and I started pushing the car out of the garage. Once we got even with the truck, I tried to move the truck so it was closer to reach with the cables. I got stuck in the stretch of grass that is partially my and partially the neighbor's. The grass and ground was damp from trying desperately to water the grass enough to make it look less crappy for Chad and we got stuck. It took me a few minutes of desperately pushing to remember that I might be able to rock it out of the ruts by switching from drive to reverse repeatedly. It worked pretty quickly, but the ruts were there.

I finally figured out that we could get the hoods closer by rolling the car into the street and driving the truck in front of it. Beat myself up over not thinking about that first. Now I have to buy the neighbor dirt to fill in the holes. By the way, this was over an hour in the horrendous heat.

1) Car dented and scratched
2) Pool drained, filtered, shocked and then filter falters
3) Stung to swelling on my hand and foot by fire ants
4) nearly argued with my dear husband whom I miss so much
5) car died
6) hurt my leg by tripping
7) trashed yard with husband's truck

This week has just been one fiasco after another. I'm so drained emotionally. This afternoon, I was playing with Lil Bit and she was just being so stinking cute. She was doing this adult huffing laugh thing she does and holding her tiny, chubby fist over her face. I started sobbing for all the moments that my husband has missed and is missing while he's waiting for a plane home. While worrying about him in danger is hard, in some ways, it is nothing compared to knowing that he's just waiting for his turn to come home. We have no idea when he is going to move or when he'll be home.

Every minute seems to last an hour. I was so drained by the day, we didn't do anything else. We ate lunch and dinner, but the rest of the day, the kids played and we just rested. I look around and see a million things that need doing, but couldn't dredge up one ounce of energy.  I just feel more done and beat up than ever. I know I am more than ready for him to be home, but we both know that after the first few days are over, we'll be facing more challenges and have some hard days ahead, remembering to be patient when we get frustrated and when our days have more fiasco than finesse.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Day 20: Returning to a year old baby

I think I've dealt with this issue pretty well by keeping her father very present in Lil Bit's life, but my husband has to be concerned in some way that the child he left won't be the child to whom he returns. Even the little girl from R&R is so different than she was 5 months ago.

Like most parents returning after such an extended absence, Chad worries about how his children will deal with his return, how they've coped with his absence. The older boys are more practiced and emotionally better equipped to deal with the absence and return, but still struggle with missing their father for a year of their lives, every other year.

Anytime Allyson hears voice coming from the computer, she rushes over, blows kisses, waving and saying "hi dada." For all the life she can remember, Daddy has been a voice from a book, a picture on the wall, a face on a screen. Very little of her life and I'm not sure if any of her memory, has he been flesh and blood.

She is a very friendly child in general, so I'm not too worried that she is going to react poorly when he gets off the plane. I'm hopeful that she will walk straight into his arms. But it is more than whether she'll cry or remember him easily, he is also now coming home to be her parent.

Spending two weeks with her for R&R, he did take care of her, but being here full time is a different dynamic. He has to learn her moods, the tricks to get her diaper changed, all her signs and almost signs. She signs "bird" backwards, it looks like she's pinching her mouth and "flower" is just all kinds of wrong. He'll have to learn that before bed, we do "praying hands," say our prayers with her praying bunny. Tonight she even reminded me before pjs that it was time to pray. Funny because she doesn't sign prayers any other time we go into her room, but somehow she knew that we pray at bedtime. Funny how fast she picked that up. He'll have to learn all her expressions and noises.

And I'll have to be able to step back to let him get to know his daughter. I'm going to have some rough times the first few weeks. I am going back to work almost immediately and will be leaving her in daycare all day. My heart will be broken enough missing her all day and sharing her will be hard. Heck, sharing him will be hard.

Plus, we've done pretty good with our little routines. Lil Bit and I have found a rhythm that works for us. Adding Daddy back into the picture is going to change some things. Some things will be different, some things better. Honestly, I think it's normal to feel like I'm going to miss having her all to myself even just a little bit. But I won't miss having to do it all by myself every night. I might even be able to ask for a night off here and there to just sit and play with her.

It will be different, that is for sure. Chad and I have never both worked and had children. We're going to have to try to find a new rhythm as a family. It will have some great moments, like when he goes in to get her up in the morning, and she is so silly. I can't wait to see him react to her.

We'll have some tough moments, sharing chores, cooking, etc. Balancing each of our needs. In some ways, I am chomping at the bit to have a couple of hours of free time here and there, getting a haircut, a pedicure, run to the store, etc. I'm sure he is excited to get home to us, but he has a lot of hobbies that take him out of the house. He's going to want to leave us a few times too.

I really am not sure how my husband feels about coming home and facing a child he barely knows, but he's done it so many times over. I wonder if it gets easier or if it is just different as he returns home, older, wiser, more mature. I just can't imagine spending a day away from her. I've been busy in the last few days preparing the house for his return, even if it doesn't look it right this second, that I've left her playing with her brothers and I feel like I'm losing these last few precious days.

I'm sure he can't wait to make up for lost time and is a little apprehensive about getting to know this tiny person who blows him kisses and plays peekaboo via video chat. 

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Day 21: Opsec Again

Tonight we got a nasty email from our FRG (Family Readiness Group) that someone in our troop had violated Opsec, operational security. I have been trying to be very vague about anything, and my husband certainly hasn't told me anything. As hard as it is to face a deployment, facing the end of one and not being able to plan anything makes it more stressful.

All I know for sure is that things are winding down and that we're drawing closer and closer to it being over. I don't know any flight times or movement times, etc. I don't even know if his unit is planning on moving in the next few days. I am hopeful that he is getting ready to move soon and then we have to plan around a 5 day window or so, with a 72 hour notification, but I'm not allowed to post when I get the notification. I'm not sure when I'm allowed to post anything.

I do know that the email felt very pointed. Here is what it said, "Tonight I was informed about a possible Operational Security (OPSEC) breach.  This email is to reinterate to all of you the importance of not posting information.  The squadron FRG Senior advisor, has informed me that anyone caught violating OPSEC can be removed from IRIS notification and will NOT be notified of Welcome Home.
OPSEC is not a game, and it is critical in keeping our soldiers safe.  Their is an enemy and tragedy does occur!  Do not post information on social media sites such as Facebook, Myspace, Twitter, etc.  This information includes Welcome Home ceremony information, when flights are enroute, locations, etc.  IF YOU ARE CAUGHT POSTING THIS INFORMATION OR BREAKING OPSEC IN ANY WAY YOU WILL BE REPORTED!  Your soldier can get in serious trouble for your breach, AND YOU WILL BE REMOVED FROM IRIS!  Official channels can report this information, but spouses and other family member need to stay clear of this.
If you are not sure what is ok to post and not ok to post, PLEASE ASK.  We are here to answer your questions.  We all want our soldiers to arrive back at the Great Place SAFELY!  All of you can help do this by making sure not to break OPSEC. "

I certainly don't want Chad to get in trouble for anything I do, and I have been very careful not to say anything but vague answers about when he might be home. We know soon. We are hoping for sooner rather than later, but that is all we know. Everything is guesswork. I don't even know that I know anything I could share that would be considered a break in OPSEC. 

I am just hopeful that if it were me (somehow), that I would have been yelled at and told somehow, but my paranoia always feels like I'm being the one pointed out. I am trying to decide if I stay up and wait, hoping to find out from Chad, if he knows, what the violation was or just go to bed and wonder. 

He is being super cautious, and his family and I are trying to stay all code words and vague over all social media and even the phone. But it is just scary. I still wish we knew why all the extra security and focus this time. I'm not sure we will ever know if there was more of a threat or just more cautious behavior on the army side this time. 

I know that the soldier's safety is paramount and I want my soldier home safely, but making the return so secretive really makes things much more stressful at home. I can't tell people when they should visit or plan meals enough days ahead of time. Everything being very vague and last minute is hard when we want to have a Welcome Home celebration. 

After a year of being separated by thousands of miles, we just want to know when to expect our soldier. And so do the extended families and friends. I would hope that no one has actually compromised anyone's safety, but it is hard not to want to shout it from the rooftops when he is actually on his way home. It will be all I can do not to alert the media! Inside my head at least. It will be super hard not to be able to tell my best friend because she lives in Illinois and I would have to call her on the phone. 

Somehow these last few weeks are stretching like warm taffy into forever. I just want him HOME!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Day 22: Balance

I've struggled with my weight my whole adult life. I think my genetic make-up predisposes me to being heavy. I can eat the same things as my family or friends and gain weight while they stay rail thin. I've watched people around me gorge themselves on all sorts of garbage while I restrict myself to healthy choices, but I gain and gain.

After having the hand, foot, mouth disease and being so sick to my stomach that I couldn't really eat, I lost 12-14 lbs. And decided to use my last remaining weeks to diet so I could feel like I at least look better than I did when he left, if only marginally.

I went to an old "friend," Sparkpeople  and went back onto my diet plan that I started last August unsuccessfully. I've been using it on and off for a few years. It works if I do it. But it is a struggle sometimes to take the time to type in my food each meal and record each fitness activity.

The calorie tracker is really nice and relatively easy to use. Almost any food I've eaten is in there, I just have to choose portion size add it to the meal I'm eating. If I eat at a friend's, I guess based on size of whatever we ate and figure trying to keep track of my calories is better than not. Last weekend, I put in a portion of lasagna, brownies, cookies, etc. and guessed, but putting it down helped me gauge how far I needed to run the next morning!

I have found that when I know I'm going to type it into my food tracker for the day, I'm much more likely to exercise some self-control. I find it easier to walk away from the brownie with sprinkles when I know exactly how many calories I have left for the day. A 200 calorie brownie doesn't sound like much, but when my calorie range is 1200-1500 a day, that is half a meal.

I'm much more aware of how quickly calories add up when I'm counting them. Recently I find that I'm struggling with eating enough calories. According to my fitness goals, I'm supposed to eat a minimum of 1200 calories. But somehow in my head, I struggle to even reach that number most days. Eating too little can cause my body to go into starvation mode and I would end up gaining more weight and putting my metabolism into an even bigger tail spin.

I just feel so much pressure to lose some weight in the week or so I have left before my husband comes home. I have lost 17 lbs. in less than a month now, but it doesn't feel like enough when I still look in the mirror and see fat. I know 17 lbs. really is quite a bit for less than four weeks, and I'm not complaining, but when it is the tip of the iceberg, somehow it just doesn't feel like enough. And I'm struggling to lose as much as I can safely so I don't gain it all back the week he comes home.

I've spent the entire year doing just that. I diet really well and lose a few pounds, then I cheat for the weekend or holiday or vacation and then diet again, then cheat again. I've lost the same 10 lbs. over and over. Today was the lowest weight I've been since he left last August by 3 pounds. But I would like to lose another 30 to be at a weight I would feel more comfortable at and 50 to be where I was in college.

I'm hoping to get to a nice round 20 lbs. lost before he comes home, just because it sounds like so much more than 17. He won't care. If I had lost 60 lbs., he would have noticed, but twenty, he probably won't notice, especially since it isn't much lower than when he was home for R&R, at least not much lower than when he got here. R&R kind of tanked my diet and when he left, I was exactly back to where I'd been when he left. It kills me that two weeks of normal eating and drinking more often than usual, but not too extremely undoes months of work.

I'm determined not to sabotage myself this time. I want to eat and drink and not be a fuddy duddy, but I'm going to try to stay on my calories with food and limit alcohol. I'm going to have fun for a couple of days and then back on the diet I go, which unfortunately means no booze. I really miss a glass of wine in the evenings. But here I am 40 and 30-40 lbs. over weight and miserable about it all the time. I miss feeling good about myself. Heck, I'd settle for not feeling like a freak.

So, I'm snacking on a bag of Pop Smart popcorn to get close to my 1200 calories for the day. I know he won't care if I lose another 3 lbs. He will be so glad just to be home, but maybe I'm really doing this for myself for once, so I feel comfortable in clothes that aren't the size of circus tents and can enjoy outings with my friends without feeling so noticeably different than my size 0 friends.

I just need to be careful not to go too crazy the other direction and be so swept up with how I look I forget to be concerned about what stringent dieting could do to my long term health. It is like most things I've learned, balance. You have to find the balance. Too much one way or the other and everything falls apart. As a military wife, we don't have a lot of balance. We either have our husband home every night or even on leave for weeks at a time or he is gone for a year. We either have all our friends and family or are thousands of miles away. Being able to find happiness in this off kilter lifestyle is about balancing. I go crazy and am super wifey, luvy duvy girlie when he's home, then I can be super independent chica when he leaves. Balance - I just have to apply it to the rest of my life too. 

Monday, August 1, 2011

Day 23: The little things

He said he started to feel it, the tingle of joy that signals they are really getting ready to come home. The unit that is taking over for them is there and Chad's group is starting to sign over equipment to them. While he still has a few days of missions left, and you better believe I'm counting every one, he knows the end is actually near now.

Of course he just can't tell me when. It is really hard trying to plan for family coming in from all over without any warning, but I think once it gets closer we'll be able to get most people here, even if it is a rush, before the ceremony. I don't know if there had been a serious threat to the safety of our soldiers or if his current regiment is just what most of the army refers to as Hooah, but 3d ACR says Ieeyah to mean really gungho.

It is irritating, but I would rather be irritated and have my trooper home safely than to violate Opsec, but it will be really hard not to write it here, shout it on Facebook, etc. once we get the official 72 countdown. I'm starting to feel it too. Of course, I'm trying to get everything just perfect for him so he doesn't come home and feel confronted by a long "honey-do" list. But it feels like the more I clean and look around the house, the more things I see that need doing. I'm hoping the in-laws come a day or so early so Dad can mow and weedeat. Most of the grass is so dead it doesn't need mowed, but there are some places that really need a weedeater, of which I'm terrified.

I spent most of the afternoon cleaning the carpets. The boys room was the worst. The water had actual mud in it. I think we're going to have to have them start taking their shoes off before they walk through the house. It was bad. Lil Bit's room was the cleanest so far. Only two tanks before the water was just medium gray instead of black. Tomorrow morning, I'm going to try to do my room first thing so that when the furniture guys come, the carpet under the new bed is clean. I'm so excited. I get to sleep on my new bed tomorrow, with crisp new sheets and a brand new comforter. Then just a wee bit later Chad will get to come home and have a new mattress for his sore back. I think he'll sleep for days.

One of the things that has really made me feel fantastic is all the emails he's been sending have ended with how excited he is to be coming home to see me and how he can't wait to be together. Maybe I'm weird, but sometimes I forget that the tough guy act he puts on over there is just as much a front as mine is here. We put on the tough face so we can face what needs to be done, but underneath it, he misses me just as much as I miss him.

Remembering how much I'm loved by that man made my day. I know it is a matter of weeks or less before I get to hold him and that makes me happy, but today it was the little things, knowing he's getting excited, knowing he loves me and misses me and knowing that I've got the house moving in the right direction for his return. I can't wait for this to be one kick butt celebration!! 

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Day 24: The boys are back

Today was a very long day. I got up at 8 and hopped into the shower. By the time I was done showering, the baby was up. I grabbed her and a handful of Cheerios and turned on an episode of Sesame Street so I could dry my hair and get dressed before getting us both a proper breakfast.

We scarfed down a bowl of cereal each and started the very long trip to pick up my husband's sons who are visiting for the next couple of weeks. It is about a 2 1/2-3 hour drive on a normal traffic day to get to the meeting place, then we usually spend about an hour eating, transferring stuff, and using the restroom before heading back. We hit a really rough spot of traffic but made good time the rest of the trip and were still under three hours.

We managed to make it through another (second this week) trip through Wal-mart and home in just about an hour, which I thought was amazing with three kids who'd been locked up in a car all day. We then put away all the groceries and decided we were too tired to cook (I was too tired to cook). Middle Monkey wanted Chinese food, so rather than completely blow my diet by heading to a buffet, we went to Panda Express. I was really good and looked up what to order before I got there. Even with nibbling on Lil Bit's lunch a tad and snagging a bit of her cookie, I was under my max calories for the day. It felt good to make Middle Monkey happy. Eldest Monkey got shrimp, his favorite, and was happy too.

We came home and set up the new sprinklers. We're going to try to water every morning and night before Chad comes home. The water bill will be atrocious, but at least the grass might look a little less ghastly when he comes home. There are spots that might be beyond help, but we're gonna try. Then we took a walk to try to dry off a little from where the sprinklers got all of us. Lil Bit had climbed up on her swing set and was shrieking with joy every time she got doused. It was funny.

After our walk it was time to get into pj's. The boys are 12 and 13 and are growing. Once we got into their drawers, I just decided we might as well tackle another headache and sort through what fits and doesn't. They are only here for an odd week here and there so clothes get bought and worn randomly. Sometimes something lasts a few years because we bought it big and we can pass it from Elder to Middle Monkey before it needs to join the Goodwill pile.

We managed to go through three drawers worth of pants and shorts, whittle it down to now two drawers, and add a nice couple of stacks to the bag of things I have to donate. Everyone had a quick dessert, brushed teeth, said prayers and went to bed. I'm the last one awake and I'm about to head that direction myself.

Driving with the baby wasn't fun, but the way the boys' mother and I worked it out, made it easier. She napped for about half of my solo trip and the boys played with her the whole way home. She still got fussy and cried a few times, but not too terribly badly. The boys were well behaved and very helpful. We tackled three chores this evening after getting back to town and now can relax a little more tomorrow.

Having the boys here will mean having some help getting things finished before Chad arrives, but it is hard to know how hard and fast to push when we just aren't sure how much time we really have. We may have a week, we may have 3-5 days. We may have nearly two weeks or, heaven forbid, longer. They aren't telling them anything at all. We may actually get notice before he does. Although he will obviously know when they move from Iraq to Kuwait, which should give me a general time frame. Once he is in Kuwait, I'm gonna prepare for a 72 hour countdown and worst case scenario have a day to rest before the plane lands.

We're gonna try our best to have some fun, let the boys bond with their sister, and plan a special celebration for their dad. I may need a nap by the end of the week, but I won't be quite as lonely and I will definitely be busy. As much extra work as having two more kids is, I am so glad the boys are back in town. I missed them. It will be nice being a family again. 

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Day 25: Expectations

My husband and I took the first step today in preparing for our reunion. We communicated about our expectations. It sounds simple, but if you don't think to do it, often you both end up disappointed and angry.

I can speak about this confidently because his second deployment, his first with me, we had a few rough moments after he came home. As the deployment wound down, I had started to imagine the joyous reunion, make plans for us and so had he, but we each assumed it would go smoothly.

Without talking to each other about what we expected and planned, our plans conflicted. Our ideas about the reunion and especially the first few days were different. I didn't want to assert my desires over his after he spent a year in war, but it was hard not to let my feelings get hurt or be disappointed when he didn't envision our first few days together the way I had. He knew the year apart had been hard on me, and Chad didn't want to push his agenda, but had things that were important to him.

What we discovered last deployment was that all we needed to do was each talk openly about how we see the reunion and following days or even weeks going. He says what he wants without worrying about me. I say what I want without worrying about what he wants. Then we each can consider the plans and compromise and neither one of us has to give up all of what we want.

We do this usually a couple weeks before his return over email. The first rule is to be open minded when you read the email. Don't take every little word and analyze or twist it. These emails are kind of like the first draft of a story, open to revision. Part of the process is being willing to give in completely to your spouse. Both of us have to be willing to go along with each other's desires. If we start there emotionally, compromising becomes easier and we both get most of what we want.

By talking about what we expect or hope for, we can both envision "worst-case scenarios" in which the other person gets what they want completely and we lose out. But even just thinking about it, makes it more manageable. Then what really happens is usually better than that worst case scenario.

The goal here is to be together with the person you love and enjoy that time together. Both of us want that, what neither of us wants is to argue at all or have disagreements. Some disagreements are just part of being married, but this is one we have learned to head off at the pass by talking about it now instead of waiting to see how things shake out.

It is probably one of the easiest things we can do to make the reunion go more smoothly. Ask him if he wants a big return celebration or just a small get together with a few friends, invite the whole family, or just you and the kids. Find out how he envisions those moments he gets off the big white bus and runs across the field. Decide which things are really so important they are worth fighting for and what things don't really matter that much. I've found that the more we talk about it, the fewer things actually matter and the more we each get to just loving each other. 

Friday, July 29, 2011

Day 26: Nightmares

I dream every night, but I don't always remember my dreams. I tend to remember the really good or emotional or scary dreams. Like most people, I remember dreams from which I am awoken in the middle. My dreams tend to show me what emotions I'm suppressing or fears I'm avoiding.

Last week my dreams were all about relationships. I knew how much I am missing the close, romantic and intimate relationship with my husband, even though I am trying not to think about it too much. After so long without him, I started feeling very isolated. I have friends and talk to my mom and mother-in-law several times a week, but Chad and I have a closeness that nothing can replace.

I miss the feeling of being in his arms, kissing him, feeling his heart beat. To survive the deployment, I put all those feelings away in a little box. I feel like I have them pretty much under control, but after six months apart, they start surfacing in my sleep. Then he comes home for R&R and I get a little fix. But two weeks or so of rushing around and stressful contact, is almost just enough to make the cravings worse.

Based on my experiences, this is the part that gets a lot of the spouses in trouble. The emotional and/or physical cravings start and they are so strong that they start spending time with people of the opposite gender. The problem is even the most innocent of friendships can be polluted when your emotions are so fragile. I know when I start having these dreams, I am really vulnerable. I make a point not to spend time with anyone male, just because it is too easy to put yourself in a bad position to make a bad decision.

I've seen too many of my friends' marriages struggle with issues of infidelity, physical or emotional, to want to even take the risk. The dreams are always subtle about trying to get close to friends or trying to find my husband. But my dream last night was more obvious. I dreamed a crazy convoluted nightmare that my husband was returning home by ship, escorting the equipment and vehicles home from Iraq. They were attacked and in the confusion, Chad somehow ended up in freezing water with killer whales. The army called me to tell me he was lost at sea, but they hadn't recovered his body, so I refused to believe it. I knew somehow he would find a way home to me. After a day or two, I had to accept that he wasn't coming home because no one could survive in that cold water for longer than a few hours at best.

In the dream, once I'd accepted his death and started grieving, then he turned up alive. I think I'm just so afraid that something is going to happen to him as the days are ticking down so slowly until his return. He will have nearly a week after leaving Iraq before he actually lands in America, which means his time on missions should be winding down in the next couple of weeks. But it can't come soon enough for either of us.

He is just so tired. He is spending 18 hours a day in gear that weighs almost 100 lbs. in 130 degree heat on constant alert. He is just tired. I'm more emotionally tired. I spend a lot of time trying not to think about how much I worry or miss him. I spend a lot of time trying to appease a cranky baby without relief. I get a maximum of two hours a day to myself and then I have to triage what gets done. I know the dream was just a dream, in fact, I think I knew it was a dream at some point in the dream. But the queasy heart twisting fear is real and won't go away until I hold him, wake up next to him, and do it enough that I almost get used to it. Maybe then I'll get a good night's sleep.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Day 27: Almost Again

Last night and today, the news was all about Nasser Jason Abdo, an AWOL soldier from Fort Campbell, Kentucky. He had been raised to an Islamic father and Christian mother, but had claimed the Islamic faith personally more recently. He joined the military in 2009, and not too long after that, he filed for a discharge from the military as a conscientious objector. His request had been approved, and then he was found in possession of child pornography, so he went AWOL (that is absent without leave).

My first thought was that if he was such a good Muslim that he was released from his military service with a recommended honorable discharge, he probably shouldn't have ANY pornography as Islam prohibits lewdness, much less CHILD pornography. I worry about the vetting process if such obvious crap can get him out of his contractual service to his country.

I have no idea what he was thinking, but he seemed to be planning a terrorist act here at Fort Hood. He was staying downtown at a motel, where they found weapons and explosives. The police chief Dennis Baldwin who held the press conference this morning answered the question "How close was he to having a bomb?" by saying that if they hadn't acted today, he would have been here giving a very different briefing. Somehow the gravity of the situation reverberated in his words. I rewound the conference to watch from the beginning.

According to an article in the Austin American Statesman byJeremy Schwartz, he was planning on bombing a popular restaurant and then shoot the survivors. Just listening to the conference and reading the news articles brought back some of the emotions of the Nidal Hasan shooting from November of 2009. In fact, Abdo even bought his guns at the same shop, Guns Galore, which is apparently also frequented by Mexican drug cartel bad guys.

I don't know which restaurant was targeted, but tomorrow, I'm meeting a friend for breakfast and it is scary to think it could have been us. He probably would have chosen somewhere closer to the post, but if he had bombs and guns, it would have hurt a lot of people, military personnel, their families, and just innocent people.

He wanted to "get even" with the army so targeted Fort Hood because Hasan did. Families, friends, patriots would have been wounded and killed. I don't know how many of these types of attacks are thwarted every day, but I would guess many of the perpetrators are not U.S. Military. I'm not even sure how to feel about having another near attack near my home. It's scary. They caught him. He seemed to be acting alone. He was disturbed enough he triggered the gun shop's personnel's wariness.

But he was miles from my house, building a bomb or several, planning on killing people going out to eat in hopes of killing soldiers. I'm really glad the shop owner, police, and FBI coordinated to catch him and prevent the attack, but I'm sad that he got as far as he did, that he was plotting to hurt fellow Americans at all. He would have hurt a lot of innocent people.

It almost happened here again. We're still waiting for Hasan to face trial for the murder of 13 people and the wounding of 32 more. It is hard to believe how long it is taking for him to get to trial. In fact, I'm horrified to find that he is still drawing a paycheck from the military and all his medical treatment from his wounds incurred as a result of his attack is being provided by the military. He won't come to trial until 7 more months and will have all his needs provided for him by the army in the meantime.

I'm sure Abdo will receive the same treatment since his discharge was not processed due to the child pornography images on his computer. I really want to know how a "devout" Muslim joins the military during wartime and then spends all of his time in the service appealing to the military and the public to be discharged from the military service. Why did he join if he objected to the war and violence? It isn't like he converted later.

I don't know if today would have been the day, but it could have been. A violent attack that would have cost lives to Fort Hood, American soldiers almost happened here again. And I don't know how to feel about it. It was prevented, but it was almost and that is enough to scare me. 

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Day 28: Out of the closet

After being so bored yesterday, I decided to get up and get moving today. The baby woke up just before 8. I made her an egg and hopped in the shower. We were out the door and on the way to the vet's office around 9:30.

The dog got a Canine Influenza booster shot. They did it in the lobby, so we didn't have to wait too long, which was good because the dog howls like crazy at the vet. I don't know if she is scared, nervous or was protecting the baby. She just is so loud and crazy.

We brought the dog home and vacuumed out the car and then went out for a "quick" shopping trip. We ordered new furniture last week for the bedroom. We're upgrading to a king sized bed, so in addition to our new bed, dresser, nightstand and mattress, we need a new comforter and sheets. I've already spent so much money that I decided not to redecorate with new curtains, etc. and just to work within the color palate we have.

I also needed a few things to round out my wardrobe for back to school. We went into Kohl's and I found a few things, but no comforter. Then we walked down the shopping center, which was very hot in our 105 degree heat, and went into another clothing store. I needed a white cardigan because my classroom is so cold all the time. I found a white cardigan and a couple of really cute outfits, but they didn't carry household items.

We went to the linens store next door and did find a new comforter and two new gigantic pillows that are for decoration. I looked pretty interesting trying to get three very large bags back to my car with the baby. I thought I had a lot of stuff before I got home, but then realized, I had a full closet, with no room for the several new outfits I brought home.

I spent the rest of the afternoon taking things out of my closet. I tried everything on and created two piles, one for discard and one for storage. It wasn't too much fun, but I did find some clothes in my closet that I had forgotten about, did clear out some drawers too.  It was one of those jobs that I always say I'll do during the summer, but never seem to actually get around to doing. Well, I actually did it. I significantly cut back on my clothes, and I was too busy to be bored.

My husband says that I'm OCD because I organize all my clothes according to tops and bottoms and then by color. I think it is just nice to be organized. I don't organize them according to sleeve length or season, but I do try to group them according to color. It makes sense to me. That way I know where to look for what I want to wear.

He might call me OCD, but he'd be proud that I got rid of things that I won't wear ever again and cleaned out my closet. Maybe tomorrow I will work on my shoes? Bet you thought this entry was going to be about something else. 

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Day 29: Heat Boredom

You know how people get S.A.D. during the winter, that is Seasonal Affective Disorder. Basically the lack of sunshine affects their moods and triggers a depression. To some extent, I get that. I get so tired of going to work in the dark and coming home to the dark. We spend most of the winter closed up from the darkness.

Well, we have plenty of sunshine in Texas summertime, but it has been so hot that no one goes outside. The block where children play and swarm usually during the summer is a ghost town. Except for a few hours in the evening and before ten a.m., the block shows no life whatsoever.

After 30 days of over 100 degrees, I feel just as locked in my house as I do in the winter snows up north or in the darkness of the work week. I am not really a busy person. I like laying around and not doing much. I like brainless television and naps, but even I can only do that for so long before I am terminally bored.

Today, we watched Sesame Street, played puzzles, tickled and laughed, and napped and did it all again. I miss my husband for many reasons, but today I missed having someone else to talk to, to spend time with, a reason to get out of my pajamas and do something other than play with the baby and clean.

Crossing fingers, we are under three weeks before his return, possibly even less. And I'm starting to get really bored, but there isn't much I can do in this horrible heat. I took the baby for a jog yesterday and nearly had heat stroke by the time I got home 45 minutes later. I could barely complete 2.5 miles in the time I would normally be over 3 and working toward 4. I was sick to my stomach and getting dizzy. The baby was bright red under her shade and with plenty to drink. It just is too hot.

She is finally walking well enough to go to the park, but not until after dinner time is it cool enough to attempt. And with just her, sometimes by dinner time the last thing I want to do is go through all the effort to go out. Missing my husband is pretty much an every day thing now, but today it was all day.

I need someone else here to talk to, laugh with, take over when the baby has jumped or climbed on my last nerve. This week she's learned to climb and now can escape my little baby jail that had been keeping her safe enough to leave in the living room for a quick shower or whatever. Not so anymore, she has mastered climbing and getting out is less scary than the fact that she might fall. So now I feel more nerve racked and crabby than before since I can't even get a break for a few seconds before I'm peeling her off something else.

I'm tired and bored and lonely, and that is nothing compared to how horrible my husband has it. I'm really ready for this to be over!! UGH!! I suppose the good news is that the days are actually moving. We are getting closer and closer to the end even if it feels like it's moving at a turtle pace. I really only have four more days before the boys are here and they will definitely keep me busier and be company, not terribly relaxing company, but hopefully they will be gungho on project Daddy prep. and help get everything done around the house we can so that he truly can come home and relax.

Maybe I can too, before I head back to 187 days worth of teenagers who don't care what a sentence is. 

Monday, July 25, 2011

Day 30: Stop Loss

I haven't seen the movie. With my husband deploying numerous times, I didn't think my emotions could handle watching the movie. I don't think it is some blockbuster Oscar caliber film, but my emotions have been undone by cheesy Hallmark movies many times. Since I haven't seen the movie, I have no idea regarding its accuracy. 

The term stop loss is a military term that can extend a service members time in active duty or within a specific regiment/unit. When people enlist in the military, they are really signing over their entire lives for all intents and purposes. The military pretty much owns you, for a long time. The first commitment is usually 8 years. Four of those years are usually active duty, although the active duty component can be as brief as two or as much as six. 

Then the rest of that commitment is not active. Sometimes people serve that time in the reserves and sometimes just in an inactive status. It depends on the initial contract and the needs of the army. While the recruit believes that the amount of active duty time is a firm amount, the military can change it at any time. I've even known friends who've been asked to come back to military service ten years after they finished their contracts. Now, those were requests, but within certain guidelines of which I am not well versed, they can compel your return. 

Another way the military uses the term stop loss is to eliminate movement within the military. It keeps people in jobs, units, regiments, etc. The military uses this to manage personnel. My husband has been stop-lossed several times. 

My husband has been busting his butt to get to his next promotion. To get that promotion, he feels he needs to be a drill instructor. Today he was told that if he didn't have orders to PCS as of today, that he would be stop-lossed in his current regiment/squadron/troop. I have no idea how true this is or will be. The army is a pretty fluid thing until it isn't.

Nothing is a done deal until it is a done deal in writing. But that didn't make getting that news any easier. Yesterday he was told that he might come down on orders late this year and we might PCS (permanent change of station) within a few months of his return or within this year. 

While moving is scary, I'm kind of ready for the new adventure. I'm certainly not excited about staying here and spending the next year gearing up for him to leave again. His regiment is already preparing for their next deployment. We really don't have any control over what happens. All he can do is ask, push, file paperwork. 

And we wait. But hearing that he might be stop-lossed already, is frustrating and depressing. He's deployed four times. He says this was the worst experience he's ever had in the military. He won't tell me details for security reasons and not to anger anyone who might read this, but I know, he's had some rough experiences. When he says this was the worst, it must have been pretty rough. 

I'm not excited about his staying in this unit or regiment. But I'm really not excited about another deployment. Emotionally, it is just devastating to have to start thinking about his leaving again before he is even home. It taints every moment of his return, of the year we get together (minus the months of school, training, etc.) hanging over our heads. 

The military life is hard. They own you. You give up complete control of where you live, when you get to be home on a day to day or year to year basis. And even when you think you've got a smidge of control, they take it away. I'm a natural control freak. Ever since meeting my husband, I have struggled with the lack of control I have in my life. It is good for me to learn to deal with being more flexible, but it is really hard especially when it doesn't affect just me, but my husband whose pain is my pain, and my child/ren. 

I can't do anything but wait and pray. And hope we get a chance to avoid the Stop Loss.