Monday, March 20, 2017

Phase 7

Just kidding, phase 7 is not called waiting. It's called, "Hold on for dear life".

Colin on this ride is the perfect example. He jumped in, thinking it was like a little car ride and didn't strap in. When he put his tokens in, the space ship started to slowly tilt to the side and his little tushy started to slide out of the ride.  He quickly strapped in and I was trying to tell him to move the gears to make the ride tilt back up.  So, he moved the gears and slowly started tilting to the other side.  Again, his tushy slides all the way over and he's about to fall out.  His eyes are big and with a worried look, but he's trying to smile because it's *supposed to be fun*.

That's how this phase feels.  Like a ride that's *supposed to be fun*, but you are slowly falling out.  You're trying to keep a smile on your phase but you are holding on for dear life, thinking all the while, "Don't fall out!!!".  Everyone around you is shouting, "Isn't this exciting?!" and you paste that smile on and fake a "Yea", but you are really thinking, "NO!  Isn't this ride over?!"

It's hard to put into words.  I was ready for Ben to be home 5 months ago...6+ months is just too long for a family to be apart. And as we can see the finish line, we still have to keep running; the race isn't over until you get across that line and those last few miles are when your body hurts the most.  I would love to say that we've thrived during this race, but we are all starting to unravel as the race finishes.

It's hard to know how to get through the last few hard miles.  I read a great article over the topic and the writer encouraged readers to take this time to rest up and really take care of yourself so you're not burned out when your service member comes home.  I needed the reminder to erase some things off my to-do list and now is not the time to get major projects done.  On the flip side of that, it's sometimes better to stay busy; the days go by quicker and my mind is more occupied.  I guess we'll just take it a day at a time.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

What got me through

"Wow.  It seems like you're actually doing pretty good."
Words from our pastor, while eating dinner together.

There have been moments where I've wanted to meltdown, but for the most part, I have felt pretty good over this deployment.  What made this one different?

1.  Being able to talk to Ben.  It wasn't a lot, but just having some sort of contact with him every day made a HUGE difference in my world.

2.  Ben continued to handle our finances and bills.  It was just one small thing that was off my plate.  Thank you technology!  He even did our taxes!  Both deployments, our internet bill has suddenly stopped coming out automatically.  Last time it was a huge headache for me to try and fix it (since he was first on the account, they wouldn't talk to me), but this time he fixed in 2 seconds and all was fine.

3.  I continued to get up early in the morning before the kids.  This is tried and true in my life; my days go much better when I get up before the kids and have coffee and have some quiet time.  It was still true even when I was tired from flying solo...I just drank a little more coffee :)

4.  I took a little more time for myself.  I would literally run circles around our block, which I'm sure made the neighbors wonder about me, but it gave me a few quiet moments to myself.  I also signed up the kids for "parent's night out" at the Y and it gave me an evening to myself at least once a month.  I made an effort to get haircuts and a few pedicures and bought some new clothes; just little things to keep taking care of myself.

5.  The kids are older.  They are able to help with dishes and cleaning up the house (not always willingly, but they are able).  They can all shower and dress themselves.  Most of all, Alison is now able to help watch the boys while I'm working on something.

6.  I planned events throughout.  We had a "Falloween" and Valentine's Day party.  We went on day trips to San Diego twice and Phoenix once.  These little things gave us a project to work on and something we could anticipate and plan for that was closer than daddy coming home.

7. Maya.  Yes, having a dog helped me this time.  I have slept better and felt safer and enjoyed taking her for walks.  Moral of the story; get a dog.

8. Preparing meals ahead of time.  Weeks went much smoother when I would plan meals and prep as much as I could for the week on Saturdays.  Especially during our school weeks, it made our evening so much more enjoyable with most of dinner was already ready, I just needed to add sides.

9. Family coming to help. The timing of family visiting worked out perfectly.  Every time something broke, someone was here to help me fix it.  When I was just about to burn out on running things, they were here to swoop in.

10.  Friends.  Laurel would often invite us over for dinner or take the kids for an afternoon.  I think what made it awesome is, it was a blessing to her too because all our kids play so well together.  I didn't feel guilty or like I was a burden or she was just doing it to be nice.  She was also willing to take several crazy trips with me.

Meredith would often text me and tell me to bring the kids over and insisted on me taking each kid individually on dates, when they were really struggling with daddy being gone.  She brought Alison a calming CD of scripture music when she knew she was struggling to fall asleep (our kids handle stress by not sleeping).  She also came over for coffee every Thursday morning.  It was one hour a week I knew I could have an adult to talk to and it made a big difference in my world.

Julie and Andrea called every week and then flew all the way across the country at the point of the deployment when they knew there would be lull.

Jamie held my hand through lice.  I'm not sure I would have survived without her guidance and encouragement.

I think keeping busy and blogging will get me through the next month...we'll see if it works :)

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Phases of Deployment

When I look for articles about deployment, all of them are written for the service member.  Most talk about the different phases and emotions they may feel before, during and after a deployment.  I have yet to find something from the wife's perspective.  So here's mine.

I mostly felt a lot of doubt.  "How in the world am I going to do this?" ran through my head a lot.  I tried really hard to put zero expectations on myself and tried to communicate that to everyone around me.  For example, we let the pastor of our church know that I may not be there every Sunday and that was okay.  They didn't need to check up on me or worry that we're sick; just know that it's difficult to get 3 kids to church every Sunday and for this season, I'm not going to expect myself to be super mom.  I also committed to just doing reading, writing and math for school until I felt able to tackle more subjects and assured myself that the kids would be fine for a few months if we just read everyday...a sane momma is a better gift than struggling through a million subjects.

Phase1: "Gather all the things"
I went into overdrive gathering anything and everything that I might need to make this easier.  I stocked up on snacks and easy food; our pantry was the fullest it's ever been, so much so that the kids were convinced our entire extended family was coming to visit.  I can't even remember all the things I bought, but if I thought it might help life, I bought it.  This phase backfired on me because really, it made life harder.  My energy was drained by making many large shopping trips and in reality, life wasn't any easier.  The kids had snacks, but I would still be short on ingredients for dinner.  This phase also included using all paper products, which also sounds easier, but really means an overflowing trash bin...and if you miss trash day, it's one stinky mess.

Phase 2: "A love/hate relationship with Facetime"
 I am beyond thankful for the ability to talk with Ben every day.  It really helped me mentally, just knowing that I could contact him if I needed anything.  On the flip side of it, every time his face pops up on my phone, the kids go into crazy mode.  They want to show him every creation they've built and have a million random things to pop in and say and heaven forbid they're hungry while you're talking.  Sigh.  AND our morning is his evening.  Our morning of getting started in school or cooking breakfast or trying to get a workout in (I swear he hasn't seen me in not pj's or workout clothes in 6 months) and his evening after a long day of counseling lots of marines with real problems and he's falling asleep.  All that to say, this phase was me struggling with our communication.  I would get so frustrated and say, "Just don't call.  This is too frustrating!"  But then he would sweetly say that he just needed to see our faces and loved seeing the craziness of our little family and we would pick right back up with the communicating but not really communicating life. 

Phase 3: "Holidays and Lice"
 Our house was full of family for the holidays and it helped tremendously.  My in-laws and parents were wonderful at cooking and playing with the kids and helping me with things around the house.  Things felt different enough that it took my mind off of Ben not being here and I also felt very supported.  Then lice hit our house and my mind was definitely distracted.  I didn't have time to think about deployment!  All my thoughts were consumed with little bugs crawling everywhere and now that you're reading this, I bet your head is starting to itch :) 

Phase 4: "This sucks"
Halfway through.  It sucks.  Most people will say that halfway through was exciting for them and  a relief.  Not for me.  All I could think was "WE STILL HAVE 3+ MORE MONTHS!!!"  January was the longest, hardest month for me.  I seriously did not think it was ever going to end.  Lice must have boosted my confidence to conquer all things and I doubled our school work.  I'm glad that I did educationally and it did keep me busy, but I was burnt out.

Phase 5: "Scared to look up"
 I realized about this time that I had been living with my eyes focused solely on the next task before me.  In a running analogy, I had my head pointed down, looking at the sidewalk, counting the lines as I passed them.  Trying to squint ahead to see the finish line was too overwhelming and just made me want to take a seat on the curb.  I was functioning pretty good running like this, but then others around me started to talk about the finish line and I realized it was almost time to look up.  Truthfully, that scared me.  In fact, typing it makes me tear up.  Sounds so weird, right?  Seeing the finish line should be so exciting.  And it is.  But it also means that I'll have to look up, turn around and acknowledge all those miles I've run by myself.  There's no more powering through and I'll have to stop and mourn all those hard things I endured.  It's natural and healthy and it will be okay...I just don't want to do it.

Phase 6: "It's like your wedding, a holiday and coming home from summer camp all in one."
 True statement from the "reintegration" meeting I went to.  Planning to be reunited with your spouse who will be stinky and has lived alone for 6 months in a combat's definitely a unique situation. The funniest part of this meeting was the very first thing they said was, "Chaplain Shear will be here to help you with any thing you may need."  Clearly they had no idea that Mrs. Chaplain Shear was sitting right in front of them.  They spoke a lot of "problems" that could arise after a deployment and said over and over how the chaplain was there to help.  It took a lot of self control not to raise my hand and ask, "BUT WHAT ABOUT THE CHAPLAIN?!  Who's helping him?  Who does his family call if there's a problem?"  Anyway, this phase is trying to plan.  We're planning some meals and what to do if he comes home in the middle of the night and what that first week back looks like and even a little party with our church family.  I'm working on homecoming outfits and trying to slowly restock on Ben's favorite foods.  Of course being a girl, I'm also planning haircuts and a nail appointment and better get out in that sun a little (don't want to be too pasty in that dress).  This phase also includes "hurry up and get it done!".  I want to get a ton of school done before we go back into light mode when Ben gets home and I need to finish that book I said I would read during deployment.

Phase 7: "Waiting and waiting and waiting"
This is yet to come.  I'll keep you posted.