Sunday, January 19, 2014

Rose Colored Glasses

Welcome to "Military Monday!" Credits go to my friend Stephanie, a fellow military wife for this scathingly brilliant idea... 

I'd like to think that my identity goes beyond my military family lifestyle. But, who am I fooling? It's pretty much a game changer, in how I view the world and the circumstances in it. If, "Holding down the homefront," is on your list of skills on your resume', then you can probably relate to this blog post. 

During the refinement process of becoming a seasoned Marine wife, I have unknowingly had a paradigm shift in how I look at life as a whole. A paradigm shift, as you may know, is an often gradual transformation in the way you think, or view the world in which you live. 

Before becoming a military wife, I saw life through my pre-military wife lenses. (Naturally.)Now that I have been, "Married to the military," for nearly 10 years, I have slowly but surely changed the way in which I look at life. 

Here are just a handful, or ten, of the things that I now think differently about, that you just might relate to:

1. You no longer watch a football game mindlessly, watching teams that you have never thought much about. You often see who's playing and immediately think of the Super Fan Family, from 3 duty stations ago, that we were privileged to cross paths with. Nebraska fans, check. Green Bay Packers fans, check. Saints fans, check, check. You pretty much know a family, fairly well even, that will be watching that game. Therefore, you kind of have an idea how their day may be going, according to the score board.

The amazing thing is, you are pretty sure that if you had an emergency, and needed help, your crazy football watching military friends would fly cross country to be with you in your time of need. Even if you hadn't seen each other in years. And you would do the same for them in a heartbeat. If you have childcare. ;)

2. If you happen to be in a situation in which you need to write a check to a church, to a school, to an anything "local," your brain freezes for a minute. You have to stop and think, a) What city do I now live in? b) What is the name of this establishment again, that I attend every Sunday? Grace? Nope. LCC? Nope. ABC? Nope.  Oh yes... it's: fill in the blank. Pause, pause, pause. And then you're back in real time. 

3. Zip codes. Same dilemma. When trying to pay a bill over the phone, a kind lady will ask you, "Ok, ma'm, I have your address, except the zip code. Zip code please?" Crickets, crickets, crickets (while racking your foggy, and possibly jet-lagged brain.) Then you squeal in delight, as if you were the next contestant on, The Price is Right.  You then proudly spout off your new and improved zip code, perfectly. You happen to have a lot of "saved" zip code drawers in your brain. This one just happened to be a new drawer that was still a little sticky and needed to be broken in. 

4. If you ever wished that you could go back in time, where, "Everybody knows your name. And they're always glad you came," get married to a member of the U.S. military. And then move onto military base housing. You probably know all the names of the kids on your block, as well as their allergies, and their favorite color of popsicle. 

Every few months you have bittersweet emotions, hearing the roaring sound of an 18- wheeler, blocking your car from exiting your driveway. You know that sound means an "old" neighbor (whom you have known for a whopping 5 months) is saying adios, and yet another nomadic family is putting their curtains up again, who will eventually become your closest friends. You just don't know that part yet. 

5. When you meet another military spouse, you can just look at her, and "get it." You don't know her story, or how many deployments she's endured and conquered, but you can make eye contact, and see a window to her soul of the joys, the hardships, and the friendships that she has experienced. Once you meet that lady and connect on a deeper level, especially a sister in Christ, you never, ever forget her face and her unbreakable spirit. You may have only been in the same duty station for a few months together, but that bond cannot be broken. 

6. Speaking of friendships, whenever you go to a "coffee" and meet ladies whose husbands just checked in, you will often ask them,  1) Where they are coming from, 2) Who your mutual friends are. And, 9 times out of 10, (no, I can't back that up), you have mutual friends. And bam, an instant connection has been established. And then you hurriedly "add" your new friend, and confirm that you indeed have a "mutual friend," on Facebook. What else would you do?! ;) 

7. Whenever you are in a less than ideal situation, you rarely, as a military wife, let yourself have an all out pity party. Sure, you get more than a few tears, and get pretty dang frustrated at the hardships of being a military spouse. 

However, there is one thing that usually holds you back from that all out tantrum on the floor. And that is... your fellow military wife friend. Sounds crazy, but those who are in the boat know it's true! You often think, "What in the world? I can't believe my love is gone for our anniversary again! This is beyond depressing. I am so ready for him to be done with this military lifestyle!!!" Then, you stop, and you think that it's bad, but it could be worse. You have something to be thankful for, that your friend down the road may not have right now. 

So, he's gone for your anniversary. But he's just TDY a few states away, and he'll be back next month. Your friend just had her second baby with her husband deployed half way around the world, while working a full time job. And one of her kids has special needs. You say to yourself, "Yeah, maybe I can just suck it up a little, because if she can do that, I can surely do this." You say this not in spite of her strength, but because her strength has inspired you to dig deeper than you ever knew was possible. 

8. When your first child was born, your family was most likely a "military family" for a few years already. And so, naturally, your kids have never known anything outside of the military lifestyle. You know that kids have the capability of being resilient. But,one would think that most parents would not want to put their kids in heartachingly difficult situations. (Not to say that civilian families don't go through such trials, for they surely do!) 

You have observed that military kids have the bravery of fearless lions, and the tenderness of a newborn lamb. You hate the phrase, "military brat." It conjures up in your mind, a picture of a kid with a smirk on his face, who is spoiled and gets whatever he asks for. And, as military parents, you know that it's the farthest thing from the truth. 

Just yesterday I witnessed the sweetest and saddest moment between military kids on our block. Four sweet boys on my porch, all around age 7, were playing Legos and laughing together. Not a Lego game on a tablet, but tangible Legos. They shared Goldfish and water, as they played and pretended to be heroes in Legoland. The dad of one of the boys drove up to our house and motioned for his son to come along. Another mom and I encouraged the boys to say good-bye. This wasn't just a, "Good-bye, I'll see ya tomorrow." This was the long good-bye. Their keys have been handed in to housing, and they are hitting the road for their next duty station. I waited to see what reaction these boys would have. They didn't scream and cry that their friend was leaving or say how unfair life is. (Or at least not today.) They looked at each other, and each boy hugged the one who had to go, and they said good-bye, and, "Thanks for playing with me." Not a tear was shed, but they knew what it meant to say their farewells, for they have done it before, and they will do it again. 

I was astounded to see the strength and composure from 7 year old kids, who had genuine love and respect for each other. Maybe they would cross paths again, but maybe they wouldn't. But that was ok for them, because they have been raised from day #1 to be the brave, yet tender warriors that they are being transformed into daily, as military "brats."  

Even for an adult, it is difficult to really wrap your brain around the permanence of some moves. When it comes to your own children, it breaks you heart to know that they have to go through these painful yet stoic good-byes, just as you have done. But you also know that your child gains strength and an appreciation for old friends, with each family they encounter in our ever changing lives.

9. Military friends, are the family that not only you choose, but the family that God chooses for you. It's easy to think that your life is so half hazard and that the military is just tossing you around here and there, without a thought or a care. You know that there is a plan, but it often doesn't seem like it in the present. Not until you look back at the road that you have taken, do you see the beauty amidst the ashes. 

There are assignments where you flourish with a great community, scenic views, and help with childcare. Then, you go to other locations where you are isolated, you never even get outside the house enough to explore, and you feel like you are raising your kids alone. During the first part of the journey it is easy to see God's design for your family. Not until you step away from the challenging times, do you see why God led you through the desert wasteland during the next phase of life as a military spouse. You learned in the valley the importance of getting involved in a group of like minded women in order to grow and even survive. You learned that you have to step outside of your comfort zone to explore the opportunities in your area, even if you are only there a few months. And, through the times of feeling abandoned with kids to raise, you cherish the friends that step up, and become the family that you need, when you can't take another moment with a tiny tot screaming your name. God has a plan, through each leg of the journey, and He will get you through each path, even though it's not always lovely! 

10. Every time you leave a duty station after having lived there for some time, you leave a little part of your heart there. Again, sounds silly to say, but true. You can think back to one city, and hear the laughter of the locals, and how they loved catching as many beaded necklaces as they could at the much anticipated Mardi Gras parade. Or, the apartment where you felt your baby kick for the first time, and there was nothing more magical that you had ever experienced. Part of your life was lived there, babies brought into the world, friendships were formed, and every day messes were cleaned up from the floor. And that lat-long always sticks with you. 

That's my random list of paradigm shifting phenomenons, that allows me to see through my own rose colored military wife glasses. I'm sure you could add ten more that I have never thought of, but can relate to as well. That's the unique thing about military life. No one story of life is the same, but we all have a common thread that is unbreakable!

Share the way you think differently as a military wife in the comments, and I'm sure that one, or many of us, can relate. Love you sisters and I thank God for you DAILY!!! 

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Love Bank

Ok, ladies, I'm going to keep this short and sweet. Well, I will try. I am known to be a little (or a lot) long winded while blogging! A lot of stifled communication over the last 34 years, I suppose! ;)

This is a blog post, that you can <hopefully> share with your husband, if you so happen to jive with any or all of my suggestions. And my husband has approved this message so this is not a passive aggressive way to give him a message. (However, that may be a good idea...nah). 


Glad you could join us this fine day. I see that your wife has handed over her phone to you, amidst the chaos of life. If you happen to be driving during this blind handoff, please pull over immediately. 

Thank you. 

Now that we are all safe and accounted for, I just wanted to share with you what your wife may be thinking, but she has never really verbalized to you. Because we expect you to just know things without being informed. I know, women, right?  

5 things you wish you would have known, yesterday: 

1. As moms, we often have little to show, at least physically, for the blood, sweat, and tears shed during  our days, especially if we stay at home with our kids. When you come home from work, and after you take a few minutes to decompress, please find at least one thing, and genuinely praise her for accomplishing that task. It may be that your wife gave your son an at home bowl cut, and she managed to not chop the tops of your son's ears off in the process. No, you weren't there, but it wasn't a pretty sight, or sound. And bribery may or may not have been involved in getting said child to sit still. So, what do you say? Something to the effects of, "I'm sure it was a tough job, but I really appreciate that you saved us $12. I am so thankful for you!" Ha ha ha! Oh wait, I'm serious. If it's not genuine, it doesn't count. :) 

2. Surprises are always nice. I know, I know, that costs $$. Well, not always... or not always a lot! Just walking in the door with your wife's favorite magazine, that she feels too guilty to buy for herself at the grocery store, would totally make her day. Or pick a wild flower in the grass and give it to her with a short love note! Ie, "You are pretty. I love you."

3. Be thoughtful. As a mother of a newborn, I had one need and one need only. Water. And more water.  Well, some food thrown in my direction every now and again, but my thirst could not be quenched. Yes, I could have gotten a glass of water for myself, with a baby on my hip, but it spoke volumes when water was offered to me. What does the Bible say about giving a cup of cold water?? See, it's true. (Matthew 10:42) Most moms have their "thing" they need, you just have to listen to know what that is. And follow through. 

4. Sometimes we need a little shove out the door. Let me explain. Household duties, childrearing, and the like, are a constant need and a "job" that is never truly completed. Even though we desperately would like to get out of the house, to gain our own sanity, and have even a few minutes of child-free time to ourselves, we often will not ask for it. When it gets to a breaking point, we will, but let's try to get some relief before it gets that bad! A stir crazy wife, is not a happy wife. An unhappy wife, makes an unhappy husband. This is a no brainer, right?! 

5. You most likely help with the bath time routine, and much more, but your wife probably has one ongoing duty that she can't stand. It may be folding laundry, dusting, changing diapers, or pick your poison. She most likely does this chore with minimal complaining. On a good day, of course. But, it would serve you well, to do that one thing, without being asked every so often. She would be floored, and ... you can thank me later. 

I would go on, but I'm pretty sure you are done reading right about... NOW. That is all. Go and do likewise! Deposits into the love bank are always a wise investment. 

P.S.- You are doing a good job. We, as the body of Christ, can always make strong marriages even stronger.