Monday, May 30, 2011

I Remember

As I was driving home from an errand on Friday I got a glimpse of the craaa-zy Memorial Day tourist traffic coming into Virginia Beach.  It lifted my spirits a bit knowing that summer is unofficially here and that 'tis the season of beach trips, lemonade, flip flops, and BBQs.  My mind continued to wander to the reason for 7 miles of gridlock... I wondered, were all of the families and college kids who were flocking to the beach giving enough thought to the meaning of Memorial Day?  Were they giving as much thought to the men and women who have given their life for our country as they did for what sides and desserts they needed to make for their cook out?

As a military spouse, it is unavoidable to worry about the knock on the door.  I remember during my husband's first deployment that I would have panic attacks in the shower.  I can't really say why it was then - maybe it was because crying in the shower is less messy and more well concealed.  It was his first time really landing and taking off on the aircraft carrier day in and day out and I was terrified.  He also flew enough combat missions to earn three air medals.  Apparently (according to others) that is a lot for one cruise.  More than some people get in 20 year careers.  I hadn't gotten (earned?) that tougher, thicker, more disconnected skin that I have today.  Back then I was just so so so afraid.  I am still afraid, but it is a distant fear, not one breathing down my neck all day when he is gone. Our air wing was lucky on that first cruise - no fatal mishaps.  Everyone who left, came home.

I vividly remember my first funeral as a military spouse.  We have a small, tight knit community.  It was a routine training flight off of the USS Truman and there was a mishap.  LT Cameron Hall, LT Ryan Betton, and LTJG Jerry Smith were killed.   I remember being so incredibly sad for the loss of those men, for their families, and for the community.  I remember being so impressed with Ryan's wife, Andrea, who mere days after his death stood in front of 1,500 people and gave a moving eulogy about her husband.  I remember wondering if I could be as strong as her if I were standing in her shoes. 

Thankful doesn't begin to describe how I feel for our military - both past and present.  All four of my grandparents served in the armed forces during World War II (my maternal grandmother served in the Royal English Navy).  My husband made the decision to join the military when he was very young.  We are high school sweethearts and even at 16 years old he knew he wanted to go to the Naval Academy, earn his commission, and serve his country.  Today, when I am having  a hard time with our lifestyle and ask "why us", "why you", etc. his answer is always simple.  Because I love you, I love my family, and I love my country.  Followed closely with "why not me"?  He has something to fight for.  He loves us very much and it keeps him focused when he is away and focused on why he is doing the hard job he does.  I feel very lucky that smart, intelligent, and fiercely loyal men like my husband are in the military.  It helps me sleep a little sounder at night.

So here's to our armed forces and the men who serve our country today and in the past.  To those who have lost a loved one or friend, my heart goes out to you this Memorial Day.  Know that there are many of us who have taken some time today to reflect on those brave souls who gave the ultimate sacrifice. 

I am thinking of my sweet husband, who is missing so much right now at home so that he can be "over there" standing the watch.

John and Kate (at 10 months)

John and Connor (4 months)


Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty. -John F. Kennedy
Friday, May 27, 2011

Mission Impossible

One of the most important things I can do for J while he is away is take lots of pictures.  One of the hardest thing to accomplish with 2 under 2 is a good picture.  Connor is 6 months, 2 weeks, and 2 days old (not that I'm counting...) and I have not one single good picture where both kids are looking at the camera and smiling.  I have tried almost every day.  If they both seem happy and are playing I will tip toe away, caaaaaaaaarefully and slooooooooowly get the camera, tip toe back in, and try to do something goofy and embarrassing.  They go from happy children to stoic too-cool-for-school kids in .2 seconds flat.  I have a feeling that the face they give me when they see the camera is the same face I'll get when I tell them their curfew at 16.  When they are old enough to look at pictures I think they will wonder if their were raised in different parts of the house with no contact or socialization until... well... who knows when.

Yesterday had one of those "awww - how cute, look how well they are playing together" moments.  They were both alert, sitting up smiling.  I excitedly grabbed my camera and.........

  

Seriously I have never seen my daughter throw herself back and my son jack-knife his body so fast.

Ugh.

Well, at least Kate's body language is pretty much mirroring my own exasperation on this topic. 
Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Bump

Yesterday my heart skipped a beat and then the tears started flowing.  Connor, my wiggly, physical, *ready to crawl any second* little 6 month old got excited about a toy and lunged for it... right.off.the.bed.  Onto our hardwood floors.  Square on the forehead.  While I was 3 feet away.

He screamed, I cried.  He cried, I cried more.  My daughter was looking at us with a concerned face and finally asked if "mommy sad".  Yes, mommy was very very sad.  OH THE GUILT!  I have learned a little about Catholic guilt over the past few years, but mommy guilt takes the cake!

And guess what?  I have a new layer of guilt.  The deployed husband.  You think I am joking but I'm not.

Once Connor was soothed (I was still crying, but he was totally fine), I had called the pediatrician to make sure I didn't ruin him for life, they were in bed, and I had chugged a glass of red wine, I wondered...  Do I tell J?  I like to think I tell him everything.  And on the day where our child swan dives off the bed head first, you would think a father deserves to know, right?  But it definitely wasn't the first thing I did.  And I didn't whip camera out and take a picture of the goose egg above his eyebrow, either. 

I just knew what would happen.  First, he would worry.  Worry about things he can't see or touch or feel or help with.  And knowing that Connor was totally okay, I didn't want to put that worry on him.  But then on the selfish side of things, I knew what he would say.  He would say "hun, you can't leave him on the bed anymore".  And I would think "duh".  And then I would feel badly all over again. 

Maybe I'm wrong.  Maybe telling him first (well, after the pediatrician and the wine) was the right thing to do.  Maybe I need to work on that.  It might just be the thing to help him feel more involved. Or maybe not telling is a way to protect him from stress he doesn't need when he is already so busy and taxed with his job.

So tell me, do you tell your husbands everything bad that happens when they are deployed?  Or do you try to keep things light?  Or is it a combo?  This guilty mama wants to know!
Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Hearts Wide Open

The military lifestyle can be a whirlwind. We move a lot. My husband has to shift gears a lot. I have to change jobs more than I would like. My kids will eventually have to change schools and homes. It is a lot of change. So some days when I am not feeling the greatest about things I wonder "why". Why do people (or more specifically, *we*) choose this lifestyle? What about it keeps us going? What is recharging our batteries day after day, month after month? Today I was reminded of one answer. PEOPLE (and no, not the magazine, though I am a sucker for celeb gossip, too).

When someone asks me my favorite thing about the military I usually say "my friends". I have noticed a lot of articles written that expose what the writer perceives as a toxic community of catty women. Gossip and back stabbing; with descriptions of weak, dependant, and ambitiousless young girls who follow their husbands around with a tail between their legs. Women in waiting. Waiting for the next thing because, to these writers, military wives have nothing going on that is really for THEM. Waiting for deployment to end. Waiting to PCS. "Hurry up and wait" ad nauseum. Well, quite frankly, I couldn't disagree more.

Yesterday I invited a friend over who I hadn't seen in probably 4 or 5 years. Her husband is currently on a 12 month deployment. We met back in 2003 when our husbands started the final stage of flight school together. Neither of us had kids, we were both newlyweds, and we were both starting this crazy journey together. When our husbands got their wings they were sent to different squadrons and we parted ways. Seeing her today brought back some amazing memories, but it also strengthened my belief in the military spouse bond. We haven't spoken in years, but I was so overjoyed to see her face.

While our daughters played we chatted about deployments. Instead of saying "wow, I don't know how you do it" she simply said "you can do it". Instead of saying "wow, 7 months is such a long time" she said, "time apart is hard, but the last 5 months that my husband has been away has flown by". Without knowing it, and in about 30 seconds of conversation, she made me feel 20 pounds lighter.

Obviously my friends from home mean NO harm when they say things like "I can't believe how you can do xyz" (deployments, moves, take care of my kids "alone", be married to someone with a dangerous job). They are complimenting me most of the time. And most of the time I can take those comments for what they are worth at face value and move forward. But it can be hard to feel like everyone around you is looking at you with 60% pity and 40% admiration. Even my own mom, who is truly one of my best friends and someone that I love more than I can put into words, says things like "yikes, I couldn't do what you do everyday" (which isn't true). Yesterday with my old friend, there was no pity. Just pure understanding and support.

So in the sea of negativity, I wanted to describe some of the wonderful things about military wives.

* Our hearts are wide open. Every time I have PCSed somewhere I have made a handful of GOOD friends. Friends who I will keep in touch with for the rest of my life. Being thrust into a new area without anyone familiar is hard - but because of that, we open ourselves up more to new people. I am so thankful for that. Just ask my friend M, who after only knowing me for a few months found herself at the hospital, holding my hand, and staring hopefully at an ultrasound screen because I was having a scare during my pregnancy and my husband was out of the country. I remember her busting into that u/s room, holding my hand, kissing my forehead and telling me it was going to be okay. Priceless.

* We take care of each other. After my son was born in November I didn't cook for over 6 weeks! Every other night for 6 WEEKS I had a homemade meal on my doorstep. Usually with dessert. And most of the time with a sweet note and a hug. Sometimes I had never even met the woman who took a few hours out of her busy schedule to cook for my family. I also have found myself cooking for strangers who need a break. I don't need to be your BFF to cook you a lasagna, if you need me - I'll do it.

* We are independent. I often say that I am a stronger person when J is gone. It isn't meant to be an insult to him, more just self observation. When he is home, if something breaks I wait for him to get home from work and ask him to fix it. When he's gone - I fix it. Right then. I make decisions with more assertiveness and am less wishy washy. I know I am *it*, so if something needs to be done, it gets done.

* We are innovative. The stereotype that military wives aren't educated or professionals is completely untrue. I personally have a master's degree and very much enjoy my career. But unlike many professionals who do law school, med school, or any other professional program and secure a job that they can grow with, we have to change our approach at each new location. Some of the creative and brilliant ways my friends have made their careers work in the military are absolutely stunning.

* We know how to party. My little segment of the military (Naval Aviation) knows how to celebrate. We make sure to celebrate milestones during deployment with BBQs, monthly get togethers, half-way parties, and homecoming celebrations. I have learned over the years how to whip up a party for 15 friends in less than a day. We schedule these parties at intervals during deployments so that we always always have something to look forward to.

As you can see from this long winded post, I feel very lucky to be a part of such an amazing group of women. I feel lucky to have the friends I have. I feel lucky and blessed to get have the opportunity to be part of the military community.

It is so easy to perseverate on the drama. To point out the catty (read: unhappy) people who can make some events turn sour. Do they exist? Absolutely. Do they exist in every facet of society? Uh, duh. It isn't the military and it isn't military wives. It is just *people*. So if you are a new military spouse and are facing down a new PCS or a deployment (or are just stuck in a rut where you are) my advice would be to approach everything with your heart wide open. Be open to new friendships and I have a feeling that you will attract others who want the same thing. This lifestyle is hard, but it is truly wonderful in a unique way. I plan on making the most of it.
Saturday, May 21, 2011

Happy Here

Connor was only a few days old when we found out John would be deploying. It was in that same moment that we learned we would be moving back to Hampton Roads. While news of impending deployment is never fun, I was thrilled that I would be going back to a place that I knew would be full of opportunities for the kids and me. We were stationed at Patuxent River Naval Air Station for three years and were all ready to move on. Pax River is charming and there is great seafood and farmers markets. But for kids there is very little (unless walking the aisles of Target is your idea of an outing... which it is... but it always costs at least $100 to go to Target...)

So today I decided to go ahead and indulge myself in some of the cheesy goodness that Virginia Beach City provides residents and tourists every summer. Beach Street USA is a series of events - musical, whimsical, ridiculous - that the city pays for to attact visitors. Today was the Pirate Party. Who doesn't love pretending to be a pirate every once in awhile? So I packed the kiddos into the car and drove the 40 minutes to the oceanfront...

AHOY LADIES!

He looks pretty thrilled, right? The therapy bills will be steep, friends.

We walked 26 blocks of the boardwalk soaking up the gorgeous May weather and people watched all of the peg-leg men and their wenches. We got to 17th Street where the parrrrrrrrrrrr-tay was located and listened to the Irish band play (yea, I don't get it either) and perused the pirate offerings. Then to prove we had been there we took a picture in front of the giant inflatable pirate and his parrot.


It was a really fun little outing. I think Kate and Connor enjoyed the fresh air and I enjoyed soaking up the "I feel like I'm on vacation without the skeevy hotel" vibe. Who knows where our next adventure will take us. I'm thinking the Mid-Atlanic Hermit Crab Challenge might be next. I can't stop wondering if there are bleachers...

Friday, May 20, 2011

Don't Blink

Since my husband deployed last week I have been doing a lot of thinking about time. Time in relation to people (particularly my kids), time in relation to events, and just the dichotomy of wanting time to speed up and slow down at the very same moment. An hour at the DMV? Might as well be a month. An hour massage? Don't blink because you'll miss it.

For those of you stumbling across this blog, my husband is in the Navy. He recently deployed for a scheduled 7 month deployment. I have a 22 month old daughter and a 6 month old son. The morning after J walked out the door and began his cruise I looked at my 6 month old and realized that my husband will be away longer than my son has been alive. And that some days it feels like my son has been with me my whole life, while other days I can't believe I am taking another "he's x months today!" photo for his scrapbook (and yea, for Facebook).

I am wondering how this deployment will feel. I am also hoping that I can find the strength to enjoy my children, revel in their milestones, and **just be**. I think a lot of military spouses struggle to find the balance between wishing away the months between now and homecoming and at the same time, living and enjoying the moment. We don't have that partner across the room to witness the little things with us, so we make a conscious effort to do it alone.

Which brings me to the purpose of this shiny new blog. I have always loved to document. I love photo albums, scrapbooks, and things that help to remember the details of life. I want to remember this 7 months. The good, the bad, the DMV. I don't want to feel alone in my thoughts or not have someone to share the moment with. I have no idea what it will look like in December, but I am hoping that my husband will look at it and know that we LIVED while he was gone. And while I wish he was here with us, I will not wish away the months.

Hi, I'm Jill!

Hi, I'm Jill!
Extrovert. Mom of two. Wife of a cute Naval Aviator. Lover of wine. When I'm not chasing my two kids around town you will find me writing, taking too many photos, and researching the ten future areas the Navy could potentially (but probably won't) PCS us. We are fish out of water, landlocked at 7,000 feet. For now.

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