The One Thing That Kept Me Sane Through My First Deployment As A Wife

I know I’ve already written about my people before – but I decided they completely deserve a second mention – they’re all so different, and all completely amazing.

J keeps telling me that I made this deployment ‘easy’ on him. I followed the rules. I kept any really insignificant issues off his plate while he was away. If he was freaking out, I didn’t lay it on him to listen to me vent or to worry about. And that’s all wonderful – if he says it was easy, then I was successful.

But I can honestly say that there was not a single problem that I handled entirely by myself. Not one.

When the car did weird things, I called my dad. He walked me through what to do, calmly and patiently. My mom was at the ready with advice on everything from Tricare to how to handle peoples’ stupid questions about deployment and army wife life.

When Bravo the Infantrydog had to be rushed to the vet for x-rays because he would not stop eating things he shouldn’t, I was in the waiting room texting one of the other women whose husband was deployed at the same time as J. Her dog also likes to try to keep her busy, so she was able to give some encouragement with a little added humor, and some practical ‘been there, done that’ advice. And she showed me around her city and provided DELICIOUS food for a weekend when I needed to leave my accident-prone dog, and the pressures of ‘real life’ behind.

When I needed someone to come sit with me the weekend J left, my two friends from Fort Bragg drove ten hours to hang out with me in a hotel room, so I could hide from the world the day he actually flew out of the country. They texted and touched base almost every single day until they were sure that I was okay. And anytime I needed to have a freak out, they were blowing up our group message with humor, and love, and a whole lot of emojis.

When I needed to just be with him before he left, without worrying about balancing family and job craziness, my best friend, C, offered up her house to us for a week. It was closer to where he flew out of, and she gave us the best gift I could have gotten in that moment – time together, just the two of us. Every single time I texted her she somehow knew the exact thing to say. Whether it was during the craziness of predeployment, or the panic of a lack of communication while he was gone, or the post deployment reintegration period. Not to mention the times J was ‘just’ in school, and she drove the ten hours from Ohio to North Carolina simply to be with me, and to get to know J (who she had met exactly twice before we got married!).

My best friend from high school kept me distracted when J left by regaling me with his dating adventures, and when the homecoming date KEPT freaking changing, he spent a few days hunting down and sending me army related memes just to make me laugh. When I started to get a little too panicky, he essentially called me out on my nonsense.

J’s best friend kept me from going crazy on more than one occasion, via Facebook message. My first nanny family let me come over and just UNLOAD about everything that was going on in my life, and let me love on my girls. The two littles all over my Instagram? Their mama gave me TWO WEEKS off to get ready for J’s homecoming, and for the week after he came home. And any time I’ve asked to get some prayer on anything, she is right there with it. A friend from church let me freak out about all the normal marriage stuff, and supplied lots and lots of caffeine and humor, and got coffee and then even went grocery shopping with me to help me kill time so I wouldn’t be alone the day before J came home.

Y’all, my husband may see this as an easy deployment. And that is wonderful. But he also came home to a woman who he thought had her stuff together, and who felt like she was supported even when her husband was away.

All that bragging about my (amazing) friends was to say that if you don’t have a tribe – if you don’t have friends close enough that seeing you cry and freak out is acceptable, and that they’re willing to tell you that you need to slow down, or give your husband a break (the phrase “he’s not at summer camp” was told to me one time when I stressed about not getting a text in a few days) then you need to either start investing in your friends differently, or get different friends.

I love my husband. And I love the army. But this craziness is not for the faint of heart – and it is most certainly not for those who want to do it by themselves. Not only are you making things harder on yourself, your soldier and your marriage by staying isolated, but you’re robbing yourself of the chance to make amazing friends. The kind of friends who will come see you when you have a baby, or who are willing to write adoption reference letters, or who will text you back at 2 am when your car breaks down.

For my tribe – you’re all amazing. For my Mil Spouses who are trying to decide whether or not to make friends, or to try to go on a friend date with that girl who’s married to your husbands friend – do it. It is so, so very worth it.

The GAF Meter – The First Thing To Go On A Deployment

So, most of you have seen or realized that J deployed this spring, and has been home for a few weeks now. Reintegration is… let’s just call it a learning experience. Every time I sit down to write that post, it get’s a little vent-y. So, that’s coming but maybe once we get on the other side of reintegrating.

In the meantime, I’ve been working on posts from while he was deployed, to post once he came home – a little MilSo ‘tradecraft’ if you will. Most of these were actually written – or at least fleshed out – while he was gone, so the tone is a little… Tense? Angry? Snarky?

J and I had a bit of heads up that he was going to leave. Not a ton, like my parents used to get when dad was going to deploy, but a ‘while,’ compared to some of my friends who have sent their husbands off with a few days notice. (Ladies who do that – you’re rockstars. Absolute freaking rockstars.) In that time before he left, we moved me 10 hours away on a PCS from good ol’ Fort Bragg, to the frigid north – in March. My favorite. Anyway – we had some time, so I thought I’d know what I would feel like, and how I’d react.

Oh, wow was I wrong. I thought for sure that I would have this superwoman strength, but that I’d just move forward with not much change in my emotional range or reactions. I mean, I’d have some moments where I cried over something small, or cursed the Army’s existence when the car inevitably broke down at the same time the dog was trying to eat rocks, and I shattered phone (all things that happened while J was gone, by the way). No. Just… no. I could not have been more wrong.

There’s this thing that my husband calls the ‘GAF Meter’. ‘GAF’ stands for ‘give a…freak’. Sorta. It’s the measure of what you’re willing to care about, and just how much you’re willing to give/push on something. Everyone has one. Mine is normally set on high – I’m continually high anxiety (J just laughed in agreement reading this) and am constantly worrying about something. And at first, that’s how I thought that I would react to a deployment. Worry a lot and make sure that everyone around me knew how to support J.

And then I dropped my husband off at the airport. J has walked away from me to head out on a school multiple times in the span of our relationship. We’ve been apart the majority of our relationship – together almost 4 years (!!!) and actually together for about twenty-five percent of that time. I thought I’d gotten fairly good at it, truthfully. But this time was completely different.

I gotta tell you – there is something about watching your husband walk away from you in an airport, with the possibility in the back of your mind that it may be for the last time, that will make you completely change how you look at pretty much everything. And it seriously makes you realize the things you care about, and the things you really don’t.

That friend who couldn’t just not say terrible things? I just chose not to hang out with them any more. The internet troll who constantly posted offensive nonsense in my Facebook feed – I just didn’t give him space in my head anymore. That time that someone called me out on being an army wife in church and lambasted my husband simply because of my job – I actually let him now how I feel about people who give opinions no one wants to hear. I got to pick what I cared about… which was essentially, only what I thought was important. If I wanted to just go to Detroit by myself to visit a friend, or if I needed a break from the insanity to go to stay by myself in an inn in WV, I did it.

In short – my GAF Meter was completely busted. And it felt great. What was crazy was when people started noticing. My two best friends said they were proud of me and impressed at how I was handling myself. And my husband told me from halfway around the world that he’d noticed how happy I was, and how well I had handled things back here. I may have felt like my whole little world was missing a huge piece, but there was definite proof that I was at least a little more pleasant to be around – for the people that mattered, anyway.

Handling a deployment – or even a school or TDY is something that can wreck your world. It’s hard. Exhausting, and painful. I’m clearly no expert – this hasn’t been happening that long with me in the ‘wife’ role. But I think I’m on to something – just stop freaking out about stuff that doesn’t matter. And really get into the things that do. The people that matter and care about you will be able to see how much better you’re handling yourself, and the people who don’t shouldn’t influence your life anyway!

I’m not saying you just pack all your things and ignore your responsibilities (but let’s be real, who hasn’t wanted to do that at some point?). I’m saying that there’s something to be said about allowing yourself to not care about some things. And, that pretty much no one gets to tell you what you’re supposed to feel, or how you’re supposed to handle things. You’re a bad ass for getting through this – and it’s about time you recognize it.

Deployment By The Numbers

111 : Number of days my husband was away.

5: Number of pillows used to take up space so I wouldn’t feel like I was sleeping by myself.

2 : Number of weeks I lasted until Bravo the Infantry Dog was invited to snuggle in bed with me.

4 : Number of vet visits with Bravo the Infantry Dog

3 : Number of those visits that were because he ate something he shouldn’t have.

6 : Number of weeks I went without shaving my legs, other than my ankles. (It was Ohio in March, don’t judge me.)

350: Rough estimate of the number of cups of coffee drank in a single just-over-three-months long deployment.

4 : Trips I took by myself. This is huge – I had never done that before. Seriously.

5 : times in four months that my car had problems. #deploymentcurse anyone?

6 : Military movie marathons I had on weekends I missed J a lot more than normal.

2 : Cities I visited that I’d never been to. (Detroit was actually my favorite, although the fact that I only ate delicious food and had some awesome company while I was there was probably a huge factor.)

3,000 : Texts sent in the group message between my two best army wife friends.

3: number of dresses I bought that were my ‘homecoming’ dress.

4: Number of razors dulled the week before homecoming. (Pro Tip: Start shaving like halfway through the deployment, ladies. Seriously, just do it.)

3: Also the number of times the homecoming date changed.

5 : Number of times the day of homecoming that I changed my outfit. Ended up in the first dress I bought.

3: Hours that the flight got delayed, after I had already had my dress on and my hair and makeup done.

This was essentially the laziest listicle ever, I know. I’m a little busy, but I’ve been working on posts while he was deployed to post once he came home and we felt comfortable saying he’d been gone – PERSEC and all that, right? 😉

I Don’t Want My Husband To Be Safe

Important disclaimer here; I have never, and will never be in combat. I cannot tell you what it is like to be in that situation, but I have an incredibly patient husband who shares his thoughts with me, and a lot of research on a book, from books and blogs that every military spouse and family member should read, as well as hours and hours of interviews with those who have.

There is a conversation that happens pretty repeatedly whenever people see me out and about without J. Which is, for those of you who don’t know, more often than he is actually around. They ask me where he’s at, and I tell them the school/state/training/country that he’s in. Some small talk happens, and then eight times out of ten, they end the conversation with “Well, tell him to stay safe.”

And I can legitimately say that is one message I will never, ever pass along. I tell him every time someone says they’re praying for him. Every time they say they were thinking of him. Every time they say they want to get to be added to the miles-long list of people who want to see him in the brief times that he is around, and able to be seen. But I will not say to him “So and so said they wanted you to be safe.” (Sorry if you’re reading this and that’s something that you’ve wanted me to pass along.)

More than that – I have not ever told him to be safe, even coming from me.

When we first started dating, that was all I wanted to tell him. It’s a natural response, right? I was in a very new relationship, with a man who was getting ready to start training to be in a particularly dangerous job. It came with the need to be aware of my security in a new way. And the knowledge that my husband was actually someone who could be called ‘dangerous’. Of course I wanted to call after him to ‘be safe’. I will openly admit that I worry about J the second that man leaves my sight. That people want to send him well wishes and a desire to be unharmed is absolutely understandable. For those who know him, personally, they are sending their friend away to a dangerous situation, that they cannot possibly comprehend. The only logical response is going to feel something like fear – asking him to ‘be safe’ or ‘do whatever he has to, to come home’. Please, don’t.

It’s crazy I know – and it almost sounds like I want my husband to be in danger. It’s not that simple, but at the end of the day, the confusing and very counter cultural answer is that I want him to be able to do his job. And ‘doing his job’ does not look like being ‘safe’.

If you look at the definition of the word ‘safe’ it means “protected from or not exposed to danger or risk; not likely to be harmed or lost.” That is essentially the opposite of what every single sheepdog is hardwired to do. J starts to itch to be where he’s needed. I have friends who have gotten out of the army, but got back in a few years later. Not for the money (everyone who knows the military pay just laughed), not for accolades, and certainly not for the safety – they got back in because they needed to what they could to protect the people they’d be leaving behind, and to take the fight directly to the ‘bad guys’ wishing to do harm to innocent people.
Imagine a literal sheepdog. He is prepped and trained – physically, mentally, and emotionally – to be a flock of sheep’s defense and protection. It is what he is bred for, and created to do. It is quite literally in his blood. Now imagine telling him all of this – using his hardwiring to do what he needs, training him, and then turning around a physically declawing and defanging that animal – and then putting him in a muzzle, on a gentle lead. Asking him to protect a flock of defenseless sheep, then taking away his confidence and ability to do what he feels he needs to do. It would not be shocking if he laid down on the job, and half his flock were stolen away by a particularly industrious wolf.

If there’s one thing that I’ve taken away from the research on research on research and countless interviews I have been doing – it’s that the brave sheepdogs who are being sent forward are not meant to be safe. It’s been incredibly difficult to remember that – especially when the sheepdog in question is my friend, or one of my taco night guys, or my husband. As much as I don’t enjoy the idea of the people I love actively being in danger, I like the idea of them being miserable at home even less.
There’s the Chronicles of Narnia quote that I’m pretty sure everyone has heard at this point but that J and I love; “Safe? Of course he isn’t safe! But, he’s good!” The two characters are talking about Aslan, the epic, honest, and terrifyingly good lion. You wouldn’t want the lion fighting for you to be safe- you want him to be good. Fierce, with claws and fur and fangs. And dangerous – especially to those who would wish to do you harm, but compassionate and good towards those they love and are fighting for. That is a sheepdog. That is my husband, and my friends, and the people in your life stepping forward in so many different ways.

My Husband Married A Sergeant Major

One of the most biggest differences between the civilian world, and the military world is the presence of rank. There’s a role for each person, and distinct responsibilities that pair with each rank. The chain of command is basically what keeps the military from being a bunch of men running around with guns, and gives clear direction for a group. There are two distinct groups – officers and enlisted. At the top of the enlisted guys, is my all-time favorite rank  – the Sergeant Major. (I can already see J’s eyes rolling as he reads this.)

The role of the Sergeant Major is to be Battalion Commander’s (the guy in charge – an officer) number one adviser. The buck stops (so to speak) with the officer, but the Sergeant Major gives him the information he needs to make informed decisions, based on what’s best for his men. He runs the logistics, so the guy in charge can keep his eyes on the ‘bigger picture’. And he knows the rules – with multiple decades of time in service under his belt he should know them like he knows his own birthday! His job is essentially to be in charge of training and ensure the readiness of his men. Sometimes that looks like annoying the guys and making them listen to rules they don’t like.

J calls me his “Sergeant Major”. It’s mostly a joke… He’s the guy in charge, I’m the one running the logistics. But, it’s also a nod to that part of me that knows the rules and basically needs them to function at this point. People who know me – or have met me at all – know 3 things about me 1) I talk a lot. Like, a lot… A LOT. 2) I work with littles – there’s probably a kid or four hanging on me when I meet new people, and 3) I love the military. Even when I hate it, I love it. I grew up with parents who put that uniform on every day, and the sound of combat boots on tile floor is one of my favorite. I hate packing up one of my loved ones to leave, but there’s something about it that almost feels like ‘home’. I make promotion cookies in the shape of rank insignia for my loved ones (pro tip: use a scalpel instead of a knife. Cutting chevrons is not easy.), and have been known on occasion to make a cake that has the American flag inside it. I blog about this insanity, and I named my dog Bravo the Infantrydog.

I know the rules for the military better than some people in the military know them. Hard not to when I’ve been around this for my entire life… Part of me cringes when I see guys at our taco night table to have out of regulation haircuts, or who haven’t shaved in a while. Outwardly. I can’t believe how easy these guys have it that the uniforms don’t have to be ironed and boots are polish free, and I never ever ever walk on the grass. Get your hands out of your pockets, and take your sunglasses off your head. The rules? I love them. Partly because I don’t have to follow them, I’m sure.

And partly because they make my world make a little sense. My husband’s job is dangerous. He runs towards bullets for a living. That’s our reality. He never knows what will happen in a year, or even month or week. I never know if he’ll be around for wedding anniversaries, birthdays, or to try to have a baby. That’s our reality. There is nothing I can control in this. But, I can absolutely learn all that I can about it. And control what little I know about. Basically – it’s a coping mechanism.

People ask me all the time how I am okay with ‘this’. I’m not ever sure what they mean by ‘this’. Sending my husband away? Sending my mom and dad away? Having a husband who will actually volunteer and make the choice to leave me? Not knowing if I’ll have him around for the birth of our kids? Not knowing if I can RSVP to a wedding +1 or if I’ll be going by myself (again)? Not knowing what our marriage will be like after months apart? The answer is that I basically throw myself into it. I have had friends complain that ‘the only thing I write about is the military’ and most of the time it’s because they have no idea that in order to be okay with ‘this’ – I have to decide I love my husband and his job enough to think whatever it is, is worth it.

It also is what makes me take a look at the realities of my husbands job, and still throw myself into supporting him. And think that it’s truly what’s best for him, and our family. For myself, personally, if I didn’t throw myself behind this, I would hate it. I would spend my hours resenting my husband’s job, and eventually my husband himself. So, I cut cookies with scalpels, and pick over my guys’ uniforms when they’re not as put together as I like.

More than a coping mechanism, though, it’s also what has been the driving motivation in writing my book. I’m writing a book about what it’s like being married to the amazing type of man who chooses to run where danger is, and how to keep your sanity – or most of it, anyway. This means interviewing countless men I know who are attached to this monstrous ‘they’ that sends them into harms way, and doing extensive research on the realities of combat in today’s world. Stories people haven’t been able to tell anyone else, and research that his driving home even more the level of dedication that has been asked of people putting on that uniform. And if I didn’t have memories of laughing with my taco night family over my need for them to be ‘in regs’ or cutting out promotion cookies with a scalpel to celebrate the guys’ amazing accomplishments – I don’t think I would be able to get through the negatives of this life, to see the positives. Let alone be able to handle whatever this week’s ‘this’ is that seems so insurmountably impossible.

When My Husband Is Deployed…

So, in my life right now there has been a definite increase in the amount of spouses I know who have sent their soldiers off to one combat zone or another. It’s strange, because there has been an obvious decrease in the number of troops actually deployed. But around me, for whatever reason, I have gotten more than a few texts from my girlfriends saying their husbands are getting sent ‘over there’.

I love that my MilSO ladies feel comfortable texting or calling me when they need someone to talk to or to complain to, or a wine night away from packing and acronyms and the gear explosion that inevitably happens in the living room when there’s a deployment or school coming up. (I fondly call this ‘gear vomit’ because it really looks like a military surplus store has just emptied it’s contents into the middle of my floor. I’m not even sure how we have so many dufflebags if I’m being honest. Who needs a 9 foot canvas bag?)

Being near an Army post set me up to have the most amazing, supportive group of people. I met girlfriends who I instantly fell into an easy friendship with. They’re wonderful, and so loving and caring. And both are military kids, and army wives. They know more of what I’m feeling than anyone could possibly comprehend. It made getting through the last few years much more manageable. Almost enjoyable – we helped each other through the here today, gone tomorrow schedule our men have been in for a while. Projects were finished, and months apart were conquered with help and a lot of laughter (and more than a little junk food and wine). The only other person who I’ve had that level of connection and friendship with is my best friend who is ALSO a former milspouse. No matter the emotion, milspouses have been there. There’s no judgement when we are too sad to put real pants on, or when we’re asking our husbands when they’ll be in the field next because we aren’t used to sharing a bed, or having someone around every day. Worrying about your soldier feels the same no matter their rank or MOS (specialty – the job they do for the military). If you bail on plans because your husband is home, they get it. Not only do they get it, but they encourage it because they’ll be there one day, too.

I’m not saying that ‘civilian’ friends can’t be wonderfully supportive – they can, absolutely. But – only those of us who have been bitten can truly tell each other how it feels. That being said, my ‘civilian’ friends have asked what can be done to support me. AND I had people ask on here how to help their friends who have a soldier gone in some capacity. So, I figured instead of just rambling off, I’d be honest and even put it to words, in a format a little easier than a teary conversation or a text message. These obviously can’t be said for every MilSO, but I think they’re a good start.

Ask. The first thing is to ask. I will probably not have an answer because that’s just me – panic in the moment and handle it later. But if you ask if I need or want anything, that’s honestly wonderful, it shows that you care even if you don’t know what to do. And, makes me remember that I have people in my corner. Just understand that the answer may actually be that I need time alone.

Don’t Assume It’s All About the Military. As awesome as it would be, my life does not pause when J is gone. And thank goodness! I still have bills and stress and every day craziness to handle. The infertility stuff that’s happening is still right there, there’s just a pause in moving forward. My Bravo the Infantry Dog will still eat my shoes and try to kill himself, there’s just no one to help me get his 60 pound puking self. Work problems will be there, and I’m going to school too. Oh – and writing a BOOK (more on that in a little bit). Ask about those things. It’s so easy to lose sight of the fact that you’re not just someone’s wife – there’s a ‘me’ in here too.

Come Over. We may binge watch Army Wives (don’t you dare judge me.) and drink coffee and not even talk. Or, I may need someone to come over and help me with a project, or I just need people around. Come over, be present. That’s one of the best things my best friend does – seriously, she just shows up. No questions. Sometimes we build a writing desk, sometimes we watch Band of Brothers and make meatloaf muffins. But that girl has a talent for being around when she’s needed. Actually – I think I may make this the biggest suggestion. By two other J girls (we call ourselves J Cubed… no joke.) just show the heck up when they’re needed. Once, at an emergency room with about 15 minutes heads up. But now I know that I could call at 3 am and they’d come pick me up with car problems if needed. The people in my life I remember the most are the ones who are present and want to be there. (Another example – we had SIXTEEN people DRIVE DOWN to help us PCS. Whoa, our people showed up for us in a major way.)

Support Our Soldier. This is insanely helpful. Offer to send letters or care packages or emails – he may not respond, but knowing that I can take some time to put one together is nice, and knowing that someone else is looking out for my husband makes me able to put energy into keeping our little life running with out feeling too much guilt over last weeks late-mailed care package.

Don’t Say Stupid Things. This is (mostly) a joke… but oh man have we military wives heard some doozies. Some of them can be pretty painful. On the top of the list are;

  •  “Oh… that’s not too long.” Just no. Gone and at war is gone and at war. Let’s send your husband away for a few months and see if it’s ‘not too long’.
  • “Are you worried?” Nope. I love constantly wondering what’s happening.
  • “You signed up for it.” Cue the rage. I’m going to stat saying not nice things to this one. Because really, it’s not okay.
  • “I understand what you’re going through.” People are trying to relate. But honestly there’s no way this works well. J and I are handling our infertility journey, and for some reason people latch on to that and say “I understand what you’re going through.” No, no you don’t. Unless you’re trying to also get pregnant and make sure you can actually have kids, while also being worried about the fact that your husband might not come home – you don’t get it. Honestly – Can we just eliminate this phrase COMPLETELY? Like, in all situations not even relating to the military. I don’t understand what you’re going through, and assuming I do makes me look like an idiot. An insensitive one.
  • “Oh, but he’s just National guard.” No. A million times of DON’T SAY THIS TO ANYONE. Yes, national guardsmen are not reporting into post every day, but when they’re gone for a year and you tell their wife they’re ‘just national guard’ she will hit you. You’ve been warned.

Yes, that’s very snarky but what I really want to convey is that when you’re husband is gone you feel everything a lot, so some serious grace needs to happen – on both sides – but a lot of these things really strike instant nerves for a woman who is missing her husband, who is in danger and unable to talk to her.

We’re going to seem weird. Just roll with it. The military is a weird culture. There aren’t many jobs where one spouse leaves the other behind, and can’t tell them where they are or what they’re doing. There are so many things that we cannot control, and it leads to some interesting reactions, weird rules and… peculiar coping mechanisms. I will run away from a table faster than a marathon sprinter if I see an ‘unknown’ number come up on my phone. No goodbyes, just out I go. Every morning, I drink my coffee out of an “Army Wife” coffee cup. Because even if the army takes my husband away, or keeps him for our anniversary weekend, at least it’s giving me my morning coffee. Weird? Oh heck yes. But somehow, it helps.

The final takeaways? Don’t pity us. Our soldiers are badasses. They’re amazing, resilient, wonderful people and we are so so proud. Help us celebrate them and keep our lives together. Each deployment will be different, and obviously each military couple, but if everyone strings their lives and interactions with grace and a loooot of patience, it will be perfect – or at least something close to it 🙂

Packing Tape, Panic Attacks, and Pelvic Exams

Wow… that’s a title, huh? I love alliteration, always have and always will. Also – you clicked, didn’t you? So it worked on you 😉

Let’s just go ahead and say that the last two months – not my favorite. January 2016; you laid me out… and then February; you kicked me while I was down. It’s looking like March will have some positives, but may end up being that kid that goes to high five you and ends up pulling their hand away, saying ‘too slow!’ Cynical, yes? But really – when March 2016 rolls through, I will breathe a sigh of relief.

So, I already know that I have *bombed* one of my resolutions – blogging every week. I know why I haven’t. I know that it’s probably going to be a challenge all year long; I hate being open and telling people how I feel and what’s going on in my life.

The fact that I actually feel like God is telling me to be open and vulnerable doesn’t really make me want to do it, either. It feels like a whole lotta pressure. Which, let’s be real, I’m perfectly capable of putting on myself anyway.

However, I did have two Mil So’s from a website I frequent tell me that they loved getting to read what I post, and that they miss me when I don’t. I am not saying that it motivated me more than knowing God has put it onto my heart (for whatever reason) to share my story and be open with my people (online and otherwise). But I do absolutely believe he had so many people mention to me that I start blogging again and ask about it for a reason. I have yet to figure it out yet, but hey, maybe that’s not the point.

I went into 2016 thinking it would have its challenges but I was kind of hoping that they would be a little spread out. Now, I’m hoping that maybe God is just setting me up to have a slower end of the year? Truthfully I have no idea, but with everything going on I can only hope that’s what’s happening.

J and I are moving – gotta keep up my one move a year average that I’ve had going since I turned 18. Nope – that’s not an exaggeration. The difference is that I’m now moving two people, on a time crunch. It’s not my favorite. I have a system that has helped me in the past, but truthfully I’ve never really appreciated how difficult it is to organize a full household into boxes, and coordinate them into storage. Props to my mama who did it not only as a soldier, but wrangling three kids and with a deployed husband!

Really, moving is the smallest thing we have going on, But, when you have boxes on boxes on boxes of stuff around your living room, it makes the apartment walls feel like they are actually closing in on you, and adds that nice little extra added bit of anxiety. I read somewhere that moving rates in as one of the most stressful experiences a human being can go through. While I think that it’s definitely not as high on the list as some others – I feel like the reason a move is so stressful is that it disrupts all of the normal routines that you have going on in the first place, then adds so many little extra ‘to do’s’ that are so easy to forget until they become urgent. The move itself isn’t necessarily stressful – its the way that it impacts your normalcy that makes the stress so pervasive.

… And speaking of pervasive… (sorry – I had to.)

Truthfully, the thing that is keeping my brain completely occupied these days is the journey J and I have been on for the last 16 months to try to get pregnant. (TTC for those of you not spending late nights googling different things about this process.) If I’m being honest with myself, this is probably the reason that I don’t want to blog. Those of you who have gone through the process know – it sucks. It’s painful. (For those of you in doubt – go Google what an HSG is.)

It’s exhausting. Physically, emotionally, spiritually. You name a part of your life, and infertility affects it. Marriage? Yep- duh. Timing your “intimate time” is not sexy, guys. Walking into your husband’s study month after month (after month after month) and telling him in tears that nope – this month isn’t our month either. It’s trying and painful in a way that few people really ‘get’ and can understand. You feel like a failure as a wife, and even as a woman – this is so easy for apparently everyone else, but even though you’re healthy, eating correctly, working out, and financially responsible, nope – no babies for you. (But as SOON as you start going to a fertility clinic and really start recognizing that the ‘i’ word applies to you – everyone you know will get pregnant. At once. It will suck.) Finances? Yeah those are taking a hit. Apparently infertility is not something covered by insurance (in most cases). So – start pausing those dreams of vacations and home buying – you’ve got tests and painful procedures to pay for. Your job? Yeah – it’s gonna be a distraction from everything work related. Especially when you have to schedule around appointments and cycle days. Actual physical health – heck yeah. Every cold you’ve never wanted will come at your stress-weakened immune system.

If you’re hearing that bitterness – it’s a daily struggle not to have it come flying out at people. Possibly (probably) because I’ve been stuffing all these feelings down and just simply not talking about them.

At that point, it’s not surprising that the panic attacks I’ve been experiencing are frequent, and exhausting. Bitterness and panic attacks are things I have struggled with in the past, and in those moments (or months) where I need to lean into my community and my husband and my relationship with God the most, panic attacks and a bitter spirit act as an essential roadblock. Maybe even a wall. With concertina wire and an electric current.

For anyone who knows me – this is a pattern I find so hard to get out of. Bitterness and anxiety can just wrap around me and pull me down into this gross, yucky place. I can’t hear God clearly through the muck, and through my actions to be a ‘people pleaser’ and my desire to basically only allow people to see the ‘yes girl’ and the positives, I just distance myself further and further and further away from those people I really need to have in my life.

So. I don’t blog. I don’t write. And, in the past it’s taken a pretty jarring shock to the system to get me to even recognize that this gross spiral is happening. This time – I had some pretty compassionate people just speak into my life – specifically against bitterness and it was almost like getting thrown a life preserver. I have some wonderful wonderful women in my life, but there are a handful that I really truly believe were given the gift of compassion in a way that I’ve never seen before.

This post really doesn’t have some neat little bow or kitschy phrase to tie it all up together to end nicely. It’s rambling. And depressing, and probably doesn’t make a lot of sense to most people – but if just *one* person reads this and says ‘me, too’ then I’ve done what I set out to do.

On Letting The Terrorists Win

Okay, so J told me that I shouldn’t start this post with an apology, like I normally would. But, I feel like the reason I stopped working on my blog merits an apology more than just, “Oh, I’ve just been busy.”

You see, I have actually been busy. Being married, learning to roll with the rhythms of J’s new schools, has kept me on my toes, in a major way. But, I still could have written. Nope, the reason I stopped writing – the main reason – is because I have been scared. Very, very scared.

As is the norm in the world these days, there is a new Big Bad for everyone to worry about. If you’ve been away from the internet, television, and radio, you may not have heard about the rise of the newest terrorist organization, ISIS. There are a lot of different ways this group has pulled the spotlight onto themselves – all equally terrifying, and horrible. But the one that has kept me away from my keyboard, is their open desire to cause harm to soldiers and their families.

Of course, that isn’t a new idea. For as long as America has had a military presence overseas, there has been animosity, and open dislike. But this has felt different. This group has been seeking media attention to broadcast their intentions to ‘slaughter’ military families, and to encourage their sympathizers that are here in the country to do the same. They’ve sought out military significant others, and military kids to frighten them into retreat, and into silence.

And I’m ashamed to say that it worked. I haven’t even wanted to think about posting. Purely out of fear. Fear has been one of the fastest ways to instantly shut me down, and cause me to become totally paralyzed. When I went through my discipleship and spiritual warfare class two years ago, I learned in painful detail that the enemy will use whatever means necessary to make you feel like less of a person. For me, that’s fear, I’ve struggled with being afraid (of everything) for a very long time.

So, I looked at all my ties to the military, and decided to be proactive. I changed privacy settings due to some suspicious friend requests, locked down my Facebook and Instagram, and stopped writing. I even stopped wanting to comment or post to my friends pages and photos. In short, I panicked…

Then, I got pissed. Truly, seriously angry. More horrible videos, more hacked websites, more disgusting language, and more threats toward military members, their spouses, and their kids. We scrubbed Facebook a little more, told people to take down pictures of soldiers in uniform, and were told not to allow people to know about our military ties. And with each deleted picture, and each outing where I was completely stressed, but trying to appear alert and ‘normal,’ I got a little more pissed off.

Not mad enough to ignore the ‘rules,’ but mad enough to learn more about this ‘new’ enemy. The thing that struck me the most, is their use of fear as their primary weapon – really their only weapon. Terrorism is defined as ‘the use of violence and intimidation in the pursuit of political aims.‘ They use fear to frighten and force people into not making  stand – by doing so, they try to take their voice away. But onl, if you willingly hand it over, It’s bullying on a massive scale.

When I was in high school. I allowed this group of older girls to bully me. They were really just not very nice people, who took pride in pushing the new little freshman around. Even going so far as to stand at the fence while I was cheerleading – to tell me in front of a few hundred people (for all of them to hear) that I was fat, a loser, had frizzy hair, etc. Did I mention that they weren’t nice people? I was terrified of them, and had to steel myself up to even go to school the next week. Yes, I did just compare bullying, terrible, high school girls to terrorists. What I should have done is punched the most vocal of them in the face, or at least gone about my business and told them to grow up. But I didn’t. I handed them my voice, without even really realizing it.

Now, if you read that, I just said to punch a terrorist organization in the face. What I am actually saying, in all seriousness, is ‘don’t let the terrorists win.’ Yes, I’ve been wanting to say that, unironically, my whole adult life. Don’t give them your voice.

Fear in and of itself, is not inherently a bad thing. I’m serious – being afraid is a necessary sensation, It alerts you to a dangerous situation, it can keep you alive, if you know when to listen to it, and how to act. I myself have pointed out that the cost of security is suspicion – fears more reactive sister. Fear is what leads to rules that are actually put in place for safety – and are truly smart to follow. But it can also keep you from actually living, if you allow it. Awareness for PERSEC becomes a refusal to go out to the grocery store on your own. You may be a live, but you’re not actually living. 

For reasons I may never understand, God created me to have a need for writing in my life, in order to keep myself sane, and to hear Him. I also believe that He would never, ever want one of His kids to silence a gift he’s given them. So, I’m going to use my voice, and this gift and passion he’s instilled in me. Because I’ll be damned if I’m handing my voice over to someone who wants me to feel alone, to another bully.

A Sheepdog Wife Safety Brief

Less than a month, guys… less than a MONTH! If I weren’t laying down, covered in blankets, I could seriously jump up and down with joy (and maybe a little anxiety…)

I can’t believe I’ve been here for two months! Or that the wedding is so close… It’s like all the waiting that we did together is finally coming to an end. And I could not be happier, honestly. I’ve loved the wedding planning… Kinda… Actually, no it’s been really stressful and I’m just happy that the planning part is almost over.

But, I don’t want to talk about that… I barely even want to talk about how Bravo is working so good on being potty trained, and knows ‘sit’ ‘stay’ ‘fetch’ and comes when he’s called (most of the time). We still have a little bit that we need to work on.

What I really want to talk about right now is OPSEC/PERSEC. I know… Not exactly the most exciting topic in the world – but one that really needs to be discussed right now. The current threat of ISIS against military members and their families is very real. And truthfully, after more than a decade of war coming to a close, people have gotten relaxed in their vigilance… This has unfortunately lead to many people being unnecessarily put into danger, and has even caused people to lose their lives. This is desperately important, people. So, to make this a teeny bit less boring, I bring to you; The Rules Of OPSEC/PERSEC With Borderline Creepy, Slightly Politically Incorrect WWII Propaganda Posters.

So; to start. What the heck is OPSEC/PERSEC? OPSEC stands for Operational Security – the things you do/don’t do to keep operations (big and small, over seas and stateside) confidential, safe, and functional. Secure. 

PERSEC stands for Personal Security. As with OPSEC, this is pretty self explanatory when you think about it – what you do/don’t do in order to keep your soldier and your family (and yourself!) safe. 

The unfortunate thing with the military’s need for efficiency, is that the use of acronyms makes it feel like this is only something the military should have to deal with. However, it really is something that EVERYONE should be thinking about. 

Don’t discuss troop movements. 

I’m sure you just thought “well, duh.” If that’s true, good for you. For a lot of people, the first level of this is easy. Don’t go around telling people the exact spot your soldier’s unit is going. 

That’s a good start. But it goes SO much deeper than that. 

No dates. No times. No locations. If in one post you say “my soldier leaves tomorrow. #sobummed” and then a day later “he made it to Texas. Next stop, Kandahar!” You’ve just given anyone with an internet connection the ability to find and locate not only your soldier but other people’s loved ones as well. 

The same goes for home comings. A soldier gets news he’s coming home in 2 weeks. He tells his wife. His wife tells Facebook. The soldiers bosses get wind of the security leak – and push the homecoming back another month. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard of this happening. Just because they are coming home doesn’t mean you get to relax.

The same goes for your own personal security. Don’t tell people travel dates, times, locations, whatever. A good rule to follow is that you can say where you were, but you can’t say where you’re going. Because as morbid and creepy as this picture of this sailor is – is also very true.  Just don’t talk about troop movements or personal travel, guys.

Don’t post personal information.

I showed you how easy it really is to put together the puzzle of information that people lay out on the internet.

This goes for personal information as well. And nowhere is the puzzle laid out more clearly than on social media. 

Pictures, location services, your first and last name, the pages you ‘like,’ statuses, current unit patches. These are glaringly easy to put together. And from that, a simple internet search can bring up your home address!

With the current global climate being slightly… er, unstable? It’s really just a smart idea to remove those pictures and things and make sure that your profile is private. 

Don’t disclose people’s units and names (last names especially) . 

There are only so many people in the military. When you narrow it down to a single unit, you make the job for someone hunting information that much easier. 

The tricky thing about this is that there are units you aren’t even supposed to say your SO is attached to, due to security concerns, or the sizes of the units – smaller units mean an even more narrow-ed down target. If you have a SO or loved who is in a covert/secret ops unit (Special Forces, SEAL, ParaRescue etc), you shouldn’t even tell people they are part of it. It puts them, and their family (which includes you!) in danger – especially with so many special operations teams sent to deal with an increasingly dangerous list of enemies.

This is very important when it comes to social media. No last names – which means no pictures with nametape. No unit patches. Deployment patches can be allowed, but are still advised against. A good rule of thumb is that you can post where you’ve been but not where you are or where you’re going. 

Guard What You Say To People

While I wish this was not true, sometimes the safest, most secure thing is to say nothing.

I’m terribly proud of my family. And I love to make sure people know that. But I love knowing they are safe, more.

If you aren’t sure whether something you’re going to say – to a cashier, or person in a restaurant, or a fellow spouse, or post, is going to help someone who is looking to harm soldiers, it’s best not to say anything.

It can be very tempting to tell everyone exactly what your loved ones are doing – especially when it’s something ‘cool’ – the military is kind of full of awesome jobs! But with that comes the fact that once you have said something – it cannot ever be unsaid. And you have no way of controlling who they tell, or what they are saying.

As unfortunate as it is, the price of security is suspicion – but the price of not being mindful is much higher.

Helpful Links:

Surprise OPSEC Rules

OPSEC and PERSEC Guidelines

Operation Military Family

That Thing I Said I Wouldn’t Ever Do? Yeah – I’m Doing It…

It’s official – I’m starting my transition from military kid to military wife. I’m excited, and thrilled and anxious… And, terrified.

There are so many what-if’s that come with this plan. What if he gets injured in training? What if he and I can’t get married until later than we are planning? What if it has to happen months before? (Both are very real possibilities – the joys of planning around a military schedule!) What if he and I start fighting the minute he has to start getting ready for shook? What if he gets deployed? (Although that’s really a “when will” question, not what if.)

Im going to say it – I’m a lot scared. And it doesn’t necessarily help that the answer to almost all of those questions is something along the lines of “soldier on” – keep pushing forward and adapt to your circumstances.

This is where we have to face the reality that it won’t always be the movie style romance – the jumping into his arms in the airport, wearing his dog tags, heart all a flutter every time he calls. It’s the time where we have to realize that it’s going to be a lot of nights spent apart. Dates over FaceTime. Departures, where we don’t know when the next time we wil talk is. Birthdays, anniversaries, and eventual bed and bath times with kids on my own. We have to face the fact that it’s not nearly as romantic as it sounds. And that it’s going to be harder than we think it wil be.

Through out all of this, the process of planning, I’m already learning some life lessons that are going to be completely invaluable for the next few years. Flexibility, determination, and trusting that J knows what he’s doing when it comes to leading us, and handling the tasks that I need him to. It’s been a challenge.

Honestly though, we’ve gotten to have the most amazing conversations and are already seeing the difference in our relationship since this whole thing has gotten started.

I’m going to say that my goal is to continue to write about these things, and process through here. But, it’s going to be sporadic. And sometimes completely composd of “wow I am so frustrated with the military” during the times he can’t be reached. But it’s absolutely my plan to be very intentional with this – because let’s be real, if I don’t have some way to unload, I will go insane 😉