Thursday, June 6, 2013

How to Survive a Deployment with Grace and Dignity

This has been a post that I've been wanting to write for a while. I don't claim that I handled the deployment perfectly. There were more than a few moments of heartache and complete meltdowns. But this is the list that I've compiled from my own experience and from talking to women much wiser than I.

1. Don't compare. James's unit was the last one to deploy for a full 12 months (deployments this long do still happen but they aren't the "standard"). The month after he deployed, they switched to 9-month deployments. I was really bitter about that for a while. But you know what? Deployments were 18 months not so long ago. And I'm sure there were plenty of people that envied the 12-month deployments when that happened. There will always be someone whose husband has a shorter deployment. Or who gets to talk to their husband more than you do. Or one who gets more flowers in the mail than you. Wasting time on comparison will only make the time go slower.

I have a friend at work whose husband is only in town on the weekends. She timidly told me that she knows a little bit what it's like to go through long separations, but then said right away "but I know it's not exactly the same." Apparently, she had another military wife get angry at her for making the comparison. Really? Sure, it's not exactly the same. But what's she going through is hard too, and we should never downplay other people's trials because we think ours are harder.

2. Realize that someone, at least once, will say something thoughtless. I've seen more than one list that says something like "Things to never say to a military wife." It's going to happen to you. It might even come from a fellow military spouse. I even had it happen with my husband. On instant messenger, James greeted me with an "I got stabbed today" and I immediately (within exactly 1 second) fell apart. He then proceeded to tell me (probably 2 seconds later) that one of his soldiers accidentally stabbed him in the arm with a box cutter, so he needed a few stitches. It's a kinda funny story now, but I think it's a good example of how a lot of us are on an emotional tipping point during deployments.

Your loved one is at war and it's difficult for people to know exactly what to say, so they say the wrong thing. The best way to handle this is to be prepared and realize that people in most cases, are just ignorant. Picture yourself responding calmly and with grace before it actually happens.

When I wore my deployment pin while I was working at the running store, I had a handful of customers who wanted to talk with me about their opinion of the war. When it got to be too much (which only happened a couple times) I just told them, "You know, I'm really proud of my husband, but right now I'm just not in an emotional state to talk about that." Maybe for you, it will mean walking away. Maybe it will mean a quick inner prayer "Lord Jesus, help me handle this ignorant person with grace." Maybe it might mean putting that person in their place. And you know what? If you start crying, maybe they'll never say that hurtful thing to anyone else again.

3. Stand up for yourself. Maybe it means insisting that you keep your phone near you at work. Or possibly asking your in-laws for a little space when he first gets home. If you work, take advantage of the military clause in the Family Medical Leave Act to spend some extra time with him before he leave or/and or when he gets home.

4. Remember that it's hard for his mom too. As his wife, it's going to affect you (and your kids if you have them) the most. The next person it will in most cases affect most is his mom. Her baby is at war. What she's going through is different, but very hard as well.

5. Support one another. Find at least one battle buddy that will understand what you're going through. Fellow bloggers are fantastic, but I can't tell you how much of a difference it made when I got to meet with my friend Sam for coffee in person every week or two.
Do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Philippians 2:4

6. Pray for him. I went through the Power of a Praying Wife by Stormie Omartian multiple times. I don't know that God decided to keep James safe because I prayed, but at the very least, it helped me remember that God is in control. Even if the very worst had happened, God would have carried me through it.
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, shall guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7

7. Find something to keep yourself going while he's gone. Don't say "your love for one another." I mean something else. For me, it was a couple things: my running goals, being a volunteer leader in my church youth group, and my faith. I talked to another wife recently that said she made a goal of reading 25 books and ended up reading over 30. Another friend of mine said that her 1-year-old daughter kept her going. I have another friend who finished her law degree during her husband's deployment. Find something else to base your identity in besides being his wife. I know that may seem strange or drastic, but it will help you to not be completely focused all the time on the fact that he's gone. Make yourself proud of your accomplishments for when you look back on this time.

She is clothed in strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future. 
Proverbs 31:25

Is there anything you think I missed? How did/are you handling the deployment?

<3 A.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Life Goes On... (Even when my blogging doesn't.)

I haven't been keeping up with my blog. I feel guilty about it. Truthfully, I'm at my computer 8 hours a day, and getting on my laptop when I come home at the end of the day isn't all that appealing to me. I miss blogging sometimes. It was something I needed during all that training and the deployment. Now I've got a job I love and a husband that loves me (that is actually home!) and there's just not a lot of extra time to blog.

However, I do continue to have people that keep on stumbling to my site from pinterest or from googling about Ranger School. I really do appreciate getting comments and tweets from you. And there are those couple blogger friends that I made when it was hardest. I thought I'd give you all an update. :)

On April 26th, James and the rest of his brigade competed for the Expert Infantry Badge. It's a little backwards, because a lot of them, including James, already have the Combat Infantry Badge, which basically means that you've been shot at and returned fire in combat. The CIB is normally worn instead because it outranks the EIB, but it's still always good to have another badge under the belt. Only about 10% of guys that try for the EIB will get it.

To earn the EIB, the soldiers had to do a series of events to show their expertise at being an infantryman (makes sense, right?). One of the events was a 12-mile march with a 30+ pound ruck on their backs. James, being the competitive runner that he is, decided he wanted to win this. So out of his whole brigade, James finished first after running the 12-miler at a 9 min/mile pace.* Only James and one other guy in his platoon made it to the 12-miler event so the rest of their platoon skipped breakfast to be there to cheer them in. I'm pretty sure James's platoon was pretty proud of him as their platoon leader.

The general that presented the awards in the ceremony actually shook his hand after the ceremony for doing so well on the ruck. I had to be at the ceremony, because I couldn't resist another opportunity to pin another badge on my husband. It's probably one of my favorite things about being an Army wife.

Then not long after that, I ran the Tacoma City Half Marathon with my friend Chrissy and James ran the full. I ran a 2:01, which I was pretty proud of, considering that I haven't been able to run as much as last year. James ran his first regular (non-Army-ruck) marathon at a 3:15. He started at the same time, so it was kind of cool to get done and then find a place to cheer him on.

So those are the two major events that have happened since I talked to you last. On the weekend, we try to take advantage of living in this amazing state with lots of outdoor-sy things to do. Like kayaking, biking, and camping. Our church has a bike club, which is pretty dang awesome.

My job is also really fun. I am doing even more programming now and I love it. I think it's a good sign when the day seems to go by fast because you're having fun doing what you're doing.

Alright. Well there's my update. I update twitter and instagram (both @runningarmywife) way more often these days. Follow me on there and I would love to follow you back!

Much love,

*Which is actually around the speed that I would have run it with no extra weight.

PS: A couple months later, and James's eyes are perfect from the PRK. Thank you, Army!

Monday, March 4, 2013

My Husband's PRK

My husband got his PRK surgery done today! About a month ago, he found out that he got a slot to get the surgery done. The Army will only give a certain number of slots out for the surgery. If you've recently come home from a deployment, you're more likely to get a slot. They also tend to give priority to infantrymen- because, let's face it, they do need it the most. If they lose their glasses out there in combat, that's a bad thing.

James had the choice between PRK and LASIK. For those of you that don't know, PRK is like LASIK eye surgery with a few differences. If your eye gets knocked the wrong way playing football years after you get LASIK, it can mess it up. PRK takes long to recovery initially but is more "sturdy" in the long run. Getting PRK also means he gets to keep his "jump" status (apparently jumping out of an airplane is too much turbulence for LASIK). Because he's an infantryman and an overall pretty active person, my husband chose PRK.
Last picture of James in glasses before the surgery. 
We went in today and after they gave him some numbing eye drops and he waited a little bit in the waiting room, he finally got to go back. He was in and out in less than 20 minutes. It was that quick. He said he can see a little bit better (he's nearsighted) initially, but right now (about 4 hours later) he doesn't want to open his eyes much at all and we've got the whole house dark because he's so light sensitive. He's got 5 days off work to sit at home with sunglasses on, listening to audiobooks. I will keep ya'll updated on the progression!

And in other news, I finally signed up for a race! A half marathon to be exact. Maybe not the best comeback length, but 13.1 is my favorite distance.
9 weeks to train! I actually already started a few weeks ago on this plan. Not the most hardcore plan I've ever done, but I am getting back into things after all.

<3 Amy

Friday, February 22, 2013

Blogging and Running

I’ve been trying to figure out why it’s been so hard for me to keep up with blogging (both reading my favorites and updating my own). It finally dawned on me the other day. I started my blog when I was still living long-distance from my husband because of training. That was about a year and a half ago. Since then, I’ve haven’t a full-time job AND had my husband at home at the same time. Until now.

Now I have a full-time job AND a full-time husband*. I’m struggling to find the energy to wake up early and run twice a week. I’m still incredibly happy that he’s home. But it’s a very tired-happy while I still struggle to adjust to this major life change that still has me reeling months later. I miss my family and friends in Illinois so much that it hurts sometimes. Thank goodness for skype and facetime.

But we do love Washington. More than once, we’ve swiped over to Chicago on the weather app and giggled that it’s 9 degrees there while it’s 40 degrees here. We decided we love skiing so we pulled together some hand-me-down equipment mixed with a couple splurges at REI. So now we ski on retro skis that may or may not have been manufactured before we were born. It’s very hipster of us, I know.

I think I'm about to sign up for a half marathon in May. That will give me more motivation to train. I’ll let you know as soon as I do. The short winter Washington days are starting to get longer.  I will still blog, but definitely not as often as I used to. I feel like I don’t have quite as much to talk about since I finally have that wonderful (somewhat) normal married life that I’ve been yearning for.  

Thanks for hanging in there with me, if you’re still here.

<3 A.

*I'm being a little facetious here. I just mean he's a full-time husband now that he's state-side, rather than being long-distance at training or overseas. :) 

Sunday, February 3, 2013

My First Military Ball

I know, I've been a bad blogger lately. I just finished my first two weeks of work and I'm still getting used to working full-time again. I do hope to get back to blogging more routinely soon.

But I did want to at least tell you about my first BALL experience on Friday. :) Fortunately, the ball was about a block away from where I work. So instead of commuting home (~1 hour each way), I brought my dress, make-up, shoes, and curling iron to work with me so I could get ready right after work and go with James straight to the ball. If that sounds kind of awkward, it's because it kind of was. 

awkwardly getting ready in the bathroom at work
I tried to pick a bathroom that wouldn't have as many people come in, so I picked this first floor bathroom in my building that is kind of hidden. Some ladies still came in and I apologized for the mist of hair spray hanging in the air. Most asked where I was going and wished me a good night, but I still felt kind of awkward. 

On top of that, I had an energy drink that afternoon, which is not something I normally do, so putting on liquid eyeliner was challenging. But I did finally succeed! 
Overall, the night was pretty fun. It's always fun to get all dressed up and see your man in uniform. And also fun to see everyone else so dressed up. I still don't know a lot of people in the battalion so I can't say it was the same as going to prom or anything, but still a good night. Here are some of my take-aways: 
1) It kind of reminded me of college ROTC banquets. Except with alcohol. And way more formal. 
2) Except for a handful of women, pretty much every dress was to the floor. It seemed like maybe it was a few younger guys that didn't give their girlfriends/wives the memo. I seriously loved seeing all the beautiful long dresses though.
3) The humidity of Washington makes it almost impossible for curls to hold unless you use half a can of hairspray (which I did). And even then, it still might not hold. 
notice my curls have basically gone straight. 
4) Drinks were kind of expensive. They started at about $8. We both were driving home so we only had some of the one wine bottle that they put at the table.
5) We didn't have grog. Apparently, the was the first time that had happened for a lot of guys. We never had grog at the ROTC dining outs, so I didn't know whether to anticipate it or not. I have to say I'm a little disappointed, because I've never tried it before.

Each of us go to take home a whiskey glass with the battalion crest on it. They opened up the dance floor after the speaker was done and it was just line dancing for a while, so we just took off. Boring I know, but we're more of a swing-dancing couple. :)

Again, sorry I've been so bad about blogging lately. My running routine has been off too. I did run twice this week with Roxy and my goal is to get up to at least 3 times a week so I can start training for something.

Have fun watching the superbowl today!
<3 Amy

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The Very Long Vacation

James has only been active with the Army for two years, but in those two years we've learned something very important. When he finally has time off, milk it for all it's worth. Since my last update, we've had family visit for 2 weeks and then we went off on a cruise together for a week after that.
At the top of Crystal Mountain for our 3 year anniversary!
Crystal Mountain had a military appreciation day on our anniversary so we got to ski for half price! That's one awesome thing about living in Washington. We are about an hour and a half away from really great skiing. We went two different days with James' family that came to visit us. I love skiing. 

Then the day after his family went back home to Chicago, we left for our cruise. Let me just say this... a cruise is wonderful for a post-deployment vacation. We had no phones or internet (well.. we could have but it was really expensive), which was amazing after being attached at the hip to my phone for the entire year. 
At that cove behind us, we went exploring through some of the rocks and found a 30-foot long cave-tunnel. With our backpacks and clothes still on, we ventured through knee-deep water to get to the beach on the other side, thinking we might get our shorts a little wet. On the other side, we were all the suddenly met with a wave that literally swallowed us both up. While James swam off into the Pacific to try to recover his hat, he told me to take both the backpacks back to the dry beach we came from. His prescription Oakley sunglasses were nowhere to be seen, and my camera was completely drowned inside my backpack. 

A few minutes behind me, James got back with his Oakleys, hat, and my hat (that I didn't even realize I'd lost). He was actually giddy because he thought for sure he had lost his glasses until he saw them floating by next to his hat. "My Oakleys float!" was what he got out in between bouts of giggling. It was one of those times when, standing there soaking wet, all I could do was laugh too. In different circumstances, I might have almost cried for the loss of my camera. But seeing James's carefree reaction after such a hard and stressful year made it all okay. 

There's nothing better than a week of paradise and a little adventure with your love. Really it was a great finale to a long long vacation. He's been entirely off work for almost a whole month. It's been amazing and I feel so blessed that we've gotten this. If/when he is deployed again, I'm not sure I would be able to take that much time off work with him. That's why we had to make the most of it. Really, and especially with the Army, you have to take it one day at a time. 

Next week, he goes back to work and I start my new job. I'm a little sad that this long vacation is coming to an end, but I'm excited for what comes next. 

<3 Amy