By Way of an Introduction 

Adventure

Mermaids. Motherhood. Mayhem. MilSpouses. What is all this? What is going on? What does it all have to do with each other?

Mermaids. Well. We know we’re not really mermaids, those fantastic mythical creatures of either great beauty or great revulsion, depending on the culture telling the story. The affinity between sailors and these particular mythical beasties goes back centuries. So when we tell you that mermaid decor is big in our circle of friends and acquaintances, you maybe won’t be surprised when we tell you that we married brother Navy submariners. Yep. So, we just like mermaids. We live in Hawaii at the moment. One of us even did a super cool mermaid photo shoot at a pretty beach out here.
Motherhood. We both have daughters. One is an infant and one is a toddler but we’ve really bonded over being mommies. And we both feel that it has been the biggest challenge of our lives and we have a lot to say. There are many topics we want to delve into—to vent frustrations or to explore ideas or to share experiences. Expect lots of motherhood writing.

Mayhem. This one is easier to explain. This is a crazy life and it just seems to get crazier the more we live and learn. There. Done.

MilSpouse. A shortened version of the term military spouse. We are Navy sub spouses. We are uniquely qualified to speak on being submarine spouses. But we don’t claim to know everything about it. And we don’t have the same experiences as spouses in other services. What we do though, is find our own way of adapting to military life. There are many good things and many bad things. We love our submariners with all our hearts. Sub spouse life has given us lots of adventures and we’ll tell you all about it.

So there you have it. We’re two women, related by marriage, bonded at the heart, a little shy and introverted, but we have things to say. So we’ll just put our words out here for you.

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Homecoming For an Almost-Two-Year-Old

Well. It’s over. My first deployment experience. Several LONNNNNNNNG months away from my best friend and partner. He was away underwater on his steel tube with no windows, with like 120 other guys and lots of hot sauce. (Seriously, I sent him underway with a HUGE bottle of Frank’s Red Hot, a can of wasabi powder, and two bottles of his favorite dry seasoning from Buffalo Wild Wings.) I spent my days with our daughter, who has been described lovingly as an “angel dragon whirlwind.” She was such a tiny kid when he left and was an entirely different person when he returned.

He’s been home for several weeks now. Homecoming was a beautiful day, full of tears. There is nothing like a Navy submarine homecoming in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. I’ve been a part of two of them now, and I can tell you that it is just sublime. They’ve brought back a tradition, I understand, where families can ride a boat out into the channel and escort the submarine back to the pier. My memories are slightly blurry of this moment, not because I have poor recall, but because I viewed them through tears. I’m a crier (happy, sad, angry, tired, you name it, I cry!) and I was so excited that I couldn’t stop myself from crying from the minute our white boat set off. Our first moment back together was glorious and I won’t ever forget it. Just me and him, all dressed up, happy and together, just like it should be.

Wait, I hear you asking. Just you and him? Where was the angel whirlwind dragon kid?

One thing I made sure to do, which raised some eyebrows amongst friends, was to leave our daughter at home while I went to the pier to pick up my Sir. Now. Why would I do this when she has just as much reason to be at the super special homecoming event? It’s specifically geared to the families, even families who fly in JUST for this moment. So why leave an almost two-year-old at home? Because as the deployment wore on, I learned more and more about her. She gained a personality during the time her daddy was away. She started showing me that she had opinions and desires. She is most assuredly NOT the kid who can sit still EVER. She is NOT the kid you can confine in a stroller when she is obviously capable of climbing EVERYTHING SHE SEES. Have you ever been to a Navy submarine pier? They are working piers, so there is electrical equipment and all kinds of stuff I don’t even know the names of all over the place. They clear a bit of space for the homecoming families and put some tables and awnings up for food and shade, but just a few feet away are cables and ropes and Big Industrial Things. My little girl, so curious and full of energy, would be into everything and when I would stop her, she would get more and more angry. An almost-two-year-old has no sense of self-preservation or understanding that when Mommy is saying “no, don’t touch that,” Mommy really means, “that thing you’re about to climb onto could hurt you.” And also, my little girl loves the water, so she’d do everything she could to try to go swim next to those big steel tubes floating so nicely in the water. She’d climb the fence. She’d climb the big crane thingy they use to land the brow, while they’re installing it, if we let her (which, duh, we wouldn’t, but that doesn’t mean she wouldn’t try). Suffice it to say, I know my daughter best. 

I also knew that she was starting to forget her daddy. He was gone most of her first two years doing Big Important Navy Work Things. We did everything we could to keep him fresh in her memory for this deployment though. He recorded videos of himself reading stories. We made a Daddy Doll. We signed up for a Daddy Quilt, a quilt with pictures printed in fabric, handmade by the lovely volunteers of the local Armed Forces YMCA. I had a photo of him in her bedroom and I worked it into her bedtime routine. And when he was in a port where he had enough free time and enough internet, we used video chats to the best of our abilities. Of course, though, that young, our little girl didn’t quite understand the video chat. She could see his face but didn’t understand that she could interact with him. So by the time homecoming came around, I knew that I made the right decision in having them meet privately, in our backyard–a place she is very comfortable with (and bonus, it is fenced in!) I knew there was a STRONG possibility that she would reject him. I knew it could crush him and I didn’t want him to be crushed like that in public. This deployment was tough on him. He didn’t like missing so much of her life and was truly properly terrified that she would forget him. In some ways, it was harder on him than it was for her, because she has no sense of time passing and had no real idea that much had changed. So if I had brought her to the pier and reintroduced them, and she screamed when he hugged her and ran away from him, that would have made both me and my husband feel terrible.

So how did we handle the reintroduction? I planned the whole day and set them up for success. I talked it out with my best friends and we made sure there were lots of things going in his favor. Balloons. Check. Spend the day with people she knows, loves, and trusts. Check. Ice cream cake. Check. (OK, that one was for me because she didn’t stay up long enough to eat dessert.) I had the whole day planned out, starting with me getting my hair done up pretty in the morning. I knew I’d be a nervous wreck getting myself ready, so I sat in a chair at DryBar in Kaka’ako and had the ladies there take care of me while I cried with nervous excitement. Our daughter spent the morning and afternoon with her BFF, after an unexpected change of plans forced us to rearrange. One of my besties who doesn’t have kids and I had planned FOR AAAAAGES that she would watch my daughter for the day at our house, sticking to all her usual routines as much as possible to keep her in good spirits for the reunion. But life happens and even best friends catch colds and so plans change and thankfully, one of my other besties was willing and able to watch our girl at her house. As I said, our kids are BFFs (or at least as close as kids can be who don’t truly understand playing together yet) and luckily, she is an Army wife and understood the gravity of a deployment homecoming situation herself. So in my daughter’s eyes, she spent the day with her best friend, playing with his toys and his dog and winning at life’s lottery! And then my fabulous high school babysitter, who coincidentally babysits for both of our families, agreed to pick up my daughter from their house and bring her to my house and basically be on the lookout for frantic texts from me about when we would pull into the garage and when she should dress my daughter in her special homecoming day dress and when to head into the backyard and hang my custom homecoming day banner, (because she couldn’t hang it earlier because it blocked the door because I’m brilliant…) and yeah, just basically was an amazing asset to our family on this ridiculously specifically planned-out-yet-fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants-day. (Because I knew what time to expect the boat at the pier but I had no idea how long it would take us to actually leave to go home and rush hour westbound in Honolulu is no laughing matter, so plans were made but everything was tentative.)

Anyways. Back to preparing my daughter and my husband for their private reunion. Ahem, sorry for the long tangent.

My daughter LOVES balloons. I discovered this on Valentine’s Day by accident. A friend had a huge foil heart balloon at her house. Man, when my little girl saw the balloon, she couldn’t get enough of it. She sat on it (which was OK because she doesn’t weigh much and those foil balloons are very durable. It’s like they make them to be toddler-proof!) and hugged it and squeezed it and her eyes lit up when she saw it. It was like she had never seen a balloon before, and you know what? Now that I’ve typed that up, yeah, I don’t think she had ever seen a shaped balloon like that before. Haha! So I eventually came up with the idea for my Sir to walk through the door carrying balloons. And  she especially loves dragons and unicorns, so I got the biggest dragon and unicorn balloons I could. This involved the help of my besties, to get them into my garage without her seeing them. I was trying my best for this to be a surprise and the secret ninja spy skills of my friends knows no bounds.

Another thing was that our daughter seemed to have an issue with being scared of men. She didn’t like my dad so much when he visited earlier in the year, didn’t like the other chiropractors in the office I visited except for my specific doctor, and was not thrilled with her BFF’s dad either when we visited their house. That was, however, UNTIL, we noticed that if you played peek-a-boo with her, she’ll be your best friend. We discovered that if my friend’s husband was inside by a window, and played peek-a-boo with her while shew as outside (with the help of some super fun plantation shutters) our little girl would go from being scared of him, to being a giggling excited crazy kid. It was wonderful. Over the course of a few weeks, she came out of her shell around him and started demanding to play peek-a-boo every time she saw him. I made a mental note to share this with my Sir. Peek-a-boo was, and still is, the “in” with our daughter.

So how did the private reunion go? Well, you can’t always predict what a young toddler will do, and even though you tried to set them up for success, sometimes things just go wrong. Not too terribly wrong, in our case. He walked through the door, all white and shining in his fancy summer uniform, balloons in hand. He got down on her level and tried to be gentle and not force anything. She still didn’t want him to hug her though, and the minute I stepped through the doorway, she wanted to be with me, not him. It was hard. But I knew ahead of time that it might not go perfectly. She hadn’t napped, which may have made a big difference. (Sometimes she wakes up, even now, from her naps and is MORE cranky than she was before she went down, but some days she wakes up blissfully delightful. It’s a crapshoot.) She spent the whole day away from me, which was a big deal because for that whole deployment, I was her person. I was there 24/7 for her, with very little variation. Oh sure, I got the occasional sitter and my friends came to visit me A TON. But on the whole, it was just me and her.

Even now, after weeks of near constant daddy presence at home, she is in her “mommy phase.” If I’m awake, she doesn’t want her daddy to hug her too much. If we try a group hug, she pushes him away. She cries “mommy” when she is upset. She had a nightmare once and cried “mommy” out in her sleep. Little by little, though, she is coming to realize that Daddy isn’t going anywhere. For example, she knows that Daddy is the one to go to for playground playing. My knees and back don’t work as well as my husband’s do, so he is the one who can climb and stuff with her, whereas, I am happy to be the support she needs from the ground. So she demands his presence at her side when we take her to playgrounds now, and I’m so happy to see them bonding. He’s taught her so much since coming home and I know that they’ve got some lost time to make up for. It’s beautiful to see.

So, even though I know, in my heart of hearts, that this was the way to go for our little family, why did I get so much flack for not bringing our little girl to homecoming? Of course, not everyone was unkind. The women I grew close to on our boat understood. Partially, they trusted me to know what was best for my family, but for the other part, rather hilariously, they all met my daughter. They understood after interacting with her that it would have taken all of us, constantly on our guard, to keep her contained.

I once brought our little girl to the pier watch her daddy get pinned for his new promotion. That ended up being a hilarious attempt at keeping her contained. First of all, it was hot as Hell in the Hawaii sun but she would not sit in her stroller without screaming bloody murder, and since the event took place during quarters on the pier, where everyone stands to listen to the command leaders give announcements and directions and occasionally, someone gets their new rank pinned on them by their wife, (haha!) it was more important to keep my daughter quiet right? Well. She refused to stand with the XO’s wife, a woman she knows and loves, and came up to demand that I pick her up and hold her while I was pinning the new rank insignia on Sir’s uniform. Then the XO tried to help the situation by picking her up and bringing her to his wife. That did not go over well, and she burst into loud tears and flailed around in his arms. I understood that it would take a short time or I never would have brought her at all, but it just wasn’t a short enough time for a kid who can’t sit still and won’t be separated from her Mommy. At that point, obviously the boat hadn’t deployed yet. But it was a memory that helped me to decide that bringing her to homecoming events, which last much longer, would never work for our kid.

I’m a big believer that parents know THEIR kid best. Some kids, at the same age as my daughter, could have been just fine at a homecoming event. Some kids are not climbers. Some kids would have been happy with a Disney movie on a tablet to keep them entertained and still. Some kids would have loved to sit in their strollers. And there were tons of kids there that day, of all ages, babies and upwards. I just know, deep down, that it was not right to bring my daughter to that event at her age and with her tendency to flip out the most strenuously when she is contained. Seriously, when she gets shots nowadays, she is more upset at being forced down than she is by the piercing of the needles. She is going to rule the world one day, but for now, she doesn’t understand boundaries, and in my efforts to teach them to her, it makes for some stressful days. I know kids are kids, they sometimes cry, scream, and throw tantrums, but no parent actually knowingly wants to cause them. You have to do what is best for YOUR family. If that means making a private homecoming reunion, so be it. Don’t let people tell you how you should feel. If you know that your kid can’t handle the event, don’t bring them and don’t feel guilty. Go out of your way to make it special in other ways and you’re still doing justice to the magnitude of the event. If you know your kid will be fine at such an event, bring them, but don’t Mom Shame the mom whose kid isn’t as calm as yours. I hate that.

So Much to Say…

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Reunited and it feels so good!

It’s been TOO LONG of a break from writing, y’all. I apologize. It was a LONNNNNG deployment. And then my husband came home and we had to figure out how to live together again. We’ve changed. We’re not the same people we were. I think we were both in “survival mode” during this deployment and it showed after homecoming. And then after that, we moved across the world, it felt like. So some of this time away, I was just too tired to write. Or too lazy. Or too busy. Or without Internets. I have had some ideas of topics to write about mulling around in my brain, but for one reason after another, I just never got to my laptop or my computer or my tablet. Really what I’m saying is I had no excuse. But, as one character in one of my all time favorite shows (How I Met Your Mother) says, “Let me just get on the online so I can Internet.”

So let’s start over, sort of, shall we? I have big plans for writing more frequently, on a more regular basis. I’ve had a few topics in mind. Deployment is a big one, which you aren’t surprised that’s on my mind if you’ve been keeping up with me. My daughter just turned two, so I have new thoughts on motherhood to share, and more experiences to relate. I’ve just completed a cross-ocean, cross-country move, so I’ll definitely be writing about that. I’ve got a whole lot to unpack (haha, get it?) on that topic. I even have some ideas of having guest writings from some friends too.

Long story short, I am not dead. I have just been terribly lazy with my writing lately and I will make sure to stop that now. Promise!

But yeah, I live in the South now, so I’m gonna go have some peach pie and head to bed. Night!

Under Pressure

Why is there so much pressure on the military spouse to handle everything alone and without complaint? This life is already so uncertain, and then you go and marry a sailor (or marine or airman or soldier…) and things are being thrown at you that you never imagined having to deal with. But. Because you chose this life, you can’t complain, right? You can’t have a negative opinion. You can’t have a bad day. That would be unpatriotic. That would be ungrateful. That would be *gasp* shockingly normal.

I want to normalize it. Get it out there. Stop talking about it with one or two friends over wine in your kitchen and start telling the new spouses what they’re really signing up for and stop thinking you have to suffer in silence because that’s what it means to be a military spouse. Tell those new wives that there is a lot of loneliness. Tell the new husbands that their civilian friends may not ever understand them. Tell them that their own families may not ever be as supportive as they need. That they may have to be their own support system for a while when things get rough, and things will get rough. Tell them that they will learn more about themselves on this journey because they will be in situations they never dreamed of. Don’t ask them if they can handle it. Tell them they will have to handle it, because failure isn’t an option. There isn’t one way to survive deployment that works for everyone. There isn’t a miracle cure that will make you a professional military spouse. Even the strongest have weak moments and it has to be OK to break down and then build yourself back up again.

On your roughest days, it’s OK to complain. You’re allowed to be human and have negative thoughts. You are not superman. You are not Atlas, with the world on your back. You’re allowed to call your sister and vent about your problems without being judged for being ungrateful. Having a bad day sometimes doesn’t make this a bad life. Having a negative thought sometimes doesn’t mean you are depressed and it certainly doesn’t make you a toxic negative person. Having complaints doesn’t mean you’re ungrateful. Wanting your husband home more doesn’t mean you’re unpatriotic. Stop the madness now people! If one more person tells me (or my milSpouse friends for that matter!) that I should shut my mouth because this is what I signed up for, I will throat punch them while whistling “Stars and Stripes Forever,” k?

Civilian friends, check in on your military spouse friends. Chances are, they’re sugar coating it for you when they tell you they’re OK. They probably feel like you won’t understand the depth of their issues. They may feel like they can’t unburden themselves to you because they face challenges that are hard to put into words sometimes. Sometimes putting into words makes it more real, if that makes sense, so maybe we suffer in silence as a coping mechanism. Sometimes we would rather talk about the positives and ignore the negatives (I know I do this a lot, personally. It makes me happier to focus on the good rather than the bad, but there are some days where my natural optimism just can’t combat the challenges and those are the bad days.)

But for real, no one can carry around their burdens all the time without complaint, without relief. Find a way to lift your burden. You are the one at home, keeping things together for your service member. You have a lot to handle, but you don’t have to handle it alone. You are stronger than you think, but you don’t have to be super tough 24/7. You can’t maintain that without faltering. Sure, you can be tough as nails when shit hits the proverbial fan because someone has to clean it and fix it, so it might as well be you, right? Well what about the other difficulties? The smaller things that are super insignificant until they add up with all the other insignificants and become overwhelming? Or what about when all the big things go wrong at once? Anyone can handle one or two big emergencies, right, but now every single Murphy’s Law-type emergency is happening. What then?

Seriously. Sometimes strength is knowing when to ask for help or ask for an ear to listen and a shoulder to cry on. (And if your sister won’t answer the phone to listen to your problems, call someone who will.) The military spouse is a special person who puts up with a lot of stress. Wouldn’t it be a better thing if we supported each other and helped each other carry around our baggage? We’ve all got baggage. We may as well help each other!

Hurry Up. And Wait.

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Processed with MOLDIV

So, it’s common as a military spouse to be stuck in a waiting game. Life often feels like one long holding pattern. In this post, I mean to reference life as a sub spouse, because that’s my experience. I know our service members, whatever the branch, often have to hurry to certain points, only to wait hours once they get there. What I mean by “hurry up and wait” for me though, is that I seem to spend my life waiting around for something, and then once “it” happens, (whatever it is,) I have to rush rush rush to get all the boxes checked and the papers signed and more and then it is back to waiting for the next thing.

Many of the wives I’m friends with (and yes, I know spouses can be men and women, but in my small circle of friends, they’re women,) understand this concept all too well. Planning anything around the military is terrible. It really stinks if you’re an organized planner type of person. (raises hand!) Do you want to get married during a sea tour? I know one person who basically found out THE DAY OF HER WEDDING that her fiance could be off the boat at one particular time and he had to be back on board a couple of hours later. (What the what?!?!) Do you want to have a kid? Well if it turns out like me, your husband will miss a huge chunk of your pregnancy, swoop in for the birth, leave two days later, and miss most of your daughter’s first two years because #SeaTour. Do you want to plan a party or ceremony or date night out? Better check schedules of everyone involved and then check duty schedules and then it still isn’t 100% that anything will go forth so have a  backup plan in mind.

The first thing you’ll need to realize once you marry into this life as a [enter service here] spouse, is that there will be a good deal of your life that is completely out of your control. Take a good hard look at yourself and your personality and your lifestyle and then ask yourself, “Can I handle this? Forever and ever?” Because you’ll need to once you’re married to your service member. There are ways of coping, sure. But the sooner you come to grips with a lifestyle that is a roller coaster that is out of your control, the sooner you can find your coping strategies, employ them, and live happily ever after.

Here’s what I do. I mentally make plans. And I backup my plans with alternates and then I make contingency plans for the alternates. Because going into unknown situations scares me to my core, so I mitigate that by trying to think of what I’ll need to do whenever “it” happens. For example, we’re waiting for my Sir’s next orders right now. They could be a new job on this same island, and so my plan is very simple: do nothing. But we saw some international jobs and my plans for those orders are much more complicated. I mean, we’re already overseas technically. What’s one more ocean and crap ton of land mileage, right?! It’s enough to drive a person mad. I’m a list person so I’ve created mental to do lists for things to accomplish once orders come through. People to talk to. Forms to fill out. Things to sell/buy. This helps me feel like I’m in control of what I do have to be responsible for. There will be a lot of hurrying once we get my Sir’s new job. But since I literally can’t do a thing without orders, I think of what will need to be done and when. See? This scenario is more like “Wait. And then hurry up!”

But maybe lists aren’t your thing. That’s fine. You’ll find what works for you. Distract yourself by throwing yourself into your work until it happens, and then that’s when you can devote your energies to working through it. Or find some girlfriends, Skype or in person, and vent and talk it out until it all makes sense. That works too. You’ll find what works for you.

Also. Lower your expectations. Seriously. This is a skill that will help you in the long run. It isn’t easy to do, if you’re like me. But having super high expectations that something will be absolutely amazing will only set you up for disappointment later. BUT. Wouldn’t it be better if you expect something to be just OK and then it turns out to be stupendous?! Try to tell yourself that things may go wrong and plans may have to be shelved for later or changed and then you’ll avoid the bitter feeling of disappointed hopes. Every time you find yourself thinking excitedly of fantastic plans you’ve made, just remember that it may not go as you set out and that’s OK.

This is a lifestyle many people can’t understand. Even if they basically understand the words I’m saying, until they’ve lived it for themselves, it isn’t a true comprehension. From the outside, it can seem like we have no stability and no control. Then again, I barely spent any life “from the outside” because both of my parents are marines and the only time I spent “in the civilian world” was about four or five years or so between college and marriage, so maybe I’m not the best judge on perspective “from the outside.” But it is a comment I receive a lot from my non-military friends, that they can’t conceive of what it’d be like to live this life. But if you were to ask me as a child if I ever felt like I was in an unstable environment, I’d have said no. The military may be a little crazy, running around like a chicken with its head cut off, but plans always come together in the end. I went from being a military kid to a military wife and I don’t ever recall feeling like my world was too much out of my control. I just found the things I can control, and took the reins. It’s all we can do, and in the end, this life with my best friend is worth it.

To My Friends Without Kids

When I had a baby, I was told that I could basically say goodbye to my childless friends, my “single” friends, if you will. My life would be too busy and it would be too different from theirs and we would obviously drift apart. I would have nothing but poo and teething to talk about and that just isn’t interesting to friends who don’t have kids of their own. I would be tied down by babysitters and naptimes and so I wouldn’t be able to go out on the town anymore. I would be too involved with playdates and other moms to keep up with my previous friendships.

Well that’s a load of crap.

I’m here to tell you that if your friends don’t want to be friends with you after you have a baby, maybe you’re better off without them. Such fickle people aren’t going to be there when you need them and maybe you should make friends with the moms of your kid’s friends.

But for real. Two of my bestest friends are kid free and they not only tolerate my woeful potty training tales but they also help me raise my ridiculously strong-willed daughter. They are willing to come to my house, a thirty-minute drive for them, so that we can hang out without my needing a babysitter all the time. (Don’t get me wrong though–sometimes I do get sitters and hang out with them sans daughter. I’m just glad I don’t have to do this every single time.) They even scoured their own neighborhoods for playgrounds with bucket swings for my baby girl when I couldn’t find swing sets near me on my side of the island. They get down on the ground to be silly with her and they aren’t afraid to reprimand her for standing in chairs or climbing on bookshelves.

I’m so ridiculously grateful to these two ladies. They are strong women and I’m glad my daughter will grow up with their guidance. They see me at my worst and my best and don’t blink their eyes. They love my daughter like she’s their own and do you even know what that means to me?

And don’t get me wrong. I have tons of “mom friends” too. I joined a whole club just for moms. I get wonderful support and advice and encouragement from all of my friends, not just the moms, and not just the non-moms. But my point in writing today is to put it out there that sometimes the stereotypes are wrong. Just because you’re having kids doesn’t mean you’re going to lose all of your kid-free friends. Sometimes, those kid-free friends will step up and become your kid-raising village and it’s the best feeling in the world.

But you can’t abandon your kid-free friends either. Don’t think that you can just take all of their love and support and not offer them anything either. Friendships aren’t one-way. It is very true that after having kids, you will have a different sort of day. Especially the stay-at-home mamas. You need to accommodate your new life and still make time for your friends. Change can be a good thing. Growing is a part of life. Try not to grow apart. Try to grow together! If you can’t get out for brunch anymore, find something else to do. Shoot them a message telling them you’re thinking of them; that goes a long way. Invite them to come to the playground with you and your kid. (I do this with my friends frequently. We choose a shady spot to sit and drink our coffee while my kid runs around like a loon.) We have a group text message chain going too, where we like to make plans and such, but I also shoot them funny pictures and memes now and then too. We often do events at my house so I can put Mademoiselle down for naptime or bedtime and then we can carry on and act silly ourselves downstairs. For example, we are planning a tea party at my house. I have lots of fancy teacups and saucers and we want to use them! Or if you’re used to going for walks with your kid in the stroller, bring your friends along with you. You’ll find ways to include your kid-free friends. You’ll find what works for you, but you have to be willing to look for it.

I’m a strong believer in making time for the things and people that are truly important to you. If it means a lot to you, you’ll find a way, you’ll find the time. It is important to me to show my friends that they’re important to me.

So shout out to the kid-free friends who still hang out with their mom friends. They’re really the best. High five!

 

How Do You Do It?

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Processed with MOLDIV

“How do you do it?”

“I couldn’t handle the separations from my spouse like you do.”

“You must love getting free housing.”

“It must be wonderful marrying for the money.”

“Sacrifice? What sacrifices are you making? You aren’t the one serving and laying your life on the line!”

I’ve heard it all, not that I claim to speak for all military spouses and their experiences. Many have been around this life much longer than I have of course. Many of the wives of my acquaintance can definitely be described as “salty” at this point–they’ve been everywhere, seen it all, done it all, and now they’re tough and hardened by the experience. I am not that salty sailor’s wife (yet) and I haven’t done half the things my compatriots have. There are still many things though, that I still deal with that baffle my friends in the civilian world.

Recently, we had a scare in my household. A medical scare. The kind where I experienced my first ambulance ride and subsequent doctors visits and medical tests. I chose to deal with everything first and then tell my family and friends, mostly, after the fact. And then a family member asked me how I deal with it all–all the stress of a deployment while I raise a toddler thousands of miles away from most of my family and then to have this medical emergency occur in the middle. “How do you do it?”

Do you know I never stopped to ask myself that question? I do it because I have to. There isn’t another option, frankly. I succeed as a military spouse because the other option is failure and that simply cannot be allowed. The loneliness I feel without my husband (read: my best friend) is real and not fun at all. This military life is not often glamorous. (I’ll touch on the glamour of the military ball soon.) I very often feel overwhelmed and unsure and unequal to the task required of me. We all do. The wisest most experienced of us spouses still feel the pain and anxiety. That doesn’t ever really go away, so I’ve heard.

So how do I do it? When I married my Sir, I knew that he’d be away from home for a lot of our life together. In fact, my dad knew my then boyfriend would propose to me a few weeks ahead of the fact, and he made sure to have a real conversation with me about what my life might entail. I was already a military kid, so there were some things I did understand. He wanted to make sure that I understood more thoroughly though. More is expected of the spouse than of the child. Could I handle marrying a man who would be required to keep secrets from me, for the good of our national security and defense? Would I be able to hold it all together while my Sir is sent off to work in dangerous conditions for months? Did I think I could cope with the ups and downs of a life where I get to make very few choices? He was testing me. He’s always been open with me when I ask about his experiences in the Marine Corps, as open as one can be while still adhering to OPSEC (operational security, the term used to basically describe how you can’t give up certain information about our service men and women. Think of the phrase loose lips sink ships.) My answer then and now, was and is, YES.

How do I do it? The short answer is that I get by with lots of help from some good friends. I’m lucky that my Sir’s older brother also joined the submarine service and his wife is THE BEST. I’m lucky that my own sister married a man in the submarine service and she understands me and now she understands the military wife life. (Yes, I have two brothers in law in the sub force with my husband; me and my friends get a kick out of this. I have two other brothers in law who did not see themselves in the Navy and I hope they read this and know that I love them just as much as the Navy ones!) I was blessed to be taken under the wings of a few of those salty experienced wives when I first married my Sir. They taught me so much, introduced me to people and places, and very patiently answered my questions when I was a newb. (They STILL answer my questions!) And I’m fortunate to have good excellent AMAZING friends here in Hawaii. I chose to put myself out of my comfort zone and join a moms group in my area even though I know I’m not terribly good at making new friends. I chose to make the best of the time I did have with my husband and make sure that we were as close to being on the same page in all things as possible, to prepare for the inevitable day when I’d be the one making all decisions for the household.

And I think that’s the crux of my point. Choice. It is easy to name all the bad things about military life. It is very easy to get mired down and overwhelmed. I know many military spouses who are seriously depressed and downtrodden by this life. I don’t claim to have sunshiney rainbow thoughts that will drive away the depression that is real and scary for so many of us, male or female. But I do believe that I have a choice in how I deal with this life. Am I OK with my husband missing holidays and birthdays and milestones? Do I enjoy parenting our daughter alone? Do I like missing my friends and family because either I or they had to uplift everything and move again and again and again? Honestly, of course I don’t like any of that. Is it worth it though?

It isn’t glamorous, even if we do get to dress up fancy for a ball here and there. It isn’t fun, even though we do sometimes make the best friends we’ll ever meet who become our family. It isn’t stable, what with moving around the world so often, even though we get to see sights that inspire awe and quell our wanderlust. It isn’t peaceful, even though we do get a wonderful sense of pride to see the American flag waving on the breeze.

I do it because I have to. Because failure isn’t an option, and I don’t mean to sound like a martyr. I will learn what I need to learn in order to deal with whatever comes my way. And his homecoming will be absolutely amazing, the stuff of legend. A Hawaii submarine homecoming is an awesome thing to behold. More on that later though.

 

Deployment Soundtrack

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So it’s no secret that my Sir is about to deploy. He’ll be gone, out doing an important job on a submarine. Somewhere. In an ocean. That’s about all I know. I will manage life here at home for me and my one-year-old daughter. We will do our best to make the days pass quickly so we can go back to having him home with us. I’ll be the one to handle any and all temper tantrums, emergencies, bad days, and tragedies. Of course, I’ll also see every single milestone and achievement and smile. That’s how I plan to get through this. Focus on the good things, the things I can control, and have the world’s longest countdown. (For OPSEC reasons, of course, it will not be an accurate countdown. But I think a visual reminder will help.) I figure I’ll need some good music to listen to.

So a few days ago, I heard a new Josh Groban song. “River.” It was a huge mind blowing moment for me. I was obsessed before the song even ended the first time I heard it. I listened to it on repeat for about forty-five minutes. I’m sure my daughter was thrilled. It was an uplifting song, meant for when you’re feeling down. But here’s the thing. Many uplifting songs just tell you that you’ll get through this and have an upbeat sort of feel. This one, in my opinion, is for when you’re still in the middle of your troubles and you haven’t come to the greener grass yet. It was a nice change. It made me want to make a deployment playlist of other songs for myself.

You know when you try to think of your favorite songs and all of a sudden, it’s like you’ve never listened to music in your life? You suddenly can’t think of anything. This was me. All I knew was that I wanted “River” on this playlist. So I crowd sourced on Facebook and Googled “deployment playlist” and was rewarded with lots of curated lists that other people have made. Only, I didn’t think many of the songs pertained to me. There are lots of country songs about soldiers, for example. And while I love me some country music, my Sir isn’t a soldier. He’s a sailor. Specifically, he’s a submariner. So here’s my submarine deployment playlist. It has songs that are specific to me and my husband (our special song, or songs that make me think of him in particular), songs that just plain make me happy, songs about boats and sailing, and uplifting ‘girl power’ songs. It kind of runs the gamut of genres too.

“Then” by Brad Paisley–This was the song we danced to first at our wedding and it has become our song. Love it!

“I’m Yours” by Jason Mraz–This is something we actually say to each other a lot.

“Lucky” by Jason Mraz–This song describes us so well!

“River” by Josh Groban–I could listen to this song all day, methinks.

“Dare You to Move” by Switchfoot–A good uplifting song without being too upbeat in your face.

“Beyond the Sea” by Robbie Williams–You’ll recognize this one from the Finding Nemo credits and it’s highly appropriate for a Navy family.

“Feels Like Home” (Bonus Track) by Josh Groban–You may notice a bit of a Josh Groban obsession.

“Soldier” by Gavin DeGraw–One of my favourite songs to sing. It just makes me happy to sing along to this in the car.

“Love Only Knows” by Josh Groban–Just one of the drippy romantic sappy love songs on here.

“Daylight” by Maroon 5–Especially right now, it echoes my thoughts of wanting him to stay a little longer.

“Home” by Michael Buble–My take on how he may be feeling as the days, weeks, months go  by.

“Don’t Cry” by Nathan Pacheco–An uplifting, ‘you can do it!’ song but by my favorite classical crossover singer. Love this guy.

“Make You Feel My Love” by Adele–Because I’d do anything for my Sir.

“I’ll Be There For You” by Bon Jovi–Kind of self-explanatory.

“Keep the Faith” by Bon Jovi–Ditto on the self-explanatory

“The Time of My Life” by David Cook–love songs are great.

“You Are Loved (Don’t Give Up)” Josh Groban–The title says it all.

“Would You Go With Me” by Josh Turner–One of my favs and just makes me  happy to listen to.

“Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You)” by Kelly Clarkson–“What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” Deployment mantra!

“I’m On A Boat” (Feat. T-Pain) by The Lonely Island–This one is explicit but hilarious. And I can’t get enough of it. And I feel like I shouldn’t let my daughter listen to it. #MomGuilt

“Uptown Funk” by Bruno Mars–This is one of my Sir’s favorites and since I think of him dancing to this every time I hear it, of course it has to be on my playlist.

“Valentine” by Martina McBride–the lovey-doviest song on here.

“I Will Wait” by Mumford and Sons–I’m literally waiting for him. Navy life means a lot of waiting.

“I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)” by the Proclaimers–We love to listen to this on roadtrips and sing it together at the top of our lungs!

“Fight Song” by Rachel Platten–Girl power. Enough said.

“Marry Me” by Train–awww, another love song.

“A Thousand Miles” by Vanessa Carlton–I really would walk a thousand miles for him. Don’t get me wrong. There would be massive complaining about pain in my feet and blisters I’m sure. But I’d do it. For him.

“The Prayer” (duet with Josh Groban) by Celine Dion–Another one of the classical crossover songs that just makes me happy. Because I grew up listening to Celine and I love Josh Groban and I love to sing in Italian. Win Win Win.

“Roads” by Chris Mann–Love this guy.

“Fighter” by Christina Aguilera–This song is about bouncing back after a bad relationship, but we need more girl power.

“So Close” from the Enchanted Soundtrack–I’m kind of a Disney nut and the line: “So far we are, so close” struck a chord with me.

“The Thunder Rolls” by Garth Brooks–One of the happiest days of my life was going to the Garth Brooks concert he gave here on Oahu and this is my all time favorite Garth Brooks song. It was appropriate.

“Perfect Storm” by Brad Paisley–Kinda how I think my Sir views me. Regardless, it makes me think of him.

“My Best Friend” by Tim McGraw–Because he is in fact, my best friend!

“I Gotta Feeling” by The Black Eyed Peas–Woohoo! (See what I did there?)

“Survivor” by Destiny’s Child–Because I’m determined to at least survive this deployment. Once it’s over, we’ll see if I’ve in fact thrived.

“Can’t Hold Us” (feat. Ray Dalton) by Mackelmore & Ryan Lewis–Another one of my favs.

“All Star” by Smash Mouth–Whether you know this song because of Shrek or you were a late 90s kid, it’s just fun. How can you not smile when you hear it?

So that’s my list. I’m sure, as this deployment wears on, I’ll tweak it. I’ll skip songs some days and add or delete songs. Tell us what you think! What songs get you through your own deployments?