Thank you for serving your country, You’re Fired.

Forgive me…  I need to depart from the normal timbre of posting around these parts.  I’ve been blogging as a military spouse for about 7 years now, and as a military spouse, I just cannot sweep this one under the rug.  

Also, just so there is no confusion, at least at this point in time my husband is still employed and is supposed to stay that way.

I learned tonight that a good friend of mine was fired.

He is a good guy, a straight arrow, works hard.  He has a wife and two kids.  He’s a good man, and as far as I know he hasn’t done anything wrong in his job.

The really outrageous thing?  He got fired from a job you, at least according to common public knowledge, you’re not supposed to be able to get fired from.

He got fired from the Navy.

He got fired from the Navy just after saying goodbye to his family for a deployment from which, even after getting this news, he will not return from until late spring/early summer.

8 Sailors from my husband’s command found out that they lost their jobs today as a result of a little thing that has been talked about in back hallways and in hushed and anxious whispers called the Enlisted Retention Board, or the ERB.

The ERB and another hardly talked about program Perform to Serve, or PTS, are the Navy’s  answer to a vague problem that the Navy allegedly has, known as “Overmanning.”  Somehow or another, too many people were recruited to do certain jobs.  So, the powers that be of the Navy–whoever they may be–decided that we needed to get rid of some people.

First there was Perform to Serve.  A sailor was given six “looks” prior to being ‘allowed’ to re-enlist.  If they made it through all six of those “looks” they were allowed to re-enlist if they desired.  If for some reason, paperwork was submitted incorrectly, or you just didn’t pass whatever ‘muster’ was being held up, or you didn’t indicate that you would be willing to stop doing the job you were trained to do and ‘cross-rate’ into a different job you were told that, whether or not you wanted to or intended to re-enlist to serve your country you would not be allowed to.  We have watched person after person after person be dealt the blow of PTS.  Good friends have moved.  Many of them are STILL looking for jobs and stability as a result.  My husband came home on a weekly basis with a list of “Really good guys/gals who had just been PTSed out.”

Now we have the ERB.  The gist of ERB, if I understand correctly, was to get rid of a certain quota of sailors in a less ceremonious manner.  All the reading said it was designed to get rid of the “underperformers.”  When I heard about the ERB my gut said–Quota is Quota.  GOOD PEOPLE are going to be LET GO.

And that’s what is happening.  Because of this supposed ‘Overmanning” of certain rates, because times are lean, because the most expensive part of the Department of Defense’s budget is *gasp* paying its personnel, Sailors are being fired.  FIRED people.

The Navy calls it “Separated.”  They talk about the things ‘separatees’ are ‘entitled too’ as a result of this move.  But all of that is fancy language for, “Thanks for serving your country.  You did a good job.  You’re fired.”

The kicker is that my husband was ‘hand picked’ to go on this deployment for one reason. Are you ready for this?  My husband, though he had just signed into another command and wasn’t due to deploy for another full year, was switched at the last-minute to his current command, because THAT command was so UNDERMANNED THAT IT WAS ACTUALLY ILLEGAL FOR THEM TO DEPLOY UNLESS THEY ESSENTIALLY ROBBED OTHER COMMANDS OF THEIR PERSONNEL TO BRING UP THEIR MANNING LEVEL.  My husband was one of several who, at the very last-minute, was told that he would be going to a new command in an emergency situation to satisfy urgent manning needs.  Some of the same rates that were UNDERMANNED in those commands are rates that were hit by the ERB because of OVERMANNING.  Now…  Does that strike anyone else as odd?

These men and women signed a contract which was, like any other service member, essentially a blank check promising that they would pay their very lives if asked, to serve and protect this country.

This country, this Navy, just kicked them to the curb.

What gets me on top of that is the fact that NO ONE KNOWS ABOUT IT EXCEPT THE ONES WHO HAVE BEEN SWEATING BULLETS ABOUT WHETHER OR NOT IT WOULD HAPPEN TO THEM.  In a culture that has so hyper-romanticized the ‘military family’ why is no one doing Op-Eds on how outrageously wrong it is that men and women who have chosen to serve this nation, who are willingly signing up to do so for more than one enlistment can be–let’s use the correct term now–FIRED?  We were talking with friends about this last week.  It was a group of civilians and military folk intermixed.  Our civilian friends looked up and said, “You can’t lose your job if you’re in the Navy.”  No one knows this is even possible much less happening.  The assumption is that our men and women in uniform have “job security.”  Why?  Because they SHOULD HAVE JOB SECURITY.  If they are willing to do what the other 99% of this country is unwilling to do and serve their country, service members with good conduct should not have to worry about whether or not they will be out of work.  But as too many men and women learned today, that job security should not be assumed.

All of this is to say nothing of the repercussions that this will have on the ability of our Navy to do it’s job.  With fewer and fewer people with experience working in certain jobs.  With fewer and fewer people to DO certain jobs, things are going to get really messy soon.  Indeed, they’re getting messy already.

And you want to know one more thing that has me so hot under the collar about all this that I almost can’t breath?  Many of these men and women getting this news today are on deployments.  The eight sailors who were just fired from my husband’s command just left their families.  They have been deemed ‘unessential personnel…’  But they can’t leave their posts to go start the process of looking for other jobs because their presence is too essential to the mission.

I don’t understand.  Our friend has a family–a wonderful wife and two kiddos.  He is a good man and a good sailor.  He’s a first class who takes care of his guys.  He is not an underperformer.

Just the same, come September, he’ll be looking for another job.

It’s not fair.  It’s not right.  And it’s time somebody paid attention.

Missing: Stiff Upper Lip

Edited:  So…  Posting in my blog whilst falling apart.  Maybe not the wisest move, though it was cathartic.  This evening, I’m still not all the way, ‘ok,’ but after some time at an indoor playground with the kids, a funny movie, and some good old fashioned comfort food later, and I’m not so much of a wreck.  Who’m I kidding?  I never did have the stiff upper lip thing going for me.  :)

I don’t remember how to do this.  I don’t know if I can do this.  I’m trying so hard not to be a mess around my girls, and not being at all successful.  We cleared our schedule so that we could just be together, the girls and I, this first day, but I can’t stand having nothing to do.

I can’t breathe and my stomach feels like lead and the tears just won’t stop.  People around here do this all the time and they just do it.  Why can’t I do that?  Where is my stiff upper lip?

Maybe it’s because it’s been so long, or maybe it’s because so many other hard things have piled up and I never have seemed to completely heal from one before the next hard thing comes up.

The girls are in the other room watching Prancer.  I should be sitting with them and snuggling and holding them tight, but I can’t seem to keep my own heart and emotions together enough to do that.  And sitting still is just killing me.

Can I do this?  I have to do this, but I don’t know if I can.  I will do this, but I don’t know if I can.

I sang Psalm 121 on the way home.  “I lift up my eyes to the hills.  Where does my help come from?  My help comes from the Lord.  The maker of heaven and earth.”  And there is comfort there and refuge and strength.

But still my heart is pressed.  I am pressed.  Pressed so hard that I can’t breathe.  The countdown kept coming on hard and each day it pressed down upon us more until today when it is so heavy I think I very well may break.

I want to tell everyone that I am ok.  That I will be ok.  That I am “fine.”

But right now I am not fine or ok.  Right now I am desperate to not be here doing this.  Right now I am desperate for the arms of my husband and the sound of his voice and his smell.

It’s only been a few hours….  And surely the weight of it all will lift.  Surely there will come an easier breath and a straight 15 minutes without tears.  The girls need me and I have to figure out a way to relegate my tears to the shower and to my pillow at night.

But right now I am just raw and sad and bereft…

I am NOT a strong military wife.  I am not the one that can take it all in a stride and move on like nothing happened.  Maybe I used to be that military wife, but today I’m not.  Ten years of war and all of history wives and sweethearts have been doing exactly this and we’ve had it so easy these last few years, but now my time has come and I can’t stand up under the weight of it.

Today it hurts….  And the barrenness of these months without him stretch out long in front of me and threaten to swallow me whole.

I will find my footing.  We will find our other version of normal.  A long, clear breath will come.

But today…

Today I am a train wreck.

One Moment at a Time

It’s Five Minute Friday, again.  :)

If I jump ahead a few days…  If I look at what is coming down the line.  If I think about the absence and all that we will be missing, I can’t breathe.  The anxiety and the dread swallow me whole.  I have been surprised the last few days though, at how I can keep my head out of that place.  How I can look at what’s in front of me–a Thanksgiving meal.  My baby girl’s birthday celebration.  I can focus on those things and feel swept up in love and in joy.

It’s amazing to me that the human heart can hold so much.  We can do Thanksgiving and do this birthday and be so fully in it even while preparing for this deployment.  It reminds me of when my Mom was near the end and we started matter of factly discussion funeral arrangements.  I was 24 then and I remember thinking that I never would have guessed that I could have that conversation without the world swallowing me in blackness or at the very least me breaking into tears.

But our hearts can and do contain so much.  So much at once.  And in the moment…  In gratefulness for the moment and for the little things that come our way.  Be they  sparks of light and fun, tender gestures that remind you of the love that you share, reminders of strength that will carry you through…  I am grateful for the sustaining nature of the present moment.

SO MUCH… SO MUCH!

When I can see past the grumpies…  And I look back at this year, I can’t catch my breath for the gratitude that springs up.

Last Thanksgiving my Lainey came.  Our little pumpkin pie.  In a room with ten people not counting Andrew, Lainey, and me because things went fast as usual.  Because I had a tumor.  Because there were risks and we weren’t sure if the tumor would secrete catecholamines with the stress of labor.  10 people standing there….  waiting with us, helping us, coaching me through.  Most of them doctors–an entire Grey’s Anatomy cast all my own in a world-class facility.  I had a brilliant, compassionate doctor who intervened enough to get my baby here safely, but backed off enough to let my body do it’s own beautiful work.  I just realized sometime in the  last two months that the reason the nurse who coached me through the final stage of labor and helped me not to push reminded me with each contraction to lay my head back not to help me to relax, but to keep me from compressing the tumor on my carotid.  What a terrifying mess…  But we came through it to the other side…  And somehow it managed to be breathtakingly beautiful.

And then she was here…  After 24 hours of the induction doing nothing but causing hard, painful contractions…  and 12 hours of ‘real’ labor…  our, “Little Rock” arrived.  I reveled in her.  Here I’d wondered if I would be able to relax into her…  Enjoy her…  Love her without reservation after nine months of ambivalence and fear.  Truly, truly my heart nearly burst with loving her.  It still does.

We laid her under our Christmas tree last Christmas and what a gift she was…  What brightness that season held even in the midst of uncertainty about Tomas and NIH and what was to come.

And then February 14th..  Another momentous holiday.  Going to the NIH.  A week of testing and getting answers and getting random extra minor illnesses.  A week later, the surgery.   Tomas was finally removed after 8 long months of waiting.  The tumor had doubled in size and was encroaching on nerves and blood vessels. I had a world-class team.  The top experts of experts.  They very well may have saved my life.  I know that they have given me the best leg up I could get in watching my body for the rest of my life in case any other Pheo or Para wants to come play.  It was scary and it was hard and there were things that I wish could have gone differently, but it still comes down to the fact that I was given the best care possible by the best doctors possible in the best facility possible.  How can I be anything but grateful for that?

Andrew was home for all of it.  He was home for the diagnosis and the fear and the information scouring.  He was home for the birth of our new baby girl…  To hold my hand and keep me focused on the goodness to come instead of the scary precautions happening.  He was with me for the surgery and walked me through recovery.   He was there through the ugly post-op infection and the three “bonus” days in the hospital here at home.  He was here for all of it.

And then there were beautiful ‘normal’ moments….  A trip to the beach–four days of breathing deep and watching God’s playfulness at work on the peek-a-boo waves caught us off guard.  There were bedtimes and lullabies and snuggles.  There was unceremonious family time.  Watching our three beautiful daughters grow, change, mature…

When we talked about having a third we wanted him to be home for the first year.  With Carolyn and Abigail both, Andrew had to leave when they were tiny 8 week old babies.  We ‘planned’ our babe for when he could be home.  And then we miscarried…..  and that hurt so badly.  But then Lainey came along….  And even with all that happened he was here for her whole first year.  All of it.  Every month and every milestone of  the first year.

SO MUCH.  I have SO MUCH to be grateful for: My life…  The stark realization that I carry with me every day that there are no guarantees that you can be the 1 in 100,000 person, that we are not immune.  I have the perspective that gives me, urging me to drink deeply of the time I’m given with those that I love.  I have the growing gritty strength that these things have wrought within me.  I have three amazingly gorgeous little girls and the most amazing man to walk through this life with me.

This week has been hard…  Next week will be harder, but that doesn’t change the fact that I have SO MUCH…  SO MUCH! to be thankful for this Thanksgiving.

Parking My Head in Every New Day

I am thankful that he was here for all of Lainey’s first year.  I am thankful that he will be here for Thanksgiving.  I am thankful that he was here for all of the Tomas saga.  I am thankful for all the nights that Shore Duty gave me with him curled up against my back.  I am thankful for the nights when we were in the thick of the Tomas saga when he held me as I cried myself to sleep.  I am thankful for the tickle missiles he ‘shoots’ at the girls.  I am thankful that he takes the girls so thoughtfully to do errands so that Lainey and I can have some quiet time.  I am thankful for all the ways he has been able to help around the house.  I am thankful that we have a roof over our head and money for groceries because of his career.  I am thankful for his selflessness in providing for us.  I am thankful for the health insurance…  So thankful now.  And even if what Leon Panetta says is true and a dramatic cut for the DOD is about to come across the board which would mean a lot of that security could disappear, I am thankful that we have it now.

I am thankful for the traditions we’ve gotten to observe in entirety for these years of Shore Duty (indeed, I almost feel guilty that we’ve had those years while so many service members and families have continued to give themselves raw).  I am thankful that he is whole and healthy.  I am thankful that no knocks at the door have come.  I’m thankful that my missing of him will be temporary.

I’m thankful for things to keep me busy and for a phone call from another wife in the squadron and the potential of getting to know her.  I am thankful that even through the fall out of church transition I have a wonderful new church to call home and programming there to keep me and the kids busy and connected.  I am thankful for fledgling new friendships and for friendships which have roots.

I am thankful.  For all of these things and more.

I am still sad.  So sad.  I am still struggling with the mix of doing this during the holiday season.  I am still heart-sick when the girls ask me questions like, “But who will give me tickle missiles?”  And “So Daddy won’t be here for my birthday?”  I am still grumpy at the timing and the “All the troops home for Christmas” messages.  I am still so tired…  I seem to sleep, but never rest these days…  I am still so distracted that I haven’t been getting laundry folded and while we may have plenty of food for Thanksgiving tomorrow, the house very well may be a mess.  I am still anxious and sick to my stomach with dread.  I am still stuck in the, “Maximize the time,” on one hand and the, “Please leave so that we can get this over with and start counting down to homecoming and not home leaving,” on the other hand vortex.  I am still worried about the numbness coming back and the numbness not coming back.

I guess gratefulness isn’t supposed to cancel the tough stuff out, but to allow you to see the little sparks of light and goodness through them.

I feel as though God is whispering to me that if I look hard enough that each new day there will be something  to sustain me…  That each new day He will bring goodness to us and reason for joy on a gentle breeze.  I pray that I have eyes to see.  I also know I have to remember that even though the good days aren’t as good and the hard days are even harder that life doesn’t end and does not become only droopiness and doom.  There will still be good days even when he is on the other side of the world and I can only share them via email.  Every New Day there will be goodness.  Every New Day there will be grace.

“Dear Father, I need you.  Your strength my heart to mend.  I want to fly higher, Every New Day again…..  Healing heart have mercy on our unclean souls once again.  Here’s my heart.  Let it be forever yours.  Only you can make Every New Day feel so new.”  (Again Five Iron Frenzy gives me a lifeline to hold onto)

THAT is where I’m trying to park my head.

(My writing isn’t so flowery at the moment…  Hopefully soon I will be able to craft my words a little more artfully again).

 

Grumpy and Gratefuls.

I’m grumpy.  I have pre-deployment crankies like nobody’s business.  Just the same…  I am still trying to cultivate a spirit of gratefulness.

As such, things that I am grateful  for at the moment:

1)  The anticipation of pink stuff and sweet potatoes on Thursday

2)  The way Abigail’s  lips part and she has a little smile when she’s really enjoying watching something.

3)  Zyrtec easing Lainey’s constant congestion

4)  The deep ways that I find it is well with my soul even when I’m grumpy enough to write about the grumpy parts.

5)  Cottage Cheese in all it’s protein-y splendor

6)  My folks coming for Christmas–something to look forward to

7)  Andrew being home for ALL of Lainey’s first year.  That’s a first for us and we’re grateful

8)  TV shows to keep me company in the evenings when the time comes.

9)  Wonderful, understanding teachers for my girls.

10)  A husband who goes above and beyond to make sure we’re ready for this adventure.

11)  Being married to a man who I love so much that I get excruciatingly grumpy and upset when having to be away from him.

12)  The resiliency of children.

13)  Having a perfect day on Sunday–Worship, and good time with husband….  A play that made us laugh so long and hard our faces hurt.  And Five Guys Burgers to boot.

14)  Lainey starting to dance.

15)  A sense of humor that takes the edge off so much of the ick.

There…  that’s a baker’s dozen and then some.

Now that that’s done, a little of the flip side.

1)  Media stories highlighting ‘all the troops coming home for the holidays…’ still–or even just reminders of those stories.

2)  (Wonderful, well-meaning people) who immediately ask if I’m going home during the deployment.  Well.  I AM at home.  I live HERE.  I’m a  30 year old woman with 3 children and this is our home.

3)  Reading people’s comments to any article about the military.  Do they not get that REAL PEOPLE ARE SERVING and that service members are more than a political talking point and that our lives are about more than whether or not a given person is for or against the ten years of war we’ve been enduring?

4)  Powers of Attorney…  Getting all of them and then still wondering if we’ll have the ones that we need should an unforeseen circumstance come knocking at the door.

5)  The constant gnawing nausea in the pit of my stomach that I have dubbed ‘the dread bucket.’

6)  The way that everyone wants to point out the silver linings to things that are tough.  Yes, I look for the silver linings, and I count up my gratefuls, and I am taking comfort in them, but sometimes I just need to know that you understand that at the moment I’m just trying to embrace the yuck and wait for the steady ground to come again.

7)  The awkwardness of telling people he’s going and their reactions.  “I’m sorry,” is a right thing to say, but still a little awkward because…  “This is what we  do.”  Just the same, “Well…  This is the Navy, you’re used to this,” or “You knew what you were signing up for,” or just the assumption that it’s no big deal for us doesn’t hit me right either.  Which yes, just means that I’m prickly enough that there is no right thing to say.

Now that I’ve got that off my chest let me go back to the  Gratefuls.

I am grateful for words like this,

“In the stressful times : seek God

In the painful times : praise God

In the harried times : hallow God

In the terrible times : trust God.

And at all times — and at all times –

Thank God.”  –Ann Voskamp

I am thankful for how those words calm me and bring me back around.  I am thankful for how God sticks with me in my grumpy, prickly ick.  I am thankful that He is sovereign and always with me in the hard stuff and always turning it all to good.  I am thankful for many many things….  And this  softens the grumpies even as I acknowledge them.

If I seem grumpy, know that I’m not ungrateful.  If you hear my gratefuls, know that it’s still hard.  Really it’s a wonder how we can contain so much within us at any single moment.  And that double-sided coin is a tension I’m living in and marveling at all at once.

Growing Confident

It’s Five Minute Friday again!  Check out some of the other people playing with words and writing for Five Minutes only with The Gypsy Mama.

I was talking with some ladies yesterday about decision making.  We were looking at how we make our decisions and what kinds of bents our personality have when making them.

As we talked I kind of flashed over the big decisions we’ve made lately.  Decisions about health care and doctors and what paths we should take.  Decisions about husband staying in the Navy or getting out of the Navy.  Decisions about where to live.  What to do with kiddos.  On and on.

I realized in a flash that I feel a confidence I don’t think I’ve ever known before about the decisions I’ve made and about my ability to make them.  The crucible of the last few months and years where so many big things happened and there were so many choices about how to proceed.  I don’t wring my hands near as much as I once did.  I trust myself.  I know that I seek out wisdom and knowledge.  I know that I inform myself.  I know that at some point I just have to take a leap and go with it.  Best of all, I’m not living in regret.  I stand by the decisions I’ve made.

I can be so timid.  But yesterday as I reflected I realized that I’ve pushed out some of that timidity, and in this area, at least, I’ve found confidence.  For a girl who is hard on herself all to often, that’s a great feeling to have.  To see a place where I’ve grown and stand tall in it. To know that I can trust myself and the decisions that I make:  That’s huge.

The Most Mornings Fly Apart

Most mornings I am pretty sure I am going to fly apart.

I forget to have the girls lay their clothes out the night before.  I miss an hour or two of sleep due to baby duty and anxiety laden insomnia and stay in bed too long which means the girls stay in bed too long.  They dilly dally on getting dressed and then can’t find their clothes in the piles of folded or unfolded laundry sitting in various places around the house (but hey–at least it’s clean!).

Then we finally make it downstairs and the pants Abbie has picked out have actually been worn twice already this week and have a stain on the knee but she DOES NOT WANT to take them off and there is a meltdown.  And then a cereal bowl gets dropped and there is glass and cereal all over my kitchen and I’m trying desperately not to yell.  I get the girls into another room safe from the glass and step out back to take a Mommy time out in the cool air, only to return to the glass and the meltdown. The kids watch me appeal out loud to God for patience in a very loud not at all patient voice.  And then I ask again.

The last 10 minutes go more smoothly and the girls are helping and the meltdown has stopped, but we have 20 different tasks still to get done in the remaining time and the baby has a poopy diaper just as we’re heading out the door.  Somehow they get loaded in the back of the van and Carolyn gets dropped off just in time to make it to her classroom door as long as she doesn’t trip and have a meltdown on the way.

I finally get Abigail to her preschool class and look around at the perfectly coiffed little girls (did I even remember to comb her hair?!) with their perfectly matching outfits, with sweet little accessories to boot and I look at the ‘pick your battles’ outfit that landed on Abigail’s little frame:  Grey sweatpants that are too short, flowery multi-colored shirt, blue zebra-striped socks, and red sparkle Dorothy-shoes.  I trudge by the moms who look completely put together themselves and get into the car and resist the urge to just put my head down on the steering wheel and cry…  And I only resist the urge because the perfectly put together moms are watching.

I try to remember:  I try to remember that it’s about progress not perfection and that maybe two months ago I wouldn’t have taken the Mommy time out and I would have yelled twice as much as I did this morning.  I try to remember that my identity stems from who I am in Christ:  A beloved daughter of the most high king.  I try to remember that the ‘perfect people are stinking liars’ as DaMomma used to say.  I pray for God to fill in my gaps and I tell myself that I might not do it perfectly but my kids will at least have a prototype for what to do when one screws it up and has to apologize and ask forgiveness and do better next time.

I feel rough and ragged around the edges.  I try to breathe and I recover my day and resolve to go buy some cute hair barrettes or head bands sometime soon even though I know that in a week they’ll all be lost in the black hole in my kitchen where the cute accessories I resolve to get inevitably end up.  I come home and nurse the baby and play babbling games with her.  I write this blog and wonder if anyone out there can relate or if everyone really is as perfect and able to keep themselves and their kids together as it seems.

I hope tomorrow morning will go better.  But even if it doesn’t the truth will still be true and I will still be a beloved daughter of the most high king and hopefully my kids will still turn out ok and not too worse for wear despite mismatched clothes and lack of cute accessories.

Only in My Dreams

“I’ll Be Home for Christmas….”

So croons Frank Sinatra.

My husband was at Basic Training for our very first Christmas so it didn’t take me too long into married life to feel a little bitter about that particular seasonal ballad.  I’m a Sinatra fan….  And I love Christmas music enough to turn it on in early November, but that song always just makes me sad.

This year it’s not just Sinatra singing it.  Now various portions of the news media are singing the song in three-part harmony.  It’s this repeating of the refrain that’s been getting me down especially because it’s just not true.

You heard about the troop withdrawal from Iraq, right?  Well it seems that the some of the media’s ignorance of the ways of our military is showing in full force.  They keep saying “All the troops will be home for Christmas,”  over and over again.  And why wouldn’t they?  The country’s obsession with romanticizing the lives of our service members and their families finally gets a Fairy Tale “ending,” right?  Yesterday I heard it on a report reflecting on Veterans Day breathing a sigh of relief that it’s all finally going to be ‘over.’  The final sound bite of the report was, “The Pentagon says, ‘All U.S. Troops Should Be Home For The Holidays.'”  My response was, “Oh really?!”

The truth of the matter is, they won’t be.  The truth of the matter is that while there will be more homecomings from people coming out of Iraq and certainly that is something that should be celebrated, there will still be plenty of empty seats at the table this Christmas.  Our forces serve in wartime and in peace.  We’re not done in Afghanistan.  Marines, Airmen, Soldiers, and Sailors serve in many places throughout the world, not just in Iraq.

As someone whose husband is deploying just weeks prior to “the most wonderful time of the year,” hearing this statement over and over again is just salt in the wound.  “All of our troops will be home for the holidays?”  I’m sorry, but it’s just not true.  Saying that all troops currently serving in Iraq being home for Christmas isn’t even true, as I have a friend whose husband is there now, who should have been coming home any day now who has just been extended for another few months.  How do you think these reports make her feel?

I don’t want to burst the bubble or rain on the parade of the hallmark card sound bite of good cheer, but to say this 1)  Hurts people like me and my friend who will be passing Christmas Dinner around tables void of the men we love most and 2)  Sends a very distorted message to the American public.  As Navy wife, Sarah Smiley said in her recent column titled, “Troop Withdrawal:  Results May Vary ,”

“To phrase it [this] way is to give Americans an excuse to look away, to clap their hands and say, “Whew, that’s done.” It gives Americans a clear conscience to gather their family around the Christmas table and not worry about the military. Because military families are together, too, right?”

The answer is no.”

The truth of the matter is at war-time and in peace troops will be away from home…  Always.  It’s just the way the game is played.  Any seasoned Military Wife will tell you that one person’s “Season of Homecoming,” is another person’s “Season of Goodbye.”  One group comes home, another group leaves.   Place settings will be left empty.  Daddy’s and Mommy’s will be missing the bright faces of their children on Christmas Morning.  Husbands and wives will stand by themselves underneath the mistletoe…  While our service members are thousands of miles away protecting America and the world from the wolves at the door.

It’s hard, and it hurts, but we try not to dwell on it.  We make other traditions and celebrate at odd times.  Just the same…  To hear the media say not once in an “Oops” moment, but over and over and over again that our “Troops will be home for the holidays,” stings and does a disservice to those troops who will be serving away from home this Christmas.  They deserve to be remembered and for their sacrifice to be recognized.  They still need the prayers of many.  Our time in Iraq may be coming to an end (though there will be support personnel in Kuwait and surrounding areas for years to come, let’s be realistic), but the service of our military isn’t by a long shot.

Don’t forget them.  Don’t forget us.  Especially at a bitter-sweet time like Christmas that can be particularly difficult when you’re missing someone who you love.

Will my husband be home for Christmas?  Only in my dreams, Frank…  Only in my dreams.

Red Screws Under the Hood

Five Minute Friday again.  Today we’re writing on the prompt “Unexpected.”

You get this idea in your head, before you’re married, of what ‘love’ will look like.

Candlelight dinners, foot rubs…  Long talks.  Doing life together.

I find some of the unexpected moments of love are the ones that take my breath away.

We’re in ‘preparation’ mode around here.  Updating wills.  Doing paperwork.  Looking the house over.  Making purchases to keep everyone and everything together for the next few months.

Husband came in yesterday with red all over one of his much-loved shirts.  He said it was time to retire that one.  I asked what had happened and he told me it was just some paint from a project he’d been working on:  Painting screws.

Painting screws?  Yep.  The screws that are under the hood that hold the headlamps into the van.  He’d painted them red so that if I need to change one of the headlights while he’s gone, I’d know where to start.  He took a few minutes and gave me a “What’s under the hood” refresher course.

Something about the red screws just undoes me.  It’s such a little thing, but the way he thinks of me…  The way he looks ahead at the things I might have to tackle while he’s out on the boat and tries to make them as easy as possible for me…

Somehow those things that I never imagined love looking like say even more than the candlelight dinners or the foot rubs.

These are the unexpected ways that love shows itself.