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.